Girls in Animal Print are Trouble

The 6 Traits of Writing encourages teachers to use picture books to help students generate ideas and details. For practice in narrative writing, we read Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, then used it as a spring board for the students’ individual writing. (Official website of the 6 Traits)


Here is the writing prompt and outline I gave my students. You can see that the student has quite a terrible day to write about. But it was his second point that had me laughing:


Cheetah print? The known calling card of a skank, even to 7th graders! I gave him an A.


Make Your Class Roster the Best It Can Be!

Effectively using a class roster was something I had to learn along the way. A spreadsheet of names can be  a huge help in the jumbled up life of a teacher if you organize it well. I use class rosters to keep track of attendance, grades, in class activities, and of course the fire drill! Here is a picture of an old roster of mine. Let’s walk through how to use it.

Attendance- If students are not present they receive a slash through the box. If they arrive tardy at a later point, a straight line is added underneath the slash. When I began teaching, I fell into the trap of marking an “A” for absent students and then trying to scribble over with a “T” when they walked in the room a few moments later. Rookie mistake!

Grades- After a stack of papers has been graded for a class, write down the grades in one column of the roster. This allows for grades to easy and quickly be entered into your online gradebook in alphabetical order. You avoid the hunt and pecking of looking at the score on the paper, finding the name, typing it in, and moving your mouse to the next person elsewhere on the list. Also, I found that I loved having knowledge of who hadn’t turned what in so close to me. While I took roll I could say, “Hey, you owe me an assignment!” without looking at my computer.

In Class Activities- Use your roster to mark who is participating in a class activity to mark later for participation points in the gradebook. Notice in the picture that one column is labeled “Outline.” My students worked on essay outlines and I checked them upon completion. All I had to do was walk around the room as they worked, briefly scan their outline for approval, and star my roster to indicate they earned credit. Notice that some students earned a 90 instead of a star (which indicated full credit of 100 points). This is where I docked off 10 points for lateness where necessary. This is an easy, easy way to grade. The students get instant feedback and you aren’t stuck grading your life away. Win win! Roster

My Students are Hilarious.

On one of the first few days of school my students wrote out their expectations for how the class would behave in order to get along as a whole. Am I the only one who finds this implied threat hilarious?

Class Expectation

Getting Hooked-

Teachers always hear about the importance of a good “hook” to interest students about a particular lesson. People say this because well, it’s true.  The first year I taught A Wrinkle in Time my students haaaated it. I taught it again this past year and the overall opinion was dramatically different. Now, I can’t place all the success on my beginning hook (there may have been an over-reliance on the audio book narrated by the author herself- speech impediment and all….whoopsies!), but it was a fun way to start the unit on science fiction and get everyone excited about the book before cracking it open.

Even if you aren’t reading A Wrinkle in Time, this hook can still work because it is directed at science fiction writing as a genre.

First, tell students to bring with them to class an account of a strange event–a UFO sighting, an example of psychic powers, or anything which could not be explained by our current technology. I gave them extra credit for bringing articles. My pre-AP kiddos eat up extra credit opportunities.

As prior preparation, you should put up the background paper and title for a bulletin board with some eye catching science fiction phrase. Leave space for students to post their pictures, but go ahead and get the ball rolling by posting some articles and pictures on the mind blowing topic of science, technology, space, etc. Leave the zany stuff for the students to bring, because that is what they will likely gravitate toward. I titled my bulletin board “A WRINKLE IN TIME: A LINK TO OTHER WORLDS?”

A Wrinkle in Time

The next class period when students have their articles and pictures in hand we get to have a brief class show and tell and I get to fill them in on the exciting genre of science fiction (yah! Ender’s Game! Isaac Asimov! Cory Doctorow!) annnnd what cool time and space travel adventures will be in store for them while reading A Wrinkle in Time. 

Science Article

Science Article


Countdowns Lead to Explosions…

The school I work for will be out of session in 8 days. The kids are counting down, the teachers are counting down, there even is a countdown on the sign in sheet in the main office (it makes me smile each morning). Yet you ask, is there a countdown in my room? Do I speak in countdown numbers to my students? No. In the world of my classroom, I pretend school is the song that never ends, it goes on and on my friends.


Explosions. That’s why. Everything I know about life tells me that countdowns lead to explosions. A bomb being detonated. Fireworks at New Year’s Eve. Hysterics on American Idol.

Acme is far and away superior.

Acme is far and away superior.

That’s not cool when translated into the classroom. I imagine brain explosions. Manage your students’ behavior and motivation very firmly in the final days of school. Think about the answers people give when describing what they would do if the world ended tomorrow. These answers are decidedly split into two factions- family time/praying and last minute pleasure seeking/general debauchery. Kids can sometimes look at the last couple days of school as the end of a large element of their lives. “I can’t get detention on the last day of school, so I can do whatev!” or “Homework doesn’t really matter now, school is out in two weeks!”

Whether you are teaching 7th graders (ahem!) or seniors about to graduate, try to look at those last days not as a futile end of days but as days in the school calendar just as important as a random Thursday in October. That being said, school is almost out for summer! Enjoy counting down those final days with a gleeful giddiness (in private)!

Totally unrelated awesome picture via Reddit.

Make that Trip to the Computer Lab Count

Do you feel like you are in a technology rut? Maybe your school doesn’t have the latest gear. Or maybe you just don’t know where to start. Whatever the issue, the best answer is to spend some time exploring the internet. Practically every time I begin a lesson, I start searching around to find different ways to introduce and practice ideas. I’m constantly discovering neat new websites that offer interactive elements and conversions from old to new (i.e. online storyboards, flashcards, visuals) formats. Just consider, students enjoy opportunities to be highly creative, and asking them to create a visual display using  , , or is probably much more appealing to their computer savvy minds.

This Bloom’s Taxonomy chart gives some great suggestions as to what websites aid in what skills. My person favorites include:

Prezi- bored with PowerPoint? These presentation templates will energize your material.

Schooltube– the chart lists Youtube, but sidestep it for Schooltube. The content is more focused, student-friendly, and a site less likely to be blocked than Youtube.

WolframAlpha- this is a perfect search engine for the student who needs horse blinders while looking at Google or Wikipedia. WolframAlpha is a pared down, simplistic  World Almanac of information. It also does computations, which is handy.

Footnote- ignore of the somewhat misleading name, here you find historical documents- records, photos, government treaties. There is a fee for full access, but it can still be useful for free.

Flashcardexchange- out of the many flash card sites out there, this one is user friendly, offers existing card sets created by others, and the cards can easily be downloaded and printed.

When I first found the Bloom’s graphic, I spent an hour or so looking at all the websites I wasn’t familiar with- some I’d never even heard of. No one is a born pro, so constantly try to educate yourself. Seek out new tools just by taking the time to surf around!

Also take a look at the ALA’s Top 25 Websites for Teaching and Learning:

Drop Everything and Read

Tomorrow, April 12, is D.E.A.R. Day! D.E.A.R. stands for Drop Everything and Read. Sometimes D.E.A.R. is called Sustained Silent Reading. The main focus is to enjoy reading, so students choose their own books/comics/ magazines and silently read for 20-30 minutes. The teacher can even read!

So tomorrow in class-whatever the level- I encourage you to reserve some time to read. However, if you are just now hearing about this wonderful holiday (yes,yes, don’t snicker) and lesson plans are already set firmly, then set your own date to celebrate at a later time. On Thursday I am taking my students to the school’s book fair, which would make it a perfect day to D.E.A.R. Reading for pleasure is often overlooked, and when reading is enjoyable it is continued outside of the classroom!

This is the link to the official website for D.E.A.R…please notice the cute Ramona Quimby inspired art!

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