Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Teaching students to use gorgeous adjectives to describe characters + my ultimate lesson plan and poster FREEBIE!

There is nothing that frustrates me more than reading "she is a positive character" or "the villain of the story is negative". UGH. It really grinds my gears. But, something that I do love it post it notes! I managed to combine these two things to find a way to help my students learn a range of new tier 2 vocabulary (see my earlier post) and use them to write gorgeous analytical paragraphs.

I created thirty posters with a range of character traits from callous to stoic to tolerant and stuck them up in my classroom. Without any actual teaching, I noticed that my students were using the words and highlighting where they had used them so that they could proudly show me what they had been doing, so straight away, I knew these would be a hit!

Then one day, I used them in the class.


It was amazing. Here's what I did:

I put them in pairs or small groups of threes depending on where they were sitting. Each group was then given one poster from the wall that related to our novel (we were studying Wonder, but it also works with any other text). I handed out a post it note to every student in the class and they were asked to write down three things: the name of the character who exhibits the trait, an explanation in their own words, and a quote to support their point. Once they were done, they stuck them to the post it notes on the poster.

Next, every group was given a number from 1-4. It resulted that each partner/small group joined with two or three other groups to create four large groups. They then moved together - some groups spilled into the hallway - and they had a few minutes per small group to share their best post it note with the larger group. They all took notes and ended up having three or four character traits explained in their books. It was such a win!

The following lesson, we talked about paragraph writing and my students produced THE BEST PARAGRAPHS THEY HAD EVER WRITTEN. I was overjoyed! Their vocabulary and explanations were developed and the quotes they had used were great choices to support their argument. All of a sudden, I had students who could define charismatic, humble, and meek without even looking at the posters which I had put back up on the walls!

So, lovely readers, I want you to try this too. As a special gift, I have all of my thirty character trait posters for you, for FREE. All you have to do is input your email address below and they will be sent straight to your inbox!

Fill in your details to get your set of free posters

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    Please let me know in the comments how you go with this activity and how you use your posters in the classroom!

    Thursday, September 13, 2018

    My favourite free online tech tools for teachers

    Let me say this before I begin... I love using tech in the classroom. I have worked at a three different schools in the past few years and at each one, I have cultivated a reputation for being the tech nerd of my department or of the entire school! Over the years, I have found many wonderful ways to embed tech in my classes using laptops, phones, and iPads. Below are my favourite tools and some great ways to use them.

    Quizlet - an interesting and engaging way to revise key vocabulary for a unit. I use Quizlet mostly to teach students tier three (subject specific vocabulary) but I have also used it with tier two (academic vocabulary) before which you can read about here. The beautiful thing about Quizlet is that you can differentiate tasks based on individual needs. For example, the spell function is great for students who need to practise their spellings of key words. I once managed to teach a year 7 boy (who really, really struggles with spelling) to spell Mediterranean through Quizlet by setting him Quizlet homework. There are also some other great gamified functions like Match and Gravity that students really enjoy - they especially love competing with each other! You can find my Quizlet lists here or search 'misscartledge' in the search bar.

    Perhaps the best part of Quizlet is Quizlet Live - a Kahoot style quiz where students work in teams to revise key words. They love it because they need to communicate and discuss the term and its definition so things tend to get a little bit rowdy. You can also project a leaderboard on the projector screen so the students get quite competitive with this quiz which is fantastic. If you want to see a more comprehensive explanation on how to use Quizlet, click here for some slides I created for a PD I ran on using tech tools in my classroom.

    Socrative - Socrative is an online tool that allows teachers to create tests for students. There are three question types: multiple choice, true or false, and short answer (the first two are self-marking). Socrative can be used to:
    • Create self-marking multiple choice/true or false tests
    • Create practice tests prior to summative tests
    • Help weaker students study at home
    • Identify and correct any gaps in knowledge before and/or after tests
    There are three types of navigation - teacher paced (which can be used to asses student knowledge and discuss each question and answer as you go), open navigation (where students can move backwards and forwards through the questions and they get a final score at the end), and instant feedback (where students find out if they got it right straight after they submit their answer). I have used all three of these functions and they are all wonderful for different reasons. I have an entire slideshow dedicated to explaining exactly how they all work so click here if you'd like to have a look!

    Noredink - Hello engaging grammar worksheets! My students love Noredink because they can select their interests and have grammar questions tailored to TV shows they watch or celebrities they care about. I am using Noredink as one of the major components of my Grammar House Cup competition. On this website, you can set diagnostic or summative tests, assign revision work or ask students to learn new content. To set your students up, they will need to create an account and remember their login details which can be tedious - especially if you teach students who ALWAYS forget their details - but it's always worth it! I also use Noredink to set weekly homework tasks and I can see how much progress they make and how often they do independent study.

    Padlet - This handy little tool works wonders for collaboration. Essentially, it is an electronic bulletin board where students can upload ideas, quotes, images, links, and videos that everyone with the link can access. It works great for things like collaborative essays and quote/idea sharing, but I have also had success using it to facilitate a matching game where the students had to arrange words that fit under certain headings (eg matching word classes to their headings). The example below shows how Padlet to introduce my year 11 students to the play An Inspector Calls. They were each given a passage to read and then they had to find images that matched the descriptions to visualise the characters and settting.

    Kahoot Jumble - I know, I know... Kahoot is one of the most popular tech tools that is used across classrooms so you this is probably not new to you! But... have you used the jumble feature? It is (generally) a widely under-utilised tool. I use Kahoot Jumble mostly to revise quotations with my students before exams. They need to remember quite a lot of quotes so we use this tool roughly once a week or fortnight and they take four words of a quote and put them in the right order. They really struggle with some of them but after they revise the quotes a few times, they learn the order really quickly and remember it for a long time afterwards!

    Give me a comment below if I missed any out.

    Happy Thursday,

    Miss Cartledge

    Wednesday, September 12, 2018

    Using creative reading log prompts to encourage engagement

    I remember in my first year of teaching, I asked my students to record their reading for pleasure in an online reading log. It was an awful table with categories including something like 'date', 'book title', 'pages read', and 'summary of reading'. The students absolutely HATED it, and after a few weeks, I didn't even want to ask them to turn in work because I knew more than 70% of students wouldn't have done it and I would have to chase them up. I stayed well away from reading logs for a while after that disaster but I have recently starting using them again and I may have cracked the code!

    My new reading log is vibrant and encourages the students to really engage with their reading, rather than copying and pasting summaries from the internet. Each week, they submit a short piece of writing in response to a creative prompt that can be used for most books. I have collated all of my prompts in a set of task cards that are available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store, but for you, my wonderful readers, I have five weeks of reading log prompts for free! Just click the link here to access them!

    Have you found a student-proof way of assessing reading for pleasure or do you believe that we shouldn't assess reading for pleasure at all? Let me know in the comments. I would love to hear your experiences!

    Have a great hump day!

    Miss Cartledge

    Tuesday, September 11, 2018

    Creating a culture of kindness in my classroom

    In my humble opinion, teaching is all about creating the generation of beautiful people who will make the world a better place. I take this job very, very seriously and I spend my days searching for new ways to create a culture of kindness in my classroom. Last year, I had the privilege of inheriting a truly beautiful year 7 form class who had developed some teacher-abandonment issues and were starting to develop cliques that isolated some people, stopping them from feeling wanted in the class. Despite this, they showed so much potential for kindness and after lots of hard work and trial and error, I was able to correct these problems before they became the norm. That class now, is one of the most lovely in the year group, with a culture of kindness being the absolute norm!

    Before I get into the ways that I did this, I need to say one simple thing: be passionate. When you show your students that you care about it, they will feel it too. I know this is such a simple one, but it really is important.

    1. Speak from the heart. Tell your students about a time, long ago, when somebody did something incredibly kind that really impacted you. I like to tell them the story about a rough time in my life when I was having an awful day at work and a colleague cancelled some meetings and rearranged her day so that she could sit in the back of my classes. She didn't do anything at all except sit at the back of the room to make sure I was okay. She didn't need to do this, and she would probably be shocked to know that I still think about this act of kindness, but it left a mark on me. By reiterating the fact that one small act of kindness can be remembered years later, the students can see how powerful their actions can be.
    2. Inspire them through your actions. Be kind to everyone you encounter to model the behaviour you want to see. Be relentlessly kind to everyone you encounter. Start by leaving them notes in their lockers or on their desks. Give them a class gift in the middle of the year (a class photo with a little note saying 'thanks for being a great class' is a free yet thoughtful way to show you care.
    3. Show them how to support each other. My students recently did the One Word activity from Brittany at Five Foot One Teacher where they chose one word to summarise what they want their week, month, or year to be. If you haven't already bought this resource, please go buy it - it is a wonderful product that the students adore. Afterwards, I showed my students how to lift each other up by encouraging them to explain their word to a partner (in concentric circles) and then having their partner explain why they think the word is a good match and how they could make that word their motto for the year. From this, the students realised how to help each other rise up against those evil negative thoughts that we all get.
    4. Help them see that they collectively have the power to do so much good. Start a list of 100 random acts of kindness and get the students to write down the wonderful things that they are doing for others. By seeing what others are doing, they will be inspired to be kind themselves. I have a free printable list here if you want to save yourself some time!
    5. Encourage them to do good for others, not for their ego. This one is really important. When they are new to the idea being relentlessly kind, they are quick to bring their egos into it. I can't count how many times I have had students come to tell me "Miss, I held the door open for a teacher today" or "I did the dishes for Mum without asking!" While it's great that they want to tell me about their kind actions, I always encourage them to do it for the good of others, rather than for the accolades. In attempts to fix this, I started one of my favourite activities ever. To start, show them videos of random acts of kindness that make them want to be better. I love this one that always gets them feeling inspired. After watching a video on random acts of kindness, we speak about how the anonymous person, does not do it so that other people with think of them as being really kind, they just do it because it is the right thing to do. Then we begin a 'kindness wall'. Every Friday, my students were given a post it note that said another student's name. On that post it note, they wrote as many wonderful things about the person as they could think of (not appearance based) and stuck it up on the wall for the recipient to collect during the week. They didn't tell the recipient that they wrote it, they just did it to make them feel lovely.

    There are so many ways to spread the kindness in the classroom and it truly is one of the most important things that we should all endeavour to do every single day.

    Do you have any other ideas? Let me know!

    Miss Cartledge

    Teaching gender roles through time with The Brady Bunch and Friends

    Good morning good people, today I am here to talk to you about how I use these two TV shows to form a 'then and now' approach to gender roles in popular culture.  I have taught this unit a few times now and it is always powerful for the students to see that things may not have changed as much as they may think. Below I have typed out the general gist of the unit plan for you to use with your own classes.

    I begin the unit by defining gender stereotypes. One at a time, I bring three artistic students to the whiteboard and I assign them a stereotype to draw on the board (usually nerd, hippy, and homeless person). While they are drawing, I ask the other students to call out ideas about how the drawing should look. They usually end up calling out gross stereotypes which leads us into the discussion of why these ideas could be wrong and damaging to some. Eventually, we lead into a discussion about gender stereotyping and the students write down all of the stereotypes we know are traditionally linked to each gender.

    The Brady Bunch - I use the episode Confessions, Confessions from season 2 because it works well, but also because there are many versions of it online, such as this one. I always start with The Brady Bunch because the it the sexism is just so obvious to the students. Before we watch the episode, we have a class discussion and they take notes on gender binaries. I always ask the students whether these stereotypes still exist and I get them to write a note in their books. Often, they think sexism and gender roles are much better than they used to be.

    After all of that introduction work, we then watch the episode. While they watch, I get them to fill in a really simple table like this:

    We finish with a task like a written paragraph or a socratic seminar to solidify our ideas about the show which are fairly simplistic because the gender roles are so clearly defined in The Brady Bunch.

    Friends - Friends is still so popular among teenagers and is a great next option because students don't usually associate it with being sexist. I use The One with the Metaphorical Tunnel because Ross is incredibly certain that boys should not play with dolls or they will turn gay. There is a clip on YouTube of that scene here. During the screening, I have students take notes on gender roles under two headings: how is Friends as sexist as The Brady Bunch? and how is Friends less sexist than The Brady Bunch? After watching the episode, the students debate the sexist nature of the episode in small groups.

    Optional additional text - If I am teaching big kids, I will give them an opportunity to bring in a modern text of their choosing. This can be anything and some great ideas are Pretty Little Liars, Riverdale, and/or Brooklyn Nine Nine. I have also seen students study TV shows for younger audiences, such as Victorious.

    The unit culminates with an argumentative essay that argues whether or not sexism and gender stereotyping is still a major issue in our society, specifically focusing on how TV shows for teens are critical in developing gender socialisation.

    Have you taught gender roles and sexism in your classroom? I'd love to hear all about it in the comments!

    Have a lovely day,

    Miss Cartledge

    Sunday, September 9, 2018

    Five fun ways to teach tier 2 vocabulary to middle and high school students

    My school caters for students from year 7 to 13 and I have had the opportunity to, at one time or another, teach students in each of those grades except for year 13. That being said, it is important to switch gears quickly from the younger years to the older years in terms of behaviour management and classroom pedagogy. One thing that doesn't change at any stage through secondary English is the requirement to learn vocabulary.

    There are two types of vocabulary that students must know: tier 2 (academic) vocabulary and tier 3 (subject specific) vocabulary. 

    Teaching tier 2 vocabulary is a crucial component of English that transcends every other academic subject taken by our students. I have already spoken a little bit about teaching tier 3 vocabulary in my post about eliciting a love of grammar lessons in students so I want to focus on tier 2 vocabulary here. I find that the best way to teach these words to students is through student discovery. At the start of the year, I introduce a range of texts to students with vocabulary that is marginally harder than what they are used to. Over the course of several weeks, the students compile a list of words that they were unsure about and I collate them into a list of tier 2 vocabulary for us to learn in a range of different ways. 

    Using word walls. Step one is always to put the words up in the classroom to familiarise the students with spelling and remind them of the words they need to learn. I dug this (terrible) photo out of my archives because it is the first time I ever used a word wall and I wanted to remember the simplicity of it. It is a good reminder to me that beautiful teaching is sometimes ugly because this was probably the most successful I have ever been in teaching tier 2 vocabulary for a range of reasons (including a sudden classroom swap and moving countries in the middle of the school year). The words are colour coded in terms of difficulty and include words like mitigate, pervade, and oppression. We added many more words as we progressed through the school year.

    Here are my five fun ways to explicitly teach and revise tier 2 vocabulary in order of how I use them in my classroom:
    1. Learning through Quizlet. If you haven't yet started using Quizlet, go make yourself an account right now (after reading this post). I have used this beautiful tool in both of my subject areas and I encourage any teacher - whether you teach maths or music or anywhere in between - to get on board! On Quizlet, I make a list of about 10 words and their definitions in the most simplistic way possible. From there, I add about 5-10 words per week (depending on how capable the class is) and they practise for 5 minutes at the end of class as well as for homework. You can see one of my vocabulary lists for a capable year 7 class here or an average year 8 class here.
    2. Revising terms and definitions with bingo. Once your students are familiar with at least 50% of the words, you can start playing vocabulary games. A crowd favourite is always bingo and I have two ways that I use bingo cards to teach vocabulary. The first way is to use Bingo cards that have only words on them. Whilst playing, I call out the definition of the word and they have to remember what word it matches before crossing it off. The alternative way is to have only definitions on the bingo cards and then I call out the word only. It gets a little bit crazy but that's okay because the students are enjoying learning vocabulary. You can create a class set of bingo cards online by searching in Google.
    3. Revising terms and definitions with Jenga blocks. This game is a different way to revise terms and definitions in the early stages of learning vocabulary. You will need a few cheap sets of Jenga blocks and a label-maker or Sharpie pen. On each block, write a word or a definition. When the students pull out a block, they need to state the word or definition that matches the one on the block. If they do not get it right, they cannot add the block to the tower. The group with the tallest tower at the end is the winner.
    4. Using Taboo-style cards to paraphrase definitions. Taboo is a great way to encourage students to paraphrase the meanings of words, rather than just rote learning one definition of the word. Simply create a deck of cards that contain the vocabulary word and about 4-5 'taboo' words that the student must not use while trying to explain the meaning of the word. The students then work in groups of about 8 (4 students on each team) and each team takes turns guessing what word one member of their team is trying to explain.
    5. Creatively exploring nuance through Pictionary. This is a harder game - I play Pictionary with my classes once they have knowledge of at least 80% of the words quite well or it will not work. The students work in groups of about 8 (4 students on each team) and take turns pulling a word out of a hat and then drawing the word for their team. Drawing words like prosper and suspense is quite challenging but once the students know the words quite well, they will know what to look for and it isn't as hard as it seems.

    Let me know if you have had success teaching tier 2 vocabulary to your students! I would love to hear from you.

    Have a wonderful day,

    Miss Cartledge

    Saturday, September 8, 2018

    How I surprise my students and elicit a love for grammar lessons

    Teaching grammar is the Trojan Horse of the English classroom. Students moan, teachers stress, and we often lose the purpose of why we are teaching it in the first place. As a person who loves a good old fashioned challenge, I have spent the past three years developing a collection of grammar games and activities that elicit a love of grammar amongst my students. Keep reading to find out how.

    Gamification is probably my favourite word when it comes to teaching. In my classroom, games happen weekly, if not daily. We shout and yell and laugh because we are having fun! Any game you have ever played can be turned into a grammar game. Here are some of my favourites:

    The Hogwarts Grammar House Cup - this year I have started something new in my room - a Harry Potter themed grammar tournament. I teach two year 7 classes and two year 8 classes so I have assigned each class a Hogwarts house and they will be competing against each other to win a pizza party right before the Christmas break. The students are now falling over themselves, asking me if they can have extra grammar homework to score more house points! The way it works is simple, they get points for taking notes on key topics, completing online quizzes that I provide them, voluntarily completing worksheets at home, and for their final unit tests. I have a leader board up the back of the room to foster the competitive nature in my students and I can't believe I haven't tried this sooner! It is a beautiful motivator! Let me know in the comments if you would like me to send you the resources that make up the display board for free.

    Match - my twist on the classic matching card game helps students to practise their skills at identifying parts of speech. The students play in pairs and each student tries to match together different examples of the same part of speech. I love this activity because it is so versatile - I have used it with students in year 7 all the way up to year 10 and I know it would work with younger kids as well. Find my card deck as part of my grammar learning stations here.

    Spoons - because modified drinking games make the best grammar games. For this one, you will need a collection of spoons - or any other object in abundance and a deck of cards comprising of 48 cards (6 cards of each part of speech). You can find my Spoons deck here. Your students will play in small groups of about five to six players. This game is also designed to revise the parts of speech and is similar to Match but a bit harder to win. The aim of the game is to make four of a kind (for example: four nouns, four adjectives etc) and to not be the last person without a spoon at the end of a round!
    1. To play, arrange the spoons in a small circle in the centre of the table
    2. Nominate a dealer who deals four cards to each player on the table and reserves the rest of the cards in a pile within reachable distance. The dealer takes a card off the top of the remaining pile to have five cards in their hand. They then decide which card they want to keep and which the want to discard to the next player. 
    3. The dealer removes their card to discard from their hand and passes it face down to the player on the left. 
    4. Play continues like this with each player in succession picking up the card from the player to their right and then discarding to the player on their left. 
    5. The last player in the circle places their discarded card into a trash pile. 
    6. Cards are picked up and passed quickly around the table until someone gets four of a kind and takes a spoon from the centre,
    7. Once the player with four of a kind takes a spoon, anyone can take a spoon and should take them as quickly as possible.
    8. The player left without a spoon is eliminated from the game and can monitor the game to ensure fairness.
    9. If at any time the draw cards run out, pause to reshuffle the trash pile and keep going.
    Grammar hoops - for this game you will need a few sets of throwing hoops (like the one pictured below) or something similar like a magnetic dart board or any other throwing game AND one digital device per group - either phone, tablet or PC. The idea is that this activity gets the students to complete a grammar quiz without even knowing or complaining! So how do you do it?

    1. Divide the students into teams (I split mine into three teams because that's how many hoop sets I have). Have the students in each team line up in front of the throwing hoops. 
    2. Ask the first person in each line to log into an online testing website like SocrativeKahoot, or Google Forms (prior to the game, you will need to have set up a grammar test on one of these platforms or you can use my Socrative quiz by using this code: SOC-26756137). 
    3. Then, the game begins! Each student must answer a single question correctly to be able to throw their hoop. Ask each student to answer the question and then show you the screen that tells them if they were correct or not. If they get it right, they throw the hoop, accumulate team points, and then move to the back of the line, giving the device to the next person in line before they go. 
    4. Repeat for as long as you want the game to last!
    I hope that you can use one or all of these grammar games in your classroom and elicit a love of grammar that extends well into and beyond the teenage years!

    Have a great day,

    Miss Cartledge