Wednesday, February 26, 2020

5 morning habits every teacher should do for a better day


     A couple years ago I went on a journey to discover myself again.  I was going through a major life change and I had lost track of who I was, what made me happy, what I was passionate about, and what I wanted out of life.  While on this journey I read many books on self improvement, law of attraction, and teaching philosophies.  One book that really stood out was the Success Principals by Jack Canfield.  I started to incorporate some of his principals into my morning routine on school days and I have seen a drastic change.  I am happier at work, my days are filled with more positivity, and even my students are being affected, or perhaps I just see them in a better way.  Here are my five morning habits that I feel every teacher should be doing to improve their day and create a more positive environment.

Habit #1: Exercise


      I'm not going to explain the importance of exercising.  We all know that a healthier life revolves around exercise and healthy eating.  There is a big benefit to having exercise be the first thing you do in the morning.  Before breakfast, before you scroll through your phone, before you do anything else, you should start your day with a little bit of exercise.  I myself don't have much time in the mornings but I do start my day off with exercising for 20-25 minutes.  Sometimes its 15 minutes on the elliptical followed by 5 minutes of yoga and stretching.  Other times its 5 minutes on the elliptical with 10 minutes of weights and then some yoga.  The point is to get your body moving and stretching.  I find that my mind starts to wake up and ideas of what I need to do start popping up in my head

Habit #2: Mindfulness / Meditation


       Another habit that I have found really beneficial is to have some quiet alone time with myself.  I started with 5 minutes and have worked up to 10 minutes.  I take time to close my eyes, breath, and just focus on the present moment.   When thoughts pop in my head I acknowledge them without judgement and then go back to my breathing.   Some days it is easier than others to turn my brain off and quiet my head.  However, even on days when my mind won't be quiet, I feel extra charged and ready to tackle my day when I do this.

Habit #3: Drink Water


       Hydration is really important in more ways than one.  Sometimes when I'm feeling tired it has more to do with being dehydrated than anything else.  So one habit that I have started doing is to make sure that I drink at least 12 oz of water before I leave my house.  Most of the time I have my glass of water while I'm making breakfast or right after my workout.   To me drinking that glass of water has a way of energizing me and waking me up just as much as my coffee does.

Habit #4: Daily Affirmations


      Affirmations are a way of stating what you want and visualizing it.  Think about how you want your day to go.  Is there an activity you want the students to do without any problems?  Are you being visited by an administrator?  Are there a few challenging students that you would like to see a difference in?  The key to affirmations is that they need to start with "I am" and have an emotion and an action attached to them.  A few examples are: I am happily noticing my students are all actively engaged in todays note taking activity, I am so happy and grateful now that (insert student or students names) are using their energy to participate and help others around them, I am joyfully watching my students tackle a difficult critical thinking task and are excited when they figure it out.  You could use the same affirmation every day or change it up.  After you write it out you will want to spend 30 seconds to a minute reading it out loud and then taking the time to feel what you have written and visualize what it would look like.


Habit #5: Being Grateful



      According to Jack Canfield author of Chicken Soup for the Soul and the Success Principles,  "gratitude is the most important ingredient to living a successful and fulfilled life".  Being in a state of gratitude is the fastest way to change your mindset and set the tone for a positive day.  It is hard to be frustrated, annoyed, or discouraged when you are in a place of gratitude.  Try and look for something to be grateful for in all parts of your day.  Look back on what happened in your classroom yesterday.  What happened that you are grateful for?  Sometimes this will be easy but at other times this might be more difficult.  Remember though that even the students that challenge us can be a blessing.  When a student talks back and is defiant, you could be grateful for the chance to practice patients.  When a few students didn't do their homework you could be grateful for the 85% that did do their homework and took this learning opportunity.  Gratitude helps us focus on the positives.  I think that in teaching we spend too much time focusing on the negatives.  The few students that misbehave or don't do their work.  Instead we should be grateful for all of our students that are doing what we are asking, that are participating, that are following the rules and expectations.  So find three things that you are grateful for from the day before and write them down in a gratitude journal or say them out loud.  Then, and this might seem weird at first, I will want you to send positive, happy thoughts to one or two students or other faculty members that make your day more challenging.  These students and faculty are the ones most in need of positive loving energy.  So just send them positive, loving, happy thoughts and think about them for a few seconds.

I challenge you to try these five habits out for a month and see if they make a difference.  If they don't work as well for you as they did for me well you won't be worse off than before the challenge.  However, what if they do work.  What if they do improve the quality of how you feel and bring you more positivity in your life.  You have nothing to lose but lots to gain.  I would love to hear from you if you did take on the challenge.  Let me know how it goes or if you have found another habit I should add to my morning routine that you have found to make a huge positive impact in your life.


***********************************   Special Note *********************************

Join me in March on instagram as I go through these five habits every school day live.  Let's do this together and support each other.


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    Monday, February 17, 2020

    Flipped Learning, Why you should do it


         Have you ever done whole class direct instruction with a presentation like Google slides or powerpoint?  Have you noticed that some students finish really fast with writing down the information from the slide while others take a lot longer.  It's hard to wait for every student to finish writing down the information before moving on because the ones that finished early are now trying to entertain themselves.  If you are lucky they are just drawing pictures on their notes.  However, sometimes they decide to see who can make a field goal with paper footballs or throw objects across the room to get the attention of another student.  By the end of the presentation some of the students are missing notes and most can't remember the other stuff you talked about while they were trying to write the information down.

           This was me about 10 years ago and I thought there had to be a better way.  Introducing the flipped classroom.  This is where students use video to learn the information at home and then in class they can focus more on practicing and applying the information.  I started using this teaching strategy six year ago and I haven't looked back.  Below are five reasons why I feel you should try out the flipped classroom method.



    Reason #1: Individual Student Pace

            Students get to move at their own pace.   Those who write fast are not waiting and can quickly move through the video.  Those that take longer with processing disabilities or language barriers can move slower through the video and pause the video when needed.  Every student gets all of the information at their own personal speed.

    Reason #2: Rewatch

            Unlike lectures that are a one time deal, students can watch the video over and over again as many times as they want.  I often suggest to my students to watch it again the night before the quiz. You could have them watch it a second time a few days later.  We all know the research that shows how many times a student needs to hear and interact with the material before it sticks.  Videos are an excellent way to help with that

    Reason #3: Saves Time

            It will save you so much time later on.  Yes, it does take a little bit of time upfront to create or find a video and decide where you want to host it.  However, once that is done and figured out you can use the same video again and again every year.  Think about how much extra time you will have the following year just because you set it up this year and now it's done.

    Reason #4: Increased Engagement

           Since the students are watching the videos at home and learning the basic information you now have more time in class to do the practicing.  This is also perfect for differentiating your class.  For me, the day after a flipped lesson I divide my students into two groups. I have them take a short assessment and those that demonstrate they have a basic understanding of the topic get to start applying the information and practice using it by doing an online or group activity.  For the students that demonstrated they need more support I am now able to give them the support they need in a small group where I can reteach or do extra practice.  Both groups are being met at their level of understanding and getting exactly what they need.

    Reason #5: Student Strengths

           Students are already using social media to watch videos and learn information.  They use it for learning how to pass levels in their video games, for watching their favorite Youtube artist, for watching how to do a new dance, and many other things.  Why not work with those strengths.  Show the students that videos can also be useful to learn about the information in their classes.






            After every quarter of instruction I have my students fill out a feedback survey to help me improve my teaching and gain knowledge on what is working and what needs to be fixed or tweaked.  When asked which activity they enjoy the most, the flipped lessons rank first most of the time.   Most of my students wish that more of their teachers used this strategy.



    For more information: Check out my Youtube video about it below with a special free offer at the end.



    Sunday, February 2, 2020

    How to guide for introducing cell energy in a flipped classroom

             Using videos as a way to teach instruction is nothing new.  Teachers have been teaching students through videos for a long time.   With new technology and more students having access to technology at home, now is the perfect time to start using videos in a more engaging way and not just a filler for time.  There is a movement that was started around 2011-2012 called flipped learning.  The idea is that students learn the information on their own time and at their own pace through watching a video and class time is spent now on reinforcing and applying the concept.  I jumped on board this movement around 2014 and have found great success with it.   Here's what a lesson on cell energy could look like through the lenses of flipped learning.

    Part 1: Assigning the Video and taking notes

            The first part in flipped learning is to have students watch a video and take notes from it.  The video could be something you created or something someone else did that you found online.  If you are creating your own you can use programs like Screencast-o-matic,   Camtasia,   and  Screencastify. If you are using a mac you could record your slideshow or use quicktime.  Once you have your video you will want to host it somewhere so that students can view it.  If you are using Google Classroom you could post the video as an assignment.  You could also host it on the site Edpuzzle which would then allow you to embed questions and comments into your video. (Note: Edpuzzle will integrate with Google classroom and together they make a great team) You could also host your video on your own Youtube channel.   The main idea is that the video is done on the students own time, outside of the classroom usually, and at the students own pace. Below is an example of a video I created using keynote and Screencast-o-matic.


    Part 2: Quick assessment

            Using formative assessments to guide your instruction is helpful in making sure students are getting the support they need.  After students watch the video and take notes they should do some sort of assessment to check their understanding of the topic and to give you an idea of which students are ready to start applying the information and which students need some extra support in learning it.  You can do a simple ticket-in-the door if you want them to be able to answer a quick question.   You could have the first 5 minutes in class be designed for them to do a quick quiz.  I like to host my quick assessments online where I am given analytics of the results.  I love using Schoology as my LMS and so I host my quick quizzes there.  You could also use a Google form to get the information and have the form grade it for you.  The website Quizizz is another great tool to use. Just make sure they use their full name when they sign in or push it out through Google classroom.  The idea is that you have a quick way of knowing which students are ready to apply their knowledge of cell energy and which students will need extra support from you to help them understand cell energy.  It also lets the students know where they are at in their journey in understanding the information.


    Part 3: Differentiating the class lesson the day after

             This is probably my favorite part of doing the flipped classroom method.  It allows for more engaging activities in the classroom.  For my students that didn't seem to grasp photosynthesis, cellular respiration, and how they are related I would put them in a group together. I would then guide them through a simple one to two page reading. If you have two pages then most of the page should be taken up with a diagram.  The idea is to use simple to understand text since these are usually our struggling students and they will need more visuals and simple wording.  I would then have them discuss the information with the group and take notes.  Finally, they would fill in a worksheet that has them review the basic ideas of the text.  For my students that seem to get the basic ideas of photosynthesis, cellular respiration, and how they are related I would have them work in pairs or in groups on an application activity.  For this particular topic I would have them do an online photosynthesis lab to reinforce the concept of how photosynthesis works.



    Setting up a flipped lesson does take some time. However, once you have it you can use it over and over again every year.  If you would like to save yourself time you can find my lesson for teaching cell energy using the flipped lesson model by clicking HERE.   Have a great time flipping your class and let me know how it goes in the comments below.

    For more information on how to flip your class check out a previous blog post I did on Flipping your classroom using the acronym FIRE.