Wednesday, October 22, 2014

First Day Recipe

I know it is October, and all of the good "What to do on the First Day" blog posts rolled out in August so that teachers could use them for ideas in September!  But . . . I'm coming in late this year as I picked up some late-start classes.  I met two classes for the first time last week, and had another first day of class yesterday.  After teaching for over 20 years,  I have my first day of class pretty down pat, but it might go against the grain.  I stopped reading my syllabus aloud a long time ago.  I don't lecture about myself.  I don't read a long list of punishments if a cell phone rings in class.  I also don't give a lengthy diagnostic test!

Here's my First Day Recipe, tried and tested:

1.  Scope the room out early.
This is important because you don't want to get lost, and you want to know if there is something weird going on in there logistically.  I've been assigned to teach my college ESL classes in science labs, mini-auditoriums with immovable lecture-style seats, computer labs, and trailers.  I check things out because I have to be able to figure out how to factor in group work, walk-in-talk activities, and so on.  I can also do a test run of technology and any other Smart-class tools (or find out that there are NO tech options), so that I can plan accordingly.

2.  Give students something to do as they come in.
Students walk in nervous on the first day and are not sure what to expect.  ESL students are often not just new to the school, but brand new to the country and to the educational system here.  Even students who are familiar with the college could be rushing in just on time or even a bit late after getting lost or walking into the wrong building or room elsewhere.  Most likely there is another class right before mine that is just getting out as I arrive. I need to get set up, turn on any equipment, take out handouts, and so on.  So instead of having students stare at me in silence while this is all going on, I like to have something for students to do right away.  I have them complete a short questionnaire and survey about themselves.  It's one way I can walk away having their email address, and also a chance for me to get to know their nickname if they have one, their technology tools at home, something about their interests and hobbies, and any questions they have.  It's also something that eases them in because they can usually complete it without problem and gives them something to focus on.  While they are doing this, I can take the time to set up, help any students coming in, and walk around a bit.

3.  Get students up and moving and talking right away.
As soon as I can, I like to get them out of their chairs and talking with each other.  There are many ways to do this, but one activity that always works is a Find Someone Who activity.  Students have to walk around and talk to each other and write their names down on a handout that includes boxes with descriptions they have to find matches for.  I like to include spaces for things where they have to find people who have things in common with them such as, someone who was born in the same month as them or someone they have another class with.  I also include things about the class such as, find someone who loves writing essays, or someone who has used Voicethread before.  In this way, students get to meet each other without the formality of a forced pair interview and get to practice their listening and speaking skills.  I love that during this time it's loud and chaotic in the room!  (Students also get to ask me questions).  Because everyone is busy and engaged, then I can monitor and welcome any really late stragglers that come in at this point.

4.  Give students a little information about yourself.  Make them guess!
Students are always curious about their teacher!  They get to watch my welcome video for homework, but for in class, I give them a quiz about me.  We talk about first impressions, and then they answer True/False questions.  I include statements such as, "Denise is a vegetarian.  Denise loves to get up early."  This is a great way for students to learn a bit about me without me having to bore them with a lecture or introduction spiel.  If I have student teachers or other volunteers helping me in class, I prepare a quiz about them as well.  We go over the answers, and then students write three sentences about themselves.  They write two truths and a lie, and it always seems to be a hit.  I have them share their three sentences with their group and then guess the lie.

5.  Give students a taste of what they'll do in class.
Although a big part of the first day of class, especially in an ESL class, is about building class community and getting to know each other, I want students to do something that relates to the course content.  A short activity or exercise related to the level and skills gets everyone on the same page.  In a reading class I usually give them a fun short reading that I may do timed to get a sense of reading speed.  In vocabulary class we learn a few silly words or try to figure out a word of the day.  In a pronunciation class we do some tongue twisters.  Something that gets them interested in the content and gives them a little taste of what's to come sets the stage for the semester.

6.  Get a diagnostic before students walk out the door. 
This comes along the heels of number 5 above.  Especially in a writing class, it's great to have something for me to take home that gives me an idea of where they stand on day 1.  I have had students do a fun cell phone picture share to get to know a group, but then I'll have them write about the picture so that I can see their sentence structure, grammar, and vocabulary level.  In a listening class I've had students listen to a dictation about something interesting happening on campus so that I can take a look at how well their skills are.  A short diagnostic is good for me to have in hand right away so that if a student is clearly misplaced they can get into the correct level class as soon as possible.

7.  Finally, go over class information - just a tease.  Give students the nitty gritty to go over for homework.
Though I do not read the syllabus aloud page by page, I do (finally, after all the fun stuff) go over vital class information.  I pass out a hard copy, and let them know there is more information online at our class LMS.  I point out really important information about how to reach me, and class goals, any attendance policies, and so on.  I really spend less than 10 minutes on this part.  Then I send them home along with a Syllabus Scavenger Hunt worksheet that they fill out.  This means they will actively read it, and be able to ask questions when they come back to the next class.

8.  Give students a take-away.
Instead of having the students walk away empty-handed, I usually give them something related to the class. A bookmark with a quote for a reading class, or a promise of an email I'll send with a silly video of a grammar song they should watch online before the next class.  Call it homework or a "to-do," but basically it's a way for students to start being invested in the class and know that there is something they need to do before the next class besides just show up.

Lesson Learned:  On the first day, build a class community, give students a taste of what's to come, get everyone up and moving . . . and hope they can't wait to come to the next class!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Friday Finds 10/17/14

First week back to teaching and here are a few Friday Finds:

image via icanread
I used to have students use Animoto for Movie Trailers as a book project.  Then I saw these cool templates in iMovie Trailers.

As I copied my syllabi for my new classes this week, this article about Syllabus Tyrannus made me pause.

I may be late to the game, but I just discovered Haiku Deck.

Your Rubric Is a Hot Mess got a lot of traction on Twitter this week.

Lastly, I work a lot in coffee shops (grading papers and responding to forums seems easier that way). This week, I used the Coffitivity app on my phone to work from home.  Love it!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

New Resources for a Veteran Newbie

This week I put my teacher-shoes back on after a relocation and short break from teaching.  Now that I'm picking up a few ESL classes I am back to being a newbie at the institution where I'll be teaching.  Whenever I start a new class, I think about what new resources I will be adding in to my usual repertoire of technology tools.

Here are a few that I know I'll come to depend on:
  • I thought long and hard about using Edmodo, but have decided to go with Canvas for Higher Ed as my LMS of choice.
  • I'll definitely add Makers Films to my list of go-to videos.
  • I'm looking forward to trying out my free account with PowToon.
  • There's an added comic twist here to Six Word Memoirs that can be a nice icebreaker activity.
  • Just for fun, I'd love to find 5 minutes of class time to have students use this Emoji Finder.
I think that's more than enough to get more started!

Monday, August 19, 2013

DIY Lesson Planner

This is the post where I pretend that I haven't been absent from this blog for so long.  Also, it's a post that shows my dorky-teacher side, and my powers of procrastination (Making a lesson planner instead of actually lesson planning?  Check!).  But, it's also about how I ended my hunt for the perfect college teacher's lesson planner/organizer and made my own on the cheap.

It seems like every fall I pick through all the teacher's sections at all the office stores, search Etsy and all the teacher online sites to no avail.  So many of these planners are made for K-12, and so many include pages and sections I don't need like seating charts, class records, and too many subject areas.  Finally, I just hacked this together with a file folder from the dollar bin at Target, tab dividers from the clearance section at Office Depot, and very basic hand-made printables tailored for my schedule in a simple Word doc.  I brought in the pages to Office Depot and had it spiral bound with clear plastic front and back.  Perfect!

Here are all the details:

This cover is a file folder.  I love the print and the weight is perfect for the cover, so I just cut it down to size.  Then I printed out a label and stuck it right on.

Inside the cover, I pressed on a nice little clear envelope sleeve gifted from my officemate and now I have a perfect place to throw in my favorite pens, tabs and fun sticky notes.

Until at least the fifth week, I can never remember my schedule (Which building?  Which room?  What time?)  So I put my schedule as the first page along with those pesky codes and numbers that I need to fill out forms.

I do use my phone calendar for appointments and meetings, but it's nice to have paper calendar in one place for ease and important dates (school holidays anyone?) and deadlines.  I just found this one-month in a two-page view on Pinterest and printed it out for free.

It's nice to see the whole academic year on one page, so I threw in the official college calendars as well.

The lesson plan pages are the meat of this organizer for me.  This is where every other teacher's lesson planner I have seen has failed for me.  As a full-time college teacher I have three classes, spread out over different days, as well as lab hours and meetings.  A very, very simple Word doc chart in a weekly format on a two-page spread lets me see exactly what's happening.  I tailored it to my classes and threw in a To-Do column as well.  If I had thought about it, I would have also preprinted the weeks and dates.  

To avoid having a completely different notebook (or scraps of paper?!), I added in a notes section so that at meetings everything is in one place.

Cute dividers keep everything separated, and I just printed out the sections on clear labels.  Next time I'll use bold so that I can see it a bit easier.  Live and learn.

I wouldn't want to lose this, so on the back cover (same file folder) I added in a return to office location.

Matching mini-bucket for my pens?  That's just icing on the cake.

Lesson Learned:  Sometimes you just have to make it yourself!  I'm off to lesson plan now!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Friday Finds 2/15/13

Of all the Valentine stuff I saw on the web, that one above is my favorite.  I just wish it was the real girlfriend at the end.

Turns out professors do have the expertise needed to make academic decisions.

Some very interesting findings about which teachers are prepared to use technology, and how they are using it.

And if you aren't ready to do much with technology yet, here are some tips on how to fake it.

Ideas on how best to use Google translate when traveling.

6 technologies that will change higher education.

A handy netiquette guide to share with students.

There's been lots of talk about not forcing introverts to talk in class.

These apps seem great: 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Friday Finds 2/8/13

There are more and more educators using Pinterest.

In case you need to scrub your facebook of embarrassing posts and photos.

Brainshark instead of Slideshare.

Still in beta, Wideo is a new tool to make online animations.

Texting that transcends languages with Sendboo.

Go someplace new with Dio.

80s technology and the kids of today!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Is there an App for that?

Over the past two weeks, I have taken all three of my college ESL classes to orientations in computer labs.  We have gone for a variety of reasons:

  • to register for our class learning management system and get familiar with activities on the site.
  • to create accounts and register for different technology tools.
  • to demonstrate how to complete activities on a few different websites

These are some challenges we had while in the computer labs:
  • extremely  s - l - o - w  internet connections
  • no headphones available and not all students had brought headphones
  • two microphones available for a class with 27 students
  • noise and student background noise while recording

The good news is that each and every student in all of my classes is now successfully registered for our learning management system (which happens to be Moodle), and successfully created accounts and completed activities for a few different technology tools.  What caught my attention, however, was that midway through each orientation, students started asking about whether there was an app for the tools we were using.  There is, but I thought it would be easier to go to the lab first, get everyone registered, and then tell them they can download the app later.  Turns out, with the confusion over the headphones and the slow internet speed, the apps were better and faster.  Within minutes, students who had iPads had whipped them out and the rest were on their cell phones downloading the free app.  They completed their recordings easily and finished happily.  The only downside is that our leaning management system is not an updated version available as an app.  Beyond that, though, for the other technology tools, I don't think most of them will go back to a computer to access these tools for the remainder of the semester.

Lesson Learned:  I might not need to take students to the computer lab anymore.  It seems to be a lot easier to just get the app.  

P.S. - the apps (all free) in the picture are listed below: