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 this week from a fellow English teacher. I am sharing our conversation with her permission and honoring her request to change her name for privacy.

Hi Laura,
I love your blog! I tried your Quarter Trios with my classes last year, and they LOVED it! Because I think you have such a positive, energetic attitude toward teaching and students, I wanted to ask your advice on the hot topic of conversation in my department right now – whether or not to assign summer reading. Continue reading

Around here, mid-January means prepping for 20Time, a spring semester project-based learning experience designed to bring real-world application to English/language arts classroom skills. Basically, students are given 20 percent of class time for 12 weeks to work on a passion project that they choose and their peers approve. (Click here for a free set of 20Time teaching materials.)

Over winter break, Colleen*, a 20Time first-timer, reached out via email with a few questions. With her permission, I’m sharing our conversation, which might help other folks as they set their plan. Continue reading

Let’s get 2020 started with a free print-and-teach worksheet designed to increase student motivation and help our teens think meaningfully about literature. Continue reading

Marriage is a blessing, proclaims Anne Bradstreet.
Marriage is a curse, warns Lady Mary Chudleigh.
Ladies, take your corners because it’s time to get ready to rum-b-l-e! Continue reading