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?

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:

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:

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! 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Tips For First Year Teachers

This post is geared slightly towards secondary educators however much of it stands true for all new teachers.

1.  You can't do all your shopping at Old Navy, H&M, Forever 21, A&F, or American Eagle.  You run the risk of wearing the same clothes as your students.  If you, like many new teachers, are fresh out of college you can end up teaching students only 3-4 years younger than you.  You have to try harder than you think to distance yourself from them.  You are not their peer (until 5 years later when they're teaching in the classroom next to you).

2.  You're not being "graded" per say anymore. Be careful with where you choose to be an overachiever. Creativity is awesome. Enthusiasm is awesome but don't go overboard and become the "Principal's Pet."  Help make your whole team look good- you'll need them on your side, not talking behind your back about how the bulletin board you spent all day Saturday making makes their boards look pathetic.  Remember- many experienced teachers have families and other responsibilities to take care of.

3.  Don't let the decorating and "fun" stuff take precedent over the "learning" stuff.  A great bulletin board is great!  But, were your lessons for that week equally great?  You have to make sure you're being the best teacher you can be by making sure you can teach.

4.  Make an effort to make a positive phone call home to each student's house early.  Start with the students you suspect might be difficult later.  If you're overwhelmed with the number of students try a few phone calls a day (2-3) and a few positive notes home as well.  Put these on postcards so your students know what you're saying to their parents!  Keep a log of all parent contact- positive and negative.

5.  Be careful about teacher gossip.  I think it's good to get a feel for the politics of a school, but it's also good to form your own opinions.  Also, be careful about listening to how others view "trouble" students- often times that kid will be an angel for you.  It's important to listen to the veterans but take everything with a grain of salt!  And listen more than you speak (which is always a struggle for me)!

Veteran teachers- what else would you add?

Thanks for reading!