July 2015 Friday Flashback

Once again, I’m linking up with Julie Faulkner for her Friday Flashback, and I can’t believe July is over!  Fortunately, I don’t return to school until the end of August, so I’m taking a few moments to reflect on this whirlwind month.

1.  Viva Las Vegas

I was a little nervous since I traveled to the TpT conference alone, but it was an amazing experience!  I enjoyed meeting with my online collaborators and was pleased to find them so down to earth.  I also had a few important take aways that might resonate with you also:

·         Build your brand (first, I am working to clarify my vision of my brand).
·         Find your inner business woman (this doesn’t come naturally to me since I’ve spent my life as a teacher).
·         Invest in good tools (it’s time to spend money on a better computer and blog design).

2.  Beach Bum

Of course I’ve been enjoying the beach.  That’s why I live here, right?!  My favorite place is the national park by my home where wild ponies stroll by our beach blankets.  It’s also a fantastic place for enjoying cook-outs and bonfires.

3. Game of Thrones Binge

I rarely watch television in the summer but this year I decided to find out why all of my colleagues rave about the HBO series Game of Thrones.  I purchased the DVDs so I can watch the episodes in order.  I immediately got hooked and have already finished the first two seasons.  My only complaint is that too many of my favorite characters have been getting killed!

4. Seller Collaboration

Another take away from Vegas is the importance of collaboration.  I’ve been continuing to collaborate with other TpT sellers and recently I participated in the TpT Seller Challenge.  One of my favorite activities was the Makeover Madness which encouraged me to revise the cover of one of my first resources (see below).  I’m also taking part in the TpT Social Media Surge hosted by Brynn Allison, the Literary Maven.  There’s so much for me to learn about social media but I’m already feeling more comfortable with Twitter.

5. Summer Employment

Usually I teach writing camp or teach English 101  at the local community college in the summer, but this summer I’m devoting myself to my TpT store.  I’ve been busy updating my products and creating new resources including this Literature TrashketballBundle.  It includes nine of my popular trashketball games, which can be used to review classic plays and novels.  I will be adding more to the bundle this year, so I’d love to know what books or plays you use in your classroom.  Please tell me about your literature units below!


First Days of School Giveaway & Blog Hop

In the high school English classroom, how do you get your students started for their school year?   For the First Days of School, I like to dive into content.  Of course it’s important to establish routines and get to know students, too, but at the secondary level, students need to be involved with reading and writing as soon as possible.  That’s why I have an Introductory Unit to my American Literature course that gets students thinking about class topics while also helping me get to know them!

Here’s how it goes:

1.  Students read and analyze poems including “I Hear American Singing” by Walt Whitman, “I, Too,” by Langston Hughes, and “Naming Myself” by Barbara Kingsolver.  This exposes students to a range of authors and time periods but focuses on a central theme, American identity.  Additionally, these poems are simple enough that they don’t intimidate students. Click this link to learn more about the lesson.

2.  Next, students read and listen to songs about America from a variety of genres as part of my lesson, “Literary Analysis & Close Reading: Reflections of America through Music.”  They analyze the lyrics as poems and consider what each song tells them about America.  For bonus, students can bring in their own school appropriate songs and share the related themes.  This is always popular with them!

3.  During the next phase of the unit, I then have students “read” non-print texts, self-portraits by classic American artists.  They learn that reading images is much like reading words, requiring them to focus on details (in this case, such elements as color, shapes, composition, facial expressions, and body language) and make inferences. You can enter to win this lesson below!

Sample Student Portrait
4.  This activity then leads them to creating their own self-portraits.  Since it’s an English class, students must also write explanations for the images in their portraits.  These can be illustrations, collages, or other artistic mediums.

5.  In the culminating activity, students use the self-portraits to brainstorm about their own identities as individuals and Americans.  They use their reflections as pre-writing for a poem that they write about themselves and which we take through the writing process. You can get this lesson as a freebie from my TpT store!

Sample Student Portrait
This unit took me several years to fully develop and takes 2-3 weeks with each activity providing scaffolding for the following ones. There are so many features that I love about this unit because it capitalizes on students’ multiple intelligences, introduces them to classic American literature authors and themes, and helps us all get to know one another.  Furthermore, I often post their portraits and poems together on my walls and quickly have student work to display.

If you would like a chance to get one of the lessons from this unit, I am offering my “"American Voices through Art: Reading & Creating Non-Print Text" for free in the giveaway promotion from July 20 - 26 sponsored by Ms.F's Teaching Adventures.  Even if you don’t teach American Literature, you could likely use many of the activities for your own courses. Enter Here:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Want to find out what other teachers are doing in their classrooms at the beginning of the school year?  Visit the blogs below!
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