Saturday, August 20, 2016

10 Things for English Teachers to Have on Hand that Make it Look Like You Have a Plan





Alternate Title: 10 Tickets to Keep You from Looking Like You Just Stepped Off the HotMess Express ;)

I think my brain must work better in panic mode because most of my more creative ideas come to me about 5 minutes before class beings when I have absolutely no plan for the day. I can normally throw something together pretty quickly, but I've learned that if I have my "oh crap what am I going to do today" go-to's  already printed, ready, and stored in my classroom, then I can actually act like I have my sh*t together without my students (or surprise evaluator)  being none the wiser. :) 

10 Things to Have on Hand:


1. DIY Dry Erase Boards. All I did was take a cheap poster frame that I found at a yard sale and turn the poster around to the blank white side. I have two of these now, but I'm going to add more. They work SO well for random activities such as game playing stations, brainstorming group boards, poll taking, 4 corner consensus, etc. If you look at the pictures below, you can see that I added some cheap plastic holders under each one for markers and erasers. I put them on with command strips.  If  you can't find these frames used, Amazon sells a 2 pack of 24x36 frames for $24. $12 each for whiteboard isn't too bad! 

Command Strip holder  for stations supplies 

2. Sticky Notes (obviously). It's hard to tell how many times sticky notes have saved my you-know-what. 
*I have used them to do the "Thought Tug of War" Strategy  
*Revealing character traits like in my Serial Unit (You can do this on plain paper too in a pinch) 


*Weigh the evidence strategy. An original of mine that I thought of on the fly when I knew my students were on the verge of falling into major zone-out mode during To Build a Fire. Gist: Put students into groups. Have them write evidence for something controversial siding one way or the other. Then, have one group member stand up and use their arms as a tippable scale. With each bit of sticky-note evidence that is placed on one arm, it tips to on side. You can then have the scale people come up to the front and consolidate all evidence to one human scale. 
*Group sentence combing practice using key quotes from a text  (free template and further explanation in link to an older post) 

3. A Soccer Ball. Another strategy to have ready for when you need them to wake up and focus is a soccer ball with literary questions written on it that can be used with any text. 

 If you would like a full set of 35 questions to choose from, be sure to sign up for my monthly newsletter for secondary English teachers (see email form below). If you already get my newsletters, just email me for a copy! 

4. Act it out task cards. These work especially well when you are reading a play and have no specific activity to do. I will find a key part in the section we are reading that day, and I will assign it as silent reading. Then I put my students into groups of 5 and let them quickly put together a mini play for that section. I don't give them any help in figuring out what the lines mean and when they act it out around 15 minutes later, the group to have the most correct and creative interpretation wins. I am always so amazed at what they can come up with in such a short amount of time!! 
Want to see how this works in a 1:1 classroom? Click Here: Digital Act It Out Sample 

5. Four Corner Signs. The strongly agree, agree, strong disagree, and disagree signs are classics to have on hand for when you are working on argumentative writing. I just leave them up all year and use them when I need them! 

6. Literary Yoga Centers  Here is something else I always leave hanging up in my room for when I want to quickly do a fun activity for any text. You can read all about it here: Yoga for the English Classroom

7. Page protectors. If you cut the seam out of a page protector, it will lay perfectly in a textbook and allow for close reading. Combine that with some sort of close reading strategy, and you have yourself an instant plan!
Free DownLoad from my drive here: Mark Up the Text PDF


I share all of my ideas on Instagram first, so follow me here: Bsbooklove

8. Critical Reading Lenses. These are super fun. You can use them with ANY fiction text, and it really helps students to think about the different lenses in which we can view literature. Link: Analyzing Fiction through Critical Lenses with Harry Potter Examples 

9. Nonfiction Reading Lenses. Like the ones above, students use these to find different aspects of informational text. I keep both sets of these printed and ready for when I need a go-to reading activity. They work great for group roles as well! Link: Informational Text Reading Lenses 




10. Rhetorical Devices and Highlighters. This is one of my best sellers because it's very simple yet effective. The visual helps students to learn, and there are so many things in which you can use the highlighting strategy. 

Here is an example of how I used it with Julius Caesar. I put them into groups of three. Each person had one rhetorical appeal to search for. Once they finished, they cut out their highlights and formed a bar graph on my board to show Brutus' rhetorical strategies compared to that of Antony's. Interesting data! 

Bonus idea: Playlist assignment (I thought of this one after I finished this post, but I'm not going back to change the title and picture now. Ha!) My history teacher husband and I collaborated on this one (he is a huge music fan), so it will work for any novel or author or any person from history. We use these ALL the time because they are so easy to do students LOVE it.

Agin, my Instagram account is @Bsbooklove if you want to follow along!


Thank you for stopping by and I hope that a few these ideas help you to have a little less stressful school year! :)  xoxo Ashley 

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Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Making Thoreau Proud



Last New Year I made it a goal to blog about my teaching ideas at least once a month, but I slipped big time this summer. My brain can only produce so much creativity, and this summer I spent it all on remodeling our new home-- a little cabin in the woods. The Transcendentalists is probably my favorite American Literature time period and every time I taught Thoreau, Emerson and the modern tie-in Into the Wild, I would get more and more convicted about the "Simplicity, Simplicity, Simplicity!" lifestyle that Thoreau so adamantly evangelizes. This past year, I designed a lesson that taps into the mindset behind the Tiny House Movement in comparison with the Transcendentalists. My students LOVED designing tiny houses for these literary legends and our discussions about consumerism ran deep.



 Around this same time, my husband and I started having our own conversations about what is really important in our lives and what experiences, rather than things, we would like to devote our money to. So in an unconventional act that I like to feel would make Thoreau proud, we downsized to a 700 square foot cabin by a creek in the woods. We also practiced self-reliance by remodeling it ourselves. Being two teachers, we definitely practiced our cooperative learning skills ;).

Here's the grand tour of our little place in the world: 
Summer View 

Winter View 






We might live in a little house, but we fit our king size bed in there! Priorities people! Ha :) 
Everyday view
Christmas View

I love how widening the doorway just a foot created so much of an impact. As you can tell from the before picture below, we reused the French doors from the kitchen by adding them to some barn door tracks. 


The original concrete countertop was in bad shape, so I added a thin layer of concrete over top and had some fun with paint and a water bottle to get the design of faux marble. I sealed it layers and layers of clear concrete sealer after I was finished with the paint.  I love how it turned out! Here's what the messy process looked like: 


Our biggest change was in the bathroom. The original bathroom was well done, but it had a ton of wasted space (there was basically a hallway in the bathroom). We reconfigured the closet and bath turning it into two bathrooms--master and guest. Our "master" bathroom is about 40 square feet. Ha! 

As you can see in the before, the bathroom had a double entry from the bedroom and from the kitchen. LOTs of wasted space. The after uses every inch!



Our bathtub very "Tennessee," but to keep costs down, we used a trough that I painted white for the bathtub. I love that it has a view of the creek....and that it was $99 compared to a $2099 miniature clawfoot tub. ;) 

I found this dresser to redo at a yard sale for $10! Boom! 
This is the 4th vanity I've made. They are very easy to make if you use the sinks that set on top. It's honestly as simple as setting the sink on top, drawing a circle for the drain hole, and drilling through the wood. You do this for the faucet too. I will NEVER buy a real vanity. The markup for such a simple thing to build is ridiculous.  

Here is our tiny Master bath:
I'm very proud to say that I did all of the tile work in our master bath myself. Now I can tell my students that you really can learn to do anything if you can read! 

One of the scariest things we did was have the ceiling removed in the living room. As you can see, it was a flat 8 foot ceiling. The sheetrock was removed, the roof beams were left in place, the wires were rerouted, insulation was added to the roof, and recycled barn tin was screwed in over the insulation. By the time we got to this project, we were both too exhausted to do it ourselves, so this ended up being the only thing we hired out (except for the rough in plumbing and electrical work of course). I tried to find information about this type of project on the internet, but there is none. Therefore, I'm going to be a good content provider and add pictures here of what it looks like to expose ceiling beams. It was scary and messy, but the end results were worth it. 
Attic view before they began 

During the tearing out process. Please note ALL THOSE WIRES. 

Progress view
I forgot to take a picture of the insulation, but it's in there! 





And I will leave you with my favorite reading spot house. This is the view from our bed **swoon**. I found this amazing propane fireplace on Craigslist for a STEAL at $300. Is it fall yet?? 

***Note, we now have grown-up chairs and don't feel like we are in college again. :)


If you want to see more little glimpses of our cabin and we are adjusting to the space, you can follow my Instagram at Bsbooklove or my Pinterest Board below. :)