Monday, September 18, 2017

5 Ways English Teachers Can Incorporate Career Education into a Curriculum

I know what you're thinking. You're stumped for ideas on how you can incorporate Career Education material into your English Language Arts curriculum. When I was given the task to teach Career Education courses for grades 9-12, I was hesitant and unsure of where to look for resources or how to go about planning. Through my personal experience and research, I have discovered that it is not only EASY to incorporate Career Education into an ELA classroom, but it's also never too early to start either. 
The implementation of Career Education looks different at various grade levels, yet this exposure helps to prepare and expose students to a variety of different jobs and careers available.

At the elementary level, career education could be as simple as a tour to a work site (usually to police stations, firehouses, hospitals, etc). Where the ELA connection comes in would be the reflection of that site visit. What did you see? Who did you meet? What did you learn?

At the middle school level, career education could be implemented via guest speakers in the classroom. Students at this age may not be thinking about their career, (as it is likely to change numerous times), but it is at this time when career exploration can begin. Guest speakers are easier to come by (than you might think) all you have to do is ask! I have had a variety of guest speakers from numerous jobs and trades come to speak with my students, such as carpenters, veterinarians, optometrists, business owners, entrepreneurs, musicians, you name it! I have students use this A Day in the Life of...Career Day Guest Speaker Questionnaire anytime that I have had someone come into my class. So, not only are they reading and writing down the responses, they are also taking turns asking the questions.
A Day in the Life of...Career Day Guest Speaker Questionnaire
At the high school level, the most obvious way to implement career education into a classroom is through work experience. This is the best way to expose students to what types of careers and jobs are out there, as well as what is best suited for them. However, not all schools are able to offer such programming, so here is what English teachers can do with their students:

1. Complete research on a career of interest.
2. Learn the proper format of a resume, then write one.
3. Learn the proper format of a cover letter, then write one. 

This way, when those job opportunities open up, all they have to do it hit "print" and they're on their way!

Another simple way to implement career exploration-type activities would be to hold a mock interview with your students. Believe it or not, students actually take this activity quite seriously. After reviewing what a "good" and a "bad" interview might look like with my students using this Mock Interview Preparation & Questions Activity, I can begin completing interviews.

Mock Interview Preparation & Questions Activit

Three methods I have used in the past:
1. Whole-class interview: To get students comfortable with the interview process, I have orally asked questions aloud, then when students are ready to respond (trust me, the students who love to talk will have their hands up before the question is over) they raise their hand, and I call upon them to provide their response. Not every student will necessarily provide a response (unless you want to go around the class and ask each student), but if anything, even if each student does not individually answer a question aloud, it gives everyone an idea as to what types of questions might be asked. I usually throw in a curveball question or two - it is surprising how well students can answer these!

Sample question: If you could be any McDonald's hamburger, what would you be and why? I tell them to try to connect the qualities of what's being asked to strengths that they might have, as well as what qualities would be desirable for an employer looking to hire someone.

Sample response: I would select a Big Mac if I could be any McDonald's hamburger. I think a Big Mac is an excellent selection because it not only stands above all of the hamburgers on the menu, it has a variety of layers (qualities), which are desirable to anyone wanting to eat one. The larger number of layers making up the various strengths I would have should I be hired for this job. Employees should bring a variety of layers (strengths) to their position, so that all tasks can be done in the most efficient manner possible.

2. Student Mock Interviews: This activity can be either a formative or summative assessment, depending on what you are looking for. You can have students volunteer to present "good" (on time, professional attired, handshake, eye contact, detailed responses) and "bad" (late, poor hygiene, dirty clothes, lack of interest, short responses)  interviews in front of the class. Again, great practice for actual interviews, but also fun to watch for students who may have to prepare the "bad" interviews. Recording and then showing the video to the class (or just the teacher) of the interviews is an option you might like to give students, especially those who are particularly shy.

3. Graded Mock Interviews: I have luckily had the opportunity to have my class covered by another teacher/admin while completing mock interviews with my students for a grade. In addition to myself, I always tried to have someone else present in the room (and you don't necessarily have to tell your students this!) before the interview. This is a great confidence builder for reluctant learners. It was easy to find something positive in their interview that I was able to share with them (even though they may not have realized it was noticeable).

Nobody understands time like a teacher. There's only so much time we have to spend on certain units, so in the teacheing world, time is money! You don't necessarily need to dedicate an entire unit to Career Education, you can incorporate Career Exploration into a daily routine for a few weeks. If you're already using bell-ringer writing prompts to start your class, then your students might like the refreshing change of these prompts to their existing routine.

In the cases where I was limited for time, I used these 25 Career Exploration Writing Prompts with my students. You can either project the prompts on a SmartBoard for students, print out the prompts in a journal-style format, or use the prompts in stations (if you need to get your students moving) in a task card-style format. They are a win-win for students (making them think critically about careers and their future) and English teachers (they are practicing their writing skills and you can pick and choose which prompts you might like to use and grade!)
Career Exploration Writing Prompts
I have created a FREE Dream Job Worksheet, so that you can begin exploring careers in your classroom TODAY! The one-page worksheet is a simple, yet effective way to begin some preliminary research on a job or career of interest.

The 14 questions provided on the worksheet will prompt your students to select ANY job/career to research, so that they can begin formulate whether or not that job is a suitable fit for them or not.

This is an easy way to incorporate into your classroom, as it does take a lot of time to complete, yet it covers all of the necessary questions! Click HERE to grab your free copy of the worksheet.

Dream Job Worksheet
Finally, the easiest way to get your students talking about what types of jobs or careers are both best-suited to them and readily available, are to hold classroom discussions. You can prompt your students by writing these 10 questions on a whiteboard and see where the discussion takes you!

1) What would be the WORST type of job?
2) What would be the BEST type of job?
3) What's one job you know you could never do?
4) Identify your ideal place to work.
5) What are your strengths?
6) What are your weaknesses?
7) What is your most valuable skill or talent?
8) What are your short-term job/career goals?
9) What are your long-term job/career goals?
10) If you could have any job in the world, what would it be and why?

I would love to hear from you! How have you incorporated Career Education resources into your classroom? How has it worked with your students?

Monday, September 4, 2017

10 Ways to Improve Your Class Climate With Simple Rewards and Incentives

Some people think that high school students are too old for incentives and rewards. After teaching high school English for the last 10 years, I can attest to the fact that it's just not true! They love it just as much as any other grade level - believe it or not!

Motivation is the main reason for the incentive. Different from the need in elementary, but nonetheless, you're dealing with emotional teens and making them happy is helpful to any teacher.

Here are a few things high school students can either be rewarded for or rewarded with:

1. Stickers: I don't believe it truly matters what type of sticker you give a student. They seem to ALWAYS make my students smile. They love to compare their stickers with their friends. Who knew?
It's official. I have enough stickers to last me a lifetime of teaching!
2. Free time: Students LOVE technology, but hate that they can't use it 24/7. Reward a student with 10-15 minutes at the end of a class period with free time on a tablet or computer. Better yet, READING time!

3. Music/cell phone: Similar to free time, reward a student with the ability to listen to music with their headphones during independent work or towards the end of a class period. Sometimes I play music for the entire class while they work - they all seem to enjoy a little background noise!

4. Snacks: What student is going to pass up free snacks? None! Chips, pretzels, small chocolates, lollipops, it doesn't matter! You have hungry teens! They are happy with a small boost of sugar or salt.

5. Homework pass: It is a fact that students don't ALWAYS do their homework. It happens and they hate being punished for it. Reward them with one homework pass to use once a semester for a good deed you witnessed them do.

6. Helping a classmate: Did you catch a student helping out a classmate with homework? Or sitting together at lunch reviewing or studying with a peer? That deserves to be rewarded, and that rewarded could come as a simple, "Wow! Great job!"

7. Cleaning up: Teens are messy individuals. Reward students when you see them cleaning up a classroom, tidying up in the cafeteria or hallway. Again, sometimes a small compliment can go a long way! They will remember.

8. Improved tardiness: Being late to school and to class is a major problem is every school. Rewarding those habitual offenders who are trying their best to improve being late with further motivate them to keep coming on time. Click HERE for a blog post about how I managed to get students to get my students class on time!

9. Grade improvement: Students hate with their grades slip almost as much as we do. Reward those students who are trying their best and working harder to improve their grade (extra help, peer tutoring, etc.)

10. Standing up against bullying: Have you witnessed a student doing the right thing when they see a peer being bullied? This definitely deserves to be rewarded. It is a hard thing for a student to do, even though they know it's the right thing to do. Let their classmates know you witnessed something brave - it will catch on!

These are all simple and easy things that students can be rewarded with and for. Keeping high school students happy is no easy task, that's for sure. Anything teachers can do to improve positive behavior and happiness in a classroom is worth the effort, no matter how small it may seem to be.

What rewards have worked in your classroom?

Friday, April 28, 2017

Using Interactive Notebooks and Games to Teach Essential English Language Arts Skills

Learn Important English Language Arts Skills Using Interactive Games

Learning ELA skills is essential to any language arts curriculum. It is how we are taught to read and write properly. Learning these skills, however, is not always exciting for students. Whether at the elementary, middle or high school level, students may find this area of their English class to be dry, dull and plain old uninteresting. The solution? Games! Students respond well to competition and interactive activities. They love playing against each other and winning. Below are five types of games your students can play, at all grade levels, where they're both learning ELA material and having FUN!

 1. Grammar Races: This interactive learning game is both exciting and educational, while learning proper grammar usage. This activity can be done individually, in small groups or even a team. Students can use this interactive notebook resource to reinforce and improve their grammar skills. The teacher can read commonly confused or mistaken words by racing each other to create sentences that properly use that word. Teachers also have the option to read a sentence aloud and have students write that sentence by applying the correct word that they just heard read orally. The options are unlimited for how this can be presented and practiced within a classroom. The assignment is editable, so teachers have flexibility with the activity, too. The students have fun with this assignment and do not realize they are learning along the way. Click HERE for a closer look!

2. Punctuation Races: Due to the success of the Grammar Races activity, I created a similar resource, but with a focus on punctuation. Again, this activity can be done individually, in groups or in a team. One way to implement this activity in your classroom is by having students cut out the provided punctuation mark definitions and race each other in order to connect the marks with their corresponding term. Again, the activity is editable, fun and interactive! Click HERE for a closer look!

3. Social Media Madness: This activity can be used at the middle or high school level. Students are given a handout with actual posts from various social media outlets. You can grab the free handout HERE. Their job is to re-write that post, but making the necessary corrections in spelling, grammar, and punctuation. (Keeping in mind that names and profile pictures should be crossed off) Teachers could also create fake posts and students could make the necessary corrections to those as well, but to save you some time, and to get students really excited about practicing these skills, Presto Plans has done the work for you and created a Social Media Grammar Activity, where students review and make changes to celebrity social media posts. This is a win-win for both students and teachers. :) 

4.  SWAT: This is a whole-class game that involves working together to review different types of verbs. For example, split your class into two teams and write three types of verbs on your board: action, linking and helping. One person from each team should come to the front of the class. The teacher should read a sentence aloud and the two students should race to "SWAT" which kind of verb had been used in the oral sentence. Click HERE for other middle and high school games for grammar usage

5. JENGA: This game works best in groups of four, with multiple game sets available in a classroom. The teacher would have to do some prep work beforehand, such as writing on each of the Jenga blocks, for whichever skills need to be reviewed. Jenga is played by slowly and carefully removing the wooden (or paper) piece from the stack, without knocking all of the blocks over, and placing that block on the top. For example, if you are currently teaching adjectives, you have placed adjectives on the blocks. When students go to draw from the stack, you could have them write or verbally say the sentence using that adjective. Teachers have enough work, so here's a FREE template that I found where students can both create and write on for the game. 
I hope these games make learning the skills of ELA enjoyable for your students. The numbers of ways to teach students these skills is countless, so why not have some fun while you're at it! There's nothing like a little friendly classroom competition! So, in the end, yes, English class can be a lot of FUN!