Sunday, November 29, 2015

Tis the Season: How to add a little holiday spice to your seonday classroom

Thank you for stopping by! I've teamed up with some awesome secondary teachers for a holiday blog hop. Read my responses to the topics below then be sure to go check out the rest of the bloggers as well! May your holiday season be filled with well-behaved students and lots of mulled wine. ;) 

1.  One way you bring meaning to the season for your students:
I love thinking of clever ways to bring a little of the holiday season into my classroom. Since I teach high school, I can't go too over-the-top, but I bring in a few lessons that can be used with any text so that I can make our lessons festive without sacrificing my normal curriculum schedule. Here is a favorite: Ugly Christmas Sweater Symbolism to use with ANY text

Here's another newly added lesson to bring in some root word practice during the holiday season: 

As far as bringing the meaning of the season into my classroom, I focus on giving. Since there are always so many donation drives going on for kids, I choose to do a classroom drive for our local humane society. I'm a huge animal lover and adopted my precious Hank 8 years ago after finding him from a rescue group on Each year I put up a cat and dog tree in my room and students bring in gifts for the animals. Students really love doing this type of charity and learn a lot about compassion. 

Our "baby" :) 

2.  One way you bring meaning to the season for your family:
 Since we are both teachers, we always sponsor a few of our students who won't be getting anything for Christmas otherwise. Our schools round up the names and wish lists, and we get to shop for them. Even though the students will never know who the gifts are from, this tradition brings me so much joy. I always pick out a student in need that I have taught and love the challenge of finding the perfect gifts to match their personality and style. 

3. One thing you have on your TpT wishlist
 I'm teaching a brand new class next semester that is more of an "English for the real world" type of class, so I'm hoping to get Serial approved to teach just in time for Adnan's new hearing. To teach this unit,  I plan to use this lesson pack.  I think that this type of Common Core learning will be perfect for the seniors in my new class! 

4) One thing you have on your own wishlist:

I pretty much have every new Harry Potter product on my Amazon wishlist. These include the newly illustrated version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and the new adult coloring book.  Check out my Harry Potter classroom if you are a fan yourself! 

One thing you are looking forward to this season: 
I could go with something mushy here, but I will go with the truth--SNOW DAYS  #hollerifyouhearme

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Click below to hear more from other secondary teachers!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Don't Hate, Integrate: How to use Smartphones in the Classroom

I've been utilizing cell phones in my classroom for so long that I had forgotten some teachers are still putting up the good fight to control cell phone use in their classrooms. Back in 2010, my school implemented the "If you can't beat them, join them" mentality and started encouraging teachers to put cell phones to use in their classrooms rather than to try in vain to keep them out. The results have been tremendous. Basically, each teacher has the freedom to implement their own cell phone policy, and I can tell you that the ones who try to integrate cell phones in their lessons have fewer issues than the ones who don't. If students know that they will get to use their smartphones at least once during a lesson, then it seems to ease that itch to check it at inappropriate times. Also, this teaches a KEY life lesson: Cellphone Etiquette.  Smartphones can make us more efficient, eliminate paper waste, and help our brains engage, but not being consumed with a phone at inappropriate times is a lesson that must be taught.  There are respectful, life-long learning benefits of smartphones, and I want my students to learn these lessons.

If you are worried that using smartphones in the classroom will highlight the have and the have-nots, then think about some solutions rather than skipping out on these powerful learning tools altogether. Most of us have two or three old phones around the house. Our friends and family could add at least 10 more. Once the pictures and messages have been deleted, they can serve as spare smartphones in your classroom. They won't have the phone service, but once connected to the internet, students will be able to use them for all of the activities listed below. Another solution is to always make sure those without cell phones are paired with someone who has one.

How to integrate smartphones in the classroom: 

1. Remind: Most of us have heard of this service. It's a great way to contact parents and students to remind them about due dates, but it's also a great way to send out items students will need in class. I use it to send links to articles or websites that we are using in class each day. For the internet only spare cell phones, you can set up a generic class email for those phones then link the remind messages to it.

***FUN ALERT*** Another not-so-obvious way to utilize the Remind app even further is a little game I like to call "Quick Draw Paws" where you play a review game based on who has the quickest texting "paws." You can play this by putting students into groups (making sure at least one of the group members is signed up for your remind). Then, you start a chat with each team leader. Now, the chat should be open so that after you ask a review question, the answer that comes back to your chat the quickest wins the round.

*** FUN ALERT #2*** I figured out another awesome way to use Remind this week when I had my students use Snapchat to interpret The Canterbury Tales. Instead of my having to follow them, I had them take screen shots of the snaps then send them to me in Remind. It worked perfectly and was actually fun to grade! Ha! If you happen to teach The Canterbury Tales, you can find our more about that lesson here: The Canterbury Tales meet Snapchat Stories 

2. Overdrive: This app is a MUST HAVE. I'm so surprised about how few people use it. Once you link your local library account (our school library even has an account!), you can check out digital books just like you would from a brick and mortar library. Except for the special occasion where I don't want to wait for a book that's on hold, I haven't paid for a book in over 2 years. My reading rate has also drastically increased because it's so easy to pull the book up one my phone when I have extra time. This app also helps students gain access to more books, and they are able to use the dictionary and note-taking functions for close readings. 

3. Lark by Storybird: This is the type of app that I just can't believe is FREE. I'm a huge fan of Storybird, and this extension app didn't disappoint. Obviously, this app is used to create poems, but here are some not-so-obvious uses: Exit-tickets (have students create a poem to represent a key concept or how they felt about the lesson in general and flash their phones on the way out the door), Mood (have students showcase the mood of a story or speech by representing through art and words). Want to see an example of this app, read about it in this post: How to use Storybird with older students 

4. PollEveryWhere: Here's an oldie but goodie. Students text answers and codes to a provided number and the results show up on the screen in real time. Polleverywhere also allows for web responces. 
Here are some examples of how I have used it in the past: 

A poll to go along with this Crucible website: You're Accused! 

Only do the free response option if you are very brave ;) I use this one as a hook for the Wife of Bath's Tale from The Canterbury Tales. Students get a kick out of how their answers are VERY similar to the responses given over 600 years ago!! 

5. YouDoodle: See how I use this app to do close readings and blackout poems--Technology-Based Poetry Stations 
Here is an example of a close reading done with YouDoodle: 

6. Hokusai: This is a song editing app that allows you to very easily cut and splice songs together. They can also add in their own voice recording. Students can use this to create one mixed soundtracks for different assignments. Historial soundtracks, soundtrack of a character's life, and mood changes throughout a story are just a few ideas. You may also enjoy reading: Fun ways to use music in the English classroom 

7. Music:  Speaking of music, why not go with their desire to have their earbuds in at all times and design a lesson that incorporates their love of music? My history teacher husband uses this lesson with his middle schoolers for each world history lesson he teaches, and his 7th graders never get tired of it...never. Music is their lifeblood.

8. Bubble:  This app allows students to add thought bubbles to photographs. They could take selfies then give their thoughts on a topic, or they should take a screen shot of a character or historical painting and add captions about what the people in the photograph they are thinking.  I got this idea from this history teacher: History Tech . Go check out his example!

9. Other Photo Apps: Most likely your students already have an app that will allow then to add text to a photo. These apps can be used to make memes  to showcase learning in a funny way or to mark up photographs for different reasons. You can also use Skitch that is mentioned above for this. 

 Here is an amazing example of how this strategy can be used: 

10. Kahoot:  Another one most people have heard of by now. My high school students get SO into this game. They love it! I love it because I have yet to have to make  my own kahoot. I simply search the community of kahoots and find what I'm looking for from other fabulous teachers who have saved my booty numerous lesson-ends-10-minutes-too-early- times. ;) 

Be sure to follow me for more creative ideas! 

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