A Check-In

26 Nov

I know I have been off the grid with the blog lately.  This year has thrown a lot of personal things our way which has made keeping up with this a little bit harder.  Things are better and moving in the right direction now, so I thought a check-in was a due.

I cannot believe how fast the school year is flying!  It is already 1/3 of the way over.  New classes started this Monday.  I was kind of sad to say goodbye to my classes from last tri, but these new groups have been fun so far.  I have already started checking out books to students and getting the conversations started about different titles.  In fourth hour, we already have a couple waiting lists for Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake.  A student checked out The Selection by Kiera Cass first hour and needed The Elite by the end of the day (I did stress that I hoped she was doing work in her other classes).  A student checked out Rotten by Michael Northrop in my fifth hour today after I book talked it.  He said he just had to read it after he read a few pages.  Even the discussion about the Historical Fiction Research Project brought about some interest.  Students were already asking for books dealing with different time periods and topics so they could have their titles picked out.  We are going to look more at those books tomorrow, and we have new historical fiction books coming thanks to my latest Donors Choose project.

This fresh start is just what I needed at this time of the year!  I know we have just begun, but I cannot wait to see what this new group does.  I also am looking forward to trying new ideas and strategies as well as continuing to build on the things I started last trimester.  I hope to keep this more up-to-date with what we are doing as this trimester goes on.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and enjoy some of the extra days off! :)

Straight From the Horse’s Mouth

24 Oct

Sometimes something becomes so obvious, it is kind of crazy.  There are things I hear and I think I know, but it takes a moment in the classroom to show how true they are.

Books talks are important.  Students need to know about a variety of books that are out there so they can make decisions about what they want to read.  I am a firm believer that everyone is a reader; they just haven’t found the right book.  I know the power of books talks and getting a student excited about a book I share.

However, there is someone who can make a book more interesting than I can.  My students.  It amazes me.  I can talk up a book for a few minutes, share a part of it, talk about reviews of the book.  A few kids might get interested.  A student can say, “I read that book.  I liked it.”  BAM!  So many more students want to read that book.  A stamp from a student means much more than one from me.

I saw it this week.  A student had two books in her hand.  I was telling how she would enjoy both and about students that read it before.  Another girl made a comment of how much she liked one of them.  The first student left me, ran to the other student, and asked her to tell more about the book.  She checked that one out.

I want to make sure I give students a chance to share in order to encourage each other.  I think that is pretty awesome watching those interactions.  That’s what students will remember.

It’s Monday, October 20! What are you reading?

20 Oct

It has been far too long.  Life, as always, is crazy.  I figured a IMWAYR post would be a perfect way to get back into the swing of things.

What I have read recently:

Currently, I am reading Hate List by Jennifer Brown.  A good friend has been recommending this one for a long time.  I am liking it.  It is pretty intense at time and going in some directions I was not anticipating.  I will probably finish it tomorrow, if not tonight.

Before Hate List, I read To Be Perfectly Honest: A Novel Based on an Untrue Story  by Sonya Sones.  I love Sones and I did like most of this book.  A few parts were a bit much for me, but then again, it is supposed to be a lie, right?

What I plan to read this week:

I have had Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson for far too long without reading it. I honestly don’t know why I have not read it yet.  That must be next on my list!

I also plan on reading I am Malala.  I have had this one on my Nook for a long time.  My students are reading about Malala and Kailash Satyarthi winning the Nobel Peace Prize for their Article of the Week, so I have a renewed desire to get into this one to share more with them.

So, what have you read lately?  What are you reading this week?

Just one of those days

23 Sep

Monday was an AMAZING teaching day.  It was one of those days that really energize me and remind me how much I LOVE being a teacher.

Some amazing things are happening in English 10A.  We started the day with a discussion about Banned Books in honor of Banned Books Week.  Students shared a lot of great ideas and opinions on the topics.  We talked about choice and why it is important and starting thinking about who has the right to choose.  We discussed both sides of the issue a bit.  Students will reflect on the topic more with their Article of the Week assignment.

Even our grammar lesson was great today.  I have been following the work of Jeff Anderson for nearly five years now.  I used to hate teaching grammar; I absolutely love it now.  We start on Mondays with a mentor sentence to talk about the skill we are focusing on this week.  Last week we did semi-colons, and we are discussing colons this week.  The mentor sentence opened up a lot of discussion on skills we have started working with and the different was we may use them.  We also made some great connections.  More and more students are participating in our discussions on Mondays and sharing great ideas.

Our discussion about our mentor sentence this week.

Our discussion about our mentor sentence this week.

Another added bonus about today?  My Donors Choose books arrived!  I cannot wait to share these titles with students!!

I am hoping to carry this awesome day throughout the week.  I hope you all have a great week!

Talk Less

11 Sep

I have a new goal this year.  And I think it is going to be a hard one.  I am going to talk less.

While it took me a little longer than most to start talking, I haven’t stopped much since.  I am a talker.  However, I am realizing that this is not always the best skill in teaching.  Especially as I am striving to make my classroom student-centered.  I notice I sometimes steal my students’ thunder.  They have this great idea to add and I say it before I get to them.  I really want to stop that.

I want my students to discover that they are smart and have amazing ideas.  If I say them, or don’t give them the time to come to them, I feel that I am robbing them of a very important part of their education.  I also want to make sure they have time to work and practice what we are working on.

So here is my new goal for the year: Talk less.  The class is not all about me.  It has to be about my students.  I know it will be hard for a talker like me, but I know it will be worth it in the end.

Wish me luck!

Week 1 in Review

7 Sep

Well, year 8 of teaching is well underway.  Overall, it was a pretty great first week of school!

I am teaching English 10 A and a section of our Tier 3 intervention class. I am looking forward to working with these sophomores.  I started the year with a writing prompt where they wrote on this quote: “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”  My friend Beth talked about using this on the first day with her students and it inspired me.  We discussed after students shared how this applies to English.  I want them to try new things in reading and writing.  Maybe it won’t go perfectly the first time.  However, we can grow and learn from those experience to become better readers and writers.

We also started a persuasive writing unit.  We discussed the aspects of persuasive writing then looked at where people make arguments in the real world.  Inspired by Penny Kittle’s work, I pulled a number of editorials as mentor texts.  So far, we have read some work by Leonard Pitts.  We have looked at what words, phrase, and techniques he uses to make is writing interesting.  We also talked about how we can see those elements that we associate with persuasive writing in his articles.  As on student pointed out, “His writing isn’t boring.”  I told my students that not a single one of them is boring and they have a lot to say and share.  We are going to work on becoming better writers and hopefully make this type of writing not so boring.

My students in the intervention class are very sweet.  It is all freshmen and it has been awhile since I have total a classroom with just freshmen.  We are working through the program together and I am trying to point out how these comprehension skills will apply to a variety of their classes.  We also have been sharing books and doing SSR.  We will also do some writing as well as the weeks go on.  I am looking forward to working with and getting to know this group more.

In all classes we have talked quite a bi about books and shared titles.  Many books have been checked out.  I am noticing a pretty awesome shift when I talk to students about reading.  In the past, most students would say they did not like reading at all.  As we have really worked together to create a reading culture in our school, more students have shifted to saying the “kind of” like reading.  The book has to interest them for them to like it.  I stress to my students that’s why they have choice in my class and why it is so important.  They seem to appreciate it.  My reading challenge to students this year is to read more than they read last year.

There were a number of great moments, but one sticks in my head.  A student joined our fifth hour on Friday.  I helped him get his folder and notebook set up then asked about reading.  He told me he did not like it at all and there wasn’t much he would want to read about.  I asked if I could bring a few books for him to at least look at.  He agreed.  In the pile, I included Rooftop by Paul Volponi.  I told him about Paul’s experiences that inspired his writing as I shared a little about each book in the pile.  During SSR time, the student did look through all the books and started reading Rooftop.  He seemed to read a few pages.  I asked if he wanted to check it out and he did.  I’m hoping this is a start for that student and he sees himself as a reader.

I really can’t wait to see where we go this year in all my classes.  I hope all teachers and students have had a great start to the 2014-2015 school year!

Classroom Tour 2014-2015

29 Aug

The last two years, I have been split between two rooms.  This year, I will be just in one room.  I have been working on making my new room feel like home.  Here is a little peak inside.

Here is a look from the door.

Here is a look from the door.

I love my centers table.  It is used in lab and I cannot wait to confer with readers and writers in all classes.

I love my centers table. It is used in lab and I cannot wait to confer with readers and writers in all classes.












Student in-boxes and notebook cart.









A look at the whole room from the front

A look at the whole room from the front












My classroom library has grown quite a bit over the last few years.


Historical fiction section









Realistic fiction, verse, graphic novels, and classics

Realistic fiction, verse, graphic novels, and classics










Sci-fi/Dystopian/Fantasy, Horror/Suspense, Memoirs, & Non-fiction

Sci-fi/Dystopian/Fantasy, Horror/Suspense, Memoirs, & Non-fiction














My teacher work area is probably the cleanest it will be all year.

My desk area

My desk area










These are some of my go-to resources for the classroom.

These are some of my go-to resources for the classroom.











Front view along with student absent work bin.

Front view along with student absent work bin.











I have been using my bulletin boards and posters to make my new my room my own.

I loved my "BE" board last year and am using it again this year.

I loved my “BE” board last year and am using it again this year.











Strategies that Work

Strategies that Work










I will be sharing my reading journey this year here.

I will be sharing my reading journey this year here.











I am so excited to get this school year started!  I meet my students on Tuesday.  Here are the books I plan on sharing on that first day.


I wish all the teachers and students out there a great start to the new school year!


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