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David Rickert by David Rickert - 1d ago

If you’re reading this, I hope you are one of the lucky who get to be a teacher. It’s a great job and very rewarding, but I’ll tell you that the first year will be no picnic. You’ll be working hard to establish the type of teacher your students will need you to be. You’ll be figuring out how to handle the paper load. And on top of that, you’ll worry about how to convince your parents that you are actually old enough to be a teacher!

Below are a few tips that I would give all new teachers based on my years in the classroom.

1. Develop good habits

Good habits are the foundation for success as a teacher. And one of your goals should be to shape good behaviors into habits.

Your number one priority should be sleep. Get plenty of rest. You may have to leave some papers ungraded, but you won’t be any good to your students if you are constantly tired.

Develop a good morning routine as well. You’ll be getting up earlier than you’d like to, and the last thing you want to do in the morning is make choices. Eat breakfast. Stretch and meditate to wake up your body and mind. Get to school early and settle yourself before the student arrive.

I also highly recommend that you develop an exercise routine and stick with it. I know a lot of teachers like me who enjoy yoga while others enjoy running or crossfit. Even a nice walk after school is nice. Your mind will need that time away from school, and exercise is a natural stress release.

2. Establish boundaries

This is related to number one. There are probably things that you really enjoy doing and they make you happy. It could be reading a book. Or playing guitar. Or getting together with college friends.

Teaching will take up all the time that you allow it to, so you need to be deliberate about scheduling time for the things that refresh you. My suggestion is to schedule those things first on your calendar, like “read a book from 4-4:30.” That way they’ll get done.

3. Take good notes

After you teach every lesson, spend some time at the end of the day writing notes about how it went. What worked? What didn’t? What would you change the next time? You’ll spend a great deal of time during your first year planning for your second year, and those things that you think you’ll remember? You won’t. So take notes and you’ll save yourself a lot of time in your second year.

4. Keep It Light

Remember to have fun with your students. Teaching can be a high-stakes profession with all the tests and the pressures of graduation. It’s easy to get caught up in how crucial everything is. But you need to have fun with them. Randomly do the hokey pokey. Or have a rock paper scissors tournament. Not only will your students appreciate the break, but it will help you relax too.

5. Take sick days

I was raised in a household where if you were sick, you were expected to “tough it out.” This is lousy advice for teachers. You don’t have the kind of job that you can phone in. If you are sick and really need to rest to get better, listen to your body. Take the day off.

And just to warn you, teacher guilt for not showing up for work is real. You’ll feel like you are letting your students down. You might be tempted to email your administrator to tell them of all your symptoms so they don’t think you’re faking it (don’t do this). But the next day, hopefully feeling better, you’ll find that everything was fine.

Your students deserve to have you at your best, and sometimes that means not being in front of them.

6. Don’t check your school email after hours

You just might find an angry email from a parent that will ruin your night or weekend. You aren’t on call 24/7.

7. Find your most productive time

For me, I love to grade in the mornings and so I ask for first period off. Other teachers like to get things done in the afternoon. But you’ll want to figure out what works best for you. I like to grade essays in the morning when my mind is fresh. Grading multiple-choice tests is a great Friday afternoon activity because it’s pretty mindless. Positive emails and phone calls are also great for Fridays because you end the day feeling good.

8. Be a good employee

Even though it can seem like you’re running your own small business most of the day, you do work for someone. Don’t be a complainer, and don’t get too big for your britches. Dress like an adult too, especially if you teach high school. And above all else keep the secretaries on your good side. Keeping them happy should be one of your top priorities. And for that matter, treat everyone employed in the building as if they are equal to you, no matter if they are custodians, librarians, or tutors.

9. Don’t Go it Alone

Don’t think you have to have everything figured out. Lean on your fellow teachers with more experience and borrow their good ideas.

Don’t forget that you don’t have to create all your materials from scratch, either. You migh think that using someone else’s materials makes it seem like you don’t know what you’re doing, but quality teaching materials will save you hours of planning time.

I know you’re the kind of teacher that makes their classroom a fun, engaging learning environment. I have a series of lessons done as comics that address various ELA topics like grammar, poetry, editing, and Shakespeare, all of which will make your students glad they came to class that day. All the fun is there for you, and your kids will love studying any of these topics because they’ll get a new comic every day! Please check out my resources and let the learning begin!

The post Nine Tips For New Teachers appeared first on David Rickert.

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It’s almost time to go back to school and I’m sure your to-do list is like mine. Put up bulletin boards, get out the staplers and highlighters you stashed in your desk, make copies of your syllabus, and figure out what you’re going to do on the first day of school. There’s a ton of things to do!

However, there a few things you SHOULDN’T do to get ready for school. Here are three things you should avoid doing.

1. End Summer Too Early

I know it’s easy to think that once you start planning for next year and spending time in the building to get things ready that summer is officially over. But it doesn’t have to be. There are lots of great hacks for getting ready for school that still allow you to enjoy summer.

For example, go to the pool and get work done there (your public pool might have wifi.) Or sit on the deck in the morning and work with a cup of coffee or tea (or in the evening with a glass of wine.) You aren’t in school yet, so you have the flexibility that you can work lots of places. Get creative and find a summery place to get work done.

However, if you are one of those people who are more productive if you work in your room, you might want to do that. But you CAN dictate how much time you spend there. If you tell yourself “I’m going in all next week to get my room ready” there’s a good chance that you’ll spend all week there. Instead, say “I’m going to go in Monday and Tuesday from 9-2 and take the rest of the week off.” You’ll likely get the same amount of work done in a shorter amount of time because you planned it that way. And then you have five days left in the week to play!

Things tend to take as long as we think they will. If we get in the mindset that we can be productive in a shorter amount of time, we won’t fill all of our time with schoolwork.

Often I find that school isn’t the best place to get work done anyway. Other teachers stop in and ask about my summer about before I know it I have passed an hour talking to people. instead of working. I like to go in on Saturdays and Sundays when no one’s there.

2. Plan Too Much

As you get ready for school you’re likely getting together with other teachers and planning for the school year. Or maybe you’re doing it by yourself. However, it’s really easy to waste a lot of time because you’re planning too much.

Fo one thing, you’re not operating at maximum efficiency. You’ve been out of school for a while and you aren’t back in “teacher mode” yet, so you’ll be much better at planning once the school year starts.

Also, there’s a high likelihood you’ll abandon a lot of what you planned anyway. There have been many times that I have planned out a month’s worth of lessons only to change them all once school starts because once I’m immersed in the classroom, I get better ideas. All my skills at planning that were elusive in the summer come back to me. And when I have to fix something for the next day, the solutions tend to come much quicker. Plus, you haven’t met your students yet! How can you plan a bunch of lessons when you don’t know what skills they are going to come to you with? And what the general disposition of the class will be?

What does make sense is to plan out the year, and decide which assessments you’ll be doing and when. But leave the day to day stuff for when you meet your students.

3. Spend too much money

You may have a Pinterest board called “Classroom Decor” where you have put a bunch of ideas for your classroom. There are some great ideas out there, but don’t feel like you have to spend hundreds of dollars, which is what some of those ideas will cost.

If it’s important to you to create the perfect classroom environment, that’s great. But remember that classroom decor does not increase learning. There are some great free posters out there for ELA classrooms that won’t cost you a penny.

I see a lot of people spending money on flexible seating (again, something you’ll see all over Pinterest), but this can break the bank more than anything else. Get your furniture at garage sales or thrift stores or see what your school might have in storage. Also, before you decide to do flexible seating, you might want to read this post.

What IS worth your money is quality classroom supplies that save you time because you don’t have to create them. I know you’re the kind of teacher that wants to save time because you have so much to do. I also know you’re the kind of teacher that loves to make their classroom fun. If so, I have the perfect solution for you.

I have a series of lessons done as comics that address various ELA topics like grammar, poetry, editing, and Shakespeare, all of which will make your students glad they came to class that day. All the fun is there for you, and your kids will love studying any of these topics because they’ll get a new comic every day! Please check out my resources and let the learning begin!

The post Three Things Teachers SHOULDN’T Do To Get Ready For The New School Year appeared first on David Rickert.

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Teachers have summer reading lists too! This top ten list of summer reads for teachers includes books to inspire, motivate, and educate you for the next school year. Of course, there are also fun and light poolside reads for when you just need to relax! Whether you are honing your craft or giving your brain a vacation (well deserved) these books will bring you joy this summer.


Inquiry Mindset: Nurturing the Dreams, Wonders, and Curiosities of Our Youngest Learners
By: Trevor MacKenzie and Rebecca Bathurst-Hunt
Children are curious, they explore the world around them through play, imagination, and discovery. They build meaning, they create understanding, and they unabashedly share their learning. It’s in this process that they find joy in life and relevance in the world around them. Why, then, do some of our students become disconnected from their learning in school? Where does this natural curiosity go? And how, as educators, can we ensure all of our students experience a meaningful and wonder-filled journey through their education?

Present Over Perfect
By: Shauna Niequist
New York Times bestselling author Shauna Niequist invites you to consider the landscape of your own life, and what it might look like to leave behind the pressure to be perfect and begin the life-changing practice of simply being present, in the middle of the mess and the ordinariness of life.

The Creativity Project
Edited By: Colby Sharp
Colby Sharp invited more than forty authors and illustrators to provide story starters for each other; photos, drawings, poems, prose, or anything they could dream up. When they received their prompts, they responded by transforming these seeds into any form of creative work they wanted to share. The result is a stunning collection of words, art, poetry, and stories by some of our most celebrated children book creators.

Why Don’t Students Like School?: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom
Easy-to-apply, scientifically-based approaches for engaging students in the classroom

Cognitive scientist Dan Willingham focuses his acclaimed research on the biological and cognitive basis of learning. His book will help teachers improve their practice by explaining how they and their students think and learn. It reveals-the importance of story, emotion, memory, context, and routine in building knowledge and creating lasting learning experiences.

Make It Stick
By: Peter C. Brown
To most of us, learning something “the hard way” implies wasted time and effort. Good teaching, we believe, should be creatively tailored to the different learning styles of students and should use strategies that make learning easier. Make It Stick turns fashionable ideas like these on their head. Drawing on recent discoveries in cognitive psychology and other disciplines, the authors offer concrete techniques for becoming more productive learners.

The Most Fun We Ever Had
By: Claire Lombardo
A dazzling, multigenerational novel in which the four adult daughters of a Chicago couple–still madly in love after forty years–recklessly ignite old rivalries until a long-buried secret threatens to shatter the lives they’ve built.

“Everything about this brilliant debut cuts deep: the humor, the wisdom, the pathos. Claire Lombardo writes like she’s been doing it for a hundred years, and like she’s been alive for a thousand.”

–Rebecca Makkai, author of The Great BelieversLock Every Door
By: Riley Sager
Parade.com “The Most Anticipated Books of Summer 2019 ” and “The Best Beach Reads of Summer 2019”
PureWow “The Best Beach Reads of Summer 2019”
BookBub “17 Books That Will Make the Perfect Addition to Your Beach Bag This Summer”

The next heart-pounding thriller from New York Times bestselling author Riley Sager follows a young woman whose new job apartment sitting in one of New York’s oldest and most glamorous buildings may cost more than it pays.

Beyond All Reasonable Doubt: A Novel
By: Malin Persson Giolito
Thirteen years ago, a fifteen-year-old girl was murdered. Doctor Stig Ahlin was sentenced to life in prison. But no one has forgotten the brutal crime. Ahlin is known as one of the most ruthless criminals. When Sophia Weber discovers critical flaws in the murder investigation, she decides to help Ahlin. But Sophia doing her utmost to get her client exonerated arouses many people’s disgust. And the more she learns, the more difficult her job becomes. What kind of man is her client really? What has he done? And will she ever know the truth?

Where the Crawdads Sing
By: Delia Owens
Perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Karen Russell, Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps. 


Fewer Things, Better 
By: Angela Watson
You can’t do it all. And you don’t have to try. 
There are too many things competing for your attention as a teacher. The solution is NOT to manage your time better or work more efficiently. 

Or at least — that’s not the place to start. 

The most important step is getting clarity, and figuring out how to use your life to make an impact in ways that really matter. This book will help you strengthen the courage to do fewer things, so what remains can be done even better.

Share with your students that you read over the summer and show them reading is fun!

Here are some other blog posts you might enjoy:

Writing Rubrics That Give You Back Your Weekends

Building Better Topic Sentences

Mini Timed Writings: Getting Students to Write More Without More Grading

A Workshop Approach to Essay Planning

Learning should be fun! Check out my Teachers Pay Teachers store for fun resources like the ones you see below.

Similes and Metaphors: A Comic With Activities Romeo and Juliet Comics and Activities A Comics Lesson on “The Road Not Taken.” Click below!

The post 10 Summer Reads For Teachers 2019 appeared first on David Rickert.

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All ELA teachers want to develop their students into good readers. That not only involves building the love of reading but also involves developing critical reading skills in the classroom. We want our students to be able to read critically and analyze a passage, which involves taking a passage apart and seeing how it works. In short, we want students to not only understand what they are reading, but also how the author accomplished their goal through literary devices, syntax, diction, and other skills.Annotation is one way we can get students to analyze the text, but frequently students need a more structured way to analyze a passage. Something that gets them looking differently at a text in ways that annotation doesn’t provide. I have adapted two strategies from the book Writing Analytically by David Rossenwasser and Jill Stephen to get kids interacting with a passage of text in meaningful ways. =

Strategy #1: The Method

This strategy, called “The Method,” is modified from the Analytical Moves section from Rosenwasser and Stephen’s book by adding a few tweaks. With this technique, students look for patterns and repetitions in a passage. Students will need a sheet of paper. Here’s how it works:

  • Step 1: List the exact repetitions of words that occur in the passage and count them.
  • Step 2: Make a list of similar words, either words that are synonyms, or words that are closely related.
  • Step 3: Create a T-chart in which you list binary oppositions found in the text – words that are opposite in meaning or tone.
  • Step 4: Determine the primary opposition that occurs in the passage, such as good vs. evil, male vs. female, or rich vs. poor.
  • Step 5: Determine how this opposition is significant to the novel or play.
  • Step 6: Discuss what the students found, either in small groups or as a class.

A lot of times The Method works well for the opening few paragraphs of a novel, when the setting and themes are established. I’ve done it this way for Their Eyes Were Watching God. It also works really well for passages from Shakespeare, such as the prologue to Romeo and Juliet or Iago’s monologues from Othello. There are plenty of passages from Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak that would work well. However, not every passage will work. You have to look for a passage that has the repetition and binary opposition present. You also don’t want to give students a passage that’s too long – a few paragraphs are best.

Strategy #2: So What?

This strategy helps students see not only what’s important in a passage, but also why it’s important. Students will need a sheet of paper.

  • Students should divide their paper into three sections. The first section should be labeled “Observations.” The second and third columns should both be labeled “So What?”
  • The first section is for observations – things that happen in the passage that are important, and are easily proven to be there. This is the basic level of understanding – what happens in the passage that’s significant?
  • In the next column, students take their observations and answer the question “So What?” Why is this event significant? What are the implications behind what happened?
  • In the final column, students will take the answer to the first “So What?” and ask “So What?” again. They will try to come to some conclusion about what happened. In the words of Rosenwassen and Stephen: “we look at the evidence and draw a conclusion that is not directly stated by follows from what we see.”
  • Discuss their findings in small groups or as a whole class.

While this works well for passages that students have encountered before, it also works well for passages that students have not read yet. It’s especially good for passages where there is a specific point the author is making. A good passage for this activity, for example, would be Chapter 2 of The Hate U Give when Starr and Khalil are pulled over by the police. It’s obvious that Angie Thomas wants us to think a certain way about the encounter. The “So What?” exercise gets students thinking about the implications of the event and what conclusions they can draw from it.

Final Thoughts

If you need a quick exit slip that indicates how well your students are doing with thinking critically about a passage, either of these two methods will tell give you a glimpse at how well students can analyze, as well as a general sense of how well they understand the novel or play.

Like any strategy, neither of these exercises are one-and-done. Like with any skill, students will benefit from repeated practice until this level of analysis becomes natural to them. Once we have students analyzing the structure of a passage and the author’s intent, we are developing in them the ability to flourish as skilled readers.

Here are some other blog posts you might enjoy:

Writing Rubrics That Give You Back Your Weekends

Building Better Topic Sentences

Mini Timed Writings: Getting Students to Write More Without More Grading

A Workshop Approach to Essay Planning

Learning should be fun! Check out my Teachers Pay Teachers store for fun resources like the ones you see below.

The post 2 Ways to Analyze a Passage From Literature appeared first on David Rickert.

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Summer has arrived! Teachers finally get a break from planning, grading, and students. It’s necessary time to refresh and relax.

But what’s the best thing to do with your time? Here are five helpful ways I’ve found to make the most of your summer. I’ve skipped the obvious things like go on vacation or take the kids to the pool. And I’m not real big on those “how to give your children the best summer ever” posts. Because ultimately you have to take care of yourself to be the best person you can be once school begins again.

Disclaimer: My wife is also a teacher and my children and old enough to entertain themselves. We also live in a walkable community so I don’t have to get them many of the places they want to go. If you have young children and feel like your summers aren’t truly yours to do what you want to, I’ve been there.

Stay Active.

It’s easy for me to get in 10,000 steps when I’m on my feet teaching all day. But if I’m just sitting around the house reading, eventually I start to look like that’s what I’ve been doing.

I try to maintain my yoga practice over the summer (which for some reason is harder when I’m not on a schedule) and take the dog for long walks. Staying fit makes it easier to go back to school in August. And if I can work out more over the summer because I have more free time, that’s great too! (P.S. don’t forget to eat some ice cream, though.)

Summer is also a great time to try out new forms of exercise, like boxing or rock climbing. Our bodies like change, and if I feel like I’m in a rut nothing helps more than mixing it up a little by trying something new.

Complete a project

Over the summer I miss the sense of completion that I get from teaching every day. Howver, over the summer I don’t always get that satisfaction of a day well spent. It’s easy to feel like the days go by without having done anything worthwhile. That’s why I like to give myself a little project to accomplish over the summer – something that’s just for me.

Therefore it can’t be a home project like painting the basement or doing landscaping (both of which I’m doing this summer). It could be taking a class. Lynda has lots of great online classes, and many public libraries offer you access to them for free. But don’t forget there’s a lot of great adult education classes that aren’t far from you. Check local colleges. One year I took a figure drawing class at the local art school. Or maybe start your own blog.

Reading books can also be a project too. One summer I read War and Peace (which took most of the summer). Last year I challenged myself to read more books by people of color that by white authors.

Develop rituals

I love to anticipate the summer because of the things that I always do when summer arrives. When my children were younger and less busy we always went strawberry picking. But these rituals can be personal rituals, as well. I always take my friend Lara’s nine o’clock yoga class at least once over the summer because I can’t during the school year. I also read a Richard Russo novel when I’m on vacation.

Rituals are important because they provide some structure for teachers who are used to it every day. The lack of routine is the hardest thing for me to adjust to – so much so that I find myself happier in the summer if I plan out my day. But these rituals also help me to settle into summer, which can be hard for me as well. The first couple of weeks are hard for me, and having these benchmarks helps with the transition.

Go to the grocery store in the morning on a weekday.

I’m a little ashamed to admit it, but this is one of my favorite summer activities. Nothing is better than shopping for groceries when no one is there. It’s kind of a zen activity, actually. I try to go the whole summer without shopping on a weekend.

Do some schoolwork (or don’t.)

Whatever makes you happy. If you completely need a break from school for a couple of months, then do that. If you like to work on school stuff over break, then do that. However, don’t say that you have to do anything school related. There are millions of teachers out there who have made different choices than you, and reframing I have to  to I choose to is a powerful way to retain control over your summer (thanks to Kelli Wise and her excellent podcast for this helpful tip.)

I choose to stay lightly engaged over the summer. I’m currently reading some YA novels that I am adding to my classroom library this year, something that’s helpful for me when school starts so I can recommend them, but is also a nice way to spend the summer. I will be teaching a unit on 18th century poetry, so I might do a little research on that. And of course blogging is a way for me to stay engaged in the educational community.

Although I might do a little planning, I have found planning lessons over the summer to be counterproductive. If I spend a day of PD planning out the first three weeks of class, I will find myself redoing all that work once the students arrive and get a feel for what they need. I’m a more efficient planner when I’m in school mode again anyway.

If you have any great tips for how teachers should spend their summer, add them to the comments below!

Here are some other blog posts you might enjoy:

Writing Rubrics That Give You Back Your Weekends

Building Better Topic Sentences

Mini Timed Writings: Getting Students to Write More Without More Grading

A Workshop Approach to Essay Planning

Learning should be fun! Check out my Teachers Pay Teachers store for fun resources like the ones you see below.

The post 5 Things Teachers Should Do Over the Summer appeared first on David Rickert.

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Like it or not, state tests for common core and other state standards are here to stay. And unfortunately, some of our instruction will be diverted to helping our students do well on them.

One area that is particularly troublesome for language arts teachers is that the writing portion is scored by a computer. How is it possible to take something as complex as grading an essay and reduce it to work that can be done by a machine? It’s very frustrating to have the countless hours that we spend grading reduced to something that can be done by a program.

How does the computer score the state tests? We don’t exactly know. However, there are a few things that we know the computer is looking for, and ways to help make those things visible.

So here are four things students MUST do in order to score well on the test and how you can help students prepare.

Proofread.

Many students are used to typing on a computer or device that automatically identifies, and in some cases corrects, errors. Those students who take the test on a computer or device need to be aware that there is no such feature on the test. And those who are writing by hand need to be looking for the errors that they made in the mad dash to finish an essay. Unlike a human grader, the computer may not recognize a misspelled word as what it is. However, it will definitely catch run-ons and fragments.

How to teach it: Emphasize that students need to allocate time to proofread their work. Emphasize it as a skill with every assignment. For example, if you give time for students to write a paragraph as an exit slip, instruct them to use the last minute or two before the bell rings to check over their work. We want proofreading to become something that students automatically do.

As the school year progresses, keep track of the errors that students are most likely to make as you see them in writing. I also have a bundle that addresses the most common errors students are likely to make in writing in fun comics and activities.

Have a thesis at the end of the introduction.

Yes, it’s formulaic and yes, there are other places you can put it. However, this is the best place to put your thesis if someone (or in this case something) is looking for it. Also, a thesis shouldn’t be a question like: “Should museums charge admission?” or a statement like: “Read below to find out  whether or not museum admission should be free.” A thesis statement must clearly state a position on an issue which will then be supported with evidence.

How to teach it: Thesis statements are part of regular instruction already, but emphasize what it should look like and where to put it. You can also have students practice thesis statements without writing an entire paper. Have them read an article or two and craft a thesis statement that they would use in a paper on this topic. Collect them on the way out and you’ll have a good idea in a couple of minutes how well they can write one.

Adding citations.

Students should be quoting from the passages. However, because there is more than one passage, they need to identify which passage their quotes come from. According to samples from past tests, it seems like you can either identify the passage by the author (“Robert Smith says …”) or by the passage (“In Passage 1 it says …”). Direct quotes are good – the computer will recognize that quotes are being used – but you shouldn’t quote too much. However, identifying the passage is critical as well.

How to teach it: First off, make sure students aren’t just writing an opinion piece that doesn’t use facts at all, which I suspect is a reason many students don’t score well.

Make sure you are giving students more than one passage to use as sources for assignments. For example, a lot of teachers use articles of the week regularly. Instead of giving students one article, give them two ask them to pull facts from both. When you discuss the article, have them identify the passage as they give their facts.

Address counterarguments.

The writing prompts for the state test ask students to address counterarguments to their claims. For years I taught 5 paragraph essays in which students stated three reasons to support an opinion, but weren’t asked to address the other side. Because of that, students might be inclined to neglect that they have to address what the other side would say. I would guess that this is the main reason that students don’t score well on the test is that they neglect this task, either because they haven’t been asked to do it, or because they don’t read the directions and know they should do it.

How to teach it: Throughout the year have students engage in persuasive tasks in which they must consider the other side and argue against that opinion. For example, we read two articles about Iowa schools that teach gun safety as part of physical education – one for and one against. Students had to take a side, but they also had to choose a point from the other side to dispute. You can also ask questions like: “What might the other side say? And why might they feel that way?” during class discussions in order to get students thinking about other points of view.

A Handy State Test Writing Visual!

I created this handout as a visual for students as they prepare for the test. It has all of the tips I addressed above as well as some other general suggestions. If you’d like a free copy of this handout, click below. You’ll also be added to my email list and get other great ELA tips delivered right to your inbox.

It’s easy to think that if we are doing test prep we aren’t teaching anything else. But in fact the skills that students need to do well on the writing section – writing thesis statements, using facts and citing them appropratiely- are skills that students need to have no matter what they write. True, we have to outwit the computer that grades these essay a little bit. But we only need to modify our instruction a little bit to sharpen these skills for the task. And in the end that’s what good instruction is all about – knowing how to respond appropriately to whatever task you’re given.

Here are some other blog posts on writing you might enjoy:

Writing Rubrics That Give You Back Your Weekends

Building Better Topic Sentences

Mini Timed Writings: Getting Students to Write More Without More Grading

A Workshop Approach to Essay Planning

Learning should be fun! Check out my Teachers Pay Teachers store for fun resources like the ones you see below.

The post How To Improve Student Writing Scores on the State Test appeared first on David Rickert.

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Is Hamlet Shakespeare’s greatest play? It’s certainly one of the most widely taught. It’s been a staple of high school English curriculum for years – I have my mother’s old annotated copy from when she was in high school (and her notes are very useful!) I had to read it eight times in college for various English classes. It’s a great play, mainly because of how it dives deep into the human experience and portrays a man dealing with difficult issues of responsibility and loyalty.

My students like Shakespeare even if they struggle with the language. For many of them, Shakespeare is something you should do in school, and they like the challenge. However, one area I always struggled with was how to introduce each act so that they had enough information to understand what was going on, yet not so much that reading the play became unnecessary. Also, I am always looking for something to make Shakespeare more accessible. So I made the following set of comics.

The comic image above is from Hamlet: Comic Summaries and Activities. The comics provide an overview of what happens in each act in a fun and humorous way that is inspired by a misspent youth reading MAD magazine, comics,  and other irreverent publications.

They are a fun alternative to handing out summaries of the acts. For one thing, they don’t give too much away. Second, I have hidden Easter eggs throughout the panels of metaphors and images from each act. For instance, you’ll notice a porcupine in the last panel. I also put some Danish things in as well, like a Troll doll, a Lego, and … well, a danish.

In addition, I have included a bunch of fun activities to do while reading the play that get students interacting with monologues, digging deep into the text, and examining the motivations of various characters. But why should I talk about it when I can let someone who purchased it do the talking?

“A++ resource! The comics provide an excellent preview or review of each act–one that students actually enjoy–and combined with the “How well do you know Act __” sheets, you have enough to begin your journey through the play. But wait… there’s more! For every act, there are multiple activities that add to your study of the play–all attractive (even a comic Shakespeare biography), all useful, and all organized by act–with answer keys provided when relevant. The comics themselves are worth their weight in GOLD, but this includes additional activities that address topics such as key allusions and even fun-but-scholarly activities such as creating an outfit for a Hamlet paper doll based on text. On the “What you should know” from Act I, there’s a small pic of Hamlet that asks students to draw him a hat. I thought nothing of it and said nothing about it, but my seniors pretty much all drew something that they wanted to show me–even a ghost hat. lol. I have a variety of Hamlet sources, but you really could teach the play with just this, so whether it’s your 1st or 50th outing with our indecisive tragic hero, this product will bring joy to the process. As you can tell, I’m super impressed!”

Of course, since this is the students’ first exposure to Shakespeare, you’ll need to introduce the bard and do a warm-up activity or two. I have a set of Shakespeare Bell Ringers that introduce students to the language of the bard. Plus, if you go to my store you’ll find a bunch of other Shakespeare resources. And if you’d like all of this stuff bundled together with the Hamlet stuff check out my Hamlet and Shakespeare Bundle for these and more bundled together. And if you want a FREE comic that introduces Shakespeare and provides a little more background and an activity with a sonnet, click below and you’ll get it!
If you’d like even more fun things you can do with Shakespeare, you can find them in my Shakespeare activities bundle, which includes the Shakespeare biography, a lesson on iambic pentameter, and a lesson on Sonnet 18.

Learning should be fun! Check out my Teachers Pay Teachers store for fun resources like the ones you see below.

The post Hamlet: Comics and Activities to Use While Reading the Play appeared first on David Rickert.

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Othello is a great play to teach in high school. Iago is a great villain. Desdemona is a perfect innocent victim, someone who doesn’t deserve the treatment she received from a jealous significant other. They can relate to the play because they have all missed out on a leadership position that was given to someone they felt wasn’t as qualified as they are (especially if you teach it to seniors. Many of them were denied entry to a college that accepted someone else they know.) They get that revenge if taken too far can be a destructive emotion.

My students like Othello even if they struggle with the language. For many of them, Shakespeare is something you should do in school, and they like the challenge. However, one area I always struggled with was how to introduce each act so that they had enough information to understand what was going on, yet not so much that reading the play became unnecessary. Also, I am always looking for something to make Shakespeare more accessible. So I made the following set of comics.

The comic image above is from Othello: Comic Summaries and Activities. The comics provide an overview of what happens in each act in a fun and humorous way that is inspired by a misspent youth reading MAD magazine, comics,  and other irreverent publications.

They are a fun alternative to handing out summaries of the acts. For one thing, they don’t give too much away. Second, I have hidden Easter eggs throughout the panels of metaphors and images from each act (for instance, you’ll notice a black ram and white ewe in the middle panel.)

In addition, I have included a bunch of fun activities to do while reading the play that get students interacting with monologues, digging deep into the text, and examining the motivations of various characters. There’s even a puzzle page!

Of course, since this is the students’ first exposure to Shakespeare, you’ll need to introduce the bard and do a warm-up activity or two. I have a set of Shakespeare Bell Ringers that introduce students to the language of the bard. Plus, if you go to my store you’ll find a bunch of other Shakespeare resources. And if you want a FREE comic that introduces Shakespeare and provides a little more background and an activity with a sonnet, click below and you’ll get it!
If you’d like even more fun things you can do with Shakespeare, you can find them in my Shakespeare activities bundle, which includes the Shakespeare biography, a lesson on iambic pentameter, and a lesson on Sonnet 18.

Learning should be fun! Check out my Teachers Pay Teachers store for fun resources like the ones you see below.

The post Othello: Comics and Activities to Use While Reading the Play appeared first on David Rickert.

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I don’t think there’s a more fun Shakespeare play to teach than Macbeth. It moves quickly (it’s one of Shakespeare’s shorter plays) and has it all: bloodshed, valor, all wrapped up in a play about what happens when the temptation to get what you want present itself. And it has witches! I also like that no matter how many times I read it, there’s always something new to discover. For instance, I just learned about the controversy about who the third murderer of Banquo might be. Lots of interesting theories there.

My students like Macbeth even if they struggle with the language. They rise to the challenge. For many of them Shakespeare is something you should do in school, so they don’t put up too much of a fuss. However, one area I always struggled with was how to introduce each act so that they had enough information to understand what was going on, yet not so much that reading the play became unnecessary. Also, I am always looking for something to make Shakespeare more accessible. So I made the following set of comics.

The comic image above is from Macbeth: Comic Summaries and Activities. The comics provide an overview of what happens in each act in a fun and humorous way that is inspired by a misspent youth reading MAD magazine, comics,  and other irreverent publications.

They are a fun alternative to handing out summaries of the acts. For one thing, they don’t give too much away. Second, I have hidden Easter eggs throughout the panels of metaphors and images from each act (for instance, you’ll notice the “innocent flower” with the “serpent” underneath.)

The back side of these cartoons have activities centered around the work that will get kids interacting with the text in informative and creative ways. For example, there’s an activity that explores allusions with Robert Frost’s “Out, Out-.”

Of course, since this is the students’ first exposure to Shakespeare, you’ll need to introduce the bard and do a warm-up activity or two. I have a set of Shakespeare Bell Ringers that introduce students to the language of the bard. Or if you’d like the Macbeth comics and the Bell Ringers bundled with a bunch of other stuff, check out my Macbeth and Shakespeare Bundle for a whole bunch of goodies. Also, if you want a FREE comic that introduces Shakespeare and provides a little more background and an activity with a sonnet, click below and you’ll get it!
If you’d like even more fun things you can do with Shakespeare, you can find them in my Shakespeare activities bundle, which includes the Shakespeare biography, a lesson on iambic pentameter, and a lesson on Sonnet 18.

Learning should be fun! Check out my Teachers Pay Teachers store for fun resources like the ones you see below.

The post Macbeth: Comic Activities to Use While Reading the Play appeared first on David Rickert.

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