No Pronoun Days

As I’ve mentioned before, sometimes we have to spice up our delivery of…well…boring content.  Although the historian jury is still out on the accuracy of what we teach about feudalism, my good friends in Columbus still tell me to teach it and threaten that it may appear on an 8th grade social studies achievement test (should the test ever resurface).  So I teach feudalism.



Feudalism is based on relationships between different groups of people.  So we spend calorie after calorieprocessing these relationships and dissecting the roles of kings, lords, vassals, and peasants.  The students are able to convert the first image on the IWB to the second through oral and written explanations.  By the end, they master it.


Students' Work After

Before we reach that point, however, I find my highest students getting bored with the repetition and are no longer getting anything out of the slightly-varied explanations.  And thus was born, No Pronoun Day.

Need a blast-from-the-past pronoun review?

The idea is really quite simple.  Instead of my students demonstrating their mastery with, “He gives him some land.  Then he hires him to protect the castle from him.  But he doesn’t do this for free so he…,” I watch as even my highest students methodically and meticulously draw arrows and explain, “The king gives the lord some land.  Then the lord hires the vassal to protect the castle from the vikings. But the knight doesn’t do this for free so the lord…”  See the difference?  But that only authentically engages one of the 31 students.  So I added this kink: when the explainer slips up and uses a pronoun, the audience has permission to rudely yell, “Who’s [pronoun]?!”  It looks something like this:

High student brags to table about how easy this challenge will be – gets called on and goes to IWB.

High student: Here’s how feudalism works.  The king owns lots of land and marries the queen.  The king gives some of the land to the king’s friend, a lord.  The lord needs help protecting his cas…

Class: WHO’S HIS?!

High student is frustrated (the good kind) and asks for a second attempt.

High student: Again, feudalism works like this.  The king owns a whole bunch land and marries the queen.  The king has a friend, a lord, and the king gives some of the king’s land to the lord.  The lord needs help protecting the lord’s castle from the vikings because they ar….

Class: WHO’S THEY?!

High student sits down, flustered (again, the good kind) and low student who has been actively watching/listening goes to the IWB.

Low student: Here’s feudalism.  The king has a bunch of land…”

Low student explains feudalism perfectly and “gets past” the high student’s point in our feudalism narrative.  Self-esteem is raised, objectives are met.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

Simon Says

Over the next few weeks, I hope to tackle a few of the blog “drafts” that I’ve started throughout the school year, but just haven’t had the time to sit down and finish them.  After some of those “good teaching days,” I’d pull up my TeachToYearn dashboard, type in a few words to help me remember the day’s reflections, and save it as a draft.  Now to undraft! Dedraft? Whatever.

Play “Simon Says…”  Sounds simply, doesn’t it?  Last year, I taught seventh grade social studies.  I was always so proud of these 12 and 13 year olds for digging in their proverbial heals to master some fairly abstract concepts such as class systems, productive resources, democracy, and republic as they learned contributions and locations from civilizations whose names they couldn’t really pronounce.  Despite by best efforts (read: four trillion calories burned) to keep their pubescent minds focused on world history, sometimes I just had to mix it up a bit.

So one Tuesday in early May, we played “Simon Says…”  I’m pretty sure Simon Says, Marco Polo, and Heads Up-Seven Up are the only three games in the world that literally require no rule explanations.  They must cover those three in the neonatal units.  Anyhow.  It was one of those days were seventh graders seemed to have forgotten the daily (yeah, daily) routine/procedure of enter-the-room-silently-while-looking-at-the-IWB-to-get-instructions (I remember them doing it once one day in late August.). Moving for a more directive approach, I exclaimed, “Simon says grab your journal and answer the question on the board!”  Suddenly the clouds parted, a pair of doves fluttered through the opened door, and angels appeared humming, “Kum-bay-ya.”  The kids started working!

The wheels were in motion.  The remainder of the day was filled with, “Simon says take out last night’s homework,” and, “Simon says Rachael go to the SMARTboard and explain yesterday’s notes.”  Heck and darn…they did it all.  And when I’d forget the obligatory preface, even the class’s most unengaged students would perk up to let me know, “SIMON DIDN’T SAY!”  I’ll take that.

Educational Leadership Booklist

My professor for my current Master’s class, Dan Major, a retired middle school principal, shared with us some texts from his professional library.  I respect a list put together by a man who has led decades of educators and students.  I included Amazon links.

Carey, Chris. bookshelf1.jpg. 10/12/1999. Pics4Learning. 20 Jun 2010 <>

Carey, Chris. bookshelf1.jpg. 10/12/1999. Pics4Learning. 20 Jun 2010

The 17 Essential Qualities of a Team Player by John Maxwell

Attitude 101 by John Maxwell

Relationships 101 by John Maxwell

The Heart of a Leader by Ken Blanchard

Finding Your Leadership Style by Jeffery Glanz

20 Biggest Mistakes Principals Make and How to Avoid Them by Marilyn Grady

What Great Principals Do Differently by Todd Whitaker

Survival Skills for the Principalship by John Blaydes

The Principal as Instructional Leader by Sally Zepeda

The Emerging Principalship by Linda Skria

Leading Learning Communities: Principals Should Know and Be Able To Do by the National Association of Elementary Principals

School Leadership that Works by Robert Marzano

Change Leadership by Tony Wagner (This one was highly recommended!)

10 Traits of Highly Effective Principals by Elaine McEwan-Adkins

So what titles would YOU recommend?

Lost: Electronic Toy

A while back, my friend Thomas shared this creative video with me:

(Heads up: lyrics are PG-13)

As someone who has left both an iPod and digital camera on the back of my car, losing the devices (and their contents!) forever, I now do a much better job of labeling my digital devices.

In other news, I received another flash drive last week.  I’ve added the 4GB Kingston to the plethora of other flash drives I’ve acquired over the years.  With improvements to “cloud” computing and my use of my MobileMe, Dropbox, and GoogleDocs accounts, I find myself transferring files with flash drives lots less.  Nonetheless, there are still times where grabbing a flash drive is the easiest option.

That being said, how many times have you left your flash drive in a USB port and walked away?  It happens.  Usually I’m the first one back to the device and retrieve the drive.  But what if I’m not?

So this morning I came up with this idea.  Yeah, I’m sure I’m not the first.


I chose to make a PDF as it’s pretty much a universal format.


Again, I’m sure this isn’t too revolutionary, but it took all of 45 seconds to potentially save the loss of vital and/or sensitive information (like the chapter 16 presentation!).