Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Paint Chips & Grouping Students

Do you need a quick, FUN and easy way to put your students into small groups to practice speaking or to play language games like I do?  I put my students into smaller groups almost every day, and I like to make sure that the groups are varied so that students aren't working with the same person each time.  You can use paint chips from your local hardware store to accomplish this with pizazz!  It just so happens that I've been saving paint chips from our various home projects over the years.  Somehow I knew that I'd find a use for them someday :).  And then I heard a speaker mention this idea at a workshop I was at a few weeks ago.

Cut the paint chips into individual strips or squares, then put all the chips of one color (they can even be different hues of that color) into Ziploc bags.  You can see from the photo that I have bags of yellow, orange, green, purple and brown.  Then if I wanted to put my class into groups of 3, I would take 3 chips from each bag  (until I had the same number of chips as students in the class) and drop them into a basket.  As students enter the class, you ask them to take a chip. And then you tell all the purples to find each other, and so on.  An added benefit for me is that I can tell my students to find their colors in French, and therefore use this as an opportunity to review at the same time :).  It has occurred to me that students would catch onto this idea quickly and might try and take the same color as their friends after a while, defeating my purpose of mixing up the groups frequently.  A solution to this would be just to hand out the chips randomly rather that to allow students to choose their own.

Other ideas mentioned for grouping students in a similar manner included cutting small photos into pieces and asking students to find the other pieces of their photo, and giving students lyrics to a popular song and asking them to find others with lyrics to the same song.

I think all of these are wonderfully creative and interesting ways to group students, and I'm looking forward to trying them out in the fall!  How about you?

Monday, July 2, 2012

5 Things Exceptional Teachers Never Forget

Hoorah for summer!  Although school has been out for a while, today feels like the first day of summer for me since I've been busy attending workshops for the past few weeks.  I heard from several experienced edcuators who shared from their wealth of knowledge what they've learned over the years.  Mostly they reminded me of some important things that I already knew, but that are easy to forget when one is focused on the daily responsibilities of teaching.  I'd like to share what I was reminded of with you :).  
  1. Students will believe what you tell themDr. Sharon Faber reminded me of this truth...and it is so easy to forget!  High school students may look like adults, but they are truly still children in many ways, and will often believe what you tell them simply because you are the teacher.  So remember to say such things as, "This is going to be your best year ever!", because they will leave your classroom telling others that this is going to be their best year just because you said it would be.  Don't miss that chance to have this type of influence!
  2. You have more power than you realize:  Dr. Debbie Silver encouraged us to make connections with students in whatever way is natural.  For her, it was writing letters.  She wrote letters to each of her students every year at some point during the year.  She told us a heart-rending story about a student that contacted her years later that would make any teacher cry.  She had written him a letter when he was in the sixth grade, and the following summer he was abducted by a child molester while at a park.  He eventually escaped and returned home, but had become a violent person as a result of the abuse he'd endured.  One day his father told him to get help or leave because he was tearing the family apart.  As he was packing his things and thinking that the world might be better off without him, he found her letter.  When he read it, he cried for the first time since his ordeal began.  In that letter she'd said, "Always remember that you don't have a right to leave this earth until you give something back."  The letter gave him the courage to decide to try one more time.  He went to therapy one more time, and this time he turned his life around.  His counselor suggested that he keep the letter as a keystone, to help him remember his former self when he felt he was losing his way.  So he did.  He eventually graduated and went into the military, and he promised himself that if he made it back home again, he'd find Debbie and let her know what the letter had meant to him.  Isn't that incredible?!!  Teachers...this is a testimony to the power we have to make a difference.  The pain produced by evil was overcome in the life of this child by the positive words a teacher took the time to write down!!!  Thank you, Debbie, for sharing this story.  
  3. Sometimes, you have to "fake it":  Sharon Faber talked about how important it is to make our students feel welcome and how much our attitude sets the tone of our classrooms.  It's important for our students to feel that we're happy to see them.  It affects their learning!  Obviously, we don't always feel happy to see them every day of the year, because we are human and we have our own ups and downs.  That's when it's most important to smile and tell them (as sincerely as possible) that we're happy to see them, even if we have to fake it a little bit.  I couldn't agree more! 
  4. It's important to take care of yourself:  Teaching is a helping profession, and we spend so much of our time giving ourselves away to help others that it's easy to put ourselves last and to begin to neglect our own needs if we're not careful.  Don't let this happen!  Debbie Silver encouraged us to take care of our health (get enough sleep & excercise, eat well, and go to the doctor when you need to).  I encourage you to take time to relax, slow down and to "smell the roses" this summer.  It is so important to recharge during these months.  In other words, we need to make sure our buckets are full of water if we hope to be able to give any away!
  5. Teaching is the hardest & most meaningful job on the planet:  Every speaker I heard last week said this in one way or another.  I'm sure that there are other jobs that are even more challenging than teaching, but anyone who has spent time as a classroom teacher knows that what society believes about our profession is completely false.  I finally decided a few years back to quit trying to convince non-educators that my job was challenging.  Instead, I agree with them about how fabulous the hours and vacations are, and suggest that maybe they should have gone into teaching as well :).  I know what the truth is: it's really hard work, but it's worth it.  It was so refreshing to hear those who've had experience validate this. 
I hope you've been inspired by some of these reminders like I was.  Have a wonderful summer!


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