Monday, December 11, 2017

Classroom Management Series: Teaching Expectations After the Year has Started

Are you looking for some time-tested, evidence-based ways to enhance your classroom management?  Would you like to reinforce your existing classroom management techniques or start over from scratch?  Then my post on enforcing expectations after the year has started is for you!



Classroom Management Series: Teaching Expectations After the Year has Started




This is the first post in my Classroom Management Series, so I wanted to tackle something that I hear about a lot from ALL teachers, whether they are seasoned or brand new:

  • How do I reinforce my classroom expectations midway through the year?
  • Can I wipe the slate clean and start over if things aren't going well?

Let me share my strategies/answers to these questions with you!

Strategy #1: Start the New Quarter Like it's a New Year
I’ve had veteran teachers tell me they start off new grading periods and returns from breaks as “first days of school.”  There are several reasons why this is ideal:
  • Even the most well-behaved classes need a refresher course on behavior expectations after holiday breaks or report cards.
  • This is the perfect time to throw out any procedures that aren't working for you or your class.
  • Seasoned teachers know that they can change, reset, and modify expectations ANY time.  
New Quarter Actionable Tip 1: Give Reflection Surveys
Give an end of quarter reflection/survey so you can gather some information from them and then implement changes based upon the results.

Reflection survey questions should be specific to what happened in the past quarter:
How do you feel about your performance and what can you improve?
What is one thing you would like to see different in the new quarter?

New Quarter Actionable Tip 2:  Create a New Classroom Constitution
Liken the need to revamp expectations to amending the Constitution. Not everything works how you'd thought!

Create a new class constitution based on what worked/didn't work.The responses to your reflection survey can guide this process.   You might ask students to write what success looks like in class, how the teacher should communicate success, and what rewards and consequences they would prefer. Together, you can then write out an agreement that is signed by the students, parents, and teacher.

New Quarter Actionable Tip #3: Choose the Top Three Problems and Explicitly Teach/Reteach Your Procedures for Dealing With These Problems
One of the most important classroom procedures that I rely on constantly is SLANT. When I say “SLANT”, students know to close their devices, put their pencils down, stop talking, and look at me. 

Below is an example  SLANT poster from Whooo’s Ready to Teach? blog.




Strategy #2: Be Honest About What Went Wrong
If you started off too nice, just be honest with them. The conversation might go something like this:
"I am concerned that the original management plan isn't working. Students aren't in the right position to be the best learners they could be and we need to change some things to help you be more successful." Then, implement the new rules.


Strategy #3: Talk to Your Colleagues 
It might be time to involve your grade-level counterparts to come up with expectations, consequences, and incentives for the entire grade level.  The new quarter is a great time to introduce these.


Strategy #4:  Keep Building Relationships With Students 
Nothing helps to manage a classroom more than talking to kids one on one privately, encouraging them to step up and be a leader and extricate themselves from the talkers and disrupters, in conjunction with a classroom plan. It helps them know you care too.


Strategy #5: New Seating Chart 
You know the allies and axis now.  Reward the Middle, replace the distractions

Seating Chart Actionable Tip 1: Seat Students in a Boy-Girl Pattern
While this might seem counter intuitive, especially in middle or high school, it really does cut down on the talking. 

Seating Chart Actionable Tip 2: Change the Desk Arrangement 
If the problem is too much taking, try rows or a horseshoe setup.  If you need to encourage talking, try pods of 3-4. 


Strategy #6: Reach Out to Parents
Start by identifying three students in each class who are the most disruptive, call their parents and tell them what's going on, and ask how you can work with them to improve their child’s' behavior and attitude. If need be, focus on three more kids whose parents need to be contacted.


Join me next time, when I continue my behavior management series with "How to be a Leader, Not a Boss".






Monday, December 4, 2017

Grading Smarter Not Harder Series: Technology

Are you looking for an easier way to grade that accurately reflects the student’s knowledge?  Would you like to streamline the process with technology?  Then this post is for you!


This is the fifth, and final, post of the series based on the book Grading Smarter Not Harder by Myron Dueck.  If you missed them, make sure you read:
Grading Smarter Not Harder: Overview
Grading Smarter Not Harder: Homework
Grading Smarter Not Harder Series: Retesting and a FREEBIE
Grading Smarter Not Harder Series: Grading Creative Projects


Grading Smarter Not Harder Series: Technology



In this post, I am focusing on using technology to engage and assess students.


Reasons to use technology in the classroom:

Reason #1: It speaks students' language.
They are already using their phones to take and share pictures. Why not make that an educational experience?

Reason #2: Students think more critically when they are in their own environment.
They are going to be more willing to learn when they have prior knowledge.  Asking them to go out into their community or home to gather information increases their comfort level. 



What are some ways to use technology for learning and assessments?


Digital Photos

Have students collect photos that demonstrate a certain concept you are teaching and send them to you. 
For example, if we are discussing photosynthesis, students might take pictures of leaves in different stages of photosynthesis in the Fall (green, yellow, brown) and share them via Google Slides with captions. 


Use PowerPoint or Google Slides to Create Thought Bubbles. 
I like to find a picture of a scene we are talking about that day and add blank thought bubbles and have the students fill in what they think is going on in their minds in the picture. It adds some humor to the lesson!



Grading Smarter Not Harder Series: Technology


Videos


Edpuzzle
Reasons EdPuzzle is a great tech resource: 

  • You can use any YouTube video and build a quiz into it. 
  • You can use the cut tool to snip any unwanted parts from the video. 
  • You can use multiple choice and free-response type questions.  
  • You can connect it to Google Classroom for easy/automatic assessment.
  • Multiple choice questions are graded automatically. 
  • Depending on your county's internet security measures, putting a YouTube video in EdPuzzle will sometimes circumvent the problem of blocked YouTube videos. 
  • If students fail the assessment, they can reset and watch it again.






Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Students can not edit their responses.
  • Students need to watch the video until the end or it will not show up as complete.  
  • If you have multiple “correct answers” students must select all to get it “correct”.  A way to fix this is to give any opinion questions a short-answer format.
  • Short-Answer questions are not automatically graded.  The teacher must read through those.



WatchKnowLearn

Grading Smarter Not Harder Series: Technology

Since these videos are uploaded by educators, they have already been scrutinized for things like educational content and video quality.  You can search through the thousands of videos by subject, grade level, and age.


Apps/Websites

Recommended by Dueck, this website allows students to capture photos and videos and then use slow motion, arrows, lines, and commentary to analyze them, much like a sports caster or meteorologist would.  They can email or share these commentaries with the teacher for immediate feedback or give classroom presentations. 

Another website recommended by Dueck, this one allows “users to capture good examples against which students can compare their own work (e.g., speeches by Martin Luther King Jr. for a unit on public speaking).”  This can also be sent electronically for feedback/grading. 



Grading
Grade these photos, videos, and online assignments based on a rubric, which you would hand out before the assignment and/or post online. The rubric assigns point values for finding and representing specific concepts, such as key vocabulary, and can include additional questions to be answered or textbook pages to reference for help. 



Online Document Management Systems
There are several reasons to use these:

They give immediate feedback/grades, which can be used to plan future instruction. No more waiting for days after giving an assessment to grade it and then figure out if you need to reteach information. 

These systems quickly and accurately measure and compare the results. 

Students often have their own devices on which they can take these assessments. 

Teachers create formative assessments with multiple formats (multiple-choice, essay, true/false, etc.) and students access the assessments when the teacher shares the web link with them. 

This website allows teachers to create online multiple-choice or fill-in-the-blank assessments and grades the test as soon as students finish it. 



Which of these technologies are you currently using or plan to use in your classroom?  I'd love to hear all about it!






Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Grading Smarter Not Harder Series: Grading Creative Projects

Are you looking for an easier way to grade creative projects?  Do you want to assign a grade to these projects that accurately reflects the student’s knowledge?  Then this post is for you!


This is the fourth post of the series based on the book Grading Smarter Not Harder by Myron Dueck.  If you missed them, make sure you read:
Grading Smarter Not Harder: Overview
Grading Smarter Not Harder: Homework
Grading Smarter Not Harder Series: Retesting and a FREEBIE


Grading Smarter Not Harder Series: Grading Creative Projects



Today’s topic is grading creative projects. I used to cringe when I thought of the countless hours I would spend grading the projects, not to mention the fact that I wouldn’t be able to tell if a student truly understood the concepts until after they turned in the final draft. 


The take-away concept from the book is this:  Students learn more when they know what the end expectation is

Actionable Tip:  Provide students with the following things at the beginning of a unit, chapter, or project:

  • Rubrics
  • Study guides
  • Unit outlines / syllabi 
  • Goal statements


I use Choice Boards like the one below as the goal statement, outline, and grading sheet. Once I started doing this, life became so much easier. 



With this one sheet, the student knows what is expected (how to get an A with the points), can choose how they want to demonstrate their knowledge, and I grade the project as it progresses so that we are both invested in making it the best it can be.







You can learn more about how I use Choice Boards for differentiating instruction in this post.


Be sure to join me next week for my final post of the series: Using technology to Grade Smarter Not Harder!




Monday, November 27, 2017

Cyber Monday Sale!!!

TpT is hosting a 2-Day Cyber Monday Sale to help teachers head into the holiday season feeling inspired, confident, and prepared. 


Cyber Monday Teachers pay Teachers Sale


I will be offering a discount of 20% AND TpT will provide an additional 5% promo code to be used during checkout.  That means you will get a total of 25% off EVERYTHING in my store

The sale starts TODAY, August 1st at 12:01 a.m. ET and runs through Tuesday, November 28th at 11:59 p.m. ET. 






Monday, November 20, 2017

Grading Smarter Not Harder Series: Retesting and a FREEBIE

Have you been searching for a way to motivate even the most resistant students to complete their work?  How about ways to lessen your grading load and make the process quicker?  If so, this is the series of blog posts for you!

This is the third post of the series based on the book Grading Smarter Not Harder by Myron Dueck.  If you missed them, make sure you read:
Grading Smarter Not Harder: Overview
Grading Smarter Not Harder: Homework


Grading Smarter Not Harder Series: Retesting and a FREEBIE



In this post, I wanted to focus on one main concept:  We can close the achievement gap with retesting. Why?  Because students learn more from correcting their mistakes (test corrections or retakes) and they retain the information longer. 


Here are the steps to take to maximize the effectiveness of retesting:

1.  Have the student fill out a test tracking sheet.  
A crucial part of the tracking sheet is to have them think about what they will do to prepare for the retest.  Taking another test without doing any new preparation for it is a waste of time and energy. 

I created a FREE "Request to Retest" resource for this purpose. CLICK HERE to download this FREEBIE. 






2.  Choose whether the student needs to retake the original test in its entirety, only the parts they got wrong, or an entirely new test.  

3.  Decide whether the retest will count for whole or partial points

Things to consider before implementing retesting:
Will you offer it to ALL students, regardless of how high they scored on the test?  
What about students scoring an A?

Will you allow retesting on quizzes?

Will you allow oral quizzing?
In this alternative to paper-pencil tests, students can use any resources they want to correct their answers. When they have the new answer, they come up to the teacher to explain their evidence. Teachers can then ask other questions to see if students really have a better understanding.

How will you deter students from not preparing for the initial test just because they know they can retest?

  • Let students know that they can reduce the amount if work and preparation if they fully prepare for the first test
  • Change the format of the retest so that the initial test is more user-friendly. For example, the original test might be multiple-choice, while the retest is fill-in-the-blank or short answer.  
  • Average the two test grades together.  
    • Alternatively, you can keep the higher of the two scores. This is especially useful when you're giving a different testing format on the second test. Sometimes it's the format, not the knowledge, that throws a student off.
  • Use the “I Know I am Close” multiple choice testing format
    • This allows students to choose two answers from the choices provided on the test and still get credit as long as one of them is correct. The catch:  The student must provide an explanation of why their choices were “close”.  Dueck recommends limiting this type of option to five questions per test and reminding students that they will receive either full, half, or no points depending on the extent of their explanation.  This approach can also be used to differentiate for special needs, such as ESL and nervous test-takers. 


Be sure to join me next week for my post on Grading Creative Projects!







Monday, November 13, 2017

Grading Smarter Not Harder Series: Homework

Have you been searching for a way to motivate even the most resistant students to complete their work?  How about ways to lessen your grading load and make the process quicker?  If so, this is the series of blog posts for you!

This is the second post of the series based on the book Grading Smarter Not Harder by Myron Dueck. 

If you missed the first post, which highlights the main ideas and possible solutions in the book, please read it by clicking here.


Grading Smarter Not Harder Series: Motivating students to complete homework and lessening the grading load for the teacher




There are so many great suggestions in this book.  In this second post, I wanted to focus on motivating students to complete homework and how to lessen the grading workload for teachers.


First, I'd like to share my own hard-learned lessons about students' homework completion:  

Don’t take it personally if students don’t complete their homework on time.
It often comes down to home life, ability, and yes, motivation. If home life and ability prevent homework completion, then we must provide the motivation at school. 

Don’t assume a zero is “teaching the student a lesson”.
The goal is to get the student to complete it and be enriched by the experience. A zero in the grade book isn’t achieving either of those things. 

Most students want to make their teachers happy, even if they don’t complete their homework. So giving punishments or shaming them for not completing it only stresses both parties out. 



Now, here are the great ideas for homework motivation from Grading Smarter Not Harder:


1.  Offer homework-completion time before or after school. 

2.  Cross-Age Mentoring:  
This support is done within the school. It pairs older students with younger/struggling ones to help with assignment completion. 

3.  Grade level teacher group support:  
This can be a "lunch bunch" during which the teacher(s) manage a homework-completion group one day a week. Make a simple rotation schedule so students know which subject is available on which day of the week. I.e., math with Ms. Myers on Monday. 

4.  In-school suspension to get help from teachers. 
This can include an established homework-completion room during lunch. 

5.  Free tutoring from students needing community hours.  
In my area, the Key Club high school students tutor at the library each week. 


Be sure to come back next week to read my post on closing the achievement gap with retesting!










Monday, November 6, 2017

Grading Smarter Not Harder Series

Have you been searching for a way to motivate even the most resistant students to complete their work?  How about ways to lessen your grading load and make the process quicker?  If so, this is the series of blog posts for you!

This is the first post of the series based on the book Grading Smarter Not Harder by Myron Dueck.

Grading Smarter Not Harder Series and a FREEBIE: Beg, Borrow, and Teach!


There are so many great suggestions in this book.  In this first post, I just wanted to give a summary of all those suggestions and some actionable tips.


Some ideas in the book that really got me thinking:


Idea #1: Assignments that are late or not turned in on time should not automatically receive a score reduction or zero. 
The chronic procrastinators and students who happily take the zero over doing the work are the students who need to complete the work. They have missed so many learning opportunities because (if we're being honest) it's easier for them not do the work and it's less work for the teacher to give a zero. 

Actionable Tip:  Give a time "span" in which something is due
I.e., If next Friday is the due date, students can turn it in "early" on Wednesday. Watch positive peer pressure kick in when you compliment the early-finishers. Alternatively, you could offer extra credit for turning it in early. 



Idea #2:  Students shouldn't receive a grade on their report card if they have not completed all/most of the assigned work for that time period.

Actionable Tip: Students should receive an "Incomplete" until the work has been made up.  The idea of giving an incomplete on a report card both intrigued and bothered me. I wasn't so sure my school or district would support this because they set fairly strict grading windows in which we have to enter report card grades.


Idea #3:  Students learn more when they know what the end expectation is

Actionable Tip:  Provide students with the following things at the beginning of a unit, chapter, or project:

  • Rubrics
  • Study guides
  • Unit outlines / syllabi 
  • Goal statements


Idea #4:  We can close the achievement gap with retesting. 

Actionable Tip:  Students learn more from correcting their mistakes (test corrections or retakes) and they retain the information longer. 




Come back next week for the post on motivating students to complete homework and how the grading load can be lessened!