Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Single Gender Classrooms

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© 2009
Esparta Palma, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

The idea of single gender classrooms is an interesting one that seems to have people on one side of the fence or the other. Not many are actually sitting on the fence when it comes to the way they feel about them. Except me. I’m alone up here on this big ol fence it seems.

I think single gender classrooms have a wide variety of positive and negative points. But I also think those positives and negative vary GREATLY depending upon which grade level we are talking about. Since I taught Middle School, I’ll focus on that.

Everyone knows Middle School is pretty much the most awkward time in life for both boys and girls. Their bodies are doing weird things, their emotions are doing weird things and their lives pretty much revolve around their friends. For the most part, they are too old to think it’s cool to hang with their parents, and too young to really care much about school and extra curriculars. Middle School is probably the first time a kid develops a legit crush on someone else, causing a whole different set of emotions/confusion in their already emotional and confused brains.

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© 2008 Sarah Reid, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

I definitely think there are some major benefits to single gender learning environments in Middle School because I think the desire to appeal to the opposite sex is cause for a large portion of behavior problems and distraction in the classroom. Boys try to impress girls with their their attitude towards the teacher or their ridiculous jokes. Girls try to impress boys with their looks and intelligence. Boys don’t usually raise their hand to participate as much because it’s totally NOT cool to be smart. If boys and girls were separate in core classes like ELA, Math, Science and Social Studies, I honestly think there would be a benefit for both the students and the teacher.

The benefits to the students would obviously be less distraction and less pressure to impress. Come to class, be who you are and don’t worry about whether or not the boy/girl behind you is winking at you when the teacher turns their back. The benefits to the teacher would be the potential for easier classroom management and similar learning styles.

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© 2008 hobvias sudoneighm, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Of course since I said I’m on that fence, I think there are negatives to single gender classrooms. Notice above, I said that single gender learning environments would be good for core classes. I do not think it’s necessary to separate students for classes such as music, art, physical education, etc. Not because those classes aren’t important, but because those classes are based on the idea of expressing yourself and and learning to work together. If a girl is overly emotional because a certain boy was “mean” to her in class that day, she may come up with something daggone creative in art class.

Another negative is that students can’t be sheltered forever. Just because they’re separated for a few hours a day, they won’t be separated forever. Boys and girls need to learn to work together and need to go through that awkward stage in order to figure out who they really are. The need to let them work together is the reason I don’t think single gender classrooms are necessary or would be very successful in elementary or high schools.

Here are some articles about this topic if you are interested. Some are a bit dated but it’s interesting to see how ideas have changed  or not changed.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Have you taught in a single gender classroom or been a student in one? Do you think it would change the way you teach or otherwise have any real impact on the learning environment? I’d love to hear your input in the comments!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Why you SHOULDN’T assign homework every night.

Don’t hate me. 

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I used to be a bit supporter of nightly homework. My students were old enough to have that responsibility and in my opinion, the extra practice wouldn’t kill them. They expected to have homework for me each night and it seamlessly became part of our daily class routine. I kept reinforcing to my students that doing their homework was the EASIEST way to bring up their grade. I checked it based on completion, not correctness. You do it and do it completely, you get full credit. You don’t follow directions, don’t show your work or don’t complete all of it, you get half credit. You don’t do anything and you get zero points. Easy peasy right? I thought so.

I had students who just wouldn’t do their homework. Hardly every. I thought they were stubborn and just trying to irritate me. I thought they didn’t really care about their grade. I happily gave them zeros in the grade book because honestly I thought they deserved it. Looking back now, I realize I was kind of a jerk.

Chances are, your students go home to one of these situations:

  • A home with great parent/guardian support. Students are encouraged to complete their homework, and often have their homework checked by someone.
  • A home with great parent/guardian support where someone in the home is an expert in whatever their homework assignment deals with. You’ll have kids who have parents with English degrees, Math degrees, Art degrees. They’ll have support and from adults who have a lot of knowledge to be able to help them with their homework.
  • A home with no parent support. Students go home and aren’t encouraged to do their homework, but they do it anyway… alone with no help from anyone.
  • A home with no parent support where they have all of the responsibilities. Some students leave school just to go home to a house where they are in charge. They’ll be the ones responsible for feeding and taking care of younger siblings and/or themselves because their parents work or just aren’t there.

Expecting ALL students to complete the same homework in the same way really isn’t fair. For some students, they simply cannot complete homework. They either don’t have time or just don’t have the support they need. It’s often not their fault.

Of course, homework is necessary. It is necessary to check and reinforce skills. It is necessary to help/encourage students to study for assessments. It is necessary so students can complete classwork, projects, etc.

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So, how often should homework be assigned? There isn’t a single cookie cutter answer for this because there are very few cookie cutter classes out there. You need to take a look at your class and see what’ll work best for everyone. Here are some options:

  • Differentiate your homework. Send home shorter assignments to students that may have a harder time getting it complete for one of the reasons mentioned above.
  • Assign homework on Monday and make it due Friday. This doesn’t mean you assign only one thing for a whole week. You could assign 1-3 different assignments and have them due at the end of the week. This gives students the opportunity to work at their own pace. Some students may only be able to work on homework during lunch or on the bus to and from school. Some students may have sports or other extra curriculars that take up an ENTIRE evening one night a week.
  • Assign homework only when it is really necessary. Did the majority of the class have a hard time grasping what you went over that day? If so, they may need a little extra practice. Is there a quiz the next day and there is a study guide they should complete? If you spent an entire class period on a skill that the majority of or all students really understand, why give them even more practice “just because”?

So, there you have it. My opinions on homework have changed for the better I think. I’d love to hear how you deal with homework in your classroom! Share in the comments!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

More Task Card Ideas


I just finished up another set of Task Cards and my mind started spinning over all the great ways there are to use these bad boys in your classroom.

I'll be honest. When I first used task cards, I thought they were just glorified index cards. I was frustrated over using one page of paper to print off just four cards. I knew there HAD to be more uses. I came up with a few myself, but there are MANY more ideas out there in the internet world. 

One idea I include with my task cards is to print them as handouts, with 8 slides to a page. If you copy this front to back you have 18 problems that can be used for homework or a classwork assignment. All that white space that will print on the side of the page is PERFECT for students to use to show their work.

Interactive Notebook users - did you know there are LOTS of ways you can incorporate Task Cards into your INBs? Of course you did! One thing I like to do is print them as handouts again so they're smaller. Then, students can cut them out and use them on an output page as a way to demonstrate their understanding. If the cards are taped in on one side, you'll have a nice "hinge". Lift up the hinge and presto! Work space!


http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Ratios-Proportional-Relationships-Task-Cards-1553802

For more wonderful ways to use Task Cards in your classroom, check out my previous blog post that includes a linky where other bloggers share their tips. You can also download this great FREE guide from the Task Card Queen herself, Rachel Lynette! 


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Parent Perceptions


As I was sitting at my daughter's dance class last week I overheard a few other moms talking about how many days off school the students were having recently.

There was a day off for parent conferences at the end of the first quarter, Election Day, Veteran's Day, a 2 hour early release for professional development and few other things here and there. One mom stated, "I just don't understand why the teachers need ALL these days off. I think kids should go to school every single Monday through Friday all year. EVERY day."

I sat there listening like
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I mean, really? Really? I wanted to bring out my teacher voice and tell them what was going through my mind. But I didn't want to get kicked out of there and embarrass my daughter so I kept my mouth shut.

As teachers, we are used to getting crap from parents / the community / everyone in the free world when summer rolls around and we have "all summer off." But to hear parents complain in October, well it just struck a nerve.

It made me wonder if parents have even the slightest idea about what goes on in a classroom on a daily basis. I'm assuming the women having this discussion have never even volunteered in their child's classroom. Most jobs allow employees the ability to get their work done at work. Shocker right? Teachers don't have that "luxury." If it doesn't get done at school, it HAS to get done at home because guess what? A teacher can't call up parents and say, "Oh I'm sorry. Your child's report card is going to be late because I didn't have time to get them done." Nope, that won't fly.

In my last blog post I discussed professional development and how sometimes it honestly isn't that beneficial. But that doesn't mean it isn't needed. Teachers are required to work 10 more days than students in most districts. Tacking those days on at the end of the school year isn't going to do a lot of good because professional development at that time is kind of pointless. Throughout the year those days are necessary - necessary when teachers are getting burned out and looking for new ideas. They're necessary days for teachers to be able to get report cards finished, meet with parents and make the zillion conference phone calls that they otherwise won't have time for.

It's disheartening that teachers are often not getting support from the people who matter most - the parents. Teachers go to work each day with the goal of teaching these children something new or in other ways enriching their lives. They want to send them home to their parents smarter, kinder, better than they came in that morning. Most teachers have good intentions but are judged (unfairly) based on stereotypes and the fact that people just don't understand what really goes on inside the walls of a school.

What can be done about the way parents (and most of society) view teachers and how they spend their time during work days? Do you think they'll ever really "get it?" Share your thoughts in the comments!



Monday, November 3, 2014

Professional Development that DOESN'T make you want to take a sick day.

Ok, I said it. Many times professional development... well it is less than engaging. Raise your hand if you've ever gone into a professional development session / meeting / activity / day and thought "Ughhhh. This is going to be a TOTAL waste of my time."

I see you there. I see your hand up.


Raise your hand if you've ever viewed your PD day as a "free day" to take off work and not write sub plans.

Ooooh look at that. More hands!


So, what is the solution? How can schools ensure professional development doesn't suck? How can they make sure EVERY, yes every, teacher takes away something useful and doesn't think they just wasted a few hours of their life?

The answer is work. Lots of work. There are very few (ok probably zero) professional development activities that are one-size-fits-all. What is important for an 8th grade science teacher isn't going to matter in the least bit to a 6th grade ELA teacher. Those tips and tricks that'll keep a 1st grader on task won't work AT ALL for a 5th grader.

The days of whole school professional development need to stop. Administrators need to really KNOW their teachers and know what they value. How do they do that? Simple. Ask teachers what they need. Do they need classroom management strategies? Planning tips and tricks? Building relationships techniques? Are they interested in interactive notebooks? Are they new teachers who could use some support?

Even two 7th grade math teachers may have completely different needs when it comes to professional development. One teacher may have all upper level classes and have a different set of challenges than his colleague who teaches mostly struggling learners. The same resources won't help both of these teachers.


My suggestion is for those district wide professional development days to be just that - district wide. Offer teachers a menu of things to pick from. Give them a reason to get excited about professional development. Give them a reason to WANT to come to work that day and not take the day off to run errands or schedule 4 different doctor visits.

Pay to bring good people in. Look within your district to find good people already there. Consider offering the following sessions to any and all teachers at different locations throughout the district.

  • New Teacher Professional Development (I've got something BIG coming out soon for this!)
  • Interactive Notebooks in Lower Grades and Upper Grades - two different sessions
  • Classroom Management in Lower Grades and Upper Grades - two different sessions
  • Content specific PD (Algebra 1 only, Math 6 only, 3rd grade multi-subject, 3rd grade departmentalized, etc.) 
  • Building relationships with difficult students.
  • Cooperative planning
  • Communicating with parents
These are just a few suggestions. There are SOOOO many options out there. And let's be honest - teachers don't want PD where they have to act like (and are treated like) students. Give them something meaningful. Give them something that makes them feel like professionals. Give them something to help them GROW! Quality trained teachers who are given legitimate tools to succeed will produce quality educated students. 

Share your BEST professional development experiences, or what you'd like to see offered in the comments! 


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Hi, my name is Lindsay….

And I’m a planner-aholic.

I purchased an amazing and super fun planner from The 3am Teacher and had big plans to make myself one big ol business planner for 2015. Once I started digging through all that was included, I realized I would have a planner that was bigger than a textbook if I put everything in one printed planner.

So, what did I do? I made FOUR, yes four, separate planners for next year. I customized the pages in each one to fit my needs. I’m so grateful to Michelle for making the pages available in PPT format so I could add text to make them work best for me!

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First I made myself a business planner. This is where I’ll keep track of social media, my products, plan new ones and track my income and expenses.

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www.beyondtheworksheet.com

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Next I made a blogging planner. Let’s be honest, I need some consistency with this blog! This planner is the largest because I’m going to use it BIG TIME to draft out and plan for posts all next year!

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Third is a regular planner. This one includes a monthly calendar as well as weekly planning pages. I’ll use this for both family and business events.

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Lastly is our family financial planner. We’re building a house and will be on a strict budget (hopefully) until settlement in July to help us save for the largest down payment possible. This planner includes a monthly budget, bill tracker and daily ledgers.

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I’m looking forward to being more organized than ever in 2015 thanks to Michelle and her amazingly fabulous and fun resource! Click her logo below to check out the planner for yourself!

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Newsletter

Did you know that I'm now sending out a newsletter? This is a totally new thing for me so I'm definitely still in the experimenting stage! WHY am I sending out a newsletter when I have a blog, Facebook, Instagram and Tsu?

Here are my thoughts:
  • Through my newsletter I can share promo codes and free resources. My first newsletter gave subscribers access to my newest resource FREE, days before it was posted. 
  • I can condense all of the social media and blogging stuff into one place. 
  • I can highlight other fabulous teachers, sellers, clip artists, etc. 
  • Sometimes we get busy and miss things. The newsletter will have it all for you in one place! 
So, why am I sharing this with you? Well, two reasons. First, I'd love to have you sign up! Second and even more importantly, I'd love to hear what YOU value in a newsletter. What do you like to see? What do you not like to see? What kind of subject line makes you open newsletters? What makes you unsubscribe? Your feedback is SO valuable to me and will help me create a newsletter that is exactly what YOU want! Please share in the comments!

If you'd like to sign up, you can do so below!

Subscribe to my newsletter!

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