Wednesday, April 9, 2014

I'll Take Geysers For 40, Mrs. Thevictorian.

I hosted a science knowledge tournament in my classroom yesterday. All textbook and no shenaniganning make for a very long school day. We use a science magazine periodically throughout the year. Think of your Weekly Reader, only all sciency, and for high school students. The kids like it because they learn many new things from current happenings in the world of science. I like it because it always has a balance of the different branches, and it relates stories to the major concepts we cover.

Normally, I challenge the class to beat my score in an online science Jeopardy-style game. I answer all questions without ever opening up the magazines. Then they get a chance. Occasionally, one class might eke out a victory. Not often, though, because Val is, after all, a professional. A jack-of-all-science-branches. (Shh...I can't use that kind of expression around the kids). There is no truth to the rumor that I am now pitting student against student because I can't take a trouncing. As if!!! I even scored a perfect 400 on this week's issue.

We played two preliminary rounds, and then a championship match and a consolation match. I have every student's name on a colored index card. I use them throughout the year to pick students to answer questions, to put them in groups for labs, and to choose partners for collaborative learning. For the teams, I discussed the rules while shuffling those cards over and over. Then I deal out four stacks, face down. Because I know how kids will react, I first preface each card-partnering session with: "Let's remember that we will not show excessive emotion. No euphoria. No despair. These are not your life partners for eternity. They are your 40-minute partners for this one day. Now here are your teams..."

Kids will try to infiltrate a team with their buddies. So I read off a whole team, and tell them where to sit. Then I watch them go to that spot. You can't let them mill or mingle. I name the teams, because I do not recall fondly that day when a team chose "The Narcoleptic Otters," and one sleepy aquatic weasel asked, "Do you know how to spell that?" as I wrote the name on the board. Puhlease! What valedictorian cannot spell otter?

"This team is the Doors. You will sit by the door. Next, we have the Pencil Sharpeners. You will sit by the Pencil Sharpener. No. You may NOT be the Windows. I can see right through your little plan. I choose the names here. Okay, back here in front of my desk, we have the Desks. Uh uh. You are NOT Bookcases. You are DESKS! Embrace your Deskness. And over there, in the last corner, are the Microwaves. You know, in front of the microwave. Has everybody got it?"

It took a few moments for the teams to decide on official spokesmen and a number between 1 and 60 to determine opponents and game order. The Pencil Sharpeners bluntly declared that they were not all that sharp, and they were a bit concerned about going up against their rivals, the Doors. "But Mrs. Thevictorian! How fair is that? The Doors are open to many new opportunities. And we are just dull." After being told not to knock the Doors, the Pencil Sharpeners settled down to grind out a victory.

The Desks went about their match in an upright, workmanlike manner, with their feet planted firmly on the ground. They knew their opponents, the Microwaves, were really cookin'. As luck would have it, the three top brains ended up on the same team. One of the questions was, "Which has the longest wavelenth: X-rays, ultraviolet radiation, or microwaves?" The Microwaves got it right. "We knew that answer, Mrs. Thevictorian! We knew that question would come up, and that we would get it right. Because WE are the Microwaves!"

A limnologist does not study tree limbs. (inland waters)
The melting point is not the temperature at which a liquid becomes a gas. (boiling point)
Cerumin is not saliva. (earwax)
The preferred food of the black-footed ferret is not insects. (prairie dogs)
The first living thing to orbit Earth was not a chimp. (dog)

In the future, I may put a group right up front by the white board, and call them the Blank Slates. Think of the possibilities.


  1. No groups in just a plain ol' corner? Nobody puts babies in a corner anymore?

  2. As bad as I am in the Seinfeld references I will not even attempt to count the number of puns. I am guessing your students enjoy your class and probably even learn some stuff.

  3. Creative you are. I'd call the microwave bunch zappers and their teacher innovative. Teaching can be fun some days.

  4. What an interesting way to get kids to learn. Bravo!

  5. You are sooo intelligent. I am in awe of your scientific knowledge. Me? I got one right out of five. I'd be with the dunce-cap group.

  6. If I'd had Mrs. Victorian as my science teacher I KNOW I would have enjoyed high school a little more. As it was we spent those hours stealthily making the longest gum wrapper chain in the world and on the side counting how many times Mr. Bumford said, "of course." p.s. I knew about ferrets and dogs in space but never heard of cerumin.

  7. Sioux,
    Kids these days are all about the bells and whistles. A plain corner would go over as well as unflavored Quaker Oats on the free breakfast tray.

    You guess right. We run the gamut from disgruntled to overly-fond. Today I had one complaining about a desk that wobbles if you press down on it with the force of Superman, and two devising a schedule for surprising me with an unwanted hug. I told the Deskgruntled to go stand by the wall and write on the bumpy surface of the painted cinder blocks, but she declined. The Huggers declared they WOULD find a way in, whether it be picking the lock on the door, busting in a window, or tunneling through the wall.

    "Well. I can see you picking the door lock, the windows are safety glass, and thank goodness when you tunnel through the wall, your way will be blocked by lines of the Deskgruntled, using it as their writing surface."

    Score: 4973 for Mrs. Thevictorian.......0 for the students

    I have a laugh every day. But some days I pull out more hair than others.

    Those zappers and I were on the same wavelength. I smell a future valedictorian in their midst.

    I won't dress up like Madame Curie and rap a little ditty called "That's Radiumkulous!" But I WILL allow them to stretch their gray matter with science facts.

    I figure that after teaching assorted sciences for 26 years, I should know a little more about it than normal people. I am sorry to inform you that the dunce cap has been discontinued. Because if one kid gets a dunce cap, they ALL have to get dunce caps, so nobody feels left out. Have you seen the price of dunce caps down at Staples recently? Yeah. It would not bode well to have little Johnny go home grousing, "I wish I had a dunce cap like Susie. It's not FAIR!"

    But did you take the Big Red Challenge? You know...licking the inside of the foil wrapper from a stick of Big Red gum, and sticking it on your forehead? I'm guessing that you did not. Because if you did, we would still be able to see that angry red rectangle under your bangs. From space.

  8. Wow, that was amazing. Maybe if I had a teacher like you when I was in school, I might know a thing or two about science - and of course I did just learn a thing or two! FUNNY post as well!

  9. Lynn,
    I left a response to your comment last night. It was quite witty and informative, I'm sure. But now it's gone! Gone to the gullet of comment-gobbler Blogger, where it has been churned into chyme, and might, at this very moment, be flowing into the duodenum. I have to tell myself, "This too, shall pass."