Tuesday, December 11, 2018

A Gift Guide for English Teachers

A Gift Guide for English Teachers

Since I'm an English teacher, I thought it would be fun to put together a list of gifts ideas for other English teachers. If you are a student who has happened upon this page, bless you. Your English teachers are the hardest working teachers you have--trust me-- and any token of appreciation will be cherished (just skip over the libation related gifts on the list ๐Ÿ˜‰). For others who are here perhaps to find a teacher exchange gift or a fun gift for one of your English teacher friends, I hope this list gives you some helpful ideas! The prices range from $3 to under $20, so I've covered all budgets with this English teacher gift guide.

A Gift Guide for English Teachers 


1. Literary Coloring Books- Coloring can reduce stress and spark creativity, so these literary-themed coloring books are perfect for English teachers! I've linked some of my favorites below.


2. Book Title Lip Balm-  At just 3.95, these literary-themed lip balms make an inexpensive yet thoughtful gift for an English teacher team member. This Etsy shop has lots of clever titles and flavors to choose from.

3. Bookish Tea- Any English teacher who enjoys tea will appreciate these literary novel-TEAS . Each tea bag comes individually wrapped with a literary quote of the day. How sweet is that!?

4. Magnetic Poetry-  These word magnets make for a fun and quirky gift that your favorite English teacher might not think to buy his or herself, but will appreciate nonetheless. The little boxes of words can provide hours of entertainment and inspiration!

5. Popsockets for Book Lovers- If your English teacher uses PopSockets, then these book-themed ones will be sure to make their literature-loving heart happy.

6. Literary Drink Book- Not that any of my English teacher friends would need a drink after a long day of trying to teach adolescents to fall in love with literature in the same way they connect with and adore it, but just in case, here is this punny recipe book: Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails with a Literary Twist

7. Poetry Wine Supplies- Keeping with the theme above, I love this wine stopper and its quote: “Wine is Bottled Poetry” . You can find a wine class with the same message here: “Wine is Bottled Poetry” Wine Glass

8. Punny Pencils-  I feel like pencils are the new flair pens, especially when they have hip sayings like these! I love that there are so many English-teacher specific ones to choose from and that they are affordable ranging from $3.75- $10 a pack.


9. Bookish Mug- I normally wouldn’t put a coffee mug on the list since they tend to be overdone, but for this one, I will make an exception because it’s THE COOLEST EVER. It’s from Out of Print and the blacked out banned book titles are revealed every time the mug gets hot! It’s magical! 

Be sure to follow me @BuildingBookLove 

10. Book-themed Ornament- To add a homemade idea from the heart, check out Mrs. Orman's Literature-Inspried Ornament. All you need is an old copy of your English teacher's favorite book and a plastic ornament! 

11. Literary Christmas Cards- Lastly, if you want to hand out some puntastic cards to your coworkers or students, I designd these Literary Christmas Cards that are a hoot. 




For even more ideas, check out the bottom of my post here: Keeping the Wonder Workshop at the Edgar Allan Poe Museum . It's full of amazing gift ideas from our partners! 


This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting this English Teacher's Blog! 

Saturday, December 8, 2018

10 Ways to Add Movement in the ELA Classroom


Whether your students are lethargic or super-charged, adding movement to your lesson plans will help to solve both issues. Not only is it healthy to move throughout the day, but it can also help students focus and become more engaged with the content they are trying to master. Due to the nature of English classes, ELA students often find themselves needing to sit to read or write for long periods of time. Therefore, finding ways to add movement in your English literature class is especially important. Here are some ideas for adding movement in the classroom.


10 Ways to Add Movement in your ELA Classroom: 


1. Walk and Talk - One really simple way to add more movement in your classroom is to place your discussion questions around the room instead of projecting or placing them on students' desks. In the top picture above, you can see that I printed off political cartoons from an Animal Farm PowerPoint and had a discussion question with each. Instead of projecting the PowerPoint and having students discuss each slide at their desks, I put them into 7 groups and rotated them around the room every 5 minutes. Not only did this help to keep the discussion on track time-wise, but it also got students moving. 



2. Literary Yoga- For a truly unique way to add movement in your secondary English literature class, try out Literary Yoga. This yoga sequence is meant to accompany any text and provide a much-needed brain break during long chapters. Yoga has many benefits for both the mind and the body, so this resource is designed to give students thinking time, promote mindfulness, and engage in kinesthetic learning. 



3. Socratic Soccer Ball- Here is another low-prep way to add movement on a whim when you see that students are unfocused or unengaged. I keep this soccer ball on hand and break it out when I want students to stand up, think critically, and refocus their energy on a task.  If you want a full set of 35 questions to write on your own ball, you can get those sent to your email by using the form here: 



4. Vocabulary Games- Games are a fun way to add movement in your classroom! For ELA specific games, here are some ideas from Melissa at Reading and Writing Haven: 

Games are by far one of my favorite ways to add movement in middle and high school classrooms. We play truth or dare, dice games, speed dating, three truths and a lie, and so on. I use games as station activities, practice opportunities, and review lessons. Students appreciate the opportunity to move around and be creative, and teachers are grateful for a meaningful lesson they don’t have to grade. Games bring vocabulary, grammar, writing, poetry, and figurative language to life! 

You can find lots of vocabulary game ideas from Melissa's blog post here: 5 Vocabulary Activities for Older Students   and for some more ELA game inspiration, check out Melissa's bundle here: ELA Games 

If you need even more vocabulary game ideas, you can also check out my post here: How and Why to Use Word Walls with Older Students 





5. Public Speaking Practice-
Certainly, students will move with public speaking activities. Because of the nature of speeches, students will be up, moving, and gesticulating. Check out these low-key and fun activities that will get students moving from Lauralee at Language Arts Classroom: Public Speaking Activities . In addition, if you want students engaged with teaching others, try this free public speaking activity where movement and tone influence the message: Free Public Speaking Activity for Tone 



6. Rotation Stations- Without a doubt, stations are another way to incorporate movement into the classroom. Amanda from Mud Ink and Teaching has compiled an awesome collaborative blog post with six great ideas for stations. You can read that here: 6 Ideas for Learning Stations in Your ELA Classroom 

To add, here's a note from The Language Arts Classroom: Movement can add spark to any lesson. For instance, when I teach informational texts, I use stations. Students and I will read an article together, and then they will rotate around essential questions. As a final step, students get to choose which questions they answer (three out of five), and as they walk, they actually are studying every question. Read more here at: Student Inspired Nonfiction Resources 


7. Question Trails- Abby from Write on With Miss G loves finding creative ways to incorporate kinesthetic learning into her teaching. Her favorite tried-and-true lesson is a question trail, an engaging activity that gets students up and moving on a quest around the room. A question trail is an activity comprised of different multiple choice “stations” or “spots” around the classroom. At each station, students answer a multiple choice question. Each answer (a, b, c, or d) will send the students to a different station. If students answer each question correctly, they will travel to each station and complete a full circuit. If students answer a question incorrectly, they will eventually find themselves at a station they’ve already completed, which tells them that they need to backtrack. This gives you clear, immediate feedback. You will quickly see who is getting it ("on the trail") vs. who is not ("off the trail"). If you want more information on question trails, check out this blog post. For print-ready question trails on literary devices, vocabulary in context, a fun winter-themed trail, and more, check out this growing bundle. To create your own question trail, check out this template that will save you lots of time.

8. Discussion Configurations- Sometimes just the simple act of having students get up and rearrange their seating can be enough movement to focus their energy on a new task. Amanda from Mud Ink and Teaching adds: Hosting a Fishbowl discussion is one of my favorite ways to get kids out of their seats and talking to each other. The basic principle of a Fishbowl, as each teacher’s format is a bit different from the other, is that students move from inside the fishbowl to outside the fishbowl freely during the period as they are discussing the issues at hand. Get started here! 


9. Writing the Wall- My students don't really write on the wall of course, but I do like to set up my classroom for impromptu uses of wall space when the time strikes. Instead of having students set idle at their desks, they can take their learning, opinion, or example to the wall. To do this, I set up two scrolls of newspaper end rolls (cheap or free!) and leave my whiteboard open on both ends. You can see a tutorial for how I made the scrolls here: High School Classroom Decor 



 10. Act It Out- When you have students act out scenes from plays or novels, you can bring any text to life (not to mention bringing your students to life in the process!). It doesn't take a lot of time to add acting movement in your classroom either. I like to do "mini-plays" in which I choose a short but very important scene, have students interpret it on their own, paraphrase into a script, and then act it out all in one class period. If you want a guide to help you implement this in your own classroom, you can check that out here: Act It Out!

I hope that these ideas will help you add movement, energy, and focus to your English Language Arts classroom. Be sure to leave a comment if you want to add any ideas to the list!





Saturday, November 24, 2018

Keeping the Wonder Workshop at the Edgar Allan Poe Museum


When I first dreamed up the idea of hosting a workshop for secondary English literature teachers, I envisioned how beautiful the venue would be, how inspiring the presenters would be, and how relieved I would be once it was over. HA! Well, my partners in wonder had other plans because the minute our first Keeping the Wonder Workshop ended, they started asking when we could do it again!

While I knew that our first location would be hard to beat, I wanted to choose a different location for the fall so that other ELA teachers would have a chance to attend. The first venue that came to mind as I was brainstorming locations for October was The Edgar Allan Poe Museum in Richmond, VA.  I had made a stop here on a road trip to NYC the summer before and knew it would meet the spooky and wonder-filled requirements for our second Keeping the Wonder Workshop.


It didn't disappoint. The museum itself is full of unique and macabre items that Poe would be so very proud of, and we used this vibe to set the tone for our content and decor.



When our attendees arrived, they each got a raven feather with a little get-to-know-you activity which later turned into a fun POE-to op. Upon request, I tweaked this activity so that it can be used when teaching "The Raven."


After mingling with other English teachers, we heard from Abby Gross on how she uses stations in her English class broke into stations set up around the museum.


Our Stations Included:
 Station 1 Mock trial information and ideas
 Station 2 Using picture books in secondary ELA
 Station 3 Setting up a successful question trail
 Station 4 Content-connected creative writing
 Station 5 Cross-curricular magic
 Station 6 Blackout poetry with depth 


After our stations, we broke into our main presentations for the event and heard from Jenna Copper as she delivered a tone writing presentation, Staci Lamb as she spoke about the bringing the magic to your secondary ELA classroom, and a Poe expert as he performed "A Tell-Tale Heart" and conducted an interactive mock trial. The Poe Museum offers educational programs like this one as well as field trip opportunities, so check that out here: Poe Museum Resources 
After the sessions, we ended the day with an "Escape The Museum" breakout which demonstrated how ELA teachers can use escape rooms to engage their students with challenging content. 


We ended the day of inspiration with an "Unhappy Hour Unconference" where we toasted to Poe and collaborated with English teachers from all around the country. I'm truly in awe of the passionate teachers who showed up with happy hearts, big smiles, and open minds. Cheers to English teachers! 


Here is some feedback we received from our exit ticket: 

"This workshop was well-planned, engaging, and executed. The fact that it was held in such a unique literary environment was just icing on the cake. It is important for teachers to take part in or complete the same activities they assign their students, and this workshop reinforced this idea. Attendees were able to "be students" while moving through stations, tasks, and lessons. This allows us, as teachers, a very different perspective and reminds us to create assignments with our students in mind. The presenters spent ample time ensuring that all attendees were able to walk away with lessons and ideas they could implement in their classrooms almost immediately. Great job, ladies."

"I've never been excited for a PD day... until now! I found myself counting down the days (and who does that for PD?!) until the workshop! All of the presenters brought such passion to their materials, which inspired everyone to implement their ideas in our own classrooms. The kids' worlds are ever-changing, and we need to adapt to fit their worlds. The materials and ideas presented to us allows us to do just that."

"I absolutely loved every aspect of this workshop. Definitely worth the trip from California! The attention to detail, professionalism, ambiance, and the engaging (yet practical) strategies taught by practitioners (and IG Allstars๐Ÿ˜Š) were all invaluable aspect of this workshop. I look eagerly look forward to attending future workshops with to learn new ideas/concepts! Thank you all for your willingness to share your expertise ๐Ÿ’›"

"Loved the cross-curricular aspect (history + literature)-- especially the focus on Edgar Allan Poe in October! 
  Seeing my Instagram inspirations in person was a fantastic opportunity to learn from them, network with them, and appreciate them as real-life human beings. They were so down to earth and encouraging! I feel like I am supported by fellow teachers across America and that I am truly not alone."

"The workshop was by far the best PD I've attended. The presenters and helpers were all positive, energetic, and passionate. The activities were fun and informative, and I feel like I'm returning to school with lots of ideas that will be successful with my students."

"There isn't enough space to fully gush about how engaging this workshop was! So many user-friendly resources! As much as we love your Instagram stories, it helps to hear the information "live". I kept texting my principal during the workshop to tell her how excited I was to implement all these wonderful ideas! I had to pay out of pocket because I work at an inner-city school, but I'd do it again! Great job, ladies! You are individually creative and collectively dynamic! Perfect venue--as if I couldn't love Poe more!"

"Having worked for years in an environment in which "fun" in a high school classroom meant no real learning occurred, it is nice to be around colleagues who share a passion for using teaching methods that do not always fit the expectations of a "typical" high school English classroom. Thanks so much for the opportunity!"

"I think this conference was so great because it was made by teachers who are still in the classroom. Too often I’ve been required to go to conferences that are run by administrators and others who have forgotten what it’s like to be a teacher. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been to a meeting about “think, pair, share.” We get it. This conference gave me something new and fun to use in my classroom. Thank you."

"This was AMAZING! I have been following all of you on Instagram for a while and have been so inspired by your enthusiasm and love for what you do. I feel so grateful to be able to attend the workshop and learn from you all. It was inspiring, engaging, and so refreshing to attend a PD that was catered to secondary ELA teachers and led by teachers!! This was the best and I hope to attend again in the future!! :)"

Wow! My heart could burst from re-reading these testimonials. I believe that so much of the mindset about teaching is formed by whom you choose to surround yourself with, and I'm so very thankful to those who chose to show up with passionate hearts and open minds. We all left feeling inspired more than words can describe! 

I'm also extremely thankful for the companies who sent gifts for us to use as giveaways at our workshop. We displayed these amazing gifts throughout the event and gave prizes to the lucky winners before saying goodbye.


These prizes were gorgeous and fit perfectly with our literary theme! 











Our matching "Raven Wing" earrings were designed by Raining Grade Jewelry and my Poe Necklace is by Adornments SVB  



Be sure to follow us on Instagram to find updates on our next Keeping the Wonder Workshop! 

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Lord of the Flies Introduction and Activities: Insightful, Engaging, and Fun Lord of the Flies Lesson Plan Ideas

Teaching Lord of the Flies is something I grew into loving after many years of struggling through it. I'm not alone. I hear from many English teachers who despised reading Lord of the Flies in school and worry that their students will hate it as much as they did. This doesn't have to be the case! By using Lord of the Flies as a mirror that reflects the darkness of the island represented in our own world, students become intrigued by "the loss of innocence and the darkness of man's heart" and reflect on "what makes things break up like they do" in an effort to regain the same type of hope for their world that the character Ralph latches onto.

Here are some ideas to help you make Lord of the Flies engaging, active, and fun for your students.


Lord of the Flies Introduction and Activites: 

1. Lord of the Flies Introduction- Arguably, the most important day of your Lord of the Flies Unit is the first day. If you can hook students from day one, keeping them engaged throughout the rest of the novel will be much easier. However, Golding doesn't do English teachers any favors by making chapter one lengthy, description heavy, and .....somewhat boring. To combat this, I did a one hour and one dollar classroom transformation, came up with an engaging activity, and decided that sacrificing part of chapter one was worth any side eyes I might receive from literature purists. ;)

Here's what I did:





First I gathered some banana leaves from my yard to make placemats for the student tables, made two palm trees out of green and yellow streamers, and played island ambient sounds from my computer. If you don't have banana leaves, any type of greenery will work. But to be honest, if you wanted to make this even more simple, just take 30 seconds to put on the island ambient sounds because this was the biggest hit of it all!



Next, we read an abridged version chapter one of Lord of the Flies for the reasons stated above and so that my books wouldn't get sticky from our hands-on microcosm activity described below.






For my last attempt at creating a WOW-worthy start to Lord of the Flies, I came up with the idea of having groups work together to create a microcosm. While the cost to make this activity added up, we were able to use these miniature worlds throughout the entire Lord of the Flies novel study, and my students understood the concept of Golding's microcosm more than any other way I've taught it in the past!




Supplies: 
1. Plastic Salad Bowls with Lids (cheaper and smaller version option here: plastic cups with lids.)
2. Blue dough, Yellow dough, Green dough, and Pink dough. I bought one large tub for each color except for pink which I only used a small amount of and split it between 20 containers. The bowls and play dough are by far the most expensive part of this project, so if you wanted to save this expense, you could use white styrofoam bowls and have students color the inside and add construction paper. 
3. "Creepers" from the Dollar Store (craft section)
4. Sticks from outside
5.  Shells from WalMart. (I don't live near a beach, but real shells would be better)
6. Plastic army men from the Dollar Store (added later to represent the parachute man)
7. Red jewels from the Dollar Store (added later to represent the fire)
8. Paper clips (added later to represent Piggy's glasses)



I really loved seeing my big kids turn into little kids as soon as they started playing with the supplies I brought it. It was a really fun and effective day! I started the chapter out with the whole class then had students independently read the abridged version and work in groups to make their island look like the one Golding describes. I walked around the room had students talk to me about what the text said that made them put things in certain places. This encouraged students to closely read the text and was an easy way for me to assess their comprehension.
I kept their projects displayed throughout the entire unit on my faux fireplace ledge. :)


If you are reading this post last minute and want an alternative introduction activity for Lord of the Flies, here is an active one that involves zero prep!


2. Activities for Lord of the Flies - After such an engaging start, it was easy to keep students actively reading throughout the rest of the novel!


Here are some lesson plans I used for the rest of the novel: 


1. I used paired informational texts, close reading exercises, and other hands-on activities from my Lord of the Flies novel study 

More activities outlined in the video above which you can also access from my story highlights on Instagram. 


2. Each time something new was introduced to the island, we added it to our microcosms and used sticky notes to write down the symbolism of each item (red jewel for fire, army man for parachute man placement of the "fear" near the "hope" of fire, paperclip for Piggy's glasses, and shell).


3. As a sharp contrast to our peaceful island ambient sounds from the first day back when the island seemed like a utopia, I played "spooky forest" sounds and plugged in my starlight for the creepiest chapter in the book, chapter 8, "A Gift for the Darkness."




4. After the boys on the island started turning violent, I put up a loaded poll, had students walk around the room writing their thoughts about each poll topic, and then had them read the article, "Many Ways to Be a Girl, but One Way to be a Boy: New Gender Rules" from The New York Times. After reading this article, they did a quick write and discussion of how these boy gender rules apply to the boys in Lord of the Flies.

Wrapping Up Lord of the Flies- I feel like we had more important conversations and dug deeper into this book than I ever have before. I wanted to extend our analysis by allowing students to take their thoughts further on the topics we discussed throughout the novel. To do this, we focused on what Golding was trying to tell us about the world based on the microcosm he created. Some chose to write about toxic masculinity, others wrote about why girls weren't included in his world, or about the boys' pressure to turn violent, or about the concept of fear and war in the world. While the microcosms above might look like fun and games, they concreted the purpose behind each element Golding added into his mini world and what those concepts tell us about our world today.

If you would like to use my complete Lord of the Flies Unit Plan, you can find that here: Lord of the Flies Unit Plan 

While I don't include further directions for the microcosm in this unit (everything is explained in this post), I do include close reading guides, test questions, critical thinking activities, and further hands-on activities such as the hut building activity described in this post: STEM in ELA

I hope this post helps you to reframe your thinking around teaching Lord of the Flies and inspires you to try some new strategies with your students! Please share the love with other English teachers who would benefit from these ideas by repinning and share this post.

Thank you!

Ashley Bible



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