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How to Make Teaching Grammar Meaningful and Engaging

grammar tips for middle school

Do you dread teaching grammar?  Do your students struggle to understand it?  If so, let me help you make it engaging and meaningful for your students.  

For years, educators have debated over how to teach grammar.  Should it be taught in context? As a stand-alone lesson? Or maybe not at all? In my 24 years of teaching students from grades 6 - 12, I’ve concluded that a strong understanding of grammar improves the reading and writing abilities of students.

It also helps my high school juniors succeed on standardized assessments such as the SAT and Accuplacer.  Additionally, grammar instruction helps them to edit and improve their writing; ultimately, they use their knowledge to improve their sentence fluency and writing style.

Of course, one of the biggest challenges for me is getting the grammar concepts to “stick” with my students.  Be sure to read through the suggestions below and find out how I attempt to make sure students internalize the grammar that I teach them.

Teach Grammar with Vocabulary Strategies

Although some disagree with explicit grammar instruction, it teaches students the vocabulary of language. By understanding the terms for parts of speech and parts of sentences, students gain better control of their writing.  They can communicate with teachers, classmates, and editors about the structure of their writing.  For instance, during peer review, students can comment on subject and verb agreement or point out sentence problems such as run-ons or fragments.

How do I teach the “language of language”?  With many of the same strategies I use for any vocabulary lesson.
  • Purdue Owl
    Picture from Purdue OWL

  • Visualization

Have students illustrate examples of grammar concepts.  For example, they can “sketch” sentences and label the subjects, predicates, and objects.  One of my favorite imagery lessons is with misplaced modifiers.  Students “see” the confusion that grammar problems create.  

  • Grammar “Hunt”

Ask students to search for grammar in the context of their reading.  When teaching parts of speech or parts of sentences, have students look for examples in their books or other class texts.  Then, have them share the examples in partners, small groups, or whole-class discussion.

For instance, when we review prepositional phrases, I ask students to look for them in their independent reading novels.  After finding examples, they bring their books to the document camera and show their examples.  When they share with their classmates, I also ask them questions about their books.  Then, their classmates hear about each other’s novels, and I can informally assess their reading; they don’t even realize it!

Use Guided Practice Activities

Relatable Photos

high school English
I often start teaching a grammar concept with a PowerPoint Presentation and always follow notetaking with guided practice activities before students complete independent practice.  One easy guided practice activity uses interesting photos to inspire their writing.  I look for images from current events or of school activities to spark conversation about student lives. 

In a lesson on sentence structures, first I present students with the concepts of the four sentence structures.  After I give several informational slides, students choose from two photos and write different sentence structures inspired by the photos. Next, they meet with partners to share their sentences, and then we discuss their sentences with the entire class.  If students make errors, I reassure them that this is only practice, and we fix their mistakes together.  Finally, I follow this with independent practice.

Newspaper carousel

Teaching grammar
When possible, I want students to get out of their seats and move around the classroom.  For this activity, I grab local or national newspapers and look for headlines that have identifiable subjects and verbs, phrase structures, or clauses.  I circle three headlines per page and hang five pages aground the classroom.  (Again, to make the learning more relevant, I choose headlines that connect to student interests.) 

Next, I direct students to number a piece of notebook paper from 1 – 5 and leave space between the numbers. 

subjects and predicates

Then, I assign students into groups and have them circulate to each page, working together to write the subjects and predicates (or other concept) of each headline from left to right and top to bottom.  I set a timer to help them rotate to each new page.  Then, we share their answers in whole-class discussion.

 Start with Bell-Ringer Editing Practice

Sentence Corrections

For some warm-ups, I complete editing practice with students.  On my   90-minute block, I can easily devote 15 minutes to these bell ringers.  As students enter class, they read sentences riddled with errors.  These can be projected on the document camera or posted in an LMS. 

Since these warmups occur on Fridays, I try to make the whole-class discussion more engaging and offer prize tickets for students who are willing to participate.  Students volunteer to come to the document camera and correct a sentence error.

Throughout the discussion, I encourage all students to participate and receive a ticket.  After they’ve made all the corrections, they write their names on their tickets.  I collect them and draw several tickets for small prizes such as candy, crackers, or school supplies like pencils and erasers.  

Sentence Combining

When teaching phrases, it’s a great opportunity to help students improve their ability to craft more sophisticated sentences.  For these bell ringers, students are given two or more sentences to combine.  For instance, if students are learning about appositive phrases, they practice writing longer sentences with verbal phrases.  Sometimes, like the Friday warmups, I use tickets to reward students for sharing their writing with the class.

Play Trashketball 

trashketball
Have you played trashketball with your students? If not, you’ve should try it because students love it!  Trashketball competitions make learning “boring” grammar fun.  All you need to play is a trashcan and ball, and these pre-made games make it even easier for you to incorporate the games into your instruction.

I don’t use trashketball games all the time, but they work especially well on Fridays and the days before holidays when distracted students appreciate “lighter” learning activities.  They’re great for energizing sleepy students on Mondays or before quizzes, also.  And during March, they make a relevant connection to college basketball during the March Madness tournaments.

trashketball games


Put It All Together

Grammar can’t be taught in isolation once a week.  Teachers need to reinforce the concepts with a variety of activities consistently if students are going to remember them. 

Here’s an example of a week in my classroom:

On Monday, I start by teaching sentence structures with a lecture and practice for identifying independent and dependent clauses.  (ChompChomp Grammar is one of my favorite websites for finding great PowerPoints to introduce concepts.)  Then, on Tuesday, I ask students to use two different sentence structures in a paragraph that’s a written response to a class reading.  This gives them practice using their grammar skills in their own writing. On Wednesday, we do SAT practice and may discuss why we eliminated a comma splice as a potential answer since two independent clauses were only separated by a comma. On Thursday, we do an editing warm-up that has a fragment that’s a subordinate clause. Finally, on Friday, there will be an exit slip from the week, and students must combine two main clauses into a compound sentence. 

Share Your Ideas

What does your classroom look like when you teach grammar?  Do you have tips or websites to share, too?  I’m always looking for ways to improve my teaching so please share your ideas in the comments.

Bring Joy into Your ELA Classroom

joy in school

Assessment, rigor, data analysis, text complexity: These are the buzzwords in education today. All of this emphasis on accountability can unfortunately make learning dreary and tedious. But joy makes learning memorable, and students often look back fondly on creative activities. After the stress of the past two years, enjoyable learning is more important than ever, and it's up to teachers to send the message that sometimes it's okay to have fun in class!

The holiday season is a perfect time to incorporate something out of the ordinary in your classes.

1. Do a literary cookie exchange with your students.

Make eating cookies a literary event! After reading a
cookie exchange
novel or story, have students make cookies that symbolically represent literary elements. For instance, a student can make a cookie in the shape of momma's plant from A Raisin in the Sun.  Let students bring in their homemade or store-bought cookies to exchange with one another. During the exchange, they can explain how the cookies connect with their selected literary elements. Use these free handouts to guide their planning and presentations.


literature activity
As a modification, if some students can't make cookies, offer other ways for them to participate.  Maybe they can design cookies with illustrations or online programs and write descriptions of their cookies.  Of course, b
e sure to check for food allergies so no one makes cookies that could make other students sick.  And don't forget to bring in hot chocolate or cider for students to enjoy on the cookie exchange day! 

2. Lead students on a "writing walk."

writing walk
Get your students to use sensory details with this free activity.   Students not only improve their writing but also get out of their seats for place-based writing. Take them to write at various locations such as the stage, cafeteria, locker room, and media center around the school (or, weather permitting, go outside to a park or other place in walking distance).  Handouts include guiding questions to help students write words and phrases for each sense: sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste.  Then students write poetry, stories, or other reflections with their descriptions. While this activity can be completed any time of the year, the sights, sounds, and scents of the holidays make it a delightful experience during the winter season.

3. Design Secret Santa Stockings

Give your students an opportunity to display their artistic talents. In this activity, students illustrate stockings for characters in their reading. It requires them to analyze characterization and to provide a written rationale for their gift selections. 
characterization
Easily adaptable to the needs of your curriculum or students, this activity could be done for authors, historical figures, scientists, artists, or others being studied in secondary classes.

4. Show Gratitude

Use this YouTube video to help students see the connection between sharing their gratitude and feeling happy. Even better, have students call and thank someone who has had a positive influence on their lives. Before calling, they can write out what they want to say. Not only will this activity increase the happiness of your students, but it will likely make the days of the people whom they call a lot cheerier, too!

5.  Celebrate with a Special Event

english-language-artsOrganize a poetry slam, read-in, or other activity that revels in appreciating the language arts. For years, I organized a “Read-a-Latte CafĂ©” celebration. For the occasion, guest speakers joined my students in reading aloud from favorite books/poems/etc. and discussing the importance of reading in their work and personal lives. We added hot chocolate, tea, and pastries to make it extra special for the holidays.

6.  Play Games

Play games to make learning engaging in the days leading up to winter break or other holiday occassions.  You can find many pre-made activities at online sites such as Kahoot or Blooket.  You can also create your own twist on classic games such as Jeopardy, Bingo, or Jenga.  My students love to play trashketball, and I'm happy to get students who are stuck inside out of their seats.  

What do you do to make learning special in your classroom?  Please share your ideas in the comments below.

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope that you have wonderful holiday season!

Pique Student Interest with Banned Books

reading-banned-books

It’s true that many teens are notoriously rebellious and can be difficult to teach at times. However, a strategic teacher can tap into their desire to question authority and pique their interest in reading by using challenged books. These books capitalize on their desire to learn about controversial topics. This is especially true when motivating students to read classics and books from the cannon.

For instance, when I use literature circles in my classroom, I often tease students to read the novel, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. I tell them that it has often been banned in schools for vulgar language and mature topics. I also tell them that the protagonist, Holden Caufield, has a defiant attitude and immediately gets expelled from school at the start of the novel. This usually grabs their attention, and they often choose Salinger’s book for their group's reading.

argument writing for ela
Banned Books Week, from September 26 - October 2, is an excellent time to introduce some commonly challenged books.  There are myriad resources to help you excite teens in their reading of these books.  There are also tools to help you if a book that you are teaching is challenged, such as when I have taught To Kill a Mockingbird.  Unfortunately, this is becoming more common in our current culture.

Do you want to get your students engaged in Banned Book Week? Here are some activities that you may be interested in:


Virtual Read-Out Videos
In one promotion from the ALA, readers create YouTube videos and read excerpts from challenged books to declare their support for freedom of speech.

I modeled for my students in previous years.
teach banned books, high school English

Make a Display

Have your students create displays that educate their classmates about banned books.  In years past, the librarians at my high school displayed books from our media center which have been challenged.  In the display, they included reasons for the challenges with each displayed book. It was easy for them to decorate with caution tape and construction paper.

Collaborate with Your Media Center

I also asked my media center specialist to introduce my students to banned books.  She created an engaging activity in which students walked around the room looking at books that had been challenged over the years.  First, they counted how many of these books they had read, and next they chose two to research.  They searched for information on why the selected books had been challenged.  Finally, they shared their results and were amazed.  All of them were shocked that the Harry Potter series was on the list!

banned books

Should This Book Be Banned?

banned-books, intellectual-freedom, high-school-english
Here is a quick and easy free activity your students can do to connect argument writing to their reading of a challenged book. The argument writing prompt asks students to brainstorm evidence, counterarguments, and refutation for a claim about a banned book. 

You can extend their learning with this book rationale activity, too.  First, students research why their banned books have been challenged, and then they search for text examples showing the books' educational value. For fun, they can make bookmarks after they write their rationales.

banned books


Want more information for teaching about censorship? You may want to check out the resources below:

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund

Freedom to Read Foundation
NCTE Intellectual Freedom Center

Gather more ideas from these other teacher bloggers here:

Ways to Incorporate Lessons on Banned Books

Teachers can also request rationales and report a censorship incident for classroom texts if they face a challenge.  What do you do with banned books in your classroom? Please share in the comments below.


TED Talks for Back to School (And the Rest of the School Year)


Oh, no! It’s back to school, and time for teachers to greet their new students, create routines, complete team builders, and make their classrooms welcoming. But with the pressure to cover extensive curriculum in a short amount of time, secondary teachers may feel tempted to skip the process of creating a positive classroom culture and delve straight into their content.

It’s a mistake, however, to ignore the importance of building safe and inclusive classrooms that encourage students to participate actively in their learning. This is more important than ever since students, educators, and family members are all facing back to school with uncertainty in the face of the pandemic.

Even though you may not think you have the time, these TED Talks from diverse speakers are great filler activities for those days when a lesson finishes early or when you need an activity to get all of your classes on the same schedule. Best of all, they’re a meaningful way for students to practice their listening and speaking skills. Furthermore, they develop students multimedia literacy skills and they spark student interest. These talks teach important lessons for the beginning of the school year, communicating life lessons such as overcoming obstacles, having gratitude, and being productive.

Back to School

Aimee Mullins: The Opportunity of Adversity (21:27)

Life isn't fair, but Aimee Mullins has never let that interfere with her success even though she was born without shin bones and labeled "disabled."

In this talk, she shares some of her struggles and the positive influence of her childhood doctor, Dr. Pizzutillo, from AI duPont Institute in Wilmington, Delaware. He empowered her and helped her see her own strengths. As she notes, humans can adapt and have "the ability to survive and flourish...by the struggle of the human spirit through conflict into transformation." Her inspiring talk may help empower some of your own students as they navigate this difficult time period in our country.


Megan Washington - Fear of Public Speaking (12:58)

Lots of people, including students in all of our classes, are afraid to speak in public – even if that’s just in the classroom. This talk by Australian singer Megan Washington may inspire more willingness in your students to speak up. In the talk, Washington shows how she converted her speech disability into her passion and success in life. Students will love hearing her sing, also!

Secondary English

Mac Burnett - Why a Good Book is a Secret Door (16:59)

Motivate your students to seek out “wonder” in the reading of books with this funny, entertaining talk by children’s author Mac Burnett. He reminds us that reading provides avenues for imagination, art, fiction, and reality. His talk is perfect for motivating students in English class right before they visit the school library for selecting novels during choice reading units.

Julian Treasure - 5 Ways to Listen Better (7:43)

How much of what you say do your students remember? In a world that often assaults our senses and distracts our attention, Julian Treasure argues that we are losing our ability to listen to one another. In this talk, he offers strategies to improve our listening skills, and most importantly, the listening skills of our students.

TED Talks

Shonda Rhimes - My Year of Saying Yes to Everything (17:25)

Shonda Rhimes, the producer of hit television shows such as Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, calls herself a “titan” and brags about her impressive success in this talk. She also shares how she confronted burn-out and learned a valuable lesson while saying “yes” to everything she was asked. Her daughters unwittingly taught her to seek out joy in life. This talk helps students keep perspective and is especially beneficial for high achievers.

TED Talks

Jonny Sun - You Are Not Alone in Your Loneliness (10:21)

In this short and honest talk, artist Jonny Sun talks about sharing his feelings of loneliness when he is online. He thinks that by discussing his sadness, it has helped connect him to others. And while he admits that the internet can feel unsafe and intimidating at times, it can also provide a platform for building supportive communities. In fact, he feels that having conversations about feeling isolated and insecure can normalize discussions about mental health.

I think this talk would be fantastic for my high school students, but I would make sure students understand that sharing their unhappiness online is not the same as sharing severe emotional trauma or suicidal thoughts. I would provide resources for seeking out help from their friends, families, teachers, and counselors if they think they have major depression.

Jarrett Krosoczka - Why Lunch Ladies Are Heroes (5:14)

This children’s author who wrote books about superhero lunch ladies tells his audience about the importance of validating everyone – even those who don’t usually get recognized. It would make an effective video at the beginning of a kindness activity, and students may want to thank a variety of school staff members – custodians, school nurses, library staff, etc.

Olivia Remes - How to Cope with Anxiety (15:15)

With student anxiety increasing at alarming rates, this recent TED talk will be helpful for many kids in your classrooms. Olivia Remes, from the University of Cambridge, explains the science behind anxiety and discusses the importance of gaining coping skills. She also describes several ways students can take charge of their anxiety.

Jia Jang - What I learned from 100 days of Rejection (15:31)

Using humor and personal anecdotes, Jang talks about how he remembered experiences from his youth and, thus, decided to take chances that led to 100 days of rejection. He learned to be a stronger, more courageous person in the process, and acquired valuable lessons such as turning a “no” into a “yes.” This talk will teach students the power of perseverance and to embrace rejection.

Amy Cuddy - Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are (20:48)

Teach students to use “power poses” to build their confidence with this authentic talk from Amy Cuddy. In this talk, Cuddy, a social psychologist, uses scientific research to show that both humans and animals demonstrate power and dominance through their body language. She explains that physiology affects psychology, so she teaches people the importance of the mantra, “fake it till you make it.” She also supports her claim by sharing her personal experience of overcoming a brain injury after being in a horrible car accident.

Often, teenager girls dream of being models, or at least, conventionally pretty.  However, supermodel Cameron Russell provides an honest and critical assessment of her job in this talk.  She admits that she received advantages as a model but notes that she always feels insecure about her appearance.  She also critiques the lack of diverse representation in the model world and encourages girls to become leaders and women in positions of power.  Although girls may relate to the talk the most, she has an important message for all teens about the superficiatlity of physical appearance.

The Danger of a Single Story by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Our students have stories.  Sometimes they share these stories, and sometimes they simply read the stories presented to them.  Whether these tales are used to stereotype people or to enlighten people, stories have power.  Educators can broaden student horizons by sharing Adichie's message that readers should search out mulitple stories that reveal myriad human experiences.  Her talk reminds students to read and think critically- essential skills for high school.

Of course, it’s important to preview these talks to ensure that they will be appropriate for your students. Most should appeal to secondary students in any content area. If you teach American Literature, however, I have written other blog posts with recommendations that connect to many American Literature texts.

Now that I’ve shared some of my favorites, do you have TED talks or other videos that you recommend for BTS? Please share about them in the comments below.


Strategies for Back to School Success during In-Person and Online Learning



No matter whether you’re a brand-new teacher or 30-year veteran, every teacher hopes to begin the school year on track to have success. In teacher education programs and schools around the country, there is no shortage of advice for back to school because having a positive start sets the tone for a favorable school year.

However, advice varies and can be confusing. Some educators recommend that teachers refrain from smiling for months while others suggest letting your students sit wherever they want on the first day of school. And as all experienced teachers know, every year presents new challenges, new research, and new technology, so we need to adapt and be flexible all of the time! That's why I have my "go to" strategies every year but tweak them for the most current situation. In fact, it’s taken me 24 years of teaching to feel confident about my return to school.  I’ve acquired a few strategies to share with you. 

1. Empower yourself by learning student names.

icebreaker
Being called by one’s name immediately develops a positive rapport; students feel recognized and respected as individuals. It’s also an excellent management tool because when students realize you know their names, they’re often less likely to misbehave. If you know a student’s name, it’s easier for you to call his or her parent or identify the student for an administrator.

When learning names, ask the students if they use nicknames and how to pronounce their names correctly. And to make remembering their names easier, make a commitment to learning the students’ names within 2- 3 days. Greet them at the door by their names. Repeat their names throughout class and admit when you make a mistake. Teachers are only human, after all! 


Use Icebreakers In Person or Online
To better learn names, it helps to start with icebreakers. You may be interested in this free icebreaker or these team builders.  Last year, when teaching virutally, I used "Two Truths and a Lie" in an onine discussion and a Padlet brainstorm where students identified things in common (favorite color, birthday month, hobbies, etc.) This year, I'm trying something new and will use this hexagonal thinking activity from Betsy at Spark Creativity.

2.  Build Community
Building a welcoming and inclusive classroom has always been important, but the pandemic taught me that this is more important than ever.  For that reason, I've added more community-building activities at the beginning of each class to help create a positive rapport with students.  My 90-minute blocks start with online warm-up discussions. A mixture of whimsical, serious, practical, and fun, a small sample of the questions include the following:
  • If you could only take three things to a deserted island, what would they be? Why did you choose these things?
  • If you could talk to your pet (or another animal) and it could understand, what would you say? Why would you say this?
  • What is your favorite holiday to celebrate? What do you like about this holiday?
  • What is your favorite outfit to wear? Why do you like it?
  • Would you rather be a zebra or a kangaroo? Why?
  • Would you rather have three arms or three legs? Why?
  • How do you stay motivated to do well in school? Give specific strategies in your response.
  • How do you take care of your physical, emotional, and/or mental health? Give specific strategies in your response.
  • Where do you want to live when you grow up? Why in this place?
  • What social media or websites do you visit the most? Why these platforms and sites?
  • What's something that happened to you that has made you a stronger person? Why did it make you stronger?
  • How do you think your best friend would describe you? Why these traits?
  • What is the last thing that made you laugh? What was funny about it?
  • If you were a ghost, who or what would you haunt? Why?
  • What goes with bacon? You can't say eggs!
  • You have a tutoring session for a test next week.Your tutor is from the last television show or movie you watched. Who is it?
  • It’s burger night! What toppings will your burgers have? What’s the best way to eat your burger?
Along with questions, I ask students to post photos (with the option not to if they don't feel comfortable).  Some of these photos include:
  • Pets
  • Family and friends
  • Favorite books
  • Favorite places to hang out
  • Silly hat
  • Study space
  • Memes (school appropriate)
In another activity last year, I used breakout rooms to play "survivor island" where students had to choose a limited number of items they would bring to a deserted island.  The groups had to compromise and provide a rationale for each item that they selected.  Then, they shared their group's choices with the rest of the class when they're finished.  This was a hit!

3. Minimize chaos by making a seating chart.

Earlier in my teaching career, I took another teacher’s advice and let my students choose their own seats for the first week of school. The philosophy behind this made sense. I’d see who gravitated to whom and know whom to separate or allow to be seated together.

However, this strategy didn’t work for me because students immediately sat with their friends and formed cliques. It gave me some insight into the character of my students, but it made it difficult to develop a strong community of learners who all work together. In addition to the formation of cliques, I realized that this  was intimidating for any students new to the school or who didn’t have friends in the class.

Furthermore, it let the kids who wanted to pay less attention to sit in the back of the classroom when they really should have been upfront. Now I organize my seating chart in alphabetical order for the first week of school. This helps me learn their names quickly (see #1) and makes it clear that I’m the class authority. After about a week, I have a better sense of the students’ personalities, group dynamics, and learning needs so that I can rearrange my seating chart in order for students to have academic success.


4. Don’t do all of the talking.

Remember the economics teacher played by Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off? In one classic scene, he calls out “Anyone? Anyone?” as he drones on to comatose students. Besides boring your students, constant lecturing exhausts you, and may lead to laryngitis. 

Keep Video Chats Short
If I teach online again this year, I expect to use Zoom or another video platform for class lectures and discussion but will keep the sessions short.  Even though I teach on a block schedule, last year I learned that limiting online class meetings to 30 minutes was optimal. In truth, it's best to employ the 20-20-20 rule when teaching online.


It may seem hard not to talk at your students during the first days of school (there are so many things to explain, right?) but save everyone’s sanity by encouraging your students to do the talking. In fact, I do an activity called “chunking”  where students explain the syllabus to me!

If you’re still not sure about who should do the talking, think about a recent professional development meeting when the presenter talked for hours on end (maybe with a PowerPoint) and reflect on how unengaged you and your colleagues felt. Do you want to be that person?


5. Create a calm and peaceful classroom with routines.

Imagine all of the questions your students will have on the first days of school:
  • Will there be homework? 
  • Where will they turn in their papers? 
  • What should they do if they have to go to the bathroom or nurse? 
  • What should they do if they’re absent? 
Some spontaneity may be exciting at times but not when it comes to attentive students who are expected to learn.  Many students are nervous (especially freshman in high school) and they need you to give them tools to accomplish the learning goals. If you don’t already have some of these procedures mapped out, take time before school starts to plan your responses to the innumerable questions your students will have. Once you know the answers, you may want to implement activities that will help them understand your expectations and procedures.


high school, middle school, rules, teaching, educaiton
It's also important to revisit your rules, procedures, and expectations after the first week of school.  Like anything else you teach, true mastery of learning takes review.  That's why I like to use my Back to School Trashketball Game after a couple of weeks have passed.  I usually prefer a fun activity for class on Friday, and this game is helpful when everyone is tired from returning to the hectic school routine.  It brings energy to the room and builds community.

6. Use a flexible teaching approach.

Of course, prepared teachers have plans for their lessons, units, and on-going curriculum, but effective teachers also know that it’s imperative to be able to change and adapt quickly. Life (and people) are unpredictable, and we can’t always foresee the events and discussions that may occur on any given day. For instance, I’ve often found that impromptu class meetings, assemblies, and fire drills will interrupt the sequencing of my lessons, and I’ve learned to not only accept these interruptions but even relish them at times. (Who doesn’t enjoy a fire drill on a beautifully sunny day?)

I even keep this philosophy in mind throughout my daily teaching. Now that I have many years of teaching experience, I’m likely to change my lessons as the school day proceeds. If something doesn’t work in an earlier class, I may change it to work better for the following class. I also consider the different needs and dynamics of each class as I teach throughout the day.  With a flexible teaching approach, I can also better support the emotional health of my students.

Of course, I still get butterflies in my stomach the night before the school year begins, but they’re not nearly as bad as they were in the past.


Implementing these strategies makes the transition from summer to a new school year go smoother. What helps you at the beginning of the year? What new strategies are you trying for the circumstances of this school year?  I’m always interested in getting new ideas and insights. Add yours in the comments below.


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