From Paper to Digital Notebooks: Evernote!

evernote

Last year in the Academic Center, each student was given a composition book for notes and activities. They worked well, but the need to find storage for each one was cumbersome, and students were often misplacing them. So, as we are pushing to be a dedicated BYOD (Bring Your Own Device Classroom), we are starting this week replacing our black and white notebooks with Evernote!

The Plan

Each student will create an Evernote account on their mobile device or classroom computer via the web. Students will create a notebook to be solely dedicated to our class, Learning Strategies. Within the notebook, each note will be for a different topic that we cover in class. While we will still occasionally use worksheets for group activities, we will do the majority of our work in Evernote.

Why Evernote

Students will have access to their accounts from anywhere and every device, whether it is web-based or through the Evernote app. This will eleviate the issue of misplacing notebooks. Students will learn to imbed pictures in their notes, such as pictures they take from activities they do, upload documents they have that relate to the topic, as well as set due dates through Evernote’s newer feature of reminders. An email or app popup is sent to the person when a due date is approaching.

Generalization of  Evernote

As with every new idea or concept we teach our students, our goal is to move students to carrying over their knowledge to their other classes. Students will become proficient with using Evernote and can use it to take notes in their other classes, stay organized and share their notebooks with others. Last year, many students would take pictures of teacher whiteboards as they were heading out of class. This information was often important to the student, and they might not have had a chance to write it down. Now these once miscellaneous pictures could be embedded into a note that correlated with the information that student have from the picture into a note.

A great post, done by a fellow educator, Mr. Abud, shows how he uses notebooks for Chemistry to track student progress on lab reports. Student teams create notebooks, share them with him, and upload steps to labs along with pictures and documents. Check it our here!

Additionally, I can see Evernote accounts being shared by paraprofessionals and co-teachers with support teachers, such as myself, to quickly share information being taught in the classes in which they are supporting. This would eliminate the need to constantly be walking down the information to our program or emailing it. Great option for everyone involved!

Interested in learning more about Evernote?

Check out this Haiku Deck   

Using To-Do Lists in Evernote

 

 

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Beginning of the Year: Blending Procedures, Icebreakers, and Fun

scavenger huntWe all know that explicitly teaching and re-teaching procedures at the start of the school year is considered “best practice.” We also know that building relationships with students is vital to a successful and enjoyable year, and a great way to do this is through get-to-know-you “icebreakers” at the beginning of the year. Lastly, we know that students learn by doing, movement, and teaching others (and have a lot more fun this way).

Why not combine the three?

Two years ago at the middle school level I did a “Procedures Scavenger Hunt” at the beginning of the year, and not only did my students learn my procedures quickly, they also loved it. Last year at the high school we spent a few days of procedure lists, which were, I’ll admit, less than thrilling for us and the kids. I am excited to bring back the scavenger hunt, get students moving, practicing talking to each other, investigating information on their own, and adding a little competition in there too!

Procedures Scavenger Hunt (or a more creative name you can come up with):

Type simple procedures in question/answer format onto a Word document. Leave the answers blank (the students will complete these during the game). I write the procedures in order from most important (#1) to less important, so that, even in my smaller classes, we are covering the most vital information when I give only one answer notecard to each student.

Next, gather notecards and write 1 answer on each.

Give one answer notecard to each student (if you have more students than procedures, it’s fun to add questions about yourself, the school, etc.). Pass out one procedures Word doc to each student with a clipboard. Give the students a set amount of time (5 minutes) to walk around the room and talk to as many students as possible to exchange answers. If they want to guess for some answers they did not get to talk to the corresponding student about, that’s okay! The goal is to try to answer as many correct questions before time runs out. When the time is up, show the correct answers one by one and have students “grade themselves” or each other, and write down any answers they missed. The student with the most correct answers wins!

Challenge variation: Do not number the answer note cards- students guess which question the answer fits with.

More structured variation: Have students walk around the room until you say “Stop!” Then they find a student to pair with and exchange answers. After 30 seconds of talking about answers, they walk around the room again until you tell them to stop and partner up. This could be fun with music, too!

*Note: Be prepared for students potentially giving each other more than just their own note card answer when they meet to exchange answers. For high school students, I see it difficult and also unnecessary to try to prevent this, but instead important to encourage the students to try to exchange as many answers as possible in the 30-second talking period.

Even more structured variation: Form two large circles with equal numbers of students in each. They stand and exchange answers with the person across from them until you say, “Rotate.” Then the inner circle rotates (this method would not work as a competition).

Independent/Exploring the room variation: Tape the answer note cards on walls, desks, etc. all around the room. Give students a set amount of time, and they explore the room to find as many answers as possible in that time frame.

Don’t forget to model and re-teach procedures often, and provide rationale (sometimes I even like to role-play, which the kids think is hilarious!). I believe catching any student not following them the first few days of school will really help to prevent problems the rest of the school year.

How Important is Relationship Building in the Classroom?

relationship2Think about the people in your life you are closest to. If they asked you to do something for them, even something absurd, would you do it? Why?

How about someone you know but you do not particularly like or who does not seem to care much for you. If he/she asked you for a favor, would you do it? Would you want to?

I believe the same rule applies in the classroom. There are many students who have been brought up to respect authority and follow directions simply because a teacher tells them to, and we are very thankful for these students. These sweet, well-behaved kids deserve all of the love and attention we can give them. However, there are also those few who seem to want to do the opposite of what we ask and may not always be interested in our consequences. This is where relationships come in.

I still remember my education professor at Hope College imparting her wisdom: “Some kids won’t do anything for you… until you build a relationship. Then they’ll do ANYTHING for you!” I have taught in elementary, middle, and high schools, and I believe these words to be true at every level.

Check out the words of one of our most struggling and sometimes verbally inappropriate high school students about a teacher who has taken time and energy to build a relationship with him:

“She makes sure I have my work done or at least am attempting at it. If it was another teacher trying to nag at me about doing something, I would of simply told them off. For some people, it’s really hard to get someone to do something. At least for me, I’m probably the most stubborn and hard-headed in the class so that’s pretty impressive. I’ve been kicked out and suspended from the class before (more than once) but she still was there to help. I’ve improved myself I think because of her. She also happened to be there when I was struggling in life. She asks about why I wasn’t at school and how to help. I’ve also more understood that not all people are bad or wish the worst on you to do bad. Most teachers couldn’t care less about you… she could of chose to be like that, but she didn’t. I appreciate that the most. For her to take extra time from her job and put it elsewhere is a great thing. She could hate me and just say I’ll become the next dropout or screw up my own life but does she? No. If more teachers were as helpful as her, some kids would be able to look forward to going to school.”

Building relationships does not:

  • mean you do not give consequences
  • happen overnight
  • involve being on a “friend level” with students, or that they don’t respect you as authority
  • ever become wasted time

Some specific tips I’ve developed over the years:

  • I try to keep this thought in mind: The 55 minutes in your classroom might be the most attention that student receives all day.
  • Kids like to know we’re human beings. Telling stories or even apologizing for something we did wrong helps build a relationship with them.
  • All students, but especially older or “at risk” students, will want a rationale about why they need to do an assigned task. The more we can honestly explain the necessity of a direction we’ve given, the more the relationship is built and the happier the student will be to complete it.
  • If you’re about ready to give up on a student, realize that probably every other teacher (and maybe even the student’s family) is too. That’s exactly when they need you in their corner the most: not letting them get away with anything, but also not disregarding them as “not worth the time.”
  • Some kids enjoy compliments, but to build relationships with those who don’t, I simply make observations. “Oh wow, you got a haircut!” “You really know these quadratic equations.” “Looks like you got new shoes!” These things still show them you’re noticing them.

In the wise words of my mother in law, “Everyone’s carrying their own cross.” When I’m burdened and stressed, I become less pleasant. What I need in that time is not only for someone to reprimand my behavior but more importantly for them to care about me, listen to me, and ask me if I’m okay. (See next tip)

  • Certain students are best disciplined in private. I have learned to switch my conversation from “Stop acting this way!” to “Are you okay?” Once I listen to the student about anything going on in his or her life that may be affecting their behavior, then we can handle consequences.

By building a relationship with your students, they will love you, be happy about coming to your class, and work for you, even when they don’t feel like it, because they know how much you care!

Some kids won’t do anything for you. Until you build a relationship; Then they’ll do ANYTHING for you.