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It Happened to Me: True Tales of Teaching, part 2

True Tales of Teaching-What is the most unexpected thing that has ever happened to you while you were teaching? I bet it had nothing to do with your students. My most unexpected moment of teaching came in an otherwise ordinary afternoon, but I never would have suspected the danger that lurked just over my head.

At the time, I taught freshmen and sophomore students at a beautiful high school in the middle of an otherwise deserted area. We have seen all manner of wildlife, from rabbits to hawks to barn owls, find their way onto our campus. Needless to say, the students are not the only creatures who have made their way inside the walls of my classroom.

It was a lovely spring afternoon, and I had just settled in with my sixth period freshman English class to read Act Three of “Romeo and Juliet.” Rome had just slain his new wife’s cousin, and things for the Montagues and the Capulets were going downhill fast. My students were on the edge of their seats, DYING to find out what happened next.

There was a sudden movement in the room. If you have ever taught a class of freshmen, you know that they can be squirrelly, but even this was out of the norm for my students. A subtle rustle began, a murmur like a gentle hum, and then a general movement. Something was amiss. The students knew what it was, but I was  clueless.

Frustrated by this interruption of the great Shakespeare, I demanded to know what was going on. “Ms. Flint!” The kids said excitedly, “There’s a bat on the floor.” They pointed to a small brownish object lying on the floor next to my storage cabinet.

I looked, and then I looked closer. “What is it?” I asked the kids. We gathered around it, giving it a respectable berth. “It’s a bat,” they chimed.

I looked it over again. It was small and looked unreal. For a moment, I wanted to believe one of my students had brought in a fake bat. “Did someone put this here?” I asked. “No,” said one brave soul,” It came though the ceiling.”

I looked up. I was in a second floor classroom, and it was true that I had heard scampering in the ceiling when the students were gone for the day, and I walked through the empty hallways. I had assumed it was birds, or even a squirrel. The thought of a bat had never entered my mind; but there it was, lying prone on the floor of my classroom.

There are things they teach you about in college: methodology, techniques, how to write a lesson plan, aligning your teaching with standards. But never had I been taught how to handle this.

“Is it dead?” a quivering voice asked. We stood staring, nobody answering, and nobody wanted to see for sure if the creature was actually alive. It was about that time that I remembered I was the only adult in the room. It was up to me to take decisive action, although I just really wanted to flee from my room.

A ruler, a puppy-emblazoned student folder, and a panicked phone call to the school custodian later, and the bat — which was not dead after all, only stunned — and the disruption was over. The bat was gone, the students returned to their desks, and the rest of the period was free for Romeo and Juliet. But really, after a bat falls through your ceiling, can Shakespeare really compete with that?

 

 

 

10 Review Activities with No Grading

10 Review Activities

Do you ever find yourself with too much grading and not enough time? Yes, it’s the song of our people. I cannot honestly remember the last weekend I did not have a least a few hours of paperwork to catch up on that I did not have time for during my regular work week.

Splat: Divide students into two or more teams and give each team an unused flyswatter. Hang relevant vocabulary word on the wall. Provide the students with a definition or a sentence — minus the word. The first team to swat the correct word with the flyswatter gets a point. This would also work well with literary terms, characters, quotes — the sky’s the limit! This activity requires 30 minutes of preparation

Jeopardy: This is my absolute favorite way to prepare my students for a test over a novel, play, or other major unit. Simply create your Jeopardy game to highlight the important information you want your students to know. Divide the class into two teams, have them pick a spokesperson (the only one who can give answer), and have fun! I do recommend picking a squirrelly student to assist you with keeping score. Additionally, I take away points when a team is talking out of turn. You can find a template to create your own Jeopardy! review game here. This activity requires 1-2 hours of preparation, but you can reuse it over and over.

Timeline Puzzle: This is a quick review activity that requires 5-10 minutes of preparation. Take a short story, play, or novel and chose 10-15 important events. You can either write them on the board — out of order, or type them up and cut them apart. Have students, in groups, arrange the events in the correct order. When one group is done, send members out to help other groups.

Students create their own test: This is another one of my favorite collaborative pre-test activities. In groups, students create the test they think they may see in the next day or two. I have them write a mix of questions: multiple choice, true/false, short answer, and essay. Not only are they responsible for coming up with meaningful questions (no gotcha! questions, they are also responsible for writing the answer key to their test. Once complete, I team up groups to challenge their classmates. Preparation time: none! Give credit for participation.

Students Teach their Peers: Here’s another minimal-prep activity. Assign collaborative groups to a particular section of a novel or play. I use this all the time when I teach Shakespeare and The Canterbury Tales. Tell students they are responsible for teaching the rest of the class their assigned portion of the novel, play, or ____. (Add your own ideas here.) I grade them as they present their information. Additionally, all students are required to take notes during presentations.

Four Corners: This activity is good discussion theme, persuasion, and some controversial topics related to literature. The instructions can be found here, although you can adapt them to fit your needs. I love doing this activities with my older students, as the discussions we have are meaningful and increase their interest in the reading. Prep time: 20-30 minutes.

Who Am I? — This is a fun post-novel or play activity. Write the names of characters on tape or address labels. Put them on students’ backs so they cannot see their name, but other students can. Students may ask each other only yes or no questions until they figure out which character they are. This would also be fun with literary terms. Prep time: 15 minutes.

Snowball fight: This fun vocabulary game is a crowd-pleaser. This works with vocabulary, literary terms, or even as a review before a test. Prep time: 10 minutes.

My Blood Type is Coffee!

My blood type is coffee

coffeeAccording to this blog, teachers belong to one of the professions that drinks the most coffee. I’m entirely not surprised. After all, I know few humans who can wake up, dress, and get to work by 7 a.m. in order to lead a group of children without adequate caffeination. It’s just not done. I mean, I have heard stories, but they do not end well for anyone involved.

I may be a WEENSIE bit of a grump without my morning java.I’m usually pretty good about prepping a new batch and setting my timer on the coffee maker before I go to bed. If I forget and have to make it up in the morning, there is usually a bit of grumbling on my part. Thankfully, nobody else is crazy enough fortunate enough to greet the day as early as I do, so my invectives generally only reach the ears of the cats. 

The other Sunday I set my alarm for five a.m. (!) in order to beat the rush on the kitchen and get some grading in. I went downstairs with my eyes half opened, narrowly avoiding tumbling down and landing on the cold tiles of morning, and reached for that hot, glorious, dark ambrosia, but then — oh my dear goodness — the carafe from my coffee maker was missing. I looked everywhere — in the sink, the dish washer, the boys’ bathroom, the teenagers hampers, everywhere.  I woke up the man in the house — not once, but twice — and accused him of playing a cruel, cruel prank on me. I made that poor man get out of bed and come down to help me find my precious (insert voice of Gollum from Hobbit fame).

And you know what? We found that carafe. In the cabinet next to the coffee cups. It still had a quarter pot from the day before. I did the right thing, of course, and yelled at the cats for being so discourteous for leaving my coffee in the wrong spot. And then I promptly cleaned that sucker and made a fresh new pot.

I know what you’re thinking. It’s time to admit you are an addict. You have obviously hit your bottom.  But you are wrong. Until I find myself waist deep in a garbage can sucking on coffee grounds, I will never admit how coffee has it’s dark, roasted claws in my soul.

coffee

Teaching is Easy! …and other lies

Teaching is Easy Square

If you are anything like me, you have run into a lot of people who tell you that teaching must be easy. They say things like, “I’ve thought about teaching, after I’m done working” or “How hard can it be?” or “I don’t know why you’re so busy all the time; you’re just a teacher.”

Please. Stop.

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A Totally Not Boring Persuasive Writing Unit

CCC Alien Report PINTEREST

Click here to purchase

When I first started teaching persuasive writing, I got really bored of the typical persuasive writing topics. The kids hated them; I got bored grading essays. Enter the alien report. This is absolutely my all-time favorite writing unit that I teach with my students. It gets them out of their writing “shell,” cleverly introduces the persuasive writing genre, and, most importantly, lets me find the joy of grading essays again.

This is a complete unit, divided into nine steps:

  1. Brainstorming topic

  2. Subtopic prewriting

  3. Thesis writing

  4. Complete outline

  5. Rough Draft

  6. Peer Editing

  7. Self checklist

  8. Final draft

  9. Grading rubric

This unit is perfect for grades 7-10, and it calls on prior knowledge of the five-paragraph essay and possibly MLA formatting.

This is a print and teach unit — no need to to anything else!

10 Inspirational Quotes for Teachers

Need a little inspiration to get you through your week? Here you go:

What are your favorite inspirational quotes for teaching?

Organize Your Materials in Your Secondary Classroom

I like efficiency. I like to make sure that I am as efficient as possible. A few years ago, I established the number system and cut back on a lot of problems I found myself dealing with in the classroom and saved myself some much-needed time.

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It Happened to Me: True Tales of Teaching, part 1

It Happened to Me- True Tales of Teaching, part oneThe year was 2002, and I was green. It was my first year as a real teacher, in my own classroom, and I was in charge of 90 hormonally-charged eighth grade students. Teaching grammar and reading and sentence fluency was often difficult when I had to combat students who couldn’t stop touching each other or putting on makeup in the middle of a lesson. I had three two-period block classes each day, and I often struggled to keep them entertained for 90 minutes at a stretch.

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11 Ways to Beat Teacher Burnout

11 ways to beat teacher burnoutIt was just a few years ago that I was 100 percent certain that I didn’t want to teach any more. Teaching had taken over my life; I had no time for my family, and most importantly, I had no time for my own basic needs. I was tired and grumpy all of the time, and I found no joy in teaching any more.

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