Secondary Solutions

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


Hot off the presses! Secondary Solutions Launches SmartFlip™ Common Core Reference Guides for Grades 3-12

Secondary Solutions SmartFlip Common Core Reference Guides

Secondary Solutions SmartFlip Common Core Reference Guides

The first of their kind, SmartFlipCommon Core Reference Guides give teachers a smart tool for creating Common Core aligned lessons and assessments. 

Secondary Solutions®, ( known for superior-quality standards-based Common Core Literature and Writing Guides for Grades 3-12, today announced the release of the entire line of SmartFlip™ Common Core Reference Guides for English Language Arts for grades 3-12.   These handy spiral-bound flip books include the Common Core State Standards in their basic form along with each standard broken down into easily understandable, “translated” guidelines for CCSS skill mastery, culminating in hundreds of question stems and prompts, standard-by-standard, designed to enable teachers to easily create lessons and assessments with the question types required by Common Core standards, and found in PARCC and Smarter Balanced Assessments.

“When we evaluated our own products for Common Core alignment, we found that there were very few resources available that enabled our writers to specifically address the standards and raise the rigor in our Literature Guides. Since we knew that we were having trouble finding resources to help us create our materials in line with Common Core, we knew teachers were in the same predicament when trying to design their own lessons and assessments.  We decided to create our SmartFlip™ Common Core Reference Guides for teachers of grade 3 and up to help fill that need, and so far, the response has been overwhelming!  Teachers are thrilled!” said Kristen Bowers, President and owner of Secondary Solutions.

To visit Secondary Solutions, go to

SmartFlip™ Common Core Reference Guides for grades 3-12 are available HERE

Secondary Solutions’ SmartFlip™ Common Core Reference Guides:

  • are available as a handy “flip book” reference guide for the Common Core English Language Arts standards
  • provide accessible and understandable Annotated Standards that break the standards down into teachable “chunks”
  • give you HUNDREDS of CCSS-Aligned Question Stems for lesson planning and assessment preparation
  • are in-line with PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) and Smarter Balanced (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium) assessments
  • help you assist your students in preparing for the revised SAT® test


CCSS (Common Core State Standards), PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers), Smarter Balanced (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium) and the SAT test (College Board) are registered trademarks and rights are reserved.  This product is not commissioned nor endorsed by any entity.


Teaching Effective Digital Note Taking


I read this article in The Atlantic recently that discussed a new finding that hand written notes are more effective in student learning than are typed notes.  The article focused on laptops and specifically noted that there may be differences with tablets, but as a teacher in a school that is moving toward a one on one iPad program, I’m interested in thinking about and sharing best practices for helping students take effective digital notes.  Below are my top five tips.  I’d love to hear any questions, comments, or suggestions in the comment section below!

note taking

1. Actively teach the dangers of distracted learning: it isn’t just a problem with driving!  We have to do more than ban social media and get angry when we catch them texting during class.  We have to talk about the importance of focus and critical thinking.  We have to create learning experiences that engage students and then we have to talk openly about reasons and strategies for avoiding digital distraction.

2. Teach structures for organizing digital notes.  It is easy to take notes using Word or Pages, but it is hard to keep all of those documents organized along with images, powerpoint presentations, and video/audio files that go along with the notes.  I highly suggest using Evernote or OneNote.  Here is an Evernote tutorial if you are interested in going that route!

3. Keep a calendar/planner. Students may think that they can type their homework assignments or due dates in their notes and they will remember it all, but even with digital notes, it is important to keep a centralized planner.  This planner may be incorporated in google drive, Evernote, schoology or wherever it is convenient.  I keep a class calendar and encourage students to keep a personal planner also.

4. Find ways to help students process the information. The Atlantic article points to an issue of students transcribing verbatim notes when they type instead of processing notes as they handwrite them.  If this is the case with tablets or whatever technology we are using in the classroom, we need to adjust our formative assessments to encourage more processing through discussion, writing, and other means.

5. Continue to require solid writing skills. As language evolves to reflect our digital culture and students start writing more often in informal digital contexts, we have to hold on to formal process writing and continue to teach the structures of solid academic writing.

I’d love to hear from you!  Do you think digital note taking will impact student information retention?  What will you do to make sure that your students continue to excel in the digital classroom?



Positive Discipline in the High School Classroom


As a mother of a three year old and a high school teacher, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how positive discipline works in very similar ways in both contexts. We all know that discipline is key to effective learning environments, but sometimes we lose sight of the thin line between discipline and punishment. Now that most of us have settled into the summer, I thought it would be a good time to talk about some positive discipline concepts that work in high school. I’d love to hear your questions or technique suggestions in the comment section below!

1. Mutual respect is paramount. I doubt that many good teachers get into the profession for the power, but it is still easy for all of us to get swept away in the authority figure role.  The best way to truly command respect from a student it to give it back in spades.  Even in the most frustrating, immature situations, we have to maintain perspective to show students respect and dignity.  The route of public humiliation and not smiling until Christmas is a rough road to pave and will probably not lead you to real meaningful respect and teaching.

2. Behavior modification should focus on solutions rather than consequences. Instead of focusing on the write-up, detention, or other consequence, focus on the solution needed to change the behavior in the first place.  Because of personal strategies or school policies, we may still need to give out the consequence, but the rhetoric from us should be about solutions.  Instead of giving the chronically tardy student mindless detention after detention, let’s not forget to have a conversation about the issue and help brainstorm solutions.  It may be that there are home situations outside of the student’s control. It may also be that the student didn’t really care about the class, but after a conversation with us in which we express our concerns and really listen to student situations, we may change the heart of even the most apathetic of teenagers.

3. Keep calm and don’t take it personally. Classroom disruptions and other behavior issues are almost never personal to the teacher.  I know how hard it is to keep our cool when we’ve spent hours preparing a lecture and learning activity that is disrupted by an unruly student.  Staying calm and refusing to take it personally will help us focus on the solutions.

4. Have a sense of humor. Sometimes the class clown is actually funny.  Sometimes things go haywire in our plans.  We have to maintain a sense of humor for those times that laughing it off is the only sane option.

5.  Let go of total control. We’d love to believe that we are in total control of teenagers, but of course, we are not.  Trying to micromanage and completely control them is frustrating and futile.  We must always remind ourselves that our classrooms are created with mutual energy and mutual control.

What tips would you add to the list?  Any special situations you’d like to discuss with other educators?  Comment below!

positive discipline

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