If you missed it, don’t fear! We’re sharing all the materials below so you can learn how to prepare for your first week of school with students.
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We’re sharing templates and downloadable materials for both elementary and secondary teachers.
- PowerPoint Slides from the Webinar (PPT)
- Elementary First 5 Days Template (PDF)
- First Week Book – English (PPT)
- First Week Book (PPT)
- Scavenger Hunt High School (PNG)
- Scavenger Hunt Middle School (PNG)
- Secondary First 5 Days template (PDF)
- Water experiments (PPT)
- Seating Chart Blank (PDF)
- Seating Chart Example (PDF)
- SYLLABUS TIPS (PDF)
- Syllabus v5 (PDF)
- Teaching Transitions for Elementary Classrooms
- Website Tutorial
- Welcome Mixer
Check out these three great reading resources to build a love of reading and help struggling readers in all grade levels.
In this three-part series, literacy experts David Liben and David D. Paige introduce the elements of reading fluency and explain how to assess and build reading fluency skills in students across grades. You will be introduced to free fluency resources, and receive step-by-step instructions and rubrics to help you assess students’ fluency levels and determine interventions.
In classrooms where students have a wide range of reading abilities, it can be daunting to introduce a grade-level complex text. Carefully chosen scaffolding techniques can help. Have you considered reformatting a text to add visual cues? Do you number the lines of the texts you use? Have you ever annotated a text to help students watch for the big ideas? Check out this new this guide to learn about strategies to scaffold before, during, and after reading a complex text.
How do you choose the books you read? If you’re like us, you pick what interests you. Given the option, your students will do the same. Simple changes can transform your leveled library into a topic-based library that allows students to build knowledge, vocabulary, and a love of reading. Learn about the impressive impact these changes can have on student motivation and hear first-hand from a teacher about the difference she saw in her classroom.
Student Achievement Partners is are a non-profit organization with one purpose: to help all students and teachers see their hard work lead to greater student achievement.]]>
Creativity belongs everywhere, not just in childhood games and extracurriculars. It involves all of your senses and creates new knowledge that didn’t exist before. Students of all ages need to learn by creating – it helps to synthesize information and bring joy and meaning into their educational experience.
A few years ago, one of my colleagues in seventh-grade math adapted a textbook project for a unit on probability. The students created carnival games, calculated the probability of winning their own games, tested the games, and ran a carnival as a school fundraiser. This project became a school institution, and we continue to celebrate “pi day” every year with a schoolwide math carnival. Students put in many hours, both inside and outside of school, to work on their carnival games – beanbag tosses, ducks in a pool, spinners, computer games, and marble mazes lend themselves to creativity and rigorous thinking.
The students learn the fundamentals of probability, but they also work together to come up with correct pricing and prizes. They make their displays colorful and engaging. Many students work hard to make the games sturdy yet portable. The learning extends well beyond mathematics – students are empowered by the experience of presenting their games and then manning the booth and running the fundraiser. When students come back to visit me after they have left middle school, this is the project they talk about and remember.
This is just one example of how I’ve seen teachers use the power of creativity. My co-workers teach trigonometry by asking students to design a video game that shoots a bullet at certain angles. Students learned about Africa and economics by designing a transportation system that crosses the continent. And they learned about percents by creating a virtual store in the Scratch programming language. In each of these instances, the learning involved showing evidence of understanding a core concept, but extended well beyond that concept – design thinking, time management, teamwork, and presentation skills also came into play. A young person’s schooling should make creativity a priority – kids need it in order to synthesize their learning and enjoy doing it.
In addition to creating, students also need to share their ideas with the world. Open the doors to your classroom to host a parent night, invite other classes in to see yours, or bring in volunteers and community members. One exciting structure I’ve seen is a “Shark Tank” project, in which students investigate a problem, design an invention to solve the problem, and present their solution along with a business plan to “sharks” who are community members. The students love presenting to this authentic audience and having their projects scored by the sharks. Your students will learn to be leaders and ambassadors, and they’ll be the ones selling new educational ideas to your building leadership and school board.
Creating a project-based assessment can be intimidating. The most successful projects I’ve seen have very clear success criteria and learning objectives. Consider what evidence you would accept that would tell you the students learned a concept or skill. That evidence should be noticeable in the final project. Don’t constrain the project too much, however. Students should have freedom to display the evidence of learning in ways you might not anticipate. They should also have the ability to go above and beyond – you’ll be surprised at how many make that choice. Instead of asking students to create a house blueprint with your measurements and using your template, consider asking them to design a building, demonstrate that they understand the concepts of perimeter, area, and unit price, give them a few suggestions and then see what they come up with? They might create a skyscraper out of cardboard, 3-D print a house from TinkerCad or make one in Minecraft before tackling the math, and the math will be more meaningful in their own creation.
The most important reason to teach with creativity is one that is rarely assessed but is key to a child’s educational success: they’ll love school. Making things is joyful. Learning a new skill, collaborating and creating something meaningful is satisfying, happy work. Try committing to a creative project-based assessment for half of the units you teach. I tried this by incorporating computer coding projects into a middle school math class, and the days filled with coding were the most fun I’ve had as a teacher. Students spread out around the room, played with color and text and animation, learned math while socializing and high-fiving… and I loved my job that year. Every day, I looked forward to it. I finished each day happy and exhausted. You have a right to enjoy your job, and your students have a right to enjoy being at school. It is a worthy end in itself that does not have to be justified with test score improvements.
I entered my first interview and job with that belief never wavering. It didn’t matter to me that I had a job in a district that was considered a critical needs district. It didn’t matter to me that I was entering a district that was considered a failing district. It didn’t even matter to me that I had a classroom that didn’t have a bulletin board on the wall and the walls cried when it rained outside. I was going to change the world and I dared anyone to tell me that it couldn’t be done.
It was about 30 days into school when I started to waver in my belief. I put my all into teaching the 180 sixth grade minds that I was given. I was determined that they would show tremendous growth from the 5th grade Science test that they had taken the previous year. I was determined to show the naysayers that would tell me that Science isn’t a priority or that I was working too hard on a subject that wasn’t tested. It took about 30 days for their words to begin to crack my belief in not only myself, but in my students.
Every week we had objective tests to analyze how the students performed on the tested objective. The first few times my students didn’t do well on the analysis, I wrote it off. “They weren’t focused… they hadn’t understood the questions…the concept needed more than one week.” I was pulling excuses from everywhere to explain why my students weren’t growing.
So as I was looking for excuses, my principal was tired of taking excuses. She was looking for answers that I didn’t have and that’s when the “YOU” questions began. How are YOU teaching this objective? How are YOU assessing this objective? What do YOU feel contributed to the students not performing at 80% on this objective? How are YOU going to review, reteach, and retest this object?
Sitting in a data meeting with her as she asked me these questions, it hit me: “maybe I am not cut out to do this.” Maybe the problem isn’t the students, but it’s me. I was the problem and I didn’t know how I could fix me. It devastated me!
Teaching was all that I ever wanted to do and in my warped thinking I wasn’t a good teacher and this wasn’t for me. That realization made me sick to my stomach. I literally made myself sick to the point that I developed an ulcer. By Thanksgiving Break, I was prepared to give her my resignation.
As I sat in her office, I remember her asking me one important question, “ Do you believe in these kids”?
I replied instantly “Yes”! They are the reason I am leaving because they deserve a better teacher than me. Her words to me were “if you believe in these kids then you MUST believe in yourself because they draw from you.”
It’s like a light bulb came on and it exposed the mutualistic relationship that I had with my students. We needed each other and we influenced each other. The more I doubted myself, the more my belief in them wavered. There was a reason that their performance was dwindling. It was that my belief in myself was also dwindling.
Since that year, I have entered the classroom with the motto that WE are conquerors. My students and I are a unit. I am not out here solo because we have each others’ back. I believe in them because they believe in me.
Being a 21st-century educator is a tall order. In my 15 years in the classroom, my most important “helpers” are technology, movement, and networking. Here’s why.
1. Use technology to get students interested and involved.
I believe in the importance of face-to-face conversations, but for our students, technology is a major part of the way they communicate and learn. Why not use the mini-computers they carry with them?
I was taught early to make sure I call on all students daily. They like being recognized. Technology helps. Technology allows all students to have a voice and a chance to show what they know.
Here are my technology must-haves:
- Google Docs: Our school uses Google Docs, making it easy to share and collaborate with other teachers and students.
- TES teach with blendspace for lessons
- Quizlet and Kahoot to engage students in learning vocabulary.
- The Remind app to remind students of homework assignments. My students are turning in homework more than ever before! And having a class website makes it easy for my students to find important documents, rubrics, lessons, sites and projects.
Additionally, while using technology is a part of what we do, it shouldn’t be everything. I like using non-technology games from my teacher toolbox for vocabulary and sentence-building, and my students always enjoy it when I bring these games out from time to time. In fact, they’re always asking when we can play them again. It is important to have routines, but also to change things up now and again and have fun doing so with students. If we are excited about the lesson, students will be, too.
2. Movement: Know when to shake things up—literally.
Aside from being a language teacher, I am also a Zumba instructor. And since I teach music as part of the Spanish culture, I do “brain breaks” with simple dance moves for salsa, merengue, cumbia and more to get students out of a slump and get oxygen flowing to their brains.
3. Connect with others in our profession to stay encouraged.
Connecting with other educators to share and collaborate helps ensure our success. We can of course do this face to face or in curriculum groups, but we can also stay in touch via Twitter (you can reach me at Project Spotlight @edspotlightdiv or @MountainsTeresa) and other social networks.
I found that being involved in the Teacher Leadership Initiative this past year helped me connect with excellent teachers across my state and our nation. I also stepped up to take on more leadership in the Billings Education Association (I am a director at large), went to Jump Start training to start the process for National Board Certification and attended AP training for Spanish.
You are the company that you keep, so reach out to other like-minded professionals who are always learning and trying to stay positive.
The first couple of years for the 21st-century educator can be stressful, but also rewarding. Each year, you will get closer to becoming a master teacher. Always believe that each of your students can and will succeed. Best wishes in your teaching journey, for it truly is a calling.]]>
1. Conduct a student survey.
One great way to build connections with your students is to find out what they like and what they don’t. A student survey is a great tool to find out student expectations of the class, things they want to share with you, or even student concerns. When you ask for student feedback in your class, students will be more engaged and active participants because you listened to them.
One year, I conducted a survey in my second through fifth grade music classes to find out what one thing students wanted to learn in music. The student input ranged from learning to play guitar to learning how to produce digital music. That feedback helped me incorporate a variety of instructional goals, and students were more involved when we did activities that they suggested.
2. Establish clear and open communication.
Learning how to communicate with your students is valuable in letting them know that you are there not only to teach them, but to support them. Most students enter our classrooms having people always talking “at” them, but not “with’ them. To encourage open communication, it’s best to establish ground rules and then model that for the students.
My school implements Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) and during our music class procedures, we model how to speak and listen to each other. When students know they have a safe place in which to speak and be listened to, they will connect more deeply to the classroom culture.
3. See your students outside the classroom.
We know as educators that our students’ lives outside the classroom have an impact on who they are inside our classroom. With that in mind, it is important to take time to see your students outside the four walls of your classroom. One great way is to create a community calendar.
In the classroom, have a place where students can post important events that they are participating in throughout the year. This can include birthday parties, church plays, recreational league games and so much more. Taking some time to see your students in this light can give you a glimpse into their world and let them know that you care about what’s important to them. An added bonus is that you also get to build positive communication with parents as well! And in the event that you can’t attend an event, you can still use the information to build conversations with your students.
Implementing these strategies can truly transform your classroom culture. When you focus on understanding the full spectrum of your students’ needs, great strides in learning can take place.
You and your class set sail at the start of the school year, straight toward the idyll of learning, and now this journey is a mess! You’ve got disinterested sailors in the front row, a whirlpool of time-wasters in the corner, and an undisciplined crew in the back. Unless you can turn this ship around, these next few months are going to feel like you’re on the Titanic.
Take heart, Captain! It’s never too late to get your classroom’s compass oriented to N—for No Nonsense, kiddos. Your colleagues, many of them master navigators of the classroom, have plenty of time-tested, effective advice.
Be Direct and Talk with the Crew
“Every day is a new day,” says Peg Scholl, a Missouri second-grade teacher, who has calmly and capably captained her classroom for more than 30 years. Scholl, who also trains new teachers in her state’s I Can Do It! classroom management workshops, adds, “It’s never too late to change.”
While you may think you’re hearing a bit too much from some students, seemingly trying their worst to lure you onto the rocks, it might actually be helpful to have a frank conversation with the would-be Sirens.
“My very first year, I had exactly that [chaos]. I was unfamiliar with the school structure, unfamiliar with the curriculum, and part of it was that I wasn’t all that familiar with what middle school was like,” recalls Kate Ortiz, a retired Iowa teacher who has taught everything from K-6 to graduate school, including special education, and who also trained new colleagues in management techniques.
“I sat down with every class—all five sections—and said, ‘Things are not going well. Here are the things that I’m concerned about. And what I need to know are your suggestions for making things go better. Remember, our goal is to learn. I may not agree with every suggestion, but I will listen to them.'”
Dave Foley, a Michigan retiree, and author of Ultimate Classroom Control Handbook, also favors a direct approach. “I’ll say, ‘We’re having trouble getting some things done and we have some control issues, and I think I’m going to have to tighten things up.…Or I’ll sit down with the one kid and say, ‘You’re kind of making it difficult for me here. Is there anything I can do to help you to behave better?’ And you listen.”
Use Exit Cards and Surveys To Test the Waters
Ortiz calls it a “survey”: she asked students to write their responses to questions. What’s going right in this class? What’s something that should change (and how would you change it?) And “what else I want Mrs. Ortiz to know…” She reported the results to her students, as well as her responses. And she did these kinds of barometric measurements at least twice a year.
Jim Burke, a California high school teacher and author of The Teacher’s Essential Guide to Classroom Management, calls them “exit cards,” distributed at the end of a class period. He also uses them to give a constructive voice to his students.
“The classroom is a very complicated political space. You have kids, who, on the one hand, are supposed to be learning the skills and knowledge that they need to succeed in the adult world, independently. At the same time, they’re getting the message that they have no voice. ‘This is just the way it is. Sit down.'”
When the waters get rough, Burke uses the cards to gather anonymous suggestions on how to improve the class. “You have to be able to follow through,” Burke cautions. “If I do that, I’m going to come in the next day and say, ‘I got some good comments, I definitely appreciate that, a lot of you were saying this… and so we’re going to handle that another way.…’ It lets them see that you’re listening to them, and that you’re in it together.”
Recruit a Reliable First Mate
So you get the kids on board. But you also might need some adult help—a reliable Starbuck, so to speak. While many new teachers are assigned mentors, any teacher can (and should) ask for a colleague’s help. Vermont’s Kathy Buley, a longtime veteran of second grade, also leads training with her colleagues and says, “It always brings me back to the belief that it’s the shared colleagueship and ability to reflect on practice where we get solutions to our problems that we face daily.”
Specifically, it can be very helpful to have a colleague visit your classroom during their prep period, Ortiz suggests. Ortiz once observed a colleague whose classroom was “way out of control, all this talking out and talking back….I visited and said, ‘Here’s what I noticed: How do kids get your attention?’ And she said, ‘They come up to me, they tap me, they yell….’ ‘Well, how do you want them to get your attention?'”
“Sometimes, when we’re in the thick of it, we don’t notice what’s going on,” Ortiz notes. Videotaping yourself can help, too.
Burke also recommends visiting other teachers’ classrooms to see how they get things done. (Some good questions to ask yourself: How do they welcome students? Do their students start work immediately? What happens when students don’t ‘get it’?) In an extreme situation, you probably could convince your administrator to hire a substitute for you for the day.
Quick Strategies for Smoother Sailing
Other strategies to consider: Are all your pirates parked together, conspiring to hijack your class? Ortiz changed seat assignments monthly. “I don’t think it’s fair to make somebody sit next to the same person for the whole year,” she says. But changing seats—without setting behavior expectations, isn’t going to help much, she warns.
So consider writing a behavior contract with your students. And “with” is the key word in that last sentence. Make clear that there are rewards and punishments for their behavior, Foley advises. He used to take his best classes outside—what fun! Those kinds of rewards create positive peer pressure to behave.
And, of course, don’t forget parents. “Calling parents scares teachers—even ones who have been teaching for years! They can deal with the wildest kids in the class, but they’re nervous about calling parents,” Foley says. “Use the right words—say, ‘Can we work together on this, can we kind of team up?’ Very few parents will say they don’t want to work with you.”
The more allies you have on the high seas, the smoother your sailing will be.
- Six Classroom Management Tips Every Teacher Can Use
- Reclaim Your Game Before Teaching Gets Tougher
- How To Reflect and Recharge When Things Go Wrong
- Discipline Checklist: Transitions
- Using Visual Cues to Communicate and Give Directions
It’s making students feel safe in their learning and comfortable enough to take risks. Our lessons can go perfectly according to our plans or be a complete disaster, but none of that matters if students don’t feel comfortable.
What students will remember is how you made them feel, days and even years after the lessons are checked off.
Here are a few tips to creating a safe learning environment:
1. Use a Smile to Start the Day
Smile every day! It makes all the difference to students if you smile each morning. We don’t know how their morning was at home, or the night before. But we can set a positive tone to start their day by greeting them with a smile and handshake and telling them you are happy you are to see them.
They should know that when they step foot inside the four walls of their own classroom it is an environment they want to be in, they want to learn in and feel valued in.
2. Praise Effort, Not Correct Answers
Setting a tone of praising effort and thinking, instead of just correct answers, gives students the confidence they need to take risks. Effort creates ability. Instill in students a growth mindset; their brain is a muscle that stretches and grows with hard work and effort.
Avoid using straight feedback like: “you got it right.” Or “you got it wrong.” Instead try, “That was such a thoughtful response. I can see you are going to master this in no time.”
When this is the focus they won’t be snickering at other students when they are sharing or participating.
3. Build Relationships Over Time
Letting your students know that you genuinely care for them as a person creates n environment where they will thrive. Get to know your students — not just their reading level or test scores. Ask them to write about themselves, their hobbies, and their interests. Make time for the small conversations, which are the most meaningful to them. Listen to them – whole-heartedly! The deep listening that we expect of them should be reciprocated. The day gets busy, the lesson must get taught but those small moments can make all the difference.
There will be days where this will be more difficult than others. Just remember, it’s a marathon, not a race. Remember that you are giving it your all, and your spirit of generosity is sure to catch on with your students.
Have you heard flight attendants tell you to put the oxygen mask on yourself before your child? The same holds true when you practice self-care.
If you are tired, stressed and strung out on holiday cookies and candies (just me again?), stop and think about some alternatives. Here are a few relaxation tricks that work for me:
Sometimes you need to leave work at work and go to bed.
Can you go to bed at 5:30pm? If your body is exhausted and you need to go to bed, then go! If you turn off your phone, curl under the covers, grab the cat and sleep, your body will thank you for it. And when that means you can make it through 4th period without snapping, your students will thank you for it, too!
You can’t just eat cookies and candies and expect your brain to function. You need actual lunch. Actual dinner. Perhaps even at a table! (Yes, a coffee table totally counts.)
No time? No energy? No recipes? Here you go.
Will it take some prep-work on the front end? Yes, a little bit. Will it take some planning and freezer space? Yes, it will, but it will be worth it in the end! Can you imagine going to the teachers’ lounge and having actual FOOD to heat up for your lunch instead of a microwaveable Chef Boyardee or a bag of chips? Pure bliss.
(Looking for other recipes? Maybe not necessarily “clean” eating? Go to All Recipes and you can even do a search by ingredient! You can tell what ingredients you have, what you want to exclude, and it can even match a recipe with your paltry pantry contents the week before payday.)
Gym membership? Sure, if you can afford it. How about walking the school hallways during your prep period instead?
Immediately after school, before your IEP meeting? Do you have a colleague you can walk with? A little chat, a little stroll, a little re-centering goes a long way towards both mental and physical health this time of year.
Did you play volleyball or basketball when you were in school? Join an adult league at the Y or somewhere local! Students make you frustrated? Take a boxing, kickboxing, or martial arts class! Take out your frustrations and get ripped while doing it.
Are you not big on organized sports? Try a workout video. You can get them on Netflix, you know. Then you can work out in your very own home without anyone watching. (Except the cat. And he’s judging you. Ok, ok, I know this is just me. My cat is a brat.)
It is so important for teachers to take care of themselves. No matter your students’ ages, no matter your class size, no matter how cold it is outside, you MUST take care of you to best teach them.
You are valued, you are important, and you can make it until Christmas break!]]>