Monday, January 31, 2011

Substitutes Without a Seating Chart

A quick tip I learned about how to handle not having a seating chart left by the teacher:

I know it's one of substitutes' top annoyances.  I also understand many teachers move students around a lot, rearrange desks, and sometimes have trouble remembering to add or change seating charts.  So what do you do?

I got a tip (I can't remember where) that seemed to solve the problem:

  • Get to class early enough to grab a blank sheet of paper and sketch a makeshift seating chart based on the desk arrangement.  Doesn't have to be fancy, just some little boxes on notebook paper.  It should go without saying to get to work early.  You don't want to have to bother with this as students are walking in the door.
  • As you take attendance, quickly jot down the position of the students who are present.  This helps you to covertly make a seating chart and learn students' real names.  Sometimes, you have crafty kids who don't want to reveal their real names but,  9 times out of 10, they want to be counted present and so they'll tell the truth while calling roll.  Make the seating chart as you're taking attendance without calling too much attention to what you're doing, if you think the class is being sneaky.
  • Once attendance is done, your seating chart should be ready!  Walk around with it, look at the names written in your little boxes, and surprise students that you know their names already!  It's delightful to see how much this throws them off.  If you want them to get in their real seats, just let them know you've already made a seating chart that you'll leave for their teacher at the end of the day, which means the teacher will know who lied to the sub and sat where they wanted.  I'd give them a chance to go to their actual seats without penalty.

Honestly, I'm no longer a big stickler about seating charts.  I used to feel like it was very important to have students exactly where the teacher has placed them, but I feel like if the teacher thought it was really important, I'd have a seating chart!  So, maybe it's really not a big deal.  Another factor is I often feel like the teacher has students sitting in the WRONG seats, with the most talkative kids sitting in within too close a proximity for me to be comfortable.  I move talkative/troublesome kids around all the time, whether it's their assigned seat or not, so I long ago stopped caring so much about seating charts.

But I do understand many subs like seating charts.  I still have a hard time with student names (I find myself saying, "You... in the red shirt!" far too often), and charts are good for that very reason.  Maybe I shouldn't discount them completely!


image credit: microsoft

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Scoot Game (Teachers Swear By It)

One of my favorite things I've come across is a classroom activity fondly referred to on the ProTeacher Community as the "Scoot game."  It's actually very easy to do, a great way to review information for any subject, and it gets students up and moving!  Teachers on the site swear by it.

Here's how to do it:

Scoot Game-
- Make a simple chart with boxes to represent each student in your class, and number each box (pretend each box is a student).  Give a copy to each student. This is where they will write their answers.  You need a copy as well, with problems and solutions in each box.

-For each student's desk, assign a number.  It would probably be a good idea to have the desks evenly divided into rows.  (*note*  I thought about it, and it seems to me putting the desks in a big circle would be the best method.  It would make movement between desks easier.) You may want to fold an index card with a number written on it so that it is easily visible.

-On each desk, place a flashcard or index card with a problem on it.  It could be a math problem, a question from a social studies text, a vocabulary definition, etc.  Each desk will have a different problem on it.

-When you start the game, students flip over the index card, read the problem and solve it.  At regular intervals, yell "scoot!" and have students move to the next desk to solve the next problem.  If they start at desk 1, they will write the answer in box 1 and, when "scoot" is called, they must flip the card over and scoot to desk 2 to do the same thing with a new problem.  If they start at desk 18, they must scoot to desk 19, etc.

-Once everyone has gone to each desk and gotten a chance to answer each question, you can end the game and review the answers they wrote on their charts.

Here is one I made up for a class of 12 students reviewing percents:

How much time do they have to work before you demand for them to "scoot"?  It's entirely up to you!  You probably want to begin reviews slowly at first (and have a few practice runs before assigning problems to demonstrate how to scoot in an orderly fashion from desk to desk).  After a few more lessons on the skill, they should be ready to progress in the game at a faster rate.

If they're just starting out with the skill, give them several seconds, but make it fast enough to keep them on their toes.  If you're preparing them for quick recall of facts (multiplication or state capitals, for example), it would be beneficial (and fun) to train them to be able to scoot within a couple of seconds.

Again, I also like the flexibility.  You could have simple addition problems, shape recognition or letter identification on the cards for kindergartners, or complex math, science or grammar problems for older grades.  The sky's the limit.

Join the ProTeacher forums and search "scoot" for some pre-made game questions from the awesome members!  I credit them for the idea.


image: microsoft

Monday, January 24, 2011

1/24/11 Tips: Stories, Landforms of Play Doh, Break Barriers

  1. is a fun site that allows students to select or submit a drawing, and then use it as a springboard for a story.  Check out all of the wonderful stories young writers have created for the site and encourage your students to participate.
  2. If you're looking for a hands-on geography lesson, turn to Mr. C's Class Blog for inspiration!  His eighth grade class used colorful dough to make landforms.  It's a great way to assess their knowledge of landforms while letting them get creative.
  3. Integrate history and writing in this cool essay contest from Scholastic!  The 2011 Breaking Barriers Essay Contest challenges students to "show how they use Jackie Robinson's values to face their own barriers."  Exciting prizes include a trip to see the MLB All-Star Game and free laptops!  The contest ends March 4, so see the contest guidelines for further information.


Happy Monday, everyone!


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Substitutes, FTW's Popular Links

I have tons of links on the blog that I think would be helpful to educators.  Here's a list of popular links I've posted within the last semester:

More great links coming soon!


Monday, January 17, 2011

1/17/11 Tips: Substitutes, FTW's Popular Posts

  • How to Make Substitute Lesson Plans: a Checklist is a very popular post on the site.  I've had people tell me how helpful it was to them when it came time for preparing their sub plans.  It's long and thorough and, though it doesn't cover specifics, it gives you some good guidelines to follow.
  • Class Build-A-Story is an activity I borrowed from a gifted class that turns out to be a great, flexible thing for subs to use when they need time to fill in a classroom.  I'm kind of bummed I haven't had an opportunity to even do it this year, but I'm sure it will happen soon!
  • Teach Like a Champion techniques (video) for grabbing and maintaining your class' attention.  I've actually attempted a few of these recently.  With a little practice, I think I could use them really effectively.
  • Browse through the blog's teaching tips of the week, which explore all grade levels and subjects.  More weekly tips will be posted next Monday.

Enjoy your MLK day, everyone.  I've got some posts coming this week to show you how crazy the last couple of days have been.

image: microsoft

Monday, January 3, 2011

1/3/11 Tips: More Love of Learning, a Science Contest, Vocab Practice

  1.   Begin the semester with a renewed focus on fostering a love of learning within your students.  What Ed Said has a list of 10 ways to do just that with great additional tips in the comment section.
  2.   Have your students enter the 2011 DuPont Challenge by writing a science essay.  Check out the contest rules and have essays submitted by January 31, 2011 for a chance to win great prizes!
  3.  VocabAhead is a great website for students to practice their vocabulary skills, particularly as preparation for the SAT and ACT.  They have a video section that gives context for words through cartoons.