Posted in Teaching Techniques

Teaching Writing

The simple truth of the matter is that at some point, everyone has to write. Maybe it’s writing a paper or a dissertation. Maybe it’s a blog post. A letter. A grant proposal. A journal entry. A note for a roommate. Everyone has to write something at some point. Therefore, everyone has to know how to write.

It sounds simple enough. Put words together. Use correct punctuation. Share thoughts. At its very most basic level, that’s what writing is.

The truth of the matter though, is that writing is a lot more complicated than that. Sometimes there are a lot more rules.

So how does one teach writing?

The decision can be made to use mentor texts. These are texts that are in the style that is being taught that can be shared with students. They’re model texts. They show how one can write a poem or a personal narrative or a short story. They help to familiarize students with what they’ll be doing. They show different ways to set up the structure or use point of view or use figurative language. They can be a huge tool in a writer’s toolbox.

Break writing down into manageable chunks. Have students use planning sheets or create outlines. Have them put their piece of writing together piece by piece rather than all at once.

Make sure that students have checkpoints and deadlines, otherwise a piece of writing can be wildly out of control, and it might be too late to fix it. Have days where students and teachers can touch base. Have deadlines so that writing is making forward progress and isn’t stalling out.

Make writing accessible and something students can connect with. Writing in any form is about sharing stories. It’s about connecting with other people. Don’t make writing something that seems so academic students aren’t interested and can’t connect with it. Let students tell their stories. Set parameters for the form students should be writing in, but let them soar and tell their stories.

I don’t think there’s one right way to teach writing. Everyone uses different processes to write and be successful at writing. I think one of the most important things is giving students the space they need to find their voice.


Posted in Food for Thought

Comparing Books and Movies

There are people in the world who like books. There are people in the world who like movies. And there are people in the world who like both. I’m the kind of person who likes both.

It’s great to like both if you can understand that books and movies are not the same. They are never going to be the same. It simply isn’t possible. But people who like books and who like movies often struggle because they do not always like movie adaptations. It can be hard to separate a beloved book from its big screen counterpart. People who love books and movies claim that plot lines are altered, characters vanish, it just wasn’t as good as the book. These opinions are not always wrong. I just think there’s more to it than those simple opinions.

Let’s remember that movies aren’t claiming to be books. They’re interpretations of the books. They’re reimaginings of the story the book told. Sometimes they give viewers a fresh perspective or a scene not in the book because it didn’t quite fit. It’s a new way for readers to understand the story; readers should embrace and appreciate that.

Sometimes the beauty lies in comparing books and movies. Were the story lines the same? Was the point of view the same? Were there new characters or different twists and turns? Compare and analyze the two versions of the story and see what the results are.

Remember to be open to change, to different interpretations, to reimaginations of stories. A book and a movie not matching perfectly isn’t the end of the world. It’s an opportunity to embrace a new perspective, learn something new, and see a familiar story in a new life.


Posted in Regular Update

An Update

You may or may not have noticed that englishnook is slowly evolving. This blog began as a school project but has evolved into something that I truly and 100% love. I want this blog to be a success. As I move forward in my career I think it’s more and more important to have this resource to share what I’m learning, what I’m reading, what websites I’m using, and everything else.

I’ve taken out some of the pages that seemed irrelevant. I’ve worked hard to add more resources to the resources page and articles to the articles page. And I’ll keep adding. And I’ve been posting, and I’ll keep posting. Somewhere along the way I lost my mojo with this blog, but it’s back now, and I can’t wait to see where the next year takes this blog.


Posted in Food for Thought

The Importance of Reading Things You’re Interested In

I think I long ago established that I think it’s important to read. And I do. Books have been, are, and will continue to be an important part of my life. Not only do I think it’s important to read, but I genuinely love to read. I love immersing myself in stories and meeting new characters and going on new journeys and adventures. My parents, especially my mom, have fostered a love of reading in me, and over the years it has completely bloomed and blossomed.

With my love of reading pronounced, it might be easy to assume that I like to read everything and anything. That’s not true. I do try to be open about reading new things. I think as a young teacher it’s important to read often and to read a wide variety of texts. I won’t always get to handpick the texts I teach, and I also want to be able to talk with my students about what they’re reading, even if it isn’t necessarily something I would have chosen for myself. At the same time there are things I love to read and things I have very little interest in reading. I love young adult literature and children’s books and fairy tales. I have very little interest in most non-fiction.

I think it’s really important to know what you like to read. I had to read texts in school that I had very little genuine interest in reading. Not every text is interesting to every reader. That’s just not the way the world works. And if those texts were all I’d ever taken the time to read, I probably wouldn’t love reading as much as I do.

In my mind, a love of reading comes from having choices. It’s great to be able to grow up in a house full of books with parents who love and encourage reading. But even if that’s not the situation of your students, you can still do your part to foster a love of reading with your students. Build an expansive class library if you can. Take your students to the library at school or arrange a field trip to a local library. Let students explore books and find what they love and what they’re interested in. Talk with them about books, and have honest conversations about them. Let them know it’s OK to not like something, but they need to be able to explain why. Work to help your students find books that make their hearts sing, whatever those books may be.


Posted in Uncategorized

Technology Today

I grew up in a world where all the new technology was coming out. And I’ve warmed to technology in my own time and in my own way. I don’t jump in head first like some people do, and I don’t run away from it like other people might. I’m somewhere in the middle. I like learning about technology and how I can use it in my classroom, but I also believe that it’s important to handwrite things. It’s important to have options and to work in the format that you feel most comfortable in. For example, I love writing this blog, but I keep a handwritten journal for myself where I can scribble all my thoughts.

The article that I’m linking to the bottom of this post, and to my articles page, talks about how technology and today’s students mesh together. These are students who don’t know a world without the internet and computers and social media. They’re immersed in technology. It’s a huge part of their lives. And we as educators need to acknowledge that.

In today’s day and age, we can’t just ask students to leave technology at the door. We need to find ways that it can be used appropriately in our classrooms. Technology isn’t going to leave the world we are living in, and we need to make sure that we are helping prepare students to use it appropriately and intelligently. We need to make sure they understand that there is so much good that can be done with technology, but that at the same time the internet is written in ink. There’s no erasing what one says on the internet.

There are so many great things that we can do with technology in our classrooms if we just put a little thought into it. And this article helps showcase why that’s so important.


The Generation That Doesn’t Remember Life Before Smartphones

Posted in Classroom Ideas, Teaching Techniques

Showing Movies in Class

I love movies. And I love comparing books to their movie counterparts. I find it really interesting to make comparisons between books and movies, and I want to share that with my students. I think that doing so could lead to a lot of discussion and great analysis. I also think it’s important to know why you are showing a movie in class and what you want the end result to be.

Let’s take a minute to be honest. In my experience, there are two main reasons to show a movie. The first is because it’s right before a vacation and students are too hyped up to focus and get work done. The second is for a comparison or another educational activity.

If you’re showing a movie before a vacation, your goal is probably to show a movie and keep students mildly entertained. And that’s OK. That’s what will happen, and everything will work out the way it’s supposed to.

However, if you’re showing a movie to students so they can make a comparison or learn something, they need to have a reason to pay attention. There needs to be buy in, or students aren’t going to give the movie their full attention. They’ll find something more interesting or something they feel is more important to give part of their attention to.

Create some buy in. It can be simple. It can be a comparison chart they need to fill out. It can be questions they need to answer. It can be a big overview question they need to be prepared to answer. But give students a reason to pay attention. Set some expectations. Then everyone is on the same page, and no one needs to be fighting with anyone else.


Posted in Food for Thought, Regular Update

Updating and Pondering

First, a simple update. I have finished grad school! My certification paperwork is in the works. I am moving into the next chapter of life, and I am very excited about all of that. I am currently substitute teaching and looking for jobs. I am also very excited about the holidays and everything the future holds.

Now to move onto the pondering. I have a journal where I keep notes for this blog, teaching ideas, teaching resources, professional development notes, and all sorts of other job related things. This journal goes to work with me every day. And sometimes when I’m at work I just sit and think. Today I started thinking about technology and the classroom and how the two relate and all sorts of other related things. And as I thought I came up with a list of questions. I thought that here would be a great place to share those questions and see what all of you thought.

  • What are good ways to use cell phones in the classroom?
  • What are good ways to bring technology into the classroom?
  • How can technology be used for differentiation?
  • How can social media connect to English class?
  • How can students connect with English class?
  • How can writing be made fun and accessible?
  • What are ways students can connect with older/classic texts?
  • What are students reading and how can that be brought into the classroom?
  • How can grammar be fun?
  • How can I get my students to read on their own and on a regular basis?
  • How can I make a great class library?
  • What are good ways to connect texts to today’s world?
  • How can I make reading and writing relevant?

I’m sure that with time I’ll add more questions to the list. And please feel free to share your own questions with me or give me your thoughts on my questions.