Monday, June 29, 2015

TPT Seller Challenge: Teenage Dreams

As a teacher I work a lot. I am sure this isn't news to anyone, but I often share Instagram photos of my car being the last one in the parking lot, checking out the sunset over my classroom, or grading poolside. I don't mind the work, most of the time, I like taking the time to create things that my students will really learn from and hopefully even enjoy (though there are some who would never admit it!)

So GOAL 1:
I have lofty ambitions of having the "perfect" classroom. I am not as craft as other teachers, so it will cost a bit more to achieve the class I want to have, but I believe that having this space will make my class something special, and help students really focus on learning! In short, I hope that I am never hesitant to buy something for my class or to take a class that would help me because of cost.

The financial benefit is psychological to me. I hope that by making some extra cash TPTing I work a bit harder on making my products perfect.

When I teach I have a theory that students need to get their work out of the class. When we do something just for our little world, we don't really put as much effort or take as much pride in it. The same thing happens with me as a teacher. Just having MY class do my projects and assignments is one thing, but knowing that other teachers will use helps me work my best to really put together great project!


I am late to this challenge because I really felt like my goals and dreams weren't fitting in with the goals and dreams of other teachers. I really like TPT as a way to share my work and get inspired by others. Sometimes I can buy products and save myself time. Plus I use my profits to buy them, so I don't go broke trying to create a fun environment for my students.So my goal is to continued to be inspired by other teachers and be the best I can be

Friday, June 19, 2015

Class Decor Binder

As I cleaned my classroom this summer and packed things up to be moved, I realized I had accumulated lots of letters, static clings, gel clings etc. In an effort to keep things organized I put everything together in a binder.

I figured I'd post this now in case anyone else was in the midst of packing up their classroom.

Basically I love the binder because I can separate decor by date (seasonal or unit related), and keep it neatly stowed when not in use or when I need to move classes. Before I used a box method, but it toko up a lot of space!

Now this isn't perfect, I still have some larger items (wreaths, signs) that are stored elsewhere, but it is awesome for all my basic stuff.

If you read this blog at all, you know that I am NOT skilled in the crafty area. But I am pretty proud of how well this works and thought I'd do a quick blog in case it helps others as well.

All you need to do this is a binder, page protectors, masking or blue tape, and all of the decoration you'd like to store. I've seen some people use Ziploc baggies as well, but I didn't have any of those, so I worked with what I had.

I didn't have dividers, so I hole punches manila folders. Each folder was labeled. I separated items by months, and those that were not month specific I labeled separately.   Letters and colored paper were labeled as such.

Static clings were easy. Slide them into the paper protector. I put a small piece on the opening to keep any pieces from sliding out.

Gel clings were "clung" to their original plastic and slipped into the page. Those unable to fit were cut into smaller pieces.

I am sure you can figure out the rest.

The tape is helpful to be sure nothing goes missing, but you don't need to use any if you prefer to avoid it.

I put all similar colored paper in the same page protector and then organize them by color.

How do you keep your class decor organized when it isn't decorating your classroom walls?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

What DO you do all summer?

As a teacher at a "traditional" school (compared to a language academy. I currently have summers off :)

I was given the option to request summer school classes, but to be honest, I felt like if I did that I would hate teaching by August. This year was hard for me. I moved back to San Diego, started a new school, created two classes from scratch and heavily altered another two classes. I got thrown a lot of curve balls and while I am super excited to be coming back in August, I didn't want to lose that feeling! I want to come back refreshed and ready for school. I want to come back excited to lesson plan and try new tricks. So, I made the decision not to teach this summer.

So, what will I do?

1. Be a Lifelong Learner
Yes, even though I am on break, I will be learning. There are a few community college courses I want to take. I've also signed up for some online courses. One on an author that I teach in World Literature, another about using technology. I plan on attending a few seminars as well, and will be getting my Professional Development On. 

2. Enjoy Reading
The list of books to read
This year I was given / bought / found a bunch of books I wanted to read. However, due to chaos, grading, lesson planning and life in general, they sat unread. I am determined to make a sizable dent in those piles! I've borrowed PopSugar's 2015 Reading Challenge and am turning it into my "Summer Reading Challenge."

I am going through the piles somewhat haphazardly and seeing where the book may fit on this list. My goal is to finish it by the end of the summer, but I'll be pretty happy to get at least half of it done.

So far I am 15% of the way through my summer, and ... about 10% of the way through my list. Not quite the math I'd like to see, but a solid start. If you'd like to join me I'd love to hear about what you're reading :)

My niece and I grabbing Slurpees to beat the heat
3. Be Social!
Many of my friends joke that they see me LESS now that I am in San Diego. This year was BUSY and I look forward to catching up with people I didn't get a chance to see. My father is retiring so family from out of town is visiting.My niece has a break from preschool so I have the chance to see her more. Overall I need to get out to enjoy my friends and family more often.

4. Be Ready
I also have some new books / short stories I was thinking about integrating into next year's lessons. I want to read these, find relevant non-fiction, plan when I want the projects to be, find holidays or contests that fit into the school's needs. I want to incorporate NaNoWriMo, Book clubs, and so many other things that I know I will need to pick and choose.

I also moved classrooms, so I want to get down to my class and set up for next year. Literally everything is in boxes, so it will probably be at least a solid day of putting up bulliten boards, books, etc.I may try to grab some furniture from garage sales as well to add to the class.
Reading and swimming. What more could I want?
5. Be Healthier
Oh how boring! However, this school year I have probably gained at least 10 pounds. I don't walk nearly as much as I did living in Mexico and I miss it. Luckily my parents have a pool, so I will try rotating reading with swimming and see if I can't get back into (slightly) better shape.

Those are the big five. I know it may seem like teachers have the summers off, but I promise you, most of us spend a large chunk of that time becoming better teachers! We meet up with colleagues to plan, head to museums to scope out primary sources, read up on anything we may have missed and always keep our students in the back of our minds... or at least, I know I do :)

What about you? What's on your summer to do list?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Makeover Madness - TPT Sellers Challenge

OK, it is Summer! In addition to making my way through a massive pile of books I am DYING to read, I also signed up for the #TPTsellerChallenge.

First thing is first I filled out my starting stats. I just tipped 1,000 facebook followers on mELTing Activities, so I was happy to put that information in. I don't use Instagram much for my TPT stuff, but I guess it couldn't hurt to start. I use Twitter on occasion regarding my TPT products, though mainly as a way to share and brainstorm with other teachers. I used to be a Pinner, but didn't really have time for it in the last year. I had nothing to do with BlogLovin, but I do NOW :) Go ahead and follow my blog with Bloglovin.

So, this is my starting point... let's see what's to come!

Week One: "Makeover Madness."
The worksheet

My Mission: To find one product in my store and give it a makeover. I am not very good at makeovers (on myself or my worksheets), but I figured I'd give it a shot. I stayed practical and looked for the product with the fewest conversions. That means people are clicking, but not buying. One of the lowest was this worksheet that helps students create impersonal sentences instead of personal sentences. This is something that takes a bit of practice and I find the worksheet really helps them (and is a great reference later!)

First off I figured I'd give it a catchier title, more for the students than the teachers. I suddenly got the lyrics from an old Monica song stuck in my head. "Don't Take It Personal"

Video for your enjoyment:

That made me think that this assignment isn't about taking things personally, but it is about not MAKING them personal, so I made a quick little button to add a graphical element to the worksheet, and to hopefully help this concept of writing impersonally stick with students.

I added a cover page (though it isn't as graphic as most of the cover pages I see, at least now there is something!). I also changed the fonts a bit, added a background, increased the spacing. Now it is a little less cramped and I would suggest printing it as a double sided worksheet. I also added a a personal writing assignment, so it is worth the extra space.
Comparing the original worksheet to the cover page and expanded worksheet.

It may not seem like a huge difference, but it is a start :)

I hope that this gets the worksheet in the hands of more students who will benefit, and that with time I can make it even better!

And there we are! I am really not very good at this, so any helpful hints or advice would be most appreciated! 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Freelance Proofreading

I've begun editing books online as a way to read more, help others, and earn some extra cash.

Sometimes the books are painful and I can't wait to finish! Other times, I am quite happy that I had a chance to read it and can't wait to suggest it to others

Here are three of the books I have proofread. I encourage you to check them out:

I haven't suffered from a panic attack since I was in high school, but I know a lot of people that still have them. This book is basically a self help book meets fantasy. You join Ruby, who lives a life filled with fear and depression, as she leaves England to meet up with quirky characters who help her see the secret to feeling better is not as unreachable as she thinks.

This is a really great read for anyone who suffers from panic attacks. I don't really think it has any groundbreaking cures, but the format makes the concepts easy to absorb.

Plus, Nick was an absolute joy to work with, and that should count for something.

The next book is less self help and more dystopian. Steven Wolff has taken the classic zombie tale and thrown a twist...what if zombies were no longer mindless creatures...what if they were self aware.

Join Stephanie as she goes on a journey to find her family, understand what is going on with her and come to grips with the fact that she must kill, or become the mindless creatures that cover the world.

In a lot of ways I read it and think of so many vampire books and movies. The vampire coming to grips with what it must do to survive. This perspective is rarely viewed from zombies, so it was a nice twist.

If you like dystopian novels, vampire books, or (of course) zombie plots, then this book is a very entertaining read.

 Finally, my most recent edit is a series of Western novel where women who can't find love look for romance elsewhere. Alternatively, men who can't find love close to home try to find mail order brides. In most cases the woman heads to Montana in hopes that  is the one for her.

The setting in Montana leads to numerous sensations and discoveries. This isn't just a series about cowboys; there are many Lakota Indians there as we. If you're looking for a cute love story with a historical setting, then this author is right up your alley.

If you want me to proofread or edit your book, you can check out my gig on fiverr. Starting at just $5!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Choose Your Own Question

I know I've been blogging a lot lately, but I am using my vacation as a chance to sort through all of the fun stuff I learned  and did this year. I know some of you may be on break, and not want to read through everything, feel free to bookmark it and come back to it later.

For example, about 3 months ago I was at CUE 2015 and I attended the end of Sean Ziebarth's and David Theriault's talk about questions. Their talk was recorded, and you can view it here, so I won't go through the process of summarizing.

This blog is about how I was inspired to find a way to get students asking more questions.

Do you remember those Choose Your Own Adventure stories? Something about being in charge of the journey  made the story so much better!

My class had just finished reading Things Fall Apart. I was really stuck on an essay prompt that was engaging and in depth, inspired by the talk I decided this was a great time to have students work on their inquiring and let them control a bit of their journey.


Since this was the first time we tried this I gave students a starting point. I picked three big things we had talked about as we read. For example:

Okonkwo is obsessed with the idea of being strong. 

This could be a no-preparation assignment. Simply ask students to think up as many questions as they can about elements of the story. Or use basic elements: characters, setting, plot, climax, etc.
If you aren't discussing literature, you can still use this to discuss whatever topics you want to cover. If you have a unit on careers why not find out what they want to know?

Step 1 - Think
Students were then given 3 minutes to come up with as many questions as they could. The first time we did the activity the students asked me, "So how many, like four?" This gives you an idea of the attitudes of this specific class. They were very much a "find the C level and achieve that" class. If you want give them a number, I just smiled and said, "As many as you can." Since I was walking round students stayed on task and usually by about two minutes they were into it. They usually started out simple,
  • Why is Okonkwo obsessed with being strong?
  • Is Okonkwo as strong as he thinks he is?
  • Who else is obsessed with stregnth?
And that's fine! They need to start somewhere, but with time their conversations (and questions) get more complex.
  • Would Okonkwo be considered strong by today's standards?
  • What evidence of his strength do we see?
  • Why doesn't he become more violent throughout the novel?
  • How does his relationship with his daughter show strength? 
  • Who is stronger? Okonkwo or his son?
  • Is Okonkwo's obsession a tragic flaw?
  • How is Okonwo's obsession different than Oedipus' obsession?

Photo by Oliver Tacke via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
Step 2 - Pair
Share. I like this step, but you could skip it. Have students turn to the person sitting near them to share their questions. Are any good? Would they make any more specific? Why? Have them modify and use any questions they like.

Step 3 - Share
Class-wide. You can do this as a gallery walk (have students post their questions on the wall and walk around to see everyone's questions), or just have students volunteer their questions. At this point I still encourage them to make note of any other questions that they like.

Step 4
"What question do you want to answer? Adapt it as needed. Write your thesis statement based on the question you have chosen."

Voila! Students created their OWN essay prompts! They found the topic they were interested in and made it applicable to the class. 

Some students compared Things Fall Apart to other works we have read. 
Many wrote about how his stregnth made him weak (they liked the paradox).

All thesis statements did have to go to me for approval. I never rejected a thesis, but each one got a note. Sometimes giving help, "This sounds really interesting! You may be able to find some good examples in chapter 12." Sometimes pushing them to go further, "This is a good start, but very general. Can you think of an area you'd like to address specifically?" Other times suggesting they look another way, "I love the creativity you have with this topic, but I worry you may get stuck finding evidence. Let me know if you need my help, or want to change your topic later, and we'll brainstorm together." 

Most students stayed with their original topic. Some students did change theirs as they found something else they were interested in while starting their essay (or realized they actually wanted to show something else).

Overall I was happy with the way the lesson went and hope to get my student's asking more questions in the future! 

This doesn't have to be limited to essay prompts! So often in language classes we ask students the questions we want to know (or the book requests). Why not have them create the questions? What do they want to know about careers? What situations do they want to ask their classmates about? Having them create questions will make them more focused and motivated, I promise!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Chain Game - Links for Fast Finishers

When I was younger I often kept myself amused with a pen and a piece of paper.

I would select two words composed of the same number of letters and see how quickly I could transform them from one to the other.

To make it more fun normally the words would be opposite, or funny. For example, "How many steps does it take to get from wheat-bread?"


As you can see, the rules are simple. You change one letter of the word, but it has to create a word. 

I can change wheat-cheat, but not wheat-wheap.
I don't remember how I learned this, but in high school I found out it was actually a word puzzle invented by Lewis Carroll!

You can download his original writing, Doublets A Word Puzzle by Lewis Carroll for free. I don't follow the exact rules, but it is an interesting read and it has lots of examples you can use.

I rarely use this activity as an "assignment" but I do introduce and use it for fast finishers.

Can you spot the error in this graphic? Keep reading to see what I'd do
At the start of the year we go over how to play. From then on every week I write two new words at the top of the board. If at any point in the week students finish early they can attempt to connect the words in the fewest words possible.

For example, I may write: Cat-Dog

One student may submit: Cat-Hat-Hot-Dot-Dog 5 links

And another student submits Cat-Cot-Dot-Dog 4 links

The "winner" is the person who completes it with the fewest changes. In this case the second person wins.

To add a vocabulary aspect, I have the students define and write a sentence with each word. Their submission is not valid if it includes a non word, or a fake definition. (update: 6/12) I am relatively lenient with the definition. As you can see in the example above, the student defined bare incorrectly.

Bare should mean naked or uncovered. They mixed it up with bear to carry or hold. However, the sentence could be seen as correct: the right to "naked" or not-immensely altered weapons. Most importantly to me, it is an "academic" sentence that means they probably paid attention in a Social Studies class (where one of the teachers at my school discusses how some people argue that people should have the right to bare weapons, but not AK47s). As a result, I would probably leave a short note here, but not disqualify them. However, you can be as strict as you need to be. Many teachers would not allow that word to pass leave a note about homophones and declare the winner a different student.Which hopefully means student one will have learned a valuable distinction! 

Whenever a student finishes their work early they can tinker with their word chain to see if they can cut a step out or try a different approach to get a smaller number.

Here's a copy of the worksheet in case you'd like to use this with your class. This is free for the next 5 days! After June 15th, the price will be adjusted.

Monday, June 8, 2015

In Depth Viral Challeneges Project

Ice Bucket Challenge Photographer: Kim Quintano cc-by-2.0 
This assignment can be done entirely in your classroom, but I really feel students do better if you let them have an assignment that transfers to the real world. For me, I'd consider Steps 1-5 practice, but the big event is the Homework / Project!

The ice bucket challenge, Angry Legs, Kylie Jenner Challenge. How do things go viral online and what can we do about it?

Here's a quick lesson students are sure to love that will help them work in groups, research, read, write, and present information to the class.

Step 1: Get together a bunch of "viral" challenges or just concepts which went viral (Harlem Shake for example). This really works best if the students select their own, but I'd suggest you have some for backup. Then start class. Ask them what the word viral means. Have them start brainstorming viral challenges. Have they done any of these? Do they know people who have? What do they think of most of them. At this point students may sign up for their own challenge. Note: They do not need to do the challenge to sign up. They can pick a challenge they disagree with and discuss why.

Example: I want to write about #AngryLegs where people take leg selfies.

Step 2: Have students select a concept and look  up exactly what it is. Not just, "People dance" but what exactly it is. How long should it be. Do they need to mention anything? Does it have a set hashtag? Once they know the basics move on to step 3.

Example:  If you read my earlier blog post about hemlines in education After a girl in Algeria was told her skirt was too short she created a Facebook page that encouraged people to take #LegSelfies where they could show off their bare legs to prove she wasn't the only one angry about this situation.  

Step 3: What were the results of the challenge? ALS earned record amounts of money once the ice bucket challenge went viral. The Kylie Jenner challenge resulted in some teenagers going to the hospital.

Example: As of this point the school had stood by the fact that she was not dressed appropriately. No changes or statements other than the standard have been made. However, at least her story has been heard.

Step 4: Do they agree or disagree with the challenge? Should other people do it? Why or why not?

Example: If the people participate in this challenge because they feel that anyone should be able to show their calves without recourse, then great! However, if people are taking part only because they want to have a sexy picture of their legs, they should probably pass.

Step 5: Combine all of the information that you have on your challenge and create something to show the class. This can be a news report, a commercial, a warning, or anything you feel best shows what you collected.

Now for the fun part! :) :) :)

 Think of a problem that bothers you: pollution, bullying, fake sugar in soda: anything goes! In your group create a challenge that you feel could help this problem. Consider a specific task that would suit itself to being recorded or photographed. You can also create a hashtag. If you have the technological means consider creating accounts on This is a site where every day has a challenge to help people change the world! Submit your challenge and see if it spreads!

How great would it be if your students could not only learn a bit more about the viral sensations they've seen, but also create something that makes the world a better place!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

June Writing Contests

Looking for a way to keep students excited about writing despite the fact all they want to do is start their vacations? Or do you want to keep them writing over Summer Vacation?

Consider having them write some contest entries. The fact that they will be writing for something that has a chance to win prizes should keep them focused and make them take it seriously.

For the sake of space I did not include all rules related to contests. Please go to the links provided to be sure you meet all requirements and can follow the directions. I only selected free contests, but if you (or your students) are willing to pay a little, you can find many more opportunities.

Know of a contest I missed? Let me know in the comments and I'll add them here :)

DUE JUNE 15th  ~Write about the best invention
Students create a short essay, 150-250 words explaining to the Edison Innovation Foundation which of inventor's invention has impacted the world the most! They can choose from: Thomas Edison - Light Bulb, Albert Einstein- Theory of relativity, or Orville Wright- The airplane.

That's all there is to it! You can read the full description here. When you are ready to enter e-mail by 5pm on the 15th.

First Place gets $100, Second Place $50 and Third Place $25

DUE JUNE 30th  ~Write a short story
All students can participate! Students younger than ten years old can submit their story, and will receive a participation gift. Students 11-21 may submit their stories for prizes! The only requirements I can see is that the story needs to be under 1,000 words. The topic, style, characters are all up to the writer.

The rules and prizes change a bit depending on the age, so check out the site for full details

DUE JUNE 30th  ~Write a funny short story
Any student in school (from Kindergarten to 12th grade) are invited to submit up to 2,500 words to the Young Voices of America Make Us Laugh. There are winners selected in the three different age categories Pre-K-2nd grade wins $30 for first place, $25 for second place, and $20 for third. 3rd-6th wins $100 for first place, $75 for second place, and $50 for third. 7th-12th also wins $100 for first place, $75 for second place, and $50 for third.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Should a student's hemline determine her education?

Sometimes as a teacher I hear about something going on in the world and I know I want to include it in my class. Unfortunately, I heard about this now after my classes have finished. Nonetheless, it won't leave my brain. This blog goes through my process of planning a video lesson. It does not include worksheets, etc. But it does walk through the process I would probably end up teaching. If anyone is actually interested in a worksheet, leave a comment and I'll make one up for you.

If you have any comments on ways I could improve my process please let me know.
I can instantly think of two ways to do this in class (but I know there are more)! The first is rather easy, and the subject of this post.

How to teach a news topic with a video

First you need to find the type of video you want. Do you want it long? Short? Different accents? I encourage teachers to use videos as a way to expose students to different accents. However, keep in mind that if it is a new accent (or a faster speaker, or something with a lot of background noise) you'll need to add more scaffolding. Does it have subtitles? Would you want to use them each time you play it?

In this case we're looking at a BBC video I found. I like it because it is rather short and to the point. The visuals help without distracting, and I think the vocabulary is rather basic.

Identify any tricky grammar or vocabulary. If there is a really difficult word that you don't think is important, it can be a good time to discuss how sometimes you don't need to know 100% of the words.

  • Give each student (or pair of students) a word. 
    • I write them up ahead of time on pieces of scratch paper, but you could physically write the word in front of them, or have them pick words out of a hat. Since some of the words are usually harder than others, I differentiate a bit by handing out simpler words to students who struggle more with this task.
    • Keep in mind culture! In America for example not many students will know what  dean is and middle school students may not be familiar with a state school.
  • Have them look it up in the dictionary and create a sample sentence. 
    • Monitor the room to be sure their sentences are making sense, AND if the word has multiple definitions they are using the one that is in the video.
  • Model what you want them to do with a vocabulary word
    • Teacher: Some students want to go to Harvard, Yale, or USD. I just wanted to go to my local state school, SDSU. 
    • Students: Like a public school?
    • Teacher: Yes, and what kind am I discussing here? Elementary, Middle school?
    • Students: College
    • Teacher: AWESOME! In this case a State School is?
    • Students: A public college
  • Then they'll present the word, and a sample sentence to the class.
  • Have the class try to guess the definition based on the sentence. 
    • If the class struggles, give them more information, OR ask the presenting group questions that could help them give better clues. 
Easy and effective! Now that they know the words you can do a mini-review  (Flyswatter, Kahoot, etc.), or go straight into the video.

What do you want them to get out of the video? Is it purely informational, or is there a grammar element you want to review? This video has some transition words, and is mainly past tense. I could see a lesson about modals (what should the ladies do? What could they do? etc.

If I were going to use it for a mechanical lesson, I would actually use it for punctuation! Similar to a dictogloss. There are so many pauses that students could work in pairs to replicate the text and punctuate it appropriately. However, in this case, I am really feel the topic would provide a spring board for conversation and research, so I would focus on the information rather than a skill. 

Since I know I am just going for information, I would be sure my students had a specific task while listening.

To me this screams Compare and Contrast. Have them pick their favorite graphic organizer and keep track of the differences and similarities. Consider: location, gender, age, issue, etc.

Do they think the schools were right? What reasons did the schools have?

This is a great time to break out four corners. Assign the four corners of the room with different responses, "Yes, No, Maybe, I don't know" or "100% Yes, 70% Yes, 100% No, 70% No." Ask questions and have students move to the corner they feel fits their answer. If you want to make it simpler, just declare two walls, "Yes," and "No."

For example:
"Should a skirt being too long be a dress code issue?"
"Should colleges have dress codes?"
"Do you agree with our school dress code?"
"Is a skirt being too short a dress code issue?"

Ask a question and when students get to their corners ask one or two people in that section to explain why they are standing there. Then ask the next question. Repeat until all questions are done (or your students seem tired)

I like giving students a choice, so I would have students select from the following activities:
  • Write a letter to one of the students explaining that you agree or disagree with her opinion. Be polite, but state why you think the school was wrong / right. Give a call to action. What should she do? Wear different clothes? Write letters? Move? etc.
  • You are a news reporter. Write an article where you discuss the story/stories. Does something like this happen where you live? Interview your friends and/or family members for quotes!
  • Consider you are one of the girls. Write a journal entry about how you felt when you were told your attire was inappropriate.  
Like I stated earlier, there are many different ways this subject could be tackled (I'll post about another one this weekend). Dress codes are always  a very popular subject and considering this is timely, it should go over in your class.
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