August 19, 2014

Back to School and a Little Boost

The time has come...my back to school teacher workdays begin on Thursday and the students show up on Monday.  Although I really enjoy teaching and look forward to the new year, this is always a bittersweet time to be a teacher.  My own children don't start for another week and a half, so it's sad to think about leaving them.  Plus, I just love my summers.  

But, it's always nice to get a little BOOST in motivation and here's something bound to make you smile.  Teachers Pay Teachers is offering a 1-day Back-to-School Boost Sale.  Check it out!


August 12, 2014

How I Manage my High School Classes

Don’t you love that feeling when your class is running smoothly, the kids are all on task, and your grading is caught up?  Me, too!  Finding a management system that works feels like such an accomplishment, cause Lord knows I’ve tried my share of duds.

So, today, I want to share with you a system that I’ve been using for the last ten years.  You know how the greatest inventions are born from necessity?  Well, this was necessary for me!  As an English teacher, I have way too much student writing to look at, edit, comment on, then grade. To be honest, I often feel that even if my time was spent only on grading essays, there still wouldn’t be enough hours for me to get the work back in a timely manner (not to mention hang out with my family).  Factor in other student work (homework, vocabulary practice, independent reading, and more), and the paper load is overwhelming.  So here’s where it gets good.  I knew that if I expected students to do all these other tasks, then I needed to give them credit for their work, after all, these guys are smart and they wouldn’t see value in working for free.  But, I didn’t want to be a human grading machine. So, what to do, you ask?

Creating Class Leaders!  I came up with the idea of class leaders to help manage the overwhelming paper load that is inevitable with 200+ students.  I knew that the students were capable of handling more responsibility and I knew that students thrived on competition.  An idea to merge the two started forming.

First, I needed some guidelines.  I usually divide my room into 8, either by rows of desks or groups, so I knew I needed 8 leaders per class.  Then, what did I want them to do?  Much of our homework is independent practice to help reinforce skills that will later be assessed.  I needed the students to practice, but didn’t want to give them tons of points to overinflate grades.  I decided to put the class leaders in charge of stamping and recording these small assignments, averaging the points, and managing their groups. 

The first time through, during first quarter, I ask interested students to apply to be a row leader (and I always get several applications).  I pick the remainder of the leaders and then create the seating chart.  For subsequent quarters, I again asks for applications, and then choose the remaining leaders based on grades or effort.  After the first quarter, I send the selected leaders outside to draft their groups, giving them a bigger buy-in and making them think critically about what types of group members they want to work with.
An awesome group of leaders on Halloween
Each week, my student leaders turn in a chart with several assignments listed across the top.  Each group member gets a check mark for each complete assignment (it’s all or nothing, as these points only amount to 10 per week).  The class leader counts each person’s checks, then records the total.  Then, the leader averages the group’s points and records the percentage.  This is the percentage of completed work for each row, and leads to the competition.  I add each group’s weekly percentage as a running tally on my side board, so that each group in each period can see the score.  I run the competition through the quarter, and the winning team at the end of quarter gets extra credit and a sweet treat.


My students love this system!  They like the extra responsibility that comes with being a group leader and they like the competition aspect, which motivates all the students to do their work.

I'd love for you to download this freebie and let me know how it works for you.

August 8, 2014

Back to School Classroom Photos

Now that back to school time is here, I want to share photos of my classroom.  It is a source of pride to me that my students LOVE my classroom.  They always tell me that they love reading the walls, and when their friends come in with them, I love to hear "Your class is so cool; I wish my class looked like this."

I admit, I tend to spend lots of money on my room, but having a space that is visually appealing to me and to my students is important to me.  If you'd like to print out some of the quotes and photos that I post, check out my Pinterest boards Quotes and Pictures for School.  I print many of the pics out at Costco for a great deal!

I love my class library.  It takes up most of my back wall, and although it's a space hog, my students are so much more inclined to read when I have great books here waiting for them.  Additionally, I've bought all the books myself, which, although costly, allows me the freedom to lend (and give) them as I see fit.  Surprisingly, The Dollar Tree is a pretty god spot for class books.  I also get books from Scholastic book orders and our local dollar book store.


 

This side wall is my competition board.  I use my "Student Leader" (it's free!) product to host a competition both within each class period and among all my classes.  Students love this and check the board each week to see where they fall.  


My teacher desk is still pretty messy, but I like to have a spot to showcase a bit about me.  I have notes from students, artwork from my kids, and quotes and photos that make me happy.




This is my objective board and my TA desk.  I have lots of English/grammar cartoons posted above my TA desk, as this is near the door of my class.  Students like to read the cartoons, and often point out their favorites.  I keep handouts for each day of the week in the plastic drawers, and the set below holds student portfolios.  Also, to save money, I buy toilet paper in bulk and stack it on paper towel rolls, rather than buying kleenex, which disappears like mad in my class.



 My side wall has bulletin boards made from stapled fabric.  There is a Read Me board for student book recommendations, a WOW board for great work, and an Academic Word Wall.  The photo below is from midway through last school year.



Again, having a room that is text-rich, colorful, and visually appealing makes me happy and engages students.  

Tell me, how do you set up your classroom?


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Hello and Welcome!

Hi there!

I've been thinking about starting a teaching/working/living blog for the last year, but, as life actually interferes sometimes, I'm just deciding to give it a go.  I hope you decide to poke around and come back to visit again.  Have a great day!