In my own classroom, the library has never really functioned the way I wanted it to in my dream scenario. The time, effort, and focus that it takes to truly run the library the way it deserves to be run never really seemed to be worth it. I am already dedicating so much time to other things that the classroom library feels like a chore. That corner of the room is always a disaster. I never know what’s there -- it seems like all of the good, favorite books disappear and I’ll I’m left with are the random books from garage sales that I’ve never read (and no kids want to read either!). But when I was a young teacher, I believed that MORE BOOKS meant a BETTER LIBRARY. I have decided that this simply cannot be true.
We have all been to our fair share of professional development that has felt like a total waste of time. Yes, even a PD junkie like me who finds the sunshine in everything can admit that. But boring PD doesn’t have to be that way, and admin needs to know this. This summer, I had the pleasure of both presenting and attending one particularly groundbreaking event: the Keeping the Wonder Workshop. This full-day workshop is leading the charge as an example of how PD for English teachers can be invigorating, inspiring, and infectious.
I don’t know about you, but I LOVE WATCHING HAUL VIDEOS. Truly. Grocery hauls, Target hauls, makeup hauls, you name it, I LOVE IT! There’s something so satisfying about watching other people unpack their shopping.
These back to school hauls I watched straight through in one afternoon and I knew that I absolutely had to share about them here. Because these are teachers doing back to school hauls, there’s something even more satisfying about watching these videos: each video gave me a unique idea to take into my classroom, and not all of them even required shopping!
It’s every teacher’s most stressful, most highly anticipated, and most powerful time of the year: back to school! After over a decade of first days back to school, I’ve finally found a plan for the first ten days that streamlines the three most important things for me: routines, rigor, and relationships. Here, I will outline for you the importance of routines, rigor, and relationships, then, provide my daily plans for the first ten days.
The “summer slide” is a powerful force that knocks students off track who were making progress. Students struggling with literacy all school year fall further behind during the summer months when the “faucet” (an analogy described by the Brookings Institute) is turned off. We NEED to do something, but in high school, we face a plethora of challenges.
For this article, I interviewed teachers on social media and drew from my experiences at two different districts. Here are the problems I found and some solutions that I propose. I’d love to hear your feedback and additional suggestions because we are in this together!
As the school year comes to a close, you might be looking at your calendar thinking, what on earth am I going to do with these random extra days? Or maybe you have room on your calendar for a final unit, but no idea what to do with your students. I’ve got your solution right here! Here is a roundup of 13 ideas for ELA mini-units and lessons that can effectively and meaningfully fill between 3-5 days at the end of the year.
The word CENTO means “patchwork”. The goal of a cento poem is to pull together lines and phrases from the writers and world around you and arrange them in a meaningful way to create something new. If scraps of fabric can form a brand new object (a quilt), then so can language form a brand new poem. And that’s what I love to teach my high school students.
I love this poem. I love the imagery, the title, the metaphor, but most of all, I love how teachable it is. The poem has a great deal of mystery and room for debatable discussions about author’s intent, but it’s also accessible to students who might feel intimidated by poetry - or even just intimidated by language.
That was the goal I had in mind while making this list: I wanted to find poems that were challenging and worth discussing in class, but also poems that could be tackled by students in one or two class periods. As a guide, I used The Big Six as my foundational analysis tool . If you’ve never used it, get on board!
No matter whether you love or loathe the long novel you teach, the same struggles pop up every time we come around to teaching it year after year. For me, it’s To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s a 400 page monster! It’s fun dawdling around with setting and making maps of Maycomb and then rolling through Boo Radley anecdotes. Before we know it, August has turned into December. I’m kidding, of course, but time truly does have a way of slipping away as we work through a long text. And there’s nothing worse for kids than dragging out a book for too long! Here are my best suggestions for getting through your version of my Mockingbird.
Over a decade of teaching, I feel like I’ve heard it all! This year, however, I feel like I’ve found a new and sustainable way of reframing how I look at annotation. Yes, it does involve some tech, but don’t be intimidated! It’s a low-tech approach and works on multiple devices.
After teaching for ten years and then switching schools, I was very quickly reminded of how much work goes into writing curriculum from scratch. For a long time, I was in a happy place of continual revision of curriculum that I liked, but was tweaking here and there for relevance, rigor, and for fun.
Now? It’s the Wild West. It’s intergalactic chaos. It’s constant guessing and unpredictability. All that aside, however, it’s also invigorating and exciting. I would call myself “a curriculum person” because this kind of blank slate challenges me in a way that sparks joy in my life, despite the chaos, so I’d like to share with you how to most easily navigate through a first attempt at writing and implementing a new curriculum for a new novel in your secondary ELA classroom.
Teacher burnout is a real thing. Exhaustion from the myriad demands placed on our shoulders year in and year out can make anyone question why on earth they started in this profession in the first place.
As a teacher in the US, the winter break gives me a chance to reevaluate my “why” in teaching. Why do it? Why work so hard? Why work to the point of burnout every single year? When there’s actually time to slow down and remember the answer to that question, the answer is so simple - why? Because I love watching kids learn. That’s it. It’s that simple. And when does burnout start to feel so painful? It’s when the job has become something other than dedicating time to helping students learn and experience new things.
Whether I’m starting a brand new school year, returning after winter break, or even just starting a new quarter, there’s always this itch in my gut that tells me to take a breather on those first few days together to regroup and reset our classroom culture and community. It’s vitally important to take the temperature of your classroom - has it been feeling toxic lately? Are students there to be the best versions of themselves? Are we having fun but not working hard? Are we working really hard and don’t know each other at all?
To celebrate the end of another wonderful year and the countdown to our winter breaks (in the US, that is!) twenty four talented, creative English teachers have come together on Instagram with ideas, handouts, strategies, games, and more to inspire your teaching spirit. These ideas are ready for English teachers around the world to be reinvigorated by and launch them into a fabulous 2019.