By Vera Livshin

It’s summertime, and though you’ve probably been enjoying yourself, you’ve undoubtedly been thinking about the school year and what you can do to prepare to be successful. You’re a teacher—it’s what you do! Here are some back to school hacks to start the year off on the right (or, if you’d prefer, left) foot.

1) Set up a blog for each of your classes, and use it to send out and collect assignments, share updates and teach both general academic and subject-specific communication skills throughout the school year. This could also be an interesting way to help students develop 21st-century skills, such as technology literacy, because students receive hands-on practice reading, writing, and evaluating information within an online environment. Consult Teaching with Blogs to learn more about implementing blogs into your classrooms. There are many different blogging platforms to choose from, such as WordPress and Medium, and many blogging platforms are directly connected to other social networking sites which will provide other avenues for you to explore.

2) Start a hashtag (or start using an already-popular education hashtag) to garner attention about a teaching practice that is important to you. This can help you to gather feedback and inspire conversation and action within the teaching and/or education community. You can cater it to teachers within your school and use a school-run forum to spread the hashtag, or expand to the teacher community at large.

3) Begin sequencing a podcast series that you can use to motivate your students throughout the school year. There are many routes to explore! You can record your lessons and upload it online for students to refer back to later on. You can create additional core content podcasts or even supplementary content. For instance, perhaps for participation points, students could be required to write weekly or monthly responses to a podcast episode. Alternatively, consider having students take over the making of podcasts, thus creating opportunities for students to make interdisciplinary connections (i.e. developing multimedia skills while studying a subject-specific topic). Refer to this blog post from the Professional Learning Board for more information about how to implement podcasting in your own classroom, and reasons why it is an effective strategy.

4) Prepare a few diagnostic quizzes to use throughout the year to assess where students are in their learning development. Formative assessment is a really helpful practice, and can even be made engaging for students through the use of age- and content-appropriate pop culture references. As an alternative to preparing these quizzes in advance, have a discussion with your students about their interests, and then incorporate those topics into assessments, homework assignments and projects.

5) As an introduction to your subject or lesson topics, prepare a few discussions in order to interact with students and engage them in the content using the Socratic Method. This technique is a unique way to create an open dialogue with students because it is based in the oral tradition of asking questions to encourage debates, and can even increase student engagement by piquing their curiosity. Asking open-ended questions will help you discover what students already know, what they may want to learn, and how they process information. It can also serve as a way to ease into the school year, urging students to explore, question, listen and take notes, which are also integral to student learning.

6) Become an author with Wisewire and create your own content, from lesson plans to assessments. You can then use these in your classroom, as well as sell them in the WW marketplace. Check out 5 Hacks for Teachers Using the Content Page Template for a quick and easy guide to using Wisewire’s Create platform.

7) Peruse free online tools to help you organize, plan, teach, and communicate with your students. There are so many at your disposal! The trick is finding the right ones to fit your environment, your needs, your limitations, and your objectives. It’s hard to miss with the old standbys:

  • Pinterest: You can find how-to articles, project ideas, infographics and much more within this content-sharing network. Consider setting up a Pinterest board for each of your classes or even separate accounts for each of your classes. You can then share your thoughts and ideas with students, as well as have them participate.  Let’s say you plan on assigning three projects this year, you can then set up a board for each of these projects, where you can house ideas related to it.
  • Piktochart: On this site you can create your own infographics and presentations. It includes a demo, templates, library of existing icons, images, and graphics, as well as the option to upload new icons, images, and graphics into the template. Familiarize yourself with the process before the start of the school year. Consider creating an infographic to showcase your objectives for the year.
  • For a comprehensive list of free online resources, take a look at 321 Free Tools for Teachers- Free Educational Technology. As you select resources to incorporate into your classroom, consider these questions to help you evaluate each one.

Do you have any other things you think your fellow teachers should try this school year? Add them in the comments section below!

For more back-to-school resources, see:

Vera Livshin is a Learning Content Writer at Wisewire.


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