The Daring English Teacher Leaps into Literature

Looking for new ways to engage your students in literature, especially with classics that might seem old and outdated? In this secondary English Language Arts blog hop, the Literary League showcases resources that can be used with any literary text, time after time, year after year.Here at the Literary League, we’re a group of English teachers who truly love literature (we bet you already figured that part out). Given free time, we can all agree that there’s nothing better than leaping into a good book. But, even as avid readers, we have to admit that those spare minutes tend to be few and far between, especially during the school year, and there are times that we just have to …
  • leap into a book recommended by a friend, a colleague, or especially a student, who is anxiously awaiting our review
  • leap into a new novel we’re teaching, whether or not we’ve had time to fully prepare a complete unit
  • leap into a classic, maybe not one of our favorites, but something we know students need to sit with in order to grow as a reader

For those instances, the Literary League is teaming up to share some of our favorite resources to help you Leap into Literature. These are resources that are not tied to a particular book, but ones that can be used over and over again, both with your favorite novels, as well as with new texts or classic pieces you’re trying to breathe new life into.

A favorite resource I use to engage my students in literature is my Socratic Seminar for any Text resource. This resource is great because it can easily be adapted for any fictional text and it includes everything that you will need to do to run a Socratic Seminar in your classroom.

A Socratic Seminar is an organized, formal discussion in class. Students prepare for the discussion by preparing questions about the text for other students to answer. The Socratic Seminar values inquiry and discussion.

From the teacher instructions, to the student instructions, to the final reflection, this resource has it all. I like to use this resource in my classroom as we read novels together, especially after very symbolic or climatic events in the story. The Socratic Seminar is an engaging activity that gives the students some responsibility and freedom. They love this activity too!

You can read about other engaging literature resources from the other Literary Leaguers linked up below and also enter in the rafflecopter below for a chance to win them all.

Creating a Growth Mindset in the Secondary Classroom

This is the first blog post in a series of posts about creating and establishing a growth mindset in the classroom.
Creating a Growth Mindset in your Secondary Classroom
Many schools across the nation are adopting a growth mindset approach to education. Schools and classrooms that embrace a growth mindset see the value in learning as a process, and strive to help students put forth their best effort.

So, what exactly is a growth mindset? According to Carol S. Dweck, a psychology professor at Stanford University, there are two kinds of mindsets: fixed and growth. People with a fixed tend to see themselves with fixed intelligence and capabilities, whereas people with a growth mindset believe that they can increase their intelligence and improve their capabilities through effort and determination.

In the classroom and beyond, real learning occurs when students put forth the effort to break through barriers, accomplish difficult tasks, and learn from mistakes.
To help facilitate a growth mindset in your classroom, I’ve created a Growth Mindset resource especially for secondary teachers.

As a teacher, there are five simple steps you can take to create a growth mindset approach in your classroom.

1. Model Growth Mindset
I am a firm believer in leading by example. Students watch every single move we make in the classroom, and they take note. If their teachers accept mistakes and learn from them, if their teachers embrace challenges, if their teachers put forth the effort to make class great, chances are that students will do the same. Be open and honest with your students. If a student asks you a question that you don’t know, turn it into a learning opportunity for everyone and look up the answer right then and there. You and your students will learn something new.

2. Focus on Small Goals
Regularly talk about and set small goals with your students. Setting and achieving small goals in class will help boost your students’ self-confidence and make them see that they can learn and grow with effort and determination. Be a part of this process as well. Set your own goals with your students. Doing so will model this behavior for them.

3. Praise Effort, Not Outcome
As a parent and a teacher, I cannot emphasize this enough. Only praising student outcome will typically lead to only the brightest and most talented students receiving praise. This is harmful for the average and marginal students because it can validate fixed mindset thoughts they might already have. Instead, praise effort. Your struggling student might not write the best essay, but if you see that student really making an effort, that effort should be praised. Students thrive with positive feedback, and they will continue to put forth their best effort if they feel that teachers notice it.   

4. Set High Standards
Part of establishing a growth mindset in your classroom is to set and maintain high, yet not unrealistic, standards in your classroom. Hold students accountable to achieving those high standards, and praise their effort when you see them trying. Setting high standards in your classroom might take some extra work. You might have to directly teach a concept a bit more or model more of what you expect from your students, but the students will quickly adapt.

5. Learning is a Process
One last, key step to creating a growth mindset in your classroom is to emphasize (to yourself and your students) that learning is a process. The final test, the final assignment, the final task, the final essay should not be the final result. Instead, it is more about the journey to that final task and everything the students did and everything they learned in the process.

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This is the first blog post in a series of blog posts about creating and establishing a growth mindset in the classroom.

 Establishing a growth mindset in your classroom can help your students tremendously. After focusing on fostering a growth mindset in my own classroom, I've seen a lot of improvement with my struggling students who sometimes get overlooked. 
Embracing a growth mindset in the secondary classroom.
To create a growth mindset in my own classroom, I've done a few things. First, I start each week with a growth mindset bellringer. These bellringers are a great way to begin the week on a positive note. Each bell ringer includes an inspirational quote about success, hard work, failure, or determination and a brief writing prompt. Check out my Growth Mindset Bell Ringers HERE.

Embracing a growth mindset in the secondary classroom.
In addition to my Growth Mindset Bell Ringers, I also like to incorporate various growth mindset activities and resources into my secondary English classroom. First, I like to have students take a growth mindset quiz. This quiz allows students to assess themselves to determine where their mindset it. This allows students to be more open to changing their mindset. Then, I incorporate resources such as growth mindset oriented exit slips and assignment reflections into my weekly and daily routines. Finally, I integrate growth mindset activities into my curriculum. I include vocabulary that focuses on growth mindset, group activities that require students to analyze various types of thinking, and writing prompts that helps students embrace learning as a process. 

Embracing a growth mindset in the secondary classroom.
All of these resources are available in my Growth Mindset Activities and Resources for the Secondary Classroom activity resource. 

How do you incorporate a growth mindset into your classroom?

The Best Teaching Advice I Ever Received

Like many other educators out there, I love my profession. I love creating engaging and challenging lessons. I love watching my students as they finally master a difficult concept. I even love my students (well, most of them). However, like many other educators out there, I also have my days. The days when I want to pull my hair out from frustration, cry until I have no tears left, and leave school and never return again. Those are the challenging days. Those are the days when it feels like I am constantly fighting a losing battle. And while those days are far and few in between, those are the days when I need this advice the most: save everything students give to you. Save all of the thank you letters. Save all of the silly drawings. Save all of the yearbook pictures. Save everything. Save everything in a file in the right-hand drawer of your desk. Save it there so that it is close by when you need it.

Because even though deep down in the pits of our hearts we really do truly love our job, it is usually the main source of stress in our lives. We go to bed at night sometimes not thinking and worrying about our own children (because we know they are safely nestled in their beds), but worrying about the safety and well being of our students, whom we also refer to as our children.

For those challenging days when our students push us beyond our limits, our districts require even more of us, or when we seem like we are desperately trying to accomplish the impossible and the weight of the entire world is pushing down on us, just reach right into the right-hand drawer of your desk. Read all of those letters, look at all of the pictures and drawings, and remember the positive impact you’ve made so far. Every single positive affirmation that you are where you are supposed to be is right there in that file.

To date, that is the best piece of teaching advice I’ve ever received. And while this piece of advice might not save me time or help me teach a difficult concept a new way, it is the one piece of advice that always serves as a reminder of why I got into teaching in the first place.

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