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Resources to use when teaching in a low-income school

When teaching at a public school in New Orleans where more than 80% of my students received free or reduce-priced lunches, I realized quickly that my school could only provide so much assistance. Here are the resources that saved my year.

 1. BetterLesson

As a teacher working in an under-resourced school, I created much of my own curriculum. However, rarely did I come up with lesson plans from scratch. I maximized the beg-borrow-steal method many teachers use. Many of my lesson plan ideas came from BetterLesson — a free website where one can search by any subject for various types of resources that include unit plans, lesson plans and worksheets.

2. Problem-Attic

Testing is often a large part of education at schools that serve a high number of students from low-income families. I worked at a charter school, which meant high-stakes testing. I often used Problem-Attic to find higher-rigor test questions that matched my standards.

Problem-Attic is a test generator that contains over 80,000 questions from the NYS Regents exams, state assessments, academic competitions and other sources. Educators can create classroom materials by searching by topic or exam and organizing and formatting chosen questions.

3. Teachers Pay Teachers

Creating worksheets was not my favorite lesson planning period activity. I definitely preferred my kids to participate in activities and hands-on learning over worksheets, and I found that I could have the best of both worlds with Teachers Pay Teachers — an online marketplace where teachers buy and sell original downloadable educational materials and used educational resources. In addition to the priced items, there are THOUSANDS of free materials. I’ve never paid a cent on their site!

4. Dash4Teachers

Although I knew that a positive phone call home always added to my relationships with students, tracking parent phone calls was a nightmare for me. Dash4Teachers made tracking parent phone calls extremely easy.

Dash4Teachers is an iPhone application that stores phone numbers and tracks the date and time of your calls to students’ family members. My favorite part about Dash is that you can designate a call home as positive, negative or neutral. The application displays the rate of positive calls per student. This encouraged me to maintain a positive connection with parents.

5. ClassDojo

Often times, teachers in schools with at-risk students have a larger focus on classroom management. In my class, after implementing many different types of incentives and rewards, I found success is ClassDojo — a behavior management system you can use on your laptop or smartphone.

During class, when a student displays a certain characteristic, such as teamwork or generosity, you can reward them points. My kids loved it because it meant competing with their peers to receive rewards such as free-learning time and Popsicle parties. Teachers can also give negative points that take away from the rewards. After tracking points, you can print out the results and share it with parents and administrators.

6. Other teachers

Teachers should realize the importance of experienced teachers as a resource. By November of my first year of teaching, when I had run out of classroom-management and lesson-plan ideas, I started implementing tips from other teachers at my school and throughout my district. Teachers are some of the most helpful people you will ever meet, and are always willing to share their successes and mistakes.

Ann Davis (@annelizdavis) is a public-school teacher for New Orleans Public Schools in Louisiana. She is currently working for Haystack EDU, a website that connects teachers to jobs and other opportunities around the country.