New Teacher? Time to get acquainted with the technology in your classroom!

Welcome to your new classroom! Here is your Chromebook, your cart of iPads, your interactive whiteboard, and a copy of the digital literacy expectations for our students… Good luck!

If you’re a new teacher, you’ve probably heard these words recently. You may have found yourself wondering how to use the devices so generously bestowed upon your class — so, we’ve listed a few tips to keep you from getting overwhelmed.

1. Make friends with the tech integration specialist at your school.

This person will be able to help you work through the technical difficulties of plugging in your devices and learning simple troubleshooting techniques.

2. On the first day of school, identify a student tech whiz.

Chances are your students had a similar technology setup in their classrooms last year and more than a few of them are probably well versed in troubleshooting and setup. Give them a chance to shine. You may have so many interested tech gurus that you have to set up a rotation.

3. Find your favorite how-to blogs or Pinterest pages.

You are NOT the first teacher to have these problems. If you’re not comfortable asking someone in your school for help, ask someone on the Internet instead! Pinterest pages like this one are especially helpful for ideas using iPads in class and finding digital resources and activities.

4. Go slowly; there’s no need to jump into each device in the first week of school.

Before school starts, set up your class rules for handling the technology and review with them your school’s Acceptable Use Policy, like this one from South Berwyn District 100. You’ll likely have to send home permission slips so your students are allowed to work online. If you share a cart of devices with another class, figure out what the rotation schedule will be. There’s a lot of administrative work to getting your digital classroom up and running — but that gives you some extra time to get used to the tools.

Once you get comfortable you’ll find that using tech can save you time and energy and that your students will develop greater interest in the subject matter. Just take it one step at a time and remember you’re not alone!

Teaching organization through Interactive Notebooks!

Many students are cursed with what I like to call “Black Hole Syndrome.“ If you’ve dared to look into a middle schooler’s backpack you know just what I’m talking about. Incomplete homework from 6 months ago, notes passed in math class, remnants of what should have been used for their science project, and a few stale Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. I think we can all agree that the majority of students need a bit of guidance as far as organization goes. Enter the “Interactive Science Notebook”! (this can also work for other subjects, of course)

Important details for implementing a successful Interactive Science Notebook:

  • Notebook size: 8 ½ x 11” spiral notebook. This will allow you to paste worksheets in the notebook perfectly. If notebooks are any smaller students will need to cut the edges off worksheets – total nightmare. Trust me on this.
  • Cover: Students decorate the cover of their notebook to make it “special” — something creative and unique to who they are! I encourage students to go over their cover with packaging tape to ensure it won’t fall apart after 2 months.
  • Title Page: Name of class, teacher’s name, name of student, period number, and school year.
  • Table of Contents: You will probably need two full pages worth of Table of Contents. Set-up should look like this:

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It is imperative that you update the table of contents together as a class before you paste anything in the notebook (updating might occur every day).

  • Numbering Pages: Page 1 should be your first blank left-hand page, page 2 will be your first right-hand page. This keeps all odd pages on the left and all even pages on the right, just like the table of contents lay-out.
  • Right-Hand Page Activities: Right-hand page activities are always done first. These activities generally involve students learning new information, taking notes, etc.
  • Left-Hand Page Activities: Left-hand page activities are for reinforcement activities, such as labs, projects, thinking maps, etc. This is where you can get creative and make your notebook as ‘interactive’ as you wish! I’ve done everything from simple foldables to paper pockets, where students can place their CD recordings of the “Photosynthesis Rap” they created.
  • Color: I ask students to “color” their notes on the right-hand page. After taking notes they grab a highlighter or colored pencil and color any words they think are important or could possibly be on the test. For left-hand page activities students are required to have at least 5 colors on the page (could be as minimal as underlining or as extensive as drawing in the margins). This may sound elementary, but coloring your work requires students to look at what they have done for a longer period of time, essentially studying their own work.
  • Grading: When students enter class and work on their warm-up activity, students should open their notebooks to look at their work from the prior day . Give students a stamp if work is complete. At the end of the unit you can collect all of the student notebooks and give them 10/10 for a page with a stamp, 5/10 for a page that is complete but has no stamp, and 0/10 for an empty page. This can be adjusted based on your own grading system.
  • Parent communication: At the end of each unit leave a page for parent communication. This is where you write the grade the student received. Parents can then comment underneath on the students work and write any questions or concerns they might have.

There are far too many benefits to Interactive Science Notebooks, it would be silly not to try it out this school year. Students lacking organizational skills master a tool that will be useful for years to come. Students will no longer lose their assignments in their black hole backpacks. You will have more interaction with parents, which is imperative to student success. The best part is, you will save so much time grading you might even start having some time for yourself! 😀

Happy notebooking!

Don’t have your own classroom? Tips from a traveling teacher!

My school is packed to the brim — there is never an empty room in the building. When one teacher is on prep, their classroom is being used by a traveling teacher. Being a traveling teacher the first two years of my career, I empathize with others in the same position. Here are a few tips that I learned that made my life much easier every day:

  1. A pen drive is your best friend

    At my school, teachers are required to post the objectives on the board for the day. Also, a posted schedule helps me keep on track and the students organized. After a few weeks of writing and re-writing the schedule on the whiteboard at the beginning of the hour, I learned that digital is the way to go.I now keep all important documents saved on one pen drive. With a pen drive, I can easily pop in the drive and I’m all set to go!
  2. Use a cart if your classes are all on the same floorI am fortunate enough to have been given a cart by a previous traveling teacher. Before that I kept all of my belongings in my teacher “man-purse.” I would enter the classroom, pull everything out of the bag, organize it on the desk and finally be ready to start the day. With my cart, I can have everything already organized by class and over time students learn where to find what they need on any given day.
  3. Third: Mentally run through your day in the morningI create a mental checklist each day to make sure that I have all the supplies I need before students begin entering the classroom. Once the day begins there is no stopping time — if I forgot to put the correct copies on the cart, I’m out of luck. If I need anything that doesn’t fit in the cart, such as a globe, I make sure to place the items in the correct classroom before school starts. My mental checklist keeps me prepared 95% of the time. Unfortunately, nobody is perfect and I am forgetful occasionally. That’s why #4 is so important!
  4. Respect other staff members and help them as much as possibleWe are very fortunate in our school to have a lot of paraprofessionals in the classroom to help. I try my hardest to always respect their role in the classroom and not take advantage of them. They are not there to make me copies or run my errands. I believe that respecting them as equals is greatly appreciated. Occasionally if I do need some extra help grabbing something I missed in another classroom, they are always happy to help me out.
  5. Appreciate your jobWhen the day is not going well and your stress level is intense due to the problems that come along with not having your own classroom, take a deep breath. Hopefully traveling is temporary and once you get some more experience there will be a beautiful classroom to call your own! The light at the end of the tunnel may be attainable for me next year as we are moving into a new school and I could have my own room. Wish me luck!

Would love to hear any tips or ideas from other traveling teachers in the comments below!