From time to time, we here at The Snarky Schoolteacher will share freebies and deals with you that we believe will be beneficial to you in the classroom or to help you engage in self-care. Stay tuned on the blog and over at our Facebook page for "savvy saver" deal alerts!
In my recent back-to-school roundup with ideas for building your classroom library on the cheap, I mentioned that magazines make a colorful and exciting addition to look forward to monthly. For all of you in the elementary grades, I wanted to let you know about a current Groupon deal for a one year digital or print + digital subscription to Zoodinos magazine from Zoobooks! If you have iPads or Kindles in your classroom, the digital edition makes a great resource for students. I had a Zoobooks subscription for two years, and my third graders absolutely LOVED it. There was always a queue of students waiting to borrow the newest issue when it came in!
If you have never used Groupon, be sure to sign up to receive their daily deals in your inbox (including great ways to treat yourself for self-care Sunday!). First-time subscribers can save 25% on their first Groupon deal by using the code FIRST at checkout! You can also receive an additional 6% cash back through Ebates if you are are member.
How would you use a Zoodinos subscription in your classroom? Let us know in the comments below!
Today's Tech Tuesday post is brought to you by TJ, a 7th grade math teacher from Rialto, CA. TJ was featured in Snarky's Teacher Feature earlier this year and is back with more invaluable advice for managing your tech. Follow TJ's blog for more educational insights.
If you have the opportunity to have technology available to you in your classroom, consider yourself blessed! It’s even better if you have a class set of devices so that each student has individual access during your class time together.
But the class set of devices means that your students are working with something significantly more expensive than (and not as easily replaceable as) a pencil or a book. For me, this made me nervous at first. However, as the years have gone by, there are a few things I’ve learned about managing a class set of devices in my classroom — some through hearing the experiences of others, and some through trial and error. People have different systems in place in their classrooms, but in general, these systems incorporate three main qualities. If you want students to use their time and equipment wisely, make sure three things are in place: clear expectations, focused accessibility, and accountability.
Students need to know how to treat the devices. For some of them, your classroom will be the first time they have used that type of technology. Your classroom might be the only time they get to practice using that technology. You need to be clear on how they should interact with it.
Before I let the students use the devices for the first time, we take some time to go over our technology expectations. I have displayed the expectations as a poster on the classroom wall. I have also had students sign a contract regarding technology use, and they kept a copy in their classroom folder. If you would like, you could give a quiz on the most important parts of the expectations to make sure kids know what they are doing before they get their hands on the technology.
As students came in the door, they went to the charging cart and picked up their Chromebook before sitting down. Most had their Chromebooks and were logging in before the bell rang to start the period. I stopped our work about 4-7 minutes before the end of the period (depending on the behavior of the period) so students could return the Chromebooks to the cart. Sometimes I would let them line up as soon as they had logged off. Sometimes I would dismiss them by table group to line up. In the future, I would probably pick one or the other and be consistent with it.
For returning Chromebooks, I also tried putting a timer up and writing on the board how long each period took to put away their Chromebooks. I also wrote down their best time. This made a number of students move faster to clean up and encourage their classmates to do the same, which was great.
Later, I changed the seating chart and assigned students their seats based on their Chromebook number. For example, the number 8 student in each period sat in the same seat. With this method, I was able to have first period take their Chromebook to their desks, and the Chromebook could stay there all day long. This makes more class time possible, since students don’t have to use up time to return the Chromebooks (except for the last period… and sometimes I would just have them stack the Chromebooks so that either I or a student volunteer could put them away after school).
Technology has the advantage of making tons of programs, apps, and resources available to students at any time. It is not like a video or book where the teacher has everyone working on the same thing. Students can now work on different assignments at their different paces. It will be impossible for you to help everyone at the same time with their different needs. Distractions are everywhere!
If you want them to stay focused on what you need them to do, it is important that students know what to do without your help when it comes to independent work time.
For the password issue, I made a sheet of paper with the student contract on computer use on the front. On the back was a list of all the passwords the student needed for various programs we were using. I gave one copy to each student. I took another copy and stapled it inside a manila folder with their name and number on it. On the wall, I had pocket folders for each number, and students put their folder in there. This made for easy student access to their login information when they forgot it. (I originally had a single folder of just the Chromebook logins, but if multiple people forgot their login info, the wait time just gave them an opportunity to start messing around.) There is the issue of privacy, but my kids did not ever log into others’ accounts. I did have a couple of people who forgot and took their folder home, or they hid someone else’s folder. It does take up a lot of wall space, though. Overall, though, I liked this system because students could get their information independently.
An online learning management system like Google Classroom allows you to assign work and provide many resources so that students can work at their pace. Students can also turn their work in online.
Besides a post on Google Classroom, I would also put a slide up of what students should be doing/turning in, in order, and I would verbally go over it. The slide included the behavior expectations for that activity.
To get students’ attention after they have started using their computer, I modified a procedure I learned at a conference. When I tell students to put the computer into “courtesy mode,” the students close the computer halfway (if they close it all the way, it will go to sleep and they will have to log in again) and rotate it 180 degrees (so the screen is facing away from them and they can’t peek at the screen and try to type). This helps reduce the distraction when you are trying to talk to them. I wouldn’t start talking until all the kids had their computer in courtesy mode, and I would stop talking when they would try to sneak a peek back at their screen/keyboard. If a number of them were pushing the limit, then I made them close the lid completely. They did pretty well with courtesy mode overall.
We all tend to hold ourselves to higher standards when we know that someone is watching us. With the students, accountability is crucial in taking care of your devices.
In my classroom, I used a permanent marker to number all the Chromebooks and the chargers/shelves in the charging cart. Then I assigned each student in each period a number. That was the Chromebook they had to use everyday. I did the same for the headphones they could borrow.
Having a computer monitoring system so that you can see each student’s individual screens on your computer is very helpful. My district has NetSupport, and I can see a small picture of students’ screens or an icon/list with the websites the students are on. I can block certain websites or only allow certain websites. I can lock specific students’ screens and send them a message on their screens. It was pretty awesome when it worked!
If students were not following directions and had already been given warnings, they lost the privilege of using the Chromebook for a day or two. Make sure to follow through on your consequences you have set in place so that students understand you mean business.
it's all about systems
Whatever you choose to do, make sure you are clear with your directions and procedures. Designing effective systems is crucial for maximizing time in any classroom, but with the expense of technology, it makes systems even more valuable in a tech-integrated classroom. You don’t want students to have any down time to get off track and start misusing their time or the device.
It will take time and work to get your systems in place before you start using the devices, but don’t let that discourage you. The technology is worth the extra work it takes to prepare to manage it. When you’ve got systems that work, your students will get to experience their education in ways that weren’t possible before, and you prepare them to become citizens of a global society. I wish you the best as you prep your students to become 21st century thinkers!
Today's post comes from Nicole, our content editor and the author of Lovin' from the Oven. You can read more about her on our About page.
Today's Self-Care Sunday post is brought to you by Samantha, owner and author at The Snarky Schoolteacher. Read more about her on our About page and follow her on Tumblr or Twitter.
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Essential oils have been getting a lot of buzz recently among those looking to improve their health. The problem is that there is so much information out there boasting so many grandiose claims that it can be overwhelming knowing where to start. In the past year, I have become more acquainted with essential oils and have really been able to see the impact they've had on my life inside the classroom and out. I wanted to introduce you to my favorite essential oil products so that you can incorporate them into your self-care routine, too!
Do you use essential oils at home or in the classroom? Tell us about it in the comments below! We would love to hear how you incorporate oils into your self-care routine.
This week's Fun Idea Friday post is brought to you by Nicole, one of Snarky's content editors and the feature writer for Lovin' from the Oven.
In my classroom, we started each day with a Morning Meeting. Not only was it an excellent way to help build and foster the classroom community, but its benefits have been proven as sound educational practice.
Every Friday morning, we started the day with a video from Kid President. My students absolutely loved him, and his messages are on-point, relevant, and relatable. The videos provided a positive way to start the day and fostered excellent classroom discussion. I guarantee that everyone will start the day with a smile!
(Pro tip: To eliminate ads and other pop ups from YouTube, use the site safeshare.tv. Copy and paste the YouTube video link into the URL box, and voilà! Instant, ad-free viewing.)
The original Kid President Video, and one of our class favorites.
After watching the video of the week, we would engage in a community discussion about the content of the video and record our thinking on an anchor chart or SMART document slide.
Some of the questions I used to foster classroom discussion:
Throughout the day and the coming week, we would reference our "Kid President" chart; I found that it often inspired or reminded my students to be kinder to one another and to do little things to make each others' lives better and easier.
As we start this school year, I urge you to find a way to start each day, or each class period, with a brief bit of community building. Even if your jam-packed bell schedule only allows you to do this one day a week, I promise you, the investment is worth every bit of the return you will see.
Ask the #Educhums: When your lesson relies on technology, what do you do when the internet goes down?
Last week, we unveiled our exciting new Thursday feature to you. This week, Snarky reader Ashley — a high school Spanish teacher from Illinois — asked a great question that plagues almost every teacher at some point in his or her career, especially if you teach at a school with 1:1 tech.
This Week's Question
When your lesson or daily activities are tied to the internet, what tricks or tips do you have up your sleeve for when the internet collapses?
From our ed tech contributor, Alissa:
If you work in a school where you rely on tech for the majority of your lessons, it's inevitable that you will have internet or connectivity issues at some point. I would suggest keeping an "offline" Google Doc just in case, that way you always have the ability to have students write and create.
Another strategy I have used is flipping my classes so videos were watched at home instead of during the school day, which also helped ease bandwidth issues. Class could easily shift to discussion instead of relying on connectivity.
Finally, I would keep a few SmartNotebook (or other interactive board) files/templates that I could quickly edit on days without internet connection. Games like Jeopardy, vocabulary review, etc. are interactive and not passive; students can even create the questions for each other, input them on the computer, and then play!
Readers, can you share your strategies for dealing with an internet outage in your classroom? Please weigh in in the comments below!
Got a question you’d like to ask our community of educators? Send it to us via this form. We look forward to hearing from you
On Wednesdays, we here at The Snarky Schoolteacher bring you #EdHack, a feature designed to bring you tips and tricks for your classroom to make your life just a little easier. This week, Nicole shares some of her experiences with building a classroom library on a budget.
Whether you’re just starting out in the profession or you realize your classroom library is in desperate need of a boost, I’m here to share my tips and tricks for building your classroom library on a budget. As a general rule, I never pay more than $1-$2 per book, though I will occasionally pay more if it’s a great deal (but typically, still not more than $5). Also, I highly recommend creating some sort of spreadsheet to track what you’ve bought so you don’t end up double-buying books! If you prefer, there are also tons of apps out there that can be used for this purpose; We Are Teachers has a rundown of some their readers recommend here.
This post is brought to you by content contributor Alissa DeVito. Read more about her on our "About Us" page and follow her on Twitter for more excellent educational content @alissa_devito.
Last month, this article from NPR was spreading like wildfire across social media. Meanwhile, it was simultaneously makings the rounds in my district, so much so that I composed a response for the influx of emails I’ve received regarding it. I thought I’d share and would love your thoughts, too!
Thank you for passing this article on to me. I do have some thoughts I’d like to share and hope you will consider them as well.
First, yes, technology can be a distractor. There is no arguing that. It can be just as distracting for us as adults (and teachers) as it is for kids. If we’re looking at K-12 education as a model for a collegiate experience, then we need to help students achieve tech and non-tech balances. The example given in the article is a highly motivated collegiate setting, which instead of dissuading me from the use of technology in our schools, only reinforces to me the important role we play in establishing good habits.
Further, I see a lot of teachers who create systems and guidelines for students to know when tech is permitted and not. I think by having clear, consistent expectations, students adapt and respect them. One of the best models I saw in an elementary classroom (and could be adapted to a high school setting) was a “red, yellow, green” system. Red lessons and activities were totally non-tech, yellow meant the teacher would indicate what tech/tools to use, green was open to whatever the student needed to succeed at the task.
Students will enter college and the work force with the expectation that they will be able to use digital tools efficiently and collaboratively in a seamless fashion. The work world they enter, and the types of jobs they will have, are not the same as 10 years ago. We can not say, “Well, in the real world…” because their world is not our current world, nor will it be when our students leave our system. And that’s something we should embrace instead of trying to fit our children into the “this has always worked” mindset.
However, most importantly, what this really calls into question for me is the SAMR Model. If a teacher is just substituting tech for an activity, like note-taking as the article calls out, then it won’t make a big impact because it’s a low-level SAMR. Most of the activities called into question in the article are all low-level SAMR. Students are only learning through lecture in the article — something we know as educators is generally more passive in learning. There is no talk of collaboration, engagement, critical thinking, or creativity skills that often come along with exemplary technology integration.
Additionally, the article and study do not account for the learning styles of students (visual vs auditory learners, for example), teacher questioning techniques, and the specific rules in the RCT study. The article mentions but brushes off these variables.
For me personally, it all comes back to HOW technology is being used, not WHAT technology is being used for. This article, written by a psychologist rather than a classroom teacher, only addresses the WHAT.
We work hard in our district to see that technology is used thoughtfully and in ways that add to the curriculum, best practices, and student engagement. Thank you for being a part of that commitment.
It’s that time of year again. The store displays are filling back up with crayons and notebooks, the charities are taking donations of school supplies for needy children, and the teachers (myself included) start having those school nightmares again. You know, the ones where you dream the first day of school is here and your class is at your door and you haven’t unpacked all your stuff yet… Or the one where you dream you have to co-teach a class of 383 first grade students in a gym with an audience of veteran teachers. Oh, wait, that doesn’t happen to you? Maybe that’s just me!
The point is… A new school year is right around the corner.
We all know how to plan daily lessons, weekly activities, month-long units, and long-range plans for the year. But as I think and pray each year for my students and my impact and the year ahead of me, it always seems God gives me a spiritual long-range-plan, if you will. I dwell on it as my mind prepares for the year ahead, but it serves as a reminder of my true purpose and my true strength in those moments when it seems like my efforts are falling flat.
A couple years ago my inspiration came in the form of a quote from a song:
"Boys will become Kings, girls will be Queens,
Last year, my motivation came through another song called “Love Take Me Over” by Steven Curtis Chapman:
“Love, fill up all of my space and Love, stand right here in my place. Love, take me over.
If you haven’t heard these catchy and poignant songs, go look them up!
This year, God has laid on my heart a scripture that completely sums up the purpose of my ministry as a teacher and hopefully yours, too:
Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble.
There is so much meat in these verses that I could ramble on about, but what stands out to me the most is the imagery of all of it!
When I feed their bellies, their imaginations, and their thirst for learning and love, my classroom becomes a lighthouse!
He promises to guide me continually and restore my strength when I am weak!
My classroom will be like a garden with blooms and buds and growth and roots in good soil!
And when I love and teach these precious souls, I am rebuilding the ruins of my city. I am rebuilding walls of strength and safety and trust and wisdom in these lives. And I am restoring homes with hope and love! What a promise!
So, I write this to encourage you with my own long-range spiritual plan for this school year, but I also would encourage you to seek your own. Seek and pray and worship and intercede for those faces you may not even know yet. Find wisdom and strength to carry you through. Maybe it’s a song, a poem, a scripture, or a sermon. But find the inspiration that God can use to tap into your soul on your weakest and most difficult days.
Readers — how do you set a long-range plan for teaching with purpose? Share your motivation for the year in the comments below!
Lovin' from the Oven is an exclusive feature at The Snarky Schoolteacher highlighting excellent recipes to help you self-care from the inside out. Delicious recipes are brought to you by Nicole on Saturdays throughout the month. Let us know what you think by using the tag #SSOvenLovin on social media!
Happy Saturday! I'm excited to bring you this week's second back-to-school edition of Lovin' from the Oven! This week, we're talking about the lunch box blues. I think most teachers start out with grand plans to take back their lunch period with pre-planned, super appealing, healthy lunch box meals. Inevitably, though, life happens and we find ourselves back in the same old rut of boring lunches, vending machine snacks, and other less-than-exciting menu items that leave us feeling dissatisfied.
With a little planning, preparation, and determination, I'm convinced that this can be the year that you finally take back your lunch game! This week, I mixed things up a bit and asked some of our readers to weigh in on their favorite lunch box ideas. I loved the ideas I received, and I know you will too!
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Ask the Readers: favorite lunch ideas
Ashleah L, California: I love those little 100 calorie Wholly Guacamole dipper packs. You can eat it with chips, put it on a sandwich, lick it off the spoon... it's avocados that don't turn brown by lunchtime!
Leslie D, California: Yogurt and granola is delicious, and you get extra XP if you add fruit! One-pot meals are easy to make, store, and reheat. If the meal doesn’t already have veggies in it, it’s easy to accompany with vegetables like carrots or green beans. And I always recommending adding something sweet, like cookies.
Heather C, Florida: Rice is a super easy way to change up your meal. I like to make Asian-inspired, Italian-inspired, or Mexican-inspired dishes using it. All you have to do is alter your veggie and protein!
Lisa R, New Jersey: I love making cold, Asian noodle salads at night to take for lunch. Overnight oats make a fun lunch too with only minimal night-before prep. String cheese, veggies, crackers, and a handful of Hershey kisses is another quick go-to for me. I also leave cashew milk in the refrigerator at school, and sometimes I pack cereal!
Shannon D, Pennsylvania: Buffalo chicken salad! It's super yummy, easy to make on the weekend (I use rotisserie chicken to make it even easier), and it can be served on a variety of things! (Here's her recipe!)
Amanda C, South Carolina: I like to make something on Sunday and have it for the week, like Crock Pot chicken tacos. I put the chicken in a little Tupperware container, then add shredded cheese, sweet corn, and black beans. That would be my lunch for the week! This year, I plan to make little wraps with low-carb tortillas: ham/turkey and cheese, chicken caesar, etc. Add some grapes or carrots to much on and you've got lunch!
Kristina R, South Carolina: I love chicken salad! It's easy to change a few ingredients to mix it up and get a whole new flavor with minimal prep, or to switch out your bread for something different (think croissants, crackers, wheat bread... the possibilities are endless!). My husband makes a great curried chicken salad; I also highly recommend this Greek yogurt chicken salad from Damn Delicious!
Steph R, United Kingdom: I always make extras for dinner and eat it again the next day. I'm terrible at eating breakfast, so I make sure I always have a good lunch (nothing that takes more than 3 minutes to reheat). Then I feel awesome for the rest of the day!
So, readers, did these ideas get the wheels turning for you? I'd love to know what your lunch goals are for the year. What is your favorite go-to lunch? Let us know in the comments below.
Have a great weekend, and remember to take some time for self-care!
The Snarky Schoolteacher is an education and lifestyle blog run by dedicated educational professionals. Our goal is to bring you relevant and fun educational content with a side of sass. Read more about our team here. Thanks for visiting, and we hope you will find these ideas and resources helpful in your classrooms and in your lives.