Using Interactive Bookmarks for Novel Studies

When I teach novels in my classroom, I like to provide my students with a consistent routine that enables them to anticipate what we will be doing. In doing so, my students know what to expect work wise, and then they can focus more on understanding and analyzing the novels.
After introducing the novel to my students, I make sure I include these elements in all of my novel study units: vocabulary, comprehension questions, quote analysis, and writing tasks. As I plan each unit, I work from the end of the novel first. I look at the overall message and theme of the novel, and select my writing prompts (essays and mid-novel writing tasks). From there, I select the important quotes and passages to analyze, that way my less proficient students have additional exposure to quotes that can easily be incorporated into their responses and essays.
In order to include all of these elements into my novel unit instruction and provide consistency for my students, I teach every novel with foldable, interactive bookmarks. Each bookmark is printed (double-sided) on a single piece of paper and spans several chapters and includes novel vocabulary, comprehension questions, a space for students to keep track of a timeline of events, and a space for quotation analysis. There is actually quite a bit of work for the students to complete on each bookmark, but since we work on the bookmarks as we go, the workload is much more manageable for the students.
In my opinion, the most important part of the bookmarks is the quotation analysis section because this is where I can truly tailor the bookmarks to what I am working on with my students. When I have an upcoming writing assignment, I have my students look for and analyze quotes that will fit with that writing prompt. When I am working on a particular literary device with my students, I will have them look for and analyze an example of that particular device. If my goal is for my students to be able to identify how the author uses foreshadowing in the novel, I will ask my students to identify quotes that are foreshadowing and then explain how the quote is significant to the novel and to the audience's understanding of the novel.
The last thing I love about using the foldable and interactive bookmarks with all of my novel study units is that the students gain more from the novels when using them. My students understand the storyline more because in addition to answering comprehension questions, they are also writing their own timeline and finding quotes to analyze. Before quizzes and tests, my students frequently look over their previous bookmarks and use them as study guides.

Available Interactive Notebooks:

3 Things I Learned This Summer and How They Will Make Me a Better Teacher

For many of us, the upcoming school year is quickly approaching! As my summer closes, I have been gearing up for this fresh start. Shopping through Target, pouring over Pinterest, adding ideas to my Pinterest boards, creating new educational resources, and reconnecting with colleagues all help when transferring back into the teacher life!

Over Summer, I reflected in many ways. Learning to relax and remember why I love teaching so much. In addition, I revitalized how to be happy. Putting yourself first and ensuring your happiness reflects your teaching are all thoughts I worked on during vacation. I am so thankful I had this time to recover, but so excited for what lies ahead! After all, happy teachers have happy students.

To prepare for the year, I have thought about what changes I want to make. Color schemes, classroom setup, classroom rules and management, and overall colleague relationships! Noting what I wasn’t pleased with last year helps this process tremendously. With my last two weeks of vacation, I plan to investigate and research what might work best for my upcoming assignment. I also intend to expand my relations with colleagues. Not only do they offer great recommendations and ideas, they offer irreplaceable friendships inside and outside the workplace! Through all of my reflection, there are three things I’ve learned that will help me become a better teacher.

As I finish up this last stretch of my summer vacation, here are three things that I’ve learned:

  1. I know exactly what I want to improve this year for my new students. I want to work on providing more meaningful feedback to my students. To do this, I am going to grade less often...but when I grade, it will be with meaningful feedback that will help my students learn.
  2. I want to utilize my prep time more efficiently. Last school year some teachers commented on my Instagram page that they schedule out their prep time. I totally plan on doing that this new year. Two days will be for grading, two days will be for planning, and one day will be for classroom prep. I really feel this will help with time-management.
  3. It is okay to not have a picture-perfect classroom on the first day of school. This is one that I keep telling myself. I am less than three weeks away from having students in my room, and I have yet been able to step inside my new classroom. Decorating my room will be a work-in-progress, and that is perfectly okay. In fact, I am kind of excited to have my students help in the process.

5 Simple Steps to Teach Text Annotation in the Secondary Classroom

Teaching students how to annotate text can be an intimidating task. Likewise, for our students, annotating text can be equally as daunting, especially if they don’t have a process of their own that works or steps to follow.
When I teach my students how to annotate text, I use these simple steps to break down the process into a manageable task for my students. There are also a variety of strategies that I use when I teach and model students how to annotate text.
5 simple steps to teach students how to annotate text
Step 1: Preview the Text
Before I have my students annotate text, I want them to get an overall feel for the text. I have them look at and read headlines, subheads, pictures, captions, headings, graphs, and pull-out quotes.
Step 2: Read a Small Section of Text
Since close reading and text annotation can be a daunting task, I have my students only focus on a small portion of it at a time. This makes the task less intimidating for students. It also enables them to focus more closely on a section of text rather than get lost in the entirety of the text.
Step 3: Annotate the Section You Read
Once they’ve read the small section, I provide my students with (or encourage them to) go back and annotate the section they’ve just read. As they become more confident in their close reading and text annotation skills, students will incorporate steps 2 and 3 together, but as they are learning and practicing the skill, I’ve found that students annotate more thoroughly when they read and then annotate.
Step 4: Review Your Annotations
It is essential to have students go back and review their annotations. This reinforces the process that the students are completing, as well as gives them an opportunity to review their annotations and margin notes so that they gain a better understanding of the text.
Step 5: Repeat Steps 2-4
As students work through the text, they will complete steps 2-4 until they finish annotating the entire document.

While annotating all different types of text generally follows these steps, there are a few different things that I do when I teach my students how to annotate fiction, annotate non fiction, and annotate poetry. I’ve included all of these lessons and resources in an Annotating Made Simple Bundle.

Teachers and Summertime

At this point in summer, we teachers have recovered from our previous school year, but don’t quite have to worry about the upcoming year. For some of us it is still two months away, and for others we still have about a month remaining. Personally, I find this is the best time to set new goals! I want to walk you through mine, and light the fire so you can find yours.

  1. Find what makes me unhappy. You may find this is a weird place to start, and maybe it is! However, I know I’ll never leave unhappiness behind until I know what drives it! For me, unhappiness begin when I feel I lose control. Whether that means in my health, my social schedule, or in the classroom, I need to be in the driver’s seat. As a goal for my upcoming year, I’m going to work improving my relationships with my students, as well as challenging them throughout the year.

  1. Find what makes me happy! From big things to little things, they all make a difference. It could be going on a weekend getaway or just going on an evening walk. Any time I am able to disconnect and find my own space I am feeding my happiness. Looking forward, I want to implement time for happiness for myself and my students. Sometimes this presents itself as a time away from all electronics just enjoying my surroundings.

  1. Find what inspires me! As often as Pinterest gives me new ideas, I love finding new forms of inspiration. I have quite a few different Pinterest boards that are filled with many different back-to school ideas and resources. I strive to find more and new resources around me. I plan to discuss with and learn from my fellow teachers. Asking questions and trying new things within my classroom will relight my inspiration fire. Finally, I hope to learn from my students and let their creativity blossom in the upcoming year!
These are my summer goals! Yours may be different, and I would love to hear about them and your plan to tackle them. Keep enjoying your summer and looking forward to the upcoming year!

Strategies for Teaching Text Annotation

Strategies for Teaching Text Annotation
One of the first lessons I teach every single year, regardless of the grade-level I am teaching, is how to closely read and annotate a text. Because I feel this is such a valuable skill for students, I carve out a week of my instruction in the beginning of the school year to help my students get more comfortable with annotating text.
When I teach my students how to annotate text, I use a step-by-step PowerPoint presentation that breaks down the annotation process into five simple steps and provides examples for my students. I also provide them with guides and bookmarks to use as references as they annotate. I even encourage my students to keep these documents for their entire high school careers.

There are three invaluable strategies to help students gain confidence in their text annotating skills.

The first strategy I use for teaching and practicing text annotation is that I have my students share and compare their annotations and margin notes with their table-mates. This not only gives them additional insight on how they can annotate, but it also helps to build their confidence when they notice that they have similar notes and markings as their peers.
Strategies for Teaching Text Annotation

Strategies for Teaching Text Annotation

Another strategy I use is direct modeling. I model my own thought-process as I think aloud and annotate text with the document camera. I will set up a piece of paper, grab my annotation supplies (post-it notes, highlighters, pens, etc.), and think aloud as I annotate in front of the classroom.

A final way I like to reinforce my students’ annotation skills is by completing an annotation gallery walk. I will print out text with large font and place it throughout the room. My students will be placed in groups and each group will have 5-7 minutes to read the text, review the existing annotations, and add their own annotations to the chart. This is a great way to get students up and moving while working productively.

Some text that and classroom resources that work very well with these strategies include Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech, Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, and even various close reading passages from short stories.