Monday, June 20, 2016

How to Get Your Classroom Ready for Next Year

How to Get Your Classroom Ready for Next Year-Teachers, starting prep early is key to maintaining your sanity! These tips will help you enjoy your summer and avoid the headache of back to school stress!


You might be wondering if I am totally crazy. After all, it is only June and summer has just begun, so WHY should I be thinking about getting my classroom ready for next year? Yes, we all need to take time to unwind, relax and enjoy our break, but if you want to have a smooth transition when it's time to go back to school, starting your preparations early is key! Instead of stressing out at the last minute, you can start doing little things now that will make your life so much easier come August!

This month, I wanted to write a round up post highlighting some of my favorite tips from other teachers to help us all have an easier time getting our classrooms ready for next year.

Jamie, from Diary of a Not So Wimpy Teacher, talks about how she prepares for next year BEFORE summer break! Her tip about parent volunteers is brilliant. Even if you don't have your class list yet, there's lots of things you can do now to prepare for fall!

Dorothy's post, from Prep In Your Step, is actually geared towards helping students prep for back to school, but a lot of her advice is helpful, and she covers the importance of not only physical preparations but also mental preparations. It's important that we remember self-care all year long!

Sometimes you just have to be realistic and know that not everything will be perfect, and some things may have to be put off in the short term. Teaching With a Mountain View shares a realistic look at what must be done and what can wait. A perfect post for dealing with overwhelm!

Jessica, from What I Have Learned, has some great tips on planning all the nitty gritty aspects of curriculum, units and even daily lesson plans. She makes it look so easy! Very well organized, and she has a great website she uses to make all those beautifully organized plans.

Last, but certainly not least, is my friend Jackie from Room 213. She goes a step further by talking about planning for the end of NEXT year. By planning way in advance, you gain the advantage of time. You'll know exactly what to expect next May, and you'll be sure you have all the crucial curriculum out of the way before the kids eyes start to gaze longingly out the window at the sunshine. Her suggestion of planning backwards is a great strategy that will help you not only at the beginning of next year, but the end as well!

What's your favorite tip to get your classroom ready for next year?

Friday, June 17, 2016

No Prep Whole-Class Novel Study Final Project

Are you tired of the same old paper and pencil tests at the end of a text? Are your students struggling with remembering the details from a novel or play that you've studied in class? Are you searching for a fun, collaborative alternative? Look no further, I have the solution for you - whole-class novel study

While this project is quite informal in its presentation, the final outcome is very fulfilling. Below, you will find a detailed analysis of the project. I have recently posted this project to my store, so if you are looking for a no-prep project with all of the necessary and editable documents, you can click HERE. The information below, will give you an in-depth lookinto the project.
Are you looking for a whole-class novel study project for your upper elementary, middle school, or high school students? Then you're going to love this idea! Choose ANY novel you're using in the classroom and have your students create a comic book-like outline, so that anyone gains understanding. It'll be a hit in your 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, or 12th grade classroom! Click through to see how easy this is to complete in the classroom. {Great technology integration!}
What is the whole-class novel study project?
The entire class will create a comic book-like outline of the text, so that anyone that has not yet read it, could read through it and gain an understanding of what took place in less than a few minutes.

The Process

1. Assign Teams: Assign your students into group or have them choose their own groups. I have found that 5-6 students per group has been an effective number, but it can definitely be done with more or less (there may just be more or less responsibilities for the team). In my classroom, I have found it to be helpful to create the groups myself; this helps to ensure that productive students are a part of each group, while giving everyone an opportunity to work together in a fun, creative way. 
Are you looking for a whole-class novel study project for your upper elementary, middle school, or high school students? Then you're going to love this idea! Choose ANY novel you're using in the classroom and have your students create a comic book-like outline, so that anyone gains understanding. It'll be a hit in your 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, or 12th grade classroom! Click through to see how easy this is to complete in the classroom. {Great technology integration!}
2. Create Sections: If you are using this for a whole-class novel study, divide your book into sections. I have found that 5 sections has been an efficient number. For example, when I have used this project for a Shakespearean play, I've divided the sections into the number of acts within the play. 

3. Prioritize Scenes: Once students are with their assigned teams and the sections are in order, students are then to review their specific sections (or chapters) and identify the key scenes. Their goal is to choose the scenes with the greatest importance (including those that lead up to it). 

Once they have their list of most importance scenes, they will organize them in consecutive order from least important to most important. I have found that a list of 6 scenes has been a sufficient number, but that can definitely be changed to suit the needs of the class size and/or age of the students. 
Are you looking for a whole-class novel study project for your upper elementary, middle school, or high school students? Then you're going to love this idea! Choose ANY novel you're using in the classroom and have your students create a comic book-like outline, so that anyone gains understanding. It'll be a hit in your 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, or 12th grade classroom! Click through to see how easy this is to complete in the classroom. {Great technology integration!}
4. Pick Lines: Once the scenes are in order, the group members will come up with two or three lines that best illustrate that scene. Students may need to review a page or two, in order to fully grasp what they are wanting to capture. 

5. Paraphrase: This is where the students will truly need to understand what they are reading! If they are using a play by Shakespeare, students will need to identify the meaning of the original text and put it into "modern language". 

6. Create Scene: Once students have a good idea of what they have read and want to capture for their scenes, then the real fun can begin!
  • First, students need to brainstorm ideas on how they want to physically capture the scene.
  • Next, they can plan out where they might like to take their pictures. If you have the flexibility of extra supervision for the whole-class novel study groups, you can send along someone to monitor the students, while they take their photos.   
  • Finally, take the photos! Cameras will be required to take the photos, which will capture a variety of characters, emotions and thoughts.  
7. Incorporate Text: Once the students have taken their photos, students can use a variety of editing apps and software to enhance their images (although, this is really not necessary). I suppose it depends on how much time you have and the availability of the technology, but I honestly prefer when students incorporate a few of their own props with images that have not been enhanced. It adds to the authenticity of the final product. Students can add their descriptions that they brainstormed (Step 4) and their respective speech and thought bubbles. 

Example from Act 4 of Macbeth
Are you looking for a whole-class novel study project for your upper elementary, middle school, or high school students? Then you're going to love this idea! Choose ANY novel you're using in the classroom and have your students create a comic book-like outline, so that anyone gains understanding. It'll be a hit in your 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, or 12th grade classroom! Click through to see how easy this is to complete in the classroom. {Great technology integration!}
 Example from Act 3 of A Midsummer Night's Dream
Are you looking for a whole-class novel study project for your upper elementary, middle school, or high school students? Then you're going to love this idea! Choose ANY novel you're using in the classroom and have your students create a comic book-like outline, so that anyone gains understanding. It'll be a hit in your 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, or 12th grade classroom! Click through to see how easy this is to complete in the classroom. {Great technology integration!}
Why this whole-class novel study project works:
This whole-class novel study project is successful because students are held responsible for knowing and understanding the facts and information from a text that they just studied. 

In addition, they have an opportunity to work collaboratively with their classmates, they get to use technology to re-create the scenes and they will likely develop a better understanding of the text through this group process. 

Lastly, I print out colored images on their group scenes for each student to include in their final portfolio at the end of the semester!
Are you looking for a whole-class novel study project for your upper elementary, middle school, or high school students? Then you're going to love this idea! Choose ANY novel you're using in the classroom and have your students create a comic book-like outline, so that anyone gains understanding. It'll be a hit in your 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, or 12th grade classroom! Click through to see how easy this is to complete in the classroom. {Great technology integration!}
What alternative final assignments have you tried?

Want even more great whole-class novel study activities? 

Thursday, June 2, 2016

How to Better Prepare Students for Life After High School

Graduation season is upon us, how exciting! Graduation day is such a memorable day, but it can also be a very intimidating time for many students. As educators, are we doing enough to prepare our students for the day after graduation, when they will no longer have support from their teachers to fall back on? Are we truly preparing our students to be responsible, independent, hard-working individuals?

How to Better Prepare Students for Life After High School
What can we incorporate into our school day that can better prepare all students for their first day in the real world?

1. Post-Secondary Education: Whether they are off to university, trade, a vocational college/training or a branch of the military, students should conduct research on the various paths they can take upon graduation to further their education. Even if students should choose to take some time off before continuing, it is imperative that students be aware of the different choices available to them, as well as where to look for assistance to each.

2. Money/Credit Smarts: All students should have to take a course on personal finance or financial literacy. Students need to learn how to be responsible with money, how to save, how to pay bills (and the importance of paying them on time), as well as the correct usage of credit. To do this, I created a project to reinforce money skills, while teaching the budget process in a fun and interesting way. Students learned the differences between 'need' and 'want' items and gave them their first real look into what it's like to live on their own!

Personal Finance, Budgeting, Monthly Project
3. Effective Communication: Kids talk with text messaging, Facebook and Twitter slang all day. They answer questions in 'one-word' responses. Students need to be taught the correct/appropriate way to speak to a boss/manager, how to compose a professional e-mail and how to answer/respond to phone calls. No matter their career path, learning to communicate is essential to being successful.

4. Basic Life Skills: Can your students cook? Clean? Sew? Do they know basic first-aid? These basic life skills will come in handy when living on their own, during a time when they may not have support close by. These are skills that everyone should be able to master (on some level) for survival.

5. Work/Life Balance: Being able to balance your work life with your social/home life is something that can prevent a great deal of stress in newly-graduating students. Students need to be taught a healthy way to balance their responsibilities at work, while at the same time, being able to enjoy their personal lives.

6. Time Management: This reinforces the importance of why teachers provide (and need to be consistent with) deadlines in school. Students need to be taught how to create timelines of when upcoming work is due, while setting small, achievable goals along the way. Timely arrivals are also an important part of management. I wrote a blog post about how I encourage my students to arrive on time, which you can find here.

7. Learning from our Failures: Not everyone will be the best at everything and that's okay! That's how we all learn. Students that have an awareness of this concept early on, will have more of a positive mindset and this energy will help to keep them trudging forward.

8. How to Survive Without Technology: Gasp! I know, it's unheard of that students/society might have to be without technology for more than a few moments. But guess what, it happens often! Students, as well as adults, need to learn how to do basic, everyday things without the help and ease of technology. It's rewarding to know something without 'asking Siri' or 'Googling it' first!

9. Self-Care: Although this is not to be school-related, it is important for students who are finally on their own and beginning to feel the stress and anxiety of what it means to be an adult, to know how to take care of themselves and seek help when needed. Your well-being comes first and learning to stay healthy and happy (this is where the 'freshman fifteen' conversation may come in handy) is the key to a successful life.

10. Career Planning: Job hunting, resumes, cover letters, interviews and thank-you's. These are the necessities that our students need to master in order to be successful. The great part about this essential tool for students to have, is to give them the opportunity to practice and be aware of what each of these important employment documents entail. How can this be incorporated into a curriculum? I complete a Career/Job Exploration Project in my English class every year, this ensures that students leave the class with some sort of career awareness, especially if they have not had the opportunity to take a career preparation course.

These are just a few things that schools can incorporate into their curriculum to help our graduating students become more prepared to take on the 'real-world'. Many high schools offer business and career-related class that help to prepare students for life after high school, so hopefully students are aware of what these courses can offer. What else can you suggest?