Author: holly

Distance Learning

To be honest, this whole COVID-19 thing has happened so fast that I am still reeling from the almost hourly new information coming in. Last Thursday evening, our district made the decision to close for a week and then keep schools closed through Spring Break. Around 10:30 that night, our governor said all schools were going to be closed through the end of the month. That left me with one day to see students and say a tentative goodbye. I felt all kinds of emotions that day—sadness, anger, frustration, and worry. And I am sure my students felt the same. We went to the school library and loaded up on books; I sent an email to parents for them to stay up on their independent reading, giving links to our school’s audiobooks and ebooks. So now I wait. I wait to see what happens next. I wait to see if things improve. I wait for what may come. With this down time, I am homeschooling my own children, (who are in 1st and 3rd grade), …

English Notebook

Do you use Interactive Notebooks in your class?  I first heard of this teaching tool about ten years ago when I had the opportunity to attend an Avid two-day training.  The teacher who taught the class was an AP science teacher.  While teaching us the ins and outs of the notebook, he also brought in notebooks from students in his science classes as well as examples in history class.  As I went home that afternoon, I thought about how I could use this tool in an English classroom.  The student notebook examples I saw were filled with detailed Cornell notes, worksheets, and Avid’s famous LSAs (left-side activities).  Even looking online for examples, I found ELA at the middle and high school level much to be desired. That fall, I decided to just launch the notebook and try to use it how I normally teach class.  And I have to say, I wish I had tried this sooner.  Everything that I thought could/would go wrong, never did, and I had so much more buy-in and participation than traditional …

How to Set a Positive Tone in the Classroom

As you probably already know, the first two weeks of school are crucial in setting the right tone for the year.  If a positive classroom climate isn’t created, where students don’t feel accepted, safe, and respected, it makes for one long year.  Setting the right tone is intentional and takes some forethought, but it is definitely worth it.  For me, the tone I want to set for the year is for every student to feel safe and comfortable in the class, to know that ideas can be freely shared without feeling scared or ashamed.  I want my students to know that I deeply care for them, both in their personal well-being and their success in my class, and that I will do everything I can to help them be successful. So with that in mind, I think about how I can create a warm and inviting classroom where students are relaxed and ready to learn.  Here are five things I do, some at the beginning of the year, and some throughout the year, to set …

The First Two Weeks of School

School starts in two weeks and while my mind is still in summer mode, I am starting to think about the beginning of the year.  This is the plan I have for the first two weeks of school.  My students have 7 period days and attend class for 45 minutes, so these lessons are designed with that time frame in mind. Week One Day 1–One Word Challenge  This is a great activity for allowing students to think about the upcoming year.  I put this up on a PowerPoint slide deck and you can find it here: One Word Challenge. Day 2–Get to Know You Icebreaker Students create a name tag.  After they are done with their name tag, they place it at the edge of their desk and we go around the room sharing and listening to everyone.  I hang on to them and pass them out at the beginning of each class for two weeks.  It allows me to learn names quickly (instead of always referring to the seating chart) and for others to learn …

Instilling a Love for Reading

“People don’t realize how a man’s whole life can be changed by one book.”  -Malcolm X At the beginning of each year, I spend close to a week talking about independent reading with my students.  To me, it’s worth investing the time because independent, choice reading is the heart of my class. How I frame choice reading during the first week: how to find a just-right book and how that is different for every reader, different genres and their definitions, setting a weekly reading rate (from Penny Kittle’s book Book Love), speed dating a variety of books to find potential novels to read, going over My Top-15 Reading List (adapted from Kelly Gallagher’s book In the Best Interest of Students), discussing how book conferencing works, and how to keep track of books read. Even though I check in with each student monthly, share my Top 15 List with my classes, and book talk new books bi-monthly, there’s always a small percentage of students who refuse to read, or read very little.  My avid readers love the freedom …