Catholic Schools Week

catholic schools week 2016Catholic schools week will take place this year from Sunday 31st January until the 6th of February. The theme for Catholic Schools Week 2016 is “Catholic Schools: Challenged to Proclaim God’s mercy“.  The purpose of Catholic schools week is to give schools an opportunity to explore the benefits of a Catholic education and to involve students, teachers, parents and members of the community in exploring the Catholic religion in a fun and relaxed way. This week is not only for Catholics but for everyone who wants to learn something new about the Catholic Faith. It is not about convincing people that a Catholic Education is best but to show people what it can offer to everyone.

Schools can embrace Catholic schools week by putting up posters. Some examples like the one below are available from www.CatholicSchools.ie. PP_Poster-A2-2 The website also has resources for lessons in the classroom. The senior cycle resources are really excellent and tie in nicely with the course. Schools can write newsletters explaining what is happening to the school body, parents and people in the local community. Students can hold fundraisers for the local parish or for a charity in the local community. Students can organise an information day/evening and invite people from all faiths to celebrate together. Catholic schools week is also celebrated in the USA. This could be an opportunity to use the web via Skype, Twitter, Blogging etc to connect with a classroom across the globe and compare how we celebrate Catholic Schools week. Skype in the Classroom is an online initiative that connects schools all over the world.

Grandparents day also takes place during Catholic Schools week. This could offer an opportunity to invite elderly people in for a coffee morning. You can invite Grandparents or people in the community who have little or no family. Students may make presentations for the coffee morning on how important Grandparents can be in their lives. Grandparents are often the ones responsible for handing on our different faiths, beliefs and practices. This can be a time when we thank them for it and for everything else they have done or still do for us. Students could write thank you cards or make a story or poem for their grandparent and display them in the school.

During Catholic Schools week most schools will hold a prayer service. During this prayer service it might be a nice time to remember the grandparents who are no longer with us and thank them too for everything they done during their lives. Irish Central is a website which has a page on celebrating Grandparents with quotes and prayers, some of which may come in useful for a prayer service.

Grandparents bestow upon their grandchildren the strength and wisdom that time and experience have given them.

Grandchildren bless their grandparents with a youthful vitality and innocence that help them stay young at heart forever.

Together they create a chain of love linking the past with the future.

The chain may lengthen, but it will never part.

– Author unknown.

These are only a number of ideas that can be embraced next week but there are loads more. Please comment if you have something to add or an opinion to share.

Thank you for reading.

NCCA – Being Personally Effective

School is a place associated with learning, often we only think of the content and ‘book learning’ and forget that it is also a place where we develop key skills that we depend on in later life. The NCCA has outlined five key skills that our students should be developing at senior cycle. These include Information Processing, Critical and Creative Thinking, Communicating, Working with Others and Being Personally Effective. In this blog I am going to focus on the last skill mentioned and how we can use Web 2.0 technologies in the classroom to help our students to develop this necessary skill.

This skill contributes to personal growth. It helps students become more self aware and gives the ability to use this new found self awareness to develop goals and life plans. It helps students to learn how to get things done, how to use resources effectively and act independently. There are a wide range of Web 2.0 tools available to improve on this skill they include:

MYLIFEORGANIZED.NET – This is an organisational tool which can be downloaded onto your computer, iPhone or Android. This allows you to create to do lists, create projects, set reminders, plan events and much more. This app is has a cloud based back up system which means you can access it from any device once you have your user name and password.

MIND42 – Mind42 is a website that allows you to create mind maps. This is a simple way of keeping key notes in one place. You can sign up using an email address and it is free. You can explore mind maps made by other people and rest assured all your important exam notes are safe in one place. Maps also save automatically so no worries about losing information and you can go back and look at previous versions of your mind map.

FOCUSATWILL.COM – This is a website which has music which is scientifically proven to help people to concentrate. The music plays in the background and the app has a progress tracker for you to monitor how much you are getting done while the app is open. This has a free trial for 16 days but after that there is a charge. Could be useful straight before exams or you can look up similar music on you tube for free.

MINDTOOLS.COM – This website has many different tools for decision making, stress management, problem solving, communication and many more. Some of these tools are online applications and some are downloadable forms and templates. This website is a gold mind for students and teachers alike who want to learn how to manage their lives more effectively.

NOVAMIND – Novamind is another mind mapping software. You can choose different ways of using this application for example, focusing on study, planning your life or planning a business or project. It is easy to use, you write down your ideas or information and it creates the mind map for you. Novamind Lite is free to sign up to but you have limited access to the tools however there are still lots of features you can use.

I hope some of these apps can be put into use in the classroom to help our students fully develop the skill of being personally effective.

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.

 

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.

Homeless Ireland

Last week marked the one year anniversary since a homeless man was found dead on the steps of Dail Eireann in Dublin. According to the Peter McVerry Trust in October of this year over 150 people were sleeping rough in Dublin every night. The minimum number of people homeless at the end of September in the whole of Ireland was over 5,000. This year alone homelessness has risen by 76% in eight months. This includes 1500 homeless people who are under the age of 18, children. (RTE: Sept 15)

The reason I have included this topic in my education blog is because I believe Education is key to helping fight against social injustice and helping bring about positive social change. As teachers and students we may not be able to house 5,000 people but by awakening students attention to the problem and highlighting ways in which they can help we may have a chance at helping even one family find a safe place to sleep.

The internet is an amazing place to find resources on almost any topic. The resources made available on Homelessness are some of the best I have used in a classroom. There are a number of charities that are set up to tackle homelessness and help those affected including:

All of these websites are filled with information, events and resources that can be adapted for the classroom. Some, such as Focus Ireland, even have a section dedicated to school resources. There are people available to come to your school to talk to students. There are plenty of fundraising activities and links to other helpful websites and resources. Below are resources I have used in the classroom. Some are slightly adapted. All taken from TES.co.uk. TES is the place to go for topics such as homelessness. You never know what you will find.

The first resource I found interesting and useful is a list of 100 facts about homelessness. I out students into groups and ask them to choose the most and least surprising. 100factshomeless

This is a power-point of statistics regarding teenage homeless. These teenagers are close to age to some of our students. This will highlight the importance of trying to help but teacher should also be sensitive if a student may be in a similar position. Runaway Children

This is a six part documentary on homeless children in the UK. EVICTED

All of these resources are free to use and completely adaptable to suit age and ability. The number of homeless people in Ireland is rising daily. We need to do our part to highlight these issues and help the charities to tackle homelessness. Our aim should be together to decrease these figures by December 2016.

Working Together

One of the six key skills outlined by the NCCA that students need to develop is the skill of working together. This skill helps learners develop good relationships and to appreciate the value of cooperating to reach both collective and personal goals. In this blog post I want to highlight some features of Web 2.0 that can help improve on this skill in the classroom. As we all know the internet and technology offers a wide range of opportunities for teaching and learning but often these apps and initiatives are 1 on 1. The student uses the web or a computer/iPad to work alone. So what is out there that promotes group work and student collaboration in the classroom? Today I will highlight three Web 2.0 initiatives that do just that. 1. Google Docs

Google Docs is a free Web-based application in which documents and spreadsheets can be created, edited and stored online. Files can be accessed from any computer with an Internet connection and a Web browser. Google Docs for education can be downloaded for a whole school for free. Students are signed up to an email account and can access documents, slides, graphs and google drive. But how can this be used for collaboration? Google docs allows students to work on the same document or slide using the web. A student or teacher creates a doc and invites others to view or edit. This means students can create group presentations from different places and at the same promoting active participation in group work.

2. Schoology (skoo-luh-jee)

Schoology is an online management system that allows teachers to create and manage academic courses for students. It provides teachers with a method of managing lessons, engaging students, sharing content, and connecting with other educators. The site looks similar to the popular social networking site Facebook. Teachers are able to use schoology as a virtual school where they can monitor student attendance, progress, upload assignments, give feedback and begin discussions. Students are able to access class information, take tests, do assignments, upload files, participate in class discussions and stay organised with a school calendar. Like the social network Facebook students can post and comment on each others profiles. Students can share study tips, create projects together and create discussions on class content.

3. Wiggio 

Wiggio is great for small groups. It is a free resource used by over 1.5 million people. It allows group members to share and edit files, manage a group calendar, poll your group, post links, set up meetings, chat online and send group messages or emails. Wiggio groups are private groups which you must be invited too. You can be a member of a number of groups for example: History project, Social club, Football team etc. This is a good time management and communication app for students which can promote team work.

This is only three of the many apps and websites available to promote the skill of working together. If you have any you would like to recommend please leave a comment or some feedback on the above. 🙂

Encouraging Creativity

This blog will focus on another one of the NCCA key skills. This week I want to explore the skill of creativity and how we can use web 2.0 to encourage this is our classrooms. The main elements of creativity outlined by the NCCA are as follows:

1.  Imagining
2.  Exploring options and alternatives
3.  Implementing ideas and taking action
4.  Learning creatively
5.  Stimulating creativity using digital technology.

When I initially think of being creative I am drawn to the idea of coloured card, markers, glue and scissors but creativity can be expressed in a wide variety of ways. Creativity can be expressed through art, physical expression such as dance, writing, speaking and more recently with the help of technology. Some students may feel pressured when asked to present work creatively. Some could not think of anything worse than creating a poster or project but fortunately there are now apps and websites that allow students to express their creativity in ways they may be more comfortable with. I have chosen three of these web based technologies to talk about today but there are thousands waiting to be discovered. Please leave feedback on these or add your own in the comments.

  1. Popplet 

Popplet is an app designed for Ipad and Iphone. It is a tool that allows
users to display information and ideas in a new way. Teachers and students can create graphs, timelines, mind-maps and many other forms of visual organisation. Students and teachers can download the full app for 4.99. This app allows students and teachers to share their popplets with others and benefit by viewing popplets from all over the world. These popplets would be ideal for revision, presenting information or introducing a new topic. Images, videos and documents can be imported from your computer, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube just to name a few. Finished popplets can be saved and printed. There is a free version called popplet lite. This is the same except students cannot see popplets from other people and cannot share them.

2. Explain Everything

Explain Everything is an easy-to-use design, screen casting, and interactive whiteboard tool that lets you create, animate, narrate, import, and export almost anything to and from almost anywhere. Students can create documents, slideshows, videos, presentations, images and can edit documents which they import. You can add explanations to notes, draw diagrams for explanations and create your own study aids. This app can be downloaded on smart phone, ipad or windows. It costs 3.99 but there is an option to buy for the class or school which will be a bulk price. There are tutorials online to get started but once started it is very simple and straightforward to use. When finished creating and editing documents can then be exported to anywhere at all, dropbox, google docs, computer or email. This app can be used for revision, note taking, assignments or assessments.

3. Story Board That

Storyboard That is an online storyboard creator that helps visually communicate ideas and concepts to quickly tell a story. It provides templates in which you can create your stories in a comic strip style along with hundreds of scenes, characters, and text bubbles to fill your storyboard’s frames. You can choose from a wide collection of templates, characters, props etc to create your story/comic. Students can use it to create simple cartoon stories, create outlines for longer creative writing projects or to script videos or presentations. They can also use it to practice a language, creative writing and studying almost any subject. It is easy to use with a drag and drop feature and students can import files from their own computers. A free account allows you to produce and save two stories a week but premium accounts are available for 9.95 a month. For this price a teacher can set up a class and add up to fifty students. Teachers can use storyboard to set up a classroom where they can see students creations easily. Story board is extremely simple but a fun and new way of e learning.