Monday, November 26, 2012

Sticker-free Tip for Straightening Students' Desks

I don't know about you, but I was jealous of the blog posts and pinterest tips that I saw about keeping  students' tables or desks straight. I'm not one to "zip tie" things together because I like to have my  learners work in different configurations too frequently. And I've seen the "sticker on the floor" trick but NO school that I've ever worked in has had custodial staff that would be excited about that option.

Enter my fun alternative... use wet erase markers to mark the location of desk legs!

Frame courtesy of the 3AMTeacher 

I checked out this plan with our head custodian beforehand, so no one was surprised.  The marker leaves enough of a mark that even with a quick mop, it doesn't rub off 100%. You can actually see off to the left side the remains of the previous mark (which I left deliberately for you to have a better idea!) where the desk was placed a few inches away.

Students can quickly see where their desk ought to be whenever it's time to tidy up.  It saves me from straightening desks at the end of the day, or reminding the kids throughout the day that my hips may be a tiny bit wider than theirs.  So far, it's working (with bi-weekly touch-ups) and everyone's happy!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Online Teaching Materials on Sale

Cyber Monday is upon us again! Has it really been a full year?!? Wow! For those of you who might not know, black Friday is a retail event of sorts in the US, following the American date of Thanksgiving. It denotes when retailers can expect to be "in the black" (aka profitable!) in the lead up to Christmas.

Cyber Monday follows that as an online sale date that has evolved over the past decade or so. (Don't quote me on my historical accuracy here!) It's typically one of three huge sale dates at TeachersPayTeachers, also fondly known as TpT. Most sellers will be offering 20% off, and then there's a coupon code for an extra 10% off when you checkout!


The wonderful, the fabulous, the talented, the tireless Michelle of The 3AM Teacher blog has created a link up for some of the teachers offering this discount on their stores, to give us a chance to highlight our favourite products.

So, here goes... my favourite things in my own store which I urge you to check out (shameless self-promo!) - because you can get all three for UNDER $9 - are listed here.  Click an image to go straight to the item on TpT.
I'm still in love with my latest big project, which centres around viewing the Warner Brothers Pictures movie Ant Bully in class.  There are a ton of activities at different levels, which is great for differentiating.  Do you have a split level class in high school?  I think they will LOVE this!  I've used it with my grade 7 & 8s and fine tuned it after it had been classroom tested (by myself & other teachers with whom I shared it).

I've used this product in my Core French classes for a number of years. It's very helpful at the beginning of the year, but could be introduced at any point, especially if you're looking to make a change & have students using French more in the classroom. Along with a student handout (that can be enlarged into a poster) there are several games & activities to reinforce their meaning and to get them saying the phrases.  Repetition is key!

Ok, so maybe the Hunger Games movie & book furor is dying down a little, but there are sequel movies coming out!  (Thanks Lionsgate & Suzanne Collins!  I can't wait!)  To be frank, I'm dumbfounded as to why this hasn't received any feedback.  I love it, and my students really were excited about it and enjoyed the activities.  I'd love it if you've purchased this from me and found it lacking in some way to let me know... the Contact form on my blog (or my email) is a perfect way to express dissatisfaction in a discrete way that a TPT seller can try to set things right for you!
Here's a final tip... you might want to set up your wishlist now to facilitate shopping once the site gets busy!
Why not check back in during the sale and tell me what your favourite find/purchase is - or was, if it's one you bought previously?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Tips for Efficient Reporting - Link Up

Progress reports have gone home, and the first set of parent-teacher-student conferences are now behind us.  Before we know it, the time will have arrived to be working on the next set of report cards.  With this thought in mind, I figured I would take an opportunity to host my very first linkup.  (This is also known as a "Linky Party" in the blogging world, but that term just makes me giggle! LOL) I'd love for you to join me in sharing tips for Efficient Reporting with other teachers!

Background © The 3 AM Teacher
My first of two tips actually comes to you from a colleague of mine and was a suggestion she shared with the staff at our school last year. Right on the assignment description handout or evaluation sheet that you provide to students, include at the top the exact expectation the product or process is addressing.  (For those of you in the US, "expectation" is the current Ontario term for what I believe you refer to as "standards".)

My second tip is regarding handling "two stars and a wish" type of description feedback on student performance. (Check back in a week or two for examples of this printable form.) I created a couple of versions of feedback slips, and find that what works best for me is to write on the feedback forms before I've cut them apart to distribute to students. Then I can either photocopy or scan my handwritten comments, and place these in a folder (electronic or paper!) Every couple of weeks, it only takes a few minutes to type up the most pertinent pieces of feedback that I've already provided to students. This allows descriptive, anecdotal comments to be generated for individual student report cards so much more effortlessly. Clearly, it's NOT effortless... but breaking the task into little bits instead of having to handle it all at once makes it more manageable and reassures me that I'm what I'm including represents the entire reporting period, not just whatever was most recently accomplished.

What tips can you share with other teachers to make the process of reporting on student progress less stressful, more accurate and efficient?  I'd love for you to link up!
  1. Write a blog post to explain your tip or introduce your downloadable resource for efficient reporting. 
  2. Save the button (image) that I've included above for this link-up, and add it to your blog posting.
  3. Then add a link to this posting to the image. (To do that, right-click the title of the post and select Copy link address. Then select the button image in your blog post, click Link and paste the copied URL into the web address field.)
  4. Finally, come back to this page to add a link to your published blog post!

That's all there is to it!  Can't wait to hear what is saving you time, energy and stress when report card time rolls around!

PS: Thanks to Michelle Lyn Tsivgadellis of the 3 AM Teacher blog, a wonderfully talented clip artist for the background I used in my link up button. I couldn't get the copyright info to display properly in the image caption!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

10 Places to Share your Teaching Materials, Grow as an Educator

Have you benefited from the wealth of free and inexpensive quality resources that other teachers have shared in this increasingly connected world for the 21st century educator?  I challenge you to join in on the activity!  Before 2012 ends, fine-tune and share ONE original lesson, PowerPoint slideshow, project or organizational tool that you have created.  I promise you, it's addictive!  When you get positive feedback and appreciation from other teachers, you'll feel rejuvenated excitement and passion for teaching!


1. Ontario Education Resource Bank

The OERB (aka Resources eLearning Ontario) is a database of teaching materials that is freely available to all publicly funded schools in Ontario. Contact your resource person if you were unaware of it and need your school's login name and password. Once logged in, there is a captioned video to show you step by step how to upload a resource that is your own original creation, a modification of something else in the database, or that you have permission to share (in a way that can be modified by other educators).

2. TES Connect

This is a teacher resource web site in the UK, which means that it might be easier to borrow ideas from than it is to contribute to, since I'm personally not thoroughly familiar with the curriculum in England. However, I know I have some colleagues with teaching experience there, so who knows... maybe this is the perfect "home" for your test, unit, or novel study! (Updated to note: This site is no longer all free!)

3. Your school district's electronic bulletin board system

Do you even know if your board has one?  Then this is the perfect place to "start small"... just keep in mind that small risks = small returns.  Personally, it was much more satisfying to me knowing that a bigger pool of French teachers
clipart from

4. Twitter or email 

Save your materials as a shared Google Doc, for example, and email/tweet out the link to the teaching community.  For a list of teaching related hashtags for Twitter, see my blog post from last spring.

5. Teachers Notebook & Teachers Pay Teachers

You knew that one was coming, I'm sure!  This is my referral link to TpT.  If you sign up as a seller there using this link, I would receive 5% of your sales for 24 months.  This comes out of the web site's portion of your sales, and costs you nothing extra or makes you miss out on any opportunities.  It's entirely a win-win!

There is no such thing as a free seller's account at Teachers Notebook, but that's because they operate on a different business model. This web site is funded by ads, and from a modest setup fee from teachers who wish to open an account there.  If you want to give it a go, I'd suggest trying TpT which has higher traffic.  Once you have a feel for how you might do, paying $20 and moving to TN, then helping them to promote the site may be the way to go for you. (Updated: Teacher's Notebook is now defunct)

6. A Teaching Blog

Start your own teaching-centred blog - Edublogs, Blogger and WordPress are popular free options - or approach another French teacher about contributing a guest post on his or her blog (wink wink, nudge, nudge!)

7. OMLTA message board

It's been eight months since the Ontario Modern Language Teaching Association launched a chat board on their web site, and it's yet to see a lot of traffic.  We all know nothing drives interest amongst a group of teachers like "free stuff" though, right?  Lead the way... start a trend!

8. Contribute to a Teaching Publication

Write an accompanying article about how to use your material, or about a new teaching approach you tried with it, or some other topic to submit to any foreign language publication, again with links to a Google Doc (or other file sharing system).

9. Teachers.Net

This website has been around a while and is highly underused, in my opinion.  I see way more potential in Teachers.Net than it's currently living up to, but I do have to say that one thing I don't love about it is how publicly searchable discussions on this site appear to be.

And last but not least...

10. Tool-specific/Approach-specific Websites/Wikis

There are lots of more targeted web sites for teachers to share their materials, such as a portion of the ReadWriteThink web site. Bitstrips, Voki, and smartexchange for Smart Board or for Promethean board (Select Resources from the Menu bar, and then Submit Resource) are a few more that come to mind.

Just keep in mind that you may want to have a look around for the terms to which you are agreeing when you upload your material to share in a particular location.  I believe that some of these sites require you to sign over ownership of the materials to them, while others allow you to maintain your own copyright.

I'd love it if you'd post a link to something you've shared as a result of my post!

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