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To Text or Not to Text: Part II

During the first weeks of school, you will need to set the expectations your students should follow for the entire year.  One question you are bound to hear is, 

"Can we use our smartphones?" 

For years I fought this "change" in education.  NO!  Absolutely not!  If I see it, it goes in my desk drawer!  And then, I realized, it was happening anyway, only the phones were not being used productively.  Instead, they were hidden in their laps where they thought I couldn't see them.  So, what do I do?  Just give in?  Yes!  With structure.

Cell phones, and especially smartphones, can be a valuable tool in the classroom.  They can quickly access current events, they can be used as a dictionary or thesaurus, they can be first-stop shopping for research, and with apps and other school-friendly resources, they can become quiz buzzers, survey responders, and so much more.

So, how do you set the stage in these first days of school?
  • Include your use expectations in your syllabus and post them on your classroom expectations posters.
  • Discuss your policy on the first day of school, and every day thereafter until you are confident in the clarity and understanding of your policy.
  • And practice!
And then the policies are key!
  • All phones sit on the top of the desk, screen down, unless in class use.
  • All phone sounds must be in off mode, unless during an activity requiring sound.
  • Phones used inappropriately will be taken away immediately!
Finally, use the right resources to make your class lessons engaging, fun, and authentic!
  • Use Polleverywhere for quick student surveys to motivate classroom participation.
  • QR Code activities can keep students tied to an assignment, searching for clues and success!
  • Allow students to create Blog Talk Sessions or to hold interviews on topics with Blog Talk Radio.
  • Free GPS Features can help students with Geography lessons or with location clarification in history activities.
  • Play Games and keep students excited about learning your content!
As technology continues to advance, we have to be willing to jump on board.  If we don't, we lose our audience completely.  And teaching is no longer about "commanding" the class' attention.  Our world has changed, and now we must earn it!

Happy Teaching!

Educents Bundle Sale


 I am so excited to announce that is having a HUGE back-to-school blowout sale and I am going to be featured in one of the curriculum bundles! From July 30 - August 2 (Wednesday - Saturday), they are bringing back all of their favorite and most popular bundles for INSTANT download at up to 77% OFF! There is something for everyone and it is their BIGGEST sale of the year! Take a peak into what is on sale! Tell your friends, because there is something for everyone who teaches children in PreK-8th grade!

Preschool Full-Year Curriculum Bundle - 72% OFF


Kindergarten Full-Year Curriculum Bundle - 75% OFF


K-2 The Write Stuff ELA Bundle - 68% OFF


First Grade Literacy Bundle - 74% OFF


School Year Curriculum Bundle (Grades 2-3) - 74% OFF


Poetry Curriculum & Activities Bundle (Grades 2-6) - 75% OFF


Tricky Math Curriculum Bundle (Grades 3-5) - 69% OFF


 And, you can find two of my products in this great Grades 6-8 Bundle!

Complete Full-Year Curriculum Bundle (Grades 6-8) - 77% OFF

Management, Decor & Organization Bundle - 76% OFF


Don't Miss It!

To Text or Not to Text

As the academic world revolutionizes, secondary teachers are finding they have many new options for resources in their classrooms.  While many schools and districts are still making the big textbook purchases, others are opening up their instructional funds to the alternatives.  
That brings us to the question: 

To Text or Not to Text?

When I first stepped into the classroom, I had a choice of textbooks.  My first year had landed right at adoption time, and I was lucky to be presented with choices.  And then I opened the covers.  What I found inside not only bored me, but it appalled me in some instances.  And what was even more disturbing was what I didn't see.  There were very few women, positive entries on African-Americans, and literally nowhere were any other "out of the norm" groups.  And Native Americans were only seen in two categories: Weak and dependent or aggressive and violent.  As a social historian, I asked the question, "Where are the stories of the people?"

And that was just U.S. History.  If there were this many errors or omissions in U.S. History textbooks that were written by American publishers, what would be incorrect or ignored in my World History text?  And then, more importantly, how would I know?  I wanted it to be different for my students.  It became my mission to teach them to question what they learned, rather than teach them to accept what had become the standard. 

So, how can you teach without textbooks?  Here are a few tips:
  • Fill your classroom with images.  I LOVE images, and they represent the reality of the times, not just an outsider's perspective.
  • Collect books on every topic you teach.  These can be grade level books, such as The Triangle: The Fire That Changed America, or it can be books you will read to the class just to show a perspective or to introduce a topic, such as The Lorax to introduce the theme of Human-Environment Interaction in Geography.
  • Scour local and national museums (the Smithsonian and LOC will send you hard copies of primary sources for FREE) for primary sources to allow your students to analyze history.
  • Bring in contributors who actually lived history, and allow your students to investigate the past through their eyes.
  • Encourage oral histories, either viewed from museum collection internet feeds, or from family and friends of the students in your classes.
  • Gather teacher-created resources and activities to tech the content, but to also teach your students the process of investigating history and questioning everything they learn.
 And then, there is the option of using the textbooks you have been gifted in your classrooms.  Do not let them collect dust.  Instead use them as a resource.  As JUST ONE of the resources you will introduce for each topic you teach.  Utilize the pictures, the charts, and some of the prompts.  But first, teach your students that the text is never the know all, be all.  It is simply a secondary source, created to provide an outline of the history those before us thought was important to teach to America's youth.

Do you need some of those teacher created resources?  Or activities that encourage the use of primary sources or of questioning of history?  Visit My TpT Store for great resources on American History, World History, Geography and more!

Happy Teaching!

Are You Ready for Back to School?

Are you ready to go back to school?

It's almost that time again!  Time to go back into that classroom, to get things cleaned and organized, and to plan out all the great lessons you will teach in the coming weeks.  How do you handle the demands on your time, energy, and sanity?

As each school year approached for me, I first pulled out my calendar to keep myself motivated and on schedule.  Without negotiation, I created my "To-Do" calendar and then I made myself get started!  So, what did I add to my calendar?  Here's the run-down:

  • At least two 40-hour work weeks were scheduled for curriculum mapping and lesson planning 
  • 2 days were allotted for cleaning, organizing, and reorganizing my classroom
  • 1 day was granted for making copies, laminating, and hanging classroom posters (Expectations)
  • 1 day was set aside to create and recreate seating charts for each of my classroom configurations (Rows versus group activities), and for creating and pre-addressing post cards I would send out after the first week
  • 1 day was assigned for the final classroom preparation where I drew the welcome onto my board, set up my first day's activities, and laid out all of my first day materials (Syllabus, Expectations, Notebook Template, etc.)
  • 1 day for calming myself down and regulating my adrenaline before the kids walked in, some motivated and some not!
I know!  This totals up to 3 full weeks BEFORE the required Opening Day and PD days!  But, with this non-negotiable plan, I started my school year off with much less stress and anxiety than others I saw in my building.  I was able to enjoy meeting my students, I could take time to make early phone calls or to send emails, and I actually ended each of the first days of school at a reasonable time instead of spending my evenings there, worrying about what I would be doing the next day!

And if you need help on those back to school lessons, take a look in My TpT Store!  You might even find activities you can do on that very first day to make it go, oh, so much easier!

Happy Teaching!

Say the Goodbyes You Want to Say!

As the school year comes to a close, we are all often overwhelmed with everything that must be done.  We worry about the EOCs, the final exams, the last minute assignments, and all the required data analysis.  Sometimes we are so preoccupied with the "must-do" list that we forget what is most important: Saying Goodbye!

Take the time, whether in written or verbal format, to say goodbye to your students.  Let them know how they've grown, how they'd changed, how they've become the students you dreamt they would become.  But don't let them get away that easily.  Offer them advice on everything to come.  Continue to guide them in the right direction, making sure they will remember your words, and most importantly, your actions for years, or even a lifetime, to come!

Happy Teaching!

It's Coming...

The last weeks of each school year are always the hardest.  There are just so many factors coming into play, making each day its own challenge.  The students are antsy, you are thinking about your summer plans, and yet you have so much you have left to teach, and honestly, it begins to set in that you will miss these kids, no matter how cantankerous they have been through the year.

One of my favorite shows is The Middle on ABC.  When Axl graduated from high school, he and his mom fought about everything.  They even had a comedic throw down in the front yard, rolling around in the grass, over his wearing black socks to his graduation.  And then, as he crossed that stage, it hit both Frankie and Axl... it was an ending.  She would have to let him fly off to college in the fall, and she just wasn't ready to let her boy go.

It's the same way for every teacher.  There are those we simply loved, the ones we worry about being ready to go, and the ones we've just connected with that we now feel "need" us to continue on their path.  Letting go is just so hard.

How should you handle your babies graduating to the next grade or to the next stage in their lives?

I have one piece of advice... buy the softest Kleenex you can find.  A big box.  And be prepared to be sporting that red nose and those watery eyes on all those last day pics!

P.S.  Need a quick and easy survey for your last day?  Take a look at this one!

Happy Teaching!

Warn Against the Addiction!

Many of you are coming close to the end of your school year, and that means you will be giving your students all the advice you can muster for their summer free time.  Of course, we want them to read their summer assigned books, practice their math skills, and maybe get outside to practice their geography skills or to perform a  few science experiments.  But, the reality... they will be playing games.

In my first 45 years of existence, I had never been addicted to games.  Games for me growing up were fun activities I shared with my family, friends, and neighbors.  We played tag, hide and seek, Monopoly, Scrabble, and even the Quiet Game when Grandma needed a break!  While we loved these games, and the time we spent with others playing them, they were not addictive.  Today's games are a whole new arena.
When I was asked to be a presenter at the TeachersPayTeachers Conference coming up this July, I started preparing for the trip.  The conference is being held in Las Vegas, and I quickly found that this will be a very costly venture.  Meals at the grand hotels, if you are not a gambler, can run upwards of $36 a person.  Crazy!  Then, one of my friends turned me onto a little game on Facebook... myVegas slots.  It's free to play, and I earn real credits toward buffets or other Vegas necessities.  Great, right?  Wrong!

I am now addicted.  I start my day by collecting my coins from the strip, and I return frequently through the day to collect more.  I also make sure to check in often enough to keep my daily rewards, and I must play each of the bonus games they post.  It's an addiction.  The worst part - I've pulled my husband into my addiction so that we can collect X 2, so we are both now spending many of our precious minutes in front of our electronic devices instead of being outside playing the games we once loved.

But now I understand.  It is an addiction.  You must get to the next level, collect the next reward, complete the task.  And it's so easy to slip into this addiction for adults; just imagine what it is like for children, especially those who do not have parents who wish to engage them in the old fashioned ways...

So, as you prepare your students for their summer break, try your best to encourage they play the real games of life, not just those that will pull them up to the screen and never let go!

Happy Teaching!