WIU English Education

Teaching English Language Arts

Keeping a Journal During Your First Year of Teaching

It is no secret that the first year of teaching will be beyond overwhelming for teachers. As a new teacher you have to balance classroom management, grading,  the school’s procedures, relationship with other teachers, relationships with students, parents, administrators, and much more.  That is why it is so important to figure out a routine before you begin that first day.There is a website called Educational World where teachers who just started their second year of teaching  offer up advice to first year teachers. There is no one who could offer up better advice than that of someone who experienced what you are about to. Second year teacher Mike Powell says, “Start keeping a professional journal. After the course of the year, this journal will allow you to reflect on your professional practices and to witness what is probably going to be enormous personal growth”(EW). Keeping a journal is a great way to organize your thoughts and reflect back on how much you have changed throughout your first year experience. You will also learn a lot about who you are as a teacher if you take the time to write down your experience. Scholastic Teachers offers some great tips for keeping a journal which are as follows:

  1. Making Regular Entries- The best way to get through the day is routine. If you make regular entries at a specific time, you wont forget to write down your experiences.
  2. Anything goes-Journaling is a great way to vent about your day. Teaching can be really frustrating and you can face many obstacles. Here you can complain, cry, and be frustrated all while learning a little bit more about who you are as a teacher.
  3. Record your Growth- Don’t be afraid to note the small successes and changes in your routines as a teacher. Remember that become a great teacher wont happen overnight.
  4.  Reread your Journal Entries Occasionally-Remember that you cant learn what you are doing wrong if you are not rereading your journals. It is really important to go over past decisions to help you better your future decisions.

Journaling has started to become a trend among first year teachers. A lot of first year teachers have gone as far as posting their journals on the internet so other first year teachers can learn from their experiences. Keep a journal close to you and pull it out whenever you have a chance. You will love the results!

Here are the articles that I used when researching the importance of journaling . This is also where I got the idea for some of the tips:

Here are some questions for you:

What do you think the hardest part about the first year of teaching will be?

Do you think journaling your first year of teaching could benefit you? How?








Should Whole Novels be Read in the ELA Classroom?

The ELA classroom has seemingly in the latter years transitioned to Reading 101. Apparently students are not reading outside of class, which has led to weeks, even an entire quarter being dedicated to reading ONE novel. I can remember being a high school student assigned to read one of the classics – I didn’t. I also do not remember there being any consequences, assessments, bell ringers, or even an exit slip to check if I was reading either. I simply did not participate in class discussions. Ironically, at that same time I can remember reading “The Coldest Winter Ever,” a novel by Sista Soulja that was being  read by nearly every student. I also read a lot of “Chicken Soup for the Soul” type of books as well. Was I reading assigned novels? Absolutely not.  Was I  reading? All the time.  I don’t think the issue is students will not read outside of class, students need novels that is relevant to their lives, novels that they can relate and connect with – something interesting and engaging.

Novels that should only take a week, no more than two are taking ten weeks to complete. With this trend, only 16  novels could be read during a student’s high school career. Being realistic, 16 novels will not be  achieved due to the many functions of ELA. ELA class is not simply reading a novel and answering questions.  Common Core outlines a multitude of functions and skills that students are required to learn. Where does the ELA teacher find time to teach the necessary skills needed with so much time dedicated to in class reading?  Should long novels even be taught in the ELA classroom?

Understanding that students will have to tackle difficult text that might not be of high interest, but necessary. Should reading be separate from ELA? Breaking reading from the ELA classroom would allow the teacher to be able to focus solely on the content of the text.  A reading class is a great place to incorporate DEAR and/or SSR. Having reading as a separate course will allow the ELA teacher to be able to focus on actually teaching the themes and connecting the text to historical truths and/or the world today making it relevant to the reader,

Analytical skills is just one of the many skills students are expected to learn in ELA. Becoming proficient writers and researchers are skills required to be successful in college. The goal of high school is to ensure that students are college and career ready.  As we all know, college will not allow students to spend much time on one work – are students truly being prepared for college? According to, students across the nation are starting their college careers in remedial courses – courses that they are paying for, yet not  receiving credit for.

Are students being disservice? Would incorporating Reading independent of ELA be beneficial? Maybe districts can block schedule ELA which would allow room for in class reading, while allowing ELA teachers to teach the other functions of Language Arts.

Getting Started

We are all getting closer and closer to being in our own classroom with our own students. I know for me it is really scary to think about mainly because I don’t want to do anything wrong and I am also questioning myself and if I am really prepared to be a good teacher. I hoping some of the tips below will help you prepare for the first couple weeks of school and also help with being a new teacher.

There are so many ways teachers can be creative with their classrooms, and it seems like even when teachers move the decks, students notice. This is a play off of a Redbox, and it will draw students attention to the books that they can check out, and also puts a familiar, fun item in the classroom that students can understand. I got this image off of ( there are there are other tips and tricks for the first couple weeks of school on this website. A lot of other creative ideas found on this website were focused about social media. Teachers used Facebook, and Instagram to get to know there students and also used it to inform students on what was going to be going on in the classroom for that week. I think it is important to make your classroom feel comfortable for all of your students. The Instagram idea is a cool one because I know I would love going into a class were I knew my picture was on the wall.

This video is showing some examples of good teachers. The biggest thing i noticed is that everyone if having fun and incorporating the curriculum but also there is a lot of structure and great classroom management going on.

This website ( has twenty tips for new teachers. There are a lot of points the author makes that I would have never even thought of. It is also nice because the article also has links to books, and fun ideas for new teachers. The article touches on self reflection and also talking to a mentor to help guide you through your first your. I have heard that the first year is the hardest, but it also has to be the most fun because we will all be figuring out what type of teacher we are going to be. We will grow and change no matter what though out carers but the first year is really setting up for the future.

Some questions for you:

How do you see yourself setting up your classroom the first couple of weeks?

Do you think you can have fun, but also have control of your students?

Do you think visual items like the Redbox above helps students?

What are some important ideas, or concepts you are going to bring into your first year of teaching? (Ex: having a mentor, discipline policies)

Getting Work Done Outside the Classroom

Remember being in junior high or high school and hating the homework assignments that we had to do? After having a class where we just learned, why have extra work for us to do at home? This feeling is still very evident in schools today and students are still lethargic when it comes to completing assignments outside the classroom. As a student, I understand the annoyance of having to do more work at home but as a teacher I also understand that students need to have work to do when not in class.

What makes homework such a polarizing topic is its value. Are students actually building on the knowledge learned in class or is it just busy work? Are the assignments valid? Reliable? Below are a few sites which pose both sides of the argument for the value of homework.

Mind Shift

Occupy Theory

As future educators it our responsibility to ensure that the homework we assign is encouraging students to think more about what was taught in class but not taking away from other things. Many parents argue that their kids are drained by the end of the school day and shouldn’t have heavy workloads to complete at home. There must be an alternative or compromise that educators and parents can come to agree to.

It is evident that students need homework in order to learn how to be responsible and to deepen their knowledge of the subject matter, but how do we find the balance of reliable assignments while not overloading the students? Along with that, why do you think students are so reluctant to do homework? Think back to your days in junior high or high school and recall your feelings towards homework.

Here are a couple alternatives to homework that can be used in the classroom.

Alternative 1

Alternative 2

The Flipped Classroom

The flipped classroom is a great way to incorporate media into the classroom.  In a flipped classroom, students watch prerecorded lectures or videos suggested by the instructor.  This allows Flipped Classroom Infographicthe teacher to devote more time to discussions, in class projects, group work, and helping struggling students.  There are many advantages to the flipped classroom, but there are also many drawbacks to this system.  Students may not have access to the internet at home, they may not even watch the videos before coming to class, and the school might not have the technology to support this classroom style.

I think that a flipped classroom is an interesting idea for an English classroom because you can devote the time that you would have to lectures on other things, such as projects to help students make meaning, and discussions.  I have personally never been part of a flipped classroom, but I think it would be interesting to experiment with this concept.  You could include book talks, vocab lessons, and you could include questions that students should keep in mind while they are working through a complex text, or writing a paper.

What do you think are the drawbacks of having a flipped classroom?

Would you ever have a flipped classroom, why or why not?

Here are some resources of flipped classrooms.

5 Best Practices for the Flipped Classroom

Flipping the Classroom

LGBT Inclusive Classrooms

More than 10,000 children between the ages of 13 and 17 are LGBT.

One of the biggest struggles I had in high school was figuring out my sexuality. I didn’t have much of a support system. In fact, according to the Human Rights Campaign, 26% of LGBT youth say that their biggest problems are not feeling accepted by their family, trouble at school/bullying, and the fear of being out and open about their sexuality. When kids feel like they are alone and that there is no one there to help them, it affects their grades – my grades dipped around the time I struggling to accept myself. Its hard to try and juggle school alone, but add coming to terms with one’s sexuality that is outside of the norm? It makes being a teenager that much harder.

A part of this problem is the lack of literature featuring LGBT youth as the main protagonist in a story as well as the curriculum circling mainly around dead white guys. As teachers we have a duty to help every single one of our students to do well in school and to shape them into the people we know they are capable of being. One way to do this is by incorporating more LGBT-Inclusive Curriculum.  Create an environment where students are not afraid to be themselves – avoid bias and negative language towards the LGBT community (both teachers AND students). Teach more books that either have a protagonist that is LGBT or even a book that has a positive attitude towards the LGBT youth/community. A little bit goes a long way.

Here is a short list of texts that can be taught at a 9-12 grade level:

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Keeping You a Secret by Julie Ann Peters

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kristin Cronn-Mills

Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

This is just a few of the many books out there than can be included in your curriculum or classroom library.

Below are links to guide you in creating a more LGBT-Inclusive Curriculum

Spend Money to Make Money

As most of us begin a new semester in college, many of us will be consumed with the amount of money it costs us to attend.  Each new semester, I can’t help but feel a little bit depressed at first as I buy all of the books, pay for the classes, pay for the supplies, not to mention, the gas it takes me to commute.  Rather than gas, many students’ have to pay for room and board.  All of these numbers get thrown at us, only to build up year after year, until finally, we graduate and can begin paying them back.  Most of us get to start our career tens of thousands in debt and it wasn’t our choice.  If we want to pursue our dreams, many of us HAVE to attend college to do so.  I am sick of the debt piling up as I try to get an education.  I am sick of colleges/universities continually raising the cost to attend school and get an education.  The high cost unfortunately limits the possibility for many people to attend school.  It’s not fair and it’s not right.  I think there needs to be an incentive for students that do well to offset the cost of their college.  What do you think?  Maybe getting the debt cut in half if a student’s grades reflect high honors work?  What kind of incentives can the college, state, or even the federal government do to make college worth it.  There are two issues to think about… 1.) How do we make it more possible for people that can’t afford college to still get an education? 2.) How do we make college worth it for those that do attend?  Many of my friends and my friends’ friends have discussed that had they had the chance to do it over again, they would have never went to college, or would have stopped at their associate’s degree and not because of the time and effort one must put into college, but because they are so far in debt at the start of a career, they are no better off than if they had not gone to college and worked a minimum wage job.  How do you feel about this and what are your opinions on this specific outlook?

The Classroom Library!

On my last day of block last semester my mentor teacher gave me my first book for my classroom library, The Cellar, by Natasha Preston (which I highly recommend for you thriller lovers). After that I spent the whole summer going to used book stores in search of young adult novels to put into my classroom library. I grabbed the Harry Potter Series, The Perks of Being A Wallflower, and any John Green book I could find, but then it hit me, most of my selections where books I might be only interested in. I barely thought about my future students and there reading interests. So, I decided to research classroom libraries to find out how other teachers have created classroom libraries that all students can benefit from.

What I’ve learned

  •  Building your classroom library can be expensive. Used book stores and garage sales will have books for low prices!
  • Get to know your students and what they are interested in reading! At the beginning of each year give your students a reader inventory sheet.
  • Implement a check-out system. You can simply do this with a note card! I would suggest laminating the cover of your books as well!
  • Organize your shelves! You want your students to find what they are looking for.
  • Keep update with the newest Y.A. trends!
  • Your book choice may be challenged by the school, or a parent. You should also read the books you put on your shelf, so you can defend it if needed!
  • Cover your shelves with books that expand across different genres, reading level, themes, and interests! Don’t just Y.A. novels on your shelf, there are some students who want to read the classics!

Some questions for you!

  • How will you set up your classroom library?
  • What books will definitely go in your library?
  • How can teachers find ways to get books cheap?
  • How will you organize/set up your library?
  • What else do teachers need to keep in mind when selecting books?

If you’re doubting the importance of a classroom library check out this cool fact! According to the Australian School Library Association, “The policy of having large classroom libraries was found to be ‘one of the most important differential policies between high-scoring and low-scoring countries'”

Creating your own classroom library can help your students succeed!

Fun sites about creating classroom libraries and more!

Texas Textbook Controversy

Texas has a long history of being the state where many decisions are made over what content and materials are placed into textbooks which are used throughout the United States. Having the Texas State Board of Education determine that your textbook will be used in their classrooms and schools across the state means millions of dollars to textbook publishers, which means that what Texas wants in their textbooks becomes what other states get in theirs. One of my favorite education documentaries in the past few years is The Revisionaries, which examines the power that the Texas Board of Education has over textbook publishers and content. It’s well worth watching for any education student.

Yet, Texas textbooks are not without controversy. The latest controversy over the content of textbooks in Texas came last week when a Coby Burren, a freshman at a suburban Houston, Texas school texted his mother, Roni Dean-Burren, a shot of one of the pages in his geography textbook. In it, publisher McGraw-Hill refer to the Africans brought to the United States between the 1500s and 1800s as “workers” and not slaves. The image and the reference in the textbook to slaves being immigrants and workers blew up on social media, causing McGraw-Hill to release an apology and make changes to the textbook.

T06textbook-web-blog427he image and the story have been covered by various media outlets across the United States, including the New York Times and the Washington Post.

Although McGraw-Hill issued an apology, this latest textbook controversy brings up some important points about who has control over what is taught in schools. The latest controversy in Texas comes after a series of controversies around the textbooks in the state. It raises a number of questions: Who should have control of purchasing textbooks–the schools? the district? the state? What should be taught in school? How are those decisions made? How much power should textbook publishers have over curriculum? How much power should law makers have over curriculum? Who, ultimately, should be deciding what happens in the classroom? Thoughts?

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