Expect Unexpected Engagement When you try Hexagonal Thinking in ELA


301: The Easiest Last Day in ELA
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The Busy Teacher’s Guide to a New School Year

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Somehow it doesn’t matter how much you prepare during the summer, the beginning of school is always so BUSY. The to-do list spills off your phone and onto tiny sheets of paper spread all over the house and into the corners of your mind in the middle of the night.

I know. If it’s not a lengthy faculty meeting with five hundred and eleven announcements that kinda sorta seem like they could have been sent by e-mail, it’s a blood borne pathogens training or a CPR recertification (headed to mine in two hours).

But what does every teacher really want at this BUSY time of year? To work on curriculum. To work on the classroom. To connect with the kids. And of course, to have a glass of wine or two and binge watch Jane the Virgin Season Five afterwards. (Why do I always have to watch three episodes if I watch one??!)

So today, I wanted to share some posts from the last few years that I feel can be most helpful to you as you dive into the year. These are the posts that can make a big difference in the real work you’ll soon be doing (or are already doing) in your classroom every single day. These posts can help set you up for success this year, helping you incorporate the creativity and love of reading you want in your classroom without sacrificing your health and sleep for marathon three a.m. research sessions.

So here we go. I’ll be thinking of you during my sixth CPR training this afternoon.

The First Day of School Doesn’t have to be Boring
This post will help you get your year started in a creative and engaging way. The first day is the perfect time to put the focus on your students and make it clear your classroom is not going to be heavily teacher-focused with the old students-as-empty-vessels model. The strategies in this post are easy to put in place, and hopefully they’ll take the anxiety out of your first day and week.

How to Plan a Unit for ELA
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of planning a year’s worth of content, this post will help you break down the elements you want to include in your curriculum and sort them into place. Using this system, you can give your students unit plans as you begin each unit, so you both know what to expect and your classroom feels like a more consistent and organized place.

Harkness Discussions in Three Simple Steps
Ever since I learned about Harkness at twenty-two, it’s the main system of discussion I lean on and believe in. I like to introduce it on day one and let students know I value their voices as much as my own when it comes to discussion. Then we work on improving all year long. This post will tell you all about Harkness and how you can use it as a go-to discussion method once or twice a week.

What to do when a Student says “I hate Reading.”
Are you on board the independent reading train yet? It’s really nice in here – leather seats, great books, smiling faces. I’d love for you to join us. This post will show you how to climb on board and create a successful reading program. Reading Nancy Atwell’s book, The Reading Zone, when I was teaching abroad in Bulgaria, changed the course of my professional career (for the better!).  I’m anxious to share all that I’ve learned since with you.

Students won’t Read? Don’t care? One year to change that.
If you’re teaching truly struggling students, students you can’t get to read a few pages of homework, this post is for you. Dive in to discover engaging, real-world-relevant unit ideas that can help you bring a class from passive and unengaged back to active participants in their own eduction.



25 Creative Project Ideas for ELA
Wish you could change it up from the usual paper, but not really sure how? Projects can be just as rigorous, just as focused on good writing, just as valuable to students as papers. It all depends on what you do and how you structure it. Check out this post for twenty-five ideas for helping students process their learning through creative projects this year.

Confronting Hate and talking about Equity in our Classrooms
We’re moving into an election year in a very divided time in our country. Hate crimes and mass shootings are showing up in our news and our communities, and when we teach around these subjects and don’t give students a chance to talk about their lived experiences, we miss an opportunity. This post will give you some resources for making your classroom a safer place, and engaging your kids on the things that are really on their mind beyond classroom content right now.

Take back your Time: 40 Tips for Grading Less, Better
Just do it. Just choose some of these tips and commit. I know you might feel like you’re betraying your students if you spend less time grading, but just think of all that you could do with that time, both for them and for yourself. This is the year you stop shlepping grading everywhere!

8 Creative Ways to Use One-Pagers
If you know me, you know I’m a little obsessed with one-pagers. But seriously, I get an email or a TPT review about five times a day telling me about another wonderful classroom where one-pagers are making a positive difference. So if you haven’t drunk the Kool-aid yet on this lovely assignment that incorporates visual and verbal learning for a more memorable and engaging twist on the usual analysis paper, check out this post! Once you get your students into one-pagers, you can use them for so many things.

Teacher Mindset and Happiness with Angela Watson
Do you feel a bit like you’re holding your breath and getting ready to dive as the school year begins? This helpful podcast and post can help you create more space for yourself and more balance in your life this year. I really appreciate all the work Angela has done to support teachers in self-care and positive mindset, because this profession is so hard sometimes. You can be a good teacher and not let teaching dominate your whole life, and that’s important to remember as the year kicks off.

Get Started with Genius Hour this Year
I’m big on creating great systems and then letting those systems and the routines they inspire carry you through a successful year. Genius hour is a system you can put in place early, and if you do it in an informed way, you can then rely on it as a meaningful and creative activity for the whole rest of the year. Check out this post to learn all about it, and link over to an amazing free full curriculum for how to implement it from Laura Randazzo.

So there you have it. I imagine you don’t need all these posts, but maybe a few of them caught your eye as just the right inspiration to help you with something you want for yourself or for your classroom this year. You know I’m always hoping to help.

Do you find your inspiration in VISUALS? I love ‘em too. Let’s hang out on Instagram! Click here to get a steady stream of colorful ideas all week long.


hey there!

I'm Betsy

I’ll help you find the creative ELA strategies that will light up your classroom. Get ready for joyful teaching!







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