My Happy Face System

My Happy Face System

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Hello and happy Saturday. I want to take today’s post with a grain of salt, I want you to really think about your situation in terms of the students you currently have and the way they respond to your classroom management strategies.

By the title of this post you maybe thought that I’ll be talking about something I do with kindergarten, but no. Today I will tell you how I applied behaviorism at its finest with my 9th graders. I learned about behaviorism in university and I have to admit that I’ve always been fascinated by it. I think sometimes we have to appeal to the most basic stimulus-response-reward procedures in order to shape or model behavior.

I used a more sophisticated way of behaviorism with my first graders using a Loki pop funko. You can click here to read about that. The system I’l explain is way more basic but strangely, it was super effective.

When I got to the school where I had to teach high school I noticed my students refused to work unless the assignment was graded. They had no motivation other than the grade, and they didn’t even expect to do well, they just expected to pass. I needed them to work, though, I needed them to write stuff in their notebooks, to practice, I didn’t need to grade every single thing. So I started giving happy faces to students who finished their classwork and would show it to me, just like I used to do with first grade.

Now first graders were happy enough with a happy face. That was their reward. Ninth graders weren’t so nice. They even thought the idea of getting a happy face in their notebook was ridiculous, and let me tell you, it was, but it started being something to look forward to when I told them that every time they got five happy faces, I would give them an extra tenth of a point.

Let me explain that better. Our grading system was from zero to five, but you could get tenths, so you could get a 3.5, which actually was the minimum passing grade. For every five happy faces, I’d give my students 0.1 points. That’s nothing, and I was very aware that I was nothing, but I wasn’t going to give them more because I wasn’t going to reward them for doing what they were supposed to. I was giving them the illusion of a reward, though.

What started happening was that students would do their work and show it to me so that I could give them a happy face. After they got the five happy faces, they would approach me and we’d count them together. It became a thing! At the end of the year, when we were counting the final happy faces, some students asked me whether they could transfer their happy faces to someone else because they had only three and couldn’t do anything with them. I said no, obviously, but I thought it was cute.

Would I try this system again? No. I think it was an emergency situation and it required a quick fix. I only taught those students for three months, and I basically needed them to pass English at the end of the year. Something about behaviorism you have to keep in mind is that the strategies used rarely last a prolonged amount of time, so you either have to modify your plan or replace it altogether. My students responded to this strategy because it was a short-term thing, but I doubt that the hype would’ve stayed alive after a semester, even less after a full year.

What are some strategies you’ve tried to get your students to work? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy teaching!

Love, Miss Camila

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How I Keep Students Engaged: Kahoot

How I Keep Students Engaged: Kahoot

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Hello and happy Saturday. Today I’m opening the doors to my imaginary classroom to bring you a three-part series of strategies I used to keep my teenage students engaged. Needless to say, these strategies actually worked and this is why I’m sharing them with you.

The first strategy is Kahoot. Now, I found out about it because one of my Portuguese teachers used it a lot in class, and since I’m super competitive I ended up loving it and wanting to try it in at least one of my lessons. Kahoot is basically a platform in which you either create interactive quizzes or you can use one that already exists.

For this, both you and your students to have either a computer, a tablet or a phone. Through your device you will have to project the questions and options, and through their devices, students will select the correct answer. What I used to do was connect my computer with a HDMI cable to the TV so that everyone could see, and I had students working on their own devices, in groups.

I will be honest with you and tell you that I’ve only used the quiz-like feature, although I know there are others like puzzle and I don’t know what. I have yet to explore the other wonders of Kahoot. I used Kahoot when we needed to review grammar and language use topics, but I sometimes took questions from the workbook so that the students could have a reference if they wanted to study more, which didn’t really happen.

Now, I think I used Kahoot like three times during those three months I was teaching my students, and because I needed them all to have a device for our final review, I was able to borrow tablets from the IT department. My suggestion here would be to always ensure that all your students have working devices. The best way to do this is for the school to provide said devices, so if you don’t know whether your school has tablets available for your students, maybe ask around before having your Kahoot class. Maybe try and see if the technology room is available that day and have each of your students work on a computer there or something.

I have been thinking about ways to use Kahoot with younger students, who are learning to read, and I’m sure adaptations can be made, so if and when I execute my ideas, I’ll share them in here. And if you have any suggestions on how I might achieve this, let me know in the comments.

Happy teaching!

Love, Miss Camila

How I Use My Apple Watch in Class

How I Use My Apple Watch in Class

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Hello and happy Wednesday. This post is going to be really short and sweet, but if you’re a teacher and you’re thinking about buying an Apple Watch, I will make sure that when this post is over you’re convinced.

When I worked in my first school, I imposed a very strict no-phone rule on myself that I kept whenever I was in class. I was able to follow this rule about 95% of the time, and I really didn’t feel the need to use my phone because I was working, you know? I had to stay focused.

Now in this other school, where the conditions were different because I was teaching high school and I really didn’t have any more content to teach for a while, so yes, I was guilty for a moment there of using my phone in the classroom.

After I got some money saved and was a little bit more stable, I decided I’d buy an Apple Watch, mainly to avoid the temptation of taking my phone into the classroom and also because it’s a new toy and I like new toys. The main use I give my Apple Watch is the timer one, and I think that’s something teachers from all subjects and grade levels can take advantage of.

I decided to start timing my students in a more consistent way and I felt that my classes were more organized each time. I give them the instructions for an assignment and tell them how much time I’ll destine to it. Sometimes they tell me even before they start working that they feel they might need more time, so we negotiate a bit, but still we don’t have those dead moments in which nobody is doing anything. I also feel that giving them the chance to estimate how much they take makes them be more organized and proactive. They can start viewing tasks in terms of complexity and duration, which will help us prioritize when doing independent work.

When working with tenth grade, they had to write and read a one-minute speech. I would literally cut them off when that minute passed and wouldn’t let them continue. That was challenging and stressful and got me a few “No, Miss,” but it was a fun task and I could see the satisfaction when the students finished within that minute.

On the other hand, my ninth graders had to do a fifteen minute presentation, and one of the items I was assessing was the use of time. If the presentation lasted way less than the fifteen minutes they were given, their grade would be affected. This task helped my students structure a presentation in which fluency, pronunciation and pace were very important. They had to be mindful on how they organized the information they were going to share, and the end result were very cohesive and “professional” presentations.

Now, are you sold? What do you use your Apple Watch for? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy teaching!

Love, Miss Camila

What I Bought For My Classes the First Month

What I Bought For My Classes the First Month

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Hello and happy Saturday. Teachers spend a lot of money throughout the year on stuff for their classes, sometimes without even realizing or meaning to. During my first month in this new job teaching high school I wanted to see how many things I would buy for my classes because there’s this notion that elementary and preschool teachers spend way more money on supplies than middle and high school teachers do.

It’s almost as if people picture high school teachers going into class with only a black Expo marker and a red pen to grade stuff, but reality couldn’t be any more different. I do think that sometimes I go over the top with what I plan for my lessons and what I think is necessary for me to function correctly as a teacher, but I also think that being like that is what makes me a good teacher. I’m going to make a list and tell you what I used each item for.

  • Popsicle sticks. These I used for my equity sticks technique, which you can read about in a previous post.
  • Cup. I bought one of those desktop metallic holders because I wanted something durable for the aforementioned equity sticks.
  • Flair pens. Before I left I gave them away, but I obviously needed them when I came back. As much as I still love them, I think this new year I’ll stick to super fine tip markers from Faber Castell.
  • HDMI cable. This, dear teacher friend, is a must for me. In the first school I worked at I was given one, but then in the new school I wasn’t and having to borrow one from the IT department was too much of a hassle so I decided to get my own.
  • Folder. I have a cute folder that actually closes like pocket and is the cutest thing ever, but I don’t know why I never took it to this new school. Instead, I bought a new folder, one of those cheap cardboard ones where I would keep the copies, the assignments I needed to grade or to return, that kind of stuff.
  • Cardboard. I never figured out how the materials system worked in my new school, like who were you supposed to ask for supplies. I wasn’t a homeroom teacher, nor I was teaching preschool or elementary where you have some supplies that the students bring in hand. That’s why I bought cardboard for my students to make nameplates. This was part of an activity I will soon explain in a future post.
  • Mini binder clips. Now, during that first month I had to grade final tests, which were made up of five grades. That means each of my 111 students had a little pack of at least five papers I needed to check, so I’d use the binder clips to assemble each pack while I dug through the pile of papers, and then I’d staple them to return them.
  • Highlighters. I used highlighters to draw happy faces and extra points. I’m going to talk more about why I find highlighters important in a future post, I promise.
  • Index cards. Again, I didn’t know who I could ask for them, so I bought them myself for a vocabulary activity in which the students wrote some key terms, defined them in their own words, included a sentence in which they used the terms, and made a drawing. These cards went in our word wall.
  • Colored paper. We made posters with it.
  • Masking tape. Needed to paste the aforementioned vocabulary cards and other cute things my students did while I was their teacher.

Which of these items do you think would be essential to you as a teacher and why? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy teaching!

Love, Miss Camila

My New Job

My New Job

 

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Hello and happy Saturday. I felt that you were by my side earlier this year when I had to quit, and then the months after when I dedicated most of my time to scheduling posts, and you stayed with me when I left to pursue what I thought was my dream life. When I decided that said life wasn’t for me, I felt that you were still there, reading me, trying to understand where I came from, and in a way, supporting me. That’s why I feel that today I owe you this update, which I’ve been putting off for a while now, but the day has come. Today I’ll tell you about my new job.

For those who are new here and felt super confused about that intro and also kind of felt that maybe I’m too much of a mess and you should go to another blog where someone has their shit together, let me give you some context. A few months ago now I left my home to go live in Baltimore and get certified as a teacher there. Why Baltimore? I’m pretty sure I answered that question in another post, that’s not the point. The point is that my depression and anxiety got to a very scary level while I was there and I decided to come back home.

Deciding to go home, although the smart choice mental health-wise, wasn’t very convenient in terms of a job search. You see, I came back in the middle of July, a time in which most schools are already on vacation, meaning no one was hiring, or the ones that had begun working weren’t looking for new staff members. Still, I interviewed with a school and a preschool center, but I feel that I was still too broken and the interviewers saw through that. Today I think that I should’ve given myself a little bit more time, maybe after I’d sought professional health or something so that I could be more prepared to face those interviews.

I was already starting to lose hope when I got a call on a Thursday from a school I’d heard but knew nothing about. I had an interview Friday afternoon and though I was a wreck, I kind of projected all my energy into those few minutes, which I knew would make or break my chances. I even used my energy to try to convince myself that I wanted to teach high school because I was that desperate for a job.

Yes, I got a job as a high school English teacher. I only had to work for the last three months of school, but let me tell you, those were tough months. I will talk more about this in a future post, but I want to give everyone a piece of advise, whether you’re a teacher or not, and it’s: don’t sign up for something you know deep down you won’t enjoy.

Through therapy I’ve discovered that I’m a very insecure person when it comes to my own value. I’m too harsh on myself, and this new job made me feel constantly that I wasn’t good enough. And the truth is maybe I’m not a good high school teacher, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing because my dream in life isn’t to teach teenagers, that was just something circumstantial. But beyond that, I felt like I was forcing some aspects of my role as a teacher, when they came naturally to me. There were times when I struggled to get ideas for my classes, when I questioned whether my students would be engaged or not, and that was something I never experienced with my younger students.

Now, of course it’s not like I spent three months being miserable and crying everyday because my classes sucked. As you will see in some of my Saturday posts, and as I believe you could already see last week, I managed to come up with ideas and strategies that worked and that I’m proud of. Ironically, I was able to do something that so far I had only thought about, which was creating materials for higher levels. Of course, my students were my Guinea pigs and piloting those resources in class helped me improve them so that I can hopefully upload them to my TpT store.

Today I’m in one of those weird creative cycles of mine in which I’ll schedule a ton of posts (and skip German class because this girl needs to blog), and so I finally sat down to write about this rollercoaster. Spoiler alert: it isn’t over, so make sure to check out this blog regularly because in the near future you’ll be getting some updates.

In the comments below tell me about your employment situation. Are you happily employed? Unhappily employed? Happily unemployed? Desperately searching? I’ve been through all of them.

Happy teaching!

Love, Miss Camila

My New Teacher Notebook

My New Teacher Notebook

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Hello and happy Saturday. Yes, today I actually have a teaching-related post like we used to have every Saturday way back when. I wanted to share with you the teacher notebook I bought in Spain, which I got for about $22. Now, I know we’re all good people here and none of you would think about doing anything with the pictures of the inside of my notebook, but sadly there are people who might use the pictures to “create” and sell their own teacher notebooks, and that’s something I don’t want to risk. For that reason, I’ll just describe to you what the notebook has and you’ll have to rely on your imagination to picture it. Let’s get started, shall we?

When you open the notebook you have calendars for the 2017-2018, 2019-2019, and 2019-2020 school years. That itself is awesome because it means this can be used throughout the years. Then there is a cardboard cover and the actual “notebook” begins. You have a page to fill in your contact information, and then some blank pages. What I love about this is that every section has written “instructions” of ways in which you can use it. For example: the first two blank pages say “use this pages to past documents and information of your school, or for free notes,” and the second set of blank pages says “use this pages to glue the class calendar.

You then get a section of blank schedules to fill out, and I love the fact that they include Saturdays and Sundays. The next section was game-changing to me because its designed for you to draw your class blueprints. I would laminate that part and use either whiteboard markers or stickers to make that section reusable, but I think it’s genius when you’re thinking about how to place your students (you know I’m all for assigned seating).

There’s a section for you to add meetings, parent conferences, and school activities, which it’s divided by months, so it comes in really handy, especially when you’re doing your yearly planning. You get some blank checklists, and there are enough for the entire year, so if you organize your to-do’s into short and long term, this will be great for you. There is more space for you to jot down ideas and projects you might have, and at the end of this first section, there’s a birthday page.

Then comes the planning section. You first get a monthly planner, which is basically like an empty calendar. Then there’s another thing that sold me on this notebook and it’s the weekly planner. I love it because you get the entire week in a single page, and that is important for me because it allows me to see the “big picture” of my classes. There’s enough space to be somewhat detailed about the planning, and that’s also important for me. This weekly planner obviously takes up a big portion of the notebook.

We then have the list section, so basically there are many blank lists waiting to be filled with grades and check-marks. I personally used to struggle with the list thing because I felt that the ones I’d downloaded didn’t have enough space for grades or assignments and so I found myself having to print new ones over and over. Here you’re covered for a long time, trust me.

Another really cool section is about the students, so for example you get lists to fill with their parents’ contact information, other data and observations. I used to work at a school where parents were super involved, so it was common to meet with them regularly, and having a chart like this one comes in super handy. Then on the flip side of the information page, there are attendance lists. I think especially for homeroom teachers it is key to check attendance. Also, if you know when a student was absent, you can help them catch up because you know the exact day.

There’s also a meeting planner, which again, comes in super handy when registering one’s interactions with parents. I think that teachers nowadays have to be extremely organized, and that also includes recording any data that might be important. In this same section, there is space to write information about students and possible meetings.

The final section has a set of lined paper to take notes on meetings, and then some pages where you can write links and other contact information. There are also some plastic pockets at the end, and other cardboard pieces to use as bookmarks or separators or whatever.

I think you get the idea of why I fell in love with my teacher notebook. In the comments below let me know the kind of organizer or planner you use at work.

Happy teaching!

Love, Miss Camila

Call Me Miss Camila

Call Me Miss Camila

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Hello and happy Saturday. I’m exhausted but I feel super accomplished and excited today because I’m (finally) officially Miss Camila in TpT.

TpT stands for Teachers Pay Teachers, an awesome site I love because I have access to a ton of resources made by teachers like myself, and I can also create and sell my own products. I’ve had my store for a while now, and one of my objectives after quitting my job would be to dedicate that extra free time I had to my little material development projects.

My store was originally called The Cool Teacher Diaries because that was the name of my teaching blog and Instagram. Now, when I created this unified blog and my unified Instagram account, I thought it would be nice to someday change the name of my TpT store as well, but I didn’t give much thought into actually doing it until a few months ago.

Changing the name of the store was easy, and took no time. The annoying, exhausting part was having to change each individual product as well as its cover design because these all had my old name. I procrastinated for quite a while, advancing on other TpT and blogging projects until today I decided that I just had to get my store’s name changed and move on with my life. So, yes, I’m finally Miss Camila in all of my public social media, which makes me super happy.

If you want to check out my store, click here. I’m always open to suggestions and requests in terms of the products you’d like to see in it.

Happy teaching!

Love, Miss Camila