Every school day, teachers everywhere arrive an hour before school starts and leave at least an hour after school ends, often hauling a bin or crate of grading or prep to complete. We spend hour upon hour researching the best methods to teach, to differentiate, to engage. We spend hours, creating, preparing, and tweaking lesson plans, activities, and assessments. At the elementary level, teachers spend hours decorating and cutting and laminating and stuffing little sandwich bags for new activities. At the secondary level, English teachers, for example— sift through, read, correct, and comment thoughtfully on 120 students’ 3 page papers (which totals 360 pages of material – for one assignment.
Today I'm sharing some of the best and worst advice I've received as a teacher. I would love to hear some of your good and bad advice in the comment section below!
The Great Gatsby is widely-regarded as one of the great American novels and many of us teach it every year to secondary students who seem to instantly get the feeling of lost dreams, the feeling of being "within and without" and the feeling that the American Dream is too good to be true.
As English teachers, much of our focus tends to be on teaching students to be effective readers and writers, but we can't forget about the importance of teaching students to be confident and compelling speakers. As they go into the world, they need the skills to collaborate with others, seek information, and present ideas with clarity. That being said, I often hear students groan at the introduction of a presentation project and I hear teachers in in the faculty lounge bemoan the lack of presentation skills found in many of their students. In the spirit of helping us all feel a little more comfortable with presentations, today I want to share 6 tips for teaching presentation skills:
With a push in the common core to incorporate more informational texts and a teenage audience that is becoming more globally aware than any previous generation, I have found that using high quality magazines in the classroom can help capture young minds in relevant reading and writing. I especially like The New Yorker, but the same strategies below can be used for Time Magazine, National Geographic, your local newspaper, or many other options. (Be sure to vet articles carefully and get approval where appropriate.) Many newspapers and some magazines also have an educator's discount! Below are some ways that I'm using magazines in my classroom. I'd love to hear your questions, comments, or suggestions below!
I've recently had an ah-ha moment about teaching writing at all levels using anchor papers. Anchor papers are basically a set of papers that each represent the characteristics of a particular grade range. For example, given a writing prompt about Native American mythology, I could have a set of anchor papers in which 1-2 papers are solid As, 1-2 papers are solid Bs, 1-2 papers are solid Cs, 1-2 papers are solid Ds, and 1-2 papers are Fs. When we are finished with our literature unit on Native American mythology, I can have students write on the prompt with a clear rubric. When the papers are complete, I can give students the unmarked anchor papers to categorize and grade based on the rubric. After we have discussed which papers received which grades and for what reasons, students can self-assess their own papers with clarity. Then I could use a similar rubric with the next paper on Puritan literature, allowing students to self-assess without anchor papers before they turn it in for my grading.
It seems like everywhere I turn these days I see a new resource to help students take short cuts around the valuable work we do in our classrooms. When I was working on a side project recently, I came across fiverr.com, which is a global marketplace offering a variety of services, or gigs, starting at $5 each. I was disheartened to see sellers offering to do homework or analyze a book, but it did get me thinking about how I could switch the dynamic around to give teachers some much needed shortcuts. Here are the $5 gigs I found that can take tough tasks off of our teacher to do lists, so we can focus on other important classroom priorities:
I read this article in The Atlantic recently that discussed a new finding that hand written notes are more effective in student learning than are typed notes. The article focused on laptops and specifically noted that there may be differences with tablets, but as a teacher in a school that is moving toward a one on one iPad program, I'm interested in thinking about and sharing best practices for helping students take effective digital notes. Below are my top five tips. I'd love to hear any questions, comments, or suggestions in the comment section below!
I hope that your summer is off to a fantastic start! I'm teaching a series of college application bootcamps so it seems that mine hasn't quite started yet, but this week I want to share one of my major summer goals. If you haven't made summer goals yet, I'm inviting you to take this journey with me and if you already have some expertise in this area, I'd seriously love your two cents! This summer I want to learn how to effectively use a social learning network in my classroom. I used Collaborize Classroom last year and I absolutely loved it. However, some of my colleagues have decided to take up Edmodo or Schoology and it makes sense for us to have some constancy across the curriculum.