Category Archives: Teaching Tips

Thursday’s Tip(s): Top Five Tips

Typically, we give you one great tip on our Thursday post, but today is your lucky day. We have five top tips from around the Web to get your 2011 off to a great start.

  1. Larry Ferlazzo has updated his list of great temporary email services with Webemail.me. Why do you need temporary email addresses? If your school doesn’t provide email to students and you want to use an online tool which requires an email address, you’ll need some temporary email addresses. Webemail.me is just the latest in a long line of such services. Larry’s complete list is here.
  2. Looking for a large data set for teaching students statistics, graphing, and various other math concepts? Or are you looking for geographic and demographic-centric lessons for you students’ social studies education? Check out the US census data for all your data needs. In the New York Times’ Learning Network Blog, there’s an easily adaptable lesson on utilizing this data in a social studies setting. At the very least, the lesson gives some great ideas for using census data with your students.
  3. Also from the New York Times’ Learning Network Blog, a reader of the blog submitted a fantastic lesson idea using a Nicholas Kristof piece on Guinea worms. There are plenty of resources and activities in this rather engaging unit.
  4. Looking for ways to use Skype in the classroom? How about assessment of learning? Silvia Tolisano at Langwitches Blog does a great job of sharing many ideas and resources for using Skype in formative assessment. Don’t take my word for it, check out her post here and begin downloading Skype for free ASAP! (H/T Carmen Marty, eIS)
  5. Finally, from the tech/online tools side of things, Mashable offers up a list of tools that can be used to help you and your students make sense of the enormous amount of data available on the web. The hot new practice of Web 2.0 is the curation of information. The tools identified in this post are perfect for organizing and collecting all the data under a given subject. Check the post out and choose the one that best suits your needs.

We hope these tips provide some inspiration for a new year and new semester. What tips do you have that might help your fellow teachers out in 2011? If you have a tip that requires an in depth look, submit your idea to our blog submission form and join the conversation at Networked Teaching & Learning.

Zac Early is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.

10 Timesaving Tips

In the fast paced, over scheduled, busy world we live in today stress seems to be at its highest. The teaching profession continues to have more and more pushed into it and teachers are finding it hard to find the balance between teaching, planning, and all the other professional and personal things required of them. Then add eMINTS on top of that, and it could possibly be “the straw that breaks the camel’s back” unless those teachers are proficient at managing their time and commitments. To be an effective eMINTS teacher, you have to figure out how to juggle it all. Here are some strategies that may help to reduce your stress and become more productive and resourceful.

  1. Manage Yourself: You really aren’t managing time you are managing yourself. Find out where you are wasting time and make adjustments to your practices. (ie. email, searching for files, etc.)
  2. Goal Setting: Set goals and make rules for yourself to keep you on track. Get some routines established and set some habits. (ie. Goal – keep up with email. Rule – check email at 3 specific times a day and no more.)
  3. Write To-Do List: Start planning your day by creating a to-do list. It can be on paper, on your phone, computer, or on the fridge but not only in your head. Prioritize the list and delegate out things that others could take care of for you. Break large tasks down into smaller, more manageable tasks or steps. Schedule the things that are most important to you and don’t let those items be skipped.
  4. Urgent Items First: A friend once shared that she “eats her frogs first”. The frogs being those things she doesn’t want to do…she puts them at the top of her to-do list (thanks Stephanie). Put the “urgent” items at the top of your to-do list and work your way down.
  5. Put on Your Blinders: Block out distractions when working on high priority projects; turn off your email, put your phone on silent, shut your door (turn off the lights).
  6. Breaks Are Necessary: Take a break when you feel distracted. Stress can get you off track so when you feel it coming on think about taking a 10 minute walk, get up and stretch, or do anything that might re-energize you.
  7. Add NO to Your Vocab: Learn to say “no”. A phrase I learned from an Oprah show years ago that was freeing for me… “I’m sorry….I wish that I could but I just can’t”.
  8. Be Flexible: Practice being flexible and allow time for interruptions and distractions; you never know when they will arise and letting them add to your stress will be counter-productive.
  9. Reflect: At the end of the day, take some time to look over what you have accomplished and how you managed to do all of it. Think about the strategies that worked for you and the ones that didn’t and cut yourself some slack if you didn’t get everything done – just move those things to your next to-do list and give yourself some time to prepare for the next day.
  10. Use Technology Tools: Here are a few technology tools that may help you out (but be ready to drop them if they end up taking you more time).
  • Microsoft Outlook: manage your Email and Blogs (see previous post), create your to-do list with Tasks, create Notes for important things you want to remember, and use the Calendar to manage your time. many places of employment are now using the Microsoft Exchange Servers making your account available not only on your desktop machine. Check with you tech support staff if you aren’t sure. You never know, you could be checking your mail and more on your mobile device.
  • Microsoft OneNote: Create a virtual notebook to keep tabs on your life. You can create lists, make drawings, include pictures, insert screen clippings, insert sound and so much more.
  • Google: Email, Tasks (in Gmail), Calendar, Reader – Think Outlook but online; accessible from any computer connected to the Internet. Google offers tons of tools that you may find helpful – you can see them all at their products page. Sign up for a Google/Gmail Account to get started. And “There’s an App for that” 😉
  • Sticky Notes or Stickies – Create virtual sticky notes on your desktop (think Post Its for your computer). They can be found in the Accessories folder on a Windows machine and in the Applications folder on a Mac.
  • Evernote: they say “Capture Anything, Access Anywhere, Find Things Fast”. You can even download it to your Windows computer. And “There’s an App for that” 😉
  • Spaaze: “An infinite virtual cork board, is a new visual way to organize pieces of information.” Add bookmarks, labels, notes, YouTube Videos, images, and files. You can now publish your board and even collaborate with others. (currently in beta)

What tips, strategies, suggestions or tools do you have that others might benefit from knowing about? Feel free to share them in a comment.

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialist for the eMINTS National Center and writes for her own blog, Higgins Help.

Clock Image – “Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time.” Flickr- monkeyc.net. Web. 9 Dec 2010. <http://www.flickr.com/photos/monkeyc/112342184/>.

Students on the Move

wobbly disks 2Do you have students that wiggle and fidget? Do you wish your kids could sit still?

The students at Webster Groves Computer School are participating in a new program called Students on the Move. Wiggling, fidgeting, and even Yoga are built into different learning activities! You won’t find straight, quiet lines in the hallway. Kids are encouraged to jump, skip, and hop their way down the hall. Teachers report encouraging movement actually helps the children settle down when it is time to get focused.

Watch this clip to find out more!

What might be some ways you could incorporate movement into your learning environment?

Carmen Marty is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.

Thursday’s Tip: Authentic Problems with INTERoBANG

I am always encouraging teachers to find real world applications for their content and to encourage students to solve problems.  The Partnership for 21st Century Learning lists problem solving and creative thinking as skills our students will need for their  future.

How do we engage in our students in wanting to solve authentic problems?

The website INTERRoBANG has just made these skills easier to teach and intriguing to students.  The website has masked the problem solving as a game, containing many missions for students from grade 6-12 to complete.  Students choose a mission, create a plan, solve the mission and post their findings using multimedia.  With a successful post, the team earns points and eventually can earn prizes.  INTERoBang also encourages teams to create missions, taking the thinking process to another level.

I haven’t used INTERoBANG with students, but the idea is exciting and intriguing!  Even if you don’t want to register and play the game there are some great authentic learning  ideas you could incorporate into many content areas!  Watch this video to learn more!

Carmen Marty is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.

Geocaching – More than a High Tech Scavenger Hunt

Compass rose browns 00

The advent of Global Positioning Satelite Systems – GPS has given rise to a new sort of treasure hunting adventure called geocaching. Geocachers worldwide hide caches, small boxes with a few trinkets and a visitor’s log, in unique locations. A handheld GPS device or cell phone app is then used to record the longitude and latitude coordinates. The locations along with clues are posted on the Internet for other geocachers to find.

You can get started with geocaching by visiting the Geocaching.com website. In the upper right-hand corner, click: Create a Membership and sign up for a FREE account. Explore this site thoroughly. Be sure to visit Getting Started and Hide and Seek a Cache. The Resources page has a lot of useful information including a PDF Guide to Geocaching . Visit different types of caches- earth cache, virtual cache, multi-cache, and mystery cache. Consider how each of these holds unique opportunities for your classroom.

For an introduction to geocaching in the classroom try the following article: Can You Dig It? Geocaching in the Classroom by Anna Adam and Helen Mowers, School Library Journal, 2007. . The Geocaching for Kids site features the experiences of one teacher geocaching with his classroom.

Although locating caches can teach students map skills, geography and mathematics, you might move the geocaching experience in your classroom to a higher-level by having students create their own caches. Students could create caches that answer questions such as: What is it in your community that would be most interesting or important to a visitor? What are the most historically significant areas in our community? What geographic or biological features are exhibited in or even unique to our community? Student caches can provide background information addressing a variety of questions such as these.

Michelle Kendrick is a program coordinator for the eMINTS National Center.

What Really Happened At Thanksgiving?

Looking for a lesson or activity exploring the different perspectives of the first Thanksgiving? Look no further than What Really Happened At Thanksgiving? for an investigation that will engage students and cause them to think critically.

There will be no need for turkeys made from the outlines of our hands or paper pilgrim hats. What Really Happened At Thanksgiving? is a great way to engage students in authentic learning around a holiday event based on historical events. From the Plimoth Plantation, this interactive website takes students through the process of investigating Thanksgiving as historians. Your historians will participate in activities that separate fact from myth, identify and analyze primary resources, make educational guesses using cultural clues, and consider multiple points of view.

Including in this interactive website is a teacher’s guide. The guide provides classroom activities that coincide with online activities. Also included are national social studies standards and other resources. Either use the site for a last minute fill in for those days leading up to Thanksgiving or plan out a more elaborate unit on Native Americans and European colonization of the Americas. This resource is really adaptive to your needs. The ideal grade levels for this resource are 3rd-5th.

Zac Early is an instructional specialist for the eMINTS National Center. He currently manages Networked Teaching & Learning while neglecting his own blogs, particularly Suppl_eMINTS.

Google Earth as a Collaborative Tool

Google Earth is a great way to help students read maps and develop an understanding of geography, but Google Earth can also be a great tool for sharing data during a collaborative project.

Google Earth allows students to add text, data and pictures to a particular location on a map. Locations can be entered into Google Earth using GPS coordinates or simply an address. Descriptions, data and photos can be added to each location.

All of this material can be saved as a kmz file for sharing with others. These files can be opened in Google Earth for display on any computer. Collaboration with students from different geographic areas can be facilitated by uploading the kmz file to a website or portal where participants from different schools can download the file and add their information.

The Google Earth tutorial is a great place to start in learning to add data to Google Earth documents.

The Google Earth Community also has some helpful tutorials.

Many projects that involve examining different geographic locations could be enhanced by using Google Earth. Consider how adding pictures and text to locations on Google Earth might add to a Flat Stanley Project .

Many science investigations could benefit from using Google Earth to record information collected from different geographic locations. The Pathfinder Science Project involves many such investigations.

What about Chewing the Fat ? In this online project, students from different areas collect examples of slang. In the How Much Does it Cost project ,students compare the cost of items in different areas of the world . The ideas are endless.

Do you have other ideas for using Google Earth for sharing information and data?

Michelle Kendrick is a program coordinator for the eMINTS National Center.

Just Five Minutes Each Day

Teachers are pressed for time. There is not enough time for planning, grading, and keeping up with the latest in education. There seems to be especially little time for the range of curriculum we must uncover. But have you ever considered what your class might accomplish in just five minutes each day?

This group of students at Bangalow Public School in Australia decided they might actually change the world in just five minutes a day. Check out their video. to see what they accomplished.

What could your students do if you gave them just five minutes each morning of the school day?

If your students come up with their own great idea to save the planet, funding for their project might be available from the Captain Planet Foundation.

Michelle Kendrick is a program coordinator for the eMINTS National Center.