Friday, May 25, 2012

So what is this #throwdown thing anyway?

 We keep getting questions on twitter, so decided to clear it all up in more than 140 characters! (Brian and I are both posting our own #throwdown explanations today-the link to his is at the bottom.)

So, maybe you've seen the #throwdown2 or #teacherthrowdown hashtags lately on twitter. Likely between Brian Wyzlic (@brianwyzlic) and myself (@heisereads). We've been doing a sister classroom project experiment all year (extensive blog post to come in June), and this idea came about from a somewhat taunting tweet from Brian (it shouldn't be shocking that Brian is sending me taunting tweets):

Obviously, I couldn't ignore that or let my students back down, so I accepted the challenge and we started in on a journey to motivating readers that exceeded my expectations!

Our first #throwdown battle was for the month of March. Brian, being the math teacher, recommended that we not only tally the total books, but base the winner on a books/student ratio to make it fair and accomodate the difference in class sizes. One basic rule was that graphic novels (since my students were required to read one that month) equaled half a book. We updated often via twitter with the #throwdown hashtag, and there was quite a bit of taunting and trash-talking going on throughout, which only seemed to motivate my students even more. It ended up that my class beat Brian's with these results:
But both classes read a lot of books! Our prize sent from Michigan was some delicious Macinac Island fudge.

After all of the excitement of March, I was feeling a little bit unmotivated in April and wanted to think of something to do to help motivate my students after spring break, so I sent this out to my fearless sister classroom:
Luckily, since we were feeling a little unimaginative, he agreed to another round (plus, I did think we should at least give his group the chance to win one). Due to Mr. Wyzlic's homeroom being 8th grade and them getting out of school earlier than my 7th graders, and wanting to make sure that there was time to send the prize should they win this round, we had to back it up a little bit and start our second throwdown on April 24th so we could get a whole month in, with an in-class reveal of the winner via Skype on Friday, May 25th.

Then came time to name it. I suggested #throwdownredux but Brian wasn't having it because as he reminded me-we only have 140 characters. So #throwdown2 was started (which is probably good because coming up with terms for future numbers could have become problematic).
Of course, we then had to set some basic expectations which were:
1. Any book they finished after April 24th counted (even if they started it before). They have until midnight of the last day to finish and count a book.
2. Whole class books (which both of us were doing in that month) counted for each student once finished.
3. Ratios: 4 graphic novels count as 1 book; 2 free verse novels count as 1 book. Fractions are allowed.
4. In order to count, chosen books need to be appropriate for students' skill level - they can't just choose really easy books to inflate their counts.

My students were excited to do another round, but Brian's students were really motivated to kick our butts this time to redeem themselves from their March loss. However, there was still one issue to be worked out. During the first round, my students had asked if the books Mr. Wyzlic and I were reading counted toward the class totals. At the time, we didn't include them because we were partway through, but it was an interesting question and only seemed fair that we do what we were asking our students to do. So, for #throwdown2, Brian and I agreed that we would battle each other also, and a second #teacherthrowdown began. (The first #teacherthrowdown was related to our March Book Madness brackets and Brian and I both filled out a prediction bracket - the winner by far was Brian.)

Overall, our totals for #throwdown2 were improved over the first #throwdown. Mr. Wyzlic's class ended up beating mine with 144 books read for 6 books/student. However, we both consider that we are benefitting because each of our classes read over 100 books again (and increased over the last round), and Brian and I read a combined total of 18 books in only 30 days (oh, and I won that one!). And since I'm sure you're wondering, the prize we're sending them for winning is an tasty Wisconsin treat (but I can't tell you more than that yet because they don't know what it will be!)

It's pretty awesome! I have not seen anything else serve to motivate my students as much as this all-in-good-fun battling of books and earning the bragging rights and sense of accomplishement. And, that my friends, is the heart of #throwdown and why we will definitely be doing more of them next year. We also already have plans for a summer version of #teacherthrowdown (to be revealed at a later date).

#throwdown has been a blast this year and I can't wait to do more next year! Are you ready for your own #throwdown now? If so, let us know about it! I'd love to see more people joining in with their own versions of #throwdown challenges!

Don't forget to check out Brian's take on this whole #throwdown thing on his blog at WyzReads.

1 comment:

  1. You know I LOVE this! I'm thinking we need to have throw downs between our classrooms at my middle school...maybe high school too!