Monday, July 27, 2015

The Classroom Sparrow Goes Back to School


It's A Bird... It's A Plane... It's The Literary League's Back to School Blog Hop!! Hard to imagine that we are already planning for another school year, the summer just goes by way too fast! While the inevitable is near, the planning must begin! So, once again, for those who say teachers don't work in the summer....think again!!

Who am I?
I have seven years of teaching experience teaching grades 9-12, in particular English Language Arts. Teaching English is, by far one of my favorite subjects to teach because there is a lot of room for flexibility in what you teach, you can have your students meet different outcomes by doing different activities and still have fun doing it. In addition to English Language Arts, I have taught an array of subjects all the way from 2D Animation to Family Studies. Fun fact: A week prior to school starting, I was notified that the Family Studies class included a weekly day care for part of my class. Talk about giving a Type A personality experience a minor heart attack! All ended well, but that's why planning is key and why The Literary League has come to your planning rescue.

Reluctant reader strategy:
If I come across a student who is not interested in a novel study, it challenges me to find ways to engage them in reading. During reading strategies, while daunting for students at the start, can get students engaged in the material they are reading.  Then as they start to dissect the novel, they get a better understanding of why authors make the choices they do. For this reason, literature circles and classroom discussions are a great strategy that I would recommend for teachers of reluctant readers. Usually, I have three different novels going at one time and the students are so engaged in their discussion, that I can easily manage going back and forth between the groups without the students getting off-topic; hard to believe, but true!

One of my favorite novels: 
Keeping on the theme of reluctant readers, I too fell into this category as a child. I never really enjoyed reading, which most of my English department colleagues nearly gasp at the first time they hear me tell them. I, however, feel as though the fact that I was a reluctant reader myself is beneficial to any future uninterested readers I have in my classes. Why? I get where they are coming from. My job is to show them that reading can be enjoyable. Part of the problem I think was finding a style of author that I really enjoyed. Last summer, I decided to do something crazy. Something that my teenage self would scoff at. I went to the book store and bought myself a book! That book was The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Wow, what an amazing read! I was captivated the entire book.  I highly recommend this as a personal read, as well as for a classroom novel study. You can find the novel study I created for this book here

The Fault in Our Stars Novel Unit by The Classroom Sparrow

First day of school activity: 
I think English teachers thoroughly enjoy getting to know you activities for a couple of reasons.  Not only that it not only gives us some information on the student, but it also gives us a glimpse into the writing skills of a particular student.
From these types of activities, we can see what we might have to focus on during the next few weeks to help prepare our students for a new school year. During the first few days of a class, I have the students complete a Back to School Newspaper Article

The Classroom Sparrow Goes Back to School

Why this activity is helpful:
1) It gives each student an opportunity to settle into a new class by working on an activity for the first couple of days. 

2) It gives me a look into each student's individual writing ability, with an article short enough to get a good idea of their writing, but not too long where they will lose interest.

3) The assignment gives the students a choice as to what they might like to write about, so they aren't stuck staring at the outline with a lack of ideas or interest. 

You're not alone if you feel like you are not quite ready to head back to school, but let The Literary League help to ease some of that stress by checking out a few of our back to school ideas!




Monday, July 13, 2015

Essay Grading Time Saver


Calling all English teachers! If you're an English teacher, you know the feeling of the dreaded essay pile-up. Just when you think you're ahead of the game, another class of essays comes in. Back to square one.

I can honestly say that teaching essays is one of my favorite things. Why? I feel like I have a pretty good essay-teaching system, and most importantly, I don't spend countless hours marking essays. Saying that, this wasn't always the case. I distinctly remember editing the same essays four or five times a few years ago, then I realized that was just crazy! Not only was I editing the same essays over and over, but the students who really needed the help were not getting the editing help they needed.

Due to the fact that I could literally look over an essay several times and still make suggestions or changes each time, I decided that I needed to hold students accountable for their work and give every student in the class an opportunity to get some help with their essay. So, I created the Triple-Check Interactive Essay Rubric. Interested? Click HERE to check it out!

Essay Grading Time Saver

The GOAL of this activity was to cut down on my marking time, but also encourage students to review a variety of elements that I would be grading (prior to handing in their essay). The great thing about this self/peer/teacher evaluation, is that more than one peer can review the various categories; therefore, if you have a student who has a strong understanding of the essay format, have them focus on that category, and leave the other sections to other students whose strength is in another area. A win-win for all!

The editing categories include:
(a) Organization
(b) Content
(c) Format
(d) Language
(d) Vocabulary
(d) Conventions

THE RESULTS:
1. Students had a better understanding of the essay format.
2. Students were more aware of what kinds of elements I would be looking for when grading their essay.
3. Students who struggled with the essay format learned from students who had stronger writing skills.
4. I spent less time grading because there were several edits completed prior to the essay due date.  

Want so save grading time, but your students aren't quite ready for essays yet? How about this triple-check written forms rubric? A help for various forms of writing including: paragraphs, journals, letters, etc.  

I'm hoping this will alleviate those extra hours of essay marking, so you can spend less time at the desk and more time enjoying life outside of the school walls!

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