Winding Down the School Year

Winding down after the school year. Three things teachers can do in the summer.
Congratulations, Teachers! Summer is upon us, and we’ve survived 180 days of craziness. Now what? If you’re anything like me, you cannot and will not sit around all summer. Sure, you say you will. And you certainly will try, but after about a week you might find yourself going a bit stir crazy. Here are three different productive activities you can enjoy right now!

  1. Reflect. How did your year go? What did you love? What could you do without? How would you like next year to go? Start journaling! Reflect on your experiences and brainstorm your upcoming school year. Bringing your ideas to life will substantially assist you when going back to school. I challenge you to keep an ongoing journal entry to think about what you want your classroom and curriculum to look like in the upcoming school year!
  2. Research. Changing your lesson plans is intimidating once you find your comfort zone. Use this time to broaden your horizon, hello Pinterest! I have quite a few different boards for your viewing pleasure. You can also read new novels, test new experiments, and practice new activities! The more fun you find for your future students, the more positive your year is likely to be. If you are in the planning mood, I have some great back-to-school resources available in my store. I also wrote a blog post about my curriculum for the first six weeks of the school year.
  3. RELAX! You deserve it. How do you relax best? Find a new way to do it. Look at your local businesses for summer deals and always ask about teacher discounts! Use your time off to treat yourself and find a new hobby! As for me, I am going to relax by hiking the local hills!
Winding down after the school year. Three things teachers can do in the summer.

These aren’t your typical ‘R’’s, but teaching isn’t a typical career! We are so lucky to do what we do, I hope you all can find some time for yourself this summer!  

Winding down after the school year. Three things teachers can do in the summer.

5 EdTech Sites Every English Teacher Should Use

5 EdTech Sites that Every English Teacher Should Use
As more and more schools integrate technology into the classroom, the need for high-quality, effective EdTech sites increases. Last year I taught my first year in a 1:1 classroom; every student had access to a Chromebook. It was wonderful. Between using several of my SMARTePlans digital lessons for Google Drive and various EdTech sites, teaching in a 1:1 classroom significantly reduced the amount of paper I used in the classroom.

However, teachers do not need to teach in a 1:1 classroom to use SMARTePlans resources or implement these EdTech sites into their classroom. In fact, I utilized the computer lab and assigned a few activities, including my Research Paper Writing Unit and my Character Analysis Interactive Notebook, and used a couple of these sites before transitioning to a 1:1 classroom.

Whether you are teaching in a 1:1 classroom or if you are only able to get into the computer lab once in a while, here is my list of the top 5 EdTech sites for secondary English teachers.

1. Turnitin.com
I cannot emphasize how much I love Turnitin.com. I use it for every major piece of writing that I have my students submit. Turnitin.com is a plagiarism checker. Students submit their papers to the site, and it automatically crawls over each student’s paper while scanning for evidence of plagiarism. It even checks for plagiarism within your class. However, I don’t only use Turnitin.com for its plagiarism-checking abilities. I also use it as a teaching tool. I have my students upload their first drafts on the site, and then they can check their originality reports to see how they can improve their papers. Turnitin.com also has a peer review function that provides students with a way to electronically peer edit papers.

For writing instruction, check out my Ultimate Writing Bundle. It is filled with many different writing lessons and assignments.

2. Vocabulary.com
Before I started using Vocabulary.com in my classroom, I dreaded incorporating vocabulary into my curriculum. Sure I included it with each major piece of reading I introduced, but it was always a hassle. Vocabulary.com takes that all away. With a subscription, I can easily assign my students a vocabulary list, and then they complete the vocabulary work online. With their vocabulary.com accounts, students complete authentic exercises online that help them with comprehension, spelling, and usage. It’s amazing. If your school or district can’t splurge for the license, there is a free trial that allows one teacher and three students to use the site. To try it out, you could project the practice questions on your board, and have students work individually, in pairs, or in teams to complete the practice questions.

For vocabulary instruction, check out my Academic Vocabulary Bundle. It is filled with ELA-specific academic words every student should know!

3. NoRedInk.com
Implementing grammar into your middle school or high school English class is a breeze with NoRedInk.com. With free and paid subscriptions available, this EdTech site provides students with grammar lessons that are geared toward them. When students create their accounts, they fill out an interest survey, and then the grammar questions and practice sentences are focused around their interests!

For additional grammar lessons, assignments, and activities, check out my Mega Grammar Bundle. It is filled with grammar instruction for the entire year!

4. Listenwise.com
With listening comprehension apart of high-stakes state testing, Listenwise.com is a great site that provides teachers with audio content. I use Listenwise.com to incorporate audio nonfiction into my classroom. Each Listenwise audio file has discussion questions that students can answer. With a free account, teachers can access the online content, play the file aloud for the students, and project the questions at the end. In my classroom, I have the students answer the questions in small groups and then share their answers aloud. This site is great for standardized test prep!

My Paraphrasing, Quoting, and Summarizing teaching resource pairs perfectly with Listenwise.org. This resource includes graphic organizers and writing assignments that can be used with any text.

5. Commonlit.org
I cannot tell you how much I love using CommonLit.org in my classroom. It is amazing, and if you haven’t tried it yet, you are certainly missing out. With my free CommonLit.org account, I can browse content and text sets by subject and grade level; assign texts with guided reading questions, multiple-choice questions, and written-response questions to my students; easily see which multiple-choice questions my students answered correctly or incorrectly; and easily grade the written responses on one screen. I use CommonLit.org with my students quite because the questions are aligned with the common core standards, and the questions require that students use textual support for their answers.  


These EdTech sites not only help me reduce the amount of paper I use in the classroom, but they also cut down on some of my grading time. What is your favorite EdTech site to use in your classroom?
5 EdTech Sites that Every English Teacher Should Use

Adding Creativity and Rigor to Poetry Units with Universal Theme Analysis Projects

Beginning a poetry unit can be intimidating for both teachers and students alike, but it does not have to be something to dread. Poetry offers so much freedom in the classroom: freedom for teachers to incorporate project-based learning into the classroom, and freedom for students to explore new avenues to express themselves. After I introduce poetry to my students with a quick annotation lesson that teaches them how to read and annotate poetry, I move onto fun and creative activities like blackout poetry, blank verse projects, and theme analysis projects.

One project-based learning assignment that I love to incorporate in my poetry unit is a universal theme poetry analysis project. This project is a great end-of-unit-project assesses student understanding while giving students an opportunity to explore universal themes that interest them. One of the great things about this project is that it can easily be tailored to fit a wide variety of grade levels. Students in upper-elementary students and Advanced Placement high school seniors can complete this project. For younger students, simply assign fewer poetic devices that are grade-level appropriate.

For a universal theme poetry analysis project, students work either individually or in small groups. They will select a universal theme (can be researched, assigned, or chosen from a list), and then find, cite, and explain examples of various poetic devices and techniques within poems that fit the theme they’ve chosen. To complete the project, students will then prepare a visual presentation that represents the theme they’ve chosen and all of their examples, citations, and explanations.

This project takes quite a bit of time, and students should be given some class time as well as adequate time outside of the classroom to complete this project. Typically, I assign this project at the beginning of the poetry unit once I’ve taught and reviewed various poetic devices so that they have a good understanding of poetry. You can download this assignment, a list of universal themes, and a comprehensive list of poetic devices HERE.

Here are more student examples of this project. While the directions call for the universal theme to be placed in the center, students can also get creative. In fact, the more they make this project their own the better!



End of the Year Activities for the Secondary Classroom

End of the year activities and ideas for middle school and high school students.
After the end of a long and productive school year, I like to take some time to celebrate with my class. Throughout the year we’ve been through a lot. They tackled an entire curriculum, wrote countless essays, conducted research for a variety of research projects and papers, analyzed thousands and thousands of words, and did so all without complaining. Okay, so that last piece might be a stretch, but I won’t hold it against them. The end of the year is a time to celebrate my students and all of their accomplishments.


End of the year activities and ideas for middle school and high school students.
The end of the year is a great time to reflect on what they’ve learned. This year I incorporated growth mindset activities and growth mindset bell ringers into my instruction, and reflection is a big proponent of that. I recently created and posted an End of the Year Growth Mindset resource that is ideal for wrapping up the school year as you and your students reflect on their successes and failures from the year. This end of the year resource includes three different growth mindset writing prompts and graphic organizers to get students thinking about their successes and failures from the current school year, and how they can learn from their failures in the future.

Another great way to wrap up the school year is to write letters. Students can write thank you letters to teachers they’ve appreciated this year, and they can also write letters to their future selves or future students. These letter templates are available in my End of the Year Activities for the Secondary Classroom.
End of the year activities and ideas for middle school and high school students.

There are so many activities to choose from in this End of the Year Activities for the Secondary Classroom resource. From recalling their all-time top 10 moments from the school year, to reflecting on growth, to rewriting the end of one of their favorite stories they read in class, this resource will definitely keep students occupied (and entertained) at the end of the year. There is even a coloring page that you can give to students toward the end of the year if they finish work or an assignment early.
End of the year activities and ideas for middle school and high school students.

Another great way to end the school year is by having students fill out an end of the year student survey. These surveys are important to the teaching process because through students' anonymous and candid feedback, we learn how to improve our teaching practices.
End of the year activities and ideas for middle school and high school students.
The end of the school year is just around the corner. Be ready to share and celebrate this exciting time with your students. They will truly remember a remarkable end to a great year.


The Earth Friendly Classroom: Tips for Going Paperless

Your bank wants you to go paperless. You child's report card is paperless. Retailers want to email you receipts rather than printing them at the register. Your students want to use their mobile devices for everything. So what about your classroom? How are managing your teaching lessons? Are you paper or tech? Blended or 1:1? For ideas and tips about going digital, check out my blog post on Creating a Digital Classroom.

Whether you are all in for going paperless, you plan on it, or you just can't seem to head in the paperless direction, Earth Day is typically the time when we all think about our environment, energy, recycling, preserving our resources, and eliminating waste. That's where our English language arts blog link up comes in.

Using technology in your classroom will definitely cut down on your trips to the copy machine. Sharing an assignment with your students via a cloud storage system (Google Drive or One Drive), an educational app (Notability, MS OneNote, Edmodo) or a learning management system (Canvas, Google Classroom, Microsoft Classroom, Blackboard, Schoology) will allow you to explore auto-grading, self-calculating rubrics, opportunities for student collaboration, and increased student engagement. In my own classrooms, I use my SMARTePlans digital lessons with Google Classroom.

Paperless classroom facilitation is also very low-prep. Teachers are saving prep time by not photocopying or filing endless stacks of paper. Wouldn't all teachers love that? We've put together a collection of blog posts to give you some Earth Day inspiration for your upcoming lesson plans.