Monday, June 19, 2017

Free Textbooks for Secondary and College English

Budgets are being slashed and whether you teach high school or college the cost of textbooks and materials keeps growing. The phrase "textbook affordability" is thrown around a lot where I'm from. And it can be frustrating because as educators we have very little control over how much a publisher charges.

Frankly, in the high schools the issue wasn't for the students but on us instead. I know that my first year teaching I had about 7 books for 120 students! This included a stack of pages that had fallen out of the text books. I'd often have to say "If you can't find the page in your book try the stack of extra pages!"  However, luckily for us, our options for free open source resources are also growing.

Check out these 5 amazing sources for free resources for you and your students to use.

1. Frameworks for Academic Writing  This pdf download has lots of different styles of writing from argument to personal to business and everything in between. The author has the permissions set to allow you to change what you need to. Just make sure to give her credit and to not sell it as your own!

2. The Process of Research Writing This takes you to a site where you can access each chapter individually. I love this resource because it has literally everything you might need to help your students complete a major research assignment. It's great for taking a little bit or a lot from! You can also create your own materials using this and still be in the clear due to the Creative Commons license he has on it!

3. Writing Spaces Vol 1 and Writing Spaces Vol 2 These two are collections of essays about writing in college. You can download the complete collections or each piece individually. My favorite piece to use in my classes is "Annoying Ways People Use Sources" from volume 2. It's a fun look at what not to do when integrating source material into a research paper.

4. American Literature Before 1860 While this material is already accessible via the common domain it's nice that this e-book has already put it together for your in one package with an easy to navigate table of contents.

5. The Compact Anthology of World Literature I am currently using this as the primary textbook in my World Literature Course. There are three volumes and more literature than you could hope to go through. Due to the nature of copyright there is not any modern work and no real Latin American works but it is still a valuable resource for many other great texts!

If you're just looking for pieces of literature online this might be a great place to start.

So, have you jumped into the Open Education Resources yet? Are there great ones that you've used? How do you feel about digital textbooks? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Book Reviews

In another life I blogged about YA Lit. It was a passion of mine. I still love me some YA lit but I haven't been good about blogging about it. I've decided to share some of my previous reviews here for you all because I do think they're worthwhile for you.

So I'm going to start with: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein because it was a more recent book and I think it has an insane amount of potential for the classroom.

It was a book that captivated me and I think has great crossover appeal to adults. I wouldn't hesitate to use it in my college classroom were I presented with the opportunity to do so. I also like how it has a bit of technical information about planes and such that makes it have appeal to males as well as females since it's a female-centric book.

Original post below:

I really enjoy historical fiction.  Not only do I get to read a great story but I get to learn in the process.  I also love books with strong female protagonists.  This book truly delivered on both counts.  Told from the viewpoints of two different girls during WWII this book has action, intrigue, female bonding and so much more.
Some of the things I loved about this book:
TONS of literary and historical allusions.  This book is for smart people!
A new take on WWII.  I've read lots of books focusing on the plight of the Jewish population- which of course is very important, but this takes a different angle.
A Complete Guide to Vocabulary Comprehension and PlotYoung women in positions of importance.  This is definitely a book that proves can be/do anything.  Even pilot planes during war time!
I truly think this would be a great book to use in the classroom.  Check out this novel guide on Teachers Pay Teachers that I created. It helps students with the vocabulary, allusions, and general comprehension.
The Lowdown: (via Scholastic)
Interest Level: Grade 10
Reading Level: Grade 6  (While this may be technically true, the dual narrator, and the allusions, along with some of the content make this book appropriate for high school. I would not teach this below high school due to content.
Michael L. Printz Honor Book
Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Young Adult Novel
Golden Kite Honor
There is somewhat of a sequel available too which I have yet to read.

Have you read the book? What do you think? Do you use it in your classroom?
Thanks for reading! 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Women's History Month

It's women's history month, and I'm a bit late posting this but...

The English classroom is a great place to celebrate the contributions of women. Coming off of February I think teaching A Raisin in the Sun is a great way to incorporate both Black history and a female writer!

It's also a great time leading into April i.e. poetry month, to look at Dickinson.

Or, go the historical fiction route and look at Code Name Verity with your class. It has strong female characters and tells about how women were instrumental in WWII. And, it's written by a woman too!

And lastly, since Spring break is likely coming up soon and the kids are antsy here's a FREE time filler for your students. It's a crossword about women's history. It can be done as a research project too! Click the image below to download it from TPT!

Thanks for reading! 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

From Adjunct to Assistant Professor in 3 Semesters

Most of you who have read my blog before know that I used to teach high school and middle school. After a particularly rough year in a middle school I decided to jump ship and finish my MA in English and go into the less secure world of being an adjunct professor.

From the time I started as an adjunct at the major community college in my area til the time I was hired full time at that same community college I taught for 3 semesters and 1 summer. Actually I started interviewing in that 3rd semester. This is far below the average from what I can tell- especially for English teachers. In fact, I was told there were over 230 people who applied for the position I got. Some with more education and experience than I had.

So, how did I do it? I'm not 100 percent sure. But, I'll tell you what I think helped me.

1. I treated every day as if it were an interview. I tried to dress professionally, be extra prepared etc. I also stayed on campus as much as possible despite working at several different locations. I think this gave me more visibility.
2. I got to know the people in my department. I asked for help. I collaborated. I shared resources.
3. I attended as much professional development as possible. Some were all day sessions on Saturdays. But, by doing so I started seeing deans. I showed that I wanted to keep growing/improving/learning.
4. I made sure the deans knew who I was. I said hello to them. I found ways to tell them about my successes in the classroom.
5. I tried to find a way to draw positive attention to the college. So I created a service learning project with a local free clinic for one of my classes. I invited administration to the presentations at the end of the semester. This also gave me something to discuss in my interview.

The above 5 steps I think helped me get the interview. Now, what did I do in the interview?

1. I emphasized my teaching experience. The state funding model has changed. We now get money based on the number of students who succeed. They need people who can teach.
2. I gave specific examples from both my time as an adjunct and prior to showcase my style of teaching and my teaching philosophy.
3. I discussed my experience with teaching all types of students. I know how to teach students with learning disabilities etc.
4. I told them that I want to keep learning and growing. I gave examples of ways that I had already gone out of my way to learn more about teaching college v teaching high school.
5. I explained how much I liked the culture of their campus. An advantage to being an adjunct where you want to be hired is that you get to try it out. I could give specific examples of what I liked about their campus and my future colleagues.

This isn't a fool proof plan. But, I think, if you want to make the jump from adjunct to full time you have to be very deliberate with how you go about it. Just being a good teacher isn't enough if no one knows you. Having the credentials isn't enough because plenty of other people do too. What makes you different? What can you offer that others can't? Show them, before they even hire you full time, what type of employee you're going to be.

Good luck!

Thanks for reading!