Mentor Text Warm-Ups: How I Started

I am not sure I have ever enjoyed teaching grammar this much. Would it be too much to say there is joy in grammar? The journey with mentor texts began back in the summertime when my main focus for summer reading was around the works of Kelly Gallagher, Penny Kittle, Rebekah O’Dell and Allison Marchetti, and Linda Reif. I was intrigued by the idea that this often used strategy happens at the elementary school level with picture books and at the high school level with higher-level writing craft and organization moves. But, where were my middle school student examples? My middle schoolers were coming to me without basic grammar skills and therefore lacked some key moves in their writing.

Read More
Plan for Mentor Text Warm-Ups

After reading Linda Reif’s The Quickwrite Handbook: 100 Mentor Texts to Jumpstart Your Students’ Thinking and Writing this summer, I knew I wanted to incorporate more mentor text work into my classroom this year. This was my ONE thing that I wanted to add that would change up a major system as to how I taught students writing. I also read other texts over the summer that supporting this mindset. It was clear to me: I want my students to call themselves authors.

Read More
Summer School Round Up: Week 2

Week two flew by without even slowing down to catch a drink of water. It was tough this week to balance wanting to do the things that summer allows like landscaping, working on an assortment of house projects, leisurely drinking coffee, and writing. I was having some jealousy over those that got to have the time off. My goal was to make it to the beach at least three times. Let's just say my fingers are crossed. 

Read More
Summer School Round Up: Week 1

I can't believe the whirlwind of the first week of summer school is over. There always seems like there are two camps in education: Those that can see why people work summer school and those that think we are crazy. The former camp has been refreshing to return to after working writing camps at the university for the past few summers. And really, teaching is teaching. Isn't it? That depends on who you are talking to. I wonder sometimes if why we all often get into teaching is something we feel renewed with on a day-to-day basis. Do I have to remind myself, what is my why for teaching? Yes. And often. 

Read More
Using Visual Thinking Strategies for Writing Workshop

Coming off of the 2017-2018 school year, one of the areas that I know I need to read more on, reflect on more, and gain strategies on is working with my English Language Learner students. I attended a SIOP or Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol training last week and took away a few strategies. I was also left with wanting more areas of ESL instructional strategies to be taught more directly to teachers; this will be more to come in another blog post. One strategy that I immediately took away from the training was the use of Visual Thinking Strategies. 

Read More
5 Ways to Respond When You Are Asked to Censor Classroom Material

Imagine the plate spinner at a circus performance. So many intricacies of hand-eye coordination, focus, and practice have gone into making sure that the plates don't fall to their demise and break into thousands of pieces. Censorship in the classroom is best described as the plate spinner. There is an intricate balance that goes into contemporary content, current events and issues, parent and family input, school curriculum, administrative support, and more. Sometimes, you will find teachers not wanting to put themselves in that fight. All of these factors lend to the dizzying effect of plate spinning, but the question is what breaks when we don't present this content to students? Controversial content comes with major risks and rewards. The American Library Association has put together a pretty cohesive timeline of banning content in the past 30 years. Words like "censorship" and "banning" are used with intention in this purpose because often we are asked as educators to keep information from our students. 

Read More
10 Criteria for Choosing Diverse Texts for Your Classroom

Can you hear me clapping? Can you hear me screaming in happiness? If you can't, imagine one excited English teacher from Kalamazoo, MI that is proud and excited her district is approving thousands of dollars in research to help infuse the curriculums and classrooms in it with diverse literature in grades Kindergarten through 8th grade. Currently, I am working on a team of teachers to read, research, and review hundreds of diverse texts. 

Read More
How to Do an Essay Workshop for Struggling Writers

I would like to take a second to pause out of all of the hustle and bustle of testing and the end of the month of May to realize that it is really, the end of the month of May. I have spent 9 months with my students. Thinking back about accomplishments, it is easy to see how far they have come. Then, I do what all teachers do, and I focus on what they don't know. My missteps, my come-up-shorts, my "yes, you tried, but you didn't quite make it" mentality. This is the ugly stepsister of make-up or catch-up growth: Realizing you still have a long way to go.

Read More
Paper Grading the Pomodoro Way

I woke up last Saturday morning and said to myself, "I have a plan today." As I typed those words I chuckled because the best-laid plans are often disastrous. And by disastrous, I mean bargaining with myself to put off chunks of grading so I can take in or on other aspects of my life.  My plot involved getting through 94 argumentative essay drafts in one day. These were the final writing assignment given to my Advanced students before the writing post-tests. This was also the last step I had to take before going through test preparation and state testing

Read More
My Plan to Get Through May State Testing...Alive

It is always good practice to revisit experiences that are similar from year to year. I wanted to look at the Testing Post from last year to see what I did to survive, and what my new additions are for this year.  The goal here? My students and I make to June with our sanity, AND we still are pushing ourselves to learn new information each day. 

Read More
10 Ways to Use Your Cell Phone to Make Your Teaching Life Easier

The title of this post is also what I named my This I Believe Personal Narrative assignments in the fall. Let's talk cell phones. I would like to start this post by recapping every single conversation I have ever had with a new teacher, a seasoned teacher, or an intern about the use of cell phones in the classroom.

Read More
How to Rock a Focused Writing Warm-Up

I am not sure what I did before warm-ups. I think what I did before warm-ups when I was first starting out was make a warm-up activity that was catered to each and every lesson. As a new teacher, this was exhausting. After doing some research a couple of summers ago, I moved to canned warm-ups, and I have loved every minute of them. What I mean by canned warm-ups is that each day has a theme and each week uses a specific form. In other terms, there is a plan. 

Read More
What's In My Writing Teacher Bag?

I have to admit that I love the "What's in your bag?" posts on different blogs and on YouTube. It is interesting to see what people can and cannot live without when they are taking on the workweek. Also, QVC purse reviews are my jam. I will also admit that a good handbag is one of my weaknesses, kryptonite if you will, that can block my focus throughout the day. We all have these vices. Some like skincare or beauty products, some like technology, some really like chocolate or treats. Indulgences are what can keep a teacher sane. Mine just so happens to be my bag. I also really enjoy the memes about teacher bags being a carry-all for all of life.

Read More
5 Ways to Avoid Teacher Stress Eating

I originally started this post back in January, and it has been sitting in my draft bin for some time. Something about telling teachers not to have the donut in the teacher lounge didn't sit right with me. I felt like a traitor. Teachers work ridiculously long hours each day and on the weekend, why can't they indulge? The answer is that they should. They should eat the donut, go on the vacation, get the tattoo, or try out the new spicy pho dish. However, they should also be able to put some constraints on their life that force them to realize that limits are actually giving us freedom. 

Read More
Slow Down to Go Faster: Handy Tips for Individual Student Writing Conferences

I just finished 95 student writing conferences on Friday. Besides going through my fair share of coffee and green ginger tea, I have come out on the other side a bit more reflective. This whole process started with a student comment three weeks ago, when students were getting ready to turn in their first draft of their research papers.

Read More
Smart Strategies for Student Research Source Pages

In one of my more recent posts, I outlined how to make a research unit in just a few hours. I was in a crunch that was unexpected and I wanted to showcase my process for freshening up a unit from year-to-year. One of my favorite parts of the research unit teaching students MLA format and also teaching them how to use source pages to take notes.

Read More
Weekly Blog Roundup: Teacher Bullet Journaling

I stumbled upon bullet journaling one day on Pinterest when I was looking for a new planner. As a middle school teacher, I, like many others, am addicted to office supplies. I know what pens I like, I know what size sticky notes I prefer, and I know that the idea of a fresh new notebook makes me almost giddy. I even started making my own notebooks with my dad as a hobby because I love notebooks so much.

Read More
How to Make a Research Unit Plan in Three Hours

Whether you have one of those moments where you decide to change your whole game plan up, or if you have something (like I did) that caused you to go into an unexpected mad scramble, sometimes it is helpful to know how someone else tackled a difficult task in a short amount of time. Research is the mother of all daunting tasks that may be the hardest thing to accomplish imaginably...in a small amount of time. 

Read More