15 Ways to Slay the Week AFTER Winter Break

Maybe it's just me, but January is NOT my favorite teaching month.

In addition to the cold, dark weather (thanks, Ohio) and the fact that winter break is now over (sigh), my school has midterm exams, report cards, and parent conferences all in January. 

Even if your exams happened in December and you have the fresh glow of a new semester to keep you inspired, the beginning of a new term can mean a lot of work, a lot of maintaining or building classroom norms, and a lot of energy to get back into the work/life groove. 

5+ Easy Gifts for Older Students

Have your students been good this year? Even if they haven't, perhaps you're inclined to show them some love this winter. However, sometimes gift-giving to older students is easier said than done. 

Depending on your class, you might have allergies to worry about, limited color copying privileges, minimal time for crafting... not to mention the need to respect all cultures. You don't want your choice of gift to show preferential treatment to one holiday over another.

Fortunately, giving meaningful gifts to your students doesn't have to be a time-consuming, Pinterest-worthy project. In fact, with teenagers in middle and high school, a lot of the things they want do NOT involve glue guns, pom-poms, or excessive crafting on your part!

7 Ways to Teach the ELECTION in English Classes

8th Grader {looking confused}: "Mrs. H, I thought I really liked this speech by my favorite candidate... But, like, the WHOLE thing is basically just, like, fallacies."

Me {biting my tongue}: "Huh, that's interesting. Why do you think that happened?"

Teaching Halloween Activities to Older Students

Thinking ahead for Halloween? Not sure if you can (or want to) squeeze the holiday into your class?

Many secondary "big kids" would LIKE to celebrate (especially since October 31st is a Monday this year!), but I know that you need an activity that will still be academically meaningful, too. Here are a few ideas for ELA activities, depending on what standard, objective, amount of time, and/or difficulty level you want to take on!

8+ Tips for Secondary English SUB PLANS

Caught the flu from a family member? Don't sweat it (pun intended) - you've got more options for prepping your substitute teacher than you think.

Although I'm not a substitute teacher myself, I teach in a building that has a REALLY hard time getting enough substitute teachers, so I've *somewhat* been in that role by filling in for other teachers, both planned in advance or at the last minute. 

If you're in a middle or high school setting, you've probably noticed that the primary world seems to have cutesy solutions all over Pinterest for substitute teachers, and our sphere is more silent on this topic. 

News Flash: You don't need a cute "sub tub", or even a perfect printed pile of lessons on your desk when the other teacher walks in the door. But there are a few things that ARE essential before you're gone for any length of time. 

12 Tips for Teaching Grammar like a Pro

In the past five years, I've tried everything a variety of methods to meet the grammar needs of that year's class of students. Let me save you the trouble of finding some things out the hard way... as well as some ideas that are just plain cool.

18 Tips for Teaching Creative Writing

Teaching a creative writing class? Need a boost before your next narrative unit?

Regardless of your experience and enthusiasm, teaching creative writing can be daunting in all its forms (fiction, poetry, narrative nonfiction, etc.).

But why is that?

15 Tips for Pulling off Independent Reading Programs

If you have any variation of independent reading in your middle or high school English class, you've undoubtedly faced challenges at some point in the experience. 

Unlike the enthusiasm for reading in primary grades (think stickers, SSR, take-home bags, cute reading nooks, etc.), it's a huge accomplishment in secondary to get students to read anything, much less doing so with a stocked classroom library, fair assessments, and anything resembling enthusiasm. 

5 Rookie Teacher Mistakes to Avoid in the First Weeks of School

Sure, all teachers learn and improve their practice each school year. That's especially true when a veteran teacher changes courses, grade levels, or school buildings.

But that first year or two brings special challenges.

I *thought* was prepared. I had all kinds of tangible and theoretical tools from my grad program; I'd had a good student teaching experience. But there are a few things that no mentor teacher, master's degree, or orientation told me.

Let me save you the trouble of finding these out the hard way!

What I Learned from Teaching TED-style Speeches {Post #2}

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. 

Do you believe in the power of presentation literacy? Ever think that your students are capable of more than eyes-down, wimpy presentations with Death By PowerPoint slides?

After a year of teaching TED-style speaking (and not just in a speech class), I'm even more convinced that presentation literacy matters, that our teens can be coached to a higher bar, and that public speaking doesn't have to be the ugly stepsister of the English curriculum.

How to Teach Poetry When You're Short on Time

Sure... in an ideal world, we would do all kinds of activities with poetry (if not a poetry unit, a poetry slam, or even a poem-of-the-week system).

But this year, due to some scheduling issues, I had much less time than usual to celebrate National Poetry Month.

Like, a lot less.

3 Common Myths about Grading, Busted.

Based on the number of pageviews it's gotten, my previous post on 25 tips to make grading suck less has clearly struck a nerve. After all, grading seems to be a common denominator in teacher stress and burnout.

But despite all of the healthy discussion happening online about grading - like the dialogues about effective feedback and having limits - there seem to be some persistent myths floating around as well that I propose are destructive, both to teachers and to the non-teacher general public. 

From the biased worldview of a middle school English teacher, here are three myths about grading that need to be reconsidered, if not fully busted.

The 5 Types of Teacher Burnout (and How to Extinguish Them)

As I write this, it's March, the time when many educators begin planning for the next school year, and when teachers have to start deciding whether or not they're going to return in the fall.

Meanwhile, almost daily, my various news feeds seem to bring me articles about teachers who quit, teachers who choose to stay, and theories proposing reasons why teachers burn out. Most of these discussions bring up fair points, but I almost always walk away from them disappointed.

Turn Your Unit into a Game Board!

What if your next unit were self-grading and had students clamoring to work ahead?

Yep, you read that right. Your next unit, whether it's skills or facts, could be presented to students in a visible trail of learning that compels them to keep moving forward. In fact, in our classroom, we're doing a game board system for GRAMMAR, and students are doing above the minimum to compete, succeed, and be creative.

I've been slowly improving this system for five years in my classroom, and it has manifested into a really cool grammar program for my seventh and eighth graders.

Now, I'm finally ready to share it with you.

Adventures with a Standing Teacher Desk

I used to battle a too-big desk that took up space in the room, constantly collected piles of paper, and trapped me in a corner of the room (when I was actually sitting down, at least).

Then, my principal bought a few of these standing desks for some teachers to pilot, and they have (metaphorically) caught fire around my building! 

Now, more teachers are getting these every time space opens up in the school budget for one.