Class Blog Replaces Packets

At two of the three high schools I’ve worked at in New York, the teachers have been requested to put together “packets” of work that students who are failing the course can complete and then get credit for the course. It’s meant to be sort of a crash (independent study) course. Whether I agree with this policy or not, I need to put these packets together. To earn credit for my class, I require the student  to complete every project of the semester. Putting together a packet of that size is a tremendous amount of work and takes a lot of time. Just printing and photocopying the work could take an hour.

Fortunately, last year I created a blog for my classes where I post all assignments. This includes PDF versions of handouts, PowerPoint presentations and rubrics, as well as links to videos and other resources. I originally created the blog as a resource for students who might be absent for a day or two during a week or two-week project. But now, instead of creating packets for failing students, I refer them to the blog.

Do you have to create packets? How do you do it?

Do you have a class blog? What do you use it for?



Prioritizing by Level of Effort and Amount of Time

Today, as I was leaving the building, I saw a first year English teacher who looked frazzled. When I said “hello” and asked how she was, she gave the common first-year-teacher look of overwhelm, frustration and helplessness. She told me that she had “so much to do” and didn’t know how she’d get it all done. So we talked about it.

By the end of our five minute conversation, she had prioritized her to-do list and created a timeline for completion (well ahead of her deadline). How did this happen?

1. She articulated the specific things she needed to address

2. We estimated how difficult it would be, and how much time it would take, to complete each task

3. She decided to do the tasks that would require the least amount of effort and the least amount of time first, followed by a higher level of effort but a relatively short amount of time, followed by the tasks with the highest level of effort that would take the most amount of time.

Because most of her tasks will be completed before she gets to the last category, she will be able to spend all of her time and energy on the most difficult and time-consuming task. Plus, she’ll have a sense of accomplishment going into that task because she will have crossed everything else off her “to-do” list.

How do you prioritize your to-do list?

Daily 3’s: “Chunking” The To-Do List

Time management can be challenging for any one, but for teachers it can be particularly difficult. One of the strategies many people use for tackling a variety of tasks is “chunking”. Chunking breaks tasks into categories. In other words, rather than organizing a “to do” list by preps or classes, organize and complete your tasks by “chunking” like activities together.

My daily to do list used to be organized by class and looked like this:

1st period: Grade recent projects, call home regarding student x, review tomorrow’s lesson. Finalize rubric for next project.

3rd period: Grade recent projects. Finalize rubric for next project. Call students y & z. Solidify ideas for future projects.

Misc: Complete academic intervention forms, email guidance counselor

4th Period, 5th period and 8th period would have their own to do lists as well. That makes for a lot of lists!

Now I use task-oriented categories and limit each to 3 unless absolutely necessary. This way I can “chunk” like tasks together. It makes for a more organized list and a better use of my time. I use the following four categories for every list. I call it my “Daily 3’s”.

Phone calls: students x,y and z (turns out today I only had to call 1 parent)

Lesson planning: Finish rubric for next studio art project, finish rubric for next advanced art project, solidify ideas for future studio art projects

Grading: Period 4 project, Period 5 project, Classwork for periods 1&8

Misc: Complete academic intervention forms, email guidance counselor

What techniques do you use for time management? How do you organize your to do list?