May 11, 2017

Tips for a Successful Year End Review

Tips for a Successful End of the Year Review

Reviewing for regents exams, or other state exams can be overwhelming. There is so much content: labs, diagrams, vocabulary, and just facts to know. Students want to do well, but they are tired, and they often don’t know how to study on their own. They don’t want to listen to you lecture, and you don’t want to lecture, but they need direction.

Tips to use for end of year review, especially in high school biology class (Regents)

When reviewing for state exams, in particular, it is critical to look back at past state tests and to see what has often been asked. For New York State those exams are available here. However, students quickly get bored and frustrated with simply doing past questions. This doesn’t give them a study tool, it often just shows them what they already know, or what they don’t know. Many students are not able to take this to the next level and use it as a study tool.

We as teachers want to help them succeed, and want to feel like we have done everything we can, but many teachers struggle with ‘what to do for review?’ or ‘how to structure the review to cover the right content?’

Tweet: However, students quickly get bored and frustrated with simply doing past questions. This doesn’t give them a study tool, it often just shows them what they already know, or what they don’t know.

This is How I Structure My Year End Review

Homework

For my year end review I like to assign something fairly open-ended, with choice for homework. This is something that students can make progress on their own, and won’t be studying ‘wrong’ but will be learning some study skills. One choice would be this free Review Assignment (applicable to any subject). This also eliminates the problem of cheating on practice test questions assigned at home.


Break it up

This is also a good time to utilize games and puzzles to break up review after students get bored of lecture and/or practice questions. A very popular way to do this is the use of Tarsia Puzzles (also called Magic Squares).

The ‘Meat’ of the Review

The bulk of my review, however comes from this resource, which I have created. It is organized by main topics within the New State Living Environment Course (Biology). Each topic has one or two pages. It is in guided notes format, with key diagrams that need to be labelled, or bullet points that need to be filled in. It can be used in several ways.


Depending upon the group of students that I have that year, I may use this resource in several ways:
  • Hand out the entire packet at once, or I may hand it out one topic at a time, or only use some sections and review other sections in other ways.
  • I will often put students in partners (or on their own) to complete a short section, then regroup and go over it.
  • I have also had them complete a short section, check with a partner, and then check their answers against the key.
  • A teacher answer key is included, so it is a very easy option if you want to copy the answer key for students (or a portion of it).
  • I have also had students lead, up at the board, going over the answers with the answer key.

It is open-ended enough that it keeps students actively thinking and engaged, but complete enough that it gives them a great study resource when they are finished.

This includes sections for the New York State Required Labs (Beaks of Finches: Evolution, Relationships and Biodiversity: Evidence for Evolutionary Relationships, Making Connections: Experimental Design and Homeostasis, Diffusion through a Membrane) as well as the following units of study:
  • scientific inquiry
  • classification of living things
  • microscope, cells 
  • macromolecules
  • enzymes
  • cell membrane
  • photosynthesis and respiration
  • nucleic acids
  • mitosis and meiosis
  • genes and heredity
  • modern genetics
  • evolution
  • human body systems
  • reproduction
  • homeostasis
  • ecology
  • and human impact on the environment. 
The main points that are reviewed in each section are based on questions and topics that are most commonly asked on state testing.

What Else do I do In Class to Prepare them for the Test?

I usually review a topic or two using one of the above discussed methods and then do some practice past state test questions that draw specifically on that topic. This allows them to see the relevance and value of the review, and to have more success with the questions by being active participants in the review.

I know the end of the year can be chaotic, but end of the year testing is still important to both you and the students and we all want them to do their best. This can even ben a time to try some changes to routines in preparation for next year, and to keep things fresh at the end of this year.

I find this review structure (with some use of games or stations periodically to break it up depending upon your group and your time schedule) to be successful because students know what to expect, and they can see the purpose behind it. It is important that students buy-in to the review strategy, and understand what that the plan is, and the reasoning behind what you are asking them to do. Sometimes I even kick-off review with a contract that I have the students create and sign regarding which actions they plan to take to ensure that they do well (study each night, stay after school for extra help, participate in review, etc). This makes it clear where they are going. They can feel success as they complete it, and they also have a study resource when they are finished. Instead of being bored, students actually look forward to the structure, knowing what’s coming next, and seeing some progress in their learning and their scores.

I hope you will head over here, check out the previews, and try it out for yourself if you teach Biology. Please let me know what you think!!

Tips to a successful year end review in Regents Living Environment or other Biology Courses

May 1, 2017

Tips for Successful Technology Sub Plans

Tips for Successful Sub Plans
We’ve all been there – you have to be out for a day, but its nerve-wracking. What to leave for a sub?  How to make sure it goes smoothly?  You don’t want to waste a day of class, and you don’t want to come back to chaos the next day.
Here are my suggestions (granted I have mostly taught secondary, but I think these suggestions would work even with upper elementary as well).
  1. LEAVE THE DIRECTIONS DIRECTLY FOR YOUR STUDENTS
  2. LEAVE THE SUB PREPARED
  3. HAVE A BACK UP PLAN
Read more here on our collaborative blog 

Apr 19, 2017

The Biggest Lessons Learned from TPT Flock 2017

Lessons Learned at TPT Flock 17

Recently (April 8th) I had the opportunity to attend the Northeast Regional TpT Flock Meet Up/Conference. What an amazing experience! It has been a really busy time of year, and I was very tired going into the event. I was questioning if I should go but I learned so much. It's hard to narrow down my biggest takeaway and defining moments as a TpT seller and as a teacher. Here are three of my biggest lessons learned.


A reflection on my biggest takeaways from TPT Flock Conference 2017, and how much value we each have as educators.

We are Part of Something Amazing!

The keynote speaker, Art with Jenny K did an activity where we each received a square with a part of a design and selected colors to use to color it in. When we were done, while we are sessions to the pieces were assembled to see this amazing piece of artwork shown below!

I can’t say enough good things about the amazing way this art project came together! On this piece of art are some the key players from the main TpT headquarters. Here I was, standing and talking with people whose faces and reputations are known to me only through the website. I met some big names on TpT, as well as some of the directors and administration at TpT headquarters. Everyone I met was so friendly and helpful, and excited to be there. There was not a sense of competition, but of helping each other rise up, and growing as a whole. There is a vision of sharing teachers’ knowledge and experience for the improvement of all.


Collaborative artwork with Jenny K at TPT Flock Conference; A symbol of our connected value


We are an Agent of Change in Education

We, as educators, are part of something so much bigger than ourselves, and have the chance to really be a force of change in education and make a difference in the lives of teachers and students. When I was completing my masters in education, the university that I attended put a big emphasis on being leaders in education in our community and being ‘agents of change.’ I have felt as if I wasn’t fulfilling that ideal because I did not go on to become an administrator, or maintain certain other leadership roles in the district. Part of the reason is because I have two small children, and because I am in a district that has a lot of change and transition. In my teaching career (11 years) I have been in 4 different schools in the district. Having a chance to speak with so many dynamic educators from across the country brought me to the realization that we are impacting education. As I post here on my website, or make resources to share with other teachers, and they are able to use my resources, or the lessons that I have learned and the things I value in education in their classrooms, there is an impact on many students, in many diverse areas. This is huge!

Also, as teachers, we are helping other teachers solve problems in their classrooms, and better assist their students.

We are not only sharing ideas and resources, but we are solving problems for our colleagues.
Tweet: We are not only sharing ideas and resources, but we are solving problems for our colleagues.

Still so Much to Learn

One of the most exciting things about the TpT is all the new learning. I am constantly learning about new technologies, ways to improve my writing, new groups and new ways to connect and more.

I had such a great time interacting with this dynamic group of educators from so many different states and even different countries. To hear their inspiring stories, learn from them, and know how much I can still learn.

I attended great workshops on using Pinterest, improving my website, using technology in the classroom, and idea brainstorming. So many great ideas! My brain is spinning, in a great way!

All of us at TPT Flock 2017 are so glad to be here, and to share our teaching ideas with you, as well as learn from you.

Maybe next year you will be standing here with us! And hopefully I won’t be so tired next year! Please check out TpTFlock to see some of the fantastic presentations and donors! Don’t be afraid to speak out as a voice for your students and offer your knowledge to other educators. We all have a lot of value to share, and by helping each other, we help greater numbers of students as well.


Let's Rock the Flock 2017 - Group Photo
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