Take Back Your Plan Time!

Our Education Blogger is a public school teacher with over a decade of experience. She’s an active NEA member and enjoys writing about her experiences in the classroom.

 

Plan time is a vital part of a teacher’s day.  It’s when the “magic” happens, or at least, it’s supposed to.  If you’re like me, plan time mysteriously disappears, taken up by “quick” conversations with a colleague, getting students caught up on work, or communicating with parents, leaving you with little to no time to plan before your next class begins.

 

After a decade of teaching, I feel like I’ve finally figured out how to make the most of my plan time.  While some are blatantly obvious, these 6 little nuggets of wisdom may be just what you need to take back your plan time.

 

Use A Planner

Find a tool to help you plan your week, month, year.  Having everything in one place, and being able to see a week, or month, at a glance is helpful.  Create a digital template, or make one by hand.  Choose from one of the hundreds of editable lesson planner templates available like this basic lesson plan template from Angie Amos on Teachers Pay Teachers.

 

Shut Your Door
I know.  It’s hard.  You don’t want to seem unfriendly or unwelcoming.  However, if you are swamped with grading and planning, this is one step you can’t avoid.  If you feel it necessary, you can even make a little note to stick on your door explaining that you’d LOVE to visit, but you have work to complete.  Uninterrupted plan time is precious!

 

Avoid Scheduling Meetings
Some of us have little control over this one.  However, in my building, our plan time is OUR plan time.  Plan time isn’t allowed to be used for IEP meetings, conferences, or evaluations.  If you can, request that meetings be held at times other than your plan time.

 

Make A Plan Time Schedule

I know it sounds a little strange, but this one helps me stay on track.  Each day I have a specific task I aim to complete.  For example, Mondays I plan out my math lessons and Fridays I re-evaluate my upcoming lessons in case we lagged behind or got ahead that week.  Also, I always reserve about 10 minutes each plan time for parent or colleague communication (save the lengthier conversations for an after-school conference).

 

Delegate Work
If you have teacher’s aides, use them (please don’t ask your paraprofessional if they can help you with work, their job is to help students).  If not, ask a parent volunteer to help throughout the week.  Jobs like making copies, cutting, stapling, sorting, and hanging papers on bulletin boards are ideal for aides or volunteers.  These tasks take up a surprisingly large amount of time, so let someone else help you out!

 

Recruit Student Help
Use peer tutors to assist students who have been absent or who need extra help with assignments.  Offer peer tutors an incentive for their help.

 

Each school year and each day are different.  See what works best for you.  Don’t be afraid to protect your vital plan time.

 

Removing Ads and Distractions From Websites and Videos

Our Education Blogger is a public school teacher with over a decade of experience. She’s an active NEA member and enjoys writing about her experiences in the classroom.

 

Have you ever shown a video to the class only to be bombarded by ads and other distracting content?  Sometimes, that distracting content can be inappropriate for school, and in some situations, get you into trouble!  Educators know to view any videos prior to a class viewing to evaluate its appropriateness, but have you ever thought about what else is happening on the page or video you are watching?  Fortunately, there is something you can do about it.

 

We’ve put together a collection of 6 free resources you can use to remove and block advertisements and other distractions from web pages and videos.  These helpful resources allow you to safely show videos without worry, and they’re all simple to use.

 

AdBlock is one of the most popular ad blockers worldwide with more than 60 million users on Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Edge as well as Android.  It removes ads from YouTube videos, and blocks website and search ads.  Easy to install and free to use within Google Chrome.  Perfect for student research.  Students can become easily distracted by advertisements and videos.  AdBlock helps to keep students focused.

 

NicerTube gets rid of all the fluff, distractions and questionable content around YouTube videos.  Copy YouTube video URL, paste into the required field, choose a background, and create your safe video.  NicerTube generates a new link to your video.  All for free!

 

SafeShare.tv Safely watch and share YouTube and Vimeo videos without advertisements and other unwanted distractions such as annotation, so that they can be viewed safely without the hassle of first having to download and convert videos with YouTube Downloader.  To view a video ad-free, copy and paste the video’s URL into SafeShare.tv’s safe-link generator.  The site will automatically send you to the safe version of your video.  You may also choose a title and description of the video.

 

ViewPure allows users to watch YouTube videos without comments or other distractions. ViewPure removes all comments and related videos, allowing videos to be watched without distractions, or more likely, without “inappropriate content.”  It is simple and free!  No need to copy and paste a URL.  Simply drag and drop the “Purify” button into your toolbar.  Click the “Purify” button when you are on a YouTube page to remove ads and other distracting content.

 

Quietube offers the ability to watch videos without the distractions. To watch web videos without the comments and other unnecessary junk, just drag the quietube button to your browser’s bookmarks bar.  Supports videos from YouTube, Viddler, and Vimeo.  The site seems primitive and is only one page, however, it gets the job done!

 

TubeChop allows you to easily chop a funny or interesting section from any YouTube video and share it.  This is a great, free tool if you want to show part of a video.  Find the video you want to chop, select and cut the video, and share it.  There are no ads or other distractions.

 

We want to hear from you!  What resources do you use to remove ads and other distracting content from videos and websites?  Let us know in the comment section.

 

4 Ways Teachers Can Create A “Perfect” Classroom Seating Arrangement

Our Education Blogger is a public school teacher with over a decade of experience. She’s an active NEA member and enjoys writing about her experiences in the classroom.

 

Creating the “perfect” classroom seating arrangement is one of the more challenging aspects of teaching.  It seems to be a never-ending puzzle!  A good classroom seating arrangement allows students to be focused on learning, and that can only occur when other nuances are addressed.  While you may never be able to achieve the “perfect” classroom seating arrangement, here are some items to ponder so you can come close to it!

 

Prioritize Student Needs

Consider each student’s needs and challenges.  Students who are easily distracted should be placed in an area of the room that provides the least amount of possible interruptions.  If a student has visual or hearing complications, seat them where they can easily see and hear instruction.  A student who needs to leave the room during class time for other services (speech, gifted, etc.) may prefer to be seated near the door to avoid feeling uncomfortable when leaving.  A talkative student may need to be situated with as few classmates as possible.  Do any students have physical limitations that requires equipment or accessibility?

 

Peer Tutors

Are there students in your class that are great role models and could potentially be peer teachers to others?  Seat these students near others who struggle academically or behaviorally.  Be sure to spread them out among your seating arrangement.  Don’t overuse this strategy, as it may be uncomfortable for your stronger students.  They don’t ALWAYS have to be a peer teacher, sometimes they just enjoy being a student.

 

Student Organization

This is a bigger deal at the elementary level if students keep their supplies in their desks.  Allow your less organized students a little extra space.  This may be at the end of a row or the corner of a group.  If their supplies happen to “overflow,” it won’t cause problems with neighboring students.

 

Teaching Style

Think about your own teaching styles and the desk arrangements that will benefit your instruction.  Do you spend most of your time lecturing from a certain location in the classroom?  What about classroom technology, like projectors, SmartBoards, or access to laptops?  Is group collaboration often used?

 

Free Desk Arrangement Generators

Scholastic Classroom Set-Up Tool

Classroom Architect

A 4-Step Guide to Classroom Transitions

Classroom transitions can be time-consuming and steal away precious teaching time.  Whether it’s lining up to go somewhere outside of the classroom, or changing to a different activity, trying to get all students to “switch gears” can be a tricky task.  We can’t expect students to have smooth transitions if we don’t have a structured process and clear expectations.  This 4-step guide can help make your classroom transitions more efficient, so you can spend more time on what matters!

 

  1. Prepare Students to Wrap Up

Use a countdown.  Allow students time to wind down from their current activity or assignment.  This step can be done with an actual timer, lasting the length of a song, or a virtual stopwatch displayed on the screen.  When time is up, students should be prepared to end their current activity.

 

  1. Use An Attention Getting Signal

When it’s time to end an activity, use a signal to get students’ attention. (see 20 Attention-Getters to Quiet Any Noisy Classroom)

 

  1. Explain And Transition

Directly and explicitly, tell students what will be happening next (“put away _____, get out _______, line up to go to _________”).  Initiate this process by using a word other than “go.”  I like using the words “transition” and “let’s get prepared.”  If needed, use another countdown.

 

  1. Monitor

Take note of students who are transitioning correctly and praise them.  Reteach students who seem to struggle with any of the transition steps.

 

When Things Go Wrong

Author Todd Finley offers advice for troubleshooting classroom transitions in his Edutopia.com article “Mastering Classroom Transitions.”  If transitions take too long, Finley suggests making it a challenge to beat another classes’ time.  When student behavior is a problem when lining up, place stickers or dots on the floor several feet apart for students to stand on.  Combine a visual timer and a verbal countdown for students who don’t want to quit what they’re doing.  For younger students, distraction can derail any transition, so singing a song may help keep students on track.

 

As for any process that is new to students, it’s always a good idea to use reminders, even if you think students have it down.  Practice, rehearse, and practice again.

 

 

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Make sure you have the right insurance for the detours or bumps in the road – and enjoy the ride in a new Dodge Journey – visit www.WinAJourney.com

 

 

How to Make the Most of Your Summer Break Without Breaking the Bank

 

Our Education Blogger is a public school teacher with over a decade of experience. She’s an active NEA member and enjoys writing about her experiences in the classroom.

Making the Most of Your Summer Break Without Breaking the Bank

 

If you are lucky enough to have some free time during summer break, take advantage of it.  Don’t let the summer days slip by.  Make the most of your summer without spending much money!

 

Sleep In and Take Naps

How often do you really get to do this?  According to the American Sleep Association, sleep is a basic, biological need, and if we are deprived of sleep, our bodily systems fail.  The average adult needs about 8 hours of total sleep time each day (ASA).  So, no need to feel bad about sleeping in that extra hour or taking a quick snooze on the couch during the day.  It’s for your health!

 

Find Free Activities

Make a list of the free festivals, carnivals, fairs, and other summer activities that your city or town has to offer during the summer.  When you notice you have a free day, see what’s on the list for that day and have fun!

 

Exercise

Use your summer days to get back into an exercise routine.  Use your break to fine tune your routine so you can transition easily into the following school year.  The best part about summer is that there are a variety of activities you can do: swimming, biking, canoeing, kayaking, skating, jogging, hiking . . . well, you get the idea.

 

Have a Staycation

It’s time to explore your own town or city.  Take a stroll through a local hiking or nature area.  Visit a local museum, zoo, or aquarium.  Eat out at a new-to-you restaurant.  Or simply lounge at the pool soaking up the sun.

 

Get Outside

There are many benefits to spending time outdoors.  As the Harvard Health Letter titled “A Prescription for Better Health: Go Alfresco” says, spending time outdoors will raise your vitamin D levels, cause you to get more exercise, make you happier, improve your concentration, and might make you heal faster.

 

Spend Time with Friends

Carve out time each week to have lunch with a friend, or a group of friends.  Maintaining meaningful relationships is important to your well-being.  The Mayo Clinic says there are many health benefits to having friends including boosting one’s happiness, reducing stress, improving self-confidence, reduced significant health problems, and  longer life spans.

 

Get Ahead on Professional Development

If you have “extra” time during your summer break, think about squeezing in some professional development so you won’t have to work on it during the school year.  Don’t have the monetary resources to take coursework?  No need to worry, I have created a list of 6 Free Professional Development Resources for Educators.

 

Organize

Take a few hours each week to do that “spring cleaning” you never got around to.  Focus on one room or area at a time.  Purge, clean, and organize.  You’ll feel like you can tackle the upcoming school year with ease if you have a clean and organized home.

 

How do you make the most of your summer break?

 

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