5 tips for teachers to start the school year

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With the start of the school year almost upon us it is worth reflecting upon what we do, and how we do it.

These five tips may be of use to both new and experienced teachers to keep in mind facing the challenges of a new group of students with new needs, skills and challenges.

I am sure that you have many pearls of wisdom that may add to these so be sure to add them below.


1:  Be enthused

Enthusiasm, and a passion for what you do are infectious.  You students will feed off of your energy, and the effort they put in will come back to you in spades. 

Speak with vigour and confidence.  Have fun with your kids but also make them aware that the classroom is a ‘sacred’ space for teaching and learning, and threatening that environment will not be tolerated. 

Take no shame in letting your students know you put a lot of time an effort into your job do because you love it, and expect everyone in the room to respect that.  Your students may not love everything you teach, but as long as they put in a genuine effort they should gain your respect in return.


2:  Be organised:

You can wing the occasional lesson here and there, but be cautious that in time your students will lose respect for you if you provide them a disorganised learning space and curriculum too often.

You, and your students should know where things are when needed.  Your students should expect to be challenged and engaged throughout the day, not just filling time.

Poor organisation can be terminal in building a good teacher student relationship as you can appear incompetent.  Furthermore, you may struggle for credibility when your students replicate this poor modelled behaviour. 


3:  Lay ground rules early:

Without entering the realm of classroom rules and what they might consist of, remember the key is to have something in place.  Keep it simple.  Be firm, but fair and always make students aware of poor behaviour before acting upon it. 

The flip side of this is praising and rewarding those who are modelling positive behaviour.  Personally, I am not a fan of tangible rewards, but in certain environments you need to cast a ‘hook’ that will attract good behaviour.  It will be different nearly every year.

Rewards tend to work well when they benefit the entire class, but once again everyone’s clientele and circumstances are very different.


4:  Consistency

This is the toughest of all in my eyes as life is impossible to get everything right all the time.  Furthermore, it is this area your students will constantly remind you about if and when you fail to deliver.  

Have a small set of non-negotiable behaviours and actions in your room and try and explain your actions to the group when an incident occurs. Be transparent.  Try to never get into a position justifying your actions to a single student one on one.  This is dangerous territory. 

You may aspire to be your students ‘best friend’ and on many occasions this is a great place to be when the going is good.  Never forget your role and responsibility as the caretaker and leader of your students.  This doesn’t mean being a dictator, but understand all good teachers are required to be the ‘bad cop’ on occasion.

Balance is key.  You don’t want to be known as ‘The Fun Killer’ but students will always try and push the boundaries of teachers that can’t stand up for themselves.


5:  Don’t lock yourself away.

This one is simple.  Even if you are the greatest teacher in the world it is imperative that you share your successes and failures with others.  This can happen inside and outside your school via professional development coaching or a range of other methods depending on what you have available to you.

Get to the staffroom when you can for a cuppa to have a formal and informal discussion about what’s been happening in your classroom.

Don’t forget also sites like this, Pinterest and thousands of others  are packed with great ideas from teachers all around the world so be sure to regularly use the web to your and your students advantage.

12 Great Google Sites for Teachers

Google is known for its useful web tools, but did you know that a lot  of them have incredible applications for education? Take a look at  these Google tools to see how they’ll work for your classroom.

  1. Google Custom Search Engine:  Create your own custom search engine and tell Google which sites you  want it to index, and you’ll be able to offer your students the best of  the web.
  2. Google Docs:  Google Docs offers teachers and students a web-based word processor,  spreadsheet, and presentation editor that can be used securely and  collaboratively from any computer.
  3. Google Book Search: Search the full text of books ranging from popular best sellers to out-of-print books on Google’s Book Search.
  4. Google Groups: Set up a discussion group for your classroom on Google Groups.
  5. Google News: Google News is a wonderful place to look for news in newspapers and magazines around the world.
  6. Google Maps: Your class can use Google Maps to build maps of your community, learn about cities, and more.
  7. Google Page Creator: This Google tool allows teachers and students to create useful web pages without having to use complicated code.
  8. Google classroom posters:  Help your students search the web better with these posters that  contain tips for using Google Search and other Google products.
  9. iGoogle:  iGoogle allows you to create a custom page for your classroom that  includes components like a school calendar, bookmarks, news, and more.
  10. Blogger:  Start a class blog with Blogger, and you can share work, pictures, and  more, all while staying connected with your classroom community.
  11. Google Notebook: Use Google Notebook as an easy to use notepad for the web.
  12. Google Calendar: With Google Calendar, you can easily communicate school schedule information with your classroom community.
  13. Google classroom activities: Here, Google offers a few activity ideas for elementary school children.

10 Common grammatical errors that drive teachers nuts.

Hey, I'll be the first to admit that everyone makes the odd grammatical error every once inow and then.  But there is an ever growing incidence of students are making unforgivable mistakes with their grammar because it is almost common place.

These mistakes might get overlooked in junior high or elementary school, but as students start going for jobs and or university places these common grammatical errors can be near fatal in some employers and educators eyes.

So... Here are ten of the most common grammatical errors that every teacher should aim to drive out their students before the end of the year.

Let us know if you have any others.

"Alot"

Despite not being an actual word, "alot" certainly sees a staggering amount of usage both on the Internet and in the classroom. More of a spelling error forcing "a" and "lot" into an unholy portmanteau than a grammar offense, it nevertheless elicits more than a few eyetwitches.

Your vs. You’re

This one drives me insane, and it’s become extremely common among bloggers. All it takes to avoid this error is to take a second and think about what you’re trying to say.

“Your” is a possessive pronoun, as in “your car” or “your blog.” “You’re” is a contraction for “you are,” as in “you’re screwing up your writing by using your when you really mean you are.”

There vs. Their

This one seems to trip up everyone occasionally, often as a pure typo. Make sure to watch for it when you proofread.

“There” is used many ways, including as a reference to a place (“let’s go there”) or as a pronoun (“there is no hope”). “Their” is a plural possessive pronoun, as in “their bags” or “their opinions.” Always do the “that’s ours!” test—are you talking about more than one person and something that they possess? If so, “their” will get you there.

Tense disagreement

Before turning in that term paper, do make sure that every verb tense agrees with one another. Otherwise, one ends up creating an exceptionally awkward reading experience.

In my personal opinion:

If it's your opinion, it's personal. The qualifier "personal" is redundant. This one is so often used, though, that it can be hard to avoid.

Affect or Effect:

It's not entirely surprising that these are mixed up often, given their similar spellings and meanings. Affect is a verb, and effect is a noun. You can affect something, which might have an effect.

"Ain’t"

Some enjoy touting, "ain’t ain’t a word," but its cozy little spot in Merriam-Webster would beg to disagree. Although this doesn’t mean it inherently works in a formal writing piece. Save it for something more casual — or fiction.

Punctuation outside quotation marks

When writing dialogue or embedding a quote, remember that any appropriate punctuation belongs inside the quotation marks.

Loose/lose

"Loose" happens when something isn’t tight, whereas "lose" provides verbage for the phenomenon of a noun managing to either disappear or seem like it did.

Free e-Book: Acing Math (One Deck at a Time)

Acing Math (One Deck At A Time!) is a collection of math games ranging from Kindergarten to the upper elementary grades, using only an ordinary deck of playing cards.  There are games covering addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, percents, decimals, patterns, positive and negative integers, as well as many others. 

A very wise old maths teacher who once taught me said that "You can teach every aspect of maths with a pack of cards" and this e-Book goes a long way to supporting that statement.

Download the free e-Book here.

What does Windows 8 mean for schools?

I have been testing Windows 8 on a PC at home for nearly a year and as an experienced windows fan let me say to anyone that has never seen it,  Windows 8 is different.  Real different.  Like I still don't know what I am totally doing different.  Like my wife and family refuse to use it different.

It is the massive sidestep Windows had to take to continue to be the the operating system that is everything to everyone.  A luxury that Apple has avoided as it makes  operating systems exclusively for their limited but massively successful hardware range.

The reason it is so different is because Microsoft wants to create a seamless experience from desktop PC to Tablet to Smartphone.  In that sense it delivers in spades and is already the number two mobile OS way ahead of Android but just lacking some of the polish of Apple's iOS.

It does all this at the sacrifice of of it's 1.7 billion Windows desktop users around the globe and this is the problem that could plague businesses and schools for the next three years if you jump without looking. 

What does this mean for schools I hear you ask, well it basically means three things.

 

1:  Windows 7 will and should remain your premium desktop operating system for at least the next three years.  It works beautifully in a server based environment, and will only improve further as the vast majority of enterprise and education users will rely on it to get them through the transformational change in computers from PC's to tablets.  Any Windows XP users still out there still?  This is your time to step up Windows 7 without any fear.

2:  Windows 8 will be the best tablet based solution for education bar none.  I love my iPad, but I hate the fact it's not a windows PC with Office, Photoshop and Flash and can print and save to my school network without worrying about iCrap. 

I love my Windows 7 laptop and desktop but hate the fact it's not a super cool tablet with 100,000 apps and heaps of cool gadgets and 10 hours battery life. 

The next generation of Windows 8 based tablets tick all these boxes.  But expect to pay a premium of at least $1000 for an iPad quality tablet initially and $500 for a cheapy.

3:  Your students will inevitably demand that you switch to tablets and the iPad might be a great stop gap for now.  There is no shadow of a doubt that touch based tablet computing is the future of educational I.T for a multitude of reason,s and students will at some point see no purpose in laptop and desktop computers.  But right now, the iPad is the best example of this model and at under $400 per unit it is very appealing to schools and this will be the case for a while yet whilst Windows 8 finds it's feet.

Forget Android:  Honestly what will it offer or do better than the iPad or a Windows 8 Tablet?  You will be holding the Beta max or Ubuntu tablet in two years time if you buy one now.  It is already sub par in comparison and I can't see it catching up.

Windows 8 is still a little bit behind the iPad and iOS currently if you are looking at it through a students eyes and you would not be foolish to wait 2 years when the big guns of computing in HP, Dell and now Samsung have some really aggressive windows tablets in the education market space.

In short, don't even contemplate switching your network over to windows 8 until you have a large number of Windows tablets in teachers and students hands to soften the transition period.  At this time I am sure Apple will have created the next big thing that may make all of this look so 2012.

Explore the Wonders of the World with Google

Thanks to Engadget for this Article:

Google has already been taking us to exotic locations through Street View, but now it's hoping to enshrine the most famous places on Earth through the World Wonders Project, one car (or trike) at a time. A total of 132 sites, ranging from natural landmarks like Yosemite to much more synthetic constructions like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, have both an on-the-ground view as well as 3D renderings, videos and loads of history from UNESCO and the World Monuments Fund, among others. The educational bent is so conspicuous that Google is offering up some of the content in downloadable bundles for schools along with the usual web-based look. All of it promises a much more fascinating, hands-on approach than a dry textbook, and it's a unique way of bringing encyclopedic knowledge to an era of Chromebooks and the cloud.

Amazing Paper Craft Printables

Canon has gone all out to produce the most impressive collection of paper craft printables I've ever seen. Your students will absolutely love them.

The premise is simple:  First, you select from one of the categories such as art, architecture, transport, fantasy or my personal favourite craftown that allows you to print out templates for items to make an entire paper city.

Next, print out the template and instructions.

Then, Construct.  Some are very simple and others are quite complex but each one is rated for difficulty so you can decide what to to attempt and leave out.

Finally - You could work these into an art lesson, a maths lesson about 2D and 3D shapes, or even use them as props in a digital animation.  You are only limited by your imagination.

Please take a look at Canon's Paper Crafts today as it won't disappoint and best of all it's free.

How the iPad is changing Education

I came accross this article from readwriteweb.com today and it is worth reading.

The iPad may only be two years old, but it's already begun to change many things. Reading is one of them. Work is another. It is selling like crazy, but it will be some time before most of the people you know own a tablet.

The market for this type of device may only be in its infancy, but it's already becoming clear how it will revolutionize certain aspects our lives. Education is a huge one, as recent developments have demonstrated.

In January, Apple made good on its late CEO's vision to enter the digital textbook market with the launch of iBooks 2 and the iBooks Author production tool for e-books. That early effort was met with mixed reactions. While some were excited to see Apple move into a space that's ripe for disruption, others pointed out the inherent limitations in Apple's model, which for starters, will be cost-prohibitive for many school districts.

The iPad: An Obvious Use Case for Education

In a way, Apple didn't enter the education market. Rather, it followed its customers there. By the time iBooks 2 landed in the App Store, many people had already seen the potential the iPad has to change education. A growing number of college students have, on their own accord,

Click here to view the entire article.