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Five tips for high school teachers

Updated on December 28, 2014

My week one box

My week one box.
My week one box.

I must thank all of my present and former colleagues and college professors. These are tips I've picked up and developed along the way. My journey as a high school science teacher began over 15 years ago!

'Begin with the end in mind.' I don't know who said it first, but I hear this every year from a different source.

  • Now that the school year is ending, start preparing for next school year. When packing up your classroom make a 'week one' box. The week one box should include your must have items to start off the year. My box has a current course syllabus and other start of the year information that I know I will copy for students. There is also a lesson plan on the scientific method that I can use with any high school science class. In my building, a standardized (one size fits all) lesson plan is good because student schedules are being adjusted. I like to have real assessments but don't want those who enter the class during the second week to miss something that can't be easily made up.
  • Be proactive. Review your lesson plans and classroom management plan. Make adjustments now while things are still fresh. If you wait until pre-planning, you'll likely be stuck in meetings.

Cut your grading time.

  • Class size seems to grow every year in my district. I have a couple of ways to cut down on grading time. 'Trade and grade' or 'grade your own' are options I use from time to time. Peer editing works great for me. In my AP class, I require peers to make comments then revise the work based on classmates comments. Edits are done with a key that I provide. Sometimes two peers must edit one paper with different comments. The grade earned depends on what was done. IE-Write the paper (always done in class)=35 points, Edit peer number one=25 points, Edit peer number two=25 points and Re write based on edits=15 points. This also helps expose students to a variety of writing styles. YES we write in science class.
  • Another method that I've found extremely useful is to have students keep a notebook. All work is kept in the notebook and I provide a table of contents. Students must keep their class notes, class work, homework and graded assignments in the notebook. I then do surprise and announced notebook checks and notebook quizzes based on items that should be in the notebook. One key to making this work is to keep a master notebook. It helps me keep track of everything, design homework checks, notebook checks and notebook quizzes because I have the master.
  • An unexpected consequence of the master notebook is that it provides a visual for my students that just need help organizing the notebook. It helps them be self directed learners. When students are working on their own it is encouraged to take the initiative and pick up the master notebook. I do keep it in a spot that student's can access easily, but I NEVER, EVER allow it to be taken out of the classroom. If you are going to use this method, make a few extra copies of everything you require students to have in the notebook. Keep the extras in a central/easily accessible location. That self directed learner thing again.
  • Use a variety of assessment methods. A few high tech ones that I love are Activexpression responders, Ed modo (, plickers, Kahoot! and Thingalink. A few low tech ones that I won't let go...bathroom boards cut into squares with dry erase markers and popsicle sticks. I have my students put their name on a popsicle stick and then I group them by class period. Both work well for quick assessments and ensure every student is involved. feet were was a great conference.


Always keep learning...

  • Since many of us 'must' attend staff development, choose courses that will add to your repertoire. Attend a conference in your field. My goal is to attend the local science every few years.
  • There is much to be learned from veteran and brand new teachers. It also serves as a nice recharge during the school year. Keep it fresh and put in some work.
  • Once you're comfortable attending conferences, step out of your comfort zone. Present at a conference because we already know how important it is to learn by teaching others.

Take care of yourself.

  • Toot your own horn. It's actually okay to let others know how great you are...shameless plugs!
  • Make a brag book. Every year we all get little thank you cards or pictures of our students. Put them in a book and flip through them when you have a bad day at work. Make some kind of go to item to perk you up when needed even if it is just a funny cartoon. We all have bad days. Be ready for it.
  • When you close the classroom door for the day, leave it in the classroom! After all this time, that is still one that I'm learning. Leave it in the classroom and decompress....


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