…because I really do. Every day. The bell goes, I grab my purse, and I hit the parking lot. I often have to encourage parents who are parked in front of me to move so I can beat my daughter’s bus home. And some parents yell, saying I should still be at work and shouldn’t get to leave…
But here’s how I see it – and how I leave everyday with just my purse.
8:00 am At the computer:
I arrive at work, and turn on my classroom computer. I open a series of tabs in this order:
2.webpage management area
3. Google drive
4. Google classroom
5. My wordpress homework blog
A Side note about planning and teaching through my webpage:
Where a traditional teacher would find or make handouts and sort them into folders for the week, I find or scan information, assignments, rubrics and assessments and upload them to my website by subject & unit. Every day begins with a student going to the smart board, opening my website, selecting the web link for whatever subject is first, and pulling up the lesson for today. Everything we need is on my site – including text to respond to, a task to complete, or a link to a google doc they we can build collaboratively.
So on a typical day…
Once those tabs are loaded, I check my day planner. Every day begins with math, so I flip to my web site, scroll to ‘student stuff’ and then to ‘math.’ Then, because my daily work is taught through an interactive notebook, I click on the link for my interactive notebook to which students have viewing rights and I have editing rights. I scroll through to today’s lesson, add any clarifying notes that I need on the ‘right’ side page, and check that the student engagement task in the ‘left’ side is ready to go. I collect whatever manipulatives I need and pass them out.
With math prepped and ready to go, I take a few moments to make a cup of tea and interact with our class pet ‘Peaches,’ an 8-month old bearded dragon. With her fed, and my tea on board, I sort marked work from yesterday into the hand back mailboxes. By this point my students have started to trickle in for extra help so I busy myself with them, heading outside for yard duty at 8:45. At 9:00 my students arrive, and while I do attendance, one of my kids pulls up the math notebook on the smart board. Since I teach from the webpage, the kids see the same organization at home as I use in class, so finding content becomes intuitive. By the time I do attendance the announcements are on, then we stand for the anthem and get straight to math. I teach the quick mini lesson. We add examples to the notebook as needed, or as we invent them as a class. Once we work through examples, and identify the goals, I turn them loose to create their ‘left’ pages in their notebooks. This is where they write the lesson goals in their own words, explain the process we are working on, and try practice questions. Then while students work, I float between tables coaching, documenting evidence of learning with the iPad (using Confer), and encouraging kids as I go. I try to conference with at least 6 students each day for math. I make notes in my math planning binder as to what I need to move on to tomorrow, and document what strategies I used today. I make sure to add any math practice as homework to the WordPress blog. Before I know if the recess bell rings and I have duty.
After recess I am blessed with a prep period. During this time I check my school mailbox, and then plan for my period 4 & 6 science classes. Again, from my web site I pull up the next PDF copy of the pages in our science text book, make a quick note of any materials I need, and set up for class. I open a google doc named after the lesson on which to collaboratively record class notes, and save a link to it on my website. I add the questions and vocab to be mastered for homework to the WordPress blog.
When the bell rings and my class arrives, I hand the wireless keyboard and mouse to a student. It’s their job to record notes as we work through the text book page and debrief the content. By flipping back and forth between the text and the GoogleDoc I can model how to take notes, while creating a class resource at the same time. We finish class by completing the check your learning questions collaboratively. I ask them to read tomorrow lesson as homework, and dismiss.
The bell rings, and I have 20 minutes for lunch. At 12:05 most of the kids head outside but my grade 7/8 choir files into my room for rehearsal.
I park myself at my piano keyboard, and use my wireless mouse to pull up the choir warm-ups on my web page. I created these music notation files using flat.io, which imbeds music notation files (that are playable) into my webpage. We warm up, I bring up the first piece and rehearsal in earnest begins.
At 12:45 my choir kids leave and my homeroom returns, ready for their science class. I mirror the morning class exactly, working hard to keep both classes aligned throughout the year.
At 1:25 our science time ends and my kids transition to history/language or geography. Again I start at the web page, pull up the next set of history notes, and begin teaching, adding points from our discussion as I go. If I show videos or visuals I add links to the website as I go, so students can access the same content at home. Then students begin their independent and collaborative tasks to show their understanding, and submit them to me. As each task comes in I assess it quickly for language, and separately for history/geography content. I enter the marks into my Google sheet mark book as soon as I assess them. I add any history vocab or tasks to the WordPress blog.
Language and geography tasks are managed through Google Classroom, where I make different sections for levelled texts, so that students always have access to both collaborative peers and text appropriate to their abilities. Collecting work through Google classroom keeps me paperless for language, and allows me to really foster inquiry skills for geography. I use mixed-ability collaborative inquiry groups for geography, and the students really enjoy the chance to work together on creating a polished demonstration of their learning.
When students complete their tasks for the day they dig into their independent novels and reading journals, while I assess history and language. At 3:00 we pull out planners and add the day’s homework and review needs to the WordPress blog. Some students copy this into paper planners, others snap a picture with their phones, but most simple follow a link to the blog once they’re home to make sure they get everything done in preparation for tomorrow.
(Every night kids are expected to add new vocabulary to their Book of Knowledge under the correct subject sections. They are also expected to review the day’s notes and compare to the website to make sure they are complete. Posting both homework online, and an interactive Book of Knowledge makes this relatively easy, and excuse-proof.)
At 3:15 the bell rings, I set the timer for the lizard’s lights, and I leave. All I take is my lunch bag and purse.
At home, once the kids are in bed and the husband is watching tv or playing a video game, I surf Twitter and Pinterest for teaching ideas. I draft neat ideas into lesson plans in google docs, saving them for a rainy day. I try new apps to improve my tech skills. And I read teen lit — for fun.
The next day I drop my own kids at their schools and then open my room. It’s essentially the same routine. I get the computer booted up and load my tabs. I look at student emails from the night before and address any needs that arose in math and then build those into my math plan for the day. I pick an inquiry question based on yesterday’s practice that ties into today’s lesson, and search for quick reinforcing video or toss a few questions onto plickers as an exit slip for class.
My kids arrive early and I coach and conference with them. Duty calls and I parade around the Tarmac chatting with kids. Math class starts and attendance is taken. Recess gives way to prep, where I prep for science. To do a quick science check-up I make a short 10-question quiz in a Google form and post it to my website. I enable it to be graded and returned automatically using Flubaroo and Autocrat. (Kids who have tech at school can do it in class, while the others can do it at home. Either way the results automatically land in my google drive.). Lunch is quick as usual, and my guitar ensemble arrives. After rehearsal my homeroom returns for science, followed by a double language class. We break into geography groups to learn about settlement patterns, collaborate to identify factors that could help the spread of the zombie apocalypse, and construct an apocalypse preparedness plan (check out zombiebasedlearning.com). We document our learning using technology, using Confer, explain everything, and other apps we smash together.
And I don’t have to stay late.
So what’s the secret? There are a few key essentials to make this work:
Teach from a webpage
1. Use apps and add-ons in Google Drive to make life easier
2. Use prep time wisely, not socially
3. Work while your kids work. As they start practice questions in science, prep the next step for tomorrow. As they work on a collaborative geography task, create the application task that comes next. When they ask a question, that tells you something about their learning. That *is* assessment. Record it!
4. Set reasonable goals for assessment. 6 math conferences each day is reasonable. Likewise, 6 language conference is achievable too. And the data I get out of an 8-minute conference is more valuable than a marked quiz.
How do you make the switch? Try it for one subject. If you have a subject where the school owns digital copies of the text or student handouts, that’s the best place to start. Upload that digital content, and make a google doc for class notes that parallels each digital page. Then live-create your class notes as you would the old fashioned way. When it starts to feel natural, add another subject or strand. You’ll find it gets easier and easier to create on the fly, and you’ll feel more involved in your lessons because everything is fresh and based on what your students really need. The real joy happens next year, when you go to start these lessons with a new class of students, and find so much already there, just asking to be tweaked. It’s one of those teaching moments where you really see your life coming back to you. And you say out loud — “it will only get easier from here.”
Give it a shot! Just one unit in one strand. Tell your kids it’s an experiment, and that it might flop, but that you want to try it. They will help with the technical stuff. They will be excited to see you try something new. And they’ll be thrilled to be able to get their class materials at home too.
Need a resolution for 2016?
This is it.