Tag Archives: teaching

Flexible Seating: A Reflection in Practices

8th January 2018

I have decided to start my reflection on my trial run of flexible seating with an analogy.

I have never wanted a tattoo, not because I have anything against them necessarily, I mean I have plenty of friends and family that have adorable and meaningful tattoos. I personally never wanted one because I knew that it was an expensive FOREVER investment. I just like change too much. I change my hair style, color, and cut every two to three years, I change around rooms of my own home very often (thanks hubs for all the help), and in my classroom I rotate out student work on the walls, I put up and take down holiday decorations, and I change the seating arrangements on a VERY consistent basis.

So, for me, flexible seating has been difficult for me to come to terms with – it is an investment in something pretty permanent. That THIS is how my classroom looks all the time and I can’t rearrange the furniture as easily as I could with individual desks. Now, that being said, I still really like it, but I have a feeling that I will need to add to it or take away from it often to fulfill my own personal need for change.

Unlike the tattoo, however, I can make some slight changes and adjustments which is nice. Here is what I am changing going into second semester in terms of flexible seating: 

  • Instead of students choosing a working spot for their team on a first come, first serve basis, I am going to be rotating each team through each working spot so that each team gets the opportunity to work in a variety of spots. Even though I had the rule of only one spot per week, since there are 8 spots and only 5 days in the week, some teams were just never getting the “cool” spots. I am going to rotate the table numbers that I made using the IKEA standing frames at the end of each school day. 

  • Sit-on-the-floor-on-cute-pillows-working-spot?…she gone. You can see the table and pillows in the photo at the top of this post and in the below picture you will see it has been REPLACED. The younger students (eehhh, my Freshmen) couldn’t handle it. It became the try-and-lay-down-and-sleep-on-the-floor-table and I am just NOT okay with that. No matter how many times I reminded, scolded, or just plain yelled, “SIT UP PEOPLE!”, they couldn’t manage proper seating or posture in this working spot and so it had to go. It has been replaced with a round table with four chairs. 

  • The chairs at the back bar table used to have wheels and have been replaced with regular four legged chairs. I had many wheels falling off or breaking and it wasn’t worth the upkeep at this point for me. I am going to look for some of those bands that go around the chair legs as an alternative for slight rolling for some of my students who have the need to fidget and are missing the rolling chairs. 

  • I was lucky enough to stumble upon these amazing coffee house chairs on Offer Up that a local senior living center was selling (for $10 a chair!!! And if they would have had more I would have bought more). These chairs are amazing and if you find anything like this I highly recommend them for your classroom. This has become such a favorite spot in my classroom – I mean my own teacher-PLC works here! 

Some other considerations and observations that I am going to make over the next semester are: 1) which working spot do the students work best at? and 2) where do I see a need to improve a working spot or location of the spot in the classroom? and 3) what other spots could I create that aren’t too distracting for the students in order to keep it fresh?

Overall, flexible seating has been challenging for me, mainly because it is a pretty permanent fixture in my classroom space (so if you hate change and like to leave things alone, this may be a great way to go for you). Please comment with any questions or suggestions on flexible seating for high school students, I would LOVE to hear your thoughts! Hope everyone is off to a great start for second semester and Happy New Year!

Tending to Your “Plant”

9th May 2017

I taught A Raisin in the Sun to my Junior English class to wrap up their The Shape of America year long theme with the central idea of this quarter being: The Pursuit of Happiness and the essential question being: what happens when our dreams are deferred?

I had never taught Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun before this quarter and I have to say that it has become my favorite play to teach. Here are my two reasons: 1) It actually has a happy ending, unlike most of the American Literature I taught this year (The Great Gatsby, Of Mice and Men, The Crucible) and 2) It lends itself to activities that get the students thinking about their goals, dreams, and their own pursuit of happiness.

One of the activities I did with the students was to create their own plant that represented their goals and dreams for a happy life. Just like Mama in the play, they were to “tend” to this plant throughout the duration of Act I and II of the play. When I introduced the assignment, we talked about how is human nature to dream about the future, and research shows that people who set goals for their future are far more successful than those who don’t.

I discussed with them how I felt goal setting is not about setting hard deadlines or writing your future in stone; instead, goal setting is about identifying what needs to be accomplished in your life in order to achieve your dreams, with the flexibility to adjust yourself along the way. Goals are lights at the end of a tunnel; sometimes the lights go out and reappear in a different direction, other times they lead you out and into a new life. No matter what, goals keep you facing forward, they keep your chin up in hard times, and ultimately, they move you forward into your life as an active participant.

With this in mind, my students created their plant. I had them bring in an empty tissue box filled with dry rice or beans, two sheets of tissue paper, and an empty paper-towel roll. I purchased enough pipe cleaners to make the tissue paper flowers and used card-stock that I have in my classroom already.

Here are the directions given to the students:

Task #1:Using card-stock or construction paper, cut out squares/rectangles to fit all four sides of your tissue box neatly; then, write on the top 4th of each square a corresponding goal for the criteria listed below:

  • Side 1:  Goal for your senior year
  • Side 2: Goal for the next five years
  • Side 3: Goal for your career/family
  • Side 4: Goal for your own pursuit of happiness (American Dream)

Task #2: Coming into class periodically throughout the reading of Act I and II of A Raisin in the Sun, you will draw a ‘chance’ card. That card will either be a benefit or a disadvantage to one of your goals. You will document your success/tragedy AND your response on the corresponding goal side of the tissue box. Highlight your response in a color of your choice.

Task #3: At the end of Raisin in the Sun, and after your goals have weathered their ‘storms,’ you are going to look for patterns in the way you responded to your different chance cards and create your own personal credo using the handout given to you. You will then construct your plant in your tissue box.

The paper towel will be your stem, your leaves will be made out of construction paper and will have your personal credos on them, and your flower is something appealing to you reminding you of the beauty of life, made out of tissue paper at the top.

Every few days my students would come into class have draw a ‘chance’ card that would affect their goals on their plant. They would have to “tend” to their plant and determine how they would respond when their “dreams were deferred.” My awesome PLC helped to create several ‘chance’ cards for the students to pick up. They included many topics that truly could happen to their goals in the future. Here are a same of a few:

Senior Year

You are having troubles at home as you begin to exert more independence. 

Next 5 years

You have begun training for the career you have always dreamed of, but as you start taking the courses you realize you are not interested in this career at all. 


You are laid off from your job and other people depend on your salary. 

Pursuit of Happiness

You travel to a different country and decide you want to move there. 

The students enjoyed seeing what life might throw at them as they picked these cards at random.

Once we were through Act III of the play, I read an excerpt from Robert Fulghum entitled “All I Really Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” After we read this piece, we discussed the different between a precept that has driven our behaviors from a small child and a personal credo that must drive how we want to live as an adult – something to keep in mind as we weather our storms.  I even gave them my personal credos as a sample (see below). The students put their credos on green leaves a taped them to the stem of their plant.

  1. Work first, play second, and play hard
  2. Early is on time and on time is late
  3. Be kind to everyone, even if they suck
  4. Be kind to yourself, you are enough
  5. Get yourself together
  6. A bad day doesn’t equal a bad life
  7. Less is more – simplify
  8. Surround yourself with people who get it
  9. Sometimes you must be quiet and just listen
  10. Promote what you love instead of bashing what you hate
  11. Worrying does nothing, love does everything
  12. Drink the coffee, do the things
  13. Have impromptu dance parties in the living room
  14. Be better than yesterday

The end result of this plant project was amazing and the tie back to Mama taking her plant with her at the end of the play and my students taking their plants home was a great way to wrap up the school year…and my classroom was certainty in “full bloom” for Spring.

10 Reasons Why

18th February 2016

10 reasons why

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:

  1. When they have runny noses, they find a tissue, and figure it out.

  2. They challenge me to justify my lessons and units, every.single.day which makes me a better teacher.

  3. They like my stories about my three-year-old’s antics.

  4. They are freaking funny sometimes, almost to point where I am laughing so hard I am crying.

  5. 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.

  6. They aren’t as jaded about life, unlike most adults I know (and even myself sometimes).

  7. 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.

  8. They teach me “cool” lingo and remind me what I should NOT be wearing anymore. There really should be a Forever 31 though…

  9. They take constructive criticism without making it a big deal.

  10. 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!


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.

2015-08-10 18.22.21

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,


Good Vibes Only

11th May 2015

Just had to do a shout out to Mulberry Press Co for making the best t-shirts! I have three of their shirts, “Good Vibes Only,” “Huslin’ Mama,” and “Give Thanks” and I wear at least one every weekend. They are super soft and stylish and I love that they are little longer in the torso!

I had to go to an eight hour long district training this past Saturday and wanted to have “good vibes” about it so I put on this shirt. Everyone at my training table smiled and said “yep!” and it just put me and everyone else in a good mood. If you haven’t looked at their site you are missing out!

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XO. Brit

Map of Fairyland

6th May 2015

After reading chapter 6 and 7 of Ender’s Game, I decided to have my students create a map of Fairyland as the Giant’s Drink mind game has been confusing for many of my students to comprehend and imagine as they read the novel. We also just needed a break from standardized testing, reading, and writing – we needed to color.

Here are the items I had them draw on the map. They are out of order on purpose as I had the students look back to pages 69-74 to remember in what order Ender’s encountered each of the items in the Mind Game.

  • Giant
  • The Well
  • Playground
  • River of Acid
  • Serpent
  • Cavern
  • Cloud
  • Wolves
  • Castle
  • Cliff overlooking the terrain

Once their map was completed, I had them relate each item on the map to what it symbolized in Ender’s life. At first I thought it would be an easy task but it was really difficult for them and it lead to great team discussions. Before they wrote their final symbolism answers, we went over their guesses as a class and it helped review the entire novel up until this point.

Here are my winning posters from my two classes. I told them the winning poster gets a clothespin. They worked hard and was able to get the entire thing done in one 55 minute class period (it was all hands on deck).

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XO. Brit