Having a growth mindset when things don’t go according to plan

I’m an overplanner. When it comes to anything, I overresearch, overplan, cross reference and overall look way too deep into anything I do. Before I came to the ISTE conference this year I had a color coded spreadsheet with listings of the first and second choice of sessions I wanted to attend. I had a list of my favorite presenters and had scoped out all of the poster sessions and playground activities I wanted to explore. Then I got in line for my first session on Sunday…and it was full. Then I went to my second session choice…also full. By the 4th attempt I gave up and went back to the hotel to check in.

Today (Monday) was going to be a new day. I would go to some awesome sessions and learn some amazing things to bring back to my colleagues. My color coded spreadsheet would work like a charm…and then I saw the line for the shuttle. Then I got to the conference and the lines were also crazy long…everywhere. It was bad when the line was too long to get my coffee, but the last straw was a line for the men’s bathroom.

It was an overreaction. I was frustrated and undercaffeinated and knew I needed a break. I decided to walk away for a little bit, walk to Dunkin’ Donuts and get some coffee to get my day on the right track.

On my walk something came to me. Every day I encourage my students to have a growth mindset, to not let setbacks keep you from accomplishing great things. I tell them to find ways to overcome obstacles, and yet here I was faced with an obstacle and I was doing exactly what some of my students do. I was pouting about how annoying lines are and missing out on the bigger picture.

There are thousands of people around the country right now who would LOVE the opportunity to wait in line to see some great speakers. There is a conference center full of opportunities just waiting to happen. There are thousands of people to network with, vendors to learn from and awesomeness around every corner. Sometimes I get stuck on my plan that I forget that amazing things can happen in spite of all my planning.

After my walk to get coffee and a little reflection and perspective, I went to a series of poster sessions that were fantastic. I explored the Expo hall and found some amazing tools I want to bring back to my classroom. Ultimately, I explored some things that I would have missed out on if things had gone according to plan.

Sometimes we need to practice what we preach and be as adaptive as we ask our students to be.

Enjoy the rest of the conference if you’re at #ISTE18, and if you’re #NotatISTE18 I’ll try to share out some of the awesome things you should check out.

P.S. If you see me at ISTE stop by and say hi. You’ll recognize me, because I’ll be the one in the bow-tie for #bowtietuesday!

 

Epic Reverse Quest

As the year was coming to a close a couple weeks ago, I was trying to think of some epic way to wrap everything up and recap the highlights from the entire year. I thought about doing a review Kahoot! or some sort of challenge activity. In years past I’ve had the scholars create board games reflecting on the year. Those would be fun, but then I had a better idea…an epic reverse quest!

My scholars spend the entire school year on a journey battling my evil twin, the dreaded Dr. Vonn Stock, my evil twin (he wears a pirate eye-patch so you know he’s evil). On their journey they face some of his minions like Cyther and Zak the yaks and try to rescue some of the other Agents helping them on their journey (the Special Agents also look mysteriously like me). Through this structure we travel to the different realms of the texts we read, from Mt. Everest in Peak by Roland Smith to a WWII battle in various WWII texts.

To wrap up the year we spent the last week of school going on a sped up reverse quest through the various novels and time periods we studied in class. Each unit was covered in some sort of challenge activity that the table guilds had to tackle. It was epic.

To start off we reviewed their WWII novels with a Grid Challenge. I can’t take credit it for this. It was one of the many great ideas to come out of the weekly #xplap Twitter chats. The guilds spent 10 minutes trying to complete a grid by filling in terms the started with the letter at the top and connected to the category on the left. For example: P- and Countries could include Poland because it was involved in WWII. They had some very creative answers and recalled a wide range of topics we had discussed during the most recent unit.

For more details check out a full explanation of the grid challenge here

The next day’s challenge was to write an entire reflection on the best poem from our Poetry Smackdown bracket. This one wasn’t as game based as I would have liked, but having a time limit (60 minutes) to brainstorm, outline, write and revise and entire essay was a great challenge. I’ve found this year that the students provide almost the same quality of work with limited time, than when I give them multiple days to complete a task. Before we began we had a socratic circle over the poems, and some of the discussions were amazingly heated.

Day 3 of the reverse quest took part in the Civil Rights movement. The students completed Civil Rights Movement dominoes. They spent another 15-20 minutes attempting to link a series of paper dominoes with terms and pictures on them. Some were directly from our studies of the Civil Rights Movement, others were random challenge words they had to try to find a way to connect..For example, some students connected “Civil Rights Movement” to “Turtles” because it was slow moving. Then they connected “turtles” to “Mother Pollard” because she probably walked slowly past the bus stops. I was impressed with their creativity.

For more details check out a full explanation of the Learning Dominoes activity here

We also battled the dreaded Zak the Yak. Their challenge was for each guild to write a story about defeating Zak using all of the prefixes and suffixes we’ve learned this year. Two teams earned a bonus for the next day, because they befriended Zak instead of destroying him. Those groups got help from Zak in the next days battle (this rule was made up when I heard their amazing stories and unique definition of “defeating” him).

Day 4 was the last day of our reverse quest so of course they had to face…Dr. Vonn Stock. But it couldn’t begin with any old battle. Instead I started the class in the usual manner. I had them read a book and then when everyone was settled I played the daily announcements video. A minute into the video the screen went to static, and I broke in with an announcement that I had been captured and the person in front of them was an imposter. It was super cheesy so of course the scholars loved it. While they were watching the video I pulled my eye patch out of my pocket and casually put it on. When the video was over I laughed and told them that it was true…Dr. Vonn Stock had taken over.

I explained that in order to defeat me they would have to complete a fierce Kahoot! Battle. Of course the questions had some evil twists. For example one question said to choose a box…only 3 of them were right. Another one asked them to describe Mr. Stock and since it was Dr. Vonn Stock’s Kahoot!, all of the answers about Mr. Stock having stinky feet and being a mean brother were the correct answers. The groups from the day before who found a peaceful way to defeat Zak the Yak were able to enlist his help on one question. This required every other team to wait at the front of the room for the first 5 seconds of a question. In one instance it was a game changer.

We all had a blast with this activity. While they were competing I would casually switch the eye patch to different eyes to see which groups would notice, or I would complain about how mean Mr. Stock was. Finally at the end to the hour the winning groups were awarded bonuses for their guilds. Dr. Vonn Stock also recruited some students to his evil mission.

All-in-all it was an epic way to wrap up their learning for the year.

Review Dominoes

Materials: Domino Pages

Time: 10-15 minutes (depending on how many boxes you want students to complete)

Directions:

  1. Divide the students into groups of 3-4.
  2. Give each group a set of domino pages.
  3. Instruct each group to line up the pages so that the picture before and the picture after share a connection. Groups must be able to explain how each picture is connected.
  4. Give the groups a time limit to complete the task.
  5. Once the time limit is up have the students share how the pictures connect.
  6. Possible ways to share:
    1. Have groups create a video explaining how each picture connects.
    2. Random ask groups to describe the connections between 3 pictures.
    3. Have groups glue the domino pages to construction paper and write out the connections for each picture.

Bonus: I always like adding a few random terms/pictures to add a little challenge to the activity. It also helps get some creative ways to solve the activity.

 

The Grid Challenge

Materials: Construction Paper, markers, 5-10 terms for the side of the page

Time: 10-15 minutes (depending on how many boxes you want students to complete)

Directions:

  1. Divide the students into teams of 2-4 players.
  2. Ask each team to come up with a random letter of the alphabet and write those letters along the top of a grid on the board. The grid should already have your category terms written along the left side of the grid.
  3. Then have each team recreate the grid (or you could have this step be part of their timed challenge).
  4. Give the teams a certain number of minutes to complete as many boxes as possible. To complete a box the teams need to write a word or phrase that connects to the category on the left and starts with the letter at the top. For example:
K T A M N
States Kansas Texas Alabama Maine Nebraska

5. The group with the most boxes filled by the end wins. Sometimes teams need to get creative with their responses to make them work. You get to be the official judge and decide if a response counts our not.

 

Download a .pdf cheat sheet of The Grid Challenge