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Monthly Archives: December 2018

29th December 2018

How to engage disinterested students

Teaching teenagers can be hard. Teaching teenagers who are disinterested, disengaged, and even (sometimes) disruptive can be really hard. So here are my two go-to strategies for when things are getting a little sleepy or even a little feisty in my classroom.

The two ideas are called: the class coach and the student helpline!

The Class Coach

I love this activity and use it regularly with both younger and older students. It’s great to use at any point in your unit of learning, but I especially like to use it on a day when we are tackling something tricky.

How to engage disinterested teens

The simple is very simple. One student becomes your class’s coach (football, hockey, swimming – whichever works for you) for the lesson or day. They are responsible for encouraging the team and keeping them focused. It is just that though because the class coach has to keep everyone on their best game throughout the lesson, they have to be fully engaged. They have to watch what’s going on, they have to see who’s winning, and who needs to support. 

Here’s how it works:

  1. Nominate your class coach (at first I choose, then later when students are comfortable with the whole thing, I take volunteers).
  2. They are in charge of giving the class a pep-talk at the beginning of the lesson. Give them a time limit of no more than one minute.
  3. Keep your instructions to the coach clear and simple. Mine are: remind the class of their strengths and of everything they have learned so far.
  4. Sometimes we have a special hat to wear or a microphone or a flag (this depends on the embarrassment levels of my teenagers).
  5. So the opening pep-talk is aspirational, inspirational, and motivational!
  6. Then halfway through the lesson, the class coach has to review everything we’ve done.
  7. Again my instructions are: point out what we’ve learned, give a shout-out to students who answered questions or made good points, name students who you could see were working really hard.
  8. Sometimes (depending on the confidence levels of the coach) I might ask other students to nominate their peers for a shout-out at this point. Just in case the coach misses someone.
  9. Finally, at the end of the lesson, the coach can sum up. They should sum how the team (class) did. The only rule I have for this activity is that it is 100% positive. I tell my students that people don’t need it pointing out when they are struggling (they know they are struggling) or if they made a mistake (again, they know). So the class coach keeps the positive and lets everything else slide.

I hope it’s easy to see what the benefits of this activity are. It can take a while for my students to get the hang of doing a great job. I have to model what I want them to do – I generally do a whole session based on this as I am getting my classroom routines sorted at the beginning of the year. However, once they have nailed it. The class coach is something that students are begging to be.

Here is why I love it: it increases engagement, especially for the coach; it increases positivity because there is always something good about getting a shout-out and recognition; it gives the students a voice – and often what they see, I might not have seen.

Try it out a few times and let me know what you think!

The Student Helpline

I also love this activity! And thankfully, it is super easy to explain.  The idea is another very simple one: create a helpline in your classroom. You can use this activity at any point in learning as a quick recap or to generate more discussion. This year, I am adding a fake phone to my classroom to help!

how to engage disinterested teens

Here’s how it works:

  1. Pair up your students and have them stand or sit back to back.
  2. One student rings the help-line (yep, I literally make them say “ring, ring” and “hello student helpline” or “hello Frankenstein helpline”!
  3. The calling student then has to ask for more information what they have learned. As in “I really don’t understand the point of the letters at the beginning of Frankenstein, can you explain it to me?”
  4. The help-line (the other student) has to explain the idea/concept or information. Being back to back is key as it focuses students precisely on listening and responding directly to the question asked.

Obviously, this can be a whole class activity, where every student is sitting back to back. Or if you prefer you can have a student volunteer to man the helpline. They can come and sit at the front of the room, then other students can take it in turns to ask them questions.

This is a fun and engaging activity. It usually starts and ends with laughter. Yet there is a clear learning purpose involved. Students are practicing reforming their knowledge and understanding, these synthesis and summarizing skills are important.

Drop me a comment below if you try these ideas out and let me know how they went!

If you are looking for other fun and engaging activities to use in your ELA classroom, why not check out these blog posts:

The Perfect Review Game

One Amazing Debate Idea

Also, each week I send an email out to my teacher-friends, in this message, I include one classroom activity (like the perfect review game) and one literature activity (like this blackout writing activity). They are always fun, engaging, and designed to create brilliant learning moments for your students. If you would like to receive this weekly email (I send it on a Sunday morning – ready to help stave off those Sunday scaries), then all you need to do is fill out the email sign up below!

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Celebrate Christmas in your ELA classroom

It is an absolute pleasure that I have joined a group of a-m-a-z-i-n-g secondary bloggers to bring you the 12 Days of December Blog Hop and Giveaway! So grab a cuppa, snuggle up, and enjoy. Click here to find out more about the 12 Days of December Blog Hop.

So – here’s my seasonal serving of Christmas cheer!

Spread some Christmas Joy: thank a teacher, friend, hero

Christmas is a timing of giving, right?! But it doesn’t have to be about spending money, sometimes a hand-made-with-love gift is worth more than anything store bought. So in my classroom (with my pretty cynical London teens) we make and give cards to teachers, support staff, dinner ladies, traffic wardens – in fact any adult in our school.

These FREE card templates are super cool, slick, and modern design. If your teens aren’t interested in Christmas cottages or cuddly Santas, then these FREE card templates are just for you and your students. There are 10 designs to download and print yourself >>>here<<<. Just print, give to your students, color and spread some Christmas joy!

We color them for teachers in other subject areas to say thank you. We color them for support staff and dinner ladies, who are always there with a smile and a joke. We color them for our friends to remind them we care. We color them for family because nothing’s better than a homemade gift – right?! And finally we color them for the residents in our local area, we drop them through their letterboxes to wish them the best of year.

This year, for the first time we will color them for the elderly residents of a local care home. Many are alone, many will have no visitors at all over Christmas. This year, we hope to bring them joy.

If you love the idea of creating Christmas Cards with your students, then check out this hilarious Christmas Card poem writing lesson. Teach your class anaphora, anadiplosis, epistrophe, and other rhetorical devices to create some classic festive card poetry.

And so don’t forget to download your free card templates, print, and bring some comfort and joy to your classroom! I would love to see your finished cards – so do tag me on IG @literaturedaydreams!

Write some Christmas Joy

 

Christmas is a fantastic time of year for creative writing activities. Here are a few of my favorites!

The UK department store, John Lewis, is famous in England for having wonderful, cosy, uplifting, heart-warming, and generally all-round wow Christmas TV advertisements.

These adverts make wonderful writing prompts. Just show the advert to your classes and give them the writing prompts below! Here are my favorites:

Writing prompt: describe someone struggling to wrap an awkward present.

Make sure you watch this one to the very end! Writing prompt: describe that ‘bed-time on Christmas Eve’ excitement.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iccscUFY860

Writing Prompt: Write a narrative where a wild animal brings unexpected joy at Christmas!

If you enjoy these writing prompts, then you might also like my Christmas Fun Writing Prompt Bundle.

Host an Elizabethan Christmas!

If you are looking for something a little different for your Literature classroom this Christmas then perhaps you could host an Elizabethan Christmas. If you teach Shakespeare at this time of year, then this question might have popped into your brain!

Well, in short – I would say – an Elizabethan Christmas was chaotic fun, social, and full of beauty. An easy way to introduce your students to this would be to pose the question: “what did everyone eat for Christmas dinner in 1588?” Let them guess. The answer is not surprising and surprising all at once. Goose. Goose wasn’t the usual meal for everyone at Christmas time in those days. But in the year 1588, by Royal decree, everyone in England was to eat goose. Why, I hear you ask? Because a goose was the first animal that Queen Elizabeth I saw after hearing that the Navy had defeated the invading Spanish Armada! (Thankfully it was a cat or a horse!)

This host an Elizabethan Christmas set contains hours and hours of fun. The centerpiece – or showstopper – is group work activity where each group brings a gift to your Christmas celebration. They research, and then make an object to represent six elements of Christmas for the Elizabethans. The Christmas Candle, the Yule Log, the Dawn Mass, the Feast and more.

Your students will work together, learn a great deal about an Elizabethan Christmas, they will have fun, and build community in your classroom. What better way to bring comfort and joy this Christmastide!

Don’t forget to find to check out what treats my secondary seller friends have in store for your this season. Click here to find all the details. A-n-d don’t forget to enter our Giveaway for a chance to win some amazing prizes!


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How to host an Elizabethan Christmas in your classroom!

Engage and inspire your students this festive season by hosting an Elizabethan Christmas in your classroom. Don’t worry – no cooking required!

Let me ask you something:

  • Did you know that in the year 1588 Queen Elizabeth I declared that everyone should eat goose for Christmas dinner?
  • Did you know that there were no Christmas trees in the Elizabethan times?
  • Did you know during the 1600s midnight mass was held at dawn to celebrate the transition from darkness into light?

Interesting isn’t it?

Every time I teach a Shakespeare play – I find myself wondering “would they have done this in Elizabethan times?” My questions usually run to “did they play football?” (the answer is yes, it was called Gameball and was more violent than you can imagine) or “did they have oranges then?”(the answer is yes again, although only the very rich would have been able to afford them, they also had melons and pomegranates).

Last year in the run up to Christmas, I happened to be teaching a number of Shakespeare plays. By sheer luck my brain was stuffed full of the Elizabethans and so it wasn’t a surprise then when this question wormed its way in: “what was an Elizabethan Christmas like?”

If I had to sum up an Elizabethan Christmas in 3 words, I would choose: fun, collegial, symbolic.

Fun meant food and games and frivolity. The festive season for the Elizabethan was the moment in the year where the hard work of life ceased and every man, woman, and child celebrated the festival of mid-winter.

Collegial and shared celebrations were the norm for all. At this point of the year the rigidity of social class structures dissolved. Noble man and peasant would stand side by side to share in Christmas cheer.

Symbolism and ritual were also the hallmark of this season. The Christmas Candle, the Yule log, Wassailing, and the 7 course banquet all played a role in making Christmas truly spectacular period for the Elizabethans.

So how can you bring some Elizabethan fun into your classroom?

Read a poem about an Elizabethan Christmas

Read Thomas Tusser’s poem “Christmas Cheer” as an introduction to Elizabethan Christmas festivities and perhaps even study some Elizabethan Christmas Carols in your lessons.

My “Host an Elizabethan Christmas” set includes Tusser’s poem along with other authentic texts describing an Elizabethan Christmas. It also includes 4 Elizabethan carols for your students to read, understand, and explain.

Work together to host an Elizabethan Christmas

Create a beautiful Christmas community in your classroom with this fun and informative group work task.  Here’s how it works:

In groups, students learn about the different elements of an Elizabethan Christmas (for example Christmas decorations, or the Yule Log). They then have 2 creative tasks to share with the class:

  1. first, create a visual summary of what they have learnt (see the sunburst sheet for an example below) and then and most importantly,
  2. they make their gift to contribute to the class Elizabethan Christmas.  There are 6 groups and they make: the feast (see the peacock, goose and ships); the yule log; the Christmas candle; a people paper chain, decorations; and Christmas stars. Each one of these represents the ritual and symbolism of an Elizabethan Christmas.

Everything you need to set up this group work activity is included in my Elizabethan Christmas pack. It is almost as easy as print and go (you just need scissors, glue, colors and you are done!)

Once the groups have made their gifts, they can give a presentation covering what they have learned and this foldable mini-book is a great place for students to record their new knowledge.

That’s not all..!

This set also includes:

  • A description game to guess the complete menu of a Tudor 7 course Christmas banquet.
  • A guide to creating your own Elizabethan Christmas banquet.
  • An explanation of the tradition of The Lord Of Misrule, with an opportunity to become a modern day Lord of Misrule.
  • Information on Mummer’s Plays and their purpose, and a modern re-imagining of this traditional hero story.
  • Some Elizabethan Christmas games and how to play them, including “Hide fox and after all”; “Hotcockles” and “Snapdragon”.
  • Last but not least, an exploration of the tradition of Wassailing and its reinvention into carol singing or yule-singing.

This fun and engaging set contains 3 days+ of activities and will bring some hilarity, joy, and a lot Christmas history into your classroom. Click here to go straight to this set.

Christmas activities your teens will love!

I don’t know about you but I love Christmas. I love Christmas, like I love Shakespeare.
It’s a deep abiding love. The run-up to the holidays here in London is full of little traditions – today is Stir Up Sunday (which I have failed to do and so am behind already!), next week we have our Christmas Give Back collections at school, the Christmas concert, carol service, secret Santa. You name it, we do it.

And yet…every year the teens in my classroom moan and complain about everything Christmas (except the snacks). They love to hate it. They hate the music, they hate the decorations, the Christmas jumpers, buying presents, being nice. Scrooges and Grinches the lot of them. So each year I do 2 activities to combat these Scrooges of ELA.

No.1 color a card for someone at school and
No.2 write your own Christmas card poem.

Color a Christmas Card

These cards are super cool, the slick, modern designs appeal to our London teens. They aren’t interested in Christmas cottages or cuddly Santas. They want something modern, not traditional.

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Christmas-Card-coloring-template-set-FREEBIE-2885538
There are 10 designs to download and print yourself >>>here<<<. Totally free.  I probably end up printing about 100 each year.
  • We color them for teachers in other subject areas to say thank you.
  • We color them for support staff and dinner ladies, who are always there with a smile and a joke.
  • We color them for our friends to remind them we care.
  • We color them for family because nothing’s better than a homemade gift – right?!
  • And finally, we color them for the residents in our local area, we drop them through their letterboxes to wish them the best of year.
This year, for the first time we will color them for the elderly residents of a local care home. Many are alone, many will have no visitors at all over Christmas. This year, we hope to bring them joy.
And so please download, print, and encourage your cynical or sweet teens to be jolly this Christmas too.

Write your own Christmas card poem

To go along with our newly colored Christmas cards, we get stuck into writing our own Christmas card poems.  I love to convince my students that if all else fails, they could be the Hallmark writers of the future.  I haven’t yet taught this lesson (it usually takes about 2 hours) yet without cracking up at what the kids come up with. It’s Christmas hilarity at its best.
In this lesson, I teach my students 7 different techniques for writing Christmas poems.  For our youngest students (aged 11) this is a great introduction to the rhetorical and literary devices that they will later analyze.  For older students (16 -18) this lesson takes the devices we analyze every day, but now we get to twist and turn until they work for us.
As Christmas approaches students who know me begin to ask “when we will do the funny poems lesson Miss?” and kids, who I taught years ago, will stop me in the playground and say “Miss do you remember that lesson when…”
I love it. They love it. Christmas fun for all.
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Christmas-Card-Poem-writing-lesson-2885580
In the resource here, I cover cliché, anaphora, anadiplosis, epistrophe, epanalepsis, diacope, and tricolon.  For each device, there are some great examples (the name’s Bond, James Bond), a modelled example for you to work on together as a class AND then instructions on how to write their own sentences or phrases.
At the end of it all, we take our notes and muddle them up, mix them around, and shake them together to create our own series of Christmas card poems. Check out this lesson here!
If you are looking for more ideas for Christmas lessons, have a look at these blog posts:


Love Creative Writing in your classroom!

Are you ready for dynamite descriptive writing in your classroom?Download your FREE 3-step guide now!

*I send emails with teaching tips, tricks, and free resources to my subscribers regularly. I value your privacy and you can learn more about how I handle your data in our private policy. You can unsubscribe at any time.

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