First weeks of school

There is absolutely no shortage of ideas, activities or things-to-do during the first few weeks of school.  Without question, I begin building my classroom community starting day one.  If you missed the post on Caring Classrooms, go back and (re-)read it.  My treat.

Then, check out this list and challenge yourself to implement ten ideas - yes, ten ideas - during the first few weeks of school.  I have no clue why, but I always find solid ideas at Honolulu Community College's faculty website.  Maybe that is an omen I need to take a trip to Hawaii and meet with my colleagues there.

Some of my favorite ideas from their list include.....

#19 - Seek out a different student each day and get to know something about him or her.

#20 - Ask students to write about what important things are currently going on in their lives.

#63 - Hand out wallet-sized telephone cards with all important telephone numbers listed: office department, resource centers, teaching assistant, lab.

#87 - Have students write questions on index cards to be collected and answered the next class period.

To be honest, I made myself choose those four.  I would have replicated the entire list because the ideas are so worthy.

See for yourself and implement ten ideas with your students.

Happy back-to-school, you super educator, you.

Yes, you know who I'm talking about (wink).


PS - Be sure to enter the giveaway coming in mid-September!

M & M's Madness with guest blogger, Dr. Gambone

Join me in welcoming Upcycled Education’s new monthly guest blogger, a good friend and colleague, Dr. Gambone.  Yay, Dr. G!  Dr. G's specialities are critical thinking and student engagement.  For any college student or workshop attendee who has had the pleasure of being in one of Dr. G's classes or trainings, let’s just say, Dr. G’s style of teaching is a tremendous treat.  As Dr. G believes, “Anyone can know content, but having the tools to teach that content and make it meaningful & engaging is another story.” 

Take it away, Dr. G……

You can imagine my delight when Jen asked me to guest blog (about once a month) on Upcycled Education and share some old - and new - engaging strategies for your classroom (or future classroom).  Ready to begin?
Since it is the beginning of a new semester for most educators, let’s start with an oldie, but goodie (literally)…M & M's madness!
Let’s face it, humans love treats! If you work in a school that is “sugar/candy free” (or you dislike food in the classroom like Jen does) then you might use colored tiles (or paint swatches!) or something else like stickers, dice, playing cards, etc. On the first day, have students choose any two different colored M & M’s (or Starbursts, Skittles, etc.).  Once students have chosen their two different colored M & M’s, have question prompts ready for each color. Here are sample questions I like to use:
  • Red:  What is the most unique thing about you?
  • Blue:  What is the most adventurous thing you did this summer?
  • Green:  Why are you taking this course?
  • Brown:  What are you most excited to learn this semester?
  • Yellow:  What will be your biggest challenge this semester?
  • Orange:  What do you like most about this school?  Grade?  Subject area?
Next, have students share their responses to the questions with either the whole class or more likely in small groups (depending on size).  To bring closure to the activity, have the whole class discuss what “this group” brings to the table as a collective whole.
Why this tried and true (and tasty) activity?  It consistently engages many different age groups, allows students a structured opportunity to share something about themselves, and aids in building a classroom community chock full of connections with others.  Another bonus: For busy educators, the prep time for this activity is minimal.

Thank you, Dr. G, for planting the M & M's seed.  Come back, fabulous blog reader, in a few weeks for another activity from our new monthly, guest blogger, Dr. G.

I’m off to raid my pantry.  There's got to be some M & M's or Starbursts in there.  If not, you know I have paint swatches.  Remember this post?


Greeting students

Sometimes the best teaching strategies are the ones that take little effort.  Case in point, greetings students individually as they arrive to class.  Sounds simple enough, no?  You say, "Hello, Jane." and a positive statement or question such as, "It's great to see you today."  Or, you say "Hello, John. How was your track meet?"  Minimal effort, big payoff.

Don't believe me?  Read this study by R. Allday and K. Pakurar.  Greetings students individually increased students' on-task behaviors.  Another study by S. Patterson confirmed similar results (sorry, a free full-text article isn't available for this one on the web; check the e-databases at your school for the full-text article using this abstract).

Bottom line:  Greet students personably as they enter the classroom and see the difference in their on-task behavior.

Just wondering....Do you think this would work at my house?  How about at the gym?

Whole Foods?

Try it the first week of school - and all the other weeks thereafter.....


First Day of School

This blog post might be better titled, "First weeks of School."  Here's a round-up of past blog posts that I would definitely incorporate into my first weeks back to school.  I use these each year with my new crop of students.  Teachers make the best recyclers.

    (Capri Sun Wallets by Jen and lil O)
  • The Typxwritxr - This quick overhead (or handout) brings home the idea of "we are all in this together."  You can use this ditty with multiple age groups in any subject area or discipline.
  • Captain, Crew, Cargo Metaphor - This metaphor never goes out of style with students and it sets the stage for the rest of the school year.  Plus, you get the message when a student tells you they feel like "cargo."
  • The Icon Finder - If you haven't jazzed up your e-learning presence yet, absolutely use Icon Finder to do so.  See the cute Facebook and Twitter icons I used on the right side of this blog?  Fun, eh?  Icon Finder is loaded with engaging icons for any occasion or subject.
  • DIY Artwork - Speaking of making things engaging, did you decorate your classroom yet?  If you still have bare walls, see if this do-it-yourself decor might work for you and your students.  Plus, it makes great gifts.
  • Relate, Create, Donate/Lesson & Project Planning - For some school districts, lesson planning is prescribed or pre-planned by someone other than the classroom teacher.  For the rest of us, try using this easy model from the great state of Maryland for lesson and project planning.
  • Mod Podge for Education - I return to school next week.  For my post-Labor Day-back-to-school goers (yes, you detect a hint of envy there), you still have time to craftucate!  See what you think of this Mod Podge project from lil O and I.  Send pics of your creations to entertain us.  After all, lil O is one of those post-Labor Day-back-to-school goers.
Lucky kid,


Entrepreneurial Students

Over a year ago, I took my first business class in Entrepreneurial Studies.  The theme of the class was innovation and creativity.  With a theme like that, what did I have to lose?  Indeed, I lost nothing and was completely inspired.  Part of that inspiration became this blog, Upcycled Education

(Image from Leo Reynolds Flickr Photostream; Photoshopped by Jen)

Want to nurture your students' entrepreneurial spirit this school year?  Here's a quick, four-part guide to help you.