Sunday, July 30, 2017

Getting the Most Out of the First Days of School

The first few days of school are chaotic. There is just so much to do. With secondary students they see so many teachers that it's imperative that we don't just read through the syllabus and give a lecture on class procedures like every other teacher.

Instead I like to teach my procedures by doing meaningful activities that also help set the tone that my class is one where we will be doing work, each and every day.

Read on to find out how I do this!

1. To train my students in my testing and quizzing procedures I give a syllabus quiz. I create a 5 question quiz that goes over my extension policy, late work policy, plagiarism policy and anything else really important for that semester. I use the time to show them how I want them to stay silent etc. (Here's a copy of my syllabus template- Quiz is not included)

2. To demonstrate how I like my papers passed out and turned in I give my students a writing diagnostic. This way I can also get a read on my students' writing ability. I can also clue students in as to what appropriate activities are for finishing. (Check out the 5 prompts I use below)

3. I have students complete a bell-work activity each day. On day one they complete a "Welcome to my class" half sheet. The next few days I typically use journal entries. This sets the tone from day one that they get started on something immediately!
4. I will assign something small as homework. If anyone doesn't do it I have them fill out the missing work slip. We also discuss the late work pass.  At least one of the days I will do an exit ticket to get them used to using those as well.

5. Lastly, at some point during the first few days I have the students get together in groups. I use my group creation cards so they know how I like to assign groups. Whatever your strategy is, it's good for them to learn your policies early!

What procedures do you make sure to go over?

Friday, July 14, 2017

5 Must Have Teacher Supplies

Hi, my name is Ms. F and I'm addicted to school and office supplies! I love them all. However, there are several things that I consider "Must Haves" for my classroom/office.

The links below are affiliate links- you don't pay any extra but if you buy something through one of my links I will get a little something in return that helps me pay for this site.

1. Flair pens! Grading is just a little less tedious when I use these pens. I also like to use different colors next to each other in my gradebook to help visually separate things out. I love this big pack because it has so many different colors.

2. Post it notes. I like all the different sizes and use them for many many different things. I often use the different colors to help me color code things and keep myself organized! I even get the gigantic 12inch by 12inch ones sometimes! 
3. A journal to use as my planner. While I love pre-made planners I really enjoy creating my own. I love being able to customize it even on a daily or weekly basis. My life has been greatly changed by becoming a bullet journal addict! Watch for an upcoming post about it.

4. Binder Clips! This seems so simple but they really are a life saver. When I taught middle school at the end of each class I'd grab the papers from the turn in bin and stick a binder clip on them. It really helped me stay organized. I also used them to keep my copies together when I would make all of my copies for the week right at the beginning.

5. Binders are the last piece of my arsenal. I like having paper copies of units I'm working with. That way if my computer is down- not that that ever happens- I can easily make copies etc. Here's a great bundle price! 

What are your favorite school supplies? What do you use to stay organized throughout the year? Let me know in the comments! 

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Talking About Race in the Classroom

This upcoming school year the college I teach at has chose Bryan Stevenson's Just Mercy as our common read. This means, for us, that as many students in as many classes (across disciplines) as possible will be reading this book. We plan lectures around it and more.

This book is a memoir about Stevenson's experiences trying to help people who were wrongfully convicted get off of death row. Or help seek justice for people who, while they may be guilty, were perhaps over-punished or are being denied basic rights in prison.  It is a tough book. And a lot of the issues brought up within it deal with race and class and other issues of privilege.

Because of this, and because I'm on the common read committee a colleague and I put together a training course for our faculty to take via Blackboard about how to talk about race and other tough issues in the classroom. But why make it so only our faculty can access the resources we pulled from around the internet?

Here are the resources we're using below. I'll mention the assignments as well. Feel free to comment with your responses to the assignments if you would like. If you have other resources we haven't listed I'd love to see those too.


1. What skills or techniques can I use to facilitate better classroom discussions on topics related to racial and ethnic identities as well as other "tough topics."
2. What tools can I use to build an inclusive classroom environment where students feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and opinions.
3. How does privilege and positionality relate to my role in the classroom? How does it relate to my students?
4. What will tool, skill, or lesson will I use in my classroom in Fall 2017 to foster a healthy and safe space for my students and I to converse in?

  • Do you have concerns about addressing privilege in the classroom? 
  • How might you approach these concerns? 
  • Do you think your privilege or your students' privilege will help or hinder discussions about race (and other sensitive topics)? [Consider the results of your the assessment that you completed here.]

Harvard Implicit Bias Tests- Take one or many!

Assignment: After reading, watching, and taking an assessment write a journal entry responding to these questions:


30 Ways to become a culturally sensitive educator.

10 Tips for Facilitating Classroom Discussions on Sensitive Topics

Assignment: Write a discussion board post addressing: Which of these techniques and tips do you think are the most applicable to your courses? Which do you think could be problematic for your? Are there any you don't understand? 


Assignment: Make a plan for your course. Using everything you've read, watched, and participated in come up with a list of 5 things you can do this fall to make your class a more culturally sensitive space where students feel comfortable discussing tough topics. How will each of those changes improve your classroom? When can you implement each of the changes by?

** The QUEST set up is an idea I stole from Dr. Harrold's blog- I've adapted it slightly.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Plagiarism Part 2- How To Teach Your Students About Plagiarism

In my last post in my plagiarism series I wrote about classroom policies regarding plagiarism. (If you missed it you can read it here.) In this post I'd like to discuss how we ensure our students know what is and is not plagiarism.

Frankly, I think it should be obvious that you can't copy and paste something and call it your own. But apparently, it is not. So, how should teachers and professors address this in their classes?

4 Things you can do to increase student understanding of plagiarism:

1. At times the word plagiarism is too foreign to students. It doesn't hold weight to them. However, the word cheating does. When I first discuss plagiarism with students I explain it is cheating. It is the same as copying off another student's test in math class.

2. Give a presentation early in the semester that discusses not only what plagiarism is but also shows students how to appropriately use sources and goes through the consequences of plagiarism. I always review pieces of this later but going over it once at the beginning helps. Click the image for a quick and easy presentation I made that you can purchase on TPT.

3. Use outside websites and sources to help drive the point home. has a lot of great resources. Check out their lessons and ideas right here. 

4.  High school teachers may want to consider pulling up the code of conduct for the colleges most of their students attend to help demonstrate the seriousness of the offense. College teachers- make sure you go through the policy with your students as well as include it in your syllabus.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Plagiarism: Part 1- Policies for your classroom

I don't know about you but if one thing really gets me going and upset in my classroom it is plagiarism. I'm not 100 percent sure why but I think it makes me feel like my students think I'm an idiot and I'm not going to notice that they copied something off of the internet.

This issue pops up at least once, if not many times a semester so I thought I'd do a series on it over the summer to help people prep for Fall semester.

Up first- Plagiarism Policies for Your Classroom

Things to consider:

1. Will you differentiate consequences based on the type of plagiarism?
2. What grade or level are you teaching?
3. District, school, or college policies

I've taught 7th grade through seniors in college. For all of them my policy for blatant-copy and paste plagiarism was a zero on the assignment. I typically print out the original source, highlight the offending passages in both the students' paper and the internet source, staple them together and hand them back. (I keep a copy for my records.)

If a student uses a paper they wrote for another class in my class I do the same. It's a zero.

If a student attempted to paraphrase but didn't change enough of the words and still has a citation I take off points in the appropriate section of the rubric.

If a student has a quote but does not add a citation I take off points in the appropriate section of the rubric.

If a student has statistics or facts that aren't cited but are not word for word I take off points in the appropriate section of the rubric.

I do the above three things because I typically find that this is unintentional plagiarism and reflects more on their understanding of the skill than trying to be dishonest.

Higher Standard for College Courses

My college students are required by the state to write 20 pages of formal writing each semester. If a student copy and pastes the majority of a 5 page paper to me that means they have not met the 20 page requirement. My syllabus says you must have written all 4 or 5 papers to pass. So for students who are caught in blatant plagiarism they get a zero and have to rewrite the paper on a new topic for zero points. I tend to tell them it needs to be at a "C" level or better to ensure they don't turn back in a steaming pile of you know what!

Maybe that's harsh- but I want my students to know that they will not save time or effort by plagiarizing.

Any student with copy and paste plagiarism is also reported to the Dean. Their first offense tends to result in a conversation with the dean about the honor code. The Dean tracks whether they've had an offense in a different subject area as well. If they are caught more than once then the consequences become more significant and can include expulsion from their program or the school.

Whatever policy you choose make sure you lay it out clearly and at the beginning of the year. If you teach middle or high school you may want your students' parents to sign off on the policy and explain that the stakes will be much higher when they get to college.

How do you handle plagiarism? What is your administration's policy?

Future posts in this series include:

How to teach your students about plagiarism
How to write semi-plagiarism proof assignments
How to spot plagiarism

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