Bringing Literature & Writing to Life

Having a challenging time bringing some life to your literature and writing classes this last month of the school year?

One of my favorite activities to use is a comic strip creator available through PC, Apple, or Android.

We just created our own comics last week in literature class.  The students created their own graphic novel written in the style of the popular thriller series, Goosebumps.  The students loved it, and it has caused some of them to delve into the series further.

Check out this handy graphic organizer, and start your students on their own comic today!

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Is History Dead in Your Classroom?

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“History is philosophy teaching by examples.”

That quote is attributed to the great Athenian general and historian, Thucydides.  We all know the old saying, “those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it.”  While true, the quote from Thucydides gives that saying true gravity.  History not only teaches us about the past, it teaches us about ourselves.  It teaches us the principle that everything throughout history has a grand purpose and plan laid out by our Creator.

So this bears the question, do you find yourself in a history teaching rut?  Do you find yourself repeating endless lessons without flavor and life?  Do you spend too many days assigning text without context or meaning?

Don’t feel ashamed, we’ve all been there.

I’ve got good news, you can bring history to life immediately.  Allow me to share just a few ideas and a little background on myself.

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Boys Don’t Need SuperDad, They Just Need Dad

In my years of teaching, coaching basketball, and being involved in the lives of teens I learned one thing that dwarfs everything else I learned. Boys and young men need dads. Most importantly, they need to know that their dad is “there.”

Being “there” doesn’t mean you have to be at every game, every practice, every up and down, every event. However, being “there” means that they can depend on you. That they know you care. That you love spending time with them. That, when the time comes, you are willing to drop everything just to see or be with them.

First, some staggering and sobering statistics. Most of these statistics pertain to single-parent households where the dad is not present in the child’s life.

  • Fatherless children are at a dramatically greater risk of drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, suicide, poor educational performance, teen pregnancy, and criminality, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Center for Health Statistics.
  • Over half of all children living with a single mother are living in poverty, a rate 5 to 6 times that of kids living with both parents.
  • 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes according to the U.S. Bureau of the Census.
  • 72% of adolescent murderers grew up without fathers. 60% of America’s rapists grew up the same way according to a study by D. Cornell (et al.), in Behavioral Sciences and the Law.
  • 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes according to the National Principals Association Report on the State of High Schools.
  • 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes.
  • 85% of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes according to a study by the Center for Disease Control.
  • A large survey conducted in the late 1980s found that about 20% of divorced fathers had not seen his children in the past year, and that fewer than 50% saw their children more than a few times a year.
  • In a longitudinal study of 1,197 fourth-grade students, researchers observed “greater levels of aggression in boys from mother-only households than from boys in mother-father households,” according to a study published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology.

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10 Ways to Thank a Student

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#3: Sticky Note Smile

10)  Tell Them

Nothing beats the ol’ fashion look ‘em in the eye and “thank you.”

9)  Stickers anyone?

Not as a reward, but as a quick and easy thank you.  Everyone loves stickers.

8)  Write Them a Personal Note

Stick it in their desk or backpack.  Better yet, if you are really proud of their work in a certain subject, tell them.  Slip it into the next lesson of their textbook so they can have the pleasant surprise all to their own.

7)  Tell the Parents

Trickle-down thankanomics?

6)  Display Their Work

Place their art work or strong assignment in a prominent place by your desk.  Perhaps, on the wall for a few weeks or in a frame right on your desk.

5)   Down Time

Encourage them when they are down.  Be specific and tell them how much you appreciate them.  This one can get emotional, especially if they are really down about something.  The more personal feedback the better.

4)  Have Lunch with Them

Make it a point to sit with them at a lunch hour, and have a conversation with them.  Try not to focus on school.  Focus on their life outside of school.

3)  Sticky Note Smile

Walk by their desk and put a sticky note on top of their desk while they are working.  It is unexpected and it is personal.  That is a rare combination in a classroom.  And seriously, does that take all of 30 seconds?

2)  Extra-Curricular Support

Show up to one of their events outside of school.  The ideas are endless.  Their basketball game, soccer match, football game, dance competition, singing recital, and gymnastics event are all examples in which you can show you really care and appreciate them.

1)  Hug it Out

If you don’t like a hug, then you need a hug.  This is especially important for male teachers who have male students who really look up to them.  They crave that affirmation.  They need to see that male example of care and kindness.  Remember, many of them may not receive any male affirmation outside of school.  The lack of a father in the life of a boy has reached an epidemic in this country.

Have another way to say thank you?  Share it in the comment section.

The Most Valuable Feedback in the World is Your Students

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“We all need people who give us feedback.   That is how we improve.”

                                                                                        -Bill Gates

Our harshest critics, are often times the students whom we serve. I have the privilege of teaching an amazing group of junior high students. They may be some of the harshest critics of them all.

One thing I love about teaching children is they are brutally honest. If they don’t enjoy something, they will let you know. The opposite is also true, if they enjoy something, they will most certainly let you know.

Every day that I enter my classroom, I receive feedback throughout the day.   I can tell when my students are engaged. I can tell when my students are anticipating a lesson. I can also tell when my students are bored out of their minds.   This feedback is invaluable.

As teachers, we must ask ourselves, am I listening to my students’ feedback? There is some feedback from students that we can ignore. Decisions we make based on classroom climate, culture, discipline, etc. may be unpopular but needed.

There is a whole stream of feedback that we must listen to, however. We must answer tough questions as educators. Are we engaging our students? Are we meeting all of our students needs? Are we serving our students to the best of our abilities?

This is when we must listen to the feedback our students are giving us. It is invaluable. Furthermore, if we listen to it, it will make us all the stronger as an educator.

My students have called me to task before. My junior high students used to have an inward grown when it was time for science class. I knew I had to make more of an effort to engage them in class. I had to add more hands-on activities, more experiments, and more labs. I had become too dependent on the lecture as the basis for my science class. It was easy. It had become a crutch. I knew I had to change, based upon the feedback of my students.

Now I have students who look forward to science class and the topics we will be learning. While never perfect, my students helped me become a better teacher for them. We must be open to not only identifying our students feedback, we must be open to implementing change based on that feedback.

“We must be open to not only identifying our students feedback, we must be open to implementing change based on that feedback.”

As Bill Gates stated in the opening quote, it is how we improve. As educators, we should be compelled to be reflective. We ought not be afraid of constant evaluation; we shall embrace it.

What kind of teacher do you want to be? More importantly, what kind of teacher do you want your students to see you as? By listening to their feedback and being open and honest with them, it shows them that you care. It fosters a relationship with your students that cannot be measured.

Finally, how can we insist on our students to improve and grow as learners, if we are not continually growing and learning ourselves?

Listen. Listen with an open heart and a reflective mind.