Wordless Wednesday 2/27: Group Poetry Annotation

6:00 AM Sarah Koves 0 Comments

Wordless Wednesday is a quick post with just a picture from my classroom, a short explanation, and a question for you, my readers.
Poetry can be a struggle for some students while others drink it in. When I first start poetry, I want my students to practice understanding and analyzing the poem. Because it is a new skill, we practice in groups.

Here are some examples of poem analysis that students have completed in groups.

They used colors to annotate as they read it together.

Chart paper and printed copies of the poem made them poster-sized.

Do you have a fun idea to introduce poetry?

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Why I Love Write About

6:00 AM Sarah Koves 0 Comments

I require daily writing from my students in English classes. It is one of the best ways to have students improve there writing according to Writing Next, a federal research report. I know that this is really good for them, but it can be very time-consuming to grade, review, and give feedback on. Last year I discovered a solution that has significantly reduced the amount of time I spend dealing with journals, writing into the day, whatever you want to call it. Write About has changed the way I handle this daily writing. 

For years I had each of my students get a single-subject notebook; one of the twenty-five cent ones from the store. We would then diligently write every day with different length requirements for different grades. They were cumbersome to store, tedious to grade and respond to, and almost impossible to haul home on the weekends. I would find myself either spending an extra two hours at work a week if I collected a different class each week, or a half a day on the weekend if I chose to collect all classes at once. When my previous school went one to one with Chromebooks, I had to find a better solution.

This post contains affiliate links, and I will be compensated by the company at no cost to you if you sign up through my links. The opinions here are 100% mine!

I discovered Write About last year during the Great Read Aloud when all the participants received free access to the site to use with their classes. It took a bit of trial and error the first couple weeks to get students on the site and able to use it. As we got more adept at using it, the students discovered a few ”tricks” of their own that I had to keep an eye out for. I am now using it with my juniors for the second year in a row and am thrilled with the user experiences and ease of assessing for me.

Setbacks and Pitfalls

One of the things you have to watch for on this is student copy and pasting text into their draft in order for it to look like they have written or written more than they actually have. I had several students copy and paste the entire text of a movie script into their post. It was pretty clear something was going on when their words for the month skyrocketed that one day; I also don’t know if they think I am smart enough to catch such silliness. However, it was pretty easy to see they had a big spike in the number of words written; I wish that I had been able to just remove the post from their total, but that is not an option. Another fun one the students tried is to paste one post over and over. Again, they thought they outsmart me, but it was very obvious when I pulled up their writing page to comment and give feedback (two great features of the site) and I was reading the same writing over and over. Again, I wish that I had been able to remove duplicates, but I couldn’t, so I just didn’t put their grade in until they met with me, logged in, and corrected the problem. It isn’t enough to turn students loose to write and check the graphs at the end of the month. You have to be giving them feedback and comments.


My students get three or four grades for this part of their overall score each month. My courses are set up with category weights so that 10% of the final grade is the daily writing. Ten percent may seem like a lot, but I put that value on it because the daily practice is so important to their growth as a writer. I give students grades on word count, published posts, and drafts. If we are using commenting in the course, there is also a score for comments. Remember that I am spot checking students writing through feedback and comments. I tell students that they need 300 words a day; this is about 2 full paragraphs, and Write About will tell you the average words per post for each month, so that is what I score that out of and it is the largest portion of the grade. I then gave them credit for writing every day through published posts and drafts. Each of these I make worth 10 points. Finally, if I am requiring commenting, I will make those each worth 10 points. All of these items are presented to the teacher on the Student Statistics page. I simply scroll through the students on the first of every month and put the totals down for the previous month. On a normal month it looks like this:
October Average Words /300
October Draft Posts /120
October Published Posts /40
October Comments /40


It is fairly easy to give feedback to students on their drafts and published posts in Write About. You can filter the writing by drafts or published posts or you can filter by the individual student. I try to go in a rotation and give every student comment or feedback before I start the list over. There is not, sadly, an easy way to see who you have given feedback too, but if you go in order, you can make sure everyone gets feedback.

You can also comment on published posts. When I taught full-year English classes, this is what I added in the second semester. This allowed students to read other people’s writing and have an authentic reader. Every Friday we publish a post and then comment on someone else’s with a substantial and useful comment. This took some pre-teaching, so students could make comments on other people’s writing. After some practice with commenting, students had another layer of feedback on their daily writing.

At the start of each term, I instruct my students to install Grammarly on their Chrome browser. This allows them to run this impressive grammar and spell check right in their Write About posts. It will also track their errors and send them weekly emails with their stats and common errors. It has improved the quality of their daily writing significantly.

Paper Prewriting
One of my favorite ways to use Write About is for the prewriting or paragraphs. We are currently working on research papers and as their daily warm-up writing for several days; I had students write on different parts of their research paper topic. Not only were they able to count it as their daily writing, but they were also able to make a start on the draft of their paper. When it came time to start our draft, students could log in an go straight to their drafts in Write About and copy them directly into their draft.

I recommend that you try Write About today!

Wordless Wednesday 2/20: Movie Notes

6:00 AM Sarah Koves 0 Comments

Wordless Wednesday is a quick post with just a picture from my classroom, a short explanation, and a question for you, my readers.
There are often times that I show videos or movies in my social studies classes. However, many of the really good history movies and videos do not have readily available questions or quizzes for teachers.

When I do not have a special handout for the video, we cite it and analyze the argument. This time I did not even have a handout. I simply wrote on the board and away we went.

What is your go-to activity for movie or video viewing?

This post contains affiliate links, and I will be compensated by the company at no cost to you if you purchase through my links. The opinions here are 100% mine!


Saturday Morning Coffee: All My Favorite Printables

6:00 AM Sarah Koves 0 Comments

Saturday mornings are the only quiet time I get to myself most weeks, and I save all the interesting reads that I find online for that time.  Today I wanted to share some of my favorite free printables that I have discovered.  I hope that you find something that will help make your day more enjoyable and your week more organized.

This post contains affiliate links, and I will be compensated by the company at no cost to you if you purchase through my links. The opinions here are 100% mine! 

1. Getting Organized for School from Samisill Cop.
This whole post is full of ideas to get everything organized for your kids.  I wish I would have done this years ago.  My favorite printable is the monthly calendars with the lines at the bottom.

2.  Printable Library from Emily Ley
Pretty much everything made by Emily Ley is AMAZING.  I have several of her pens and paperclips, which I love.  Her printable library does require that you sign up with an email, but it is worth it because she has so many checklists; my favorite is the spring cleaning one.  I suggest you check out her planners while you are there.

Academic Agenda, Daily or Weekly by Emily Ley

3.  Lesson Plan Template from Mrs. Jones' Creation Station
This is an adorable lesson plan template that you can type into.  Again, you have to have an email to get the printable.  I always like experimenting with new lesson plan templates, especially when I can type into them.

4.  Teacher Self Care from Sweet Sweet Primary
Sweet Sweet Primary created a calendar for teacher self-care.  Now it is decorated for October, but the list of self-care items on it is ALWAYS important and a good checklist for anyone.

5.  Downloads from Inkwell Press Productivity Co.
Inkwell Press' collection of printables is one of my favorites.  They have a packing list, a road trip list, a goal setting sheet, and a list of chores.  You will also need an email to sign up, but that is pretty standard.  They also have a 5 Minutes to Peak Productivity printable available through their podcast.

6.  Erin Condren Cards
Valentine's Day, Christmas, Mother's Day, Easter, and Father's Day cards all for free on the Erin Condren website.  My girls loved the coloring pages sampler too.

7.  Daily To-Do List from Simple as That
I should have had this one-pager for every one of those eleven snow days I had in January and early February because I probably would have felt much more productive.  There are spots for your top priorities, your events, and your meals.

8.  Banner Letters from Shanty-2-Chic
Each letter is a separate page, so no having to find the page number to print just the letters that you want.  I used this several years ago for family pictures.  You can also print them on colored paper or cardstock for an added brightness.

9.  Weekly Meal Planner from Neat House Sweet Home
When my girls start complaining that I am not cooking enough, I print a couple of these and create a plan for the following weeks.  With our busy schedules, take-out can sometimes become a staple.  This printable (which does require an email to access) has not only a meal plan but also a shopping list, which is handy if you are like me and always forget that one ingredient you do no have on hand.

10.  Yearly Calendar from Calendarpedia
Print this poster size on several sheets of cardstock using Adobe and you can plan anything for the whole year at once.  The rainbow colors and layout are perfect for year-long planning.  My office has one for my blog and my classroom has one for each class.

Do you have any go-to sites for printables that you love?

Wordless Wednesday 2/13: Living History

6:00 AM Sarah Koves 0 Comments

Wordless Wednesday is a quick post with just a picture from my classroom, a short explanation, and a question for you, my readers.
I am a history major and a part-time history teacher, so I relish museum visits. However, it is the history on my bucketlist that makes me really happy.

I remember watching the Berlin Wall fall as a child on TV. I have always wanted to see a piece of it, but I had no idea there was one so close at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids.

Someday I will travel to New York City to see the 9/11 Museum and all the other historical sites, but for now, I am content to know that I saw a remnant of the World Trade Center.

Do you have a favorite museum or piece of history that you want to see?

This post contains affiliate links, and I will be compensated by the company at no cost to you if you purchase through my links. The opinions here are 100% mine!


The Best Books I Read in 2018

6:00 AM Sarah Koves 0 Comments

I didn’t meet my reading goal in 2018, but I got pretty close. In 2017 I set a goal to read an average of a book a week, and I surpassed that and was very proud of myself; plus it gave me great bragging rights.  2018 did not start out as a reading year.  I did not read as much during the spring semester or summer as I would have hoped, but I made up for during the fall.   This is especially interesting because I started a new teaching position in the fall.  My books ranged from romance to engaging nonfiction.  I think the reason I did not read as much as I did in the past during the first half of 2018 is that I was under a lot of work stress, had established classroom reading routines with my students, and did not set a reading goal as a resolution for 2018.  It was not until I got to Halloween that I realized how close I was to have read a book a week, so I pushed ahead and make it more of a priority for what I had left of the year.  In addition, I saw a few breaks coming up and having to establish reading routines in my second-trimester classes would help me continue at the pace I had established.

This post contains affiliate links, and I will be compensated by the company at no cost to you if you purchase through my links. The opinions here are 100% mine! 

I only read four-four books in 2018.  Now, in the past, I would normally consider this a lofty accomplishment, but I did not for two reasons:
1) I have confidence I can do an average of a book a week
2) I now work with another teacher who reads significantly more than a book a week
My average for 2018 was about three-quarters of a book a week.  Now, I am aware that I could consider the book length and readability, but I focus on numbers.  I know that I can get closer to that goal in 2019.  As far as my new coworker, I was shocked when my students informed me how much she reads.  She has a very impressive classroom library although mine is quickly catching up thanks to a friend who moved from middle school to elementary.  I will probably not read as many books as this new coworker considering she does not work a second job or children, but it gives me something to aim for.

I really enjoyed both the shortest (What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast) and longest (The Lost Order) books that I read last year.  

Quick reads are always my go-to for breaks and long-weekends.  I have been listening to The Best of Both Worlds podcast by Laura since its inception, so it was exciting to finally pick up one of her books.  The time research that Laura does is so detailed, and she gives some great strategies for being more productive and successful.  Now, I am not a morning person, and I am not sure that ever will be, but it was a great read, regardless.

The Cotton Malone series by Steve Berry has been a favorite of mine for several years.  I am completely caught up on all the books currently published in the series, but I was excited to be approved to receive a preview copy of the next one.  These are very reminiscent of the Dan Brown books.  If anyone knows of a similar series, I am ready to engage in a new historical adventure.

On occasion, I will choose books by their popularity, but that does not happen that often.

The most popular book that I read in 2018 was A Walk to Remember. I watch this movie every time that it is on television, but the book is infinitely better (Is that not always the case?), and I was glad I finally picked it up.  It is classic Nicholas Sparks taking you on an emotional journey.

The least popular book I read was Where are my Children?  This one ended up on my list after reading Not Without My Daughter back in 2003 when I was student teaching.  Then I got a job in a town mentioned in that book, and I then had a wonderful friend get me a signed copy of the book by the daughter.  As a result, I wanted to learn more about international, parental kidnapping and stumbled upon Cassie‘s book.

Last, but not least, is the highest rated book I read: More Teacher Misery.  This is just a fun read if you are at each.  The author has collected outrageous stories from educators around the globe into this collection.  This is her second collection of such stories, and after the year that 2017-2018, I always appreciate a good laugh.

Other favorites from 2018 include:

Currently, I am reading Rise of Rocket Girls and it is taking me a little longer to get through than a normal book.  I am not sure if that is because I am tired this time of year (winter blues and all) or if it is because all the science and math technical information takes a lot of energy.  I know that I have fallen down quite a few Wikipedia rabbit holes while looking up background information.

What are you currently reading?

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