Tag Archives: high school

How Desk Towers Saved My Sanity

11th August 2015

I am currently in my 8th year teaching high school English and, like usual, I am loving it. It is extremely tiring and somehow over the summer I forgot the stamina needed to sustain such energy to engage 155 students, 6 hours a day (and no, I’m not exaggerating that number) but it is very rewarding and so far so good.

Over the summer I scavenged Pinterest and my favorite teaching blogs to find new and exciting ideas to add to my classroom. Here are two of my loves (more to come soon):

1. Desk Towers

While pricey, these Walmart Storage Towers have been AWESOME, AMAZING, and MIRACULOUS. My students are loving them as well and they are so convenient it makes me a very happy teacher. And happy teacher, happy learners.

desk towers

Here is the run down:

  • Top drawer – Cell Phones
    • My policy: Each day I notify the class if it is a “cell phone on desk” or “cell phone in drawer” day but putting it on my into class slide. If it is a “cell phone on desk” day, the students may keep their cell phones face down on their desks and may check them or use them for school purposes. If it is a “cell phone in drawer” day, students will put their cell phone in their table’s drawer and may not get it out unless instructed. If students choose not to put their cell phone in the drawer, that is fine, but they must not take it out of their bag/backpack that day otherwise I will confiscate it and place it in my drawer until the end of the period.
  • Second drawer – Team whiteboard (from Dollar Tree) and Expo Marker
  • Third drawer – Supplies (markers, crayons, rules, glue sticks, scissors, etc.)
  • Fourth drawer – Kleenex box
  • Fifth drawer – File folders to make stand up tents for testing in groups

There are so many options for these towers and you could modify to fit the needs of your students.

2. Evernote App for Iphone and Android

This has been around for years; but, I just recently found out about and have decided to use it to help my students with their note-taking this year. I have never really been into having student keep a “composition notebook” or “binder” for my class.

I have tried different ways but found that giving my students information seems to happen by handouts or Google Drive and I never know how to have them “save” or takes notes on the information that isn’t in a PowerPoint. I do a lot of “fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants” writing instruction when I am re-teaching concepts or talking them through a writing prompt and I want them to be able to save this information from the whiteboard when they need to.

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Here are my highlights:

  • Students can create a separate digital notebook for each class.
  • Students can create notes in that notebook for that class.
  • Students can take pictures of teacher’s board, PPT slides, or textbook pages and save to that note page (as well as take notes in between the images using their phones/tablets).
  • Students can share their notes from Evernote member to Evernote member.
  • If a student doesn’t have a phone, they have been taking notes traditionally in their English notebook.

It is only week 4 of the school year and I have used this app with my students in class several times. I did have to teach my students how to use it briefly but once they learned it they were asking their other teachers if they could use it in their classes (not sure how those teachers felt about it but at least they are using their phones for good). #win

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Hope everyone’s year is off to an energetic start,


The Snark Off

15th February 2015



Around this time of year (middle of third quarter), most of my students have grasped some of my basic writing requirements through my lessons, reinforcement through student exemplars that I show in class, and well, practice, practice, practice. They are now usually ready to add wit in order to elevate their essay’s voice, style, and argument.

However, it is hard to teach sophomores and juniors how to be witty. Some students have natural talent for it but most do not. Thus, my esteemed colleague and I came up with what we call “The Snark Off”. The Snark Off contains some class competition, trophies, and lots of fun and in the end the students are able to practice being a little snarky in their writing, while still maintaining professionalism and a strong argument with supporting evidence.

Like the idea? Get the entire lesson with statements and sample paragraphs here – IT IS FREE.


  1. Begin by putting up a statement in front of the class and ask the students to silently brainstorm evidence that would defend/refute this statement.
  2. Ask for volunteers from the class to provide the evidence they came up with.
  3. Then, show them a sample (written by the teacher) that uses evidence but has a more snarky tone.
  4. Ask the students why it is more effective with the voice than just listing evidence points in a paragraph.
  5. Then have the student pair up with a partner and then find another partner pair that they would like to go up against (to see which pair can be more snarky on the same topic).
  6. Provide the double partner pairs with the same statement (the teacher will need to generate about 10 statements that will be used multiple times but obviously the student pairs will come up with different evidence with different voice so repeats won’t matter).
  7. Provide the rest of the hour for students to work on their “snarky” paragraph and tell them that they will present them tomorrow in class.
  8. The next day, have the pairs go up against each other and have the class vote (you can use www.polleverywhere.com to do the voting from their cell phones so the voting is anonymous and the results are instant but make sure you set this up ahead of time).
  9. The winning pairs get mini-trophies with chocolate in them (we got the trophies from Party City and the students wanted them displayed in the classroom the rest of the year).

The Snark off is a quick two-day lesson that will help your students with their voice, as well as, give them an opportunity to practice argumentative writing with source evidence.

Please post a comment with any questions and don’t forget to check out the full lesson plan with standards here.

XO. Brit

image used courtesy of https://www.pinterest.com/stasi108/snarky/

My Students, My People

22nd January 2015

As I grow older, I realize that I am getting less patient with people. By “people” I really mean adults who are not nice and are, essentially, downers.  Occasionally I run into someone in line at Starbucks who wants to chit-chat or a Target cashier who smiles at me, makes a joking comment, and truly sends out “good vibes”. Not that I am rosy all the time by any means; but, I do make a conscious effort to say a “good morning” and a “thank you” to others.

There are days where drama between adults truly seems like we all never left high school and frankly I really haven’t! Adult drama is a lot messier though as adults just have more to lose, more to say, and are more jaded. I learned a long time ago I was not cut out to work with adults all day. Sure, I see my colleagues in between class periods or at lunch; but, I am truly happy that I get to hang out with some pretty amazing high school students day in and day out. Sure, they can be obnoxious and rude at times (as we all can be) but they always give me an opportunity to be the better person (the person I strive to be in the adult world) and teach them how to get their point across with grace and maturity. And most of the time, they are just funny and by this time of the year, willing to learn. My students are my people. They motivate me to be better because I have to be better in front of them, for them.

This school year has been exceptionally tough for me being a “new” teacher again. Even though this is my seventh year teaching, being at a new school and building up a reputation again is difficult and stressful – more so than I anticipated. I miss my old school, old colleagues, and old students a lot. Last week three of the my female students gave me separate invitations to their basketball game which was last night. At first, I just didn’t see this fitting into my schedule and was hesitant to go (you know, with the toddler). However, I did end up going as I didn’t want to disappoint them and to my surprise it was exactly what I needed. They gave each teacher they invited a Payday candy bar with a little note and I was so flattered that I got three candy bars. It helped me realize that I am making a difference and my hard work is “paying” off.

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XO. Brit

QR Code Scavenger Hunt

26th December 2014

Two things you need to do before we begin:

The end of the semester is a scramble to get students to review for finals in a meaningful and engaging way. There are several different options for review games, which I have included on my Finals Review Favorites post but none can compare to the QR Code Scavenger Hunt.

I received this scavenger hunt idea from my colleague, Julia Salce, who is an amazing leader and educator. You will need to come up with ten questions that are “fill in the blank” with one word answers. You can take these from your existing review guide and modify them. In essence, you will type up these ten questions in a WORD document and enlarge them enough so there is one question per page. DO NOT PRINT QUESTIONS OUT YET.

Now, you need to decide on ten locations that you will place the questions around your campus: the attendance office, the library, the nurse, etc. I usually place the questions on the outside doors of the building as to not interrupt any other classes or the front office. Make sure your write down for yourself which question is at which location as you will need to write riddles for each location.

Next, login to the Padlet account you created above. This site has a slight learning curve. Essentially, you need to make a Padlet “Wall” for each question, but instead of writing the next question in the description area you will write the riddle to the question’s location. You will also need to set a password to get into each “Wall” which is in the “Modify this Wall” tool under “Privacy” on the right hand side of the webpage screen. The password is the answer to the question on the WORD document. If they can’t answer the question, they can’t get into the wall that has the next clue (so it gets intense as this is a group competition in my classes). Here is a sample from one I did last quarter: http://padlet.com/britbingold/2y8ng02jpy5s. The password is: Synesthesia.

Once all your Padlet Wall’s are created with riddles to the locations of each question, go to http://qrcode.kaywa.com/ and copy the link of the Padlet Wall into the paste area and hit “Generate”. A QR Code should be created and then you can copy the QR Code and paste at the bottom of the WORD document question. Thus, when the students scan the QR Code with their QR Code Reader APP on their SMART phone (which is a free app I have them download the day before) they are able to answer the question by putting in the password and be released to the “Wall” with the riddle to the next question. You must create a different QR Code for each “Wall” for each riddle. NOW YOU PRINT THEM OUT.

QR Code scav


I put students in groups of four with one SMART phone that has the app. They start with a question in my room and scan that QR code (this is where I can help them learn the technology aspect of the hunt) and then they pretty much run around the school using their phones to scan, answer, and review. The first group that posts their team name to each “Wall” (so I know they actually answered and didn’t just start following other teams) and returns to my room wins!

Please email me with any questions: brit@thebitsofbrit.com

Happy reviewing!

XO. Brit

Finals Review Favs

19th December 2014

The last three days before finals are like babysitting a bunch of baby chicks. No matter how much you want them to stay put in their area and work on a review guide they are constantly scurrying over to a friend or “chirping” away. Therefore, there is a need for pre-planned review games that will keep their interest with friendly competition.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Align the Stars is really fun and is nice because you can have up to six teams. This is super easy to set up too: take a list of test review questions (about 30 are fine) and put your desks in six columns (one for each team/star color). I give each column a small white board that they will write the answer on (they will also pass the white board to a new team member behind them each turn to keep it fair). First team (column) to hold up the correct answer on their white board gets a star on the screen in their color. I do not let teams help each other so whoever has the white board has to try to answer. First team to connect four stars, wins…extra credit on test, clothespin for their shield, candy…you decide!

Grudge ball is a favorite of my students. Something to think about though with this game is you must use it with a class that has a positive class culture, because well it can cause “grudges” and you need to have specific items to set it up: Nerf ball and small basketball hoop and masking tape for throw lines on your floor.

Break up into 5 or 6 teams to start:

  • Each team starts with 20 “X’s”
  • Each team gets a question
    • If you get it right, you get to remove 1 “X” from another team’s board
    • If you get it wrong, you must remove 1 “X” from your board
  • BUT before you remove the “X”, you have a chance to increase the ability to get other teams to hate them
    • From the 1st line = 1 extra “X’s”
    • From the 2nd line = 2 extra “X’s”
    • You may take them all from one team or split them up
  • Each team takes turns
  • No more “X’s”? You’re out.
    • BUT you can get back on the board.
      • Answer a question correctly AND take a shot. YOU MUST do both! Make the shot, you’re back on the board
      • 1st line = 2 “X’s”
      • 2nd line = 3 “X’s”

Jeopardy is a classic review games that is also popular in many high school classes. I like to use www.jeopardylabs.com though because then it is digital version that is easily playable in class or at home (I can post the jeopardy labs link on my teacher webpage and students can use it to study at home or on their mobile device).

For more ideas on review games, visit http://www.toolsforeducators.com/ – they have dice games, board game generators to invent your own board game, crossword puzzles, etc.

These games keep the students engaged and out of trouble all hour while making sure they actually review. However, if I have another random day left before finals, I let the students choose: “study group” or “blow off steam”. I set up my room with one section for studying with a peer group and one for playing Catch Phrase. I tell my students that if you want to study (and it doesn’t have to be for my final) sit at a table and work to help each other and if you want to just blow off steam and relax a bit, sit in the circle and play Catch Phrase (because it is sort of English-ly – use description diction kiddos).

Happy finals week to you and your little chicks!

XO. Brit