Archive for the ‘Instructions’ Category

My Students are Hilarious.

On one of the first few days of school my students wrote out their expectations for how the class would behave in order to get along as a whole. Am I the only one who finds this implied threat hilarious?

Class Expectation


What To Do On a Snow Day? Craft!

Snow days are the best days for teachers. True, you’ll have to make them up on warmer day, but who cares?! Snow days are unexpected gifts. However, if you are anything like me, then you have to figure out what to do in order to avoid feeling stir-crazy! One of my favorite things to do is get crafty. So when my friend, and fellow teacher, and I saw that a blizzard was about to hit Monday night, we stopped by Hobby Lobby after work to store up on materials.

Our craft of choice? Clipboards. They are very handy teacher tools. Clipboards hold my lessons for the day, the roll sheet, the seating chart, the weird assembly schedule for the day that I know I won’t remember, and usually a stack of papers I am grading and shuffling. If you are a future teacher, get yourself a clipboard. A decorated clipboard is even better though.

Here are some basic materials you’ll need to decorate:

Modge Podge  and Foam Brushes: to protect with a clear layer of shellack whatever cutesy-ness you feel like putting on your board. We chose to keep it simple: scrapbooking paper and decorative scrapbooking embellishments. We chose embellishments that would lay flat and could be Mod Podge’d over for protection.

Putting the scrapbooking paper on the clipboard is simple, and we each chose separate ways. First paint a thin layer of Mod Podge on your board, then lay the paper on flat. My friend used an X-ACTO knife to fit the paper down to size, while I used a small sheet of paper and decorated the edges with a collage of small paper squares. I didn’t think I would be able to perfectly cut the paper to fit and then perfectly position it straight on the board, and any imperfections would have driven me crazy! So something purposely imprecise was what I needed.

After the large paper and any designs are glued down, paint several layers of Mod Podge over it, painting each layer in opposite directions, horizontal strokes and then vertical. After this, decorate with your embellishments then repeat the layers of Mod Podge again. At this stage you will want to flip your board over to start on the reverse side. Lay the board on some aluminum foil to avoid sticking. This is not a gluey project where newspaper should be used!

The end result of our project is this:



And then mine….



How to Create Writing Prompts

I laugh to think about the time my friend Courtney and I tried to create a writing prompt for 11th graders during our student teaching. We started with “In an essay, tell whether Rappacini is a good guy or a bad guy…” We ended up getting some really low-level papers back, way beneath what the students were capable of. Guess what? Our assignment prompt was really low level!

Here is a guide to making smart prompts in order to get smart work back:

CRAFTS Writing Prompts Guide

C- Context

R- Role


F- Format

T- Topic

S- Strong Verb


Within the novel, Tangerine, by Edward Bloor, the Lake Windsor Downs community has recently experienced muckfires and mosquito infestations. You are the President of the Homeowners Association. In a monthly newsletter to the residents of Lake Windsor Downs, explain what has happened and describe what the association is doing to fix the problems.

C- Lake Windsor Downs community has recently experienced muckfires and mosquito infestations.

R- You are the President of the Homeowners Association.

A-    residents of Lake Windsor Downs

F- Newsletter

T- explain what has happened and describe what the association is doing to fix the problems.

S- Explain, Describe

Taping Down an Organized Room

At the end of each school day you could often find me walking around the room, picking up paper and straightening desks. This was usually a small task, but it was a tedious one. Like most teachers, I have 32 desks that are filled with 32 little people. This means that there are 32 desks to straighten into rows and lots of little pieces of paper to reach down and get! Would you want to do this?

Ms. Zelenski's Room

As  result I have learned that there needs to be a routine of organization- so everyone can pitch in to ensure desks are in their correct places and the room is tidy. An education classmate of mine used tape to indicate where exactly on the floor the desks should be positioned. I plan on using tape to outline all my rows of desks this upcoming school year.

Duct Tape

Lots of times I have instructed my students to straighten their desks. Leave it neatly sitting square behind the one in front of you! However, I think this task is easiest followed when you have something to guide you. There is a good reason why roads have painted lines!

Feedback- taping desk outlines, orderly or OCD?

Giving Group Time a Timeframe

Using small groups during a lesson is a great teaching technique. You want your students to get with 2-3 others and discuss, form questions, answer questions, etc. and then regroup as a class shortly thereafter to put all the newfound intelligence together.

Group Time

Um, but how are you going to make “shortly thereafter” happen? Kids can waste time and even though you can offer warnings like “5 minutes,” “3 minutes,” “1 minute,” the time spent still ends up lasting too long. Those verbal reminders are truly helpful…but if you are like me then these times aren’t exact and often I guiltily extended them.

Easy Fix- Add in a Song.

  1. Tell the students- we will be getting into groups of 2-3 (and then offer instructions on grouping and tasks as you so choose to do).
  2. You will have the time of this song to work with your group.
  3. When you hear the song coming to a close, then it’s time for you to closing up your group time.

This works well because the typical song will be about 3 1/2 minutes in length. The perfect length for some quick group time and then moving on. A familiar song’s ending will also cue the students so you don’t have to work at it as much.

Choose songs that are happy and upbeat. A downer tune or a slowjam isn’t going to liven up the room and inspire happy learners. Choose songs that may even seem corny- I like cheese. Make sure the songs aren’t from R. Kelly’s 12 Play or anything that is going to make you blush. Don’t creep out the kids!

Here are a few goodies to inspire: The Beatles, Kool and the Gang, KC and the Sunshine Band, BeeGees, Abba, Toto, Hall and Oates

What are some favorite songs you would recommend for the classroom?

Emotion…Let’s Not.

This entry could also very easily be titled, “You Better Not Wait.” Considering that one teensy little blog post could merit TWO different titles clearly shows its importance! Right?

While reading more of Doug Lemov’s wisdom (because I am now a devotee of him), I came across a comment that felt like it had been ripped from the very pages of my personal diary (if I had one! hah!). He stated something along the lines of, “Any time I ever felt angry at a student for his/her behavior, I had allowed that bad behavior to continue too long.” To elaborate this, if you let a student “sort of” behave or halfway follow instructions what you communicate is that you only deserve minimum effort. Furthermore, as a teacher you end up just waiting for them to break the rules more, further to a worse point that you believe merits actions. By the time you correct their actions, they think they can now get away with future murder and you are angry with them, despite just now giving out your first warning.

At the beginning of my first year I heard Annette Breux speak. She is a very magnetic lady and I’m sure wonderful to have as a classroom teacher. But she did give some really dud advice on one topic- misbehavior. She recommended ignoring misbehaving students because it was likely they just wanted attention. Now I’m no master teacher, but I strongly advise you to never put up with a single thing you aren’t okay with in your classroom. Students are not picking up on subtle ignoring hints, they are only picking up on “I can do this!” hints- which you are giving out if you are ignoring trouble.

Rotten Apple

Emotions are great…sometimes. It’s great to feel personal connections to students. It’s great to feel personal happiness in your occupation. It’s miserable to feel any emotions when it comes to classroom management. Discipline should not come out of frustration, anger, spite, etc. As a good teacher you need to be doling out impersonal corrections. Students aren’t mind readers, so don’t hesitate- you will just get mad.

In summation- NEVER wait on managing your class because you don’t want those frustrations to manage you.

So…Who Does What?

Happy Small Group

Your students are in pairs. An activity is about to begin. You tell the class, “Okay, choose someone to be the writer and someone to be the speaker.” Bad idea. At this point you probably have a classroom full of partners playing the staring contest. Are you counting on your students in the partnership to have the maturity or take-charge mindset to delegate a role or take a job that is out of their comfort zone?? Uh-uh. Not gonna happen. Let’s go back in time and do this right.

Assign Students with Group/ Partner Roles…the Right Way

  1. Your students are in pairs.
  2. Look at each other. Pick someone to be the duck and someone to be the goose. Done? Okay good.
  3. The duck will be the writer and the goose will be the speaker. Annnnd….go!

Duck and Goose

Why This Works-

  • Deciding to be a duck or goose is easy. It’s arbitrary and meaningless.
  • Later, when it’s task time- there is no awkward dance. Everyone has been assigned a role.
  • This allows some students who would never volunteer themselves for a particular task to get a chance to branch out. It also allows those students who have a tendency to take charge and overshadow their group members to get a smaller role than usual.
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