Sunday, February 19, 2012

Daily Assignment #105: Extended Family Trips

Over the years I found it challenging when a parent would come to me and say,"Eddie won't be in school next week.  We're going on vacation.  Please prepare work for him to do while we are away."

I totally understand parents traveling before or after the scheduled school vacations so that they may get that primo airfare.  However, parents don't realize all the challenges and disruptions these extended trips/vacations have on the classroom and the teacher.

My response to these parents changed over the years.  At the beginning of my career I would prepare all that work for the student to take on their vacation, only to have it returned to me unfinished or never returned at all.  I don't think parents are aware of how much time it takes to prepare this work for their trip/vacation.

It was difficult to be pleasant to the habitual vacation family or the ones who would return all tanned and mellow and then expect me to catch their child up on everything the child had missed, or the parent who brought their child to school straight from the airport where they had just returned from an 8-hour flight expecting me to deal with an exhausted child.

What I've learned:

  1. Some trips/vacations are worth it, especially those in which the child would learn so much by the experience, such as a travel-learning trip/vacation.
  2. Don't prepare the work for the student to take with them.  Instead, tell the parent to have the student read 20-30 minutes each night, perhaps keep a reading journal.  The parents should design 5-10 math problems each night for the child to solve.  Also, have the student keep a journal, with photos or drawings, of their trip.  Parents can also buy commercially produced workbooks.
  3. Save all the work that is done during the student's absence.  Give the work to the parents to do with the student at home and then return finished products for grading.  Make sure to give the parent a deadline for the work to be returned.
  4. It becomes increasingly more difficult for a student to miss school after grade 2, due to mandated testing.
Check to see what your district or school's policy is on this issue before you decide what you will be doing.  If there isn't a policy it would be beneficial for your school to establish one.  

Please share this blog with colleagues and friends.
Also, take a moment to check-out my book on effective strategies:

On another note, I will not have access to the Internet until Sunday, March 11th.  In the meantime, browse through the strategies included in this blog and find one that you would like to experiment with.  

Best Effort, 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Daily Assignment #104: Writing Objectives

When I started teaching, writing the objectives for a lesson was something you did when you were student teaching.  Now, objectives for lessons are required.  Some districts/schools require teacher to post the objectives in the classroom for a lesson so that students understand what they are to know and be able to do by the end of class.  My experience, not only as a student, as a beginning teacher was more of "guess what's on the teacher's mind."   My instruction was also activity driven, meaning I really wasn't sure what the students were supposed to know or be able to do but I sure knew they were having fun.

Since those beginning years, I have learned a great deal about understanding objectives of lessons and how to articulate them.  Let me share with you an abbreviated version of how to write objectives.

First, look at your lesson and decide what it is you want students to know and to be able to do as a result of  the learning experience.

Second,  write--"Students will know... and be able to...

Objectives should be specific, observable, measurable and contain verbs, such as the ones listed below:

Objective language: 

Cite, Choose, Define, Label, List Locate, Match, Name, Arrange, Classify, Describe, Diagram, Draw, Explain, Identify, Apply, Demonstrate, Illustrate, Interpret, Predict, Categorize, Differentiate, Predict, Conclude, Critique, Support, Evaluate, Contrast, Interpret, Solve, Prove, Research, Write, State, Discuss, Estimate, Summarize, Analyze.  

There are many more verbs that can be used to describe what students will know and be able to do, this is just a few.


  • Students will know and be able to state five facts about the planet Mars.
  • Students will know how to solve an algorithm in division with 5 digit numbers and be able to solve 10 division algorithms. 
  • Students will be able to define a persuasive essay and write a 3 paragraph persuasive essay.
  • Students will know 3 shapes and 4 colors and be able to use the vocabulary in describing a picture.
  • Students will know how to summarize a story and be able to use a summarizing graphic organizer.
Of course, you need to translate objectives into kid friendly language.  For younger students, giving the objective in verbal form is more appropriate than writing on a chart/smart board.  For older students, posting the objectives, and verbally giving them, is important.

Your students will pay much more attention to the lesson because they know what they will need to know and be able to do after the lesson.  It is so much better to have them have this information than to have them sitting in front of you trying to guess what's on your mind.

Please share this link with colleagues and friends.
Please check-out my book on effective strategies:

Best Effort!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Daily Assignment #103: Designing a Unit of Study

Designing a unit of study can be very overwhelming.  Let me break it down in more manageable steps for you.

  1. Begin with researching the topic.  Keep a list of resource materials.  Make sure to use the latest resources on the topic.  Become knowledgeable. 
  2. Decide what it is that students are to know and to be able to do by the end of this unit.
  3. How will learning be assessed and how frequently?
  4. Do an Activator with the students to find out how much they already know about the topic and any misconceptions or confusions they may have on the topic (refer to Daily Assignments #41-44, #53, #82)
  5. Using the data from the Activator start designing the unit. 
Questions to ask while planning the unit:
  • What is the time span for this unit? 
  • How frequently will I be teaching this unit, e.g., everyday, every other day? How many lessons will I need?
  • Knowing the objectives, what will the each lesson include?
  • What thinking skills should be included? (refer to Daily Assignment #17, #18-19)
  • In thinking about each lesson, what effective strategies can be included to meet the needs of all my students? (refer to all the Daily Assignments) 
  • What strategies can be used to include the visual, auditory and kinesthetic learners? (refer to all the Daily Assignments)
  • What projects or activities, which will promote understanding, can be incorporated into the lessons? Include a rubric. (refer to Daily Assignment #25)
  • What summarizers should be used? (refer to Daily Assignment #46-50, #53, #86)
As you teach this unit keep notes on how things are going.  In that way, when you teach this unit again, you will remember the stumbling blocks and the successes. Don't worry if you don't get everything in the first time, just keep building on what you have each year.  Also, keep samples of students' work for reference, particularly when using a rubric.

Please share this blog with colleagues and friends.  Also, take a moment to check-out my book on effective strategies.

Best Effort!