Using a Text File as a Digital Notepad

I used to keep a yellow pad on my desk where I would scrawl notes as my teaching day wore on: “3rd period made it to page 40” or “Call Johnny’s mom about his tardiness.” If I thought of an idea for the next day’s lesson, remembered that I needed to set up a meeting with other teachers, or realized there was something I needed for the classroom, I wrote it here. At the end of the day, I would take these notes and process them by either taking action on them, recording them in Evernote, or adding the notes to my task management system (I use Omnifocus).

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The Advantages of Archiving with Gmail

My school district recently entered the Google ecosystem, including switching our e-mail service to Gmail. I have been using Gmail for my personal e-mail for years, and I was very happy to hear about the switch. One of the features that I love most is Gmail’s “Archive” button, which allows me to archive e-mail instead of deleting it, clearing my inbox without getting rid of important e-mails. This one feature provides big advantages when it comes to managing e-mail.

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Using Evernote for Lesson Planning

Evernote is a great tool for daily lesson planning. Having a record of our lessons, including what went right and wrong with the lesson as well as ideas for next time, is an invaluable tool for being effective and improving as a teacher. Here is how I handle daily lesson planning using Evernote.

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Making Word Walls Work

I’ve understood the value of word walls for quite some time, but always had trouble implementing them in my own classroom. I would start with good intentions, setting up a poster labeled with the letters of the alphabet and writing the words my students were learning in big letters on the poster. However, after a few weeks I would start forgetting to add words to the poster, or I would have so many words in certain parts of the alphabet that my word wall would begin to look lopsided.

I recently found a solution that is working for me. Rather than create a poster, I’ve settled on pinning words written on 4×6 note cards to my bulletin board instead. I keep colored markers (these are my favorite for the classroom) and push pins in the top drawer of my desk. When I want to add new terms to the word wall I can quickly grab cards, write the words on the card, and pin them to the wall in under a minute, often during class while students are working on writing sentences or interacting in some other way with the new words. The speed with which I can do this has reduced my resistance and forgetfulness in adding words to my wall.

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Getting to Know All of Your Students

As the first quarter of the school year comes to a close, I usually find that I still don’t know all of my students’ names. Yes, this is somewhat forgiveable, considering that at the secondary level we have somewhere around two-hundred names to remember, but I want to stop having that awkward moment when I pull a student’s card (I use stacks of 3×5 cards to randomly call on students) only to find that I’m not sure who I’m calling on.

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Keeping a “Beginning of the Year” Inventory

As the summer winds down, I use a “Beginning of the Year” inventory to make sure that I am ready for the upcoming school year. My inventory includes three categories: supplies, documents, and to-do’s. The supplies are the physical items I should have in my classroom. The documents are mostly computerized, and include my yearly plan, unit plans, lesson plans, curriculum letter, and so on. The “to-do” list includes all of the things I need to have completed before the first day of school, including calendaring school meetings and events, putting my student rosters into an excel spreadsheet for tracking their progress (I will write about this at some point in the future), creating seating charts, and more.

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