Google Classroom is changing the game for classrooms all around the world. Are you a teacher who's been asked to start using it in your classroom? Or maybe you're wanting to make the jump out of your own volition? Either way, this post will help you learn a little bit more about the pros and cons of using Google Classroom, as well as provide you with a free cheat sheet to help you get started.
I spend an inordinate amount of time making copies. I despair over the trees to whose demise I contribute. I weep for the amount of time I spend clearing jams. I gnash my teeth at all of the time I've wasted standing in the copier line (really, I'm considering a copy room mouth guard--is there a patent on one yet?--something to ponder).

In 14 years in the classroom, I estimate that I've devoted an average of 30 minutes a day to worship at the great copy room shrine.That's a grand total of around 52 days of my life that I'll never get back--52 work days that I could have spent grading, creating lessons, contacting parents, drinking coffee while listening to adult contemporary with my door closed....

Another way to look at it is 4 extra days of productivity a year. That may not seem like much, but to this teacher who is perpetually behind and overwhelmed, that's time I could really use.

Enter Google Classroom. The prospect of completely revamping my classroom is daunting. Too daunting to even consider at times. And sometimes students need to manipulate, fold, and sort, so I'm entertaining a hybrid model for next semester.

My students do interactive notebooks, and they will be virtual for the most part. I'm thinking a benefit here could come mainly for note-taking (oh, yes, and less time at the copier for me).

Google Classroom is changing the game for classrooms all around the world. Are you a teacher who's been asked to start using it in your classroom? Or maybe you're wanting to make the jump out of your own volition? Either way, this post will help you learn a little bit more about the pros and cons of using Google Classroom, as well as provide you with a free cheat sheet to help you get started.The entire point of interactive notebooks is for students to interact with the curriculum. I typically do cloze notes (fill-in-the-blank) on the left hand side of the page and have some type of student response on the right.

Virtually, the notes can be there already. Share the slide or slides with students through Google Classroom and they read and interact with the notes right there.

They can type text right into Google Slides, or move pieces around (great for categorizing) and submit their work virtually. They can keep it all in a folder in their Google Drive. I'll have them create a folder for World History and separate folders within that for each unit. Their notebook will be with them wherever they go.

A huge benefit I foresee is the ease of differentiating and classroom flipping. Students can take notes without the teacher, freeing you up for discussion and remediation with small groups.

Here's one response I've gotten from a survey I've taken about it so far: "I think it's best for the kids to keep hard copy interactive notebooks for their own notes and responses; however, Classroom creates a great place for organizing typed work, resource lists for research, discussions, and other activities."

I can see that. Interactive notebooks have been a game-changer in my classroom, and I'm reticent to give up the hard copies. That's one reason I am a little trepidatious about so many systems going 1:1.

But if it's happening, our goal should be to make it as interactive as possible. Here's how converting to Google Classroom format looks:
Google Classroom is changing the game for classrooms all around the world. Are you a teacher who's been asked to start using it in your classroom? Or maybe you're wanting to make the jump out of your own volition? Either way, this post will help you learn a little bit more about the pros and cons of using Google Classroom, as well as provide you with a free cheat sheet to help you get started.
Get It HERE!


Google Classroom is changing the game for classrooms all around the world. Are you a teacher who's been asked to start using it in your classroom? Or maybe you're wanting to make the jump out of your own volition? Either way, this post will help you learn a little bit more about the pros and cons of using Google Classroom, as well as provide you with a free cheat sheet to help you get started.
Get it Here
Google Classroom is changing the game for classrooms all around the world. Are you a teacher who's been asked to start using it in your classroom? Or maybe you're wanting to make the jump out of your own volition? Either way, this post will help you learn a little bit more about the pros and cons of using Google Classroom, as well as provide you with a free cheat sheet to help you get started.
Get It HERE!
And finally, for those of you who are just so overwhelmed that you don't know where to begin, here's a quick Getting Started Tutorial. Check out the slideshow, and then download and print the PDF


***Tip: It's helpful to do a test run with a DEMO class. Ask a few students to join just so you can practice and see how everything works.***




Get a copy of the cheat sheet to print HERE, and good luck!

How do you feel about paperless classrooms? Leave a comment below to let me know.




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Thanks a million to Danielle Knight and all of her amazing Go Interactive help!
Mindsets in the classroom is a hot topic in education right now, with the growth mindset rapidly growing in popularity. I participated in a blog hop with a few blogger friends to discuss this book for teachers, and this post gives you an overview of what the author, Mary Cay Ricci, discussed in Chapter 3. It's all about differentiation and provides for concrete ways to differentiate to help grow and support student mindsets.Reading Mindsets in the Classroom: Building a Culture of Success and Student Achievement in Schools, by Mary Cay Ricci, has got my head spinning. I'm reeling trying to think of ways that I can implement some of the great ideas in my own classroom.

I hope my pondering benefits you--later in the post, I have a free formative assessment printable and a differentiated planning map.

I'm afraid that many of my students suffer under the cloud of deficit thinking. Deficit thinking involves educators making assumptions about them based on their race, low income status, or English language acquisition. I hope I don't do that.

The trouble with deficit thinking is that students begin the internalize and reflect those attitudes. This leads to underachievement and failure.

So mindset is incredibly important to student success. My friend Brigid at Math Giraffe discusses chapter 1, which is all about fixed and growth mindsets, HERE. A fascinating take-away is the plasticity of IQ. Chapter 2, discussed by my friend Ellie at Middle School Math Moments, suggests ways to build a growth mindset at your school. Read about it HERE.

Chapter 3 is all about differentiation. Ricci argues that a growth mindset cannot be achieved without differentiation. And that makes sense. If you do not meet students where they are in order to guide them higher, they will not grow. It's the proverbial, "You have to learn to crawl before you learn to walk."

Ricci suggests taking the following steps to differentiate your classroom:

1. Preview and Pre-assess
2. Implement Flexible Grouping
3. Use Formative Assessment
4. Use Relevant Summative Assessment

Preview and Pre-assess

Mindsets in the classroom is a hot topic in education right now, with the growth mindset rapidly growing in popularity. I participated in a blog hop with a few blogger friends to discuss this book for teachers, and this post gives you an overview of what the author, Mary Cay Ricci, discussed in Chapter 3. It's all about differentiation and provides for concrete ways to differentiate to help grow and support student mindsets.Of course, you must pre-assess in order to truly differentiate, but Ricci recommends previewing the material first. She recommends spending 5 minutes or less going over the material in order to activate the students' background knowledge. Show a short film clip, read a brief article, ask a few questions, work a few problems on the board, etc. This may be all some students need to learn (or recall) the skill or content.

Once background knowledge is activated, it's time to pre-assess. Ricci recommends variety here. Use words, pictures, read the directions aloud.... 

She warns against assigning an arbitrary number for mastery (85%, say) because that is meaningless. Instead, perhaps make a chart, color-coding each question that represents a specific skill or difficulty level. If questions 1, 9, and 10 deal with factoring, for example, make their columns all blue on the chart. If questions 4 and 6 are higher-level application questions, color them green. 

You will then be able to group the students according to what they need to work on. That leads us to the next step.

Implement Flexible Grouping

This is when you will use the data from the pre-assessment to group students with similar needs for your unit or topic together. Each group will work on what they need to work on. Some will need quite a bit of remediation. Others will already basically know the material, while others will fall somewhere in the middle.

This process will require curriculum compacting--that is, eliminating previously learned content for the students who already know it.This will allow them to dig deeper or move on. Ricci advises "adding a thin layer of enrichment" for students who appear ready to move on just to be certain. That is, ask them to analyze or apply a concept to be sure they truly understand it.

She also recommends anchor activities (though not busy work--enrichment) for early finishers so that you are free to work with other groups. I have some ideas for implementing stations as anchors in the secondary classroom HERE.

Mindsets in the classroom is a hot topic in education right now, with the growth mindset rapidly growing in popularity. I participated in a blog hop with a few blogger friends to discuss this book for teachers, and this post gives you an overview of what the author, Mary Cay Ricci, discussed in Chapter 3. It's all about differentiation and provides for concrete ways to differentiate to help grow and support student mindsets.
Get It HERE

Use Formative Assessment

Check for understanding often. This can be in the form of oral or written questioning, exit tickets, observation, 3-2-1 (3 things I've learned, 2 things I have questions about, and 1 thing I want to learn more about).

Grades for formative assessment should only be for completion. Grading formative assessment for accuracy turns it into summative assessment and negates the point. Correct it. Hand it back. Go over it.

Download one of my free formative assessment exit tickets HERE.


Use Relevant Summative Assessment

In a truly differentiated classroom, each group will not have the same assessment because each group will be learning differently. The assessment should match the learning that has taken place and challenge students appropriately.

Summative assessment need not be a test. It can be a project or a product--just be sure to offer choices on these because you want to be sure to assess the content or skills they are learning and not something else (for example, you don't want to assess their art abilities when you are trying to assess their knowledge of WWII).

The Take-Away

So that's the gist of chapter 3--it's all about front-end differentiating, which begins by assessing students where they are from the moment they walk through the door. Here's a quick visual for lesson planning to build a classroom culture of success:

Mindsets in the classroom is a hot topic in education right now, with the growth mindset rapidly growing in popularity. I participated in a blog hop with a few blogger friends to discuss this book for teachers, and this post gives you an overview of what the author, Mary Cay Ricci, discussed in Chapter 3. It's all about differentiation and provides for concrete ways to differentiate to help grow and support student mindsets.

Check Out the Next Chapter
I am really learning a lot from this book. Hop on over to my friend Andrea's site, Musings of a History Gal to check out the next chapter--coming next Monday!

What do you think about the book? How do you try to build a mindset of success and achievement in your classroom? Let me know in the comments!

Although Thanksgiving often brings it about, we should take time to consider what we're thankful for many times throughout the year. What am I thankful for? Teachers Pay Teachers. During a rough time in our lives, Teachers Pay Teachers came through to help us get through that financial tough spot--and it involved me getting over my mindset that all teachers should share everything freely.
We have a lot to be thankful for around here. My husband and I are employed (I almost said gainfully, but we are, after all, teachers :)). We just had a week off complete with perpetual turkey coma in the form of an obscene amount of leftovers. We have three more weeks of work, and then we get two weeks off. I'm feeling pretty much like this is the life.

Of course, all you teachers know the truth--the time off is spectacular, but it's seldom restful. There is just so much to do.

There are lessons to plan, papers to grade, turkeys to baste, children with projects to complete ("How long did you know about that one?" I never get a straight answer...).

Okay, so these are first world problems, but it is true that a teacher's job (like a parent's) is never done. So we all know that teacher-parents don't sleep.

One thing I had to admit I was thankful for this Thanksgiving (aside from the obvious family, friends, and job) is the internet.

It saves time. If you taught back in the day, you know this. You either had to create everything from scratch, or you had to order pricey materials through the mail. Now you can google a topic and free lessons pop up.

Or you can get high-quality, professional items at a very reasonable price on websites like Teachers Pay Teachers.

I know some people scoff at websites like this. "Teachers should share freely," they say. "Absolutely," I reply. And we all do. There are thousands of great free items on Teachers Pay Teachers. We pass papers back and forth in the copy room at work completely free of charge.

But if sharing freely applies to teachers, who put hours and hours into creating resources for their classrooms, then it should apply to the giant publishing houses, as well. So where's my free curriculum from them? :)

A year and a half ago, my husband had been out of work for awhile. We were barely scraping by (this is not a sob story--we have it way better than so many--but it is a tale about how we got by, so read on if you're interested, but skip to the free item at the bottom if you're not).

I was tutoring (and house-cleaning) to supplement our income (my husband waited tables), and it helped, but I was NEVER home for our son, so I had to start turning down jobs. We were cutting it so close every month that I would break into a cold sweat at the check out line in the grocery store, counting in my mind what I could put back if we came up short (bananas are an extravagance, and for that matter, so is meat--dried beans are highly nutritious--they went up a quarter--WHAT!!!). There was a lot of hair pulling, coupon-clipping, and bargaining with the electric company and bank.

One day, I did come up short at the grocery store check out. I put back juice, a box of cereal, ground beef, and bananas, and my debit card went through. I was leaving the store when one of the bag boys came up to me with the groceries I had put back. I was dumbfounded and more than a little embarrassed.

"That lady got your groceries," he said.

I looked over and saw a little old lady with white hair wave at me. I choked back a sob, held my head high, told her thank you, and that I would pay it forward.

My mom, an elementary school parapro, told me that a lot of teachers at her school use a website called Teachers Pay Teachers, and why didn't I try to sell some of my lessons on it? I was reticent to charge for things that I had been told I should be sharing freely, though.

But I had spent hours and hours and many a sleepless night working on these lessons. Why shouldn't my family benefit from them?

So I opened a store on TPT, uploaded lessons, and for the next year, while my husband was still looking for work, we didn't get rich, not at all (and I'm a very private person, so I cringe to type this--we lost our house), but we got by. And I no longer break into a cold sweat at the grocery store.

I hated going through it, but there are worse things to go through. So much worse. I always read Dave Ramsey, budgeted, saved, clipped coupons, drove cars until the doors fell off. And then that frustrating few years when my husband just couldn't find work, and my teacher's salary just couldn't support us--we both felt so guilty about not being able to stay afloat and about asking for help.

Selling my lessons got us through it. We lost a house, but we have each other, and we ate.

And I like to think that maybe my lessons have helped another teacher.

I know other teacher's lessons have helped me. Here's the first lesson I ever bought on TPT. I was in a bind and needed something last minute for a sub. A teacher made it, so it was incredibly practical and easy for a sub to implement. And it let me be mommy to a sick kid.

The other day, I was in the grocery check out when a lady's card was declined. I reached into my purse, took out my card, and started to hand it to the cashier when the lady said, "Wait, try this one." And it went through.

So I'm still waiting to pay it forward, but until then, here's a free world history project for all of the teachers that, as a parent, I am very grateful for. And my store (and most stores on TPT will be 28% off on the 30th and the 1st--just use the coupon code SMILE at checkout).

World War II Battle Project
Get it HERE
Have a very happy return to school, and remember...

Winter holidays are coming.
What are you thankful for this holiday season? Leave a comment below to let me know.


Every day is normal until it isn't. When I look back on my life, every shocking and horrifying event (both in the world and in my personal life, though both are linked) has occurred on a sunny morning or evening as I was going about business as usual.

Today, work was exhausting. I had three stressors outside of the usual suspects--first, it was Friday the 13th, second, my students gleefully skipped off to the computer lab to complete a survey over my performance, and third, the Thanksgiving holiday is right around the corner.

I went home, sat down on the couch, and promptly fell asleep. My husband woke me around 6 P.M. to tell me that Paris was in the middle of a horrific attack.

I did what most people do in 2015--I turned on the news, and I opened my Twitter feed. I watched the situation unfold with horror. I feel terrible for all of the people touched by this. I feel terrible for the people in Lebanon and Syria. But I have to admit--I am concerned about a similar situation occurring here in the U.S. I'm sure my students are, too.

Terror targets in the past have been largely aimed at institutions such as the World Trade Center. This is a new form of terror--a highly coordinated simultaneous attack on multiple soft targets. A restaurant, a football stadium, a concert hall....

Parisians out enjoying a beautiful Friday night that was barely becoming Saturday morning, and now 149 of them (so far) have been counted dead.

My students will want (need, even) to discuss this. Here are the issues I'm considering surrounding a classroom discussion on Monday:

1. Why it is necessary to discuss it in the first place
2. How to approach it compassionately (as opposed to sensationally)
3. Questioning our responsibility as global citizens in incidents like this

Why it is Necessary to Discuss it in the First Place

Our students will be aware of it. They may be afraid that it will happen here. Perhaps they have no one at home to discuss it with. I don't think we need to lie to them and tell them that it's not possible for it to happen here, but they do need to understand that security measures are in place.

They also need to understand the dangers of buying into extremist ideology. Soft target attacks (against public places such as malls, restaurants, and theaters) will probably come from citizens with easy access to these places who have been indoctrinated by extremists. Being aware that it is possible to be indoctrinated in the first place may make them more vigilant.

How to Approach it Compassionately

The people who endured this atrocity deserve our attention. They just do. These people were going about their business on a normal Friday evening, and their lives were changed irrevocably in an instant. Death, PTSD, loved ones gone forever....And all for what? So that indoctrinated, misguided terrorists could prove a point?

Another issue that I can foresee with my students is stereotyping. The majority of my students identify as Christian, but we have students and citizens in our community who identify as Muslim. Our Christian and Muslim citizens are largely good people who contribute much to our community.

I know my students. I know that several will blame the attacks on Muslims--they will generalize and stereotype. I will begin our discussion by simply telling them not to do that.

I'll open the discussion with an analogy that has been effective with my students in the past. I'll simply say this, "If you ask somebody who's in the Ku Klux Klan what their religion is, they'll say Christianity. All people in the KKK identify as Christian, but not all Christians are in the KKK. If you ask somebody in ISIS what their religion is, they'll say Islam. All people in ISIS identify as Muslim, but not all Muslims are in ISIS."

A final issue to discuss in the way of compassion is this--bombing, nuking, or boots on the ground in Syria and elsewhere means the death of innocent people, too. People like us. People like those in Paris who were slaughtered tonight.

Questioning Our Responsibility as Global Citizens

The mere fact that attacks probably connected to ISIS (though not definitely) occurred in Paris and were targeted at civilians on a Friday night is indicative that we are global. What happens in Paris concerns us. What happens in Lebanon concerns us. What happens in Burma, China, the Sudan, and Canada concerns us. We are all culpable for how we respond to it.

Remember the Nuremberg Trials. Remember the Armenians. Remember Bosnia, Rwanda, and Darfur. Consider the implication of the Paris attacks to all of the Syrian refugees. We have a responsibility as global citizens to speak out against wrong wherever it occurs in the world and to consider its human implications.

Our students, then, need to be aware of what is happening in the world--not just knowing what is happening, but understanding what is happening and in that understanding, being mindful of the consequences of our response. And of being participants in it.

My friend Andrea from Musings of a History Gal has compiled some excellent resources to help you provide context while addressing this difficult topic with your classes.
Click Here for the Resources
How will you address events in Paris with your students? Let me know in the comments.

I wrote this post on Friday night, horrified, while watching the events in Paris unfold. I had forgotten that the Secondary Smorgasbord link-up for this month was all about creating a global classroom. I had intended to participate, but my topic was radically different.

Here are some great posts from other teacher-bloggers discussing creating a global classroom--more relevant now than ever. Thanks to Pamela and Darlene Anne for organizing. 

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Vocabulary review is not the most riveting activity; we all know that--and so do our students. This is where Quizlet comes to the rescue to make it more fun. I describe three different, engaging, and useful ways that you can use Quizlet to review vocabulary for upcoming assessments in this post.
Today, in my psychology class, I knew the students needed a vocabulary review--their blank stares when I started talking vocabulary gave it away.

I didn't want to do anything too major, as we had a lesson to get to, but they have a quiz coming up, and it was painfully obvious that no one had studied. This is where I find quizlet.com a valuable resource.

At the beginning of every unit, I give students a unit organizer with a list of topics we will be covering, a url, and a qr code to that particular unit's vocabulary list on quizlet, and I print a list of their vocabulary words and definitions on the back.

They have no excuse not to have been studying already, but when has that ever stopped a teenager (or me, for that matter)?

So, we took out our phones, got on quizlet, and got to studying. There are so many quick and effective ways to use quizlet in the classroom when your students need a review (or when you need to fill up a few minutes). Here are my three favorite ways.
Vocabulary review is not the most riveting activity; we all know that--and so do our students. This is where Quizlet comes to the rescue to make it more fun. I describe three different, engaging, and useful ways that you can use Quizlet to review vocabulary for upcoming assessments in this post.


Vocabulary review is not the most riveting activity; we all know that--and so do our students. This is where Quizlet comes to the rescue to make it more fun. I describe three different, engaging, and useful ways that you can use Quizlet to review vocabulary for upcoming assessments in this post.  My students sit at tables, so they're already in teams, but you can group students into teams of four to make this work. If you don't have mini whiteboards (which are super cheap to get cut up at Home Depot), they can use paper.

Click on the flashcard mode in quizlet. Set it so that the definition appears first. The first team that raises the correct word on their whiteboard after you show the definition, and say, "GO!" gets a point. When you've gone through the entire set, the team with the most points wins.

Vocabulary review is not the most riveting activity; we all know that--and so do our students. This is where Quizlet comes to the rescue to make it more fun. I describe three different, engaging, and useful ways that you can use Quizlet to review vocabulary for upcoming assessments in this post. Scatter and Space Race in quizlet are two games that are easy and that the students enjoy. They like to take a break and play these on their phones anyway, but if you have a smart board, use it to challenge students to beat your time.

Play one of the games for the students, and quizlet will mark your time. Invite volunteers to come up and beat your time. Dangle a prize in front of them if somebody beats you, like a no homework night.

Vocabulary review is not the most riveting activity; we all know that--and so do our students. This is where Quizlet comes to the rescue to make it more fun. I describe three different, engaging, and useful ways that you can use Quizlet to review vocabulary for upcoming assessments in this post. There are two ways that I implement this. One is that I ask the students to generate a test on quizlet and to show me their score when they complete it. Then they review the words that they missed in flashcard mode (quizlet is really cool because it will generate flashcards of the ones the students missed only.

Sometimes, for a particularly difficult vocabulary unit, I'll generate a test on quizlet, print it, and give it to the students as a pre-test. I'll play billboard hits from the 1990s and 2000s (a spoonful of sugar) and have them take the test.

After a specified amount of time (I let them know it's getting close by saying, "one more song"), project the key on the board in PowerPoint. Instruct them to mark the ones they missed with an X and to write the correct answer off to the side.

Vocabulary review is not the most riveting activity; we all know that--and so do our students. This is where Quizlet comes to the rescue to make it more fun. I describe three different, engaging, and useful ways that you can use Quizlet to review vocabulary for upcoming assessments in this post.Vocabulary review is not the most riveting activity; we all know that--and so do our students. This is where Quizlet comes to the rescue to make it more fun. I describe three different, engaging, and useful ways that you can use Quizlet to review vocabulary for upcoming assessments in this post.I take a screenshot of the score key from Easy Grader, and put it in the PowerPoint, but it works just as well to project it directly from the website. With the screenshot, though, you can save it for future uses.

The students see what their score would be if they took a quiz on that day. You can carry it a step further by giving them index cards and instructing them to create flash cards of the ones they missed.


Student burnout is as real an issue as teacher burnout is. What can we do to help our students feel less overwhelmed and to make their school work seem more manageable? I describe the system I tried in my class and why I think it's an important structure for students to have.
I have been shaking my head over test and quiz scores here in the second 9 weeks of the term. I had been so proud of my students for working really hard and doing so well during the first 9 weeks that the past two weeks of indifference I’ve encountered have caught me off guard. (I’m writing this with three full stacks of ungraded papers next to me, so it looks like I’m guilty, as well).

I’ve been trying to think of reasons this may be, and I’ve come up with a few.
Student burnout is as real an issue as teacher burnout is. What can we do to help our students feel less overwhelmed and to make their school work seem more manageable? I describe the system I tried in my class and why I think it's an important structure for students to have.
So how do we re-ignite the flames of the first few weeks of school? I think if being overwhelmed is an issue, then making the students mindful of the implications of their daily choices and showing them how to prioritize is a good start.

Student burnout is as real an issue as teacher burnout is. What can we do to help our students feel less overwhelmed and to make their school work seem more manageable? I describe the system I tried in my class and why I think it's an important structure for students to have.Case in point, today I was feeling overwhelmed. My initial reaction was to sit on the couch, watch T.V., and feel sorry for myself. But I got up. My family and I cleaned the house. I washed my car and went for an oil change. I worked on my next interactive notebook. I’m writing this post. On Sunday, I will have a grading party (I will eat copious amounts of Halloween candy and plow through those papers).

My surroundings are uncluttered, my car is taken care of, I’ve ticked one more item off of the huge interactive notebook list, and I know I’ll feel better once those papers are marked.

I think that’s what’s going on with my students right now. Their list is long and they don’t know where to begin, so they do what I wanted to do (fight or flight—I’m a natural runner) and give up. Too many small things to do on a consistent basis leads to procrastination, which leads to feeling overwhelmed, which leads to burnout.

How I'm Trying To Help


So I’m trying an experiment. I’ll ask my students to make a list of all that they have to do at home for my class for the next week. They will list how much time they will spend on each task and how they will reward themselves when finished. 

The reward is key because even though their long term tasks are not finished, their task toward completing them for the day is. The reward signals that the day's work is over, and it's time to relax. It will give them a sense of accomplishment. Accomplishment=Empowerment. Empowerment makes burnout less likely.

We’ll talk about how it’s going, and I’ll see if they want one for each of their classes. They can put the list in the front pocket of their class notebook.

Here is a checklist template and example that you can download HERE.
Student burnout is as real an issue as teacher burnout is. What can we do to help our students feel less overwhelmed and to make their school work seem more manageable? I describe the system I tried in my class and why I think it's an important structure for students to have.

Student burnout is as real an issue as teacher burnout is. What can we do to help our students feel less overwhelmed and to make their school work seem more manageable? I describe the system I tried in my class and why I think it's an important structure for students to have.

This is not a new idea, but so many of our students don’t do it. As a consequence, they forget homework/studying or just skip it because they have a vague sense that it’s just too much, or it’s not due for a few days, so why bother? If they see what they have to do listed before them and see that they don’t have to finish it all at once—just work on a little at a time—it becomes more manageable. When they check it off, they’re done for the day. Slow and steady wins the race.

I think that we often overload our students with work, but many of them don’t have the tools/skills/mindset to see it through. They give up. Maybe if we spent some time helping them with time-management and study skills, this would change.


What do you think? How do you help your students through “burnout”? Leave a comment below, and let me know!

Stick around and check out these posts!

5 Alternatives to Lecture
Read or Bookmark
Dealing with Difficult Students: What to Do When Nothing Works
Read or Bookmark
Use Short Discussion to Teach Reasoning
Read or Bookmark








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Halloween tends to be a crazy day in most schools, and many teachers shy away from the craziness. But, why not embrace it? Your students will enjoy having fun, and you can still do content-based activities that have a Halloween theme! In this post I share more of my reasoning behind why I embrace the festivity and a recipe for pumpkin spice lattes that you can make for your class.
This week, I'm linking up with the teachers at Secondary Smorgasbord to offer treats for teachers.Thanks to ELA Buffet and Desktop Learning Adventures for hosting!

When I was a grad student, I remember saying, "I don't think it's right to give the students candy. Knowledge should be the reward, and sugar's bad. Motivation should be intrinsic."

I know--at 22, I had ideals.

So what changed? I feel like I do still have ideals, but the classroom trenches give me a new perspective, and I realize something extraordinarily important--students LOVE candy.

Case in point. I have an exchange student from Kazakhstan who does not approve of the American diet. Everything is unhealthy. But she LOVES the jolly ranchers that I keep in a jar on my desk. As a matter of fact, she asks for one (or five) everyday.

Who doesn't love a treat?

Not a soul in my most difficult class is failing so far this semester, and because of it, they are getting a "Colombian Exchange" party this Friday. We're having pizza, cookies, and chips, oh my! (My 22 year-old self is shaking her head in indignation--at least it's connected to our current unit.)

But the students are happy, and their hard work is rewarded. And my life is made easier (small [k, HUGE] bonus).

Little treats add fun to life, and why should that be a bad thing? Everything in moderation--both sugar and hard work. But life needs some of each. So why not embrace the holidays instead of ignoring them? The students are excited, anyway. Why not channel that excitement into learning opportunities?

So for Halloween, instead of keeping calm, I'm embracing the festivity. I'm making pumpkin lattes, crock pot-style. We're going to play Halloween games (content-based, of course--learning Mary Poppins-style with "a spoonful of sugar"). I have some content-based Halloween activities for world history and sociology, and I'm working on one for psychology that should be a lot of fun (check them out here).

But here is a treat for you this Halloween--a free game that can be used with content for any subject:
Halloween tends to be a crazy day in most schools, and many teachers shy away from the craziness. But, why not embrace it? Your students will enjoy having fun, and you can still do content-based activities that have a Halloween theme! In this post I share more of my reasoning behind why I embrace the festivity and a recipe for pumpkin spice lattes that you can make for your class.
Grab it HERE!
And here's that pumpkin latte recipe--it's vital that you top it with whipped cream and cinnamon.

Halloween tends to be a crazy day in most schools, and many teachers shy away from the craziness. But, why not embrace it? Your students will enjoy having fun, and you can still do content-based activities that have a Halloween theme! In this post I share more of my reasoning behind why I embrace the festivity and a recipe for pumpkin spice lattes that you can make for your class.
Picture this in fine paper cups....
-9 cups milk (I use 2%)
-7 cups coffee (brewed double-strength)
-1 cup sugar
-1 & 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
-2 tablespoons vanilla
-1 cup canned pumpkin

Mix it all together in a large crock pot, cook on high for 2 hours, and then set to "keep warm."





Looking for more teacher-treats this Halloween? Check out these great posts from the Secondary Smorgasbord teachers. Be sure to let me know how you'll handle Halloween in the comments below!

Halloween tends to be a crazy day in most schools, and many teachers shy away from the craziness. But, why not embrace it? Your students will enjoy having fun, and you can still do content-based activities that have a Halloween theme! In this post I share more of my reasoning behind why I embrace the festivity and a recipe for pumpkin spice lattes that you can make for your class.



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Reviewing and studying are important skills in the classroom. As much as we love to use games to do those things, sometimes we have classes that just can't handle it. In those instances I recommend a collaborative review strategy called "Make Your Own Test." Check out why I started using this and how I utilize it in my classroom.
I love playing games. My husband and I enjoy everything from Trivial Pursuit and Scrabble to more esoteric resource and strategy games like Seven Wonders and Game of Thrones.

I bring a lot of games into my classroom. I've written about some of them here. I love it when classes can learn and review that way because it truly is fun.

But I, like many of you, I'm sure, spend August through May embedded in the trenches of the secondary classroom. From that perspective, what works always trumps the ideal. There are some classes that don't handle games very well. We've all been there.

Right? (Please tell me that it's not just me). Does any of this sound familiar?

- Student A attacks student B for missing an answer.
- Student C tells Student D to "Shut the *@## up!" because you said the game would have to stop if they couldn't play nice.
- Student F refuses to play because he doesn't care.
- Student G refuses to play because she's afraid of looking stupid.
Reviewing and studying are important skills in the classroom. As much as we love to use games to do those things, sometimes we have classes that just can't handle it. In those instances I recommend a collaborative review strategy called "Make Your Own Test." Check out why I started using this and how I utilize it in my classroom.
This is what it looks like.
There are multiple reasons games may not work. So how do you provide effective and engaging review without engaging in competition for students who just can't seem to handle it?

One strategy that I've found useful is to have the students create their own test using their unit materials.

Remember way back when we were students? Our teachers had no idea what study guides were. A strategy some of us would use to try to guess what might show up on that elusive entity called "the test" was to create our own test. That always worked very well for me.
Reviewing and studying are important skills in the classroom. As much as we love to use games to do those things, sometimes we have classes that just can't handle it. In those instances I recommend a collaborative review strategy called "Make Your Own Test." Check out why I started using this and how I utilize it in my classroom.
How I got to school....
I don't see many of my students doing this on their own at my suggestion, so sometimes, I devote class time for it.

I'll divide the class into small groups of two or three, divide the unit into chunks (if it's a big unit), and make each group responsible for test questions for their section.

I give them a template that they can write their questions on so that there is no mistake about what I expect, and an answer key template for the same reason. They label their test and answer key--"Test 1," "Test 2," "Test 3," etc.... I find that students will take as long on a task as you give them, so I limit them to around 30 minutes to create their tests.
Reviewing and studying are important skills in the classroom. As much as we love to use games to do those things, sometimes we have classes that just can't handle it. In those instances I recommend a collaborative review strategy called "Make Your Own Test." Check out why I started using this and how I utilize it in my classroom.
Get the template for free HERE


The next day, I set up as many stations around the room as I have tests. The students rotate in their groups, answering the questions on an answer sheet provided at each station. They may collaborate on answers in their small groups (Here's how that works). They should put their answer sheets in a folder at the station when they finish and rotate to the next station.

When everybody's finished, the group that created each test will take the folder of answer sheets from their station and use their key to grade them. Then each group should go over the answers with the class.

I even pull a question or two from each group test to use on our unit test--the students love seeing their questions validated in that way.

Roll with the punches and keep heart. The students are watching. :)

How do you review without competition? Leave a comment below to let me know!

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