Friday, December 29, 2017

What I Read in 2017

My Top Five:
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
Every Exquisite Thing by Matthew Quick
Girls on the Edge by Leonard Sax
Salt to the Sea by Ruth Sepetys

Thursday, December 28, 2017

2018 Reading List

I know I'll get through at least 25 books this year. I obviously love fiction, especially YA (so I can recommend books to my students), but occasionally I switch things up with some non-fiction. Do you have any other suggestions I should add to my list?

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Recent YA Reads

What books do you consistently recommend to students?
What books are on your reading list?

Encouraging Choice Reading

I love reading YA lit-- way more than classics, adult fiction, or non-fiction. I am always physically reading and listening to (thanks to my 30 min commute!) one to two books at a time. This laminated sign is on my desk and usually updated with a picture of the book's cover. At least this way they know I am reading! Often kids will ask about them too; plus it's a visual reminder for me to discuss choice  reading with students.

Since first day of school is just for freshmen (which I teach) and I only see them for a 15 minute "period," I have them complete a Reading Inventory (scroll down to the last entry to download this). Then I use NoveList, What Should I Read Next, Award Lists and my own reading experience to create a list of 4-6 book recommendations for each student. I haven't read every book I recommend, but I try to read a few reviews to double check for content I don't think suitable for 9th graders. I write this down AND email it to them so there's another copy when they (eventually) lose theirs.

Once I finish those book recommendations, we visit the library for the entire class period and students explore how it's organized, learn how to check out a book, and use the online "card catalog" to find a book. I require my students to read one book each quarter entirely outside of class time. This can be any book they want as long as it has some sort of story line (not just a fact book, for example, but graphic novels, manga, fiction, memoir, etc. is fine). All students have a 30 minute study hall at the end of the day where they can do homework or visit any teacher, so their "assignment" with this free read novel is just to meet with me during that time before the end of the quarter and tell me about their book. I ask questions based on the summary on the book cover; it's really easy to tell if they actually read it or not! I don't want it to be stressful, so they can take notes while they read to use in our conversation if they want. I want my students to READ and just find a book they enjoy.

Quarter One (I had to take this down because the roof leaked and made all the paper bleed and look gross. 

Quarter Two
I also have a chart on a bulletin board with each of my 5 class periods represented. Whenever I student finishes a book (free read + any others), they let me know, I print off a thumbnail picture of the cover and add it to the chart. At the end of the semester, I divide the # of books each class read by the the # of students in class to determine the WINNER. They don't actually win anything though =)

(I have since actually filled all of these shelves plus two more crates with books!)

Having a fun "reading nook" in my room with lots of books to grab or magazines (I get free ones all the time through the coupon app!) helps too. When possible, I let students move around the room to read in a comfy chair or on the floor with pillows.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Decorating Your High School Classroom

As a high school English teacher, here are some of my tips for decorating a secondary classroom. I know some teachers don't like to spend time doing this, but I need to make my space my own. Also, most of my posters and bulletin boards stay up all year (which saves lots of time!). The only one I switch at semester is the big one below. Plus, I LOVE crafty/artsy stuff, so I really enjoy making posters and bulletin boards. 

Emphasize Books!
I encourage reading any chance I get! This year I made an author spotlight board on John Green since students seem to love him. I included a picture of the book cover and a famous quote. The other half is popular dystopian novels such as Uglies and The Maze Runner, but also some classics like 1984, with a brief summary. 

Half way through the year, I decided to track the choice novels my students were reading by class period -- sort of as a competition! Students love seeing the front cover of a book they finished, and it's often a conversation starter among them. 

Pops of color (or other things that match your personality). 
I like bright colors and books and art work, so I have a plethora of these things in my classroom. Hopefully, not only do I feel more comfortable in the space, but my students are stimulated too. I use a variety of coffee mugs to hold scissors, pens, rulers, etc. My pens are connected to those brightly colored flowers, and the wall behind my desk is adorned with a variety of artwork that I (or a my niece) created. 

Student Work or Semester's Essential Question
My first semester curriculum is centered around the question "Who am I?" After each unit, I added student work to the yellow bulletin board above that helped answer that question. (For example: "I am from" poems, tree drawings after reading Speak...)

Make your room comfortable and "home-y."
I provided my own bookcases to shelve my YA lit collection and use crates to hold magazines (I sign up for a bunch of free subscriptions online for random reads: Parenting, Family Circle, Tennis, Motorcycle World, Surf, US Weekly, Self -- Students can read them and they're useful for projects!). I have 5 lamps throughout my room to create some ambient lighting. The rug is a carpet remnant from a few years ago that I edged with chevron duct tape. The tree an balloon/coffee art are past poetry projects my students let me keep and there are Harry Potter quotes in Dollar Store frames. Not pictured: a variety of big pillows my students can sit with on the floor during silent reading time.

Make posters for commonly referenced tasks, terms, procedures, etc.
I use construction paper and die-cuts provided by my school to make my own posters instead of purchasing some (hello 100% customization!). Pictured above are words I discourage my students from over-using in their writing with possible synonym suggestions below. I'm a fan of bright colors so I used a variety of colors. I also made posters with the curriculum essential objectives, all the parts of speech, my class website, and remind 101 text information. I also have some posters for specific units: a Romeo & Juliet character web, Odyssey vocabulary words, etc.

How do you decorate your space?