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2 Must-Read Supplemental Texts for the Economics Classroom

Sure, your textbook tries. It has little examples and profiles for key Economic concepts. It has glossy photos and interesting charts. And yet…even the best textbooks cannot replace supplemental texts that actually give your students a broader understanding of Economics and all of it’s incredible implications. After all, there are so many schools of thought and areas of study when it comes to being an economist. Why limit your students to traditional ways of teaching?

That’s why I bring key chapters of supplemental texts into my classroom. Sure, I use several other classic texts, like (super short) excerpts from Wealth of Nations (duh!) and the famous essay “I, Pencil.” (Side Note: both of these provide interesting explanations of why specialization is so important in case you’re looking for that, specifically). But what I’m really interested in providing for my students is a way for them to see economics applied to the real world. This automatically increases their understanding of the material and interest in the subject.

Enter: my two favorite must-read supplemental texts for the economics classroom.

The Economic Naturalist by Robert H. Frank

Why I like it: It’s easy to read and approachable to high school students yet will open their minds to a perspective they have not yet considered. I specifically use Chapter One which is all about product design. Frank uses economic concepts to explain everything from why soda cans are cylindrical to why women’s shirts button from a different direction from men’s shirts. The format is a puzzling question followed by an economically centered explanation.

How I use it: I ask my students to read the assigned chapter. I give them a reading quiz on the day the reading is due and then have them write an (incredibly short) essay where they explain a puzzling question using a similar format to the author. Students become the Economic Naturalist! This idea comes from the author himself and is explained here. It takes a little while for students to choose their topic, but they typically love brainstorming and trying to find anomalies in the world around them. Seeing students get excited about economic concepts is music to my ears.

The Undercover Economist by Tim Harford

Why I like it: Again, the writing is completely accessible for high school aged students. I specifically like to use Chapter 2: What Supermarkets Don’t Want You to Know because every student has likely been to the grocery store. The text takes conventional wisdom and challenges our assumptions. It also allows to students to shop more critically by questioning why supermarkets place items in specific places and get you to spend more money.

How I use it: Again, my students read the chapter and then take a reading quiz on the due date. However, they don’t write an essay for this one. Rather, I ask them to create questions about the text and how it applies to the real world. And then the students have a Socratic Seminar, which is one of my favorite days of the year. I’m always surprised to see students discuss topics we haven’t even covered yet like branding, marketing, personal finances, business structures, etc. It’s such a relevant and fruitful discussion. What’s better than watching my students basically become economists for a day?

PS I used to teach with Freakonomics because students absolutely love the way it’s written, but have discontinued for various reasons, including many of the theories presented being challenged or debunked.

So these are my main supplemental texts. What are yours? Let me know in the comments!

With love,

Mrs. P

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Classroom Management: the Non-Scary Approach (Part 4- Follow Through)

Alright so we covered the “why,” the “how,” and the “what” so now it’s time to wrap up this series by talking about follow through. Not the sexiest topic, but it’s so, so important. Because really, none of this matters unless you not only introduce and implement the changes, but consistently keep up the rules and routines. Students, being their angelic little selves, will naturally start to test the new boundaries and when they do, it’s critical to calmly hold your ground and follow through on your word. Empty threats will get you absolutely nowhere with teenagers.

Now, none of us is perfect. There are days when I want to just not care and let students do what they want. I get tired of reminders, warnings, and quietly ushering that student back to his seat (for the 3rd time in like 10 minutes). Just let ’em run wild! And yet- those are the days when it counts most!

So how can we keep up the motivation to manage our classrooms well and consistently? Through trial and error, I’ve discovered a few nuggets of wisdom.

  1.  Remind yourself every morning why classroom management is important to you. Really visualize the classroom you want to create. Write notes and reminders to yourself on post-its. Send yourself encouraging reminders on your phone. When you start off your day with these reasons first and foremost in your brain, you will be more likely to follow through.
  2. Make a visual reminder of the classroom rules for your classroom. As in, make an actual physical copy that everyone in the room can see at any point in time. It’s really best if you can involve your students in the process of creating these rules in the first place because it builds buy-in. This way everyone can reference or glance at the expectations at any point and know exactly what is acceptable and what is not.
  3. Don’t get in the habit of getting mad. Rather, approach student disobedience or misbehavior with compassion, grace, and consistent responses. If students know you care about them and they care about you, too- that’ll eliminate a lot of your classroom management issues from the get-go. It’ll also allow you to enforce classroom management in the long run because it won’t be such a bummer to keep up. Nobody likes being mad when doing their job.
  4. Have an accountability partner. This might be a mentor, fellow teacher, friend, administrator. Let them know your goals and ask them to hold ya to it! An accountability partner will also be able to help you brainstorm strategies that work for you and for your students.

Well, that’s a wrap on my classroom management series! Let me know what was most useful to you or any strategies you use in your classroom in the comments below.

With love,

Mrs. P

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Classroom Management: the Non-Scary Approach (Part 3- What It Looks Like)

Real talk. I used to fear my students. Not like “ahhh-they’re scary!” No, my fear was far more insidious and subtle. I feared their opinions of me. I gave into their demands and desires all the time because I truly wanted to be liked. Their opinion of me defined how I viewed myself. But wait- that doesn’t make any sense! I’m not a teenager looking for affirmation from 15 year olds. I’m an adult, physically and emotionally. And looking for my own value in my students was never going to end well. Our identities should be in something big and unchanging- God. I am enough and worthy exactly as I am. So are you.

Yet as I was looking for my value in the inconsistent, raging opinions of teenagers, I began to realize that I had absolutely no control over my classroom. And that’s not conducive to learning or teaching. It was a vicious cycle where I didn’t want to fix the behavioral issues because I didn’t want to be disliked yet I hated the way I felt so out of control in my own classroom. Lose-lose.

So I started to implement these classroom management strategies. One at a time, slowly. But consistently. It won’t work if you’re not consistent and enforce the rules. And the rules have to have consequences if they are not upheld. Students won’t magically behave just because we created rules or are working on classroom management.

So here are my best tips and tricks for classroom management. You’ll notice that a lot of my strategies are subtle- maybe not even consciously noticed by students. In my book, that’s a win-win.

  1. Proximity is everything. Obviously don’t be inappropriate or creepy in any way, ever. I honestly shouldn’t even have to say that. But anyways, your proximity has power. For example, last week I had some students talking while I was giving directions. Without interrupting myself, I walked over to the students, waved my hand to gain their attention, and continued talking. I stood by them until I was finished giving directions. They stopped and I didn’t have to pause my whole class to get them to listen. My students are used to me moving around like this so they just turn their heads to wherever I’m standing to hear directions. If students are doing group work and are having an off topic conversation, I go stand by them. They typically stop. If not, I warn them without a trace of anger. Matter-of-factly.
  2. Believe the best of your students. If one of my students has their head down, I wait until my presence won’t draw additional attention, say the student’s name quietly until they look up, and ask if they’re okay. Then I ask if they need to walk around the hall really quick or grab a drink of water. I assume the student is tired or upset or needs privacy for a minute. I always assume my students are not trying to be disrespectful. You know why? Because they rarely are. I don’t yell at them or get angry. I ask them calm questions. I offer assistance if I can. I give them the opportunity to feel cared for, seen. It makes all the difference to them.
  3. Establish consistent, reliable routines. They might not know it, but students crave routine. Humans love routines and our brains crave them because they’re efficient. So the first 10 minutes of every class, my students know they will write. They have the same sheet of paper they take out every day and add a new written response to their warm up on it. They quietly write for 5 minutes. We then discuss for 5 minutes. Such a simple routine, yet as I turn the lights off…they do it. They have the chance to begin thinking about History or Econ and transition into my classroom. Then we get to the lesson of the day. And with sophomores, I always have them get back in their seats the last few minutes of the period, and I give reminders and instructions for any homework. These simple routines allow us to not waste time and students start to do them with little prompting. It creates a sense of order. Routines, routines, routines.
  4. Seating charts are life. I used to be TERRIFIED of giving students seating charts for fear they would hate me. But you know what’s a bad idea? Letting students sit wherever they want. Literally the worst. Teenagers don’t make good choices. Adults do. (Usually.) Creating seating charts allows students to work with a variety of people and it allows you to choose strategic groupings. It allows your classroom to be more orderly and for the side conversations to be kept to a minimum. It also turns free seating activities into a special privilege. When students know you’re not afraid to move them at will, they’ll take your warnings seriously and start behaving accordingly.
  5. Do not pair your highest skilled student with your lowest skilled student. This is not a good idea for many reasons- mostly because it’s not actually helpful for either student academically. Yet from a classroom management approach, it’s poison to student engagement. When they’re working together, the higher student will feel bored, frustrated, or do all the work. The lower skilled student will then not be helped at all. Both will likely begin acting out or zoning out from the lesson.
  6. Build rapport and take every opportunity to show students you care. This is probably the most important tip. Your students need to know you like them and care about them as individuals. Learn their interests, their life stories, ask how they’re doing in your warm ups and actually read their responses. Ask what support you can offer. Notice failing students and follow up with them. Offer office hours. Show them you care. It doesn’t have to take up all your time. It just has to be meaningful.
  7. Plan lessons that take up the whole period. We don’t want gaps of time where students aren’t doing anything productive or have too much wait time. Why? It’s prime time for misbehavior. This is why everything with my sophomores has a timer. If they’re doing a worksheet, they know how much time they have. If they’re doing a think-pair-share, they know how long they should be talking. Free time or wasted time is not conducive to learning and it’s beyond stressful because all the behavior issues show up.
  8. Constantly communicate your expectations with students. For every single task and assignment, I give my expectations for what I want students to learn/produce and and and what their behavior should look like. Should they be talking? Quiet? Listening to music? Should they find someone to work with? Should they stay seated? Tell them what you expect and why you expect it. For example, I’ll usually tell my students that they need to be quiet in the next activity because it’s individual and I want them to practice on their own before checking with a neighbor. Now it doesn’t seem like some mean mandate- they understand why they’re being quiet and how it will benefit them personally. Explaining your reasoning works wonders with teenagers who tend to think adults are constantly being unfair.

So this is a start to better managing your classroom. You’ll be amazed how much impact simple changes can have. And make sure you check out my first and second blogs in this series if you haven’t gotten a chance yet.

With love,

Mrs. P

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Classroom Management: the Non-Scary Approach (Part 2- How to Start)

Okay, okay. So the idea of classroom management makes sense to you. You get it. Maybe you even agreed with my first post in the series. But maybe the idea of getting started overwhelms or intimidates you. You’re not alone. When I first started, whenever I would say or do anything related to classroom management or discipline, my hands would start sweating, my face would get hot, and I’d feel short of breath (which coincidentally is just great when you’re trying to explain things in front of your entire class).

So let me come alongside you, friend, and give you a few practical ways to get started. Next week, I’ll post about practical classroom management techniques I use, but first it’s important to give you a little push to get started. So here we go:

  1. Work through the discomfort. If you’re not naturally the “strict” or “disciplinary” type, it’s important to work through the sense of discomfort you’ll feel in setting boundaries, establishing routines, and explaining rules to your students. But it’s so necessary. So take a deep breath, pray a little, feel confident that this is important and your students need it. And then go for it! Yes, your students might be a little miffed at you, but they’re teenagers. You’re the adult. There must be boundaries. They’ll get it, readjust, and go right on back to loving you once their irritation subsides. I promise 🙂
  2. Involve your students in the process of making the rules. Trust me, it’s not too late in the semester. Just take 30 minutes out of your class period and have students brainstorm classroom rules that they think will create a safe, respectful, fun, comfortable learning environment for the entire class. Have them share their rules with a partner and then pair down their list to 2-3 ideas. One partner goes to the board and writes down their ideas (because what student doesn’t love writing on the whiteboard?). Then you discuss each rule with the class. If the class agrees, write the rule down on butcher paper. Once you have a good list, tell students these are the new class rules and have them sign their names to the paper. I do this with sophomores the second day of school and then hang up the poster for all to see the rest of the year.
  3. Explain rules and the reasoning behind those rules. When you’re implementing new rules or re-iterating old rules with your class, always explain the “why.” You know what students hate? Being told “because I said so.” Do you like when someone implements rules randomly that don’t make sense to you and then won’t explain them to you? Of course not. So take the time to explain the positive effect your rules will have on the students and on the classroom as a whole.
  4. Actually enforce the rules. Yeah, I know. Seems obvious. But I truly believe that most teachers don’t follow through on what they say. I remember my first year teaching, I’d state a rule and then pray students would follow it. I wouldn’t actually have any consequences so students walked all over me. Nowadays when I see two students having an off-topic conversation, I walk over and kindly say “How’s it going?” It throws them off and also shows you’re not angry. Then I say very calmly “I’m very concerned that you two aren’t going to finish this assignment this class period. I want to see you succeed and not have homework. So this is your warning and next time you’re off topic, I’ll have to move you.” And 5 seconds later when they’re off-topic again, you know what I do? Move them. Matter-of-factly. Calmly. Without anger.
  5. Be chill. Not in the sense of letting everything go- remember, you have to follow through. But approach discipline and consequences in a calm manner. Don’t discipline while angry. If students can count on you to be even-tempered, they know that you don’t “hate” them or think they’re a bad person. It’s simply that they broke a rule, there was a consequence, you enforced that consequence, everyone moves on. Yelling at kids or showing your anger does not a managed classroom make. When students live in fear of you, they can’t learn from you. So again, take a deep breath, let go of the frustration, and then enforce the rules.

Friend, if you’re struggling with managing your classroom, I hope you can start today. I hope you feel the freedom and joy of doing the hard work to create a well-managed, stress-reduced classroom.

With love,

Mrs. P

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Classroom Management: the Non-Scary Approach (Part 1- the “Why”)

I cried almost every single week my first semester of teaching. After my first day, the principal walked into my classroom, took one look at my face, and asked how he could better support me. Nothing in my credential program or student teaching had prepared me for the real thing. Teaching is truly sink or swim. And I was sinking. For months.

You see, I believed that if I was just super friendly, sweet, and built rapport with students everything would go over just fine. Just about every teacher I know says that building rapport with students and getting to know them is the most effective classroom management technique- and they’re not wrong. It’s SO important. But you know what? It’s by no means the only thing that’s important for running an effective, efficient, warm, engaging, fun classroom.

In fact, in my first semester of teaching, I bonded like crazy with my students. I felt close to all of my classes and they genuinely enjoyed my class. But you know what? There was some serious chaos going on from day to day. Students would be chatting when I was teaching, the classroom would get so loud that I couldn’t hear myself think, students were falling behind from not finishing their work during class, side conversations were the norm, and one of my classes traumatized a sub so badly that she carried that grudge with her for years. You see, my lack of classroom management skills created very real, very negative problems in my classroom.

I’m betting most of you teachers have been where I was. Maybe you’re there right now (saying a prayer for you!). You’re doing everything “right” in building relationships with your students but there’s little classroom control when it comes to learning. Maybe you’re even dreading going to work or having that class come into your room every day. Or maybe you’re a veteran teacher looking for a few tips. No matter where you’re at, you can always hone your skill.

So I’m writing this blog series called “Classroom Management: the Non-Scary Approach.” And just to be clear- I mean it won’t be scary for you OR your students. We don’t need to become the angry, raging versions of ourselves to establish control. And it doesn’t have to be hard to implement simple, yet effective techniques. I hope you’ll join me and share your own tips in the comments along the way!

To start us off, here are my top reasons why classroom management is so important for teachers who want a student-centered, engaging classroom.

  1. Students feel more safe and confident in a well-managed classroom. I can’t tell you how many times students have told me they feel stressed out in a certain class because they don’t understand what’s going on and the teacher is not “strict” enough. Feel free to rid yourself of the image of the uptight, tight-bunned school teacher when you see the word “strict.” Let me translate “strict” into Student for you. Students mean “there are consequences when people misbehave in that class” or “there is good classroom management.” Kids call me “strict” all the time. But you know what else they call me? Kind. Understanding. Helpful. Having classroom management means that everyone is working together towards a common goal. Everyone is on the same page, ready to learn, ask questions, and engage. Students feel confident that they can complete their work and get attention from the teacher.
  2. You have time to check in with struggling students. If your classroom doesn’t go to pot every time you turn your back, it allows you more time to work with students one-on-one or check in with students who tend to slack off. This allows students to know that you see them, care about them, and desire to see them be successful. Because at the end of the day, our job is to teach and their job is to learn.
  3. Effective classroom management increases student engagement. When students are held accountable for staying on task and learning every single day, they don’t get off task as easily. Sure, there will be “off” days now and again, but for the most part students will engage in your lessons and activities simply because that’s the norm.

Next week join me as I give you practical tips on how to get started implementing stronger classroom management techniques 🙂

With love,

Mrs. P

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Using Canva in the Classroom

Honestly, if you haven’t checked out Canva yet, what is your life?! You’re totally missing out because this graphic design tool will turn anything you’re making into a beautiful creation. Seriously though, this tool has implications inside AND outside the classroom. You can use it to help your students review for a test AND you can use it to make baby shower invites. It’s that versatile. Here is the non-affiliate link.

So let’s talk classroom. So far I’ve used it in two ways.

  1. As a review tool. The day before the test, I had my students create an infographic of the 5 types of unemployment. There are tons of pre-made templates for students to choose from. They simply over-write the text and add their own images. This was the quietest and most focused I’ve seen my second semester seniors since January.
  2. As a method for displaying their research. While covering the Holocaust, I wanted to give my students the opportunity to conduct further research into the topic of their choice. Check out the full lesson here. Then they displayed their research on a Canva infographic and shared it with me. Check out an awesome sample below.

Canva Holocaust Student Sample

I’m sure there are a million more uses for Canva and I’m just scratching the surface here- but check it out and you’ll instantly see the potential. I promise.

With love,

Mrs. P

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Teachers, It’s Time to Invest in Our Mental Health

Teachers, let’s get real-life is a lot harder when we’re disorganized. The end of the school year is approaching and many of us are overwhelmed by the sheer amount of things that need to be accomplished by June. We’re grading, lesson planning, calling parents, trying to get seniors to graduate, submitting the last of that credentialing paperwork…the list seriously does not end.

And in the midst of all this, our classrooms are a mess-disorganized and cluttered. Where’d I put the copies for my World History lesson today? Where’d I file my unit calendar from last year? Where’d my hairband go?

Teaching life is messy and sometimes it feels like it’s never the right time to get our classrooms and filing systems in order. It never feels like the right time to learn more about being productive in our daily lives. It feels like we’re drowning and there’s never enough mind space for that. I feel ya.

But what if we thought about our time in a different way? What if we invested just a little bit of time each day to getting our mind, classroom, and desk in order. What if we invested a little time each day to learning to grade and lesson plan more efficiently? What if we rolled out these changes, little by little, over the course of April. Wouldn’t that make May and June run a lot smoother?

The time investment sets us up for a less stressful, more mindful last month of school. And once we implement these changes, we can actually set ourselves up for success for the rest of our teaching careers.

We can actually learn to stop bringing work home. You heard me. I haven’t taken work home, with one or two exceptions, for the entire school year. My mind is clear. I’m mentally available for my students. My work-life balance is amazing.

Want to join me?

I’ve rolled out a Teacher Productivity Boot Camp on my TPT page. The first module is free if you want to see if it’s for you.

Email me with any questions at mrspinteractiveclassroom@gmail.com. I’d love to hear about more teachers investing in their mental health while promoting a better work-life balance.

With Love,

Mrs. P