brook among tall trees in autumn forest
K-12, Teaching Tools

Happy September Resources!

If you asked me, “Would you rather… hot weather or cold?” I would usually say hot. But I am so ready for this hot weather to be gone after the record temps we’ve seen this summer! So I’m delighted that it is the first of September, and hoping that this new month stays out of the triple digits.

Of course, September brings a lot of other treats besides cooler weather in this part of the world. From Labor Day in the US to International Podcasting Day worldwide, there are lots of things to celebrate. I’ve curated as many resources as I can find to help you do that on my September Holidays and Celebrations Wakelet. In addition to Labor and Podcasting Days, there are: Sudoku Day, Dot Day, Day of Peace, and Rosh Hashanah. Of course, there’s a link to my Back to School Wakelet for those of you just beginning your year, as well. Though I’m positive those aren’t the only meaningful celebrations in September (I’m still looking for resources for International Chocolate Day), I think that’s a pretty good start! If you have any other suggestions, please feel free to comment. And, don’t forget that Donna Lasher has a comprehensive list of Holiday/Seasonal Activities here.

You can see all of my Wakelet collections here, and follow me for updates. In addition, if you sign up for my free newsletter, you’ll see my W.O.W. (Wakelet of the Week) featured in each edition, along with a recap of that week’s blog posts and some interesting resources that didn’t make it to the blog but I still thought you’d appreciate.

Happy September!

stationery surrounded by dried flowers
Photo by Boris Pavlikovsky on
group of classmates greeting each other
K-12, Teaching Tools

Free Resources for Community Building with Students

One of the frequently visited posts on this site is “SEL and Community Building with Slides.” Of course, as students return to school throughout this month and next, community building is key to starting the year right, and needs to be done throughout the year in order to strengthen connections. On Twitter recently, Dr. Catlin Tucker (@Catlin_Tucker) shared a Google Slides presentation of questions to use with students to start conversations. These are similar to the “Sign-Off Questions” shared by Ester Park (@MrsParkShine). I updated my SEL post with Dr. Tucker’s link, as well as another one from Joy Kirr (@JoyKirr) who commented in that same thread with a link to her page of “Question of the Day” suggestions. You can find these links, and more, on my Back to School Wakelet. Whenever people denigrate social media, I want to defend its value as I think about all of the incredible resources like these that are shared by generous, creative educators!

children showing love for their teacher
Careers, K-12, Motivation

Back to School Inspirational Videos for Teachers

Even though I’m semi-retired and summers now tend to be my busiest time of year, I still fall back on a few of my old habits from my 29 years of teaching. One of them was to organize my home closets every summer, and so I started going through my memory boxes this year in the hopes of weeding out some things and gaining back some storage space.

Over those 29 years, I kept every card or letter from my students that included something they drew or their own handwriting. Going through the boxes of those notes has been bittersweet as my heart fills up with the beautiful memories. I think about the fact that I no longer have a life that is constantly enriched by a mosaic of personalities who could astonish me with their incredible insights, keep me grounded with their honest feedback, and sometimes make my eyes well up with their generous outpouring of love.

Many teachers who are about to return to work for a new school year may wish they were in my current shoes: semi-retired, often working from home, finally the one who decides on my own schedule. I remember beginning every school year with a mixture of hope and mourning, excited to work with students again but sad to lose the sense of balance and control I temporarily regained during my weeks away. And every year it seems there are more challenges and more concerns.

But you are needed and you are appreciated, teachers. It’s hard to hold on to that when you are in the midst of it all, and when you look at all of the sacrifices that you make. There isn’t a lot of physical evidence to collect that proves your worth. I suppose it’s true that most of us didn’t choose teaching for the money or validation. It’s still nice to have, though.

That’s why I went through some of my Inspirational Videos for Teachers, and added a few to my Back to School Wakelet. I tried to look for the ones that are good reminders of what it really means to be a teacher. Some are funny and some are serious. Some are classics and some are newer. But re-watching them, along with re-discovering notes from students, has reminded me about why I did what I did for 29 years. I can’t give you any extra money, but maybe some of these videos will give you the validation that too often seems to be lacking.

If someone asked me, I’d go back in time and do those 29 years again. (Just not now because I’m menopausal and grumpy and have a Great Dane who would chew the house down if I left her for that length of time each day. And I’m really fond of getting up at 8 am instead of 5 am. And going to the doctor when I need to instead of putting it off until summer break. And having some semblance of control over my thermostat.) Teachers can be treated unjustly and have to endure untenable conditions. I certainly went through my share of that during my career. The system needs to change.

But there are a lot of us out there who are grateful for teachers. It’s not tangible and it doesn’t make up for abuse and poor working conditions. But it can help to look through those memory boxes, watch those videos, and remember you are making a difference.

black and white carbon pattern

Getting to Know You Hexagons for Back to School

Longtime readers of this blog will know that I am a HUGE, TREMENDOUS FAN of Hexagonal Thinking. I do blog posts on it, PD’s on it, and pretty much recommend it to everyone I meet professionally.

One way you can use Hexagonal Thinking is to get to know students at the beginning of the school year. Give them each a hexagon to design where they reveal some things about themselves. Then see if they can connect their hexagons to each other’s based on similar sides. For example, I put some of my “favorites” in the hexagon below. If someone else has a hexagon with pizza as a favorite, they can put their hexagon next to mine with those two sides touching. You could put this on a bulletin board, so you have the whole class displayed on the board, where there is at least one connection for everyone, and some of them may have multiple connections.

I love to use Canva because I can set up frames to drag photos into easily, as I did with the triangle frames within the hexagon. If you use Canva, here is the template. Or, if you prefer to have students draw or write on a physical hexagon, here is a blank PDF version.

Either way, the hexagons will need to be printed and cut out so that students can try to match sides.

You can just have students put a favorite in each section, or give them prompts like: something that makes you smile, something that challenges you, something that is easy for you, etc… I wouldn’t go too deep as this is a beginning of the year activity so students need to develop some trust first.

I’ll be adding this post to my Back to School Wakelet. And here is one of my posts about using Hexagonal Learning in case the concept is new to you.

photo of people holding each other s hands

Back to School Wakelet 2022

As promised last week, I’ve been gathering a few links for my Back to School Wakelet Collection, and here it is. It is by no means complete, but has a few things I’ve loved using with my students in the past, and a few recommendations from others. Another source you may want to take a look at is the Holiday Ideas Page on Big Ideas 4 Little Scholars, as Donna Lasher has provided quite a few suggestions in the August-September section.

If you have any other unique, free ideas that you think I should add to the collection, let me know!

pencils in stainless steel bucket
Photo by Pixabay on
Eco-Friendly School Center by Slidesgo
K-12, Teaching Tools

Templates and Tools for Designing Presentations

First of all, to all of my teaching friends who have started back to school, I just want to say from the bottom of my heart how much I appreciate all that you do. I hope that this school year will present fewer challenges than last. Many of you probably have mixed feelings about beginning another year, and my wish is that we can all support each other as much as possible. With that in mind, I wanted to publish this post of some tools that can help make things easier.

Last year, I posted this article that is chock full of interactive slide templates designed by myself and others, and are ready for you to copy and download for free.

Though many of you know about the SlidesMania website (which is very supportive of educators), you may not know that the author also has an IconsMania website where you can download free icons also. She also has a Facebook Group and Wakelet collection. And if you really appreciate all that Paula does as a community service to educators, click on the coffee icon in the bottom right corner so you can buy her a mocha or two. I put one of Paula’s recent slides, Funfair Exit Ticket, at the bottom of this post.

Another site I like to visit for free slide designs is SlidesGo. One fun tool that I recently discovered by clicking on the More button at the top is Storyset. On Storyset, you can find customizable illustrations that you can download for free (with attribution), and it’s easy to use the online tools to change colors, select certain features of the illustration to hide, and decide the file type (svg or png). If you really want to explore the rabbit hole of free design options, click on that More button at the top of SlidesGo yourself, and investigate some of the other sites.

SlidesCarnival has been a long time favorite of mine when I need some inspiration, and Canva is another spot where I find them (some options are limited on the free plan, though).

Matt Miller of Ditch that Textbook has Social Media templates ready to go for you. (Be sure to check out his ULTIMATE Google Slides Teacher Resource when you have time for a really deep dive!)

Of course, Canva has tons of presentation templates specifically designed for educators right here.

If you want to play around with color on your presentations, I highly recommend the Coolors tool. I recently published this post with some other options, too. It includes a link to a Slides activity where students design their own color palettes – which would be an awesome “Getting To Know You” lesson!

To add some interest to your presentation, you can include animated GIF’s. Or, find free images with Pixabay, Unsplash, All4Ed, Photos4Class, Pexels, or Pics4Learning.

Whenever you can, make your presentations interactive using PearDeck or Nearpod.

Lastly, if you need some reminders of what NOT to do in a presentation, you can chuckle at this Worst Preso Ever that was crowdsourced several years ago. It was always a favorite for my students when we started working on Genius Hour!