A New Year Approaches! What to Do Before Class Starts

A New Year Approaches! What to Do Before Class Starts

Newsela

I wrote this article for Newsela’s blog. You can read the article on their site, linked here!

Few roles have the cyclical nature that teaching does. While we may look forward to the summer (especially those last two weeks of school…. woof), there’s something so exciting about getting a fresh start in the fall.

To ease the transition, I’ve compiled some tips for new and veteran teachers alike to make sure all t’s are crossed and i’s are dotted. Even if you’ve already started back (looking at you, charter school teachers!), these tips are great for the first few weeks of school.

#1) Get them digits!

You will inevitably need to call home for your kiddos. Hopefully you can make as many positive deposits before making a negative “withdrawal.” When I taught, I kept a Google Sheet tracker so I could tally each positive and negative contact. I tried to do 5-1 to ensure I was winning parents’ trust!

To make getting a hold of parents as easy as possible, here are a few tips:

  1. If your school uses a management system like DeansList, you can use their iPhone app to automatically have all parents’ numbers are your fingertips!
  2. If you’re on your own to get numbers, create a Google Form that students/families can fill out so you’ll have a neat spreadsheet. With this spreadsheet, you can import the numbers into your phone quickly! There are a few ways to do this, but this web tutorial is how I did it!

#2) Have a DonorsChoose (or three) in the Works!

Humblebrag: I have raised more than $25,000 in grants for my kiddos! This wasn’t magic. I just post a lot of DonorsChoose. The beginning of the school year is a really smart time to do this. Donors know teachers are in need, and companies like Google will often “flash fund” all projects in a given area (e.g. all of Boston).

Post a few projects. The worst-case scenario is that it doesn’t get funded, but you also might magically wake up to all of your projects being funded!

#3) Bake Personalized Learning into Your Lesson/Unit Plans!

Every teacher wants to reach every student and make a difference in their lives. But when it’s “Darktober” and you’re trying to just get through the day, it can be hard to do this. So, pre-plan personalization now, when you are more energized and the days are longer.

That could look like:

  • Setting goals for your blended learning programs (like, ahem, having each student complete 3 Newsela quizzes a week),
  • Building in 1:1 check-ins with each student where you set and assess goal progress, or
  • Adding personalized work time into your class where students can complete work that is customized to their current performance level.

Have any other tips you follow religiously as a new year starts? Drop your knowledge below, in the comments!

How to Use Flocabulary for Personalized Learning

How to Use Flocabulary for Personalized Learning

I wrote this post for Flocabulary. You can see the post on their blog, here

As a technology teacher, students know that I love computers and all things techy. For Teacher Appreciation Week, a first grader gave me a thumb drive. Tech can be so fun and can be great for personalized learning.

That being said, I am actually not a proponent of tech for the sake of tech. I’ve even put up posters like the image below around my school to make the point that technology is not best used as a babysitter. Bottom line: Kiddos at computers are not rotisserie chickens. You can’t “set them and forget them.”

To gauge how well a teacher/school is doing this, we have the SAMR model, a framework that helps teachers, school leaders and districts think about how to use technology.

What does SAMR stand for?

Substitution, Augmentation, Modification and Redefinition.

 personalized learning, samr

It’s possible to use technology as a substitute in a way that actually isn’t very innovative, like I mentioned above. An example would be transitioning from a paper exit ticket to a digital one. This doesn’t dramatically shift how students learn or how teachers teach. While it does make the teacher’s life easier, it doesn’t augment, modify or redefine how students learn in their classroom.

Connecting SAMR to Personalized Learning

Teachers often use the SAMR model to guide personalized learning and also gauge how well those initiatives are going.

For example, if you are setting a goal for students to read more content at their specific current skill level while still giving them a choice about what they’re reading, you might look for an innovative technology solution to help with this. An online library of books is a substitution in place of a physical library, and while it has some potential pluses, it might simply be “technology for the sake of technology.”

Using Flocabulary for Personalized Learning

So, what kind of technology fits into a few different stages of the SAMR model and is actually innovative? Flocabulary. For example, Flocabulary represents the “Augment” phase if you were to use The Week in Rap to teach about current events. It replaces a potentially offline task (learning about the news) and enhances it with video, a Discussion mode and other features.

Word Up for Personalized Vocabulary Instruction

At Heights Academy, we used Flocabulary to provide students with personalized vocabulary instruction using the Word Up video series. Our interventionist noticed that some of her 4th grade students in her pull-out group were still lacking Tier 1 and 2 vocabulary from previous grades. The teacher assigned content from the correct Word Up color for each student, allowing them to access content that was right for them.

Word Up is a research-basedstandards-aligned resource that is proven to raise scores on state reading tests.

Assignments for Mastering New Content

Another similar application can be used for math class: you can assign students content based on their fact fluency needs for addition, subtraction, multiplication or division. As they master the content, you can easily assign them new content.

Assignments allow students to engage, master and create Flocabulary content. Assignments can consist of videos, Read & Respond, Quizzes, Lyric Lab and the newly launched Vocab Cards.

Assessment Data to Foster Engagement

With assessment data of where students were currently at, one math teacher used Flocabulary’s Addition & Subtraction units to supplement their differentiated small-group lessons. In addition to the engaging videos, the teachers were able to use the printable worksheets and quiz to give students more practice.

To access assessment data at both individual and class-wide levels, as well as the ability to assign various activities to your students, check our our school-wide subscriptions.

The SAMR approach works well with other assignable or adaptive programs, like Khan Academy or iReady. But, the bonus of a program like Flocabulary is that the content is particularly engaging and sticky. My students beg me to watch the videos again so they can sing along. You won’t find that with just a printed math worksheet.

Have you used Flocabulary to personalize instruction in your classroom? Let us know in the comments below!

5 Ways To Introduce Technology To Your Classroom Without Enough Technology

5 Ways To Introduce Technology To Your Classroom Without Enough Technology

This post was originally published on TeacherPop.

Student drawing paper keyboard

Photo by Blair Mishleau.

 

As the technology specialist at a school, I’m constantly running into issues (our computers haven’t arrived yet, the tech staff doesn’t have time to install them, my lab is being used for NWEA testing, etc.).

But, never fear. There are a lot of ways to get nerdy with kids without needing a laptop for everyone. Here are my tips – I’d love to hear some more, if you have them, in the comments!

1.)   Code.org. Live it. Love it. Code it.
This site is getting really well-known, but there’s a nice little niche that not everyone might know about. There are loads of “paper” activities that can teach little kiddos how to make a “program” and much more. It’s especially great as a primer before letting students use computers.

(Pro-tip: If you have even intermittent access to 3-10 computers, do stations. Have students who have mastered the paper activities move onto computers!)

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Computers At the Core: CPS’ Response to “21st Century Learning”

This post was originally published on Pass the Chalk.

When I started my first teaching role, I was ecstatic to know that two of my classes would be “technology” courses. This excitement became frustration as my students and I struggled to have access to a quarter of what I freely enjoyed in high school. I had no curriculum, and the “technology” was Windows XP on some virus-ladden, ominously humming machines. These students were cheated out of experiences I (and many) expect from a K-12 education.

Technology fluency is an assumed trait most colleges have for their incoming students. That, of course, includes basic keyboarding and Internet skills, but there are also many assumptions about understanding more complex Internet database searches, MLA formatting and ability to navigate a variety of other systems of varying complexities.

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