Take A Nap And Then Level Up: A Post About Scale and Innovation

It is the week before Spring Break and my students and I are hitting that annual frenzy and exhaustion that usually hits hardest those last 5 days before we get one whole week off. In planning this week, I knew I needed to level up, I needed to bring something exciting and engaging while also ensuring my students were learning and reviewing content and skills. I knew I needed something fresh, high energy, and out of the box.

So I turned to Twitter and saw so many amazing and inspiring things:

First, there is this guy, John Meehan does these AMAZING lessons called #QRBreakIN that take the board games students know and love and level them up into a series of tasks and challenges to help them learn content. His stuff is so detailed and incredible and even led my colleague to create a #QRBreakIN for a PD on Google Basics she is hosting for our teachers.

Then I saw Jessica Buckle post what she created inspired by the work of Tisha Richmond and I wanted to be a student in her classroom. A magical Harry Potter themed game that helped stuednts learn?!?! Those are the sort of lessons I look for, the ones that make me wish I could sit in the class and be a part of it.

I mean, look at these cards she created to go with the game?!?!
Just a few minutes of browsing twitter and I was inspired and excited and writing down a giant list of ideas of what I could do...

but I also knew I was exhausted. 

It's been a particularly challenging year for me, not anything too life-altering, just a lot of medium-sized things happening in all aspects of my life that has me feeling a little more worn out than usual and to top it off I have been sick for about two weeks now with a cough that just won't leave me. So I was looking at all these amazing and inspiring ideas and I thought to myself: I can't do this level of work right now. I just don't have it in me.

And so I took a nap and when I woke up I looked at the giant list I had made of ideas and I realized that I could still do something awesome, engaging, and really unique inspired by some of the things I had seen. I just needed to scale it down to what was manageable for where I was at right at that moment.

And that is what this post is really about, sometimes the best way to try a new lesson or activity is to try it in a small way with your students first. This might seem obvious but I don't think we as teachers allow ourselves enough to take on innovative activities or technology-based lessons in baby steps. When we talk about innovative lessons and activities in the classroom, you don't have to go all in the first few times around, scale the activities down it what is manageable to you and then you can always build on them later.

So, I looked at all the crazy amazing gamification going on and created a one-hour activity for my students. I had just purchased eggs to use for my AP review season coming up (because John Meehan is amazing) and realized that I didn't need to go build a whole gameboard or create anything as amazing as this, I could use the different color eggs to store instructions for review tasks and use the eggs as a silly and fun way to get students the instructions.

I created four review tasks that I knew students could complete in around 15 minutes each and color-coded the instructions. The instructions were then put in the correct color egg. The first round each group was randomly assigned an egg but after that, they had to roll the dice to find out what color they would get next. I was checking student work as they completed each task (even though they were on different tasks all at different times) so students were getting a ton of feedback and students were focused and on task the entire

I used really ridiculous stickers as prizes for each round and had a First Place prize bag that was stapled closed so they had no idea what they were competing for. It was full of those food shaped erasers, a few pieces of mini-candy, and lots of stickers. I teach high school and they were surprisingly over the moon about the prize.

Instead of creating an activity that would have taken me hours to create, I was able to take elements from other activities to up what I was in general already planning on doing. The day was amazing, kids were engaged and excited and most importantly they learned.

When I look at the amazing work being done to increase engagement and fun in the classroom I am often overwhelmed by the hours of work others are able to dedicate to lessons. Sometimes I am at that level, but a lot of times I am not and that is okay. But when I am not at that level it doesn't mean I can't level up by taking the magic I see happening in classrooms all around me and scaling it to what I can do with the time and resources I have available to me.

This is how I approach lessons with new tech, crazy engaging activities, and long term PBL. I ask myself how can I level up my classroom to make a better experience for my students while also keep it to a scale that is manageable and attainable for me? And so much of it is just recognizing that we don't all have to do it all to make our classrooms awesome. So give yourself permission to not do it all, give yourself permission to try just a little bit but maybe not go full in. Give yourself permission to start somewhere and see what happens next because you're an amazing teacher who is already doing great things so if you're ready to try something new it is okay to start small.


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