Student Teacher Tips

On this day for the past three years I have been busily preparing for my teaching placement to start the next day. This has been a day filled with nerves, excitement, fear and anticipation. I almost never slept the night before placement no matter what time I went to bed, how much lavender I put on my pillow or how many breathing exercises I tried. This year for the first time in three years I am relaxed today and excited for the new school term to begin. The reason of course is because I am no longer a student teacher and do not have to go to school for the next four weeks with the dreaded fear of an inspector knocking on the door at any minute. However, all across the country there are student teachers preparing for placement tomorrow whether it be their first, second, third or last so I have decided to dedicate a blog to them and write down a few things I have learned along the way or things I wish I had of known on my own placements. I hope this blog reaches some of these student teachers and helps give a little calmness or confidence during their first day of placement tomorrow.

Remembering names – this is still one of my worst abilities as a teacher. Do not panic if you are bad at remembering names there are loads of ways to combat this. One of the best tips I ever got about names is to ask students one by one to say their name and one random fact about themselves such as – My name is Emma and I like playing piano. Repeat this after the student out loud. The association with piano helps to link the name to an object which makes remembering easier. If this fails have name cards in place for when the supervisor knocks.

Classroom management Create classroom rules with the students and keep them displayed at all times. Allow students to have a say in what will happen in the class. Be fair but firm. If you say something stick to it. Example if you give three warnings but then do not give a punishment work students will see it as an empty threat and you will lose respect and control. Do not hang on to a grudge if a class goes badly deal with it and move on. Students will forget if you do. If you are in the wrong admit it. If you shout at a student by mistake or lose control apologise students will respect this. If you do have to give punishment work try not give something that is pointless (many schools have rules of what to give) If you can give an essay or something students can learn from.

Apps and Online sites I love and use all the time 

Kahoot – This is an online quiz game very useful for revision. Teachers can make a quiz or pick from loads already uploaded. Students need a phone or tablet with internet access to play. Students can work in pairs or groups if the number of phones available are low. I used this in a history supervision on the Nuremberg Rallies with a TY group and the inspector loved it.

Studyclix – This is another revision aid. Teachers can access all past exam papers to create tests and worksheets. Handy for creating end of chapter exams.

Classtools.net – This is a website filled with ideas and programmes you can use in your lessons. They range from name pickers to lesson introductions to fake Facebook pages. The list goes on and on. You could spend hours just playing with the apps this page has to offer but try focus on using them to plan lessons 🙂

Dropbox – With Dropbox you can upload all your lessons, worksheets, power points and videos and can access them from any device with internet access. Everything is saved to the one place and they can be used and reused as you wish. If this is your first placement I would definitely recommend Dropbox because you will reuse the lessons and resources again next year.

Twitter – This I have only learned about this year but Twitter can be an online encyclopedia for teachers if you follow the right people. All you have to do is tweet a question and wait for the responses to fly in. For starters follow Fboss, NCCA, RTAI and Edchatie and see you they follow to get on the right track. You can also check out who I follow @5j16msdunne

See some of my previous blog posts for more apps to use in the classroom 🙂

Plan B This piece of advice is repeated so many times by supervisors and mentors but it is amazing how often we do not listen. it will not happen to us right? The classroom is a very unpredictable place. You never know what is going to happen. The internet may fail, the computer may break or the students may simply react badly to whatever you have planned ALWAYS have a plan B. Whether it be extra worksheets, a different approach or a backup revision game have something that can be adapted for different lessons.

Bring extra work Also a piece of advice that we rarely take on board. There is no worse feeling than a class ending 5 minutes early and you have no work prepared (I speak from experience) It will be the longest 5 minutes of your life. Make some extra worksheets and have enough photocopied if you have an inspection. IF you find yourself in this position and have no work with you do some class revision. Ask students to make a brain storm on the board of the mains things they learned this class, quickfire questions at students, ask students to stand you ask one student a question if they are correct they ask another student until everyone has asked and answered a question.

Ask for Help All teachers were student teachers at some point. Do not forget this. We have all been through what you are going through now. If you need help with a student, a class, a topic or a supervisor ASK there is help and support available. It could be from the staff room, your college or your friends or classmates. You are not alone in this.

Get to know the staff It can be easy to sit down on your first day at one table and stay there for the remainder of your placement but try to move around. Get to know the other teachers. They will be your support network for the next few weeks and you never know who has a friend who is a principal who needs a new teacher next year. Make a good impression.

Look after yourself This might be the most important piece of advice. Ensure you get enough sleep. It can be tempting to stay up all night to make sure your power-points are perfect but what use are they if you have a migraine the next day and cannot see properly. Teaching is a draining profession. You will be tired and you will feel run down make sure you do not take on too many extra classes or extra curricular activities. Eat right do not skip breakfast or lunch. Make some time for yourself to see friends and family even if it is only one hour on a Wednesday evening.  You will be surprised how this can help you through.

Have Fun Teaching can be one of the most rewarding jobs if you let it. Do not take everything so serious. Have a laugh and a joke with the students but ensure you have strict boundaries and the students know this too. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes students relate to you more when they see you are human too. Get involved with extra curricular if you have time (but do not take on too much) Students love to see teachers take an interest outside of the classroom. Do not hold grudges or hang on to mistakes – start everyday fresh. Do not forget to smile – students will see you are happy to be there and feel like you care about their education.

I hope these few small tips might be of a help to some student teachers. If you wish to comment or add to the list please feel free, all feedback good or bad is welcome. Good luck to everyone starting placement tomorrow especially all from Mater Dei and I hope all teachers both student and qualified have a successful and happy start to 2016.

 

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New Year New Apps

 

Christmas is now behind us and the new year is fast approaching. We have little over a week left before we are back in the classroom so today I decided to get a head start on my new year resolution which is to become more comfortable using technology and apps in the classroom. I have spent some time looking up apps for my two main subjects which are history and religion and have decided to share what I found with others who want to make lessons more interactive. All of the apps which I will explain in more detail below are free to download and are available on iPad/iPhone or android.

The first app I found today is an English GCSE study guide. It comes in different subjects but each subject needs to be downloaded separately. This series of apps is called Study Buddies. I tried the religious education one today to see how useful they would be in the classroom. When you first download you must create an account to sign in. There are two parts to the app one is a quiz like feature. You choose the part of the course and the app will generate ten questions and give you a short quiz. The second element is a section from past exam papers. Students can read the questions but they cannot edit to insert answers. One downside to this app is that in the free version only a number of sections from the syllabus are available. The rest must be purchased. While I was impressed with the initial idea and design of the app I was disappointed with the restrictions.

This next app is for the History classroom and will come in very handy in January or February depending how far along the second year history course you are. This app is an interactive timeline of the American Revolution. The name is easy to remember it is called American Revolution interactive timeline. The timeline starts at 1750 and continues up to 1950. The timeline allows students and teachers to move up and down throughout the time period, view images of artefacts and click items such as an image of the Boston Tea Party to find out some more information about the event or item. Personally this is one of my favourite apps from today’s short search. It is simple but brilliantly designed for easy use and quick access to important information.

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The third app I came across is called brainscape. This app is a flash card revision app. The main app allows a student or teacher pick a subject that they wish to study the app then creates flash cards to help you to study. The flags arc will show a question or a full in the blank the student decides when to reveal the answer. If they know the answer will then rate the question between 1 and 5. 1 means they know the information well so the app will not use this flash card frequently, 5 means they do not know the fact and the app will focus on this information more often. This app has also expended into individual subject apps for example History Brainscape which is purely for studying history. The free download has limited flash cards but for a small fee of 1.99 you can unlock all sections which in my opinion is very reasonable. I will definitely use this app in my classroom this year.

These three apps are only a small selection of the amazing things that are on offer for the classroom. I am looking forward to incorporating more and more apps and web technologies into my teaching in the new year. I hope everyone enjoys the rest of the holidays and good luck and happy teaching for the new year.

Kid Blog

This week I have been experimenting with blogging platforms which we can use in the classroom. One of these platforms is KidBlog. KidblKidBlogog is an online blogging platform for children. It is made for teachers by teachers. It allows schools and teachers to set up and monitor individual blogs for students. The aim is to support student learning and create a sense of online identity and community.

The advantages of Kidblog include the following: it is easy to set up, it has simple navigation, students do not need an email account,  it is advertisement free, you can connect to Google Drive which means it is easier to upload documents, videos and power-points, and the teacher has complete control. Students write and upload blogs, the teacher then reads and approves the blogs and publishes them on the site. A blog can act as a digital portfolio of students work throughout their time at school. One thing I liked about Kidblog is that there are no limits on the amount of content that can be uploaded so students can keep the same blog from 1st through to 6th year. Parents can also be involved with the blog. They are given access by the teacher so they can read and follow their child’s blog online. This is a valuable tool for parents who cannot always make parent evening or drop into the school at any time. 

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Blogging in class encourages peer assessment and group involvement. Students can read and promote each others work and a sense of community can develop. There are many different ways teachers can bring blogging into their classrooms. These include creative writing tasks – while this usually occurs in the English classroom the religion or history teacher could also make use of this method, set up a student book club – students read and publish their thoughts and opinions, pen pals – students can connect with other classrooms around the globe and write to each other – this could be extremely beneficial in religion class or CSPE, can be a digital portfolio- an ideal way to demonstrate learning growth through pictures, video, writing, and more and it could also be used as a notes and study aid. Students can write about topics they like or topics they find difficult other students can then comment and offer feedback and advice on what works for them when studying. 

Setting up on Kidblog is very simple and straightforward. A teacher can go to Kidblog.org and set up a administrator account. They create their class by selecting Click to Create a Class, they then enter username, password, and class name details. Keep in mind the class name you entered is also the blog name, for example, Ms Dunne’s Classroom blog. Select the grey Create Class button, Click the Add New Users button to add users individually or in bulk. The teacher can also access a join code so students can add themselves to the blog. The teacher can add multiple classes and keep them separate which is useful for teachers who want to bring it into multiple classes or subjects.

At the moment you can get a free 30 day trial of Kidblog and after that it is $29 per teacher per year. They also offer deals for whole schools or multiple teachers joining together, quotes available.
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One of the disadvantages to using blogging in the classroom in the time constraints. Teachers need to schedule certain time to set up these blogs and students need to commit at home or in their free time. Teachers also have to commit some personal time to approve and correct the blog posts. While this may sound like a pain the layout of kidblog makes this job easier than one would think. It is straightforward and easy to navigate. If a teacher could commit two-three hours a week to do approvals and corrections they would reap the benefits in class and in student production. As with all teaching methodologies it is important to rotate and not rely solely on the blog, this will also help with time management.

I cannot wait to start blogging with students and I will post about reactions and students opinions in a few weeks time. 🙂

 

 

NCCA Junior Cert Key Skills

The NCCA outlines six key skills that all subjects should develop in the Junior Certificate programme. These include managing myself, staying well, communicating, being creative, working with others and managing information and thinking. All of these skills incorporate the use ofdigital media in the classroom. Using technology in the classroom is a trend that is rapidly increasing in education. For this blog post I want to examine the last key skill and look at ways that we can develop this skill by using different technologies and digital applications in class. ncca

MANAGING INFORMATION AND THINKING

This key skill helps learners gradually improve their capacity to search for information from different sources. They also develop their skills in judging and discriminating between information types and sources and they develop strategies for organising information so that they can understand it and use it later. This skill also develops learners’ thinking skills so that they can become more skilled in higher order reasoning and problem-solving. (Juniorcycle, 2014)

The first thing that came to my mind when thinking of ways to incorporate this skill into the classroom was blogging. This skill is meant to enable students to engage with information and share it by use of digital media. What better way than starting a blog. There are numerous blogging platforms for schools and teachers including, word press, kid blog, 21 classes and many more. These platforms allow teachers to set their classes up on a blog where they can monitor the posts and feedback. Students can be given a task such as researching a key historical figure they use the internet and search engines to find information and then write a blog about the person to share with the class. This simple exercise improves a range of
skills students need to develop including research, critical thinking, analysis, managing information, presenting information and literacy.

Google Docs in another great resource that enables students to organise information. This is a  free Web-based application where documents and power-points can be created, edited and stored online. Files can be accessed from any computer with an Internet connection which means students can start work in school and finish at home without worrying about USB sticks or forgetting books/copies. Google docs also allows students to work together on the one document or project. Students can invite each other with an email address and they have permission to add to or edit a document/presentation. This introduces a whole knew approach to group work. The teacher if also invited can check who has done what work on the document to ensure all students are actively involved.

As a history teacher I have come across some amazing resources this year for the 1916 Commemoration that incorporate this key skill very well. they include a blog designed by the National Library. This blog looks at key personalities and perspectives during the time. Students can research the blog and find new information to engage with. To encourage students to compare sources there is a website that publishers rare photographs from the rising here . This website also has a dedicated section for schools to carry out online research.

The web is an amazing resource for any subject. Allowing students time to explore and discover not only encourages independent learning but gives students an opportunity to see opinions and ideas that before where restricted to a text book. This skill is not only something students need to learn to achieve good grades but it is something they can take out into the world. The world is becoming a technological place and if students cannot fit into this world when they leave school they will face difficulty. We have the resources to help develop this skill in schools it time we start using them.

 

JCSP Workbooks 

The Junior Certificate School Programme is a national programme sponsored by the Department of Education and Skills and the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment. It originated in the early school leavers programme initiated by the curriculum development unit. The emphasis is put on active teaching and development of basic skills. Students are profiled and records are kept on progress, skills and achievements. Students follow the same curriculum and are assessed the same way but also recieve their student profile at the end of three years. This helps show students how far they have come since beginning secondary school.

The Professional Development Service for Teachers have an excellent collection of workbooks deigned for JCSP which focus on the numeracy and literacy development of students. While these books are designed for the English and maths teacher I have found ways to incorporate them into my history lessons. The English books which are called Exploring student workbook and Letter writing for students give templates for letter writing and diaries. These can be used for the people in history questions or key events in history. There are also research sections which help students with their investigation and critical thinking skills.

The books are an extra resource in any classroom and can be adapted to suit a wide range of lessons. They would also be a handy addition to any substitute teachers bag of tricks. A list of other resources for the student teacher can be found Here.

I will be incorporating these into my classroom in future.

Reminding Students History is Real!

History as a school subject can often be seen as boring and dull. It is about people from hundreds and thousands of years ago that we cannot speak to or hear from. Students can find it hard to engage with topics and events that happened long before they were even born. In my classroom I try my best to bring history alive. (Easier said than done believe me) I do this with images, videos, artefacts, diary entries etc. The hard part is trawling through the internet finding these resources. Today however I have stumbled across an amazing website filled with historic and modern day photographs. Yay!!! History Pin is an amazing website which has photographs arranged in topic form or by area. Students can go to a map of their local area and see photos published from the past and present. It gives students an insight into how life used to be and also allows them to compare to more modern times. Win win. I am definitely adding this page to my list of History resources.