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The Best Teaching Advice Ever...

Each month, I join up with the Secondary Smorgasbord group to write a topic-related blog post.  I often struggle to find my personal take on the topics and beg and plead with my friends to help me unfreeze my writer's block.  Well, not this time!

The best teaching advice ever, including tips shared in a link up of veteran teachers.

When Pam from Desktop Learning Adventures told me the topic this month, I was ready to go.  The advice given to me was the best ever, and it was given to me by one of my favorite people on this planet!

So, what is the best teaching advice I was ever given?  

To keep my mouth shut for 4 years!
The best teaching advice ever, including tips shared in a link up of veteran teachers.

Sounds harsh, doesn't it?!  But it wasn't.  It was perfect.  It fit me well.  More importantly, it showed me exactly how well my professor and mentor really knew me!

This advice was given to me at the end of my mock interview just before my graduation with my Masters in Secondary Social Studies Education.  Dr. Wilson knew I was an activist.  And she understood my passion for calling attention to the wrongs in the world and my desire to make them right.  Thankfully, she also knew the ways of the academic world.  In concluding my interview she said the following:

"Michele, I'm not worried about your lesson plans, your classroom management, or your keeping your students engaged and motivated to learn.  I have complete faith that you will be a wonderful teacher.  I only have one piece of advice for you, but I want you to promise me you will follow it 100%.  You have just got to keep your mouth shut for the first 4 years!"

Dr. Wilson was so right!  And I did try very hard to take her advice.  Now that I am older (and wiser), I can just imagine how she must have seen me in those days.  I truly believed that I was personally charged to save every teen in the world and to educate them in the process.  I had no doubts that I could, single-handedly, make it all right.  And I truly believed that everyone would be behind me in support of my ventures.

While making tenure in the academic world is still a topic of contention for many, I still believe it gives some of us the charge to tackle those wrongs in the world that only we can see through the eyes of our classroom.  That job security allows us to speak up without fear of repercussion.  More importantly, it allows us to step out of the box - in the lessons we teach, the realities we are willing to face, and the challenges we are forced to take on - all in the hopes that we can make a difference in the life of a child!

Now, be sure to link through to take in all of the other great advice we tenured teachers have to share!  And thanks to The ELA Buffet and Desktop Learning Adventures for their organization of this great linky and all of the wonderful advice that's shared!

Happy Teaching!

Management in the 1:1 Digital Classroom

When my district first went 1:1 with all students at the secondary level receiving Macbook Airs, I was super excited that I would have such amazing access to great resources for all of the interactive lessons I taught.  I had no idea what other sidebars would come with this new access.

 Classroom management tips and ideas for the 1:1 digital middle or high school secondary classroom that will save you time and headache! "Top Down" is one I will start using now!

The first realization that our new incredible tools would quickly turn into a new classroom management challenge came in my World History Honors class as we were working in groups on a huge class project.  As most student groups sat quietly discussing their steps to complete as they evaluated online resources, one girl burst into tears, bringing her entire group's progress to a halt.  As teammates tried to console the girl, I came over searching for an explanation (and remedy).  Despite my empathetic attempts, I could not understand the dramatic, breath and tear filled responses, eventually urging the girl and her teammate to go to the restroom to regroup!  With her absence, I was able to collect an explanation of the situation.  The sum of the event: She had received an email through her new Macbook Air student email from her boyfriend, and their relationship was over!  Oh my, teen drama!

This early experience helped me come to the conclusion that with our wonderful new resources would have to come wonderful new ways of classroom management.

 Classroom management tips and ideas for the 1:1 digital middle or high school secondary classroom that will save you time and headache! "Top Down" is one I will start using now!
Here are some tricks and tips that were useful in my own classroom.
  • Set clear limits on what programs or sites may be accessed at certain times.
  • Have code words for tech use or non-use in your classroom with students prepared to turn off their access at a moment's notice.  My code words were "top down" and students knew to immediately shut their laptops without question.
    Classroom management tips for the 1:1 digital secondary classroom.
  • Arrange student seating to allow you 24/7 viewing of their screen, but don't be naive to believe you can see all!  Students quickly learn the tricks to hiding their online activity.  If they are acting suspicious, call them on it and have them shut all programs to restart!
  • Perform progress checks throughout any online activity to make sure students are on task and on target with the benchmarks you want them to achieve.
  • Communicate with your students through email or other online methods when they are out of site to let them know you are still aware of their participation or lack thereof!
  • Invest in apps and programs that will allow you to see student progress in real time.  Not only does this help with student management, but it also helps students use their time more wisely.
  • Use resources that will keep students engaged.  Do not simply assign topics for students to freely research, but instead provide guidelines or suggestions for reliable online content collection.
  • Assess! Assess! Assess!  Be active in the classroom, constantly roaming to check in with students to assess both their participation level and their understanding of the assignment and the content they are studying.
As technology advances in our classrooms and our world, we must step up to the challenge to keep our students prepared and ready for the world ahead of them.  Teaching them how to responsibly use these new tools is part of that lesson.

For engaging, content-filled, higher-order thinking Google Drive activities, jump over to my store!  Be sure to follow me to know when new resources are posted.

 Classroom management tips and ideas for the 1:1 digital middle or high school secondary classroom that will save you time and headache! "Top Down" is one I will start using now!

Happy Teaching!

Celebrating History & Heritage: Mardi Gras

Teaching students about history and heritage can often be a boring task in the classroom setting.  However, holidays such as Mardi Gras can be the perfect time to step your students back into the past to investigate the earliest settlements and cultural contributions to America.

Decorate your classroom in festive purple and green.

Pass out the feather boas and beads.

And have students answer the scavenger hunt task cards by examining the information cards posted around the classroom!

Students can collect information on their student handout.

Wrap up with a lively discussion!

End the activity with students responding to the writing prompt while listening to quiet jazz in the background!

A perfect celebration of American history and heritage without cake, candy, and a lack of content!

Happy Mardi Gras!

February: A Month of Celebration

The month of February is the month for so many celebrations, but it is also a month filled with historic relevance!  It's time to celebrate our presidents and it's the month to examine the contributions of African Americans and to investigate Black History.  Yet, despite having so many reasons to step from our traditional content to teach these topics, we are stressed with a lack of time due to snow days, testing, and other interruptions to our classroom schedules.

Teaching about special events in the secondary classroom.

That leaves a decision for you to make... Will you address the holidays and teach your students about the contributions made by these groups?  Of course, you will!

Here's a few helpful resources to get you through the celebrations and back on course in your Social Studies or ELA classes!
Teaching about special events in the secondary classroom.
  1. Take a Walking Tour with the Presidents!
  2. Play President Scavenger Hunt!
  3. Review the Presidents with a Presidents Matching Game!
  4. Investigate Important African Americans with a Biography Card Set!
  5. Evaluate the Contributions of the Civil Rights Movement Heroes!
And let me put a little bird in your ear... Mardi Gras is early this year and is just around the corner!  Are you prepared to paint the room purple?

Teaching about special events in the secondary classroom.

Mardi Gras - Take a Walking Tour of the Mardi Gras and paint the day purple, green and gold!

And before you know it, March will be here.  Will you be ready?

Teaching about special events in the secondary classroom.

Women's History Month - Use my Important American Women Biography Cards to celebrate significant American women and their contributions.

Happy Teaching!