Saturday, October 31, 2015

Avoiding the Pitfalls of Teaching 3 - Creating Your Own Materials and TeachersPayTeachers

      As I have progressed through my years of teaching (currently sitting at 15+ !) I have learned a great deal.  One of the things that I learned was to not follow the textbook as if it was the end-all-be-
all guide to teaching.  I learned to break away and follow my own sequencing (see pitfall 2 here).  Doing so, however, left me with a problem.  If I was creating my own sequencing and my own lessons then I didn't always have an assignment ready to go.  The work and worksheets that come with the book are designed to follow their sequencing, not mine.  So an epic quest started to find materials that were on a single topic (or similarly related topics) that I could use to give my student practice.

       I began by printing out the textbooks worksheets and using the good old cut it apart and tape parts back together to create a new worksheet.  For a while, this worked.  Eventually, however, I moved further away from the book and started creating my own examples because they better fit what I was trying to teach.  I did this because I often felt that the book was asking them to solve a math problem while jumping rope and singing the alphabet in their over complicated examples.  So my quest continued and led me to start buying worksheet books from the publishing companies and again, for a while this worked.  It solved my problem far better than the cut and paste method did.  Until suddenly I found myself frustrated again with the holes.  I kept thinking there had to be a better way and I started searching online and I found my first TeachersPayTeachers resource.  It matched exactly what I need and it was beautifully made.  I seriously had one of those "heavens opening, beam of light moments".  I'm not kidding, I spent hours on the website searching, bookmarking and loading my cart.  It was like Christmas in September.  I was incredibly happy...until I got switched from Algebra to Geometry and everything I had found and bought was for Algebra.  So back onto TpT I went and discovered that the Geometry resources were a lot more scarce than the Algebra ones...

        By that point, however, I had taught enough years that I was getting really good at creating my own stuff so I used what I learned and started creating high quality Geometry resources that matched the caliber of the Algebra that I had purchased.  One day I decided to share what I was making with other teachers and the  Secondary Math Shop was born. :)   Since I opened a store on there, the caliber of my lessons, activities, diagrams and classroom environment has skyrocketed. I not only make things that are so much more superior to what I used before, but I purchase so many things as well to supplement my lessons!  That's right, while I am a seller, I am also still an avid buyer! :)

I spoke with a few other teacher - authors about their journey to opening their own stores and here is what they had to say.

Apples and Bananas shared "Since we work in an alternative school setting, we found it necessary to create materials that would appropriately scaffold content for a variety of learners. When we realized that the curriculum we were given only reached a handful of our students, we decided to try our hand at creating scaffolded notes and interactive notebook activities, like the products in this Algebra bundle.  We saw that our students were retaining so much more information with this format, and we love that it is general enough to be used with any curriculum."

Nikki from Teaching Autism stated "I started to make my own resources when I realised that there wasn't anything out there that suited the 'class' as a whole. I decided I would have to make it myself! You see, we are very big on inclusion - when our topic is 3 little pigs, we ensure ALL our children, regardless of ability take part in the same 3 little pigs activities, BUT we differentiate them so they are working at the right level for them with just the right amount of challenge. So, I started making my own resources, I had always been good at ICT so thought it would be easy - it's not so easy, trust me, wow I don't know how some of these teachers do it! At first I was using publisher, slowly I got around to powerpoint, then I got brave and started using my macbook instead of my usual windows laptop, investing in clipart that I just KNEW my students would love. The more enthusiasm I put into my resources - the more the children LOVED them! I make the same activity in 5 different levels, yep FIVE. It means all our children are working on the EXACT same activity, yet it's just changed to suit their individual abilities and needs!   Every child is different, which, in my class, means they all need different resources suitable for them. "

History Gal shared that "The textbook and the material that come with it make history boring. Raise your hand if you remember being in history class and being told my your teacher to read pages x - x and answer the questions at the end of the chapter. Who gets excited about doing that? I want students to get excited about history so I created my own activities. My favorites are my historical simulations"

It's Kinder Time I purchased Morning Work for my kinder kiddos and found that some of it was too easy for my kids. I also noticed that sometimes the morning work would have standards I had not taught yet and my kiddos would struggle to complete a supposedly review independent activity. This issue pushed my to take the giant leap and create my own Morning work. You can find it here(Morning Work Bundle). I know my kiddos were able to work through this product independently and were reviewing stands that we covered. It also helped that the weekly practice was repetitive and my kiddos knew what skill they would practice.  I am now working on adding the units that I have created for my classroom to tie in some fun activities as well as hitting the academic standards. Really creating came from wanting to have materials that fit the needs of my kiddos and allowed me to support each kiddos at their level."

Mrs. E from Mrs. E Teaches Math explained that  "I taught honors students and had a very difficult time finding activities and other resources rigorous enough for my students. Most of the activities I found online were way too simple for my students. I started creating my own activities to use in my classroom. One of my coworkers saw the activities I was making and suggested I list them on Teachers pay Teachers."

Coach Christopher from Courage To Core shared  "In my view, most textbooks aren’t sufficiently student-centered. They also tend to cover an incredible breadth of material at the expense of depth, and rarely give students the authority to do more than a series of relatively repetitive practice problems. They are certainly useful resources and particularly so for students who can work and learn independently out of the gate, but I think they don’t work so well for students who are not already performing at a high level. By contrast, having students work in small groups engages and challenges students widely regardless of level. Students must collaborate, articulate, listen, be creative, risk failure, deal with failure, persist, organize, assist, be assisted and actively engage as problem-solvers. Really putting my students to work has worked for them."

The pitfalls are there, just waiting, but hopefully together we can navigate them, avoid them or capitalize upon them to the benefit of you and your students.  What do you do to create your own materials or to supplement to make things fit the needs of your students?  Comment below, I'd love to hear it!

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