Posts Tagged ‘Instructions’

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?

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.

Giving Directions

I’m currently reading Teach Like a Champion by Doug Lemov. He has mad credentials (that I am too lazy to list) and works as a teaching consultant. Even in the introduction he caught my interest with useful tips. Usually you don’t get useful stuff in the introduction of the book, you get obligatory thank yous, inspirational sayings, etc. So starting off, I’m already impressed.

Doug Lemov understands that teachers can be pretty thick, just like students can be (yes, finally! Someone who does not overestimate my ability!) He stresses concrete guidance.

“When you want them to follow your directions, stand still. If you’re walking around passing out papers, it looks like the directions are no more important than all of the other things you’re doing. Show that your directions matter. Stand still. They’ll respond.”

It sounds so, so simple. However, who hasn’t tried to tell students what to do while also running around like Mrs. Frizzle on RedBull?

Stand still when giving instructions

  • You will speak more clearly- taking time to enunciate, giving a steady delivery rate, making eye contact with students
  • You will nonverbally imply that your words are important- stop and take notice!
  • You will be focused on if the class understands what to do, versus being unaware of confusion, or more likely, oblivious to your word vomit.

Teach Like a Champion

Doug Lemov-

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