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,

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 #11: Acclimating New Students to Class with Ease

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If I haven’t shared it before, I struggle with forgetfulness. They say it’s a sign of creativity or even genius; that’s what I’m hoping for, but as a teacher, forgetfulness, whatever the indication, isn’t generally considered a positive trait. Welcoming new students into a classroom, especially a high school one, where the students notice everything, takes enthusiasm and finesse. It also takes a lot of organization to get the student caught up and familiar with class procedures. That’s why I developed a procedure I used in my classroom and want to share with you: the new student welcome packet.

Why do teachers need a new student packet? I can think of three reasons.

  1. Your class has been up and running the whole time this student has been elsewhere. You have procedures, policies, and content that is crucial for students to know if they are going to catch up and have success in the class. The packet gives them that information in one place.
  2. In addition to these procedures, it’s easy to forget what the new kid doesn’t know until you assign homework for which he doesn’t have the information. He might need a copy of the syllabus, the LMS login, the Remind code, etc. Having this information for future reference takes stress off both student and teacher.
  3. By using the folder, the teacher can give new students purposeful activities to do the first day they join the class or for homework that night, especially if the class is finishing something they don’t have time to catch up on.

How was the folder structured?

I gave my students a colored pocket folder with prongs, instead of just a packet, because it was reusable. It was labeled with “New Student Packet” on the front and copied the elementary use for the two pockets–one pocket labeled “read and keep” versus the other labeled “sign and return.” Students were instructed to return the folder to me when they were finished with it,  as well as the returned contents.

Let’s look inside now at the folder contents. I provided a list of these requirements on a cover sheet, which I have attached a copy of in the resources section below.

  • Student number and directions for self-reported attendance
  • Syllabus plus directions for syllabus quiz to get them a real grade
  • Literary essay handout–adapt for all courses (background knowledge)
  • Account setup or orientation for LMS
  • Sign up for accounts: Remind, Turnitin, Noodle Tools, etc.
  • What the kid does need to do along with the class and extended deadlines as necessary
  • Contact information for the teacher and a reliable friend
  • Procedures list and coping strategies:
    • How to find help at home: friend, read directions again, teacher (email shows me you tried)
    • Absent work policy

The Making of a More Modern “Packet”

When I last taught high school students, I did use Edmodo as a mini-LMS, but that platform was more project-based for my class. It was not as robust as the Canvas LMS our district has now adopted. If I were to take my packet into the modern era, I would make these two changes:

  1. The information would not be a packet at all but would instead be an interactive module in my course that students and parents could access repeatedly and from anywhere.
  2. Instead of just listing the assignments the student had to go back and complete as prerequisites for the course, I would assign those to him with a different due date than the rest of the class as needed.

Want a more robust tour of my strategy? You have two ways to hear me share more about the content!

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 my new student packet is embedded below.

Below, I’ve linked my resources for you, but I would love to hear the resources and tips you would add to my list. Be sure to leave a comment!

With Tech and Twang,

Suzy Signature Pink

Related Resources:

  • New student packet
  • Online learner module–If you’re a Canvas LMS user, search the commons for “Suzy Lolley” to find and add this resource to your course.

Tech Tuesday #8: 10 Straighten-Up Strategies for Your Computer Files

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If you tuned in to last week’s episode, you might be a little cleaner this week…or at least maybe your email inbox is. However, if you are a desktop, documents, and flashdrive saver, maybe you’re in need of a file cleanup intervention as well. Look no further!

Ten Straighten-Up Strategies for Your Computer Files

    1. Use one location for your working files, and make it cloud-based. It’s hard for any of us to multi-task, and trying to figure out where we’ve saved our files when they’re in multiple locations is an unnecessary stressor. I use OneDrive, but you could use Google Drive, iCloud, Dropbox, or whatever service works for you. I call OneDrive a giant flashdrive you can’t break, lose, or fill up, and your files are accessible anywhere.
    2. Recognize the difference between a backup and a working copy. When I went to India, I took the advice of other travelers to make a paper copy of my passport. However, when I went through the airport, I didn’t hand the attendants a piece of paper; I handed them my real passport. The paper was kept safe in my suitcase, in case of anything akin to the movie Taken.
    3. When copying or moving files from multiple locations, right-click on a file location and use the “open in a new window” feature. It’s just like opening a new tab in a browser; you can look at one file location without closing another, and the tip works perfectly when used with tip number four.
    4. In conjunction with the new window, use the WINDOWS + ARROW keys to split the screen. I always knew you could split a screen manually by dragging, but with Windows 10, this two-button combination makes moving files to a centralized location even easier.
  1. Renaming files is essential if you want to stay organized. If you’re using a cloud service, you’ll find the auto-saving to be an amazing feature, but the default name of such documents is not helpful at all. When those documents sync down to your computer, you’re left with twenty Word documents all named “Document 1.” Thus, it’s important that wherever you create and save your documents, you save them in such a way as to make them searchable later.
  2. When you need to organize multiple files, remember these two crucial buttons for moving contiguous or non-contiguous files: SHIFT and CTRL. If you want to move ten documents in a row, click the first file, hold down SHIFT and click the last one to grab them all. Need to pull non-contiguous groups of documents at once? Use CTRL; keep holding it while you click multiple documents that you can copy and paste where they need to go.
  3. Need to paste a document into your cloud sync folder? Remember the white space. Sometimes when you’re pasting a file to a location that already has a lot of files in it, you start to lose room for adding new files. Make sure to look for a white space on the edge of the destination folder to paste safely to the root of the drive without accidentally putting your file into a sub-folder where you’ll never find it again.
  4. Want to sort a frequently-accessed folder to the top of your list? Add an underscore. Simply add an underscore to the beginning of your assignment title when renaming, and you’ll never struggle to find that favorite folder again.
  5. Be consistent when renaming files, so that they will sort correctly. Especially if you’re going to use numbers in your titles, make sure they are formatted the same. For instance, sometimes your folder that starts with a 10 wants to file before the folder that starts with a 1; try different renaming strategies to see what works for you.
  6. The ultimate straighten-up strategy? Delete unwanted and unneeded files. Whether you’re working on the computer itself or the cloud, there’s always a recycle bin. In case you have cleaner’s remorse, you can always go back and restore the file, at least for thirty days. Most files I’ve deleted I never need again; take the plunge and delete, knowing that you can retrieve the deleted file if need be.

Want to see all these straighten-up strategies in action? After all, a video picture is worth a thousand words. Check out the video below, filmed on Facebook Live every Tuesday night at 8:30 PM EST.

Do you have other strategies I missed? Please share them in the comments below.

With Tech and Twang,

Suzy Signature Pink