Monday, March 20, 2017

Compliments to give girls that have nothing to do with their physical appearance

This post has been on my heart ever since I finished reading the shocking book, American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers by Nancy Jo Sales. This is one of those books that is extremely difficult to read because of its graphic nature, but the content is too important to put down. 

As a high school teacher, I find myself wanting to stay ensconced in naivety where I can pretend that I don't know what occurs in my students' personal lives. I can view them as the innocent, sweet, and full of promise students that they are while they are sitting in the shelter of my classroom.

Nancy Sales, however, does the opposite--by painstakingly interviewing and analyzing teenage girls from Los Angles to Kentucky, she pries deep into the intimate and disturbing secret lives of modern-day American girls. The entire time I read this book, I had an overwhelming sense of sadness for the precious girls that I teach every day. I can remember feeling the pressure to look pretty in school, but for today's girls, this pressure has seeped into every hour of their day because of the constant influence of social media. 

Sales reports, "'Beautiful, 'gorgeous,' 'sexy,' 'hot' are conventional responses to selfies in the culture of social media, responses which many girls seek as they spend minutes or hours of their day preparing themselves to be photographed." 

If you happen to look at a teenager's profile, this fact above is glaringly obvious. When girls post pictures, these are the comments they are getting. When they don't post pictures, they are making these comments on their friends' photos. When they are snooping around celebrity accounts, they are seeing thousands of these comments. It's constant. They can't escape it. Moreover, this pressure of looking pretty and thinking about pretty people may also be detrimental to their education, "Apparently, thinking about being hot makes it hard to think: 'Chronic attention to physical appearance leaves fewer cognitive resources available for other mental and physical activities,' said the APA report" (qtd. in Sales). 

All of this left me wanting to take action. While this issue seems insurmountable, I didn't want to add to it. When my female students are seeing picture after picture and comment after comment that reinforces the idea that their self-worth is beauty, I want to be sure that I'm not adding to this pressure. When I reflected on the compliments I pay my female students, I realized that my go-to's are always: "You look pretty today" or "I love how you did your hair" or other things that focus only their physical appearance. 

I know that everyone likes to hear these compliments from time to time when they've put forth an effort to look nice, but there are so many other deserving words of praise that I can give my girls. I have some seriously amazing young women in my classroom who have such a range of talent, and it's time that I remember to focus on those qualities the next time I want to give them a compliment. 

You can download a free printable I made for myself if you too would like some compliment inspiration and reminders for girls. 

Lastly, I want to jump start my compliment train by bragging on a couple of ladies who are doing some epic work when it comes to building up young girls. 

1. Compliment - The tagline for this shop is "We Rise by Lifting Others," and I absolutely love their mission.  This business started as an AVID fundraiser by an English teacher working hard to empower her students.  Her business grew from there and now she donates five percent of every sale to provide deserving smart girls with scholarships. The founder also mentors young female business owners which is a mission that I can fully stand behind (and hope to do myself one day!). 

In addition to all this, the products themselves promote appreciation of the amazing women in our lives. My favorite piece from their product line is this simple gratitude necklace. They have a batch of compliments to choose from, or you can write your own. I think these would be perfect graduation gifts, teacher gifts, and mentor gifts. 

2. TeachMsTanner - This woman right here is truly an inspiration. The workshops she has for girls at her school are brave and so very important. I could go on and on about the work this teacher does, but it's impossible to paint an accurate picture. Just go follow her, and you will see what I'm talking about. 

3. Teach Like A Girl - This powerful lady right here is causing a stir in a very good way. She's getting her Ph.D. so she can educate you and inspire you at the same time. 

This post contains affiliate links, but opinions are all my own. 
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Thursday, March 2, 2017

Spring Activities for Secondary English Language Arts

I have such mixed emotions about spring this year. I've been spoiled most of my teaching career by using all 8+ of our built-in snow days, but we've had such an abnormally mild winter here in East Tennessee, that I keep looking for white snow instead of yellow daffodils. Sigh. I'm hoping that sharing these ideas will put me into the spring spirit. πŸ˜€ 🌸🌞

Spring Activities for High School and Middle School ELA Students: 

1. Take Learning Outside:

* Read outside. Around this time of year, my students start asking if they can read outside. I try to say yes when it's appropriate. Simply a change in environment can wake up groggy brains and give energy to class discussions.

*Work on procedural/ explanatory writing by having students use elements from nature to build a mini hut. You can read all about this activity here, but the main premise is this: Students think they are clear in their writing until someone else tries to follow their directions. I use this outdoor activity when I teach the hut building chapter of Lord of the Flies, but it can be used as a stand-alone writing activity or with any story in which the character needs to build a shelter for survival (think Hatchet, Island of the Blue Dolphin, etc. )

*Use sidewalk chalk as a novel writing tool. The possibilities are endless with sidewalk chalk, but as I was brainstorming ideas for this post, I came across some little kids using chalk to learn out the human body and this immediately made me think of Danielle Knight's LifeSize Body Biography Character Analysis. This would be a super fun outdoor group assignment (though I would probably just have my students draw a body shape rather do the outline for various spring fever reasons πŸ˜‘)

2. Sring Egg Symbolism: This is my go-to activity to use before Good Friday or spring break. Students can focus some of their warm-weather energy into coloring while still digging deep into the text. You can find a template and model paragraph in my store here: Sring Egg Symbolism 
If you are in need of the history version as well, you can find that in my husband's store: Historical Figure Egg
Be sure to follow me on Instagram for all kinds of English teacher collaboration @BsBookLove

Into the Wild and Thoreau Eggs *swoon*

This lesson can also be used digitally! Check it out here:

3. Poetry: National Poetry month takes place in April, so spring is a perfect time to incorporate a little more poetry into your lessons.

*Limerick summaries and concept work- Limericks are silly little poems that provide a fun way to practice summarizing skills or concept explanations around St. Patrick's day (or anytime really!).

I have provided you some my own examples here:
 A summary of my favorite Harry Potter book! Can you guess which one!? 
 Link to informational text I used for this summary: St. Patrick's Day: Facts, Myths, and Traditions
A funny grammar limerick 

All of my newsletter subscribers will be receiving these examples and student self-checking worksheet for free. Be sure to sign up here for your own set! 

* Haiku word work, mood, and imagery using Storybird- I mention Storybird in so many of my posts because this is my absolute favorite site for creative assignments! You can do so much with Storybird, but here is a specific example for spring. Based on whichever concept you are working on at the time, have students create a Haiku (3 non-rhyming lines with 5 syllables, 7 syllables and 5 syllables) that contains this concept within the lines.
A spring imagery Haiku example

Storybird provides the pictures and words, so it's a fun challenge to piece them all together!
You can find my full instructions on how to create a puzzle poem on Storybird here:

4. Decorate with nature- If you can't take your students outdoors, try bringing the outdoors in. I created these nature-themed literary device posters and they make me so happy. Students love them too!

4. Yeats in Ireland- A great listening tool to use in the spring is a Rick Steve's podcast in which he has native speakers recite Yeats' poetry and discuss the must-see Yeats' landmarks Ireland. My students really get into podcasts, so I love finding relevant episodes to use in class! This assignment combines listening skills, informational text, and geography! 

5. Earth Day:

* Argumentative, problem/solution, or informational writing. Earth Day presents a perfect time to implement some real-world writing and reading that students can relate to. Newsela has an entire text set section of climate-related articles for student leveled reading.

*"Thanatopsis"- When I teach American literature, I really love incorporating the poem "Thanatopsis" around Earth Day because its theme is all about returning to earth when we pass. Though it might seem like a morbid topic, I have my students incorporate some STEM skills by coming up with environmentally friendly burial solutions.  

6. Using Dr. Suess in Read Across America Day - March 2 is a fun day to add in scaffolding pictures books with older students. I have used many pictures books for different concepts, but my favorite is The Butter Battle Book. It's so perfect for political satire!
Be sure to follow me on Instagram for all kinds of English teacher collaboration @BsBookLove