A High School Teacher’s Experience with Keeping the Pace after Snow Days

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With February break approaching and the school days dwindling due to the onslaught of snow, I had to figure out how to get to a natural stopping point on the Friday before break. I do hate to end for an extended period of time on a cliffhanger.  I debated speaking at twice my normal rate and cutting out a few activities, but that seemed rather tedious and dreadfully boring.  “There’s got to be a way,” I thought as I watched the snow continue to drop out of the sky.

As I continued to ponder, I came across a video that I had made two years prior when I had to miss class for a Student Council meeting. To ensure that all of my classes were around the same point, I recorded a brief lecture that my students watched and responded to in class. The video began with a “Do Now” to get the students thinking and had a series of questions throughout the presentation. When I returned to class, we discussed their material they had just covered. I decided that I was going utilize the idea of this video lesson to help me find my natural stopping point prior to vacation.

Flipped Classroom is when students listen to lectures outside of class and complete activities based upon those lectures in class. It is an interesting concept of which a few of my colleagues are advocates. As I am in the Social Studies realm, I have heard of Massachusetts middle school teacher Elizabeth Miller’s experience flipping her classroom and I wanted to try it out. By flipping one of my lectures, I would be able to complete the week with an active lesson!

To do this, I tried out both Explain Everything , an iPad app, and Snagit, a Chrome extension and app. With Explain Everything, explain everything was relatively easy to use. I converted a presentation to PowerPoint and loaded it to Explain Everything. I then recorded and sent the video directly to Youtube. While I was going to do this for the next lecture, it could not play videos from Youtube. I sought out suggestions from my education friends on Twitter and a fellow high school history teacher recommended Snagit (Snagit is also a free Google Chrome App and Extension – you need both). Snagit works on my desktop and could record Youtube videos. It also allowed me to use Google Slides similarly to the way I use them in class. (I’ve also utilized QuickTime for Screencasts, but wanted to try out some new toys for this.)

Today, I assigned one of the lectures to my students to have completed by Friday. This way, they have plenty of time to watch them at school if they would like.

In the future, I am going to keep this in mind as an option and possibly may use these vides to help students who were not in class.

Want to see a Screencast in action? Watch the video below!

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Post written by New Member Committee Member Michael Milton

You can follow Michael on Twitter: @42ThinkDeep

Follow MTA New Members on Twitter: @MTANewMembers and find us on Facebook!

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Another Snow Day?: A Middle School Teacher’s Reflections on Lesson Planning and the Effects on Students

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“Hello, this is the superintendent’s office of the Malden public schools.  There will be no school tomorrow, Tuesday, February…”  Wait… is this a broken record?  Didn’t I just get this phone call yesterday?  And last week – twice?  And the week before last for four days in a row?

This year has been incredible for snow days.

Truth is, though, I absolutely love snow.  I still get giddy with excitement when there is the prediction of a big snow storm coming, and I look forward to watching through my windows as the snow falls, to going out to take walks and pictures in the snow. So, despite the number of days off and the sheer volume of snow, I have been rather content.

Then I think of the impact it all has on my professional life.

Of course, a few days of extra time off can be great for catching up on grading or lesson planning.  However…

The school where I teach runs on a 4-day rotation schedule.  Every odd-numbered day has 65-minute core class blocks, while even-numbered days have 55 minute blocks.  So every time we miss school, I have to go back to my plan book to figure out how my lessons can be adapted to different class lengths.  Sometimes this is easy – the 10-minute quiz that would have been given at the end of class on Tuesday can instead be tacked onto the end of Wednesday’s class.  Sometimes it is really tricky.  I like to schedule laboratory activities to fit into the longer blocks to allow as much time as possible for exploration and inquiry.  When snow days interrupt the schedule it interferes with this timing and I have to get creative to figure out how to fit the activities into shorter amounts of time without throwing off the rest of my planning (I like to plan two to three weeks in advance).

Another complicating factor is the amount of review that must be done to help kids remember the foundational knowledge they have built, especially after a long string of time off as we had last week.  Ultimately, it is not difficult to ask a few questions to help kids remember what we worked on before the disruption, but the time for these questions must be carved out of a lesson that I have already planned down to the minute; I have to prioritize and decide what can be cut to make space.

Finally, and perhaps most frustratingly, is to think about how the weather impacts my students.  Two of my students did not come to school Wednesday and Thursday of last week; we got a message from the assistant principal informing us that their parents said that they could not walk through the snow to school because of a lack of proper footwear.  So they missed even more time due to the weather.  I know, also, how many of the students look forward to and appreciate coming to school because of the safety and security they feel from the daily routine, the adults with whom they interact, and from their friends.  I know that for many of them the additional time away from school can be emotionally stressful.

In the end, I do enjoy snow and snow days – I really can’t see that ever changing.  But, I temper my happiness some in consideration of the full picture of what they mean.  I am not sure what the solution is to these problems – after all, it is winter in New England and there will be snow.  However, it is a subject that demands consideration, especially with the prospect of climate change increasing the strength of snowstorms going forward (I had to drop that in!  Science teacher obligation).

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Post written by Laura Vago, a New Member Committee Member and 7th grade Science teacher in Malden, MA.

Follow Laura on Twitter: @LRVago

So Many Snow Days: An Elementary School Teacher’s Perspective on Routines and Patience

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Since when do teachers get tired of snow days? I can’t believe I’m saying this, but now that I’ve had my fifth snow day in two weeks, I am officially sick of them! (Knowing that this puts our last day of school as June 25th isn’t helping matters either!) While my students may enjoy these days immensely, these frequent days off definitely cause some major disruptions to our learning. When we do finally get back to school, it’s important to stay on schedule. Despite the size of the snow piles outside, there is still curriculum to teach and deadlines to meet. So how do I keep my second graders focused and engaged? Two ways: routine and patience.

Routine is important for children at all ages, but especially so at the elementary level. My students thrive on it. I spend so much time the first few weeks of school establishing routines. It seems silly, going over in detail things such as how to make a lunch choice, how to line up at the door quietly, how to do classroom jobs, and how to carry chairs safely in the classroom. Once we master the basics, we start practicing more difficult tasks: how to fill out a homework log, how to hand in homework, how to do independent work, how to work with a partner, and how to work with a small group. Everything is modeled, practiced, modeled again, and practiced again. If there is ever a point in the year that I feel my students are no longer successful at these tasks, we take a step back and start the modeling and practicing all over again. And you know what? It works! This is the point in the year that I begin to notice how much our established routines are helping to facilitate learning. Transition times are down, and my students understand my expectations. There might not be school Monday, but when my students arrive on Tuesday, they will know that we will begin our day with morning work, have morning meeting, and then continue our biography unit.

While routine is key, there are times when unfortunately, our schedule needs to change. Take last week for example. We had two snow days in a row, giving us only a three day week. I teach spelling to my class on a weekly basis. Usually, the pattern is introduced on Monday, practiced throughout the week, and tested on Friday. Three days did not seem like a sufficient amount of time to allow my students to learn their words, so I decided not to have spelling last week. In the eyes of seven and eight year olds, this decision is of monumental proportions…probably just as exciting as winning the lottery, if not better. This is when patience comes into play. I made it clear to my students why were are not studying spelling that week, gave frequent reminders (sometimes several times a day), and reminded myself to take a few deep breaths when my students still asked on Friday, “Hey, why aren’t we taking a spelling test?” I’ve changed their routine, and it’s hard for them to adjust. Patience, patience.

So now I sit, watching the snow continue to come down, and wonder what routines I will need to alter this week, and wonder how much patience we will all need to have to adjust accordingly. For now, I will have to maintain my own snow day routine: shovel, rest, repeat!

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Post written by MTA New Member Committee Member Jessica Rosenthal.

Jessica teaches second grade in Stoughton, MA. You can read more about Jessica’s experiences as a second grade teacher by visiting her blog “Saving the World One Second Grader at a Time”

Follow Jessica on Twitter: @JessMorningstar

Follow MTA New Members on Twitter: @MTANewMembers and find us on Facebook!