-->

Culturally Sensitive Thankgsiving Resources

Many of us gRoasted Thanksgiving Turkeyrew up with school Thanksgiving celebrations that consisted of making head dresses, Pilgrim hats and turkeys out of construction paper. Some of the more progressive teachers may have asked us to write lists of things that we were thankful for or to imagine what it was like for the Pilgrims coming to America.

But, times have changed.  Our children are growing up in a world that is far more diverse and culturally aware than in any time in history.

As 21st century educators, we are well aware of the misrepresentation of the native people as well as an overwhelming amount of inaccurate information about the events that took place on that very first Thanksgiving Day.

We have sifted through the great wealth of online Thanksgiving curriculum resources to find the most thought-provoking, culturally sensitive lesson plans to use in your class room.

  •  You are the Historian is an award-winning lesson plan designed by Plimoth Plantation.  Students take an interactive journey through history and play historic detective in order to figure out what really happened at the first Thanksgiving Dinner. Along the way, they will learn about Wampanoag traditions of giving thanks and visit Pilgrim Mary Allerton’s home.

 

  • The Learning Network provides a list of helpful resources to engage your students in Kid on field with basket of vegetablesProject Based Learning activities dealing with the realities of hunger in America. This is especially important around Thanksgiving, a time when many of us are celebrating a bounty of food that is just not the reality for many Americans.

 

  • The American Indians Children’s Literature website put out a list of books to help children learn about Native Americans.  These can be read around Thanksgiving, but are even more effective when integrated into your curriculum year- round.

 

  • Story Corp does an incredible yearly project in which high school students are asked to record an interview with an elder during Thanksgiving weekend.  Your students Friends studyingcan participate or just listen to the rich oral history that has already been collected.

 

 

  • Scholastic: The First Thanksgiving provides students with letters written from the historical perspective of a Pilgrim girl and a Wampanoag boy living in the New World.  If you sign up by November 14, your classroom will receive all of the letters together on November 17.

 

  • Indian Education for All has created an in-depth lesson plan that provides students with a more accurate understanding of the events that led up to the celebration of the first Thanksgiving.  The lesson plan was written for grades 5-8, but can be adapted for both older and younger students.

 

  • Readwritethink.org provides a lesson plan in which students are presented with common myths about the first Thanksgiving and asked to do a thorough exploration into the truth behind each myth. The lesson is geared towards grades 6-8.

 

  • The Library of Congress has a collection of primary resources including the original Proclamation for the First Thanksgiving, a letter from George Washington, and paintings of historical events that occurred during that period in American history.

Handsome Young Man

  • Teaching Tolerance presents a collection of resources and activities to help students understand how, what can be a holiday for some Americans, is actually a day of mourning for others.  This can be an especially powerful lesson in teaching kids about perspective and empathy.

 

The Teacher’s Academy is proud to provide you with these and other educational resources for your classroom, along with an extensive catalog of online Professional Development courses. Check out our affordable course list and find a class that is right for you!

 

 

Why Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize for Literature is important to many educators…

Last month, Bob Dylan became the first singer/songwriter to win a Nobel Prize in Literature.  Dylan’s career has spanned more than 5 decades and crossed multiple musical genres.  His lyrics run the range from romantic to political and have had a major IMG_7716influence on other artists, including Joni Mitchell, Lou Reed, Johnny Cash, and even the Beatles.

Dylan influenced more than just the musical world.  His song, Blowin’ in the Wind became the unofficial anthem of the Civil Rights movement, he was the impetus behind Farm Aid, a major benefit concert to help farmers and their families, and his soulful lyrics were the stepping stones that led many young people towards poets like Rimbaud, Verlaine, Ginsberg, and Ferlinghetti.

Despite the tremendous impact that Dylan has had on American history, his Nobel Prize win has come under criticism.  Traditionally the Literature Award has been given to novelists.  Many question the importance of song lyrics in literature.

As educators, we understand the heavy influence that music has on our students.  Music has a way of reaching even the most reluctant readers.  Lyrics such as Dylan’s can IMG_7711open up students’ minds to diverse perspectives and make them understand cultural and political narratives different than their own, as well as lead them towards other great works of literature.

To learn more about Bob Dylan and other icons of rock n roll, check out the Teacher’s Academy course on Rock History.  The Teacher’s Academy is a proud provider of online professional development courses for teachers.  Our classes are affordable and convenient.  Check out our catalog to find a course that is right for you.

How to Make a Real Difference by Bringing Social Justice Issues into your Classroom

Why we Teach…

There are many reasons that people become educators. Perhaps they’ve always loved children, are natural teachers, or possess a deep love of learning. These are all excellent Ereasons for becoming an educator.  However, there is another underlying reason that many people decide to go into education, a reason that can often get pushed to the wayside under the strains of meeting standards and deadlines—To change the world.

Making a Difference…

The role of a teacher in students’ lives is invaluable.  Every lesson, every interaction, every conversation, is an opportunity to impact how the students look at the world, and, in turn, how they can change it.

As teachers, we have the ability to do so much more than relay facts to our students, we can teach them how to think, and, in turn, how to become thoughtful, contributing citizens.  One of the best ways we can do that is to bring issues of social justice into our classroom.  Dealing with problems of equality and fairness helps give students valuable experience in critical thinking, research, and respectful, meaningful conflict.

While bringing social justice issues into your classroom can potentially be of enormous benefit to students, it cannot be done without a lot of careful thought and planning.

10 Tips to engage students in conversations about social justice

1. Help guide students, don’t try to control.  One of the major goals of social justice education is to give students experience participating in, and even leading difficult Hands_Smallconversations.  Your role as an educator is to help lead students in the right direction when they get off-course, not to dominate the conversation.  If done correctly, you will find yourself spending most of the time listening to the students’ discussions, interjecting only if the conversations go off topic or become volatile.

2. Find relevant topics. Read social media.  Check the local news.  Talk to your students about what is going on in their neighborhoods. Is your town considering closing a skate park? Are there students in your school who are going without regular meals? Are students of color treated unfairly?  Students will be most motivated by issues that they have observed or have affected them.  The Anti-Defamation League’s website offers a wealth of topics and lesson plans that deal with social justice.

3. Be hopeful. Dealing with heavy topics can be oppressive to young people.  Try to help them find the light in even the darkest issues.  Help empower students to believe that all problems, even the most hopeless seeming, are solvable with cooperation and hard work. For example, if you are discussing the plight of local homeless people, show them examples of how other communities have created programs to feed and shelter the homeless. Giving them real-world examples of difficult problems that have been solved will empower them to look for viable solutions to issues of social justice.

4. Model and expect respect. Encourage debate, but find common ground.  When conversations become heated, divisiveness can occur. Often students become so entrenched in their own perspectives that they lost sight of the bigger picture.  Something as simple as helping students find common ground can make a big difference in the tone resizedimage241159-teacher-and-studentsand effectiveness of the conversations.

It is your job to ensure that students have a safe, respectful environment in which to voice their opinions.  Make it clear that bullying or name-calling will not be tolerated.  The Center for Negotiation and Conflict Resolution provides an extensive list of resources for dealing with conflict management.  For further assistance and professional development credits, check out our course on the causes and prevention of cyber-bullying.

5. Have age-appropriate expectations.  Kids as young as 5 or 6 can tackle issues of social justice.  However, the topics and level of conversation will be much different than those that take place on a middle school or high school level.  When working with young students, make sure to choose topics that are more concrete. Some ideas could be to discuss ways to make the playground more fun for everyone, ensure each child has a Phealthy lunch, and debate the fairness of “team picking” in gym class. Education World offers some social justice lessons designed specifically for younger students.

6. Teach students how to do good research. While discussing issues of social justice, it is important that students learn to back up their opinions.  One way that they can do that is by conducting research on the topics at hand. The internet offers a wealth of resources for information, of varying degrees of credibility. Help students understand how to tell the difference. Literacy Education Online provides some useful tips on assessing a source’s credibility.  Learning to discern between reliable and unreliable information is one of the greatest lessons you can teach your students.

7. Bring in speakers.  There is nothing like a first-hand account to help students become invested in an issue.  Have a military veteran come to your classroom and talk about the difficulties of re-adjusting to civilian society.  Invite a local wheel-chair bound woman to explain why she has trouble navigating your town’s sidewalks.  Ask a former high-school student to talk to your students about how bullying affected his education.  Do you know someone who has been naturalized? Ask her to speak about her immigration experience. Putting faces to the causes will give students a personal connection and ignite their enthusiasm.

8. Understand that students come from different backgrounds/perspectives.  It is our job as educators to put our personal biases aside when helping students confront issues of social justice.  Although you may be socially liberal, understand that some of your students may come from religious, conservative backgrounds.  And vice versa.

It is not your job to cPupils working together at desk in libraryhange the students’ views, only to help them understand and respect other people’s perspectives. Discrediting a students’ background or life experiences will only seek to alienate them.  Instead, work on finding commonalities and building bridges. With experience and maturity, you might find students with previously established beliefs opening their minds to other perspectives.  Dealing with issues of social justice is one of the most effective ways to help expedite this process.

9. Keep up-to-date on current events.  Social media and 24-hour news has given this generation access to more information than any other generation to date.  It is crucial that we, as teachers, also stay informed in order to retain our relevancy and credibility. Besides reading news that is of interest to you, try informing yourself on topics of interest to your students.  One easy way to do this is to instruct students to use sites such as CNN Student News and PBS News Hour Extra to bring in articles for classroom discussion. You may find that even issues of pop culture or celebrity news can inspire discussions of social justice.  The recent “taking a knee” stance of Colin Kaepernick is one current example.student and teacher looking smiling at the library

10. Take real-life action.  There are few things more powerful in education than showing students that they can, indeed, make a difference.  While not every issue of social justice is adaptable to a classroom project, many are. The basis of many project based learning lessons are issues of social justice.  The Bucks Institute for Education website is one of the best resources to teach you how to use PBL in your classroom.

The Teacher’s Academy is committed to providing teachers with the most relevant, affordable professional development courses.  Our classes meet Act 48 requirements and can be taken from the comfort of your own home.  Check out our course catalog to find the class that’s right for you.

 

 

Getting to Know Your Students Through Art

 

Getting to know your students through Art                                                                      paint hands

Our most important duty during these first few weeks is to get to know all these bright new faces sitting in front of us. All of your students will bring their unique stories and personalities into your classroom and it is your job to figure them out.  How will they learn? What are their likes and dislikes? What is their home life like? Will they respond to you? AHH! There is so much to figure out and so little time to do it. Instead of giving them a 100-point questionnaire, consider utilizing a few of these art activities. You might learn more things about your group than you thought you would! Oh, and it might actually be fun! Who would have dreamt it?

Name that Kid

The dreaded “name game.”  As classroom sizes inflate each year, teachers are challenged to find new ways to log their kids in the old memory bank. Of course there are always THOSE students who are burned into your brain almost instantaneously— the little boy that tells you he likes to eat boogers for breakfast or the little girl who blurts out how she likes to put makeup on her dad. Regardless, how are you to remember the other 28 kids staring back at you on the first week of school? Or even worse, what if you are a special area subject teacher that only sees these kids for an hour once a week or on Day 6? The task can seem pretty daunting.  One way that helped me on the first day was to have each child create his or her own nameplate. Jazz up the classic table tent or folder with a few of these variations.

  • Have the children turn the letters of their name into favorite things. For example, have each letter reflect something about themselves: a favorite animal, food, season of the year, subject in school, after-school activity, etc.
  • For younger children, print out blank bubble letter versions of their name and ask the kids to fill them in using stickers, cut-outs or stamps.  Each day of the first week, pose a question to the students and have them use their bubble letter name plates to answer it. The repeated exposure will help both you and your students identify names and provide associations with their favorite things. Check out Woo Junior for some great printable letter templates.
  • For slightly older children, ask the students to pick a “spirit animal” or an animal that best represents them. Then, ask the kids to pick their favorite color and an adjective that best describes themselves. Challenge them to incorporate all of these ideas into a picture with the first letter of their name.  By the end of the first day, you will have a bulletin board full of dancing horses with pink hair and skateboarding bears with blue sunglasses. By reviewing these names and drawings frequently, you will actually create a memory device to help you learn about your kids!

Under Your Roof

Finding out about students’ home life can help teachers a great deal. One of the best ways to learn about what is going on at home is to have your kids draw their families. Art therapists and child psychologists have long used children’s drawings to help analyze their feelings about a situation. Some characteristics may be exaggerated or left out and can house artgive insight into what a child views as valuable.

  • Fold a paper inward and cut the upper corners to make a house shape and have the children fill it with their family, pets, and favorite things.
  • Don’t forget to have them draw themselves in the portrait. If there is something alarming about their picture, seek counsel from a professional.
  • For older kids, ask them to draw a typical day in their house with their family or make up a cartoon where everyone in the house makes an appearance.

Learning about their home life will at least give you an idea if there are specific challenges your students are facing each day. Knowing that a child shares a room with a younger sibling or splits time between divorced parents may help avoid awkward exchanges and give insight into everyday struggles.  There are websites such as this one which can be helpful in analyzing your students’ psychological status, but always consult a professional if you have serious concerns.

My Superhero Alter Ego

art suppliesWho hasn’t fantasized about having secret superpowers? Personally, I’ve dreamt about teleportation on just about every Friday afternoon commute. This is a great activity for all ages with a few modifications. Challenge your students to draw their future selves as working adults. They can pick any career and environment that they want. Encourage them to dream about what they want to be when they grow up with no limitations or barriers. Then, have them draw their Alter Ego Superhero self (think Clark Kent/Superman).  They will need to be specific about their special powers and at least one weakness.

  • Encourage them to use details in their drawing like making their cape a favorite color, a poster in the background with their favorite pop star, or perhaps their favorite food on their desk at work.
  • Descriptive drawing is just as important as descriptive writing so have them tell you all about their characters by writing about them.
  • Questions such as, “If I could solve one problem in the world it would be…” can provide interesting responses and may even reveal a specific passion or emotion in some kids.
  • In order to make this a little easier on students, provide blank templates or drawings of people that they would need to change or add details to.
  • For small children, give choices or ideas about what sort of powers there are and what they could help solve.  You could prompt them to discover what their “kryptonite” is by giving them examples of unappetizing foods or unpleasant weather situations.

Believe it or not, a Superhero can tell you a lot about what someone values and fears. Be prepared to be asked what your superpower is as well.  It might help to come to school with your cape in hand that day. It shouldn’t be too difficult, since being a teacher gives you instant superhero status!  Have a great year!

The Teacher’s Academy is the proud parent company of Act 48 Academy. We provide Act 48 Hours for PA teachers, and professional development hours for teachers across the USA. Check out our Online Course Catalog for the most relevant, affordable and convenient professional development courses, created by teachers for teachers.

Click Find Your State for specific details on professional development from your department of education.

Enjoy!

Building your Classroom Community

 How to Build a Strong Classroom Community

For many of us, September marks the beginning of a new school year. During these next few weeks we will be building the framework that will set the pace for the rest of the  year.

One of the most effective ways we can do that is to create a strong classroom community.  Students who feel like part of a community are more excited to come to Wschool, enthusiastic about learning, helpful, and accepting of others.

Creating a strong classroom community happens in ways that are both subtle and overt, but always intentional.  Here are some of the best ways that we have discovered to build a strong community of learners.

8 Ways to Build a Strong Classroom Community

1. Help your students feel safe!   If students are constantly worrying about their own safety, both physically or emotionally, they are unlikely to be successful learners or community members.  There are many things you can do to make your students feel safe, some more obvious than others. Modeling compassionate communication, allowing for vulnerability (both your own and students’), and being intolerant of bullying are some of the ways that you can help students feel safe.   Check out our online course to get some practical advice on combating bullying.

2. Arrange your classroom in an effective way! Desks that are all pointed towards the front of the room send a clear message that the teacher is the primary decision maker.  Arranging desks in semi-circles or small pods allows for more group discussions and community building.

bean bagsClassroom walls should be a place to display students’ work and projects, not teacher-created material or posters.  Consider allowing the students to coordinate to make a “Classroom Constitution” which can be hung up and referred to during the year.

Although it may seem contradictory, quiet corners can also be useful tools in making the classroom feel more like a community.  Sometimes the best way to foster students to engage with the rest of the class is to give them the freedom and space to take a few moments alone.  This is especially true for introverted students.  Plants and class pets are also useful in making all students feel connected.

Classroom Architect provides a helpful website to experiment with different classroom layouts.

3. Take a big step back!  Always being the one in control may make for more orderly days, but it allows little room for community building.  Group work, student-led discussions, and Project Based Learning are all excellent ways to build community.  The BIE website is particularly helpful for learning about Project Based Learning.

An important component of student-led projects is grouping. When left to their own devices, kids will often revert back to familiar groups, which doesn’t leave much room for Elementary school students studyingsocial growth and can often result in certain kids being left out.  Try some new ways to group your kids.  One fun way is to have each student anonymously write down a favorite book, hobby, or dream travel destination, and then put them in the group with kids with similar answers.  They might be surprised by who has similar interests!

4. Give opportunities for silliness!  Just as struggling to complete a class project together builds community, so too does laughing over a shared experience.  If humor is your thing, don’t be afraid to let the kids see that side of you.  Tell jokes, have playful conversations, and encourage your students to do the same.  If you are a more serious person, integrating student-created skits or songs into your curriculum will invite humor into your classroom in a natural way.

5. Celebrate each child’s unique spirit!  Being a community does not mean that everyone should feel pressure to be the same.  Quite the contrary.  A true community allows each member to be appreciated for the unique gifts that he or she contributes.  Allowing your students to use multiple ways to present their knowledge shines a light on all the amazing differences and talents that they possess.asian strong children against blackboard in classroom, Education

Our Universal Design for Learning course will show you how to re-design your lessons to be accessible and showcase the strengths of all your students.

6.  Hold them responsible!  An important part of community is understanding how instrumental each member is to the group’s success.  Giving students classroom jobs gives them ownership and helps   them feel like a vital part of the community.

7.  Build trust between all community members!  Trust is an important component in every relationship.  Since a community is, by nature, an interconnected web of relationships, a great deal of trust needs to be built in to allow things to run smoothly.  The most effective way to earn your students’ trust is to be consistent in your words and actions.  Not only does this help your students to trust you, but it also models the behavior that you expect from them.

Spiral StaircaseAnother important way to build trust is to ensure your students that you expect the best from them.  Instead of focusing on a lot of minor details in classroom conduct, assure your students that you have faith in their abilities and good judgement. You will be surprised by how often they rise to the occasion!

Trust-building activities can be a light-hearted way to help build trust between your students.  Check out Teampedia for some fun team building activities.

8.  Respect and celebrate emotions!  Intellect is only one component of a person.  When you acknowledge and honor the other aspects of what makes them human, students feel more comfortable communicating and taking risks.

Group work can be difficult.  With a lot of personalities involved, emotions often run high.  Let students know that it is okay to feel frustrated or sad or even angry.  Talk to them about ways to use those emotions in a productive manner and keep the classroom community a positive, safe place.

Beyond the Classroom…

Teaching kids what an effective, productive community looks like is one of your most important jobs as a teacher.  The lessons they learn in your classroom will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

The Teacher’s Academy is proud to provide Professional Development Courses to teachers from all across the country. We offer quality, affordable classes that you can take right from your home computer. Check out our catalog to find a course that will help you make this year the best one yet!

 

 

 

More of 2016’s Best Ideas from Teachers

Best Teaching Ideas from PA, NJ and TN

The teachers at The Teacher’s Academy are fortunate to meet hundreds of teachers every week from all over the country.  Our professional development courses emphasize teacher creativity and customized projects so that teachers get a chance to develop something functional. As a result, we are able to see fantastic lesson plans, design projects, video creations, hands-on activities and countless other completed assignments from some extremely talented teachers.  Last month we shared a small sample of these ideas with you.  The response was so overwhelming that we decided to share even more!

Pennsylvania Teachers get Creative with Resume Writing!resume

Writing does not always have to be in the form of an essay or a poem. Some PA teachers found alternative ways to include real-world writing skills in their current curriculum. Drafting a fictional resume has proven to be an engaging activity for students and quite effective in teaching a variety of writing skills, including grammar, spelling and creativity.

Resume Writing Fun!

Procedure:

  1.  Students choose the type of job they would like to have when they grow up.
  2.  Students research the skills and education needed for the job.
  3.  Students create resumes that state their education, experience, skills and interests   to align with the job they have chosen.  

Options for Resume Lesson Plans:

  • Explore the possibilities of different careers.
  • Research jobs within the community and create an actual resume to be used when applying for positions.
  •  Role play an interviewer/job candidate scenario
  • Create beginning-of-the-year resumes for a “getting to know you” activity.
  • Design a resume at the end of the year to highlight  strengths, past experiences, interests, and to help students prepare for future employment.

Not only are resume projects high-interest writing activities, but they also align with Common Core and help prepare students for college and career. CareerKids.com can be a great site to help you get started.  Also, check out our own College and Career Readiness course that highlights this activity and other entrepreneurial activities that teachers can incorporate into their existing curriculum.

New Jersey Teachers Redesign their Classrooms!bean bags

Most teachers strive to create the perfect learning environment for their students.  The layout of the furniture and unique spaces created for learning have a profound effect on the learning process. New Jersey teachers have taken the classroom design idea very seriously and the results are amazing!

Design Ideas for Young Learners!

  • Effectively designed reading nooks, like the ones used in high-tech offices, provide a quiet place for students to zone out with a good book.
  • Modern, sophisticated workstations and time-saving technology centers allow students to flourish in their surroundings and teachers to effectively support diverse learning.
  • Project tables and materials stored in easily accessible shelving keep resources organized and protected for science and math lessons.
  • Design Ideas for Middle / Upper Level Learners!
  • Hands-on project spaces, worktables or even individual student desks can be arranged to promote independence in learning and motivation.
  • Open, comfortable meeting areas and portable laptops allow students to collaborate or work independently.
  • Well-organized, uncluttered classrooms provide students and teachers with a more relaxed, but focused environment.

Customize for your Classroom!

Remember, what works for some teachers may not work for others. Consider your curriculum goals, student population and current classroom set- up. Look for inspiration in high-tech offices as well as your colleagues’ classrooms! New Jersey teachers use a variety of resources to implement change in their classroom.

Here are just a few of them:

Architizer.com, Becuo.com, Pinterest.com, Edutopia.org, K-12 Tech Decisions.com

 

Teachers can earn professional development hours by designing their own classrooms. Inspiring Ideas for the 21st Century Classroom is a course that introduces teachers to different types of educational professionals and learning environments all around the world. After being inspired by a few new ideas, teachers are given resources to design the classroom of their dreams! Check out one of our most popular courses and earn 18 professional development hours for your creative ideas.

Tennessee Teachers Integrate Technology!google drive

The education industry is getting bombarded with all kinds of technology options for the classroom. As a result, choosing the correct technology is one of the more difficult tasks teachers must perform. In Tennessee, teachers are getting smart about finding and using the technology that fits their students’ best interests. Classroom tools and storage options, curriculum-based games and digital resources are what Tennessee teachers are using to enrich their classroom environment.

Techy Tools – Google Drive!

The tool of choice for Tennessee teachers seems to be Google Drive.  This web-based storage program allows users to create, edit and share files from any computer. The files they create can be saved and safely shared among users. There is an unlimited amount of free storage! Here is a snapshot of each program:

  • Google Docs – writing projects
  • Google Slides – presentations
  • Google Sheets – spreadsheets
  •  Google Forms – surveys

Teachers across the country can earn professional development hours while learning to use Google Drive. Just check out our Google Suite of courses: Docs, Sheets, Slides and see if these tools are right for your classroom.

Evaluating online resources:

Google Drive is an indisputably helpful tool.  But, there are lots of other technological resources out there which may be more questionable.  Searching for just the right websites can consume hours of valuable time.  Let the Common Sense Education website help you.  On it, you will find lists of technological resources rated by teachers. It is well-organized and has some great ideas on how to implement technology in the classroom.

The Common Sense Education site has become so useful to us, that we used it to develop our  Web Site Reviews courses. By taking these courses, teachers can earn 3 professional development hours while researching the latest technology resources for their classroom. See! Technology isn’t so scary!

Help us Help you!

The Teacher’s Academy is always looking for creative ideas to develop new courses. Our professional development courses are relevant, affordable and created by teachers like you! Have an idea for a course? Fill out a Contact Form! Or check out our course catalog to find a course that inspires your next great idea!

 

The Best Teacher-Generated Ideas of 2016

The Best Teacher-Generated Ideas of 2016

The teachers at The Teacher’s Academy are lucky enough to meet hundreds of teachers every week from all over the country.  Even if we don’t actually have the pleasure of getting to know all the teachers in person, reviewing their coursework gives us a window into their creative minds.

Each week, projects are uploaded for our Review Team to assess and award professional development hours.  Our professional development courses emphasize teacher creativity and customization of the projects so that teachers get a chance to develop something functional. As a result, we get to see fantastic lesson plans, design projects, video creations, hands-on activities and countless other completed assignments from some extremely talented teachers. Not only do we get to see what these teachers can create for their own professional use, we also get a peek inside classrooms all over the country.

We’ve gathered a few of these amazing ideas for you to check out:

 New York Teachers Emphasize the Arts!

Leave it to New York teachers to incorporate the arts into their classrooms! The Common Core Standards have allowed teachers the freedom to choose the medium in which to deliver instruction. Music happens to be the choice of many New York teachers.music note

These high-interest activities are designed to engage students in learning and developing critical analysis and writing skills. They also lend themselves to teaching literary devices such as rhyme, personification, metaphors, similes and more. See for yourself which ones you may like to try in your own classroom:

Critique Writing – Students are able to choose a song to critique. After careful examination of the lyrics, students read other critiques of the song. The final project is an in-depth, written critique of the song.

Song Development – Students are given the opportunity to craft their own lyrics to music. They are able to listen to several samples of instrumentals and poetry. Students are responsible for a written reflection of the symbolism of the lyrics, and their connection to the song, as well as the completed song. Presentation of song could be optional!

Album Cover Design Students are given samples of albums. They are asked to pick a theme for the album and then create 12-16 original song titles that fit the theme. The final project is a completed (front and back) album cover and a written essay that explains the design and song titles and how they are connected to the students’ life and/or other current events being studied.

Oregon Teachers Create Future Engineers!

A few Oregon teachers have figured out a cool way to emphasize “Engineering” in their K-kids computer5 curriculum. STEM is becoming more commonplace in many classrooms around the country. Much of the activities students are doing are focused on Science, Technology and Math concepts. Even engineering strategies are ideal for young learners. See if you can imagine your students turning into creative engineers with these activities:

 Bridge Building – Oregon students are super engaged when their job is to solve a problem by building a bridge. Students are given a scenario where a bridge needs to be built to connect two important things. They could be asked to connect a mama duck to her baby ducks, kids to their tree forts or villages to each other. Real world problems could be introduced as scenarios too! After analyzing different types of bridge structures, students work in small groups to design and test their own bridges. Students learn about forces, motion and balance and how bridges redirect those forces. Pretty soon you’ll have some really smart civil engineers in your classroom! Check out Engineering is Elementary for more cool engineering ideas.

 Engineer Exploration –Free access to the Engineering Go for it website allows students to discover the many different engineering careers. After exploring the different types of engineers, students choose one to write about and present the information to the class. Real-world connections with engineering careers make dream jobs like working on a movie set or exploring shipwrecks a real possibility for students!

Colorado Teachers Encourage Problem-Solving!

Curiosity is the name of the game for these lucky students. The many benefits of Inquiry-based learning have not gone unnoticed in this state.  By starting a lesson with a question or a problem, students become engulfed in the process of finding a solution. See if you can expand a few of your lessons to include these Inquiry-based approaches:

Town Improvement –Young learners in Colorado were asked the question: How would you make your town better? Each student was given a variety of picture books to reference helpful places in a community, such as schools, hospitals, post offices, police colorado signstations, farm land, restaurants, stores, housing, etc. They were also given books that depict fun activities like playing at a play ground, gardening, fishing, playing sports, doing arts and crafts, etc. A teacher-led discussion using the picture books helped to guide students to answer the question.  The conversation naturally turned to focus on what things might need to be fixed in their towns such as empty lots, damaged streets, broken streetlights, dangerous intersections, etc. The teacher listed the “good” and “bad” items on a chart for students to use as a reference. Students were then asked to draw their towns and all of the things they believed would make their town better.

Heroic Traits – Colorado students in the middle grades were asked the question: What makes a hero? Students used characters in the books as well as real people to develop a list of traits. Each student was asked to design a hero by listing physical, mental and emotional traits. Afterwards, students developed a presentation for an audience of teachers and parents to present their results. Every student had a completely different idea of what made someone a hero. Some heroes wore uniforms while others were in wheelchairs. Some heroes were very old, some were very young, but all contained the traits of what these students believe makes a hero.

Not all inquiry-based questions need to involve math or science! Check out these great resources for inquiry-based lessons: Edutopia.org and Teachthought.com.

 For even more ideas…

Look for more great ideas from across the nation in our next blog! We will include ideas from Texas, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and more!

The Teacher’s Academy is always looking for creative ideas to develop new courses. Our professional development courses are relevant, affordable and created by teachers like you! Have an idea for a course? Fill out a Contact Form! Or check out our course catalog to find a course that inspires your next great idea.

 

3 Strategies that Engage Students

(That You Probably Haven’t Tried!)

Finally summer is here! With this school year safely in the rear-view mirror, teachers will have plenty of time to reflect on what worked and what will need to be improved upon for the coming year. Keeping students engaged in learning can be a struggle at any point during the year. Having a variety of ways to reengage students can be the difference between a good year and a frustrating one. (This applies to both you and your students.)

Luckily, student engagement is a problem with a wide range of solutions to choose from and fairly easy methods of implementation. Do you already employ these strategies? Take a moment and see if you are doing what some experts recommend and if not, take advantage of the insight from experienced teachers…These strategies work to get and keep students engaged- and their teachers too!boy with a lantern

1. Project-Based Learning (PBL)

In a PBL classroom, the students create projects as a way of demonstrating knowledge. Students are given a real-world problem or question and then given the tools and support to find a solution or answer. The students are responsible for the research, design and presenting the solution to the audience. The teacher acts as a facilitator, guiding the processes and using embedded assessment practices to monitor progress.  In many cases, an expert in the field will come in to help guide the students as well. The expert acts as another resource for students as well as a strong connection to the real world problems that need solving. Solutions are often presented to an audience with the intent to implement. Students get an extra boost of motivation when they know their hard work is for more than just a grade!

In other words, take the subject matter and apply the lesson to real-world problems. For example, my second graders this year were learning about recycling. In the old days, we would read about recycling in a book and then take a class on what we read. In my class, however, we take a trip through our school to go through the class trash cans at school! (Ewe…Gross! And the kids love it, and they talk about it at lunch, and eventually it becomes “one of those projects you get to do in 2nd grade!”) After collecting some interesting things, we examine and determine what can be reused, recycled, or replaced with a better option.

Of course a lesson like this comes with a little extra preparation, like getting gloves for the kids, asking teachers for cooperation in advance and reminding the students to wash hands afterwards! But the lasting effects of a project-based learning experience is worth it!

Here are a few resources to help you find more information on how you can implement project-based learning activities in your classroom: EdutopiaThe Teaching ChannelLesson PlanetTeach Thought

2. Genius Hour

This strategy, brought to our attention by Genius Hour.com, is a great example of how Young man using laptopeducation can look to industry for engaging. Employees at Google® get to spend 20% of their time, working on a project of their choice. The results have been impressive. During this “free time,” employees use their interest and expertise to solve problems, make processes more efficient or develop new software. It’s where Gmail was born! You might be thinking, “Yeah, well, those are professionals with a secure set of expertise. I’ve got a room full of silly 6th graders!” Even Google had to put a few parameters on the 20% time and you will too. Even so, it’s proven to be incredibly successful.

Many middle level and high school teachers have already adopted this philosophy, and their students are able to spend 20% of their class time working on solutions that are of interest to them. Genius Hour starts with a driving question or problem. The question or problem, although chosen by the student, must have a level of complexity that would require research. Once the teacher and student agree on the question or problem, the student uses a variety of different resources to try to answer the question or solve the problem.  Finally, the solution is shared with an audience. Many times, these solutions are posted on a shared site for anyone to view. This strategy develops independent learning skills, fosters creative thinking and brings fun back into learning.

Here are a few resources to help you find more information on how you can implement Genius Hour activities in your classroom: Mind in BloomTeach Thought

3. Makerspaces

Makerspaces are small, dedicated spaces in a common location, usually a library or an empty classroom. In a makerspace, students can tinker around with almost anything of interest: Legos®, Kinex®, clay, blocks, circuit boards, craft items, gardening, health, etc. These spaces do not require any type of technology and can be tied to the curriculum. Students can learn about a math or science concept and then create something that represents what they’ve learned. Some Makerspaces have 3-D printers on hand for transferring the concept into a tangible item. Of course, students can share their creations with teachers, other students or the rest of the world. Expect to see an increase in student engagement, determination and creativity after a Makerspace has been implemented in your school.F

Makerspaces can be found in New York, Colorado, Tennessee, Pennsylvania and Ohio classrooms to name a few! Hopefully, some of these strategies will find their way into many more classrooms across the country.

Here are a few resources to help you find more information on how you can implement Genius Hour activities in your classroom: Makerspaces.comEdutopia, How the Maker Movement Connects Students to Engineering and TechYou Tube, What is a Makerspace?

Where to get even more great resources for professional development:

Check out The Teacher’s Academy website for some more great ways to keep teachers and students engaged all year long. Need to get caught up on those professional development requirements? Get them done this summer! The Teacher’s Academy is the place most teachers look to help maintain their certifications or fulfill teaching license renewals. Not sure if your district will accept TTA courses? Check out the Find your State Page and see if we can help. (We probably can!)

The Teachers at The Teacher’s Academy want to wish all of our amazing teachers and fun, safe and happy summer!

The Best of Summer Education Conferences

Summer is just around the corner! Are you dreaming of some much needed pool-time, ice-cream-eating, back-yard BBQ fun? We are! After you’ve packed up your last classroom box and sent off your final report card comments, you will be free to relax and recharge for the next two months.  While you enjoy the “relaxing,” we’ve got you covered for ideas for “recharging.”

Education conferences are a great way to recharge! They provide a forum for meeting some of the most influential people in education and help you to gather new ideas and inspiration for your future classroom.  However, because there are a variety of educational conferences planned in cities all over the country, it can be difficult (and time-consuming) to choose the one best suited to your interests.

No worries! The teachers from The Teacher’s Academy have organized a list of high quality, worth-the-trip, educational conferences planned for this summer.  Our list of conferences includes: location, dates, theme, keynote speakers, a sampling of sessions and a link to the website for more information. Enjoy this quick glimpse of the most popular educational conferences and find the best way for you to recharge!

ASCD Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development Screen Shot 2016-06-03 at 9.35.23 AM
Hilton New Orleans Riverside, New Orleans, LA
Theme: Teaching Excellence
July 8-10

Keynote Speakers:

  • Andrew Miller, Education Consultant for ASCD
  • Darlene Axtell, Teacher, Counselor, Presenter for ASCD
  • Carol Ann Tomlinson, Teacher of the Year, recipient of All-University Teaching Award and best-selling author
  • Erik Powell, Teacher, Curriculum Designer, ASCD faculty
  • Nicole Clifton, Instructional Leader, Author

 Highlights of the ASCD conference:

  • Expand your professional skill set.
  • Target your learning needs.
  • Uncover teacher-proven secrets.
  • Cultivate relationships with colleagues and experts.
  • Advance your career.

Sample of Sessions:

  • Designing Project-Based Learning Activities for Rigorous Learning
  • Designing Lessons with Student Engagement in Mind
  • Improving School Culture to Improve Student Achievement
  • Creating a Classroom Environment Focused on the Whole Child
  • Lesson Planning for Creative and Critical Thinking Skills
  • NOLA as a Classroom: Travel as a Resource for Excellent Education

For more information visit the ASCD website.

 

NAESP National  Association of Elementary School Principals naesp
The Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, National Harbor, MD
Theme: Best Practices for Better Schools
July 6-8

Keynote Speakers:

  • Daniel Goleman, Psychologist and Author
  • Dr. Russell Quaglia, President of Quaglia Institute for Student Aspirations
  • Pedro Noguera, Urban Sociologist

Highlights of the NAESP conference:

  • Leading Pre-K-3 Learning Communities 
  • High Leverage Leadership (Practices for 21st Century Principals)
  • Emerging Issues (Game Changers in Education)
  • Transforming Schools (Equality & Equity)
  • Arts Education (Spotlight on the “A” in STEAM for 21st Century Learning)
  • Technology and Social Media (Curriculum Integration, Digital Tools, & Communication Strategies)

 Session Samples:

  • Autism Spectrum Disorders at School: Life Literacy and the Pursuit of Content
  • Band of Brothers: A Focus on Making Good Boys Great Young Men
  • Cultivating Creative Thinkers, Innovators and Masters of Core Content Through Design Thinking
  • Diggin’ Deep: What Matters Most for Student Results
  • Connecting Learners to Schools: Building a Culture that Engages and Supports Student Learning

 Note: This conference might be geared towards principals, but there are plenty of workshops for everyone.

For more information visit the NAESP website.

 

ISTE  International Society for Technology in Educationiste
The Colorado Convention Center, Denver, CO
Theme: Educational Technology
June 26-29

 Keynote Speakers:

  • Michio Kaku, Theoretical Physicist and host of TV specials on: The Science Channel, The History Channel, BBC and The Discovery Channel
  • Ruha Benjamin, Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University.
  • Michelle Cordy, Inspirational 3rd Grade teacher from London, Ontario

Highlights of the ISTE Conference:

  • Experience the latest learning technologies.
  • Explore interactive teaching technologies that enhance creativity and learning.
  • Network with like-minded educators at the after-hours ISTE Campfires. These organic, participant-driven learning experiences, organized by topic, are designed for learning and sharing in an open environment.

Sample Sessions:

  • iPad for Early Learners: Create and Collaborate
  • Filmmaking for Teachers
  • The Essentials of Online and Blended Learning
  • A Day in the Life of a Google Classroom

For more information visit the ISTE website.

 

TCEC Texas Career Education Conferencetcec
Forth Worth Convention Center, Ft. Worth, TX
Theme: Career and Technical Educators
July 25-28

Keynote Speakers:

  • Adam Braun, Best selling author and Founder of Pencils of Promise, an organization that builds schools in poverty-stricken areas around the world
  • Mick Normington, Author and expert in understanding the types of skills needed in today’s work place

Highlights of the TCEC conference:

  • Explore the latest trends in Career and Tech Education.
  • Get advice from experts in the field on improving your program and instruction.
  • Network and connect with other teachers in the field.

Sample of Sessions:

  • Can I Use Your Pen? No! Go Make Your Own!
  • Learning Games: Anatomy and Physiology
  • New Teacher Orientation: Arch & Construction, Arts & A/V, Info Tech, Manufacturing and STEM
  • Claymation Basics
  • Bringing Cytogenics into the Classroom
  • Work Based Learning Training for Career Preparation/Practicum Programs

Note: This conference is specifically geared for career and technical educators like: Administrators, Counselors, Business/Finance Teachers, Marketing Teachers, Health Science Teachers, Manufacturing Teachers, Architecture Teachers, STEM Teachers, Arts, A/V and Communication Teachers

For more information visit the TCEC website.

 

Campus Technologycampus technology
Hynes Convention Center, Boston, MA
Theme: Education Technology Conference
August 1-4
 

Keynote Speakers:

  • Richard DeMillo, Executive Director of the Center for 21st Century Universities
  • Stephen Downs, Program Leader, Learning and Performance Support Systems
  • Amy Collier, Associate Provost for Digital Learning Middlebury College

Highlights of the Campus Technology conference:

  • Experience interactive, education workshops that focus on the advancement of educational institutions.
  • Discover innovative solutions to drive student success.
  • Develop new teaching and curriculum models to align with 21st century conditions.
  • Meet the pioneers who are revolutionizing the field of education.

Sample of Sessions:

  • Virtual Reality and the Future of Learning
  • Spruce up Your Campus Learning Spaces without Breaking your Budget
  • Coalescing Data-driven Student Lifecycle Solutions in Higher Education
  • Technology Trend Panel: Strategic Planning in an Era of Transformative Change
  • From Zero to Hero: Setting Up a 3-D Printing Infrastructure
  • Digital Learning for Arts Education

For more information, visit the Campus Technology website.

 

The Teacher’s Academy is a company created by teachers for teachers. We are an approved provider of Act 48 Hours in Pennsylvania and Continuing Education Units in Texas. We also offer ACSI hours for our Christian schoolteachers across the country.  We provide professional development hours for busy teachers in most states like Oregon, Colorado, Ohio, Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Indiana, New Jersey, New York, etc.   Find your state page on our website!

 

We hope you have fun checking out these conferences, but we really hope you have more fun relishing all that summer break has to offer.  Enjoy, teachers!

Top 10 Summer Reading List for Teachers

Hey Teachers, This one’s for YOU!

Every year my district releases the summer reading list for students. As a parent, I really appreciate how the books are screened, reviewed and rated. And as for my kids… Luckily, today’s book selection is way better than when I was young! They have enough entertaining reading options to last all summer. I, on the other hand, do not! Where are the book suggestions for teachers? Never fear, the Teacher’s Academy has got you covered. At the Teacher’s Academy, we know what teachers want (because we ARE teachers): Books that are entertaining, informative and make an impact. And it wouldn’t hurt if these books slipped in a little professional development!

The Teacher’s Academy chose 10 amazing professional development books that teachers will love to read this summer. These books will have teachers reflecting on their school year, recharging their batteries and planning new ways of inspiring their students.

So, if you are heading to the southern, sunny ranches in Texas, the northern adventures in Oregon, the east coast shores of New Jersey, or any of the fabulous cities in between, grab a great book for the trip and relax while you revive your passion for teaching!

10. CreaBookCreativeSchoolstive Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education by Ken Robinson, PHD

It is time to change our outdated factory model of education for a more effective, creative design. Ken Robinson offers ideas on creating a student-centered approach to learning and eliminating the burden of standardized testing. You will enjoy his wit and humor too!

BookWhisperer9. The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child by Donalyn Miller and Jeff Anderson

Gather some ideas from a teacher who throws out traditional reading strategies and uses her students’ interests to nurture a love of reading. Donalyn shares her own teaching journey down a crooked path of trials, failures and finally, an awakening. She includes a recommended list of books for parents and teachers too!

8. Reading in the Wild: The Book Whisperer’s Key to Cultivating Lifelong Reading Habits by Donalyn Miller and Susan Kelley

Donalyn Miller continues her teaching journey in the “Wild” by offering strategies on how to nurture of love of reading in your own students. This book is packed with management tools, lesson plans and assessment ideas.  Teachers can continue to improve their reading programs by doing more than just putting great books in the hands of their students.

BookStratospsphere7. Stratosphere: Integrating Technology, Pedagogy, and Change Knowledge by Michael Fullan

Michael Fullan believes teachers can escape from the traditional content-based curriculum and embrace the high-tech changes to develop higher-order thinking skills. He offers ideas on how to make these changes a reality for classrooms across the country.

BookMakeitStick6. Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Peter Brown, Henry L. Roediger III and Mark A. McDaniel

Recent studies on how our memories work have shaped new strategies for teaching. Maybe using personal learning styles is not as effective as using more complex methods? Maybe cramming, underlining and highlighting are not effective study habits? Check out this very new teaching concept that uses activities like forgetting, self-testing and multifaceted learning, to build strong memories.

 BookUnshakable5. UnShakable: 20 ways to enjoy teaching everyday…No Matter What by Angela Watson

This collection of inspiring ideas will have you loving teaching again! Teachers spend so much time finding ways to develop that intrinsic motivation in their students – this book is a guide for teachers to find and develop their own intrinsic motivation, everyday.

BookLearnLikePirate4. Learn Like a Pirate by Paul Solarz

This book is packed with ideas for teachers to employ in their classrooms! Here are just a few strategies teachers will learn: craft relevant (and interesting) lessons, provide opportunities for students to demonstrate leadership, instill confidence in your students, develop a sense of curiosity. The focus is on improving the whole child – not grades, Argh! Feel like a pirate now?

BookMindfulTeaching3. Mindful Teaching and Teaching Mindfulness: A Guide for Anyone who Teaches Anything by Debora Schoeberlein David with Suki Sheth, Phd.

This book talks about the positive effects of applying mindful practices in the classroom and offers strategies for implementing those practices. The Teacher’s Academy has a course called, Mindfulness in Education so no need to continue to express how much we love this one!

 BookTeachKidstoThink2. Teaching kids to think: Raising Confident, Independent & Thoughtful Children in an age of Instant Gratification by Darlene Sweetland, Phd and Ron Stolberg, Phd.

This book does double duty as a book for educators or parents. Many of our kids and students need instant feedback, instant answers, instant information and they can easily get it by doing a simple search on the Internet. How is this instant gratification affecting their minds? How do we teach patience and self-reliance?  This book has all the answers – but you’ll have to read through it, slowly. 🙂

BookFTest1. F This Test: Even more of the Very Best Totally Wrong Test Answers by Richard Benson

Oh my gosh, every teacher must read this book… It’s hilarious! Sick of testing your kids? Well, they’re sick of it too! See the honest and hysterical responses kids write on their tests.

The summer is not only a great time for teachers to catch up on reading, but also to get started (or finish up) those pesky professional development requirements. The Teacher’s Academy is created by teachers and we know how time consuming all of that continuing education can be. Check out our online courses and you’ll see how cost-effective, relevant and convenient professional development can be.

The Teacher’s Academy is the proud parent company of Act 48 Academy. We provide Act 48 Hours for PA teachers and professional development hours for teachers across the USA including Texas, Colorado, Oregon, and much more!. Check out our Online Course Catalog for the most relevant, affordable and convenient professional development courses, created by teachers for teachers.

Click, Find Your State for specific details on professional development from your department of education.

Have a great summer, teachers!