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Seating Charts in the Secondary Classroom

Classroom organization is one of the first things that come to mind at back to school time. Desk or seating chart arrangement, along with ideas and planning for behavior management are priorities. A good seating chart template can be the saving grace for the middle or high school classroom.

Classroom organization is one of the first things that come to mind at back to school time. Desk or seating chart arrangement, along with ideas and planning for behavior management were priorities. A good seating chart template can be the saving grace for the middle or high school classroom.

In the first days of school, as I am setting my classroom expectations and explaining classroom rules, a traditional seating chart is a requirement. If for no other reason, it will help me to learn the names of my 140+ students each day.

After the first few weeks, my seating is absolutely dependent on the activity or teaching strategy I will be using in class. While a seating assignment is common 90% of the time in my classroom, the seating arrangements themselves change often.

So, how can you assign seating in your secondary classroom?  Take a look at these incredible ideas and resources!

1. The TesolClass on Youtube has a quick introduction of the 3 main types of seating and the pros and cons for each. This may help you find your main go-to in the very beginning.

2. Next is this incredible infographic. I love the visual guide and it helps me see all of the options in one easy place!

3. Teach Create Motivate has some incredible ideas for Flexible Seating. I love these ideas and I love that students have options in how they manage their own behavior and academic success.

4. Need more ideas on Flexible Seating? Check out these 15 ideas from Playdoh to Plato.

5. Permanently Primary brings out the zen for learning with her yoga mat idea. I've done yoga for many years, and my mat is one of my favorite places to think! It only makes sense to let it be a seating option for deeper learning.

6. I've also written a few blog posts over the years about seating arrangements and icebreakers on the first day of school. Click over to keep reading and maybe you will find the perfect method for your classroom!
Make Your Move in Classroom Seating
Are You Ready for Back to School?
Easy Collaboration-Building Icebreakers for the First Day of School

And then there's that template I mentioned!  In my Back to School Bundle you will find 9 Seating Chart Templates, Classroom Management Tools, First Day of School Activities, and SO MUCH MORE!

Classroom organization is one of the first things that come to mind at back to school time. Desk or seating chart arrangement, along with ideas and planning for behavior management were priorities. A good seating chart template can be the saving grace for the middle or high school classroom.I hope this gives you some ideas for arranging your classroom and that you have a wonderful start this year!

Happy Teaching!

Easy Collaboration-Building Icebreaker Ideas for the First Day of School

Starting off the school year on the right foot is important for students, but also for teachers. If you begin by teaching collaboration-building skills as soon as students enter the classroom on the first day, you will help to set the foundation for an effective, collaborative classroom climate!

Start off the school year with these easy back to school or first day of school icebreaker ideas for building an effective collaborative classroom climate at the middle or high school level. And they are fun for students, too!  The first one is my favorite!

Try some of these easy icebreakers!

A Meet & Greet
This is my absolute favorite activity for back to school! Not only does a Meet & Greet help your students find each other and begin to break down the walls of isolation, but they can also help you introduce the content or topics you will be covering in your course. And the set up is simple!
  1. Create or purchase bio cards. Either print 2 copies so students can find the matching cards, or separate the name from the bio text. 
  2. Give each student one card or name as they enter the classroom.
  3. Direct students to find their match.
  4. Allow students time to get to know one another and learn a little about their person.
  5. Have each pair introduce their person and themselves!
A Find Someone Who
Much life a Meet & Greet, a Find Someone Who activity lets students find each other through questioning or through the analysis of clues.  Create your own, or use a simple template that gives students plenty of options for finding themselves and others.
  1. Distribute the Find Someone Sheet to students as they enter the classroom.
  2. Allow students time to mix and mingle around the classroom.
  3. Offer a prize or simple reward for the first one to complete the entire worksheet.
A Content-Based Find Someone Who
Take the premise of the basic game described above, but add in content about people from history or give clues on topics of study from the course. As students solve the clues, they can meet up with each other to share their information with the goal of completing the entire task.

Assign an Identity Bag
While this one takes an extra day, you can learn all about your students and allow them to learn all about you through the sharing of Identity Bags.  Bring your own ready to go on the first day of school and then dedicate the second day of school to student bags. 
  1. Find a bag that symbolizes you in some way.
  2. Fill it with small representations of your life or your interests.
  3. Present the bag and the items, explaining the significance of each.
Think-Pair-Share
Since this activity is one you are likely to use in your class throughout the year, start on day 1 by teaching them the Think-Pair-Share strategy. Read this post for variations on this classic strategy!
  1. Have students think of 3 things that most describe who they are or what they like. 
  2. Pair students (usually with neighbors) to have them discuss the 3 things with each other.
  3. Allow pairs to share out as a team, introducing each other.
Do you have another idea that works well in your classes? Please share it in the comments!

Start off the school year with these easy back to school or first day of school icebreaker ideas for building an effective collaborative classroom climate at the middle or high school level. And they are fun for students, too!  The first one is my favorite!














Hope you all have a great first day back to school! And that you have an awesome school year!

Happy Teaching!





New Group for Secondary Social Studies Teachers

I love blogging and sharing all of my ideas for creating an interactive Social Studies classroom, but there are so many other great teachers out there that have super ideas for helping all of our students learn!  Why not collaborate?!
Join The Secondary Social Studies Teachers Collaborative Group on Facebook to have a safe place for sharing ideas, asking questions, and keeping up-to-date on the latest and greatest social studies resources!
Come join the group so we can all share our ideas in a safe, collaborative setting!

So, I created a Facebook group were we can support one another as we share all of our ideas.

Be sure to link over and join the group where I will share my strategies, ideas, and resources and where you can also contribute your own ideas or ask questions and collaborate with others to help make your year one that is filled with great success stories rather than frustration!

Here's the link: The Secondary Social Studies Teachers Collaborative Group

Join The Secondary Social Studies Teachers Collaborative Group on Facebook to have a safe place for sharing ideas, asking questions, and keeping up-to-date on the latest and greatest social studies resources!






Hope to see you there!


43+ Strategies for Meeting Any Educational Standards

Need Strategies to make your classroom more interactive and engaging this school year?  Take a look at these 43+ Strategies for Meeting ANY Educational Standards!
Find great strategies that can be used in any classroom to meet any educational standards. The more you focus on the strategies and the students, the easier it will be to check off those standards boxes!

Keep in mind that standards are written in the hopes that you will meet a specific goal with your students. How you get there is up to you!

43+ Strategies for Meeting the Standards
  • I'm starting with this post with Quick Tips for Teaching Geography. While it is for a Geography course, the strategies suggested can apply to any course and can keep your students engaged from day 1. 
  • This next Quick Tips post introduces strategies for Introducing New Content! It suggests changing things up to keep students excited about learning.
  • Teaching Cause & Effect is a standard across curriculums  and one that is required in every single district. It is a foundational learning tool, and this post gives you a number of great ideas for teaching the skill.
  • Even before the common core standards were introduced, teachers taught Informational Texts. This post gives you tried and true strategies for keeping it real!
  • Teaching with Primary Sources is another task for teachers across all curriculums and through all grades. This post lists off the options so you can check all the boxes on your standard's list.
  • When the Common Core State Standards came out, we all took off trying to wrap our existing standards into the new morph. What we eventually realized was that the old was not that different than the new. This post addresses the standards, but provides Sound Strategies for any classroom and any standard.
  • Another Great List can be found in this attack on the CCSS. See if the ideas will work in your classroom with your standards.
  • Do you Use Texts in your classroom?  The term text took on a whole new meaning with CCSS, but this post sets the record straight on what is and isn't text! Find strategies and tips along with that clarification!
  • We all teach Vocabulary! It's a must in every classroom and students usually dread the boring vocabulary lessons. Change it up with these strategies!
  • Examining Text Structure was a new one for CCSS, but it was really just an old chore with a new name. Take a look at this post for different ways your students can evaluate their resources while addressing the standards and reaching beyond.
  • If we all understood how to interpret Point of View, we would live in a world with much less conflict! Take a look at these strategies to help your students learn this valuable skill!
Find great strategies that can be used in any classroom to meet any educational standards. The more you focus on the strategies and the students, the easier it will be to check off those standards boxes!Want more?  This is an Incredible Listing of Strategies by one of my favorite organizations, Facing History. Their strategies work for all classrooms and subject areas, and they also teach other amazing lessons. 
  
And one other thing to consider... Why are you working toward the standards?  That's an interesting question we all need to answer before we ever step foot into the classroom. What's your answer?

Take a look here for my answer to that very important question!

Happy Teaching!

How I Use Highlighters in the Secondary Classroom

Color is important!  In my classroom, we color coded everything. And to do that, highlighters became a very important tool!  I'm sure your students already use highlighters in your classes, but do they use them in the most effective ways?  Check out these quick tips to see what will work best for your students.
Quick tips and ideas for using highlighters effectively in the secondary classroom.

Categorization & Organization
Almost every post I write talks about the need for categorization and organization. I often encourage the use of graphic organizers and suggest tools to help your students record and recall content. Highlighters can be one of the most those effective tools for your visual learners.  Whether you establish set criteria for each color, or you simply use the highlighters for keeping track of important facts, these versatile tools will keep your students focused and help them to "see" the content on the page.

Primary Source Analysis
The skill of primary source analysis should #1 in the Social Studies classroom. Primary sources help us to identify bias, to ascertain multiple perspectives, and to examine the key features of a particular time period.   Highlighters can be used to identify each of those aspects and to pick through the rhetoric often included in documented sources.

Comparison
One of the most challenging tasks in the Social Studies is that of comparison. While T-Charts and Venn Diagrams can help with larger tasks, highlighters can be the quick go-to for easy alignment for later attention.

Fun!
Why should learning be boring? Sometimes, putting a little color onto our pages helps our brains awaken for better focus.  Have students highlight as they read, highlight around sections of reading, or highlight the borders of the page to brighten the subject matter!

However you choose to use highlighters in your classroom, they should be a tool that is always available for your students. Remember that we each learn in different ways; what works for one may not work for others.  Making highlighters or markers, or even crayons, available to your students simply gives them more visual and kinesthetic ways in which to process your classroom content!

Quick tips and ideas for using highlighters effectively in the middle or high school classroom. The teal tip is my go-to!

Happy Teaching!

The Many Uses for Index Cards

In the old days, Index Cards were one of the most valuable resources for a research-based classroom. But with the introduction of Interactive Notebooks and then technology tools, the index card became a thing of the past. That shouldn't be the case. After all, index cards have many uses, and all of them can help students to learn skills vital for academic development.
 There are many ways to use index cards in the classroom. Here are just a few simple strategies that could have huge impacts on student learning.

Tried and True Uses for Index Cards
If you ever took an advanced or AP course in high school, you most likely learned to gather, record, and organize facts onto practical, white index cards. Think about the skills associated with that task...
  1. Fact Collection - keep in mind that processing information for retention is a multi-step process. Using index cards for basic fact collection helps students learn the skills of analysis and decision-making.
  2. Chronological Thinking - learning before and after or cause and effect can be challenging tasks in the Social Studies classroom. Writing out dates with simple annotations on index cards and allowing students to place the events in chronological order can help them to identify those changes.
  3. Categorization - using varied colors of index cards, or simply adding identification markers (stars, hearts, crosses...) to cards can help students learn to group like terms, facts, or characteristics. As students practice this skill, they will learn to evaluate information at a more in-depth level, increasing their knowledge and analytical skills.
  4. Vocabulary Development - students have long written terms and definitions onto index cards for memorization. Take that a few steps more to have students apply context, unit significance, and appropriate categorization of terms. 
  5. Game Play - practice does make perfect, and playing memory games can not only help to practice the terms or the content of study, but it also stretches the muscles in the brain and sparks activity to help enrich the brains capacity for learning. Use index cards to create a number of different game formats with your content.
  6. Thought Organization - while thinking maps have become all the rage, so can index card maps. Use them to jot down thoughts or opinions and create a web on the board or on the floor, aligning common thoughts or comparing the opposites.
  7. Reading Cards - as students read, index cards can be the easiest way to jot down significant plot events, character developments, and theme concepts. Keep the cards stored in the book pages to help chart reading development and book analysis.
  8. Research - for classes where Genius Hour has become a way of life, index cards can help students from the brainstorming stage to product completion. Start with ideas, eliminate down to common thread, use cards to develop ideas, record facts and additional content through research, and then organize for product development. 
  9. Think-Pair-Share - read through this post for 10 different ways to implement THINK-PAIR-SHARE activities in your classroom and then use the index cards to allow students to record the activity development. 
  10. Assessment - for daily formative assessment, index cards can be the quickest, easiest to handle, and easiest to grade way to go! Give each students a card each week, and have them add their exit response to the card at the end of each class period. Collect the cards as students leave the room. Grade. Repeat!  At the end of the week, hole-punch the cards and give them to students to keep in their notebooks for assessment prompt review (and text preparation)!
There are many ways to use index cards in the classroom. Here are just a few simple strategies that could have huge impacts on student learning.
There are probably hundreds of other ideas for using index cards in the classroom. This is just the tip of the iceberg!  What are your ideas?

 Check out these teaching, study, and organization ideas for using index cards in the middle and high school classroom. Here are just a few simple strategies that could have huge impacts on student learning. The number 10 is a huge time saver!

Happy Teaching!

Easy Recipes for Busy Teachers

Coming up with creative ideas for teacher's school lunches can be a challenge. These quick ideas are great for allowing variation, flavor, and ease!
 School Lunch? Yuck! I hated it as a child and still hate it as an adult. The slop of food onto a tray or even a plate is not my idea of a nice meal meant to refresh me and give me a boost for the rest of my school day!  But I also hate slimy lunch meat and mayo-based salads.  What to do?  Come up with new ideas for creating a school lunch that I could eat and enjoy. Oh, and without the stress and mess of some other meal ideas!

Meal Preparation
For me, lunch must be easy to prepare. If it requires hours in the kitchen or costly ingredients, it's just not for me!  I also love freshness. Who doesn't?  I don't want something that has set out for hours or has turned into slime before it gets to my taste-buds!

Meal Storage
Since I first started teaching, access to comforts has greatly changed. I used to have to tightly pack my meals in saran wrap to place them in the teacher's lounge refrigerator to keep them from being contaminated by the green, furry leftovers of my colleagues. Now, we have thermal lunch boxes, cooling storage trays, and mini-fridges that can really make your day!
 Coming up with creative ideas for school lunches can be a challenge. These quick ideas are great for allowing variation, flavor, and ease!
Recipes
Despite the ease and access now available in preparing and storing our foods, flavor is the most important part of planning for lunchtime.  If the flavor isn't there, what's the point? And also important is the variety! I cannot eat the same thing day after day. I know that generations past lived on potatoes for every meal, but now there is just so much more to choose from out there!
 I know... You want the ideas and recipes now!
Here you go:
 Coming up with creative ideas for school lunches can be a challenge. These quick ideas are great for allowing variation, flavor, and ease! Coming up with creative ideas for school lunches can be a challenge. These quick ideas are great for allowing variation, flavor, and ease!

 Coming up with creative ideas for school lunches can be a challenge. These quick ideas are great for allowing variation, flavor, and ease! Coming up with creative ideas for school lunches can be a challenge. These quick ideas are great for allowing variation, flavor, and ease! Coming up with creative ideas for school lunches can be a challenge. These quick ideas are great for allowing variation, flavor, and ease!

Yum! So many options!  Now, just remember that you need to eat! Teaching is the most important job out there, but we need to take time to keep ourselves healthy! Eat that lunch!

Happy Teaching!