Day 22: Students Teaching Students


Educators have heard it over and over again. When students teach each other, they grasp concepts better.

I am attempting to have my Honors English 10 teach each other about the Phases of Diagramming. They learned it last year, so for all but two, this is a review.  I divided them up a few weeks ago. Each group presents on Wednesdays; they present the definitions and examples of their Phase of Diagramming. They are the teachers, not me.

So far, I have not been impressed with their efforts. They seem ill-prepared and disorganized. I am wondering if it is because my directions were vague because I wanted them to explore creative ways to teach skills they all needed to review.

I will say that this class impresses me constantly, so I never know what is to expect in the coming weeks from other groups.

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Day 20: A Day to Relax


A day to relax. This is what every teacher needs, especially on this Saturday before a week of Parent Teacher Conferences.

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Day 18: Project Failure


What?!? Teachers fail? Yes. Just like students.

I failed this week, well actually on the final project for our unit over Speak. The worst part of this failure is that I had high expectations of what to expect.

I had found a research project idea online about creating a research project about specific issues in the book: cliques, rape, outcasts, relationships, family, and a few more. Sounds like something the kids can all relate to? It wasn’t that they didn’t relate to the information; it was that they presented like a bunch boring college professors, all with Powerpoint presentations.  Blah! I even listed out several unique ways they could share the information with their classmates, and all 10 groups resulted to the lame Powerpoint Presentation.

Here’s what failed: I wanted the students to explore their creativity through an area of study they know about. I had to pull teeth from the students to put together a student body survey. They just weren’t excited about the information they found. They also did not even make connections with themselves or the book in their presentations!

Here’s what I learned: I think that I did not conference with them enough at the beginning of the process.  I should have been a guide throughout the project forcing them to stretch their minds into places they will not allow it. Throughout the process, I spoke with each group daily, but they assured me they had everything under control. Clearly, they needed a guide considering the end result.

And finally, I AM OUTLAWING POWERPOINTS for these classes for the rest of the year.

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Day 16: Teen Intimidation

There are some days that are harder than others. As a non-mother, I don’t know the ins and outs of the teenage years. Some days I see it clearly; today was one of those days.

I had a few girls who were challenging my authority in a passive aggressive way. These girls were challenging my teaching; they were blaming their laziness to research on me.  My job is to teach them the tools of finding information out; I will not be there forever to give them answers. I try to rid the “learned helplessness” disease from my classroom.  We must communicate with others and seek out resources to find the answers. I am not the only venue for knowledge. I really doubted myself during this hour, but I realized it was only because of the tone that they did it in. They were trying to intimidate me by using their attitudes (there facial gestures and rolling of eyes), so I would just give them the answers.  I am their authority figure; I will not be bullied into making learning and exploring information easier.

Teens will be teens; I am the teacher, and I will teach.

NOTE: I should have probably addressed this behavior better than avoiding the confrontation, but I know that confrontation with this type of attitude seems to shut students off (especially frustrated teenage girls). I wanted to show this as an example of how we find answers/knowledge in my classroom to all the students.

I am joining in on the 31 Day Challenge with over 1,000 others!  Read more 31 Days of Teaching Ideas, too!

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Day 14: Bookmark It!

Responsibility for reading assignments and no dog-eared pages.

I started making these bookmarks for each novel we read so that the students were responsible from the beginning of the novel for their reading assignment. It also helps me to keep on track with a novel and avoid forgetting to tell the students what to read each night.

I also include a quote or two from the book or any other important terms at quick glance for my students to have.

I am joining in on the 31 Day Challenge with over 1,000 others!  Read more 31 Days of Teaching Ideas, too!

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Day 13: Teaching Enough Non-Fiction Text?


Are you teaching enough non-fiction text?

With the new Common Core Curriculum creeping around every corner, I constantly doubt the amount of non-fiction I incorporate into my curriculum. Is it enough? Can I find some supplementary article that could go with this novel? How could I teach this with a non-fiction text? These questions are permeating inside of my head.

At the beginning of this year, I decided to implement a new weekly procedure. Each of my honors classes (sophomores and freshman) have an enrichment article (current event) that they get on Fridays and return on the next Friday. Each article is picked randomly (I try to find something they are interested in), and is not necessarily congruent with the current unit. There are approximately 5 words to define and 4-6 questions on the article that they are required to complete as well. I try hard to have a short discussion on the due date about the article, but the time doesn’t always allow for this.

So far this has worked out just great! The students have time to start them after their vocabulary quizzes and are anxious to discuss most of them at the end of the next week.  Next semester, I am going to assign my sophomores to picking out the articles; I think this will encourage them to browse the news and non-fiction even more.

I subscribe to, which helps me finds timely articles and suggests relevant questions.

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Day 12: Timesaving Quizzes


My high school has the luxury of having one-to-one computers for our students. I know this is rare, but it is certainly becoming more popular in high schools. To me this type of technology is a benefit for this technological age, but it certainly does have its downfalls.

Today, I am more concern about its positives.  There are many obvious ones, but the time I save on grading vocabulary quizzes every week! Vocabulary is essential to the English Language Arts curriculum, but it is time consuming. I use the great site of:

This particular site has the option of matching, fill in the blank, and essay questions. Yes, it is limiting because I can not do all three on one test, but for vocabulary quizzes I certainly switch it up from week to week.

Check it out and save some time!

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Day 11: Swat ‘Em

I have a special game. Ok, it is my favorite game. I call it Swat ‘Em. It is loud and obnoxious, but it is just so fun! I rarely have time designated for reviewing vocabulary because I feel that the students are the ones who decide whether they are going to benefit or not from it. Occasionally, like today, I had some down time right before a vocabulary test, so I thought I would introduce my Swat ‘Em game.


– 2 Fly Swatters

– Vocabulary Words written on the board (or on a Smartboard–something I am not spoiled with)

– 2 teams of students

It is simple: the first one to swat the word gets a point for their team. For smaller classes, I play a king-of-the-hill method, but with larger classes I keep the attention of the students better if we switch it up more often.

Plan and simple, but one of the most popular games with my students.

I am joining in on the 31 Day Challenge with over 1,000 others!  Read more 31 Days of Teaching Ideas, too!

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Day 10: A Breath of Fresh Air


My boyfriend reminded me this past weekend that he used to love going outside for class.  I somewhat rolled my eyes as I thought about the many times I have attempted this. I love the outdoors, and try to incorporate it into my class as much as possible. Although it can be frustrating because students lose focus and I fail managing; I tried a different approach today.

Today, I came up with the idea and the class that it would work with. Usually the kids suggest it and maybe they have alterer motives, but I general concede and have class outside. Since it was my idea, the kids were thrilled, and I worked it into a class that had about 20 minutes of free reading (well, I reworked their lesson in tomorrow).

Having a breath of fresh air (literally) is nice once in while. In Kansas, we get enough 70 degree days in the fall and spring that we can work some outdoor lessons into our plans.

I am joining in on the 31 Day Challenge with over 1,000 others!  Read more 31 Days of Teaching Ideas, too!

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Day 9: Teaching Theme

I have quickly learned that 9th, 10th, and 11th graders struggle with THEME. Hey, I even remember struggling with it. So how in the HECK is it effectively taught?

I start with a boring* lesson (EEK–a powerpoint) with a definition and a don’ts and do’s list.

Definition: A statement [A SENTENCE] about the central message in literary works that deals with a perception of human life.


– Claim a generic subject like: friends, family, relationships, etc.

– Use “you.”

– Make it a command.

– Think of a cliche statement.

– You DON’T always have to agree with a theme; it is the message of the work.


– Write a sentence.

– Think about the subject of the work to help develop a theme.

– It should be specific to the specific piece of literature.


Now this is the FUN part! I spend only 20 minutes practice with small clips from sit-coms the kids know. This year, I tried it with Modern Family and Friends. The students love it, and they feel more comfortable with it after; it also saves time because you have lots of different practice with it in only about 20 minutes (each clip is 2-3 minutes).

*Boring: No lesson is boring if you yell a bit louder and pretend it is the most exciting thing you have ever taught!

I am joining in on the 31 Day Challenge with over 1,000 others!  Read more 31 Days of Teaching Ideas, too!

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