Do These Things Come with Owners’ Manuals?

I’m sure you’ve heard the joke about babies/kids/teenagers not coming with an owner’s manual but, for a teacher and/or a school librarian, Edutopia may have the next best thing. Edutopia is a website supported by the George Lucas Educational Foundation and is devoted to bringing educators easy access to “what works in education.” One of the ways they bring you what works is by providing free educational downloads and classroom guides. To access the downloads an Edutopia account is required but signing up for one is free, fast and, easy.

They educational downloads cover a range of topics such as: Brain-Based Learning, Classroom Management Tips, Teaching with New Media, Summer Rejuvenation Guide, and Tips for Assessing Project Based Learning.

Try one, try them all but do give them a try. And if you do, feel free to tell me what you think.

One day closer to the weekend loves.

Until tomorrow,



Preventing Classroom Chaos (or How to Keep Kids Entertained & Happy)

The beginning of the school year can be a crazy time as students get use to their new teachers, classmates, schedules and in some cases, schools. As teachers, we have our hands full helping them adjust and teaching them what we’ll expect from them in our classrooms. It can be stressful and unexpected situations can pop up anytime. With that in mind, I thought I’d pass along some articles I’ve found that may be useful for parents and teachers alike.

First up, some articles on teaching kids relaxation techniques. As I’ve said already, the beginning of the school year and all its newness can be stressful. Familiarizing yourself and your students with these techniques can help everyone deal with the stress better.

  • This article from Psychology Today talks about teaching kids both deep breathing and visualization techniques: Teach Your Kids to De-Stress
  • This article from Fox News was originally published in Real Simple Family: Managing Your Child’s Stress. It not only covers techniques but why they work, how to teach them, and tips on when to try them.

Sometimes, things don’t go as expected during the day (shocking I know). Keep the kids entertained while you wait or when you finish up earlier than expected with some of these simple ways to wow.

  • This magic trick is quick to set up and uses just three props you most likely have access to during the school day. Kids love it and they love it even more when you let them keep the “magic” paper clips that result.
  • The execution of The Hotel card trick is simple but that doesn’t stop it from wowing kids just the same. When I tell the story I like to make it kid friendly and say the kings decide to go on vacation with their wives the queens and their kids (the jacks). They arrive at the hotel late and are so tired from traveling they go straight to their rooms, lock the doors (put the aces on the pile) and try to relax and watch TV. But, power goes off in the hotel and they all go down to the lobby to complain ( I say this while I pick up the piles). On the way back to their rooms in the dark they all get mixed up and confused (have the kids cut the deck while you say this) and in the morning when they wake up they find all the kings are in the same room, all the queens are in the same room,  and all the jacks are in the same room.
  • Finally, here’s a list of tips and tricks for making you a better story teller. Sometimes, the best way to hold students’ attentions is with a story but you don’t always have access to a book to share. Learning to tell engaging, entertaining tales on the fly could help  keep your students entertained and out of trouble during unplanned down times and waiting periods.

I hope you enjoyed these quick tips on keeping students relaxed, calm, entertained and, hopefully, out of trouble during the school day. Do you have any tips and tricks of your own that relax and/or entertain your students? I’d love it if you shared them.



Technology Tuesday-Schoology

First things first: Apologies for leaving you hanging yesterday. I had to run the dog to the vet (again-she had a procedure done and I’m going every other day to have her bandages changed) and had two other appointments of my own and the day just got away from me.

Now, let’s explore another interesting technology together shall we? I subscribe to the AASL’s tip of the day email (if you don’t already I highly recommend it) and yesterday’s tip was about cultivating back to school collaborations. One of the technologies briefly mentioned in the email was Schoology. Having never heard of Schoology before I instantly hopped online to look it up.

Verdict? Definitely worth sharing with all of you.

As you can see from the overview screenshot, Schoology offers  a few great features such as: managing your lessons, finding intriguing resources, interacting with your students, fellow teachers, and parents, posting assignments, posting tests or quizzes, and hosting discussions. Schoology even allows you to keep track of how students are doing with nifty charts and graphs.

Setting up a Schoology account and your Schoology profile takes mere minutes and afterwards they walk you through a quick introductory tour to get you started.

Now let’s use my account to show you how the introductory tour works. When you log into your account, there will be a link to click on to start the tour: 

The first leg of the tour shows you where/how to add courses to your account:

The second leg of the tour shows you how to add or join groups in Schoology:

Leg three points out where to go to for additional resources:

The fourth, fifth and, sixth legs of our tour explain the navigation options in the upper right hand side of the screen:

The seventh part of the tour explains your Schoology calendar:

The eighth leg explains the recent activity center a bit further and the final section of the tour shows you where to get further assistance with Schoology:

One of my favorite features I discovered while exploring Schoology is their App Center:

The App Center offers a few cool apps to use with students:

I was especially impressed to see that the Concept Bank and ScootPad Apps utilized the Common Core.

All in all, Schoology seems to have a lot to offer and could be a great addition to your educator toolbox. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Until tomorrow,


Homework Help….For Parents

On my way to the vet’s this morning I happened upon the John Tesh Intelligence for Your Life Radio show just as he was discussing how to help kids with their homework. John offered the following tips for parents (find the full transcript here):

  • First, talk to the teacher about a tutoring session for you. Teachers say that most parents are too embarrassed to admit they can’t do 7th grade math, or worse, 4th grade vocabulary words. Some teachers can provide CD tutorials, or give you access to websites for the curriculum they use in class. They might even point you to textbook websites, which have special sections designed to help parents help their kids.
  • Another homework tip: Plug math problems into Google. You’ll probably find a website that’ll give you the answer, and tell you how to get it.
  • You can also find instructions, practice problems, and refresher videos on websites like A Better Answer, TeacherTube, and
  • And you can buy used copies of most teacher’s edition textbooks on Amazon. Teacher’s editions provide the answers, and show you how to explain it to your child. And it’s not cheating, as long as you don’t just feed your kids the answers.

I thought John’s ideas were simple and effective but they get me thinking: wouldn’t these tips be even better as the basis for a library program? The first month of school the librarian could work with teachers to find out what they will be teaching and when this year (something we should be doing anyway), find out what textbooks they are using, ask what other resources they recommend and put together an information night for parents.

The information night could debrief parents on what their kids will be learning and when and show them what resources are available to help them help their kids. Before the information night the librarian could identify teachers willing to provide tutoring sessions and even arrange for them to be available at the event. The librarian could create a resources cheat sheet to hand out to parents that also lists teachers willing to tutor and their preferred contact information and/or create a parents’ resources section on the library webpage.

If the budget allows maybe the library could obtain teacher editions of the textbooks being used in classes and make them available for parents to check out. Perhaps if a teacher has several parents that request tutoring sessions the library could be used as a meeting space for those sessions? Maybe the event could even be held quarterly to keep parents up to date on what their children (and they) will be working on each marking period?

What do you think of the librarian running a homework help event and/or program? What other ways do you provide parents with assistance in understanding and helping their children’s schoolwork?

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you tomorrow.



Excerpt from John Tesh Intelligence for Your Life radio show from here: