Monday, July 2

2017-2018 SWCSEF Grant Recipient

Teachers and parents know that each child is different in the way they think, act and learn, but have we ever considered the physical environment that a child prefers and learns best in?  That question was addressed with a SWCSEF (South-Western City Schools Educational Foundation) grant. The “21st Century Classroom” considers how the actual classroom with its tables, desks and chairs affects a child’s ability to learn. With the money provided by the grant, Mrs. Weber was able to purchase four “Neorok” stools that rock and spin as a child sits at their desk and works. An additional four “Cantilever” chairs were purchased that also provide for this same back and forth rocking motion as a student works. Each day in Mrs. Weber’s class, students have their choice of seating options and the feedback from students has been overwhelmingly positive. On one occasion as the new class entered the room for science a student could be heard saying “I love coming in here because I get to pick my seat.”  Another student wrote “I like to move when I work and I think it makes me more productive.”

The pie chart below illustrates that 92.5% of the students like to move while they are working.  A regular school chair does not allow for any movement while a child is sitting in it. Two students added that the chair that rocks has a higher seat back on it and that was another bonus in addition to the rocking.  Several students also commented that the movement helps them focus and this is one area that the “21st Century Classroom” has researched. The physical working environment does impact a child’s ability to focus, stay on task and complete their assignments.

Saturday, June 30

2017-2018 SWCSEF Grant Recipient

Breaking Out of Routine

Want to solve a murder mystery?  Nab an art museum bandit?  Escape zombies and prevent global destruction?  Now you can!
Escape rooms are the newest trend in entertainment.  Couples, families and friends around the world enjoy working together, discovering clues and solving puzzles to complete a mission.  Critical thinking and collaboration is essential.  Why not transfer those skills to the classroom through similar activities?
This year, with the help of our library media specialist, Jessica Klinker, my students participated in several breakout games.  I created the first one for my AP Literature students to apply literary terms.  Students entered the room to the sound of Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” blaring on the speakers, with the lyrics scrolling on the screen.  They found two locked boxes on their table, along with a note which read: “Your lyrics are unique because they utilize many literary devices.  You receive an urgent text message from one of your bandmates telling you that Rolling Stone is about to publish fake news about your latest song, which is sure to be a top-ten hit.  Rolling Stone is going to give YOUR song songwriting credits to Taylor Swift!  Evidence proving this news is bogus is stored in their editor’s lock box.  You need to break open the box soon because the story goes to print in 45 minutes!  You must rely on your knowledge of literature terms studied years ago to solve the clues and break into his box before time is up!”
Students were curious and excited to tackle this mystery.
The first clue comes from the allusion in the lyrics: “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.”  Upon hearing that line, most students recognized the words and used their electronics to find the source.  For those who didn’t notice the allusion, I rewound the line again and again until it was painfully obvious!  The line leads them to Psalm 23:4, which is the code for the first lock.  Inside the box they found an black flashlight and a poem- another clue.  By using the literary terms we studied in class, they were able to solve a variety of puzzles, open the final box and find their reward!
The students loved this activity and begged to do it again.  Here are some of their comments from their subsequent reflections:
“Playing this game showed me just how unique each of us are with individual skills and certain parts of the game required skills that the other had. I learned that I am a really analytical thinker. I heard it a lot from my teachers but it’s another to see it really play out.”
“Me and my group worked together by sharing each other’s ideas and trying them. We gave each other turns to try different things. Playing this game taught me that I actually have some patience.”
“Solving a puzzle in the game relates to solving a problem in the real world because you have to go through steps to solve it, the things you solve could be real problems that need to be solved. Also because you could use the ways you solved the puzzle to solve your real world problems.”
“I found it very entertaining and mentally intensive.”
“I thought the Breakout activity was very beneficial in applying our knowledge of literature while also exercising our brain to conclude and be like detectives: thinking quickly… We didn’t want any hints because we knew we would feel better getting to the conclusion without cheating our way to it.”
Since the first try was a success, I also had my general ed English classes try breakouts over literary terms and also Macbeth. The results were the same. This is an engaging activity to use with students at any level!
Our resourceful media specialist was fortunate to receive a grant from the South-Western City Schools Education Foundation to purchase the equipment, but before that, we made do with regular wood boxes and locks the staff donated.  Breakout EDU has many free scenarios available.  Our next step will be having the students create their own breakout games.  The critical thinking skills necessary to plan the clues will take it to a higher level.   I would strongly suggest trying it out with your students!

Friday, June 29

2017-2018 SWCSEF Grant Recipient

2017-2018 SWCS Education Foundation Grant Evaluation: West Franklin Elementary students benefited from a SWCS Education Foundation Grant during the 2017-2018 school year. The entire student body was able to attend The Columbus Children’s Theater production of “The Three Little Pigs.” Over 600 students enjoyed the lively, audience participation-style nature of the performance. After seeing the traditional fairy tale come to life, students were able to explore story elements such as character development, setting, point of view, and author’s purpose. Older elementary students compared the original version to the stage version, critiquing and justifying their thinking with evidence from the play. The experience, as a whole, was especially beneficial to West Franklin’s high  population of low socioeconomic students. The opportunity for many of the students to attend live theater is unusual, and we were able to walk to Franklin Heights High School to see the play at no cost, thanks to the generous grant. Students even learned and/or practiced social skills such as sitting quietly during the show, applauding at the appropriate times, and asking questions after the performance. West Franklin Elementary students thoroughly enjoyed the Columbus Children’s Theater performance of “The Three Little Pigs.”