“Let’s do something fuuuuuuuuunnn this year,” my colleague Jana whined.

We’re in my classroom, trying to do the beginning-of-year planning that is required by all departments. Both Jana and I feel we’re in some sort of weird holding pattern with our classes. Last year, we saw our freshmen and sophomore students’ faces blurred with boredom and apathy. Neither of us wanted that again, especially in light of the political upheavals and teacher bashing that has become commonplace.

The more we talked and brainstormed, the more I thought about this past Teacher Research Week at UNCC. During the week, we made with words, technology, and science. It felt that Jana and I had happened upon a STEM/maker train of thought that refreshed our outlook on teaching literature and writing.

Our first speed-bump was logistical:  “Is this appropriate instruction? What will other teachers and administrators say when our classes are loud and messy? How much money will it cost to ‘make’?” Thankfully, though, my administrators allow teachers to be independent thinkers and aren’t married to a pacing guide — we are extremely lucky in that regard.

Next, we began brainstorming all the different ways we could create “experiences” with our literature (This term comes from Dave Burgess’ book, Teach Like a Pirate). Our plans for sophomores include: experiencing the story “How Much Land Does a Man Need” by walking the cross country track and burying dead “bodies” (cutouts) at the end; having students dress up for book talks; writing marathons around the school campus and on field trips, and creating digital personas through the Voki website. My class today will make 6-word memoirs of Holocaust survivor stories, and then represent them with pictures.

Our first foray into making, though, came two weeks ago with freshmen and the story, “The Most Dangerous Game.” We wanted the classes to get the feel for the main character’s (Rainsford) stress as he hides in the woods, trying to trap and outwit his antagonist. They had one hour to use recyclable materials they had brought from home, and whatever outside material they could find, to create a trap that would stop an aggressor. Jana and I developed a rubric, not for a grade, but as a guide for their thinking. Each group had to reflect on the STEAM elements, as well as respond individually as to how their group worked together, design flaws and challenges, and whether they thought their trap worked as planned.

The day was nothing short of amazing! In the individual and whole group reflections in my class, I heard things like, “It showed us the stress Rainsford was in”;  “I don’t know if I would be able to think on my feet like he had to”; “Our trap didn’t work because our string was too thin. We should have added a small tree or bush limb”; “We had to listen to everybody’s idea and use pieces of each one”; “We should do this again because we can live the story.”

I am excited about this school year! Just like my students, I needed another person to bounce ideas off of to get a maker movement started, at least in my department. Jana is very good at imagining these kinds of ideas, and I’m very good at getting the curriculum targeted. It takes both levels of thinking to Make Space for Making, and I look forward to continuing these experiences.

For your viewing pleasure:

Run grammar 2On April 3rd, I was able to attend the UNCC Writing Project’s Spring Conference. The keynote speaker, Jeff Anderson, offered a way to use mentor sentences from published texts as a brain-friendly, researched-based from of grammar instruction. It was an amazing day of learning for me, as I hope I show through my Storify narrative.


I also began using mentor sentences in my daily instruction. The first two weeks of my lessons are below:




Storify: UNCC Writing Project Spring Conference, April 2014


Lesson Plan with 2 weeks of mentor sentences: Mrs. McCabe’s Daily Grammar


By the way…this is one of my pet peeves — problems with homonym/homophones !! haha..



So, I wonder….what are some grammar rants you have? How do you handle them in the classroom or in a business setting?


Picture credits: http://tinyurl.com/mjjdcmn       http://tinyurl.com/k44y4v2

sols_6I haven’t posted in TWT in a while, and I miss this community. I’m especially glad to be writing today, as I’m having existential angst with my writing instruction. My sophomores and juniors are so apathetic right now that I’m finding it difficult not to scream every day and pull my hair out!! Sounds drastic, right?

It does until my 2nd grader brings home her work from last week, and in the packet is a story she wrote about a girl named Alex who feels like other girls at school are bullying her because she doesn’t have the right kind of clothes. I have no clue what the assignment was, but the only feedback she had on the paper was a minuscule check mark at the top of the page. When I ask her about it, she says she just wrote something down because she “doesn’t have any stories in my head.”

After this exchange, all I want to do is cry. My high school students feel like my Lily. For so long, their voices haven’t mattered, except for a check mark that they did something. I see them just want to get an assignment finished — not write for an authentic audience or get feedback from me or share with classmates. Writing is something to hide — and to whisper in my ear or on a post-it note that they used to like to write, but now they don’t because there are “no stories in my head.”

My angst comes because the more I try to be mad at the apathetic teenagers sitting in front of me more concerned with their cell phones than my grand lesson plans, the more I see a room filled with tall Lilies….begging me to bring their stories out no matter how much they whine and complain and pretend that they have nothing worth saying.

Why can’t I just be mad?????

CS Lewis quote

nerdlutiont555I’m struggling again to create a literature unit plan for my high school students. We MUST read The Great Gatsby. I WANT my students to read The Great Gatsby. But they will take too much time, I won’t be able to incorporate writing or test-prep, and they will just tell me that they don’t understand this book. How do I know these things? Because this is how they roll!

I’ve worked all day trying to figure out strategies they can use to read and understand this book. I’m drawing/sketching, using Notice & Note language, and writing in the margins of the book. I’m learning more about the book — this  is only the 2nd time I’ve taught the book — but this process is so labor intensive that I really don’t think my 17 y/olds will persist with me. And if we have to read this whole thing out loud, they will DEFINITELY bolt!

So, I’m stuck. Everything is so slow with this group, and I don’t feel like I’m being very structured in my lessons. Stopping the whining now and getting back to reading and notetaking…

Wish me luck

#nerdlution #2

nerdlutiont555I’ve been very addicted to Twitter lately — it’s almost all I do except read very important books!! ;)  The other day, I creeped into a conversation where some important people wanted to re-commit to personal goals. There’s a hashtag, round of blog posts, and a picture to make this all “official”! Here is one blog I read that explains #Nerdlution better than I ever could: Sharpread

I’m making a commitment that for the next 50 days, I’ll do a few things I’ve been neglecting. Here’s the short list:

1…blog each day. It can be here or maybe in my daybook, but writing is a must!

2… SOME sort of exercise. The best way to do this is to follow that blasted Fast Metabolism book!! Just do it, please!

3…have Game Night with Lily once a week. Wednesdays sound good (and with Jake when he’s home).


That’s probably all the resolutions I need to make. Hell, I’m already behind on the first day’s…it’s after midnight. Maybe Dec 1 will be the start date…now if I can just do the math to see when the 50 days are up! haha…

Good news is I’ve read 2 1/2 books this week: One Night That Changed Everything; a skeery book from the WL library (that I can’t remember the name of, nor can I find it!); and half finished with The Sea of Tranquility, a creepy book that Donna told me to read.

I also started another website to house my teaching “stuff” — I’m being horrible by keeping resources in a million other places, so today, I tried to put websites and ideas and documents in one spot. We’ll see how long that lasts! For now, though, I have 4 pages…but the Home page is my favorite. I’m really struggling with staying with teaching, so I added a cute WeeMe avatar (where I’m holding my old Blackberryand a Starbucks coffee),3 videos that inspire me, a poem, a quote by Ghandi (for when I’ve feeling really bad) and, a Spotify

Avatar Me2playlist of 13 songs that should definitely inspire me (or, at least, define how I feel about teaching — when I love it, not now when I’m pissed).

    I know…cute, huh??

That about does it for today’s episode!

sols_6Dear Nookalicious:

I love you as an e-reader. You’re much cooler than my niece’s Kindle, plus, you’re better looking. It’s crazy cool that you can occupy Lily with Read-To-Me titles and gaming apps. It’s even okay that JakeyPie shakes his head every time he sees me reading you.

But you know what? As much as I love you and can’t imagine not having you around, you’ll never replace my books. I see you with that look in your eye when I choose you over them, but mostly, you just sit on my nightstand waiting for me to pack you up for a trip some where. You’ll never crackle with new-page-smell. Or fan me when I’m hot. Or let me bend the top of your page to hold my place, or the bottom of your page to catch a cool quote. I can’t even sticky-note you, for crying out loud!

Yes, I’ll admit, Kevin likes you better — less cluttered stacks of books waiting to be taken to school for my students. But you’ll never feel the electric current of being held and thumbed through and thrown in the backpack of a teenager. When your battery runs out, so does the story. My book will still be there, waiting for the page to turn.

Don’t cry, Nookalicious. You do have a purpose. I get to sample all kinds of books and decide if I want to buy a hard copy of it. That’s something, right? And I can always watch House of Cards on Netflix…

But I can’t fall asleep with you in my hands. If I do, I wake up with a TERRIBLE headache!



sols_6So, I’m trying to find different ways to address argument, common core crappy standards, NC high school English test-prep, and technology without boring my students (or me) to tears. In my unit on storytelling right now, I have planned on using two TED-Ed talks: Sir Ken Robinson’s on education killing creativity and Dan Pink’s on motivation. Well…

This morning, on Twitter, I followed a link to a TED talk (but I can’t find the link at the moment). Once at the site, a tab tells me to “Flip this lesson”!! I’ve spent the better part of the afternoon working on this activity that might be a total BUST!!! But I’m a tad excited about it. Rather than use a paper version of my Article of the Week assignment, my students will watch these two videos and complete test prep and extended writing about them. I know I don’t like the test-prep part, but that’s the nature of my job at the moment.

Anyone up for completing the activities — or really just looking at them — and giving me some feedback? If so, go here — my class website. I would definitely appreciate it!!

Happy Sunday!


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