You teach ONLINE? AND What I have been up to this week!

You teach ONLINE?

When I tell others that I teach middle school math online, the first thing they say is, “How does that work?”, followed by an endless amount of other questions.

It seems like most people who I have come across do not know about online schools, so I will come back and update this if we change our plans throughout the year.  Maybe it will give a better picture of how some people teach online. To be honest, I didn’t know that there were online schools for middle school students until I looked into it and found a job, and I have taught for 6 going on 7 years!

Organized the Office

I spent tons of time organizing my office!  I needed to take a break from constantly being at my computer.

 

It is still a work in progress, but I am happy to have a place that I can work once school starts back up.  In the midst of my back to school fever, I went a little crazy decorating my office.  Early this week, I started putting up posters that I used to have in my classroom.  I got inspired by my fiance’s office that has pictures and posters.

The fun has only just begun… I am sure I will make plenty of changes as the year goes on.  After all, I will be spending a lot of time in there.  I will be teaching from 8:30-3:00 with a break for lunch and another break throughout the day. Technically, this will be more hours teaching than last year. However, I will not have as many videos and lessons to create (hopefully).  I will have trouble resisting the urge to make new videos and resources, so expect some new videos from me to show up on my vimeo profile.  Plus, I did promise to make a back to school video to send to my students, so I need to follow through on that.

Back to School!

Our first meeting is the 11th, so even before we have students, there is work to do.  Luckily, I got a lot done at the end of the school year to prepare for this year.  Of course I still have things to do, but it isn’t as overwhelming as it could have been.  I am the most concerned about our new structure of classes: how it will end up working out, and what it will be like when I am the main teacher for 7th grade.  I am happy that I will be teaching 7th grade Pre-Algebra, which is a class that I taught last year.

I am so excited to see everyone again and am looking forward to working with some new people this year!

A little about our class structure plan:

  • Classes will be Monday-Thursday
  • Friday will be open office
  • Each class period will last 1 hour and 30 minutes.
  • 45 minutes will be a large group
    • Led by me and assisted by the other 7th grade math teacher (there are two of them, but they will rotate) for the first class of the day only.  The rest of the day, they will be teaching their own class.  Ideally, we would like to have the students take a ticket out the door so that we can decide if they are free to go or if they need to stay for the remediation class.
  • 30 minutes will be a smaller group
    • The other 7th grade math teacher will be teaching a remediation class on the same topic that I taught that day during the 30 minutes directly after the 45 minute class.  They will take turns, so each of them will teach twice a week.  I will help them for the first 15 minutes, but for the second 15 minutes, I will have a break, tutor, or set up for the next class.
  • There will be up to 6 classes a day

Bought a Headset & Printed Products

I bought a printer and a headset.  I have yet to try the headset, but am looking forward to it! I did charge it.

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I printed some products (even though I can’t use the hard copy because I teach online) just to make sure everything was how I intended it.  I organized the products in two binders: one for stations, and one for other products.  I haven’t done all the products yet, but I am sure I will eventually.  Maybe I can use them someday in the classroom, or use them as a portfolio of my work.  I used my label maker to label the binders.  I can’t wait to start cutting out and laminating some station activities!

TpT Sale Spike

Next came the TpT sale.  I was in shock on the 4th (mainly because I had almost forgotten about the sale and had taken a few days away from technology), and especially the 5th… look at that crazy spike!  The crazy part is that most of those sales were late in the day on the 5th.  My spike motivated me to buy some clip art from a TpT seller to spread the love. Thank you TpT for hosting an amazing sale!Capture

Got Creative

I created some new products on Tuesday and Wednesday:

Then, I added an easy version to my product, Building Squares:  Icebreaker Puzzle (for the first week of school).

Was Inspired

I listened to most of Edmodocon on the 6th and was thoroughly entertained.  We are trying to decide if we will use edmodo next year.  We did not use it last year, but I used it the year before.

Today I realized that the TpT Math Back to School eBook for Grades 6-12 is out.

amyharrison

Welcome Video for Students

I am thinking about making a welcome video to send to my students.

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First, I must say that I need to start going to bed earlier.  It never fails, I end up staying up late right before the school year is about to begin, but not at the beginning of the summer.  If I want to stay up late, I have one week left.  After that, it is time to get back on a regular schedule.  Our first meeting is on the 11th.

Most likely, I will post the video on vimeo and share the link with the students to watch before our first class.

FACT:  I only know what a few of my students look like.

I work at an online school, so I work at home, except for meetings.  Last year, I never met most of my students, in person anyways. The few that I did meet looked completely different from what I had imagined in my mind.   I wanted to stare at them and soak in their faces so the picture in my head would transform.  I had some pretty fantastic students in 6th grade last year that I am really looking forward to having again this year!

FACT:  Most of my students haven’t met me.
Where did I meet some of my students?

At the office and/or while proctoring CRT tests.  Last year, I had a few pictures on my website, and turned on the camera sometimes during class.  Typically I only came on camera when the students asked me to, but there were a few days where I surprised everyone.  I did not come on every day.  I don’t mind being on camera, but I become very aware of what I am doing, which is distracting.

Why Am I Thinking About Making a Welcome Video?

The video will give my students a chance to see me.  They loved it when I came on camera last year, but there audio and video don’t sync properly.  There is no lag if I post the video on a website (unless they have internet like at my parent’s house in the country).

I know that some students will be really excited to see me in action. Hopefully the video serves its purpose, making the students feel a little more comfortable and welcome.

I will make sure my office is in good shape so that I can record the video there.  Currently the condition clean, but I am trying to add more items to it. Today and yesterday, I cleaned the perimeter of the garage, where I have tons of school supplies, books, etc. from my classroom. Most of them are still out there… just  a little neater.  Some of these items are moving to my office.

I am thinking about putting up posters on the walls of my office.  I have them, and I have no idea what to do with them. Storing them on the walls might be the answer.  The room needs re-painted from the previous owners, so putting a few holes in the wall isn’t a big deal.

I am considering donating the school supplies… what am I going to do with them?  Maybe I can give them to students at the office somehow.

I can’t believe it has taken me a year to deal with the mountain of stuff from my classroom that has sat in my garage. Now when I open my garage door I don’t have to cringe, thinking that neighbors are looking at my piles of stuff, and secretly judging me.  The amount of money that I spent on all of this stuff is insane!

I know from making flipped videos last year, students don’t like to watch long videos, so I don’t feel the need to make it very long. 2 minutes tops.  Just a hello and a bit about me and about what to expect in class.  It will include any necessary excel documents (a calendar of topics, and 7th grade common core resource) and a PDF with information, such as when to get help.

I am feeling really good about this idea. Maybe I will suggest it to some colleagues.

Now that I wrote it down, I will remember it, so it is time to follow through.  Pictures coming soon.

What do you think?  Would you watch a welcome video from a teacher?  Would you make one?

amyharrison

First Week of School Ideas and Resources Part 1

IN A FEW SHORT WEEKS, WE GO BACK TO SCHOOL…

Are you looking for something to do on the first day or first week of school? This FREE questionnaire is great for that and for getting to know your students. Yes, you might not have enough time to read through all the responses, but they are nice to keep on hand. You will be surprised what students are willing to tell you when you just ask.

allaboutyou

All About You! (FREE questionnaire for first day of school)
• Two Pages (print front to back)

I just typed this up last night, but I have used something very similar every school year. I should have it saved on my computer somewhere… from before I organized my files.  I figured it would be much faster to re-create then to find it!  🙂  

I love to pass this worksheet out on the first day of school at the door.  With instructions on the screen to quietly complete the questionnaire, the students should get to work right away.  After all, it is the first day of school, so they aren’t sure what to expect and will be mostly obedient.  Obviously I don’t expect my students to sit there the entire class period filling out the survey, so an activity should be planned for after.  Maybe a pre-test?   Maybe an icebreaker? 

I don’t have a classroom anymore because I teach online, so if I want to use this activity I will have to change it greatly.  Here are a few ideas:

  1. I can k-mail (our form of e-mail with the students) all of my students the list of questions (or perhaps a modified list), and ask for their response.
  2. Create a Google Form for the students to fill out.  I can give the link to them at the end of class, and k-mail it to them as a back-up.
  3. As soon as I get the list of students, I can send them a k-mail with the questionnaire.
  4. I can decide not to use it.

How have I handled the first day in the past? I wrote a loose script one year, and completely winged it the next with my toolbox of activities and icebreakers.

How should you use this questionnaire?

Use on the first day or first week of school. You may or may not decide to read these, but it is a great way to get information from your students. I suggest handing it out to students as they walk in the room or having it on their desks. Then, they can get started on the questionnaire right away. Of course, make sure you have an activity for them to get started on once they finish.

What questions are included?

ALL ABOUT YOU!
• Your Full Name
• What name would you like to be called during class?

Note: If you don’t know the answer, or don’t feel comfortable answering, you can keep some questions blank.

ABOUT YOUR Family!
• Name(s) of parent(s) or guardian(s):
• Parent/Guardian’s Phone Number?
• Parent/Guardian’s E-mail?
• Do you have any brothers and/or sisters? How many?
• What are your brothers/sisters name(s)?
• Did any of your brothers/sisters attend this school?
• Do you have any pets? What kind? What are their names?

BACK TO YOU!
• What do you like to do after school?
• What is your favorite food?
• What is your favorite candy?
• Who is your favorite singer/band?
• What is your favorite TV show?
• Who is your favorite actor/actress?
• What is your favorite movie?
• What is your favorite sport?
• What is your favorite sports team?
• What hobbies you do enjoy?
• What is your dream job?
• Do you play any after school sports? Which ones?
• Do you participate in any after school activities or clubs?

ABOUT SCHOOL:
• What is your favorite subject? Why?
• What is your favorite math topic? Why?
• What math topics do you struggle with the most?
• What are you looking forward to learning in math this year? Why?
• Describe how you learn best.
• How do you plan to let me know if you need help with a topic?
• How much homework do you expect per night?
• How many pages of notes do you expect to take each day?
• What goal would you like to accomplish this school year?
• What time do you wake up for school in the morning?
• What time do you go to bed?
• Do you already know any other students in this class?

Finish the sentence
• I love teachers that…
• I dislike teachers that…

• Is there anything else that you want me to know?

The End.

Download the FREE printable version of this back to school questionnaire here.

Want to read about and download some more back to school resources?

First Week of School Ideas and Resources Part 2

First Week of School Ideas and Resources Part 3

First Week of School Ideas and Resources Part 4

amyharrison

Top 5 Reasons I LOVE Teaching Online

Keep in mind, most of these reasons have nothing to do with actually teaching online, but they are the major perks of the lifestyle!icanworkinmypajamaswhiteEnough said…

IcanavoidgermswhiteAs many people know, I do not like germs.  While teaching in the “real” classroom, I greatly despised having dirty-feeling hands all day every day.  I even considered becoming a science teacher so that I could have a sink in my classroom!  JUST KIDDING… but I was certainly envious of those sinks.  Baby wipes and clorox wipes were my savior…ESPECIALLY baby wipes because they were cheap.  I kept them at the door and all around for students to clean desks, their hands, etc. Did I have hand sanitizer around?  Sometimes, but mainly just for the students.  I am not am not a fan of the smell.

Now how did I walk around all day every day with dirty hands if I am such a germ freak?  I simply wasn’t able to wash my hands.  We were required to be at our doors between classes, and all of our classes were back to back.  The only guaranteed times I would wash my hands were after using the restroom, which I would always do during my lunch break (if I took one), and my prep period (if I wasn’t covering another teacher’s class).

Now that I work at home, I wash my hands all the time and I love it!  Plus, I get to use the bathroom anytime I want. 🙂

igettobecreative

From my time teaching at a brick and mortar school, I realized that I loved everything about teaching except for excessive grading and record keeping.  Due to teaching online, I can avoid most of this and allow my creative mind to flourish.

Here are some of the things that I create for my classroom:

  • Videos
  • Power Points (including files that I sell on tpt)
  • Word Documents
  • PDFs (including files that I sell on tpt)
  • White Board Files (.wbd) to use in Black Board Collaborate
  • Adobe Captivate Files (.cptx)
  • SWF Files (.swf)
  • Graphics and Clip Art

Sometimes I wish that I could quit teaching so that I could play on the computer.  I would love to learn how to become a real graphic artist.  Also, I would love to have more time to make teacher products.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not planning on quitting teaching… I would miss it too much.

ilovemydoggiesfamilyandfriendsBy working from home, I am able to see my doggies, family members and friends more often. Yes, I am still working the same hours, but being at home makes my life a million times easier.  If everyone is driving me crazy, especially the dogs, all I have to do is close the door to my office to get a little peace and quiet.  I don’t HAVE to work in my office though.  Sometimes I like to work downstairs so that I can sit on the couch or stand up at the counter height tables I have.  When I was working at school building, I felt like I never got to see my fiancé.  Sometimes I still feel that way when we are on opposite schedules, but at least I get to see him.  I love seeing him on my breaks, however small and infrequent they are.  Also, he kisses me goodbye before he leaves, even if I am in the middle of class.  Another Bonus:  If I feel like having a “co-teacher” for the day, or even just for one class, I can invite my dog, Charlie.  He loves sitting as close to me as physically possible. I think he would burrow underneath my skin if he could.

isavemoneyI save money on clothes because I don’t need them for every day use.  I am completely comfortable going to the grocery store in my pajamas or workout clothes.  I do need clothes when I go out to do something, if I attend a field trip, or if we have a meeting at the office.  I do like to turn the camera on while teaching.  For this, I need a top.  I tend to wear tank tops around the house.  In fact, I have very prominent tank top and flip-flop tan lines, due to what became last school year’s uniform. How did I get tan lines?  I live in Las Vegas and take the dogs in the backyard (flip-flops) and on walks (tennis shoes).  OK, back to needing a top… I prefer not to wear tank tops on camera, so I leave a sweater or shirt nearby for easy access so that I instantly look more professional on camera.  A lot of times I do not shower until after class, and I try not to wear about doing my hear or wearing make-up.  My students still tell me I am beautiful… so sweet of them 🙂

What are some other things I save money on?

  • GAS!  I don’t drive nearly as much as I used to.  Also, I can get reimbursed for any miles I travel for meeting and other work expenses.  I haven’t taken advantage of getting reimbursed yet; I really need to do that next year!
  • Clothes, Shoes, Make-Up, etc.
  • Food, water bottles, coffee, etc.
  • SCHOOL SUPPLIES!  I have a depressing amount of school supplies that I purchased sitting in my garage.  I need to do something about that!  I am considering selling some items, but am also happy to give some to fellow teachers.
  • Other Classroom Items:  Books, Bins, etc.
  • Candy and Prizes for students.  I was never a big fan of bribing students, but did take part at times.  It can really work when used properly!  During my last year of teaching at a brick and mortar school, I stopped buying candy altogether.

When working at home, the opportunities to save money are endless!

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Finally, one bonus of working at home that I need take better advantage of next year:

I can multitask!  laundry, dishes, and other cleaning tasks should be easier for me to carry out.  I just need to remind myself of this once the school year starts…  It is tempting to avoid chores when I have work to do!  I thought of this bonus while writing this post and looking around my house that I need to clean desperately.   Playing on the computer is simply more fun than doing chores!

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The top 3 of reasons that actually relate to my love of teaching online:

  1. Creating resources for my students.
  2. Making an impact on my students by tutoring them or connecting  with them.
  3. Teaching classes virtually.

floweramy

Inevitable Excitement from the TPT Conference Has Cost Me Last Night’s Sleep

Inevitable Excitement from the TPT Conference Has Cost Me Last Night’s Sleep.

My Positive Experience at the TPT Conference on July 11th, 2014.  

When I first got an e-mail about the conference, I started out by thinking it would be weird to go because I was only a seller for less than a year… to feeling energized and motivated after the conference… a complete 180.  #TPT2014 #TPT14

Some people might think I am crazy due to my willingness to hang out with strangers for the day, but it makes me feel right at home…

Since I was in middle school, I have been very willing to socialize with others, especially if I don’t know them very well. In fact, I would say that I was most comfortable with friends first, then people I didn’t know at all, and finally was the least comfortable with acquaintances.  I thought I was so wise in middle school… oh boy!  I will never trade my best friends for anything, but do agree that sometimes the “acquaintance stage” has a history of being incredibly awkward. Then again, I tend to over think everything!  (Thanks Mom…)  Sure, I do get uncomfortable easily, but I can still talk to anyone if I have to or want to.  I can thank my dad for the social gene.

Even though I am super new (less than a year) to Teachers Pay Teachers, it was great to see the teacher that got me started on TPT, Lindsay Perro.  I didn’t even know how to pronounce her last name until she stated her name at the TPT Conference Session.  Nevertheless, a colleague showed me a sample of her coloring pages, which enticed me to try this TPT thing for myself.  I noticed the teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Lindsay-Perro along the bottom of the page, so I investigated when I got home.  I realized that she specialized in middle school mathematics, which really excited me.  After all,  I had been teaching middle school math for 5 going on 6 years. Let me be clear:  I created worksheets, quizzes, and tests for my department regularly, but I had never tried to sell and market my products.  I completed my TPT investigation over the summer, signed up, and the rest is history!

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Paul & Amy

During the cocktail hour, I inadvertently got a photo taken with Paul.  I was taking a picture for someone else that I had just met. What seemed like a few minutes later, I was still standing there next to Paul and his arm was still around me… oops!  Clearly he was thinking that I was waiting for someone to take a picture, so I got my phone out of my purse and had someone take a picture. However, I am not proud of how I look because I did not give myself enough time to get ready in the morning.  My “excuse” is that I was too lazy to get up because I live in Vegas so didn’t have very far to go for the conference.  In all reality my excuse would have been that I couldn’t handle being out-of-town if the conference were across the country. Sometimes I am hopeless when it comes to getting ready to go somewhere… Especially now that I spend most of my time at home now that I teach online.

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temporary tatoo

Even though I still feel new, I have started to feel much more comfortable after attending the conference.  Before I felt like I was on my island; A familiar feeling for me, as I was the only person teaching my topic for several years.  Distancing me further, I never bought any other teacher’s products, and didn’t have anyone to collaborate with. Luckily, I found a perfect counterpart to bounce ideas off of last year!  Yay 🙂

Now back to the conference… Ok I’ll be honest, I did still feel a bit like an outsider at the conference at times.  It seems like everyone has business cards, use graphics on their products (typically purchased from other TPT sellers), blogs regularly, have a Facebook page, pins a few times a week, etc… whew…  When I spoke with sellers that have been going at it a little longer than me they told me that I need to get on the TPT Seller’s Forums and on Facebook. Recently, I have read a few of the posts on the sellers forum, but there is so much… I will go back again soon and try to find something to comment on.  I am looking forward to meeting some new friends in other sellers.

amyharrison

 

Preview of the Mini Interactivity: Find the Mean or the Average of a Set of Numbers

Download the free .swf file here.

This is a quick, interactive resource that can be used on the computer.

When you play the SWF file, make sure you hit the continue button when you are ready to move on. Also, once you have entered your text into the white text box (by clicking it with a mouse and typing), hit enter to submit it. If you get the right answer, you will move on. If you get the wrong answer, you will be asked to try again until you figure it out.

CONTENTS OF .SWF FILE:
Page 1- Vocabulary: Mean: the average
1. Add all the numbers.
2. Divide by the total number of items in the set.
Page 2- Show: find the mean example (worked out step by step) *no audio*
Page 3- You Try: Fill in the blank (find the mean: 2 steps)
Page 4- Congrats! You are finished.

HOW HAVE I USED THIS ITEM IN THE CLASSROOM?
I had students complete this mini lesson during our online class in Blackboard Collaborate (BBC). It was used as transition activity from what we were doing to finding the mean. After class, I posted this resource on our middle school math website so that students could access it later.  Do you want to check out the .swf file posted on a website?

aharri5on

Blank Coordinate Planes – Reproducible

 Free Blank Coordinate Planes (Reproducible):  6 to a page  Great for use in the math classroom!

Description:  Blank coordinate planes.  6 to a page.  Each coordinate plane includes -5 to 5 (5 spaces on each side of the x-axis and y-axis).  The graphs are not numbered.  The graph is dark, so it will print and copy nicely.

coordinateplanereproducibletitlepage

 Here are what the graphs look like:

cp1

                                                                              cp2

If you download the free pdf, you will get the two reproducible pages below:

blankcoordinateplane6light

blankcoordinateplane6dark

 

Free Blank Coordinate Planes (Reproducible):  6 to a page and 12 to a page.  (Each graph goes from -8 to 8)

Description:  Blank graphs to use when graphing coordinates and equations on the coordinate plane.  Each graph goes from -8 to 8 on both the x-axis and y-axis.  There are two options for copying:  12 to a page or 6 to a page.  Reproducing will be a breeze with the dark lines, sure to show up using any copy machine.

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Here is the .png image of coordinate plane:

cp3

If you download the free pdf, you will get the two reproducible pages below:

Notice:  These pictures are edited slightly.  For example, the copyright at the bottom is much smaller, but the number of graphs on a page remains the same.

cp62ap

coordinateplanes12toapage

How did I create the coordinate planes?  

I made them in MS Word by creating a table.  I added the number of rows and columns I needed, made sure that all of the cells were square, darkened the lines for the x-axis and y-axis, and I was finished!

Note:  I have all of the images grouped with a white background so that they will show up with the dark blog theme.  Lately, I have been making my backgrounds transparent on images because I think it looks nicer.  Thank goodness for the preview button, otherwise a few of the images would have blended right in with the dark background.

How do I use the coordinate planes now?  

I use these coordinate planes (usually just one image at a time, not the full page) in the online classroom while helping students.

In the past, I printed the full page for students to do graphing homework sometimes.  However, almost always, I would take the single .png image and insert it in to a word document that I made.  Here are a few thumbnails of examples:  

preview slope graph 2      the corrdinate plane quiz

This was completely necessary as the clip art in blackboard collaborate has not been working for most of the school year.  It does work now, and has an option for a coordinate plane that can be grouped as the background.  The coordinate plane takes up the whole page, so it isn’t always the best option if you have other things on the page that you need to see.  Here is a thumbnail of the coordinate plane that takes up the whole page:

largecoordinateplanebbc

The blackboard collaborate clip art coordinate plane works very well online, but I would imagine that the light colored lines wouldn’t copy well.  This is the dilemma I was constantly faced with when reproducing coordinate planes in the past.  In fact, it is why I decided to create some dark coordinate planes.

Wow… I still have so much more to say about coordinate planes, but this is all I can handle for now 🙂

aharri5on