Quote of the Week

Never say you are "just" a teacher. That's like saying Clark Kent is "just" Superman.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Keeping Learning Productive the Last Weeks of School, by Kristi Dragan, Biology Teacher at Wilson Central High School

As a teacher, one of the most important things we can do for most students in our classrooms is keeping the structure at the end of the year. As an EOC teacher, I find myself skipping fun labs/activities to get content covered throughout the semester before my students take their EOC. I find the weeks after TN Ready testing, AP testing and EOC testing is a great time to go back and perform the hands-on activities/labs I had left out due to time restraints. I feel students appreciate that we are still learning while being active participants in my room. This also allows students to work together while experimenting with content they should have mastered. They feel good about their content knowledge and are able to have meaningful conversations. I find that students enjoy hands-on activities that they get to work with their peers. Learning is taking place while these different activities are taking place. Just take a step back and look and listen to your students. They are communicating! I find that students are engaged and want to participate if I can get them moving. Having the time, patience and understanding of a structured classroom will help the last few weeks of school pass by fast. Students will remember these activities and hopefully it will be retained in their next course that follows. Planning will take some extra effort on your part, but it is so worth having your class be productive while having fun together. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Focus…….Squirrel! Reaching Those That Struggle With Focus, By Daniell Bennett, Instructional Coach, W.A. Wright Elementary

Well the year is almost through.  I am sure that you have learned a lot throughout this year.  Sometimes we learn through the challenges, sometimes we learn through trial and error, and sometimes we learn through successes. One of the challenges every teacher faces sooner or later is how to work with those students who learn differently.  You know who they are, the ones with attention problems, those who can’t or won’t sit still, those that have meltdowns.  There are more and more children that need a little extra to make learning easier.  The following are a few tips to help better engage all students:
  • If a child is distracted, seat them away from major distractions such as windows and doors.  Seat them in the front, unless they distract others.
  • Give instructions one at a time, write the directions on the board, so they can refer back to them.
  • Have visuals and manipulatives whenever possible.
  • Give fill in the blank notes to cut down on the amount of writing they must do.
  • Cut the front cover of a file folder into three sections, slip the worksheet inside, have them open one flap at a time so the worksheet is not so overwhelming.
  • Color code file folders for the student, and hold the student accountable for organizing.
  • Have a signal to keep students focused during a lesson.
  • Use a timer to help them complete lessons on time.
  • Chunk your lessons into mini lessons, and allow movement in between the lessons.
  • Small grouping and rotating the small groups are good for these students.
  • Have clear rules and expectations.
  • Allow fidget toys if needed.  If these are a distraction, placing a piece of velcro under the top of the desk will achieve the same goal.
  • If a student taps their pencil, put a mouse pad on their desk for them to tap on, in order not to disturb others.
  • If they tap their feet, attach a bungee cord across the front of their desk near the floor. This will allow them to bounce their feet without disturbing others.
These are only a few suggestions.  There are many other ways to help children focus on their instruction.  Using these strategies will allow everyone to be much happier and more engaged in your classroom.

HelpGuide.org. (n.d.). Teaching Students with ADD / ADHD: Tips for Teachers to Help Students Succeed at School. Retrieved from http://www.helpguide.org/articles/add-adhd/teaching-students-with-adhd-attention-deficit-disorder.htm

Monday, April 11, 2016

Tips for Effective Collaboration when working with Exceptional Students, by Ellen Mattingly, Exceptional Education Teacher at MJHS

Highly qualified teachers are best suited to help children face and overcome challenges in the classroom by setting high expectations and following a set of rigorous, defined, and systematic traits.  The following is a list of essential traits exhibited in successful inclusive classrooms.

v Children thrive in an organized orderly atmosphere.  Common organization techniques include step by step scheduling of activities, students are able to proceed from simple to complex tasks utilizing transition expectations from one task to another, color coordinated folders and baskets, labeling certain areas of use in the classroom so students know where materials and assignments are placed.
v Set clear defined schedules.  Help students develop study skills for project due dates, etc.
v Provide opportunities for creativity that encourages self-esteem building and focuses on the student’s abilities not their disability.
v Teachers and students can model appropriate responses/behaviors for students struggling with appropriate socialization.  Give positive responses more than negative for appropriate socialization.
v Include students in the curriculum planning process.  Use interest inventories to start the process.  Students should be the driving force in the IEP process.  The IEP is the curriculum guide.
v Use a variety of assessments to determine if a skill is mastered for carry over.  Students thrive using cooperative learning techniques.     
v Lastly, communication is vital.  Effectively communicate and collaborate with families, students and colleagues.  When all parties have a vested interest in a student’s education success is guaranteed.

The one thing that I consistently do in is smile.  When you smile it puts everyone at ease.  So SMILE! J

Friday, April 1, 2016

Vocal Health for Teachers, by Mitzi Lundy, K-5 Music, Elzie D. Patton Elementary

Educators work diligently at writing lesson plans, meeting standards, and creating a warm classroom environment,  but sometimes we neglect one of our most valuable tools, our voices.  At the beginning of our careers, teachers often experience difficulty with vocal problems.  Caring for your vocal health is important.   We are professional voice users just like actors and singers.  Just like professional actors and singers, when a teacher loses the ability to vocalize, we are not able to do our jobs.  We are required to talk for many hours a day and usually in poor acoustic environments with stagnant air.  As a result, teachers are at great risk for occupational-related voice disorders. According to Michael J. Pitman, M.D., Director of the Voice and Swallowing Institute at New York Eye and Ear, 58 percent of teachers will develop a voice disorder in their lifetime, compared to 20 percent of people in the general population. 

Teachers are not the only ones affected.  A 2004 study suggests that students don’t learn as well when their teacher has a raspy voice.  Steven Sims, M.D., Director of the Chicago Institute for Voice Care explains “Human beings learn best with a pure auditory signal. When a teacher has nodules or swelling on the vocal cords, or when their voices are hoarse, students don’t perceive that signal as well, so they miss a portion of what the teacher is saying.”

There are steps teachers can take to lower their risk for a vocal disorder and minimize the impact on their students.

1.  Stay hydrated.  Moisture lubricates the vocal cords.  Sip water throughout the day so the mucus you make is thin and protective of the vocal cords.  Eight glasses of water is a good goal.  Limit coffee, tea, soda, alcohol, and other dehydrating drinks.

2.  Warm up the voice.  Before students arrive in the morning, make siren noises to gently move the larynx up which causes the vocal cords to vibrate gently at a higher frequency. Gently glide back and forth between the highest and lowest pitches you can make.  Make buzzing sounds to get the lips moving and prepare the speech muscles for phonation.  On your way to work, sing a favorite song in the car. It might improve your mood as well!

3. Utilize a few non-verbal classroom management techniques. Practice signals with your class to communicate routines instead of always using your voice. Use student leaders to lead group exercises and student discussion. 

4. Avoid clearing your throat and coughing.  Coughing and throat clearing slam the vocal folds together so hard that over time they swell, causing hoarseness. Break the cycle of throat clearing and coughing by sipping water to clear the mucus.  To relax the voice, try blowing bubbles through a straw into your water bottle.

5.  Stand tall.  Good posture will not only affect the way you are viewed and received by your students, but it will also help you speak well.  The position of the head and neck can create significant tension in the speaking voice.  Keep the chin level with the floor.  Avoid dropping it forward toward the chest, and do not lean your head back or jut the chin out from the body.  Everyone has tension points in the body.  Find yours and work to eliminate or at least minimize them.  Tension anywhere in the body will negatively affect your voice.

6.  Protect your voice outside the classroom.  Avoid smoky environments which irritate the vocal folds.  If you are having vocal problems, do not yell at sporting events.  Find other ways to support your team until your voice heals.  Get plenty of sleep.  Consider a vocal “time-out” at the end of your teaching day to rest the voice for at least an hour.

Your voice is one of your most important teaching assets.  Protect it, and it will serve you well.