Saturday, May 27, 2017

Creating Your Weekly Teaching Plans in Google Sheets

   
     I have written many times about my love for Google Drive, and all things Google in general. As a teacher, their tools have enhanced my teaching because it provides so many tools for teachers. One such tool is Google Sheets (similar to Word's Excel). Though Google Sheets might be an obvious tool when working with numbers and data, I have a much different use for it: my weekly teaching plans.
     Google sheets is perfect for planning because you can divide academic areas, or class periods, with the columns and rows. This allows a friendly and easy-to-read layout. The magic, however, is in the actual sheets themselves. While I imagine there are many ways to use these sheets for planning, I use them for each day of the week. As you can see above, each sheet represents one day of the school week. Inside the sheet I have divided my academic day by activity and the time it occurs.
    As you can see, these plans are not very detailed. For detailed plans, I use an actual teaching resource (this could be a teacher's edition or a created lesson plan by myself or colleagues). These weekly plans simply help me to organize, or lay out, the week. They also allow me to hold links, important goals/events, etc.  for the week. Watch the video for a more detailed explanation of how I use Google Sheets for my weekly planning.


Are you using Google Sheets for lesson planning or otherwise? I'd love to hear about it!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Using Google Tasks To Plan Your School Year: Never Miss Another Reoccuring Task Again

   

     Most teachers have reoccuring tasks that fall during a specific month every year. If you're anything like me, those tasks can sometimes come abruptly, leaving me scrambling to complete them in a hurry. Thankfully, I've discovered a tool that helps me keep my year on track: Google Calendar.
     When you are in Google Calendar, there is a "tasks" option on the right hand side. What I do is make an entry for each month of the year. Under those entries, I add reoccurring events that I need to complete every year during that time. This has been the PERFECT system for me to remember tasks because once inputted, they stay. I look at my Google Calendar daily, which is essential to ensure I don't miss any upcoming task.

    Review:

1) Add each month of the year (tip: follow your school calendar. I start with August).
2) Add reoccurring tasks to each month.
3) Check your Google Calendar, including the tasks column, daily.

Here's a video explaining how I do this:

Do you use Google Tasks? If so, I would love to hear about it. 


Sunday, May 21, 2017

Ending Sugary Treats as Prizes Once and For All: Your Healthier Alternatives

 
     Let's face it, everyone LOVES sugar. It is so beloved that sugary treats are eaten during celebrations, special events, as dessert, and many times "just because". They are even given out as rewards and prizes (usually in the form of chocolate or candy) in school. However, we now know the toxicity of sugar. It's simply not healthy for our brains or minds. As teachers, I strongly believe we should not be giving treats out to students because of its negative effects on the body. So, if we don't give out treats, what do we give out?
     Giving out prizes and rewards doesn't actually have to be complicated, sugary, NOR must it cost money. My prizes primarily consist of tickets for things my students like to do in the classroom. I have a ticket to use the bean bag for the day, bring healthy food inside the classroom to eat, be line leader for a day, just to name a few examples. Students acquire tickets by completing their punchcards and choosing a ticket from the prize jar. Though these prizes seem simple (and are), they are very effective! Think about your own classroom. We teachers choose different classroom jobs and rotate them around because they need to be done, AND most students are dying to do them. Why not give them out as prizes instead of assigning them? They are free, and your students will be pleased with them. 
   To review, when deciding what kinds of ticket prizes to give out, think of things your students naturally like to do in the classroom, as well as specific jobs that need to be done. Then, make tickets for those things and give those tickets out as prizes instead of sugary treats. This is an incredibly economical way to give prizes, an efficient way to get jobs done, and all without having to spend money or manage a job-rotating system. My students have NEVER complained about not getting candy. Instead, they are excited every time they get to choose a prize. 

Note: I also throw in things that students have extras of like the character card in my prize box. 

Tip: Try asking students if they have things they would like to donate to the prize jar. They often do! 

 My prize jar and a few of the tickets available in there. 

 As you can see, my tickets are simple and easy to make. If you want to make them fancier, you could create them online and print them out instead of hand making them. 


    

Monday, May 15, 2017

Homework: Making it Simple, Easy and Meaningful

     There is a lot of controversy surrounding the topic of homework. Should we give our students homework or not? Is it beneficial, and if so, at what age? What kind of homework should be given? On top of all this, some parents dislike homework while other parents demand it, complicating the homework issue further. While definitive answers to the homework debate is somewhat obscure, one thing is for sure: Almost everyone has an opinion on the matter.
    In attempt to make the homework we give out more meaningful, my grade-level team and I worked to design a sheet that displays mostly interactive learning tasks for students to perform at home (instead of filling in a worksheet). These sheets display their high-frequency words for the week (as well as a space to check off how they studied their words), an optional science/social studies activity (ex: research [insert topic here]; draw how you can keep the world green and clean, etc.), and a hand's on math activity (ex: make ten with different objects. Draw how you made ten). The idea is to give students tasks that are not only engaging, but assist in solidifying abstract concepts.
     In addition to this homework sheet, students are expected to read for 50 minutes a week and are given an entire week (7 days) to do so. Since we really want to promote the love of reading, we don't refer to reading as homework but as an expectation.

     Here is one of our homework sheets completed by a student:


What kind of homework do you give to your students? I would love to hear. 

Parent-Teacher Conferences: Keeping the Humanity

         As I write this, it is currently parent-teacher conference season. We've been in school for a couple of months, and finall...