Category Archives: Best Practices from Awesome Educators

We are Called to Inspire our Students even in the Last Few Weeks of School…Remember the “Why” in Choosing to Teach


(Picture posted on Facebook by Teacher2Teacher #T2T)

We have limited days left with our students.

What a blessing it has been to greet them each morning as they enter our building, our classroom. To be able to tell them they can learn the impossible and see that which is not visible. Be a caregiver, boo-boo healer, magician, entertainer, disciplinarian and mentor. To be a dispenser of hope and a well of motivation and inspiration. Provide them examples to model after and to strive to emulate.

What a blessing it has been to be all we are called to be to them this school year.

We as educational support staff, teachers and administrators  have modeled for those placed in our care more than we will ever know.

Hopefully, we have modeled positive conflict resolution, how to demonstrate and hopefully deal with disappointment and frustration, how to be kind in words and actions and how to forgive.

Our students have watched and listened to our words and actions.

As one who who chooses to work within the world of education, teach and inspire our future leaders of tomorrow, this is so very important for us to remember.
Let us have faith that the seeds and examples we have planted and provide will be watered to bear fruit for many years to come.

May the last few weeks of school be all that you hoped this school year would be …on the first day of school!
May we continue to seek knowledge in all things-

Denise

Principal

St. Augustine Catholic School

Twitter:

@dballwriter and @principal567

Sent from Mobile Device

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Suggested Summer Reading for Teachers and those who Play a Role in the Life of a Child

Having written my thesis on phonics, I found this book a good and reflective read. I am still a believer in the importance of phonics in the classroom and at home but I am and feel we as educators must be, open to others views and opinions. I learned a lot from this book and highly recommend it for your summer “must read” list.

“The Great Reading Disaster: Reclaiming Our Educational Birthright” by Mona McNee and Alice Coleman

Amazon’s Book Description:

 

“By the late 1980s half the nation’s children were receiving eleven years of progressivism schooling that failed to give them even the elementary basis of education that was completed by the age of seven in earlier days. This great reading disaster was caused by the ?look?say? method of teaching, which presented whole words not individual letters. This book explains the causes and provides the solution to this problem. In 2006, the Secretary of State for Education and Skills has ordered schools to use the phonic method but there seems little evidence that its implications are properly understood or that any serious re-training program for teachers is being put in place. The authors believe their explanations and recommendations in this book are thus needed just as much as ever.”

 

 

The next book is an excellent read and has sat in my office on my book shelve for a couple of years now. I have lent it out many times now in hopes that it might inspire those who read it to refuse to give into the easy path and CHOOSE to be the difference in the life of our children…our future! Our Unlock the Teacher team has talked on this before on how we feel ALL children are capable of learning. I know many have heard me tell the story of when I taught in the city and I was told that my students could not or would never understand Shakespeare, so I should not waste my time. Well, not only did my 8th grade English/Literature students learn all about Shakespeare, The Tempest became one of their favorite reads that year. Much of how our students respond in our classrooms or buildings depends most on how we choose to approach our environment and communicate learning expectations. I highly recommend this book for all educational staff and parents too!

 

 

“Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves but Can’t Read, Write, or Add”

 

Amazon’s Book Description:

 

Dumbing Down Our Kids is a searing indictment of America’s secondary schools one that every parent and teacher should read.
Dumbing Down Our Kids offers a full-scale investigation of the new educational fad, sometimes called “Outcome Based Education” the latest in a long series of “reforms” that has eroded our schools.
-Why our kids rank to, or at the bottom of international tests in math and science

-Why “self-esteem” has supplanted grades and genuine achievements

-How the educational establishment lowers standards and quality in our schools-while continuing to raise their budgets and our school taxes

-The dumbing down of the curriculum so everyone can pass-but no one excel

-How parents, students, and teachers can evaluate schools and restore quality learning.

 

If you have a good book to recommend or your staff has chosen a book to read as a team, please share and together we can learn from each other. It is in the collaborative process that we will make a difference for our children of today and the future of tomorrow.

 

May we continue to seek knowledge in all things,

 

Denise and the entire Unlock the Teacher Team

 

 

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Wonderful 8th Grade Literature Scrapbooks through the Eyes of the Characters

Utilizing Character Journals/Scrapbooks in the Classroom
Sue Martin, a middle school language arts/literature teacher has allowed us to utilize these great pieces of student’s work.  Students were given a rubric to create a scrapbook/journal in the eyes of one of the characters in the book they were reading.  As the pictures demonstrate, this is a unique and fun assignment for student and teacher and can be modified for various age groups.

"The Lying Game""The Lying Game" scrapbook on the inside"Wait till Helen Comes""Wait til Helen Comes" scrapbook on the inside

"Wait til Helen Comes" Character Scrapbook"Harry Potter" Character Journal

 

"Wicked" Character Journal

 

"Wicked" Character Scrapbook on the inside

 
I find these pictures creative and I have no doubt that the students had a great time identifying with the characters in the books they read as they created these wonderful assignments.
 
If you would like to share your Best Practices, we would love to read them and share them with our readers.  Please email documents to denise@unlocktheteacherllc.com
 
May we seek knowledge in all things,
Denise
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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What are Educators and Principals saying about Denise Ball and Unlock the Teacher…

Unlock the Teacher LLC has just finished up working with a staff on curriculum alignment at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs school in Beverly Hills, Michigan.  This has been a fifteen month process.  The  principal, Mr. Joseph Vincler and the entire educational staff made us feel so appreciated!  They came to each curriculum session with an abundance of positive energy and a desire to learn.  This staff took the time to look and analyze their current curriculum, learn the “Nuts and Bolts” of the Common Core State Standards (that we prepared for them) and collaborated within their professional learning communities in the building to make sure there were no gaps in their teaching practices in all disciplines.  It has truly been a pleasure!  I have no doubt, that they are among a small list of schools that have looked at  (in-depth) the CCSS documents and have incorporated the Common Core State Standards for ELA and Math into their everyday teaching practices.

We look forward to continue to build a relationship with this school and coming back to work with this wonderful educational staff once the Social Studies and Science standards are released.

Here are a few comments they sent us from one of our first training sessions with them in 2010 as we began the curriculum alignment process.

What are educators saying about Denise Ball and Unlock the Teacher...

One of the many workshops we conducted as part of our Curriculum Alignment Package to this school over the 15 month time-frame.

Unlock the Teacher talking about Education

May we continue to seek knowledge in all things,

Denise

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6th Grade Teacher Makes Science Fun with Cell Process Cartoons

Who said science wasn’t fun?
While in a school today (St. Mary School Royal Oak, Michigan), I stopped to look at these fabulous displays of creativity.  Not only was this hallway display colorful and creative, it was educational and funny!
 
 A simple, yet effective and creative way to teach the process of a cell.Students after reviewing lesson with their teacher Mrs. Lapenta, they were given the rubric for a “Cell Process Cycle Cartoon”.  Students had to incorporate the vocabulary given and create a cartoon strip displaying the process reviewed in class. Thinking “Outside of the Box” can take learning to new and exciting places for you and your students.
 
We would love to share your classroom Best Practices with our readers. Please email me at denise@unlocktheteacherllc.com a brief synopsis of lesson and a jpg or two.  It is in this collaborative process, that we all grow as educators…as parents…as a society!  Good ideas are meant to be shared.  We try to share them as often as we can!
 

"Outside of the Box" teaching is good for all stakeholders in the learning process!

 

May we continue to seek knowledge in all things,
Denise
 
Join our Conversation:
Twitter~ unlockteacher
 

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Wire Sculpture Activity for Classroom and Home~Grades 4-12~Teachers Sharing Best Practices

Wire Flower for Wire Sculpture Activity

Activity/Lesson: Wire Sculpture Activity

Submitted by: Linda Irwin~ Middle School Social Studies Teacher

School:                St. Mary School, Royal Oak, Michigan

To get to know my students and to do a quick assessment of writing, I utilize this lesson on the first day of Religion class. (Note: This lesson could be utilized for any class.)

  1. I give each student a piece of floral wire. (NOTE: Wire ends can be sharp, so be careful.)
  2. I ask students to think about their lives.
  3. Using wire, students create a design that represents them and their lives.  (e.g. a musical note~if your musical, a tornado~if you feel at times your life is spinning too fast, a flower~if you feel you are growing and changing etc.)
  4. I remind students that there are no wrong designs, that we are all unique.
  5. Once students have created designs, they write/type a five-seven sentence summary, describing why this given design represents them.

I have found this lesson and the student-created designs insightful and have learned a lot about each student through this process.  This is a great lesson that builds self-awareness and trust.

                                                                                     ~Linda Irwin

Flower with Stem...

Wire Cat

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Wire Sun

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Wire Lightening Bolt

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Wire Polar Bear

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
We want to thank Linda for sharing this great lesson that speaks to the multiple intelligences and allows students to be creative in writing their thoughts.
 
We love to share the good in education, so please send us any lessons you would like to share to teachme@unlocktheteacherllc.com or denise@unlocktheteacherllc.com
 
Have a wonderful week!
 
May we continue to seek knowledge in all things,
Denise
 
 

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Patriotic Lesson Plans for the Classroom or Home School Parent

In order for our students and children to learn pride in our country, then we must model the expected behavior.  I have selected a few sites that I find informative and useful when teaching American History to students k-12.  If you have a great resource that you utilize in your classroom, please share.  It is in the collaborative process that we will succeed!

Patriotic Symbols

http://www.history.ctaponline.org/center/hsscm/index.cfm?Page_Key=1386

Developed by Dr. Priscilla Porter in conjunction with Carol Ann Fullam, Bellflower Unified School District; Lynne Lords, Los Angeles Unified School District; Carrie Tokunaga, Culver City Unified School District; Elisa Field, El Rancho Unified School District; and, Sharon Beatty, Compton Unified School District under the auspices of the Center for History-Social Science Education at California State University, Dominguez Hills

American Government

From the 13 Colonies to Constitution Amendments

http://www.mrdonn.org/government.html

F-R-E-E Power Point Presentations in American History (I love this site!)

http://americanhistory.mrdonn.org/powerpoints.html

Free Video Clips to Accompany Your Great Lessons

http://videoclips.mrdonn.org/index.html

Lesson Planet Lessons

http://www.lessonplanet.com/search?keywords=patriotism&media=lesson

May we seek knowledge in all things,

Denise

www.unlocktheteacher.com

denise@unlocktheteacher.com

Facebook: Unlock the Teacher

Twitter: unlockteacher

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Professional Development for Teachers=Inspiration for Trainer

We Conducted a Workshop for Teachers Before Students Arrive Next Week...Inspiring!

We conducted our first professional development for the 2011/2012 school year.  We were honored to be asked back by a school we had worked with all last year, with one of our year-long curriculum alignment packages. They worked so hard to align their curriculum as a building. We visited their school three times last year to discuss the Common Core State Standards, met with teachers one-on-one to discuss individual classroom curriculum that we had been working on via email and conducted grade-level curriculum meetings to ensure that the entire building was on the same page.  As a curriculum developer, I was very impressed with their dedication to their profession and their work ethic to make sure that their building’s curriculum was appropriately scaffolded to maximize learning potential.

So it was with great joy we accepted their invite to come in and give a two and half hour motivational workshop…what a fun way to kick of the year for them and for us!

This dedicated staff allowed me to push them out of the box with some collaborative “hands-on” exercises and impromptu sharing. I think I enjoyed it as much as they said they did. I truly love to see teachers get excited about collaboration and willingness to learn from one another. It was a great way to start our year off at Unlock the Teacher too.  Sometimes we get so consumed by our writing and curriculum alignment projects, that  when we conduct our professional development and student workshops, we are reminded of why we are choosing to do what we do.

We look forward to meeting new teachers and principals this year.

We are excited to share that we are talking with app developers for some of our material and we will be sending off our proposal for Book I in our Unlock the Teacher series, that we are collaborating with Dr. David Lick, Director of Family Practice, Beaumont Hospital, and a Professor at Wayne State and Oakland University Beaumont Medical School, and Dr. Joslen Letscher, Professor at the University of Detroit Mercy.  We have an exciting year ahead and are thankful for all the community support we have received.

As last year, and in keeping with who we are, we will be looking for one or two schools to work with and donate our time and talent with writing and ePublishing workshops.  Please let us know if your school would like to be considered by emailing us at teachme@unlocktheteacherllc.com or by visiting us at our website and leave a comment at www.unlocktheteacher.com To contact me directly, email me at denise@unlocktheteacherllc.com

We wish all those who play a role in the life of a child to have a year full of many learning discoveries!

May we continue to seek knowledge in all things,

Denise

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A Fabulous Middle School Teacher Utilizing “Out of the Box” Techniques to Teach Peace

A Fabulous Middle School Teacher Steps “Out of the Box” to Teach Peace

 Unlock the Teacher Team travels into many schools and I always enjoy going into St. Mary’s School in Royal Oak.  The atmosphere is inviting and the teachers are friendly.  We wanted to tell you about a fabulous teacher utilizing “out of the box” techniques to teach peace. Linda Irwin teaches middle school literature and even if that knowledge wasn’t known, one could tell just by walking into her cozy room! 

 
While visiting this past week, I coud not help noticing this awesome bulletin board as I walked down the hall in front of this classroom.  I walked in and asked Mrs. Irwin all about it.  The students are reading, Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin.
 
Students are working together by individually designing a quilt square that will be added to a “Quilt of Peace” created by the entire class.  I was fortunate to have witnessed one child designing one of these squares, it was beautifully done.  When asked, the students were so excited to share insights from book and the great discussions they were having in class.
 
As a certified ELA teacher, whenever I hear students excited about reading, my heart soars!  Great job Mrs. Irwin for passing on you passion and utilizing relevant and current books to engage your students.  Unlock the Teacher LLC salutes you! 🙂
 
 
 
 
If you ever wonder if middle school and high school students are paying attention to business, politics and world affairs, we are in various schools and take every opportunity to ask students about their thoughts…they are very aware of the world around them… AND they have an opinion.
 
We will be utilizing the month of April to shower you with Best Practices we find as we wrap up this school year.  If you know a fabulous teacher and want to tell us about it, we will share it and celebrate with you.  We are blessed to have such dedicated educators in this country. Please join us in celebrating their efforts!
 
May we seek knowledge in all things,
 
Denise 🙂 and the entire Unlock the Teacher Team
 
Email your pics and favorite teacher bios to teachme@unlocktheteacher.com
 

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Free Webinar on Virtual Schools and Best Practices

Online education and Financial Aid

Image via Wikipedia

Visit edreformer.com or click on the link below to join the conversation this Thursday.  Virtual schools are coming, regardless if we want them to or not.  If we are going to meet the needs of ALL students, then virtual classrooms are a component needed for the 21st century student. Many states are creating mandates for students to have a certain number of virtual instruction before high school graduation.  There are many national discussions these days on education.  Join one and be informed. I would encourage everyone interested to not be a “Monday morning quarterback” but an active participant…http://edreformer.com/2010/12/k12-aventa-learning-hosting-free-webinar/

“It is what we think we know that keeps us from learning.”-C. Bernard

Have an awesome week!

Denise

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