Earth Friendly Classroom Tips For Going Paperless and Using Technology


Whether you are all in for going paperless, you plan on it, or you just can't seem to head in the paperless direction, Earth Day is typically the time when we all think about our environment, energy, recycling, preserving our resources, and eliminating waste. That's where our English language arts blog link up comes in. 

Whether you are all in for going paperless, you plan on it, or you just can't seem to head in the paperless direction, Earth Day is typically the time when we all think about our environment, energy, recycling, preserving our resources, and eliminating waste. That's where our English language arts blog link up comes in.

Your bank wants you to go paperless. You child's report card is paperless. Retailers want to email you receipts rather than printing them at the register. Your students want to use their mobile devices for everything. So what about your classroom? How are managing your teaching lessons? Are you paper or tech? Blended or 1:1? 

Using technology in your classroom will definitely cut down on your trips to the copy machine. Sharing an assignment with your students via a cloud storage system (Google Drive or One Drive), an educational app (Notability, MS OneNote, Edmodo) or a learning management system (Canvas, Google Classroom, Microsoft Classroom, Blackboard, Schoology) will allow you to explore auto-grading, self-calculating rubrics, opportunities for student collaboration, and increased student engagement. 

Paperless classroom facilitation is also very low-prep. Teachers are saving prep time by not photocopying or filing endless stacks of paper. Wouldn't all teachers love that? We've put together a collection of blog posts to give you some Earth Day inspiration for your upcoming lesson plans.






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Why Your Students Need Online Discussion Boards and How to Create One


It’s not a secret that your students LOVE using technology in their classroom, more specifically Google. What’s not to love? It’s engaging, fun and they can use their own devices! Perfect! However, there is more your students can do with Google than publish, engage in digital notebooks, make presentations, and complete assessments. Students and teachers can actually have analytical discussions and debates. 
Teachers can use learning management systems (Google Classroom, Blackboard, Edmodo, Canvas) to create an online discussion board for their students. Secondary classroom teachers should include online discussion boards as a part of the curriculum. Provide opportunities to learn a twenty-first century skill for higher education. All subjects, grades 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12.

Teachers become facilitators. We evolve in our teaching practice throughout our journey. Facilitating a discussion is very rewarding and refreshing. As your students progress and improve in their discussion board collaboration skills so will the facilitators. Soon, the educator can be more "hands-free," all while sitting back moderating the board and assignments.

Most colleges and universities around the world are utilizing discussion boards as a part if their courses' requirements. Since 2003, every course in higher education that I participated in, there was a discussion board weekly assignment. Most of the topics supported the readings and lectures. The instructors derived questions from additional articles or short videos. I got to know more people through this type of interaction. I soon loved it.

This is why secondary classrooms really should include online discussion boards as a part of the curriculum. Schools will provide opportunities to learn a twenty-first century learning skill as well as a much needed skill for college.    
   
Let's get you started! Teachers can easily set up a discussion board/discussion thread on any topic you wish. Follow the simple steps below:

  1. You must be logged into your teacher account for Google Classroom.
  2. In the bottom right hand corner, click the + sign, then "create question."
  3. Create your question for your students. You can include a description as well, but that’s optional.
  4. Choose a due date and/or time. 
  5. Choose the correct format: short answer.
  6. Most important: choose the option that says “students can reply to each other." (Using this feature, student’s won’t be able to see their classmate’s responses until they have submitted their own.)
  7. Click “Ask” when complete.

Once the students have submitted their answer, all of their classmates’ responses will be listed. They can easily reply to their classmates by clicking the ‘reply’ button on a response. 

Using Google Classroom as a discussion board forum is similar to what a Facebook conversation on someone’s status or picture might look like. It has a continuous thread, and is time/date stamped. After some time, however, the time stamp will disappear, but the date will remain. This is helpful if you are assigning a discussion for homework or project when you need to see when a reply was posted. 
Don't know what kind of questions to post for discussion. Tip: Take journal prompts and re-purpose them. I choose reflective prompts based on our texts.This proves the student read the text and promotes originality.
Don't know what kind of questions to post for discussion? Tip: Take journal prompts and re-purpose them. I choose reflective prompts based on our texts.This proves the student read the text and promotes originality. 

For those of you who currently do not use Google Classroom but prefer to use other platforms such as Blackboard or Canvas, creating a class discussion board or forum is also doable. 

Blackboard:
  1. Once logged in, find the Course Menu.
  2. Click on Tools → Discussion Board
  3. Create Thread → Name your Board
  4. You will be presented with a variety of options for your students, such as allow anonymous posts, allow author to delete own posts, allow post tagging and allow file attachments. 
  5. Post Entry.
Canvas:
  1. Logged in as the instructor, locate the blue Discussions button in the top right hand of your screen.
  2. Enter a title and description for your new thread.
  3. You will have a variety of options available, such as allow threaded replies, users must post before replying and use for grading. 
  4. Click Save.
Whichever educational platform you use in your classroom, creating online discussion boards are a great idea. They promote greater communication and allow an outlet for introverted students who are reluctant talk in class the opportunities to develop collaboration skills and forge relationships.

Discussion boards are a great homework assignment or an easy low-prep lesson for a substitute teacher. Either way, your students will enjoy the freedom to express their thoughts and feelings with their classmates!



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Teaching Students to Comprehend Poetry in 7 Steps

Today I am excited to welcome Kim from English Oh My as our guest blogger. She has some great ideas for teaching students to comprehend poetry in a manageable way. Enjoy!

Teaching students to understand poetry does NOT need to be a challenge. Click through to see the seven steps that break it down and make it manageable. These seven steps will work great for your 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, & 12th grade classroom or home school students. Use this for Literature lessons, a poetry unit, during National Poetry month in April, for test prep, and much more. {sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh, twelfth graders - middle school & high school approved!}

Happy April, and Happy National Poetry Month!  Poetry is a timeless genre, and it is a part of most English Language curriculum.  When I tell my students they are going to learn, read or write poetry, a chorus of growls, grunts and eye rolls follows the introduction.  No matter how a teacher introduces the aspects of poetry, no matter how many handstands, cartwheels and balancing acts we do to try to make poetry fun and engaging, it is just not enough to get our students to buy into learning about and reading poetry. That's why today's post is about teaching students to comprehend poetry in a manageable way.

Many students tend to resist poetry because, “they just do not understand it.” In general, our students have a difficult time finding the theme and main of idea in ANY literature, and when a text is shortened to a few stanzas, this task becomes even more challenging.

I wanted to share with you some very helpful strategies one of my professors shared with the class when I was studying British Literature in college.   I have never forgotten his tips, and I have adapted them into my own classroom to assist my students with the comprehension of a poem and make the poetry journey, well, a little less grueling.

My grade eight students are currently in the middle of reading To Kill a Mockingbird and, throughout the book, I try to introduce a variety of media, texts, music and poetry to differentiate the learning experience, as well as help my students appreciate different parts of the novel.

Recently, we read the chapter when Cecil Jacobs calls Atticus a “n****r-lover”, and Scout experiences this derogatory phrase/term for the first time.  After this event, I love introducing the poem, “Incident” by Countee Cullen.  This poem is incredible in teaching students how one word or phrase can ruin someone or an experience for a lifetime. Take a look at the poem here:

Teaching students to understand poetry does NOT need to be a challenge. Click through to see the seven steps that break it down and make it manageable. These seven steps will work great for your 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, & 12th grade classroom or home school students. Use this for Literature lessons, a poetry unit, during National Poetry month in April, for test prep, and much more. {sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh, twelfth graders - middle school & high school approved!}

Step # 1: Setup the Poem

Before my class read this poem, I had my students complete a “Poem Setup”.  In the blank space to the right, I had my students write the following words: narrator, setting, and mood. You can have your students write this anywhere on the page, as some teachers like their students to annotate while they read in the marginal space provided.

Teaching students to understand poetry does NOT need to be a challenge. Click through to see the seven steps that break it down and make it manageable. These seven steps will work great for your 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, & 12th grade classroom or home school students. Use this for Literature lessons, a poetry unit, during National Poetry month in April, for test prep, and much more. {sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh, twelfth graders - middle school & high school approved!}

At the bottom of the page, I had my students draw two boxes: one for a summary and one for a picture.  See the picture below:
Teaching students to understand poetry does NOT need to be a challenge. Click through to see the seven steps that break it down and make it manageable. These seven steps will work great for your 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, & 12th grade classroom or home school students. Use this for Literature lessons, a poetry unit, during National Poetry month in April, for test prep, and much more. {sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh, twelfth graders - middle school & high school approved!}

Step # 2: Always Read a Poem Twice!

I always reiterate to my students they will never understand a poem in one read. They need to read it twice, sometimes even a third time, and even then, they may not comprehend the poem completely.

Following the page setup, I read the poem aloud the first time, and then I had my students silently read the second time.

Step # 3: Use Investigative Skills & Identify the Narrator or Speaker of the Poem

One thing I stress to my students is the speaker of poem is NOT always the poet speaking.  Sometimes, they have to look at the narrator/speaker like a character in a book. The quicker your students recognize the narrator/speaker, the faster it will help them understand the context of the poem.

When we read the poem, I articulated to my students to think about the questions, “Who is telling the event/s of the poem, and how do you know?”  With this, I expressed that they need to show evidence in the poem where it revealed the narrator/speaker. Underlining key words or words shows evidence of their thinking.

Step # 4: Identify the Setting

Identifying a setting gives a reader visualization and imagery to the context of any literature.  The reader begins to form pictures in his/her mind of what is happening in the piece due to the time and place.

After my students identified the speaker, I asked them to find and identify the setting.  To show evidence of the setting, they needed to underline it in the poem, and then write it under or next to setting.  In addition, they were also asked to try to identify “where” and “when” the poem was taking place, and then try to specify if it takes place in the past, present or future.

Step #5: Identify the Mood

With any piece of literature, I find it very important for a reader to identify how a character is feeling.  This has the reader empathize and connect to a character or person.  Feeling for another causes the reader develop an appreciation for the character/person’s actions and behaviors, as well as understand why s/he is acting and speaking a particular way.

Therefore, I then asked my students, “Is the narrator excited, scared, thrilled, or terrified? How is the narrator/speaker feeling throughout the poem?” I instructed them to identify the mood in the poem, and I stressed that a mood can change over the course of a piece.

Step #6: Summarize the Poem

Summarizing the poem in one’s own words is a great way to show an understanding of a poem.  Normally my rule of thumb is a summary should not be more than 25 words, and when writing a summary, the should be able to identify the “who, what, where, why, when and how” of the poem.

In the bottom left hand side of the poem, I instructed my students to write the events of the poem in their own words.

Teaching students to understand poetry does NOT need to be a challenge. Click through to see the seven steps that break it down and make it manageable. These seven steps will work great for your 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, & 12th grade classroom or home school students. Use this for Literature lessons, a poetry unit, during National Poetry month in April, for test prep, and much more. {sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh, twelfth graders - middle school & high school approved!}

Step # 7: Put the Poem in Action by Drawing a Picture

If your students have a difficult time summarizing the poem, have them try to put the poem in action by drawing a picture of what they believe is happening.  For some students, visualization is essential for comprehension.
Teaching students to understand poetry does NOT need to be a challenge. Click through to see the seven steps that break it down and make it manageable. These seven steps will work great for your 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, & 12th grade classroom or home school students. Use this for Literature lessons, a poetry unit, during National Poetry month in April, for test prep, and much more. {sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh, twelfth graders - middle school & high school approved!}


I had my students both summarize and draw the picture of the events.

All in all, when you take a look at the final product of the seven steps, there is quite a bit of visual comprehension on the page-notes, arrows, evidence, drawings, etc. This shows teaching students to comprehend poetry is possible!

In the future, I hope these seven steps will strength your students’ skills with the comprehension of a poem.

 ***You do not have to replace these strategies with the skills you teach your students in analyzing poetry. These strategies can be added to other skills and techniques you review and teach (i.e. figurative language, vocabulary and structure). ***

If you would like a copy of the poem “Incident”, you can access it here.  You may want to use this poem in your classroom, and it has many important themes that tie into character, integrity, and racism.

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About Kim: I am a middle school English teacher on Long Island, NY.  I have been teaching for 17 years, and I absolutely love teaching middle school.  My passion is to ignite a love of reading, writing and to strengthen my students’ integrity and confidence as an English student, as well as a student who will make a difference in the world. Please follow me in the following ways: Teachers Pay Teachers, Blog, Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest.
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