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How Teachers Can Prepare Themselves for the Second Semester of School

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It is no secret to any instructor that the second semester can prove to be more challenging than the first. Often students return from break unmotivated or distracted, and once spring returns, they are often already mentally on break again. There are a few things teachers can easily do to combat this problem and keep students engaged for longer and more effectively--thus improving class participation, test scores, and attendance. In the process, it can make even the best teacher reach the maximum amount of students possible.

One of the first things every educator should do before the start of the second semester is to evaluate the grades given to every individual student in every instance. Whether it be a pop quiz, an essay, or a test, looking for patterns in the grades of these assignments can bring many different things to the surface that otherwise may have been overlooked. These are a few very important factors to pay attention to:

Grades of individual students

As an educator, if an individual student performed poorly in the first semester, it is essential to find out why. Look for patterns of incorrect answers or missed assignments--if they are erratic, it is possible to discern where the student is having problems, and help to correct this in the second semester.

Overall grade patterns

Teachers can use student grades to enlighten themselves to where they themselves need to improve. Looking at important test questions or essay questions can be very important--if the majority of the class did poorly in one particular section, then it is possible that this was the product of an ineffective teaching method. This gives teachers time to correct a problem before it gets larger. Keeping students engaged can be the most challenging thing for teachers in the second semester. There are many ways for educators to prepare for this problem moving forward. Winter break can be a time to look over the coming lessons and plan ways to integrate different activities into the classroom to diversify the overall learning experience.

Group activities

Placing students in small groups of their peers enables learning on many different levels. First of all, it enables teachers time to view how different students learn in a group environment. In addition, placing students in groups almost forces increased participation. Planning these activities--even if they involve collaboration to solve one problem per class--can drastically improve the learning experience by guiding groups, letting students learn from each other, and keeping them engaged at the same time.

Interactive activities 

Creating things such as powerpoint presentations, finding online videos, and other audio visual materials can have a large impact in the classroom. These supplementary learning materials can assist students in retaining information when end of the year testing comes.

Creative ways to review important information can truly help teachers make sure their students retain the information. Taking half a class before an exam to play a game themed around the subject can increase test scores, and again keep students more prepared for final exams. These activities are easily planned between semesters, and can be a very effective tool for teachers.

Although the second semester can be the most challenging, planning activities and evaluating both students and overall effectiveness as teachers can result in more prepared and comfortable students--thus more effective teachers and a better learning environment.

10 Ideas for Inclusive Classrooms

10 Ideas for Inclusive Classrooms

In celebration of Special Educator Day, we compiled 10 ideas for creating a more inclusive classroom for students with austim.

Students with autism may have unique needs with learning, social skills, and communication. These ten simple ideas will help teachers address some of these needs and provide guidance for bringing out the best in learners with autism.

1. Learn about the learner from the learner

Often times, educators needing information about a student will study the individual’s educational records. While these documents are certainly one source of information, teachers wanting to know more about a student with autism should ask that student to provide information. Some students will be quite willing and able to share information while others may need coaxing or support from family members. Teachers might ask for this information in a myriad of ways. For instance, they might ask the student to take a short survey or sit for an informal interview. One teacher asked his student with autism, to create a list of teaching tips that might help kids with learning differences. The teacher then published the guide and gave it out to all educators in the school.

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2. Teach to fascinations

Whenever possible, educators should use interests, strengths, skills, areas of expertise, and gifts as tools for teaching. Can a passion for GPS be used to inspire more reading (operations manuals), new math skills (be a “human GPS”-calculate shortest route between two places), or fun social studies questions (“How would the world be different today if Christopher Columbus had GPS?”) . 

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3. Get them talking 

In some classrooms, a handful of students dominate small-group conversations and whole-class discussions. While it is important for these verbal and outgoing students to have a voice in the classroom, it is equally important for other students — including shy and quiet students, students using English as a second language, and students with disabilities — to have opportunities to share and challenge ideas, ask and answer questions, and exchange thoughts. To ensure that all students have opportunities to communicate, teachers need to put structures and activities in place that allow for interaction.

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4. Give choices

Choice may not only give students a feeling of control in their lives, but an opportunity to learn about themselves as workers and learners. Choice may be especially helpful for students with autism who have special needs when it comes to learning environment, lesson materials, and communication. Choice can be built into almost any part of the school day. Students can choose which assessments to complete, which role to take in a cooperative group, and how to receive personal assistance and supports. Examples of choices that can be offered in classrooms include:

  • Solve five of the ten problems assigned
  • Work alone or with a small group
  • Read quietly or with a friend
  • Use a pencil, pen, or the computer
  • Conduct your research in the library or in the resource room
  • Take notes using words or pictures
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5. Consider handwriting alternatives

Writing can be a major source of tension and struggle for students with autism. Some students cannot write at all and others who can write, may have a difficult time doing so. In order to support a student struggling with writing, a teacher may try to give the child gentle encouragement as he or she attempts to do some writing- a word, a sentence, or a few lines. Teachers might also allow the student to use a computer, word processor, or even an old typewriter for some or for all lessons. For some learners, being able to use a word processor when writing helps them focus on the task at hand (content) instead of on their motor skills (process).

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6. Helping with Organizing

While some students with autism are ultra-organized, others need support to find materials, keep their locker and desk areas neat, and remember to bring their assignments home at the end of the day. Consider implementing support strategies that all students might find useful. For instance, teachers can have all students copy down assignments, pack book bags, put materials away, and clean work spaces together. Structuring this time daily will give all learners the opportunity to be organized and thoughtful about how they prepare to transition from school to home. Specific skills can even be taught during this time (e.g., creating to-do lists, prioritizing tasks).

7. Support Transitions

Some students with autism struggle with transitions. Some are uncomfortable changing from environment to environment, while others have problems moving from activity to activity. Individuals with autism report that changes can be extremely difficult causing stress and feelings of disorientation. Teachers can minimize the discomfort students may feel when transitioning by:

  • Giving reminders to the whole class before any transition.
  • Providing the student or entire class with a transitional activity such as writing in a homework notebook or for younger students, singing a short song about “cleaning up”.
  • Asking peers to help in supporting transition time. In elementary classrooms, teachers can ask all students to move from place to place with a partner. In middle and high school classrooms, students might choose a peer to walk with during passing time.
  • Provide a transition aid (a toy, object, or picture).

8. Create a comfortable classroom

Sometimes students are unsuccessful because they are uncomfortable or feel unsafe or even afraid in their educational environment. Providing an appropriate learning environment can be as central to a student’s success as any teaching strategy or educational tool. Students with autism will be the most prepared to learn in places where they can relax and feel secure. Ideas for making the classroom more comfortable include providing seating options (e.g., beanbag chairs, rocking chairs); reducing direct light when possible (e.g., using upward projecting light, providing a visor to a student who is especially sensitive); and minimizing distracting noises (e.g., providing earplugs or headphones during certain activities).

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9. Take a break

Some students work best when they can pause between tasks and take a break of some kind (walk around, stretch, or simply stop working). Some learners will need walking breaks — these breaks can last anywhere from a few seconds to fifteen or twenty minutes. Some students will need to walk up and down a hallway once or twice, others will be fine if allowed to wander around in the classroom.

A teacher who realized the importance of these instructional pauses decided to offer them to all learners. He regularly gave students a prompt to discuss (e.g., What do you know about probability?) and then directed them to “talk and walk” with a partner.

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10. Include

If students are to learn appropriate behaviors, they will need to be in the inclusive environment to see and hear how their peers talk and act. If students are to learn social skills, they will need to be in a space where they can listen to and learn from others who are socializing. If students will need specialized supports to succeed academically, then teachers need to see the learner functioning in the inclusive classroom to know what types of supports will be needed.

10 Thanksgiving Classroom Ideas

10 Thanksgiving Classroom Ideas


November is a perfect time to focus on being thankful! Encourage gratitude and Thanksgiving celebrations with these crafts ideas to get your students in the holiday spirit! 


 

1. Handprint Hat

(via craftymorning)

(via craftymorning)

Make sure your students stand out in the playground!

2. Pine Cone Turkey

(via firefliesandmudpies)

(via firefliesandmudpies)

3. Turkey hand

(via happiest mommy on the block)

(via happiest mommy on the block)

Great way to express their artistic abilities.

4. Door decoration

(via thingstoshareandremember)

(via thingstoshareandremember)

5. Turkey Mason Jar 

(via goodhousekeeping)

(via goodhousekeeping)

Not only fun for kids to create but also a great addition to home decorations!

6. Pilgrim Hat

(via fiskars)

(via fiskars)

7. Colorful Feathers

(via crafty morning)

(via crafty morning)

8. Tissue Paper Turkey

(via crafty morning)

(via crafty morning)

9. Gobble Globe

(via Ilovetocreate)

(via Ilovetocreate)

A combination of everything, hand cutout, glitter, glue and a great addition to classroom decorations!

10. Paper Pilgrims

(via goodhousekeeping)

(via goodhousekeeping)

Bonus fun activity:

Learn how to say “thank you” in different languages. It can be fun for your students to  test their foreign language skills. (This website will help you learn to say "thank you" in over 400 languages!) 


BONUS: Cootie Catcher Free download

Make sure to download our Gratitude Cootie Catcher! Great way to encourage meaningful conversations in your classroom.

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6 Free Tools to Become a Tech Savvy Teacher

6 Free Tools to Become a Tech Savvy Teacher

From improving the aesthetic of your lessons to finding more interactive ways to engage with your students. Here are 6 tools you should implement in your classroom!

5 Ways To Become a Better Substitute Teacher

5 Ways To Become a Better Substitute Teacher

You are your own brand. You have the privilege of bringing your best talents and your unique characteristics to each school and each classroom every day. Learn how to improve with our 5 tips.

10 Back To School Tips for Teachers

10 Back To School Tips for Teachers

Back to school season is here! We know you're experiencing all the joys and jitters of a new classroom, new students and a new school year.  Check out these ten tips for starting the year strong!  

Help! I can't find a teaching position and the school year is starting!

Help! I can't find a teaching position and the school year is starting!

Perhaps you've tried to keep busy by cleaning your apartment for the 3rd time this week or gone the other route by splurging on way too many summer happy hours. You're not alone! Believe it or not, it's common to be without a position at this time of year.

If that's you....breathe. 

You're not alone! Believe it or not, it's common to be without a position at this time of year.