I Need S’More Smore in My Life

The Smore is not just for summer bonfires, but all year long!  After reading The 5-Minute Teacher by Mark Barnes (check out my review here), I stumbled onto Smore.com.  This nifty site allows you to create online flyers for a variety of things.  Now, of course, I’m looking at its potential in the classroom.

Here is a quick Smore Flyer I made to introduce myself to my new students this year (I changed a few things for the blog):

Check it out here

Just a bit of my background and an introduction!

Just a bit of my background and an introduction!

So my kids know a little bit of my teaching style and how to get a hold of me.

So my kids know a little bit of my teaching style and how to get a hold of me.

There are even links to buy the books off amazon.

There are even links to buy the books off amazon.

To show off my eclectic music tastes :)

To show off my eclectic music tastes 🙂

Looks awesome, right?  It took me very little time to create this masterpiece, and I’m super pleased with the result

Advantages of Smore.com:

  • FREE
  • Unbelievably easy to use, even for the kids that are not techy
  • Easy buttons to embed multimedia
  • Slick, stylish look
  • Super organized and professional looking
  • Modern tools even on the free version
  • Able to embed videos, audio, and pictures easily
  • Easily embedded into classroom website (such as Schoology–>check out my review of Schoology here)
  • Very little guess work compared to sites like Glogster

Ideas for Classroom Use:

  • Create a wiki-esque lesson using Smore
  • Use it as an introduction to yourself or a subject
  • Make them for characters in a book instead of blogging
  • Student presentations on a variety of subjects
  • Use it as quick flyers for Independent Reading Projects/Book Reviews
  • Use them as monthly parent newsletters
  • Use them at the beginning of the week for “The Week at a Glance”
  • Use it as a mini syllabus “Class at a Glance”
  • Use it as a Unit Introduction
  • Use it in extracurriculars for flyers or promotion
  • Great way to introduce flipped classrooms
  • Use for fundraising promotion
  • Use for student introductions at the beginning of the year

The Bottom Line:  My kids will be using these a lot this year, and I am super excited to use these to present myself to my students at the beginning of the school year.  This is definitely a great addition to my teaching toolbox!

You Have 5 Minutes? Use It Well…

After stalking around one of my favorite educator’s blogs, The Nerdy Teacher, I found this book recommendation.  I just finished this nifty little book about creating a more student centered classroom environment.  One of the main goals of Mark Barnes short professional guide is to minimize lecturing and push students to learn more independently.

A little about ASCD:  This organization was formally known as the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.  These leaders in education innovation put out the ARIAS series to enable teachers to learn more about the new developments in the educational world.  What I really like about this 50 page book (and its counterparts) is that it is meant to be as inspirational as possible and still short enough to be read in one sitting.  I read it in the summer, but could easily have read it on a normal school weekend and started integrating his philosophy into my classroom on Monday.  I found this book to be truly worth the 5.99 price from amazon.

Cool Ideas from the The 5-Minute Teacher

  • You are less the learned philosopher of the class and more the coach
  • Make every second/minute count.
  • Let go of control by empowering students curiosity and independence
  • Structure and plan the class down to the minute to ensure you are changing things up and maximizing effectiveness
  • No teacher should lecture for more than 5 minutes.  Instead teachers should get students started and let them inquire, research, discuss, etc. independently and collaboratively.
  • Allowing students to self-discover information to make it more meaningful
  • That there is an art to learning when to shut up and let the kids do it on their own.
  • Barnes has a VERY large emphasis on video in the classroom–using video to introduce material or provoke questions/curiosity in students.

This book is really accessible, but of course, the best stuff I got out of it was the technology suggestions.  It gives some great resources for being able to engage students and allow them to work independently.  My two favorite were Smore and Padlet (both easily embedded into Schoology for students to use).  Mark Barnes also has a great website with awesome tech/teaching resources called Learn It In 5.

The Bottom Line:  I kinda think of this as dynamite.  Teachers light the fuse, back away, and let the kids’ minds explode with ideas and possibilities.  This might be a weird metaphor, but too bad…I like it.  So check it out and see how you can be effective in just five minutes.

Interested in Smore?  Check out my review of smore.com here!

Like The 5 Minute Teacher?  Check out my review of Vocab Rehab, another ASCD book!

First Impressions: Revamping the Syllabus

Probably because it’s boring.  Earlier this summer I read an amazing blog post from Tona Hangen on giving your syllabus/course expectations a makeover.  It inspired me to make my syllabus awesome this year.  But first, let’s look at the past.  This is my AP Literature and Composition Syllabus from last year:

AP Syllabus Page 1AP Syllabus Page 2AP Syllabus Page 3

SNOOZE FEST!  I barely want to read it (although it is pure teaching gold).  So, I set about to change the look of my syllabus.  In a world so filled with stimulating visual media, I figured it was high time that the introduction to my class looked a little snazzier.  Tona used a mac (that lucky devil), but I was stuck with using Microsoft Office 2007.  So I simply downloaded a newsletter template from the MS Publisher online resources (they already had one with books) and went to work.  Sure doing this took me a while, but I am so please to pass these out to my students.  What it turned into was basically a handbook to my class instead of simply a set of rules and expectations.  Although the page size went up, I feel like there is more room to breathe with the new one.  This really was a fulfilling project and I hope that if you have the time that you will think of restructuring your syllabus to make it more appealing to the eye!

Reasons I love this:

  1. Allows me to personalize and add some spice to my syllabus.
  2. Allows me to set the tone for the year right off the bat (the tone of awesome).
  3. Keeps students interested because it is less dense and has visual stimulation.
  4. Sets my syllabus apart from all the boring ones.
  5. Has a table of contents, so students can easily find information at a later date.
  6. It is easier to keep track of than a normal syllabus because it is unique.
  7. It’s just so darn pretty.

With that said, Here is my new AP Syllabus 2013:  

Page 1: Contact Info, Course Description, Course Goals, Table of Contents

Page 1: Contact Info, Course Description, Course Goals, Table of Contents

 

 

Page 2: Rules, Expectations, Materials, and Schoology.com

Page 2: Rules, Expectations, Materials, and Schoology.com

Page 3: Homework and Late Work Policy

Page 3: Homework and Late Work Policy

Page 4: The Writing Portfolio

Page 4: The Writing Portfolio

Page 5: Grading and Independent Reading

Page 5: Grading and Independent Reading

Page 6: Wicked Word Wall, Major Works Data Sheets, Extra Credit and Vocabulary

Page 6: Wicked Word Wall, Major Works Data Sheets, Extra Credit and Vocabulary

Page 7: Discussion, Discipline, Plagiarism and Cheating

Page 7: Discussion, Discipline, Plagiarism and Cheating

Page 8: The AP Test

Page 8: The AP Test

Page 9: Course of Events by Theme

Page 9: Course of Events by Theme

Page 10: Teacher Profile, Note to Class, Awesome John Green Quote

Page 10: Teacher Profile, Note to Class, Awesome John Green Quote

I always expect so much out of our students, and I love how I can show them right off the bat that I am willing to work hard for them as well.  If you are a teacher and would like an editable copy of this, just comment below with your email or email me at The WordyTeacher@gmail.com.