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Gift Yourself

What teacher wants to spend the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas break lesson planning meaningful, engaging activities? We want to sit back and just make it to break without going gray.

This year, I want to help with that goal. These are my favorite low-prep technology-integrated activities that will impress your administrators without causing you one bit of stress.
This complete unit is great for upper elementary students. Each concept has an instructional video and foldable activity for an interactive notebook. The best part is that by the time your students have had all 14 lessons, they will be able to create the most incredible PowerPoint presentations without any of your help. Imagine how impressed their classroom teachers will be if you send them back with the ability to make a professional presentation without asking for help along the way!

Every student needs research skills. This 7 lesson unit provides them with all of the steps for responsible and effective online research and all of the work is done for you (the teacher). Simply load the Microsoft Word files to a password-protected page on your class website and then step back and watch the learning unfold. With right-there questions from the linked learning modules, your students can complete all 7 lessons independently. End the 7 weeks of lessons with a research project and I guarantee it will be the easiest 2 months of classes ever! (This assumes you see your students once a week like me- timeline may vary)
For your youngest students, teach them Microsoft Word skills with these instructional videos and Word templates. It will require your students to be readers so that they can follow simple text directions. I do these lessons with late first grade or beginning 2nd graders (sometimes both, depending on the group of students and their skill retention). Also note that I have similar units for PowerPoint and Excel. 

I don't know about how it is at your school, but this time of year when the technology breaks (projectors, laptops, iPads, etc.) teachers freak out. That is why I developed units that require very little of my input. I am always being pulled out of my classroom to go fix something. When a TA or a teacher has to trade places with me, I can walk away confidently because I know my students won't need much help. These also make great substitute plans. Last school year I had to be out for a week unexpectedly, and it was so stress-free because I just used a unit like these for each grade level. 

How do you stay sane this time of year? Are you organized in your planning? Do you have the required I Can Statements for your classes? Join my stress-free teaching lifestyle. You can thank me later ;-)

p.s. Since I want this to be the best holiday season ever, I'm giving you an opportunity to win some money! Enter the giveaway below. a Rafflecopter giveaway
Brittany Washburn
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Classroom Management Ideas for Specials Teachers

Classroom management can be so tricky, especially for a new teacher. I know I struggle with wanting my classroom environment to be "special" while also keeping students serious and focused enough to cover some intense topics. I am fortunate to have supportive team mates, but 4 out of the 5 of us have been doing this less than 6 years. We had to put our heads together to come up with a plan that would work for all of us, and it is still evolving.

Classroom Management Ideas for Specials Teachers

Classroom Management System

We really needed a way to communicate with the homeroom teachers. The time we have between classes is so limited, so we had to come up with something quick and meaningful. We decided to do a scoring system. On the board, each class starts with 5 points (we use the letters ROCKS, because our mascot is a "Rocker Man"- imagine a teenager with a guitar).

Classroom Management Ideas for Specials Teachers

The only time a letter (and point) is taken away is for voice level infractions. Each specialist has a chart similar to this one hung in his/her classroom.
Classroom Management Ideas for Specials Teachers

Establishing Classroom Expectations

We work so hard at the beginning of each school year to make sure all students understand the expectations. We practice the different voice levels. Model what each sounds like, and practice some more. Since we only see each class once per week, it is important to go over the expectations again at the beginning of each class. In my room, I expect them to come in without talking. If there are more than 5ish students talking when they come in and sit down, I take a letter away. This is a whole class consequence, so if it is just one student then I address it with that one student. Whenever I have to take away a letter I stop the entire class and talk about why they are losing a letter. I usually ask the class why they think they are losing a letter. I call on 2-3 students to answer. I always try to call on someone who was talking too loudly and someone who was doing the right thing. Many times I can get an apology out of a student who was not following expectations! Then I send them back to work understanding that if the talking continues then I will have no choice but to take another letter.

At the end of class, we look at how many letters we still have left. Each specialist has a cute little slip of paper with our symbol on it where we write the score.

Classroom Teacher Buy-in

I wait until the teacher has arrived to write the score. I make them line up following all expectations and leave the sheet blank until we can talk about what the score is and why they are getting it. I love it when we can do this with the teacher standing in the doorway. It helps her/him understand how class went without us having a separate conversation. When I walk around the school, I see our score sheets hung on the classroom door (but only if its a 5). Many times when a teacher drops a class off, she/he will remind them that a 5 is expected ("Class, show me on your hand what score you are aiming for today," and all the students hold up their hand showing a 5). If the teacher doesn't do this at drop-off, I will ask them before they walk into my classroom. I like to remind them each week.
Classroom Management Ideas for Specials Teachers

Individual Students Not Following Expectations

So what do we do if an individual student is causing the problem, or if the infraction has nothing to do with voice level? We have a "Think Sheet."
Sometimes it is necessary to send a student out of the classroom (he or she is being disruptive, showing anger and needing a break, or came into class with something going on and just can't get it together to focus on the lesson). We are so lucky to have the other specials classes in the same area of the school. I can send 3 students out at a time if needed, but I've never had to send more than 2. The Art, Music, and PE teachers are all on board with this method. We take a minute to grab a Think Sheet and fill out the top (name of student, what student needs to do while out, how long I expect it to take). Depending on the student, sometimes I send them with a responsible buddy. Or, I send the student out and send another student over with the Think Sheet a minute later because sometimes the disruption just needs to go!
Classroom Management Ideas for Specials Teachers

The bottom half of the sheet is to be filled out by the student. It starts with a simple checklist of what he/she did. Then some short-answer questions asking the student to reflect on his/her behavior. I expect the student to sign it. When the student finishes the Think Sheet, he/she can come back to class. Usually by the time the student comes back, the rest of the class is working and I can take a minute to talk with the student. I always let him/her know that their teacher and parents will be signing this form as well. Most students aren't happy to hear this, but they need to take responsibility- especially when they interrupted the learning of their classmates.

Most teachers are happy to receive the Think Sheet and send it home to the parents, because they are seeing the same type of behaviors throughout the day. Having feedback from someone else is reassuring. I try to snap a photo of the Think Sheet before it leaves my classroom because they rarely make it back to me. I want to have the documentation.

Only once this school year did I have a student come back acting worse than when he left. I called the office for someone to come get him and I was able to use the Think Sheet to show that I tried on my own, but was unsuccessful.

Student Buy-in

Finally, I think it is so important to be open with students about what is expected of them academically each class. Since I teach Science and Technology, my "I Can Statements" display is packed. There is always at least one technology standard and one science standard addressed for each grade level.
Classroom Management Ideas for Specials Teachers

I start class with a warm up question and then tell them the standards we are working on that day. I can then use that I Can Statement as a guiding question during the lesson. In my experience, students are more engaged when they can see and understand what they are working toward. Most of the time during the last 5 minutes of class, I bring the students back together and let them share at their tables a specific question, or what they learned that day. I love to tell them to also choose one student who will be responsible for sharing what his/her table learned. Even if I don't get around to letting every table share, by having them think they will have to share out (and usually I have time for 1 or 2 tables to share) they will take the conversation more seriously.

Hopefully this post will help you with some ideas for your own classroom. The main advice I can give is to have the same schedule every day (warm up questions, directions, independent work, group reflections, wrap up, etc.). I also keep them very busy. It is rare that everyone finishes the entire assignment. These 2 things have been the key to my successful Science and Technology program.

Are you looking to connect with other technology teachers? Join my Technology Teacher Tribe Facebook Group.

Classroom Management Ideas for Specials Teachers
Brittany Washburn
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Technology Vocabulary Activity Your Students Will Love

Hi my loyal readers! Today I want to tell you about a teaching unit I do with my upper elementary students. Everyone loves QR codes, right? Well here is a way for your students to take ownership of their learning, combine 21st century skills, and have a product to show for it. Check out the video for details of this fun activity.

The website I refer to in the video is and you are free to link to it from your own class website. The grades 3-5 are more developed than K-2 but it is a great place to get resources. I am always looking for new ideas to try with my classes so if you want to leave a comment requesting a teaching unit or two, please know that I am open to suggestions.

Thanks for reading!
Brittany Washburn
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[name=Brittany] [img=] [description=Hi, I'm Brittany. I'm an educator obsessed with teaching with technology. I love creating and sharing teaching resources for technology teachers, media specialists, and technology facilitators. Take a minute to enroll in my Free 5 part email course for technology teachers. Click on the link at the top of this site.]

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