Low Tech, High Visual English Lessons

If you follow this blog at all, you know that I LOVE using technology in the classroom, but today I want to share some of my favorite  low tech  teaching strategies.  I am a terrible artist, but I find a lot of benefit in drawing as we read. Students remember my silly drawings and they gets sense of the big picture of the literature. I require note taking in my class and my students usually love taking these notes and invariably, they are so much better than me.

Drawing our way through English: 



My mythology unit begs for a map through the journey!  As we work our way through the Iliad, Aeneid, and Odyssey we can make connections and see the relationship between gods and humans. We can trace repercussions and retaliation to untangle the twisted web.  I usually draw this on my board as we go and by the end of the unit, it takes up all of my walls! 


This basic outline of the characters of TKAM is helpful when guiding students through the first few chapters.  Having this on the board helps students to put it all together for the rest of the novel. 




This character map of Ethan Frome is most helpful as a review at the end of the novel.  Before delving into the symbolism of the cat and the dish, I like to make sure that students have the basics down. 




Lord of the Flies is such a fun novel to unfold.  I usually draw the island from the beginning and add details as the novel goes on.  Some years, I’ve had student volunteers add details for each reading assignment and I am always amazed at their perceptive reading!


No reading of Slaughterhouse Five could end with an easy  linear mind map, but I love creating a visual with quotes that can help reveal the deeper truth behind the madness.  

Even though I am quite possibly one of the worst artists ever, I love to map out our reading and I find that students engage in the process well. What do you think?  Do you or would you try this with your students?  Leave us a comment below.


10 Things English Teachers Should Do this Summer


1. Read something the kids are reading. This is a double win that I don’t have time for during the school year.  Chances are, they are picking light beach reads that will entertain you and give you something to talk about next year.  I suggest John Green’s Looking for Alaska or The Fault in Our Stars.  Other popular books include The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Inheritance Cycle, The Private Series, and The Privilege Series.  I like to ask my students right before break which books they recommend.

2. Catch up on sleep.  You deserve it! Seriously, after all those late nights grading essays and early mornings prepping lectures.  Take a few vacation days to catch up!

3. Attend a conference.  There are so many amazing opportunities in the summer.  I’m excited for a week long conference I will be attending in San Diego, which I know will be professionally fulfilling and I’m making a little family vacation out of it too!  Check out our tips for getting the most out of any conference.

4.  Do something just for fun. We make so many sacrifices for our jobs and our students.  Take a day or a month to remember your passion for crafts or swimming or bad reality TV!  Time for pure fun will revive you come August and get you through that next year.

5. Read an author biography. We help students fall in love with literature every year.  Knowing the people behind the books and poems helps take it to that next level (and I certainly don’t have time during the school year to get in that much extra reading!) For something light hearted and appealing to teens, check out Secret Lives of Great Authors or you can pick something more traditional like the Robert Frost Biography of an American Poet ebook.

6. Take a field trip. One year when I was teaching Farewell to Manzanar, I visited Manzanar the summer before and it helped bring in that extra level of passion (plus pictures!).  This year, I think I will make it over to the Getty Museum to take in some of the great art.

7. Learn one new edtech tool. Might I suggest some video tutorials from yours truly: Google Drive, Grammarly, Collaborize Classroom, Quizlet, and more!  (Click on the tag “technology” in the right hand margin of this page for a full list) If you are not a tech person, don’t overwhelm yourself.  Just pick one that would make your life easier or your teaching more effective.

8. Organize your inspiration.  Use pinterest, use post-its, or use any other system you like. as long as you inspire yourself and organize the inspiration so you can actually use the ideas in real life.

9. Reflect on the previous school year. A few weeks into the summer, I like to review the course assessments I gave at the end of the school year.  With a little distance, I find this review even more informative.  Here’s a link to the post about my course assessment.

10. Set professional goals. Set goals in the summer, while you are still rested and idealistic.  I like to pick only one or two things to focus on during the year so I can keep my eye on them all year long and not be overwhelmed with a long list. Here’s a post about some of my goals from last year.

What do you think English teachers should be doing over the summer?  Any book recommendations?  Leave us a comment below.

No Red Ink Video Tutorial: Teaching Grammar With Style!

I’m really excited to share a new teacher tech tool with you today!  Although, I am just getting started with it, I think NoRedInk.com is a tool to keep an eye on!  Here’s why I love it:

  • There is a free version (After I use it for a bit, I may upgrade, but it is nice to try it free!). It also appears to be growing rapidly in topics and such.
  • It covers a lot of the grammar topics that my high school students still struggle with, but I don’t really have time to teach in the older grades.
  • It allows students to pick topics of interest like sports, popular TV shows, disney, etc. These topics are then woven into grammar practices, keeping students engaged.
  • Students can practice as much or as little as needed before testing so that differentiation is built in. Students can work at their own pace with as much scaffolding or independence as they need.
  • The record keeping on the teacher side is very clear and easy to follow.

Here’s my quick video tutorial showing off the goods.  Let me know what you think in the comment section below.

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