A global pandemic, a cross-country move, an identity crisis…yeah, it’s been a weird year. Everything’s upside-down and inside-out right now. Seemed like a good time to fire up the YouTube channel again: Let’s talk! What topics should I cover? What’re you struggling with? How can I help? I’ll do my best to turn your questions […]

“Hey Ms. R., that was pretty good…for a school movie.”
Yes, The Twilight Zone, that 60-year-old black-and-white TV show, earns what I call high praise from teenagers.

Before we get to my all-time favorite episodes to use as teaching tools, here are seven reasons to bring The Twilight Zone to your classroom:

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Note: This is an updated repost featuring some of my favorite end-of-October lesson ideas.

Since Halloween’s on a Saturday this year, it feels right to fill the whole week leading up to Oct. 31 with spooky literary goodness. Up first? A super-creepy Neil Gaiman story suggested a few weeks ago by friends over in the 2ndaryELA Facebook Group.

If you don’t know Gaiman’s “Click Clack the Rattlebag,” lower the lights and get ready for a fun, scary ride. Gaiman shares it with us here:

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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

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

Kids are wise to my ways, and I’m working to stay a step ahead of them with this all-new set of Quarter Trio brain teaser questions. Yup! Volume #5 has arrived.

Ready to quiz yourself? Let’s go! Continue reading

Today’s drop of brilliance comes from Jess, a fellow bookworm and middle school English teacher. With her permission, I’m sharing a tangible and beautiful way to motivate your kids to keep reading their SSR books. Continue reading

Working with middle school writers at our library this summer, I’ve found a few storytelling tools that are too awesome not to share. Continue reading

Note: This is an updated repost.

You’ve wrapped your last major unit and final exams are still a week or so away. You could spend five days on Review Jeopardy (um…no, thanks) or you could grab some of these tried-and-true resources that’ll keep kids focused until finals. Continue reading