There is nothing like the first week of school. It is filled with excitement, the unknown and so much anticipation from students, parents and teachers. You can never ever make the first day of school and subsequently the first week of school too fun and memorable. Go all out and let your students know that they matter and that you want them to have the best environment possible for learning, inquiring and asking questions, lots of questions!
Top 10 simple things you can do for your students on the first day! (They do not require much prep!)
10. Engage students in conversation all day
9. Call them by their first name
8. Found out what they like and they don’t like
7. Let them know more about you
6. Meet them at the front of the door (daily)
5. Play games
4. Give them time to talk to each other
2. Smile often (’til it hurts)
1. Love them, they are special people and you will be with them for 180 days!
There will be time all week to let the students know about your grading policies, where the bathrooms are and rules and regulations of your classroom, but the list above is the secret to your success, the bridge to engagement and best of all you will have set in motion an environment that is unique to you and your students and for this you will be rewarded with 180 days of magic!
Some resources for the first week of school activities:
This is my first podcast! Since I am attending my second conference in the span of two weeks, I thought I would quickly give some tips and tricks on how to make your conference experience great!
All my podcast episodes will be short form. Average duration will be 10 minutes in length and I will have either interviews, product reviews, best educational practices, stories and news from in and around the world of education technology.
Thank you for listening; and look forward to the journey!
Deciding to become a teacher is one of the most noble and gratifying decisions a person can make in their lifetime. With this decision comes great responsibility and opportunity. When you get your first classroom, you are entrusted with a group of young minds that look to you for guidance in their learning. There will be good days and bad days but the net result is always positive, it has to be. In order to have a successful teaching journey, you must continue to nourish yourself to grow. Successful plant growth requires water, nutrients, air, soil, light, temperature, space and time. Some things that may not be so obvious, but are a huge part of your teaching journey.
Water and Nutrients
Teaching is a physically and more so, a psychologically demanding career. In order to keep your mind and body right, you have to take care of it so you are at your finest, everyday, for your students. Exercise, proper diet and hydration is key to having successful days in the classroom. Drinking water circulates nutrients and keeps you balanced and provides a positive function with many of your organs, such as the kidneys and brain. If your water intake does not equal output, you will be unbalanced and begin dehydrating. Water supports circulation, maintains or lowers caloric intake and energizes muscles. Tips to increase your water intake:
Eat more fruits and vegetables
Have a water bottle handy: in car, desk or bag
Drink beverages that you like, however, alcohol tends to dehydrate
Air and Soil
Teaching requires a growth mindset. It is particularly hard to grow as a teacher if your environment and ecosystem is filled with toxins which limits your ability to develop talents in students, instead you only document their ability. Plants require clean air and rich soil to take in carbon dioxide and create food. Teachers should continuously challenge themselves, reflect and take risks in order to grow. Additionally, place effort before talent, emphasize growth, value the process and stop seeking approval.
Light and Temperature
Light is used as energy for plants to make food, without it, the plant suffers. If the plant is too hot or cold it burns or freezes which stunts or eliminates growth. Teachers should not let others cloud their judgement and follow along with practices that do not move students and teachers forward. Teachers must create their own nutrients by researching best practices in teaching and learning through professional learning communities and increasing their network of resources and support, so their reflection is clear and the path for positive student outcomes is consistent. Gathering ideas is one thing, but you must implement, try and experiment. Much like a plant being to cold or hot, a teacher must have equal portions of research and action in order to grow.
Space and Time
In order to let your roots grow you need space and time. Finding time to educate yourself, take advantage of professional learning opportunities or talk to other educational practitioners that have a growth mindset, can prove to be a win for teachers and students. Teaching is not a race, nor should years of service be rewarded with flat line lessons and activities that do not support students as inquirers, reflectors and doers. Teaching is a consistent, long term career that should be rich in improvement, sharing and caring. You can improve yearly by reflecting on all your lessons and interactions with students and colleagues, seek help and support, and remember that you do not have to do it all at once, you just have to intentionally begin.
Congratulations to all teachers and educators who have for one reason or another, joined the ranks of education. It is your duty to grow and nourish yourself as an educator to grow and have a successful teaching journey.
Learn more about Growth Mindset, Creativity and being a better teacher:
Inspiration comes in all shapes and sizes. Inspiration emotionally keeps me interested, grounded, it is my super power. Inspiration is so important because it is rooted in humanity which means people providing power and energy to other people. It comes in the the form of books, movies, speeches, interviews, observations, conversations and so much more. In education, if we do not continue to seek inspiration, we slowly stop feeling and die creatively. I visited a school recently during Global School Play Day, where every last student was smiling, having fun and actively engaged in their chosen activities. I was lucky enough to play card games, checkers, watch students drawing and even got into a game of flag football. Watching kids play is extremely inspiring and continues to remind me that I have an obligation as an educator to create opportunities for teachers to find their inspirations so they can provide students around the world with engaging, rich environments of learning.
I have spent the last sixteen years trying to make kids smile, get to know them, allow them to know me and lately, open myself up to educators so that together we can create a whole new world of learners. Learning is so much more than digesting information and if we can place a high priority on engaging students, making them smile and placing them in positions to fail so they can succeed, we will have an army of sophisticated, empathetic communities.
You Must Do The Things You Think You Cannot Do
Below are a list of books, movies, speeches and so on that have inspired me. What inspires you? Leave comments below.
Here is an activity that can be a class starter or center or a stand alone assignment that allows students and teachers to incorporate technology and writing.
Have the students go out with their iPad or mobile device and capture two images that they they believe compliment each other. Next, using a photo blending app such as the iOS app Photoblend, edit the images to their liking and have them use the image as inspiration to create a poem. Students can save their edited image to their camera roll and them import into a writing or presentation app that allows them to combine their image with their writing that they can then share with the teacher and the world!
Here is my example poem:
On The Tracks
When I’m on the tracks I can go where I want
I dream Arizona, Boston or even Vermont
When I’m on the tracks I feel the movement of the train
With every forward bump and sway there is excitement to gain
When I’m on the tracks it reminds me of my past
As kid putting pennies on the track to get smashed
Most of all it just peaceful with lives moving about
At the end of their journeys with with families no doubt
There is absolutely nothing like engaging with motivated educators, sharing ideas and making a stronger workforce of teachers. It is evident of a teacher’s will to improve on their craft when they arrive early on a Saturday morning, either towards the end of their school year or in some cases already on their summer vacation.
The 3rd Annual Think, Create, Share Conference at Cal State Fullerton was kicked off by the very engaging and inspiring poetry of Taylor Mali . Mali is a former classroom teacher who can now be found speaking all over the world, reciting his poetry and supporting the teaching profession.
It is the teaching profession and the educators who make the wheel of learning go round and round, that inspire me, to care enough to share ideas and make a forward moving difference in education.
This is a simple message to all teachers. Care enough to know that teaching….
is not following a step-by-step procedural textbook
is not over when the last bell rings
requires you to be open to new ideas
requires you to love children
requires you to differentiate
requires you to be early and leave late
requires you to stop making excuses
requires you to create or find solutions
requires you to engage with technology
requires you to seek out the latest teaching strategies
requires you to love teaching
Thank you to all educators who inspire me and thank to all educators who care enough to know what teaching is and is not!
This is a recap of my observations and notes at a mathematics workshop in Pasadena, CA. This was by far the best math workshop/conference that I have ever attended. One of the primary reasons I felt this workshop was elite was the way it made me feel and act as a professional educator. The main catalyst of the presentations that I attended was Juli Dixon (@thestrokeofluck) who is a dynamic speaker and thought provoker. The information received mainly revolved around how to develop a strong math PLC at work.
When team building sign-up for a duty that compliments your #passion
Be aware of sellout stories when building strong learning communities. Stay away from phrases such as ‘nothing I can do,’ ‘it’s not my fault’ and ‘it’s all your fault.’
Here are what high leverage teams should be saying: What do we want students to know, how will we know they know it, how will we respond?
Checking for understanding without meaningful feedback for the student is diagnostic not formative
Students need to take action on feedback so there is growth and learning
If you give homework, make it formative so students get feedback that goes beyond diagnosis
Focus on strategies for struggling students in math. Fluency takes a back seat for the moment & will support all learning over time
Model the mathematics by mathematizing the lesson. This means use math language
Time to come back to the math practices and use them during instruction
We have an understanding that word problems make math more difficult when in fact it makes it more believable & supportive
To make sense of a student explanation and check for understanding, ask students “what did he/she say.”
If you dont hear what you need to hear in a discussion, guide the conversation w/ “I heard…” Even if you did not hear it from them at least the students have a buy in
You have to ask students questions when students are right, not just when they are wrong
Scaffold questions to students, don’t bail them out too quickly
Create enough imbalance that a student gets back to equilibrium w/o turning the student off
When creating math tasks, make sure that you keep common errors in mind to treat the misconception.
During every math lesson choose only one or two math practices to focus on. Others will be there, but keep the focus!
Dont teach students to use key words in math. Allow them to think abstractly & quantitatively
In Summary, create high level cognitive demand questions balanced with lower level cognitive demand questions that grade level teams agree on. Introduce more word problems as tasks to teach math strategies. Finally, support place value, fact strategies, addition and subtraction with re-grouping and fractions as a basis for math fluency.
There are a lot of easy to use QR code generators out there to be used in education. Some of them even create large batches of codes by simply cutting and pasting. There is one small problem with most of these generators if you are creating more than one, more often than not you lose track of which QR code belongs to whom. As a teacher, one way to double up on your productivity and create batch QR codes identified by a student name is to create them in a spreadsheet.
Here is how:
1. Collect student’s digital projects via a Google form (optional)
2. The form that students fill out requests that students submit a link to their project which ends up on a spreadsheet.
QR Code Formula
4. Look at the formula and notice that the last couple characters are A2, which refers to the cell that QR code will be made for. If the links that you want converted into QR codes are on column D2 for example, then change the last piece of code to D2.
5. Click on the cell that contains the formula. The cell will highlight and you will see a small blue box that you can click on, hold and drag down, making QR codes for every single student link just like that!
6. Lastly resize the cells horizontally and vertically to increase the size of the QR code and print.
Screenshot aided directions to create batch QR Code
On a frigid Saturday morning, droves of educators gathered in West Hollywood, CA at the The Center for Early Education to talk technology and education, all for FREE! Yup, this was an un-conference called EdCampLA, where participants are invited to post 45 minute sessions on something they are passionate about and lead a discussion, how-to or just sit back and enjoy all of the great information being delivered. The following is a second look at wonderful presentations, ideas, resources and thoughts that I was fortunate to be part of!
Evernote was the first session on my agenda and in un-conference fashion, the speaker had posted the session on Evernote but wanted to learn more about it, rather than lead the session, and quickly, educators chimed in about their experiences. Just like that we had a full blown discussion on Evernote. Evernote is an online based product that can store notes, documents, audio and much more. Use it with students, share information anywhere, anytime from multiple devices.
Resources: @nerdyteacher for hands-on experiences using Evernote Laurence School has great resources for teachers regarding Evernote
artsonia art online gallery for displaying kid’s art (can also monetize)
Apps! App Differently
This was the second session of the day for me and as the title states, apps! Jo Ann Fox (@appeducationfox) moderated this discussion and many apps discussed. Below is a small list and some of their attributes. See the image below for a more comprehensive list of apps that were discussed in this session. My favorite by far was MyScript Calculator (see video below)
-madlip app- free version gives you 15 seconds of audio. Have students make a talking book cover using
-imovie app. Use to make trailers with your content
-bugsandbuttons, bugsandnumbers, etc (for lower grades)
-imotionhd for creating stop motion movies
-remind101 – a single directional text for parents and students (can set up groups and for field trips )
-vintagio (for silent films)
-creative book builder
-pickplaypost (create collages) idea: take pictures that relate objective, make collage and explain
-myscriptcalculator (Microsoft version is mathmatica for PC). My favorite of the day (see below)
The 1 iPad classroom John Stevens (@jstevens009) and Eduardo Rivera led this session on how they use a single iPad in the class to teach 8th grade and 9th grade algebra respectively. They utilize both Apple TV and/or the Reflector app to connect their iPads wirelessly to create an interactive and collaborative experience. Here are a few of the apps and resources they recommended:
-educreations and explaineverything (.99)
-appshopper (track apps for pricing)
-class dojo for participation
After a great lunch I headed off to John Omekubo’s (@jumekubo) session on Subtext. Subtext is an app that allows students and teachers to collaborate on the same book. Students can be invited to a group by their teacher and then both parties can interact by asking questions, tagging and highlighting text , adding resources for the students and much more! Below are a few ideas and resources to support this app.
-readlist.com: turn web articles into chapters
-make an epub file
The day culminated in a Slam session, where educators stood up and presented their favorite thoughts, apps, websites or whatever they wanted to reflect on, from the day’s events. My favorite is listed below. I actually stood in line to present my slam of the day(MyScript Calculator) but @jstevens009 beat me to the punch, SLAM!
video 514.mov for playing youtube
– upload any video from google using google docs
Here are some other links that might be useful for finding information on sessions that I did not attend or did not cover in this blog post. You can also peruse the EdCampLA website to search for specific information. Thanks to all of the folks @EdCampLA for a great day!