Chromebook Storage and Organization in the Secondary ELA Classroom

Storing and organizing Chromebook carts in the classroom.
Whether you currently have Chromebooks in your classroom, are about to get Chromebooks for your classroom, or are just beginning to research how to integrate Chromebooks and digital lessons into your classroom, one thing you will definitely want to research is Chromebook storage and organization.

As an early adopter of using Chromebooks in the classroom, I’ve had quite a few years of experience storing and organizing my Chromebooks carts (and my fair share of failed routines and procedures).

Storing and organizing Chromebook carts in the classroom.When it comes to deciding on a storage and organization strategy for your classroom Chromebook carts, two of the most important things are consistency and accountability. You want to begin the year with a strong routine that will remain consistent throughout the entire year, and you also want your students to be held accountable for properly storing and using the Chromebooks.
After a couple years of trying different Chromebook policies in my classroom, I’ve finally found one that works best for me in my classroom. While I love the idea of keeping the Chromebooks out on the tables all day long because it saves valuable instructional time, students lose their personal accountability and responsibility in doing so. They do not have any ownership over a specific device, which makes it a bit more tempting for students to not be as careful with the devices.
Instead, I have my students take out their Chromebooks out of the cart and put them back in the cart each class period. It takes a little bit of initial set-up and practice, but for me, it is the best way to manage my classroom set of Chromebooks.
To begin with, I have two Chromebooks carts in my classroom with 20 Chromebooks each. I labeled each cart a different color, and within each cart, each Chromebook has two different labels: a label with a number and a label with a student’s name from each class period who is assigned to that particular Chromebook. I store each of my carts on opposite ends of the room. Students sitting on the north side of the room only use the north cart, and likewise for students sitting on the south side of the room and the south cart.
Storing and organizing Chromebook carts in the classroom.
I assigned my students to Chromebooks for personal accountability. Each student has a color and number assigned to them. Not only are they responsible for the Chromebook during that class period, but they are also responsible for putting away their assigned Chromebook in its designated space. Assigning Chromebooks to students, rather than having them use any Chromebook in the cart, helps me to know who is putting their Chromebooks back correctly, and it even reduces how quickly germs spread.  Instead of all 150 plus of my students touching all of the devices, only five of them touch a single one.
For the set-up, I purchased color dot stickers. I labeled each Chromebook with a particular color dot, and then I wrote the number on the dot. Then on the bottom of the Chromebook, I typed a label with each student’s name for all class periods on it –that way I know exactly who has the Chromebooks without having to go to my teacher binder.
On days we use the Chromebooks in class, students take out their designated Chromebook as they walk into the classroom. When we have about five minutes remaining in class, I have my students start putting their Chromebooks back in the carts so that all Chromebooks are back and accounted for before the bell rings.

An Emotional and Powerful Ice-Breaker for the First Day of School

Though I did not include this icebreaker in my Back to School Activities for Secondary Students packet, it’s one that I’ve done for the past few years, and I absolutely love it.

Let’s face it: high school students deal with so much more pressure than past generations have. Between social media and growing up a little too quickly, I think, perhaps, that it is actually more challenging to be a teenager now than it has ever been before –and that’s why I LOVE this Post Secret-inspired icebreaker.

I was first introduced to the Post Secret blog (and this activity) in a creative writing class in college. Every week this blog posts readers’ anonymous (and sometimes very deep, dark, or private) online (with permission –the secrets were sent in by their owners) for the world to see.

So, on the very first day of school, I say hello and hand out a notecard to every single student as they step through the threshold and enter my classroom. They probably think the notecard is for the typical name, address, parent contact information –and they couldn’t be more wrong. I tell them that I will be able to convince them to share their deepest secret with me, and that I’ll share it aloud in class. You should see their shocked faces!
Then, without telling my students the name of the blog, I explain the blog and show them a generic PowerPoint that I created using some of the recent (and more appropriate) Post Secret secrets.

You can download that PowerPoint for free here: Post Secret Icebreaker PowerPoint.

I explain to them that writing down a secret like this can be therapeutic and cleansing, and that it might make them feel better to get it out in the open. I also explain to them that by doing this exercise together as a class, we might actually learn that we are not alone and that other people in the class are going through what we are going through at the same time.

>>> Icebreaker Rules <<<
1. Students write down their deepest secret on the notecard.
2. Teacher collets notecards face down as students finish (without looking!).
3. Teacher includes his or her own real secret in the pile.
4.  Teacher tells students to keep track of how many secrets they can relate to.
5. Teacher reads all secrets aloud.
6. Teacher rips up secrets and throws them away.
7. Teacher asks students to raise their hands if they related to one secret, two secrets, three secrets, and so on.

If done correctly (and I cannot stress just how important following the rules is), this is a very powerful, emotional, and moving icebreaker. While we don't get to know quirky facts about each other on the first day, everyone in the room (teacher included) learns that we all have our strengths, weaknesses, and struggles. We all learn that we have more in common than we initially thought. We all learn to be a bit more empathetic.

Using Interactive Bookmarks for Novel Studies

When I teach novels in my classroom, I like to provide my students with a consistent routine that enables them to anticipate what we will be doing. In doing so, my students know what to expect work wise, and then they can focus more on understanding and analyzing the novels.
After introducing the novel to my students, I make sure I include these elements in all of my novel study units: vocabulary, comprehension questions, quote analysis, and writing tasks. As I plan each unit, I work from the end of the novel first. I look at the overall message and theme of the novel, and select my writing prompts (essays and mid-novel writing tasks). From there, I select the important quotes and passages to analyze, that way my less proficient students have additional exposure to quotes that can easily be incorporated into their responses and essays.
In order to include all of these elements into my novel unit instruction and provide consistency for my students, I teach every novel with foldable, interactive bookmarks. Each bookmark is printed (double-sided) on a single piece of paper and spans several chapters and includes novel vocabulary, comprehension questions, a space for students to keep track of a timeline of events, and a space for quotation analysis. There is actually quite a bit of work for the students to complete on each bookmark, but since we work on the bookmarks as we go, the workload is much more manageable for the students.
In my opinion, the most important part of the bookmarks is the quotation analysis section because this is where I can truly tailor the bookmarks to what I am working on with my students. When I have an upcoming writing assignment, I have my students look for and analyze quotes that will fit with that writing prompt. When I am working on a particular literary device with my students, I will have them look for and analyze an example of that particular device. If my goal is for my students to be able to identify how the author uses foreshadowing in the novel, I will ask my students to identify quotes that are foreshadowing and then explain how the quote is significant to the novel and to the audience's understanding of the novel.
The last thing I love about using the foldable and interactive bookmarks with all of my novel study units is that the students gain more from the novels when using them. My students understand the storyline more because in addition to answering comprehension questions, they are also writing their own timeline and finding quotes to analyze. Before quizzes and tests, my students frequently look over their previous bookmarks and use them as study guides.

Available Interactive Notebooks:

3 Things I Learned This Summer and How They Will Make Me a Better Teacher

For many of us, the upcoming school year is quickly approaching! As my summer closes, I have been gearing up for this fresh start. Shopping through Target, pouring over Pinterest, adding ideas to my Pinterest boards, creating new educational resources, and reconnecting with colleagues all help when transferring back into the teacher life!

Over Summer, I reflected in many ways. Learning to relax and remember why I love teaching so much. In addition, I revitalized how to be happy. Putting yourself first and ensuring your happiness reflects your teaching are all thoughts I worked on during vacation. I am so thankful I had this time to recover, but so excited for what lies ahead! After all, happy teachers have happy students.

To prepare for the year, I have thought about what changes I want to make. Color schemes, classroom setup, classroom rules and management, and overall colleague relationships! Noting what I wasn’t pleased with last year helps this process tremendously. With my last two weeks of vacation, I plan to investigate and research what might work best for my upcoming assignment. I also intend to expand my relations with colleagues. Not only do they offer great recommendations and ideas, they offer irreplaceable friendships inside and outside the workplace! Through all of my reflection, there are three things I’ve learned that will help me become a better teacher.

As I finish up this last stretch of my summer vacation, here are three things that I’ve learned:

  1. I know exactly what I want to improve this year for my new students. I want to work on providing more meaningful feedback to my students. To do this, I am going to grade less often...but when I grade, it will be with meaningful feedback that will help my students learn.
  2. I want to utilize my prep time more efficiently. Last school year some teachers commented on my Instagram page that they schedule out their prep time. I totally plan on doing that this new year. Two days will be for grading, two days will be for planning, and one day will be for classroom prep. I really feel this will help with time-management.
  3. It is okay to not have a picture-perfect classroom on the first day of school. This is one that I keep telling myself. I am less than three weeks away from having students in my room, and I have yet been able to step inside my new classroom. Decorating my room will be a work-in-progress, and that is perfectly okay. In fact, I am kind of excited to have my students help in the process.

5 Simple Steps to Teach Text Annotation in the Secondary Classroom

Teaching students how to annotate text can be an intimidating task. Likewise, for our students, annotating text can be equally as daunting, especially if they don’t have a process of their own that works or steps to follow.
When I teach my students how to annotate text, I use these simple steps to break down the process into a manageable task for my students. There are also a variety of strategies that I use when I teach and model students how to annotate text.
5 simple steps to teach students how to annotate text
Step 1: Preview the Text
Before I have my students annotate text, I want them to get an overall feel for the text. I have them look at and read headlines, subheads, pictures, captions, headings, graphs, and pull-out quotes.
Step 2: Read a Small Section of Text
Since close reading and text annotation can be a daunting task, I have my students only focus on a small portion of it at a time. This makes the task less intimidating for students. It also enables them to focus more closely on a section of text rather than get lost in the entirety of the text.
Step 3: Annotate the Section You Read
Once they’ve read the small section, I provide my students with (or encourage them to) go back and annotate the section they’ve just read. As they become more confident in their close reading and text annotation skills, students will incorporate steps 2 and 3 together, but as they are learning and practicing the skill, I’ve found that students annotate more thoroughly when they read and then annotate.
Step 4: Review Your Annotations
It is essential to have students go back and review their annotations. This reinforces the process that the students are completing, as well as gives them an opportunity to review their annotations and margin notes so that they gain a better understanding of the text.
Step 5: Repeat Steps 2-4
As students work through the text, they will complete steps 2-4 until they finish annotating the entire document.


While annotating all different types of text generally follows these steps, there are a few different things that I do when I teach my students how to annotate fiction, annotate non fiction, and annotate poetry. I’ve included all of these lessons and resources in an Annotating Made Simple Bundle.

Teachers and Summertime

At this point in summer, we teachers have recovered from our previous school year, but don’t quite have to worry about the upcoming year. For some of us it is still two months away, and for others we still have about a month remaining. Personally, I find this is the best time to set new goals! I want to walk you through mine, and light the fire so you can find yours.

  1. Find what makes me unhappy. You may find this is a weird place to start, and maybe it is! However, I know I’ll never leave unhappiness behind until I know what drives it! For me, unhappiness begin when I feel I lose control. Whether that means in my health, my social schedule, or in the classroom, I need to be in the driver’s seat. As a goal for my upcoming year, I’m going to work improving my relationships with my students, as well as challenging them throughout the year.

  1. Find what makes me happy! From big things to little things, they all make a difference. It could be going on a weekend getaway or just going on an evening walk. Any time I am able to disconnect and find my own space I am feeding my happiness. Looking forward, I want to implement time for happiness for myself and my students. Sometimes this presents itself as a time away from all electronics just enjoying my surroundings.

  1. Find what inspires me! As often as Pinterest gives me new ideas, I love finding new forms of inspiration. I have quite a few different Pinterest boards that are filled with many different back-to school ideas and resources. I strive to find more and new resources around me. I plan to discuss with and learn from my fellow teachers. Asking questions and trying new things within my classroom will relight my inspiration fire. Finally, I hope to learn from my students and let their creativity blossom in the upcoming year!
These are my summer goals! Yours may be different, and I would love to hear about them and your plan to tackle them. Keep enjoying your summer and looking forward to the upcoming year!

Strategies for Teaching Text Annotation

Strategies for Teaching Text Annotation
One of the first lessons I teach every single year, regardless of the grade-level I am teaching, is how to closely read and annotate a text. Because I feel this is such a valuable skill for students, I carve out a week of my instruction in the beginning of the school year to help my students get more comfortable with annotating text.
When I teach my students how to annotate text, I use a step-by-step PowerPoint presentation that breaks down the annotation process into five simple steps and provides examples for my students. I also provide them with guides and bookmarks to use as references as they annotate. I even encourage my students to keep these documents for their entire high school careers.


There are three invaluable strategies to help students gain confidence in their text annotating skills.


The first strategy I use for teaching and practicing text annotation is that I have my students share and compare their annotations and margin notes with their table-mates. This not only gives them additional insight on how they can annotate, but it also helps to build their confidence when they notice that they have similar notes and markings as their peers.
Strategies for Teaching Text Annotation

Strategies for Teaching Text Annotation


Another strategy I use is direct modeling. I model my own thought-process as I think aloud and annotate text with the document camera. I will set up a piece of paper, grab my annotation supplies (post-it notes, highlighters, pens, etc.), and think aloud as I annotate in front of the classroom.

A final way I like to reinforce my students’ annotation skills is by completing an annotation gallery walk. I will print out text with large font and place it throughout the room. My students will be placed in groups and each group will have 5-7 minutes to read the text, review the existing annotations, and add their own annotations to the chart. This is a great way to get students up and moving while working productively.

Some text that and classroom resources that work very well with these strategies include Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech, Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, and even various close reading passages from short stories.

Winding Down the School Year

Winding down after the school year. Three things teachers can do in the summer.
Congratulations, Teachers! Summer is upon us, and we’ve survived 180 days of craziness. Now what? If you’re anything like me, you cannot and will not sit around all summer. Sure, you say you will. And you certainly will try, but after about a week you might find yourself going a bit stir crazy. Here are three different productive activities you can enjoy right now!

  1. Reflect. How did your year go? What did you love? What could you do without? How would you like next year to go? Start journaling! Reflect on your experiences and brainstorm your upcoming school year. Bringing your ideas to life will substantially assist you when going back to school. I challenge you to keep an ongoing journal entry to think about what you want your classroom and curriculum to look like in the upcoming school year!
  2. Research. Changing your lesson plans is intimidating once you find your comfort zone. Use this time to broaden your horizon, hello Pinterest! I have quite a few different boards for your viewing pleasure. You can also read new novels, test new experiments, and practice new activities! The more fun you find for your future students, the more positive your year is likely to be. If you are in the planning mood, I have some great back-to-school resources available in my store. I also wrote a blog post about my curriculum for the first six weeks of the school year.
  3. RELAX! You deserve it. How do you relax best? Find a new way to do it. Look at your local businesses for summer deals and always ask about teacher discounts! Use your time off to treat yourself and find a new hobby! As for me, I am going to relax by hiking the local hills!
Winding down after the school year. Three things teachers can do in the summer.

These aren’t your typical ‘R’’s, but teaching isn’t a typical career! We are so lucky to do what we do, I hope you all can find some time for yourself this summer!  

Winding down after the school year. Three things teachers can do in the summer.

5 EdTech Sites Every English Teacher Should Use

5 EdTech Sites that Every English Teacher Should Use
As more and more schools integrate technology into the classroom, the need for high-quality, effective EdTech sites increases. Last year I taught my first year in a 1:1 classroom; every student had access to a Chromebook. It was wonderful. Between using several of my SMARTePlans digital lessons for Google Drive and various EdTech sites, teaching in a 1:1 classroom significantly reduced the amount of paper I used in the classroom.

However, teachers do not need to teach in a 1:1 classroom to use SMARTePlans resources or implement these EdTech sites into their classroom. In fact, I utilized the computer lab and assigned a few activities, including my Research Paper Writing Unit and my Character Analysis Interactive Notebook, and used a couple of these sites before transitioning to a 1:1 classroom.

Whether you are teaching in a 1:1 classroom or if you are only able to get into the computer lab once in a while, here is my list of the top 5 EdTech sites for secondary English teachers.

1. Turnitin.com
I cannot emphasize how much I love Turnitin.com. I use it for every major piece of writing that I have my students submit. Turnitin.com is a plagiarism checker. Students submit their papers to the site, and it automatically crawls over each student’s paper while scanning for evidence of plagiarism. It even checks for plagiarism within your class. However, I don’t only use Turnitin.com for its plagiarism-checking abilities. I also use it as a teaching tool. I have my students upload their first drafts on the site, and then they can check their originality reports to see how they can improve their papers. Turnitin.com also has a peer review function that provides students with a way to electronically peer edit papers.

For writing instruction, check out my Ultimate Writing Bundle. It is filled with many different writing lessons and assignments.

2. Vocabulary.com
Before I started using Vocabulary.com in my classroom, I dreaded incorporating vocabulary into my curriculum. Sure I included it with each major piece of reading I introduced, but it was always a hassle. Vocabulary.com takes that all away. With a subscription, I can easily assign my students a vocabulary list, and then they complete the vocabulary work online. With their vocabulary.com accounts, students complete authentic exercises online that help them with comprehension, spelling, and usage. It’s amazing. If your school or district can’t splurge for the license, there is a free trial that allows one teacher and three students to use the site. To try it out, you could project the practice questions on your board, and have students work individually, in pairs, or in teams to complete the practice questions.

For vocabulary instruction, check out my Academic Vocabulary Bundle. It is filled with ELA-specific academic words every student should know!

3. NoRedInk.com
Implementing grammar into your middle school or high school English class is a breeze with NoRedInk.com. With free and paid subscriptions available, this EdTech site provides students with grammar lessons that are geared toward them. When students create their accounts, they fill out an interest survey, and then the grammar questions and practice sentences are focused around their interests!

For additional grammar lessons, assignments, and activities, check out my Mega Grammar Bundle. It is filled with grammar instruction for the entire year!

4. Listenwise.com
With listening comprehension apart of high-stakes state testing, Listenwise.com is a great site that provides teachers with audio content. I use Listenwise.com to incorporate audio nonfiction into my classroom. Each Listenwise audio file has discussion questions that students can answer. With a free account, teachers can access the online content, play the file aloud for the students, and project the questions at the end. In my classroom, I have the students answer the questions in small groups and then share their answers aloud. This site is great for standardized test prep!

My Paraphrasing, Quoting, and Summarizing teaching resource pairs perfectly with Listenwise.org. This resource includes graphic organizers and writing assignments that can be used with any text.

5. Commonlit.org
I cannot tell you how much I love using CommonLit.org in my classroom. It is amazing, and if you haven’t tried it yet, you are certainly missing out. With my free CommonLit.org account, I can browse content and text sets by subject and grade level; assign texts with guided reading questions, multiple-choice questions, and written-response questions to my students; easily see which multiple-choice questions my students answered correctly or incorrectly; and easily grade the written responses on one screen. I use CommonLit.org with my students quite because the questions are aligned with the common core standards, and the questions require that students use textual support for their answers.  


These EdTech sites not only help me reduce the amount of paper I use in the classroom, but they also cut down on some of my grading time. What is your favorite EdTech site to use in your classroom?
5 EdTech Sites that Every English Teacher Should Use