Tuesday, December 30, 2014

New Year's Day Writing Activity - "Dynamite Resolutions for the New Year"

Teachers, this post offers you a few more days of relaxing, shopping, reading for pleasure, watching college bowl games, or indulging in whatever revives you best before you must unlock your classrooms after your much-deserved break.  This lesson, New Year's Day Writing Activity: Dynamite Resolutions for the New Year, will engage your middle and /or high school students as the first bell chimes while giving you an activity that meets comprehension, writing, thinking and speaking objectives.

As the New Year tick tocks its way into January, students’ brains need some prodding to shake off the cobwebs of long winter naps. This language arts activity sparks their comprehension, critical thinking and writing muscles as they consider the texts that they read and analyzed during the fall and early winter months. After they complete the handout and share their responses in a whole-class discussion that promises to be lively, their brains will be revved up for the next fiction or narrative nonfiction unit.

For this lesson, New Year's Day Writing Activity: Dynamite Resolutions for the New Year, students will choose five people from any of the reading they have completed so far this school year, and will create a New Year’s Resolution for each one. Each decision must be one that fits the character’s disposition, morals, values and temperament.

After the students create this pledge, they must explain
  •  why the character made this decision,
  •  why this is a logical choice for him/her, and they
  •  must also include the title and author for each story that they use.

To score this activity, allot 1 point each for the character, the title and the author; 3 points for each Resolution, and 4 points for the Reason -10 points per each character response, and 50 points for the whole worksheet.

Character: Goldilocks; Goldilocks and The Three Bears; Robert Southly
Resolution: I vow never to break into anyone’s house again.
Reason: My parents grounded me for breaking and entering, eating the Bear family’s food, destroying their furniture and messing up their beds. For three weeks I had to eat cold porridge, sit in a wooden chair and sleep on a wooden pallet with no mattress. That was no fun.

This lesson promises to add more bricks to students’ academic homes while they prove the premise that Learning is Fun.  Resolve to download this $1.25 bargain from http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/New-Years-Day-Writing-Activity-Dynamite-Resolutions-for-the-New-Year-179906.

Happy Teaching,

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Secondary Smorgasbord Presents "Teachers' Favorite Traditions"

A favorite teaching tradition for my students and me was the Casserly Café.  It always challenged students to harness their creative and analytic powers into an original performance that revealed their understanding of a basic concept for either my creative writing or English 11 or English 12 courses. 

These end of the semester presentations required creative writing students to compose an original piece-fiction, non-fiction or poetry - that visually exhibited their understanding of a writing concept. The English class assignment required the students to reveal their knowledge and perception of any literary or textual element of a story that we studied as a class.

Students’ presentations could take any form as long as they did NOT just stand in front of the class and read.  Over the years they created puppet shows that acted out stories they wrote; put their poetry to music, and videotaped original stories that they scripted into short movies.  Costumes and setting elements were required, even for a poetry recital. Once, a young lady draped a colorful scarf around her neck, donned a black beret and asked a friend to tap on bongos as she recited her original poems that delved into her insights of Albert Camus. Her backdrop was a PowerPoint slideshow of Parisian cafes from the 1930s.

Another time, a young man who loved Arizona Green Tea with Ginseng and Honey made a huge Tea Man by nailing the empty cans to a board. He stood beside it when he presented his ode praising this drink. Afterwards he sent the poem to the company-along with a picture of him standing by Tea Man. They published it on their site.

Here are the Student Directions:

At the end of this semester, you will write and present a visually creative endeavor for the Casserly Café. Each day, 5-6 of you will dramatically present your prose or poetry.  Daily presenters are responsible for the food and drink for their class period.  The performances for creative writing students must exhibit your understanding of the writing concept you choose-fiction, narrative non-fiction or poetry.  English 11 and 12 students’ presentations must reveal your knowledge and understanding of the literary element or the author of any story we studied together.
Presentation Ideas:
1.       Write a script for a scene from an original story or one we read and perform it. This can be live or saved to a DVD.
  1. Prepare a poetry reading
  2. Dramatically read a fiction excerpt from an original short story. For English 11 and 12 students, you may compose an original scene for a story that we studied, keeping the characters, conflict and setting true to the original story.
  3. Compile a literary/art magazine
  4. Create a reality TV show.
  5. Write the lyrics for a song that shows the plot characters, setting, etc. of a story you wrote or one we studied.
  6. Show the literary elements of an original story-or one that we read- in a mural, collage, painting or any artistic endeavor.
  7. Design your own project and get teacher approval. Your options for your presentation are unlimited.  Let your imagination be your guide.
  1. Each performance must be a minimum of 5 minutes and a maximum of 10 minutes.
  2. To enhance your performance, dress the part, play background music, illustrate your writing, etc. Think, “How can I hook the class and teacher with the mood/persona that I want to reveal?”
  3. These performances must be live except for movies/plays that require a range of scenery and performers.
  4. NO: curse words, sexual innuendo, graphic violence or positive portrayal of drugs/alcohol.  Keep your writing and performance School Appropriate.
  5. Your job is to entertain the class with your work using any medium-music, art, etc. that will hook the audience with sight and sound.
  1. Turn in a rough draft and final copy of what you will present.
  2. 50 points for the written material
  3. 50 points: refreshments (this must be representative of a textual aspect in your performance.
  4. 100 points for the performance
  5. *If this is a group endeavor, each person will receive an individual grade, and these grades will be averaged for the performance grade.
Grading Table
Dramatic Presentation

Speaking Clarity

Performance Enhancements


Entertainment Quality

Written Material


TOTAL _________/200

Note 1:  Three students who volunteer to decorate the classroom with strings of lights, battery-operated candles, etc . will earn up to 5 Extra Credit points each.
Note 2: Three students other than those in Note 1 who volunteer to make sure that the room is cleaned up at the end of class will earn up to 5 Extra Credit points each.

Teachers, to create a performance tradition in your class- no matter the subject area- think about how the students can show their knowledge and understanding of a concept by combining writing and sensory imagery: Sight, Hearing, Smell, Taste and Touch.

Showcasing Science, History Enactments, Math Functions, French Feats, or Creative Cafe anyone?

Thanks to two of my teacher friends, Pamela Krantz (http://desktoplearningadventures.blogspot.com/)  and Darlene Anne Curran (http://meatballsinthemiddle.blogspot.com/for hosting  the Secondary Smorgasbord Bloghop.

Happy Teaching, Happy Traditions,

For other lesson ideas, drop by my store http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Connie

Friday, November 28, 2014

Celebrate a TpT Super Cyber Savings Sale and a Brand New ELA Freebie!

This Super Cyber-Savings Sale is a BIG Deal, folks. 
Buyers will save up to 28% with sellers discounts along with TpT's bonus when they use the 
Promo Code: TPTCYBER.

And to add a little sweetness to your carts, how about a brand new FREEBIE to keep kids tuned in and turned on to learning?

Comprehension and Writing - "Sing, Sing a Story"
The debate about what motivates adolescents the most-food or music-is ongoing. This FREE Middle and High School ELA activity, focuses on food for students' minds,hearts and souls- Music.

Students choose one of two projects to complete in pairs, and if need be,one trio.

For "Option 1: A Lyrical Conversation," each duo/trio chooses a situation from the story that presents clear characters and conflict. After summarizing the circumstance, they create a dialogue that is formed from 90% existing song lyrics that show the conflict and characters.The narrative elements should be in regular prose.Here is segment of the example for this option from a scene in Geoffrey Chaucer's, The Nun's Priest's Tale:

“I’m so hot, hot, hot,” Chanticleer bragged as he strutted through the barnyard. (4)
Comprehension and Writing - "Sing a Story" p.3

“Ooh, He’s so-o-o fine…wish he were mine.” the Hen Chorus cackled. (5)
Partlet just yawned and pecked at the seeds by her feet. “He’s so vain.” (6)
Lurking in the bushes, Mr. Fox watched all the boasting and smacked his lips. “Gimmie some fillet o’chicken; gimmie some now.” (7a) To Chanticleer he said, “Dawg, you’ve got some pipes. That was hot!” (7b). Then he pounced on the rooster. 

Note: the numbers in the parentheses are song/singer/lyricist/speaker citations.

For "Option 2: A Song Story," students-again in pairs and one trio, if uneven class numbers exist, summarize the whole story-or novel- and then create a song-story, like Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer,: Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody,or Tracy Chapman's, "Fast Car".The story that the students spin must clearly, yet succinctly, show the whole story-its characters and conflict.

How do teachers use this activity? They introduce the activity by reviewing the Introduction and the Directions on pages 3 and 4. After reading the directions for "Option 1: A Lyrical Conversation," they ask students to offer suggestions of lyrics for characters’ words from the story. Then, after reading the directions for "Option 2: A Song Story," they ask students to name a song-story, the artist and to summarize the story.

For the teams, teachers either divide the students into pairs or allow them to choose their partners. If the class number is uneven, students may group into one trio for "Option 2: A Song Story". Students should have time in class to work on this activity, such as 30 to 55 minutes, depending on their skills and abilities.

To finish this activity, students may work in class the next day, and/or complete it as a
Comprehension and Writing - "Sing a Story" p.4
homework assignment. Teachers select their desired option, depending on their students’ skills and abilities and their objective(s) for the activity.

Teachers should set aside 2-3 days for the students to present their completed projects in front of the class. They will either pick the students to present each day, or randomly choose the first pair/trio on the due date, and then have those students select the pair/trio that will present next, and so on until all students have presented.

After each pair/trio has shared their project, they must turn in their final packet consisting of the typed Final Draft, the activity worksheet (page 5 of this packet) and any other notes.

With "Sing, Sing a Story," students will be thrilled to keep tuned in to their music and turned on to showing their comprehension, writing and higher level thinking skills. Teachers will want to dance to the music of their students' learning.

Download this FREEBIE from http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Comprehension-and-Writing-Sing-Sing-a-Story-1583237

Happy Teaching,

Friday, November 14, 2014

Secondary Smorgasbord 'Happy Hour'- "Just Say, "NO!" to Dull Writing"

Two of my teacher friends, Pamela Krantz (http://desktoplearningadventures.blogspot.com/)  and Darlene Anne Curran (http://meatballsinthemiddle.blogspot.com/), who I had the sheer pleasure of meeting at the TpT Conference in Vegas this past summer, have started a terrific blog- Secondary Smörgasbord.

Their first endeavor is aptly called, Happy Hour.  Whether teachers are enjoying a face-to-face Happy Hour, on an online one like this collaborative event, we love to share our favorite lessons-those that make the "Aha! I get it!" light sparkle in our our students' eyes. Since my year-long, Just Say, "NO!" to Dull Writing activity has always been one of my go-to middle and high school lesson plan stars that made my students and me, happy, happy, happy. I want to share it with you all for this Happy Hour

On the first day of school, the Taboo Words and Phrases list was always the first handout that I gave to my students immediately after we reviewed the syllabus and classroom rules and expectations ("Responsibility, Reliability, Respect and No Excuses form a two-way street in this classroom.").

Just Say, "No!" to Dull Writing Taboo Words and Phrases
 Not only did I explain to the students that they were required to refer to it for any writing-graded or non-graded - but I made a poster of it to hang in the classroom and I taped a copy of the list to each desk. I never, ever started a writing activity without reminding my students to refer to it.

Although it is a integral part of 'Chapter 2 - The Foundation' in my teacher resource book, The House of Comprehension, I offer it in my TpT store for FREE. The  list and coordinating lessons are crucial for empowering students to write clear, specific sentences instead of those with meaningless word choices and weak structures. 

Here are some suggestions for using this product:

1. The first day of school, hand out the Taboo Words & Phrases sheet to every student. Explain that they are to refer to it every time that they revise a draft of an essay, an original poem or fiction piece, or a narrative article. Mention that even if they only revise for these particular words and phrases, their writing will dramatically improve.
2. Discuss 
- that when they use these weak and clichéd words and phrases, their writing is vague, emotionless, and tells instead of shows.
- that no matter what type of writing they are composing, they should strive to create word pictures; 
- that their writing must show, not tell, and to do this they must use concrete, specific nouns and adjectives, and
- that Verbs form the backbone of writing, and should always show action as well as the emotion of the subject performing the action.
3. Write some sentences on the board that use these weak words and phrases, and have students revise them for strength and clarity.
4. Repeat this information over and over to the students and address it on their final drafts.
The Taboo Words & Phrases List also works as a poster to hang in the classroom. For a poster, add the following information:
Taboo Words & Phrases List

Effective Writing:
• -Shows instead of tells
• -Creates word pictures
• -Uses concrete, specific nouns and adjectives
• -Uses strong verbs to form the writing’s backbone; verbs must show action and emotion

The other day, former student who is now a senior in college asked me to send this list to her. On my Facebook Profile page she said, "Mrs. C- I am tutoring at CNU's writing center and have to do a presentation on making writing "concise and precise." Could you send me a copy of your taboo words list please? It has been and will continue to be the best advice on writing well that I've found " (Olga S). 

When this Taboo Words and Phrases list impacts your students' thinking and writing, their eyes will sparkle with that, "I get it" light that we teachers love like it did-and still does- for Olga. Like with her, it will become a lifelong tool, too.

Download it from http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Writing-Just-Say-NO-to-Dull-Writing-1555338.

May all of your teaching hours be Happy!.

Happy Teaching,

Note: for another lesson which is also a part of The House of Comprehension's 'Chapter 2 - The Foundation,' try my Primary FreebieLanguage Arts Comprehension Check:Ten Sentence Format.

Language Arts Comprehension Check:Ten Sentence Format

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Set Stress on Fire With These two Giveaways

Who doesn't love a Giveaway?  Then TWO Giveaways will definitely light your fire. Starting tomorrow, November 2, 2014, teachers will have a chance to toss their stress into a bonfire hosted by Danielle Knight and Juggling ELA.

Love The Hunger Games and other dystopian novels? Then check out the materials that 13 TpT sellers have donated for  The Hunger Games Giveaway raffle. One winner will receive 2 movie tickets to Mockingjay plus 13 Freebie lessons totalling $150.00 in all.

The second raffle,  Go Away Stress! also hosted by Danielle Knight and Juggling ELA offers 20 lessons, activities, etc. from 20 TpT sellers and a $10.00 Starbucks gift card.

The WINNER for each raffle will be announced on

 Sunday, November 16, 2014 at 6 PM EST.

Check out Danielle Knight's blogs
http://studyallknight.blogspot.com/2014/11/GoAwayStressGiveaway.html , and
for all of the details and the ALL-IMPORTANT Rafflecopter entry form.

Danielle Knight and Juggling ELA have organized an incredible Giveaway for you all.

Here are their TpT Stores
I donated a product for each Giveaway, too, but I don't want to ruin their Giveaway surprises before November 16th.  I'd love for you all to drop by my TpT store http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Connie and stock up on some engaging lessons so you can get fired up like Katniss, "the girl on fire" and give youself  a chance to start lessening your stress.
Here are two ideas that fit both of these Giveaways:
Comprehension,Writing and Thinking- A Thanksgiving Cornucopia of Activities which I blogged about on October 29th

Spice Up Thanksgiving with This Cornucopia of English Language Arts Activities

Comprehension,Writing and Thinking- A Thanksgiving Cornucopia of Activities
and Teacher Resource - Dystopian Novels Generate a Teacher Utopia, the focus of my October 16th post, Dystopian Novels Generate a Teacher Utopia 16+ Teaching Ideas
As always, thank you for stopping by.  Now click on over to Danielle's and Juggling ELA's blogs for more details about these awesome giveaways and Enter, Enter, Enter!
Happy Teaching,

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Spice Up Thanksgiving with This Cornucopia of English Language Arts Activities

Comprehension, Writing and Thinking- A Thanksgiving Cornucopia of Activities
 With Halloween on the horizon, that means that Thanksgiving is right around the corner. This trio of lessons, Comprehension, Writing and Thinking- A Thanksgiving Cornucopia of Activities, will keep middle and high school students engaged and practicing their comprehension, writing and higher level thinking skills as they await their much anticipated vacation.

Activity 1: A Thanksgiving Celebration has students planning a dinner party using the characters, plot, setting, etc. from the story that they are currently studying.  To complete this project, they will create an invitation, choose the guest list and explain their choices, design the seating arrangement, prepare a menu, select any entertainment, think of topics of conversation and write one dialogue between two of the characters. Some research of the time period  in the story will be necessary.

Activity 2: What’s Hot?  What’s Not?  A Thanksgiving Comparison has students creating two lists- one showing what a character is thankful for and another that reveals what is unrewarding in his/her life.  Students will also have to identify two of the negative aspects that the character wishes to turn into positives and explain their reasoning for their selections.

Activity 3:  Who Wins the Wishbone? A Thanksgiving Competition requires students to write a short piece developing who they feel should reach his/her goal- the Protagonist or Antagonist, incorporating details from the story to defend their choice..

Activity 1 will require a few days of class time and homework to complete, but each of the other two can be finished in 40-50 minutes, depending on the students skills and abilities. For Activities 2 and 3, students also use details from the text that they are currently studying to show their understanding.

This lesson will also add some spice to your November planning calendar: 

Comprehension Activity: Guess Who's Coming to Thanksgiving Dinner?
During the days before Thanksgiving vacation, teachers can use a fun activity to keep their students thinking and writing. Thanksgiving Comprehension Activity: Guess Who's Coming to Thanksgiving Dinner? will encourage students to think about the characters that they have encountered in their literature during the fall. Each young person will choose a character to invite to Thanksgiving dinner, and then will write about the event as if it is the day after Thanksgiving. Students have to think analytically as they describe the setting, identify who was present, write a conversation using proper dialogue format and evaluate the situation that transpired. Teachers can use this activity to assess the students' understanding of the character each chose as they examine their charges' higher level thinking and writing skills. Have the students write their rough draft on a separate sheet of paper, revise it for spelling, punctuation (especially for dialogue format), grammar and content and then write their final copy on the handout. Give them one class period for the rough draft and one for the final copy (or they can complete the final copy for homework). Download this from http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Thanksgiving-Comprehension-Activity-Guess-Whos-Coming-to-Thanksgiving-Dinner-167985 ($1.50), and

With these four activities, your students will not only join you at the Learning Table, but will be asking for, "More brain food, please."

Happy Teaching,


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Check out this Go-To Resource for Teaching Candidates, Rookies and Veterans

Teaching jobs can be few and far between, depending on your certificate endorsements and where you wish to hang your real or digital gradebook. 

Whether you are a candidate for a teaching position, a rookie or a veteran teacher, some advice from a colleague who has spent years in the classroom trenches, leading students to the academic  trough with engaging and strong activities and lessons can always be inspiring.

Marjan Glavac, who created and publishes the fantastic The Busy Educator Newsletter -http://news.thebusyeducator.com/-every Friday, has  a terrific resource for anyone looking for a teaching job - no matter if this if you are searching for your first classroom position ar looking for new experiences. 

He offers:
  •  three free full-length teacher training videos, 
  • a free resource sheet explaining two strategies in detail to answer the classroom management interview question  and
  •  a download for a special report- 110 Teacher Interview QuestionsThis report practically covers every question a candidate is going to be asked in a teacher interview.
These resources are available without any signup pages from

While checking out Mr. Glavac's helpful teacher training information, read a few of the engaging articles, lesson plans, videos, Ed. Chats and so much more that he posts in http://news.thebusyeducator.com/.  

After that, why not share some of your lessons, ideas and thoughts about education for The Busy Educator? To do this, Email Mr. Glavac at marjan@glavac.com.

Whether you are searching for tips to land your first contract or to find a new place to teach, are browsing for new lessons, want to share your own activities or just want to read about what's up in the education field, gift yourself with the weekly The Busy Educator Newsletter

Happy Teaching,

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Dystopian Novels Generate a Teacher Utopia 16+ Teaching Ideas

Teacher Resource - Dystopian Novels Generate a Teacher Utopia
Good can come from dystopian cultures, well, from the study of dystopian novels, anyway. This 10-page product for Middle and High School ELA teachers, offers 16+ lessons for the study of dystopian books. Although the directions and descriptions for each lesson reference Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, I use these details to add clarification- and to offer more lessons for my Brave New World Unit Plan,  (http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Brave-New-World-Unit-Plan-5021), which was my initial goal. When I saw the universality of the lessons that I was creating, I decided to offer suggestions about how teachers could adapt these activities to fit any dystopian novel, or any novel, for that matter.
Issues, Issues, These are the Issues

After detailing 3 Novel Preview Lesson Ideas, this packet includes 12 lessons for the topic, Novel Study Lesson Ideas: Exploring the Elements of Literature. I created from 1-5 activities for each element: Character, Plot/Conflict, Theme (and Theme Topics), Setting, Symbols, and Point of View. For the lesson on Setting, this packet contains a brand new handout with two activities -  Issues, Issues, These are the Issues

Under the Extended Study- And Then There was More heading, I suggest 16 utopian/dystopian novels -some classics taught in many schools- for independent reading, small group or whole class study. Here is a working list. So many terrific novels for this genre that work with adolescents exist, that I had to make some difficult choices.

*These books appear on Barnes and Noble’s “The Top 100 Bestsellers of 2014”
Animal Farm (George Orwell)
*Fahrenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury)
*Nineteen Eighty-Four (George Orwell)
Men Like Gods (H.G. Wells)
The Time Machine (H.G. Wells)
Lord pf the Flies (William Golding)
A Perfect Day (Ira Levin)
*The Hunger Games trilogy (Suzanne Collins)
*Divergent series (Veronica Roth)
*Four (Veronica Roth)
*Maze Runner series (James Dashner)
The Circle (Dave Eggers)
The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
Oryx and Crake (Margaret Atwood)
*The Giver (Lois Lowry)

Uglies (Scott Westerfield)

After that I give links to two products that tie into the study of dystopian literature and propaganda from my store: "Writing and Thinking Activity-Unconventional Inventions": http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Writing-Thinking-Activity-Unconventional-Inventions-18339 ($2.00) and "Thinking/Writing Activities 'Utopian and Dystopian Society Novel Projects'": http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/ThinkingWriting-Activities-Utopian-and-Dystopian-Society-Novel-Projects-1124376 ($2.50).

As a plug for all of my Teacher-Seller colleagues, I follow these suggestions by mentioning that ELA teachers will find lessons, activities and unit plans for 12 out of the 16 novels that I name here on TpT. I hope that this mention will send you all some sales, my friends!

I close the packet with a Parent Permission Slip since many of these novels reveal controversial issues and may be restricted in some school districts for various reasons. 

Many teens and preteens love reading dystopian literature. These lessons will engage them and will hook those students who need a lift onto my favorite train, the I Love Reading Express.

Download Teacher Resource - Dystopian Novels Generate a Teacher Utopia from http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Teacher-Resource-Dystopian-Novels-Generate-a-Teacher-Utopia-1502333 ($3.50).

Happy Teaching,