September 2021

Productivity is in the Planning

Productivity is in the Planning

I am a procrastinator. I have a warped sense of time. I am perpetually late. I am so easily distracted. I am a social butterfly. And sometimes, I have a hard time finishing projects that I start. This may mean that I have ADD or ADHD or some other acronymed disorder. But it also means that I have to try harder than most people to actually sit down and get things done. 

I have a planner and I love this planner because it's cute and super helpful. But it's not just because of the design or the inside that I love. I also get the absolute best and most useful newsletters from the creator of this planner once or twice a month that include lots of tips on how to increase productivity and feelings of positivity. 

Back in April of this year, one of the productivity tips CHANGED. MY. LIFE. I learned about a practice called "time-boxing" and have been using it ever since. The idea is simple: Take the tasks from your to-do list and put them into your calendar or agenda to complete at a specific time. Some helpful information on time-boxing can be found herehere, and here (all shared in the newsletter). 

This sounds ridiculously easy and obvious. But if you're like me, just because you have a to-do list does not mean you're going to get all of it, or any of it, done. However, the simple act of putting these tasks into the schedule section of my planner has helped me actually get more work done. My productivity has increased ten-fold. 

As teachers, you are very aware of time constraints. Perhaps one of the worst ones is planning periods! Whether you get 30 minutes or 90 minutes, it never seems enough. I know, as a former teacher myself, that sometimes you have meetings or conferences during these times and there's nothing you can do about that. But on the days that your planning period is truly yours, make the BEST out of it! 

Here are some steps to begin using time-boxing during your planning! 

  • Consider how much time you have. 

  • Write out your to-do list. 

  • Draw out a schedule or use your planner. 

  • Think about how much time a task should take.  

  • Break large tasks down into smaller actions. 

  • Add tasks into your schedule. 

  • Don't forget to add in breaks. 5 or 10 minutes to listen to your favorite song, take a walk down the hall, or read a few pages in a book. Plan on NOT doing any school work. 

  • Give yourself a box of time where you can check in with a teammate or socialize with a teacher-friend, but SET AN ALARM and get back to work when it's over. 

  • Allow a few minutes at the end so you're ready for your students when they arrive. 

If I had come across this tip when I was teaching, I would have been able to cut my after-school work time in half at least. 

Try this out and see how it goes! If it works, see what would happen to those teacher work days!

Mind blown meme

Plagiarism - in my own words

Plagiarism - in my own words


"In your own words" 
"Cite your sources" 
"No, you can't just copy and paste that entire website as your essay." 

Things teachers say quite frequently when giving writing assignments. Well, hopefully not the last one, but we all know there are students who will try. 

Plagiarism can be a tricky beast to approach because it casts a wide net of what it's considered to be. So we're here to make it a little easier for you. 

Definition of plagiarism

Seems simple enough, but there are so many ways that a person can plagiarize without meaning to or even realizing it. Paraphrasing or changing words here and there without giving credit to the original author are both considered plagiarism, and this can be a difficult thing for students, especially younger ones, to grasp. 

So how do you teach your students about it?  
First, they need to know what it is. Show examples that span the range of blatant word-for-word plagiarism to "borrowing ideas" plagiarism. If you have those younger students, you may also have to remind them again why it's bad to plagiarize as they may not realize it's wrong. 

Then, demonstrate ways to properly use quotes and cite sources. There are different approaches to incorporating these ideas in writing, such as quotation marks, footnotes, and block quotes. 

Finally, give them opportunities for practice. As an education instructor I had in college said –more like, drilled into my head, - "Practice makes permanent." Have students identify plagiarism in writing as well as practice proper citation strategies. 

Pro tip: Have students use note cards during their research. When they come across an idea, quote, or fact that they may use, they'll write it on one side of the card and the citation on the other side. Then, when they are writing, if they use one of their notes, the source information is already there for them to include. 

Writing instruction is not complete without a lesson on plagiarism. Giving students the tools they need to navigate this complicated topic will help keep them accountable for their work and protect the integrity of the written word. This helps to nurture bright, responsible, and independent thinkers. 

We wish you well this year and hope that you are able to confidently walk your students through the choppy waters of plagiarism. And if you want to give them wings and see if they fly, you can always ask Honest Abe, MI Write's newest beta feature*, to check their work. If you're a current user and would like more information about Honest Abe, watch this video and reach out to your Client Success Specialist if you have questions. If you are interested in becoming an MI Write client and getting Honest Abe, email us today at We'd love to hear from you! 

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Honest Abe is here to help keep your students accountable!

*As a feature in beta form, our plagiarism checker is not in its final state and will have some limitations to its use. To make necessary tweaks that will improve its function and usability, we're inviting clients to give it a try in beta mode. We will periodically reach out to those who are using it for feedback through surveys and focus groups.