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Are Worksheets Effective Teaching Tools?

effective teaching Nov 07, 2019
If you've followed me for awhile, you probably know I'm not a fan of worksheets most of the time.

I'm going to jump all the way into the deep end here and offend quite a few people on BOTH sides of the issue. Guess what?! I'm here to tell you the truth, not be popular.

So here goes...

There are a few instances in which worksheets are effective. However, most of the time, relying on worksheets on a regular basis in all subjects is a way we mask problems and struggles in our teaching. 

Please know...

I do not jump on bandwagons, and I try very hard to NOT throw out great resources and teaching practices when trying something new. So, I have to say sometimes worksheets, when used correctly, ARE appropriate. I know that's not the current rhetoric in education, but it's true. When we think of worksheets as supports or guideposts we can put into place to help students become independent (and not need them), they are very appropriate. 

Here are some appropriate uses of...
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One Classroom Management Mistake You Can Easily Avoid

classroom management Oct 31, 2019

There are lots of classroom management mistakes we can make. But, here's one thing that many teachers do and never think to do differently. They don't have a CLEAR vision for how they want their classroom to run each day.

Yes, you have rules and consequences. Having a list of systems and procedures to train students is common these days, and you probably have that as well. But, do you have a clear vision in your head of HOW you want your classroom to run all day long

Here's what I mean by a clear vision.

Do you know what each part of your day looks like, sounds like and feels like? Whether it's whole group instruction, small group instruction, individual work time or some combination going on all at once, you should KNOW exactly what you're aiming for. What is the ideal right down to noise level, how each group of students is conducting themselves and what you, the teacher, are doing. 

What I'm ask you is...Do you know how each process and system will work when thrown...

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How Do You Deal with the Dreaded "Inside Recess"?

recess teaching Oct 24, 2019
Do you dread indoor recess season?

As colder weather looms in the distance (if it's not already arrived), it's time to start thinking about the dreaded "inside recess". It's not so much that we don't love our students but that we need a break for a few minutes. Ask any teacher, or parent for that matter, breaks are essential.

Bathroom breaks and just a break from being "on" every second is part of our self-care. Caretaker burnout is REAL, and at school we call it teacher burnout. It's not "just in your head" and you're not a bad teacher for needing and wanting a break. It just means you're human. 

So, NOW is the time to start coming up with a plan for those days when students can't go outside but still need some physical activity and a mental break.

Here's what needs to be in your plan.
  • Creative activities for students who want them - drawing supplies, coloring pages, building supplies like Legos...
  • Games - a variety of board games or strategy games for your iPads or other...
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How to Run Parent Conferences with Confidence

parent conferences Oct 17, 2019
Being properly prepared for Parent Conferences allows you to go into each conference with confidence.

It’s fall and that means that parent conferences are just around the corner. Wouldn’t it be fabulous if you could go into each student’s parent conference feeling prepared and confident?

Well, you can with the right steps. That means some obvious steps and some not so obvious steps - preparing in advance, creating a structure for your conferences, taking time to rehearse a bit and understanding parents' expectations.

FVIE THINGS EVERY TEACHER NEEDS TO DO TO BE READY FOR CONFERENCES.
  1. Decide: What are you hoping to accomplish? What is the purpose of your conferences?
  2. If you haven't already, create a data form for each child - partially filled out (testing data, class time observations...)
  3. Collect work samples for each child to back up your talking points. 
  4. Prep your meeting area with your conference materials for each student, paper, pencils or pens, a...

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How to Help Your Students Become Readers

reading Oct 03, 2019
"TURN THE LIGHT OUT! PUT THE BOOK AWAY! DO I NEED TO CONFISCATE THAT BOOK?!"

You'd think I was crazy to say those things every night to my kids. Right?! I'm not. This happens regularly in my house. Why? Because my kids are readers.

If reading can be so pleasurable, what is it about teaching reading that is so difficult? Some students seem to just soar and others walk or even limp along. I have taught every grade K-6, and I know from experience that reading truly is one of the hardest things to teach well.

So, what's the magic formula for developing readers? Love. Time. The right books at the right time. Laying a firm foundation of skills and strategies. Sharing books- having a conversation while reading and enjoying books together. Respecting differences- tastes and opinions.

TEACHING READING IS LIKE CHEMISTRY: IT FEELS LIKE MAGIC, BUT IT'S REALLY A SCIENCE.

As teachers, we wonder why some teachers' classes seem to soar while ours seem to walk. It's all about the...

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5 Traits of Pro Classroom Management

classroom management Sep 26, 2019

Here's my top 5 traits of teachers with great classroom management. 

1. Student Engagement

This one is obvious and well-touted in education. Student engagement has become the "silver bullet" for many teachers in classroom management with room transformations, classroom stages and a lot of hoopla. (Can you tell how I feel about it?) That's a lot of pressure on a teacher. To be honest, it's possible and more realistic (think sustainable) to simply love your students and be passionate about what you're teaching. From there, find simple, interesting ways to convey your message. Sure, do an occasional room transformation if that's fun for you, but don't feel like you're failing if you don't. (You're not.) Students need to learn how to be engaged in learning without all the drama in order to become lifelong learners because that's the way real life is. 

2. Clear Expectations

I can't say enough about this. One of the biggest problems I encounter in poorly managed classrooms...

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How to Regain Your Confidence When Your Classroom Management Isn't Working

classroom management Sep 19, 2019

I've had my classroom management failures just as much as the next teacher. What I've done with all that info is what has set me up for success over the years. 

When you've been knocked on your rear for the umpteenth time (been there) and head home defeated (been there, too) , remember, you CAN do this. If I can do it, YOU can do it! You really can fix your classroom management and have a well-run classroom. 

By taking all of my successes and, even more importantly, all of my FAILURES and reflecting, making changes and refining, I've gotten to the point where I can step into any classroom and be successful. It didn't just happen. All the hard work I put in simply paid off over time. 

Classroom Management is a tricky thing.

There isn't a "silver bullet" that will solve all your problems (I've looked). A well-run classroom takes time, reflection and training of both you, the teacher, and your students. It takes having and understanding all the keys to success...

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Classroom Management and Teacher Mindset: How They're Tied

classroom management Sep 05, 2019

So much of our classroom management skills start in our own heads. Dealing with our own MINDSET and beliefs about who we are and what we're capable of is the first step in both changing your classroom management and making those changes STICK.

You KNOW what I mean.

You find a new system that works for a colleague and decide to try it out. It works great for awhile, but then, it starts to unravel. The system starts to drain a lot of your time and energy just to keep it going. It's hard to figure out why it works for them and not for you.

Before you know it, you're questioning yourself and your abilities. But... YOU are not the problem. It's just a mindset shift that needs to happen. So quit beating yourself up and struggling to make a failing system work.

Mindset Matters

Instead, let's talk about how your mindset it SABOTAGING your classroom management. What lies (about you, your students or even classroom management) are you telling yourself without even really knowing it?

Here's my...
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Advice for New Teachers

True story.

My very first year teaching, was a year of surprises, lots of learning and improvising. I had 34 kids in a 3/4 split that quickly turned into a straight 4th grade. The school was in a very poor, rough area of Los Angeles. I was in a mobile all alone at the furthest end of the school with no classroom phone (this was before cell phones). The teachers at the school were reserved and not exactly welcoming to a young teacher at first. I realized later, the teachers had stacked the class I was given as were regretting that just a bit. Oops.

About 2 weeks into school, I had assigned some reading to the class and they were to get busy while I started working with a small group of struggling readers. Within the first minute of that assignment I had a student pick up his desk, throw it and shout, "I'm NOT going to do this!" To say I wasn't prepared for this would be an understatement.  I stood in shock for what seemed like an eternity but was probably only seconds. Truly, I...

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Does Lesson Planning Get You Down?

teaching Aug 22, 2019

Have you ever struggled with planning out your year in Language Arts? Well, today's your lucky day because I'm giving my entire Language Arts program a makeover this year (in my spare time).  :D

Information Overload

You see, I'm always learning new techniques and finding great ideas that I want to incorporate into the whole. For awhile this year I was on information overload, so I just let it all sit and marinate. But now,, I'm ready to tackle it all, add in the best of the best and toss the rest. 

Here's my process:
First I, gather all my resources - teaching books, articles, saved notes and thoughts in you teacher journals, mentor texts... I sort them by what they deal with (reading, writing, vocabulary...) and how I plan to use them.  
 
Second, I map out a framework of what I want things to look and how I want them to flow when I'm done. I start with the end in mind. Where do I want my students at the end of the year? What do I want them to be...
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