11 Tricks to Balance Your ELA Curriculum

What is the second-hardest part of being an English teacher, after grading?

For some of us, the answer is planning - specifically, how to design a curriculum that somehow “does it all”. We have to balance all the areas of ELA (literature, nonfiction, grammar, vocab, writing, and speaking), doing justice to each within the limited time constraints of the year (and the inevitable interruptions, snow days, or disasters that pop up…)

And sometimes, that balance (even when well-intentioned) tips too far in one direction or another, leaving one of the six areas shortchanged.

This task gets even harder if...
1. You teach a specialized English course (like British Lit, journalism, or speech), where you have a focus to honor but still have to meet a lot of unrelated standards
2. You also want to take on non-required, but important topics or skills (like note taking, technology, poetry, logic, etc.)
3. You don’t have a ton of guidance for your curriculum. (That freedom is an overwhelming blessing!)

So how do we juggle all the needed skills and knowledge? To help new and veteran teachers deal with this problem, Britt from The SuperHERO Teacher is joining me to share our tested solutions. (We have combined experience in both middle and high school ELA!)

12 Ways to Make English Class Paperless

Do you want (or need) to cut down on paper? Is there a paperless initiative at your school, a harsh photocopying limit, or new 1:1 technology in your classroom? (Or, are you simply tired of hauling 60+ journals to and from school?)

Whether you’re already a digital native or are terrified of letting go of hard copies, here are 12 baby steps to start taking if you want to tiptoe (or cannonball) into a paperless classroom. Joining me today is Christina, who blogs at The Daring English Teacher.

Survive Before, During, and After TEACHER Maternity Leave

Like any first-time-parent rookie, I foolishly imagined that prepping my sub binder wouldn't take THAT long to prepare, and that during my leisurely six-week maternity leave, I would serenely cuddle the baby while getting caught up on blog posts, reading, PD, and other "me" tasks.

Ha. Very funny.

Though my maternity leave was joyful overall, it was a lot harder than I anticipated. Between crashing hormones, sleep deprivation, and moving physically slower than usual, it wasn't just lounging around for six weeks. (It didn't feel like "spring or summer break plus babysitting", as others had told me.)

Bottom line? You REALLY want your school life to be fully prepared for your absence, because you can't perfectly predict what you and your baby will need, and you won't want to put your newborn down to pick up your laptop instead.

Please learn from my mistakes (AND the things I'm SO glad I did) by reading this post and thinking about how you can survive AND thrive through this happy, messy new chapter in your life. Even if your situation looks different than mine, take the spirit of this list to heart to be proactive and ready for anything.

PRINT THIS FREEBIE: There's some overlap between the advice below and this checklist! You might also like my related blog post, Tips for Pregnant Teachers.

7 Tips for Decorating English Classrooms for Teens

There are three kinds of teacher-decorators: those who were born for Pinterest, those who can’t, and all the ones in between (such as the broke, the tired, and the I-have-no-time-to-decorate).
However, making a classroom appeal to middle and high school students doesn’t HAVE to involve serious crafting or expensive, time-intensive projects.
Check out these tips from me and Bonnie from Presto Plans as you prepare your classroom for the fall (or at any time of year that you want to give it a boost!)

You might also like Sara's more recent blog post, Inside My Farmhouse Classroom Makeover.