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Integrating the Arts in the Classroom: 5 Fun Activities for Busy Teachers

The Teacher’s Academy has just released their newest course, Integrating the Arts in the Classroom. This fun 18-hour course is designed to help teachers “spice-up” their current lesson plans with some outside-the-box art projects. The course starts off with a little inspirational music (by Metallica of course) and then progresses through the importance of art in education. Teachers will develop their own definition of the arts, learn about the value of the arts in education, understand how the standards support the arts, and even create a few of their own art-inspired projects! We understand how busy teachers are so we took 5 quick, fun integration activities from the course to share in this blog… Enjoy!

Guitar#5: Music Integration Activity

Activity: Add music to enrich your read aloud books, fiction or non-fiction literature, poetry and teach literary devices.

Skills: Literary devices, critical thinking, memory

Applied in the classroom: Students studying the social, economic and political events of the 1920s were exposed to music, rare video and artwork to further bring the era to life. Students got to listen to the music of the times while writing their own stories!

 

Group Of Children Enjoying Drama Class Together#4: Theater Integration Activity

Activity: Improvisation – give students a setting and let them react without a script.

Skills: Connect to characters, core-content comprehension, communication, language, vocabulary and presentation, public speaking and listening

Applied in the Classroom: In a circle, students are given a story starter. The teacher chooses one student to begin the story and the students point to their peers to continue the story when cued by the teacher. Add parameters to the game to increase the challenge and encourage critical thinking and problem solving…Must use a new vocabulary word, must incorporate certain parts of speech, must speak from a historical person’s point of view, etc.

Ballet#3: Dance Integration Activity

Activity: Interpretive Dance – Students use movement to teach letters, language or math concepts. Students form letters or actions with their bodies and display knowledge of math concepts like symmetry. To incorporate higher-level academic concepts, students can perform interpretive dance to “act out” events in history or scientific theories.

Skills: Communication, core content, language, vocabulary, and presentation skills

Applied in the Classroom: Students were asked to show understanding of symmetry through dance movements. One student chooses a position, a partner student must replicate that position. If one student moves, the other must move. Students take turns choosing positions to show symmetry, parallel lines, intersecting lines, angles, etc.

Kids art#2: Visual Arts Integration Activities

Activity: Drawing Poetry

Skills: Listening, language, poetry, drawing, motor skills, connection to poetry, critical thinking

Applied in the classroom: Students were read a poem and asked to sketch or draw what they heard in the poem. Students could make their own interpretations of the author’s message and articulate how they connected with the poem. The activity could be altered by selecting a passage from a novel or content area.

Art Hands#1 Fine Arts Integration Activities

 Activity: Sculpture and Writing

Skills: Writing, observation, communication, memory, descriptive language

Applied in the classroom: Students were asked to create a sculpture based on a profession then write an opinion piece about the profession. This activity could be altered to use paints or digital photography. The subject could be a core content topic, book review, word problem. For example, students could create 3-D models of plant and animal cells or dioramas of important events.

A few more integration activities…

  • Playing/ Making Instruments
  • Chanting, Rapping
  • Listening to Music / Poetry
  • Composing Music, Songs
  • Drama Games / Charades
  • Pantomime, Puppets
  • Move to Words, Poetry or Ideas
  • Popular and Creative Dances
  • Clay / Sculpture
  • Photography
  • Textiles
  • Research Artists
  • Research Works of Art

This is just a small sampling of what teachers will receive when they open the  Integrating the Arts in the Classroom course. Teachers, you do not have to be an expert in the arts to deliver an effective, integrated art activity! Have fun with your students and enjoy teaching with the arts.

The Teacher's AcademyNeed Professional Development? Now is the Time…

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. It does not matter if teachers live in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Houston, Bloomington, Detroit, Green Bay or Nashville, our courses are downloaded to computers so teachers can work from anywhere in the United States!

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!

Top 5 Take-Aways from the Pennsylvania Education and Technology Conference

The Pennsylvania Education Technology Expo and Conference was very special to The Teacher’s Academy this year. Not only did we get to see lots of familiar faces and meet new teachers, we were honored to be able to present a small section of our Mindfulness in Education course.

Throughout the conference, we received tons of great teaching tips, advice and tech tools that teachers swear by. Now it’s time for us to share the best of the best with you! Check out our Top 5 Take-Aways from PETE this year…

5: Words of Wisdom

Teachers were eager to share their favorite philosophies and quotes that keep them motivated from September to June! Here are our favorites:

  • “Kindness 1st!” -Rianna, Sayne School District
  • “Always be willing to learn from your students.” -Amanda, Derry Township School District
  • “Show students it’s okay to make a mistake or that things go wrong. Adjust and reset, that’s how we learn.” -Dom, New Brighton Area High School
  • “If you take care of yourself, you can better help each other.” -Kevin, Garnet Valley School District

 4: Mindfulness Apps
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As Mindfulness continues to make waves in public education, curious teachers may want to try out some mindful practices on their own before bringing these strategies to their students. Fair warning: Learning Mindfulness may change the way you live! Here are some of our favorite Mindfulness Apps:

  • Insight Timer.com Download this app to your mobile device for instant connections to group meditations, poetry readings, and more. The timer feature allows you to set your meditation time, background music, and peaceful meditation sounds. So nice!
  • Smiling Mind.com au A non-profit seeking to make mindfulness accessible to all. Take a survey to assess your current state and find recommended meditations based on the results. Their programs are designed for ages 7-9, 10-12, 13-15, etc. Included on the site is a meditation/ mindfulness tracker.
  • Buddhify.com For meditations on the go! Choose what’s happening in your life at the moment and find a 6-14 minute meditation for it: Traveling, difficulty sleeping, or just simple meditation- it’s all there!

3: Video Resourcescamera

  • YouTube You Tube is a dumping ground for all kinds of educational videos, movie clips, inspirational talks, tutorials, etc. Did you know that you can create your own playlist of saved videos and subscribe to helpful channels? (It’s not just for looking up old 80s rock videos anymore!)
  • Snip for MS Windows This is an easy-to-use feature for MS users. You can create your own screen casting video or convert your PowerPoint Slide Show into a video! You can even annotate on the screen and record your voice to customize your videos- and it’s free! Look for our new course on Mix to be released in 2017!
  • PBS Learning Media  A familiar site for many teachers, PBS Learning Media provides quick clips of historically accurate videos. Science news, as well as tutorials for English and Math concepts provide another way for teachers to differentiate learning, and for students to achieve deeper understanding of content.
  • Do Ink Your students will have a blast creating their own videos using a green screen backdrop. They can use pictures, video, or design their own graphics to create and retell stories or present information. Visit the tutorial page to see how you can use this in your own classroom.

2: Newest Apps

Do your lesson apps need an update? Are you just starting to integrate apps in your classroom instruction? Check out these tested and favorite apps submitted from both teachers and students.

  •  Epic! Encourage young readers with instant access to an extensive library for free! Audio and Spanish versions are available too! Anyone else can join for about $5 per month.
  • Seesaw Remember when students would keep all of their work in a folder? Using Seesaw, they can keep all of their work on an interactive, online folder that can be shared with teachers, family and peers. This is a great time management tool for teacherkidscomps and an empowerment tool for students.
  • Newsela This news source for students provides information on the latest scientific discoveries, political issues, weather, current events, etc. Students can use the information to write their own summary and teachers can use the quiz tool to assess. Stories are written in Spanish and English for students interested in learning another language. Lots of ways to differentiate instruction too!
  • MobyMax This is an educational tool designed to find specific gaps in student learning and then “fix” the gaps with differentiated instruction and motivational tools. Reading, writing, science and social studies content are covered. There is even a test prep tool!

1: Mindfulness in Education Workshop

This is particularly special because The Teacher’s Academy presented, Unplug: Mindful Practices that Work for 150 technology teachers! Our presenter, Maggie Haflett, was overwhelmed with gratitude for the immediate and eager acceptance of this new (to education) practice. Teachers came to this conference thirsty for the latest and greatest in technology, but came out of that workshop with a renewed appreciation for slowing down and fostering our abilities to focus more.

We want to thank all of the teachers who attended the conference for their support and promotion of Mindfulness in Education. To learn more about this practice and get 18 hours of PD, click here!

There were so many great ideas, it was impossible to fit them all into this blog. In fact, we are inspired to write another course to showcase what we learned from you! Look for another website review course to be released later this year. It will contain more suggestions from our PA teachers as well as our teachers from Michigan, Massachusetts, Texas, Indiana, South Carolina, Virginia, South Dakota, Tennessee and Colorado!

The Teacher’s Academy is honored to provide high-quality, relevant and affordable professional development courses for busy teachers. Visit our website to view a complete listing of courses in our course catalog.

The Teacher’s Academy Expands To Massachusetts

 Now Massachusetts teachers can have convenient, affordable and relevant professional development!

How it all began…

In 2012, a group of established teachers formed a company in Pennsylvania called Act 48 Academy in honor of a Pennsylvania law that requires all staff to maintain a high level of rockblogprofessional development. Act 48 Academy struck a chord for many teachers, and these services were needed outside of PA. Hence, The Teacher’s Academy was born.

We help teachers across the country…

Since then, we have been providing an affordable, convenient way for teachers to maintain their professional licenses.  In 2013, we expanded into our neighboring states of New York, New Jersey and Delaware.

In 2016, we were approved by IACET.

“The Teacher’s Academy is accredited by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET) and is authorized to issue the IACET accreditedCEU.”

This approval opened doors to all states accepting IACET CEUS, including Massachusetts.

Today, our internationally recognized company, The Teacher’s Academy, reaches across the nation to support all teachers. We are extremely proud to share the same vision with the amazing teachers in Massachusetts.

Renewing Your MA Teaching License

Every 5 years, teachers in Massachusetts need to renew their professional teaching licenses by obtaining 150 Professional Development Points (PDPs).

1 Hour = 1 PDP
1 CEU =  10 PDPs

Here are a few examples of courses offered by The Teacher’s Academy and the PDPs earned for each:

The Teacher’s Academy offers a variety of courses worth 3, 6, 15 and 18 PDPs.

The Teacher’s Academy Courses

Because the founders of The Teacher’s Academy are teachers, we believe professional development should be convenient, cover relevant topics, provide choices, and, above all, be affordable.

Not only are our courses affordable, they’re also convenient.  The team of teachers that reviews your completed work will present your Certificate and professional development hours within 5 – 7 business days of submission.  Our process is faster and less expensive than community colleges or other private companies.  There are no administrative or extra costs for materials because everything you need to complete the course is emailed immediately.   We have a tech team and support staff ready to assist with any questions.

Since our courses are downloaded to your computer, the course, along with all of the great web resources and teaching tools, are yours to keep!

Check out our course topics:

Teacher Resources

Look for more courses like these under Teacher Resources

Music and Art

Look for more courses like these under Music and Art

Technology

Look for more courses like these under Technology

We are honored to bring our services to the excellent teachers of Massachusetts!The Teacher's Academy

Check out The Teacher’s Academy website and Course Catalog, for a listing of all of our courses.

Getting Creative with Field Trips

What’s the first thing you think of when you hear brown bag lunches, matching t-shirts, bus rides, and chaperones? FIELD TRIP! The yearly field trip is a chance for freedom and a time to get away from the day-to-day and experience something nSchool Trip - Berlinew. Many teachers fall into a rut, going to the same place every year. Incorporating art is a great way to jazz up your field trip! Art-based field trips can often be cheaper and more inspirational than more traditional outings.

Here are some destinations that will provide your students with a whole new perspective on life!

MUSEUM

Viewing great works of art can inspire an interest in even the novice critic.  Many Pmuseums have programs specifically designed for field trips that guide groups through designated areas and point out interesting facts. These can be very helpful and require almost no work for the teacher, but there are ways to make them even more stimulating! Consider making a student scavenger hunt for featured pieces. Divide all kids into groups and give each group a different list of art to locate and report back on. You could even theme each group (find landscapes, portraits, sculptures, etc.) and have them solve a riddle or puzzle. To assist you in creating a scavenger hunt, reference the museums’ website for a list of their inventory and any special exhibits or upcoming features. Parents.com offers a list of the best art museums for kids, along with a description of what makes each of these museums accessible and interesting to the younger crowd. If you don’t have an art museum near you, any museum will do.  In college, I was assigned to go to the Natural History Museum in Pittsburgh and design a sculpture from a dinosaur bone. I had never considered such a thing and it really opened my eyes to a whole new place of inspiration. There is art everywhere!

SHOW

What do drama, dance, and music all have in common? They are all forms of art in motion. Having students draw the climax or major turning point in a play can help them remember it. If you are going to see the Phantom of the Opera as a class, coordinate with the art teacher to provide extra credit opportunities for students to do research on the theater or draw an interesting architectural detail they found in the opera house. Have students create an abstract work inspired by one particular song from the musical. They could design alternate costumes for a modern day ballet or make a flip book showing movement from a stack of post-it notes. The possibilities are endless. Check out our Teaching Drama Across the Curriculum Course for some ideas of how to make the performing arts an integral part of your lessons.

NATURE

YIn every state and every town in America you’ll find parks and green spaces to explore. Some of the best and most famous painters got all the inspiration they needed from the great outdoors. Impressionists like Claude Monet made their life’s work outdoors. They experienced certain challenges when creating art outdoors with temperature and light changes, along with wind and rain. Giving your students a few hours to explore and create awesome things in nature will heighten their awareness of the beauty all around them. Team up with the history teacher and do some research on how your local park started or do a joint lesson about the majestic landscapes that the early American painters like Thomas Cole created. Don’t forget to have each student bring a sketchbook and pens to take notes and make drawings of something interesting they’ve found. The Minnesota Department of Art Resources provides a helpful list of ideas to interweave art and music with nature and environmental studies.

INDUSTRY

My favorite episode of Mr. Rogers was when they went to the Crayola Crayon factory to see how crayons are made. There are tons of factories and plants that invite kids to come check out how things are built or processed. Team up with your science teacher and see how water is treated in your local city or take a trip to the recycling center. Bring back what you learned by creating a bulletin board summarizing the process for the whole school. Another great idea is to make your next art project out of all recyclable materials. Try making beautiful Chihuly inspired sculptures out of painted water bottles. (Look at all of these projects for kids inspired by Chihuly on Pinterest). Check your county website for interesting ideas about the industry that surrounds you.

VIRTUAL

Not every art teacher or classroom can afford to go somewhere for a field trip, but that shouldn’t limit your learning. There are tons of online resources to check out and explore a kids computerfaraway place. No public school can afford to send all of their students to Paris to see the Louvre and the amazing pieces of art it holds, but why not look at the Mona Lisa right in the museum from the computer lab? Almost every museum website features some sort of online gallery. A great place to start is by taking a virtual tour of the National Gallery of Art.

Whatever route you opt for, incorporating art into your next field trip will enrich the experience for your students.  The Teacher’s Academy is a proud supporter of the arts in education.  Check out the Art/Music section of our course catalog to find a list of classes to help you weave the arts into your classroom.  Start earning Professional Development classes the affordable, convenient way with The Teacher’s Academy.

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!

 

 

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.

 

 

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!

Welcome Spring Fever Enthusiasm into your Classroom

Do your students have spring fever?  Here are 15 creative ways to use that extra energy in the classroom.

This time of year the earth is alive with bright splashes of color and exuberant sounds.  All around this great country from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Bend, Oregon and all the wonderful districts in between, students and teachers have Spring Fever! The excitement outdoors, along with warmer temperatures and the promise of summer vacation, can make it difficult for students to concentrate on classroom activities.  But, lessons need not on037ly occur through textbooks and worksheets.

Real learning should be as dynamic and changing as the seasons.  Instead of allowing spring fever to disrupt your classroom, use all that extra enthusiasm to spark some new discoveries, both indoors and out.

Get a Fresh Start!

Sometimes the best way to get students inspired is to make an adjustment in the environment.  Spring is the perfect time to do a thorough cleaning and re-organization of your classroom.  Check out these websites to find some innovative ways to cut down on classroom clutter and focus on learning.

1. We Are Teachers

This site has a great blog that offers ways to conquer classroom messes, help students keep track of their homework, create storage with items you already have, find tips of creating digital student portfolios and more!

2. Betterlesson.com– Kaleidoscope Eyes Lesson

If spring cleaning and a fresh new approach isn’t enough to keep students’ enthusiasm in the classroom, perhaps a change in perspective will do the trick.   This 8th grade math lesson posted by Mauricio Beltre incorporates materials from the dollar store, but we recommend finding some free replacements in nature! Your students will really get excited to experience a bright, hcolorful, shape-shifting view of the world around them while sneaking in some important math concepts like symmetry, reflection, and geometry.

3. Read Write, Think

This is a great time to freshen up your lesson plan catalog. What better place than a website that provides free lesson plans written by literary experts? Try this one: Multiple Perspectives: Critical Thinking Skills by Shannon Bradford! This gem helps students understand how the world can look through very different through different eyes. After reading Diary of a Spider by Doreen Cronin, students will analyze the different perspectives and write a creative piece capturing another point of view. This lesson is filled with opportunities for outdoor exploration and adventure to aid the analysis and creative writing piece.

Bust a move!

Even with an organized classroom and a new perspective, students may still be reluctant to stay at their desks this time of year. So, get them up and moving!  Here are some sites designed to give your kids a “brain break” and get them re-energized to learn.

4. Minds in BloGroup Of Children Enjoying Drama Class Togetherom

This site made our list for two reasons: (1) Their slogan is, “Because Learning should be Fun,” AND (2) They have a host of great resources for teachers that need a quick infusion of creativity and motivational push to get them through the last few months of the year. Check out their blog, 20 three-minute Brain Breaks by Rachel Lynette for a few fun short games that get your kids moving and focused.

5. TeachTrainLove.com

Bevin K. Reinen’s website is devoted to innovative teaching tips and online resources for teachers and students. We want to feature their blog on 20 best brain-break videos. Bookmark these videos and have them on hand for the moment your students need help to fight their fidgeting!

6. GoNoodle

We can’t overlook the leader in brain-break websites. Students of all ages (though geared towards elementary) will love the goofy custom-made videos designed to keep students moving, track their progress and quickly get them back to learning.

Go outside!

No matter how energized and inspirational your classroom is, when the sun is shining and the birds are singing, kids will long to be outdoors.  So…. Take them out! And, bring your lesson plans with you.

7. The National Wildlife Federation Lesson Plan Page

This site is not just devoted to preserving our nation’s habitat, but educating our nation’s youth as well.   Featured lessons include, Habitat Hunt, Sensory Discovery Walk, and Tree Detective. All Science lessons are designed for grades K-8 and are aligned to the National Science Education Standards.

8. Geoec.orgGarden 4

The Global, Environmental, & Outdoor Education Council also offer some fun and engaging lessons for outdoor learning. Check out their lesson plan section, organized by grade, make a quick print and get your students outside tomorrow!

9. The Teacher’s Academy- Creating a School Garden Course

School gardens are all the rage, but finding the resources, getting support, planning and executing such a task is difficult to take on by yourself. If you need professional development and are interested in proposing a school garden to your school, this course is an excellent option. Learn how to plan, implement and teach with a garden to provide authentic learning in your unique space.

10. Growing Minds, Farm to School

Spring is the perfect time for experimentation and observation in nature’s greatest gift: our farms. For those of you that already have a school garden or access to local farms, check out this site and browse the many lessons on integrating farming and gardening into the classroom.

Learn about transformations!

Spring is a time for change. It makes sense since it happens after about 7 months of school, everyone is ready for a change! Since change is happening naturally all around us Monarch with caterpillarthis time of year, it’s easy to integrate the concept of metamorphosis into the spring science curriculum. Here are three websites that offer great lessons on the classic metamorphosis concepts:

11. ScienceNetLinks.com/lessons

This site provides teachers with background information, planning ahead tips, motivation, content, hands-on activities and varied assessment options for the classic lesson, Parts of a Plant.

12. USDA Monarch Education Site

Lessons on metamorphosis aren’t just for 3rd graders! The USDA has lessons and resources to discuss life cycle changes for all levels K-12. Science teachers, use this site for the best Monarch Butterfly lesson this spring!

Stare out the window…Seriously!

The weather in the springtime can be unpredictable.  Clear days are the perfect time to introduce lessons about the sun and solar energy.  But, even rainy days can provide learning opportunities. NASA has created some incredible lesson plans about precipitation, 147climate, and weather.  But our honorable mention in this list goes to…

13. WeatherWizKids

On days when your kids are particularly restless, use this site to find loads of amazing weather information, projects, and lesson plans.

Take a break!

Even with all that extra springtime energy, your students will still need to take some time to relax and reflect. Wait for a rainy spring day and hold an impromptu Read-In! h

14. A Mighty Girl

This adorable site is a massive book organizer. They even have a section dedicated to celebrating spring! Don’t let the sweet vibe fool you, books for students of all ages are recommended and available for purchase.

15. YALSA

This site is designed for young adult readers. Check out the list of recommended books and suggest a few for your students to start over spring break! (Yeah, right!)! In any case, it’s a great resource for parents looking to get that perfect book for their growing student.

 

Look forward to summer!Garden 3

Even as we celebrate spring, we are looking forward to summer vacation and the extra time that it brings.  Summer is a great time to catch up on those necessary Professional Development courses that you have been putting off all year.  The Teacher’s Academy is a convenient, affordable way to obtain the credits you need in a way that won’t put a damper on your summer fun.  Our classes can be completed wherever your summer plans take you!  Check out our online catalog today to find an extensive list of Act 48 approved courses to handle your professional development needs at your convenience.

“Whoever is happy, will make others happy too.”

-Anne Frank

The Teacher’s Academy is honored to introduce our April Teacher Feature, Mrs. Lisa Mancini!

Fostering a love for reading at the middle school level can be a quite challenge.  Kids spend so much time immersed in the fast-paced world of technology that they often don’t have the patience required to appreciate classic literature.  We met one teacher who is able to use her students’ interest in technology to keep them motivated, curious, and persistent in the challenges that come with developing strong reading skills.  Simply put, she nurtures a good old-fashioned, love for reading.

Spark CuriosityMancini

The beauty of Mrs. Mancini’s teaching is that she is able to develop her students’ comprehension skills in such a subtle way that they become captivated before even beginning the book.

On the day I met Mrs. Mancini, she was introducing, “The Diary of Anne Frank” to her lively 7th grade students.  Before they were able to open the book, Mrs. Mancini used the website http://annefrank.org to allow her students to experience a virtual tour of the secret annex where Anne and her family hid for 3 years.

The realization of war and the occupation of the Nazi army in Holland were sub-topics that her students quickly picked up on.   They asked questions about Anne’s older sister who was called to report to one of the camps in Germany.  They wondered about how Anne’s friends must have felt when she just disappeared, unable to say goodbye.  They considered the risks taken by her father’s employees to keep the whole family hidden. In short, they were able to make the deep connections to the people and events in the book that are vital to reading comprehension.  Did you forget we were in English class?  I did!

Performing Arts and Reading…

Next step, reading!  Not reading from a textbook or even the diary, but from a scripted play.  Mrs. Mancini skillfully incorporates the performing arts to allow her students to further immerse themselves in the story.  The students have already chosen which characters they will portray.  They sit together, practicing their lines, while Mrs. Mancini helps to further define the characters.

 “I never thought I’d see the day where Mr. Frank goes into hiding.” She states to her students.  “What does that sentence tell you about Mr. Frank?”

The students discuss what they know of Mr. Frank’s character thus far and devise several responses:

“He’s a good person.”

“He’s trying to protect his family or else he wouldn’t have to go into hiding.”

 Mrs. Mancini offers a little more guidance. “What kind of people go into hiding?”

The enthusiasm in the room is palpable as students jump to chime in.

“Criminals!”

“Bad people, people who are wanted by the government.”

“Mr. Frank is not a bad person. That’s why no one can believe he has to go into hiding.”

“Exactly.” Mrs. Mancini smiles and leads her students into a discussion of the other 7 characters and some background information to help set the scene.

The kids have lots of questions.

 annefrank“Why are the names different in the video?”  One perceptive student asks.

 “Anne was afraid to get anyone else in trouble.  She knew if they were caught and the names of the people who shared the annex with her were in her diary, the Nazis would punish them too.”

Mrs. Mancini continues to explain why Mrs. van Pels has on 7 layers of clothing and a fur coat in July and why Peter might be happy to burn his Star of David, but Anne can’t seem to let hers go.  She points out how Mr. Frank, the eternal optimist, continuously tries to keep everyone’s moods elevated, even in the darkest of times.

Her students are comfortable with their characters and the play begins…

Foster A Love of Reading

Mrs. Mancini gives stage directions and supports the integrity of the play by encouraging her students to read their parts like true actors…

“Come on Zac! This is the perfect role for you! How would you act if your mom was embarrassing you?”

With Mrs. Mancini’s encouragement, Zac (reading the role of Peter) over-emphasizes the total embarrassment of having such a doting mother, “Pleeease Mother!” he says, with the dramatics of a seasoned professional.  The classroom erupts with laughter until the student playing Anne chimes in with her eloquent voice, evoking the energetic spirit of the real Anne Frank.

Mrs. Mancini’s students continue to have fun reading their parts. Mr. Frank, Margot, Mrs. Frank, Mr. and Mrs. van Pels, Peter, Mr. Pfeffer and of course, Anne, enjoy experimenting with voices and emotions, while the rest of the class encourages the actors to “stay in character.”

At the conclusion of the play, the students are directed to write about the characters.  Using laptops, they log into www.goformative.com. Mrs. Mancini hands out slips of paper with the names of two characters the students can describe.

Incorporating writing immediately after interactive visuals and a dramatic reading makes her students better equipped to respond.  They get to work right away, with very little discussion. Soon the classroom is filled with the clicking sounds of confident writers. Students are able to post their responses onto the common page where Mrs. Mancini can quickly read or share the comments.

At the end of class, students gather to sign up for characters to portray during tomorrow’s lesson.  “I’m going to read the role of Mr. Frank! I can’t wait until tomorrow!”  Chirps one enthusiastic student.

Kindness and Giving… Keystones of a Successful Teacher

“My favorite thing about teaching is having the chance to play a small part in so many lives. Knowing that I have had a role in the education of so many young lives is very powerful. I also love the opportunity to start again each fall; it gives me the opportunity to improve my craft and set new goals for myself.”

Even with a story as tragic as that of Anne Frank’s, Mrs. Mancini is able to find elements of life and joy that she then brings to her students.

Not only does this create strong readers, but it also develops compassion and interest in historical events that students may not have been able to connect to previously.  And, perhaps even more importantly, it demonstrates Mrs. Mancini’s ability to teach her students that to avoid hatred we must embrace kindness.

Mrs. Mancini performs her own acts of kindness in many different ways.  Along with her entire school community, she supports the Kelly Ann Dolan fund, which raises money for families of sick children. She organizes the Lee National Denim Day at her school, to raise money for breast cancer research.  She is one of the 7th grade team leaders, as well as backstage support during school plays.  She also serves as the CB Cares Boomerang Award Coordinator.  (A district-wide initiative to honor students for small acts of kindness.)

“I love helping students earn recognition for the great things they do each and every day.”

As a graduate of Bloomsburg University and a daughter of two teachers, Mrs. Mancini never dreamed of doing anything but becoming a teacher herself.  She was inspired to earn an additional certification in German by a very special, energetic 13 year-old girl, who also had a great love of writing.

“I LOVE reading. My love of reading turned into a love of writing.  I see the two going hand-in-hand. Good writers need to be good readers and vice-versa!”

Mrs. Mancini works with LearnZillion and the Louisiana Department of Education, writing curriculum guidebooks for teachers. She is also a Graphite Certified Educator, which gives her access to some really cool technology.  On first impression, she presents herself as quiet and modest, but don’t let that fool you! This 21st Century teacher loves to stay active! She is a competitive triathlete and a mixed martial artist. She has been fortunate to have support from some awesome people in her life in order to accomplish all of these amazing things.  Her husband and two children join her for adventures whenever they can. Each summer, the four of them escape to North Wildwood with her in-laws so they can be outside and hang with family and friends.

As an energetic teacher who loves to read and devotes herself to making this world a better place, Mrs. Mancini has some pretty high hopes for her own students…

“I want them to find something they love and go after it. I want them to know that great things are possible with hard work. I want them to know that they might fall down along the way, but there will always be a way to get back up and keep going.”

Thank you so much, Mrs. Mancini!  Anne could not have said it better herself.

Check out The Teacher’s Academy to find an array of affordable, convenient professional development courses. All courses are Act 48 Certified and accepted in most states. Click here to find a course that works for you!