Back to School Basics: Don’t Recreate the Wheel

I can’t tell you how many times I recreated the wheel as a teacher. I’d spend hours developing a worksheet, or labor over making sure I had all of the information for a form and then a colleague would say, “Oh I could have sent you one that I use!” or I see a teacher-friend on social media post a link to an online resource that was exactly what I needed. It’s frustrating to be sure. So, before you take your precious time to create a resource that already exists… check with the teacher next door, ask your friends, or look online. Make a pledge to yourself that this is the year you become more efficient and make use of your amazing colleagues who have blazed the trails before you.

If you school doesn’t already provide you with tracking forms, lessson plan templates, or conference planners, I’m sharing with you here some amazing, FREE options that are available online. The best part – these are forms that you can type directly into.

  • Student Tracking Forms: With daily, weekly, or class period options in addition to a completely blank form for you to customize, you can easily track everything from attendance to homework to lunch orders.
  • Lesson Plan Templates: Includes 6 format options: Snapshot Lesson Plan, Weekly Lesson Plan, Traditional Lesson Plan, Self-Contained Classroom Daily Plan, Thematic Planner, Unit Planner
  • Parent Conference Planners: Six different planning templates to help prepare for parent-teacher conferences: Traditional Parent Teacher Conference,  Referral for Student Services Conference, Portfolio Review Conference, Student-led Conference (teacher planner), Student-led Conference (student planner), and Parent Planner

Looking for something more specific? There are thousands of amazing teacher-created materials out there online – and many of them are free! Here are some excellent sources that I check when looking for resources:

P.S. While you’re browsing those resources, you may start thinking to yourself, “Hey, I have great lessons of my own!” Why not take some time to format the lessons and create your own shop on one or more of these sites. Don’t be intimidated – you don’t need hundreds of lessons (although you certainly go that route if you’re inclined).  Personally, with 21 products in shops on Syllabuy and Teachers Pay Teachers, I earned about $500 last year. That was enough to take the family on a weekend getaway – just by sharing things I had already created for my own use! So, while you’re looking to avoid recreating the wheel in your classroom and saving yourself some time – why not get your ideas out there and do the same for someone else… and make a little cash too.

Back to School Basics: Create a Classroom Tour Video

Lights, camera, action! Once you’re done preparing your room, it’s time get out a camera or your smartphone and create a guided video tour of your classroom. When you’re done, upload this video to YouTube, and share the link on a classroom homepage or social media site. If you have availability to student or parent email addresses before the school year begins, send the link out. You could also send this during the first week of school, but sending it before the school year begins helps students feel a little more comfortable and relieve the first day jitters because they know exactly what to expect when they walk in the door. This also introduces you to parents so they can put a face to your name – it is especially helpful with parents at the middle / high school level who may never come into contact with their child’s teacher.

Here are a few things you may want to cover:

  • The basic layout of your classroom. Show the student desks, your desk. Where are student accessible materials? Where do they turn in homework? Do students store coats, lunch boxes, etc in the classroom or in lockers in the hallway? Is there a restroom in your classroom? Cover all of these areas and any other relevant information you can think of.
  • Is there a place within your classroom, or in the hallway where you post information such as field trips, conference sign ups, or other important information? Be sure to highlight this area so that parents can find it easily!
  • Have someone record you sitting in a comfortable place within your classroom (or, be really hip and use a selfie-stick). Behind your desk may come off as a little too sterile or intimidating. Introduce yourself and convey your excitement for the school year. Share your goals for the year. Remind parents where they can locate your contact information (don’t share your contact info in the video unless you are keeping the link private.)

Creating this virtual tour should set the tone for your classroom. Let students and parents alike see your passion for teaching, and how you take pride in this space. Be confident and speak clearly.

Other information videos you can create for your own classroom vlog (video blog) series can include:

  • An overview of your homework / classwork / grading policies.
  • If you have a self-contained classroom, or your entire homeroom follows the same schedule, overview this schedule. If you’re tech savvy, you can overlay pictures over the different areas within the school that the children will visit or even walk the school as you explain where you are going.
  • A walking video of how to get to your classroom from the front door of the school. For students coming into a large, new school this can really alleviate some anxiety.
  • Explain personal electronics policy / computer usage within the school.
  • Video screen navigation of how to access student grades online, locate information on the class website, or social media links for the class.

Post in the comments what other ideas you have for “How to” or informational videos teachers can create!

Back to School Basics: Proceed to Create Procedures

Over the next week or so, I’ll be posting some basic tips for getting your new school year off to a great start. We’ll get this party started with talking about procedures.

A colleague of mine once told me the first two weeks of school in my classroom was like attending bootcamp. I drilled my class on the proper procedures on everything from entering the classroom to throwing away garbage. There was a procedure for clean-up and a very specific procedure for morning meeting. However, after these first few intense weeks of learning routine, my classroom was a well-oiled machine. My substitute teacher plans did not have to be so detailed because even my 4 year old students could run the day on their own. It was only content and thematic elements that the sub needed to plug in. The First Days of School by Harry Wong, a text revered by many teachers, extols the glories of well-thought out procedures as does many other great texts on classroom management.

For those of you who aren’t a drill sergeant or a severe type-A control freak naturally graced by the ability to carefully plan every anticipated outcome and construct a seamless flow of behaviors, here’s a quick series of questions you can ask yourself to establish effective procedures in your classroom.

  1. What day-to-do routine behaviors are carried out in my classroom?
  2. What is the ideal outcome of each behavior?
  3. What are the particular steps to achieve this outcome?
  4. What do I need to do to prepare or have available?
  5. What are the specific expectations of the students?

Once you have determined what procedures you want to put in place, take the time to thoroughly explain the expectations to your students. Model the proper procedure, and don’t forget to give the students a practice run! Repeat the expectations aloud as they are practicing. The more they hear, see, and do, the sooner it will become second nature. In time, your classroom will be more efficient and your students will be more responsible as they master procedures and meet expectations.

Recommended books which address setting up procedures:

  • The First Days of School by: Harry Wong
  • Tools for Teaching by: Fred Jones
  • Skills Streaming Series by: Ellen McGinnis and Arnold P. Goldstein
  • What Great Teachers Do Differently: 14 Things That Matter Most by: Todd Whitaker

Developing your child’s self-esteem… Important things to think about.

A healthy self-esteem is the safeguard for your child against the challenges of the world. Children who have a positive self-esteem have a much easier time dealing with daily conflicts and the negative pressures that come from school, play, other children and adults.

Self-esteem starts at infancy and continues to develop in a positive or negative way throughout your child’s life. Helping your child grow up surrounded by encouragement and realistic goals is crucial to them feeling good about themselves. Impressions on self-esteem start very early in life.

Parents that are actively involved with their children help them to form an accurate and healthy perception of themselves. This is one of the reasons why preschool is so important. A good preschool teacher can be invaluable in helping children establish a positive image of themselves during play and during other activities in the classroom and on the playground. Parents should continually ask for input from the preschool teacher regarding how well the child is doing in the area of self-esteem development. Don’t be afraid to regularly ask the preschool teacher for an assessments and advice.

Self-esteem will fluctuate as kids grow older and are involved in different activities at school and in after school and sports activities. Sports activities, including soccer, T-ball, basketball and other entry level sports can have a tremendous impact on a child’s self-esteem. Make sure that your child has a positive and encouraging coach. Remember it’s your child and what happens out on the field can be a life-changing experience for a child. Don’t be afraid to get involved. Children with healthy self-esteem tend to enjoy interacting with other children and adults. They are more comfortable in social settings and enjoy group activities. It is important for parents to encourage this.

Three important things that you may want to focus on:

1) Give positive yet accurate feedback to your child. don’t tell them they are the best on the team, if they’re not, but share with them that they’re getting better and improving all the time.

2) Create a safe, loving home environment where your children can express themselves and get positive constructive feedback.

3) Encourage cooperation rather than competition as children learn to play with others and develop a positive self-esteem.

There’s nothing more important than a child growing up feeling good about themselves and able to deal with all the challenges the world presents. Devoting time and attention to a child’s development early on is essential.


Should Grammarly Be Used to Grade English Assignments?

During my MeD program at Bowling Green State University there were a number of courses that placed emphasis on grading in the same manner that an English professor or teacher would on writing assignments. Since none of these individuals were actually qualified to do so with the same eye an English professor or teacher would they turned to Grammarly, a paid tool for reviewing writing. I once asked why they use Grammarly and the response was simply that “everyone else does.”

In my experiences with these professors using Grammarly, the review Grammarly provided DID NOT match that of a trained English teacher on any occurrence. Grammarly seemed to be a tool used as a quick solution to those with limited proofreading and reviewing skills. It was like TurnItIn, which is an easy and quick way to check for plagiarism.

So the assumption is that Grammarly may be used by some graduate professors, but should it be used to grade English assignments?

Based on seeing the product in action I think it should only be used as a supplemental tool when grading English assignments. For example, you may miss something simple if you are grading late at night and Grammarly may catch it for you. This is solely based on my experience that the review Grammarly provided didn’t match the review of a skilled English professor or teacher.

With that said Grammarly can also be used as a supplemental tool for all educators, but bear in mind if you’re grading for punctuation, grammar, etc. to only use Grammarly’s findings as part of your grading. Feel free to try Grammarly today and be your own judge.

Free & Quick Proofreading from Grammarly!

Bring Augmented Reality to Your Class with the Help of PledgeCents….

Bring Augmented Reality to Your Class with the Help of PledgeCents….

I’ve been sharing with teachers from all over how the power of augmented reality can transform learning.  In order to help teachers seize this power I set out on a quest to find ways I could help them obtain augmented content/curriculum for their classroom and my search led me to PledgeCents.  Similar to DonorsChoose, PledgeCents is a type of crowdfunding that has come up with an innovated solution to help teachers obtain the needed funds to bring tools, supplies, & resources such as augmented reality content/curriculum to their students.  They can even help with obtaining funds to send teachers to conferences such as ISTE.

Harnessing the power of social media PledgeCents is connecting teachers’ causes with global supporters. Their only goal is to provide better education for children all over the world. PledgeCents is focused on providing an alternative means of school fundraising that goes beyond the limitations of conventional fundraising methods, and is investing in teachers and schools.  They are made up of a team of advocates who have a passion for making a difference in a life of a student.

The need of teachers come in all sizes such as obtaining augmented content, iPads, school supplies, and etc… They will help teachers with their causes through matching opportunities, helping find global supporters, and sharing via social media. One of the matching opportunities is through Facebook Likes and sharing. For example for every Facebook like pledges a $1 towards the cause. They will help you with your cause to make it a successful one. What I really like about PledgeCents is that even if the teacher doesn’t reach their goal for their cause the teacher will still receive what the cause raised. They get to keep what they raised no matter what! There is no list of approved items the teacher has to pick from for their cause, they receive the funds to get what they need. PledgeCents believes that teachers know best on the items that they need and where best to get what they need.

When it comes to setting up your cause they do have some very helpful tips, visit their 7 Steps to Success page.  Make sure you include pictures and video clips on your cause page.  This really does help make your cause real to supporters. Be creative, give lots of details about your cause, and come up with a very catchy name for your cause.  If you need a 360° trigger for your cause page feel free to contact me and I can set you up with one. Show supporters how you are bringing learning to life as well as bringing the world to your students through augmented reality.  I can envision causes with titles such as Bringing Learning to Life, Seeing a Different Kind of Reality, iOpen the World, and etc…

Augmented Reality Causes Ideas:

  • 4 iPad Minis, 4 iPad Mini Cases, & AugThat’s 360° Environment Triggers, AugThat’s 3D Triggers, & Your Class Level of Animated Lessons
  • 2 iPad Minis, 2 iPad Minis Cases, & AugThat’s Interactive Kindergarten Flashcards by Katie Ann, & AugThat’s Virtual Field Trips
  • A School Site Lessons for all of AugThat’s Content & a Teach Connect account for all Teachers

What ever your Augmented Reality Cause by PledgeCents may be AugThat’s sales team would love to help put Augmented Reality Curriculum together to fit your students’ needs.

AugThat would also like to help you reach your goal and get AR in your classroom, so any cause that includes augmented content from AugThat your school will receive a Free Pipeline account.  The Pipeline is when you add augmented content to your school’s logo or mascot.  The augmented content can be the school’s website, calendar, an intro video about the school, a message from the principal and etc… The school can change the augmented content monthly if needed.  AugThat would also like to give 100 3D augmented objects as well to help grow your augmented content library.  If you tell AugThat I sent you as well you will also receive a DISCOUNT! I am also working on getting teachers other types of augmented content, so stay tuned I hope I can help grow your augmented library even more.

Here are some examples of causes by PledgeCents:

For back to school PledgeCents is having a competition a #SchoolSupplied competition. The top 3 schools that participate in this competition will receive school supplies.  The winners will pick from a listed of basic school supplies and PledgeCents will deliver them.  This is a win … win situation.  Teachers submit a cause share it out via social media and earn points towards the #SchoolSupplied Competition. The school then could win up to $1000 worth of much needed school supplies. Below are more details about the competition and how to earn points.

When you set up your account for PledgeCents please enter my referral code kwilson328 so that they know I sent you.  The competition ends Sept. 30th so get busy and start creating a cause.  When you share your cause make sure you use the hashtag #SchoolSupplied then tag me @katieann_76 so I can help promote your cause and get it funded as well as getting you points for the competition.  The more we all share the better your cause will reach its goal.  Oh and I almost forgot if your cause goes beyond your goal you get all you raised.  Together we can make a difference and because every cent does counts!

#SchoolSupplied Competition:

Top 3 schools with the most points between Aug 3rd – Sept 30th will win #SchoolSupplied Prizes.

  • 1st Place = $1,000 worth of school supplies
  • 2nd Place = $750 worth of school supplies
  • 3rd Place = $500 worth school supplies

The winning schools will get to choose their school supplies upon completion of the contest.

You earn points by:

  • Dollar Raised: 5 points
  • Facebook Share: 10 points
  • Cause Created: 20 points
  • Every $500 Raised by your school (BONUS): 200 points
  • Reach Your Goal: 100 points

More details/FAQ about the competition please visit – https//

Talking with young children: How Parents can Encourage Learning

During the first five years of a child’s life 90% of brain development takes place. There’s no way to go back after a child enters school and recapture what they have missed during the first five years. So what does this mean for parents and learning? Parents have a perfect opportunity to be the first and best teacher in a child’s life. They can have a profound impact that will make a difference for a lifetime. Here are a few facts!

1) Thought–provoking questions or using new words can extend children’s thinking and curiosity.

2) When adults purposefully talk more with children, children develop larger vocabularies (Hart & Risley,1999, Hoff & Naigles, 2002).

3) Children with larger vocabularies are better readers and better readers are more successful throughout school and life (Snow,Burns & Griffin 1998).

All families talk to children, but the way you talk to them or with them is what makes the difference. If you’re just talking at children to get things done, such as, eating, getting dressed, cleaning up etc. then you are missing an opportunity to get the vocabulary growth, cognitive development and emotional maturity that is necessary for future success.

Here are a few things parents can do that make a significant difference:

1) When driving in a car with children, turn off your radio and put down the cell phone….. Engage your children in conversation regarding the world around them, i.e. How many red cars can we find in the next few minutes? Can you find the number six on the license plate? Who can find the letter “S” on a license plate?
This is fun and can make a world of difference.

2) Use “Big Words” and extend a child’s vocabulary: Instead of saying: “going to the park can be fun” say… “Going to the part can be enjoyable, entertaining or pleasant. Instead of saying: “that is a scary mask your brother is wearing”…. That is a creepy, horrifying, shocking or intimidating mask your brother is wearing.
These are easy to do and make a significant difference. Remember you are the first and most important teacher in a child’s life…. Make a difference for them!

Should every child be ready for college when they graduate ? Maybe…. maybe not

This is the perplexing question that every parent faces as their child enters high school and they start thinking about what happens in the next three or four years. Should we start saving now for college, how much will it cost us and what options do we have ? These are all excellent questions and many can be answered through high school counselors and other resources.

Two areas that parents and students should investigate before graduation are community colleges and career & occupational training programs. Both of these can be exceptional ways to save money and give a student the additional college and career experience that will help prepare them for the future workforce. Community colleges can offer the first two years of college experience much cheaper than a four-year state or private institutions. Many community colleges are offering career and occupational training programs that are exceptional.

Here are some facts that are worth knowing about: 35% of the students entering college their first year dropout, only 40% of the students who stay in school graduate in four years and 60% of the students who stay in college require six or more years to graduate. This only adds to the increased cost of the education and the indebtedness that students find themselves when they finally do graduate.

There are many excellent, high paying jobs that don’t require a four-year college education. Students and parents should explore these options to see if the student has interest in the area and the demand for jobs is sufficient for employment. Here are just a few jobs that pay well and have high demand in the USA: dental hygienist, web developer, medical secretary, paralegal assistant, auto mechanic, firefighter and many more.

Even with younger children parents can start the college and career exploration process by talking about jobs. When a child goes to the dentist for teeth cleaning have the hygienist explained to them what they enjoy most about their work. Almost everywhere you go someone is doing something that could be interesting as a future occupational opportunity for your child. Help them learn to ask good questions and think about those options early on.


Eye Catching News = Augmented News Report

Eye Catching News = Augmented News Report

I am so excited to announce the release of Eye Catching News. This project takes current events and brings it to life. With a help of a talented friend at AugThat we developed 2 unique triggers, one for World News and one for National News. When you scan these triggers using the AugThat’s STAR app (Supreme Tutoring Augmented Reality) you will receive an animated news report. What is the unique part is the stories will change about every two weeks or so. The triggers will stay the same but the news stories will automatically change.

Not only did we design these triggers but we also have developed lessons and or activities to go along with the news stories. Best of all the stories can be used at all grade levels. You can download a lesson and or activity that best fits your needs. There are some lessons/activities designed for younger students, older students, and along with question starters. Being a technology teacher and knowing how important it is to have tech integration I’ve also included Tech Integration ideas and tools. I broke down the tech integration into apps and web based tools since not everyone has iPad/tablets and or computers/netbooks/Chromebooks.


  • Start an interactive notebook and attach the two triggers to the cover or inside the spiral notebook, 3 tab folder, or a 3 ring binder.
  • Use the writing prompts to start a journal and or blog.
  • Have students write/create digitally and submit their work via an LMS such as Edmodo.
  • Post Question starters in an LMS such as Edmodo to create an online decision.
  • Mix and match the pre-made lessons. (Don’t use the same one for each story.)
  • Can be used as a center – self guided.

Using the Triggers:

  1. Download the STAR app from AugThat (Supreme Tutoring Augmented Reality)
  2. Launch the App
  3. Tap Start Lesson
  4. Tap Current Events
  5. Scan the Triggers

The Activities:

Other Activities & Triggers:

I already of requests for a Science, Math, and a Person in History augmented lessons similar to the Current Events.  So keep your eyes peeled I am sure I can work something out.