Years ago, a friend told me that starting a blog is like adopting a baby dinosaur. Sure, everyone wants a baby dinosaur. I mean, think of the cuteness. The trouble, of course, is that a baby dinosaur grows bigger (and bigger!) and the not-as-cute critter still needs to be fed and the poop still needs to be scooped.
So it is for my pet project, laurarandazzo.com. Don’t get me wrong, I love my dinosaur. My blog is my heart, my tiny cozy corner of the world wide web. Still, I worry I might be running out of feed.
Many folks abandon their baby dinosaurs, leaving those blogs to wither and die. I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of these; when a blogger hasn’t posted anything in more than a year, I think of that site as a fossil. Publish or perish as the academics say, eh?
Yet after nearly five years and 300+ posts, the feed supply has dwindled and I fear I’ve started repeating myself. I fear I’ve started repeating myself. See what I mean? Here’s where you can help. Tell me, what do you need? What topics do you want covered? Education news briefs and/or debates? Reports on the books I’m reading? More details about the curriculum I build? Resource round-ups? More reader Q&As? Fewer Q&As?
One wrinkle is that I’m stymied by my current work contract. I can’t share pictures of the kids (obviously), but I’m also prohibited from posting a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g from work. Because I make money selling curriculum (thank you for contributing to my kid’s college fund, by the way), I need to keep my online and real-life professional worlds apart.
That being said, I’d love for you to leave a reply below and let me know what to add to my blog topic brainstorm list for the new year. Can’t promise I’ll be able to turn every suggestion into an article, but I’ll try my best. Together, we can keep this little ol’ dinosaur alive.
Teach on, everyone.
45 thoughts on “Help Me Help You”
Practical ways to handle differentiation
Standardized test prep 🙁
Work life balance tips
Your experiences as a teacher that have changed or shaped you
Book club style posts of a book you are reading with blog readers joining you
Classroom set up (cute or organizational systems)
How to become a TPT seller
The questions/answers are some of my favorite posts especially from newer teachers. Old sharks like me can always learn!
I’m curious about a couple of things.
HOW do you organize yourself when teaching multiple courses/grade levels/ability levels. I have three (English I, English I-Honors, and Technical Writing–remediation) and I”M GOING NUTS!
Secondly, my district is mandating a curriculum that is “READ FROM THIS SLIDE” in its set up. It’s stifling EVERY ounce of creativity and fun from me AND the kids. We are permitted to add to this thing, but we cannot subtract. =(
I love when you post kind of random, one-off lessons from things that inspired you (I’m thinking of Jason Reynolds, Oprah, etc). I’m often able to fit those really nicely into my curriculum, giving the kids (and me!) a break from the lit analysis routine. We all appreciate a “day off” while still keeping on topic.
Thanks, Julie, Theresa, Lafilleenrose! You’re filling up my notebook. Yea! 🙂
Keep the ideas coming, everyone…
I just finished my credential program. Your advice about classroom management and building relationships with students was incredibly helpful during my student teaching, and I would welcome more from you on that topic. Avoiding burnout, handling difficult colleagues and communicating effectively with parents are some of the other issues I’m interested in.
I agree with lafilleenrose. I really enjoy when you share singleton lessons from resources you stumbled upon. The Jason Reynolds speech was great. That being said, I would love a blog on how you create your beautiful worksheets, handouts, graphic organizers. The design quality behind your materials is amazing and I’d love a little tutorial on that.
Thank you for NOT STOPPING! You are such an inspiration to me. 🙏🏻😊
I’m always needing:
Work/life balance (can English teachers *even* work out and have a family?)
Tips for working smarter, not harder
Resources and activities for AP/Honors/ upper level ELA that are still fun
Wishlist—a hearty supply of already-formatted articles that can remain relevant for a long time (print and go), with a few focus vocabulary words selected from each. I LOVE your SAT essay prep bundle.
Thank you from the bottom of my teacher heart. Your work, resources on TPT, and general attitude have kept me focused on the positive in my teaching.
I would like to know more about classroom management – especially handling disrespect toward the teacher, immature student whiners, and how to prepare for all learning levels.
I also would like more information on how to grade more efficiently and effectively. I’m a first year teacher working on my MAT while teaching and raising a family, so work/life balance hacks are very much appreciated.
I appreciate your advice and frankness.
I feel like everything you do, I love! Differentiation, specific for ELL’s, is always good. It would maybe be fun to do a virtual book club. Another area could be how to get student buy in and reaching the intentional non-learner. There is always a need for how to deal with a difficult teacher or admin, or how to decorate a h.s. classroom, but that might be hard for you to separate the 2 worlds.
I think you could revisit old blog posts and update them. Still doing this, no longer do this, ran into this complication and this is how I fixed it.
I don’t know about you, but after 18 years, I need new ideas and new ways to keep things interesting. BUT, my school is changing our bell schedule, moving toward Linked Learning Pathways, and pushing for PBL. It’s a lot to try to keep up with at once. I’d love to hear about your experiences with the big & small changes that require our flexibility.
I think as a high school English teacher, I feel that the students should already have a grasp on the skills, such as cause and effect, summarizing, generalizing, making conclusions, etc. So I know I don’t spend as much time teaching these things as I do working towards comprehension and exposing them to text. Could you give some ideas on how an elementary turned high school teacher can teach these things?
Also, I struggle to make the grammar part of the English class fun and work it into our writing.
Building relevance and increasing engagement … you keep me going my encouraging me to fight the good fight when I feel near the brink of randomness … like I am just going through the motion and not helping anyone …. your encouraging post about English teaching is hard but worth it… I love your real messages from your car about the honest reality of this work … it is my passion too… you’re my constant source of collaboration since I work in an environment that would otherwise stifle my creativity! I just love to see your approach to writing, reading, and all things English …
I have almost everything you have done. The problem I have today is forming A and B type questions for the LEAP 2025 for high school. I wish our spectacular teacher, Mrs. Laura, would create a tutorial that helps teachers teach how to answer the questions. If they don’t get Part A right, they automatically get Part B wrong. I teach that Part A is in the reading selection and they just have to read deeper to discover it. Then for part B, use that answer to give proof of part A, but they are not getting it. We have given two practice tests and the scores are very low across the board. How can we help them? You know how important scores are to administration. I love you and your work! I value your input.
Hi, Laura! I’m also a huge fan of everything you do! I would be interested in learning about how you make your materials, too. Anything that I make on my own doesn’t look nearly as appealing (and it takes me forever to create things). Honestly, though, I love reading anything you write. It’s simply quality. =)
Another vote for something on work/life balance here. Though admittedly, after doing this for 20 years and not having my own kids, it’s not too awful. But still, all. Those. Papers! Lol. I’m thinking of adding some CrossFit to the mix. Hmm…
And as someone above mentioned, after all this time, I’m always looking for ways to change things up and keep things interesting, *without* reinventing the wheel. I’m also not a fan of technology and/or change just for the sake of it. Sometimes I feel like we’d be better off getting back to serious basics – “reading and writing”…y’know, with actual pens and paper. The penmanship I see (freshmen and juniors) is abysmal.
Not sure if this is exactly what you’re looking for, but it’s what’s currently rolling around in my brain. Thanks for all you do! 🙂
I struggle with making sense of data when it seems that every assessment results in mixed messages: some kids are great with one thing but others really struggle with the same thing. I guess that leads to a question about more effective differentiation techniques. I’ve read many books, taken classes, sat in on conference sessions, etc. and I still don’t feel I do it well.
Oh, yeah, and also design elements in developing materials that will last.
Engaging lessons for my Sped students. Articles about closing the gap. Reignite passion for reading with reluctant readers.
I love your blog – please keep going!
I teach 8th grade and, although I’m across the country and in a Common Core state, I’d love to know what middle school preparation is essential for student success in high school.
I would love to learn more about how you balance your work and family. You have accomplished so much!! How do you get it all done?
Help me understand the nuts and bolts of the classroom. Constant interruptions, students getting finished earlier than others, test creation, help!
Do you have any information about teaching multiple grade levels in the same classroom?
Self-care tips for preventing burnout (“Teacher Tired”), how to differentiate for honors class (when you also teach gen ed at the same grade level), recommended books to have available in your secondary classroom library when kids forget their SSR book, more curriculum materials (via TpT), classroom set-up tips, classroom organization. Oh, have you tried speed dating with books? If you have, I’d love to read about your process.
I would love a Native American unit! I haven’t found one that is very deep with gender, on/off reservation, history, etc. A lot of ideas around Alexie’s Absolutely True Diary but not much else. Your TKAM is amazing. Something in that vein would be very appreciated (and, I will share anything I find if you are interested!).
What a fantastic list of ideas, everyone! I knew my blog friends would deliver. 🙂 Please keep the ideas flowing. I plan to check back here all year long whenever I need a bump of inspiration. Great stuff!
I need some suggestions about managing feedback on student writing so that it is both timely and useful for them, as in they will actually look at it and not only use it in improving the draft they are currently working on but all future drafts as well.
I have enjoyed all of your posts and I even enjoy when you revisit a lesson from the past and make changes to fit the students you have now and the standards. I love your enthusiasm about teaching and your willingness to share. Everyone has given some good ideas for your future blogs posts. Looking forward to what you come up with. Happy New Year and keep teaching. Looking forward to this year’s 20time project.
I feel like a post about seating charts (i.e. how you decide who sits next to whom and why you make that choice, on what medium [digital or hard copy] you have your seating charts, etc.) would be great! I know you already have a video on the arrangement of seats in your classroom from years ago, but I think expanding on the topic would be helpful! 😀
I’m the weird/nerdy teacher who gets excited about pretty much everything. When my kids look skeptically at me as I introduce something new, I usually say, “Don’t worry, I’ll be excited for you!” However, my excitement (and variety of lessons wrapped up in easy-to-follow daily routines) seems to be affecting fewer and fewer kids. So, what do you suggest for: (a) kids who simply will not do out-of-class assignments/reading, as well as (b) students who see no real value in classes that are not farming- or work-related? Even when we discuss articles/videos and talk to/about graduates who were surprised at how much English has helped them in their “non-English” careers, too many of the kids refuse (?) to see the validity of what we’re doing in the classroom. Thoughts?
Tips on how to start a TPT store, how to market materials, methods of designing materials with a unique style and brand. I love all of your materials and wish that I could do something similar.
I haven’t followed you from the beginning. It does seem new to me. If you have repeated yourself, I doubt if I would know.
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou ________________________________
I love your work and admire your ‘experienced enthusiasm’. I am wondering how you deal with parents who are the cause of their kids’ issues either by not being involved or by being involved too much.
I’ve only recently begun following your blog, but I’ve always known of it and have purchased quite a few materials from your store on TpT (thanks!!!).
I’m going to be teaching a new course next year, Harry Potter and the Semester of Service, which is my brain-child, so I’m very excited! However, I’d love to learn more about project-based learning. This course, while a study of the ENTIRE Harry Potter series, will also ask students to identify social issues within the community (local, statewide, nationwide, etc.), research the issue, and then come up with a plan AND implement said plan to help combat the issue or call attention to the issue. So, for example, my students could be working on issues such as animal cruelty, poverty, homelessness, etc. I have some ideas, but I’ve never taught a course like this, so I am afraid I might have bitten off more than I can chew!
Additionally, Jennifer Gonzalez over at Cult of Pedagogy wrote a post a few years ago about things she no longer does based on her research. Here’s that post: https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/ineffective-teaching-methods/
Since reading that post, I, too, have stopped “popcorn” reading. Is there anything you used to do that, either through research or experience, you have stopped doing because you realized it wasn’t benefiting your students?
Help! I have 115 students in three grade levels. Next year I will have 130. The workload is too much. I remember you said you taught, or currently teach, over 130. How do you manage it?
What about launching programs for students to respond to each other’s writing – kinda like the NY Times student op ed page. The problem with the Times op ed – no real response, no control over the product. Kids enjoy responding to something “real”, mock trials, Socratic seminars — what can we do online to encourage thoughtful dialogue?
I’ve tried ePals – one way to have students respond — and that platform has group projects – but I mean respond in terms of relating literature to our lives. Through ePals, we learned about cultures of countries, and that was really cool. (the metals vats that hold the food for Chinese students, the healthier options in Germany). But we never had an audience to respond to our modern concerns with history, philosophy, debate, etc.
Sorry – this probably isn’t a product – but access to such a platform could be. Well, maybe it could be – if you connect current events with a novel study – throw in Socratic seminar questions , add speech prompts…maybe create a debate…
Probably should’ve thought this through, but I read your blog and started brainstorming… careful what you ask for! We can never get enough non fiction articles, philosophical debate topics, activities tie in to novels and literature in the bigger picture (the connection to other generations and to each other)!
Laura, please never stop sharing your passion for teaching English! You keep me energized. I’d love a post about how you approach reading Shakespeare. Do kids read it aloud in class on the first reading? Act it out? Specifically, what are some fun non-cringey ideas for the balcony scene.
Hi Laura, I am a big fan of your TPT store and your blog. You have saved my sanity over the last few years as I struggle with the work-life balance, and the money that I have spent in your store has been worth every penny. I love using your Prezi resources in class and would like to know if you have used this as a resource with your students to present their work. I would also like some advice about differentiation. Keep doing what you do Laura – you are an inspiration!
I have thoroughly enjoyed your videos. I have been in education for 20+ years, and now I’m back in the classroom. In some ways, I feel like a new teacher. I would love it if you’d address your curricular routine. You mentioned you do SSR on Fridays, and in the spring you do the passion project. When and how do you teach vocabulary terms? How do break up reading/analyzing, grammar, and composition. I recall you doing a video on 10 minute grammar sessions. I’d love to know how you organize your instructional days and weeks. Thanks for all you do!
Happy to help, Janie! I definitely rely on bell-ringers to help us stay organized, quickly hit a lot of CCSS skills, and efficiently start each period. On Mondays, we launch with Mechanics, Usage, and Grammar, a.k.a. MUG Shots. I also use Lit. Term Tuesday and Words on Wednesday. We take a break from the routine on Thursdays and just jump into whatever literature or writing skill we’ve been working on for that class period and then I always wrap the week with SSR Friday. I’m hopeful this overview video that has a bit more detail will help: https://laurarandazzo.com/2018/07/07/bell-ringers-for-the-win/ Happy planning! 🙂
Maybe you covered this somewhere already… What do you do when a new student gets added to your class in the middle of the year, nay mid unit?! What do you do to integrate said student into your class and keep them busy until the unit (say, a novel you’re partway through) ends?
What about planning for grades you don’t teach? I teach seniors and love your stuff, but your brain applied to my specific content/texts would be magical to see!
I definitely handle these students on a case-by-case basis, depending on what they’d recently been studying and their skill/interest level. Sometimes, I have them jump in mid-stream and just modify the exam pieces; other times, I’ll give them a two-week alternative assignment to complete alongside the class as we finish up a major unit. Again, it really just depends… As for prepping classes I don’t teach, that’s a tall order these days, I’m afraid. For the most part, I have to push those projects to the backburner until spring break and summer vacation. You know how it is. Thanks for checking in with me. Hope you’re having a good spring semester! 🙂
Can you show us your physical classroom? Specifically, systems like your routines for filing papers/staying organized and student areas like turn in spots, restroom sign-outs, etc. Thanks for all the advice and resources!
Laura, I’ve been following you for several years, and you’re still the teacher I want to be when I grow up! 😉
I would LOVE practical tips for remedial writing instruction–what to do when your freshmen babies come to you without knowing what a complete sentence is or how to identify the subject or verb. Where do you start? How do you possibly cover EVERYTHING they’re missing and also try to get through grade level curriculum? I need some serious intervention!
Oh, Jessica, we might need to write a whole book to cover all that. You’ve just filled a full page of my idea notebook. We’ll see what happens…