Teaching Portfolio (And Back-To-School-FREEBIES!)

With the school year quickly approaching, I’ve spent the last 24 hours refreshing my teaching portfolio, reviewing standards, and making some new materials. I’m not in my own classroom |yet| BUT it’s never too early to work on stuff anyway!

I took a trip to Staples last night and bought a new binder, dividers, and page reinforcers. I have a blue and white obsession. Just a standard 1 inch. 13936820_10209894090494020_2047740475_n.jpgI then created a cover page. Being that I LOVE old literature, authors, and books, I decided to stick with that theme for my cover. My name, certification, and “teaching slogan” grace the front with a collection of beautiful, old, blue bound books.13884380_10209894089053984_1950627798_n.jpg

Here are some samples of what I have hiding INSIDE my portfolio. Obviously, not every page is shown, but you can see what was included in the table of contents.

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Now, I did promise some back-to-school-freebies. Sadly, I do not have free STUFF but I do have some free resources! Woo hoo! Feel free to download and use away!

1 The first freebie is a quick, easy way to assess students either during class or at the end as an exit slip. The front (first page) gives students the ability to self assess if they understand, sort of understand, or really don’t get it. The back (second page) gives them the chance to write down a specific question and their name. Simply print, copy 1 sided->2 sided, and cut between the boxes! How-are-you-doing

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2 This second one is very similar to the first. Instead of self-assessing understanding, this slip holds students accountable. If a student does not finish an in-class assignment, they will need to turn in this slip. If they turn it in filled out (honestly) partial credit or the opportunity to get extra time to finish. If it’s turned in without this sheet or not at all they get a 0. Harsh, but again, accountability. i-didnt-finish-because…

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I’m sure you noticed that the unit in my portfolio is Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. It is absolutely one of my FAVORITE pieces to teach, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have the chance to teach it 3 times between my pre-service and student teaching. All components have been tested, used, and enjoyed by many students! Again, feel free to use or adjust any pages as you see fit!

1 One of my intro activities to the unit is a scavenger hunt around the room to answer these questions- Shakespeare Scavenger Hunt Qs

2 Gives students the space to identify which side characters are on and their personality traits- RJ Character List

3 This is one of my favorite assignments. The first year, I had the students focus on characterization by creating “Fakebook” pages. My freshmen informed me no one uses that so I created the same assignment for Twitter.

4 To help them brainstorm for their Twitter assignments, each student was given a character cloud sheet to collect their thoughts. Character Cloud WKST

5 The following are the assignment hand out and rubric for the Twitter project. I copied them so they were on one page front/back. Romeo and Juliet Twitter handout  / rj twitter rubric

6 Twitter page sample done for Queen Elizabeth I –RJ Twitter GQB This second page is an extention of the first- Twitter pics page GQB

7 Blank Twitter can be used for any book-RJ Twitter Second part of the assignment page- Twitter pics page

What do you have in your portfolio? Any suggestions as far as what to add?

What resources would you like to have added? If you would like any more from my Romeo and Juliet, JUST ASK!

Follow me on Instagram @brunetteswithbrains to keep up with the latest posts, adventures, books and news!

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Finding an Old Friend

The title may be misleading. This is very metaphorical. Having been an English ed major, general book worm, and readaholic, an old friend to me is usually a good book. Though I’ve graduated I’ve been subbing everywhere and anywhere I can. Monday, I had the joy of being a librarian for the day. Sitting in a very nice middle school library, I got the itch to walk around and stretch my legs.

As I made my promenade through the shelves and around the room, I came across a dear friend. A friend that helped lead me to where I am today. A friend that I hadn’t seen in a number of years; that brought back all of the memories of the first time I saw it, all of the feelings of wonder and questions that I had.

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It’s part of the Royal Diaries series, the same people who do the Dear America books. Elizabeth I, Red Rose of the House of Tudor. I was fortunate enough to grow up 2 blocks away from the library. I read through the entire Princess Diaries series and the Dear America books. I’ve also read all of the Magic Treehouse books. Though I love them dearly, none of them compared to this. Something about this book struck a chord. Sitting on the front porch of our little house, in the sunshine of summer, I was infatuated.

Fast forward 16 years and now I’m teaching. I’ve taught freshmen about Queen Elizabeth I twice during pre-reading for Shakespeare. I’m preparing to take the history praxis. I am encouraging students to read, hoping that one of them will find “the book.” The one that turns their life upside down. The book that years after they have me, they’ll see on a shelf, or their own child will bring home, and they’ll remember. I hope they will think “I remember you, hello my dear, old, friend.”

Look At Me! I’m Organized!

STUDENT TEACHING HAS STARTED! Last week I got into my classroom for the semester. I have my own little desk, book-case and corner that’s ALL MINE! I can’t even begin to tell you all how excited I am and what it has taken to get here. Everything the last 4 years has led to this! I am in a wonderful school district, with a co-op that I LOVE.

Yesterday was my first day, and I finished moving in. Here is what my little corner looks like thus far.

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The front of my desk is rocking bead buddies and stained glass projects my summer school kids did this summer. If you can’t tell, the stained glasses are Beauty and the Beast themed.

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Recognize that pot? See how I made it HERE! Miss Swenda is written and facing front towards the students. “Called Equipped Prepared” is a reminder just for me! Cinderella’s glass slipper and the Disney princess cup are from a bridal shower I was at a few weeks ago.

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I am really proud of these drawers. Yes, I have an entire drawer of snacks. I have a schedule that gives me the ability to snack every few periods. I regret nothing. My other drawer holds my tea, binder clip collection, stationary, and other rando things.

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I have a nice little bookshelf to keep all of my stuff. Obviously, it’s full of classics and the majority of the Folger Shakespeare Library collection. My brother hooked me up with Dancing Groot and Albus Dumbledore and I certainly couldn’t leave them at home! Bob my Philadelphia Flyers Gnome has a place of love as well. One of the best things I learned from my previous co-op was unit binders. You can see the stack of them to the right of the above picture. For each unit, I have created a binder. Over the years I have and will continue to collect handouts, projects and general things to go with the different units. IMG_7189

The cool part of having a mom that has been working in schools for so long, is that she has some pretty fun decorations and ideas. Ma hooked me up with these cute little fall leaves. Together, we came up with “What Miss Swenda is reading…” The top leaf has the name of the book. The bottom leaf lists the author, genre, number of pages and style. I am currently reading Dracula by Bram Stoker. It falls into sci-fi/fiction/historical, has 414 pages and is written like diary/journal entries, letters and newspaper clippings. For different holidays/months I will have different shapes to show my what I’m reading. As an English teacher, I feel it’s important to show the kids not only that I am reading, but also give them a glimpse of who I am through my reading.

We have some awesome projects planned for the kids this year- I can’t wait to share some of them right here! 🙂

Spare Time Writers

I am SO excited to finally be student teaching in the fall. I was blessed to have an incredible field experience teacher who let me teach a unit on my own. That alone is an experience most students do not have before their student teaching. Another blessing that is coming with student teaching in the fall is that I have the entire summer to prep. I have already met with my co-op and she is in the same hallways as my field experience co-op so we already know each other!

I will be teaching 9th and 10th grade honors. When I first started college, I thought that I wanted to be a college professor. I wanted to run to that position as fast as humanly possible. Then I got into a classroom. I was spoiled with an amazing group of 9th graders, and I fell in love.

Writing can be a struggle and at times very boring, especially for high schoolers. Unlike elementary ed, secondary teachers usually don’t walk away with baskets of goodies at the end of their student teaching…or holidays…or at all really. I have come up with a way to get both.

I scoured pinterest, blogs, books and the internet for pictures and writing prompts. Some of the writing prompts are as simple as captioning a picture. Some are personal, asking the students to write about a mentor or a favorite book. Others require the students to write a scene or short story using a provided sentence, setting, character or phrase. Some are silly while others are serious and heartfelt.

I am going to be putting these prompts in a bucket. Students will be able to grab one if there is time at the end of class, if they need/want writing inspiration-whenever. They then write and return both the prompt and their writing to a bin. If there is time at the end of class, I will open the floor for students to share what they have written through the week, if they so choose. I will collect their writings throughout my 16 weeks of student teaching in a binder as my keepsake and memento of my time with them.

You can use these writing prompts for your own creative writing to aid writers block. You can use them in a classroom. I have done the work and I am now sharing it with the world, because, sharing is caring.

I suggest printing these spare time writers, cutting them, and pasting them on index cards for extra strength. To really make them last, laminating them might not be a bad idea either!

Happy Writing!

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The (Book) Struggle is Real

It’s mid February. I’ve gotten close to 30 new books since New Years. My wall-length bookshelves that house both my books and my mug collection are laden. The books are progressively kicking the mugs out-of-the-way. That is a problem all unto itself. But there’s another issue. I. Have. A. Major. Problem.

10407758_10205732124367468_4671440219716674028_nThis is what happens when I find a cart of free books. It might have been below zero out, I may not have been able to feel my toes or hands and I may have had slobber rolling down my face because I had a Bridge Street Chocolate espresso marshmallow stuffed in my face.

The fact that my local gently used book store has $1 book carts, by 2 get 1 free does NOT help my cause any either. I just keep telling myself….”They’re for my classroom. They’ll help my students. They are helping to build my future.” And by building my “future” I mean, building my future library room…and one day my future office at a university somewhere.

But I have this problem. I have all of these books, and well…thank goodness I’m not blowing my bank account to get them because well….none of them are grabbing my attention.

I’ve been a book-worm for as long as I can remember. I had to start wearing glasses in middle school because as a child I hid under blankets with small, dim, key chain flash lights to read Magic Tree House. My parents were always encouraging my reading habits, reading to me as a child, always getting me at least one book from the cool Scholastic Book Fair at school even though money was tight, and still getting me books for Christmas now as a 22-year-old. To be fair, many of my obnoxious reading habits have come from my father, he’s just a bit better at hiding them. I have a whole pin board that is nothing but books, book lists, and book sayings.

I created a Net Galley account last summer and I LOVE IT! Free books and all I had to do was read them and review them; but so many of them were so bad I couldn’t even finish them. Obviously they didn’t get the best reviews in return. I have made great connections with a few of the authors that I did review and enjoy like Brielle Skye, author of Solitude of a Birdcage. But those connections with both the literature and the authors are so very few and far between.

In the past 2 months, with my massive literary additions I have read 3 of them to completion and even those were a struggle. Why?

For a while I thought, well it’s got to just be the literature. Comparatively to even 10 or 20 years ago, it is SO much easier to have a book published and put out there. eBooks have made becoming an author easier than ever before. This can be a good thing and a bad thing…for obvious reasons. It’s kind of like American Idol. For years friends and family tell someone they are an amazing singer in order to avoid hurt feelings, and these poor people stand up on stage and sound like they are dying, wailing cows. The same happens with writing. People are told that they are great writers, some may have even gone to school for English or writing…but that doesn’t mean that they are good.

My other thought-standards are low. With books like Twilight, 50 Shades of Grey and a multitude of other books being PUBLISHED no wonder there is so much crap out there. I’m not just talking content wise either. Anyone with any kind of English grammar/writing sense can tell you that some of the best-selling books in the last 10 years are some of the most poorly written books they have read in their life. People are not only reading this stuff and enjoying it, but asking for more like there is no problem with any of it. They have no idea that they are reading poor “literature.” The term is being used quite loosely here. They make money, so they continue to be published because people aren’t standing up and saying “STOP WE WANT THE GOOD STUFF!”

Maybe I’m just all read out. I’ve read so many books over the years that it is rare that a book ends differently than I expect. I usually have a solid guess of what is going to happen and how the characters are going to get there about 20 pages in. The excitement of “what is going to happen next,” seems to have disappeared for me. Is this my fault? Have authors gotten together, come up with a story equation, plugged in their own “details” and continue to write the same story with different names? My favorite- Nicholas Sparks. The same story over and over with a few variations, like names, diseases, and occupations. Here is a chart that has been floating around as an example-

summary_imageThis makes me feel better, that maybe I’m not as crazy as I thought I was about this theory.

I think that somewhere in my heart, I know that all of the above reasons are reasons why I am struggling. I also think that they are all contributing factors to what I am now calling “book depression.” This is very different from a Book Hangover– symptoms and other info are included in the linked post. Book depression is a deep sadness, a fear that it is going to be a very long time before you read a good book again. It’s longing for a book that you’re not sure even exists. I want to read something inspiring, something hopeful, something unexpected, something relatable, something real. I want a story with dynamic characters, with a strong plot, with antagonists and protagonists. I want something that doesn’t involve werewolves or vampires or dystopian society. I want a book with proper sentence structure, lacking comma splices, and with bright, vibrant language.

I want to fall in love with words on the pages of the book in my hand. I want to yearn for more and hope there is at least a sequel. I want to read again.

The Jane Austen Handbook-Margaret C. Sullivan

I am one of those girls with an adoration of Jane Austen. I think if I had to pick a time period to live in, it would be Regency England. Beautiful dresses, dashing men in tuxedos, running water, no electronics- life was simple. Life was beautiful. I would aspire to be Elizabeth Bennet any day of the week.

I have come across this book a number of times over the years. Pinterest, StumbleUpon, numerous reading lists- this book isn’t an uncommon addition. It took my poor library days to locate a copy though. I made my 6249609868 trip to the library yesterday for the final book on my list- The Handbook.

A plan instantly formed in my mind. And I made it happen. First, I made myself some great summer tea. You can’t read something about life in England and NOT be drinking tea. For the recipe, check out the post Summer Tea. Next, I had to jump into my swim suit. And last but not least, wiggle myself into one of our pool loungers to float the afternoon away.

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Yes, this made the hands-down best afternoon of reading I’ve had in a long time. Until it started raining of course. But I digress.

Sullivan breaks down the complications of Regency life into 4 lovely sections. Each section is then broken down into specifics. I personally enjoyed the section “Making Love,” which focused topics such as:  how too find a husband, find your daughters husbands, decline an unwanted proposal, secret engagements, and my personal favorite how to elope to Scotland. Before each focus point is a quote from one of Austen’s beloved books that pertains to the following pages. I loved the memories of reading the books these quotes invoked, and how impeccably applicable the handbook was to their situations.

Though this book seems to have absolutely zero use in today’s world, there are some serious lessons we should be reminded of as women.

A few things modern day women could learn from our Regency ancestors:

How to write a letter, throw a dinner party, catch a husband, how to be a valuable neighbor, how a lady might spend her leisure time, and the most useful of these OBVIOUSLY is how to dress. There are so many lost arts of our more demure “species” that have been lost over the generations. I believe this is mostly due to the fact that women are now educated like men, and we have jobs. Humorously enough, being a teacher during that time period was looked down upon as an occupation. Oops. 🙂 There is no reason for the art of dinner parties to be lost. I love throwing dinner parties and entertaining. Hostess with the mostess was just as important then as it is now. Letter writing is becoming a lost art. How lovely is it to receive a hand written letter in the mail now and again? Teaching freshmen high school students how to write a letter this past semester was a train wreck. Hand-written letters should be a skill that is taught and mastered.

I would recommend this book to any woman of any age. You also do not have to be a Jane Austen lover or expert to enjoy reading this book. Every woman should be reminded of the social graces and expectations of women in the by-gone days. It helps us remember where we came from, how far we have risen, and how far we have fallen in so many ways. This kind of goes along with my post on “How to Be a Hepburn in a Hilton World.” How to have class and be an upstanding woman. This was a quick read that I can’t wait to suggest this to my high school girls!

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Of Mice and Men- John Steinbeck

Of Mice and Men was probably one of the shortest books you ever read in high school. You are probably reading this for one of 3 reasons. 1. You are a fan and like to see how other people feel about the book. 2. You are getting ready to reread it after a span of time since you read it in high school. 3. You have never read the book because you are either still in high school or went to a high school with a poor English department. Yes, those are fightin’ words. No student should make it through high school without reading this book.

It’s literally about 100 pages and takes a few hours to read. I read this my Sophomore year of high school and loved it then. My English teacher Mr. K was so excited to have a student that would debate and argue with him. I was in a basic, college prep class so participation was usually on the lower end. I, just the year before had had to go through the trauma of putting down our beloved English Springer Spaniel Ashley because she was suffering from stomach cancer. The theme of euthanasia is the hardest theme of the book to grasp. To come to terms with. Other themes like friendship, fraternity, and the American dream also permeate through the pages.

This past semester in my Secondary English Curriculum class we had to do unit plans. These unit plans were on Of Mice and Men. I also had to do one for The Canterbury Tales in my Writing Process class. The picture below does not quite do this unit plan justice. The unit handout gives you an idea of what all I had to create as far as extra handouts and the lesson plans themselves. It was longer than the book itself- honest to goodness.

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Obviously, I myself had to reread the book for this class. I had to look at it from a different perspective. I had to ask myself teacher questions like “What could be focused on in this section?” “What is the importance of this quote?” “How would students react to this part?” Catch my drift?

I put a TON of work into this project. I also reread the book twice while working on it. I thoroughly enjoy this book. This time period of American history is one of my favorites. Also, that English teacher that I mentioned above- he presented it in a way that made me LOVE IT. I wanted to learn, I wanted to read, and he inspired me to write a unit plan that gave my students the chance to interact and get as much out of those 107 pages as I had as a student.

To speak to those 3 kinds of people I referenced towards the beginning:

1. I’m not a huge fan of John Steinbeck. I’m sorry. Grapes of Wrath is still sitting on my self not even a quarter of the way read. BUT, he captured a moment in time, and addressed some very real issues in America then and issues that still drip through society today. I enjoy this book for so many reasons. One of them is that though it is short, it can pack a serious punch depending on who and how it is being read.

2. Students and adults alike could get something out of this book. It’s one of those books where, if read more than once with a few years in-between, each time it is read, new lessons and things stick out. For example, when I read it in high school, the big deal was euthanasia. As a college student reading it, I pay more attention to the relationships and interpersonal interactions that take place on the ranch. As a teacher I see how it all can be relative in the past, in the present and in the future.

3. If you are still in high school and just getting ready to begin- I know assigned books are a drag. I spent most of my high school and collegiate career putting assigned readings and books on the back burner because they are NEVER really that good. This one is, trust me. It’s all in what you make of it. See point #2 above. If you have graduated and STILL have not read this book. I am sorry. Truly, I am. If you were forced to read something like Huckleberry Finn but NOT Of Mice and Men at some point in your academic career, that is the fault of the department. Again, I will reference point 2 above.

Yes, this was the third time since February that I have read Of Mice and Men this year. It is my fourth time over all. It takes me about 2 hours to knock out depending on how in-depth I am reading and what I am expecting to get out of it this time around. Part of my unit plan was giving the students made up scenarios that people at that time may have faced. These ranged from farmers, single guys with no prospects, families on the coast wanting a new life, and one very similar to the situation of George and Lenny. The purpose of the exercise is to engage the students in the emotion. To get their wheels turning.

What would I do? What would I have done? I ask myself these questions a number of times throughout the reading. What would I have done had someone’s aunt asked me to take care of their mentally handicapped nephew? What would I do if my dreams suddenly had the potential to actually come to fruition after years of hardship and thinking it would only ever be a dream? What would I have done if I was in Lenny’s position? Candy? Slim? Curly’s wife?

Regardless of whether you are a 1, 2 or 3, I challenge you to really READ Of Mice and Men. Don’t just let the words and sentences float by. Stop now and again and answer those questions. Do some research into the time period. If you were placed in the same situation today would you make the same choices as the characters in the book? If you were placed in the same situation during the same time period of the book, do you think you would make the same choices then?

American literature classic. Everyone should read this book at least once, if not twice in their life time.

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If you would like more info on my Unit Plan: Handouts, Worksheets, ETC feel free to ask!