If you teach at a school that administers the PARCC, SBAC, or CAASPP, these standardized tests will assess your students’ listening skills. And typically, this is the strand in which most students perform the lowest. However, knowing how your students perform on the listening portions of these tests is helpful because it enables you to help your students boost these skills and improve the overall performance on the test. I, too, teach at a school that administers one of these tests, and the listening portion is where my kids earn the lowest marks. To try to combat this, I’ve started making a more focused effort to plan meaningful listening activities in my curriculum. While I don’t recommend always teaching to the test, it is necessary to note that the scores from these tests are important for our schools. And because of this, we should do what we can to help our students score their best. In my classroom, I add supplementary activities that are related to the units I teach that...
If there’s one genre that intimidates students, it is definitely poetry. Poetry, for some reason, can make students shrink with uncertainty, doubt, and fear before you even begin the unit. When I teach poetry in my classroom, I first like to introduce students to it by teaching them how to read and annotate poetry. By breaking this process down for students, it immediately becomes less intimidating. Once my students have a grasp on how to read poetry, I then throw them into the deep end with poetry analysis. When I teach analysis in my classroom, I use this poetry teaching unit that employs the acronym SWIFT to help students analyze one element at a time. SWIFT stands for Structure, Word choice, Imagery, Figurative language, and Theme and tone. Structure When students analyze the structure, I have them look at how the poem is organized. First, they take a look at it visually and note what they see. Then, I have them look a bit closer. They look at lines and stanzas a...
Lord of the Flies is a classic piece of British literature. And while many students in modern-day US students might not be able to relate to the plights of Piggy, Ralph, Jack, and Simon, there is a way to hook kids into the book. Just like the boys on the island experience a myriad of challenges to survive, my students also participate in a survivor-type team challenge as we read the book. Throughout the unit, my student teams work together on assignments and compete against one another on challenges that demonstrate their understanding of the novel. Teams earn points for winning challenges, and the team points are displayed on the board throughout the entire unit. GETTING STARTED The first thing I do is divide my students up into equal teams. I choose to have six different teams of about 5-6 students each. To make the teams as fair and as even as possible, I divide the teams by current class grade to make sure that every team has some strong members. Once I have my teams, I ...
The second semester is full of promise. By this point in the school year, I know my students. I know their strengths, their weaknesses, and even their quirky little habits. By this point in the school year, I’m in the groove, and I usually have a slightly different tone with each class because I know what works for each different class period. By this point in the year, I am better able to plan my instruction around my students’ needs and also challenge them to blossom into confident academics. With that said, here’s a look at what I teach during the second semester of school. 1. Writing Spotlight: Writing about Commentary By the time the second semester rolls around, I’m ready to hone in on my students’ writing skills. I recently published my Writing about Commentary unit as the first lesson in my Writing Spotlight series. In this unit, I focus on moving students from “This quote shows,” to writing more analytical commentary. 2. The Research Paper The second semester is al...
Being a first-year teacher can be both exhilarating and overwhelming. And while it might seem like you are always swimming upstream, I promise, it does get easier. It just takes time. Dear First-Year-Teacher Me, I see you. I see you there, sitting alone in your classroom during your prep period completely overwhelmed as your to-do list grows three times as fast as you can cross items off. I see you there sitting at your dining room table all by yourself late at night as you finalize your lesson plans for the next day...only to do the same thing the very next night. I see you there in your new workplace trying to learn everyone’s names. There are so many new people to meet and remember. I see you there wondering how you will ever grade, enter, and return all of these assignments before the next batch comes in. I see you there reading one chapter ahead as you teach a mandated book that you’ve never read before. I see you there, sitting in your classroom, wondering what i...
Society has some less-than-desirable thing to say about our students. In the news and on social media, they are sometimes referred to as the tide-pod generation. However, we are the ones in the classroom with them, and we are the ones who truly know how amazing and incredible our students are. The teenagers in today’s classrooms are inspiring and motivating. They are capable and determined. They’ve grown up in the recession, a time in which many of our kids might have experienced economic uncertainty. Our students are Generation Z. As a teacher in a classroom filled with Gen Z kids, it is extremely beneficial for us to know and understand who this generation is. Generation Z is the generation that follows the Millenials. While there is some debate about when this generation begins, these are our students. As I said, they grew up in the midst of the recession, and they were not alive during (or don’t remember) September 11. Our students have grown up in a technological age,...
Writing the Common App essay can be a stifling process for students, especially for the kids who insist they have “nothing interesting to write about.” The Common Application is a universal online application that most colleges have switched to in place of individual applications. However, most teachers and students don’t seem to realize how much leeway the Common App essay provides. The first six prompts are merely aimed to kickstart students into a certain kind of thought process that will help reveal their values and passions. If the student feels inspired to write something that doesn’t fit any of those molds, the seventh prompt for Common App provides the opportunity to write about anything. My personal statement mini-unit is a good starting off point for brainstorming some of these topics. There are lots of ways to fit the Common App Prompts into your curriculum as early as the first day of school. Whether you use these suggestions as exercises or turn them into assignme...
With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, it is time to think about infusing rigorous and academic content with the whimsy fun of February 14. Here’s a list of several different activities you can do in the middle school ELA or high school English classroom during the first couple weeks of February. Activities to Incorporate During a Novel Study Break-up Letter If you are currently reading a novel or short story that involves a couple, you can assign your students a break-up letter. Instruct your students to use textual evidence from the story as evidence and reasoning as to why the couple is breaking up. This assignment also works if there isn’t a romantically involved couple; have your students write a friendship breakup letter. Love Letter Similar to the break-up letter, you could also assign a love letter to your students. With this assignment, they would also have to use textual evidence from the story as evidence and reasoning as to why the pair is in love. By hav...
When teaching fiction in the middle school ELA or high school English classroom, whether it be a short story or a novel, it is so important to focus on more than just comprehension. While it is important to ask students about what they read, we must also ask them to analyze what they read. When I first teach literature to my students, I use direct instruction strategies. I provide my students with literary analysis terms and examples. Then we begin short stories and excerpts together. Usually, we will analyze a couple of short stories together as a class before moving onto more substantial pieces, like novels. When I’m teaching a piece of fiction, I like to have set questions I can use throughout the year to ask my students. As students answer the same question about various texts throughout the year, they improve their analytical skills and begin to form a better understanding of how literature analysis works. If you are teaching response to analysis and literary analysis,...
Reading is essential to becoming successful in life. While some of your students may love reading and jump at the chance to read anything and everything, others are less enthused and will want to find ways around reading in your class. Here are ten different ways to get your students excited about reading in your classroom and beyond. 1. Find books that will be interesting for your students. Sometimes the most straightforward step is to bring books that are unfamiliar to your students but are in the genre of something they may love. Graphic novels or young adult fiction are usually great ways to get your students interested enough to read. Graphic novels will appear to be more comfortable for your students, but there are graphic novels that can be educational and fulfill the literary need for your classroom. Young adult novels are great for the high school classroom because if students are readers, they will most likely be reading books of this sort already. Young adult novels ...
Over the summer, I set out to make improvements to my classroom library. I wanted to find appealing books from diverse authors that my students would want to read. And while I was able to purchase quite a few books at a low price (check garage sales, thrift stores, and used bookstores), I still needed a way to organize my new library. This post contains affiliate links. While they have no direct impact on you, I may receive a small kickback to help me run this site. I decided to organize my library by genre because I felt that by doing so, my students would be able to easily and quickly find books that appealed to their interests. After deciding to organize my high school English classroom library by genre, I searched for labels that I could use to label because they square design would cover most book spines and because they have many different colors. I chose THESE LABELS to use for my classroom library. Once my labels came in, I downloaded the Word template that was ...