At the end of the school year, most teachers are focusing on keeping students engaged, writing report cards, communicating with parents, figuring out new placements, and packing up the classroom. With all the hustle and bustle of the final months of school, it is hard to even wrap our brains around preparing for for next year. That is what the last week of July is for right?!? Today we have rounded up fellow teachers who know the spring struggle, but also have some easy and effective tips for creating a smooth back to school season by doing a little preparation now. We think you will thank them come August!
The media coverage of the presidential race this year has reached epic proportions. No doubt our colleagues in social science and civics are working tirelessly to engage students in the electoral process, but I think we have our bit to play too. I think that is important to be as impartial as reasonably possible and also allow students to form educated positions based on the lens of their own experiences as well as rhetorical analysis of primary documents. Today I wanted to share with you a lesson that I created to help students break down the language used by the candidates. We'd love to hear your ideas and feedback in the comment section below!
I'm not convinced that we should even give spring break homework because by this time in the year, we all need a little breathing room. However, some teachers are required to give break work, and others see that their students need a little something to keep their heads in the game and finish out fourth quarter instead of starting summer vacation in the spring. If you are in that boat, let us share a couple of fun ideas with you! If you have questions or additions to this list, we would love to hear from you in the comment section below!
The math department at my school has done incredible work in the area of grading for mastery. For two years, I've listened to them tweak and hone their program and I've wanted to jump on board, but it is so hard to wrap my brain around how it would work in my English classroom. Here I am in the spring semester thinking and planning for next year and I think it is time to move in that direction. If you do mastery grading or standards based grading, I'd love to hear your questions, suggestions, and experiences in the comment section below!
Everyone who has ever met me for even an hour probably knows that I'm involved in a serious, lifelong love affair with office supplies. On most days, all it really takes to make me happy is a short wander through isles of post-it notes, sharpies, and washi tape. Last year, while watching youtube videos about clever ways to organize all my beautiful supplies (yes, that is really how I spend my days off), I came upon the wonderful world of alternative planners. Even though I use evernote with students, I live and die by my basic paper planner. I had been using the same type of planner for a decade and I hadn't considered the other options until that fateful day that youtube opened my eyes! Although there were so many wonderful options, like Passion Planners and Erin Condren Life Planners, I decided on the beautiful simplicity of the bullet journal.
Somewhere along the line, a lot of teachers, students, parents, and administrators got the idea that good teachers don't allow their students to struggle. For many, the ideal classroom looks like a teacher giving perfectly clear instructions followed by students dutifully practicing skills with confidence and some level of uniformity. While there is benefit to this methodology in some circumstances, overall I believe that:
Plickers is such a fun tool with a myriad of uses in the classroom! If you haven't heard of plickers, they are definitely worth a look!
When students struggle with vocabulary, note taking, or other straightforward skill, teachers have a full toolbox of suggestions, but when the skill is more nuanced like composition, it gets a little trickier. So often I have parents ask me in emails, meetings, and phone calls what their students can do to get the ball rolling on an upcoming essay. I also constantly counsel students in office hours who look at me with lost confusion the week before a literature analysis is due. It is so hard not to get frustrated when I have painstakingly set up the prompt and systematically gone through the pre-writing and writing steps with students. However, in my experience, some students actually have the requisite skills to write well, but they need a little tip to take the edge off their writing anxiety. For these students, I offer some of the following little tricks as confidence boosters:
One of my personal resolutions for 2016 is to cultivate my gratitude. Generally, I am a doer. I power through to do lists like my life depends on them (because it basically does! You understand, you are a teacher too). I appreciate this about myself, but the downfall is that I often find myself caught up in the stress of tasks, resenting anything that obstructs my flow instead of focusing on being grateful for all the things that aid me on my teaching journey. So here is my plan for becoming a more grateful person in general and teacher in specific:
Crowdsourcing and crowdfunding are native concepts to teenagers today. They use the waze app to crowdsource information about how late they are likely to be to first period. They create their own flavor of Lays potato chips without batting an eye. They back the next Kickstarter idea and share Go Fund Me pages for causes they believe in.