Archive for the 'Tips and Tricks' Category

When Senioritis Hits

books-927394_960_720By Elizabeth Jorgensen

As the high school seniors in my classroom fall ill with senioritis, complete with their own symptoms of tardies, apathy and excessive bathroom breaks, I remind myself I can keep students engaged. Although Urban Dictionary says “the only known cure is a phenomenon known as graduation,” I disagree. After over a decade of working with seniors, I rely on these three principles to keep seniors engaged:

Provide choices and purposeful classroom work. Allowing students autonomy and choice brings engagement. I encourage students to submit their writing to writers’ markets. I often present three different writers’ markets and allow the students to complete and submit a piece to the one that most resonates with them. I also bring in guest speakers—professional writers, current college students or college professors—and I’ve found this also excites and engages students.

Relate to them. I’m honest with my students about how I felt as a senior. I validate and listen to my students’ frustrations, anxieties and eagerness. I greet disappointment and fatigue with, “We’re in this together,” and “What can I do to help?” and (probably most importantly) with patience and a smile. I also connect what we’re learning to college and career readiness.

Allow privileges. My students want to be prepared for what’s next. To prepare students for the college environment, some classes are offered as hybrid (which allow seniors to choose when they want to work online and when they want to meet face-to-face). During study halls and work time, Arrowhead seniors are allowed to gather, socialize and collaborate in the commons. Privileges also remind my seniors (at the cusp of adulthood) that we trust and believe in their abilities.

As my seniors continue to suffer from senioritis, I remain hopeful: they can cure themselves of this temporary illness. And at semester’s end, I’m confident they will appreciate their time in Creative Writing, knowing they improved their ability to write, communicate and collaborate.

 

Technology in the Classroom: Your Secret Weapon!

snBy Stephanie Nicoletti

I recently just finished a class on educational technology. We discussed, learned, and even implemented different ways to use technology in the classroom. Through these discussions and reflection among staff, many often see educational technology as “just one more thing to do.” I am here to argue that it should not be that stressful to implement technology into the classroom, try to change your mindset and see technology as your secret weapon! One of my favorite quotes states, “Technology does not work when the technology is basically just worksheets on steroids.”  You won’t use technology for every, single, lesson, but if you can incotporate it, it will provide:

  • More engagement with students
  • Efficency in your classroom
  • New experiences students could not get anywhere else

I am not here to say technology is all students should be on at school, but when they create when using technology the opportunities are endless! Next month I will show off some of the things my first graders did with iPads that support this very argument and maybe give you some inspiration. Let’s just say writer’s workshop got much more engaging!

Book Club Provides Reprieve, Relaxation, Rejuvenation

images (2)By Elizabeth Jorgensen

Four years ago, as we enjoyed dinner, my best friend clutched her sauvignon blanc and said, “Kathy and Rachel and I are talking about forming a book club. Are you interested?”

Thinking of all the novels I wanted to read, but pushed aside for grading college essays, poems and exams, I answered, “Yes.” And with that, our group of four set out the rules: two books every two months. A rotation allowed each of us to select novels and host the event, complete with questions and discussion prompts. Some years, we met our two-books-every-two-months quota; other years, life presented challenges and we fell short. But we always start book club the same way: with an update on our lives. Then, while sharing a home-cooked meal or takeout pizza, we dive into the books and start our discussion.

We are support for each other and for our love of reading. We challenge each other and learn more about our lives and the way we enjoy literature. As the women in my book club birthed children, often a baby squirmed or slept, cradled in my arms. To our original four members, we’ve added two. And now, we rotate through the six of us, each member bringing a different viewpoint, preference and voice.

Before my book club, I read a handful of books a year, and they remained in my comfort zone. And rarely would they lead to discussion or dissection. But my book club has reminded me of the joy of reading—of connecting with a story, of experiencing another reality and of discussing themes of literature with my peers.  And now, when students or colleagues ask for book recommendations, I reference my much fuller repertoire:

 

2016-2017

The Sellout: A Novel by Paul Beatty

The Rules of Attraction by Bret Easton Ellis

Among the Ten Thousand Things by Julia Pierpont

Fly Away by Kristin Hannah

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

 

2015-2016

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Every Fifteen Minutes by Lisa Scottoline.

Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 by Francine Prose

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah

Cemetery Girl by David Bell

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

After You by JoJo Moyes

 

2014-2015

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Defending Jacob by William Landay

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

This is Where I leave You by Jonathan Tropper

The Winner by David Baldacci

The Light Between Oceans: A Novel by ML Stedman

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Every Fifteen Minutes by Lisa Scottoline

 

2013-2014

…and When She Was Good by Laura Lippman

The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks

Identical by Ellen Hopkins

Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Tenth of December Stories by George Saunders

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple

 

Writing Opportunities for Your Students

iStock_000005182627XSmall-Chapter-One

By Elizabeth Jorgensen

 Story Monsters Ink

  • About the publication: “Story Monsters Ink is a free, subscription-based magazine that gives parents and educators the latest news about award-winning and debut books, profiles on both renowned and newly published authors, upcoming book events, author presentations and more.”
  • About the contest: If you have a special teacher you’d like them to know about, email a letter to “Cristy@FiveStarPublications.com explaining why your teacher is the best, and we may choose him/her as our Teacher of the Month! It could be a principal, librarian, paraprofessional, etc. If your teacher is chosen, we will send him or her a Story Monster t-shirt and they will also get to choose a free book from our Little Five Star Bookstore. We will also print your letter along with a photo of you and your teacher in Story Monsters Ink!”
  • To find out more, go here.

Autism Society of Wisconsin

  • About the society: The Autism Society Affiliates in Wisconsin are hosting the 12th Annual Autism Essay Contest, a program designed to assist all students in gaining a deeper understanding of autism and how their peers with autism experience the world.
  • About this contest: “This essay contest is a wonderful opportunity to create an open dialogue about autism, how it affects students in your school and why celebrating differences is important. We hope that you will welcome this opportunity to promote understanding and acceptance of differences in your school.”
    • Divisions: Division 1: K-2nd grade; Division 2: 3rd-5th grade; Division 3: 6th-8th grade; Division 4: 9th-12th grade
    • Prizes: 1st Place Winners in each division will receive a $100 Amazon gift card; 2nd Place Winners in each division will receive a $75 Amazon gift card; 3rd Place Winners in each division will receive a $50 Amazon gift card.
      • All 1st place winners will be honored at and invited to the Family Reception at the Autism Society of Wisconsin’s 28th Annual Conference in Wisconsin Dells on Friday, April 28, 2017.
  • To find out more, go here.

Girls Right the World

  • About the writers’ market: “Girls Right the World is an international literary journal advocating for you, female-identified writers. We believe in the power of young women, sisterhood, and creativity through writing. The editors of this journal are students at Miss Hall’s School in Massachusetts.”
  • About this contest: “Girls Right the World is a literary journal inviting young female-identified writers and artists, ages 14 and up, to submit their work for consideration for the first issue. We believe that girls’ voices can and do transform the world for the better. We want to help expand girls’ creative platforms so that female-identified people from all races, religions, and sexual orientations can express themselves freely. We currently seek poetry, prose, short-stories, and lyric essays of any style and theme. We like powerful, female driven writing and work inspired by beautiful things in life. Writers keep the rights to their pieces, but we ask to have the right to first publish your works in North America. After publication, the rights would return to you. We publish annually. Send your best writing, in English or English translation, to girlsrighttheworld@gmail.com by April 1, 2017.”

To find out more, go here.

A Chance to Say Thank You and a Shot at Publication

060417-N-8157C-162By Elizabeth Jorgensen

As a teacher, my goal is to offer students authentic writing opportunities and the chance at publication. Last year, I found a project called “Defining Freedom” through the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight and Milwaukee Brewer Jonathan Lucroy. For 20 weeks, the MJS published a different student essay in the Sunday newspaper. Each 200-word essay defined freedom. According to the MJS, the goal of the program was “to connect our greatest generation, and their stories to the youngest generation, and what freedom means to them.” My students participated, and 10 were published. This year, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is again publishing essays.

In this year’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel project, Adam Weidman, a Marketing Project Manager at the MJS, who helps coordinate both programs, said, “The program is called Mail Call, and once again, it’s another writing based initiative to honor veterans. We’ve renewed our partnership with the Honor Flight, and on return trip of every Honor Flight there is the ‘mail call’ portion of the flight where veterans receive letters from loved ones. Through this program we are extending the opportunity to anyone to write to a veteran (non-specific) and send them a personal letter, thanking them for their service.”

The week before Thanksgiving break, my students drafted letters. The servicemen and women will benefit from their writing, but so did my students: 1) Each letter had an authentic purpose, as each went to a veteran on the Honor Flight; 2) For each letter received, the MJS made a $10 donation to the Honor Flight; and 3) Students had the chance at publication in the MJS.

My students took the letter writing seriously. Students wrote about how thankful they are for service members; they wrote about sacrifice and patriotism; they wrote about freedom and liberty. Because this year’s program is not limited to students, I also wrote a letter. When I wrote alongside my students, not only did they see an example, but they also watched me work through the writing process. After students drafted letters electronically, I provided feedback and suggestions. Then, students finalized letters and decorated and hand-wrote final copies.

Additional details can be found at http://jsonline.com/mailcall.

My students’ examples:

Writing Opportunities for Your Students

Power of WordsBy Elizabeth Jorgensen

  1. Wisconsin Aldo Leopold Writing Contest
  • To learn more, go here.
  • Topic: “Tell us the story of a local leader who exemplifies Leopold’s land ethic. You may interpret local as someone who lives as nearby as your own neighborhood, or who resides and works elsewhere in Midwest region of the United States. To be successful, you will need to read and understand the ‘The Land Ethic’ essay in A Sand County Almanac and convey that understanding in your writing. Participants are also encouraged to explore other writings by Aldo Leopold.”
  • Deadline: 11:59 pm on March 17, 2017.
  • Who’s eligible: Wisconsin students in grades 9-12.
  1. John Stossel’s Tech Revolution Essay Contest
  • Who’s eligible: students age 12-18.
  • Deadline: February 17, 2017.
  • Topic: “Technological innovation has changed our lives, mostly for the better. But some innovation raises safety questions. Some threatens existing businesses. What should America do about that? John Stossel raises a few such issues in his TV special, Tech Revolution, but there are probably many others. After watching these five segments from John’s special, write a 500-1000-word essay on this topic, making a case for how you think government policy should deal with innovation in order to bring the greatest gains to society. Include your own examples of innovation at work, innovation that is being stifled by government rules, and/or negative results of too much or too little government oversight to bolster your argument, and make at least one reference to the TV special.”
  • To learn more, go here.
  1. LSSU High School Short Story Prize
  • Who’s eligible: high school students residing in the Midwestern United States and Ontario, Canada.
  • Deadline: April 30, 2017.
  • Topic: “The theme of the contest this year will simply be realistic fiction. Any form of realistic fiction will be accepted as long as stories are set in the real world…This year, our judges are looking for a realistic short stories written in a compelling voice with a well-developed story, character depth, a detailed setting, attention to language, and a deeper meaning.”
  • To learn more, go here.
  1. Wonders of Plastics Essay Contest
  • Who’s eligible: Wisconsin high school and elementary grade students living in all counties served by the SPE.
  • Deadline: February 28, 2017.
  • Topic: Students should write a 500-1000 word essay on the wonders of plastics. Topics to consider: “Advantages of plastics in food packaging; Creative use of recycled plastics; How plastics benefit humankind; How plastics improve our lifestyle; Plastics in the environment; Plastics usefulness in society; What plastics has done for me; Why the bad reputation of plastics is wrong.”
  • To learn more, go here.
  1. Write A Story Contest (through Scholastic’s SCOPE Magazine)
  • Who’s eligible: students in grades 4-12.
  • Deadline: March 10, 2017.
  • Topic: “Pick your favorite line (Despite its location, Dot’s Donut Shop was about to get famous; I thought it was a costume party; The new coach seemed peculiar, and it wasn’t just because of that third eye). Write a short story starting with your chosen line. Stories must be between 800 and 3,000 words.”
  • To learn more, go here.

 

 Building A Better Bulletin Board

language_bulletin_board_ksuBy Peggy Wuenstel

In these days of Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram, none of which I am very proficient in using, the old-fashioned bulletin board seems like a dated if not obsolete concept. Users today seem to feel a need to record every aspect of their life, meals, fun with friends, and exotic vacations, all carefully edited for public consumption. I would argue against the retirement of the traditional bulletin board. There are two distinct camps in the bulletin board debate. There are those who love to create, display and use them. There is a team in my building who create amazing art that makes students, teachers, and families feel valued and welcome. There are also those who hate them and think of them as a waste of time better used for direct instructional activities.

There is also the demarcation between the pre-fab vs. the personally created. Our favorite teacher resource books and websites offer lots of choices for those short on time, talent or inspiration. Some educators see the bulletin board as a chance to display student work, create a gallery, track progress, and provide cues for schedules, expectations or timing in their classrooms. Things posted on a board rather than delivered verbally can help build independence and responsibility in students.

This month I am celebrating a different type of corkboard, the kind that we use to attach new thinking, to record experiences, opinions, visual memories, graphic organizers, and memory aids. The larger the board we create for our children, the more new knowledge that they each can attach. With the right kind of encouragement we can help transform them into vision boards, those images that move us, inform us, inspire us to reflect and create.

Every teacher has at least one bulletin board. It might be cork, fabric, magnetic, or digital. It is also always mental. It’s that place where we keep all those things that we can’t afford to or don’t want to forget. You might have caught on to the fact that I am no longer talking about the classroom version that includes the lunch menu and tomorrow’s homework. I’m talking about the personal one.

I am appreciating my bulletin board before it is gone. I have begun the winnowing process, but there are a few things that will always remain pinned there until the very last days. My calendar, a paper version that allows me to smile at puppies every day sits at the center. Just like an analog clock, a paper calendar with its rows and columns is essential to teach kids about the systematic passing of time in ways that our digital tools cannot.

There are the assorted “love notes”, pictures, valentines, and other student created mementos tucked into the frame, expressions of affection that everyone needs to see now and then. There are pictures of my grandchildren, my niece in full combat gear, a vacation snapshot to remind me that not everything I love is here in this building. There are the magazine photos of sea otters that remind my students that I have favorite foods, colors, songs, and animals just like they do and the fact that we know that about each other makes us better at working together.

There are the utilitarian pieces, the contact lists, phone numbers, important dates, and meeting reminders. These change with the seasons, and the reasons for teaching. There are a few inspirational quotes, and always, my theme quote for the year front and center. This year’s version is “Live as if you will die tomorrow. Learn as if you will live forever” from Mahatma Gandhi.

There are the things I need help to remember, along with those that I know I will never forget. The handmade library card holder made of foam and duct tape, fashioned by a student who knows how often I go to the library, the photo of colleagues sharing a laugh, a cherished thank you note. There are also things that are not there, because they are private and would be hard to explain to students and parents. Things that make me laugh, and things that make me cry, including funeral cards for students who left us too soon. There are the cartoons meant for adult eyes, evidences of my political leanings, the talismans of the faith that guides my steps and my educational practice. And because I want no one to think I am anxious to leave here, there are no vision board pieces on this school board, no New England fall foliage or cherry blossoms in Washington D.C. No baby turtles struggling to get to the Atlantic Ocean or tombstones on the fields of Gettysburg because these are the things I hope to see in the first year of retirement. I have a vision board at home that includes these images as well as a tentative itinerary for a year of travel in an RV following the last days of school.

I have plans to send progress reports back to school, possibly labeled “Where in America are the Wuenstels?” but those reports will be on someone else’s bulletin board. I’ll likely post more often on Facebook, but not much more. There won’t be nearly as much that I need to remember, except maybe where we parked the RV.

 

 


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