Rethinking My Final Exams - What best serves me and my students?

Posted by Emily Guthrie on May 1, 2017 10:14:00 AM

It is that time of year again when teachers all over the country are preparing for final exams. Although many teachers have their testing strategy down to a science, I know many others (myself included) that have mixed feelings when it comes to balancing the forces involved in finals. Personally, I am at a crossroads with this summative test. For the last decade, I have administered exam books with literally hundreds of multiple choice questions covering all the major strands of my class. I've almost always incorporated an essay section a few weeks before the end of the term, which counted toward the test score, but on the actual test day, I have watched bubble after bubble after bubble.  It has always felt like a strange ritual that served many purposes, but did not really incapsulate exactly what I really wanted students to learn or honor the best practices that I try to use consistently all semester. In the big picture of the semester, regardless of grade level, I most value critical reading and articulate, argumentative analysis of literature. Given my values, I think it is time for me (and maybe you?) to rethink the traditional final exam. Below is the process I am going through. I'd love to hear your questions, comments, or suggestions in the comment section below!  I've learned and grown so much as a teacher through the comments here on the blog as well as on our social media and I'm willing to bet others have read your comments with some of the same enthusiasm for new ideas!

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Topics: final, final exam, Holiday/Seasonal, Lesson Planning, test

The Gifts Teachers Really Want

Posted by Emily Guthrie on Dec 15, 2015 10:59:19 AM

Dear Parents,

Teachers do not work for gifts, but if you want to treat them this holiday season, here are a variety of ideas teachers will love from all budgets:

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Topics: gifts, Holiday/Seasonal, parents, tips

5 (Difficult) Things I'm Thankful For As a Teacher This Year

Posted by Emily Guthrie on Nov 25, 2015 11:07:37 PM

It is no secret that times are tough for teachers. We face legislation and budgets that threaten to shut down some of the most valuable work that we do.  We face overcrowded classrooms, full of students with a variety of complex needs.  We face never ending workloads, distracted students, and a plagiarism epidemic. The struggle can be so real.  I am not even through the first semester and I face burnout.  But for today, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I will find a way to find gratitude in my grief and pride in my problems. Below are 5 things I am thankful for this year.  Feel free to leave a comment with something you are grateful for this year.  Happy Thanksgiving!

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Topics: Holiday/Seasonal, Thankful, Thanksgiving

A Few of My Favorite (Back to School) Things

Posted by Emily Guthrie on Aug 5, 2015 12:58:55 AM

Move over Von Trapps, it's time for the sound of school:

New sharpened pencils and fresh ink in pens
Bright stadium lights and warm woolen letterman's
Brown paper lunch bags tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite back to school things

With all of the stress, busyness, and seemingly endless meetings that greet teachers at the beginning of each school year, I thought that today would be a good day to reflect on some of my favorite parts of the back to school season.  Feel free to share yours in the comment section below!

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Topics: back to school, Classroom Management, Classroom Tech, Holiday/Seasonal, technology

5 Things I Won't Be Doing On The First Day Of School

Posted by Emily Guthrie on Jul 24, 2015 12:31:58 AM

July is almost gone and so it is officially time to start (or continue) thinking about going back to school. For a long time, the first day of school was one of my most dreaded days. It isn't just the students who have the nightmares about forgetting their pants and their locker combos! I worried and stressed about making a perfect impression, coming up with the perfect activity and forgetting to cover all the procedures that would set us up for a perfect school year. I also felt some pressure from the administration over the years to enforce and reinforce school rules on the first day.  Luckily, over the years the first day has gotten easier and I have learned what doesn't work for me.  I am sharing my list below and I'd love to hear what you will or will not be doing on the first day of school!  Leave a comment in the comment section below. ;)

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Topics: back to school, Classroom Management, first day, Holiday/Seasonal

This Year, I Resolve to... My Teaching Resolutions

Posted by Emily Guthrie on Jan 4, 2015 3:59:48 PM

Happy New Year!  I am sitting here on my last day of winter break submitting lesson plans, inspecting my new rosters, and looking ahead to another spring semester in the 11th grade.  In many ways, I have come to a happy place in my classroom career.  I have a pretty firm grasp on my curriculum, good relationships with my colleagues (after giving up drama for last year's resolution) and I genuinely enjoy many of my students, which is good since we are really packing them in these days!  That being said, we all know that both classrooms and teaching careers are dynamic animals and so I still have many resolutions I'd like to make this year.  Below are a few of my teacher new year's resolutions.  I'd love to hear your goals in the comment section below!

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Topics: Holiday/Seasonal, new year, resolutions

A Teacher's Holiday Anthem

Posted by Emily Guthrie on Dec 16, 2014 7:30:52 AM

At this point in the semester, I am simultaneously exhausted and invigorated. I can feel the same sentiments coming from my virtual and school site colleagues. As teachers, we have been beaten down by the workload and frustrations of everyday teaching, but we've also borne witness the beauty that is student learning.  We have wanted to bash the copy machine in when it jammed again.  We have felt the utter satisfaction of reading a masterfully constructed student argument.  We have answered angry emails and rebuffed last minute requests for extra credit.  We have seen the light come on mid-Socratic seminar. We have wiped down every sneeze covered surface.  We have victoriously matched all papers with their respective owners.  We have created all necessary forms of final exams with appropriate accommodations.  We have battled all semester and now we have made it to the holy grail of winter vacation.  In the spirit of the season, today I am sharing my teacher version of a holiday favorite: What have your students left you with this semester?  We'd love to hear from you in the comment section below!

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Topics: End of Semester, holiday, Holiday/Seasonal

A Teacher's Thanksgiving Reflection

Posted by Emily Guthrie on Nov 25, 2014 7:52:31 AM

Teaching is hard and sometimes downright impossible.  There are countless viral stories from teachers about why they quit.  I'm not too proud to say that I can relate to the struggles that push so many teachers out of the profession, but since it is thanksgiving week, I want to take a minute to remember the things I am thankful for as a teacher.

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Topics: Holiday/Seasonal, Thanksgiving

Staying Positive in the Face of Difficult Parent Conferences

Posted by Emily Guthrie on Nov 4, 2014 7:22:03 AM

Last year, I wrote a post with advice for creating positive parent-teacher conferences and I must say that I enjoy talking with most parents that come in to speak with me. That being said, there are some difficult parent conferences that we have all experienced over the years and I'd like to write today about ways to remain positive in the face of some of these dreaded phrases:

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Topics: conferences, Holiday/Seasonal, parents, tips

Teaching on Halloween: Tips to Avoid Distraction

Posted by Emily Guthrie on Oct 28, 2014 7:08:55 AM

There are some days during the school year when teaching high school feels a little like herding cats.  For me, those days include Valentine's Day, Friday before spring break, homecoming week, and Halloween.  Halloween is especially tricky since it tends to come right after all of the homecoming and spirit week shenanigans, plus it involves copious amounts of sugar, late night outings, and attire that is not always conducive to learning.   Some years, I trek on through the transcendentalists (the unit that happens to land in late October most years) without acknowledging the distractions at all.  From a  curricular design perspective, this keeps my plan tight, but from a practical standpoint, it almost always ends up in an incredibly labored (and generally ignored) lecture with very little successful learning.  On the other extreme, I do not want to sacrifice all meaningful learning by giving that day to mindless busy work or that classroom management nightmare called free time.  Below I am sharing some ideas for Halloween activities for the English classroom that embrace the holiday, while holding on to academic standards.  I'd love to hear your suggestions, experiences, and comments below.

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Topics: halloween, Holiday/Seasonal, tips

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