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Monday, July 9, 2018

What Kind of Teacher Are You: Excellent or Mediocre?

Being a teacher is sometimes a lot like being a parent:  If you're doing it right, you will question whether you're making the right choices.  So if you've ever found yourself wondering if you're just a mediocre teacher, then this is the post for you.

What Kind of Teacher Are You:  Excellent or Mediocre?

First, let me tell you what DOESN'T make an excellent teacher:

Comparing yourself to other teachers

We all know that some people are truly gifted, natural teachers.  They are creative, patient, and cheerful. That being said, if you are struggling in one or more of these areas, it does NOT mean that you are sub-par.  It means that you are human.  The very fact that you are reflecting on your effectiveness and methodology means that you are a GREAT teacher.  Comparing yourself to others never works out well.  All it achieves is to make you feel inferior, which will absolutely not do you any favors as a teacher or a person in general.

Assuming that being an expert in your curriculum content is the most important thing

It really depends on who you ask on this one.  Administrators and School Board members may tell you that not having every last word of your curriculum memorized and your lesson plans in perfect order each day point towards a sub-par teacher.  If you ask any seasoned teacher, however, they will tell you that is one, tiny part of what makes a great teacher.  This is especially true if you are a newer teacher.  You will work out the fine details of curriculum and lesson-planning as you gain teaching experience.  Seriously, don't sweat this one.  We don't teach content, we teach children.

Assuming that just because you have a bad day (or days) that you aren't meant to be a teacher

We all have those days when things just don't go right from the time we wake up until our head hits the pillow at night.  As a teacher, many of the things that happen are not totally within our control.  Things like interruptions to our curriculum, emergencies, and illnesses can turn an already unpredictable day into a downright miserable one sometimes.  What IS within our control is how we deal with it.  There will be great days and terrible days.  On the terrible ones, you will have to ask yourself what you will need to do to get your "happy" back. Specialty coffee?  Dinner with a friend?  Exercise?  Whatever puts a smile on your face and helps you get back to business is exactly what you'll need to on those days.

Now, let's talk about the RIGHT ways to tell that you are a first-rate teacher:

Do you genuinely care about your students and do you let them know how much you care?

If the answer is yes, then you are not just a good teacher you are an amazing teacher.  Students will never be their best selves in our classroom until they know that they matter to us.  This is just as true for high-schoolers as it is for Kindergarteners.

Do previous students every stop by your room or let you know how much you mean to them?

If even ONE student has done this then you need to understand that you have reached a child on a truly unique level.  That is a gift that not all people possess.  Never underestimate this gift.

Do you regularly make time in your schedule for self care?

This is a sign that you are making sure that your energy level and happiness are at full capacity.  When you are happy, you are able to give that back to your students.  Taking care of yourself is a sign of a healthy and superior teacher.  I wrote about how you can practice self-care in just five minutes in this post.

Do you have at least one person in your building in whom you trust for advice, guidance, and a shoulder to cry on?

Teaching is not a profession in which people can be lone wolves.  We need other teachers who will support us on the bad days and give us guidance when we are not making the best decisions.  They share great ideas with us and encourage us to go to professional development opportunities that keep us on top of our game.

What are some things that separate the excellent teachers from the mediocre in your mind?  I'd love to hear about what you'd add to this list!

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Teacher Appreciation Sale

TpT is hosting a 2-Day Teacher Appreciation Sale, starting today, to show us some love!

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

The sale starts TODAY, May 8th at 12:01 a.m. ET and runs through Wednesday, May 9th at 11:59 p.m. ET. 

Friday, March 23, 2018

Fresh Ideas for Content Review: Review Games

Would you like to infuse some fun into your content review?  This post talks about six quick and easy games that are guaranteed to get your students interested in reviewing!

All of these games are included in my Review Games Packet with more details on how to play them.

Memory Game
In this game, you would put out a collection of flash cards or related items.  Students have a short amount of time to memorize the items.  Afterward, students would need to recall as many of the items as possible and be able to tell how they are related.

In the example picture below, I have a collection of cell organelle flash cards.  The student who recalled the most words and made the connection that these are cell organelles would win the round.

Content Review Games: Memory Game

Timeline Game

Another name for this game could be "Silence" because students must arrange themselves in order without making a sound!  The game can be adapted with very little preparation to fit almost any curriculum or theme.

The first step is to count out enough sticky notes/papers for each student.  Then, choose a topic related to your curriculum and get started letting the students line up according to your topic!

Content Review Games: Timeline Game

Puzzle Pieces Review Game

This game requires a little preparation.  To prepare, laminate five pictures.  You might laminate pictures relating to a teaching theme and then cut each picture into four to six puzzle pieces.

Goal:  You want to end up with one puzzle piece for each student in your class, so you will want to create a variety of four-piece, five-piece, and six-piece puzzles. 

In the example below, the deciduous tree matches with the acorn and the coniferous tree matches with the pine cone.

Content Review Games: Puzzle Game

Four Corners
I talk in more detail in this post about this game, but the idea is to be able to use a multiple-choice test have students moving to different corners of the room, marked with the letters of the test choices.  I made letters big enough to see from anywhere in the room with PowerPoint.  I decided to laminate them so they would last longer.

I include the letters and step-by-step instructions in my content review packet.

Content Review Games: Four Corners

Content Review Games: Four Corners Game

Pass the Chicken

Goal:  In this game, no one wants to be stuck holding the chicken.


  1. Prepare some themed topic ideas ahead of time 
  2. All students stand in a circle.
  3. One student is "it" and holds the rubber chicken.
  4. The teacher or "caller" says to the person holding the chicken, "Name three organelles.  Pass the chicken!"As soon as the caller says, "Pass the chicken!", the person holding the chicken passes it to the right.
  5. Students quickly pass the chicken around the circle.  If it makes it back to the original person holding the chicken before he or she can name the amount of things named at the beginning, the holder is still "it".
  6. Otherwise, the person holding the chicken when "it" finishes is the new "it".

Knowledge Tag

Goal:  Review content knowledge with physical activity.


  1. Designate three or four "taggers" and three or four "thawers".
  2. The thawers each have a set of knowledge cards with answers. 
  3. On the "go signal", students begin the tag game.
  4. When tagged, the student stops and begins doing jumping jacks or running in place.
  5. The thawer role is to find a student who has been tagged and ask that student a question from the cards.
  6. If the question is answered correctly, the student goes free.  If not, he or she is given another question.

If you are interested in learning more about these games and downloading a copy, CLICK HERE.

Have you tried any of these review games?  Which of these sounds the most applicable for your class?  I'd love to hear your ideas!

Monday, March 12, 2018

Get Inspired With Irish Spring Diffuser Blend

Are you ready for Spring?  Even if it’s not here, you can get that Spring fresh scent with March’s diffuser blend: Irish Spring. 

Get Inspired With Irish Spring Diffuser Blend

You can make this blend with:
3 Lime
3 Rosemary
2 Lemon
2 Spearmint

Irish Spring is the perfect blend for March because:
We are all looking forward to Spring.  This is such a clean-smelling blend that it makes me think about those first days of Spring that keep me looking forward to opening up the windows and basking in the sun.

Let's talk about why each of the Ingredients are so effective:

Like most citrus oils, lime has cleansing properties, due to a compound called limonene. It’s great for cleaning surfaces in your cleaning spray and purifying the air in our Diffuser Blend. 

Another amazing multipurpose oil. This oil fights respiratory infections and chronic fatigue, improves memory and focus, and promotes emotional balance.  One of its main constituents is a hydrocarbon called Terpinen-4-ol (pronounced ter-pin-in-4-O-L), which has an antibacterial and antifungal effect similar to what is found in Melaleuca. 

If you’ve watched any of my previous videos, you know that lemon is one of my absolute favorites. It’s a purifier and cleanser, much like lime. I put it in my liquid dish soap and powder detergents. It’s also in my seasonal allergy Diffuser Blend, so stay tuned for that!

I call this “peppermint light”. It’s a really clean and refreshing scent. I believe peppermint would overpower the other oils in this blend, so spearmint is perfect. It promotes focus and uplifts our mood, which is why it’s the last ingredient in this cleansing spring blend. 

Fun facts To compliment the Irish Spring Blend:
Need to get stickers or sticker residue off something?  Just use a few drops of lemon oil!  Massage it onto the residue with your fingers and voila!  No need for goo gone!

Have a great month and I’ll see you next time where I’ll be sharing a blend inspired by allergy season!

Monday, February 26, 2018

How to Reach the “Unreachable” Students

Do you want to increase student participation and assignment/homework completion?  Do you have students who seem impossible to motivate?  Then I have some solutions for you in this post!

How to Reach the “Unreachable” Students

1. Rethink Homework
If homework isn’t getting completed on a regular basis, consider not assigning it. 
  • Make all work achievable in class time. 
  • Have them break up information and present it to each other.  Students can complete a graphic organizer as others present. 

You can also read my homework post based on Myron Dwek’s Grading Smarter Not Harder

How to Reach the “Unreachable” Students

2. Rethink Study Guides
  • First, start with the test in mind. Create study guides from the tests. 
  • To help students keep track of them, print them on colored paper. 
  • Have them quiz each other daily on the study guide, even if it’s just a few minutes at the beginning of class. 

3. Rethink Review and Test Prep
Turn it into a game with this Review Games Packet

How to Reach the “Unreachable” Students

If you have access to technology:
 Webquests, edPuzzle, Kahoot (and more) can all add excitement to a class while reviewing content. 

Offer extra credit for thinking outside the box:
I tell them they can add any information not already on the test related to this subject to the study guide for extra credit.

4. Get Them Moving
I give a specific example of this in my post on 22 Interactive Learning Structures 

How to Reach the “Unreachable” Students

Another post I did was based on Rick Wormeli’s Summarization in Any Subject

You can pick up a FREE copy of the Human Bingo board
How to Reach the “Unreachable” Students

Some other good options for getting students standing and moving:
Learning stations
Gallery walks

What are some other ways you reach those students who struggle?  I always need more ideas!

Monday, February 19, 2018

Increasing Student Participation in Class Discussions

Do you want to increase student participation in class discussions?  How do you keep the conversations on task so it becomes a valuable teaching tool?  If so, my post on class discussions is for you!

Increasing Student Participation in Class Discussions

Step 1: Start With a Non-Academic Subject
You can talk about their favorite sport or food to start.  EVERYONE has background knowledge on things like this.  It eases the anxiety over having to remember what they just learned in class because no one forgets that pizza is their favorite food!

Step 2:  Teach Students How to Talk
So many times, we assume that students know how and when to talk to each other during a discussion.  As a current 7th Grade teacher and a former 4th Grade teacher, I can assure you that is not the case.  Even from subject to subject and teacher to teacher, expectations on how to talk during a discussion can be different.  So we need to explicitly teach our expectations and procedures for talking to each other.

Some ways to teach students how to talk:

Target one skill at a time, per student
Some need to talk LESS, some need to make more specific text-based contributions, some should practice asking clarifying questions, etc.  Help students make goals for themselves and write them down, if need be.

Practice by using very explicit sentence stems
For example, you might want to come up with some sentence-stems that apply to your subject, such as "When you were talking about _____, I was a little confused about _______.  Could you clarify what you meant?"  There are many free examples of sentence stems available for free on the Internet.  Model it with the teacher practicing with student, then have students practice in partners, and finally, practice whole class.

Don't allow students to shrug their shoulders and say, "I don't know".
Instead, have them say, ”I don’t know yet, but I think...” before they respond. This way, everyone knows they’re guessing and there’s no reason to make fun or laugh at their answer. You can also do a lot of lead in to it, and create success with easy questions. For example, “What’s a vocab word we can use to say _______?”, “Who can stretch this idea and add more?”, Or “I’m not sure, but I think...”.  Then they can fill in the gaps.

Teach students to use their resources to supplement their thinking.
It also helps to have very organized notes and binders for them to keep their information together. If a student tries to say, "I don't know",  encourage them to look it up!

Use bingo chips to help students know how much to talk.
In a structured discussion, give students 2 bingo chips each. When they talk, they put one chip in their team basket. Once chips are gone, they are encouraged to help their team mates speak who have chips. Sometimes this looks like them feeding the other student word for word, but all students participate in the discussion.

Do you have any tips and tricks you'd add to the list?  I'd love to hear about them!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Improving Teacher Morale With Incentives

Are looking to improve school or teacher morale in your building?  Whether you are a principal or part of a morale-boosting committee, check out this post on what incentives teachers want most!

Improving Teacher Morale With Incentives

Some things to keep in mind before choosing your incentives:

  • Remember:  It isn't the gift/prize, it is the thought that someone cares.
  • Get to know your staff. Some people would rather have tangible prizes, while others would be thrilled with having their class covered for an hour. 

Some general low-cost or no-cost prizes that teachers might like: 

  • Scratch-Off lottery tickets (check to make sure they are allowed in your building first) 
  • Passes to wear jeans on a non-jeans day
  • Someone will bring coffee/their favorite beverage to their classroom
  • Candy delivery
  • Make their copies
  • Recess coverage
  • Offer to help grade a set of papers (1/2 hour of time. )
  • Lunch delivered from a take- out restaurant.
  • Give little “pick-me-ups” through the year at random times. For example, Post-it pad and a pen, or a sheet of stickers and a bookmark...cute little things that are inexpensive but that brighten a teacher's day. 

For administrators:

  • Waive your walk through/observation for the day
  • Get out of school free pass - allowed to leave 10 -15 minutes early one day
  • Let the teacher leave when the students leave one day
  • Late start for the day (cover homeroom)
  • The teacher gets a "free" day to do something fun with their class, maybe board games, outside time, sidewalk chalk art, whatever the teacher thinks will be fun.
  • Offer to cover an hour of class for a teacher so they can have extra planning or a longer lunch.
  • Reserved parking spot (Depends on size of school)

What are some things you'd add to the list?