Dec 3, 2017

What can be learned from negative student interactions

What can be learned from negative student interactions

Reflection and suggestions on our role in student interactions

Some of the most difficult students have a lot more going on behind the scenes than we are aware of. Much of that is out of our control, but how we respond is in our control, and what we learn from it is in our control.

Sometimes the students will tell us why they are acting that way, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes we find out later, or we may not. You may only see the behavior, and not know the reasoning behind it.

I have had students who are usually good kids, but are acting out on a particular day. Some of the reasons that I have heard include the following: I was up most of the night because there was a shooting at my house, and the police were there. Students who miss a lot of class may not be because they don’t want to attend. I have a student who misses a lot of school. I have been on her case to attend more regularly. I have tried to call home, but have never been able to speak to anyone. Then I find out that she doesn’t come to school because she is often taking of her brother’s baby, because the baby’s mother is out of the picture, and brother works to support the baby. I have worked with students whose parents are in and out of medical care, and who don’t know where they are sleeping every night.

The stress in some students’ lives is beyond our comprehension, sometimes. Particularly when we figure in the fact that they may not have the role models and support at home to figure out different options. 

Choices we have

All of these things are difficult, and largely out of our hands. However, as a teacher, we have a lot of choices regarding how we react to the situation. You can give sympathy, but be careful not to get drawn into either a soap opera, or to lowering standards and excusing behavior, or academics. It is important for students to know that you still uphold those standards, but are willing to work with them. This means being flexible. You could give an extension. Maybe you allow the student to come in after school and work on an assignment. Maybe you could give an alternative option to complete the assignment.

You could allow the student to have his or her head down for one day, as long as it doesn’t become a habit. Give them a pass to the nurse or counselor if they ask for that.

It is important to show concern, and show that you care, but not to lower your standards. Treat them the way you would want to be treated. Give the student the benefit of the doubt that they are telling the truth, and needs what they are asking you for. Then work with them to develop a plan where they can still be successful and complete their work. Maybe negotiate, if you get some work done, you can go to the counselor during the last 10 minutes. It’s scaffolding really, just not scaffolding of academics. Scaffolding of coping skills and problem solving skills that many of our students don’t have.

Your other options as the teacher are to go to either extreme. Hear their story and excuse them. (This isn’t the most common option). The other option that I have seen is to really draw a hard line. It might sound like this “No, if you are in class you need to be doing work! This is not a place to have your head down!” “Go see your counselor another time, you need to stay in class.” Or worse yet, to take the head down, or refusal to work personally. That might sound like this “Don’t disrespect me! I told you to sit up. In my classroom you have to follow directions.” This really risks alienating students if they feel that you don’t care about them as people. There are bodies of research showing that students need to feel cared about in order to learn successfully. That is discussed more thoroughly here.

What are the Costs and Benefits? 

What are the benefits of taking a more compassionate route? First of all, you can always say ‘no’ the next time, or ramp up the consequences, but it hard to repair your relationship with the students. If it becomes a pattern that you are really concerned about, you can address it differently. However, a student may actually work harder for you because they know that you care. One of my past administrators said to me that if a student is really fixated on leaving (going to the bathroom, nurse, counselor), they aren’t paying attention anyway, so you may as well write them a pass. You are building a relationship with a person, not only teaching academics. By working with them, you are showing them respect. They will (likely) show respect in return. Finally, as young adults, they are working to be more independent, and to problem solve and their own. It is our role to give them the opportunity to do so, give them a little wiggle room to learn, and then help teach them the skills to do so more successfully.

Our education system, as we probably know, is very ‘one size fits all.’ Our students, however, are not one size fits all. This is another step that you can use to instill some flexibility into your classroom, particularly when dealing with diverse students.

If you try any of these strategies, or something similar, leave me a comment below. I’d love to hear how it works out!

Reflection and suggestions on our role in negative student interactioins

Nov 30, 2017

Lots of Freebies Coming Up Next Week

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Nov 19, 2017

What Are You Wondering? Ask Science in the City


A chance for Q&A and background info about Science in the City~

I wanted to share a bit about myself, and give you as my readers, a chance to ask me questions if you have questions. They could be academic, educational, parenting-related, or whatever.

So here are a few bullet points about me:
  • I graduated from college with an undergrad degree in environmental science. 
  • Worked in environmental consulting for about 3 years. Then pursued my masters. I ended up quitting my job, and picking up quite a bit of tutoring while finishing my masters in Geology. Also took a job as an adjunct, teaching a non-majors “Geology and You” class at a local college
  • I loved it! I didn’t find a local job using my masters in Geology, and as I started to think about having children, I didn’t want that much travel. I decided to get my teacher certification.
  • Long term sub at a private school with students with learning disabilities
  • Worked as an aide, both as a sub, and then got a permanent job during this time in a classroom for students who are mostly classified ED, OHI.
  • Completed my teacher certification in Earth Science, LE, and Students with Disabilities. 
  • Worked in an urban Title I school for 11 years. Have taught Earth Science, Biology, 7th grade, 8th grade, AP Environmental, and am now working in Virtual Academy, under IT department
  • A few years ago started a program to add ESL certification, for content area teachers. Ended up not finishing it, because I would lose seniority and change tenure areas, but took a few classes. 
  • My real passions in teaching is seeing student succeed at something that they didn’t think they could do. In some cases this is a student earning college credit, during high school, in an advanced placement class. We are in a district where this doesn’t happen very often. It is a dream for a lot of students! In most cases, this is students who have struggled, whether they are ELL, SPED, or just students with a history of past failure, poor attendance, etc, to have some measure of success! 
  • Personally, I am married with two boys, ages 8 and 11 (started middle school!).  My older son has quite a few food allergies, so that has really improved my cooking skills, and my advocacy skills! 
  • Outside of teaching I love to be outside, hiking, and cooking. My older son has several food allergies so this has increased my cooking skill! I like to exercise…. I used to do a lot of other crafty hobbies, such as scrapbooking, crochet, and photography. I like to read and listen to podcasts. 
This is your chance to ask me….

What do you want to know? Questions about any of my experiences? A particular situation where you are struggling?

Feel free to ask me in the comments, or come to our Facebook group and join in the conversation and ask me direction! 

A chance for Q&A and background info about Science in the City


Nov 5, 2017

How to Use Technology to Differentiate

Using Technology to Make Differentiation Easier

How to Use Technology to Differentiate
We have all been there. We are supposed to teach students to meet the same standards, but we definitely do NOT have 25 of the same students sitting in front of us! How do you meet these varied needs within one class? You may have student reading at a huge range of grade levels, or students with a wide range of disabilities, and capabilities, or even students for whom English is not their native language. This is where differentiation comes in! Differentiation can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be so overwhelming. You can make some small changes that can have a large impact on your students, and technology can help make that a lot easier for you.

As we probably are already aware, there are many different ways to differentiate. Differentiation is commonly broken down by process, product or content. For any of these methods, technology can be a great tool for differentiation. Here is good basic overview of the three types of differentiation, if this is new for you, or you want a quick refresher. I am not going to rehash all of that, but instead I will seek to give you some tips on how technology can help you differentiation.

Differentiation by Content

Differentiation by content refers to different ways that students could get the content, or perhaps even slightly different content. What students are learning may be different. Some students may get the material through reading, watching a video, small group instructions, or even different videos, or different reading levels. Students could even read text off of a screen, but use a screen reading chrome extensions so that the text is read to them.

Look into Newsela or readworks for levelled reading materials, and videos already discussed such as Bozeman Science, Khan Academy, Amoeba Sisters, Crash Course, and many others for content at the appropriate level.

This is a place to play around with a flipped classroom idea, and create an instructional video, even if students watch it in class. It allows them to watch and replay, take notes, while you work with other students, and maybe a third group of students reads about it. You can, essentially, be in more than one place at the same time.

This can be done by choice, or with different content sources assigned to them. Google Classroom makes it very easy to assign different content sources to different students.

For additional information, here are some great step-by-step directions for using Google Classroom to differentiate.

Differentiation by Process

Differentiation by process is all about what the students do to process the information, or HOW they get the content.  Differentiation by process can certainly overlap with content differentiation, as students may work through the content using one of these processes (think-pair-share, reflection, diagram labeling, etc). Content differentiation is the content itself. Process differentiation is how students take in the content, or what they do with it to process it. For example, even as students are taking in content, they can use screen reader extensions to read the text, use dictionary or translation tools to help understand the text.

Process differentiation means you may give an assignment with some options. Perhaps some students can work in a group, and other can work alone. Students can choose to use technology, or to do their assignment on paper. Students need a way to process the material, but there are many ways that this can be accomplished. Students can process their learning through drawing, writing, making a video, using a technology such a flip grid, talking with a partner and more. Some students may be helped by a video that they can pause, rewind, re-watch, and use closed captioning.

These methods may need to be taught, or alternated/cycled between, and then eventually students could perhaps have a choice. Another strategy would be to give students a choice between just two methods, and then gradually introduce other methods.

The Science Penguin has a great post on “Output Ideas.” Although these are designed to be on paper, it is not a leap to see how these could be differentiated even more easily with technology. Students could make a short recording, find a diagram and label it, type their response and more.

For more ideas check out this post on 4 Technology Rich Ways for Students to Demonstrate Knowledge

Differentiation by Product

Lastly, differentiation by product is probably the type of differentiation with which we are most familiar, where student create a product to demonstrate their learning and are given some type of menu, or choice. A very simple example is this very simple Vocabulary Menu where students have a choice over what the turn in to demonstrate their understanding of the vocabulary terms.

This is also a great place to look at the post on 4 Technology Rich Ways for Students to Demonstrate Knowledge. Technology gives more options. Are you artistic? Make a poster. Not artistic? Make an infographic or slideshow, where you don’t have to draw. Would you rather write? Or speak? Write an essay or editorial, or make a podcast or video.

Just like in the regular class, without technology, differentiation is key to helping your students be engaged and feel successful. The methods to differentiate may be similar, but it is easier in some ways to make changes to the assignments and to have the changes be less visible (such as through the use of screen reader apps, or Google Classroom to distribute differentiated assignments to different students). There is less stigma attached. Also, technology helps create a classroom culture where students are more independent learners, learning in their own way. This is a great fit for differentiated instruction.   Using technology means you can use the tools available to you to help create modifications, or create additional instruction.  You don't have to create it all! 

How to Use Technology to Differentiate

 

Oct 22, 2017

Easy Bite Size Steps to Increase Classroom Technology

Bite Size Steps to Increase Classroom Technology

Easy Bite Size Steps to Increase Classroom Technology

If your school has just recently gone 1:1, or just announced that they will be going 1:1, hopefully I can help. This is part 2 in a short series to help you transition to 1:1 technology.

This post will assume that you have gotten some of the procedural details and routines out of the way that were discussed in Part 1. Now you are looking for some ways to transition into using more technology in your classroom.

Ten Small Steps to Start Using Your New 1:1 Technology

  1. A video station - There are huge advantages to having students watch at their own pace, and be able to rewind, pause, or replay as needed. Here is a good discussion of using videos in the classroom. One of my favorite strategies is to have the students watch at a station, with a partner, and do a strategy that I call “watch, talk, write.” Students watch a short video with a partner. Talk about it with their partner. Then they write a short summary, often of a specified number of sentences, where they have to decide what information to include.
  2. A vocabulary station with Quizlet - Quizlet is a great site for students to review vocabulary, or really anything that needs to be memorized. You can even add in diagrams with labels where students can quiz themselves. This could be an early finisher activity, a station, or a whole class activity. 
  3. Review games using Kahoot - Kahoot is a great way to do review. It can only be used for multiple choice or objective questions, but students get so engaged! Its quick and easy to set up, and students love it. 
  4. An alternative way to do a research project - rather than only a written essay or research paper, check out these ideas for technology-rich ideas for students to demonstrate knowledge.
  5. Formative Assessment - My favorite formative assessment tool is Google Forms, but there are many others out there as well (Socrative, Plickers, and many more). I have written about Google Forms a few times before, here, and here, and a bit about Plickers here
  6. A virtual field trip or interactive website. Here is a great start on places to look for interactive 
  7. Resources for kids to use when they finish early - Having technology in your room gives more options for differentiation, in a lot of ways. However, one great tool is the ability to have more websites available for early finishers for review, enrichment, or reinforcement. Quizlet is great, various websites with science news articles, or, depending on your state, practice exam questions. 
  8. Change an assignment to a Google Doc - Google Docs have a lot of advantages, they can be accessed anywhere, they save automatically, and they can be shared. It is fairly easy to upload an existing assignment and convert to a Google Doc, making a copy for each student, or distributing through Google Classroom. 
  9. Video instructions of a lab or of a lab demonstration - If you are doing a demonstration, or giving instructions of how to do a lab, it can be extremely helpful to video this. Students can rewind and pause, students who are absent can watch, and somehow they even seem to pay closer attention to a video than to the teacher! This video can be uploaded privately to YouTube, or to Google Drive and shared with students as needed, or posted in Google Classroom. 
  10. Background research or vocabulary research going into an activity - before beginning a unit or an activity, we all know that students need to build background knowledge. As they are all coming from different places, and starting with different amounts of background knowledge, it can work well for them to research vocabulary terms, or a specific topic for background knowledge on their own, before diving into the instructional part of the unit. 
I hope this helped you consider some ways to start using technology in your 1:1 classroom! It can be overwhelming, but don’t get overwhelmed. Take it one step at a time, and don’t be afraid to try something.

Questions? Ideas? Suggestions? Please comment below or join me in the Facebook group.

Bite Size Steps to Increase Classroom Technology

Oct 8, 2017

My School is Going 1:1 Where Do I Start?

My School is Going 1:1 Where Do I Start?

My School Just Announced We Will Be 1:1 Where Do I Begin?!

School Expectations

First of all, don't panic! Spend some time finding out what the school expectations and rules about 1:1 devices are, how was the devices will be assigned, where will they be stored and what training is provided. Also think about how often will you be expected to use them, or how often you want to use them? What school policies may be in place around students carrying them between classes, or bringing them home? What is the devices aren’t charged? What will the behavior policies be for students who are on other websites? Some of these questions may not have quick and easy answers but they are important to start thinking about, as you begin framing how you want to use technology in your classroom.

Technology is a Tool

Don’t get overwhelmed, but realize that the technology is a tool just like any other tool. It is there to help you and your students. Using technology could completely transform the way that you teach but there are lots of small steps for you to start with as well. Using technology in your classroom doesn't have to be an overnight dramatic shift.

Procedures and Skills

As you get started make sure you allow some time to teach procedures and teach technology skills. Even though we think students grew up with technology, and that they know a lot about technology, it often turns out that they don't know how to use technology for academic purposes. They may know how to use it for YouTube or other ways, or know how to do things on their phones, but may not know how to do some of the tasks that we ask them.

Some procedures and introductory lessons that you may want to cover in your classroom if they are not taught in school as a whole include: digital citizenship, procedures for carrying a Chromebook or laptop, where they will be stored, charging procedures, what to do if a student's technology is not working or is missing that day. What classroom rituals and routines do you want to set up around the devices. Some teachers have students put in only one earbud, close the lid of the laptop or chromebook, or put tablets face down when the teacher is speaking, etc. What will be the consequences if a student doesn't follow the technology directions? If you take the device away do you have an alternative assignment? If it WiFi is down or technology is unavailable do you have an alternate emergency assignment? These are things to think about and to try to clarify in your head as you begin to picture your classroom with technology. These are not meant to scare you off but to prevent future problems.

How Do you Want to Use Technology 

Once you have some of those procedural things out of the way, start thinking about how and when you want to start to build in technology into your classroom. Do you want to use them at the start of class everyday? At the end of class everyday? (There are a lot of great ways to do formative assessment or warm ups using Google Forms). Do you plan to use them only as needed for certain interactive activities or stations? Especially for science, there are a lot of good videos (BrainPop, CrashCourse, Bozeman Science, Amoeba Sisters) and interactive virtual labs and field trips to use for particular topics).  You could also look into Digital Interactive Notebooks, but probably not as a first step. 

Using technology in the classroom really provides a lot of opportunities to engage students, to individualize instruction, to free up your time to work with students rather than being at the front of the room and for students to connect with others outside of the classroom walls.

My advice would be to jump in and get started. Emphasize to the students that you are learning along with them, and take it one step at a time.

Inspirational Ideas and Resources

Just for inspiration, here are a few of my favorite resources for technology in education happening very differently through technology!

Jump In and Give It a Try! 

Don’t get overwhelmed by learning the tech tool. You can do that with a bit of training or some searching of online tutorials/videos. Instead, spend your time thinking about how you want your technology-infused classroom to look. What will it look like in the long-run? What smaller steps can you take now to go toward that goal? Maybe each marking period you can add on to that? Or maybe take one unit and re-vamp it, but leave your others for now.

What are your 1:1 technology questions and concerns? Leave your questions below or in our Facebook group, but don’t be afraid. Give it a try!

Sep 27, 2017

4 Technology-Rich Ways For Students to Demonstrate Knowledge

4 Ways to Students to Demonstrate Knowledge with Technology

4 Technology-Rich Ways for Students to Demonstrate Their Knowledge

Many times we asked students to do class work in such a traditional manner, such as to write a research paper, write an essay to present their knowledge, in written form only. While it is important that students can read and write, This is not the only way for them to show their knowledge. It's important to give an element of choice as well as to give variety throughout the year so that students who excel in other areas, or who struggle with writing have a chance to show their knowledge.

Why not just write an essay? 

Perhaps that particular student is not a strong writer, but really does know the content. Or may they are really good at animation, graphic design, sound effects, or some other aspect. It's time that their knowledge show through. Some great ways for them to demonstrate their knowledge, other than written expression would be a screencast, Thinglink, a PowerPoint or Google Slide presentation, a podcast, or even an animation such as PowToon. Sometimes, even if the student is a stronger writer, having an aspect of choice is so important. Allowing the student more choice over how to demonstrate their knowledge is a way to get more buy-in and engagement from him or her, and more excitement about the assignment.

Podcast

A podcast is a very easy alternative to implement, and has many different applications in the classroom. Students could simply do a voice recording on a tablet, phone, computer with a microphone, or many other devices. If you actually want it to be posted as a podcast available online, this is possible too, and there are a lot of tutorials and guides online. However, for a single assignment, it would be appropriate for students to just make a recording, and it could even be shared as an audio file on Google Drive, if you choose. The downside of this is it of course you can't include any visual elements but for some students and some topics this will be enough.

Screencast

A screencast is a recording of the computer screen it can be done with a camera with it, showing the student's face, or without and can record only the tab or the desktop of the computer, along with recording audio. This is a very simple way to record a short presentation with narration, a technology skill, or student presenting or showing a particular topic or skill. There are lots of ways to do a screen test but my personal favorite is the Chrome extension screencastify I believe you can make a free recording up to 10 minutes and the results is saved right in Google Drive. Very simple!!

Thinglink

Thinglink is a paid product, but there are also free accounts with a few limitations. Thinglink allows the student to start with a picture such as a map, photograph, diagram, etc and then add certain buttons with information and links, videos, sound files, or even text documents and callout buttons to make a multi-media clickable image. Again, this depends on the topic, and how it is best suited. I think this would be great for presentations where you want to show a lot of information from different sources. A word of caution, be careful that the student is able to summarize their information, or paraphrase and cite the information, because it can be very easy to just cut and paste a lot of information. Thinglink is a great way to make a really different kind of presentation and include various kinds of information. Here is a great example of a human body presentation.

Powtoon

Powtoon will allow students to create an animation. They write the script, and record the audio, and then choose different backgrounds, characters, and what they will say. Here is an elementary example


Example Human Body Thinglink

Powtoon can be a lot of fun and very interactive for the students. It is quite different than what they may have done before. The warning on this one is that there will be a bit of a learning curve for students. It may take some time for them to get comfortable, so allow extra time to learn the technology if you choose this method.



Lastly, don’t rule out a PowerPoint or Google slide presentation. This is not really a brand new method, but can be an alternative to a written presentation. Both allow shorter, more broken up writing, and the insertion of videos, images, and other multimedia formats into the presentation. Google Slides is easier to insert videos and easier to share the final presentation. PowerPoint is easier to insert narration or sound files if this is something that you want students to do. Adding audio to Google Slides is difficult.

As we transition to using more technology, under the SAMR model, these may be some ways to push your teaching, and your students learning, to the next level, and to further engage your students. Have you used any of these in your classroom? What other alternatives do you utilize, besides a written essay, do you use for students to demonstrate knowledge? Please share in the comments.

4 Ways to Students to Demonstrate Knowledge with Technology

Sep 10, 2017

5 Free New Technologies to Try in Your Classroom Right Now


5 Free New Technologies to Try In Your Classroom Right Now

With all the technology available, it can be overwhelming. Here are 5 (and a bonus) new technology options that I suggest you try in your classroom this year, in bite-size pieces. They are easy ways to liven up some of your instruction and find new ways to engage with and connect with your students.

Screencasts in the Classroom

It can be intimidating to think of doing a video, but don’t be intimated. First of all, you don’t need to have your face on camera! This is key! You can do a screencast of your computer screen, of a file or PowerPoint, or a series of photographs or images, so you are really just doing a voice over.

There are several easy ways to do a screencast. If what you are doing is short, there is a Google Chrome extension called screencastify that will allow you to record camera, your desktop, a browser tab, audio only, or other combinations of that. It will save to YouTube and/or Google Drive, making the sharing of your video very easy.

If you are making a screencast based on images or slides, my favorite way to do it is in PowerPoint. It is pretty easy to “Insert Audio” and then have it play with the slides (you can set timing as well). Then export the whole thing as a movie when you are happy with it.

Why make a screencast? I have seen people screencast instructions or a mini-lesson for a sub, although I haven’t done that myself. I have used it to allow me to be in two places at once time. For example, I have used it to give directions at a station, while I’m free to circulate. I can show a lab demo, and kids who were absent can replay it. I can give instructions or introductory information, and, again, students who were absent can catch up easily. I have even used a video at one station, while I work with students at another stations.

Flipgrid

Flipgrid allows you to have short online video discussions with students. You post a prompt, and student can response via video. It's like FaceTime or Skype, with classroom applications! Here is a great write-up of some ways to use Flipgrid in class. Here is a really awesome example of a class using it to connect with a researcher in Antarctica

Plickers

We already have a lot of formative assessment tools available. What’s different about Plickers? Students don’t need devices! It's a technology tool because it uses technology to improve speeds, data collection and to make your life easier, but if you don’t have a lot of student tech, this is a great one to try.

To use Plickers you get free printable cards. They have a symbol on that that will not be recognizable to other students (so students won’t know what choice their peers are making). Also on the card, in small, lighter print, are choices (A, 1, B, etc). These cards can be assigned 1 per student, so you can collect data on each student’s individual answers.

When you ask a question, students hold up their card with the answer choice that they are selecting facing up. You take a picture, with the app on your phone, and your data is collected. Here is a video that shows in more detail.

Edpuzzle

If you want to use videos in your instruction, whether they are your own videos, or those from another source, consider EdPuzzle. You can make questions that go with a video, on a worksheet, or you can build in questions and quizzes into the video itself with EdPuzzle. This also gives you the option to enforce that students watch the entire video.

Lastly, there are many videos that already have questions. You can choose from these videos, and copy and modify the questions yourself. Here an example of an Amoeba Sisters Mitosis Video that I found (I did not make up the questions).



As a teacher, you can have your students sign up for a class, assign videos, and you will be able to see their progress in the video and all their quiz answers. You can also just give students a link to a video directly, if you don’t need as granular data.

Padlet

I have used Padlet only minimally myself, but it is one that I want to try more, and it is growing in popularity. It has a lot of potential uses, so I think it should be included on this list. Again, its very easy to use. It bills itself as “the easiest way to create and collaborate in the world.” The teacher (or someone) makes a prompt, on a ‘board’ and students can respond. Think of it as a big wall with sticky notes. However, those responses can also include links, images, etc, and you can build connections between the responses. Padlet is an extremely easy way to collect a lot of information quickly, and to have collaboration.

Bonus… Nearpod

I have not used Nearpod myself, so I’m not writing a lot about it, but I wanted to at least mention it here, in the bonus section. Nearpod allows you to add interactive elements into a PDF document, or into slides. In other words, it add more interaction into a 1:1 classroom. Here is a video showing it in action.



This is Nearpod: the 21st Century Classroom from Nearpod on Vimeo.

What's on your list of new classroom technologies to try?  Have you used any of these?  Tell use about it in the comments!
5 free new technologies to try in your classroom right now

Aug 27, 2017

What Quick and Easy Lunch Can I Bring?

Quick and Easy Lunch Tips for Teachers

What can you do to bring healthy lunches when you're rushing in the morning.  Maybe you're trying to get kids out the door as well and making lunch is the furthest thing from your mind, but you want to eat healthy.

tips and suggestions for quick and easy lunches for teachers

I very much believe in eating healthy and wanted to share a few tips and strategies to bring healthy lunches to school on a regular basis.  Skipping meals or not eating lunch is just not an option to me, so I have had to work out ways to get a decent lunch while having kids in my room, making copies, and trying to do all the other things teachers do in our 30 minute lunch (go to the bathroom??!)

What are some easy teacher lunches

Some of my favorites are the following

  • Salads in a jar
  • Left overs
  • Little things that I can snack on during the day, for example: crackers and cheese, yogurt, granola bars, pieces of fruit, veggies and dip, hard-boiled egg. 
  • Sandwiches is always a standby, or a wrap
  • Pre-packaged salads are okay but reading ingredients carefully
  • Soup (homemade or prepared)
  • Baked potato (I can microwave it at school if I get desperate, and bring some toppings). 


What are some tips to make this more successful?


These are not new but hopefully they will help:

  • Plan out your menu for the week. For me its it's often too hard or too confining to plan out each day.  I just try to make a list of at least 4 or 5 lunches (4 can be enough since sometimes there are leftovers, or something unexpected). 
  • Prep on the weekend!  Sometimes if I'm feeling ambitious I'll make a few mason jar salads or make a few of something else that I can take for lunch a couple days.   I have also made pasta salad and taken it for several days. 
  • Pack up leftovers after dinner right in lunch containers so I can just grab it in the morning maybe a piece of fruit 
  • Intentionally cook enough leftovers at dinner to be lunch the next day (doesn't always work because my kids have been eating as much lately, but worth a try!)
  • Cook ahead and freeze. This doesn't have to be a giant monthly cooking event, but make a pot of soup and freeze in lunch size portions. It helps SO much! 

For more information here some of my favorite resources for quick and easy lunches
tips and suggestions for quick and easy lunches for teachers

Aug 12, 2017

How to Balance Exercise with your busy teacher life

Tips to fit in exercise quickly and cheaply for a teacher or mom

I wanted to talk to you today about how to fit in exercise when you're a busy teacher.  I don't know about you but for me it's difficult. However I've been doing a lot of goal-setting and working on balance and priorities in my own life this year.  As a result, I really am trying to put my health as a priority, and I think that you should do the same.

It's really important that we all fit in some type of exercise.  It's important that that exercise be whatever you enjoy. If it's Zumba, aerobics, yoga, walking, running, biking, whatever -- just get moving!  How do you do that when you're balancing a full-time job? When you bringing work home? Maybe you have kids, or maybe you're a first year teacher and you're very overwhelmed.  I've been there! And recently I've been working hard on that and I wanted to share some of my suggestions with you.

First of all walking is a great way to fit it in.  I would recommend that as a place to start.  A lot of people have Fitbits.  If you don't want to spend the money or don't have a Fitbit there are free apps on your phone (such as Google Fit) that can track your steps.  I also have an older version of the Xiaomi Mi Band 2, Bluetooth 4.0 Xiaomi Mi Band 2 Wristband Bracelet With OLED Display Water-resistant Smart Heart Rate Fitness Tracker (much cheaper than the Fitbit  affiliate link - more in my price range).  By really shooting for that goal of around 10,000 steps a day can make a big difference in how you feel and how your day goes.  Maybe you get to work 15 minutes early and walk on the track.  Or you could go out during a free period and walk on the track or walk around the block.  All those types of things really do add up and make a difference in you hitting that goal number of steps.

What I've been doing is a combination of a few things.  My kids go to childcare in the morning to get on the bus so sometimes I'll take them just a little bit earlier, especially on the days when I don't teach first period.  I'll go work out and then go to school.  My husband's been going after school but by the time I get to the end of the day I don't want to go!!  So that doesn't work for me!

Another option is workout videos at home there are paid options like Beachbody on demand Les Mills or many others.  There are also free options.  If you are looking for a free place to start, here are a few great YouTube channels that are free:  Fitnessblender, BeFit, PopSugar Fitness, Yoga with Tara Stiles, Yoga with Adrienne, and Doyogawithme.

There are lots of ways that you can workout even in less than 30 minutes.  I play these videos on my tablet in a spot in the basement, but you can do whatever works for you.  You don't need a lot of equipment.  You can do a yoga with a mat and maybe blocks, so we are talking under $20. Some of the other videos you could get a small set of weights or a mat but again under $20.  You can get started now!  Don't put it off. Focus on small steps and you will see a big difference.  This is my workout space. I know its ugly! But its cool when I'm working out, quiet, and was very easy and cheap to put together. The important part is that I make it a habit to keep showing up!


I was having trouble at first because my kids were constantly in my hair and wanting to be underfoot and asking me questions while I was trying to work out so I ended up setting up an area in the basement. We have an unfinished basement but I got some floor mat tiles at Aldi's like this affliliate link (around $25.00).  I had a yoga mat already, and we have an extra chair that we were getting rid of.  I just bring the tablet down there (or you can even use your phone).  The kids can not come down to the basement for those 30 minutes and bother me.  If I really commit and take that 30 minutes a day it makes a huge difference in how I feel, how my day goes, and how much energy I have.  For me, sometimes its easier to workout at home than to go somewhere. While the kids are watching a show, or while dinner is cooking I can get in a quick workout.

There's a lot of research showing that exercise is one of the most effective treatments for people with chronic pain and/or depression.  Take advantage of it! It's free and has no side effects but huge benefits, so do your best to fit it in. Start from where you are try to increase a bit.  If you're not exercising at all and you aim for two or three times a week or if you are exercising and you want to bump it up a little bit more (intensity, frequency, etc).  Make your health a priority! It has made a big difference in my life this year.

Tips to fit in exercise quickly and cheaply for a teacher or mom~

Aug 7, 2017

Giant Secondary Science Giveaway

Welcome!  Thanks for stopping by our Huge Secondary Science Giveaway

The secondary science teachers of TpT want to make your school year a bit easier.  We are giving away 5 $100 TpT gift certificates, as well as individual prizes.  We want to get your school year off to a smoother start.  


You can win in two different ways: 

1. Many of the sellers pictures are giving away individual resource prizes on their own blogs!  Check out the the rafflecopter to win $10 worth of resources from my TpT store!  
2. The big prizes!  We are all pooling our resources to give away for secondary science teachers 5 $100 Teachers Pay Teachers gift cards!  Each blog post has a secret code work at number.  
My word is #14. who.  Collect the words from each blog shown below, write them down in numerical order and then submit the sentence into the big giveaway for a chance at a $100 gift card.   Note: This rafflecopter only needs to be completed once. It is the same on each blog. 

The giveaway opens Monday at Noon and ends Friday at Midnight. 

Good luck!  Please feel free to comment below, or email me with any questions, and share with your science teacher friends! 

Lastly, there is one more science giveaway that is separate, but just happens to go be going on at the same time.  You can enter THAT ONE here.  

So you really have 3 chances to win something!   Good luck!  

a Rafflecopter giveaway


a Rafflecopter giveaway












Jul 31, 2017

Back to School Sale


If you haven't heard, I don't want you to miss out! Here are the details: 

Who: Teachers Pay Teachers
What: Back to School Sale
Where:  My store 
When: August 1 and 2
How: Use the Promo Code BTS2017 
Why: So you can get all your back to school resources at a discount.  If I were you this is a great time to do one of a few things: 

Did you know??!  You can earn credit on TpT for leaving feedback!  Not everyone know that, but you can.  So any past paid purchases, make sure you leave feedback and you will get the credit to use toward your purchases during the sale, for an even better deal.  

If you aren't sure how to go about leaving feedback, check out this post

If you have any questions, please email me.  I want you to feel that all your questions are answered! 

Jul 29, 2017

5 Best Start-of-the-School-Year Experiments


Favorite STEM projects and science demonstrations, as well as discussion of what makes a good demonstration for science teachers.

Great Science Experiments and Demonstrations

One of the fun things about being a science teacher is being able to do hands-on activities and fun demonstrations.  These are the things kids remember when they get home, and remember years later. We've all been at some type of picnic or family function and heard someone talking about their crazy, wacky science teacher and the demonstration they did in class. Its multi-sensory, and different than other classes, and therefore more memorable! 

What are some of your favorites? 
What do you think makes a good demonstration or a good hands-on activity?

Requirements for a good demonstration

In my opinion, these are some things to consider to make a successful demonstration
  • It must use readily available materials. Materials that are too hard to get are unfamiliar to students and difficult for you to set up. It's also difficult to make up for students who might be absent 
  • Must work reliably! You don't want an activity that only works some of the time, or even most of the time, you need to be pretty sure that it's going to work.
  • It must clearly demonstrate the principle that you were trying to show. This should not be a leap for students to understand the science after they have done the initial activity or seen the demonstration. 
  • Sometimes I do an activity as a demonstration because I want to talk about it as we're working, it would be difficult for students to carry out correctly, or because I'm limited on space and materials for students to do it on their own or any variety of other reasons including safety. If it is feasible for students to carry out themselves, that is preferable.
Here is another source on what makes a good demonstration

Here's a secret for you

As a science teacher, demonstrations are fun, but I don't really like doing them! I get nervous! It's too much like a stage performance. I'd much rather have students run through stations or do activities. But some activities still lend themselves well to demonstrations. 

My Favorite Demonstrations 

(with accompanying videos; which can be a back up plan if you really don't like doing demonstrations)

STEM Projects

What about stem projects? What are some great stem projects to get your students thinking? Building and interacting? These can be great for the beginning or end of school or even for summer school, summer camps or those off days, such as those with assemblies. 

Stem projects and stem activities are such a broad category if you look them up you will find a wide variety of things. In my mind they break into at least two categories. Those that are chance for students to develop a hypothesis and test an experiment, and those that are a chance to build a product and work with a team to problem-solve and create something.  These may overlap, for example students may test something to make their product better.  However, students aren't really demonstrating the scientific process they're focused on working towards a goal.  This is more of an engineering project. 

  • One of my favorites is soda can cars. Students can even recreate this at home if they want to pretty easily.  
  • Another favorite is to see who's raft or boat can support the most pennies or paper clips.  

Image result for coin aluminium foil boat
From http://www.ramstein.af.mil/News/Photos/igphoto/2001055392/
  • There is a common experiment, which is very engaging with milk, food coloring, and dish soap.  Just be aware of the potential for a lot of cleanup, or any milk allergies. 
  • Static electricity activities can be easy, fun and engaging, such as bending water, and balloon races.  These are described in details here in my FREE STATIC LAB
  • A balloon car or a CD hovercraft are also a lot of fun, and can be a chance for students to experiment and improve their design.  
  • A solar oven can be a longer-term project where students can really experiment with the materials and the angle, or it can be done as a one time project. 
  • More ideas are available here and here.  

Some of these can be a chance for students to experiment and develop an experiment, hypothesis, and a procedure. Others can be a great chance to explore a new topic or new concept at the beginning of a unit.  They are also great as a quick station or engagement activity, as well as a jumping-off point to get further into the unit.  In my opinion, they should be something that can be carried out in a period or two, unless you really want to start a much longer project.  Otherwise you risk losing the flow of what you are trying to teach. 

Lastly, another way to go is longer-term projects such as factors that affect seed or plant growth, longer-term monitoring of weather, composting (conditions that cause garbage to break down) or even setting up ecocolumns.  

For more information on these type of projects, I would just looking into Problem based learning (more to come on that).  A couple great sources of information are available here and here.

I'd love to see pictures of your science activities!  Please share with me on facebook, instagram or by email
Favorite STEM projects and science demonstrations, as well as discussion of what makes a good demonstration for science teachers.

Jul 15, 2017

Free Training: How to Be In Two Places at Once


timesaving tips for teachers - get your grading and copying done while you are doing something else

A little summer professional development for you

We all like to learn something, especially if it's focused on making our lives easier and saving us some time during the school year.  I know we aren't thinking about school at the moment, but give it a chance....it's not so bad if you can sit in your living room, or on your deck, and learn some tips to make your life easier.

I want to focus on ways to limit your time at the copier, and also ways to save yourself time grading. This lets you be in two places at once because while your papers are being graded, you can be working with students, eating your lunch, or even at home enjoying your time with your family instead of grading. 

Limit your time at the copier, here are some easy tips

  • If you are copying something like a reading, news article, or even directions, make a class set or make a class at +10.  If you're a secondary teacher and have 100 or 150 students they don't all need a copy.  Chances are many of them will get left on the tables or thrown out.  You can always make some extra if students want to annotate them, or keep them, but you will still end up with much few copies. Fewer copies = less time standing at the copier!  They will get trained pretty quickly that you're going to re-collect the directions or the reading.  If anyone really wants to keep it or has marked it up a lot that's fine, but it will save a lot of paper and a lot copying time and frustration.
  • Secondly, try going digital! There are excellent resources on digital interactive notebooks.  Look into these, Google forms instead of quizzes, or start using Google Classroom.  All of these are amazing because you will no longer be spending your days standing in line at the copier, fighting with the stapler, or paper jams.  You simply make your assignments, assign it to your students and a copy is automatically made for each one of them it's a huge time saver!!!  Also, if they need a new copy, that can be done painlessly.  It's automatically saved so they won't lose theirs either! A few good resources for going digital are 
  • Thirdly think about how you can save some paper.  When you save paper you're also saving yourself time at the copier. For example can you copy something on a half sheet? I do bell work on a sheet for the whole week and make a box for each day. I have even done it for two weeks.  I collect the same paper every day for that time period. That means I'm only copying one bell work sheet once every two weeks or once every 4 weeks if I do them double-sided, rather than daily! 

Saving Time Grading


  • A lot of assignments can be graded simply on a check/check plus/check minus/zero basis. It's pretty easy to see whether the students did the assignment, they did it almost perfectly, they did a really poor job on it, or they didn't do it at all. You can give some quick feedback, but this saves you a lot of time checking every single word on their paper.  Over time, if you have a lot of grades like I do, it will become pretty obvious all of those checks and check pluses and check minuses will average out.  I enter them in my grade book as 100, 75, 50, and 0.
  • Let the computer grade automatically!  One of the best ways to do this is with a Google form quiz. You set up the quiz questions, and of course an answer key, ahead of time. It will automatically grade if they are objective questions. You can choose if students get immediate feedback or if their scores have to be 'released' by you.  

Bonus

  • Another option, depending on what type of devices that you have, is Socrative. This is easier for students to do phone or some other smaller devices that Google forms, and it also can give immediate feedback and automatic grading.
  • Lastly, I have never used Zipgrade, but I've heard amazing things about being able to grade objective questions on your phone.
What will you do with your free time, now that you are spending less of your planning period, lunch period, and after school time grading papers and standing at the copier?  


timesaving tips for teachers - get your grading and copying done while you are doing something else

Jul 2, 2017

Look Ahead: Less Stress and More Free Time Next Year


Image result for no tired like teacher tired

Give Yourself Less Stress and More Free Time Next Year

As you finish up this year you may be wondering what you can do to put yourself in a better position for next year, or to make things easier in September. I know you are tired now. It's true....there is no tired like teacher tired!

There are small amounts of energy that you can expend now, or even in the early part of the summer, that will make your life much easier in September! 

Exactly what those are depends on if you know what you will be teaching in the fall or not.  Here are some ideas to get you started. 

Easy steps to take to give yourself and easier September

If you know what you will be teaching you can really take a lot of pressure off those early fall days by making your photo copies for your first unit or your first week now! For example, the copier will be busy, probably jamming, running out of paper, and you'll be set with your copies already made! Finally, even if you don't know what you're teaching there may be some basics that you can photocopy such as a safety contract, a first day get to know you activity.  Even those will take pressure off in September. That leaves you free time to take care of all the other crazies that you know will be coming up in the fall.

If you don't know what you're teaching in the fall you can still save yourself time.  I am often in this position. In this case it is a matter of setting yourself up for success. For example, make sure all your materials are put away neatly, in an organized fashion.  Label them.  You think you will remember but 6 months from now you very well may not!  Decide if it will work better for you to put them away in kits, or if you want to put them away by type of material. Whatever you decide make sure they are organized. 

Another thing you can do is to do some cleaning now and maybe even set up basic materials. For example, I know that I have sets of materials that will be at each table.  I have a pencil box with a couple pairs of scissors, markers, tape, etc. I go through those at the end of the year, clean them up, throw out of markers that don't work, replenish the colors, etc.  When I pick them up again they are ready to go in the fall. 

If you have file cabinets or storage cupboards this is a good time to go through and get rid of things that you haven't used, or think you  may not use again.   Anything old, broken, really out of date, or just things that maybe where there when you moved in. This is your chance! Start off the year with a 'clean slate' so to speak, and ready for whatever may come!

Depending on your school and your department, you may be in charge of materials or chemical inventory, That's something you can do now!  You may be in charge of ordering new supplies, again that's something you can make a huge dent in right now.  Even if you don't place your final order, if you start compiling a list and getting prices, it will be easy to tweak and submit the order when the time comes.

On a different level, another thing you can do now to help yourself organize is simply to look back through your lesson plans and make some notes and reflections while this year is fresh in your mind. Its important during the summer to clear your mind, and really take a break. But at the same time you don't want to lose those ideas, memories, and reflections that you have now.  You know what things went well, and what you want to change for next year.  Are their units you want to reorganize?  Sequences you want to change?  A new strategy that you want to try? Or things that worked particularly well?  Activities or strategies that didn't work? Now is the time to make those notes and changes, or even to layout a skeleton of the sequence that you want to use next year.  I believe it's better to do that now while this year is fresh in your mind then give it some time to percolate over the summer. 

If you have big projects that you know you are planning, such as a science fair, or a committee or club that you're involved in such as National Honor Society, Science Olympiad, or any others, now is the time to get lay the groundwork for those. That's one thing off your plate when you find out what you are teaching.

Lastly, depending upon what your technology options are, look into using more tech. It really is easier on the teacher! It allows you to facilitate, rather than be on the stage, and again, less wasted time copying.  You may also spend less time grading if you use some automatically grading options (more info coming on those)

Please share with post with another teacher you know that could use less stress next year!! 

Easy steps to take to give yourself and easier September


Jun 18, 2017

5 Fun and Easy Ways to Gamify Your Review

5 Easy Ways to Engage and Assess Your Students 

As we are closing up the school year and looking for ways to review and keep students engaged games are a big one! You may be looking for ways to do your end review, or even to review for a unit, or simply end the week.  We are all tired, hot, and looking for some ways to make school more fun. 
 
I get it. Elementary school students are almost done with their year, they are silly, tired of state testing, and probably watching movies in some classes.  High school students are hot, tired, more interested in talking about prom and summer plans than classes.  But you still want to teach - you can! 

Great options to engage your students and assess their understanding~

Here are top 5 favorite ways to introduce technology engage students and make review more fun:

 
You can keep your students engaged and doing some serious review! 

Top 5 Engaging Review Strategies

  • Kahoot  - You set up a series of questions and answers ahead of time (or you can use shared templates created by other teachers). Students can play on their own or in teams, and on any device (chromebook, phone, tablet, etc).  Students get points for both speed and correct answers, so it gets very competitive!  Kahoot.com describes it as “It is a game based classroom response system played by the whole class in real time.” I have seen it used with elementary to high school ages students, all of whom were very engaged.
  • Quizlet Live - Quizlet Live is very similar, it is a real-time, team-based classroom game. In this case it is better based on vocabulary, formulas, or other things that can be matched (as opposed to multiple choice questions). It emphasizes accuracy over speed, but still gets competitive. 
  • Quizziz - Quizziz is also a multiplayer quiz game.  It can be done real-time, or assigned individually outside of class (or in class). It also emphasizes giving the teacher detailed data. Students play together on the same questions, but at their own pace. 
  • Plickers - This is a more short term option. Maybe you just want a few quick review questions, a ticket out the door, or even a formative assessment built into a lesson.  Plickers aren’t as much to gamify a series of questions, but to quickly and easily collect answers in a fun and novel way.  Plickers are described as “a powerfully simple tool that lets teachers collect real-time formative assessment data without the need for student devices.”  Students get pre-printed cards that they hold up.  You have an app on your phone that uses the camera to collect instant (almost) data on their answers. Pretty AMAZING! 
  • And a bonus (non-tech) option recommended to me by a friend - Bazinga!  This one I have not played before, but it sounds like a LOT of fun.  This came from a great discussion with Brooke in my Facebook Group. If you aren’t in it already, check it out here 
 

Why are these types of review important? 


We know how important it is for students to review, but they often don't see the connection between class, exams, and the need to review. It's obvious to us how important it is to review, but once they're done, they're checked out!  Many students are not focused on their review, or if they don't feel successful then they don't want to participate. 
 
These types of review give options for team or individual play and they all have an element beyond just getting the right answer.  This keeps students engaged especially near the end of the year when it's difficult to maintain focus (for both us and the students).  Students can review and feel like they are playing a game, rather than working!  And you get some serious review and get to raise your test scores, while your students are playing a game! 

If you have another review strategy that you love, please leave a comment below. I'd love to hear your favorites! If you try one of these, please comment below or email me and let me know how it goes! 

Great options to engage your students and assess their understanding

May 26, 2017

3 Fail-Proof Strategies for Students with Low Literacy Skills

3 Fail-Proof Strategies for Students with Low Literacy Skills

A few years ago our evaluation scores were based on test scores, and we had to predict early in the year how students would do on those tests, and set goals, with our administrators.

This led to a lot of looking at data in order to set realistic, but reasonable goals for students. Because I am science teacher, there weren’t as many benchmarks as there are for reading or math. There is a lack of previous scores, and earlier science classes aren’t always indicative of how the students will perform in later classes. After looking at a lot of data, I found that the best predictor for my students’ science test scores was actually their reading level.

This is so frustrating for us as teachers because the content we teach them is only part of the picture. It is also frustrating for students because they can’t really demonstrate what they know. As teachers we do have obligation to help fill some of these literacy gaps, but we also want to teach content, and not have the content get lost in the reading difficulties.

A description of strategies that content teachers can use when faced with struggling readers

Where I teach there are so many students in my classroom who struggle with low literacy skills, and this is problematic for them in school, particularly in the upper grades where reading is no longer taught. Students who have lower literacy skills struggle and become disengaged with school, but as content teachers, or teachers of higher grades, we are not always equipped to teach reading skills. So what do we do? How do we help them in class?
  • Find other ways to get them the information
  • Find other ways for them to express their knowledge
  • Use scaffolding tools such as text to speech, word walls, integrated instruction of vocabulary and more to allow them to build on their strengths, instead of focusing on weaknesses. 

Find other ways to help them get the content

Especially now, not all content has to be taught through reading and writing. We can, of course, lecture, but this may not hold students’ attention. Whether you want students to work independently, or in stations, another great way for students to learn new content is through videos, often with some type of guided notes, graphic organizer, or reflection tool.

Some of my favorite science YouTube channels are:
Comment below with your favorite source for science videos

Let them demonstrate their knowledge in other ways

The options here are countless. You can still require students to use key vocabulary terms, but some students may struggle with the organizational/spelling/writing aspects. Instead, they could show their knowledge in other ways. Here are just a few options. If you have other ideas, please feel free to comment below, I’d love to hear!
  • Draw (create a comic strip to show a process, or a poster) 
  • Create a PowerPoint (or Google Slide presentation)
  • Record a podcast or video (easy with iPads or Chrome extensions like Screencastify)
  • Create a brochure
  • Create a commercial or skit
  • Create a concept map (discussed here)
  • Use graphic organizers or foldable organizers

Scaffold their reading skills

Some students cannot read content very well because they struggle with the vocabulary (either content vocabulary or tier 2 vocabulary). I have already written quite a bit about how I tackle vocabulary in my classroom in this post, here, and here and even for homework.

In addition to vocabulary other reading skills can be taught. Students can practice making their own test questions, with answers to get used to the structure and language of test questions. They can also be taught to read and understand diagrams better. Particularly in science class there are often questions that involve diagrams. Even students who struggle with reading long passages of text can often understand a diagram and answer questions correctly.

Next time you are working with a student whose reading levels are way below grade level don’t give up! And don’t let the student give up! Remember your goals: teaching content, assisting with reading, and teaching strategies. Both you and the student might be very surprised at how much he or she really understands when given the chance to express himself in other ways. When a student is more successful and confident in your class, they are more likely to continue to try harder and achieve greater success as well.

If you try out any of these strategies, I’d love to hear how they go. Please leave a comment below, or send me an email If you would like to see any of the resources that I use with my classes, please feel free to check out my Teachers Pay Teachers Literacy Items.

A description of strategies that content teachers can use when faced with struggling readers


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