How Many Days Are Left? 10 Tips to End the Year with Positivity and Purpose

Tchers' Voice Great ideas from passionate educators just like you

Inevitably, when educators get to April or May, the question of “How many days are left?” is uttered frequently, and with so many different variations in tone.

There is the Freaked Out — pure panic because “I still have so much material left to cover,” or “My kids are not ready for the AP test.”

Or the Exhausted, when this question is quietly mumbled with a tone of “I cannot do it; I won’t make it that long.

Don’t forget about the Angered, whereby one basically screams the question, with the certainty that the answer will be an unreasonable number.

At times, you might even get the Practical. This one is probably heard the least, but typically involves the initial question asked in a reflective tone and followed by a concrete plan to make it through.

And if you’re lucky, you might just get the To Hell With It. A personal favorite, this educator might not even finish asking the question because he or she has just reached a point where they don’t even care anymore. It’s not that they don’t care about their job or their students, but they just don’t care, for better or worse, how many days are left.

The educational reality is that we’ve reached the time of year when you probably can see yourself in one (or more, depending on the day) of these responses. And if the weather where you are is at all like it is in Chicago this “spring,” there are probably days when you don’t even have the disposition to ask the question, because you’re so annoyed by it all.

While I’m no psychological expert and certainly don’t have all the answers, I’d like to present to you ten things you can do to help make it through the rest of the year, bad weather and all, with positivity and purpose.

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Tch Talks 25: Sarah Kay and Project VOICE

Tch Talks

Can teachers use spoken word poetry as a tool for literacy, empowerment, engagement, education, and community building across content areas?

Poet, performer, and educator Sarah Kay says absolutely, YES! Sarah is a founder and co-director of Project VOICE, an organization that uses spoken word poetry to entertain, educate, and inspire. Through Project VOICE, Sarah is dedicated to promoting empowerment, improving literacy, and encouraging empathy and creative collaboration in classrooms and communities around the world.

On this episode of Tch Talks, Sarah discusses the origin story of Project VOICE, her own introduction to spoken word poetry, and her work as a poet, an educator, and a bestselling author. Whether speaking from her heart or from her head, Sarah believes that spoken word poetry can be an important educational tool that will have a lasting positive impact on your students’ motivation, creativity, self-esteem, agency, and their desire to share their own stories and listen to the stories of others. Listen in to find out more.

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Tch Tips: Creative Assessment Strategies

Tch tips

Do your students meet your test announcements with an audible groan?

You probably want to be more creative, but there’s just so much content you have to explore with your students and so little time. It may seem impossible to break away from those boring but efficient paper-and-pencil tests. But what if I told you that creativity and efficient, effective assessment are not mutually exclusive?

There are many creative and exciting ways to assess student learning and measure applied proficiency beyond the traditional paper-and-pencil tests.

Take some of these great ideas for a spin in your classroom sometime soon.

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Teacher, It’s Cold Outside: Ideas for Relatable Science & Student Engagement

Tch Next Gen Science Squad

So much science to know (Teacher, it’s cold outside.)

Why icicles glisten and glow (Teacher, it’s cold outside.)

What matter makes up snow? (Your students will want to know.)

Why is winter so cold? (Teacher, you’ll freeze out there!)

Teacher, it’s cold outside.

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Students never seem to lose their sense of wonder when it comes to snow. The unexpected snow day, delayed start, or early dismissal has the potential to take student learning off the clear path you’ve carefully shoveled as schedules are rearranged and students are excited to play — no matter their age.

But play during the long, cold, and sometimes unpredictable months of winter doesn’t have to be limited to the outdoors.

What can you do in the classroom with students on short, cold, snowy, icy, and stormy days?

Create relevant learning experiences and increase student engagement!  

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Tch Talks 23: School Startup to Curio: Redesigning Deeper Learning

Tch Talks

When teachers solve problems, they inspire their students to solve problems, too. How can teachers use their best strategies as a launching pad for deeper learning and professional growth? And how can curiosity, co-creation, and collaboration before a lesson idea is formed be a game-changer for classroom practice?

On this episode of Tch Talks, Ashley Lamb-Sinclair, Instructional Specialist and Deeper Learning Coach for Fern Creek High School in Louisville, Kentucky and 2016 Kentucky Teacher of the Year, joins us to talk about her work with School Startup. This pilot program is where three cohorts of Teacher-Founders are engaged in the design process to rethink and redesign deeper learning in their classrooms and professional learning communities.

She also shares her recent adventures as founder and CEO of Curio Learning, an app that helps teachers discover new ideas and curate them in a personalized way. The app also facilitates collaboration with other educators in order for them to grow as professionals and find the ways to best help their students.

Ashley believes that if every teacher woke up to the awesome influence he or she has, there would be a drastic overhaul of the system and that — bottom line — it takes a teacher to transform learning.

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Tch Talks 22: Intention & Critical Creativity in the Classroom

Tch Talks with microphone

What is Critical Creativity?

To Dan Ryder and Amy Burval, critical creativity is “students using creative expression to demonstrate deeper thinking and the nuances of understanding content.” It’s a portmanteau of sorts, which has the potential to turn ideas into action and push your students toward deeper learning and meaningful understanding.

Dan and Amy believe that, “When students make connections, transform knowledge, and articulate the reasons behind their creative choices, learning becomes more sticky, meaningful, and authentic.” Articulation of creative reasoning is key, because as students learn the power of explanation, rationale, and intentionality, they shift from passive pupils along for the ride to active drivers of their own learning. And the best part of this shift is that it occurs in the midst of purposeful play.

On this episode of Tch Talks, Dan Ryder, Education Director of the Success and Innovation Center at Mt. Blue High School in Farmington, Maine, joins us to talk about his and Amy’s new book, Intention: Critical Creativity in the Classroom, and how a little rigorous whimsy can help you transform learning in your classroom right now.

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PodcastPodcastTch Talks 18: Creativity and Learning with Minecraft

Minecraft Education Edition

Minecraft Global Mentor Jessica Pilsner joins Tch Talks to discuss how we can help students express themselves and their original ideas through Minecraft. Listen as Jessica explains how she unleashes her students’ creativity as they build and solve problems together within the world of Minecraft.

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Get Creative with Minecraft!

Minecraft Education Edition

Do you remember when you were a kid and you could spend hours in a sandbox or building with blocks? That sandbox could become anything — a medieval castle, a turtle, or maybe even a bakery serving up sandy snickerdoodles. The possibilities were endless.

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Being the type who likes to research, when I first noticed my students’ obsession with Minecraft, I began researching and found that Minecraft was described as a “sandbox game.” My gaming knowledge was limited at the time so the term was unfamiliar to me, but it brought me back to playing in the backyard as a child. Later, I learned the term references the few limitations put on the player. However, much like my childhood sandbox, it requires creativity.

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Creativity is a 21st-century skill that our students will need as they continue to grow and engage in the work of solving global problems. With the wide-spread availability of information, the need for creativity is higher than ever. Students become innovators now in the classroom and take those skills into whatever profession they grow in to. Technology even allows students to make a global impact and be active citizens solving problems.

So as an educator, how do you purposely develop skills like creativity?

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Fidgeting for Physics: Spinner Science in Six Steps

Tch Next Gen Science Squad

This time of year most of us are a little fidgety.

Summer is right around the corner, but as we’re constantly reminding students “the year isn’t over yet” and “don’t give up,” some of us find ourselves needing the same pep talk from our administrators and social media networks. We’re almost there — but in the year of dabbing here and there, flipping hydration, and slime (yes, slime!) enters an item that’s making heads spin.

What is this amazing tool that’s taken our students by storm? The fidget spinner!

 

Wait. You mean that at the end of the year our students are obsessed, unknowingly, with NGSS phenomena? Students are loving science and some don’t even realize it.

 

So how can “Spinners” be spun into relevant phenomena for science classrooms and what is the science behind the spin?

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Minecraft in the Classroom: The Power of Game-Based Learning

Minecraft Education Edition

Editors Note: This post is part of a series being developed collaboratively between Minecraft EDU and Teaching Channel.

A few years ago, I taught a class called “Storytelling” and it was my students in that class who taught me a great deal about game-based learning. I’d see them engaged in their video games or magic cards, and as a self-proclaimed non-gamer, I had much to learn from them.

A great game combines the art of storytelling, fine arts, music, video production, and appropriate player engagement to create an immersive, memorable experience. Gamers are very much like readers: they like to explore, uncover, discover, and fully immerse themselves in the experience they’re willingly entering. As a book nerd and teacher of readers and writers, it took me a long time to realize my students were reading and writing in games in the same ways I wanted them to do with books. It took me a while to learn from them that games were another form of literacy they were unlocking for themselves.

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