Random Acts of Kindness: Real World ELA


If you're interested in outreach, real-world extensions of ELA, or character development, then you might be interested in random acts of kindness! {Scroll down for pics.}

I first did this project last year, during my unit on A Christmas Carol, when I wanted to talk to students about the importance of NOT being like Scrooge! Students couldn't decide how they felt about it at first, but in their reflections afterward, they were almost unanimously glad that they did it! 

Teaching Students to Analyze Evidence (at last!)


Does the following story sound familiar to you?
For years, the Social Studies teacher and I banged our heads against a wall with getting our students to fully explain their answers, support their ideas with evidence, and then explain and/or analyze that evidence. We used witty acronyms, taught it consistently across the curriculum, modeled examples... and yet, students still under-performed.

How TED is Transforming my English Class - Post #1


Okay, sure - TED talks are cool, and I'm not the only teacher who plays them for my students. Many intuitive educators are playing TED videos at school (or assigning them as homework) to teach public speaking, listening skills, or the talk's content itself.

But this year, my eighth graders will take TED to a whole new level in our classroom.

Literary Banners: English Classroom Craft



So you may remember from a previous post that I like the idea of making decorations from ruined books. This summer, I made my first one - a banner made from old pages of The Giver. I'm probably going to hang it across (or slightly above) my whiteboard, or another long wall.

Want to make your own? Here's how!

Five Important Ways to Welcome a New Teacher



As we all start to head back to our classrooms, it's easy to feel so overwhelmed with your own preparation that you don't get a chance to interact with The New Teacher.

...And no, I'm not just talking about first year teachers, though they are important - this also includes the veteran who's simply new to your building, the familiar teacher who changed grade levels, and the person teaching a new class.

What I Learned from Teaching a 30-Day Challenge {Updated Post}


Last school year, my co-teacher and I agreed to try a 30-Day Challenge with our class of eighth graders.

5 Things to do BEFORE Summer Vacation


You must think I've lost my mind. Why make our end-of-year checklist LONGER?

The countdown to summer vacation is my most frantic time of the year, tied with Back to School season. Grading assignments, grading final exams, cleaning up the classroom, making report cards, and all of our end-of-year traditions and field trips make May and early June a CRAZY time.

Despite the chaos, I'm ADDING five more WORTHY things to my to-do list. I have never regretted squeezing these in.

6 Things to Remember if your Friend is a Teacher


Calling all besties, acquaintances, girlfriends, and even significant others: 

Congrats! One of your friends scored a teaching job (or perhaps is in the process of getting one).

Since it's Teacher Appreciation Week here in the US, let's talk about the easiest, cheapest, least-effort ways you can appreciate that teacher friend. (Not that you aren't already wonderful.)

Teaching Allusion: Dealing with RL.8.9 and RL.9-10.9


There's a standard that should be awesome but seems to give me (and many others) pause:

25 Ways to Make Grading Less Painful


Disclaimer: Just so you know, some (but not all) of the links below are affiliate links.

There's no way around it. No matter how much formative assessment you did, how much feedback you gave early, how aligned or focused your rubric is... you still have to grade it.

Helping Students Like Nonfiction After All


(This is long but worth it, I hope. Stay with me.)

A best friend and I recently concluded that, at age twentysomething, a switch has randomly flipped in our brains, and we now love non-fiction.

This revelation is a big deal, coming from us. She works in publishing; I'm an English teacher. We both have English degrees. We both have deep appreciation for fiction in all centuries. And even though we LIKE non-fiction topics (and read books on teaching pedagogy and feminism and psychology), we used to approach non-fiction like broccoli - good for you, but not particularly enjoyable (unless there's a reward, like ranch dressing...)

Our broccoli attitude about non-fiction is also the reason why our kids don't like it.

5 Ways to Teach the State of the Union Address


I watch the SOTU the way that some people watch the Super Bowl, regardless of who is the president. I spend the entire speech listening, live-tweeting, and texting my mother and politically-minded friends about what is said.

But I also listen to it the way that I listen to music: appreciating the artistry, even if I don't like the lyrics.

5 Emergency Skills All Teachers Should Know


Last night, I had my first experience with an anaphylactic allergic reaction. My throat started to tighten. My skin became red and itchy. I began to cough, and my breathing sounded higher-pitched.

After several minutes of wondering if I was imagining things or overreacting (including calling the allergist to make sure I wasn't crazy), I realized my throat was indeed closing and went to self-administer my epi-pen.