February 2, 2017

Interactive Teaching with Plickers (Free Webinar)

Click HERE to Register for the Webinar

Do you use Plickers in your classroom? If not, it's definitely worth taking time to check it out!

Plickers is an amazing FREE formative assessment tool that works like handheld response clicker programs, but it's far cheaper because it doesn't require expensive clicking devices.

If you've heard about Plickers, you might be wondering why everyone is so excited about it, especially if you tried to figure out how to use it on your own. Because Plickers can be a little confusing at first, the best way to learn how it works is to have someone walk you through the set up and explain how to use the program's features.

If you don't know anyone who uses Plickers, I'm here to help! I'm offering a free webinar to show you exactly how to get started and how to use the program to actively engage your students. If you want to know more, click over to the Interactive Teaching with Plickers registration page and sign up now!

In the meantime, let me share a little more about how Plickers works. You won't need to purchase expensive clicker devices because this innovative program uses "paper clickers" that you can print for free from the Plickers website. You only need one card per student, and each card has a unique pattern that can be scanned like a QR code with just about any mobile device.

When you're ready to use Plickers with your students, you'll display multiple choice questions for the class one at a time. Your students will respond to each question by holding up and turning their cards in one of 4 directions. Next, you'll scan all the student response cards from the front of the room by pointing your mobile device camera at the class and “sweeping” it around the room. Within moments, data will appear on your device to show who answered the problem correctly and who still needs help. That same data will also be captured in your online Plickers account to review and analyze later. Being able to capture assessment data quickly and easily means you can teach interactively and adapt your instruction to the needs of individual students without having to take home stacks of papers to grade each night!

I learned about Plickers over a year ago, and I loved it right away! I couldn’t believe that something so amazing was FREE! I started sharing information about it on my Teaching Resources page, and every time I did, the post went viral. Dozens of teachers commented on those posts to tell me how much they loved Plickers and about all the interesting things they were doing with the program.

January 25, 2017

Chinese New Year: Free Teaching Resources

Celebrating the Chinese New Year is a terrific way to introduce kids to the concept of holidays around the world. Your students may not realize that people in other countries often celebrate completely different holidays, or they may celebrate the same holidays but have different holiday traditions.

For example, most countries celebrate the new year on the first day of January, but the Chinese New Year can fall anywhere between January 20th and February 20th. In 2017, the Chinese New Year begins on January 28th. New Years celebrations in most countries include festive events like parades and fireworks, but there are also many differences in New Year's Day traditions.

I'd like to share two activities I developed to help students explore the similarities and differences between the Chinese New Year and New Year traditions in the United States. The first activity consists of a Venn diagram and facts to sort about the Chinese and American New Years. The second activity is a guided discussion based on the book Sam and the Lucky Money.

Both of these activities are in my February Activities pack, which is free for my newsletter subscribers. If you aren't on my mailing list, click here to sign up for Candler's Classroom Connections, and I'll send you this free 26-page February Activities pack.

Comparing Chinese and American New Years
A Venn diagram is a great tool for exploring the similarities and differences between the Chinese New Year and New Year celebrations in other countries. Here's a lesson outline you can use with upper elementary students, but feel free to modify it as needed with your own students.

1. Prior Knowledge Sorting Activity 
Before you begin, assign partners and ask students to sit with their partners. Tell the class that they will be learning about the Chinese New Year, and ask them to talk with their partners about anything they may have learned in the past about this holiday is similar to or different from the American New Year.

Next, give each pair one copy of the American and Chinese Facts printable and have them cut apart the fact slips. Then give them the Venn diagram printable or have them draw a Venn diagram with the two circles labeled Chinese New Year and American New Year. Tell them that you'd like them to guess where each fact goes on the Venn diagram. To do this, have them to shuffle the slips of paper, stack them face down, and take turns flipping over the facts. As each fact is revealed, the students talk over where they think it should be placed on the Venn diagram, and they place the slip of paper accordingly.

2. Reading and Researching the Facts
Leave the slips of paper in place for the next part of the activity, but cover the Venn diagram with a sheet of paper. Or use a digital device to take a snapshot of each Venn diagram if you aren't able to complete the lesson in one sitting.

Read aloud aloud a children's book like Chinese New Year for Kids or an informational text article about the Chinese New Year. As you read, ask your students to think about where they placed the slips of paper representing the facts about Chinese and American New Years. When you finish reading, ask students to uncover their Venn diagrams and move any slips they feel need to be changed. Before moving any of the fact slips, they need to discuss those changes with their partners.

If there are any fact slips that were not mentioned in the book or article, allow time for students to research those facts online or in the school media center. An answer key is provided in the freebie.

If your students discover other Chinese or American New Year traditions that are not described on the slips of paper, ask them to write the new facts directly on the Venn diagram.


3. Interview Family Members About New Years Traditions
For homework, ask students to interview a parent, grandparent, or other family member to find out what they know about New Year traditions in their own country. They should also ask if their families have any special New Year customs or traditions of their own. When students return to school the next day, provide time for them to share what they learned and add any relevant details to their Venn diagrams.

4. Lesson Wrap Up: Read Sam and the Lucky Money
For a final look at Chinese New Year traditions, read and discuss the favorite children's book, Sam and the Lucky Money. This story is based on the tradition of giving money in red envelopes on special occasions. In this touching story, a young boy named Sam learns what it means to be lucky. You can use these discussion cards to lead a whole class discussion, or use the cards with one of the cooperative learning discussion strategies I described in my post, Task Card Talk: 6 Strategies to Boost Learning.


Discover More Freebies in the February Activities Pack
Are you wondering why this activity is in my February Activities pack when the Chinese New Year is in January? As you might have guessed, this freebie is one I created several years ago, and the Chinese New Year was in February the year I developed the activity. So that's where it's stayed, despite the fact that sometimes the holiday is in January. In addition to these activities, you'll find loads of other printables and lessons for February, including resources for winter, Black History Month, International Friendship Month, and Valentine's Day. Enjoy!

January 22, 2017

Promoting Kindness in the Classroom through Teambuilding

I've been a fan of cooperative learning since I first stepped into a classroom, and I'm convinced that teaching kids how to work with others is one of the best gifts we can give them. Research consistently shows that in order to be successful in any career, we have to know how to get along with others and to work together as a part of a team.

These social skills are important in everyday life, too. People who embrace diversity and who treat others with kindness are far more likely to be happy than those who are rude and who have no tolerance for different perspectives.

Now more than ever, we need to take a stand against bullying and intolerance. We must proactively teach kids how to treat each other with kindness and respect. But we need to do more than teach kids to tolerate diversity, we should teach our students to appreciate each other's differences and celebrate their uniqueness!

I'll be the first to admit that it's not always easy to foster these character traits in the classroom. Cooperative learning provides a framework for promoting kindness, but teaching kids how to get along with others requires more than just seating them together in teams and telling them to work together. We need to teach specific social skills and do everything in our power to foster a caring classroom community, right from the first day of school. I believe in this point so strongly that I've created a whole page on Teaching Resources called How to Create a Caring Classroom. Visit that page to check out the freebies and other resources there which include a free replay of my webinar, How to Launch a Super School Year. I also created an entire page on my site with strategies for teaching social skills in the classroom.

The best place to start promoting kindness is within cooperative learning teams. When students take part in teambuilding activities, they develop stronger bonds with their teammates. As they work with different teams throughout the year, they will eventually connect with all of their classmates and will learn to appreciate everyone's unique qualities.

Teaching Students How to Give Genuine Compliments
One powerful strategy for fostering appreciation for others is to teach students how to give and receive genuine compliments. Some children might not have any experience at all with praising and complimenting others, so begin the lesson by having your class brainstorm a list of positive statements and words of appreciation.

Remind your students that no one wants to hear empty praise because we know when others are not being sincere. Sometimes it takes a little work to find meaningful ways to praise and compliment each other, but it's worth the effort. If you've introduced growth mindset to your students, remind them that praising someone for being persistent or open to new ideas is more meaningful than telling someone that they are smart or pretty. Here are some sentence starters you might want to introduce:
  • I like the way you.... 
  • I appreciate it when you.... 
  • Thanks for... 
  • I enjoy working with you because...
  • I admire the way you... 
  • What's special about you is...
  • I'm glad you're on my team because... 
Teambuilding to Promote Classroom Kindness   
After you discuss what it means to give a genuine compliment, you'll need to provide opportunities for your students to practice this skill. Cooperative learning teams are the perfect place for students to test out these strategies in a safe environment. Furthermore, the process of actively looking for positive traits and complimenting others is a powerful teambuilding tool.

One way to do this this is to assign a team task that's somewhat challenging, such as a STEM activity, and ask your students to practice complimenting each other as they work together. After you introduce the activity, remind your students to look for opportunities to give specific and genuine compliments. Walk around the room as they work, and point out any nice compliments that you hear. For example, stop next to a team and say something like, "I just heard a really nice compliment in this team. Sally complimented Linda for coming up with a creative way to holding the straws together on their puff mobile."



Team Compliment Cards
Another effective strategy is creating Team Compliment Cards. In this activity, students show appreciation for their teammates by writing compliments on homemade cards. Each person writes his or her name on one card, and all cards are passed around the team. As the cards are passed from student to student, they write compliments about the person who is the “star” of each card. Finally, the cards are returned to their creators, and everyone can read the compliments their teammates have written about them.

To find the full directions, download the Team Compliments Cards Freebie from my TpT store. Several templates are included, or you can have students create their own cards from blank paper. This activity works really well after students have been working with the same team for several weeks, and it's a great closure activity to do right before you move students to new teams. In fact, this activity is so powerful that after students read their compliment cards, it's not unusual for some of them to beg me to keep their team together for a few more weeks!

Promoting Kindness in the Classroom
I hope these teambuilding strategies will make it a little easier for you to promote kindness in your classroom. To find additional resources, search TpT using the hashtag #kindnessnation to discover dozens of freebies from TpT sellers who believe that promoting kindness and acceptance of others should be a priority in every classroom. To make this task a little easier, we've joined together to provide teachers with ready-to-use resources for fostering a caring classroom community. Enjoy!


December 28, 2016

Join the Teachers Working Smarter Facebook Group

Have you heard the buzz lately about the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club? It's an amazing course that Angela Watson of the Cornerstone for Teachers blog developed to help teachers learn how to trim hours off their work weeks and achieve work/life balance.

Despite its title, the course isn't really about reducing your work week to just 40 hours, although some members do just that. It's about learning to use your time more productively so that you can get more done in less time, thereby reducing your work load and the number of hours you spend working.

How much would it be worth to you if you could trim 10 or more hours from your work week? 

Saving that much time might seem like an impossible goal, but surveys of 40 HTW Club members have shown that it's more than possible - its the norm!

In fact, club members trim an average of 11 hours from their work weeks!

Surveys show that teachers who enroll in the course reduce their work weeks from an average of 62 hours to 51 hours by the time they graduate from it! That's more than 500 hours a year!

The 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club isn't free, of course, but the resources you'll receive will far outweigh the cost of enrollment. It almost sounds too good to be true, so I wouldn't blame you if you were a bit skeptical.

Join the Teachers Working Smarter Facebook Group
That's why I created a private Facebook group called Teachers Working Smarter. I wanted a place where teachers who are already in the 40 HTW Club could connect with those who are thinking of joining. Angela isn't a part of the group because I want members to be able to ask anything they want about the club. Whether you're a current club member or you're interested in learning more, I invite you to join!

To sign up for the Teachers Working Smarter Group, please take BOTH steps below:
  1. Fill out this Google Doc form with your contact information. 
  2. Click over to the Teachers Working Smarter Facebook group and then click the Join button to request membership. 

Note: Your membership status will appear as pending until I approve it, which I will do if you've filled out the Google Doc form in step 1. However, I only approve memberships a few times a day, so please be patient!

Remember how I asked what it would be worth if you could trim 10 or more hours from your workweek? Many would say that saving that much time would be PRICELESS!

You could use that time to start taking better care of yourself, as I wrote in New Year's Resolutions to Keep the Joy in Teaching.

You could also use those extra hours to spend more time with your family. Within a week of joining, one club member wrote that she was thrilled to finally able to eat dinner with her family instead of staying late at work every day. Another shared that she had not been able to attend her daughter's dance recitals until after enrolling in the course and learning how to use her time more productively!

How will YOU use the extra time you carve out for yourself? I look forward to reading YOUR success story in the Teachers Working Smarter Facebook Group!




Full disclosure: The links shared in this post are affiliate links, but I can assure you that I would never recommend anything to you that I didn't believe in 100%. I'm a member of the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club and it's absolutely amazing... and life-changing!

December 25, 2016

New Year's Resolutions That Will Keep the Joy in Teaching

Are you making any New Year's Resolutions? If you're like most people, you've identified at least a few goals to accomplish this year, and I'm guessing that improving your physical fitness and health is one of them.

But achieving that goal is going to take more than determination. It will take TIME, and that's something most teachers don't have! 

That's why I'm excited to share about an amazing program called the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club! Angela Watson developed this course to help teachers achieve work/life balance, which will free up TIME to achieve ALL of the important goals in your life!

I'll tell you more about the program later in this post, but first I want you to understand why it's so important to learn strategies that will drastically reduce the amount of time you spend working.

Let's get back to that goal of improving your physical fitness and health. When it comes right down to it, taking better care of yourself means taking time to do the things that will improve your overall health such as:
  • exercising every day 
  • shopping for and preparing healthy foods
  • getting more sleep
  • relaxing and doing something for ourselves each day 
However, most teachers are up at the crack of dawn and they're in their classrooms before most people roll out of bed! And a teacher's day doesn't end at 3 pm when the kids leave because there are meetings to attend, lessons to write, papers to grade, materials to prepare for the next day... need I say more? Then it's off to run errands, cook (or buy) dinner for the family, help their own children with homework, grade more papers, plan more lessons... only to fall into bed exhausted at the end of the day! Even weekends don't necessarily mean time off, because teachers often spend time on Saturday and/or Sunday planning lessons, grading papers, and reading professional books.

No wonder teachers find it almost impossible to take of themselves! They spend 95% of their day taking care of everyone else! When you add up the hours teachers spend at school or on schoolwork, the time can easily add up to 60, 70, or 80 hours a WEEK!


Remember that New Year's Resolution to get physically fit and healthy?

It's not gonna happen unless you deal with the REAL problem which is that your life is completely out of balance! You're spending too much time on schoolwork and not enough time on YOU!

Face it. There's no way you're going to find time to take care of yourself until you get a handle on your workload and learn to achieve work/balance.  

But wait... is that even possible? I didn't use to think so. I was convinced that I had to work 70 or 80 hours a week to get the job done, and I couldn't see any other option without sacrificing the quality of my work or shortchanging my students.

But I was wrong. It IS possible for teachers to achieve work/life balance!