Thursday, July 28, 2016

Five Tips to Make Going Back to School a Breeze

Teachers know the beginning of every school year is a huge challenge and a whole lot of work. Secondary teachers are sometimes reassigned to different grade levels which can mean an entirely new set of literature materials. Going from teaching American literature to teaching British literature requires a completely new mind-set, and the lessons and materials will not transfer. Another challenge could be teaching one class of freshmen ESL students, two classes of senior AP English, and three classes of sophomore English. You don’t think this happens? Well it does. I know. I taught English and creative writing for 35 years.

Tip 1: Using Technology Can Really Simplify Your Life

Recently, some really exciting advances in technology have made teaching more interesting and more convenient. Now, because of Google Drive, Microsoft One Drive, DropBox, and other innovative web sites, students can view their assignments online, do their work online, and turn in their work online. Many times, paper is not required. Going paperless is a truly revolutionary improvement for teachers. Often they are given an allotment of paper to last the entire year and must spend their own money when they run out. And even if they do have an adequate supply of paper, they must use a copy machine before they can distribute the lesson pages to their students.

Teachers no longer have to stand in line at a copy machine to use the pages in my book. I recently converted my Simple Steps to Sentence Sense book into a Google Drive Interactive Notebook. It is now available in my store and teachers can purchase one step at a time or a bundle that has all eight steps.

If your school has Chromebooks, iPads, or other devices students can use to use to access the Internet, be sure to search for Digital Products on and other educational websites.

Tip 2: Use Software That Individualizes Instruction

I recently learned about a company whose philosophy is to be as helpful to teachers as possible. They offer 24/7 technical assistance. I find that especially important because their product is innovative and unique.

EdTech Software’s Shelfit Reader is an ebook reader that allows students an amazing level of interaction. It is possible to embed videos, audio files, and worksheets within the ebooks, and to create quizzes with answers. The quiz scores may be exported to a grade book. Teachers can provide personalized and individualized lessons and adapt to different learning styles.

The company carries all major publishers and many smaller ones, so the selection of ebooks is vast and eclectic.  Now, teachers can select ebooks for their students to use and then customize those books to suit their own teaching styles.

The software can be assessed from any device as long as there is an Internet connection. The books may be downloaded at school for reading at home if students do not have Wi-Fi in their homes.

Click here to take a look  at this new innovative reader and see what it could do for you and your students. *EdTech Software provided me with compensation in exchange for this sponsored blog post. However, all the opinions expressed here are my own.

3) Use Rubrics to Grade Writing Assignments

ELA teachers often struggle with exactly how to assign a fair grade to compositions that their students write. The grading process should always include a way to give students frequent chances to succeed and feel good about themselves. One way to do that is to be sure that students know exactly what you expect from them when you give them an assignment.

A teacher simply cannot expect students to do everything perfectly, nor does s/he have the time or the inclination to grade every aspect of every paper every time. I always let students know exactly what I was looking for by showing them the rubric I would use to grade their papers, and we would go over it together before they began their first draft. A rubric is the best method of expressing your expectations and of providing meaningful feedback.

Look for writing lessons sold on that include a rubric. If you want to make a rubric of your own, visit This website is free and helpful.

Several of my writing assignments contain rubrics. Here's one:

4)  Use a Grading Scale Chart to Save Time

When you create your lessons, be sure that there are sufficient items on each worksheet or test to allow students to succeed. If there are only five questions or five sentences on a worksheet, students can get only one of them wrong without jeopardizing their GPA.

For example, if students are asked to locate the verb in a sentence, and there are only ten sentences, it would be easy to get a low score since each answer would be worth ten points. Be sure to use a grading scale chart to speed up the process, so you won’t have to do the math. You will find my Grading Scale Chart in my store for only $3.00, or you can access this one online for free:

5) Be Prepared

The first few days of school are crazy busy. In secondary schools, much of the time is spent dealing with students being added or dropped from your class as students’ schedules are adjusted and class loads are balanced.

The paperwork piles up, and yet you meet another class of new students every hour or so. What to do?

The answer is to be prepared with meaningful activities to engage your students while you take care of the tedious, yet necessary details. Be sure that your students are busy and actively involved from the moment they enter your classroom until the bell rings. The more prepared you are, the more likely you are to start the new year off successfully.

I have a product that includes a series of activities that introduces your students to each other and to you and provides a sample of their writing and their oral presentation skills. You can use these activities to make the first few days of your school year informative and productive. Getting to Know You Activities for the First Few Days of School is available in my TpT store. You will find several Back to School first day activities on Pinterest and on

 Thanks for reading and I hope the beginning of your 2016-17 school year is a breeze.