It’s the first week of school—the last thing you want to do is learn how to use a new tool. However, just as lesson planning over the summer saves you time and sanity in the fall, learning these new tools now will help you create routines and gauge progress later on. Find time in the back-to-school madness to learn more about these five tools and see how they can make your life easier throughout the year!
Building a classroom community is important, and getting to know your students is a critical aspect of that process. However, the “getting to know you” worksheet is a bit over-done; students will have to fill out dozens of these—the more they fill out the sheet, the more generic their answers get.
Toss that in the trash and use real-time classroom polling instead. This allows students to submit answers to various questions in real-time. Ask questions such as: my favorite subject is, the weirdest thing about me is, etc., and project the answers on a screen or the white board.
Students will be excited to see their answer highlighted in front of the class and you’ll get plenty of important information about everyone. Note: you can make their responses anonymous.
Linear note taking is not only boring, but doesn’t promote deeper thinking. Mind maps, on the other hand, help students dive into a topic with voracity, understanding plot lines or cause and effect relationships with better clarity.
Bring MindMeister into the classroom to facilitate this new style of note taking, making it a regular practice for the rest of the year. If you’re in a 1:1 classroom, have students map their notes after every lesson. If not, set aside 30 minutes every Friday for students to turn one set of notes into a mind map. Encourage them to ask questions as they uncover new information.
It’s important that students get into a regular reading habit, hence the standard “20-minutes of at-home reading” that most teachers assign. Tackle this problem from day 1 by implementing Whooo’s Reading right away.
This free teacher tool allows students to log their reading, answer CCSS-aligned questions and write “blog posts” in an effort to earn Wisdom Coins. These coins are then used to buy virtual accessories for their Owlvatar.
While your students are having a blast logging minutes and “buying” accessories, you’re tracking what their reading, watching the progress of their Lexile Score, and providing immediate, personalized feedback. Both you and your students will love to see how much they progressed from the beginning to the end of the year.
Bring blogging into your classroom during the first few weeks of school. Students will be excited to publish their work online and learn basic skills at the beginning of school, giving them more time to advance and learn about writing web content and maybe even coding.
Start with one classroom blog, where all students publish from, or give them each their own blog. Students can use this platform to publish papers, project write-ups and more.
Introducing a new grade book or lesson-planning tool mid-year can throw you off. Start fresh at the beginning of the year with LearnBoost, an online grade book where you can also write and store lesson plans with their built-in visual editor.
Use this tool to send student progress updates directly to parents throughout the year and easily import any Google Docs you already have. Use the built-in data dashboard to benchmark student progress, giving you both short- and long-term insights from day one.
Learning a new tool may seem daunting during the first few weeks of school, but now is the time to buckle down and push through. In many cases, it will give you a more accurate picture of student progress through the year, making parent-teacher conferences more effective and giving students a chance to see how they improved.