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Monday, January 14, 2019

Let It Snow! Essential Oil Diffuser Blend

Let It Snow is the perfect blend for January  because as a teacher and parent, I am all for snow days. I love getting to spend the extra time with my son and it's a good excuse to stay in my comfy clothes drinking hot chocolate. When I taught 4th Grade, the students did the “snow dance” at home by turning their PJs inside out and flushing ice cubes down the toilet to increase the probability of snow. I consider this Diffuser Blend to be my version of bribing the snow clouds to bring on the snow.



Let It Snow! Essential Oil Diffuser Blend



Check out my video for the full details: Let It Snow! Essential Oil Diffuser Blend.






Monday, January 7, 2019

What Your Student Teacher Wishes You Knew

What makes a mentor teacher a GREAT mentor teacher to a pre-service teacher?  How do you make a student teacher's time in your class worthwhile?  This post shares the things your student teacher wishes you knew.



 What Your Student Teacher Wishes You Knew



First, there are some things the mentor teacher (MT) needs to ALWAYS keep in mind:

Student teachers are often afraid of making more work for their MT!  
Just be honest with your student teacher, they are as nervous as you are.

Keep in mind that they are a student and will make mistakes. 
Help show them that it’s not the end of the world.

Remember that you do have a lot to give. 
You have been in the trenches.  Don’t underestimate how valuable both your past successes AND failures are to your student teacher’s learning. 

Know who the point of contact is for the college your student teacher is attending. 
I didn’t ask who this was at first for my student teacher, even though I was expected (unbeknownst tonme) to communicate with this person on a regular basis.  If your ST is attending an online college, this person may not have been made abundantly clear to them. Investigate this from the start and things will go more easily. 

YOU are still in charge of your classroom and responsible for student learning. 
Be strong and do what is best for your class.  Most colleges won’t insist that you do anything that you don’t feel is right, but if your student teacher has an assignment that impedes your classroom learning, have a talk with the representative at the college.

Treat your ST as a colleague and partner teacher.  Focus on how you two will develop a professional relationship. 
If you feel comfortable, try being hands-off more often to allow the ST to figure out their style and try things they want to put into practice. 


Figure out a schedule for when your ST will observe and teach

The student teacher (ST) needs to build relationships with the students the same way any classroom teacher does.
It's always best to allow the ST to observe for a full day or two, and longer, if possible.  Just allowing the ST to get to know the students first and seeing how you run the classroom is a huge help!  Knowing the students allows the ST to understand what they like and dislike and how they prefer to work.  Another option is to have the ST observe senior teachers around the building.   

On observation days, help your ST grade some assignments, do attendance, and hand back papers. This helps them understand your grading system and how you assess students. It also helps the ST learn the kids' names and get to know them better. 

Sit down with your ST before they start teaching and come up with a gradual-release schedule of responsibilities. 
The  responsibilities should include how the ST will gradually turn the classroom back over to you before they leave.  If you teach multiple subjects, choose one to let your ST focus on at first.  If you teach one subject, choose particular aspects of that subject to release to the ST.  For example, let them plan the opening activity that might include reviewing previously taught material or an anticipatory question that gets the students thinking about what the lesson of the day will teach.



After you decide the gradual-release schedule, focus on the lesson planning.

Provide your ST with the general lesson plan template and things they can immediately implement that you use to plan with. 
Ask your ST if their college already has a lesson plan template because many do.  If you can allow them to use that template instead of the one you use, that will help your ST.  If the college hasn't provided your ST with a template, give them the one you use.

Try co-teaching or partner teaching at first.
Write the plans together and divide your lessons into segments, splitting the lesson delivery. For example, she opens and closes and you present new material.  This is a great opportunity to provide more support for kids.

Use the beginning as an opportunity to do more small groups.  Some options to do this:
  • Encourage the ST to modify your lessons and materials for lower students. 
  • Have the ST pull small groups for remediation or enrichment. 
  • Give the middle-achievement students to the ST for small groups. The low- and high-achieving students are the most challenging to grow, but the middle group often needs guidance and monitoring to keep on track.

If you're worried about the inclusion kids just keep that class or group. 
There is no rule that stays you must give them every class or group. 



Give continuous follow up and real classroom take-aways. 

Make the time to sit down and talk with with your student teacher. 
This should be daily, ideally several smaller sessions, at first. This gives the ST time to pose questions and the MT to address any concerns as they arise. After the first couple of weeks, ask your ST how often they would like to meet, but still ask often how they’re doing even if you’re not meeting as often. Sometimes an ST just needs the MT to check in on them and they will open up about their needs. 

Use rubrics for your observations of your ST. 
It will help guide you on how you need to help them and they will know your expectations.

Give direct feedback. 
Don't make "suggestions"  if it's something that they actually need to be doing.

Teach your ST about evaluations. 
They need to know what a classroom evaluation by an administrator or School Board official will look and feel like.  Having another experienced teacher come in to do an evaluation is a great way to do this.

Make sure your ST knows how to do a parent-teacher conference.
They also need to know what to do on Back-to-School Night.  Your ST also needs to be communicating via emails/phone calls with parents for students successes and concerns. 

Be helpful instead of just taking an hour of time to talk. 
Talk while helping staple homework packets, etc.  Yes, you want the ST to learn how to juggle all of the responsibilities of the job, but remember that they are overwhelmed MOST of the time. Never underestimate how much help it is to do small things like administrative duties for them every once in awhile.



What else do you think Student Teachers want or need the seasoned teacher to know?  I know there's so much more that needs to be included than what I have here!




Monday, December 31, 2018

How to Start Teaching As Soon As Students Enter the Classroom

How can you begin the learning as soon as students enter the classroom?  This post shares my best tips for continuing the learning from one class to another and using every possible minute to its fullest.



How to Start Teaching As Soon As Students Enter the Classroom



Build Relationships First, Even if It’s not the Beginning of the Year

The beginning of the year is a great time to do this, but so is the return from a holiday break or anytime you need to reconnect with your class. 

Each day's warm-up should have something to do with relationship-building at first.  For example:

Monday: a deep breathing exercise/strategy.

Tuesday: students share a place they would travel to and explain why.  Bonus points if it's a place you will be learning about this year.

Wednesday:  Share what's going well and what needs improvement.  It could come in the form of "Two Successes and an Improvement".  Have students start with two things that are going well and give one thing that needs improvement.

Thursday:  What are you curious about?  Let students research and learn more about whatever they are curious about.  Bonus points if it's related to the subject in your classroom.


Friday:  Break out all of those get-to-know-you worksheets from the beginning of the year and start playing games with them.

Here's some things I like to do/revisit those get-to-know-you information you've already gathered:


Get-to-Know-You Name Tags



How to Start Teaching As Soon As Students Enter the Classroom



If the traditional get-to-know-you activities aren't what you're looking for:

Fresh Alternatives to Get-to-Know-You Activities



How to Start Teaching As Soon As Students Enter the Classroom






After Relationship-Building, Focus on Directions


Have the Directions Clearly Displayed for Students as They Enter the Room

Use your Smart Board, projector, doc cam, or simply write the directions on your board.  I like to have them written in a numbered list so students know what to do first, second, and so on.  
This ensures that you are able to do the executive tasks, such as take attendance and get out materials for the next lesson, while students are preparing for learning themselves.

Write/Type These Directions on the Board Before You Leave Each Day

It's the last thing I do each day to prepare for the next day.  If you can't hand write the directions, try typing them and projecting them.  This might actually make it easier and quicker for you and your students.  You can blow up the font and edit it without losing much time.

Make Prep Work Part of the Opening Activity

There are administrative things that need to be done on almost a daily basis.  Getting students to do this on their own at the start of class makes everything go more smoothly and quickly for the rest of the lesson.  Some things I often have students do:
  • Write homework in their agenda
  • Get out papers that I will collect/grade so they are ready to turn in
  • Get papers/materials they will need during the class


After Directions, Decide How You Will Encourage Good Behavior

Incentivize It

Teach them to get to work on it even before the bell rings and give them participation points for doing so.  You can award individual or team points if you have them sitting in teams.  You'd be amazed at how positive peer pressure can make things happen!


Make It Cumulative for the Week

Sometimes the warm-up will be a question on what we learned the day before. Then I have them turn in the whole thing on Friday. This way if a student is absent or needs more time to complete a particular assignment, they do not feel stressed to try to get it done all in one class. 

Go Digital 

If you have to ability to use Google Forms, you can both  assign and instantly assess your warm-up questions and activities.  Here’s is a detailed explanation of how to use Forms to create and assess


Finally, Make It Easier for Students to Continue the Learning on Their Own 

Give Students a Sneak Peak at What They Will Learn That Day 

Having a warm-up activity each day will establish what students are going to be learning and/or extend previous learning through a question, political cartoon, quote, etc.  

Have Students Review Previously Taught Material

This could be material you taught this year, or it could be material that should have been taught last year in your subject area. I will sometimes have students quiz each other on previous test material or study guides during this time.

Vocabulary 

I go through and find the most difficult words from the state test and assign a few at a time.  These are from the unit I’m ABOUT to teach. I only have them do the definition and draw a picture and we go over examples and non-examples as a class. It front-loads the information so students can participate in class discussions in the future.  If you're interested in learning more, check out my Vocabulary Instruction and Assessment packet.



How to Start Teaching As Soon As Students Enter the Classroom: Vocabulary



How do you get students to begin learning as soon as they enter the classroom?  I'd love to hear your thoughts and tips!



















Sunday, December 23, 2018

Gingerbread House Essential Oil Diffuser Blend

One of my students specifically requested that I make and diffuse this blend to set the holiday theme in my classroom. Even if you're not a teacher, this blend really has that holiday spirit!


Gingerbread House Essential Oil Diffuser Blend


Check out my video for the full details:  Gingerbread House Essential Oil Blend


I hope you enjoy it as much as I have!




Monday, November 26, 2018

How to Find the Time to Lesson Plan

Do you ever find it difficult to find the time to get everything done at school?  Do you have to take work home just to keep up?  This post has some ways you can manage the work each day and make more time for yourself!


How to Find the Time to Lesson Plan


Use Your Prep Time As Efficiently As Possible

I know, I know. Planning periods are often taken up by things like meetings and conferences, but when you do get those few unencumbered moments, use them to your advantage. 

Do the Things at School That Can’t be Done at Home: 

Copying 


I try to get all my copies done on Fridays for the upcoming week if I haven't had time during the week to get it done.  The copier is ALWAYS breaking, so I don't want to wait and take the chance the following week that I won't be able to get it done.

Parent phone calls 
Please don't EVER make these from your home or cell phone.  For one thing, it's important to keep those healthy boundaries between work and home.  For another, this is one of those things that really is best done at school for several reasons.


"Batch" the Tasks
What I mean by "batching" is to focus on one thing/subject at a time and finish that before moving on.  For example:

  • Make the lesson plans
  • Gather the materials
  • Make the copies
  • Grade the assessments
  • Decide if any of these things can or should go home for completion (with the exception of copying)


Plan With Your Grade Level When Possible
Try to collaborate with anyone who teaches the same thing so you can work together on units.


Don't Reinvent the Wheel
If lessons or units don't need to be changed from previous years, don't bother with them. Focus on  making your lessons work smarter, not harder.

  • Make sure you have accommodations/modifications written into your lessons for students with special needs. 
  • Fluff (worksheets, filler notes) should get tossed aside quickly for learning driven by the students, such as projects where they have to actually find the answers instead of you preparing the information for them.
  • Have a set number of assignments that repeat and use the same template. So the form doesn't change, but the content does. That way you don't have to create everything over and over.
Use An Online Planbook
I have the app on my phone, which means I can change or view lessons ANYTIME, ANYWHERE.
  • PlanbookEdu :  This website has practically saved my life this year.  Yes, it's not free, but it's worth every penny.  You can input your state standards above your lessons and it keeps track of how many you've covered in your lessons.  You can attach files that you need.  You can print and email the whole plan book or a selection.  In a word, priceless.



When You Can't Get It All Done During Your Planning Period:

Have set “late nights” like Tuesdays and Thursdays (or whatever works with your schedule). 
That way you can get what you need to get done when there aren't so many people around to break your concentration. You're sacrificing a bit of time for work so that your don’t have to be stressed when you’re hanging out with your family. That way you can have the energy you need to give them.

Get To Work Early Instead of Staying Late or Taking Work Home
You will be so much fresher and not have the same interruptions you do by staying later in the afternoon. Of course if you're like me, I'm still groggy in the morning so I actually prefer staying later in the afternoon.

Be Very Selective About The Work You Do Take Home
Whether you have a family or not, your time in the evenings is short and you NEED downtime to recharge your batteries. Sure, you can power through some nights without much sleep, but if you do it too often, you are setting yourself up for teacher burnout.

You can read more about this in my "Avoiding Teacher Burnout" post.


How to Find the Time to Lesson Plan and Avoid Teacher Overwhelm



Go to Your "Happy Place" to Grade Papers


Sometimes I have to leave the house to grade so concentrate at a Starbucks and knock out papers that way.

Join An Online Support Network
There are many Facebook and online teacher communities designed to support your effort to get more work done at school and bring less home. 

Many teachers have highly recommended the 40 hour teacher work week club




How do you balance it all?  I can always use more tips on how to do this!







Saturday, November 24, 2018

Cyber Monday Sale

Are you ready to keep the discounts rolling with a Cyber Monday Teachers Pay Teachers sale?  If you said yes, then this two-day site-wide sale is for you! 









During the site-wide sale, you can save up to 25% off TpT resources.


The sale will start on Monday, November 26th at 12:01am ETand will run through Tuesday, November 27th at 11:59pm ET

I will be offering a discount of 20% AND TpT will provide an additional 5% promo code to be used during checkout.  That means you will get a total of 25% off EVERYTHING in my store


Happy shopping!



Monday, November 19, 2018

Do You Really Need to be Teaching The Scientific Method?

Have you ever questioned the need to teach the Scientific Method because it isn't part of your county's or school's pacing guide or the NGSS standards?  Then read this post to help you decide!



Do You Really Need to be Teaching The Scientific Method?



From a Standards Perspective, No

It's not a Performance Expectation in the NGSS, but it is in the Science and Engineering Practices. With NGSS, it's meant to be woven through your curriculum as opposed to it being taught by itself.



NGSS is more correlated to the CER (Claim Evidence Reasoning), as opposed to the scientific method. 



From A Life Skills Perspective, Yes


You might think of it like the Scientific Method, or inquiry, is now referred to as "engineering practices", so it means that you should still teach it.

It will be helpful as science requires investigations and labs. It may not be assessed but it is still imperative to teach to hone their skills in doing investigations and writing lab reports.  If you think about it from a procedural perspective (outside of standards alone), they need it to successfully complete labs. You might not need to spend a ton of time on it, but I’d at least expose them to it.


So how do you teach it without spending too much time on it since it’s not standards-based?

Have Students Generate Their Own Labs

This is the blank lab report sheet I have students use when they are creating their own labs.  


Do You Really Need to be Teaching The Scientific Method?


Give Students an Example Lab and Have Them Identify the Steps of the Scientific Method

I use this Scientific Method Foldable to do just that.


Do You Really Need to be Teaching The Scientific Method?




Get Students Moving to Review the Scientific Method

We have a lot of fun reviewing with my Scientific Method Human Bingo Board


Do You Really Need to be Teaching The Scientific Method?



What else would you add to the activities that you use to review the Scientific Method or teach it in context?  I'd love to hear your ideas!