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How to Teach Grammar, Spelling, & Punctuation in the Language of Teens

How to Teach Grammar, Spelling, & Punctuation in the Language of Teens

I used the Daily Oral Language sentences for grammar, punctuation, and spelling practice in my classroom for years as bellwork. I saw a solid improvement in students’ everyday writing. The short morning lessons paid off and translated well to the standardized testing that the students would take during the year too. Even though I felt this method was very effective I have to admit it was fairly boring for both me and the students. I figured there had to be a better way!

In my quest I came across an article from the Los Angeles Times, about the effects of texting on the grammar skills in tween/teens:

YSK, teens 2 fluent in TXT

This particular quote caught my eye:
“Basically, kids aren’t able to “code switch” — shift between standard grammar and the abbreviations used in text messages, Sundar said. Those abbreviations have essentially become the words for them.

Adults not raised on text-friendly abbreviations in their formative years are able to shift between formal and informal language, Sundar said. Kids consuming a steady diet of “textual adaptations” aren’t.”

We all know that teens use “text speak” to communicate their ideas in the minimum of characters used. This wreaks havoc on conventional grammar, spelling, and punctuation! It is sometimes painful to read! Sadly teens are allowing this “text speak” to sneak into their everyday writing in the classroom. Students need to learn proper writing conventions for application to the real working world. How can we help our students learn to “code switch” so that they can utilize the convenience of texting but still be able to use the proper conventions of grammar, spelling, and punctuation?

I decided to combine the DOL type practice with “text speak”. This way students get to do the practice in a way that seems more interesting and practical to them, in their “language” so to speak. At the same time they are learning that even though “text speak” has its place in casual texting conversations, conventional writing rules need to be applied in the school/work world situations. It was the best of both worlds!

The set up is the same that I used for DOL, approximately 2 sentences per day for bellwork. I have a weekly sheet with 10 sentences written in “text talk” that need to be corrected using the proper writing conventions. Each morning as bellwork the student will correct 2 sentences on their own and then as a class, we go over them as part of the morning routine.

For example:
Passage: n Aug he didnt nvr do gud

Answer: He didn’t do well in August.

As you can see it does look like some kind of Alien language! To tweens and teens, it is their language and a challenge to translate into proper English. It is almost like a puzzle to them to use the familiar text speak to get it back to regular English. It also reinforces the idea that their “text speak” is a valid form of communication and really should be acceptable among friends and casual acquaintances via texting but it is not appropriate for regular writing in school or most importantly, in the working world. This helps to clarify the difference between the two.

Try out a free sample here:

If you are looking for a practical, interesting, and dare I say, FUN way to give your middle/high school students some grammar, punctuation, and spelling practice, check out Alien Text Talk. The full product can be purchased by the quarter, the semester, or for an entire year! Each download includes a printable format, an interactive notebook format, or a digital format to use in Google Drive™!


Adults Find Standardized Tests a Challenge!

Adults Find Standardized Tests a Challenge!

I came across a very interesting article and I think it is worth reading for everyone, not just educators. Actually maybe even more so for non-educators!

 

 

 

When an adult took standardized tests forced on kids.

 

 

I’d love to see a requirement of a passing score of all school board members, administrators and most of all, politicians on any test that they want to impose on any student. I bet we’d see a drastic reduction in standardized testing and a true understanding of what “teaching to the test” really means!

 

Thoughts?

The Answer to Lack of Social Studies Instruction More Tests?

The Answer to Lack of Social Studies Instruction More Tests?

I read a story in the Omaha World-Herald, called Teachers “Say Social Studies Suffers”, and it has me has me riled up.

As I was reading I totally agreed with the thoughts that Social Studies is being put on the back burner to focus more on the numerous amount of state testing that is done. I also agree wholeheartedly with the dire ramifications this will have on the next generation of Americans and what that means to the citizenship of our country.

Then I hit this paragraph, “Several board members agreed that social studies, which includes the study of history and geography, are being crowded out of the classroom. But the only way to put them on a level playing field with math and reading would be to require a state social studies test.”


Really? The answer to the problem is to throw more state testing at the students and teachers? Really?

Teachers and students are already so overwhelmed with state/standardized testing that true teaching and creativity is being lost!

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 and the Every Child Succeeds Act of 2015, with the excessive focus on testing has depleted the schools of true learning. Teachers are so focused on meeting those test goals and focusing only on those narrowed skills that they don’t have the time to really teach and let students use their minds, imagination, and creativity.

Most states have added the Common Core Standards or standards that are similar but with a different name, creates a whole new dimension to the paperwork and hoops that teachers need to jump through. From various blogs and forums I read I see post after post of exasperated teachers that simply just want to teach again. They are so fed up with the testing and standards that are supposed to “fix” the system!

Also, in a climate of more and more budget cuts, schools simply can’t afford to spend on all this testing. Testing students cost a fortune for school districts (meaning YOU the taxpayer!)! Wouldn’t the money be better spent on additional teachers and smaller class sizes?


These educational bureaucrats are as messed up as Congress is. Sadly, it is the future generations of Americans that will pay for it. As an educator that upsets me, but as a parent that makes me very angry! I am sick and tired of these so-called “experts” stealing my children’s learning opportunities. How many of them have actually stood in front of a classroom for a school year and worked with children? It is outrageous!

The most successful teaching years I have experienced were when I had a principal with the philosophy that as college-educated certified teachers we were qualified to teach. Unless he saw a problem he stepped back and let us do our job as we saw fit. He knew that we knew these kids better than any administrator or board member and he knew we would strive to take these kids as far as we could. In those years my students blossomed the most and they achieved the most.

In my experience the more the board or administration gets involved the less the children succeed! Teachers are trained professionals. We have college degrees, many of them advanced. We take ongoing development courses throughout our career and we are there in the classroom every day, the closest to the student outside of their parents. We are educated, we are qualified. Let us do our jobs and teach! Save the taxpayers money and save the American education system by scrapping all this unnecessary and excessive testing!


Why Are Teachers Leaving?

Why Are Teachers Leaving?

I am a teacher who has left the classroom. My reasons vary from the norm a bit. Why I left and why I have not returned are two very different stories. I would actually really like to return to the classroom but over the past 10 years, my hearing loss has worsened to a point that it would not be appropriate to return. I have a rare type of loss that is not really helped with the current technology of hearing aids and other adaptation technology. I rely very heavily on lip reading and body language and cannot even imagine the disaster that behavior management would be having to depend on that! I do love the education field and really miss being in a classroom. I stay involved with my curriculum creation activities, but when I volunteer in my children’s classrooms I always walk away with a yearning to go back and work hands-on with the kids again. I miss it!

I did not leave the classroom due to my hearing loss, however, I left because of a burnout that was caused by an absolutely worthless administrator that was placed at my school. I had been teaching for years in a high poverty, 100% Title I school. Our students lacked for the basic daily needs and it could be quite challenging but also quite rewarding working with them. For the first few years, I was there our school had an outstanding principal. He was respectful and supportive of teachers. He treated us as professionals and he had the best interests of the students at heart. He helped balance the challenges with the rewards and made teaching there a joy! Sadly he retired and was replaced by a new principal who had no prior experience being a principal. There is no way to sugarcoat it, she was a nightmare! She was disrespectful to staff, students, and parents. As a staff, we went to the upper administration and even met with the superintendent begging for help with her. Our pleas were ignored. Sadly she remained at that school for 10 years and ran it into the ground and teacher turnover was very high. She was finally removed with the help of the teacher’s union. For my sanity and health, I took advantage of a leave program with the district and chose to stay at home with my children. It was a way to get out of the situation with that principal and still be able to return to the district in another position.

I loved being a stay-at-home mom to my children. I also quickly realized that staying home was not as much of a financial burden as we had expected. We paid fewer taxes, saved money in gas, childcare, clothing expenses, etc. One of the biggest surprises was looking at how much I was saving by not teaching. I poured a ton of money into my classroom, at least one full paycheck per year!

I did start to feel that pull back to the classroom, however, at this same time, a mild hearing loss that I developed in my early 20’s suddenly worsened to a degree that took away my ability to return. That is when I started taking the materials that I had created for my classroom and preparing them to sell to other teachers. I tested the market on eBay and Amazon before discovering Teachers Pay Teachers.

I know my overall story is an odd one, but the experiences with burnout and bad administration are all too familiar to many teachers. There are many articles out there talking about just this issue.

“It’s the demands,” said Jamison, who is beginning her third year in the classroom. “There are state demands, district demands, and parental demands. We haven’t even mentioned the needs of the individual student. It’s tough.”

“I’m doing more work, but I’m getting less money every year,” a teacher told NBC News. “Instead of being excited about a job and looking forward to your job, you begin to fear your job. It becomes stressful, tiring and takes a toll not only on your health but on your family.”

There are also many articles that focus on the difference in turnover in a school with a positive working environment versus one with a negative one. I can attest to the truthfulness of this!

Many “experts” feel that changing teacher prep programs at colleges could be a  solution. Personally, I am not so sure. Do we want to better train our teachers so that they are ready for bureaucracies and teaching to a test or do we want them to be focused on opening young minds? It angers me to hear repeatedly about teachers getting bashed for the problems in the education system. I firmly believe we need to stop blaming the teachers and start to seriously look at the administrators and bureaucrats that are running things. I don’t think the general public really realizes how little power the teacher has in the educational hierarchy. There are so many fantastic teachers out there that are leaving, not because of money, but because they aren’t allowed to actually teach which their passion!

Speaking of new teachers:

“And too often, they soon realize that their jobs aren’t what they thought they would be: Teaching to tests and fighting bureaucracies rather than experiencing the thrill of opening up young minds, educators say.”

“While education experts caution that lack of experience isn’t necessarily an indication of a teacher’s ability, student achievement scores do show that on average a first-year teacher is not as effective as a third-year teacher, said Susan Moore Johnson, an expert on teacher recruitment and retention at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.”

Are standardized test scores the only measure of success? We live in a quickly growing district so there are a lot of new teachers being hired every year. My kids have had a first-year teacher several times. It has always been extremely positive. I find that first-year teachers are so enthusiastic. What they lack in experience they make up for in passion. They love their jobs and it shows in every interaction with their students. I know it was true of me in my first year!

As a society, we need to value and retain the passion of those new teachers. If every classroom had a teacher full of passion we would be on the right track to fixing this system.

 

What can we do as educators and parents to retain that passion? What can we do to support our teachers so the passion doesn’t defuse? How do we keep the fire alive?

 

 

 

 

The Overuse of Standardized Testing Needs to STOP!

The Overuse of Standardized Testing Needs to STOP!

I am not a fan of standardized testing. I feel that way too much importance is placed on the results which damage students, teachers, and schools.

My first year of teaching was at a school that was a 100% Title I school. Every child qualified for the free lunch program. Most of these students did not have a lot of opportunities outside of their neighborhood. I had a student, “Bob”, that was very smart and very talented. He was able to take a radio apart and totally redesign it. I would have discussions with him regarding a multitude of subjects that were so incredibly advanced for his age. On the other hand, he was somewhat of a class clown and had a history of behavior issues in his past.

After working a couple months with Bob I decided a lot of his behavior issues came about out of boredom. When Bob was being challenged his behavior was perfect. I nominated Bob for our district’s gifted & talented program because I truly felt Bob would be an ideal candidate. I was promptly turned down solely on the basis of Bob’s standardized test scores from past years. I had to beg and plead with the principal, counselor, and G&T teacher to please give Bob a chance. To please look beyond test scores and look at the individual. There was so much more to Bob than those tests if only someone would take notice!

Finally, by March of that year, Bob was allowed in the G&T program on a probationary basis. Most likely to get me off their backs and to prove they were right! Not surprising to me he did wonderfully! He shocked everyone else!

Bob was being allowed to fall through the cracks because of standardized test scores. How many other students does this happen to every day across our country? How many teachers miss the signs and don’t fight for those students? Talent can be shown in so many ways outside of a multiple choice bubble test!

As a parent, I hate the standardized tests just as much as I did my first year of teaching! My oldest son is not an ideal test taker. His standardized scores do not even come close to reflecting the kind of student he is and does not show what his true ability is. I know these test scores are held in such an importance within the district and I absolutely hate the shadow that they have over my son and what he will be allowed to try. I have seen the unnecessary anxiety that the overuse of testing causes in both my own children and my students.

The main focus of assessment should be given by the teacher in direct relation to what is being taught in the classroom. I also really like the idea that the standardized testing only be administered in a few select years of a child’s education. At the rate we are going now it is way too much. In my children’s district, they have been administering standardized tests in both the fall and spring and as a parent, I had to step in and say, This just too much!” and opt them out.

There are many articles that can be found that encourage backing off the standardized testing or even looking at Finland’s great success and getting rid of them! Our students are failing, our schools are failing, and standardized tests are just not the answer, in fact, I firmly believe they are the main cause!