Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Last Saturday I planned my week out in detail, as usual. It is highly unlikely that my week will go exactly as planned. However, I like having at least a framework for my week early on. It saves me time in the long run. Anyway, that is only partially the point. Yesterday afternoon I was reminded about a short assembly that was set to happen during one of my classes. Well, call me crazy, but I teach the same thing all day long. Yes, that's right. Four times a day I teach the exact same lesson. Soooo, with the assembly taking up only one of the four classes, I had to make a quick decision: go with the plan and get my classes off schedule or improvise!

Enter: Math Vocabulary Taboo! I had heard about this before but I wasn't exactly sure how to play or what to do. So here is how it went in my room. I quickly made 10 sets of index cards (enough for 10 pairs). The index card had the vocabulary word and then three words/phrases that were not allowed to be used a.k.a. the "taboo" phrases. (They also couldn't use the actual vocabulary word or spell or say "starts with" or "rhymes with"...that all made it too easy.) For example:

  • slanted
  • steepness
  • skiing
 I moved the desks into pairs (similar to speed dating). I gave one partner the cards they were the "clue giver" and the other partner was the "detective". For the first two rounds of the game they were allowed to use their vocabulary squares to help. I put four minutes on the timer and let them go. After the timer went off I had the "clue giver" hand the cards to the "detective". The "clue giver" switched partners and then we played another round. After two rounds they had to put their vocabulary squares away and then we played a few rounds without the crutch. I had 10 total vocabulary words and it took the students 3-4 minutes each round. I imagine the more "common" the taboo words are the harder this game is to play. My goal was to take out all the obvious/common words so that they really had to think about the word and its meaning.

It was AWESOME! I'm not even kinda kidding. I loved this activity and I plan to do it again for the next unit. This was higher order thinking if I have ever seen it. The kids were all engaged and having a great time trying to come up with clever ways to describe the words. I had students coming up with sports illustrations, music, kinesthetic...you name it. The kids were so very creative.

I would definitely recommend this to anyone that is struggling with finding interesting ways to talk about and teach content vocabulary.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

ELL - Independent vs. Dependent Variables

In my last post I included some samples of student work (mini-posters). I decided to make a separate post to highlight the two mini-posters from my ELL students. These two students started out the semester and I was super worried about having them in my class. As best as I could tell, they weren't able to speak any English. I'm glad I was semi-wrong. Some of it was just shyness. They are learning very fast and I am quite proud of their final products for this mini-poster project.

Independent vs. Dependent Variables

My class recently learned about independent and dependent variables. I found this great idea right in time. It turned out fabulously and it didn't take much time to prepare up front. I just needed some drawing paper and markers--the kids did the rest. I highly suggest you read the original post (because this wasn't my idea). However, the short version: the students came up with their own example of independent and dependent variables and then put them on a mini-poster. Below are some pictures of the final product: