I'm sure that my fellow educators understand what I mean when I say that there have been changes in education this year. I have noticed trends in my own classroom and it seems my colleagues are doing the same.
I am curious if any of you have found new strategies or activities as a result of teaching during the pandemic that you think you will carry into future school years.
Personally, the most impactful change for me is a slight change in my class structure. I've always used a set of "Nows" per day that are listed on my dry erase board. Beside them are a list of "Laters" that always stay the same. Pre-pandemic, I always listed the "Nows" and we would work through them during the class period. If, at any time, students finish an activity early, they can work on an approved "Later" of their choice. This structure helps my classroom run smoothly and eliminates (or greatly reduces) the "What do I do now?" question from early finishers.
Then came virtual teaching. I am a creature of habit and I needed something to keep my classroom running as normally as possible for me and to set up a structure for my students. In my district, we began with a hybrid model where half of the students attended two days a week and the other half attended two days a week. There was also a teacher work day rounding out the week. I started the year with the "Nows" and "Laters" structure when students were in the classroom. We then went to an "all-in" model with all students in class every day and that routine continued. Eventually, we went to strictly virtual for a little while and then back to hybrid. However, the hybrid model was now more flexible and teachers were able to structure it however we wanted to. Students still attended in person two days a week, but I was able to make any day students were not in class a virtual day. So, I was teaching everyone virtually one day a week and then running an in person class and a Google Meet class simultaneously the other four days a week.
When we went virtual, I added a Google Form for my "Nows" and added exit questions to the form for each section of the class. For example, if we were doing vocabulary, comprehension, and grammar sections in class, then students had an exit question for each. I also added possible "Laters" that students could do to the Google Form. Each day, I posted the Google Form Exit slip in my Google Classroom for each class period.
I know exit questions are just good practice. But, I'm not ashamed to admit that I rarely did them pre-pandemic. However, I do find a quick multiple choice question or short answer question provide quick data that was helpful when students were not in my classroom every day. Maybe I just was able to be more observant before and didn't find I needed exit questions much before. Or, maybe I just trusted the education I knew my students were getting before they came to me pre-pandemic. Then, everything changed and I can't really be sure of anything right now.
So, even though we are now back to having students in the classroom every day, I've kept the Google Form exit slip. I still list our daily activities and the students can check them off as we do them and answer a quick exit question per topic. I plan to carry this simple change into future years of teaching as well. It's very simple and an easy change. But, it provided structure and accountability for my students when they were not in my classroom. It helped my virtual classes run more smoothly. Simple changes with a lot of benefit are the best kind, as far as I'm concerned. Now, it gives the students more of an action-oriented link to our daily activities instead of simply reading them on the board and I get daily data on their progress.
I'd love to hear any changes you have made. Let's share some ideas and have something positive come out of this year of teaching during a pandemic!
It's Monday morning and you have just started a lesson that you put a lot of time and energy into perfecting. Well, let's be honest. It's probably not perfect, but it's Monday morning and it's still going to be a learning opportunity for your students. Then you start hearing a pencil tapping from your most wiggly student. You glance over and see him dancing in his seat. You briefly wonder if your "perfect" lesson is not as engaging as you thought it was. Mr. Wiggles starts kicking his feet forwards and backwards, adding a nice sound effect to his performance. He abruptly stands up and you wonder if he's about to break into a dance routine. But, no, he's just getting one of the squishy cushions you keep stored at the back of the classroom. He sits back down and silently wiggles on the cushion. There are no more sound effects and Mr. Wiggles is back to focusing on his work. Flexible seating options for the win!
The trend of flexible seating created a lot of buzz for quite a while. At this point, most teachers who were interested in trying it out already have. Those who were not interested have probably forgotten about it. There were some who went all in and removed all of their desks, tables, and chairs in favor of couches and recliners. Those who made the change also were likely to give students the freedom to move about the room whenever they wanted. The term is "flexible" seating, after all.
Personally, I liked some of the ideas involved with flexible seating. But, I am a bit of a control freak. I embrace that personality quirk and I think it makes my classroom run smoothly. However, I also teach sixth-graders, who are full of energy. I have never minded the bouncy behavior of kids at this age, but it often creates noise and distractions for others. So, I went into the idea of flexible seating knowing that I wanted to give students options to channel their energy. I did not want to sacrifice my classroom structure because I knew that would drive me crazy. So, I took more of a middle-ground approach that I have been perfecting for the last few years.
Hello, readers! It's been quite a while since I've posted on my blog. As many of you may recall, in addition to writing The Maisy Files, I'm also a teacher. Specifically, I teach sixth-grade language arts. I've decided to dedicate my first post back to a teaching topic. I've also included a freebie download that other teachers may find useful.
I would imagine that most teachers have skills they enjoy teaching more than others. Or, perhaps even just topics that they feel are more important than others. For me, that topic is vocabulary instruction. I am sure this comes from the fact that I like words. That's not surprising, is it? A teacher and author likes words! In my personal experience over the last eighteen years, I have found that the more vocabulary skills students have, the more successful they are in their comprehension and writing skills.
Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book 1: The Sword of Summer
It is a poorly kept secret that I enjoy books aimed at a much younger audience. I don't even feel the need to pretend I only read them to keep up on what my students are reading.
Rick Riordan is one of my favorite authors. Since I loved his previous mythology-related series, I decided to give Magnus Chase a chance. I have always been interested in Greek, Roman, and Egyptian history and find their mythologies intriguing. So, I wasn't surprised that the Percy Jackson and the Olympians, the Heroes of Olympus, and the Kane Chronicles series are among my favorite reads. But, I've never been very interested in Norse mythology. So, I wasn't sure about this one.
But, I was very pleasantly surprised. Having very little prior knowledge of Norse mythology, most of which came from a viewing of the movie Thor, I actually learned quite a bit.
Fans of Percy Jackson will enjoy Magnus Chase. The first-person narration is definitely in a similar style, and Magus has a well-fleshed out personality that comes through naturally.
The story begins as Magnus turns sixteen. So, he is a little older main character than some of Riordan's previous works. That being the case, parents should note there are a few mild swears, as well as some sarcastic references to the Norse goddess Hel and her underworld realm of Helheim.
As the story begins, Magnus is a homeless teen, and has been since his mother's death. Early on, an uncle informs him that his father is a Norse god. Of course, Magnus doesn't believe this. After a series of events, the details of which, I will not spoil, Magnus has no choice but to believe.
These events start Magnus on a quest to find a weapon that can help prevent Ragnarok, the Norse mythology version of the end of the world. Along the way Magnus becomes a central figure in a group of unlikely friends, including a dwarf, an elf, and a valkyrie. Together, they travel and meet a variety of Norse mythological figures as they try to stop events that will lead to the end of the world and the ultimate battle at Ragnarok. Readers visit Valhalla, meet Thor and Loki, and go fishing for the World Serpent. Riordan's specialty is weaving mythology into the narrative in a way that makes readers eager to learn something along the way. The Sword of Summer continues this tradition.
As with all of Riordan's books, there are a variety of diverse characters and themes of acceptance, courage, and friendship. If you have a reluctant reader, I highly recommend Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer. The second book in the series, The Hammer of Thor, is due out on October 4th. So, now is the perfect time to pick up the first book.
I hope all of my fellow Americans had a great Thanksgiving! I wanted to let everyone know that the Kindle versions of The Maisy Files are on sale! If you haven't yet gotten all three books, now is the time! Check out the Kindle versions here.
While Amazon does not allow me to create sales for paperbacks, I can offer you a 10% discount code for the paperback of the newest book, Maisy and the Mystery Manor, when you purchase it directly through the publishing company, CreateSpace, which is an Amazon company. Check it out here and use the code 3YFUHJ9S at checkout!
If audio books are your preferred method of "reading," you can get the audio versions of The Maisy Files! I'm excited to announce that the third book is now available! I am so happy that award winning narrator Amy Rubinate was able to narrate this book! The audio books are available through iTunes and Audible. Check out The Maisy Files on Audible here.
I also wanted to share some recommended reading for older children. As most of you know, I'm also a teacher. I recently wrote a guest post about recommended books for middle school students. If you have some middler schoolers on your shopping list this holiday season, please check out my top ten books for middle school students here.
I hope everyone has a safe and happy remainder of the holiday season!
I'm excited to share a new opportunity for readers! As an independent author, I know how hard it can be to work in the industry with little to no guidance. That's what I'm very pleased to have found a great group of authors to collaborate with. Our group is called YA Author Rendezvous.
The authors in the group are mostly writers of young adult fiction, though the genres have expanded as the group has grown. We have authors who write everything from children's picture books to new adult books.
You may be asking yourself why this matters to you. Well, we're having a Facebook launch event where you can "meet" the authors, find new books, and...win prizes! We have e-book bundles, signed copies, gift cards, and a grand prize of a $50 Amazon gift card! The event will take place on Friday, November 6th. If you join the event, it will give you the proper time for your timezone, but it will be from 5pm to 8 pm PST.
I know many of you who follow my blog or other social media have purchased my books for your young readers. I think it may be time that you also found something new for yourself. The holidays are right around the corner. You could find some new gift ideas or even win a gift card that could help with your holiday shopping.
Check out a sample of the books that will be available as prizes below, and click here to RSVP to the launch party! You can also find out more about our group by navigating to the "More Great Authors" section on my website.
I hope you can all make it to the event!
I apologize for being away from my blog for so long. But, I have a good reason! I am excited to announce that the third book in The Maisy Files series will be released on October 17th. Maisy and the Mystery Manor will be available in Kindle, paperback, and audio book editions. Though, the audio book is still processing. It will be released in the next few weeks. The Kindle edition is currently available for preorder.
I'm excited to share this new story with you! It has Maisy's characteristic wit, but also a dash of spookiness, just in time for Halloween.
I also wanted to share that, in celebration of the new release, the Kindle editions of the first two books will be on sale. Maisy and the Missing Mice will be free from October 15th through October 19th. Maisy and the Money Marauder will be in a Kindle Countdown Deal from October 15th through October 22nd. The price will begin at 99 cents, but it will increase throughout the week. Also, if you are in Kindle Unlimited or use the Kindle Owner Lending Library, you can always read all three books for free!
My website has also gone through a complete overhaul. It includes a new design, book trailers, downloadable coloring pages, and more. For those of you reading the blog through syndication, you can get to my website here.
Finally, I want to invite you all to a Facebook release party. The party actually features three authors. Come check it out and maybe discover another new book to enjoy! There will be games and prizes! Click the link below to view the event and join it. It is on Saturday, October 17th, from 7-9 pm Eastern time.
I cannot believe that my summer break is almost over! But, the calendar does not lie. I am sure that many of you feel the same. I have already been into my classroom and am happy to say that it is at least physically ready for the seventy-five sixth-grade students who will soon be walking through the door.
As I've started preparing for the coming year, I came across a list of books I'd used every year when I still taught fourth-grade. Though, I enjoy the books the older students read, I do miss several of the books I used with my younger students. So, today's book review will be about Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen. It was one of my favorite books to read with my fourth-graders.
Owl Moon is a picture book, so it may seem silly to some that I would use it with students as old as those in fourth-grade. But, on top of being a beautiful book and simple story, it actually has a lot of text that can be used for higher comprehension skills. One look at the cover and a quick glimpse at a few pages are enough to show why this book was awarded the Caldecott Medal for its illustrations in 1988.
The story is told from the point of view of a child, who never shares her name. Most assume it's a story shared from the author's own childhood and that the narrator is her younger self. The child gets to go "owling" with her father for the first time. They travel into the woods in search of owls. As I said, the story itself is quite simple. But, what makes the story captivating, besides the illustrations, are all of the vivid descriptions. You can feel the excitement the child feels. It's not hard to imagine the coldness of the winter night. With lines such as "The moon made his face into a silver mask," and "They sang out, trains and dogs, for a real long time. And when their voices faded away, it was as quiet as a dream," the reader is immersed in the sights and sounds of the story. It is filled with metaphors, similes, and even a little personification. Which is why this teacher used it to teach figurative language to her fourth-graders.
I'd recommend this book as a read aloud for any child from pre-school through elementary. Though, it can be read independently, I feel this particular book works very well as a read aloud.
I suppose I must get back to my stacks and lists of things to do for the upcoming year. But, I also wanted to share that I'm still hard at work on the third Maisy Files book and hope to share it with you all in the next couple of months! For now, I'll share a coloring page to help your young reader pass the time during these last days of summer freedom. I hope you all have a great start to the new school year!
Rick Riordan is one of my favorite authors. I could claim that it's just because my students love his work. But, I love it, too! Percy Jackson is one of my favorite characters of all time.
So, it should come as no shock that I greatly enjoyed the Greek myths as told by Percy. This book is sure to catch the attention of many reluctant readers. It is also a nice introduction to Greek mythology. For those who have read the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series and the Heroes of Olympus series, this book would be considered a must-have.
The stories of all of the major, and many minor, Greek gods are told with just enough humor to balance out the learning. Percy's wit is at the center of each tale. I would recommend reading this book before Percy Jackson's Greek Heroes becomes available in August. Personally, I already pre-ordered my copy! I listened to the audio book version of Percy Jackson's Greek Gods, and the narrator does a fantastic job!
What better time for free stuff than during summer vacation? Today I'm sharing some freebies!
1. First up is a Rafflecopter giveaway for a $25 Amazon gift card! To enter, check out the bottom of this blog post.
2. Do you like audiobooks? Here are a couple of promo codes for free books on Audible.com! They are first come, first serve! I just request that if you claim one, please don't claim the other. Also, please leave a comment if you were lucky and were able to redeem a code. If you are unfamiliar with Audible, just know that you can redeem a promo code without a subscription! The code is good for any book, but I hope you'll check out The Maisy Files if you haven't yet! You can add the code at checkout. Check out Audible.com here.
3. The next one applies to Amazon's new Kindle Unlimited program, which anyone can subscribe to regardless of whether or not they own a Kindle. You can also get a free 30 day trial subscription! Kindle Unlimited gives you access to a large selection of Kindle books, many of which have accompanying audio books. I tried it out and it was pretty cool to listen and read along to Maisy. I think it would be great for young readers. Of course, The Maisy Files is available, but there are a lot of great books included in the program! A regular subscription is $9.99 a month, but you can try it out for a month for free. Check it out here.
4. If you need something to keep the little ones busy, here are a couple of coloring pages. Click each picture to download a PDF file, which can then be printed.
I hope everyone is enjoying a safe and happy summer! Check out the giveaway below!
As most of you are aware, my day job is teaching. The majority of my experience (10 years) was in fourth-grade, but I have now taught one year of sixth-grade. I wanted to share some educational websites with parents that can help prevent the loss of learning progress over the Summer break. With the introduction of Common Core standards to many states, including my state of Ohio, students have been exposed to new skills. The following websites focus on the Common Core standards. I should note that I am sharing both of these programs as a teacher. I am receiving no compensation of any type for sharing these with you.
ScootPad is offering a Summer program for both ELA (English language arts) and math. The great thing about ScootPad is that it is adaptive. This means that the activities given to the students will vary based on how the student performs. It will change based on what the student already knows and the areas that need improvement. For each skill, there will be a short video example and then practice. I tried this program with my students for about a month when I was trying out various programs in order to choose one to use next school year. The student reviews were positive.
The Summer program is $29.99 per student, and those enrolled will be able to use the program until August 31st. But, parents must enroll their children by July 17th. Those who complete the program will receive a free t-shirt.
TenMarks is similar to SchootPad, except that it is only for math. Another major difference is that the summer program is free! I have not personally used this program because I only teach ELA. However, the math teachers at my school use it and speak highly of it. The math teachers at my school even offer extra credit to students who print out the certificate to show that they completed the Summer program. Like ScootPad, TenMarks is also adaptive. Students are given an assessment and then are provided activities to help them progress in weak areas. Parents even receive email updates on student progress.
As a teacher, I know how important it can be to help students retain what they learned the previous school year. Of course, it is Summer, and every student needs time to relax, enjoy the sunshine, and recharge. These programs can provide a fun, interactive way to help prevent the summer slide.
Elizabeth Woodrum's Blog
Elizabeth Woodrum is the author of the children's book series, The Maisy Files. She is also a full-time teacher and creator of teaching materials that can be found on Teachers Pay Teachers. This blog is a mix of teaching and author topics.