Why Would Anyone Want to Become a Teacher – My Interview with a Student Teacher

Lilly Hasenkopf is a student teacher of elementary education at the University of Alabama. We recently sat down and talked about her thoughts and feelings about the profession as part of the series Why Would Anyone Want to Become a Teacher? here on educationrickshaw.com 
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Lilly Hasenkopf, 21

Hi Lilly! Thanks for letting me interview you. Let’s start by talking about how your experience in education been so far. Tell me all about your program, and what you’ve been doing.

I’m going into my senior year of college at Alabama. My junior year last year, we entered block one and block two, which is our first introduction to teaching. In block one, which is in the fall, I was in a preschool classroom twice a week. I had two case study students that I would work with and monitor their physical and cognitive growth, and just how they grew over the course of one semester. This was the preschool class, but I also did a reading class, where I would go to a different school and work one-on-one with a student. We gave them a pre-test and then we created our own activities. We tested the results of the activity with a post-test.
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I also took a music class, which was interesting. It started out with us just teaching music, but at the end we were teaching an academic subject through music. It helped us see how we can use physical activities like art and music to make the content more engaging for students. In Spring semester, that is when I really got to experience the classroom. We were assigned a class, and I was assigned a kindergarten classroom. Instead of just focusing on two students, we were focused on observing an entire class. We weren’t teaching it, but we were watching another teacher teach. Sometimes the teacher would exit for a bit, and I would have the kids for an hour, or I would take them to music, art, and PE. These little things were a nice experience, and helped me to learn how to teach the correct behaviors.

Have you enjoyed your experience so far with the students?

I have! I really enjoyed getting to know the students. My program has emphasized forming bonds and relationships with each individual student, and at first that really made me nervous. But by the end of the semester, I really knew the kids in my class, how they need to be redirected, where they struggled and where they’re strong. I learned that the behaviors that you have in your classroom, they need to be taught. Since this wasn’t my classroom, I had a bit of a different idea of how to do this. My cooperating teacher didn’t really have them do group work, so for one of my assignments I had the students work together in groups to put together one picture. It would get loud and a few kids got pretty upset, so halfway through we paused and broke down what was happening. We talked about how you can work together and communicate, and it doesn’t have to be your way all the time. I thought this was very important. You have to be able to work with others in the future, and since it was a new activity for them, it was harder and a bit louder, but I think it did teach them something new. If I had been able to start doing lessons like that back in August, they would know how to do these things by May.

What challenges have you faced so far?

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Well, with kindergarteners I learned that teaching has to be fast paced and very engaging to keep them paying attention. I’ve seen that some teachers have wanted the students to sit a lot and pay attention. I think moving shouldn’t always require a punishment; they’re still young and need to move! When I have my own classroom I will make it so that the students are sitting still for shorter increments for certain activities.

Was there a particular moment that you’d like to share where you felt successful?

We did a case study where we had to see the growth of a student over the course of a semester. I liked that because I picked a student who is new to this classroom, and seemed to be getting into a lot of trouble. When I would work with him, he would do really well, and I realized he just likes to talk about himself. He would always get so excited about getting together with me to doing our planned activities, and I think that helped him. I made it so that he experienced something different during the days that he was with me.

Finally, I want to ask you the question that inspired this series. Why did you want to become a teacher?

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I’ve always wanted to be a teacher since I was little. I would play school in my room for hours. I think part of the reason that it stayed with me is because of my teachers. Some of my teachers had a huge impact on my life. Helping me grow and become who I am. I want to do that for students. Students come to school for 7 hours a day just with one person. and that is a huge part of their life. A lot of kids don’t have the role model that I had from my parents and teachers. Just not to be the teacher that just gives out assignments, but a person that you can come to build their character and to be successful in the future. Even if you have that at home, it helps to have someone in elsewhere in your life that helps you to share your ideas and respects you and tells you that you can do what you think you can do. You can be successful.
Another reason is that I love helping people. When something finally clicks in someone’s brain, and seeing them get excited about it. When they get excited, I get excited, and it’s just fun. My mom is a teacher, and when I was in middle school and high school, I would go to work with her some days just to help around the classroom. I really liked that. I would rather go to work with her some days then go to school myself. It was more when I didn’t really like my teacher, I would go to work with her more. I didn’t just skip! But I really liked going down there to help her out.
When I tell people I am going to be a teacher, a lot of people are like “why would you do that?”

haha, I’ve heard that one before.

Some say it because of the low pay, or some say it because it’s just challenging with the kids. But I like challenges, and I feel like teaching is a rewarding challenge, not a punishment challenge where you’re being forced to do something and there is no positivity in it. But there’s a ton of positivity in teaching, through the kids. Really, honestly, I want to be a teacher for the kids.

Thank you for visiting educationrickshaw.com, and feel free to comment below on the titular question. Why did you become a teacher? What have your experiences been like so far? We love to hear your thoughts, and will always try to respond to your comments. 

Part of the series, Why Would Anyone Want to Become a Teacher?

3 Fun Inquiry Math Activities for the Last Week of School

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Picture from Classroom 2.0.

One of the most endearing that my students are is when they are helping younger children. Preparing the classroom at the end of the year for the next group of students is considered a critical job for them, whether they are sharpening pencils or throwing out markers that no longer work. This year I decided to maximize this learning experience by having my students figure out how to prepare for the new class with some guided inquiry math.

1. Where will the new table groups go?

When I first posed this question, my students looked back at me with confusion before one of them replied, “wait, will you still have the same number of students?” The fun part of inquiry is that you don’t start out with all of the information that you need. Instead, you use your critical thinking skills to figure out what questions you have to ask to find that information before you can even begin to solve the problem.

The lesson went something like this:

  • There will be 20 students next year (I know, working at a school with a 20 student limit is awesome!), meaning we don’t have enough tables.
  • Where do we get tables? Exploration team to the school storage room
  • Division to make equal groups puts the new class into 4 groups of 5…. But when we moved the tables – which sit 2 students at each – we found we need two extra tables to accommodate odd numbered groups.
  • 5 groups of 4 means that students can’t push out their chairs without hitting each other
  • 2 groups of 4 and 2 groups of 6 works perfectly

 

2. How should we organize our supplies? 

We have tables, so students in my class store their books in these handy trays that pull all the way out. Most other supplies are also kept in the trays, including each table groups’ tray for colored pencils, crayons and markers that they can pull out and bring to their table to share.

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Trays to organize school supplies found at Consortium

My students were already warmed up to inquiry by the time I began this next challenge, so I was able to start it off with a simple question. Do we need to change the trays for next year?

  • Do we have 20 trays for them to keep their books in? They can just share! Placement of two students books into one tray shows that won’t work.
  • We don’t have enough colored pencil trays for four groups either! What can we get rid of?
  • Placement of 20 trays to one side to reserve for student book trays.
  • Prioritization of trays for colored pencils first, then markers.
  • Consolidation of math resources and extra paper/colored paper/graph paper into other storage areas.
  • New labels made.

 

3. Do we have enough supplies?

One of the best teacher hacks for the last week of school is having your kids check the colored pencil/crayon/marker/highlighter conditions, sharpen what needs sharpening and throw away what needs throwing away. I started this off by asking the question: Do we have enough supplies for the kids next year? We had already set aside the correct number of trayss, so we were in good shape to begin the conversation.coloredpencil

  • How many colored pencils/markers does each group need? Consensus that each student needs one pencil/marker of each color plus two extras per group.
  • Well, how many good ones do we have now? Lots of pencil sharpening. Old markers/highlighters thrown out.
  • Colored pencils and markers divided out among the groups.
  • Shopping list made for me!

 

Have you used inquiry lessons to complete practical tasks? How have they worked?

Please comment below and enjoy your summer vacations, teachers!

By @SGroshell

Teacher Gets Through Week of Fidget Spinners Alive

Last week, the writers here at educationrickshaw.com took our school’s swim team to Dubai to compete in a meet with over 800 participants. One of the highlights of the trip (for the kids) has been the visit to the Dubai mall, famous for the Burj Khalifa and its indoor aquarium. Many of the students that attended the meet were from my Year 5 class, and they had told me in the lead-up to the meet that they would all be purchasing fidget spinners, as these are not available yet in Sudan.

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Not only did my kids buy a fidget spinner each, but they made sure to buy a supply of fidget spinners and fidget cubes for the whole year level, and all of their siblings. The fidget phenomenon has officially reached Khartoum.

Now, I feel that I am a pretty patient and tolerant teacher when it comes to students bringing things to school. I hated it when my teachers took my Pokemon cards that I had saved up for and carefully guarded in plastic sleeve protectors. I never wanted to become the teacher that took away toys simply because they distracted ME. Then came these freaking fidget spinners. Really quickly, let me tell you how the first week went with these things.

Every few seconds they fly out of kids’ hands.

The addictive quality of these spinners is that they have the potential to deliver a satisfying spin between your index and forefingers. There is a bit of a risk though; they tend to fly out between a child’s clumsy grip just at the climax of a lesson sequence. Exactly when an “aha!” moment is about to occur, a pesky spinner will fly into the corner of the room, prompting the whole class to turn their heads towards the guilty butterfingers who did it.

They’re not great when you need kids to use their hands

Any time a student is using their iPad, writing with a pencil, or reading a book, these spinners get in the way. It is fun to watch a kid try to keep open a stiffly bound novel with one forearm and their chin as they try to spin a fidget spinner on their thumb, but only if you don’t care about that child’s reading goals. I’ve heard the crack of far too many spinners whacking against the screens of my students’ iPads as well, which goes to show that there may still be things out there more impressive to children than technology.

Even though they can be annoying, they are kind of cool. .

I’m not going to lie. . it is fun to spin a spinner on your fingers, or even on your nose. They fit perfectly in your pocket, and they really don’t do much more damage than a cup and a ball would in a classroom setting. The multitude of colors, styles and types of these fidget devices makes them fun to collect and pass around, and it really made mark on our Dubai trip.

I, myself, am a very fidgety fella, so I was initially curious if somehow these toys could cure my constant need to fuss and fidget. Needless to say, I think I’ll be sticking to flipping pens and markers until this fad dies down. .

Have fidget spinners reached your classroom? How have they impacted learning? Please comment below, and be sure to keep coming back to educationrickshaw.com!

5 Quick Projects That Make Use of Green Screen

It might come as a surprise to some teachers that all it takes to replicate the green screen effects that we all see in the movies and on the news is a free green screen app and some green butcher paper.

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Green Screen and filming station with tripod in the back corner, next to my DIY idea wall (also white butcher paper)

Once I put up my own DIY green screen in my classroom, my students didn’t have much trouble thinking of fun ways to incorporate it into their lessons and projects. Here are five fun ways to get your students learning and creating with green screen.

#1 Make your own pokemon cards

For the unit Who We Are students began by taking a personality quiz and identifying the traits and “color” that corresponded with their personality type. They then created a pokemon card on mypokecard.com and chose the two traits that best represented them as their attacks. They also identified which color they would have most trouble working with, which led to great conversations about personality clashes at school and in the workplace.

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#2 For Photo Booths and Photo competitions

While student-led conferences are ultimately about learning, that doesn’t mean that they have to be boring. Our students set up a photo booth and showed their parents how it worked before snapping a quick pic in front of their chosen background. They made sure to raid the drama room’s stash of costumes before the event!

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We also had an elementary-wide photo competition during reading week that took advantage of our kids’ savviness with the green screen.

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#3 Make Yourself into an Ordered Pair (Graphing)

One thing that new users to green screen might not know is that with most green screen apps you can play with the size of the photos and even add several actors into the mix. For this mini-project, students took a picture of themselves in front of the green screen, added graph paper as the background and then plotted themselves and their friends into ordered pairs during math.

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#4 For Music Videos and Rap Battles

For one learning engagement this year, students had to use their research papers on a colonial superpower to create rap lyrics. They then put their rap lyrics to a beat using GarageBand. Finally, they took their recorded audio track and created music videos, which of course got enhanced by the use of green screen. It was a fun way to get kids writing, combining and using technology effectively, and blending the disciplines of music, social studies, and language arts.

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#5 Anytime you need the perfect background

For one of our units, students were inquiring about leadership styles. This led to a three day sequence where students experienced what their classroom would look like when transformed into one of the three main leadership styles: Autocratic, Democratic, and Laissez-Faire. Of course, I loved playing the autocratic leader, and in addition to having students sing songs about me and portray me in the history books in a positive light, students created these propaganda pieces – autocratic rule of law with pleasant backgrounds – to share with their parents on Seesaw, who were eager to hear how the day went.

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For any prospective employer, no children were damaged during the staging of these photos, for the record 😅

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I hope these give you some great ideas for how to use green screen to add a fun and engaging element to your classroom. Keep coming back to educationrickshaw.com, and check out Stephanie’s Teachers Pay Teachers.

“The What” vs. “The How” of Education

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After reading the above tweet, I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea that we may very well spend too much time talking about what we should teach rather than how we should teach. And the more I think about it, the more I crave conversations that concern the how of educationLearning-focused conversation is learner and pedagogy focused – The how not the what. If I had the power to singlehandedly change the conversation in education, I’d ask that we make a shift in the following ways:

Stop Talking So Much About What Curriculum We Should Be Using, and Start Talking About How to Facilitate Learning in the 21st Century.

Since I began teaching only a short time ago, I have seen schools go from local standards, to national standards, to international standards. Never during these changes was I privy to training on how to implement these standards with the best 21C teaching practices. It was always more important to document what I was doing, than how I was doing it. Even the Common Core website seemed to foresee this implementation strategy:

“. . these standards establish what students need to learn but do not dictate how teachers should teach. Instead, schools and teachers will decide how best to help students reach the standards.”

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How different things might have been in terms of buy-in by teachers for Common Core if we had known the strategies to implement these standards in the most research-based and pedagogically sound ways?

Stop Talking So Much About What Learning Platform We Should Be Using, and Start Talking About How We Can Redefine the Learning Environment.

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I’ve written before about different tech tools that I have found useful, such as Seesaw for portfolios, and Moodle as a learning platform for my elementary class. But I’ve found that most any tool can be tweaked and modified to fit any purpose; To use some SAMR-speak for a moment, teachers can Substitute with Edmodo just as they can Redefine with Edmodo. It is precisely for this reason that I get so tired of conversations over which learning platform is best. Rather than looking at How blended learning can take place, we are focused on the new-kid technology on the block. Changing from Schoology to Google Classroom will not solve any of a school’s problems, because the entire premise of the conversation is based around what is best rather than how is best.

Stop Talking So Much About What is the Best Device, and Start Talking About How We Can Best Integrate Technology.

It is true that there are downsides to tablets – no keyboard, low memory, etc – but the minute you want kids to take pictures and video you’ll find that there are also downsides to laptops. The same goes for IOS vs. Windows vs. Chrome, and mobile vs. desktop vs. wearables. Next year, it’s entirely possible that the coolest new gadget will come out and completely change the face of education as we know it.

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Rather than focus on the barriers inherent in any one school-adopted device, I’d like to concentrate more on ways to maximize learning in my classroom. How can we change the relationship between the teacher, the student, and their devices? How do we improve outcomes while promoting 21C skills and attitudes? How can I get the most out of my students and the resources that my school has?

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What do you think? The irony is not lost on me that I have just written an entire post which focuses largely on what we should be talking about as educators, and not as much on how we should be talking about it. . .

Keep coming back to educationrickshaw.com, and please leave a comment or question in the section below!

Kids should read a book and build a freaking fort

Motivating kids to become lifelong readers is every teacher’s goal, but I’ll be the first to admit to having to resort to crummy prizes and rewards, including candy and toys, to get kids to read a book. In this short post, I want to offer a fun alternative: The blanket fort.


Set a goal with your readers to read a certain amount, and if they do, they can build a freaking fort.

The blanket fort is an incentive that links closely to reading (when they build it, they will read in it), and it costs you no money. Just send home a letter and collect blankets and sheets for a week. Once they design it and build it, have them read in it.

If your maintenance team is cool, have them string up some wires or ropes or something to hang the blankets and sheets. Push the desks together and make tunnels. During breaks, invite other classes in for a tour and read them a story. Who cares? It’s a fort!

At the end of the day, what students need from their teacher is someone that models their love of reading. Don’t take reading so seriously in elementary that you disenfranchise your base. Inject a shot of adrenaline into your reading program and let kids build a freaking fort.

Can a Class Teddy Bear Raise Achievement?

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A few months ago I attended a fantastic session on how teachers can do their own Action Research at an AISA conference. In the session, I decided that I wanted to see if teaching my 2nd grade students specific strategies for what to do when they get stuck would help raise their achievement. To make it easier to track progress, I would start by looking only at math and if the strategies did help, I would move towards also looking at other subjects.

How does the teddy bear fit in?

In addition to my session on Action Research at the conference, I also went to a session on Habits of the Mind with Karen Boyes (see her blog here). She gave me a number of fantastic ideas on how to develop these and one that stuck with me was using a teddy bear.

Talking out tough problems

As an adult, lots of my thinking is done silently, but when I really need to flesh out an idea or I am completely stumped, I need to discuss my thoughts orally. Although it is a priority for me to give students ample time to talk to each other about their ideas, there are situations in which a student is stuck and no one is available to work it out with them. That’s where the teddy bear comes in. Students can go over to him, sit at his desk and talk out their thinking. It feels a little silly at first, but it actually seems to work.

Practicing reading out loud to improve fluency

Although I’m not taking data on reading for my Action Research project, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to use our teddy bear in reading as well. Many of my students are English Language Learners and although their reading comprehension is coming along well, to read more fluently they more practice reading out loud than they are currently getting. While students read to self, I always take one student to read with and now our teddy bear does too. They sit with him in their favorite spot and read away, loving it and getting that extra practice they need.

Having a teddy bear is really fun

My students love him. They love him so much that they brought in an old school uniform so he matches the class, set up his desk with all of the materials any teacher could ever want and have even started talking about the possibility of him being alive after a student said she saw him blink.

Will the Teddy Bear Raise Achievement?

I will have to wait and find out, but I think his chances are good. And, whether or not he makes their math scores rise, he is making school an even more fun place to be, so he has definitely been worth the investment.

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Has anyone had similar experiences with class stuffed animals or toys? If so please comment below.

By @SGroshell

Count By Songs Are Changing How Students Learn to Multiply

Learning Different Strategies

Every year, I teach my students a number of different strategies for how to solve multiplication problems and they come up with and show me a few more.

These include:

  • Drawing a Picture
  • Repeated Addition
  • Making an Array
  • And Count Bys

By far the favorite strategy for my students year after year is their count bys. This is probably because they are the fastest strategy (other than memorizing the answers) to use and they include singing (who doesn’t love that?).

Here’s a picture of my kids dancing with the crab in one of Have Fun Teaching’s Count by 9s video.

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Memorizing Facts

I can still remember being in my elementary school years and sitting at the breakfast table or getting ready for school as my mom quizzed me on my multiplication facts. Some of them, like the 9s and 5s, have great tricks to help you, but most of them were all learned through straight memorization.

Don’t get me wrong – I thought it was really fun. I’ve always enjoyed math and I took pride in challenging myself to do multiplication. However, for those who don’t enjoy memorization or whose parents don’t have time to practice with them every day, multiplication can be a huge challenge.

In singing or rapping their Count Bys, students are memorizing all of the multiples of a number. When they have their songs down, they are able to memorize their facts significantly easier and quicker.

I’ve also put links to the videos on an elink to share them easily with students.

Below are my favorite Count By videos. I’m missing the 2s and 5s because they learn those in 1st grade before they come to me. Enjoy!

By @SEGroshell

Count By 3s

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Count By 4s

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Count By 6s

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Count By 7s

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Count By 8s

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Count By 9s

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Other math posts: Introducing Subtraction with Regrouping Through Inquiry, Happy Mathsgiving!, Why Your Students Need Xtramath Now, 5 Reasons to Do Number Corner Every Day, Keeping Kids Motivated With Dice

How to Gamify Your Class by Turning it into the “Survivor” Reality Show

I’m a big fan of the reality show, Survivor, which has a group of adults competing in a variety of challenges on an isolated beach. The drama of every episode ending with a vote and an eliminated contestant intrigued me to the point of wanting to bring it to the classroom. It was so successful that many students credited it as being the highlight of their year. I’ve been doing it ever since, having just finished my 4th season before winter break.

Here’s how I did it (and you can too!):

#1 Film an opening sequence (optional)

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To make mine (click on the pics above and below), I just used a mishmash of old footage from the show and had my kids record a small dance sequence with a green screen in the background. It was a great lesson in how green screens work in both film and television, and it provided a great opportunity to introduce video editing.

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#2 Split the students into teams and explain the rules

I try to pick the teams fairly, yada yada yada, but the most important aspect of this step is reinforcing the idea that there is only one winner in this game, and that is the person that gets to the end. Everyone else loses. For this game to be fun, we have to accept losing with dignity, and winning with humility.

Instead of having students vote each other out, which could turn into nothing but a popularity contest, I do it in a way that I feel adds a bit of random chance to the game as well as includes some of the values that we teach in our school. Before voting, I put students’ names into a random name picker to select the two students that will end up on the “hot seat”. Then, as we have a daily PYP attitude that we talk about during morning meeting, I ask students to vote for the student that best exemplified that trait that day. This way they are voting for a student to stay “in” based on the good things they saw from them that day, and it is less about voting somebody “out”.

In my Survivor, all students stay onboard to compete in all of the challenges for the duration of the season, even if they have been eliminated from the game. That way they understand that their role is not only self-serving, but also has an element of teamwork.

#3 Lead the Challenges

The most fun part of Survivor for the students are the surprise challenges that they compete in. These can be academic (i.e. Spelling Bee), Team Building, or just simple camp games (5 Ways Camp Makes You a Better Teacher). When a team loses, they can sit back and watch the final vote with a calmness that only comes with having won immunity.

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#4 Hide Individual Immunity Idols

One little curveball that I throw into the game (once the game has progressed a bit) are the clues to a hidden immunity idol. A hidden immunity idol allows the finder to be assured that they cannot be added to the hot seat on the day that they play it. I just create a mini-scavenger hunt around the building and the students use their recess times trying to find them and the idol.

#5 Lead the Final Tribal Council

Once the teams have been whittled down to two, there is a final vote done by the entire jury (the rest of the competing students). These days, we have our annual camping trip correspond with the final challenges and tribal council so that we can have it around a real fire. The final two have to give their persuasive speech, and the winner gets a check for a million fake dollars, just as you see in the photo below.

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The Sole Survivor

I hope you enjoy this idea, and that it inspires you to make school a fun experience for your young learners. If you haven’t already, follow me on Twitter and keep coming back to Education Rickshaw!

First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth - TeachersPayTeachers.com