Transition Activities to Break up the Long Day

8-tips-to-smooth-transition-between-consulting-firms-e1387739127278Whether a teacher sees the day as long is irrelevant, we’re there for the students. Having said that, the school day “bell to bell” can feel extremely long to a student. This can result in poor classroom behavior. I have good news, good scheduling and transition activities can help students stay awake, alert, and engaged throughout the school day. If you do a day correctly, you’ll hear the coveted, “Mr. Riley, today seemed short!” The first thing you need is a solid schedule that is accessible to both students and teacher.

In between blocks of teaching, you should have transition activities on hand in case you need them. A few that I use are: throwing the nerf ball with a simple, silly question. Whoever catches it has to answer. I do stretching, classroom-safe forms of what I call “quick yoga,” singalongs (This Land is Your Land etc.), and even putting our heads down with the lights dimmed to simply process the silence. Surprisingly, some of my students have requested this, You get the point: breaking up the day can make it run more smoothly. The theory of time spaced learning states that more chunks of information are retained in a period of time when breaks are taken periodically. In effect, doing “break” activities actually can produce more learning than trudging through the day like mud trying to stay focused and on task. Please help me and other teachers: What do you do to break up the day?

When Extra Work Means Less Headache

20130111-144253.jpgSometimes with certain classes, you have to do extra work in order to avoid headaches. One example of a headache is another teacher coming to you complaining about your class’ running or misbehaving at recess or dismissal. You can say it’s not your duty time but it will always come back to affect your reputation as a teacher, unavoidably. Define your target. Sometimes a little extra work takes care of it. My students get rowdy at dismissal. I have tried warning them to walk and be respectful but even after teaching rules and holding the whole class in all day as punishment, I still got two teacher complaints. It’s time to become more of a hawk eye with this class.

At that point, one has to decide, do I work a little outside my duty and walk them like smaller kids to the gate every day or risk letting them continue without my intense guidance and get more complaints further affecting my reputation as a teacher. It is an extra few minutes I agree and I am not required by contract to do it. At the same time, with some classes, one must accept they are too immature to do it alone and lead them out. I’ve given my current class every chance to improve and yet they are still, running and screaming and running into other kids. In the big picture they are my responsibility and I really don’t expect this class to ever be autonomous 4th graders in these activities, even though I’ve had much more mature kids who could handle it in the past. Sometimes a little extra work makes for less headache.

Breaks Produce Innovation and Creativity

Workaholic teachers and “civilians” sometimes question the effort teachers put forth. They think we enjoy time off only to return complacent and unable to affect change in the educational world. While it may be true for some, I know it is not true for the majority of teachers I come in contact with. My perspective is that teachers are very hard working professionals who deserve a break when they can get it.

I also find it troubling when people refer to teacher’s days off as “vacation.” We are not paid for these days. They are contractual days off that are negotiated and they figure in to our annual salary. College loans do not get forgiven (though I understand there are programs now Obama has created for new teachers) and the expense of time in college learning how to be a great teacher remain forever. We deal with bloody noses, kids that have special learning needs, unruly kids who do not respect us, administrative demands, and so forth. When you hear a teacher is taking time off, wish them rest and renewal. We most certainly need it when we return “to front” teaching the future citizens of the world. Teachers should learn to relax to do their optimal job with kids. To my colleagues out there still working or on breaks I say …

Let your inner hippie come out teachers! You deserve a break.

Warm Fuzzy Experiment

Power of Positive with KidsWhen I was young, in the 70’s, I recall a book called Free to be You and Me. In that book, my mom had it on her shelf, they talked about the emotions of people and how they have an impact for good or bad. The good things we tell people were calm warm fuzzies, the negative things were called cold pricklies. The idea was that is people heard more warm fuzzies, it would come around and make the whole world a better place. I love the concepts of the 70’s. This philosophy is true with adults and kids. I have seen it exemplified with my students time and time again. I have seen kids that were social problems on the playground and in the classroom turn around and be better kids because I purposefully gave them warm fuzzies ie; “I like your shirt today!” Continue reading “Warm Fuzzy Experiment”

Avoiding Procrustes’ Bed

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If you haven’t heard the myth of Procrustes and his bed, it’s the story of a man who invited weary travelers to lay in his guest bed. Once in, if they were too tall he lopped off their feet and if too short, he’d stretch them to fit. Horrifying I know and yet aren’t we as educators often guilty of trying to get our students to “fit” the curriculum? Continue reading “Avoiding Procrustes’ Bed”

Studying in Sustainability Masters Programs

Studying in sustainability Masters programs is often the best way for people to take their career to the next level without changing their career focus or leaving their industry. However, other people can use these degrees to change their life path altogether and enter a new career that will be completely different from the one they left. The sustainability field is one where people are constantly being hired because every business is under pressure to become sustainable and reduce their carbon footprint.

Learning the strategies and tactics that businesses can use to ensure their sustainability is something that anyone can do with a little bit of help from an online degree program. With these programs, people can go to school and still keep their job while they decide how they want to carry on with the next phase of their life. The traditional classroom is not for everyone, and family obligations often make it difficult for people to make it class and complete their studies.

However, an online degree program provides more chances for the student to get what they need out of the program while still maintaining their regular schedule. People do not have to quit their jobs or neglect their families in order to get their education and change their career path.

Also, there are people who would prefer not to go back to a regular classroom because of the experiences they had in regular classrooms in their youth. Rather than trekking to campus everyday, these students can learn at their own pace online. This means that students only need an internet connection and a computer to get their studies in. People can earn degrees completely through the computer and add a Master’s degree to their resume without ever having to set foot on a university campus.

The choice to change career paths and learn more about the field of sustainability is a brave one that many people will take in order to increase their earning potential or go into a different industry where they will be happier. Getting these degrees online is easy, works the same as getting a traditional degree and provide the knowledge necessary for the student to improve their career prospects.

Great Lesson Basics – Mixing Methods

A few years later since my initial EDI training, I have created sort of a hybrid set of “great lesson basics” that work to foster student achievement. I am happy to share them here with you.

IAF_CL1_PX01192If you’re like me, you’ve been to hundreds of trainings, most claiming to be the greatest lesson method. Then, you learned they were good and bad but never universal. Have you ever sat down and tried to piece together the best of the best into something that works for you? Whether you have or not “knowingly” done so, that is the role of the teacher … to synthesize a lot of information, create, and innovate. I used to be a huge proponent of a method called “EDI.” In fact, my EDI posts get the most traffic of any posts here on the blog. I am proud to share EDI because plain and simple: it works! A few years later since my initial EDI training, I have created sort of a hybrid set of “great lesson basics” that work to foster student achievement. I am happy to share them here with you.

1. Learning Objective: I have to introduce what I am teaching and what the students are expected to do in order to be successful after the lesson.

2. Engagement: This is a step I invented. It is what people often call a “sponge activity.” It can be a story, a puppet show, a short video, a game, anything that gets the learner absorbed into the subject matter.

3. Importance: I have found time and time again that when the kids know the value of learning the lesson, they are more engaged and thus learn more and faster.

4. Steps: Everything in education can be broken down to steps. This is often easier said than done. Taking time with the steps is invaluable toward getting kids to meet the demands of the lesson.

5. Guided Practice: Simply put, SHOW THEM HOW YOU DO IT. Use the steps and model over and over. I learned to play guitar by imitating Dave Sharp on the Alarm albums. I would move the needle back again and again until I knew every guitar riff. Kids are the same today with academics. Show them and then show them some more. Gradually release them to do it on their own.

6. Independent Practice: At this step they should be doing what they watched you do over and over. Make sure they can do it before you let them go on their own.

20120815-140604.jpg7. Small group intervention: There are usually going to be a group of kids who need extra guided practice. Take them to a side table which the whole group is working independently. Just repeat the steps of the lessons for as long as you have time or until they get it, whichever is first.

This is the lesson method I have developed through the years. I would really appreciate your comments of what you think of it, ie; how I might improve it. Thanks for being part of the Dynamite Lesson Plan professional learning community.

Parent Conferences Tip – Listen to Parents About Their Child

Here are a few ways to encourage parents to talk about their child. Once they start talking, be sure and take note and/or just listen.


Every year about Thanksgiving time, the parent conference occurs. I’ve been scheduling and hosting them for 14 years. These can be fluid and helpful to both parent and teacher but without this tip, they can be useless. You can offer positive parenting tips You may think you know the student very well because you have seen them every day in class since August.

Face the reality however that the parent knows them much better than you. In most cases, they were there with the child at birth. If you have kids of your own, you know the significance of the parent/child relationship. Even if you don’t have kids you can recall your relationship with your own parents. Should a teacher assume to know as much about one of their 25-35 students? I say no. It can be tempting to want to give educational tips for parents but remember a balance. Continue reading “Parent Conferences Tip – Listen to Parents About Their Child”

Utilizing the Aeries Gradebook

 The Aeries Gradebook is a feature that has promoted recent years. It’s excellent for storing grades. Aeries report cards integrate well also. Getting a parent friendly print isn’t easy but having the information archived in there is a legally sound and readily accessible teacher benefit.

This year I am utilizing the Aeries Gradebook by taking the time to enter crucial assignments and assessments. Aeries is a cross platform, web based database that has more information on every child than a basic gradebook software you might find on the market. In short, I believe it is more productive to take the extra time to store data in Aeries than other data banks. As time passes, the reliance on Aeries for student grades will increase and that’s when the learning of Aeries as well as the comfort level with it will benefit teachers. What are your experiences?