Ready, Set, Go! The beginning of the school year is like a long, focused run.
Before students enter your classroom, you have spent hours getting ready. There are many important things to remember and share with students on the first day of school.
When the big day arrives, there’s no better time to give yourself extra time by getting to school early and making sure everything is in place. The extra minutes provide a buffer for the unexpected and allow you to stay calm. That way you can welcome your newcomers with a smile and a good morning ritual to start the year. Once it’s time to get down to business, incorporate this list of First School Day Must Do’s.
The first day never quite goes according to plan – especially the end of the day with all of the bus delay confusion.
Be patient with yourself and with your first day expectations. It’s an exciting day, but plans can go awry. That’s the beauty of teaching. No two days are the same. As day #1 comes to an end, thank students for a great day, and share how much you’re looking forward to seeing them again for day #2.
Looking for a great teacher movie to get you inspired for the start the school year? Grab some popcorn, and watch one of the following selections.
Ben Cash is the ultimate homeschool parent. Raising six kids in the woods of the Pacific Northwest, he teaches his amazing children how to be self-sufficient, well-read, and strong. Their nonconformist life- style has consequences that eventually force Ben to face some hard truths. Poignant and thought-provoking.
A timeless classic starring Patty Duke and Anne Bancroft who recreated their stage roles as Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan. The famous water scene (when Anne takes Helen to the water pump, and Helen understands the word w-a-t-e-r ) is legendary. It’s the perfect movie example of teaching from the heart.
After a school trauma, a compassionate, substitute teacher deals with his students’ emotions. Guiding the students through a difficult time, Monsieur Lazar does his best to make a difference in their lives while trying to build a new life of his own.
This is a movie about young love. Two pre-adolescent runaways, Sam and Suzy, experience a thrilling adventure while the clueless adults set off on a mad search to find them. Sam and Suzy are outcasts, but you will embrace the wonderful qualities that make them fascinating and endearing. I would love to have Sam and Suzy in my classroom.
Scary teacher alert. I’ve sat in on a few testy band practices, but nothing compares to the agony delivered by jazz band director, Terence Fletcher. In his teaching philosophy, the most harmful words are “Good Job!” He pushes his ambitious student beyond limits with a teaching style I would NOT recommend. Every teacher yells at some point, but this man’s fury is terrifying.
“I haven’t received my ‘welcome back’ letter yet.”
With many weeks remaining before the official start of school, my young friend was worried about not receiving her official back-to-school letter. Her words made me realize the power simple letters/notes have in building a positive home-school connection. Students look forward to mail personally addressed to them, and the “official” letter builds excitement for the new year.
Here are four ways to create a sense of classroom community before the first day of school.
The beginning of school is exciting for everyone. After a summer spent recharging, it’s a time of clean slates, optimism, and nervous energy – the perfect time to start
building a positive home-school connection. Letting students know you’re looking forward to meeting them sets a welcoming tone for a fresh, new start.
The first day of school can be overwhelming for many students (and teachers). Despite new supplies and the promise of seeing friends, many students are nervous, and some are even a little scared. What can we do to alleviate some of these first week of school jitters?
While it takes time for everyone to get to know each other, the first week of school should include activities that focus on welcoming students, making them feel comfortable, and building a sense of community in your classroom.
Early bird teachers start everything early. They wake up early (even on vacation), they arrive early to meetings, submit their lesson plans early, and are prepared for the first day of school weeks in advance.
Non-early birders prepare and plan at their own pace by setting deadlines to get things done. With the days of summer still plentiful, here are five, easy new
school year tasks for teachers of all paces to add to their teacher survival kit.
The Alphabet Thief Brain Game
What is the pattern you see?
Can you come up with two more that fit the pattern?
The days of writing lesson plan goals, objectives and procedures, and saving supplemental materials in a big 3-ring binder are fast disappearing.
Today, there are countless ways to plan and deliver a lesson, but teachers still seek ways to simplify the process. If you’re looking for new ways to streamline and/or enrich your planning, try one of the following and see how it works for you.
Gather lessons online with open online educational resources (OER) such as OER Commons.
Open educational resources (OER) are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain. In other words, you can use the plans with students and share them with colleagues without asking for permission.
Enliven a current plan with a new tool such as Google Maps.
For example, educator Caitlin Tucker (ASCD, 2016) drops pins in different locations on Google Maps to teach story setting. Each pin has a creative writing prompt or the first line of a story that students need to complete. After students select their pins, they explore the area surrounding their pins via Google Earth to write their setting descriptions. This activity personalizes the lesson by providing students with choice and voice in how they learn.
Get resources and lessons from a museum.
Smithsonian Science How is a live middle school program streamed through the web that takes questions from students. It provides students with real-world science through free webcasts and supplements it with plans and resources. You can also use the resources to personalize your own lessons, develop a research project, or generate an interactive class experience.
Use templates to streamline planning.
Common Curriculum is an online lesson-planning and calendar tool. Teachers can customize plans with templates for subject areas and personal teaching styles. The site is easy to navigate and can definitely streamline the process. Their motto is “Take the busy work out of lesson planning, and spend more time changing lives.”
Draw your plans with a visual, graphic organizer such as a concept map or a mind map.
Some teachers feel concept maps are designed for conveying knowledge, while mind maps are better at capturing information, but both are effective tools for planning. With concept maps, teachers identify key concepts and themes and draw connecting lines between related concepts. Connector lines contain keywords or phrases that summarize the relationship between the topics they connect.
Mind maps branch off from a central idea into other associations and/or ideas. Teachers can mind map what they know about a unit by using key concepts and related information that adds depth and detail. Ideas can be grouped and topics prioritized. The process is one of discovery, classification, and decision making.
Summer is officially underway! I hope everyone is enjoying some much needed rest and relaxation.
As you relax, enhance the post school year decompression process with the following posts:
Those of you who feel summer is the perfect time to earn extra money should read,
If you find yourself reflecting on the past year, pat yourself on the back and remember the countless ways you changed lives for the better.
If positive reflection is a practice you want to continue in your classroom this fall, download my 20 Day Self-Reflection Plan. The twenty daily reflections are grouped into four teaching domains (planning & preparation, classroom environment, instruction, professional responsibilities) and focus on the positive actions and strategies teachers perform in their classrooms. Thinking about these positive accomplishments will lead to creative ideas and/or actions that help reframe issues and perspectives.
Here are 7 great articles about teaching/education/learning I read in June.
Taking a summer job doesn’t have to be drudgery. If you’re a teacher looking for fun ways to earn extra money this summer, consider the following summer job ideas for teachers.
While doing something you enjoy probably won’t make you rich overnight, it might put a little extra cash in your pocket. Here are 5 great ways for teachers to earn extra money during the summer:
Turn your extracurricular hobbies into earning opportunities. If you play an instrument, locate a few venues that book your type of music. Artists, create and sell your own art. Athletes, earn extra money with summer camps. Whatever your talent may be, you might be surprised at the opportunities available to you.
If you love the outdoors and have an interest and/or training in environmental education, many environmental/nature centers need seasonal educators to lead guided tours and to teach nature programs. An added perk is the stress reduction you will experience from walking in nature and inhaling the fresh air.
If you enjoy tutoring and mentoring, many learning centers and education companies need teachers to assist high school students in one or more of the following subject areas. A helpful place for potential tutors to learn about the tests is at The College Board website where you can take practice tests.
Part-time seasonal work can be a great way to earn extra income and try something different. Positions in demand in the summer months include: lifeguard, outdoor theatre/festival/sporting event assistant, garden center coordinator, retail, farmer’s market vendor, museum tour guide etc.
Pursuing an advanced degree may not earn you money this summer, but it will pay off down the road because teachers with advanced degrees earn more money. Become an educational specialist in instructional technology, media, reading, science, special education, gifted & talented, math or an ESOL teacher who teaches English to students who grew up speaking a different language. Perhaps you possess leadership skills and are looking for more responsibility through educational administration.
Investing in yourself brings new skills, ideas, and pursuits. And, as any good teacher knows, lifelong learning is the key to success.
Incorporate what you love into your summer job and earn some extra cash while doing it.
After the hectic pace of the end of the school year, it is difficult to decompress and settle into a new routine. Even if you are working throughout the summer, it’s important to take time for rest and relaxation. View the summer as an opportunity to enjoy well-earned leisure time. Consider doing some or all of the following teacher decompression suggestions.
Here are 6 great ways for teachers to decompress after a demanding year:
During the school year, it is sometimes difficult to spend quality time with our family and friends. This summer, make time to nurture relationships. Catch up with someone you haven’t talked with in awhile. Take advantage of the beautiful weather and long days to share common interests. Go for a walk together. Eat dinner outside. Watch the sunset. Meaningful time spent with others is always time well spent.
What’s on your reading list? Reading is a great way to relax – especially in the summer – by the pool, at the beach, in a hammock, at a park. You have just finished helping countless students discover the joys of reading, summer is your time. Read works from your favorite authors, or find your next great read at: What Should I Read Next?, Goodreads, or Olmenta.
Relaxation can also be whatever comes to mind when you think of fun: Play a round of golf, tend to a garden, visit a museum, attend a baseball game, pick berries, take photos, find geocache treasures, attend a concert, go fishing/biking/hiking/swimming/dancing etc. Whatever you do, have fun, unwind, and decompress.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, doing aerobic or a mix of aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities 3 to 5 times a week for 30 to 60 minutes provides many mental health benefits. It can also reduce the risk of depression and may help you sleep better. Some scientific evidence has also shown that even lower levels of physical activity can be beneficial. Walk in nature to receive both restorative and health benefits.
Your summer “get to-do” list might include making something with your own hands – knitting, painting, woodworking, or gardening. Clear your mind and discover your “flow.” Positive psychologist, Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi, believes creativity is a central source of meaning in our lives and describes flow as “the creative moment when a person is involved in an activity for its own sake.”
Disconnect from technology for a few hours while you take a luxurious bath. Sit back, unwind, and let the warm tranquility take you away. Enjoy a piece of chocolate or a cup of tea too, and congratulate yourself for making it through another year.
There you have it: 6 great ways teachers can decompress after a demanding year. Try a few teacher decompression ideas. You'll be happy you did.
Inspirational quotes are abundant on social media. As we scroll though our lives, they offer wisdom and motivation. Recently, a “quote activity” caught my attention with its ability to create and maintain online conversation. Engaged participants were thinking about, discussing, and interpreting various quotes. It was introduced as follows:
“Post a movie quote that gives away the film without saying the title.”
For example, “To infinity . . . and beyond!” is a quote from the movie Toy Story. “There’s no place like home.” is from The Wizard of Oz. “You’re going to need a bigger boat” is from . . .
Like a great classroom prompt, friends eagerly responded and began challenging each other. They posted movie quotes, debated the quality of the movies, and enlivened the conversation with obscure movie facts.
Their online conversations made me wonder how and why certain movie quotes become memorable. Do only classic movies have memorable quotes? Are some quotes more significant to those of certain generations? Doesn’t everyone agree with Ferris Bueller’s quote, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”?
My friend’s movie post could be adapted for the classroom as a device for a lively literature activity and discussion. Working in groups, students compile and/or ask others for their favorite book quotes. After the quotes have been compiled and shared, each group selects their top ten quotations to share with the other students. Can students name the titles of the books based on the quotes? Extend and enrich the activity by discussing the following:
Encourage the students to use their creativity to create a collaborative quote journal/collage, or an inspirational bulletin board. The quote journal/bulletin board can be used for future activities that promote engaging conversation, personal reflection, and a love of literature.
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McDaniel College student's data postcard
One of the defining features of 21st century life is the prevalence of data. Whether it is the complexity of Google algorithms or the simplicity of a Fitbit’s
measurements, data is everywhere. Standing at the center of this data vortex is . . . you. The activities that comprise our daily lives are what give meaning to the data.
Visual information designers Giorgia Lupi and Stefanie Posavec see data as a creative material like paint or paper. Their engaging book, Dear Data, depicts how they became friends by revealing to one another details of their daily lives. Every week, for a year, they sent each other postcards describing the details of their lives. But they didn’t write about their lives, they drew it. “Every Monday we chose a particular subject on which to collect data about ourselves for the whole week: how often we complained, or the times when we felt envious; when we came into physical contact and with whom; the sounds we heard around us. We then created a drawing representing this data on a postcard-sized sheet of paper, and dropped the postcard into an English post box (Stefanie) or an American mail box (Giorgia).
Inspired by the book, students at McDaniel College collected and visually presented data associated with their “ordinary” lives and created a visual data timeline. Like the book, their depicted activities capture patterns and creativity in even “the smallest details of our lives.”
Finding and visually displaying data is an excellent project for students of all ages, from elementary students to graduate students. Using data to quantify the self will interest students because they can choose which data set to explore and collect. Critical and creative thinking skills combine as they consider the best way to visually represent the information. It’s an excellent project-based learning activity because students learn more about themselves as they explore the world around them. To learn more, visit dear-data.com
Despite the snow on the ground, spring is on the way. Celebrate the new season with the following spring-themed scavenger hunt. It builds vocabulary and creativity and helps young children enjoy the beautiful signs of the season.
We all know that what we eat is vital to good health, but it’s often hard to convey that to children. We say, “eat your vegetables” and and they think, “stop
nagging me.” Learning about nutritious fruits and vegetables can be fun when we get creative.
Fruits and vegetables come in many colors including, red, blue/purple, yellow, green, and orange. Once children know a balanced diet includes foods from each of these colors, they start looking for vibrant colored food at the grocery store and during mealtime. They can list the new foods by writing the fruit and vegetable names in their corresponding colors. For example, they would write “lemon” with a yellow marker or crayon.
In the classroom, I would share my “favorites” within the various colors. For example, I might mention that my favorite orange food is a kumquat. Of course, the students had many questions about kumquats (excellent mini-research opportunity) and wanted to see me eat one.
Sometimes, the students and I did not know if a certain food was a fruit or a vegetable, such as peas. Our uncertainty was another great opportunity to consult the computer or the dictionary to build our vocabularies and food knowledge. Invariably, students were interested in why foods are a certain color. This is when I would introduce my Nutrition Question Board with “Why are foods certain colors?” More questions followed such as, “Why are vegetables different shapes and sizes?” and “How are seedless fruits made?”
At this point, I did not have to tell them about the healthy benefits and nutrients in colorful foods. They were well on their way to harvesting their own healthy habits. All I had to do was provide the resources for them to begin their independent research.
We all know the importance of nurturing children’s strengths and interests. Whether it’s praise for reading or a conversation about their artistic creations, encouraging a child’s self-expression, creativity, and excitement is important.
For example, I have watched many children develop an interest in music. Some liked creating silly songs or singing in our classroom. Others discovered a serious passion for an instrument and would practice daily. Whatever their capabilities, nurturing their enjoyment of music was as important as nurturing their skills. Students enjoyed building their musical creative expression with activities such as:
The enhancement of cognitive abilities occurs when children have learning opportunities that encourage creativity and self-expression. Music can play a role in expanding your children’s interests and motivation.