As a high school English teacher, there are so many different skills and concepts I want to teach my students. Not only do I want them to be well-versed in literature so they can pick up on allusions in pop culture, but I also want them to be able to write across a variety of mediums proficiently.I want them to improve their vocabulary and have a commanding understanding of how language works so that they can effectively communicate in the world. And while I want them to be able to do all of this, I also understand that the vast majority of my students are not going to be literature or English majors in college. And with that said, when my students leave my classroom, I want to be able to provide them with enough guidance and instruction so that they will succeed in the world after they leave high school. As a high school English teacher, I have the opportunity to provide my students with real-world writing instruction. In my classroom, that comes in the form of teaching email e...
There's a lot to be said about technology, cell phones in particular, in the classroom. On the one hand, students can use them as a learning tool -especially in schools that are not 1:1. On the other hand, cell phones are highly distracting and can impede learning if student use is not strictly enforced. I've taught at two different schools, and each had a different policy. My first school had a site-wide cell phone policy. Students were not to use their phones in class. If they did, teachers could confiscate the phone and turn it into the office. Students or parents would then pick up the device after school. It worked, somewhat. You see, it wasn't followed and enforced uniformly on campus. Some teachers allowed student cell phone use (not just for academic purposes), and other teachers did not. Since every single teacher wasn't on board, the policy wasn't effective. Furthermore, students knew that if they put up enough of a fight, nothing would happen. For...
One of the most important things you can teach your students is good literary analysis skills. Your students will be critically reading texts in high school, college, graduate school, and in their careers. It's necessary to cultivate analytical ability as early as possible. Here are six ways to enhance the literary analysis curriculum for all ages. Think Aloud and Model Inquiry The process of literary analysis is fraught with difficulty, even for the most seasoned critic. How can we expect students to "get" literary analysis without seeing it in action? Hint: it's tough.  As such, a reliable way to gain an understanding of the fluid process of close reading and literary analysis is to model it for your students. To do this, analyze a relevant text in front of the class to show your process. It may seem uncomfortable, but don't prepare yourself for this exercise beyond reading the text you're analyzing- you want to give your students an authentic expe...
When I stepped into my very own classroom for the first time as a brand new teacher, Instagram didn’t exist. I didn’t even know about the online wealth of information available to me, a struggling first-year teacher. When I eventually created my own personal Instagram account in the middle of 2012, I didn’t even really know how to use the platform. I posted ten pictures of my infant son on the profile all within 5 minutes, but of course, not before applying filters to the photos. Then, I didn’t open up the app for almost a year later. I didn’t understand Instagram, and to be completely honest, I didn’t think the platform would be a success. Why would people only want to see pictures? What about the text? (Remember, the captions used to be more limiting.) But then again, I also remember preferring MySpace to Facebook and thinking that Facebook was the inferior platform. However, that is an entirely different discussion. I digress. Unlike myself more than a decade ago, today’s ne...
Teaching can be an incredibly isolating profession. On some days, it is entirely possible for teachers to make it through an entire working day without any adult interaction. And while sometimes it sounds lovely to go into our classrooms, teach, spend our thirty minutes of lunch in our room catching up or grading papers, and then leave at the end of the school day, having fellow teacher friends can genuinely transform your teaching experience. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have a group of amazing, strong women whom I am happy to call my teacher besties. And ever since I changed districts and schools several years ago, this incredible group has made my teaching career so much more fulfilling. Here is a list of 5 reasons why you should have teacher besties at your school. Teacher besties understand each other Teacher besties will understand one another. They won’t judge you if you don’t want to stay out late on a Friday night. They also won’t even dare ask you to han...
Congratulations! You've landed your first teaching job. This is such an exciting time, and you should celebrate this occasion. However, if you are anything like me, the very second that happy moment ends and you realize that you are going to have your own classroom with your own students to teach, the panic might set in. So, you've landed your first job, now what? Your first year won't be easy and carefree, but it shouldn't be the most stressful year of your entire life. Here are seven tips for first-year teachers. 1. Seek out a mentor As soon as you sign your contract, ask if your school has mentor teachers on campus. Your mentor could be a department chair, or a grade-level lead, or someone who is in charge of making new teachers feel welcomed. Not every school has a mentorship program in place, so if you are a newly hired first-year teacher at a school that doesn't have mentors, find one. You'll probably be introduced to more veteran teachers toward t...
While the vast majority of schools have school libraries, classroom libraries play an essential role. There are many ways to build up your classroom library including shopping at garage sales, library sales, and second-hand stores. Additionally, you can also score some free books by asking friends to donate to your classroom. If you are looking for ways to build your library, you can read my post here. Also, I recently wrote a post about how I organize my library. Here are five reasons to have a classroom library in your classroom. 1. Accessible Books Having a library in your classroom gives students another opportunity to access books. Depending on your classroom book check-out policy, your classroom library might also allow students who have late fines in the library to read a book. This is also especially helpful before school breaks. I have many students who stop by before the end of the day to check out a book before a break. Join my email list! Subscribe to r...
This past school year was a great one. With every school year that passes, I like to take a moment and reflect on activities that were successful in the classroom and really think about why they worked. Here are nine of my top activities from this previous school year. SWIFT Poetry Analysis Collaborative Poster Projects As a way to have my students practice their poetry analysis skills while also building their self-efficacy, my students worked on these collaborative posters. Using the acronym SWIFT (structure/symbolism, word choice, imagery, figurative language, and theme and tone), my students analyzed a variety of poems about a similar subject. Not only did the read and annotate the poems, but they also identified each of the SWIFT elements, provided a quote, and explained how each element impacted the poem.  Once students complete the poetry analysis posters, we spent some time in class conducting informal presentations. Student groups presented the posters. I completed th...
Writing on standardized tests can be hard for students. Most tests try to give a broad enough prompt to get a variety of responses back. There is also a lot of pressure associated with standardized tests, and the writing portions are no different. But how do we prepare students for this type of stressful situation that can yield so many results? Here are a few suggestions as to how to ease your students into writing under pressure. 1. Understand the prompts.  Old prompts for whatever test you are preparing your students for, whether it is the SAT, the ACT, or state-standardized tests, are released online after a certain amount of time has passed. You can look these over with your class and talk about ways to tackle the requirements listed. These prompts also typically ask for students to use personal experience, lessons from the classroom, and novels they have read as examples. Showing these examples will better prepare students for the test. Part of this particular point is a...
Plays are great literary works to utilize in your classroom. Students will enjoy the faster pace of reading them even acting out the scenes. Many high school classrooms solely read Shakespearean plays, but it can also be exciting and educational to read a variety of dramas and playwrights that come from all different backgrounds. Here are five different dramas to read in your classroom that aren't from the Bard. This post contains affiliate links. 1. Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams (1947) This play is considered one of the greatest plays of the 20th century. The characters are iconic, as are specific lines, i.e. “Stella!” and this makes the play a memorable study for your students. You can discuss with your class the specifics of the play that make it so significant to study, such as the setting of New Orleans, or the themes that revolve around the topics of mental illness, gender, sexuality, and control. Since there was a movie produced in 1951, your class can ...
In this video, I outline the three things you should do when teaching rhetorical analysis to your middle school ELA or high school English Students. The two resources I mention in this video are linked below: Understanding Rhetorical Appeals Sticky Note Rhetorical Analysis Unit Additional resources for teaching rhetorical analysis: Rhetorical Analysis with a PAPA Square 15 Rhetorical Analysis Questions to Ask Your Students My Favorite Speeches for Rhetorical Analysis ...
When you teach seniors in high school, you have the chance to really direct them in a way that will mentally prepare them for college writing. Even if your students are not going to major in English in college, there will still be plenty of writing, and you can help them achieve great things in their future. Here are five ways to help your students prepare for the significant amount of writing they will do in college: 1. Assign research papers Research is a major part of college writing, and if you can slowly introduce the concept of researching in your classroom, it can be very beneficial for your students. Introduce educational articles relating to whatever text your class is reading at the moment; whether it is Jane Eyre or Macbeth, there will be articles to discuss that provide both a deeper understanding of the novel and also a way into creating a research-based environment in the classroom. Assign a paper in which the students use these readings to talk about an essential pa...