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!
After seeing a recent post by Emily at Education to the Core featuring 20 Teachers to Follow on Pinterest, I found myself disappointed by the lack of secondary teachers on the list. (Please don't misunderstand me - Emily has a fabulous blog and is doing great things!! Her audience is just not secondary teachers, so it makes sense that she would focus on the elementary and not the secondary level.)
As a champion for secondary teachers (a former high school English teacher myself), I immediately wanted to be sure that Pinterest audiences - especially secondary teachers - knew that there are some AMAZINGLY helpful and relevant boards and pinners out there that teachers should be following. I decided to spend the day researching helpful boards that were not all about products and sales, but the promotion of best-practices, innovative ideas, and helpful resources. While many of these boards do have products pinned, the crux of each is not about advertising. The results? Here's what I found:
Topics: Christine Reeve, Danielle Knight, Education to the Core, Getting Nerdy with Mel and Gerdy, Jason's Online Classroom, Learn with Watts, Lesson Planning, pinterest, Scaffolded Math and Science, Science Stuff, secondary pinners, secondary pinterest boards, secondary teachers, Simply Novel, Smart Apple, Teachers on Pinterest, top secondary boards
I think it can be nice to switch up the reading list every couple of years or so. Sometimes we are forced to change because of school/district policies, and sometimes we just want to change to keep students (and ourselves) engaged in the curriculum. Today I want to share 5 of my favorite books for the high school classroom so that next time you are approached about changing the book list, you have some place to start. I'd love to hear your suggestions/reasons in the comment section below! I'm also including links and helpful information about the Simply Novel Reading Guides that will get you ready to teach these books in no time! (Simply Novel reading guides are aligned to common core and are available in print and pdf from simplynovel.com. Check out the website for these titles and much more.)
If you are like me, there are few things more exciting than introducing students to amazing novels and other works of fiction, but finding ways to engage students in informational texts can be a little trickier. Today I want to share a lesson that I came upon recently that had students engaged in reading an informational text, researching credible sources, and discussing their findings. I'll outline the lesson below. Please comment with questions, comments, and other informational texts that your students love!
Teacher friends, I know that many of you are like me with a serious appetite for control. Organizing, planing, and assessing variables are some of the things that make us good teachers. They are also some of the exact things we need to let go of when preparing for a maternity, paternity, or family leave sub. I'm currently in the process of preparing to take maternity leave for my second baby. It is such a personal decision and a personal process that I can't emphasize enough how different this experience can be for everyone. No parent should feel compelled to fit neatly into the model that worked for their co-workers, friends, or even themselves with a previous child. As a society and as a profession, we should reach out in support for people needing to take family leave no matter if they are: mothers or fathers, biological or adoptive parents, caring for a baby or a relative of another age or in any other circumstance. That being said, I would like to go through a few things that I think are good to think about when preparing for family leave.
I love to mix up my assessment strategies to incorporate old, faithful methods as well as creative, new approaches. Today I want to talk about why and how partner quizzes work for a secondary English classroom. Note: I have heard of some teachers/professors successfully using small groups of 3-4 on both quizzes and exams, but I only have experience with partners on lower-stakes quizzes. I'd love to hear your comments, questions, and suggestions below!
Movie days in high school classrooms have a bad reputation for being a waste of time or a teacher cop out, but English teachers show movies for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to:
My school is in an accreditation year, so we have been preparing in many ways for formal observations within our school community and from the accreditation team. (I'm on the west coast, so we are governed by WASC.) I normally really enjoy informal observations by department members and colleagues because I find that they are a great feedback tool for my own reflection and professional growth. During informal observations, I like to try out new methodologies or focus on meeting the needs of a particular group of students. Then, I like to debrief with my observer and brainstorm ideas for future tweaks. However, formal observations can have a very different plan and purpose. These are the types of observations you know will occur in advance and typically are not followed by collaborative feedback. These are the observations that you want to knock out of the park with a home run. Below are 7 tips for acing a formal evaluation. I'd love to hear your comments or concerns in the comment section below.
With a push in the common core to incorporate more informational texts and a teenage audience that is becoming more globally aware than any previous generation, I have found that using high quality magazines in the classroom can help capture young minds in relevant reading and writing. I especially like The New Yorker, but the same strategies below can be used for Time Magazine, National Geographic, your local newspaper, or many other options. (Be sure to vet articles carefully and get approval where appropriate.) Many newspapers and some magazines also have an educator's discount! Below are some ways that I'm using magazines in my classroom. I'd love to hear your questions, comments, or suggestions below!
In 10 years, I've learned that long-term planning is the #1 way to manage the crazy stress and overwhelming to do list faced by teachers. I'm sharing my process for planning below. If you are reading this as a new teacher, I cannot stress enough the need to come up with some system for organizing your long-term goals and curriculum. If you are a fellow veteran, I'd love to hear your process. Either way, join the discussion in the comment section below!