Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Online template resources can reduce teachers' paperwork burden

Creating individual forms for every task can be tedious and require specialized software or knowledge. That’s why seamstresses, woodworkers, lawyers, accountants and teachers all use templates to help simplify routine tasks.

Templates¬—predesigned layouts or patterns that help reproduce the original item—can help you work more efficiently and accurately. Educators use standard forms all the time and those templates are usually supplied by the school or the school system. But what about those individual templates you use with students? Certificates immediately come to mind. But what about short answer quizzes, class calendars, graphic organizers or bulletin board postings?
Fortunately, there’s a treasure trove of templates that you can find online.

If you use Microsoft products there is an extensive library of free templates at your disposal. Once there you can view the templates for teachers that include formatted quizzes and tests and classroom management templates like a “testing in progress” sign for your door, seating charts, trip permission forms, certificate of excellence or student of the month awards, and even a substitute feedback form. Some templates require that you have other programs that are part of the MS Office Suite® like Excel® and PowerPoint® but most of them can be used with Word®.

If you would like to expand the menu of items designed specifically for teachers, then go to Education World® to see a list of tools and templates that include all the standard items like awards, and calendars, but also include teacher friendly items like graphic organizers, flyers and posters, icebreakers, and goal setting contracts.

The graphic organizers include two and three circle Venn diagrams, KWHL and KWL charts, and a research notes chart. In addition, there are worksheets that have holiday themes like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Halloween. There are also fiction and non-fiction book report forms and culturally sensitive reward coupons for students. There is even a personalized license plate form that allows students to create their own vanity plate and can be used as an icebreaker at the beginning of the school year.

If you use MS PowerPoint for classroom presentations, then you’ll be thrilled to find Brainy Betty’s catalog of PowerPoint templates. This is a rich resource that can help you create some nifty backgrounds that will jazz up any presentation. There are even video and audio clips that you can download to enhance your presentations, as well as, flash programs that can animate even the driest subject.

Also, don’t neglect the obvious. The NYC Department of Education includes templates for schools, administrators and teachers on its Web site. Take a look at the templates regarding the discipline code and behavioral contracts, for example. As with most templates on the DOE’s site, they are available in several languages. The DOE’s site http://schools.nyc.gov is very extensive, so try to narrow the search by using phrases like mathematics, language arts, and social studies templates, but place the phrase between quotation marks.

If you can’t find what you want online, then create your own templates. Every word processing program includes template files that you can customize. In MicroSoft Word® you can use a template wizard to customize your template. Just click on “file,” then click on “new,” and then on “general templates” and you will see many commonly used templates. Customize the template and then save the file as your personal template that you can use again without reformatting the document.

A teacher’s time is a terrible thing to waste. For teachers, it makes no sense to reinvent the wheel. That’s why templates are important. These online resources can help make your life easier.

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