Today’s post comes from an email I received this week from a high school English teacher. I’m sharing our conversation with her permission, though I changed her name for privacy.

Hi Laura,
Next Monday, my school district is set to return with a hybrid learning model – “A” Cohort in person on Mondays and Wednesdays, “B” Cohort in person on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and everyone online with Virtual Learning on Fridays with Canvas.

I was wondering if you have any advice or material regarding Canvas, Virtual Learning, safety protocols, COVID – basically anything that might help me help my students as we face these new challenges.

Thank you in advance,
Kathleen Continue reading

My year-long project to post mini-lessons three times a week on YouTube is now complete! To keep things tidy and hopefully make things easier for folks to find, I’ve condensed the series to this one blog post and deleted the weekly update posts. Click any of the images below to be taken to the appropriate playlist. Continue reading

Note: This is an updated repost featuring some of my favorite end-of-October lesson ideas.

Since Halloween’s on a Saturday this year, it feels right to fill the whole week leading up to Oct. 31 with spooky literary goodness. Up first? A super-creepy Neil Gaiman story suggested a few weeks ago by friends over in the 2ndaryELA Facebook Group.

If you don’t know Gaiman’s “Click Clack the Rattlebag,” lower the lights and get ready for a fun, scary ride. Gaiman shares it with us here:

Continue reading

Haven’t heard of her? You’re not alone. Last week, I came across Susan Glaspell’s short story, “A Jury of Her Peers,” while looking for new works to add to my American literature curriculum. Glaspell, called “American drama’s best-kept secret” by the British press, was a turn-of-the-century powerhouse who packed her easy-to-read story with tons of symbolism and controversy for students to discuss. Continue reading

Please allow me introduce you to Andy Weir’s tasty morsel of a short story called, “The Egg.” The story, part sci fi/part philosophy, is a quick 1,000-word read that might be a good match for your classes this fall. Although not particularly religious, the story centers around a God figure talking to his supernatural child. […]

Looking for free/inexpensive materials that’ll bring life to drab classroom walls and bulletin boards? (Yes, I’m assuming we’ll have some sort of physical space to share with students this fall.) Let’s get scrolling…

1. This Day in Arts & Letters (new item just posted this weekend!)
Built with the interests of teens in mind, I folded 365 factoids into this set of 12 month-at-a-glance calendars with the aim of hooking students’ attention and maybe even inspiring them to want to learn more Continue reading

On May 13, 1862, Robert Smalls impersonated a Confederate captain, stole a gunboat, and sailed his family away from enslavement. His great-great-grandson, Michael Boulware Moore, told the story on the Criminal podcast this week – it’s a nail-biter everyone should hear. Continue reading

I’m hard on my books. Argue if you want, but a spine is meant to be cracked. Oh, yes, I dog-ear pages (the horror!), underline passages, scribble phrases in the margins that mean nothing to anyone but me.

You already know, books can be a tool to help us figure out this weird world, but I worry many of our teens don’t feel the same. To them, books are a drag, a literal weight in their backpacks offering nothing relevant to their lives except slightly stronger shoulder muscles.

Let’s try to change that. Continue reading

By far, the top question I’ve been asked this week is how to turn a PDF worksheet into an interactive assignment that can be posted to Google Classroom. I use Adobe InDesign to create most of my PDF handouts and, unfortunately, there’s no converting an Adobe file into a fully editable Google file. Apparently, those software companies don’t want to play nicely.

There are several workarounds, but most are cumbersome or require third-party apps that some school districts block. I’ve always suggested that folks turn the PDF into an JPG image, drop it onto a Google Slides page, and then draw text boxes on top of the image that kids could fill in on the screen.

Amy Almada, problem-solver and teacher tech goddess, just took this process next level by modeling the simple path and teaching us her special “background” trick. Continue reading

The pandemic is spreading quickly and it looks like my initial two-week Coronavirus lesson plan isn’t going to be enough. Since my brain’s default is worst-case-scenario mode, I’m now expecting all of our schools to cancel in-person instruction for the rest of the spring semester.

Will this actually happen? I have no idea. What does this mean for our students? Again, no idea. I’ve never taught in a 1:1 school and my online learning experience is limited to a couple of dismal professional development courses. Not fun. And, yet, fun is exactly what we need right now. Continue reading