highlights. My son started kindergarten, my daughter had her second
birthday, I started this podcast and learned how to paddleboard, our family
traveled to Santa Fe, Florida, and Minnesota, and I finally discovered thegreatest recipe in the world for chocolate cake.
English teachers. It’s about my favorite things I’ve learned that I can share
with you, to make a difference in your practice. So with no further ado, let’s
give 2017 a round of applause and dive into the best of the best.
this year, I would have. But it’s such a visual medium. The basic idea of
sketchnotes is that students create notes from lectures and discussions by
writing down the basic ideas while drawing attention to what is important through
highlight fonts, bubbles, sketches, symbols and more. They create a visual
representation of the ideas they are presented with.
By creating a work of art
instead of just lists of ideas, they process the information and make choices
about what is important and how to group things. They end up remembering the
information far more clearly.
I LOVE sketchnotes, which is why I created an ultimate guide for using them in the ELA classroom earlier this year. Sketchnotes are a
way of giving students real agency during lecture. For me, that is a
game-changer. After I shared the Sketchnotes concept in my Facebook group, lots
of teachers tried it out and the reports have been quite positive. Many
teachers have shared photos of beautiful student work.
The Hate U Give
had never heard of it. That was then. Now I’d consider it the best book for
teenagers that I’ve read in many years.
This book will turn many a non-reader
into a reader (and a teacher just told me a story of exactly that). Though it
may be fiction, I know from hearing her speak that it parallels Thomas’ life
very closely, and reading it was a far more powerful lesson in understanding
the Black Lives Matter movement and the feelings many of my African-American
students may be experiencing than any newspaper article or radio segment ever
If you haven’t read it yet, I strongly suggest you buy a copy for
your outside reading library and dive in.
watched the entire gymnastics portion of the Athens Olympics while I was
pregnant with my son, where I turn for snarky Saturday Night Live clips, and of
course, the best place to find unbelievably hilarious cat videos.
But this was
the year I realized it was an English teacher’s goldmine. Discovering that Khan
Academy has a grammar channel, that John Spencer has put together a collection
of video writing prompts, and that John Green, hero of English teachers
everywhere, has his own channel, was such a beautiful surprise!
Here’s a roundup of the best Youtube channels for English teachers if you want to explore this amazing set of resources.
fall on the podcast about Escape Rooms. The basic idea is to give students
clues and activities around your room that they have to find, do, and solve in
their mad dash to the final prize at the end.
This strategy, sometimes called
escape rooms and sometimes called digital breakouts, has flared in popularity this
year, and it’s easy to see why.
Student engagement skyrockets when you gamify
your content with this unique strategy. You might want to go back and listen to episode 17 if you’re interested in learning more. Or check out the blog post if you’re more in the mood to read.
really started to understand genius hour’s classroom uses. Committing to genius hour in
class means giving students a chunk of time, whether it’s two weeks out of the
year, every Friday, or some other period, to work on their passion.
they want to build their own motorcycle engine, make an origami zoo, write a
cookbook, or start their own youtube channel. It doesn’t matter so much what
they are doing as that they care about it. It’s their chance to explore what
really matters to them.
In a world where they may very possibly start their own
business, invent their own product, built their own website, or work on a team
that values creative innovation above all else, genius hour is an opportunity
for students to own their own learning and prepare for the future they actually
want to have.
Figuring out how to build a bit of structure for the program isn’t
too difficult, and can easily include some writing and presenting skills as
they share their projects back with your learning community.
choice reading, and I have been a staunch member of that movement since the
moment I learned about it.
But as I listened to Jennifer Gonzalez and Pernille
Rip discuss how many modern reading programs are killing a love of reading on
Jennifer’s podcast “Cult of Pedagogy” this year, I felt like that movement was
suddenly even more vital.
Increasingly schools are turning toward excerpts,
reading packets, and computer programs to teach reading. Which means for us as
English teachers, sharing the best books we can in a truly splendid independent
reading program is all the more important.
If you haven’t yet begun a choice
reading program in your classroom, check out some of these resources:
#7 Facebook Groups
through Facebook until this year. I started my Facebook group “Creative High School English” back in the spring, and now there are more than 1100 teachers
inside collaborating, sharing and supporting each other. I find myself checking
in multiple times a day just to see what people are talking about and see what
I can add to the conversation. And I love to see other people’s classroom
Sometimes being a teacher is weirdly lonely, considering how public it
is, and finding an online community that supports the type of teacher you want
to be is really meaningful.
podcast but it was also the year I first subscribed to a range of education
podcasts. I’ve been fascinated by what I’ve learned on John Spencer’s The Creative Classroom, Jennifer Gonzalez’s Cult of Pedagogy, and The Flipped Learning Network.
I also know a lot of teachers in my Facebook group are
working on teaching with podcasts, particularly featuring the show “Serial.”
This was the first year my school included some podcasts that matched some
themes from The Hate U Give, our summer reading book, as part of the summer
assignment. Figuring out ways to
incorporate them into curriculum or even to have students broadcast themselves
is something I’m definitely interested in right now.
This year I began working with a website started by my
friend Meredith Dobbs called teachwriting.org. It’s a pretty amazing resource
for writing teachers, and if you’re a new teacher or a teacher teaching a new
level, you can quickly put together a wonderful list of writing strategies and
assignments to implement in your classroom.
This website gets richer every
week, as English teacher collaborators from around the country contribute their
best ideas. You can also follow along with their Facebook page this year to get a free daily writing prompt every day.
dug in. Everywhere I look on teacher websites and teacher social media I see
flexible seating. You know it’s achieved its peak popularity when articles began
to appear with headlines like “The Troubling Truth about Flexible Seating.”
love the photos I’m seeing on Instagram of reading libraries with cozy
beanbags, yoga ball writing stations, stools along counters, and more. If
you’ve got any budget at all, I think now is the time to dive in and add some
splashy flexible seating to your classroom. If you’re wondering where to begin, check out this flexible seating shopping guide from We Are Teachers.
I hope you found something to inspire you for 2018! Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss January’s special guest episodes. I’m looking forward to welcoming John Spencer from The Creative Classroom as well as Jenna Copper from Doc Cop.