Author Archive for Michael Adams


10 of the Best Gift Ideas for Teachers

You only have a couple weeks left to get everyone crossed off your Christmas list. And one of those people is probably your son or daughter’s school teacher.

What are you going to get them? Another candle? Or maybe some markers? No way! Here’s 10 ideas any school teacher would love to receive for the holidays.

1. Fresh-baked goodies

I’m pretty sure all of America loves chocolate chip cookies. How could they not? If you’re looking for an inexpensive way to say thank you, cookies, brownies, and cupcakes, go straight to the front of the line. And if you burn the house down whenever you turn the oven on, feel free to purchase goodies from a local bakery.

2. A gift card to Staples

Classroom supplies from pens to pads of paper and even binder ring supporters – they’re in low supply when many teachers are footing the bill for supplies. Give them a gift card to Staples or Office Depot so they can get what they need for their spring class.

3. A gift card to the grocery store

People either love or hate grocery shopping – just like cooking. But, everyone has to eat. Make it easier on your kid’s teacher by giving them a gift card to the grocery store. Then, they’ll be able to get that filet mignon they’ve always wanted!

4. A couple months of a useful K-12 web application

Technology is making a positive impact throughout the entire classroom. Encourage the use of it by purchasing a couple months of a popular web app. How about giving QuizBean a shot? I hear it’s pretty stellar at quickly assessing students. Start at QuizBean.com

5. One big gift from the whole class

Have all the students put a hand-print on a poster or sign a platter. One gift from the whole class means a lot to teachers because it serves as a memory for that year. Get a couple parents together and start brainstorming ideas!

6. A 90-minute massage

Love massages? Teachers do! When they work 60-80 hour work weeks, there’s no time for relaxation. Give them the gift of massage and you’ll be their favorite parent for years to come. And yes, it works for both male and female teachers!

7. Gas card

Everyone has to make it to work. And that means gas money. Get your son’s teacher a gas card for a week’s worth of gas. If they don’t want to use it on gas for commuting, there’s always an end-of-the-year road trip!

8. Bouquet of flowers (for the ladies)

Flowers simply brighten your day (when they’re not plastic). Find a local florist or drop by your neighborhood grocery store to find the perfect bouquet. Get them delivered, too — it’ll be a great surprise on a dreary winter day.

9. A gift card to AC Moore or Michael’s

If you head into any craft store from the end of July into August, you’ll find it packed with teachers who are buying supplies (likely out of their own pocket) to decorate their classroom before their students come. And they’ll do it several times before the year is over. GIve them financial relief and pay for decorating their classroom. After all, your kid is there 180 days a year, right?

10. A nice restaurant in your town

Teachers don’t often spoil themselves when it comes to food. The teachers I know mak a lot of meals at home, bring their lunch to school, and don’t enjoy the fine restaurants in town. Help them out. Give them a gift certificate to the finest place in town. That way, they can take their best friend, partner, or spouse on a night on the town.

What ideas do you have to give teachers for the holidays?

 


QuizBean no longer requires a student email address

When our team launched QuizBean to the K-12 crowd a few weeks ago, we received a flood of new sign-ups, tons of feedback from teachers across the country, and super-creative ideas about how to improve QuizBean. We listened to you and started making changes.

Here’s what’s new at QuizBean:

 

Send Quizzes to Students who don’t have an email address

This is big. You can now send your quiz to any student in your class – no email address required. We simply create a username for them that’s @quizbean.com — but it’s not an email address. When students log-in with their @quizbean username, they’ll be presented with the quiz in their dashboard. It’s pretty awesome.

QuizBean accepts accents and characters

You asked for accents and characters to be accepted in text fields. And since QuizBean has users from over 130 countries, we thought that should get fixed asap. We’re happy to announce QuizBean has been updated to accept characters and accents.

Quickly duplicate quizzes for other classes

You may have the perfect quiz for 1st period biology, but maybe not 7th period. Quickly duplicate the quiz, swap some questions, randomize on the send, and you’re good to go. That means you eliminate cheating AND save time without having to build the quiz over again. Wahoo!

There’s more coming! If you haven’t checked QuizBean out in a while, give it a spin. I’d love to hear any feedback – positive or negative – you have.


7 Ways to Keep Your Students Motivated Until Christmas Break

I’m writing this post from sunny Orlando, Florida. I’m on vacation for Thanksgiving week with my family. It’s actually kind of cold here — a whopping 40 degrees this morning, but I’m happy to be on vacation.

However, my mind is simply on my next vacation — Christmas break. And I’m sure your students are super excited for Christmas, too. But, you’ve got to get through a couple more weeks of school. With sugar cookies, christmas presents, and family coming in from out-of-town, things can get crazy.

Luckily, here’s 7 strategies to keep your student’s eyes on the board and acing their exams, all the way through the holidays.

1. Reward your students

It’s just a short couple of weeks between the two holiday breaks. So, putting a reward at the end of the three weeks will motivate your students. The rewards could be anything from a popcorn party to a cookie party or inviting parents in for a hot chocolate throw-down.

2. Use arts and crafts to teach lessons

There are so many craft ideas during the holidays – reindeer, dreidels, menorahs, christmas trees — you name it.  Get your craft supplies out and make holiday cards, reindeer masks, or construction paper menorahs. Teach your students stories about the history of all holidays to make it educational.

3. Let students share stories from the holidays

I love story time. Get out the wide-lined paper and a pencil, plus some crayons and have your students draw and write stories from holiday time. Keep the stories PG of course. Some prompts could be, tell me about the best place you’ve travelled for the holidays, draw your whole family around the holiday table, make a list of what you love about the holidays, etc.

4. Make lessons holiday-oriented

Math gets more exciting when it’s about cookies taken from the cookie jar, how fast Santa’s sleigh is going, or calculating the speed of a dreidel. Incorporate the lessons into holidays to get your students excited.

5. Extend recess – let those kids run!

When it gets colder (in much of the nation), students often don’t get outside enough. And when you have pent up student energy, it’s got to be released somehow. Recess is the perfect way for students to unwind, play with friends, and be creative. And in the winter, I don’t think there’s a problem with extending it a couple minutes to get the “wintry mix” out of your student’s system.

6. Calendar count-down

“10 days until holiday break!” Can you picture your students screaming for joy? Here’s one way you can make it even more exciting: have a holiday reward on each of the ten days (or month-long calendar if you can make it that long). Maybe it’s a joke or show and tell. Or, you could give your class candy canes on the last day of school before break. Each day, your students will be excited to see what the countdown calendar has in store!

7. Make gingerbread houses

Personal favorite, right here. Gingerbread houses were awesome to build as a kid. We would take old milk cartons (not the crates), coat them with white icing, and decorate them with random candies. They would harden and we’d take them home. Do the same thing with your students for an afternoon before they go home — it works the creative side of their brain and well, it’s candy so what’s wrong with that?

How do you keep your students focused and motivated for a few weeks before holiday break? Let me know by leaving a comment below.


6 Homework Ideas for Your Students Before They Head Home for Thanksgiving

A lot of schools get the whole week off for Thanksgiving. Some students stay home to have a great meal with their family. Others travel far to spend time with extended relatives.

With travel, comes an interesting opportunity for your students to learn lessons they’d only learn outside of school. Here’s a couple ideas for “homework” assignments for your students (and none of them require highlighting in a yellow textbook.

Here we go!

1. Draw a map of where you went with a story for each destination

I love roadtrips. Whether it’s to see family, a museum, or heck, even see the world’s largest rubber band, they never get old. The stories you hear, the people you meet. It’s an adventure. And that means your students are going to have great stories. Print out map worksheets and have your students write where they went along with a story. Or, use a US map to have students pin where they went on vacation.

2. Self-reflection: What are you thankful for?

This one’s simple, but I want you to challenge your students to think about what their thankful for. Jumping straight to family, friends, and a home, is easy. What are they truly thankful for? Ask them to give specific examples. In a page or two, you’ll learn a whole lot more about your students than you would giving them a simple times tables for multiplication.

3. Personal essay: Your favorite part about Thanksgiving

Similar to number 2, but a little looser, what do you students enjoy about Thanksgiving? Is it the food? The family? Or the football in the front yard? Whatever it may be ask your students to draw a picture, write a short essay, or both, on why they think it’s their favorite part of the Thanksgiving holiday.

4. Show and Tell from Thanksgiving vacation

Did your students get the bigger part of the wishbone from the Turkey? That’d be a fun show and tell item. So would your student’s Black Friday deal steal or homemade biscuits (especially if they’re amazing). When students get the chance to talk about something they loved about vacation you not only learn something about them, but it’s a chance for their peers to learn, too. Bring show and tell back to your classroom for Thanksgiving break.

5. A Story from Your Grandparent’s past

Family is all about storytelling. Whether you’re laughing about your sister’s go-kart story or how your uncle always makes Thanksgiving dinner a nightmare, there’s always opportunities to tell a good story. For me, a lot of the best stories come from my Grandparents. They have stories from a time I never experienced. And the stories are remembered so vividly, too. Chances are, your students hear some of these stories over Thanksgiving break. Give them the chance to write down the stories and share them with the class. They’ll learn other student’s stories and enjoy telling their own.

6. Your cousin’s favorite recipe

Everyone has their favorite recipes they look forward to every holiday – and Thanksgiving is no exception. Sometimes it’s Grandma’s homemade rolls with honey butter. Or, it could be your cousin’s famous bourbon pecan sweet potatoes. Have your students write about or bring in their favorite Thanksgiving recipe and share it with the class.

See? Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be textbooks and flag football. You can put meaning behind your student’s time off. And it’s more likely they’ll actually do the homework because it doesn’t involve a protractor or glass beaker.

Did you give your students any homework over Thanksgiving break? Let me know in the comments below.


Introducing the QuizBean Manifesto (aka What we’re all about)

Quizbean is about Quizzes. Making them and taking them. We’re not a LMS. We’re not courseware. In fact, we’re not bloated at all. We’re a lean quiz-making machine. No lengthy help section needed. Making a quiz should be just as easy as taking one. We don’t want you to waste time figuring QuizBean out.

You should be able have a student list populated, classes created and your first quiz sent in under 15 minutes.

To do this, data entry should have zero friction. It should be easy as pie. Blueberry pie. We need keyboard shortcuts and smart defaults. Screens should load instantly from any device — even paper and pencil. Every subject, regardless of how funny-looking the characters are, should work with QuizBean. And grading? It should be instantaneous. It should not disrupt your routine.

And we need to help you through the process.

If you distribute physical quizzes, we need to help you make the transition to a digital platform easier – not harder. QuizBean should save you hours of hand-grading. It doesn’t have to be a tool forced on you by the guy who heads up IT for your district. You should want to use QuizBean.

Quizbean is oodles of fun.

QuizBean should be delightful at every turn. Creation of a quiz should be just as fun as taking a quiz.  Animation, drag-and-drop image upload, and easy data entry help you build a quiz your students want to take (hard to believe, right?).

Students should have fun taking a quiz.  A Quiz should be engaging and not repetitive. It should further their learning, develop knowledge, and help assess where your students could improve.

QuizBean is a tool for the the future of education. A tool that’s simple and effective. And most importantly, makes your job easier.

Take QuizBean for a test drive.

 


8 Reasons Teachers Should Blog

I’ve come across hundreds of teacher’s blogs – from edtech, to teaching kindergarten, becoming an art teacher, curriculum design, and more. Maybe it’s because there are so many of you, but I’m blown away by the sheet number out there. And they all have their own niche!

But, there are still teachers who haven’t joined the technology band-wagon and started blogging.

Now is the time. It’s easier than ever before to get started. Heck, this blog was started in about 15 minutes. And you don’t even need your own website address. You can get something setup at Blogger or WordPress in even less time – and for free.

If I’ve got you interested, read on to discover 10 more reasons you should be putting pen to screen and writing your own blog.

1. You connect with teachers across the globe

One of the most amazing benefits of writing on a consistent basis is the people you meet. From teachers to school administrators, press to principals. You’ll meet a ton of people. And they won’t just be located at the middle school down the road. Teachers are global. Your blog is global. Just through the QuizBean blog, I’ve met teachers from France, Canada, England, Zimbabwe, the Netherlands. etc. Do you want to meet them, too?

2. You build credibility and trust

Think you’re an awesome teacher? That’s for the web to decide! Starting a blog builds credibility and trust. It says you know what you’re talking about. It means other teachers seek you out for knowledge. Start a blog. Take what’s in your head and put into posts. Add pictures and an email sign-up. Then press go. Watch as the world explodes in-front of your eyes.

3. You can be a role model to your students

There’s almost always one aspiring writer in your classroom – and maybe more. By you writing your own blog it may inspire your students to write their own blogs, get creative, and find their own online following. And if they get hooked, blogs are one of the best tools for them to build their personal brands.

4. You get better at writing

No matter how long you’ve been writing, there’s always room for improvement. Writers who have been crafting paragraphs for decades are have their eye on improving. When I started writing, I was horrible. Now, I kind of actually get the hang of it. And internet writing isn’t your run-of-the-mill research paper. It’s fun, light, and personal. This is probably writing you haven’t done in a while – that’s why it’s such a joy!

5. You can write about anything

Passionate about curriculum design? What about teaching new math strategies for 3rd graders? Your blog’s topic is up to you. Someone out there will find it valuable. And you’ll build a following. Oh, you don’t want to write about teaching? Then start a cooking blog. Or a travel blog. Or, just write for he sake of writing.

6. You have something to put on your resume

Hiring managers and principals love to see personal websites. Why? Because it not only shows how you communicate, but it shows your thought process. It puts a human-touch to your resume and gives you a leg-up from the competition.

7. You get your thoughts off your mind…and on paper

As a teacher (or, really any working professional), there’s a ton on your mind. You’re constantly thinking about your students, grading exams, lesson planning, packing lunch (we all know cafeteria food is sub-par). What if you could get those thoughts out of your head? You can with blogging. Pick a word-count, say 500 words, and start typing. There. Is that better? You’ve gotten something off your chest that upset you about the school day. You wrote about how you made a difference in a student’s life. And hey, you don’t even have to publish it. But you should.

8. It’s fun (isn’t that reason enough?)

Who ever thought writing could be fun? Well, if you start a blog, it will be. It’s fun to see your blog posts on the first page of Google. It’s fun to connect with teachers across the world – and even teachers in your own school. Plus, if it ends up not being fun, you can always take a break – you know, like a summer vacation!

Do you have a blog? Let me know why you blog and include a link to your blog, too — I’ll bookmark it!

 


7 Resources to Help Students Figure Out What They Want to Do

When I was in grade school, I wanted to be a pharmaceutical salesman. Why? Because they made a lot of money and played golf all day. Then, after I realized I couldn’t play golf well, I moved on to culinary school. But, that takes years to climb up the food chain – no pun intended. After culinary school, I was interested in becoming a graphic designer. Now, I do online marketing.

I jumped around because I never quite knew what I wanted to do.

The same is true with your students.

They are only exposed to so much throughout their middle school and high school years. They have no idea certain career paths even exist. And that’s a problem. We need to help our students explore everything – from plumbing to architecture, cooking to biology.

That’s why I put together a list of tools I found online that’ll help your students explore different career options while they still have time to decide. Let’s take a look:

1. O-Net Online

This treasure trove of a website has all the information your students will be looking for when they start to explore their career options. You can search a myriad of different ways. One of which sorts careers by the amount of preperation needed to enter the industry. That can be beneficial for students who may not want to gain a lot of post-secondary education.

2. MyMajors.com

If you’ve got high school students, send them here. They have detailed info on every major you can think of. And if your students are stuck, take them through a career test to see what the crew at MyMajors.com recommends. I wish I had this tool when I was in school.

3. Science Pioneers

When it comes to career prospects, students looking to dive into math and science should browse this website for job postings and descriptions on what life is like as scientist. And yes, we do need more of them, so encourage your students to take a look.

4. CareerKids

Not only does this site provide job descriptions, it’ll give your students salary information (so they make sure they’re in a job that’ll pay for the big yacht they want :P). When they find a job they’re interested in, CareerKids has articles to help students figure it all out. Plus, there’s a section to help craft your student’s first resume.

5. WordPress

Yes, it’s not a career website, but I firmly believe your students should start to make an online name for themselves as early as possible.  Do this by simply starting a blog on WordPress (this blog is hosted using WordPress). Once students start writing and ranking in Google searches, they’ll be well on their way to developing their own career.

6. 25 Tough Job Interview Questions

It’s great if your students know what they want to do, but what about landing a job in their chosen industry? They have to get past the interview! And they’re not easy when you’re 15 or 16 years old. This resource from the Huffington Post provides a list of questions your students should be ready to answer.

7. 9 Amazing Teen Entrepreneurs

Many students think they have to follow a traditional career path. Not so! Teen entrepreneurship is on the rise and this article highlights 9 amazing teen entrepreneurs who started their own business – and they’re successful. Don’t let your students count it out quite yet.

Does your school have a career services department? Do the counselors help your students identify what they may be good at? Truth is, your students could switch jobs and industries several times in their lives. Just this past week, I met a Sales Manager at a cookie company whose background is in engineering. You never know. But, with these sites, your students will have a better idea of what they want to be when they grow up.


QuizBean featured on KillerStartups.com

As an ed-tech startup, we love free press. Today, we got more free press. Emma, one of several incredibly talented writers at KillerStartups.com chose to feature QuizBean because we have a vision to disrupt education and how teachers assess their students.

The article, which launched this afternoon, also highlights our parent company, Bluehouse Group, who’s team has been building QuizBean for over a year now. It’s press like this that gets us super excited. Excited that we’re making a splash in the edtech community.

Thanks to Emma and the KillerStartups team for writing about us.

Here’s a link to the article:

http://www.killerstartups.com/rising-startup-stars/quizbean/


I like a teacher who gives you something to take home to think about besides homework.

8 Reasons You Should Have More Guest Speakers in Your Classroom

Guest speakers for your classroom

Having a guest speaker in your classroom is probably better than when the TV on wheels rolled into your classroom. They’re new, fresh, and hopefully engaging.

Many teachers bring in guest speakers to illustrate points in their lesson plans, and give students a break, but I believe guest speakers have the power to do so much more. Here are 8 reasons you should invite more guest speakers into your classroom:

1. It’s a break from your teaching

Hate to say it, but students are probably bored of your teaching methods and class. Break up the monotony with a guest speaker. They’ll speak at a different pace, use different teaching aids, and engage with students differently. Plus, it’s an opportunity for students to interact with unfamiliar people and get comfortable talking to other adults – always a plus for networking down the road!

2. Students have the opportunity to learn something new

This is my favorite reason on the list because I love to learn something new. When I had scientists come in to class, travelers, and even firefighters, I learned a ton – even if it had nothing to do with the class I was in. Learning new, interesting things is part of education, and guest speakers are often overlooked as one of the better sources.

3. It supports subjects you may not know a lot about

Have you ever gotten to a point in your semester’s curriculum where it might be better for someone else to teach the section? That’s a perfect scenario for guest speakers (or another teacher if that’s easier). Having another person teach a quick section of your class is a nice break for students – and it lends a different perspective, as I point out below.

4. Creates amazing community relations

A lot of schools struggle with good “town-gown” relations. Some are disliked by the community while others prosper. One of the best ways to get in good graces is by working with community leaders and organizations to bring in their staff to speak to students about what they do and how it relates to the curriculum. You’ll be making new friends in town in no time.

5. Give professionals a chance to connect with students

There are many professionals who would jump at the chance to come speak to a classroom full of your students. If you’re an elementary school teacher, interactive science demos would be neat. In middle school? How about a world-travel presentation from someone who’s done a lot of globe-trotting? And if you teach high school students, what about an intro to personal finance or a college admissions counselor? At any level, reach out to businesses in your area. You’d be surprised at what you find.

6. Parents love participating in their kid’s class

Bring your parent to work day is super-fun. But, what if someone has a not-so-fun job? (I mean, how long can you listen to an accountant talk about what they do?) Offer another option like displaying a hobby or fun side project they worked on. Parents like to be involved and see that their child is proud of them – and vice versa.

7. There are important lessons to learn

Sometimes it takes a guest speaker to hammer a point home. Whether it’s from their personal or professional experience guest speakers have the chance to make an impact. For example, when I was going through driver’s education, we listened to a father who lost his daughter in an auto accident because she wasn’t wearing a seat belt. Lesson learned. I don’t turn the car on until I have my seat belt on.

8. It’s just fun

You see your student’s smiles on their faces when someone amazing walks through the door. That’s what makes it all worth it — especially when you bring in someone students know. I remember when my college would host a speaker series. The excitement on campus was unforgettable.

Have you brought a lot of guest speakers into your classroom? How do they benefit your students? Do they detract from the curriculum? I’d love to start a discussion about why you’re pro or con on bringing in guest speakers. Start the discussion off below.