Yet another article that I wrote for http://theapple.com This article has been a popular one, it had the most views EVER on TheApple in one day! I wrote these tips for new teachers but the tips are valid for those of us who have been teaching for years as well. Enjoy!
Kelly Tenkely | TheApple.com
Being a first year teacher can be overwhelming to say the least. There is new curriculum to learn, unfamiliar school policies, classroom management challenges, and new teammates. Technology can help to ease some of these first year growing pains.
1. Develop a Personal Learning Network (PLN) on Twitter.
Twitter is an excellent place for new teachers to connect, collaborate, share ideas, and struggles with educators around the world. When joining Twitter, make sure to fill out your profile with information related to education. This will help others in education find you. Visit http://twitter.com to create an account. Visit http://twitter4teachers.pbworks.com to find other educators that teach in the same content area(s). Be sure to add your Twitter name to the appropriate list so that other educators can find you.
2. Keep students engaged.
Always have engaging activities on hand to keep your students on task and learning. Students will misbehave if they have nothing to do, don’t give them the opportunity to be bored. Technology is a great way to fill those extra minutes with critical thinking and problem solving activities. Keep a list or bookmark folder full of great online logic puzzle and problem solving websites for students to refer to when they have extra minutes. List ideas on 3×5 notecards that are kept next to the classroom computers. Students can select a card for an engaging activity any time they have a few extra minutes. Here are some suggestions for great engaging websites:
Fantastic Contraption- http://fantasticcontraption.com/
Super Thinkers- http://www.enlightenme.com/enlightenme/superthinkers/pages/index.html
Toy Theater- http://www.toytheater.com/index.php
Science Museum Launch Ball- http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/launchpad/launchball/
I Know That Thinking Games- http://iknowthat.com
Zoops Games that make you think- http://www.zoopz.com/zoopz/zoopz2.html
Light Up Your Brain- http://lightupyourbrain.com/
3. Take charge of professional development.
Just because you have a degree doesn’t mean that you are finished learning. A good teacher is continually learning. Technology makes it easy to extend your learning by offering professional development on demand. Professional development will keep your teaching fresh, current, and will remind you of what it is like to learn something new. Teachers who are continually learning make empathetic teachers, they understand how frustrating it can be to learn something for the first time. These are great places to continue your learning:
Learner.org – http://learner.org
Tapped in- http://tappedin.com/tappedin
Teacher Tap- http://eduscapes.com/tap
Edutopia Instructional Modules- http://www.edutopia.org/instructional-modules
4. Involve parents by creating a link between home and school.
It is essential to build a strong connection between what happens at school with what happens at home. Students shouldn’t stop learning when they leave your classroom. Keep parents informed so they can be advocates for their kids education at home. There are a few ways to keep parents involved and informed:
- Build a simple website to share classroom policies, unit overviews, homework, newsletters, calendars, and links to helpful websites. These websites are as easy as 1-2-3 to create and will keep your parents in the know. Check out the following free website creators:
Lunar Pages http://wiki.lunarpages.com/Free_Education_Account
Create a classroom Twitter account (http://twitter.com) and invite parents to follow the class on Twitter.
Throughout the class day invite students to post short updates about learning on the classroom Twitter account. Examples would be: “Yikes, about to take a pop math quiz!” or “Reading chapter 3 of Wayside School, can’t wait to hear what happens next.” This keeps parents updated with exactly what is happening in your classroom throughout the school day. When students get home parents can ask about specific activities that happened throughout the school day instead of getting the standard “nothing” answer when they ask what they did that day. This is also a great place to post homework. It is fast and gets students and teachers thinking about and reflecting on the learning of the day.
5. Keep yourself organized.
During the first year of teaching you will find a lot of new great resources, keep track of all these great finds in one easy to manage location. Delicious.com is a bookmarking website that allows you to bookmark and organize websites and webtools as you find them. Bookmarks can be collected and shared with others educators through Delicious. Be sure to install the Internet browser plugin so that you can easily bookmark a site with the click of a button.
6. Find educational blogs to discover new ideas, encouragement, and educational news.
I have found some educational blogs written by other educators that make me laugh, keep me current, and encourage me on tough days of teaching. Below are some of my favorite blogs, you can find other great blogs by clicking on the links in each bloggers ‘blog roll’. These are the blogs that the blogger is reading.
Three Old Farts- http://threeoldfarts.com/
Cal Teacher Blog- http://calteacherblog.blogspot.com/
Always Learning- http://mscofino.edublogs.org/
Once Upon a Teacher- http://onceuponateacher.blogspot.com/
Regurgitated Alpha Bits- http://regurgitatedalphabits.blogspot.com/
Smart Education 1 to 1- http://smart1to1.blogspot.com/
The Cornerstone Blog- http://thecornerstoneforteachers.blogspot.com/
The Strength of Weak Ties- http://strengthofweakties.org/
Bestest PE- http://bestestpe.blogspot.com/
Confident Teacher- http://confidentteacher.blogspot.com/
iLearn Technology- http://ilearntechnology.com
7. Get to know your students.
Nothing means more to a child than getting to know them individually. Find out about their likes, dislikes, family, pets, friends, and hobbies. Technology can make it easier to get to know your students. Sign up for a classroom http://think.com account. Each student will get a protected web space. Here they can create school related web pages, and interact with you and other students in the form of debates, votes, blog posts, and online collaborative projects. Pose questions on your think.com space for students to answer. In my experience, even shy students are willing to share with you in this type of environment.
8. Work smarter not harder.
Use websites like Scholastic’s Book Wizard that will help you work smart and maximize your time. Scholastic Book Wizard helps you to find just the right books for your students. Level your books, find booktalks, author information and lesson plans. Search books by level, author, title or keywords, or find similar books at the reading level you need. http://bookwizard.scholastic.com/tbw/homePage.do?ESP=TBW/ib/20081222/eng/tbw_logo///thlp/img////
9. Don’t reinvent the wheel.
There are a number of free lesson plans available online for every topic and grade level. These can be excellent, creative supplements for school curriculum.
Scholastic Lesson Plans- http://www2.scholastic.com/browse/lessonplans.jsp
Hot Chalk’s Lesson Plans Page- http://www.lessonplanspage.com/
Teachers.net – http://teachers.net/lessons/
Lesson Plan Central – http://lessonplancentral.com/
A to Z Teacher Stuff- http://atozteacherstuff.com
10. Always be prepared.
Plan out lessons, and keep them organized. Discovery School has a great online lesson planner where you can create and store your lesson plans. Lesson Planner lets you edit, print or download your lesson plans while linking to puzzles, worksheets, and quizzes that you have created with the teacher tools on DiscoverySchool.com. http://school.discoveryeducation.com/teachingtools/lessonplanner/index.html