Mrs. Daubert ELA

Instructional Media Weblog

Scavenge, Steal, Smash It All Together…See What Happens

The title of this post is my spirit animal. My advisor in college used to tell me, “JACOBS [my maiden name], your ideas are creative and fabulous. Now KNOCK IT OFF. You’re working too hard. You don’t have to be creative and fabulous all the darn time. Somebody else has probably thought of your exact idea and it’s just sitting out there somewhere on the internet–waiting for you to find it!” And like a good little bright-eyed, green, shiny new teacher, I completely ignored him. It wasn’t until about five years into my career that I finally understood what he’d been trying to tell me all along: the best teachers don’t constantly create their own original content.

Good teaching is equal parts outright theft and allowing your own good ideas to be burglarized.

Where do my teaching resources come from these days?

The best I can do is give the “right now” answer. My sources are ever evolving because education is ever evolving. Teaching from the textbook simply doesn’t–and shouldn’t–cut it these days. I use the resources most teachers use like PDE SAS, ReadWriteThink, and Teachers Pay Teachers. But I also like a little spice in my professional life. Here are my top spots I plug into for great content for my students and inspiration for myself.

  1. noredink – This is my go to for most of my students’ grammar and writing needs. There is a premium/pay version of the site, but I’ve found the free version to be so robust, the thought of paying for the premium service has never crossed my mind.
  2. Collins Writing Program – My school pays for a Collins Writing consultant to come work with us a few times a year which is great, but even if your school doesn’t have that luxury, the Collins Ed website has volumes of common sense, user friendly graphic organizers and tips to help students improve their writing in all subject areas.
  3. Crash Course Literature – As an ELA teacher in a school that has adopted a blended learning model, I’m a HUGE fan of Crash Course (and the Vlog Brothers–but I’ll get to them in a bit). Crash Course saves me from constantly having to generate my own content for flipped lessons. The videos are attractive, engaging and high quality. I love starting my school year with John Green’s Why and How We Read.

Finding the support I need

I learned a long time ago that no one was going to scoop me under their wing and ask if I needed help. Good teachers advocate for themselves and seek feedback. At my school our 8th grade ELA teachers have a collaborative group on the platform Schoology. Here, we post resources, materials and provide each other with much needed support. We even swear we’re funny sometimes:

I also look to Twitter for new research and ideas. Twitter isn’t just a place for angry old men to yell at the world–it’s actually a pretty hip place for educators. There is lots of sound educational research posted daily just waiting for us to find it and use it. If you’re new to, and perhaps a little intimidated by, the “Twitterverse” here are some of my favorite people and pages to follow: Michael Soskil (@msoskil), George Couros (@gcouros), Carl Hooker (@mrhooker), and Genius Hour (@geniushour). These are great pages to get you started. Heck, you could even follow me in my own little corner of the world, @TheDaubert.

Oh, and let us not forget the blogs!

I don’t follow many blogs but there are a few I couldn’t live without.

  1. Jon Acuff – This is not a blog for teachers; it’s a blog for people everywhere who want to develop, grow, and get better at what they do no matter the profession. Acuff gives common sense tips and tricks for getting yourself organized, managing your time, and overcoming obstacles. He is also a spectacular author with several print books to peruse as well.
  2. A.J. Juliani – This man is a project based learning and Genius Hour powerhouse. I’m on his mailing list and I subscribe to his blog. If you are down with PBL, Mr. Juliani has got some killer resources for you!
  3. The Vlog Brothers – Yes, yes, I realize this is a vlog, not a blog, but it’s worth a look. Hank and John Green (yes, YA author John Green) produce fun, inspirational, and thought provoking content that motivates me as a human.

OK, Mrs. Daubert, this stuff is great, but don’t you teach in an urban public middle school?!

Yeah, so? Of course, my situation comes with its own unique challenges. Our 8th grade is 1:1 with iPads–cool, right? Sure, it would be if the kids had internet access at home–most of them don’t.  That means that most of the content I provide for my students either needs to be accessed during the school day or available offline.

In this situation, PDFs are my friend! If I can pop a few PDFs of necessary material on my course Schoology page, students can download it before they leave the building for the day and still have offline access on their devices at home.

I also find it necessary to frontload my teaching with tons of how-tos and tutorials on using electronics, whether they be the school issued devices or the students’ own devices, effectively. Most of the adults my students go home to aren’t tech savvy. If I don’t teach them how to do the required work on their devices, it’s not going to get done.

With creative planning and lots of patience, we rise to the challenge. I’m always learning and growing and I expect nothing less of the students in my classes.

In my world, stealing is a good thing, but so is sharing–and grabbing a little bit of everything off the buffet. In my world, risks are a good thing. I take them every time I try a new app or resource. And I expect my students to take risks too. Most importantly, in my world, not every thing works all the time. Sometimes, new ideas totally stink. But it’s all good. Failure is a part of the process too!

Cheers!

Mrs. Daubert

7 Comments

  1. I love your title: “Scavenge, steal, smash it all together…” So true! As teachers, our job is not to create everything from scratch. It’s to do whatever works to reach our students and if we have rip off ideas from other successful teachers (or share them openly) all the better! I know in my own building, there are some teachers who are very possessive of the lessons and materials that they create (which I never quite understood). Luckily, the majority (especially the science department I work with directly) are very open to sharing everything. When a new teacher comes along, or someone moves grades, everyone’s instinct is to offer everything we have: PowerPoints, notes, worksheet, lesson plans, assessments, projects… you name it. Take it or leave it! I think this is the sign of a healthy department because it shows that teachers are more concerned with students receiving the best in education rather than getting credit for being the most innovative teacher.

    Thanks for sharing the resources you use on a regular basis. I’ll have to check a few of them out. Like you said, you need to try new things! Getting too comfortable generally means students are bored. In this day and age, it’s got to be fresh, interesting, and relevant.

  2. We are also 1:1 in our district. Internet is our best friend, right? It feels like you can’t accomplish anything when the internet goes down. I have to say that I need to do a better job at having back up resources that I can quickly pull when the internet decides to not cooperate. It must be some what frustrating for you to have 1:1 but only able to use the technology primarily in school. Especially in urban areas, I’ve heard a stat that minimum wage won’t pay for the average rental apartment anymore. This is sad! You wonder why students don’t have tv, internet, or even heat in their homes. It sounds like you have a pretty good idea of how to handle these situations! Best of luck!

  3. Scott Leitzel

    June 24, 2018 at 5:42 am

    Mrs. Daubert,

    I can relate to your desire to teach middle school. My best friend from college is a middle school teacher. Great middle school teachers hear the call to go and join the profession. It is not for everyone, and my hat goes off to both him and you. As I read you blog post for this week, I feel the enthusiasm you have for your job. You must be an outstanding teacher for your students! It oozes through your writing.

    You post inspired me to check out a few of your favorite blogs. Jon Acuff’s blog is an easy read. The entry titles made me want to click on them out of sheer curiosity. He has some great ideas to make you better as a person. I have added him to my list of blogs to follow. A.J. Juliani’s blog also had some great ideas about education. While most of the concepts could be applied to all levels of teaching. The entries I read were mostly geared toward middle and high school students. As for vlogbrothers – I just do not know what to say. I tried it. It is just not my thing. I even tried a few more videos. It just didn’t do it for me, but I appreciated the opportunity to view the content. Based upon the comments from the vlog, many people enjoy it.

    I not only liked your zest for life and making things happen, but also the way you described working around the common obstacles in an urban school. The ideas of proving students with PDFs and video tutorials take the excuses out of the equation for your students. I enjoyed reading your thoughts and look forward to working with you throughout the course this summer.

  4. thisisliz0116

    June 23, 2018 at 3:19 pm

    Hey Becky! It’s great we have a class together 🙂 I have never gotten into Twitter but I feel like I need to check it out and see what I can find out that can help me in my classroom. I like when you said this: My sources are ever evolving because education is ever evolving.

    As education is ever evolving, so are our students. We have to adapt and find resources that match the needs of the students in our classroom. It isn’t always easy to do and it’s important to have a plethora of sources to choose from. I also really like the title of your blog post this week. It really is about finding whatever you can that is motivating, interesting, and educationally sound for your students, putting it all together, and making it work so your students are having fun and learning. Thanks for your post!

  5. Hannah Hauser

    June 23, 2018 at 2:59 pm

    I love that you mentioned No Red Ink as one of your grammar resources – I used it almost exclusively this year to teach my grammar content! You have a really well written post here, and I completely agree that the best teachers HAVE to look beyond themselves for great ideas – it is imperative for good teaching. Thanks for posting those Twitter handles – I have a Twitter account, but it is not something I use frequently AT ALL (I am usually very shy around social media and don’t even have a Facebook account anymore…). I’ll follow the ones you posted, though, because I think it is a great way to grow your PLN. Thanks a bunch!
    Hannah

  6. Kaydee Knouse

    June 23, 2018 at 1:00 pm

    I love using resources that have already been created. Too many times I find myself creating a resource from scratch and later coming across something similar. Recently, I have been forcing myself to look for a resource that was already made that will suit the needs of my students, instead of re-inventing the wheel! I have never used Teachers Pay Teachers, but so many people are talking about it, I will have to invest in it! I use Pinterest, mostly for organizational systems or behavior management. Something really simple, but it works great for my science labs in 8th grade is “traffic light cups.” I have a stack of green, yellow, and red cups on the edge of each lab table. When a group has no issues or questions the cup is on green, when they have a question but can keep working until I get to their group the cup goes to yellow, and when they are at a standstill, they put the cup on red. This works really well for me and I found the idea on Pinterest. I also found a “While You Were Out” bulletin board that I put extra copies of any hard copy worksheets from the day so that students look there first if they were absent. I have also found a few projects, but I’m not into “super crafty” projects that can be found on Pinterest.

    I have helped students in my Supervised Study (aka- our schools version of a study hall) when they were working on the noredink website. Our school has implemented Collins Writing across the district.

    My school has a 1-1 laptop program, but I run into the same issue that not all students have internet access at home. I have students download materials right to their machine so it can be accessed at home as well! Another issue I run into is that many of my students get their laptop taken away from them as a punishment from a discipline referral. This makes it very frustrating on my end because I am expected to have my students use technology, but then it is not available for them to use. At any given time, at least one student (generally multiple/many students) does not have access to a laptop. We are told to give the students a hard copy, but most of the time, with the technology that I am using, this is not possible. This seems more like a punishment on me than my students.

  7. Hello!
    You posted some really great resources and just by the tone of your writing, sounds like you are very enthusiastic about your love for education. Although your websites may not be relevant to me, as an art teacher, I am very interested in checking out the blogs you had posted! As most teachers do, I love learning new things and finding new sources of inspiration.

    You mentioned not all of your students having internet access at home and I think that sometimes gets lost in the glitz and glitter of using technology in our lessons. When our students are with us in the classroom, we want to think of them as all having equal opportunities, but that’s not always the case when they leave to go home. I think it’s great that you create opportunities for those students by giving them options for PDF downloads before leaving school. I’m looking forward to working through this course with you!

    Jenn

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