Monday, August 3, 2015

Quick and Easy Way to Learn Students' Names

I am terrible with names and before I stumbled upon the idea of name tents, I found that with a seating chart or no seating chart, invariably there was still that awkward pause when addressing the student on the third row with the red jacket and yellow shoes on the 4th day of school.  No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't seem to come up with their name and by then, it seemed rude to just point and say, "What do you think?"  This odd exchange always seemed to disrupt the flow of the class and did nothing to foster the culture and climate I had hoped to establish.  Finally, problem solved!
Now, I start every new year by having students create name tents.  It helps me learn my high school students' names quickly and easily by keeping their names in front of me at all times.  The only supplies I supply is a pack of markers.  The students provide the paper.

Here is how to make them:
1.  Have students get a sheet of paper from their notebook.
2.  Make a fold about 1/3 of the way down from the top of the sheet.

I demonstrate the folds using 2 sheets of paper (one colored, one white) layered on top of one another. This helps the students see how far down to make the fold.
3.  Make a second fold about 1/3 of the way up from the bottom of the sheet.  This creates a triangle of sorts when you try to stand it on the table.
It ends up looking like a rectangle from the front
and a triangle when you look at it from the side.
4.  Have each student use a marker to write their first name in the center section of the paper.

5.  Have students stand their name tent on their desk.

6.  At the end of the class period, direct students to place their name tent inside their notebook for use over the next few days.

Now, no more awkward moments.  Use the name tents until you and the students learn everyone's name.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

#SupplySwap Info Has Been Sent...Let the Fun Begin!!

Almost 4 weeks ago now, @pamjwilson@druinok and I decided to host a School #SupplySwap.  We wrote a blog post, made a sign-up form, and then tweeted.  We had nearly 30 people sign up!  The perfect number...not too many to make it overwhelming!

The participants are from 19 different states with 5 participants hailing from Kentucky (Go Wildcats!)  The rest of us are from Louisiana, Tennessee, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio, North Carolina, Massachusetts, South Carolina, California, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Florida, Nevada, Michigan, Georgia, Oklahoma, Wisconsin. and Alabama.  

The most popular names on the list: Lisa, Lynn, Cindy and Jenn.  

Most are high school teachers, but several middle school teachers joined in the fun too.  

Primarily participants teach math, but we have a smattering of other disciplines represented like ELA/SS, Biology/marine science/forsensic science, Spanish, and STEM, as well as, administrators and a school counselor.

It has been so much fun just reading through the responses to the questions!

Just a reminder to participants, spend about $15 (excluding shipping) and mail between July 27 and August 7.  Keep your pairing a secret until your box is received by the recipient.  Your box will not be going to the person who is sending you a box, so that you will make even more new connections.

Here is a list of those who submitted twitter handles and blog addresses if you would like to check them out and make a few new friends!
If you missed out on the fun of #supplyswap 2015, join in on the next round...whenever that may be! Until then…Happy Back to School!!!
(post adapted from The Radical Rational)

Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Should, Could, and Woulds of First Day Handouts

It is tradition...every year on the first day of school, teachers across the country hand their students some sort of letter introducing themselves, describing course content, and highlighting expectations for the year.  For new teachers, this is just one more thing on the overwhelming list of to-do's.  I met two such colleagues today.  This will be their first year in the classroom.  Both have an undergraduate degree in something other than education and they will get both professional development support and on-the-job training while serving as full-time teachers. During our conversation, this first day handout came up.  Questions about what it should like and information to include quickly began to surface.  There are so many different styles that I can see why someone new would want to talk it out. I think that what really matters is the content.  In reviewing various samples, I identified a few things that should be included, information that could be included, and a few things that I would avoid when writing my own first day handout.
Editable Copy

The BIG Question: What needs to go in it?  
Obviously, you should include:
  • your name, 
  • room number, 
  • special supplies, 
  • link to class website or online work space, 
  • availability to tutor and/or make-up work, 
  • any special policies in your classroom (like number of days to turn in missed work after an excused absence), 
  • preferred method of contact and necessary information, 
  • types of assignments that students will complete during the course, 
  • how grades will be determined (10% quizzes, 20% homework, etc.), and 
  • grading scale.  
If you are into interactive notebooks, check out Sarah's New Course Guide from Everybody's a Genius. It is super cute (with editable template included) and fits perfectly into a composition notebook.  I also liked these graphic syllabi created in Piktochart.  I think that you could take the basic idea and create something similar in publisher.
Links to Syllabi Pictured

You could include a bit  information about yourself  (in more of a letter format) like:

  • where you went to college, 
  • number of children or pets, 
  • outside interests (running marathons, hiking, sewing, etc), 
  • clubs you sponsor, and 
  • why you love the subject and/or grade level you teach.  
I would avoid:
  • sharing things that are too personal (it is always safer to keep it professional),
  • listing a classroom rule or privilege that contradicts school policy,
  • grammatical errors and run-on sentences (ask a friend to proof your letter), and 
  • food likes and dislikes (this is a personal preference and I would certainly share if asked by a parent, but I prefer to leave it out of the first day letter to students... and yes, I actually saw an example with this on it).
It can be cutesy or plain, it is really up to you...just ensure that the information is communicated clearly.  Do you have a first day handout that you love? If so, please share!!!