Categories
Education Teaching

Why my students dislike me?

Surely every teacher has had times when it feels that students dislike, or even hate everything you do. Sometimes it’s just temporary and not something you should worry about, but if this feeling is repeating over and over again, maybe there is something you can do about it.

I went through some research and found a couple articles that have something to say about this subject. My main source article is this, in which they have asked students and teachers write about characters of a good teacher. I’ve reformed this information to questions. Below each question section, you can see the exact wording from the essays. 

So, let’s begin with the checklist:

Am I speaking clearly and loud enough?

This first one is the easiest in the sense that you can almost always improve your articulation and maybe speak a bit louder (not too loud, of course). 
Listed traits: Clear, accurate, explanation, controlling if everyone understands, verbally competent 

Am I interested in students?

Students can’t see everything on teachers mind but they are very good at sensing whether the teacher cares about them and their personality. Very many answers reflect this in some way. However, it is possible to overdo this; if you suddenly become extremely interested about students’ issues that will feel weird. If you feel this might be the problem, try to improve gradually; focus on listening to what students tell you but don’t ask too many questions. 
Listed traits: Takes time to listen and to pay attention, shows interest in people, is available for non-school problems, shows respect, sensitive for pupils’ needs

Is my classroom work organized?

Are you the teacher who is always in search of the important paper while students wait? Or do your lessons flow naturally? Disorganized workflow can lower students’ respect for their teacher. Part of this is planning the lessons properly, but keeping the classroom clean also helps a great deal. Then you won’t lose your on-topic papers under the piles of other papers. Solution: Keep only the necessary papers on the desk and use a clear font for the lesson plan and other papers you may need to read during the lesson.
Listed traits: Care of classroom, organises work, keeps up with the times, plans work

Can I stop talking when I have given the task to students?

Every one of us has probably encountered one when still in school: Teacher who gives you an assignment that should be done quietly and … keeps talking and talking. Luckily the solution is easy: becoming aware of the situation and being quiet. 
Listed traits: Does not distract pupils

Am I being physical?

It’s hopefully clear to everybody that physical punishments are off the table, but refraining from touching in general would also be advisable. All people don’t like touching and if you are thinking of a classroom with dozens of people in it, it’s quite sure that there are some that only want to be touched by family members, not teachers. 
Listed traits: Not touchily, no physical punishments or aggression 

Is the amount of homework reasonable?

This one is not as easy as some of the previous ones. If you know that you are giving students three hours worth of homework every day while your colleagues only give one hour worth, there is surely something there causing negative feelings in students. But more often you can’t really compare that way. If you think homework is the problem, you can try to be more picky and avoid giving too many assignments of the same type. (For example, if you have some reading and some writing you want to assign, keep the both types but consider shorter parts of text for example. In maths, I always used to pick three different task types for homework, such as one mechanic, one applied and one verbal.)
Listed traits: Not too much homework, not too difficult & expecting too much, not too many or difficult lessons, not doing only nice & easy things, not working too hard

Can I spot my own errors?

Everyone makes mistakes and it’s perfectly normal. However, not spotting any errors in your own work means that you may have a blind spot that prevents you from evolving.
Listed traits: Displays self-criticism

Do I use various types of assignments?

Let’s face it: People have different learning strategies. There may be discussion in the field of education about different learning styles and how changeless they are, but we can safely say that at any given time, there are different types of learners in the classroom. Giving various types of assignments helps more students to feel engaged. 
Listed traits: Not all assignments entail autonomous work

Do I have clear rules in the classroom?

For most students, being clear about the rules makes it easier. It is easier to focus on the subject when you don’t have to worry about what you can and cannot do.
Listed traits: Makes rules, Maintains order, Not forbid too much

I’m I too authoritative?

Just like lack of rules, being too authoritative can also drag students’ attention away from the subject. The most dominant feeling will be fear, which naturally overrides the willingness to learn.
Listed traits: Not verbally aggressive, not authoritative, does not look down upon pupils  

Can I create a positive atmosphere?

Not being too negative is a good start and the next step is creating a positive atmosphere. That’s harder to do, I know. If I’m being honest for most of my teaching career, I’ve probably reached only the “not being negative” -step. But if you could create an environment where everybody can openly discuss their thoughts without taking all the space, you are a super teacher! But we can all keep this goal in mind and work towards it. 

Listed traits: Puts things into a positive perspective, enthusiastic, creates positive work climate, friendly towards pupils, organises nice things, makes pupils co-operate, encourages responsibility of pupils, rewarding, motivates pupils, distributes tasks among pupils

Is my grading fair?

This won’t be the first thing students notice about you, but if it turns out that the grading feels arbitrary, that can be bad for your reputation. I think it wouldn’t hurt to state the grading factors out loud when the course starts and again before grading or the big test takes place. You don’t need to spend too much time on it, but give a quick reminder how you are going to give the grades. That will decrease the amount of pupils surprised by their grades with almost no cost to you.

Listed traits: Marking well, gradings reflect pupils’ abilities, warns pupils in advance, not spending too much time on marking

Am I too moody?

Students don’t respect a teacher who is too moody and gets angry easily. Smaller students will be nervous and afraid and older students will make a joke out of that. 
Listed traits: Manners, does not vent his mood on pupils

Am I practicing what I preach?

Yes, there are different rules for students and teachers, but you should only appeal to this when really necessary. A teacher browsing their phone all the time is not a good example. 
Listed traits: Example for pupils

Can I learn more about pedagogy and life?

Students have respect for a teacher that seems to know a lot.
Listed traits: Has a lot of experience, Well educated, Writing well, Telling nice stories, A good storyteller  

Is my teaching at the right level?

Surely, there are a lot of learning goals issued from outside, but if the teaching is not adjusted to the listeners level of understanding, the outcome won’t be any good. 
Listed traits: Extra help for pupils who need support, helping slow learners, takes pupils’ understanding seriously

Do I use pupils’ solutions?

It’s a more meaningful experience for students if their solutions get attention. The solution doesn’t have to be perfect, but if it has some interesting angle it’s good to go through it, if possible.
Listed traits: Applies pupils’ solutions, discussing mistakes

Do I have a favorite class?

Most of us know that having a favorite student is not politically correct. However, you still see today that sometimes teachers have favorite groups. That can discourage the other ones, too. 
Listed traits: Does not compare pupils or classes

Other things worth mentioning

Not all traits earn their own question, but are still worth mentioning. Those are: Maintains good contact with parents, helps with problems, pedagogically sound, handling conflicts, invests a lot of effort, and is well groomed.

Some of these listed traits are more personal in nature, and here they are: Quiet, creative, flexible, stable, humorous, patience, serious, intelligent, not severe, a bit severe, severe, sporting, nice, socially competent, no bad temper, attending, careful, sociable, reliable, respectful, pleasant, meticulous, and fair. You may notice that you can’t please everybody anyway, because there are: not severe – a bit severe – severe, so no panic about these traits. 

I have left about 20 listed things out of this blog post, because they don’t offer any relevant information. 

Student’s success and relation to teacher

There is another research which concludes that students that do well, tend to have better relationships with their teachers. Of course, a teacher can’t do too much about it, but the research suggests that feedback after failure (in a test etc) would not be accompanied with person criticism. 

Students dislike me checklist:

Here are the questions once again in one list, if you want to quickly analyze what might be the problem.

  • Am I speaking clearly and loud enough?
  • Am I interested in students?
  • Is my classroom work organized?
  • Can I stop talking when I have given the task to students?
  • Am I being physical?
  • Is the amount of homework reasonable?
  • Can I spot my own errors?
  • Do I use various types of assignments?
  • Do I have clear rules in the classroom?
  • I’m I too authoritative?
  • Can I create a positive atmosphere?
  • Is my grading fair?
  • Am I too moody?
  • Am I practicing what I preach?
  • Can I learn more about pedagogy and life?
  • Is my teaching at the right level?
  • Do I use pupils’ solutions?
  • Do I have a favorite class?

See also: 11 Timesavers for teacher, How Teachers Pay Teachers search algorithm works?

Categories
Algorithms Education TPT

How Teachers Pay Teachers’ search algorithm works

First a disclaimer. I don’t have any secret information from the company itself. This article is based on general information about how commercial search engines work and then reasoning about which of these apply to Teachers pay Teachers’ search algorithm plus some experimental findings.

Search algorithms of other online commerce sites

There are tons of online shops and search algorithms out there, and first we have to pick some of them for a closer look. We want those sites to have some things in common with TPT such as

  1. The site is selling something
  2. There are a lot of individual sellers on the site who have their own shops.

So, we won’t be comparing TPT to Google, however interesting search engine it is because it’s not selling products directly to consumers. I have picked three large online shops to compare: Amazon, Etsy, and eBay. All these three are public companies, TPT is privately owned. To set these to some sort of scale: Amazon has over a million workers, eBay has over 10,000. TPT has over 2,000 and Etsy over 1,000. So, you could expect Amazon’s algorithm to be the most refined, because they have more resources to put into it. For the rest of the companies, the fine tuning of algorithms depends on how much effort they put to them. But for purposes of this article, we assume that TPT’s search is about the same level as eBay’s and Etsy’s and all those look up to Amazon’s, thus it’s important.

Below, I list factors that matter for the search algorithms in some of these sites. After each factor, there are one or many of these ecommerce sites which utilize these factors. This information is based on sources that can be found from the end of this post. Note that if a site is not listed, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it doesn’t use that factor. This list is in no particular order. 

Title relevancy

(Ebay, Etsy) How well the product title matches the thing the buyer is looking for. This is more important if the buyer is using longer search terms, it would be hard to rank high by using some very general search terms like “fractions”, even if some people may do that exact search. The best long term strategy is to use titles that describe your product the best way, so use all the words that are relevant as long as it’s easily readable to a human buyer and don’t repeat words in the title. Algorithms generally punish repeating keywords too much. 

Seller authority or track record as a seller

(Amazon, Ebay, Etsy) This is definitely a ranking factor in all those marketplaces. In TPT context, that would mean the quality of your shop. TPT keeps the seller’s star rating at the upper corner of every shop’s page, so surely they think it’s important. That being said, TPT’s ranking system has been quite monotonic for years resulting that almost all old sellers have full star ratings. However, the system has been changed in order to get more variety to feedback. From all of that, we can reason that for e-commerce, shop reputation is generally important. Maybe it isn’t that important in TPT yet but surely it will be in the future. 

Organic sales

(Amazon) An organic sales is when a buyer searches something, finds and buys it. If the buyer finds the product via promotion, that’s not an organic sale. There is no 100% way of knowing if TPT distinguishes organic and promoted sales in future search results, but it’s something that may have some effect. 

The price

(Ebay) The price most likely affects the Amazon search too, as the Internet is half-full of sites about how you find the right price point on Amazon. It’s reasonable to believe that this also affects Teachers Pay Teachers’ search, but from an ecommerce site’s point of view it’s not that simple. People will generally buy cheaper products easier, but if products are too cheap, the revenue is harder to get and people tend to think less of products that have too low price. So, an intelligent search algorithm designer would favor middle priced products.

Off-site sales

(Amazon) Are you bringing more customers to the site by advertising your product? Then, you are a good seller! Maybe you even get some boost in the search engine. My own experience with TPT is that I rarely get sales from social media sources such as Pinterest. But there are times when I focus more on Pinterest marketing and more traffic from Pinterest is coming to my shop at these times. Even if those people are not buying right there and then, also my organic sales are higher at these times. So, it might have an effect. (Wishlisting is also a possible contributor here.)

Quality of product description

(Ebay) This is easy to implement in TPT, because you can always write a good product description. Some of the other factors are not in seller’s direct control. A good description has everything you need to know about the product and also all the relevant keywords. But again, stuffing the same keyword over and over again is punished nowadays. 

Conversion rate

(Amazon) Conversion rate is a ranking factor on Amazon and because TPT lists it as one of the product statistics it’s probably a thing in TPT, too. Logically, the bigger, the better.

Listing of terms of service

(Ebay) This idea of being clear about terms and service could translate into TPT language in licensing policy. If TPT takes this to account, it is likely to favor those products that have a clear licensing policy written down in the description. 

Listing quality

(Etsy, Amazon) If a buyer makes a search and then clicks a product on the listing, that counts towards listing quality. In TPT, if there is such a feature, good thumbnail pictures will help you with this.

Recency

(Etsy) Other things being equal, a new and fresh product is better than ten years old. It may not feel that way because other factors tend to favor the older ones. I have heard rumors that updating a product in TPT would have a positive impact and that is in line with recency. 

Other interesting search factors from these sites:

  • Words at the beginning of titles are considered more important than words at the end.
  • Past intellectual property infringement issues can have a negative effect.
  • Store location in relation to buyer
  • Shop’s information page about the seller

Experimental findings about Teachers Pay Teachers’ search algorithm

Because your search history may affect the results I did some test searches when I was logged out of the site. If you use some popular search term, the results in the first page have pretty much everything right, so you really start to see more interesting patterns when browsing more pages down the search results until the matches are not “perfect” any more. Here is something I found: 

This is from page 9 with a search “Adding and Subtracting Fractions with Unlike Denominators”. This may sound a bit arbitrary thing to search, but in fact it is one of the popular search terms every now and then. Grade level at this search was three. (There is no actual reason for that, I forgot to take it off after the previous test.) I didn’t take the whole page in the pictures, but the idea is that most of the resources have only a couple of stars, while the resources in page 1 would have hundreds of stars. But there are few exceptions, pointed out with arrows. 

It took me a moment to figure out what was dropping these resources down. I have covered the seller names in the pictures, but I checked them and they were perfectly top rated, established sellers. The problem was that these products have very few pages. The ones that cost $1.00 had only one page per product. So, the lesson is, that if you have very few pages accompanied with a high per page price, your resources will not do well in the search. 

Summary

Based on logical reasoning, we could expect at least the following factors to have something to do with the order of Teachers Pay Teachers’ search results:

  • Title relevancy
  • General shop quality
  • Organic sales
  • The price
  • Off-site sales
  • Product description
  • Conversion rate
  • Clear listing of license terms
  • Customer clicks in search listing
  • Recency
  • Price per page

Hopefully this article was helpful! Have you experienced some weird rankings in Teachers Pay Teachers search? Leave a comment!

Sources: Amazon’s A9 algorithm, eBay optimising listings, How Etsy search works.

Categories
Education Finland

Finland’s education system explained

In this post, I’m going to explain the basics of the Finland’s education system. I’m starting at age zero even if it’s not school, but that way it explains better how the system works. There will be links referring to sources that are in Finnish. I apologize for the inconvenience, but all the data is not available in English. 

Time before school

The baby year, age 0-1

Babies are at home with their mother and/or father. One common way to do this is that the mother is at home most of the time, and the father is at home some of the time. But there are other ways around it, too. About the first four months will be paid leave for the mother, after that it can be either one of the parents.

The age of 9 months is a bit of a turning point, if you have two parents in the family, the money you get from the government will decrease heavily at this point, and some babies will start a daycare at this age. If you have to start at a very young age, it’s quite common to start with a family-like care in the childminders home. This is called “perhepäivähoitaja” which translates to “family daytime care”. If the family has only one parent, the turning point age is approximately 11 months. 

Starting at daycare (age 1-3)

There is no one particular age for children to start the daycare in Finland. Most kids will start somewhere between ages 1-3. This is because even if you won’t get the full paycheck from the government, you will receive some support to care for your children at home if they are younger than three. This gives some flexibility to the families, and many people put their children to daycare at the age of 1 or two.

Years at the daycare (age 3-5)

The very basic idea is that children are in the daycare while the parents are working but kids can go to nursery even if the parent(s) are at home. On the other hand, children at this age group can also be at home. Maybe there is a smaller sibling that mother or father is taking care of at home, or maybe the family just chooses to keep children at home for longer.

How much education do you receive at the daycare? Well here is the interesting point: Teachers at the daycare centers are educated, they must have a degree of Bachelor of Arts (Education). The translation of the degree isn’t the most fluent English, but apparently, there is a law that states the right translation[1]. The teachers plan educational content for every day, but these lessons are much shorter than a day in school would be. In addition to teachers, there are also nurses to take care for the children during the day. 

So, in Finland’s education system kids at age 2-5 receive upbringing provided by teachers with a bachelor’s degree in education. The differences (compared to countries that present the formal education at earlier age) are:

  1. It’s not mandatory
  2. The educational content is chopped to relatively short lessons or integrated to the daily routine
  3. It’s not called school. (That would sound too much work!)

The price of the daycare is partly subvented. Usually a family pays a few hundred euros per month, the cost depends on the parent’s income level and the city/municipality they live in. 

Level 1: Basic School

Preschool (age 6)

Preschool is one year long, and it’s the first mandatory part of Finnish educational system. Children start preschool in the calendar year they turn six. The official goals of preschool are a bit abstract. There are things like interaction, taking care of oneself, multiliteracy, and ability to use technology. It’s not officially listed, but you could say that recognizing letters and numbers is something you would do in preschool. [2]

The basic school (peruskoulu)

The basic school in Finland’s education is the level one and it’s for ages 7-15. It’s mandatory with one technical exception: You don’t have to put your child to school if you make sure that the child learns the basic school curriculum some other way. In practice, homeschool is very rare, because sending kids to school is just easier. In rural areas the municipality has to take care of getting your child to school with a bus or taxi.

Lower grades of basic school (ages 7-12)

At grades 1-6, you typically have one teacher teaching most of the subjects, and then maybe one or two teachers for special subjects like foreign language (typically English) and handicraft/sewing. (These subjects are only examples.)

Upper grades of basic school (age 13-15)

At grades from 7 to 9 you typically have several teachers and all those teachers have been studying their own subject at university to the master level. If one teacher has several subjects, she/he will have one of the subjects as a major subject and about one year’s studies of the other subjects. Students can spend about 1-5 hours with one teacher in a week. That means the students would have close to 10 teachers in the same week. They do have one teacher assigned for the class but the teacher won’t be teaching much more than a few hours a week. So from the students point of view, the system really changes when shifting to upper grades.  

Level 2: High school or vocational school

The second level (ages 16-18)

This used to be optional, but now it’s starting to be mandatory. However, this law has been since 2021, so no-one has real experience about mandatory second level. [3]

In this level, you have two major options: Lukio (the closest translation would be high school, but it’s not 100% the same) or ammattikoulu (vocational school). The typical time for level 2 would be three years, but it can also be two or four. It’s possible to take both, high school and vocational school at the same time, then it’s probably four years. There are also other options such as apprenticeship, but it’s less common at this stage. 

Requirements for the teachers in high school are the same as the upper grades teacher at level 1 and that is a master’s degree from the subject in question. For a vocational school teacher, the requirements are the same if you teach some general subjects such as math. If you teach vocational subjects, you must be an expert on your field and have some work life experience before teaching. 

Matriculation examination

Matriculation examination (ylioppilaskirjoitukset) is a significant set of tests you take at the end of high school (lukio). Nowadays it’s more common to do it in several parts, for example in the fall term of third year and the next spring. It’s also possible to take all tests at once. You can select your set of tests, except that the first language test is mandatory. (First language can be Finnish, Swedish or Sámi language. [4]) The results of these tests will highly affect where you can go studying because many universities select at least some students based solely on these tests.

Level 3: University / University of Applied Sciences

Selection test system  

In many universities in Finland, there is a selection test. Often it measures your ability to 

  1. understand the books you should read for the test 
  2. apply new solutions to new problems. 

Another way to get in is to do well in the matriculation examination. 22% of the students are selected based on the ME only. [7] In some schools, often related to art, there are some other measures for taking students in. 

Between levels 2 and 3, it’s common to have a year or two off before starting at the university or university of applied sciences (Later also: UoAS). This is caused partly by duties to society and partly by the selection test system. In highly competitive fields, such as medicine, it’s typical to try several times before getting in. A person who didn’t get to school of choice can

  • Study some other subject for a year and try again
  • Get some job and study for the test and try again
  • There are also commercial prepping courses for those trying to get in.

Mathematics plays a huge role in student selection nowadays, and it has been a matter of discussion if it should be reduced when the studies won’t require it. Of course, some people are able to get to their school of choice straight after high school. There has been a tendency towards faster start of the studies via favoring marticular examinations, but the selection test system is not likely to disappear any time soon.

Who can apply

The rule is that if you have completed the second level you can apply to the third level. If you’re heading to the university you usually take the high school. To get into a university of applied science you can take either high school of vocational school. Applying from a vocational school to university is unorthodox and usually these are cases where a person has been in the work-life from some years and then changed the plans. 

University of applied science

The idea behind University of applied science is that in some professions, you will need both a practical and theoretical approach. Examples of professions: nurse, police, several bachelors, several engineers and so on. Many of these studies can be completed in three years if you study full-time, but some of them are longer and it’s also common to comprise study and work. Sometimes it’s for money, but also for the experience and getting contacts. It’s also possible to do a couple extra years in UoAS and get to the masters level.

University

In Finland you will apply to study a certain subject and each faculty decides how they will take the students in. After you are in, you can usually select some supporting subjects. Theoretically, after three years you should be able to do your bachelor’s degree and after two additional years the master’s degree. Some students may do that faster and for some, it may take a bit longer time. 

After completing the third level?

If you are sure that you want to get a PhD and become an expert in your field, applying to doctoral studies can be your choice. But generally, if you don’t have a clear vision about a career in university, it would be a wise choice to get some experience in work life. Those with a degree and experience tend to have a wider choice of jobs than those with a PhD but no work life experience. 

How old are you when graduating?

If you do everything at an ideal pace, you would turn nineteen when completing level 2. The bachelor’s degree would be complete at age 22 and master’s degree at 24. But, for reasons explained above it’s typical to be slightly older than that.

Price

The education is basically free. In the old days, you had to buy your own books from level 2, but since it’s becoming mandatory the books will be included in the future. But the third level books you will have to buy, unless you get them from a student library.

Summary of the Finnish teachers’ education level throughout Finland’s education system: 

  • At the nursery, your teacher is a Bachelor of Arts (Education)
  • School years 0-6: Your teacher will have a master’s degree in Education
  • From year 7 to the end of high school: Your teachers will have a master’s degree on one of their subjects and one years worth of studies in additional subjects.
  • At the university, you’ll be of course teached by a PhD. (University of applied sciences may hold some exceptions.)

References:

[1] https://www.finlex.fi/fi/laki/alkup/2012/20120421 
[2] https://www.oph.fi/fi/koulutus-ja-tutkinnot/esiopetuksen-tavoitteet
[3] https://minedu.fi/oppivelvollisuuden-laajentaminen
[4] https://www.studentum.fi/tietoa-opiskelijalle/ylioppilastutkinnon-kokeet-7790
[5] https://opintopolku.fi/wp/aikuiskoulutus/opettajan-pedagogiset-opinnot/yliopistotutkinnolla-opettajaksi/
[6] https://findikaattori.fi/fi/9
[7] https://www.oph.fi/fi/uutiset/2019/korkeakoulujen-yhteishaussa-opiskelupaikka-yli-48-000-opiskelijalle 

The picture is based on: The fact that level 2 is as wide as level 1 is based on the mandatory education now applied to everyone over 18. [3] At the moment, it would be a little narrower. The wideness of level three pieces is based on 2019 statistics that about 32% will study at the third level[6] and the information that about half of those start at some university of applied sciences[7]. The daycare part is based on my artistic view and understanding about the daycare system.

Categories
Education Teaching

11 Timesavers for Teachers

In this post, I have collected some timesaving tips that I have found helpful for reducing the workload of a busy teacher.

Prepare your test with checking in mind

If you are busy and stressed, you may feel that you want to be as quick as possible when creating tests. But this can become a time consuming mistake! If you have even one ambiguous task in the test, checking and grading that will cost you hours and hours of valuable time!

Laminated repeat

Write down (and laminate, if possible) issues, you have to go through over and over again in the classroom. But don’t hang it on those on the wall, just keep them close. If they are on the wall, students will unfortunately become blind to them. But if you show them once a month or so, these notes will be burned into their memory.

Make your discipline passive

Keep students names or initials in a visible list in the classroom. If a student misbehaves, mark a warning after his name. Two or three warning marks lead to consequences. This way, you don’t have to interrupt your teaching. Students often point the warning out to the misbehaving pupil.

Use self-grading tests, where possible

Many people use spreadsheets for this (like Google Sheets). You can do these tests yourself or find some online. 

Discard papers you don’t need

If you are unsure, get a special place for “probably useless” papers and get rid of the older ones every now and then.

Share lesson plans with your colleagues

You will get engaging variation to your lessons with less work! Nowadays, most schools have some online tools that can be used for that. 

Do things as fast as possible

This may seem obvious, but if you use 15 minutes grading papers rather than getting some coffee, you may get 15 minutes more sleep the next night, and you won’t even need that much coffee the next day! And the time saving pattern is ready.

Track your schedule once

If your teaching work is consuming a tremendous amount of time, you may want to keep track for a week where your time goes. Do you spend much time chatting with your colleagues? Browsing “quickly” facebook when you should be making lesson plans? Watching television while checking tests at home.

Delegate

All those classroom tasks, delegate those to students!

Emergency file for substitute teacher

This doesn’t help your everyday work, but keeping an useful file for substitute teacher can help you when needed most: when you are ill. I recommend that this would be an old-fashioned file, because it’s very likely that the substitute teacher doesn’t have the access to the school online system when the first lesson starts. 

Binary grading

Some subjects can be very time consuming from a grading point of view. Consider creating a very simple grading system you use after each lesson. It can be like: good – moderate – not completed. You can collect them as a numbers to Excel worksheet during every lesson (during, not after!) when students are doing something creative. Zero means not done, 1 means moderate and two is for good. Remember to put 2 for every student that is absent for a legit reason. That way occasional cold won’t affect their grades. If someone is missing many classes, you may have to consider their grade otherwise, anyway. Now, at the end of the semester, you just calculate every student’s points with Excel, and there is a base for the grade or points for class activity. Then you only have to adjust / count in points from other areas, such as tests.

Hopefully these tips were helpful! For myself, the last one has been the most helpful, but maybe for you, it’s something else. Take care!

See also: Why my students dislike me?

Categories
Education Materials Teaching

World flags – Harsh history smoothed

Some time ago, I got this idea about “fastly and quickly” doing some printables for all the little flag enthusiastic out there. I thought that colors and symbols in flags will represent peace, prosperity and all furry and cute things.

Little did I know. Stories behind flags were full of blood and tears. There are so many countries out there that have fought to get their independence! To keep it appropriate for children, I had to come up with euphemisms for these situations. I think the worst story was that after a fight, the king was totally covered in blood and the only non-red part was the one that had had a belt on it during the fight. Do you know what that flag was?

Other problems were flags that were so old, that experts can only make educated guesses where the colors and symbols come from. Sometimes the symbols are no longer the best representatives of the current nation and its people.

Take the Scandinavian cross for example. The cross represents Christianity and has been copied to other scandinavian flags from the Danish flag, which is the oldest continuously used flag in the world and design is likely to date back to crusades. However, scandinavian countries are quite secular and non-crusadic these days, but the flags remain (and people are proud of those flags, too.)

I also learned that there are certain color sets, such as pan-African colors and pan-Arab colors which appear in many flags of their representative area. There is also a pan-Slavic color set, but that happens to be the same as the “colors of freedom” and you are not always sure what the reference is. 

The set contains a small presentation, list of world flags and their meanings and some crosswords to recognize flags. It’s available here.

Categories
Education math TPT

Irrational Numbers – More than Infinite

Irrational numbers are numerous and yet, you can’t think of any of them. “But I can think of pi!” you might say to yourself. Well, ok. How does it go, then? Is it a fraction of some number we are already familiar with? No it isn’t.

Today, we have many things that are absolutely too complicated to understand completely, such as quantum physics. Unless you spend your whole life researching it, of course. But there is something much more familiar yet still surprisingly complicated: the irrational numbers.

Let’s think of it this way: You start in the morning with a notebook and start writing random decimals to a number. For example, you start with 0.628465963 and add random digits until you have five pages full at lunchtime. What you now have in your hands, it’s a rational number, not irrational. That’s because you can write it as a fraction. The numerator will be all the digits after the decimal point and the denominator is a power of ten; it has one and as many zeros as your number has decimals.

So, any number you can create decimal by decimal will be a rational number. Irrational numbers will look like special cases, square roots etc. And you would probably think: “Well, there must be only a limited amount of irrational numbers, then.” 

But that is not the case. There are a lot more irrational numbers than rational numbers. That’s where the infinity really comes into play. If you think of a decimal number as an endless journey to infinity, digit by digit, you realize that every time we take the next step, there will be ten directions we can go. And at the next step, again ten different directions. So numbers we get this way is countless. And only rare cases are rationals, like those that happen to have repeating decimals. If you want a rounded estimate, 0% of all real numbers are rational, the rest about 100% are irrational. 

Whoa! That was something. If you want to familiarize with the subject more, I made a free pdf material that you can download from my tpt shop. It has a concept understanding crossword and a story about how we even know that irrationals really exist.

If you need to teach this subject to let’s say, eight graders, there is presentation & worksheet bundles in my shop: 

Version for Google Slides™

Version for PowerPoint

These are essentially the same, but one has presentations for PowerPoint and the other for Google Slides™.

Hopefully you enjoyed this article! Irrationals are so intriguing, because they are easy and very complicated at the same time. If you want to challenge something, please leave a comment. 

The writer used to be a math teacher in Finland and has a master’s degree in math.

Categories
Uncategorized

Practice, more practice in elementary math

As a professional math teacher, I can not emphasize enough the importance of persistent practice. The thing is, when you repeat something numerous times, it eventually becomes an automated skill. When we have an automated skill, we don’t have to think about it. Sounds simple, right? 

People have a limited working memory. If it becomes too crowded, something falls out of the other end. This isn’t the precise word from psychology, but the idea is clear. So, if you would have to do a complex equation in your head without practice, it would be impossible because your working memory couldn’t handle all the details.

But now, if you have completed some parts of the task automatically, without thinking about it, there will be more space available in your working memory for steps that really need creative thinking. This way, the students with higher level automation can complete higher level tasks in maths!

I teach mostly in middle school but I’ve also prepared some worksheets for elementary students to level up their automation in basic operations. 

The larger set works as a backup for third or fourth grade teachers. You can always draw a fresh, seasonally themed worksheet from the pile. There are also bit different difficulty levels starting from three terms and no brackets to four terms and brackets. The worksheets of this theme back can also be purchased separately. 

The pictures of the themed worksheet pack are made by Prettygrafik

Before this pack, I made a worksheet that has the same structure but isn’t season themed. It is actually the best selling product in my store at the moment. For this, I made graphics myself.

Did I mention that even if there are lots of tasks, they are all unique? Happy practicing!

Categories
Education TPT

Free STEM Worksheets for Middle School

Again, 10 fresh free materials from different Teachers pay teachers authors! This time the focus is on stem worksheets for middle school.

Forward or Backward? Multi-Step Math Word Problems (grades 5-8)
Forces students to think wether they should start solving word problem forward or backward
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Forward-or-Backward-Multi-Step-Math-Word-Problems-5th-8th-Grade-5255969

Science Literacy Monster Fish (grades 5-8)
This resource combines literacy and science. Extra mention for the coloring picture that I find very artistic!
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Science-Literacy-Monster-Fish-Science-Sub-Plan-5193947

The Sun Worksheet Activity (grades 5-8)
Several fill-in activities about the Sun.
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/The-sun-worksheet-activity-and-reading-passage-5195654

Solving a Problem in Science (grades 5-9)
It’s always useful to recall how problem solving in science works.
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/SOLVING-A-PROBLEM-IN-SCIENCE-5192000

Elements Compounds and Mixtures Classification of Matter (grades 5-11)
The given grade level distribution is quite wide, I would suggest this for middle school rather than high school. However, clear and useful worksheet about matter.
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Elements-Compounds-and-Mixtures-Classification-of-Matter-Free-5220310

Area of Polygons Maze (grades 6-7)
Students calculate area of each polygon an based on the result choose the right way to continue.
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Area-of-Polygons-Maze-5254340

Weather Patterns, Factors, and the Atmosphere Word Search (6-7)
Word search puzzle about weather and atmosphere.
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Weather-Patterns-Factors-and-the-Atmosphere-Word-Search-5239974

Density Puzzle, St. Patrick’s Day Themed (grades 6-8)
The aim of the game is to calculate densities of coins and get letters as a result. Looks fun and creative, the workflow might require some explaining to students.
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Density-Puzzle-FREE-NGSS-Skill-Booster-5254525

Unit of Work Facts and Fishes (grade 7)
This material is 55 pages long! I first wondered how this is even possible, but then realized that the publisher is an institute from Australia.
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Unit-of-Work-Science-Year-7-Facts-and-Fishes-5220348

Powers Worksheet (grade 8)
Worksheet for 8th grade math about integer exponents. Answers included
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Free-Powers-Worksheet-for-8th-Grade-5256533

Hopefully you will find these materials useful!

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

Categories
Education TPT

Free Valentine’s Day Products in TPT

February and St. Valentine’s day is coming, and especially with younger students it’s time to use themed materials! I found also some fresh materials for older students. I divided these into three groups: Primary school, Middle school (and up) and for your own creations. Some of them are even for commercial use. Enjoy!

Primary school

Valentine’s Day Flashcards in Spanish (grades K-5)
Cards with Spanish words, related pictures and English translation.
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Valentines-Day-Flashcards-in-Spanish-5171479

Heart Tiles – Memory Game (Not grade specific)
As a memory game, this suits better for kindergarten or primary school. Nevertheless, I wanted to include this because I really like the grapchis. Creating 15 different shapes from heart is not that simple.
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Heart-Tiles-Memory-Game-5166292

16 Free printable Valentine’s Day Bookmarks (Not grade specific)
Valentine & love themed printable bookmarks
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/16-FREE-printable-Valentines-Day-Bookmarks-5172953

Heart Mandalas for Valentine’s Day: Art Lesson for Grades K-7
Detailed instructions for art lesson about hearts and mandalas.
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Heart-Mandalas-for-Valentines-Day-Art-Lesson-for-Grades-K-7-5138895

Middle school and up

Romeo and Juliet Persuasive Letter (grades 9-12)
Contains one page introduction to Shakespeare and Romeo & Juliet and task to write a persuasive letter to relatives of one of them. Certainly creative way to approach this love story!
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Romeo-and-Juliet-Persuasive-Letter-5172803

Science Valentines for Middle School (grades 5-9)
16 mini Valentine cards with science puns that are suitable for middle school students. Includes colored and black and white options.
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Science-Valentines-for-Middle-School-Mini-or-Fun-Sized-FREE-5138677

For your own creations

Valentine’s Day Game Board (with editable game cards) (grades 2-6)
Valentine’s day themed game board with cards. The aim of the game is to ask questions and to answer them. Cards are in PowerPoint format and you’ll have to type the questions before playing.
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Valentines-Day-Game-Board-with-editable-game-cards-5173090

Valentine Borders and Frames Collection (Not grade specific)
Huge pack of borders even for commercial use, if you just mention Willow Designs. Definitely worth downloading!
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Valentine-Borders-and-Frames-Collection-Doodle-Clip-Art-Page-Printables-Hearts-5168230

Valentine’s Day Clip Art Set (K-6)
17 png images in a zip package for decoration purposes.
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Valentines-Day-Clip-Art-Set-5143948

Valentine’s Day Task Card Template for Commercial Use (Not grade specific)
Four identical task card templates for letter size products. Free for commercial use as long as the shop is mentioned.
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Free-Valentines-Day-Task-Card-Template-for-Commercial-Use-5174933

Lower part of the image by stux from Pixabay (Cubid by me)

Categories
TPT

10 free posters in Teachers Pay Teachers

Today, I’ll be listing posters that you can print out and hang to your classroom wall. I can tell you there are many of them even if you take only the new ones into account, so I’ve done some picking and chosen those that look beautiful to my own eye. Subjects vary from mathematics to English language art and from sexual health education to physics. Resources are ordered by grade. Most of the posters are not that grade specific, but I’ve omitted kindergarten and preschool materials. Sometimes I’ve narrowed down very wide age ranges, that is represented by /.

Habits of discussion (Not grade specific)
Short guide for students to communicate respectfully.
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Habits-of-Discussion-Poster-5007847

Order of operations (grades 1-8 / 4-8)
Great when studying order of operations including powers and parenthesis. Description says for grades 1-8, but I’d say this could be confusing before powers have been introduced at all.
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Order-of-Operations-Poster-5003752

Ground rules for sexual health education (grades 4-12)
Encourages students to be respectful and speak about themselves or in general level, not about others.
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/FreeDownload/Sexual-Health-Education-Ground-Rules-5001200

Branches of Mathematics (grades 5-10)
Simplified interpretation about different fields of mathematics. Helps bit older studets to form a picture what mathematics can be.
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Branches-of-Mathematics-Poster-Free-5013657

Author’s purpose posters (Not grade specific / middle school and up)
Five posters each presenting one author purpose. It says on the description that this is not grade specific, but I think it fits best when you start reading longer and more diverse texts, so not in the very first grades.
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Authors-Purpose-Posters-5018533

Just Right Books Posters (Not grade specific / middle school and up)
Guides students to choose the right level book (I can imagine that is not always easy). Again, middle school and up is my opinion, not grade specific is author’s view.
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/FreeDownload/Just-Right-Books-Poster-5023413

Law of reflection (7-12)
For physics, law of reflection. Clear poster and worksheet is also included.
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Law-of-reflection-poster-and-worksheet-5001596

Shakespeare’s poets (grades 9-12)

Six Shakespeare’s poets with beautiful backgrounds. Also available in black and white.
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/FreeDownload/FREE-6-Shakespearean-Sonnets-on-POSTERS-COLOR-VERSION-for-classroom-decor-5000515

Organic compound concept map (grades 11 – higher education)
Colorful and clear concept map. Note that this is in jpg form.
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/ORGANIC-COMPOUNDS-CONCEPT-MAP-5004028

A Christmas Carol Character Profile Posters (grades 8-12)
Seven posters each presenting one character: Ebenezer Scrooge, Bob Cratchit, The Ghost of Christmas Past, The Ghost of Christmas Present, The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, Jacob Marley and Tiny Tim.
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/A-Christmas-Carol-Character-Profile-Posters-5011273

Hopefully you will enjoy these and other beautiful resources!