I was at the park the other day watching Q play with some other preschooler-aged kids when another mom started talking to me. She asked me what I did for a living and I said proudly, “I teach high school English.” She gasped (like most do) and said, “Ugh, how do you teach them? They are so rude and annoying.” I always find this response rude and annoying because I love my students. Granted they can frustrate me at times, but most of the time they are just like adults: just trying to figure out who they are and where they fit in the world.
So here are 10 reasons I like teaching high school kids:
When they have runny noses, they find a tissue, and figure it out.
They challenge me to justify my lessons and units, every.single.day which makes me a better teacher.
They like my stories about my three-year-old’s antics.
They are freaking funny sometimes, almost to point where I am laughing so hard I am crying.
If I plan a lesson right, I can physically see their brain’s working hard and them growing as a learner and critical thinker. It makes my heart happy when I can see the light-bulb turn on.
They aren’t as jaded about life, unlike most adults I know (and even myself sometimes).
They live in a world filled with technology, but when I show them how to share a document using Google Docs with their partner for an essay it is like I have shown them Snapchat for the first time.
They teach me “cool” lingo and remind me what I should NOT be wearing anymore. There really should be a Forever 31 though…
They take constructive criticism without making it a big deal.
If I place the bar high and hold them accountable, they will rise up (sometimes kicking and screaming).
Students need teachers who want them to be better for their own sake and the sake of society. I love the TED Talk by Rita Pierson that conveys that every student needs a champion – someone in their corner who will push them and make sure they succeed. I try to remember this every day, and even though I don’t always succeed or have my off or bad days, I hope my students know that I truly want them rise up and surpass any bar I give them so when they meet challenges after high school they are ready.
So, to the nice mom at the playground: Everyone is rude and annoying at some point in the day, week, month, or year and high school kids are no different. Actually, they are creative and unique individuals and one day your preschooler will be one too!
I have been really jazzed about the flipped classroom approach lately and have found success with it using Google Slides, Google Forms, and Popplet.
At the beginning of the quarter, I assigned my students an Original Oratory Graphic Organizer assignment in which they had to go to my teacher website and view a Google Slides tutorial my PLC created based off this sweet textbook. I told them that this is all the information I wish I had time to teach this quarter but couldn’t fit in during class.
Each week-week and a half, they had to review a different amount of slides and take notes using Popplet. When they finished their first set of slides on Popplet, they shared the Popplet with me using a Google Form. It was easy to then do a check each week (off the Google Form spreadsheet) to make sure that the students had updated their Popplet with the most current notes. I awarded five points a check for an assignment that totaled 25 points over time in my grade book.
Once their Popplet was complete, they printed it out as a JPEG and brought it to class. When they began to write their own Original Oratory, they had their Popplet notes right there to guide them. It worked out great!
Above is screen shot of a finished Popplet of one of my student’s notes based on the assignment I gave.
Below are some additional student samples, as you can see each of them took different concepts away from the tutorials that they felt they needed to remember in order to write a great speech.
Any lecture that you do in class could be flipped as homework one night or throughout a few weeks or a even the entire quarter like I did with this, leaving more time for application and activities during class time.
Any analysis, especially rhetorical analysis, is difficult for students to master. They inevitably struggle with the “How” of analysis: How does the author’s strategy enhance the author’s purpose/argument?
When having my students analyze, I give them what I call the “WWH“ method. It stands for What is the strategy the author is using?, Where is the strategy located/demonstrated IN THE TEXT?, and How does the strategy enhance the author’s purpose/argument?
Most of my Honors Sophomores can easily complete the “What” and the “Where” once they have learned the rhetorical devices and have seen many examples. It is, however, very difficult for them to then analyze exactly why the author chose to use said strategy and how it was effective.
In order to practice this process outside of class, I gave my students a homework assignment to find a meme on the internet that uses one of the rhetorical devices we are studying. They then had to analyze the meme for how that device highlighted what the meme is claiming about society in general.
I adapted this assignment from a project done by the University of Michigan called The Rhetoric of Memes. This proved to be a great resource when providing samples to my students of what I was expecting before I sent them out onto the world-wide-web for homework.
Julius Caesar Rhetorical Analysis
The rhetorical meme assignment is a supplemental homework assignment to help students practice the skills they are working on in our analysis of Cassius’ and Antony’s speeches in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.
I have always had my students complete an analysis of Antony’s speech to the Romans in Act 3; however, this year, with the help of Ms. Spero’s AWESOME lesson and strategy, we did a practice analysis of Cassius’ persuasive appeal to Brutus in Act 1:2. The students knocked it out of the park!
The students read Act 1 as a team first for comprehension purposes. Then, I took a class period to first model a few “spokes” of the SMART wheel analysis strategy for Cassius’ plea to Brutus and then let the students finish it with their team.
Below is my quick “key” for the assignment:
***Notice how the students must figure out which strategies create which rhetorical appeal (logos, pathos, or ethos) in addition to the rhetorical situation of speaker, audience, and subject.
With the help of this wheel, the students were better able to complete the “WWH” of analysis in their paragraph and essay writing. They have also told me I have “ruined” memes for them…oops!
Got 35 words for a reading unit? Got around 35 students? Great! I have a 55 minute lesson for you!
This lesson was used as an introduction to Elie Wiesel’s Night.
For homework, assign each student a word and provide them with a notecard and have them write the word and definition on the lined side of the notecard, and a visual cue on the blank side. ***Have them decorate them using color and printed pictures.
The next day, have students take out their note-cards and, at their table as a warm-up, have them fill in each other’s (at their table) definitions and visuals on a vocabulary chart packet.
Then, explain to the students that they will be rotating tables in order to get all the definitions and visual cues from every table in order to complete their packet.
In my classroom, I have eight tables of four to five desks.
I had each student leave their notecard on their desk.
Then, I had each student pack up all their belongings and place their backpacks on the chairs (so they are out of the way of other students as they rotate through).
I had table 1 rotate to 2, 2 to 3, and so on.
I played music from Spotify’s Acoustic Covers Playlist and every 1-2 songs the students rotated to the next table and wrote down those definitions and visuals.
Once they finished rotating to each table, their vocabulary list for the unit was complete and I collect their notecard homework.
Next, I provided each table with a small piece of butcher paper.
I gave the students markers and provided them with these directions:
Title your poster “Holocaust Vocabulary”
Create 4-5 categories, no more, no less, that you feel these words can group into.
Write the categories on the poster.
Work together to look through the words and definitions on the worksheet to find the words that fit best under the categories you created.
Each member of the group should be responsible for writing words under one of the categories, you can all work together but everyone should have a hand in creating the poster.
The students spent the hour working hard and were very engaged. They were up and moving during the rotations and then, at the end during the poster creation, discussing the vocabulary word meanings and arguing which category words would best fit under and why.
The categorizing helped the students make sense of all the words and logically group them in their minds. They all said they liked listening to the music as they worked on filling out the worksheet and when the bell rang they all said “Whoa, that was fast!” which is something I always strive to hear.
Let me know how you teach vocabulary! Post below!
Every year, my colleagues ask me how I have time to gather new ideas on teaching English, as well as, teaching with technology. They think I am a walking database of this type of information, but in reality I just browse my Twitter and Pinterest when I have any downtime (usually on the couch with my iPad while the family watches football).
So the answer I give them is: Social Media. They ask me who I follow and I can usually rattle off a few.
Below is the “short-list” of educators that I follow on social media or have subscribed to their blogs that have really made a difference in my day-to-day teaching.
Cool Cat Teacher Twitter: @coolcatteacher
Vicki is an award winning teacher who blogs, writes, speaks, and is pretty much “the real deal.” If you want to know what 21st century teaching looks like, you have to check out and subscribe to this blog. She posts regularly on Twitter as well so there is always something new and fresh that I can usually take and apply in my classroom the next day.
Dawn blogs about teaching methods and good professional practice. I have looked to this blog for tiny tweaks to my current lessons that make a huge impact. Her ideas are easy to apply and relevant to the PLC teaching world of today. I appreciate her viewpoints on teaching.
Hunting English Twitter: @HuntingEnglish
Alex is nothing short of genius and does a fantastic job keeping a regularly updated blog on new and exciting teaching practices in the high school English classroom. I look to him frequently for inspiration during my lesson and curriculum planning.
McGuilvary’s blog is so engaging to read that I could literally get lost in it for hours. Her voice about teaching her 7th grade English and writing class is just positive and uplifting. She speaks of her students with warmth which is so rare to encounter in the lunchrooms of schools. In my opinion, she is a true writer. Her words touch the teacher’s soul.
Catlin Tucker Twitter: @catlin_tucker
Catlin is MY IDOL. Every time I use any of her ideas in my classroom, my students are SUPER engaged and the learning is rigorous and relevant. I have read two of her books, Creatively Teach the Common Core Literacy Standards With Technology: Grades 6-12 and Blended Learning in Grades 4-12: Leveraging the Power of Technology to Create Student-Centered Classrooms. With each book I have learned so much and it always gives me a starting point to enhance lessons that I have done for years (like the Google Maps Narrative that I just did recently). I have yet to meet her but I hope that I do one day!
Don’t forget to search and utilize hashtags as well for other ideas!