Wednesday, March 08, 2006

WOW!! AWESOME EXPERIENCE

On Tuesday we had an abnormal schedule, I finished teaching 4th period and was talking to a seasoned teacher that uses that classroom 5th period about how to deal with a student that severe learning disabilities. Right after 4th usually is lunch, I noticed that the classroom was full of students, and I asked the teacher why he had students in during lunch and he told me it was fith period.

I looked at the clock and I was two minutes late for class. I ran to my classroom, and as I entered I noticed all the students were on task doing the daily drill and the assignment for the day was written on the board. I didn't write it so I was a bit confused how it appeared and why the students were all on task (I teach at an alternative high school)

As it turned out one of my students went to my website read the daily assignment and the daily drill and wrote it on the board, and got the entire class to start the assignment. I was so amazed. This was the second time the student has done this--the first time was I had a substitute not show up for the class.

So I have learned that my students work well with patterns and repetition. It just really made my day to walk into class two minutes late and see everyone already working on the days assignment and on task.

Warm Fuzzies-- and competition

Each week our staff gets together and we write postcards home to the parents of our students. We pick a few students to write about each week. This month we had a competition to see who could write the most home. First and Second place would receive a prize, I think it was a gift certificate somewhere. My coworker that shares my classroom was hand writing like crazy he was planning on doing one for every student.

I told him that there was an easier way, he could do it all on the computer in a fraction of the time. I decided to go head to head with him in the competition. I created a mail merge document and incorporated all of my students I wrote a "personalized" letter to every students parents based on their grade. Every A student received "<> is doing great..." B students received "<> is doing good but can bring the grade to an A..." C Students " <> is passing but with a little effort can raise..." F Students "<> is not currently passing, but can raise..." Each letter was filled with encouragement and motivation to help the students try harder to improve. I mailed out 78 in one day. My coworker hit 80.

Today I showed my coworker how to mail merge and he sent out another 40. Then another teacher asked me how to mail merge as the term is ending soon and she wants to send home a letter to parents about their student's academic progress. I've decided that I am going to use camtasia and create a simple how to and email it to all the staff so they can improve their communication (well make it easier anyway) with parents of students. My coworker that is trying to win the competition is out of town tomorrow so I think I will email all of the teachers explain how to mail merge and motivate them to send more post cards than my coworker.

After the first round of mass postcards one of my students asked me the strangest question, "Do you like steak?" "Yes" I replied, "How about a nice T-Bone" "of course", "well I owe you one then." I was confused by this and inquired as to why he owed me one, he said "My parents received the postcard you sent and they were so proud they took me out for steak, and my Dad told me I owe you a steak because you earned me mine." I helped him realize that he earned it himself for his hard work. Then everyone else piped in about the postcard they received. All but maybe two students were appreciative of the postcards. I thought this was a great. I was able to see the effects of the postcards that we send out.

Friday, February 24, 2006

I love being a teacher--Free Books

I received in the mail two text books for free. That is so cool. I like being a teacher because it entitles me to free stuff. Free books that is way cool. It made my day to receive these. This is one of my favorite perks about being a teacher.

Love and Logic

This week I went with a couple of other teachers from my school to a Love and Logic Training Meeting. It was a really good training opportunity. I thought the speaker was a little slow for my liking but the information was important. I have already begun implementing the techniques taught in my class. Today I was able to get a student to work on an assignment. He has 8 out of 220 points right now, but I gave him an assignment just for him and made it worth 30 points. He didn't work the entire period but I was elated to see him work part of the period. Hopefully I will be able to work him up to working the whole period. I realized it is important to go to conferences and trainings so that I will be a better teacher. Also at the training I saw a teacher friend of mine from another school. I thought that was great.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

CTE Conference-Networking

I went to the Utah CTE state conference. Wow I was expecting it to be unproductive and boring. This turned out to be a great resource for teaching. I saw many of my peers from college and was able to see what they were up to and get tips from their teaching experiences. I was also able to learn from seasoned teachers about resources available for me and my students. I thought this was a very worth while experience.

Camtasia

Right after I started researching various screen capture programs I went to a state conference for CTE teachers. I went to a break out session where the topic was camtasia. The instructor demonstrated how he used Camtasia in the classroom. I really liked the demonstration. I went back and asked if we could buy that program. My department head approved the purchase. I have been using it for various activities. I found that camtasia should not replace the teacher(even when I am the voice in the video). Instead it needs to supplement the teacher. Many of my students told me that it was too slow, and it I talked boring. The great part is that the students that are slower really liked this as they didn't feel pressured by everyone else they could work at their own pace and not hold back the entire class. I really like this program. I will use it to enhance my teaching.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Individual Learning

This Week I created a pretest to access students knowledge before I taught. I wanted to see what parts of the standards the students were already understanding. I created a 15 question sheet that had 15 tasks to be completed in word, The instructions were to perform the function to the sentence and if the students didn't know how to do the task they simple put I don't know how to do this. Some of the students knew how to do about half of the tasks but most were only able to accomplish 3 tasks. I was trying to figure out how to teach to the students that are VERY slow in my class and teach to the students that are fast in my class, as both complain that the rate I teach is not the right speed, and both get frustrated. Before school I was trying to think of how to teach the topics. I didn't have the class until 5th period so I had some time to think. While I was teaching first period the thought came to me, if everyone could go at their own rate they would learn better. I wanted to show the students individually. Before I forget another problem is that it is difficult for some of my students to see the projector. I wanted everyone to see the instructions on their own screen. I thought I could make PDF's of everything I did a step by step approach and I realized I don't have forever to dedicate to every lesson.

The idea came of screen capture, I thought I could plug in my video camera to my laptop and record my work, then I figured that online would have some great ways to capture the screen. Sure enough I found half a dozen screen capture programs, I opened a couple and was able to record 15 individual videos of the answers(me demonstrating on the computer) how to do the functions on the assignment. I went to work frantically, I used a demo version of the software and worked through lunch, and my prep period, I was able to have a link in Word to a video file for each question. It was linked to a swf on the class website. Well I almost finished in time for 5th period, I had it working just as the students finished the day's sponge. It worked well, I was so amazed at the program I used. I forget what it is called, something like demo-build or something like that. The program is great it even builds simple balloons that tell the user where to click.

Does anyone have any suggestions on great screen capture programs? That are under $300 for single user educational license? I am really excited about doing this for my classes.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Teachers Helping Teachers

After my disheartening Review, I was talking with a coworker and I told him about my review. He is a first year teacher as well only he has worked 20 years in industry. He is really worried about impressing the principal. I told him everything that I was chastised for, I told him about the spinner, he asked what he could do to improve on that. I told him everything the principal told me I needed to improve. He noted everything, then he went to a preconference with the principal.

After his meeting with the principal he told me that he told her he was going to do everything that he and I talked about and it really impressed the principal, and she said, "I am excited to see how you randomly choose students, because I have seen 3 teachers doing it completely wrong." When he said that it actually helped me, instead of me getting chewed out for not doing a good job I was chewed out for not doing what the principals idea was, and I wasn't alone, three teachers that week received the same lecture. I figured that it wasn't my fault that I didn't implement her idea correctly, but that I and my coworkers weren't trained on the proper implementation of the spinner or randomizer. Proper meaning the way the principal wanted to see it.

I told my coworker I would help him, we have a projector with a smartboard. I found a number randomizer on www.flashkit.com and modified it to work for my coworker, and put his name on it and made it look like he made it. He projected it to the smartboard and used it for a number randomizer. This worked well! I'm going to start using this. I know figured out how to have a randomizer that is against the wall not on a cart.

After my coworker's post interview, he told me that the principal loved everything he did, that he did it right. He told me that he worked on everything that I did wrong, and except for one little thing he received a great review. He was very appreciative for my help.

This taught me a great lesson. Teachers need to help each other out. We need to work together to do better, we can't hoard our ideas, but we need to share them and help others do better.

Principal Review

My principal is very concerned with how well teachers are teaching. She periodically comes in and reviews our teaching styles. I don't know why but I was really nervous when she came in for this review. We held a preconference the day before I taught, she gave me a list of things that she was looking for while she would be evaluating me. One of the things was to have some sort of spinner to choose who I called on randomly, I usually would call on students by picking a random number 1-20 and then calling on the student sitting at that computer. I wanted to impress my principal so I spent a lot of time creating a multi-colored spinner about 2.5 feet wide. I wanted it to be great. For class I prepared a review of our material. I found a couple of "who wants to be a millionaire" powerpoint templates online and plugged in the review questions. I called on the students randomly using the spinner. I thought the class went great. I had the spinner sitting on a cart at the front of the room. I thought the class went very well. It turned out to be my best class of the day.

Then our post conference came and I wow I felt as though I was raked across the coals. I used the spinner wrong, I was told it needed to be hanging from the wall, nothing was said about how colorful it was or how much effort was put into making it. Unfortunately I can't make a spinner that won't be affected by gravity, so I was frustrated all that work down the drain. I have ideas on how to make one but it would really be a lot of work. I left that day feeling that all my effort to do well was worthless. My best class of the day and I felt like it was all for nothing. I was pretty depressed.

One good thing atleast the principal was impressed with the game that I played with the students, and asked how I got it, I told her "I stole it from the internet" and that impressed her. The sites I found the templates on allowed the files to be changed so I don't feel like I stole it. My principal now wants me to teach other teachers how to acquire information from the internet.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Review for state exam went well

While giving the state exam, I was given a great complement by one of the students, "This test is much easier than the reviews you gave us" I don't know if the student said that to suck up to me, but it sounded sincere, I thought that was a good complement it meant that I had prepared them sufficiently for the test. I hope they all do well on it.

Monday, January 09, 2006

"How do I look"

When I returned from winter break I grew a goatee, the students were all commenting about it. Today I shaved it as part of my schools honor code is to be clean shaven. The students took a double take they told me I should have kept the goatee. In my first class a student asked if she could take a poll to see if people liked my goatee or not. I let her take the poll she wrote on the board three questions, they were if I looked better with or without a goatee, with or without hair gel(I ran out today so I didn't have any in) and with or without glasses. I left the questions on the board and asked every class, the results were the same for every class, I need to grow the goatee back, get a hair cut, use gel, ditch the glasses, and my last class of the day told me I needed to dress better or more stylish. So I guess If I do a total make over I will look better in their eyes. I got a hair cut tonight, I'm wearing contacts tomorrow, and will dress more trendy, and see how the students react. This may seem all silly, but I realized it is ok to have fun with the students this poll took about 2 minutes out of the class and they all seemed to enjoy this. I learned that I can have fun with students as long as I don't neglect teaching them, this made for a great sponge for the day, or at least a great break the rhythm of constant learning and I think they worked better in the classes afterward. Does anyone have fun stories they have had with their students?

Today was a fun yet great learning day.

I had some classroom money that I could spend on improving the classroom. I like to show little video clips or do things that require music, so I bought some $75 speakers for my computer they are really nice for what I paid for them. Today we had a review for the state final exam. I wanted something that would hold the students attention, something fun, yet something that would help them prepare for the state exam. I found an awesome trivia game online http://www.almorale.com/. I used this for the review. I am not sure if I want to buy this yet or not so I used the demo mode I am also testing out a couple of similar products from other vendors. I set it up so there was competition, each class ran slightly different but the idea was everyone split up into teams, they would then hold up a # when they knew the answer the winning teams won. The software kept track of scores, and right or wrong answers, it is a nice program. My coworker that shares the classroom watched the "review" during his test period, he said even the kids that never do any work were excited to work on this. I had three teachers come in and tell me they could hear the music all the way across the school. I asked if they wanted me to turn it down, they said they can hear it in the hallways but not in their classrooms. My department head asked if I brought in my own speakers, He said he now wants to use department money to buy speakers for our classrooms. I told him I used my teacher money, I wish I would have gone through him I could still have more teacher money. I think the review went great, and only four students refused to participate the entire day and they were the students that will do the best on the test anyway, as they know the material the best. I thought it went very well. One thing could have gone better, my supervising professor from the university came to the school today to talk to my mentor teacher (in another classroom) This would have been an awesome day for him to poke his head in my classroom and see what I was doing. Unfortunately he didn't. I gave the winning teams candy, it really turned out to be a great way to review. It also allowed me to test out the speakers--which I think everyone in the school is going to be jealous of. What are other successful ways for doing reviews?
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