Publishing Student Work

Publishing Student Work {from www.traceeorman.com}

How many times have you been grading your students' papers and thought, I wonder if they would write better if they knew others could read this? 

The answer, for most students, is "Yes." Most do put forth more effort and take a little more pride in their final product when they know ahead of time their work will be published and public on the web.

Years ago, I began a short story writing unit by telling students they would be writing for their peers. I asked them to create stories their friends would like (still school appropriate, of course). I assigned the students to read all of the stories and comment on them. Then I asked them to share their favorites. If the writers wanted to reveal themselves, they could. But they could also choose to stay anonymous.

The first couple of years of this method were a little rough. Even though I specified that all feedback should be constructive and respectful, there were times when students blurted out comments like "This is the stupidest story ever!" or "Doesn't this person know how to use spell check?" I found myself in damage-control mode often.

Students also wrote about other students, making snide remarks or writing stories that were not actually fiction. Some students were embarrassed. Feelings were hurt. I felt like the worst teacher ever.

Then something magical happened. Students asked for their stories back to make changes, improvements. They wanted to edit and peer edit. They begged me to let them make revisions after they had already handed in a final draft.

What? This can't be. Students wanting to make revisions?

Yes. There's something called pride that creeps in during this unit and turns ordinary slackers into Hemingways. No one wants to look like a lazy fool in front of their classmates.

For this unit I use students' short stories because 1. They aren't personal narratives, so students can remain anonymous, and 2. They are much more interesting to read than a research or informative essay. Can you imagine your students' reaction if they had to read 60 or more research papers their classmates wrote? Snoozeville.

Organizing student short stories {click to read more}

In the beginning, I just published the stories in my room. I basically made photocopies of each story, making sure the writer's name was either covered up or whited-out. Each story was assigned a number. Students were given a sheet of paper with the titles of the stories and a blank area to write their feedback.  I would then cut the paper in strips and give the writers the feedback (usually throwing away the comments that were hurtful or irrelevant). 

Short Story Unit with Student Stories (blog post from Mrs. Orman's Classroom)

I used a small file organizer with hanging files (see below). I labeled the folders in groups of 5 or 10 stories each so they would be easy for the students to find. 

Organizing Student Stories  (blog post from Mrs. Orman's Classroom)

It would take my students about 4-5 class periods (about 45 min. periods) to read through most of the stories, depending on length. We read some of the longer ones aloud. Years that I had more students, we took about six class periods to finish reading the stories.

Getting Students to Give Authentic Feedback  (blog post from Mrs. Orman's Classroom)

Students wrote their feedback on a separate page. Some years I even had students grade the stories. That was always interesting. They usually gave their classmates much lower grades than I did. I do think it also made them appreciate how hard it is to grade a creative assignment as objectively as possible.

Did some students slack off and only read some of the stories? Yes. Did some just copy the feedback from their classmates paper? Yes. But the majority of students really liked this unit and, boy, did they read a lot of pages! I've always had the attitude that reading something–no matter what the material–is better than not reading at all. If reading their classmates' stories will get a reluctant reader to read, I am all for it. 

Over the past few years, I've been publishing the stories online. Students can then comment online right after the story. The writers are still anonymous and the students create user names in order to comment (though most students know their classmates' user names because they can't help but tell each other).
Student Feedback Online  (blog post from Mrs. Orman's Classroom)

One rule I do stick to for the feedback online: keep it positive and constructive.

Student Feedback Online  (blog post from Mrs. Orman's Classroom)Will some students still be embarrassed? Yes. And here's why I think that is OK: the times I have been embarrassed by my mistakes in grammar, spelling, etc., I LEARNED from it. I became more careful with my writing. Each time I messed up publicly, I improved my writing exponentially. This growth does not come when we mess up privately because no one calls us on it, or we never notice our mistakes.

I could give pages of feedback to each student on their stories. Some may read it. Some may toss it in the trash without looking at it. Very few (if any) will try to improve that story. And why should they? It's already been graded. But one comment from a classmate saying, "It drives me nuts when people use the wrong 'your'!" is all it may take to get that writer to make changes.

Example of Published Student Stories (blog post from Mrs. Orman's Classroom)I use Blogger to publish student work because we all have Google accounts at school, so it makes it easy for the students to comment on the stories. I also appreciate the fact that Google Drive now has an "embed" feature, so I can share the stories as PDFs right on the blog post. Before, the formatting of the story (italics, special fonts) was usually lost when I copied and pasted them in.

{It should be noted that all my students have MacBook Pros. If you have limited access to the internet, I would choose to do the paper-publishing option instead.}

After students have read the stories, I have them vote for their favorites in categories such as "Best Plot," "Best Characters," "Most Creative," "Saddest," "Funniest," etc. If students wish to reveal which story is theirs after voting has finished, I allow them to do so, but they don't have to.

You can see past blogs here (note - some of the comments have been disabled to prevent just anyone from posting):
and currently (not all of the stories are published): http://ehsclass2017.blogspot.com/

Do you publish your students' stories? Please share your experiences in the comments below!

I will be updating my SHORT STORY WRITING UNIT within the next week to include all the handouts and information about publishing student work. 

Writing Short Stories: Soon to be Updated!
Soon to be updated!


Decorating Your Secondary Classroom {18 Things to Consider}

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  My friends over at Created for Learning put together an excellent blog post with tips from several secondary teachers on decorating classrooms. You'll want to head over there to get the entire blog post, but I'll share a few here as a tease. ;)

It's weird how sometimes our decorations end up disconnected with how old our students really are. I teach 7th and 8th graders. Some of them come from fine, constant, healthy family and personal lives.

They are the 3rd and 4th sibling to come through our school and succeed. They play Flappy Bird, use Snapchat and Ask.fm, watch videos on Vine and play medieval phone app games before school.

However, while still maintaining privacy, I can share that just last year, I had students bullying each other, students sharing racy photos on social media to improve modeling portfolios, students cutting themselves, students attempting suicide, even students creating fake online profiles to bully themselves to gain attention.

This is the middle school world we teach in. These are the students we are decorating our rooms for. These just might not be clip-art kids. And high school is another giant leap forward (or backward), but it's a giant leap somewhere. What would our classrooms look like if we designed them to engage these minds and attentions?

As a teacher, you can use words in clever ways to ìdecorateî your classroom, not only to fill up walls but also to make your students wise. One idea is to title specific areas of your wall in a
http://createdforlearning.blogspot.com/2014/08/18-things-to-consider-when-decorating.htmltargeted/meaningful way.  Carol used an idiom over her writing wall to teach idioms and open the door to the fundamentals of figurative language. In Johnís class, he uses ìCognitive Content Dictionariesî to be placed in a prominent locations which teaches key academic vocabulary as well as ìTier 2î vocabulary to aid in understanding text for EL learners.  Inspirational or humorous posters and quotes can also be used to fill smaller spaces and give students ideas to ponder on their own.


I have several items that I have in my room from my first year of teaching in 1999. Why do I keep them around? Mostly because they are either funny, sentimental, timeless, or related to a favorite book. Here are some examples: 

• (Funny) Close to Home (by John McPherson) comic: It has hung on my classroom door for many
years. I like to show my students that no matter how strict I may seem, I'm nothing compared to Mrs. Mutner. 
Classroom Pictures from www.traceeorman.com

• (Sentimental) Pictures of former students: Students love looking at pictures of past students. Plus, it helps me remember the names of my former students.
Classroom Pictures from www.traceeorman.com 

• (Timeless) This quote is timeless (and a great lesson on perspective), funny, and sentimental: my brother was an assistant coach for the St. Francis baseball team at the time (April, 1996). Robert Morris threw in the towel after the fourth inning, but the fact that they persevered until then also shows
Quote on Perspective from www.traceeorman.com 

• (Favorite Book): My To Kill a Mockingbird framed pictures. TKaM is still my favorite book and I love being able to share my love for it with my students. My framed pictures and book review from 1960 are probably my most prized classroom items.
TKaM prints from www.traceeorman.com

As a 14 year teaching veteran, I have tried countless ways to create bulletin boards for cheap. Cost does become a factor, and something a teacher should think of- we spend enough money on our classes without adding the extra cost of bulletin board decorations.  

I have found that some of my most engaging and most talked about boards were not the ones with flawless borders and themed decorations. Actually, it was just the contrary- Black butcher paper background, with the titles and words written in chalk with borders that were hand-drawn, got quite the reaction from my students. These example pictures will help explain what I mean:

Also, don't forget to use items in your room. For example, when teaching about a topic, I hang mentor texts from my bulletin board so the kids can "see" examples of published work that supports the topic. 

Remember to keep it simple, engaging, and useful!

All praise and adoration to my teachers growing up, but I can't remember a single one that decorated their room for us guys. And I probably lean toward decorating for the boys...I tend to teach novels that will engage boys. So we deserve it to both genders to take a good long hard look at our rooms and decorations and ask if the boys and girls will be entertained and informed, tantalized and taught.

"But what if I think it's good? What do I do then?"

  Ask our students. They will be honest. Sometimes too much so. But we'll always find out what they think. If we need to, we can do a quick anonymous poll or ballot or something. But we can find out what each gender thinks, if we ask.

CLICK HERE to read ALL the tips for secondary teachers!

Again, thank you Created for Learning for putting together this great blog post with fabulous tips from our fellow secondary teachers! The contributors are listed below:

Blog Contributors Cliff's Notes

Laura Randazzo
>>> Blog ||| TeachersPayTeachers Store
The Teacher Team
>>> Blog ||| TeachersPayTeachers Store
Tracee Orman
>>> Blog ||| TeachersPayTeachers Store 

Created by Mr. Hughes >>> Blog ||| TeachersPayTeachers Store
Julie Faulkner
>>> Blog ||| TeachersPayTeachers Store
Students of History
>>> Blog ||| TeachersPayTeachers Store 

Created for Learning >>> Blog ||| TeachersPayTeachers Store


Back to School Sale: Secondary Teachers Blast From the Past Yearbook

Back to School Sale: Secondary Teachers Yearbook Blast from the Past!

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  Oh, remember the days of middle and high school? How much simpler life was back then? Join your fellow secondary teachers for a blast-from-the-past celebration as TeachersPayTeachers kicks of its Back-to-School sale early this year!

  Life can be simpler for you using resources made by teachers.  The TeachersPayTeachers back-to-school sale is August 4th and 5th (yes, this coming week!). Use the code BTS14 at checkout to get the best savings.

  Stock up on tons of back-to-school/beginning of the year resourcesclassroom decor, Common Core-aligned lessons, activitieslesson planning, and so much more.

Special thanks to Danielle Knight who compiled all the secondary teacher's pictures and made the *totally awesome* photo above. Comment below with your graduation year (if you dare!) and attach a link to your favorite photo from school (optional...but it's so fun to see all the old pics!).

Here's mine (well, probably not my favorite, but it's my senior picture):

Mrs. Orman's Classroom: Back to School Yearbook!

It took me hours to crimp, curl, and tease that hair. I hope big hair is never back in style... 

You'll find everything you need for a successful school year in these secondary stores:


Interactive Notebook Examples and Templates

Interactive Notebook Activities for Secondary Students

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When I first heard someone mention interactive notebooks, I thought they meant "interactive" as in digital interaction between peers.

But I was completely wrong. "Interactive," as in "interactive notebook," refers to a student's collection of notes and graphics. They are personal tools for students to process ideas and concepts. The "interaction" part is the student interacting with the notes (rather than with other students). The more students interact with the information (have multiple senses connected with it), the more they can retain knowledge.

This makes sense to me because even though I love technology and would never want my students to be without access to their laptops, I still firmly believe writing with a pencil and reading a physical paper book helps my students remember and connect more deeply with the text.

With that in mind, I've been busy finding ways to incorporate more hands-on projects with my secondary students. (I've noticed that much of what is on the market for interactive notebooks is elementary-targeted.) I created these tabbed mini-books to use with both fiction and nonfiction text:

Interactive notebook activities on www.traceeorman.com

The books (Theme, Plot, Story Elements, Vocabulary, and Figurative Language Analysis) practice the following literature standards for grades 6-12: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.3CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.4CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.5, and CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.6.  They also cover these reading informational standards and language standards: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.4, and CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.5CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.4, and CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.5.

These are handy for using with individual stories and novels. Students can easily refer back to them later and compare two texts with one another. They are perfect for using as a source when writing a literary analysis paper or compare/contrast paper.

Interactive notebook activities on www.traceeorman.com

The wording/language used is targeted toward secondary students.

Interactive notebook activities on www.traceeorman.com
Plus, they are easy to put together: no glue is needed. Students can just assemble the pages and staple them. They can be affixed inside an existing notebook or not. 

Interactive notebook activities on www.traceeorman.com
Teachers can add as many or as few pages to the books. (This can be helpful for the plot analysis events and the vocabulary analysis book, both shown above.)

I also created a bundle of literature resources to cover all of the 6-12 Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for reading. Even if your state does not use the CCSS, you can still utilize these resources. The skills practiced still involve essential reading and critical-thinking skills. I separated the foldables by standards, but they are not labeled on the templates themselves.
Interactive notebook activities on www.traceeorman.com

It includes over 90 different activities, which are scaffolded for introducing skills and differentiated for progressing into more advanced skills.

Interactive notebook activities on www.traceeorman.com
One of the more difficult activities for my students over the past few years has been analyzing an event to see how it provokes a decision, propels the action, and reveals aspects of a character. I'm not sure why they struggle so much with this skill (reading standard 3), but breaking down single events and dialogue will help. The foldable above has students write each response on a clock face, then stack on top of each other and staple for a complete analysis of an event (below).
Interactive notebook activities on www.traceeorman.com

Another higher-level skill practiced is comparing/contrasting two different works and analyze how the two authors approach the material both differently and similarly. (Reading standard 9)
Interactive notebook activities on www.traceeorman.com

Secondary students may also appreciate graphics they can relate to.
Interactive notebook activities on www.traceeorman.com

Interactive notebook: comparing the book to its movie on www.traceeorman.com

Interactive notebook activity: analyzing how themes build upon and interact with one another

Interactive notebook: text message activity on www.traceeorman.com

A secondary interactive bundle would not be complete without the Bard, right!?
Interactive notebook: rewriting Shakespeare on www.traceeorman.com

If you download the preview to my package, you'll get two free templates from the bundle

I'd love your feedback!
Comment below with your experience using interactive notebooks in your classroom. 
• What kind of notebooks do you use (spiral vs. composition)? 
• How often do you use them with your students? 
• Do you have any tips for teachers starting out?

Thanks for stopping by and sharing!


Using Bell Ringers and Exit Slips for Quick Assessments

Bell Ringers & Exit Slips for Quick Assessments (www.traceeorman.com)

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Implementing the Common Core State Standards does not have to be a difficult chore for teachers. There are many ways you can quickly assess student learning and measure their levels of understanding.

While teachers will see a push for more writing, the samples need not be lengthy essays. Quick writes—a paragraph summary or a few sentences that show evidence from a tex—count as a writing activity. This is where bell ringers and exit slips can come in handy. The smaller size is less intimidating for students, yet they still practice essential skills.

I've included some examples of how I use quick writes in the form of bell ringers (given at the beginning of class) and exit slips (due at the end of class) to gauge student learning. These are from my two Common Core Bell Ringers  & Exit Slips bundles: Volume 1 and Volume 2.

Implement the Common Core with Bell Ringers and Exit Slips
You should NEVER sacrifice creative thought; it should still be encouraged alongside other skills.

Both bundles have received rave reviews by teachers and students alike. One unique feature I include: the Common Core Standard on every single slip, so you (and your students) know exactly which skills you are practicing or assessing.

Using bell ringers and exit slips in class for quick writes.

Use prompts that practice the Core standards, yet still encourage creative thought. Your students will be more engaged and will put more thought and effort into the activity. The activity above practices the third reading standard, which asks students to analyze the characters actions over time. By asking students to eliminate a character, they must think both critically and creatively to understand how that character impacted the plot and other characters.

Using bell ringers and exit slips in class for quick writes.
Above, students are asked to relate a famous quote with the text. By forcing them to make those connections, they have to synthesize the information they've read.

Using bell ringers and exit slips in class for quick writes.

Another quick assessment is my "What's Hot? What's Not?" activity. Students must select parts from the text that display both positive and negative aspects or connotations. 

If you find yourself stressing about implementing the Core standards, DON'T! I have over 200 different activities to practice every single reading standard for both literature and nonfiction that can be implemented immediately. (See Volume 1 and Volume 2.) 

I've been using the activities in my classroom for several years with great success. Feel free to comment or ask a question below. Thanks for stopping by!