Tips for Keeping Students Healthy

HealthyAs teachers, we all know that we tend to be so much more than curriculum delivery people.  We are nurses, counselors, food distributors, cheerleaders, disciplinarians, parental figures, and so much more.  As a collective, we know that effective teaching and learning can only happen when the classroom is a safe and healthy environment.  Today, let’s talk about ways to help our students stay healthy.  Of course, we will not irradiate the common cold before our next Chaucer lecture, but we can take some steps toward healthier students without taking too much time out of our already packed agendas.  Below are a few tips that I’ve put together.  Feel free to add your tips in the comment section!

1. Clean the room. I like to stock up on the disinfecting wipes from costco or target when I see them on sale.  Then, I set a routine to clean at intervals.  Some years I have required detention students to wipe down my room and other years I have given myself the task for Friday mornings when I am less motivated by piles of paper and so a little grunt work and mental reflection time does me well.  Areas to be sure to clean:

  • Desks
  • Pencil sharpeners/Staplers
  • Door knobs/Railings
  • Phones/iPads/etc (If you have a class set of devices, it is a very good idea to clean them regularly- I read somewhere that our phones are usually dirtier than a public toilet!  I also encourage students to clean their own devices, especially when the cold and flu season hits.  Be sure that whatever you are using to clean is approved for use on electronics.)

2. Encourage good habits. We are busy with teaching, testing, and other daily classroom chores, but teachers can make it a habit to encourage healthy behavior through a quick announcement routine, poster, or a tip of the day on the board.  Some tips to include for high school students include:

  • Washing hands: This is not just a rule for the preschoolers!
  • Drinking water: Consider allowing and encouraging students to drink water in class.
  • Eating right/Exercising: Teens probably hear this from their parents all the time, but we can be another voice in their heads working for good.
  • Getting enough sleep: Staying up all night is main stay of teenage life whether they are texting, gaming, studying, or doing anything else.  Help reinforce the value of a good night’s sleep.  Some of them may hear you.
  • Coughing/Sneezing ettiquette: In my son’s preschool class, the students are well trained to avoid coughing and sneezing on each other or on their own hands.  In my high school class, not so much.  I think overall high schoolers just need a gentle reminder here and there.

3. Be mindful of stressors. We see in study after study that stress has a negative effect on health.  We cannot eliminate all stress from teenage life, but we can be mindful of the things in our control that may exacerbate the problem.

  • Homework: I saw this CNN article recently that looked at the issue of homework and sickness in students. Homework is inevitable in most secondary classrooms, but as teachers we can still be mindful of the quantity and timelines of assignments.  I do my best to give students a schedule of homework with advance notice so that they can plan their schedules accordingly.
  • Missing class: When students need to miss class for illness, sports, clubs, or other reasons, it can be very stressful to catch up on all 6 subjects while staying up on current work.  For these students, communication is key to keeping them on track.  Posting assignments on a calendar/website/social media account or answering emails in a timely fashion can keep students from falling too far behind and then falling into the cycle of stress and sickness.
  • Big projects: Some students make themselves sick with worry over big projects.  Ramping up to a major presentation or giving small steps for a larger research paper can help students manage the stress.

What do you do to help students stay healthy?   We’d love to hear from you in the comment section below!

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Teacher Tip: An Easy Way to Create Sheltered Research and Argument Projects

Sheltered ResearchDuring this time of year, the research paper dominates the English department in my school.  We slog through the sometimes painful and sometimes engaging process of finding credible sources, creating a documented argument, and using MLA format.   I wrote about teaching research papers in this earlier post if you want to know more. Today I want to share a quick tip for creating sheltered research and argument papers without a ton of background work for the teacher. By sheltered research, I just mean that teachers provide the sources for students to synthesize as opposed to students being open to all possible sources. I find that these assignments are ideal for preparing students to do longer, more independent and scholarly research papers later.

Benefits of Sheltered Research: 

  • The teacher controls the type of sources used, which can help students avoid the pitfalls of inappropriate sources.  They must learn about the pitfalls later, but hopefully after they have the confidence to use reliable sources.
  • The research timeline can go much faster when students are given the sources so teachers can fit research in even with other priorities and testing schedules.
  • It is easier to track down plagiarism and misreading when the teacher is familiar with the sources.
  • MLA citation teaching can be more directly guided when the teacher knows exactly what type of sources students will be citing.

Goals of the Assignment: 

  • Students will read professional sources on a given topic.
  • Students will develop a thesis and argument on a topic.
  • Students will synthesize a given number of sources to support their argument.  (I usually say that they must use 3 sources, but that number can vary.)
  • Students will properly quote, paraphrase, and cite sources.

Finding Resources: 

You can take the time to look up articles and print them for students or link them to your website, but I would like to draw your attention to an easier way that may work for you. Many newspapers create online collections around topics, which offer a wealth of contexts and perspectives.  Using them also helps keep the research current without the teacher redoing work every year or so.  Here are some links to topics that may intrigue students:

Students look through the headlines and select articles to read and use.  The nice thing about using a newspaper database is that students have a variety of articles to spin their paper without the significant limitation that results in 30+ identical papers.  Depending on the population you serve, you may need to find newspapers that are more relevant or acceptable to your area.  More scholarly articles can be found in library databases, of course, but I find that newspaper articles are much more accessible to students early in the process of learning.

What do you think? Would you use these resources?  How do you find research to provide to students without spending hours planning?

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15 Ways to Review Before the Next Test

ReviewOver the years I have gone back and forth about the necessity of review days.  Sometimes they have felt like a cop out or a waste of time and sometimes they have felt like a much needed way to pull together the big picture from a long unit of study.  Review days can also be a strategy for teaching students how to study, which they can then take into other courses.  I think the keys to review days are:

  • having a variety of strategies to pull from according to subject, length of unit, and type of upcoming assessment
  • keeping the goals in mind and avoiding busy work (Goals may be SAT vocab rote memorization, literary analysis essay preparation, or many other necessary pursuits)

In the spirit of adding to our collective review toolbox, I’m sharing 15 review techniques, and I would love to hear your additions and thoughts in the comment section below!

1. Create a timeline: This is especially effective for reviewing a novel or play.  Students can work alone or in small groups.  You can also include a requirement for properly cited quotes or visual aids.

2. Add a post it: In this technique, the teacher places large poster boards around the room with topics to review and then students add  post it notes about what they know from that topic with no repeats!  For example, for a 20th century American poetry unit could have large posters titles: The Imagists,  The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock, The Harlem Renaissance, and Robert Frost.  After students add post it notes, you can go over them as a class and organize them in ways that make sense.  Students can write down the notes or take a picture at the end.

3. Silent ball:  I love this game!  I explain it in detail in this post if you want to click over.

4. Jeopardy and other game templates:  These can be found in google presentations and be easily modified to fit your topic.

5. Student created quizzes: Allow students to anticipate and prepare for questions on the test.  This is a great strategy for students preparing for other classes and college too.

6. Jigsaw presentations or gallery walks: In pairs, groups, or individuals, give students a part of the overall content and have them create presentations or visuals to help reinforce their concept.  For example, students could each tackle a literary or poetic device.

7. Quizlet: This is especially powerful for studying vocabulary or sets of facts.  I explain how I use it in this post.

8. Quiz, Quiz, Trade: In this Kagan inspired technique, students create flashcards and move around quizzing each other and trading cards.  Something about moving while studying really helps some students.  I explain further here as part of my tips for spicing up summer school.

9. Graphic organizers: Challenge students to use a graphic organizer to make sense of their notes.  On the board, draw examples of flow charts, Venn Diagrams, T charts, spider maps, and other organizers and then let them use their own logic to create!

10. Map it out/Make connections: After I have done a few of my visual maps in earlier units, I challenge students to come up with the best map for a later unit.  Here is my post about the visuals I create.

11. Highlight important notes: It is simple, but a lasting technique that students can do on their own time after walking through it once with a teacher.  Some students would just never think of this simple strategy for studying any subject.

12. Mnemonic Devices: Challenge students to create mnemonics in the form of pictures, songs, acronyms, or other memory joggers.  They can share them with each other after creating them.

13. Text convos: It is a little silly, but students have fun using text language to write memorable dialogues between characters or using vocabulary words.  The conversations should be laced with the information that they need to know.

14. Snowball fight: I have a co-worker who enjoys this game, which you can read about here.

15. Socratic Seminar: I find this especially helpful when students are preparing for essay examinations because it helps them see more perspectives outside of the obvious.  I explain the way socratic seminar works in my room in this post.

What would you add to this list?  We would love to keep this list going!

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