I, Joy Kirr, am a middle school teacher, author, and speaker. My 7th grade ELA (English Language Arts) classes are working to improve their lives through student-directed learning - without marks throughout the year. This is a log of my learning experiences... Want to have me speak with your staff or facilitate a workshop? Here is my PORTFOLIO.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


I started our day today... juggling. Yup!

I was thinking of how to review and reflect upon our Caine's Arcade Cardboard Challenge without it being boring. Last year I required a student blog post on the day, and I graded it, of course. This year, since our blogs are authentic, I'll suggest a reflection post, but won't require one. So how to start a lively discussion...? Juggling! For each topic, I juggled as I spoke, and they were entranced - they were listening, at least!

After a quick talk about how ONE young boy started a chain reaction, I spoke in "threes."

Here are the three topics I wanted to cover:
     --> what I learned
     --> what students learned
     --> what we could change, add, or omit to make it better next year.

I started with what we could change.
     I had them brainstorm in pairs first, then one person from each pair would come up to the board to write their best suggestion. I took a picture to archive each class's suggestions, so I could add their ideas to this post, and actually remember to USE them next year.

Here are their suggestions:
     - More time in class to prepare
     - Charge money for games to donate to fight cancer
     - Have more time to plan it out
     - Every game should raise money for a special/good cause
     - Compliment people's artwork
     - Put it on the announcements
     - Look on the bright side of things and go that extra step to help make others happy
     - Advertise it
     - Add prizes to motivate people to play
     - Use class-based currency
     - Show Caine's Arcade one more time
     - Make the challenge a competition
     - Supply more cardboard
     - Have a cardboard restaurant
     - Have a social network page to promote the event

Next I told them about what I learned (see prior post). Here's the recap:
     - I need to help students be more prepared for the day.
     - Students used the Genius "habitudes" the entire time. At this point, I asked them what habitudes they used, and when, and we threw one of the balls around to get responses - of course they ALL wanted to share then.
     - I can stand back, say "create," and students will create wonderful products.

And then it was their turn. I split up "what students learned" into three more categories:
     --> students who came unprepared (24% of students in my three classes)
     --> students who worked on their projects during class (the majority)
     --> students who came with their project already finished, or close to it (16%)
I made it a point to say that students in each group learned many things, but they may be very different from students in the other two groups.

Those students were then able to choose from three ways to share:
     --> written down bullet points transformed into individual blog posts
     --> written down bullet points transformed into a mini-paper of sorts
     --> written down bullet points transformed into a quickly-produced & recorded speech

Here is a sampling of what they said:
     Something I learned while doing the cardboard challenge was perseverance. Me and Erin were trying to make a Skeeball game, but that didn't work. But we didn't give up on it. We just made a "modified version." If we gave up, we wouldn't have made our game that Nick loved. Perseverance is important because you can't just give up on things in life, you have to keep working at them. 

     If we put our heads together and use our imagination then we can create things we never thought of doing before. We all brought materials to make our creation. We all supported each other by supporting others' ideas. We all helped out and it was fun. Other students played our game and when they figured out how to win at the game, a smile crossed their faces. 

     We learned how to recycle objects and use them for other things.

     We learned how to run our own mini-booth, or business.

     We learned that being prepared can be beneficial to our learning.

     If you are ever unprepared, you have to use what you can find or get help from friends. Also you have to make sure you have at least one idea.

     Including people who don't have supplies or a group will help get your work finished faster, it'll make the person feel happy and wanted, and it'll make you feel proud that you did something nice for someone else.

     People can be fun and creative.

     Building stuff with friends is more fun than by yourself.

     The first thing I learned from the Cardboard Challenge was that when working with other people, good teamwork and compromising are very important. Good teamwork is important because that way the whole group contributes and everyone works together to complete a good piece of work while in a group. Compromising is also very important while working because that way everyone's thought are contributed to the project and there is no arguing, just good suggestions. Another important thing I learned from the Cardboard Challenge was that you need to you creativity when creating something. If you're creative, your piece will be more unique and interesting. Something else I learned from the cardboard Challenge was never give up. If something doesn't work, try again. If it still doesn't work try something knew to accomplish the same meaning. One more thing I learned from the Cardboard Challenge was that you need to set a goal for yourself and come prepared. By setting a goal, you can strive for it and look forward to reaching for it. And if you come prepared, you have a better chance of reaching your goal. The last important thing I learned from the Cardboard Challenge was that you need to have fun and explore what you can achieve! Having fun means take risks and see what you can do! 

     ...we learned about passion, courage, curiosity, perseverance, etc. The most important one is imagination. We got to go out and explore other things. We also got to express our selfs. This is very important. 

     We did this to learn about expressing our genius and learning how to create using our resources.

I will add more to this post as they come in so I can keep a record of all the things students realized they learned.

Here is my presentation:

Deciding to juggle today was inspired by Dave Burgess's Teach Like a Pirate book. I put a teaser on the board the day before, letting students know we were going to have a "guest juggler" in class the next day! When I started juggling today, I said, "I never said the guest juggler was a SKILLED juggler...!" ;-)

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