First Chapter Friday has become a beloved tradition in my classroom. I love trying to pick out books that will draw students in and then checking each week to see who wanted to read it. Last year, I shared an article about how I do warm up time and First Chapter Friday, as well as sharing a few of my favorite novels for FCF. Since doing that that list, I've done a whole new year of novels and I have even more ideas. To make this list, I looked through the novels that most piqued my students interest and pulled them in!
"Speed dating" is one of my favorite activities. If you've never done it before, it involves students pairing with one other student for a short period of time (a "date") to exchange a set of information. I've used it for tons of things, from book talks to Shakespearean monologue practices. Speed dating is student drive. They create the content and they share it with each other. It's minimal prep work for the teachers and highly engaging for students. In almost every class I teach, there is an inevitable speed dating day. However, with 2020 filled with chaos and obstacles when it comes to every part of education. Our school has so far rotated between fully online, fully in person, and hybrid schedules this semester. I really had to rethink how to make speed dating work for each of these scenarios and I think I have it down! Here are my socially distant tips for nailing speed dating...
My summer before I started teaching, I was sitting in a graduate class bemoaning the fact that the curriculum I was assigned to teach included only texts by White males. Not a single woman or person of color was on the list of required texts! I was remarking on it when a classmate said something like, “Well, what do you expect? It’s British literature.”
Right. It’s Britain. It’s not just a country of White people. London is a city full of people from all around the world where hundreds of languages are spoken. It’s a place where people of a plethora of races and genders are writing and publishing. Just as we have a responsibility to diversify our American literature courses, so too do we have the responsibility to add voices of color and women’s voices to our British Literature curriculum.
FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL! First day of school!
You were supposed to read that like Nemo from Finding Nemo. Did you get that?
Honestly, there is nothing more exciting than the first day. Even as I enter my fourth year as a teacher, I still feel the magic every time. We all know that it sets the tone for the rest of the year. The first day is a great time to start with an atmosphere of community, collaboration, and creativity. There are countless different getting to know you activities, so I'm going to share three of my favorite ways that I've gotten to know my students in the past.
The first few minutes of class are vital. They set the tone for the rest of class, and truly, the environment and atmosphere of your classroom. I really like to use the beginning of class intentionally. On Mondays, I have students create mini-gratitude lists and we do a mindfulness video from the Calm App (free for teachers). Tuesday through Thursday, I write out intentional questions related to reading. A lot of time these questions ask students to apply higher order thinking questions or make text-to-self connections. Fridays, however, are my favorite.
I fell for Hamilton in the winter of my senior year of college. It was approaching finals week and as an English major, I was spending all my time writing- like I was running out of time. There was no better soundtrack than Hamilton to get me through finals week. My friends were equally obsessed. We had a Hamilton party where we sang the whole musical together and did coloring sheets based on it. Hamilton became the soundtrack to my senior year at Notre Dame and I can’t listen to the musical without thinking about that time in my life and the excitement of discovering such a deep, beautiful, and inspiring musical.
There is nothing like a high school homecoming! The smell of popcorn at the big game, the cheers at the pep rally, and the ache in your feet after the dance- it’s full of the sights and sounds that epitomizes the high school experience. I think all of us can think back with some bittersweet nostalgia at our own homecoming memories. That means that there is a lot of responsibility to plan an awesome homecoming week that our students will remember for their whole lives. It can definitely be a daunting prospect, so I put together my own guide about how I go about running Homecoming Week.
It’s hard to believe that it is already my third year teaching. It seems like just yesterday I was getting the keys to my classroom, walking into the space that would be mine, sitting down at my desk, and dissolving into tears. After years of dreaming of being a teacher, my first reaction upon arriving into my new classroom was to start sobbing. And these weren’t tears of joy or of a dreaming coming true- these tears were because I was completely overwhelmed
I am all about teaching 21st Century skills in the classroom. If we want students to become the leaders of the future, we need to start shaping them into being innovators today. So when I was assigned to Speech this year, I saw it as a great opportunity to integrate these skills into the ELA classroom. Podcasts are trendy and fun, but also an art form. it takes a lot of craft to plan, host, and edit a podcast. They also are a great way for students to share about their unique interests. Listening to my students podcasts is one of my favorite things to do because I get the opportunity to hear them being clever, curious, and passionate about their favorite things!
I've compiled the resources that I use to teach podcasting to my students below!
While I know we are all crossing our fingers for an early spring, the truth is winter seems to be hanging around the Midwest for a while longer yet. I'm all about reading seasonally and that's something I also like to apply to my classroom as well. I like to pick out novels that correspond with the time of year. There is nothing like reading about winter and then looking out the window to see fat snowflakes falling down. Here are my favorite novels to teach in the winter:
I'm Megan and I teach high school ELA. I'm all about literature, creativity, and aesthetics!