Secondary Solutions

Ideas, tips, and tools for the middle and high school English Language Arts teacher. Visit our store at www.4secondarysolutions.com!

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Where do hashtags and instafilters fit in the English classroom?

Streetcar Slang

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Dear Students, Let’s get a few things straight.

Myths 1

It’s funny how I tend to hear students espouse the same myths year after year.  Here are a few of the ones I’d like to debunk:

1. We are all conspiring together to assign common due dates.  It seems like every time we assign a major paper or project, we hear the groans about how our due date coincides with the due dates in other classes.  We assure you, this is not an intentional affront to your social life.  Since every class begins and ends each marking period on the same schedule, it makes sense that projects in multiple classes would be assigned after a few weeks of front loaded instruction and with enough time to assess before grades are due.  Lucky for you, most teachers I know offer step by step guidance and plenty of advanced notice.  In addition to all of our wonderful content, we are teaching you the life skill of time management.  Break out your agenda and plan accordingly.

2. We assign books and essays as punishments. This is in fact quite the opposite.  We challenge you to read and write sophisticated pieces because we care about your future success.  We’ve been to college and the workplace and we know a thing or two about what it is going to take.  Trust us.

3. We don’t have homework. I would hazard a guess that we do more work on weekends and evenings than many of you students. For every one assignment or test you complete, we have to grade upwards of 150.  Just like you, we are far from finished at 3pm and our summers are also filled with school obligations.

4. We don’t understand what you’re saying/texting/tweeting.  Just because we do not let you use text language or slang in our assignments does not mean that we don’t understand it.  So be careful little hands what you tweet and be careful little mouths what you say.  We are human; if you prick us we will bleed, so try to be nice.

5. We have all of the answers in our teacher books.  Contrary to popular belief, we do not have a teacher’s manual with step by step instructions on how to integrate novels, test prep, vocab, grammar, writing, and speaking.  We have awesome resources like Secondary Solutions, but we also have hours of preparation under our belts!

6. We want some students to fail in order to prove that we are good teachers. We keep the standard high because we want to see everyone meet ultimate success. We do not have a quota of Fs.  In fact, many of us have pressure to increase pass rates.

7. We don’t like you. We hear it all of the time, but it simply isn’t true. Most of us like our jobs and we like you.  We may give you a hard time for skipping an assignment or remind you for the hundredth time not to eat in the classroom, but it is not a personal attack.

Teachers, what myths would you add to this list?

 

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A Teacher’s Thoughts on Summer Reading:

Summer Reading

It is the time of year again when we meet in departments to plan out summer reading programs. For me, the words “summer reading” can be a delight and a drain. I work at a school that requires summer reading for college prep and honors English classes at every grade level, which can present some challenges.  Even with the struggles, I think that summer reading is a battle worth fighting.  If you are interested in some of the scientific benefits of summer reading, click around this site for a bit.  Here are my thoughts on putting together a summer reading program that will enhance the curriculum without burning out teachers or students.

1. Offer high interest materials. Summer is a great time to give students a book that will keep the pages turning and not keep the eye lids drooping. Pick something that will appeal to the teenagers at your particular age and level.  This strategy combats my biggest struggle, which is the lack of motivation for some students.  Some suggestions:

  • The John Green books, like Looking for Alaska, The Fault in Our Stars, or An Abundance of Katherines-  It is fun for teenagers to read about other quirky teenagers.
  • Science fiction and fantasy- the kind of books that often get left out of the traditional canon in the school year.  I like books like Dune, The Time Machine, or Hitchhikers Guide too the Galaxy, but there are tons out there to choose from.
  • Other YA faves like Catcher in the Rye, 1984, Perks of Being a Wallflower, etc.

2. Offer reasonable choices. It is nice to offer choices in case some students have read some of the books on the list and also to honor the interest factor for a wide range of students. Each book should be of reasonable length for students and the book list should be of reasonable length for teachers.  In my humble opinion, the teacher should have read all of the books on the list in order to engage in discussion and assessment.

3. Keep assignments simple. If you are doing handouts, questions, essays or anything else with the book, keep it simple.  Summer reading should be about enjoying some quality literature and not getting bogged down in minutia.

4. Make it count. Students learn very quickly and then word gets out if the summer reading assignment does not “count for anything.”  If you can, make the assessment or discussion worth a substantial point value.  In case students don’t complete the assignment well, I like for the summer reading to be worth enough to hurt the first quarter grade, but not so much that the semester grade cannot recover.

5. Bring the conversation online. If you are working with a manageable sized group, using a platform like Collaborize Classroom could be a great way to check in with students throughout the summer. Click here for a Collaborize Classroom tutorial.

6. Be flexible and have a back up plan.  I’ve never had a year with no transfer students or other I-didn’t-get-the-summer-reading situation.  When this happens, I usually excuse the assignment or give students until the end of the first quarter to get it done. The first few years, I let this eat me alive because I was in pursuit of that perfect summer reading program.  It is not out there. Make it work.

 

What are your thoughts on summer reading? Leave a comment below!

 

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