Monday, August 19, 2013

Class Expectations With A Hollywood Flair

School is back in session and the first few days of class procedures and polices have been completed with students. These first few days are very tiring because it is a lot of teacher talking and little student doing. To make things a little more interesting, here are some movie clips I show students to help set up expectations for the year. They help set up some interesting discussions with students on what are appropriate and what are inappropriate behaviors in class. I try to keep things simple and use daily repetition to help set up clear room expectations. As you can tell with many of these clips I was a kid of the 80's.

Being Prepared for Class

From Legally Blonde: Elle Wood's First Class at Harvard Law goes terribly wrong.

Talking Points: Know what is needed each day for my class. Come prepared fully ready to learn.

Get To Class On Time

From Fast Times at Ridgemont High: Spicoli meets Mr. Hand for the first time.

Talking Points: I'm not Mr. Hand, but I do care about what you learn in my class. First few days I understand why you might be late, but as an 8th Grade Student I expect you to be in your seat when the bell rings. We have a lot to do each day and a lot to learn about this year so we go from bell to bell. So you don't want to be late and miss out important information.

Why Class Participation is Important 

From Ferris Bueller's Day Off: A Boring Lesson on Economics

Talking Points: My Promise to my students. I wont be the teacher in the clip if you won't be the students in the clip. Specially the last student...ewww gross.

Getting the Teacher's Attention Appropriately
Shrek: Donkey volunteers to help Shrek go find Lord Farquaad

Talking Points: I want you to participate in class, but there is a right way and a wrong way to go about it. I will get you to participate this year by having you raise your hand, whole class choral response, and we will use an interactive response system called Socrative. Remember, you get out of class what you put into it.

Being At Class is Important:

Ferris Bueller's Day Off: Ben Stein takes attendance

Talking Points: I want you here to learn so please be at class.

Why We Have Homework a.ka. Formative Practice

Allen Iverson explains why he wasn't at Practice

Talking Points: Sports, Music, and School requires practice to develop your skills. Formative Work (practice) is just as important as Summative Work (Game/Performance)

What are some ways you help teach room expectations? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Connected Teacher: Staying Connected With Parents and Students

The Connected Teacher: Staying Connected With Parents and Students

It is very important to stay connected to students and parents and have open lines of communication. Below are a few things that I do to help students and parents stay connected and informed to the comings and goings in my classroom.

Google Calendar:
One thing I use to help keep students and parents current on daily classwork, project deadlines, and upcoming assessment dates is the use of Google Calendar. This is a very easy and an effective way to keep students and parents up-to date. I am able to input the week's agenda on my computer's iCAL and I have it set to automatically sync to my Google Calendar. I provide a link to parents to my Calendar at the start of the year and keep a permanent link on my course description on my online grade book. If you are a MAC user and use iCAL, syncing to a Google Calendar is very easy and instructions can be found here on Google's Help Page. I also just learned from Richard Byrne's on FreeTechnologyForTeachers about using Google Calendar to add attachments and assignments.

The Team Weekly Newsletter via a Shared Google Doc:
My interdisciplinary team sends out a weekly newsletter to parents on what is going on in each of our classes. Sending weekly e-mails to our Team Leader to compile the newsletter got to be a big hassle, so we started last year using a shared Google Doc that everybody on our team has permission to edit and we make the Google Doc available to view for our parents.  We send a weekly e-mail to parents at the end of each week with a link to our Google Doc with a reminder that it has been updated. Each teacher shares a little about what is going on in their classes, and we also share the "Word of the Week" and the Student of the Week.

I try and send out an e-mail to parents the week before any major due dates or unit assessments to let parents know of any important class news. Parents have always been very appreciative of this. However due to  the  Google Doc newsletter, I no longer send out as many weekly e-mails.

Online Course Management (Blackboard):
Teaching in a one to one laptop computer environment requires me to have a central location to keep important documents, files, etc. This is an essential way I communicate with my students. I am very lucky that my school district has made the commitment to using Blackboard. If your school does not have a Course Management system, I would look at using tools such as Wikispaces, Blogger, Edmodo, Wordpress, or others to have a virtual 24 hour presence with students.

Remind 101
(Update: Now this service is just Remind)
Something new I'm trying this year is using the free texting service Remind101. I am very excited about using this tool this coming school year. It is a safe place for me to send out text messages to students and parents without having to give them my cell phone number. I am really excited about the possibilities with this service this year. As a High Teacher told me about why they use Remind101, "Students have stopped reading their e-mails, but students have not stopped carrying their cellphones. They are always looking at them."

New Class Twitter Page:
I am also trying this new feature this year with my students. I have created a class Twitter page titled @little_abe_213 to connect with my students in a different way. I am hoping to use this to get out information to students and parents and perhaps run weekly history contests. I don't know how many students have Twitter or will connect to me this way, but I am curious to find out how this platform of social media works. With any history contests I run, I will also make them available on my Blackboard Site for students who can not access Twitter.

To help parents access the various resources and information about my class this year, I am going to use the "Share Feature" in Dropbox as a place for students to access things like textbook information, handouts from curriculum night, etc.. I used to rely on parents navigating through my Blackboard site, but  hope by using Dropbox I can make it easier to share important digital documents to my parents.

Some of these methods of communicating with parents I have used for awhile and there are a few things I am trying new this year.

What are some other ways you connect with students and parents in your classes? I would love to hear about them in the comments section below.