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Change is hard, but we can make it fun!

By Tim Bugno, Curriculum Manager, AVID Center

So the old 2016 calendar is in the trash, and the new 2017 calendar of cats is nailed to the wall, encouraging you to “Hang in There!”—a grand time of renewal and starting again. Interestingly, January 1 became New Year’s Day when Julius Caesar reformed the calendar and used it to celebrate Janus, the Roman god of beginnings. Janus’ two faces allowed him a unique ability to look into the past, as well as the future. As a result of its origin, it makes sense that January became a time for us to reflect on past successes/failures and set goals about the future.

Whether the New Year’s resolution is to lose weight, spend less and save more, or do less laundry and wear more deodorant, many of us use this time of year to establish (reestablish) goals. In fact, according to Statisticbrain, 62% of Americans set some type of New Year’s resolutions. The bad news… Only 8% will actually hold to their resolution for the year. The point: Change is hard! As that reality sinks in, consider this: How often do we use the New Year as a time to set resolutions about our teaching practices? Usually, those resolutions are created at the beginning of a new school year. Come August, “New Year” resolutions of staying fit or quitting smoking are replaced by “New School Year” resolutions of having students enjoy learning, achieving higher test scores, or surviving the year (both you and the students). But maybe we should reconsider that timing. At the beginning of the school year, students are learning the classroom routines—you are getting to know them, and they are getting to know you. Now it’s January, you know them and they know you (probably too well), so that makes it the perfect time to reconsider our instructional pedagogy. Think back to Summer Institute and all those cool AVID WICOR strategies that you were so eager to try out. So as you are finalizing your year’s personal resolutions, consider adding a professional resolution about instruction into the mix.

However, this brings us full circle to the problem… Change is hard! I remember my first year on the school’s AVID Site Team, coming out of the Math 1 Summer Institute strand super excited and ready to revolutionize the way I taught my classes. The results of revolutionizing my instruction that first year, well… Let’s just call them underwhelming. Why? …Because change is hard! It took years of focused, dedicated time to alter my teaching practices. For years, I thought about how to encourage other educators to try a new strategy for the first time. A few months ago, I was sitting on the couch, and through power of will, I was successfully suppressing the desire to exercise (cross “get healthy” off the resolution list) and watching the celebrity edition of Food Network’s Chopped, where Teri Hatcher had just won. For those who don’t waste their life watching television, it’s a competition where contestants are given four mystery food ingredients and have a limited amount of time to cook a meal using those ingredients. After winning, Teri Hatcher stated that before coming on the show, her daughter would put together random ingredients in a basket so that Teri could “practice." This is when the epiphany hit: the gamification of using WICOR as a means to encourage educators to integrate new teaching strategies into their classroom. Thus, the creation of…

WICOR Chopped

Number of Players:

  • Gather between 4 and 100 teachers (possibly begin with your AVID Site Team)

How to Play:

  • Download and print (back-to-back) the WICOR Chopped playing cards here.
  • Determine what level of difficulty you will begin with:
    • Level 1 (easiest strategies to use) – for example: quickwrites, think-pair-share, exit tickets
    • Level 2 (moderate difficulty) – for example: numbered heads together, marking the text
    • Level 3 (high difficulty) – for example: Socratic Seminar, Conga Lines
  • Note: All three levels can be mixed together to randomize difficulty.
  • Have one teacher draw three cards.
  • The drawn cards become the strategies that all players (i.e., teachers) must incorporate into their instruction during the next week.
  • During the week, all three strategies (from the cards) must be integrated somewhere into the classes they teach.
  • At the end of the week, teachers describe how they used the strategies in their classes (possibly sharing lesson plans).


  • Creativity of incorporation into instruction (scored on a scale of 1–5)
  • 2 bonus points if the player had never used that strategy before
  • 2 bonus points if the strategy is used in more than three of their classes
  • 1 bonus point if the player (teacher) brings in student work


  • Let’s be honest, it’s the students who win. We know these strategies improve student performance. But change is hard! The game is just a means of encouraging you to try new strategies in the class.
  • If you really need to select a winner, add up the points from the scoring above. The player (teacher) with the highest score wins.
  • Suggestion: Get a paper crown from Burger King, and the winner becomes the King/Queen of Instruction for the week.

There are some educators out there who probably think this game is… (cheesy, lame, childish, fill in the blank). My response to that: “You are probably right,” but it’s not about the game, it’s really about pushing yourself to try something new. It’s about experimentation that allows you to test out strategies to see what works (for you and the students). And for those of you who are overly competitive and love this game idea (like me), destroy the competition. Happy New Year!


Timothy Bugno taught mathematics and the AVID Elective for 10 years at Bear Creek High School in Stockton, California. He is currently finishing his doctorate in Education focusing on AVID’s ability to support the development of metacognitive skills in students.

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