How a visualizer transformed my ELA lessons

I have had a visualizer (document camera) in my classroom for a few years. I would use it once in a blue moon. Mostly to show the class something that I couldn’t copy. This year, I was thinking about how I could achieve 2 of my personal classroom targets. It turns out that my visualizer was the key to meeting both targets.

Target 1: engage the middle achievers

Quite a few of my classes contain groups of middle achievers, who have a tendency to sit in lessons not doing too much. They complete enough work to scrape by. They don’t cause trouble. They don’t answer questions. They are coasting. This year – I was going to change that. No more passive students!

Target 2: reduce handouts

I want to intentionally cut down on using paper in my classroom. As an English teacher, it feels like I do nothing but generate paper. Unfortunately, we have zero technology available, so that wasn’t an answer. I needed to find an alternate solution to the countless worksheets, printed articles, and practice tests I use.

visualizer and words saying how a visualizer improved my lessons

The unexpected key to success?

This IPEVO* visualizer/document camera proved to be the unexpected key to my success. My very no-techy explanation of what a visualizer is: it’s a camera, that plugs into your computer USB port and you can manipulate to point at a book, sheet, or whatever on your desk. It then projects the image onto your computer screen and thus onto your classroom screen / interactive whiteboard.

Perhaps you have a visualizer knocking around your department, here are a few ways you can put it to good use. If you don’t own one – I can’t exaggerate enough how much I love mine.

UK link* https://amzn.to/2OorlJh

Idea 1: annotate like a boss!

I ‘live annotate’ my literature texts with my class. All my classes have to do examination-style tests on their literature texts. It could be a 19th-century novel, Shakespeare, poetry – they are all tested by a cold extract exam. They don’t get their copy of the book with them. No notes. Just what is in their brain.

So they need a lot in their brains!

First up is ‘live annotation’. I essentially teach the skill of reading and annotating using my visualizer. I put my blank copy of the text under the camera and as we read, we annotate together. It might be comprehension details, word meaning, connotations, themes, or links to historical context.

Visualizer pointing at an annotated book

The unexpected upside for my coasting students was that this activity was so concrete and so easy at the beginning, that they got all the annotations down without even thinking about it. After all, at the beginning, all they were doing was copying.

As time passed, I asked more questions “what should we be annotating here?” and it felt much less like spoon-feeding my students. Everyone was so comfortable by then that they would be suggesting ideas. They had learned a skill which wouldn’t necessarily have come naturally to them!

Idea 2: no more basic worksheets!

I can’t tell you how many times I have printed and copied 30 blank table worksheet for my class to fill out. Just because I couldn’t be bothered to go through the hassle of explaining exactly how many columns and rows were needed. I admit it, I was lazy. I couldn’t deal with “I’ve run out of room!” or “It doesn’t fit in my column!”

Now I just use my visualizer to demonstrate exactly what I want the table to look like. I get a blank piece of paper, line it up under my visualizer, draw the first line – everyone copies – draw the next line. It probably takes about the same amount of time as handing out 30 sheets and getting them glued in books.

The secondary upside is my meager contribution to saving the planet by reducing copying!

Idea 3: Supported differentiation

In addition to my coasting students, I have a few classes that really struggle with English. Although these classes tend to be smaller and specialist, it is always hard for me to get around and spend time with every student.

worksheet, visualizer, and laptop showing work

I use my visualizer as a way to provide me with more 1-2-1 time with certain pupils. Let me give you an example: say we are covering the difference between showing and telling. We complete the first task together, on the visualizer (which means I can also model good handwriting etc). I leave the work on the screen, so my slower writers can take their time to write it down.

I can then circulate around the class to give individual support.

This works better than going through the work verbally because I don’t have to keep repeating myself.

It also works better than typing the work onto my screen / whiteboard because I can interact directly with the ideas – I can circle words, change them, highlight, put stars by things as I am explaining.

Idea 4: modeled marking and improvement

I’ve saved the best to last. This idea has made a huge difference to my students progress. I started ‘live marking’ in the same way that I did ‘live annotating’. My classes would complete a piece of creative writing or an essay. I would take responses from 4 – 5 volunteers and mark them live using the visualizer.

school notebook, visualizer, and laptop showing work

Let me break it down for you: say you wanted to work on thesis statements. I would ‘live mark’ those 4 – 5 pieces of work by placing them under the visualizer and looking at just the thesis statements. We would work out together which were the strongest, how to identify the weaknesses, and how to improve any that needed improvement. The rest of the class would then look at their own thesis statements and self-assess.

These are just a few ways that I use a visualizer in my classroom!

Leave a message in the comments if you use a visualizer. I’d love to find even more ways to use it in my classroom!

*These links are affiliate links, you don’t pay any more or any less by using this link. It does mean I get a small commission – which helps keep me in cups of tea!

The Perfect Review Game for High School

This review game is perfect to help your students demonstrate their learning for any literature text. You can use it while reading a text or after reading to have your students prove their learning.

In this blog post, I’ll show you:

  1. The basic idea
  2. The extra challenge
  3. What it looks like
  4. How to set up the game
  5. Why it’s not as complicated as it sounds!

Card game image with text "the perfect review game for high schoolers"

The basic idea

The basic idea is that students build a card tower. The catch is that each card on their card tower has to demonstrate their knowledge of the ideas, characters, and the plot of a text.

The extra challenge!

It would be too simple to build a card tower with just information on it. Nope – that’s not enough for us. Here’s what the key to the challenge is: Each card has a sticky note with information on it. But each sticky note has to link to every other sticky that it touches in the tower.

Let me show you what I mean

In the image below, each card in lower zigzag pattern touches. The cards that touch either at the top of the V or at the bottom of the V have to have information on that connects.

So the sticky that we can see on the lower level states “Macbeth does not experience guilt”. This means that the card propped up against it must link to that idea. Perhaps with a quotation that proves this, or a reference to an event that links to this idea.

Even more challenging – the cards that make the horizontal support across the lower level also have to contain facts and information that link the ideas on the cards!

Card Tower with sticky notes on each card. Each sticky note has a different sentence on it.

The overwhelming benefit of this game is that students have to think and think hard about all the ideas they wish to demonstrate before they try and construct their card tower. The tower itself becomes secondary to their knowledge and learning.

How to set up this review game

  1. So for this activity, you will need some packs of playing cards (although other cards will do) and sticky notes (mini ones if possible).
  2. I place students in groups of 3 – 4 and then I give each group about 8 – 12 playing cards.

As this is a literature review game. So your students will need to know about your text. It is essentially a 3D game of dominoes. Here are the instructions I give to my students:

  1. Your job is to make the tallest card tower, but you must follow these rules or you will be disqualified.
  2. Rule 1: each card must have a sticky note on showing information from the text.
  3. Rule 2: you must show information in the following order – plot, character, theme, then back to plot again. So each sticky note will have information on something from the plot, a character, or a theme in a series, in that order.
  4. Rule 3: each sticky note must relate to the ones on either of side.
  5. Rule 4: the tower must stand with no support for 2 minutes.

It sounds more complicated than it is

The first time I use this review game, students get all caught up with what is and isn’t allowed. So I give them this example. Here’s is what a sticky notes series might look like from Macbeth Act 1, Sc 1:

Plot – Macbeth fights bravely against rebels trying to overthrow King Duncan –
which links to – Character – Macbeth is shown to be bloodthirsty and violent from the outset – which links to – Theme – The theme of rebellion is introduced as Macbeth is given the rebel’s thaneship – which links to…plot! But this time because the theme is rebellion – you could include anything from the plot on rebellion!

Image of card tower with text "perfect review game for high school"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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21st October 2018

5 creative writing lesson ideas you can use today!

If you are looking to liven up your creative writing teaching or your students need some fresh ideas to improve and develop their creative writing in class – then this blog post is for you!

Below are 5 of my favourite ways to mix things up a little when I am teaching creative writing!

  1. Slow writing
  2. People watch to write people
  3. Changes over time
  4. Opening lines
  5. Add meaning to your settings

Slow down writing

These writing prompts focus on s-l-o-w writing. Slow writing is the opposite of a quick write. The idea is to write slowlypreciselycarefully, selecting each word intentionally. Slow writing can take 5 minutes with one sentence and 30 minutes with a paragraph.

  1. Write this moment of action. Imagine it in slow-motion. Try and recreate this in your description.
    Imagine your family is eating a meal together. Someone knocks over a drink and it spills across the table. Describe this moment.
  2. It is sunset and you are waiting for your friends, who are late. This moment is slow. You are waiting. Probably bored. Perhaps a bit annoyed. Walk your reader through the tick, tick, tick of your watch as you wait.  Describe the setting as the day moves towards darkness.

People watch to write people

  1. Sit somewhere public (the cafeteria at school is perfect for this).
  2. Describe the faces of 5 strangers, show personality through expressions and gestures.
  3. When you have your 5 descriptions, create some conflicts between them.
    One character bumps into another character. One character asks another for help.
  4. How would your character react based on the personality you created for them?

Changes over time

This writing task is all about describing the same setting at three different points during the day. You can use different settings, for example, I sometimes use the grounds at my school.

  1. Write a description of a summer funfair as the workers are setting up the rides and stalls.
  2. Write a description of the same funfair – this time in the mid-afternoon, just as the first crowds begin to arrive.
  3. Write a short narrative set at the same fun fair – now write the fair and attendees as evening falls.

I use these 3 prompts in different ways. Sometimes I do gradual writing with students and they write each one, in turn, changing – shaping – adapting their own funfair as the day passes.

Another way is to put your students into triad groups and have them write one each. They can then share and improve based on the best bits of each other’s writing.

Opening lines

I love to use open lines as a writing activity with my classes because it always amazes me where students will go with the same opening. You could give them one line and end up with 30 completely unconnected stories.

Below are the 3 opening lines that I found to create an excellent and diverse range of stories:

  1. I covered my eyes but nothing …
  2. I said orange…
  3. Bad, very bad…

Add meaning to your settings

I started teaching Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns this week and it is a joy, an absolute joy to get stuck into such a beautiful piece of writing.

Re-reading the opening, I am always reminded of how much our landscapes shape who we are. Let me transport you for a moment. If you don’t know the novel, a shunned woman and her illegitimate daughter are sent to live in a shack isolated in the countryside of Afghanistan.

Here is Hosseini’s description: It was on the outskirts of Gul Daman. To get to it, one took a rutted, uphill dirt track that branched off the main road between Herat and Gul Duman. The track was flanked on either side by knee-high grass and speckles of white and bright yellow flowers. The track snaked uphill and led to a flat field where poplars and cottonwoods soared and wild bushes grew in clusters.

I love how Hosseini highlights their isolation, the mother’s ‘off track’ actions, the ‘uphill’ life they lead, and a hundred other details in his description.

It would make a great mentor text example for a piece of descriptive writing. For example: create a description of the landscape of where you live, the nature rather than the buildings. BUT as you describe it, give the details in the landscape significance to show something about your own life experience.


Love Creative Writing in your classroom!

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10 stories starters for Halloween

Do your students just l-o-v-e writing spooky stories? My students cannot get enough of creative writing around this time of year. But if I’m honest, real talk here, some of their story ideas can be a little bit immature, a little bit samey. Sometimes I feel like they are doing their own versions of some of ‘those’ films. Does this happen in your classroom?

Today, I am going to let you in on my strategy for pushing students towards originality in their own writing.  *Yes! Happy Dance!*  The strategy: don’t use story prompts; use story starters.

What’s the difference?

A story prompt sets up a premise for a narrative. Generally a prompt sets up who the main character is and what the setting is, it might also prompt the key event. It would read something like “a student is walking home late at night, they become afraid”. You can see how 30+ really different students, might come up with 30+ really similar ideas with this prompt. You can imagine it now can’t you? The student hears noises, they look behind them and see nothing, they run, something / someone grabs them… it turns out to be a) an axe murderer, b) one of the parents, or c) a friend.

But a story starter. That’s different. A story starter provides the first line or couple of lines of a story. Something like “The phone rang. The door slammed.” You can see already that this story starter doesn’t provide the writer with any information, or least only a teeny bit. Enough to get the brain whirring. But not so much that it confines writers in the space of predictability.

This week I shared with my subscriber list “20 story starters” that are perfect for Halloween. Today I am going to share 10 with you right here!

Let’s get our writing on!

Love them? Me too. I surely hope you can use them in your classroom. As part of your daily writing, or perhaps as part of your creative writing unit, or as a Halloween special.

If you think these writing prompts are JUST what you need, then this is for you.  To save you time, to help claim back a tiny bit of ‘your life’ I have created 20 pages of Halloween story starters and 20 pages of writing instruction that is ready to print and go!

This ready-to-go resource contains 40 pages of Halloween writing activities. The story starters are totally fresh and new. No repeats. Each page is beautifully designed. In addition to these new story starters, each one comes with a page of planning, techniques and new vocabulary to help your students nail their spooky stories! This resource is available both as a >>>paper version<<< and as a >>>Google Drive digital edition<<<.


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Hidden Content


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.

5 treats from my classroom

As I got ready to ‘go back to school’ this autumn, I found myself tempted to buy all-the-things.  I work hard to control my spending impulses, after all, I already have too many things in my classroom. I don’t need anything more, really I don’t.

So this year, I decided that I would choose 5 things I used (or loved) the most in 2017. And so, here’s my list… enjoy!

1. Post-it note tape

Every teacher loves a post-it note, right?! Well, I ADORE post-it note tape (see below). I use this tape for a thousand things. I use it to move to-do items around in my planner; I put notes on my wall calendar; I use it to annotate texts; leave notes on students’ work and desks. As this tape is ‘tape-shaped’; it has the advantage of being smaller than a post-it note and it is sticky all the way across so there is no chance at all of it being lost!

These are the links for post-it note tape:

UK link https://amzn.to/2AJAlXW  USA link https://amzn.to/2M1W8ic

Please note these are affiliate links. You should know that this item will not cost you any more or less than it would if you found it through the usual search function. I do receive a small commission for anything your order using these links. 

2. Cute paper clips

I know, I know, these paper clips are not entirely sensible. But I love these cute paper clips. I have 100s of them and use them for everything from tagging papers for grading together, to handing work back to students. There’s just something about using these paper clips that makes me smile.

Here are a few of my favourite animal paper clips!

UK link https://amzn.to/2OMCvIF US link https://amzn.to/2Mx34nK

3. Wire Mesh Messageboard

Most of the boards in my room are pretty static throughout the year. I use them to display work on particular ideas or texts we have studied but they don’t change regularly – partly because I don’t have time, mostly because they don’t need to. My students study texts for two years, so the information stays relevant.

However, I do have one board that I change every day. My wire mesh messageboard sits behind my desk and I like to use it to write funny messages for my students. I put up photos, memes, inspiration quotes, and amazing pieces of work. I also use it for our word of the day (today the word was ‘yield’) and for our debate topic of the day.

My message board is pretty small. If I bought it again, I would get a bigger one! Check these ones out…

UK link https://amzn.to/2vCSNfg US link https://amzn.to/2M1V8KY

 

4. My ECO coffee cup

If you follow me on Insta (find me here), it won’t come as a big surprise that one of my ‘essentials’ is a travel mug. I teach a lot of classes. Nine in fact. That’s a lot of talking every day. My ECO cups (yep, plural) are what keep me going. Especially now that it is getting cold and I am wanting warm drinks because the heating doesn’t work!

 

UK link https://amzn.to/2R8j0vV  US link https://amzn.to/2zDZfpo

5. All the stickers

I use stickers a lot in my classroom. Yep, teenagers love stickers. I use them to track excellent written work, I put them on the back inside cover of the notebooks (so my teen boys don’t get embarrassed) and then I send a positive letter home for every 5 stickers.

So with approximately 220 students coming through my classroom each week, I get through a lot of stickers. And I mean A LOT!

Here are just a few of the stickers I’ve used already this year!

I buy stickers from all over the place. I am an expert at spotting super cheap ones wherever I can. Of course, occasionally that means Amazon is my friend. Here are my go-to online sets.

UK link https://amzn.to/2DEOF5E US link https://amzn.to/2zD4HJ7

I’d love to know what the essentials are in your classroom! Why not drop me a note in the comments below?!

22nd September 2018

One amazing debate idea

I always need new ways to generate deep and thoughtful debate with my students. This one, is one of my favourites. This activity is called ‘Kill the Question’ and works as a quasi-CSI style lesson where students investigate a ‘question’ and decide whether to ‘kill’ it or ‘resurrect’ it.

Working up to it:

My senior Literature class needed to prepare for an extended essay by reviewing some great philosophers.  So prior to this lesson, students had worked in groups to research and present on a specific philosopher, or a period of history that saw some great advances in philosophical thinking.

The activity:

Kill the Question is based on CSI,  students gather evidence that enables us to debate on something more than opinion.

You can see from the image above that we “killed” two ideas: “the only truth is knowing you know nothing”, and “freedom is a redundant idea”.

Once I had introduced the 2 ideas, students returned to their philosopher research groups. I allocated each group cards of a specific colour.  They then used their prior presentation work to create evidence for or against this idea.

The students’ evidence was placed around the idea. We then debated it from the standpoint of each philosopher, what they might say to “kill” or indeed “resurrect” this idea.

I found that my students were able to make extended comments because they had prepared. But more importantly, they were able to tackle with the nuances and subtleties in each idea. They weren’t just talking out of their own experience or their own opinion.

Killing the Question with a literature text

It was then that I realised I wanted to try this activity with my younger pupils.

Speaking and listening is no longer a tested skill for us, but it is so important to develop thinking (and communication) skills. I thought Kill the Question would also be a great way to get my students thinking in more depth about a novel.

After all, think of the connections that students could make – links to themes, character and setting, links to context, links to other texts and writers.

My year 9 students were studying Lord of the Flies and Battle Royale and we took the bold step of using chalk on the carpet in my classroom to create our debate bodies!  Note – it did come off eventually, but only I after I scrubbed it…

How it worked

The idea we killed this time was Malcolm X’s quote: “Nobody can give you freedom; nobody can give you equality or justice.  If you are a man, you take it”.

This time students were given different colour evidence cards to represent a variety of approaches to this quote.

To begin I allowed students to write their “first response” to this idea on the carpet in chalk. Another learning point for me here: don’t even bother trying to discourage teenagers from making your dead body anatomically correct!.   I was pleased and surprised that I got a full range of responses, not just what they thought I wanted to hear, but what they really thought.

After this, I put students into small groups and gave them each a non-fiction text that in some way added evidence to the idea.  I had an in-depth article about the science of the murder gene, another on nature vs nurture, one on dictators and the world history of rebellion.

Students worked together reading this texts, summarising and annotating, then they chose evidence to support or oppose Malcolm X’s idea.   Their evidence was placed on different colour cards and placed around the body.

We began to discuss it, we debated every piece of evidence we had gathered so far. Again the results were really encouraging, students were presenting real arguments using a variety of evidence. They had to acknowledge counter-arguments and justify their reasoning.

Finally, I have each student some green cards, I asked them to find evidence from either of the texts we were studying (most chose Lord of the Flies) or from the contextual evidence we had gathered about Golding and Takami. Again, we then together looked at each piece of evidence.

As a class, we weighed it against our own thinking, what we felt to be true and we created a collection we were happy with.

The additional end benefit of this entire activity was that my students had, in essence, planned out an essay. Our cards and debate record became a very detailed essay plan.

 

19th September 2018

Teaching Biblical Allusions

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eRVm_TAE24A
(Errr – don’t watch this if swearing offends you).

I’m from a very religious family.  My step-dad is a former RAF Chaplain (and served in the Falkland Islands) and is now an itinerant vicar (which is not the same as what George and Lennie were); my brother is a vicar.  I grew up steeped in religious tradition – from churches were the communion wine is golden to ones where they play guitars and dance. I am enduringly grateful for my upbringing.  Not least when it comes to teaching literature. You see – I can spot a biblical allusion at 50 paces.

*The purpose of this introduction is to contextualise some of mild irreverence below.*

Kids these days…

Have no clue about the Bible and why should they? Yet, this absence of knowledge results in pupils often struggling to identify and understand many of the deep running threads in literature.

I often describe the need for deep subject knowledge as being like a tapestry – it is complex and interwoven, creating an overarching picture with mini-scenes within.  Threads are drawn upon as needed but always remain embedded in and attached to the big picture.

Yet – if this tapestry is English literature – then much of what we study (if not all) was written in a time when religion and religious ideologies were key to moral and ethical outlook, social norms, thoughts on the creation of wealth, and society, and even the nature of life and death itself.  Rightly or wrongly identity itself, for much of history, was shaped by religion.

Some may disagree – but I would argue that religion was the predominant ideology of English Literature right up until World War I.

Thus over 700 years of written literature is interwoven into a tapestry where life and religion were twisted threads.

Therefore, to study, understand, and enjoy literature – knowledge of religion and the religious texts, such as the Bible, is essential.

How should we manoeuvre this camel through the needle’s eye?

It’s easy, as with all things historical context based, to bolt this knowledge onto a unit of work.

You’re teaching Great Expectations – you paraphrase the parable of the Prodigal Son.
The Lord of the Flies – well, that’s just one big Biblical allusion, although you could just summarise beginning of Genesis and then skip to the New Testament…
The Handmaid’s Tale – same.

Whilst this approach works for individual texts, it doesn’t allow students to develop an overall bank of knowledge that they can rely on. It robs them of the cultural knowledge that is part of our history, as well as our literature.

I like what ED Hirsch has to say in The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy (this is an affiliate link!):

No one in the English-speaking world can be considered literate without a basic knowledge of the Bible. … All educated speakers of American English need to understand what is meant when someone describes a contest as being between David and Goliath, or whether a person who has the “wisdom of Solomon” is wise or foolish, or whether saying “My cup runneth over” means the person feels fortunate or unfortunate. Those who cannot understand such allusions cannot fully participate in literate English.

But this piecemeal approach is not enough

Religious imagery (both positive and negative) pervades culture still.  By only teaching what is needed to tackle one text, we are not weaving the tapestry.

My long-term goal is to create specific units of work that study ‘allusion’ in KS3, knowledge units that study Biblical knowledge as well as mythology from Greek, Roman, English heritage. Not just studying the stories but also studying representations of these stories, characters, and ideas throughout literature.

I’m a while away from being able to do that, so here’s the stop-gap:

At the moment, I teach these as explicit, out-of-context starters in year 9.  Whilst I am aware this isn’t ideal – I do feel that some knowledge is better than none, for now.

Teaching Biblical characters who have become literary “clichés”

Here’s the list of biblical characters and stories that I teach, with some examples below:

Old Testament:

  • Adam and Eve
  • Satan…
  • Abraham/Isaac
  • Cain and Abel
  • David (and Goliath)
  • Jezebel
  • Job
  • Joseph (and his cheerful coat)
  • Lot and often more importantly Lot’s Wife
  • Moses
  • Noah (and the Flood)
  • Solomon

New Testament:

  • Jesus
  • John the Baptist
  • Judas
  • Mary (mother of Jesus)
  • Peter (the rock)
  • Paul (Saul)
  • Pontius Pilate
  • *The Holy Spirit*

Top Bible stories to know:

Old Testament:

  • Creation – Genesis 1 and 2, Adam & Eve, the apple, the snake, the Garden of Eden etc
  • Cain & Abel – the first death, the first murder
  • The Flood – the rain, the boat, the animals, the rainbow, the dove.
  • Jonah and the whale – I didn’t put Jonah as a character above because his story isn’t really all that without the whale. It’s a great narrative about rebellion, trust, and redemption.
  • The Tower of Babel – the arrogance of man and the birth of language.
  • Moses and the Ten Commandments – what happens at the top of the mountain and what happens when you get down again.
  • Job – misery loves company.

New Testament:

  • The birth of Jesus – rather than the nativity itself, I tend to focus on King Herod and the baby genocide, the astronomers and following a star and then the idea of the birth of a new humanity and the age of harmony with God.
  • The story of John the Baptist (or ‘always the bridesmaid, never the bride’)
  • The Beatitudes
  • The Good Samaritan
  • The resurrection of Lazarus
  • The Parable of the Prodigal Son
  • The “Let he who has no sin cast the first stone” story
  • The betrayal of Judas
  • The Crucifixion and Resurrection – again, where my students have the basic knowledge from their Religious Studies lessons, I tend to look at nature imagery and Christ figures.

Even more…

Also because Biblical allusion, among other things, is tested under the AP Literature curriculum – there are loads of fabulous sites that have lists of biblical phrases etc. I like this PDF because it has a bunch of useful literary, biblical and historical allusions.

What to test your knowledge of Biblical reference and allusion? Have a go at this BBC quiz!

 

 

 

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So Read Me Maybe? {My new classroom display}

This gorgeous reading display is perhaps one of the best things I’ve added to my classroom in ages. And not just because I get to play Carly Ray Jepson songs in class… I cannot claim the idea is mine. But I do adore how it turned out!  Here’s how I went about it and how you can swipe the download!

This week I updated the display in one pokey corner of my classroom. It’s one of those things that I had been meaning to do for a-g-e-s. But because the space was generally well hidden by the 5 tonnes of stuff I accumulated last year, it hadn’t been a high priority. Karma happens, though right? We had visitors in school and my classroom needed to be pristine. Or prestige, as my students would say!

 

This cute rhyme is a play on Carly Ray Jepson’s song “Call Me Maybe”.  All my students ‘got it‘ as soon as they saw the wall. They groaned and shook their heads, enjoying a moment of teenage indignation. I then asked them for their best book suggestions. So it’s their book recommendations, plus a few from my colleagues, that I placed around the rhyme!  Read on to see how I made it and to swipe my files!

Before I get into the practical details – I wanted to give a shout out to the amazing Jessica Lawler from Joy in the Journey. Check out the ‘Read me!’ and ‘Pick me!’ labels in my books! Don’t you just l-u-r-v-e them!! They are also a sweet treat of free download, Jessica has them on her TpT store and you can download them for free >>here<<.

Ok, ok. I know what you want. Here is how you can get stuck into this in your classroom. It really is as simple as 1 – 2 – 3.

  1. Grab the swipe file with words typed out and ready to go. It is a PowerPoint file so make sure you can open it on your computer.
  2. Change the colors to suit your classroom decor.
  3. Print and laminate (you can totally see I didn’t have time to do this!)
  4. Cut out and pin up.
  5. Ask for book recommendations, grab the covers and print.
  6. Cut and pin these up too!
  7. Stand back and enjoy!

So all you need to do now is get the SWIPE file!

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29th August 2018

5 ways to use lolly sticks in your secondary classroom

If you’re anything like me, you have drawers or even cupboards of things you have bought for your classroom – just in case. I have about one hundred thousand lolly sticks*. Over the last year, I worked hard to use all-the-things. In the post, I am going to share 5 ways you can use all those lolly sticks in your secondary classroom!

1. Still great for names

Lolly sticks originally made their way into our classroom as a form of assessment. We wrote our students names on them. Then used them as a simple, low-tech random name generator. Well, they are still great for that purpose. You don’t necessarily need to use them as part of your questioning strategy every lesson. But mix things up using them every now and again.

Here’s what I do:

Hand out the lolly sticks to students at the beginning of the year. Set them a homework to decorate their lolly stick with their name and at least 2 images that show me something about their personality.

I stick them in a cup at the front my room and use them to:

  • select students at random to answer a question or perform a task
  • randomly assign pairs or small groups
  • choose students at random for a positive call, email, or post-card home
  • monitor missed homework (they get a red dot sticker on their stick)

So don’t discount using your lolly sticks for names still!

2. Bookmarks

Another way I use lolly sticks is as bookmarks for our class novels. We generally don’t have enough copies of our class novels to allow students to sign them out and take them home. In fact, often our teachers are sharing class sets of novels between and we have to juggle who is using the books during hour 1, hour 2 etc. I also don’t see my classes every day. In fact, some of my classes are one hour a week classes and I don’t see them except for that one hour.

So, bookmarks are one of the things that make my reading teaching easier. I used to use post-it notes and to be honest that was fine. But my lolly stick bookmarks have a two-fold purpose: they make a great bookmark and they can be used as a reading ruler.

Here’s how it works:

  • Hand out a lolly stick to each student in your class.
  • Ask them to decorate it with either a short quote about reading (I’d rather be reading) or a book they would love to recommend.
  • Then when we start reading I ask every student to use their bookmark as a reading ruler. I model it. We practise. Rewards are given out for those who are doing it right.
  • At the end of the lesson, everyone puts the bookmark into the book (at the right place) and returns to book to my box.
  • The next lesson I hand out the books out and students get to discover a new bookmark. Each lesson they get to see/use a new bookmark.

It’s an easy and effective way to keep everyone on track. No issues with different page numbers in different editions of the novel and an easy differentiation tool.

3. To help your study of literature texts

I also use them the most for extending and developing student responses to literature texts. Let’s take Macbeth for example. At some point early on in studying the text, I will hand out my unused lolly sticks to the students and ask them to write on them the names of characters, events, settings, themes, and relevant historical context facts. Once I have these I use them in a number of ways:

  1. Handout to students and ask them to link any class discussion to their own lolly stick.
  2. Ask them to form a question for the class based on their lolly stick.
  3. Challenge them to use their lolly stick information in any analytical writing we are doing.

To take this further, I then start adding lolly sticks with key literary terms on (foreshadowing), with text-specific language (sycophant for example from Macbeth), or with essay writing challenge sentence starters (e.g. another way this could be interpreted is…).

By the end of studying a literature text, I normally have about 150+ lolly sticks to use for any number of quick quizzes, revision tasks, or extension ideas. Even better, when I move onto a new text but want to spiral back to review Macbeth (for example) then I can just grab a lolly stick and ask the class a question.

4. Awesome vocabulary

Idea 4 is one that I use throughout the year and I use across multiple classes. Simply, anytime we find a new vocabulary word that we love (last year one class was obsessed with the word incredulous), we write it onto 2 – 3 lolly sticks and put them in our vocabulary post.

5. Puzzle Paradise

The final idea for using up all those lolly sticks is to create puzzles for your students to solve. These are great ice-breakers, quick fixes for when you need 5 minutes, or discussion prompts.

Here’s what I do:

  1. Lay about 9 or 10 lolly sticks side-by-side and measure them. I use 9 lolly sticks across (the odd number makes it a little trickier) which measures to be about 12cm high by 17cm wide.
  2. Print your image so it fits the measurements above.
  3. Glue across all the lolly sticks and leave to dry.
  4. Use a craft knife to cut the paper and separate the lolly sticks.

I hope you enjoy using these ideas!

*This post contains affiliate links. If you buy something using one of these links, you won’t pay any more but I will receive a small commission!

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