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The power of dual coding

Dual coding

This activity is great to use with any class and almost any topic area. It makes sense, doesn’t it? To mix words and visuals to aid memory. Our students now need to memorize and to retrieve information for testing than ever before. Dual coding is one way to help students remember.

What is dual coding?

Dual coding is combining 2 ways that the mind remembers things – most commonly in the classroom – this is words and visuals.

Here you can see the beginning of Hamlet’s famous soliloquy “to be or not to be”. The challenge for students was to come up with as many visuals to replace the words in the speech as possible. They could be as creative as they liked – as long as they could read the whole speech based on what they produced. You can see the word “whether” is replaced by the sun and cloud and the word “suffer” is replaced by a sofa! The aural closeness of these words is the memory trigger.

Dual coding

 

This activity isn’t a quick crafty task or something for a Friday afternoon. It took my students a good hour to think through each word in the speech and then work out how to visualize it. This close attention to the text is just another memorization technique. The very work of recreating it, helps us remember it.

I first did this activity with a group of students 5 years ago. They are now in their final year of education and English hasn’t been compulsory for the last 2 years. But when I see these kids around the school – they still love to show off for me how much of this soliloquy they can remember. So they have been through 4 full school years since they learnt this speech and they can still remember it. Dual coding works!

Here are some ways you can use dual-coding in your classroom:

  1. At the beginning of the year when you agree your classroom rules and procedures with students, use dual-coding to help students remember the rules. Even just a small card with one image on it can be an excellent memory trigger. Have your students create those visuals for you.
  2. Use dual coding as one of your stations or center activities, to review everything learnt in a particular lesson or unit.
  3. Ask students to dual code some knowledge or information at one particular center or station, then have other groups translate the dual coded work at another station or center.
  4. Use dual coding as a way to remember key concepts in grammar, spelling, punctuation rules, or maths.
  5. Give dual coded information as a starter or bell ringer task and ask your students to translate or explain it.
  6. Ask your students to dual code as a homework task.

Here are some ways you can use dual-coding as a literature activity:

  1. Visual note-taking or dual coding makes sense for lots of literature activities: to summarise the action of a text, to look at a character, a theme, or a setting.
  2. One-pagers are super popular at the moment for helping students review what they have read. You can read more about them here (on my friend Betsy’s blog).
  3. Use dual coding as an annotation tool for annotating or making notes on specific themes or concepts. Assign each theme or idea a symbol, then annotate this in the text and also track it in notes.
  4. Create infographics to explain ideas in a text.
  5. Use dual coded timelines to review the events in a story.
  6. Assign each literary device a symbol and use this to annotate a passage.
  7. Symbols are also great for annotating emotions, mood/atmosphere, authorial intention, social and historical context.

I teach symbols and literary devices when I am covering creative writing – we use them as marking codes as well. Then we also use the same codes for our literature units. Then we layer them up as we read through the text. Does that make sense?

Dual coding

 

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!

Subscribe to my weekly teaching tips email!

Sign up below to receive regular emails from me jammed packed with ELA teaching tips, tricks and free resources. Also access my free resource library!

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The tiny review activity

This review activity is super popular with my classes. So I thought I would share it here. It is so simple and fun that you can implement it with very little preparation at all!

Background

Here’s how I came up with the idea:

A while ago I joked to a colleague that my year 11s knowledge of Animal Farm was just about enough to fill a stamp. I was joking, of course. However, this conversation did remind me of a good friend from my university days. Pete was (and is) an artist.  He found great delight in being quirky and gauche and his best expression of this was the teeny-tiny notes left under my door, which needed a magnifying glass to be read.

Mini message

 

The Tiny Review

I love using the tiny class review with my classes. Essentially, it has two review strategies rolled into one – summarising and questioning. The basic idea is that students summarise their learning onto a postcard… and then another student in the class has to respond in some way!

Tiny review activity

Here’s how it works

  1. First: I ask students to summarise their learning (on whichever topic I need to cover) onto a postcard (usually a sheet of paper cut into 4!).
  2. I collect these up. The second bit will depend on whether you have 2 classes studying the same topic.
  3. To use with the same class: muddle them up and redistribute.
  4. Then ask students to read the postcard they have been given, then form 2 – 3 questions on the summary to challenge or extend the ideas presented.
  5. They write these on the back of the postcard. You can muddle them up with this Q & A going for as long as you have paper.
  6. To use with a different class: complete the postcard summary task with both classes (it doesn’t have to be exactly the same day – as long as both classes have covered the subject areas) collect them in. At a relevant point, hand one set out to the other class and have them read and write questions as above.

Tiny review

What are the benefits of this activity?

It’s the perfect activity for an end of the day lesson when writing what feels like an essay in books can be quite a challenge. You can use any postcards at all of course. Most of the time, I just use scrap paper that I’ve torn up into 4.

One unexpected benefit of this review activity was the competitive nature of my classes, when we started off writing these postcards, they just wrote them. Then after a while, we started seeing who could write 30 words on a card, then 40, then 50. In time, my students became ‘tiny writers’ (just like my friend Pete) and were squeezing up to 100 words squashed onto one postcard. Just imagine my delight!

Competition and more

Added to that, the competition aspect increased when I started using this as an inter-class challenge. My students all knew each other and although they didn’t sign their postcards, they got a kick out writing exceptionally hard questions for their peers in the other class. This upped-the-ante for each class during each session we used this idea. It became crazy after a while. A couple of years ago, we got so into this activity that we even made an inter-class postbox!

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). These tasks are fun, engaging, and will 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!

Subscribe to my weekly teaching tips email!

Sign up below to receive regular emails from me jammed packed with ELA teaching tips, tricks and free resources. Also access my free resource library!

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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!

Subscribe to my weekly teaching tips email!

Sign up below to receive regular emails from me jammed packed with ELA teaching tips, tricks and free resources. Also access my free resource library!

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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!


Love Creative Writing in your classroom!

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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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How a document camera 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.

 

Document Camera in the classroom

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!

 

Document camera laptop and book

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.

 

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.

Document camera and worksheet

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.

 

Document camera and class 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.


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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.