Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Look a Little Closer: Teaching Students do a Close Reading

Students are intimidated by poetry.  Who can really blame them?  It takes a lot of practice to understand how poets use language to create meaning.

My college students are about to start a literary analysis unit using short stories so I thought I'd review how to examine a piece of literature for literary devices with them.  I chose to do so by using my Ozymandias and Ode on a Grecian Urn sheets.

Here are some examples:

Students made annotations on their own, as we talked about the poem, and again as they worked through the line by line questions.  The students told me they liked this technique of going through the poetry.  My thought is, in a high school classroom, I'd go through several poems like this and then set them on their own with other poems.  By completing these sheets students will learn what questions to ask themselves the next time they read a poem or story.

If you want these sheets specifically you can find them HERE.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Buying from Teachers Pay Teachers

As I've been talking with my teacher friends and teachers I meet while subbing I've realized that a lot of teachers are unaware of what Teachers Pay Teachers can offer them.  So here's a guide to using Teachers Pay Teachers for buyers!

Who is TPT for? Is it just for elementary school teachers?
Teachers Pay Teachers is for EVERYONE.  The site has recently hit 3 million users so yes, there are materials for just about every topic, grade level, and even country you may need.  We have sellers from around the world, every grade level from preschool to college, speech language pathologists, special education teachers, counselors and so many more areas!

I repeat- TPT is not just for elementary teachers. The middle and secondary areas of the site are
BOOMING right now!

How does it work?  Are real teachers really making the stuff?
As far as I've seen the sellers are all teachers whether they are currently teaching, retired, or job searching.  The vast majority of materials have been tried in the classroom and are designed with a teacher's eye unlike many of the products we find with our textbooks!

Seller's list their products for any price they feel is appropriate.  (Typically much cheaper than in a store.)  If they have a free store then they get a smaller percentage of the purchase.  However, most sellers with established stores pay a yearly fee and they earn 85% of every sale.  This is what I love as a buyer- I love knowing that I'm supporting another teacher instead of big business.

What other perks are there?
There are a lot of perks to TPT.  One, that I see a lot of buyers not utilizing, is the TPT credits program.  If you purchase a product you should rate it.  Use it and see how it goes and then leave feedback.  By leaving feedback you earn credits that can be used for future products- this can be huge as you can save them up for when your favorite seller is having a sale or one of the (typically) quarterly site wide sales.  Here's the explanation from the site,

"You get one TpT Credit for every $ you spend on TpT. Thing is, you only get the Credits after you Provide Feedback -- both a fair rating and a fair comment -- on the items that you purchase. We will round up for you, too! If you provide fair feedback on a $4.75 item, you will earn 5 credits. Every 100 Credits is worth $5 that you can apply towards future TpT purchases, but there is no need to wait until you have 100 to redeem them. 50 credits is worth $2.50, for example." 

The other great thing about the feedback feature is you can also see what others think.  As a seller we really appreciate thoughtful feedback- tell us what really works well or what didn't; it helps us make better products!  You can also leave questions in the questions section on a site.  Before you rate a product as terrible (Which should be a rare occurrence) try contacting the seller- most will respond very quickly and work hard to fix whatever the issue is! 

You can also wish-list items if you don't know for sure that you want them.  Keep them on standby until you're sure or there is a sale going on.

Why should I buy things when there are so many free items?

I'm not going to lie.  I started using TPT to download all the awesome free items.  I think you should too, but don't be afraid to spend a little there as well.  Often times we see things and think "I could make that" and maybe you could, but what is your time worth?  I love making things for my classes, but why spend an hour or so on an activity for my students that someone has already made and I can buy it for $2.  

Whatever you decide, I think you should check it out.  

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

FREEBIE! Writing Resources

I realized I never shared with you all, my faithful blog followers, my awesome set of MLA Research handouts that I have listed FOR FREE in my TPT shop!

These handouts are great to provide students with a little more information about how to write research papers.

I hope you find them useful!

As always, if you want to sign up to sell on TPT you can click here!  Opening a store is FREE!

Thanks for stopping by,

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Tips and Tricks for Substitute Teachers

Anyone who has been a substitute teacher knows that with all the perks there are a lot of issues that subs face that regular classroom teachers do not.  Here are some tricks/tips I've picked up along the way that can help make a day in a new classroom go smoothly.

1.  If you don't know the students' names:
- pay specific attention when doing attendance
- make sure students have some sort of required written work.  Then, insist they have their names on it. I just casually walk around looking at the names when I need them.  By calling them by name they know I can write down problem students so they tend to behave more.  Also, if they have already been problematic I can easily mark down who it was.  Conversely I can give specific praise to students as well.

2.  If a class is being a bit rough overall:
- mark each student's paper with a star or a sticker if they are working hard and following directions. I announce that I will be doing this to show the teacher which students were using their time wisely and following directions.  I do this even with high school students.  It saves the time of writing lots of names.  Also, if students were behaving poorly but then really get it together they can earn the sticker later in the period.

3.  Pick your battles.  I can't emphasize this enough!
- know the culture of the school.  If a rule is really emphasized by administration make sure you follow it.  After all you may want to be hired there at some point and I've had principals come in multiple times to observe while I subbed (whether to see me or the inclusion teacher in the room I'm unsure).  If something is no big deal to other teachers don't make it a big deal as a sub.
- present things as a choice: "You can stay in this room and do xyz OR you can not do xyz and go to the office.  I'll let you take a minute to decide."  I've had students choose both but more often than not they groan, follow the direction and are fine the rest of the class.

4.  Show your expertise.
- Introduce yourself and be generous with your description of experience.  Students can tell if you're not confident or unexperienced- FAKE IT if you are.  The first time I subbed I hadn't done anything other than student teaching.  However I left out the "student" part and just said, "I taught 10th and 12th grade in such and such a city."

5.  Have some fun.
- Get to know the kids, try to learn as many names as possible so as you keep coming back to the same school you know your students.  Bring some cheap small incentives- I bring bookmarks I get in the one spot at Target.  They're great when I have small groups in elementary school or if I see someone reading a book without a bookmark.  It makes me seem extra nice and the kids really appreciate it.  I play instrumental music in the background whenever possible.  It's my thing.  Have a thing.  Here's a link to the playlist I use... Background Music For Teaching.  It is on youtube so sometimes you have to skip over commercials.

6.  TEACH.
- Even if the sub plan just has you handing out a worksheet go over the directions, define any terms or ask the students to.  Show that you are there to teach and they are there to learn.  I have had so many students say to me, "Wow, you really took the time to teach us, the other sub just sat on her phone."  They tell their teachers, and their teachers now call me first because they know they can leave more substantial work.  Frankly, I'd get bored if I didn't try to teach.  Walk around the class, spot check answers, stay involved.

What tips or tricks do you use?
*Edited to Add* See my follow up post with MORE tips for Substitutes HERE.

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