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!