Sunday, May 23, 2021

Advance Preparation for a Substitute Is a Must

Teacher at Chalkboard

Dear Teacher Friends,

It's finally the end of a long and stressful school year. You deserve a restful and fun vacation. This tip is one that will help make your next school year get off to a great start. Preparing this now, before you need it, will be so reassuring.

One of the biggest worries for teachers is what to do if you have an unexpected need to be absent. Sometimes you just don't feel like writing out a lesson plan that incorporates the lessons you have been working on in class. At other times, during a family crisis, you don't have time to think about a lesson plan at all. You have to pack, or go to the hospital, or rush in to help a family member who needs you. 

At such times, I always relied on a folder that I kept in the drawer of my desk. 

Emergency no prep lesson plans Charlene Tess

I would call a teacher friend at my school and ask them to get the folder out of my drawer and put it on my desktop. In addition to the lessons I had prepared, the folder contained my schedule, my seating charts, notes about my class rules, information about the teachers' lunchroom and break room, fire drill information, and any other helpful information I thought a substitute might need.

My go-to lesson was a short story that students would read in class and worksheets they would use to analyze the story. In the folder, I included printed copies of the story and the worksheets. You will find that lesson here.

If I had to be absent for more than one day, I had my teacher friend pull out a second folder in which I had placed a different lesson that could take up to a week to complete. You will find that FREE lesson here.

If you prefer lessons for distance learning, I have many resources that you could use. My Google Drive resources are here, and my BOOM Cards are here.

I learned that if you take the time to prepare these two folders before you need them, they can be a lifesaver later on. 

Take a look at all of the fantastic lessons you could use as substitute plans that were written by teachers who write for These lessons are classroom-tested and ready to print and use. Why not download them and get your folders ready? Enjoy!

Thanks for reading. I hope you have a fun and restful summer break.

Here are some interesting blog posts my teacher friends in The Best of Teacher Entrepreneurs Marketing Cooperative wrote. 

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Monday, April 5, 2021

Two Day Sale on TpT April 6 & 7

Are you ready to grab some amazing products from the teacher/authors on and SAVE BIG?

This site-wide two-day sale (April 6th and 7th) is a huge bonus for teachers who want no-prep materials to help them finish out the 2021 spring semester. 

Whether you teach remotely, in the classroom, or a hybrid version of both, you will find lessons and resources that will make your job easier. 

At the same time, you can save up to 25% if you enter the code FORYOU21 at checkout.

If you use any version of my Simple Steps to Sentence Sense program, you will find some new BOOM Card™ decks that will allow your students to practice each step and receive immediate feedback. 

It's a win-win for you. You could even use it as a quiz before giving students the final test in each step. Why not wish-list the ones you need now and buy them for 25% off tomorrow.

Here are links to the BOOM Card™ decks on TpT

            (Simple, Compound, Complex, Compound/Complex)

If you're not using the Simple Steps to Sentence Sense program, but you've heard how easy it is to use and how much your students are going to love it, now is the perfect time to save 25%. 

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, March 21, 2021

3 Tips on Using Apostrophes Correctly

Knowing when and how to use apostrophes can be really confusing at times. The key to using apostrophes correctly is to know when they are needed and for what purpose they are used. 

Here are three reasons to use an apostrophe: 

1.  Use an apostrophe to show that a letter or letters have been left out of a word or that numbers have been left out. 

For example, can’t and ’80. 

Be sure to place the apostrophe in the exact location of the missing letters or numbers. (can’t = can not) (‘80=1980)

2.  Use an apostrophe to show ownership or possession of nouns and indefinite pronouns.

  (Cathy’s car.) (someone’s fault)


The rules to form possessive nouns are simple. 

First, determine if the word you are making possessive in form is singular or plural. 

If the word is singular, add an apostrophe and then an s. (cat’s meow) 

Note: In words of more than one syllable that end in an s-sound, you are permitted to add only the apostrophe to avoid too many s-sounds. (Moses’ tablets) 

If the word is plural, you must first check the spelling of the word before making it possessive. 

If the plural word ends in an ‘s,’ just add the apostrophe. Flowers = flowers’ fragrance 

If the plural word does not end in an ‘s,’ you would add an apostrophe and then an ‘s.’ 

men = men’s wardrobe 

Never add an ‘s’ and then an apostrophe. (s’) 

(Doing so would have made the word plural and possessive.) 


3. Use an apostrophe to make individual letters and numbers plural. For example, there are four s’s and four i’s in Mississippi. There are three 0’s in my phone number. Mind your p's and q's.

You do not use an apostrophe to make a word plural.  

For example, one boy= three boys


Sometimes you need to make a word plural first and then make it possessive. 

Here's an example.


A family named Wilson is having a party. Because there are several members of the family who are having the party, you would make the name plural and then possessive. On the invitation it should read: You are invited to the Wilsons’ Christmas party. 

However, the Wilson family would sign their Christmas cards: The Wilsons. (Note: There is no apostrophe because “Wilsons” is a plural noun but not a possessive noun.) 


Indefinite pronouns refer to something that is not specified.

Singular indefinite pronouns do not end in an “s”. To make an indefinite pronoun possessive, you would add an apostrophe and an ‘s.’ 

anybody = anybody’s guess 

anyone = anyone’s idea

everybody = everybody’s right

somebody = somebody’s idea

nobody = nobody’s business

no one = no one’s business

someone = someone’s house


If you follow these rules, the use of apostrophes becomes easier to understand. I have several resources that address the use of apostrophes and may be helpful for your students.

Practice with Apostrophes BOOM Cards Deck 1 $3.75

Practice with Apostrophes BOOM Cards Deck 2  $3.75

Avoid the Misuse of the Greengrocer's Apostrophe  $3.15

Using Apostrophes Correctly Grammar Worksheets FREE

We have something to look forward to since it's almost spring. Here in the Rockies, we just had 28 inches of snow at my house. I'm ready to skip spring and go straight to summer.

Stay safe and well. Thanks for reading.


Some of my teacher friends have written some interesting blog posts. Take a look below.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Sunday, February 21, 2021

5 Capitalization Hints

A pineapple on yellow background

Capitalization is often a complex issue, and one's best friend is a good dictionary when trying to be correct. The five hints that follow are examples of frequent errors in capitalization. Learning them will make it easier to write correctly.

5 Capitalization Hints to Remember

1.  Don't capitalize seasons: summer, fall, autumn, winter, or spring

2.  Don't capitalize school subjects unless they are followed by a number or if they are a language.
        Correct:  biology, Biology II, French, history, math, Algebra I, algebra 

3.  Capitalize directions if they name a region of the country, but not when they indicate a direction of the compass. 
        Correct:  I love the food in the South.
                         Go two blocks north and then turn west and the stop sign.

4.  Do not capitalize earth, sun, or moon unless they appear in a list of other capitalized celestial bodies.
        Correct: I love the smell of the earth after a rain.
                        Today, we studied Earth, Jupiter, Mars, and Venus.

5.  Do not capitalize web, web page, or website but do capitalize World Wide Web and         Internet.
        Correct:  I am going to use the Internet today to create a new web page.
                         I cannot imagine how many websites exist on the World Wide Web.

I offer a FREE exercise to practice these five hints to anyone who subscribes to my newsletter. My newsletter will keep you informed about new lessons that I create and frequently includes FREE lessons and grammar tips and tricks. If you would like to subscribe click here.

Thanks for reading,


Here are some interesting blog posts from my teacher friends:

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Sunday, January 17, 2021

How to Reduce Wordy Sentences

Email, text messaging, Twitter, Facebook, Zoom, and other forms of internet communities are the way people interact with each other.

Am I against using these new ways to communicate? Absolutely not. I use them, too, and find it quite enjoyable to interact with friends both old and new.

Am I tempted to shorten my messages and tweets with letters and numerals such as, "I want 2 C U 2 day?" Not really.

Because I am a writer and a grammar teacher, I try to condense my words into succinct phrases, clauses, and sentences that convey my exact meaning while using fewer words.

With practice, anyone can become a better writer. One of the best ways to improve one’s writing is to cut extraneous words from essays, emails, texts, or manuscripts.

It takes work to say what you mean, but anyone can do it well with practice.

Learn to:
  • repeat a word or phrase only when necessary.
  • avoid a careless or needless repetition of a thought in different words.
  • avoid clumsy, roundabout expressions.
  • eliminate needless words and choppy sentences.
  • avoid the double negative.
  • use adverbs sparingly.
  • choose the precise word to convey your meaning.
  • avoid clich├ęs.


It is quality, not quantity that counts in writing. Most good writing is not cluttered with superfluous words.

Here are three ways to improve your writing:

(1) Eliminate extra words and the unnecessary repetition of ideas. 

For example:

Wordy: The dog played with a small, little, round ball, which was made of rubber.

Better: The dog played with a little rubber ball.

(2) Reduce clauses to phrases and phrases to single words.

For example:

Wordy:  We decided that we would leave the meeting early.

Better: We decided to leave the meeting early.

Wordy: The illegal immigrants who had been captured were deported to Mexico.

Better: The captured illegal immigrants were deported to Mexico.

(3) Avoid trying to sound like Shakespeare. Write naturally. 

For example:

Wordy:  Illumination is required when the sun has sunk into the west and left the premises in darkness.

Better: Turn on the lights at dark.

What about you? Do you sometimes use more words that you really need? I know I do, so when I go back and proofread what I have written, I often find myself tapping the delete key.

Twitter is a great place for people to learn to practice reducing long, convoluted, rambling sentences into 280 characters.

Click here to download a FREE exercise to practice reducing longer sentences into shorter, concise statements.

Here are some related resources in my store that you might find useful for your students.

“It ain't whatcha write, it's the way atcha write it.”

                                                ------- Jack Kerouac

Thanks for reading,

Here are some interesting blog posts from my teacher friends in The Best of Teacher Entrepreneurs Marketing Cooperative. Enjoy!

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Civility in the Classroom

Students working together in classroom.

I believe that the process by which students learn is much more important than the actual content data they acquire. If an information base were all that was required to be successful in life, the library and the internet could satisfy that requirement, and students wouldn’t need teachers at all.

In my classroom, I wanted my students to read good books, write insightful compositions, and learn to correct grammar to be understood and respected when speaking or writing. Those concepts were important to me, but much more important was the climate of the classroom in which they spent so much time with me. 

Allowing students to work in small groups helps them learn to be civil to one another. I tried to mix up the groups in my classes so that students could work with people they did not know especially well. 

How we treat one another in our daily interactions is something for which we can all take responsibility. Not everyone is raised in a home where family members respect each other and speak to each other kindly. That’s one of the most important reasons for teachers to require that the students in their classes treat each other with civility. Teachers can model that behavior and expect students to do the same. When teachers observe students treating each other with respect, it is important to reward their behavior with a smile, a nod, or a compliment.

No one should be subjected to a learning environment in which they are subject to criticism, racism, misogyny, or any manner of hate-filled speech. Civility begins in the home and in the classroom. 

Click here to download a FREE Civility Worksheet to help your students recognize and understand what civility means.

Here's another resource your students might enjoy. I wrote an original short story, and students will give it a title while exploring its theme.

Thanks for reading. Here are some blog posts that my teacher friends wrote that you will enjoy reading. I hope you have a safe and happy holiday season.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Help with the Active and Passive Voice of Verbs

Here are tips on using the active and passive voice from Simple Steps to Sentence Sense.

Whenever possible, use verbs in the active voice. The passive voice is weak and uses unnecessary words. 

“A captain has been appointed by the team” 
is weaker than 
“The team has appointed a captain.”  

Sentences with verbs in the passive voice use "is, am, are, was, were, be, or been" as a helping verb with the past participle. Sentences in the passive voice often contain the preposition “by.”

To change a sentence into the active voice do the following:

  • Remove the form of the to be helping verb. Be sure to keep the tense of the verb the same as it was.
  • Remove the word by
  • Flip the ends of the sentence.

Step 2 in SimpleSteps to Sentence Sense is all about finding the verb and the verb phrase.

Click here to watch a video explaining Step 2.

Once your students master the use of the verb in a sentence, they will become better writers.

Click here for a complete unit on verbs that will make it easy for your students to use them correctly.

Click here to access a mini-lesson from pages from the All About Verbs exercise that you can assign in Google Drive. Click here to access the answers to the exercise.

Thanks for reading,

Here are some blog posts from my teacher friends that should be very helpful to you. Enjoy!

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Tips for Knowing When to Use Who, That, and Which

Here are a few simple hints to help you decide whether to use “who,” “that,” or “which” in the sentences you write.

Use “who” when referring to people. For example, The man who answered the phone was very polite.

Use "that" for clauses that define specific people or things and provide necessary information. For example, The cake that I made yesterday was delicious. (You are talking about a specific cake.)

Use "which" in a nonessential clause that adds information but is not necessary to the meaning of the sentence. 
For example, The movie, which I saw yesterday, was about a war hero.

Nonrestrictive clauses that begin with “which” should be placed in between commas or in between parentheses. A nonrestrictive clause is one that can be omitted without changing the meaning of the sentence.

I hope you can use the tips above, and that you are doing well. Stay safe!

Thanks for reading,

Take a look at some interesting blog posts from my teacher friends at The Best of Teacher Entrepreneurs Marketing Cooperative. 

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!