Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to you and yours :)

Reindeer Roxie
Sorry it has been forever since I posted. The month of Dec. totally got away from me with prepping for the end of the semester plus buying Christmas gifts, etc.

My husband, dog and I spent Christmas just the three of us today and are visiting our families this weekend. Today consisted of lounging in our jammies and stuffing ourselves with delicious food. Right now, I am cuddled under a blanket, Roxie snoring next to me, while we re-watch the entire series of Dexter (or as far as we can get).

My Christmas break has been very relaxing so far, and I am getting a little stir crazy, so hopefully we don't have any more ice storms and I can get out of the house tomorrow.

I hope you and yours have a very merry Christmas and a wonderful New Years.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Currently December

December is my second favorite month of the year, after October. The first semester is winding down, and everything is so magical and exciting leading up to the holidays.

So I am linking up with Farley for Currently December.

Listening: I am not personally a football fan. OK I hate it. But I decided to do some Interwebbing and read a book while my husband listens to the game. At least in an hour, I get to go see Catching Fire!

Loving: Today is sunny and 50ยบ which is not normal Midwest December weather. It was so nice that we took Roxie for a long walk on the bike trail.

Thinking: I have a busy week coming up. Lots going on in my classes, a couple meetings, an SIP day and then a conference on Thursday about motivating students. I am excited to see what I come back with.

Wanting: I was saddened to realize last week that I lost my favorite sunglasses that I bought from the Coach Outlet store 5 years ago. And of course this was after Christmas lists had been distributed and purchased. I think I will get a cheaper stand-in pair for now.

Needing: I have to re-read (for the 4th time) the first four chapters of Gentlemen today, as well as chapters 4 and 5 of Gatsby for classes tomorrow.

Favorite tradition: I had many traditions with family growing up that I loved, even though I no longer do them now that I have my own little family. So I decided to list one of the traditions I have carried on into my adult life: On Christmas Eve evening, my husband I exchange one gift (and this year, Rox will get to open one up early too). It will probably go like this: "Hey, husband, I'd like to open up that new paisley scarf I know you got for me so I can wear it tomorrow. K Thanx."

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Tried It Tuesday {Gatsby Party}

Holla for Thanksgiving break! So excited I have the rest of this week off, even if I do have some research papers to grade.

I have not done a Tried It Tuesday for awhile, so I decided to link up today.

As I've mentioned before, I am reading Gatsby with my juniors. We just finished chapter 3, which is the big party scene. Browsing TpT, I came across this awesome freebie to reenact that party scene AND work on textual evidence. Thanks to Hannah at Teach and Create for this great idea!

Each student receives a card with either a character name and quote or a description and quote. For instance, it may say "You are Jordan Baker" and give a quote that she said in that chapter. Or it might say "You know a fact about Gatsby" and state a fact from that chapter. Each student gets what I call a BINGO card with 12 squares that they need to fill in by mingling with guests at this party. So one box might say "Find Owl Eyes and ask him about Gatsby's library" and then you have to find the person who has the Owl Eyes card and record what they tell you.

It being the last day before break and all, I decided to turn it into a full-blown party. I gave a couple extra credit points if students brought refreshments. I went in with another teacher and bought a bunch of 1920s accessories that we wore, like fedoras, mustaches, bow ties, feather boas, etc. I stuck a picture of Leo on my door as Jay Gatsby and had him say, "Come on in, old sport," which my girls loved. I played the early jazz station on Pandora and we had ourselves a party!

I did take pics, but don't want to post their faces online. But they were having a great time! AND they actually all did the activity too and turned in their fully completed sheets by the end of class.

A couple of my classes were messier than others. I did have a lot of cleaning up to do, but that is expected when you throw a party with 30 teenagers. Overall, they handled it very well, and I would definitely do it again.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Tornado Victim Relief

I am taking a break from teaching-related topics to blog about something near and dear to my heart: a town just 10 miles from us got almost completely decimated by an EF-4 tornado yesterday

I just drove through this town less than 24 hours prior to this, and many people I went to college with and know live here. Some of them have lost everything. Neighborhoods are completely leveled. Somehow, only one fatality has been reported.

We had no idea yesterday that it was this bad. I blogged yesterday as we sat downstairs with a tornado warning. I had heard one touched down in a nearby town, but at first it sounded like it was out in the country with no homes nearby. It wasn't until we came back upstairs and hopped on the news and Facebook that pictures like these started circulating, and we realized the true extent of the horror.

My heart breaks for these families who have lost all their possessions and are starting over again, as well as for the family of the one person who was killed. I was definitely very grateful last night, as I went to sleep with a roof over my head and a nice, warm house to wake up in. You see images like this on TV or in movies, but it isn't REAL until it hits this close to home.

If you are at all interested in helping out, the Red Cross says what they need most right now is financial donations.

You can go here  and where it says "make this donation in honor of an event," type in Central Illinois Tornado Relief.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Peek at my Week {Nov. 18-22}

I am linking up with Mrs. Laffin for a Peek at my Week.

I am typing this from the basement because there is a tornado on the ground in a nearby city. Scary stuff! Is this spring or late fall?

One more full week before a break for Thanksgiving. I cannot WAIT! And the kids can't either. So here's what's coming up this week.

1. My juniors are turning in their final research essays tomorrow (these are the ones that were on topics related to the 1920s). So this means I will spend my entire week grading....and grading....and grading. I want to get them all done and returned (all 70 of them) before we leave for Thanksgiving.

2. That means we are on to my favorite unit in English III-GATSBY! 

We will start with an introductory Power Point tomorrow and then jump right in to reading and discussing. I'll be sharing some of the cool things we're doing with Gatsby as we go.

3. My seniors are also finishing up their final presentations for The Lovely Bones. They are working in groups on Prezis, researching related topics to the novel (like crime scene investigation, cultural views of the afterlife, etc) and applying them to the book. They will present these Thursday and Friday.

So what's on tap for your week?

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Wut. November Currently

Man, the new month totally snuck up on me. I feel like once Nov. hits, the holiday season is officially underway. This stresses me out lol.

Linking up with Farley 

Listening to nothing this morning. We are getting ready to head back to our hometown for the weekend, and I'm downstairs Inter-webbing while my husband gets ready upstairs.

Loving that it currently looks like fall with beautiful colors and leaves falling. Hating that this means raking.

Thinking about our upcoming trip...we are visiting family and friends this weekend and I'm so excited to see friends I haven't seen in two years!

I want (and need) a massage. STAT.

I also actually need a new winter coat, but those things are wicked expensive.

A yummy pin...

I saw this on Pinterest awhile back from and think it looks delicious. I don't really cook, though, so that's a problem!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Research Essay: Topics

Sorry I've been a little MIA recently. Last week was conferences, which was a crazy time and meant weird schedules and long days. Then I had 72 junior essays come in, so I spent the better part of the last 5 days grading feverishly. They are all finally finished and handed back!

Well, we are about to embark on our big essay for the semester: the research essay. We did not used to do a research essay at junior level until Common Core (we did argumentative writing with research, but not an expository research paper). Because we are starting Gatsby at the end of the month, I decided to tie in their possible research topics to that and the time period in which it's set.

This is one of my favorite novels, and I am so excited to start it! We have also done mainly non-fiction, so I'm happy to get any fiction at all in.

I decided to come up with possible topics myself and let two students per class period be on each topic associated with the 20s. We are drawing for topics tomorrow. Their assignment tonight was to do some basic research/Googling and see which three or four they may be interested in.

I thought I'd do a little series on the Research Essay and blog about different parts of the process. So I will continue to update you all. For now, here is the list of topics I came up with, in case you are interested in having your students do a similar essay or research project. Because their essays are 3-4 pages, they will need to narrow their chosen topic and have a more specific focus. For instance, they could focus on just one athletic figure of the 20s and his/her professional life.

Biography of F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Jazz Era
Harlem Renaissance
Fashion of the 20s
Sports or athletic figures
The Great Depression/Black Tuesday
"Roaring 20s"/economic prosperity
Technological progress of the 20s
Authors or books from the 20s
Women's Suffrage/voting rights
A President from the 20s

Sunday, October 20, 2013

A Peek at my Week {Oct. 21-25}

Linking up with Mrs. Laffin for a Peek at my Week.

Before I look ahead at the upcoming week, I want to take a quick look back at my weekend. It was one of those weekends where we really didn't have definite plans but were able to be both productive, yet relax. We took Roxie out on the bike trail for a couple walks, and it was GORGEOUS out there. See below.

The weather was chilly, but sunny. We also hit up the apple orchard for more goodies (and I found a cute scarf there, go figure!) and went to a comedy club last night with a friend. All in all, a great, refreshing weekend, so I can gear up for this week.

So what's on tap for me?

1. Parent/teacher conferences W, Th, Fri. While this means I have to stay late both Wed. and Thurs and get home at like, 9:00, it also means I get to leave at 10 AM Friday and my husband happens to have Friday off too, yay! 

2. I have non-fiction analysis essays coming in Tuesday from my juniors. This will give me something to do while I wait in-between conferences. We just all are set up in the gym and conferences are walk-in, not scheduled, so you may be SUPER busy and have a line, or you may sit there for 2 hours with no one. It's a crapshoot.

3. We're going to be starting Jonathan Edwards' "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" this week, and after a little intro on the Great Awakening, we'll do a little activity with imagery and what they associate different images in his sermon with before reading it.

4. We'll end the week with a new activity I'm trying. I will probably write a post on it after the fact to let you know how it goes. We're going to make Top Ten lists a la Dave Letterman. The title of our list? "The Top Ten Reasons You Know You're From the Great Awakening." It'll be fun to see what they come up with.

What's on tap for your week?

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Five for Fraturday!

This is the first time I am linking up with Five for Friday (or Fraturday for me).


And I have to confess a couple things. 1) I have no fun or cute pictures from this week, so my post might be boring. My high schoolers don't do cute crafty projects or find it particularly endearing for their teacher to snap their pictures working like younger students do. I also totally forget to even try. And 2) I am currently procrastinating grading 40 Senior lit. projects that came in yesterday.

#1 This week my junior post-tested, since this year we have to be able to show student growth somehow. So I did a pre- and post-test. We pre-tested week 1 of school and post-tested using the exact same test this week.

The GOOD NEWS is almost ALL my students showed growth, and for many, the growth was big! I still have to track down a couple absent students and make them take it in study hall. I had a few students not show much growth and a couple stayed the same, but I would say 95% of my students showed growth, and we only have to get 80%, so I'm good. Oh, and yeah, it's probably good that they are learning something ;)

#2 My juniors also started writing non-fiction analysis essays this week. It's the first year we're doing this because of Common Core. They are comparing/contrasting and analyzing two articles we read about the real first Thanksgiving, one that is from the History channel and has a serious tone, and one from Parade magazine that is humorous. They are struggling because it is totally new for them, but they are being champs and pushing through, for the most part. 

We started on Thurs. by finding textual evidence to use as support and organized those quotes on note cards. I played some "working music" while they worked. One day I played the Vitamin String Quarter channel on Pandora (love them!) and Friday, since they complained the other music had no words, I played the Mumford & Sons station. Just make sure if you play Pandora for your class, you go into your settings and click the box that says "Do not allow explicit content." 

Quick story: last year, I decided to play the Christmas station for a class in Dec. and figured, "There can't be any explicit content in Christmas songs!" Well, there's not, BUT it also played a commercial for the sex toy website Adam and Eve, so yeah. Make sure you click that button!

#3 My seniors finished up their projects on the book Nineteen Minutes (you know, the ones I'm putting off grading) and I had all but 3 students turn it in. That is a pretty good percentage, honestly. Those three who didn't get it turned in can get half credit Tuesday (no school Monday).

#4 My husband and I got addicted to the show Scandal this week.

We have been binge-watching it on Netflix. I love doing that.

#5 The mornings have finally been chilly and fall-like, so I picked up a new coffee for my Keurig: Green Mountain Pumpkin Spice. Paired with some vanilla creamer, it is delicious!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Cell Phone Procedures

I think one thing we probably all have in common, regardless of the subject or age we teach, is cell phone problems in the classroom.


At my school, the students are not supposed to have phones out in the hall or in class, unless approved by a teacher. They are supposed to be completely out of sight. Students can only use them at lunch.

I have a policy in my room of "first time's a warning, second time's a referral" for things like texting, a phone ringing/vibrating, or using phones for non-approved purposes like getting on FB.

I DO allow students to use phones in a couple circumstances. One is to use an online dictionary to look up unknown words in pieces of writing. Honestly, it has never been an issue because if we're not doing vocab., they shouldn't have them out. When we are, I roam the aisles and can tell if they are actually using them to look up words or not. Once we're done, they go away.

I also will allow them to listen to music through earbuds when writing papers in the lab, as I know that helps some students. I tell them they need to pick a playlist and stick with it and the phone goes in the pocket--they can't keep looking for songs every two seconds or they lose the privilege.

I know even in college this is a problem--I had a college professor who would dock you an entire letter grade if your phone rang in class.

I don't think there's a best or worst way to handle it, but I'm always looking for ideas, because even with my policy and even with allowing usage for classroom things, I still have students trying to text or "going to the bathroom" to use their phone.

So I think next semester, I am starting a new policy that another teacher in my school uses and that I have heard of working elsewhere. I'm going to require students to place phones upside down on the corner of their desk while in my room. That way, they have control over it and it's not out of their possession (some teachers collect phones and give them back at the end of the hour), but it's obvious to me when a phone is being used. They also can't go spend five min. in the bathroom just texting under the pretense of having to use the restroom--I will see if they grab their phone when getting up from their desk.

The teacher who uses this says it's works wonderfully and she has no texting issues anymore. Because it's right there and upside down, the students don't feel the need to compulsively check it and/or they know they will easily get caught. I am so tired of kids trying to text through their pockets, in their hoodie pouches, in their pencil bags, or at their sides and playing the game of catching them in the act. I don't think cell phones are altogether a bad thing in the classroom, which is why I approve usage at times. But there's no reason students can't learn to go 50 min. without checking FB or their text messages!

So what do you think? What's your cell phone policy and does it work? Do you use phones for educational purposes in the classroom?