Sunday, September 17, 2023

Make a Good Impression

Have you ever wondered what your students might be thinking about you? 

Here are a few possibilities:

1.  Your breath is not fresh.
If you are engaged and interacting with your students, you will often lean in close to them to offer advice or encouragement. Be sure the tuna sandwich and ranch dressing chips you had for lunch do not offend. Keep some breath mints in your desk, pop one in your mouth, and keep your breath fresh. ( I can still remember my 6th grade teacher's offensive breath. Seriously? After all these years, you'd think I could forget.)

2.  Your voice is unpleasant.
Record your lessons for a few days and listen to the sound of your own voice. Are you too loud? Do you speak in a monotone? Do your words produce a singsong pattern? If so, practice making your voice more pleasant. 

3.  Your instructions are not clear.
Do your students ask you several questions before they begin to work? Are the questions ones that were already addressed in your instructions? If so, perhaps the wording in your instructions is not as clear as it could be. Anticipate the questions (even if they seem trivial) your students might ask , and include that information in your instructions.

5.  Your focus is not what it should be.
Are students cheating? Are they visiting and socializing when they should be working independently? If so, examine what you are doing. Are you walking around the room and interacting with your students, or are you typing on your computer or iPad, checking your email, or grading papers? Focus on the students who are acting out. Leave everything else until later. They will soon realize that you are aware of their actions, and they will get to work.

It is entirely possible that your students have never thought any of these things about you, but it helps to be aware of the possibility that one of these might be something you could improve upon.

Here are links to three FREE and two moderately priced lessons you might find helpful during the first few weeks of school. I hope you are off to a great start.

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Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Teaching the Short Story

Many ELA teachers begin with the short story. In fact, many of the state-adopted textbooks feature the short story as the first unit in the books.

To help you get a running start, I have several resources in my TPT store that will either help you teach the elements of the short story, teach story analysis, or teach your students how to write original short stories. 

Pick and choose from the lessons that would be most helpful to you and start your new school year stress-free with no-prep lessons. Just print and distribute. Some are digital and can be accessed in Google Drive or used in TPT Easel.

All are on sale today, August 29th, and tomorrow, August 30th at 20% off. Plus, if you enter the code BTSBONUS23 at checkout, TPT will take off another 5%, which means every resource in my store will be on sale for 25% off.

To save you time, I have included all the links to these products below so you can read the descriptions and see if any of these would be helpful to you.

Writing About Literature Bundle (12 activities)
All the resources below and more are included in this money-saving bundle.

Comparing and Contrasting Two Short Stories
Short Story with Comprehension Questions

Short Story Analysis with Study Questions

Three Ways Authors Reveal Characters

Create a Story Plan Creative Writing Activity

Point of View in Fiction Creative Writing Activity
Analyzing a Fictional Character Writing Activity

Here's a free activity for you. Using 3x5 Cards to Set Up Scenes Creative Writing Activity

I hope you have a great school year!

Thanks for reading,

Sunday, August 20, 2023

My Best Back -to-School Tip


At the beginning of each new school year, teachers need time to complete secretarial duties including the preparation of class rosters, seating charts, etc. Expecting students to sit by idly is never a good idea, and busy work is a waste of students' minds, so teachers need to prepare fun and challenging activities to keep students engaged while they deal with the minutiae that cannot be avoided.

So, my best back-to-school tip can be summed up in two words:

Here are two activities my students enjoyed.

Here's a FREE Higher Order Thinking Skills Word Game students can do independently or in pairs or small groups. It will stimulate their imaginations and their brains. My students love working on this in groups, and it helped introduce students who were new to each other. You will find it here.

This different, but equally as challenging Higher Order Thinking Skills Exercise, works well with students in small groups. You will find it here.

I hope these two no-prep activities help you start the new school year out with more fun and less stress. Visit my TpT store for more helpful no-prep activities.

Thanks for reading,

P.S. Below are blog posts from a talented group of teachers who are members of The Best of Teacher Entrepreneurs Marketing Cooperative.

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Sunday, April 16, 2023

Eight Common Usage Mistakes

This is an example of a misplaced modifier that creates a humorous image. Was it the man who has leather seats?

We all make mistakes, and I am certainly not the Internet Police, but after seeing these bloopers online on social media, I thought these 8 common usage mistakes would make a good topic for a post. Here are just a few of some common errors I recently saw on Facebook and Twitter and a little information on how to avoid them.

1.  The dog's were all barking.
Do not use an apostrophe to make a noun plural.
Correction: The dogs were all barking.

 2.  "The puppy has a microchip in case she might loose her collar."
Loose means not tight.  Lose means to misplace.
Correction: The puppy has a microchip in case she might lose her collar.

3.  "I laid down for 5 minutes and woke up 2 hours later."
Laid means to put or to place something.
Correction: I lay down for 5 minutes and woke up 2 hours later.

4.  “I think that Mom's who watch soap operas are way two dramatic.”
There are two errors in this sentence.
1.  Do not use an apostrophe to make a noun plural.
2.  The word two means the number 2. The word too means to an excessive degree.
Correction: I think that moms who watch soap operas are way too dramatic.

5.  “I was just laying around feeling sick all week.”
The past progressive form of the verb “lie” is was lying. “Laying” means to put or to place.
Correction: I was just lying around feeling sick all week.

6.  “George is a very healthful person.”
Healthy and healthful are adjectives that can be used as synonyms for each other unless one is talking about a person. Spinach can be a healthy or a healthful vegetable, but when talking about a person, always use “healthy.”
Correction: George is a very healthy person.

7.  "I feel badly for you."
Badly is an adverb and will not follow a linking verb
Correction: "I feel bad for you."

Remember to not use badly with the verb "feel." If you say"I feel badly," you are really saying that your sense of touch is poor. (Maybe something is wrong with your fingers if you feel badly.) 

8.  "The woman that stood on the corner was tall."
Use "who" not "which" or "that" to refer to people unless you are referring to a group.
Correction: The woman who stood on the corner was tall.

Here are two free resources you can use to give your students practice with possessive nouns and confusing words.

If you would like to help your students practice correcting misplaced modifiers, this is a resource for sale in my store.

Here are some blog posts written by my teacher friends from The Best of Teacherpreneurs Marketing Cooperative. I think you will find them interesting and helpful.

Thanks for reading,

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Are your students ready for the AP exams? It's just a few weeks until they begin in May. Click here for the complete schedule of exams.

The English Literature and Composition Exam is May 3rd, 
The English Language and Composition Exam is May 9th.

To help prepare my students for the AP exams, I began reviewing weeks before the tests to help them learn more efficient ways to:
  • analyze poetry,
  • write critical essays to be sure they understood the archetypes in literature,
  • keep a reading reaction journal as they read the suggested literature, 
  • practice writing timed essays in 40 minutes,
  • and practice advanced grammar and sentence analysis.

I'm sure you have many helpful lessons designed to prepare your students for the exams, but I would like to share some of the ones I used with my advanced English classes. 

I have a few resources that you might use to prepare your students for the English exams. Take a look at the products below and see if any of them would save you time. I have included a FREE resource that will serve as a great warm-up writing activity.

1) Poetry Analysis

When students have a limited amount of time to analyze poetry on the English Literature and Composition exam, they need a mnemonic device to help them with memory and retention. You might have created one of your own. I devised this method to help students who have trouble remembering all the elements of poetry. My students loved it and used it on the test. I hope it helps your students as much as it helped mine. 

A unique way to analyze poetry and prepare for the AP Literature Exam of use in advanced English courses both in high school and college.

2) Writing Critical Essays

Archetypes in Literature Critical Essay

This is the critical essay on literary archetypes that I assigned as a final exam for students in my Advanced Placement classes. It can be used in any literature class as a review of archetypes in literature. It includes a prewriting assignment and the rubric I used to grade the papers.

3) Literary Analysis

If students keep a reading reaction journal, it will help them retain and analyze what they have read. Teachers can use the journal to evaluate whether or not students are doing a close reading of assigned literary works.

You probably already have a system in place, but if you need another tool, here's the one I used with my students. It is especially useful as a study device for AP students to use while reading advanced literary selections.

Keeping a Reading Reaction Journal

4) Writing Timed Critical Essays

Help your students prepare for the critical essays they will write on the English Language and Composition exam. Let them practice writing at least one timed essay each week as they prepare for the exams. If your students need more instruction, I have a helpful tip sheet in my store.

A Tip Sheet to Practice Writing a Timed Essay in 4o Minutes.

5) Advanced Sentence Analysis

Let students practice analyzing long and difficult sentences similar to those they may find on the English Language and Composition Exam.

In my book, Simple Steps to Sentence Sense, I present eight simple steps. If students follow them in order, it is easy to analyze an English sentence. 

The Advanced Sentence Analysis Step in the Simple Steps to Sentence Sense series assumes that students understand Steps 1-8 and then condenses the eight steps into four. This method of sentence analysis is quicker and is especially helpful for college-bound students and students in Advanced Placement classes.

The four steps are:

Advanced Step 1 - Scan the entire sentence first to find all phrases. (Prepositional, Participial, Gerund, Infinitive, and Appositive)

Advanced Step 2 - Scan the entire sentence to identify the core of all clauses. The easiest way to do this is to find all the verbs first and then identify the subjects and complements that go with them. Determine if the clauses are independent or dependent. 

Advanced Step 3 - Find all the modifiers. (Adjectives and Adverbs)

Advanced Step 4 - Classify the sentence. (Simple, Compound, Complex, or Compound/Complex)

If your students need more help with this, you will find the Advanced Step Unit here. It has notes, practice exercises, and answers.

The best of luck to everyone who is taking the exams. 

This is a great time to stock up on any resources you may need. TPT is having a sale May 28th and 29th. Most teacher/authors will have their resources on sale. 

Everything in my store including all money-saving bundles will be 25% off if you enter the code FORYOU23 at checkout.

As promised, here's a free activity my students enjoyed.

Thanks for reading,


Here are some interesting blog posts from my teacher friends at The Best of Teacher Entrepreneurs Marking Cooperative. I think you will find them helpful.

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Sunday, February 19, 2023

Choosing the Point of View in Fiction


When your students first learn to write fiction, it’s important they think through the goals they have set for their story plan. One of the first decisions a writer must make when planning a new story is to choose from which point of view the story will be told. The point of view is the vantage point from which the reader views a story.

Although classic fiction and experimental fiction are often written in other points of view, such as the second-person, third-person objective, and third-person omniscient, your students will be more successful if they limit their choices to first person and third-person limited when first learning to write fiction. 

Most writers of modern fiction choose to write in first-person POV or third-person limited POV, so we will discuss these two. (Limited means entering the thoughts of only one character per scene, chapter, or novel.) Sometimes, we see the story through the eyes and thoughts of only one main character, but it is possible to include the points of view of several different characters.

•  First person POV uses the pronouns (I, me, my, mine, we, us, our, ours)
       *We can only read the thoughts of the first-person narrator. If the story is written in first person, a character cannot describe himself/herself. Sometimes writers use the “looking in the mirror” trick, or they will have another character describe the narrator. 

•  Third person POV uses the pronouns (he, him, his, himself, she, her, hers, herself, it, its, itself, they, them, their, theirs, and themselves)

Note the difference between these two examples of the same scene written in two different points of view.

Brief Incident for Scene 1
Mandy and Jane, roommates, are planning to paint the living room in the apartment they share. It was Mandy’s idea to paint the room, but it was Jane’s idea that the two of them could do it without any professional help. It’s Monday morning, and the two are ready to paint.

Scene 1
Viewpoint 1 – First Person, Mandy
   I examined the room and began to feel doubts. It was bigger than I thought, with lots of windows to paint around. “This looks like a pretty big job for just the two of us,” I told Jane.
   I was hoping she would agree, so we could hire a professional painter. But Jane is nothing like me. She has always been the do-it-yourself type.
   “Oh, this is easy,” Jane said as she picked up a clean paint roller. “Hand me that paint can. Let’s get this project started.”

Viewpoint 2 – First Person, Jane
   I saw Mandy sizing up the room, and I knew she was having doubts. She’s always been one to look for trouble and take the easy way out. Spending money on a painter is not in my budget. Somehow, I need to make her see that we can do this job by ourselves. Besides, we already bought all the paint and supplies.

   “It’s not too late to call a painter,” Mandy said. “Painting this room looks like a big job to me.”

   “Oh, this is easy,” I said and picked up a clean paint roller. “Hand me that paint can. Let’s get this project started.”

Viewpoint 3– Third Person, Mandy

   Mandy examined the room and began to feel doubtful. It was bigger than she thought, with lots of windows to paint around. “This looks like a pretty big job for just the two of us,” she told Jane. 
   She was hoping Jane would agree, so they could hire a professional painter. But Jane was nothing like her. Jane had always been the do-it-yourself type.
   “Oh, this is easy,” Jane said as she picked up a clean paint roller. “Hand me that paint can. Let’s get this project started.”

Viewpoint 4 – Third Person, Jane

   Jane saw Mandy sizing up the room and knew her roommate was having doubts. Mandy had always been one to look for trouble and take the easy way out. 
    Spending money on a painter is not in my budget, Jane thought. Somehow, she needed to make Mandy see that they could do this job by themselves. 
   “It’s not too late to call a painter,” Mandy said. “Painting this room looks like a big job to me.”
   “Oh, this is easy,” Jane said, ”and besides, we already bought all the paint and supplies.” She picked up a clean paint roller. “Hand me that paint can. Let’s get this project started.” 

After discussing the examples above, you can present your students with several other passages. Let them decide the point of view and from which character’s viewpoint it is told. You can write your own examples or take excerpts from the fiction they have read in class.

Here’s an example:

She stood at the door of the conference room as all eyes turned toward her and wondered if she was dressed appropriately for the occasion. Earlier that day, she had chosen a black jacket, a red pencil skirt, and her favorite heels to wear to the interview. As quickly as she could, she took the chair farthest from the man who was staring at her with a cold look in his eyes.

Name the Point of View. (First Person or Third-Person Limited) 

From which character’s POV is the scene written? 

Another exercise is to have students write scenes of their own and choose the POV and which character’s viewpoint they will use.

Here’s another example: 

Instructions: Write a brief scene of your own with two characters. (One wishes to get takeout for dinner. One wishes to cook at home.) Choose the point-of-view and the character from whose POV you will tell the story.

Knowing how to identify the point of view in the fiction that they read and write will enrich your students' experiences with literature.

If you would like to teach this concept with a no-prep resource that I used with my own students, you will find it here. It is available as a print, Google Drive™, or Easel™ activity.

If you would like to read more blog posts by my teacher friends at The Best of Teacher Entrepreneurs Marketing Cooperative, you will find their posts below.

Thanks for reading,


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