Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Our college education may soon be over, but the learning has just begun!

Today as I was browsing the Secondary Solutions Blog I came across a post about poetry. And since it is National Poetry Month I thought it was very fitting to blog about. I love poetry. Reading it, writing it, I just love it. So when I came across this post I was shocked. The post was titled 20 Fun Poem Types You've Never Heard Of. When I read the title I thought to myself, there is no way there are 20 poem types I have never heard of, but it turns out there is indeed! Have you ever heard of a Tyburn poem? How about a Naani? I think it would be so fun and different incorporating some of these types of poems into my classroom someday during national poetry month. Many students can say they were required to write a sonnet or a haiku in high school, but how many students have you heard say they wrote a Clerihew?

You learn something new every day.


Monday, April 16, 2012

Classroom Resources

I am a huge Hunger Games fan. So of course I like to follow all things about the trilogy. One specific thing that I 'LIKE' on facebook is Hunger Games Trilogy Teaching Resources. Yesterday when I was online I saw that they posted something that said "Be sure to download my latest freebie: Creative writing exercises to use during your Hunger Games unit (can be used for Catching Fire and Mockingjay, as well.)" Of course the word freebie caught my eye- who doesn't love free things? Especially future teaching resources! So of course I downloaded it and saved it for future use. You can download your free copy here! You do have to create an account for the Teachers Pay Teachers website which is really simple. Just select the standard free membership and then provide an email address, a username and password, and then you provide the subject you "teach" (or in our case will be teaching in the future.) It's as easy as that, and then you are able to download the free resources offered! Basically it's so easy a caveman could do it. So if you're looking for some free teaching resources this website has tons ranging from poetry comics to essay organizers. There is even an activity using Katy Perry's song "Firework" to teach figurative language, sound devices, and other poetry terms. There really are tons of free resources available, so check them out!


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Today's life lesson

Something happened to me today that I never want to happen again, to me or anyone else for that matter. I am the queen of backing things up. Every time I write a paper I save it on both my computer and a flash drive. The one time I don't do this (today) my life became a living nightmare (or so it seemed.) Tonight we had an essay exam due for American Literature II at 11:59 p.m. I'm not much of a procrastinator so I like having things done a little bit ahead of time. On Tuesday I completed the majority of the exam, all except for the final essay on Faulkner's As I Lay Dying. Then yesterday I took a little hiatus because my boyfriend came to visit and we went out for wings with some friends. Today I sat back down to work on the final essay I had to write and the file I had saved on my flash drive would not open. I tried everything for almost an hour, before emailing the file to my boyfriend who knows a lot about computers, but his luck was the same as mine. The only thing that I could seem to do was open the file with notepad, and my entire exam wasn't there. My longest essay on Invisible Man and my works cited page were gone, so I spent the night not only writing my essay on As I Lay Dying but also re-writing my essay on Invisible Man and re-doing my works cited page. Never again will I only save something on my flash drive, because it might turn on me again and say my file is corrupt. I suggest you all do the same. Back everything up! Who knows, from know on I might start saving files on my computer and on two flash-drives, maybe that will save me from this ever happening to again.


Monday, April 9, 2012

Would I teach this?

As I read through my books for YAL I ask myself, would I teach these in my own class, and for many of the books that we have read, my answer would be yes, but there are some books that I just don't see as being enjoyable to both sexes. For instance, a couple of weeks ago I read Change of Heart- a novel about a young girl overcoming heart failure- it may seem gender neutral to some at first, but after getting wrapped up into a few pages you will realize that the book is geared more toward young adolescent girls. Most of the story is about how boy-crazy the girl is, with a few details about her heart failure mixed in here and there. I try to to imagine what it would be like to be a 16 year old boy reading this book, and it is something I can't imagine. If I were a 16 year old boy, I likely would have put the book down after a few pages and went to class claiming that I read it, when in actuality I would not have. Another book that I just read for this class is called The List. What is it about you might ask? A list that is posted in a high school each year naming the prettiest and ugliest girl in 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th grade. The book to me seemed very gender biased, yet again aimed at young adolescent girls, and just like Change of Heart, I can't picture myself using it in my classroom. I might recommend them to students that ask me for suggestions to read, but that is unlikely as well since I just genuinely wasn't that much of a fan of either of them. While I was reading Change of Heart I enjoyed it somewhat, but now reflecting on the book after reading it a few weeks ago I realize that I liked it less than I thought originally. These books just seem like adolescent versions of "chick-lit" to me, and sure some guys might enjoy these books, but I just think that in my personal opinion I would prefer to teach something more gender neutral in my classroom.


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Process Drama and always, always, ALWAYS having a back-up plan

Last week in Young Adult Literature, Dr. Balok talked briefly about planning lessons, and one of her main points was to ALWAYS HAVE A BACK-UP PLAN, it is something that was discussed in our Kadjer textbook as well. Kadjer discussed having a back up plan because many times technology malfunctions and things don't go as planned. " some point in time in your teaching, this will happen- no matter how tightly planned or experienced you are. It won't happen each time, but knowing what to do when it does matters." We experienced a first hand example of this in Young Adult Literature today. We were supposed to Skype with Shari Maurer, the author of the book Change of Heart, but of course with the horrible internet connection we have on campus, the Skype conversation was a failure. Things don't always go as planned and in such cases sometimes you have to improvise. Instead of talking to the author, we had a class discussion about the book which turned out to be a very successful "Plan B." Many students voiced their opinions about the novel, and I feel almost as if I benefited more from our class discussion (don't get me wrong it would have been kind of cool to Skype with the author, but I can read her full bio HERE.) Going along with the idea of having a back-up plan, one of the ideas that Dr. Balok gave us to use in case of emergency when things don't go as planned was very similar to the first activity we did today dealing with process drama where each person tells a part of a story. She suggested doing it as an entire class but I think I liked the way we did it separated into groups better, but I guess either would work and it depends on the amount of time you have to do the activity.

 always, always, ALWAYS have a back-up plan!


Monday, April 2, 2012

The Value of True and False

Taking a quiz this morning in my Production and Utilization of Technology class, something hit me that always irks me when I encounter true and false questions. I DESPISE THEM. I really don't see the value in many of the t/f questions my teachers use on their assessments. I think most people would agree that some teachers and professors use the wrong type of questions on some of their assessments. Sure t/f is sometimes a more valuable type of question to use on an exam than others but I think they are used incorrectly most of the time. They're a guessing game for the most part. The students have a better chance of getting the question right if it is a true/ false question compared to a multiple choice or matching question, but they have a better chance of getting it wrong as well. Oftentimes I do not think t/f questions measure what the students have learned but simply make them take a swing at a lucky guess.

Any thoughts?


Thursday, March 29, 2012

20 Shot Short Story

Other than having to film our story twice, I think this was a great experience. It might actually be something that I use in my own classroom someday/ or a similar idea. I like that we were randomly assigned groups and were given a story to do rather than having the option to choose our group and choose which story we do. In high school a lot of times all of the popular kids work together and then sometimes there is someone that is very shy or doesn't really get along well with others that doesn't have a group to work with. This way, that bias is gone, and each group will be roughly equal. Also, if the students were permitted to choose their story, they would likely all try to choose the stories that were familiar to them and no one would choose the other stories that were new to them- which could result in groups fighting over who gets which story. Having the stories selected for the groups is a sort of element of surprise. If I were doing this activity in my own classroom I would likely extend the amount of time students have to work on the project. Since high school usually meets 5 days a week rather than our 3 day a week class, maybe one solid week of class time would do it? I think it really depends on the students and their maturity level- some may need more time while others may finish in less than five days. Overall though, I think that the assignment as is was set up very well- and will likely do something similar to it someday.


Monday, March 26, 2012

Dyslexia Jeopardy

This week in my special education class I was required to complete a differentiated assessment project. Some of the options were writing a paper, summarizing about two journal articles, making a cartoon video online, creating a wiki-space, designing a website, or creating a jeopardy game. Being an English education major I think we can all agree I have enough papers to write in my other courses. So I decided to choose one of the more interactive options. I decided to make a Jeopardy game and we were required to create it around a topic we focused on in class so I chose dyslexia. If anyone would like to check out my Dyslexia Jeopardy game you can find it HERE.If you would ever like to create your own Jeopardy game this website is really simple and easy to use. It provides a template and you just provide the questions and answers. Easy enough, right?


Thursday, March 22, 2012

May the odds be ever in your favor

This week in Young Adult Literature we are studying dystopia literature, including The Giver and The Hunger Games. I read The Hunger Games a few weeks ago and over spring break I took the time to read the other two books of the series, Catching Fire and Mockingjay. I could not put the books down. I would think- I'll just read one more chapter, and then the next thing I knew it was four a.m. and I had a finished book. I thought to myself this is the kind of book I would want to teach in my class someday. Something exciting that really keeps the students attention. I have come across various hunger games activities to use in the classroom on Pinterest but today after typing "The Hunger Games lesson plans" into the Google search bar I received countless helpful resources. One of the more helpful websites that I found is Hunger Games Lessons. This website not only gives rationale for teaching the hunger games but also provides teacher examples and free downloads.

 If you ever decide to teach The Hunger Games in your classroom this website might come in handy!

"Happy Hunger Games! And may the odds be ever in your favor!"


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Reading Specialist

A few weeks ago in Young Adult Literature, Dr. Balok had one of her former students address the class during our focus on the novel Dope Sick. Originally, she was an English Education major but then decided to get her masters and become a reading specialist. After hearing her talk about it I researched the roles of reading specialists in schools and it has become something that I am seriously thinking of pursuing after I get a degree in teaching. I think it is something I would enjoy, and I cannot get the thought of it out of my head. I am a very indecisive person so it may take some time before I make my final decision. I mentioned to Dr. Balok about the opportunity seeming like something I may want to pursue one day. Her advice: keep thinking about it- and that is just what I am doing and will continue to do until the time comes when I have made a decision.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Pinterest- does have educational value!

I am a die-hard user of Pinterest. I could probably use it in my sleep. Not only do I find delicious recipes on there, I also find tons on DIY projects, and many helpful photography tips, but that's not all. I also find many helpful educational resources. I even have a separate board titled Teaching English. Where I not only pin lesson plans that might be helpful someday, but also different helpful organization tips and ideas for how to decorate and display things in my classroom- including countless quotes I would love to  have on display in my classroom somewhere. One of the most intriguing educational ideas I found recently on Pinterest is a website where students can upload photos of themselves and fill it with words about themselves and their interests, or I thought even better- they could write a poem to form to the shape of any image they choose. It's called Tagxedo. Here is an example of one in honor of a certain someone that just had a birthday last week. From looks it sort of reminds me of a Wordle- but in a fun shape.

Anyone else think this is a neat idea?


Monday, March 5, 2012

What's my grade?

This might turn out to be a bit of a rant, but it really bothers me when I have a class where the professor doesn't give you physical grades. It's not that I dislike the professors, because I do not, it just seems that every semester or so I have one class in which I do not receive physical grades. Once I had a night class in which we were required to write weekly reading notes and responses and the professor never gave us points or letter grades, but rather each week we would receive a check mark followed by a couple of plus signs. One week I would get a check plus and the next it would be a check plus plus. After a while I was worried because I had no clue how I was doing in the class and I asked the professor what the markings on my paper meant- their answer "You're doing fine." I didn't think I was failing or anything I simply wanted to know what I had in the class. This semester I have another class in which no grades are given. We write weekly response which have comments on, but never a grade or points. We have also taken several quizzes and none of them have been returned with a grade. (Many of you are in this class as well.) My question is why do professors do this? Do they think we don't care what we get on a quiz or have in the class? I am very conscientious about my grades. Maybe they don't realize the thoughts that run through there students mind when they have no physical grade to look at? Who knows, all I know is I can't stand it.

Anyone have any thoughts on this matter?


Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Today my group did our pod-casting book review, and now after creating my own podcast and seeing how the product turns out, I really think it is a great idea that I would love to work into my own classroom someday. We chose to use Podomatic- it's so simple, and it would be great in the classroom because it is free and you don't have to download any special software (in case your school is against that.) I think this is a great way for students to reinforce what they have learned from the reading. I see this as another medium that will allow students to better understand and connect with their reading, along with photo essays, "fakebook," and many of the other tools we have discussed in class. Many of them are things I can see myself using in my own classroom someday. It's crazy how many tools and activities there are to use in the classroom today. I graduated high school in 2009 and never used many of these tools we have learned about in class. Not only do I think that had I done assignments similar to the podcast I would have had a greater understanding of the works we read, but I likely would have enjoyed them more as well.


Monday, February 27, 2012


One thing that really interested me in our textbook Adolescents and Digital Literacies is the "drop everything and read" program that is implemented in many schools today. Sara Kadjer mentions the program several times throughout the text, one specific instance is in chapter five on page 70. DEAR is an independent reading time implemented during each day's morning meeting. Basically, students are required to read something in homeroom every morning. Another thing DEAR is known as is SSR (sustained silent reading.) We never had DEAR or SSR time in my high school, but I wish we had. We basically sat around and finished up the previous night's homework, or didn't really do anything. I think that if we would have had a program like this in our school maybe more of the students would have grew to love reading and would have rather picked up a book in their free time than spending countless hours in front of the television. I will be sure to keep many good books in my classroom when I am a teacher in case any student wants to read them in homeroom, even if the school I am teaching at doesn't have a DEAR or SSR program.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Say it in Six Words

For the past couple weeks in my Writing for Non-Print course we have been presenting lesson plans for developing digital literacies. Several of the lesson plans seemed like something I would love to use in my own classroom someday. The one that I liked the most was called Stop. Shoot. Send. Using Phone Cameras to Find Meaning and to Engage Students. My favorite part of the lesson plan is the six word story. Sometimes students don't need to write a one thousand word essay to express what is on there mind, and fewer words may have a great impact. We took a look at and on my own I found another helpful website with examples Here is one that I found that I really enjoyed..

Six Words. Right to the Point.


Monday, February 20, 2012

Teacher Workload

Many of you may have seen this image floating around...

I found this via "Secondary Solutions" Facebook and I can't agree with it more- and I have not even started my teaching career but I know it is a lot of work. Many times after telling people that I am going to school to be a teacher their thoughts are- Oh that's easy you get to hang out with kids- basically babysit for 8 hours a day. News flash to all of those people, our jobs are MUCH MUCH more than that. Our days don't stop once we get home from school because from there we have to work a few more hours at home working on lesson plans, grading tests and papers, etc.! And then there are those people who think how we get all Summer off as well- but they don't realize we have things to work on in the summer as well! My own grandfather asked me why I was going to school to be a teacher and told me I should get a real job and be a nurse! I think it's insane seeing a teacher's salary compared to, say a professional athlete. And now with all of these budget cuts many teachers end up spending their own salary on materials for their students because their school no longer provides them. This is just my personl rant about how underappreciated teachers are, but I'm sure many of you understand where I'm coming from and agree.

Any thoughts?


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Same old, same old

Admit it, when you are in a class where you nothing but the same things over and over it gets a bit boring, right? Sure, papers and exams are both a great way to assess students, but they aren't the only way. The possibilities are ENDLESS. So don't just keep doing the same old things over and over again. I found this new idea on Pinterest that I would love to incorporate into my classroom someday. I'm sure we've all been given the assignment to write our own poetry at some time throughout our schooling, and this puts a new spin on the "usual" way we are used to either writing poems by hand on a sheet of paper or typing them up on a computer. It's called "black out poetry" and here is one of the examples I found..
You can take an old book (and I mean OLD- falling apart- not able to read from any longer- no one wants to destroy a perfectly fine book,) newspaper, magazine, journal article, etc. and allow the students to write a poem with the words that are already on the page-- by blacking out the other words. It could even be a new spin on the six word stories we talked about in class, blacking out words to create a six word story. The possibilities with this idea are endless as well.

Anyone else like this idea? 


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day

Today I was thinking to myself about my future classroom, and I was wondering how many people still think it's OK to decorate their classroom for the holidays? I know when I was younger we had Christmas and Halloween parties but then in second grade or sometime they were changed to Fall and Winter celebrations. We had religious neutral celebrations, which I'm sure most public schools do today. Of course that means Christmas, Easter, Halloween, etc. But today I began thinking what about other holidays such as Valentine's Day and St. Patrick's Day? Isn't Valentine's Day named after a Christian saint after all? I remember having full out Valentine's parties in elementary school and some might think this is more of a topic for elementary teachers but I would like to decorate my classroom someday and I'm just not sure if it's appropriate to go around hanging up window cling conversation hearts or if I should stick with something neutral like snowflakes. Even a simple bulletin board like THIS could that be considered inappropriate? St. Patrick's Day is considered a religious holiday to some as well yet I remember teachers decorating for that holiday when I was in school. Or another idea- not merely decorating for the holidays but even planning a lesson around a holiday.

Anyone have any thoughts on this subject, is it appropriate or should we leave the construction paper conversation hearts at home?


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Decisions, decisions

As I have been reading for my literature classes this semester I have suddenly realized what a BIG decision it is trying to decided what texts to use in the classroom and what books are appropriate for each grade level. Some things, especially in today's books just seem so powerful and not age appropriate for specific grade levels. Reading for my YAL class in particular this thought crossed my mind. The first book we read was Freak the Mighty, which involves some crime, the topic of murder, and death. This was not my first time reading the book, I actually read it in my 7th grade reading class. During a class discussion yesterday, some students said they didn't think they would teach this in their classroom because some of the things were a little too heavy for teens to handle. I, on the other hand, could see myself teaching this in the classroom, maybe because it was a book I had read at an early age. I then thought to myself- murder and crime isn't anything new to teenagers, they see it on television, online, and even in video games. And death is something we will all have to face in our lives at some point, so I really do not see this book as being controversial at all. The second book we are reading for YAL, Breathing Underwater, seems a bit controversial as well. It deals with themes of abuse and violence. This book I see as being a bit more controversial and inappropriate for certain age groups. I thought to myself while reading it, that a lot of the stuff in it was really HEAVY, maybe a bit to inappropriate for middle schoolers, but high school students should be able to handle it. This reminds me of something my college writing professor told me, she said that there were parents complaining that the parents of her college students were upset that their children were reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower, because the book talks about sex and drugs. If their children haven't learned about sex and drugs or encountered them in real life or on television, I don't know what world they are living in because it sure isn't this one! This all made me reflect on the decisions I will have to make once I become a teacher, and I have realized that students are (for the most part) mature enough to handle the situations that occur in these books.

This website lists some books schools view as controversial: on it are some books I read in school, and others I have read outside of school which really shocked me.
  • The Chocolate was (read in 8th grade)
  • The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
  • The Great Gatsby
  • The House on Mango Street
  • The Joy Luck Club (read in 10th grade)
What some people view as controversial, may not be CONTROVERSIAL at all..


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Digital Resource

Today I received an email from my Special Education professor saying that he just began testing out a new technology called CorkboardMe. I had never heard of this tool before, so of course I was intrigued. CoarkboardMe is descibed as a Shareable sticky notes web-app and it could be used for just about anything. The app's slogan is, "the simplest way to manage life, work and play." If you would like to browse the website click HERE. On the home page to the website it demonstrates a few of the different uses for the app. You could use it for to-do lists, grocery lists, recipes, etc. My professor has chose to post important concepts that we have learned in class and we are permitted and encouraged to add our own sticky notes of questions or comments. In a way we are using it as an interactive study guide. Here is a youtube tutorial video for anyone that would like to learn more about CorkboardMe. Basically, it's like the sticky note gadget for desktops, but they are all confined to this website- that way your desktop isn't all cluttered with tons of sticky notes, and we can share them with others, which is helpful as an educational resource.
So feel free to check it out, I definitely see this as a tool that I could use someday in the classroom.


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Social Bookmarking

As I was reading chapter 2 in the the Hicks book, The Digital Writing Workshop, I came across the subject of social bookmarking. Thea first thing that came to my mind when I read it was Pinterest. According to Wikipedia, "Pinterest (pronounced to rhyme with "interest") is a vision board-styled social photo sharing website and app where users can create and manage theme-based image collections." Wikipedia also goes on to say, "The mission statement of Pinterest is to connect everyone in the world through shared tastes and the 'things' they find interesting" As a future educator I have found Pinterest to be extremely helpful. I have a pinboard titled "Teaching English" where I have pinned many items that I have come across that I can use in my classroom someday. Some of the things I have pinned are lesson plans, classroom posters, and even student activities. Pinterest was listed as one of the top 50 websites in 2011 by Time magazine. I think that Pinterest is a really great way for educators to share ideas with one another. Sure, I follow my friends on Pinterest, but there are also people that I have found on Pinterest and began to follow because that have English education pin-boards as well.
So, if you have a Pinterest feel free to follow me HERE, and if you don't you should really check it out!
Here is one of the inspiring English related pins that I came across and would love to display in my classroom someday maybe on a poster:

I'm not sure if Pinterest is actually considered a "social bookmarking" tool, but it is the closest thing that I have used. It tags all of these webpages for the specific content into one area so that I can easily access it, and I'm not filling up my bookmark or favorites toolbar, so it keeps my computer more organized, and I can also share everything that I pin with others.
Happy pinning everyone!


Sunday, January 29, 2012

For starters...

For starters, if anyone was confused by the title of my blog I should just throw this out there: my initials spell jam. JENNIE ANNE MAY= J.A.M. I thought it might be funny to use it as a sort of pun in the title. Sometimes in my class we might literally be jamming to some music while the students do some writing, at other times however, the only jam in the classroom will be me- unless I get married and my initials change or if a student has some in their lunch box.  Now that I have cleared that up—on to the educational matter.

I am a Junior Secondary English Education major at Slippery Rock University (in case anyone reading this is not a part of the university or did not read the biography about me beneath my picture.) I am keeping this blog to reflect on my coursework and all things educational going on in my college career.  I have completed most of my English and Education requirements towards my degree. Next Fall I will be doing field (and taking History and Philosophy of Education and next Spring I will be student teaching. The summer before field, I will likely be taking Mass Media, a Science lab, and a Challenges of the Modern Age course. My first year at SRU I was a Psychology major, so I am a little behind with the coursework because I had planned on taking four years of classes rather than 3 ½ and a semester of student teaching. Here’s a piece of advice to everyone out there—GO WITH YOUR GUT. I originally wanted to be an English teacher since I was in Jr. High, but at some point in high school, the idea of being a psychologist came to my mind. I thought it would be really neat, plus it appeared they made BANK compared to public school teachers (at least in the districts where I’m from) so that is what I came to SRU to get a degree in.  I had to listen to my heart though and change my major to English Ed., and now here I am taking 21 credits trying to get caught up! May 2013 cannot get here soon enough, and when it does I will be holding a degree in Secondary English Education, and I will be certified to teach grades 7-12. I want to do all of the things for my students that some of my English teachers never did. One of those things is really preparing students how to write a good essay, and I will likely have them write some longer papers as well, because when I came to college I was so unprepared. In high school I would have to write a 5 page paper and I would think it was the end of the world and the paper was so long I could never finish it. 

Some things about me- I am a part of Sigma Tau Delta(the English honorary,) I encourage you to join if interested! I am also a part of the University Program Board (Also known as UPB)- I volunteer helping with university events. There is a Facebook page for this organization HERE- join if you would like all the latest updates about what is happening on campus! In UPB I help do some of the advertising and create bulletin boards,  that is one thing I am looking forward to as a teacher decorating the bulletin boards in my classroom , and possibly even in the hallway, with my students work! I loved when my teachers displayed different poems and things that I did for class.
I will continue to update this blog several times a week throughout the semester and maybe even after the semester is over if it seems like something I want to keep up with…
If you are still reading at this point… I hope you enjoy my blog!