Posts Tagged ‘ teaching tips ’
Starting a new job can be stressful, but new teachers face obstacles like no other profession. In an occupation that relies so heavily on experience, a beginner can get lost before building up enough wisdom to overcome the daily stresses that arise in the classroom. Here are five simple ways to keep your confidence high and your classroom management strong whether you’re in-person, online, or a mixture of both.
1. Use positive reinforcement to encourage students to succeed
Students of all backgrounds respond when there is a reward for positive behaviors. Verbal praise for a specific student’s positive actions will often spur others to do the same. Tangible rewards such as stickers for the young students and homework passes for the older ones also do the trick. Make it a great honor to the students to have their work displayed in the class. My first experience in the classroom was a ninth grade Global History class in a tough Bronx, NY high school. After a rough September, I began a unit on Ancient Greece in October. I divided the students into small groups and designated each a Greek city – state to emulate. They would work in their groups for the length of the unit, with daily medals given for the top three “city-states” for quality of work, effort, and behavior. This Olympic simulation harnessed the energy in the room and gave even the most difficult student something to strive for: a place in the daily medal ceremony.
2. Set high standards and hold the students (and yourself) to them
We often set the bar too low for our students. It is important to set high – yet achievable – standards for them each day and each marking period. After the first marking period ends, work with each student to set a specific goal that improves upon an area in which they struggled in the first part of the year. Have them write a reflective piece as to why they didn’t do well and how they plan to do better. Make sure to monitor their progress frequently with one on one conferences. Include their parents in the goal setting process. When students achieve their goals, it gives you another reason to use positive reinforcement to encourage others to work harder. I’ve had many students who didn’t try hard because school was just too hard for them. When asked to examine the specific difficulty that was holding them back, some responded with telling answers. Vocabulary, reading comprehension, and a quiet place to do homework were just a few of the common issues we faced together. Identifying the problem made it possible to at least address it, and, in many cases, we did just that.
3. Don’t fight battles that you can’t win
It is very important to enforce rules and not to look weak in front of the assembled class, but some battles need to be lost in order to win the war. Not every student should be treated the same. What works as a punishment or a behavior modifier for one student will not work for all of them. For example, not every student is capable of handling direct and public criticism. Sometimes behaviors are best corrected in private or with only vague references to specific offenders. Students often respond to subtle cues, like your proximity to the misbehaver, a tap on the shoulder, or stern look. Even when a student acts out in an inappropriate way, it is not always necessary to correct the behavior with a lecture and punishment on the spot. End the disruption and deal with the fallout later. Word will surely get back to the rest of the class when the punishment or modification is doled out. Causing a scene to reestablish your credibility is not required.
4. Do not take on more responsibilities than you can handle
The first year of teaching is stress filled and requires an intense devotion to your craft. It is not recommended that you coach, take extra classes, or advise a club while you’re in educational boot camp.
During my first year of teaching I put my higher education quest on hold while I battled to become a better educator. Despite my need for more income, I avoided all opportunities to earn unless it was paid training. I spent my free time planning, grading, researching, and reflecting. Every second was time well spent.
5. Learn from more veteran teachers
All teachers, new or veteran, should be observing their colleagues and sharing best practices, but the new teacher has special needs that others do not. Questions a new teacher should ask a colleague every day include “How else could I have handled that?” and “What did you do when…?”
If you have a problem student, seek out other teachers who have him in class or who have had him in the past. If there’s a topic that you just can’t pin down how to present, go to another teacher who has done it before. Pick a friend’s brain before the first parent-teacher conference. Ask your union representative about the contract and how it affects those low on seniority. If your district has a new teacher center, go to every meeting and share your experiences with others.
It takes time to overcome a lot of the anxieties of a first year teacher, but it’s easier to have faith and confidence in yourself when you know you’re on the right path. Staying true to your training and the simple advice above will go a long way towards setting the course for stability and success.
It’s back-to-school time and we know you’re determined to start the year off right. But whether you’re a new or veteran teacher, you still need some time to stop and get back into the back-to-school frame of mind. Armed with these 10 back to school tips for teachers, the new school year is bound to be a success no matter what it looks like!
1. This Year is Not Last Year
Whether your last year of teaching was great or terrible, head into this school year knowing that it will be different. That doesn’t mean that if you had a great year last year, you won’t have a great year this year. It just means you need to look at the year with fresh eyes. You will have different students with different interests and unique personalities. What worked for your students last year may not work this year and ideas that flopped last year may be this year’s biggest successes.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking, “This year will be a breeze. I’ll just use the same lesson plans, same activities and same materials I used last year.” Instead, keep what you did last year as a backup, but go into the school year prepared to start over focused on a new group of students and their individual needs.
2. Get to Know Your Students
It takes time to get to know your students. Plan to spend a lot of time getting to know your students during the first week of school. This involves more than just learning their names. Find out their learning styles, what their interests are, and how they feel about the subject you teach. Create a few short tests or tasks to figure out where students are at so you know where to start the curriculum and to make sure no students are left behind if you’d planned to start much further ahead in the curriculum.
3. Make Students Feel Welcome
As you get to know your students, you should also make them feel welcome in your classroom. If you receive class rosters in advance, welcome students before they even step through your door by sending them a short letter or calling them and letting them know how excited you are to have them in your class. For a smaller class, post students’ names around the room or give students a special gift on the first day of school. Greet every student with a smile and a handshake as they walk in the door and let them know that it is going to be a great year.
4. Communicate with Parents
The beginning of the school year is the perfect time to get parents on your side. You may not have many discipline problems during the first week of school, but you can still make phone calls or send e-mails to parents. During the first two weeks of school, make it a point to contact every student’s parent at least once to share something positive. This will let parents know that you truly care about their children and that not every phone call from the school will be for something bad. Once students get wind that you contact parents for positives, they may be more motivated to behave in the hopes that they get another good phone call home.
5. Set the Tone
The first few days of school are usually a little more relaxed, but they are also important days for teachers to use to set the tone for the rest of the school year. In the midst of ice-breakers and administrative tasks, make sure students are clear about the rules and expectations for your classroom and start following those rules from day one. While you may not want to give homework on the first day, students should also start learning on day one. Plan an activity to introduce students to what you will be teaching and help them understand that learning is the main focus of your classroom.
6. Be Organized
If you are not organized at the beginning of the school year, it will be hard to get organized once the school year begins. Set up any folders, bins and other systems of organization you plan to use during the school year. Figure out how you will take attendance, collect and hand back student work, store extra copies of handouts and organize forms and other professional papers.
You can also get organized digitally. Create folders on your computer for each class period or to hold lesson plans and resources for specific units. Set up accounts for students on any websites you plan to use and make sure you remember your passwords for any accounts you plan to access regularly. Clean up your website and make sure your gradebook is ready to go. If you already have student and parent e-mail addresses, you can also make sure they are easily accessible in the computer.
7. Stock Up on Supplies
Even though students have school supply lists, chances are many of them will forget their supplies. Back-to-school time is the perfect time to stock up on pencils, paper, notebooks, markers and other materials you may need throughout the school year. Many large discount stores offer deep discounts on these items during the weeks leading up to the start of school. While it may seem crazy to buy 100 notebooks or 1000 pencils at once, in the middle of the school year you will love that you do not have to pay full-price to restock these items in your classroom.
8. Get Ahead While You Have Time
The beginning of the school year is the perfect time to get ahead. While you cannot plan detailed lessons before you get to know your students, you can determine the general sequence of what you plan to teach and do some lesson planning in advance. You can also start to fill out the paperwork for a grant you know you’ll want to apply for, and make initial contacts for any field trips you know you are going to take. As you are going through your to-do list or organizing your classroom, if you start to set something aside to do later, stop and ask yourself if there is any part of it you can do now in order to make it easier to finish up later.
9. Ease into It
Don’t throw yourself into the new school year. Instead, ease into it. If you can, gradually start setting your alarm earlier and earlier so it’s not so much of a shock on the first day of school. Instead of rushing to get everything done two or three days before school starts, take a few hours each day a week or two before school starts and get a little bit of prepping done here and there. That large essay or massive homework assignment you want to give students can wait too. Instead of arming yourself with loads of papers to grade the first week of school, give a smaller assignment that you can check in class or have students take online. If students had a summer assignment to complete, check off those who brought it in and then give them a week to polish it, giving you some time to adjust to the new school year before being swamped with projects to grade.
10. Think Positive
Maybe you have to teach seven out of eight periods a day. Maybe you were saddled with multiple preps. Maybe your class roster contains some of the most notorious discipline problems in the school. Maybe your school performed poorly last year and the pressure is on to do well this year. Whatever issues you may face this school year, you must go into the year thinking positive.
Yes, you may have a full load of classes, but you get to influence that many more students. Prepping for multiple classes is hard, but at least you don’t have to teach the same thing all day. Those discipline problems are going to test your patience, but you’re guaranteed not to have a dull moment and maybe you’ll actually turn them around. And those test scores? With your amazing teaching skills, of course they’re going to go up.
You can be organized, have a cabinet full of supplies, and know exactly what to do during the first week of school, but if you have a negative attitude, none of it will matter. Whether this is your first year of teaching or your last year before you get to enjoy retirement, think positive. This school year will be successful and, if it’s not, it’ll be over in around 180 days. Then you’ll get to start again.
You can always ease students into the learning process with Back-to-School worksheets from HelpTeaching.
What back to school tips and tricks would you share with teachers? Leave them in the comments!
Emojis have taken the Internet by storm. While their overuse may make you cringe, they’re a big part of the language your students speak. We say, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!” By embracing emojis and making them a part of your teaching, you can start to speak your students’ language and make your classroom a little more fun.
Reading and Writing with Emojis
Rebus stories are texts where key words and phrases are replaced with images. Create your own rebus stories using emojis to represent some of the words or have students create their own rebus stories using emojis. As students read through the stories they can build their vocabulary and comprehension skills as they decode what each emoji means. Here’s a cute rebus story for you to use as an example.
Instead of giving students a traditional writing prompt, give them a prompt written entirely in emojis. If you’re overwhelmed by the thought of putting emojis together, websites such as the Random Emoji Generator will provide random prompts for you. We’ve also created a short emoji prompts worksheet you can use as a fun activity with students.
Can you imagine what Shakespeare would look like written in emojis? Test students’ understanding of texts in creative ways by having them translate key scenes or quotes from novels into emoji-filled sentences. The idea isn’t as crazy as it sounds. In fact, a group of writers already translated Moby Dick into emojis, but we bet your students can do it better.
You can also turn the tables and translate some of your students’ messages and comments using emojis into plain English. This will help your students see how they can use different forms of words and other styles of communication to convey a similar message. It also serves as a great lesson on the difference between formal and informal language.
When students read a text, you encourage them to annotate the text by highlighting and writing notes in the margins. When students read texts on the computer or tablet, why not have them annotate with emojis? These little faces and other images can help students quickly note their feelings on different sections of the text and give them a simple way to locate important points later on.
A popular game shows players four pictures and has them guess the word all of the pictures have in common. Use emojis to create a similar game using your students’ vocabulary words. For example, a snowman, snowflake, Christmas tree, and set of skis may be used for the word “winter” or a trophy, sunglasses smiley face, star, and exclamation point may lead students to the word “stellar”.
The Common Core State Standards discuss how language changes over time. Talk with students about how emojis are part of a changing language. Hold a formal discussion where students share the pros and cons of emoji use and the effect they have on society or use this worksheet to get students to think about the changes on their own. You can also talk about changes to emojis and what emojis need to be added or taken away.
Math and Science with Emojis
Pictographs are graphs that use pictures to represent information. Instead of using traditional clip art or hand-drawn pictures, students can use emojis to create their own pictographs to represent data. Each emoji will represent a different unit.
Spice up traditional word problems by incorporating emojis. You can use emojis to replace key words and phrases, similar to how you would use them in a rebus story. Emojis can also represent numbers in problems. For example, if heart+heart=10, then how much does one heart represent?
Illustrating a Process
Few scientific videos are more entertaining than Bill Nye’s explanation of evolution using emojis. Like Bill Nye, your students can create their own videos or diagrams using emojis to illustrate different parts of a scientific processes. Or you can just incorporate Bill Nye’s series of emoji videos into your teaching.
GE Emoji Science
Another emoji resource to use in your teaching is GE Emoji Science. This Periodic Table ditches the chemical symbols in favor of emojis. Clicking on an emoji will open up an engaging explanation of a scientific concept for kids.
Emoji puzzles help build critical thinking and logic skills in students. To build an emoji puzzle, create a set of emojis related to a particular concept. This Can You Solve These Emoji Puzzles? video uses movie names and other pop culture references, but you can do the same for scientific principles, theories, or famous people and events in history.
Social and Emotional Learning with Emojis
Recognizing and Expressing Emotions
Emojis help kids learn how to recognize and express emotions. Have kids use their faces to recreate emojis or imagine what sound each emoji would make. Teachers who work with kids who struggle emotionally may also find that allowing them to express themselves through emotions rather than orally may help break down communication barriers.
Some kids have trouble communicating with regular language, but they may not have as much trouble communicating with a secret code. Encourage kids to use emojis to write out messages, and then attempt to decode the messages they create.
Emojis can be a simple way to track student behavior. Keep a chart of student names and regularly add emojis to log student behaviors throughout the day. Make these logs accessible to students so they can see how they’re doing. Encourage them to get all smiley faces or decrease the number of angry faces as they go throughout the day.
And when you need to get our your own emotions, don’t forget to check out We Are Teachers Emojis of Teaching to help you express yourself. You can also turn emojis into a history lesson by sharing The History of Emojis with students.
What are some of your favorite ways to use emojis in the classroom?
21stcentury students are constantly plugged into technology, making it the teachers’ responsibility to use their interests to engage them in the classroom. YouTube gives educators the ability to use a familiar website and an interesting medium to teach about themes and concepts that relate to their subject areas.
While there are thousands of great videos scattered about YouTube, these are ten channels that house a collection that will improve your lessons and your students’ understanding of social studies.
This series, produced by ABC at the turn of the century, breaks down major moments in American history with archived film footage and interviews with participants and regular people who lived through those moments. The small chunks of information make this series an invaluable tool for reinforcing concepts with visual primary sources.
These videos also work well for a world history class, as events like World War II and the Cold War are an important part of that curriculum, too.
These videos give a fast-paced, thorough and entertaining overview of many different topics in history, literature, economics, and other key subjects. You can also find related resources and more easily search some of the videos on the Crash Course website. It’s important to note that most of these videos are not appropriate for elementary and middle school students, but there is a Crash Course Kids series that might be okay.
This channel helps viewers gain a quick overview of key events in history through short, illustrated videos. Each video is narrated and told in a story format to make it more engaging for students.
4. Khan Academy
What makes Twitter and Facebook so popular? Why do kids prefer to text message in code than write in full length English? It’s because they prefer bite sized chunks of information and the movement towards these small doses of content is exemplified by the Khan Academy. Here you will find a huge library of lectures ranging from five to 20 minutes that use relevant and interesting visuals to teach about a specific topic. Wondering what that FICA Tax is that’s taken out of your paycheck? Watch this. Need a quick primer on how communism is different than capitalism? Here ya go.
It is hard to spend time on current events due to time and curriculum constraints, but whenever there is a historical topic that connects to a modern one, we should make it a priority to discuss that connection. For example, the AP has dozens of very short videos on the current situation in North Korea that can be used in conjunction with a Cold War unit.
This channel provides a breathtaking database of presidential speeches and occasions that can accent any lesson in modern American History. From clips of the famous Kennedy – Nixon presidential debates to President Clinton’s take on gun control after the Columbine school shooting, these videos make it simple to enhance an already stellar lesson plan with relevant primary source video.
Search through the playlists available on this channel and marvel at the resources they have compiled. Heartbreaking stories of loss, uplifting stories of love, and everything in between.
I don’t know exactly what to make of this, but it may be the most creative mixture of pop culture and history that I have ever seen. The team at History for Music Lovers rewrites songs from the last forty years of pop music to teach about a historical figure or period. They also film music videos, complete with costumes and plots, to accompany their song parodies.
Watch The French Revolution, as sung to Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance, William the Conquerer set to Justin Timberlake’s Sexy Back, or relive the Eighties with Billy Idol’s Eyes without a Face transformed to The Crusades.
Some of the songs will be before your students’ time, but the effort and creativity on display is sure to break any generational walls.
The Biography Channel on You Tube has endless “mini – bios”, all around five minutes in length; a perfect amount of time to spend on a video clip within a lesson plan.
10. Help Teaching
Help Teaching’s YouTube channel features videos on a range of subjects including social studies. You can also find ad-free versions of the videos on our online lessons page. Best of all, each lesson is accompanied by worksheets to help assess what students have learned.
You Tube may provide students with music videos and clips of teens getting pranked by their friends, but it also can be a tool for learning. Use the channels above to augment your materials and find your own to show students that the web is also a place for education.
In a world that is increasingly reliant on technology, it feels like kids are always in front of screens. While you want them to learn how to thrive in a technologically-centered world, you also don’t want them to spend their entire lives online. Thankfully, there’s good news. Many of the critical thinking and communication skills kids need to thrive online can also be developed offline. So get kids to put down the screens and do some offline learning that will help them next time they log back on.
Muscle memory is a big part of being able to type well. It’s similar to playing an instrument like the guitar or piano. Your fingers learn where to go.
Print or draw a copy of a keyboard and practice moving your fingers to type the same set of words over and over again.
Make a Maze
Create a maze and write steps to help someone get through it.
One way is to create a LEGO maze and write instructions to get through it using the fewest commands possible.
Similar to a maze, work on communication skills by having kids give someone else instructions on how to do something. Make a LEGO figure, draw the same picture, make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, etc.
Play a Guessing Game
Come up with a number and see how quickly kids can guess it. Play 20 questions and have them use yes/no questions to try to figure out what you’re thinking of (easier if it’s a specific topic, like Pokemon characters). If you want to take the activity further, talk about the decisions that were made in the process.
Find Multiple Ways to Complete a Task
For example, ask kids to fold a sheet of paper to create 16 equal rectangles. Then ask them to find another way to do the same thing. Can they come up with three ways? Four ways?
Play If, Then Simon Says
Take Simon Says to the next level by turning it into an If, Then game. Don’t think this is just for little kids. If you throw in some tricky if, then statements it can be challenging even for older kids. Even high school students enjoy a good game of Simon Says as a brain break every now and then.
Create a Visual Sequence
Take a story kids have read or an experience they’ve had and turn it into a visual sequence using only arrows and singular images to describe what happened.
Make a Binary Alphabet Creation
Using the binary alphabet, have kids make a bracelet, a LEGO sequence, or a code on graph paper (coloring in the squares a different color for each number) to write a message in binary. Then see if you can guess what it says.
Have Fun with Emojis
Draw pictures of emojis to tell a story. Play emoji Pictionary. Make faces that mimic emojis and try to guess what emoji each person is trying to make. Find more educational uses for emojis with 15 Ways to Emoji-fy Your Teaching.
Solve Riddles and Logic Puzzles
- Who’s Who? Preschool Riddle Puzzle
- Elementary Logic Puzzles
- Definitions Word Puzzles
- Synonyms Word Puzzles
- Rebus Word Puzzles
For more great ideas, CS Unplugged offers lesson plans and resources to help kids learn computer science skills online. If you have a Minecraft fan at home, you might also enjoy 10 Offline Ways to Bring Minecraft into the Classroom.
What favorite games or activities do you have to help kids learn tech skills offline?
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, but all reviews and opinions are our own.
Dancing along to a song or singing a tune sounds like a simple activity to pass the time, but for children, it’s so much more. Numerous research studies have found that music is a major contributor to children’s growth and development. Combined with movement, music accelerates the development of cognitive, physical, emotional and social skills that can prepare a child for the big world.
Let’s take a look at the positive effects of song and dance to the development of children and how you can help your child reap these benefits.
Moving and Singing
Music has the ability to get us moving and it can also put us in the mood to simply sit back and relax. Play a happy, upbeat tune and you can see little children bouncing along to it. Turn the volume down and choose a soothing classical piece and you’ll find babies falling asleep without a fuss. Such is the effect of music on human behavior, and this is something you can use to help your child develop.
Moving along to music improves coordination among different body parts, allowing your child to develop motor skills. They learn to control movement, develop different muscle groups and get a good exercise. Dancing is great for muscle development, balance and strength. When children dance in a group, they also develop spatial awareness, allowing them to become less clumsy while paying more attention to others in the same space.
Young children with good gross motor skills are also able to hone their fine motor skills more quickly. This helps them when learning how to write and play a musical instrument such as an acoustic guitar, ukulele or a piano.
Singing, while not often seen as a strenuous physical activity, is actually a good aerobic exercise as well. Singing and dancing are aerobic exercises that improve the efficiency of the body’s cardiovascular system. They increase the amount of oxygen in the blood and make you alert, and trigger the release of hormones that are linked to feelings of happiness.
Soothing babies by singing lullabies and nursery rhymes is also a good way to develop emotional regulation in children.
Musical Activities at Home
Making song and dance a part of the everyday life at home is probably the best way to reap the benefits early on. Here are some fantastic ideas to make music and movement a family affair.
- Let your child play with toys that make sounds. We’re not just talking about toy instruments such as rattles and xylophones for babies. Even a simple wooden spoon can make a sound when hit against a bowl, so let your child experiment and discover the different sounds they can make using a variety of objects.
- Sing together. It really doesn’t matter if you think you sound like a goat – what matters is you for a bond with your child as they learn how to sing along! Start with popular nursery rhymes (such as “Twinkle, Twinkle” and “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep”), the birthday song, the alphabet song, and other fun songs for children.
- Incorporate music into your child’s everyday routine. Make up a wakeup time song, a snacktime song, a bathtime rhyme, a lunch ditty, a bedtime song, a pick-up-your-toys-time song and what have you. It makes these activities more enjoyable for little children too.
- Get dancing, get bonding. Encourage your child to move along to music by doing some dancing yourself. Infants and toddlers make simple movements that are fine-tuned as they grow. Dance with your child and you’ll be doing it until they have dancing children of their own!
What’s your experience with music and raising your kids? Tell us your story! If you’re looking to help kids learn piano, check out Skoove, a program which offers online interactive lessons and tutorials and resources to help people of all ages learn to play.
Every teacher wants their classroom to be a place of joy, harmony and inclusion, particularly during the winter holiday season. But with students of many faiths and cultures represented in today’s classrooms, it can sometimes be tricky to stay sensitive to everyone’s needs and step around the pitfalls of stereotyping and tokenism.
Teachers are on the vanguard of diversity education, so it’s our job to balance awareness, representation and sensitivity when it comes to winter holiday celebrations in the classroom. These four key principles will help you develop your own strategy for holiday celebrations that engage students from a wide variety of cultures.
Don’t Assume, Stereotype, or Tokenize
First and foremost, remember that holiday activities will often require care and thought toward equitability because of how they bring real-world traditions into the classroom. That can make a great opportunity for fun and interesting learning, but its benefits must be equitable.
How to pull off this balancing act? The first step is to check your assumptions and privilege. Don’t assume that a student celebrates any particular holiday based on their ethnicity or heritage. Likewise, don’t assume that everyone celebrates a winter holiday. Some students’ religious traditions may not have winter holidays or any holidays at all, and many will likely celebrate the same holiday in different ways.
One good way to get started is to open up a discussion to any student who wants to talk about their celebrations or traditions, keeping in mind that not all children will be comfortable talking about theirs. Remember that students shouldn’t be expected to be experts on the holidays they or their families celebrate. Student-led discussions of different celebrations can be great, but avoid putting any student on the hot seat to talk about or explain a particular tradition.
Build Diversity into Your Lesson Plans
Good holiday lesson plans should celebrate differences. A unit on different holiday celebrations, for example, can provide some fun and interesting lesson opportunities. The holiday season is the perfect time to bring in guest speakers to talk to the class about how they celebrate holidays, since many students will be eager for a change of pace, and speakers can often provide interesting and in-depth insights to add to discussions. Parents or community leaders make great guest speakers, and some will probably be eager to share their traditions.
If you want to examine certain traditions but can’t fit in guest speakers, try reading books or watching films or YouTube videos as part of your investigations into how different cultures celebrate. For older students, breaking the class into groups to learn about and report on various holiday traditions can be a good way to create student interest and sharpen research skills. If interesting and diverse activities are available, field trips to community holiday events can be another excellent option.
Think Outside the Usual Holiday Cliches
There’s nothing wrong with reindeer, Santa hats and sugar cookies, but try to diversify your decorations and not focus them on a single holiday. At the same time, be careful about using symbols from cultures you’re not familiar with—do your research first and make sure you’re not using them in an offensive or inappropriate way. When in doubt, it’s best to politely ask someone with knowledge of the specific cultural tradition.
Soliciting student input on decorations or letting students hang their own crafts can offer a lot of great possibilities to let kids express themselves and feel represented in the classroom. Holiday STEM projects offer more great ideas since they often focus on things like winter weather that can be examined outside of a cultural or religious context. (Plus, they often use interesting and fun tools like student microscopes.)
In classes with a strong multicultural focus, one idea is to make the winter holidays a single piece of a rolling year-round investigation into holidays from many different traditions. This can be a good way to include students whose traditions don’t have any winter holidays, or for whom winter holidays aren’t a focal point of the year.
Consider Forms of Inclusion Outside of Religion and Culture
There are many ways to create a diverse and harmonious classroom besides acknowledging religious differences. The holidays are a great time to focus on what brings us together, and that means paying special attention to students with a full range of physical, cultural, social and emotional needs. Consider factors such as:
- Dietary restrictions. Some traditional western Christmas food, for example, contains peanuts and other foods that may not be acceptable to students whose traditions include dietary rules.
- Emotional and social needs. Holidays can be an emotionally stressful time for many students, so it’s important to be able to point students toward the necessary resources.
- Needs of neurodivergent students and students with disabilities. The hustle and bustle of holiday activities can be difficult and overstimulating for students with some conditions, so make sure that diverse learners are getting the support they need.
Socioeconomic differences are another area that you may need to be particularly careful about addressing during the holidays. Questions about giving and receiving gifts can create uncomfortable moments for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, so be prepared to steer class discussions away from these topics if they come up, or to offer support to students who need it.
Cheryl Stevens is the Community Relations Specialist for AmScope. She oversees all company-wide outreach programs and initiatives. Her passion in life is helping others see the value in and implement STEM programs for children at an early age.
Teachers truly are miracle workers. Not only do they work hard to turn around struggling students and help exceptional students succeed, but they often do it with a limited budget and a lack of quality materials. That’s why sites like Pinterest are full of ideas for turning household goods and recyclables into fun classroom projects. Sometimes, however, teachers need more than recycled goods. That’s when money – and a bit of goodwill – comes into play. If you desperately need funding for your classroom, we’re here to help with a list of websites and other resources to provide the money you need.
Note: Before posting any fundraisers for your classroom, check your school or district guidelines. Some districts require that teachers receive approval from administration or the board before fundraising.
DonorsChoose.org gives teachers the opportunity to post their classroom needs and allows others to contribute to those needs. Friends, family, and community members who know about the project can contribute, but the project will also be visible to a wealth of donors who regularly work with the site to help fund classroom projects. While teachers can request virtually anything, projects with lower costs, longer deadlines, and clear academic goals have the highest funding rates. Once teachers receive the materials from DonorsChoose, they must fill out a documentation and thank you package to send to donors. Successfully completing the documentation earns teachers more points to submit new project requests.
TeacherLists.com gives teachers a place to post their classroom supply lists so parents can easily access them. While the goal of the site is just to share school supply lists, teachers can also create lists for other reasons, giving parents and other school supporters gift ideas for Christmas or Teacher Appreciation Week. Teachers can also win free supplies by referring other teachers to the site. For example, getting one new teacher to sign up earns teachers a selection of Wet Ones hand sanitizing wipes.
Classwish offers multiple ways for teachers to get resources for their classrooms. At the basic level, teachers create wish lists and share those lists with potential donors to help get the items and the funds they need. The site also helps schools partner with local businesses to create workplace giving or matching gift programs. Parents, friends, and others can also send greeting card gift certificates to help meet their classroom needs.
Through Adopt-a-Classroom teachers can get their classroom needs in the hands of donors who want to help meet those needs. Similar to DonorsChoose, teachers post their latest projects and other classroom needs to their Adopt-A-Classroom profile. They can then share those needs through social media or promote their page within the community to get people to donate. Donors who regularly visit the site can also search for different teachers’ needs and donate.
With DigitalWish teachers can ask for donations to help bring technology into the classroom. While teachers may not receive new computers or high-end equipment, they can receive cool software and smaller digital items, such as handheld video cameras, to help bring their classrooms into the 21st century. The site also regularly offers grants to help teachers get specific products and works with companies to provide deep discounts for teachers.
Jumping on the crowdfunding bandwagon, PledgeCents helps teachers use the power of crowdfunding to fund their classroom needs. After setting up a project, teachers share it through social media sites and encourage others to share it as well. As the project starts to go viral, more and more people can donate to it, helping teachers reach their goals a few dollars at a time. Since the goal of PledgeCents is to get others involved, teachers should not be shy about asking for donations and should work hard to present a compelling case to get their needs met.
While Freecycle might not help you meet specific classroom needs, it could help you find free resources for your classroom. On Freecycle, people give away things for free. By connecting with a local group, you could find free classroom furniture, boxes and other random objects for craft projects, or even request specific items for a classroom project. Getting some items for free could help free up money in the budget for other classroom supplies.
One way to get extra funds for the classroom is just to make extra money. TeachersPayTeachers allows teachers to sell lesson plans, worksheets, and other educational materials. By adding and promoting their materials, teachers can make a little extra cash to use in the classroom. They’ll also find free lesson plans, worksheets, and other resources to use with their students. You can also now raise funds to purchase things on the site through the TpT ClassFund.
While teachers can’t start campaigns on DoSomething.org, their students can. Designed to help teens and young adults fund their causes, teachers can help students get started using DoSomething.org. Through the site, students can find funding and support for school fundraisers, community service projects, and other ideas designed to help others and make the world a better place. If students don’t have their own cause, teachers can help them find an existing cause to support. This works great for character education classes and school clubs.
If you have an Amazon account, you can set up a wish list full of items you need in your classroom through Amazon Lists. Share the link with parents, friends, or even total strangers and ask them to purchase something from your list. Items purchased from your list can be shipped directly to you at the address you select. The address will be hidden from senders so safety is not an issue. Don’t have a strong network of support? Connect with a page such as Teacher Amazon Gifting which encourages teachers to support one another by purchasing items from wishlists or tweet out a link to your list with #SupportATeacher and #clearthelist.
GoFundMe allows teachers to post fundraisers for their classrooms on its cloud-funding platform. The site includes categories for teachers, teams and clubs, and students and parents.
SimpleFund gives parents and students a chance to raise funds for schools by using their cell phones. They earn funds by reading articles, watching videos, and downloading apps.
Class Tag helps you raise money as you communicate with parents. Every time you engage with parents, you earn coins within the program. Those coins can be redeemed for classroom supplies.
Shoparoo uses grocery receipts to help schools earn money. Parents simply download the app and upload their receipts every time they shop. Then the school earns money.
What other websites, resources, or methods have you used to help fund your classroom needs?
Whether you’re a new teacher entering the classroom for the first time or a veteran teacher with experience to spare, we’re all looking for ways to improve our performance and better serve our students. Setting goals for development before the year begins enables you to track your evolution and share your progress with colleagues.
1. Keep a reflective journal
All teachers grudgingly completed reflections while studying in college and most have long since stopped the practice. Reflecting on a method, assignment, or lesson can do wonders for how you handle a similar situation later in the year or in your career. Even though we think we’ve seen it all, a written account of your thoughts at that precise moment carries more weight than you think.
2. Share best practices
Professional development never gives us enough time to network with colleagues, but sharing best practices can be the best way to develop your talent and skill for teaching. Sharing worksheets, methods, or projects can have an immediate impact on how you deliver your information and how your students respond to it.
3. Observe colleagues
Sometimes you just have to be there. Sitting and watching another teacher deliver a lesson is the best way to see what other methods work and how you can adapt them to fit your style.
4. Use social media for new ideas
Social media isn’t just for sharing your vacation pictures; it can also connect you to teachers and ideas from around the world. Services like Diigo, Classroom 2.0, and TeachAde provide a platform for sharing methods, links, and advice with qualified colleagues.
5. Go for training
With budgets shrinking all over, opportunities for training have decreased, but if you’re offered the chance to spend a day learning new methods or receiving new – and often free – resources, take it! The one day of teaching you miss will be repaid tenfold by the experience and wisdom you gain.
Taking the time to be a better teacher isn’t as hard as it seems. Use these suggestions as a guide to starting the year off on a good note.
Whether it’s reading poems written by some of the greatest poets of all time or writing poems of their own, students spend a fair amount of time studying poetry in the ELA classroom. While the figurative language and eloquent verses found in poems may seem best-suited for ELA, their relevance extends across the curriculum. From science and math to social studies and foreign language courses, poetry can become an integral part of student learning outside of the ELA classroom.
Believe it or not, not all poetry centers around love and deep philosophical concepts. A lot of poetry has been written to explain the world around us, including mathematical and scientific concepts. Consider these lines by a famous poet:
This is now–this was erst,
Proposition the first–and Problem the first.
On a given finite Line
Which must no way incline;
To describe an equi–
–A, N, G, L, E.
– From “A Mathematical Problem” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Throughout history, well-known poets have shared their thoughts about the world. Poetry has also been used to chronicle and commemorate many historic events. For example, many students can recite lines from “Paul Revere’s Ride” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow when asked to recall that infamous night during the American Revolution. Other references are more subtle. For example, these lines from the poem “O Captain! My Captain” by Walt Whitman were written about the death of Abraham Lincoln:
O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck the Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
To find poetry to fit a specific time in history or concept in math or science, simply perform a quick internet search for poems in your subject area and you’ll come up with numerous examples. You may also check out books of poetry created to help students learn about science, math, and social studies.
Some of our favorite resources include:
- Mathapalooza: A Collection of Poetry for Primary and Intermediate Students by Franny Vergo, a collection of poems related to basic math.
- Math Poetry: Linking Language and Math in a Fresh Way by Betsy Franco, a book of lesson ideas, sample poems, and math-related poetry activities for kids.
- Marvelous Math: A Book of Poems by Lee Bennett Hopkins, designed for students in grades 3-5.
- Math Talk: Mathematical Ideas in Poems for Two Voices by Theoni Pappas, a collection of poems on middle and high school math topics designed to be read by two students at once.
- Science Verse by popular children’s author Jon Scieszka, a wealth of silly and informational poems on popular science topics.
- Joyful Noise by Paul Fleischman, a collection of poems about insects and nature designed to be read by two people at once.
- Spectacular Science: A Book of Poems by Lee Bennett Hopkins, questions related to science answered in poetic verse.
- The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science by Sylvia Vardell, helps K-5 teachers incorporate Common Core science into their curriculum through the use of poetry.
- The Watch That Ends the Night by Allan Wolff tells the story of the Titanic in verse.
- Harlem by Walter Dean Myers celebrates the people of Harlem in a book written in poem form.
- Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson tells the story of a girl growing up in the South, and later Brooklyn, during the Civil Rights Movement.
- May B by Caroline Starr Rose tells the story of a young girl living on the Kansas Frontier and the struggles she faces.
- Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai tells the story of a girl who must flee from her home after the Fall of Saigon and shares what her new life is like in Alabama.
Writing poetry can be a way to assess students’ understanding of particular concepts, It also helps teachers incorporate creative thinking skills into the math, science, and social studies classrooms. Students may write poems about particular concepts, people, or events related to the subject area.
Three forms of poetry that work particularly well outside of the ELA classroom are:
- Found poetry
- Concrete poetry
- List poetry
Found Poetry involves taking lines from other sources and turning them into poetry. For example, students may turn words from the Declaration of Independence into a poem:
The Pursuit of Happiness
All men are created equal
Evils are sufferable.
Or students may take information from an article about space exploration and turn them into a poem:
Stepped on the moon.
Sent rover to Mars.
Retrieved pictures from Hubble Space Telescope.
Spent a year on the International Space Station.
We have laid the foundation for success.
Going farther into the solar system than ever before.
Concrete poetry, also known as shape poetry, involves taking a poem and placing it into the shape of an object. Students may create poems to represent mathematical equations, specific shapes, or different areas of science. For example, a poem about photosynthesis may be written in the shape of the sun. The shape of the poem helps add additional meaning and ensure the content sticks in a student’s memory.
Consider this poem about a triangle:
sometimes isosceles or right
List poetry is simply poetry created out of a list. The list doesn’t just list items randomly. Instead, it’s a carefully thought out poem, often containing repetition, to cover a topic. A student may write a list poem about a particular concept, a person, or even an event in science or history.
For example, the following list poem might have been written during a unit on the Civil Rights Movement:
Martyrs for the Cause
Addie Mae Collins
Jimmie Lee Jackson
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Paying Attention to the Words
Poetry is about more than rhyming a few words on the page. As you read poetry with students or have students write poems of their own, encourage them to pay attention to the words on the page. The figurative language, diction (word choice), and even the placement of the words on the page can help add deeper meaning to poems and encourage students to think critically and creatively about the content being taught.