Tag Archives: teaching tips

Sticky Notes Bonanza

I love using video to share ideas with students. I also love sticky notes. This week I combined both to teach a lesson on the importance of planning before writing.

First I showed this video:

Then we talked about the message, about what happened in the clip. Was the presentation effective? How long do you think it took to make? Do you think they knew what picture came next or did they make it up as they went along?

Then I show the making of video:

Imagine…6000+ stickies each with a little round of tape on them. The second video shows a lot of what the artists did to plan. Since all the kids (really, all of them) like the first video, I can make the point that good things take time to create. When they write, they need to take the time to work out a plan, to decide what it is they want to say before they start saying it. I think these videos helped get that message across. Beats just nagging them to write a web.


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8 Non-Tech Must Have Tools for the Tech Deprived Teacher

I’m listening in (so to speak) to this week’s educhat on Twitter about the effectiveness of Interactive Whiteboards. IWB…HA! I’m happy because I’m finally getting a projector that doesn’t require me to throw a cable across a student’s desk. I know that some day I’ll get a IWB, but by then we will be discussing some other must have tool and IWB’s will be passe. While I am not really tech deprived, I’m also not on any list to get a 1:1 classroom, a set of handhelds or any type of interactive anything. I teach in Florida…we’re broke. We make due.

So in defiance of the creed that tech is here to stay, I offer 8 indispensible tools that every classroom needs.

  1. Post-it Notes– These are the best invention ever. Give them to students to use make notes in texts. Put private notes on them then discretely place on a student’s desk as you walk around. Have students write their names on them as they check out books from the class library and put them on the board. Tons of uses.
  2. Highlighters-Again a multifunction tool. Have students highlight key words in directions or key phrases in their reading. Have students highlight a certain word or phrase in their writing to show exactly how often they use it. Have them highlight confusing passages in each other’s writing. But make sure you remind them to not write with them. Reading an essay written in hightligher is hard!
  3. Note cards- Exit tickets are my biggest use of these. The stiffer paper helps them stay whole as the students rush out the door. The 3.5×5 ones help more wordy students edit down their thoughts. The small size also makes writing more accessible for lower level writers…they don’t see all the white space they have to fill up. Plus, they are great for grouping. Ask students a question and use the note cards to divide the groups.
  4. My plastic tubs. One is where I keep student portfolios. The other is my clipboards.

    4. Clipboards-These help students become more mobile. I have great desks in my class,but most students still prefer to sit on the floor. They just grab a clipboard and find a spot. Helps with group work too; students can pass it back and forth without tearing up their paper.

  5. Personal white boards– I don’t really know why these are so effective, but whenever I break them out, my students go crazy. You can buy a set, or you can go to a local home improvement store and buy a piece of shower board. They will usually cut it into whatever size board you want. Have students write a word on their board them get together to create a poem. Have them draw a picture of their reading. Have student complete a sentence then hold up the boards so everyone can read everyone else’s.
  6. My Easy Button on the corner of my desk. The hand sanitizer is also a big draw for students.

    An Easy Button or other goofy desk toy- There are only two real uses for a desk toy. One to give students an excuse to come to the teacher desk without having to act like they want to talk to me. The other is just to make me happy. Happy teacher=happy class.

  7. Large platstic tubs – Work ten times better than milk crates for holding files, clipboards, art supplies, magazines, book sets, whatever. Helps with organization too, especially if you are like me and organizationally challenged.
  8. Cleaning supplies – Kids can be dirty. Enough said.

I’m not saying that some of these couldn’t be replaced by web programs or tech hardware. I would love to have a set of tablets in the class to replace my personal whiteboards. I have used Wallwisher before in the same way that I might use Post-Its. And if I were in a 1:1 school, I would have no need of clipboards; they would have the laptop in front of them. But that isn’t possible now.

And personally, one of the best things about being an old school teacher is that I can teach anyone anywhere with anything. It isn’t the device; it’s the desire…and I’ve got plenty of that.


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Differentiating with Delicious

 If you have ever taken a group of middle schoolers to the computer lab, you know it is bright and shiny central. Too many things to distract them from the task at hand ranging from repeated attempts to enter in a misspelled password, to clicking on the wrong link on the webpage, to seeing if MySpace is really blocked like the teacher said it was. Asking them to type in six different web addresses (even if you show a Power Point slide of them in the front of the room) is asking for tons of wasted time. But to only allow one or two sites in the lesson limits the exposure kids have to the web. This is but one of the problems with teaching internet literacy…at least from a Language Arts teacher’s perspective.

I am in the middle of a project on identifying reliable sources on the internet. For one activity I wanted students to look at a group of website to determine if they were reliable and justify their conclusion. Then they were to repeat the activity with a second group of websites. The first group were reliable; the second not so much. This is where the fear of six websites in one lesson came up.

Delicious solved the problem for me. I created a new account just for class. The user name is Ms.Mason (there’s a period and no space, as I repeated many times) if you care to take a look. Rather than tag the sites with descriptive terms, I used “group 1” and “group 2” as tags.

During class, I put the web address and my username/password up and had students log in that way.  Then to direct the activity, I instructed them to click on the tags along the side. The tags gave no clue to the reliability ahead of time, and I didn’t have to worry about students telling me the internet wasn’t working when they mistyped the address. Students were quickly able to navigate to where I wanted them to be, thus moving the lesson along smoothy. Tech wasn’t taught; it was used.

 While I was giving this lesson, it dawned on me that this would be an awesome way to differentiate reading. I hate printing and making copies never knowing how many I may need of a certain type of text. And if I put a student in the wrong group, I then have to move them around, get them caught up, find the right copy to give them, etc. I could use this account (with regular updating, of course) to set up all kinds of grouping. I could have groups be low/middle/high or fiction/nonfiction or short/long or text/video and then break the class up however I wish. Student A is breezing through his reading, send him to “group 2” with a click of the mouse. While students maybe curious, if you give each group enough to look at, they tend not to wander away. And so what if they do wander…the internet is all about wandering anyway.

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Wordle, Wordle, Wordle

Standards Wordle

(From http://www.wordle.net/)

This is my Wordle. It represents two things. First, and most obviously, it represents the state standards I have to cover. I thought about taking the word “use” out since it is so big, but really as Language Arts teachers, we are teaching kids different tools and techniques and helping them find ways to use them on their own. “Use” stays in.

Second, this represents the first time I have implemented a techy tool, had a problem, and used a second tool as a solution. Woo-Hoo! We have web pages assigned to us in our district. After learning about Wordles last year, I thought having one as the main picture on my website would be a good way to start the year. I’ll replace it with more meaningful pictures as I get to know the class.

Problem-our web pages are formatted. When I created the Wordle, I thought it would give me a pretty picture that I could then save and upload. Instead it gave me code. Really…what is someone like me going to do with code? I diligently copied it and opened up my Edline account. However, apparently Edline also thinks, “What is someone like her going to do with code?” Yup, no space for code. (If any techy types from my district are reading this, feel free to correct me for next time.)

But all is not lost. A few weeks ago I was playing with some screen capture programs. I had downloaded a program called Jing to my computer and thought maybe that would work. As you can see it did and today I am feeling like I am a techgod…or at least a techdemigod. I used one program to solve a problem created when I didn’t understand another. Isn’t this what we are trying to get kids to do? Recognize a problem, look for solution, adjust for changes, and keep going?

Hot Tip – This tip isn’t really that hot, but since I am usually the one looking for tips, I am excited to have one to give. If you want to Wordle your standards (and who doesn’t want to spend more time looking at standards), make sure to take out words like “The student will…” or else you will end up with a Wordle with student being GIANT and everything else teeny-tiny. Also take out words like “etc.” or “and others.” They appear often in standards and will be prominent on the Wordle.

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