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  • Archive for July, 2014

    Great Sites for Teachers (Part 1)


    2014 - 07.18

    When school starts in August, my high school will be pushing out the 1:1 Initiative. For you folks out there that don’t know what that is, it’s basically where our school got a grant to give every student in the junior high and high school their very own MacBook Air laptops. Last year was our junior high’s first year with the MacBooks, and this year, it’s our turn. Some of us are looking forward to the change, some are iffy, but the majority of us are pretty darn nervous.

    Anywho, I’ve been going through trainings throughout the school year and the summer, and my colleagues have provided us with some amazing resources for use in our classroom. Now, mind you, some of these sources are in no way a replacement for any true classroom instruction, but they can certainly be utilized as tools to better engage our students in our lessons. It’s a proven fact that when students are actively engaged in a lesson, they learn much more than students who spend an hour (or 47 minutes in my case) at their desk listening to lectures. Below are some resources I’ve collected and saved for everyone to find. The headers are clickable links so you can view the sites. I have collected so many resources that I will probably have to make more than one entry here to show them all. Here are ones I’ve collected so far.

    Schoology

    Schoology.Learn.Together.logo whiteThis is the site we will be using during the upcoming school year to implement our classes. For the record, the word is pronounced just as it is spelled, not ‘School-OL-ogy.’ The thing that I love about this so far is that it combines the aspects of Facebook with platforms like Moodle and Blackboard. It’s user friendly so that even veteran teachers can manipulate it pretty easily. You can set up groups for your separate classes, and you give those classes a special code to join. On my Schoology, I also created a group for my advisory as a place to post announcements and a group for my Anime Club so that if I have students miss due to other obligations, they can view our discussions and get information on what anime to view or manga to read for the next meeting. What’s even better is that absent students can look up assignments posted for that day and stay caught up. You can make your own tests and quizzes, and the students have instant feedback with the exception of essay/short answer, which you will have to grade yourself. It still cuts down the grading, and with 120-130 students per teacher, that can be a real time-saver. And what makes this even better? Schoology offers a free app that you can download for your smartphone, so if you’re like me and you forget to tell your class something important, you can post it via the app or you can grade your homework turn ins while waiting for your turn at the doctor’s office.

    Discovery Education

    We had a training on this last week, and honestly, there was so much to it that I am not sure I remember hardly anything, to be honest. I can say, however, that there’s a good number of resources on here that teachers can use in conjunction with lessons. As an English teacher, Romeo and Juliet is a big unit for me, so the students have to learn about Shakespeare himself as well as Elizabethan theater and the Elizabethan era as a whole. Right now, this site is probably better for science and social studies, but the trainer said they were working on sources for math and ELA, so I’m hopeful that once I use this source, I’ll be able to gather some good videos and other sources to use with my units. You can create folders in which you can save any useful sources you find, and you can post your sources on Schoology for your classes, and you can create boards (or have students create them). Honestly, I have yet to play around more with this, but I thought I would throw this in.

    Grammar Bytes

    Here’s a site we English teachers discovered where students can log in and do grammar lessons. I would probably recommend students do Grammar Bytes as a supplement to a teacher-led grammar lesson as either independent practice or bell work. I haven’t played much with this site, but it is free to join!

     

     

     

     

     

    English Grammar 101

    This is a site that I stumbled upon while looking for free online grammar lessons, so I haven’t had a chance to share with my department. There’s all sorts of advanced grammar lessons in here under the free modules that even include tests at the end of each module. In Module 1, for example, students can take lessons that dabble in the eight parts of speech such as noun identification, verb identification, etc. There’s even lessons that show prepositions acting out as verbs and adverbs modifying adjectives. The other modules contain subjects and predicates, appositives, clauses, participle phrases…I mean this site has an entire grammar textbook right here! Now you do have to pay for your printables, which come in the form of an e-mailable PDF, but we teachers are resourceful enough that we can find plenty of free worksheets.

     

    Spider Scribe

    Do your students need help with brainstorming a paper? Or maybe they want to present a mind map to the class? Spider Scribe is a good site just for that. It’s free to join, and even companies use it for presentations. I haven’t messed with this one too much, but as far as I can tell, it’s quite easy to use, and I am not yet sure whether I like this better or Padlet. It’s also free to join.

     

    Padlet

    This site is very similar¬† to Spider Scribe, and again, I am not sure which one I like better. I do know that Padlet has a feature where you can have students in your classroom collaborate in groups on an assigned topic for presentation where I am unsure whether Spider Scribe has a similar feature. It’s fairly easy to use, in my opinion, and the bubbles are colorful, which is a bonus for me since I enjoy color. Like Spider Scribe, it’s free to join.

     

     

     

     

    Jeopardy Labs

    Everyone probably remembers the classic game show hosted by Alec Trebek, and everyone enjoys playing a good round of Jeopardy. My first experience with Jeopardy in a classroom was when my band teacher taught a music appreciation class and he would play Jeopardy with us as review for tests over music time periods and their composers. Of course that was back before the World Wide Web and handy dandy sites like these. At Jeopardy labs, you can build your own Jeopardy game and have up to six teams (beneficial if you have a big class), and it is G-R-E-A-T for reviews. I built a Julius Caesar game for my sophomores last year, and it was a bloodbath of epic proportions — but in a good and extremely comical way. This can be displayed on a Smartboard or Promethean board and with the students playing in teams (computer free), it’s a great way to get them out of their seats and collaborating with one another for correct answers, or you can have each person in a team line up and take turns answering.

    These are only a few of the resources I’ve saved and collected. I’ll be putting up another post of more resources soon, so stay tuned! If anyone has any resources they would like to share, please leave it in the comment section and I will do my best to check it out. If I think it can be useful, I’ll feature it in one of my entries!

    My Friends Are Published Authors!


    2014 - 07.17

    Just a quick post to let people know that my two good friends Rachel Stiber and Charles Gearhart are releasing their books soon! Rachel’s new book, Elise’s Choice will be released August 25, and Charles’ children’s book,¬†Never Nurse a Grudge will be released sometime in September.

    Rachel got her edits back and has been working on them tirelessly this past week, but she did send me her cover reveal, and if you will direct your attention to my Blogroll, I have added her website to help promote her. Charles and I were personally a part of Rachel’s writing process back when she still worked with us at the elementary school, and we helped with much of the initial proofreading. I can tell you that Rachel also has many, many ideas for upcoming stories relating to Elise’s Choice, which is why I hope this initial book does well for her. The ideas she has are really great, and I can hardly wait until she starts kicking around with plotting. I wish I could say more, but I can’t. It would be like telling your kids they’re getting bicycles for Christmas when Christmas hasn’t arrived, yet.

    I couldn’t get the html code to work so I could embed the cover reveal, so instead, you can find the website for the reveal here. Again, the book will be out August 25, and to support my friend, I will most definitely buy a copy.

    Charles’ book was supposed to come out in June, but because the end of the school year did not afford him time to work on his illustrations, the publishing company pushed his release back to sometime in September. The publishing website on which he is featured is here.

    Well I guess that just leaves me to get on the ball about rewriting the rest of my poems from high school and finally getting to be a published author myself!

    I Survived My First Year


    2014 - 07.09

    ….in a high school setting of all places! Actually teaching high school is what I always wanted to do, and I survived my first year as an English teacher! Yeah! And yes, I know I’m a little slow on the uptake with making this entry, seeing as it’s in July.

    I also saw that I have not updated this blog in over a year. But essentially, that is the gist of what’s been going on with me since the last update. I finally got a full time teaching job after such a long time waiting, and now I realize that the wait was worth it. I got the grade level and the subject area that I always dreamed of having. That and my husband and I had our tenth wedding anniversary on June 19. It’s been a great year.

    Probably the toughest thing about this year was learning an entirely different curriculum. And getting up early. Definitely getting up early. To combat that I made it a point to try and set the teacher lounge coffee maker to brew around 7:20 in the morning and keep a stock of creamer in the fridge so I could have that caffeine goodness when I got to work and so I wouldn’t snarl and bite at my 1st hour — which was a great class, by the way.

    I taught mostly ninth grade, but I had two sections of sophomores as well, plus a reading class. I’m pleased to say that this coming school year, I will be teaching all ninth grade classes, which will make lesson planning so much easier for me. The stories are better in the freshman curriculum than they are in the sophomore, although I have to say I’m disappointed I won’t get to do Twelve Angry Men or Night. I actually enjoy the sophomore major works (except Julius Caesar).

    There was definitely a hell of a lot to learn, and most of the time, I felt overwhelmed by all the grading and lesson planning. It really is true when we English teachers say that we’re gluttons for punishment. I have yet to figure out an effective and time-saving way of grading essays, especially since I have, 120 of them at a time, and I’m definitely going to change the way I do some things in the classroom, but I am confident that the implementation of the Macbooks and using Schoology and other technology resources will greatly decrease the amount of paperwork I’ll have to take home. The thing I will have to figure out is how I will keep track of everything since Schoology grades will not import into Tyler SIS.

    I’ve gathered a ton of materials and resources from various trainings I have done throughout the school year and over these past few days. There are so many things I can use that it’s hard to keep track of what is what. I will probably be making a post soon with links and descriptions of all the resources I’ve gathered so far and link my blog post to my colleagues. That post will follow as soon as I gather all my information.

    That’s it for now, folks! Stay tuned and I promise I’ll start keeping up with this site more.