How to Not Re-invent the Wheel

This would be the NUMBER ONE thing I wish someone had told me as a teacher. So if you are starting out, here is the one thing that could make your life SO much easier and give you so many more hours in the day.

As a teacher, and especially to be an incredible teacher, you are busy. You don’t have time to re-invent the wheel, nor should you have to. So here is the best advice you will ever be given as a teacher. First, obtain a flash drive. Second, walk down the hall and find another teacher who teaches on your grad level and has been teaching for many years. Copy all her files on your flash drive. You are probably wondering why you would do this. I can find my own resources you say. No, please don’t spend that much time doing all that.

That teacher will have so many resources on every standard you will be teaching. When you teach, you accumulate PowerPoints, worksheets, and activities from other teachers.  This will save you from spending countless hours looking for the perfect PowerPoint or activity, when she already has it and it already hits the standard you want to teach. After, you can still add your own activities, but you don’t have to spend as much time searching for each little piece or crafting your own. Chances are someone has already made it and done it better than my less computer experience mind can create. Save your time.

Right now, I’m working on organizing all of it onto Google Drive, which you should do too. “Why,” you ask, “would I do this?” Google Drive allows you to have those files anywhere. Home or work. No more being attached to a flash drive or spending tons of time searching your files and opening up 20 files to find the one you need. You’ll be able to organize them by subject and standard. Then all you do is go to that standard and find every file you have on it, and click through worksheets in seconds. You can share with other teachers on your grade level and they can add their resources. Luckily for me, my school uses GMail, so if someone sends me a file, I press a button and can save it to the right file on my Google Drive in the right folder. Takes 3 seconds and I have it anywhere. Then if you get a new team member, you just press share, and all the files are sent to them. Easy. No mess or frustration of opening tons of computer documents to not find the one you want or trying to keep up with a flash drive. This is the technology future, let’s gracefully move into it and embrace all that it has to offer.

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Interdisciplinary Context

I’ve been meaning to make a post about the interdisciplinary context in which I would love to teach. Other, slightly unrelated news though, I just found out that this summer I am going to be a Teacher’s Assistant for Duke TiP’s CRISIS Camp. The class will be Broadcasting and Journalism and it will take place at Meredith College in Raleigh. I’ve always enjoyed working with Duke TiP on the residential side, so I’m excited to try it on the teacher assistant side and to watch the project-based learning that my students will be doing. It’ll be nice for me to learn the new material and may give me some new ideas for my teaching style in the fall.

Now back to the reason for this post. My undergraduate program was very big in interdisciplinary learning and incorporating experiences across a variety of curriculum. In January, I was able to tie science and math into reading, with a few passages. We were learning about patterns in math, and our story that week was about patterns. Patterns was a vocabulary word and it talked about the different ways you could see patterns. In addition, I found a cross-curricular passage on patterns with comprehension questions . I loved incorporating the mathematics vocabulary and lesson with the literacy aspect. Third grade is where students start honing their skills with reading comprehension questions so I want to incorporate that as much as possible. In the future, I would love to do that with more mathematics, science, and social studies lessons. I had a student stop on one of our benchmarks because they didn’t know a mathematics vocabulary word that was important to answering the questions. Math requires vocabulary just like any other subject, so it’s important to teach both. Luckily, I’ve now amassed quite a few cross-curricular passages for the rest of the year!

I still have a lot of planning to do to make my classroom completely interconnected, but I’m always ready to try new ways or ideas.

Come to the Edge

The Google Summit for Education taught me that as a teacher, I can’t be afraid to try new things or change the routine. So in my latest way of coming to the edge, I started a Positive News bulletin board. The students find something positive to say about another classmate and then stick the note to the bulletin board. I have a word wall, important information wall, and a wall with our objectives. I figured I could spare a little space in my classroom for this wall.

At first, I was hesitant, but now I’m surprised at how well all of my students responded to the wall. During bus call where they wait in my classroom, they grab a note and write. Students who are very quiet have been recognized on the board, as well as students who have had problems with their behavior at times. The kids love to check the board to see if anyone wrote to them.

I have a great classroom community thanks to Class Dojo where I recognize them for being kind to classmates or working together. We also do a morning meeting every day where the students pick a question to ask all the other students. An example question would be: “Which do you like better, pancakes or waffles?” Something simple where every student has an opinion and feels like they can voice them. My students can then tell me whatever they want to about their lives, and they can call on someone if they do a special signal which means they have a connection. This takes maybe 5-7 minutes of my classroom time, but allows students to have a voice and to connect with each other. Right now, guinea pigs are a big talking point in our classroom, but the week before it was video games. All in all, it works out well.