Tricks That Are Treats

Once again this month, I’m joining the Secondary Smorgasbord bloggers’ link up sponsored by The ELA Buffet and Desktop Learning Adventures.  In anticipation of Halloween, we’re sharing treats from our classrooms, and in my case, some are tricks that I’ve turned into treats! So here are some tricks that are geared to create success in the secondary classroom:

1.  Have fun:  I have taken this job too seriously at times, and who can blame me?  I’m constantly pressured to make sure students are achieving high test scores and will be “college and career ready.”  No doubt, I believe in accountability and pursing higher education, but it can be a real chore at times.  Lately, I’ve been including Fun Friday videos to end the week.  Since I love dogs, recent ones have featured silly clips of dogs.  Here is one you may want to watch: 

I have incorporated more humor to manage students this year. Instead of getting mad that students keep forgetting their pencils, I got a box of golf pencils. Whenever a student asks, I point to the cup of golf pencils.  Guess what?  Not many have been asking me for pencils this year. 

Students often forget to put their names on their papers, which annoys and frustrates me.  I used this meme from Tracee Orman and posted it where students turn in their papers.  It gets the point across and makes everyone laugh! 

 Find these on Tracee's Pinterest Board.

Lately, I’ve also noticed that students have been struggling to open the door to my classroom because they have to pull it instead of push it.  For fun, I posted this Far Side comic on the door to help them remember:

2.  Be human:  For our SAT essay brainstorming sessions, I have students practice with retired prompts.  One of them asks the following question:  Do memories hinder or help people in their effort to learn from the past and succeed in the present?  This usually leads to a discussion of learning from the memory of one’s mistakes.

During this discussion, I tell a story about how I got caught cheating on a chemistry test in high school.  I explain how my chemistry teacher tore up my test in front of the class; not only was I upset about the failing grade, but I was certain that I would be disqualified from cheerleading since as a school representative, I needed to reflect good character.  So, of course I tell my students that I went to the guidance counselor and tearfully told her my mistake. She advised me to apologize, which I did.  I learned never to cheat, and they love hearing this story!

3.  Incorporate holidays with content:  In the secondary classroom, we usually don’t do Halloween parties or dress up anymore, but we can still connect our teaching to the ideas of the holiday.  In English, poems, stories, novels, and plays abound with frightening characters, spooky moods, and dark themes.  Edgar Allan Poe is the master of this, but I’ve even used The Crucible, “The Devil and Tom Walker,” “A Rose for Emily,” Frankenstein, and other texts during the days around Halloween.  In fact, this year, I’ve created poetry analysis prompts that are perfect for Halloween.  As a TREAT to you, they are offered for free.

You can also find more resources for Halloween here

Hope you enjoyed these tricks (really treats)!  What texts would you recommend for teaching near Halloween?  Share them in the comments below!

You can also find other great posts on these blogs!


  1. Love that Far Side and can definitely imagine some students just imitating the image the first couple times! You clearly have a great rapport with the kids and have a good time. Thanks for the freebie!

  2. Humor in the secondary classroom is a must! Thanks for the reminder!

  3. I love the bell ringers! Thanks for sharing your good work.

  4. I really enjoyed reading your post! Thank you for the treat!

  5. I so agree with your belief in the need for humor. One of my favorite quotes that I try to live by is one that I paraphrase from 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' when McMurphy says, "If you lose your laugh, you lose your footing".


    1. That is a great quote! I'll have to keep my eye out for if I have students choose "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" for their literature circle novels this year!

  6. I LOVE your Far Side comic! I have the ALOT from Hyperbole and a Half hanging in my room. :)

  7. Love the golf pencil idea. Pencils are like Lays Potato Chips- bet you can't lose just one!

  8. The greatest TRICK and treat is providing only golf pencils. LOVE it!

  9. I am definitely going to use your golf pencil idea and your dog fail video. Hilarious! Thank you!

  10. I definitely need to get some golf pencils and remember to have fun! Thanks for the great bell ringers!

    Mrs. Spangler in the Middle

  11. I just downloaded your Halloween Bell Ringers. What a generous freebie! Thanks for the suggested responses,too!


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