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Monday, August 13, 2018

How to Create and Follow a Pacing Guide

Have you been asked to create a pacing guide or felt the need to make one for yourself or your team?  What happens if you make one and can't follow it?  This post will help you navigate through the process of creating a pacing guide and sticking to it!


How to Create and Follow a Pacing Guide


First and Foremost:  Always Plan With the State Standards

It's really best if each person on the team either has a printed or electronic copy of the standards, depending on what appeals to them.  I personally like printed copies so I can mark them up any way I see fit.  You can usually find the standards on your state's department of education website.  I like to save mine as a PDF AND print it out.

Make Sure Everyone in the Group has a Role  

Assigning roles and due dates will keep everyone on track.  Start with the standards you will need to teach at the beginning of the year.  Then, find out what each person enjoys using to teach those standards.  For example, I often liked to find the activities that involved movement or mentor texts to teach the concepts, so I was often in charge of finding those things and sharing with the group so we could include them on the pacing guide. 

Other roles you may want to add:


  • Assessments (multiple-choice, online, vocabulary, etc.).  Make sure they closely match what your state will assess at the end of the year so students have plenty of practice before then.
  • Multi-Media Instruction:  Things like online practice games, videos, YouTube, music, computer lab activities, etc.  You want to try to incorporate as many different forms of instruction as possible so that you reach as many different learning styles as possible.
  • Vocabulary:  Make sure you do some kind of activities that explicitly teach the words that your state standards use.  My post on No-Tech Ways to Teach and Assess Vocabulary in Core Subjects gives several ways to do this, including a vocabulary review packet.


How to Create and Follow a Pacing Guide: Vocabulary Instruction and Assessement


Use Google Drive to Make Sure the Process is Truly Collaborative

To do this, everyone will need to bring their laptop to each meeting.  You can either create a Doc or a Sheet and add all your team members using their emails.  I'd make a Sheet like the one below.

How to Create and Follow a Pacing Guide: Team Planning


Don't Let the Conversation Wander

If you start talking about what you did over the weekend or "that student", you will never get the pacing guide done.   


Meet Weekly, If Possible

You'll want to meet regularly so you can talk about the standards you will need to teach in the future and make sure everyone is at the same place (or close) on the previous standards.




Now, Let's Talk About Everyone's Least Favorite Question: How do I Stick to the Pacing Guide????!!!!


Use a “Window” 

Setting a three-day window for when the team should do things like give the unit exam gives a level of freedom as far as the day-to-day lessons.

Build in Extra Days

Create a pacing guide with built in pause days. Don't forget things like holidays, snow/inclement weather, assemblies, state testing, and all the other things that throw the pacing off.  Make sure you sit down with the school/district calendar so you can include important dates as "pause days" on your pacing guide.

Adjust the Pacing Guide

The pacing guide may need to be adjusted as a grade level if everyone is just too far behind what was originally anticipated.  If only one member is behind, brainstorm how the team can best support that person and their students to help get them caught up. 


What else would you add to this?  I'm sure I'll be making more pacing guides in the future, so I can always use more advice!








Monday, August 6, 2018

How to Avoid Teacher Overwhelm

 Do you ever wonder how other teachers deal with feelings of being endlessly behind and never done?  Whether you’re a first-year or a seasoned teacher, this post has some time-tested advice for you!



How to Avoid Teacher Overwhelm

For the New Teacher:

Most importantly, you need to understand that classroom teaching is different and difficult compared to college, which has set deadlines and a defined“end” with the final project/exam. In classroom teaching, there’s always more you can do or should be doing.

Try to find a seasoned teacher or mentor who is willing to explain what is mandatory and what is “extra”. Always focus on the mandatory first. For example, grading assignments and providing timely feedback, should be top priority since students’ knowledge (or lack thereof) should guide your planning and instruction. 




For All Teachers:

First of all, understand that the to-do list never ends, so you have to make it “end” each day for yourself.  


Make Sure You Differentiate Between Work and Home


If you come home and still work on school things and don't have time to do things with your loved  ones, this sets you up for overwhelm. You have to decide what your "school hours" and "home hours" are. Pick a time for school, say 7:00 am to 4:30 pm. At 4:30, leave school and school work behind so home is home time. Of course, it won't ALWAYS work out that way, but setting personal school hours really helps.

Make Weekly To-Do Lists

Many teachers like to use stick notes to do this so they can either throw the note away when it's done or move the sticky to the next week if they don't get to it. This helps them to prioritize and have a healthy work/life balance.

When setting up your to-do list, think of the daily tasks you need to get done.


Set Up Daily Tasks

For example, Mondays you could have students pass out portfolios and graded papers and then collect portfolios.  Tuesdays, are for grading. Wednesday is for inputting grades. Thursday is for planning your next week’s lessons. Fridays might be for getting your copying done and collecting materials for the following week.


After Your Daily Tasks, Write a Secondary List:

  • You need a clear "do today", "do sometime this week/month", and "do one day whenever the world slows down" list. 
  • Accomplish the “today” list and when you have a slower day or extra time, jump on the “this week/month list”. 
  • Plan out your day each evening/morning and if you have a short today list, add something from your week/month list to "today" 
  • Don't worry about the other two lists. Focus on today. Eventually you will get enough done. And eventually that future list will fix itself on some things and will get shorter.



Assign Class Jobs

If your school allows it, here are some common tasks that students can do to save you time:

  • Take attendance  
  • Pass back papers
  • Help absent students catch up
  • Tutor other students

Just Do Your Best, Always

Don't try to over do it. If you don't get to that one lesson, it will be okay. Some years you will be behind and it's not the end of the world.  If you stick to showing students that you care about them, they will likely learn and retain more anyway.



Spend Some Time Each Day Organizing Your Classroom

I don't like to leave each day until I've at least:

  • Tidied up my desk 
  • Put the to-do list for the next day in a visible area of my desk
  • Put all stacks of papers to be graded in a neat stack in a central location


I have students help me out with the "clean up" portion of organizing the classroom during homeroom.  This includes:

  • Putting back classroom supplies such as scissors, markers, and glue sticks
  • Wiping down counters, tables, and desks
  • Straightening up book shelves


How do you avoid teacher overwhelm?  What would you add to this post?  I'd love to hear your ideas because I still feel overwhelmed sometimes too!








Monday, July 30, 2018

Top Teacher Time-Savers at Home

Do you ever wonder how the teachers who seem to have it all together do it?  They have a secret:  They maximize their time at home as well as at work.  So if you're looking for some tips on how to do that, this post is for you!


Top Teacher Time-Savers at Home


I'm going to start with food because it's one of the most important parts of my life that can also be the most time-consuming if I don't use all my best time-savers.

Top Teacher Time-Savers at Home: Our Groceries App


Time-Saver #1: Our Groceries Shopping List App

This app is the best food-related thing to happen to my busy family!  For one thing, it's free.  It also allows you to add to your grocery list from any mobile device.  So, when my husband uses the last of the bread, he adds it to the list and it automatically shows up on my list on my phone.  No more lost handwritten lists.  We just add to it anytime we think of something we need.  It also has the capability to store your recipes so you can get all the ingredients you need if you suddenly remember that you want to make Grandma's Pumpkin Pie, but didn't write the ingredients down before going to the store.


Top Teacher Time-Savers at Home: Meal Planning



Time-Saver #2: Meal Plans 

I collect recipes from magazines and search Pinterest for inspiration. I sit down Saturday or Sunday to pick some recipes we want for the week and make a shopping list.  We usually have at least one "breakfast for dinner" and a couple of leftovers meals per week.  On most weeks, I shop once for the entire week. This way I know what's for dinner even on nights when my creativity and energy are low. 

Speaking of saving time with groceries ...



Top Teacher Time-Savers at Home: Walmart Grocery


Time-Saver #3: Walmart Grocery

After I've made my grocery list for the week, I often use this online shopping feature. You can shop for all your groceries and schedule a pick up day/time all from the comfort of your couch!  You just pull up to the front of the store and they help load the groceries.  Bonus:  It's FREE if you order at least $30, which is always true for me.  From start to finish, I'm usually out of there in less than 15 minutes. Not having to browse the isles also saves me money because I don't see things I "need" that weren't on my grocery list.  




Time-Saver #4:  An Instant Pot or Crock Pot

I've done other posts on why this thing saves my life when it comes to mealtime:
Italian Marinara Sauce
Pork Roast
Applesauce
Mashed Potatoes

If it weren't for my Instant Pot, I would eat fast food all the time. That causes all kinds of undesirable results for me: Sluggishness, weight gain, predisposition to sickness. I do a couple of hours of prep on the weekends and have dinners/leftovers for the week. I know a couple of hours sounds like a lot of time, but compared to the amount of time I would take to plan and make meals during the week, two hours is nothing.



Time-Saver #5: Salads in a Jar

I'm not kidding, I NEVER get tired of these. I make all five days of salad on Sunday and they are still fresh and tasty the whole week through.  They make packing a healthy lunch so much easier and I don't have to rely on the cafeteria, which seems to take at least ten of my precious 20 minutes of lunchtime. The secret in making these beauties is in how you layer them. Dressing and veggies go in first, then meat, and the lettuce goes in last. There are a million great recipes out there, but here are a few of my favorites.
Taco Salad 
Caprese Salad
Ranch Rotini Salad

Here's on of my favorites:  Black Bean Salsa


Top Teacher Time-Savers at Home: Mason Jar Salads




Time-Saver #6: Protein Bars

Protein bars are inconspicuous and can be eaten standing at a copier. Need I say more?  Primal Thin Protein Bars are my favorite because they have only four totally natural ingredients, no milk protein, and only 1 g of sugar. 

Top Teacher Time-Savers at Home: Protein Bars




Time-Saver #7: Choosing Your Outfit the Night Before You Need It


I Pick out my COMPLETE outfit for the next day before I go to bed. This includes shoes and accessories. Why?  Because I'm not a morning person and I try not to wake my family by stumbling around while I'm searching for clothes at zero-dark-thirty in the morning. It saves time and energy to just have it all laid out the night before.


Top Teacher Time-Savers at Home: Planning Your Outfit the Night Before




Time-Saver #8: Do a Load of Laundry Each Day

This includes washing, drying, and folding. Here's the part where I get lazy: I rarely put the clothes away after they're folded. I just pick out of the basket until  there's only a few pieces of laundry left and then I put them away. If I consistently do laundry this way, I usually only have one load to do on the weekends. 


Teacher Time Savers at Home: Do a Load of Laundry Each Night



What would you add to this list?
What are you already doing from this list?
I'd love to hear how you maximize your time at home!






Monday, July 23, 2018

Fresh Alternatives to Get-to-Know-You Activities

Do the traditional get-to-know-you activities feel a bit stale to you?  Are you looking for some fresh ideas to get your students interacting with you and each other?  If so, then check out these multi-age activities!


Fresh Alternatives to Get-to-Know-You Activities: Multi-Age activities to try at the beginning of the school year


Minute to Win It Team Building 

For each activity, you can set a timer for the traditional minute, or you can choose the amount of time appropriate for the groups.  I like to have them strategize at the end of the round to see how they could better improve for the next round.

Chain

To be done in small groups: Set a timer for a minute. Then, each player must make a chain of paperclips. At the end of the minute, have teams count their paperclips and strategize about how to make a longer chain in the next round. 

Captain Kirk

The players are asked to discover a new planet (balloon). One player blows up the balloon as soon as possible and ties it off.  The other players "inhabit" the planet by drawing as many people on it as possible with a felt-tip marker.



Get Them Moving With....


Pool Noodles

Here's a fun way to use pool noodles to get students up and moving.  I love how the instructor gives modifications for students to work in teams or alone.  I also love that pool noodles are on sale during this time of year.






Switch Sides If...

I was inspired to share this activity with you when I read this post by Mommies Hobbies.


Fresh Alternatives to Get-to-Know-You Activities: Multi-Age activities to try at the beginning of the school year


This is a really cool activity that works with any age.
First, divide your classroom into two sides.  You can even put painter's tape in the middle to make a visual divide.
Next, have students stand on whatever side they want.
Then, say "Switch sides if..." and insert get-to-know-you statements such as:

  • You prefer country music to rock music
  • Your best friend goes to this school
  • Your favorite subject is science
  • You have more than one sibling
  • You were born in a different state
  • You have lived in this area for at least five years
  • You are a morning person
  • You play sports 


What would you add to this list?  I always need fresh ideas to keep things interesting at the beginning of the year!




Monday, July 16, 2018

Teacher Savior: Keto/Bulletproof Coffee on the Go

Have you ever needed to blend something at work but not had a blender or the time to use one?  Have you recently started a diet that incorporates coffee with extra ingredients, such as the Keto diet or protein shakes?  Then do I have the teacher savior for you!


Teacher Savior: Keto/Bulletproof Coffee on the Go


I recently started the Keto diet, which encourages eating higher-foods.  One of my FAVORITE things first thing in the morning is to drink what is known as Bulletproof Coffee.  The recipe is below:

1 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons Coconut/MCT oil
2 Tablespoons Heavy Whipping Cream

You just add all the ingredients to your travel mug and.... blend.  Except, who has access to a blender during the workday?  Not to mention the fact that they are LOUD.

Now, here's the magic "ingredient":  A milk frother!  This is my favorite one from Amazon.




This is very portable, as it is really little.  Despite its size, it is powerful.  It operates off of two AA batteries and all I do is give it a good rinse after each use.  If I want to deep clean it, I will just use it to "froth" some hot water with a drop or two of dish liquid.  It will easily fit in a teacher bag or lunchbox.

The first time I heard this recipe, I was thinking that there's no way those things will taste good in coffee.  Boy, was I wrong!  It is like a creamy, rich specialty coffee.  I promise that it DOES taste yummy and that it will keep you full for a good 3-4 hours.  I like to drink it on my way to work or before my morning workout.

Have you ever tried Keto coffee?  Are you interested in it?  Let me know your experiences and suggestions!







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.