Saturday, September 3, 2016

The First Day Of School

In two weeks it is my first full week of classes for this year. (I've been teaching one class for the past week)

For the past couple of weeks, and definitely today, I've been preparing for day one. I find that being prepared lowers my anxiety and helps me have a smoother transition back into work.

1. I set up my office. I decided, when I found out I was getting a new office mate, to take the opportunity to clean out my office and rearrange it. This could be where you set up your classroom. Alas, at the college level I'm a traveling teacher so I can't really make any classroom "mine."

I was at Marshall's and saw this adorable mint colored file cabinet and I had to have it! At under $100 it was way cheaper than anything I found on. I also, by chance, found the mint and gold desk lamp. In the wall art section I found the cute sign that says "she believed she could so she did" and it fit right in with the color scheme so I had to pick it up! Then, at Target I found mint colored wire baskets, that I put on my bookshelf, the teal and cork pin boards that are on my wall, the dark teal storage ottomans, and the adorable mint, teal, and gold lumbar pillow that tie the colors together. I already had the gold stapler because gold is my favorite!
For good measure- here are my before pics: I flipped the room.

2. I planned my outfits. A conversation with our campus president and previous conversations with my work bestie have led me to try to put my pants/skirts on hangers with the shirts/tops that they'll be worn with. I might even start adding necklaces and bracelets. I'm hoping this will save me time in the morning. When I change in the evening I'll re-pair items up so that I'm not repeating the same exact outfit too often!

3. I went grocery shopping. I picked up snacks to keep in my office- fruit roll ups, granola bars, K-cups etc. I also grabbed things that I can use to pack my lunch- sandwich fixings, salads, individual packs of guacamole and olives etc.

4. I will have printed out my syllabi, updated my blackboard sites, written out my lessons plans, and emailed my classes.

5. I got my hair cut and my nails done. I don't know about you- but looking my best helps me feel in control for the first few days. It won't last forever but it certainly makes me feel like students take me more seriously.

6. I'm going to take Benadryl... I never sleep well the night before classes start. Even though this is my tenth year of being in Education I still get the jitters. Taking a Benadryl 10 hours before I have to get up just helps me actually fall asleep so I can do my best the next day.

What are your rituals? How do you get ready to start the school year?

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Game Time: Gamification in the English Classroom- Step 2 Planning

Welcome to the second part of my Gamification series. After doing a lot of research, and then doing some more, I decided it was time to start really considering how this can look and work in my classroom.

 The first thing I thought I could try was doing SP- success points for students who did things that in general should make them successful. Students would earn points for coming to office hours, going to the writing center, coming to class regularly, responding to questions in class etc.

They would also get XP- experience points for their in-class work. To make it more game like I multiplied all of my normal point totals by 10, so a 100 points paper became a 1,000 point paper.

I would let students use the SP points to buy "powers" such as turning in a paper late, getting their paper graded first, or if they got a HUGE number of points they could get a grade bump.

I thought a leader board would work well for this.

For my online, accelerated 8-week comp class I decided to come up with a different plan.

Here I used the idea from Dr. Harrold of QUESTs. Questions, Understanding, Exploring, Synthesizing, Testing. I designed 4 QUESTs that my students would complete. Each was worth 1,000 points. Since my state requires comp students' grades to have 70% of the grade determined by formal writing each "Test" was a paper that was worth 700 points. In Question they had essential questions to consider. In Understanding they had to complete quizzes. In Exploring I had them do activities related to the skills needed to write the final paper. in Synthesizing I included the writing process. In a few places I made it so they could get extra points. This eliminated the inevitable questions about extra credit.

What made this gamification is I decided they could redo almost all of these things at least once to score better. I didn't want my students to give up once they did something. Just like in video games they could try a level again.

I also decided not to show my students percentages or letter grades. All they would see was a total point total going up with each thing they completed. I would let them know what number of points they needed to get to an "A" "B" or "C."

^^ I ended up implementing both of these styles last spring. In my next post I'll fill you in on what went right, what went wrong, and how I plan on adjusting for this fall.

What are your thoughts? Have you tried anything like this?

Did you miss the first installment of this series? Read it here:

 Thanks for reading!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Happy Back to School!

It's that time of year! Back to school! Teacher's Pay Teacher's is having a mega sale August 1-2nd! My entire store is going to be 20% off and when you use the coupon code from TPT on top of that you'll save an additional 10% off for a total of 28% off!

Here are some of my favorite back to school products from my store! Don't forget to leave feedback on past purchases to earn TPT credits to help you save even more money!

This back to school bundle has it all! There are two binders for you, a syllabus template, questionnaires to use at the beginning, middle, and end of the year, awesome covers for binders related to ELA, and 5 diagnostic writing prompts that you can use as pre and post assessments! This bundle is already discounted about 20% from the original cost of the individual products-- so on sale this deal really can't be beat! (Click on the image to view the full product description)

Need to decorate your classroom? This is always a challenge in a secondary classroom. Try this twitter style bulletin board that combines form with function. This product includes suggested lessons, handouts, and letters to cut out! (Click on the image to view the full product description)

Personally, I love to start the year with narrative writing. It is usually something my students are a bit familiar with and isn't a scary as writing a typical essay. Personal narratives also allow me to get to know my students right away! My narrative writing bundle includes presentations, guided notes (At 3 different levels for differentiation), as well as rubrics and assignment sheets. This unit is ready to go and has been used successfully with middle, high, and college students- I just adjust the expectations for the writing! (You know what to do- click the image!)

Thanks to the staff at TPT I have a great giveaway for you! Enter below for chances to win a $10 TPT gift card to use the second day of the sale and you can choose one of my products that costs $15 or less! (Might I suggest the Narrative Writing bundle?)

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Need more great ideas for back to school? Check out my Awesome August Pinterest Board!

Thanks for reading! Don't forget if you'd like to join the TPT family Click Here: Join Here!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

5 Fabulous Formative Assessment Finds

This year I've led 5 professional development sessions on formative assessment. Formative assessment is key when we are being asked to identify weak points for our students, differentiate instruction, and improve mastery of our educational outcomes and objectives.

The key for me is to find formative assessments that actually lessen my workload rather than increase it. To that end I've compiled a list of 5 tools you can use for formative assessment that will not only help your students but will help you.

The bonus is that I have found that many, if not all, of these ideas actually boost student engagement at the same time!

Here we go:

#1: Zaption PlayPosit-- this resource allows you to add questions into videos that you want your students to watch. I originally did this with Zaption however that company has been sold and I needed to find an alternative. PlayPosit comes in a close second. To get the full benefit you need to purchase a subscription but I honestly think the price might be worth it. This tool is perfect if you're doing flipped classroom instruction. It can also be used in 1:1 classrooms. I put questions in to emphasize what I want my students to focus on and to check for understanding. Being able to see how each student did means I don't have to physically do much grading! Students love videos so it's a win win. And yes, I use this, and advocate the use of it with college students.

Things to consider: This takes a bit of upfront prep work. However, once you've made a "bulb" you can keep it forever. They also have a repository you can take from!

Freebie! Click Picture!
#2: Paper and Pencil-- It's easy to forget about simple things like paper and pencil. I like to use this if my students' eyes are glazing over. I have them split paper into fourths and I ask them a question or two on the fly. Or- I use my pre-printed knowledge check cards that can work with any topic I'm teaching. I print out a set and keep them on me so I can use them at any time. These work well as an exit ticket.

Things to consider: This requires some grading/sorting/tracking in order to make the information meaningful to your instruction. If having students rip up paper it can sometimes take way longer than it should! This isn't the most engaging of the options here.

#3: Kahoot-- Kahoot is an online resource that allows you to create real time competitions for students to play where they review key topics. This can use smart phones, tablets, computers etc. The less time it takes a student to answer a question the more points they get. Scores are projected on the board and you get immediate information about how many students mastered a concept and how many are still confused. This is especially good for reviewing terminology.

Things to consider: The coloring on this is a bit on the primary side. By using images and making questions rigorous you can counteract this. This is also a resource that requires a little more prep time to begin with however the interface is easy to use and once you get used to it it won't take too long. This is also used at my college and students love it! You may want to consider whether the timed aspect of it works for you and your population of students.

#4: Plickers- Plickers uses QR codes to give you immediate feedback regarding your students' knowledge of a topic. Each student gets a specific QR code on a card that you print out (for free!). My instructional designer had the genius idea to laminate them so they last longer! You give students a question by typing it into the webpage via your computer. Then, using your smartphone or tablet (you need one) you scan the room and on your device you'll see which cards got it right or wrong. You can give each student a number or you can import your roster into the program. It's pretty cool!

Things to consider: This can be a little bit more prep ahead of time but it is less so than Kahoot or Playposit. Students enjoy it and it involves a little more movement as they have to hold their cards up rather than stare at a device.

#5: Poll Everywhere- This website is great. You can create polls or multiple choice questions and have students use their computers, tablets, or phones to text in responses. If using a projector the students will see how many people chose what answer in real time. It's a real crowd pleaser. This requires a bit of set up but is easy to learn. Questions can be saved to be used again in the future.

Things to consider: Every student needs their own technology to use this. You might not want to show what people are choosing in real time so students don't copy cat. You won't know which student picked which answer so it doesn't allow as much differentiation. Rather it gives a snapshot of the whole class's understanding.

Leave a comment below with your favorite formative assessment tool!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Hack Your Classroom: 5 Teacher Hacks for You to Try

I have seen so many "lifehack" posts and was thinking about the "hacks" I use while teaching to make my life easier, keep my students happy, and generally be a more productive teacher.

1. I love using YouTube videos in class. It's convenient and it breaks up the class period. However, especially when teaching middle school, I did not like that I couldn't control what shows up at the end of a video or along the side of the videos. Sometimes it'd be an inappropriate image from a music video etc. Then I discovered All you have to do is copy and paste the YouTube URL into the viewpure box and it takes out the end screen and all the recommended videos on the side. It presents your video in a nice clean white player. Just like that I had no need to deal with inappropriate images and my students and I didn't fall down the "rabbit hole" of suggested videos. You can also embed videos this way if you teach in a blended, online, or flipped classroom.

5 Hacks for your classroom- Tips for all subjects and grades!2. Students coming without supplies such as pens is always an issue. Lending pens and never getting them back is even more frustrating. My first year of teaching I took fake flowers and taped them to blue and black pens and kept them in a vase on my desk. I won't say I never lost a pen but I kept them for significantly longer. It also had the added benefit of brightening up my room

3. The Common Core has a stronger emphasis on non-fiction texts which I think is important to pay attention to. However, I don't want to lose the connection to literature. I think the best way to handle this is to find non-fiction, and current articles that tie into the themes of the literature we read. To do that I set up Google Alerts. When reading A Raisin In The Sun I set up alerts for "racism," "housing inequality," and "the American Dream." Then I got emails whenever something new was published on those topics. It was great. I suggest setting up the alert at least a month before you plan on teaching the novel.

4. I didn't want my classroom library books to disappear into other teachers' classrooms so I used a self-inking stamp from to mark them all as mine. I used the message "If found please return to Ms. Fuller" because I wanted it to work in any building or classroom. You could also get a customized embosser to do this. It made it fast and easy to mark all the books as mine and I thought it looked nicer than just writing my name onto the books.

5. When I taught middle school our paper was strictly rationed, but we had no workbooks. I needed to find a way to save paper as much as possible. I'm also a bit of a treehugger so I wanted to save paper regardless. I did two things to achieve this goal. First, I used the "print 2 to a page" feature. This saved a ton of paper! Secondly, I put things in page protectors and had students reuse the same sheets by doing them in whiteboard marker!

What are your favorite teaching hacks? Comment below!

Thanks for reading!

Monday, June 13, 2016

How Much Should Students Write? How Much Do They?

As you know, I used to teach middle and high school English and have switched over to teaching community college. And, I have a few confessions:

1. When I was in high school I called the college I work at "Tri-High." There was a view that it was an easy school that was basically a repeat of high school.

2. When I taught high school the longest writing assignment I required was one 5 paragraph essay. All in all my students probably wrote 5 pages total all year. (I will say, to my defense, I wasn't allowed to assign take home work, had 125 students, and worked at a drop out prevention school.)

3. When teaching high school I had no real idea as to what the expectation is at community colleges, or even 4 year schools. It'd been so long since my own freshman comp course that I couldn't remember what I had to write.

I've found that most of my students, whether straight from high school, students in their mid 20s, students still in high school, or students who are old enough to be my parent are not prepared for the volume of writing required for college. This realization got me to thinking... how much are high school students asked to write?

I decided to take this question to actual high school English teachers and prepared a bit of a survey. Here are the results:

What struck me the most about the responses for grade 9 and 9 advanced was the gap between the expectations. In regular 9th grade English the majority of respondents assigned 5-10 pages for the year. However, in advanced, they assign 15-20.

In English 10 it was evenly split between people who assign 5-10 pages and 15-20 pages (skipping 10-15 altogether). Then, in 10 advanced 5-10 and 10-15 were tied with less people choosing 15-20. I'm not sure what to conclude from this.

11th grade found similar patterns to 10th grade while 11th grade advanced stayed firmly at 10 pages or more. I was surprised that in 11th grade English someone assigned less than 5 pages of writing for the year.

I was most interested in 12th grade as that is the final year of high school and is where many of my students are coming from. I was interested to see that in both the regular and advanced classes 15-20 pages was the norm. I was concerned that only 5-10 pages for the year were assigned in 12 regular.

I was not surprised by the AP results. I was very interested in the responses to the question about required pages in a community college writing course. 

I thought it was interesting that some people believed that both in community colleges and 4 year colleges that some classes would require less than 15 pages of writing.

Are you ready for the real numbers for college classes? (At least in Ohio?)

When I started as an adjunct I was surprised to find out that the state of Ohio requires 20 pages of writing per semester for its freshman comp courses. That's 40 pages per year for most students in state funded institutions. And, 70% of their final grade must be based on those pages. This doesn't take into account any papers they are writing for their psychology, sociology, philosophy, or history classes. Nor does it account for any lab reports for their science courses.

At my school most of our comp courses are 14 weeks each. So 20 pages in 14 weeks, well 13 weeks as most of us have the final paper due before finals week. However, we also have 8 week courses that still require the 20 pages.

Though I realize I should have had a 20+ option in there, or a fill in the blank option in there the fact remains- I don't know if, based on this (admittedly small) sample size, we are having our students write enough.  Now, I get it. When you have 125 students the prospect of having them write even 15 pages a semester each is daunting- if not flat out impossible. However, our high schools as a team can do better.

I truly believe that a student should have one 5-10 page research paper (length dependent on year in school) due each year. However, I'm not sure it should always be the English teacher's responsibility. Why not have 9th grade be English, 10th be History, 11th be Science, and 12th go back to English?

In the future I'd like to explore which types of writing are focused on as well.  We require no literature courses nor literary analysis in our college courses yet, I suspect, that is still a major focus in the high schools. I'd also like to think about why advanced courses often have more writing. I'm teaching English Comp I Honors in the fall and they will write exactly the same amount as their peers. However, they will be given more freedom, have a higher expectation of rigor, and will engage with more complex topics because- to me- a former honors kid- honors should not mean more work.

Thanks for reading! 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Summa, Summa, Summertime!

 It is officially summer here in Cleveland! School is out for many of us but not all. In fact, my two week summer class started yesterday!

This summer I have a lot that I plan on doing...

1. I want to gamify a class (see my last post about the research I've been doing)
2. I plan on creating several interactive modules for my courses using Storyline
3. I need to create a museum like exhibit about the history of public shaming
4. I would love to have my entire British Lit course planned out before Fall

I'm also traveling so follow my twitter @yagoodbadugly and my instagram @ms_fs_teaching_adventures to see my experiences in Santa Fe, New Mexico and all around Ohio!

Check out my June/July Pinterest board below. Lots of great ideas for the end of the year (if you're still in school) or for summer!

Thanks for reading!