Thursday, December 4, 2014

My New Reading List

I've been lucky when at raffles lately. The last conference I went to I won two books! 

Ashfall and Rigorous Reading
Ashfall is a young adult fiction novel centered around our world after a super-volcano erupts. I am really glad I got a chance to read it, as I think my students will really enjoy this addition to our classroom library.

Rigorous Reading is part of my ongoing Professional Development. My supervisor and I are reading the chapters together and we have monthly meeting to go over what we've read. It's a great way to be sure that we are using the same vocabulary and background when designing our plans.

Yesterday I had a chance to attend a conference on understanding and creating Essential Questions to help students learn and understand more effectively. My luck kept up and I brought home a baggie of goodies. In addition to a cell phone charger and a USB, I received a whole bag of books which have now been added to my, "to read" list.

Grading Smarter Not Harder,  Essential Questions, How to Design Questions and Tasks to Assess Student Thinking,
and Learning From Coaching,  

I look forward to getting a chance to read these, and share the ones I find the most useful!

Has anyone read any of these? Any recommendations on which ones to read?

Pizza Project (Paragraph Writing)

I am all about playing with words and enjoying a pun, so when I began my unit on Julius Caesar, I immediately wanted to implement this pizza project using Little Caesar boxes.

What is the Pizza Project? I've seem them done a few different ways. With my high school students, I use them as a way to practice finding concrete details (or specific examples) from texts.

Essentially, students were each given a Little Caesar's pizza box. I think technically these cost $.45 cents each (plus tax), but if you politely explain that this is for a school project, then you may get your boxes for free.

"Project Pizza," as a call it, is composed of three distinct parts:The Pizza Box, the Pizza Slices and the Pizza Presentation.

The Pizza Box is the part with the simplest directions. Students decorate the pizza box ti reflect the themes and characters they choose to discuss on their pizza slices. 

Since, these boxes are from Little Caesar's and we were reading Julius Caesar, most students chose to keep at least some of the box visible.

Clearly, if your topic was unrelated to the name of your pizza chain you would have them cover all of it, but you can get creative. Pizza Hut could be used for The Painted House, The House on Mango Street. Da' Boys for The Body, or any other book about a group of boys.

The next part is more complicated. The Pizza Slices of course can vary based on your preferences and the level of your students.In this case, Each group received eight slices. They had to create individual slices of pizza. Each slice has a crust (the topic) and toppings (quotes, pictures, and other general facts).

As for topics. I have students choose from themes, characters, motifs, conflicts, the setting, and anything else that interests them. In the case of Julius Caesar this could be anachronisms, fashion, battles mentioned, historical inaccuracies, or anything else in the story that intrigues them.

I don't grade my students on artistic skill, but I do let them know that they will be graded on effort and appearance.

Finally, my students had a Pizza Presentation. For this students chose three of their slices of pizza and shared the information with the rest of the class. The topics were pre-approved to avoid listening to the same concept over and over again.

This acted as a great review and a way for my students to practice presentations.

You can make this more specific by having students replicate paragraphs more closely.

Hopefully you're inspired to have your students make their own pizzas!

If you want to see exactly what I did, I'll be sure to upload some worksheets later, but for now, here's a  Pizza Graphic Organizer: Only $.80

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Teachers Pay Teachers December 2014 Sale

Many of my blog readers know that I offer many of my teaching worksheets and plans on Teachers Pay Teachers.

To celebrate all that I am thankful for, I've been offering all of my products (usually under $2) 10% off! This sale will last until December 1st!

That's not all! December 2nd all of my products over $2 are 20% off!


Teacher's Pay Teachers is holding their Cyber Monday sale December 1st and 2nd.You get an additional 10% off using the code TPTCYBER

That means if you shop on the 2nd and use the code you'll save 28% off the normal price!

What;s my best selling product? All Summer in a Day Reading Packet normally $2.50, on Monday it is $1.80 if you use the coupon

For those of you who are strapped fro cash, I also offer quite a few products for free: This worksheet on phrasal verbs, and this great BINGO game with minimal pairs are always free.

If you don't already have an account sign up here, and let me know if you have any questions.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Guest Post: Using Technology to Teach Writing

Guide for Teachers: How to Teach Writing Through Technology?
As a teacher, you can either choose to assign pointless papers to your students or inspire them to think and facilitate their ability to write. The current writing crisis in our schools comes from one main cause: academic writing being taught as a mechanical process of research, writing and editing. If you want to teach your students to start learning through the writing process, then you need to adjust your teaching style to their needs and learning potential.

As part of every student’s life, technology should not be excluded from the teaching process. By forcing your students to research the library and neglect online tools and resources when writing papers, you are making the entire process boring right from the start. Since your students are being engaged by infographics, videos, hyperlinks and images, you should infuse that digital world to bring some fun and more effectiveness into the classroom.

Although technology doesn’t have all answers to the writing crisis, the right tools can still help you inspire your students to write more and write better. These awesome tools will help you start the revolution:

Your students will love collaborating on writing projects through this platform. The features for instant editing and sharing make the process easier than ever, and you can join the process and monitor their progress in real time. There are eight distinctive author colors to choose from, so the input of each student will be clearly recognizable.

As a teacher, you can also rely on the assistance of NinjaEssays when you need to create perfect coursework material.Carissa's Note: I would NOT give this site to students as they essentially are given the option to buy essays.

This is another online tool you can recommend for collaborative work. It enables the users to perform bulk uploads and save a lot of time on the go. The other features include: secure file sharing, online file storage, presentation, file synchronization, spreadsheet, Word document, task management, and more. 

Even though there are many writing tools and platforms you can start using, sometimes it is better to start from the basics. No, that doesn’t mean Microsoft Word! Google Docs has a simplistic, clean interface that makes the writing process distraction-free. In addition, your students can also use Google Docs to collaborate on a team project in real time. 

Your students love reading blogs about the things that interest them, so why not use that potential to teach them something really useful? Edublogs is a student-friendly blogging platform that can replace the paper newsletter. You can inspire your students to find interesting online material associated to the concepts they learn at class and write weekly blogs. That is the best way to inspire your students to write, but you’ll also find that the best blogs will lead to fantastic discussions. 

This is another great platform that enables its users to explore and create educational content online. You can use some great posts from Glogster to show your students that writing can be fun, and then inspire them to create their own blogs. You can also create teams and assign blogging as a team project.

Improve your teaching methods with the help of technology!

Educational technology offers endless benefits for both teachers and students. It’s no secret that today’s schooling system is burdening students with more writing assignments than they can handle. The only way to help them approach academic writing with enthusiasm is to start relying on technology and infuse some elements of fun and effective collaboration throughout the process.
Robert Morris is an English teacher from New York. Find him on Google+.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Top Ten WORST Class Management Techniques

I write a lot about classroom management because I feel it is an important topic for so many teachers. If you are a great teacher, but you can't control a classroom, your students will never learn. If you are an adequate teacher with great classroom control, then your students will probably learn more.

I know it can be frustrating. I am not a big praying person, but when I teach...I pray about twice a day. Once is usually a devotional, it tends to be positive, "Bless this room and all who walk in it to open them up to learning."Then, there are the prayers that are a bit more negative, "Dear Lord give me the patience not to react to this students goading. Help me understand that they are young, and I am the responsible adult who should not react poorly."

I have posts about great classroom management books, props to use, and general ideas to quiet a room. This post is different. This post will tell you what NOT to do. It uses examples found online via newspapers.

1. Don't use fear! There are reports of some students who were told there was a monster in a closet and then locked in their when they misbehaved. The students often shouted and cried (sometimes to the point of puking) while the teacher kept the door shut. See the related news piece here

2. Don't threaten to get physical Even if you have no intent of following through this is not why you want students to listen. One teacher was put on probation for threatening to stab her students with a fruit knife she kept in her desk drawer according to this article.

3. Don't get jokingly physical! Even if you are trying to be amusing, slapping or hitting a student is NEVER acceptable. In this article the teacher actually slapped a student several times trying to allude to the recent movie Bridesmaids.

4. Especially don't get seriously physical. I know that violence can seem like the best answer in the heat of the moment, but how can we expect our students to pick another path if we ourselves can't. Here's one example of a student who was punched by his teacher.

5. Don't spit on them ... really? I need to say this? While it can be hard sometimes, spitting is never the answer.

6. Don't duct tape them to the chair. I know most teachers have that one student that just can't stay still. I understand how duct tape can, at times, be tempting, but more than one teacher hastried using duct tape in the class. One was accused of bullying, the other was just deemed an inappropriate technique.

7. Don't put them in a bag and leave them in the hallway. You can call it a "therapy bag," if you like, but putting students in a bag and then putting them out of your eyesight is not the best way to help a situation!

8. Don't have them wear a doggie cone. I see some online memes that joke about this too, but I think we can all are that there are better options for classroom management before even considering a doggie cone.

9. Don't strip search them. When I was in high school one of the dress code rules was no thongs. This was clearly rarely enforced as no teacher was going to request to see your underwear. One third grade teacher felt strip searching a student was acceptable.

As you can see this list is only at nine right now. If you have another technique you have read about, seen or heard about let me know! I'd love to get your feedback.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Classroom on a Budget

 I promised some pictures of my classroom a while back. Here is a quick blog post that is a compilation of a few pictures from my classroom.

To start, I picked up some motivational stickers that make the view out of my window a little nicer.

You can't see in this picture, but when I stay at school until sunset (which happens far too often) and the sky is clear, I have a stunning view of the sunset over the ocean.

 As for bulletins, I have one long bulletin board divided into two sections.

One of them isn't shown here. It is lined with newspapers and every time we read a story we write a headline and post it up.

The other one you see here has one of my favorite quotes, "A book is a gift that you open again and again." with some of the books I let them read during SSR.
In addition to World and American Literature, I teach a Study Skills class. One of the activities that we do is students create posters with acronymns that will help them be good students.

For example, LISTEN reminds students to: Learn, Investigate, Stay Silent, Take Notes, re Exercise your brain and Not to talk. These are currently displayed in my class, but soon I'll send them to other teachers to share their work throughout the school.

That's a small look at my classroom! What's your look like?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Ways to differentiate texts

I've seen a lot of discussion about differentiating texts for student readers, so I thought I'd write up a quick post about fiver easy ways to differentiate texts.

1.Chunk the text differently.
For this method you would still give all the students the same text, but where one student may have a text with questions at the end. Another student would have one question after each paragraph. This makes it easier for lower readers to process the information.

2. Give a graphic organizer
I am not going to lie. As a student I HATE graphic organizers. They don't work for me. I feel contained and held back However, as a teacher I LOVE THEM. Some students just work better when given boxes or lines. I tend to make my own, but you can find many free templates online. Eduplace for example has decent selection.

3. Give help
If students are taking notes on a reading give lower level students guided notes, and higher level students no notes. Give lower level students sentence starters and higher level students the basic question.

4. Adapt the assignment for students.
I feel this is often what teachers do. Rather than changing the reading, they change the expectations. What I think is important here is to make sure that you aren't cheating lower level students out of an education. For example, higher level students may need to find ten new words, define them, draw a picture, and use them to tell a story. Whereas lower level students need to find ten new words, define them, draw a picture and make a unique sentence for each word. Telling a story is a higher level skill, but writing unique sentences will still help our struggling reader learn!

5. Make one version easier.
This is often a time consuming process. Basically give some students the text as is,, and other students the text with easier words or less complex sentences. Unless you know you will reuse an activity over and over, I wouldn't do this. Instead, use a site like this site selects texts on popular current events and rewrites them at different levels. The content is the same, but you can divvy up the texts according to the strengths of your students!

There we are, five relatively painless ways to make it easier for your learners or a bit more challenging for those who need a push.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Creative Character Quizzes

These aren't the quizzes that your students have to study for! These quizzes make your students use their critical thinking skills, inference skills, grammar skills and technology skills...what more could you want?

If your students like taking Buzzfeed quizzes or any quiz online then they will appreciate this assignment.

My students were reading the Crucible, but it can be easily adapted to any book (or even classmates, teachers, local politicians, etc.). For classes that don't read literature I've also used quizzes to review vocabulary.

As a class we discussed what types of questions we could ask. There were two types we discussed:

1. The literal question.
    • These questions asked about things we could literally see. 
      • For example: Would you cheat on your significant other?
        • Never! I am a good honest person.
        • Yes, but I would feel awful later!
        • If they were cute and I liked them.
        • I am very religious so of course not!
    • In this questions we can tell who the answers refer to based on actions or words stated.
        • Elizabeth is a good and honest woman who never cheated.
        • John cheated, but he felt bad.
        • Abigail had an affair with John,so she would be OK with cheating.
        • Hale is a reverend, so he is religious.
2. The symbolic question
    • These questions require more interpretation.
      • For example: What is your favorite color?
        • Black
        • White
        • Red
        • Grey
      • In these question the answer may depend based on who is writing the quiz
        • John Proctor is depressed so he is black.
        • Elizabeth is very innocent so she is white
        • Abigail is passionate so she is read.
        • Hale is grey because he is confused by what is happening in the town and getting more and more depressed.
Once the students understand the differences I gave their requirements.They had to create a 10 question quiz involving four characters. In addition tot he quiz they needed to give me a paper that explained their answers.

Once they completed their quizzes they put them online ( is a great site for this) and take at least two other quizzes.

It is a fun project that makes students cite evidence from the text and shows how well they understand the characters.

You can buy the directions and worksheets that go with this for The Crucible on Teachers Pay Teachers at this link

Otherwise be inspired and make your own! Here are two examples from my students

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