Back to School: Parent Edition

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It’s that time of year again!!!!!

Back to school is the best time of year next to Christmas. New school supplies, new school clothes, shoes and a new teacher! The beginning of the year is a new start for everybody in the household. I am not only getting ready for the school year as a teacher but most importantly a parent of young school aged children. I have a few tips to make the transition from summer mode to back to school mode run smoothly.

Create a routine and put it in motion BEFORE the first day of school

imagesA routine is key when you have children. It’s important to create a night time routine that will set your child up for success the next day. Make your schedule consistent and realistic to fit your lifestyle. Schedule a set time for dinner, homework and other activities leading up to your child’s bedtime. I personally like to end the night with story time Shorty after I put my youngest to bed and give my nine year old a half hour of quiet time. During this time he can do something that doesn’t involve electronics such as read, draw or play quietly before crawling into bed. I feel that this winding down time sets the pace for the rest of the night and helps them sleep better. I think it is important to cut off electronics and TV’s at least an hour before bedtime. Once the schedule is in place it is a great idea to get your children acclimated with the new times before the first day of school. Start your new schedule a week before School starts!

Get your shopping done early

I typically wait to school shop when I register my kids for school in August. With the beauty of technology I decided to do it in July this year just because I did not want to wait. Oh wow! What a difference it made when August hit and everyone was scrambling to the stores to “back to school” shop at once. It felt great to walk through the aisle with no stress knowing I was done. Registration was the final thing on my “back to school” to do list and if felt amazing to check it off! You might be wondering if I was able to catch the shopping deals and discounts in July, the answer is yes. The stores actually start promoting back to school after the Fourth of July holiday, therefore the sales are going on a whole month before school registration even starts. I found this tip to be convenient and a game changer to starting my year off right!

Get your appointments out of the way

Aside from school shopping early it is a great idea to book your children’s dental, vision and doctor appointments early in the summer as well. Again, when you wait for August along with everyone else you will find yourself in crowded waiting rooms or on the waiting list to see your doctor. By booking your appointments as early as June will help save you time later on.

Meal prep

downloadMeal prep your family dinners and lunches for the kids before the week begins. When you have meals prepared in advance then your week will ideally run smoothly. When it comes to school lunches, whether your child eats hot lunch or cold it’s good to have your plan in place. I love to prepare all my kids lunches in advance by organizing the dry foods in sand which bags. This will make it easier to distribute them in the lunch bag each day. I found that this cuts time and stress in the evenings after work and school.

Stay organized

Create a binder! Store all the papers from your child’s teacher and administration throughout the year. Binders are a great way to keep track of important papers received and distributed during registration. Using tabs to divide the paperwork into sections would also help make it easier to find what you are looking for. You will find that everything is organized and in one place.

I hope you enjoyed these amazing tools that will help start the school year off right in your household. What are some things you do to stay organized at the beginning of the school year. Comment below! We would love to hear from you.

Zsnel

Back to School: Teacher Edition

Are you walking into your local Target or clothing store seeing “Back to School” signs posted everywhere? That’s because it’s that of time of year again!

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For teachers it is time to put up the beach bag and towel, the endless naps and time spent doing whatever you wanted. Whether your district starts school at the beginning of August, the middle or the end of the month it is time to get mentally prepared because summer break is over.

Now this not a bad thing, it is a good thing because you should be well rested and ready to start the new school year with a new set of eyes. I love the beginning of the school year because everything is fresh and new! As a teacher you have the privilege to educate a new set of young minds and reinvent yourself all over again. I use the summers to rest and at the same time brainstorm new ways to perfect my instruction. It is true when they say a teachers job is never done!

Whether the beginning of the school year is your favorite time of year or not there are a few things as a teacher that you need to do to make sure you are prepared and ready to start the school year off on the right foot!

Create a morning routine

Having a routine in the morning before work is the most important thing you can do for yourself. It will help ease your mind and minimize stress throughout the day. Begin by setting your clock to a time that you are comfortable waking up at each morning. Be realistic when you are making this decision; but also leave enough time for some self-care. If you give yourself 10 to 15 minutes of time to yourself before you start getting dressed then that will be enough time.

Waking up at the same time everyday will minimize groggy behavior and feelings when you first wake up. After you are awake use the morning time before work to set intentions to having a successful day. For example, I love waking up early to exercise, meditate and journal which gives me a little bit of time for myself before I begin getting ready for work. I find that this time helps me visualize the day I would like to have and I am better prepared for any outcome. You can create your morning routine to fit your needs, there is not right or wrong way to do it. The key is to make time to nurture yourself in the morning before you begin work.

Meal plan

Whether you have a family, live with a roommate, boyfriend or by yourself, meal planning is a useful tool when it comes to creating a successful day. When you have all your meals already planned for the day then your day is guaranteed to run a bit smoother. Why would you want to stress about what to bring for lunch a few minutes before you have to leave out the door?

Instead plan out all your meals for the week and prepare them in advance. For example, I use Sunday’s to create a meal plan and grocery list for the week. I make sure I have all the items in the house and prep all the meals for Monday thru Friday. This way I have one less thing to worry about during the week. If you have no idea where to start, begin brainstorming a couple of meals that you or your family love to eat or scroll through pintrest for recipe ideas. Begin with that list and you will find that the more you do it each week your meal prep list will begin to grow!

Lesson plan your first week

The first week of school typically consist of classroom procedures, school wide procedures and teaching students routine. Although these items seem to be repetitive to the teacher each year it is important to have a lesson plan this week. This will only set you up for success the rest of the school year.

Decide what procedures you want to teach your students throughout the week and repeat them every day until it becomes ingrained in them. My classroom has one on one chrome books.  Therefore, I have to teach my students how to use them responsibly. I explain the expectations on how to carry them, when to turn them on and their proper use. Continue to go over all your classroom procedures and routines until your students are blue in the face! You will thank yourself, and me for it later on in the year. I promise.

Be prepared for the first day

I’m not talking about knowing what you’re going to wear. What I’m talking about is be prepared to meet your students for the first time. You want to give your students the best first impression you can give. They are going to see you almost everyday for the next nine months. Greet every student that comes into your classroom with a smile and a warm hug. This will help to ease your students nerves by making them comfortable. Continue to do this everyday to let them know that you care.

Smile through it all!

The beginning of the school year is the most exciting time of the year for kids, parents and teachers because everything is changing. Whether you like change or not this is the only time of year that you are forced to face it! It may not be easy. Things might get tough and stressful. Staying positive and keeping a smile on your face  is going to set you up for a successful year. I am a strong believer that what we put out we get back. Make sure that you are doing everything with a smile because there is always someone watching. We want our students to be excited about the school year, then we have to be excited about it too!

These are just a few things that you can do to set your school year up for success. Share your ideas below. We would love to hear from you!

Zsnel

Preparing for back to school

downloadIt’s that time of year again! That exciting time of year. It’s time for you to start preparing for back to school. I don’t know about you but I have a lot to think about! I love writing everything down in a fresh notebook with new pens. It always gets me excited about the upcoming year because it is a fresh start. I’ve learned many lessons in my eight years of teaching; when it comes to planning for back to school. There are several things that you need to consider. You don’t want to wear yourself out before the school year even begins. There are ways to make this process easier and less stressful. Here are my top suggestions for preparing yourself for back to school:

Plan Ahead

Before you set foot in your classroom you want to make sure you have a plan. How are you going to arrange your desk? What will your bulletin boards look like? How will you set up your teacher desk? It’s important to have an idea, a foundation to where you want to start in your classroom. The worst thing you can do is go into your room the first day feeling scatter brained. You won’t get anything accomplished. Instead, make a list of things you want to do in your room before you get there. Draw a picture of your desks arrangements and room set up. You can even have your bulletin boards already planned with material and letters already punched out, so all you have to do is set them up. Planning ahead will save you time.

imagesMake Changes

It is the beginning of the year, I’m sure there are things you want to change from the previous year. This is the time to do it! Start by making a list of the things that worked in your classroom last year. Then make a list of the things that did not work. Review both of these lists and decide what you are going to keep on the “worked” list and what you may want to restructure on the “did not work” list. At this time you can decide what you are going to trash as well; maybe a strategy you implemented last year that didn’t work for your students. That’s OK! It’s important to reflect so that you start the school year with an idea of the strategies you are going to use. Knowing this ahead of time will only strengthen your instruction and ultimately benefit your students.

Prepare for the first day

I used to be the teacher that had to have everything in my classroom perfect before I could even think about the first day of school. This is no longer the case. I have found that preparing my activities, PowerPoint discussions and having copies ready to go were beneficial. Don’t wait for your classroom to be picture perfect or you will run out of time and before you know it the kids will be walking through the door. Sit down while you are planning for your classroom and plan your first few days of school.

The beginning of the school year typically consists of teaching routines, procedures and expectations. Your school building may require you to cover specific information aside from your classroom routines. Make sure to over plan your activities so that students don’t get bored. The first few days of school can be redundant as students learn new things. Think these things through ahead of time. How would you introduce yourself to your students? What activities will you use so that they can get to know each other?

imagesHave Fun

The first few days of school can be stressful if you are not prepared. Instead, think ahead and plan every step you will take. Even if it doesn’t work out the way you planned have fun with it! Taking it easy the first few days of school is key; you have the rest of the year to stress and run around like a chicken with its head cut off. Most importantly get to know your students on a personal level so you can begin to build those relationships.

How do you like to prepare for the beginning of the school year? Share your ideas below. We would love to hear from you!

Zsnel

 

Ethical Leaders: The Key to Successful Schools

downloadAre you thinking about leaving the classroom one day? Becoming a leader of a school is an important job and takes a special kind of person to do it. These people are our modern-day ethical leaders. Ethical leaders are moral and honest individuals that hold a responsibility to the school environment. This responsibility should drive the district vision, purpose and mission statement;  in which all three will lead to the overall organizational success of the schools. 

Mission Statement

As the leader of the school, he/she is responsible for holding the mission statement at a high value. Hence ethical leaders embody the statement by being a model to everyone involved with improving the school environment. The focus is to provide all students with an exceptional learning experience and to ensure they feel safe, cared for and respected. Therefore, as a leader you should hire and maintain staff that will represent this mission on a daily basis. His/her moral behaviors should represent their vision as the leader of the school. With integrity a leader demonstrates and fosters trust by working to be honest at all times. As a result mutual respect is given as the leader of the school makes decisions that affect all those involved with the safety and well-being of the children.

Impact on School Culture

Effective ethical leaders make sound decisions that will positively impact the school culture. A good leader has an idea of goodness and respective goals and is willing to hold on to these goals even in difficult times. Above all a good leader is authentic, cares strongly about certain ideas that deserve robust concern and is a person of prudence. Furthermore leaders that improve school conditions and hold high values towards the mission statement have three key traits:

  • Integrity-The leader stands up for what is believed to be right and it’s ethically consistent to all action.
  • Honesty-Leader is honorable and makes decisions based on morality.
  • Trustworthy-Trust is the foundation for constructive conflict, goal commitment, personal accountability, and achieving collective goals.

Decision Making

Ethics are standards of a group or individual is required to demonstrate. Therefore the decisions that this leader makes throughout their career will depend on their morals and value. As a leader it is imperative that he/she holds high morals that will help drive decision-making that results in positive resolutions.

At all times decision-making should come from the highest level of moral development. However, there are times where ethical leaders have to make decisions that are not systematic. These tough decisions are dilemmas. Having a framework for decision-making will only help ethical leaders.  So, these frameworks should be aimed at improving decision being made in school as it presents a process for solving dilemmas. Hence, this ideal method of ethical decision-making in schools is outlined below:

  1. Identify and define the ethical dilemma
  2. Identify stakeholders involved and determine their relationship to each other.
  3. Review relevant policies pertinent to the dilemma.
  4. Reflect upon the possible courses of action needed for resolution.
  5. Decide on the best action.
  6. Act on your decision.
  7. Reflect on the outcome.

imagesOverall, the ethical leader of a school holds the key to all areas of improvement and success. However, with their expertise, guidance and a genuine love for helping others any school can be turned around and led in the right direction.

What kind of leader is running your school? How can we help to make sure we have leaders that hold strong morals and values in our schools? Let’s start a conversation. We would love to hear from you!

Zsnel

The Benefits to Getting a Masters Degree in Education

Now that you have a few years behind your belt in your profession as a teacher you may be wondering what your next steps are. Often teachers make decisions about whether or not they want to be in the classroom their whole career or explore options outside the classroom. Not surprisingly enough you have to go back to school to put this exploration into motion. For most teachers that may mean going back to school to get an endorsement or certification. To get the most out of either of these it would be best to enroll in a graduate program so that you can receive a full Masters degree by the end of your program. Here are some benefits to doing this:

Time is on your sidedownload

The first thought that may come to mind (other than money) when you think about going back to school may be time. You may ask yourself; “How will I have time for this?” Or think to yourself; I can’t do this with a full-time job and real life responsibilities! 

The truth is if this is something you really want to do then you will make the time to do it. In addition, there are several Universities that offer graduate programs in education online. So, you may not even have to leave your house! These accelerate programs have recently become quite popular among full-time working teachers. They offer relevant content that is compacted in a shorter amount of time so that you can finish your classes earlier than you would in a traditional graduate program. Students are placed in a cohort and take only one or two classes at a time. Online classes do take self-motivation, organization with a lack of accountability as you have to be a self-learner. Luckily you already possess all those attributes because you are a teacher!

Make more money

I bet you like that alliteration! Yes, you can make more money with an advance degree. Typically school districts work on a salary schedule with steps and lanes. When you earn a specific amount of credits towards your education then you can move over to the next lane. When you move over a lane your salary will increase. Therefore, obtaining a Masters degree can help you make more money in a career that you love.

downloadEnhance your practice

Getting an advanced degree not only means you make more money but you also gain more knowledge. Staying abreast to the changes and best practices in the education field is important. Of course you can do this through professional developments and training from your district but taking college courses offers something different. Through the literature that you will to read in your courses, cases studies to analyze and laws to expand your understanding it will be evident that your practice is enhancing. Through this knowledge an understanding of your students, their needs and your daily instruction will improve.

Specialize in another content area

Making the decision to go to graduate school may have you thinking about your path after you leave the classroom. In the growing field of education there are several career paths that can be taken with an advance degree in education. In fact you can specialize in a specific area if you wanted a particular role or title. Programs to add to your expertise include reading specialist, special education, technology, or add another subject area to your certificate such as science or math. You might also be looking to strive for an administrative position such as curriculum and instruction, principle or superintendent. The sky is the limit for you. With an increase in education disciplines you are privy to options that will expand your expertise inside the classroom or beyond the classroom.

Join the raceimages

You are not the only one making these decisions right now. In fact several teachers across the nation have already made the commitment to continue their education. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) advance education degrees are on the rise. In 2005 47% of educators held a Masters degrees while 32% held a bachelors. However in 2012 56% of educators held a Master’s degree while only 24% had a bachelor’s degree. These numbers are only growing. Therefore, these statistics show that higher education is the path to go in this growing field. If we want to continue to give our students the best education they deserve to receive we need to continue our own. As educators it is our responsibility to stay abreast to any changes taking place in our field, in the end it will not only benefit ourselves but most importantly our students.

Regardless of your reasoning behind choosing to get an advance degree in education it will benefit you. I encourage you to do your research beyond this article and choose the right content area or path you would like to explore before making a final decision. If you are worried about money, there are several programs available to help you pay for college or pay back your student loans. Information on those programs on this site will be available soon.

Do you have an advance degree in education? If not, what is holding you back? If so, share your thoughts on this topic. We would love to hear from you!

Zsnel

Reflecting on how Reading Workshop Improved my Instruction

downloadReflection is something that teachers often do throughout the school year. Reflecting on what went right and what went wrong can only help to strengthen our instruction in the future. When I look back at my past school year I realized that the reading workshop model I used throughout the year help enhance my daily instruction.

After six years of teaching I can say that this is the first year that I consistently stuck with one model the whole school year. This has always been a challenge for me in the past because I would learn about new models and approaches during the school year and try to apply them right away to my classroom. Although it is great to learn about new strategies and approaches to our instruction it can have its down fall.

Rushing to implement these new practices sometimes caused chaos and confusion among my students because I was changing the way they were used to doing something. I’m not saying to take what you learn and put it in your back pocket, what I’m saying is take what you learn and apply what works with what you are already doing. Sometimes new strategies learned may have to wait to be applied the next school year with a whole new group of students.

Sticking to one method of teaching throughout this school year really helped enhance my instruction and my student growth. Here is how consistency helped my instruction and students throughout the school year:

Reach more students

Using the reading workshop model in my classroom helped me reach more students this school year. At the beginning of the school year I planned out the overall weekly instruction schedule for my literature classroom. The beginning of my week was for modeling and introducing new concepts while the middle of the week consisted of small groups and the end included assessments. Of course this structure varied from class to class depending on my student’s ability but for the most part my master schedule was intact.

At the beginning of the school year I took a month teaching my students how to come into the classroom, how to take notes, how to transition to the small group table, how to complete independent work etc. Once the practice was over reading workshop went into action. After clearing out a few kinks here and there I looked up one day and realized my classroom was running smoothly. I was able to work with three small groups each day and had time to “teach between desk” as my students worked independently.

downloadTime spent wisely

Another benefit to sticking to one model or method of teaching in your classroom is that the time spent with your students become more valuable. Using this model throughout the whole school year allowed me to make small changes that would benefit the time I spent with my students. For example, my small group instruction time was geared towards reinforcing the skill of the week. I would pull students from their independent work to work with me in a small group setting.

Students knew the routine and were excited to come to the group table each day. This was the time we spent together diving deep into the content we were reading or having discussions about how to approach identifying the skill. During this time students held discussions among their group and answered scaffold questions. I was able to make observations and take note on challenges that individual students faced. This allowed me to be able to refer back to my notes and hold individual conferences in order to address student need.

Building student independence

While I worked with students in small groups for the majority of the class period the other students spent time working on their own. During student independent time they were responsible for completing their weekly learning task. These task consisted of several things such as reading, writing and creating. My students were given choice during this time as long as it was related to the skill and the text we were reading. At the beginning of the year I walked students through each choice board task and how to complete it. As the year progressed I realized fewer questions were being asked and students worked diligently to get the task done. They knew the expectations and had the autonomy to complete the work successfully.

QEFF7637Improved student behavior

With clear expectations and routine structures in place to support my students, behavior management decreased. This was honestly the first year that I dealt with a minimum amount of behavior problems. In the past I have always had strong class management skills but the consistency in daily routine clearly helped increase student behavior. There was no constant interruption during small group instruction or taking time out of teaching to manage poor behavior. The expectations were so high that students had no time to clown around, there was only time to work in my classroom.

In summary, an increase understanding of the way I wanted to organize the daily routines in my classroom help enhance my instruction this year. Using the reading workshop model to provide students with modeling, small group instruction, independent work and collaboration improved my student’s performance. Sticking to this main practice not only strengthen my daily instruction but increase the autonomy of my students.

What practices do you use in your classroom? Share your ideas below. We would love to hear from you.

Zsnel

The Benefits of Cooperative Learning in the Classroom

Cooperative learning is a teaching strategy used to promote a variety of activities to small groups to in order to improve comprehension.  Educators have found that this practice works in a range of classrooms from preschool to the college level.

SWPV0701Why it works?

This student-centered approach allows students to work in a small group setting. Students in these groups are responsible for their own learning as they practice the skill modeled by the teacher. Cooperative learning groups allow students to collaborate together in order to achieve a task or complete a goal.

Research based practice

Cooperative learning is one of the most common research practice in education. “Research on cooperative learning has moved beyond the question of whether cooperative learning is effective in accelerating student achievement to focus on the conditions under which it is optimally effective” (Slain 1995).  Leo Semyonovich Vygotscky first spoke of this method as he considered the role of culture, society and language in his theory social constructivism. He tried the approach with a group of students and described it as “cooperative” and “cultural.” Furthermore, the purpose of this type of grouping is to establish group goals and individual accountability. Therefore, this method of instruction is geared towards promoting collaboration and motivation among the students in the group. In addition students are able to learn from each other, asses and redirect each others learning. 

5 Elements of the Cooperative Learning Model

These five elements are key to successful cooperative learning in the classroom:

  1. Positive interdependence: The teacher sets the goal of each group and the students choose their role in completing a task. To ensure the group is successful everyone is responsible in completing their task.
  2. Face to face promotive interaction: Students complete group work through collaboration and discussion. Members provide each other with feedback, support and reasoning while completing task.
  3. Individual accountability: Each group member has a responsibility to each other and is required to participate while completing work.  
  4. Appropriate use of social, interpersonal, collaborative and small group skills: Through collaboration students learn how to work as a team, they build autonomy and make decisions.
  5. Group processing: Each group will have a group goal that they will need to complete. They will establish their success and changes that they will need to make in the future.

imagesThe Teacher and Student Roles

The teacher’s role is to model for students, assess learning, design instruction and assessments that will promote collaboration. The teacher creates the appropriate groups, heterogeneous or homogeneous. Then the teacher will instruct students on how to collaborate effectively. Once students are working cooperatively in groups the teacher will facilitate learning and serve as a mediator among groups. Students in the group will self-regulate their progress as they complete the task. Additionally they will assess their own understanding as they discuss the topic.

The students role is to be a participant in cooperative learning. Therefore, the student will understand their role as they collaborate and share their ideas or knowledge of the topic with their peers.

Impact on the learning environment

This practice impacts the learning environment by providing students with the opportunity to collaborate with their peers. Students learn the strategies through instruction and then apply them in a small group. This encourages students to have healthy discussion, take ownership of their learning and apply their knowledge effectively. This practice impacts the teacher instruction because it reinforces the skill that was modeled to the students. The teacher will design curriculum that promotes cooperative learning through a gradual release process. Once students are in small groups the teacher will be able to assess their understanding of the lesson. 

Cooperative learning improves learning. It promotes motivation as students set goals, encourage each other to learn, and help each other complete a task. Therefore, autonomy happens as each student collaborates, and complete peer assessments and evaluation. The creators believed that the model will increase academic performance and behavior if applied correctly.

How is cooperative learning promoted in your classroom? What successes have you had using this model? Comment below by sharing your ideas. We would love to hear from you!

Zsnel

The Best Parent-Teacher Communication Tools to Use

Parent communication is an important factor when it comes to running a successful classroom. It is vital for the teacher to keep the parents involved with their child’s learning on a consistent basis. The teacher is  responsible for establishing a communication tool that will be used for the school year. Due to the expansion of technology there are several tools to choose from. Choosing the right tool to fit your classroom and parental needs will benefit both parties involved. The best part is that these tools can be operated right from an app on your phone, computer or tablet.  The day’s of picking up the phone to reach out to parents is over, the best way to communicate fast and effectively is through one of the popular programs mentioned below.

downloadRemind

Remind is a communication program used to keep parents informed with what is going on in the classroom. The app operates as a messenger between the teacher and parent. The teacher can send messages about homework, classroom policies, and school wide events. The messages can also have files attached that will then produce an image for the parent once they click on it. Missing assignments, fliers or homework pages can be sent to parents through this app.

Parents can also message the teacher back if they have a question. This feature is optional for the teacher and can be turned off or specific hours for private messaging can be established. . Remind can be used for elementary schools, middle school or high school. To sign up the teacher will need to provide the parent with a code that can be texted through the phone.

Once this personal code is sent then the parent can download the app or pull it up on their web browser. The best part is the parents are not the only ones who can sign up, if the student has a cell phone then they can download the app and keep track of their own classes. This works great for middle school and high school students who have multiple classes. With its user-friendly and simple features parents will find this app easy to download and use.

downloadClass Dojo

Class Dojo is a popular app among elementary school teachers with its emoji icons and colorful theme. This app is a great tool to use to keep parents involved with everyday learning in the classroom. Some of its features include; sending group messages, private messages, posting pictures, adding more than one classroom and tracking behavior. It is simple to set up the classroom with each student having a monster themed emoji. The teacher can set up the point system they want to use and the messaging features they want to use with parents.This tool is set up for the teacher to use on a daily basis. Some teachers post classroom dojo on their smartboards and add or subtract points for student behavior throughout the day.

Students can be grouped if they sit in tables and the teacher wants to add table points. Students can also be grouped together if the teacher is playing a game in the classroom and wants to keep score. Once parents sign up for this app they will be notified every time their child gets a point or loses a point. At the end of the week the teacher can run a report and send it home to the parents. The report consists of a pie chart that breaks down the points earned throughout the week.

The program takes the place of posting a behavior chart in the classroom. This app works best when a teacher has a small classroom to manage or one. Multiple classes may become overwhelming as the teacher keeps track of each student. This app would work best in an elementary setting. Now, the teacher can establish a system to track behavior online and communicate instantly without picking up the phone.

downloadClassloom

Classloom is another popular app among teachers and parents. It includes several features such as sharing events taking place at the school with students and parents, posting homework and important documents. The teacher can also post pictures of the classroom, making it easy to invite parents into the classroom instantly. The app has a classroom blog feature that encourages the students to sign up and communicate among each other. The teacher is able to set the security features and monitor the blog closely. Classroom groups and instant messaging are other features the teacher can enable to promote one-on-one communication. The messenger can help parents stay on top of their child’s school work and reminders while also helping students.

The most common features of this app will allow teachers to post homework assignments, remind parents and students of important events, give parents a view of the classroom while keeping everyone in sync. This app is easy to access and download. The teacher can use this app to save time and energy when it come to parent communication.

downloadEdmodo

Edmodo helps teachers focus on teaching, not paperwork. This app works alongside google apps and Microsoft office making it easy to sync with other programs. The parents are able to use passwords and usernames associated with other features on their phone making it easy remember their Edmodo log in. Edmodo is similar to the previous apps mentioned when it comes to communicating with parents on daily basis. The teacher can post homework assignments, classwork, pictures and updated information about school events.

A feature that sets this app apart from the rest is its “spotlight” feature. This allows parents to search the web, discover and collect their favorite resources.  The purpose of this bonus feature is to educate parents about school related content. For example, if the parent is having trouble helping their child with their algebra homework the parent is able to use this feature to find strategies and content related to algebra. There are videos, graphics and charts to help educate parents about the education world today.

downloadBloomz

Last but not least another popular app for parent communication is Bloomz. With this app the teacher has access to upload and share educational content to parents or students. Similar to the previous apps the teacher can attach documents, photos, update parents about homework and classwork. A cool feature includes the use of creation for the teacher. The teacher can create documents, surveys or sign-in sheets for the parents. This will cut down on the use of paper and provide the teacher instant data.

This app has become a favorite due to its similar features to Facebook. The outline of the app makes it easier for parents who have accessed Facebook before to navigate through the features. Some of these features include posting pictures to a feed and parents are able to comment, like and share. Students are able to sign up and join in the fun of posting, liking and sharing their classroom content. This app encourages healthy communication among the teacher, parent and possibly the student.

Now what?

Now that you have learned about five of the most popular parent communication tools for teachers to use, go out and explore them! Make yourself familiar with the content that is out there to make your teaching life easier.

What is your current communication tool to parents? Try out these apps and tell us what you think! We would love to hear from you.

Zsnel

 

 

The 5 Best Research Based Instructional Practices to use in the Classroom

The education system has been a driving force to the success of our country for decades. With the demands of laws being passed and the race to the top among nations, the system continues to change. These changes may be similar to past practices or have had makeovers. As an educator it is imperative that we adapt to these changes and incorporate practices that will work for our classroom. The key is to find what will work best for the students and their learning style. With extensive research along with my own expertise, I found 5 best practices that will give you amazing results. These practices are researched based, adaptable and easy to incorporate into the classroom today.

Setting Objectives

When the teacher sets objectives for the lessons that they are going to teach it sets a purpose for learning. The students know that the teacher is focused on helping them expand their knowledge and they have a clear understanding of how this will happen. Objectives serve as a road map for learning, the teacher is clear about their instruction and the students are aware of the direction of the lesson being taught.

To follow-up on the objectives it is valuable for the teacher to provide feedback to each student. “Teachers need to identify success criteria for learning objectives so students know when they have achieved those objectives (Hattie & Timperley 2006). Feedback will help the student understand the connection between the objective and teacher instruction. Students will have an understanding of what they did correctly along with areas of improvement. Making changes to the areas of improvement will enhance their learning and promote deeper understanding.

Think Aloud

When the teacher “thinks aloud” they are giving students insight on what is popping into their head. The teacher invites the students into his/her mind by saying things out loud to themselves. The students will watch with amazement and hold onto everything the teacher says. This will increase the engagement in your classroom, especially if you walk around the room while doing it. The teacher can read a book to the whole class or small group, then stop to think to themselves about the story. The teacher will ask themselves questions while holding a whole conversation by themselves. Sometimes the teacher can turn to the students, their audience, and ask them what they think.

This strategy will keep students on their toes as they chime into the conversation. The best part of this practice is the fact that it models to students the teachers thinking and gives them ideas. The student will eventually begin to think for themselves in the same manner. Students can then practice the technique on their own with a partner and the teacher can provide feedback. The purpose of this strategy is for students to develop higher order thinking.

Question-Answer-Response

The QAR is a practice used to get students to the next level. Students will use the strategies taught to them to analyze a text. The four types of QAR questions are:

  • Right there-This question can be found in the text.
  • Think and Search-The answer is found in the text but students need to search for it. Which requires them to go back and reread.
  • Author and you-The answer is not directly stated, instead it is inferred. The student needs to put prior knowledge and information learned from the text together.
  • On your Own-This type of question requires students to think about they already know from their own background experiences.

The teacher will model how to identify all these components in a given text. Students will then apply this knowledge through guidance from the teacher. The teacher will have students work in small groups before they do it on their own. This is a process called gradual release. Once students have shown some level of understanding they will be given the activity to complete on their own. The QAR builds students up to a level that forces them to think deeper about the text. Several graphic organizers, Powerpoints and lesson plans been have created to assist teachers in effectively implementing this practice.

Scaffolding

Scaffolding instruction is where the teacher models or demonstrates how to solve a problem or the process of mastering a skill. The idea behind scaffolding is that students need guidance, visual and help learning a new concept.  The teacher will master this through modeling; asking questions and monitoring student responses. Jerome Bruner’s Constructivist theory was influenced by Lev Vygotsky’s research on social environment and constructive meaning through interacting with others. In this practice the teacher will determine where to add support for students through a series of questions. This strategy will enhance their learning and build on student expertise. Scaffolding is not permanent, it is adjustable and can be changed at any time. It takes time and planning from the teacher as the scaffolding builds upon what the students already know.

WCZN2699Individualized Instruction

Individualized instruction was designed to help learners retain the information being presented to them. They are able to retain this information much longer because they are receiving instruction at their level and ability. Students who need more support will receive one on one instruction from the teacher and may move at a slower pace to ensure mastery. Some of the components of the individualized instruction model also called the Personalized System of instruction (PSI), encourage learners to write down their responses as opposed to verbal. Students are proctors as they complete their work individually, on their own. This will ensure that they are proficient in learning the skill. Formative assessments are given to help the teacher monitor student progress.

The teacher will assess which students need further instruction and which students can move on to the next skill. It is the teachers responsibility to know their students and what they need. The teacher will make a decision to use auditory material, visuals, technology or something tangible. In addition, the teacher will tailor further instruction around student individualized learning because not all students need the same thing.  It is the student’s responsibility to learn the material being presented. The student will take a pre-assessment and use strategies previously taught. The student is also responsible for working on the skills taught by applying their knowledge.

Using best practices in the classroom

There are several practices that research has shown improve success within students. This list consists of 5 of the most common and easily adaptable practices. With some research, understanding and implementation any of these practices can be used today. As educators we have to adapt to the changes taking place on a national level. Incorporating new strategies into our classrooms not only moves our students forward but strengthens our instruction.

What best practices do you use in your classroom? Comment below and share your ideas. We would love to hear from you.

Zsnel

Teaching Between Desk: A Japanese Practice

I recently read an article that was assigned in my doctoral program called “Teaching Between Desks.” The article describe an interesting practice that educators in Japan do in their classrooms on a daily basis. After a little bit of research beyond this article and asking educators in America I realized that most people are unaware of this practice. Although I found some articles on the practice and observations conducted in Japan by Americans, this way of teaching is unknown in the U.S. I thought it would be a great idea to share what I have learned and recently implemented in my own classroom about this practice.

An Instructional Practice

In the article “Teaching Between Desks” the author introduced a successful strategy used by Japan educators. The practice was observed by U.S. citizens through several videos that highlighted a strategy that is highly used in their school system. The practice called kikan-shido, or “between desk instruction,” shows a teacher walking around the classroom monitoring students as they worked. “For decades, Japanese educators have used this practice to engage students in deeper thinking around challenging problems and tasks (Skoda, 1991).

downloadHow it works

Prior to giving students independent work the teacher teaches a lesson that involves modeling and paired exercises that challenges students. The questions asked to each student promote higher order thinking. Differentiate these questions to fit the needs of each student. The questions also challenge students who are mastering the material and encourage the students that need it. The Japanese educators took the time to plan out these between the desk instruction prior to teaching the lesson. The questions they are asking are a part of the overall lesson plan. The four principal functions of kikan-shido are:

    • Monitoring student activity: The teacher actively walks the room and between the desks to monitor student work.
    • Guiding student activity: The teacher prepares the lesson through modeling and paired exercises before giving students independent work.
    • Organizing materials and the physical set up: The teacher has a clipboard to take notes with the lesson plans in front of them on a tablet or printed paper.
    • Engaging students in social talk: Students are working independently to practice the skills taught while the teacher walks the room and ask questions.

Similar Best Practices

You may hear this strategy and think that it is similar to some of the best practices we use in the United States. However, the intent of the Japanese educator is quite different from the practices we are currently using. While the teacher is walking the classroom the intention is to focus on the students and the independent work they are completing. The teacher will look over the students shoulder and hold one-on-one discussion, ask questions and give praise. The teacher does not give the student their independent work after teaching the lesson and they complete it on their own. Instead, the teacher is still active with the students through monitoring and assisting them as they work.

The “Gradual Release of Responsibility (GRR) drives this practice. Instructional Framework: this framework is geared towards moving students towards independence. The gradual release is the responsibility of instruction from the teacher to the student. It typically takes place in a linear process but doesn’t have to. Educators can begin at any point in the framework, which reads as a triangle whose components are:

  • Focus lesson (I do it)
  • Guided instruction (We do it)
  • Collaborative (You do it together)
  • Independent (You do it alone)

Each student moves throughout the framework as they master skills being taught. At times they made need reinforcement of the skill. It is the teacher’s responsibility to move students along appropriately.

imagesThe Benefits

Decision makers of the American education system believe the between desk instruction can benefit the teachers in America. With a demand of increasing rigor and higher order thinking among students this strategy may be another stepping stone. The simplicity of this practice makes it easier to begin to implement into your classroom or school today.

Teachers may feel that things are being added to their plate. Though this may be true at times, I believe this practice would be worth adding. It will only involve a little bit more planning. For example, a teacher’s lesson plan is laid out with step-by-step instructions on what they will be teaching for each lesson. The teacher will have to add in some question sets that they can ask students at each level. Using a clipboard or IPAD to track student responses or taking notes on the process of their work will only benefit the teacher later on when they have to make decisions about assessments, lesson planning and mapping.

What can we learn?

The teacher can learn how to expand the thinking of their students by asking them questions. It is important for the teacher to construct a clear image of where they want to take their students. This image will help them determine what they want the lesson to look like. Planning ahead is a huge component to making this practice work in the classroom. The process of teaching this practice will not come overnight. “Findings from a case study conducted on teacher change showed that it took at least three semesters for teachers to adopt and effectively implement a new instructional approach to a high school science classroom” (Emerling 2014). With consistency and follow through from the teacher, administrators and the district, this strategy can prove to be a useful tool for everyone involved.

What practices do you currently use similar to this in your classroom? Comment below and share your ideas. We would love to hear from you!

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Sources:

Ermeling, B., & Graff-Ermeling, G. (2014). Learning to learn from teaching: A first-hand account of lesson study in Japan. International Journal for Lesson and Learning Studies, 3(2), 170–192. Retrieved from http://independent .academia.edu/BradleyErmeling

Sakoda, K. (1991). Kikan-shido no gijutsu [The art of teaching between desks]. Tokyo: Meiji Tosho Shuppan Kabushikigaisha