My life in blog form


Made my regular Thursday night trip to the gym for bootcamp, but this time the weather was so beautiful that I had to make it worth my while, so I RAN to the gym.  It can’t be more than two miles, but seriously, 2 miles before a bootcamp is pretty tough!  Figure it’s the day that Al (our instructor) has us running wicked amounts of laps between super sets. Usually we do two, maybe three laps in between – but tonight we had a four lap and a five lapper. Ridic!

I guess it’s good prep for the Boilermaker.  As of today, there are 114 days until race day, and I have a PR to beat.  I was able to finish in 1:22 last year, and for someone who is truly not a runner, I have to say, I was rather proud of myself. 🙂

So after a nice shower, yummy chicken burrito dinner, and a blog post, I’m off to grade papers!  My students are working on their first ever LIT CIRCLES!!  Today was their first socratic seminars.  I was a little nervous watching my first period class flail and struggle a little to conduct discussions (not all groups, but most).  However, my fifth period and seventh period classes did an AMAZING JOB!  I am so proud of how hard they have been working in class lately.  I’ve been giving them two days in class to read their chapters and work on reciprocal teaching (summarizing, questioning, predicting, connecting) independently.  On Thursdays I want them to come together to collaborate their ideas.  I’m excited to see what the finished product looks like!

Meanwhile, my SUPA Seniors are working on ISAs and RSAs in their ideology unit.  They are collaborating to create a visual and verbal presentation explaining any form of an ideological state apparatus and how it represses any particular group of people.  I’m really looking forward to seeing these as well.  Their work analyzing characters from The Royal Tenenbaums with psychoanalysis was a definite example of their recent growth in the theory department!

Okay, not I’m babbling.  Off to paper grade!


Am I worse than the students???

Like the student who never does his homework, I’ve been pretty lax about adding to this blog.  Don’t get me wrong, I have a million things to post about; I just don’t have a free minute in my day.

Unless you have a sick day, of course.

Yep.  I called in sick with the worst sinus infection ever.  So what does a teacher do on her sick day?  Check her school e-mail, update her gradebook, e-mail a few parents, grade a few papers, and I’m serious.  I’m certainly not going to leave the house feeling like this.  I might as well be productive!

People have been wondering how the independent reading is going.  It is definitely baby steps, and the students are VERY nervous about conducting their own booktalks.  I did a sample with Frank McCourt’s Teacher Man.  First, while I was checking homework, I had students look over the booktalk rubric with the idea they would be grading my booktalk.  After the talk, we went step by step through the rubric (some graders were super harsh; others were pretty reasonable).  I didn’t give the best booktalk on purpose because I wanted them to give suggestions for ways I could improve it.

That was a few weeks ago.  Since then, a few students have done their booktalks, and many more have been approaching me with ideas.  One student, reading The Lovely Bones wants to set the mood by coming into the class a few minutes before lunch ends and setting up music.  Another, reading Hannibal, wants to booktalk in costume.

Of course, we have a few who are really dragging their feet on this, and it’s my hope that they start to see their peers getting creative and will want to join in.  I think the competitive students in class will definitely want to see who can “set the mood” the best.

I’ve also caved on the public speaking aspect.  Originally, all students were required to stand and talk for 2-3 minutes.  However, I’m now allowing students to do their booktalk using blabberize. allows you to take a picture and “make it talk.”  The best way to understand it is to view my work  from our Julius Caesar unit by clicking here.

Students are already throwing ideas around with that one.

One last thing:  My students are slowly beginning to upload their book reviews to shelfari.  You can check those out by clicking here.

Delicious books

In an act of utter rebellion, I assigned my English 10 students to choose a book from the media center library to read independently!! It’s something I’ve been wanting to do, and I pushed it in my department meetings for years.  At the recent conference I attended (more on that later) I attended a session on making teens life-long readers.  It was the kick in the pants I needed.

I did a book talk, choosing the juiciest passages from some of my favorite YA authors.  The entire room was dead silent.  After I set my parameters I let the students loose.  Of course there was one or two reluctant students, but before the end of the period all of my students had checked out a book and many of them had already started reading.  I think I will post about a few of them when I actually have more time (If you haven’t noticed, I’ve not posted in quite awhile).

Anyways, my bright idea came after school when I was grading papers.  I have a shelfari (virtual bookshelf) where I am keeping track of my recent reads.  I like to use it as a reference section for finding the newest popular lit out there.  Anyways, it always feels great to put another book up on the shelf, so I created my own classroom virtual bookshelf tonight on shelfari.  Each student will be required to upload his/her book to the shelf along with a review.  When students start uploading their book reviews I’ll post a link!

Oops. Can I just post once a week?

It has come to my attention that I am a total blog slacker and that people actually check this blog.  That being said, I sit here on a Tuesday night, exhausted from only two days in the classroom, and ready for a nice, long eight hour nap. 


But before I do that, I would like to dedicate this post to my new goal: integrating technology into my classroom.

Yes.  I have a smartboard.

Yes.  I use media from time to time.

No. I do not get it into the hands of the students enough.

So last week, I took the plunge.  I e-mailed the tech. department and asked for my own personal laptop cart.

And they responded with  a big, fat, hairy, “No.”

It doesn’t hurt to ask. 

So I’m back to fighting with my colleagues to reserve one of the three laptop carts that our high school shares.  Of course, no one wanted them the first week of school, which was great, because I planned on using technology that very first week.

For those who have yet to step into the classroom, the first few days are a whirlwind of students being added or dropped from your class roster.  Forget filling in your gradebook with names.  I didn’t even do that until yesteryday, and I’m sure I’ll have to cross off a name or two from those lists before the semester ends. 

So what does a teacher do when they have four days of school the first week, and they know that they might only see students one or two of those days?

Hint:  They don’t start their unit on Julius Caesar.

 Instead, they have their students do a bio-poem.  Yeah, that’s right.  I said it.  The most boring and mindless assignment on earth.  A monkey could fill out the information required for a bio-poem.  Oh, you’ve never heard of one?  Google it and commence gagging.

I am so over the bio-poem.  You want to use the bio-poem?  Make students create a bio-poem for a character from a novel.  That might actually require some thinking and result in some really clever writing.

Otherwise.  Toss it.

Unless you’re a teacher at my school.  I teach one section of AIS, and a brief look into the folders of my English students revealed that just about everyone was doing the ever-loving bio poem assignment with their students.  And boy were the bio poems insightful.  

Here is what I did:

I had students write the word “ANGRY” on a sheet of paper.  Then I gave them 30 seconds (I really timed them) to write as many “synonyms” as possible for the word.  Here a sample of the list we made:   upset, disappointed, cantankerous, pissed off, ticked off, unnerved, irritated, annoyed, unhappy, and so on.

Do all these words mean the same thing?  NO.  If a student told you that Ms. Jane walked into the room looking pissed off you would have a different image in your mind as opposed to saying Ms. Jane walked into the room looking disappointed.  Words are powerful.  Synonyms are many times not really synonyms, and the thesaurus isn’t always the best choice (did anyone see that episode of FRIENDS where Joey finds out about the thesaurus button?  I should totally show it in class). 

Of course, I used this to lead students into their technologically friendly assignment.  Create your own wordle.

Try it yourself.  You will soon become addicted.  The website is, and it uses Java to create word clouds.  I’ve found myself addicted to creating different clouds for subjects like tone words, adjectives, and so on.  I’ll try and upload some of my masterpieces tomorrow.

Anyways, the assignment required students to design their own wordle in which they carefully chose words that best describe them.  Once they finished, they needed to organize their words into a personally designed graphic organizer by topic (family, friends, favorite things, adjectives, etc.)  There really were no rules.  I wanted to know about them, and I wanted them to know that they needed to choose their words carefully because “insane” is not always the best choice for describing oneself. 

The kids were 100% engaged.  They designed incredibly beautiful wordles, and they were invested in writing well developed reflexive essays.  Of course, some kids still wrote that they were “crazy,” and you’re always going to have that kid who spends more time on his/her wordle than his/her writing.  But the finished product opened up doorways to discussion about my expectations for everything  from presentation to reviewing the ever-dreaded run-on.  One student even mentioned in her writing that this assignment was much better than bio-poems.  What an ego booster!

I was a total hard-ass with my grading.  The students received their papers back today with a rubric (I pride myself both on explanation of the grades earned as well as getting those graded papers back ASAP – my max is usually one week for essays).  Students must make appropriate changes and hand in their revised draft on Friday.  To me, this is a great way to set an academic tone for the year.

The best part?

I laminated their wordles, and they’re going to decorate my classroom come open house night.  And I’m pretty sure they’ll be more eye-catching than the bio-poems down the hall.     😉