Powerful PowerPoint AIMS

AIM. The GOAL. The “here’s what we are about to do today folks, so get ready!” moment.

When I first started teaching the recommendation from the “higher ups” was “ELICIT THE AIM”. Elicit the AIM? Spend 5 minutes and WASTE my class time having my students GUESS what we are going to be talking about. No thanks, talk about being “ineffective”!!

Instead I give them something to think about as they are entering my classroom. Unpacking their bags. Waking up from their long journey in. My AIMS have to be interesting or my students will not be invigorated to “discuss amongst themselves!” Here’s how I find success every morning. Please note: you can do emulate these ideas on a whiteboard, chalkboard, a smart-board anytime of board you please as long as you are not BORED!

  1. Try to add an icon or graphic or GIF to your presentation.
  2. Think of a question that relates to the lesson but is not easily answerable by a YES or NO.
  3. Try to draw synthesis to other lessons you have taught over the past week, month or year.

Here are some of my favorites from my US History course. What AIMS have you tried?

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Write the Perfect College Recommendation!

DONT BE OVERWHELMED! Here is an easy bundle of recommendation letters for you!


So aside from the whole “there will be no bathroom breaks” when you are teaching revelation moment I had during my first year, there was also the “you will write 75 college recommendations a year” (and have no extra preps or paid time to do so!) lesson I learned too.

College Recommendations. They are SO IMPORTANT for our students. As a teacher of upper grades (11th & 12th) in high school, students always come to me for a recommendation. I can’t write every student a rec (as there are 170 students overall a year for me!) so I have to do a couple of things to streamline my application process.

Continue reading “Write the Perfect College Recommendation!”

A Magical Musical Metamorphosis for your classroom…


I’ve been reflecting lately on ways to motivate my students in the classroom and get them out of their seats and socializing!

But … sometimes the best way to do that is to transition your classroom with the dreamy music of Hatnote’s Listen to Wikipedia.

The site lets you watch AND hear real-time edits to Wikipedia entries.  It’s soothing and calming at the same time. The larger edits have larger circles coupled with deeper notes.

Students love watching it and it will definitely have a calming effect on your classroom.Check out the magic here:  Listen to Wikipedia




The Paperless Teachers Desk (It can be done!) Here’s how –


As you hardworking teachers know, there is a tremendous amount of paperwork in teaching. Everything from quizzes, to tests, to class handouts, to collected homework.   The goal – keep it all moving!  Over the years I have been able to reduce the amount of paper I generate in my classroom which I explored already in my post on  The Paperless Classroom? Here’s how.

BUT the REAL challenge for me is to keep track of all the other paper that flows over my desk.  The one-off sheet of paper I always spend a few minutes looking for!     I am talking about the memos from administrative authorities, weekly attendance, absent notes, late homework, hand-scrawled notes about individual students, last-minute changes to today’s  lesson or the instructional gem  I collected from a talented colleague.  It used to make me crazy..

Continue reading “The Paperless Teachers Desk (It can be done!) Here’s how –”



Teaching is such a great profession to use your creative bone. I love Mixing it Up! (Your old, dreary PowerPoint Presentations that is!) Another great way is to add video or animations to your course materials also known as “screencasting”.

The best service I’ve found is called LICEcap, it’s a free screencasting software. One thing that differentiates this screencasting software is your project is saved as a GIF file. Those  GIF files (those short animated looping clips) are easily shared on social media and are very compatible with PowerPoint.

Add animations to your classroom! I love this software!  Here’s where you can get it:    LICEcap


Teaching is a challenging daily workout and by the end of the week I am absolutely exhausted.

So during the summer I try to workout. And what’s my summer workout?  Hmm…drink morning coffee and watch other people rush to work, spend the afternoon in the park and watch TV shows that begin after 9 pm. 🙂

I hope all the teachers out there are enjoying July as much as I am!


Discuss amongst yourselves (Online that is!)



“Hi, this is Linda Richman. I’m verklempt ! Talk amongst yourselves! Here, I’ll give you a topic: The Holy Roman Empire. It wasn’t holy, it wasn’t Roman, and it wasn’t an empire. Discuss!”

Just a little Saturday Night Live Humor for you.

Now – If you have some students who are super quiet in class, you might be surprised at how they come to life online. I have seen such a change in my students when I ask them to join in on an online discussion. Usually a week-long discussion board is all you need as a great assignment to bring them out of their shells!

Here’s how – Choose an exciting or controversial topic to motivate participation, similar to how you would choose one for a great debate, or socratic seminar in the classroom!  One possibility is to post a difficult problem or debate question and ask students to write a multi-paragraph response.

Later in the week, they can respond to two or more of their classmates.   You can also ask students to post a document or video to enhance their response.   I have found that group assignments work especially well online.  It is harder to free-ride on your group when all your work is displayed. Continue reading “Discuss amongst yourselves (Online that is!)”

The Great Debate (Socratic Seminars in the Classroom!)

About four years ago I decided to “flip” my traditional classroom. I moved myself away from being the center of the room. I used to stand at a podium and offered 5 lectures a week. Instead, I shifted to a more student-centered classroom. This was not something I did overnight, however my first transition into the student centered room was via the Socratic seminar.

I first heard about Socratic seminars in grad school. I had never practiced them as a student but as I learned about them I saw the value in using text and evidence to support student reasoning as opposed to issuing opinions. Interesting, often controversial texts, are required for the best seminars. Socratic seminars are a form of debate, but should be used more to clarify a text then having a screaming match of opinions. Continue reading “The Great Debate (Socratic Seminars in the Classroom!)”

5 Great Apps to Assess your students

It is so 2015 to give exams and quizzes to your students on paper. I’ve already mentioned how much I love a paperless classroom, but one question that keeps coming up via email from readers is well how do you issue a paperless exam or quiz. Well… here’s five ways I love to do so…

  1. AnswerGarden – A tool for online brainstorming or polling, educators can use this real time tool to see student feedback on questions. – See more at: https://www.nwea.org/blog/2015/growing-list-50-digital-education-tools-apps-formative-assessment-success/#sthash.dDrNkaZq.dpuf
  2. Animoto – Gives students the ability to make a short, 30-second share video of what they learned in a given lesson. – See more at: https://www.nwea.org/blog/2015/growing-list-50-digital-education-tools-apps-formative-assessment-success/#sthash.dDrNkaZq.dpuf
  3. BubbleSheet – An app that allows students to complete assignments and common assessments using an iPhone or iPad.  Quizzes up to 10 questions are free. – See more at: https://www.nwea.org/blog/2015/growing-list-50-digital-education-tools-apps-formative-assessment-success/#sthash.dDrNkaZq.dpuf
  4. ForAllRubrics – This software is free for all teachers and allows you to import, create and score rubrics on your iPad, tablet or smartphone. You can collect data offline with no internet access, compute scores automatically and print or save the rubrics as a PDF or spreadsheet. – See more at: https://www.nwea.org/blog/2015/growing-list-50-digital-education-tools-apps-formative-assessment-success/#sthash.dDrNkaZq.dpuf
  5. Google Forms – A Google Drive app that allows you to create documents that students can collaborate on in real time using smartphones, tablets and laptops. – See more at: https://www.nwea.org/blog/2015/growing-list-50-digital-education-tools-apps-formative-assessment-success/#sthash.dDrNkaZq.dpuf
  6. Get an animated header for your Google Classroom! Animate your Google classroom!

The Paperless Classroom? Here’s how.

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What?! A paperless classroom? You’ve never heard of such a thing?! Well… guess what. It can be done. I teach 5 classes of 34 students in an urban public school. Do you know how many trees I was killing a year? Fine… thats not the “real” problem. Do you know how much time I was WASTING in the copy room a year? Now that! That was the real problem. So I made a decision. I’m going paperless. Here’s how I did it, and YOU can too!

First, create a website that is user friendly. I liked using wordpress.com for my website but my school offered Moodle and Google Classroom as options as well.

Continue reading “The Paperless Classroom? Here’s how.”