Tuesday, May 18, 2010

10 Things Teachers Should Pitch This Spring

I've been keeping a little notebook of things I've noticed, seen, read about, or heard about this year that I believe need to be pitched when teachers spring clean their classrooms. Time-wasters, tests, stuff, ideas, etc.- if it needs GO it's on the list (in no particular order). Standardized tests by the way are a given- you won't find them below, we all know where they should be.

My PLN has also helped contribute to this list (thank you!) and I welcome comments and additions!

    1. Shoebox Dioramas. I. Hate. Them. If you want to see how much money your students' parents can shell out, if you want to see a second grader cry, if you want to waste time, and have a completely pointless object in your room, tiffing off your janitor when throw-away day comes- then by all means, diorama away. I don't know anyone who has a career where they have to go to work and make a model in a box. I'm sure they're out there- I just don't personally know any of them. But I feel pretty confident that we are completely wasting our students' time coming up with ways to fit construction paper and legos into a paper rectangle. Who really has to do this kind of thing in their career?   
    2.  Acrostic Poetry. I love poetry and I know that acrostic poetry has its place. I tend to think it is kindergarten, but I have seen some very profound acrostic poetry written by middle school students. Why is it on the list then? Because it is the go-to poetry type teachers tend to go to when they a) don't really know any other kind of poetry, or b) just want to dumb down an activity so the "low" kids have something to turn in. Fight the urge! There are so many other types of brilliant form poetry, and- heaven forbid- we could actually let our kids do some free verse!
    3. Giving kids the answers. I know this one sounds weird, but really, I actually heard a teacher tell a group of us the other day that she sometimes gives kids the answers so they can raise their hands with the correct answer and feel successful. Yeah...I don't even know where to start with that one....
    4. Hard Copy Portfolios. Digitize people. Digitize. It's more befitting to their future, makes your classroom cleaner, and gives students a greater sense of pride and ownership when it's online. Bonus- it allows for much easier parent-teacher communication. Drop.io is a great, free, easy, site to use to get started on this. (If you have a spare Franklin you could purchase this nifty little tool and make this oodles more interesting.)
    5. Decorative Border. I know. I heart @smilemakers too, but The Sisters, have taught me a valuable lesson this year, we need the stuff on the boards to stand out, not the border. Solid colors (they recommend black) reduce visual noise and therefore reduce stress.
    6. Posters. Ugh. I hate "doing posters" almost as much as I hate shoebox dioramas. When was the last time someone had to put together a poster for their job. Come to think of it, I can't remember having made a poster for my adult life at all? (Maybe a "Cubs Rock!" sign- of course not this year...but....well...I digress...) Multimedia presentations are where it's at, posters take up space, are a waste of time, only prove how well you can (or can't) color, and make me out to be a witch when I won't share my Sharpie collection.
    7. Library Pocket Cards. Oh these fun little things are the icing on a teacher-supply cake. But taping these into your books, filling out little white cards, and scheduling classroom library checkout, is just a huge time waster. Why not digitize your classroom library? Get rid of the cards and have students checkout online. Creating a simple google aps form makes this a snap.
    8. Powerpoints. Powerpoint used to be the big thing. A few years ago any teacher who had his/her students making a powerpoint was really "innovative." Sorry. It's old. Students should now be creating blogs, glogs, videos, prezis, etc. Rushton Hurley shared this idea at ICE 2010: If you love powerpoints do a search for them on google and have your students evaluate the ones already created.
    9. Going through homework. @davidwees shares that going through homework is a huge waste of time, and I quite agree. Taking thirty minutes to get out the red pen and check homework answers is asinine. The kids who don't get it need more instruction and the kids who do have to sit there, bored, (which often leads to classroom chaos), and it takes away time everyone could be doing something more productive. Come to think of it, maybe we should just pitch homework...(a post for another time.)
    10. Assignment Notebooks.  This can go two ways. These cost money; money taken out of text-book funds that could be spent elsewhere (like those fun gadgets in #4). Teachers and students have good intentions and start using them in the beginning of the year, but by Christmas they are stuffed at the bottom of a locker, torn into shreds, or worse- still sitting pristine unused. What a waste. Use an online calendar instead, SMS, twitter, or podcast dates and homework assignments. Alternatively: If the above options aren't realistic and you enjoy this communication format then use it with integrity. I'm not saying you need to check to make sure students are filling them out every day; but periodically would be nice if that is what your expectations are. Find multiple creative ways of using them, like marking famous dates in history, dates your class received favorite tweets from other classes, write positive notes back and forth to parents, use the margins to make lists or complete exit slips. Really take advantage and use them to their fullest- all year- or don't use them at all.
    This isn't a complete list, by any means, but it's a start. What do you think is missing? What should we be throwing in the trash at end-of-year clean up?

    (Author's Note: The adorable cat photo was taken by Sticky Pixels, found using a creative commons flickr search.)

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