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Flexible Seating and Making Kids Feel Valued

When I was in middle school and high school, I remember staring up at the ceiling tiles and trying to count the number of holes in each one.  Desks faced forward in straight rows.  There were few, if any, posters on the walls.  It was a desolate, depressing atmosphere.  

I have always taken pride in my classroom and tried to make it inviting.  I have been known to paint a file cabinet turquoise and paint my door with chalkboard paint.  Students have told me that they love my "cheesy" posters.

This year I took my classroom to another level.  I have always wanted my room to feel cozy-like home!  The newest rage seems to be flexible seating, and I decided to implement this kind of arrangement in my classroom.  
Reading The Outsiders I began by asking students what they would like.  In fact, I created a Google Form asking them to rank their top five choices.  Google Forms provide results in a variety of ways. However, the pie graphs were very helpful in this case.  Then, I began wi…
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Creating a Cell Phone Sanctuary

Over the past few years, I have noticed a change in my students.  Not only are they tethered to their phones, but they are more anxious than ever.  In the past two school years, I have had at least three students experience school anxiety so severe that they could not come to school.   Those are just MY students.  This year I have had one student leave our school after her mother spent three weeks trying to drag her to class each morning as her daughter screamed, cried, and sometimes refused to get out of the car.  According to an article titled "Teen Anxiety and Depression: the Kids are not Alright" published in 2016, "In 2015, about 3 million teens ages 12 to 17 had had at least one major depressive episode in the past year, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. More than 2 million report experiencing depression that impairs their daily function. About 30% of girls and 20% of boys–totaling 6.3 million teens–have had an anxiety disorder, according t…

Student Writing Comes to LIfe

This is our first year offering Creative Writing, and it is my first time teaching it.  When I proposed the idea to my principal, we thought it would be best to make the class a semester-long and pair it with Beginning Drama.  At the semester, the kids in drama will go to writing and the kids in writing will go to drama.  This will allow students to "try" both electives.  The drama teacher and I thought it would be fun to collaborate on a project together, and it was a huge success.
First, I taught my students how to write a scene.  We discussed the elements of writing a scene, looked at examples, brainstormed ideas, and practiced writing a few.  Once students were ready, they worked in a group to write a scene on their own.  They were encouraged to have just two or three characters in their scene.  Students spent quite a bit of time on this project and received feedback from their classmates on several occasions. Writing groups worked perfectly, but students also read their …

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…

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…