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!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Happy Back to School!

It's that time of year! Back to school! Teacher's Pay Teacher's is having a mega sale August 1-2nd! My entire store is going to be 20% off and when you use the coupon code from TPT on top of that you'll save an additional 10% off for a total of 28% off!

Here are some of my favorite back to school products from my store! Don't forget to leave feedback on past purchases to earn TPT credits to help you save even more money!

This back to school bundle has it all! There are two binders for you, a syllabus template, questionnaires to use at the beginning, middle, and end of the year, awesome covers for binders related to ELA, and 5 diagnostic writing prompts that you can use as pre and post assessments! This bundle is already discounted about 20% from the original cost of the individual products-- so on sale this deal really can't be beat! (Click on the image to view the full product description)

Need to decorate your classroom? This is always a challenge in a secondary classroom. Try this twitter style bulletin board that combines form with function. This product includes suggested lessons, handouts, and letters to cut out! (Click on the image to view the full product description)

Personally, I love to start the year with narrative writing. It is usually something my students are a bit familiar with and isn't a scary as writing a typical essay. Personal narratives also allow me to get to know my students right away! My narrative writing bundle includes presentations, guided notes (At 3 different levels for differentiation), as well as rubrics and assignment sheets. This unit is ready to go and has been used successfully with middle, high, and college students- I just adjust the expectations for the writing! (You know what to do- click the image!)

Thanks to the staff at TPT I have a great giveaway for you! Enter below for chances to win a $10 TPT gift card to use the second day of the sale and you can choose one of my products that costs $15 or less! (Might I suggest the Narrative Writing bundle?)

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Need more great ideas for back to school? Check out my Awesome August Pinterest Board!

Thanks for reading! Don't forget if you'd like to join the TPT family Click Here: Join Here!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

5 Fabulous Formative Assessment Finds

This year I've led 5 professional development sessions on formative assessment. Formative assessment is key when we are being asked to identify weak points for our students, differentiate instruction, and improve mastery of our educational outcomes and objectives.

The key for me is to find formative assessments that actually lessen my workload rather than increase it. To that end I've compiled a list of 5 tools you can use for formative assessment that will not only help your students but will help you.

The bonus is that I have found that many, if not all, of these ideas actually boost student engagement at the same time!

Here we go:

#1: Zaption PlayPosit-- this resource allows you to add questions into videos that you want your students to watch. I originally did this with Zaption however that company has been sold and I needed to find an alternative. PlayPosit comes in a close second. To get the full benefit you need to purchase a subscription but I honestly think the price might be worth it. This tool is perfect if you're doing flipped classroom instruction. It can also be used in 1:1 classrooms. I put questions in to emphasize what I want my students to focus on and to check for understanding. Being able to see how each student did means I don't have to physically do much grading! Students love videos so it's a win win. And yes, I use this, and advocate the use of it with college students.

Things to consider: This takes a bit of upfront prep work. However, once you've made a "bulb" you can keep it forever. They also have a repository you can take from!

Freebie! Click Picture!
#2: Paper and Pencil-- It's easy to forget about simple things like paper and pencil. I like to use this if my students' eyes are glazing over. I have them split paper into fourths and I ask them a question or two on the fly. Or- I use my pre-printed knowledge check cards that can work with any topic I'm teaching. I print out a set and keep them on me so I can use them at any time. These work well as an exit ticket.

Things to consider: This requires some grading/sorting/tracking in order to make the information meaningful to your instruction. If having students rip up paper it can sometimes take way longer than it should! This isn't the most engaging of the options here.

#3: Kahoot-- Kahoot is an online resource that allows you to create real time competitions for students to play where they review key topics. This can use smart phones, tablets, computers etc. The less time it takes a student to answer a question the more points they get. Scores are projected on the board and you get immediate information about how many students mastered a concept and how many are still confused. This is especially good for reviewing terminology.

Things to consider: The coloring on this is a bit on the primary side. By using images and making questions rigorous you can counteract this. This is also a resource that requires a little more prep time to begin with however the interface is easy to use and once you get used to it it won't take too long. This is also used at my college and students love it! You may want to consider whether the timed aspect of it works for you and your population of students.

#4: Plickers- Plickers uses QR codes to give you immediate feedback regarding your students' knowledge of a topic. Each student gets a specific QR code on a card that you print out (for free!). My instructional designer had the genius idea to laminate them so they last longer! You give students a question by typing it into the webpage via your computer. Then, using your smartphone or tablet (you need one) you scan the room and on your device you'll see which cards got it right or wrong. You can give each student a number or you can import your roster into the program. It's pretty cool!

Things to consider: This can be a little bit more prep ahead of time but it is less so than Kahoot or Playposit. Students enjoy it and it involves a little more movement as they have to hold their cards up rather than stare at a device.

#5: Poll Everywhere- This website is great. You can create polls or multiple choice questions and have students use their computers, tablets, or phones to text in responses. If using a projector the students will see how many people chose what answer in real time. It's a real crowd pleaser. This requires a bit of set up but is easy to learn. Questions can be saved to be used again in the future.

Things to consider: Every student needs their own technology to use this. You might not want to show what people are choosing in real time so students don't copy cat. You won't know which student picked which answer so it doesn't allow as much differentiation. Rather it gives a snapshot of the whole class's understanding.

Leave a comment below with your favorite formative assessment tool!