Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Cool Tool for Checking for Understanding

It's important to periodically check for understanding during a lesson, but often a teacher gets blank stares instead of helpful feedback. I heard of making these student "whiteboards" from a colleague, and it's made all the difference. Simple insert a white piece of paper or card stock in a page protector. Then supply dry erase markers (or have students provide their own) and a paper towel, and you have portable, erasable boards. When I'm explaining a concept, I'll often stop and ask an on-the-spot quiz question and have students write their answers on their boards and hold them up. This way, I can see at a glance how many are getting it. Better yet, it engages the students and most happily participate.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Free Resources for Grades 7 - 12



Talk about a great gift for teachers! This collection of free resources from sellers on teacherspayteachers (including yours truly) is now available. It's a big gift book full of a variety of free resources for the classroom. I've been downloading like crazy! Fa-la-la-la-la.....

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Cyber Monday Sale - Teachers Pay Teachers


Woo-hoo! A big sale on something you can really use - teacher-created resources for the classroom. I've got my wishlist ready to go! Everything in my store is 20% off, plus Teachers Pay Teachers will take off an additional 10%, for a 28% discount. Be sure to use the promo code CMT12 when you check out. Happy shopping!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Evaluating Sources Prompt - Bottled Water

It's important to teach students to use qualified academic sources in their papers. The temptation is to use the easy, entertaining stuff they find on the internet instead. Here is a classroom activity to start a discussion and use as a writing prompt.

1. Show the video "The Story of Bottled Water."














2. After the video, have a brief discussion of the issues. Now show the video "The Real Story of Bottled Water."













3. Have a discussion on why or why not either of these are credible sources. (They are not--one is inflammatory, for example, it compares drinking bottled water to smoking while pregnant, and one is put out by a trade association with a commercial interest). Ask students what questions they have now, what information they can use or trust, and how to go about verifying facts and getting the real story.

4. At this point, I ask students to find a good academic source, and write a response to the issue based on the credible information they find.

An important concept the students learn is that unqualified sources such as the videos are good starting points for asking questions and learning what the conversation is all about, but that in order to be a good research, facts must be verified.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Writing Thesis Statements

Writing thesis statements strikes fear into many students' hearts. I have developed a way of getting from a broad topic to a thesis statement that makes it much easier.

First, they think of a broad topic they would like to use and write it down. Then, I ask them to come up with as many questions about the topic as they can think of. When that's done, they do some preliminary research or freewriting to come up with an answer to that question. That answer then becomes the controlling idea, and the thesis comes from that.

For example, if my topic is texting and driving, one of my questions is "Is it really that dangerous?" I find out from research that reaction times are similar to drinking and driving. So my thesis statement is my topic, plus my controlling idea and opinion: Texting and driving is as dangerous as drinking and driving, so the penalties should be the same.

I put this idea with a worksheet, along with everything else I use for helping students write good thesis statements (handouts and worksheets, plus a power point) in this new packet. It's in my teacherspayteachers store for only $3.00. Happy writing!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Apostrophe Police

Aargh! I just got done reviewing apostrophe rules with my college class, and I walked up the stairs and  encountered this:
 


Call me compulsive, call me whatever you want, but I could not leave it alone. I went into the faculty room and said, "Am I a crazy person if I have to fix the poster in the hall?" Lucky for me another English teacher was in there and he not only agreed I had to fix it immediately, but tried to help me find some white-out. I finally tore the corner off my role and taped it in place. We can't have Mondays running amok trying to own everything.




Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Writing Prompt - Videos for College Applications?


This week's writing prompt is about whether students think videos should be part of the college admission's process. Some universities are now accepting videos in lieu of, or in addition to, the traditional written essay component.

I have my students read an article about it, and then watch actual video submissions. The article is here. Links to the videos are embedded in the article, and two are below.

I would think that my students would embrace the idea of using videos instead of writing essays, but surprisingly, they seem to understand the importance of showing communication skills on paper. After a class discussion, I have them write for thirty minutes.

The purpose of this writing prompt in my classroom is to demonstrate competency in incorporating outside sources to back up opinions. Here is the actual assignment:


Please read the article about You Tube college applications and watch the video clips.

Write a one-page opinion piece (about 30 minutes effort) on whether or not you think videos should be part of the college application process and possibly even replace the written essay requirement. Use specific examples from the article and the videos.

Grading criteria:

30 minutes effort
Contains a clear opinion/thesis statement
Specific examples from the article and videos used to back up opinion.




Saturday, October 6, 2012

Free Halloween Treat Tags and a Trick



 Halloween is my favorite time to bring treats to my students. These treats, however, come with a trick--I write a Halloween writing prompt on the inside of the tag. I have the students write a descriptive paragraph on topics such as carving a pumpkin, going through a haunted house, or eating Halloween candy.

For the treat, I like to fill clear plastic bags with candied popcorn: Melt 1 bag of candy melts (found at the craft store or anywhere that sells cake or candy supplies) in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds, and add to 12 cups of popped popcorn. Stir quickly to coat all the popcorn and let set for about an hour. Break up and mix with a handful of candy corn. Inexpensive, tasty, and easy!

Click on the pictures or here to download the tags.







Friday, October 5, 2012

Commonly Confused Words

For a long time, I've been collecting the words that students most often confuse or misspell so they end up with a different meaning. You'll find the obvious there/their/they're, and also more sophisticated vocabulary such as complement/compliment and precede/proceed. I finally put the list together, along with definitions and sample sentences.

This unit has a lot of flexibility to suit a variety of approaches. What I do is divide the students into groups and supply them with a list of words with worksheets for filling in definitions and sample sentences. Then, each group takes a turn once a week presenting their words to the rest of the group.

Also included are completed worksheets to use as a study guide, in case you want to use it that way.

A teacher who purchased this unit suggested that I also include worksheets with words and definitions, but blanks for sentences so students could come up with their own. I thought this was a great idea, so those are included also.

I made this with high school students in mind, but I've gotten feedback from middle school teachers who use it successfully, as well.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Oreo Cupcakes

Please excuse this diversion from composition subjects, but I just have to share the best cupcake recipe I've found in a long time.  I like to bring treats in to my class. They know I make wedding cakes on the side, because I often bring in samples for taste-testing, and a lot of my students come to class straight from work and are hungry, so it's a perfect excuse. I try to work the treats into the curriculum, (see my lesson plan here) but sometimes, it's just a treat. These cupcakes that I found on the website instructables.com were a big hit. I don't like Oreos myself, but these were the "best ever" according to my students. The surprise is that there is an Oreo baked into the bottom of each cupcake. Click on the picture to get to the recipe. I used my own cream cheese frosting without the Oreos blended in. Now, back to grading papers!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Paper Topic Brainstorming Activity

Coming up with a topic for a research paper is one thing, but figuring out a narrow direction to pursue is quite another, and one where students often get hung up. This activity uses the brainpower of the entire class to help find that direction.

Tape one large piece of paper for each student on the wall around the classroom. Give everyone a colored marker and have them stand in front of their papers. Ask everyone to write their topic in the center of the paper and circle it.

Now, have everyone rotate so they are standing in front of someone else's paper. Allow 30 seconds for students to write everything they can think of about the topic, using a mind-map style web. They can ask a question, add a subtopic, make a comment--whatever comes to mind.

Rotate again, and keep going until everyone has had a chance to respond to everyone else's topics. You will need to extend the time as the papers fill up, because it will take students longer to review what has already been written.

If you have a small classroom with no space for the paper on the wall, this activity works just as well using large paper (I used 11 x 17) passed along desktops. If you can, though, use the wall because it's  a great opportunity to get students up and moving, and if nothing else, it's fun to write on the wall.

At the end of the activity, each student can take their own paper and see what everyone else has to say. Perhaps they will find an interesting question or a direction they hadn't thought of before. My students find it very helpful, and some even switch topics to something else they found on the wall that seemed more interesting.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Punctuation with Quotation Marks FREEBIE

I developed these handouts and quizzes for my students who should know basic quotation mark rules (but often still make errors), but are new to adding in-text citations to their papers. As you know, with a direct quote, the punctuation would normally go inside quotation marks, but if an in-text citation is added, the punctuation goes on the outside of the parentheses at the end of the sentence, both in MLA and APA format.

Example: "Studies show that seventy-five percent of students will punctuate their sentence incorrectly" (Jones 23).

This, of course, goes against the rules they've been taught, so they will likely make mistakes unless it's explicitly taught. There are also quote-within-a-quote issues and several other situations that are new to most students who are beginners at including research in their papers. Click here or on the picture to get this free download. I like to review with the handout, then give the first quiz as a practice quiz to check for understanding. I hope you find this useful in your classroom.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Inspiring Handmade Jewelry for Teachers



My sister, Sherri Haab, is a well-known jewelry maker and teacher (see her website here). I asked her to make me some jewelry that reflected what I do for a living. Call it a little wearable inspiration for the beginning of a new school year. I loooove what she came up, so I asked her to make a bunch more, because I knew other teachers would be interested. The illustration is hand-etched in brass and she puts each piece together by hand. They're really special pieces. So, click on the pictures if you want to wear a little of your own inspiration, or have a teacher friend that could use a little boost.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Teaching Active and Passive Voice


Recognizing the difference between active and passive voice doesn't come easy for some of my students, so I broke it down in a simple, visual way that has helped tremendously. The terminology of parts of speech can throw them off, too, so I use the words that make sense rather than the technical terms (although I teach those, too, for accuracy's sake.) To illustrate active voice, I draw this guy on the board:

 Andrew is eating the burrito.

I explain that we have the agent (or do-er) of the action first (Andrew), and the thing that is being acted upon second (the burrito).

For one passive voice construction, I draw the same image, only flipped, on the board:
 The burrito is being eaten by Andrew.

Now, the thing that is being acted upon (the burrito) comes first and the do-er is second. For the second passive construction, I just draw the burrito:
 The burrito was eaten.

Now, there is no do-er of the action. So for any simple sentence, I ask them to visual a picture according to the order laid out in the sentence, and unless the do-er of the action is first, it is a passive construction. By getting this simple foundation, the students are ready to move on to more complex construction and higher concepts. 

Here's the lesson plan I put together on this, which includes the above, plus some worksheets and a quiz. Now, I'm going to eat a burrito!




Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Getting Organized - Teachers on the Move

I don't have a classroom. I'm one of those teachers who is in a different classroom depending on which class I'm teaching and which day of the week it is. It's taken me almost two years to figure out a system for all the paperwork that is efficient and easy to manage.

My biggest fear (because it had happened) was losing papers, and my biggest inefficiency was wasting time handing out new papers and returning old ones. Toting around stuff for five classes and around 125 students was one big organizational nightmare, and my briefcase (aka "suitcase") was always in disarray despite my best efforts with file folders, labels, etc.

Here's the system I have landed on, and it works for me, so maybe it will for you, too. For each class, I have a file box with a colorful folder labeled "Turn In" at the front, and then regular green file folders with each student's name on it behind that.

Students are not allowed to hand me a paper when it's time to turn in work. They have to turn in all work to the "Turn In" folder. That way, I can't be responsible for misplacing it, everything stays in one place, and there's no chance of mixing it up with another class.

Then, when it's time for grading, I pull out the "Turn In" folder, record the grades, and place the papers to be returned immediately in each student's personal folder. I also put all handouts for the next class period (except quizzes) in their folders so I spend no time in class distributing papers.

At the beginning of each class period, students sign in, turn in work to the "Turn In" folder and retrieve their graded papers and the day's handouts. This system is organized, efficient, and I haven't lost a paper yet since I switched to this system. Knock on wood!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Lesson Cloud Authors Sale

The sale is here! Click on the image below to get to all the great links. There is also a $75.00 gift card up for grabs!

I'm part of a great cooperative blog called the Lesson Cloud, and we are sponsoring a dollar days sales on July 29th and 30th. All products advertised in the sale are $1.00 - $2.00 for those two days only. Here are a few of my products for junior high and high school that will be on sale for $2.00. There are more linked up on the sale page.




Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Memorizing Names

I have the WORST time trying to remember names. It's not just in the classroom--I struggle to remember names when I meet someone in social situations as well. I often tell my students to please not be offended if I forget their names at the beginning of the quarter. Details about the person are easy; sometimes I can even quote a line out of their most recent essays to them, but I'll blank on their names. Just because it's hard for me, though, doesn't mean I'm off the hook.

My school's policy is that by the second class period, we have to have our students' names down. It's not just the policy that matters. Students aren't going to feel like a teacher cares if he or she can't address them by name, so I had to figure out something. A fellow teacher suggested a seating chart, but that didn't work for me because I didn't want to be looking down at it during class, and I can't memorize their names under pressure.

So, here's what I came up with: On the first day of class, everyone writes their names on a piece of paper in big, black letters. Then I take their "mug shots" in groups or individually, however they are the most comfortable. This is also a great icebreaker. Some act shy about it, but really, they love it. I let them know that the pictures are for my eyes only, and just for a few days. Then, after the first day of school, I can memorize everyone's name without the pressure of doing it in the classroom. Sometimes I have a hundred students, so it's no easy task, but it's worth it. Every student deserves, and should expect, that a teacher knows his or her name.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Short film theme activity

Here's fun compare/contrast writing activity that I use with my classes when I want to talk about theme:

Have them watch the two entertaining short films "The Lunch Date" and "For the Birds," available on YouTube. Then have a brainstorming session with the whole class on the themes in the films (prejudice, pre-judgment, karma etc....). Then have them write a short paragraph comparing and contrasting the two films with the focus on theme.

I love this activity because the students are immediately engaged because the films are short, funny and thought-provoking. They are also so disparate (one is an old-timey black and white and the other is a pixar animated film), that the students have to think about it to come up with the similar themes. Once they get it, they have an Aha! moment. They then usually write enthusiastically about their findings. Can't beat that.


Monday, June 25, 2012

The Glass Castle in the classroom

One of the reasons I'm a teacher:
I assigned The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls to my Humanities class. A 55-year-old man in my class admitted to me that he'd never read a whole book in his entire life. He'd faked it through school. I encouraged him to give it a try, that he could do it. I promised him he would love it. I crossed my fingers and encouraged, encouraged, encouraged. He did it, he loved it, and still, he contacts me occasionally to tell me how proud he was of his accomplishment and how much he loved that class.

I teach school year-round, so we're headed into the last few weeks of a quarter. In one class, we're wrapping up our study on The Glass Castle. It's an unconventional choice for a novel study, because it's a memoir, not a novel, but as the students turn in their final essays and give their oral presentations, I'm reminded why I choose this book for my classroom, and that my former student's experience with the book isn't all that unique.

First, I've never had a student, out of many hundreds, who has not enjoyed the book, or at least could relate to it in some way. Many of my students don't like to read, or don't think they can get through a book, just like my former student. The teenagers like it just as well as he did. It matters to me that my students like what we read, because more will actually read it, and I want them to have a good experience. I think back to my days studying literature, and how excruciating it was to write papers and give presentations on something I hated.

Second, it's well written, and functions as a novel for study purposes. There are plenty of themes, symbolism, plot, round characters and everything else you would want from a good novel. The fact that it is true adds another level that the students appreciate. The most popular presentation choice is finding out where the characters are now and what they are doing.

Finally, I never get tired of teaching it. Since the students engage with it and are excited to talk about it, I always find something new. Students tend to relate the things that happened in Jeannette Walls' life to their own in incredible ways. I've taught some books once and haven't been able to stomach the thought of spending another quarter with them.

The Glass Castle is best for high school and up, due to some mature themes (there is nothing gratuitous or graphic).

I put my Glass Castle unit up on Teachers Pay Teachers, in case you decide to teach it in your class and don't want to start from scratch. It has evolved over four years, and is exactly what I use in my classroom.


Saturday, May 5, 2012


Today begins the biggest sale all year for teacherspayteachers. Everything is 10 percent off on the whole site when you enter the promo code TAD12. I'll also be offering 20 percent off everything in my store, so your total savings is almost 30 percent off. Since the savings are so big, you might want to stock up on my popular essay-writing complete units that are normally $6.95 - $9.95 and are now $5.00 - $7.16. Such a deal!
 


Happy Shopping!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Teacher Appreciation Jackpot

To celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week, I'm participating in a huge Jackpot on Sunday, May 6, where everyone wins! It's a blog hop where you can find links to download one-day only free products from bloggers who have stores at teacherspayteachers. These are normally priced items between $3.00 and $8.00. With over 140 blogger/sellers participating, imagine how much money you can save! There are about $600 worth of free products being offered. I'll be downloading like crazy that day!

My free item is one of my most popular, "Writing a Research Paper: Body Paragraphs," which helps you teach students how to incorporate quotes and paraphrases into their paragraphs. It uses a method called the "Research Sandwich" which helps students make sure they have an effective ratio of their own words to source material and have smooth transitions. Here is the link:





To help you organize your blog hopping, the links are divided into three categories, listed below:

PK - Grade 2 - April McNair on A Modern Teacher  http://www.amodernteacher.com/2012/05/teacher-appreciation-jackpot.html
Grades 3 - 6 - Laura Candler on Corkboard Connections  http://corkboardconnections.blogspot.com/2012/05/teacher-appreciation-jackpot.html
Grades 7 - 12 - Adrianne Meldrum on The Tutor House  http://thetutorhouse.blogspot.com/2012/05/teacher-appreciation-jackpot.html

Monday, April 23, 2012

Freebies Booklet

Mrs. O on teacherspayteachers.com has created a booklet of hundreds of links for free resources for use in the classroom. I contributed some of mine, which you will find in the high school pages. This is a great resource, and it's free, so hurry and get it!

Here's the link: http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Hundreds-of-Freebies-for-Your-Classroom

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Grammar Police


Yesterday morning, I decided to ask my students next quarter to be on the lookout for grammar and punctuation errors in the real world. I was considering how hard this would be and if I should assign points for the assignment.

I left the house and went through the McDonald's drive-thru (through?) on the way to work. Bingo! How easy was that? Five minutes out in the world and there was a glaring misuse of the poor, embattled apostrophe. The girl probably wondered what I was doing as she tried to hand me my drink and I was busy taking a picture with my iphone. I'm definitely going to make this an assignment, with bonus points for a photo. Unfortunately, it shouldn't be hard.

Have any of you assigned something similar? I'd love to hear how it worked out!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Tax Day Sale

I'm having a sale through tomorrow - 15 percent off everything in my store. I only do this about once every six months, so head on over if there's something you've been wanting.

http://teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Laura-Torres





I just posted my latest product - Revising Paragraphs. This is an effective way for students to self-edit using a color-coding system to make sure every sentence in a paragraph counts, and that the sentences are in a logical order. Complete lesson plan includes everything you need.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Real Hunger, No Games


I had a student this quarter, a man in his mid-fifties, who was excited (and quite nervous) to be back in school after so many years. He took scrupulous notes, participated, arrived on time and, despite difficulty with the subject matter, was always enthusiastic.

One day, he wasn't his usual self. He sat quietly in his seat, with a blank expression through the whole four-hour block. He didn't take notes or engage with any of his classmates. After class, I asked him if perhaps he wasn't feeling well. After some hemming and hawing, he admitted that he hadn't eaten anything in two days. He is on food stamps, but something went wrong with his pin number, and he hadn't been able to navigate the bureaucracy yet to get it fixed. I tried to get him to go with me to student services, who maintain a food closet for our large population of needy students to get something to tide him over, but he refused, clearly because he was embarrassed.

I sat in the staff room later, mulling over how pointless it must seem to try and write a topic sentence when you haven't eaten, and how amazing these students are who try their best despite some glaring holes in their Maslow's needs. I also wondered if there was anything I could do to help students without putting them on the spot, besides working occasional treats into lesson plans.

A fellow teacher, who always has too much stuff to carry to her classroom without the aid of a wheeled cart, bustled into the room at that moment. I'd noticed before that she always had a big basket of red apples with her stuff, but didn't think much about it. Now it took on new relevance. I asked her what was up with the apples.

You can probably guess the answer. Hungry students. She keeps the basket by the door so when students go on breaks they can take an apple if they are hungry. It's always there, and no one has to ask. Simple and brilliant. It's one of those small kindnesses that can make a world of difference.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

National Poetry Month - Write Limericks!


April is national poetry month! I wrote this unit with limerick master and picture-book writer Rick Walton. You're students will love it! Click on the picture to get it. For more poetry lesson plans (some for free), click here for ESOL Odyssey's linky party.

Letting Them Suffer


A student of mine was way behind on his research paper project. The problem? He couldn’t come up with a subject.


I usually give my students a choice of what they want to write about, within some pretty narrow parameters. This lessens the chance of plagiarism, and lessens anxiety for a lot of students who prefer a little direction. For the big research paper, though, I want them to write about something they really want to dig into. I tell them, “You’re going to be living with this topic for a while, so make it something you love.”


Some immediately know what they want to do. I’ve had students research a brother’s disease (because she wasn’t satisfied that her doctor was knowledgeable enough) or the benefits of quitting smoking (because he wanted to quit and felt this would help). Most find something pretty quickly.


When students do struggle to come up with a subject, I sit down with them and ask, “Tell me about what you do when you’re not in school. Tell me about your family. When you surf the internet, what do you look for?” Sometimes we go to a news page and I have them pick out the three most interesting headlines. We almost always have a Eureka moment.


No so with this student. I asked my usual questions, I pestered him about his hobbies, I did everything I could think of without actually assigning him a topic. I was nervous, because he was one of those students who I knew could get discouraged enough to drop the class.


I watched him suffer through an entire class period trying to come up with something and obviously having many false starts, while his peers were well into drafting. I was sorely tempted just to assign him a topic, but I resisted. Instead, I had a heart-to-heart with him about how I knew he could do it, and what a waste of time and money it would be to drop out at this point. I went home, unsure if I had done the right thing, and pretty certain I wouldn’t be seeing him again. I lost sleep that night, wondering if I should have caved in and given him a subject.


Needless to say, I was surprised when he burst through the door early the next week, paper in hand, waving it in my face. “I got it!” he said. “I finally got it!”


When I read the draft, I was impressed. This student was not a great writer, and was usually lucky to pull a low C on his papers. But this one was different, because he cared about the subject and he’d suffered for it. Even better than that, he was proud of his paper, and it showed in his work.


Boy, was I glad I kept my mouth shut and let him figure it out on his own. It's hard not to want to fix things, or make it easier, but I would have deprived him of that sense of accomplishment, that learning experience, and very possibly, that A paper.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

More Picture Writing Prompts

I've been using picture writing prompts a lot lately in the classroom, and I finally put my three favorites together. They are not necessarily my favorite pictures, but these three have been the most successful in getting my students to use sensory detail. It's so easy to tell, so hard to show. Hopefully these picture prompts will help your students, too.



Click here, or on the picture to download the prompts. The packet also includes lecture notes and example paragraphs, one that "tells" and one that "shows."

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Picture Writing Prompts



In the never-ending battle to get my students to write with concrete details instead of abstractions, I've found that visuals often help.

Here's a picture prompt that has been particularly effective. I ask my students to imagine themselves inside this bike racer's body. What does he hear? What does he see? What's going through his mind? How do his legs feel? I ask them to put the reader in the moment--in a sense, become the bike rider.

This probably works better than just assigning a topic because it's so focused. The students aren't trying to tap into a personal experience where there are side stories and distractions.

After they are finished writing, we find any abstractions that have slipped through ("tired," "excited," "motivated") and work on better ways to show these concepts.

Click here for a linky party where you can access a whole bunch of picture writing prompts from some pretty awesome teachers.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Enthusiastic Teaching

"Mrs. Torres," said one of my students recently, "you really care about this stuff don't you?"

I was a bit taken aback, and said, "Well, if I don't care about it, how can I expect you to care about it?"

"You'd be surprised," the student said. "You're different, because you seem to be passionate about what you're presenting."

Of course I loved the compliment, but my overwhelming feeling was that it was sad that this student, and maybe others, feel that some of their instructors don't care about what they are teaching. I believe it is my responsibility, even if I'm NOT feeling it, to present material as if it's important, it matters, and yes, that I have a passion for it. If a student senses that you are bored with the subject matter, well, game over. Seriously, how can a teacher expect a student to care if it's presented with a so-what attitude?

The key is to find material that does inspire something in you. I don't care how many times we watch a clip of Maya Angelou reciting her poem, "Still I Rise" it practically brings me to tears and I don't mind the emotion in my voice; they pay attention. And as I explain Angelou's background to the students and they begin to grasp what she has overcome personally and culturally, it can't help but affect them in a way that it wouldn't if I just gave it to them on paper to read.

Easy to say about teaching inspiring poetry (which is far from my favorite subject matter, by the way--I'd prefer to skip poetry entirely--shhhh don't tell anyone!), but what about teaching apostrophes or run-on sentences or, heaven help us, MLA formatting? One way to inspire enthusiasm is to honestly explain how important the overall concept is to the students' ability to communicate in an educated, professional manner. Then, make it into a game. Do a speed quiz. Throw paper balls at the right answer. Make an obstacle course. Award prizes. If I'm not so excited about where to put your periods in an MLS citation, I can get excited about my students trying to unravel a rope puzzle before moving on to the next quiz question.

Every day and every lesson does not have to be a circus act, but an instructor's overall attitude about the subject matter can make or break a class for a student.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Hunger Games Valentines


If you are teaching the Hunger Games in your classroom, here's great free supplement from Tracee Orman, the Hunger Games teaching goddess (she has a website called hungergameslessons.com). These Valentines will reinforce your lessons and bring a smile to your students' faces. They'll think you're more charming than a dead slug.

May the odds be ever in your favor!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Valentine Blog Hop! Give-Away! Freebies!

Valentine Blog Hop Give-Away!
Enter to win any 3 products in my store.
There are two ways to enter:
1. Follow my blog, and leave me a comment that you did so. OR
2. Follow my teacherspayteachers store here and leave me a comment.
If you do both, you are entered twice.
Winner will be chosen randomly on February 15th! Check back to see if you've won, and I'll send you any three products of your choice.

Click on the icon on the left to find Valentine's Freebies and more contests!




Freebie!
What could be better than love poems on Valentine's Day? A hilarious class limerick activity that reinforces poetic form, syllables and parts of speech. Click on the picture below so you can download this latest freebie: