October 26

PWBs

So we all have Interactive White Boards now (IWBs) but at my school we are all using PWBs – Personal White Boards that is. Small whiteboards are part of many sessions, especially English and Mathematics. You can buy them in bulk from educational suppliers, or cheaply at dollar shops and department stores like Kmart.

My students, even though they are 11-12 year olds love using them, they are more keen to write on these than in their books (a pro and a con!). A quick glance around the room at what is on the whiteboards is a great assessment tool, and errors can be fixed easily without wrecking a page or paragraph in a book.

The cons are the constant buying of whiteboard pens, and of course training the students not to draw on them at the wrong time.

August 22

education.com

There are so many sites out there for teachers now, where you can download and upload everything and anything you’ll ever need as a teacher, from lesson plans, to posters, displays, games, worksheets, presentations and things to help with management and behaviour.

I have some favourites that I’ve used over the years, including enchanted learning, teach this, Sparklebox, TES Australia  and of course Teachers Pay Teachers. Some have account fees and membership deals, some have free membership or free limited membership, some you earn points to allow you to download.

A favourite at the moment is education.com (such a great domain name to snap up!)

The free membership account lets you download 10 single resources a month (not sets or booklets), which is a great way to trial the website out before signing up for a year or monthly membership with more features.

I really like that you can see a preview before you download the resource you want. Education.com has well-designed and interesting looking pages (nothing worse than downloading a document that you haven’t been allowed to preview only to find it is in size 10 Times New Roman font)

I’m a fan  (and have reached my 10 limits this month already!).

education 2 education

 

What are your favourite resource sites for teachers?

 

December 29

Teachers Pay Teachers

If you haven’t already visited this site I highly recommend it. Teachers pay Teachers is described as ‘An open marketplace for educators where teachers buy, sell and share original teaching resources’. Teachers and educators can set up an account and post products and digital files for others to buy.

Each user who sells an item receives a profit straight into their bank account.  The interface is easy to navigate, with many search options to help find what you need. Each item has a description, thumbnails so you can get some idea of what you are buying and a preview file. You can opt to make your product free too.

There are a lot of users on Teachers Pay Teachers who are making a small income through their site and many users are seeing the benefits in linking their TpT site with their blogs, twitter and Pinterest accounts too.

It’s great for finding colourful, useful classroom displays that other teachers have lovingly created when you simply don’t have time to construct them yourselves. And at only $2-$10 in price, its seems like such a bargain compared to paying four times that amount for commercially produced items. Not to mention feeling good that another teacher is receiving the payment. Those who work in the profession understand the lengths teachers go to with making and designing things for the classroom, so it’s nice to give something back to the educational community.

I hope to post a lot more items into my Teachers Pay Teachers store in 2013. Here are some of my items that are there already, with a link to TpT.

WALT and WILF - Cat and Dog Posters ‘Walt and Wilf’ Posters for Learning Intentions and Success Criteria  $2.00

Behavior TrainBehavior Train ‘Behaviour Train’ Classroom management system $4.00

Mr Edit and Friends - Editing Guide  ‘Mr Edit and Friends’  Posters to assist students with editing and proofreading $4.00

 

 

 

And here are some other great Teachers Pay Teachers stores!

‘Permanently Primary‘ by Sarah Kirby

‘From The Pond’ by an Australian teacher

‘Adrian Bruce’ by another fantastic Australian teacher and blogger

‘Fuglefun’ a great site for art resources.

 

 

September 18

Pinning My Way Into Teacher Heaven

I don’t know about you, but I am loving Pinterest. Originally I loved it for food, fashion, beauty, and then travel, interiors, craft and gardens.

Finally I started loving it for Education!

So many great ideas, endearing and enticing photos, links to all sorts of blogs and websites. Very helpful and inspiring!

I made a board for School Inspiration. With iPads now featured in many schools, the iPad links are great too. As we teachers get super busy during term I find I just pin stuff to my board and then later (usually in holidays!) I can go and search through them properly, click the links and actually take it all in.

Here are some great Education Pinterest boards:

Ipad App Ideas

Educational Ideas

Teaching Reading

 

Here are some of my favourite educational pins:

 

April 22

Box Full of Props

Out the front of my classroom I keep a box full of props, that I can reach and grab quickly. Over the years I’ve added some very valuable items (and replaced a few broken ones). The items in the box are great for lesson breaks, regaining attention, getting students moving, adding humour, refocusing students, or for organising. The items in the box (or plastic tub as you can see from the photos) that I use the most are:

Squishy, colourful, textured bouncy balls: Great in discussions, I throw the ball to anyone who wants to answer, they throw it back to me. The level of participation always jumps when I pull out the ball.

Wands / Pointers: Great for using with IWBs and boards, or as a talking stick. If it is to be given to the students ‘Who can come up and point to…’  I will get more volunteers for the task if it involves a wand etc!

Fly Swats: Stage Three love smacking the spelling list with the fly swats. As I have 3, it is a race. With younger classes their great for tapping sight words either on cards on the floor or on word walls. During news the speaker can use them like a pointer for questions. Basically I can use the fly swats as another wand.

Optical Illusions, Maths Challenge, Trivia card packs: Great to entertain and challenge the students who have already moved to the floor while others are still coming, usually hurries up a few too. Great as a lesson break or to fill in a minute or two.

Hollywood clapper, microphone: Great for drama, acting, readers theatre, role play

Puppets/ Stuffed animals: Used as characters who ‘teach’ with me, or for reward ‘Who gets to hold/sit with…’ or as a talking object in discussions or circle time. Or as my special ‘spy’ who will see who is listening and get some reward (table point, sticker, privilege etc)

Fancy glasses: Worn by me during oral reading, when reading a book to the class. Can be worn by students who are reading aloud, or during silent reading time as a reward.

A container of ‘manipulatives’: Stress balls, squishy balls, smooth pebbles, squishy finger puppets, wooden massage toys – anything textural that the students can hold or feel while listening. Great for any ADHD students, or anyone fidgeting or getting distracted. Sometimes I am targeting one student and giving out a manupulative, but give the whole container out (about eight) to other students (especially those who are listening well!) and after 5 minutes you pass your object to someone else. There are strict rules about these, you must hold it in one hand and still be listening (maintaining eye contact, not speaking etc) or you will lose your object.

 

With many objects you need to use them gradually, building up the repertoire of items and getting students used to how you as the teacher, or they will be using them. It’s amazing how one small object or toy, can completely change the dynamics of a lesson and re-energise the students.

With older students I have a tub on their desk groups too, with 2 stress balls, some of their books, novels they are reading, a pack for the leader (stickers etc) post it notes and mini notebooks. You have to really teach students how to treat these tubs, and the limits of using things, and constantly repeat, model and praise for correct use. Some people think that older students will treat belongings better but in my experience you need to constantly remind them and expect high expectations for things in the classroom to be treated with the utmost respect.

March 3

Fun with Pasta

Many students enjoy and benefit from learning things kinaesthetically.  I try to include lots of kinaesthetic options into our learning, such as smacking our spelling words with fly swats or throwing a squishy ball around during a discussion.  Today we made our entire spelling list out of Alphabet Pasta!

January 1

Quote of the Month

Each month in my classroom we have a quote that is on display. I chose a range of quotes where the message can be related in a classroom setting, either in terms of learning, socialising with others, striving for success, attitude, etc.

We also discuss who said the quote so some background knowledge can be developed, as students learn a little about some of history’s most prominent characters.

I refer to the quote throughout the month, where relevant. You can also use the Quote of the Month for extension tasks. Students can;

– research more about the person to which the quote is attributed

– find other quotes that are similar or are by the same person

– make their own display, bookmark, artwork etc for the quote.

With the quote I sometimes use it as a sentence of the day study, analysing punctuation, grammar and vocabulary, or even get the students to write and illustrate the quote in their handwriting or publishing book.

Here are some samples of the quotes I have used.

To download 20 readymade posters with quotes, click here.

To find more quotes online for students, click here, here and here.

November 14

Lovely Moments Today

There are always little moments as a teacher where something wonderful, even miraculous can occur. Sometimes without warning, these little moments make teaching worthwhile.

I was lucky enough to have 2 of these moments today.

The first one occurred during reading groups this morning. We were reciting a readers’ theatre text, and it was one of my more able groups. The scene was a mystery, aimed at students, with a parody on Sherlock Homes (the lead girl detective is called Shirley Homes). We discussed how you recite in character when reading readers’ theatre. I left the group for 5 mins to read their parts and practice their delivery.

When I returned, they had gone above and beyond my expectations. My student who was the narrator, used a dramatised American voice, which set the mystery perfectly, just like a voice over on a crime show, like Law and Order. We all had a laugh and added the Law and Order sound effect (‘duhn duhn’). We had Posh British accents for our detective Shirley Homes and her side kick Amber Watson. All the students in the group really got into character and we all enjoyed the performance.

 

The second lovely moment occurred during our HSIE lesson. We are learning about Global connections and today began our lessons on learning about Aid organisations and charities. We looked at the posters from the 8  UN Millenium goals.

In groups of 3, students were asked to read and look at the posters, asking questions and discussing the posters with their group. As I looked around, it was such a great moment. Everyone was engaged, there were people deep in discussion that usually don’t talk to each other. And the comments! The questions! There was real humility showing, some students were shocked at how some people in the posters lived, and they made comments about how grateful they were, how we take things for granted, some of them expressed sadness. For some students who do not have much contact with the wider global community, it was a lesson that they really connected with, and had genuine questions and concerns.

What a great start to the next 4 lessons on Global Aid and Global citizens!

Here are the 8 millenium posters that we used.  They were taken from the Oxfam Uk site, which also has extensive teaching resources.

July 24

In and Out of the Classroom

As a primary school Assistant Principal with a class of my own, disruptions and changes continually interrupt my teaching week. Even if you are not a member of the executive, school events, extra-curricular activities and special days can replace your teaching day or half your week!

No wonder we get behind and many teachers I have spoken to agree – “I plan for the term but only get half of it done!”

Over the years I have continually tried to find ways to program efficiently and ‘fit’ everything around the other events of school life. With an already over crowded curriculum, teachers now have to compete with carnivals, assemblies, rehearsals, planning days and out of the classroom professional learning.

A strategy that helps me work out exactly how many days I have to teach, and where my week is interrupted is to create a “Term Planner” before each term starts and BEFORE I begin my programming for the next term.

I create a calendar of the term laid out in weeks and days. Using colour shading, I block out any days where the whole day is allocated to other school activities.

See below:

TERM PLANNER - DETAIL

As an Assistant Principal, I am always off class on Tuesdays for executive duties. So Tuesdays are blocked out in Pink. As you can see in Week 3, I will be away at a choir performance all day Monday and on Thursday we have our Athletics Carnival. Those and similar days are blocked out in blue. So I will only be teaching my class 2 days that week!

Once I blocked out all days, I also insert any other activities (PSSA, Assemblies etc) that will rule out a large chunk of a day or session. After this is done, I can see just exactly how much teaching time is left, and how much to put in my program. I colour code my subjects and activities too, and I may even put in the lesson topics.

This document is placed in my diary, my program and attached to my desk in my classroom. This is also helpful for any casual teachers who may come in to my room for a day or session.

If I know in advance how much time I will have left to teach I can alter my week or my fortnight accordingly. For example, my ideal arrangement would be to have literacy groups 4 times a week, as I have 4 groups to rotate through 4 different activities. But as you can see in this term, most weeks have a disruption. Therefore, I plan the literacy group rotation to go for 2 weeks, so everyone completes the four activities. It is so frustrating as a teacher to have a group continually miss out on one of the crucial activities!

It’s also helpful to block out an afternoon every few weeks as ‘catch up’ so you can finish of anything that takes longer than anticipated.

You can see a whole term’s planner here.

Also, here is a blank term planner to fill in for your own class.

If you have any other ideas about how to make programming and planning easier, please comment and share!

May 24

Word Clouds

I was first introduced to the idea of word clouds and the well-known website wordle a few years ago. ‘What a fantastic concept!’ I thought. A great way to create brainstorms in class and make them more interesting, and a great visual way to present lists. I could see that it would be useful during class discussions, spelling lessons and Humanities lessons. However, the wordle site is not very ‘kid friendly’- you cannot save your image, you can only add it to the database or print it. Most NSW classrooms are not privy to masses of colour copying, and unless you print it right there and then, it is very hard to find your word cloud again. Also, the gallery of images on wordle is not filtered of content and language choices, so if students were using it they could stumble across inappropriate word clouds.

Another popular site is tagxedo, a fancier version of wordle. Initially it seemed that it would have many benefits, but I found that this is a difficult website for students to manipulate.

Finally, only this year, I found a kid website with a basic word cloud creator – ABCya. This is a site for educational games and activities online. Their word cloud creator is perfect for students to use independently. You can SAVE your work or print it. The fonts are kid friendly and don’t have inappropriate names (talking about you- wordle) . The only improvement to the abcya word cloud tool would be to include the option of diagonal layouts.

abcya 1
abcya 2

abcya 3