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,...