Education World introduces you to a few of the best "teacher tips" sites on the Web. In these sites you'll find hundreds of practical tips -- tried and tested tips from teachers willing to share. So sit back, get ready for a sampling of tips from these sites. (But remember, this sampling is just the "tip" of the iceberg.) Then explore the sites in more depth and find tips to motivate your students, organize your classroom, and much, much more!
Nothing is more conducive to a peaceful and productive year for you and your students than successful classroom management. Classroom management, however, seldom depends on a solid grasp of educational content or on the originality of an integrated curriculum. It's usually a result of successfully dealing with the nitty-gritty -- the 1,000 small moments that arise throughout the day.
No one knows more about successful classroom management than teachers who struggle with it on a daily basis. This week, Education World brings you the benefit of their experience as we explore six of the best "teacher tips" sites and sample the practical teacher-generated tips we found at each of them. Most of these sites offer you the opportunity to share your own ideas and tips, so be our guests! Join in the fun and make these great sites even greater!
BUSY BEE ACTIVITY PAGE
We begin our exploration at the Busy Bee Activity Page. This site, maintained by Canadian teacher Kevin Kearney, contains a number of teacher-tested activities you can use from the first day of school to the last. Tips are arranged within a number of topics and categories. Below is a sampling of the tips Kearney has compiled:
- First Day of School -- Another Time Capsule Idea. Have the kids write a letter to themselves. In that letter, have them describe how they feel about being in their present grade, what they think they will be learning during the year, who their "best" friends will be, what they would like [the teacher] to do during the year, and so on. Put the letters in a potato chip can and seal it. Reopen the can during the last week of school so students can reread their time capsule letters.
- Classroom Management Tips -- Open House Ideas. On each group of four tables, put a clear plastic cup containing a goldfish. After your opening remarks to parents, provide foot-long thermometers -- or whatever you have -- and tell the parents to take the temperature of the goldfish. This is a great ice breaker! (By the way, to get the fish temperature all you have to do is take the temperature of the water; the cold-blooded fish is the same temperature.)
- Elementary -- Portfolio Holders. Use large cereal boxes. Have each child cover and decorate the box with self-created artwork. Cover the artwork with contact paper. The box can be used throughout the year to hold paper projects, audiotapes, and videotapes.
- Computer -- Computer in the Classroom. Create a database with students' information. Include fields for first and last name, middle initial, phone number, parents' names, and so on. Once the information is in the database, it can be used to make desk tags, locker tags, birthday cards, certificates, labels for each student, report card comments, and on and on and on.
When you're done reading other teachers' secrets on Kearney's site, click the bullseye to share your own!
WORKS4ME TIP LIBRARY
One of the most comprehensive sites we found for classroom management tips is the NEA's Works4Me Tips Library. Here, you'll find more than 400 archived tips from the NEA's Works4Me Classroom Tip of the Week, an e-mail message sent weekly to subscribers. Teacher-tested tips are organized into seven categories. On the Tips Library site, click on the following categories to read teachers' tips:
- Teaching Techniques. A first-day assignment I use with my students is to have them interview one another. After I start class with a mini lesson on asking questions and follow-up questions, I have them line up by birthday without talking, only communicating by hand signals. Then I split the line in two and have them pair up with a person across from them. They interview their partners and take notes. The next day I ask each student to bring in a picture, and the students introduce each other by reading the interview and posting it with the picture on the bulletin board.
- Getting Organized. To prevent a mix-up of puzzle pieces from different puzzles, I label the back of each puzzle piece and the box or puzzle tray with an identifying mark. For example, a puzzle of a kitten will have a K on each puzzle piece and also on the box. This helps me when children choose to work different puzzles on the same table and the pieces get mixed together.
- Managing Your Classroom. I've included a small picture of each child on my seating charts with tape under each for when I change seating. I staple a sheet of transparency film over the chart and can make notes on the transparency. This is also a great help for substitutes, who can quickly put the face and name together.
- Relationships. In the fall, we hold the traditional open house for parents to meet the teachers. One idea that has worked well for me is to videotape the students working on a project a few days prior to the open house. I keep the video short (four to five minutes) and make an effort to film every student at least three times. Parents love it, and my evening is far more relaxed spending part of each period narrating video rather than my presentation being the center of attention for the whole period.
- Using Technology. I've developed lesson plans for using newspaper editorial cartoons as a teaching tool in social studies, art, journalism, and English from elementary through high school. My husband, a syndicated cartoonist, created our Web site, which includes current cartoons from 24 editorial cartoonists. Our teachers' guide to the cartoonists' index is at http://www.cagle.com/teacher.
There are still 400-plus tips left in the Library! When you've reviewed those tips and implemented the best ones, don't forget to submit a tip of your own!
TAMMY'S TECHNOLOGY TIPS FOR TEACHERS
You'll find tips -- many, many tips -- for using technology for classroom management at Tammy's Technology Tips for Teachers. Tammy Worcester, an instructional technology specialist for the Educational Services and Staff Development Association of Central Kansas (ESSDACK), provides ideas for many creative and useful ways for making technology one of your classroom management techniques. The site includes directions on how to
- create and manage computer learning stations;
- use a template to design student projects;
- create an electronic portfolio;
- create a database of integrated technology activities;
- use a ClarisWorks database to document sources of text and graphics taken from the Internet;
- design a technology workshop;
- use a spreadsheet to create a word search;
- design, proof, and publish a school newspaper;
- create on-line databases using FileMaker Pro;
- create a hyperlink hot list.
Take a look at the tips Tammy provides. If you have one to add, why not drop her an e-mail?
TEACHNET.COM'S HOW-TO TOPICS PAGE
At Teachnet.com's How-To Topics Page, you'll find many ideas submitted by teachers to the Teacher-2-Teacher listserv. The tips are arranged by topic within categories; the categories include Classroom Decor, Classroom Management, Getting Organized, Classroom PR, and Back to School. Here are just several of the teacher tips you'll find in this great resource. But, remember, these tips are just the "tip" of the iceberg!
- Classroom Management -- SURPRISE! Pick out a surprise activity, such as an extra recess or a small treat, then write "SURPRISE" on the chalkboard. Throughout the day, if the class gets noisy or students are out of their seats without permission, erase a letter starting at the end of the word. Add missing letters when everyone is behaving well. If the complete word is intact at the end of the day, students get the surprise.
- Getting Organized -- Organize Those Stacks of Paper. You've got bunches of papers held together with those giant-sized paper clips, and the stack is so thick, the clip is all twisted out of shape. Use spring-type clothespins instead. They stick out to the side when you have all the stacks piled up on your desk, and you can tape scraps of paper to the clothespins to identify what's in the stack.
- Classroom P.R. -- Weekly Parent Activity. Our school is installing a Parent-Teacher Hotline, a telephone system that allows teachers to record messages to their parents. Parents can call in, enter the classroom I.D. number, and hear the teacher's message regarding homework, upcoming activities, permission slips that need to be returned, etc. We'll be using ours to include a Home Activity for the Week, a simple learning activity designed to involve parents in the learning/teaching process. But you don't need a high-tech scheme to pull this off. Dream up a short activity, run off copies, and send it home with students.
- Back-to-School -- To Tell the Truth. Have each student write down three sentences describing himself or herself. For example: "I have attended 11 schools," "I have an aunt and an uncle both named Laverne," and "I love to vacation in Cancún." The catch is, two of the statements are true and one is false. The students then share their three statements with one another or the entire class and vote on which they think are true and false. You are sure to learn some interesting trivia about your new students.
- Classroom Decor -- Bulletin Board Headlines. Whether you buy ready-made letters or cut your own for bulletin boards, there are some tricks for putting them up. If you're centering the head on the board, mark the center of the board with a piece of tape, then lay out the letters on a table. Find the center of the headline, and begin putting up the letters from the center, working your way out to both ends. A mistake often made is to space letters too far apart. Headline letters are usually set tighter than small letters; it won't hurt if the letters touch. Rounded capital letters like O and C are really taller than squared-off letters like A and M. Make sure they extend beyond the imaginary top and bottom lines formed by the other letters.
IDEAS FOR MANY AREAS OF CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT
Kim's Korner for Teacher Talk includes a number of great ideas from teachers who've used them! Some of the best tips from this site include:
- Organization. Make a substitute folder early in the year. Include class lists, fire drill rules, seating charts, alternative schedule information (like late-day schedules), and a generic plan for the day. Then create a form on the computer for your regular class schedule. On this form, you can also include the location of teacher's guides, a list of helpful teachers, procedures from the office, and your discipline rules.
- Bulletin Boards. Collect baby pictures and current pictures from your students. Place the baby pictures on one side of the bulletin board and the current pictures on the other side. Give each baby picture a number and each current picture a letter. Have a contest to see who can correctly match the pictures. A variation is to do this with pictures of the staff and faculty on a bulletin board the whole school can access.
- Icebreakers and Energizers. Play People Bingo! Make a 5 x 5 grid, like a bingo grid. Write "FREE" in the center space. In all the other spaces, write things such as "Born in another state" or "Youngest child in family." Fill in all the grids with items of interest to the students. Make a copy for each student. Have the students get the signature of a person who meets the criteria for each block. The first person with a completed card wins.
- Grading. Break writing assignments and other long projects into several small steps. Then grade and record these steps in class as you move from one student to another.
ADDITIONAL 'TIPS' RESOURCES
Of course, many other Web sites include valuable management tips and strategies. Our runners-up generally provide fewer classroom management tips than the top six, but they all contain a hint or two that are not to be missed.
- Mrs. Dowling's General Classroom Information This site, maintained by Virginia teacher Laura Dowling, provides basic information, practical tips, and usable examples of start-of-year letters to students and parents; grading, attendance, and behavior policies; classroom procedures; and more. Though designed for her own students, this is a site that all teachers will find valuable. Be sure to read her Mission Statement and Vision for a Successful Classroom.
- Classroom Management This page from the Teachers Helping Teachers Web site provides tips from teachers on calculating grades, writing report cards, organizing the classroom, and preparing for substitutes. The site also includes teacher-recommended activities for classroom management.
Article by Linda Starr
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