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How to Start a WordPress Teacher Blog on Siteground in 15 minutes

Blogging, Featured

*This post contains affiliate links*

Hey, y’all! If you’ve been following along on my blog for a while, you know that I have really enjoyed helping other teachers learn to start their professional blogs to help them achieve whatever goals they may have, whether they’re wanting to become a thought leader in their niche, share ideas with teachers in their area, or to showcase their products to accompany a Teachers Pay Teachers store. In my How to Start a Teacher Blog: The Beginner’s Guide post, I laid out the general steps you would be going through to get your blog up and running. In 3 Reasons Why You Should Have a Self-Hosted Teacher Blog , I explain the importance of starting your blogging journey as a self-hosted blog and the difference between WordPress and Blogger. In this post, I want to show you with screenshots how to get your blog up and running in 15 minutes or less!

By the end of this post, if you follow the steps, you’ll have a host, a domain name and a theme installed! You will just need to customize it to look how you want it to look! In writing this post, I’m assuming you already have a theme picked out. If you don’t, you can still do all of the steps to grab your host and domain name and to install WordPress, and you can finish set-up once you choose a theme (more on that below)!

Are you ready to jump in? I’m so excited for you! 

To begin, you will go to Siteground homepage here and click sign up.

 

Then, you will be prompted to choose your hosting plan. Be sure to review the 3 types of plans to make sure that what you’re purchasing matches up with what your goals are, but if you’re starting a brand new teacher blog, the “Start Up” plan should be fine (that is what I have!).

 

After you choose your plan, you will be prompted to choose a domain name. To register a domain name, the cost is $14.95/year. If you already have a domain name through another company, choose “I already have a domain” and follow the prompts from there.

 

Once you choose a domain name that is available, you will be asked to enter your personal information to officially register the domain to you.

 

Then, you will be asked to choose how you’d like to pay. You can pay for 1 month of hosting (3.95/month with the start-up plan + $14.95 set up fee for the start up plan) to qualify for a “Trial” period and get the 30-day money back guarantee, or you can pay for 12, 24, or 36 months to get free set-up (and not be charged the $14.95).  You will also be able to choose if you want any other add-on services.

 

Congratulations! Now you have a web host and domain name

 

All you have to do now is set up your blog. Begin by selecting “Start a New Website”.

 

Then, indicate the type of site you need. If you’re looking to set up a teacher blog, like mine, then you’ll select “Personal/Blog” and “WordPress”.

 

Now, you have to choose your WordPress log-in credentials. Your username and password should be something you can remember since this is what you’ll be using daily to log in to blog!

 

YAY! WordPress is installed! You will want to bookmark the ADMIN URL that you’re given. In this pic, I’m pointing to where your specific ADMIN URL is. This is the URL you will go to to login to WordPress and see the “back end” of your site. Go ahead and go to this site.

 

Now is the fun part! Once you’ve gone to the ADMIN URL that you were given, you will see your WordPress dashboard! The only thing you have to do now is install your theme! If you don’t have a theme and want to browse for a while, come back to this step later to install your theme.

Your theme is the look/feel/layout of your blog, so you want to find a layout that you really like. You can find themes via WordPress, or you can “blog stalk” other blogs you enjoy to try to find the layout they have, or at least elements they all have in common that you may want to have on yours. To find out the specific theme other bloggers are using, scroll to the footer of their blog and it should be listed. Then, you can just Google that theme to find how to get it 🙂 Many other bloggers I have talked with have also used Etsy to find themes, or have purchased one from Georgia Lou Studios (I have their Felicity theme!)

 

To install a theme, click “Appearance” and “Themes”.

 

Click “Add New Theme” if you’re going to choose a different one via WordPress or upload your own.

 

To upload your own, choose “upload theme” and choose a file from your computer. Again, this option assumes that you’ve gotten a theme elsewhere and have already downloaded it to your computer. If you haven’t yet, come back to this step when you’re ready!

 

Once you upload your theme, you will be taken to an “Installing theme” page that will tell you if your theme is installed successfully. All you have to do now is customize! You can begin customizing by clicking “Live Preview”.

 

On the left hand side of the page, you should see options to begin playing with to change the look of your blog (fonts/colors, etc.). On the right, should be a “live preview” of changes you’re making so you can see them in real time. Once you’re finished, or just want to save changes to take a break, click “Activate and Publish” and everything is saved! To come back and customize, you will follow the same steps from the Dashboard page (Appearance > Themes)

 

Congratulations! At this point, you now have a blog! Please reach out to me with any questions you may have and send me your brand new blog name in the comments! I’d love to follow along!

Want to join a community of other teacher bloggers? Sign up to receive “start a teacher blog” tips and tricks below to get started!

How to Start a Teacher Blog: The Beginner’s Guide

Blogging, Featured
Want to start a Teacher Blog? Read this Beginner's Guide on how to get started!
*This post contains affiliate links*

Hey, y’all! At the blog again today to expand on one of my recent posts, “Why You Should Start a Teacher Blog This Summer” to bring you How to Start a Teacher Blog–The Beginner’s Guide.

Starting a blog is fun, but can also be challenging and for some, scary. I’m here to show you that it is not scary and that anyone can do it! You do not need a ton of time, or tech expertise, to get up and going with an awesome blog in no time. Want to start a blog? It is as easy as this:

Step 1: Find Your “What” (Niche)

Before you start you blog, you have to truly understand your “WHAT”, or your niche, which is your narrowed topic. What are you going to write about? What is going to set you apart? What makes you different and why will people want to read your blog? It is important to understand your niche from day 1 so you can design your blog to meet your goals, and so you can gain readers (the whole reason why you’re blogging!). If potential readers don’t know what to expect from your posts, then they will be less likely to subscribe and follow you.

Want to read more about finding your niche? Read this + grab the freebie! 

Step 2: Set Your Goals to Meet Your “Why”

After deciding what you’re blog’s focus is going to be, you need to set some goals and understand why you want to blog. With anything in life, like learning a new skill or going on a diet, you have to know what target you want to hit so you can build out and around that goal. Are you blogging to make money or direct people to your TeachersPayTeachers store? Or are you blogging to become a thought leader? Do you want blogging to be a hobby while you gain a larger audience on social media platforms? Whatever your end goal is, you need to define it as well as you can. Being as specific as possible will allow you to break your big blog goal up into smaller goals to keep you on track.

You won’t be able to set all of your goals in one sitting, as some you will have to re-visit once you actually write your first posts. However, in my opinion, you should set goals for:

  • number of times you will post in a week and month on your blog (Blog Goal)
  • how you will engage on social media such as Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook (Traffic Goal)
  • how you will build an email list and nurture subscribers you get (Email Goal)
  • how you will monetize and when to try, if this is a goal of yours (Money Goal)

Step 3: Set Up + Design Your Blog

This is the most fun part! After you know your “What” and “Why” it is time to actually get started to put your plans into action!

  • Decide on a Blog Name: My tip here is to have words that have to do with your niche included in your blog name. Are you going to be blogging about all things related to literacy? Then, you may want “Literacy” in your blog’s name! This is great for SEO (search engine optimization) purposes and helps people looking for “literacy” stuff to see your blog when they search! Think “What will I write about?” and “Can I combine it with something similar, or even make it rhyme?“. For example, a blog name of “Literacy for Littles” rhymes and clearly communicates a niche! Your blog name could also include your actual name if you don’t want to be totally boxed into one niche. There are pros and cons to that I’ll be discussing in an upcoming post!
  • Host Your Blog*: I wrote an entire post that details 3 Reasons Why You Should Have a Self-Hosted Blog which explains how self-hosting looks more professional, gives you much more flexibility and control in design and functionality, and you have more advertising options. If you think of your blog as a piece of internet real estate, your host is like your landlord. They have the space to store your blog. If your host is like your landlord, then your house or apartment, is your platform, like WordPress. I am a HUGE proponent of self-hosting from the get-go because it can be a pain to switch later, after you’ve been blogging a while and have grown your brand. Self-hosting allows you to work on SEO  (search engine optimization) and install other plugins to help you supercharge your site and actually make things easier on you! I highly recommend Siteground* as your web host. They offer hosting for $3.95/month with a 30 day money back guarantee and have incredible 24/7 support (including an awesome live chat!) if you ever have any questions. If you have questions about self-hosting, feel free to email me or Tweet me!
  • Get a Domain Name: This is your blog name + .com. If you don’t get a domain name, you will have yourblogname.wordpress.com or yourblogname.blogspot.com after it. For example, if I did not get my domain name of www.kelseynhayes.com, my domain name would be www.kelseynhayes.wordpress.com. I recommend you getting your domain name early on if it is available, especially if you’re going to operate your blog to eventually make money. Again, if you choose Siteground as your host, then you can grab your domain name through them–all in one spot!
  • Choose Theme + Customize: One you decide on your blog’s name and get a host and domain name, all you have to do is design a beautiful blog! When you go to design your blog, you will choose a “theme” or layout that you like. There are free themes via WordPress and all over the internet, and also paid themes. If you find a theme you like that is paid, I recommend investing that money, because you know you like it and it will require only a little customization (just changing colors, fonts and logos is easy!). When I went searching for a theme, I found blogs that I really liked the look of and I scrolled to the bottom of the blog in the footer. Many blogs have their theme listed. I would then Google the theme to research it a bit more. I started to notice trends, and that a lot of teacher bloggers have themes from Georgia Lou Studios. I ended up going with a theme from them too. I did have to pay for it, but when you pay for themes, it is just a one-time fee. You don’t have to pay monthly to have it on your blog. Once you install theme on your site, you just have to customize colors, fonts and stuff to make it yours! If you are unsure of how to install the theme, Siteground’s* customer service can either do it for you, or walk you through it via their live chat!

Step 4: Do Research

The best blogs, the ones that not only are enjoyable to read, but that gain a large following, are ones that solve problems for readers. Understanding your audience and who your ideal reader is is important for you to make sure you’re delivering content that people will actually read. You can research topics that are doing well for other bloggers, as well as pinpointing what people want to read by:

  • Joining Facebook groups relevant to your niche
  • Searching Blogs that have similar niches to yours
  • Following Hashtags on Twitter that are relevant to your blog topic
  • Searching Pinterest for Posts That are Relevant to Your Niche

You want to try to identify a “pain point” among your readers, and then solve it in your unique voice!  For example, if you’re blogging for middle school teachers, many middle school teachers want to read about classroom management strategy. By blogging about a strategy or giving a tip that they can use, you’re solving a problem for them! If you can solve problems for readers, you will easily gain a following!

If you already have a blog, email subscribers or an Instagram account with a following, you can also ask them what they’d like to read about! Surveys from readers is invaluable information!

Step 5: Make Time

Just because you have a beautiful blog and awesome ideas, doesn’t mean your blog will gain traction and get readership. You have to put the time into building it. I know that as a teacher, you are incredibly busy. As a parent, you are incredibly busy. As a mom or dad to fur babies, you are incredibly busy. If you can block out even 30 minutes a day to focus on your blog, that time adds up! In 30 minutes a day you can work on a blog post, engage on social media, answer emails from subscribers and do topic research! You have 30 minutes a day in your schedule somewhere. If you can identify 30 minutes that you can sit down each day, you will be building your blog’s brand in no time. 

Step 6/7/8: Create Content, Get Traffic, Build Community!

So you have pinpointed a niche, have set goals for yourself, have a blog set-up and understand a bit of what readers want…then WRITE! Building up your bank of content is really important when you first start a blog so when you work to get people to your blog, they have posts to read! When I first started, I had so many “draft” posts because as I would think of a post idea I’d write a title down to come back to later. Whether your content creation is more sporadic and spontaneous (how mine was) or methodically thought out ahead of time, just WRITE! You will find a groove and systems that work for you. Also, side note to that point, remember, don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Yes, you want quality content, but it doesn’t have to be PERFECT for you to hit publish! You can always go back and tweak things, so just. hit. post. 🙂 If you’re having trouble staying consistent with your posting when you first start out, I recommend thinking of a series to write that you will publish weekly. Even a 5 post series means you’re posting once a week for at least a month!

In terms of getting traffic to your blog, it takes work. You will not be a huge success over night. You will have some posts that do awesome and others not so well, so having a solid game plan in terms of being consistent in sharing your content is necessary. You could get lucky and have a post go viral but that model is not sustainable, so have a plan. Unless you are a lover of social media, I would say pick 2 platforms to really focus on and do those very well. Instagram and Twitter are my 2 favorites. I also have a Pinterest page, but I don’t count that as I’m not really “engaging” with others. Once you pick your 2 platforms, make sure you’re engaging with users. No one likes someone who just drops their links. Building community is essential to really gain loyal readers, and to build community you have to have conversations! Like, share and comment on other people’s posts. Be consistent! If you create community, are consistent in sharing your posts on social media, you will get page views, I promise. 

Now, what are you waiting for? What is holding you back? Read to jump in? Here is How to Start a WordPress Teacher Blog in 15 Minutes (or Less!) with screenshots to lead you step by step! 

Want to receive more blogging tips straight to your inbox? Subscribe now and get a “How to Start a Teacher Blog” FREEBIE!

How to Participate in a Twitter Chat: For Teachers

Blogging, Featured, Teaching, Twitter

Hey, y’all!

If you’ve been following me on social media or this blog for any length of time, you’ve probably realized that I love to try new things with technology in and out of the classroom in order to impact my teaching practice.

Long before I had a blog, I was very active on Twitter. However, I had never participated in a Twitter chat before I became a teacher! Twitter chats have been an amazing way for me to connect with other educators around the world around specific topics, and I seem to always leave each one feeling more energized than before I started. Because of this, I wanted to bring you: How to Participate in a Twitter Chat: For Teachers!

Twitter chats take place every day of the week around a LOT of different topics in education. Grade specific, subject specific, education hot topic specific…you name it, there is probably a Twitter chat for it.  Don’t have a chat to join but want to find one? Check out this longggg list of Twitter chats I found. 

 
1. Get a Twitter Account. (or Sign In if you already have one)

Tip: If you’re just making an account, something that is similar to your name or position will most likely foster more engagement overall, as you will be easier to search.

If you’re at www.twitter.com. in the top right corner you will see the options to Log In to Twitter or Sign Up for an account.

2. Find Your Chat.  
Type the chat’s hashtag into your search box in the top right corner. For the sake of this example, I typed #JCPSchat, which is a chat my district has.

3. Click “Latest”.
Clicking “latest” will have the chats load in the order that people send them so you can just scroll and follow along during the chat. If you check the hashtag when the chat is not happening, you will still see the Tweets appear in order as people use the hashtag.

4. Take note of who is moderating the chat, so you’re aware who will be posting the questions (especially if it is a large chat. Tweets start moving fast!)

5. Questions/Answering
For Twitter chats, questions follow a Q1, Q2, Q3 format. When you answer questions, you then should use an A1, A2, A3 format. This allows participants to see what you’re referencing and will lead to better conversation.

For example, so you can see the format, this was question 2 in a chat I participated in:

The question has “Q2” to identify it as the 2nd question and answers to that question had “A2” at the beginning to indicate the answer corresponded with question 2.

6. Use the chat’s hashtag when tweeting.
Use the chat’s hashtag in every tweet so it shows up in the chat’s thread. Without it, people in the chat won’t see what you’re posting!

7. Start responding + engaging with others! 
It is okay, obviously, for you to be a “lurker” the first couple of times, but you will get a LOT more out of the chat by engaging and connecting with others!

It is THAT easy! If you haven’t participated in a Twitter chat yet, I highly encourage you to do so! It is like a bite-sized, pocket PD that you can access when you have time! Also, find me on Twitter, I would LOVE to connect!

Happy Tweeting,

Dear Teacher, You are Enough.

Featured, State Testing, Teaching, test prep
Dear Teachers,

 

It’s that time again. You know… the time where you have to either take down your entire classroom or cover every resource with butcher paper, even though there is a month of school left. The time where desks go in rows, countdowns begin, art projects are taken down, flexible seating options are put away and you make sure you have a place to double lock materials and store extra snacks. It’s “I can’t help you, just do your best” time. It’s state testing season.

You’ve prepared for this the entire year. Even if you don’t focus much on “the test” in your classroom and in your school, you’ve still been preparing for it. You know the standards that will be tested and the kids know (dread) that this happens each year. However, no matter how great of a year you and your students have had or how awesome your classroom culture is this time of year always seems incredibly stressful.

I know you’ve had the talk with you students about how one test doesn’t measure their worth. One test doesn’t tell them if they’re a good brother, sister, friend. One test doesn’t show anyone that they’re a really good artist, that they stand up to bullies, or are extremely compassionate. One test does not define their future success in life and a label of “Novice” or “Apprentice” may show us that they aren’t there “yet” in terms of learning some standards, but it doesn’t mean they are less than. I know you’ve told them that you’re proud of them always, no matter what.  But regardless of how you and your students view testing, it happens, and we must all put forth our best effort to try to be as successful as possible.

I know students are feeling anxious. No one wants to perform poorly, whether it be for themselves, their parents or you.

And I know that you, too, are feeling anxious. You’re worried about how testing will affect the self-confidence of your students. You’re worried that the pride they’ve felt for knowing they’ve grown academically will go away when they realize the test is still hard compared to their ability and reading level. You’re worried that you didn’t do right by them because you see a poem on the test and you should’ve gone over poetry a little bit more to help them be successful.  You worry that really you should’ve assigned more reading homework or should’ve used even more lunch periods to hold math tutorials.  You worry that you didn’t do something to set them up for success.

My message for you, Teach, is that you’ve been enough. We preach this to our students all year, but you must remember it too. The consistency you’ve provided your students all year, the hugs, the encouragement are all worth much, much more than a score on a test. You’ve held high standards for students despite many of them facing extreme adversity in their lives and have helped them grow from a “Below Basic” reader to damn near “Proficient”. You’ve shown them how to have character and do the right thing even when no one is watching. You’ve modeled for them kindness, empathy, and honesty.

You’ve shown them that they are believed in, loved, trusted, listened to. You’ve shown them that they are important and that their voice matters. And while whatever will be, will be, when it comes to how they perform on their tests, you have done enough and you are enough.

p.s. Want to start a teacher blog like this one? My friend, Suzi, wrote an ebook that can help you get started and grow your blog!

How to Start a Teacher Blog

Blogging, Featured

Hey, y’all!

I cannot believe it has been 1 whole year since I first started this blogging journey. I originally started this blog as a creative outlet, a way to share some tips I’ve learned along the way as a teacher, as well as share some awesome resources I’ve come across. If you asked me a year ago about where I’d think I’d be a year out from starting my blog, my answer would not have been anywhere near what has happened!

Blogging has not only been a creative outlet for me, or a side hobby, but it has connected me to other really passionate educators who are doing awesome things in their classrooms. I’ve been able to gain great ideas, network and learn about opportunities I never would have heard of if it wasn’t for this inspiring community.  Because of all of this, the the purpose for this blog has changed a little bit for me, and has become even more clear in the past few weeks.

Lately, I’ve been lucky enough to start talking to others in my district about starting their own teaching blogs and sharing their voice. As a result of this,  everything I’ve tried (successful and not so successful) with blogging has come flooding back to me. I learned all about how to start my own blog through Googling (a LOT of Googling) and through just getting started and figuring it out as I went. I’ve loved this blogging community so much that now I want to share what I’ve learned!

When I first started, I literally Googled “How to Start a Teacher” blog for nothing to come up. I varied that search some and could only find links here and there where a teacher maybe wrote about something very specific in terms of customizing a blog, but there never was a “one-stop shop” place with advice. Yes, there are TONS of resources online (especially on Pinterest) about how to start a blog and market it, but the majority of the information is geared towards businesses who happen to blog. Let’s face it, teachers and teaching blogs are just different! It has led to me wanting to be very intentional and specific in how I share everything I’ve learned!

Every teacher has a story, a unique point of view, and has something to offer to the larger education community. Whether you have some awesome strategies to share that can help out new (or all!) teachers, you want to market your Teachers Pay Teachers products or are just looking to start a project, you should start YOUR teacher blog!

To start off, I’ve created an overview infographic of “How to Start a Teacher Blog”. If you want to grab it (it’s FREE!) , sign up here and you will receive it to your email as soon as you confirm your email. I’m currently building much more content along these lines to build upon the info in this graphic and to go even more into specifics. Join Our Community!

Screen_shot_2017-04-06_at_4.49.23_pm

Also, my friend, Suzi, created an ebook about starting a blog that has helped me a lot as I’ve grown my blog. My ebook is not finished yet, so you should grab hers here!

Questions? Reach out to me in the comments, or on social media! I’m current loving Instagram. 🙂

The Top 20 Instagram Hashtags to Follow: Teacher Edition

Blogging, Featured, Instagram, Social Media, Teaching
You need to be on Instagram for teaching! Here are 20 hashtags you can follow on Instagram to connect with teachers!
 Hey, y’all!

When I started this blog about a year ago, I was looking for an outlet to share teaching ideas that can make teachers’ lives easier. At the time, I felt proficient in terms of social media. I was already obsessed with Twitter, had a personal Instagram, and was on Pinterest daily for inspiration and to find resources. It was only when I started this blog, however, that I came to realize that Instagram (yes, Instagram!) is basically a wonderland of teaching inspiration! I had never searched Instagram for teaching related stuff before, but as I’ve explored more and more, I’ve now become hooked!

As I said, I hadn’t previously viewed Instagram as a go-to place for teaching inspiration, but was oh-so-wrong. I wanted to write a post to share some of the popular hashtags I check out, and inspiring teachers I follow.

Hashtags for Middle School Teachers

#teachersfollowteachers
#teachersofinstagram
#iteachtoo
#teacherproblems
#teachersofIG
#teachersofTPT 
#teachertribe
#iteachmiddleschool
#iteachela
#iteachmath
#iteach678
#decoratewithladybug
#iteach6th 
#iteachsixth
#iteach7th
#iteachseventh
#iteach8th
#iteacheighth
#teacherblogger (also, #teacherbloggers)
#targetteacher

Other Popular Hashtags

#iteachk
#iteachfirst
#iteach1st
#iteachsecond
#iteach2nd
#iteachthird
#iteach3rd
#iteachfourth
#iteach4th
#iteachfifth
#iteach5th

People to Follow 

I chose the people to follow based off who is popular to follow, who posts consistently, and who posts inspiring content. 
 
Middle/High School (6th-12th)

 

Elementary Teachers (K-5th)

Do you have any favorite hashtags you follow? Do you know of any inspiring educators on Instagram? I’d love to hear them–share them in the comments!

How to Invest Students In Your Classroom’s Big Goals

Back to School, Featured, Goal Setting, investment, Teaching
 Hey, y’all!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted but as we are approaching Christmas Break, I wanted to share something that has been on my mind. While Christmas Break is obviously a time to recharge and enjoy time with family, it is always also a time where I reflect on the past semester in order to figure out what I should adjust in the spring semester. One thing I always reflect on is how close my students are in pursuit of our classroom big goals, and how invested they are in reaching them.

One of the things that I really focused on during my first year teaching was this idea. I was/am a firm believer that while I may be able to get up in front of the class and deliver great lessons, and have the students do the most engaging activities but if the kids weren’t invested in what we were doing and the reason behind it, then I wouldn’t get the best results consistently to really “move” students.

As I mentioned in my first back to school post, a big part of how I view teaching is shaped by my time as a Corps Member with Teach for America. The core values of the organization and their philosophy of “Teaching as Leadership” is the lens in which I view my own teaching practice. One of the tenets of the strategies discussed in Teaching as Leadership is about this very topic. I want to discuss investing students in how I understand it and want to think through this for my own classroom, and from the lens of being a middle school teacher.

I Can + I Want

Investing students in a real way in their own academic success is especially critical in schools that are working to close achievement gaps (most all!). According to Teaching as Leadership, to invest students, they have to believe that they “CAN” achieve, and they have to really “WANT” to achieve. Our job, as educators, is to make sure that we do what is in our power to make sure this is true for all students. Not only do teachers have to be on top of their game instructionally, but we have to make sure our classrooms are places that remove barriers that affect student achievement in order for kids to know they can achieve, and are inspired daily to want to to do so.

Now, before I move on, I want to be clear that I am talking only about what educators can control. We may not be able to change a student’s home life, situation he/she came from, or any outside factors that are affecting a student’s life, but we can control our classroom environment, and the culture of our classrooms. 

Classroom Environment

Most teachers I know at least somewhat enjoy decorating their classrooms (they may not enjoy the toll it takes on their bank accounts, but that’s another post!).  Creating a welcoming environment is definitely a first step in investing students in classroom big goals and their own learning, but it boils down to more than that. Having clear student expectations, procedures, routines and systems in place that hold all students to a high expectation is also especially important. All students, even some of the most challenging, need (and want!) to know how to operate in you classroom. Establishing accountability, and empowering students to be good decision makers and to understand they can contribute positively in a classroom is also essential in investing your students. To break it down…

From Teaching as Leadership:

To Create a Welcoming Environment: 

  • Have clear systems in place
  • Reinforce Expectations
  • Model and practice 
  • Hold Students Accountable When Expectations Aren’t Met

Classroom Culture of Achievement

For students to be invested in your classroom big goals, there has to be a culture of achievement in place to help foster that investment, as well as nurture it when obstacles arise. Students should understand that anything other than their best will not be accepted, but they should also not want to give you anything less than their best (again, remember that really investing your students = I CAN + I WANT). As the teacher, your attitude, consistency, the classroom environment, etc. can foster the I CAN in a student, but building the I WANT in a student can be a little more tricky.
 
To Create a Culture of Achievement: 
  • Communicate that effort leads to growth (or, growth mindset)
  • Convey that students benefit from achievement
  • Consistently reinforce effort in class
  • Invest stakeholders and role models of the student

Academic Content

Finally, to invest students in your big goals you have to ensure that you’re teaching TO your students, and not AT your students. This goes well beyond differentiating (buzz word!) and includes using learning goals and what you know about students to help get them to WANT to achieve. 

To help foster the I CAN + I WANT in students with you academic content:

  • Communicate why it matters (relevance)
  • Teach to fit your students’ needs
  • Give students choice
  • Design real-world assignments/projects
—-
Again, investing students in your classroom big goals is an on-going process. AS teachers, we have to work intentionally every. single. day to build the I CAN and the I WANT in each of our students. While this may come easy to some, for most it will require constant reflection and adjustments in teaching practice. 
 
Investing students in my classroom big goals is important to me because it is why I show up to work every day. I want my students to reach the goals we decided upon at the beginning of the year, so I have to do what I can in order to move them to do so. This blog post is not sponsored by Teaching as Leadership, or Teach for America, but as I said above, this is the lens in which I view my teaching practice and I believe is all extremely relevant and actionable stuff. If you’re interested in learning more about the Teaching as Leadership model and/or want to see where you fall on the rubrics for each category check it out here
 
What do you think? Let me know in the comments, or find me on Instagram @kelseynhayesblog!
 
Want to read more about setting big goals for your students? Check out this post!
 

Back to School: Reviewing Procedures and Routines for Your Middle School Classroom

Back to School, Behavior Management, Expectations, Featured, Procedures, Teaching
Reviewing Procedures and Routines in Your Middle School Classroom
 Hey, y’all! I’m back today for post #2 of the Back to School series, this time about Reviewing (or setting up, if you’re a new teacher!) Procedures for Your Middle School Classroom!

Teaching my students my procedures and expectations is one of the cornerstones of making my classroom work. The importance of this cannot be overstated. I think sometimes, those of us who teach older kids (I have 8th graders) assume kids should know how to operate in a classroom by now through experience, or at least common sense. Well, about 2 minutes into class, those of us who have ever thought that have immediately regretted it 🙂 All students (whether the best or worst  behaved!) need (and want!) to know how they are supposed to operate in your classroom, and what is expected of them. In this post, I’m going to outline a list of procedures to think through for your own classroom. This is by no means an exhaustive list, especially if you teach a lab class or special class like chorus or art, but is a base list. I’d love to hear others you come up with in the comments!

Whether you’re a brand new teacher, or a seasoned pro, it is definitely worth your time to review your classroom procedures and expectations in the summer (and reflect more on them in the school year, but that’s another post!). Your style changes, your students change, your room or set-up may change. What has always worked in the past may continue to work, or maybe you had a particularly challenging student that made you realize you needed procedures for certain classroom things. Either way outlining exactly what you want clears your head before the school year begins.

One of the most helpful things I saw when I first became a teacher was a teacher’s procedures laid out in an A to Z format in one document. Committing your procedures and expectations to paper makes certain that you have in your mind what you want exactly. In my opinion, it is always best to have more procedures than needed thought through and ready to implement versus trying to get your students to buy in after the fact. Another absolute God send when I first became a new teacher was Harry and Rosemary Wong’s book The First Days Of School: How To Be An Effective Teacher*, so if you are a new teacher or a veteran who feels like you need to brush up on classroom procedures/routines, I HIGHLY recommend this book.

Now, let’s get to the A-Z Procedures list with questions…

Thinking Through Procedures

Attendance

  • What do you want kids to do if they miss a day? (with Attendance Notes, to get Make Up Work, etc.)
  • What do you want kids to do it they’re tardy to your class?
Attention
  • How do you get the attention of students in your classroom?
  • What does “being attentive” look like in your classroom if just being quiet isn’t enough?
Bathroom
  • What do you want kids to do when they need to go to the bathroom? (How to get your attention, getting a pass, signing out, etc.)
Binders (or Folders)
  • If your class has binders, are they left in your classroom or do kids take them with them every day?
  • Do you want them out at all times or under their desks?
  • If they stay in your room how do you want kids to retrieve them and put them away each day?
Computers
  • How do kids check out computers in class if they take them to their seat?
  • How do they need to operate them?
  • How do they need to return them?
  • What procedures do they allow in the beginning of class on the computer so class starts successfully?
  • What if their computer isn’t working, needs to be charged, or they need help troubleshooting something?
Electronics (other than computers)
  • Can students ever have electronics in your room (like a phone or tablet)?
  • If so, how do they know when an appropriate time to use it is?
  • When they can’t be used, what do you want students to do with the device?
  • What is the procedure if they have out a device at an inappropriate time and get caught with it? If your school collects them, where are students supposed to put it?
Entering the Room
  • How should kids enter your classroom each day? (Begin from the hallway and work your way to them being seated)
  • Do they need to get something before sitting down?
  • Can they get up to get something after being seated?
  • Do students need to begin any work immediately? How will they know what that work is?

Exiting the Room

  • How should kids exit your room each day? (Again, think through a few minutes before they leave to walking out).
  • What must be done before they leave?
  • Will you give a “Go” signal and let them do it all or will you lead them through the steps each day?
Grades
  • How can a kid request to see his grade? By note? Raising his hand? Asking before class starts?
  • How can a student submit late work to be graded?
  • How can a student re-do an assignment? Is that allowed and if so, does the newly completed assignment go somewhere different than tuning in regular work?
  • How will you communicate grades to your students, and how often?
Homework
  • How will students know their homework each day?
  • Do you require them to write it down somewhere? Do you need to check it?
  • Where do they turn HW in?
  • Do you spot check it before you go over it?
  • What happens if a student loses a copy or the HW?
  • What happens if a student forgets to do the HW?
  • What does a student do with late work?

Independent Work

  • What does Independent Work look like in your classroom? What do you need to teach so this is implemented successfully in your room?
Intercom (had to include this one b/c it is my pet peeve!)
  • If someone comes over the intercom to your classroom, what do you want kids to do? (It never fails that when the front office says, “Ms. Hayes?” that 5 kids answer “YES!” as if their names suddenly changed 🙂 )

Lockers

  • What needs to stay in student lockers and can’t be in your class?
  • What if a student forgot something in their locker they need for class?
  • How do they ask to go to their locker?
  • Do they need to sign out?

Make Up Work

  • How does a student know what he/she missed?
  • How long do they have to turn it in?
  • Where does it go in your classroom once it is completed (a special place for make up work?)
  • How long do they have to complete the make up work?
  • Do students have the re-do option on exams? What is that process?

Paper Headings

  • How do you want students to head their papers each day? With just a name? Name/Date? Assignment name at the top?

Parent/Guardian Contact

  • Do you have a system for parent/guardian contact?
  • Do you only want parents to call school or email you to connect or can they call your cell phone?
  • If they send notes from home with students, where do the kids put those?

Partner Work

  • What does partner look like and sound like in your room?
  • What do you need to teach so partner work is productive in your classroom?
  • Is there a place students can look to see if it is partner work time and what those expectations are?

Pencils

  • What does a student do if he/she needs a pencil?
  • What if it needs to be sharpened?
  • How do you collect borrowed pencils?

Phone

  • What happens when the phone rings in your classroom? (Do 3 kids run to the phone? 🙂 )
  • Do you have a specific student answer the phone, or can only you answer it?
  • Do students continue working or does everyone get silent?

Receiving Help

  • How do kids ask for help in your room? Are their things you want them to do before they ask you?

Seating

  • How are kids seated in your room?
  • What do you want ids o do if they have a huge problem with their seat for whatever reason?
  • Do you offer flexible seating? If so, when can they move around during class? How are their seats chosen daily?

Small Group

  • How do you want kids to work in small groups? What does success and participation look like?
  • Is there anything you need to teach them so they can work in small groups successfully to meet your expectations?

Supplies

  • What do students do if they need to get supplies other than a pencil?
  • What do students so when they need to clean-up/give supplies back during class?
Tissue
  • What does a student do if they need a tissue?
  • Do you want them to step outside to use the tissue?

Trash

  • What do kids do if they need to throw trash away?
  • Is it okay for them to get up and do it, or are they supposed to wait? Or is their a bin by each table?

Uniforms

  • What do you/ a student do if he/she is not in uniform in your class? Is there a procedure for getting the student in uniform?

Water

  • What if a student wants to go to the water fountain during class? 

Whole Class 

  • What should you teach for whole class instruction to be successful in your classroom? What do the kids look like and sound like?

Visitors

  • What do you do if a visitor comes to your room? Does a particular student answer the door? If someone is coming in for the lesson, do you have a student ambassador to greet them, or see if they’d like a copy of the assignment? Or do you handle all knocks at the door and students are to continue with what they’re doing?

Creating Procedures

Once you have thought through all of the procedures above (and I’m sure you even thought of others!) it is a good idea to commit your procedures to paper. When doing so, make sure your instructions are clear and concise (and maybe even in a numbered list format!) so they are easily understood by you and made so you can simply communicate them to students.

Again, each year I go through this process so I can fully reflect on each part of my classroom and make sure that my actions and my classroom environment are all geared to maximize student learning time and to build a culture of achievement in all students. 

Teaching Procedures

Just like a brilliant written lesson plan, you have to now teach these procedures to your students over and over again! When teaching procedures you will have to go over them often, if not daily with many of them, until students get the hang of it. In the first few days of school, you should be teaching procedures (explaining, modeling, practicing, etc.) as they come up in the classroom. Obviously simply going through the list and explaining to students what you want will not be enough and you and the students will end up frustrated!

I’ve heard teachers say many times “You’re spending how long teaching procedures?”. I always explain that in the long run the time I spend at the beginning of the year helping students get them down will save much valuable instructional time down the road, and keep me from going grey earlier 🙂

What did I miss? Do you have any procedures in your classroom that I didn’t cover here? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter!

 

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If you missed the first post in the back to school series about setting big goals for meaningful achievement in you classroom, check it out here!

 

Back to School: Setting Big Goals for Student Achievement in Your Classroom

Back to School, Featured, Goal Setting, Teaching

Hey, y’all!

I cannot believe it is July 19th! Seriously, it feels like the month of July has flown by. My first day of school with students is August 10th,  the official opening day for teachers is August 8th, and we also have “retreats” before that with some PDs at school. My summer is winding down quickly and I am in full back to school mode.

Last week, I was at training all week and had significant time to connect with other teachers. I had already made a list for a “Back to School” series I had planned on blogging about, but I was able to connect with a teacher who just finished her 1st year, and a teacher who is about to begin her 1st year which changed my plans a little bit! After talking with them it got me thinking about my first year experience, what I learned that was helpful (and not so helpful!), and what I still do today to “get ready” for my students. In the next few posts, I’m going to incorporate all of that in with my Back to School posts! I’ll be talking goal setting, behavior/investment plans, reflection (teacher and student), procedures, first days of school, etc. and hope that you’ll join in too!




Before I start, I want to explain a bit about my first year of teaching. I did not go to school to be a teacher (gasp!). I was a Political Science major who made my way to teaching through the Teach for America program. I became a teacher officially through Texas’ and my district’s Alternative Certification Program, and unofficially through much trial and error, support, and coaching. Part of how I view education and the practice of teaching is shaped by my time in Teach for America and by the core values and teaching practices that I learned with that organization. Some of what I’m going to talk about and reflect on in my Back to School posts are pillars of the TFA organization, and I want to communicate them as I think through them for my own classroom. If you want to read more about closing achievement gaps, or teacher effectiveness (with real world applications!), then I highly recommend Teaching As Leadership: The Highly Effective Teacher’s Guide to Closing the Achievement Gap* (affiliate link*). Now, back to it…

Today, I want to start with talking about How to Set Big Goals In Your Classroom. 
With many things in life, if you don’t know where you’re going then you’re most likely not going to get there. This could not be more true with teaching. The best lessons, the best intentions, and the best classroom environment can only get you so far during a school year,  especially if they are not in pursuit of your overall, end-of-year goals.


What  I mean by “Big Goals”:

“Big Goals” are the academic, and personal goals you want your students to accomplish this year, particularly, by the end of the school year.  You can set individual “big goals” with students, but having whole class big goals is a rallying point that can help focus your class all year. Your goals should be ambitious, but feasible, and able to be measured somehow (more on that in a bit…).

I set my initial big goals in the summer, even before I meet my students. After looking at historical data, I can at least have an idea of where the bar should be set in order to really push my students. This allows me to begin investing my students from day 1, and I can adjust the goals after they take their diagnostic assessment.

Why you need to set “Big Goals”:

Like I mentioned above, you can’t get somewhere, if you don’t know where you’re going.
Period. Yes, teachers can teach content until they’re blue in the face,  or teach to “pass a test” but they have to have outlined in their own minds exactly what it is they want their students to be able to do overall, so they can plan the steps, and properly prioritize how to get each student there.

Also, if you happen to teach students who are academically behind, this is maybe even more important! Their growth goals and academic benchmarks are the same as other students traditionally with this era of state testing, so there is more work to be done in order to close achievement gaps and to catch them up. Using “big goals” in the classroom not only help the teacher, but also the students conceptualize where they’re headed, and can make learning feel more manageable for students who may have not been typically as successful in school. 

How to do it:

  • Set Your Initial Vision and Goals: First, you need to outline your vision for your classroom. What do you want your students to know, and learn, both academically and personally? Why are those specific goals important? Like I mentioned above, you need to set your initial big goals for your classroom based off historical data for your incoming students and what you know about your school community and the general backgrounds of your students. You should outline the goal, why that goal is important and how progress will be measured throughout the year (and why). Again, they should be feasible but ambitious. Don’t be afraid to dream big. This, paired with how you decide to invest kids in your class goals (more on that soon), can be very motivating for students!
  • Give a Diagnostic Assessment: Giving a diagnostic assessment, or “pre-test”, is extremely important in order for you to gauge where your kids are academically. After you analyze the diagnostic results, you can adjust your big goals if necessary. Your diagnostic assessment should be aligned to your end of year assessment(s), is better if it is a recognized test (like a released state exam, or something that has been validated) and should have enough questions/opportunities for students to demonstrate their current understanding of standards (goal is about 5 questions each).
  • Tracking: Once you understand where your kids are after giving the diagnostic assessment, and you know exactly where you want them to be at the end of they year, you need to ensure that you and your students have a meaningful, effective way to track progress throughout the year. The students should understand in a real way where they are in pursuit of the big goal, and you will be better prepared to get all students to the goal if you have a system in place that you can keep up with in tracking data (for yourself, and with the students).
  • Talk About It: Once you have your goals outlined and you understand exactly what student success will look like in your classroom, then it is important that you remember to communicate it with your students! In a later post, I will discuss investing your kids in the class goals, but on a basic level, you need to make sure that early on your class goals are known. In my class, I always put the goals on a big bright poster in the classroom surrounded by the kids’ personal goals that they set on the 1st days of school. I try to reference the goals very often, if not daily. The poster stays up all year round and the students do reflection exercises on where they are in relation to their goals and our class goals (more on that soon!).

What makes good “Big Goals” (Examples):

A good goal is one that can be measured, will require significant work by all students, is ambitious and is rooted in data. You need to decide if success in your classroom will based off growth, overall mastery, or both.
Examples:
  • All students will average 80% on all standards learning goals 
    • This goal can be measured, is ambitious, but feasible and holds all kids to a high standard. This is a mastery goal. 
  • Students will grow by 2 years according to their Lexile level 
    • This goal can be measured, is ambitious, but feasible and holds all kids to a high standard. This is a growth goal.
  • All students will apply to a magnet program for high school 
    • This goal can be measured, is ambitious, but feasible and holds all kids to a high standard. This is also a “personal” goal. 
Setting big goals for your students not only gives you and all of your students a roadmap for success for the entire year, but it shows all kids that you hold them to high academic standards and know/expect that they all can achieve. 
Do you already do this in your classroom? What are some of your big class goals? What is your process? Let me know in the comments, via email, or on Twitter



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This is post 1 in the Back to School Series. To see post two click here

p.s Want to start a teacher blog like this one? My friend, Suzi, wrote an ebook that can help you get started and grow your blog!

How to Be Better Than You Were Last Year: Teacher Edition

end of year, Featured, Middle School, reflection, Teaching

Hi, y’all!

I hope everyone is off to a great start to the summer! While I know that each of you deserve a much needed break, I also know that all teachers at some point over the summer, reflect back over the previous year to guide how they approach the next year. In the spirit of reflection, I wanted to write a post  that can hopefully help us all be more intentional with our reflection.

Something that is extremely important to me as far as teaching goes, is to always try to continuously improve my effectiveness.  Reflecting honestly on my teaching practice is a key in being able to do that. The day that I get complacent, and think that the way I’ve always done things is the way I’ll always do things, is a day I am not putting forth my best self for kids.

When I reflect, it all mainly boils down to how my teacher actions affected student actions. The following list is not exhaustive, but questions that I have asked myself that help me re-focus over the summer to start to prepare for the next year:


Classroom Goals

  • Did we reach the classroom goals?
  • Of those we reached, why did we reach those? What can we do next year to build on that success?
  • Of those we didn’t reach, why didn’t we reach those?
  • Were my classroom goals big, measurable, and easily articulated to kids?
  • Did I do a good job of investing the kids in the big goal? What can I continue to do, or improve upon for next year to improve investment with students?

Classroom Culture

  • Did I really get to know all of my students this year?
  • If so, what do I need to ensure I continue to do next year to get to know the new group? If not, what do I need to do differently?
  • Did my attitude toward my work contribute to student learning or stifle it?
  • Are my relationships with students helping the students learn, or hindering me from effectively behavior managing?
  • Would I want to be in the class? Would I want my child to be in this class?

Student Behavior

  • What teacher actions led to student misbehavior this year?
  • What about my classroom layout/set-up allowed for student misbehavior?
  • Was I consistent with my classroom behavior management plan? If not, why not? What should be changed?
  • Do I need to teach the behavior expectations differently next year, or outline them more explicitly?
  • What worked and what didn’t work with my classroom management plan overall?
  • Did I follow through when giving consequences/communicating with parents? If not, why?
  • Was I consistent in rewarding/incentivizing positive student behavior?
  • Is what I did this year to reward positive student behavior sustainable for next year’s group of kids?
  • What can I do to improve next year to encourage positive behavior/buy-in of class goals?
  • What can I do to improve re-directiing and tracking negative behavior?
  • Who can I speak with or go observe to get ideas regarding behavior management?


Collaboration & Team Function

  • In what areas can I improve in order to help the team?
  • Did my actions prohibit my team from growing, working more efficiently, or trying new things?
  • What “worked” on our team?
  • What can we do to become more consistent?
  • How can we support each other better in the next year?
  • What is at least one thing that we should try as a team next year?
  • Does our team exhibit to kids that we believe all of them can meet expectations and can succeed at a high level? If not, what must we change so that is the case?

Self-Care

  • What can I do next year to further prioritize my family instead of taking so much work home with me?
  • What can I change for next year that will make me a more efficient teacher?
  • How can I structure my classroom, planning period, short down periods during the day to maximize my effectiveness at school?
  • What do I need to prioritize next year so I can live a balanced life?
  • What can I do next year to help me stay excited about teaching?

Instruction/Teaching Practices

  • What lessons “worked” this year?
  • For lessons that didn’t work, was it because of lack of preparation, they weren’t interesting to kids, they should be taught in a  different order?
  • Did I give enough feedback to kids? If so, was my feedback meaningful?
  • Did my grade book reflect student learning and progress?
  • Did my assessments assess learning effectively?
  • Did I backwards plan effectively?
  • What can I do to better assist those who don’t “get it”?
  • What can I do to better assist those who work more quickly and need meaningful extension?
  • How do I know that my students are learning?

So, what do you think? What am I leaving out? I’d love to hear your own reflections and question in the comments! More to come on this topic later in the summer 🙂

 

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