Erika Romero

a student and teacher of children's and young adult literature

Five Extra Credit Activities That Promote Engaged Learning

 

The end of the semester is approaching quickly. Only two more weeks of coursework before finals week arrives. At this point of the semester, it’s not uncommon to receive requests for extra credit opportunities. I’ve never received an extra credit request from a student, though, because I build in multiple opportunities into the semester. There’s a lot of debate over whether extra credit should be an option in the classroom. Personally, I believe that if students are willing to put in extra effort to complete additional work, then they should have that opportunity. I’m more than willing to allow students to increase their project grades by a few points by completing additional activities that require students to deepen their understanding and abilities to apply what they’ve learned. Here are five forms of extra credit activities I offer in my various courses.

 

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Diverse Assessment Strategies for the College Classroom

 

We’ve reached November, which means assignments to grade are starting to pile up higher and higher. It also means some students’ anxieties about their grades are increasing and some students are just starting to pay attention to the work they need to accomplish by the end of the semester. I keep my grading pile pretty small by scaffolding my deadlines very carefully (a practice I’ll write about more soon, but for now, you can check out my major assignment designs by checking out the pages linked here). While this practice keeps me from feeling too overwhelmed and keeps my students informed on how they are doing in class from a grade perspective, in this post, I’d like to focus on the more important element of grading assignments: the feedback that goes along with it. I use a lot of different approaches when providing students with individual feedback on their work. I believe this variety helps students actually absorb at least a basic understanding of what they are doing well, what still needs some work, and how an outside observer perceives their work differently than they do. If you still have room in your lesson plans to add in some new forms of assessment, or are looking for ideas for next semester, then you can read all about my strategies in the rest of this post.

 

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Top 5 Online Resources for Teachers

 

I focused last week’s post on the top tool all college instructors should be using in their learning management system (LMS). In today’s post, I broaden my advice to some amazing resources I’ve come across while searching online for ways to improve my courses. My list doesn’t focus on online tools like Trello or Kahoot, but rather websites with plenty to offer teachers who want to create innovative and engaging course content. If you’re interested in learning more about useful tools rather than online resources, here are a few blog posts I’ve written that are all about that topic (post 1, post 2). Once you check out those, though, I still recommend giving this post a read, as well! Here’s a teaser: there’s a huge catalog of college courses with all their materials listed just waiting for you to explore…

 

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The BEST Tool in Your Learning Management System (LMS)

 

As a graduate teaching assistant (GTA), I’m a big believer in taking advantage of the university tools available to me as an instructor. I’ve never taught a fully online course, for example, but I’ve always used my university’s learning management system (LMS) when designing my courses and lesson plans. At ISU, we use “ReggieNet” (our mascot is Reggie Redbird), which is a version of the Sakai LMS.  Of course, I don’t use every LMS tool possible, as there are over a dozen and not all are necessary for the types of content I teach. I also believe you should only use a tool if it’s actually beneficial to the teaching/learning experience, rather than just because it’s available or the cool, new thing-to-do. I use my course website every day that I teach, even if I’m not in a computer lab classroom. In today’s post, I share the one tool I feel every instructor should use if they have access to a LMS at their college/university. To find out what it is, just keep reading…

 

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Keep Organized: The Top Five Benefits of a Teaching Journal

 

In my last post, I described the eight steps I’m taking to organize all my teaching, research, and service digital files. Today, I’m narrowing down my organization advice to teaching responsibilities. Since I began my teaching assistantship as ISU, I’ve kept a teaching journal every semester. My teaching journal isn’t for writing down my feelings about teaching, though that’s one type of writing you can do in it if you want. For me, I use a teaching journal to keep track of my classes each semester. My lesson planning, class notes, and schedule information are all written out in my journal. In today’s post, I’m describing my top five benefits of keeping a teaching journal. If you’re new to teaching or feel frazzled rather than organized when it comes to keeping your teaching responsibilities in check, this post is for you. If you just want more general teaching advice, I suggest checking out this post.

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Keep Organized: Creating Your Ideal Digital Filing System

 

Fall semester has officially begun. We’ve found and created tons of resources for our students, and we keep finding more to potentially use in our courses. We’re working on multiple research projects, and we’ve compiled a giant list of resources to read through and potentially cite. We’re getting ready to download student assignment submissions from our LMS’s assignment tab, so that we can access them without needing access to the internet. And, if you’re in the coursework phase of your graduate degree, you also have documents from those classes to keep organized. All-in-all, we’re all likely drowning in .docx, PDFs, .jpegs, and other file types. What we need is to create our ideal digital filing system, so we never have to worry about losing vital documents and we can always know where to find what we’re looking for. In today’s post, I share the steps I’m taking to create my ideal digital filing system, so that you can perhaps adapt them to best fit your own needs. At the end of the post, I provide information about a PDF I created that has six templates designed to help with creating your new system.

 

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Three Digital Notebooks for the Tech-Loving Writer

 

I moved up the post scheduled for today to last Monday because I wanted to give new college instructors at least a week to integrate my top ten teaching tips. Today, I’ll keep things brief by going over some basic details about the three digital notebooks I’ve created for any of my website’s visitors. The hyperlinked PDFs are all available on my “Create” page, or you can grab them all here: vertical one, vertical two, and horizontal. They work in a similar manner as my digital academic planners, so you can find tips on using a hyperlinked PDF here and here. If you’re already familiar with using hyperlinked PDFs in annotation apps like GoodNotes, I hope you find these notebooks useful! [They’ll work on desktop PDF annotator apps, but the portability advantage of these notebooks is limited to those with access to tablets/iPads, or perhaps a smartphone).] If you’d like a few basic tips before getting started, though, keep on reading this post.

Digital Notebook - Erika Romero

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Ten Teaching Tips for the New College Instructor

 

If you’re a graduate student teaching for the first time as part of your assistantship (aka, a GTA), today’s post is for you. If you’re a new adjunct who hasn’t been in the college classroom for a while, I also suggest checking out these ten teaching tips. Finally, if you’re an experienced college instructor wondering what your students might find most important about some of your teaching decisions, check out this list. I’ve focused my advice on course elements that heavily affected me as a student and/or affect me now as an instructor.

 

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Back-to-School: College Advice from a College Student & Instructor (Budget, Cooking, Classes, Life)

 

Last August, I posted every Friday as part of my back-to-school month series. I’ll be sticking to my usual bi-weekly schedule this year, but last year’s college advice is still relevant, so I’m focusing on those four blog posts today. In case you weren’t reading my blog at that point, I’ve linked and briefly summarized each post here and have added two additional tips for every topic. The first original post includes advice for saving money, the second is all about college classroom tips, the third about kitchen tools and easy recipes, and the last about helpful YouTube channels. I definitely recommend taking the time to read my older posts, especially if you are a college freshman and/or a college [grad] student moving to a new city/state.

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Finding My Niche: A College Instructor’s Teaching Tips and Tools

 

Blog 2.0: “College Life: Instructor Edition”

Are you one of the people described below?

You’re a grad student who (a) just received a teaching assistantship (a.k.a. GTA) but don’t have a lot of experience designing/teaching courses or (b) is swamped with course work and other student responsibilities and can’t find tons of time to work on course design and resource research.

You’re an adjunct who is (a) new to teaching or (b) bogged down with too many responsibilities that keep you from taking the time to work on course design and resource research.

You’re a college professor who is (a) looking for new teaching ideas, tools, and/or resources or (b) interested in learning more about what other instructors are doing in their classrooms.

If you fall into one or more of the categories above, the recent and future content of my blog is for you!

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Top Productivity Apps for Teachers, Students, and Writers (Trello Templates Included)

 

Using digital tools to help with productivity isn’t a new concept, of course, as there are dozens if not hundreds of websites and apps designed for this specific purpose. [Many pins on this topic can be found here.] Because there are so many options out there, though, it can be hard to know which ones are even worth trying out to see if they work well with your particular ways of planning projects, building habits, and/or going through the writing process. In this post, I describe my top productivity apps, a few of which I rarely hear mentioned among my peers, friends, and family. While most of the apps listed are made to be completely customized by the individual using it, Trello’s collaborative nature inspired me to create templates of the Fall 2018 semester to share with any teachers or students reading this post. Keep in mind that I use Apple products, so some of these apps might not work with non-Apple devices.

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Pinterest Tips: Using Pinterest Boards as Resource Archives

 

Pinterest is a visual search engine first, and a social media website second. Yes, you can follow people and/or their boards on Pinterest, but that’s not a vital element of the site like it is with sites like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Rather, in my opinion, Pinterest is a great search engine to use when you’re looking for resources on topics that interest you, and you want to see dozens of options instantly rather than having to scroll through Google or Bing, reading each listed link one by one. The visual nature of Pinterest is really appealing to me (and many others), and the organizational element of Pinterest boards makes archiving the resources you find and/or create extremely user-friendly. In today’s post, I offer a few tips for using Pinterest boards and go through my main Pinterest boards in case you’re looking for resources connected to the topics that I focus on in this blog.

 

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Top 5 Resources for Buying or Creating a Digital Planner

 

In this last June post, I’ve listed three digital planner creators that I think have each created some great digital planners. I have not used any of these planners myself, as I’m still deciding if I plan on using a digital planner long-term. I have seen quite a few YouTube videos and reviews related to these planners, though, so I definitely think they are worth checking out if you’re looking for an upgrade. If you’ve stumbled upon this post and haven’t read the first two in the series, just click here and here to catch up. The first post includes PDFs of two planners I’ve made, in case you want to give a free one a try before purchasing a professionally made digital planner.

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Top 5 Tips for Using a Digital Planner (including Good Notes tutorials)

 

In my last post, I described how I created a digital academic planner and offered two free, hyperlinked PDFs that you can use to try out this digital system. If you don’t have a digital planner yet, I suggest going to that post first and downloading one of the options. For those of you who want to upgrade to a professionally-made planner before the new school year begins, I’ll be listing my top five digital planner options/online shops in my last June post in two weeks. Today, though, I’m offering my top 5 tips for using a digital planner (especially on Good Notes). If you want to find out how to make some basic digital stickers and learn about what tools you should definitely be using when planning digitally, this post is for you.

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Planning for the New Academic Year? Try Out A Free Digital Academic Planner [Hyperlinked PDFs Included]

 

I started using a paper planner almost two years ago, and I’m still finding writing out my plans, goals, and habits to be very useful and calming. Recently, though, I came across a niche in the planner community: digital planners. These planners are basically hyperlinked PDFs that mimic the look of a paper planner. With PDF annotation apps like Good Notes, though, these digital planners can be customized to an incredible extent, all without using any papers, pens, markers, post-it notes, washi tape, stickers, etc. Of course, this form of planning assumes you have a digital tool like an iPad or tablet, so it’s not exactly the most accessible option. I’ve found experimenting with digital planning to be a very fun, creative pastime, so I’ve created my own version that I want to share with anyone who’s reading this post. As I’m assuming that most of my blog’s audience are teachers or students, and as most academic planners start in July, I’ve decided to focus my blog posts this month on prepping for using a digital academic planner for the next school year. Or, really, since it’s just a PDF that you can download as many times as you want, digital planners like the one I’ve made can be used over and over again (as long as you have the space on your device).

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