Thursday, June 28, 2012

The One With First Paragraphs

One of the things I picked up from my AP training last week is first paragraphs.  I love the idea.  It's one of those things that is so simple it has you asking yourself why you didn't think of the idea. There are several things you can do with first paragraphs.

The general idea is that you choose a novel and read the first paragraph to your students without them knowing what the book is.  For example:

You ever see ink mixed up with blood?  That's what's getting set down on this paper.  It's my blood, too.  No one else's.  Came spouting out of my ear when Mingo pretty near sliced it off with his fish knife.  I didn't cry then, and I didn't cry when I stitched it up myself tonight with the gut from the wildcat Mingo done shot.  He'll probably try to cut my other ear off when he finds out I took that cat's gut. But he won't have a chance.  I'll be gone.  I decided tonight.  I'm leaving.

Wow!  Don't you want to read that book now?  That's the the first purpose of doing first paragraphs with your students.  They are a hook.  Our presenter said she loves to watch which student will be the first to sneak the book off her bookshelf after doing this.  She has students fighting over who will read the book first.  I LOVE that!!  I plan to type these up in a powerpoint presentation so that students can follow along.

These can also be used to teach students how to annotate.  Have them write down their thoughts and questions about the paragraph.  Discuss them.  Ask students what they think happened or will happen.  She encourages her students to have conversations with the characters.  For example, a student might write as part of their annotations, "Are you and Mingo friends or enemies?"
Of course you could give students a copy as well for them to write on and highlight.

I can see these being used for mini grammar lessons as well.  Circle all the adjectives.  Underline the verbs.  That sort of thing.

After you are finished discussing or doing whatever you choose to do with the first paragraph you then reveal the book to the students.

I love it!  I'll admit I'm guilty of judging books by their cover.  I would never pick this up to read on my own, but having read the first paragraph makes me want to read it.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The One With Freebies

I have spent this week attending training to teach Pre AP English.  I have to admit that while I don't exactly enjoy spending my summer in workshops all day, this one has been very informative.  It is getting me all excited about teaching English this upcoming year.  I have several things that I want to share with you, but I'll try to do it in small chunks.

If you have been teaching ELA for several years, let me warn you: I'm new.  Everything is new, wonderful, and exciting to me.

The first thing I want to share is a website where you can get some free kits for your school.  Go to  From there click on teaching kits.  There are six different teaching kits and you can have all six of them for free.  At this point I can't really tell you how useful they are or aren't.  I just ordered my yesterday.  It takes 6 to 8 weeks for you to receive the kits.

If anyone has ordered and used these kits before, please let me know what you think about them.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The One With Weebly

A few years ago some of my good friends at proteacher inspired me to create a website for my students and their parents. I spent hours that summer scouring the Internet, choosing the right site, and creating my web page. My students loved it!  It was a dream come true.  Unfortunately like most things the enthusiasm died down 2nd semester and by the end of the year we were no longer using the site.

Then I was switched from history to math - man I switch a lot!  I never changed my website.  Let's just say that particular group of students did not create a desire in my to go above and beyond the call of duty.  This past year when I wanted to get up and running again it had for some reason become a blocked site at school.  That is when I chose to use Edmodo.

I became pumped about Edmodo.  It was going to be the perfect alternative.  Turns out, it wasn't.  My students LOVED it, but there were just things about it that drove me crazy.  They viewed it more as getting to use facebook at school than as an educational tool.  I just never got passed that with them.  We had stopped using it by Christmas break.

Our technology person as since unblocked my original website and I'm spending yet another summer working on it getting it ready for my students.  And I can't wait!!  I'm already writing wonderful blog post in my head for them to respond to.  I really believe it is going to be a great tool for teaching ELA.  Determined to not let the fizzle die, I'm trying to come up with things to add as the year goes on so that there is constantly something new and exciting for students to explore.

Though it is still very much so a work in progress, I wanted to share the site with you.  If you don't have a class webpage and are looking for something easy to use, I strongly suggest weebly.  It has been extremely simple for me to create and for my students to navigate.

If you have a moment, check out and let me know what you think.  If you have a class web page already, I love to peruse your site as well.  Let's share our ideas.  After all, isn't that what we teachers do best?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The One With The New Stool

Last year I inherited an old wooden bar stool.  It was in good condition but wasn't very attractive.  At the end of this school year I sent it over to my cousin for a makeover.  She just sent me a picture of it and I absolutely love it.  It's bright and colorful.  It will fit in perfectly with what I'm going for this upcoming year.

The One In June

Linking up today with Farley for some June fun.  It is much needed fun after my PD today.  Feeling very overwhelmed about teaching literacy and this whole common core thing.  Someone needs to back me down off the ledge.

Friday, June 1, 2012

The One With Girls, Drums, & Dangerous Pie

Quick.  Last adult novel you read?  I don't know about you, but I have a hard time answering that question at this moment.  I have been reading young adult novels just as fast as I can.

I thought I'd share my latest read as I absolutely loved it!!!

It is about a 8th grade boy who struggles to understand his world.  He learns that his little brother, whom he normally sees as a pest, has leukemia.  He has to deal with that along with trying to understand the ways in which his parents are dealing with that news.  Not to mention those girls at school that he just doesn't understand.

This is one of those books that made me laugh and cry.  There were points in the book where the tears were just flowing.  A few pages later I'd be laughing out loud. 

I plan to read this book with my students next year.  I cannot wait.  I dare say it is my favorite young adult novel so far!  Jordan Sonnenblick grabbed me from the very beginning and held my attention completely until the very end.  It's a quick and easy read.  It took me just a couple of hours.  

If you are looking for something to read this summer, please add this to your list.  You won't regret it.  Be sure to come back and let me know what you thought.