Starting the Year Off Strong!

That first day of school can be nerve wrecking whether you are a veteran teacher with years of experience or a first-year teacher straight out of college.

You want the first day to be perfect. You want to have fun, but also set the tone for the year. You need to establish your schedule, expectations, routines, and procedures so the rest of the year will be flawless (ha! we wish).

I am taking some of my free time (between binging on Netflix) to reflect on some of these things. A new school year brings a chance to start new procedures or revamp old ones. I wanted to share some of the things on my mind with you.

Classroom Policies

*Supplies: Table supplies have always been a weakness for me. I use table caddies and they start off strong, but they always end up messy by the third week. This year I am going to follow through with maintaining organization of table supplies. I plan to implement a new class job that will monitor their table throughout the week. How do you want your students to get their supplies when needed? What if Johnny lost his scissors? What if table 4 is out of glue sticks… again? 

Moving About
*Bathroom: I have a good system in place for students needing to use the restroom, but it could be a bit better. Occasionally I forget when someone is out of the room, I have to quickly glance around and see if anyone is missing before I allow a student to go. Those few seconds are instructional time I do not like to waste. To solve this problem I am going to use hand sanitizer bottles like passes. Students will know not to signal for the bathroom if the bottle isn’t in it’s ‘home’. You can get my hand sanitizer labels for free HERE. Will your students ask or signal to go to the bathroom? Will they use a pass or sign out?

*Pack Up / Dismissal: Ugh! The most chaotic part of my day is pack-up and dismissal. I start out with a firm routine and then a crazy-hectic day comes in and throws us off. It is hard to recover. This year we have specials at the end of the day and will need to pack-up before. I am hoping this will help prevent the chaos. Will you call tables to pack-up? Do you need to sign agendas? When a student is done packing up, where will they sit? What will they do until they are called for dismissal?

*Homework: I have a designated spot in my room to turn in homework. When I check homework there are always papers with no name on it. It drives me CRAZY! I don’t have this problem with classwork, because students highlight their name before turning it in. Next year I will enforce highlighting your name on your homework too. Where do students turn in their homework? Will you check it or a student? When will it get checked? What if they didn’t put their name on it?

Lesson Procedures
*Early Finishers: Inevitably, no matter how well I thought out a lesson and included enrichment, Johnny is always done early. His work is correct, there is no sending him back to “check” it. A few years ago I invented the Brownie Points box for early finishers. Last year I had a different procedure in place. What will Johnny do when he is done? Will you have a system in place or will they read quietly?

*Answering Questions: I never considered this procedure a trouble spot, until I visited Ron Clark Academy. Wow! Every teacher MUST go, that school is inspirational. One of my biggest take-aways was how the kids answered questions and responded to each other. They don’t raise their hands, they just pop-up and speak. I started this towards the end of last school year, and plan to implement it from day one next year. Will you have your students raise their hand? What if they have a question while you are working with a small group?

You can sit and ponder these things in between Netflix shows or at the pool, but my friend Jessica over at Notes from the Portable and I did all the thinking for you. We answered these questions plus many, many more in our Teaching Tips and Time Savers ebook. Whether you are a super-organized teacher or a little more relaxed we have multiple strategies, tools, and forms for you. We also provided editable classroom forms to make your life easier.  

Jessica also has 29 Things You Need to Know Before the First Day of School! Hop on over and check out her list… she has FREEBIES! J

Making Life Easy with Symbaloo

Do you Symbaloo? Symb-what? Ok, behind everybody does by now… but if you don’t use Symbaloo you must!  Symbaloo is a website of your favorite websites!

I don’t recall when exactly I first started using Symbaloo… sometime after my work computer had to be reimaged 4 times my first year teaching and I lost all of my saved favorites over and over again. I can’t function without access to my favorite websites.

So, let me take you on a tour of my Symbaloo and how I use it.

This is my homepage when I open up Chrome. You can see I like it organized.

So, it is a great place to save your favorites because you will never lose them since it is on the web versus on your computer. But what else is it good for?

Raise your hand if you ever show a short video as a hook. Exactly! Everybody! Now, there are ways to get around the ads on You Tube, but Syabaloo not only does that, but it can also be a place to house all those clips year are after year.

At the top of your ‘homemix’ you can add tabs or ‘webmixes’. I added one for each subject.

Within each different tab I can save all my web resources for that content area. Simple! Genius!

Here is a peak at some of my tabs/webmixes.

I just cleaned this one up. I use math videos all the time, some better than others, and some needed to go.

What else is cool about Symbaloo… you can create a webmix to share and save Google Drive documents. Say what?! YES! You can save your google docs to a tile on Symbaloo, just make sure that you allow access to share.

I have complied some great webmixes that other people have put together, all in one great place…. where is this list? Pinterest of course! Check it out, and I hope you fall in love with Symbaloo just as I have!

If you have any other great ways you have used Symbaloo I would love to hear about it.

Using Infopics in the Classroom

Wait, what is an infopic? An informational picture, of course!
You’ve probably made one, just never thought of what it would be called. On my first day of summer vacation I attended a technology conference, where I got to hear Tony Vincent speak about how to create infopics.  When you see something you are more likely to remember it. That got me thinking… how can we use these in our classrooms.

First of all, Tony has an awesome list of apps you can use to create infopics (iOS and android). Here are a few that I love, that are also user friendly for the students.

Now that you have the apps to make them, let’s stick them in some lesson plans. But how?

1. Famous People: Describe those historical figures you have been teaching about.

2. Vocabulary: Find a picture and add the definition, synonym, antonym, or use it in a sentence.

3. Classroom Procedures & Rules: Have students take pictures of symbols for certain class procedures and describe it.

4. Math Problems: Have students write their own real world problem, then have a partner solve.

5. Book Reviews

6. Figurative Language: An idea for a culminating project could be to create an infopic for each type of figurative language (simile, metaphor, personification, idiom, etc.)

Infopics are relevant to today’s culture. Kids have seen them floating around the internet… have you showed them a funny meme? Why not make learning fun by creating this connection, and helping them remember the content through use of visuals!