As a lead into a discussion with 8th grade students on the causes of WWI I have my students participate in a game where they have to grab as many Tootsie Rolls as possible from a pile in the middle of the room.  The activity was created to demonstrate how countries during WWI competed for natural resources. The tootsie rolls represent natural resources and the students represent countries competing for the natural resources. (See the activity in the video below).

My students absolutely love this and it leads to a lot of great thinking on their part.  After the rules are explained and the kids complete the activity which is simply called the “Candy Grab Game” the students are presented with a simple question – Why did we do this activity? After a class discussion exploring the possible reasons for doing the candy grab game we then go directly into the notes on the causes of WWI without giving MY rationale for the game.  I want them to think, draw their own conclusions and make their own connections. We just finished learning about US Overseas Expansion and have already had a little introduction to WWI. Their responses always get me excited and actually get me to think about different ways to see this game as a metaphor for one of the causes of WWI – imperialism.

Now the RAMIN part:

When  giving the notes on the causes of WWI  an interactive whiteboard is used and on every slide there are pictures of  of Ramen Noodles with an “I” superimposed over the “E”.

RAMIN

RAMIN

My kids begin to ask questions and sometimes it leads to off task discussions on how “yummie” Ramen Noodles are and their favorite flavor etc.  I even hold on to a real package of noodles while going over the notes.  This puzzles and intrigues the kids – many are probably thinking that their teacher is nuts.

Finally we get to a page of notes with the picture of RAMIN and the phrase “This is what caused World war I”  I wait for the light bulbs to go off and rely on “wait time” for my students to make the connection.  Many of the students eventually realize that RAMIN is an acronym for the causes of WWI – Check out the notes below for a more detailed explanation.

I developed this “crazy” acronym in my 2nd or 3rd year of teaching (I started in 1998).  One of the great things I have found with using acronyms such as RAMIN in the classroom is that when I run into former students (5-10 years later) they are still excited to tell me among other acronyms that they remember RAMIN and what it stands for.

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Personal Thoughts and Reflections on Twitter for Teachers

Research:

A great way to engage in collaborative research.  Although I have not done this yet I can envision working with other teachers on a collaborative project to plan out a unit, develop uses for various technology and software, compile websites for a workshop etc.

Sharing of websites and other resources:

After growing my PLN (Personal Learning Network)  I am learning of new websites all the time. It is really especially helpful because other educators share how they use these online resource with their students.  Often times these are ideas that I have not thought of and even lead to other ideas.

Development of community – We are all in this together

Feeling of belonging.  Teaching is hard work.  I often find myself up late at night either grading papers or trying to plan my next lesson.  I have Twitterfox running in Firefox and at 11 at night seeing others share what they are doing – grading assignments, planning a lesson etc makes me feel better some how.

Brainstorming/Asking Questions:

If I am looking for ideas I can simply send out a question and within minutes will usually get a response.  This for me is a huge time saver.  Yes, I know I can go out and Google something but getting responses from real teachers often leads directly to the information I am looking for without having to weed through millions of websites.   TwttrStrm is a good tool for this.

Data collection:

I find that Twitter is a great way to collect data.  I used twtpoll for example to find out how many Document Based Essay questions other social studies teachers give their students in a school year.

Why not just use email?

For me email has become a chore.  I am finding that keeping up with it can be painful.  With Twitter I never have to delete anything and the 140 character limit keeps posts direct and to the point.  Twitter can be overwhelming too but the nice thing is that you can choose to stop following someone if their posts don’t meet your needs.

Why not just use a blog?

Blogging is great but takes time.  Twitter is less formal and it easy easy to blast out a post even in the middle of class without disrupting the flow of the class.  In fact you can even incorporate Twitter into your lesson if you need a quick answer to something.  Most teachers I know (including myself) are usually pulled in 30 different directions, frazzled and strapped for time.  I am not a fast writer – compiling this blog has taken me about an hour and a half. I can zip out a tweet in about 10 seconds.

Follow the experts:

There are people who are at the top of their game:  Bernie Dodge, Mike Wesch, Kathy Schrock who are providing valuable information and insight on a regular basis.

Flexibility:

With Twitter I have tons of options of how I want to keep up to date with the people I follow.  I can use the Twitter website, Download a 3rd party application such as Tweetdeck or Twhirl, use a 3rd party web application to sort and group messages.  Currently I like to use PeopleBrowsr for this.  I can choose to send and receive Tweets with my phone and can even get updates through my RSS Reader. I love options!

The down side?:

Information overload.  There is so much great stuff being shared that I can barely keep up.  I admit that at times I get distracted and start reading a post or exploring a new website when I should be grading papers but I think the trade off is that it keeps me informed and it keeps my job “fresh” and exciting as it usually leads to a new idea to try with my students.  It is like informal profesional development.  I wonder if there is a way to document my learnings and explorations so I can get inservice credit through my district?