Janet Abercrombie's Blog (23)

Classroom Management: Quick Student Groupings

Early in my teaching career, I learned that if I can manage classroom movements, I can manage behavior. If I can manage behavior, students learn better.


An earlier post discussed the importance of quick and easy transitions between activities. David Ginsburg discusses smooth transitions in terms of …


Added by Janet Abercrombie on September 27, 2011 at 5:25am — 1 Comment

Quick Formative Assessment of Student Writing

Since reading Bill Ferriter's post on whether or not true formative assessment is possible, I've been wondering how I could make my own formative assessments more efficient. This post features a screencast of me looking at student work for the purposes of formative assessment.


Formative assessment is continuous assessment. In the context…


Added by Janet Abercrombie on September 24, 2011 at 1:56am — 2 Comments

10 Ways to Help Students Create Quality Video and Audio Productions




I shied away from tech productions projects. I was a scaredy-cat. Why? Whenever I gave my students a video project, the products demonstrated fun and engagement, but little learning.


I needed to learn how to help students create quality productions.


Over the past three years, I've discovered a system that helps me help students create media productions that…


Added by Janet Abercrombie on September 19, 2011 at 7:13am — No Comments

Parent Night Activities: Getting Parents and Students Actively Involved

It's never too early in the year to begin thinking about Parent Night.


The thought of talking for an hour to a group of adults seems daunting. Even with children, I try to speak no more than five minutes before directing them to an activity that synthesizes what was shared.


I have parents and students do the talking. Here are some suggestions if you want to get parents and students more active in the process:


1. Have parents active from the…


Added by Janet Abercrombie on September 16, 2011 at 2:30am — No Comments

Beyond Compliance: Teaching Students to Make Responsible Decisions

I have been going home exhausted. Yes, I'm getting used to early mornings. But I think the most draining aspect of a new school year is fielding the hundreds of questions fired at me. I'm sure you've heard them:

  • "Can I call home/go to the restroom/return my book/fill my water bottle...?"
  • "Do I...?"
  • "What do...?"
  • "Where does this go?"

Procedural questions can be handled by…


Added by Janet Abercrombie on September 8, 2011 at 8:19am — No Comments

Bookcasts: Podcasts that Demonstrate Reading Comprehension

Podcast Bear
Photo accessed through Creative Commons, attributed to http://www.flickr.com/photos/grahamstanley/

When you talk to a 10-year-old about a book, the child will most often give you a rundown that includes a string of "And then...and then...and then..." How can…

Added by Janet Abercrombie on September 6, 2011 at 4:29am — 1 Comment

Visual Literacy: Teaching Students How Video Can Fool the Viewer

One of the most important things we can teach students is to be a critical viewer of visual media. Can we believe everything we see?

My teaching partner and I created a 17-second iMovie: http://youtu.be/bnYYyL0wq30

We then gave students access to the 18 smaller clips from which the movie was…


Added by Janet Abercrombie on September 5, 2011 at 3:00am — 1 Comment

Transitions: Classroom Routines That Respect Instructional Time

I have pretty high expectations for student organization and transitions between activities. I don't want student to lose precious learning time. That said, I don't want students to be robots.

How do I show students I care about them, honor individual quirks, and still clarify my expectations for our learning time?

Clear instructions are written on the board as students arrive - and for each transition. In the past, I wrote steps for students on…


Added by Janet Abercrombie on September 3, 2011 at 6:00am — 2 Comments

Beginning-of-year Activities

I consciously overplan the first few days. The worst possible first-day scenario is to arrive unprepared. Over the years, I've collected a number of first-day activity ideas - far too many to use.

I've pared down the activities based on the following considerations:

  • My first goal is to build classroom community, making all students feel comfortable and successful.
  • My second goal is to establish routine.
  • My third goal is to formatively assess students'…

Added by Janet Abercrombie on September 2, 2011 at 5:20am — 2 Comments

"T - 1": First Impressions on Parents and Students

Residents of Southeast Asia understand typhoons. As the winds pick up, people in the community scramble to secure windows, haul terrace furniture inside, and stock up on food.


The pre-service week has been a typhoon of activity, with my focus shifting to and from classroom arrangements, …


Added by Janet Abercrombie on August 31, 2011 at 9:21am — No Comments

"T - 2": Preparing for the Extra Duties

At "T minus 2", I begin sifting through the calendars and emails about upcoming meetings, lunch duty schedules, curriculum planning updates, and more.

As I enter dates into my plan book and Google calendar, I remember the year that I was a substitute teacher. I arrived at 7:30 and left at 3:30 with all papers graded, plans for the next day solidified, and specific anecdotal notes on the progress of each child. I often wondered, Why is it that, when I teach full time, I stay until… Continue

Added by Janet Abercrombie on August 28, 2011 at 4:00am — No Comments

"T - 3": Zooming in and Zooming Out of Teacher Meetings

Students arrive in three working days.

The only thing I want to do is work in my classroom. But there are meetings. Obligatory attendance. Would admin know if I skipped?

I admit these feelings as a trained administrator, knowing the importance of the pre-service meetings. If I were to write objectives for the meetings we have had, they would be as follows:

  • Build a positive school-wide and divisional culture
  • Inform both veteran and incoming…

Added by Janet Abercrombie on August 26, 2011 at 6:02pm — No Comments

"T - 4": Thinking Through Organization of Students and Their Supplies

Once the bigger pieces of furniture are in order, I begin working on the finer details. Specifically, I ask myself What processes can I put into place the will expedite student movement from one activity to another?

Teaching time is precious. If students take more than a minute or two to transition from one activity to another, a teacher can lose hours of important instructional… Continue

Added by Janet Abercrombie on August 24, 2011 at 3:17am — No Comments

Before the Students Arrive ("T Minus 5")

Today was "T Minus 5". Students arrive in five working days.

Two feelings: chatty and overwhelmed.

Importance of Chat

Each school year begins with faculty and staff assemblies. I look over a sea of roughly 300 people, about a third of whom I know fairly well. I want to hear about their summers. I want them to expand on their Facebook updates - all the fun stories they didn't post.

I think the importance of beginning-of-year chat is…


Added by Janet Abercrombie on August 22, 2011 at 3:05pm — No Comments

Last-Minute Classroom Purchases

I've never met a teacher who didn't spend personal time and money shopping for classroom resources. By contract, I begin work in two days. I spent the afternoon picking up some last-minute items.

In order to purchase items, they need to fulfill at least two of three criteria:

  1. They must enhance student learning
  2. They must increase classroom efficiency
  3. They must be cheap (i.e. under US$1.50 per student)
Plain-Colored Cotton…

Added by Janet Abercrombie on August 8, 2011 at 2:30am — No Comments

Organizing the Wealth of Resources

I check email on vacation. I leave the technical emails alone but, while my hubby reads the newspaper, I enjoy reading the blog subscriptions that come to me by email. This summer, posts from educators like Cool Cat Teacher,… Continue

Added by Janet Abercrombie on July 31, 2011 at 12:22pm — 1 Comment

Understanding by Decision: When You Can't UbD a Unit

My school has adopted the Understanding by Design (UbD) model of curriculum development - and I love it. Educators first identify Enduring Understandings and… Continue

Added by Janet Abercrombie on July 10, 2011 at 10:30pm — No Comments

Another Research Tool: Google Image Search

A colleague passed this on today. This will help students in their research as with citing the media source.

I tried it with a couple images. I found matches, but couldn't identify the original source. What is your experience with it?

Added by Janet Abercrombie on July 5, 2011 at 2:39am — No Comments

Research 2.0 = Searching + Evaluating + Annotating + Sharing + Collaborating

Each year I become more and more excited about teaching students to research. Here is my evolution in teaching research skills:

1993-2001: Teach students to read nonfiction and take notes so that they can report learning without plagiarizing. Yawn.

2001-2006: Teach students to read nonfiction online and in print. Scour the internet to identify the best websites for kids to use. Develop webquests.…


Added by Janet Abercrombie on July 4, 2011 at 3:30am — No Comments

Fear of Commitment: Looking for the Perfect Bookmark and File Sharing Site

I have a fear of commitment...to bookmarking sites.


Maybe I'm too picky. I'm waiting for the "Holy Grail" of sites: The free site that easily organizes both documents and websites and then pushes those items to my mobile devices. I want to put everything in one place - for free. I dream that this perfect system will one day appear on my dashboard and it will be love at first sight.



Added by Janet Abercrombie on June 29, 2011 at 12:50am — 1 Comment

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