Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Non-Fiction Scrolls in the College Classroom

One day, on Pinterest, I saw a pin that showed kids on the floor with long "scrolls" of text. I clicked on it and read about how this elementary school teacher tapped the students' papers together instead of making a packet and had them annotating the texts. I tucked this idea away for awhile.



Finally, this semester I found a way to incorporate it in my class. My students needed to find quotes that they could use to analyze fairytales from the introduction to The Classic Fairy Tales by Maria Tatar. Understanding the entire article was not really the focus of this exercise. The article is rather long so I thought this might be the perfect opportunity to try the scroll activity.

First, I printed out the introduction.  I made sure to print it single sided and made one copy for every 3-4 students in my classes. I then took the time to tape each piece of paper edge to edge. (I found a small piece at the top and at the bottom of each page worked well).  This was a little bit time consuming but it's something you could definitely have a student help with.

Then I rolled them each up and secured with a paper clip.

In class, I showed my students examples of the types of quotes they were looking for.  I told them they'd be working in groups to find and highlight any part of the text that fit the criteria I'd laid out.  I wish I'd been able to tell them ahead of time to bring high lighters- it works best, I think, if each person has a different color.

I made each group leave the classroom and find a quiet area to work.  I wanted them to have to get up and move! (My one class is at 8am!) I told them they could take turns looking at each section or they could each look at 2 pages but that as a group they should be able to find at least 10 examples.




Once we came back into the classroom I had them designate one person as "Master of the Scroll."  I then started asking - what's the first example you found? If I agreed with it I gave it a number and marked it on my scroll too so that we could have a common language.  What was super cool was that a few students found examples that I hadn't even found originally!

After we found the examples I told them to each pick one to use when writing their paper.  Within their groups no one could repeat an example.  (This was purely so I wouldn't get bored reading their papers.) I had told them to copy down the quotes, but a few had the genius idea to just take a picture with their phones! In the future that is what I will instruct them to do in the first place.

video
This video shows four of the scrolls marked up. 


As I was dismissing class I did a quick thumbs up, thumbs down, thumbs to the side survey and most students had their thumbs up and a few to the side. None put their thumbs down.  And, then, at the end of the semester on my course survey a few students listed this activity as one that I should repeat in the future.

I think I might have them look for rhetorical devices, transitions, etc in the future with other articles, speeches, etc.  What uses can you think of?

Thanks for reading! 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

On The Web: "When Grading Harms Student Learning"

I recently read "When Grading Harms Student Learning" by Andrew Miller on Edutopia.  Since I've been thinking about how to improve my courses and have been discussing how we grade with colleagues this was right up my alley.

Miller breaks his article into 5 different areas and discusses how they each affect student learning.  First up he makes the case against zeros.  His main point here is that a zero for incomplete or not turned in work does not actually show what the student knows. I agree. However, if a student does nothing what should I do? Is it fair to other students who do the work, on time, to let someone else turn it in later? Do I have to keep the graded copies forever so the students who are still working on it don't get the answers/feedback?

His next point is in relation to taking points off for late work.  Like the zeros this makes the grade more about the students behavior versus what they actually know or don't know. I take off points for late work, but I agree with what he is saying. However I have the same issues as I did above. Especially as a college professor I need to prepare my students for the real world. Turning work in on time is a softskill that I think we are teaching. What would happen if we kept turning our grades, ieps, progress reports etc late? Perhaps there is a different way to approach this though.

Miller's third point is that sometimes we are "Grading Instead of Teaching." What he means here is that there are times where we are encouraged by administrators, parents, students etc to have lots of grades in the grade book so there's a constant update as to how a student is doing. What happens though is we spend more time grading/entering grades than we do actually teaching our students and ensuring growth. He advocates for more formative assessment and I strongly agree. I am working towards including much more formative assessment into my class.  In fact I'm presenting a session on it 3 times this spring.

Finally, Miller concludes with the idea of hope. He states it's our job as educators to help our students have hope. When they see a bunch of zeros or failures they start to lose hope.  I think this is a very good point and I'm working on how to structure my class so my students don't give up and keep working towards getting that "A."

Overall, the article gave me a lot to think about. I think many of these issues might be resolved by using game theory in my courses. I'm working on gamifying one of my classes... but maybe I could apply the game theory to my other courses to see how that goes.  Hmmm more to think about.

What are your thoughts on grades?

Thanks for reading! 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Asking For Help: Learning to Love my Instructional Designer

I know it all. Well, sometimes I like to think I do. As a teacher I am used to be the master of my domain, the HBIC if you will. In general, I think we, as teachers, tend to feel that what we're doing is most often right. We often teach the way we were taught or how our student teaching placement showed us and it's hard to break away from strategies that we've grown attached to even if perhaps they could be improved upon.

Teaching college, a lot of professors don't have any coursework in education and pedagogy, so we have at our disposal an instructional designer and a technologist. At first, as an adjunct, I didn't think I had much use for their services. I know how to plan lessons and to figure out how to meet objectives. However, now that I'm full time I've been spending more and more time with our ID and I have to say I'm becoming a better teacher because of it.
I first approached her this semester because my online students were having trouble finding the materials I wanted them to use. I wanted her to look over my blackboard site to tell me if it really was confusing. (Of course I was convinced she was going to tell me that it was perfect and that my students were crazy.) Instead she pointed out the few areas that she didn't understand why I needed. I explained my reasoning, and she got it, but she helped me see that I was thinking too much from the teacher facing side and needed to consider what my students really needed. She discussed how the more clicks to get to something the less likely a student is to ever see it. I made a few changes and had significantly less complaints for the semester about this.

This first experience gave me two takeaways:
1. Just because it makes sense to you doesn't mean it makes sense to everyone.
2. You don't have to wait till midterm or the next semester, quarter etc to make a change. If it will help your students change NOW.

This ID and I have now become work BFFs and are developing a great friendship outside of work too. So now I often go to her to discuss ideas for lessons, how I want to structure my syllabus etc. She's actually younger than me and has taught less years however, in this role, she gets to spend all day thinking about how to help instructors design their courses with their students' success in mind without getting bogged down by the grading etc that we all have to do so she has great insight. We are currently collaborating on a gameified version of one of my courses which is super fun.

She also helped me create a spreadsheet where I can list all my outcomes and objectives and then put down which assignments are activities, formative, and summative assessments for each outcome/objective. This way it'll be easier to keep my students "in the know" about what objective we are working on and I can make sure that I am absolutely teaching the material required of me. 

Now, when I taught 7-12 I didn't have access to an ID. I'm sure many of you don't either. But you do have access to each other and to blogs and to education journals. I challenge you to think about your courses and about the last time you revamped anything. Consider the complaints you keep hearing from your students- are they actually more justified than you thought? Be willing to ask for help and feedback and be willing to act on the advice you're given. The more we grow and change, the better off our students will be.

 Thanks for reading!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Holidays are Here! Tis the Season!

The Language Arts Classroom and Julie Faulkner have teamed up again to bring us a great holiday blog hop!

Here are some of my thoughts on "the season."

As a teacher I think that right before the holidays is one of our busiest seasons.  We're preparing to go on break, colleges have finals, and there are often a lot of extra interruptions at the school. I think it's important to remember to take a second and breathe.  When I taught high school I used a lot of shorter activities that I could plug in one day at a time so assemblies and such wouldn't get me too far off track.  You can find some of them in my Winter Poetry pack.  I think poetry lends itself nicely to many different seasons and is a great way to bring winter in without being too specifically geared towards one religion.

As we've gotten older and since there are no grandkids yet in my family some of our family traditions have died down a bit.  But at home I like to put some festive decorations up and drink a lot of hot cocoa or hot apple cider. I love making handmade gifts for people as well. This year I'm attempting new crochet patterns!

The TPT sale is coming up on the 30th so I've decided to treat myself with a few goodies.  Right now I'm eyeing some clipart sets from a couple of my favorite designers. My wishlist is quite full to be honest!

Some years I have specific things that I want to get for Christmas- should anyone choose to give me something- but this year there isn't much catching my eye.  I think it's a sign that you're a real adult when the stuff on your wishlist is along the lines of new dryer, new stove, new vaccum cleaner, chandelier etc... #homeownership

In general though, I am looking forward to getting to spend more time with the people I care about over the next several weeks.  I have work parties, friend parties, and family parties to attend and I can't wait. I'm also really excited to spend my break prepping materials for two new classes that I'm teaching come spring semester. #teachernerd

Stop by and check out the rest of the posts in this blog hop.  You just might get some teaching ideas and gift ideas!



Happy Holidays everyone!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

English Teacher Gift Giving Guide 2015




Buying meaningful and unique gifts for people is something I love to do. I know I appreciate a gift that was specifically chosen for me so much more than something more generic.

Do you want to give an English teacher or book lover a gift this year? Maybe a colleague? A family member? Look no further. Here are some great ideas for the bibliophiles in your life.



1. A matted poster that is created entirely from the text of a beloved novel.  This one is The Great Gatsby.  At $19.00 I think this is a great deal.


2.  From the same store as above, these literary temporary tattoos are too cool.  I love how this one from Moby Dick isn't really outlined. It looks more real I think. I have no real tattoos, but I'd rock one of these for fun! At $5 for two these are a great stocking stuffer!
(Check out the rest of their website for lots of cool gift ideas.)
3.  Does your teacher love a cup of joe or tea?  Check out this cute mug and saucer set at $12.99.  The saucer looks like an open book! How neat!

4.  Here's another great stocking stuffer.  Grab this travel candle for $8.00! 
5.  This personalized embosser can help a teacher keep track of his/her books. It's a little pricer at $26.50 but it'll last forever!


6. This READ Marquee Sign would liven up any classroom or library! It's a big purchase, so maybe this would be a great class gift or would be for someone extra special in your life.  Right now it's being sold for $80 on Dot & Bo.



7.  This bookshelf becomes invisible once you put a book on it! What a great way for the reader in your life to display their most beautiful books! at $18 each I feel this is a reasonably priced gift for just about anyone! This too is from Dot & Bo.




Alright English teachers... what's on your wishlist?


Thanks for reading! 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

7 Amazing Websites to Help English Teachers

The internet is amazing and has a wealth of resources.  However, sometimes it helps to know where to look first.  These are 7 of my favorite websites to use with my classes.


1.  New York Times Learning - The New York Times has a treasure trove of resources for teachers.  My favorites are the text to text options that connect current events with other non fiction articles or famous pieces of literature like A Raisin in the Sun.

2.  Web English Teacher- This was my go-to website when I was first starting out.  The site is divided up by topic, author, text etc and provides links to all sorts of resources. Most, if not all, are free.

3.  Scholastic Book Wizard- I love this tool so I can make sure I'm giving students books that are appropriate for them.  You can search many books here and get an interest level and a reading level identification.  It also tells you if there is an AR or SSR quiz associated with the book.



4.  Facing History & Ourselves- If you need primary sources this site is rife with them.  This is a great way to find background information for historical context when reading novels.

5. Free Rice- This website lets students have fun while learning.  They can choose to work on grammar or vocabulary.  It is adaptive and it ends up donating to charities around the world that feed the hungry.

6. Poetry Foundation- I love this website for finding poems that demonstrate different types of figurative language or that deal with specific topics.  Some even have recordings with them.

7. NewsELA- If you need good non-fiction current events for your classes this site has articles that are written at 5 different reading levels. It's great for differentiation!


What websites do you use in your secondary English classroom?


Thanks for reading!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Winners!

Emily L you've won the $35 gift card and

Nikki R you've won the bundle!  Congratulations!  Watch your email for your prizes.  They will arrive within the next 24-48 hrs!


Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Fun Fall Finds for ELA Classes

It's fall again!  I posted last year about some of the things I do to include fall themes in my English classes.  You can see that post here: Celebrating the Season: Fall/Halloween Edition.

This year I have a few more ideas and a few updates for you.

First, use this time of year to work on descriptive writing.  The changes of the leaves (at least here in the midwest) and temperature are perfect to have students practice with. This is a great opportunity to take them outside, if even just to find a leaf to bring back in and write about. You could even do shape poetry!

Second, I love the idea of having students practice writing thank you notes.  Being thankful is something we often don't take enough time to think about.  And, I've noticed that the art of thank you notes and letter writing is dying.  (When I asked my students for their addresses this year they ALL forgot the city and zip code.  And this was with college students.)  It'd be even better if you actually had the students send these letters to people that they were thankful for!

Third, I reiterate my idea from last year to use Edgar Allen Poe's The Raven!  I updated my task cards and added an answer key so they're now even better!

What do you do in your class?

Check out all of the products below for even more amazing ideas and resources.

B's Book Love:  Painted Pumpkin Symbolism
Brynn Allison: Nonfiction Close Reading History of Halloween
Language Arts Classroom: Bell-Ringers and Grammar Errors for November
Creative English Classroom: Imagery in Autumn
Spark Creativity: Scary Story Festival
Room 213: Halloween Creative Writing Learning Stations
The mELTing Teacher: Ergot and the Salem Witch Trials, Crucible SAT like Questions
Ms. Fuller's Teaching Adventures: The Raven Task Cards
Kovescence of the Mind: Parts of Speech Grammar Units- Identify, Diagram, Review, and Test
2 Peas and a Dog: 12 Genre Book Reports
Lit with Lyns: Analyzing Pop Song Lyrics
Teach Inspire Change: Student Behavior and Parent Communications Binder
The OC Beach Teacher: Discussion Tools for Any Text: Reader's Roundtable

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Trick or Treat!

Halloween is fast approaching! So here's a little trick or treat for you!

First, here are my tricks... here's a list of the blog posts I've done with tips and tricks for teachers:

5 Tips for 1st Year Teachers

Set Your Sub up for Success: Tips and Tricks for Classroom Teachers

Substitute Teaching Tips and Tricks Part 2

Tips and Tricks for Substitute Teachers

Click my "Tips and Tricks" tag on the right to find even more posts!

Second, here's a treat... a brand new freebie perfect for the spooky month of October! This will be a seasonal freebie so get it while it's active!


I'm linking up with a group of TPT secondary sellers: Secondary Smorgasbord so click the image below to get even more tricks and especially Treats!



Thanks for reading! 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Currently Reading: October 2015

Right now I'm working on reading a few different things.

1.  Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee I'm reading this on my Kindle.  So far my feelings are mixed. However, I felt like it was one of those books that all English teachers should read.  I should really sit down and finish it!


2. The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean  I'm exploring this as an option for our school's common read next year.  It is non-fiction and way outside of my normal reading material.

3. Thug Notes I love the youtube videos so when I saw there was a book I ordered it immediately! I can't wait to find ways to use the book in class!


4. Picture This: How Pictures Work by Molly Bang  I want to use this book as a basis for a project with future students as part of a unit on ad analysis. It's a great book to explain images and making specific choices when creating something!

 

I'm linking up with The Literary Maven! Click the image below to find even more great reads!

 Thanks for reading! 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Student Led Book Discussions

The community college I work at started a common reading program this semester. Professors in all disciplines were invited to try to incorporate the book in their class.  Being an English teacher made that easy for me.

Part of the program involves getting the campus community, as a whole, involved with the book.  So we decided to do book talks that anyone could attend.  However, we had some of our classes host them.  Since 3 of my classes would be hosting public book talks I wanted to have them be student led and meaningful.

In order to accomplish this I decided to rely on our friend, Bloom.  Using Bloom's taxonomy, I created three "levels" of questions that I needed my students to write.  I asked them to write one question per level.  They then had to respond to their own question, provide a justification for why the question was relevant, and had to list page numbers and follow up questions that they could use to keep the conversation going.

The students are divided into groups of 3-7 depending on class size  (I have one class with 13 students and another with 28!) that lead the discussion for that section of the book.  I have told the students my goal is to not speak what-so-ever. (This is a major challenge for me! I was voted most talkative in high school out of a class of over 400...)

Well, we had our first round of discussions last week and... they were a success! I stayed quiet, and in general students warmed up and got interested in discussing the book.  My one class had so many visitors we ended up with 40 people in the room.

In order to make this work for you don't forget to go over proper discussion protocol.  I told my students to follow the "3 before me" rule (or in my small classes, 2), to make eye contact, to speak loudly, to watch for cues to speak or not speak, and to be respectful.  My participants knew that I had marked down where each one of them was sitting and would be tracking the flow of discussion and marking who had spoken and who hadn't.

In the future, I'd probably model more questions and answers for my students.  I might also create an exit ticket for students to fill out with a brief reflection before leaving the discussion.

Sometime in the next few weeks I'll list the materials I created for this assignment and you to can get your students talking about books!


Thanks for reading! 

Friday, September 11, 2015

Teaching Writing: There's an App for That

My students love technology but rarely seem to understand how they can use it to help with their schoolwork.  Since I am teaching only writing classes this semester I've been focusing on finding a variety of apps and websites that can help my students improve their writing skills.  Here are 6 that I found.

The Hemmingway App helps point out areas that a student can strengthen.  I find it works best a paragraph at a time.  It can help them see if they're writing at a sufficient level for their grade as well as it gives a readability score.  To use the app students just go to the website and paste in their text.  Different concepts are highlighted in different colors.  The app tries to coach students on word choice, passive voice and more.  It does not edit their papers for them.  Great tool during the revision stage of writing.  (I am not sure if this is a phone app but it is readily available on laptop and desktop computers.)

The Merriam Webster Dictionary App can help students find different words or to define words they don't know.  I think it's really important that we start helping our students understand that their phones can be used for more than just Snapchat, texts, and KIK.



Focus Writer is great for students who are easily distracted by the internet etc when using the computer.  What it does is takes up the entire screen and blocks out everything else.  It is a very simple text editor that can then be copied and pasted into Word or Google Drive.  Now, if it could lock up their phones while they're typing it'd be perfect.

I Write Like is just a fun website that allows you to paste some of your text in a box to be analyzed.  The site will then tell you which famous author it is written like!

Video Not.es connects with google drive and allows students to take notes on their computer while they watch a youtube video simultaneously.  The notes are then saved to drive.  This is a great tool if you're requiring students to use a variety of sources for a research project.

Kaizena I've written about before and works with google drive to allow you, the teacher, to provide verbal feedback and more on your students' writing.  Students can also leave verbal comments, reply to your comments, and access lessons that you've programmed in through Kaizena.



Thanks for reading! 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Rhetoric in the Real World: A Drumline Director Shares his process

Welcome to the 2nd edition of my Rhetoric in the Real World series.  This time I'm bringing to you a percussion advisor's take on writing music.  Read on to find out how he used the concepts of the rhetorical situation while composing. 

If you missed my first post you can check it out HERE.

Here are Tim Hampton's responses:

1.  What type of composition did you create?

[I] Wrote a cadence for a high school drumline.

2.  Audience:  Did you consider who your audience was?  Who was your audience?  How did that impact your choices?


The audience is spectators at a high school football game, especially the parents of the kids performing, their peers, and other kids in the marching band and the opposing marching band.



3.  Purpose:  When you began what was your purpose?  How did your purpose influence your choices when creating your work?


I had three main purposes:
1. Write a piece that sounded good, was fun to listen to, and grooved (i.e. was easy to march to).
2. Write a piece that was challenging to play and idiomatic, giving the students in the drumline a chance to hone their skills as drummers.
3. Write a piece that was developmentally appropriate for high school drummers, hard enough to be challenging but not so hard they would have too much trouble learning it.


4. What is the subject matter of your piece?  Does it take a stance on the subject?  If so what?  How did you portray that in your work?

The piece uses Brazilian rhythms that I am interested in as a musician. As a white American working with Brazilian rhythms outside of the originally intended orchestration, I felt it wouldn't be possible or particularly helpful to worry about authenticity. I just used elements I liked in conjunction with traditional rudimental marching percussion elements. It doesn't take a stance on anything, it's utilitarian.

5.  Strategy/Genre: What strategy did you use to compose this piece?  What genre do you consider it?  Why did you choose this strategy/genre instead of another?


I started with material traditional to another ensemble and adapted it for the ensemble I was using. I chose this strategy of writing because I write many cadences, and I like some place to start from instead of just writing wholly original material in the style of a cadence. I'm under time constraints, and this takes less time. I also think it ends up more interesting to listen to. I suppose the genre is a drumline cadence. I used this genre because it is the only one available for the ensemble I was writing for and the piece needed to be useful. I wasn't getting paid to stretch boundaries or be radical. Also, since it was to be used for education as well as performance, I thought the students needed to learn the traditional ways of playing first at this point in their development as musicians.

6.  Media/Design: What about the media/design of your piece?  What elements add to your work?


I used traditional media, a drumline of tonal bass drums, snare drums, tenor drums, and cymbals. I used no additional elements.

7.  What area do you start with when creating?  Audience? Purpose? Genre? etc.


I start with purpose-educate and entertain.

8.  In your field are there other words you'd use to describe these categories?  What are they?


There aren't really "genres" in marching band. The genre is innate to the ensemble. The music played can be inspired by any other style of music, but it is always in the context of marching band, with it's given instrumentation, musical structures, style, tempos, and time constraints.



My takeaways....

I think it is telling that in this professional position Tim has to focus on his purpose first.  I think that when you are creating for a job or a class you often need to start with purpose rather than just writing or composing what you feel like for fun. 

It's also important for students to see that sometimes they can choose genre, and sometimes the genre is already chosen for them because it is so innate to their situation.

I'm going to have to pop up to the high school some Friday night so I can hear this cadence in action!


If you'd like to be a part of this series let me know by emailing me at missfuller at gmail dot com!

Thanks for reading!

Thanks for reading! 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Twitter Chat for Secondary Teachers!

I just wanted to let you all know that I will be chatting with other secondary ELA teachers on Twitter tonight at 8pm!  We're discussing parent communication.  Come along and check it out.  Just type #2ndaryELA into the search box and see all the tweets.  Feel free to join in and respond to people or answer the questions yourself!



I look forward to seeing you there!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

It's Sale Time!

I know many many schools went back this week and even more will be back next week.  If you're anything like me these first few weeks are hectic and you're realizing you still need SO MUCH STUFF.  Well, have no fear... the TPT one day BOOST sale is here!

Just in case you missed the big sale a couple of weeks ago here's another chance to grab Teachers Pay Teachers resources for up to 28% off!  Most stores, mine included, are marked down 20% and if you use the code: MORE15 at checkout for another 10% off!  This makes some of my bundles a 40% + savings from their individual prices!



Here's a pro tip:  If you've bought from TPT before, including the last sale, and you haven't gone and given feedback yet go and do it!  You earn credits for doing so and you can use them, if you have 20 or more, on your next purchase!  They really add up.


Thanks for reading! 

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Day I Truly Failed My Students

Schools are going back and I often become reflective at this point in the year.  I am a good teacher, great even at times.  I pride myself in fighting for my students. But, there are times where I've stumbled, fallen even.  There is one moment that will forever make my stomach churn, one moment where I failed to look out for my students and instead stood passively by.

It was the first day of school for the students at a new placement for me.  I was going to be teaching ELA to classes of 7th and 8th graders that were ability grouped according to their math scores.  My homeroom had the lowest math scores- in the 3rd/4th grade range.  The other two classes in my teach were also considered below grade level or non proficient.  There was another set of three classes that were at or above (some even at 11th grade) grade level for math.

Right after homeroom where our students were assigned lockers, ate breakfast, and found their seats the entire 7th and 8th grade was called out into the hallway by one of the principals and the grade level dean.  They had told us they were going to go over expectations for the middle schoolers as this was a K-8 school.

Perhaps the administrators did discuss hallway behavior and the like, but what I remember, and what I wouldn't be surprised if our students all remember is what happened next. Our principal began yelling, partially to be heard, but partially, it seemed, by her tone, out of anger at our students.  She stood in the middle of the hall and pointed to my end and said things like, "You are non-proficient.  You are not performing at grade level!  You need to work hard so that you can get your scores up so you can move up there!" She pointed to the "proficient" end.  Then, she turned her attention to the proficient end and yelled at them, "If you're not careful your scores will drop and you will end up down there with the non-proficient classes!  Do you want that?!" And on and on.

I have never been so uncomfortable.  My students were so uncomfortable.  They looked sad, they looked scared, they looked angry.  The excitement of the new school year was gone.  Instantly.  I was pissed. I was pissed because the administrators weren't telling the whole truth.  They were tearing down my kids without telling them that the truth of the matter was that while they struggled in math MANY of them were far above grade level in Reading.  I had students who had already scored as college level readers yet they were being told they weren't good enough.  And, those kids who were great at math and practically ready for calculus?  Some of them were reading at 3rd, 4th, 5th grade reading levels.

Instead of focusing on the fact that every single one of the students had some sort of gift these administrators decided to focus on the negative first.  They chose to create a hierarchy, an us v them attitude.  And, I chose not to speak up to them.  I never told them how I felt about it.  I didn't interrupt to spread the truth.

Now, when we got back into my classroom, and throughout the year I tried to do damage control.  I explained to my students that yes, many of them needed to work on their math skills but that many of them were great at other things.  I told them that the other end of the hall had things to work on too.

I believe in honesty with students.  I'm not going to tell someone they've got something mastered if they don't.  But I also believe in being compassionate.  I believe in giving them a chance to discuss it one on one.  The feeling of inferiority my students had for the entire year was a battle I had to fight. It created more apathy than drive.

I should have been their voice. I should have let them see someone fight for them.  I don't stand by anymore.  What happened that day was wrong.  I won't make the same mistake again.

Now, as I teach college I get some of those kids.  The ones who have been told they aren't college material, they aren't good enough etc.  Some of them truly struggle.  But I give them all of my support.  I help rewrite the inner dialogue.  The words we speak to these students when they're young carry with them for a long time.  I know I remember the few times teachers truly hurt me (luckily it was only a few times) and my encounters were not nearly as intense as this one was.  We have to be honest with our students but above all we have to be kind.  Then, and only then, will we see a higher rate of success and start closing that achievement gap.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Tech in the Classroom: Pinterest

I fell in love with Pinterest the first time I used it.  I'm a visual person so it clicks with me. It's a great place to find all sorts of inspiration.  It should come as no surprise that it has become a great tool for educators.

I love looking through Pinterest for lesson ideas, bulletin boards, organization tips, teacher fashion ideas and so much more.  It's also a great place to find infographics, videos, and other extras to spice up your lessons.  I try to keep my boards organized by topic so that I can find what I need easily.  A lot of what I pin is free, but I also pin products that I may want to buy later or that I think would be worth a different teacher buying.

This post is part of the Pin it in the Classroom blog hop hosted by: The ELA Buffet and Desktop Learning Adventures.


Here are my top 2 boards that I like to follow:



Here is my favorite board of mine:


Find out how other teachers use Pinterest by checking out these links:



Thanks for reading!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Recent Reads: Summer Edition

I don't read enough.  As an English teacher I read a lot in the course of my day so when I want to unwind I typically end up watching TV!  Then, I find a good book and I remember why I love reading and became an English teacher in the first place!

Early this summer I read The Postmortal by Drew Magary.  I will be using this book in my classes this fall and I'm very excited about it.  I won't say this is the next great American novel, but I really enjoyed it.
This book is a pre-apocalyptic look at the near future.  A cure for aging has been found and therefore people will live significantly longer.  What I love about this book for my writing classes is that there are countless topics to discuss and research and write about.  There is one scene that is a bit adult but it is not overly explicit and I think I'd feel find using this book with juniors and seniors in high school.


Most recently I read The Secret Life of Bees.  My friend had a great idea- she assigned each of us (my core group of girlfriends that I've had since 6th grade) another person and told us to go to their Goodreads account and choose a book and a back up book from their "to-read" list for them to, you guessed it, read.  My partner chose this book for me and since I've had it on my kindle for a year now I figured this was the push I needed.
I ended up reading it in two days.  It's not a mystery but there is a bit of a mystery in it and that kept me wanting to read more just to find out the answers.  I love it as a coming of age story, a historical fiction book, and as a unique look at extended metaphors in traditional fiction.

I immediately thought this would be a great classroom read for high schoolers and wouldn't you know it lots of teachers already teach it!  I don't know where I've been as this book gained popularity.  I've heard great things about the movie as well so I'll check that out soon.

Hopefully I can update this post before the end of August with at least one more book! (I'm all geared up for Go Set a Watchman!)

I'm linking this post up with The Literary Maven's On My Bookshelf monthly link up.  If you need great book recommendations check out all the other posts by clicking the image below!


Thanks for reading! 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

My Goals for the 2015-2016 School Year

Next Monday I have a full day of PD and then starting on the 17th I have a week of back to campus activities before starting fall semester the following Monday!  My first year of full time college teaching is upon me.

I love the start of a new semester, new year, new month, heck even a new week because everything seems so shiny and new and clean.  I haven't messed anything up yet, I haven't gotten burdened or stressed.  It's a chance to do better.

I always have a list of goals for myself as the school year starts.  Here are my top 3 for this year!




Thanks for reading! 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Tips and Tricks For First Year High School English Teachers

I've been compiling a list of blog posts to help you get ready for the start of the school year and to succeed throughout the year if you're a new secondary English teacher.

First up is a fabulous post with ideas of how to build your classroom library.  Don't worry about having it completely stocked for day one but perhaps try for at least 25-30 books.  You can do it! Also, I had to set myself a monthly book budget because I became a little overzealous when I first started.  Read The Daring English Teacher's tips here:


Next you might want to check out Lauralee's post about how to set up a secondary classroom!  My favorite tip I ever heard about decorating was to use fabric instead of paper for bulletin boards!  It doesn't fade easily or rip easily!


I love this idea from Lovin' Lit about how to find stories to include in your classes.  Hint- it involves your ipod!  

Lastly, make sure you've got your sub folder ready.  You'll try to resist but eventually you're going to miss a day.  Make sure you have that handled from day one!  You never know what will happen.  Check out my post about setting your sub up for a successful day!





Thanks for reading! 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Giveaway Winners Announced!

Thanks to everyone who participated!  I hope you got a lot of great ideas for your English classes for the fall!  I'm thrilled to announce our two winners:



Ladies, keep an eye on your email because your prizes will be arriving shortly!

Thanks for reading!  Make sure you follow me on blog lovin' or social media so you know when I do my next blog hop and or giveaway!

Monday, July 20, 2015

First Days of English Class Blog Hop!

This post is part of the First Days of Class blog hop I'm hosting with eleven other secondary English teachers!

What is the first thing you teach your students each school year?  With most of my classes I like to start with one of two things- either a super engaging YA novel or a personal essay.

I have started several classes with Sharon Draper's novel, Tears of a Tiger.  I choose this because I have yet to find more than a couple of students that don't enjoy it.  I figure if I can get students to enjoy the first book of the year they may be more inclined to trust my choices the rest of the year, and or inspire them to do more independent reading!  Check out my Tears of A Tiger materials if you're interested.

More interesting to me though is having my students write personal essays or narratives.  I think it's really important to get to know your students early.  Students also seem to be less intimidated when asked to write about themselves!  This can also give you an idea of what a student's writing ability is if you don't use a writing diagnostic.

There are many options for personal essays.  I've done "This I Believe" essays, literacy narratives, and memoirs.  I've even had students re-imagine their essays into comics, poems, or plays which can be really fun as well.  This unit is also a great time to discuss descriptive language, imagery, figurative language, plot structure, and dialogue which helps students prepare for the literary analysis that you'll be doing throughout the year.

From having students write literacy narratives and memoirs I've found out that my students are incredibly resilient people.  They've dealt with abuse, death, foster care, comas, accidents, unexpected pregnancies, learning disabilities, and so much more.  I've also discovered that they love reading, movies, performing, math, former teachers.  I can't imagine not doing an assignment like this early in the year.

If you'd like to do lessons like this check out my narrative bundle.  I have assignment sheets, rubrics, and presentations to help make your job easier!  These are teacher tested and student approved!

Now, for the fun stuff:

Enter to win a MEGA BUNDLE of awesome ELA and back to school materials.  Here's what you'll receive:

From Reflecting Mrs. Liana "Back to School Activities and Resources!"
From Brain Leaders and Learners' Ellen Weber "50 MI Task Cards- The Fault in Our Stars!"
From B's Book Love "Comparison of Lamb to Slaughter and Little Red Riding Hood by Roald Dahl!"
From the Creative English Classroom "Greek and Latin Roots Scrapbook with Examples & Definitions" AND ""Editable Bokeh Binder Covers and Spines!
From Brynn at The Literary Maven a $10 shopping spree to her store!
From Jackie at Real Learning in Room 213 her "ELA Poster Bundle!"
From Kim at OCBeachTeacher her "American Voices Through Art:  Reading & Creating Non-Print Text!"
From Kovescence of the Mind her "Parts of Speech- Grammar Units: Identify, Diagram, Review, and Test!"
From The Daring English Teacher a $10 shopping spree in her store!
From Melissa at Making Meaning with Melissa "Sassy Sentences: Sentence Variety Using Mentor Sentences!"
From Lauralee at The Language Arts Classroom "Bell Ringers and Grammar Errors for August"
From me at Ms. Fuller's Teaching Adventures my "Back to School Bundle!"


Reflecting Mrs. Liana, Making Meaning with Melissa, B's Book Love, and Kovescence of the Mind have also teamed up with me to give away a $25 gift card to Teachers Pay Teachers!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Hopefully you'll visit all the wonderful blogs featured here and get inspired for the new school year. And to the lucky winners (one for each prize) I hope you find some of your back to school preparations go just a little bit easier!




Thanks for reading! 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Rhetoric in the Real World: A Writer Shares Her Process

I teach my writing students all about the rhetorical situation as I'm sure most of you do- whether you use that term or not.  However, I think they feel it only has to do with writing papers and they don't really believe that people in "the real world" use it.  I try to explain that they do even if they don't use the same terms we use in the academic realm.  Then, the other day, I was thinking about different modes of composition and thought I should do a series of blog posts where I talk to people who compose in their daily lives about how they use the general concepts of the rhetorical situation.  A thus, this series was born.  Each guest has chosen a specific composition of theirs to reflect on.  This is my first post, and I'm excited to share it with you.



Here are Arwen Mitchell, a playwright/writer's responses:

1.  What type of composition did you create?
A novel.

2.  Audience:  Did you consider who your audience was?  Who was your audience?  How did that impact your choices? 
I considered women, primarily, who are interested in female-centered, popular fiction.  I wanted (want) to have as broad a reach as possible.  The novel focuses on beauty culture and relationships.  I didn't choose these topics because of my audience, but I developed the novel with my audience in mind.

3.  Purpose:  When you began what was your purpose?  How did your purpose influence your choices when creating your work?
To write something highly readable.  To show how beauty culture has been a form of empowerment and self-discovery for women in times where they had limited options- as opposed to just being about attracting a husband, for instance.  This is the heart of the work- to establish the main character's relationship with herself, with a handful of men, and a large group of women.

4. What is the subject matter of your piece?  Does it take a stance on the subject?  If so what?  How did you portray that in your work?
See above.  My main character doesn't explicitly take a stance- instead, she uses the cosmetics she creates to help women deal with their situations and feel better about themselves.  She's almost therapeutic- not didactic, but instead, questioning.


5.  Strategy/Genre: What strategy did you use to compose this piece?  What genre do you consider it?  Why did you choose this strategy/genre instead of another?
I outlined the heck out of it, studied other fiction (long and short), read some craft books, developed the different story lines. It's historical fiction. I chose this strategy because I don't know how else to do it - it's what I've been trained to do, and it works for me.

5.  Media/Design: What about the media/design of your piece?  What elements add to your work?
N/A

6.  What area do you start with when creating?  Audience? Purpose? Genre? etc.
Narrative craft. What has gone "wrong" in this world - who wants something badly but isn't getting it? How does this propel them into action? Who/what gets in the way?

7.  In your field are there other words you'd use to describe these categories?  What are they?
Reader. Narrative focus. Thrust of the story. Narrative arc.

To read more about Arwen, check out her website: www.arwenmitchell.com


My takeaways....

The rhetorical situation is alive and well.  It is also much more complicated than just one word responses that students like to give.  I like that she started with genre- she wanted to write a novel but she also had a clear audience and purpose to help guide her writing.  Can you imagine reading a book where the author didn't know who they were writing for or why they were writing?  Well actually, I think I have read a few of those books- and I didn't like them for precisely that reason!

I think it's key to point out here that Arwen used outlining, did a lot of research, and tried out different story lines!  Too often I think our students don't believe that people actually use the writing process or that research has a place in creative and fiction writing!

If you'd like to be a part of this series let me know by emailing me at missfuller at gmail dot com!

Thanks for reading!

Monday, July 13, 2015

All Most Forgot: Merry Christmas in July

Many of you are heading back to school soon! Gasp! With that in mind several TPT sellers decided to come together to give you an awesome deal!  Most of us chose four products to discount at around 50% off and one product to offer free for just two days- the 13th and 14th of July!

Here are the four products I listed as 50% off:



Want to see all the other great deals?  Search #christmasinjuly in TPT's search bar and you'll find them!  Happy Shopping!



Thanks for reading! 

Life Long Learning: Basket Making

While I was on vacation with Family Nature Summits in North Carolina I took a class with Al Lookofsky where I learned how to make a basket out of bark using primitive tools as Native Americans would have done a long time ago!  So, I thought I'd share with you what I learned:

First, Al explained that he'd cut down a poplar tree and took the bark off of it in large chunks.  He then soaks the bark in water to make it more pliable. We each got a section approximately 18 inches tall that was the diameter of the tree.

He then gave us a bi-sided tool made of chert which is a rock like flint that had been shaped into a sharp edged cutting tool.  It looked somewhat like an arrow head but had a less defined shape.  He also gave us a piece of construction paper in the shape of a football.  We measured half way down our bark and centered the football.  We had to use our tool to etch a groove deep into the bar all the way around the shape.  

I thought it would be easy.  It wasn't.  1.5 hrs later after a lot of this:

video

I ended up with:
Now, wood is not a perfect medium so there were places that the bark was splitting from itself.  To fix this we had to drill holes on either side of the split and use thin strips of bark to lace it together.  I was really annoyed that my bark wasn't perfect.  (Anyone else have those students who freak out if their project isn't EXACTLY RIGHT?  I was being that student so I told myself to stop it.)

We could have chosen to use a stone drill which is a stick with a pointy piece of stone at the end that you rub between your hands to make it spin but I was getting tired so I used a power tool.  Shhhh. To clear the drill holes of debris though I used an awl made of bone!

Here is what the repairs looked like from the front and the back.  Does it look like a basket yet?

Now was the scary part.  It was time to fold the sides up to make the basket shape.  I held my breath and with Al's help folded up my basket.  But the work wasn't done yet....

We used clearly ancient clamps to put a band of bark around the entire basket to help hold it together.  Then we drilled holes all the way around the basket just under the band.  I chose a dark bark to bind it all together.  
Disregard my bandaid finger.  I love the contrast I was able to get.  But wait, there's more, I'm not quite done yet!  I saw other people adding a handle made of braided bark so I went and did that too. And Voila!  I have a bark basket!
And remember all that complaining I was doing about having to fix the imperfections?  Well I like how that "X" looks on my basket- it's like a decoration.  

Learning to do something completely new is something all teachers should continue to do.  It helps us learn about ourselves as students and helps us remember what its like to not know something.  It reminds us of the frustrations students can face.  And, it exercises our mind and in this case, my fingers.

If you'd like to participate in a week long adventure with fun people interested in learning about our natural world by taking classes, going on hikes, and sharing with each other visit the Family Nature Summits website.  I've been attending for over two decades now.  It's an amazing opportunity for the whole family! 

 Thanks for reading!