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How to Use Digital Agenda Slides to Organize Your English Language Arts Classroom

Do you use daily agenda slides with your students? If you answered, "yes", then you likely agree with the fact that they are a helpful visual reference for your students, while also assisting to build a routine within your classroom. If you answered, "no", then this blog post will help give you a better idea as to the purpose of agenda slides and HOW they can help you and your students. So, whether you've had experience with digital daily agenda slides or not, the following tips will help you to utilize the digital slides to the maximum!


How many times have you heard, "What are we doing today?" Unfortunately, too many I'm sure! As soon as my students walk into my classroom, they are greeted with the daily agenda displayed on my projector. I used to write out my daily agenda on my white board, but like many teachers, time is usually of the essence. I was writing for the next class, even before I finished my previous class. It was a lot of work AND with my back turned to the class; it was becoming a classroom management issue. Being able to complete my agenda slides BEFOREHAND is a complete time saver! The nice thing is, I can complete them the night before school starts (or first thing in the morning) and then make any quick edits necessary, while it is still posted. The other great thing is, if an activity or lesson rolls over to the following day, you don't have to type it out again. You can just make simple edits to the slide you created the day before.

Being able to plan the class ahead of time has not only saved me time, but also kept my classes organized. My students appreciate knowing, as soon as they walk into the room what our daily plan will be. The digital agenda slides are basically a more organized version of my teacher planner, as they also include a variety of other elements besides just the daily plans: homework reminders, announcements, materials needed, etc. You can say, "Good morning!" or "Good Afternoon!" in-style with these editable template for PowerPoint and Google Slides.


Many of the agenda slides I have created for my classes also come with a helpful 'Week at a Glance' slide, which is a great way to outline the week ahead. Of course, plans are likely to change throughout the week, but it's a great way to outline potential due dates and expectations to ensure everyone is on track. 



Yes, the digital agenda slides that I created can both be used on a PowerPoint platform, as well as on Google Slides. Digital daily agenda slides can be used when you're in the classroom with your students, as well as during any remote learning periods. Simply, send the students the bit.ly link to access the daily agenda. This digital daily agenda helps to ensure that all students received the same instructions! Once the sections are edited, you can share a copy with your students. If you are learning in-class, and a student happens to be absent, you can also email them either the Google Slide link, a picture of the slide, or send them the PowerPoint file of what they missed during their time away. Assignments can also be linked within the slide itself by creating a live link within the document.


If your students are learning at home, and you're looking for a way to hold them accountable for the work that they have completed, share this FREE student-themed daily agenda slide with them! Students can edit the necessary sections and identify what was completed at home during a specific time period. This agenda slide will help students to outline their goals, plans and achievements for the day, week and/or month (whatever time period you set). This slide is not to add more work to a students' load or a teachers'; rather, it's a more of a way to connect with your students during their time away and to ensure they are completing the tasks given. 

 

Here are a few tips that you may consider when using this slide:

(a) It might be helpful for you, the teacher, to edit the various text boxes and specify exactly what you want the students to write in each section. This way, students are clear as to what they should be sharing with you.

(b) You may also want to take the opportunity to ask your students a question or two, then while they are sharing what they completed with you, connections can be built.

(c) When students are done, they simply 'share' the copy with you. You can assign completion marks (if permitted) to encourage and motivate students to complete these daily and/or weekly agendas.

Incorporate a burst of seasonal fun into your classroom with these Holiday & Special Events Digital Daily Slides. My students enjoy a bit of change as much as I do, so when a new season comes around, I use that opportunity to change my digital slides for a week or two. 

A fun tip that I wanted to share with you, especially for those teachers who are way more advanced with technology than I am, is to embed videos right into your digital daily agenda slides. This is perfect for teachers who either use YouTube videos within their lessons or who record their own lessons! 

Here are the steps to embed a YouTube video within your slide:

1. Go to your Google Drive and create a new slideshow and/or go into the google slide that you want to embed the video into.

2. In the top toolbar, click "Insert", then "Video".

3. Paste the YouTube URL into the text box.

4. Select the YouTube video that you want to embed, then click "Submit".

*Videos can be re-sized, dragged and re positioned!*


I hope you found some news ways on how you can incorporate digital daily agenda slides into your classrooms and/or remote learning situations. They are a fun and visual way to help keep everyone on track. 

Check out these additional classroom management tools:

Engaging Readers with Books in Your Classroom or School Library

 Three years ago, when I began my journey as an elementary school librarian, I had the challenge of transforming not only a physical space that had been neglected for many years – blinds closed on a wall of windows, no signage directing students where to find stories or information, and a collection that hadn’t been weeded nor updated to represent and meet the needs of patrons – but I also had the challenge of transforming the library’s reputation for students and staff. Underutilized and unwelcoming, the library was not the hub of the school.  Luckily, I was bringing nearly two decades of experience in education as a teacher of grades three, four, five and six to my new role as the school librarian. Perhaps you can take some of the ways I transformed my school library and use them in your own school or classroom library to engage students and build a stronger community of readers. Whether you teach students in high school, middle school or elementary school, these engagement strategies can be tweaked to suit any grade level.

On the Shelf

Shelves of rows and rows of books can be overwhelming for students. I found so many kids wandering aimlessly not knowing where to begin their search for their next read. There were three main sections – picture book fiction, chapter book fiction, and nonfiction. Picture book and chapter book fiction were organized alphabetically by author’s last name, while nonfiction was organized using the traditional Dewey decimal system. If a student didn’t know precisely what book they were looking for, this led them on their first of many laps walking along the shelves running their fingers along the spines. I also paid attention to how kids asked for books. Where are the books about unicorns? Where are stories about football? I want to read more about World War II. Kids were requesting books by topics and categories not by author’s last name or even specific titles. It made sense to organize the library that way; so, we did. With chapter book fiction we rearranged books by genre – fantasy, realistic fiction, animal fiction, sports fiction, science fiction, historical fiction, humorous fiction, adventure/thriller/mystery, and horror. With these color-coded genres, kids now had a starting point. Once they found a book they liked within that genre, they knew they could return to that section to find similar stories. The success of this new system triggered a trickle-down effect as we reorganized picture book fiction similarly, and most recently nonfiction as well. Create systems that allow the students in your classroom to find books, not just walk past them.

Then, utilize the real estate on those shelves by situating as many books as you can so that the cover is facing forward. Every square inch of top shelf in our library has books standing on it. Featured books throughout each genre section are placed facing forward to break up the monotony of rows of spines, and they have to be replaced often as these front-facing featured books are the first to be snatched by students. Books will sell themselves if the kids can see the covers, and when the cover art alone doesn’t attract readers, use recommendation and review cards like you see in bookstores. These advertisements can sit on shelves and engage readers who are curious to see what their classmates and teachers are recommending. Similarly, I created these Read Them in Order signs for books with multiple books in a series, because inevitably, once you have them hooked on a series, they’re going to come asking which one comes next. These signs not only eliminate the question, but they are permanent advertisers showing off the covers of each book in a series when perhaps the shelf space doesn’t allow for all books to face forward. Whether you’re thinking about the organization of your school library or your classroom library, remember to give full consideration to not only what’s on the shelf but how it’s arranged and advertised too.

On the Wall

Just as valuable as the real estate on your shelves, is the space available on your walls. A blank wall is a canvas waiting to engage readers. Introduce students to storytellers by designing a space for a portrait gallery of authors. Not only will these faces decorate blank walls, they can act as conversation starters and a place for you to turn to when offering recommendations. Also, don’t you feel it’s high time these authors get the celebrity treatment they deserve? This is an opportunity for students to connect a face with their favorite – or soon to be favorite – book; the person behind the pages of our beloved books should be both recognized and celebrated. Additionally, this space can be where students see themselves in the faces of the authors. Looking back at them from the wall, these faces can subtly let students know everyone has a story to tell; all of them important; all of them necessary; and perhaps, their story may be the next one to sit on these shelves.

Similarly, you can create a space for a story squad. I’ve done this with a variety of popular characters from kid lit, and it not only makes the library welcoming, but it gets kids talking. Yes, talking in the library. Remember, building that community of readers? I love listening to them chatter about favorite characters or reminiscing about a favorite chapter or series as they browse the framed art waiting in line at checkout. The same conversations that happen in my school library, can be conversations in your classroom.

The space I inherited had a large wall with a map of the world. That map wasn’t going anywhere, so I had to find a way to make it relevant. Sure, it could just be a map on the wall of the library, but I can’t resist an opportunity to make everything about books. So, I did. Print out miniature book covers and place them on the map wherever the story is set. The War that Saved My Life in England, Out of the Dust in Oklahoma, Shadow of a Bull in Spain, Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes in Japan, Amal Unbound in Pakistan. The map became a geography lesson in literature; and again, I had a place to refer students when they were looking for their next great read. Challenge students to read across America or travel around the world by reading one book from each continent. So, if you’ve got an unused map in your classroom, use it to open your students to a world of reading possibilities.

In nonfiction, I wanted to generate curiosity. Since a huge chunk of nonfiction is devoted to animals – at least in elementary school libraries – and they are perhaps the most frequently checked out books in nonfiction, I created a space where students could see how they measured up to the other animals in the kingdom. Pictures of some favorites – gorilla, emperor penguin, ostrich, flamingo – were posted at their various markers (in feet) so students could compare themselves to the heights of the animals. This interactive display gained popularity quickly. Whether it was a fifth-grader or a first-grader, kids wanted to see which animal their equal was when it came to height. And then, when they saw a mature male ostrich could grow as tall as nine feet with almost half its height all in its neck, kids wanted to know more; to learn more; to read more. And if you guessed I located this display near animal books packed with fun facts – think anything by Steve Jenkins – you’re right.  And that led to more book investigation and increased checkout. Animal books were leaving in the hands of kids. Goal achieved. Whether its animal height or something else, interactive displays can provoke curious minds and lead them to books.

 

What Should I Read Next?

“What should I read next?” Time and time again, this question was being asked of me in my first months as librarian. Now, I like to read. I’ve read a ton of kid lit, but I haven’t read everything, and my favorites aren’t going to be everyone’s favorites. I was being overwhelmed with a flood of recommendation requests, and it called for a solution. The result was the creation of book menus. Based on the way Amazon suggests titles after you make a purchase, or the way Netflix makes recommendations based on your previous viewing history, I created menus that would give students suggestions based on books they liked (If You Liked Wonder by R.J. Palacio) , series they loved (If You Liked Harry Potter), or topics of interest (If You Like Books About Sports). I have created four sets now – all available free here. Printed and stored in three-ring binders, these have been a lifesaver, and kids turn to them time and time again when they’re on the hunt for what to read next. I’ve also recently made them digital, and they can be flipped through online as well. Although the menus I’ve created are specific to what’s available in my elementary school library’s collection, these are easy – although a bit time consuming – to make. Grab book cover images from Amazon and tailor the menu to the books you have available in your classroom library. There’s nothing worse than finding a book on a suggested list only to be disappointed when you discover it’s not even available in the library’s collection.

Stepping out of the library temporarily, let’s head to the restrooms just down the hall where – believe it or not – you can engage kids in a little reading. This next suggestion is by no means my invention. I had seen PD on the Potty where professional development bites were posted in the stalls of teacher restrooms, and I thought something similar could be done for students. Catch their attention wherever you can – even if it’s in the can. What resulted were Toilet Papers. Short reviews of kid lit posted in bathroom stalls, near urinals (ick), above sinks, and near hand dryers. Kids are always asking to go to the bathroom, so why not wallpaper the place with something to read? And you know what? It worked. Kids were coming in the library describing a book they wanted ending their request with, “You know. It’s one of the books posted in the bathroom!” Extend your reach beyond your classroom or library walls. Students may discover their next great read in the most unlikely places.

Creating a YouTube channel has been particularly helpful with teaching and learning happening remotely, and your channel can serve as an answer to the question, “What should I read next?” I’ve created two playlists that I direct students to – whether in person or during distance learning – when they are seeking recommendations. The first is a playlist of over 100 book trailers – think of movie previews except for books. They’re bite-sized, and they offer just enough of a taste to leave kids wanting more.  If you are short on time and want to create a playlist quickly, I recommend using trailers created directly by publishers. These are going to be of high quality and will require little, if any, vetting. Although there are many great teacher or student created trailers, you may find yourself needing to view them before adding them to your playlist to make sure they’re appropriate and worth watching.

A second playlist I created for my channel consists of First Chapter Friday videos. I’ve made one each week since this school year began. I post them in the library’s Google classroom, but teachers have also shared that they use some class time to watch them together. Again, First Chapter Friday is something that’s been around for a while, and by no means my creation. The idea is to share books with really great first chapters that make it nearly impossible for kids not to beg you to keep reading more. Obviously, you can do this in person without creating a YouTube channel, but I really like having the playlist so I can refer students to it throughout the year as the need arises for recommendations. It’s nice to be able to say, “Oh I have the perfect book for you. Or at least I think I do. Why don’t you listen to me read the first chapter, and if you like it, you can check it out.” Creating the videos is made easy with the Loom extension for Chrome. I can record myself reading where both myself and the book are visible on screen. Even if you don’t have access to eBooks through Overdrive, Hoopla, Epic, or Kindle, you can usually read the first chapter or two of books on Amazon (for free). Simply find books with the Look Inside option to access those first chapters, and let the magic unfold.

And the Winner Is…

Hopefully the books are what keep kids returning to your bookshelves, but I found that having weekly challenges or contests was another way to guarantee the return of students to the library week after week. Two weekly challenges I used throughout the school year include the Emoji Story Title of the Week Challenge and The Dewey of the Week Challenge. Each week I present students with a book title written in emoji code. By cracking the code, a title of a children’s book – picture book or chapter book – will be revealed. I’ve even made these digital during our online days to provide some sense of normalcy and routine to the virtual school experience. Each week I post them in Google Classroom and students can submit their answer using Google Forms. Those who submit correct answers are entered into the Wheel of Names which selects a random winner. I usually send the winner a five-dollar gift card to Amazon along with some book recommendations and a few bookmarks. Nothing like a bit of snail mail to brighten one’s day.  You can check out all of my Emoji Story Title of the Week challenges here.

The other challenge – Dewey of the Week – became about a consistent way to keep kids practicing location of books in nonfiction using the Dewey decimal system. After a whole group lesson about Dewey and his book classification system, there isn’t enough class time to keep practicing week after week, so this resulted as a way to sneak in practice during kids’ independent visits to the library. I post a random Dewey call number on a white board in the library. Students can choose to hunt for the title of the book and submit their answers for the chance at being drawn for a prize. No, not everyone participates, but many do because it’s a choice. They start to get the hang of the system quickly. One lesson I learned early is that some students would remove the book or even check it out (parent volunteers or self-checkout allowed them to). So, I created a slip (which I printed four to a page and laminated) that I attach to the cover of the chosen book to prevent students from removing or checking out the book during the week it is being featured as the Dewey of the Week. Week after week, I had visitors showing up just to search for that book. The more opportunities students had to come to the library, the greater the chances they would be leaving with a book in hand.

Create challenge and contest opportunities in your own classroom. I promise you, there will be kids who are excited to come to class each day simply because of those chances to win. And, you’ll be exposing them to new books. Every time you reveal the answer and the winner of the Emoji Story Title of the Week Challenge, do a book talk to get kids excited about reading it. Maybe the winner wins a copy or gets first dibs on reading the book.

Whether you invest in kid-friendly systems for locating books, reconsider the use of wall and shelf space, have book recommendations at the ready, or challenge students with contests that promote books, I hope you’ll find some small nugget of gold from my experience as an elementary school librarian to revitalize the energy in your own classroom library and energize your community of readers. 

Thanks to our guest blogger, Michael Rawls, for the insightful blog post! 

Disrupting the White Default in English Language Arts




I  acknowledge that I am writing this post from Treaty 6 land and the Homeland of the Metis, which has been a gathering place for a diversity of Indigenous peoples for thousands of years.

[Note: Throughout this post, I use the term “BIPOC” to collectively refer to Black people, Indigenous people, and People of Colour. Umbrella terms often fail to encompass the breadth and diversity of experiences that are encapsulated across and within these groups. For this post, it’s usage is meant to highlight a specific shared experience of these groups - underrepresentation in literature and schools.]


As a child, I voraciously devoured books and plunged headfirst into the different realms that each book brought me to. During holidays, I would anxiously anticipate a new book as a gift, and my family could consequently count on me spending the next couple of hours with my face burrowed in it. As an elementary school student, books were a constant companion. I would sneak pages wherever I could. As a pre-teen, I learned to shove a t-shirt in the cracks of my bedroom door to prevent light from peeking through and alerting my parents to my late-night non-compliance. On the occasions where they caught me, I had a small book light hidden under my bed that made itself useful under the covers. Trips to the local library were a highly anticipated excursion, and summer reading clubs became a personal challenge. Books were a safe place to explore new ideas and new worlds. Yet, despite all that, I can only recall reading a handful of books featuring BIPOC characters, and even fewer that were written by BIPOC authors. 


Take a moment to reflect on your favorite childhood books and picture the characters. If your experience is anything like mine, they were overwhelmingly white. 


When we hear the term white supremacy, many of us tend to think of violent, vitriolic hate groups, but white supremacy is also the system that allows white people to benefit from structural advantages that other races do not. From an early age, children are inundated with messages about their own identity and the identities of others, which affects their self-image and worldview. Consider things like book and TV characters, advertisements, children’s toys, make-up, band-aids, etc. and the subsequent messaging that whiteness is more acceptable. Whiteness is the default setting that exists as the silent norm, and all other races are named as different and “other.” That is part of why so many white people are uncomfortable hearing the words “white people” - they’re not used to having their racial existence pointed out. We need to be conscientious of terminology that is rooted in upholding dominant identities as the standard everyone else is measured against. By refusing to name whiteness, we are allowing it to exist unchecked.


Around the world, there has been an increasing number of conversations about racial justice and calls to affirm and celebrate the identities of all students in classrooms and the curriculum. Before beginning to talk about deconstructing the curriculum, teachers need to start with self-examination of their own identity and intentionally reflecting on their privileges and biases. We tend to associate with people who look, talk, and act like ourselves. At an institutional level, that often results in preserving the status quo and perpetuating harmful attitudes. The same way BIPOC unconsciously internalize messages of inferiority, white people unconsciously internalize feelings of superiority. When we think about the education system, we need to remember that the foundational perspectives were dominated by traditionally educated, economically secure, hetero-normative, privileged White men. The reality is that the system was not designed to be inclusive for all. We need to be willing to deconstruct systems that erase and tokenize the experiences of BIPOC. People often do not recognize what a privilege it is to not only have your identity reflected on the pages of textbooks and novels but also have teachers, administrators, and decision-makers who look like you, talk like you, and share and understand experiences similar to yours. It’s sometimes hard for people to understand the need for representation when they’ve never experienced a lack of it. 


Many ELA teachers grew to love “the classics” as students and continue to teach them now that they are in their own classrooms. When I have conversations with fellow educators about interrogating and examining the classics, the response is often to jump to espousing their literary merits and the need for all students to experience them. What’s often neglected is the fact that the classics are not relevant for all students. After further dialogue, it usually becomes clear that the devout preservation of the classics is often a surrogate for refusing to have difficult conversations about race. What this type of defensiveness fails to acknowledge, is that the conversation isn’t about minimizing whiteness, it’s about interrogating how we can do a better job of representing all students. Nostalgia shouldn’t be an excuse for impeding progress.

Last year I had a parent of one of my eighth graders email me and thank me for being the first of her son’s teachers to use a book written by a Black author. This child existed in the school system for at least 8 years without being able to experience a text where the main character looked like him. An ethical system is not one that forces people to fight to be valued and makes them grateful on the rare occasion it occurs. Teaching is a profession that is dominated by white people, particularly white women. Many of these teachers have been previously exempt from participating in conversations about race. They have never spent time considering how easy it is to transition from benefiting from white supremacy culture to upholding it. Black and Brown students are often demonized for their lack of engagement and unwillingness to learn. Rarely do teachers consider how their practices augment existing systemic inequities, which results in students disliking school due to their existence being constantly devalued.

We need to critically examine who decided on the classics and the historical context in which those decisions were made. Who constructed the circumstances that determined the classics? Who benefits from those books being upheld as the epitome of prestige? Whose voices are being silenced? Whose existence is being denied consideration? What is considered worthy of being a classics should be subject to constant interrogation and negotiation. When we question the classics, we’re also questioning our complicity in maintaining the status quo. 

Don’t mistake this as a call for censorship. Progress isn’t censorship. Critical analysis isn’t censorship. Curating texts that allow all students to feel valued and respected, isn’t censorship. Knowledge is constantly evolving, and so too should our literary expectations and selections.


Our personal beliefs and values permeate all aspects of our classroom and teaching practice. White teachers who want to disrupt the white default, also need to disrupt their biases, disrupt how they view literature and disrupt their pedagogy. While it’s critical for all students to see themselves reflected in literature, it's equally important for their teachers to critically examine their own positionality. I regularly see ELA teachers in Facebook groups debating the contextual appropriateness of non-Black teachers using the n-word in an academic setting, discussing the merits of problematic texts because they provide “teachable moments” and “opportunities to learn”, reinforcing the white savior narrative, and amplifying the work of white authors discussing race because it’s viewed as more poignant than BIPOC authors whose works apparently lack rigor. It’s not only about updating texts, it’s about updating the lens that we use to examine texts. If a book is written from a different perspective than our own, we need to ensure that the character’s experiences are being portrayed accurately and authentically. We also need to make sure we are doing that author justice when we teach their work. There are too many good books to continue promoting problematic texts and/or authors. Teaching a book with a BIPOC character is not the same as decentering whiteness.


Writing by BIPOC authors is often viewed as inherently political. This attitude often minimizes the depth and complexity of characters and hyper focuses on race. White writers rarely face the same criticism and their racial identity goes unexamined as it silently imprints itself onto the pages. These are not small issues that exist in a vacuum. Editing and publishing are still industries that are predominantly white, which influences the texts that are available for consumption. White authors have the privilege of writing a story, whereas BIPOC authors are treated as if they are writing the story for all people of their race. This frame of mind completely erases the diversity that exists within racial groups. That only amplifies the importance of text selections - we are signaling to these industries that there is a demand for more stories by BIPOC authors, across genres and text types.
When we do teach these perspectives, are we limiting ourselves to showcasing suffering, or are we also celebrating successes too? In Dr. Gholdy Muhammad’s book, Cultivating Genius, she shares that “...it is our job as educators to not just teach skills, but also to teach students to know, validate, and celebrate who they are.” Too often, stories of BIPOC characters and communities are written and told through a white-centered lens, which results in inaccurate or stereotypical portrayals. This type of representation contributes to a long and storied past of devaluing and marginalizing BIPOC voices. We need to consider who is writing these stories and whether we are prioritizing #ownvoices from within the communities being represented. Can texts be replaced with ones that are more authentic and relevant? Why should we keep financially rewarding authors for inaccurate writing when we could be buying books from people depicting their own cultures?



First and foremost, listen to BIPOC voices and trust the work that’s already being done. Just because it’s new to you, doesn’t mean it’s new to the universe. Speaking up is important, but not at the expense of speaking over those who are already in the thick of it. Value the experiences of your colleagues of color. Not just their racialized experiences, but their content knowledge and expertise as well. BIPOC educators, if you’re reading this, know that your voice is valuable and worthy of being heard.

Recognize that you have the ability to opt-in and out of these conversations at their own convenience. Understand the daily microaggressions and racial fatigue that your BIPOC colleagues are subjected to. Do what you can to alleviate it instead of adding to it. Take responsibility for educating yourself. Don’t expect other people to squander their energy providing simple explanations for you. Google is free! Find ways to expand the perspectives you’re exposed to in your own life.

Leverage your privilege. We need to understand that white supremacy culture is insidious and has seeped into every aspect of the school system. Do you speak up against discriminatory policies in your school/district? Do you question the lack of BIPOC in a multiplicity of teaching and leadership positions? Are you putting pressure on your school board to incorporate anti-racism/anti-bias work into schools? Are you emailing representatives to ask about the lack of representation in the curriculum (across subject areas)? The burden can’t be on only BIPOC teachers and students to ask for these changes. You will be uncomfortable (growth), you will irritate some people (oh well), and you will most certainly make mistakes (recognize and apologize.)

In the words of Brittany Packnett Cunningham - “spend your privilege.” What businesses/products are you supporting? What books are you buying for your personal learning? Are you compensating creators on social media for the resources you consume? If you’re financially able, send them a quick Venmo or PayPal for a cup of coffee! Specifically as teachers - looking at sites like Teachers Pay Teachers - whose resources are you purchasing?

Audit your classroom and the community you’ve cultivated for your students. What’s missing or requires improvement? Maybe it’s realizing that all the artwork in your classroom and the clipart in your PowerPoints primarily depicts white people. Maybe it’s realizing that the section in your classroom library labeled “Diverse Books” further propagates the idea of othering. Maybe it’s adding a land acknowledgment to honor the Indigenous lands you live and learn on. Maybe it’s realizing that you still can’t comfortably utter the words “Black Lives Matter” and you still have more work to do to cultivate an environment that’s safe for all students. 

Allow for multiple viewpoints, but challenge your students (and coworkers) when you hear them making prejudiced comments. Prepare for these types of remarks and practice what you will say and how you will respond when you do hear them. It may be awkward and flimsy at first, but the more you do it, the easier it will get. For more on addressing race in class, I recommend reading:
  • Not Light, But Fire: How to Lead Meaningful Race Conversations in the Classroom
  • Letting Go of Literary Whiteness: Antiracist Literature Instruction for White Students
  • This Book is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do The Work


Lastly, it’s important to remember that identity is multifaceted. While this post largely focused on decentering whiteness, the default is by no means limited to race. We also need to consciously de-center other dominant identities. By acknowledging and valuing differences, we can actively challenge bias and stereotypes when we see them. How are we opposing not only racism but homophobia, transphobia, sexism, ableism, classism, ageism, etc. and all the intersections thereof?

Bio
Megan Tipler is a Métis teacher who lives and works in amiskwacîwâskahikan, also known as Edmonton. She is a secondary ELA teacher who is committed to empowering and validating all learners and ensuring their identities are valued in her classroom. She strives to incorporate texts that are representative and inclusive and is particularly passionate about integrating Indigenous perspectives into her teaching. You can find her on Instagram @tiplerteaches

How to Teach Grammar Online


By Presto Plans 


Grammar can be a challenge at the best of times in the traditional paper and pencil classroom, so if you have moved to remote teaching or are a 1:1 device school, you may be wondering how you will help your students improve their grammar digitally.


Moving grammar into a digital format can certainly have its challenges.  You are no doubt continuing to see students making errors (have you been cringing at some of the emails they're sending you?), so I’m here to help you with some strategies and resources that you can use to make this transition easier. 

 

1. MEET STUDENTS WHERE THEY ARE

 

Before you begin planning how to incorporate grammar into your lessons, you'll want to make sure you are meeting students where they are.  In order to plan out what grammar topics you want to address, you’ll need to assess their current understanding.  Doing this digitally can take on two forms: 


Option 1

If you only want to assess their understanding of a particular grammar topic, you can create a Google Forms multiple choice quiz (make sure to make it self-grading!).  This works well for a quick check of a specific topic, but there are some draw-backs.  For starters, students may be able to guess the correct answer. Also, sometimes students will be able to correct errors when they are searching for them in a question, but they don’t always transfer that new knowledge to their own writing seamlessly.


Option 2

Have students complete a writing piece on Google Docs to share with you to assess their writing and see the areas that need improvement.  I prefer this method because it feels more authentic, and you will get to see students' mistakes in context.  



If you choose to use option 2, assign a quick write based on a writing prompt. After they are done, have them submit the work to you via Google Docs. You can use the "add a comment" tool to give them three areas to work on applying in their writing.  This will give you a list of check-in items whenever students submit writing in the future and will make students more aware of repetitive errors that they are making.  It will also allow you to keep track of common errors made by your students in general to better know where to focus your instruction.




 

2. GAMIFY YOUR GRAMMAR

 

Trying to find ways to make grammar fun and interactive for students can sometimes be a painful process. There is nothing worse than hearing groans and grumbles when you tell students that you will be teaching a grammar mini-lesson. 



Grammar does not have to be this way, and that’s why about a year ago, I started on a mission to create a grammar program that gamified grammar.  There's nothing like a little bit of competition to spark some engagement. That's why I created The Grammar Challenge Program



The Grammar Challenge is a full year, 40-week digital (and print) grammar program for middle and high school English language arts teachers that includes assessment instruction narrative stories and escape room style challenges to help students improve their grammar, problem solving, and critical thinking skills. 




So, how does it work?



  • Before diving into the escape room challenge, students complete a short pre-assessment quiz on the grammar topic. 


  • Then, you can use the presentation slides to teach the mini lesson on the grammar concept. 


  • Have students read the creative backstory for the challenge. This will set up a challenge and also help students improve their reading comprehension and allow them to see good grammar in context. Each of the stories place students in a scenario where they must escape, find a secret message or code, or solve a problem.


  • Then, students can work in small groups to try to do the escape-room style challenge. If you are teaching remotely, it can also be done independently if group work isn’t a possibility! 


  • You can also choose to give students the pre-assessment again to see if they are able to improve their initial grade now that they have a better understanding.



Try one of the digital challenges for FREE here to help your students understand using commas in a list! (you can also grab the free print version here). 




Want to try more?  Learn all about the full-year program here.


Want to pick and choose which ones to use? Browse the individual challenges here.

 

3. TEACH GRAMMAR IN THE CONTEXT OF READING AND WRITING

 

Whether digitally or not, teaching grammar solely as an isolated subject from writing is not effective. It's so important while teaching using devices to still provide a multitude of opportunities for extensive reading and writing. Seeing good grammar used in reading will help students model it in their own writing.  Finding and correcting their own mistakes in writing will help them grow and improve their own grammar.  The best grammar instruction includes both mini-lessons on grammar topics while also teaching grammar in the context with reading and writing.   

  

 It's important to empower your students to improve their own grammar using authentic experiences. So, how can you do this?  These can all be done within the traditional classroom as well, but here are a few ideas for teaching grammar within the context of reading and writing that can still be done digitally: 

 

  • Have them evaluate the sentence structure, punctuation, or grammar used within a text that they are reading.

  • Have them read their own writing aloud (they might even consider recording it and listening back). This helps them identify mistakes more easily.

  • Have them attempt to model or imitate an author's writing style and mimic their sentence structures and mechanics.

 

4. USE MINI-LESSON VIDEOS



Although you certainly do not want to teach grammar in a vacuum, some direct instruction on grammar concepts is useful. Use mini-lessons to introduce students to grammar rules in a focussed way. 

 

Doing this digitally can work even better because you can create concise, yet thorough, video lessons that will allow students to learn a particular grammar concept. What's great is that they can learn them at their own individual pace. If they don't understand something, they can replay the video, take notes, and ask questions in an attempt to apply that knowledge to their own writing. 

 

You might consider using Loom to record mini grammar lessons. Loom combines video with the convenience of messaging.  Simply use Loom to record your screen with your lesson, then simply share the link that loom generates with students. It will give you the option of using screen + cam, only screen, or only cam.





You can also easily teach a mini-lesson over Zoom or Google Meet if that is something you are using with your students, but try to keep the lesson to 10 minutes max.  Grammar is a subject that students can tune out on pretty quickly, so you'll want to keep direct instruction to a minimum.

 

Not able to share your own videos with students?   YouTube has lots of grammar mini-lessons to share with your students.

 

5. TEXTING, SOCIAL MEDIA, AND EMAIL SELF-ASSESSMENT

 

When it comes to student communication, texting, social media, and email is often where grammar fails are rampant.  If students can start to evaluate their own grammar fails in these mediums, they may be able to start making incremental changes that will then translate to their own writing outside of their device. Try putting grammar in a real-world context by having students examine their own texts, social media posts, and emails to see or evaluate their own grammar usage.  If you can get them to see the errors they are making, they may take a pause the next time before hitting send (especially when they are emailing you!)  An extension activity to this might be to have students examine their favorite celebrity’s social media to evaluate their grammar.

 

If students aren’t able to check their own messages, you might even consider writing your own text messages or social media posts to have students correct the errors they find.  You can use this website to create fake text message conversations to share with your students or use this bank of texts with grammar errors and bank of social media posts with errors that I created.

6. DON'T FEAR THE AUTOCORRECT


Many teachers do not like the autocorrect features on computers, but we must face it that autocorrect is going to always be a part of students' lives, and these features will only be getting better and better. Instead of fearing autocorrect, use it to your advantage. 



Help students learn the shortcuts they need to use grammar autocorrect effectively. Here are a few other ways of how you can use autocorrect features to your advantage:  



  • Teach students that if they hit the spacebar twice while texting it will automatically put a period and start the next sentence with a capital letter.   While some teachers might think this doesn't mean students are making corrections on their own, we must remember that they need to know where to double-tap the spacebar so the knowledge is still there.


  • Have students try to properly voice text punctuation.  This will allow them to be more thoughtful about where punctuation needs to go.  To do this, open a Google Doc and select Tools > Voice Texting.  When students say “period” or “comma” it will insert the punctuation into their writing.


  • Have spell check turned on, but when a student comes across a word that they misspell, have them look at the suggested spelling and have them retype it instead of autocorrecting it with the click feature.  


  • Look at the grammar suggestions (green underlines) and have them explain to you why the tech has provided that suggestion.  Sometimes, it doesn’t actually need to be changed!  The computer is not always right, so it provides an opportunity for evaluation on the part of the student. 



Grammar still has its place in the digital classroom.  Even from a distance or in a 1:1 classroom, you can help your students make improvements to their grammar on their devices.



Looking for more resources to help you teach grammar online?  

Digital Parts of Speech Review by Addie Williams 

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