10 Tips for Finding Free Resources

Do you need to introduce or reinforce a skill?  Are you teaching American History for the first time?  Are your classroom materials outdated or incomplete?  Do your lessons just need a little pizzazz?   There’s a goldmine of ideas out there, once you learn a few tricks.jpg_internet031

1.  We all have “go to” resources.  I like Teachers Pay Teachers and Super Teacher Worksheets.  I often find free or low-cost materials that can be immediately printed out and put to use.  Start with your own tried-and-true resources.

2.  Successfully searching the Internet is part luck and part finesse.  Select your favorite search engine– I like Google— and type in key words.  Be specific.  Instead of typing American History, try War of 1812 worksheet fourth grade free.

3.  Before clicking on any links the search turns up, check the web address.  For example, if Amazon is in the address it’s probably a product for sale.  If it ends in .com you may be required to log in to the site before accessing the material.  And, if it’s part of a larger site there may be a lot of pop-up ads.  You can’t avoid these entirely, but you can save time by carefully choosing which links to explore.

4.  Narrow your search.  Use additional key words or use the search tools at the top of the screen.  You’ll be amazed what a search for War of 1812 PowerPoint will unearth.  Or, try War of 1812 word search or War of 1812 webquest.

5.  Don’t reinvent the wheel.  Check the favorites tab on your computer.  At some time in the past you probably found a great resource and bookmarked it.  You didn’t have time to explore it then, but you knew it might be helpful in the future.  The future is now!

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6.  Check out Pinterest.  If you don’t have an account, it’s easy to get started.  This rapidly-growing resource provides quick access to most any topic you can imagine.  Searching War of 1812 lesson I found “pins” with pictures and short descriptions of each resource.  Each “pin” links to the resource described as well as the “board” it came from.  Sometimes the source board turns up additional time-saving links.  Follow “boards” that specialize in areas of interest to access all current and future “pins.”

7.  Don’t overlook blogs.  We’re all pressed for time.  When you find a blog that reflects your interests and needs, sign up to receive notification of new posts.  It’s a lot easier to unsubscribe later than it is to try to find the blog when you go searching the next time.

8.  Organize your favorites.  Take a few minutes to do it on your computer or, once you have a Pinterest account create boards to store your links.  You can get to Pinterest with any device that has online access.  For example, I have a board for graphics, TpT, and free teaching resources.  I also have a few private boards for links to resources I haven’t yet explored.  Honestly, I’m not getting any kickback from Pinterest, I just think it’s a great tool.  It helps me organize and access all kinds of information.

9.  Open your school closet.  Look on the shelves near your desk.  There’s a lot more in those teacher manuals and supplemental books provided by the publisher than you remember.  Crack one open and look for extension activities and online resources.  For example, Harcourt Trophies has online lessons that students can use in school and at home.

10.  Finally, don’t overlook the teacher next door.  Sometimes the easiest solution is the most obvious.  Ask your “neighbor” if he or she has any good ideas.  Send out an “all call” email to the other grade-level teachers in your district requesting ideas that have worked for them.  Reach out beyond the four walls of your classroom to the greater educational community.  Collaboration is the most valuable resource of all.

Click here to check out Super Teacher Worksheets, a FREE resource I use all the time.

SuperTeacherWorksheets-homepage-header                    Teachers Pay Teachers has over 80,000 FREE resources.                      Here’s the link to my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

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Wondering how to make your own educational “movies?”

(Updated May 5, 2013)

Since writing the original post below, I’ve discovered two other video-making options.  The first, Tellagami (rhymes with origami), is a quick, easy way to create and share any short story or lesson.  My students typed in their book reports and an animated character of their choice made the presentations.  Each Gami takes about five minutes to make. The downside– the program can only be accessed using an iPhone or iPad, and the presentation length is limited by the number of characters allowed.  Engaging and super cool!

Gami PicClick here to check it out!

The second video-making software I found, Animoto, creates short videos set to music.  It has lots of free designs, it’s easy-to-use, and it’s fun. This program is available online and uses text and pictures to create a short album or message.  The one I made to promote my favorite grammar shortcut, took me about 15 minutes to make.

Powerful Prepositions!

Powerful Prepositions!

Click here to check it out!

Check out this sample introduction I created for one of my TpT products “Identifying Subjects and Verbs Using Prepositional Phrases.”  This cool, interactive “movie making” website is easy to use.  After signing in for a free account I created the following “movie”  in about 12 minutes.

I thought it might be a good way to introduce teachers and students to using prepositions and prepositional phrases for identifying subjects and verbs.  The site is intuitive and it also has quick tutorials.  However, as I used it for the first time I noticed that each movie “cost” points.  If you try it and love it, a teacher’s subscription is available for about $10 a month.

Xtranormal Snip

Click here to check out the video!

Click here to read more about using prepositional phrases to identify subjects and verbs.

Click here to check out the product below.

Jungle Busy Frame new cover snipped

Should students grade their own work?

happy_good_grade from wpclipart dot comYes.  Students get immediate feedback when they grade their own work.  They take ownership of their progress, or lack thereof.  Students are able to ask questions and get clarification, right away.  Worried about students cheating?  Spot check a few papers each week.  Confront students immediately and follow up for a few days.  Don’t let a few poorly-graded papers keep you from using this time saving approach.

Set expectations for grading and follow through.  Students in my class must use red pen and only mark incorrect answers.  Students record their score as a certain amount of points over the total.  This method puts the focus on the number correct.  When students ask, “What’s my grade?” I show them how to divide the number correct by the total number possible to get a percentage score.

Another approach is to have students work in pairs to correct their completed homework before handing it in.  They learn from each other, make changes, and hand in their best effort.  This approach to grading is even simpler.  Once the work has been handed in, award a small number of points for timely completion.

Not sure if this is a good approach for your classroom?  Start by grading one less set of papers a day.  You’ll be amazed how liberating it is!

Read more here: Benefits of a Student Self-Grading Model -or- How I Grade (by skills or standards) -or- The 3P Grading System.

Need a quick grading rubric?  Check out Teacher Planet‘s rubrics like the one below for all grades and subjects, or you can generate your own.

Teacher Planet has rubrics for all grades and subjects, or you can generate your own.