More Workspace Working for Me

With so much new curriculum this year I found myself walking to my teacher bookshelf over and over again. I decided since I wasn’t using a kidney shaped table for students I would use it for my desk. This would give me more space to cleanly lay out some of the new curriculum. So far (2 days) it is working like a dream. I love it when innovation with common items pays off! Continue reading “More Workspace Working for Me”

Tips to Survive a Professional Evaluation

ELA HomeworkThis one is for my colleagues who are just starting out and maybe a little (or a lot) nervous about being evaluated. Don’t worry, you get used to it. Here are a few tips from my journey. Most teachers fall to pieces when it comes to their periodic evaluation. As a required part of this process, the principal usually comes in formally to observe a lesson. I have asked veteran teachers of more than 30 years if this makes them nervous and they have answered, “Yes, I go to pieces.” The reasons are pretty obvious but unless you’ve been observed for an evaluation you may not realize why it is one of the most nerve-wracking tests you face as a teacher. You could be an excellent teacher and still have a bad observation. It happens and you should do all you can to make sure it does not. There is also a good chance the evaluation will go well. As long as you plan little by little before the lesson and then “show them you came to play” (in a professional sports sense) in the actual lesson, you can be victorious and show your principal, as well as the district, that you have a purpose and a calling to do this that makes you worth your salt. Continue reading “Tips to Survive a Professional Evaluation”

Discovering Type with Teens (Book Review)

If your school is like mine, you are struggling to keep classroom control at this stage in the year. We have just finished our state testing and the kids are thinking about Summer vacation every day. I am integrating Science more into the curriculum which is helping a lot. Weaving many different objectives into the day can help when the kids are “done” with their year, mentally anyway. We need a special ingredient to keep our lessons effective.

As with objectives and subject matter, psychological type is an important thing to weave into your plans. A new book just released, Discovering Type with Teens, is an amazing resource when looking into the different ways your students process information. Mollie Allen, Claire Hayman, and Kay Abella are the authors. They offer excelling assessment guides on learning exactly what “type” of kids you are teaching. Knowing this information can help through all parts of the year but certainly the last few weeks.

Benefits of Edublogging and Content Creation

Online diarist, edublogger at Starbucks
Online diarist, edublogger at Starbucks

I have at least one more thing to say about edublogging. Please note I am wont to say that just before I write a book about something. In this post I thought I’d gush a bit about the benefits of all this backbreaking labor they call edublogging. I get 5-10 offers a year to write on educational topics or have someone write about them on my blog. I hate to be really transparent but I like that feeling. When I am addressed as an expert in education because I discipline myself to write on a blog, that’s cool. Sometimes, and far less frequently, I am asked to write a post for pay. This usually includes me placing proprietary ads in the post itself. I’ve made upwards of $300 doing this. Of course, I only accept payment when they are about education, no magic weight loss drugs of course. In short, I feel tall when people recognize me as an edublogger and purveyor of online information. It has taken work to get to this place and I hope it gets better as I hang in there continuing to edublog. Continue reading “Benefits of Edublogging and Content Creation”

Student-Tracked WPM in Reading Passages

126_0558There are many things we can do with a passage of text. The “cold read” can be used as a time for the kids to read and measure their words per minute (WPM). This helps motivate and improves fluency.

The process is fairly simple. You just have the kids run their finger along the text and you time them for one minute. When they stop, they go back and count the number of words they read. If you have an AVID folder or other organized area dedicated to keeping track, they write the date and their WPM for that day.

After doing this a few days, the kids can set realistic goals to improve their fluency. I was shown how to do this by my Assistant Principal and it went very well. I will report in after a few weeks whether it worked and anything I learn about using ths method.

What do you think about teaching kids to measure their own WPM? 

Public schools gear up for new standards | standards, victorville, gear – Victorville Daily Press

“This is going to be my restaurant,” the fifth-grader said proudly, without breaking her focus. “All my tables are different shapes.”

Ulloa, who attends Eagle Ranch Elementary in Victorville, created detailed plans for a pizza restaurant, which was just one of many group assignments that she and her peers have been tasked with doing in their GATE class.

According to Eagle Ranch Principal Peter Livingston, the school has started to implement the Common Core State Standards, an instruction method designed to teach students to develop higher-level thinking skills, especially in English, language arts and math. Livingston said that group-work is one of the trademarks of the new Common Core standards.

via Public schools gear up for new standards | standards, victorville, gear – Victorville Daily Press.

Unions – Can’t Live Without Them

16414431556_9695483388_zI am involved in my teachers union and I have to say it is a challenging endeavor sometimes. You are sending out the message that your troubles are the fault of the district. As someone who is always trying to not blame, and failing most the time, I sometimes struggle with this. Unions, like any political organization, can fall into the trap of dehumanizing the district employees. In my district, we have over 300 teachers and about 6 district employees making decisions that affect parents, students, and yes, teachers. My goal in my union is not to attach people but rather show the value of a union. Parents in my district value teachers, they show that by their numbers when they come to our meetings and get involved in organizing with us. I want to be a force that helps their families and specifically their children. Name calling and blaming will only get people riled up for a moment. To gain real buy in from parents, we need to show them what’s in it for them. Continue reading “Unions – Can’t Live Without Them”

Some Relaxation Methods

Teachers can get very stressed in their tasks and often feel as if their back is against the wall. As we attempt to mold the minds of the future, we must deal with other demands from our own evaluation by principals, parents, the community, and elsewhere. In the midst of all that, we are supposed to care. Depending on the teacher and the environment, this stress can be downright debilitating. I have good news though, you can do simple, quick relaxation techniques during lunch right at your desk to help tackle tension. Being responsible to keeping yourself relaxed and whole will translate in you being a better teacher and person. In being less stressed, you will have a more positive impact on the kids. In short:

You don’t have to put your hectic classroom on hold to chill out.

Here are a few methods of relaxation you can use in the day at your desk during lunch or even as you teach throughout the day:

Practice yoga “lite.” Moving your arms and body slowly and meditating on your space can have a calming effect before the kids come back.

Take off your shoes and do toe scrunches under your desk. This is great and the minimal aspect of it carries great relaxation rewards.

Fake a smile. Studies have shown that the positive effects of smiling occur whether it is fake or real. “Fake it til you make it” in terms of merriment may lead to real smiles and laughter. Continue reading “Some Relaxation Methods”

In the Mean Time, Just Teach Kids

tony-lays-it-all-out-on-the-chalkboardI loved the Nike slogan in the 80’s “Just Do it.” This is something we as teachers in negotiations need to remember. If you read too much of the news around education, it will leave you feeling left out to dry. For some reason the climate in political circle is bad toward teachers. It’s not warranted however. We in education have seen so much good happening in our classrooms, schools, districts, and regions. We know teachers are continuing to pass on knowledge and students are receiving it. There is an issue of economics that has center stage. The conservatives for the most part want higher test scores and they want the ability to produce them without traditionally credentialed teachers. They open chart schools, of which some are very good I must say, that employ low paid teachers that are not unionized. I assume they still must be credentialed but if they can save money I am sure they will find a way around that. We studied hard to get two degrees in college and we long to show our ability in the classroom. We work hard to see measurable growth in our students. Unfortunately, this is not being seen by some voices in our culture.  Continue reading “In the Mean Time, Just Teach Kids”

How Much Video Should We Use in a Lesson?

ClipjimideaVideo in education has become a widely used tool but is it as efficient as everyone says? When I was in public school in the 70’s and 80’s there were film strips and movie reels teachers used on rainy days or occasionally to provide better access to the core curriculum. Usually, videos were fillers more than innovation when I went to school. Not that I minded. As a student, where else would I have learned from Jiminy Cricket about “I’m no fool?” Or better yet Johnny Appleseed. With the advent of Teacher Tube and dozens of other well established educational video sites, we can safely see video as a better tool for education than it once was.

Video draws students in.

The culture of Spongebob and Youtube is stimulated by video. Students are reading less and tuning in to video more. I have found that even a quick mention of a character on their favorite show can perk up interest in subjects from the core curriculum. We should use cultural references to hook in interest but that’s another post. Showing kids video before a lesson on volcanoes can capture their attention and make comprehensible input more palatable. This is true with anything you teach. When grownups go to a conference, there is often a video intro for us. It unites us and excites us. Kids are the same way. Some teachers may fear what the Principal or colleagues might think if they see a video playing though. This may have good reason. How much video should we use in a lesson (that is justifiable)?

Video can be misinterpreted and distracting.

If you’ve ever used an analogy to make a point with kids you know some don’t get it. If you tell the story of the tortoise and the hare for example you will have a percentage thinking it’s about how turtles have shells and rabbits don’t. This is magnified with video. There are so many possible interpretations of video. Audio and video combine to lead even disciplined minds astray of the material being taught. I have read a little about the “flipped classroom” but have yet to believe it’s a good model. By teaching through video, you always run the risk of misinterpretation and distraction.

Get the balance right.

In the end, video is a powerful tool. Teachers must accept that it is there if they can use it. At the same time, we must beware that it can waste our class time. Of course every teacher should make she she/he is following their school/district guidelines on using video. As for me, I think a short snippet here and there can be very helpful in giving every child equal access to the core curriculm. Like any othet teaching tool however, you won’t know how effective it is until you try it. The balance for me is a well executed EDI crafted lesson with some audio/visual or realia introduced to interest the kids. A lesson should never be given as 100% video. I know that makes me a bit old fashioned but there it is. Teachers: what do you think?