The 2020 Kevie Awards Part 3
Today's categories include: Best Quarantine Entertainment, Lesson of the Year, Unit of the Year, Comment of the Year and Activity of the Year.
Best Quarantine Entertainment
Better Call Saul - This show is significantly better than Breaking Bad. I just really needed to say that.
Animal Crossing - I didn't buy Animal Crossing right away. I played the heck out of the original on GameCube and from what I'd heard it hasn't changed much in 15 years. Then students in my online meets started talking about it. They know I play basically every video game that comes out so they were bummed when I said I didn't have it. So, i bought it. So did 13 million other people. It quickly became the fastest selling game on Nintendo Switch. To be clear though, it's barely a game. You pick fruit. You sell fruit. You buy one of a few items available each day. That's the game. It is, however, a relentlessly positive experience. The characters are cheerful and friendly. They love everything you do and cheer you on all the way. It is brightly colored. You can't die. It is everything quarantine isn't (except it is inside still I suppose.) It came at the perfect time and I've had a great time with it.
Postmates Surfing - I've long been a channel-surfer. That art has largely been lost but I can still browse Netflix for nearly an hour without actually watching anything. During quarantine I found a new option for my surfing needs. With Postmates not only do you get to surf for which restaurant you want to order from but then ALSO surf their entire menu. It's a surfer's dream! Plus, I felt like every time I ordered I was doing my patriotic duty to restart the economy. You're welcome.
And the winner is... Animal Crossing! Though I am starting to play less and less each day I still love logging in to get my daily dose of joy and routine. I'm looking forward to see how I can inject that into my classroom next year.
Lesson of the Year
History Mystery: Black Death - I wrote about this lesson previously in a post entitled The Haunted Classroom. I didn't add anything new to it this year but it still was great. My students this year were even more creeped out by the spooky rendition of Ring Around the Rosie than the last couple years. This lab, more than any other, feels very DIsney because it hits so many senses. (I haven't yet added smell... think I'll keep it that way.) I especially love sharing it whenever I'm told "It's Halloween, I'm not going to even try to teach them!" This lab is engaging but very rigorous. Students do a lot of reading, some heavy analysis and write an evidence-based paragraph to close it out. And yes, they do it all on Halloween!
Culture Shock: China - Culture Shocks are always fun days in my classroom, but some certainly more than others. This one has morphed considerably over the years. In the first half students do a Chopstick Challenge where they try to pick up noodles (Sour Punch Straws) and rice (skittles) using chopsticks. It's awesome to watch them struggle and then slowly figure it out. It is even more awesome to see those few kids who know how to use the rise up as superstars. Kids who are never recognized get to shine! It's fun, it's silly and it's sugar-filled. What more could you want? In part two students hear the legend of how tangrams were created and then attempt to solve some tangram puzzles on their own. Once again, I am often surprised by the students who rise up and find success in the activity.
Time Warp - Quite a few of my students listed Time Warp as their favorite lesson on their end of year surveys. Time Warps are point and click adventure games that I built. I wanted a way to engage students in reading activities. I loved Choose Your Own Adventure books as a kid as I know my students love video games so I took a shot. I started them last year so this year was more about refining them. I ended up building another new one as well since the kids continued to love them. It is amazing to hear the absolute silence that comes from total engagement. The is pin drop quiet as students read page after page of text. They want to make the right choices and search for any little hint of direction in the passages. It's awesome. It's even more awesome when I have them play in groups and force them to convince their groupmates of a decision before they can make it. My Time Warps are all free and I just redesigned the page to make it more user friendly so check it out!
And the winner is... Culture Shock: China - This lesson always goes over well but this year had the added benefit of being the last "big" lesson we did before going on lockdown. As a result, it is the one my student's remember most and same for me. In fact, I imagine I will always tie it to this year's craziness in the future as well. Plus, it's just plain fun!
Unit of the Year
Transformation - For the first time in... forever (couldn't help myself) I didn't feel like I had to make anything new for Transformation this year. Everything finally fit and worked. The unit still has issues. The main problem remains the timing of it. There's so much there to squeeze in at the send of the first semester. Otherwise, it finally felt right. I focused quite a bit more on architecture and less on the Scientific Revolution which seemed to help. Architecture is very visual and concrete for kids. They can appreciate the dome on the Florence Cathedral far more than Newton discovering light refraction. Students really got into it and appreciated the Medici's story of rising up to join the ranks of the nobility. Plus, Martin Luther's story always connects with them. What began as my least favorite unit to teach is now certainly one of my favorites. Of course, we now have a new focus so next year... who knows?
Conquest - I made even more cuts to this unit this year and it was still the longest. At the end I felt like I had either cut too much or not enough. I ended up telling too many stories that were incomplete. The kids, however, didn't seem to mind. They loved all the little stories. From the origin myths of the three tribes to the conquest stories of Cortes and Pizarro, they were hooked. I don't even feel like my labs for this unit are all that great (aside from the Culture Shock which is awesome) but it doesn't matter. I did built a new Breakout based on the Mayan math system which turned out well but kids would have loved the unit even without it. The stories are just too good.
Diffusion - I taught this unit half in real life and half in whatever we've been living in for the past 10 weeks. If anything had to be online I'm glad it was ninjas. My kids always love learning it and they did this year too. It's a bummer that some of my favorite activities of the year had to be cancelled (no sumo wrestling sadly) but I'm glad that at least the material still connected with kids. The new activities I created, particularly the China By the Numbers one worked extremely well
And the winner is... Transformation - I love that the new California Framework basically says we can ignore this unit since it is too hard for kids to understand and appreciate. Well, mine did. If I'm passionate about it my kids can learn it. That was never more true than this year. As I said, it all just clicked.
Comment of the Year
Josie - "I'm not sure if you remember me, but I never forgot you or the impact you've had on my life. Post Jurupa Middle School, I became a typical teenager more preoccupied with my social life, and almost didn't graduate High school. I did end up graduating after attending continuation school, and had a D average. I kept those habits post High School, and allowed instant gratifications to navigate my path. Through all of this, whenever asked I would always say Mr. Roughton was my favorite teacher because he believed in my abilities like no other teacher I've had."
Ametty - "Social Studies was my favorite class because my teacher told a lot of jokes and they were mostly pretty funny."
Mayann - "Im not gonna lie my favorite class is your class it was the best I really enjoyed your class I had so much fun and you made learning so much more fun. I really enjoyed not having to use textbooks because you made a presentation for us. Your class also had fun activities to do such as the bonus round and time warp. Those activities are really fun. I´m also really amazed at how you can make learning so much fun and enjoyable. Every day I loved coming in thinking about what will we do today with Mr.Roughton not even thinking about the other classes. I also enjoy how funny you are and I think your class is perfect and that you don't have to change a thing about it because it is so enjoyable how it already is. Another thing I enjoy is you always looking for a way to make things better for us by you asking us do you enjoy this activity do I need to change anything. I find that really kind of how you ask us about our own opinion. That is why your class is my favorite and why I think that you don't have to change a thing about it."
And the winner is... me! One of my great joys every year is reading my students' end of the year comments. I usually get multiple opportunities. They write in my yearbook, fill my whiteboards and complete their end of course surveys. I lost the first two this year and only a third did their final surveys. Combine that with our last two months being very disconnected and it was a really tough end of the year for me. I love my students. I work incredibly hard to make their experiences good ones. Seeing their (incredibly honest!) comments and knowing that it worked, at least for many is a huge blessing. Josie's was different, coming as an email out of the blue from a 27 year old former student, but it came at just the right time too, driving me to finish this odd year off strong.
Activity of the Year
(Chosen by Audience Vote)
CYOA - I was able to do Choose Your Own Adventure a bit more with my kids this year. They were much better at self-management that my group last year. That did not, however, translate into high turn in rates. Despite them using their class time to work plenty still did not do the last needed bits at home and thus never turned them in. I did get some awesome projects ranging from a well-dressed Leonardo da Vinci puppet to a clay model of a chinampa. I had hoped this would work well as a distance learning option since it was all hosted online even in face to face. It didn't. Even fewer kids saw it through.
Notes - I'll call it notes here since that is the easiest parallel to other classes so it's the shorthand my kids use. Yes, I still lecture. And I do it for long periods of time. And my kids love it. What I really do though is put on a show - and that's what I call it in a class. Disney calls their employees "Cast Members" for good reason - words matter! I didn't change them much this year. I cut a couple out by combining others but that was a change I'm likely to undo next year. There's only so much you can remove before a story doesn't feel complete. I may have gone a little too far this year. Still, most days, I had kids hanging on every word and groaning when the story stopped without reaching a conclusion. Always leave them wanting more after all!
Culture Shocks - These are a collection of mini-activities including games, act-it-outs, picture analysis and other engaging activities. They are designed to expose students to cultural aspects like food, daily life, and fashion that often get overlooked in a history course. This year, likely because of the same reasons CYOA worked well this year, my kids particularly enjoyed them. They loved building their medieval houses out of cards, attempting to pick up Skittles with chopsticks and even doing algebra puzzles (no matter how much they said they hated it!) While I was able to do some of the activities online with distance learning, most are hands-on and will be lost if we don't have face to face teaching next year. I sure hope that isn't the case.
And the winner is... CYOA! I was very surprised to see that CYOA topped the vote among my students with notes coming in a close second. Keep in mind that only 51 kids voted and those were students who were motivated enough to show up to take a final exam that didn't count so that likely swayed the vote a little. Still, it is good to know that those students for whom I initially developed the CYOA concept (easily bored, high achievers like I was) did appreciate it.
Thank you again for joining me on this reflection journey. I hope it inspires you to reflect on your own year. It's so easy to forget the little things and this (admittedly self-indulgent) exercise helps to bring them back. 2019-2020 was a year that I'd like to, but won't, soon forget. Here's to hoping 2020-21 starts off right!