Espresso Shot: Our Favorite Blog Posts

I wish that I could go back and introduce first-year teacher me to the teacher community I am now a part of: a treasure-trove of wisdom, advice, ideas, help, and digital shoulders to cry on. 

While we all love sitting around our virtual coffee table here and sharing our ideas, many of us have our own blogs, and this week we thought we’d search out our favorite posts, and leave them here for you, all in one place. You’re welcome. ;-) 

Strategies for Teaching Text Annotation 
by The Daring English Teacher

One of the first lessons I teach every year, regardless of the grade-level I am teaching, is how to closely read and annotate a text. Because I feel this is such a valuable skill for students, I carve out a week of my instruction in the beginning of the school year to help my students get more comfortable with annotating text. [...more] 

by The Classroom Sparrow

Yes, interactive notebooks can be useful in middle and high school classes too! If your students are anything like mine, you know they love all things interactive. So, why not try engaging them in a different way from the norm? [...more] 

This is a serious issue in secondary classrooms when the required reading is longer and can't be completed in class. There are not enough hours in the semester to get it all done as it is, and besides, kids read at such vastly different rates that some are finished long before others. [...more] 

Writing Folders in My Secondary Classroom by Addie Williams

I decided to try something new in my ELA classes last year and I was so thrilled with how it worked out that I'm going to do it again this year!  After years of trying to organize students with binders that explode with paper and lost assignments I knew I had to try something different. [...more]

When you can’t avoid bringing student work home, it doesn’t have to be total misery! Check out this list of ideas to help you bring some organization and peace into your evenings. [...more]
15 TV Episodes to Use in ELA by Nouvelle ELA

We’re in a golden age of television, so why not use these fantastic episodes to teach literary devices, plot, and more, all in ONE class period? Check out this list to get started. [...more]
Teaching Growth Mindset in the Secondary Classroom by TheSuperHERO Teacher

We're all familiar with the importance of growth mindset, but often times we see growth mindset being taught at the lower levels as opposed to middle and high school classrooms.  We, as teachers, have the opportunity to change that! [...more]

7 Bell Ringer Ideas for the Middle & High School English by Presto Plans
If you asked me what teaching resource I could not live without, I would 100% say bell-ringers!  They absolutely transformed the first 5-10 minutes of chaos in my classroom and also engage my students in thoughtful discussion, reflective writing, and new learning. Below are my 7 favorite ways to start my English classes with bell-ringers. [...more] How to Engage Students in the First Few Minutes of a Lesson  by Stacey Lloyd

A few weeks ago she asked me how to get students to ‘come to the party’; how to entice them to engage and participate in the learning experience so that it wasn’t a one-sided affair. Yikes! What a question.This got me thinking and I came to an interesting realization: In the first five minutes, I can tell how a lesson is going to be received. [ more] 

6 Tips For A Successful Lit Circle In A Secondary Classroom

I love doing Lit Circles or Reading Circles in my classroom and at my school we have a well-established routine that works well across all of the grades. We don't all read the same novel, instead, we offer 5-6 titles to the class and students are grouped by the book of their choice.  I believe strongly that students be allowed to pick their book so I give a quick book talk about each book and then give students time to sample several books before picking the one they want to read.  Students usually end up with a book that they're quite happy with!  (Our librarian does a great job of creating themed book kits for each grade level.)

I also don't assign students roles - students are all given the same guidelines and requirements for each Lit Circle Meeting where they are required to come prepared with discussion questions and more!  Here are some tips and tricks I've picked up along the way for running a successful Lit Circle with secondary students when using ANY NOVEL and when student groups are reading different novels.
I allow students to pick a book from a selection of 5-6 titles that are all based on a similar theme. Some students pick titles based on what their friends pick, but most will pick based on their interests.  I have 5 copies of each title so I end up with groups of 4-5 students depending on class size.  We have spent time at my school working together to create kits of books that we are confident that students will enjoy at each grade level.  For example, our 9th Grade Kit is themed around "The World Around Us" and includes the following books:

Moon at Nine - Deborah Ellis
A Little Piece of Ground - Elizabeth Laird
The Bridge Home -  Padma Venkatraman
Inside Out & Back Again - Thanhha Lai
Now is the Time for Running - Micheal Williams

Our senior grades have had success with the following titles:

The Summer of Bitter & Sweet - Jen Ferguson
The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
All My Rage - Sabaa Tahir
Everyday - David Leviathan
They Both Die at the End - Adam Silvera
Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe - Benjamin Saenz

Be sure to offer books that represent the students in your classroom, that reflect their interests, that you've read and are familiar with, and that you think students will enjoy.

It is crucial to be organized when running the lit circles, especially if you have groups reading different novels.  My Novel Study Activities for Any Novel has everything you need to run a successful Lit Circle - student reading schedules, organizers, final projects, and chapter summary templates are just a few of the things that can be found in this package - be sure to check it out HERE.  I have run Lit Circles for many, many years using the schedule and reading logs included in this pack!
I typically give students 4 weeks to complete a novel study and therefore I must create a strict reading schedule.  Within their 4 week study, they complete activities for each Lit Circle Meeting and then a final project.  Students divide the number of pages in their book by four and come up with the number of pages they must read per week.  For the most part, however, students complete their books well before they need to because typically they really enjoy them.  I do however, monitor their reading through their Lit Circle Meetings - I make sure to stop by each meeting, engage in the discussion, and check that all work has been completed and that students are on task.  Student reading schedules are included in my Reading Journal resource!
With Lit Circles my students meet 1-2 times per week as a group to discuss the book.  Students must come to the meeting with a favorite quote, three questions for their classmates, and having read up to the designated point in the book.  Students share and discuss their quotes, answer each other's questions and generally share ideas they have about the book.  I allow students about 30 minutes for their meeting - although there have been many days when we've gone longer due to some awesome discussions.  
Students are given ample reading time in my class.  I know that many of them have after-school jobs, compete in sports, are active in clubs, and are generally quite busy.  Allowing students to complete some of their reading in class means there is less pressure on them to squeeze it in among everything else. It also emphasizes the importance I place on reading.  If the weather is nice, we'll read outside. Sometimes we'll read in the school library using their comfy chairs and quiet spaces.  Creating a quiet space for my students to read comfortably is important to me so I've added reading lamps (softer light) to a few corners of my room and some cozy chairs the kids rotate through.
Hopefully, your students have enjoyed the books they've read so much that they want to share with their classmates.  Grab a FREE book review template to use with your students... have them work on it individually and then complete one collaboratively as a group.  I have asked each book group to present their novel to the class (being sure not to give away the ending or anything too juicy!).  Often students want to read the other books, and if I'm lucky I can use the same set of books twice with each class.  Students must read a different book the second time!

For more awesome resources that will work with ANY novel please check out the links below from my fellow Coffee Shop ladies.

Planning a Novel Study That Gets Students Reading and Thinking - Room 213
Creative Book Reports - Presto Plans
Three Ways to Introduce a Class Novel- The Daring English Teacher

Reading Response Questions - Independent Reading Activities for Any Book- Nouvelle ELA

Independent Novel Study - The Classroom Sparrow

Using Interactive Bulletin Boards to Transform Your Classroom

Hello, teachers-- The SuperHERO Teacher here! If you're reading this, my hope is that you're interested in learning a bit more about interactive bulletin boards and how they can drastically improve your classroom atmosphere.  Interactive bulletin boards serve SO much more than just classroom decor-- they can actually improve your students' skills. Keep reading if you want to learn how! PS: I include a free classroom bookshelf resource, too! 

What is an interactive bulletin board? Great question! Interactive bulletin boards are pieces of purposeful classroom decor that can help students strengthen their skills and provide reinforcement and enrichment opportunities.  Students can physically get up from their desks and interact with the bulletin board-- whether it includes engaging tasks or movable pieces! 

Imagine this: You're teaching a creative writing unit and a few of your students have writer's block.  We've all been there and we know how frustrating it can be!  You can use an interactive bulletin board like my Creative Writing BINGO to spark ideas and eliminate writer's block.  Or maybe you have a few students who are struggling with vocabulary or reading comprehension... Using an interactive bulletin board to reinforce the content is a great way to help students strengthen those skills! 

Do you have some students who breeze through the lesson and need a bit of a challenge? Use an interactive bulletin board to encourage that challenge! Instead of sitting there, waiting for others to be done, they can further strengthen their skills by participating in an extra activity that is purposeful.  This prevents students from being bored or, even worse, not having anything to do! Seriously, it is a GAME CHANGER! 

I've designed this FREE interactive bulletin board to encourage independent reading and strengthen reading fluency skills.  Give each student one of the bookshelf pages and each time they finish a book, they can color it in for a bonus point on a homework assignment or quiz! If you aren't a huge fan of bonus points, you can explain that the bookshelves serve as book recommendations for their peers.  Check out the other students' books to see what you'd like to read next! Download the free resource here.

Okay, THIS is where the transformation comes in!  Can you imagine an entire class being productive because there are absolutely no excuses not to be? #dreamcometrue Seriously, though! With interactive bulletin boards, students will always have an activity to complete and your entire classroom becomes purposeful. This phrase will forever be eliminated from your classroom: "I have nothing to do *plays on phone*" ;)

One of my favorite ways to incorporate interactive bulletin boards is to encourage kindness and growth mindset.  When I designed bulletin boards for Extreme Makeover Classroom Edition (2017), I created this motivational bulletin board to create a classroom atmosphere that is warm, open, and inviting to all.  Students can take a Polaroid card with an inspirational quote, but they have to replace it with their own quote!  By the end of the school year, all of the cards will be quotes from students.  What better way to build relationships?  

Here are some more fabulous interactive bulletin board ideas for your classroom:
Growth Mindset Bulletin Board Display by Presto Plans
Growth Mindset Collaborative Quilt by The Daring English Teacher
Shakespeare Word Wall and Posters by Room 213

6 Halloween Ideas & Resources for your English Language Arts Class

Halloween is a fun time for all involved, including teachers! If you're stumped for ideas on how you can bring the Halloween spirit into your English Language Arts class, here are a few ideas to help you get started!
A great way to establish a routine in any classroom is through the use of daily writing prompts/bell ringers. Not only are students practicing their writing daily, but they are also developing a standard in your class, which might also encourage students to arrive to class on time, prepared to write! You can easily incorporate the Halloween theme into an English class, by having your students respond to a Halloween themed prompt during the weeks leading up to the holiday!

Here are five Halloween-themed writing prompts that you could use with your students:

1. Write a 10 line Halloween poem using the following words: black cat, pumpkin, dark, graveyard, death, witch, gloomy, haunted, clown, and spooky.

2. Of all of the costumes you have ever worn on Halloween, what costumes are among your favorite? What makes these costumes so memorable? Describe what the costumes looked like.

3. Write a 50-100 word story using the first line, "It was all fun and games until we saw something move in the Haunted house."

4. Write a recipe for a magic potion using five items you see around the classroom. In addition to the ingredients list, provide cooking directions and explain the purpose of the magic potion.

5. Imagine you are hosting a Halloween party. Identify three people (dead or alive) that you would invite to your party (aside from your friends and family). What makes these guests so special? Why do you think they would make a great guest at your Halloween party?

Another way to bring the Halloween spirit into your middle and high school English classes could be through the use of spooky short stories and books during the month of October. I typically complete my short story unit around this time of the year anyway, so it works for me to incorporate these 'spooky' stories into my unit.

Here are a few spooky short stories you could use during the month of October:

• The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (Washington Irvine)
• The Tell-Tale Heart (Edgar Allan Poe)
• The Fall of the House of Usher (Edgar Allan Poe)
• The Monkey's Paw (W. W. Jacobs)
• The Landlady (Roald Dahl)
• If Cornered, Scream (Patricia J. Thurmon)

TIP: Turn the lights off and have creepy music playing in the background to help set the scene when reading short stories around the Halloween season (a shout out to The Daring English Teacher for the tip!)  

 Here are a few spooky books you could use during the month of October:

• World War Z (Max Brook)
• Patient Zero (Jonathan Maberry)
• The Reapers Are the Angels (Alden Bell)
• The Walking Dead series (Robert Kirkman)
• Feed (Mira Grant)

• Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (Ransom Riggs)

Click HERE for some FREE Halloween-themed bookmarks!
If you are looking for a creative way to teach the elements of plot, as well as short story writing around the Halloween season, this Halloween Short Story Flip Book is not only fun to complete, but also a convenient size that can be stored in a desk, binder or interactive notebook for quick reference when writing. Follow the directions and prompts in the flip book and have your students successfully write a SPOOKY short story from start to finish! 

Begin your lesson with the short story elements handout included. The handout reviews 15 items necessary to any short story including the explanations and definitions for effective leads, dialogue, direct speech, protagonist, antagonist, mood, tone, literary devices, plot structure (diagram), exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and conclusion. An answer key has been provided!
Next, get writing! Once your students have a better understanding of what's required in the various elements of plot, they can begin to brainstorm their short story ideas using the step-by-step instructions in their six-tab story flip book! The final page in the flip book includes 100 Halloween-themed words.

Add creativity to the short stories by having students randomly select characters and setting prompts (12 provided for each category). Simply, cut out the character and setting prompts, place face down on a table, and have students randomly select some Halloween-themed ideas to incorporate into their own stories. 
Finally, to ensure your students' tales are full of the details that are required in a short story, an additional full-page short story writing organizer has been included, as well as a character building handout, which will review and expand the elements plot and character again, but in more detail.

Visuals are another way that Halloween can be incorporated into your daily writing routine. This type of writing gives students the opportunity to focus on the five senses, incorporating the Halloween theme into their writing using a picture prompt. Try this Descriptive Halloween Photo Activity for FREE!

Use these fun Halloween-themed topics to practice public speaking and debate-style skills in your classroom! Get your students moving by hanging up four signs that indicate the following: strongly agree, agree, strongly disagree, disagree. 

Present the following topics and let the discussion begin! Students should be prepared to share their reasons for their opinion selection, so they should choose their decision wisely.

Discussion topic #1: Are high school students too old for trick or treating?

Discussion topic #2: Should schools be allowed to celebrate Halloween?

Discussion topic #3: Are costumes necessary when trick or treating?

Discussion topic #4: Should trick or treating be an all-day event?

Discussion topic #5: Should non-sugary candy be mandatory on Halloween?
If you're in the neighborhood for a quick and simple Halloween activity for your class, have students write their own two-line ghost story. While the writing itself may not take a long time, thinking of the clever idea may take a few minutes! Consider letting your students work in pairs or small groups. Once students write their two-line ghost story, they can share it with the class, then the stories can be displayed on a bulletin board. Find more examples of two-line ghost stories, HERE!

Looking for more ideas to bring the Halloween spirit into an ELA classroom? Check out these activities and posts from other Secondary English Coffee Shop bloggers!

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