Saturday, December 17, 2016

5 More Great Gift Ideas for English Teachers!

Happy Holidays! We all have teachers in our lives. And, most of you reading this blog have English Teachers in your life. Here's my gift giving guide for 2016. All ideas are under $10! Use this guide to find great ideas for your spouse, girlfriend or boyfriend, or even your child's teacher. At under $10 these gifts won't break the bank!

If you missed last year's guide check it out here: English Teacher Gift Giving Guide 2015!

1. Book Lover's Soy Tart by Frostbeard Studio at $6.75 this is a great deal and is flameless, so depending on the rules could be used in your English classroom! Picture below links to the Frostbeard Studio. You can get the candle version too either at their website or Amazon.
2. A great pillow can add to the reading corner of any classroom or home! This one is prime eligible and is still under $10!

3. If you have a teacher in your life that likes to unwind with a cocktail then, Tequila Mockingbird is the book for them. This cocktail book is full of fun drinks like the Gin Eyre, and Clockwork Orange Julius! I own it and love it!

4. Teachers always need a good mug. This one is cute and the price is right! 

5. Mini-notebooks are great to throw in a teacher bag and go! This pack of three will leave your favorite teacher in great shape to write down inspiration whenever it strikes! 
** This post contains affiliate links. **

Who do you have gifts to buy for? Which of these gifts would you love to receive?
Thanks for reading! 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Best of my Best Lessons

Hey Guys! I wanted to take a minute to talk to you about my two BEST lessons on TPT and one lesson idea that isn't. I try not to do too much promotion on here but I truly think both of these products will make your lives easier! And, I don't know about you but as we head into holiday time that's exactly what I need! Easy easy easy!

First up- This is a mini-bundle of two short print and go activities that accompany digital shorts. Here I use the well known Pigeon Impossible and the lesser known The Passenger to review literary terms and concepts with students. I kid you not. I have used this in 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, and college classrooms and EVERYONE has loved it. 

I don't think all resources are truly all ages but this is. Each of these videos with the activities will take about 15-20 minutes to get through depending on how much you discuss as a class. They are perfect for filling in before or after an assembly or the day before a break. I think I've written about Pigeon Impossible before but when I did this lesson the first time in my 7/8 class the kids (who were a bit rough around the edges) were PERFECT. No joke. I couldn't have scripted it better. I was also praised by a dean for using Bloom's Taxonomy and having 26/27 students completely engaged. I promise similar results for you. 

Just check out these testimonials: 

Tammy said: "This lesson is fabulous! My kids love "Pigeon Impossible"!! Even 6 - 8 weeks after the lesson was utilized I have students asking to if they can watch it when we have extra time at the end of class:-)"

Kristy said: "This is an amazing product-it was very engaging and my students begged to watch the video over and over!" 
best of the best_rectangular.jpg

My other best selling product is my research bundle. I developed this resource over the course of teaching several semesters of composition at the community college. A lot of what I created however was to fill the void in what my students didn't learn in or retain from high school. Therefore, I find this resource one that can be used starting in late middle school and moving through college. There is SO MUCH included in this bundle. You'll get presentations, rubrics, examples, information sheets etc. It can be used straight through or pick and choose the pieces you need to supplement any research activity your students are engaged in. 

I don't know about your students but mine needed a lot of help with how to summarize, paraphrase, take notes, write outlines and more. This bundle even includes instructions on how to write a research paper proposal and an annotated bibliography! If you don't know where to start with teaching research- this is the place to start. I'm also always updating and adding to the bundle. So buying it now will get you access to future resources even if the price goes up!! 

See what these buyers had to say:
Ms. Walker said: "I am such a fan of this resource! Perfect for my freshmen and sophomores who are also enrolled in college courses. Thanks!"

Anonymous said: "I am using this with my college level courses to introduce research papers. It has been easy for my students to understand, including the weaker ones, and it has been attractive and engaging enough to keep my better students interested. Thank you so much!"

My best non TPT lesson! 
The best lesson I've done that isn't on TPT involves reading aloud. I know it's not mind blowing but hear me out. I was teaching middle school to a mixed 7/8th grade class that had the lowest math scores out of approximately 180 students. They were very low in math- 3-4th grade. However, in class I had a mix of readers from 2nd grade to college ready! I'd been assigned to teach an elective called "Book Club" which was in addition to our ELA block. I knew I'd lose my low readers if I just made them read even more. So I decided to read to them. I went to one of my go-to high interest books; Tears of a Tiger by Sharon Draper. I'm from Ohio so the fact that it's set in Cincinnati rang true to them. 

Every day I sat on a stool in front of the class and read. They read along or just listened. As long as their eyes were open and they were quiet I let them be. I'd read for about 20 minutes and for the last 10 minutes of the class I'd ask them comprehension questions. I'd have them make predictions, think about theme etc. It was honestly my favorite 30 minutes of the day and they loved it too. When we got to the end of the book one of my very low readers asked for a notecard and had me tell him the titles of the other two books in the trilogy. I let him know and then told him that I had one of them in our classroom library. He quickly went back to try to find it. That was a moment when I knew what I was doing was working. Try it. Read something aloud. Take away all the writing and over analyzing and just ignite that interest in your students. That class helped me form bonds with that group of students and it was such a bright spot in that school year.

The BEST part!
This post is a part of a great blog hop featuring the best lessons from the best sellers on TPT.  Some are free, some are on sale, and all are awesome! You can also enter to win fantastic giftcards!  a Rafflecopter giveaway In fact, to celebrate my ENTIRE store is 10% off November 1-2 2016. Get these goodies at a steal while you can. Don't forget to rate past purchases to earn your TPT credits towards future purchases!

Thanks so Much for Reading!

Friday, October 21, 2016

5 Ways to Have a Happy Halloween in the Secondary ELA Classroom

5 Ways to Have a Happy Halloween Secondary ELA Style- Blog Post
I love Halloween. It is my favorite holiday. It often seems to have less push back than more religious holidays though I still try to be mindful of students who wouldn't want to participate at all. That said, there are a few things that I have done or would like to do in the future.

5 Ways to Have a Happy Halloween Secondary ELA Style- Blog Post1. The poem the Raven. You can never go wrong by following the standards- close reading of poetry is part of all ELA curriculums so why not apply it during the week of Halloween with a creepy story? You can show The Simpson's Tree House of Terror episode that has James Earl Jones read the poem. You may want to have students read it as homework to familiarize themselves with it as it is a longer poem. You can also read it over a few class periods. If you want to get your students up out of their seats and moving you can use these task cards I created and set them up around the room!

5 Ways to Have a Happy Halloween Secondary ELA Style- Blog Post2. Edgar Allan Poe has two other poems that I think lend themselves to this spooky time of year. Annabel Lee and The Spirits of the Dead. Generally I think these are great for middle school but they can be a great poetry review for high school as well. I have close reading handouts ready to print and teach if these interest you!

3. What about a costume party based off of whatever novel you're reading at the time? Dress like a metaphor or idiom? Make students bring the textual evidence that shows their costume is accurate!

4. Descriptive writing about fall treats- Describe what apple cider tastes like? Pumpkin Pie? Caramel Apples? Candy?

5. This is also a great time for a narrative unit. Have your students write scary stories! This is a great time to work on multiple plot lines as the CCSS ask for in the higher grade levels. Or, they could write ones for younger students and then take them to elementary schools to read them!

How do you let your secondary students still celebrate the season? Do you think it's important to still let them feel like kids? Leave a comment and let me know!

Oh- and as a special present to you-- here's a FREEBIE- a crossword puzzle all about POE!

5 Ways to Have a Happy Halloween Secondary ELA Style- Blog Post
Thanks for reading! 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Re-Mixing the Literacy Narrative

Literacy narratives have long been a part of my standard college composition I curriculum. However, this semester I decided to remix that assignment. Instead of the standard literacy narrative my students will be writing a technology narrative.

I've asked them to share a story about a time when technology had an impact on their life. They've been warned to stay away from a story about things like getting a new cell phone. Instead, I'd like them to examine how technology has affected their life.

I'm using three mentor texts for this project:

1. Stepping Out: Living the Fitbit Life by David Sedaris - I love this one because he discusses using a fitbit flex which really isn't a super fancy piece of tech and explores how it changed his daily life.

2. The half of the introduction to: Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari - This one is such a great commentary on how cell phones and apps have affected the way we date. There is quite a bit of language in this one. I think I might only use it with advanced Juniors and Seniors and I'd warn parents.

3. Dining with Robots by Ellen Ullman- This is a more scholarly article that I accessed via JSTOR and Ebsco host. In it Ullman discusses her computer programming classes and makes connections. This is a more advanced piece of writing and is more on the serious side of tech.

The students are being asked to consider what the theme of their narrative will be once it is written. My honors section is being expected to imitate the style of one of these three examples.

I'm using my narrative and descriptive writing/dialogue presentations to help prep students for this writing. If you need resources for narratives you can check out my bundle here:

I'm very excited to see how these come out. I don't know about you but I like to mix things or remix things up from time to time!

What types of personal narratives do you have your students write?

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Building Classroom Community

I see my classes, at most, 2x a week for 85 minutes. That means it takes a more specific effort for me to get to know my students and for them to get to know each other. Yet, in a composition classroom in particular it is important that a sense of community is developed.

The first thing I do is on the first day I have them go around the room, tell me their names, their
anticipated majors, and then some fun fact. I try to comment on each of their fun facts or majors to show that I listened, and to draw some connection between us. Having them introduce themselves also helps me with the pronunciation of their names which is very helpful!

The second thing I do is a more continuous effort. Each day as I come into the classroom, log into the computer, and take attendance I ask the class what's new, if they've done anything exciting since the last time I saw them, and I share something about myself. If someone mentioned something previously I will occasionally revisit it. I've had several students say on evaluations that I seem like I care and that I take time to get to know them. I attribute this practice to those comments.

The last thing I do to bond with my students is to walk with some on the way to and from class to have more casual conversations. I keep my office door open and I invite them to come stop and chat. Or, if I see them in the hall I check in with them.

To build the community between them I include a lot of think pair share activities and have them work in groups. I need to work on more of this too. I have a few really big classes this semester and I think it will be more difficult for the students to feel like they know everyone.

I'm also experimenting with a class twitter and instagram account. We'll see how that goes.

Creating community during a block schedule that is set up as an AB format can be more challenging than seeing students every day. However, with a little bit of extra effort it is still possible. What are your favorite techniques?

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, September 3, 2016

The First Day Of School

In two weeks it is my first full week of classes for this year. (I've been teaching one class for the past week)

For the past couple of weeks, and definitely today, I've been preparing for day one. I find that being prepared lowers my anxiety and helps me have a smoother transition back into work.

1. I set up my office. I decided, when I found out I was getting a new office mate, to take the opportunity to clean out my office and rearrange it. This could be where you set up your classroom. Alas, at the college level I'm a traveling teacher so I can't really make any classroom "mine."

I was at Marshall's and saw this adorable mint colored file cabinet and I had to have it! At under $100 it was way cheaper than anything I found on. I also, by chance, found the mint and gold desk lamp. In the wall art section I found the cute sign that says "she believed she could so she did" and it fit right in with the color scheme so I had to pick it up! Then, at Target I found mint colored wire baskets, that I put on my bookshelf, the teal and cork pin boards that are on my wall, the dark teal storage ottomans, and the adorable mint, teal, and gold lumbar pillow that tie the colors together. I already had the gold stapler because gold is my favorite!
For good measure- here are my before pics: I flipped the room.

2. I planned my outfits. A conversation with our campus president and previous conversations with my work bestie have led me to try to put my pants/skirts on hangers with the shirts/tops that they'll be worn with. I might even start adding necklaces and bracelets. I'm hoping this will save me time in the morning. When I change in the evening I'll re-pair items up so that I'm not repeating the same exact outfit too often!

3. I went grocery shopping. I picked up snacks to keep in my office- fruit roll ups, granola bars, K-cups etc. I also grabbed things that I can use to pack my lunch- sandwich fixings, salads, individual packs of guacamole and olives etc.

4. I will have printed out my syllabi, updated my blackboard sites, written out my lessons plans, and emailed my classes.

5. I got my hair cut and my nails done. I don't know about you- but looking my best helps me feel in control for the first few days. It won't last forever but it certainly makes me feel like students take me more seriously.

6. I'm going to take Benadryl... I never sleep well the night before classes start. Even though this is my tenth year of being in Education I still get the jitters. Taking a Benadryl 10 hours before I have to get up just helps me actually fall asleep so I can do my best the next day.

What are your rituals? How do you get ready to start the school year?

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Game Time: Gamification in the English Classroom- Step 2 Planning

Welcome to the second part of my Gamification series. After doing a lot of research, and then doing some more, I decided it was time to start really considering how this can look and work in my classroom.

 The first thing I thought I could try was doing SP- success points for students who did things that in general should make them successful. Students would earn points for coming to office hours, going to the writing center, coming to class regularly, responding to questions in class etc.

They would also get XP- experience points for their in-class work. To make it more game like I multiplied all of my normal point totals by 10, so a 100 points paper became a 1,000 point paper.

I would let students use the SP points to buy "powers" such as turning in a paper late, getting their paper graded first, or if they got a HUGE number of points they could get a grade bump.

I thought a leader board would work well for this.

For my online, accelerated 8-week comp class I decided to come up with a different plan.

Here I used the idea from Dr. Harrold of QUESTs. Questions, Understanding, Exploring, Synthesizing, Testing. I designed 4 QUESTs that my students would complete. Each was worth 1,000 points. Since my state requires comp students' grades to have 70% of the grade determined by formal writing each "Test" was a paper that was worth 700 points. In Question they had essential questions to consider. In Understanding they had to complete quizzes. In Exploring I had them do activities related to the skills needed to write the final paper. in Synthesizing I included the writing process. In a few places I made it so they could get extra points. This eliminated the inevitable questions about extra credit.

What made this gamification is I decided they could redo almost all of these things at least once to score better. I didn't want my students to give up once they did something. Just like in video games they could try a level again.

I also decided not to show my students percentages or letter grades. All they would see was a total point total going up with each thing they completed. I would let them know what number of points they needed to get to an "A" "B" or "C."

^^ I ended up implementing both of these styles last spring. In my next post I'll fill you in on what went right, what went wrong, and how I plan on adjusting for this fall.

What are your thoughts? Have you tried anything like this?

Did you miss the first installment of this series? Read it here:

 Thanks for reading!