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Friday, May 30, 2014

Which of these things are not like the others

The end is near ... I have asked for students to start returning books. Every few years I have a book or two that is returned in less than perfect shape.  But this is a first.

I had a student whose house caught fire.  

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Papers to Grade and Graded Papers

I hate paper. And I want to have a paperless classroom ... one day.  Until then I have found that color coding my classes is the easiest was for me to keep up with their paperwork.  I teach 6 periods a day so red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple covers all my classes.  

I have a set of cheap black trays.  I cut strips of colored paper, laminated the strips and threaded the paper through the openings.

Back in the day I bought cheaper paper folders, and replaced them every year.  Then I finally found plastic folders in every color and have had them several years without needing to replace them.

At one point I kept a print out of a spread sheet to record grades on in each folder, this year I printed grade sheets on colored papers and they started out the year in my teacher binder, but ended up in a folder behind my desk.

I only use the pockets of the folders.  When I am on top of things, I take papers out of the trays daily and paper clip them together (I typically grade once a week).

I keep the folders in my desk drawer in hanging file folders.  And I can just open the drawer and drop random paper into the appropriate folders. 

I also have cheap cardboard magazine holders that I use to store graded papers.      I used the same strips of colored papers and adhered them with packing tape that covered the entire strip of paper (to prevent the paper from fading quickly). 

I don't spend class time passing back papers typically.  Of course if we need to talk about tests or quizzes, we will use class time for those assignments, but most of the time I store the papers until one week past report cards then I recycle everything.  

Most information I feel my student need to keep are part of their interactive notebooks, and AP kids have to keep up with everything.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Ceiling tiles

I have always wanted to paint the ceiling tiles in my room. What I move buildings or districts? Do I really want to buy ceiling tiles to paint?  So I put that idea on the back burner.

Then the art teacher started having students paint on cardboard and inserting those under the ceiling tiles.  That great!  But do you know how hard it is to find good piece of cardboard that are two feet by two feet.  Back burner.

Then the Spanish teacher had his students creating ceiling tiles on paper and stapling their creations to the back of the ceiling tiles (the staples fall out of the front). So, off the back burner!

Last year I created my "class 14.0" end of the year project.  And this year the tradition continued with "class 15.0."  As part of the project ceiling tiles were a requirement for the Biology classes, and were an option for the AP Biology class. 

I tell the kids to think of the ceiling tiles as a big cheat sheet.  But I think if content surrounds the kids then surely something will stick.

I have all my kids use white paper and markers.  I feel like I am closed in with colored paper, and I make them draw everything themselves - no printing things out for their poster.

The students who finished their projects first were in charge of putting the ceiling tiles up.  They used safety glasses to protect themselves from the dust and dead crickets.  And they created a pattern by using every other tile.  Sometimes the lights and wifi made this complicated but they did a great job.

Several other teachers at our school are using the ceiling tile project as well. And my sister who works in another district had her kids create ceiling tiles this year in her history classroom.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Cleaning up

I am not the biggest neat freak, but coming into my room and finding this mess gets under my skin. 

This bothers me for several reasons: 
1)This mess wasn't even made by my students but by the students of three other teacher's kids who needed to share the template (tape on the floor). 

2) Look a how they are cutting the paper ... Who doesn't line up the edge of the paper with the edge of the template?  This was probably the biggest reasons for my "friendly" reminder. 

3) This mess occurred during the week that my air conditioner was broken.  My room was 84 degrees and we were displaced. My students were working independently on projects and I had hopes of starting my end of the year clean up and check lists...

Okay, so this may not be the nicest way someone could have asked kids to clean up after themselves, but it is the nicest way I could ask at this point. 

This is going to be a permanent sign in my room next year.  I am so tired of the kids adding to my mess.  I am even considering turning the last few minutes of every class into a cleaning frenzy, where the students pick up books, markets, paper, straighten composition books, etc up, and maybe I could clean off my desk ... maybe.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Learning Inference

As a social studies teacher, my life revolves around dates, places, and events. I also have to help my students to use the knowledge of the dates, places, and events to apply to political cartoons, excerpts, and diagrams/maps/charts. The skill of inferring is a very hard thing to teach to juniors in high school who do not always want to think deeply about anything, especially boring US History. My EOC/STAAR test is almost 60% inference questions. 

My students had a really hard time deciphering the cartoons, excerpts, and diagrams on the benchmark, so I had some work to do. I went through the test and identified all of the inference questions. I then passed back the tests and the students went through their missed inference questions. For every question missed, the students had to rewrite the question and the answer choices. A fabulous thing occurred when the students slowed down and actually looked at the graphic and read the questions and answers; many of the students were amazed they actually knew the right answer. For the questions that still did not make sense, the class as a whole worked out the problem together.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Zip Ties

For years I have had wire organizers from Target.  I love them ... but sometimes I hate them.  

I love them because they are cheap, colorful, they can be taken apart to store them at the end of the year, and they even fit below the board.  

But ... sometimes ... they fall apart.  This could be for many reasons.  Sometimes I don't take the time to make sure the corners are perfect.  Sometimes students throw their notebooks in ... Or sit on them, or body slam their friend on them ... in a gentle, loving way. 

But I have solved the poor installation problem.  I reinforce all edges with zip ties!  This idea came after creating a new place for my paper (copy paper, notebook paper, card stock, colored paper and scrapbook paper).  I think I saw the paper storage on Pinterest.  You can add shelves any where you have a horizontal bar to zip tie to the new shelf. I cut the zip ties short once I am done.

Disclaimer: I do tend to make piles of papers on top of my shelving unit.  I am sure you will not do this.  I am sure your room is spotless, and you won't fall into the traps that get me every day!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Teacher Appreciation Day/Week

If you are thinking of becoming a teacher and are imaging a slew of homemade gifts, baked goodies, a few gift cards, flowers, or anything of the sort ... teach elementary school.  Oh the tales I have heard.  Elementary school children bringing gifts everyday this week.  Lists are sent home with categories of gifts to bring each day, along with lists of the teacher's preferences for each of those categories ...

But we teach high school.  The local grocery store brought in cookies on Tuesday.  The principal brought breakfast today.  The students ... Every teacher got an unsigned thank you card from leadership class or Friends of Rachel (I assume).  And this year I had a kid bring me a Hershey bar.  That's the first time I remember getting a teacher appreciation gift from a student.

Am I really sad?  No.  I have been loving some if the posts from elementary teachers.  If you need a good laugh check out:

To all my fellow high school teachers, happy teacher appreciation.  All your students love you, even if they don't know it!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Text and Email Reminders for Students & Parents

Remind101 is one of my favorite finds.  A fellow teacher brought this one to me.  Remind101 is a free site and an app that allows teachers to send out text or email reminders to parents and/or students without exchange of phone numbers.

So, how does this magic happen?  Once you set up your account (again - it's free), you can print out a sheet similar to this:

I have this information posted in my room, on my webpage, and I have printouts for Meet the Teacher Night. I do not require my students or parents to sign up for it, but I encourage it. The great part of this site is that I can text students without them having my number and without me having theirs.  Most reminders I send out are at student's request.  "Can you send us a reminder for that?"

Thankfully, there  is an option to schedule the reminders to go out later in the day.  If you are super-organized you could set all reminders up at the beginning of the week.  I usually have enough room in my brain to do this the first three weeks of school, then I rely on student requests.

There is a new option to send reminders out to single students or small groups of students of your choosing.  I am careful with this.  I think there are lines of appropriateness that should not be crossed, and I don't want to venture anywhere near those lines.  I can easily send out a reminder that says "A few of you still need to turn in ..." and it is just as effective.  It is not possible for students or parents to reply or for you to receive messages from this program, which I also like.

Apps are available on the iPhone and iPad and possibly on other devices. The app makes it easy to send reminders if your computer is being used for something that is difficult to interrupt or if you need to send a reminder while waiting in line at the grocery store.  I have been using remind101 for a few years and it  is a consistently used tool in my classroom.