Posts Tagged ‘Education’

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.


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.

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!

Are Your Class Incentives Kinda Like Airline Rewards? Bleh!

Airline rewards….suck. This is a fact. The reward is usually something like, “buy 32 flights and receive a free 1 way ticket on this weekday in November!” Yet we all know as reasonable adults that we don’t truly need or deserve a reward, it is just an incentive to keep doing something. Students don’t need or deserve rewards either. Does that make me sound mean? Maybe, but it is the truth. As a teacher, keep that crabby ole’ thought in your mind, because the ultimate “reward” for a student is the knowledge gained. I had a college professor who said that “Success is your reward.” A reward has its motivational limits anyway.

However, there are many valuable reasons to give students rewards. I primarily focus on students who need to be encouraged and students who go above and beyond. Students who do what they have to…well, do you get a bonus for doing something (maybe even the bare minimum) you already are required to do? No. This attitude is what keeps rewards fun and special in my mind though.

I also have some principles when it comes to the reward itself….limit the candy. Yes, I do give out candy. Every time a kid gets a tootsie pop though, I think of the 20% of children in the US who are obese and I feel like a bad teacher! I recommend focusing on rewards which are useful or positive for the student. Since candy is such a go-to item and kids love it, here is a list of some other options that can compete.

  • Pencils!
  • Hand held pencil sharpener
  • Stickers
  • Erasers
  • Leadership role in class activity
  • Bonus Points
  • Dismissal from class 2 minutes early
  • Hall Pass
  • Errands (yes, kids love to run errands for you!)
  • Positive notes to parents
  • Late work excuse
  • Praise (so simple, but we forget)

You can also let your student choose the reward received! This also allows you some insight into what they most desire and perhaps why. Here is the ticket I give out:

Thank You for Being Great!

This ticket can be redeemed for one of the below options:

Þ   Email or Letter Home to Your Parents Informing Them of a Job Well Done!

Þ   Late Homework Assignment Taken without Penalty!

Þ   10 Bonus Points Added to a Low Grade!

Þ   Extra Hall Pass when You are in Need!

Your hard work and kindness is always appreciated in this class!


Surprise! Kids Love Dogs!

Okay…so it’s really no surprise at all that kids love dogs!

I get so many pieces of writing that include star roles for man’s best friend, from adorable puppies to brave rescue dogs. Here is a description activity involving a dog, but the catch is that students won’t know that immediately! Despite this, the mystery of what should/might come next will hook them in.

Completing a Description

I fell in love the minute I saw him. He had hair the color of November woods and eyes that turned me into marshmallow crème. I knew we belonged to each other.

He raised his head and looked at me. He knew.

Have students write the next three sentences to this paragraph. Students will create interesting descriptions without knowing the true continuation of the story. This exercise can also being used with a small section of a book the class is about to read. When the students later get to that section, they will be excited to see what will come next, and it will give them a sense of ownership over something they also wrote.

My brother and his dog Sherman.


Here is the remainder of the excerpt:

I fell in love the minute I saw him. He had hair the color of November woods and eyes that turned me into marshmallow crème. I knew we belonged to each other.

He raised his head and looked at me. He knew. And when I knelt beside him, he kicked my hand—all the way to the elbow, his long tail thumped on the floor.

“What happened?” I said to the boy who held the dog by a piece of rope.

“Cut his paw pretty bad on something, and he ain’t eatin’ neither.” The boy stroked the dog’s big, shaggy head. He looked worried.

I noticed the dirty, crusted wound on the left forepaw, the matted fur. My new love smelled like a sewer from hell. “What’s his name?”

“Don’t know. Granddaddy says somebody must’ve dumped him out and left him. I was supposed to take him to the pound, but I thought I’d try here first. He’s a good old dog. Maybe Doc Nichols knows somebody who’ll take him.”

“You did the right thing.” I remembered what it was like being “dumped” in a strange place.

I had $149.74 in my checking account, no job, and a house being sold out from under me. “I’ll take him,” I said.

From Angel at Troublesome Creek by Mignon F. Ballard

All credit to Penny Crofford, who gives wonderful Pre-AP workshops.

Can You Fix Messy Students?

Lots of students are disorganized. That is probably a massive understatement, especially if you have ever walked down the halls of a junior high during a locker clean out. My classroom is located on a wall of boys only lockers, so I think boys have a special train wreck tendency with their belongings. Locker clean outs are usually a flutter of crumpled paper and spare socks, while the smell of Axe Body Spray overwhelms the air. Whew!

Here are a few tips to help your students. I plan on adding more to this, but just to get us started:

  • Require a binder for your class, not to be shared with other subjects.
  • Keep a crate of folders for student portfolios in the classroom. These folders can be used to store important papers which should not be lost in lockers! My students like to decorate them at the beginning of the year. This is fun and it generally helps create awareness that it is a folder for them to use.
  • If you have an important handout that needs to be kept the entire year, i.e. classroom procedures or a CliffNotes list of grammar, then print the copy off on colored paper which will stand out signifying, “Don’t throw me away!” To further this statement, go big and print on cardstock.
  • Always have a three hole punch available for student use. Occasionally pass it around when you absolutely want something to be hole-punched and placed in a binder. How else will it happen?

Remember. if you want your students to be organized, try to model that behavior yourself! : )

Yawns Don’t Mean I’m a Boring Teacher…

Most teenagers own phones. This is an obvious no-brainer, just take a look at the teens you see in public. Go to any mall, and you will notice them walking around in groups, all with phones in hand. Looking up some stats, most people seem to agree that the percentage of teenagers who own a cell phone is 75% -ish.

Now, as a highly reliable source myself, I’d say that 75%-ish of teens are also very sleep deprived. It’s easy to notice- the yawns, the glazed over look, the desire to put their heads down on their desk- but does this mean your class is boring or you should be worried that they are on some type of muscle relaxer? Nope. Recent studies are showing that those 75%-ish of teens are texting, and texting, and texting, even after they go to bed. An article on MSNBC details how, “Teens send an average of 34 texts a night (adding up to 3,400 a month) after going to bed — in some cases up to four hours after hitting the sack,” which is research they gathered from the JFK Medical Center.

I teach at the weird age when a kid has a phone but still has a bedtime.When talking to parents, concerns about if their child is getting enough sleep do come up. The parent is always baffled, because a bedtime is enforced, and previously I have been pretty confused as well. However, it’s easy to see how you would have no idea that your son or daughter was texting hours after they “went to bed.”

So as a teacher, I encourage you to talk to that persistently sleepy kid and ask, “Are you texting at night?” “Do you put your phone on silent when it is time to sleep?” Talk to the parents as well. This is something they can help their child fix, you can only bring it to their attention.

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