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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Preach it Weird Al! Why English teachers love “Word Crimes”!

If you are an English teacher and participate in any social media, I’m sure that you have seen Weird Al’s new viral video, “Word Crimes”.  If you haven’t seen it, you really must watch it.  Let’s be honest, even those of us who have seen it several times will probably click to watch it again!  So what is it about this video that resonates so deeply with English teachers and everyone else for that matter? I’ll break down my love of this song below:

  • We are not alone! Too many times, students think that English teachers are the only ones who actually care about proper grammar. Weird Al has made it cool for celebrities, family members, bloggers, and everyone else in society to jump on the grammar bandwagon by sharing this video.  I hope this fun little parody sends a serious message to young people to listen up in our classes!
  • Online writing counts! Weird Al points to blogs, social media, hashtags, and other online writing with the message that spelling and syntax matter even on the internet.
  • He fits in all my pet peeves! I love the whole song, but these four drive me up the wall:
    • I could care less.  When I hear students say this, I always want to retort, “well, you certainly could care more about your correct use of idiom” or something else snarky.
    • Quotation Marks for “emphasis”.  When I see this happening in my classes, I love to bring up this website for a couple minutes: unnecessaryquotes.com.  It gets a few laughs and brings the point home.  (Tip: Always preview the page before bringing it up in class.  Some examples are not safe for all schools.)
    • Literally.  This one is everywhere in my school: I literally have a ton of homework, my head literally exploded, I literally can’t even.  Sometimes I have to forcibly control my eye rolls.
    • Your and You’re, There, Their, and They’re, Its and It’s.  This shouldn’t be a problem in high school, but it is.  I’m thinking about making big posters for the front of my room this year, so I will let you know how that goes.
  • He uses Proper Terminology. The English class lingo is often discounted as boring and irrelevant, but he breathes new life into terms like contraction, preposition, dangling participles, and oxford comma.  I never thought I would say this, but thank you Weird Al!

 

Did you love this video as much as I did?  What are your word crime pet peeves?

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Where to Spend $5 to Get Tough Tasks Off Your Teacher To Do List

It seems like everywhere I turn these days I see a new resource to help students take short cuts around the valuable work we do in our classrooms.  When I was working on a side project recently, I came across fiverr.com, which is a global marketplace offering a variety of services, or gigs, starting at $5 each.  I was disheartened to see sellers offering to do homework or analyze a book, but it did get me thinking about how I could switch the dynamic around to give teachers some much needed shortcuts.  Here are the $5 gigs I found that can take tough tasks off of our teacher to do lists, so we can focus on other important classroom priorities:

1. Custom Songs: Many fiverr sellers will take your lyrics and make them into a song with your choice of genre (reggae, rap, country, pop, etc).  I have these little chants I do to help MLA rules stick and I always hear my students singing little ditties to remember long math formulas.  We could take that idea to the next level with a custom song for our classroom!

2. Custom Voice Overs:  This gig could bring interest factor to a prezi, flipped classroom video, or other in class project.  Sellers will do a range of professional and cartoon/impression voices.

3. Convert Powerpoint to HD Video: This is a great gig for  teachers who are flipping their classrooms and running out of time. It could be combined with the custom voice-overs in a pinch.

4. Website installation or help: There is a lot of pressure on teachers today to incorporate edtech into our classrooms including classroom blogs and wikis.  If we can’t afford a full service website technician, there are hundreds of fiverr gigs ranging from installing word press to trouble shooting that widget you are trying to install and everything in between.  Personally, $5 is worth my sanity in the IT department, especially when it can be done quickly and efficiently by someone else while I am grading that last stack of papers!

5. Custom Social Media Art: Most teachers I know are starting or maintaining a classroom Facebook/twitter/instagram/google+/edmodo/schoology/etc.  For $5 you can have someone create cute or creative custom cover art to give your classroom social media that polished look without a lot of effort on your part.

6. Design materials: If you have a great idea for a poster or infographic for your classroom wall, a custom stamp or any other simple graphic design project, there are designers waiting to make it happen for only $5.

 

Like other online marketplaces, there is a feedback and communication system so that you can make sure that your job is done correctly, but we should still exercise caution when purchasing gigs.  What do you think? Would you take advantage of fiverr to get one of those tasks off your to do list? Let us know in the comment section below.

Fiverr

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What Your Kid’s English Teacher Really Wants: 10 Great Gift Ideas Straight From The Source

Let’s just get one thing out of the way: teachers do not sign up for this gig for the gifts! That being said, we really appreciate any act of generosity from parents and students and judging by my Pinterest feed, parents are inspired to treat teachers to a little something here and there.  I decided to write this blog post because my Pinterest feed has been chock full of the most adorable back to school teacher gifts interspersed with this popular ecard:

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I do not want to come off as ungrateful, but I think we can find a happy medium here. We would love the crayon wreath, but if crafting is not your thing, below are 10 gift suggestions humbly suggested by this high school English teacher:

1. Support: This is a cheat gift, but very cheap and incredibly valuable to teachers.  Having our back is the best gift a parent can give when the time comes to battle the homework, deadlines, book choices, classroom management, etc.

2. These Amazing Mugs: Click here for a link to buy the mugs from amazon.  Trust me, this will be an instant favorite with every English teacher!

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<——–First Lines Literature Mug $12.95

 

                 Shakespearean Insult Mug $12.95  ——–>

 

 

3. Target Gift Cards: Chances are, we are going to put the money back into our classroom, so help us offset our school expenses with a gift card of any size.  Every little bit counts and we totally understand that you may be buying small gifts for several teachers.

4. Coffee Gift Cards: I cannot count the number of late nights I’ve spent slaving over student essays/research papers with the comfort of a good cup of joe.  I love my job and I wouldn’t change it for the world, but this English teacher still needs her caffeine and I suspect the same is true for most of us!

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5. Secondary Solutions Gift Certificates: The best way to help a teacher save time is to help buy quality products.  This one also goes directly to a quality education for your student, so it is a win-win.

6. The Really Cool Office Supplies: There are some supplies that we just can’t justify on our back to school shopping list, but we would love them.  Get us the good stuff.  Here’s my list:

  • Pretty Post-Its: We can usually get our hands on the square ones, but I think we all secretly love (and can’t afford) the ones shaped like arrows, apples, stars, etc.
  • Washi Tape: There are entire Pinterest boards dedicated to beautiful washi tape classroom ideas. Click here for an example if you are not familiar with this little beauty.
  • Sharpies: I drool every time I pass by the giant sharpie packs at Costco, but with a cart full of other school essentials, I can’t always justify $20 on permanent markers…even if they are amazing! I especially like the fine tip ones, which are perfect for poetry annotation.
  • The cute baskets and organizers: With 100-175 students filling in and out of our rooms, organization is a survival strategy.

7. iTunes Gift Cards: There are so many amazing edtech apps and iTunes books out there; I am sure this one would be a hit with almost any teacher!

8. A Stapler: Maybe this is a personal problem, but my classes run through staplers like they are going out of style. I’ve spent hours trying to fix them and yet inevitably on essay due dates I’m down to one erratic stapler and a chaotic collection process.  As crazy as it sounds, I could really use 1 new, quality stapler each year so that I consistently have a couple working staplers and an efficient classroom.

9. Awesome Stamps: With all of the feedback that we give student papers, stamps can be a fun way to save time.  Click on each image below to see the etsy store it comes from:

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10. Teacher Gadgets: We love cool gadgets.  I mean who doesn’t want these? Click on each for more info.

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Teachers and parents, we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below!

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