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Monday, October 8, 2012

Grades

Today was a workday so I didn't have any students.  Today was devoted to putting grades in the system and working on benchmarks.  However, I had already completed those earlier by always putting grades in the system right away and working on the benchmark at the last workday.  Therefore, I was allowed the luxury of spending most of my day planning and developing lesson plans for my upcoming unit Of Mice and Men.

Last year, I started the year off by putting grades in my grading book, but not into the system.  I hated having to spend an entire day putting grades in the system for progress reports or report cards.  After that one quarter, I vowed never to do that again.  I started putting grades in the grading book AND in the system right away.  It saved me so much time! 

Lesson learned:  keep putting in grades right away instead of waiting.  It may seem like a hassle, but only takes up a few minutes of your time as opposed to waiting to do it all in one day and spending hours putting grades into the system.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Of Mice and Men

Hey ya'll!

It's a nice long fall weekend and I've been exploring different activities for students to do for my upcoming Of Mice and Men unit!  I am so excited about this unit and want my students to be just as excited as I am.  Therefore, I created a playlist on YouTube of music strictly relating to the 1930s and the Great Depression.  There are great songs such as Brother Can You Spare A Dime?, Hard Times, and Whistle While You Work.  Yes that last song I mentioned is from Snow White, but rings true for the ending of that time period.  I created a virtual field trip that will spare students from listening to me drone on and on as well as reading articles about the 1930s and instead allows them to explore different websites, view different clips about the Great Depression, Migrant Workers, Dust Bowl and John Steinbeck himself. I am working on my classroom tomorrow to get it decorated for the unit.  I feel if the classroom is decorated for the unit, students will be more interested and can make connections.  I do not plan on having students read and answer questions for 90 minutes each day.  Instead, I plan on splitting the blocks in half - spend half a block reading and completing their study guide and the other half doing activities relating to concepts such as theme, setting, characterization, etc.  This way I do not lose student engagement and students are constantly learning instead of just reading. If you would like to see the unit plan I have compiled, please email me and I will upload it to TeachersPayTeachers.com

Happy Fall!

Ms. Bergin

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Laptops

Wow!  My school is starting a 1:1 laptop initiative.  Students are extremely excited about getting their laptops and I am very excited about this as well!  This means I can create more technology based activities which will hopefully increase student engagement and reduce paper use!  So far, only ninth graders get the laptops this year (thank God I teach ninth graders!) and next year all grade levels will get them.    I've been doing nothing except thinking about different activities and creating online activities for the students to do in the classroom!  So far, I've created a virtual field trip on Prezi for the upcoming novel, Of Mice and Men along with developing projects that are media-based.  I'm so excited!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Students slacking off?

Are your students slacking off?  Taking forever to complete assignments?  Do you feel you are pulling teeth with these kids?  Well I'll let you in on a secret, kids don't hold themselves accountable because you don't hold them accountable.  "But I grade their papers!  I encourage them to complete their work!"  you say.  Ah, but how much extra time do you give them to complete their work?  My first year teaching, I often times allowed them to have extra time to complete assignments. However, kids started taking forever to get it done, especially in group work!

My cure to this?  a Timer!  Having a timer on the board holds myself and my students accountable in completing assignments and instructions. 

How does it hold myself accountable?  I will occasionally have the timer on when I am giving instruction or a lecture.  After 10 minutes, I HAVE to stop talking and let students do some type of work (drawing a representation of what we discussed, filling in a graphic organizer, etc)  This keeps kids engaged and I'm not talking all block! 

For younger students, http://www.online-stopwatch.com/bomb-countdown/full-screen/?ns=../../s/5.mp3&nslen=1

For students who are in high school, a simple timer on the SMARTBoard will suffice.  If you do not know how to get a timer on the SMARTboard, open a new notebook, click on the picture frame tab thats on the left side of the notebook, under the page tab.  type in timer in the search and click on interactive and multimedia.

Another advice, give the students their graded papers back ASAP! 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

For all you newbies!

If this is your first year teaching, you should be now leaving what teachers like to call "the honeymoon period" and kids are comfortable with you and will try to test you, if they have not already done so!

Some things to keep in mind to maintain control of the class:

Students, no matter the age LOVE consistency.  If you stick to the rules and procedures of your classroom and do what you say you will do if a student breaks the rules, the disruption will be kept to a minimal.

Students LOVE positive rewards and respond to that way better than consequences.  Keep a bag of candy or fake money students can earn to get a prize in your desk and pass them out to students caught doing good things, doing what they are supposed to do, or simply because they did great on a test or quiz!  Make sure you reward students who are often trouble-makers when you catch them doing something good, or simply just being on task or keeping quiet for a whole 10 minutes!  Kids who stir up trouble are often times looking for attention and that is the only way they know how to get it.  Show them that if they behave and do what they are supposed to do, they will get attention.

If you get the "ring leaders" of the classroom on your side, it will help tremendously in classroom management.  Ring leaders like to be in charge, so give them something to do - assign them leader of their group, allow them to be paper passer or be the timer.

Make POSITIVE phone calls and notes to send home!  Parents don't get this often and it can help establish a good working relationship with parents if you do this, so when a student misbehaves, parents are more likely to work with you.

If you have a 90 minute block, allow time for students to breathe and walk around a bit, especially those hyper active kids! Incorporate movement into your lesson (IE gallery crawl, stations)


Flip Classroom

 Have you ever heard of a Flip Classroom?!?  A former colleague has just told me about it, and can I say, I'm in LOVE with the idea!  Video tape yourself, have students watch the video at home, and they can do the "homework" in class while you are there to assist.  This idea has to be genius.  It saves time on lecturing, and gives you more time to practice the concept you are teaching with the students!  Granted, it only works if the entire class has a *working* computer and internet they can access from home.  However, this idea is excellent for students who have been absent from class and need to get caught up.  Instead of scheduling time after school, you can redirect them to the classroom computer to get them caught up.  To see a sample video, please view my colleague's video:
This can also be GREAT if you want to do cross-curricular activities, for example, if doing cross curricular in English and History, have the History teacher video tape themselves and all you have to do is pull the video up on your SMARTboard!