7 Tips for Dealing With All the Extras

7 tips for dealing with all the extras

 


By Tracee Orman


Teaching alone is a lot. But add all the extras that are piled on teachers and it’s no wonder teachers are leaving the profession by droves.


Whether it is study hall supervision, lunch duty, recess duty, bus duty, coaching, yearbook adviser, class sponsor, graduation organizer, sunshine club committee, advisory board, student council adviser, reading intervention coach, writing letters of recommendation, tutoring students after school, committee member, and so on, there never seems to be enough minutes in the day to actually do our jobs.


Early in my career I definitely took on too many "extras." As the years went by, I found ways to deal with the added responsibilities. Here are some tips I learned to help you gain time and hopefully keep your sanity.


1. DON'T MAKE PROMISES YOU CAN'T KEEP 


Sure, that seems simple enough, but it's too easy to make promises you know you can't keep. How many times have you promised students you'll get their graded papers back on Monday only to take two more weeks? I did that way too many times. I finally started telling my classes it would take a month. Then when I got them back to them in two or three weeks, they were pleasantly surprised. 


This also means don't bite off more than you can chew. Don't make a commitment to a group/organization that you know will be too time-consuming. When I coached my academic bowl students, they begged for an end-of-the-season match with their parents. I spent three weeks writing so many questions to personalize the game and my family and students were basically put on hold. In hindsight, I should have just used generic questions. Or had the students write the questions for the parents and vice-versa. Sometimes we make way too much work for ourselves when we try to do more than is humanly possible with our already demanding jobs.


2. UTILIZE STUDENT HELPERS


If you supervise a study hall, then you know there are always students who have finished their work and have nothing to do. Take advantage and have them help you with tasks such as stapling, organizing books, wiping down boards, filing papers, making copies, running errands, etc. If you don't supervise a study hall, ask teachers who do if they have any volunteers who would like to help. 


My old high school also had a program that placed students with teachers for one period a day as a student helper. It was actually a class the students signed up for. I used my helper for so many tasks that truly saved me so much time.


3. GET ORGANIZED


Being organized is key if you want to limit stress. Doing something as simple as a to-do list each day can help you prioritize and complete tasks. Download this freebie here!


Free To-Do Lists


Another way to keep organized is to use a teacher planner. You can organize your lessons, your extracurriculars, student information, and so much more! This really helped me to figure out my day and where I needed to be and what I was doing. 


You can also just use a calendar (if you use apple products, your calendar will sync with all your devices). I love using my apple calendar to keep my life straight!


4. LOCK YOUR DOOR


When you finally do get some alone time at school, lock your door so no one can interrupt you. When I really needed time to work, I even shut off my light so students and other teachers would think I was somewhere else. Because we all know even a locked door won't keep people from knocking.


The important thing is, you need to claim your prep time. That is yours and you shouldn't feel guilty for wanting uninterrupted time. When someone knocks, politely tell them you have a lot of work but will talk to them later.


5. UTILIZE EXISTING TIME-SAVERS


Take advantage of existing time-saving lessons and websites. When I needed 15 minutes to grade and enter grades, I would have my students go to the FREE RICE website and see who could donate the most rice in the vocabulary section. No one has to login or create an account. They just immediately start playing the game and with every correct answer, they are donating rice to people in need. If they get bored of playing the vocabulary, they can choose other areas such as literature, famous quotes, geography, paintings, and so many more. I loved this site and my students enjoyed the break in regular instruction. Use it as a beginning or ending activity.


FreeRice.com


Another website I loved to use was NO RED INK. Students do need to login and create accounts, so there's definitely some initial work to use the site. But once your students have accounts you can assign grammar and writing exercises. While your students are working, take that time to catch up on your work.


One of the easiest ways to utilize existing time-savers is to use pre-made lessons. My first few years of teaching, my literature textbook was my best friend. Everything I needed was right there; do not be afraid of utilizing it. Most textbooks come with ready-made lessons and student handouts and are aligned to the standards.


For high school teachers who are bombarded with writing letters of recommendation for students, I always kept a file of pre-made letters and then personalized it for the student. It was so much easier than starting from scratch each time. You can download these letters here.


6. TAKE A BREAK FROM SOCIAL MEDIA


How much time do you spend on social media each week? Surfing social media sites can be a huge time-suck. Take regular breaks or set a timer for an allotted amount of time. At the very least, turn your notifications off. You may be surprised by how much time you can save. 


7. LEARN THAT IT'S OK TO SAY NO


Early in my teaching career I said "yes" to everything! Could I be newspaper adviser? Yes! Could I advise yearbook? Yes! Could I be the academic bowl coach? Yes! Could I write letters of recommendation to every student who asked? Yes! Could I serve on this advisory board? Yes! Could I sub for this teacher during my prep period? Yes! Could I help with the student handbook? Yes! Could I help with the sports programs? Yes! 


And then...it just got to be way too much for one person to handle. Had I said no to half of those things, I would have saved myself so much stress and time away from my family. For some reason, we teachers have a hard time saying "no." Whether it is because we are untenured or afraid of losing our job, we spread ourselves too thin. But the longer I taught, the more I learned that it is absolutely OK to say NO!

 

It's OK to say NO


I hope these tips will help you find more time for yourself and your family in your already-demanding position! 


Check out these amazing time-saving resources from my colleagues:

Event Program Template by Nouvelle ELA

Teacher Binder by Presto Plans





Must-Have ELA Resources on Sale for Cyber Monday

 


It's that time of the year again... TpT is having their Cyber Sale on November 28 and 29, which is the perfect time to stock up on high-quality ELA resources to last you through the winter—and beyond! Here are some must-have resources on sale from the Secondary English Coffee Shop bloggers! 


1. TERMINUS READING ADVENTURE

Do your students need a gentle nudge to get them through to the end of the semester? Check out my digital escape series, TERMINUS. Terminus is a post-apocalyptic reading adventure and will totally hook your students. They play as Rania, a teenager who has just awoken from cryosleep and must follow clues left by her mother to try and save the world. No pressure, right? Students make inferences and solve puzzles using journal entries, emails, newspaper articles, and more in this four-part adventure. Each chapter comes with a thematically-related nonfiction activity and full Teacher’s Guide. Grab this resource here! - Nouvelle ELA




2. ELEMENTS OF LITERATURE BUNDLE

If you are looking for a series of fun and engaging mini-lessons about literary elements, this Elements of Literature Bundle is for you! This bundle includes both the print and digital versions of ten complete literary element lessons! Each lesson contains a quick instructional slide, sketch notes, and task cards! These mini units are the perfect addition to any short story lesson or as part of a novel unit!

- The Daring English Teacher





3. THE READING MYSTERIES PROGRAM

Are you looking for ways to improve your students’ reading skills? If so, you should definitely check out The Reading Mysteries Program. The Reading Mysteries Program is a full-year middle and early high school program with 40 ready-to-use reading mysteries that are designed to improve close reading, inference, and critical thinking skills. All of your students will be totally engaged as they work together to solve high-interest mysteries, using reading comprehension skills, critical thinking, and text evidence strategies to support their findings. Plus, who doesn’t love a good mystery? Click here to learn all about the program! - Presto Plans




4. UGLY CHRISTMAS SWEATER WRITING

Imagine this: You or a character of your choosing, have just been invited to attend an ugly sweater Christmas party. You will now have the opportunity to evaluate and carefully select the d├ęcor for this festive Christmas event. They can be used as individual Christmas writing activities or as a complete unit, as they all go hand in hand, yet offer something different in each activity. Click HERE to get the ugly party started! - The Classroom Sparrow




5. REGIFTING ARGUMENT ANALYSIS

One of my favorite activities this time of year is my Regifting Argument Analysis! Students absolutely love debating about regifting and this pack includes pro/con nonfiction articles that students can analyze, as well as writing, speaking, and tech activities (optional). It is fun for everyone!

- Tracee Orman



6. NOVEL STUDY FOR ANY NOVEL

Are you looking for a resource you can use with ANY novel study? If you do lit circles and have students reading different novels at the same time, this NOVEL STUDY resource will help keep you and your students focused and on track. I use these resources to help my students analyze the plot, characters, setting, and other story elements as they work through their books. This bundle also includes activities for creative student response, unique final projects, and more! - Addie Williams


7. THE RESEARCH PROCESS CAN BE FUN!

What if research assignments were more fun for students to do - and for you to read? It’s not an impossible dream. Asking students to create a research-based magazine will allow them to have fun AND learn important research skills at the same time. Everything is editable and students can choose whichever topic they want. There are lots of templates and tips included, so this is an easy-to-implement resource. Read more about the process here.  Jackie, from ROOM 213








Happy shopping, teachers! We hope that you have fun finding plenty of high-quality resources for your ELA classroom.

Teaching Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream - Lessons and Resources

Teaching Shakespeare can be a snooze fest OR it can be the best unit of your year. Of course, we all aim to be innovative and engaging, but what freshness is left in Shakespeare? A lot! Here are some creative ideas for teaching Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.


Title - Teaching Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream

A Midsummer Night’s Dream summary


In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a conflict in the fairy world collides with the forbidden elopement of two humans. What we get is a Shakespearean rom-com full of betrayal, love triangles, and supernatural meddling. This is a fun play for 8th and 9th graders but can also be read more deeply at other grade levels.


Ideas for introducing any Shakespeare play


Shakespeare meets Doctor Who

Students have a lot of preconceived notions about Shakespeare, so I try to “shake” things up by starting off my unit with an attention grabber. I like to start my unit with the first few minutes of “The Shakespeare Code” from Doctor Who, which shows the Doctor and Martha arriving in Elizabethan London. The Doctor “translates” the customs and habits for Martha, like pulling her out of the way of a dumped chamber pot! This is one way to get students excited right out of the gate. (I shared this idea back in 2018 and y’all loved this mix of Shakespeare and pop culture!)


Introduce Shakespeare… with a mystery game!


I have students play through an escape room I made called “The Missing Script.” Students play as Alex, an aspiring actor, and Alex helps Shakespeare’s servant find a misplaced script. The game takes students through the Globe (they look high and low – maybe the servant left it in the Galleries?), over the London Bridge, and through the Royal Exchange. They solve puzzles as they learn about Shakespeare’s London, and, if they are successful, they find the missing script!



Cover for Introduction to Shakespeare Escape Room



Teaching Shakespeare’s Language


Before teaching A Midsummer Night’s Dream, it’s a good idea to build student comfort with Shakespeare’s language. Mya Lixian Gosling is a Shakespeare aficionado who shares comics on her blog, Good Tickle Brain. She has an extensive collection of Shakespeare comics on a range of plays, Shakespeare’s biography, and his language. Be sure to check out her pieces explaining Shakespeare’s vocabulary (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). (Note: some of Gosling’s comics have PG-13 humor - always preview materials before you share them)


Gosling says in her bio, “As you can probably tell, I'm really not much of an artist. However, a lack of talent has never stopped anyone on the internet before.” Your students can channel this confidence, whether or not they consider themselves artists, and create a comic about one of Shakespeare’s words. Following Gosling’s example, students should create an “Is…” and “Is not” frame for their chosen vocabulary word. 


I also use this Shakespeare’s language activity before any Shakespeare play I teach. This activity uses web resources, videos, and a FUN grammar presentation to kick off your Shakespeare unit. Students walk away understanding Shakespeare’s contributions to English, iambic pentameter, and that tricky thou/you.


A Midsummer Night’s Dream lessons


A solid foundation

Grab this Dramatic Plot Diagram and Dramatic Vocabulary Terms freebie to get your Shakespeare unit (whether teaching A Midsummer Night’s Dream or otherwise) off on the right foot. Students will be able to fill in the plot of the play as they go.



Cover for Dramatic Plot Structure freebie


Use paired texts to highlight A Midsummer Night’s Dream themes

Appearance vs. Reality: Kid Ace (3:07)

This is a segment of The Kelly Clarkson Show featuring magician Kid Ace. The clip in and of itself is just a magic trick, but this is an excellent jumping off point to talk about illusion and our expectations. One of the reasons appearance vs. reality is such a strong theme in so much of literature is because humans seem like they want to be deceived and amazed. We almost don’t want to trust ourselves. Sharing contemporary magicians with students has another benefit: Shakespeare’s works are full of magicians and magic, ranging from Prospero in The Tempest to Oberon’s magic in A Midsummer Night’s Dream


Deception & Betrayal: “What to Do if Your Best Friend Betrays You”

Here’s the thing: most of Shakespeare’s characters don’t react with open and honest communication, and that’s what makes it drama. We all love drama, but part of connecting literature to real life is considering other ways in which characters could have reacted. In this column from TeenVogue, readers get a reality check for accepting the big feelings of betrayal and making a plan to move forward in a healthy way. Students can use this article as inspiration for writing (or acting out!) advice to Helena who feels betrayed by Hermia (and eventually vice versa!).


(BTW, have you seen the Sassy Gay Friend skits from Second City? Here’s one featuring Ophelia that you may enjoy. These aren’t appropriate for all classrooms, so this is recommendation just for you, teacher friend.)


Are you looking for more paired texts for teaching Shakespeare?

Check out this resource!


Discuss a Shakespearean mystery

The conflict between the fairy queen, Titania, and her husband, Oberon, begins because she has a “little Indian boy” that Oberon wants. When the play was written, explorers believed that what was North America was India and that the people who inhabited North America were Indians. In most renditions of this play, the Indian boy has been depicted as being a boy from India. 


However, Dr. Julie Brown of Astoria, Oregon (my neighbor!) uncovered another reading of this text: one person exploring at Queen Elizabeth’s behest kidnapped an Inuit woman and her one-year-old baby. Could this have inspired the “little Indian boy” of the play? Here’s an article about Dr. Brown’s findings – students can use the discussion questions to connect their reading of A Midsummer Night’s Dream to larger discourse about Shakespeare.



Cover for Shakespeare Activity - Nonfiction and Discussion Activity


Have students adapt the text


One of the great things about teaching A Midsummer Night’s Dream or any Shakespeare play is the opportunity for students to adapt the text. Students can take the play you’re working on and reimagine the ending or scenes between key characters. I’ve had students rewrite the ending of Much Ado About Nothing as a tragedy and rewrite Hamlet as a comedy - students are empowered by the idea of transforming Shakespeare. Shakespeare’s cast would have added in jokes matching the cultural moment or current events of any given day, meaning that his plays existed in evolution, even close to their year of origin. 


Ready for more teaching tips? 

Sign up for our mailing list and get 9 freebies to get you started!


Perform A Midsummer Night’s Dream abridged


I love incorporating drama into my classroom, so it’s not a stretch to give students the stage in our Shakespeare units. If you’re a little hesitant about how to work this in, I’m here to tell you that you DO have time, and students WILL step up and embrace the responsibility.


Students can use this version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and perform a 30-minute Reader’s Theatre after a class period or two to practice. They could even work a little longer and add blocking and costumes for a Staged Reading (Check out my post A Play in a Week). Lastly, they can memorize their lines completely in a 2-3 week unit and perform their plays for each other. 


Find more abridged Shakespeare plays 

made for teens here



Graphic - says Do you teach a Midsummer Night's Dream

Your A Midsummer Night’s Dream unit

The best part of teaching Shakespeare is that we can incorporate a lot of different texts and really keep things innovative. You can use any of these ideas in your A Midsummer Night’s Dream unit to help shake things up. You can also check out my ready-made A Midsummer Night’s Dream unit here.


What are your favorite A Midsummer Night’s Dream lessons? We’d love to hear from you in comments here or over at the @secondaryenglishcoffeeshop Instagram.


More resources from Coffee Shop teachers:

Six Tips for Teaching Shakespeare by Tracee Orman

William Shakespeare - Puzzle Games - Introduction to Shakespeare by The Classroom Sparrow



Happy teaching!





10 Creative Short Story Activities for the Secondary ELA Classroom

10 Creative Short Story Activities for the Secondary ELA Classroom

By The Daring English Teacher

I love to try out and include as many fun and engaging activities as possible when teaching short stories. And since stories are short and filled with literary richness, they are absolutely perfect for bringing in and trying new ideas and activities. Here is a look at 10 of my favorite short story activities in the secondary ELA classroom.


1. Auditory Sketch Notes

A great way to engage students with the story before they even set eyes on the text is to have students listen to an audio recording of the short story. As students listen, instruct them to create sketch notes capturing as much information from the story as possible. In their sketch notes, students can write words and phrases and draw anything that catches their attention. 

When I have my students do this, I always tell them that it is okay if their mind wanders a bit as they listen, and if they catch that happening, they can jump right back into the story and continue their sketch notes. Once the story is done, my students are always so amazed at what they were able to capture during this activity. Without even knowing it, they capture big ideas, symbols, motifs, and key events from the plot. Then, when we go through and read the story, they can understand it so much more. 

10 Creative Short Story Activities for the Secondary ELA Classroom


2. Movie Trailer

A great way to assess student understanding of the plot is to have them create a movie trailer of the short story. Without spoiling the end of the story, students can work individually or in small groups to create the trailer. It can be a low-tech option where they write the script and a description of the images, or you can pull in technology and have students use their phones to film a trailer. 


3. Literary Analysis Flip Book

This literary analysis flipbook works so well as a final short story assessment. As students create the mini flip book, they analyze various literary elements like theme, plot structure, and conflict. For each literary device, students will identify the element in the story, illustrate it, find and cite a quote, and write a brief explanation. It is the perfect alternative to an essay!

What I like about this project is that it is a great assignment to share on classroom walls for a fun and interactive classroom display!

10 Creative Short Story Activities for the Secondary ELA Classroom
literary analysis flipbook


4. Collaborative Theme Presentation

Another great way to engage students with short stories is to have students work on a collaborative theme presentation. As a class, work together to decide on a complete theme for the students. Then, break students up into smaller groups. Each student group will work together to create additional slides explaining how various literary elements help contribute to the theme.

For the group slides, each group would be assigned a literary element. As a group, students should identify that element, find and cite a quote, and write a brief explanation about how that device helps establish the theme. Here is a list of different groups for this project. 

  • Protagonist
  • Antagonist
  • Setting
  • Internal conflict
  • External conflict
  • Suspense
  • Foreshadowing
  • Symbolism 

5. Character Wanted Sign

Who doesn’t love a good antagonist? Having students create a character wanted sign at the end of a short story unit would be a great culminating activity. Instruct your students to select one of their favorite antagonists from the short stories you read. Then, they’ll create a wanted sign for that character. They must illustrate the character, write their name, and provide enough textual details to explain why that character is wanted. 


6. Close Reading Analysis

It never fails; a good close reading activity helps students better understand the story. My close reading short story units include links to the short stories, carefully selected close reading passages, and writing prompts for a week-long short story close reading unit.

What I like best about these close reading units is that they are scaffolded to help students succeed. The close reading passages are directly related to the writing prompt so that students feel empowered to complete the writing prompt!

Short story close reading
close reading short story units


7. Story Cube

If you are looking for a fun and colorful short story activity, try this story cube assignment! Click here to receive a free copy of this story cube activity. I like to assign this activity to my students to work on as a review before a short story writing assignment or test. As students work on the story cube, I like to put on some soft jazz music in the background and let them discuss the story, complete their cubes, and enjoy the day.

An added bonus of these story cubes is that they can be used as class decor once students assemble them. You can either hang them from the ceiling or string them along a wall like a garland for added classroom color and flair!

10 Creative Short Story Activities for the Secondary ELA Classroom
FREE story cube activity

8. Collaborative Paragraph

To help my students learn how to write a literary analysis response, I like to assign collaborative writing projects to them before they set off on their own essays. For the collaborative paragraph, students work together, writing a structured paragraph on poster paper. To help students with the writing instruction, they color-code their responses. For example, I’ll have them write the topic sentence that answers the prompt in one color. Then, they will introduce the quote in another color, write the quote in another color, and then cite the quote in a different color. They’ll use black for the commentary and another color for the closing sentence.

This is one of my favorite activities for my short story unit. You can read more about it in this blog post


9. Write an Alternate Ending

Do you ever find that your students aren’t happy with the short story’s ending? I seem to get that a lot. A great short story activity to assign your students is to write an alternate ending. In their alternate ending, students must demonstrate their understanding of the characters. I encourage them to keep the writing style similar. 

In their alternate ending, students must write from the same point of view and in the same tense. They should also follow similar dialogue structures. This is a great short story activity for students to complete in small groups or individually. 


10. Sticky Note Analysis

Finally, another great way to analyze short stories is by using this sticky note literary analysis unit! This is a complete short story and fiction unit in itself! This teaching unit includes an instructional slide for direct instruction and plenty of analysis organizers and writing prompts! With each organizer, students get to use sticky notes to add an extra layer of analysis. They will draw the device on a sticky note and write the quote underneath it. 

After my students complete one of the assignments in this unit, I display their work on my classroom walls. My students always enjoy coming in and seeing their work displayed!

Sticky Note Literary Analysis
sticky note literary analysis unit


More Engaging Short Story Activities

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