AIMS Week – April 7th to April 11th #7thGradeChallenge

AIMS - April 7th to April 13th!

AIMS – April 7th to April 11th!

I’ve tried to motivate my students in various ways throughout the years (here & here), but this was a little different. I decided to have a little fun with my 7th Graders. On Thursday, we brainstormed for ideas that would embarrass Mr. Sye (me) as well as motivate students if they met/exceeded a certain level on their upcoming state standardized tests. There were several outrageous suggestions, but the classes settled on having me change my hair color. On Friday, I gave each of my Literature classes the following announcement: Have you ever wanted to embarrass Mr. Sye? Here is your chance! Mr. Sye has agreed to bleach his facial hair blonde as well as what little hair he has on his scalp Of course, there is a catch. He has challenged his 7th Graders on their upcoming AIMS (Arizona’s Instrument for Measuring Standards) test. If 95% of 7th Graders either meet or exceed the state standards (Literature Assessment), it will happen at the beginning of next school year…  Are you up for the challenge?

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AIMS #ProperPlanningPreventsPoorPerformances

AIMS - April 7th to April 11th...

AIMS – April 7th to April 11th…

Since I’ve been an adult, I’ve always followed the notion that proper planning prevents poor performances. I began class by letting students know that we won’t be scrambling around or making any last ditch efforts to prepare because we’ve prepared all year to be proficient readers and writers. As the AIMS (Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards) test approaches, I decided to give the students a chance to gain some confidence. Before we participated in the practice test activity, we spoke about test anxiety as well as a few other concerns about the upcoming test. I let the kids know to relax, and that they should try their best. I also let them know that I have prepared them for the many things throughout the entire year, and the AIMS Reading/Writing Test is one of them. Prior to this activity, we have done several things during the year to specifically prepare for taking the state standardized test –  AIMS Buckle Down, Galileo Benchmark Assessments, Galileo Interventions/Quizzes, Reading Comprehension Worksheets, etc-etc. I continued to give them a few encouraging words about preparation, and I opened the floor back up for questions, comments, and/or concerns…

I digress, we took the practice AIMS/Reading Test that ADE (Arizona Department of Education) provided. You can view it [here]. The material was rather dated, but the object of the activity was to give them a good idea as to what type of questions would be on the test. Once the students completed the practice test, we came back together for a comprehension check as well as test taking tips to answering the previously mentioned questions.

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Class in the news after Ludacris announces contest winner [KGun9 News & Arizona Daily Star]

I always tell my students, “put in the work and good things will happen.” As we went into Winter Break, students received some reinforcement to that notion as well as a little press for a competition in which they all participated in [read more about competition]. Although there could only be one winner, they all enjoyed hearing about their class as well as school in the news. They also, of course, enjoyed receiving a special shout out from Ludacris (see here). Above is footage from KGun9 News, and I was also able to find an article on the Arizona Daily Star. I didn’t have any luck finding KVOA Channel 4’s news article and/or footage, but we appreciate them as well. All in all, it was a good way to end 2013. I’m glad the news was able to shine some light on such positivity as well as help me reinforce that notion that working hard actually paying off. Looking forward to an even better 3rd & 4th Quarter in 2014…

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Ludacris Announces Classroom Contest Winner [Video]

As the holiday season approaches, students have been getting anxious to find out who the winner will be for the Soul By Ludacris Headphone Contest. As an added bonus, Ludacris gave a special shout out to announce the class winner. The winner was extremely happy as well as shocked that Ludacris took the time to give her a special mention.

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Soul By Ludacris Headphones Contest [Extrinsic Reward]

 Soul by Ludacris SL150 Pro Hi-Definition On-Ear Headphones (Autographed)

Soul by Ludacris SL150 Pro Hi-Definition On-Ear Headphones (Autographed)

Last year, I had a contest during the 4th Quarter to see who could receive the highest average in either Literature or Writing. The reward was a pair of custom Air Force Ones [see contest here]. I’ve decided this year to do a contest to give away a pair of Soul By Ludacris Headphones [see picture]. How it will work is pretty simple. I will show the headphones to the students, give them a few ground rules, and they will compete for the highest grade average. What I haven’t decided is the time frame of this contest. I’m thinking about either the first two quarters, or making it for the entire four quarters. If I do it for two quarters, it will make for a nice holiday gift. If I do it for the entire four quarters, it might motivate somebody for an entire year. We shall see and keep it TBD (feedback is welcome)…

A little extrinsic reward, you bet. I’ve had these headphones for awhile, and I rarely use them. They’re very good quality, but I don’t use them. I figured a student that works hard to win these will get a lot more use out of them. Lesson for the students, when you work hard for things, you give yourself an opportunity for good things to happen… On that same note, there is only one pair of headphones, so working hard, just like in life, might not get you what you want all the time. That being said, you still have to put forth the effort to give yourself an opportunity to be successful.

21st Century Classroom #DonationForDeskTop

Enter “INSPIRE” to have donation matched by DonorsChoose.Org – #ImagineThePossibilities…

I’ve created a classroom project request at because I want to make sure my students have the materials they need to reach their full potential. The project entails one classroom computer to be used for completing homework, researching information for a project, or simply typing an essay paper. This access to technology will potentially better equip students for the future. Unfortunately the future is no longer just written, it’s typed, it’s coded, it’s on Facebook, it’s on Twitter, it’s on Instagram, it’s reported via online news outlets, it’s blogged about, and without access to all the previously mentioned, the future can seem out of reach. Please help me make that reach a little easier.

I’m asking for donations of any size to help my students. For the next week (7/5 to 7/12), any donation you make to my project will be doubled via! If you know anyone who is passionate about education, please pass this along. Your donation will brighten my students’ school year, and you’ll get photos and thank yous from our class.

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Ready To Go (2013/2014 School Year)


As the last 20 or so days of the summer (school not regular people’s calender) come to a close, I’ve already begun to go into out with the old and in with the new mode of thinking. I’ve just printed my lesson plans for 2013/2014… Class notes have also been completed for next year – all in Microsoft word format. I had planned to take it easy this summer, and for the most part, I am doing just that. I’ve prepared two major things for next year, lesson plans and class notes. That being said, there are obvious pros as well as some not so obvious cons.

First and foremost, I have a plan as to where I want the students to go according to each quarter. Another pro, I have more time to focus on direct instruction as well as adjustments/enrichment/remediation instead of planning day to day or week to week. The last major pro, and perhaps the best reason that I planned the entire year out ahead of time, it lets me enjoy the students w/o worrying about creating lesson plans under the pressure of grading, other responsibilities, and just day to day life outside of teaching. Continue reading

View & Respond – Charles Ramsey


Today, the class worked on (7.SL.1) & (7.SL.5) common core speaking/listening standards during a view & respond activity about Charles Ramsey tells Anderson Cooper how he found Amanda Berry, a woman who vanished years ago, in his neighbor’s house. The activity began with a handout that can be viewed [here]. I instructed students to read the news article to give the background to the to the story. Students were prompted to use their active listening skills (who, what, why, where, when) during the viewing of YouTube Media clip. Once the clip was complete, I gave students about 3-5 minutes to jot down any information they couldn’t during the viewing to help guide the discussion. I then opened the floor up for discussion by asking initial reactions.

This is a mature topic. That being said, I think it’s important for the students to understand the value of doing what’s right when they least expect it. One of my main objectives with this type of view and respond is to engage, effectively, in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) on topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own point(s) of views clearly. I hope to reach that outcome through the multimedia source presented as well as notes using 5W’s format, discussion, and the view/respond handout.

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