Thank you to everyone who sent me a question about my experience teaching remotely for the first two weeks of the school year. I hope that my experience back in the classroom, remotely teaching, will help you get a good start for the school year. I received so many questions that I am breaking this post up. This post is the first round of remote teaching Q&As. My first two weeks of remote teaching were definitely interesting. From my first day of school, which was absolutely awful and isolating, to my first full week of instruction, it's been nothing short of a roller coaster ride. Alas, it is getting better. However, it would be utterly naive of me to think that I've mastered the art of distance teaching. I am in no way an expert in remote teaching, but here is a look at my experience. Please note that when I say "week 2," that means one-half week and one full week of remote instruction. Our half week was one half-day and two full days (but block schedule, so jus...
Teaching middle school ELA and high school English students how to write well is a challenging task! One way to help students improve their writing is to teach them how to "cut the fat." Whether writing essays , prose, or anything in between, some students will always be tempted to outdo themselves, making their writing a bit more superfluous, or "extra," than it needs to be. It's hard to blame students, given the complexity of the English language and all the things that we're allowed to do with it. However, students should be aware of how to make their writing as concise and straightforward as possible. This is often the most effective way of communicating any story or message. Here are five easy suggestions to help your students "cut the fat" in their writing. 1. Leave the "ly" s behind. More particularly, encourage students to keep the adverb usage to a minimum. Sure, adverbs can spice up the blandness of certain verbs, and ...
With the back-to-school year upon us, this new school year will present some unique challenges. In particular, how are teachers going to get to know their new students and establish an inviting classroom community -especially if they are teaching remotely or in a hybrid setting? This school year, I will be starting out teaching my high school English classes remotely. I will be reporting every single day to my classroom to teach my students who are at home. And while I am still laying out the foundation for my back-to-school plans, I’ve got a good idea for how I would like to start the school year. For beginners, I want to introduce students to our new online platform, Canvas, slowly. In doing so, I plan to do my best not to overwhelm students during the first couple of weeks of remote learning instruction. Weeks 1&2 of Remote Teaching My first-day-of-school in the digital classroom While teaching remotely, I want to introduce myself to my students and allow them to...
When teaching literature in the middle school ELA or high school English classroom, one element students struggle with is the theme. Students struggle with identifying the theme of a story and analyzing how it develops throughout the plot. One way to help students learn how to identify the theme of any fictional text is by simply climbing the “ropes”... ROPES is an acronym that stands for relationships, objective, power, ethics, and strength. You can pose these questions to your students the next time you are analyzing theme in the classroom. Use this acronym when teaching theme to your secondary ELA students. Relationships How are the protagonist’s relationships with other characters affected as the story progresses? To what extent is the protagonist responsible for these changes? The protagonist’s role in evoking these changes and the significance of the changes themselves will help readers determine whether this story is commenting on the personal, interpersonal, or ...
For many students, learning new words can be one of the greatest joys or greatest dreads alike. For a few of our students, there is nothing more exhilarating than coming across a mysterious new word in a book, leaning its meaning, and, proudly showing off the newly-acquired treasure to friends and family. However, for countless others, new words aren't all that exciting. And for many of our students, new, confusing, and intimidating words are roadblocks. Alas, this is not how it's meant to be! Here are five activities that will engage students creatively with their vocabulary words and ensure that they permanently "stick" in students' minds: 1. Media Meetup This weekly activity works best in partnerships or groups of three. At the beginning of each week, have students, in their pairs/groups, split up the vocabulary list amongst themselves, so that each student is responsible for an equal number of words. The students must then find examples of the words p...
Creative writing is a skill that can be expanded and applied to many other areas of the secondary ELA curriculum, like analyzing text or creating out-of-the-box arguments. The best exercises are those that are engaging and stick with students for the rest of their learning experiences. Teaching creative writing in the classroom can oftentimes feel like a daunting task, so it is important to incorporate fun and engaging writing activities into the classroom. Making writing fun and memorable is easy with these five creative exercises: The 5 Senses:  The five senses are an essential part of any descriptive writing. Take your students outside or to an area with high foot traffic. Instruct them to choose a person or object to write about, using all five senses. Allow them to read their short descriptions out loud to one another and to take note of which senses their peers used. One resource to help your students learn how to write more descriptively is my Descriptive Writi...
Social justice is necessary to weave into the English curriculum because it allows students to explore their own world views and discuss them with other students. Teenagers must be provided with a space to explore and discuss important social justice issues. Sometimes, they need just a bit of guidance. Here are five ways to incorporate social justice into the classroom. 1. Help students find a social justice issue they are passionate about. Not everyone will share the same passion about the same topics, and that's okay! It is crucial to help students explore what they feel strongly about. Start by asking them what aspects of their lives they value most, and create a discussion about how those things might not be present in everyone's lives. For example, a student might be really passionate about sports and may be interested in making sports more accessible to people worldwide. By asking your students questions about what they value, you can help them find causes they may...
When it comes to teaching middle school ELA and high school English students the art of literary analysis , allusions can often serve as a major roadblock. Students might approach a text with complete eagerness, clarity, and comfort, only for that peculiar-sounding reference to leave them hesitant and despondent -- unsure of how, exactly, to proceed. They might wonder if this mysterious name adds essential context and meaning to the story. Or, they might simply think that the author liked that particular painting. When plagued with these sorts of questions, the typical response is to either overstimulate or abandon the allusion. When teaching your students all about allusion during your next short story or novel student, pose these questions to your students. 1. What is the exact thing, person, or event to which the author is referring? This question might seem like an obvious one, but frequently, when there is a relatively famous allusion at hand, further research might seem ...