All in Teacher Learner

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.

Classroom Tour: 2018-2019 School Year

After a much-needed break from blogging and working on Writing Mindset, I am so ready to be back and sharing my classroom with the world. Below you will see a sneak peek of my classroom-all setup and ready to go. Before you check out the different areas of my classroom, I wanted to share some of the thinking behind the setup. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

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.

The Best of Writing Mindset in 2017

Last year at New Years, my friends and I dubbed 2017 the #yearofselfish. What this meant was engage in more awareness when it came to self-care, workout, invest in personal opportunity, meditate, seek out a work to life balance, and try new things. I definitely tried new things. Writing Mindset was a leap out of nowhere that constantly challenged me on one end because I thought of it as a personal business move, but I also saw it as a way to reflect on teaching. Writing Mindset simply was a way to connect to my teaching and share my teaching with others. I set up my LLC, invested in a website hosting platform that I thought was aesthetically pleasing, and then tried to write a lot. Then, I realized that writing and working full-time were more difficult than I ever imagined. 

Research: Closing the Gap with the Gutter (Graphic Novels in the Classroom)

Today's research quick post is about comics and graphic novels. I am a comic fan. Graphic novels, comic books, images and words put together on the page...you name it. I like it. Yesterday, I picked up Marvel's Black Panther for library day today. The appreciation I have for Coates' writing and the illustrations in this text are nothing short of a work of art. Amazed. However, the whole time I was reading today I had a bugging/nagging/tingling feeling in my mind about my struggling readers that may gravitate to this genre, but may not understand the words. Considering that the ever popular Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series by Jeff Kinney is a 950 Lexile (Above 6th grade level), many of my students are reading around the 3rd-4th grade level range. Yet, they are able to make sense of these images with the pictures. They beg for these books to the point where the small graphic novel section is always checked out. Why? And why is this section sometimes scary in education?

First Week Reflections for the 2017-2018 School Year

It doesn't seem right that the school year is already heading into week three. I wanted to take a moment to pause as we approach the end of week two, and to take the time to reflect on how the first two weeks of school have gone. The goals for the first two weeks involves setting foundations, establishing systems, building community, and getting know to know each other in Writing Lab 615. There have been highs, mids, and lows in these two weeks. I am teaching on the split team this year. This means that I have two sections of General English 6, two sections of Advanced English 6, and one section of Advanced English 7. 

Second Week of Creative Writing Camp in Review

Creative writing camp got done almost a week ago on June 30. If you remember my last post, Third Coast Writing Project and the McGinnis Reading Center teamed up to do something awesome this summer: reach out to kids to develop skills and have fun with reading and writing at Western Michigan University. The second week was all about the revision of drafts of creative works of fiction. This post will include the goals for the week, show a sample daily breakdown, highlight some amazing pictures/highlights, and show a key peer revision skill called clockwork editing. 

First Week of Creative Writing Camp in Review

The McGinnis Reading Center and Third Coast Writing Project Camp for Young Writers have teamed up this year to put on a MEGA reading and writing camp! We had our first week this past week with Middle Schoolers focusing on WorldBuilding: Taking the Scenic Route. Students started to create the elements of their own worlds focusing on character, setting, plot, and conflict.

Last Project of the Year: Students Design Their Own ELA Class

What is it that students want?

This was the question I asked my sixth graders in an alternative assignment to giving them an end of the year survey. I know some of the usual answers that sometimes we as teachers don't take as seriously (and maybe should) and I also was hopeful of the answers that may seem surprising and shocking. I have included both in this post to start a conversation. 

Dystopian World Exemplars...Oh My!

I hope you are ready for some great reading! These authors-to-be took this assignment to a whole other level. By focusing on critical literary elements like plot, character, conflict, and setting, students were able to express themselves creatively. I paired this with a simultaneous academic piece so students could write in both modes: creative and academic. The creative mode focused on them making their own Dystopian World after reading Uglies by Scott Westerfeld. They also did a compare and contrast academic piece focusing on modern American Society vs the Dystopian World setup by Westerfeld in Uglies.  This second piece contained contained cited evidence, formal tone, etc. 

Book Review: Barry Lane's "The Revisor's Toolbox"

For the first book review on the blog for educators, I wanted to discuss a book that unexpectedly has changed the way I teach writing. I am a secondary educator; however, after working with two elementary teachers one summer, I noticed that this book was ALWAYS in their stack of books needed for writing camp. They carried this thing around. It was marked; it was annotated.

How to Complete an Article of the Week!

I wanted to review one of Kelly Gallagher's strategies called Article of the Week that has changed the game of teaching for me. I have tried every method of homework under the sun in the past 8 years. I have tried homework menus, homework assigned on certain days, daily five homework, grammar homework, reading homework, writing homework...and the list goes on. The main method of homework that works for my students and that remains genuine is Gallagher's Article of the Week. The Article of the Week or AOW incorporates the addition of useful non-fiction resources into the classroom, and also provides students with a method of increasing their reading performance and knowledge base. Students are taught skills and purpose with annotation.  I like to assign a new focus for each marking period while doing an AOW.

Avoiding the Writing (TEACHER) Struggle Bus

I can't take credit for this phrase. I have used it often throughout the course of my teaching career. It has become an iconic phrase for a mood that either I am in, the student's current state of mind or behavior, or both. The struggle bus is a metaphoric phenomenon that demonstrates a person's ability to cope with life and the ability to be an educator at the current moment. This may take the form of an academic lens, social behavioral lens, or even your spiritual or emotional lens of current being. The struggle bus is not a way of life, but a means of transportation for action and feeling in a current moment.