Category Archives: Instructional Delivery: Plan and Progress

Back to the EOC Swing of Things

Well, it has been a hard month. I returned to work at the start of April, but keeping up with all of the changes and the blog fell to the wayside. As this is the EOC Swing, I wanted to get back to helping out others and posting as much as possible.
We get out for summer on May 22, and I will diligently work on uploading everything I have missed over the gap and adapting to the change in family arrangements and the loss of my brother.
For right now, I’m going to post a few files to help cover the gap.

What’s the best review pattern?
Well, I don’t have an answer to the best. I choose to use a very structured class schedule:
1. First, our bell ringer still follows the Caught Ya method, but I modify the sentences to meet specific needs of the students. Goal, 7-10 minutes. (Because this is changed based on the previous day’s instruction, there is no specific file to upload for you.)
2. Confused Vocab: This file includes five days of warm-up/bell ringer activities for use in English classrooms (10 minutes a day for five days). The plan comes with an outline, student handouts, a notes grid, and answer keys. You can find this file at
3. Foreign Words and Phrases: I have created a variety of supplies for this, but I am not yet ready to post them. I have videos for each of the terms with short review tasks to use at the start of the year, and then I have a set with five words a day in the fill-in-the-blank sets where students must use the correct word and justify their answers by identifying context clues which helped to identify the correct term. I will get this posted as soon as possible.
4. Skills Lesson and Strand Reviews – I basically review a specific term going SPI by SPI for key terms and vocab. I have posted the first one, Communication. Use this basic PPT and student handout to reteach Tennessee State English I Communication Standards with your students. This is a great way to put all of the information in the same spot right before the test date! Activity Description: T reviews the strand with definitions and examples on the PPT. Students track information on the included graphic organizers.
FREE Activity Posted:
5. EOC Item Sampler Think Aloud – I break the test into sections and review every question. These tests are available at

I hope this helps. Please let me know if you have any ideas, comments, or suggestions.EOC Swing Communication

GRRRR! Grammar!

Growing up on a farm in the south one might think I had picked up the southern drawl of you’uns and y’alls. In reality, we girls were trained in the manner of Eliza Doolittle and, combined with my own personal disgust of tobacco spitting old ladies at church, people often assume I’m a transplanted northerner until the southern temper spikes its head. Anyway the point is I heard grammar correctly and had it drilled into my head so much that I honestly accidentally found myself correcting even my own mother. I’m not sure I even understood why certain elements were correct until Dr. Overholt drilled it into my head in the glorious days of Maryville College. I say all of that to say society owes it to our future to speak in a manner which is grammatically correct. In the urban setting, agreement and comma usage is the hardest thing to teach. It isn’t all the fault of the student because it is all they hear so them it doesn’t have the nails on the chalkboard effect.
This rant is brought to you by our testing data. We use Standards-Based Grading, so we have 5-6 questions per objective and track mastery in the manner the state does on the EOC. We tested parts of speech, agreement, and comma usage. Apparently, I suck at teaching these elements this year. But with every problem MUST come a solution.
For years, I have successfully used a mini-grammar lesson combined with the Caught ‘Ya system, but this year we were asked to use the textbook for instruction. In testing, these are the worst grammar results I have seen in at least five years. The problem with the textbook method is that if I know I’m in the comma chapter and the problem is a comma, I can probably get it right. But given a sentence with unknown problems, students tend to miss it. It is like looking at specific skills independently does not allow students to see how grammatical structures play together and function as one in sentences. And throw in the problems of text-message-ese and spoken dialect… So I’m looking for a new idea. Suggestions?
The grammar text book (which I have NEVER been a fan of) does not seem to be sticking long-term with our students, but the Caught ‘Ya model is going well. We are going to continue with CY, but we are going to add back the grammar instruction of a program called Daily Grammar Practice from DGP Publishing. In this model, students use the same sentence or passage and make different corrections each day. A good colleague (and excellent teacher) used this model in 8th grade and felt it was successful so we are going to try a few weeks with the 8th grade book to see about getting the money for the 9th grade books next year. I’m not opposed to purchasing it on my own if it works. In the midst of the start up, I created a few files which you are welcome to try if you are interested.

1. DGP Publishing Web Site:
2. FREE DGP Student Notes Handouts: I gave these out to students and them modeled going through each step of the sentence and consulting the page. My plan is to have them use this page on the test at first, but I will use the scaled noted system where next Monday students only have one page on which to write notes. Each week I will decrease the amount of space on which to write notes for use on the test until ultimately there are not notes.
3. FREE DGP Student Notes Flashcards: Whatever it takes, right? I know some of the students will not use these, but for those who are interested they will be helpful.
Monday –
Tuesday –
Wednesday –

Tagged , , , , ,

Day 1: How do I read a poem?

Students really struggle with making meaning of poetry. With a lack of prior knowledge and limited analytical and critical thinking skills, poetry is a difficult concept. In keeping with the scaffolding of the gradual release model, I decided to break down the process and add one step with each chunk of the lesson.
1. Preview the text of the poem by looking at the title, picture, caption, or other text features. This is actually a school-wide strategy, but I really believe it has been helpful in reading prose, so why not give it a try?
2. Read the poem for literal language. Students will read the poem and then paraphrase every few lines to track the surface level meaning of the poem. Have students complete SOAPS on the text of the poem.
3. Read the poem for figurative meaning. Students reread the poem and look for possible figurative meaning including symbols, tone, and mood.
4. Annotate the poem while looking specifically for the figurative language. Try to list the example, provide the name of the specific device, and jot down the possible meaning of the vocabulary used.
5. Annotate the poem with a different color and look specifically at the sound devices. Try to list the example, provide the name of the specific device, and jot down the way it affects the poem.
6. Notice the form of the poem. What is it?
7. Review the title and your notes. What is likely to be the theme of the poem? How do you know?

Between each step, I will model and teach key vocabulary to help increase understanding. Also, by building on the steps of the lesson the students will be practicing each step regularly to help internalize the process.

So how did the first day go? With the first day, we were able to get through the preview of the text and both literal and figurative meanings of selected poems. This was done in more of a discussion manner with a few very general stems to get the students thinking. Without having to look for specific devices, students were able to get to a deeper meaning and justify their thoughts even if it was different from what I was looking for.

Next, we took notes over figurative language including simile, metaphor, paradox, apostrophe, personification, hyperbole, pun, and idiom. Not only did the students take notes of the definitions, we looked specifically at examples of each and tried to verbalize the function of the device and the impact it had on meaning. Assessing this on the exit ticket shows that students can find meaning and back it with other parts of the poem if they know what the device is. However, if given a line and asked to identify the figurative language, they look for “like” and “as” to mark simile and the very obvious elements, but they do not recognize more complex examples or examples which are not in direct proximity. We will have time to work on this.

For tomorrow, I’m going to reteach figurative language in the context of the poem and then move into sound devices. Right now, I’m looking to model with “Rose in Concrete” which I had them complete individually. This will be great to go over the figurative language but I can also use it to model finding sound devices and tracking the effect they have on the text as well.

Ideas? Love to hear them.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Poetry: Teaching the Figurative Language

poetry trading 1Our goal here is to move from knowing to recognizing and identifying to analyzing. So I guess I have my work cut out for me.

What’s first?

Chunking the material is going to be vital to success, but I also need to figure out a way for students to memorize the vocabulary for the unit. For that, I will use the Poetry Trading Cards. Next, I want to divide the unit into teaching figurative language one day, sound devices another, and form on another. This will give time to focus on specific skills and, ideally, I will be able to use the same poems to link each set of vocabulary skills in order to reteach while adding in the new steps.

Making the material accessible is another problem. In teaching story elements, I realized students could identify plot elements when reading short stories by Walter D. Myers and Sharon Flake, but the skills were almost non-existent in looking at classical literature. I’m anticipating the same challenges in poetry, so I’m going to do it like I have before and use some of the edited versions of Billboard hits.

Room display is going to be the poetry word wall I created. After the introduction, I can have the students create posters for each of the elements.

So… off to pick poems and put together a new unit! Ideas? Suggestions? I’m waiting.

1. Poetry Word Wall can be found at
2. Essential Vocabulary Trading Cards can be found at

Tagged , , , ,

Twelve Angry Pigs

With so much success accessing prior knowledge of drama, I have decided we can effectively use one play to go over dramatic elements and then review plot a little. This sets us up to move into poetry, a section which typically takes a bit longer than one might expect, relatively quickly. I’m jumping ahead there though.

For 12 Angry Pigs, I started out by using the Common-Core story preview task I have talked about before. Hopefully, by the end of the semester, the students will be able to preview following my steps but without me guiding them. After previewing the text, I gave a short bio on the author, Wade Bradford, and we started reading. To pick roles, I had cards made for each pig. Students picked their role based on the pig they liked the best, and we then set the classroom up as a jury room with the desks in the center. The first time, students were instructed to just read. Since it is short, we were able to reread for questions and discussion. It was nice having the ability to take the time to do that because it allowed us to do more critical thinking and analysis of the text.

At the close of the section, I gave students a short cloze-style quiz. This mini-unit was more memorization that anything else, but the students did well on the quiz. We will revisit a few of these concepts in a few weeks when we prepared for the unit exam. All of our unit exams are cumulative, and the students will have a short play to read and interpret on their own for the real test of the knowledge.

And we will bring drama back around in the weeks following the EOC to look at Romeo and Juliet so I’m feeling pretty confident about this set of skills.

Now… to prepare for poetry.

1. Drama and Archetype with Twelve Angry Pigs can be found at
pigs 1

Tagged , , , , , ,

Introduction to Drama

In my experience, students do well with most skills pertaining to drama. They recognize the visual form of a script and the importance of stage directions. For that reason, I use this as a moment for plot reteaching.
To make sure the students are familiar with elements of drama, I start with having students look at the prose and drama version of a text. We then use observation to compare the two literary forms. The students loved “Thank You M’am” (Hughes) so I rewrote it as a play. This allows reteaching of plot because they created plot maps and characterization of TYM and can pull from those experiences. Plus, it is relatively quick to read dramatically, so it fits in the same day as the Intro to Drama lesson.
My power points are generally set up to be able to skip information or go deeper when needed, and I have given images to help student visualize theaters and types of discourse. I admit it has become one of the lessons I enjoy much more than many others because the students really get into it.
With the new text, I had the students complete C-notes and we used that as a starting point. In all, pacing worked out perfectly. Our Exit Tickets showed students were able to at least define all major elements pertaining to drama with only minor confusion between soliloquy and monologue. Here’s the trick to that: Soliloquy = Solo on stage. Monologue = dialogue for the mono.
For content, we will read two short plays: Bloody Mary and 12 Angry Pigs. (Where is Romeo and Juliet? We actually save that one for the two weeks of school after the EOC. This works because we are in an area with much gang activity, and we use the Jedi mind trick of intentional ink colorations to get students interested. Works EVERY time.) Under the PARCC Model Content, our extended reading is To Kill a Mockingbird. 12 Angry Pigs goes well thematically, but Bloody Mary is just fun.

To be more user-friendly, I have decided to list these items individually and with a bundle. For now, here is the introduction. drama 1
1. Introduction to Drama:

Tagged , , ,

Inductive and Deductive Reasoning

Well, we did it. I’m not sure if it will stick, but I just saw the best results ever with teaching Inductive and Deductive Reasoning. How? Aren’t you just dying to know!
First, I started out with presenting the students with two arguments from the same conversation. I asked students to tell me the difference between the two, and they easily recognized one as “from personal experience” and the other as “a scientific principle”. Nice start.
Next, I presented a situation in which someone was robbed and the police detective came in to gather evidence. This was presented in a paragraph narrative, and then we broke down the argument in terms of the conclusion and the evidence leading to the conclusion. One amazing student connected to the previous lesson and pointed out the text structure as chronological.
From here, I stopped the discussion and transitioned into student notes on inductive and deductive reasoning. We recapped each reasoning with a fill-in-the-blank paragraph summary of the logic before looking at examples.
Here comes the newbie of the instruction. At a training over the summer, a wonderful lady (I’m so bad with names) who works for the state said, “Lots of teachers say they struggle with inductive and deductive and can’t teach it. But I think they miss the key step pf having students create the arguments first.” So that’s what we did. Students created the arguments and we then evaluated an argument. They knew what type it was, but they had to justify why it was that type and identify the conclusions and premises. After doing this with both inductive and deductive, I modeled looking at an argument, identifying the conclusion and the premises, and then determining whether it was inductive or deductive.

inductive 1

1. Teaching Bundle with PPT and Exit Ticket with EOC-Swag can be found at
2. Room Display Word Wall is available at
3. Trading Card Logic Strand Review Game is located at

Tagged , , , , ,

Text Structures – Minimal Teaching Involved

text 1Why is it that four day weeks can seem so long???

This week we had tons to do to prepare for the Writing Basics Unit Exam. Considering the content, this means mostly review with a slight zone in on Inductive and Deductive Reasoning.

Text structures is something which students have been expected to learn all throughout middle school, and I think I have readdressing it about down to a science. Or, at the least, doable in a 100 minute block with focus on the more troublesome aspects for the students.

Based on my teaching experience and student conversation over the years, I lumped the testable structures into categories. I gave notes on each structure and modeling analysis of a sample text. Then, they had a task to complete on their own. Yep, it’s that gradual release thing again.

Anyway, I think the lesson worked because the class average score on this assignment was 92%, above the goal of 85%.

How was it lumped?
Students tend to think chronological and sequential structures are the same thing, but by pairing them together you help students see their differences. We have been looking at roots, and one of the students remembered chrono- as time. From there we linked sequence as steps. Students recognized that the two may have the same key words, but they are actually quite different and serve different purposes.

Next, we looked at compare-contrast because students typically can easily recognize that as well. We went over key words and looked at text samples. Students were solid, and it was a good thing I was experienced enough to expect to be able to skip a few slides in that area.

Finally, we got to cause-effect and problem-solution structures. By putting these together, it has the same effect as having the students look at sequential and chronological together. We reviewed cause-effect first and talked about key terms and that the key strategy is to look for two questions: “What happened?” and “Why did it happen?” I modeled and had them identify key terms and we moved over to problem-solution. Here, I gave the simple strategy of seeing if the students could track the problem and find the proposed solution, or call to action, to address the problem. For this structure especially, students need to be able to pick up implied information as sometime the problem is not directly stated. Again, I modeled and had them find the key words. Then they had to look at text samples and identify which of the two structures the text met. Again, pretty successful for the students who identified the key terms first.

When I think back on the lesson, I think I would try more to include grouping – maybe a carousel in which I have model texts on the wall for students to identify. Maybe try a teaching section where students have different passages and have to identify the key terms and structure and then teach it to a partner. And most definitely, we will hit this skill again when we are looking at thesis statements and topic sentences.

Ideas? Suggestions? I’d love your feedback.

~ Text Structures PPT and Student Tasks – Find it online at

Tagged , , ,

Unit: Liking the Logic

Every single person in the whole world likes to get what he or she wants. I’m using that as the bait for the logic unit.

We have started out this unit by a review of persuasive techniques. Students took notes and we viewed commercials (intentionally planned to happen after Super Bowl Sunday) to see the examples in the format. We also looked at sample magazine ads for students to have that experience. One fun thing to do was to have the class split in two groups and create to “Carousel” rotations around a circle of advertisements. I had a worksheet for students to use to track their thoughts on the devices used in the advertisements. Now, the class was grouped in two, but I went through rotation 1 as more of a teaching technique. We returned to whole class instruction and discussed what we learned or realized in the first phase of the task. The second step was intended to be to rotate through the second group as a quiz, but we ended up doing more practice instead.

Students were then given all terms from persuasive devices/propaganda and logical fallacy and asked to sort the words in some way. It was interesting because I did not give the extra category title because I wanted to see what they would come up with, and that was a struggle. With lose guidelines some students did alphabetical order, some did “I know” and “I don’t” piles. Only one group did the grouping of persuasive devices (learned) and logical fallacies (not yet taught at the time of the sort) that I was hoping to see. This served as a good introduction and transition into the logical fallacies, so I am glad we did it.

With a quick review of the persuasive devices, we transitioned into the logical fallacy notes with the same format where students take notes, we view and discuss a commercial, and we view and discuss an advertisement.

After looking at persuasive devices and logical fallacy, we went over the rhetorical situation in terms of the basics and the appeals. We talked about speaker, subject, and audience in detail and moved into ethos, logos, and pathos. For here, I wanted to stop to create a logical assessment for mastery of the persuasive devices and logical fallacies in text formatting as the material should be taught in the manner it is tested. Students were able to demonstrate mastery of the visual examples, so we needed to transition into the elements of text. By reviewing the rhetorical triangle first, students would be able to identify the appeal and help narrow down the choices of the rhetorical appeals in order to identify the most prevalent device in the test. So, we did a word sort and arranged the persuasive devices and logical fallacies into ethos, logos, and/or pathos.

We looked at text examples of all devices – persuasive and logical fallacies – and identified which were present and which were most prevalent. We also looked at the effect of the

Then, I gave the test. I preach that 85% is the “Proficiency Percent” we aim for as individuals and as a class. How was the success rate in the standards-based assessment after all of this effort? I’d address that but I better cut short so I can go make the cupcakes.

1. I have loaded the full lesson plan with all ppts, handouts, and assessments to Kirk’s Corner. Find it at
1a. If you have plans and only need an assessment for this section, you can find the test itself at
2. The walls for the room were changed to include terms from Logic and Connumication standards. Find the printable posters at
3. Students created trading cards for homework using the same formatting as with the Literature Review strand activity. Those materials are available at

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Test Mode

Okay, I admit. I’m in test mode. So here’s the deal…

When I first started teaching, I was in a district and school where the expectation was to gather data. I believe this is vital to the success of the student, and over the years at my current placement I have worked hard to identify elements to help students be successful on the test. I’ve been using RUNNERS for about eight years, and I feel it is a huge part of the success my students have seen in terms of reading comprehension. So, I’m teaching RUNNERS to my students. If you are interested, I have placed it where you can find it at I teach this slowly at first, but we use it on passages throughout the semester. Starting next Friday, we are going to be working on one RUNNERS Reading Comprehension Drill a week. I don’t have all the details worked out, but I’m looking at trying to find current events articles that thematically relate to what we are using in class. Common Core? You betcha.

Next, I think there are test questions which can be answered based on the question itself and the answer choices. All the students need to do is understand what they are being asked in order to answer it. When I interview students after not testing as well as they would like, I get to the specifics of questions. I would say 99% of the time, the student says they did not understand what the question was asking. I tried using what I called Poe (like Edgar), but really that was just fancy for “process of elimination.” I was not seeing what I was hoping, so I was relieved when visiting another school a science teacher was using RAMS. Now, I have not a clue where this came from, and I have visited so many schools that I can’t even be certain in which school I saw this. Never the less, I started using it two years ago and have seen great gains with it. So, we’re going to use it in conjunction with our Friday RUNNERS.

Other idea for test mode? Testing Tuesdays. Each Tuesday we are going to look at a sample stand-alone EOC question for the purposes of analyzing RAMS and, hopefully, improving student ability on those questions on the actual test. I will use the gradual release in looking at a model to show my thinking process, a we do for me to guide them, a we do take two for them to guide me, and then two questions for them to do alone. Hopefully this will help with teaching skills and test strategies at the same time.

I have testing ideas for the other days, but I am thinking I need to wait and roll out the newbies slowly so as to not rock the structure we have in place. I’ll give you more on those ideas as they come, but I’m thinking about one specific test-related task a day…

Our objectives also have this weird standard asking about foreign words and phrases, so I am going to create short films – one minute each – to teach an assigned foreign word or phrase each day. I envision this beings something like the old “The More You Know” commercials from my childhood. Creating the videos will take some effort, so I’m going to start with doing two a week. Since we do SSR three times a week, I can use the other two days on foreign words and phrases to help students master them.

I will post all of this stuff out there, but this is the start of test mode and the steps I am planning to take starting Monday. So, with 10 weeks to the EOC, I will keep you posted.

I’m working on this. I promise. My goal for the weekend is to get these files posted at Kirk’s Corner.

Tagged , ,