August 31, 2015

Making Meaning with Melissa Goes Back 2 School

The Literary League, a group of exceptional secondary English Language Arts teachers, is hosting a Back to School Give-Away. Enter to win a choice of gift cards, middle school and high school ELA resource bundles, and shopping sprees to middle and high school ELA TPT stores.

By the time I grab my books and I give myself a look I'm at the corner just in time to see the bus fly by. It's alright’ cause I'm saved by The Literary League! That’s right, we are at it again! It’s one of the biggest back-to-school give-aways courtesy of some of your favorite ELA sellers. 

We’re teachers too, so we know that feeling of going back to school.  Cure those back to school blues by entering this HUGE give-away. Not only multiple prize packs, but also multiple winners!

The give-away will run Monday 8/31 to Monday 9/14. You’ll see some familiar and maybe even some new faces, so follow our stores and our social media accounts, and stay updated with what’s new! Winners will be announced Tuesday 9/15.


The Literary League, a group of exceptional secondary English Language Arts teachers, is hosting a Back to School Give-Away. Enter to win a choice of gift cards, middle school and high school ELA resource bundles, and shopping sprees to middle and high school ELA TPT stores.

Prize # 1: Gift Card of Choice
Win a $50 gift card to Teachers Pay Teachers, Amazon, Staples or Target.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Prize #2: Middle School Resources
Win all of the resources listed below for your middle school ELA classroom.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Prize #3: High School Resources
Win all of the resources listed below for your high school ELA classroom.
Close Reading: Guide Your Students Through the Process
Interactive Notebook Bundle
Rhetoric: The Art of Persuasion
Common Core Literature Bell Ringers for Secondary English
Found Poetry Packet
Introduction to Close Reading for Middle and High School - Model and Practice
Critical Thinking: What is Textual Analysis #2
Fiction and Nonfiction Test Passages
Short Story Starters Task Cards 


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Prize # 4: Middle School TpT Store Shopping Spree 
Win a $10 shopping spree to one of the TpT Stores listed below.
2 Peas and a Dog
The Creative Classroom
Literary Sherri
Mrs. Spangler in the Middle
Darlene Anne
Fisher Reyna Education
Brain Waves Instruction
Stacey Lloyd
James Whitaker's Sophist Thoughts
Created by MrHughes
ELA Everyday

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Prize #5: High School TpT Store Shopping Spree  
Win a $10 shopping spree to one of the TpT Stores listed below.
Room 213
The Daring English Teacher
Nouvelle
Making Meaning with Melissa
Linda Jennifer
Brynn Allison
Juggling ELA

a Rafflecopter giveaway

August 22, 2015

Plan Ahead for the Best School Year Yet

For the last sixteen years I've been a teacher, (and, likely, my seventeen years as a student before that), I have had a love-hate relationship with August.  I love the carefree nature of summer break. I hate that I will actually have to know what day of the week it is...and, gasp, the date, too.  I love the sunshine and the opportunity to travel with my family.  I hate that once school and fall sports start, we are locked down at home until my boys' football and soccer seasons are over.   I love seeing school supplies make their way to Target, and choosing fun new items to use in my classroom. I hate the idea of spending so much of my money on said items.

Love it or hate it, August comes every year.  For some of you (like me) school has already started, and for others, it's coming up quick.  So, again, using my many years of experience as a teacher, here is my best tip for starting the year off right...



PLAN AHEAD!!

Back to school time is busy for everyone, especially teachers.  Not only are we dealing with all the new students and trying to learn their names and faces ASAP, we have mounds of back to school paper work to fill out, assessments to give, supplies to organize, procedures to teach, and lessons to start.  And that's just at school.  Add in your own kids going back to school, and general family life, and this season is nuts!

So the best thing to do is plan ahead.  I teach English to freshman and juniors.  I had my first month calendars planned in July.  I have my units sketched out for the remainder of the year.  Before school had even started, I had made all the copies I would need in the first month, too.  I know that scheduling changes happen, and I may end up with a few extra copies, but having what I need without the stress of having to wait in copy room lines is worth it.

Another requirement many teachers have is to write content and language objectives. These got popular after I had been teaching for nine or ten years, and I have to admit, writing my objectives this way still does not come naturally to me.  So what do I do? Write them up ahead of time?  I make up a page or two of objectives that I know I will be using, and then I just plug them in as necessary.  No on the spot pressure for writing objectives before class starts.

Also,if you're not already back in school, set up your classroom early.  Make it as user-friendly as possible, and make sure that everything has a place.  Teach your students where each zone is and stick to it.  Buy necessities like hand sanitizer, tissue, and extra pencils and paper in bulk and keep them in your classroom, so that when these items start running low, you don't have to make a mad dash to the store to replace them.   Read on to see how I do this and for a peek at my own room.

At home, plan ahead, too.  Plan your outfits for the week.  Then, plan your kids' outfits for the week (let them do it, but give it the once over).  I use sweater racks like this one in my closets, labeling them by day of the week.  For my boys, I put everything they'll wear that day, including essentials like underwear and socks.  For me, since I usually keep my outfits hanging, I'll add accessories, proper undergarments, and shoes.  It is so nice to get up and know what I'm going to wear and to have everything ready for me.


On that note, make lunches in advance, too.  Mornings are too busy to add lunch-making to the mix.  Make sandwiches (or whatever) the night before, and have your kids grab all the extras, like drinks and snacks, and load their lunchboxes.  

Finally, this last one is a tip I am still working on, but I'm including it here because it's important and I'm hoping that my continued efforts will help it to stick in my mind.  Get gas in your car before the light comes on!  I know this is a no-brainer for many, but it's my downfall.  I put if off, then discover, usually on days that I'm in a rush, that I need to get gas to even make it to work.  I drive a Suburban--filling up takes a while, and it's so much less stressful to do it when I'm not in a hurry.  Hopefully, you already have this one down.

Now, as promised, I'm including some photos of my own classroom and how I planned ahead for back to school.  Enjoy, and have a great year!


My favorite spot in my new room--my library!  I moved into a former band room and it has an office.  I made it into a library and reading room and I LOVE it!




I got the idea for this cute direction sign from The Daring English Teacher.  Can you guess figure out which books we'll be reading this year?




Literary Elements posters from Stacey Lloyd.
My spot for storing my extra supplies, including toilet paper, which is cheaper and easier to buy in bulk than Kleenex.
My desk and personal computer station.


August 2, 2015

Why I Use Mentor Sentences to Teach Writing in my High School English Classroom

Come see why I teach writing using mentor sentences in my high school English classroom.

This fall marks the sixteenth year that I will be returning to school as an English teacher.  Every summer I start planning for the year... what will I keep, what will I change, what will I try for the first time?  Of course, after so many years there are bound to be many things that I ditch, and even more that I tweak and adjust to better fit the needs to my students. But, after more than ten years of use, I have a favorite strategy that I always make time for -- teaching writing with mentor sentences.


Now, I can see what you're thinking, "Mentor Sentences...isn't that something used in elementary school?"  And I have to admit, some people seem surprised when I tell them that I use these in high school, but stick with me here. If we want students to be good writers, we have to model good writing and that's all there is to it.  Giving students strong models and plenty of opportunity for practice just makes sense.


So how do I teach using Mentor Sentences in my own classroom? With mini-books focusing on a specific skill.  I like to create mini-books for several reasons.  One, mini-books are just that -- mini.  For whatever reason, that makes them more special for students.  It could be the novelty or the fact that it's not just another worksheet, but students really like the half-sheet size and they hold onto them!  Next, mini-books allow for only so many pages, keeping them focused and well-organized. Finally, mini-books create a set of resources for students; they don't have to flip through pages and pages of notes to find what they're looking for.  If students need a reminder about sentence variety, they just pull out their first Sassy Sentence mini-book and there it is.



OK, so how do you actually teach using Mentor Sentences, you ask?  I like to teach each book over several weeks, breaking down one skill at a time to give lots of time for practice. I have students assemble the books (an easy process because there's no cutting necessary), and then we go through the book one spread at a time.  For each set of pages, there is a section for notes, mentor sentences as models, and space for students to write their own sentence. There are also examples in print (from popular books and short stories), space for students to search for examples in print, and space for more practice. I provide photo presentations to serve as stimulus, rather than having students think up their own sentences, relieving some of the pressure to be creative and instead letting them focus on the writing.



Finally, there are two pages for students to practice writing longer paragraphs, incorporating the mentor sentences they have learned.  Again, I provide a stimulus photo (and occasionally some notes about a topic), and students write at least seven sentences, three of which must be incorporate the new sentence rules they have learned.  This takes students from the task of just writing individual stand- alone sentences, to developing their writing style and stamina, creating a more sophisticated paragraph.

So what makes this my favorite strategy?  It's easy: every year I have students tell me that they can't believe how much better their writing has gotten!  It's exciting for all of us when they see their improvement and are proud of themselves. For that reason alone, I can't see ever abandoning this strategy.

If you'd like to try this strategy for free, download this mini-unit which teaches Sentence Structure with simple, compound, and complex sentences.  

And when you love it, click here to check out all my other Mentor Sentence resources.



I can't wait to hear what you think.  Give them a try today and let me know!

**UPDATE** I've now converted these resources to digital format, too, so if you're transitioning to a blended learning approach, you can use these resources on electronic devices.

Back to School is Here and the Literary League is Ready!


It's time to go back....

I know where I'm shopping for Back to School!  The Teachers Pay Teachers Back to School Sale is here and I can't wait to shop for resources from The Literary League.  Get everything you need to start your year off right!

Up to 28% off the entire site –August 3rd and 4th, 2014 – Promo Code at Check out- BTS15
-Participating Stores:


Danielle Knight (Study All Knight)
Darlene Anne- ELA Buffet
Mrs. Spangler in the Middle
Created by MrHughes
The Classroom Sparrow
The Daring English Teacher
ELA Everyday
Juggling ELA
Nouvelle
Literary Sherri
Making Meaning with Melissa
2 Peas and a Dog
Secondary Solutions-Simply Novel
Addie Williams
Linda Jennifer
Fisher Reyna Education
The Creative Classroom
Stacey Lloyd
Room 213
Brynn Allison
Open Classroom
Perfetto Writing Room
Secondary Sara
Tracee Orman
James Whitaker
The Superhero Teacher
Created for Learning
Brain Waves Instruction

August 1, 2015

This Back to School Giveaway RULES!


Back to School time is here and some amazing secondary teachers have put together several HUGE prize packs to make your year easier.  

Good luck and have a fantastic year!