5 Tips for Back to School In Secondary

12:01 PM Sarah Koves 0 Comments

It is time to start thinking about heading back to school, and I hope these five tips will get you moving in the right direction.

Give students something creative to do on the first.  

Have a short set of directions on the board for students as they walk in so that you can greet them at the door.  

I have students in English 11 and AP psychology create collages about themselves to share with the class and me later in the week.  My other classes work on a collaborative art piece.

Avoid the syllabus like the plague.

Do anything but go over the syllabus.  The students have five or six other teachers reading them a list of rules or procedures, so dare to be different.

You can set expectations and model good behavior without reading students list off a piece of paper.  Plus, reading to students in this format is more insulting than informative.

If you must hand out the syllabus, have students read it that night and come back the next day with three questions they have about the syllabus or class.

Have students write something

Student writing establishes the culture of the classroom and moves beyond reading the syllabus; it makes students immediate participants in the class.  I also use these write to learn about my students from the get-go.

I always start my English classes with having students do their first journal write:

Why do we study English?

And discuss as a class.

You could have students write two truths and a lie to share with the class, which helps you learn about your students.  I also have used the prompt: What do you hope this class isn't?

Assign Seats

Assigned seats is a controversial topic for many secondary teachers, but I assign seats the first day of class.

I assign seats randomly as students walk in the door.  Finding their place on the chart that I display on the projector takes them a few minutes and gets their brains working.  

I also like that it mixes kids up, so if you have a new student they have a place they have to sit with other students, and it breaks up groups that might already know each other, which puts everyone on a more level playing field.

Mostly I assign seats for myself-selfish, I know.  I use assigned seats to learn students names, and they stay in the assigned seats through the first quarter.  Then, if they have proven worthy, they can sit where they would like.  Often, I have found, the students, because they are creatures of habit, stay in their original seat.  I explain all this to the students on the first day- that they have to sit there to help me out, and that they will be able to move in two months.

Give a homework assignment

Not a lot of classes give homework on the first day of school, so again, dare to be different.  It can be the syllabus questions I suggested above, but I start my Literary Boot Camp off with two stories to read for the next day.

Homework on day one doesn't mean that you can't keep building relationships, culture, and routines during that first week.  What it does do is show the students that they are here to work.


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Songs of Everealm Author Interview and Giveaway

3:30 AM Sarah Koves 0 Comments

Song of Sovereign (Songs of Everealm #1)
by J.D. Wright

Princess Sarita has everything. Loving parents, a castle fit for royalty, fine clothes, loyal friends, and an exciting job as a scholar of magic. At eighteen years of age, one might think that she would be content with her position. But one thing has always been missing from her life... full magic, itself.

When a strange old woman gave Sarita a secret spellbook as a child, her entire life was changed. The book contains spells, songs, and stories. But most of all, it provides a path to gaining full magic, the only thing that Sarita still needs to feel complete. And now, she has finally prepared to leave her home in search of the Stones of the Divine, the final ingredient she needs to gain magic.

Gabrielle has been known as the sister of a knight and best friend of the princess for as long as she can remember. Now an experienced healer's assistant, she is desperate to find her place and purpose in Junacave. An adventurous mission to help Sarita locate a mystical stone may be just the change in her life that she is looking for.

King Cassidy is still alone, but not for a lack of trying. His attempts to convince the Princess of Junacave to marry him over the past ten years have been for naught. And being twenty years old, with no heir, he is running out of time. If he can't win the heart of the princess, he may have to face a future without the love of his life.

Adventure, romance, and magic await as we travel through Everealm with royalty, wizards, fairies, and more, in the fantasy-romance Songs of Everealm, a five book series by J.D. Wright, author of the Everealm Series.

Note: Adult Content

Songs of Everealm Series is the second series set in the fantasy-filled Everealm. It begins eight years after the conclusion of the first series, the Everealm Series.

 I have received a complimentary copy of this book to review. The opinions here are 100% mine!  This post contains affiliate links.

Song of Sparrows (Songs of Everealm #2)

The journey across Everealm to find the magical stones has not come without its challenges. After being plagued by unwanted guests, disagreements, and accidents, Princess Sarita is beginning to wonder if her dream of gaining magic is a fantasy that can't come true. 

Along the way, new friends and rekindled sparks between old flames have caused quite a stir within the group. As a new wizard joins the effort and gives the princess a reason to continue, the quest for the next stone ensues...

As the sun rises over the ridge, our story continues into the Song of Sparrows!

Adult content. Intended for mature audiences.

While not books that I would use or recommend in my classroom, these were the perfect summer read for me on my deck while the girls swim.  Fantasy romance is one of my favorite genres, and The Songs of Everealm do not disappoint.  I am anxiously hoping for another book in the series as Princess Sarita is a wonderful heroine.

About the Author

Writing has always been a hobby of mine, beginning as a young child. It was a way to cope with losing my father at seven years of age. I started with poetry and was featured several times on the amazing poetry blog, Autumn Leaves, by Sondra Ball. My love for poetry soon led to writing songs in middle school and beyond, which I still do occasionally. Music has always been an important part of my existence, so writing songs came naturally to me. In high school, I started my own novel, however, life got in the way and I never finished it.

Fast forward many years later and I find myself married with three children, absorbed in my busy life with commitments to my family, work, school, church, and charities, among other things. One day I came across my old binder, with notes from my first novel, and it was with those notes that I conjured up the elusive Everealm.

I write to please readers such as myself, who have a love for fantasy and romance, but like a little danger and sex in their reading. I wrote the book with a mature audience in mind, who can appreciate a hearty imaginary world with magic and the unknown, but want more than fluffy love stories with wizards in them. They want the romance, magic, and danger, all wrapped into one.

Author Links:

I had a chance to talk with J.D. about her writing process.  Her favorite authors and movies are some of my favorites, so I know we would get on splendidly.

How do you handle writer’s block?
I tend to listen to music and binge read when I need to get back into the writing mood. Music helps me to focus and reading inspires me to continue telling my own stories. Depending on my mood, I might binge watch a show or a few movies on Netflix, too. If you haven’t noticed, I do a lot of binging. It’s probably due to my over-ambitious personality.
What advice do you have for young/student writers?
I recommend writing to please yourself and telling the story as you would want to read it. Not everyone will like your story and that’s alright. You’ll find like-minded readers who do and those will become your target readers. There is an audience for every author. You’ll eventually find yours.

Explain your revision process.
I don’t really do a lot of revisions. Mostly, it’s because I write with a heavy outline so I know where the story is going long before I begin to write it. The outline, however, I do revise several times until I get it finished. Once I’ve finished writing, my editing process consists of 1-2 re-reads, listening via text-to-speech, run-through with the proofreader, and a final reading on my kindle (mostly to check for formatting).
What book has influenced you the most? Why?
I wish I could say that there was one book in particular that has influenced me but there hasn’t been. Strangely enough, my favorite book is a Little House on the Prairie novel from childhood. Because I read many different genres, I tend to draw inspiration from all of them in some form or another. I also watch a lot of movies and tend to write my scenes as I see them play out in my head. So if anything, I might be more influenced by my favorite movies: Love Actually, Steel Magnolias, Sweet Home Alabama, & Pearl Harbor. Yes, I know. Sappy woman movies… Guilty, as charged.


What's In My Teacher Bag and Giveaway

3:30 AM Sarah Koves 0 Comments

A teacher's bag is the most important accessory in my book.  I have one style that I adore because it holds everything I need, is big enough to hold the mountains of work, keeps me organized at home, school, and on the go.

Plus, a group of us are giving away a new teacher bag at the end of this post.
This post contains affiliate links which will provide a small commission to me at no cost to you if you choose to purchase.

This photo is of my teacher bag from last year.  I use the same style of bag from Thirty-One every year, but sometimes I get a new print.

I liked this print because it was neutral and black, which meant that it didn't show a lot of dirt on the outside from having to be set down on floors at dance or the gym or from being carted out to the football field for track or soccer practices.

I also love how many pockets it has and how the straps are long enough for my shoulder or to carry by hand.


Now for what I keep in my teacher bag.

I have a pencil case and a set of pens/highlighters that I keep in this pencil case just for my teacher bag.  It is my on-the-go pen set.  This way I always have pens, pencils, and highlighters that I love when working on-the-go.

Those Post-it Flag Highlighters are some of my favorites.  It makes marking up a text so simple.

Sharpie fine points are perfect for writing; they are my item of choice for sticky notes.

This past year I discovered gel highlighters; I think these will be the kind I use in books from now on.  They are like a crayon and don't bleed through the paper.  I received my set as a gift, but I am ordering another set from Amazon before school starts.

Finally, my pen of choice for grading: Pilot G2.  This teal one is so cute with the detail design.  I am saving up for the big set for fall, not that I need more pens.

I also keep a container with an assortment of binder and paper clips in my teacher bag.  I keep a couple of different sizes for separating graded papers, my teaching notes, handouts to copy, and ungraded work.

These little circular paper clips are my favorites. I have them in silver and copper colored.

I have a sticky note pad and some flags for marking books and readings.  This way I always have some place to make a note for a lesson or discussion topic that I want to remember regardless of where I am working.

My Erin Condren Life Planner doesn't permanently live in my school bag, but it does spend a fair amount of time there.  I use my phone for a lot of my planning, but every week I write everything down in my planner on Sunday evening, so I don't forget anything for the upcoming week.

The last item that I always keep in my teacher bag is a lined notebook.  You can get these for twenty cents at the local retailer, grab cute ones from discount stores, or design your own like I did here using Shutterfly.  

It has all my favorite people (and pets) on the cover.  Making to-do lists is always a little bit easier with a fun notebook to keep them in.

Now it is time to enter to win your own Thirty-One Teacher Bag.

Prize: Thirty-One Teacher's Bag

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Saturday Morning Coffee

4:30 AM Sarah Koves 0 Comments

This Saturday is quiet: husband has left for work, Potumus is at her dad's for the weekend, and Schmurtz is still sleeping.  This means a lot of quiet work and reading time for me.  I have so many great reads for you that I had a hard time deciding which ones to share this week.

1. It isn't any secret that I adore Facebook.  Yes, I know it is now considered old school, but there are tons of great resources for teachers.  Check out 5 Facebook Hacks for Teachers for tips.

2. Summer is half over, but back to school is coming faster than anyone in my house likes to admit.  I loved 10 Ways to Prepare Your Teenager for Back to School.

3. My teacher bestie is the English teacher across the hall from me.  We are wonderful individually, but we are even better together- just ask the two guys that make up our work crew.  That is why I love 8 Reasons Why You Need a Teacher Bestie.

4.  We have had two staff members leave this year, which has made me think about what is the best next move for my career.  I loved Teachers Being Loyal May Cost You Your Professional Career.  We must take care of ourselves.

5. Last year our high school spent a lot of time and energy working on creating a positive school culture and PBIS, so when I saw 20 Positive Behavior Rewards That Aren't Food, I knew this was a post to be shared.

6. I have created Summer Schedules in the past, but this summer has been a free-for-all.  I really loved our schedule, but I also have enjoyed this summer A LOT.

7.  AP exams require ink for the written responses, which I prefer, so when Kidpeople Classroom posted about how she avoids pencils in her elementary classroom in the post No More Pencils I nodded all the way through it.  I never thought about her why #3, but it makes a lot of sense.

8. With a soon-to-be high school sophmore and the whole eleventh grade in my room next year, 5 Daily Habits that Will Boost Your GPA is the perfect way to start the year.

9. I am in love with B's Book Love's Harry Potter Classroom.  I love my color scheme, but this makes me was to Hogwarts My Classroom.

10. Next year I want to try Fifth in the Middle's Assignment Cover Slips.

Freebie Friday: Spelling/Vocabulary Word List Form

5:00 AM Sarah Koves 0 Comments

Who doesn't love a freebie?  Today I am featuring a revision on one of my most popular freebies.  I hope that you find it as useful as I do and love the revision so much that you download it and leave me some love.

When I taught middle school, we used hardcover spelling books with activities for every day of the week.  We had only a classroom set of the spelling books, which meant that I had to type and copy the lists.  However, I quickly came up with a much better idea that gave the students practice with their words.

Now, this won't save paper, but I had students complete all their spelling activities on the same piece of paper, so that made it a little more environmentally/copy count friendly.  You could also copy two on a page to save paper.

Every Monday, instead of just handing out a copy of the spelling list, I used these forms ( I made several 100 of them each month and stored them in a basket, so I never ran out) to have students copy their spelling words from the book on to this form.  The process of reading and writing the words helped commit them to long-term memory.

Students could either trade lists with a neighbor to check that the spelling was accurate, or you could check the list yourself as the students finish copying.

There are also blank lines for the students to rewrite the words three more times.

Check out all my other Freebie Posts

10 Items to Teach Shakespeare Like a Pirate

11:43 AM Sarah Koves 0 Comments

Dave Burgess has a whole section in his book Teach Like a Pirate that talks about setting the stage for a unit.  I was a theatre minor in college and spent many hours on stages, so this made a lot of sense to me.  In this section, he talks about interior design, costumes, and props.  A Midsummer Night's Dream is the perfect opportunity for me to put these ideas into practice this coming year.  I have been going one step further and adding a craftivity too.

 I have received complimentary products from Oriental Trading Company in exchange for this post. This post contains affliate links, and I recieve a comission at no cost to you shoudl you choose to purchase.

I love Teach Like a Pirate, and since reading it last summer, I have worked hard at incorporating some of the suggestions into my classroom. I started with my AP Literature class and Frankenstein: we threw a Frankenstein party. This year I want to try it with Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, and again Oriental Trading Company is going to help.


The night before we start I am going to set up my room.

A Midsummer Night's Dream

The Enchanted Forrest Scene Setter with go in my reading nook. At 4ft by 30 ft this backdrop, when adhered to the wall a few feet up, will make the perfect backdrop for acting out scenes and for still-life photographs. We will also use it for our pre-reading book selfies.


A Midsummer Night's Dream

The chairs and table from my reading nook will be packed up and temporarily moved to our book room. Pine Tree Joined Cutouts and 3D Tree Stumps will replace them. I am thinking three trees and a stump or two. I am also considering having students make cone trees decorated as the four main characters to add to our forest.

A Midsummer Night's Dream

Students will have their choice of Midsummer Wear

I plan to start by buying a bunch of bed sheets at the resale shop. I might try and get the hospital to donate some white ones too. These will serve as costumes for the Greek characters when tied toga style.

A Midsummer Night's Dream

Laurel Leaf Headbands for the four young lovers. I have even thought about coloring them to distinguish between the girls, Hermia and Helena, as they are often confused.

A Midsummer Night's Dream

Prism Crowns for the king and queen of the fairies and the Greek rulers with different colors consistently representing the characters to help distinguish among them. It is nice since the set comes with four colors.

A Midsummer Night's Dream

Mini Star Wands for all of the fairies.


Spider Fairy Wings for the four fairy servants of Bottom and Titania.

A Midsummer Night's Dream

I also have Roman Swords for Lysander and Demetrius.

I just don't know what to do for Puck and the Acting Company. I would welcome suggestions for props or costumes to get for them.

Just the idea of dressing up and having pictures taken in the forest is exciting, but we will also use the costume pieces for our reading of A Midsummer Night's Dream and our still-life pictures of character relationships.


The last activity for the hour will be to draw a fairy, which we will put on display. Art Hub for Kids is the perfect Youtube channel for art in the classroom because his videos are easy to follow, and they don't take much time.


All of this will happen before we even open the text.  I print my students' copies of A Midsummer Night's Dream, so they can annotate and summarize as we share the text orally.  I print them from a free online PDF.  The pdf is 75 pages, but I reduce it to 19 by printing two pages on one side and then printing it two sides; this way four pages end up on one piece of paper.

I also have several products for teaching A Midsummer Night's Dream, and all of them have been recently redone.



How do you Teach Like a Pirate in your classroom?

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