Monday, April 27, 2015

Spring Survival Tip #4: Make Grades the Star

I'm coming at you with spring survival tip #4, which is all about keeping grades front and center. If you work with secondary students, like I do, then this is especially important, because students don't want to have to take courses again. So, I'm sharing my best AND easiest tips on grading at the end of the year and for making students away of their grades in your class. Click through to read!Three more Mondays and nineteen more days to go until eight weeks of summer bliss. My students are counting down, I'm counting down, and I'm sure you're counting down. I started my Spring Survival tips series with nine weeks to go. You can catch up on them here--#9, #8, #7, #6, and #5.

Today was particularly tough, especially with the seniors. They are ready to be out and get on with their lives. Often (especially here at the end) they have to be reminded that they need to do something in order for that to happen.

As a matter of fact, even my most apathetic students don't actually want to fail (they may say that they do, but they really don't want to have to take the course again).

So that brings me to Spring Survival Tip #4:

Make Grades the Star

I don't mean bog yourself down with endless papers--we're just as exhausted as the students. But with kids, if something's not right in front of them, they often don't think about it.

And guess what's always right in front of them? Yeah, their phones.

Stick a print out of their grades in front of them instead. Let them see how much those zeros matter.

When I give a mini-lecture with cloze notes, while they're working on a group or independent activity, I walk around the room and initial their cloze notes. As they finish the activity, I walk around and initial that (my students do interactive notebooks, so I don't take up many daily work papers). 

If it's a pair-share or a "hold up your whiteboard activity," etc., I mark down whoever isn't participating. Then I decide which grade I'm going to count for the day.

The next day, while they're working on their bellringers, I tell them to open their notebooks to the page I am counting. If it has my initial on it, I tick it off on the grade sheet I keep on a clipboard. Participation grade--instant accountability.

The strange thing is, they really want the initial and the credit. I've found that it motivates them more than an open-note quiz ("I don't have to take the notes--I'll remember everything").

There are high-tech ways to do this, of course, Class Dojo, Nearpod.... But we don't always have access to these things. And I give quizzes and tests and try to vary my forms of assessment, but for an easy way to keep them on track, an immediate initial, check off, and into the grade book works great in my classes.

They need to know that these last few weeks count. If I don't check them off--they check themselves out.

How do you motivate your students to complete their assignments at the end of the year? Leave a comment below to let me know!

Also, be sure to check back in next week for Spring Survival Tip #3.



Thanks a million to Jewel Pastor and KG Fonts for the fonts, and to Free Your Heart for the star paper!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Spring Survival Tip #5: Have a Gallery Walk

Have you heard of a gallery walk? That's my fifth spring survival tip! Have your students help you post information around the classroom, and then have your students rotate from one poster, chart paper, or trifold to the next. It gets them moving and keeps them engaged, so click through to learn more about it.
These last few weeks of school are brutal--for us and the students. They don't want to be there, and we don't want to fight for their attention.

If you've been following my blog for the past few weeks, you know I've been counting down to summer break with spring survival tips. If you haven't, feel free to check out tips #9, #8, #7, and #6. Just click on the numbers to read what you missed.

All caught up? Good...Now you're ready for spring survival tip #5....

Have a Gallery Walk

This is a particularly difficult time of year. Remember the first few days of school when you could talk and talk, and the students would listen? Those days are rapidly fading from my memory as the end approaches.

We have to keep on, though, don't we? There's still more to teach. So. Much. More.

But why force-feed the curriculum if we don't have to? And we don't have to...most of the time.

I used to think that the only way for them to "get" what they needed to know was for me to tell them. And that works sometimes. Yet, at the end of the year, I find that they just don't listen. They may act like they do. But they don't.

That's where a gallery walk really helps. With a gallery walk, they can tell each other.

So try assigning students a task--it can be a well-planned-out project that they research and put onto decorated trifolds, or it can be a series of task cards, split-up, that they place the answers for around the room on chart paper. 

Either way--give students a task. Have them post information around the room, turn the students loose to rotate and take notes from the chart paper/ posters/trifolds. Then give them a quiz from their notes.

You work less-they're engaged more. It's a win-win.

At the end of the year, this is what they want, and what you need.

Be sure to check out my FREE Culture Gallery Walk HERE.
How do you keep your students engaged and yourself sane at the end of the year? Leave a comment below, and let me know!

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Monday, April 13, 2015

Spring Survival Tip # 6: Make Your Classroom Manageable with Class Dojo

Ready for spring survival tip #6? You hear a lot about Class Dojo at the elementary level, but what about for secondary students? I don't recommend it for all secondary, but I firmly believe - and have experienced - in its success with students up to 10th grade. Learn how I used Class Dojo with high school students in this post!I currently teach 10th -12th grade but I've also taught 9th graders and middle school, and really, there is very little difference between a 10th grader and an 8th grader.

Let me set the scene. It's a warm spring afternoon 30 minutes before the bell. The flowers are in bloom, the windows are open, and you're trying to deliver a mini-lecture (poor-planning at the end of the day, but, hey, sometimes you just have to do it).

Students are surreptitiously glancing at their laps (hmmm...surely they're not texting), looking at the clock, and waiting for you to turn around so they can throw an eraser at a classmate.

At that very moment, the groundskeeper decides to prune the hedges right outside your window with a noisy electric clipper. Heads whip toward the window. Then one student, followed by another, and yet another, gets up to check it out.

"Sit down!" you snap.

The students look at you like you're speaking Latin. Then they start with the excuses. By the time they sit back down and you have their attention (sort of), the afternoon announcements begin.

So, tell me, did this scene take place in a high school or a middle school classroom?

It's happened to me in both.

It's nearly impossible to stop scenes like this during the last six weeks of school, but who wants to put up with them for thirty days?

Which leads me to...

Spring survival Tip # 6: Make Your Classroom Manageable with Class Dojo.

Ready for spring survival tip #6? You hear a lot about Class Dojo at the elementary level, but what about for secondary students? I don't recommend it for all secondary, but I firmly believe - and have experienced - in its success with students up to 10th grade. Learn how I used Class Dojo with high school students in this post!

I don't see my seniors going for this, but sophomores and under...definitely.

Class Dojo is a website and app that enables you to give students immediate feedback during tasks. You can give students awards and sanctions (points awarded and deducted), and they
get the feedback immediately.

You can also send individual and group messages to parents and generate and print student progress in Exel.

Class Dojo is a good tool for tracking data and holding students accountable--especially at the end of the year. Think about it--There can be individual and class rewards for a certain number of points earned at the end of the week. It's something fun for them to work for. And it might just compel them to pay attention in the process.

How do you make your classroom manageable toward the end of the year? Leave a comment below to let me know!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

What Really Matters

When it comes down to it, a lot of instructional time is lost to standardized testing, snow days, assemblies, and all sorts of other events. How do we fit in all the curriculum? How do we know what really matters? I'm sharing the three things that really matter to me and my students' instruction in this post, and I hope those three ideas inspire you, too.

I was, oh, so young 13 years ago when I first started teaching--I didn't realize how young. My parents would be quick to say that I still don't realize how young I am. But my son--he thinks I'm old. So do my students.

So, when I first started teaching, I was going to change to world. I was an English teacher. I was there to teach students to analyze, to write, to think.

And I was on a crusade. They will learn--truly learn--on my watch.

But then reality set in. I started teaching world history and was horrified to hear the guys brag about how quickly they could run through the curriculum.

"Oh," I said one year later. "That's how."

The standards...the tests...the interruptions...oh, my.

Barring snow days and assemblies, there is still not enough time to teach the history of the world in 18 weeks.

Content does, in fact, matter, and in this day and age of standardized testing, it matters more than ever. There are materials that we simply have to cover.

But where is the time? And how do we pick what to dwell on and what to let go? Every teacher must come to a point when they have to decide what really matters. I'm on a journey, and don't pretend to have all the answers, but at this point in my career, these are the things that matter most to me.

When it comes down to it, a lot of instructional time is lost to standardized testing, snow days, assemblies, and all sorts of other events. How do we fit in all the curriculum? How do we know what really matters? I'm sharing the three things that really matter to me and my students' instruction in this post, and I hope those three ideas inspire you, too.
Thanks to Jackie in Room 213 for hosting this secondary link-up!

What Matters Most (to me)?

1. Instilling a LOVE of History. There's no trick here, but if students get as excited about history as I do, perhaps they will dig deeper and continue to learn, even after the semester is over.

History is stories. It's people--their daily lives, their ideas, their creations. So I try not to approach it from a kings and wars, names and dates angle. I use a cultural approach that you can read about HERE that helps present a whole, relevant picture of history.

Which leads me to....

2. Making History RELEVANT. We may not have time to discuss every little thing that I or the standards consider important, but I make a conscious effort to connect what we do learn to their lives--to current events that are occurring today.

For example, if we're studying a unit on the Enlightenment and Revolutions, students will find news articles about revolutions that have occurred within the past year, and find a connection between those revolutions and the ones we are studying. I have a handout, rubric, and example of this that you can get HERE.

And finally...

3. Approach the Course with a THESIS. A thesis for the course brings unity and purpose. It helps me avoid the pitfall in history education of just throwing a bunch of facts at the students.

My world history thesis? Change is a constant force in the world. We trace the force of change as a progression toward democracy and equality. We see disruptive forces in that change, but ultimately conclude that if we are to see the progression through, positive change doesn't come in large, political strokes, but from the actions of individuals.

We begin the course with the story of the Hebrews and Israel. Diaspora is a theme throughout the course. The last lesson that I teach as of this post is of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. It seems insurmountable. So little progress has been made politically. But then I show them this clip from the documentary Heart of Jenin.

It's the story of a 12 year old Palestinian boy killed by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank. Instead of calling for vengeance, the father of that boy donates his son's organs to children in need throughout Israel. The documentary is the story of his journey to meet the children who are alive because of his son's death.

I try to avoid telling my students what to think. But it's my hope that they conclude that positive change in the world occurs through the decisions and actions of individuals just like them--not through kings and wars.

Which leads me to what really matters--that my students learn to take evidence, draw their own conclusions, and ultimately become positive actors in the continuing story of our world.

How do you teach what really matters? Leave a comment below and let me know.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Six Paid Products For Free and a Sale!

It's sad to see this heady month of basketball madness draw to a close. It was a great month. My Alma Mater got knocked out, but that chair sure went viral. "The Chair" was hands-down my favorite moment this March. Way to go, Panthers! And a genuine tip of the hat to Duke.

March Madness might be over, but we want to celebrate a little longer! We've made six paid products FREE for you, and we're running a sale! Check out this collaborative effort from a few secondary sellers.
CLICK HERE to grab free goods!
In their honor, and in the honor of the hard work from each of the teams and the entertainment it brought us, the group at Tools for Teaching Teens is offering six of our paid products for free on April 8th and 9th. CLICK HERE to grab them now.

Don't worry if you missed downloading our six freebies in the original "March Mayhem" bundle--they'll be back to stay on April 10.

But we're not ready to stop celebrating--in addition to offering paid products for free, each of the Tools for Teaching Teens teachers is throwing a sale on April 8th and 9th. Products in our stores will be up to 20% off!


March Madness might be over, but we want to celebrate a little longer! We've made six paid products FREE for you, and we're running a sale! Check out this collaborative effort from a few secondary sellers.
March Madness might be over, but we want to celebrate a little longer! We've made six paid products FREE for you, and we're running a sale! Check out this collaborative effort from a few secondary sellers.
CLICK HERE to visit our stores.

Be sure to follow our Pinterest Board for more Tools for Teaching Teens!

March Madness might be over, but we want to celebrate a little longer! We've made six paid products FREE for you, and we're running a sale! Check out this collaborative effort from a few secondary sellers.
CLICK HERE to check it out.


What was your favorite moment in this crazy month of college basketball? Leave a comment below to let me know! And be sure to check back next Monday when I resume my countdown to summer break with Spring Survival Tip #6.