Saturday, June 25, 2016

Classcraft Interactive Notebook Page

Finished crafting interactive notebook pages for Classcraft, an engaging classroom management tool.

This fall I plan to add interactive notebooks to my classroom procedures. The goal is to provide students with something tangible to take home at the end of the semester. So that means creating or borrowing resources to guide students in developing their notebook.

Classcraft is a classroom management tool, an elaborate punishments and reward system designed like an epic role play game. Students create avatars and can upgrade pets and outfits based on experience and gold points earned. They can also lose points and suffer minor penalties. Everything is done in a fun, game like environment.

The computer lab is already divided into five or six stations, which lends itself easily to guilds or teams of students who work together in the game. I want students to develop their own backstory and choose their characters for the good of the group. I also need students to keep their login info somewhere safe.

The interactive notebook page can be printed one per student and takes up a single page spread. The left side has the Hero Pact where they agree to stay committed and involved in the game. It's important for students to understand that while it is a game, there are rules that must be followed to make the game enjoyable for everyone.

The right side has a place to document their team information and how they are connected. The bottom portion of the right side in their interactive notebook is where they will write their backstory using the lined paper. For students that struggle developing a history for their character, I plan to illustrate from popular characters like Harry Potter or Katniss Everdeen.

The instruction sheet includes a take away card they can paste into their personal planner. I want to keep their interactive notebooks in the classroom, so they may want to access their account from home.

The second page contains the team crests. I will have several copies available and when a team decides which one they want to use, they can paste copies in their interactive notebook. I will probably print everything in color because it will match the website. If I need to go with black and white, students could color in the crests or draw their own custom designs.

You can download a PDF version here. Feel free to make adjustments or customize the file for your classroom setup.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Book Review: Surfacing

Add Surfacing by Mark Magro to your summer reading list. It's a good book for middle school with no language, romance that progresses no farther than a kiss and most violence is against giant bugs and robots. The story is filled with classic sci-fi elements, including the plot twist at the end. 

Speaking of plot, the basic premise is similar to City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau. Global catastrophe has sent scientists underground where they work to rebuild humanity. Balt is bright and has a sense that something isn't right, but only after he meets Zoe and her mysterious past is he compelled to action. Balt's sidekick AI (who only received a head) adds both humor and wit to the daring duo's attempt to reach the surface.

I'm not a fan of the two person, alternating narrator but both viewpoints advance the story rather than rehash the same events from different perspectives. There is enough sense of mystery, intrigue and suspense to keep the reader moving. Published October 2015, this book has yet to be added to Common Sense Media or Accelerated Reader but you can read reviews at Goodreads.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Book Review: Ender's Game

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card is a sociological science fiction tale about a young boy struggling to beat the odds and win a military style game. As an illegal third child, Ender is both unwanted and possesses unusual talents that aid his efforts.

The narrative follows Ender's journey through military training both on Earth and off world. Chapters begin with a dialogue between two observers to Ender's condition. While intriguing, these characters are not really developed and only demonstrate that there are greater forces on Ender's life than he can comprehend.

Halfway through Card's military science fiction novel, I wondered if the impending alien invasion was even a possibility. When the story finally resolved, it felt hollow and preachy.

I was surprised that Common Sense Media recommends Ender's Game for middle school readers. The language and brutal conflicts are at times disturbing. A thought provoking story for older readers, the character conflicts reminded me of Lord of the Flies. There was minor sexual content as the recruits do occasionally appear nude sleeping and showering (the boys and girls share sleeping quarters) but since almost all the characters are prepubescent, there is no real romance or sex. At least it's not on Ender's mind.

Accelerated Reader lists the book at a 5.5 ATOS Book Level and worth 16 AR Points. Thankfully AR recommends the book for Upper Grades (9-12). Ender's Game has also been made into a movie, but I have not seen it yet. I generally enjoyed the book, but wondered at times if the plot would ever resolve as the military continues to string Ender along, always asking more with nothing to show for it. The book is self contained but leaves plenty of room for the followup novels, of which I have no desire to read.