Monday, May 16, 2016

End of the Year Survival Kit for Teachers

End of the Year Survival Kit for Teachers


WE MADE IT! The end of the year is finally here. Almost. This time of year is often stressful for teachers, and tedious for students. There is so much to do and the clock is ticking! Teachers all over the country are scrambling to complete their requirements, and find filler activities when there's extra time or trying desperately to keep their students attention during the last few days of school. I wanted to do a round up of some of the best posts I've seen with ideas on how to survive the end of the year!

First off, 2 Peas and a Dog has a great post about survival tips for teachers for the end of the year. Kristy has tips for students of all ages in this post so there is something for teachers of all grades! The ideas here are sure to keep students' attention even in the last couple days of school.

Laura from Corkboard Connections shared an amazing post last year featuring 20 Creative Ways to Encourage Good Behavior at the End of the Year. These tips can be catered to nearly any grade level. She collected some awesome ideas from a large variety of teachers from all over. Definitely some awesome ideas here that I would not have thought of. You'll certainly want to check that one out!

Upper Elementary Snapshots featured a post from Kristin at One Stop Teacher Shop and she shared the 5 things teachers must do at the end of the school year. Often we get so caught up in the whirlwind of activity that we forget to pause and reflect. She touches a little on preparing for next year which is a great segue into the next article I wanted to share...

Jamie also covered 5 things teachers should prep before summer break, but she did hers from a slightly different angle. Her post is geared a little towards elementary teachers; saying that, a lot of the suggestions carry over to middle and high school classrooms as well!

Finally, Managing and Motivating Math Minds shared 8 Mistakes Teachers Make at the End of the Year. This post is chock full of good stuff! Sometimes we become lax in our final days of the school year, but Kacie shares why it is important to stay strong and don't let the students take over! Her tip about having students do their part to help pack up is genius! Help them burn off all that extra energy! :)

Of course, there's also my post from last year from the Secondary ELA Blog Hop. In it, I talk about looking ahead to next year. A little planning ahead can make your back-to school season so much easier. At the bottom of that post, you'll find a link up with some other great secondary ELA teachers who share their ideas about looking ahead to the new year!

What other end of the year teacher tips do you have to share?



Thursday, May 12, 2016

High School Student Rewards That Won't Cost You a Penny

Motivation. What motivates you as a teacher? What types of positive reinforcement would we, as teachers, love and appreciate in our school day? While it is simple for us to think about what would make us work to our highest ability as teachers, it is often more difficult to recognize some rewards and/or positive reinforcements for our high school students in our classrooms. Oh, and did I mention that these motivators had to be free? That's even more difficult! It's so easy to say to your students "Pizza party!" or "Gift cards for everyone!" or something else of monetary value. But honestly, who has that kind of money for each and every student? Nobody I know!


In order to find out what would make my students more motivated (and in order to save teachers a little extra $$$) I conducted a survey of approximately 130 high school students, ranging from grades 9 to 12. I asked them to provide two suggestions of rewards and motivators that they would love to receive from a teacher (keeping in mind it had to be free for everybody). I have compiled a list of the most popular ideas among the students. 

This is what they came up with:
  1. Movies: Kids love movie days! They will do anything to just sit back and watch a movie for a class period. 
  2. Games: The students suggested playing team-style games where the winning team receives extra points on an upcoming assignment or test. 
  3. Music: More than movies, kids LOVE music! Using their own headphones, they can listen to their favorite music, while working on an independent assignment or the class, as a whole, can make requests and listen to songs as they complete their work.
  4. Extra credit: You can determine how many points and on what assignment they can receive the extra credit. They will be grateful for anything!
  5. Homework pass: Provide students with a pass to skip a homework assignment. 
  6. Personal time: Give students 10-15 minutes at the end of a class to socialize, catch up on other homework or just to relax. 
  7. Drop the lowest test/quiz grade: Either for the marking period, semester or the year.
  8.  Test/quiz re-take: This one will surely be a motivator for anyone, especially those high-achievers!
  9.  Late assignment pass: Provide students with the opportunity to turn in one assignment late, but make sure it's ONE assignment and maybe only ONE day late! It's important that students continue to meet deadlines :) 
  10. Positive note to parents: A few of the students said seeking their parents' approval and showing them they are hard workers meant to much to them. I have definitely taken note to do this more often!
Well, there you go! A list of the most popular FREE rewards that you can give your students. They are absolutely doable and I hope you were able to take a few ideas away from the list. If you choose to implement these free rewards in your classroom, it's important to keep in mind to not over-do it! If you give reward after reward, pretty soon these special privileges will lose their value. Be mindful of the frequency you give out the rewards and of course, provide them to those students who truly deserve and have worked hard to earn the reward. As we come towards the end of the school year, I plan to test the rewards and see how the student's respond. I am excited to see their reactions! 

Can you think of any other free rewards that have worked well for your students? Post them in the comments!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Learning to Love Shakespeare

Shakespeare

“This is too hard!” “I don't get this!” “Why are we reading this?” Do these sound familiar? If you're a high school English teacher teaching Shakespeare they do! There is much debate over whether or not Shakespeare should be taught in high school. If you ask your students, some will say they love it and others will not. It is my belief that teaching Shakespeare is imperative to any high school English curriculum. Not only have the works of Shakespeare shaped the English language, his plays and stories convey timeless themes and emotions. Furthermore, the way he portrays his characters and their struggles are all relevant today, especially to high school aged students.

So, what made me decide that I HAD to write more about this topic? I was having a conversation at school the other day (to be fair, his person is not an English teacher) and I was explaining some of the activities I was doing with Shakespeare whey they said, "I wonder when they are going to phase that out?" GASP!

Those opposed to the teachings of Shakespeare today may believe that we should be teaching more modern topics to students and focusing less on the classics. Some may say that the story lines are irrelevant and boring. They may even go as far as to say Shakespeare is outdated. People tend to think we should be teaching more hands-on, mentally-challenging topics in order for our children to strive and grow. While we can't discount anybody's opinions or thoughts, and while we must respect each others point of view, it is my belief that the above are not good enough reasons to have children miss out on all that the works of Shakespeare can offer.

In today's society, our students are faced with many stresses and struggles. They have to deal with things like suicide, violence, anger, love, depression, racism, and the recently popular topic of gender issues. As an educator, it's our job to make our curriculum relevant to the lives of our students, so that they are excited and engaged in what we are teaching. The works of Shakespeare, although written long before our time, actually do explore and discuss such topics.

We can talk about how important and relevant Shakespeare is all day, but how do we actually convey this to our students so they understand too? It all starts with us, the teacher. It's our job to be creative in the way we introduce each Shakespearean play to our students. If a specific play has a strong theme to it, discuss the theme in depth. Whether it's love, suicide, depression or hatred, students need to talk about those themes and how they experience it today, so that they can understand how the characters in the story experience it. Some students might be resistant to try reading the stories and plays because they don't understand how to actually read the language of Shakespeare. If this is the case, there are plenty of resources available to assist in helping students understand the rhythm and the poetry of his writings. Reading out loud and acting out the plays are another helpful technique in keeping students engaged and interested.

Wait. Aren't there other, more modern books out there that teach these same themes? Yes, definitely. I, however, still believe that there is room for both in a classroom. Unless you've gone through and entire Shakespeare play, you can't really understand the sense of accomplishment when you finish that last line, especially if you are a teenager! Sure, it was sometimes hard to understand, but I can attest to the fact that students feel a sense of pride when they are done! In addition to the accomplished feeling, there are so many pop-culture references and allusions that are made, which you would not be able to understand if you have not read any of Shakespeare's work! For instance, Disney movies have made several references to Shakespeare. Several popular songs have referenced Shakespeare too! So, while you can definitely find the same themes in modern books, your students may be missing out on many Ah ha! moments in the years to come.

I know. It's one thing to tell and another thing to do! Here's a really easy, fun, and interactive way to introduce Shakespeare to your students. The Shakespeare Mini-Book is a convenient reference guide answers the most common Shakespeare questions (Who was William Shakespeare? Why is Shakespeare so hard to read? Why do we study Shakespeare?) It also provides students with some engaging and interesting topics for discussion, such as popular quotes, list of invented words, fun facts, as well as a list of well-known works.

This man was a literary genius, plain and simple.  His works reveal such importance in the development of our English language and literature. Teachers have the ability to make learning Shakespeare a fun and exciting lesson, provided the right resources. All students deserve to experience the magic and art that is Shakespeare!

What do you think? Should Shakespeare be a part of the high school English curriculum?


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