Saturday, February 13, 2016

Painless Ways to Go Paper-Free in Your Classroom



This title should read "Painless Ways to go *Almost*Paper-free in Your Classroom" since some of these ideas do require a little paper. However, if you are completely overwhelmed by the thought of going 1:1 and the pressure of going paper-free that goes along with it, then hopefully this post will give you some ideas to ease that transition fear and workload.

1. Zip-grade with a twist. One reason that there is such a huge push for going digital is that state testing is going that way. Reading on paper and reading on the screen is NOT the same. If students aren't practicing reading and testing on a screen until testing day, then those students will be a big disadvantage. However, it takes SO. MUCH. TIME. to get your tests in a digital format. I'm currently working on putting mine on Canvas, but until then, Zipgrade day, then those students will be a big disadvantage. However, it takes SO. MUCH. TIME. to get your tests into a digital format. I'm currently working on putting mine on Canvas, but until then, Zipgrade is my solution. Zipgrade is an app that grades via printed "scantrons" by taking and storing a picture. You can read more about it here: link. I can upload a paper test for students on my website or in their classroom OneNote, and they can read it from their screen. But instead of selecting answers online, they fill out a Zipgrade form.  If they get the test on a Word Document, they can use the strike out function and highlighting function while taking the test.

2. Page Protectors. When you do need to use a paper copy of something such as an article that's blocked at school or a story in a textbook, page protectors are perfect! Instead of making all my classes a copy of something, I will have them put a shared copy in a page protector before highlighting or marking on it. I've found that yellow highlights and black dry erase markers work best. I keep these supplies in a little folder for each row. As you can see from the bottom right photo, if you cut a page protector in half, then it will fit perfectly in the spine of the textbook so that it lays flat on each page. My husband is a history teacher, and he uses this method all the time for maps. He says that they love the page protectors so much more than regular paper copies!



3. Get your shop on. Any time there's a huge transition in education, teachers are unfairly expected to start all over by making every new lesson plan from scratch. There's a better way. Follow the beacon of light to Teacher Pay Teachers and use their new search function to find digital lessons for your classroom. Think about it. What's your time worth? You will pay $3-$5 for something that will take your HOURS, DAYS or WEEKS to do yourself. When contemplating turning your WHOLE set of lesson plans into digital activities, that amount of time per lesson is completely impossible. To search for digital resources on Teachers Pay Teachers, go to the sidebar and click to see all types of resources under "Top Resource Types." From there, you can search for Google Apps or Microsoft OneDrive. The resources you will find in this search are sharing ready. All you have to do is purchase, download, and share with your students. It's that easy! 

Here is my first e-activity if you want to check it out. To Build a Fire e-Activity 


4. Microsoft OneNote. If you are in a Microsoft school, then you should have access to Microsoft's new Classroom OneNote. OneNote is set up exactly like a notebook and you as a teacher will have the main access to it, but when you add students, they will get their OWN notebook plus have limited access to yours (they can copy and paste, but they can't edit). If you open one of these Notebooks, then all of you have do is "print" your old paper resources to your OneNote. Then, students can type directly over the sheet. It's not active like the resources you will find in your TpT search, but it does make for an EASY transition to becoming paper-free. Students can access their Notebooks on their phones or computers, so that's nice too. Below is an example of a worksheet my students used to do on paper. All I had to do was go to the "File>Print" on that document and "print" it to my notebook. Students were then able to paste it into their notebooks and type or copy and paste directly onto the form. You can also read these two posts if you are interested in learning more about Classroom OneNote: How to Creep on Your Students They Have a Sub Using Classroom OneNote  and How to Send Valentines to Your Students Using Classroom OneNote 

5. Embrace cellphones. These little min-computers students are attached to can aid tremendously when trying to become paper-free. I wrote a detailed post full of ideas about using cellphones in the classroom, and you can read that here: Don't Hate, Integrate 

Want to find more digital ideas? Be sure to following my Pinterest! 

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Valentine's Day Activities for High School and Middle School ELA Students




When I was a kid, I used to hate Valentine's Day. It was always SO nerve-wracking for me because I was TERRIFIED of being that kid who only got 2 or 3 valentines on exchange day and only because those kids had parents who made them sign a valentine for every student in the class. It didn't get any better in middle school because only the cool girls had boyfriends and were getting flowers on that day. I can remember once that my mom sent me flowers because she must have sensed my turmoil surrounding this day. Fortunately, she had the foresight to not put "Love Mom" on them. ;)

I always had this vision that when I was a teacher, I would try to make Valentine's Day a special and positive experience for students who might need a little laughter and light-heartedness on this day. But then, I got hired as a high school teacher and basically just didn't even acknowledge the day at all for years. However, since I have realized that you can still make the holidays fun and special while also incorporating rigorous learning standards....even with older students.

Here are some ways to bring a little Valentine's Day fun into your classroom: 

1. Have students do an analysis of their favorite love or anti-love song. They can figure out the rhyme scheme, find at least 3 figures of speech, and give a summary of the song's deeper meaning.

2. Do a little comparing and contrasting using hearts instead of circles.


3. Do a STEM challenge by having students read an informational text about the heart failure risks of too much sitting and then design a solution to this problem. Continuing with this idea, have students debate or write an argumentative essay about the new trend of having students stand up while in school. 

4. Set up a "speed dating" session for the free-choice book they are reading. This event was probably my favorite day of last semester. It only took me a few minutes to set up, but my high schoolers truly appreciated my effort and had a BLAST talking about the books they are reading. You can find this for FREE in my TpT store here: Speed Dating a Book Conversation Starters . Examples include: Where are you from? Tell me about your setting. Where do you see yourself fitting in? Tell me about your genre.



5. Candy wrapper grammar. If you give out candy for Valentine's Day, have students get in pairs and use the wrappers to come up with sentences. Each group must form 1 complex sentence, 1 compound sentence, and one compound-complex sentence using at least 10 candy wrappers (the mini kind!).

6. Do a poem puzzle using Storybird. Have students create a poem using a Valentine's themed picture search. To up the challenge, you can have them use one example of personification, one parallel verse, one set of alliteration, etc. (P.S. Storybird generates the word bank, so making this one was a challenge. I did the best I could because I really wanted to use the dog love picture). :)
Directions on how to use Storybird (just scroll down the post a bit)

7. Decorate your room with literary posters and hand out punny valentines that only English teachers could love.  My students got a kick out of these last year, and I can't wait to try a tip that a buyer suggested by also using these in my room as February decorations. :) They can be printed as posters and as cards! 


If you think these might be a little too advanced for your younger students, I also have these: Punny School Supply Valentines 

8. Have students write a love letter to a book. On a whim, I put up a goodbye letter template on my board when we finished Animal Farm. The week before, I had read that Mud, Ink and Teaching gives her students creative ways to finish novels so that there's no awkwardness at the end. One of those ways was to write a letter to the book. I didn't trust that all my students would take it seriously, so I put a template up for them to go by, and oh my goodness, they BLEW me away with their responses.
After such a great experience, I decided that I was going to create greeting cards for books for any occasion. I made writing templates for all occasions and put them on some pretty stationery paper (digital or zen doodle). I included a love letter template in the set that is perfect for Valentine's Day!


8. Teenage angst color-by-number. I try to use coloring therapy every time I get the chance! Students love getting into the flow of coloring, and it's a nice break from staring at their computer screens. Since I also want to make sure whatever I'm doing is rigorous and content-based, I designed a color by number "Grumpy Cat" coloring sheet that can be used with ANY subject and ANY questions. I'm going to be wrapping up A Separate Peace next week, so I'm going to have 10 questions about that book. Instead of answering traditionally, students will choose "A, B, C, etc." by coloring a part of the cat according to which answer they want to choose. A=Gray, B=Brown, C=Yellow. They are going to love it!


Would you like some grumpy cat book marks!? Be sure to sign up for my newsletter using the form below: 


9. Even if you have to keep class as normal on V-day, you can still make it special by playing a little themed-ambient sound in the background. I'm HOOKED on this YouTube station that has tons of Harry Potter ambient sounds. Here is theValentine's Day one

10. Wear a cute Teeshirt (the modern version of the classic teacher holiday sweater and pin ha!) All proceeds from this shirt go to St. Jude's Hospital. I can only set the campaign for 3 days in order for the shirt to arrive on time, so this will end Jan. 24th 2017. Be sure to follow me for next year's design! (or possibly a repeat of this one).


Have a wonderful Valentine's Day and know that your students love you! 
Xoxo, Ashley 

P.S. My newsletter subscribers will be getting a free Valentine's Day activity sent to their inbox! Be sure to sign up for my email at the top to join in! 

Monday, February 1, 2016

Sending Your Students Valentines in Classroom OneNote



I've been a long-term OneNote user, but this is my first semester using Classroom OneNote with my students. 4 weeks in and I'm in love--well, actually, Classroom OneNote had me at hello  Help I'm Sick the FIRST Week of School. When you start thinking about going paper-free, this is the absolutely the MOST pain-free way to go because you can take all of your paper resources and print them right to Classroom OneNote. Students are then able to type right over top of the form in their own Notebook. It's true that a flat, printed resource won't be as engaging as some of the moveable and interactive lesson that I'm currently building, but as a way to jump into the digital learning scene as quickly as possible, this is the way to go.

If you are a middle school or high school English teacher who would like to get updates on these interactive digital resources I'm designing or more ideas like this one, sign up for my newsletter here:



So far we've been doing all work and no play with our notebooks, but I also want to use them for fun too! This Valentine's Day I plan on giving out digital valentines for my sweet students. I teach high schoolers, so I can just imagine the eye-rolls I will get with these puns, but I know that deep down they will love them. :)

It's SUPER easy to send these to students in Classroom OneNote. All you have to do is open a PowerPoint with the cards, copy a slide from the PowerPoint and paste it right into the spot you want it in their notebook. I'm thinking about doing a scavenger hunt with these. Such as, "To get your Valentine Day candy, you will need to find your Valentine's Day card first. Go to the place where we worked out the epic hero traits of Beowulf."

Doble click the image to enlarge directions: 


You can make your own valentines in PowerPoint, or you can check mine out here:




Here's to Classroom OneNote love! 
XOXO, Ashley 

If you are a OneNote and OneDrive fan, be sure to follow my Microsoft Pinterest Board!