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Thursday, May 16, 2013

If These Walls Could Talk

Have you ever had that walk-though observation and thought 'If only they had walked through 5 minutes earlier?'  I am sure ever teacher has had that observation where he/she wished they could stop the lesson and talk to the observer letting them know more about what is happening.

If only the walls could talk?!  Well, guess what - they can!  Let your walls do the talking.  Here are a few tips to help make your next walk-through observation a breeze:

1. Before you leave each day, be sure that you have Essential Questions, Homework, Learning Objectives, and Vocabulary listed on the board. Observers are able to clearly see what is happening throughout the day. An added bonus - your students can see it too!

2. Use sticky chart paper to record student learning.  I like to make Circle Maps of current learning for each subject.  I change my marker color each day to show the new information.  I hang these below my board so they are easy for observers to see and easy for me to reach during lessons.

3. Have student work posted with commentary that reflects the learning.  Put a post-it that gives feedback and connects to the standard.  (Example for Fractions Math Poster - Wow Kayla!  You really showed a clear understanding of adding fractions with unlike denominators in your illustration!)  This allows observers to see what students are grasping.

4. Clip a copy of your lesson plans to your board so you can hand them to the observer as you are walking through the room.

5.  You may even want to have a Notes for Observers document that tells some of the exciting things that are happening in your classroom!


I'd love to add more to this list.  What ways have you made your walls talk?

Need a Summer Review

Summer is getting closer and I am sure you all have a countdown hidden somewhere.  Some of you probably have it right out in the open on your board.  I always have parents asking for summer materials. I just found this really cool site that would be great to suggest to kids for summer math review!   Check out Johnnie's Math Page.  There are great interactive reviews to help students review or learn new math standards!

/http://jmathpage.com/


Sunday, May 5, 2013

Time and Money: 10 Ways to Make a Teacher Smile Before Winter Break!


Time and Money:
10 Ways to Make a Teacher Smile before Winter Break
By: Jessica Zannini

Over the summer, schools are cleaned, students relax, and teachers start planning for the new school year.  The beginning of the school year is the time to put excitement to work and start making plans to save time and money.  You will be glad you did it on those busy weeks when you need to type weekly plans, grade papers, and inspire learning. 
1. Get to know the standards: Print a copy of your standards and search the textbooks, supply closets, your cabinets, and the media center to find materials that you can get your hands on for free. For those standards that need new materials shop around for the best price or see what you can make.
2. Spending your money right: After searching for materials at the school talk with the secretary and PTA president to see what money the school will provide you for supplies.  Make a list of what you still need.  Use that school money to buy consumable products.  For those items you know you want to keep and use wherever your teaching takes you, use your own money. 
3. Shop around at the beginning of the school year: During tax-free weekends and Back to School sales you can find great deals.  Think through your school year.  Do you need class sets of colored pencils, clipboards, or markers?  It is cheaper now to stock up on paper than to buy more in January. 
4. Make copies now: For those quizzes, notes, etc that you already know you want to put in the hands of your students, go ahead and make them now.  Be sure you know you copy limit for the year.  Maybe you have a friend, family member, or parent volunteer that has access to a copier and can make some of these for you. 
5. Laminate those weekly folders and posters: Anything you know you want to keep – laminate it. Create two folders per student so that you can have fresh ones after the holiday season.  Laminate those store bought and teacher created posters so they will last over the years.  You will appreciate it the following school year when you already have one thing checked off the list.
8. Make a Wish List: Decide on materials you would like to have throughout the year such as tissues, snacks, pencils, and copy paper.  Put the list on your website.  This will eliminate shopping during the school year and help save a few dollars. 
6. Use Parent Volunteers: Create a list of help you will need throughout the school year.  For those parents that can come in during the school day have them make copies, create bulletin boards, be reading and math tutors, or study buddies.  For those parents who work full time and can’t get in the room, have them cut out laminated materials or donate supplies and snacks.  If you ask for help, the parents will come running. 
7. Let Students Choose Their Own Seats: Don’t spend time on a seating chart before you know your students.  You will learn that first day, your talkers, friends, and responsible students.  Let this information guide you in making seating charts in the future.  You may just find that the students will be able to handle this arrangement and you don’t have to make time for rearranging.  This knowledge can also be used for cooperative grouping activities.
9. Create Book Lists: Find great read alouds and have them handy.  Look in your classroom and the school media center.  What books do you already have that match standards and the interest level of your students?  Make a list for those units and standards to pull out when you teach each unit.  The media specialist can pull the books for you or students can use their research skills to find the books and place them at your fingertips.
10. Go Through Those Permanent Records: Look at past scores.  Are there students you could already plan for reviewing and strengthening skills?  Find out how you school district wants the records organized and go ahead and make sure they are accurate and have the right materials.  Some may get disorganized throughout the school year, but you will be glad this is done in May.
Side Bar:  Want to keep them on track?   Research popular songs appropriate for school and make a CD of the songs to have on hand.  Push play anytime you need to motivate the students.  This is also a great discipline tool to get students on task and working at a pace to get you through a busy day. 
Find a way to eliminate road blocks you face in a school year, and there will definitely be more time and money. As one of my former students told me while plopping a peppermint in my hand, “Keep up the good work and there’s more where that came from.”