Five Classroom Essentials

I know, I know, it’s only the beginning of August, but it really is time to dry off from the pool and start thinking about the fall. I’ve added lots of new items over the past few months, including a 5-pack of Listen & Learn podcast-based lessons, a bunch of author biography research organizers, and the teen-friendly parts of speech poster set shown at the top of the page.

Wondering what else might work for you? Here are my Five All-Time Favorite Classroom Essentials:

1. Full Year of Grammar, Literary Term, and Vocabulary Bell-Ringers
– This collection of 300+ slides helps the class hit the ground running each day, taking care of that “okay, everyone, settle down” awkwardness while we cover a ton of Common Core standards in quick 10-minute bites.

2. Literature Supplement Bundle – I know you know that mid-novel dead zone when everyone’s just slogging through the chapters, waiting to get to the climax and final resolution. Whenever longer works start to lose their snap, I throw in one of these high-interest pick-me-up activities and the room is suddenly alive as my teens dig into characterization without realizing they’re actually working.

3. Brain Teasers – You could use these as a bell-ringer, but in my classroom they’re the heart of Quarter Trio competitions every other Friday. The kids love them and I enjoy letting my inner gameshow host come out to play. (I slipped small printouts of these question and answer key slides into my teen’s summer camp duffle. She reported back that those little slips traveled far and wide around the campsite.)

4. Poetry Unit – One of my most loathsome teaching tasks (Poetry? This former journalist used to bristle and say, “Yuck.”) has now become a favorite. Three summers ago, I rolled up my sleeves and built a unit for folks – teachers and students, alike – who think they don’t like poetry. The results were better than I could’ve anticipated; I’ve used the unit with my 9th, 10th, and 11th graders and it’s always a hit. So there.

5. 5-Minute Essay Grading System – Hands down, this is my favorite thing I’ve ever built. Years ago, I was drowning in essays and seriously re-thinking my career choice as every evening and weekend was being swallowed by paper-grading. To save myself, I developed a coding system that put the bulk of the work where it belonged – on the students’ shoulders. Now that I have my codes memorized, it really does take me just under five minutes to give meaningful feedback to each paper. The system includes a 25-page ebook and a set of editable rubrics and code sheets for four modes of writing, so you can alter things to best fit the needs of your classroom/grade level. (Yup, this is the same system I mentioned in Sunday’s video.)

Finally, if money is tight and you’re bummed because you won’t see a paycheck until the end of September (been there, ramen-noodled that), the good news is I also have a bunch of free items to help you launch strong, my friend:

First Day of School Stations activity

SSR Book Talk procedure and handouts

How to Annotate handout with bookmark

MLA front-page submission guide

Worksheet to use with any TED Talk

Epic Opening Lines and Great Last Lines bulletin board materials

If you’ve never been to TpT, prepare to have your mind blown by the amazing community of educators who are making great lesson plans to engage students in every grade and every subject area. Old textbooks and lame crossword puzzles? Not for us, my friends. Not for us.

Okay, time to open up that planning calendar. Teach on, everyone!

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