Being absent in a 1:1 classroom

The week after our full day of professional development, I was out for 2 days. It seems like I’ve been out a lot lately 😦 (2 days for international job fair, 1 day for PD, these 2 days…). Usually it seems nothing productive gets done when I’m not physically in the classroom, especially because the students are supposed to be learning French. I usually have them do independent work, partner work, speaking exercises and watch movies. [Luckily my content tends quite well to movies! My students really enjoyed Asterix & Obelix and we were able to have some great discussion about White Material during Black History Month.This time I decided to experiment with having my students use the Chromebooks while I was gone.

Students’ homework was to bring their headphones to class with them. I also explained to each class that they would be using the Chromebooks and I would be giving them more responsibility than I’d ever given other groups of students. I told them to make me proud and that I looked forward to bragging about them when I came back. I stayed completely positive and emphasized how much responsibility they were going to be given.

I was fortunate enough to be able to speak with the sub the day before I was absent. This made me feel so much better since I was leaving her with so much responsibility! Here is an excerpt from the letter I left my sub…

Students will be using Chromebooks today and tomorrow. Ms. Smith will come open the Chromebook cart. I have written the number they will be using on the roster next to their names (in yellow). I have also noted if they have turned in their user agreement (in orange). Please collect (and record) any missing agreements and encourage them to turn them in ASAP (there are extra copies). Each student will have a task list/assignment sheet in his/her email. The two allowed sites are their google mail/docs & my.hrw.com (I have printed out their usernames & passwords in case they forgot). They should ask you if they need to go to any other sites.

Class Agenda:
1. Get Chromebooks. Log in to their email. Open the file I’ve shared with them (assignment sheet). Do as much work as possible.
2. Put Chromebooks away correctly (do not plug in).
3. Please remind them to send me an email. They should tell me a) how much work they got done, b) how hard they worked and c) questions they have.

I made assignment documents for each of my classes (French 2 block & French 2 year long). About 30 minutes before their class period, I shared each document with them.

The biggest differences between being absent in the past and being absent this time were that I was able to see their work (in real time) and that I was able to communicate with them. At the end of the class period, students emailed me their progress. The evening of day 1, I read all the emails and emailed back any of my students who had questions. I LOVED how this worked and I am so excited to now be able to brag about my students! Our high school sometimes gets a bad rap but I always love to tell people how wonderful my students are. We have a great relationship (one of the most important classroom management strategies I’ve learned in 2.5 years) and they are (usually) wonderful 🙂

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my (nearly) paperless beginning of the year

The past two years, all of the beginning of the year paperwork has killed my copy count. Each student has received:

  • a 2-page parent letter (including parent survey & signatures to be returned to me)
  • a 3-page syllabus
  • a 3-page grade contract
  • a 1-page participation rubric
  • a 1-page iPod contract and
  • a 1-page student survey (including signatures to be returned to me)

That added up to 11 pages of paper…times 100 students…equaled 1100 copies! I am NOT okay with that. Mostly because I know the paper is wasted. The stuff that goes home probably sits somewhere un-read or gets thrown away (not recycled). The stuff that comes back to me is filed away to (probably) never be looked at again.

So…since we have google apps for education, I decided to go to (mostly) electronic documents and forms. I sent a 2-page parent letter home with my students because I wanted to make sure parents got some sort of information telling them what to do and how. I also gave them a copy of the iPod contract because I think it is important to have them on file in case anything happens (more on why I have iPod touches in my classroom later).

In class, I showed all of the students how to access the syllabus, grade contract, participation rubric, electronic signatures for parents, and parent survey. Then I asked them to go home and teach their parents what to do. Are there still a lot of parents who haven’t completed the signature or survey? Yep. Where there quite a few who didn’t when I was all paper? Yep. If a parent emails me, I have also been able to give them the links to what they are missing.

During class, students used iPods to complete the electronic signatures for students and the student survey. My French 2 and 3 students also used the iPods to complete pre-tests to show me what they remembered from the previous level.

Have you ever used google forms? They are A-mazing. You can create a cute little survey (as seen in last week’s post) and the results show up instantaneously in an organized spreadsheet. I love being organized…electronically. This year I actually read all of the parent and student surveys. And if I want to look at any of them again, I can easily access them from anywhere. I have converted all of my important teacher paperwork to google docs and I am creating new documents exclusively with gdocs. I love being organized and having way less paper/trash around!

 

p.s. I used gdocs for all of my classes, not just French 1. See? You’ll also see (if you click on French 1, French 2 or French 3) that I created google calendars for each of my classes. I embedded the calendars into my website so that students can easily see if they have any upcoming assignments. Did you notice my twitter feeds? Also more coming about that later.