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

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

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

UPDATE: This blog post was written at the beginning of the Coronavirus/COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. Obviously, things have changed and many of us need lesson plans beyond just two weeks. If your school has been closed indefinitely, I hope this bundle of 12 free emergency distance learning activities is helpful. Take care of yourself, your family, and your students. Love you! Laura

Brace yourself. It’s coming. If it’s not already in your emailbox, it’ll be here soon – a message from your principal requiring two weeks’ worth of lesson plans that can be accessed remotely in case your school closes as part of the Coronavirus/COVID-19 outbreak.

Whether the virus actually shows up on your campus or not, it’s important we all stay calm. I’m the first to acknowledge that it’s annoying to write lesson plans you might not ever use, but it’s also wise and really shouldn’t take too long to pull together. If the ick hits the fan, you’ll be glad you have a plan. Continue reading

Today’s post comes from an email I received from a fellow English teacher. I’m sharing our conversation with her permission and honoring her request to change her name for privacy.

Hi Laura,
I’m a second-year English teacher, and I just got dragged into the inevitable “Why is school even important?” fight with my students. Their argument was that with smartphones, the need for actual knowledge is obsolete. This attitude drives me crazy; I know I probably shouldn’t have fallen for that one, but I couldn’t resist. However, I don’t really feel like I made a good impact on those students, and I came away from it feeling pretty frustrated. Do you have any tips for dealing with the “too cool for school” attitude? I’m at a loss with how to deal with these kids. Nothing I try really seems to work with them.
Cassie Continue reading

If you’ve used podcast episodes in your classroom, you know that the kids love them. You also know that it’s really, really hard to find one that’s not too short/too long, isn’t riddled with swear words, and will actually hold our students’ attention.

This week, I’m happy to share a nugget of curriculum gold that I found over at Sidedoor, a podcast produced by the Smithsonian Institute. Continue reading