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Thursday, June 23, 2016

What NOT to Include in your Philosophy of Education

I was recently afforded the opportunity to teach a few education classes at a local community college and had the distinguished pleasure of reading mounds of educational philosophy papers. Now, it has been several years since I wrote my original required paper, and I have no doubt it was a gigantic pile of garbage from my arrogant nineteen-year-old brain. Fortunately, I can’t locate the floppy disk on which it is stored…nor do I still have access to technology that would even open it.  Thus, it is easy for me to list the ridiculous mistakes my current students are commonly making against my rather vocal opposition. However, I am current I was an offender of some, if not all, of these rules. 

   1.  DO NOT ramble.

Look, we all can ramble when we are sharing our beliefs about a topic for which we are passionate. It is extremely important to organize these thoughts and make them as concise as possible. If you start over-explaining them or using unfamiliar philosophical jargon, you are just going to sound like a babbling idiot. Don’t write down everything you are thinking because you will certainly start to sound like a blabbering idiot. 

   2.  DO NOT rant.

Ranting is similar to rambling but with a negative undertone, making it more unpleasant to read. It is basically the equivalent of complaining which is such an exhausting turnoff when written on paper. A philosophy paper is not the place to push a political agenda, especially if it may possibly offend a future employer. Plus, if you are already complaining now, you are going to make one miserable teacher.

   3.  DO NOT tell cliché stories.

 Statistically speaking, 74% of the educational philosophy papers I read this semester included a story about how the author knew he or she wanted to be a teacher after playing school as a child. Please stop telling that ridiculous story! We all played school! No one is playing human resources representative or marketing accountant. Does pretending to be something as a child better qualify you for that role as an adult? If so, my son is going to be one heck of a Ninja Turtle!

   4.  DO NOT describe bad teachers.

What is the infatuation with detailing undesirable characteristics of people? Experienced teachers know that you put yourself on a pedestal daily for many little eyes to judge. If you have even the tiniest personality or physical flaw, you better believe a student is going to make you aware of it. (Never make a drastic change to your hair in the middle of the school year unless you have tire-thick skin!) Your philosophy should include your opinion of the role of a teacher. People want to know what you are going to do…not what you aren’t going to do!

   5.  DO NOT dumb things down for your reader.

Let’s be honest; very few people are actually going to read your philosophy of education. It will likely only be read by college professors and perhaps future employers, all people who are considered education professionals. Thus, there is no need to explain the basic content covered in your Introduction to Teaching class, because we already know it. In fact, we either taught it to you or are currently living it. We all know the difference between auditory and visual learners. Also, please don’t define philosophy!

   6.  DO NOT demean the profession.

Avoid trashing teaching as an underpaid profession. Teachers have great benefits, a summer, spring, and/or fall break, and earn a salary that is typically equal to the average household income of th surrounding community. Being a teacher is a respectable and influential job, and you should be honored to enter the profession regardless of the pay. Plus, when you belittle the earnings of a teacher, you may also be inadvertently insulting the teacher reading your paper.

As a paper, your philosophy of education may not change any lives, including your own. However, it is extremely important to be able to articulate your philosophy of education. That should be the purpose of your writing.

Need more help? Check out my FREE product on TeachersPayTeachers. It includes a prewriting activity and rubric to help guide your writing.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Christmas in 5th Grade ELA

Merry Christmas! 
It's that wonderful time of the year again when you have already given your semester exam yet still have a few days to fill with academic activities that won't totally destroy the Christmas spirit. Here is a collection of mostly free activities I have used in my classroom to get me through the final few days before that most anticipated break!

This is a wonderful and fun way to practice fluency and expose your students to the popular holiday poem. Simply print the cards, pass them out, and let your students begin reading aloud as a class. This product even suggests timing them each time to see how fast they can read. What a cute idea!

This product contains an informational text that students can read about the background of the beloved poem. This free sample only includes some of the aligned activities, but it was plenty to use in my classroom.

This packet contains several worksheets and writing assignments based on the actual Christmas poem. Combined with the two activities above, you should have a complete poetry unit!

If you are trying to shy away from being a "Christmas" offender, this is a wonderful academic activity for your kiddos! This is a very thorough guided reading packet with teacher instructions, leveled texts, and answer keys.

This product is aligned with the 4th grade standards, but it is pretty challenging. Let's face it, our 5th graders need all the practice locating evidence in the text to support their answers as they can get. I like to give this as a little holiday homework the last week before break. 

Okay, I think I have seen about a million activities like this on Pinterest this season. However, this one is thorough, fun, and FREE! You can't beat that!

This is another fabulous close reading packet that includes the text on three different levels and open-ended questions for three different reads.

Three Reasons:
Rachel Lynette's task cards are amazing.
Kids can always use more practice summarizing.
They're free! Duh!

This bundle includes the 'Twas the Night Before Christmas close reading I mentioned before, four Find Someone Who Christmas-themed games, and a Civil War socials studies analysis. It would definitely cover you for a few days of academic fun!

Okay…I saved the best for last. My students freakin' love these puzzles. I printed them on card stock, and they were a huge hit. I can easily pull them out when there is any down time, and the students even ask to play them during recess. If you click on only one thing on this blog, make sure it is this free product! 

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Bring Lit On: How to Play Find Someone Who

Bring Lit On: How to Play Find Someone Who: Find Someone Who is a favorite activity in my classroom. I love using it as a quick review, and the students enjoy getting out of their s...

How to Play Find Someone Who

Find Someone Who is a favorite activity in my classroom. I love using it as a quick review, and the students enjoy getting out of their seats. 

Here's how to play:

You may note that I stated, "Here's how to PLAY." That's right…we play this as a competitive game in my classroom. The first student who has his or her worksheet completed and places it in my hand with all of the correct answers wins. So, students are racing (no running) and checking to ensure their answers are correct. If they turn it in with incorrect answers, I return the paper to them so they may have the option to correct any incorrect answers. Sometimes, we don't had e a winner…which is a sure sign that I need to review the skill. It is such a fun game, and all of my students always want to participate.

Do kids sometimes to cheat and purposely put the wrong answer? Yes…of course! This is fair game in my classroom, because you should already be checking your peers' answers after each question. If you think the partner chose the wrong answer, then you need to discuss the disputed answer. 

I have a wonderful Kagan grammar book that has several Find Someone Who activities ready for you to print and use. I love, love, love this book, but it isn't exactly aligned with the Common Core standards, and there simply aren't enough options. 

Since I incorporate this activity in my classroom at least once or twice a week, I started making the worksheets on my own. It's quite simple once you have created a format that works for you. I use PowerPoint and insert text boxes to ensure proper formatting. Here are some FREE examples of Find Someone Who activities I have in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. Check them out!

What fun academic activities do you incorporate on a regular basis in your class?

Monday, November 16, 2015

Analyzing Visual Images

I actually love the new Common Core standards my state has adopted, but it has been quite a difficult shift. There are 75 new social studies standards for TNReady, and that can be a bit stressful…even for the most experienced, organized, and confident teacher. It may also tend to be frustrating when you are not sure exactly how to approach the standard. For example, how does one analyze a historical picture or photo? What does that even entail?

You could ask 25 students to analyze the photo above, and you would get 25 different answers. (In my class, you'd probably get a few crazy ones, too!) Children need specific guidelines for pretty much everything they do. And, let's face it…analyzing is a challenging skill for even your brightest pupils.

Luckily, I have a brilliant colleague who came up with a simple acronym that can be used to analyze any visual image. I created this poster, and our lives have been smooth sailing ever since.  (Well, at least when it comes to analyzing visual images in social studies class.)

Students simply fill out the FREE PICTURE Graphic Organizer. This worksheet can be used with any visual image. Once it has been completed, students are able to more effectively use the information in a constructed response essay.

To create your own worksheet, simply download my free PICTURE graphic organizer. Then, you can locate images on websites, like Google image. Once you have the image or images you wish to use, you can take a screen shot of the graphic organizer and reduce it in order to fit the image and graphic organizer on the same page. You can also display the poster and have students respond on their own paper, a white board, or orally. It's so easy to use! 

Here is an example of thirty images I use for analyzing historical images of slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction. This is a product in my TPT store, but you could easily create it on your own!

If you create your own worksheets, please feel free to share them right here!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Academic Brain Breaks

A good teacher can tell when his or her students are about to mentally check out. I often attempt to plan my lessons with engaging activities that allow for movement to prevent those little eyes from glassing over…but it still happens from time to time. That's why I have several no prep brain breaks to whip out of my bag of tricks at a moment's notice.

I have several of these squishy balls that my students just love. Daily, we participate in a Pass and Share. The students simply form a giant circle around the desks. I give them a questions or topic about which to respond, and we pass the ball around sharing. The person with the ball is the only one who can talk. Sometimes it will be a one or two word response question, and other times it may take a little longer. This activity allows students to stand up, sending oxygen to their sleepy brains. In addition, it appeals to the social and emotional needs of the students. They are having an opportunity to share personal information about our topic of study and practice active listening skills. If I forget to include Pass and Share in my lesson, my students are sure to let me know. 

Sparkle is my go-to activity when I have a few extra seconds at the end of class. It is a popular spelling game, and there are many different variations.
First, the students form a giant circle around the desks. The teacher then says a spelling word. The first student begins spelling the word by saying the first letter. The second students says the next letter, and so on until the word is completely spelled. After the word has been spelled, the next students in line says, "Sparkle!" and he or she is out and returns to his or her seat. In addition, if a student misspells the word, he or she is out. You keep going with new words until only one student is standing, the winner. I also have the students pass a ball around to ensure we know whose turn it is.  

There are many valuable uses for white boards in the classroom, but I mainly use my to add a little fun to typically boring activities. If we are reviewing a topic, and I need to add a little spice to the lesson, I simply add my white boards. I have students work in teams of 2 to 4 to answer review questions. They have to write their answer on the white board and be the first team to stand and show me the correct answer. This little bit of movement is a real energy boaster. Plus, the students are always motivated by a little competition.

1 to 10
1 to 10 is a lot like Sparkle except the students are counting to ten. The students stand a circle around the desks. The first student starts with the ball and says either, "one," or, "one, two." The next student continues counting by saying the next number or the next two numbers. This continues with students adding one or two numbers until someone says ten. Whoever says ten is out and must return to his or her seat. You continue playing until only one student remains. I play this while passing around a ball to know whose turn it is. In addition, I make students return to their seats if they hesitate too long, indicating they are attempting to count ahead.

Blurt is a super cool board game that can be used as a whole-class brain break. The game comes with cards that contain definitions. The teacher reads the definition, and the student has to "blurt" out the correct word. In order to play this with an entire class, I divide the class into teams of 2 to 4 students. I allow each team to have their own definition, and I give the team 5 seconds to blurt out the correct word. The team that gets the most words wins. This game can also be played with the vocabulary terms you compile over the course of the school year.

This simple game was inspired by the board game Scategories. You divide the class into teams of 2 to 4. Each team has a piece of paper and determines a writer. The teacher gives the class a category (proper nouns related to Halloween, state capitals, parts of a cell) and one minute to write as many terms that fit in the category. At the end of one minute, the teacher reads the lists and the class determines if each answer is acceptable. The team with the most correct terms wins.

  If you haven't checked out Go Noodle yet, you are in for a treat. It is a website dedicated entirely to getting our kids up and moving. There are an array of fun dance and exercise videos, and some of them a even academic.

What no prep brain breaks do you use in your class?

Friday, November 6, 2015

Quick & Easy Formative Assessments

Teachers should conduct formative assessments in their classrooms daily. In fact, if you teach in one of the many district with high-stakes evaluations, your administration will look specifically for these types of assessments in your daily lessons. 

Formative assessments are designed to simply monitor students' learning and typically have little to no point value attached to them. The main purposes of these assessments is to help students determine their strengths and weaknesses and to allow teachers to note where students are struggling and adjust their teaching. You should have many formative assessments leading up to the big summative assessment.

Here are few TOTALLY FREE formative assessments you can use in any lesson.

This is an easy assessment that can be given at the end of any lesson. Personally, I love to use it with my project-based learning (PBL) units. I find that students also struggle to articulate connections, and this exit slip provides them with an opportunity to practice that in writing. 

Fist to Five is one of the easiest, quickest, and most common formative assessments. I keep this poster hanging in my classroom to remind students of the process. One drawback is that some students may not feel entirely comfortable holding up one or two fingers. Thus, I often have them close their eyes. 

I have never used entrance slips, but I think they are a brilliant idea. I love how it allows you to identify any major misconceptions students may have before beginning your lesson. In addition, it provides you with a type of pretest with which you can show growth at the end of your lesson.

Not only are these exit slips adorable, but they include excellent sentence stems for your students to write independently write about their experience with the lesson.

My favorite part about these exit slips is that they include a place for the student to write the daily standard. I often struggle to effectively incorporate the daily standard in my lesson.

These are fun worksheets that appeal to the students' interests while allowing them to summarize the information they retained from the lesson.

This wonderful collection of super cute exit slips would work for any lesson in any subject. They provide a variety of options for formative assessments. I particularly love how the students list their questions they still have and then provide their best guess at the answer.  It's such an amazing product; I just can't believe it's free!

Do you have any formative assessment you can share?