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Monday, February 25, 2019

It's Time for a TpT Sale!

What's on your TpT wishlist?  TpT is hosting a 2-Day sale, starting tomorrow!  So whether you need lesson plans, classroom reward ideas, or just some pretty new labels for all those supplies, TpT has you covered!




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 TOMORROW, February 26th at 12:01 a.m. ET and runs through February 27th at 11:59 p.m. ET. 


Happy shopping!




Monday, January 28, 2019

How to Teach When You Have Limited Time

Are you having a difficult time covering all the material you need or want to each day?  Do you have shortened class periods that present a challenge for your teaching style?  This post gives some of my best solutions to these problems!




How to Teach When You Have Limited Time



Think About What You Absolutely Need to Teach First


Choose Quality Over Quantity

Pick a few things to cover, go deep with those few things, and make connections to as much as you can. Quality over quantity will give you the most bang for your buck. Plus, if you have fun "independent" study projects for them to design and complete, they'll be begging to get to the subject you teach.



Carefully Consider the Learning Activity



Sometimes things like waiting for students to write down notes can take an enormous amount of time.   I'm not saying that note-taking is not important, but think about what they’re writing and why. Can some of it be replaced with videos or printouts?



Teach Students Vocabulary During Activities Instead of in Isolation 

Instead of teaching vocabulary words in seclusion, include/ teach them while you’re doing a hands on activity. This can save a lot of time and you can always take the final moments of class to review vocabulary words each day to reinforce their meaning.



Try Stations

Just keep in mind that you don’t have to complete the rotations in a day. It can carry on for tomorrow or the next day.




Alternate Activities Throughout the Week

This is especially helpful if you teach multiple subjects and some subjects are allotted less time than others.  For example, if you have 90 minutes for math and only 30 for science. 



Try a Weekly Schedule

Once you have chosen the activities that are the most important, come up with a weekly schedule for when you will use them.

A sample weekly schedule might look like this:
Notes/Instructional videos on Monday/Tuesday to prepare students for in-depth things like labs or projects
Labs/Projects/Stations on Wednesdays/Thursdays
Quizzes on Fridays




How to Teach When You Have Limited Time: How to Start Teaching as Soon as Students Enter the Room



I did another blog post about this recently.  Click here to learn more.




What else do you do to maximize your limited time in class?  This is a subject I always need extra advice in!






Monday, January 21, 2019

How to Help Absent Students Catch Up

How do you help students who are absent to catch up?  Here are some of my best tips for helping students help themselves and how you can assist them when they struggle with catching up on their own.


How to Help Absent Students Catch Up



Have Things Set Up in the Classroom So They Can Help Themselves


"Were You Absent?" crate



I have a crate with a hanging file for each period I teach. I fill out a sheet for what we did that day or maybe even two or three days depending on if my plans are set in stone. Than I make copies. When someone is absent I just put their name on it and put it in the correct hanging file.  Student responsibility to check crate when they return.



How to Help Absent Students Catch Up



Table of contents poster

I keep a binder with all of the items students should have completed.  It's basically the same as the one each of the students keeps for my class.  The first page is the Table of contents.

This is just a laminated piece of chart paper.  I write on it with dry-erase markers to keep it updated.  It helps students see what they missed as soon as they walk in.  Students know to ask for help from either teachers or accountability students (see my explanation below) to find these assignments.  Most often, I keep them in the Absent Crate I mentioned above.



How to Help Absent Students Catch Up





Make up work poster

This is another laminated piece of chart paper.  I write the graded assignments on this one.  Most often, these will not be kept in the Absent Crate because I want to make sure:
1.  Students are given the proper testing environment, if necessary
2.  Students are given the proper assistance or information in order for it to be a proper assessment




How to Help Absent Students Catch Up






Online homework/assignments calendar

My county uses an online repository called Blackboard, but you could just as easily have a classroom website with a Google Calendar that lists the daily homework and assignments.  I will often take pictures of the notes written on the board and attach them to the calendar so students know what needs to be done regarding those assignments.

Use Accountability Students 

These are the students who are organized, usually finish before other students, and are looking for a way to help in the classroom.  A good way to let them help is to have one of them fill out a "While you were out sheet" for the missing student.  It has a short description of what they did in class and the homework assigned.

A word of caution for this technique:  If you have a student fill out a form I suggest that you sign off on it that it is accurate. 


Making Up Stations and Labs

Divide the learning/lab into several stations

That way if a student is absent for a day or two, they can still make it up while working with the other students in the days following their return to school.




What About Students Who Are Absent for Several Days?


First, decide what assignments you must have for assessment purposes.
These are the assignments you want to help students tackle first.

Next, decide if you can modify any assignments.
Sometimes we give assignments for enrichment.  Sometimes we give assignments to help students dig deeper and think critically.  I'm not saying you shouldn't give these type of assignments to students who are chronically absent, but you may want to cut out any extra work that doesn't directly relate to what you will be assessing on the final test.

Be flexible with due dates.
My policy is that I give two days for every day the student is absent for them to turn things in.  That being said, I remain as flexible as possible.  If a student is working diligently to complete an assignment but it's taking a little longer, I tend to support that whenever possible.  To me, the learning is more important than following a strict deadline when a student is trying to catch up.

Decide what needs to be done at school and what can be sent home.
Things like labs and assessments obviously need to be done at school.  Things like vocabulary and study guides can be sent home for most students who don't have special needs.  If you send assignments home, you may want to communicate with the parents what you will be sending home and when it is due, along with any special instructions.  

Decide if you can exempt any assignments.
Sometimes, for one reason or another, students just can't make up the same amount of work that their classmates completed while they were absent.  In those cases, I look at everything I assigned a grade for during the period of time the student was absent and I decide which of those things to exempt (leave blank in my gradebook).  


How do you help your students catch up?  Which of the things I mentioned will you be using in the future?  I'd love to hear your thoughts!





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.






Saturday, January 12, 2019

Birthday Cake Essential Oil Diffuser Blend

Birthday Cake is the perfect blend for February because I’ve baked up a spice cake diffuser blend that will stand up to this cold weather.  It will both uplift and calm you. February also happens to be the birth month of several of my favorite people, including my son and oil mentor (Hi Hillary!).





Check out my video for the full details: Birthday Cake Diffuser Blend

Got any suggestions for diffuser blends I should do in the future?  I’d love to hear them!




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!