Five Classroom Essentials

I know, I know, it’s only the beginning of August, but it really is time to start thinking about the fall. As you get your planning underway, please know I have so. many. things. to ease your prep load. Today, I’m featuring five essential items – my all-time favorites! – that might be helpful:

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 covering a ton of Common Core standards in quick 10-minute bites.

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, throw in one of these high-interest pick-me-up activities and the room is suddenly alive as teens dig into characterization without realizing they’re actually working. 

Brain Teasers – You could use these as a bell-ringer, but in my classroom they’ve been 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. 

Poetry Unit – One of my most loathsome teaching tasks (Poetry? This former journalist used to bristle and say, “Yuck.”) has now become a favorite. A few years 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 been a hit. Go figure.

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. Once I memorized my codes, it really did 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. 

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

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

Choice board to use with any short story or novel chapter

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. Teach on, everyone!

School bus photo credit: Pixabay, public domain

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1 year ago

I’m interested in what the essay packet and annotation journal looks like. I’m working on getting my masters degree and hopefully having a teaching job come September. I would like to have some examples of different activities to do with my future students as I transition back into the classroom. Thank you for all the amazing ideas in your blog!

Laura Randazzo
1 year ago
Reply to  MacKenzie

Happy to help, MacKenzie! And welcome back to this side of the teacher’s desk. I have a YouTube video here that models the essay corrections process: https://youtu.be/sEFZedSW0I0

I don’t have an annotation journal, but I do use this free handout to help guide students’ reading and it includes a bookmark for these to easily access the thinking prompts: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/How-to-Annotate-Text-Annotations-FREE-Sticky-Note-Method-Handout-with-Bookmark-1395773

Finally, my blog has a search feature when you get more narrow about a specific need this fall. I’m also always just an email away. 🙂

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