Sunday, October 16, 2016

Secondary ELA Seasonal Blog Hop: The Creative Classroom Shares Tricks & Tips

As an ELA teacher teacher, one of my favorite times of the school year is October. Not only is it the point of the year where you finally feel like you are settled in and have routines finally figured out, but it’s also the time of the year that I get to introduce my students to some of my favorite authors and spooky short stories! While my excitement always grew over thoughts of introducing a new group of students to the works of Edgar Allan Poe, W.W. Jacobs, and Ray Bradbury, a slight nervousness also crept in when I thought about how complex these texts can be for both proficient and struggling readers. What could I do to help bridge the gap and help my students to successfully navigate these stories? 

Searching For the PERFECT Audio Version...Does It Even Exist?

Obviously, I knew that I would incorporate close reading strategies to help my students tackle these stories. In my classroom, our first read was always focused on answering the question “OMG! What happened?!?” so that I could see which students got the gist of the story and which students were struggling to comprehend the big picture. In addition,  the majority of the time we would listen to an audio version of the story during our first read while students had a copy of the text in front of them.  I always tried to find the most interesting audio version that I could because let’s face it no one, including me, wants to listen to a monotone voice tell a story let alone one as thrilling and suspenseful as “The Cask of Amontillado” or “Monkey’s Paw”. 

In September 2013 as I was preparing for my upcoming unit, I was browsing through the audiobooks on iTunes and listened to several previews that bored me to tears. It seemed like my mission to find an engaging audio version for “The Cask of Amontillado” was going to be unsuccessful until I clicked on an audiobook entitled “Nightmares on Congress Street, Part IV” by Rocky Coast Radio Theater. Within seconds of hitting play on the preview button, I knew that I had found a winner! Everything about this recording, from the intense and spooky music to the performance of the actors, was perfect. It’s like the stories that I loved so much had truly come to life. Once I purchased the file, I sat mesmerized as I listened to both “The Cask of Amontillado” and “Monkey’s Paw”. What was even better than how these actors brought these tales to life was the fact that they did not change the source material and make any major deviations from the original text. Talk about an English teacher’s dream come true!

Introduction to Edgar Allan Poe + Rocky Coast Radio Theatre = HUGE Success

I was so excited for the first day of reading “The Cask of Amontillado” and letting my students hear the radio theater audio version of the story for the first time. As it began playing and the mysterious music began playing, my students started looking around and I saw smiles already on some of their faces. By the time that we had got to out first stopping point in the story, I knew that I had found a winner. Each time I asked a question, there were tons of volunteers who wanted to answer my question or ask one of their own. Many of the students kept begging to start the story again. The level of student engagement and enthusiasm was absolutely unbelievable and it remained that way throughout the entire first read of the short story. This trend continued through every class that I taught that day and I could not wait to read through my students’ exit tickets to see their answers to “OMG! What Happened!?!”.  Normally, when I shifted through the exit tickets after a first read, there was a good majority of students who were not only struggling with the big picture, but they had difficulty even piecing together small parts of the story; however, I began to notice that about half of my students were able to give me a general summary of “This guy Montressor was mad at Fortunato and decided to brick him into a wall to get back at him” or “The narrator is crazy because he killed Fortunato just because he was jealous of them”. Even my struggling readers, many of whom were my SPED students, were able to piece certain scenes together and show the smallest glimpse of comprehending this difficult text. My inclusion co-teacher and I were simply amazed by how big of a difference the radio theater audio had made in our student’s comprehension level. The excitement and progress that my students had made on day one continued throughout the entire unit.  

This positive learning experience was an eye-opener to the power of engaging audio versions of literature. I set a goal for myself that no matter how long it may take me or how many different Google searches I had to do that I would do everything I could to find the most entertaining and student friendly audio files that I could. Not only would it help break up the monotony of reading the same story six times a day, but it would also motivate my students into becoming better readers.  You are in luck because I'm about to share links to my favorite audio versions of some amazing short stories.

Here are just a few of my FAVORITE audio versions for some spooky short stories:

I hope that these audio versions help transform your short story units and engage your students!

Secondary ELA TPT Halloween SALE

Once you've finished checking out all these awesome blog posts head on over to my TPT store to save 20% off ALL Spooky Short Story resources on October 16th and October 17th! 

Don't forget to check out the other Secondary ELA Teacher-Authors' blog posts to get more tips and tricks to make this Halloween the best year yet!

Monday, September 5, 2016

Restoring Hope: Love For Louisiana Teachers Fundraiser

On August 11th, 2016, a stationary weather system resulted in torrential downpours with upwards of two feet of rain that devastated several parishes across South Louisiana. The extreme amount of rainwater, close to 7.1 trillion gallons of water, caused rivers, lake, and other bodies of water to reach and exceed flood stages in the following days. In the blink of an eye, the water began rising and encroaching upon not just areas that typically flood, but the flooding waters found their way to places that had never even had the threat of flooding before. The widespread devastation of the rising water quickly destroyed countless homes, businesses, and schools.


As the water began to recede and people were allowed into the areas that were flooded, the full extent of the damage was visible. For many people, they lost an entire lifetime of memories and personal treasures. While the loss of personal property and people's livelihood were tragic, an equally tragic loss was the impact that the flood waters had on area schools. There are over 30 schools, both public and private, across several parishes that suffered significant water damage to their campuses. Livingston Parish alone had 15 public schools that suffered water damage with at least 8 schools that experienced extensive damage that will take months to repair. While the school buildings will have to be repaired to be safe for students and staff to return, this work will be done and funded through the individual school systems, but what can be done to help the individual teachers replace their classroom materials, personal items, and everything else that made their classrooms whole?

I'm pleased to announce that I have joined forces with an amazing group of Teacher Authors from Teachers Pay Teachers to create a fundraiser, Restoring Hope: Love for Louisiana Teachers. The core team behind Restoring Hope is comprised of Kristen from Teacher Playground, Andrea from This Literacy Life, Shannon from OCD in First, and Stephanie from The Creative Classroom. We came together and created the fundraiser as a way to help our fellow Louisiana teachers rise up and rebuild their classrooms. Our fundraiser has been made possible by the generous donations that we have received from 90+ TPT sellers that include high-quality products ranging from Kindergarten to High School. In total, there are six product bundles available and four donation options. The TPT store will go live on Tuesday, September 6th, 2016 and will remain open for at least 30 days. You can click the banner below to visit our store and support Louisiana teachers by buying product bundles or simply donating money to the fundraiser.

Where will we be donating the proceeds raised from the fundraiser?

One of the biggest pieces of this fundraiser was trying to decide where we would donate the money we raised for Louisiana teachers to ensure that it would be fairly and equally distributed to those in need.100% of the proceeds that are made through our TPT store will be donated to the Associated Professional Educators of Louisiana's Disaster Relief Fund. This organization is donating 100% of all money that they receive to public and private schools teachers who lost some or all of their classroom materials due to the flooding.

Our team knew that we wanted to say THANK YOU to all of the amazing teachers who have supported our fundraiser by purchasing a bundle or donating money. Shannon from Blogs Fit For A Queen has graciously donated a FREE BLOG DESIGN. When you purchase one of the bundles from the Restoring Hope: Love for Louisiana Teachers TPT Store, you can enter for a chance to win! All you have to do is complete the form that is attached in the product bundle or donation page by October 15th, 2016.

We would like to take this opportunity to send out a huge THANK YOU to our sponsors who have donated resources to the fundraiser bundles. Without your help and generosity, none of this would have been possible. 

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Start The #BEST.YEAR.EVER with help from the TPT Secondary ELA Sellers!

Can you believe that it's time for another school year to start? No matter if this is your first year or your twentieth year teaching, the Back to School rush can be chaotic and overwhelming. Let the TPT Secondary ELA Sellers help you have the #BEST.YEAR.EVER! Join us in celebrating the TPT Back to School Sale. Visit the stores below during the #BEST.YEAR.EVER! TPT Sitewide Sale to save up to 28% off of products on August 1st-2nd:

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Tips for the #BEST.YEAR.EVER and Giveaway from The Creative Classroom

Can you believe that it is already time for another school year to begin? It can be a time of great excitement with a little bit of chaos and overwhelming feelings, no matter how many years you have been teaching. Well, I'm here to help you jumpstart this new school year with some helpful tips and a fun giveaway to make this the #BEST.YEAR.EVER!

Enter The Creative Classroom's #BEST.YEAR.EVER Giveaway to win $10 TPT Gift Card, $10 Shopping Spree to The Creative Classroom, and a product of your choice from my store. The giveaway runs between now and ends on Monday, August 1st, 2016. Check out the Rafflecopter below to enter for your chance to win!

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Stay tuned for even more ways to make this the #BEST.YEAR.EVER in the coming days! :)

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Calming the Year End Chaos Tips for Success

If you are like me, the end of the school year can be a chaotic and energy-draining time period. There are so many things to get done-like paperwork, end of the quarter exams, keeping your students' focused and engaged. It can seem like a circus act to juggle all of these things at once. Sometimes it feels like it will never end, but the light at the end of the tunnel is oh-so close.

The end of the year for me has always been a time for self reflection of what worked and what didn't. This was especially true when I taught Literacy Enrichment, an elective class for students who scored below average on our state ELA assessments. There was no set curriculum so I created EVERYTHING that we did in our class for 6th-8th grade. It was easy for me to determine what I thought was successful or a great lesson, but what about my students' thoughts on the lessons and activities? Sure I had asked for feedback from them here or there, but did I really give them a chance to really reflect on the things that we did and what helped THEM? I sat down that afternoon and created an End of the Year Survey for my students' to complete. (Click here to download a FREE copy of this survey!)

 I had my students complete this activity during one of the last weeks of school and I was amazed at their view on the things we had done and the honest feedback that many of them gave. It was so nice to read about their favorite activities or short stories that we did (it was no surprise to me that Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart" and "The Black Cat" were among their favorites.). 

As I sat reading their comments, I began to think about how this would help me shape and revise my curriculum for the next school year. It was then that a light bulb went off in my head. If they were giving me such awesome feedback and advice, what type of advice would they give to future students who would be in their shoes next school year. Let's face it, we can give advice until we run out of things to say, but how powerful would it be for students to be the ones giving that advice on how to survive a new school year. I worked throughout the night developing a writing assignment that would allow my students' to take the life lessons that they had learned during our year together and share these experiences and advice with the future students who would be in my class. 

I introduced the Letter to a Future Student Activity to my classes during the final week of school. At first, they looked at me like I was crazy. Did I really expect them to write multiple paragraphs during the last week of school!?! That all changed once I explained WHY they would be writing these letters and that there was a real life purpose to this assignment. I let them know that my plan was to seal their letters in individual envelopes and that each of my new students would get one of their letters on the first day of the new school year. Even my most reluctant writers worked hard to create a multi-paragraph letter that contains tips, tricks, and helpful hints for making it through that next school year. Many of my students would call me over to check over their letters and give them some feedback. Some even asked if they could type their letters because they didn't want their messy handwriting to stop someone from being able to read their letters. I was so impressed with the level of thoughtfulness and hard work that they put in.

This was absolutely the best end of the year activity that I have ever done. I loved being able to give these letters to each new group of students, especially my new 6th graders who were terrified on that first day of their middle school experience. It helped to calm some nerves and also led to some laughs from the humorous stories that my former students had told in their letters. Below is one of my favorite letters from one of my former students:

Without a doubt involving my students' in these two activities helped give me some valuable feedback and information to use as I worked towards planning a new school year out. It also allowed me to show my students how much I valued their thoughts and opinions. This helped cut down on the normal end of the year behaviors and helped end our year on a positive note. 

I hope that you found these two tips helpful in calming the overwhelming chaos that occurs at the end of the year. The end is oh-so near so make every moment with your students count! You've got this, teachers! I hope that you have a GREAT rest of the school year, whether that be days or weeks left and that you have a restful and relaxing summer vacation! :)

More End of the Year Survival Tips
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Monday, May 2, 2016

The Creative Classroom Celebrates Teacher Appreciation Week!

You work hard each and every day to teach and educate the students in your classroom. You spend countless hours planning lessons that are engaging, rigorous, and fun that also meets the diverse needs of your students. You give up afternoons, nights, and weekends to grade assignments and plan your next steps. You put in an incredible effort to not only teach your students the curriculum, but to teach them life lessons and create a learning community in your classroom. You inspire your students to be the best version of themselves and encourage them to take risks. You do all of these things with limited resources, ever-changing expectations and mandates, a ton of extra responsibilities, and many other obstacles in your way. Thank you for being there for your students. You truly make a difference each day even if you don’t always see it. 

As a way of showing my thanks to all of the AMAZING teachers out there, I am hosting a week long celebration of flash freebies on my Facebook page. Each day a different product from my store will be free for one hour. Check out the image below to see the products that will be featured each day. 

The Flash Freebies will happen any time between 4:00-8:00 PM CST. I will post an announcement with the product being offered and the link to grab your copy. Be sure that you are following my Facebook page and have your notifications turned on so that you get the notifications for the Flash Freebie. 

In addition to the Flash Freebies, I will be hosting a giveaway where one winner will win a custom hand painted pencil from Creative Spice Designs. This pencil will be hand painted with either a quote, saying, or your name. Be sure to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway below for your chance to win. There are multiple ways that you can earn entries.The giveaway winner will be announced on Saturday, May 7th.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

The final way that I will be celebrating Teacher Appreciation Week is by participating the TPT Site Wide Sale on May 2nd-3rd. All of my products will be 28% off during this sale. All you have to do is fill up your cart and use the promo code CELEBRATE when you check-out. This is a great time to stock up on bundles and End of the Year Products. 

Click here to start shopping ->

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week, y'all! 

Monday, February 29, 2016

The Creative Classroom Leaps into Literature

Looking for new ways to engage your students in literature, especially with classics that might seem old and outdated? In this secondary English Language Arts blog hop, the Literary League showcases resources that can be used with any literary text, time after time, year after year.
Here at the Literary League, we’re a group of English teachers who truly love literature (we bet you already figured that part out). Given free time, we can all agree that there’s nothing better than leaping into a good book. But, even as avid readers, we have to admit that those spare minutes tend to be few and far between, especially during the school year, and there are times that we just have to …

  • leap into a book recommended by a friend, a colleague, or especially a student, who is anxiously awaiting our review
  • leap into a new novel we’re teaching, whether or not we’ve had time to fully prepare a complete unit
  • leap into a classic, maybe not one of our favorites, but something we know students need to sit with in order to grow as a reader

For those instances, the Literary League is teaming up to share some of our favorite resources to help you Leap into Literature. These are resources that are not tied to a particular book, but ones that can be used over and over again, both with your favorite novels, as well as with new texts or classic pieces you’re trying to breathe new life into.

A favorite resource I use to engage my students in literature is my Holy Task Cards! 28 Tasks for any Short Story. These task cards offer a variety of ways to get my students interacting with fiction texts. I love that they offer choice and a different approach for students to show their understanding of the story. Not only can students demonstrate mastery of story elements and Common Core standards, but they are also able to write creative writing compositions and create real world projects. 

One of my students' favorite tasks is Task #22- Comic Book, where students are able to turn the short story they have just read into a comic book. This requires students to really understand the setting and important plot points to be able to transform the story off the page. It is always amazing to see how the students bring the words to life through colorful and interesting illustrations. This is a great way to get your artistic students excited about literature.

My personal favorite task is Task #2- Rewrite. This task requires students to rewrite the ending to the story or continue from where the story ended. This works best with stories that have sudden or cliffhanger endings like "The Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar Allan Poe or "Monkey's Paw" by W.W. Jacobs. It is always so interesting to see what the students think happened to the characters next. The best part is that this assignment requires students to use what they have learned from the text and make inferences on where the story goes.

You can read about other engaging literature resources from the other Literary Leaguers linked up below and also enter in the rafflecopter below for a chance to win them all.