Wednesday, September 26, 2012

2c: Managing Classroom Procedures and Materials with a "Pencil Tree"

How often do you loan students a pencil and never see it again? Every time I give the students a test I loan them a pencil from the "Pencil Tree"
Pencil tree and sign out sheet

the student signs out the pencil and crosses their name off when it is returned. By storing the pencils in the "Tree."
missing pencils
all pencils returned!
By the students love that they have Mirado Black Warrior pencils to use...they just love the name and it's easy to see if it is my pencil or theirs. You can buy Mirado Black Warriors by clicking on the image here:

 I can quickly look and see if all were returned. It saves class time and I never lose a pencil!

 This post originally featured on

Monday, September 24, 2012

4f: Showing Professionalism by hanging your degrees and certifications in the classroom

   Show that you are a certified professional by posting your college degrees in your classroom.
above SmartBoard

front board
I scanned and printed new copies of my actual degrees and hung them on the front wall in the room. 
You can buy diploma frames here:

(My originals are in my office at home). Every professional I know whether they are a dentist, doctor, accountant, etc. hangs their degrees on the wall...why don't teachers?

my Master of Science Education degree

I do now.
This post originally featured on 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

4c: Communicating with

   Now a days everybody puts a lot of information about themselves out there on the web. Do you ever wish you could tell people more about yourself without pulling the "hey, let's talk about me some more."We all have interesting information that nobody knows about us.

Here's mine whether you want to know or not...

 This post originally featured on 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

3c: Engaging Students in Learning with outdoor labs

   There are few things that my students love more than going outside. The weather was nice, we had some iPods so we went outside to our school's Memorial Grove. Each tree has been planted in memory of a student or employee who has passed away.  The iPods were on loan from our local Boces but some of my students downloaded the app onto their own iPods at home and brought them in the next day. This worked for us because they did not need the internet to do this lab. (our school does not allow personal devices on the district's wifi)
     You can buy an iPod Touch here
or you could use an iPhone or an iPad

Here are some screen shots from the app on the iPod:
The Tree ID App
Identify a Tree
Search by different characteristics

Images to assist you
Choose the correct one
add more
Your results
locations in US


Two days before I had to charge the iPods, reset the date and time on the device, log Boces out of the iTunes store, log myself in, and download the app: Tree ID over 14 times.


In class I had the students break into groups of 2, one holds the clipboard and writes down the information for the lab; the other uses the iPod to identify the tree. They must work together to decide which characteristics match their tree. After they identified a tree, they switched role.  They loved it. It isn't too often that our students get to go outside and do some actual science.
     If the weather cooperates I hope to get them outside next week to identify some of the biodiversity and wild plants in the field next to the school.

 This post originally featured on

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

2e: Organizing Physical Space with Student Mailboxes

     To save time in class and to get my students started right away I created a mailbox for each of my students. This is a quick way to hand back papers and a nice easy place for my students to store the headphones that they need in class everyday. 

 Each student has been assigned an "Alpha Number" which is a number that helps me put their papers in alphabetical order by class. So my first student in my first class has the number 1, second student alphabetically in the same class is #2, etc. So every time a student puts their name on their paper, they also write their Alpha Number. This saves a LOT of time when you need to alphabetize over 100 papers.

These are pictures of the students' mailboxes where they will get papers that I want to hand back.

This is where they turn in assignments to me

Each "basket" is for a different class

A bit of advice: If you are going to make your own mailboxes, staple them together or else you will constantly drop papers between the actual folders.

     The time invested in making these and assigning an alpha number will save you at least 5 minutes every time you have to alphabetize and record grades and at least 5 minutes of class time every time you hand back papers. 
Trust me it pays off.
Some of my readers especially those of you in other countries have asked me to put web-links where these items can be purchased so here they are. Click on the picture to go to the link. 

 This post originally featured on

Sunday, September 16, 2012

4c: Communicating with Families by creating a movie trailer for your class

 Yes, a movie trailer. To get students and parents excited about my course and to get more students to sign up for it I have created a movie trailer to drum up interest.

All teachers eventually realize that we are in advertising. I believe that my obsession with infomercials and the way they can make me want to buy a product that I really don't need makes me a better teacher. If you think about it we are trying to sell a product that students usually wouldn't want. We need to see them as customers with a choice, not inmates serving time. (paraphrasing David Warlick; his blog is at

I don't think that teachers usually do a very good job of tooting their own horn. You work hard as a professional, show it off!
Here is the trailer to promote my course:

(made with iMovie for the Mac)

 This post originally featured on

Saturday, September 8, 2012

2d: Managing Student Behavior with ClassDojo

ClassDojo makes it easy to keep my students alert and on-task.
You can use it to:
Improve Behavior...Improve specific student behaviors and engagement by awarding and recording real-time feedback.
Share Data...Print or email beautiful behavior reports to easily engage parents and staff.
Save recording behaviors and accomplishments right in class, with one click.

parents can also get reports of progress.  In class, the teacher awards points to students or ...

records a negative behavior. these positive and negative buttons can be customized by the teacher based on what it needed for each class.
The points are recorded on the chart for each student in the class. The teacher can also choose to put the class list on the interactive white board so students can see live when they earn points.  Or it can be kept private and the student can log in to see their own private information.  One of my favorite tools is to use Class Dojo to randomly pick a student. 

 Parents, students, and teachers can receive a report for the student that looks like this and shows what percent of the time the student had positive or negative behaviors in class.

 This post originally featured on 

1e: Designing Coherent Instruction with Workflowy

I don't know about you, but I am a list-maker. I have so many lists and posit notes that I have lists of my lists. A tool I've started using recently is
It allows you to make lists with sub-lists and cross them off but it stores them in case you ever need to refer back to that list in the future. I have made my home page so anytime I turn on my computer my to do list is right there in front of me.
This is a screen shot of Workflowy in action:

This post originally featured on 

4c: Communicating with Families and Students with Remind101

One tool I like to use to communicate with students and parents is With Remind101 you can easily send a text message or email message to a class of students or to all of your students and parents. I especially like that I can set the time that the message will get set. Often I will set it to send the message out at 2:10pm because our last period ends at 2:15pm and my students will get the reminder just before they reach their lockers to go home.

My advice.. make up a separate class for each class period that you meet with.  This way you can send a text and/or email message to every student in one class or every student in all classes.

Charlotte Danielson in Action

Many of you may know that I am a Biology teacher and in today's society it is a very stressful and demanding job. Constantly (even during vacations and weekends) I am working to improve the entire school experience for my students and to streamline the entire grading, learning, and evaluation part of my job. Very soon I will be evaluated as a teacher with the use of Charlotte Danielson's Framework for Teaching (2007).  The framework places an emphasis on four different domains of teaching...

Even if you are a great teacher, most of the stuff you do isn't always visible in a 40 minute observation especially if you are teaching online or using technology in the classroom. In these blog postings I hope to document all of the different techniques and tricks that I use as a teacher and to help give others ideas that can be implemented in their own classrooms. 
We are much better teachers when we share and grow.