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.
6 Tips for a Successful Back to School Night
I don’t know about you, but I could not wait to get back to work. I missed my classroom. I missed my coworkers. I missed being around my students. Most importantly, I missed teaching in general. To me, nothing signifies the start of a new school year like back to school night. The teachers are bright-eyed and excited for the upcoming year, the parents are excited to gain a little of their freedom back, your classroom still looks shiny and organized—it’s great! Although this can be the perfect time to get to know your new group of parents and to show them who you are and what to expect, it can also be a little nerve-wracking. Below are the ways in which I like to prepare myself and my classroom for back to school night and calm those pesky nerves.
Saying Goodbye to your Summer and Gearing up for the New Year!
Well, it’s officially August… we all know what that means– summer is now coming to an end and it’s time to start gearing up for a new school year. Teachers handle this in many ways, some go with the classic: denial. They completely put out of their mind that they have to go back to work and then lo and behold– it’s night before school starts and they panic! Some teachers begin to over schedule their remaining time with all of things they were wanting to do over the summer: beach trip, brunch, shopping, movies, dinners out, weekend get-a-way… you name it! Others, accept that it’s happening and begin to transition, slowly, to their school year schedule and life style. My approach is kind of a blend of scheduling fun things and acceptance. Hopefully the tips below help make your transition easier!
Updates: Check out the changes I have made to my classroom!
Over the summer I had time to really think about my classroom and reflect on the things I wanted to (or needed to) change, as well as the things I wanted to keep the same. Below, you will find the updated tour of my classroom.
A Week of STEM activities!
I decided to take on my own challenge of incorporating a STEM activity every day for a week. It turned out to be a huge success where both my students and I had a blast. Here were the various STEM tasks that they took on:
Speed up the grading process for tests!
I don’t give too many tests in my class. They are generally at the end of each main unit: Physics, Chemistry, Astronomy etc. Since they are few and far between, I want to make sure that they are strong summitive assessments that cover a wide range of material while also going in-depth with the content. In order to do this, my tests are generally long and fairly difficult. I typically include multiple choice questions, matching, fill-in-the-blank, some type of graphing and two essay questions. The students would write on the actual test that I would hand out to them. As I am sure you have already realized– they take forever to grade. I usually spend between 6-10 hours grading them. After more than five years, I finally decided to try and come up with a solution to this. This is my solution…
Avoiding Teacher Burnout
Teaching can be an amazing job. It can also be an exhausting job and a thankless job. When you are burning the candle at both ends, you can quickly run out of fuel.
Here are some tips on how to avoid burnout:
Incentives for More Student Participation
Sometimes, it can be difficult to get students to participate in class. Being a middle school teacher, I see it year after year and day after day: students feeling self conscious and apprehensive when asked to participate in class discussions or answer questions. Students participate for one of two reasons: they are either intrinsically motivated or extrinsically motivated. For the students who are intrinsically motivated to participate in class (motivated by internal factors such as wanting to do well or participating merely because they enjoy the experience), there is little you need to get their hands raised–their intrinsic motivation is enough on its own. The students who struggle are the ones who need extrinsic motivation–motivation by external factors, such as rewards etc. Below are some fun ways I boost participation in my classroom by taking advantage of extrinsic motivators.
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.