Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Grade Smarter: Verbal Feedback Edition

I made a major change in how I give feedback over the past couple of semesters.  I now do it verbally!  My students submit all their drafts and final copies of papers on Google Drive so I am able to use the app Kaizena to open their papers and provide recorded verbal feedback.  Check out this post to find out how to set up Kaizena!

I have done this two ways:
1.  I give one large (2 minute or so) comment about the whole paper at once.
2.  I give smaller comments throughout the paper highlighting specific things.

I prefer way #1 but #2 also works well.



You may be wondering why I do this or what benefits I have seen, so let me elaborate.

When I give verbal feedback the students have told me it feels less harsh than seeing a paper with red, green, or purple marks all over it.  They say they can tell by the tone of my voice that I am not upset or disappointed but that I am truly trying to get them to improve their techniques.

I like doing it because it helps me focus on the big picture items.  Is their paper organized, are they on topic, did they use evidence appropriately instead of spending 10 minutes finding every single spelling and grammar error in the first two paragraphs.  I don't ignore those errors but I will say something like "there are several spelling errors in your first paragraph, please review" or "The second sentence is a comma splice.  Review your notes and check your paper for others and fix them."  I believe that this puts the responsibility on the student to fix their mistakes.  (I do most of this on the first draft.)

I also like that it saves me a lot of time.  Like, a whole lot.  I have found I can read a 5 page paper and leave initial feedback in about 5 minutes total.  It takes slightly longer if I'm reviewing a final draft, but I've changed my method for that as well because I am now using the portfolio method which I'll discuss in a future post.

If you don't use google drive you can use screencastomatic to record videos of you commenting on their paper using screencast software and then email them a link to the video or a copy of the video.

I know a professor who has students record comments back to him which creates a type of conversation between them!  The options are plentiful.

How do you grade smarter?


Thanks for reading! 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Tweets of the Week April 19-25th

These were the tweets that made me stop and think this week:

This is so true for me.  I try hard to help my students develop a world view, think critically, and grow personally.  Content matters, but so does everything else!


I've seen this quote before and I love it.  It's true of so many skills.  Just because you can do something doesn't mean anything.  You have to use the skill for it to have true meaning.
I've been thinking about this more and more as I teach college.  There is an interesting issue at the community college however of having students fresh from high school with many of those skills and then students in their late 20s, 30s, and even 50s and 60s who may or may not get this "new fangled" teaching!


I'm working on some social justice unit ideas and so this really gave me pause.  I need to consider this more.

Let me know if there's someone I just HAVE to follow on twitter!
Thanks for reading! 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Bye April!

Well, it's the last Friday in April and April is my favorite month of the year.  So, I'm linking up with Julie Faulkner's Fast Five again!  (Click the picture to see more bloggers who are participating!)



First, it's my birthday month.  I'm celebrating the tenth anniversary of a milestone birthday on the 29th!  Teaching, I think, has a way of making me feel older than I am.  The students just don't get a lot of my references!

Second, it's poetry month.  As an English teacher I totally geek out over the fact that there's an entire month devoted to a form of literature!  #love

Third, it's Shakespeare's birthday! Yesterday was anyways and well again- I'm an English teacher nerd!

Fourth, here in Ohio it finally starts to feel like spring.  This typically occurs late in the month but it's glorious.  You hear the birds, see crocus' and daffodils bloom, and the green that had disappeared all winter shows back up.

Fifth, it signals the end of the college school year.  I have finals the first and second week of May and then I'm mostly free for the summer!  I am so ready for a mini break and to rework some parts of my classroom.

How was your month?  Is April your favorite too?


Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

My Favorite Teaching Blogs

Teaching is all about collaboration, self reflection, and self improvement.  One way for us to improve our teaching is to reach outside the four walls of our respective schools and connect with educators from around the world!  I love to do this by reading blogs.  The following is a list of blogs that I think are worth checking out!



English Specific Blogs for High School and Middle School Teachers

1.  The Language Arts Classroom- by Lauralee! Lauralee loves grammar, coffee, and test prep among other things.  She discusses all as well as reflects on educational practices.  I love Lauralee's weekly link up on Sundays because you can find lots of great secondary products!

2.  Real Learning Room 213- by Jackie from Prince Edward Island, Canada!  Jackie does a great job of discussing what works in her classroom.  She also shares free printable activities that she has created and or explains thoroughly how to use her Teachers Pay Teachers products in a meaningful 
way in the classroom.

3.  Faulkner's Fast Five- by Julie Faulkner! Julie's blog follows the same format for each entry: that is she tells you five things about the topic at hand!  I love it.  There is a wide variety of topics covered on her blog from different teaching topics and strategies to aspects of her personal life and even some teacher fashion!  Be sure to stop by and check it out!

4.  Secondary Sara- by Sara!  Sara has great tips on lots of teaching strategies and topics for English.  She does such a great job of reflecting and providing useful actionable tips to teachers who are in the trenches!  

5. Stacey Lloyd Teaching- by Stacey!  Stacey teaches in South Africa, if I recall correctly.  Her blog is filled with reflective pieces about teaching, tips about teaching certain topics, and guests posts from all sorts of people. This blog is a great addition to your reading list.

6.  Raising Rigor and Readers - According to Tanesha, "This blog features posts about teaching reading and writing to secondary learners (grades 6-8). Additionally, there are posts on promoting equity in classrooms." This is a great and engaging blog!

7. Ms. Spangler in the Middle- Ms. Spangler is currently teaching 8th grade ELA but her blog may evolve in future years as she is licensed as a special ed teacher and can be asked to teach any number of things! I love the diversity of her knowledge

8. Brain Waves Instruction- According to the brilliant brain behind "Brain Waves Instruction:" "The Brain Waves Instruction blog is a place where teachers can find fun ways to activate the brain waves in their classrooms. It's filled with classroom management ideas, instructional tips and tricks, and links to resources to help busy teachers." I love that she incorporates guest posts, tips for teacher authors, and lots of great ideas for your classroom. There are also high school resources but the majority of products are appropriate for middle school!

Cross-Curricular Focused Blogs for All Teachers

9.  What's New With Leah- by Leah Cleary!  Leah teaches both history and English so she has a great blog that deals with both.  I'm a huge fan of cross-curricular opportunities so her blog really resonates with me.  She typically posts once a week on Mondays but sometimes you get lucky and see more frequent posts from her!  I love that many of her tips can work in any classroom!


Non English Focused Blogs that Still have Great Advice for all Teachers

10. Managing and Motivating Math Minds- by Kacie Travis!  Kacie teaches high school math but has taught middle school math in the past.  I was surprised to see how much I liked her blog, because MATH.  However, she has posts about interactive notebooks, teacher evaluations and more that are relevant to teachers of any subject!  I really recommend you check it out even if the thought of math makes you shudder!

Who am I missing?  Let me know in the comments what great blogs you read!

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Tweets of the Week: April 12- April 18th

Here are my favorite tweets of the week.  Who should I be following?  How do you use twitter?







Don't forget if you'd like to join the TPT family Sign Up Here!

Thanks for reading! 

Happy Birthday Shakespeare

In honor of Shakespeare's upcoming birthday here's a glimpse at a post I wrote last year for a collaborative blog I work on.


April 23rd is the generally accepted date of birth (and coincidentally, death) of Shakespeare!  This is based off of his baptism date.
Whenever I have taught Shakespeare my students have been intimidated, so why not make it fun and throw a party in his honor?
There ain’t no party like a Shakespeare party ‘cause a Shakespeare party don’t stop.shakesbday
Here are some ideas:
Decorations:Hang posters of Shakespeare’s plays.  Print up famous quotes and hang them as well!  Make the front of the classroom look like a stage with fancy curtains!  The ideas are endless!
Music:Check out this list of 11 Songs inspired by or referencing Shakespeare on Mental Floss!
Here’s another list with even more from SongFact!
Want to see the rest of this post?  Check out the Cross Curricular Corner!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A Cross-Curricular Approach to Poetry Month

Poetry Month is half over!  Here are a 7 great blog posts about teaching poetry!






Check them out:


1.  Kovescence of the Mind:  You Oughta Know April is about collaborative annotation.   I love what she writes about here.  This might make a presence in my college courses soon!


2.  The Language Arts Classroom: April is National Poetry Month gives great tips about how to approach poetry if you aren't it's biggest fan.  Lauralee even says, "I'm an English teacher, and I don't like poetry!"


3.  Secondary Sara:  Do Not Go Gently, Teach Poetry! provides 5 ways to incorporate poetry!  Sara's post encourages you to not "give up" on poetry!  


4.  Facing History & Ourselves: Getting Poetic in Social Studies has a great post about tying poems into your social studies lessons.  

5.  The ELA Buffet: An Open Letter to Longfellow is a very cute post about teaching a historical poem!  It's another great poem for a social studies class!  



6.  Everything Ed: Poetry Month What do you do?  is a link up to several poetry resources.

7. Ms. F's Teaching Adventures: Look a Little Closer:Teaching Students to Do a Close Reading is my post from awhile back where I look at how I help my students learn to examine poetry line by line!

Edited to add:

8.  Stacey Lloyd Teaching: 5 Reasons I love Teaching Figurative Language gives you "five reasons why teaching figurative language and poetry is not only educational, but is just so much fun!" since poetry and figurative language often go together!


9.  Julie Faulkner's Fast 5: True Blue American: September 11 Poetry Lesson is an awesome cross curricular activity!  Julie explains that, "Everything we do and say affects another person and makes this world we live in what it is – for better or worse. In this lesson, poetry sparks discussions and reflection analysis of what it means to be a “true-blue American.” #merica"


Hope you enjoyed this list of great posts about poetry! 



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

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Cross post from my YA Lit blog www.yagoodbadugly.wordpress.com :

Getting our students or children to read is often challenging in this multi-media world.  Yet, I’ve found, that even my reluctant readers are interested in a good story.  The thing is- they’re lazy.  Not all of them, but many of them, and the idea of having to sift through books to find one that interests them doesn’t sound like fun.  Or, they don’t find what they want in the first 3-5 books and they give up.  Many of us have AWESOME classroom or school libraries.  We’ve taken time to collect books, buy books, and organize our books only to have our shelves sit there unused.  This is a waste!  Books are not for decoration, they are to be read!  Read More....




Want to read about other ways to encourage a love of reading?  Checkout this link up over with the Literary Maven:





Thanks for reading!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Tweets of The Week April 5- April 11

There was a lot of great stuff on Twitter this week.  These are some of the tweets that stood out to me.  Do any of these resonate with you?  You can follow me at @yagoodbadugly












Thanks for reading!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

So Much to Teach So Little Time

My semesters end in 4 and 5 weeks respectively.  I have SO much left to do!  I'm sure this is true for many high school and middle school teachers as well.  I have to cover my standards, we all do.  But, I don't want to overwhelm my students.  So, what am I doing?



I'm flipping my classroom a bit more.  I am putting a lot of my typically in class lectures/lessons online.  I may even put a few of my quizzes on line.  I'm giving more time in class for practice so I can help them.  Even though we still have another 5 page paper and a writing portfolio to complete I think if I help them in class each step of the way they will feel less pressure.

I cut an extra reading.  Sometimes I have a habit of hitting the same standards over and over.  It's not inherently a bad thing- but I have to ask myself, as the semester wears down.  Can they master this standard with 3 chapters of readings instead of 4?  Do they really need to do another handout or will the final paper be enough to show they know the skill?

Rethinking how and what we're assessing I think is key.  Do our students need 10 questions to show mastery? Will 5 do it?  Can several standards be covered by one assignment instead of 2?  The nice thing is this also cuts down on my grading.

I also have to really consider whether a standard has been covered already or not.  A lot of times we cover standards without even realizing it!  Think back through your lessons and really consider which standards haven't been touched at all and focus on those!

Thanks Room 213 for inspiring this post with your blog hop.  Check out the rest of the posts that are linked up:




Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Get Em Moving: Using Task Cards in College The Raven Edition

I'm linking up with The Literary Maven this week to discuss hands on learning!

I had to teach on Halloween this year.  I realized that college students don't often get to celebrate holidays in class so I figured I'd bring a little of the holiday to them via Poe's "The Raven."



This was a one day departure from our regularly scheduled lessons so I wanted a poem most of them had already read.  I showed them the Simpson's clip from TeacherTube to refresh their memories and provided them each with a copy of the poem.

I then told them we were going to be answering questions about the poem using task cards.  I gave each student 1-2 task cards.  I told them as they finished they needed to pass the cards on and find new ones.  They were to complete as close to the 25 questions as possible by writing the answers on a separate piece of paper.  Some of the cards required them to use their phones.  Some were opinion questions, and some were straight up analysis/identification questions.

I wasn't sure how into it they'd get but they totally got into it.  I had students going from table to table and I myself was running cards all over.  It was definitely organized chaos.  At the end I asked for thumbs up, thumbs down, or thumbs to the side about the activity and they said thumbs up.  They liked that it was different than completing questions on one sheet even if the questions were the same as they would have been.  They said it was more exciting!

I then gave them candy.  It was Halloween after all.

**I love using "The Raven" at Halloween time, but it's great year round.  There are so many examples of poetic devices in it!  Very fun!**


Check out all the other hands on learning blog posts on The Literary Maven's blog by clicking the image below!



Thanks for reading!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Tweets of the Week March 29-April 4

These were the tweets that really resonated with me this week.  If you don't already you can follow me on Twitter... @yagoodbadugly




Thanks for reading!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Ideal Class Size Poll Results

Here are the results from last week's poll!  Sorry so late!

I stand with the 15-19 per class group.  I've found it difficult in smaller classes to keep discussions going and if a few people are absent suddenly the class is very very small.  

The National Writing Program recommends 15 students per composition course (which of course doesn't happen often) and I do think that is ideal.  I can provide much more individualized attention and feedback on writing when my courses are smaller.  

I truly think that smaller classes is the answer to better student outcomes rather than different standards or more testing.  Who's with me?

Thanks for stopping by!  Have an idea for a poll? Let me know!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

PEEP This!

Guess what?  A group of stores on TpT are having a SALE!  But it's not till Easter Sunday (4.5.15) !  My whole store will be 20% off!



I recommend checking out these products as you wrap up your year:


These sheets are great as a final in class writing assessment.


These two activities take about 15 minutes each and are a nice break or filler when there are assemblies and other interruptions. 


This activity is great for the last week of school and involves a paired reading and a writing assignment!


Happy Shopping!