Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Getting a Full Nights Sleep

Many of my students (and colleagues) struggle to get a full nights sleep. As great as it is to live in a time of the internet and social media, it does mean that sometimes time escapes from me and before I know it... I've spent three hours blog hopping.

These are three websites that I suggest to my students (and friends) that may help you get some more shut eye.

In my study skills classes we are talking about how to study without distractions and came up. Students can use it to set times where social media is “blocked.” For example, they can set 6:00pm-8:00pm as their homework time and have Facebook, Twitter, and 9gag blocked.  

To be honest, I find that site a bit cumbersome, and personally I use as a way to, “reward” myself when grading without worrying about getting sucked in. You just put how many minutes you want to visit a site and then the site name and it will open a window that is only open for that long. So, puts me on my personal gmail for 15 minutes and then closes the window. This is great if you want to do something like put aside 10 minutes every morning to read news. This lets you stick to that limit without getting sucked into the internet for too long.

Not all of us are night owls
On another note, I’ve had some students complain that working on the computers at night keeps them up. It's true, the light of a computer screen messes with your brain's natural clock. Luckily, is a nice download. It works with your time zone to change your screen's lighting based on the sun. In layman's terms, When the sun has set it uses warmer colors that don’t mess with your body as much and let you go to sleep more easily.

Finally, I occasionally rock This site helps you find the ideal time to fall asleep. The idea is that we sleep in cycles that normally last about 90 minutes. When we wake up in the middle of a cycle, we feel like we didn't sleep well. The calculator lets us find the best times to fall asleep so that we can wake up at the end of a cycle. This way even if you don't get as much sleep as you would like, you won't wake up feeling like you slept badly. 

What about you? Any great sites you use to limit time online or help your body go to sleep faster?

Monday, March 16, 2015

No Name!

I think one of the most frustrating things for me as a teacher is giving somebody a zero because I didn't have their name on the paper.

My policy is to put any no-names on a section of the board. Papers stay up their for a week, and then they get trashed.

I dislike giving them zeros, but if a students doesn't at least look for their papers.... well I guess that's what they get. Students need to learn to put their names on papers; however, if they've done the work, I really want to give them credit.

I've seen three basic ways teachers deal with this.

1. Preventative
These are things like using the "names on the paper" song, or requiring students to highlight their names before they submit assignments.

To be honest, I feel like these methods work FANTASTICALLY. However, many of my high school students will roll their eyes at this one. I want them to feel like responsible adults, not like they are being babied.

As a result, I would suggest this method for younger grades only, unless you can think of a way to make it a bit more age appropriate for older students (if so let me know!).

In the meantime, if you want to try these in your class, check out this freebie on the left from Amazing Documents.

If you want song lyrics instead, the name song created by Rikki Lee (and found to your right has been downloaded over 500 times).

2. On Display  
Similar to my whiteboard, a lot of teachers create a section to display no named papers. I've actually seen a few different ways:

Wall: The simplest is by putting it on a white board or bulletin board, but you can be creative with it. Check out the following freebies you can snag. Fun to Know has this freebie with eight different half page notes. I especially love the Owl and Pirate themes.  These are perfect if you have a folder, white board, or bulletin space, for no names. Mostly this is because I have a thing for puns.
The husband wife teaching duo over at are big believers of no shaming in the classroom. They used to have a, "No Name Hall of Shame," but have since changed it to the delightful image you see on the left, "If you wanted credit, then you shoulda put your name on it..." You can grab this poster for free!

Quite a few teachers have picked up on the Beyonce rhythm that the previous verbiage lends itself to. The one on the left  is by Erica Speaks over at TeachingSpeaksVolumes. The one on the right is from The Counseling Teacher.

I know a few teachers who buy mini-trashcans and use these (Target's Dollar Spot, or any dollar store should have these). This is a fantastic visual because students can see that by not putting a name on their paper they are essentially putting these points in the trash. Here's a freebie there's a no name monster you can attach to trash can. Students search through this trash can to find their paper.

Some really creative teachers make tombs for a no named student. Students can help decorate, or you can snag this freebie  on teachers pay teachers. Very cute although it takes a it more space and possibly time.

What to do when a student recognizes their work? Now this changes from teacher to teacher. Some teachers do not take points off. Some teachers take of a few points (5%-10%), Whereas others take off a significant number of points (50% and more).

Some teachers keep the papers up all semester, the entire unit, or for just a week.

3. Trash 
Finally, some teachers don't even give students a chance to claim their work. They find something without a name and it goes directly to the trash. Harsh? Maybe, but  the hope is after one or two times students will shape up and adjust.

What do you do? I am hoping going 1:1 next year will cut down on this as electronically submitted documents are submitted via students' accounts (and thus named).

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Great Gatsby house of cards

I love how their deck ended up mimicking the book cover colors
I'm sure you've noticed that I referred to a website called teachers pay teachers a lot. This is a great website because when I start to teach a new story or a new book. It lets me see what other teachers are doing and in many cases teachers will offer freebies.

In this case I found an great activity where students make a House of Cards for The Great Gatsby. This awesome activity comes from Brynn, who is a teacher in Kansas.

I have students do this in groups so it provides natural scaffolding.  My groups are hand selected and I take great pride in my groups right now. My juniors as a class started out not speaking a lot of English, constantly going with their own clique, and straying off task. It was difficult but I finally got them in small groups of 3 to 4 and they really work with each other. They get things done their productive it's amazing.

That being said, while I love them in their small groups, you could do it in pairs or on their own.


  • Prepping Students: 
    • Symbols: We have prepped for this activity in a way since we started reading. Basically, they were reall familiar with sybols. We had talked about the eyes on the billboard and we talked about the greenlight. We also did an activity where students got to "Beauty and the Beast" it/ Where they turned the characters of the great Gatsby into nonhuman figures (e.g. sports, coffee, etc). 
    • The American Dream: I teach many non-native students, so we usually have a journal entry, and mini class discussion about what they think the American Dream is, what they think that other people think the American Dream is, and what they think Gatsby's version is.
    • Text: This could be done at many points, but I like to do it right after chapter 5.
  • Teacher Prep:  I went to Target to buy a deck of cards, but one deck costs $3.00 and two decks costs $5.00. I am all for spending money on my students when I need to, but I knew the Dollar Tree had them as well, so to the Dollar Tree (two packs for one dollar!). I have eight groups in my class. Each group needs 7 cards, but I gave them nine in case they made mistakes. That means two decks was perfect for my class. 

I draw this on the board to help my students
Materials: I used glue, paper, scissors, and markers. However, you could use sharpies, magazines, etc. Really anything as long as each "house" has seven cards.

Before I give them this assignment I show them a clip from the movie so they can see Gatsby's house. If you don't want to or can't show the movie, find a mansion for sale and show that. The key point is to make sure that they understand the opulence.

Finally, pass out the assignment, to create a House of Cards symbolizing Gatsby's house, where each card symbolizes something.I permitted the use of cell phones to pull up samples (e.g. one student wanted a specific rose to symbolize Daisy and she wanted to see a picture), but I emphasized that the explanation would be graded more than artistic ability.

My students did struggle a bit understanding which cards were supposed to go where, so I made this diagram and numbered the cards. This is an optional step, but it made their lives' easier and let me focus on helping people dig deeper into the text (instead of answering questions about directions).

The original assignment was to create a house of cards. I made this optional (for extra credit). After students had made the cards, and explained it, they could create a house of cards and send me a picture to receive extra credit (about half of a homework assignment)

I love this assignment because it works on a higher level of understanding. Not only are they really grasping the ideas of symbols and metaphors. The coolest about this is that we're really working the metaphor figuratively and literally. 

After the assignment, their homework is to read Chapter 6 and answer the following questions:

1. Why are Gatsby's attributes the base of the house?

2. Why is Daisy's card between Gatsby and his dreams?

3. Now that you've read Chapter 6, how do you feel Gatsby's life like a house of cards?

4. Have your idea of Gatsby's version of the American dream changed? Why or Why not?

Answers will vary, but most of them show that they actually understood the project (which is the goal after all).

So there it is, I linked the product earlier, but again you can check out her freebie here It is free to sign up if you don't already have an account, just go here and get started on finding lots of great stuff!

Finally, I leave you with some pictures of my students who completed the house of cards. I swear they had fun, and there was learning going on as well.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Global Gazebo - Share Your Day to Day with Cultures Worldwide

I have had the opportunity to learn and teach with some amazing teachers when I lived in other countries. It is amazing to catch up and see what they are doing. You may remember I posted about my friend who was planning a trip for her imaginary student.

In this case a friend is working at a school where the students are trying to figure out how teenagers around the world respond to different cultural questions.

How cool right!

This is done as part of "The Aspen Challenge," an innovative cultural exchange project connecting students across the world. It encourages students to show their ingenuity, creativity, and teamwork to strengthen their leadership skills as they really let their awesomeness show.

The Washington Latin Charter School have set up a site called The Global Gazebo where students of all ages are invited to share their answers to different questions either in pictures or short videos via an app called Burst on their smartphone (Android or iPhone both work). If your students are unable to access smartphones you can e-mail them via with the video or picture.

This is all relatively short, and would probably take no more than 10 minutes for even a low level class. However, you could make it into a larger activity by looking at responses already given, discussing why they may be different from your culture and then putting students in groups to plan their answers. 

Since these students are high school students,the focus of the site is teenage, but responses from all ages are welcome.

I think this is an AWESOME opportunity, but it doesn't last long. Questions will be asked this week and next, but they stop collecting answers next week.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

St Paddy's Day Goodies

I LOVE Saint Patrick's Day. I am probably more Irish than I am Mexican. I don't know much of my Irish roots, but I do love St Patrick's day. We're going 1-1 next year, and the tech team has been working ridiculously hard on getting everyone ready. As a result, I made these little "goodie bags" for the team, and a few other people who have made my first year at this school amazing.

Each of these lucky co-workers will get:
  • A Green Martini Glass (you could substitute wine, or a normal drinking glass, but these just looked so pretty!)
  • Green Easter Grass (used to fill Easter baskets)
  • A St. Paddy themed pencil 
  • DoubleMint Gum
  • A Gold Chocolate Coin
  • Andes Chocolate Mints
  • A Gold Mini Reeses (for the ladies in ring form modeled in this picture) 
  • A green accessory
    • For the boys it is a green fake mustache
    • For the ladies a green shamrock necklace

Different Colors!
These were easy and fun to make. Most of this was just separating different goodies into the green glasses. The rings were handmade and SUPER easy! I made a bunch of these so I could use them with my students as well. In the photo on the left I am showing off three different ones I made.

  • The green are for St. Patrick's Day
  • The yellow are as close as I found to gold (also St. Patrick's Day).
  • The blue are because my school colors are blue and gold.
I don't think these are quite as cute as the rings I made with Hershey's kisses (seen on the right) but I like the taste of Reeses better anyways, and you can use the same method with either candy.
You have THREE different ways of making these rings:

  1. With TWO pipe cleaners
    • Cross the pipe cleaners on a flat service 
    • Put the candy in the middle 
    • Pull the pipe cleaners up and over the candy and cross the pipe cleaners again  
    • Wrap the pipe cleaners around your finger and wrap the excess below the candy 
  2. With ONE pipe cleaner cut in half

    • Put the candy in the middle Cross the pipe cleaners on a flat service. Make one the cross asymmetrical so that two of the sides are shorter than the other two.  
    • Pull the pipe cleaners up and over the candy and cross the pipe cleaners again. Make the shorter sides combine with the longer sides.   
    • Wrap the pipe cleaners around your finger and wrap the excess around the other pipe cleaner 
  3. With ONE pipe cleaner
    • Put the candy in the middle of the pipe cleaner.
    • Twist the sides together.
    • Rotate the pipe-cleaner and flip to the other side.
    • Twist the sides together
    • Wrap the pipe cleaner around a finger/magic marker
    • Secure the ends 
You don't work well with my descriptions? Don't worry, I am not offended. Check out the video below (only for the one pipe cleaner)!

So those rings, and my dollar store decor get my students festive.

How do you get in the Saint Patrick's Day spirit at your school? 
My Cat is getting into the St Patrick's Day Spirit

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Anti-Bullying Pink Shirt Day

February 25th is  Pink Shirt Day in Canada and in other areas that have picked up the trend.

Here's the story behind the name:

In 2007 at a high school in Nova Scotia, a freshman boy was bullied for wearing a pink shirt. Two senior students, David Shepard and Travis Price, saw this and decided to do something. They went to their local discount store, and bought seventy-five pink women tank tops. They reached out to their male buddies via social media and the next day they handed out the pink tank tops to all of the other boys who put them on over their normal tops.The bullies were never heard from again, and I am sure you can imagine the love that the bullied boy felt that day.

In honor of these teenagers who took a moment to right the world and do their part to stop bullying, every year on February 25th, people are encouraged to wear pink shirts and do their part to end bullying.

Here are some activities and reading you can do with your classes to celebrate.
  • Clean Paper
    • Give each student a piece of paper. Have them crumple it up. Rip it up. Scribble on it. My students have jumped u and down on it. Give them about one minute. Then tell them you want the paper back, in perfect form. Give them about five minutes to try and make their paper "perfect" again. 
  • Fill the Tube
    • Similar to the paper activity, but messier! Give each student a tube of toothpaste and a plate. See how fast they can empty their tube of toothpaste. Now give them a spoon and tell them to put the toothpaste back in the tube.
      • What lessons does this teach you?
      • Where do you see this in life?
      • Were any of you able to get your paper back to normal/toothpaste back in the tube? How long did it take?
You don't need to sacrifice a whole day to anti-bullying activities. You can still do a standard literature lesson with a bullying theme. Check out All Summer in a Day  by Ray Bradbury (You can find it in: A Medicine for Melancholy and Other Stories )

This is a fantastic story at a lower intermediate level. Lower grades may require more  scaffolding, but the

I have some pre-made lessons you can use.
My favorite question to ask students is what they think happened next. Did Margot forgive the other students? Did she and her family return to Earth? Were the students nicer to her after this day? Was the teacher punished?

If you are focusing on research or nonfiction, have them research Pink Shirt Day and come up with a similar activity their school could do. Have them write up letters to propose to the principal and samples. It would be a great interactive product that I am sure the principal would love!

What about you? What do you do to support anti-bullying in your class?

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Audio Book Quizzes

I usually share links to audiobooks as well. We read a lot in class, so I know they are practicing that skill, but sometimes listening is more convenient. They can listen as they are doing the dishes, showering, cooking and other times that it can be a bit difficult to read a book.

Secondly, it can help my ESL students hear proper pronunciation or words. Even with my non-ESL students, this is nice because when we read books like Things Fall Apart, they can hear the African names spoken as they should be spoken.

Finally, in some cases, they can listen to the text as they read it. In some cases there are websites set up to do this. For example, with The Great Gatsby  the website ESLBits actually has the text and the audio book on the same webpage. Even when the audio and text are separate, students can still read and listen at the same time.

Students can actually purchase mp3s of the audiobook (or often find them free online). In the future, I want students to create their own audiobooks, but for this semester I wanted them to do something a bit different.

In the case off Things Fall Apart, the chapters worked perfectly for the project I wanted to do with my class. Each student was assigned a chapter to make a triv that would help the other students listen and check comprehension.

Here are the steps and a finished project.

STEP 1 - Setting the Stage
We used a triv in the class, so students could see what they looked like. We have used these before, but if you haven't I'd be sure to use one.

In my class we had read Yeat's poem, "The Second Coming," to prepare to read, Things Fall Apart. The next class we did a quick review on the poem by using this triv. (Triv is what calls their trivia games)

STEP 2- Explaining YouTube Videos
I introduce how to listen to the book on YouTube. Most students seem to really be amazed by this concept. They never considered looking for audiobooks on a site for mainly videos.

STEP 3 - Setting the Assignment
I treat this as an individual outside of school activity. They are each assigned one chapter. They need to find the chapter online, and use it to make a triv. We do a sample with the first two minutes of Chapter 1. They need
  1. Find an audiobook of their chapter
  2. To create a triv for their chapter
    • They need at least FIVE questions regarding the plot (or basic comprehension)
    • They need at least TWO questions regarding vocabulary (or literary /rhetorical skills)
They send these links to me and I share them with the rest of the class who can use them to study.

STEP 4 -  On Their Own
Then students are on their own! I made these videos to help them.

Here's the video on how to sign up for an account:

Here's one on making triv:

I love this project because students are helping one another, and they become experts on one chapter.

Here's a Triv one of my students made

How do you use Trivs in your class?
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