With the relentless waves of worksheets, professional development packets, and IEP paperwork, it can seem impossible to stay ahead of the whirlwind of disorder. Here are 10 of our tried-and-true tips to make organization a reality!
#1: Get Rid of Your Desk
For one thing, we all know what inexplicable paper-magnets desks are. For another, they often serve as barriers between you and students, especially if you are tempted to grade during the day. If you have a horseshoe table you use with students, position that in the corner instead. Otherwise, keep your pens, scissors, and other such necessities in a plastic 3-drawer cart, or in pencil organizers on your mobile tech cart. Added bonus: you’ll open up the space in your classroom!
#2: Get Rid of Worksheets (as much as possible)
Moving away from worksheets has the mutual benefit of creating less clutter for you and less busy work for your students. Instead, consider displays of student understanding in the form of project-based learning and other alternatives that place the priority more on learning.
#3: Get Rid of Your Filing Cabinet
While this is a bigger project to tackle, the payoff is enormous. Think of all the time you’ve wasted digging through disheveled files to find that one resource, making copies, and then rediscovering its folder to put it away. Contrast that with performing a simple search of your computer files for the resource, and then printing it! Go ahead and start scanning items in your filing cabinet, and be sure to keep them organized in digital folders on your computer. This would be a great task for parent volunteers or the school copy aide if you have one!
#4: Get Rid of Student Portfolio Binders or Files
If you keep bulky binders of student work in your classroom, consider teaching students how to keep their work digitally on individual blogs! Some benefits of keeping portfolios digitally include: increased practicality for students to keep and access their work in the long-term, more varied options for work sample types (including voice recordings, videos, etc.), and preparation for students to utilize 21st century tools and skills. Check out our post for student blogging ideas to get started!
#5: Get Rid of CD’s & More
Make a search for the obsolete in your classroom. CD’s that can be ripped, posters that can be scanned–pare down any items that could be replaced with your smartphone or tablet.
#6: Go Mobile for Student Paperwork
Once you’ve gotten rid of your filing cabinet, there will doubtless still be a few items you need to keep on file, including confidential student paperwork and forms. Keep these instead in a space-effective accordion file folder or a small filing box. You may find the ability to move these papers around with you to be a more convenient option, as well!
#7: Adopt Apps that Will Work for You
Get rid of that giant desk calendar (which will be necessary if you did #1 anyway)! Experiment with various apps to find out what will best meet your needs. Evernote is one option for keeping notes and schedules organized, and Confer is perfect for keeping anecdotal notes from guided reading to math!
#8: Adopt Google Drive
Instead of opening multiple programs to access your files, move everything over to Google Drive! Only uploaded or synced files count against your 15 GB of free storage, too, which means anything you create in Drive is free storage! Additionally, you will be poised to more easily collaborate as you share resources with your colleagues. Tip to remember: Download the desktop version of Google Drive so you can still access your resources during offline occurrences!
#9: Enlist Student Help
Especially if you keep some kind of classroom economy or class jobs, make sure you add student jobs that will help keep up classroom organization! Some that I’ve loved have included organization experts, who dust and otherwise straighten up, and sanitation specialists, who wield Clorox wipes on every possible surface!
#10: Make a Display Wall
This can be as simple as pinning up a few strands of yarn and attaching some clothes pins, or perhaps hanging up a few clipboards. Not only is it a great way to display reminders, flyers, student drawings, and personal inspiration, but it’s perfect to keep it all off work-surfaces. If you are interested in using your wall space in an even craftier way, the ideas are pretty much endless on Pinterest!
What about you? Do you have other strategies to share that have helped you stay organized? Please share in the comments!
Class meetings are more than about discussing logistics or class management, although those are benefits, too. It’s about creating an environment where everyone can feel comfortable to speak their minds & learn from each other!
#1: Develop as Risk-Takers.
“Security is mostly a superstition. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” — Helen Keller
We all develop inhibitions through the years as we become fearful of failure. This kind of mentality, however, is absolutely stifling to any real learning. We must find authentic ways to show students we welcome risk-taking, rather than just telling them we do. Class meetings are a perfect way to do so! Because of their low-pressure settings, they have the capacity to help even the shyest students to slowly build their confidence over the year.
#2: Cultivate Relationships with Students.
In the blur of lunch count, P.E., and grading, it’s easy to get caught up in the logistics of school, neglecting personal relationships. However, most of us began teaching because of people–as it should be! Class meetings provide an appropriate, dedicated environment for sharing personal experiences–ones of celebration, loss, anticipation, anxiety, and just plain silliness. Such sharing renews and strengthens our most important priority: the students with whom we work.
#3: Social Skills.
Listening, turn-taking, appropriate responding, articulating ideas–these are just a few social skills developed in a class meeting environment. As teachers, it’s easy to react to apparent deficits in these social skills during instruction time with consequences–but what students often need more is additional practice and examples of people effectively using these skills!
#4: Opportunity for Meaningful Discussions.
This benefit is best illustrated with an example from my classroom. On my first day back at school after a week-long illness-related absence, we gathered in our circle. Students quickly began to report that behavior was not always at its best with our substitute teachers, which led to one student volunteering the statement, “Some kids think, ‘Well, I’m not going to get anything for it, so why should I be good?’” This led to one of our most animated and earnest conversations of the year. As they explored and debated this question, the class eventually came up with the following thoughtful answers, among others:
No matter how smooth your classroom management or arrangement, the fact is, issues invariably arise each year with each group of students. From desk arrangements to concerns about homework loads, students will pick up on small details teachers overlook. When you give them the opportunity to voice concerns and then to discuss them as a class during regular meetings, the classroom starts to truly become a shared, democratic environment instead of one run by one imperfect person. While a class meeting should by no means be the only opportunity for student voice, it is one helpful medium!
5 Set-Up Tips
#1: Establish rules and routines first!
No matter how old your students are, it’s essential to start by discussing expectations. To help them understand the shared nature of class meetings, make sure these are not your expectations, but what the class truly expects from one another during the meetings. Make a shared list, have students sign it as a contract, and post it in the class meeting area for a visual reminder. Have a couple of practice trials that emphasize the expectations, and model some of those skills by role-playing with students!
#2: Start With a “Talking Circle” with a “Talking Object.”
“Talking circles are more successful when the participants have trust with each other. Taking time to share stories, build relationships, explore values, and create guidelines for participation helps everyone feel physically, psychologically, and emotionally safe in the circle and creates a foundation for courageous acts of sharing.” (Winters, A.)
Have students start by sitting in a circle, and one-by-one, passing a “talking object” that declares that they have the floor for sharing. (My students have always loved using a Koosh ball for this purpose).
#3: Put out a Suggestions/Compliments Box.
Place this box in an accessible location to give students the opportunity to share compliments for the positive acts they notice from classmates, or for suggestions to help the classroom run more smoothly. We recommend making and printing your slips to provide a template that includes lines for names, solutions, etc. Remember to model to students what quality compliments and suggestions look like (which will avoid excessive “You are nice” slips, or complaints without ideas for solutions)!
#4: Establish a regular weekly meeting time.
If it matters to your students, it should matter to you! Set aside a regular weekly time, even if it’s only 15-20 minutes. If assemblies or field trips shift the schedule, discuss with students whether they’d like to reschedule that week to help them know it’s still a priority!
#5: Allow Flexibility.
During the Talking Circle, we suggest that you leave the sharing open-ended, rather than giving students a prompt. We also recommend that you give them the choice to “Pass” on their turn to keep it from becoming a stressful, pressured situation.
Whether you’re implementing a BYOD classroom, teaching students to develop PLN’s, or planning a Twitter debate in your class, these 5 tools may help you with some unexpected logistics.
The Importance of Keeping Up
Anyone involved with teaching today is familiar the swift and exponential nature of changes in 21st century education. This is true to the extent that even if you graduated with your teaching degree within the past few years, your pedagogical training probably did not leave you fully prepared. We hope that the following 5 resources will be valuable to you as you adapt to modern learning strategies.
If you are not already using Google Drive in your classroom, add it to your must-try-asap list! From elementary school on up, it enables effective digital collaboration. As an added bonus, it cuts down messy stacks of papers! Below, we’ve listed a few of our favorite time and sanity-saving tips to maximize your Google Drive usage in the classroom:
Teach students to use the “Comments” tool for peer editing and revising. That way, students can have actual conversations about the feedback they give one another without actually altering others’ work!
Self-grading function: If you are currently using or are interested in using Google Forms to quiz students (for free!), make sure you look up how to make it self-grading! (Check out one tutorial here!)
Revision history: Make sure that both you and your students are familiar with this tool in the “File” menu just in case one student accidentally alters or deletes another’s work.
Take Advantage of its share-ability: Long-gone are the days of needing to upload each student’s PowerPoint to a flash drive (see our article on Powerpoint alternatives), or even asking them to individually email you their digital project. Instead, have students create all projects that are compatible with Google Drive in one class Google account that you can easily access and manage.
Use Google Spreadsheets for a multi-purpose class roster: Keeping track of missing permission slips, student project groups, or anecdotal notes is a cinch with Google Spreadsheets. Google Drive’s app makes this especially appealing as you can whip out your phone or tablet to view your notes as you walk through the class!
#3: Digital Classroom Management Tips:
Establishing quality classroom management strategies is a critical skill for every educator. However, such techniques can quickly get complicated when BYOD is introduced–how do you manage a variety of phones, tablets, and laptops when such devices can already be distracting? Jennifer Carey, a director of educational technology, shared her top 5 tips for digital classroom management in an Edudemic article, from setting clear expectations, to recognizing that it’s OK to put the technology away at times!
Sure, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media may be a great place for exchanging selfies and cat videos, but what about when you come across legitimate information in social media that backs up your research?
Over the course of the past couple decades, we have moved from card catalogs, to library computer searches, to articles published online, and now on to social media! It can feel overwhelming to keep up with the most modern methods of research, especially when it comes to the various APA or MLA citation formats. Hopefully, this post will be a useful resource for you as you decide when and how to cite social media finds!
The TeachByte graphic below is an excellent general guide for both MLA and APA citations. However, as anyone who has done any research knows, certain instances can get more complicated than general guidelines. For instance, what if you want to cite an expert who sent you a personal communication, and it’s not publicly visible for audiences to click on? Or how do you know how to cite in-text vs. your bibliography reference list? The official APA blog answers these questions and more in greater detail using examples from their post in October!
As with all research, you will want to make sure there is plenty of variety among your sources. Just because it is now acceptable to cite social media does not mean it should consume most of your bibliography. Additionally, because of the unique nature of social media Tweets, posts, and videos in that they can go viral even if they are inaccurate, you will want to be particularly careful when considering whether to use one. The information literacy website, EasyBib, provides an excellent Infographic to help you in that decision-making process.
…It’s all about giving each individual the credit they deserve for their efforts and ideas! When in doubt, discuss your concerns with your teacher or professor!
What does it mean to become a 21st century educator? Effective technology integration certainly plays its role, but it’s also about accessibility and individual perspective shifts. Find inspiration in our 10 tips…
When we refer to becoming a 21st century teacher, we certainly recognize that technology plays an enormous role in how quality education has evolved. However, we feel it also reaches into simple attitudes that are shifting. It’s likely a reciprocal effect: the more technology use and global networking has grown, the more recognition has spread for best practices; the more the recognition for best practices has spread, the more technology has been examined to assist in this innovation. Still, as adept as many teachers are in adopting 21st century attitudes and strategies, we know many others feel overwhelmed by it all, from first year teachers to veterans nearing retirement. We feel that starting small, one attitude or strategy at a time, is the best method!
#1: Reject “Content is King!”
A quote from the above video that bears repeating:
“We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist . . . using technologies that haven’t been invented . . . in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.” ~Karl Fisch
If we allow our teaching to exist mostly as delivering information that students memorize, our job descriptions could be quickly outsourced to Google! Worse still, our students’ limited skills would also be highly replaceable by search engines and video databases like LearnZillion. 21st Century teachers and learners alike must realize that education is no longer about what we’ve memorized, but about how we learn to evaluate and utilize information!
#2: Recognize that Change is Essential!
Ken Robinson has been a tremendously influential voice when it comes to the need to change our thinking in education. Some of the primary changes he suggests include the way we think about “human capacity,” collaboration, and the “habits of institutions.” On a similar track, author and educator Shelly Blake-Plock outlined 21 Things that Will be Obsolete by 2020 (reflection post), including current systems of standardized testing for college admissions and organizing classes by age and grade.
A prominent example of current change is the Common Core (see our CCSS article). Some parents are frustrated that it does NOT involve a back-to-basics, “finding the answer” approach. (See one example of a parent who allegedly exclaimed on his child’s homework page that the “real world” would favor faster, simpler vertical subtraction over evaluating misconceptions using a visual number line. We would point out that a calculator is even faster and simpler, if speed is really the highest priority in “the real world”). In their fear of education looking different than it did when they were kids, these individuals seem to miss that the emphasis is now on critical thinking, a crucial shift when you think back to our tip #1 in particular. There is a difference between education and learning, and fortunately, the 21st century is moving more toward the latter.
#3: Develop a PLN
A PLN (Personal Learning Network) allows you to maximize your professional development as you use social media and other platforms to learn and collaborate with teachers around the world. If Shelly Blake-Plock is correct about the way school Professional Development is moving toward teachers taking the lead, PLN’s will prove increasingly important for every educator to have in place. Our article on PLN’s is a great resource for beginners!
#4: Encourage students to develop PLN’s
The above word cloud took shape when creator Caroline Bucky asked members her own PLN what their individual PLN’s meant to them. If students were enabled to create such meaningful networks, imagine the ramifications that would have on their ability to contribute to a global society (another major aspect of the 21st century)!
For many decades, ideas from student-centered pedagogy theorists like Jean Piaget have taught the importance of this attitude. In fact, a wonderful Piaget quote on the topic of student ownership reads:
“The principal goal of education in the schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done; men and women who are creative, inventive and discoverers, who can be critical and verify, and not accept, everything they are offered.” ~Jean Piaget
He said this in 1964. Think of the greater importance for students to “verify, and not accept, everything they are offered” now that the digital world provides them with a constant stream of information! This kind of ownership for learning does not happen when our expectations are limited to students “repeating what other generations have done”–in other words, limited to the content and understanding we bring to the table. Evidence that we can improve in this regard exists in examples such as the above screenshot we took today.
#7: Be Vulnerable with Students
A frequent 21st century dialogue in education involves asking, “How do we help our students become fully engaged in learning?” We feel that a large part of the answer to this question begins with our own levels of engagement and vulnerability as learners with our students. Brené Brown researches and writes on this very topic. She created a leadership manifesto that outlines patterns from her research on how we truly connect and engage. A powerful quote from it:
“When learning and working are dehumanized–when you no longer see us and no longer encourage our daring, or when you only see what we produce or how we perform–we disengage and turn away from the very things that the world needs from us: our talent, our ideas, and our passion. What we ask is that you engage with us, show up beside us, and learn from us.” ~Brené Brown
In short, to prevent disengagement, we absolutely must stop pretending that we know all the answers or that we do not make mistakes.
#8: Examine Your Why
In our post on Flipped Learning, we reference Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle of beginning with the Why. To succeed in the 21st century, becoming a life-long, self-motivated learner is not a nicety–it is a necessity. Cultivating our own Why as teachers and then keeping that at the forefront of our endeavors is an influential attitude simply because we are modeling it for our students. It helps them absorb the “point” of learning and to begin cultivating their own Why’s.
#9: Pursue Your Needs!
Have a low classroom budget? Is 1:1 technology nonexistent in your school? Are you in need of high quality mentor texts in your class library? Thanks to developments here in the 21st century, no longer are your frustrations limited to faculty lounge griping. Tools like DonorsChoose.org allow teacher empowerment as you shop for items you need and write a simple, mini-grant (or project), asking generous donors for help. Not only can you enlist your PLN to spread the word of your project through social media, but you can also look for help from programs in your area like Chevron’s Fuel Your School, which works to fund as many DonorsChoose teacher projects as possible during the month of October (be sure to wait to submit your project until October 1st to qualify)! Additionally, you can work with your administration to implement innovative school programs such as BYOD (see our article on 10 tips for Bring Your Own Device programs) if you’re looking for more technology accessibility in your classroom.
#10: Use Technology to Make Best Use of Time
This infographic by Anna Vital gives several examples of creative ways to save time, including using keyboard shortcuts! We would also suggest other simple strategies, such as keeping your email inbox cleaned up, turning off phone notifications for everything except the things you truly want to interrupt your life (some phones even allow you to turn off notifications or calls at certain times or locations), and utilizing apps to keep your priorities organized. Establishing such strategies that work for you can simplify your planning and classroom time, allowing you to focus on what matters most for you personally and professionally.
Many teachers are very familiar with and involved in maintaining blogs for their classrooms and students. However, the advent of microblogging through platforms like Twitter can enhance or simplify your blogging habits! Read how!
What is Microblogging?
We recently wrote a post that explored the in’s and out’s of Twitter for teachers. If you haven’t had a chance to read that yet, we recommend you start with that article first!
Microblogging, according a journal at the University of Stuttgart, can be explained in the following definition:
“Social networking and microblogging services such as Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ allow people to broadcast short messages, so-called microposts, in continuous streams.” [source]¹
So, while Twitter is not the only microblogging platform (see article that compares 10 others), we will be referring to Twitter as our main classroom tool for the purposes of this article.
How Microblogging with Twitter Works
Microblogging for your class can be very effective in conjunction with a classroom blog as it gives you a place where students can access your feeds, links, etc. However, that does not mean additional efforts–in fact, this approach will likely save you precious blogging time!
If you already keep a classroom blog to post pictures, homework, and general tidbits about what’s happening at school, chances are that you have experienced difficulty in posting content consistently or on the same day the pictures, activities, and videos actually happened. It may be easy enough to snap some pictures in the moment with your phone, but those can be easy to forget in the shuffle at the end of the day–and even when you do remember, it can be tough to scrounge up the time to upload your photos to your computer and then a new blog post, complete with a description!
Instead, consider how the above situation changes with the tool of Twitter microblogging:
Open your Twitter app on your mobile device
Next to “What’s Happening,” snap your photos within the app
Add a quick, 140 character phrase describing the discovery, instantly creating a feed that looks like this (thank you for sharing, Catherine!):
If you don’t have a classroom blog, you can simply give parents and students your handle (@_____) and have them follow you with their own Twitter accounts (and for this reason, we highly recommend that you keep a separate Twitter account for your classroom than for your personal use). If you do have a blog, then you can further spread the word by using a widget to upload your Twitter feed to your blog homepage, which can be especially helpful in reaching those who don’t have Twitter accounts! Below are steps to create your widget:
Click on the Settings icon at the top right corner of your Twitter page.
Select “Widgets” from the menu on the left-hand side of the page
Create and personalize your widget. There are several choices for what your feed will reflect. One option is to display posts for a specific hashtag (especially perfect if you have created a unique class hashtag that you include in each of your Tweets!):
If you have a class Twitter account, you could also display your own feed.
Once the widget is created, inserting it into your blog varies according to your platform. Click here for a great WordPress tutorial! For others, you may need to copy and paste the widget code into the HTML of your site–many have an HTML widget you can insert for this kind of purpose!
When to Blog or Microblog
Explaining a project
Sharing any media you want embedded into your blog (ie, Prezi, video, etc.)
Reminding students of several upcoming events (perhaps in a list)