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Monday, January 29, 2018

Is Extra Credit a Viable Teaching Tool?

Does your school require you to give extra credit to students who don’t get the grades they expected?  Do you wonder how to make extra credit a viable teaching tool without creating unnecessary work for yourself?  Then my post on extra credit is for you!

Is Extra Credit a Viable Teaching Tool?

Many schools are moving toward a “no fail” policy for students.  In response, teachers are turning to creative ways to help students learn the material. One such way is extra credit. 

First, I’d like to look at the pros and cons.


If a student wants to show mastery of the content in a way other than a test, you might want to consider it on a case by case basis, but it would have to be something meaningful.  I talk more about that in the "Things to Consider" section below.


If you already do the following, it might pad a student's grade too much if you add extra credit on to those activities:
Test corrections for partial credit
Extended time to complete assignments with no penalty

Things to consider before allowing students to use extra credit:

Is it meaningful?  In other words: 
Does it align to the standards you are teaching?
Could it take the place of a classwork grade or a test grade?
Will it help a student master the subject matter?

Is the student missing work that would prepare them for completing the extra credit?
If students haven't completed homework and classwork, how will they know the information well enough to complete the extra credit?  You may want to have them complete the missing assignments and give them credit for those before assigning extra credit.

How much will it count?
10% of the grade?
Replacing a test grade?
Replacing a classwork grade?

How difficult should extra credit be?
More difficult than classwork or homework?
The same level of difficulty as those assignments?

Will it include extra curricular activities that tie into what you are teaching?
For example, if a family goes to a museum, could a student present orally or in writing what they learned?  What about family vacations?
Can students play online games and take screen shots to show they have mastered the information for extra credit?
Can a student use a study guide they created to take or retake a test for extra credit?

What's your stance on extra credit?  I could always use a fresh perspective!

Monday, January 8, 2018

How to Teach When You’ve Lost Your Voice

How do you teach if you can't talk?  It's that time of year again where the germs are everywhere and even the most seasoned teacher is susceptible to getting sick.  If you're looking for some tips on how to keep the learning going when you're not feeling well, then this post is for you!

How to Teach When You’ve Lost Your Voice

Step 1: Take care of yourself
If you are truly sick and feeling awful, take a day off and get yourself rested!  No one wants to share germs and you won't get better if you push yourself beyond your limits.  And while you're at it, DON'T bring any work home.  You're not resting if you're working.

With that being said, if you still feel well enough to push on, here are some strategies to get you through the day.

Drink hot tea with honey and magnesium.  
Click here to read about how I make my tea.

How to Teach When You’ve Lost Your Voice: Magnesium Tea

Diffuse essential oils to combat your sore throat.
My favorite blend for this is lemon, lavender, and peppermint.

How to Teach When You’ve Lost Your Voice: Singer's Spray

Step 2:  Be Honest With Students
Just being honest and asking the students for a personal favor of being quiet and paying close attention has always worked for me.

Step 3:  Write and display your directions to the class
Some ways to do this:

  • PowerPoint slides 
  • Posters
  • If students have access to computers, put your directions on an online repository so students can read the directions and move at their own pace

I’ve typed my directions as I go and projected them on the screen so kids have to read to know what to do. 

Step 4: Assign students as class leaders to relay directions

Step 5: Use visual cues to get students attention
These could include:

  • Clapping for their attention
  • Flicking the lights on and off
  • Raise your hand and have your class leaders quiet those around them

Step 6: Use Self-Guided Stations
Be sure to have some of these ready BEFORE you get sick.  Teach your students how to use them ahead of time.  It's not going to work well to try to teach students how to complete the stations when you have no voice.

Step 7: Use Class Incentives
As a last resort, I have a “prize bag” that floats from desk to desk of students who are paying attention. They get their name in a raffle for a small reward at the end of the day. They get super quiet when they see me walk over and put the bag on a student’s desk.

What do you do when you have to teach with no voice?  I can always use more tricks up my sleeve!

Get Inspired to Cut the Clutter

Are you in need of some motivation to organize your work space?  Behold January’s essential oil blend: Cut the Clutter!

It's that time of year when we have a natural energy for getting rid of things that no longer serve a purpose in our lives or classrooms.  The problem is, there's only so many hours in the day and the days after winter break seem to take all our motivation.  So, I created a diffuser blend to help us find our motivation and get the job done!

Get Inspired to Cut the Clutter with this essential oil diffuser blend

Here’s why I chose each oil:

This gives the blend a subtle citrus and herb smell.  It promotes a positive outlook by heightening awareness and helping the person move from an obstructed mind to one that is flowing.  So it’s perfect for helping us clear the clutter.  

The original blend included lemon and lime, but after experimenting with a few different options, I liked bergamot in place of those.  Unlike the other citrus oils, Bergamot is both uplifting and calming.  It helps clear the mental clutter by helping us move from a mindset of inadequacy to worthiness.  

Douglas Fir
Depending on what Dougie is mixed with, it can have a citrus or apple sidenote to it.  In this blend, it does take on the citrus smell.  This adds to the uplifting mood we are trying to create by moving our perspective from upset to renewed.  

I use cinnamon bark for this blend, which seems like an odd addition to this blend, but I promise you will not be disappointed.  It really does add a spiciness that blends so well with the citrus.

So, let’s get scientific about the main organic compound of cinnamon: Cinnamaldehyde.  This is what gives cinnamon its flavor, color, and insect-repellent qualities.  It’s also the reason you can’t apply it neat to skin (you need to dilute it with a carrier oil). 

What to do:
Fill your diffuser with room-temperature water
Add the quantities of oils in the picture above to the diffuser 
Turn the diffuser on and keep it near you as you decide what needs to be organized or tossed

Easy peasey!

If you have any questions or want support on your essential oil journey, just drop me a line!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Classroom Management Series: Restroom Usage Policy

Are you looking for some time-tested, evidence-based ways to enhance your classroom management?  My post on creating a restroom usage policy will guide you through the steps to help you decide if you need a restroom usage policy and how to implement one!

This is the fourth post in my Classroom Management Series.  If you missed it, be sure to check out the previous posts:
Teaching Expectations After the Year has Started

Classroom Management Series: Restroom Usage Policy

First, let me say that this is one of those tough situations because no one wants to restrict bathroom usage. 

Students should be able to use the restroom whenever they need to, right?  Yes, but that doesn’t mean we can’t guide students with some good classroom management!

Step 1: Make Sure It’s Not a Medical Issue

If you notice the same students going to the restroom over and over, ask the school nurse if there’s anything medically relevant that you should know about the student in relation to bathroom usage.  If not, the nurse might want to call home and make sure the medical records aren't missing some important medical information about the student in that area.  

Step 2: Talk to Students Individually 

Have a conversation with the students who go at the same time consistently and make a plan for what they need to be successful.  Sometimes just a chat with the student will clear things up.

Step 3: Don’t Restrict Restroom Use at All, But Still Have Policies in Place. 

For Example:

  • Whenever possible, have students go between periods. 
  • Alternatively, have them ask to use the restroom as soon as they come in the room. 
  • If a student must go after class has started, they can go with a pass as long as it's during their independent work time. 
  • Make sure students leave their cell phone with the teacher when they leave to use the restroom.

What if you've tried all this, but it's still not working?

Keep a Log of When/Where/How Long a Student Uses the Restroom

If, however, students are roaming the hallways or abusing their restroom privileges, then you might want to keep a log of when/how long they are gone and when they return.  This is an excellent tool to share with parents and your colleagues so that everyone is on the same page.  

Before reading the next part, I urge you to read this article, written by a pediatric urologist about restricting restroom usage.

Use a Punch Card

Some schools have a school-wide pass that students get every nine weeks.  It’s a punch card with two punches per class.  A nice behavior management technique to go with this is allowing students to “purchase” additional out of class passes with classroom incentive “bucks”.  Everyone wins in this case because students have to make good choices in order to earn their bucks to buy extra bathroom or out of class time.

Some Things to Consider Before Using a Punch Card:  

  • What will you do if the students lose their pass?  
    • Will you enforce the policy that they won’t be able to leave class?  
    • Will you have them “buy” passes as a backup in that case?
  • What if students don't use all their punches?  
    • Can they turn them in for extra credit or classroom privileges?

Do you do anything else regarding your restroom usage policy?  This is one of those subjects I can't ever learn enough about, so please share your thoughts and tips with me!