Category Archives: classroom

Find a Penny..

     You should have guessed by now that I’m the kind of person who picks up every penny I see on the ground. And from the last post, you should know that I accept any and all things people are getting rid of. If I can’t use it, I find someone who can or donate it to goodwill where the donation keeps on giving.

     The other day I’d found a dime on the floor while running to the office during my planning period. I held it up to the Janitor (a fellow frugalist) and he said, Big deal! I pick up all kinds of money all day long in these hallways.  Kids are notorious for not paying attention to what falls out of their pockets.

     I don’t know what he does with his change, but mine gets added to my own money and plowed back into my classroom. Last week, for instance, I bought the strategy-based computer game called “Age of Empires” for use in my classroom (more about that later….); and bought fortune cookies for our discussion of Confucianism and Ancient China.

     What got me thinking of “found coins” was this wonderful blog post by the nonconsumeradvocate. I’ve read it before and it makes me smile each time.

     Along these lines, I have a teacher friend with a large family. Because she is one of seven siblings herself, she knows the value of a dollar! As soon as her children were the age to play sports, I asked if she would like some athletic equipment and shoes my kids had grown out of. “Boy, would I!” came her enthusiastic response. That expanded to passing down clothing and it has had the unexpected benefit of my reliving many enjoyable memories with my own children when I see them wearing a certain dress (worn to a special occasion while carrying a blankie and sucking a thumb) or outfit (worn to a family trip to the mountains where we rode horses up and down nearly vertical terrain in the mud—yikes!)

     Since it’s my blog, I’m allowed to ramble and tell stories here. This same lady is also a teacher. Her own children complain that they have no TV. I should explain: they do not choose to pay for cable or satellite TV and we live in a rural, mountainous area with zero TV reception. As a result, her kids, who I teach, complain that their mother only allows them to watch math videos. I know she is previewing them for her classes and she is a great multitasker. It makes me smile to think of what’s going on. I should mention, however, that her kids are VERY well-read, artistic and are scarey-smart! Since she teaches MY children, I get to hear about these math videos twice.:)

     So, to review: look for pennies and free things—they add up and turn into things you never imagined.

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2008 Edublog Awards: What Jewels Will Be Found?

     I really enjoy reading blogs of other teachers. There is never enough time to watch our fellow teachers hone their craft. Even the brief time in the lunchroom (and I do mean brief, once you deal with Bobby who lost his lunch money or Shakira who is checking out early) is only spent with the five or so teachers who have the same lunch time as you do.

 

     That is why I am looking forward to seeing the list of best educator blogs after they are published.  I hope someday to be on this list, but that is just a goal at this point.

 

     I must read educator blogs at home with a cup of coffee because our school district’s firewall screens out blogs. That’s unfortunate, because I get SO many excellent ideas for my own classroom from these fine teachers.

 

     I’m going to make it a point to steer some of my readers to the best ideas I’m seeing in other blogs. I’ll try to do a roundup of good posts I read.

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Grading Writing Papers or Will They Even Read Our Comments?

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We do a lot of writing in my classes. At this level, we are hammering how to organize their essays: topic sentence, detail sentences (or paragraphs) and conclusion sentences (or paragraphs).

 

It’s not enough to TELL them that they must do those things, you must show that their grade is related to whether or not they have met those goals.

 

Here’s the rub: it’s hardly worth my time to seriously mark up the final version. If they haven’t followed the lesson, haven’t taken my “walking around the room” advice, haven’t followed the mark-ups on the edited version, why spend the time to rehash?  They just aren’t going to do it!

 

I have to agree with the following from the Prone to Laughter blog :”A current grading technique (and I don’t know why it took me years to come up with this) is to underline everything important. The thesis, a key piece of analysis, a topic sentence that clearly states the heart of the paragraph. The advantage here is that it creates a strong impression that I’ve read and commented upon the paper, without actually requiring much effort from me. Though I don’t know why I scribble on final essays anyhow. Circling typos is also useful for this.”

 

It takes a lot of time to grade writing, but good teachers give a lot of writing work and grade it anyway! My inspiration this year has been the honors English teacher of my own children who goes above and beyond in her teaching of writing.

 

When I’m ready to give up, I think of her. I really should mention this to her, but I’ll wait until they no longer have her as a teacher so it doesn’t look like I’m brown-nosing.

 

Here’s the bottom line (putting on teacher hat for wrap-up here): before they turn in the paper, I have the student underline their topic sentence, conclusion sentence. That saves me some effort and time on my part to go hunting for these things. I can quickly scan whether they have mentioned what the body of their essay will cover.  In addition, it holds them accountable for what they were told to do.

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Filed under classroom, edit, editing, education, language arts, student, teacher, teaching, Uncategorized, writing

Prudent Classroom’s Collection Plate #1:Classroom ideas that don’t cost a dime…

  • The Two Writing Teachers blog talks about their take on NCTE sesson related to designing effective writing assignments.
  • Need some good handwriting worksheets or explanations for why it’s important?  Look no further:
  • Have you heard of “speed dating?” How  about sparking interest in reading by doing something similar with passing books after a few minutes? Here’s how at teaching tips machine blog.
  • Alan Haskvitz talks about how B is the new C in his article entitled, “The End of the D and F Grade: Welcome to Lake Wobegon” at teachersnet Gazette. Sad but true!
  • What a wonderful quote about NCLB by Doug Noon of Borderlands : “If we’d have used an NCLB-style approach to the Apollo moon mission, President Kennedy would have simply ordered NASA to fly conventional airplanes higher and higher until they fell out of the sky, and then blamed the pilots for lacking the will and the know-how to get the job done. ” Check out his take on how the new administration should approach assessment.

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Curriki: My New Online Education Community (and Friend!)

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The other day I was in a panic because the activity I’d planned months before, a nice webquest of the civilization we are studying, suddenly wasn’t working due to our newly installed firewall at school.  We can, in certain circumstances, request that certain sites be restored, but the process is slow and doesn’t always mean it can be fixed. For instance, I cannot access my own blog (or any other) from school. I’m not complaining, I do understand. I don’t work on personal things at school.

 

But (o.k. a little complaint) there are some teacher blogs that have some great information I’d like to use in my planning and lesson creation.

 

….back to my (then) immediate problem—what to do when your great plans become shambles?  I tried two recently found places that have good lesson plans and background resource materials. The first is curriki, an online learning community started by Sun Microsystems to develop education resources.  There I found a great webquest that did work with our firewall within minutes. While finding it, I came across tons more things I can use.

 

Is it just me, or do other people feel like Alice climbing down the rabbit hole when they start looking for things?

 

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Free Ivy League Online Video Lectures

My degrees are not from an Ivy League institution, but I “take” Ivy League classes now via free online video classes.  Just for fun, I always intended to sit in on history lectures when I retire. But now with the magic of the Internet, I can do this in my comfy chair and snuggly slippers at home and don’t even have to wait for retirement. 

 

The online universities website has a list of video lectures that are interesting and wonderful for expanding your horizons.  Most of these courses can be downloaded to an mp3 player, so I’ll be happily commuting to my job while listening to lectures. 

 

In addition, I like to listen to lectures while typing my lesson plans.  As I type, I’m listening to a history lecture by a Yale professor about the Hebrew Torah.  One of the advantages of being a person with undiagnosed ADD is that you CAN do several things at the same time. But that’s another post ..

A list of 100 lectures offered in the following areas is posted at the online universities website:

Finances

Science

Health and Medical

History

Political Science

Engineering, Technology and Mathematics

Social Sciences

Literature

The arts

Philosophy and Religion

 

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Saving Energy $$ and Being Green at the Same Time

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Using a screensaver is not energy efficient.  Put your computer and monitor on sleep mode when you aren’t using it.  Don’t leave it on during the day or night when you aren’t using it.  $600 million dollars in energy is wasted each year, according to Real World Green, by businesses not following these tips.

 furnace

If you need some encouragement to save on your heating bill this winter, try the “Freeze Yer Buns Challenge 2008″ at Crunchy Chicken Blog (Putting the mental in the environmental).
The idea is to pledge to keep your thermostat at a low level this winter. In our case, we always keep our heat at 68 in the winter and the AC at 78 in the summer (if we use the AC, that is).
As Crunchy Chicken says, “How low can you go?”
 
 

 

 

 

 

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Using FREE Online Translators to Communicate with Parents and Students

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My six years of Jr. High and High School Spanish have not held up well for me. While I was able to get around better during a few trips to Mexico, my Spanish is very poor. For instance, I never got the hang of past tense and future tense. I am only able to speak in the present.  So much for “living in the NOW.”

Even so, recently I impressed all the teachers eating lunch in our cramped teachers “lounge” by calling my Spanish-speaking parents to let them know some important information.  (These teachers weren’t actively eavesdropping—we practically sit on each other’s laps in the teacher’s lounge).

Here’s my tip (after the big buildup): I use a free online translation website to type what I want to say. This helps me correct my fuzzy Spanish. Sometimes I’ll get a Spanish-speaking student to check it over for me before I call. 

The link I’ve provided offers translation between many languages including between English and Spanish, German, Dutch, Portuguese, French, Russian and Italian. Also, it allows translations between and amongst these languages.  Another feature is that you can compare the translation the website derives to one that Google Translator provides. This is another check that someone like myself who is not fluent might want to use as a double check.

If you use a translation website, be sure to remove any slang from the phrase you are typing in. I also try to insert the name of the student and polite remarks such as please and thank you to what I eventually say to parents.

I’m not saying the website provides a perfect translation, but I’ve always gotten my point across with non-English speaking parents. And I am planning to take Spanish again next year with the hope of organizing some much-needed free ESL classes for parents in our community. My secret hope is to learn how to make many foreign culinary delights and trade garden seeds. Sshh! Don’t tell.

Unfortunately, my school district doesn’t have translators or other professionals to help with the language divide. So foreign-speaking parents really appreciate when a teacher takes the extra time to get to know them and help their son or daughter.

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Thoroughly Thrifty Thursdays

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How’s that for a nifty (thrifty) title!

I think it’s a good idea to keep track of what you are doing to get ahead. There are many ways, but here is a little tracking method I learned from Justice Desserts Blog:

Let’s see what I can come up with using her formula:

Planting: I’m putting the 1/4 inch root part of every onion I cut for cooking back into the garden for future onions (yes it works!) Also, planting the eyes off every potato I cut up for cooking back into the garden. Yes! They will make FREE potatoes.  I jog out there, making it a little exercise routine as well.

 Harvesting: swiss chard, green onions, cabbage, rhubarb, ground cherries,

Preserving:ground cherries, hickory nuts from the woods

Prep something: Cooking sale turkeys and putting the extra meat in the freezer for future quick casserole dinners after long days at school.

Manage Reserves: Going through what is left of last year’s canning extravaganza to see what needs to be eaten up. Rotation, rotation, rotation!

 

Saw this on another frugal blog:

Office Depot has a 15% off your entire order code. Valid through Nov. 22, 2008 on-line and over the phone. Enter code 19574436.

You may also enter code 32776683 (on-line only) if you are spending $100 or more to receive a free Coby CD Radio Boombox.

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Eight Frugal Things in the Classroom That Have an Impact– for Free!!

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1.   ACT and SAT prep courses are great, but often they cost $$$ that some of our students don’t have. Even if schools have them for free, they may not fit into the schedules of busy high schoolers.  There are many good prep videos available on Youtube and teachertube. It’s not enough to know the material, you must also know the strategy for finishing the test in an accurate way.  In particular, I like Super Magnet Man’s guide to taking the science portion of the ACT. 

2.   In middle school, one of our challenges is to teach students to be prepared and to be responsible.  They are terrible about coming to class unprepared.  Getting a student their supplies takes precious minutes from teaching. Here are some suggestions. I keep pink paper and green pens available for borrowing. They must be signed out (a student is always assigned to this task before I begin teaching.)  I have a record of how often students are coming to class unprepared and am able to speak to parents, if needed. Sometimes being unprepared is part of a larger problem of not being on task. When parents see that 25 days out of 20 little Susie came to class without her book, folder, assignment book, paper and pencil they get a good picture of what part of the problem is.  Please note: students who speak to me privately about financial problems are always given enough supplies until they tell me they need more. I buy extra when they are on sale for this purpose.

 

3.   Teachers are extraordinary at their capacity for giving.  At our High School, athletes are supposed to dress up on game day.  For boys, this means khaki pants, dress shirt and tie.  Many students don’t have these clothes and could not afford them. Our teachers buy them the outfits and no one is the wiser.  Sometimes they are wearing a pair of khakis that a teacher can’t fit into anymore, or a tie that was given at holiday time that the teacher cannot use.  Be on the lookout for things like these. Set aside shirts that may be a little tight—there may be a boy that needs it for game day, college or job interview, or Trivia bowl competition. 

4.   We have a nice tradition at our school where we bring things to the teacher lounge we no longer need and these things are either given away or sold.  For example, someone had very nice quality sheets given to them that they could not use. They were offered at half price and I grabbed them quickly! Start this tradition at your school!

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5.   I have a friend who is a very harried High school math teacher who needed her coffee first period to be alert for doing math.  She noticed that her students commented on her coffee and liked the smell of it. This grew into a tradition in her first period classes that if they brought a covered cup, she would provide the coffee. The student’s parents have volunteered to keep the supply of coffee grounds and creamer flowing.  It’s a little thing, but it really was a special touch her first period math students enjoy and brought them closer together. She says they are very close now.

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6.   Kids love traditions and special rituals.  Special occasions aren’t just for the youngest students. This is especially true for middle and high school students who are still bouncing back and forth maturity-wise between adulthood and childhood.  I like to introduce historically significant dates into my curriculum even if it’s the kind of thing we do after our work is done.  One good place for finding out Birthdays of authors or famous people, National Holidays, Monthly celebrations to use in your planning is the teacherscorner.net. The event calendar for November is located here:

 

7.   I like to keep a classroom set of plastic page protectors for using classroom copies of things. Saves money on laminating and you can always change what is in them, Or store several things in them and only use the page on top.  With these the students can highlight important text and wipe off again. Or they can use them for say, math worksheets.  By writing with a dry erase marker, they can be used again and again. A new sheet can be popped in each day! Another advantage is that it is a very “green” idea.

8.   Help Campbell Soup Company help our schools by donating to the Future Farmers of America organization. Even if you don’t have one at your school, it is a terrific program for students.  Go to check out http://www.helpgrowyoursoup.com/ . Look especially at the “Nourishing Minds” tab. When you click on the red barn, Campbells will donate $1.00 to the National FFA Organization.

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