Author Archive for Michael Adams


7 Traits You Need to be the Best Teacher Ever

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I’ve had some amazing teachers over the years. From my kindergarten teacher who taught us basic French, to my 7th grade social studies teacher who not only taught me about the world, but how to shoot a basketball. And then there was my 12th grade human biology professor who helped me appreciate science more than anyone ever has. Plus, I’ve had countless great college professors — too many to list here.

It takes a lot to be a great teacher. While some teachers skate by until the next mandatory vacation rolls around, others pour their heart and soul into teaching.

It’s challenging to do the later.

For this week’s post, I wanted to think about what it takes to be an amazing teacher. What sets other teacher’s apart? Why were some of my teachers amazing and others not-so-much?

During my research I came across BuzzFeed’s 23 Defining Traits of Your Favorite Teacher – it was a humorous page to start my research with. As I progressed through other blogs, I accumulated a large list. Then, I narrowed it down to what I think are the 7 traits you need to be the best teacher ever.

Here’s what it really takes:

1. Empathy

You have to understand what your students are going through. The pressures of life are amounting to greater than they ever were. And you can’t just brush it off. Teachers are becoming coaches, counselors, and support for students who need that role in their life. Being a teacher is more than imparting knowledge. It’s about making a difference beyond the textbook, too.

2. Listening Skills

Having been in the workforce for a few years now, I appreciate people who listen. People who take the time to internalize what you’re saying and not ready their response only to say something that isn’t beneficial. Listening is more powerful than speaking in my opinion. And the teachers I’ve had were great at this.

3. Creativity

I had a freshman geometry teacher lay on her desk and fall on the floor just to demonstrate the concept of slope. Awesome. And don’t even get me started on what my human biology teacher would do….Anyway, creativity is the crux of keeping students engaged. If you can make any topic interesting, I guarantee it’ll keep your students 1. awake and 2. participating in class.

4. Organization

It drove me nuts when my teachers were not prepared for class. You told me to read a certain chapter and be prepared to discuss it. You should be ready, too. Stay organized. Keep your desk clean.  Make sure you know what you’re going to talk about for that class – and maybe even the next class. An organized lesson plan is your key to success in the classroom.

5. Sense of Humor

I’ve had my good share of funny teachers. And I can remember when I laughed, class flew by. It was interesting. It kept me on my toes, and I was engaged. I wasn’t on Facebook checking out what my friends had for lunch. I was learning – and laughing. Great combination if you ask me.

6. High standards

All of the amazing teachers I’ve had have pushed my limits. They’ve been challenging, demanding (ok, maybe not my kindergarten teacher), and they’ve expected nothing less than perfection. But they also provided the tools and resourced to help their students succeed. High standards is something you learn. Learning is done in school. Therefor, it’s one of your main jobs to instill high standards in your students. Other teachers will thank you.

7. Team Player

You have to work with other teachers. It’s just part of your job description. Whether you’re planning to team-teach, coordinate lesson plans, or even help a young teacher become better, you’re all on the same team. Great teachers are the coach of this team. They motivate, encourage, and support.

Of course, this list is up for debate. I’d like to open it up to your comments. What traits did your favorite teachers have and what do you believe teachers need to be the best teacher ever? Fire away in the comments below.


The Pros & Cons of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)

byod

Schools are now allowing students to bring their devices – read: technology – into the classroom. From smartphones to ipads, laptops to smart watches, it’s almost impossible to

Pros of BYOD

1. Learn quicker

I hand-wrote (and sometimes re-wrote) my notes from every class in a color-coded notebook system (OK – type A here). With laptops and tablets, students are able to get information down faster. Plus, they’re able to read it when they go back to study before an exam. Don’t let technology get in the way of better, more efficient learning.

2. Apply technology to real life

Technology gets used everywhere – on fieldtrips, in the classroom, and even for sports. And with students having their phones practically glued to their face, you might as well put it to good use, right? With BYOD, students are able to learn how technology helps them be more productive, conduct research, and communicate in a professional manner.

3. Help teachers better use technology

As I write this post, I’m imagining some of my elementary and middle school teachers using technology like smartphones and iPads to facilitate lessons plans. I just can’t see it happening. But, with a BYOD policy, it may help them better use technology to enhance what they’re teaching. And, that’s an added benefit. Not only do students get to use their own device, but teachers get to learn more about them (and impress their spouse at the dinner table :p).

4. There are apps for everything

Have you seen the apps available in the Apple Store or Google Play? It’s in the millions. That tells me that if you’re looking to do something on a phone or tablet, you’ve got endless options. There are drawing apps, math apps, quiz apps, and even apps to help keep attendance.

5. Happier students

When I was at a high school entrepreneurship talk a few weeks back, I sat at a table with junior and senior business students who could not let go of their cell phones (thankfully, they paid attention to my talk). Technology is woven into today’s modern student (do I have to show you the baby playing with an iPad again?). They’re simply comfortable with it. And when they’re in a comfortable environment, they’re happy.

The Pros & Cons of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) from quizbean

Cons of BYOD

1. Student distraction

Students almost always text during class. Regardless of whether or not it’s useful texting (unlikely), it’s a distraction. And students won’t pay attention to you. I mean, sometimes the phone is more interesting than the teacher. But, with distraction comes less learning. If you’re going to adopt a BYOD program, make sure you set limits with your students.

2. Access to devices

Not everyone has a smartphone. Some have tablets – others have laptops. . You may not have a computer lab, either. The bottom line – access is a battle. Using technology means your students all have to have access to it or it becomes useless. Make sure there’s a way that every student has access to the right devices at the right time.

3. Cost of technology

Along with access, you’re looking at a hefty upfront cost. And I know many schools don’t have a penny to spend, but if you adopt a BYOD policy, students bring their own device. Then, however, you run into students who may have some financial hardship which could make them the only student without technology in the classroom.

4. Classroom usefulness

There are some classes where BYOD simply would not work for the curriculum – at least not all the time. A lot of math classes are still taught on whiteboards/chalkboards, and some English literature classes still go right from the book (see #3 for cost). So, BYOD is classroom dependent but I’m sure you’ll be able to find a use for your classroom – even if it isn’t every class.

What do you think? Is it smart for teachers to let students bring their own devices to class? Let me know in the comments below.


7 Test Prep Strategies to Utilize in Your Classroom

7 test prep strategies

It’s test day.

The classroom is quiet and your students look more tired than usual. Some of them are doing a last-minute study review, others look around the classroom anxiously. You wonder how many of them stayed up all night binge studying? Or didn’t study at all.

I’ll tell you firsthand, being unprepared or exhausted on test day is a bad feeling. It leads to poor performance on tests (just ask my chemistry teacher) and negatively affects students’ ability to recall important information.

Preparing for a test does not have to be overwhelming or intimidating. It just takes a small effort on your students’ part. Here are 7 test-prep strategies to utilize in your classroom to help your students beat common test-day frustrations.

7 Test Prep Strategies to Utilize in Your Classroom

1. Get organized

Preparing for a test does not start on the day before the exam. It starts on the first day of class. Make sure your students have a class folder to keep assignments organized. Also remind students to date and title each day’s class notes. That way it’s easy to find and highlight the material they need to study for the test.

2. Make a Study Schedule

Make review sessions of the week’s material a priority (and we don’t just mean another homework assignment). Put the upcoming test on the student’s radar and it discourages binge studying.

3. Study in Groups

You know the saying, “Strength in numbers.” Well, that applies to studying, too. During the first week of class, plan a number of social lesson plans that let students get acquainted with each other. Encourage students to find a group and exchange email or phone numbers to help kickstart the process.

4. Make student feedback easy

You’re not a robot and neither are your students. You know what I mean. You’re in front of the class teaching and all you see is a classroom of blank faces staring back at you. You have no idea if the lesson is sinking in or not. That’s why its important to have an easy method for student feedback. What’s making sense? What’s not. Here’s one teacher’s take on the matter: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/2251868537847040/

5. Flashcards

Yes, I said it, flashcards. There’s a reason flashcards have not fallen out of fashion. They work. Flashcards promote active recall of information and they provide students with a quick way to assess their knowledge of the material. Have each student make a list of all the unfamiliar terms and concepts they’re struggling with in class and then have them make flashcards. Just remember to tell them to randomize the card order after a few run throughs to keep it fresh.

6. Active Homework

Keep your students on their toes by coming up with different styles of homework. Doing the same homework task over and over again for each chapter is boring. Not to mention your students begin to feel like robots by the middle of the school year. For example, if you teach English, you usually have students read a chapter in a novel then do a short journal about it, right? Next time, have them storyboard their favorite part of the chapter. Your students will thank you.

7. Post-test Review

 I know, I know. This article is about test-prep. But a lot of teachers forget how crucial and helpful it is to go over the test after it’s graded.This type of review is not just going over the correct answers to the questions. Its about engaging the material covered in the test in a thoughtful, meaningful way that addresses concepts students struggled with. A post-test review keeps students engaged and gives them one more chance to fully comprehend the material.

See? There are a lot of strategic ways to get your students to prepare for tests both in and outside the classroom. Do you have a creative, engaging way to prepare students for test day? Let us know in the comments below!


Why Students Should Go on Field Trips Out of State

take students on fieldtrips

Going on field trips out of state is a great way to connect with other students and expose them to a whole new world.

I remember looking forward to 4th grade when I was a kid. Why? As class, we got the chance to go to Boston (if we raised enough money through the sale of chocolate bars).

In Boston, we’d see the Boston Science Museum (where we slept overnight – which was awesome), the Tea Party ship, and the Boston Aquarium. Not to mention the free time to explore the city and grab great food.

Travelling out of state was a totally different experience. And that’s why today’s post is about why you need to take your student on out of state field trips. Read on!

1. Many students have simply never been out of state

I still have friends (who are in their mid-20’s) who have never left Vermont. Ever. Going out of state allows students who may never get the chance to go on “vacation” the opportunity to see what life is like outside their tiny state (well, Vermont is tiny!).

2. Exposure to different cultures

I was fortunate enough to go to Boston, New York, and even Ottawa in Canada. All of these trips showed me how other people live, what it’s like to experience a big city (small-town Vermont kid here), and meet people who have amazing stories of survival, betrayal, and happiness who were guest speakers on my trips.

3. Gets your students out of the classroom

Your students can only stare at a whiteboard for so long! That’s why so many teachers are flipping their classroom to shake up the learning environment. Going out of state helps, too. There are opportunities on the bus to teach lessons about what you may be passing. Plus, you can impact a student by showing them what they need to learn. Some students simply learn better in a different environment.

4. Students learn more about their peers

When I traveled anywhere with my classmates, I learned a ton about them because we finally had a chance to talk about something non-academic. And I got placed in a group with students I wouldn’t normally have hung out with in school. This forced me to learn about other people – their backgrounds, stories, and lives. Match up students with a group they may not be friends with and see what happens.

5. It’s fun (this one is obvious!)

Students look forward  to any trip outside of school. It’s a chance for them to leave their desk, get their hands dirty, and learn something about the real world – plus, it’s fun. Keep in mind your students may never again get the chance to see farm animals, travel to the big city, talk to a real scientist, or shadow someone who has their dream job. Fieldtrips are a great way to inspire your students to see beyond the classroom.

So there you have it – my plea for more out-of-state fieldtrips. What’s your take? Have you taken your students out-of-state? Let me know about it in the comments below.


How to Make the Transition to a Flipped Classroom

how to flip your classroom

Normal teaching is hard enough, right? Well, let’s just add one more layer of complexity to it: flipped classrooms.

There’s been a lot of talk over the past 18 months on the direction of K-12 learning. And one of the elephants in the room is flipped learning. So let’s get a few things out of the way first about flipped learning:

What is flipped learning?

According to the University of Texas Austin, a flipped class is one that inverts the typical cycle of content acquisition and application so that students gain necessary knowledge before class and instructors guide students to actively and interactively clarify and apply that knowledge during class. They even made a little video explaining it. Take a look:

Now that we’ve got that covered, why would any classroom want to transition to a flipped classroom? Rather than just copy what was said in the video, I’ll let you know my personal opinion. Here’s why I believe flipped learning needs to happen with every classroom in America:

1. It makes homework time useful

When I was in school, many of my teachers would assign every problem at the end of a chapter and call it a day. That leads to a lot of unnecessary homework. Not to mention, not every problem is covered in class. That means if you had trouble on question 21, you might not receive help. With flipped classrooms, you integrate what’s going to be seen in class the following day, increasing exposure time to new material. Plus, students get to use the class time to actually ask questions.

2. It makes students work together

Group work always happens – especially in that thing called “real-life”. We have to work with people to get things done. And flipped learning not only engages the teacher-student relationship, but the student-student relationship (arguably more important). And when you flip your classroom, you encourage teamwork – with every student – from type A to the slacker, and more. Getting exposed to these people – and working with them – is a great experience for your students because they’ll know how to tackle group work in real-life.

3. Colleges are already doing this

While researching for this article, it hit me. Flipped learning is exactly what I experienced in college (well, not every class. But, most classes). Before the lecture would happen, we’d get the power points ahead of time. Sure, there was reading, but many of my professors went beyond the power points and got at the heart of the lesson. It was nice to not hear the regurgitated text-book jargon. So, why is this pertinent to your students? Well, they’re going to go to college. Get them prepared for higher education now. Treat like the student they are – build, learn, engage with them. It’s some of the best prep you can give your students.

With a definition and reasons out of the way, how do you actually do this?

Flip Your Classroom with These 5 Tips from quizbean

Here are 5 tips for turning your “old-fashioned” classroom into a flipped classroom:

1. Talk to your students about a flipped classroom

Maybe, just maybe, your students aren’t so keen on this whole flipped learning thing. Take time to talk to them. Let them know changes are coming to your classroom. Let them be honest about whether they think it’ll work for them. While they may not have a choice, they’ll be appreciative that you included them in their own learning experience.

2. Trial for a week and get feedback

When you try something new, you simply can’t do it forever if it’s not working, That means trialing the concept. Give it a week or so and see what you think – plus, what your students think. Make changes – it’s your classroom. If you try something that doesn’t quite work with your classroom, either change it or simply don’t do it. This feedback is crucial to make your flipped classroom a success.


Don’t simply upload power point slides and call it a day.


3. Find a software tool to help keep you organized

When you’re flipping your classroom, there’s a lot to manage. You’ve got all the media, the lessons, sending content out, coordinating classroom talks, and following up with homework,etc. That means it can get pretty overwhelming. Good thing there is software to help you. Here are a couple suggestions here.

4. Use different media types

Don’t simply upload power point slides and call it a day. Think about how your students learn. Is it reading, writing, watching video, or listening. Upload videos, podcasts, power-points, blog posts, TED talks etc. Students want to consume knowledge in different ways, so give them what they want!

5. Get other teachers involved

When you’re the lone wolf, it’s hard to find a wolf pack. Same goes for flipped learning. You need to get other teachers to champion the flipped learning revolution. When you have other teachers experiencing what you’re experiencing, you’re able to talk through problems, celebrate success, and help turn more teachers into flipped learning masters.

So, there you have it – how to flip your classroom. Have you started flipping your classroom? What has the feedback been? Do you have any tips?


Whoa! New Features: Bulk Upload & Your Super-Awesome Teacher Code

You guys have given us TONS of awesome feedback on QuizBean. Over the past few weeks, we sorted through it and got to work on your most-requested features. Drum roll please……

You get access to your own teacher code AND bulk uploading.

Note: The code in the picture is not your teacher code. That’s my co-worker’s. He’s not shy about sharing.

Why you’ll LOVE teacher codes:

1. Your students sign up which saves you hours of manual entry
They sign-up on their own page and enter your teacher code. Students are automatically added to your classroom. It’s like waiving a magic wand. Kind of.

QuizBean Student Signup

2. You get instant results – even with the code!
Just because your students signed up without you doesn’t mean you won’t see their results. Once they finish your assigned quiz, their scores are instantly sent to your dashboard. Now, that’s actually magic 🙂

Discover your teacher code and upload all your students right here.

And if you don’t want your students to do anything, you can upload them using our bulk upload tool.

Manual data entry is no one’s friend. That’s why we’ve made it significantly easier for you to upload all of your students in just a few clicks using our bulk upload tool.

Bulk upload takes your CSV file and instantly adds your students to QuizBean. Again, it’s like magic. Here’s a quick look-see:

QuizBean Bulk Upload for Students

Want to take advantage of bulk upload? Login to your account or sign up for QuizBean.

 

Enjoy the new features and let us know if you have feedback or suggestions to make QuizBean way cooler. Thanks!

The team at QuizBean


10 President’s Day Activities for Your Classroom

Did you know George Washington’s original birthday was February 11th, 1731? In 1752 the United States changed their calendar system from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. This change effectively moved George Washington’s birthday to the day we now celebrate on February 22nd, 1732. That’s a year’s difference in age. Here’s hoping we get a chance to rewind our age a year too 🙂

Ok–so celebrating President’s day is not going to make you younger, but it does add a refreshing take to your weekly lesson plan.

President’s day is your chance to teach students about the founding fathers and the history of our political system in a fun and engaging way. Forget the lecture notes. Forget the whiteboard. Let your imagination run wild and think outside the box this President’s day.

To get you started, the Quizbean team came up with 10 classroom activities to do this President’s day. Which one will you do?

1. Set up an election and make a ballot box

Instead of talking about democracy, put it on full display. Make a decorated ballot box out of an old shoebox and set up an election for your students to vote. Just make sure the election is fun and reflective. One election idea that came to mind is to vote on the next classroom pet. President Beta fish, anyway?

2. President role-playing

I’ve learned kids love nothing more than being silly and one of the ways to productively use that silliness in the classroom is role-playing games. Have your students pair up and choose to play either George Washington or Abraham Lincoln. Once they’ve done this, pick a topic for your students to debate. This activity is even better with president props like cotton-ball beards, construction-paper hats, and little podiums. There’s really no limit here. Just have a lot of fun and be silly.

3. “If I were President for a day, I would…”

Have your students write a paragraph or two on the prompt above. Encourage big, bold actions and reinforce the characteristics common to great leaders like our founding fathers. Once everyone in the class completes the exercise, pick students to share their ideas in front of the class.

4. Bake a cherry pie

Did George Washington really cut down the Cherry tree? It’s debatable. What’s not though, is how much kids love pie. Bring a fresh-baked cherry pie to class and have your students discuss the merits of Washington’s leadership while eating a delicious slice of pie.

5. Recreate Lincoln’s Cabin

Ok, just one more food related activity. I promise. Give your students a handful of pretzels and have them recreate Lincoln’s cabin using the pretzels. First, ask the students to build lincoln’s cabin as it was in the 1800s. Then have them dream up what his cabin would like today. This is a good segue to an interactive discussion about the similarities and differences of politics in Lincoln’s time and politics today.

6. Scavenger Hunt  

Hide a penny (for Lincoln) and a quarter (for Washington) in your classroom. Break your class into two groups. One group is on the hunt for Abraham Lincoln. The other group is looking for George Washington. Use facts and light trivia about each president for clues and have the last clue lead to either the penny or the quarter (depending on which group the students are in). Once both groups locate the hidden coin, have each group present what they learned about their president.

7. President’s Day Bingo

Bingo is a good way to get kids excited about president’s day, and it’s a lot of fun too. I mean,  who doesn’t like to shout out “Bingo!?” The best way to get started on this activity is to give students a list of letters/things they need on their bingo card and then have them create it.

8. “I know…” “I wonder…”

Pick a short story about a president and after you’ve read it, students need to write a sentence about a detail they already knew about the president and one thing they wonder about the president. Post these sentences on the board in the correct column and generate an interactive discussion with your students.

9. Inside Abe’s hat

Lincoln’s hat is an iconic image of the United States’ early history and politics. It’s also a good tool for unpacking any questions students have about the political system. Ask students to write down one question they have about our government and then put it in a construction-paper replica of Lincoln’s hat. Then go around the class letting each student reach in the hat, pull out a student question and answer it.

10. Get colorful

Let your students each pick one, yes one, colored pencil or crayon. Hand out an assortment of President’s day images–a portrait of George Washington, Lincoln’s hat, the flag, the union, the executive branch, etc–until each student has an uncolored image. Set a timer for one minute and have the students do their best to color in a part of the image. Repeat this until all the images are colored in and then discuss the pros and challenges of working together (i.e., “working across the aisle”)

Did we get your imagination going? These are just a few of the activities you can bring to your classroom on President’s day. So, what activity are you going to do? Let the Quizbean team know in the comments below.


Why English Students Should Take Business Classes

A lot of English majors would scoff at the idea of having to take a business class. The same can be said for business students who have to take an English class, too. As a business major who took several literary studies classes, I found them incredibly valuable. But, my English-studying friends weren’t so fond of the business side of things.

So, I figured I’d make my case for why it’s so crucial for English students to take business classes. Here’s 5 solid reasons:

1. Critical thinking skills

Critical thinking skills applied to the business industry will help you in a many different ways. For example, what if you have to write about something you’ve never written about before – say, business. This not only takes critical thinking skills to solve the problem of writing about something so ambiguous, but it takes research, business knowledge, and a dash of whit.

2. Learn business writing + sales copy

A lot of people can write literally novels, short stories, and comic books. But much of what gets written is persuasive copy to convince people to buy things. Plus, there’s advertisements, web pages, tweets, Facebook posts, and more. Learning how to write for business is incredibly important because you’ll likely end up working for one (if not for yourself — see point #4).

3. Management (of people and resources)

I’m a firm believe that everyone (regardless of background) should take a management class. Why? Because we all have to manage people – and resources – at some point. Whether it’s co-workers, family, or friends, managing people is a full-time job. Take a couple classes in management and you’ll be a pro in no time.

4.  You may actually end up running your own business

A lot of writers are freelancers. They work for several different clients at the same time. That means you have to manage time, finances, accounts receivable, etc. And, you have to know your costs, make sure you’re charging enough to put a roof over your head and food on the table. It can be a challenge to run your own business, but it may be the only way you earn a living as an english major. Not everyone can be a greeting card writer like the guy in 500 Days of Summer :p

5. It’s always good to be well-rounded

Where I went to school, business majors had to minor in liberal arts and liberal arts majors had to minor in business. The president of the college thought it would make for well-rounded students – and he was right. I have gained new perspectives and enjoyed many of my english classes more than my business classes. Being well-rounded helps students prepare for the real-world. If you can’t write for a living, you may end up in retail, construction, etc — all business-to-business industries. And that business knowledge is really going to pay off.

What do you think? Is it important for students to be well-rounded or should they focus on one discipline? Let me know by leaving a comment below and get the conversation started.


The Best Winter Recess Activities

Snow on the trees.

I’m sitting here at my desk, looking out the window at blank, dreary grey skies. The skies that are supposed to be delivering the white fluffy stuff.

Snow has been severely lacking this winter. But our friends in southern New England and other northeast states seem to be getting dumped on pretty often.

That creates winter wonderland for your students. Snow angels, snow forts, and bundled-up kids in snow boots, hats, and mittens. It reminds me of that classic scene in A Christmas Story where Ralphie sticks his tongue to a pole. Just puts a smile on my face.

Winter is a fun time for students. However, it creates a desolate playground. The monkey bars are covered in ice. The pavement has turned into an ice rink, and well, it’s cold.

That’s why the team at QuizBean (with hot cider in hand) came up with a list of great recess alternatives for  winter recess. Here’s what we’re thinking:

1. Class-wide snow fort (or large dinosaur)

Get everyone bundled up – a feat in it’s own right – and take them outside to build a large snow sculpture. It could be a fort, or a dinosaur, or even an igloo (which would be sweet). Building the sculpture together encourages teamwork, planning, communication, and leadership. But, best of all, it encourages fun. Winter doesn’t have to be boring and bland. Get started with your fort tomorrow!

2. Hot-chocolate making – from scratch!

Kids love to play with their hands. So, give them an opportunity to do just that – and warm up at the same time. Hot chocolate, when it’s not made from a SwissMiss powder packet, can be life-changing. If you’ve got kitchen space, you could even make homemade marshmallows. Ok, that may be pushing it.

3. Aerial snow designs

I just saw this blog post a few days ago. I was blown away at the time it takes for this man to dream up his snow-dependent designs. And he knows that with one wind gust, it’s gone. Could your students do the same? Get a couple of them together, think of a design and start stomping. When you’re done, take a picture from above – and if you want, send it to parents to show them what their child has been up to!

4. Nap-time/Quiet time (seriously)

Sometimes the classroom just gets too loud (you know what I’m talking about). Flip it around and have quiet time with your students. They can play games, read books, or even take a nap. And believe me, if I had to get all of my snow stuff on at lightning speed, I’d take a nap, too. Naps are awesome. Let the rowdy kids outside and enjoy your quiet time.

5. Drawing Winter Dreams

I’ve found that kids love to draw – whether it’s with crayons, pencils, markets, or paintbrushes. Art is sorely lacking in today’s schools. It’s steam-rolled by test-prep when it should be given more space in the schedule. When it’s too cold to go outside or it’s snowing blankets, get your art on! Pull out some printer paper and ask students to draw what they they want to do this winter. Let their imagination go wild!

See? There’s plenty to do in the winter. What have you done with your students that’s put a smile on their face during these cold few months? Let me know in the comments below!


Tips to Safely Navigate Valentine’s Day in Your Classroom

It’s coming.

Valentine’s Day. The day full of sugar cookies, red, pink, and SPRINKLES. Sprinkles. Oh, and there’s some hearts in there somewhere, too. Plus, those nasty conversation hearts. Oh, and Reese’s cups shaped like hearts (Reese’s cups are always better in shaped form, right?

Ok – clearly I’m on a sugar rush. But that led to this post.

Valentine’s Day is a commercialized holiday that’s gotten worse. When I was in elementary school, we’d decorate paper lunch bags to hang off the end of our desks. My parents would buy me little notes that were attached to a bag of M&M’s. I had to write to every kid in the classroom – regardless of whether or not I liked them (hey – don’t judge. I was in elementary school!). We then walked around, dropping notes in each other’s bags. Then, it was feast time.

[Insert sugar rush here.]

My teachers were over their head. 20-25 kids who just ate M&M’s. Yep – pretty sure I don’t need to describe that. Maybe it’s one of the many reasons schools have banned candy and cards. Regardless, I will give you some tips to make it through America’s most lovable day in your classroom. (And maybe your students will learn something)

How to make it through Valentine’s Day:

1. Eliminate the candy run-around

From the link above, you’ll notice that many schools have simply banned the whole hand-out-candy thing. You can definitely do the same thing – or at least scale it back. The last thing your students need is more refined sugar and fat. Save the sweet treats for the cafeteria ladies and get them out of your classroom. (Note: I’m just trying to explain both sides of it. I fully advocate for Reese’s Cups).

2. Let the crush play out

Ok – a non-candy related tip. Many parents may tell their kids to let their crush know they like them. While this can be dangerous, let it play out and see what happens. Yes, the girl (or boy) might be grossed out that someone likes them, but hey, that’s part of life.

3. Bring in your own candy – but watch for allergies.

You’ve got to participate in the fun (if you’re having it). Make something homemade and bring it in to share with the class. It could be brownies, cookies, bars, etc. They’ll love that you thought of them (and you don’t have to eat an entire tray of brownies yourself. One note, though: make something that’s allergy free so everyone can enjoy it.

4. Teach your students the value of friendship

Friends are like glue. They stick together through anything. Teach your students the value of friendship – that’s way more important than any sugar-rush they’ll ever have.

5. Have students write about what their parents mean to them

This is just selfless. Have students grab a pen and paper and write a quick note about why they love their parents. Have them make envelopes from red construction paper with the note inside. Then, have them bring it home in their backpacks to give to their parents. It shows appreciation and will likely make their day.

6. Have students assemble care packages for the military or elderly

Yes, you have to love yourself, but you also have to love others. Let your students know that there are people who aren’t getting the true Valentine’s Day experience – troops overseas and some elderly for example. Instead of bringing in candy, have students bring in something for a large gift box to be sent to someone who truly needs to know they’re loved. The students will enjoy helping someone out and likely not even know they won’t be getting a lot of candy this year. OK, maybe that’s a stretch.

7.  Get crafty

Here’s an awesome list of the best crafts for Valentine’s Day to help keep your students occupied. From heart-shaped fans, to butterflies, and cootie-catchers (hahaha), there are tons of crafts to do. Crafts are great because they give your students focus, enrich their creativity, and it’s a quick break from learning real stuff.

8. Don’t let it affect your own Valentine’s Day

I know having 20 students run around a classroom with Popsicle sticks and Sweettarts isn’t your ideal Valentine’s Day. You would probably love a home-cooked meal and a glass of wine. If so, don’t let your student’s love-day celebration get to you. Take a deep breath. After 4pm, you’ve got your own more-grown-up-version waiting for you when you get home. Focus on that.

9. Make sure everyone included

Yes, this goes without saying, but you want to include all of your students in the activities. Why? Because it’s not fun to get nothing on Valentine’s Day. Everyone should like each other, right?

10. Have a Reese’s heart (seriously, just one)

You have to. It’ll put a smile on your face. Just do it.

Do you have any tips to make it through Valentine’s Day for our readers? Let me know in the comments below!