Category Archives: Teaching

a foolproof way to introduce poetry {to middle schoolers}

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box gift card. Winners are picked each month. 

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

The first year I taught, I was faced with the daunting task of introducing poetry to a class of too-cool-for-school eighth graders.

I was young, naive…and therefore optimistic. I had grand visions of unearthing a poetic genius from this unlikely crew, and I just knew that they would connect with the authentic voices of Langston Hughes, e.e. cummings and Maya Angelou. If I could get them to keep an open mind.

Which–for eighth graders–is a big if.

Sure enough, when I announced the unit on the very first day, the word poetry was met with groans and rolled eyes. I knew I had to change the students’ perceptions. Clearly, they were thinking of poetry that’s limited by rules and rhymes.

I wrote the word “poetry” on the board and asked them for a definition. As they called out phrases (“it rhymes,” “it’s all mushy and lovey-dovey,” “boring”), I wrote them on the board. Every one of them.

Then I told them we were going to read some of my favorite poems. I pulled out the overhead projector (dating myself here :) and put up an overhead with a long poem on it. We started reading it, and they were still groaning. It was a love poem.

But, what they didn’t know was that it was actually a song; I’d typed out the lyrics to a song by Boyz II Men (dating myself again). But I kept that little secret to myself and just let the students tear into the “poem.”

Then, without saying much, I hit play on my CD player (phew, I’d have been really embarrassed to have to type cassette deck), and the song

There- ha! At least my photo is up-to-date. :)

started playing. It took my students a minute to catch on, but when they realized that they were listening to the “lame” words on the screen being sung by their idols…well, let’s just say I had them hooked on poetry.

After the song was over, I pointed out the obvious: music is poetry. If you like music, you like poetry. And so, with that revelation in mind, I erased their previous definitions of poetry from the board and asked for new ones. This time, they filled the board with phrases like “songs are poetry,” “meaningful,” “you can connect with it,” “sometimes it tells a story,” etc.

By the end of the poetry unit, I was right. They had connected with Hughes and Angelou and cummings. And…quite a few unlikely poetic geniuses had also been unearthed.

To search for song lyrics for your poetry unit, check out www.allthelyrics.com.

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Filed under Motivation, Poetry, reluctant readers

teacher self-care {take a minute for you}

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box gift card! Winners are drawn regularly. 

The hardest thing for me about back-to-school time is transitioning from summer relaxation to high-energy fall schedules. As teachers, we look forward to meeting our new classes, and there’s a certain unmatched energy about starting a new year with a new group. It’s fun! (Okay, most of it :).

But I find that if I don’t take a little time for self-care, I feel burned out come October. (Or September. Or August 30. :) Am I alone here, or can I get an Amen?

Here are some ideas for us educators who need a little R & R– even after our swimsuits have long ago dried and the sand is long gone from our flip-flops. These ideas don’t take long, but they provide a bit of happy in the midst of all the busy.

1. Get Social!

Fill the “off-hours” time in your calendar (evenings, weekends, Friday nights) with activities you authentically look forward to. Plan fun outings, girl’s nights out, date nights, or just solo trips to the coffee shop. Having these fun times planned and scheduled on the calendar gives you something to look forward to even on your longest days. At least you’ll know that a break is coming!

2. Just Say No.

In order to have space in your calendar (and mind) for things you enjoy doing, you may have to say “no” to invitations and activities that come your way…and that’s okay. Learning to say no is crucial to self-care. If you’re bad at it, here’s an article on how to do it well.

3. Play Music.

When you’re in your classroom during breaks or after school, put on some favorite music. It really is an endorphin booster! Here’s a play list of relaxing tunes. How pretty is Bella’s Lullaby??

4. Leave Work on Time. 

Sometimes you have to stay late at school (parent meetings, faculty meetings, PTA meetings, meetings meetings meetings). But, let’s be honest– sometimes it’s just a bad habit or a choice. Make a pact with yourself to leave on time at least three afternoons a week. It’s much more relaxing to grade papers at home with your fuzzy slippers kicked up in a recliner than with your aching feet still stuck underneath your metal teacher desk.

5. Get Physical. 

Exercise is a great stress reducer– this is no secret. But with newly packed schedules, it may be hard to find time to hit the gym or treadmill this fall. If so, try to at least get outside and take a walk, look up at the sky, notice the world around you. Even if it’s just a quick walk after dinner, getting out and moving is grounding and re-centering. 

6. Stay Inspired.

And finally, remember why you became a teacher to begin with. It wasn’t for the glory. And it sho wasn’t for the salary. It was to make a difference in the lives of children. Here’s an inspiring website that shares the stories of famous celebs and their favorite teachers. And here’s a video to remind us why we wipe down our boards, plan our lessons, grade those papers, put on a smile, and reach out and care.

Happy August! Let’s remember to invest in ourselves as we invest in our students. We’ll all be happier this month…and beyond. ♥

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Filed under Motivation, Teacher Appreciation, Teacher Inspiration, Teaching

Four Timely Reminders for all Educators

 by Mary Jane Downs

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box gift card! {winners drawn at the end of the month}

Are you creating a teaching legacy for future generations? What wisdom can you pass down from your experiences?

My daughter graduated as an education major from Converse College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, this past spring. As she is hunting for a teaching position and awaiting her first solo flight, I want to give her some sage advice to ponder as she anticipates the future. Here are four tips from my teaching experience that I will be sharing with my daughter, which are, perhaps, a good reminder for all of us teachers…both young and not-so-young. 

Healthy Fear

A little ‘healthy fear’ at the beginning of each year can be a good thing. You do not have all the answers yet because every class has a different make up. This keeps you willing to seek for the answers…and it can also foster a mutual respect from your students. Don’t fear the fear; embrace it as an opportunity to learn.

The Truth Behind Discipline

Discipline has a lot to do with who you are and how you present yourself. It also has to do with honesty, fairness, your example and what you expect of each student. Bad attitudes and criticism will only aggravate the challenges. Finding the good in each student and telling them so can begin to change even the most hardcore children.

Each New Day is a New Day

Let everyone have a new start each day. Don’t hold grudges against students. It will only bring more friction to a classroom. We all have bad moments, days and periods of time when our behavior reeks. Forgive and move on. Try to find out if there is a reason for a student’s behavior. Then, work to help your student learn to overcome their problems in a more positive way.

Teachable Spirit

The best teachers keep a teachable spirit throughout their career. They never think they have arrived at fully knowing everything. They continually search for the best ways to enhance their students’ learning environment. Then, when all is said and done, your students will honor and respect you for helping them learn to succeed under your watch.

Teaching is a challenge no matter how you look at it. However, starting out with the right kind of wisdom will help you build a rewarding career…and a living legacy.

Mary Jane Downs is an author, speaker and teacher who lives in the foothills of the Asheville Mountains. She loves long walks with her camera in hand, reading, hand quilting, and cooking for friends. Mary Jane has been published in Awe Magazine, Inspiredmoms.com, as well as a guest blogger. Mary Jane has found her writing and love of quilting to work well together. Quilting gives her time to think and gain insight for story ideas, and writing helps her to express those ideas and thoughts to others. Read more by Mary Jane at www.maryjanewrites.com.

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Filed under Academic Success, Behavior Management, Motivation, School Readiness, Teacher Inspiration, Teaching

Student Appreciation Certificates (a warm fuzzy)

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by Diane Burdick, M. Ed.

Believe it or not, one of the fondest memories of my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Krause, was forged the last day of school.

Once the school desks where pushed to the side of the room, all the supplies were put up, and the room cleaned from top to bottom, Mrs. Krause called us to the center of the room where we sat down in a large circle. She told us how much she had enjoyed the year getting to know each one of us in her classroom, then presented us each with our own individual award certificate.

Instead of a generic certificate that said something like “great job this year,” Mrs. Krause awarded each student a personalized certificate that showed specifically why that student was special to her. For example, the shyest kid in the class, who gave her a hug every morning when he walked into the classroom, received the “Best Hugger” award. She passed out a “Sleepiest” award to the child who showed up late to school most mornings because she had overslept, and she awarded the “Where Is It?” award to the child who forgot her homework and permission slips most often.

Although it didn’t take much time for Mrs. Krause to physically create each award—she used a certificate from the local teacher supply store—she did take the time to think of why each child was special, which is a great way to leave a lasting impression from the school year.

How to Create Your Own

This year, consider forming a short list of the things that make each student in your class unique, and then create a special award for each student. Four easy places to start:

1. Purchase a pack of customizable paper certificates like these achievement certificates or this “awesome” award (shown right) from The School Box.

2. Or open up the “certificate” setting in your Word software. Download the free printable/savable pdf of the four award stamps featured below right, to add to your awards. Click here for download: Award Stamps. 

3. Or download an award from www.123certificates.com/formal.php.

4. Or use one of these great printable certificates from www.familyshoppingbag.com.

Consider adding your school mascot or logo to further personalize the awards.

The Award I Earned

When I got home that day from school, I proudly showed my mother the certificate Mrs. Krause had given me. While my mom wasn’t thrilled that I received the “Where Is It?” award, I was touched that my teacher would turn something that could have been a frustration into something that became an endearment.

As teachers, we’re all eager to end the year with a bang, and we’re all excited (let’s admit) about the prospects of summer. But, let’s also remember that we can make a lasting impact on our students with a gesture as simple as a hand-written certificate. Decades later, I still remember fifth grade–and, yes, Mrs. Krause–fondly. 

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Filed under Academic Success, Activities, Classroom Community, Motivation, Teaching

And we have a win-ah!

Time to announce a winner for our monthly School Box $20 gift card giveaway! We randomly draw a winner from among the month’s commenters (so if you want to toss your name in the hat next time, share some little tidbits in the comments under a post).

Our newest winner is:

S. Jordan-Georgia

Comment: on Spelling Guess & Check

What a great idea Elizabeth! I probably hear that question a million times during writing alone and my answer is simply a point towards the dictionaries. However, not only does my EIP class struggle with spelling, they also lack the dictionary skills they need as fifth graders. I believe the Spelling Guess & Check sheet is an awesome ‘visual’ tool to allow my students see how they are spelling a word, while thinking back to the sounds and decoding skills they learned in the primary grades to help them spell. With the CRCT fast approaching, I definitely plan to download this sheet to help my students become better spellers and to sharpen their dictionary skills not only for the test but for their future in middle school as well. Thank you Elizabeth for such a helpful post!

You can see all comments on this post here:

http://newsletter.schoolbox.com/2012/01/11/how-do-you-spell-a-reproducible-sheet-to-help-with-dictionary-skills/#comments

Congrats! You’ll be receiving an e-mail from The School Box confirming the mailing of your gift certificate. Enjoy!

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Filed under Free Stuff!, Motivation, Teaching

Happy Educator’s Day {because we’re all teachers in some way}

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 gift card to The School Box! Winners are drawn monthly. 

January 28 is National Educator’s Day. Know what this means? It means time to celebrate YOU! Whether you’re a classroom teacher, homeschooler, Sunday school teacher, mom, dad, aunt, uncle or grandparent…you’re a teacher. Little eyes are watching you. Little hands are holding yours. Little minds are being shaped by your instruction, your example.

So, really, this day is for all of us.

As a thank you for all we ALL do to guide and inspire, we got wind that The School Box is offering special discounts on Saturday, January 28, for EVERYONE. Storewide discounts, giveaways, School Box bucks ($10 for every $50 spent, no limit)– AND free lamination on everything bought that day!

And did you know they offer free giftwrap year-round, now? Yup.

So go stock up on gifts, games and supplies for the little ones in your world. I think my birthday closet is about to get restocked. :)

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Filed under Classroom Decor, Free Stuff!, Organization, Teaching

favorite {free} downloadable fonts

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

Write a little comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box gift card! We’ll draw a winner shortly. 

Looking for a way to spruce up your classroom reproducibles? Here are some of our favorite free downloadable fonts that would look just dandy on your next parent letter or student activity sheet (or party invitation!). Happy Holidays from A Learning Experience!

Circus

This one looks just like good ol’ Barnum and Bailey’s. Super cute!

Image

DOWNLOAD HERE.

Chalkduster

Looks like, well, you know.

DOWNLOAD HERE.

Pea Lovey Dovey

Adorable curlie-q font with a whimsical vibe.

DOWNLOAD HERE.

Elegant

Appropriately named, this font is elegant but not frufru.

DOWNLOAD HERE. 

Orange

Fun, whimsy, feminine.

DOWNLOAD HERE.

Earwig Factory

Gross name. Cute font.

DOWNLOAD HERE.

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Filed under Activities, Art, Classroom Decor, Holidays, Organization, Teacher Inspiration, Teaching, technology

40% off cool stuff

As parents and/or educators, most of us are familiar with (read: practically live at) The School Box (aka Teacher Mecca). And, as parents and/or educators, most of us are on tight budgets (read: we’re always game for a good bargain). And so, we found it grand that these two truths are colliding this weekend: In honor of July 4th, The School Box is offering a 40% off in-store coupon for any one regular-priced item June 30-July 3!

Here are the details (click to print the coupon):

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Filed under Classroom Decor, Teaching

somethin’ fun…famous learners

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In honor of summer, we thought we’d celebrate some of the famous brains of our time…since our brains are officially on vacation!

Below is a fun summer read: an inspiring array of pivotal personas who prove that learning is a lifelong endeavor.

For some, learning is primarily focused on formal schooling, beginning and ending with the classroom. But for others, education happens everywhere and exists as a lifelong pursuit. Whether they are learning through experience, books or other means, these lifelong enthusiasts inspire us with their tenacity for education.

  1. Arthur Ernest Morgan: A pioneer for flood control and dam construction methods, Arthur E. Morgan was a self-taught engineer. Although his education did not come from formal schooling, he went on to become president of Antioch College.
  2. Malcolm X: As an advocate for the rights of African-Americans, Malcolm X is admired by many. He dropped out of school, and after converting to Islam in prison, spent his time self-learning, eventually becoming an intellectual public figure.
  3. The Wright Brothers: Orville and Wilbur Wright conducted the first controlled human flight, and the first to invent controls for fixed-wing aircraft. These two were self-taught inventors and continued to study the field of aviation.
  4. Ansel Adams: Ansel Adams is one of the most famous and celebrated photographers in the world. He left school at an early age, but made continuous learning and innovation a priority in his life and work, allowing him to create the fine art we know him for today.
  5. Quentin Tarantino: Beloved for his films, including Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill, Quentin Tarantino is an incredibly popular and influential director. He dropped out of high school, instead preferring to learn filmmaking from his job in a video store.
  6. George Washington: The first President of the United States, George Washington had little formal education. He loved studying, particularly mathematics, and even worked as a surveyor after going on a relevant trip with his cousin.
  7. Florence Nightingale: A celebrated nurse and pioneer in nursing education, Nightingale herself was self-taught with some help from her father.
  8. Colonel Harland Sanders: Colonel Sanders, founder of the KFC empire, dropped out of school in the 6th grade. Upon reaching retirement age without much in the way of funds, Colonel Sanders decided to better himself with self-education and the founding of KFC.
  9. Nikola Tesla: Nikola Tesla is well known as an extraordinary inventor. He attended college, but preferred to study on his own.
  10. Michael Faraday: Michael Faraday’s work led to the development of electrotechnology. One of the greatest scientists in the world, he was almost completely self-taught.
  11. Stanley Kubrick: Stanley Kubrick was a celebrated director. He was a poor student and disdained school. Instead of formal education, Kubrick sat in on classes and pursued self-learning.
  12. George Bernard Shaw: George Bernard Shaw had irregular education, but went on to be awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1925. With intensive reading, debating and lecturing, Shaw was able to educate himself throughout his life.
  13. Bill Gates: Bill Gates recognizes that continuous learning and self-improvement is essential to success. He often picks up a copy of Time to read cover to cover, not just browsing, but soaking up everything to ensure that he learns something he didn’t know before.
  14. Martin Van Buren: Although his formal education ended at 13, Martin Van Buren, the eighth president of the United States, went on to study law as an apprentice at a firm.
  15. Walt Whitman: Walt Whitman is one of America’s most important poets. He was a reading lover, teaching himself to write, and even self published.
  16. Abraham Lincoln: Before becoming the sixteenth President of the United States, Lincoln was a self-educated lawyer, even though he had less than a year of formal schooling. He didn’t read excessively, but carefully studied each book he did read to be sure he completely understood them.
  17. Alexander Graham Bell: The man we know as the inventor of the telephone and telegraph was self-taught. He only attended a few lectures in college, but continued to learn and experiment throughout his life.
  18. Benjamin Franklin: Benjamin Franklin is a celebrated American statesman, and an autodidact as well. Franklin took to learning on his own, working with those with experience to understand topics like gulf streams, Italian and meteorology.
  19. Elizabeth Barrett Browning: A widely celebrated English poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning educated herself with Shakespearean plays and classic literature. She remained a ravenous reader, learning through books for her entire life.
  20. James Baldwin: James Baldwin was born into poverty and achieved only a high school education. Upon graduation, he pursued passionate self-education, using his learning to become a celebrated writer and Civil Rights activist.
  21. Abigail Adams: The First Lady to the second President of the United States, and mother of the sixth, Abigail Adams was well-educated without ever attending school. She was tutored and loved to read, simply for the desire to bolster her generous intellect.
  22. Walt Disney: The namesake and co-founder of Walt Disney, this cartoonist taught himself to draw through correspondence school and continued to learn throughout his life.
  23. John Harrison: John Harrison was the inventor of the marine chronometer and a self-educated clockmaker. He lacked the credentials of some of his peers because of this, and got assistance from the king to get credit for his accomplished education.
  24. Frank Lloyd Wright: Frank Lloyd Wright is easily America’s most famous architect. He learned and developed his own style of architecture, drawing from methods of his own creation.
  25. Ray Bradbury: Ray Bradbury was a prolific science fiction writer, with more than 30 books and over 500 works. He graduated from high school, but his impressive education is largely due to independent reading.

For more fun lists of learners, check out www.onlinecollege.org.

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Filed under Academic Success, Teacher Inspiration, Teaching

How to Use Twitter

by Connie Wiley, Ed.S.

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box Gift Card! Comment winners are drawn every month!

Summertime is a great time to brush up on new skills–particularly new technology. Last summer, I signed up for Twitter and have really enjoyed this social networking site throughout this past school year. I discovered that there are so many resources teachers can access from Twitter! Here’s my no-nonsense guide to using Twitter, both for yourself and for your classroom.

Signing up

It’s easy to get started. Before signing up, you will need to decide on a Twitter name and profile information to use. You can also add an uploaded picture. Think about whether or not you would like to be public or private. If you choose public, other Twitter users will be able to read your tweets and follow you. You always have the option to block a follower. By choosing private, only those who have requested to follow you will see your tweets. Now go to www.Twitter.com and click sign up. Voila! You’re officially a part of the Twitter world!

Who to Follow

You can use Twitter’s list of who to follow, or you can search by name or subject. Be sure to read their profile to see if this is someone you would enjoy following. Then click follow.

If later you decide their Tweets are not for you, then click unfollow on their profile page.

I enjoy following educational blogs such as #nytimes, #writingproject, #readingtoday, and #teachingwithsoul.

Fellow educators and media specialists include #mentortexts, #mrshureads, #peter_price, #linkstoliteracy and #kathyfs24.

Authors, illustrators and editors I follow are #thebookmaven, #donalynbooks, #judyblume, #megcabot and #deborahwiles.

There are also newsletters that have great ideas for teachers. I follow #pwkidsbookshelf, #teachingbooks, #edweekteacher, #readingrockets and #web20classroom.

Start Tweeting

Click in the box under What’s Happening? The first rule of Twitter is that you have to say what you want to say in 140 characters or less. Don’t worry, there is a counter to let you know how many characters you have used. To post click the tweet button.

Read Daily

I usually check my account twice a day. There are three useful features included at the end of each tweet. Just move your mouse over the tweet and you will see favorite, retweet, and reply. Click favorite to save in your favorites list so that you can go back and read more when you have time. Retweet will repost the tweet to all of your followers. Click reply to send a message back to the tweeter.

Why not add some fun to your professional career? Start Tweeting today!

 Connie Wiley, Ed.S., is a third-grade teacher in Gwinnett County with 28 years of experience. She holds a masters in ECE and a specialists in Educational Leadership.

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Filed under Summer Learning, Teaching, technology