Saturday, December 17, 2016

5 More Great Gift Ideas for English Teachers!



Happy Holidays! We all have teachers in our lives. And, most of you reading this blog have English Teachers in your life. Here's my gift giving guide for 2016. All ideas are under $10! Use this guide to find great ideas for your spouse, girlfriend or boyfriend, or even your child's teacher. At under $10 these gifts won't break the bank!

If you missed last year's guide check it out here: English Teacher Gift Giving Guide 2015!







1. Book Lover's Soy Tart by Frostbeard Studio at $6.75 this is a great deal and is flameless, so depending on the rules could be used in your English classroom! Picture below links to the Frostbeard Studio. You can get the candle version too either at their website or Amazon.
2. A great pillow can add to the reading corner of any classroom or home! This one is prime eligible and is still under $10!





3. If you have a teacher in your life that likes to unwind with a cocktail then, Tequila Mockingbird is the book for them. This cocktail book is full of fun drinks like the Gin Eyre, and Clockwork Orange Julius! I own it and love it!

4. Teachers always need a good mug. This one is cute and the price is right! 

5. Mini-notebooks are great to throw in a teacher bag and go! This pack of three will leave your favorite teacher in great shape to write down inspiration whenever it strikes! 
** This post contains affiliate links. **

Who do you have gifts to buy for? Which of these gifts would you love to receive?
Thanks for reading! 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Best of my Best Lessons

Hey Guys! I wanted to take a minute to talk to you about my two BEST lessons on TPT and one lesson idea that isn't. I try not to do too much promotion on here but I truly think both of these products will make your lives easier! And, I don't know about you but as we head into holiday time that's exactly what I need! Easy easy easy!


First up- This is a mini-bundle of two short print and go activities that accompany digital shorts. Here I use the well known Pigeon Impossible and the lesser known The Passenger to review literary terms and concepts with students. I kid you not. I have used this in 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, and college classrooms and EVERYONE has loved it. 

I don't think all resources are truly all ages but this is. Each of these videos with the activities will take about 15-20 minutes to get through depending on how much you discuss as a class. They are perfect for filling in before or after an assembly or the day before a break. I think I've written about Pigeon Impossible before but when I did this lesson the first time in my 7/8 class the kids (who were a bit rough around the edges) were PERFECT. No joke. I couldn't have scripted it better. I was also praised by a dean for using Bloom's Taxonomy and having 26/27 students completely engaged. I promise similar results for you. 

Just check out these testimonials: 

Tammy said: "This lesson is fabulous! My kids love "Pigeon Impossible"!! Even 6 - 8 weeks after the lesson was utilized I have students asking to if they can watch it when we have extra time at the end of class:-)"

Kristy said: "This is an amazing product-it was very engaging and my students begged to watch the video over and over!" 
best of the best_rectangular.jpg

My other best selling product is my research bundle. I developed this resource over the course of teaching several semesters of composition at the community college. A lot of what I created however was to fill the void in what my students didn't learn in or retain from high school. Therefore, I find this resource one that can be used starting in late middle school and moving through college. There is SO MUCH included in this bundle. You'll get presentations, rubrics, examples, information sheets etc. It can be used straight through or pick and choose the pieces you need to supplement any research activity your students are engaged in. 

I don't know about your students but mine needed a lot of help with how to summarize, paraphrase, take notes, write outlines and more. This bundle even includes instructions on how to write a research paper proposal and an annotated bibliography! If you don't know where to start with teaching research- this is the place to start. I'm also always updating and adding to the bundle. So buying it now will get you access to future resources even if the price goes up!! 

See what these buyers had to say:
Ms. Walker said: "I am such a fan of this resource! Perfect for my freshmen and sophomores who are also enrolled in college courses. Thanks!"

Anonymous said: "I am using this with my college level courses to introduce research papers. It has been easy for my students to understand, including the weaker ones, and it has been attractive and engaging enough to keep my better students interested. Thank you so much!"



My best non TPT lesson! 
The best lesson I've done that isn't on TPT involves reading aloud. I know it's not mind blowing but hear me out. I was teaching middle school to a mixed 7/8th grade class that had the lowest math scores out of approximately 180 students. They were very low in math- 3-4th grade. However, in class I had a mix of readers from 2nd grade to college ready! I'd been assigned to teach an elective called "Book Club" which was in addition to our ELA block. I knew I'd lose my low readers if I just made them read even more. So I decided to read to them. I went to one of my go-to high interest books; Tears of a Tiger by Sharon Draper. I'm from Ohio so the fact that it's set in Cincinnati rang true to them. 

Every day I sat on a stool in front of the class and read. They read along or just listened. As long as their eyes were open and they were quiet I let them be. I'd read for about 20 minutes and for the last 10 minutes of the class I'd ask them comprehension questions. I'd have them make predictions, think about theme etc. It was honestly my favorite 30 minutes of the day and they loved it too. When we got to the end of the book one of my very low readers asked for a notecard and had me tell him the titles of the other two books in the trilogy. I let him know and then told him that I had one of them in our classroom library. He quickly went back to try to find it. That was a moment when I knew what I was doing was working. Try it. Read something aloud. Take away all the writing and over analyzing and just ignite that interest in your students. That class helped me form bonds with that group of students and it was such a bright spot in that school year.

The BEST part!
This post is a part of a great blog hop featuring the best lessons from the best sellers on TPT.  Some are free, some are on sale, and all are awesome! You can also enter to win fantastic giftcards!  a Rafflecopter giveaway In fact, to celebrate my ENTIRE store is 10% off November 1-2 2016. Get these goodies at a steal while you can. Don't forget to rate past purchases to earn your TPT credits towards future purchases!


Thanks so Much for Reading!

Friday, October 21, 2016

5 Ways to Have a Happy Halloween in the Secondary ELA Classroom

5 Ways to Have a Happy Halloween Secondary ELA Style- Blog Post
I love Halloween. It is my favorite holiday. It often seems to have less push back than more religious holidays though I still try to be mindful of students who wouldn't want to participate at all. That said, there are a few things that I have done or would like to do in the future.

5 Ways to Have a Happy Halloween Secondary ELA Style- Blog Post1. The poem the Raven. You can never go wrong by following the standards- close reading of poetry is part of all ELA curriculums so why not apply it during the week of Halloween with a creepy story? You can show The Simpson's Tree House of Terror episode that has James Earl Jones read the poem. You may want to have students read it as homework to familiarize themselves with it as it is a longer poem. You can also read it over a few class periods. If you want to get your students up out of their seats and moving you can use these task cards I created and set them up around the room!



5 Ways to Have a Happy Halloween Secondary ELA Style- Blog Post2. Edgar Allan Poe has two other poems that I think lend themselves to this spooky time of year. Annabel Lee and The Spirits of the Dead. Generally I think these are great for middle school but they can be a great poetry review for high school as well. I have close reading handouts ready to print and teach if these interest you!


3. What about a costume party based off of whatever novel you're reading at the time? Dress like a metaphor or idiom? Make students bring the textual evidence that shows their costume is accurate!

4. Descriptive writing about fall treats- Describe what apple cider tastes like? Pumpkin Pie? Caramel Apples? Candy?

5. This is also a great time for a narrative unit. Have your students write scary stories! This is a great time to work on multiple plot lines as the CCSS ask for in the higher grade levels. Or, they could write ones for younger students and then take them to elementary schools to read them!

How do you let your secondary students still celebrate the season? Do you think it's important to still let them feel like kids? Leave a comment and let me know!

Oh- and as a special present to you-- here's a FREEBIE- a crossword puzzle all about POE!

5 Ways to Have a Happy Halloween Secondary ELA Style- Blog Post
Thanks for reading! 

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!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Hack Your Classroom: 5 Teacher Hacks for You to Try

I have seen so many "lifehack" posts and was thinking about the "hacks" I use while teaching to make my life easier, keep my students happy, and generally be a more productive teacher.

1. I love using YouTube videos in class. It's convenient and it breaks up the class period. However, especially when teaching middle school, I did not like that I couldn't control what shows up at the end of a video or along the side of the videos. Sometimes it'd be an inappropriate image from a music video etc. Then I discovered viewpure.com. All you have to do is copy and paste the YouTube URL into the viewpure box and it takes out the end screen and all the recommended videos on the side. It presents your video in a nice clean white player. Just like that I had no need to deal with inappropriate images and my students and I didn't fall down the "rabbit hole" of suggested videos. You can also embed videos this way if you teach in a blended, online, or flipped classroom.

5 Hacks for your classroom- Tips for all subjects and grades!2. Students coming without supplies such as pens is always an issue. Lending pens and never getting them back is even more frustrating. My first year of teaching I took fake flowers and taped them to blue and black pens and kept them in a vase on my desk. I won't say I never lost a pen but I kept them for significantly longer. It also had the added benefit of brightening up my room

3. The Common Core has a stronger emphasis on non-fiction texts which I think is important to pay attention to. However, I don't want to lose the connection to literature. I think the best way to handle this is to find non-fiction, and current articles that tie into the themes of the literature we read. To do that I set up Google Alerts. When reading A Raisin In The Sun I set up alerts for "racism," "housing inequality," and "the American Dream." Then I got emails whenever something new was published on those topics. It was great. I suggest setting up the alert at least a month before you plan on teaching the novel.

4. I didn't want my classroom library books to disappear into other teachers' classrooms so I used a self-inking stamp from vistaprint.com to mark them all as mine. I used the message "If found please return to Ms. Fuller" because I wanted it to work in any building or classroom. You could also get a customized embosser to do this. It made it fast and easy to mark all the books as mine and I thought it looked nicer than just writing my name onto the books.

5. When I taught middle school our paper was strictly rationed, but we had no workbooks. I needed to find a way to save paper as much as possible. I'm also a bit of a treehugger so I wanted to save paper regardless. I did two things to achieve this goal. First, I used the "print 2 to a page" feature. This saved a ton of paper! Secondly, I put things in page protectors and had students reuse the same sheets by doing them in whiteboard marker!

What are your favorite teaching hacks? Comment below!

Thanks for reading!

Monday, June 13, 2016

How Much Should Students Write? How Much Do They?

As you know, I used to teach middle and high school English and have switched over to teaching community college. And, I have a few confessions:

1. When I was in high school I called the college I work at "Tri-High." There was a view that it was an easy school that was basically a repeat of high school.

2. When I taught high school the longest writing assignment I required was one 5 paragraph essay. All in all my students probably wrote 5 pages total all year. (I will say, to my defense, I wasn't allowed to assign take home work, had 125 students, and worked at a drop out prevention school.)

3. When teaching high school I had no real idea as to what the expectation is at community colleges, or even 4 year schools. It'd been so long since my own freshman comp course that I couldn't remember what I had to write.

I've found that most of my students, whether straight from high school, students in their mid 20s, students still in high school, or students who are old enough to be my parent are not prepared for the volume of writing required for college. This realization got me to thinking... how much are high school students asked to write?

I decided to take this question to actual high school English teachers and prepared a bit of a survey. Here are the results:

What struck me the most about the responses for grade 9 and 9 advanced was the gap between the expectations. In regular 9th grade English the majority of respondents assigned 5-10 pages for the year. However, in advanced, they assign 15-20.

In English 10 it was evenly split between people who assign 5-10 pages and 15-20 pages (skipping 10-15 altogether). Then, in 10 advanced 5-10 and 10-15 were tied with less people choosing 15-20. I'm not sure what to conclude from this.

11th grade found similar patterns to 10th grade while 11th grade advanced stayed firmly at 10 pages or more. I was surprised that in 11th grade English someone assigned less than 5 pages of writing for the year.

I was most interested in 12th grade as that is the final year of high school and is where many of my students are coming from. I was interested to see that in both the regular and advanced classes 15-20 pages was the norm. I was concerned that only 5-10 pages for the year were assigned in 12 regular.

I was not surprised by the AP results. I was very interested in the responses to the question about required pages in a community college writing course. 

I thought it was interesting that some people believed that both in community colleges and 4 year colleges that some classes would require less than 15 pages of writing.

Are you ready for the real numbers for college classes? (At least in Ohio?)

When I started as an adjunct I was surprised to find out that the state of Ohio requires 20 pages of writing per semester for its freshman comp courses. That's 40 pages per year for most students in state funded institutions. And, 70% of their final grade must be based on those pages. This doesn't take into account any papers they are writing for their psychology, sociology, philosophy, or history classes. Nor does it account for any lab reports for their science courses.

At my school most of our comp courses are 14 weeks each. So 20 pages in 14 weeks, well 13 weeks as most of us have the final paper due before finals week. However, we also have 8 week courses that still require the 20 pages.

Though I realize I should have had a 20+ option in there, or a fill in the blank option in there the fact remains- I don't know if, based on this (admittedly small) sample size, we are having our students write enough.  Now, I get it. When you have 125 students the prospect of having them write even 15 pages a semester each is daunting- if not flat out impossible. However, our high schools as a team can do better.

I truly believe that a student should have one 5-10 page research paper (length dependent on year in school) due each year. However, I'm not sure it should always be the English teacher's responsibility. Why not have 9th grade be English, 10th be History, 11th be Science, and 12th go back to English?

In the future I'd like to explore which types of writing are focused on as well.  We require no literature courses nor literary analysis in our college courses yet, I suspect, that is still a major focus in the high schools. I'd also like to think about why advanced courses often have more writing. I'm teaching English Comp I Honors in the fall and they will write exactly the same amount as their peers. However, they will be given more freedom, have a higher expectation of rigor, and will engage with more complex topics because- to me- a former honors kid- honors should not mean more work.

Thanks for reading! 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Summa, Summa, Summertime!

 It is officially summer here in Cleveland! School is out for many of us but not all. In fact, my two week summer class started yesterday!


This summer I have a lot that I plan on doing...

1. I want to gamify a class (see my last post about the research I've been doing)
2. I plan on creating several interactive modules for my courses using Storyline
3. I need to create a museum like exhibit about the history of public shaming
4. I would love to have my entire British Lit course planned out before Fall

I'm also traveling so follow my twitter @yagoodbadugly and my instagram @ms_fs_teaching_adventures to see my experiences in Santa Fe, New Mexico and all around Ohio!

Check out my June/July Pinterest board below. Lots of great ideas for the end of the year (if you're still in school) or for summer!

Thanks for reading!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Game Time: Gamification in the English Classroom- Step 1 Research

I don't think I even remember where I got the idea or first heard of game-theory, gamifying, and gamification with regards to the English classroom. But the seed got planted in the fall and I've slowly been working towards fully gamifying a course or two.



Like any good educator I started by doing research.  Here are the sources I've used so far to help influence my ideas:


1. Gamify Your Class Level I- XP Points - this whole blog is great! Chris has a four post series that will really get you started if you want to hit the ground running. You can even buy his set up on TPT which I did and used in semi-successful trial run this spring. I will likely use it again in the fall.

2. Turning Your Class into a Game Part 1: The Experience - This is another awesome resource. I especially liked that this was a college professor as that is the grade level I'm currently teaching. She has a plethora of information and I'd really like to pick her brain and learn a bit more about the logistics of her set up.

3. Dr. Harrold's Site My big take away from this site is the QUEST set up. I used it in an online course this summer and introduced my instructional designer to it and we used it in an online professional development course as well. I do intend on using this in the fall whether in a fully gamified course or not.

4. Level Up with Gamification is an article written by a high school social studies teacher. In it he outlines a lot of ways he made gamification work in his class. There are great- practical ideas here!

5. Class Craft is a site that helps you easily manage gamified elements. I plan on testing this out this summer. I like how customizable the points are but dislike that I can't customize the theme. We'll see how my students respond to it. (Use this link to create a course and you'll get two free premium months which gives additional tools to you!)

I'm still looking for more and more ideas so I can fine tune what I want to do. Stay tuned for more posts about what I've tried, what aspects of gamification I think are most promising, and any stumbles I've had along the way.


Thanks for reading! Don't forget if you'd like to join the TPT family Click Here: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Signup/referral:agirlnamedsara

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Teachers... You're Appreciated!

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!

Teachers Pay Teachers is celebrating you by hosting a sale today and tomorrow! If you use the code: CELEBRATE you can get 10% off. That's on top of any sale prices that sellers have going on!

My entire store is 20% off so if you take another 10% off of that it ends up being 28% off of the list price! (I know that looks weird... but trust me... math)

Here are some of my best buys:

My writing bundle would cost $66 to buy all separately. It's usually bundled for $45. But today you can get it for $32.40! That's more than 50% off!


This bundle of poetry resources costs $14 unbundled, $12 bundled, and is available today for $8.64! 

Check out all of my bundles and the plethora of lessons that I have for on sale for less than a dollar! Stock up now for next year! Finish the year strong! 

Thanks for reading!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Teaching Reflection: E-Writing Portfolios

During the spring semester of 2015 I chose to use E-Writing Portfolios in my first year composition classes.  The idea was students could continuously improve upon their writing throughout the semester before receiving a final grade on it at the end of the semester. I never did a final reflection on the practice at the time so I figure I'll do it now.

Overall the success of the experiment was mixed. Some students really loved the idea that they could keep working on their papers to make them better. Others didn't ever make significant changes and therefore didn't really do much before turning in the final drafts.



Another issue was where to host these portfolios. We ended up using primarily wordpress or blogger- but that messes with formatting etc. I need to do more research into options.

I had the papers spaced out the way I usually do, but I think it might have worked better if they had to write all the papers a bit quicker and then we worked on the revising the rest of the semester. Or if I taught them different genres of writing early and then used the rest of the semester as a workshop where they could be in any place in the writing process on any given day for any of their papers.

I have not attempted portfolios again- yet because I want to explore some of these issues.

However, in my first semester comp class I allow them to rewrite any paper for a higher grade if they see the tutors. In my second semester comp class I am allowing anyone with a "C" or lower to rewrite their papers after meeting with me to discuss. I'm allowing this because the point is to help them learn to master a skill- if rewriting helps them do that then I'm all for it.

How do you handle student writing in your classes?

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

Friday, February 5, 2016

Tracking Data: Student Retention

During Fall semester I tracked my students to see how I did with retaining students, having good pass rates, and to see if my students who took a refresher course to make it into college English ended up being successful in the college English class.

I finally got around to running some data. Overall in my College Comp one classes I had about a 60% pass rate with the 40% non passing being mainly comprised of students who "ghosted" and disappeared.

With my refresher course which runs for 2 weeks and allows the instructor to read a portfolio to determine placement 13 out of the 16 students who moved on into the College Comp course passed with a "C" or "B."  There were no "As" or "Ds."

I'm pretty pleased with these results. I want a better retention rate so I'll continue to work on that but it seems that students who stick with it are doing well and I'm doing a decent job of figuring out which students can handle the rigor of College Comp!

Stay tuned for more data in May or June!

Thanks for reading! 

Monday, February 1, 2016

Observing Black History Month in the Classroom

February is Black History Month. I feel like this is a really important month to celebrate and to bring into your classroom no matter what great or subject you teach.

Have you looked at your curriculum recently? Are African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans and other people of color included regularly throughout your lessons? Often, unintentionally, they are left out because in many ways our curriculum hasn't changed in many years.  Much of what has become part of our educational canon was determined at a time in our history where the works of people of color were not deemed worthy of academic study.

With this idea in mind I created a Freebie last year that encourages your students to conduct a little research exercise to see what their curriculum presents them with. Ideally this sparks conversation and helps students determine whether we "need" a Black History Month or not.  Maybe, at your school, you really don't! (That'd be awesome!)



In English classes it's easy to incorporate Black History! Why not teach A Raisin in the Sun this month? Or take a look at poets such as Langston Hughes? The product below uses two poems from Langston Hughes to prepare students for reading A Raisin in the Sun but it can be used, easily, without the play.


We all have to do our part to make sure marginalized voices; women, people of color, disabled, LGBTQ are heard.  There is high quality literature from and about all of these groups.  What are some of your favorites to include?


Thanks for reading! 

Monday, January 11, 2016

Flipped Classrooms: Understanding the Technique

Flipped classrooms are big in education right now.  But what does it mean really?



A flipped classroom is one where the student gets the information traditionally presented in class at home via the computer.  This means the teacher provides students with video lectures, PowerPoints, etc as "homework."  Then, in class the following day, the student does hands on activities or practices the skills that were taught the night before.

The idea behind this format is that students should be working with the material while the expert, the teacher, is near. When we have students do homework etc without an expert nearby we can't catch their mistakes, re-teach on the fly, or assist them should questions arise.

Flipped classrooms are not just putting everything online. Online or blended courses are not inherently "flipped."  However, blended or hybrid courses do lend themselves to a flipped model quite easily.

I love the idea, but it takes time to build up a collection of videos and lectures.  So I've gone partially flipped.  Some of my lectures/lessons I provide online.  It's not as hard as you think.

There are a few tools I use.  One is just plain old PowerPoint. I record my voice over the slides right in the program and I upload the file for my students to view. Another option is to screencast your PowerPoint.  I use Screen-Cast-O-Matic online and it records everything on my screen and my voice.  This works well if you have presentations in PDF form.  You can also use this to show students how to use certain sites etc. And, sometimes, if I don't think they need a lot of side commentary from me I just provide them with the presentation itself or a handout to review.

I have recently bought a green screen and plan on trying to do some actual videos as well.

Once we're in class I may give a quick quiz on the information from the night before or a formative assessment and then we get to work.  I'm trying to have my students do more of their paper writing in front of me so I can catch mistakes early.

If you've written a blog post about how you've put your lectures/classroom activities online to be completed before you see your students face to face then please link up and tell us all more about how you've "flipped" your classroom.




Thanks for reading! 

Friday, January 1, 2016

What I Learned in 2015: Thoughts from a Post-Secondary Teacher


The end of a year is a time for reflection. I've linked up with Secondary Sara and many other secondary bloggers to hopefully let you learn from my experiences this year.

One thing that I'm really proud of making progress on is my organization. I've started utilizing my outlook calendar much more (though I could just as easily use google calendar.)  I've color coded all my appointments, classes, office hours etc.  I'm even starting to block out time to work on specific projects/grading and more! I also use the "task list" feature to keep track of emails I need to respond to and items I need to do as well. I just started this in the last month of the semester so I can't wait to see how much it helps me if I use it from the start of the semester through till the end.

I tried several new things with my classes this semester. Two of which were very very popular with my students.  First, I had my students conduct H.O.T. book talks (higher order thinking).  Group leaders were given sheets to come up with 3 questions each of varying levels of difficulty using the concept of Bloom's Taxonomy. During the actual discussions I said nothing. Well, once in awhile I reminded the class as a whole that several people hadn't spoken yet.  But other than that it was entirely student led. It was interesting to see which topics they gravitated towards.


The second activity that students seemed to really like was the last assignment of the semester.  I randomly assigned them controversial topics and had them research them.  Each student had to write a 2 page position paper for AND against their topic.  Then, in class, I told each of them whether they'd be "for" or "against" and had them do mini debates.  Several students liked that they had to consider both sides of the issue.  Especially as the election draws nearer I think it's important to show  students how to look at multiple viewpoints and make educated choices.

As I prepare for spring semester 2016 I plan on improving upon my online course delivery.  I also hope to continue to find innovative lessons that engage my students while helping them master important skills. 

Thanks for reading!