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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.

 

 

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.

 

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.

10 Ways Your Class Can Help Save the Earth

Make room for environmental education!sunflower

Environmental concerns will have a huge impact on our students’ futures.  And, yet, with so many mandated assessments and time constraints, teachers often feel forced to focus most of the school day on reading and math lessons. Remember, administration wants us to teach our students how to read, write, and do math but generally, there is room for creative content. Environmental awareness is a theme that can easily be integrated into the day’s lessons and still meet performance objectives of even the strictest standards.

Studies have shown that a lack of environmental education comes at a detriment to our students.  Learning about the environment is not only important on a global scale, it can have a profound effect on the future of each child.  The No Child Left Inside Organization has found that Environmental Education (1) Increases student success across the curriculum by integrating literature and math into meaningful lessons; (2) Improves the overall health of students by getting them outside and moving, and (3) Provides them with critical tools for the 21st century workplace.

Earth Day is the perfect time to start making environmental education an integral part of your classroom curriculum.  Here are 10 creative, fun ideas that will get your class excited about this amazing planet of ours.

Celebrate and protect our earth with these incredible resources!

1. Have a party! Cookouts are a great way to celebrate the springtime warming of the earth.  Even better if you can make them a learning experience for your students.  Scholastic’s “Host a Solar Cookout” Lesson combines math, science, and community involvement to give kids an in-depth understanding of solar energy.  Students will learn about the importance of renewable energy, sun safety, and engineering, all while creating tasty treats to be enjoyed with their friends and community members.

2. Start a compost pile! School lunches and snacks generate a ton of waste.  Allow students to witness firsthand how “garbage” can be turned into valuable organic soil which can then be used in school gardens, or even sold to raise money for class projects.  Organic Lesson provides a clear, colorful guide to composting to help you get you started.farmer

3. Host a swap! We all have things that we don’t need or use anymore.  Holding a classroom swap shows kids how what might seem like trash to them, can be treasure to someone else…. And it’s a ton of fun!  Planet Pals has some good tips on how you can use a swap to teach kids about conservation and upcycling.

4. Take the Catalog Cancel Challenge! Over 19 billion catalogs are sent out yearly and less than 2% are used.  This unnecessary waste results in the destruction of thousands of trees, the use of billions of gallons of water, and an enormous amount of pollution.  The Catalog Cancel Challenge has already saved 1,400 trees and 1.4 billion gallons of water.  Check out their website to see how your classroom or school can join and do your part to save the earth.

5. Conduct a role play! Role plays create an opportunity for students to do research and have meaningful conversations about environmental issues.  They help build communication skills and encourage out-of-the-box thinking.  Asia Society offers two excellent lesson plans to help you bring environmental role-play into your classroom.

turtle6. Adopt a Species! We are experiencing the worst species extinction rate since the time of dinosaurs.  Up to 99% of these extinctions are caused by human activity.  If nothing is done to stop this, as many as 30-50% of all species could be extinct by mid-century. These are alarming statistics.  Fortunately, there are things we can do to slow down this mass extinction. Learning to Give provides a lesson plan that shows how you can make adopting an endangered species a meaningful class project.

7. Make something interesting!  Science teachers add the extra challenge of creating the rube Goldberg with items found in nature! Nature is full of beautiful and unique items. A simple hike outside can get your creative juices flowing to revamp a lesson to include flowerMother Nature’s gifts. Want specific ideas? Tinker Labs has collected an incredible list of online resources you can use to create a wide variety of things using objects found in nature.

8. Cut down on packaging! Packaging accounts for a large amount of the waste that we create. Doing a self-audit can really help students become aware of excessive packaging and ultimately empower them to purchase without such waste. These are the types of lessons that trickle home and have the greatest impact. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has created a lesson plan that helps kids understand the dangers of excessive packaging and some key waste reduction techniques that they can employ in their own homes.

9. Learn about sustainability! Population growth is a crucial component to many of the environmental issues we face today.  Population Education provides a wealth of resources to help your students understand how we can create a sustainable living environment for our growing world.  Their website offers comprehensive packets of lesson plans for various age groups that can be used on Earth Day or any day!Garden 2

10. Grow a garden! Whether you have a big or small, indoor or outdoor, space available… School gardens offer an interactive, authentic way to get your students involved in nature.  The Teacher’s Academy offers an online course that will show the basics of creating a classroom garden, as well as how to use gardening to create meaningful, interdisciplinary lessons.

The Creating a School Garden Course is only one of the many valuable courses that the Teacher’s Academy offers.  All of our course fulfill Pennsylvania Act 48 requirements and can provide you an economical, convenient way to earn professional development courses from home.  Sign up for your first class today!

6 Ways to Heat up Your Classroom When it’s Cold Outside

Are your students unmotivated this time of year? So are mine…In fact, so am I!

For many students, February can be a difficult month. The holidays are no more than a The Teacher's Academyfaded memory and summer vacation is still far off the future. Add to that, freezing cold temperatures and short daytime hours, and often you are left with a classroom of tired, unmotivated kids. This is the time of the year I need a kick in the butt, an exciting venture, a new trick up my sleeve. Why not try something new and outside the box with your students?

70% of High School Drop Outs Cite Lack of Motivation as Major Cause

This lack of motivation is not only a hindrance to your students’ success at school, but can be a real danger to their futures. When surveyed, 70 percent of high school dropouts reported lack of motivation as being a cause for dropping out (Bridgeland, Dilulio and Morison, 2006). What are some things that we, as teachers, can do to bring back that excitement into our classrooms?

 1. Empower!

Give students more control. Kids are much more likely to be excited about an activity when they are empowered. Hold classroom meetings, ask for feedback, engage your students in the process of learning. Project Based Learning is a great way to get students The Teacher's Academyinvolved in a meaningful way. This method of learning is centered around a question or a challenge that students work on for an extended period of time. When done effectively, PBL can change the entire dynamic of your classroom. Your students will learn to work together, solve problems, and take charge of their own learning. Teach Thought provides links to a dozen online resources that will inspire and assist you in making Project Based learning a reality in your classroom.

2. Mindfulness leads to focus.

It’s not only the kids who feel the winter blues. Many adults feel it as well. Enthusiasm is infectious! Being upbeat and passionate about your lessons is one of the greatest motivators you can give your students. But finding that enthusiasm this time of year is the hard part. Take three minutes a day- with or without your students- and complete a guided meditation, write in a journal or do one good deed. These mindful acts pave the way for success both short and long term. The Teacher’s Academy offers a course on how to incorporate mindfulness exercises in the classroom. February might be a good time to look into it!

 3. Move!

One of the most difficult things about this time of year is the lack of exercise. Recess may be limited to indoor play, and after school sports may not be an option. The lack of movement can affect kids’ energy levels and motivation. Find creative ways to get your kids moving. Infuse today’s lesson with a “Brain Break.” Incorporate dancing and/or stretches into your routines. Take short walks around the campus when the sun is at its brightest. Or, simply take a field trip to the window to play a quick game of “I Spy.” A recent trend that has already hit the corporate world and now gaining popularity in schools to replace chairs with exercise balls. Many teachers have found that exercise balls keep kids more alert and ready to learn. Check out Go Noodles for some other great ideas to get your kids hopping!

 4. Performance Arts

Music, story-telling, role play, visual arts and drama are enormously helpful in motivating students. A study by Shirley Brice Heath of Stanford University found that young people The Teacher's Academywho participate in the arts regularly are much more likely to win awards for school attendance and and to be recognized for academic achievement. Teaching and the performance arts go hand in hand. Want more ways to infuse performance arts into the classroom? Check out The Teacher’s Academy course and earn professional development hours for your time.

 5. Make ‘em work!

Every opportunity should be taken to make students feel like part of the classroom community. Being responsible for daily classroom chores helps give kids a sense of purpose and commitment. Feeling that deeper connection can be very helpful in motivating The Teacher's Academystudents to come to school and do their best, even when they are not feeling up to it. Scholastic offers some unique ideas on how to make classroom jobs an engaging part of the school day.

 6. Be Encouraging!

The truth is, no matter what you do to make your classroom a stimulating environment, there will still be rough days. Whether there are difficulties at home, academic struggles, troubles with friends, or just the winter blues… students will sometimes be so entrenched in their own issues that it can seem impossible to motivate them. A warm, positive attitude and encouraging voice are sometimes the only things that get students through the roughest days. Display students’ work, recognize improvement, and make note of their successes, both big and small.

Teachers need a boost too!

Winter can be a difficult time, not only for students, but for teachers as well. However, as adults, we understand that no matter how unmotivated we may feel, we must remain accountable. One of the biggest responsibilities for teachers is fulfilling professional development requirements. Driving to take courses after work or on the weekends during the winter can be draining. The Teacher's AcademyLet The Teacher’s Academy make this task a little easier for you. Our helpful courses can be taken from home, at a time that is convenient for you. All of our courses fulfill Act 48 requirements and are accepted in most states. Contact us today and let us help you achieve your professional development goals quickly and effectively so that you can reserve your energy for the important work of teaching.