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Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Dec 09 2009

Impossible Puzzle

I meant to write about this on Monday but totally forgot, so pretend this is from two days ago.

Whenever I give a unit test, I always put a word search on the back with vocabulary words from the unit. Not very high level, I know, but the kids who finish early need something to do so they don’t get antsy and act up, and I feel guilty giving them something hard right after they finish a test – I don’t want to punish them for being fast. Anyways, I use an online word search generator, and I just feed it the vocab list from the unit plan and copy what it spits out onto the back of the test. I usually check to make sure it didn’t put any glaringly obvious dirty words in the random filler letters, but that’s it.

So on Monday, I noticed that the early finishers were becoming really intense about the word search. Like, they were getting agitated about trying to finish it, and not letting me collect it when the period was over. I finally figured out why at the end of the day – I had put “continental drift” (as one word) on the word list, but apparently it was too long for the puzzle-generator’s abilities so it wasn’t actually hidden in the word search. The kids were going nuts because they could find every other word except that one – and as a result became waaaay more invested in the word search than usual. It actually worked out kind of well, because none of them were able to finish the word search and start acting up. I think I’m going to put one impossible word in every word search from now on.

In more recent news, today Jorge (the Star Wars kid) had a major backslide when he bit (BIT!) another student over possession of a slinky. I’m going to start calling him Chewy.

3 Responses

  1. Reid

    Unit tests? You’re applying test-driven development to middle schoolers? Awesome! Next you can whip out some agile methodologies and get them writing little stories on notecards planning out how you’ll grade their homework!

  2. mom

    Sounds like that guys been teaching in the Bronx too long.

  3. Reid is someone you know telling a joke, right? After that one dude who scolded you for not teaching enough during a touch football game, I cannot tell. In other news, sometimes grad school feels like one of your word searches.

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Hopefully not blinding any of my students with science…

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