Saturday, December 5, 2015

Teacher Gift Idea!

Looking for the perfect gift to give your teacher bestie?  Personally, I love receiving amaryllis flowers during the holiday season.  They look great in the classroom OR at home, and if a friend is growing one at the same time, we can have contests to see whose grows faster!  If you'd like to give an amaryllis to a teacher who's made a difference in your life, check out this free printable!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Falling in Love with Imagery!

Since moving to Florida last summer, I have missed my favorite season of the year:  Autumn.  I miss the crunching leaves under my shoes and the smell of bonfires wafting through the cool breezes.  This year, although I still live in Florida, I actually teach in a New England classroom through Google Hangouts (more about that in a future post).  I have taken full advantage of their beautiful fall season by launching an Imagery in Autumn unit, in which students must photograph all 5 senses and write beautiful imagery to describe them.  Here are a few pictures my students have taken:

At first, my students had a hard time coming up with "taste" imagery for autumn, but now it has become one of their favorite!  I especially love this student's version of taste imagery:

I may have to stop writing at this very moment and make myself a s'more -- eighty-degree weather or not!

It's sometimes funny to see what my students choose as the most important images of fall.  If I could stand in their place, I imagine I would take pictures of the fiery trees and crisp, contrasting skies, but I tell them that a unique perspective is one of the most important aspects of imagery.  Any one of us can experience the same autumn, but nobody else can see it through our own eyes.

Enter to win my collection of Imagery in Autumn activities, along with a slew of other autumn resources, below!

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Thursday, October 8, 2015

Canterbury Tales Playlist

As the wife of a music teacher, I find myself surrounded by a cacophony of musical inspiration each day.  Inevitably, this music works its way into my English lessons, as it did this week in the case of The Canterbury Tales.  This year my senior British Literature class took about five days to read through the Prologue, and after the first day of reading, I was already sensing some yawns and drooping heads.  I decided to break up the monotony with a daily "Canterbury Playlist" for the remainder of the week.  At the beginning of each class period, I played a song that reminded me of one of the Canterbury characters, and I picked a lucky student to guess which one.  We had a good laugh and tried another song until we had reviewed each of the characters from the previous day.  Then I had my students send me links to YouTube songs that reminded them of various Canterbury characters.  This is the most fun I have had with Chaucer's prologue in the four years I have taught this unit!

Here are the songs I chose for the different characters (I only played about 30 seconds of each):

Knight – “Battle Scars” Lupe Fiasco
The knight bravely fought in many battles.  Obviously, this song is talking about figurative scars, but it reminds me of the knight's courage regardless!

Squire – “I Get Around” Beach Boys OR “I Feel Pretty” West Side Story
I played "I Get Around" for my students since they seemed particularly amused by the Squire's exploits with the ladies, but next time I might play "I Feel Pretty."  This guy was dressed like a meadow, for goodness' sake!

Yeoman – “I’m Still a Guy” Brad Paisley
Any pilgrim wearing camouflage deserves this song played in his honor.  My students caught on to this one right away! 

Prioress – “Mr. Lonely” Bobby Vinton
Because The Canterbury Tales was written in a time when older siblings had to marry before the younger could enter matrimony, unattractive elder sisters were often given to the convent so their younger siblings could marry.  The Prioress is described as a very large woman with a forehead the width of an outstretched hand, making this scenario extremely plausible.  The poor, lonely, nun. :(

Monk – “My Way” Frank Sinatra
The Monk is known for breaking all the rules.  He does everything "his way." Clever, right?
Friar – “I’m Gonna Marry for Money” Trace Adkins
This one is more of a stretch, but the Friar is Mr. Charming in any situation that could get him a dime.  He sweet talks and gives gifts in order to beg for money.  "Marry for Money" follows the same theme.

Wife of Bath – “I Do” Colbie Caillat
I recommend starting this song right at the chorus.  The multiple I dos fit right in with our chatty, gap-toothed wedding addict.

Pardoner – “You Lie” Band Perry
Here's another song I start playing right at the chorus.  The Pardoner is such a slimy liar, and this song puts a humorous twist on the lies.  A few of my students suggested "White Liar," sung by Miranda Lambert, and I might actually choose that one next time!

Miller – “Mean” Taylor Swift
All the Miller will ever be is mean.  And mean.  And mean.  And mean.  And . . .  

Summoner – “Bad Boys” Bob Marley
This one cracks me up.  Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do when the Summoner comes for you?

Parson – “My Story” Big Daddy Weave
The parson is one character in the Prologue who devotes his life to following Christ's example and practicing what he preaches.  This is where we first see reformation thinking in The Canterbury Tales.  I chose a song about a man who follows Christ for this reason.
Oxford Cleric – “Quiet” Demi Lovato
I'm not a huge fan of this song, but the chorus mentions silence and being quiet, which is one of the qualities I was hoping my students would remember about the Oxford Cleric.  Hey, I'll take any chance to remind teenagers that every word counts.  Now, if only I could find a song that had that message specifically!  Leave a comment with any suggestions!

Man of Law – “I’m in a Hurry and Don’t Know Why” Florida Georgia Line Feat. Alabama
The lawyer always appears busier than he is.  When we talked about this character, I showed my students a Seinfeld clip in which George demonstrates the secret to looking busy:  "I just look annoyed!"   This song is all about being too busy without good reason, and it is one of the song choices that I am most tickled with.

Merchant – “Thrift Shop” Pentatonix
First, make sure to play the Pentatonix version of this song to avoid any expletives.  Other than that minor concern, I love this song for the Merchant!  My students guessed this one right away, as the Merchant's secret debt seemed to meet their fancy.

Plow Man – “I’m a Hard-workin’ Man” Brooks & Dunn
Our poor pooper-scooper is best represented with this blue-color song by Brooks & Dunn.  Actually, I'll take any excuse to listen to some good old-fashioned Brooks & Dunn.  I'm still in denial that they have split up!

Manciple – “Smarter” Eisley
This is another song I wouldn't mind replacing if anybody out there has a good suggestion, but I love that it focuses on the singer being smarter than people think.  This seemed to fit the illiterate-but-secretly-intelligent Manciple perfectly.

Skipper – “Calypso” John Denver
Replace the name "Calypso" with "Maudelayne," and you have a poetic description of the Skipper's life at sea.  I used to play this song on repeat as a kid.  It just makes me so happy!

Franklin – “Party Rock Anthem” 
Everything about the Franklin screams PARTY!  Just don't be surprised if the entire class starts busting a move when this song comes on. :)

Doctor – “Stars” Switchfoot
My students are usually surprised to learn that the doctor treats his patients based on the positioning of the stars, rather than their symptoms.   This song immediately popped into my mind!

Reeve – “One Piece at a Time” Johnny Cash
I know the Reeve isn't the only thief among the Canterbury crowd, but because he steals from his work stealthily, just as the singer steals from his job at the car factory sneakily, I thought this was a spot-on match.
Cook – “Apples and Bananas” Barney and Friends
Since none of us wants to listen to a song about chicken cooked with the pus from a knee ulcer, I am a big fan of this more innocent take on a cook's life.  Apples and bananas all the way!  And opples and bononos! (Did anybody else sing this as a small child?)
Host – “Be Our Guest” Beauty and the Beast
Need I say more?
I would love to hear any suggestions you may have for an updated playlist, as I plan to play this game a few more times with my students before we continue with our unit.  For more Canterbury Shenanigans, feel free to check out my Canterbury Tales Speed Dating Printables in my TpT store!

I look forward to hearing your spectacular ideas!

Olivia Gold
Creative English Classroom

Monday, August 31, 2015

Laminate All the Things!

"Don't bend the paper!!! Here, let me hold that. No! You're crumpling it!"

That was me -- every class period of every day on which we had scheduled a classroom game. See, most of my English games come with game cards for student teams to read or analyze or follow in some form.  My students love it. I love it. But I do NOT love finding my game cards crushed, bent, or even a bit sweaty, so this year I have undergone the task of laminating the cards for ALL of my classroom games. At first it just seemed a bit annoying, but then I realized something that made it awesome: for any card that prompts students to write a response, they can now write directly on the game card with a dry-erase marker and erase the marks when the game is done! This is life-changing. I'm in love with my laminating machine.
I know a lot of you have purchased my English games in the past, so I just thought I would share this dry-erase trick in case you are interested. If you aren't quite sure what I'm talking about, you can view my Simile vs. Metaphor team challenge here!

Happy laminating!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

My DIY Writer Shoes

The internet is flooded with teacher-specific wardrobe options:  t-shirts that look like notebook paper, knee-socks that look like pencils, and fingernails plastered in handwritten script.  English nerds such as myself would buy every writing-themed article of teacher clothing we could get our hands on if it weren't for our modest teaching salary.  I scroll past each blue-lined t-shirt and sharpened sock toe, practically drooling over my keyboard, but still I held tightly to my dear paycheck.  Then I thought of an option that let me have my paycheck and wear it too.

My first book will be published in October, and I'm planning a big launch party in my community (for friends, family, fellow teachers, administrators, students and families, church members, etc.).  I want to keep my outfit classy, but when else will I have such a wonderful excuse to deck myself out in writing attire?  I determined that the solution was DIY writer shoes -- a pair of thrift-store heels transformed with pages from my own book.  I rummaged around in my closet to find a pair of $4 high-heels I had purchased from Goodwill about 5 years ago, and I grabbed a bottle of $6 Mod Podge from the dining room (because that's where all good teachers should keep their bottles of Mod Podge).  Then I printed out a few pages from my book--making sure to print the passages about shoes, clothing, and the like--and cut out small strips of text to apply to the shoes.
I painted a thin layer of Mod Podge to the shoe and placed each strip of paper onto the shoe slowly, painting Mod Podge over each scrap of paper before moving on to the next section of shoe.  That was all there was to it!  Because I wasn't fond of the heel color, I used some 78-cent acrylic paint (again from my dining room) to paint the heel and platform of the shoe and sealed it with acrylic spray (surprisingly not found in my dining room because it had migrated to the guest room), but even if I had skipped the painting, I think I would have been fairly thrilled with my new-to-me writer shoes.  I can't wait to wear them to my party, and I'm sure I'll wear them to class in the future, as well!  What kind of teacher-nerd/writer-nerd wardrobe options do you love to DIY?

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Writers' Notebooks -- What's the Big Deal?

As a self-proclaimed writer and soon-to-be-published author, I'm a tad embarrassed to admit that I never understood writers' notebooks until this summer.  I understood journals -- journals are easy -- but the difference between a journal and the ever-elusive writer's notebook?  I didn't get it.  Then everything changed.

This summer I attended a professional development class to help me teach writing based on standards and built on passion.  I never expected a writer's notebook to enter the conversation.  But boy, did it ever.  My professor had a bursting behemoth of a notebook on her desk, all but spewing papers, clips, and napkins onto the floor.  When she held it up for the class to see, she pointed at travel brochures she had accumulated over many road trips, menus with exotic food names, notes handwritten by friends and family, and an endless conglomeration of paraphernalia from her daily adventures.  Nowhere did I see an obligatory run-down of a blah-blah day.  Not once did I glimpse an essay.  Or haiku.  Or short story.  So this was a writer's notebook -- a concrete thought bubble brimming with inspiration.

Not thirty minutes after class, I stood in the back-to-school aisle (which seriously appears earlier every year) and picked out my fifty-cent composition book to claim as my own faithful companion.  I decided to glue scrapbooking paper to the right-hand side of each page spread as a background on which to washi-tape my inspiration.  The left-hand side I left blank for little notes to myself.  (I know I would forget why I taped that randomness in there otherwise.)  See, isn't it pretty?

Still, I needed to find a way to make this concept work in my classroom.  My students constantly complain that they "can't think of anything to write" or "don't care that much about anything."  Yeah, right!  I often wish I could point to something in a student's brain and say, "See?  You're interesting!  You think!  You notice things!  You have opinions!"  Now I can point to their writers' notebooks.  But how can I measure something as abstract as inspiration?  First, I put together a checklist of various inspirational categories I would like to see in my students' notebooks.  I then created page dividers for each of these categories:  fascinating words, inspirational quotes, sensory photos, etc.  Each divider has several examples so my students can get a good idea of what to look for in that category, and hopefully my examples will inspire them, as well!  I probably could have left it there, but I know some of my kiddos (especially the guys) will want a little direction as to the actual taping in of ideas, so I created a few cut-outs with space to write, as well as some comment cut-outs to eccentuate what they've found.  I think they turned out pretty well!

I can hardly wait for the school year to begin so I can descend upon my classroom with passion and inspiration, but until then -- happy planning it is!  (If you would like to see my student version in more detail, check it out in my TpT store!)

Happy Planning!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Cough, Though, and Rough -- There's a Reason

We've all heard rants on the confusing irregularities of our English language:  "Why doesn't cough rhyme with though?"  "If the plural of goose is geese, why isn't the plural of moose meese?" Most of us have even seen this image floating about the internet when some woe-is-me English student is especially distraught:

Richard Lederer has a point -- our language can seem confusing.  This is why on the very first day of British Literature class, before we've even taken out our notebooks and pencils, and before we have opened our literature books,  I show my students the image above and tell my class, "English is a crazy language."  I then show them the fictional word ghoti, and inevitably one of the kids sitting near the back will call out, "I saw that on the internet!  It's fish!" The studious kiddos (who are reaching for their notepads already) cast nervous glances around the classroom as I affirm the internet-meme savant's observation.  If you take the gh from laugh, the o from women, and the ti from lotion, these sounds do sound out the word fish.  It's true.  Our language is messed-up, awkward, and seemingly random, but I emphasize that the English language is not arbitrary.  These incongruous spellings, awkward pronunciations, and frustrating usage rules have a rich history that begins with soldiers who painted themselves blue like smurfs and refused to bathe.  (Finally, each student has begun to take down notes, and the real "lesson" has begun.)

This fun attention-grabber is my favorite way to start the year!  What tricks do you use to hook your students' attention for a semester of English class?  Comment below!

Also, check out my fellow ELA bloggers' ideas through the link-up below.  Happy Back-to-School season!

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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Writing Prompt Flow Charts

"I don't know what to write about . . . "

Sound familiar?

When I first started teaching, I was shocked to discover how many students felt completely lost when given a "free write"  assignment.  I love coming up with new writing ideas -- doesn't everybody?  

I soon learned that not everybody is exactly like me (thank goodness, actually) and decided to come up with some creative alternatives for students who prefer writing prompts to stimulate their imagination.  My favorite idea so far:  writing prompt flow charts.

Flow charts allow students to find their own personalized writing prompts based on their interests and/or current mood.  Check out the flow chart below!  If a student doesn't like the first prompt he chooses, he can answer the questions again for a different outcome.  I'm feeling inspired to make a whole notebook full of these and keep it at the back of my classroom for students who need inspiration.  What do you think?

Monday, February 16, 2015

Liebster Award

I have been nominated for the Liebster Award by Literary Sherri, Secondary Sara, and Tickled Pink in Primary!  (Thank you, ladies!)  This is a fun way for new bloggers to get to know each other, and I will now accept the nomination by answering a few questions about myself and nominating several other bloggers.  

1.  When did you start your blog?
I started this blog about a year ago but have hardly had a chance to post yet!  I can't wait to begin sharing our fun classroom projects on a more regular basis.

2.  What is the purpose of your blog?
I love having fun with my students in the classroom, and I enjoy sharing ideas with other teachers.  When teachers share their inspiration, there's no stopping us!

3.  What is your favorite blog post so far?
I especially like my blog post about vocabulary games, mostly because that's my students' favorite part of class.  It's fun to watch them get so absorbed in an activity!
4.  What do you like best about teaching?
I love when my students say, "Mrs. Gold, I took your advice and . . ."  Many times, I don't even remember giving the advice!  Either way, it feels amazing to know that kids can take my ramblings and use them toward their future successes.  Go kids, go!
5.  What is one blog post you would like to write but haven't yet?
Novel Shoebox Projects.  Details at Eleven.  (Or in a few weeks. : )
6.  Which blogs would you like to nominate for the Liebster Award?
I have been impressed with the following blogs.  I don't know whether or not some of them have been nominated for the award already, but these bloggers are amazing!

Monday, January 19, 2015

5 Reasons Your High School Students Need to Read Audacity, by Melanie Crowder, NOW

Last week I picked up a young-adult novel and didn't put it down until I finished it four hours later.  This is not normal for me.  But neither is the book.

Audacity, by Melanie Crowder, incorporates everything I love about literature into a relevant novel for teenagers.  Here are five reasons your high-school students need to read this novel today:

1.  Relevant Themes of Courage, Difficult Decisions, and Standing Up for Others

Although this novel is set in the early twentieth century, its themes are spot-on for teenagers in 2015.  Clara, the protagonist, continually pushes herself out of her comfort zone -- even giving up some of her own dreams -- in order to speak out against her co-workers' mistreatment and inequality in the workplace.  These themes spawn excellent discussion questions:  "Which is more important -- the process or the outcome?"  "Who or what has the greatest influence on the decisions you make?"  "Which factors can hold people back from pursuing their dreams?"  The possibilities are endless.

2.  Free Verse

This may initially deter some young readers, but Crowder's free-verse writing style is perfect for teenagers with short attention spans.  Each "chapter" takes only one-three minutes to read, which helps readers find the main point quickly and accurately.  Besides, many teenagers have little to no experience with modern poetry, and Audacity provides an excellent example of this writing style without the seemingly irrelevant subject matter of some older authors.

3.  Stunning Figurative Language

I have never been this blown away by an author's use of crisp, clean imagery.  Both physical and abstract images came to life as I read Crowder's verses, and the many similes and metaphors stopped me in my tracks -- I had to re-read many lines simply because they were too good to read just once!  For students learning figurative language in the classroom, this novel can provide excellent examples of integrated literary devices.

4.  Historical Context

Equality can be difficult to discuss in many classrooms with its heated debates and current events.  Audacity's early twentieth-century setting helps to place distance between its events and students' emotions, while still addressing this sensitive issue.  Clara Lemlich, the novel's protagonist, was a real-life women's-rights activist, and this novel gives students a better picture of her life and mission as they wrestle with the complications of equality today.

5.  Female Protagonist

Clara Lemlich is one of the greatest female role models of the early twentieth century, but her courage and selflessness are worthy of emulation by both male and female teenagers. Let's hear it for powerful women of history!

I loved this book more than I have loved a book in a long time, and I am so excited that books of this quality are still being added to the market.  Have you read the book?  Let me know what you thought in the comments section below!