New Website Launch Giveaway

To help celebrate the launch of my new website,, and first-ever newsletter, I am giving away two $25 Teachers Pay Teachers gift cards.

My newsletter will be packed with teaching ideas, resources, sale information, product updates, free downloads, and more!

To enter the gift card giveaway and to sign up to receive my bi-monthly newsletters, visit and signup to receive the newsletter. The giveaway will end on Saturday, January 28 at 9:00 pm PST.

There are two ways to enter: 1) simply sign up to receive the newsletter; 2) sign up for the newsletter and tag your friends on social media (FB or IG). The more people you tag, the better your chances are to win!

No purchase necessary to enter. Winners will be notified via email on Sunday, January 29. Winners will have 48 hours to claim the prize. You may earn ten additional entries, one per tagged person, on social media. People who tag their friends must also sign up for the newsletter.

Kindness Matters in the Classroom and Beyond

#KindnessNation #WeHoldTheseTruths resources for educators to teach kindness in the classroom.
A little kindness and empathy can go a long way. Demonstrating kindness and empathy can completely change a person’s day, open new doors and opportunities, and mend hurting relationships. And while I firmly believe that teaching kindness and empathy should start in the home, as educators, we need to emphasize these qualities in our classrooms every single day. There is a link to a free resource to use in your classroom toward the bottom of this post!

I start every class period with a bell ringer. Bell ringers provide students with the perfect routine that helps them transition from the craziness that happens in the halls during passion period, to the more structured setting of a classroom. Some of my favorite bell ringers to use with my students are sentence combining bell ringers, growth mindset bell ringers, and bell ringers that force students to use their critical thinking skills. I have my students track their bell ringers on this free tracking sheet, and I stamp it every single class period after I take attendance.
#KindnessNation #WeHoldTheseTruths resources for educators to teach kindness in the classroom.

To provide my students with opportunities to grow as intellectuals and think about love, acceptance, tolerance, diversity, and kindness, I created this set of 40 bell ringers: Bell Ringers to Establish Community. Each bell ringer includes a thought-provoking quote from someone who has made a positive impact on the world and a quick writing prompt that encourages critical thinking.

I typically give my students the first five minutes of class to respond and share their response to each bell ringer. During these five minutes I am able to take attendance, answer student questions, talk with students who were recently absent, stamp all of my students’ bell ringers, and have two or three students share their responses aloud. I look forward to hearing my students respond to these prompts.

To help you decide if these bell ringers are right for you class, I’ve posted a FREE SAMPLER. The free sampler includes 5 different bell ringers that are sure to inspire your students.
#KindnessNation #WeHoldTheseTruths resources for educators to teach kindness in the classroom.

#KindnessNation #WeHoldTheseTruths resources for educators to teach kindness in the classroom.

To help show that kindness matters, I’ve teamed up with some amazing educators and resource authors to provide teachers with free resources to teach kindness in the classroom. This #WeHoldTheseTruths and a #KindnessMatters blog hop is hosted by the Secondary Smorgasbord: The ELA Buffet and Desktop Learning Adventures.

Using Art to Teach and Analyze Literature

Using art to teach literary analysis
“But what does any of this have to do with English?”
“So, I guess this is an art class now”
“I’m not doing it.”

These were some of the reactions I received from my (reluctant) sophomores when I told them we would be looking at art to learn how to improve our literary analysis skills. By the end of our art analysis stations day, they were hooked, and I was thoroughly enjoying walking around and listening to their conversations and interpretations of each piece.

You see, there are actually many similarities within all of the arts. Visual arts and compositions all have tone, create mood, and tell a story. What’s even better is that the arts contain rich symbolism, foreshadowing, and other literary elements. This is a good activity before reading a short story, novel, or poem.

This fun activity contained several different elements. Before we began, I told my students that we would be looking at how a single story can be told from many perspectives and in many different formats.

First, I introduced students to the story of Icarus and Daedalus. We read a version from the text, watched the Lego version (which is truly awesome), and then completed the art exercise.

Before setting the students free to complete the task, I gave them each a chart and explained to them the various elements they were to look for in each piece of art. I wanted them to analyze the artwork first before I gave them any input.
Using art to teach literary analysis

Then I organized the students into six even groups and gave them five minutes per station to complete the chart for each piece of art as best as they could. Only five minutes isn’t enough time for the students to complete a thorough analysis, but it is enough time to introduce them to the art so that they are more comfortable talking about it in a whole class setting.
Using art to teach literary analysis

I had six stations throughout the room. Each station had one painting. I used the Google timer to display how much time was remaining for each station, and the students worked.

As the students discussed the art, I went casually around the room pointing out various things about the art. I would ask them about the colors, light, focal point, etc. After about the third station, students were more confident in analyzing the art, and they were even talking about symbolism and foreshadowing.
Using art to teach literary analysis

All-in-all, it was a great activity and a perfect introduction. After this lesson, I plan to review the  art more in-depth in a whole class setting, and then show students how we apply the same skills to analyze poetry and literature.

5 Inspirational Quotes about Education from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

This Monday, January 16, the nation will observer Martin Luther King Jr. Day in observation of the work, dedication, and ultimate sacrifice Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave to this country. In honor of him, here are a few great and inspirational quotes that we can use in the classroom.

Inspirational quotes for teachers from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Inspirational quotes for teachers from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Inspirational quotes for teachers from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Inspirational quotes for teachers from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

In the classroom, I use my Digital “I Have a Dream” Rhetorical Analysis activity to teach rhetorical analysis and teach the speech to my students. This activity includes several different rhetorical analysis and annotation activities that students complete digitally within Google Slides. There are also three writing prompts that require students to rhetorically analyze the speech. For more resources to use in the classroom to teach about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., click here!

4 Teacher Resolutions for the New Year

As 2016 comes to an end and 2017 rolls in, it is time to start thinking about ways to improve our educational practices. We spend the first semester really getting to know our new students and understanding the different classroom dynamics of each class period, so it only makes sense to take what we know and improve our teaching practices.

Here are 4 resolutions to incorporate in the new calendar year.

Teacher New Year's Resolutions to help make a difference
One thing I want to focus on this year is providing my students with meaningful feedback that will enhance their learning. Sure, I can quickly jot down a checkmark next to a well-written sentence , but how does that really help my students?

To provide my students with more meaningful and effective feedback, I’m going to write about two detailed comments on major papers that point out specifically what the students did well and why it works.

Instead of writing “nice intro” on an essay, I might write, “great job on your thesis statement. It is detailed, to the point, and includes a strong verb.” To make this comment more beneficial, I would circle the strong verb, and possibly add a couple more strong verb suggestions to help my student grow as a writer.

Teacher New Year's Resolutions to help make a difference
When students collaborate with one another, they get to act as a student and a teacher. As the student, they get to demonstrate their mastery of the topic and learn from other students in the classroom. As the teacher, they get to reteach the content in their own language to their peers.

The best way to learn something is to teach it, and that is one of the reasons why collaborative work is so great.

Another reason I want to add in more collaborative work in my classroom is because it provides students with more real-world experience. Students need to know how to work with different groups of people, and practicing in the classroom is a great time for them to learn this vital skill.

Some of the collaborative activities I love are collaborative essay brainstorming and collaborative rhetorical analysis posters.

Teacher New Year's Resolutions to help make a difference
Our students are 21st Century learners, and as educators we need to embrace that in our classrooms to help students reach their full potential.

If you are new to educational technology, one way to easily incorporate edtech into your classroom is by having students complete a collaborative assignment in Google Docs or Google Slides. I especially love using Google Forms in my classroom because there are so many different uses for Forms.

If you are brand new to Google Forms, you'll want to read my introductory Google Form blog post. If you've used Forms in the past, you might be interested in different ways you can incorporate Google Forms into your classroom.

For digital lessons and resources, be sure to check out my SMARTePlans digital, Google-based resources. These resources are engaging, and students love how they are interactive.

Teacher New Year's Resolutions to help make a difference
Trees and paper are finite resources, so it is important to be ecologically responsible. While the idea of a completely paperless classroom might be a little too unattainable, there are several ways to reduce paper consumption in our classrooms. 

I’m always trying to think of ways I can use less paper in my own classroom, and here are some that I have found: Have students take quizzes on half or quarter sheets of paper; encourage students to write notes on the back of their paper and in the margins; utilize class sets of copies; encourage collaboration with shared copies; ask your TA to clean out and catalog (preferably Google Sheet that is shared among your entire department) all of your class sets of copies and texts; and share class sets of reading materials with other teachers.

What is your New Year's Resolution for the classroom?