Sunday, January 31, 2016

Melt February lethargy with mesmerizing activities

Are your students sinking into hibernation mode like the groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, does when he sees his shadow?

Is their attention and motivation yawning them into the recesses of their minds for another six weeks of sleep?

Has your Planning Muse become a victim of the February Fickle Flu, that insidious malady where your creativity mirrors the frigid one day, balmy the next weather?

Fret no further. These lessons will have you covered, no matter the weather- meteorological or personal. With each activity in this post, I suggest how you might use the individual lessons throughout the month.

Comprehension Activity - Score With the Literature Super Bowl

Writing Activities - FABULOUS FIVE PACKET $

Here are the Fabulous Five activities and ideas for incorporating them into your plans.
Teaching Ideas for the activities
1. Then and Now Prewriting Activity
Use this as a Warm-up at the beginning of the month.Have each student use this information for writing a personal narrative about him/herself later in the month. or,
Follow the suggestion above, but ask students to complete the activity, and later in the month-a personal narrative as one of the characters in the story you are currently studying would do. 
2. Playing With Color Worksheet

On twelve days of February, have students complete one of the activities on this sheet for a Closure activity. Give them about 5 minutes to do this.  After they complete the last activity on the 12th day, explain that they now must write a poem that shows as many aspects of their color as they can.  In the poem, they must use as much information from this worksheet that they need to in order to paint a vivid word picture about this color.3. Brain Bumps: Twenty Writing Suggestions to End Idea Vacuums
February has 20 class days, if  president's Day is a school holiday in your district.  Brain Bumps offers 20 activities, but many, many more writing possibilities as many of the numbered suggestions offers multiple writing ideas. Ask students to choose any one of the ideas as a Twenty-Minute Writing Warm-up topic each day.  Do have students  date each entry and include the topic number, and letter, if necessary, such as 12F.  A good length requirement is 250 words.  For MArch, APril, May and June Warm-ups, ask students to re-visit these entries and then expand on them.  They may choose to stick with one for a few days to fully develop the topic.
4. This is What I’m Hungry For!: Thirty Discussion/Writing Topics for Literature

Choose one of these ideas each day as  the focus for part/all of the discussion for the story that the students is studying.  Some of these ideas are better for individual work, while others work well if the students are in pairs or groups up to four students. 
5. Friend or Foe?

This is a  great topic to hook students attention for a review of the story and to evolve into a lively discussion. Students need to include details from the story that they must analyze to complete the work. It hits on four main core areas-reading, writing, critical thinking and speaking/listening.

SUPER BOWL - February 7th
Comprehension Activity: Score With the Literature Super Bowl  FREE
Use this prior to the Super Bowl on February 7th to tap into the Football Fever that tamper with students' on-task behavior, or use it after the finale by offering it as a review activity for a literature study and as closure to six months of pro-football.
Comprehension Activity - Score With the Literature Super Bowl

VALENTINE'S DAY - February 14th
All three of these activities offer students a chance to use Valentine's Day as the theme  for an in-depth  study of  a character or characters from the story they are currently studying or those that they have read as a class assignment previously.   Choose one for each student to complete individually or in pairs, or divide students into pairs and give each pair one of the activities, repeating the activities as needed. Note: the activity, LOVE NOTES includes 6 activities, so you have a total of 8 ideas to incorporate into your lessons.  Be sure to set aside time for students to share their completed projects. To really get into the Valentine's Day spirit, and to make sure that all of your students are remembered on this day, if your districts allows, have a Presentation Party. Have students sign up to bring in decorations like red and white lights, red paper placemats, other paper products, food, drinks, etc. This should be voluntary as some students might not have any money to spare on extras.  A few days before the event, set up a table with red and white construction paper, as well as any glitter, glue etc. for students who would like to make decorations.

Valentine's Day Comprehension Activity: You Sent What??? Cards $


Valentine's Day Comprehension Activity: You Sent What??? Cards

Valentine's Day Comprehension Activity: Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Make Me a Match $

LOVE NOTES - 6 ELA Activities to show, “I love you,” or “I love you not”


President's Day Comprehension & Writing Activity: Hail to the Chief $
This is another project that ties the characters from books students are studying to the real world. Here, students choose a character from the piece that they are reading together, or from one that they have read independent does this project fit into today's headlines-but it is cross-cultural, especially with Government or Civics classes. Maybe students could earn Extra Credit if they share their projects in their Government or Civics classes.  How do you fit this project in with all of the others in this now filled with lessons month? Introduce it on February 1st, and have it due on February 29th- Leap Year Day. Students would work on it as a Home Assignment or in  class, only if all other class work is completed.
President's Day ELA and Government Activity: Hail to the Chief

As a final tactic to rouse your Planning Muse from its  desire to burrow under a pile of quilts, here is a February calendar that shows how to coordinate these ideas with those you already devised. Other than hooking in these activities, the agenda items are general so you can adapt this calendar to meet your plans and your students' needs.
February 2016 ELA Activities Calendar

You will see that not including the quick Closure Activity, I follow the Rule of Three teaching concept to coordinate lessons and activities with students' attention spans...but more on that in another blog.

All too often, February is a forgotten month, or one to just get through.  I hope that these activities will make it a Fun and Fabulous month in your classroom.

Enjoy a Teach It Now Day Every Day.

Teach It Write - Build Powerful Academic Homes

Sunday, January 17, 2016

It's time for 'The Academic Awards for Literature'!

This morning, I was reading The Washington Post's  Book section and saw that The Martian by Andy Weir, The Revenant by Michael Punke and Brooklyn by Colm Toibin all made the top paperback book sales for last week. Why did these titles ring an, "Aha!" bell in my not-quite-caffeinated-enough brain? Because  just this past week, I read their titles on the Academy Award nominations list for Best Motion Picture of 2015.

Other books turned into movies that made the nominations list in that same category as well as others -some in multiple categories- are The Big Short by Michael Lewis, Room by Emma Donahue, Carol - based on The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith, The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff, Trumbo by Bruce Cook, 45 Years - based on In Another Country by David Constantine, and Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James.

Although many of these books will never be read in the secondary classrooms, some might. The point is- without the original books, these movies never would have been made. This thought made me wonder, "What about literary awards since so many films begin with an already published fiction or non-fiction piece?" 

literature analysis
Students would select their choices for The Academic Awards for Literature  from books they either studied as a class or read independently. It doesn't matter if the book they choose has never been made into a film. They have read enough novels and narrative nonfiction and viewed enough movies to form opinions as to which ones earn the label of the Best.

Would they vote for Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins? The Stranger  by Albert Camus? One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey? The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald, or one of many other solid choices? 

For this activity, teachers build on the Academy Awards nominations chatter to hook Middle and High School students' interest as they write about their reading. The Academic Awards for Literature absorbs students’ interest and motivates them to combine their opinions with facts and details from books as they create their awards and defend their choices.
                                          Literature Analysis Student Directions p.2
The categories for the awards are based on the elements of literature - Characters, Settings, Plot/Conflicts, Symbols, themes and Point of View.

To complete this lesson, students are required to
1. write the category title and their choice for the Best in that category in the given spaces on the certificate.
2. explain and support each choice in a paragraph on the awards certificate, following the points under Writing Criteria. 
3. make sure that their writing specifically addresses the criteria for each category. 
4. defend one or more of their selections during a class discussion.

Literature Analysis Student Directions p.3
Literary Analysis Student Directions p.4

The criteria for Fiction and Non-fiction offers students points to ponder about each element of literature as they consider how to explain the who, what, where, when and why behind their choices.

Example: Characters (Types of characters are in the parentheses): Does the character grow and change (dynamic), show different sides to his/her personality (round), stay one-dimensional in his/her personality (flat) or show no mental/emotional and/or spiritual growth (static)? Is the character: major, minor, the protagonist or the antagonist? Are the characters believable and or sympathetic? Do you care what happens to them?

Literary Analysis p.6

After they choose their recipients for each award students are to fill in the certificates. Here are six of the twenty categories
•Best Fictional Female Character
•Best Fictional Male Character
•Best Supporting Fictional Female Character
•Best Supporting Fictional Male Character
•Best Non- Fictional Female Character
•Best Non-Fictional Male Character
In their explanatory paragraphs, students must state the award recipient as well as the title and author of the text. To defend their choices, the explanations must include three examples along with supporting details that justify each choice and that add clarity to the reasoning behind it.
The Teacher Notes page lists the Common Core Standards that pertain to this activity as well as the Bloom's Taxonomy terms students will utilize. 
Literary Analysis teacher Notes p.5

For another engaging activity for books that have been turned into movies, try - ($1.25)
Literature and Movie Analysis Activity

These lessons mesh reading, writing and viewing into activities that are guaranteed to ignite lively discussions where students support their opinions with facts and details. Who knows- someday one of their book choices might be turned into a movie, and they will hear their choice  introduced during the 20_ _ Academy Awards  with the words, "And the winner is...".

Enjoy a Teach It Now Day Every Day.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Lessons For Those, "Oh No! I Need a Sub!" Days

Oh No!  During the night, the cat clawed your washing machine hose and  water sprayed your laundry room until you turned the water valve to Off and duck taped the holes. Your 7-year old daughter chose that moment to throw up last night's beef stew in her bed, and you feel like that tin monkey playing cymbals is marching through your head.

After leaving an EMERGENCY! message for the plumber, bathing your daughter and tucking her into your bed, and then tossing her soiled sheets into the bathtub, at 5:45 AM you crawl to the phone to call in sick. The very, very last task you can bear to consider-even if you wanted to- is to create Sub Plans that will keep your students engaged and on-task with  only a blip  in their learning.

Thankfully, you don't need to worry because here are two packets with lessons and activities that are specific to secondary English classrooms and are easily adaptable to core programs of study that showcase Reading Comprehension, Writing, Grammar and Vocabulary.  With minimum tweaks, you can slip them into your Substitute Folder and also tie them to your pre-planned agenda as you sigh, "Phew! That was simple."

As a firm believer of the Rule of Three, I plan every class period around this triune teaching concept because it focuses on students' attention spans- a factor important to any lesson, but absolutely crucial if a substitute is to avoid classroom chaos.
Naquin "Delayed Gratification" graphic

By including these two packets in your Substitute Folder ahead of time, and keeping plenty of copies of the student handouts available, all you need to do is leave notes for the substitute to follow.

A terrific aspect of these lessons is that you can easily incorporate them into your plans throughout the school year because the concepts they strengthen benefit from continual reinforcement.  This way, if you have students work on the activities with you leading them, when you are absent, they will be familiar with the requirements, offering a smooth transition for the sub.  More importantly, students will not feel that these are "just sub plans," and therefore, "not important".

Suggested Schedule - the class times are for a 55-minute period. 80 minute block times are in the parentheses
1. Warm-up - 15 minutes (25)
2. Main Activity - 30 minutes (45)
3. Sharing/Closure -10 minutes  (10) 

1. Warm-Up
You should introduce the Just Say "NO!" to Dull Writing activities into your plans as soon as possible by handing out the Taboo Words and Phrases List (p.3) and 15 Days to Lose the Taboos (p.5), Whenever you want students to revise their writing instead of writing something new during Warm-Up time, have them choose one exercise to complete, following them in chronological order, using their writings-from warm-ups to full-length essays.  This way, they will be familiar with the activities and can select the next exercise(s) on the list the  day(s) you are absent,

Mark which Teacher Notes directions that you want the sub to follow. (FREE)

Taboo Words and Phrases

2. Main Activity Nonfiction Analysis: Reading and Writing Activity
Like with the Just Say "NO!" to Dull Writing packet, you can use this lesson as many times as you like throughout the year.  Just copy and hand out pages 4-5 when you want to introduce it, and instruct student to always have these papers in their class folders. 

Have stacks of pages 6-8 on hand in a location where the substitute can easily find them.  In your Substitute Folder, keep a complete copy of this packet. On the cover page, leave a note as to where the page 6-8 handouts can be found. On the Teacher Notes pages (2-3) highlight /specify which Lesson Option(s) you want the students to follow (see Bullet points 4 &5). 

analyzing non-fiction -reading and writing activity

3. Sharing/Closure 
The sub should select students to share a Warm-up revision or a summary of the article they read for the main activity. After that, he/she should collect students' work according to your directions.

With these sub plans and all of the others in this valuable blog hop, you will never stress about any day that you cannot be in your classroom-planned or when fate sends you tumbling into the Emergency Zone.

Thank you Pamela Kranz and Darlene Anne Curran for  creating this awesome blog hop. Colleagues, as Pam and Darlene say on the image, "Need sub plans?  We've got you covered".

Enjoy a Teach It Now Day- Especially on  a Sub Day.

For more program-specific lessons and activities that will keep students learning on a sub day or any day, check out the Custom Categories in my store

An InLinkz Link-up
product links:

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A WInter Tingly,Jingly Jam for My Classroom Colleagues

I am so, so thrilled that the wonderful editors for the C.L.A.S.S. newsletter published my poem, A Teacher's Winter Holiday Jingle in the December issue of this classy publication! If you are a secondary ELA or Social Studies teacher, you should check out this awesome newsletter. In it you will find a plethora of great articles, ideas, and freebies for secondary ELA and Social Studies Teachers! Besides learning about using vision boards, you will find loads of  engaging FREE and Priced TpT products.

The newspaper link is 
The link to subscribe is
When you subscribe, you will fill your mind and teacher's bag with stimulating lesson ideas and engaging classroom ready activities. 

And here is the big bonus - you can submit your own articles and TpT products for publication. Talk about a WIN-WIN situation, this is it!

For all of my colleagues still leading classrooms and creating lifelong learners, enjoy this reprint of my poem, followed by links for three December ACTIVITIES.

C.L.A.S.S. Newsletter

A Teacher's Winter Holiday Jingle

As the December calendar grinds its way toward the much anticipated winter break, my mind can’t stop contemplating how teachers would transform the holiday song lyrics that burst from radio stations, prance through television commercials and ring-a-ding from every street corner Santa’s bell.  White Christmas, written by Irving Belin in 1940 and made famous by Bing Crosby who sang it at The Kraft Music Hall on December 25, 1941, continually resonates through my head. For that reason, I decided to borrow the format and paraphrase the lyrics for my version,  
A Teacher’s Winter Holiday Jingle.

I'm dreaming of a big pay raise
Just like the ones I used to know
Where the zeros increase, as stress they release
And the thoughts of dollar signs make me glow.

I’m dreaming of free planning periods
With every midnight lesson I write
May PLC meetings be constructive, not trite
And may all of my data collecting tasks be light.

I’m dreaming of involved students
Just like my summer visions show
Where kids’ academic desires increase, as their indifferences decrease
And the “I got it!” moments make their faces glow.

I’m dreaming of supportive principals
With scholastic goals that cause delight
May these leaders build an atmosphere that’s bright
And may my teaching passion they ignite.

I'm dreaming of a caring school board
Who loads my bank account with dough
Where my headaches decease, as annual COLAs increase
And respect for my teaching and me they bestow.

I’m dreaming of supportive parents
With every grade report I write
May dads and moms not retort with barks or bites
And may all of our correspondences be polite.

I’m dreaming of a giving PTA
Just like those I’ve mostly known
Where bagels and coffee increase, as my burdens decrease
And their financial aid makes my face aglow.

I’m dreaming of a winter rest
With each work-filled December night
May my lessons be engaging and forthright
And keep my students learning with much delight.

Happy Holidays to all of my colleagues still leading classrooms. If any of these words match your dreams, I do hope that they see the light of day and the inside of your bank accounts.


December Character Comprehension Project: Winter Wonders

Character Comprehension Project

Comprehension & Writing Activity: Seasonal Similes and Mouth-Watering Metaphors

Comprehension & Writing Activity

Literature Analysis Activities - Dancing Through December

Literature Analysis Activities

Enjoy a Teach It Write Day Every Day, and a Wonderful Winter Break!

Sunday, November 29, 2015


The Carpenters were right on target when they sang, "...Rainy days and Mondays always get me down" in 1971 (Rainy Days and Mondays The Carpenters).

When that gloomy Monday -or Tuesday- is the one following Thanksgiving break and a is also a mere month before Winter vacation, teachers desperately need to turn their frowns upside down.

They can do that by fast-walking their fingers over their keyboards to the annual

Monday - November 30th
& Tuesday - December 1st.

TpT Cyber Sale

All 147 of my PAID products are 20% off.
Of course, all 31 of my FREE products are...well... still FREE.

Mopey Monday  and Tiresome Tuesday will not get you down when you go to my store,, during TpT's Cyber Sale
where you will CLICK, SAVE, and SMILE.

Enjoy a Teach It Now Day Every Day.

Sunday, November 22, 2015


 To All of my English Language Arts colleagues-

I wish you a relaxing vacation with family and  friends. 

So you don't have to cram in planning before your break, and 
So you don't have to endure a grumpy week after your much deserved vacation,

I am having a 15% off EVERYTHING SALE in my TpT store

TpT Pre-Thanksgiving Sale
Along with all of my literature, writing, vocabulary, grammar and journalism lesson plans, activities, unit plans, PowerPoints and Teacher Resources, be sure to check out these two November Newbies:



Browse the sale so you can make the most of your vacation time. 

Have a wonderful break, and when you return to the classroom next week,
Enjoy a Teach It Now Day, Every Day.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Secondary Smorgasbord - All Treats & No Tricks for Teachers Blog Hop

Secondary Smorgasbord - All Treats & No Tricks for Teachers

All Treats & No Tricks for Teachers blog hop

Teachers Resource Goody Bags must always be reviewed, and updated with fresh material. The problem is- by the end of the day, or a non-stop week- who has the energy to mine their exhausted brains for engaging, challenging, and inspiring new ideas? 

The solution is nearer and easier than you can imagine.  Present the issue to your students. 

One late October day in my not-so-far-away past,  when my brain was clogged with fog that threatened to settle in and hibernate for a while, I asked my Creative Writing 2,3,4 students to, "... brainstorm some  ways that we can mine the buried creative veins in our minds for writing ideas." Their eyes started to ping and glow as their brain-gears chugged to life.  "And," I continued, "Figure out a way we make them easily accessible to the class."

The Lost & Found Idea Box was born.  Very simply, the students and I could add as many writing ideas to the box whenever we remembered a forgotten idea for a story, poem or personal narrative, concocted a fresh one, or found an idea from a printed/published source.

Kseniya, whose creative brain was always conjuring up -out-of-the-box (yes, I really wrote that) breakthroughs, led the class's planning session. Here are their results:
  1. Ideas or hooks had to fit on a 3" x 5" Index Card- either written, glued, stapled or taped.
  2. If the brainchild was not from their own minds, they had to cite the source.
  3. All items had to follow my class rules- No Swearing, No Graphic Violence, No Direct, Indirect or Implied Sex, No Drugs. Also, no text abbreviations or slang that promoted any of the above Nos. that I might not be aware of without interpretations from a kind but probably snickering, eye-rolling, How can she not know this? student.
  4. I would provide them with an empty copy paper box that they would all decorate whenever their creative muses inspired them.
Within a week, the Lost & Found Idea Box perched on top of a bookcase stuffed with novels donated from years of bookaholic students and my own collection. Multilayered with pieces of scrapbook paper, colored tissue paper, newspaper headlines, personally created and Internet found graphics and images, foam letters, feathers, mirrors and other local craft store purchases,etc., its very presence boldly lured students to explore its treasures.

The box was crammed with Index Cards revealing items like horoscopes, obituary clips, stories from any section of online and hardcopy newspapers and magazines. original opening lines from their pieces. quotes from a book that grabbed their interest, headlines, text messages, social media statuses, tweets, doodles in the margins of their notebooks, images from a graphic arts class, get the idea- from absolutely anywhere. 

The entries were only limited by the boundaries of the students' imaginations.And that is the key to student brain drain, When students are included in the planning, they are more apt to be hooked into learning because they feel their thoughts and ideas are valued.

Not only did my students allow items from Lost & Found Idea Box to inspire them, but so did I. Many times when my mind froze and I needed a Warm-up Prompt for my English 12, journalism or my Creative Writing 1,2,3 or 4 classes, I would sift through the  Index Cards until my brain pinged, "That's it!"

Here is a Halloween Freebie to add to your  Resource Goody Bag and to start your own classroom Idea Box - Comprehension and Writing Activity - Trick or Treat?

Thank you  Darlene Ann Curran  and Pamela Kranz for organizing this most excellent All Treats & No Tricks blog hop.

Enjoy a Teach It Now Day, Every Day,