10 Teacher Timesavers to Help You Become a More Efficient Teacher Today

In last week’s Facebook Live session, I shared ten ways you might be an inefficient teacher. If you missed that session, watch it here, and remember that you can tune in live each week at 8 PM EST to get even more valuable tips for use technology in your classroom.

Now that you’ve gone back and watched the video (you did, right?), you might feel like you have a problem (or ten of them) but no solution. That was exactly the point. I wanted us to spend time together focusing on your pain points (and mine) as a teacher. Teaching, by nature, is inefficient. That’s because we’re not dealing with machines. We’re dealing with people, and those student-people are usually not mature yet, so the very process of managing a classroom where they are the focus is going to be messy.

It may feel hopeless to you that you will ever spend less time and get more done in your classroom. But you can! In this week’s episode and post, I’m going to share ten solutions to last week’s problems, so here they are:

10 Teacher Timesavers to Help You Become a More Efficient Teacher Today

Problem #1: Too Many Tools

You might have one for grading, one for delivering content, one for student blogging, and one for assessing.

Solution: Though they’re all cool, I’m sure, your life could be simpler if you had one program that hosted content for, delivered content to, and received work from your students. We call such a program an LMS. If you are just getting into LMS world, let me recommend Edmodo. It has a Facebook-like look and has a free version you can use with your students. However, if you want a more robust and even system-wide solution, Canvas is the best program out there. It looks clean, functions well, and I can say with certainty, it will handle just about any classroom task you can throw at it.

But you don’t have to take my word for it… starting September 9th, I am co-hosting a conference called The Efficient Teacher, and you can register for free or purchase lifetime access to the videos here. Yolanda Payton’s session includes Canvas and will show you how simple it is to drive instruction through an LMS.

Problems #2 and 3: Lack of Purpose, Priorities, and Balance

You spend plenty of time at work, but you wake up out of a stupor at your desk after several unpurposeful hours and haven’t accomplished anything, OR you might be a rockstar at work, but you scream at or neglect your family at home.

Solutions: An efficient teacher knows how to manage her time and balance her life well; she can’t be made just by a certain tool or set of tools. You could be the most efficient teacher in the world and still waste the time that you gained back. Scheduling and prioritizing have to be goals each day. One of my favorite virtual mentors for the prioritized schedule is Angela Watson, and you can read an article she shares on the topic here.

But you don’t have to take my word for it, or even Angela’s… starting September 9th, I am co-hosting a conference called The Efficient Teacher, and you can register for free or purchase lifetime access to the videos here.  Kelsea Studebaker’s session will show you the top characteristics of an efficient teacher. If you can become more efficient, you can get your life back!

Problems #4 and 5: The Paper Nightmare and Your Messy Desk

If you’ve heard any of my Facebook Live videos, you’ve heard me talk about how my desk was always a mound of papers waiting to be taken home in a rolling crate and (possibly) graded.

Solutions: Use paperless or less-paper solutions like OneNote Class Notebook to deliver work straight to your students and receive no papers back! Kids don’t even have to remember to put their names on their papers or bring pencils to class. There’s no more messy desk for you, and the students have clean desks too!

But you don’t have to take my word for it… starting September 9th, I am co-hosting a conference called The Efficient Teacher, and you can register for free or purchase lifetime access to the videos here. Watch Tammy Dunbar’s session to find out how you can even be more efficient by using OneNote from your phone. Grade and deliver work from anywhere!

Problem #6: Inefficient Hallpass Systems

if you’re like me, you’re always looking around for a scrap sheet of paper or a kid’s often-lost agenda in order to write a hallway pass. Then, when the kid goes somewhere, you forget where he went or how long he’s been gone.

Solve that problem for good! Use a Google or Microsoft Form accessible with a QR code right by your door, and kids can scan to sign out on the way out the door. To combat the additional problem of kids staying gone forever and you forgetting, place a kitchen timer hung with command strips right beside the QR code. Kids push start when they leave, and have it set to beep after five minutes, so that you can track down kids who might be “lost” on the way back.

But you don’t have to take my word for it… starting September 9th, I am co-hosting a conference called The Efficient Teacher, and you can register for free or purchase lifetime access to the videos here. Watch Missi Love’s session and find out even more tricks you can do with free Google tools.

Problem #7: Struggling to Enforce the Rules

Imagine this: Your class is a zoo. The kids don’t seem to know how to line up, their papers are everywhere, and they are rude every time you have a sub. Maybe you don’t have to imagine very hard, because you are picturing your very own class.

Solution: An efficient teacher makes rules and sets of classroom systems from the very beginning of the year. The more the kids are taught to follow a routine, the more efficient they are in it and the less you pull your hair out. Baldness would be very inefficient 🙂

But you don’t have to take my word for it… starting September 9th, I am co-hosting a conference called The Efficient Teacher, and you can register for free or purchase lifetime access to the videos here. Watch Ashley Millar as she shares plenty of tips on efficient behavior management in her session.

Problem #8: Poor Parent Communication

I don’t know about you, but in my classroom, I toggled among many forms of parent communication. From website to those carbon message books you use in offices to paper agendas to emails, it was always a struggle to keep up how I was communicating and how often.

Solution: Use one system to communicate. My favorite is Remind, but maybe you’d prefer to check out Bloomz, recommended by Vicki Davis. Whatever you choose, make it simple for you and the parents. Use one system that allows for two-way communication, and use it all the time.

But you don’t have to take my word for it… starting September 9th, I am co-hosting a conference called The Efficient Teacher, and you can register for free or purchase lifetime access to the videos here. Watch

Problem #9: Assigning Student Supplies

Maybe you’re a math teacher, and students borrow a calculator from you every day. The problem is, you never know who took which one, who pried the keys off, and who walked out the door with that expensive pocket computer. Or you’re a teacher with laptops, books, crayons, or anything else kids use regularly. You don’t have a system for signing items out and checking their condition upon return.

Solution: I love the number system for so many reasons and used it often in my class, including when I assigned supplies to kids. Check out this post for more information.

But you don’t have to take my word for it… starting September 9th, I am co-hosting a conference called The Efficient Teacher, and you can register for free or purchase lifetime access to the videos here. Watch Tanya Marshall’s session and learn several time-saving systems to stay organized, whether online or off.

And finally, this #10 item is keeping you from being efficient, and it’s the elephant in the room: Slow and Stressful Grading

The problem: I think you know it. It’s why you avoid grading (if you’re like me) in favor of any other activity. It’s grading where you learn just how little of what you taught the kids retained and where you just can’t seem to go quickly, no matter how hard you try.

Solution: Embrace digital and manual systems that will let your students evaluate themselves and each other, or allow tech tools to do the grading work for you. Here are a couple posts chock-full of information to help you with either of these concerns:

But you don’t have to take my word for it… starting September 9th, I am co-hosting a conference called The Efficient Teacher, and you can register for free or purchase lifetime access to the videos here. Watch Meredith Dobbs wow you with her ideas for using audit-style grading to give good feedback while saving time.

 

Well, there you have the them, the 10 teacher timesavers to help you become a more efficient teacher today. But what if ten aren’t enough? What if you need 100 more, from all different subject areas? The Efficient Teacher Conference was created with you in mind. I knew what stressed me out as a teacher, and I painstakingly sought out teachers who could give real-life, effective advice to help you become more efficient in the classroom. Won’t you grab your free ticket today? 

With Tech and Twang,

 

 

Tech Tuesday #20: Putting Differentiation on Auto-Pilot

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Did you ever read a choose-your-own-adventure book? If so, you know that the reader controlled what happened in the story. Differentiation should be the same way. Students who need help should get it, and those who have mastered content should be able to move on. Further, it should not be labor-intensive for teachers to set up such differentiation and try to keep up with which student is on what track. Today, let’s explore innovative uses of OneNote, Microsoft Forms, and Canvas LMS, three tools with features that make differentiation easier and even automatic.

In OneNote, we will:

  • explore the individual and groups distribution features
  • see how you can reward students with badges using those features

In Forms, we will:

  • turn on the branching feature
  • try a sample branched activity

In Canvas, we will:

  • create a module
  • turn on the Mastery Paths feature

Intrigued? Watch the video embedded below, taken from my Tuesday weekly Facebook Live session at 8PM EST, where I discuss all the features in detail and show them in action. Like the page now so you never miss another video!

With Tech and Twang,

Suzy Signature Pink

Tech Tuesday #19: The Power of Student Self-Assessment

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I want you to take a minute and do the math on how much time you spend grading.

For one set of essays for me, I figured out once that if I spent ten minutes per esssay, it would take me a full twenty-four hours just to grade one class set. That was just for essays–the calculation didn’t include all the reading quizzes, warm-ups, and packets I had to grade as well. In addition to the time-suck all this grading induced, I was also burdened with carrying papers to and from school in a rolling crate, honestly many times just to return them to school again.

As I stayed in the classroom longer, I constantly looked for ways to save time, and one major area I addressed was in my grading. I’ve heard many educational gurus say it, but if the students are supposed to be the ones working so hard, why are the teachers the tired ones at the end of the day? And why don’t kids take our feedback seriously, using it to improve future work?

Easy–it’s because we’re the ones doing all the evaluation. If you’ve never thought about involving your students more in the evaluation process, or if you’re worried that kids can’t grade themselves accurately, think again. It worked in my classroom of high school students, and I know it can work for your kiddos as well.

In the video below, which is embedded from my weekly Facebook Live sessions I host each week at 8 PM EST, you’ll learn:

  • The four ways student self-assessment can make your grading more effective and efficient
  • Two resources for tips on quick-grading essays
  • My simple student self-assessment method (tongue twister!)

Push play to watch, and I hope you’ll tune in live next week!

How have you used self-assessment in your classroom? How has it helped, or what pitfalls are you still trying to work on? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

With Tech and Twang,

Suzy Signature Pink

Resources:

Tech Tuesday #18: Interactive Worksheets

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Worksheets. Dittos. Activity sheets. Whatever you call them, if you’ve been a student or teacher ever, you’ve done them or you’ve assigned them. My own worksheet evolution as a student started with handwritten sheets of problems that teachers ran through the intoxicating ditto machine. Then, textbooks came out with the fancier blackline master versions, some of which were copied onto an overhead transparency for us to “go over” in class. Though I never experienced them as a student, graphic organizers were all the rage when I was in college, except that they were always supposed to be student-generated…well, that’s a story for another day. And finally, what would the world be without the cuted-up versions we now pay three to five bucks a pop for on Teachers Pay Teachers.

But has the structure of these worksheets fundamentally changed just because they’ve gotten cuter? It’s the same as with any other assessment–changing the look without the function does nothing to improve teaching and learning. There may indeed be times when a worksheet is the best tool for using the hand-brain connection to help students retain information, but do they have to be so dang boring?

In the video below, which is embedded from the Facebook Live session I do every Tuesday at 8PM EST, I share three of my favorite ways for making worksheets more interactive. Click PLAY to have a listen, and I hope you’ll follow this blog and like my Facebook page so you don’t miss any more great ideas!

What was your favorite idea from the video OR what ideas would you share for making worksheets more engaging? Please leave a comment below.

Resources mentioned in the video:

  1. Worksheet Works
  2. Magic Square
  3. Poetry Packet

With Tech and Twang,

Suzy Signature Pink

Tech Tuesday #17: Quizzes that Can’t Be Googled

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The culture of cheating has been around forever. Students have long been keeping cheat-sheets in their pockets, writing answers down their arms, and dropping their pencils on the floor to pass answers to friends. We knew those tricks as kids. However, with the advent of auto-grading quiz technology, many teachers are even more nervous about the security of their assessments.

Maybe it’s time to rethink the structure of our quizzes instead. If we are still creating quizzes where the answers can be Googled, we are not changing with the times and may, in fact, be increasing our students’ temptation to cheat.

In the video below, which is shared from my weekly Tech Tuesday Facebook Live sessions at 8PM EST, I will share with you five tips for changing your mindset on quiz creation. I’ll also share three specific ways you can quiz in a way that creates easy grading plus shows deep content knowledge from students:

  1. The Personal Dictionary Plus Frayer Model Quiz
  2. The One-Question Quizzer
  3. The Fill-in-the-Blank Reading Quiz

Want to hear more? Click to play the video below:

Want the resources I mention in the video? It’s easy! Just click FOLLOW and subscribe to the blog. I will be happy to share my folder with you.

With Tech and Twang,

Suzy Signature Pink

Tech Tuesday #16: Five Tricks for Getting More Out of your Interactive Whiteboard

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For all the thousands of dollars spent on interactive whiteboard technology in classrooms across the world, you’d think those boards would be a little more…well…interactive. But who’s touching, writing on, and playing with those boards? In most classes, it’s the teacher. However, it’s really students who need the opportunity to touch and interact with those boards to cement their learning.

In the video below, I discuss five ways to make your interactive whiteboard more than just a “bedsheet in the backyard.” Let it do more than just project. It can:

  1. help students who missed class interact at home
  2. help you track attendance
  3. help you deliver content to student devices
  4. help you transform dull slide decks into interactive learning experiences
  5. help you engage students with games-based learning

Is your board doing all that? If not, watch the video below, which was recorded from my weekly Facebook Live session every Tuesday at 8PM EST. I’d love to have you join me next week!

With Tech and Twang,

Suzy Signature Pink

Resources:

Smartboard Tips and Tricks Prezi

Tech Tuesday #15: Five Tricks for Working with PDFs

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Adobe PDFs, short for Portable Document Files, have been around for years. We all use them, but do we know everything they can do? And I don’t just mean everything they can do when you pay. I mean how we can use them in and out of Office, Canvas LMS, and even on the web to do some pretty cool tricks. I’m going to share five of those tricks with you today.

Five Tricks for Working with PDFs

  1. Let’s first of all talk about three things that PDFs can do surrounding Microsoft Word. Number one. Have you ever purchased a product, maybe from Teachers Pay Teachers, that you really wanted your kids to be able to interact with? Or you really wanted to be able to customize it in some way and make a slight tweak, but you couldn’t? Try using Word to convert the PDF back to its original Word state! This trick doesn’t always work, but I’ve found it to be pretty effective if the document was originally created in Word. First of all, open Word. Then, go to your File menu, and instead of just browsing for documents, because you would only see Word documents listed, drop down and change your file type to PDF. Now, browse to the PDF you want to open. You will get a message that says it is converting to Word. Be patient! If all goes well, you will have a completely editable copy of your document in Word. Worst-case scenario, it doesn’t work and you can just use PDF document on paper as it was.

suzylolley.com2.  Are you ready for the second tip? It’s easy to take a Word document and convert it to PDF.  All you have to do to make that happen is just go to your File menu and click Export. You’ll find that PDF is the default option. *A side note here to say that it’s generally preferred that you convert documents to PDFs before sharing so that parents can access them from anywhere without having to download any fancy software.

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3.  Once the document’s in PDF form, let’s say you don’t want anyone to be able to access it without special permission. You can go to your same export menu, but this time choose Options, the little button on the bottom right. When you click it, you will see a checkbox to add a password to the document. Whoever tries to open that document will be prompted for that password. Just a word of caution: if you’re going to use this trick and expect to have any security, it is not high-level security, but certainly don’t list your password on a sticky note and stick it on top of the computer:-)

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4.  Your fourth tip is good for when you want to give students access to a document created in PDF, but you only want to share parts of it. For instance, maybe there’s a teacher notes section at the beginning or a key at the end of the document that students don’t need. Most Windows machines contain a PDF printer. So, if I open a PDF and go to my print menu, I can select that printer and then choose certain pages to print. But what if my machine doesn’t have a virtual printer, or what if I need more options than just printing certain pages? Well I have a website for you. I want to give a shout out to my friend Jim Berry for sharing. It’s called PDF Candy. On this website, you will see more than twenty options that you can perform on a PDF. Want to convert the document to an image? No problem. Want to split or reorder the pages? No problem. I find this website especially helpful if I want to embed something on my blog or in my learning management system and have it appear as an image instead of just a link.

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5. The last tip here is especially dedicated to those who use the Canvas learning management system, but if your LMS has a similar trick, I would love to hear it in the comments. When teachers send out documents to parents, their most likely device for viewing those documents is a phone. I don’t know about your phone, but when I used to have an iPhone specifically, I had a hard time opening PDFs. I had to open a special program to launch them. Instead of that, what if you showed your parents an automatic preview of the document that they never had to download? Here’s how it works: On any canvas Rich Text Editor, upload your PDF file. You will see it as a simple link. Then, go up to the File menu and choose the link icon. You will highlight over the link, and choose the check box that says, “Auto-open the inline preview.” Voila! Parents can see the document without downloading it.

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I certainly don’t know every free thing you can do with PDFs. Do you have another trick? Share it in the comments below.

This post is inspired by a session I do every Tuesday on Facebook Live at 8 PM EST. Join me there next week. In the meantime, watch the video below to watch me demonstrate all the tips I share above.

With Tech and Twang,

Suzy Signature Pink

Tech Tuesday #14: Office365 for Littles

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I was a middle and high school English teacher for eleven years. Little ones were foreign to me, and that fact was compounded by the fact that I don’t have children of my own. How to teach them was a mystery. However, since my transition to Instructional Technology in the last four years, I’ve been working with elementary-schoolers more and more…and their teachers. What I’ve seen with the little ones is that it takes more repetition to teach them something, but they can do it. What I sense with their teachers is tremendous fear over allowing them to do things on the computer. Of course that’s not a universal truth, but I see that fear as pretty widespread. Thus, I made it my mission to “con” the teachers into trying some different activities with their little ones.

Since we are a Microsoft district, I began launching templates that they could use with their students via our learning management system, Canvas. These templates are inspired by Christine Pinto’s work with Google templates and are adaptable for different age levels, although I have focused on K-2 here. Let’s walk through some of the templates I share in the resources link below.

Activities Ready for You to Use Tomorrow with Primary Grades

  1. First of all, if you’re a teacher with Excel fears, you’re not alone. I hear more than any other software that this spreadsheet-making machine makes teachers shake in their boots. However, I have little ones graphing already. One of the templates that I share at the bottom of this post is one that allows students to decorate a picture either of the beach or of a leprechaun’s lair. They drag items into the picture and then count and graph those items. The graph is powered by conditional formatting so that the students see bar graphs start to appear as they graph. I have done the same activity with kindergarten through 2nd grade, and all have enjoyed it. For a twist, and this was suggested by first grade teacher, I added a challenge tab where students count the items by twos, fives, and tens and then graph that way. It’s elevating the learning but still allowing them to have a lot of fun.
  2. In addition to Excel, I have several PowerPoint activities the kids really enjoy. One group of second grade teachers said that they really wanted to use a self-paced center in our learning management system, but they needed help designing it. Since I love lesson design, I asked them to send me some ideas and materials, and I would build the activities for them. Thus, I learned that there are three strategies for subtraction with regrouping. Who knew? When I was in second grade, we just wrote down the numbers and figured it out;) I created three different subtraction activities for them. In one of those activities, students use a number line to help them solve an addition or subtraction problem that involves regrouping. I created a table with jumps that they can fill in to help them do the math along the way.
  3. Another activity involves the traditional algorithm or what some students cause stacking. It’s the method we all learned as a child. However, there’s a twist. Students are taught the “rhyme rule” to help them decide when and if they should borrow. This activity is a choose-your-own-adventure where students decide which part of the rhyme rule applies and click a button to select it.
  4. Finally, I gave them both an addition and subtraction activity with base ten blocks. The students represented two different numbers with the base ten blocks, which were digital on PowerPoint, and then they were able to count and arrive their final answers for each of ten problems. I’ve also adapted this activity for first graders. Instead of adding the digital blocks, they simply count how many are represented and write that number both as tens and ones and as a final answer.
  5. I love when a teacher is inspired by a lesson and feels like she can adapt it for her own use. After I created this series of math lessons, I had a teacher reach out to me and asked about the best tool for making a coin sort. She wanted her students to know the fronts and backs of the coins and also how much they were worth. I was able to create that for her, but the idea was hers.
  6. Any of these templates can be used as inspiration just like that. Let’s talk now about some activities for kindergarten. These students not only need to know how to use technology but also need to be able to apply it to real content from their classes. With that in mind, and with Christine Pinto’s inspiration (site linked above), I was able to create several activities for them. One of them, which is iPad-based, has the students go around and take pictures of items that are representative of a certain color word. They are learning to match the color with the word itself and also to find items in that color. I did this one was kindergartners recently, and they really liked it.
  7. Another activity I created involves number sense. This template is best for the computer, although you can certainly adapt it for the iPad. Students were given a number on a slide and had to know what that number was in its written form in order to add that number of shapes to the slide. In PowerPoint, it’s really easy to go to the Insert menu and add shapes, and those directions are included on the template. Though I did not get to this part, having them also fill the shapes with color would have been a fun extension.

With inspiration from the activities I’ve discussed here, I hope you feel empowered to create activities for your own students. You can always reach out and ask for help, and I will be glad to help you make any templates. There are lots of Google resources out there, but I’ve struggled to find many created for Office 365, so I’m proud to have these activities join that movement. Your little ones can do technology, and they can use it to do more than just play. I would love to hear from you what your favorite activity is from my resource folder and what you wish I would create. Leave a comment below; I love sharing and receiving great ideas!

With Tech and Twang,

Suzy Signature Pink

P.S. Every Tuesday night, I host an exclusive Facebook Live at facebook.com/techlolley/, starting at 8PM EST. Did you miss this week’s? Tune in below:

Tech Tuesday #13: What to Do When There’s Not Enough Classroom Tech

Tech Tuesday 11-15Tech Tuesday 11-15 (3)Tech Tuesday 11-15 (2)Tech Tuesday 11-15 (1)

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In today’s post, I aim to shatter the number one myth I encounter as a teacher tech trainer: “I can’t use technology if everyone doesn’t have a device.” I can address this myth, because I overcame it in my own classroom, and you can too! My most recent classroom teaching experience was as a high school English teacher. Because our school was overcrowded, I got to live in trailer land, cottageville, or whatever you want to call it. I had twenty-four laptops in a car I had earned years ago, but at this point, they were slow-to-boot and not always the best choice for quick formative assessments. I also had one iPad (more about that later), as well as two desktops. The bottom is that, while I did have devices for some students, I had to rely on student phones for much of what we did in class.

Five Ideas for Using Your Limited Technology

There was never a day I taught that I had 1:1 devices for my students; however, I found a way to use technology with students almost every day in my class. Here are five ideas from my classroom to inspire you to make the most of your devices as well, specifically student phones.

Number 1: The One-Question Quizzer

It was always hard for me to use other people’s lesson plans. However, as a new American Lit teacher a few years ago, I turned to my best friend, Teachers Pay Teachers, for inspiration. One unit I purchased was from Laura Randazzo to teach Huck Finn. She gave me the idea to give students a one-question quiz on each night’s reading. Students came in every day, took out their phones, and followed a shortlink to a Google Form where I had put her questions. If they had read, it was very quick. Of course, I had to walk around while they quizzed, but the quizzers were great for phone-accessibility, and the data was ready for me at the end of the quiz to inform my instruction for that day. What about kids without phones, you ask? My two desktops and my one iPad were both available as supplementary devices, but I honestly had no problem with kids sharing phones; after one kid was done submitting, he could pass his phone to his neighbor for a quick turn answering the quiz. (P.S. If the kids did cheat this way, they were very bad at it ;))

Number 2: Reading Comprehension Checks

Another idea for using the phone devices that students do have is to create short formative assessments. Sites such as Socrative or Kahoot make review fun. In my classroom, I loved using Newsela as a site for nonfiction content related to fiction I was addressing in my class. However, the quizzes were pretty difficult.  By using the more gamified sites, I was able to quiz over those articles quickly with student phones and they thought they were just having fun. Two students could again share if the quizzes were short enough.

Number 3: Lightning Debates with Instant Feedback

One of my final teaching posts entailed me teaching honors 9th grade lit. Those kids loved to debate. They may not have been interested in everything I did in class, but if there was a chance to argue or make their points, they were certainly interested in that. Here’s where their phones came into play and made debating more fun and relevant. I lined students up facing another student in desks. They had previously researched a controversial topic such as euthanasia when I taught Tuesdays with Morrie. As the students went back in a point-counterpoint style debate, the other students had phones out and were able to vote for the winner in the three minutes that the the debate took. At the end, I had a grade on the rubric and was able to add bonus points for the winning student in each team. None of this required computers or iPads, just the devices in their pockets.

Number 4: Video Feedback

I’ve mentioned several times on the blog that the feedback students care most about is not the teacher’s. It’s that of their classmates or the greater world. This next idea for using phones when there aren’t enough regular devices addresses that need. I used Poll Daddy, which allows you to create free polls that are embeddable on a website. When students completed a video project, such as the time I had them present grammar terms or vocabulary words in a fun video, they were able to share the voting link with family and friends both inside and outside the school. Whoever got the most votes was declared the winner of Lolley’s Red Carpet Awards. How did students do their voting? From a phone 🙂

Number 5: Free Phone Apps for Classroom Tools

Finally, a last way to take advantage of non-traditional devices that students already carry is to connect them to free apps that support your learning management system or class digital notebook. The apps I like are OneNote, Canvas LMS, and any of the Google apps. Again, all are free and all are perfectly powerful on handheld devices.

Three Ideas for Getting More Classroom Devices

I’ve talked a lot in today’s  post about how to use hand-held technology, but what if you don’t even have that? What if your classroom is a no tech land? I have three ideas for you. Number one is to submit a Donors Choose Grant. Of course, you need to follow your district’s guidelines on how grants can be submitted, but if this high school teacher who generally didn’t get presents could get donations enough to buy class iPad, so can you.

Tip number two is ask parents to send in old phones. I don’t know about you, but I have at least one or two phones sitting in a drawer at my house. They’re not in service either because we upgraded or because they weren’t functional for what we wanted to use them for. However, if they can connect to Wi-Fi, the pared-down versions may be perfectly good for what needs to happen in your classroom. Tap those parent resources.

Finally, as I tell some of my schools that are not one to one, use what you have. Even if it’s small, if you can prove to your district or your parents or whoever is holding the purse strings that you are determined to use technology in your classroom despite the limitations, it’s going to send a message to somebody and when there is technology to give, I’m sure it will come to you.

No man is an island, and neither is a classroom teacher. Though I thought of some ideas for using the tech you have and even getting more, I would love to hear yours. Share something that will rock my socks off in the comments below.

With Tech and Twang,

Suzy Signature Pink

Check out the video below, which is embedded from the Facebook Live Tech Tuesday session I host every week at facebook.com/techlolley at 8PM EST.

Tech Tuesday #12: Increase Teacher and Student Efficiency with the Number System

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Running a class of 25-30 students a day is overwhelming; add to that the stress of managing students when you switch classes five times, and the organization the teacher needs is multiplied exponentially! As an eleven-year middle and high school teacher, I often looked for ways to cut down the stress by adding organizational procedures to my classroom. One of these that stayed with me year after year was what I call the number system. The definition is simple–I assigned each student a number. It was simple to do; I just went down my alphabetical roster in order. As students moved out and new students took their places, I was able to reuse out-of-order numbers with incoming students without changing the existing students’ numbers around. I loved this system, and I’m excited to share in this post my top six ways to use the number system in the classroom. Ready?

Six Ways to Use Numbers to Make the Classroom More Efficient

  1. After students have been assigned numbers, use a random number generator. You can find these generators everywhere, and I prefer one that has an iframe embed code you can easily put on your LMS or website. Let’s say students have projects due a certain day; you and I both know not everyone’s presentation can fit in that one day, and yet we want to be fair with due dates. Enter the random number generator! After allowing volunteers to go first, simply “spin the wheel;” if a person’s number comes up, it’s their turn to present. I never had flack for being unfair on presentations, because it was the machine, not me, making the decisions. 
  2. Have students take their own attendance. True story: I probably should have been fired more than once for forgetting to take daily attendance when I was a middle school teacher. Our registrar at the middle school warned me that at the high school, attendance every period was going to be my downfall. That’s where my use of the number system to have students do a self check-in saved my life…or at least my career. I created a multicolored Smartboard file, and it was ugly but functional. I had enough slides for each class, each with a different-colored background. The colors reminded me and the students to switch the slide if needed. Each slide was labeled with two columns, absent and present, and enough numbers for all my students were in the absent side by default. As students entered the room, they knew to walk by my board and slide their numbers from absent to present. This board served two purposes for me: because attendance was taking up my whole board, it reminded me to enter my attendance into our system. Second, it sped up the attendance process overall; I only had to verify those whose numbers had not been moved over, taking about thirty seconds, as opposed to the time needed to call a whole roster of students.  Feel free to visit Smart Exchange, Promethean Planet, or even PowerPoint to find or make cuter ones than mine, but my slide deck is linked below to give you inspiration. Here’s a final couple tips if you decide to integrate this use of the number system: don’t save the slide deck when  you close it; you want it to be blank and ready for the next class. However, if you’re like me and may save by accident, include an extra slide at the end for each group so you’ll have blanks just in case. 
  3. Write student numbers on clothespins. As an English teacher, I knew my grading would always take forever. I probably could have gotten it done a little faster if I didn’t dread it so badly! As such, my slowness caused an inconvenience for parents, because those students who hadn’t done their work wouldn’t see zeroes in the gradebook until I had gotten around to grading. That meant there was little opportunity for them to get their missing work made up.  Cue the number system. This tip is low-tech but so helpful! Buy some clothespins and use a Sharpie to write numbers on each of them.  You will need one set for each class, so I color-coded mine the same way I had colored my attendance slides. I put each group’s pins in a jar in the front of the room, near my turn-in trays for work. As students came to turn in work, i had them pull their numbers from the appropriate class jar to clip on their papers. Remember that I taught upper grades? Students in those grades still love to help, believe it or not. I had a student secretary who would quickly put the clothespinned-papers in order and mark off on a roster whose work was missing. The numbers made the papers easy to organize, so I was ready to put in zeroes quickly for parent information and student makeup capabilities.
  4. The fourth reason to use the number system is that students can do anonymous editing of each other’s papers. If you train your students to write only their numbers on their papers, at least for essays, they are able to give honest feedback to each other when editing. No more popularity contests! Students can give praise or critical feedback honestly and really help their partners be more prepared for the assessment process when it comes. 
  5. I also used numbers to assign everything! Do you have a class set of laptops, clickers, or calculators? Students always know what number to pick up. Not only do computers boot faster when the same few users are logging on each time, but students also take ownership and are able to keep a tally on damage done by a previous classmate. I had students sign out their computers with the date on a roster every time we used them. They reported damage on that same sheet, and I was able to take care of negligence more effectively. Tracking calculators or response devices in this same way keeps them from walking away.
  6. Do you get overwhelmed by grading major essays, projects, or journals all on the same day? Use the number system to vary due dates. Break your students into groups by their numbers and according to the days of the week. Students then always know if they are “Monday people” and you do too. Know that there’s going to be certain group that wows you or others who struggle? Make it easy on yourself! Be strategic with who you grade each day of the week, so that there’s not one day of the week you dread more than others. Mix a little sunshine in each group:)
  7. I’ve saved probably my favorite use of the number system for last. Use student numbers to have them do carousel presentations. If you’re honest, your eyes (and students’) have glazed over when all students have presented to the whole class. Listening to more than twenty presentations in a row about the same topic is torturous for all involved. Try this plan instead. Hand out your grading rubric to all the students, but omit the grade part. Just leave the levels and the criteria intact. Group students according to their numbers. For example, student 1 would be in a group with students 2-5. When it’s time to present, they all watch each other and give feedback on the rubric. You might circulate among the groups, but you aren’t the one giving the feedback. In less time, students have received more feedback than they would have just from you, and they’ve heard it from an authentic audience, their peers. Here’s the best part: if you collect the rubrics at the end, and most people agree on the feedback, simply add the numbers and put that grade in the gradebook. If students disagreed, you have a few presentations to go back and review yourself.

Don’t you love the number system? Have you tried it yourself? I’d love to hear more ideas for its use in the comments below.

Love a good podcast? Listen to the episode of The Suzy Show where I describe even more about my new student strategy. Click to play below, and make sure to subscribe on your favorite podcast player app.

Want to watch me talk about it? Tune in to this episode of Tech Tuesday, which you can join every week at 8PM EST at https://www.facebook.com/techlolley/. The episode about the number system is embedded below.

Resources:

Attendance Smart Notebook

With Tech and Twang,

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Check out the video below, which is embedded from the Facebook Live Tech Tuesday session I host every week at facebook.com/techlolley at 8PM EST.