The first few weeks of school are probably the hardest to plan for because there are so many logistics that are involved in getting started. I recently typed this up for a new co-worker and thought I would share it here as well. Hope it helps!
Open in Google Drive
This post is going to focus on things you can do to help yourself stay organized.
1. Curriculum binders
If you will be creating your own handouts for students, I suggest printing a copy for yourself and creating your own binder. Living in a paperless world is great, but I personally think it's faster to flip through a well organized stack. For every document I create, I include the file name in the footer so I can easily find it again to modify.
I organize my binders using dividers labeled by topic rather than chapter sections. During the course of your career, the order in which you teach things will change, so it's just easier to look for the topic. Label the spine of your binder with what's inside.
2. Write down everything and REFLECT!
What you plan on Tuesday may not be what you actually accomplish on Wednesday. As soon as you have a minute, write down what you actually did. If it went great or horribly, write that down too. Next year when you get to that unit, these notes will help you change your pacing and know what to revamp!
3. Have a designated area where students turn-in papers. Never let them hand you anything.
I never want a student to accuse me of losing their paper, so I make it their responsibility to put it in to the tray. I label the trays by period, rather than level, because it helps me track down the owners of no-name papers more easily. From the tray, it goes into my accordion folder to be graded. My students grade their own homework in class (it's based on completion), so I don't pass that back, but I do keep all assignments paper-clipped together in different identical "graded" trays on my desk. Each graded tray also has a folder in it for work that I need to pass back, such as tests. I keep the papers until the end of the quarter just in case the online grade book glitches, or a student wants to argue with me that s/he "really turned something in." I let them look through the pile for that assignment and find it.
4. Keep a calendar
You will have SO. MANY. MEETINGS. Put them in your phone with alerts, write them in your date book, or find a system that works for you, but don't miss or be late to those meetings. That's a huge red flag to administrators.
5. Organize your Google Drive and email
If your school is Google Docs obsessed like mine, your Drive will be overwhelmingly cluttered in no time and finding the files you want will seem daunting. Before the school year starts, create general folders. I suggest the following:
Similarly, if you are making a new doc for yourself, open the folder you want before creating it.
As a last resort, you can always use the search bar in Google Drive if you remember what something was titled =).
My sixth graders finished our final unit with just two days to spare and I found myself in a panic of what to do on our last day. In one of those truly magical teacher moments, I pulled something out of the air that ended up being a GREAT activity that I will repeat next year.
On the first day of class, I greeted students at the door with cognate cards and I did some storytelling to show them that Spanish would be easy to understand and fun to learn. (See the complete blog post here).
On the last day of class, I passed out the cards again, giving about 6-7 to each table, along with a piece of paper. I told them that they were going to show my how much they had learned this year by revisiting what we did on the first day of school. They should use the cards as a jumping off point, as well as any words they had learned this year to write their own stories that they then read to the class. Both they and I were REALLY impressed by how far they had come! Here is an example of one group's story.
How two workshops inspired a truly memorable lesson!
students take notes on their own while I was at an amazing conference soaking up fantastic ideas from inspiring teachers! Here are the guided notes I gave them to complete while watching his videos. The links to his videos are embedded in the document. (Click the read more button to see what I did with all the extra time that created!)
I am happy to report that it was a great success and I am so proud of them for all their efforts! The project ended up taking about 3 weeks to complete. As a quick recap: the students read an article that made them want to support a charity. I suggested that they work in groups to create a pitch deck to persuade the other students in the class to vote for their charity. I provided students with a checklist of items to include in their pitch decks (shown below) and they did the rest! What I loved about this project was that each day turned into a new cross-curricular lesson! Here is a snapshot:
students "study for the quiz tomorrow", but we never actually teach them how to do that. Many of them have no clue where to start.
I decided I was going to start showing my 7th graders how to do this. I made this handout for them and explained that we were going to practice how to study today. I told them that these strategies will apply to other classes and will be extra useful for high school. One of my students exclaimed "This is so helpful! All teachers should do this! I never know how to study!" I felt immediately satisfied that this was a necessary lesson.
While the internet has provided a ton of authentic material, finding something that is comprehensible for students is also challenging and time consuming.
To fill this void, I have begun compiling cartoons, videos, and other listening passages for students!
With Edpuzzle you can crop videos to only show the most relevant section and then embed questions for students to answer throughout!
Let me back up and provide some background. This year I am teaching a class comprised of 7th and 8th grade students called Spanish Seminar. The class is a bit of a hodge-podge of students who speak Spanish as their first language and some who have had Spanish since Kindergarden, but don't speak it at home. It's the first time we've had enough kids to run a class like this, and so we have no real curriculum. I have really been flying be the seat of my pants - borrowing from both the ELA standards and looking at the high school's curriculum to try to best meet everyone's unique needs. On top of everything, the group dynamic of the class has been really lack-luster. They are hands-down the shyest class of students I have ever taught, and I find myself begging them to talk and share their thoughts! But today something magical happened!
WIth my older students who have already learned about and been exposed to Day of the Dead, I find that a quick review is more effective and age-appropriate.
A big goal for me this year was to add more cultural lessons into my classroom. I started by purchasing Sra. Cruz's amazing Cultura Diaria - Daily Hispanic Culture Facts for Each Day of Spanish Class as my daily bell-ringer for my 6th graders. I made them a supplemental note-taking packet to go with it, and each week we look at a different country. Over the course of the week, they
The beginning of the year can be so fun! You're excited to get to know your kids and help them learn new things! But then --big sigh-- you have to REVIEW! Oh no!! Is it just me or does that suck all the fun out of everything?!
Here is my solution: Differentiated review stations!
Since we loop with our students, they already know our expectations, but it's still important to remind them, and there are always new students. This year, I put all my policies into Quizlet (which you can modify!) and gave the students 5 minutes to read over them. (Suggestion, have them use the flashcard feature, but select "start with both" so they see the whole thing at once.) After 5 minutes, I started the game. I had planned to play 3-4 times because it's fast paced, but they begged me to keep playing, so we played for about 15 minutes. They were so incredibly engaged and I didn't need to do a thing! It worked so well that I did it with my first year students as well, and I'm willing to bet that I won't have to remind them of things nearly as much as with previous groups where we just read through rules the boring way. Let me know what you think if you try it out as well!
My classroom is really energetic and silly, but it only works because we also have structure and routine. These routines allow me to cut down on transition time and redirection, giving us more time for learning and fun! If I ever forget to do one of the items below, my students always remind me because kids feel safer when they know what to expect! Here are 5 things we do every day.
Teaching can be a very isolating job at times. Depending on the culture of your school or what you teach, you may go an entire day without talking to another adult. Here are some tips for navigating those ever-tricky workplace dynamics. They may sound like common sense, but you'd be surprised how often these suggestions are overlooked.
As a brand new teacher, you are probably armed with lots of templates and formats for writing formal lesson plans that you turned into your professors. You probably learned about backwards design and the UBD lesson planning process. Well, these are great tools, but as a first year teacher, you're probably not going to use them. At least, not the way they are intended to be used. As a first year teacher, your main goal is to stay one step ahead of your students and keep your head above water. And that's OK!! There is sooooo much to learn, that you can't possibly plan for it all and put it into a nice neat package.
Tip # 1: Be kind to yourself
You are in a new job, in a new environment, with new people, and a new curriculum. You're not going to be perfect and nobody (other than yourself) expects you to be!
Tip # 2: Don't over-plan your lessons
This may seem counterintuitive, so give me a second to explain.
There's nothing scarier for a new teacher than when you finish a lesson, look at the clock, and realize you still have 15 minutes left and nothing left to do. Here are some time-filler games that require no preparation and are both fun and educational!
1. ¡Adios!: Students form a line shoulder to shoulder. The teacher provides a word and the students have to spell it one letter at a time. (TIP: I type the word on my Smart Board as they say each letter for those visual learners). If we are spelling HOLA, the students go down the line and say (in Spanish) H-O-L-A. The next person says the definition in English, the person after that says ¡Adios! (or any "magic" word you want) and the following person is out for no reason at all. You are also out if you get your letter or definition wrong. Sometimes I let the people who get out (for no reason at all) choose the next word or type to keep them engaged.
2. Yo....¡Yo también!: I learned this as an ice-breaker game during staff development and modified it for my class. All the students sit on their desks and one student makes a true statement about themselves. If another student has that in common with them, they raise their hand and call out ¡Yo también! (Me too!) and say a new statement about themselves. After they participate, they sit in their seat and the goal is to get everyone to say something and show that we are all connected in some way.
3. Circumlocution riddles: Have students create definitions in Spanish for their current vocabulary list and share them with the class as riddles. Increase the complexity of the game by letting them pick any word they can define in Spanish. Whoever solves the riddle can make up the next one!
Ex: Es una fruta roja. (una manzana)
Es para escribir. (un lápiz)
You can use these posters previewed below to help teach them the basics of circumlocution.
4. Quizlet Live: I've written two other blog posts about this game and why I think it's the coolest thing since sliced bread, but this is the ultimate no planning required time filler!
5. Duolingo: I love this app too because you can use it for full class practice or let kids go off and do their own thing. It's an awesome time filler! Check out this blog post all about it!
One of the very first units that comes up in any language curriculum is numbers and counting, but if your textbook is anything like mine, they give you almost no resources or time. Our textbook recommends spending 2 weeks on the "preliminary chapter" which covers about 6 different topics! No way! My co-workers and I have given ourselves the entire first quarter for this - a whopping 9 weeks. Now, to most teachers, this sounds interminable. How can you possibly teach alphabet, numbers, greetings, and weather for a full 9 weeks?!? How boring!! Well, I am going to give you my lesson plans below for the numbers unit, and hopefully this will give you some ideas to spice things up, and ultimately, help your students actually learn it long term!
For you skimmers out there, games are highlighted in blue font and links are red!
Back in January I wrote a post about pre-teaching with Quizlet and I wanted to follow up because it has just been such an amazing tool!
We recently finished reading Pobre Ana and Patricia va a California in my Spanish A and B classes. We were really crunched for time this year, so I didn't have as much time as I would have liked to pre-teach new vocabulary. Instead, my colleagues and I created Quizlets for each chapter and assigned them as homework. Before reading each day, we would play Quizlet Live (See this post for more details!) so that the students were incentivized to actually study the night before. It made reading a million times smoother and kids actually retained the words better than through regular vocabulary instruction and PQA. The great thing about Quizlet is that you can do the flashcards with sound. Here is how I ask my students to use it:
1. Go through the flashcards or list 1-2 times with the sound on so you can head the pronunciation.
2. Use one of the active study tools in Quizlet for as long as you need to feel comfortable with the words. This will differ per person.
I can't say enough good things about this product and highly recommend that all teachers try it!
This year we were asked to adopt the idea of Growth Mindset, an idea from Carol Dweck, an author and leading researcher in the field of motivation. The main idea behind growth mindset is that we don't have a fixed intelligence and we can all get better at something if we put in enough work. (I'm trying to get better at blogging and marketing right now!!😉 )This was presented to us during a staff meeting and coupled with the idea of grading. Some of my coworkers and I started talking after the meeting "Does this mean we have to allow unlimited retakes? Won't kids just choose not to study so they can see what's on the test and then ask to do a retake?" There's a lot of sticky questions to navigate, but I thought I'd give it a try in a small way.
"We heard Spanish is awesome today!" said several students in my afternoon class on the day I introduced Quizlet live. I even had coworkers coming up to me all week asking me to show them this new game their kids are all buzzing about! So naturally, I wanted to share it here as well!
Quizlet live allows you to take any set of flashcards with 12 or more terms and turn them into a fast-paced, competition among your students. All you need to do is sign up for a free teacher account, select the study deck you want, and click on the new "live" button. It could be a set you've created, or one of the millions of sets already in their database.
But then during my second year of teaching, I went to a workshop by Carol Gaab on TPRS and my mind was blown! I learned more in one workshop than in most of my methods classes combined! I couldn't believe how amazing this strategy was and that nobody had ever shown it to me before! This was amazing!! I went back to school the next Monday and dove right in with my students and they gobbled it up. They loved everything about it and both their fluency and engagement skyrocketed! It was a miracle! But how do I still teach the required elements of my school's textbook curriculum?