Posted in English escapades, Lesson plan component, teaching

It’s Magic

For the last few school years, I’ve shared this poem with each of my English classes. In these last few years of teaching English Language Arts & Reading, I’ve learned a whole lot that I didn’t know before. I’ve learned that some of us have voices in our heads, and some of us don’t:

magic poem.jpeg

And, I use this poem to find out who has a voice, and who doesn’t in my classes. I tell my classes that I might be the only teacher that ever hopes they have the voices in their head. Why? Because reading is easier and makes infinitely more sense if you have a reading voice in your head.

And, for the kiddos who don’t, I spend the year helping them develop theirs. I read passages, books, and poems aloud to them to model my reading voice and teach their brains how a good one sounds. I let them whisper read their independent reading and work because if they don’t have voices in their head, they can use their real one.


This week we’ve been examining elements of story telling with the purpose of identifying patterns that play out across genres. So far this week, we’ve looked at songs, poems, news articles, short stories, scripts, and shorts (film). And it’s only Wednesday!

Today’s Agenda:

10 minutes of independent reading to start the class.

Today this poem was their Quick Write.

We took notes on conflict (internal/ external/ Man vs. (person vs.) _____)

I introduced our first annotation strategy (thoughts– just writing whatever you are thinking on the text) and read aloud a quick short story: Boar Out There

Students identified the conflict in the passage, found text evidence, and categorized the type of conflict (internal/ external & person vs.___)

The text had a simple conflict. We ended class with the short “The Present“, and students worked to identify the many conflicts between/ among all of the different characters as an exit ticket.

Here’s my current unit plan overview: 

Unit 1
What is a story?
  • students will explore the elements of story-telling across genres (fiction, biography, autobiography, memoir, personal narrative, narrative poetry, drama and more)
What is my story?
  • students will use the elements of story-telling in their own reflective writing
What is our story?
  • students will explore historical and personal stories to answer the question: What does it mean to be an American?
Posted in English escapades, Lesson plan component, teaching, Uncategorized

Mistakes vs. Choices

During a free write, I wrote this on the board.


After I call time, I always share my writing and encourage anyone who wants to to share all or part of their writing. This time, I asked them to correct my work. They had a LOT to say. 

After taking a few suggestions, I posed this question:

Did I make mistakes? Or did I make choices?

There was a short, but spirited debate before I changed the question:

What was my purpose, and was it effective?

Clearly, I was trying to sound frantic. I intended to entertain my middle school students. And believe me, if you’d heard the dramatic reading I did of this piece, you would have been entertained, too, for sure! (They thought I had lost my mind!)

Eventually, they determined that I had made choices. This is when I introduced the term “craft”.

Author’s craft is all the choices we make when we create something.

So, I asked them:

What is on your paper: author’s craft, or author’s accident?

Circle one thing you chose to write, one choice you made on purpose because you knew it was good.

It was one of my favorite lessons so far this year.


Posted in English escapades, Lesson plan component, teaching, Uncategorized

They Sing of Rain

We are studying poetry right now in my ELAR classes. Usually, I have my students write whatever genre we are reading, that way, I can give them effective mentor texts and strategies. Today, I taught a strategy called “free association” to help my students generate topics and ideas for a new poem in their individual collections.

Anytime they write, I write. Today, I came up with this:


Posted in classroom management, English escapades, Lesson plan component, teaching

First day of school

I started a new teaching job. This year I’m teaching English, Spanish, and Theatre Arts at a small school. I’m mostly teaching 5th-8th grade, though I do have a specials rotation with 3rd abs 4th grade.

Every year I start my classes out basically the same way: students fill out info and goals sheets as bell work while I do first day attendance and housekeeping. Next, I do a basic introduction presentation and go over my syllabus. If there is time, we do the name game, and class promptly ends. Seven years. ~1000 kids.

This time, I did something different. Year 8 began with stations. I said hello, we made name tents, and off they went to 5 different stations. (1) student info and goal setting, #goals, (2) syllabus puzzle (using block posters) and syllabus quiz, (3) book tasting from my classroom library, (4) a reading survey, and (5) write a letter to yourself.

Doing something different has already changed everything about my class. I was able to teach my expectations by showing my students instead of telling them. They were able to experience my procedures for grouping and moving around the room. And, I got to see how and with whom they interact. It was a success.


Posted in English escapades, Lesson plan component

Lesson Planning

As an FYI, the title of this post is what I’m supposed to be doing right now.

At least to some degree, however, I’m struggling. You may have noticed that I’ve switched subject areas, from Spanish to English this school year. This means that at every moment, I’m still evaluating what gaps my students have, and whether or not my approach to teaching a given concept is actually working.

So here I sit: evaluating the last week, mentally combing through my resources, and attempting to corral them into some type of a lesson plan.

If you have a second, send a prayer for me and all the other public education teachers writing LPs right now.

Posted in Lesson plan component, professional development, teaching, Tech-ventures

Animation: Bringing Content to Life

When I think about “animation”, several things come to mind. I think about cartoons, about silly and overused PowerPoint tactics, about complex programming, and about the reanimation of dead bodies on creepy movies.

Ok. So, that last one was a bit much. But still, you get the point. “Animation” can be a lot of things.

In my current class, when I saw a unit about animation on the syllabus, I freaked out a little. I thought I was going to have to code something, or worse. I don’t know what could be worse, but I do know that I felt out of my comfort zone.

Animation means that we bring something to life.

For our lessons, sure, a “fade in” option on PowerPoint can spice up your 45 minute lecture… but that does not truly bring it to life. We live in a world full of animation through constant use of video media on our phones, our computers, our TVs, and our advertisements. And, for the most part, these animations are successful: they bring their content to life.

I cannot make a Doceri or YouTube clip to illustrate every point I want to make with my students. And I shouldn’t. We are blessed today with so many different tools that we can use to engage our students.

For this assignment, I decided to explore how I could make something short and high-impact. I chose a tool that I tried to work with one time, and gave up on, PowToon. I was ready to give it another try!

I wanted this video to bring to life a conversation I’ve had a thousand times. Everyone wants to know what I’ll “be” after I finish this degree. I’m not sure if my career path will change, but I do know a few things I’ll still be when it’s over: a mom, a wife, a learner, and a teacher. 

I see a lot of possible uses for this type of animation, especially in a world of social media that connects us to our students. I personally use a professional Twitter account, Remind, Google Voice, Google Classroom, and many other means of staying in (appropriate) contact with my students. Sharing a simple video link could hook the students for the next unit, review an important concept, or remind them about something important coming up. It might even bring something to life. 

Posted in Lesson plan component, professional development, teaching, Tech-ventures

Adobe Spark Video Tutorial

Last week, after making and sharing two digital stories, I received many compliments on my video making skills. I feel like a bit of a cheater, though, because it was actually extremely easy. In fact, this week, I’ve created a quick tutorial on how to use Adobe Spark Videos to create a video as beautiful as mine! I have to admit… the tutorial took more skill to create than the digital stories did!

I learned many valuable lessons while making this tutorial:

First and foremost, I gained an appreciation for all those people who have made tutorials that I have watched a long the way. I used to believe that a 2-minute video was “short”. HA! Now, I know that every minute of video is at least an hour, usually 2 or 3 hours, of planning, recording and editing. I’m sure that people who have honed their craft over time can shave some time off of this, but for us beginners, it is hard work!

Next, I feel so proud of what I have done. This feeling of wanting to shout about my learning from the rooftops (or blog posts…) is a feeling I want my students to have every time they complete a task for me. You know why? Because this will not be the last tutorial I ever make. I had fun. I want to do it again. Oddly, the same thing happened with my digital story. I had so much fun that I made TWO!

Lastly, I learned that in the age of technology, it is unlikely that I will find one tool that will do everything I need it to do. For this project, I used 3 different products and I will share it on 3 different websites, not including Creative Commons, which I used to license the video. In today’s world, we need many different tools working together to accomplish the tasks ahead.

Please watch the tutorial and let me know what you think! 


Posted in Lesson plan component, professional development, teaching, Tech-ventures

Digital Story-telling

Wow. This week has been a journey for me in a number of ways. First, I finished off my 3rd school year at CHS and moved out of my classroom as my family will be making a big move to the Texas Panhandle this summer. This last week was extra bittersweet as I prepared to leave my classroom, my students and my sweet colleagues.

Not only has this transition been a journey, but I have also been on an educational journey working toward my Master’s in Education Technology Leadership from Lamar University. This week our topic has been digital story-telling.

To be honest, I started this week of classwork with excitement. I have had my students use digital storytelling in a number of ways. I have encouraged other teachers to do the same, but there is something cathartic about getting to tell my own story.

Our class read and watched work from  and Joe Lambert, who works at Story Center. Separately, I have also fallen in love with NPR’s Story Corps project as well.

In our weekly web conference, our course professor encouraged us to branch out and use tools that are new to us. I have been using iMovie for about the last 2 years (thanks to @mradkins), and it has become my “go to” movie-making product for educational purposes… heck, I even taught my husband how to use it to make videos for our church on Sundays! This week, I decided to explore a tool that I was introduced to this February at the Texas Computer Education Association (TCEA) conference in Austin: Spark Video, which is an Adobe product.

See my Digital Story below: 

I have to admit that this was not only fun for me, it was also a creative outlet. I am a writer. I always have been, and I’d like to think that I always will be. However, for the last 5 years, I’ve also been a Wife, a Mother, an Educator, and an extra busy person all around. This gave me a chance to focus on a couple of things I’ve written in the past (the script from this came from my personal blog post “Ten Years and a Yellow Butterfly”) and deeply process them in a way that I’ve had a tendency to overlook in the last several years.

You see, I’d like to believe that education is meant to be a journey. This week of learning for me has reaffirmed the deeply held convictions and passions within me about who I am as an educator and how I hope to be everyday in my classroom.

Enjoy, CL

p.s. I got a little giddy over this project and actually did a second video as well… Here it is:


Posted in Google, Lesson plan component, teaching


It is widely known that to learn Spanish (from English) it takes about 600 hours of study time. I’m guessing this is for the “Advanced Mid” proficiency range (

For my students, this can seem like an insurmountable goal. For instance, just with class time, my students would only be getting about 130 hours per school year. As you know, testing and extracurricular absences eat into this precious time, and I estimate that most of my students end up with about 110 hours of instruction per school year. I do assign homework and projects, so they get some time outside of that. My point is, that in 4 years of 130 hour study, a student would still fall short of that 600 hour goal. This is one reason why I emphasize homework and study assignments outside of class. Students bound for year 4 of Spanish will need all 600 hours!

In my years of teaching, I haven’t found an effective way to convey the importance of this journey to my students and their families… or to other people in my various schools, for that matter. My class is often viewed as the “elective” class. I am bombarded with requests to visit the counselor, or finish a project for another class. (I say NO!) Parents find that my class is the ideal one to schedule that dentist appointment during. Other school professionals use my class for “pull outs”. Each precious 45 min session is a step my kids fall behind on their journey.

Let me stop here and say: I DO NOT THINK THAT MY CLASS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT CLASS IN THE WORLD.  No, I simply believe that it IS important. School IS important. Art IS important. Spanish IS important. All the classes are important.

Ok. Off my soap box.

Now, how can I convey this message more effectively? This coming school year, I have decided to use an online badge system to acknowledge and celebrate student achievements. These may be academic achievements, cultural achievements, milestones of development or even simple citizenship in our classroom community.

To begin, I have chosen to use Credly as my badge platform. I will then award badges to students and they can collect them in the Credly app in their own accounts.

Where does proficiency come in? This year, students will keep their own logs of hours. When they attend class, when they do homework, etc. They will tally their hours each week. When they reach specific milestones, they can earn a badge.

Here’s an example:

Date Task Time (15 min = 1 point)
8/25 Class 3 points
8/26 class 3 points
8/26 study vocab 1 point
8/27 class 3 points
8/27 homework & vocab 2 point
total 12 pts (3 hours)

I plan to offer badges in 10 hour increments, increasing to 25 hour increments after 50 hours.

My hope is that students will harken back to the days of AR points and put in additional time, not assigned by me, in an effort to see and track their own progress.

Realistically, I know that some students may not buy in. To increase buy in, I hope to relax my homework requirements in favor of options students can use to get more points. This way, a student facing extracurricular stress in a specific week can earn less points for that week in favor of catching up in the next week. I do still plan to assign mandatory assignments, but less frequently and more judiciously chosen.

Lastly, This log will play an important role in my student’s portfolios in the coming year. Last school year I wrote and received a grant from the CISD Education Foundation for Chromebooks for my “Going-Google” project. In it, I describe how we will use chromebooks in the classroom to develop a language learning portfolio in Google Drive and Google Classroom (in addition to using Google’s fantastic collaboration tools to increase production!). Students will fill in a Proficiency Log Template, updating it throughout the year, and add it to their portfolios. It will be part of their final portfolio evaluations.

So, what do you think? Am I crazy? On the right track? Do you want to try it too?




Posted in homework, Lesson plan component, Uncategorized

End of Year Sale!

I’m throwing a quick end-of-year sale in my Teacher’s Pay Teachers Store with some useful items for the end of the year in Spanish 1. Check it out! The sale runs from 5/25-5/28 this week!

Products on Sale: 

  1. Spanish 1 Autobiography Project: In this Spanish 1 project, Spanish 1 students use the different units they have studied throughout the year to construct an autobiography. They will:
    -describe who they are
    -their school life
    -friends and family
    -food preferences
    -likes/ dislikes
    -passtimes/ sports
    -memories (past tense) and
    -future goals (tener que, ir a, etc.)
    It is a great culminating project or end of course assignment 🙂
    The packet includes:
    -suggestions for the project product
    -guiding questions
    -project timeline (with blank dates for editing)
    -blank project calendar
    -and suggestions page with my sample calendar attached
  2. Spanish 1 Speaking and Writing Rubrics: Use these rubrics to grade Spanish 1 production tasks (Speaking and Writing) on a 15 point scale. (5×3 rubric)
  3. General Teacher Evaluations (for student use):  Each year, at the end of the year, I give an anonymous teacher evaluation to my students to see–right from the horse’s mouth–how I did. These forms are not age or subject area specific, so they are perfect for whatever you teach 🙂
  4. Blank Gameshow Board, for review games:  Use this blank game show board to increase student accountability during games, help students track review games for study purposes or allow students to create their own jeopardy-style game. Attached is also a page with suggestions for use!
  5. Spanish 1 Interviews:  Interview questions w/ suggested activities and one BONUS activity page for Spanish 1 students (semester 1) or Spanish 1 A.