Friday, January 27, 2012

Friday Finds 1/27/12

Friday Finds are back!  Here are some things that caught my attention this week:

If you are looking for inspiration then start reading some of these:  2011 Best Ed Blogs
If you still need a New Year's Resolution here are some books I want to read in 2012.
Six Word Stories  that will inspire you every day.
Not all words are translatable.
Quotes to share with language learners.
Tutorials like the one pictured above as comics
A cool way to make interactive flyers
Check this out because we should all learn something about the technology we use!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Teaching Organization

It started with this turquoise chevron-patterned notebook.  Perfect for writing notes about the lesson plan for the day's class.  I printed and added a label.

Then I happened across a matching solid turquoise accordion file . . .

Printed labels (umm . . . turquoise ink of course) for the tabs.

Added a label to a matching two-pocket folder.  And just like that, all my teaching materials for one class color-coded and labeled.  No more running to the wrong class with the wrong folder.  No more pulling out a handful of manila folders from my bag and trying to figure out which one has handouts, which one has papers to pass back . .  and where are those quizzes?

Lesson Learned:  I often talk to my students about the importance of organization, suggesting that they keep their notes for each class together and have a place for handouts and other paperwork.  It's nice to talk about it, but it's better to teach by example.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Power of Choice

Today was the third class meeting of the semester.  On the syllabus I gave out the first day I listed the required grammar and reading textbooks for our class.  Then there was this note:  You will also choose three books with your book club.  Today was that day.  I passed out nearly 30 books.  I told each group that they had to look through all the books and choose three that their group would read together as part of a book club.  Although I had explained this the first day, the students seemed stunned.

A lot of hands went up:

  • "Which books should we get?"
  • "Who is going to decide?"
  • "What is your favorite book?"
  • "What kind of book is best?"
  • "How will we agree?"
  • "Any book?

My answer to all of their questions was simple:  "You choose.  It's up to you."
I offered no suggestions, no helpful hints, no direction on how to come to a group consensus.

After that, the students got down to the serious and happy business of looking at all the books and discussing among themselves which ones they wanted to read.

And their final questions:

"When will OUR books be in?  When do we get to start reading?"

Lesson Learned:  Choice makes all the difference.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Before the First Impression

Who is my teacher?

I remember reading an old study (summarized here) back in graduate school, and it has stayed with me ever since.  In the study, researchers explored how to predict teacher evaluations based on "thin slices of behavior."  In a nutshell, they showed  30 seconds of videotape with the sound off of different teachers.  Viewers saw 10 seconds each of the beginning, middle, and end of class.  Based on those silent 30 seconds, they evaluated teachers on different areas such as confidence, likability, professionalism, and so on.  They then compared those results with end of the semester evaluations of actual (and different) students.  The results were strikingly similar!  You can read Harvard magazine's summary or download the full report.  For whatever reason, that study has stuck with me years and years later, influencing me to think about the first impression I make on my students.

Today I was in my office when a student came in asking about a totally different department and teacher.  He was lost and was trying to find out how to add a class.  He told me he had dropped the class he was originally registered for because he looked online at the teacher's college directory photo and decided the teacher was "too quirky" for his tastes.  He dropped because of the the picture!  The student told me he had also scrolled through a few other teachers and if there was no photo, he searched Facebook to see if the teacher had a profile picture he could peruse.  While this student may be a bit more over-the-top than most, I'm betting he is not alone in seeking out a before-class-peek at the teacher.

I spend a lot of time with first-day activities.  I used to fret about my first 30 seconds of walking in the door. Now I'm thinking of what impression students already have in mind of me before they walk through my classroom door.  And up above?  That's my current Facebook profile picture.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Just a Break, not a Break-Up!

My last post was on December 1st.  My last day of the semester was December 16th.  And then I did not do anything school-related until January 11th, and did not have my first class of the semester until January 18th.  I waited to blog again until today.

What I did was take a break!  I didn't check Twitter 10x a day to see what new educational resources were being shared, I didn't read all the teachers' blogs I regularly read, and I didn't prepare lessons or grade papers.

Teachers know how important the time off is between semesters, during holidays, and over summer.  It gives us a chance to gain perspective, take a breath, get some sleep, and pull out from under our piles (real and virtual) of student work.  Then we come back refreshed, ready and excited.

I met the students in my new class Wednesday.  They were as all students are on the first day of class: nervous, shy, worried, and full of questions.  I was ready for them.  Because I took that break!