I’m currently working on a “Bounty Board” where my students can choose missions (projects) with specific requirements and deadlines that are done beyond the requirements of regular class. These missions will involve more than just, well, drawing stuff. They’ll be pretty quirky (involving work that could require a student to do it outside of school, or even in public) and, I’m hoping, extra fun to do. Mercenaries and missions. I’m a dork. 8)
Here in Xavier, teachers can only give 6 graded assessments per grading cycle; it doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s enough space for me to play with this concept, which is essentially a form of “Choose Your Own Assessment”.
Even before I decided to teach, I already had an idea for a game / activity I wanted to run in class. I would need the cooperation of an English and Math teacher. The English teacher would establish the story and situation, acting out (or dramatically reading) story lines as they happened. The basic idea would be that the class’ members are part of an empowered body whose abilities keep their home city from destruction, at the hands of their enemies. Something causes the unit’s attention to waver, and upon their return, the city is under siege.
Depending on the story, I will be dividing the students into groups. Each of them will be tasked with solving a series of mathematical puzzles, and their successes and failures would translate into salvation or destruction in each part of the city. Situations could range from considering personal desires (saving only people you care for) or the greater good (saving as much as you can, even at the expense of a few who are dear to you). Students will be free to take harder challenges for greater success (succeeding in a hard challenge could allow you to save a whole family from an attacking group of bandits, with partial success meaning the death of one or two members, and failure meaning the success of the attackers). My part in this would be with providing an on-the-spot visual representation of what’s happening. Projected on-screen would be the city map, with special parts enlarged or emphasized. If a fire were to break out somewhere, I would draw it where it happens… At the end of the activity, the teachers could write a summary of events to go with the visual results, which we could compare with the products of the other classes.
… I really want to do this! It doesn’t have to be a Math thing. Math could be just one part. I could involve, heck, PE if I wanted to. (Your teammate has been disarmed, his weapon lying a certain distance away from you. It seems that an enemy has noticed the weapon. Picking it up could help you defeat more along the way, but failing would increase the difficulty of the next tests. To reach it, you need to run to the end of the room within 5 seconds. What will you do?)
Xavier’s new visual arts room (my room) has some pretty horrible acoustics. The echo gets pretty nasty; one of our music teachers reported pain in his ears while three of us were having a regular conversation. Yes, it gets really noisy when some of my classes come in, and it’s hard to be heard. I decided to experiment with a few things to see if I could modify their behavior. My first hypothesis: if the room is too cold, the chances of students standing up and walking around (or even running around — the room is that big) goes higher because they’re trying to warm themselves. My second: the layout of the tables matters (that’s pretty obvious though, I suppose).
Testing the first hypothesis was easy; quite literally done after pressing a button. I haven’t had any wild runners in class after increasing the room’s temperature. *High five self!*
Originally, I had 6 long tables that could be used by up to 8 students together, arranged in three rows, the lengths going towards the screen / whiteboard. This layout allowed students to talk to the guys on the other tables easily, and it took me longer to go around to check their work. I transformed it into a U-shape, which allowed me to look at everyone (and their work) from a stage-like center space. It became a lot harder for my students to be inattentive, and the room became more spacious. Overall, a success.