Why Next Time Teaching?

We’ve all been there. Sitting in a staff meeting or a professional development session, hoping for something we can use next time. Monday. Tomorrow. Next period.  

It’s happened to me, although I’m insatiably curious and really passionate about how teachers learn and grow. I think a lot about the teaching life (because let’s be real, it’s not a job). But even so, I’ve sat in pd sessions when I knew I didn’t have lesson plans for the next day and I knew I had stacks of papers to grade, and thought “that’s all well and good, and I would love to talk more about it later, but I need something for next time.”    

At its most frustrating, teaching can feel like an endless string of “next times” with never enough time to prepare or research or grade or think (let alone rest!) in between. And yet somehow we Continue reading

What do teachers need?

The same things they give their students every day!

What if we gave teachers what they need

I’m so glad that teachers in Oklahoma, West Virginia, and other states are advancing the conversation on what teachers need.  We risk the future of our country when we don’t pay teachers a livable middle class wage and support them with the supplies they need in the classrooms.  But I want to talk about another set of things that we should give teachers. Teachers need the same things they provide their students, because they are also learners. Continue reading

12 Poems to Get Students Into Poetry

getting students into poetryLast time on Next Time Teaching, we were talking about poems that work really well for teaching literary analysis skills for the AP Lit exam.  But you may teach younger kids, or kids who aren’t ready for that level of close reading.  So today I want to talk about poems that work well in the ELA classroom to get kids interested in poetry.

Do you have kids who dislike (even–gasp–hate) poetry?  Again, I wouldn’t shy away from teaching literary devices.  I know a lot of times with struggling readers we focus on their reactions and opinions.  But if I don’t like poetry, and don’t feel like I understand poetry, and then get asked “how does this poem make you feel?” I’m not going to have much to say.  Especially if there’s a right answer buried in the question (like the poem is supposed to make you feel sad, not angry, even though you have every right to feel angry for being asked that!). Continue reading

12 Poems to Teach Poetry Reading Skills in AP Lit

AP Lit poems

image credit: Steve Johnson

What makes a poem great is a question that has, of course, been discussed for ages.  But I’m more interested in “what makes a poem great for teaching?”  And there are different teaching situations–great for having students see that poetry can speak to them, great for getting kids writing, great for extending the conversation about a longer work that you’re reading.

Today I want to focus on poems that are great for teaching the skills of reading poetry.  I’ve called them AP Literature poems because I think that’s often the class where we focus in the most depth on poetry reading skills.  But I’ve found that kids in a variety of classes really appreciate poetry reading skills.  A lot of them feel like poetry is something they don’t get, but they’d like to.  

So how do you teach them to get poetry?  I don’t shy away from poetic devices because I think they can be empowering tools for students.  What is a speaker and how is it different from the poet?  What does rhyme actually do to a poem?  Why do poets choose line and stanza breaks? These are all questions we tackle in a hands on way.   Continue reading

Don’t Say Stratford upon Avon!

An Engaging Activity for Introducing Any Shakespearean Play

A lot of textbooks that introduce Shakespeare start with something like “William Shakespeare was born on April 23, 1564 in Stratford upon Avon, England.”  Um, okay.  The problem is how does that help students?  The one thing they probably know about Shakespeare is that he lived a long time ago.  They probably don’t know much of anything about the 16th century, so adding the date doesn’t help.

And where the hell is Stratford upon Avon?  For that matter, what the hell is Stratford upon Avon and why does it have that weird (at least to Americans) name?  That one simple sentence about Shakespeare’s birth hasn’t done much to build student knowledge or motivation to read. At worst, it might have reinforced their beliefs that Shakespeare will be difficult, foreign, and have nothing to do with them.

At this point you might feel tempted to break into a song and dance routine to liven up Stratford upon Avon.  But I want to suggest a more engaging way of introducing any Shakespearean play.   Continue reading

Gods and Goddesses in Homer’s Odyssey

Should You Teach All of Them?

gods in the Odyssey

It may be tempting to start teaching Homer’s Odyssey by having students do background research on the Greek gods and goddesses.  With twelve Olympians, it seems like a nice group project to split kids up and have them research domains, symbols, Roman names, etc.  And then they present to the class, everyone takes notes, and on Friday there’s a quiz.

Please don’t.  I’ve done it that way, and I think it’s confusing to the kids.  There are better ways of starting The Odyssey and helping kids have a powerful experience with a very different culture and a very unusual text (at least in their experience). Continue reading

12 Resources for Teaching Storytelling


image credit: Jerry Kirkhart

I love teaching storytelling!  The kids are motivated and love the opportunity to talk about themselves.  Writing comes naturally.  There are so many great connections to literature from The Odyssey to The Things They Carried.

Honestly, the biggest problem I’ve ever had with storytelling is teachers from different years fighting over who gets what in their curriculum because everyone wants a storytelling unit.  But given the right resources, there are a lot of different approaches you can take to storytelling, so that everyone can have their own unit.

So here are a dozen storytelling resources: Continue reading

IATE Fall Conference

I just got back from presenting at IATE’s fall conference.  I’m always honored by the people that come to listen to what’s worked well in my classroom and I hope I can save others some time and frustration.  If you’re new to Next Time Teaching, the teal start button to the right is a great place to start and the handouts that I presented are all on the resources page.  In the coming weeks, I’ll be posting more resources and sharing some new ones that I discovered at the conference.

Some things that have stuck with me from the conference: Continue reading