Category Archives: Uncategorized

Awesome English Grammar Video Game

Perhaps my school is different from yours, but the students whom I teach are generally reluctant to learn and eager to play video games. Clearly some compromise must be made to address this situation… and here it is. Finally, your students can learn parts of speech and sentence structure while playing a fun and exciting video games. Students will have so much fun jumping around, learning cool tricks, and playing as a ninja, that they won’t even realize how much they are learning, in a Karate Kid, sort of way.

If you and your students have access to laptops or PCs, give your class some time on this game and you’ll be shocked at how interested they will become with learning these concepts.  The next time that you lecture about sentence structure or parts of speech, students will see immediate value in the information that you are providing them.  You’ll find this an excellent compliment to your instruction.

Unfortunately, it’s not currently adapted for mobile play, but if you’ve got a keyboard in front of your right now, check it out: Super Grammar Nina | Parts of Speech and Sentence Structure Review Game.


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Summer Reading Activities

As the school year begins to wind down, you may be looking for some fun and engaging reading activities to get you to and through the summer.  That’s no problem.  Whether you are looking for activities that are focused on specific reading skills, or activities that can be used with any text, I’m sure you’ll find something that works on this great list of reading activities.   Here is a short list of some of the reading skills that are covered:

  • Identifying statements of fact and statements of opinion
  • Analyzing the mood of a scene
  • Determining character traits and motives
  • Summarizing
  • Understanding irony
  • Identifying details that reveal the genre of a literary work
  • Determining the narrator’s view point
  • Listening and speaking skill activities

I’m sure that you’ll find a reading activity that works for you, and may your student find as much success with these materials as mine have.  Best wishes!

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Class Websites

For years the gulf of technical know-how was much too wide for most teachers to cross. So students waited quietly, remaining unconnected while only the most technologically proficient educators were able to develop websites for use in the classroom. Those educators did great things with their sites: they posted homework assignments, notified parents and caretakers of due dates and events, and provided resources to absent students almost magically through the power of the world wide web. As the years rolled on, web design only increased in complexity. Along came JavaScript, Flash, CSS, AJAX, new iterations of HTML; how could teachers utilize this power?

Unfortunately, with piles of papers to grade, professional development to wither through, and a drive to improve lessons and instruction, most teachers don’t have the time to wrangle with these programming languages and standards, and so the gulf widened between the empowered and the disenfranchised. But to the delight of all, that time of darkness has passed in one fell swoop. Yes, the means of production have fallen into the hands of the proletariat, and now teachers all over the world have high-functioning class websites. “How?” you may ask, “How did they learn all of those complicated programming languages to create classroom websites that are powerful and easy to use?” They didn’t; Homewo did. Now you can create a website with all of these powerful features:

  • Post homework assignments online
  • Post assignments by date
  • Post assignments with one-click
  • Automatically email parents and subscribers each time an assignment is posted
  • Use a custom domain name
  • Change the appearance of your site with a few clicks

Plus, you can have one of these sites for free.  How’s that for an advancement in technology?  Click here to learn more about making a classroom website.

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Identifying Credible Internet Research Sources | 5 Things to Look For

When I was in high school in the late 90s, many of my teachers didn’t even let me use the internet as a source for my research papers. Imagine that? I couldn’t use the very technology devised to share research between universities to help me write my research paper. So, what technology did my teacher promote instead of the unlimited power of the greatest information conduit in the known universe? Three by five note card, that’s right kids. At one time note cards were a research staple. Since that experience I’ve gone on to use the internet everyday to solve most of my problems, and I’ve found no use for note cards, but thanks for trying Ms. Smith. My teachers weren’t just cruel technophobes; they were from the old school. They didn’t understand the internet. It frightened them; but despite that truth, they did have a point. The internet lowered the bar for publishing. Just about anyone can get a website and publish anything, regardless of factual accuracy or soundness of reason. Webmasters are not held to the same journalistic standards or conventions to which traditional writers and publishers are held. There is no gatekeeper, no content monitor, no one checking the facts and information; therefore, don’t believe everything that you read on the internet. We’ve advanced beyond the time when internet sources could be discredited as a whole solely based on their medium, but there is still an urgent need for quality control when selecting sources on the web to use for your research paper. Once you have chosen from the vast array of research paper topics available to you, you will need to gather resources. This article will tell you what to look for when evaluating the authority of a website. The following indicators do not prove quality but may signal it. Use your best discretion and always think critically.

1. Identify the Author: When someone puts their time into producing a quality piece of writing, that person will lovingly attach their name to the text. If an author did not attach their name to a piece of writing or used a ridiculous pen name, like “Captain Cheese,” you should be suspicious as to the reasons why. Of course, having an author does not prove that the information is credible, but it allows you to perform the next step.

2. Check the Author’s Credentials: When you are researching a topic, you should seek the opinions and ideas of experts and authorities. Sure my neighbor has a blog about raising children, but does that qualify them as an expert on child development? You should be looking for more substantial credentials: college degrees related to the topic, a body of research or other articles indicating specialty, and awards or praise from cohorts. Check the author’s “about” page or Google search the author’s name and see what results appear. Make a determination whether what you see qualifies the author as an authority on the subject. Referring to authorities will add credibility to your research papers.

3. Determine the Focus of the Site: Look at the site on which the information is posted. Is the site’s main focuses connected to the topic that you are researching, or are you reading an article on a site that is about everything? In other words, is the website you are evaluating a specialty website that is devoted to the subject you are researching, or is the website a content farm, where one can find information about anything and everything? Information from sites that are dedicated to the field may be more reliable than articles from mega-sites, where journalistic standards may be low.

4. Assess the Quality of the Writing: If the page contains numerous grammar, punctuation, or word choice errors, the information may not be authoritative. If there are numerous misspellings, if the tone of the writing is lackadaisical or excessively jokey, or if there are logical inconsistencies in the writing, it may not be authoritative. Good writing and researching takes a long time to create, and writers and researchers who do it well will take the time to remove the errors and polish the writing.

5. Check for Sources: A strong indicator of authority and credibility is the presence of citations in a text. If the author has taken the time to credit the sources that he or she has used, that means two things. One: the author is using research, not just meandering, speculating, or basing their statements on their isolated experiences. Two: the author understands and follows the academic tradition of crediting sources, meaning the author has been trained and the information in the text, if not authoritative, is at least supported.

There is no sure fire way to determine the reliability or authority of a web resource. Ultimately, it comes down to a subjective judgment about which all may not be in consensus. Nonetheless, websites and articles that meet four out of five of the above criteria will be much more reliable than websites or pages that meet none. I hope that in the course of your research, you will identify the charlatans

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Teaching Author’s Purpose

Teaching author’s purpose is pretty simple if you go about it correctly.  Basically, there are only three purposes for writing, so I teach this unit fairly quickly.  Despite my rapidity, my students still seem to understand the concept well.  Here is how I teach author’s purpose:

1.  Define and provide examples of the three purposes for writing.  I use a PowerPoint, but I’m sure having students write examples and definitions would be helpful no matter how you went about it.  I define writing to inform, persuade, and entertain and then provide examples of texts serving each purpose.  After the lesson, I describe some texts and students informally identify the author’s purpose.  To continue reinforcing, I give students additional practice with their homework.

2. Give students practice identifying the author’s purpose in a variety of texts.  In order to do this, I created worksheets where students identify the author’s purpose based on brief descriptions of texts.  I can fit around thirteen problems on a double-sided worksheet, so students usually master this skill after the second worksheet.  Of course, some of my students require personal attention and I plan for this.  I schedule a day of independent work related to author’s purpose in the middle of the unit.  While students are engaged in their work, I work closely with individual students or small groups.

3.  Formally assess students.  After teaching students about author’s purpose, providing examples, and giving students ample opportunity to practice identifying the author’s purpose, it is time to assess them.  I use 15 question Scantron quiz strips, because I prefer to avoid grading papers. After students have taken the author’s purpose quiz, I…

4.  Analyze the results. My students generally do fairly well on this quiz, either because I teach it early in the year, and they’re being their best selves,  or because it easy.  In either case, I closely examine the results for questions that three or more of my  students are getting wrong. I look for other trends as well.  I believe that it is my responsibility to reteach concepts that a significant portion of the class does not understand.  

Teaching author’s purpose is easier than explaining essay rubrics, but check out some of the resources on my website if you need a place to get started.l

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Ideas for Creative School Projects

Assigning students projects and activities is good for the teacher and the student. The teacher has the chance to act like a facilitator and isn’t burdened with stress of lecturing, and the students have the opportunity to express their creative energies. If you like these topics, visit for 62 more project ideas.

  1. Poems and Raps: write a poem or rap reviewing any topic.
  2. Postcards: similar to the pen-pals assignment above, but postcards have illustrations representing thematic concepts.
  3. Posters: create posters to review skills.  As a bonus, many of these posters can often be displayed during state tests, so if your students create high quality posters, the posters may be a useful resource during the test.
  4. Questionnaires: create a questionnaire and survey students to gather an understanding about thematic issues from a text or social problems for a speech or presentation.
  5. Radio Broadcasts: create a script for a radio program covering any appropriate field of study.
  6. Reader’s Theater: silently act out the events of a story or text alone or with a group of people while someone reads the text aloud.  Students should be given time to prepare their acting.
  7. Recipes: students can create recipes about how atoms combine to form molecules (H2O), or how to create events like the French Revolution or World War I (add one Arch Duke).
  8. Scrapbooks: create a scrapbook of your favorite poems or important events from a decade.
  9. Slide Shows: if you have access to enough computers and a projector, I suggest having students create PowerPoint presentations.  With just a little instruction, students should be able to create pretty flashy presentations, and you can combine this project with a research paper as a culminating activity.
  10. Soundtracks: create a soundtrack for a movie version of a novel or historical or natural event.  Use actual songs or just describe the mood of each song if you do not know song titles.  Explain why you feel that each song matches the event.  A good activity to review mood.
  11. Stamps: students create commemorative stamps honoring people, depicting elements from the periodic table, or challenging vocabulary terms.
  12. Storyboards: create story boards summarize a short story or to plan a narrative, movie, or presentation.
  13. Tests: write a test to help you review unit goals and objectives.  Questions can be multiple choice, matching, and true or false.  Answer keys should be provided.
  14. Vocabulary Quilts: create quilts with badges representing the meanings of vocabulary terms.  Badges should have an image and a few words.
  15. Websites: design websites that historical figures, scientists, mathematicians, authors, or characters from novels would have had.  Also, student can create websites for historical movements, scientific theories, or literary concepts.

I hope that you’ll find these project topics useful and feel free to comment on how you’ve implemented projects in your classroom.  Also, visit my other blog for tips on implementing projects in the classroom.

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Looking For A Job Teaching?

Considering that rate a which schools are having their budgets slashed, it’s no wonder that many teachers are losing their jobs and recent graduates can’t seem to find work. But, fear not. There are jobs and you can get them. Follow these best practices to improve your chances: getting a job teaching.

Want a preview? Here are bullets of the ten suggestions:

1. Get Certified in an Area of Need
2. Collect Artifacts
3. Distinguish Yourself from Your Rivals
4. Be Aggressive
5. Use Your Telephone
6. Upgrade Your Contact Information
7. Open up Your Options
8. Apply Where Vacancies Have Not Been Posted
9. Survey Your Friends and Family
10. Look Past the Last Day

Don’t let the job market get you down. Our society will always need teachers and their will always be opportunities. Combine your passion with knowledge and form a plan of action.

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