Tag Archives: teaching English

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. 

Career/Family

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.

New Adventures

3rd May 2016

adven-216 I can’t believe the end of another school year is upon us; I feel like it was just yesterday I was setting up my classroom for my new 2015-2016 students. My honors sophomores did their last in-class synthesis timed essay for me last week and as they wrote frantically the entire hour to complete it, I thought to myself, “Whoa, they look like AP juniors today.” My sweet freshmen are becoming those sassy, sarcastic sophomores we all know and some love.

It is definitely May. It is time to reflect on the year and also get ready for some new adventures. 

Adventure 1: Moving a Mile

Well, my time at Perry High has ended as I move back to my old “stomping grounds” at Campo Verde High School next year. Looking around my classroom, I am anxious to take things down and pack things up. I have been trying to purge unnecessary items and I am amazed at just how much “stuff” I can acquire over two years. I am excited to return home to old friends and meet new faces and experience new curriculum and technology. I will miss my fellow Puma colleagues for sure, but am hopeful that this choice is right for myself and my family. 

Adventure 2: Baby Bumpin’ 

Speaking of family, we have some news! Our newest addition, a baby boy, will be joining our family in late September of 2016. This makes this summer with Q even more sweet as I try to soak up every last minute of the “just of two of us” love before her brother arrives. This also makes packing a classroom and redecorating a new one a bit more challenging, but luckily I have awesome family in my life to help me with this transition. 

baby boy Miles

Adventure 3: Teaching Teachers

Last but not least is the adventure I am perhaps the most nervous about. This summer, I will be teaching teachers at the SEATA Conference in Graham County, Arizona June 6-8. Even though I have done a ton of training for teachers at my school sites, I have never taught at a conference before. I am hopeful that the teachers will enjoy the content I am bringing with me and will be able to use it next year in their own classrooms. I will be posting my conference materials and presentations here after June 4th so check back for some FREEBIE materials and teacher lessons. 

I can’t wait for these new adventures and to grow as a mother and teacher this year! However, I also can’t wait for summer break! 

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#TeachingEnglish

5th October 2015

english teacher

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.

A New Way of Quenching my Thirst Twitter: @DrDawnie

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.

A Year in the Life of a Writing Teacher

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!

  • #TeachingEnglish
  • #engchat
  • #litchat

Happy browsing!

XO.Brit