Thursday, January 19, 2017

We Hold These Truths: Three Reasons We Can Be Hopeful

The 2016 election season was divisive. Disagreement is healthy in a democracy--it keeps us on our toes. But demonizing people whose opinions differ from our own is counter-productive. We should attempt to understand and learn from each other. I wrote about discussing the election results with our students HERE.

To loosely quote President Obama in his farewell address, compromise is vital to our democracy.

In his farewell address, President Washington famously warned against the divisiveness political parties would bring.

The younger President Bush was hopeful for the future in his farewell address.

I want to discuss three reasons that we should be hopeful going forward. At the end of this post, I want to tell you about a TON of free resources that will help you communicate that hopefulness to your students.

Three Reasons We Should Be Hopeful Going Forward:

1. We Are Diverse

What do Albert Einstein, Natalie Portman, Ayn Rand, Andrew Carnegie, Van Morrison, Bob Marley, Joseph Pulitzer, Madeleine Albright, Irving Berlin, Eddie Van Halen, Isabelle Allende, Liz Claiborne, Bob Hope, Henry Kissinger, Sammy Sosa, Frank Capra, Charlie Chaplin, Iman, and Maria Sharapova all have in common?

They have all enriched American culture and politics.

And they are all immigrants.

Fresh perspectives and diversity are part of what makes this nation great. We should never forget that, because to lose it would be a great tragedy.

2. We Are Fair

Or we try to be. Part of being fair is to try to understand different perspectives. Like it or not, we will have a new president on January 20, 2017, and he was fairly and freely elected. 

Yes, he didn't win the popular vote, but the Electoral College is not new. We the people are (or should be) familiar with its function. We can't do away with it legally after the fact and expect a post hoc change. 

It is our obligation as citizens to allow for the peaceful transition of power, hope for the best, and if we don't like the outcome, to protest with our vote.

3. We, The People, Are The Government

If we are kind, if we are strong, if we are creative, if we are citizens, then we need not fear for the state of our Union. I've heard hyperbolic comparisons of Donald Trump to fascist dictators of the past. And, yes, his own hyperbole and divisiveness lends credence to that argument.

But the past doesn't ever repeat itself (ask Mark Twain if you don't believe me--it just rhymes). SO we may hear echos of Hitler's promise to make Germany a great nation again or to blame a particular group for all our country's woes in Trump's rhetoric. 

But the situation of the United States that Trump has inherited is far different from the the unstable situation of Weimar Germany. The Weimar Republic was new, shaky, weak, and untested. Our Constitution has stood the test of time. Our system is stable.

That's not to say that we shouldn't guard it. We should. And if we participate in the political process, we do.

I believe that the majority of us hold these truths near and dear to our hearts. I believe in the power of the people and our ultimate desire for kindness and fairness.

I believe, not in telling my students what to believe, but in educating them about their responsibilities as citizens of this nation that I am proud to call my own.

Many other teachers share these values, and we have posted free products all across Teachers Pay Teachers that will help teachers educate students on principles of citizenship and kindness. Go to Teachers Pay Teachers and enter the hashtags #weholdthesetruths and/or #kindnessnation in the search engine. You will find many free resources ready to use in your classroom.

My free resource is a Color-Fill Film Guide for President Obama's Farewell Address. It asks students to view and consider important points of President Obama's farewell address and then to look at the history of the presidential farewell address. This will demonstrate to students that the presidency is an enduring office and that the end of our democratic-republic is surely not imminent because of one man or one event.

Grab it HERE!

And be sure to click on all of the links below to grab other secondary teachers' free resources and to read their posts.

Thanks so much to Desktop Learning Adventures and ELA Buffet for organizing this blog hop.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Using Google Forms to Create Self-Grading Quizzes

Google Forms now has a self-grading quiz feature! When I wrote about Google Forms in the past, you needed to have an add-on in order to make your quizzes in Google Classroom self-grading. However, Google Forms has updated since then, and now you can make your quizzes self-grading. In this blog post, I walk you through a step-by-step tutorial of how to set this up in your own Google Classroom!I've discussed ways to use Google Forms in the classroom in these blog posts: Inserting Images and Films and Formative Assessment. The video post sums it all up! But when I discussed Forms last, you needed an add-on to make them self-grading.

I LOVE forms because there are so many things you can do with them beyond just tests. Here are two suggestions:

1. Exit Quizzes: Create an exit quiz with a few very important concepts from the day's lesson. Then you will know immediately what you need to review the next day or how to flex group.

2. Games: Create a simple review. Pair or group students off. The first group that finishes first with the most correct answers wins! Add video and images to make it more engaging.

Google has since made things much simpler with it's "quiz" setting. Here's how it works:
Google Forms now has a self-grading quiz feature! When I wrote about Google Forms in the past, you needed to have an add-on in order to make your quizzes in Google Classroom self-grading. However, Google Forms has updated since then, and now you can make your quizzes self-grading. In this blog post, I walk you through a step-by-step tutorial of how to set this up in your own Google Classroom!

Google Forms now has a self-grading quiz feature! When I wrote about Google Forms in the past, you needed to have an add-on in order to make your quizzes in Google Classroom self-grading. However, Google Forms has updated since then, and now you can make your quizzes self-grading. In this blog post, I walk you through a step-by-step tutorial of how to set this up in your own Google Classroom!
Print the cheat sheet HERE.

What are some unique ways you use Forms in your classroom? Leave a comment below, and let me know!

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Saturday, December 31, 2016

My 2017 Classroom Resolutions

Resolutions are made to be broken. I was supposed to drop ten pounds in 2016, but instead, I found room for ten more. I began 2016 volunteering more of my time, but that soon gave way to chauffeuring my son to tutoring. I wanted to spend more time with the fam, but my nieces keep getting older and we never got around to our girls' weekend of pizza and anime.

So what is it about resolutions that makes them impossible to keep? Life is messy. Too messy to plan specifically. The unexpected comes up and its urgency tramples the best laid plans.

Maybe my resolutions were too specific. Maybe they need to be more general so that I can find a way to success. Instead of "lose ten pounds," I'll try "be more active." Instead of "volunteer once a week," I'll try "be more generous with my time when I can." Instead of "have a girls' weekend" with two hopelessly busy teenagers, I'll try "spend more quality time with family."

But how can this apply to my classroom? I know I need to do a better job on several fronts. I know I need to be more organized, do better at differentiation, do a better job at connecting with my students and their parents, so how can I make these things work? I don't want to give up on resolutions, but I don't want to set myself up for failure, either.

I have a broad plan this year to set myself up for success.

Here's how I'll approach organization:

Very simply put, this year, I intend to embrace my lack of it. I won't waste hours filing and labeling, and working against my nature to make everything look pretty. That takes too much time away from the things that truly matter, like planning and making connections. And it's a losing battle for me.

I will stop apologizing for my messy desk. I know where everything is, and it works for me, so I'm going with it. I will keep the piles on my desk. I just need to remember to recycle the things at the bottom of the piles periodically. If they're at the bottom, I probably don't use them.

Sociology students "making a mess" with The Looking Glass Self Lesson
I've found that generally my best lessons that engage the students most are the messiest. I will not apologize for being messy in 2017.

I just finished reading a book that I got for Christmas that beautifully demonstrates the normalcy of messes--Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives by Tim Harford. I will re-read it at midyear.

Psychology students out of control making Learning Style Videos

Here's how I'll approach differentiation:

Differentiation is so important, and in the age of technology, it's easier to implement than ever. Exit tickets are a quick way to do it and so is the exit quiz.

All I need to do is assign an exit ticket or quiz the last five minutes of class to see what I might need to reteach to whom--easy, right? 

Well, yes and no. My issues tend to go back to organization (and my struggles with it). In this case, it's time management. I'll have the exit tickets ready to go, but then the bell sneaks up on me.

My resolution is to time each activity. I always plan to, but then I get distracted. I will keep this timer site bookmarked so that it is super easy for me to say, " Okay, you have 15 minutes to work on this, and then we're moving on." There are all types of fun timers to choose from--hourglass, bomb, rocket....

Google Forms now has a self grading quiz option (not the old add-on Flubaroo) that gives students instant feedback. I will use these for those five minute exit quizzes to see if students understand the crux of the lesson. I'll put a tutorial up on how to do this next week--it's super easy if you don't already know.

I also organized my digital exit tickets into single slides so that it's effortless to assign one at a time. I can just make a copy and assign it without having to delete all of the slides I'm not using.

You can find the pre-made Digital Exit Tickets HERE.

Here's how I'll do a better job connecting with my students and their parents:

I always fall into the same trap each year--calling only when there's a problem. My goal this year is to connect with parents each week for positive feedback (notice I'm not giving an exact number, that way, if it's a busy week and I've only made contact with one or two parents, I haven't failed).

I also want to continue my efforts to center aspects of lessons around student's interests (I talked about that HERE) and to really listen to them and foster positive discussions. 

Oh yeah--let's not forget to have fun in 2017!

Because we do have a fun job, and it's easy to forget.

So I want to close this post by talking about a really fun, extemporaneous thing that went on in my classroom in 2016. One of my students got a teddy bear from his girlfriend on Valentine's Day. He had it in class, and it was causing quite the disruption, so I confiscated it.

The bell rang, and I realized that I still had his bear. I meant to give it back to him at the end of class but forgot.

It was my planning block, and I had tons of stuff to do, but instead I took the bear up and down my hallway. I teach on the social studies/ foreign language floor, so teachers have a ton of props. I went from room to room, photographing the bear with different props. I made memes about them.

The next day, my student entered class and asked for his bear. I told him I wasn't sure where the bear went, but that I kept getting these crazy postcards from him. I pointed to the screen at the front of my room, and there was one of the memes projected. He laughed and sat down.

Everyday, he came in and asked about his bear, I pointed to the screen. Finally, when I ran out of memes, I gave him his bear, saying that he had turned back up. Check out the slideshow of Mr. Bear's Adventures below. PLEASE IGNORE THE MESS!!! I know it's Lewis and Clark....

I wish you all a happy, healthy, safe, productive, fun, and messy 2017!

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Monday, December 12, 2016

Approaching World History through Source Analysis and Fiction

This post originally appeared in the C.L.A.S.S. Newsletter
in November of 2015
I know we’re not supposed to play favorites with the kids, but I can’t help it. I have six kids, but I most definitely have a favorite. Respectively, my kids are English I, English III, U.S. History, World History, Sociology, and Psychology.

I love them all, truly I do—I’ve spent so much time with each, reading, planning, and teaching, so they really do all feel like my kids--but if I had to pick one to spend the most time with, it would be world history.

“Why?” you might ask, especially when they are all wonderful and English was my first.

Well, I think it may have something to do with what drew me to English in the first place—stories. World history is a bunch of wonderful, disturbing, beautiful, tragic, funny stories. They are stories that explain who and where we are and how we got here. They are stories that connect people in the U.S. to people in Estonia, and people in Nigeria to people in Malaysia.

Also, history is an art—the art of looking at vast amounts of seemingly unconnected evidence, making sense out of it, and weaving it into a narrative.

I think that is what I truly enjoy doing and encouraging students to do. I love it when they say, “History doesn’t change.” My challenge is to have them question that assumption by the end of the term. I want them to see that when they read a textbook or an online article, they are looking at one person’s (or an editorial board’s) interpretation of evidence.  While events and primary sources may not change, interpretations of those events and sources are wide-open to change.

Keeping that in mind, there are a couple of approaches to teaching world history that I like to take: 1. implementing primary and secondary source analysis and 2. bringing short fiction into the curriculum to illustrate points and approaches.

The first approach is vital to any world history curriculum. The best way to make students aware of the historical process is to have them engage in it. First, students must understand the difference between primary and secondary sources. I give a brief lecture about the difference and then guide students through a process of analyzing a primary source (we do this together).

Then, I put students in groups of four and give each group a set of task cards. They have to determine whether the source on each card is primary or secondary and explain why they answered as they did. To take it a step further (and really demonstrate using evidence to draw conclusions), I like to pair students off and give each pair a copy of a receipt. They have to look at the purchases on the receipt and construct a narrative about the person doing the shopping based on the purchases.

It’s fun to have an actual personality sketch of the person behind the receipt so that students can compare their narrative to the actual person and see how close they came to accuracy.  I cinch the lesson by explaining that this is what historians do. They may be right, wrong, or close, but they have to have evidence from primary sources, and their claims should be reasonable based on that evidence, or it is not a reliable source.

I like to use snippets from various secondary sources, all with differing assertions about the same topic, for students to compare. A topic that fits the world history curriculum and lends itself to differing opinions based on primary source evidence is the fall of Rome. It’s difficult to find two historians who agree as to why it fell, let alone if it fell at all.

Students need to see that the narratives we hear in history class are conclusions woven from evidence. They should engage in the process so that they can unweave the narratives and see the individual yarns from which they are created. This will make them more discerning in what they accept as fact.

The second approach I like to take uses short fiction to illustrate the humanity of the people and cultures we are studying. I knew I wanted to do something along these lines the first time I taught world history. The students couldn’t wait to get to the Holocaust.

I was perplexed by their excitement over such a horrific subject. “I love the Holocaust,” I heard more than once.

“Really?” I would say. This troubled me. I thought a lot about it. There are three reasons my somewhat limited mind could fathom that someone would “love” the Holocaust: 1. they are truly depraved, 2. they enjoy the feelings of superiority that “good vs. bad” scenarios give us all (we would never engage in something as horrendous as that—we  would help), and 3. they are genuinely missing the human element in this calamity.

I believe that a very few of the students I have ever taught fall into the first category (although, statistically, some must). So, that leaves the majority falling into categories two and three. “Us against them” is human nature, so category two is understandable. It’s the reason teachers often give for spending so much time on the holocaust, “We do it so that it won’t happen again.” This is noble. After all, Hitler himself remarked, “Who still talks nowadays of the extermination of the Armenians.”

But that excuse neglects one important truth—it still happens. Ask the Syrian migrants flooding into Europe. Visit the Sudan. Or just watch Hotel Rwanda. That excuse insults the masses still enduring genocide, and it gives us a false sense of the times in which we live.

So that leaves us with category three. I think that many of us get swept up in the atrocities and neglect the human element. Actual people were tortured and killed. Actual families were ripped apart. And that is why we study the Holocaust and other such atrocities—to remember and honor the victims.

I could tell my students this, but I don’t think it would mean much to them. I chose to illustrate the point with a short story instead. Many of us have brought historical fiction into a history class, but I think an effective way to discuss historical themes and approaches can be through short fiction.

Before beginning a unit on World War II, we discuss nationalism and civil war in China. My lesson on this time period involves a brief PowerPoint with cloze notes, primary source analysis (of course), and an original short story to encourage students to consider appropriate ways to approach a subject that sadly plagues the remainder of the course—genocide.

It is my goal to humanize these events for the students, not to look at gruesome pictures and tut-tut the actions of the perpetrators, or worse….Fiction delivers lessons that are more palpable than lectures. Often times, students don’t even realize that it is a lesson. Fiction allows students to draw their own conclusions, often through empathy. STEAM in the classroom.

So, my favorite kid is world history, I’ll admit it. But it dawned on me as I was writing this—perhaps it’s my favorite because it offers me the opportunity to bring in the elements that I also love about the other five, which are also near and dear to my heart.

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Thursday, November 10, 2016

Discussing Election Results with Our Students

I want to preface this by saying that this is not a political post. This is a post about how I am dealing with the 2016 election in my classroom. If I am going to be honest, some of my views will come out, but I will in no way demean the side I did not support. I do think that 2016 has been particularly challenging for educators, and I think that we will all benefit from discussing it honestly, yet kindly.

This election season was ugly. I cringed during all of the debates. There was name-calling. There was fear-mongering--from both sides.

I live in the deep South, and I teach at a diverse school. I teach children of immigrants who felt vilified by Trump. I teach white students identifying as "rednecks" who felt like Clinton had placed them in a "basket of deplorables." I teach African-American and LGBT students who feel marginalized by both sides. I teach females--and I am one.

This might seem like an odd and somewhat personal place to begin this, but twelve years ago, I had some health issues that prevented me from having children. There are far more difficult things to go through in life, but I was pretty low. My aunt sent me a sermon of C.S. Lewis's called "The Weight of Glory."

I read it each night before I went to bed. It made me cry. It comforted me. It helped me get through a tough time by looking at other people in a new way. Regardless of your faith, there is a valuable message in this sermon.

 Essentially, Lewis argues that we should do more than merely tolerate each other as human beings. We should love each other.

Think about it. Merriam-Webster defines tolerate as "allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of (something that one does not necessarily like or agree with) without interference."

Tolerate almost means to disregard. Sure, you disagree, but you let it happen. You coexist, but you don't interact.

Love means "an intense feeling of deep affection." You may disagree, but you care about the person. You interact.

Maybe all the talk of tolerance is part of the problem. Why would you stand up for someone you merely tolerate? They have become "the other," the "out group." We don't mind building a wall around them or putting them in a basket and sending them down the river.

On Tuesday morning, I woke up optimistic. I began to realize halfway through the day that it was because I was convinced that by 10 PM EST, we, The United States of America, would have our first female president.

I grew up in a society that marginalized women. Women were mothers and wives. We had a place, and we should not deviate from it. I always believed that it was a mistake, and it made me angry, but it was the way things were.

When Trump said the things he did about women, it made me extremely angry. We aren't merely decorative and sexual beings. We have intellects. We can be leaders. I am truly, truly indignant that the only value he acknowledges in women is beauty. (BTW, even Lewis in his profound sermon said that women should submit to their husbands--I love you, C.S. Lewis, but I am not a child).

So, when I thought Clinton was going to win, I was ecstatic. When Trump actually won, I was devastated. I actually stayed up most of the night crying and texting my dad (a reluctant Trump supporter). I did not post on social media. It was way too personal for me.

I am still coming to terms with the result. But I have realized a couple of things: 

1. I often feel disenfranchised as a woman. That's one reason I so desperately wanted Clinton to win.

2. Many of my students and their parents obviously feel the same way, which is why they voted for Trump.

3. If we're all feeling disenfranchised for one reason or another (Black Lives Matter, The Wall...) then we should listen to each other. And empathize. And NEVER assume that just because we're not experiencing it that someone else isn't.

I don't agree with Trump supporters, but they deserve a voice. We all do. So we talk about the election in my classroom--from all sides--as long as we can keep it nice. I will not tell them how to think. I love them too much for that.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Managing a Distracted Class

Last year, I had some of the most difficult students that I've ever taught. I wrote about it HERE. I got through it, and so did they. In order to do so, I had to target very specific, undesirable behaviors from individual students and approach it with behavior contracts. Believe me, I tried targeting positive behaviors first, and that was not effective under those circumstances.

I've encountered something different this year. My students are very nice across the board and overall, a pleasure to teach.

But one of my classes is more crowded than it probably should be and full of larger-than-life personalities, including a large portion of the JV football team.

Oh, my, those guys are not interested in sitting still.

If you read my blog often, then you know that I do lecture, but that I try to keep it down to the bare minimum and offer activities that involve getting up and getting active. That's how the kids learn, and that's the goal.

But when I'm talking, I need them to listen. When I turn them loose to work on their Chromebooks, I need them to work.

Here's what was happening in that class:

Me, passionately lecturing about absolute rulers in Europe.

In my periphery, Student A gets up to throw something away.

Student B's hand shoots up, "Can I go to the bathroom?" (And I can't help but respond with my usual, "I have faith that you can." It makes me and only me laugh every time.)

Student C giggles into Student D's ear, as Student E says, "Go back a slide, I missed the last part."

Well, Student E, you missed the last part because you were distracted by Student A's walking across the room and Students' C and D talking, not to mention my HILARIOUS response to Student B.

And....that's not fair to you. So sorry--my bad.

So--what to do when the kids are nice, generally cooperative, but just not quite doing what they should be?

That is the perfect opportunity to target those positive behaviors that they generally display.

There are all kinds of apps and programs out there to help organize all of this, and I love using technology in the classroom, but when it comes to management, I have found that I prefer simple, to-the-point, and low-tech.

Here's what has worked for this class so far:

Give Them Ownership 

Have a candid discussion with them. Say something like, "This is a great class, and I really enjoy you all, but we get distracted a lot. That wastes our time. When our time is wasted, we're not learning, and learning is why we are here."

Ask them what behaviors they should be displaying to make the best use of their time. They may say things like, "Listening...Staying in our seats unless we're supposed to be up...Being respectful of each other...Taking turns to talk...Being on the right website(s)...Doing our work...Keeping cell phones put away...etc." As they speak, write these things on the board.

Then create a class contract that begins with something like. "I agree to do the following...."

Give Them Consequences   

Acknowledge when they are doing right. For years, I was opposed to rewarding students for behaving appropriately. That's what they're supposed to do. Their desire to do right should be intrinsic.

But many things should be that aren't. And with that logic, it would also stand to reason that we should not have consequences for negative behaviors. But we do. We must. Consequences--both positive and negative--are a part of life.

Many of our students are desperate for attention. If the only attention they can get comes from negative behaviors, then not offering reinforcement for positive behaviors will encourage misbehavior among a portion of our students.

Rewards can be as simple as a call home when a student is doing right. Something I've seen teachers do that seems pretty effective is to give students a raffle ticket randomly when they are doing right. At the end of the week, they have a drawing, and a certain number of students win a small prize.

I'll probably try that at some point because I like the immediate acknowledgement of a ticket and the anticipation of a raffle, but what I'm doing now is tied into my class contract.

After I list the behaviors that the students and I came up with, I write, "If I ever fail to honor this agreement, the consequence will be a strike. Three strikes in a week will result in a phone call home, etc."

I print a roster and don't say anything, but I put a mark by students' names for a strike. They usually think about it and know right away that they've gotten one.

Keep in mind that the behaviors that I'm dealing with this semester are mostly distracting, not dangerous or disrespectful, so they start each week with a clean slate. If they make it to the end of the week with no strikes, I spin a virtual wheel (I LOVE these wheels and use them all the time in my classes--find them here, just be sure to create a free account so you can save your wheels). I put each student's name on it, and whoever the spinner lands on gets an assignment pass. Then I give everyone who didn't get a strike a small prize like a piece of candy or a mechanical pencil (these are seriously coveted).

They get really excited about the assignment pass, even though it's not good for tests, quizzes, or projects.

Grab It for Free HERE!
How do you manage "distracted" classes? Leave a comment below, and let me know.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Three Tips For Managing Your Blended Class

One of the most difficult tasks for a teacher is classroom management. Picture the young teacher who can't get a grasp on it and quits in frustration. Or worse--the veteran teacher who never got a grasp on it, but continued to teach anyway.

Some people seem to have a knack for classroom management. Others have to work hard to hone that skill. I fall into the latter category. If it weren't for the tremendous support system of veteran teachers I've enjoyed over the years, I could have fallen into either one of the scenarios mentioned above.

So, I had to work extra hard to "get it." I had to go against my laid back nature. I had to emulate and seek advice from people who did "get it." And I got to be pretty good at it. I still have the occasional issues, of course, but learning takes place in my classroom. And that's the goal.

I had been feeling pretty good about my classroom and myself in it for the past few years, and then a new curve ball flew my way. My district went 1:1.

1:1 is a good thing. It has opened up so many possibilities in the classroom. I have kept what works best with pen and paper and embraced what works best digitally. I have blended my classroom.

But just when I was feeling comfortable with the old system, 1:1 has introduced all new classroom management issues. The good news is that most of the new issues (the one's I've encountered, anyway) are easily solved with some minor tweaking of the old ways.

So, here they are:

Three Tips For Managing Your Blended Class

A blended classroom alternates between technology and traditional pen and paper work. When it's time to work the old fashioned way, there needs to be a procedure in pace for putting away those devices that can be so useful at the right time, and yet so distracting at the wrong time.

Without a specific procedure in place and consequences for failing to adhere to it, blending can be frustrating to say the least. My school has adopted a policy for it this year that I think works well, but you can implement one on your own for your classroom.

1. Have a double-sided sign that is red on one side and green on the other. When the sign is turned to the green side, technology is in use. When the sign is turned to red, technology should be put away.
2. If a student is caught using technology when the sign is red, take the device.
3. Store the device in a "technology time-out" or a "phone jail" (I used the phone jail before my school adopted this policy, and believe it or not, the students got a kick out of phones "going to jail").
4. Have other consequences for repeated offenses. Our school-wide policy is an administrative referral, but before this, I would have a progressive policy beginning with a 15 minute detention (I always play opera music in detention--fit the arts in where you can :) ).

One of the things I love about going 1:1 is being able to tell students returning from an absence to "Check Google Classroom." Technology has alleviated the headache that is gathering make-up work.

But what about the pen and paper assignments--the things that students have to cut, fold, and color? Have a specific place where you keep a set of five folders for each class that you teach. I turned plain file folders into envelopes by writing a day of the week on each, laminating them, stapling the sides, and hanging them on my bulletin board (added benefit--I don't have to decorate the bulletin board, a task I don't enjoy). At the end of each class, drop any handouts into the folder for the appropriate day.

It's not a novel idea, but it keeps everything in place. Get students into the habit of always checking the folder and Google Classroom (or whatever you use) for the day they missed when returning from an absence.

I use tables in my classroom rather than desks. When I was doing all paper-based interactive notebooks, I would keep a bin on each table containing four whiteboards, four dry erase markers, four pairs of scissors, four bottles of glue, a stapler, and a pack of crayons. I know teachers who do this with desks by keeping the materials at the front or back of each row.

I found that when it's technology time, not only are the bins in the way, but they can become a distraction (ironically, just like the technology can when it's pen and paper time). So I started keeping the bins off of the desks, labeled with the table or row number to which it belongs and an inventory list.

Get It Free HERE
When it's time to use them, one student from each table retrieves the appropriate bin. One student is in charge of making sure all of the materials are accounted for and taken care of, and one student is in charge of making sure that any messes are cleaned up. The responsibilities rotate weekly. I made this poster for middle school students to remind them of their responsibilities. I use a black and white version in my high school classroom.

Those are my three simple tips for making a blended classroom run more smoothly. What are some of yours? Leave a comment below to let me know.

And be sure to check out the other Blended Classroom Tips and Tricks in this series:
Submitting Pen and Paper Work Digitally with a Chromebook
Poll Students with Google Classroom
Help Students Stay Organized with the Google Classroom Stream

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