Fall Football Freebie Frenzy!

Normally I only post once a week, but the best time of year has come around again…that’s right, it’s football season! If you’ve ever met me, you know how passionate I am about football. Not pro football…college football! The best kind of football there is! As an alumni of The Ohio State University, I am an avid Buckeye fan. So intense, in fact, that I have the block O Buckeye-leaf logo tattooed on my ankle. Seriously.


So, I said to myself, I have to do something to celebrate football season this year, and all the wins the Buckeyes are sure to get! And what better way to celebrate Buckeye success than with new, free products?!

So, I am going to turn this football season into a great opportunity to provide all of you with FREE resources for your classroom. Starting this Saturday (8/30) and for the rest of this season, every time the Buckeyes win a football game, I will post a brand new, free resource to my Teachers Pay Teachers store. It will either be geared toward Middle school or high school (or both) and be a item that focuses on Mathematics, English or just overall Classroom Management. Of course, all of you that follow this blog or my Facebook page will be the first to know about it!

Not that you needed one, but now you have a great reason to cheer hard for the Buckeyes to extend the nation’s longest regular season winning streak (they have won 24 consecutive regular season games) as they battle Navy Saturday at noon Eastern in Annapolis, Maryland! If they do, check back here Monday night or Tuesday morning and see and learn all about the new FREE product will be added to my store.

Oh, and just to show what a good sport I am, I forgive all the M*ch*gan fans…you can still have my free products.

Gooooo Buckeyes!!!


Thanks, Mom!

My mother likes to email me things she thinks are useful and/or amusing. Nine times out of ten, I have little-to-no use for or interest in what she’s forwarded to me in my inbox. Every once in a while, though, she sends me a little gem. This week, my entry will be based on a top-ten list she sent me found here.

I won’t get it all covered in one entry, so I’ll carry it over to next week.

Coming in at the number ten spot on the important skills students need to succeed in life list is computer science. Not your basic keyboarding and word processing skills, though – something much more in depth and difficult: programming. I’ll be the first to admit that computer programming is not at the top of my “fun things to do” list. I took one computer information systems class in college, and it absolutely destroyed me. I had zero idea what I was doing. None of it made sense. Now I’m in a job where it would be beneficial to understand and be able to write programming code, but I can’t do it. Yes, I’m old, but I’m not so old that I couldn’t have had some instruction in basic programming. I’m pretty sure C++, at least, was around while I was in high school. Computer programming is a completely different language. It’s a completely different way of thinking. It’s not like trying to learn French if you speak English; it’s like trying to learn Chinese if you speak English. A completely separate alphabet, grammar structure, etc. With the technology industry continuing to grow, this ability is a virtual necessity. At best, however, it is something students will be introduced to if they choose it as an elective. Instead, it should be as mandatory as a visual art or physical education credit. What can the average teacher do about it? Not much, to be honest, but if you can get in the ear of the media or technology specialist at your site, or even the administrator in charge of scheduling classes, maybe you can plant the seed about this being a necessity.

Clocking in at number nine is the art of speed reading. Does every student need to know how to speed read? Does anyone, for that matter? Probably not. But the article makes a good point that the foundations of speed reading can be useful for other reading skills. Especially for struggling readers, the ability to skim lengthy texts and still get the gist of what the central ideas are is critical. Teaching students how to visually chunk text as they read can benefit them in many ways. So what can teachers do to foster this skill? For English and Reading teachers, direct instruction on this would be useful. Built-in practice time during class is easier than for other subject areas (note I said “easier” and not “easy” – I know no one has extra time to do anything that isn’t in the curriculum). But if you teach another subject, you still read. Modeling skimming or block/chunk reading to students is helpful. The metacognition (where you talk aloud as you “think” so students can follow your train of thought) teaches students how to do the task.

Last one for this entry is the number 8: Time management. This really deserves an entire entry all for itself. Teachers tend to be naturally good time managers. We have to be. There are a million things to do and about an inch worth’s of time to get it all done. But how did we get to be good time managers? For most of us, it was trial and error. Because we were self-motivated, we kept at it until we figured out how to be successful. Unfortunately, many of our students don’t harbor that intrinsic drive, and failure becomes routine. Teaching students basic time management techniques is critical. There really could be a whole class on it (in some districts, they’re actually moving towards this with programs like AVID). Students need to know how to use planners/assignment logs. They need to know how to prioritize. They need to know how to schedule their time and then keep track of it. Even just starting with something simple like time management on tests is a good place to begin. Teaching students to regularly check the clock to make sure they’re not taking too long on one question or that they’re not going to run out of time on a test can be the basis for good time management skills in other areas of their lives. Scheduling deadlines for students throughout long-term projects is another way to foster this skill. Even if the students don’t seem to want to manage their time or maybe don’t even seem capable, showing them successful tools and strategies can be impactful later. Once they “wake up” and realize they need better time management, they’ll have the arsenal of “Oh yeah, Mrs. Moody made me plan out my project work on that stupid calendar so I didn’t let it all pile up until the last day. I guess it wasn’t so stupid…” and other techniques they’ve been exposed to during their schooling. Every teacher can contribute to this. It doesn’t matter what you teach – you can model good time management for your students and teach them time management skills for them to use in their own lives. Who knows, maybe it will help you manage your own time a little better, too.

That’s all for this week! Stay tuned next week for numbers 7, 6, and 5!

Also, don’t forget to follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and now I’m on Bloglovin!

CNN Student News

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Well, for my school district (in Tampa, FL) today was the first day back for students. So – anyone who had kiddos for the first time today…I hope it went great. If you’ve already had your first day back with the kidlets, I hope it went awesome, too. And if you’ve yet to have day 1, I hope it is just spectacular. So, here’s my first entry of the 14-15 school year. I thought I’d start out with something that might help you get your classes started at least a few times a week.

I’m not sure when I first became aware of CNN student news, but ever since I was introduced to it, I have loved it. It is primarily used in middle school social studies classrooms, although I think it could be used in English classes as well. There is one, 10-minute video each day with headlines and interactive features (polls, etc.). Some teachers have students take notes on each video and then give an assessment at the end of the week. This is a great way to do bell work and keep kids accountable. As an English teacher, I think it would be neat to have students write reflection, analysis, or persuasive pieces on the covered stories. Research skills could also be contextually taught if a teacher wanted to extend the topic beyond bell work.

CNN Student News website

There are archives of videos so if you’re looking for a particular topic you can search for it. They even have transcripts of the videos to utilize as written text. I think it would be a great way to explore bias in the news media and the use of rhetorical devices.

For each video, CNN provides a daily curriculum .pdf, key concepts of the show, a short (3-5 question) quiz for after the show (or during, if you wish), and discussion questions.

I think it would be cool to show a video on a Monday and assign an essay/written response on one of the stories. Tuesday and Wednesday students could be shown other sources focusing on the same story. They could edit (peer or individually) their writing on Thursday, and then create the final draft on Friday. This could be done as bell work, a mini-lesson, or a full-blown class period.

Some writing topics:
Do you agree or disagree with the stance [person] took on [topic]? Why or why not?
How did the CNN student news coverage of the story compare to ?
What rhetorical devices were present in the story? How effective were they?
Is [story] a worthwhile piece of reporting? Why or why not? Persuade someone to agree with your claim.
Using all the resources you have had access to, write a [#] paragraph paper on the story.
Write a summary of the story.
Create [#] interview questions for [person in story], then, answer them the way you think he/she would given all the research you have done on the topic.

By the way, tomorrow is a one-day back-to-school boost sale on TeachersPayTeachers. My entire store is 20% off plus the site-wide discount. I’ve got lots of great stuff for classroom management to start the year off right, along with math and ELA lessons/resources for middle and high school. Come check it out!

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The Sleeper

Oh, Natalia, such fond memories I have of you. Mostly they are of the back of your head because you were face down on the desk, sleeping through my class. We all have them: the sleepers. I’m not talking about the honors kid that pulls an all-nighter and falls asleep accidentally while you’ve got on “Romeo and Juliet” with the lights off that day. No, I’m talking about Natalia, who comes in 3-to-4 days of the week and after the first three minutes of class, curls up in her coat (even though we’re in Florida and it’s a trillion degrees outside), puts her head down on her desk, and goes to sleep. The first few times, of course, I ask Natalia to, “wake up, please,” and join the class activity, which, naturally, she does not do. After that, I ask a couple of times if she is feeling all right. Much to my (un)surprise, Natalia has headaches. She has them every day. At 1pm. During my class. She asks to go to the nurse the first time, but after I impress upon her the uselessness of this action (Really, what is the nurse going to do for your headache? She can’t give you medicine, and she’s not going to call your mom.), she doesn’t ask again.

What am I to do? I talk with Natalia before and after class several times, at which point she assures me that she will start getting more sleep at home and will try to stay awake during class. I am lucky, because Natalia promises me that it’s not that she hates me or my class. (Incidentally, my reaction to the student who simply hates me and my class and chooses to sleep is exactly the same as my response to Natalia.) I thank her for her effort.

The next day, Natalia falls asleep in my class. This time I call home. Perhaps there is some domestic issue (or medical?) of which I should be aware. Natalia’s dad (I know, can you believe it? The phone number was right and someone actually answered! Score!) is adamant that he will make sure she gets to bed at a decent hour so she can stay awake in class.

The next day…and the next day…and the next day, Natalia falls asleep in class. Perhaps I should involve guidance. I think back to some of the other students whom I have referred to that department. The stellar lack of results convinces me that I can bypass this step. But maybe your guidance department is different. Best of luck with that. I debate writing a referral. But what will that gain me? I’ll look like I can’t handle what’s going on in my classroom and the AP will be annoyed with me. Plus, Natalia will just get a day of ISS – which she’ll sleep through as well. So, yeah, that’s pretty much useless.

How do I keep Natalia awake?! What must I do to motivate her to stay awake during my class? I show her her grades. I give her opportunities to make up missed work. I bargain with her and promise if she just does one thing a day with the class that she can put her head down the rest of the time. That one actually works for a few days. But she just.keeps.on.sleeping.

I have to figure out a way to fix this problem! The other students have seen Natalia sleeping for weeks, now. Surely they are going to think that it is all right for them to sleep in class as well! Soon, all my students will be napping as I try to teach them the excitement that is Romeo and Juliet (or factoring polynomials, or Newton’s third law, or the underlying causes of the Civil War…take your pick)! I cannot let this one student (because it really is just one student – I’ve rarely had 2 or more sleepers in a single class) undermine my authority as a teacher! I cannot let her sleep in my class!

But I can. I’ve done everything I can do (except that guidance step, but…really, if you have a Natalia, you know that will be ineffective, too).

One of the things I had to learn as a first-year, idealistic teacher was that although I may want to save them all, I can’t. My time is a resource and it is limited, and it is better spent on students who want to be saved. If Natalia changes her mind, I will be there for her. I will do whatever it takes to help her succeed, but I’ve done what I can do for now. I have 25 (or 30+) other students who need me; who want me.

And believe it or not, the students get it. I’ve never, ever, ended up with a classroom full of napping students. They understand that I care about Natalia and I want her to be successful, but she is choosing not to. They don’t see her as undermining my authority as a teacher, they see her as missing out on an opportunity to learn. They don’t envy her, they pity her. Sometimes her friends will even try to shake her awake, but for the most part, she is left alone, in the corner, until she wakes up (pardon the pun) and realizes what she’s missing.

Does this make me a bad teacher? Does this mean I don’t care about my students? Does this mean I give up on those who need me the most? You may think so. I’d love to hear how you get your Natalias to stay awake (and for goodness’ sake, don’t tell me to make my lessons “meaningful” – this is a single student we’re talking about here, it’s not my entire class that isn’t engaged – my instruction is sufficiently authentic and engaging). But the way I see it, I’ve done what I can and I’m just waiting for her to do the rest.

And while it is sad and profoundly tragic that Natalias exist, I will take her any day over Bryan, whose sole goal between 9:30am and 10:25am is to make my life a living hell. But that’s a post for another day.

Picking Battles

As a parent of a two-year-old, I am learning a lot about picking which battles to fight. This was something I learned during my tenure as a teacher, too, though. As teachers, we don’t have the time, energy, or inclination to deal with every single issue that crosses our doorstep. If we addressed everything, we’d be spending time managing:

backpacks in the aisle
bathroom usage
brushing hair in class
chairs tilted on the back two legs
classroom wandering
drawing on desks
feet on desks
late work
painting nails in class
pen color variety
putting on makeup in class
ripped edges of notebook paper torn out of spirals
saggy pants
short shorts
short skirts
sleeping in class
touching other students
touching the teacher
touching stuff on the teacher’s desk
trash on the floor
trips to the clinic
wife beaters
working on a different class’s assignment during your class
writing on the board

and so much more…

So what’s a teacher to do? You’d never get anything else done if you were constantly on kids about all these things. You pick your battles. That’s what you do. And it’s pretty much a given that your battles won’t be the same as other teachers’, but if that bothers them, that’s their problem, not yours. Kids may complain that “so-and-so lets us…” but certainly by the time kids are in middle school, they are mature enough to know that different people have different rules. It’s the same as being at their friends’ houses vs. being at home. My turf, my rules.

Here’s my suggestion. Pick a small number (single digits) of issues that you just absolutely cannot stand. Pick the ones that if you encountered them every day you’d vacillate between suicidal and homicidal. For me personally, it was backpacks in the aisle, feet on desks, swearing, and eating/drinking in class. (I really picked writing on the board, too, but I dealt with that by hiding my markers so none of my kids ever needed to be told off about it.) Establish your rules about those issues the first few days of school. You can even give them your rationale if you like. For me, backpacks in the aisle were about safety and having access to nefarious, distracting items during class. Feet on the desks (for me it was the metal baskets beneath the desk in front of them) was about potentially breaking the school equipment. Swearing was about respect (I don’t swear in my classroom – I don’t even say “shut up” in front of my students, and I expect the same from them.). No food/drink was about keeping away the trash and bugs (and because I had this rule and enforced it, I was absolutely okay with students standing outside the door for the first few seconds of class to finish their snack/soda – and they never abused it). These are the issues that you’ll have to go over again and again and constantly harp on, but it’s only a couple, so it’s not that exhausting.

Now pick the ones (should be single digits) that you HAVE to fight because of district or school policy (that you can’t ignore – like, I always ignored the dress code unless it personally offended me; sometimes I would make a comment to a kid about his pants or whatever, but by-and-large I let most things slide). For most teachers, things like tardies and dress code (at least some parts of it – I would NOT tolerate hats or sunglasses in my room) will be on this list. These are easier to enforce because it should be relatively universal throughout the school. To varying degrees, surely, but most other teachers will be on your side.

If you do this, you’re left with just a handful of issues that you will have to battle throughout the year. Let the rest go. Is it really such a bad thing if the kid wants to write in green pen? Is the world going to end because the kid is chewing gum (provided it doesn’t go under the desk…although in my experience, I’ve found that if I’m not the gum Nazi, kids spit it out in the trash can when they’re done with it, because they’re not trying to hide it from me). If a kid is done with all his work for you and he wants to do some [other subject] work, do you really want to keep him from being responsible?

Whatever battles you choose, you’ll have your reasons. And whatever battles you stay away from, chances are someone else will question your decisions. But it’s your classroom, your time, and your energy. Spend it in the way that is most optimal for you and your students.


First of all, I want to apologize for having a bit of a late post. With back-to-school looming, things have been crazy, as everyone knows.

Second, I want to let everyone know that TeachersPayTeachers is having their annual Back To School sale, and that I am running a sale to coincide, making everything in my store 28% off! Most sellers are doing the exact same thing, so check it out and get great deals on classroom management resources, math Power Point lessons and other activities, and ELA reading and writing products. Here is my store.

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When I taught writing to my students, I was constantly struggling with getting them to “show not tell.” If you’re a new English teacher and you haven’t heard that phrase, you will hear it soon, and often. One of the best things I learned about effective writing is that the power is in the verbs, not the adjectives. I’ve see teachers do “dead word” walls and activities, which I think are fantastic. Descriptive writing, however, requires students to “show” the reader. It requires them to craft their writing in such a way that the reader can relate to it himself and experience it as he reads. The use of imagery engages the reader because they can picture, smell, feel, taste, and hear what the author is writing.

Getting students to use effective imagery, however, is a daunting task. Ask a student to describe something and you’ll invariably get the most flat, one-dimensional words imaginable: “red,” “big,” “small,” “hot,” you get the picture. Words that are so vague they don’t really mean anything to the reader. To get students writing with better imagery, I ask follow up questions about their descriptions.

1) One question to ask is “how” or “which”. The student writes, “Her dress was red.” I ask, “Which shade of red?” The student writes “The house was big.” I ask, “How big was it?”

2) Another question I ask is “than what?” The student writes, “The car was small.” I ask, “Smaller than what?”

3) Ask “how do I know?” The student writes, “She was mad.” I ask, “How do I know she is mad?”

This type of questioning forces the student to be more specific in their descriptions, and I doing so, makes their writing more relatable to the reader.

There is a great activity that I do to help students branch out in their descriptions as they write. It takes a little while, but it’s worth it.

1) Each student will need a paper and pencil.

2) You will need several objects that have very distinct characteristics of the five senses.

3) You can divide the students into between 2 and 5 groups. 2 groups will allow students to experience more opportunities for sensory writing, but 5 groups will take a little less time overall.

4) Each group will get at least 1 object. The object should have a characteristic that clearly relates to one of the five senses.

5) The members of the group will INDIVIDUALLY describe the object with the condition that the person they are describing it to is missing (and has always been missing) that one (or you could do multiple) sense. For example, if the object was a bottle of perfume, the students would have to describe the scent of the perfume to someone who cannot (and never could) smell.

a. It’s important that students understand the person they’re describing to has never been able to use that sense. This will prevent them from giving flat descriptions. For example, if they have to describe an object to someone who cannot and has never been able to see, using the word “blue” means nothing. They have to come up with other words to describe the color. You get really cool descriptions.

6) Once each student has his/her description, the other group(s) listens to the description and tries to predict what the object will look/smell/sound/taste/feel like. For smell, taste, touch, and hearing, writing down the prediction is nearly impossible, but students will still be able to decide afterwards if the description was accurate/helpful. For the sense of sight, make sure students sketch the object based on the descriptions written by their classmates before showing them the actual object.

7) After the description is read and the opposing group(s) experience the original object, have them write 2 separate responses:

a. How accurate were their classmates’ descriptions? Why do they think the descriptions were as accurate (or un-) as they were?

b. What would his/her own description be for someone who was void of that sense?

Enjoy the rest of the summer!