Wednesday, July 31, 2019

5 Tips for Managing Learning in a Tech-Centered Classroom

New technology has a way of drawing students into learning in a way that’s both efficient and effective—but it also can be a disruption from the norm in a classroom.  One of the biggest fears of many teachers is that as they integrate technology into their lessons—especially hands-on technology like tablets or cell phones—the technology will become a distraction for students and teachers.  But it doesn’t have to be that way!  Here are five simple ways to keep your students on-task and your lessons on time as you integrate more and more technology into your lessons.

Set some ground rules.

Just like every other aspect of teaching, by giving your students clear expectations on technology use, you’ll avoid distraction and keep your students on-task.

Create a “Screens Down” cue.

Come up with a cue—whether it’s a certain word or you ringing a bell—that means all students need to immediately stop what they’re doing and put their screens facing downon their desks.

Give students specific end goals.

It’s easy to wander with technology—so by giving your students specific, tangible goals or tasks—instead of just allowing them to fiddle with a particular program or app, you’ll give them the tools they need to learn with that technology.

Focus on teamwork.

By structuring your lessons so that your students can work in teams to learn the content, they’ll be able to coach each other through learning the technology and will be more likely to stay on task.

Use technology that’s easy to set up.

The last thing you want to do is spend 30 minutes getting your technology booted while a classroom of students waits.  So, look for technology that takes less than five minutes to boot up so you can get teaching fast.

What an Engaged Learning Environment Looks Like

If someone walked into your classroom at any given moment and took a picture, what would it look like?  Would there be 20 sets of eyes on you as you taught a lesson at the front?  Would your students be working in groups on a particular task? Or would (eek!) your entire classroom be in chaos with kids doing anything (and everything) but learning?

Creating an engaged learning environment

The truth is that there isn’t one right way to create an engaged learning environment. Great teachers—the ones who are able to inspire learning from each and every student—use a variety of methods and strategies to help their students stay engaged—and create a variety of activities and lessons to get to that end.  At WeAreTeachers, we want to help you be a great teacher, so we’ve put together a list of resources—everything from teaching ideas to podcasts—that will help you to contemplate engaged learning and strategize how to make it work in your classroom.  To learn more, click over to our “Caution: Classroom at Work Hot Topics Page” and start learning.
But, before you do, we wanted to give you a picture of what engaged learning looks like—so we polled educators everywhere to find out what they would expect to see in a fully engaged classroom.  Here are their answers—read, learn and be inspired to make the goal of an engaged classroom a reality.

Real teachers on engaged learning

“To me, engaged learning means that if I ask a question, I could call on any student in the classroom and know they would be able to answer the question correctly.”  –Jessica, 1st grade teacher, San Fransisco, CA
“Engaged learning means that every single student’s learning needs are being met through a lesson—so the students who are visual learners are given visual cues while the students who crave hands-on activity are given the chance to do something hands-on.” – Carmen, 5th grade teacher, Miami, FL
“Every student would be doing something—whether it was writing in a journal, working in the lab, using a computer or listening to the teacher.  I wouldn’t see a single student doodling, talking or playing with their cell phone because each student would be so focused at the task on hand that disruption simple wouldn’t be an option.”  — Jeremy, 9th grade teacher, Portland, OR
 Engaged learning is that imaginary light bulb over a student’s head, and the voluntary participation that comes from true learning.”  — Julia, Austin, TX
“I think in an engaged classroom, students are doing most of the teaching.  I envision a place where every question—and every answer—is student driven, student answered and student focused.”  — Heather, 3rd grade teacher, Seattle, WA
To me, engaged learning is where students are so focused on finding the solution to a problem that they jump when the bell rings and then groan because class is over. ”  Jessi, 10th grade teacher, Chicago, IL
“Focused students that are interested and absorbed in what they are learning. They have become invested in what they are being taught and take ownership in their learning of it.”  —Cami, WeAreTeachers Community Manager, Austin, TX
Engaged learning is every student actively involved in the activity, whether it’s participating in class discussion, chattering productively during group work, or being on task with independent assignments.– Hildi, 3rdgrade teacher, Leander, TX

36 Great Short Stories to Teach in Middle School

It can be a challenge to get middle schoolers interested in reading. The thought of tackling a thick novel can be overwhelming, especially toward the end of the school year when attention spans and patience for reading are often running short. Short stories are always a great choice. In addition to requiring less of a time commitment, they are an easy way to expose your students to new authors and genres. Also, the best short stories are every bit as engaging and meaningful as the best novels. Here are some of our favorite short stories for middle schoolers to share with your students.
  1. Seventh Grade” by Gary Soto
  2. Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes
  3. Everyday Use” by Alice Walker
  4. Lamb to the Slaughter” by Roald Dahl
  5. One Friday Morning” by Langston Hughes
  6. A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” by Gabriel García Márquez
  7. Charles” by Shirley Jackson
  8. Click Clack the Rattlebag” by Neil Gaiman
  9. Names/Nombres” by Julia Alvarez
  10. To Build a Fire” by Jack London
  11. The Fly” by Katherine Mansfield
  12. Rules of the Game” by Amy Tan
  13. Liars Don’t Qualify” by Junius Edwards
  14. The Sniper” by Liam O’Flaherty
  15. Civil Peace” by Chinua Achebe
  16. The Friday Everything Changed“ by Anne Hart
  17. The Scholarship Jacket” by Marta Salinas
  18. Amigo Brothers” by Piri Thomas
  19. Wildflower by Amrita Pritam
  20. “The Years of My Birth” by  Louise Erdrich
  21. The Veldt” by Ray Bradbury
  22. The Fun They Had” by Issac Asimov
  23. Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut
  24. A Good Man Is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor
  25. Eleven” by Sandra Cisneros
  26. Thank You, Ma’am” by Langston Hughes
  27. Believing in Brooklyn” by Matt de la Pena (link is to collection where story can be found)
  28. Valediction” by Sherman Alexie
  29. Girl” by Jamaica Kincaid
  30. When I Lay My Burden Down” by Maya Angelou
  31. All Summer in a Day” by Ray Bradbury
  32. The Medicine Bag” by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve
  33. Stop the Sun” by Gary Paulsen
  34. Mother and Daughter” by Gary Soto
  35. The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allen Poe
  36. The Hitchhiker” by Lucille Fletcher
If you’re searching for more short stories, check out these recommendations compiled by the Seattle Public Library, the ShortStoryGuide, and Barnes and Noble.
Plus, we love these anthologies: A Thousand Beginnings and Endings compiled by We Need Diverse Books’s Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman, and  Meet Cute: Some People Are Destined to Meet by Sona Charaipotra, Dhonielle Clayton, Nicola Yoon, Ibi Zoboi and others.

This Parent Communication App Lets You Earn Free Supplies for the Things You Do Anyway

When it comes to parent communication apps, there are sooo many options out there. So how do you decide which one will work best for you and your families?
Well, we look for ones that offer comprehensive features, such as newsletters, translation capabilities, engagement tracking, and easy photo sharing. Free is nice, too. Add in some fun and unexpected bonuses, like free books and school supplies, and you definitely have our attention.

That’s why we were pumped to learn about ClassTag, a parent communication app that’s completely free to use.

It offers all the benefits above plus calendar support, supply lists, and lots of ways to reach families: SMS, email, in app, on the website—parents choose what works for them.
The best part?
You can earn free classroom rewards simply by doing the things you already do, like post about your awesome diorama project or let parents know about upcoming conferences. You’ll earn ClassTag coins as you engage parents, which you can then redeem for things like gift cards, school supplies, board games, and more.

Here’s a sneak peek of some of the rewards we spotted when we signed up for an account:

There are teacher favorites like Erin Condren and Teachers Pay Teachers gift cards, as well as favorite supplies including laminators, pencils, and more.

Plus, we loved how quick it was to start a class, invite parents, and start posting updates.

You can tell the app has a social media feel to it—parents can comment or “react” to each of your posts, and you can even see which families have seen your posts (and which haven’t.)

You can even setup and share your supply list for the year.

ClassTag already has tons of supplies listed in their system, but you can also add custom requests to your list. Easier than families trying to find their child’s printed list at Target or Wal-Mart, that’s for sure!

We ❤️ These Instagram-Worthy World Language Classrooms

When it comes to beautiful and dynamic classrooms, world language teachers definitely bring their A-game. From HGTV-style reading nooks to genius interactive bulletin boards, we know you’re going to be inspired, no matter the subject or grade you teach. Here’s a roundup of 15 of our favorite Instagram-worthy world language classrooms. 

1. DIY Standing Teacher Desk

What’s the best thing about this Spanish teacher’s standing desk? The industrial tech students at her school made it!

2. Cozy Reading Corner

Can you think of a student who wouldn’t want to cozy up with a book in this French classroom’s made-for-HGTV reading nook?

3. Assessment Day Cookies and Cocoa

High school Spanish students calm their nerves with tasty treats before speaking assessments.

4. Fashion Show Speaking Assessment

This high school Italian teacher brings creativity to speaking assessments with a student fashion show.

5. Words with Friends Bulletin Board

This German teacher’s Words with Friends–inspired interactive bulletin board is genius.

6. Next-Level Inspirational Quotes

This teacher’s letter board quotes are stunning. And Maya Angelou’s quote is just as inspiring in Spanish as it is in English. 

7. Colorful Conjugation Booklets

These bold and bright booklets get Spanish students excited about conjugating verbs. 

8. Adaptations of Classic Games 

Students have fun working on their Spanish-speaking skills with this colorful adaptation of Jenga.

9. Chinese New Year Bulletin Board

This Chinese teacher and her students counted down the days until the Lunar New Year in style.

10. Rose Gold Microphone

This soft-spoken Spanish teacher uses a glamorous rose gold microphone to amplify her voice during class.

11. Colorful Frames for Focus

Help students focus on your criteria for success with these pretty frames. Put one on each student’s desk, like this Spanish teacher did.

12. Fabulous Flexible Seating

There are plenty of comfy places to sit and speak Spanish in this classroom.

13. Great Game Storage

Colorful plastic cases are a perfect way to organize and store games, like this fun sentence-building activity used by a German teacher.

14. Anchor Chart Hanger Hack

Wall-mounted hangers make organizing and swapping out anchor charts easy for this French teacher. 

15. Organized Writing Center

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Warm up the laminator and pick up some inexpensive Command hooks and metal rings to create a perfectly organized writing station, like this Spanish teacher did.