Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Teacher Advice: Classroom Management

Managing a classroom is difficult whether it's middle school, high school, or even college. It's really important to figure out what type of management works for you. But, sometimes, we don't get enough chances to see or hear about the different options. So, I've found 3 blog posts written by veteran teachers that can inspire you and one of my own.

1. Lauralee from The Language Arts Classroom writes about how something as simple as learning your students' names quickly can help set the tone for the whole year. Read her post for some tips and tricks for learning so many names fast!

2. The OCBeach Teacher is providing 5 secret tips to having a successful start to your year. They're practical and easy to implement. Head to her blog to check them out.

3. This next one really speaks to me as my ADHD can make back to school difficult. Megan from Fun Fresh Ideas has 5 ways to remain productive as you start the new school year. Frankly, these suggestions can be used at other times during the year too. You can find her tips here.

4. I also have written about this topic. I believe that having a well written syllabus will help your classroom run smoothly. You can read more about it here.

What are your best classroom management ideas? You can find even more ideas by checking out my Pinterest board below. Click follow to get more ideas all the time!

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

High School Teachers, You Need a Syllabus

When I got to college and I started my first semester I was handed four syllabi. One for each of my courses. I did a quick read of each of them and promptly ignored them for the rest of the semester- other than the course calendar. For the most part, this wasn't a problem. But, I ended up getting a "D" in my Comparative Religion course, because of a course policy I'd forgotten about.

For each class session I missed, my final grade was lowered by a percentage point. The course met three times a week, and I hated it, so I probably skipped at least once a week- a minimum of 15 class sessions! That "D" along with my other grades caused me to earn a 2.3 GPA and lose my scholarship for the next semester. $7,500 down the toilet. Not because I didn't know the material, but because I didn't know the policy. I didn't know how important the syllabus was.

Now, I teach college, and I know my students don't fully understand the role of the syllabus. I feel strongly that because of this, high school teachers need to start using syllabi that mimic a college syllabus.

At my college we are required to list our office hours (planning periods), our preferred methods of contact and expected response times, the standards/objectives of the course, a disability statement for students who have documented disabilities (IEPs), a technology statement, and a plagiarism statement- both our own and what the official college handbook policy says.

I wish I'd thought about doing it more when I did teach high school because I think it would have solved several problems for me.

1. Parent contact- having a response time statement in my syllabus would have helped temper the expectations parents had about how quickly I'd respond. Generally, my statement says within 24 hours during the week. Anything emailed to me during the day on Friday through the weekend will be responded to by the end of my workday on Monday. I often respond faster than that, but this way I don't feel like I'm required to.

2. Equity in discipline- all of my class expectations are clearly laid out in my syllabus. What happens if you're tardy, have your phone out, are disruptive etc. I tell my students it is in the syllabus and I am going to apply the policies equally to everyone unless there are extenuating circumstances. I find this really helps me check myself to make sure I'm not inadvertently holding some students to a different standard than others.

3. Plagiarism having a typed up plagiarism policy that also clearly states the school's policy makes it much easier to address plagiarism with students and their parents. It may even be useful to copy the policies from the nearby colleges to show your students how seriously it is taken.

4. Repeating myself- when students ask the same question over and over I am able to say- "It's in the syllabus." "Refer to the syllabus."

5. Staying on Schedule- though it's not required, with my syllabus, I include a calendar of what we will be doing each week. Depending on the class, it is more or less detailed, but at the very least you can include your general course outline of what is going to be covered each quarter. When I do less detailed ones, I give my students a detailed schedule at the start of each unit. This allows students to get better at managing their time- adjusting their work schedules if something big is going to be due in three weeks etc.

If you're at a loss as to where to start, you can purchase my editable syllabus template here. It has two versions- a Google Slides version and a standard Google Doc version. Both can be converted to Microsoft programs. In this template, I have suggestion sections and language with plenty of space for you to customize as much as you'd like. Hopefully, this can save you some time!

Do you have a syllabus? What do you include in it? Let me know in the comments.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Rhetoric of Protests

The events of February 14, 2018 in Parkland, Florida were mind numbingly upsetting. I, like many of you, saw the news and immediately teared up. It is so frustrating and scary that these school shootings are still happening. And frankly, any mass shooting.

Recently, many high schools in my area had groups of students stage walk outs for 17 minutes in honor of the 17 lives lost during the tragedy. I am encouraged by the active role our young people are taking in keeping the conversation of school safety and gun safety in the eye of the media, the public, and our elected officials. However, when reading the comments on the Facebook posts about these walk outs I realized many people did not share my enthusiasm.

It made me think about how these students can be taken more seriously. As I am teaching Composition II this semester which focuses on argumentation and rhetorical strategies my mind went immediately to rhetorical appeals.

Protesting is a rhetorical act. So, when I got to the high school where I am teaching a dual enrollment course, where the students had walked out the day before, I addressed this with them.

How can you, as teens, use rhetorical appeals to strengthen your protests? How did you or could you have added ethos/credibility to your walk out? How did you or could you employ pathos/emotional appeals? What role does logos have in a protest?

They had great insight. Going back to class instead of leaving for the rest of the day after the 17 minutes establishes credibility because it shows they weren't just trying to skip class. Having spoken to the administration about the plan first established credibility. Being willing to accept detentions if they didn't have their IDs to check back in with as they reentered the school established credibility. Etc.

Have your students participated in a protest? Are they planning a walk out in March or April with some of the other national organized movements? Is this something you can discuss with them?

What I liked about doing this with my students is it showed a real world application of what they're learning. I know another colleague had her students watch Emma's speech and they discussed what worked and what didn't within it. They looked at different rhetorical techniques she used.

Our students are hungry to discuss these issues because they affect them. There will be differing views as to what the right course of action is, but all students should have the chance to learn the best ways to express their views in a way that may result in their views being taken seriously.

These kids are our future. Let's arm them with the tools they need to be champions of change.


Thanks for reading,

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Moving Towards Full Accessibility: PowerPoints

How to Make Your PowerPoints Accessible because braille doesn't work on the computer More and more of education is moving online. At the college level we're doing a lot of distance learning and blended or hybrid classes where up to 70% of the instruction is online. At all levels instructors are flipping their classrooms. Google classroom and Office 365 for education have also really changed the game.

Because of this, making our courses accessible to students with disabilities is more important than ever.


The Office for Civil Rights has resolutions with multiple institutions including the 
South Carolina Technical College System, University of Cincinnati and Youngstown State, all of whom use the following definition of “accessible”:
"Accessible" means a person with a disability is afforded the opportunity to acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services as a person without a disability in an equally effective and equally integrated manner, with substantially equivalent ease of use. The person with a disability must be able to obtain the information as fully, equally, and independently as a person without a disability. (The University of Washington)
This shows up a lot with our students who are low vision or limited hearing or are blind or deaf. When utilizing online tools and interactivity we must find ways to offer these students the same opportunity as their peers. And, we must remember that while some students may not be "legally blind" or deaf they may still have enough of a reduction in their senses that they may prefer and learn better from sources that can be used with screen readers or are captioned. What about parents who are assisting students? Tutors? Other instructors you want to share resources with?

This can be overwhelming. None of us are going to be perfect from the start. However, the more we prepare as we go the more prepared we will be in the future. Whenever I get frustrated with the process I remind myself that 1. I don't know who this may be helping immediately and 2. I don't know who this will help in the future.

So, let's start with something most of us are comfortable with. PowerPoint. If you post your PowerPoints online for students to view try making your next one accessible.

Here's a video I quickly made where I explore some accessibility features in PowerPoint.


This video is just a start. There are many other things to consider such as fonts, color choice, and more. It can be a lot to keep up with so I did some extra research and assembled a handy guide.


Want a checklist that you can use while you make your accessible PowerPoint? To receive a free, accessible, Word document that details the information provided in the video and some additional tips and tricks click the image below.
Get your free checklist for accessible powerpoints here because braille doesn't work on the computer.

What other accessibility topics would you like covered? I'm considering, fonts, captioning, and colors for future posts. What am I missing? What do you want to learn about next? Leave a comment or email me when you get your freebie and let me know!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Book Review: Hunger- Roxane Gay

I'm getting back to my blogging roots by returning to doing some book reviews as I read them. My approach to reviews is to look at them from a teaching perspective. Would I use the book in my classroom? What age level is it appropriate for? Which students might it speak to etc. Hopefully this is helpful to you.

The Review:
Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay is a memoir dealing with Gay's relationship with her weight and how it affected/affects the relationships in her life. I listened to this book on tape and I'm glad I did. She reads the book aloud and her inflection really helps the reader to connect even more with the story. It truly added a personal touch.

I liked the book. I'm glad I read it. As someone who has never been significantly overweight it really made me think about how being overweight/obese affects people in ways I'd never considered. It also gave a lot of insight into relationships that I found valuable.

Who Should Read it:
Frankly, everyone should read it. I would say that I think this is a college level book. Some mature seniors in high school could read it but it's heavy. I think female students will get more out of it and students who don't necessarily identify as heterosexual may also get a bit more from it as well. Male students could learn a lot from it, but may not be able to identify with it in the same way. I also think that students struggling with their weight would really identify with Gay in the book.

I read the book as an option for my college's Common Read program where the whole college reads the same book and it's integrated into as many classes and co-curriculars as possible.  Viewing it from that lens, I don't think it's the right book for the Common Read program. The narrative jumps around in ways that didn't always make sense to me and I think many of our students wouldn't be able to follow it well. I also think the content might be to heavy for general courses and would be better suited in courses like women's studies, dietetics, counseling etc.

 Teaching the Book:
As stated above I think this book would do best in contextualized courses rather than English Composition for example. I would be wary using it in a high school setting but may personally recommend it to specific students. It is a great mentor text for a memoir as it demonstrates clearly how to tell your life story in the context of one aspect of your life.

Triggers:
While I'm not a big proponent of trigger warnings I do think it's important that instructors are aware of potentially disturbing scenes. For this book in particular letting students know ahead of time should not be a "spoiler" or take anything away from the book.

The book goes into some detail about a gang rape. It also discusses domestic violence and emotional abuse.

Reading Level:
While no reading level seems to be available for this book I would put it firmly in the 11th-college range. The language is not necessarily difficult but the content and the structure of the book make it challenging. The not completely linear narrative can be tough to follow at times and would take an advanced reader to follow.

Have you read it? Will you use it in class? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Thanks for stopping by,

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Teachers, Reclaim Your Sanity and Your Life

Teachers spend so much time working on their classrooms, grading, planning, calling parents, and teaching that it can make having enough time to do the rest of your responsibilities in life difficult.

Luckily, we are in an age of technology and innovation, and when used correctly it can save us so much time and give us some of our life back.

I've purchased a few things recently that are changing my life more than I expected them to.

Please note this post contains affiliate links which means if you use them I may earn a bonus or a small percentage of the sale- at no cost to you. This helps me keep this blog up and running.



Problem 1: Cooking
I live alone and aside from cooking for my boyfriend from time to time mainly cook for myself. I often found myself without any ideas of what to cook or purchasing items to cook with but having way too much left over because I only needed enough for a couple of servings. (Could they please start selling cilantro in much smaller bunches?) I was wasting a lot of food and was eating out way too much as a result.

Solution 1: Home Chef
A colleague was using Home Chef and was raving about it. So I checked out lots of meal services and discovered that Home Chef gave me the most control. I have food allergies- milk, tree nuts- so I needed a plan that would allow me many choices each week. I started with ordering two meals a week and either their fruit or their smoothie add on to keep from paying shipping.

By using Home Chef I motivated myself to cook, tried lots of new foods, developed a collection or recipes to use in the future, and was able to pack lunches. The serving sizes were pretty big for me and I was trying to lose weight when I first started so, if I wasn't cooking for my boyfriend I would cook both servings and then divide everything up into three meals. I'd immediately pack two take out containers and plate up one to eat that night. That way I had lunch to take to work the next day and dinner the next night. Then I'd make the next meal.  Eventually I ordered three meals a week instead of the fruit or smoothie add on which was great but at times became a little overwhelming.

You can skip a week at any time which is also great. If you want to try use this link for $30 off! (I pay about $50 for the two meals, but since I usually get 6 meals out of them it makes me very happy! I was spending way more than that eating out.)

Here are pictures of some of the meals I've made:



Problem 2: Keeping Up With Cleaning
I've never been great about doing chores while living alone but when I am busy at work it's extra bad. I also have a cat who sheds more than a small cat should so when I do end up vacuuming I end up pulling up way more than I expect.

Solution 2: Robot Vacuum
While I was visiting friends this fall I saw their robot vacuum. Their house is huge, under renovations, and has four furry pets living in it. If this robot vacuum worked for them it could certainly work for me!

I hopped onto Amazon when I got home and wouldn't you know their model was a deal of the day? They have the ECOVACS DEEBot N79. It runs about $250-300. However, I found it for $150, saw it for $220 another day, and as of publishing this article there was a coupon on Amazon for $50 off. It's way cheaper than the Roomba and it gets the job done. You can control it with a remote or your phone which is extra awesome and it's smart enough not to fall down stairs.


Now I can vacuum at the same time I'm cooking, doing dishes, watching TV (it's pretty quiet), or doing just about anything else. It's a total time saver.

Problem 3: Taking Notes in Meetings
I take a lot of notes in meetings but have a hard time figuring out how to keep them organized. Sometimes I know I'll want them even a year later! I just don't have space to keep all of my notebooks forever, and I have no good way to index them.

Solution 3: Rocketbook Everlast Smart Notebook
I heard about this notebook on a podcast for higher education. It is awesome. I use this notebook when I'm taking notes I think I will need later. This $30 notebook is reusable. You use Pilot Frixion pens with it (they're erasable and also awesome) and then, using their app, scan the page and it uploads to wherever you want it to go! You can have it auto email it to you, sent as a text message, uploaded to Google Drive, DropBox etc. It's seriously life changing. Then, you just wipe the pages down with a wet cloth and start all over. There's plenty of pages so you can take lots of notes before uploading. 

    

What products have revolutionized your life at home or at work?

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Knowing the Facts! An Argumentative Writing Assignment

I just got done with one of my favorite mini units with my college freshmen. I've done it several times now and each time my students give me great feedback! Many have told me that they wish they'd been asked to do something like it prior to getting to the college level!

Let me tell you what I do for this unit.

I come up with a list of topics that are currently relevant to our society and that can be easily researched. I then assign groups of students each topic. I do this randomly. The students do not work together, but rather, work independently to write two, yes two, separate papers. In one paper they argue for their topic, and the other they argue against their topic! This way they have to have a clear understanding of both sides of the issue- regardless of their own personal beliefs.

After they've written both of these papers I have mini in-class debates! Each group of students is called up by topic and they get to provide points and counterpoints about their topic. What makes it tricky is that until they get to the front of the room the students don't know which side they will be arguing because, once again, I randomly decide that as well! I let them use their papers and it's all very casual. Typically these debates don't last more than 5-7 minutes.

It's interesting to debrief with them about whether they argued for the side they agreed with or not and or whether their opinions changed from doing this assignment. For many they said it actually helped them form an opinion on a topic they previously didn't know much about.

Would you like the lesson plan, assignment sheet, and topic cards that I use? If so follow this link to sign up for my newsletter. Then, the next day you'll get an email with a link to the pdf for you to download! I hope you find it useful!

Thanks for reading!