Making Meaning with Melissa Goes Back to School

Hey, there!  I'm so excited to be joining  my fellow Literary League members for a Back to School Blog Hop. I'm beyond excited to have you here, and for us to unveil the team.

First, let's get acquainted.  I'm Melissa, mommy to 3, wife to Scott, English teacher, book lover, TPT teacher-author, sun worshipper, wine're starting to get the idea. I'm lucky to live in sunny Southern California, Surf City, USA, to be exact, and when I'm not creating engaging classroom resources, you can find me on the beach or at the river. 

I'm a busy sports mom with my two youngest guys, Tyler and Ryan, playing football, soccer, and baseball throughout the year.  Our eldest son, Kyle, is in his second year of college at Cal State Long Beach and is also pursing his pilot's license.

I've been teaching since 2000, after I graduated from the University of Miami with my degree in English literature and secondary ed., and my teaching credential.  Remember I said I was a sun-worshipper -- well, that was a huge part of my college-choosing process and Miami fit the bill!  I've worked in both junior high and high school settings, but I'm going on my 11th year teaching at my current high school, where I teach freshman and junior English, as well as inclusion classes.  I also have a master's degree in educational administration, but I don't see me leaving the classroom for awhile - teenagers are too fun to work with!  Plus, there's no way I'm ready to leave my class library behind for a small admin office!
Wouldja just look at all these books!!  LOVE!
Books!  Now there's a subject I could go on and on about, but for now, let's narrow it down.  Asking an English teacher to pick a favorite book is like asking a fashionista to pick her favorite pair of's nearly impossible!  So here are a few of my favorites in different categories: for personal reading, I've loved Beach MusicMe Before You, and Leaving Time.  For reading to my boys, I've enjoyed Charlotte's WebThe One and Only Ivan, and Wonder (and I can't wait to start reading Harry Potter together).  To teach, I love To Kill a MockingbirdThe Hunger Games, and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.  And to recommend to teenagers, I love anything John Green, the Maze Runner series, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, and my absolute favorite, All the Bright Places.  Because I have such a large class library (the picture above is from my old room. My new class has an office that I've converted to a library), and I read and recommend so many YA books to my students, they are willing to trust my choices and end up enjoying many of the same books that I do.  

When school starts up, I like to do a quick getting to know you activity right away, something that is low-risk and fun, yet doesn't put the new students on the spot.  This year, I'll be doing an this FREE getting to know you activity, where students will create an instagram post about one fun activity they did over the summer.  They can add a short summary and hashtags to sum up the fun. This is easy and fun, and makes for a great Back to School bulletin board.  Once a few days have gone by and students feel more comfortable in class (my little freshmen in particular), I like them to complete this focus-finding essay that tells me lots about who they are as people. Plus, it's super informative and thought-provoking for the students.

How ever you start your new school year, I hope that it's one of your best ever.  Now, don't forget to stop by the rest of the Literary League's blogs and check out their awesome ideas!

Start Your Year with Close Reading

As a busy teacher, and really, do you know a teacher who isn't?, I look forward to summer vacation starting in about March of each school year.  It's not that I don't love teaching, or my students, or English for that matter.  But, the appeal of relaxing in the sun, hanging out with my boys, and forgetting what day of the week it is are all powerful sirens calling to me.

So, why is it then, that once summer hits, I start shopping for my classroom, dreaming up new lessons, and planning for the school year to start.  It's a mystery, I tell you.

With that, I've now entered full on back-to-school mode.  I start up again in about three weeks, so my clock is ticking down.  Which is why I'm teaming up with Sara from Ms. Fs Teaching Adventures for a blog hop about the first lesson of the year.

One of the things I do most often in my English class is read complex texts with my students.  I expect them to close read  and annotate for important details that might be missed from a one time read.  But, I'm sure you know that students are often reluctant to read anything again, much less read it the first time.  That's why I teach Close Reading right away.
I begin with cartoons, as students consider this "easy" reading.  I model several cartoons, and then give them time to practice independently.  From there, we pair-share, and ultimately move to whole class discussion.  This process is very risk free, and students are able to share as they are comfortable.
Model that I use to teach the process of close reading to my high school English students.

After students feel comfortable with cartoons, we move to media ads, historical photographs, nonfiction, poetry, and eventually longer pieces of literature.  
Another model that students enjoy when practicing the close reading process.

By the end of the week (and of course, we continue the practice after the week is finished), students are confident and prepared for my rigorous expectations.

If you'd like to try this out, I have a FREEBIE! that provides my close reading strategy sheet. It is taken from my larger resource, Introduction to Close Reading.

However you start, I hope that you have a fantastic year!

TPT ELA Teachers Celebrate Harper Lee

If you poll a group of American readers, asking them about their favorite book, you'd be bound to hear To Kill a Mockingbird repeated time and again.  Now, after 55 years, we are about to reconnect with Scout, Jem, and Atticus again.

Let's celebrate the release of Harper Lee's second published novel, Go Set a Watchman, released tomorrow, July 14, 2015. 

Together with an awesome group of English teachers, I'm throwing a sale in my Teachers Pay Teacher's store.  For one day only, most of us will be offering up to 20% off.  Check out the ELA teacher authors on TpT in our link up. Most stores will be discounted up to 20% off.