Always Prepped Principal Dashboard
February 28, 2014
Principals & Administrators,
Over the past 2 years we have worked with teachers and administrators across the country to find ways to make classroom instruction more effective and efficient. During that time we discovered that better data collection and deeper insights would help drive instruction and close the gap between low performing and high performing students.
Always Prepped has just launched our new Principal Dashboard. This allows principals to easily integrate all of their education apps and student performance reports in one dashboard.
We are connected with popular apps such as Khan Academy, Socrative, Engrade and more of the apps that your teachers are using each day. If your school uses apps that are not listed please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check out our Principal Dashboard Overview:
How Funding Affects Quality of Education
October 21, 2013
From the remote corners of the world, to the well established affluent countries, there are distinct necessities that ensure the successful operation of an education based institute. However, in today’s society we must ask the question: does more funding for schools equals a higher quality education? We explore whether there is a relationship between school resources and student achievement. Before we lean towards any particular side of the fence, we will look at the meaning of quality. This will lay a foundation for what the dynamics are of factors within this study.
Quality is the distinct degree of excellence, worth and usability of an item, information or act. There is an element of purity, ingenuity and precision that ranks it to the highest grade of superiority. Some will argue that setting up a fixed curriculum does not affect the learning process. This means that the only thing needed is the educator’s ability to transfer the information to the learner. It is then up to the learner to absorb as much detail as possible in order to obtain a passing mark when time comes for exams. Another argument is that student fees should be sufficient to cover all the costs needed to run the institute (in public schools, the money set aside for each school). Unfortunately, that view is one dimensional, and in addition, the picture is truly distorted. Depending on student fees or taxes is not viable, as it is calculated out to be the minimum that the school needs to function. So, if the cafeteria would like to serve higher quality food, the new textbooks for a specific class may be put on hold, as there is only one large budget that a school is given each year. In making this argument, we have to look at the line of reasoning that says newer text books and technology allow students to get a better education. You can argue that yes, this is true to a certain level, as the more current information and tools that a school has, the more opportunity there is for the student to have an easier transition of this knowledge to the outside world.
Since we’re engaging with the student’s intellect, we should not overlook the rest of their psyche. Having a look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we clearly see that there are critical physical and psychological aspects that affect every human being. From having a building that is safe, to enjoying extra facilities like a library, makes a difference in the student’s overall experience and peace of mind. In turn, the atmosphere has been created for them to be more focused. Well managed classrooms combined with state of the art resources as well as fully skilled educators will greatly contribute to the quality of learning. Having facilities like a cafeteria does have its’ benefits as well, even though it takes up valuable monetary resources. You don’t run the risk of having students leave the campus during their break in search of food and then decide not to return for the day as well as removing the possibility that the student chooses not to eat because nothing is conveniently available, causing more psychological issues. Another factor to consider is how interests are heightened when there are adequate facilities available.
You can also look to specializations as a source of struggle for many schools. When a school never has the opportunity to add in additional resources because of the tight budget, new classes cannot be introduced without strain. The more types of classes that are available (woodworking, arts, languages, gym, finance, special education, etc) the more opportunities there are for children to find something that they truly enjoy and become stimulated by. If those opportunities are taken away, particularly in the K-12 range, then there is less of a chance of the student succeeding because there are fewer motivational factors. With the amount of work that educators need to get through, better resources helps with the time factor. Certain learning techniques work better than others. Visual displays and practical exercises assist in getting the learners to have a higher percentage of knowledge retention from lessons. In turn, the educator can move deeper into a particular study, or move to new learning material. Faculty-Student Ratio This leads us to looking into the class dynamics. Within the school system, the size of classes has an impact on the educators’ ability to spread his or her attention to each learner. To ensure that a healthy ratio is maintained, the faculty may have to invest in more and better educators, and in turn this has an impact on available funds. The level of expertise is a precious asset in a teacher. It’s to be expected that the importance is seen in making a sound investment in educators, bearing in mind that they are the ones teaching the next generation of leadership in the country. Let’s not forget that the future president is being taught somewhere in the United States right now! Investing in educators also includes sending them on institute related courses in order to maintain the high level of skill required to ensure that the quality is maintained. Although there is no real measurable technique to establish whether the highest quality has been achieved, some factors will always remain on the forefront. Curriculums change and so does the desired knowledge outcomes. Old techniques are not always effective in the new era and better equipment is needed to ensure that learners are equipped for their future vocations. There will always be a place for funding in education.
Brianna Jones is a freelance writer who is inspired by the neglect in the public schooling system. She advocates for teachers to earn a curriculum degree and to introduce new and exciting technology into the classroom. She also volunteers at her local Elementary school in Phoenix, AZ as a reading time helper and spelling teacher.
3 Ways to Keep Parents in the Know
August 29, 2013
While elementary school is a place for children to learn, gain independence and grow, parents do appreciate regular updates on their children’s education and progress. Here are three great ways to ensure that you keep open communication between you and your students’ parents:
1) Weekly Communication Folders – Tell parents to expect their children to bring home a “take-home” folder every Thursday. Get into the routine of updating student parents on a weekly basis by giving each student a folder with his or her name on it and dividing the folder into two parts: one side will be for handouts that go home (notice for parents about ongoing problems with their child in the classroom, release forms, etc.) and the other side will be for handouts or assignments that the child needs to return to you. This will allow parents to help their children stay on top of schoolwork and address any behavioral problems if need be.
2) Monthly Letters – Mail a letter home to parents at the beginning of each month laying out what concepts or topics will be taught over the course of the next four weeks. Incorporate fun lesson plans and field trips that you have planned to show parents that their children are learning through a variety of ways and that you value your students’ education. Show them that you are going above and beyond to make their children’s education enjoyable and productive. To make the process easier, you can even create a standard classroom newsletter to send to all parents once a month: include photos, a calendar with the month’s activities, and student accomplishments and highlights.
3) Regular meetings – Plan regular meetings with parents. Each parent or guardian should be required to meet with you at least once a year. If some are more involved or concerned with their children’s education than others, leave open the option of meeting with certain parents more regularly. Be prepared for each parent meeting by bringing some of the student’s schoolwork and remaining open to parent questions. The more accessible and responsive you are to parents, the easier your life as a teacher will be.
3 Ways to Incorporate Social Media into Your Classroom
August 29, 2013
Social media offers plenty of opportunities for student learning and interactivity as it is only becoming more prominent in the business world. Students who become comfortable with social media early on will only benefit. According to Mashable, here’s what you can do to integrate social media into your classroom:
1) Create a digital classroom on Edmodo.
Edmodo helps you create a social, digital classroom. The platform allows you to vote, post assignments, create an assignments calendar, and upload photos and messages to students. Edmodo allows students to get quick feedback by taking quizzes online. Teachers can also communicate socially with one another by sharing lesson plans online and asking questions to their online communities. With more than 17 million users, Edmodo is rapidly growing. Get up to date with the latest online tools like Edmodo to make you and your students’ lives easier.
2) Use a hashtag for guest speaker discussions.
Encouraging students to engage with guest speakers via Twitter makes them more engaged with the discussion and prepares them to raise important topics or questions. This method ensures that students get their questions answered without interrupting the speaker while he or she is talking. Incorporate the students’ social communities outside of the classroom, allowing them to chime-in with questions for the speaker as well.
3) Require students to blog about current news.
This will entice students to read relevant articles daily while learning how to cite sources digitally, and embed hyperlinks and images . Keeping a blog is a great way to develop your voice as a writer, and to explore and highlight your interests. By requiring students to keep a blog, you’re helping them create writing samples to include in portfolios and establish their digital presence as an emerging, intelligent leader.
For more ways on how to include social media in your lesson plans visit http://mashable.com/2013/08/18/social-media-teachers/.
3 Tips to Give Rising High School Juniors
August 29, 2013
Rising junior high school students feel overwhelmed before junior year even begins. They know what’s coming: a year of eating, sleeping and breathing college applications. As a high school teacher, the least you can do is understand that your students are under a lot of pressure and offer them advice on how to balance it all:
Tip #1: Be Prepared and Plan Ahead
Advise students to:
- Enter junior year with a potential list of colleges they’re interested in attending.
- Ask for college teacher recommendations early, so teachers will have enough time to write valuable recommendations.
- Take both ACT and SAT practice tests. Based on which one suits him or her better, choose the ACT or SAT route and stick to it. This will narrow their focus.
- Put aside time each week to study for standardized tests whether it’s on their own, in an SAT or ACT class or with a tutor.
Tip #2: Prioritize & Set Goals
Advise students to:
- Know their values, their likes and their dislikes. It’s easy to lose sight of priorities in the midst of it all.
- Make a list or timeline at the beginning of the year with goals and tasks that need to get done. Prioritize based on deadlines to meet their goals.
- Plan when they’re going to take the ACT, SAT’s or both and leave room for error. Remind students it’s normal to take the test a few times before receiving the score they want.
Tip #3: Stay Organized & Breathe
Advise students to:
- Keep a planner, check things off when they complete them and keep track of where they are in the application process for each school.
- Keep a drawer full of college recruitment mail and application materials.
- Remind students to breathe and gain some perspective. Yes, college is an important milestone in their lives, but it’s four years of their lives – not the rest of their lives. They will get in. They may not get into their dream school, but maybe it wasn’t the right match – they may be happier elsewhere.
7 Tips: The Reading Survival Guide
August 29, 2013
Teaching students reading comprehension takes a bundle of patience, persistence and practice. To help become active readers and make sense of text on their own, educators must prepare sets of steps and strategies for students to utilize. According to Reading Rockets, below are seven strategies to boost your students’ reading comprehension:
1. Help Students Monitor their Comprehension: Instruction can help students become better at monitoring their comprehension as it teaches them to be aware of what they do understand, identify what they don’t and use appropriate strategies to resolve problems in comprehension. Help students monitor their comprehension of material independently and come up with strategies for fixing problems in their understanding.
2. Metacognition, often referred to as “thinking about thinking”, allows readers to grasp control of their reading. Assist students in creating a reading routine:
· Before reading, teach them to ask themselves the purpose of reading this text and to preview it.
· During reading, remind them to monitor their understanding, adjusting their reading speed to fit the difficulty of the text and “fixing” any comprehension problems they have.
· After reading, advise them to check their understanding of what they read.
3. Graphic organizers illustrate concepts and relationships between concepts in a text, helping readers focus on concepts and how they are related to one another, and assist students in writing well-organized text summaries.
4. Ask Questions: Ask your students to indicate whether they answer your reading questions using information that was directly stated in the text, information that was implied in the text or information that they acquired from background knowledge. This will give them a purpose for reading, help them think actively as they read, and remind them to review content and relate it to what they already know.
5. Generate Questions: By generating questions, students become aware of whether they can answer the questions, thereby if they understand what they just read. Teach students to ask themselves questions throughout reading that require them to pause, combine various facts from different parts of the text and develop the story’s main ideas.
6. Practice Recognizing Story Structure: Instruct students to identify the categories of content including the main characters, the setting, the climax, and the resolution. This will give each story they read a clear purpose, acting as a standard guide for understanding the gist of the story.
7. Summarize Each Story: Require students to summarize each story they read: to put what is most important in the text into their own words. This will enable them to Identify the main ideas and connect them, eliminate unnecessary details, and remember what they read.
Identifying Student Bullying for All Ages and How to Intervene
August 29, 2013
According to the National Education Association (NEA), bullying occurs once every seven minutes. In schools nationwide, one in three students report being bullied weekly. These daunting statistics should automatically trigger you to be more aware and sympathetic to bullying on a day to day basis. While bullying typically occurs where there is little adult supervision, as an educator you have the power to identify it, intervene and stop it, ensuring that your students have the safe, exceptional learning atmosphere that they deserve.
Step 1: Be able to define and identify bullying. If you can’t define bullying and what it entails, you can’t identify it. NEA defines bullying as “systematically and chronically inflicting physical hurt and/or psychological distress on another.” Bullying can come in three forms: physical, verbal or social and involves “a real or perceived power imbalance between the one who bullies and their target.” Students affected by bullying are usually those that are different from their classmates in one way or another.
Step 2: How to intervene during bullying: Your first concern should be keeping both parties involved safe. Remaining calm, separate the student doing the bullying and the victim. Stand between them, blocking their eye contact and ensuring that you can observe both participants.
Address any health needs or injuries.
Make it clear that bullying is unacceptable and harmful to others, even citing school or classroom policies if necessary.
Refrain from asking questions and trying to sort out the situation in the heat of the moment. Keep everyone calm and safe, advising all participants in the bullying that you will follow up with them. After the incident, handle the logistics of the situation one on one, but do not require students to make amends immediately when you intervene.
Empathize with the bullied student and reassure him or her that the incident was not his or her fault. Do not advise the student to ignore bullying in the future.
If spectators are present and did stand-up, demonstrate your admiration for their courage. If the spectators did not intervene, use the incident as an appropriate time to give all students guidance on how to properly intervene the next time they witness bullying: instruct them to find an adult or gain composure and tell the bully to stop.
For more information on how to intervene as a teacher when bullying occurs, visit http://www.nea.org/home/neabullyfree.html.
Get Your Students Up and Moving With Math
August 29, 2013
Mathematics doesn’t come easily to all students, but incorporating manipulatives into your math lesson plans will allow all students to grasp and retain math concepts with greater ease. Hands-on learning empowers students to problem-solve one step at a time to get to a solution, assisting them in developing skills and learning values such as verbalizing thinking, discussing concepts and ideas, relating real-world situations to education and gaining confidence in their abilities to find solutions on their own. Try the three activities below to not only help your students excel in math, but to let them have a little fun doing it:
Practice Percentages Over Snacks. Bring a real life scenario into the classroom by giving students the opportunity to practice calculating restaurant server tips. You need a menu, a table, snacks and two chairs. Split up your class in groups of five students. In pairs, two groups of students will be on a date while the fifth student will act as the waiter or waitress. Assign each snack a price and have each couple order from the snack menu. The server will manually add up the order and bring the couples their corresponding bills who will then work together to calculate a 20% tip.
Create a Crossword Puzzle. You want your students to learn all the key words for addition, subtraction, division and multiplication. Try creating a crossword puzzle on the chalkboard. Decipher the order of operations category (addition, subtraction, division or multiplication) and have students search for “like” terms without telling them the exact words to search for.
Build Kid-sized Resources. Using chalk, make a life-size number line to teach students hands-on how to add and subtract integers. Give students integer problems and have them hop up and down the number line to help them work through the problem until they determine the answer. To practice multiplication, construct a giant multiplication table with chalk outdoors or with construction paper indoors. Have students take turns filling in the chart a few times a week to practice memorizing multiplication tables.
3 Ways to Bring Summer Fun Back to School With You
August 29, 2013
Flipping the switch from Summer to Fall can be challenging, especially for students who quickly rid of the everyday school routine three months ago. Easing your students back into school rather than throwing them back into the familiar fast-paced, overwhelming school mode will establish a more positive classroom tone, allowing you to build stronger rapport with your students, excite them about school and encourage them to learn. Here are three ways to keep the summer season alive in your classroom and maintain a low-key, effective environment:
Make an In-class Bucket List: At the beginning of the summer, we often make a bucket list filled with top vacation spots we hope to visit, adventurous activities we hope to complete and rewarding experiences we hope to have. Why not make a bucket list for the school year? School can be fun too if you inspire students to have the right mindset. Fill your bucket list with potential field trip options, skills you want your students to walk away with or hands-on activities that permit you to teach your students outdoors. Ask students to each create a bucket list as well with concepts they would like to practice or learn and even the latest programs or technology that they aspire to learn how to use. Keep these in mind and be sure to fulfill at least one of each student’s wishes by the end of the year.
Put Touches of Summer in Your Classroom: There’s nothing wrong with trying to keep summer alive, at least for the month of September. Keeping an upbeat yet laid-back tone in your classroom may be just what students need to get back into the swing of things. Ask students to share the top three things they love about summer time. Compile a list of these ideas and hang them in the classroom, reminding students to maintain their passion for summer activities throughout the rest of the school year. Have students come up with ways that they can adjust the things they love to do during summer to fall so that they can still do and enjoy them.
Share Summer Stories: In addition to having students share details about their favorite summer vacation, share details about your personal life. Humanizing your life by showing students pictures of your family or your favorite summer experience will immediately make them feel more comfortable in your classroom, enticing them to participate more. Getting on your students’ level by creating commonality will also drive them to ask for help when needed and think of your classroom as a second home versus a teaching dungeon.
Tweet to Win $500 Back to School Dollars!
August 22, 2013
We’ve partnered with our friends at Edbacker to fund your next classroom project! Simply sign up and tweet out the link on twitter to enter. If you’ve never heard of Edbacker, they are an awesome new start-up in Washington D.C. that helps teachers use the power of social media to fund classroom projects. We thought this would be an awesome way to get the year off right, so help us – help you!
How to win big for your classroom:
1) Sign up for Always Prepped (it will make your life easier, you’ll thank us later) and your personal tweet link will be revealed.
5 Classroom Technology Must-Haves to Help Your Students
August 19, 2013
While some of us may be reluctant to embrace modern technology, it’s important to make it as available as possible in the classroom. Setting up a station where students can utilize today’s latest technology tools and software will enable them to access programs created to make their learning experiences more pleasant, efficient and holistic. Get up to date with a few of the most hip in-class products and programs for the upcoming school year:
1) Camtasia Studio: Many teachers have found Camtasia Studio a great resource, allowing them to include videos, graphics, sound bytes and more in their class lectures or presentations.
2) Panopto: This digital learning tool can record lectures, which can then be integrated with PowerPoint presentations. Using keywords, students have the ability to search for these lectures and revisit class material.
3) MentorMob: This platform allows teachers to create playlists of educational activities for students to complete at their own pace. Enabling students to work on their own time may eliminate frustration for slower learners and help students develop better time management skills.
4) Biblionasium – Designed to motivate young ones to read, this free and safe social network targets students ages six to 13. It allows them to keep track of what they read and what they want to read by giving each student a “virtual bookshelf.” Teachers can create effective, independent reading programs for their students through setting student reading challenges and digitally rewarding them.
5) SMART Board: Often referred to as the “interactive whiteboard”, SMART Board permits teachers to write class notes electronically, saving them for students to access at any time.
Summer Memories May Fade, but the Effects of the Sun Don’t
August 19, 2013
Most likely, you genuinely care about your students. You care about people. You care about people’s success and you’re passionate about education or you probably wouldn’t be a teacher. You aim to guide your students down the path of success in any way you can, you act as an ongoing resource and you share all knowledge that you think students may benefit from today, next year or even five years down the road. But have you thought about how you can potentially play a factor in saving your students’ lives? It’s simple: wear sunscreen. Teach your students the importance of sun safety and how to protect themselves from one of the deadliest, yet most preventable diseases — skin cancer.
Did you know that:
Skin cancer is the fastest growing cancer annually and that 90% of skin cancer is caused by overexposure to the sun?
One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime?
Approximately 30 percent of all melanomas occur in people who are younger than 45?
The majority of a person’s lifetime skin exposure occurs before he/she turns 18 or graduates from high school?
It would be easy to overlook such statistics and move forward with your original lesson plans. Don’t take the easy way out when you can make a remarkable, positive difference in your students’ lives. No matter their ages, they do not fully understand the potential hazards of the sun if they are not armed with proper precautions.The earlier you teach your students to practice smart sun safety tips, the more likely they will carry these good habits throughout their lives.
So, remember that the end of summer does not mean the end of the sun. Spread the word. You can help lower the toll from this devastating disease with a quick reminder to slather on sunscreen before your students leave the classroom for any outdoor activity; a quick reminder that will save at least one of your student’s lives ten years from now.
Assigned Classroom Seating vs. Free Seating
August 19, 2013
Chances are, you remember receiving your high school class schedule, frantically running around the hallways exchanging class schedule information with friends and praying that when you walked into each class period you’d have at least one friend or (at bare minimum) a friendly, familiar face. Not to mention, you happily figured that it was finally time to say goodbye to assigned seating. You were wrong.
As a high school teacher, you probably have one of two philosophies when it comes to classroom seating:
Option 1: You believe that giving your students the freedom to choose their own seats will empower them to recognize that they are now old enough to be responsible for their education and behaviors.
Option 2: You believe assigning seats to your students will promote a more structured environment, ensuring classroom management, maximizing learning and preventing unnecessary disruption.
Whether it’s option one or two, achieve your ideal classroom environment by deciding which seating arrangement best matches your teaching philosophy and be prepared to deal with the consequences. While you may get a few eye rolls thrown your way following the announcement of assigned seating arrangements, here’s how you and your students can benefit in the long run:
1) Elimination of unnecessary student conflict: breakdown of student cliques
2) Promotion of classroom management: shows students who’s in charge
3) Higher level of productivity: less disruption and more effective instruction
4 Tips For Organizing Your Class Without Breaking The Bank
August 19, 2013
As a teacher, you put your heart and soul into organizing your classroom to make it just right – an orderly, safe and happy place for your students to learn. The last thing you want is the disruption of a student running around aimlessly wondering as to why he or she can’t find the scissors, where to return the crayons or where to find the paper towels after spilling glue all over the floor. An unorganized classroom screams chaos, let alone a very unproductive learning environment.
However, organizing tools and materials do cost a fortune — and what people don’t realize is that the expenses come from a teacher’s very own pocket. How do you organize your classroom yet escape breaking the bank?
Rule #1: Don’t underestimate the power of utilizing simple, everyday things for new purposes.
Rule #2: Think outside the box. Use glue or a jumbo rubber band to attach an empty tissue box to a full one to use as garbage. This will eliminate the high chance of spent tissues ending up on the floor and reinforce the importance of throwing away tissues right after use.
Rule #3: You name it, you label it. You can never do enough labeling. Collect soup cans and glue magnets to them. Stick each can to poster board or even a hanging steel cookie sheet. Assign a can to each set of materials such as markers, pencils, crayons, erasers and paper clips and label each can’s magnet accordingly. This serves as an affordable, simple solution for keeping clutter at bay and clearly designating a place for various classroom materials.
Rule #4: The toilet paper tube. The inside cardboard tube from a used roll of toilet paper is a perfect tool for keeping your classroom’s unruly extension cords tangle-free. Glue the toilet paper roll to a nearby wall, neatly wrap up your extension cord and place it in the tube holder. No more time spent untangling an extension cord before its next use!
Looking to ease your students back into a sense of structure? Set the classroom tone from day one. Below are contemporary ideas to welcome and stimulate your students while increasing their involvement & respect in the classroom:
Choose a theme and stick with it. Create visual inspiration to catch students’ attention from the moment they step foot in the classroom. Not only will this promote a cohesive environment, but it will create a “homey” feel that will keep student moods positive and light. Try fairy tale, rockstar or jungle themes for elementary school students and college pennant or remarkable leader/figure themes for middle and high school students.
Incorporate students in classroom ownership. If students feel connected to the classroom environment on a personal level, they are more likely to respect the classroom, one another and you. Allow students to discuss and compile a list of classroom rules for each student to abide by and sign. Post the set of rules in a central spot.
Prolong summer relaxation & enjoyment. A student’s worst nightmare is being thrown back into a disciplined, rigorous school schedule after enjoying a long, free-spirited summer break. Entice students to overcome the back-to-school dread by showing genuine interest in their summer activities. Ask each student to bring a picture from the favorite thing he or she did this summer vacation to class. This will also serve as a great conversation starter among students, enabling them to learn from one another’s travels and experiences.
Blend entertainment and education. Social media is at the heart of our society and it certainly isn’t going anywhere. Embrace today’s digital era by illustrating the power of social media and its benefits to students. Create a Facebook bulletin board display, allowing students to post classroom suggestions or feedback (with boundaries) on the Facebook wall. Post classroom photos of students and include fun facts about your classroom. Create a separate Pinterest bulletin board as a “board” of inspiration. As you or your students find items or ideas that stand out, they can be “pinned” to your board. Students can also comment on the “pins” that they appreciate.
Be mindful of your color scheme. Some colors inevitably create a soothing ambiance, helping students focus, while others create more unsettling feelings, distracting students from their work. Therefore, it’s important to evaluate your classroom color combinations: light pink, blue and pale yellow tend to act as soothing, non-irritable colors, while bright yellow excites the brain and body, orange agitates students and red often triggers hunger.