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Current Trends in Classroom Education

You’ve probably heard about the Rip Van Winkle joke by now. The poor fellow is understandably shocked by the way the world has changed when he wakes up from his hundred-year slumber, until he visits a school. There he feels instantly at home, for nothing had changed from his own school days, over one hundred years in the past.

Finally, this joke no longer rings true. Things have started to change in our classrooms, much more than they ever did a decade ago. Here we take a look at some of the current trends that set today’s classrooms apart from those in Rip Van Winkle’s story.

college boys” by www.audio-luci-store.it is licensed under CC BY 2.0

1.     Using social media to engage students
As an increasing number of schoolchildren are joining social networking sites, teachers have begun to realize that it can be an effective medium for improving student engagement in the classroom. Educators have found various ways to do this, including asking students to contribute to classroom discussions over Twitter, creating a class page on Facebook to post updates and assignments, and having students complete writing assignments for a blog.

2.     Using online games and services to enhance learning
Educational online games have been in classrooms for a while, but now they are used with increasing effectiveness. Learning games are created with more than rote practice in mind – students are assessing data, interpreting information and applying knowledge in the classroom through online games. Some games even provide teachers with assessments of the students’ skills based on the Common Core standards. Apart from games, teachers are using online services in innovative ways to make learning more meaningful for the students. Kids use Livemocha to chat with native speakers when learning new languages, Google lit trips make stories come alive by using Google maps, photos and extra information related to places and events referenced in the story, and games such as Guitar Hero and Wii Fit are changing the way students learn music and do P.E. in school.

3.     Preparing students for the changing world
Students who graduate in the 21st century require an entirely different set of skills from those who graduated in the past. Digital media is taking over the world, and an increasing amount of work is being done using these new channels. Communication, networking, marketing and acquiring new skills is very often done over the internet. Instead of banning mobile devices as schools used to do in the past, classrooms today focus on teaching students how to use the internet in a responsible and effective way. Focus is given to locating credible sources of information on the internet, contributing positively to online discussions, creating high quality online content and collaborating with others over digital media. Students are also learning new skills such as how to create a video game.

4.     Using student interests to shape the curriculum
There is a visible shift in classrooms from being teacher-centered to student-centered. Where teachers used to be the source of all information and students merely tried to grasp as much information as possible from the teacher, today teachers act more as facilitators. Students are learning from new sources and teachers merely guide them by teaching them how to learn from these new sources. Additionally, educators are trying to shape their lessons according to the interests of their students. Through project-based learning, students learn by getting involved in projects that excite them. Students are being given greater freedom to choose what and how they’d like to learn. Even in classrooms where there is no drastic change in how students learn, teachers are more open to hearing from their students what they’d like to do differently in the classroom.

5.     Students and teachers collaborating online
There are hundreds of projects (found on websites that promote online student collaboration) that allow students to work with others from across the globe. With varying goals and focusing on a wide variety of skills, these projects encourage students to share their work with a large international audience, give and take feedback, and learn from each other. But students are not the only ones benefiting from the changes in today’s classrooms. Teachers too are collaborating and learning from each other on the internet. Websites like Teacher Tube and Classroom 2.0 encourage teachers to share teaching tips and resources with others from across the globe. Teachers are now reaching out to others hundreds of miles away, benefiting from each other’s experiences, asking for solutions to specific classroom problems and giving advice to others who need it.
Sorry, Rip Van Winkle, but this revolution was long overdue.

Author Bio:
Corinne Jacob is a wannabe writer who is convinced that kids learn best when they’re having fun. She is constantly on the lookout for new and exciting ways to make learning an enjoyable experience. Corinne loves all things that scream out un-schooling, alternative education and holistic learning.

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Animal Reading Passages and Comprehension Activities

Students love learning about animals, so why not make learning engaging and meaningful?  I created 5 different animal passages for each animal group.  Each passage contains 5 pages of resources.  Below is a list of all of the animals covered in this resource.  You can see that along with 4 specific animals, I also created a passage about the animal group.  This will help students learn the characteristics of the animals in this group before learning about each specific animal.

Below are the pages included in the unit on Sloths.  

I included a full-size color image.  You can project this on the board for the students to see, laminate it and place it in a center, or use it to create a bulletin board.

Each animal has it's own reading passage.  Students are encouraged to interact with the text by underlining answers using different colors.  A small image of the animal is included on this page for students to reference throughout the unit.

On this page, students write a summary of what they read, write an interesting fact they learned, and draw 2 different pictures illustrating a fact from the text.  Each picture is accompanied by a caption.

 This graphic organizer helps students organize information they learned on sloths.  It's perfect for using as a prewriting activity if students are to write animal research reports. 

Each reading passage also has a comprehension page where the students answer 5 multiple choice  and 2 short answer questions.  

Do you like what you see?  Grab the FREE sloths unit by clicking the picture below!

From feedback I've received from this product, teachers have told me they are using these in centers, research reports, and as homework.  It's also a great way of integrating science with reading!

Each unit is sold separately, but also as a discounted bundle.  You can click on the image to the right to check it out in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

Blair Turner Paper Giveaway

Let me start off by saying that I'm obsessed!  Look at all these goodies I received in the mail today!  My husband got to the mail first and when he came in the house he asked, "Who is Blair Turner?"  and I instantly knew that my order had arrived, but I think my husband was probably equally as excited to see what was inside.  I'm not kidding when I say it felt like Christmas today when he opened the package.  It was funny watching him look at all the paper and comment on the designs.  Blair, if you decide to make any designs geared towards doctors, he would probably be your first customer.  :)

Take a look at this loot!  It's so bright and colorful. LOVE!

Now, Blair has generously offered to allow me to give away one free product from her store to THREE lucky people!  She has such a large selection of desktop planners, notepad planners, notepads, and notepads specially created for teachers.  What I like most of all is that she has such a wide variety of patterns that no matter your style preference, you will find something you will absolutely fall in love with.  Check out her website to see everything she offers.  www.blairturnerpaper.com

Let's get going with this giveaway.  There are a few different ways you can enter, which will allow you to gain multiple entries.  When it's over, I'll contact the winners to find out which product you'd like Blair to send you.

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Creating a Teaching Portfolio for Job Interviews

Let's face it.  Interviewing for jobs are nerve-wracking and intimidating.  Preparing by going over
possible interview questions helps, but it's also important to bring a strong portfolio of your work to help elaborate and show evidence to support your answers.

When I was student teaching in 2007-2008, I was fortunate enough to be a part of a special student teaching program through Illinois State University.  Being in the Professional Development School of education (a select number of students were selected every year) really helped prepare me as a future teacher.  I was able to student teach for a full school year and was in the classroom over the summer helping my cooperating teacher set up, and I was there when the students left on the last day.  Although my placement was in a third grade classroom, we also spent 2 months in a middle school, where I taught all subjects in 8th grade including freshman algebra.  One thing I was told by my university supervisors was to TAKE PICTURES and COLLECT EVIDENCE because that will make my portfolio pop!

So, that's what I did.  During every engaging activity, I snapped pictures.  I photocopied and saved original copies of student work, with the child's permission.  This resulted in a portfolio that was praised in all of my interviews.  I also continued adding to it throughout my first few years of teaching, knowing that I was going to get married and move out of state and was going to have to look for another job.

Here are some tips and tricks I used, along with some items I included.

This is what my portfolio looked like.  I included my name on the front and side, along with some education-related clipart.  I've really come a long way in terms of design and my use of fonts since starting with TpT and blogging!

One thing I did that I found extremely helpful was to put tabs on the BOTTOM of my portfolio.  When sitting in an interview, I sat with my portfolio facing TOWARDS me.  If I was asked a question, I was able to quickly skim the tabs, find the artifact, open it, and hand it to the interviewer.  The tabs were color coded by subject and had a short phrase on it that helped me quickly find what I was looking for.  One teacher who sat in on the interview commented on how nice it was that I didn't have to sit there flipping through pages to find what I wanted to show.  Please excuse how wrinkled my tabs are.  This portfolio has been moved to 2 schools, 3 states, and 3 homes.  

I also had tabs running along the side that were there for the interviewers to look at.  I had one large interview where all of the 12 principals from the district sat in a room along a large conference table and I was on one end.  I ended up passing the portfolio around the table and the tabs helped them look at areas that they were interested in.

Behind the tabs were outlines of what was included in that section.  This gives those looking at it an idea of what they will find if they keep flipping through the pages.

The next two pages shows pictures of student work that I had collected.  It's really important to not only include lesson plans.

And of course, include those lesson plans.  It's important for the interviewer to see how you plan and prepare for instruction.  

I had numerous pages of pictures that I took.  My cooperating teacher was really good at picking up my camera on my desk whenever she saw something memorable that I might like to have.

I ended up having some items that were in booklet form.  I just slipped the whole thing into a page protector and pulled it out during interviews.  It was much easier than taking it apart and putting each page in it's own sleeve.

Don't forget about classroom management!  Take a picture of everything you do to encourage students to be productive and have positive behavior.  I did so many things when I was student teaching that this took up a few pages in my portfolio.

Let Your Students Create the Test

test taking, students, teachingLet's be honest.  Tests are never fun, but they are necessary to check for understanding.  Teachers typically have a wide variety of resources when it comes to finding tests.  Some districts provide them based on standards and expectations.  You can even find them readily available to copy from whatever curriculum you use.  Many times, teachers generate their own assessments for their students.  Now, all these resources are definitely beneficial, generally well-written, and are expected to cover various standards.  Have you ever thought to have your STUDENTS create the test?  How does this even work?  Will their questions be acceptable?  How do they know what standards to cover?  Is this even beneficial to the students?

During my first year of teaching, this is what I decided to do.  With just a little preparation on my part, my students were excited to get started!  I was teaching third grade and at the time, was just a few weeks away from our state test.  Since the beginning of the school year, we went over test-taking strategies so they would be confident and prepared for the actual test.  One day, we were discussing different types of questions that they may stumble upon and generated an anchor chart with various types of questions - multiple choice - true/false - fill in the blank - short answer - extended response, etc.  Well, what better way to apply that knowledge to making a test of their own.  We were nearing the end of our Earth Systems unit and I decided that the students would contribute the questions.

So, one afternoon, I dug out all of the sentence strips I had that contained all the standards for the unit that I typically had displayed on the board during my lessons.  As a class, we went through each standard and briefly summarized what they meant.  Then, I put up our anchor chart of the question types for the students to reference.  I let the students know that we were going to create a test as a class and everyone will contribute 3 questions.  Form those 3 questions, I chose one from each student to include on the test.

I then passed out 3 notecards to each student and instructed them to write their name on one side.  On the other side, I asked them to choose 3 different standards to create a test question for.  In addition to coming up with 3 different questions, I wanted them to use a different question type on each notecard.  Students were able to use their textbook and notes as a reference.  Once they finished writing the question and possible answer choices on one side of the card, I had them write the answer on the back.   Let me just tell you that they were SO excited to create a test themselves!  They worked so hard to come up with good questions that wouldn't be too easy to answer.

Now, I collected everyone's notecards and looked through them at home to find a variety of different questions, while making sure I chose one from each student.  After I selected the notecards I was using,  I just organized them and typed it up.  A few days later, I gave the students the test and let me tell you - you should have seen the faces they were making when they found their specific question.

This is something I continued to do every year for this science unit with great success and excitement from the students.  It was a great way to not only assess student knowledge, but to get them really digging deeper into how a test is made and the format of questions that they may encounter in the future.