Monday, December 14, 2015

The Great Gatsby Science and ELA Integrated Lesson



This past summer I had the opportunity to take a two-week science and English integration class for teachers. It was an eye-opening experience to learn just how differently science and English brains work. As a fun way to wrap up our first Friday of this class, we did an easy oil and water experiment. As I watched the mesmerizing colors seep down through the oil, I immediately thought of how I could use this fun experiment with my Gatsby Color Symbolism Unit. Five months later, I finally got to test out this lesson, and my students thought it was SO cool. It was a hit for sure!

(This is me on the right being very excited about my first ever lab coat!)

The Great Gatsby Science and ELA Integrated Lesson: 

1. First, I set the pre-filled water bottles out on their desks (I just asked my coworkers to save me their recycling). 

2. I asked the students to predict what would happen when I poured the oil in the water. Most of them knew what would happen, but hardly anyone could explain WHY. So, I had them read an informational text on why oil and water don't mix. 

3. After reading, they filled out their flipbook page by writing down oil and water properties. 
(My lesson is in a book format, so that's why Tom is on the other page) 

4. Then, they had to switch from their science brain to their English brain and decide who or what in The Great Gatsby represents oil and who or what represents water. I had a lot of unique answers to this question, so the oil and water analogy really sparked critical thinking! One answer was that Daisy is the oil because she only cares about herself and is uppity (oil has zero charge, so it is only attracted to itself and sits on top of the water). 

5. Next, we got to the fun part--adding the food coloring! Since we have been doing a color analysis of The Great Gatsby, I had students describe the symbolism of each  drop of color before putting it into their bottle. Again, lots of great discussion with this! 

(Gold  and riches mixed with "blood" red to show Myrtle's desire to climb the social ladder ended brutally)  
 (Green for the green light that represents Gatsby's envy) 


6. Then, we did a close reading of the last passage of the book: 

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic   future that year by year recedes before us. It  eluded us then, but that’s no matter–  tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther...And one fine morning—- So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

7. Lastly, I had students add a small, plastic bead to the bottle to represent a boat.We then held the bottle on its side and created waves. I told the students to try and get the "boat" to the "light" at the end of the bottle. Of course, this didn't happen because the boat went against the current, "borne back ceaselessly into the past." I have tried to teach this passage at least 10 times now, but this single activity brought it to life for my students. They really got it! 






Full Gatsby Unit Here: 


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Monday, December 7, 2015

Book Club Questions for Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris


I reread Holidays on Ice every year around the holidays. I'm a huge fan of David Sedaris, and it wouldn't be Christmas without his dark humor!

Most of the stories in this book are too risque to use in the classroom, but the story, "Us and Them" (with a Halloween setting), would make a wonderful nonfiction pairing with Bradbury's, "The Pedestrian." Also, "Jesus Saves" would make a great story to pair with teaching tolerance or to use in a foreign language class as long as you black out the last line!

Book Club Discussion Questions:

1. Overall, did you enjoy Sedaris's style of humor? 
2. Did you like the way Sedaris mixed fiction with nonfiction? If you have never read any of this other books, was it easy for you to pick up on? 
3. Which story was your favorite and why? 
4.Which story was your least favorite and why? 
5. Did the stories put you into more of a holiday spirit or less so? 
6.How does Sedaris use satire to spread universal messages related to the holidays? 
7. Did any of his stories make you consider changing your own holiday habits? 
8. Do you think Sedaris highlights something sad about the holiday season, or is he just being cynical? 






Sunday, December 6, 2015

Teacher-Bestie Gift Idea: Merry Kissmas Free Printable



I don't know what I would do without my teacher besties! We bounce ideas around, confide in each other, and laugh at shit our students say. I'm a firm believer that your vibe attracts your tribe, so I like to think that's why I attracted some really cool people ;)

If you are looking to gift your teacher-besties this holiday season, here is a cute idea. Go to my Instagram account ( @Bsbooklove ) where you will see a Teacher-bestie gift idea hop! You will find lots of other ideas and FREE printables from there! Be sure to follow everyone for great teacher tips and freebies like this!

 Search for the hashtag: #teacherbestiegiftideas


My idea for this hop is a cute printable for your teacher friends who love to thrift or browse used book stores. Simply print out this free printable, follow the directions below, and add chapstick and a gift card from their favorite thrift or book store! 





 Free download from Google Docs here: Merry Kissmas and a Happy New-To-You Year! 


1. Cut out the printable and one glitter square

2. Place hot glue around three edges

3. Press down the glitter square around the three edges 

4. Put a dab of hot glue on your lip gloss (it will peel right off later) 

5. Insert your gift card into the slot


Ta da! I love how festive this looks! 

I've also added just a "Merry Kissmas" for an even more frugal gift!


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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Tis the Season: How to add a little holiday spice to your seonday classroom


Thank you for stopping by! I've teamed up with some awesome secondary teachers for a holiday blog hop. Read my responses to the topics below then be sure to go check out the rest of the bloggers as well! May your holiday season be filled with well-behaved students and lots of mulled wine. ;) 


1.  One way you bring meaning to the season for your students:
I love thinking of clever ways to bring a little of the holiday season into my classroom. Since I teach high school, I can't go too over-the-top, but I bring in a few lessons that can be used with any text so that I can make our lessons festive without sacrificing my normal curriculum schedule. Here is a favorite: Ugly Christmas Sweater Symbolism to use with ANY text


Here's another newly added lesson to bring in some root word practice during the holiday season: 


As far as bringing the meaning of the season into my classroom, I focus on giving. Since there are always so many donation drives going on for kids, I choose to do a classroom drive for our local humane society. I'm a huge animal lover and adopted my precious Hank 8 years ago after finding him from a rescue group on PetFinder.com. Each year I put up a cat and dog tree in my room and students bring in gifts for the animals. Students really love doing this type of charity and learn a lot about compassion. 

Our "baby" :) 


2.  One way you bring meaning to the season for your family:
 Since we are both teachers, we always sponsor a few of our students who won't be getting anything for Christmas otherwise. Our schools round up the names and wish lists, and we get to shop for them. Even though the students will never know who the gifts are from, this tradition brings me so much joy. I always pick out a student in need that I have taught and love the challenge of finding the perfect gifts to match their personality and style. 

3. One thing you have on your TpT wishlist
 I'm teaching a brand new class next semester that is more of an "English for the real world" type of class, so I'm hoping to get Serial approved to teach just in time for Adnan's new hearing. To teach this unit,  I plan to use this lesson pack.  I think that this type of Common Core learning will be perfect for the seniors in my new class! 

4) One thing you have on your own wishlist:

I pretty much have every new Harry Potter product on my Amazon wishlist. These include the newly illustrated version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and the new adult coloring book.  Check out my Harry Potter classroom if you are a fan yourself! 

One thing you are looking forward to this season: 
I could go with something mushy here, but I will go with the truth--SNOW DAYS  #hollerifyouhearme


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Click below to hear more from other secondary teachers!



Wednesday, November 25, 2015

How to Make Your Photo Christmas Card on PowerPoint for .10 cents Each



I love to save money. I love designing creative lessons on PowerPoint. I love merging two loves together. ;)


Our 2015 Christmas Card made on PowerPoint 



Here is a tutorial for making your own photo Christmas card using PowerPoint: 

****Please note that the trial and tribulation it took to set up a tripod and get our dog to cooperate for at least one picture is not included in these steps ;). 

1. Open up a PowerPoint slide. 
2. Go to "Design." 
3. Change the size of the slide. If you want your cards to be printed as regular 4x6 prints, then double the size on your PowerPoint. So, 4x2=8 (height) and 6x2=12 (width). The same concept applies to other size choices. The reason you double the size is so that it won't be blurry once it saves to a JPEG file for printing.

 4. Go to Esty or Teachers Pay Teachers and find some digital paper that you like. You can find SO many FREE digital papers on Teachers Pay Teachers. You can also buy some even better ones on there for like $1. I went with Etsy this time though because I couldn't find this exact color of plaid that I liked on Teachers Pay Teachers. You can also go crazy and find tons of digital art to add to your card such as stockings, wreaths, and deer antler clip art.


5. Download and EXTRACT the files you just bought. This step is essential. You won't get a transparent background if you don't do this. 

 6. From there you just add in the digital paper and photos that you want to use. Under the Crop tab, you can crop your photos right inside the program and can even crop them to a shape such as a circle if you wish. You can also go to "format photo" and add a frame around your pictures.You can also add in text boxes to add words to your card (I wish that I would have filled in our text box on the left of our card because it's kind of hard to see the words). You can find tons of free fonts online--just search Google for the type of font you are looking for like "free Christmas fonts" and then download. TeachersPayTeachers has FREE fonts for personal use as well.

7 Once you have it to your liking, go to "File, Save As" and choose "JPEG." This will save it into a picture format.


7. Go to WalGreens or where ever you order your photos and order them as 4X6 prints. Be sure to remember the coupon code! As you can see, I ordered 51 prints for $5.10. #WINNING

If you like writing on yours, then you can buy those fancy oval labels at Staples or WalMart and stick them right on the back of each photo card. Or, you can just use a sharpie pen if the backs are blank.




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Monday, November 9, 2015

Don't Hate, Integrate: How to use Smartphones in the Classroom




I've been utilizing cell phones in my classroom for so long that I had forgotten some teachers are still putting up the good fight to control cell phone use in their classrooms. Back in 2010, my school implemented the "If you can't beat them, join them" mentality and started encouraging teachers to put cell phones to use in their classrooms rather than to try in vain to keep them out. The results have been tremendous. Basically, each teacher has the freedom to implement their own cell phone policy, and I can tell you that the ones who try to integrate cell phones in their lessons have fewer issues than the ones who don't. If students know that they will get to use their smartphones at least once during a lesson, then it seems to ease that itch to check it at inappropriate times. Also, this teaches a KEY life lesson: Cellphone Etiquette.  Smartphones can make us more efficient, eliminate paper waste, and help our brains engage, but not being consumed with a phone at inappropriate times is a lesson that must be taught.  There are respectful, life-long learning benefits of smartphones, and I want my students to learn these lessons.





If you are worried that using smartphones in the classroom will highlight the have and the have-nots, then think about some solutions rather than skipping out on these powerful learning tools altogether. Most of us have two or three old phones around the house. Our friends and family could add at least 10 more. Once the pictures and messages have been deleted, they can serve as spare smartphones in your classroom. They won't have the phone service, but once connected to the internet, students will be able to use them for all of the activities listed below. Another solution is to always make sure those without cell phones are paired with someone who has one.

How to integrate smartphones in the classroom: 

1. Remind: Most of us have heard of this service. It's a great way to contact parents and students to remind them about due dates, but it's also a great way to send out items students will need in class. I use it to send links to articles or websites that we are using in class each day. For the internet only spare cell phones, you can set up a generic class email for those phones then link the remind messages to it.

***FUN ALERT*** Another not-so-obvious way to utilize the Remind app even further is a little game I like to call "Quick Draw Paws" where you play a review game based on who has the quickest texting "paws." You can play this by putting students into groups (making sure at least one of the group members is signed up for your remind). Then, you start a chat with each team leader. Now, the chat should be open so that after you ask a review question, the answer that comes back to your chat the quickest wins the round.

*** FUN ALERT #2*** I figured out another awesome way to use Remind this week when I had my students use Snapchat to interpret The Canterbury Tales. Instead of my having to follow them, I had them take screen shots of the snaps then send them to me in Remind. It worked perfectly and was actually fun to grade! Ha! If you happen to teach The Canterbury Tales, you can find our more about that lesson here: The Canterbury Tales meet Snapchat Stories 


2. Overdrive: This app is a MUST HAVE. I'm so surprised about how few people use it. Once you link your local library account (our school library even has an account!), you can check out digital books just like you would from a brick and mortar library. Except for the special occasion where I don't want to wait for a book that's on hold, I haven't paid for a book in over 2 years. My reading rate has also drastically increased because it's so easy to pull the book up one my phone when I have extra time. This app also helps students gain access to more books, and they are able to use the dictionary and note-taking functions for close readings. 

3. Lark by Storybird: This is the type of app that I just can't believe is FREE. I'm a huge fan of Storybird, and this extension app didn't disappoint. Obviously, this app is used to create poems, but here are some not-so-obvious uses: Exit-tickets (have students create a poem to represent a key concept or how they felt about the lesson in general and flash their phones on the way out the door), Mood (have students showcase the mood of a story or speech by representing through art and words). Want to see an example of this app, read about it in this post: How to use Storybird with older students 

4. PollEveryWhere: Here's an oldie but goodie. Students text answers and codes to a provided number and the results show up on the screen in real time. Polleverywhere also allows for web responces. 
Here are some examples of how I have used it in the past: 

A poll to go along with this Crucible website: You're Accused! 


Only do the free response option if you are very brave ;) I use this one as a hook for the Wife of Bath's Tale from The Canterbury Tales. Students get a kick out of how their answers are VERY similar to the responses given over 600 years ago!! 


5. YouDoodle: See how I use this app to do close readings and blackout poems--Technology-Based Poetry Stations 
Here is an example of a close reading done with YouDoodle: 

6. Hokusai: This is a song editing app that allows you to very easily cut and splice songs together. They can also add in their own voice recording. Students can use this to create one mixed soundtracks for different assignments. Historial soundtracks, soundtrack of a character's life, and mood changes throughout a story are just a few ideas. You may also enjoy reading: Fun ways to use music in the English classroom 

7. Music:  Speaking of music, why not go with their desire to have their earbuds in at all times and design a lesson that incorporates their love of music? My history teacher husband uses this lesson with his middle schoolers for each world history lesson he teaches, and his 7th graders never get tired of it...never. Music is their lifeblood.



8. Bubble:  This app allows students to add thought bubbles to photographs. They could take selfies then give their thoughts on a topic, or they should take a screen shot of a character or historical painting and add captions about what the people in the photograph they are thinking.  I got this idea from this history teacher: History Tech . Go check out his example!

9. Other Photo Apps: Most likely your students already have an app that will allow then to add text to a photo. These apps can be used to make memes  to showcase learning in a funny way or to mark up photographs for different reasons. You can also use Skitch that is mentioned above for this. 

 Here is an amazing example of how this strategy can be used: 


10. Kahoot:  Another one most people have heard of by now. My high school students get SO into this game. They love it! I love it because I have yet to have to make  my own kahoot. I simply search the community of kahoots and find what I'm looking for from other fabulous teachers who have saved my booty numerous lesson-ends-10-minutes-too-early- times. ;) 


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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Fun and Rigorous Halloween Activities for Older ELA Students





Raise your hand if you are tired of seeing elementary teachers getting to have all the fun around the holidays!!! (both hands raised).

I somehow got persuaded to teach at an after-school program for elementary students recently, and what amazed me the most from that experience was how EXCITED those little kids were over EVERYTHING. Why should the fun stop after 5th grade? Why can't secondary teachers help older students bring back a little of that enthusiasm for learning?

Here are a few of my favorite fall and Halloween inspired lessons from around the web that are fun enough to add a little holiday cheer to your classroom and rigorous enough to where you wouldn't be embarrassed if administration walked during the lesson. ;)

As a bonus, since I hate messing up my normal flow of lessons, these activities can be done with ANY piece of literature; this means you can use them no matter where you are in your curriculum when Halloween rolls around!




1. Have students write about the "ghosts" that characters face



Extend this lesson by adding in some informational text found here: 8 Ways to Release Ghosts from the Past and be Happy in the Present  and having students apply that advice to their character in an informational writing format. 

2. Work on writing revision by having students find overused words using a word cloud generator then replacing those words with more precise language. 
Download this free tombstone template here: RIP Words 

3. Have students think critically about symbols and color connotations by designing a pumpkin for a character or author. 
           Link to this lesson here: Painted Pumpkin Symbolism and Haloween Writing 

Don't you just love that Harry Potter pumpkin!? Also, I  MUST tell you about my favorite YouTube station of all time. This extremely talented person has created hours and hours of Harry Potter Ambient Sounds and they are everything. I'm playing this one on repeat on Halloween day. 

4. Work on root words by practicing with Halloween-inspired roots
Here's a list of 10 of the 30  Halloween roots words in this lesson: 

Abnormal -from, away
Biopsy-life
Carnivore-flesh, meat
Incision-cut
Corpse-body 
Abduct-lead 
Hemoglobin- blood
Horror- dreadful
Morgue- death 
Sci-fi - science 

These are so fun to use with little creative writing assignments such as a response to a Poe reading or an original Halloween poem. If you would like my full list of Halloween root words along with a Halloween root word worksheets, be sure to sign up for my newsletter below! 


5. Sneak in a little test prep by doing a Halloween informational text close reading



Want to search more secondary fall ideas!? Be sure to follow this collaborative board!