Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Teaching During a Pandemic Part 1

Five weeks into the new school year and we are still in person. Fingers’s going well. The kids are adjusting amazingly to all the new procedures and rules. Teaching with these new protocols is challenging to say the least. However, I’d like to focus on the positives I’ve experienced the last five weeks. 

1. Class Environment- My class and I are together literally all day long. To avoid exposure, the children eat breakfast and lunch in the room. We have specials in our room and are outside for one twenty minute recess in which our class is the only class on the playground at that time. All these factors have resulted in a close feeling of classroom community. I’ve seen the children develop sense of belonging a lot sooner than in previous years. There is a heart warming feeling of a classroom family. 

2. Quiet Hallways-This may seem like a little thing, but it has made a difference. Since traveling through the building is limited, the hallways are so quiet. I can leave my door open without the learning being disrupted. The children can hear me teaching even behind my mask. My microphone helps too. ☺

3. Morning Welcome Slides-My children used to choose lunch on our Clever Touch Screen. I would have my morning work listed on the white board. Since I couldn’t have the children all crowd to the screen and touch it, I flipped my routine. I made welcome slides for the morning work with my word of the day and joke of the day to display. Each child has an emoji with their name and magnet on the back to put on the white board under their lunch choice. I like it this way so much that I’ll keep doing my morning slides from here on out.                

4. Small Class Size-With Social distancing I can fit 18 desks in my classroom and as a result I have a smaller class than normal. One of our team members volunteered to move into our Art Room since it is bigger and take more students. She is an ultimate team player. I can’t thank her enough. With my smaller class size, I can give feedback faster to my students and do more quick checks on skills.

5. Creative Teaching-Best practices of education emphasis collaboration among students and interaction during lessons. This is a challenge with the restrictions of not sharing materials and social distancing. I’ve really had to think outside the box on how to structure my lessons so the children are engaged in the lessons in addition to the normal asking and answering questions. In Part 2 of my series Teaching During a Pandemic, I will share some of things I’ve done to keep my students engaged. 

Editable versions of my morning welcome slides are available in my TPT store if you want to check out the preview.  


Tuesday, May 26, 2020

5 Things I Have Learned Teaching From Home

 Hello everyone! This is the second post of my Teaching From Home Series. Wow. What a journey this has been. My philosophy of being a life long learner has never rang so true. My reflection of this process has lead me to list 5 things things I’ve learned about myself and others. 

1. Beyond the Comfort Zone-I cringe listening to my voice on audio much less view myself on video. I pushed passed those uncomfortable situations in order to deliver content to my students. It wasn't easy. My first audio lesson using Screencast-O-Matic took me 7 tries before I was comfortable publishing my lesson. Now I record without the nerves and barely have to redo my lessons. I took my newfound confidence even further and recorded myself on video reading aloud a book that we started before school was cancelled. I recorded myself reading 11 chapters and published them to my Google Classroom.  If it weren't for the distance learning, I would've never tried to push myself out of my comfort zone. 

2. Everything Google Slides-  I have learned to do so much with slides during this time. Using slides as interactive tool for lessons with Pear Deck is the latest thing I've discovered. I took a webinar about it and was amazed. Besides that, slides can be used as an assignment tracker, interactive assessment tool, student paced lessons, etc. I've even stretched myself and made my first digital product. Something I never thought I'd be able to do before. 

3.  Google Meet- Before the distance learning was forced upon me, I didn't know anything about Google Meet. This became my relied upon communication each day in Google Classroom. With my set office hours each day, students could "pop" into the meet link to ask questions, show me work, or just say hi. It was so nice to be able to see them. Last week, we had fun on Google Meet with a scavenger hunt. It was a blast. I displayed 3 items at a time for the kiddos to find and show.  There are many scavenger hunts for video calls on Pinterest. This is the one that I made.

4. Teamwork- I already knew I teamed with an awesome group of teachers, however this situation proved it beyond a shadow of a doubt. We had to work together so closely to get things planned and implemented. We all shared our Google Classrooms and divided up the lessons. During distance learning we all got to know each other's kiddos since we were teaching them all. Another positive to come out of this.
5. A Little Kindness Can Go a Long Way-  Kind words and understanding can produce better results than taking out frustrations on others due to a situation beyond our control. Unfortunately, I was on the receiving end of  the frustrations felt at having to educate my students in an new way. For the most part, kindness and understanding helped to ease fears. 


Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Teaching from Home Series Post 1

Hello! Long time no blogging. I have to say adjusting to the new normal for teaching motivated me to get my blog on again. After all, going digital is necessary for our new teach from home routines. We are all in this together is our new motto. With that spirit in mind, I want to share my new top 5 must haves for teaching at home.

1. Google Classroom-I have used this resource for the past 3 years, however it’s become essential for my new normal. Thank goodness my kiddos are familiar with it because now it is my main platform for teaching.

2. Screencast-O-Matic-This resource has been a lifesaver. It is a Chrome Extension that allows you to narrate while you video your screen. The free account allows you to record 15 minutes a day. This was plenty of time for me to demonstrate how to fill in a digital summary organizer, model thinking aloud as I did it, and also show how to turn in the assignment in Google Classroom. This is why it made #2 on my 5 must haves.

3. Pinterest Digital Teaching Board-I wonder what I did before having Pinterest as a resource. I can’t even remember. Cruising through all the pins on distance learning can be overwhelming, however. I created a board and narrowed down resources that pertain to my current needs. Some are “look at later” pins, but most are helpful to my current planning.

4. Google Meet-With all the Zoom Bombing, I’ve relied on Google Meet to collaborate with my team members. It’s connected to everything Google and easy to create meetings through my calendar and send out invites. My teaching partner and I are going to try it with our students next week.

5. PDF Merger-Thank goodness for my team. One of my team members told me about online PDF mergers. Our district had to create At Home Learning Packets for the students who don't have technology resources at home. I needed to upload the packet into one PDF. I found a Chrome extension called Small PDF. You can gain access for 14 days free. Another I found online is called Combine PDF. This worked great and is free, however you are limited to the amount you can convert each day.

These are my first 5 must haves for Teaching from Home. What are your must haves? Leave a comment to let me know. We are in this together. 😊

 My children's story "The Time Travel Storm" is free for the next 5 days if you'd like to grab it for distance learning or just for your digital library. Click on the Picture. 

Monday, July 22, 2019

Five Ways to Use Plastic Protector Sheets in the Classroom

 This is part two of my post series Five Things to Start the School Year.  I talked about how to set up and use a calming corner in the classroom last week. This week's post is simple but valuable. Last year I discovered the many uses of plastic protector sheets. Again, it's one of those things that made wonder how it didn't know this before I listed five ways I used them below. 

*This post contains affilliate links to products that I recommend. If you purchase something from the page, I may receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you.

  1. Handwriting Practice-Have a class set of handwriting paper ready to go inside of the plastic sheets with a skinny dry erase marker and felt square to use as an eraser slipped inside of each sheet. Pass them out to practice cursive letters when you have an extra few minutes. They can also be used to practice spelling words or as a rough draft of paragraph writing. 

      2. Document Camera-If you have a document camera, use the sheets 
          to project pages that you are using for whole class instruction or are going over as a 
          whole class. Since I have two Language Arts classes, this worked out great. I just 
          erased what I wrote on the sheet so it was ready to go for the next class. For 
          example, I assigned small reading passages on Mondays and Wednesdays for 
          for homework. Each passage had two questions to answer. At least one question 
          would ask the students to underline text evidence in the passage. I used the plastic 
          sheet with the homework page to go over the answers in class. I'd erase the marker 
          and the page was ready to go for my next Language Arts class.

   3.  Learning Center/Station Directions-Another use for 
         the plastic sheet protectors is to insert learning center/station directions. I liked this
         because I could number, highlight, add, or take away parts of the directions as 
         needed. In stations that had learning games, the answer sheet was also added so 
         the children could flip the directions over and check answers if needed.

   4.   Guided Reading Passages-Every once in awhile I copy passages 
         for guided reading time that correspond with the skill or strategy of the week. 
         I insert passages inside the plastic sleeves along with a skinny dry erase marker and 
         felt square for each student in the group. While reading we practice marking up the
         passage finding text evidence, prefixes, suffixes, root words, etc. Erase and its ready
         to go for my next class.

   5.   Check in Homework-Plastic sheets are a great way to check in 
          homework or anything else turned in.  Insert your class list inside, mark off who has
          their work turned in. Erase the next morning and start again. 

These are a few of the ways that I used plastic sheets in the classroom. I'd love to hear other ideas! 


Monday, July 8, 2019

Five Things to Start the School Year

*This post contains affilliate links to products that I recommend. If you purchase something from the page, I may recieve a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you. 

The 4th of July has come and gone once again. Each year this signals the time to start preparing myself mentally for the upcoming school year. I've begun the process of clearing the Summer Fog from my brain by listing things I need to start the new year. Part of this process involves evaluating things that I tried last school year that worked and how to make them better.  I'm going to post one of five ideas each week until the start of  year.  Without further ado here is post one of 5 Ideas to Start the School Year.

                                                        Calming Corner  

      Last year I set up a calming corner using an extra desk. I attached directions on how to use the corner in the  middle of a privacy board that sat on the desk. Items needed for the calming corner were placed in a basket or on top of the desk. I loved it! This is something I plan on using again. I tweaked my instructions after trying it for a  year.  It's nice to have a place for students to go when they need a break or are getting frustrated. It's one of those things that I wonder why I didn't try sooner.

 I liked the sand timer because not only is it quiet, it can be soothing to watch the sand flow. Another thing I liked about this corner was that the students learn some strategies for soothing themselves. They also learn that it's okay to get frustrated and what to do about it. It's not a get out of work corner. The work is not going away, but it's a good way to take a break and feel refreshed. I've included some of the things I used in the corner if you are interested in learning more about them. 


Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Set Your Student Up For Succes Part 2


Part one of my Set Your Students Up for Success series, gave an introduction to Universal Design for Learning or UDL. It takes the concept of differentition to a proactive approach in all aspects of the classroom. The idea is to make available resources to all students in order to be successful and give them choices.

  For example, I have my secret stash of fidgets in my desk drawer to hand out for my kiddos that need it along with a couple of wiggle seats that I purchased.  With the UDL concept in mind, this year I'll have a basket of fidgets out that are available to all students if they need them. I also dusted off the excersise ball I kept in the basement for extra seating.  (Um yeah, didn't get around to using it much there. )Of course, I'll need to establish clear rules and boundaries for them. Below is a copy of the rules for them that I will display by the fidget basket. You can click on the picture to download for free.

Another type of resource that will be available at anytime to all students are Resource Rings. So far I've made two types of resourse rings.... Text Features and Text Structure.  They are laminated on index cards and attached to rings that will hang in the room. Anytime a student has an assignment or questions  dealing with these concepts, he/she may take one to use. The text structure ring helps a lot with nonficition writing.  I used them toward the end of the school year and look forward to making more to use this year. They are like anchor charts that take up little room and the students can carry them anywhere. 

We have all types of learners and learning needs in our classrooms. Making as many resources available to everyone as we can, helps to set them up for success. Part 3 coming soon! 

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Setting Your Students Up for Succes Part One

The fourth of July festivities have passed and traditionally have signaled the time for me to start thinking about the upcoming school year. Sigh. It's cool though. Last year my team was sent for training on Universal Design for Learning or UDL, and I'm looking forward to setting up my classroom with new ideas. The best way I can think of to describe the overall concept of this framework is Differentiated Learning on steroids.

  UDL encompasses all of my teaching beliefs. Many of the same strategies and techniques from my ebook, A Common Sense Approach to Differentiation, is embraced in UDL. As well as my premise of my blog name to set up a classroom balanced for all learning styles. However, UDL takes all of this even further in that is a proactive set up that allows all students choices and access to many resources to engage in lessons and show what they know. 

This is post one of my series, Set Your Students up for Success. In order to model the UDL framework in your classroom, it is imperative to get to know your students' motivations and interests. That should be a priority from day one. This year I'm going to stick with tradition but step it up and begin taking notes from the first day of school. I've always had students bring in a "Me Bag" with five items inside that tell about them. I staple a tag with the directions onto a brown lunch bag and give them out at open house the night before school starts. The students share their Me Bags on the first day of school.  Click the picture below to download the Me Bag Tags for free.

This year, I'm pulling out an old teaching tool I used years ago and dusting off the cobwebs.  The Tab Notebook. Below is a picture and video showing how to make this using a regular college ruled notebook and scissors. While the students share their Me Bags, I'll jot down notes about them in this notebook. Each student has their own tab with pages for me to write down things throughout the year. In the past I've also kept this notebook with me during guided reading time. I've found out a lot of information about their interests during this time that was valuable. As I continue my posts in this series, you'll see why it's so important to learn what motivates and interests your students. The next post will be about setting your classroom environment up for success.



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