August 1, 2016

Back to School Classroom Management Tips and Resources

Hello!  I'm joining up with some awesome English teachers who are excited to Hop Back to School.

Summer is winding down and I’m counting the days until I’m back in my classroom.  This year will be my seventeenth in the classroom (holy moly that makes me feel old).  Summer lasts one more week for me and I’m in full-on planning mode, as, I’m sure, you are, too.

While I’ve taught 9th and 11th grade English for the last 10 years, I’m excited to be working with juniors only this year.  Not only do I love the curriculum, but I love the humor, maturity, and passion for justice that seventeen-year-old have.  I’m excited to use some of my newly created lessons, and I can’t wait to bring in current events as we near the election to teach them about rhetoric.  I know those will spark impassioned discussions and I love to see my students take a stand and pay attention to our world outside the school boundaries.  As usual, I will be using Mentor Sentences to help students improve their writing and learn grammar without all the boring parts.  And, of course, I’ll be looking forward to teaching The Great Gatsby and The Catcher in the Rye and to sharing my favorite novels with them to check out during our independent reading time.

As for the beginning of the year, there are a few things I always do to set the tone for the year.  I make sure to greet students at the door and introduce myself as they walk in.  That way, when I start talking later, we’ve already met.  I also make sure that I learn student names before the first week is over.  The students are always happily surprised that I know who they are and it makes our classroom much more personal and safe.

As an English teacher, I also get them writing early and often, and not just academically.  My students write at least three times a week and the topics are varied, both fun and academic, personal and professional.  I like to give them topics that challenge them, like my Writing Prompts, which incorporate song lyrics and thought-provoking prompts, helping them gain writing fluency while writing about their favorite subject…them!

And finally, I always rely on my row leader system of classroom management to teach student responsibility and alleviate some of the heavy paperload that collects.  You, too, can make your life easier by delegating some tasks to students.

To help you get ready for back to school, I want to offer you one of my resources to help get your students writing.  This set of Quote of the Day Task Cards has 40 different prompts and can be used as bell-ringers, quick prompts, or even exit tickets. They will be free until 8/8/2016, so I hope you grab them and enjoy this freebie!

Enjoy and have a fantastic year!

February 29, 2016

Making Meaning with Melissa Leaps into Literature

Here at the Literary League, we’re a group of English teachers who truly love literature (we bet you already figured that part out). Given free time, we can all agree that there’s nothing better than leaping into a good book. But, even as avid readers, we have to admit that those spare minutes tend to be few and far between, especially during the school year, and there are times that we just have to …
  • leap into a book recommended by a friend, a colleague, or especially a student, who is anxiously awaiting our review
  • leap into a new novel we’re teaching, whether or not we’ve had time to fully prepare a complete unit
  • leap into a classic, maybe not one of our favorites, but something we know students need to sit with in order to grow as a reader

For those instances, the Literary League is teaming up to share some of our favorite resources to help you Leap into Literature. These are resources that are not tied to a particular book, but ones that can be used over and over again, both with your favorite novels, as well as with new texts or classic pieces you’re trying to breathe new life into.

A favorite resource I use to engage my students in literature is Reading Response Task Cards.  This is a set of 40 task cards with reading response prompts for students to think and write about what they are reading. These prompts work well with Independent Reading or SSR, as well as any other reading of fiction. 

These prompts are geared toward the middle and high school classroom. Cards are included both in color and in black and white. 4 blank cards are also included.

You can read about other engaging literature resources from the other Literary Leaguers linked up below and also enter in the rafflecopter below for a chance to win them all.

February 12, 2016

Hop Into Digital Learning Day 2016!

Digital Learning Day 2016--Why Should You Try Something New? Because Your Students Will Thank You.

My students thank me all the time for the new “stuff” we are doing this year. Go ahead--take the plunge! Believe me, if you have access to any sort of technology (even one device), then do it. That one tablet or laptop can open up a window to a universe of instructional opportunities. Your students will want to get to that tech center. 

Digital Learning Day, February 17, 2016, is ultimately about bringing equal opportunity to our classrooms, regardless of location or socioeconomic status. It is about the importance of having access to Wi-Fi and up-to-date technology in our schools. Many schools have technology that is not working or that is out-of-date. State and local governments are now focusing on getting it all fixed so that our school children can succeed in the 21st century.

Here's the challenge--On February 17, 2016, try a new lesson that focuses on discovery, analysis, and exploration. Give your students the gift of a new opportunity by using Google Classroom, MS OneDrive, or an App. And don’t forget to share what you are doing in your classroom on social media to celebrate Digital Learning Day with #futureready. To help you get started, we’ve teamed up to share an amazing selection of blog posts and classroom activities that are designed to propel you and your students into your digital learning adventure.

February 11, 2016

My Top-5 Go-To Sources for my Digital Classroom

It’s 2016 and there’s no doubt that schools have entered the digital age.  Paper orders are being reduced, copy allowances are being cut, and students are bringing their laptops or ipads to class, rather than notebooks and pencils.

As teachers, it’s our responsibility to roll with the tides and adapt to the changes that we see happening.  Those pen and paper lessons that we’ve been in the habit of assigning need to be revamped to appeal to our digital learners.    

So, what do we do?  Short of reinventing all of our tried and true units, we need to find apps, sites, and already-created digital lessons to help us out.  Here’s where I come in with a few of my favorites.  Have a peek at my top 5 go-to sources for great digital content: 

      1. – It’s so important to familiarize our students with current topics, and this site provides a plethora of timely, interesting articles.  Even better, you, or your students, can adjust the lexile levels to fit individual student needs, making differentiation a snap.  Additionally, each article provides a writing prompt that can be completed online, as well as a quiz.  Creating text sets is super-easy and teachers can create classes, assign specific articles, and track progress.  I think this site is amazing, can you tell?

      2. – I’ve been lucky that in the 10+ years I’ve been at my current school, we’ve always had a subscription to  Yes, it is an online plagiarism checker, but it does so much more than that!  Students can digitally submit their papers for the revision assistant which offers immediate feedback, as well as putting them in a group for peer editing.  Online grading is available for teachers, and you can either use the provided rubrics and comments, or upload your own.  Can you imagine just clicking a button to comment on a student essay?  It’s amazing, and I haven’t collected a hard-copy student paper in years.

 3. – If you don’t have a kahoot account, you must get one right away! This site gives teachers a fun, interactive way to engage students in learning. You create games with multiple choice questions, pictures, videos, and more, and then students can answer on their devices, all while the responses are being shared on a classroom screen.  Believe it or not, my 3rd-grade son is the one who introduced me to this site, and I’m so glad he did.  My students love it, too!

4    4. Crash Course channel on – OK, let’s just put it out there.  I’m a high school English teacher, and as such, I have a great, academic crush on John Green.  Not only does he get teenagers and turn reluctant readers into page-turning fiends, he’s just so nerdy-cute!  His youtube channel that he shares with his brother, Hank, is fantastic.  I love the Crash Course Literature series, but there are so many other areas that different subject areas can use, too.  I can assign the link to a video for homework, and have no problem getting students to tune in.

 5. – Where else can teachers find such a variety of high-quality, teacher-created resources?  And now, the digital take-over is underway! Many teachers are creating top-tier lessons that can be shared and completed using Google drive, Microsoft One Drive, and more.  I have a section in my TpT store devoted to my digital resources.  Here’s one that is perfect for any class that has students analyze arguments.  The can open the resource on their device and compile their evidence by typing it right online.

I hope you find some of these to be helpful to you and we continue to embark on the digital voyage.  Let me know some of your favorite sites in the comments!