Friday Link Up!

Friday Link Up

10 Back-to-School Tips for Teachers Using Google Docs via Te@chThought

Cultivating Creativity in Standards-Based Classrooms via Edutopia

“Interactive Sites for Education” Roundup from Larry Ferlazzo

Why Are There Silent Letters in the English Language from Mental Floss (via Larry Ferlazzo)

Ten Free Apps and Tools for Starting Out (and Staying) Organized via Edutopia

Favorite Pins

Setting Up Your Classroom: 9 Practical Things You May Not Have Thought Of via Teach 4 the Heart

Practice Makes Perfect: Citing Textual Evidence via Lesson Planet

53 Ways to Check for Understanding via Edutopia

Planning Tools

My preplanning work station.

My preplanning work station.

A few weeks ago, I started organizing myself in order to tackle my curriculum planning for the 2015-16 school year.  I addressed developing a Classroom Bootcamp for the first quarter, and relied heavily on the difference between a bootcamp and a simple review.  There are a lot of ways to organize yourself, but sometimes, especially when you’re a new teacher, it can be overwhelming.  Whether you’re working on an entire curriculum, unit plan, or just a weekly/daily lesson plan, you can become distracted by all the options and resources that are available.  So here are a few tools that I use in order to relieve some of the frazzle-osity of planning.

Online Organizing

There are two types of  websites that I use to help keep myself organized.  The first is what I call the “Catch-All” and the other is “Application and Reflection.”

Catch-All

unnamedEvernote – I’ve blogged in the past about how much I love this website/app/program.  Evernote is a multi-platformed resource that allows users to accumulate notes, websites, media, and other information that they would like to save for later.  The organizational capacity is fantastic!  Categories are designated into Notebooks and within each notebook, notes are created that can be customized by adding your own text, checklists, bullet points, lists, etc.  Additionally, users can attach pictures or other documents that coincide with that particular content.

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Sample list of notebooks from my Evernote account.

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One example of a note created in my English IV Curriculum notebook.

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Sample checklist in my English IV Curriculum notebook.

Picture-7-2-2015Pinterest – I don’t think there is a soul out there who uses the internet that doesn’t know about Pinterest.  It’s more than just a way to waste a couple of hours planning weddings and dream homes; Pinterest has been one of the most helpful resources for developing everything from classroom management plans to creating posters/anchor charts for my walls to interesting articles about texts we are reading in class.  By being able to create specialized boards to organize each of these “pins,” I am able to efficiently incorporate their contents into my classroom.

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Obviously, “I am a runner” and “Workouts” don’t make too many appearances in my curriculum, but they do give me the endorphins to make it through my lessons. =)

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Application and Reflection

suite_transparent_largeGoogle Docs – I have found myself becoming more reliant on Google Docs over the last year, and I admit that I have A LOT to learn.  I have uploaded all of my curriculum documents and lesson plans here, but I also complete reflections on my lessons.  This is something I am setting up for the first time this school year, so I will keep you updated as to my progress.

How to Begin Your PrePlanning

My preplanning work station.

My preplanning work station.

Some may disagree with me, but I would rather give up a bit of my vacation time to work on a project on my own terms, in a comfortable environment, and a pace of my choosing.  I work better when I can control the amount of distractions, or at least the types of distractions, as opposed to having to be disrupted for a full-schedule of meetings and professional development sessions.  Trust me, there will be plenty of those over the school year.  I’m also the type of person who tends to be restless, so if I’ve taken care of my other priorities, I am glad to tackle the next stack.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t necessarily enjoy having to “work” on curriculum and planning when I should be taking in the sunshine and relaxed atmosphere of summer.  I need to be in the right frame of mind.  So how does that happen?

Here are some tips for getting the ball rolling on your own preplanning schedule:

1.  Make a list of ALL the things that you want to accomplish.

Trust me, this won’t overwhelm you.  It will actually make the process that much easier.  Consider this a “brain dump” and don’t beat yourself up if you eventually cross things off your list.  You may find that once you begin, some tasks won’t be necessary.  It’s always better to have more and cut back than vice versa.

2.  Start with the easiest tasks first.

This will get you warmed up to the idea of the larger tasks.  For myself, I started by simply updating the dates on my syllabi and annual plan/pacing guide.  If you’re like me and will be teaching the same content area/grade levels, this is about as simple as it gets.  Once I started updating my dates for one class, I started considering which texts I was going to be using.  I then took out the text books and started narrowing down, refining what I would and would not include in the syllabus.  From there, I was able to simply cut and paste.  Abracadabra: updated syllabus and pacing guide!  Just before starting this blog post, I realized that I had checked off almost ALL of my tasks!

Updated To Do List

3.  Pace out your to-dos.

Don’t try to complete the entire list all in one sitting; you’ll burn yourself out and make the process  painful as opposed to enjoyable.  We all know when our threshold has been met, so do what you can until it’s no longer enjoyable.

4.  Google your key terms.

If you’re feeling uncreative or become stuck in a planning rut, use the internet as a resource for both your content and your motivation.  Sometimes seeing how other teachers have addressed the same topic or text will open your eyes to new possibilities.  Also, don’t forget the power of social media!  I find a lot of inspiration from the teachers and administrators in my Twitter #PLC.

5.  Enjoy the process!

Remember how you felt when you first started teaching: the eagerness of getting into your OWN classroom, planning your OWN curriculum.  It’s still in there somewhere.  Allow yourself the opportunity to explore new options for your planning.  Research a new instructional or classroom management strategy. The benefit of starting early is that you don’t have to rush.

One last tip: reward yourself each time you cross another item off your to-do list.  You’ve completed a major accomplishment and should view it as such.