Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you need or want to send a notification to your students for one reason or another? Maybe you forgot to tell them what the homework was. Or maybe you just want to send them an encouraging message during finals week. A couple of years ago I heard about this great new service/app for staying in touch with your students (or parent community, team etc) and it’s FREE!!!!! I was nervous about having a communication tool between me and my students. I didn’t want them to have my phone number or be able to text me with questions constantly. This app makes it so that they don’t see my number and I don’t see theirs. I also turned off the capability for them to reply to my texts (I much prefer the one-way-communication). I decided to give it a go last year because all of my high school students have phones and check them non-stop (note: a phone is not required to sign up for this service, they can also use their email). This was my experience using the Remind app:
Plickers! Integrating a Classroom Response System.
A year ago I introduced “clickers” to my classroom and my students went nuts for them. These clickers were essentially remotes that they could use to “vote” their answers to questions I projected up on the board. The participation of my students skyrocketed as well as their desire to review material so they could use “the clickers”. This system was very expensive and I fundraised to get it in my classroom. When the system recently started having connection trouble (long, frustrating story), I searched for a solution and found a FREE alternative that basically does the same thing. Below is what I learned about this awesome new tool that just requires a printer and a smart phone!
Easy Student Reminder!
Does this sound familiar? “Hey (insert student name here), could you come by after school so we can discuss your grade/behavior/missing work etc?” Three o’clock comes around, 3:05 then 3:15 and eventually 3:30 and you are still all alone. You see that same student the next day and ask them what happened and they respond: “Oh! I totally forgot, sorry!” This is the (short) story of how I fixed the problem.
Dealing With Student Absences
I have already talked about how to lessen the amount of prep work you have to do when absent (check out that post here), but what about when your students are gone? I used to think it was much more work dealing with students being absent than when I took a day off (whether it be a sick day or professional development); that was before I came up with these ways to avoid the frustration. Here are some tips and tricks for making your classroom more self sufficient for absent students as well as making your life easier.
Stop Taking my Pencils!
I don’t know about you, but no matter what I have tried in the past, my pencils always seem to disappear! I have a special holder on my desk for ‘student pencils.’ I have previously asked them to leave a shoe in exchange for a pencil. I thought that if my students would hobble around my classroom with only one shoe, they would surely remember to give me my pencil back. But, sure enough, my pencils would slowly disappear! So, I recently came up with a new idea for keeping my pencils from getting “kidnapped” (napped by kids) and thought I would share it with you!
Tips on Building Community in the Classroom
Much like with parenting, teachers are often the caring and supportive adult in students’ lives. However, we are also the judge, jury and executioner! It can be a tough role to juggle. In order to help strike that balanced chord of showing that you are there to support your students, building community should be your first step. Here are some approaches that I use in my classroom to help build community.
Gamification of the Classroom
Everyone likes to play games. Games make things fun! Games help to pass the time! Games allow us to turn an otherwise dull task into something exciting! A lot of it might also be the competition. How else do you explain why spelling words with little wooden tiles can be so entertaining?? If you asked me to do that by myself as an assignment or task: no-thank-you! If you asked me whether or not I could do it better then someone else: challenge accepted!
I have found that incorporating play into everyday routines in my classroom has allowed my students to enjoy tasks and participate more in things that they normally would not. It has also created buy-in when it otherwise would be very difficult to achieve. The following are ways in which I have incorporated play and competition into my classroom:
The Carrot vs. the Stick: Motivating Students in the Classroom
We’ve all heard the words “If you do that one more time…” which are quickly followed by some kind of threat. Most of us may have heard our parents say that, probably followed by “you’ll be grounded for a week!” However, this phrase is not unfamiliar to teachers either. This old parenting “gem” is generally brought out in dire situations when we are at our wits’ end and don’t know what to do; we generally follow it up with “You’re going to the principle’s office” or “I’m writing you a referral” or “You’re going to have to spend the rest of the period in the corner wearing a dunce cap!” (oh wait, it’s not 1956. Never mind).
I have found that when trying to motivate students to do what is right (or what I want them to do in class), the carrot works much better than the stick.
Motivating students can be difficult, especially if you are asking them to do something they don’t want to do, like sit quietly at their desk and work on an assignment without distracting others (or themselves). However, it is at these times that we should try the carrot, rather than the stick. Threats rarely work, and if they do, the motivation you are giving your students is coming from the wrong place; students should not be working out of fear they will get into trouble. When students are fearful, this can lead to them feeling uncomfortable in your classroom because it has become an unsafe learning environment (not physically unsafe, but they may begin to fear getting into trouble everyday and thus dread coming to your classroom. None of us want that).
Here are some situations when I implement the carrot, rather than the stick:
Keeping Classroom Management Friendly
I have found that really working on building trusting relationships with my students is the best tool I have ever had for classroom management. Once your students trust you and respect you, the level of required classroom management drops significantly. I try to keep my classroom fun and feeling safe to them. Teenagers already feel targeted by adults and are so sensitive to any punishment; this is why I try to make my classroom management strategies more ‘friendly’ than serious as they are less likely to blow up and freak out. Here are my ‘friendly’ classroom management techniques: