Applause for the Teacher’s Tickle Trunk

Getting a round of applause at the end of a lesson is definitely a nice little pick-me-up for a teacher. I was fortunate to receive one these after having unveiled one of my favorite magical teaching tools from the ever giving tickle trunk called the world wide web.

Mr. Dressup was my favorite childhood TV personality. He could find any magical item in his tickle trunk.

Prelude to the Applause

When my dear friend Natalie Robichaud introduced me to postcrossing.com, I doubt she realized the impact it would have on my teaching. (Aside – although this is a pretty magical tool, it did not bring the applause.) Each semester I guide my participants through the registration process, the Postcrossing concept (I encourage you to check out this unique project), and finally I even send the postcards they wrote in class.

I’ve received positive feedback on this project from past participants. Some have tried it with their students and have had inspiring results. They love the fact that this gives their students an authentic reason to write, and in turn, they report that students are more motivated to write because of the project.

In previous semesters, my participants and I have only spent 50 minutes going through all the steps mentioned above, and most of the time was wasted getting through the registration process. This year I took a new approach and spent two class hours. This gave me the time to help the teachers understand the project more thoroughly, and it also gave them more time to understand how to write a postcard. Plus, they had the chance to reflect on how they would modify this activity when they go back to school. The participants were excited about this project but not enough to cheer.

The Applause

Since it’s the end of the semester, I really want my participants to understand the different principles and methods of assessing student writing. One of the basic assessment tools are rubrics. To my surprise, many of my participants had never heard of a rubric. Some have used them in the past, but they have been very basic, providing little guidance.

This is why I knew I had to show them the magical rubric generator called RubiStar. I’m not sure how I found out about this site, but it has truly changed my teaching life. It’s now a pleasure to create a rubric.

So after our reflection session on the postcard project, I asked my participants to create a rubric that would help them evaluate their students’ postcards. Together we went through the process: click on create a rubric; click on Letter-writing (the closest rubric generator to a postcard); choose 5 categories; save; and print.

Cue the applause.

They just couldn’t believe that someone had created a site that provides teachers with such valuable material for free! A few teachers sighed with joy, exclaiming that in the past they tried to create their own rubrics, but felt so frustrated at the process. Feeling exasperated at not knowing how to create a valuable rubric, they didn’t trust the ones they made. Now I was showing them a site where all this was available at the click of the mouse, and printed within 5 minutes!

The Tickle Trunk

I can’t take credit for this applause. I was simply Mr. Dressup pulling out one of the magical tools I’ve found in my favorite tickle trunk. Of course I feel satisfied knowing that my discovery has brought others joy, and I’ll take that feeling any day. But in the end, all this magic comes from my adventures on the internet. I find a lot of magic here. And when I do come across one of these teacher-saving-tools, I always ask myself, what did teachers do before the internet?

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6 thoughts on “Applause for the Teacher’s Tickle Trunk

  1. And before computers, before photocopying?
    They had mimeographs, purple ink, which smelled so lovely of the ink solvent, ether, which we always hoped for, as students, because we could get ever-so-slightly mellow on the fumes, if they were freshly printed. And all teachers had permanently purple fingertips from reloading ink into the machines. :-)
    And we always hoped for faded art mimeographs, because we could trace over the faint lines and pretend we really were that good at art.
    Moral: Kids like whatever you give them.
    And, be thankful!

  2. I agree that the internet has revolutionized teaching resources, and the tickle trunk rubric maker in the article is just one small but good example of many. I imagine in the old days, people had to just ask another teacher at their school what to do or figure it out on their own (including the things Maria mentioned above). That means their resource pool was quite limited. Still, either the teachers were able to figure it out or they weren’t (the ones that didn’t and gave up were probably not good teachers). These days the internet is making it so people don’t have to figure so much out on their own, they can just get a the thing needed from the internet. I know personally, this has made me a much better teacher, if not from directly copying others, then by taking what they have given and adapting it to meet the needs of my class.

    I can imagine too that this loose net of sharing on the internet that we have now, is just a first step. Someday, I would even hope that digital online communities are formed for say all the 4th grade teachers in a district/state that all share the same book and same curriculum to also be free to exchange and share lesson plans activities and teaching tips. Even in the spirit of the Kahn Academy, one especially talented and charming teacher might might a video lecture for all the students in all the classes to watch at home as homework so that when the students arrived in class the next day, the teachers in the classroom could work on aiding the students in the weak spots with 1-on-1 help instead of having to lecture.

    I think a key point to this system though is that we as teachers shouldn’t rely 100% on the internet but still strive to create, adapt, and improve on our own. In doing so, we can create something to give back to the system making it even better than it was before.

    1. Jeff thank you so much for your comment. In it I could sense of wonder and excitement at the possibilities that the internet can bring. You offered interesting suggestions in line with what I understand as being part of holistic education: digital online communities, free to exchange and share lesson plans activities and teaching tips, aiding the students in the weak spots with 1-on-1 help instead of having to lecture. In regards to your last suggestion, have you ever heard of the School of One? I have it linked on the right-side panel of my blog. I think you’ll find it quite hopeful and in line with your dreams.

      What is the Kahn Academy?

  3. before the internet? spend hours making resources, saving them onto floppy disks, standing in line for the one computer in the building that was connected to the printer, printing off the document, realising that you would be over your photocopying quota for the month if the document was copied as is, and becoming an expert on giving students documents in size 6 fonts!

    Oh, and for listening classes – begging students to bring in ANY English music they had, mobbing all new teachers demanding that they turn over all English music (and magazines, newspapers, postcards, letters) they might have on them before they even had time to unpack their bags.

    Spending holidays in English-speaking countries filling up suitcases full of ‘realia’ to bring back.

    Spending two hours on a bus to the next town, because the university there had a resource library for English teachers, and pacing outside the photocopy shop as the book was photocopied, hoping you wouldn’t miss the last bus back to your town and/or the curfew for returning the book.

    1. Maria, I couldn’t have asked for a better description of what a teacher’s life was like before the internet. I especially loved the visual that this part conjured up: “spend hours making resources, saving them onto floppy disks, standing in line for the one computer in the building that was connected to the printer, printing off the document, realising that you would be over your photocopying quota for the month if the document was copied as is, and becoming an expert on giving students documents in size 6 fonts” It’s amazing how much energy teachers can put into creating classroom experiences, and what you described highlights this to an extreme degree. You are a devoted teacher Maria :) Thank you for sharing.

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