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Field Trip to Romeo and Juliet and SO much More

Ask my students if I am ever absent, and they will tell you no.  I hate missing school!  It's because I am selfish. I don't want anyone else to teach my lessons, and I don't like being away from my students.  I like to read stories with my voices, I like to greet them with music, and there is nothing I want to miss (okay, State Testing)!  However, on Friday my Creative Writing class, along with the drama teacher's class, had the opportunity to go see Romeo and Juliet at the Old Globe in San Diego. I have to admit that I wasn't excited about missing three of my classes, being sandwiched between 60 middle schoolers on a school bus, and sitting through a play. I know I am an English teacher and am supposed to love plays, but generally, I don't. I love watching my students perform but not strangers. 

I arrived at school at my usual time to check in with the sub. I was worried she would not know how to work the computer/video. I'm so glad I did. Disaster was immi…
Recent posts

Figure it Out

I'm not gonna lie. I want students to love me and love my class. I could say I don't care about either, but that would be a lie.  That's why embracing the practice of telling kids to "figure it out" when they ask me certain questions has been hard for me.  As a parent, I remember reading a book that said, "Don't do anything for your child that he can do himself."  It certainly made sense as a parent, so why didn't I apply this to teaching? After following Catlin Tucker like a stalker on Twitter, I knew I had to try this strategy for my students' own good.

This year one my primary goal was to provide students with meaningful feedback AS they worked, rather than waiting until they turned something in.  This has proved to be one of the best moves I have ever made as a teacher because I honestly feel like I am TEACHING rather than just GRADING, which can often seem punitive. Students are applying what they are learning in REAL time.  By the time …

Have a Dance Party Before Class Starts

This year I decided to play music as students are entering my classroom and before the final bell rings.  I had no idea what a difference it would make!  Why didn't I do this before?  It creates a positive, upbeat mood and seems to energize my students and ME! 



At first I thought they'd complain when I blasted disco tunes by artists like Chic, The Bee Gees, and Vickie Sue Robinson ("Turn the Beat Around").   I thought they'd groan when I played Bon Jovi, Journey, and Whitesnake. I thought they'd roll their eyes when I played clean versions of songs by Tupac and Snoop Dogg.  I really thought they'd lose it when I played Gypsy Kings.  NOPE!  They loved it!  I had NO idea that my kids would react they way they did.  Here are the results:






If I don't have time to put the music on, several kids will ask, "Where's our dance party?" I really like Pandora because I can create my own stations.  If you're looking for a way to create a positive vi…

Creative Writing: Teacher Utopia

By the end of the week, we have a minimum of four pieces in rough draft form. Every other week, students are required to choose one piece to work on and bring to their writing group.  On the days we meet with our writing groups, students must bring enough printed copies for each group member. They read their piece aloud to the group and get feedback from each person.  They are given the option of having their paper "blessed, addressed, or pressed." I stole this from my idol, Kelly Gallagher.  In other words, they can receive just complements, ask for feedback on a particular part of the piece, or both!  All of my students chose to be "pressed" and get both types of feedback.





Whichever piece is taken to their writing group is then revised and published to our classroom writing blog.  Here, the entire class can read each other's work!  

Teaching this class is a dream come true. It's not just because I enjoy teaching writing though!  It's the kids themselves…

Ditch those Reading Logs: Try Flipgrid Instead

If you've read my posts or follow me on Twitter, you know how I feel about pointless projects and homework!  This year I made it official and ditched homework.  It's the best decision I've ever made as a teacher.  My students are loving it, I am loving it, and I think most of their parents are loving it! I have completely transformed the way I run my classroom and feel like my students are more engaged and excited than ever. 

Student Example (Click to watch)

Like homework, I never felt quite right about assigning reading logs.  Whenever my own kids had to read a book on their own for school, they were initially excited. First, they were told they had to read twenty minutes each night. Then the dreaded reading logs began.  They had to write  down what pages they read, as well as a summary.  Urgh! I can only imagine lying on the beach with my own book and having to complete a reading log.  No thanks!  And I am not going to lie. I just might have signed one of my son's read…

My Classroom is my Business

Sometimes I feel like I am still a first-year teacher.  I still love teaching as much as I did the first year.  In fact, I love it more!  I am still searching for new ideas and lessons, I still get excited and nervous when trying something new, and I am still looking for ways to grow and learn.  The one thing that has changed is that I am not afraid to take risks. In fact, I relish any opportunity to do so!  I can often be heard saying the following in my classroom:

"I have something I want to try today, and I'm soooo excited about it.  It might go really well or really bad!  Let's hope it goes well."

"Hey kids! I found this really neat extension I want to show you today.  Let me show you how to install and use it.  Then you can play around with it!"

"I've never done this before, so you kids are going to try it out for me and let me know what you think?"

"So, I'd like you to reflect on my lesson today and tell me what you thought."

Th…

Another First Week in the Books

Whew!  I'm beat!  I feel like I just ran a marathon with a refrigerator tied around my waist.  Any teacher will tell you that the first few weeks are exhausting.  We don't know students' names, they don't know procedures , and let's face it, it's not easy getting up at 5:30!  Yet, I am thrilled with my first week.  I was able to implement so many things that I learned over the summer!  I read countless posts by Catlin Tucker, Jen Roberts, and Alice Keeler who I now consider my Twitter mentors!  I also read Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess and Ditch that Homework by Alice Keeler.  All of this reading reignited my passion and excitement for teaching and provided me with countless tools and strategies to make this my best year yet!

Rather than bore the kids to death by going over my syllabus the first day, we embarked on the spaghetti/marshmallow tower challenge.  Students competed to build the tallest structure using twenty pieces of spaghetti (uncooked), a yar…