" Addie Education - Teacher Talk

Addie Williams Goes Back to School

I can't believe it's time to start thinking about Back to School!  I'm thrilled to be part of a group of Secondary ELA Teachers in The Literary League and can't wait for you to meet all of us in this Back to School BLOG HOP.

I hope you've had a restful and relaxing summer and were able to recharge your "teacher batteries" for the upcoming school year.  There's something I love about a new school year and I think it's the promise of possibility that lies before us!  A fresh start, a clean slate... I love it.

Here's a little bit more about me!

Speaking of meeting new people... meeting your new students at the start of the year can be daunting!  I hope I'm not the only one who has crazy back to school nightmares where I can't remember anyone's name.  One of my little tricks to help remember my students' names is to ask them to create name tags for their desk.  

I know... you're probably thinking it's really elementary to do something like this.  BUT... I think my kids like making them for a few reasons. First... it's not what they expect.  They are expecting to hear me rattle off the course outline and my expectations for the year.  Secondly, they love the chance to be a little creative.  I give them card stock, provide coloring pencils, magazines, scissors and glue.  I ask them to make their name tags representative of who they are.  Thirdly, it helps them learn each others' names as they don't always know everyone in the class.  It avoids having to awkwardly ask someone their name.  

I store the name tags in envelopes labeled with the block / class.  When a new class begins I can pull out the envelope, leave the name tags out on a desk and have students pick them up on their way in.  They also drop them off with me on their way out so that I can keep them for the next class.  

Grab this FREE Back to School Survey from my TpT shop to get to know your new students even more! 

Also be sure to follow the blog hop below! 
I am so lucky to be part of such an awesome and amazing group of ELA teachers!


Writing Folders in My Secondary Classroom

I decided to try something new in my ELA classes last year and I was so thrilled with how it worked out that I'm going to do it again this year!  After years of trying to organize students with binders that explode with paper and lost paper I knew I had to try something different.  

So... I gave each student in my 9th grade ELA classes a legal (long) sized manila folder for the year.  As part of the "getting to know you" activities I do with students at the start of the year I asked them to design a personal logo and personal motto.  They cut out and glued their logo and motto to the front of their folders - this made their folders easy to spot and gave them some ownership over their folders very early on. The logo activity is available as part of my Back To School Pack for Teens & Tweens.

I stored and kept their folders in my classroom - I didn't let them take them home or shove them in their backpacks.  This served two purposes: 1) The folders didn't get lost / destroyed 2) Students who were working in a support / resource room knew that they could come down to my room, grab their folder, work on things for a period and the resource teachers would ensure the folders were returned.  And... at the end of the year... not. a. single. folder had been lost!! #success

The folders were also fantastic resources at Parent-Teacher Night!  Students were excited to show their parents what they had been working on in class, parents were thrilled to see samples of their child's work and it gave us all an easy starting point for the discussion.

So... what did I put in the folders you ask?? Students kept a variety of reference tools in their folders throughout the year.  As we worked on different units they also kept their daily work in the folders.  At the end of the unit, we took out their notes / assignments and they transfered them to their binders.  By that point, I'd had a chance to easily assess their work and if got lost in their binders, it didn't really matter.   

Here are some things we kept in their folders ALL YEAR.  Some of things we glued in and others just sat in the folders.


The English Student's Guide Book to Writing, Research and Analysis from Room 213 was INVALUABLE and my students refereed to it throughout the year.  The tips, examples and instructions for things like using quotations, in-text citations and paragraphing were so helpful.  Most of my students had a goal to keep this over the summer and try to remember to use it next year in 10th grade. 

I had my students cut out and glue in their folders, a wonderful reference sheet for using Evidence Based Terminology which is FREE from Darlene Anne..  Another INVALUABLE resource - I saw my students refer to this list often when writing and responding to text.  I really noticed an improvement in their writing!

I also included a few other things throughout the year.  My students used and kept their Short Story Terms Dictionary throughout the year to reference literary terms.

They also used my FREE Figurative Language Reference Sheet throughout the year.

I can't wait to get started on them again this year.  I loved how organized the students were, how infrequently something was lost, the ownership my students took over them, and the fact that the kids actually used the resources I had provided them. 

Hope you have a great year!

Addie Williams's Looking Ahead Blog Hop

Can you believe another year is over and done??!?! Time seems to fly by so quickly!! Although I still have 3 more weeks of school, I know that many (most) of you are already done! I'm so happy to be linking up on this Secondary ELA Blog Hop hosted by
The Literary Maven!

Looking over my disorganized desk and around my cluttered classroom I have already started thinking of next year and all the things I would like to do a little differently.  Clearly... I need to get more organized... the piles of papers and projects is looking a little chaotic.  But... I say this every year and nothing changes.

Here's what did work really well for me this year (clearly, not being organized)...

Teaching Tip
I made a point of really trying to connect with some of my most challenging students.  I have a 9th grade ELA class this year... and I have 27 boys and 3 girls! You can only imagine the smell in the afternoon when the boys have PE before my class. I don't know what's worse - the smell of sweaty 15 year old boys or the smell of AXE deodorant spray?!?  

In the first few days of class it quickly became clear who the trouble-makers where going to be - first by their behaviour and second by the pitied looks I got from colleagues as they looked over my class list.  
Determined not to let four students ruin it for everyone, I decided to devote extra time to connecting with them.  I made a point to chat with them EVERY class even if it was for just a few minutes. I had to consciously think of it... every class.  I asked them about their hobbies and interests at first and then started to delve deeper into their home lives.  I was amazed at how quickly I got them on my side... and how much they were willing to share.  Although they certainly weren't "perfectly behaved" during the year... I managed to win them over.  They read the novel, they share with the class, they do their homework, they make us laugh, they say hello to me in the halls...and for the most part, only frustrated me a few times.  Once I had those four "trouble makers" on my side... I knew I'd get everyone else.  So despite my initial dread at seeing my class list, I am going to be sad to say goodbye in a few weeks.


Must Have Product
Now before you all start thinking I only focus on the "trouble makers" I do spend time getting to know all my students at the start of the year!  I like to invest time in building community and building connections between my students and with me.   So I build it into the lessons for the first few weeks.   I've included 12 different activities to use at the start of the year in my Back to School Bundle  My students love completing some of these activities!

Still reading??? Click HERE to grab a FREE Back to School Student Survey - lots of fun questions to get to know your students!

Be sure to check out the other amazing bloggers I've teamed up with for this blog hop! Check out the links below for more awesome tips and ideas!

Summer Fun - What This Teacher Does to RELAX

Thanks to ELA Buffet and Desktop Learning Adventures for hosting another great Secondary Smorgasboard Blog Hop - I always love reading everyone's posts!  

My Summer Plans!

We're Hittin' the Road - I happen to be married to the world's most organized man... he starts planning our summer adventures in the fall!  In fact this summer's vacation plans have been booked since early January!  He also does a ton of research into where we're going, what we can do, restaurants to check out... I basically pack my bags and just make sure I'm ready on time!  Our "big" trip this summer is to California - one of our favourite destinations!!  We're flying down and then driving Hwy 101 along the coast! Can't wait!! 

Vineyards of BC's Wine Region.

 We've also got some smaller weekend trips planned to some local get away spots along Vancouver's gorgeous coastline and a trip up to British Columbia's wine country for a little relaxing!  Here's a pic from the B&B we stayed at on our last trip there... views of the lake were wonderful!  We had a very relaxing week there biking, hiking and wine tasting - can't wait to go again.

Hiking, Biking, Adventuring - I'm so lucky to live in Vancouver! We're steps from the beach and a few minutes drive to the mountains... there's never nothing to do.  We love to hike and bike the Coast Mtns. and enjoy all that greater Vancouver has to offer. As well, the city has a fantastic sea wall that goes around the entire coastline for over 22km - and it's beautiful.  We separate lanes for walking and biking it's a buzz of activity... and I LOVE it!!  

English Bay, Vancouver, BC

Reading, Relaxing, Writing, Relaxing and Gardening - can't wait to catch up on some summer reading, create some new TpT products, plan for my classes next year,  and spend some time in the garden!  I'm also going to plunk myself on a beach, with a book, as often as I can!

What about you? What are your big summer plans?!

End of Year - Calming the Chaos Blog Hop

The end is near... well.. it might be for some of you... but it isn't for me.  I work right up until the end of June, but we don't start back up until the first week of September so it all works out in the end!


I've teamed up with some other TpT sellers to offers tips on how to survive those last few weeks of school. I know how hard it can be to keep our students focused on learning when the sun is shining and the lure of summer freedom is just around the corner.  Thanks to Kristy at 2 Peas and a Dog for hosting again!

Here are some ways I "Calm the Chaos" and the "End of Year Wiggles" that seem to infect my students every year.

1.  Mixing it Up
I like to mix it up a lot more than I do at the start of the year.  By now my students and I know each other, they've hopefully mastered my class routines and we're into a groove.  Although it may seem counterintuitive, I actually like to give them a little more freedom at the end of the year.  It's their reward for all their hard work. I play a few more "games" (my fancy word for review activities - it's all in how you sell it!) and I play a bit more music and I give them more choices.

2.  Grooving to the Tunes
As I mentioned above, I play more music in class towards the end of the year... and if I can theme it around something we're studying or reviewing that's an extra bonus!  For example, I'm teaching a poetry unit right now and it's easy to use music to teach figurative language.  I also teach science and we're studying weather and climate - it's amazing how many songs have lyrics about clouds, the sun, the rain and thunder... it's a fun activity to brainstorm titles as a class.

3. Review Extravaganza!
Like many of your students, my kids are required to write final exams so I spend significant time at the end of the year helping them get organized and prepared.  Here's a FREE review activity that works for ANY subject!! Click the image below to grab a copy!


Be sure to check out the other awesome tips and tricks to "Calm the Chaos" on the linky below!

Happy Countdown to Summer!!

Teaching What Matters - Teaching Vs. Learning

Thrilled to be linking up with Room 213 in the Teaching What Matters Most Blog Hop

This is a question that's been on my mind lately as I face a classroom full of students who are increasingly dealing with mental health issues such as anxiety and depression... as well as students who are becoming disengaged with school and the curriculum.  Now, more than ever I have to find a way to make my course relevant and current... sometimes easier said than done.  I have to find a way to connect old world poetry to their lives, show them how grammar still "counts", how to express themselves through their writing, how to read a book simply for the pleasure of it, how to notice the world around them and connect to it in a meaningful and real way.

One of the things I've done over the last few years is to change my frame of mind... I've switched from thinking about "What do I need to teach?" to thinking about "What do I want my students to learn?".   

For example, I have to teach poetry and figurative language as part of my ELA class.  Instead of just thinking about all of the terms my students need to know, I'm focusing more on what I want them to learn about poetry and how to enjoy poetry so that there isn't a collective groan when I say the word.  I want them to learn that poetry is having fun with language, it's playing with words, it can be gut wrenchingly sad, it can be silly, it can be beautiful and most importantly it can be their own creative expression. I want them to learn that poetry is in our music, it's in advertising, it's in the books they read, the movies they watch... and that there's a place for poetry in their world.  Thinking about what the end goal is rather than ticking off the learning outcomes for the course has made the subject more relevant and more engaging.

Ultimately, although I teach ELA, I want my students to learn so much more than just my subject...

I want them to learn to love words and language as much as I do...
... to love to read
... to learn how to pick themselves up when the going gets rough
... to learn how to advocate for themselves in a respectful way
... to learn to be respectful and thoughtful
... to learn to be inquisitive
... to learn that it's okay to make mistakes
... to learn to love themselves
... to learn that the world of social media isn't "real life"
... to learn that I really do want the best for them and I really do care...

I could probably write a list of a hundred things I want my students to learn... and nowhere on my list would be things like "using apostrophes correctly" or "how to identify a simile".

What about you?? What do you want your students to learn??

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