5 Quick Wins for Teachers (Professional Development That Works)

If you are like me, then you’ve spent your fair share of professional development hours sitting…listening…watching…and never really “doing anything” until the break-out session that lasts 15 minutes at the end of a three-hour training.

Chances are that training is being done by an educational consultant. Maybe they are good (and there are many good ones out there). Or maybe they have lost complete touch with what teaching looks like. In the end, what we really want out of a professional development session is (wait for it)…some actual development!

Here’s the thing… I’ve been on the receiving end and the giving end of professional development sessions that just don’t work. And they’ve all had the same problem: no quick wins.

We need to focus these learning times on starting the development process. Whether it is based on the common core, or technology integration, or anything else new in education…it has to start with a quick win.

5 Quick Wins for Teachers

What does a “quick win” actually look like? Well, to me a “quick win” is something that is going to help a teacher do one of the following:

  1. Improve Instruction
  2. Save Time
  3. Actively Engage Students

Why those three things? Because they are the universal needs of all teachers. We want to keep improving our instruction and challenging students. We want to save time because there is never enough. We want students that are focused and excited about learning.

That is the “win” part of a “quick win”. The “quick” part is enabling teachers to do this during the professional development session. Whether it is a 3 hour session or a 30 minute session, teachers should leave with a simple way to improve instruction, save time, or actively engage students.

Here are five quick wins that I’ve worked with teachers on in the past year:

1. Creating a quick screen-cast of a lesson or instructions

Screencasting is one of the simplest ways to “flip” your instruction, create a resource that will last for years, or just make instructions for a lesson/project. We’ve seen the videos on places like Khan Academy and Sophia…but maybe you are wondering how much time it takes to create one of those fancy screencast recordings. The answer: not long.

First, teachers need to create the content or use already created content. Many teachers I work with already have a PowerPoint or SmartNotebook file built and ready to go (Quick Win +1). If you don’t have a PPT or other presentation already built, it won’t take long to copy and paste the information from a text document into a presentation.

Second, you are going to get some free screencasting software. No download needed (Quick Win +!). If you are using a Windows computer there is a “recorder” already built-in that you can use (search “recorder” in the start menu). However, there are two great options online that I like to use: Screenr and Screen-cast-o-matic. Both are click and use options (Quick Win +1). If you have a tablet and want to record screencasts where your audio and all the activity on a whiteboard is recorded you have some good options including ScreenchompExplain EverythingShowMe, and Educreations.

Third, no need to create a script (that takes too much time). Start recording. If you mess up the first couple of times just start it over. Usually teachers will have there first screencast finished within 30 minutes of starting! The best part, after they do it once they can use it for so many other reasons throughout the year (Quick Win +1).

2. Building a quick online quiz or survey

Grading tests and quizzes takes time. Doing it online makes it easier to grade, and easier to analyze the data to help improve instruction. Sometimes teachers think this is going to take a lot of time to create. But this is one of my favorite quick wins to work on.

First, teachers need to create the quiz or survey. Chances are again that they already have this pre-built in a word document or some other “printable” file. Have them open up this file and be ready to copy/paste.

Second, you need to choose your online quiz/survey platform. Depending on the use of this survey I would decide between three resources.

  1. Google Forms – my “go to” quiz maker that is simple to set up, creates great charts, is exportable to an Excel file, and can be accessed via almost every device (Quick Win +1).
  2. Socrative – simple to use and trusted by many teachers, has a “race” setting where students can compete, and can be done on any device (Quick Win +1).
  3. Geddit – a new platform that teachers have my school have enjoyed using – and so have the students (Quick Win +1)!

Third, once you’ve chosen the online quiz/survey tool, you’ll have to sign-up (all three of these are really easy to sign-up and use within 2 minutes) and then create your quiz. You’ll copy/paste the questions and answers, set it up the way you like, and then publish (Quick Win +1). Now you’ll have this online quiz/survey ready to go for all of your classes and grading will be a cinch!

3. Great places to find Common Core resources

This is a big one. With the new Common Core standards it can be tough to look for new resources. Have no fear, there are three sites that I am always pointing my teachers to when looking for CCSS resources and lesson plans. Most of the time we are just looking for ideas to work off of and it will lead to a new lesson/resource created by the teacher.

Each of these sites have quick sign-up time (Quick Win +1) and are free of course:

  • Better Lesson – They just published over 3,000 complete Common Core-aligned lessons from 130 Master Teachers.
  • Thinkfinity (by Verizon) – Click on “Resources” and search for CCSS lessons/resources by the actual standards!
  • MasteryConnect – Although the do have “paid” plans, the free plan is perfect for getting started and finding what other are doing with the Common Core.

Teachers can search and share with team members (if they signed up to) to make for even better planning and collaboration (Quick Win +1)!

4. Quick ways to reach out to students

Sometimes we need a quick and safe way to reach out to parents and students with an update. It could be a reminder (about homework or an upcoming assessment), or just a simple message of encouragement. The problem is that as adults we use email…but students don’t use email. And we aren’t just going to get their number and send them a text message (please don’t do that!). However, this problem has been solved by Remind 101.

Chances are if you are reading this you’ve heard about Remind 101. I thought everyone knew about it…until I started talking about it with other teachers. They couldn’t believe what Remind 101 could do (read more about what it can do here).

First, go to Remind 101 and sign-up for a free class account.

Second, print out (or share) the instructions with your students and parents on how to get signed up for your text updates.

Third, once everyone is signed up you can send out on-demand reminder/updates or plan them for an advanced date and time to send out. It makes life super-easy for the teacher and the parent/students (Quick Win +1)!

5. An easy way to get the latest info on what’s happening in education!

Maybe you don’t have enough time to read all the latest educational blog posts, or stay up t0 date on Twitter and other social networks. Or maybe you don’t even know what is out there…it can be overwhelming to start with all the information being shared.

This past January, I was part of the team that created a simple digital magazine for teachers, leaders, and learners. It’s called, “The Best & Next in Education“. Here’s the deal. You sign-up for the magazine and every two weeks we send you a digital copy. Inside you’ll get a recap of the latest educational news, ed tech and research updates, and blog posts that struck a chord online in the past couple weeks (Quick Win +!).

Our magazine is a bit different though. We want people who sign-up to share it with their colleagues. It’s not enough if you just read it, we want your school to at least have the opportunity to read it as well.

So far we’ve had over 500 schools sign-up for the magazine (with over 100,000 teachers having the chance to read it), and our sixth issue comes out later this week! If you are looking for a quick professional development win…this is it.

What are some “quick wins” that you’ve had in a professional development session? How did it make you feel to come away with something tangible to use in the classroom? I’d love to hear your stories so I can use them as well!

Photo Credit: tharrin via Compfight cc

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Join the discussion 10 Comments

  • My “quick win” is almost too elementary to mention, but it might be helpful to professional development “newbies.” If we want new information to stick, our audience MUST be actively engaged. This of course is in direct contrast to the old-style “get and go” lecture approach. When possible, I like to split attendees into 10-minute “discuss and share” groups of 6-8 people every hour or so. When time, space or size of group makes this plan unworkable, I use the “turn to your elbow buddy and discuss” technique.

  • This was very encouraging as I already use many of the “quick wins” you highlighted. I just joined the Better Lesson site and I am thrilled!

    Thank you!

  • Rick Repicky says:

    Thanks – Great ideas to make sessions memorable – posted the link on the Macomb County PLC Self-Help weekly – http://macombplc.weebly.com – Under Blog Topics 2 – Professional Learning

  • Megan says:

    Check out http://www.eduplanet21.com- Eduplanet21 has developed a software platform for organizations to develop and maintain their own Blended Learning Institute. Institutes allow an organization to facilitate social networking activities, create social learning communities, and offer digital content all within their own safe and secure environment.

  • Right on AJ. I try to use a “Head in the Sky, Feet on the Ground” approach to start with WHY & then move to providing the Learn By Doing experiences that lead to the Wins.

    I, too, have been on the giving and receiving ends of bad PD. I also hate that my title is “consultant”. I wish it were just “educator”.

    • AJ Juliani says:

      Yeah, I don’t like the term consultant either. It is beginning to have negative connotations with a lot of teachers. Thanks for the comment, and we still need to chat!

  • While I am right up there with the tech stuff I am almost embarrassed to admit as a teacher of 15 years that the quick win I got from a recent PD was the most simple questioning technique ‘PAUSE’ . I was guilty as charged with the average time a teacher left for students to answer a question being 3 seconds (or something like that). Now I ask a question and SAY NOTHING until someone offers an idea/opinion/answer etc. They always do. In the past I would have jumped right in and answered it for them. Why wasn’t this taught in my teacher training!! Thanks for this post.

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