3 Strategies for Improving Grammar in Student Writing: Writing Strategies Book Study

5:00 AM Sarah Koves 0 Comments

Grammar has always been a writing topic that I hold dear, probably because I had such great grammar teachers in school. Grammar in student writing can be one of the most challenging elements to improve because so much about a students' grammar comes from learning to talk years before they enter our classrooms.

This post contains affiliate links, and I will be compensated by the company at no cost to you if you purchase through my links. 

I am not going to lie to you; I had a moment of sticker shock when I looked at this book because, on a teacher's salary, $36 is a lot to spend on a book.  However, this book is so jammed with great writing tips that it is worth every penny.

I have three strategies for you to try out with your students to improve grammar in their writing. 

 Please let me know how they work out for you in the comments below.
Does it sound like a book?

This strategy for me was a spin on something I already do.  I have my students put their papers in a text-to-speech application and listen to them being read.  

This strategy takes it one step further and asks students:

Do you hear or see anything that is more like everyday speech and not like what you see published in professional texts?

I really think this strategy is great because it works for all levels.
Create Complex Sentences

Even my high school students love to write in long strings of simple sentences, so this strategy was perfect for my classroom.  Jennifer even references a great book that I have read: Jeff Anderson's Mechanically Inclined, so I knew it was a juicy tip.

I usually precede this lesson with a No Red Ink lesson on subordinating conjunctions to help my students gain the language they need to look at their own writing.  A knowledge of dependent and independent clauses is also helpful when using this strategy.

This strategy has students look at combining sentences and adding more details or information at the start or end of a sentence.

Code Drafts

Revision is always a challenge for students, but having students read each other's writing and annotate it like they would a text for reading can be a powerful tool for students to make improvements through the revision process.


I also have two bonus tools for you as well.

Grammarly is a great online tool for helping students see the grammar in their writing.

Grammarly Writing Support

Teach sentence diagramming to students, so they can visually understand how sentences are put together.  Check out my entire collection of grammar resources, including the freebie below.

10 Daring Ways To Teach Frankenstein Like a Pirate

5:00 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.  With my theater experience, that idea made so much sense to me.  If I can get students excited about reading Frankenstein, hopefully, they will avoid a Frankenstein summary and read the whole text.  With that in mind as a goal, here are some ideas for the first two days of your Frankenstein lesson plans. 

 I have received complimentary products from Oriental Trading Company in exchange for this post. This post contains affiliate links, and I receive a commission at no cost to you should you choose to purchase.

I like to start the unit out with a big party day of food and fun.  It gets my students excited for learning, which makes the rest of the unit go so much smoother.  Now you can say it is a waste of time, but I have found that I actually spend less time trying to convince the students to read when we start off with a BANG.

10 Daring Ways To Teach Frankenstein Like a Pirate

Do not underestimate the power of Oriental Trading Company's Halloween store for teaching Frankenstein regardless of the time of year.

1. Get a fun handout tray

At the start of class, my students just pick up handouts for their notebooks off the front table.  During our Frankenstein unit, I use this adorable tray.  In addition to being adorable and fitting with our theme, it also allows a place for me to leave the extra copies during the unit.  The students appreciate being able to grab what they need easily.

10 Daring Ways To Teach Frankenstein Like a Pirate

When we are done with the unit, I can fold him back up flat to be stored for next year.  I am thinking about laminating him for next year.

2. Have students draw their own monsters

My high school students do NOT think of themselves as artists, but thanks to Art for Kids Hub they quickly change their tune.  I knew when I saw this image on Art for Kids Hub Instagram feed that I had to try it.  It was such an easy project and made for a great display in my classroom.

10 Daring Ways To Teach Frankenstein Like a Pirate

My students were so impressed with their own work, and the display got repeated compliments from visitors to my classroom.

10 Daring Ways To Teach Frankenstein Like a Pirate

These cute Frankenstein's monsters were worth the time.

10 Daring Ways To Teach Frankenstein Like a Pirate 10 Daring Ways To Teach Frankenstein Like a Pirate

3. Decorate Your Door

I have yet to replicate this fabulous door from Target Teachers, but I know it will be a fun project.

10 Daring Ways To Teach Frankenstein Like a Pirate

4. Get a monster head for your desk

I firmly believe that every teacher needs a head on his or her desk.  I used to have a great Mark Twain one until some kids dropped it, but I have replaced it with this ceramic Frankenstein's monster head.

10 Daring Ways To Teach Frankenstein Like a Pirate

I have thought about painting it, but I know I couldn't even do it justice.

5. Decorate Your Own Drink or Snack Cups

We like to start our kick-off class with snacks and drink, but first I have the students use pipe cleaners and googly eyes to turn their plain green cups into Frankenstein's monster.

10 Daring Ways To Teach Frankenstein Like a Pirate

10 Daring Ways To Teach Frankenstein Like a Pirate

10 Daring Ways To Teach Frankenstein Like a Pirate

10 Daring Ways To Teach Frankenstein Like a Pirate

Even big kids like to drink from fun cups.  Who would have guessed?

6. Take Pre-Reading Book Photos

This haunted house backdrop was the buzz of all my classes when I put it up.  EVERY student wanted to know what it was for.  I was thrilled to see my ninth graders wanting to know how they can get in on this fun- "Join me senior year," I said.

10 Daring Ways To Teach Frankenstein Like a Pirate

As the students checked out their copies of Frankenstein they took photos or selfies with their book in front of this backdrop.  It was so much fun, and many of them shared them on social media afterward.

10 Daring Ways To Teach Frankenstein Like a Pirate

7. Do a Craftivity 

Once again, do not underestimate the power of a craft with high school students.  They do not often get to do them, so they REALLY REALLY appreciate being able to cut and glue.  These monsters made great decorations for the classroom as well.

10 Daring Ways To Teach Frankenstein Like a Pirate

I got these two kits from Oriental Trading Company, but you can easily have students make their own with craft paper.

10 Daring Ways To Teach Frankenstein Like a Pirate

10 Daring Ways To Teach Frankenstein Like a Pirate

10 Daring Ways To Teach Frankenstein Like a Pirate

10 Daring Ways To Teach Frankenstein Like a Pirate

8. Grab Some Reward Stickers

Another funny thing about high school students is they will work for stickers.  Grab some stickers and use them on assignments that you are checking for completeness.

10 Daring Ways To Teach Frankenstein Like a Pirate

9. Have a treat

Food is another fantastic motivator for teenagers.  We usually make a green monster snack when we start reading Frankenstein.  This year I made dipped marshmallows for them.

10 Daring Ways To Teach Frankenstein Like a Pirate

I decided to not make these in class because of the mess factor.  I did them at home the weekend before we threw our kick-off party.

10 Daring Ways To Teach Frankenstein Like a Pirate 10 Daring Ways To Teach Frankenstein Like a Pirate

I bought the large square marshmallows, but you can use regular ones.  I used bamboo skewers as the handle.

After melting white chocolate in a double boiler on the stove, I dipped each marshmallow.

Immediately after dipping, I put the top in chocolate sprinkles and shook green sugar on the to the rest of the marshmallow.

When the dried, I used icing to give them faces.

10 Daring Ways To Teach Frankenstein Like a Pirate

I didn't individually wrap them, but you could do that for the students to take home if you want to avoid sugaring them up in class.

9. Get a Victor and an Igor (even though there is no Igor in the book)

I also had these two guys in my classroom too.  The Victor Stand-Up was frequently being moved from area to area by the students; they all wanted to claim him.  Igor hung on the wall behind my desk- the side kick to the mad scientist (me).

10 Daring Ways To Teach Frankenstein Like a Pirate 10 Daring Ways To Teach Frankenstein Like a Pirate

I really think if I could turn my classroom in a spook house when teaching Frankenstein, I would.

10. Make It Your Own

Find something else to make your Frankenstein Kick-Off Party your own.  Social media is full of ideas that can be used to create excitement.

10 Daring Ways To Teach Frankenstein Like a Pirate 10 Daring Ways To Teach Frankenstein Like a Pirate

10 Daring Ways To Teach Frankenstein Like a Pirate 10 Daring Ways To Teach Frankenstein Like a Pirate

10 Daring Ways To Teach Frankenstein Like a Pirate

What great ideas to you have in your Frankenstein lesson plans?

5 Simple Cleaning and Organizing Strategies to Make You Happier

7:00 AM Sarah Koves 0 Comments

New Year, New You!  Isn't that what we are all working towards?  This year I am striving to be happier.  I am doing more things for me and learning to say no.  I am also working to reduce my stress.  One of my biggest stressors is keeping my home clean and organized.  If you too struggle with the stress of cleaning and organizing, I have five simple strategies to make it less stressful and increase your happiness.

 This post contains affiliate links.  Should you choose to join, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.  I received my set at 50% off regular price in exchange for this post, but all words and opinions are 100% my own.

Make Your Own Wrinkle Release Spray

As a teacher, I have to be well-dressed most days when I head to work (Fridays are jean day and less formal). To reduce my stress, I set my clothes out the night before.  However, since my clean laundry tends to sit in baskets for several days, my clothes are usually in less than pristine condition.  

Just to be clear: I DO NOT iron anything.  I own just one piece of clothing that MUST be iron, and my husband is kind enough to iron my linen pants for me several times a year.

This is why I have a beautiful relationship with wrinkle release spray; it allows me not stress about my clean laundry sitting in baskets for days and makes prepping my clothes for work stressful.
Less stress=More happiness in my house

However, this spray can be pricey, so I make my own.  It is simple and quick.

1/4 Cup of Fabric Softener
1 1/2 Cups of Water
Shake to Mix
Spray on Clothes and Pull out Wrinkles
Hang to Dry

I keep in a glass spray bottle that I got from Grove Collaborative.


Pitch It

As we have established, happiness for me come when I am less stressed.  Clutter in my house is a major stressor for three of the four of us.  Our youngest has not yet gotten on board with a clutter-free room.  This is why pitching the clutter is a happiness maker in our house.

If we no longer need it or use it, we get rid of it.  The items end up either in the trash or in our donation box.  The fewer stray items and more empty space in my home make me happy.

The current focus of my Pitch It campaign is the magazine baskets, yes we have multiple, that are overflowing.  Wish me luck.


Create a Cleaning Calendar

Several years ago I read a book called The Together Teacher, which talked about using a brain dump and master to-do list, so you have less to remember.  I found that this is not just good teacher advice, but it is great life advice. 

This is where my Google Calendar comes in.  I actually schedule my cleaning tasks on my calendar.  I love that I can set up cleaning tasks for certain days and have them repeat.

Some of my cleaning tasks on my calendar include:

Clean Downstairs Bathroom
Wash Mattress Pads
Vacuum Off Sofa
Dust Living Room
Declutter Bathroom Cabinets

Now I no longer have to remember when I last dusted, washed the windows, or laundered the curtains because my calendar lets me search if I want, but it reminds me if I don't.

The Google Calendar Mobile App also has a fabulous goal-setting feature, which is perfect for large projects.  I currently have my magazine project and cleaning out our junk room basement bedroom as goals.  My phone finds time in my schedule every week for me to work on these tasks.

Not only can I not worry about forgetting a cleaning task, but I can enjoy my time knowing that I have sections of time blocked out for my larger home projects.

Try a cleaning calendar, it is a stress-relief to just create it.


Enlist the Help of Others

If you family is anything like mine, they don't see cleaning or organizing projects that need to be done around the house.  However, this does NOT exempt them from having to help out.

I DO NOT consider my family helping out around the house the same thing as chores.  Chores are special projects that my kids can do for extra money (cleaning out the car is an example of a chore).  I have been telling them and my husband for years that helping out around the house is just part of being a family.

But how do I get them to help out if they don't see the projects?

I simply give them all tasks they can handle and no more than two at a time.

The 9-year-old is responsible for:

Unloading the Dishwasher
Feeding and Watering the Cat
Emptying Trash Baskets

The 16-year-old is responsible for:

Washing Laundry
Vacuuming the Upstairs
Matching Socks
Helping Fold Laundry

The Husband is responsible for:

Changing the Cat Litter
Meal Prep
Anything Involving Powertools
Heavy Lifting
Watering the Plants


Do you know what else makes me happier?  Not having to EVER shop for cleaning supplies, NEVER running out of my favorite products, and ALWAYS using effective natural cleaners.

I bet you want to know how I make this magic happen.

Subscribe to Grove Collaborative

All my home cleaning products I order online from Grove or make myself. 

Grove carries only the best natural cleaning products, which they ship right to your door.  The prices are better than in my small town grocery store, and they are always adding new products.  Every month I get my dishwasher tabs, toilet cleaner, face scrub, and drier sheets delivered right to my door.  They also have fabulous items for the home.

Grove is where I ordered this adorable Bubble Up Dish Scrubber.  (Currently $12.95)
How could you not be happy doing dishes with this?

This week my readers are eligible for a fabulous offer when the sign up for Grove Collaborative.

All new customers will receive $40 worth of products free with their first $20 order:

Mrs. Meyer's Holiday Hand Soap
Mrs. Meyer's Holiday Dish Soap

Mrs. Meyer's Hand Lotion

Grove Collaborative Cleaning Caddy
Grove Collaborative Walnut Scrubber Sponges

Shipping & VIP Trial

Existing customers will still receive a free Mrs. Meyer's Handsoap.

*Please note that they currently do not ship to Canada, Hawaii, or Alaska

I recently got out my Mrs. Meyer's peppermint dish and hand soap set.  It really does make me happier when I in the kitchen scrubbing the pans.

You too can save your sanity this new year by not worrying about running out of drier sheets.  You too can be happier this year by knowing that you are making healthy choices for your family and the environment.


 I hope you can add at least one of these strategies to your New Year routine.


How do you make yourself happier?

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