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 http://eepurl.com/ba-6I5
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, https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Connie, 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, to...well...you 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?  https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Comprehension-and-Writing-Activity-Trick-or-Treat-1484248

Thank you  Darlene Ann Curran http://meatballsinthemiddle.blogspot.com/  and Pamela Kranz http://desktoplearningadventures.blogspot.com/ for organizing this most excellent All Treats & No Tricks blog hop.

Enjoy a Teach It Now Day, Every Day,

Friday, September 25, 2015

If it’s Autumn, it’s time for… College Recommendation Letters

 It's beginning to look like college application time!
Everywhere teachers go
Is a senior with an app, and an activity sheet to adapt
To a recommendation that makes that student glow.

College Recommendation Letters helpful hints

High school teachers, are you in hiding yet? No, not from administrators in search of your yearly objectives, parents with daily requests for  Bubba and Zelda’s progress in your classes, or students bearing glossy order catalogs for yet another fundraiser, but from seniors-specifically seniors seeking the November 1st deadline for early admissions.

Oh, don’t forget about those searching for a college with a January deadline or one with rolling admissions – they’ll be ba-a-a-ack for your recommendation that they are sure will guarantee them admission to post high school, academia, but that’s then…not now.

Right now you are staring at papers to grade, plans to prepare, parent night and maybe even midterms. On top of all of that, you already have said, “Okay,” to writing recommendation letters for a dozen students who admission committees will deem anywhere from, “Yes!” to, “Hmmm. Let’s talk about this one” to, “No. Not for us.”  

Writing recommendation letters is a daunting professional task, no matter whether a student has demonstrated superior, above average or average capabilities.  A concise and precise letter that addresses a specific senior’s academic, athletic, extracurricular and community strengths in a way that allows that person to stand out from other equally capable applicants is a stressful  experience.

My product, Recommendations – How to Write Recommendation Letters for College Applications, will benefit all of you still leading classrooms- from veterans who desire another option in your repertoire to new hires who have never written a college recommendation. Included in this packet are

Qualities to Address

  • academic, athletic and personal prowess;
  • points to consider, especially for students whose academic record could benefit from an educator’s viewpoint;
  • what to avoid as well as what to include;
  •  a basic letter format, and
  • a list of adjectives and phrases to guide teachers though the process.
What Each Recommendation Should  Include
  • The course(s) you taught this student
  • Qualities to Address: The student’s academic strengths, exceptional character traits, extracurricular activities, jobs, awards, etc.
  • Points to Consider are exceptional assignments, the student’s attitude toward learning, peer interactions, intellectual curiosity, etc.

What Each Recommendation Letter Should Avoid

  •  Repetitive thoughts, comments, generalities
  • A  form letter voice and appearance
  • Writing more than one page
Letter Format:
Note: The examples in this section are from a letter for an above average student; for all of the letters, I changed the name to the generic John Doe/Jane Doe to protect every
student’s privacy; I also changed the names of anything to do with my school to Blank.
To: Dean of Admissions: Yale University
From: Constance Casserly, English Teacher:  Blank High School
Re: John C. Doe (his social security number might be required)
Date: September 22, 2015
Introductory paragraph:
·         Hook
·         Course(s) taught (Point A)
·         Transition sentence addressing the student’s academic/thinking skills
“One of the most enjoyable aspects of teaching is to encounter a student whose academic abilities, motivation and innovative thinking are so apparent that the young person will never be forgotten. John Doe is such a brilliant star.  He has been a stellar member of the Creative Writing 1, 2, 3 classes since he was a freshman, and is taking the course this year without credit just to hone his writing skills.  

Because of his leadership abilities, his writing prowess and his attention to detail, last year’s staff and I chose him as the Editor-in-Chief of the 2016 edition of Blank, the high school’s literary and art magazine. Consistently, John displays the kind of original thinking, initiative and curiosity that I wish every student possessed.”
Body Paragraph(s):
These can vary from one to four. Just keep the whole letter, including the closing and your signature to one page. (Points B and C)
“This young man’s divergent thinking skills run the gamut from the concrete to the creative. The slant he takes in his writing reveals his remarkably mature and innovative thought processes, while his work remains insightful, logical and fluent. John can ascertain the subtle nuances of human thought and behavior which he then transposes to his pieces with an astute inner eye. Whether he is mimicking James Joyce’s stream-of-consciousness style or crafting a political thriller, his pieces reveal realistic, dynamic characters, believable plots, suspense and depth.  

During writing analysis sessions, he cogently discusses his thoughts on his work and that of his peers. The high standards that John sets for himself are revealed every time he asks for clarification on critique comments. By not being afraid to question his opinions or those of others, he demonstrates a powerful desire to learn. His emotional maturity commands respect and allows him the freedom to openly demonstrate his flexibility and acceptance of a wide range of people and ideas. John’s writing, which is cerebral and compelling, is a rare gift. Considering the many talented students I have encountered in my two-plus decades of teaching writing, he ranks alongside only a half dozen in regard to his creative flair and his ambition to succeed as a published writer.”
Concluding  Paragraph:
·         Recap student’s strengths
·         Final thought
“John’s strong drive, combined with his quiet yet congenial nature, makes him a joy to be around. With absolutely no reservations, I recommend him for acceptance to CU Boulder. This talented young man is sure to surmount any challenges you offer him with diligence, perseverance and intelligence.”
(Space for signature)
Type your full name

College Recommendation Letters Helpful Hints
Also included in this packet is a list of adjectives and phrases to guide teachers though the process. At the end of this offering are three sample letters to show how all of these points can be meshed into a cohesive letter: one each for superior, above average and average students.

Hopefully, Recommendations: How to Write Recommendation Letters for College Applications  will ease your qualms when one of your seniors asks, “Could you please, please write me a recommendation letter?”

It's beginning to look like college application time!
But secondary teachers all know
This packet will help them express, their thoughts with such finesse
That their recommendation will make each student glow.

 Enjoy a Teach It Now Day, Every Day,


Sunday, August 30, 2015

ALL Teachers - Need the gift of time? Check out these plans

PLAN IT UP  with these terrific Downloads.

From ELA TpT Teacher/Sellers, and organized by Tracee Orman-Free Back to School English Language Arts Grades 7-12 Sampler

ELA TpT Back to School E-Book
Tracee's Product Description: 
Free: Grades 7-12 English Language Arts Back-to-School Sampler

Welcome back to school, teachers! The teacher-authors of TpT want to wish you the very best as you enter this new school year. We also want to say thanks for supporting our TpT stores.

As a result, 45 secondary ELA teachers have offered their best tips and freebies for your consideration. We hope that you will find inspiration as you read these pages as well as fantastic teaching lessons and materials that you and your students will love.

Please note: Each page of the sampler features one free item and one paid item.

Have a great school year!

Here are the links to the other back to school samplers:

Grades 7-12 Back to School Science Sampler 

Grades 7-12 Back to School Math Sampler 

Grades 7-12 Back to School Social Studies and Foreign Language Sampler

Grades 7-12 Back to School English Language Arts Sampler

Grades 5-6 Back to School Sampler

Grades 3-4 Back to School Sampler

Grades 1-2 Back to School Sampler

Grades PreK-K Back to School Sampler
Total Pages  45 

From -The Best pf Teacher Entrepreneurs Marketing Cooperative, and organized by Victoria Leon(Founder of TBOTEMC) -
 Free Back to School Lessons By The Best of Teacher Entrepreneurs MC - 2015

Back to School grades K-12 e-book
Victoria's Product Description:
Start the new year right with 17 free lessons by members of The Best of Teacher Entrepreneurs Marketing Cooperative: 

* Jelly Bean Math 

* *FREE* Apple Orchard Count the Room

* I Found, Who Found FREEBIE

* Apple Math Journal 

* Insert Your Own Pictures On Monthly Calendar Cards

* FREEBIE! Interactive Calendar for SMART Board PK, K, 1st 

* Traceable Calendar Free 

* FREEBIE! Interactive Back to School Flip-Flap Activity 

* Back to School Ice Breaker 

* Back to School Binder Preview FREEBIE for Grades 2-7 & Sp. Ed. 

* My College Application 

* Math Starters 

* Back to School - Personal Narrative Writing 

* Free Sample School Year Scrapbook Portfolio 

* Back to School Ice Breaker Activity 

* Scientific Method Vocab Anchor Chart/PPT Presentation 

* First Day Writing Assignment 

Total Pages 22

IF YOU ARE NOT ABLE TO OPEN THIS FILE or you have any questions, feel free to email me at vleon999@yahoo.com.

Wishing you the best during the new school year,
Victoria Leon 

Looking for more?  Check out my storehttps://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Connie
175 Products English Literature, Novels, Vocabulary, Grammar, Writing, Bulletin Boards, Teacher Resources and Journalism.

"Teachers" TpT ad

With all of these fantastic ideas, you will...
Enjoy Teach It Now Days, Every Day.


Monday, August 24, 2015

Make a Home for the Unit Plan-'Neverhome'

Neverhome by Laird Hunt
Image from Amazon  http://amzn.to/1NF0O71

From the first page of Neverhome by Laird Hunt, I was mesmerized. Was my absorption due to
~the first line, “I was strong and he was not, so it was me went to war to defend the republic”? 
~ the knowledge that women masqueraded as men to fight in the Civil War?
~ Laird Hunt’s ability to spin mere words into vivid and emotional word pictures, such as, “…but there had been a bite of sorrows in that empty place made me glad to think we had found another spot and weren’t going to return,” (21)? As an avid reader, I give three solid, “Yes” votes to these questions.

As a teacher, I appreciate the societal/cultural links, as well as the reasons why this 243-page novel provides a rich cross-curriculum unit of study that secondary school English and Social Studies teachers may share.

Societal/ Cultural Links
~ Constance Thompson, AKA Ash Thompson, is a woman who succeeds in a man’s world, though she has to disguise herself as a man to do so.  The two recent graduates of Ranger School, First Lieutenant Shaye Haver, and Captain Kristen Griest also excelled in a – previously -men’s only domain.
~ Some reasons for the Civil War, from both Northern and Southern Points of View are presented.
~ The interpretation of historical persons, places and things as well as their symbolic meanings is timely.

Cross Curriculum Ideas
~English teachers can share elements of literature activities such as Character, Plot/Conflict and Theme with social studies teachers.
~ Social Studies teachers may share activities that deepen students understanding of the people and places of the Civil War, especially those that are shown- with literary license- in this novel.
~ English and Social Studies teachers could “guest teach” in each other’s classes.

What does this 103-page Unit Plan: Neverhome  offer teachers?
Here is a shortened version of the Table of Contents:
Objectives and Teacher Notes
A Unit Activity Plan (specifies the Common Core Anchor Standards and 
Bloom’s Taxonomy verbs for each activity)
Pre-Reading – What Do I Know?  How Do I Know It?                                                      
Research, Debates, Historical Footnotes

Research Project
Debate Project
Historical Footnotes
Vocabulary Activity
Section Analysis Activity (3-pages; one set is designated for every reading division section
that I created- three each for the author’s book divisions that he names, One, Two and Three.)
Group Activity –Ash’s Journey 1862-1864    
Character Activities (6)
Plot/Conflict Activities (5)
Setting Activity - Setting Up Ash(1)

Pre-Reading, Reading Study Guide,Vocabulary, Map Activity
Character, Plot/Conflict, Setting

Symbols, Theme, Tone, Figurative Language

Symbols Activities (2)
Theme Activities (2)
Tone Activity (1)                                                                                            
Figurative Language Activity

Speaking and Listening, Writing, Quiz and test, Answer Keys                 

Points to Ponder/Discussion Topics (10)
Essay Topics (8)
Project Topics (9)
Assessments/Division Quiz
Assessments Unit Test
Answer Keys: Historical Footnotes, Vocabulary, Neverhome Unit Test

This product, Unit Plan - Neverhome,  provides a plethora of teacher notes, activities and assessments that enable students to ~deepen their reading comprehension and their understanding of the Civil War and its impact on contemporary society.
~grasp the fact that what happens in the past always impacts the future
~ strengthen their writing depth and their higher level thinking skills, and, to
~ create lifelong readers and learners.

Enjoy a Teach it Now Day, Every Day

Follower Advantage
For an automatic Heads-Up! email about Updated and New  products, and also for Sales and other promotions, please click on the Follow Me star under my Store Name, https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Connie


Sunday, August 2, 2015

First Day Tried & True Linky Party

Ahhhh! As these lazy, hazy days of summer wrap most of the country in humidity,teachers are enjoying a few days to a few weeks of sleeping in, basking in the luxury of traveling to the tick tock of their own clocks, and catching up with months of saved TV shows.

The first teaching-related stress/frustration dream has yet to invade their restful sleep with images of Joey who can't sit still, of Zelda who can't stay quiet and of George who won't wake up. 

That perennial,"What will I teach the FIRST DAY?" question has yet to fuel the first of many Decision Conflicts that will crop up before students strut, shuffle or slink into the classroom. 

And after weeks of flip flops sandals, shorts and tee-shirts, the annual end-of-summer closet Search, Sort, Purge and Shop has yet to happen.

But, as surely as each and every mattress store in the country will hold continual sales, as surely as a good donut will never be local, and as surely as Downton Abbey will fade to black after the last episode of Season 6  in 2016, school bells will ring and teachers must have their alarms set, their lessons finalized and their clothes ready.

Here are 6 Tried and True Tips  to ensure a smooth transition to the 2015-2016 school year

1. As you fill your carts with pens, pencils,  paper (lined, unlined, construction etc.) and push pins, remember to toss in some presents for yourself: Kleenex, paper towels, spray cleanser and hand sanitizer. You will be glad you did about a week into the year when two-thirds of your students are suffering from the Back to School Germfest caused by too many breathing bodies in an enclosed space and the back of your nose is teasing you with its pre-cold tickle.

2. Create detailed plans for the first month- yes, the first month before the Starting Bell.  Why?
Because PLC, department and faculty meetings will consume a good deal of your contract hours.

Because Back to School night information and edicts will start filling your email and snail mail boxes before Labor Day (some BTS nights start as early as the second week of school). These will sap your planning energy with thoughts of how to prepare a welcoming and engaging presentation.

Because your students will demand your full time and attention, which is what teaching is all about in the first place, as they adjust to the new term, and because administrators will want to see how you plan to ensure each one’s proficiency.

3. Ladies- no matter how incredibly chic those new gray Zigi Soho Tasmin Peep Toe Pumps are, or how sophisticated they look with your new dove-gray pencil skirt and purple silk blouse- DO NOT WEAR THEM! Your feet will hate you until December.

4. Gentlemen-do not don your Cool Story Bro tee-shirts until your students and colleagues get your droll sense of humor.

5. Be firm but fair. If you want your charges to join you on the Learning Path, it is more important for them to view you as challenging than easy. The former means that you are poking at their minds and teasing their brains to actively respond-verbally or in writing. The latter might be construed as “I don’t care” when you want it to be interpreted as academically open-ended.

Remember no conflict exists with happily ever after. That’s why Julian Fellows had Matthew die at the end of Season 3 in Downton Abbey. Challenge leads to conflict of the positive or negative variety which leads to thinking and doing which ends in learning.

6. Create First Day activities that engage, inspire and energize discussing, thinking, and writing.  Here are two FREE lessons that have walked the walk and talked the talk of those criteria.

First Day Writing Activity - Four Corners ~ FREE 
First Day Writing Activity - Four Corners
Students love to offer their opinions on just about any topic, to move around and to debate pros and cons with their peers. Getting them on their feet where they can share their thoughts on a variety of contemporary topics is crucial in creating an atmosphere that promotes evaluating ideas and supporting their own assertions with valid points. The Four Corners Activity covers all of those bases.

First Day Writing Assignment-Revised ~ FREE
First Day Writing Assignment-Revised
This activity offers teachers a baseline of each student’s writing skills. After analyzing each piece of writing, teachers will have the basic foundation for their year’s writing program.  The ideas are student-friendly, and offer a smooth transition from summer to the classroom because it  awakens students thinking, analyzing and writing skills.

For all of you who will be leading classrooms this year, revel in these last few days/weeks of your time- your way.

And when those school bells ring...
Enjoy a Teach It Now Day, Every Day.

Thank you to Chrissie Rissmiller http://undercoverclassroom.blogspot.com/  and
Sarah Tighe http://educationelectrification.blogspot.com/ for organizing this Linky Party.

Undercover ClassroomEducation Electrification