No More Split Grade Planning Stress

No More Split Grade Planning Stress

You just found out you are teaching a split grade class next year.  For most teachers the idea of teaching a split is overwhelming.  You have twice as many curriculum expectations or standards to teach and no more time to teach it within.  Sometimes you are lucky enough to get independent students.  However if you are in a small school like me you just get all the kids in two particular grades.  This will again be my fourth year teaching a split.  I have been given opportunities to organize the classes into straight grades in the past however I have always negotiated that two splits were better than two separate straights.  This has worked out for many different reasons including the benefits for the students and the opportunity to work with a teaching partner.

split grade | classroom Reducing stress when you are preparing for a split grade classroom can make some of the challenges of a split class less stressful.   Here is how I reduce my stress when getting ready for September and planning for a split grade classroom.

1) Long Range Planning – This is a vital step in reducing your stress come September.  Developing a plan that outlines what you are going to teach when and managing your pacing and timing to help to keep you on track is also very important.

2) Teach Things Together – This is necessary to save your sanity.  Math and language can easily be taught together.  Looking at the curriculum and mapping out the curriculum to find where the differences between the two curriculums for each grade level.  Many boards have this done for you.  The guides to effective instruction in Ontario have this in the math curriculum for you already.  This makes it easier.  Language is also very similar between grades.  Find the slight differences between the grades and teach them together extending the older grade where necessary.

3) Differentiate – Plan open-ended tasks that can easily be adaptable to various levels.  For math this means increasing or decreasing the difficulty of the numbers in the questions depending on where students are.  This means that everyone gets the exact same page but the numbers that they use to complete the worksheet or assigned problem changes depending on the students needs.  In language that means meet them where they are in their language development and conference with them more than teaching the to support them in moving forward in their writing and reading development.  Lots of conferencing and less time standing in front of them teaching will save you planning time and stress.  Using an inquiry approach in writing and reading allows students to work at their own pace and develop their skills in a more natural way.

4) Flip Flop Instruction –  sometimes when the curriculum does not match so you cannot teach it together.  Subjects such as science and social studies are much harder to combine completely.  In this case, I find that the best strategy is to plan for 20min of teacher supported instruction followed by 20min of student independent work tasks.  With an inquiry approach that is occurring in classrooms these days, this allows for wonderings and conversations circles during your teacher supported time and opportunities to research and search for information while you are working with the other group.  Using techniques such as interactive notebooks for independent work time and research booklets help to support this and provide students with some structure when working independently.

5) No More Stress – Don’t reinvent the wheel.  Let me do the planning for you.  Long range plans for a 4/5 split are available in my TPT store.  Specialized science and social studies units that are specifically designed for split grade teachers helps you to reduce your planning and get a head start on enjoying your summer and free time a bit more.  Whether you teach a 4/5 or another junior split the units in my TPT store will allow you to use a framework to support your planning at least reducing your planing by half.

How do you reduce your planning stress with a new assignment?

 

Instagram in the Classroom

Instagram in the Classroom

Up your game with classroom technology: learn how you can use Instagram in the classroom! Click through to learn about Student Instagram Reporters.

I joined Instagram awhile ago but personally, or professionally didn’t quite know what to do with it.  I posted a few pictures of my kids but wasn’t really sure how to use it.  Fast forward and a few other blogger friends talked me into opening up a Madly Learning Instagram account.  I have found it to be a great way to connect with other bloggers and to see what others are doing in their classrooms.  I also noticed that Instagram was what my 4/5 students were using as their chosen social media platform.  So all of this got me thinking.  How can I leverage student interest in Instagram with my desire to teach 21st century skills, media curriculum expectations, and empower students to share what we are doing in our classroom with the world? This is when I came across Kayla Delzer @topdogteaching.  She has done a TED talk, which speaks to my teacher heart. She so very much captures what I think and feel about technology in education.  Following her on instagram she shares that she has her classroom Instagramming their adventures throughout the day.  Well this inspired me to get my students Instagramming too.

How I Use Instagram in the Classroom

I have made a schedule for students to Instagram.  They each have one day that they will be the class reporter.  They are tasked with taking pictures that show students meeting our learning goals in the classroom.  We are in the midst of our first month still (I had to wait until contract issues were settled) students are taking pictures of what is happening in our classroom and writing a caption about what it is they are doing.  I have a class iPad supplied from the school and this iPad is the reporters for the day.  They also get to use it to complete their assigned tasks too.  They are responsible for taking pictures and making a collage of our activities on PicCollage.  They add some text and write a caption.  Other than making the first calendar I have been pretty hands off.  I approve the final draft before it is posted but this really has not added any more work to my already busy and full schedule.  The students love it and so do the parents (well at least the ones on Instagram).

I have also learned some things too…  My students have a lot to learn about social media and etiquette.  This generation of students will live their lives online and developing a positive digital footprint is essential.  This is the entry point for many of my students at this age.  They are beginning to get online but they have not yet made any serious mistakes about what they are doing online.  This is a perfect teaching opportunity to teach them how to be responsible online.  Teaching students how to post, what to post, what not to post, how to be responsible, how to comment, and how to collaborate online is important.  I also have future lessons on how to take a picture, layout, colour, and creating a digital collage that tells a story. (all of which meets media curriculum) This beginning into student Instagram reporting is a great way to do all of this.

Think a Student Instagram Reporter is something you want to try see my tips below.

  1. Get Permission – now I do not mean that you need to beg parents for permission to do this. I did not send a lead letter home explaining this nor did I make a separate Instagram permission form.  My school board has a general form that covers all photo consents and sharing of information through social media.  This covers what I am doing.  In my first student news letter I  let parents know that I will use various social media to inform them of what is happening in our classroom.  I would look into making sure that you have this permission, or go get it,  before you start any of this.
  2. Hardware – You will need a device that students can use freely throughout the day.  I have an iPad touch that would have worked too.  But we use our class iPad.  All you need is a device with a decent camera, and an internet connection.  Having apps such as Instagram is necessary as well as a photo collage app such as PicCollage or even WordSwag is great.
  3. Have Rules –  establishing rules about how Instagram will be used is important before you begin.
    • Ask permission before you post a picture of someone.
    • Do not post names of students
    • Stay Positive – we try to focus on the postitive aspects of our classroom.
    • Add Value –  we don’t just take a photo to take a photo what we post contributes to our feed.  (we are going to work on this one)
  4. Have a code that allows students to sign their work without stating their names.  I use SR:PF to indicate that the photo was taken by a student reporter:student initials.  I also use #hashtags such as our school board hashtag.  My goal is to use more hashtags in the future such as #inourclassroom and others that I find together with my students.  These will help us share our message further.
  5. Keep Track – Make a calendar for students so that they know when their turn will be.
  6. Students Training Students – I only had to show the first few students how to be the student reporters.  Then they did the rest and previous reporters would help out the new reporter to make sure that they knew what to do.
  7. Instagram Goals – As I started my first round I wanted the students just to do and discover how to Instagram.  We weren’t focused on doing anything really well, just on doing it.  Once I am through my first round I will work with students to come up with a list of best practices about how to Instagram our classroom out to share with others.  Such as….
    • Take a picture that shows evidence of our learning goal.  What did we do today that met our learning goals in _________.
    • Choose your colours carefully.  Use complementary colours between background and text.
    • Pictures are the most important.  This has been an issue with my class they show a lot of background colour with tiny pictures.
    • Focus on what is important
    • Respect Privacy – this has not been an issue but I have a few students that personally don’t want to be photographed at all.
    • Make your comment specific – We are reading books (many times this is what is posted) but we will soon be pushing students to be more specific with We are reading books because…
  8. Be Careful Who you Follow – Screen who you follow and watch who follows you.  You can make your profile private and this helps but I really wanted to be open with what we were doing in our classroom so I have left our profile open.  As a result I often pay attention to who is following us and who we are following.  I had a night club following us at one point, I blocked them quickly as they have no purpose in following 9-11 year olds.  I also have had to stop following many people due to the content in which they post.  Having students post does not seem to be something that is very popular right now.  (or else I just haven’t found them yet) Therefore there are many teachers, however for this Instagram account I want it to be for kids not teachers.  (so if we don’t follow you back….don’t worry we still love that you follow us)
  9. Be Picture Ready – or at least don’t worry about it.  I never know when a student is going to snap a picture of me during the day.  I am often in the middle of writing out a sloppy chart paper when I hear the sound of the iPad camera.  You really just have to be okay with this.  Your picture is and could be taken at any point during your teaching.  This did take some getting used to.  (well at first it was my student teacher that had his practicum documented through our Instagram feed). But on the bright side, sometimes a child yawning early in the morning,in a photo, looks like they are super excited about your new math concept. So there is that.  Now I do require that students check with me prior to posting work and I learned my lesson early on to pay close attention to spelling as spelling errors were a problem at the beginning.  However when pointed out to the student, I think that was a learning moment for him to realize how important it is to use our/are correctly.
  10. Cross Post – if you have your class on other platforms then cross post to those platforms.  Instagram is great to cross post to Twitter and allows for updates on multiple platforms which is great so that parents and other followers don’t need to follow you on every platform but can use the platform that they are comfortable with to connect with you.  I will eventually even get our feed posted to our sidebar on our classroom website and would love if I could find a program that would sum up our Instagram feed and create a blog post for this automatically.
Are you ready to instagram with your class? Why not start by following my very own classroom reporters @45in205 on Instagram or @madlylearning

 

Back to School Reflection

Back to School Reflection

 

Well two weeks in and so far so good.  I have a large class this year with 34 students.  In a split 4/5 classroom with many special education needs there is no doubt that I will have some challenges to overcome this year.  Don’t get me wrong 34 kids is going to be hard work there is no doubt about that.  I know that I am only one person and that I will do the best I can.  I am envious of those with classes of a more reasonable size but without much choice I will make the best of it.  I just have to trust that my union will continue to negotiate for reduced class sizes.  In the mean time, I am a professional and I will do the best with what I have.

With a class this large I needed to find a way to fit them all into my classroom.  I am fortunate that my classroom is slightly larger than the other rooms in my school but on the whole it is an average size classroom.
In June when I was told the number of kids that would be in my class I went back to my scale drawing of my classroom to determine if I could even fit in 34 student desks in my room. I was not willing to give up my desk, guided reading table or carpet.  However, there wasn’t room, they simply wouldn’t fit.  Thankfully my administrator was supportive of using tables instead of desks.  So I made the switch.  Let me just say that two weeks in and I love my tables.  There is so much more room available in the classroom.  I think it even feels like more room in there compared to last year. Supply management is more complicated initially but with some simple routines it is manageable and in my opinion a lot easier than desks.

Another thing I realize is that classroom management is very important.  Managing 34 students is not easy especially when you need to get things done and quickly.  Transition times are something to manage and reduce wasted time which is a feat with a large class.  I did some preplanning prior to school starting about how I would manage this.  This year I am continuing to use the whole brain teaching rules (with a modified rule 3) to help my students understand expected behaviour in the classroom.  I have a class point system where the whole class works together to earn point against an evil villain named Count Snaggit.  The kids really like this narrative and I find it is much more conducive to building a positive classroom culture than students against teacher.

Although I do give points to Count Snaggit and remind students about the rules when students forget to follow them, I also believe in the importance of positive reinforcement.  So many students are motivated simply by a genuine “You know what? I noticed that you were working really hard at getting your work done today.  Thank you so much! I’m proud of you!” or after a student has needed multiple reminders about talking out and distracting peers pulling them aside and saying “you know I noticed that I had to give you a few reminders today about talking out.  What can we do to help you be more successful let’s think of a strategy that will help you be more successful with this.”  These are so easy to do and they make a tremendous difference.  I like to think of the ratio of 2:1.  For every negative interaction I have with a student I try to have two positives.  Even if that means noticing that for 2 minutes they were able to do as you asked.  Along with the whole brain teaching comes the concept of practicing.  My first two weeks were full of practice.  We practiced coming to the carpet, walking in the hallway, moving to our desk, working independently, working with a partner, etc.  I explain what is expected and then I watch to see if they do what I have asked.  If they do not then we do it again….and again….and again.  My philosophy is that if they don’t do it the way I want them to then I was not clear enough in my instructions or I did not enforce this behaviour consistently.

Assessment will be my biggest challenge.  There is just so much to mark and assess.  (I say this as I avoid marking 34 creative writing drafts right now) So with my dislike of paper I really want to go paperless but cannot find a grade book that allows me the flexibility that I require other than a spreadsheet on the computer which still isn’t as convenient as that dreaded paper.  So I kept my ears out this week on the facebook teacher forums and I heard people talking about two products iDoceo and Sesame HQ.  I have tried iDoceo and I know that some teachers swear by it.  Our Phys.Ed teacher at school uses it and swears by it.  Plus what she can do with it in the gym is amazing.  I myself found it wasn’t as user friendly and quick to use as I needed it to be.  So I tried Sesame HQ this week and so far I love it.  I really like how I can access it and set stuff up on my computer but quickly use my idevice to mark student work quickly.  No really it was quick.  I set up a rubric and marked 34 open response paragraphs all during a 40 min prep.  (for me that is unheard of….) So I will let you know how it goes from now on as I keep using it but so far so good.

Finally my last and final thought is to the environment.  With 34 kids in the room I need the room to feel organized, clean, and inviting.  So with the help of my principal finding a way to help me get it done. I painted all of my bulletin boards one colour (thanks to a tip from School Girl Style), ordered more borders from scholastic book order coupons, had the walls and cupboards painted – with the colours I was able to pick out (by the school board) and painted my blackboards so that they matched.  Plus spent the week before school decorating.  This has been a tremendous help at making the room feel like it is mine, and a place I like to be.  No more mismatched, chipped, and peeling surfaces.  It is fresh and clean.  (now if only I could give my house a makeover…lol)

To me class sizes matter and 34 kids is a lot of bodies and provides a challenge that is not envied by many.  However to my 34 wonderful students who are great kids I will make some lemonade and enjoy every minute with them in my classroom.  (and when you see me blogging on a Sunday night you know it is because I am avoiding that mountain of marking that needs to get done)

 

How to Schedule your Language Arts

How to Schedule your Language Arts

language arts | school | curriculum | grade 4 | grade 5 | elementary | organization | schedule

Every day I am given 100 minutes of uninterrupted language arts time in my schedule.  In that time I must plan out how to get everything done.  My goal is to plan all of my lessons so that they flow together and fit, not so that they are a disjointed mess of “LETS CRAM IT ALL IN”  I do this by focusing on Themes, Mentor Texts, and Student Choice.

One of the things that I am asked most by new and old teachers is how do I structure my language block so that it makes sense and is not a planning nightmare.  This is especially important in a split grade because in reality you are dealing with twice the curriculum.  (this doesn’t affect my planning as much as it does my assessment of language skills)

If you haven’t already read how I set up my physical classroom space for literacy instruction check out my previous post here

What does my Literacy Block Include

 

  • Read Alouds
  • Shared Reading
  • Student Conferences
  • Independent Reading Responses
  • Creative Writing/Writers Workshop
  • Grammar and Work Work
  • Reading Mini Lessons
  • Writing Mini Lessons
  • Guided Instruction

Yes all of these things are included in my language arts time.  However not everything happens in one day.  I take a whole week to make sure that I do these things.

Here is a sample of my schedule

So a brief overview of this schedule. (perhaps some future posts may be needed about these elements in more detail.

1) Independent Reading – I strongly believe that students need to read for enjoyment everyday.  I don’t monitor it, I don’t track it, I don’t value one type or reading over another.  Students read what they want to read during this time for fun.  This also serves as a quiet activity after recess to help them regain focus and prepare for their language arts time.  As a student I loved reading but hated that teachers ruined my reading time by making me write down what I was reading or picked what I should be reading.  So I don’t do it.  I monitor the students, especially my struggling readers, and make sure that they are reading.  I have a larger classroom library that I am slowly weeding out old books (I am a bit of a book hoarder) as students are using more digital books and materials to read. Some of my students favourites last year were TinTin, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Video Game review sites and forums, and Wonder.

2) Read Aloud –  I LOVE PICTURE BOOKS!!! honestly I think this is my favourite teaching material in my classroom.  I use picture books as my read aloud/Mentor Text every week.  I choose books that fit my theme for the month (see my long range plans) and I focus on specific reading strategies such as determining importance, finding the main idea, making connections, making inferences, point of view, synthesizing (putting it all together).  My read aloud is the basis of my entire language program.  I usually take about three days to read a picture book because I only read what I need to that day to help the students focus on the mini lesson that I am using.  I know in my schedule above it has read aloud and mini lesson but really these two components work together.  My time between these two components is flexible.  (see my post on my language unit on questioning and predicting)
Reading independent practice is a time for students to apply previous lesson independently.  I like to think of this as a two week cycle.  I teach them through modelled shared and guided instruction how to do something in week one then they practice this in guided or independent time the following week.  Their independent activity each week is always based on something I taught them prior to the beginning of the week.

3) Word Work – Mentor Text Centers – If you haven’t heard of mentor sentences they are based on a concept by Jeff Anderson. After reading his book I was inspired to integrate some of his ideas in to my word work centers.  It essentially helps students learn about grammar in context of well constructed sentences.  I am sure that you, like me, have been told that teaching spelling and grammar out of context is pointless as students do not internalize these lessons and apply it to their writing.  ME TOO!! My dilemma was that my use of mentor sentences needed to rely less on photocopy handouts and more on interactive centres.  Think Daily 5 meets Mentor Sentences.  Here’s how it works:

  • Look at your students writing samples, or formal writing assessments and determine a grammar or spelling rule that they are struggling with.
  • Go to your read aloud and choose a simple sentence that has a spelling pattern or grammar concept that want to cover.
  • Print out that sentence on chart paper (and with younger students make a copy that they can glue in their book)
  • Read the sentence with students and have them “Examine” the sentence (and when your principal walks in you can even tell them you are doing inquiry learning in language too) Have them look for parts of speech, suffixes, rhyme, or whatever else is appropriate for your grade level.  Use this sentence to form the jump off for your word work centres or activities.  Use word sorts, practice cursive or printing with the sentence, build a word wall, etc. etc.
  • Then students develop their own look alike sentence based on the mentor sentence and using the key learning from the week in their look alike sentence.  So if you focused on adjectives then their look alike sentence would have lots of adjectives.  Or if you focused on suffixes then they would try to integrate words with suffixes into their sentences
  • For example “Whisker’s claws caught on the string, scattering buttons like sunflower seeds” – Memory String by Eve Bunting.  Students would notice the parts and elements in the sentence you might focus on similes or irregular past tense verbs or suffixes, and then finally their look alike sentence could be “Joe’s long jagged toenail tore through the sock, ripping a hole as big as the Grand Canyon “
Writers Workshop – I have really come to enjoy this time with students.  This part of my writing time is also focused on student choice.  (Which I firmly believe increases student engagement)  I have a wheel of writing (found for free in my store) I show students the various options and then they vote and choose the three that they are most interested in. These are what we focus on.  I may do guided writing activities when they are writing or whole class lessons based on the student interest.  I post this wheel in my classroom and students can write any form that is on the wheel but they always have a choice.  When students are ready they move on to another form of writing.  Students also write a different draft of writing each week for me.  This can be intense and sometimes it is almost two weeks for a draft but they are drafting constantly.  This means that not everything goes through the writing process.  Once per term (we have two terms in a school year) students will choose a piece of writing and take it through the writing process.  This way students learn to love writing and not worry so much about the tedious parts of editing and revision.  It also allows them to choose a writing sample that they are very passionate about.
My writing Mini Lessons are a combination of what I need to teach and what the students need to learn.  Much of what I teach during this time is generated by the information that I gather from reading student work.  For example last year my students struggled initially with organizing their ideas, gathering data, and asking questions.  This was a main focus.
Shared Reading – This so far has been the most frustrating part of my language program.  I have many shared reading posters and workbooks but they all seem a little disjointed.  Shared reading for me is reading that the students do with me that is much more focused on a particular reading strategy. My frustration is that these seem very disjointed from the rest of my reading program.  This is a goal of my to remedy this year.  I will let you know how this goes as I am developing as I go 🙂 (who knows perhaps there might be a product in there that I can share with you too)
Well I can already tell that this is something I need to revisit again…if you would like more details on any of the above please leave a comment below and I will address it in future posts.

 

 

5 Ways to Reduce Back to School Stress

5 Ways to Reduce Back to School Stress

Beginning a new teaching year be a challenging balancing act. Click through to learn how you can reduce back to school stress! | relief | tips | management

Are you thinking ahead to the start of your school year? Being prepared before school begins always helps me to start the year off on the right foot. But if your don’t know where to begin I will tell you what I do to help me reduce my beginning of school year stress.

1) Long Range Plan
This is the most important thing that I do that helps me to be organized school year.  I remember my first year teaching I was not teaching one day and was full time teaching the next after the contract teacher had to leave.  With no plan I was constantly playing catch up never really knowing where I was going or how I was going to get there.  I learned a very important lesson – Planning is Key!!! Whether or not you know what grade you are teaching or if you are a supply that might get a short term position, having an idea of what you might teach is very important.  My long range plans are refined every year and try to reflect the lessons I learned the previous year.

2) Organizing your Classroom
How your physical space looks and feels is important to consider.  You need to think about zones in your classroom.  I start in my classroom by having places for each subject.  I have a bulletin board for each subject and shelving I found unused around the school to hold objects used for that subject.  My Language goals are behind my guided reading table, math manipulatives beside my math board, and classroom library next to my literacy board.  When you always have the same subject in the same place students quickly learn where to look for information needed for each subject.  I also spend some time planning the physical layout of my classroom.  I painstakingly measure all of my large pieces of furniture and the size of my room.  Then I open up powerpoint and make each of the large objects in my classroom.  I choose a scale that works usually 1m = 2.5cm. This is a picture of my classroom for September.  I have moved to tables and due to the large number of students have made room by putting my desk in the top corner.  This helps me to save some time and plan out the layout of the room so that I am not forever moving furniture around the week before school starts.

3) Movement
Look at your classroom plan.  How will students move around the classroom?

  • When they walk in the room in the morning where will they go?
  • Where will they hand in their work?
  • Where will they line up?
  • How will they move from whole group instruction to small group instruction?
  • Where will you sit and will you be able to see all students working? Sightlines?
  • Where will you drop off your stuff when you come in the room each morning?

Once you have checked your classroom plan and the movement plan you can be confident that your layout should work.  However test it out live in your room.  Make sure that reality works with your envisioned plan.

4) Label, Label, Label
I label everything!!! I label my cupboards, student lockers, groups, book bins, book box shelves, book boxes, student books.  You name it and I label it.  This helps everyone know where everything belongs.  I even label my students.  While not really but I do give them numbers so that it helps to keep their things organized when they hand their work in, and when I mark it.  So much easier to know whose work is missing when a number is missing.  I use a variety of labels to mark my things.  I use traditional sticker labels for student books and book boxes. However for labels that I don’t want fading each year I design and print our photos of the labels and then use mack tac to secure them on my book bins, manipulatives, and other objects that need durable labels.

5. What’s the Routine?
Okay this took me a while to figure out.  When I started teaching I didn’t realize the amount of planning it took to develop, practice and enforce a routine.  I teach junior students I took for granted that by their fifth year of schooling that perhaps they already knew how to do things.  I promise you that they don’t.  Sure they conceptually know how to line up but they don’t know how you want them to line up.  I read in a Whole Brain Teaching handbook that if students are not doing what you want them to do it is because you have not taught them how.  Teaching them is more than telling it is telling, rehearsing, and reinforcing constantly.  Here are some routines that you need to have planned for the start of the school year.  Think through this list, are there things that you would like to change about routines that you have used before?  Think through this list and write down what you would like to do for each of these routines.  Each of these need to be taught, practiced and reinforced for students.

  • How will they enter the classroom in the morning and after each recess?
  • How will they handle their agendas?
  • Where will they hand in homework?
  • How will they go to the bathroom?
  • How will they hand in permission forms?
  • How will they move around the classroom?
  • What will independent work look like?
  • How will they walk in the hallways?
  • How will they sit in an assembly?

I have included much more as a Freebie here.

 

These are just some of the things that you need to consider when planning for a new school year. I rewrite these each year just to reinforce for myself what it is that I want to do in my classroom.  I thought that I would share it with you here.

 

 

PDF File Hacks for your Classroom

PDF File Hacks for your Classroom

The PDF file is the norm in our world these days.  Almost everything is saved in this file format from handouts, TPT files, Newsletters, calendars, digital textbooks, Ebooks, etc.  If you are like me your computer is full of PDF files that you use all of the time. Well I would spend hours online and on TPT looking for the best product to fit my needs only to find that it was secured, not editable, or was 90% perfect if only I could change this one thing.  So I would, I don’t know how many times I would just waste time recreating a file I saw online for my classroom just because I wanted to change one thing.  I knew that I could get some ability to edit PDFs or merge two files together or secure my own TPT files if only I paid the price that Adobe wanted to get PRO.  I am sure I could have found a way to do this illegally too, but I really am not savy enough to get into my computer registry to apply patches and make changes that I don’t really understand.  So after some looking I came across some great free products that I now use to allow more functionality to my use of PDF documents.

Merge Two PDF Files



I use a great product called SMALL PDF .  Althogh this tool allows you to convert documents on your computer as PDF files and other tasks what I find it most helpful for is merging or splitting documents.  Being able to combine files is a great tool.  When I create a TPT file I make my main file then I merge it with my standard pages such as credits page.  I also use it when there may be an error on my file.  I simple upload it to the site, delete the page I don’t want anymore and add new replacement page.  I recently decided to update my cover photos for some of my products but since I had lost some of those files in a computer problem this was an easy way to make the changes without needing to recreate the entire product again.

Edit a PDF

This is another invaluable feature I was looking for.  I found it at PDFescape .  Many times our resources that we use for teaching are saved in PDF files because that is the easiest way to protect a digital file from copyright problems.  However sometimes as teachers we need to be able to make a slight change to meet our classroom needs but really want to use this product.  For example teaching in Canada many American products have words such as colour spelt color.  If it is important that it is spelled correctly I can use PDFescape to make the necessary changes. It is basic in nature and doesn’t have many font or editing choices but it is a start.  This was also recently helpful when I had a customer express that it would be helpful if my Unit and Lesson Planning Template was editable. I understood her frustration and converted the file using PDFescape to make the new file editable.  The product was easy to use and I just used the web based tool to make quick changes.

Secure a PDF



Making and selling products in PDF form is an important part of what I do at MadlyLearning.  Giving people the tools to support good teaching is one of my goals.  However I also believe that what I create is intellectual property that belongs to me.  So with that being said I will try to protect my copyright while also understanding that small tweaking is necessary to fit individual needs.  I also use other peoples materials in my work such as clipart, backgrounds, etc. that I would like to, or am required to secure so that their work is also protected.  So I have downloaded PRIMOpdf by popular PDF developers NITRO.  I liked that it was from NITROpdf so I was comfortable in downloading it. It allows me to print to PDF and secure my PDFs in the process.  It is really simple and easy to use.

I hope that this has helped you and saved you some money (since you don’t need an ADOBE membership now)

post signature