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news & tips

A collection of helpful articles on teachers and teaching

New Year, New Resources

The start of every year brings some surprises. As teachers we are always adjusting to increasing and decreasing class sizes and kids who switch classes like most folks switch clothing. How do we cope with the changing nature of the start of a year or semester and still keep the course and learning moving ahead? I ask you to post what you do so that this blog becomes a site where we learn from our collective wisdom.

My contribution comes from wise elementary teachers. At the start of the year the lessons are pretty much set so there is a good road map to follow that can usually be printed out from your hard drive.  The problem is that often that material is not as clear as it is in teacher language and not kid talk. One 5th grade teacher told me to select a different student every day or every week and hand them good old fashioned carbon paper. When they took notes they place the carbon and a piece of paper in their notebook and you will have a student voice explanation of what we did in class that day. I tried this and handed this set of notes to a new student. The packet was about 12 pages long. That 12 page guide to our class provided the new student with a valuable guide to getting caught up. I did that every day after that and had notes for absent students. This may be worth more than gold in the coming flu season.

One caution is that we know some students take horrible notes. I try to find a group of good note takers and reward them with coupons that are good for turning in homework a day late, special class privileges and my undying gratitude for being the main note takers. It is important to try to let everyone in your class take a turn at this as it does help them with the quality of their notes and when someone else is reading their writing it always makes kids crank up the quality a notch. The labs are a particular problem as when a student misses those hands on experiences there seems to be no way but to have the student come in before or after school and repeat the experience. That creates an amazing amount of work for the teacher. I am wondering if anyone out there has a way to make that easier on all without losing the power of the experience.

There is an interactive wiki with some good ideas from other subjects to help with organization that eases the problem of the revolving door of students. Find that at:
http://interactive-notebooks.wikispaces.com/Absent+Students-Late+Work+Organization+Methods
Scholastic has some good ideas as well at:
http://www2.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=3194

If you have not tried podcasting there is a tutorial and some great ideas at:
http://www.slideshare.net/sperry/podcasting-ideas

With podcasting you can record audio from the lab or class for the absent students or with a video camera you can have the whole lab or experience captured for later viewing. There is a new generation of inexpensive video cameras that plug and download with no special software or techno knowledge. The “Flip” is the most popular and the cost should be under $100 by the first of the year for the non HD models. There are lots of others out there and some that will be available by mid November.

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