Holiday Resources - Tis The Season!

Thrilled to be joining up for the Tis The Season Blog Hop with an awesome group of secondary teachers!

How I Bring Meaning to the Season for My Students
Each year my school does a HUGE holiday food drive for our local Christmas Hamper Society.... and our students get so involved - it's truly amazing.  From organizing boxes for collections, jars for money, keep track of all of the donations and then getting it sorted and boxed up for delivery - the students do it all!  They truly learn that the best gift of all, is giving to others and their selfless acts touch 100s of families in our town.  The sense of accomplishment and the pride the students take in knowing they have made a family's Christmas special is amazing.

How I Bring the Meaning to the Season for My Family
My hubby and I try to think of a way to give back every year and it seems that Christmas time is the perfect time to do it.  This year we are taking some fruit / vegetables to a local animal shelter as they have 26 orphan bear cubs to feed - an unusually high number - and they're desperate for help!  We're also going to take my niece and nephew Christmas shopping for a toy to donate to the Christmas Hamper.... we'll let them pick out something for a child in our community and then take them with us when we drop it off.  It's something we all look forward to every year and it's important to us to show the younger generation the importance of giving to those less fortunate.

One Thing I'm Looking Forward to This Season
Getting out in the snow for some fun!  Last year we had very little snow on our local Vancouver mountains and we weren't able to enjoy snow shoeing or snowboarding like we usually do!  But we're off to a chilly snowy start and we are hopeful we can get up onto the slopes for some snowy fun!  Here's a picture of hubby and our dog snow shoeing at a local provincial park in 2014.

A Holiday Gift For You
Enjoy this fun and easy to use freebie! Perfect for January when we all have to go back to school.  It's a great time to set goals and resolutions for the year and it's an easy way to warm up students after some time off.  Just click the image below to grab a copy!

Be sure to hop on over to the other awesome blogs listed below for some more holiday cheer!


Peer Editing Tips and Tricks for Middle & Secondary Students

Peer editing can be a powerful tool in an English classroom but it can also be a colossal failure. As a result of too many failures I have changed the way I do it over the last few years and I have seen a huge improvement in my students’ editing and writing skills.  And... I think my students enjoy it too! #addedbonus

I used to ask students to switch papers with a partner and go through an editing check list with each other and then they’d hand their papers back to each other and get to work correcting their errors.  However, I found that their editing was very, very basic so I needed a way to switch it up.

Now, I have them switch papers with 10-12 people before going to work on their revising and editing.  This is 10-12 more people giving feedback and help… and it means that each student gets to see more examples of other student’s writing.

But… instead of getting students to look at the entire piece of writing, I ask them to focus on one particular aspect at a time.  It’s less overwhelming for my weaker students and it really allows students to see all the different aspects that make up a good piece of writing.

My technique involves a lot of paper passing, so you need to set up a system so that works with your classroom set up.  At each pass of the students’ papers I ask students to look for and do different things.  And what I ask them to look for, will be dependent on the type of writing they’re editing.  With each pass the students must read the entire piece of writing… you may need to allow a few minutes depending on the length of the work.

Here are some suggested prompts with EACH pass of the paper.  
  • Put a check mark at the top of the paper if there’s an engaging title. Put an X if there’s no title. 
  • Circle any words you think may be spelled incorrectly.  (I sometimes do this one twice!)
  • Put a star beside the topic sentence.  If there is no topic sentence make a note at the bottom of their page. 
  • Put a check mark beside the climax of the writing.  Make a note at the bottom if the climax was not obvious or was confusing.
  • Put a small check mark beside three words that you think were particularly helpful in expressing an idea. 
  • Circle any missing punctuation.  Period, quotations, commas….
  • Circle any words that should be capitalized.
  • Put a question mark beside an idea or sentence you were confused about.  Add some details about why it was confusing at the bottom.
  • What’s one thing you’d like to know more about in this writing?  Ask a question at the bottom of their paper.
  • Put a number 1 beside the first sentence that support the topic sentence.   Put a 2 beside the second…
  • Write a sentence at the bottom of the paper giving the writer an idea to improve their work.
  • Underline the concluding sentence.  Cross out anything that says “These are all the reasons why...” or “In conclusion…” 
  • Put a check mark beside the concluding sentence if it links back and relates to the topic sentence.
  • Circle a boring verb and write a suggestion for a new vivid one.
  • Underline the transition words.  Make a note at the bottom if there are none.
  • Write a note at the bottom of their page to let them know if they varied their sentences or if they are all the same.
I am sure you will think of more ideas as you get started and work through this process.  The type of writing will also dictate that types of things you ask your students to look for.  I try to make sure that when I ask students to circle something it’s an error that needs attention… this way when they get their paper back they know what needs to be done.  Check marks mean “well done”, underlining is also identifying positive structures in their work.

My students look forward to doing this—they get to read so many examples, they’re only asked to focus on one thing at a time and when their paper are returned they see so many great suggestions.

I hope you get a chance to try out this strategy with your students as I have truly found success with it in my classroom.  Good luck!


Halloween Tricks and Treats - A FREEBIE for you!

Happy Halloween from Secondary Smorgasbord!! Check out the Tricks and Treats we've put together for you by following the blog hop below!

Have I mentioned how much I LOVE Halloween?  Like... really LOVE Halloween!!  The colours, the pumpkins, the chance to dress up and the fabulously fun family night our neighbourhood organizes.  We get together for a big wiener roast and fireworks - I think the fireworks are a uniquely Canadian tradition for Halloween.  It's our biggest firework night of the year! (Our poor dog is a disaster by the end of the night - between the trick-or-treaters and the fireworks it's a stressful night!)

I know it can be a challenge to bring the holidays into a middle or high school classroom, but I've learned over the years that the older kids still like a little holiday fun too.  The key is to combine the fun with some valuable learning.

As an ELA teacher I really think it's important to have my students practice their writing as much as possible.  So I try to combine writing with some holiday fun whenever I can.

Here's a FREE Halloween TREAT for you and your students to enjoy.  Use this Halloween subway art as a writing prompt. 

Challenge students to use a word from each colour in their first sentence. To include 5 words, to include all of the words, to write a poem, to create a haiku, a spooky Halloween headline, a Halloween song...

Click the image to download a FREE copy from my TPT Store! Be sure to check out my other Halloween and Fall themed resources HERE.

Be sure to hop over to the other blogs below for more tricks and treats!

Happy Halloween!


Going Back to School Tip

I can't believe it's time to start thinking about Back to School!  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.

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.  

 Another fun way to get to know my students is with this FREE Back to School Survey.  It's got a variety of questions that students might not be expecting & I always share my answers with the class.

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


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 assignments 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 refered 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!


Looking Ahead To A New School Year 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

What matters most?  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.

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??


Poetry... Yes, It Can Be Fun!

I know when I tell my 8th grade students that we're starting a poetry unit, there's usually a collective groan... especially in my classes that have a lot of boys!  However, I have learned over the years that we can have a lot of fun with poetry and that by the end of our poetry unit I've usually convinced many of my students that poetry's not so bad after all.

Here are a few of the tricks I have up my sleeve:

#1 - Use music and song lyrics when you can to teach the elements of poetry.  There are so many opportunities to use current songs in the classroom.  Challenge your students to find examples of figurative language in their favorite song lyrics!  Have a class debate to decide if music lyrics are the same as poetry? Have students work with a partner to present their favorite song to the class - they need to discuss meaning and show example of literary terms in their presentation.

#2 - Use Youtube - there are a multitude of videos that illustrate figurative language and literary devices using examples from popular movies and music. There are so many available online it's a little overwhelming (be sure to preview for inappropriate lyrics!)  Here's a link to one of my favorite videos and it's always well received by my students!

#3 - Allow your students the chance to be silly! Poetry is all about playing with words and language and there are plenty of opportunities to have fun.  As part of learning about figurative language I ask students to write examples on the classroom whiteboard.  I hand out about 5 pens at a time and there's a flurry of activity as students write and then pass the pen to someone else. (The buzz of activity at the board means no students feel put on the spot and they can write anonymously.  Or... give each student a sticky note and have them post their example that way.  Either way, we have a lot of laughs reading everyone's examples.... it's hard to keep a straight face when I read out "He dances like a  horse when he eats tacos"!

#4 - Use interactive notebooks and flip books - give your students the chance to use their hands.  I love interactive notebooks / flip books for a variety of reasons, but one of my favorite things about them is that it gives my students a break.  The chance to get up out of their seats to grab scissors and glue, the chance to chat with a neighbor while they're cutting and the chance to use their hands is the best way to break up a long 75 minute English class.  My students also really benefit from the ease with which they can use their interactive activities to do review.   Click on the picture below to link to my Figurative Language / Poetry Terms Mini Flip Book.  Check out all of my Poetry Resources HERE.

#5 - Don't be afraid to try something new, step out of your comfort zone and take a risk.  Model that for your students and share your adventures together!  Have fun!

Thanks for reading!  Here's a fun freebie for you to use as a handy reference and review of Figurative Language with your students. Just click the image below to grab a copy!

Best of luck with your poetry unit!


Valentine's Day Blog Hop 2015 - Valentine Writing Activities

I love that I've teamed up with the wonderful gals at Faulkner's Fast Five, The Language Arts Classroom and The Literary Maven for another Secondary Blog Hop! This month's theme is "Feeling the Love" in honour of Valentine's Day.

What I LOVE about teaching...
I love that each day is different and that I know I'm guaranteed a good laugh with each of my classes.  I also love seeing the "light bulb go on"... I love seeing a student suddenly realize that poetry isn't really that bad after all... I love it when former students come to find me in the school to say hello... and I love it when students see their hard work and perseverance pay off. 

Valentine's Day Resource I LOVE...
I have a series of resources called "Interview With A __________" and the one I created for Valentine's Day is one of my favourites.  Interview With Cupid asks students to pretend they have the opportunity to interview Cupid - what would they ask? What questions would they have for Cupid?  Students must create questions and then make up the answers to complete a Cupid Biography.  The things my students come up with are always hilarious and love reading their work when they're done.

Funny Valentine's Day Gift
On old boyfriend of mine once sent me a beautiful bouquet of flowers to me at school.  I was thrilled... and proudly put them in a vase on my desk.  I had no idea that those dang flowers would result in a student bursting into tears upon entering my classroom.  She walked in and said something along the lines of "Are those flowers yours? Are they for Valentine's Day?"  When I sweetly explained that they were from my boyfriend, she threw herself down at her desk, burst into tears and wailed "I HATE Valentine's Day and I HATE boys."  I managed to calm her down and quickly put the flowers in my office... hopefully out of her sight and out of her mind.  Aahh... the ups and downs of teen romance.

Something I'd LOVE to do??  
Do I only get to pick one thing? This is too hard... my list is really long:  Travel the South Pacific, do an African safari, adventure through South America... learn to cook better, drink less Coca-Cola, workout more often... I feel like I'm listing my failed New Year's resolutions... 

A Book I've Loved Reading Recently
I'm cheating again... I have two.
The Good Girl by Mary Kubika - If you loved Gone Girl, I think you'll also love The Good Girl. A great story - kept me guessing and on my toes.

The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu - A fantastic young adult novel that focuses on a girl called Alice and the impact that one rumour had on her high school life.  A hard hitting andd realistic look at high school bullying.

Happy Valentine's Day!
~ Addie


Review Game - Works for ANY Subject!

If you're anything like me, you like to mix it up and have fun with your students.  Here's a fun review game my students LOVE to play and it's easy peasy, lemon squeasy!!

I divide my students up into groups of 2-4 and have them sit together - I sometimes put friends together and sometimes I mix them all up.

Using sticky notes, I write as many vocabulary words as I can from our unit of study. (One word per sticky)  It's okay if you use the same word more than once because you will have different groups.  

I circulate the room and put a sticky on each student's back / shoulder.  The  students in their group are allowed to look at the vocabulary words on each other's back but they can't say any of the words out loud.  Then, taking turns, the students ask "yes" or "no" questions to their group members to try to guess what the vocabulary word on their back is.  When all of the team members have guessed what their vocabulary word is, I circulate again and add more stickies.  Usually 5-6 rounds is good - but my students often ask to play longer!

I teach science and there is a lot of vocabulary associated with each unit... this is a fun way to get the kids thinking about "good" questions to ask to help them narrow down their thinking to get to their word.

I also teach ELA and have used this same technique during a novel study to review literary terms, characters, plot elements and more!  

At the end of the year when it's time for what I call a "MEGA Review" I put the kids in groups and give each group their own pad of sticky notes.  They love to write vocabulary words for each other and try to outsmart each other - it's a lot of fun!

If you're looking for more ideas to help students study and review vocabulary and important concepts, check out the FREEBIE I have posted in my TeachersPayTeacher store.  Click the image below to grab a copy!  It's another fun activity using sticky notes!!

I've also got a set of posters to help students learn the key words associated with test taking.  My students often need to review these terminology of test questions and these posters have helped. Click the image to check them out.

~ Addie ~

Back to Top