Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Final HSCN: I Volunteer as Tribute

The arena set, the districts formed, the Capitol ready. 

Tributes working hard in their Districts
Sounds like the beginning of the Hunger Games, doesn't it? This was the staging for the final HSCN: The Math Hunger Games.

To bring you up to speed if you are not familiar with my HSCN, I hosted evenings three times a month where I instructed parents on math and reading. This is explored more in depth in this blog post. The final HSCN was Students vs. Parents.

In a Twitter chat, I got the idea to do a review game based on the Hunger Games. I was going to do this in class, but opted to play Survivor instead. I used the idea for the final HSCN instead. I sent out the RSVP forms and was expecting about 11 families (students and parents.)

It involved some set up. I took released items from the VDOE and pulled them into a Google Presentation. I also devised simple rules to play: Correctly answering a question earned you the right to steal "lives" from other teams. I decided to use Smarties as "lives," and gave 16 to the students and 10 to the adults. I also created challenges that aligned with the books' quotes to reveal along the way, as detailed below:
Math Star Surprise
  • “I volunteer! I volunteer as tribute”
    • President B needs one tribute from each district to participate in a round of Math Star (flash card game we play to practice math facts.) Winner will earn 5 Smarties for his/her district. You have ten seconds to decide.
  • “The Cornucopia"
    • Visit the Cornucopia and retrieve the bag for your district to use in this next round. Open it, but keep it a secret! (Prizes included a calculator, extra Smarties, a "cheat sheet," and a "peek card."
  • “The Quarter Quell. As a reminder to the rebels that even the strongest cannot overcome the Capitol...”
    • For the following round, the winning tributes must give half of their prize to President B
  • “If we burn, you burn with us”
    • One tribute from each District (cannot be same tribute from Math Star round) will face off against President B on a math problem of Mrs. Burke’s choosing. Beating President B results in a win of 10 Smarties for your District. 

Receiving the Declaration of Education
There was even a surprise in it for me! Before we got started, two of the parents interjected and said they had two surprises for me. The parents in my class had gotten together and gave me a Visa gift card. I appreciated this a lot, even though I was not expecting this at all. Their second surprise was more meaningful for me. The students had gotten together with one of the other teachers and written a Declaration of Education, detailing reasons they enjoyed my class this year. It was a very touching gift and I will treasure it for years. 

We had 22 total Tributes (12 parents and 10 students.) I livestreamed the entire game on YouTube, which you can view here. The students and parents were all extremely excited. Even better, the majority of the Tributes got all the questions right, which helps to show that the HSCN was effective. As we went along, I decided that I would have students and parents model answers on the board. I was surprised by the eagerness of some of the parents to model problems, especially ones who had said from the start that they were not "good at math." This illustrated how I had empowered students and parents alike. 

Student modeling
The game lasted for two hours and it was a memorable experience for the parents, the students, and me. One parent team became the winning district, earning one pack of Smarties per member! 

Overall, I saw the HSCN experience as a very powerful and meaningful experience for all involved. I noticed gains in the students. One student in particular went from borderline failing every subject to excelling. Her parents attended the majority of the HSCNs. She also put forth a huge amount of effort in class, so it is hard to quantify exactly the effect of HSCN. Overall however, I saw a greater degree of improvement in many of the students whose parents attended HSCN regularly.

Parent modeling
I also witnessed and heard great things from parents. Many of them mentioned how it was a great refresher for them and they felt empowered to help their students at home. Parental involvement is something I am very passionate about (to the extent where my graduate research project is being formed on this topic,) and I was thrilled to hear that I would be able to help the parents grow.

Recently, I was contacted by a teacher in a neighboring school district who had heard about my program and wished to mimic it. He asked me various questions about the process, including if it was worth it.

Showing answers
I immediately said yes. I will be the first to admit it; this experience has been no walk in the park. It takes about three hours to make a truly effective presentation, another two hours on presentation night, and then some time sending out RSVPs and other related tasks, all of which I am doing on my own time for no extra pay, recognition, or incentives. It is frustrating when I get to a night and only three parents show up. However, I frame it as I am helping those three parents, which then helps my students. I like to keep a student-first mindset and that is what keeps me going. I would highly advise you to give a whirl, whether its by yourself, with a grade-level team, or school-wide.

Have you every tried something like this? Do you need any help getting started?

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