Classroom Intervention: Regain Control of Your Classroom Without Losing Your Cool

Ever so often, secondary teachers will have a difficult and challenging class. While all of the students individually are great kids, the combination of students just makes for one bad recipe. That was the case in my sixth period class this year. It was a difficult class, and almost every day for a few weeks the class tested my patience and classroom management skills. I tried talking to kids individually. I tried positive rewards and interventions. I tried calling home. I tried whole-class punishment. I tried my whole bag of tricks -which includes everything that I do in all of my other classes where this does not happen. Nothing was working, so I paused the class, took an entire day off from instruction, and rebooted my class. I gave them a voice, and the results were amazing.

After several sleepless nights, I decided my class needed a classroom behavior intervention. I didn’t just limit this to my class though, I included myself. At the beginning of the period, I (once again) expressed my disappointment, frustration, and expectations, but then I did something to give the students a voice. I gave them an opportunity to honestly provide input.

I displayed this organizer on the overhead projector, and I told the students that I wanted each and every one of them to complete all of the boxes with information that they felt was reasonable and that would help create a productive and positive classroom atmosphere. This organizer contains six different categories: their expectations of me as their teacher, what I could expect from them as a student, suggested classroom rules, suggested classroom electronic device policy, fair consequences, and classroom goals and objectives. After completing the chart, I asked my students to rate themselves in the classroom and provide rationale.

I told my students that there would be time to compare lists, but that I wanted each student to work on his or her own piece of paper silently and individually, so that they could formulate their own ideas. I told them that I would also do the same, but that I would fill it out as a teacher.

For the first time in a few weeks, every single one of my students worked diligently and silently. And I mean EVERY. SINGLE. ONE! Students didn’t check their phones. They didn’t whisper and engage in side conversations. They didn’t complain. After about 15 minutes of working silently, I then instructed my students to talk with some of the people at their tables to compare notes, and then it was time to face reality. It was time for them to share their responses with me.

Since I wanted to provide my students with a voice. I had them share their expectations of me first. The well-behaved students in my class kept silent, as I suspected, but the ones who usually caused disturbances and distractions were eager to share. And while their expectations were more of a complaint about my classroom rules than an expectation, I made sure not to interrupt them. I listened. I took notes. I thought of ways I could improve in that classroom. I agreed with my students on some of their complaints, and we met in the middle. I made sure they knew their voices were heard.

I then shared my expectations, and together as a class we discussed what we wanted the class to be like.

That was almost a week ago, and ever since that day, classroom morale is up. The students are more cooperative, more learning takes place, and I don’t leave the classroom at the end of the period feeling frustrated and defeated.

I didn’t want to ditch my lessons for a day, but I needed to get my class back on track. I needed to reign them in, while still showing them respect. There are so many people in this world telling our students that they aren’t old enough to make informed decisions, or that they don’t know what they are talking about, or who don’t even give them the time of day to listen to their thoughts and opinions. By doing this with my worst class, not only did I show them respect, but I showed them that I care.

You can download this free classroom intervention organizer here! To help keep your classroom moving in a positive direction, please check out my Growth Mindset Activities resource especially designed for secondary students.

Secondary ELA Seasonal Blog Hop: The Daring English Teacher Shares Tips and Tricks

Halloween teaching ideas for secondary ELA teachers.
Despite rigorous curriculum demands from schools, districts, and the state, secondary ELA teachers can still have fun on Halloween, and even teach some content as well.

Nothing says “Halloween” to me more than dimmed lights, eerie background music, and a spooky story. This is the perfect opportunity for English and literature teachers to really instill a love of reading into students because there are so many spooky stories to choose from. Also, Halloween is well after my short story unit, so I’ve already taught all of the major literary devices for the year, so we can just read the story. Personally, my favorite story to read on Halloween with my students is “The Monkey’s Paw” by W. W. Jacobs.

From the very moment that my students step into my classroom, I want them to feel the mood of the story...even before we read. Even though I've packed my day with rigorous curriculum, I want my students to have some fun with story story.

I play ominous background music all day, I keep the lights partially dimmed, and because I can be a big cheeseball, I bring in a flashlight to use when I introduce the story. You know, like how we used to do when we would gather around the campfire and tell frightening stories. Here is a link to a YouTube video that plays a few hours of background music. This track isn't too distracting, and it will really add some Halloween ambiance to your classroom.

Since I’ve already covered short story elements, I briefly introduce the story and ask them to look for elements of foreshadowing and suspense. Then I read the story aloud, deliberately and slowly, for added effect. Since I use this day as an opportunity to show students just how enjoyable literature can be, I usually read the story all the way through. I find that the fewer breaks the better because it really allows students to have an opportunity to sink into the story and experience all of it’s horror and suspense.

After we read the story, we have a quick classroom discussion to check for their comprehension, and then we complete a close read activity for the short story. This activity is perfect for schools with strict curriculum guidelines or for schools that require that teachers teach and post the standards daily. This close read still allows students to have fun and celebrate Halloween while working on an academically rigorous assignment that is aligned to the common core standards.
Teach close reading with The Monkey's Paw.
For the close read activity, I have the students work in pairs to closely read selected passages of the story for elements of foreshadowing and suspense. The students then need to select the best quotes in the passages that represent these literary elements and explain how the author incorporated these elements and the effect that each of these elements had on the audience. If time permits, once the students are done closely reading and annotating passages from the story, I have them work on the paragraph writing assignment.

This close reading assignment is available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. In addition to the story passages and close reading notes, this assignment also includes various writing assignments and scaffolded paragraph notes to help differentiate for struggling and less proficient students.

Some of my other favorite spooky short stories are "The Cask of Amontillado" and "The Most Dangerous Game."

This blog is part of a Season Secondary Blog Hop all about teaching tips, strategies, and resources for Halloween. Be sure to check out all of the other amazing resources.

Blog Redesign Giveaway

To help me celebrate the redesign of my blog, I’ve teamed up with an old childhood friend, Shannon Pash, a Thirty-One Sales Consultant, to giveaway one of my favorite teaching bags and a shopping spree to my Teachers Pay Teachers Store!

The grand prize winner will receive a Thirty-One Zip-Top Organizing Utility Tote of their choice and a $20 shopping spree to my Teachers Pay Teachers store. Four other lucky winners will receive a $10 shopping spree to my TpT store.

The giveaway is open to all US and Canadian teachers. The giveaway begins Sunday, October 2 at 12:00 am EST and ends at midnight on Saturday, October 8. Winners will be announced on Sunday, October 9. All entries will be verified to make sure entrants follow the giveaway.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

My English Curriculum: The First 6 Weeks

My English Curriculum: The first six weeks of teaching middle school or high school English. Lessons, activities, and ideas.
Hey there, fellow English teacher! If you’ve stumbled upon this blog post, chances are you are looking for ideas, inspiration, lesson plans, and guidance for the beginning of the school year. To help teachers everywhere, I’m writing a new blog series that explains how I plan and sequence my school year starting in the beginning of a brand new school year. This curriculum outline is ideal for grades 7-10.

The first week of school is crucial for building trust and establishing your classroom culture. That is why I like to spend a little bit of time getting to know my students, assessing their knowledge, and teaching some crucial information.
My English Curriculum: The first six weeks of teaching middle school or high school English. Lessons, activities, and ideas. WEEK 1
To begin with, I usually like to spend about three days getting to know my students and fostering a positive classroom culture. To do so, I use the resources in my Back to School Activities for Secondary Students and Growth Mindset Activities resources. Usually by the third day I like to begin assessing my students’ abilities, and this typically takes the form of a short narrative essay. I spend the last two days of the first week teaching students how to properly annotate text with my Annotating Text Made Easy lesson. I like to use this lesson in the beginning of the school year so that I can refer back to the close reading skills they gain during this lesson throughout the entire year.

For my first unit of the school year, I like to begin with short stories. Starting the year with short stories exposes students to literary devices and elements. For the first week of the short story unit, I typically begin with the shortest short story because there is some pre-loading that goes into this unit. Before we even read a short story in class, I teach students about short stories and literary devices using a PowerPoint lesson found in my Short Stories Unit. What I like about this unit is that it introduces students to the content, and it works with any short story. There are many organizers and creative assignments included in this resource as well.

When I teach short stories, I usually tend to focus on one or two literary elements and devices per story. Before we read, I give students vocabulary words, review important story context, and teach the focus literary element or device. Then we read the story, and I have them look for examples and quotes that show that particular device. After each short story, I have them write a paragraph that analyzes the short story, the author’s use of the device, and how the device contributes to the audience’s understanding of the story. I typically do not quiz my students on each short story, rather I assess their knowledge and understanding through these paragraphs.

One of my favorite short stories to teach is “The Most Dangerous Game.” This Close Reading Lesson and Writing Activity follows the format that I teach. It focuses on a particular literary device and includes a writing response. Since I teach short stories in the beginning of the year, I provide my students with sentence frames to help with the writing.

My English Curriculum: The first six weeks of teaching middle school or high school English. Lessons, activities, and ideas. WEEK 6
I wrap-up my short story unit with a fictional narrative. Throughout the first few weeks my students read and analyzed narratives, so I like to conclude this unit with a narrative of their own. We spend a couple days brainstorming their protagonist, antagonist, setting, conflict, and plot structure. The students sketch out their narrative essay and write their first draft. After a day of revision circles (peer editing done in small groups), students then publish their final draft using the feedback from their peers. I use the information in my Narrative Writing Unit to help with this final assessment.

On the last day of the unit, I typically assess my students with an end-of-unit test that includes all of the literary devices we covered and information from each of the stories. I also use this time in class while students are testing to begin grading their final drafts. Doing this helps reduce the time I spend on the weekends grading student papers.

After teaching short stories for the first unit, my students are ready to move on to a longer text!

What do your first six weeks of the school year look like?

My Perfect Teaching Bag

My search for the best teaching bag ever is finally over. After years of using different totes, bags, and even purses, I’ve finally found, what I believe to be, is the last teaching bad I’ll ever purchase. And by last, I mean the last style...definitely not the last print. I'll be getting more of these sooner than I should. There are so many cute prints to choose from!

As a traveling teacher this year, I needed to find a bag that was durable and practical. I’ve never had to travel before, so quickly packing up all of my belongings and moving from one room to another necessitated a new bag because all of my other ones were simply not cutting it any longer.

My new teacher bag obsession is the Zip-Top Organizing Utility Tote by Thirty-One. This tote is a teacher’s dream! The white poppy design is adorable, and it goes with almost all of my outfits. Plus, it has two large mesh pockets on the sides, and five more pockets that make storing Flair pens, Expo markers, stamps, paper clips, student papers, my attendance binder, my lesson planning book, and everything else I could possibly imagine easy. Plus, it is super affordable, so that was a major plus!

I even splurged for the Fold ‘N File insert to place inside the bag. This insert makes packing up and organizing all of my student files even easier!

In addition to amazing teacher bags, Thirty-One also makes great lunch bags! If you are interested in this teaching bag, one of my childhood friends is a consultant for Thirty-One. She can help you with your order. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed. You can view all of the amazing products HERE!

If you've never heard of or checked out Thirty-One before, you are missing out! This bag will surely make your teaching life easier!

Disclaimer: I am not an affiliate of Thirty-One...I just love the bags this much!