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!