May 2015 Friday Flashback

Thank goodness that it’s the last Friday in May, and once again, I am joining JulieFaulkner and other bloggers in reminiscing about my month.  And although many teachers and students may already be finished with their school year, our last day isn’t until June18.  This is late for us as we are typically finished a week or two earlier.  It’s really been a long haul lately, so I’m looking forward to relaxed days ahead!

1.  Prom
I have to admit that after attending 11 proms (several as a student but most to help chaperone), I’ve become a little weary of them.  But surprisingly, this year’s prom was more fun than ever!  Our school always holds its prom, which includes dinner, at the local convention center.  This year the organizers moved the prom to an upstairs ballroom that had a wall with floor-to-ceiling windows and a gorgeous view of our bay.  Most importantly, the boys looked handsome, the girls looked beautiful, and all of the students appeared very grown up!  It inspired me to search for some of my own old prom photos.  My dress was much less sophisticated than the girls’ dresses today, and the 1980’s styles crack me up!

2.  Teacher Appreciation
The best gifts that I received during teacher appreciation week were the cards and heartfelt notes written by students.  This year I received one from a student that I have taught twice, once in creative writing and more recently in Advance Placement English Literature and Composition.  Even though our A.P. class was challenging and fast-paced, she arrived to class every day with a smile. In her goodbye card to me, she included a two of her favorite quotes from our classes.  I’ve displayed her note where I can be reminded of the reason I teach.

3.  Character Jigsaw
I tweaked a character writing activity that I’ve used as an instructor at summer writing camp to use in school this year, and it worked so well that I turned it into a TpT product.  Since my students can be unwilling writers, this creative writing activity simply engaged them in the act of writing.  I made “jigsaw” cards with text examples from classic stories that review the four methods of characterization:  physical description, actions, thoughts and speech, and other characters’ reactions. Students randomly selected four of the cards and then they wrote their own character sketches with the text examples for each method of characterization. 

4.  Into the Wild
In a different class, I have reluctant readers, and although I would usually guide the students through literature circles right now, I decided to use a whole-class reading for them.  I chose Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer. The book recalls the misadventure of Christopher McCandless, a young man who traversed the western United States before heading into the Alaskan wilderness by himself.  Unfortunately, McCandless succumbed to the elements and never left The Stampede Trail alive.  In addition to telling about McCandless’s odyssey, the book makes meaningful connections with romanticism and transcendentalism.  My students have responded positively to this book, excitedly discussing it in class and asking to read his sister’s book, The Wild Truth, which gives insight into Chris’s childhood tribulations.

5.  Fighting Burnout
This year my burnout began in March, and I have been trying to ignite my energy and enthusiasm for work.  Even though I love teaching, I find the grading of the innumerable papers to be tedious. Student negativity can also take its toll on me. Additionally, teachers in my community have learned that not only will they not receive their contractual step next year, their salaries will be reduced by taxes and increased health insurance costs. One way that I’ve handled my burnout is to take frequent walks in the sunshine after school.  And now that my A.P. seniors have graduated, I've once again begun to read books for my own pleasure.  

What suggestions do you have for avoiding burnout?  Please post your ideas in the comments below!

Sailing Into Summer Blog Hop

Guess what? 

It’s almost time to turn off the alarm clock!  The end of the school year is just around the corner, and the final countdown has begun (maybe weeks ago for some of you). As part of my end of the year preparations, I am once again thrilled to participate in a blog hop sponsored by Julie Faulkner and the Language Arts Classroom.  In the spirit of Julie Faulkner’s “fast five” theme, here are five “Sailing into Summer” thoughts I want to share with you:

1)      Final Exam Freebie
Need something for early finishers to do?  Or do you, like me, have a short exam and a two hour block of time?  Never fear!  I have a FREE activity that you can use with this extra time.  Have your students write advice letters to the next year’s students.  If you prefer, this can also be developed into a longer lesson for one of the last days. Best of all, these letters serve two purposes- just post the letters next school year for a quick and easy bulletin board!

2)    Don't Fix What Ain't Broke
When studying novels in my classroom this year, I incorporated more discussion than ever.  It just makes sense that if students are going to be “college and career” ready, they should be taking more ownership of their learning.  However, it has been quite challenging for students to initiate productive discussion.  In response, I tried several activities to encourage thoughtful discussion. For example, I had them watch online videos of classes completing Socratic seminars.  I also required partner rehearsal before whole-class discussion and used a “whip around” to get us started.  In “whip around,” every student shares something about the reading without interruption from other classmates.  I plan to continue these discussions and hope to improve them even more next school year.  Keep an eye out in my TpT store for resources to facilitate these discussions in your classroom, too!

3) Nothing to Lose
Frustrated with the use of cell phones in my class, I'm on the hunt for new strategies for dealing with them next school year.  Apparently, I am not the only one with this struggle as there has been a recent TpT discussion thread about this topic.  Since cell phones will not be going away, and my administration does not help teachers enforce the current rule in which students are required to keep them off during class, I think I may just try reverse psychology.  Maybe even, I will require them to keep their cell phones on their desks where they are visible to me?  I’m still uncertain of my exact plan, and would love suggestions in the comments below!

4)  Graduation Gifts
Last year, I purchased mini-buckets from the Dollar Store and filled them with Smarties for my entire Advanced Placement English Literature class (all seniors in high school).  Then I wrote a note on each which said, “Congratulations Smartie!”  For this year’s students I may do a similar gift with candy.  I am thinking of filling gift bags with candy bars and silly sayings such as, “You survived Mounds of work” and “You are no Air Head.” And for a few special students, I expect to buy books or journals as graduation gifts.

5)     Packing Tip
Are you overwhelmed with the idea of packing up your classroom? In our school, we have to take all posters & decorations off our walls and put everything in our cabinets for the summer.  If you face a similar situation and your administration allows it, get the students to help you pack up!  I have found that my students LOVE to help breakdown my classroom during the last couple of days of school.  It also saves me from hours of extra work!

Hope these thoughts help you survive these last few days.  Thanks for “hopping” over to OCBeachTeacher and celebrating the end of the school year with me!
Hop on over to these blogs also!
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