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:

Friday Finds 2/1/13

photo by

Do you still do any of these things?

Good news for college instructors:  College is still worth it!

If you must print, then only print what you like.

Pictochart to make Infographics

Forget the digital immigrant vs. digital native debate.  We need digital Vikings!

The Current State of Plagiarism

How to Get the Most out of Your Midterm Exams

The Pep Talk we all need!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Friday Finds 1/25/13

A few things I wanted to share this week:

Mind Mapping Tools

This is so true:  The Myth of the Super Teacher

Speed Reading Activities from slow to fast.

I'm supposed to be doing this!

Dear Photo

This fake Amazon page is the most clever resume ever.

UtellStory might be just what I was looking for to replace Microsoft Photostory

Biteslide looks cool too.

These annotating apps for the iPad all look like great choices.

A Bucket List of tech tools.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Friday Finds 1/18/13

photo from icanread

Could you only check email on Fridays?

I vow to do this more with my student Twitter account. seems like an easy way to get your voice out there.

Pronunciation Power is a nice app for students.  Free for a limited time.

A high school junior fights cyberbulling with sincere compliments.

In case you are wondering which writing resources your students use the most.

Start a Reading Revolution

I love sites like i can read and one photo a day.

Do less: it was a busy week for me, but I'd like to keep this in mind next week.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

My Students by the Numbers

Classes are still settling.  Students are adding, dropping, switching, getting on and off wait lists, but with my core students the surveys are coming in and these are my numbers so far:

73:    Total number of students in all 3 classes

0:      the number of students who do not have a computer to use at home
0:      the number of students without internet access at home
0:      the number of students without a cell phone
15:    the number of students who don't have smartphones
52:    the number of students who had never used Insight (CCSF's course management system)
73:    the number who think technology tools can enhance their educational experience

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Please Take Out Your Cell Phone

I know most teachers at my college tell students to turn off, silence, and put away their cell phones when they walk into class.  Many have a list of consequences of what will happen if their cell phone rings or vibrates during class, and heaven help the student who is caught texting under their desk!  (I've written about this before here.)

For the record, I don't want my students to be distracted by texts from their friends, Facebook updates, or their turn to Draw Something.  Still, cell phones are powerful mini-computers and can be amazing educational tools (if used correctly).

So today (day 2 of the semester) I asked my students to take out their cell phones.  Here's what they did:

1.  In small groups they shared a photo from their phone.  This is a great ice-breaker activity.  They talked about who or what the photo was about, where it was taken, and so on.  Just for fun, I showed them these two photos from my phone:

City College of SF this morning!

My boys goofing around last weekend.

Ice-breaker activities can be difficult, and especially in ESL classes, students can take awhile to warm up.  Creating a class community is my number one goal the first week of class.  Sharing a photo is an easy way for students to get to know each other.  One other thing I noticed was that some students in the groups exchanged phone numbers - in order to have someone to call if they miss class or have questions later. 

2.  After discussing their photo, I asked the students to share any educational or learning apps they use on their phones.  Many did not have any.  A few had ebooks, some reported using translators, but most had no educational apps.  Then I shared one that I think can be helpful:  This free app can also be used online as a regular website.  I showed them how they can get a "Word of the Day" and also how to "Favorite" words to create word lists (helpful for studying for vocabulary quizzes).

3.  Finally, I had students use a photo from their phone for their writing sample.  Students described one photo, and I had a piece of writing to gauge their level.

During the one hour class that every student had their cell phone out, everyone was engaged in the activities and discussion, and I got some great personal writing from students.

Lesson Learned:  Cell phones don't always have to be turned off.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Things I Want to Share with my Students

A few links I plan to share with my students as this semester gets started:

This video which shows why I'll be using Google Forms to connect with them.

How does our classroom compare with Classrooms Around the World?

Since they turn to Google, some tips on Better Google Searches

A simple video from Commoncraft about how plagiarism is cheating and dishonest.

A great tutorial on Information Savvy including searching better and using information correctly

Why we will be blogging:  it's the new persuasive essay

If they like to use flashcards, they can check out StudyBlue

I hope they are using their cell phones to study more, not  cheat more!

Instead of Reading My Syllabus Aloud

Students are nervous the first day.  They wonder who their teacher is, they wonder if the class will be difficult . . . they hope they are even in the correct room.  Instead of going over the syllabus by reading it aloud, I showed this video (in the rooms where I couldn't, this is their first homework assignment).  I think this is a much better way to start the semester!

Friday, January 11, 2013

My Anchor

To say that it is a challenging time at the City College of San Francisco is an understatement.  Accreditation woes, a budget crisis, faculty and staff pay cuts, and so on continually bring me down.  But today I heard some great advice:  that we should think about what our anchor is, and hold on to it.  Remember what brings us joy in our work, and in our field.  Picture this anchor often, when we wake and before we sleep.  In other words, keep it in the forefront of our minds and hold on tightly.  That we will need our anchor as we move through this semester.

I thought about it and my anchor is my students.  I look forward to meeting them on Monday, and I'll hold tight to them - hoping to see engagement in their learning and excitement over their progress.  I look forward to improving my own teaching and learning, and feel thankful that I have them as my anchor.

Friday Finds 1/11/13

It's a new year and a new semester.  Kicking it off by getting back to blogging!