Creating a Digital Classroom

Create a digital, 1:1 classroom with the Daring English Teacher and SMARTePlans.
The world of education is constantly changing and evolving. In fact, the one of the only constant of education is change itself. One of the biggest driving factors affecting the changes in education today is technology. Our students are part of a new generation – a generation that is constantly connected and surrounded with technology, and so it only makes sense to fully incorporate technology into our teaching practices. As educators, we are the ones who need to evolve and adapt our teaching practices in order to accommodate, foster, and expand our students’ use of technology. We need to create a learning environment that supports 21st century learning.The solution is pretty obvious: schools need to implement digital classrooms.

Create a digital, 1:1 classroom with the Daring English Teacher and SMARTePlans.What is a digital classroom?
A digital classroom is a classroom that is fully immersed in technology. Each students has access to an Internet connected device, whether it be a laptop, tablet, Chromebook, or other device, and the majority (or all of) the curriculum is delivered via an online, engaging, interactive platform.

Digital classrooms use online educational apps and websites to spark creativity and critical thinking. 

What are the benefits of going digital?
There are so many benefits when it comes to transforming a classroom into a digital classroom. In my opinion, one of the greatest advantages of going digital is that the possibilities of what you can do are endless. There are so many different websites, extensions, add-ons, and apps that teachers can use to enhance their teaching and connect with students. Digital classrooms prepare students for life in college and the real world by providing them with a technology-based education. Digital classrooms are also great for the environment because paper use is either eliminated or significantly reduced.

SMARTePlans are digital, interactive, Google-based resources for secondary English teachers.
Making the Switch to Digital
Once your school district decides to provide the technology to facilitate a digital classroom, there are several options to consider when making the switch. First and foremost, you will want to decide how to deliver the content of your class to your students. Personally, I am a big fan of Google Classroom.

Google Classroom is a blended learning platform that is entirely free for educators. It is a great tool that allows teachers to deliver content-rich lessons to students, make announcements to the class, share Google calendars with students, and facilitate collaborative work through the various Google apps with the use of Google Drive. And since Google makes it easy for a user to switch from one account to the next, it is that much more convenient. In addition to Google Classroom, there are also other online digital platforms that school are adopting. Some other digital-based blended learning platforms include Haiku learning and Edmodo.

After you (or your district) decide which platform to use, it is time to create your content, build your digital class, and inspire your students.

Students prefer engaging, visually-stimulating, interactive educational materials that require them to collaborate with their peers and use an inquiry-based approach. Simply typing a lesson in Google Docs every day is not enough for students of the 21st century, nor does this take full advantage of what the digital world has to offer.

I create all of my SMARTePlans lessons with 21st century students in mind. These digital, interactive lessons and teaching materials are designed specifically to use in a digital classroom. These lessons offer students with rich, high-quality, interactive lessons that can be delivered via Google Drive, Google Classroom, and Microsoft OneDrive. These interactive, digital English lessons provide students with the opportunity to type directly into graphic organizers, highlight text while annotating, drag and drop information into charts, and more.

While most of my SMARTePlans are geared for secondary ELA classrooms, I do have one SMARTePlans lesson that can be used in any secondary classroom: SMARTePlans Back to School Digital Activities. This resource includes more than 10 different, engaging and interactive activities that secondary students can complete during the first week of school. 

Introducing SMARTePlans

As the world of education advances into the digital era, teachers need high-quality, content-rich, digital, interactive lessons and educational materials that can be delivered over the Internet.

That is why I created SMARTePlans. SMARTePlans are English language arts lessons and activities designed for teachers who want to implement digital learning into their classrooms. These electronic lesson plans are engaging, rigorous, and fully-integrable into a Google classroom.

To get a free, first-hand look at what a SMARTePlans resource looks like, download my free, digital reading log available on my TeachersPayTeachers store. Click HERE for the resource. Students can use this resource to track their weekly reading throughout the entire school year. Students simply copy and paste new Google slides into their very own document on Google Drive and type in a summary of the pages they've read and a memorable quote. I like having students keep track of quotes as they read because it makes it easier to write essays about the reading later on. 

See more SMARTePlans HERE

The Literary League 12 Days of Giving Freebie Round Up & Sale

The Literary League's 12 Days of Christmas includes 12+ seasonal and year round freebies for secondary English Language Arts teachers and a giveaway for a TPT gift certificate.

Thanks so much
for the overwhelming response to the 
12 Days of Giving hosted by the Literary

To celebrate the
season and our favorite fellow teachers (that’s you!), we’re all having a sale
in our TpT shops today, Saturday, December 12th and tomorrow, Sunday, December 13th.  That’s right!  Pop over to each of our shops and
you’ll find all of our resources at 20% off!

The Literary League's 12 Days of Christmas includes 12+ seasonal and year round freebies for secondary English Language Arts teachers and a giveaway for a TPT gift certificate.

Oh, and if you
haven't entered for a chance to win the Teachers Pay Teacher gift card, you can
do so below. Today is the last day to enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Just in case you
missed one of the featured freebies, click the links below.

The Creative
Classroom - 
Two Column Notes Organizer
Perfetto Writing
Room - 
SteadfastTin Soldier
Literary Sherri
- Winter Poems - 
Poetry Analysis
Mrs. Spangler in
the Middle - 
Christmas Zap Game
The Classroom
Sparrow - 
Holiday Essay Outline
2 Peas and a Dog
Christmas Writing Prompts
Brain Waves
Instruction - 
Endof Year Reflection and Infographic
The Daring
English Teacher - 
WinterThemed Grammar Worksheets

From all of us
Literary Leaguers, wishing you and yours the happiest of holidays!

The Literary League's 12 Days of Giving: Day 2

Welcome to Day 2 of the Literary League's 12 Days of Christmas Blog Hop! We know that the holiday season is busy for both teachers and students. You want to make learning fun, yet still meaningful while attempting to channel some of your students' energy and excitement about the upcoming holidays and days off from school. Today you'll find two seasonal resources that will help you do just that.

From Room 213: Christmas Coffee House

The last few days before the holidays are difficult for everyone. The students don’t want to focus, but you need to keep teaching. You could resort to showing Elf again, or you could get their creative juices flowing while they practice important ELA skills like writing, speaking and listening. This freebie shows you how to turn your classroom into a coffee house and provides ideas for students to use when they write their poetry.

I love incorporating themed grammar exercises in my classroom. It is a fun way to get students to practice and master basic grammatical skills. There are four different worksheets in this download: pronoun identification, subject & predicate identification, subject verb agreement, and homophones. These Winter Themed Grammar Worksheets are great because they can be used throughout a few months in the year, they make a great last-minute sub plan, and they also can be used individually when you have about ten minutes left of class.

And if you haven't already, enter to win the Teachers Pay Teachers gift certificate below. The winner will be notified on December 13th.

Visit Brain Waves Instruction and Secondary Sara tomorrow for Day 3 of the Literary League's 12 Days of Christmas Blog Hop. Look for a special surprise coming on Day 12!

The Literary League Kicks Off 12 Days of Giving for Secondary ELA Teachers

The Literary League's 12 Days of Christmas includes 12+ seasonal and year round freebies for secondary English Language Arts teachers and a giveaway for a TPT gift certificate. Enter December 1st - December 12th.

Literary Leaguers are in the
holiday spirit and we’re hosting 
12 Days of Giving!

We’re super excited to share
some of our favorite freebies (both seasonal and all-year-round resources) with
you and give you the chance to win a Teachers Pay Teachers gift
certificate!  The 12 Days of Giving runs
Tuesday, December 1st – Saturday, December 12th.

The Literary League's 12 Days of Christmas includes 12+ seasonal and year round freebies for secondary English Language Arts teachers and a giveaway for a TPT gift certificate. Enter December 1st - December 12th.

Here’s how it works…
Day 1 of Giving:  Enter to win
the Teachers Pay Teachers gift certificate at any of the participating Literary Leaguers’

Days 2-11 of Giving:  Stop by each of these blogs for links to favorite English Language Arts freebies.  Hint:  Follow each of the blogs via email or Bloglovin' so that you don't miss out on the updates. You can even get the Bloglovin' app for your phone and read all your favorite bloggers in one feed!

Day 9 - Novelle

We have a
feeling that you’ll love the seasonal and all-year-round resources! 

Day 12 of Giving:  We have
something fun in the works for you on the 12th Day of Giving! Stop back at any of the participating blogs on December 12th to find out what we have in store for you!

Get started...

Enter to win the Teachers Pay Teachers gift certificate below.   The winner will be notified on December 13th.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Close Reading Strategies That Work

Close reading strategies for the secondary classroom. High school close reading. Middle school close reading.

Close reading is an integral and essential component of the common core standards. Close reading asks students to not only read a text for basic comprehension and understanding, but to really read the text, dig deeply into the text, and make connections with the text.

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This can be a difficult and daunting task for a generation that grew up bubbling a scantron and moving on to the next task. 

Close reading strategies for the secondary classroom. High school close reading. Middle school close reading.

1. Don't rush them.
When my students closely read a text, I make sure to not rush them. We as educators have to keep in mind that this is their first exposure to the text. We can't take for granted that they will understand every word, metaphor, and rhetorical device in the text. Close reading is a process that takes time, patience, and multiple readings. There is no such thing as reading a sentence, a paragraph, or a composition too many times. To begin the close reading process, I like to teach my students how to annotate text.

My Annotation Bookmarks will help keep students focused when they are annotating. Sometimes students just need some time and a guideline to get used to annotating.

Close reading strategies for the secondary classroom. High school close reading. Middle school close reading.

2. Focus on a new concept for each reading.
Even the brightest and most advanced students will be overwhelmed when they are given too many concepts and/or rhetorical devices to look for and analyze in one reading. Sure, they may complete the task, but it won't be at the depth in which they are capable. Instead, just work on one close reading focus at a time. Not only will this help students be more engaged with the text and really understand the concept, they will also build a better understanding of the text because they will have more exposure with it. 

If you are focusing on analyzing a piece of nonfiction for rhetorical devices, just focus on one at a time and start with the easier to understand rhetorical devices. This strategy will allow students to gain a better understanding of the text, which will then allow them to closely read the text for more difficult concepts. When I closely read short stories with my students, I use focused sticky note graphic organizers that help students identify key literary elements. 

I rely on short story close reading assignments to help me guide my students through this step of the process. These units focus on just one literary element at a time. For example, if we are reading a short story, we might focus on just identifying suspense first. Then, after students are able to identify, quote, and explain examples of suspense, we will move to a new literary focus. This really provides students the opportunity to understand the text and the literary elements we are focusing one.

Click HERE to see this close reading resource!

Close reading strategies for the secondary classroom. High school close reading. Middle school close reading.

3. Don't forget about vocabulary.
Whenever we do a close reading in my classroom, I am always amazed at the words students do not know. Even if a word seems like an easy, common word, we cannot simply assume that our students are familiar with it. For this reason, I do not like assigning vocabulary lists when I do close readings. Instead, I prefer to rely on my students and their existing vocabulary. One of our close reading focuses is just on vocabulary. I have the students box any words with which they are unfamiliar, and then write the definitions in the margins. 

Taking time to do a vocabulary close read is essential. Students gain such a better understanding of the material once they become familiar with the unknown words. To make this activity even more meaningful, I like to have them partner up after completely an individual vocabulary close read. Many times students will overlook words they do not know. Providing them with an opportunity to partner up for a second vocabulary close read really enforces this activity. I urge the students to not copy each other's work. Instead, they are to read the definitions to their partners. Once this is complete, the student read a document, identified unfamiliar words, defined these words, wrote down the definitions, and spoke the definitional aloud. All of these different interactions with the once unfamiliar words really provides the students with an opportunity to genuinely learn new words. 

Close reading strategies for the secondary classroom. High school close reading. Middle school close reading.

4. Place an emphasis on collaborative learning.
Close reading strategies for the secondary classroom. High school close reading. Middle school close reading.
Close reading is not and should not be an individual effort. Every single student brings a unique perspective to the table, and we should embrace these unique perspectives. When we do close readings in my classroom, I like to have the students read individually, but I also like them to partner up, work in small groups, work in larger groups, and then start the process all over again, but this time with new partners and new groups.

One way to incorporate group work into close reading is to assign each group a specific task. For example, if your students are analyzing figurative language within a text, you can assign each group a specific type of figurative language. After a set amount of time, have the students either share their finding aloud and on the board or through a document reader. Similarly, you can also have the students change groups and share their findings with other students. This type of collaborative activity generates excellent classroom discussion. 

Close reading strategies for the secondary classroom. High school close reading. Middle school close reading.

5. Give the students time to work.
One of the most vital aspects of teaching close reading is providing students with the opportunity to complete the task. Once you teach the student how to closely read and annotate a text, you will need to model the skill using a small portion of the text. After that, you will need to step back and be a facilitator. You will spend the majority of your instructional time fielding questions and witnessing authentic learning at its best. 

Incorporating World Issues in your ELA Classroom

Today’s students have the world’s knowledge at their fingertips. Everything about anything they could ever possibly what to know is just a click, swipe, or tap away; and yet, it seems as if so many students are disconnected from worldly issues.

When we have students who are #smh at non-issues (like who is dating whom and who is wearing what) and declaring #fml when they encounter the smallest, ever-so-minute first-world issues, we as educators are faced with a monumental task: helping our students become more aware of the world around them.

To do this, I look to outside reading sources. After reading articles about some of the very real hardships that others around the world deal with on a daily basis, I notice that my students complain a little less about not having the newest something or other.

With the implementation of common core, many secondary teachers are including more nonfiction text into their curriculum. Finding authentic, engaging nonfiction text that actually speaks to our students can be somewhat challenging though.

Recently, I invested in a classroom set of The New York Times Upfronta magazine published by Scholastic, and I could not be more pleased. (I am not a paid endorser for, nor do I work for or receive any profit from Scholastic or the New York Times). This publication is amazing, and my students look forward to reading it. Yes, they want to read it!

You might be wondering why I love this publication so much and why I am singing its praises from the mountaintops. This magazine has it all: relevant, timely, engaging content written just for teens. If there is a controversial topic in the news, chances are it will be covered in an upcoming issue.

So far this year, my students have read about police officers and whether or not they should be required to wear body cameras, the background of and the pros and cons of the Iran deal, teenagers who work long hours in the dangerous conditions of the tobacco fields, and the confederate flag.

To make these lessons meaningful and standard-driven, I focus on many of the reading informational text standards while incorporating these articles in my classroom. Primarily, I focus on three very important English language arts skills: paraphrasing, quoting, and summarizing.

To help students really understand the difference between these three concepts, I use my Paraphrasing, Quoting, and Summarizing lesson. This lesson comes with a completely editable, 27-slide PowerPoint presentation and 11 pages of student resources (including handouts and graphic organizers to use while reading). Once you teach the lesson, your students will know the difference between the three and they will be able to apply it to the articles in the magazine. Even better: once your students are familiar with the concept, you can easily save an article or two along with some of the student resources for an emergency sub plan!

As educators, it is our responsibility to help mold our students into productive, well-meaning, aware, and responsible members of society. It’s not an impossible task; we just have to look outside of our comfort zones and borders to do so.