Spelling Bee Wrapped Up

Day 25

So we just wrapped up the third Zoom Spelling Bee of the day! And now we are officially on spring break.

Three weeks or so ago I wrote about initial ideas for our final Spelling Bee. Here’s what I thought then:

  • Round 1–they each write the same word in the chat to the host (judge).
  • Round 2–we’ll say the same word and everyone will write it on a whiteboard. On the count of three, they will turn it around and show the judges.
  • Round 3 would be a traditional spelling bee where each child left in the competition gets a different word and spells it orally.

Here are some of the successful changes we made.

We gave the children a list of words to practice and a book to read.  Here are the lists we used: Amber, Ruby, Sapphire. We had three separate events for each leveled group. (The levels were created by an online Google preliminary round; students were placed according to their scores on the preliminary.)

One big change happened that we didn’t discover until the first group did Round 1. One of the students told us when he and his dad were practicing that the auto-correct chat featured fixes words. OK, yes, indeed! Why didn’t we think of that? Auto correct on Zoom is spectacular. The next time you are in a Zoom meeting try misspelling a word in a chat message! So, the first group got 5/5 correct in Round 1. For the next two groups we didn’t do Round 1 like this. Instead, we had the students in the second group write five words on their whiteboard. Then we checked them all at one time. For the youngest ones, we had them write the words one at a time.

Then we did Round 2, which was spelling on the whiteboards with fewer, harder, and higher-point-value words. Last time I wrote about the spelling bee, Melody Parker suggested the students show their whole body, which we kind of did. We’d have students stand behind their chairs with the whiteboards for Round 2. It was a really good view and we could see them writing.

Round 3 was two rounds in a traditional oral spelling bee style. Three points for each word spelled correctly in this round, and no eliminations for spellers who missed their words.  For Rounds 3 through 5, the students also stood behind their chairs and had their hands up. They could just hold them up or pretend to write on one hand with the other hand as the stylus to help them with the spellings.

We also had Round 4, which had words from a book we asked the children to read (from our online library subscription). We gave each child one word from the book. (Round 4 was especially hard for the youngest ones in the Amber group below. You can see only two spelled their word correctly.)

Finally, we had a Finals Round for the top scorers. It was a single elimination round, which determined the winner. The scores were only used to help determine the other places, if needed, as in the example below.

The school classes were cancelled for today, so other students could watch the Spelling Bees, which were live-streamed on YouTube. We played the national anthem, the principal or vice principal took turns thanking and greeting the participants and spectators and each person introduced themselves. Two or three volunteer teachers came to each room to be judges. There were three of us on the Spelling Bee design team, and we each were able to be in all three groups–to host the Zoom, to answer questions, and help during the scorekeepers breakout meeting.

We were thrilled that each of the three bees went off successfully. They were much better than we thought they would have been. The goal of this project in the Learning Inclusion Department was to give an opportunity for enrichment for our talented and gifted students.  It was a joy to see these excellent students be in the limelight for a day. It seemed like they were proud and happy to be there.

Two suggestions for next time: Schedule 90 minutes for each, instead of 60 minutes. The second group was scheduled right after the first one, so it got a late start. Also, Group 1 needs fewer rounds and a shorter list to study. 

Remote Learning – What I Learned

This post is week 1 of 8 in the #8WeeksofSummer Blog Challenge for educators.

I will finish up my remote learning / teaching tomorrow. Tuesday is our last day of school, but tomorrow is the last time we will meet with our students. We’ll play a Kahoot selfie guessing game. And say our good byes and best wishes for the summer. What a sad way to spend the last four months of our school year.

I guess the most important takeaway I had after that whirlwind, crazy experience is that students and teachers who own their own learning are going to be most successful at this. There was no way we could help the few students who chose not to be involved. But those who owned their learning were able to keep growing. I’m not sure what our future holds, but I’m confident that the ones who really bought into remote learning, even in this emergency, are going to succeed. I wish I could give a gift to all the troubled or reluctant ones. First, I pray they are safe and just making choices that this wasn’t important. After, I know they are safe, I would give them the gift of being able to want to learn, to be resourceful and take initiative. If they just jump through hoops and try to please the system, this remote learning is not going to work for them.

He did Genius Hour remotely, and it was without a doubt, my best series of lessons this past semester. I wish all of remote learning could be like that!

 

Feedback with an Audience

Writing for Slice of Life with TwoWritingTeachers.org

Something happened today that was one of those snapshot moments. You know the kind you know is special so you take a mental picture to remember it?

It was in our Zoom “Open Hour” meeting. This time is like office hours for my fifth graders during emergency remote learning. Students can come and share the draft they are working on, ask a question about the assignment, or just say hi and see their friends.

Zainab had a question on our assignment, which was to write a poem about ourselves using figurative language. She said she wanted to write an Etheree poem, which is a ten-line poem starting with one syllable and then each subsequent line adds another syllable. She explained that she had written 8 metaphors and similes and she wanted to use them all, but they were each 7-10 syllables. So what was she to do? What a great writer question! The ensuing conversation between us was one of those writerly moments that makes me love my job as a teacher. I shared alternative form ideas, but also an example of how I had to shorten some of my ideas, like my metaphor–“I am a sunrise of hope”–became “rise of hope” for line 3. During this encounter, I began contemplating the question, do we write for ourselves or our audience?

Anyway, we were into this sweet writing conference, and at one moment I looked around the Zoom gallery and saw the 13 attentive faces of the others in our meeting, listening to our conference. For a few moments I had forgotten about them.

I’m sure it was the first time in my entire teaching life that I was having a conference where 13 others sat in on the conversation.

We had lots more of these mini conferences during the rest of the meeting. Sometimes other students would chime in to help. By the way, each time I asked the students if they wanted to share and receive feedback in front of their peers. All of them said yes.

Here are our poems. I chose the Etheree, and Zainab chose a different form. I think the Queen of Poems made a good decision.

An Etheree Poem about Me
Me
Denise
Rise of hope
Map of my heart
Daughter of the King
As old as a grandma
Talkative as a parrot
Delighted as a young puppy
Friend of caring, hope, and honesty
Trying to be a better ancestor

I AM POEM
I am Zainab.
I am the taste of pancakes and sweet maple syrup.
I am the smell of daisies starting to grow.
I am the sight of a birthday cake full of delights.
I am the sound of babies whining and their sweet laughter.
And the cheers of a crowd.
I am the taste of freshly baked pizza with a sight of delight for dessert.
I am a collector of my memories.
I am the sound of classical music playing.
I am the touch of guitar strings and fluffy marshmallows.
I am the taste of a fresh salad with a dressing that is made of magic.
I am the smell of the sea on an early summer morning.
I am the sight of knowledge walking on a runway
And books humming their words.
I am a girl with hair like a flowing river.
I am a princess with cheeks as red as roses.

Done by:
The Queen of Poems,
Zainab Aref Almukhtar (5A)

#Verselove Helps Me Confront Myself

So many slices of my life lately are reading and writing poems.

Who knew?

My first time ever writing a poem each day in April happened because of quarantining in this Covid-19 chapter of life. Having just had a successful 31 days of writing blog posts for Slice of Life, I decided I might give poetry a try in April thanks to this inspiring post by Glenda Funk.

And I succeeded. It was a rewarding experience and has been helping me process life events and news. Now, this week poetry is helping me confront my own complicity in white supremacy.

Say His Name–Ahmaud Arbery

“Come, son, grab your gun
There’s a black burglar
Bounding ’round the block”

In this land
Two armed white men insist on their
right to defend themselves
While one unarmed black man
is not allowed to exercise the same right
Or to exercise

State laws made to justify
Two people
Chasing,
Confronting, and
Killing
a person
they’ve never met.
Usurping duties of
police, court, jury,
and executioner.

As long as the two
are on the safe side
of the racial contract in ‘Merica
they will be exonerated.
Always
Assumptions of white innocence
Always
Assumptions of black guilt
Always

Americans implicitly know
Who are bound by the rules
And who are exempt
Would your son be allowed to jog
in a new neighborhood?
I know
You know

All men are created equal
(If they are white and own property)
Crooked creed

All men are created equal
(But some are only 3/5ths equal)
Crippling creed

Codicil in invisible ink
Yet penned visibly in red blood
On black bodies

Murder is illegal
But fine for white people to
Chase down and kill black people
If they have decided
that those black people scare them
Cowardly creed

These injustices
Push the racial contract into the open
Then it’s up to us to choose
Do we embrace its existence?
Do we contest its existence?
Do we deny its existence?

Hang on, white men.
Hang on, power-hungry,
To your fading entrenchment of
White political power to
“make America great again”

Father and son
Chased a “burglar” jogger
Shot him dead.
Acting in self-defense?

No.
Arrested and charged with murder
Because of national outrage
(But absent the video, then what?)

Centuries overdue,
But now is the time
for more
national outrage,
America.
It’s time for a
Courageous creed

Many words and phrases in this poem were found in the first half of this article in The Atlantic: “The Coronavirus was an Emergency Until Trump Found Out Who Was Dying”

#Verselove is continuing during the year for five-day challenges each month. I am so excited that the May #verselove 5-Day Monthly Open Write starts on Saturday this week. Kim Johnson will give us some delightful and challenging prompts. Everyone who wants to will write a poem in response to the prompt, however they interpret it or want to stray from it. Then the community of poet-teachers reads and comments on the others’ poems.

You are all invited! Join us starting this Saturday through Wednesday. It is a healing and empowering activity for this stressful time. (Click for the sign-up form.)

I made this comment on a #Verselove evaluation last month.