Students CAN focus in December: 7 ELA Activities for the Holidays


With the holidays approaching, students tend to get a little obsessed. I mean, who isn't looking for a little brightness and cheer after the gray and brown month of November? I, for one, am already making a tremendous effort at this point not to say "I hate winter" every time I step outside. (You'd think I'd be tougher from my northern Minnesota childhood... but you'd be wrong).

It's a challenge to keep everyone focused on their work in December, but harnessing the holidays to accomplish some of your curriculum goals can really help. Luckily for English teachers, the skills of speaking, writing, analyzing, and creating can be applied to plenty of holiday themes with no trouble.

Here are seven ways you can incorporate a sprinkle of holiday fun into your ELA curriculum.

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Enjoy your Teacher Observation, 20+ Engaging Lesson Ideas


So your administrator is coming to visit. In an ideal world, this is your chance to ENJOY showing the amazing things you are doing and get some positive feedback and fresh new ideas.

Unfortunately, these observations can easily become major stressors instead. When you feel judged by your administrator instead of supported, then the observation period becomes almost as dread-worthy as a stack of one hundred essays that have to be graded by tomorrow.

It helps to have a solid battle plan. An activity that you know is going to be extra exciting for your students so they can shine and you can relax. Because your teacher observation should be something you can look forward to. After all, you are doing amazing creative work in this world, and you deserve a chance to be applauded for that.

In this post, I'm rounding up a bunch of ideas for you to tap into next time you have an observation. Of course, you can also use them any time you want, whether or not anyone's coming to visit.

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The ELA Teacher's Quick Guide to Meaningful Peer Feedback


Peer editing can be sooo helpful, or kind of a waste of time. In an ideal world, kids trade their writing, get great help, become better writers, and turn in a final product that is more meaningful. They learn more, and you can spend your marking time writing about their big ideas instead of explaining how to analyze a quotation for the three thousandth time. 

But without some guidance, peer editing isn't like this. Students read each other's drafts, add a period here or there, and write "good job" or "more quotes." 

That's why in this post, I'm sharing four meaningful structures you can use to help students give each other feedback that really helps. By the way, you can sign up for the pack of four free guides featured in the upcoming photos at the end of the post. 
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Tired of Crickets? Four Discussion Options for THAT class


Years ago a teacher friend told me his hilarious trick of playing a sound clip of crickets on his computer when no one responded to his questions in class.

I think we've all been there.

But even though the cricket noises are funny a couple of times, what then? What if your students really won't talk?

It's awful! No one needs the palm sweats, the awkward silence, the quick glances to the clock. When students won't respond, your teaching confidence slides downhill like an Olympic skier.

That's why in this post I'm rounding up four options to jumpstart good discussion no matter how challenging the group.

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