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Looking Ahead to the Adventure!

3 Aug

It is August.  I notice that something seems to happen when the calendar changes from July to August.  I fall pretty hard into school mode.  I start doing a lot more school planning and back-to-school sales excite me as opposed to giving me chills.  (June is just too soon – I’m sorry but it is!)  I start to get kind of excited for the year to come.

Don’t get me wrong – I am very sad summer is coming to an end.  I love summer.  I love taking many trips to the zoo, hanging out at the beach, vacationing in the best place in the world, staying up late, and enjoying naps during the day.  It’s not that I want it to end at all.

But I know the new school year is coming and with it comes new possibilities.  My mind has been churning these last few days with what I am looking forward to when we head back in September.  I also take this is a sign that I am in the right profession.  Despite everything taking place in education, I still get pretty excited to teach each and every year.


I came across this sign when the husband and I were grocery shopping this weekend.  When I saw it, I knew I wanted it for my classroom.  I want to build a theme around this.  I want this year to be an adventure.  An adventure in reading and writing.  I have some ideas on what the room will look like and how to keep it going.  I hope to share those ideas as they come to be in my classroom.

But this year is really going to be an adventure.  There are so many changes going on.  First of all, we are changing from trimesters to semesters.  That is changing some of the curriculum in the classes I teach as well as opening so many opportunities when working with my students.  Every student will now have an English class all year instead of 2/3 of the year. I see this as helping my reading and writing community flourish.

I am also teaching a section of English 10 Honors this year.  I am looking forward to this opportunity.  I taught one section of 10 Honors B a few years ago and have been hoping for an opportunity to teach it again.

This year is definitely going to be an adventure!

But please don’t fear – I am still going to make the most of the summer that is left as I prepare.


A Great Start!

24 Mar

Well, the school year is officially more than 2/3 of the way done! Last week marked the beginning of trimester three and we are off and running.  This will be my last time teaching a third trimester; next year we are switching to semesters.

I am pretty proud of what was accomplished in trimester 2.  In English 10 A, I really focused on developing our close and critical reading skills and to move into synthesis across texts.  I challenged my students with a full synthesis essay on the American Dream based on our readings.  It was tough for them because they were not used to this type of writing.  However, we worked through and practiced and they stepped up.  They really showed what they learned on the final exams this trimester, too.  The quality of essays greatly improved from what I had seen in the past years and trimesters.  Students even told me they felt more confident going into the exam.  I was proud of them!  I am also gaining confidence in my teaching ability with some of these higher-level skills.  I will continue to work on them the rest of this year and into next year.

Now I get to teach three sections of English 10 B.  This is probably my favorite class to teach!  We start with narrative writing with memoirs.  I follow a workshop model and the students usually respond pretty well.  One of my favorite mini-lessons is the Explode a Moment lesson to help get more descriptive details in the writing.  This one is always fun and the stories students create as we practice the skill lead to a lot of laughter and strong writing moments. We had some great moments this week with this one! I love watching them grow as writers and gain confidence in themselves.

We are also able to do some of my favorite grammar units!  We start with Introductory Clauses.  In grammar, we follow Jeff Anderson‘s model of grammar instruction.  If you are not familiar with his work, you need to check out his books.  I get to borrow his AAWWUBBIS idea and the students create strong sentences and start expanding their writing skills.  These units just make teaching fun.

Plus, the reading has been really strong from the beginning.  We did book tours last week and students checked out books for SSR.  Many students have already been adding books to their To-Read lists.  I have seen students walking in the hall while reading The Selection.  Students keep asking when a book will be back in that they hope to read.  Students are talking more about what they are reading with each other.  I love seeing how reading becomes an accepted and expected part of our routine.  I still am trying to develop their life-long reading skills to carry beyond the classroom, but at least there is a start from all the work being done throughout the year.

There’s really one thing I want this trimester to be all about: fun.  I want students to have fun as they learn and grow as readers and writers.  I want my co-teacher and I to have fun as we continue to grow and learn from our students.  I hope to have some strong communities built by the time we reach June.  I feel pretty rejuvenated and ready to tackle this last part of the school year!

Picture Books and Poems

27 Jan

Alright – teacher confession time: Teaching writing is hard.  Who is with me on this?  While I know I am always evolving as a teacher, writing has been an area I constantly work on and strive to improve.  I was a good writer in school and thanks to some teachers and professors who challenged me, I became an even stronger writer.  However, I have found that sometimes it’s hard to teach students because, well, writing can be hard.  And hard scares us, both teachers and students.

I have really been trying to shift my focus in writing.  There are of course changes in standards and testing, but I have been thinking what skills do my students need?  Making an argument is very important, of course, but what else is there?  That is not the only type of writing.  What other experiences can we share?

Our department has been looking at synthesis the last few years.  This is one of the strategies that work when it comes to reading.  Plus, it is higher order thinking.  We create our own ideas from what we read.  And, as I explained to students, we read literature to learn about the world and apply the messages to our lives. I want to provide opportunities for students to share what they have learned.

A large part of synthesis is using sources to support your ideas.  We know as we have been shifting our instruction that sometimes students have a hard time with this.  I did too at times.  How do you incorporate another’s ideas while keeping the paper your own?  We use these skills in research for all topics, and I know it can really help students.

So, I wanted to incorporate a synthesis essay at the end of the Raisin in the Sun unit to help students with this.  I wanted them to explore the American Dream to discover the lessons they learned as well as apply the lessons to life.  Now, where to start?  How to help them do this?

My assistant principal is amazing to bounce ideas off of and get some advice from.  I want this higher level thinking, but how do we get there.  She suggested breaking it down for them with shorter, simpler texts first.  She recommended a picture book with another text.  Picture books appear simple, but of course, have many deeper lessons that we can apply. I had success earlier this trimester practice Close and Critical Reading Questions with a picture book. I decided to go for it to give the students practice.

After a lesson planning block, I came across some ideas online.  The picture book that really spoke to me was The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson.  Not only is a beautiful books in general, but the story has a strong message about segregation.  I knew my students would have a lot to say about it.

I wanted to do more work with poetry with my students.  We had read “A Dream Deferred” before reading the play, so I turned to Langston Hughes again.  I love his poetry!  His poem “Merry-Go-Round” seemed to fit perfectly with the book and I thought we could not only practice using sources to show our learning, but have some great conversations.

And we sure did!  Friday, we went through the lesson.  I was amazed with what students had to say about both the book and the poem.  I love when students share ideas and thoughts I had not thought about.  I saw more light bulbs turn on as we started to write what we learned.  I felt so energized from such a thoughtful, productive day in the classroom.

I know that students are still nervous about the essay as it is new and different from what they are used to.  But, we continued discussing today and I have been encouraging them to try and take this risk to grow as writers.  I also tell them, we become better readers by reading and better writers by writing (and of course they help each other).  I look forward to seeing what they come up with.

I also appreciate the reminder from my AP about how important it is to practice and to remember the power of picture books in class.  Even though I thought I’d have it all figured out by now (will I ever?), at the end of the day, I love these opportunities to grow and try something new.

One Small Word with Students

6 Jan

The first day back from break was actually pretty awesome!  My students worked pretty hard and we got pretty much all our objectives accomplished.  It was a great way to help get back into the swing of things!

I have been really working hard to write (just about) every day along with reading every day.  Today, I asked my students to consider what their word would be for 2015.  To be honest, I was a little worried if they would get the idea.  I had absolutely nothing to worry about!  My students came up with some amazing ideas and really loved thinking of a focus for the new year.

The Wordle below is just a small sampling of the words they came up with.  Can you imagine all the amazing things they can do with a focus like these?  My students continue to amaze me each and every day.

One Small Word

My 2015 Word: Strength

4 Jan

Strolling through Facebook this week, I saw the question pop up: What’s your word for 2015?  I hadn’t given it a whole lot of thought yet.  Last year, my word was More. I was wondering what this year would be all about for me.

I believe this all began with the One Little Word Challenge from Ruth Ayres.  A few of my good friends started to weigh in.  I love what Beth had to say about her word.  I also loved reading Brain’s post.  I wanted a word that would guide me in the coming year.

It finally hit me today.  My word for 2015 is strength.  This is something I have been needing a lot of lately.  Life has been challenging me, both personally and professionally.  I know I will need strength to remain positive.  I will need strength to focus on the good.   I will need strength to remind myself why I do what I do.  I will also need strength for when I hit these different challenges that make me sad, angry, and question.

Here’s to a strong 2015.


What’s your word this year?

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Goals for 2015

30 Dec


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  Each week they post a new list for bloggers to answer.  This week’s topics is Top Ten Goals/Resolutions for 2015 – books, blogging, or otherwise! I have some plans for 2015.

1. Read 75 Books

I had set my sights pretty high in 2014 going for 100.  A rough winter and a tough slump did not get me there.  To do more than this year, I am aiming for 75 next year.

2. Book Talk, Book Talk, Book Talk

Last trimester, I did not book talk enough.  I have really worked hard to book talk as much as possible this trimester and it is paying off!  Many more books have been checked out and read.  There is such a real power in doing this. 

3. Post at least 3 times a month

I strive to post at least once a month. I want to use the blog more.  Three posts would be just less than once a week and I think I can manage that.

4. Reviews

Within those posts each month, I want to get back to reviewing.  Reflecting on teaching is a part of this blog, but reviews have fallen off lately.  I like sharing my thoughts on what I read and I know I’ll get better the more reviews I write. 

5. Try new genres

Of course I love my YA and am passionate about it.  I want to expand my reading a little more and read some adult fiction and classics I have not gotten to as well. 

6. Write!

This is always a goal of mine.  I need to write more!  And more!  And even more!  I really think I would benefit from even a journal each night to reflect on my thoughts lately. 

7. Finish my re-read of Harry Potter

This summer I reread the first four books for the Harry Potter series.  I hope to finish and blog the last three books this year.

8. Build my picture book collection

I have some picture books in my classroom.  I do like to use them for lessons and students enjoy reading them as well.  I need more books in my collection.

9. Read teaching books

I have several teaching books that I have heard great things about but have yet to read.  I need to make sure I am aware of the current research and best practices for my students.

10. Have more students talk books

I love talking about books to my students. I want to encourage them to talk about them to me and of course, each other to build our community of readers.

What are your goals for 2015?

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! 🙂