Knowing how to research is an important skill for our students, but it can seem overwhelming and tedious when students first see a research assignment. When it comes to teaching students how to research and how to write a research paper, it is definitely a process. Teaching research paper writing takes time. Check out some of my favorite tips for teaching research in secondary ELA.  1. Teach well-thought-out research questions. This is one of the first skills to focus on because it sets the tone for the whole project. Students either need to be given the research questions, or they should have some sort of teacher-check to make sure they are keeping to the topic. Questions that are too broad will leave them sifting through too much information, and questions that are too narrow will make it hard for them to find sources and do their research. You can assist students by walking them through a short process of evaluating their topic and completing some preliminary research.  2. Teach the...
  You probably won’t get very far in teaching without hearing about a plethora of sticky note activities. It might even seem overwhelming because you can use sticky notes for just about anything. What are the best practices for using sticky notes, especially when you’re teaching older students? Read on to see my suggestions. 1. Use them conscientiously There are two points to consider - how to get ahold of them, and what to do with them when you’re done. Buy in bulk for the best bang for your buck. But if you are tight in the supply budget and it’s part of your school culture to provide supply lists to students, consider having students contribute to a class stock of sticky notes or have them bring their own supply. The other thing to consider is how to dispose of sticky notes. There’s a myth that sticky notes can’t be recycled. While some types of sticky notes are harder to recycle (like those with fluorescent dyes), and not all recycling centers take “mixed paper”, I recommend consid...
Shakespeare has been gone for 400 years and yet we still insist on keeping him in our classroom. Mention Shakespeare, and I can guarantee teens immediately put up a front. Breaking through that initial abrasiveness can sometimes become a hurdle - but pointing out Shakespeare’s relevancy is a great start to a study. Below are some quick thoughts you might consider sharing with students, as well as several resources you can use while teaching Shakespeare. Shakespeare influenced our language. You can find so many references in our English language directly from Shakespeare’s work. If your students have ever been tongue-tied or hoodwinked, they’re quoting Shakespeare. There is a definitive record of Shakespeare being identified as the sole user or the first user of many common words and phrases. Your students might enjoy focusing on phrases they do recognize instead of worrying about what seems confusing. Shakespeare's themes are timeless. If you cut the language that feels outdated to...
It’s the not-so-favorite time of year - state testing. And while students may agonize and teachers may groan at the thought of another year of standardized testing in the midst of whatever this new normal is, it’s up to us to prepare our students the best we can. Here are six ideas to help you prep for the test prep season. 1. Get organized This applies to you as well as your students. Think about your game plan. What are you going to accomplish? “Prep for state testing” is too broad a statement. Think about specific tasks, specific knowledge your students need. Think about how you’ll organize your students and how much time you will need. Don’t add more stress to the situation by going in at the last minute with packets you found on the internet but didn’t have time to vet. Be methodical in what you plan. If you’ve waited until the final hour, focus on one or two main test prep areas: writing with evidence or focusing on listening skills. 2. Try something fun Students don’t need endl...
When I first started using Google in the classroom back in, I don’t even know when, I had absolutely no idea about just how helpful the Google platform would be for teaching. From Google Classroom to Google Docs and everything between, the Google Suite definitely helps me stay organized as a teacher. Here’s a look at how I use Google in the classroom and as a teacher. Using Google Docs in the Classroom Google Docs for Digital Collaboration I love using Google Docs for collaborative activities in the classroom. With my journalism students, since we are 100 percent remote right now, we use a collaborative Google Doc for our monthly story brainstorming. Also, when I am conducting digital collaborative activities such as the collaborative rhetorical precis activity, we use a carefully-created Google Doc with tables for whole-class participation. You can read my recent digital collaboration blog post on the Secondary English Coffeeshop to learn more about how I use Google Docs for digita...
As an English teacher, I believe that every single high school student needs to know how to annotate text meaningfully and effectively in order to gain a deeper understanding. Close reading is an essential part of the English language arts, and it is also essential to many other academic disciples as well. Teaching students to properly annotate text is something can be challenging, but my step-by-step text annotation lesson makes this process much more manageable for students and teachers. Check this lesson out HERE or at the bottom of the post. As we step into the digital world and as schools slowly transition to 1:1, teachers have to find new ways to have students demonstrate their mastery of a skill. Recently, I stumbled upon a Google Chrome app that makes annotating text on an electronic device easy peasy: Xodo. Xodo is a free Google Chrome app that allows students to annotate directly on the screen. They can draw arrows and type in comments. It is a dream! Simply...
If you’ve never conducted a fishbowl discussion in your classroom, you and your students are missing out. Similar to a Socratic Seminar, fishbowl discussions are organized classroom discussions that require students to prepare thoughtful responses to deliver in class. I love using fishbowl discussions as an end of the unit review activity because I can give my students a lot of content to review and use to prepare for the discussion, and I can also use the discussion itself as a way to assess my students’ speaking and listening skills. Organize your classroom You will want to prepare your classroom for the discussion. Typically, I place two tables or four desks in the center of the room. That is my fishbowl. During the discussion, four students will sit in the middle of the room and answer and discuss the topic questions. The rest of the tables and desks in the room are arranged in a circular pattern around the fishbowl. That way, just like people look at the fi...
Classroom teachers across the nation are including innovative technology in their everyday teaching. These teachers know and realize that technology is the future of education. Whether you are a seasoned classroom technology expert or even if you are just beginning to dip your toes into the classroom tech pool, today, Innovative Classroom Technology Day, is the perfect day to explore new technology to use in your classroom. One new way to introduce innovative technology into your classroom is through digitally based and delivered educational resources. I love Google Classroom because I am able to easily deliver digital content and assignments to my students. One of my favorite digital teaching resources is my  SMARTePlans Growth Mindset Digital Interactive Notebook  because it helps students realize and unlock their true potential. To celebrate Innovative Classroom Technology Day, here are some informative blog posts and engaging digital lessons to use in your classroom. A...
This is the second post in a series of blog posts about using Google Forms in your classroom. Visit HERE to see the first post. Ever since I started using Google Forms in the classroom, I keep thinking about more ways to incorporate the forms and the data into my instruction. Using the data validation tool embedded in Google Forms, I’ve discovered how to force students to submit the type of work I expect. This tool allows me to digitally demand excellence from my students. One of the most common phrases I hear in my classes is, “Do we have to answer in complete sentences?” You would think that students know the answer for this question, especially in their English class, is yes, but that isn’t always the case. When students work in a Google Form I’ve created, I am able to set data validation to make sure that my students are not only answering in complete sentences, but that they are also restating the questions in their answers. By setting the data validation, I am making sure ...
The world of education is constantly changing and evolving. In fact, the one of the only constant of education is change itself. One of the biggest driving factors affecting the changes in education today is technology. Our students are part of a new generation – a generation that is constantly connected and surrounded with technology, and so it only makes sense to fully incorporate technology into our teaching practices. As educators, we are the ones who need to evolve and adapt our teaching practices in order to accommodate, foster, and expand our students’ use of technology. We need to create a learning environment that supports 21st century learning.The solution is pretty obvious: schools need to implement digital classrooms. What is a digital classroom? A digital classroom is a classroom that is fully immersed in technology. Each students has access to an Internet connected device, whether it be a laptop, tablet, Chromebook, or other device, and the majority (or all of) the cu...
As the world of education advances into the digital era, teachers need high-quality, content-rich, digital, interactive lessons and educational materials that can be delivered over the Internet. That is why I created SMART e Plans. SMART e Plans are English language arts lessons and activities designed for teachers who want to implement digital learning into their classrooms. These electronic lesson plans are engaging, rigorous, and fully-integrable into a Google classroom. To get a free, first-hand look at what a SMART e Plans resource looks like, download my free, digital reading log available on my TeachersPayTeachers store. Click HERE for the resource. Students can use this resource to track their weekly reading throughout the entire school year. Students simply copy and paste new Google slides into their very own document on Google Drive and type in a summary of the pages they've read and a memorable quote. I like having students keep track of quotes as they read...