Monday, June 19, 2017

Free Textbooks for Secondary and College English


Budgets are being slashed and whether you teach high school or college the cost of textbooks and materials keeps growing. The phrase "textbook affordability" is thrown around a lot where I'm from. And it can be frustrating because as educators we have very little control over how much a publisher charges.

Frankly, in the high schools the issue wasn't for the students but on us instead. I know that my first year teaching I had about 7 books for 120 students! This included a stack of pages that had fallen out of the text books. I'd often have to say "If you can't find the page in your book try the stack of extra pages!"  However, luckily for us, our options for free open source resources are also growing.

Check out these 5 amazing sources for free resources for you and your students to use.

1. Frameworks for Academic Writing  This pdf download has lots of different styles of writing from argument to personal to business and everything in between. The author has the permissions set to allow you to change what you need to. Just make sure to give her credit and to not sell it as your own!

2. The Process of Research Writing This takes you to a site where you can access each chapter individually. I love this resource because it has literally everything you might need to help your students complete a major research assignment. It's great for taking a little bit or a lot from! You can also create your own materials using this and still be in the clear due to the Creative Commons license he has on it!

3. Writing Spaces Vol 1 and Writing Spaces Vol 2 These two are collections of essays about writing in college. You can download the complete collections or each piece individually. My favorite piece to use in my classes is "Annoying Ways People Use Sources" from volume 2. It's a fun look at what not to do when integrating source material into a research paper.

4. American Literature Before 1860 While this material is already accessible via the common domain it's nice that this e-book has already put it together for your in one package with an easy to navigate table of contents.

5. The Compact Anthology of World Literature I am currently using this as the primary textbook in my World Literature Course. There are three volumes and more literature than you could hope to go through. Due to the nature of copyright there is not any modern work and no real Latin American works but it is still a valuable resource for many other great texts!

If you're just looking for pieces of literature online this might be a great place to start.

So, have you jumped into the Open Education Resources yet? Are there great ones that you've used? How do you feel about digital textbooks? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Book Reviews

In another life I blogged about YA Lit. It was a passion of mine. I still love me some YA lit but I haven't been good about blogging about it. I've decided to share some of my previous reviews here for you all because I do think they're worthwhile for you.

So I'm going to start with: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein because it was a more recent book and I think it has an insane amount of potential for the classroom.

It was a book that captivated me and I think has great crossover appeal to adults. I wouldn't hesitate to use it in my college classroom were I presented with the opportunity to do so. I also like how it has a bit of technical information about planes and such that makes it have appeal to males as well as females since it's a female-centric book.

Original post below:

I really enjoy historical fiction.  Not only do I get to read a great story but I get to learn in the process.  I also love books with strong female protagonists.  This book truly delivered on both counts.  Told from the viewpoints of two different girls during WWII this book has action, intrigue, female bonding and so much more.
Some of the things I loved about this book:
TONS of literary and historical allusions.  This book is for smart people!
A new take on WWII.  I've read lots of books focusing on the plight of the Jewish population- which of course is very important, but this takes a different angle.
A Complete Guide to Vocabulary Comprehension and PlotYoung women in positions of importance.  This is definitely a book that proves can be/do anything.  Even pilot planes during war time!
I truly think this would be a great book to use in the classroom.  Check out this novel guide on Teachers Pay Teachers that I created. It helps students with the vocabulary, allusions, and general comprehension.
The Lowdown: (via Scholastic)
Interest Level: Grade 10
Reading Level: Grade 6  (While this may be technically true, the dual narrator, and the allusions, along with some of the content make this book appropriate for high school. I would not teach this below high school due to content.
Awards: 
Michael L. Printz Honor Book
Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Young Adult Novel
Golden Kite Honor
There is somewhat of a sequel available too which I have yet to read.


Have you read the book? What do you think? Do you use it in your classroom?
Thanks for reading! 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Women's History Month

It's women's history month, and I'm a bit late posting this but...

The English classroom is a great place to celebrate the contributions of women. Coming off of February I think teaching A Raisin in the Sun is a great way to incorporate both Black history and a female writer!



It's also a great time leading into April i.e. poetry month, to look at Dickinson.


Or, go the historical fiction route and look at Code Name Verity with your class. It has strong female characters and tells about how women were instrumental in WWII. And, it's written by a woman too!


And lastly, since Spring break is likely coming up soon and the kids are antsy here's a FREE time filler for your students. It's a crossword about women's history. It can be done as a research project too! Click the image below to download it from TPT!

Thanks for reading! 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

From Adjunct to Assistant Professor in 3 Semesters

Most of you who have read my blog before know that I used to teach high school and middle school. After a particularly rough year in a middle school I decided to jump ship and finish my MA in English and go into the less secure world of being an adjunct professor.

From the time I started as an adjunct at the major community college in my area til the time I was hired full time at that same community college I taught for 3 semesters and 1 summer. Actually I started interviewing in that 3rd semester. This is far below the average from what I can tell- especially for English teachers. In fact, I was told there were over 230 people who applied for the position I got. Some with more education and experience than I had.

So, how did I do it? I'm not 100 percent sure. But, I'll tell you what I think helped me.

1. I treated every day as if it were an interview. I tried to dress professionally, be extra prepared etc. I also stayed on campus as much as possible despite working at several different locations. I think this gave me more visibility.
2. I got to know the people in my department. I asked for help. I collaborated. I shared resources.
3. I attended as much professional development as possible. Some were all day sessions on Saturdays. But, by doing so I started seeing deans. I showed that I wanted to keep growing/improving/learning.
4. I made sure the deans knew who I was. I said hello to them. I found ways to tell them about my successes in the classroom.
5. I tried to find a way to draw positive attention to the college. So I created a service learning project with a local free clinic for one of my classes. I invited administration to the presentations at the end of the semester. This also gave me something to discuss in my interview.



The above 5 steps I think helped me get the interview. Now, what did I do in the interview?

1. I emphasized my teaching experience. The state funding model has changed. We now get money based on the number of students who succeed. They need people who can teach.
2. I gave specific examples from both my time as an adjunct and prior to showcase my style of teaching and my teaching philosophy.
3. I discussed my experience with teaching all types of students. I know how to teach students with learning disabilities etc.
4. I told them that I want to keep learning and growing. I gave examples of ways that I had already gone out of my way to learn more about teaching college v teaching high school.
5. I explained how much I liked the culture of their campus. An advantage to being an adjunct where you want to be hired is that you get to try it out. I could give specific examples of what I liked about their campus and my future colleagues.

This isn't a fool proof plan. But, I think, if you want to make the jump from adjunct to full time you have to be very deliberate with how you go about it. Just being a good teacher isn't enough if no one knows you. Having the credentials isn't enough because plenty of other people do too. What makes you different? What can you offer that others can't? Show them, before they even hire you full time, what type of employee you're going to be.

Good luck!

Thanks for reading!

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!