Archives for category: Secondary Education

As a parent, I have often admired brightly colored and well-organized learning stations when visiting my own kids’ elementary school classrooms. For years, I’ve wished that I could integrate more movement and hands-on learning in my classroom, but there were three main barriers: 1. space 2. attitude and 3. time.

crowded secondary classroom aisles

These are a few of the backpacks I trip over in the crowded aisles in my classroom.

Space

Though I’ve taught in several high school classrooms over the years, most have narrow spaces for walking. With dozens of students and their large, heavy backpacks, coats, and lunch bags to navigate around, I can barely monitor my students’ work, let alone plan for large motor movement!

Teen Attitude

I remember listening to some classroom management tips given by an elementary school teacher to a K-12 group of teachers years ago. While her ideas were clever, the secondary teachers in the room smirked at them. One technique in particular, which involved students holding up an index finger to signal that they were listening, prompted one experienced secondary teacher nearby to mutter, “Yeah, the high school kids would hold up a finger all right, but it wouldn’t be the index!”

Time

As a teacher who sees about 130 students every day in my room, I’ve tended toward looking upon planning for stations as an idealistic and quaint notion. Gazing at a stack of 100+ essays to grade does not inspire creativity.

Learning Styles

While I pondered these barriers, another important reality emerged: when I gave my students a learning style quiz at the beginning of the year, I learned that the vast majority are kinesthetic and musical learners. Those styles are more than just “fun”; they’re how my students learn, and I need to teach their way.

Obviously, the idea of centers has to be modified for the secondary classroom, but it’s not impossible. I’ve been integrating more movement and music over the years. Here is one activity I came up with to address all of the above issues. Here’s how to give it a try:

These are the main supplies you'll need (clicker optional).

These are the main supplies you’ll need (clicker optional).

Supplies Needed

12 sheets of colored of paper (2 per color)

Subject area workbooks/worksheets (I used test prep work since that’s what we’re about to do around here)

Access to a printer & copier (black ink only is fine)

Class set of student response devices or clickers— optional

Computer with speakers and playlist – optional

Prep

This part is the most time-consuming, but it’s no worse than for any other lesson I’ve made myself. First, simply choose six different areas  in which you’d like your students to practice. Mine were vocabulary, literary elements, reading comprehension, and revision. I divided the latter two into two centers each. Assign them each a color and print signs with the category label on them (see photo below).

My Literary Elements center sign & Extra Practice folder label

My Literary Elements center sign & Extra Practice folder label (color coded)

Choose a couple of multiple choice test prep worksheets per category. One will be the actual center and one will be extra practice. Re-size the one you chose for the center on the copier so it’s easily read when posted on the wall. Make copies of the extra practice (I’ve no advice on this one – I made 30 of some, which wasn’t enough – 75 was too many).

Post the six colored signs around your room (with enough space for students to congregate). These are the beginnings of your centers. Then affix the second sign for each color/label on a folder. Put your extra practice copies for that category in there.

Be sure to have keys for both the center and extra practice worksheets for each station. If using clickers, input your center keys and randomize the order the clicker gives the questions to the students. This keeps the students from clumping up at one station.

Make some student instructions on your interactive whiteboard, chalkboard, or whatever means you typically use. Whether using clickers or not, students should write the station names/abbreviations on notebook paper. They can track their progress around the room this way. Make sure they record whether they got the item right or wrong because they’ll use that information to self-remediate in the next step.

Students pondering the best change to make at Revision Station 1.

Students pondering the best change to make at Revision Station 1.

Tell students that when you start the music (I made a peppy YouTube playlist with songs about circles but didn’t show the videos – we just listened as we worked), they will have 10 minutes (or whatever amount of time is appropriate for your activities) to go through the stations. They should mark whether they got the question right or wrong on their papers. Mine used the clickers to grade their work, but if you don’t have clickers, you could simply grade them together after everyone sits down.

When students finish all the stations, they’ll grab extra practice from the folder at the station where they missed questions and complete it. Those who didn’t miss any should have other work to do (mine had novel analysis to fill out). Place the answer keys at the stations so they can self-grade their work (I put them out AFTER they’re all seated, then take them up at the end of class).

After giving students time to complete the extra practice and grade it, you can do another rotation. We did the first question at each station the first time, and the second one the second time. Have them turn in the notebook paper they used or use the clicker data to get feedback from the activity.

Student Reactions

The best comment I heard was, “We should do this every day!” When asked why, the student answered, “Because it’s a lot of fun, we get to move around, and we burn calories!” I took the smiles and groovy dance moves of other students as they moved between stations as positive feedback too. Best of all, there wasn’t a bad attitude in sight. Since it’s standardized testing time around here, that’s saying something!

If you have questions or want to share how this idea might work in your classroom, please comment!

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Teacher portfolios have been around for years. Pre-service teachers use them to gain admission to graduate school and apply for a position. Experienced teachers may use them as candidates for Teacher of the Year, or, increasingly, to demonstrate teaching effectiveness for evaluations by administrators.

Why digital?

Digital portfolios have several advantages over the traditional binder version:

  1. They can provide an impressive example of an educator’s proficiency with technology
  2. Privacy controls allow teachers to specify and monitor who sees their portfolios
  3. No cost for printing/copying/binding
  4. instant access for anyone with a computer and an internet connection
  5. They can grab attention through interactive elements
  6. Many universities now require educations majors to have digital portfolios

Timeline

It is unrealistic to expect to create a polished teacher portfolio in an hour or two. Instead, consider it a work in progress, like a scrapbook of your career. Most experienced teachers already have a resume prepared, so we’ll start with that first. Second, we’ll add a page on which you can place artifacts to showcase your teaching abilities. Finally, we’ll set your privacy settings and I’ll share some resources if you want to expand  your portfolio.

Hosting

There are innumerable web sites that offer free or low-cost possibilities for teacher portfolios. Google Sites is a popular choice because it is free, user-friendly, and, once you’ve mastered the basics of setting up one Google Site, you can make sites for many other purposes, whether for classroom or personal use. Below, I’ll walk you through how to get started.

Site Set-up

First, log into Google.com with your Gmail account. Then go to sites.google.com or (you’re logged in if your Gmail is at upper right corner), type “Google sites” in the Google.com search box.

Choose red “create” button (top left), then choose a template:

Name your site (this will be your domain name and you can’t change it later, so make sure you’ll be happy with the name for years) and select your theme (color, font, design scheme). You can change your theme later if you wish.

After you type in the verification code at the bottom of the screen, select “Create Site” and the information you just put in will pop up as a basic website template.

How to edit a page

To edit a page, click  “edit page.”

The edit button looks like a pencil.

The edit button looks like a pencil.

When you do, it allows you to type in the Title bar and in the Body bar.  The format tab allows you to change the appearance of font and alignment of font.  The layout tab allows you to add columns to the body of your site. I recommend starting with a resume page because it’s easy to do if you have a resume already typed and saved.

Making a resume page

To make the resume page, choose one of your new site’s pre-made pages or follow the directions below to create a new one. Click the edit button, then, in the title bar, type whatever you wish to name your resume page, such as Resume, My Resume, or Cleatus T. Justice’s Resume.

Then open your resume document. Select all of the resume text and copy it (control-C on the keyboard or right-click to select “copy” with your mouse). Paste it (control-V on the keyboard or right-click with your mouse and choose “paste”) into the body section of your resume page. You will probably need to adjust the font and formatting so that it is easily readable. Don’t forget to click “Save” at the top when you’re finished or you’ll lose your changes!

How to create a new page

To create a new page, click “create page.”   There are several page options, but the easiest to work with is “web page.” You will need to create a page name (which becomes part of its URL) and then choose whether or not you want the page to be directly under the main site (top level) or if you want it to be a sub-page of a page of your site.  If the part of the site that you want your page to be under is not the default option, select it by clicking “choose another location.”  Once you have chosen the directory option, click “create page”. Then edit it.

Creating an artifacts file cabinet

The second page I recommend experienced teachers create is for artifacts that demonstrate effective teaching. After you click “create page”, choose “file cabinet”.

Once you’ve made your file cabinet, you’ll want to set up some organization. I made a folder for each of the items evaluated in our district’s teacher evaluation rubric. An administrator can’t possibly observe each item in one short class period, so it is helpful to provide him or her with uploaded examples of each skill he or she is looking for.

Privacy settings

If you don’t want your new partial portfolio out there on the web for public viewing, the blue Share button on your Google Site  (top right corner) comes in handy. Click the “share” button. A window showing the “Public on the Web”  setting and you as the owner will appear. Next to the words “anyone on the web can find and view”, click “Change”.  You can then change your privacy settings as you see fit and save. When you’re ready to share your portfolio with others, go back to these settings and change them as needed.

Just getting started?

If you’re new to making a website or portfolio, pace yourself! Don’t expect to have an extensive portfolio overnight. Prioritize which aspects of your online portfolio are the most important to complete first, and set SMART (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely) goals for yourself. A sample goal for an experienced teacher new to technology might be to select and upload one good example to the artifact page on your site at the end of each school day.

As you continue to work on your portfolio over time, consider adding other page titles/content, such as:

  • Philosophy of Teaching
  • Curriculum Development
  • Teaching Skills
  • Learner Assessment
  • Continuing Education
  • Honors and Awards
  • Long Term Goals

Teacher portfolios should be considered works in progress. Expect to modify your portfolio as your needs change. If you’d like to add  more visually interesting or multimedia elements to your portfolio, browse the sample portfolios linked below for ideas and check out the list of other Google Sites tools you can use on your portfolio site.

Other tools in Google Sites for further exploration

The table tab allows you to create and manage a table in the body of your site.

Use the Insert tab to add pictures, presentations, word documents, spread sheets, slide shows and links to other sites. You can add images manually, if you wish, by uploading them to the site.  However, make sure you only upload what photos you intend to use for the page you are currently editing.

You can manually add files and documents by attaching them to the website under “attachments” at the bottom of the page.  Again, just like the pictures, you must only upload what you want on that particular page and repeat the process for any new pages.

To fully take advantage of these you may wish to use  Google Drive.  When using Google Drive, you can upload spreadsheets, presentations, and documents for other people to view and to incorporate into your website.

You can also include “gadgets” such as news tickers, mp3 players, feeds, weather, etc.  You can see the list by selecting  “more gadgets” at the end of the Insert tab.

Links to sample digital portfolios

K-12

http://www.tammyengert.com/

http://carnaghiteachingportfolio.weebly.com/

http://home.comcast.net/~scottmerrick/portfolio/

http://bryanripleycrandall.wordpress.com/

https://sites.google.com/site/andiglombitzateaching/

http://prezi.com/vgq9r80yjcrd/beth-kelleys-teaching-portfolio/

University

http://oklportfolio.wordpress.com/

http://sites.helenbarrett.net/portfolio/

Other sources

http://rlafleur.myweb.uga.edu/latn4770/teaching%20portfolios/Creating_a_Portfolio_Website_with_Google_Sites%5B1%5D.pdf

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