Archive for the ‘Classroom Mangement’ Category

Using Notability for Classroom Observation

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

This article describes how to use the app, Notability, to assist in classroom observation.  Classroom teachers can easily adapt these directions for student observation.  I recommend Notability at a cost of $1-$2 over any potentially costly commercial classroom observation system I’ve yet seen.  Notability provides the most flexibility for meeting individual needs.

If you’re looking for a checklist system of observation, Google Forms provides a free system that’s fully customizable.  Notability offers a blank page for handwriting notes, typing notes, and adding pictures and audio recordings.  If you’re still using Apple’s built in notes, stop.  Here are step by step directions for using Notability as a classroom observation tool.

You will want to create a notebook for each teacher.

1.  Create a notebook by tapping the plus sign.

2.  Tap the edit button to bring up the option to color code your notebook.





3.  Choose a color.  You may wish to color code grade levels so that all first grade teachers are blue, for example.

4. Create a new note.  You’ll use a new note for each observation and store all notes in the individual notebook.












5.  Add a photo by tapping the plus sign towards the top right and choosing “Take a Photo.”






6.  You can either handwrite or type or your notes by selecting the appropriate icon.


7.  Share the note by tapping the universal share button and sending it by email.














That’s it.  Repeat this for each teacher or student you wish to observe.  You can move notes around between notebooks by dragging and dropping them into a different notebook.

One of the best things about Notability when used this way is that each teacher/notebook will have a number next to it showing you how many notes/observations have been completed.  So, you can clearly see how many visits each teacher has had.

Please leave your tips or suggestions below.

Update:  You can import PDF documents and then handwrite and/or type on them.

How do I import a PDF?

There are several ways to import a PDF into Notability:

  • 1) If importing from an email attachment or Safari browser
    Tap the PDF to preview. Then select Notability from the
    “Open in” list.
  • 2) If importing a PDF file from Dropbox and other cloud services
    Tap the Import button on the top toolbar in the library and select
    the desired service.

Four Steps for Troubleshooting iOS Devices

Monday, October 15th, 2012

There’s not too much you can do to fix a problem when your iPad or iPhone stops working…that’s the good news.  There’s just a few things you can try and these usually work.  Try each of these one at a time and see if one of them will fix your problem.

1.  Update your apps.

2.  Force quit the app.  Double-click on the home button.  Find the problematic app on the bottom of your screen where it shows recently used apps. Press and hold on the app icon until it wiggles.  Click on the red circle with a minus sign.  Your app icon goes away.

When I’ve used this successfully: iMovie was crashing.  Forced it to quit and then it worked fine.

2.  Restart the device.  You don’t normally need to turn off your device.  However, whenever you’re having problems, it’s a good idea to do so.  Press and hold the power button on the top right of the device until you see “Slide to power off” on your screen.  Now, swipe to power off the device.  Then press the power button to turn the device on.

When I’ve used this successfully: A strange fluttering was showing up on the screen in all apps and on the home screen.  Restart and problem went away.

3.  Delete the app and reinstall (use this for app-specific problems).  Press and hold on the app icon on the home screen until it wiggles.  Press the red circle.  The app will be deleted after you confirm.  This sometimes might also delete your data for that app so only try this when you have to.  Then go to the iTunes store and download the app again.  You will not be charged twice if you are using the correct account.

4.  Restore the device.  This wipes out everything and is done by hooking up the device to iTunes.  I’d only use this if a bunch of apps are giving you problems as it’s a headache having to set up all your apps again.

If you have any other troubleshooting steps, please add them below.

Parent Better and Change the World in 2012

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011



On a recent journey to Costa Rica, I had the opportunity to reflect on good parenting.  Due to a brief layover, we had to switch planes mid-way and on each leg of the journey, we found ourselves sitting in front of children (yes, the same people we left our classrooms to get a break from).

I’m not (yet) a parent.  However, I believe the principles that I’ve laid out previously about classroom management apply to parenting as well.  Specifically, when you can help it, never expose children to a new situation without first letting them know what to expect from that situation and what appropriate behavior is in that situation.  Naturally, life presents unexpected situations all the time.  However, taking your students to the library, the computer lab, or a performance and taking your sons and daughters on airplanes are not unexpected events.

We teach children about individual upcoming events ahead of time for two reasons:

  1. Once we’re in a situation, it’s too late to teach the special rules (you can’t stop a performance, or halt takeoff and landing to discipline).
  2. Most importantly, misbehavior results from children being anxious.  When we explain to them what to expect they are less anxious and less likely to act up.


In the classroom, if you’re taking your students to the library, you first discuss what’s going to happen in the library and the special rules there (use a marker to find a book, whisper when you talk, etc.).  I do not take my students to the library until I’m confident that they know how to behave there.

Rafe Esquith talks about having his students sit through the entire sound recording of a symphony in his classroom before taking the students to see the real symphony.   By listening to a CD beforehand, he taught them when to clap, how to listen, and what to listen for so they were not bored when they got there.

Living Room

At home, if you know you’re going on an airplane, into a toy store, or to the post office, you need to explain the special behaviors expected in each of those places.

How This Plays Out “In the Wild”

On the first leg of our journey, as the plane was taking off, the child screamed at the top of his lungs and yelled out, “I’m scared.”  His mom laughed.  Perhaps she didn’t care that her child was screaming—but that’s for another blog post.  He spent the flight kicking my wife’s seat.  When we landed, his mom asked him to be responsible for his own jacket and told him he had to walk.  He said no, started crying, and his grandmother ended up carrying him.

During the break, I discussed with my wife how we’re going to parent differently and then on the second leg of our journey, another family provided a perfect example.

On the final flight, another child sat down behind us with his mom.  Before the flight took off, she discussed with him the popping he’d feel soon in his ears when the flight took off.  She explained that he would need to keep his seatbelt on.  She reviewed with him what they were going to be seeing in Costa Rica.  That child was a dream to sit in front of.  Nothing was a surprise to him and he knew how to behave.

When the flight landed, another passenger asked this dream child what he was looking forward to seeing.  “A volcano,” he said, “I want to see the lava coming out it of it.”  As a bonus, talking to your child develops language and verbal ability.  I didn’t hear the annoying kid say anything other than screams and grunts on the first flight.  It seems obvious, but talk to your child if you want them the learn to talk.

The Future

I’m worried.  I’m worried about what I see as a complete breakdown of expected behavior in public.  Mild-mannered me has been getting in fights with people at movies and plays about them texting during the show.  I’m not sure how we address a growing self-centeredness that puts one’s own needs ahead of anyone else.  However, I believe it’s those parents who are not setting behavioral expectations who are contributing to this general breakdown.  If you really don’t care about others, then I’m not sure I can help you.  However, if you want a better world, I think I’m laying out for you one way we can get there.

First Day of School Activities

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

First Day of School Activities

Lots of First Day Activities from Cape Brenton Victoria School Board

First Day of School Activities by Katie Hallum

First Days of School Script for Teachers by Katie Hallum

Back to School Preparation Checklist and Month by Month Schedule for First Grade by Terry Analore

Everybody Needs A Rock Activity by Jan Tappan

Activities for First Day by Scholastic

Interest Inventory for getting to know your students

Nine Questions to Ask Students on First Day of School by Elona Hartes

101 Things to Do on the First Day of School

Math Activities for the Beginning of the Year

Article: Reviewing the Steps to Take Before Starting the Year

Ice Breakers

Kathy Schrock’s First Day Activities/Ice Breakers

Teachnology Ice Breakers

Ice Breaker List

Ice Breakers and Warm Ups

Welcome Letters

These can be adapted for any grade level and were created using Printshop:

First Grade

Second Grade (Spanish/English)

More sample Letters from Scholastic

First Day of School Read Alouds

First Day of School Books

Also Worth Reading

Back to School, It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint

How to Encourage Parental Involvement

Classroom Management Articles

Have a great year if you haven’t started already!


Lessons for Teachers from the Oprah Finale

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011


I remember when Oprah premiered on television, somewhere around the 2nd grade.  I grew up watching Donahue at 3:00 and Oprah at 4:00 with my grandmother after school.  I watched for many years though I started to lose track somewhere around high school.  I must confess that as I got older I found the show alternated between fascinating and grating.

However, I rediscovered the Oprah show after freshman year in college just in time for her  launch of “Change Your Life TV.”  It may not have changed my life but it did provide some needed emotional support as I was still figuring out the world and discovering my place in it.

A few years later I found my place teaching kindergarten as a long-term substitute.  I became a full-time teacher soon after and that was the end of my Oprah watching.  Full-time teachers’ hours were not conducive to watching a show at 3:00 in an era before Tivo and DVR.

But I caught up one last time to watch the Oprah finale which was broadcast last week and I think that she had some profound lessons for the lives and careers of teachers.  She didn’t give away any cars or offer any big surprises, she spoke from the heart about the lessons she learned and expressed her gratitude to her audience.

“…you are responsible for the energy that you create for yourself
and you are responsible for the energy that you bring to others.”

All life, from plants to animals, is made up of energy and we give that energy off every day.  Our friends and family are recipients of that energy, of course.  But to a large extent, our friends and family get to choose how much time they want to spend with us.  Our students are receivers of our energy and they have no choice.

What kind of energy do you give off to your students?  Are they happy to be in your classroom?  Or do they hate being there?  A teacher’s positive attitude, forgiving smile, and unconditional support goes further in creating positive energy than a pizza party and a Friday movie treat.

You don’t have to like all of your students but everyone has a human need to be seen and understood.  The “bad kids” have this need even more than the others.  Do you understand all of your students and believe they have the ability to become better students and better people?  Do you put forth that energy or is it the energy that keeps them stuck in a cycle of misbehavior?

You Are Responsible for Your Life

Teaching is  a rough career.  Your students, full of possibility, graduate year after year but you stay in the same place.  You’ve already made it.  How does that feel?

I know a lot of teachers who resent their districts, their professions, their students because of choices they themselves have made that have led them to become teachers.

We became teachers because we wanted to teach.  And if we didn’t, or don’t, then we are able to make choices to do something else as well.

Find Your Passion

Teachers need to be passionate.  Some are passionate about teaching but some are passionate about something else that fuels their souls.  If you are not passionate about something you’re as good to your students as an empty shell.  You do not need to love the same things your students do but you do need to love something to be an interesting teacher and not be someone who’s full of bitterness.