Stolen Material!

98% of what I do in the classroom is stolen material. Yeah, yeah, I preach at my kids all day long about stealing other people’s work. And here I am. Stealing other people’s work. So I thought I would cite two of my favorite heists!

Tracee Orman is a wonderful lady. If I can, I hope to meet her some day. She is working with Common Core standards and implementing them in SUCH creative and colorful ways! She has so many resources for interactive notebooks (a project I undertook last year, but haven’t quite perfected it or used it since…). I just used her “Roar” lesson which is absolutely brilliant. I started out my poetry unit using it as a way to get kids involved. They loved it. I frequently use her organizers. I just used one TWICE this week as we evaluated arguments in my traditional classes. They’re generic enough to work with anything you an imagine. I combine them with my PASS skill worksheets. Anyone who hates on me for using Common Core aligned worksheets needs to take a chill pill. The goal is the same: educate chirren. Seriously though, just check out her Pinterest and her Teacher-Pay-Teachers store. Brilliant.

Danielle Knight is also another very creative teacher. I just started stealing from her (and by steal, I mean pay for stuff from her…). She has such great ideas for flip books! I’m going to use her Lord of the Flies flip book this May, when I go through it with my traditional classes. It’ll be a quick way to keep all the info together. She has many other flip books and some good bundles for teaching individual ideas and lessons.

These ladies help me out so much in the classroom. What fun things have you “stolen” from other teachers?

MM

Appositively Difficult.

See what I did there?

I’ve been teaching appositives for a whole year now. They’re really quite simple; it’s just a noun that is used to describe another noun. I am Mandi, but I am a teacher, a jogger, Justin’s wife, etc. So in a sentence, when I want to give more details about myself, without rambling on, I would say something like, “Mandi, an English teacher, likes to read books.” There’s also punctuation mixed in with these tricksy beasts. Did I have to include the information about Mandi being an English teacher? No. But by doing so, I gave the reader a better image of who Mandi is. Because the information was unnecessary, I “blocked it off” with commas (because it’s a nonrestrictive appositive describing Mandi).

Phew. Now that that’s over, let’s talk about how to teach these little buggers. Teaching appositives sucks. There, I said it. We only spend about two days on them, and we use them in our Unit 2 writing assignment (an autobiographical narrative that includes dialogue). I’m under a time crunch with my block class (January-May), as it is almost spring break, and I still haven’t gotten to poetry. I digress… Last semester, while teaching appositives for the FOURTH time (they say having the same class all day is easy, and it is, the fourth time you teach the lesson), I had a brilliant opener for these stupid nouns. I always preface lessons with why kids need to learn appositives. On their End of Instruction Exams, they will be asked grammatical questions that will focus on where commas go. They will never ask a child to identify an appositive, but they may ask them to put commas around something that is an appositive. Kids won’t know how to do that if they don’t first know the rules. (If they’d just use the term appositive, I think kids would do better, but what do I know. I’m just a teacher).

My opener involves markers and the back side of the appositive worksheet-packet that I hand out. I love using markers, and as we all know, I love annotating texts. It gets the kids visually engaged as we flesh things out. I start by having them write their name very large at the top of their paper. Then, they choose three nouns that describe them, along with three adjectives. It’s difficult for kids to wrap their heads around the fact that NOUNS describe things just as much as adjectives.

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Then we put it all together in a sentence, lingering on the fact that I COULD replace their name with their noun, but it gives more info if I don’t AND I could get rid of the noun, but it gives more info if I don’t! “And that is an appositive.” Minds blow. Markers drop. Foggy eyes become clear. It’s really quite amazing.

0310150946cThat’s my “secret.” I use the McDougal Littell Language Network 10 worksheets (it’s three pages long and meant for practice after the book exercises, which I never use) for practice because they have the definition and just enough “find the appositive” and “practice with the appositives” to be helpful. We will use our own appositives in writing tomorrow, when we will begin learning how to write dialogue for an “autobiographical narrative” (a very, very short story about ourselves).

Good luck with grammar! It can be so hard to teach these days, but so fulfilling when it sticks!

MM

Midterms.

I haven’t written since last semester at this very moment. I suppose, just as the sun comes up in the east and goes down in the west, some things never change.

After some good, grading-filled snow days, I am now facing the doom that is midterm grade postings. I have several dozen missing assignments, many voices clamoring to be heard as they all cry out in one, unified voice, “what assignments am I missing?”

Now. Is. Not. The. Time.

Today I gave students a 200 point assignment (which was easy as pie, I’m not an ogre). It was given in effort to pick up some missing points. As I told a good friend of mine last night, “If I assign this, the kids who are passing will continue to do well on it and pass. Those who are not, will not give a hoot. They will continue to have poor grades and I’ll be stuck grading their assignment!”

Rant over. I did give the assignment, and lo and behold! Mama put the coins on my eyes because I cannot believe I was right! (hyperbole for you; you’re welcome) As the old, misconstrued saying goes, “You can lead a horse to water, but that doesn’t make it right.” I have preached since day one that I will do my utmost: I will grade papers, I will assign meaningful assignments, I will show up on time and look like an adult, I will give respect even when disrespected. I. Will. Do. My. Part. But I cannot, I repeat, CANNOT make up grades. I cannot pull numbers out of my butt. I cannot hold your hand and make your pencil write. I can only do MY best. What little I ask in return is THEIR best.

I see many teachers walk these halls and shrug their shoulders when kids slack off. I get it. It’s as frustrating as a one legged man in a butt kicking contest. I know it is! BUT (ah, the existential but), I take my job seriously, and I take my kids’ future seriously. While we all may never sit and extrapolate the joys and hardships of a literary novel for the rest of our lives, I do find that English work and language arts are useful for a myriad of things. A few notable ones being communication, not looking like a boob when communicating with smart people, effective arguments in daily living, and written expression (a tool we all use, way more than we realize).

This is why I get mad when my 1st hour has a combined average of 67%. This is why I am furious when kids sleep in my class. This is why I am angrily tapping out this article.

You can care about a horse, lead him to water, but he doesn’t have to drink. And that’s okay. Well, it’s okay for me. Not for them. I won’t quit leading them there, I won’t quit stopping by the trough. They will quit. And they will tug on the lead. And they will kick and punch and sleep. He doesn’t have to drink. He doesn’t have to respond. I do what I do because I know I need to do it, because 75% of my horses drink. Even if just 1% drank, I would continue to do it (but I would also seriously evaluate a. my kids and their abilities and b. my own abilities! I mean 1% is really sad… it’s something, but it’s also sad!).

We’re heading into Spring Break, and I’m praying that love of education blossoms in their hearts like the lilies in my front yard.

Welcome to Mrs. Mac’s classroom, we’ve got spirit; yes we do!

MM

I think I know how He Feels

It’s midterms here at school! That means all of those zeroes are rising up from their sleepy graves and haunting those do-poorly students as they face report cards.

My most unfavoritest time of the year!

I love struggling students. I love to help them and encourage them. I love to see them turn things in. But you see, that’s the rub: turning things in. I would argue that 90% of my failing students fail because they don’t turn things in. Not that they would have made stellar grades on it, but at least they would have gotten points.

It’s been a rough year for a few of my students; they’ve missed quite a bit of class due to illnesses. It’s weird, though, that I never ever see this illness in my class. They just miss a lot of school. Moving on. I’ve held lunch sessions, offered make-ups, given detailed assignment sheets, given the opportunity for bonus points (that were earned, I assure you). I even offered a full class period of one-on-one help and make-ups last week because our school was “out” for Softball Finals. Did the students take the advantage of it? Yes, actually. All but one. That sick kid who is never sick, he chose to go to the game. “Oh, I’ll turn all of those papers in tomorrow.”

Skeptical teacher look, “Including that 100 point assignment that I’ve given you an extra week on?”

“Oh yeah yeah, I’ll turn it all in.”

Friday comes around: no student, no papers. Monday comes around: student, no papers.

0.

0.

0.

0.

0.

0.

0.

0.

Phew. That’s a lot of zeroes! The kid went from a passing grade to an F in 15 seconds. He was gone on Friday, as well, and when I gave him his absent work (an open notes review test) he refused to do it, “But you didn’t tell me the instructions!”

“Well, I told you it was open notes, multiple choice, and due tomorrow. If you’d even looked at the test, the instructions are right on top.”

Huffing and puffing.

Fast forward to about 15 minutes ago, soft knocks at the door. “Oh hey so… I forgot my test or lost it or something, can I have another?”

My heart has never beat so loud in my ears. I’ve never been so irate. I got him a test, and can’t wait to grade it.

I have given this student in particular time, after time, after time, after time to correct his mess, to finish his work, to do what I asked of him. But he refuses. All I get are half-hearted apologies and assignments that are failed simply because he doesn’t listen to instructions.

And as I sat down to pound all of this out on the keyboard, MAD TEACHER STATUS, I heard a soft whisper (no joke), “Really? Because… isn’t that what you do to Me? All the time? Despite my, you know, death on the cross for your sins and all of that grace I have continually poured out for you?”

Oh. Ouch.

Seriously, this kid is doing to me, an imperfect teacher, exactly what I do to Christ daily. I don’t listen. I don’t “turn stuff in.” I don’t do what I’m asked to do, I just sorta do it. And here I sit, all mad and angry at this kid, seeking justice, wanting him to do better but instead of having pity and praying for him, I am so mad I could spit.

A wise woman once told me that she told her daughter in a time of pride, “I doubt you could ever be so put upon, unless you’ve slammed that crown of thorns upon your own head and had to die for that person’s sins!” (I’m paraphrasing). And isn’t it true?! Who am I to get hurt about the injustice done when I myself am committing an injustice with FAR greater consequences? If we took the time each day to realize the grace poured on our own hearts, how much grace would we then pour out to others?

The kid comes back in about 28 minutes. Praying for grace and clarity, and for a better semester ahead.

Ready for Fall Break! Ready for Christ to break me.

MM

The Last Day Before School

It’s hot, y’all.

I drive to school and green grass is everywhere I look — a seasonal anomaly, as it has been a relatively cool summer. Not in the basement. After a series of unfortunate events here at Bethel, ending in the absence of AC here in the basement.

But all is not lost!

I am so excited for this school year to start. I’m ready to see my kids, to teach them, and to grow as a teacher. I’ve been blogging for two whole years now about the ups and downs of teaching, but I must say: I love it. I’m finally to the point where most of my energy is not in writing my curriculum but in assessing where students are at. I’m so ready for my IEP list. I’m ready for grading essays. I’m ready for intense group projects. I’m ready for routine.

Now I just got in an argument with my husband the other day about routine and how we should be spontaneous — however, there’s something pretty calming in knowing exactly what I plan on doing the next day. Summer break is great, but so is structure!

As I head into this year, I hope to blog more and start posting more of my lessons and templates as well as focus on being SIMPLE. This last year was a marathon of crazy. By Christmas break, I was ready for summer break to be here already. With wedding planning, a long distance relationship, and moving: life was crazy. As things start to settle down, I’m praying that I fill my plate with meaningful things — a considerably less amount of meaningful things. I’m hailing back to my RA days where our favorite buzzword, other than community, was intentionality.

It means more Jesus time. More community. More relationship building. More focus on the things I’ve already got started, and doing them well! It does not mean that I sign up to be the assistant STUCO leader, or sign up for sports games every week, or try to save the world.

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

As you head into the school year, or your kids head into it, or you’re simply wrapping up your Monday, keep it simple. Do what you do well, and always for the glory of God.

MM

How to Organize Your Life (or at least pretend to)

So with school ending, house-moving, and wedding-planning: my life is a hot mess.

binder coverI’ve gone through several types of planners (in just the last year, but ssh it’s not a problem, I can stop whenever I want). There was the small Moleskine with the weekly dates on one side and a full note page on the other. There was the full 9×12 weekly planner with HUGE monthly pages; three days on one side, four on the other (I wrote out all of my assignments in that one). There was the tiny cute ones with the elaborate pages and cute little folders. The teeny tiny one I could fit in my pocket. I recently found a landscape version of a normal planner, which I use for planning assignments. I’ve had them all!

After perusing several options online, purchasing a few templates from Etsy, I’ve finally settled on one:

my own.

That’s right. I’ve created my own planner! Isn’t it precious? I’m currently obsessed with the teal binders at Target and J+M. Precious.

binder inside

I’ve gone through three different versions of my daily pages. What I really needed from my planner was the ability to make long to-do lists, have a list of meetings, keep track of my Bible study, AND have a place where I can write special event type things. I couldn’t do all of those things in my tiny cute planner because what happened was just a mass of post-its, big and small, all over the pages until the pages were almost unnecessary! So, I came up with this (after much trial and error).

What I have is a HUGE to-do list, with priority classification and a box to check off (because who doesn’t love checking off boxes?!).

I also have a small section with meetings — whether it’s calling someone, meeting them, or taking something somewhere: I have it here! There’s a very designated area for the time and the meeting.

I also have this little box which is free to be used for WHATEVER. Packing lists. Grocery lists. Books to read. Etc. It’s cute! (Don’t you love that washi tape?)

to do listAnd then finally, I have the box for Bible Study. J and I are currently reading chronologically through the Bible this year. I use my bible.com app to keep track, but sometimes I just want to reference it real quick (and, you know, use a pen to mark it off!). So here, I write down about two weeks in advance what I’m supposed to be reading. It’ll also be helpful when I start other studies this summer/fall (Women’s Bible study, College Girls’ Bible study, spiritual development, etc).

calendarNow, those to-do lists are all fine and dandy, but I still need a big calendar to keep track of big events. I purchased this one on Etsy* and had it printed at DemCo on cardstock (so many prepositions). However, I’m quickly regretting it. It’s terribly cute! However, in a normal planner, which is smaller, a double sided calendar is a must. In a larger planner, such as this one, of my own creation, it’s hard to write on because of the big cute pocket in front which keeps post-its and markers. So, next year (or quite possibly very soon), I’m going to find a one sided calendar.

All that to say, this is still a work in progress. But I’m glad with what’s happening. With all that’s going on, it’s important for me to be and feel organized. (now if only I could focus my time on my to-do list and not on this blog-post…)

If you’d like a copy of the to-do list (not that it’s that fancy), please let me know. I’m happy to share!

MK

How to Teach English II Good, and Stuff

*deep breath*

My students have been testing the last week or so (for English II and various other classes), so I’ve had quite a lot of time on my hands. After taking down all of the unnecessary and outdated wall-hangings, organizing my files, and taking out the recycling I finally sat down and worked on my curriculum.

I have textbooks, resources, and a handful of random workbooks from which to glean my curriculum. I DO NOT have time to teach the whole literature book. I just don’t. So I have had to find ways to teach the key elements in as little time as possible. Besides literature, I also need to implement more grammar and vocabulary. Part of the 10th grade norm is to write a research paper, which I never seem to have time for. That’s they key here: all of those things take time!

This year, I tried to teach Lord of the Flies to my block class for all of the concepts. Do not do that. The kids don’t get as much grammar, writing instruction, and vocabulary AND they get bored with the book. It’s bad. Unfortunately, I see it’s disadvantage in less-than-satisfactory kids’ test scores. Where normally I might be able to catch those fall-behind kids, I totally didn’t this semester. That’s another blog.

So after beating my heIMG_5661ad against the literal and proverbial desk, I finally sat down after cleaning and made a true, grammar and vocab filled, concept rich curriculum which I have neatly fit into a block class schedule (just one semester, 1.25 hours a day). I have plenty of writing. I hit all of the key concepts. And I even get to include a research paper AND Julius Caesar!

Ah. The relief! The unadulterated freedom and peace!

It’s ended up being a 6 unit curriculum, with 1-2 added book projects (to be completed outside of class).

Introduction: sentence structure, MLA format, and Main Idea and Details

Unit 1: Plot, Conflict & Character

Unit 2: POV and Genre

Unit 3: Poetry

Unit 4: Non-Fiction

Unit 5: Argument and Persuasion

Unit 6: Julius Caesar

Lord of the Flies and  Huckleberry Finn are staple Sophomore English texts, so I’m going to make them required outside-of-school readings with book reports (which is slightly different than my Accelerated English II assignments, which are indepth readings of Secret Life of Bees, Anthem, and Things Fall Apart).

They said by the third year, teaching would become a lot more second-nature. And they weren’t kidding! So excited to finally have a complete curriculum. So much of teaching is trial and error, seeing works and what doesn’t, seeing what kids need to be taught and what they just need to review… It’s safe to say that my job is new EVERY time I enter the classroom. And that’s a-okay with me.

MK

(soon to be MM)