Summer is 23 school days away (who’s counting?). 23 school days left to make deeper connections, enjoy student talents, create memories, and make an impact on my current students. So much can happen in the next 23 school days, and I am taking it all in stride.

But with 23 school days left, I’m beginning to look to next school year. Just like Ed’s post on Tuesday, I’m looking forward to exploring some of my successes this year and revamp and improve them for next school year. With my summer list growing, I realize I need to pick and choose in order to be able to dedicate my complete focus.

Goals for next year:

  • Incorporating flexible and collaborative seating to support social and emotional learning
  • Building global relationships through the use of technology and inquiry
  • Increase student engagement through gamification
  • Expansion of knowledge of current events and global spatial awareness

1.  Mystery Skype:  This year, I introduced Mystery Skype into the classroom. The premise of the game is for students to Skype with a class somewhere in the world and ask yes or no questions back and forth to determine each other’s location. Author of Learn Like a Pirate Paul Solarz has an absolutely amazing website of how to get started and the preparations that are necessary for an engaging and successful Skype session.

I must admit, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect with this activity. Were students going to enjoy it? Were they going to learn? How engaged would they be? All of my worries and concerns were quickly washed away with our first Mystery Skype: student collaboration, in-depth location-based questions, and utilization of maps, Google Earth, and globes. Yes, there were bumps and bruises, but we learned from them.

My one problem: The conversations stopped. I never followed up with a post-activity. Even when I asked my 7th graders what questions they had afterwards, questions weren’t as in-depth as I was hoping. Instead of “What foods are popular?” how can we shoot for “What foods are staples for your culture?” etc… Jim d’Entremont (@Jim_dEntremont) and I are working together to create interactive Google maps that hopefully we can extend to those who we’ve Skyped with for more accurate information about culture, sustainable development, etc. I was thinking of creating a student-led website in which students will use the next day after a Skype to research more about the location, develop questions, and share with the other school. So many ideas, but where to begin?!

2.  Fangeopolitics: I can’t even begin to explain how excited I am to explore this site more! Thanks to Ed and Doug Fisher (@wpmsad), I was introduced to this engaging, interactive and exciting activity that is focused on current events. I began this activity with students working in teams, and the countries they were to “draft” were to be countries of different living standards, which was our focus in the classroom at the time. Most students immediately sank their teeth into it. I began introducing “Current Event Showdowns” at least once a week (thanks to Ed!), and I noticed a dramatic change in global news (and, unfortunately, the lack of Disney knowledge). I tried Doug’s “White House Briefing,” which truly led me to believe that 7th graders do not fully understand how to accurately write summaries or research news articles (not their fault, but writing summaries is now my SMART goal for next year).

Fangeopolitics is a given “reward” system. I can add points to their score as well as take away points. Most students want to climb to the top of that leaderboard (which I publicly display). I’m looking forward to trying Term Champions, changing the rounds around (would love to explore lowest score winning), and creating allies. Eric Nelson (@FANgeopolitics) has mentioned they are looking into creating playoffs and other engaging activities. I just want to sink my teeth more into this and introduce it from the beginning of the school year.

3.  Class Website (BETA!): I admit, I don’t use a class website. I depend on Google Classroom for all of my postings and documents. But even with the Trends along the left side, students find Classroom confusing, not 100% intuitive, and just overall annoying. I’m not going to rid myself of Classroom because it’s wonderful for assigning documents, differentiation, and working on a day-to-day basis, but my site would be where students would go to in order to find rubrics, “ABCs of Geography” (“problem of the week” idea I’m sitting on for next year), and contact information. I’d actually appreciate any feedback on my site (linked above), especially since it’s in the BETA stage. Do you use a class site? What activities/documents/links do you include in it?

4.  Amazing Race + BreakoutEDU: As mentioned in my last post, I’ve been wracking my brain with Amazing Race for the past two years. This year, I played around with BreakoutEDU, an immersive game “where players use teamwork and critical thinking to solve a series of challenging puzzles in order to open the locked box,” and saw so much engagement, learning, and collaboration within the classroom that I was hooked. Jim d’Entremont was the main mastermind behind our economic BreakoutEDU, but once I was able to learn the basics and logistics, I created my own “Andes Mountains” relay race that had students running up and down our auditorium to simulate elevation and breathing.

Now that I have BreakoutEDU somewhat down, it’s time to incorporate one of my favorite shows: the Amazing Race. Just how do I do it within a 50 minute class period and get them experiencing cultural challenges, working as a team, and breakout out of the 4 walls? Well, that’s what my summer is all about! Fellow worldgeochat moderator Chris (@cheffernan75) and I have added it to our “list” of summer projects. Worldgeochat follow Mary-Owen Holmes (@MsTeachHolmes) has expressed how she has incorporated the Amazing Race into her classroom. I can’t wait to have a conversation with her about how she plans it out and engages her students (so Mary-Owen, expect a DM soon 🙂 ). I’d love to add the Amazing Race idea to collaborate with students all around the world. I eventually want students to create their own legs of the race, but I need to figure out how to do it and model it to my students first. They need to experience what a school Amazing Race looks like before they go over the top with theirs.

Books to read:

I have many other “wants” on my summer project list, such as music playlists, interactive bulletin boards, and my flexible seating “dream” classroom. But I think the above four are going to take up the majority of my time, and I’m perfectly okay with that.

What’s on your summer project list? How do you balance working over the summer and taking the time you well-deserve?


One thought on “Those Summer Nights

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