Posts tagged ‘K through 12’

Friday Finds: The Cornerstone

I went through one of the top teacher colleges available, but no one told me what to do when a kid asks to use the bathroom too much… until now.


I first encountered Angela Powell Watson when I accepted my first teaching job. While not very long ago in the scheme of history, that was before the explosion of teacher-blogging and internet resources. It was also before I had any clue about classroom management, having just (tentatively) signed up for my teacher training program. Ms. Powell’s Management Ideas for Teachers saved my day, and many other days throughout that long first year. On this simple site, Ms. Powell shared a wealth of wisdom that guided me in setting up my classroom, creating a behavior plan, and generally feeling ready to teach. I printed off reams of it and took it with me everywhere that summer, clicking through every link to mine all the depths.

So you can see why I was so excited when Ms. Powell, now Mrs. Watson, published The Cornerstone: Classroom Management That Makes Teaching More Effective, Efficient, and Enjoyable, which is basically a polished up, reorganized, printed-and-bound edition of that content, perhaps with some more packed in for good measure. With 471 pages, I certainly can’t imagine anything she’s left out.

The Cornerstone is not your classroom management college textbook; it wastes no time on theories and gets straight to business with practical, realistic, classroom-ready suggestions. It not only presents great ideas, it tells you exactly how to make them happen – there are charts, dialogues, examples, and even a smattering of pictures. This is the book for real people who teach real children. It covers an enormous range of situations, all of which occur much more often than anything I’ve ever read assigned in school. It goes through how to manage materials, behavior, lesson planning, time, and even fellow adults. A run through the table of contents made me want to devour the entire thing in one bite; not knowing where to look first, I realized that one couldn’t go wrong by simply marching from cover to cover – though if you have a specific challenge, you could certainly skip around. Just make sure to go back so you don’t miss any gems.

It is absolutely astounding how Angela seems to know exactly what to do in every situation. She really seems to have covered all bases of classroom management, and each of her ideas is beautiful in its simplicity. There is nothing here that is more of a drag to carry out than whatever you’re already doing. Her suggested responses are phrased with utter clarity and everything just makes SO MUCH SENSE. It would seem that you could have thought of it yourself instead of needing to buy a book… except you hadn’t, so you’ll be glad you did.

The ideas seem to be targeted mainly towards the elementary grades, as much of Angela’s earlier experience was in lower elementary, but just about everything is either already relevant or can be adapted to just about any age and ability. You might find much of it less relevant if you teach high school, but you will probably also find some parts useful anyway. What teacher doesn’t have heaps of resources to organize and documentation to keep track of, for instance?

As a former graphic design major, I can never review a book without commenting on aesthetics. The layout of this book is about as basic as it gets, but completely readable and well-organized. The pictures could use a little help, they’re pretty dark. But overall, though it’s hardly artful, the book is friendly enough to the eyes. Definitely above par for self-published works. On a related note, it has a very low ratio of typographical/editing errors, making it a smooth and professional read.

In addition to the book, The Cornerstone has a companion website which has replaced the former Ms. Powell’s. On it, Angela is amazingly generous with advice and resources. A lot of the original content is still there, as well as all the reproducible forms from the book. There are additional free resources that would have been too tangential to include in the book, such as a page of math games/center ideas. You can also find selected links to quality resources from other sites, like this. And of course, there’s a blog in which Angela continuously shares new insights and links.

What I love about all of Angela’s work, besides the total practicality I already mentioned, is her positive outlook. Her focus is on making teaching and learning a pleasant, peaceful experience. I think a majority of teachers enter the profession for love of kids and learning, but we often get swept away in a storm of nitty-gritty that can potentially drag us down and suck the joy out of teaching. Angela Powell Watson’s mission is to bring back the joy through ironing out those kinks, and she does it admirably. She has even published another book, Awakened: Change Your Mindset to Transform Your Teaching, which specifically focuses on the mental/emotional aspect of loving to teach.

Disclaimer: I was provided a free copy of The Cornerstone to review. However, all opinions expressed are honest and unbiased; in fact, I am such a big fan of Ms. Powell/Watson that if I hadn’t been offered the review opportunity, I would have just bought the book myself!

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May 11, 2012 at 12:51 am 3 comments

Friday Finds: Education.com

Welcome to Friday Finds! I’ll try to bring you the best of the web every week. Or, if not every week, then on random Fridays because I like alliteration. Education.com is an all-purpose site aimed at parents but reasonably relevant to teachers as well. It’s a good starting point for  little of everything, and surprisingly thorough – my usual instinct is to look for specialty sites when researching a particular topic, but for many purposes, this site will serve you quite well. I’m getting no commission for saying this.

What you’ll find:

  • Articles on just about every topic in education. Makes me feel like this blog is a little extraneous. Oh well, I can still try.
  • Educational activity ideas and printable worksheets
  • Q&A forum
  • General topics of interest to parents, such as crafts and recipes.

Why I like it:

  • Well organized: It’s easy to find everything that’s there. Easy to navigate. Easy on the eyes. I like easy. The search tools work great, too – You can search for activities or materials by grade level, topic, and/or subtopic, by clicking tags, or just browsing new or popular items. Very smooth.
  • Real info: Everyone has something to say on the web, but much of it is junk. Here, the material makes sense and is consistent with other current research I’ve read – as well as common sense. Even better, many of the articles are actually written by well-known, respected authors and personalities in educational fields.
  • Great materials: The worksheets and activities are visually appealing, simple, and educationally sound. The articles are written and organized well, easy to understand, and not too long.
  • Thorough: As I stated at the beginning of this post, but will say again because it’s so impressive, this site is remarkably thorough. They seem to have something for everything.
  • FREE! Really free. No “If you want to see the rest of the worksheet, become a paying member.” No spam emails, so far.

Wishful thinking:

This is a darn good site, but could be even better. The ads on this site are not too pervasive, but I do wish you wouldn’t have to click through so many pages. There is only a small amount of material on each page, and frequently after you select your topic you still need to click again to open the article. I assume they do this to maximize ad impressions, but it’s a little annoying, especially if your internet connection is slow. Still, some sites will just annoy you for money – this one at least gives you a good return for it.
I would also love to see more materials for the higher grade levels.

October 28, 2011 at 5:00 pm Leave a comment


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