Disclosure: TARA is currently an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com
At the end of the last school year I spent some time exploring a new edtech tool called TARA. It’s a service that solves problems for new teachers and veteran teachers. Those problems are having more time to do the parts of your job that you love and finding new resources and ideas to bring into your lesson plans. As the new school year approaches TARA is adding more features for teachers and coaches that could prove to be tremendously helpful this fall.
#1 -TARA Helps You Quickly Find New Strategies
The resource bank is probably my favorite feature of TARA. That’s because the resource bank contains more than six dozen instructional strategies that you can incorporate into your lesson plans that you create in TARA (more on that in the video at the end of this post). The strategies include templates for handouts that you can use in your lesson plan. Most importantly, the strategies in TARA’s resource bank include tips on how to use the strategies and additional readings about strategy implementation. For example, the close reading strategy tips include a link to this helpful guide from the Harvard College Writing Center.
The resource bank is obviously a good resource for new teachers but it shouldn’t be overlooked by experienced teachers. When you feel like you’re stuck in a rut or your “old reliable” lesson plan isn’t clicking with kids anymore, browse through TARA’s resource bank for some inspiration for a new strategy to try.
#2 – Faster Lesson Planning and Modification
TARA is designed to be a complete lesson planning tool. To that end, you can write your lesson plans inside of your free TARA dashboard and add supporting resources like handouts from the resource bank to your lesson plans. Once your lesson plan is assembled it’s automatically added to your planning calendar. The best feature of that calendar is that if you’ve created a multiple day lesson plan that you later need to shift (because there was a surprise fire drill that interrupted your day), when you move one part of the lesson plan the rest will shift with it.
Another helpful component of TARA’s free lesson planning tool is that you can tag all of your lesson plans with standards. Currently TARA supports Common Core standards and most state standards (all states will be available this fall).
Finally, if you’ve created a lesson plan that worked well and you want to use the same framework for a future lesson, you can do that in your free TARA account. To do that simply click “create new template” in the lesson planner then paste in the information from the lesson that you want to use as a template. Instructional coaches or administrators using TARA can use the lesson planning tool to create templates to share with teachers.
#3 – Create Shortcuts to Your Frequently Used Resources
In your free TARA account you have a homepage called HQ that you can customize. On your HQ you can place shortcuts to your most frequently used online resources like Infinite Campus, Google Classroom, and Kahoot. You also include shortcuts to resources that are in PDF or Word format. Shortcuts to frequently used resources is only one half of your HQ page. The other half contains your to-do list, a notepad, the resource bank mentioned earlier, and a progress monitoring tab.
#4 – To-do Lists With Attachments and Sharing
Take a look at my screenshot above and you’ll see that my to-do list has a place for attachments, due dates, and sharing. Just the act of writing a to-do list can give you a bit of focus for the day. Beyond that, having attachments to the tasks on your to-do list can be a time-saver when you actually start the task. TARA does have a collaboration component for teaching teams which means that you can share your to-do list to divide and conquer tasks with your team.
#5 – Streamlined Progress Monitoring for Teachers and Administrators
The first four items in this post focused on streamlining lesson planning and task management in TARA. There’s another aspect to TARA that’s equally valuable. That aspect is progress monitoring and coaching.
Teachers can use TARA to keep track of individual students’ progress toward specific goals or objectives. This aspect of TARA was designed for students who have IEPs, but it could be used for any student. In the HQ of your TARA teacher account you can click on the “progress” tab to record observations about their students. Watch this short video to learn more about progress monitoring in TARA.
TARA offers accounts for administrators and instructional coaches to use to give teachers feedback on lesson plans. Administrator accounts also include a place to record notes during observations and then share those observations. The flow of teachers sharing lesson plans and administrators giving feedback is just as quick and more structured than using a collaborative document like Google Docs or Word online.
Get Started Using TARA Today!
Teachers can sign up for free to use TARA right now. After you register I’d start by adding some shortcuts to things like your LMS and most-used resources onto your TARA HQ page. Once that’s done you’ll want to create some classes and start writing lessons. Have a favorite lesson plan already in Google Docs, Word, or PDF? If so, you can import that into your TARA account. Finally, dig around in the resources tab in TARA and look at some of the strategies you might want to use in a new or updated lesson this fall.
Watch the following short demo video to see how TARA works for teachers.