Thursday, November 6, 2014

Top Ten WORST Class Management Techniques

I write a lot about classroom management because I feel it is an important topic for so many teachers. If you are a great teacher, but you can't control a classroom, your students will never learn. If you are an adequate teacher with great classroom control, then your students will probably learn more.

I know it can be frustrating. I am not a big praying person, but when I teach...I pray about twice a day. Once is usually a devotional, it tends to be positive, "Bless this room and all who walk in it to open them up to learning."Then, there are the prayers that are a bit more negative, "Dear Lord give me the patience not to react to this students goading. Help me understand that they are young, and I am the responsible adult who should not react poorly."

I have posts about great classroom management books, props to use, and general ideas to quiet a room. This post is different. This post will tell you what NOT to do. It uses examples found online via newspapers.

1. Don't use fear! There are reports of some students who were told there was a monster in a closet and then locked in their when they misbehaved. The students often shouted and cried (sometimes to the point of puking) while the teacher kept the door shut. See the related news piece here

2. Don't threaten to get physical Even if you have no intent of following through this is not why you want students to listen. One teacher was put on probation for threatening to stab her students with a fruit knife she kept in her desk drawer according to this article.

3. Don't get jokingly physical! Even if you are trying to be amusing, slapping or hitting a student is NEVER acceptable. In this article the teacher actually slapped a student several times trying to allude to the recent movie Bridesmaids.

4. Especially don't get seriously physical. I know that violence can seem like the best answer in the heat of the moment, but how can we expect our students to pick another path if we ourselves can't. Here's one example of a student who was punched by his teacher.

5. Don't spit on them ... really? I need to say this? While it can be hard sometimes, spitting is never the answer.

6. Don't duct tape them to the chair. I know most teachers have that one student that just can't stay still. I understand how duct tape can, at times, be tempting, but more than one teacher hastried using duct tape in the class. One was accused of bullying, the other was just deemed an inappropriate technique.

7. Don't put them in a bag and leave them in the hallway. You can call it a "therapy bag," if you like, but putting students in a bag and then putting them out of your eyesight is not the best way to help a situation!

8. Don't have them wear a doggie cone. I see some online memes that joke about this too, but I think we can all are that there are better options for classroom management before even considering a doggie cone.

9. Don't strip search them. When I was in high school one of the dress code rules was no thongs. This was clearly rarely enforced as no teacher was going to request to see your underwear. One third grade teacher felt strip searching a student was acceptable.

As you can see this list is only at nine right now. If you have another technique you have read about, seen or heard about let me know! I'd love to get your feedback.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Classroom on a Budget

 I promised some pictures of my classroom a while back. Here is a quick blog post that is a compilation of a few pictures from my classroom.

To start, I picked up some motivational stickers that make the view out of my window a little nicer.

You can't see in this picture, but when I stay at school until sunset (which happens far too often) and the sky is clear, I have a stunning view of the sunset over the ocean.

 As for bulletins, I have one long bulletin board divided into two sections.

One of them isn't shown here. It is lined with newspapers and every time we read a story we write a headline and post it up.

The other one you see here has one of my favorite quotes, "A book is a gift that you open again and again." with some of the books I let them read during SSR.
In addition to World and American Literature, I teach a Study Skills class. One of the activities that we do is students create posters with acronymns that will help them be good students.

For example, LISTEN reminds students to: Learn, Investigate, Stay Silent, Take Notes, re Exercise your brain and Not to talk. These are currently displayed in my class, but soon I'll send them to other teachers to share their work throughout the school.

That's a small look at my classroom! What's your look like?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Ways to differentiate texts

I've seen a lot of discussion about differentiating texts for student readers, so I thought I'd write up a quick post about fiver easy ways to differentiate texts.

1.Chunk the text differently.
For this method you would still give all the students the same text, but where one student may have a text with questions at the end. Another student would have one question after each paragraph. This makes it easier for lower readers to process the information.

2. Give a graphic organizer
I am not going to lie. As a student I HATE graphic organizers. They don't work for me. I feel contained and held back However, as a teacher I LOVE THEM. Some students just work better when given boxes or lines. I tend to make my own, but you can find many free templates online. Eduplace for example has decent selection.

3. Give help
If students are taking notes on a reading give lower level students guided notes, and higher level students no notes. Give lower level students sentence starters and higher level students the basic question.

4. Adapt the assignment for students.
I feel this is often what teachers do. Rather than changing the reading, they change the expectations. What I think is important here is to make sure that you aren't cheating lower level students out of an education. For example, higher level students may need to find ten new words, define them, draw a picture, and use them to tell a story. Whereas lower level students need to find ten new words, define them, draw a picture and make a unique sentence for each word. Telling a story is a higher level skill, but writing unique sentences will still help our struggling reader learn!

5. Make one version easier.
This is often a time consuming process. Basically give some students the text as is,, and other students the text with easier words or less complex sentences. Unless you know you will reuse an activity over and over, I wouldn't do this. Instead, use a site like this site selects texts on popular current events and rewrites them at different levels. The content is the same, but you can divvy up the texts according to the strengths of your students!

There we are, five relatively painless ways to make it easier for your learners or a bit more challenging for those who need a push.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Creative Character Quizzes

These aren't the quizzes that your students have to study for! These quizzes make your students use their critical thinking skills, inference skills, grammar skills and technology skills...what more could you want?

If your students like taking Buzzfeed quizzes or any quiz online then they will appreciate this assignment.

My students were reading the Crucible, but it can be easily adapted to any book (or even classmates, teachers, local politicians, etc.). For classes that don't read literature I've also used quizzes to review vocabulary.

As a class we discussed what types of questions we could ask. There were two types we discussed:

1. The literal question.
    • These questions asked about things we could literally see. 
      • For example: Would you cheat on your significant other?
        • Never! I am a good honest person.
        • Yes, but I would feel awful later!
        • If they were cute and I liked them.
        • I am very religious so of course not!
    • In this questions we can tell who the answers refer to based on actions or words stated.
        • Elizabeth is a good and honest woman who never cheated.
        • John cheated, but he felt bad.
        • Abigail had an affair with John,so she would be OK with cheating.
        • Hale is a reverend, so he is religious.
2. The symbolic question
    • These questions require more interpretation.
      • For example: What is your favorite color?
        • Black
        • White
        • Red
        • Grey
      • In these question the answer may depend based on who is writing the quiz
        • John Proctor is depressed so he is black.
        • Elizabeth is very innocent so she is white
        • Abigail is passionate so she is read.
        • Hale is grey because he is confused by what is happening in the town and getting more and more depressed.
Once the students understand the differences I gave their requirements.They had to create a 10 question quiz involving four characters. In addition tot he quiz they needed to give me a paper that explained their answers.

Once they completed their quizzes they put them online ( is a great site for this) and take at least two other quizzes.

It is a fun project that makes students cite evidence from the text and shows how well they understand the characters.

You can buy the directions and worksheets that go with this for The Crucible on Teachers Pay Teachers at this link

Otherwise be inspired and make your own! Here are two examples from my students

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Using iPads for typing

I think I am a very interesting age. I grew up with a lot of the technology students today had. I was a little girl when my family got our first computer, but I also remember card catalogs in the library. I can't imagaine having to hand write a whole essay (have you seen my handwriting?!?), but I am still not quite comfortable having students use their smart phones to take notes.It is an interesting middle ground and I really enjoy the unique perspectives that it gives me.

One of the adaptations I have been making is to iPads and other tablets. Don't get me wrong, I like iPads. I think making videos on them and using other multimedia or study based apps is amazing. However, many of my students use an iPad and pretty much ONLY an iPad in class.

I quickly realized that while for me creating things in an iPad was a struggle (I am typing this blog on my laptop), for students it came much more easily. What they were missing was software. They didn't have anything they could use to create their documents.

This is where Document Writer comes in handy. I don't know if you have noticed, but even though most of my students are tech "natives" they are REALLY bad with new technology, "Teacher what now?" "Teacher what do I do?" "Teacher what now?" They expect to know automatically how to use something without spending much time learning.

Here is a manual annotation
This was a typed annotation
Different brush strokes students may select
The good news is that is exactly what this app is. Students can link it to their Google Drive or their Dropbox to easily access files. They can also annotate any PDF on their iPad.

Basically, they can complete any handout you give them access to without using a sheet of paper. YAY for going green. Here's an example with one of my handouts about proverbs (that ties into an essay) You can see that one of the photos is landscape and one is portrait. Since this is an iPad students can pick the view that works best for them That includes zooming to stay focused.

From there they can add their answers by writing them in (with a stylus or in some cases their finger), or using the text tool to type their answers.

Students can also use the document writer to write a basic text document: short responses, journals, etc.

This is also available for iPhones, though that's another generation gap! I have no idea how they manage to type so much on those tiny keyboards nor how they manage to see everything on such tiny screens. Nonetheless, if you have a student who is limited to their phone, you may want to have them look into this.

Would you be comfortable with your students completing a handout or other work on their iPhone/iPad? Do you think this app may help? I would love to hear more in the comments!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Organization Apps for Teachers (and others!)

"Oh good, you brought me papers to play on top of!"
My life lately has been SWAMPED! I am teaching, planning, and having absolutely no social life....unless you count hanging out with my cat as a social life...

As a result, I am trying to find a few ways to stay organized and get things done more efficiently.

I have an iPad through my school, but I still use the Android tablet I used in Mexico.Here are a few apps I find really helpful.

Want to stay productive? Does grading nonstop make your mind wander? Check out any of the pomodoro timers that are out there to let yourself take programmed and beneficial breaks. Here's one of my favorites!

My friends all seem to love Remember the Milk, but I am a bigger fan of Whatever your preference, I encourage you to look into a "to do list" app. It really does help me stay on track and become less likely to forget things.

With all of these apps your tablet or phone is probably getting a little cluttered. Well, you're in luck because I know of an AWESOME free app that helps streamline your screen! The EverythingMe launcher is PERFECT for fellow app addicts. It acts like your personal administrative assistant. There are a few different features of this app. My favorite is the Prediction Bar. If I am at school then it knows I am probably going to be clicking on the timer app! However, if I am at home at 11pm, it instead makes Netflix easy to select. It also managed to put everything in nice folders making my home screen seem much more manageable and making everything easier to find.

What am I missing? Are there any apps essential to your sanity?

Monday, September 1, 2014

Book Review: The English Tenses

Tenses can be tricky!
This review is late. I read this book about a month ago and had a review written up to auto publish about two weeks ago. Unfortunately, due to the magic elves that live in my computer. I have no idea where the original review went, and I've been very busy with school lately and unable to write a new one. Apologies again to author Phil Williams for this delay.

The English Tenses Practical Grammar Guide is not a book I would suggest students or teachers read from start to finish (though you certainly could). I would suggest that teachers keep this on hand to review before teaching a specific tense (or to brush up if they are teaching a new level). I would also encourage advanced students who learn well independently to consult this book to help them grapple with English tenses.

Basically, this would be a great addition for any English teacher's bookcase.

This book goes into a detailed description of the differences between all the different tenses of past, present and future. Seriously, all of them. Go to the link I gave above (or click on the book cover below) and check out the, "look inside" function Amazon gives. You'll be able to peruse the very detailed table of contents to get an idea of exactly what is in the book.

To the left you'll see a quick example of the table of contents with all of the different information is has on past tense! This repeats for the future and present tense as well.

Each section includes an explanation and the basic rules of the specific form in question. Then, Phil goes over the affirmative, interrogative, negative and negative question forms using multiple different examples and charts to make it clear what part of the sentence correlates to previous examples.

As a paperback, this book is under $25. If you read books on your tablet, kindle or online, then you can download the Kindle version for less than $7.00! It has AT LEAST 100 pages of solid information on tenses sure to clarify this topic to anyone who reads it.

Overall I'd encourage you to add this book to your wishlist. If you do get a chance to read it, or have a different text you'd recommend let me know in the comments.

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