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Tips for Positive Parent Interactions

Although it is often underestimated and overlooked, parent and teacher collaboration is vitally important to student success.  Some parents have time to be very involved and others have significantly less time and/or resources to dedicate to schooling.  Either way, parents ought to be a respected part of the education equation and positive communication with them should be toward the top of teachers’ priorities.  Here are a few tips for keeping parent communication positive:

Be available. Within our school environments, we often know the best way to get ahold of our colleagues.  The principal prefers email, a department chair likes voicemail, a close colleague is best through text, and so on.  However, parents are not part of our day to day operations and it isn’t always obvious to them how to get ahold of us.  Be sure to include your best contact info at Back to School Night, Parent Conferences, Open House, and your website if you have one.  Tell parents if they can contact you through:

  • Email (make sure the address is easily accessible)
  • Voicemail (make sure your extension is listed on syllabus, website, etc)
  • The Learning Management System of your school
  • Social Media
  • Text (one of my local schools has gone to parent/teacher texting via celly).
  • Walk-in hours
  • Other

It may seem obvious, but after you communicate this information to parents, you have to follow through. This is one of the most common frustrations I hear from parents.  A teacher will say that email is best, but then not consistently check it or respond to it or he/she may say that social media is always available and then not update for months. This leads to my next point.

Have boundaries. You probably will not have positive parent interactions without some boundaries. You should not be a slave to parent communication, emailing back at midnight to let them know what specifically the student missed on the last test. Here are some boundaries that I find helpful:

  • Establish a 24 hour response time. I think this is fair to both parties.  I keep this standard on the weekends also, but you may want to make it 48 hours on non-school days.  Whatever you decide, communicate it to parents so they know what to expect.
  • Conference when necessary: Some situations warrant a meeting. Instead of writing a long email that may be misconstrued because of tone or jargon, don’t be afraid to ask for a meeting.
  • Let them know any pitfalls to communication.  For me, this is voicemail.  Even with a post-it on my computer monitor and a recurring cellphone reminder, I have the hardest time remembering to check my school voicemail.  Our phones don’t have a flashing red light or any other indication that we have a message, so voicemails occasionally go unnoticed by me.  Voicemails are also not available over the weekend, so the response time can be much longer for multiple reasons.

Make positive contact. It can be a daunting task when you have 200 students spread over 5 periods, but sending an authentic positive note or call home sets the stage for open and positive communication later if or when you need to discuss any issues. For me, email is better (and quicker), but a phone call is preferable when email access is limited. Some of the positives you can use to contact parents include:

  • High test/quiz scores
  • Improvement
  • Consistent effort
  • Additions to class discussion
  • Taking responsibility
  • Coming in for extra help when needed
  • Helping others when needed
  • Anything else you notice!

Use technology (if appropriate). You know your school demographics best. If parents have access to technology, use it to your advantage!  Here are two ideas:

  • Celly: This service allows you to use texting for academic purposes in a safe, private manner.  There are many applications for celly in the classroom, but one of them is for parent communication. Parents can opt in to the service with a simple text. The website offers printable instructions for teachers, students, and parents.  Once it is set up, parents can text you within appropriate boundaries.  You don’t have to give out your actual phone number, and you can set acceptable hours for texts.  You can text privately with individual parents and also send out announcements to the entire list.  Click here for the celly website and click here for my earlier blog post about ways to use it in your classroom.
  • Google Forms: If parents of your students can access your website, you can quickly embed a google form that will help you schedule parent communication.  You can make certain fields required, which is nice because it ensures you get all the proper information to contact them back, prepared to discuss their comment or concern.  For more info, click here for an older blog post about using google forms.

Parent-Teacher Contact

Daily Affirmations for Secondary Students

Sometimes in the muck and mire of teenage life, negative self-talk takes over and it is hard to focus on academics, building positive relationships, and accomplishing goals. As English teachers, we ignite a love of our favorite authors, cultivate solid argument writers, and extol the virtues of effective communication, but occasionally we have to break through some tough barriers of negativity to impart our knowledge and help students think critically.  When we are up in front of the class lecturing, teens may be thinking about things like:

  • A negative body image
  • Parental arguments
  • Unhealthy relationships
  • A growling stomach
  • A lack of social acceptance
  • and a myriad of other ailments.

How can they focus on reading Byron, Shelley, and Keats when they are bullying themselves?  I do not pretend that we can change all of these feelings in 10 seconds a day, but thinking about this issue got me reminiscing about one of my Jr. High teachers, Mrs. Kelley. EVERYDAY when the bell rang, she had  us ALL repeat a daily affirmation in a call and response fashion.  At first, I thought it was crazy, but by the end of the year I looked forward to it because it felt good to say something nice to myself, especially in the middle of a stressful school day.  20 years later, I can still hear her voice saying the affirmation below. I have not conducted formal studies on the matter, but I have my anecdotal experience and here is a link to an article about the importance of positive self-talk, also here is an article about daily affirmations. Below are three of my favorite daily affirmations for secondary students, starting with the one Mrs. Kelley ingrained in me.

Affirmation 1

Affimation 2 Affirmation 3

Would you or do you say daily affirmations with your students?  What words do you want penetrating their daily outlook?

Pop Culture Reminders for Effective Writing

Do you find yourself giving the same advice to student writers over and over again?  Sometimes I feel like I just can’t get certain things to stick.  Students need to see and hear certain ideas over and over again to internalize the message and actually put them into practice.  Enter memes.  I’ve seen some teachers do amazing things with memes, so I thought it could be a good idea to put some writing tip memes up in my room.  Basically the idea is that I would talk about the story behind the meme and connect that story to some key writing advice.  Then I would print large memes to put up in the front of the room above the white board where students can see them everyday and remember the story.  I could also include some bullet points around them and refer to them occasionally.

dice move

The first meme comes from a movie in which the main character is an clumsy dancer, repeating the same dance move too often. From this one, we can talk about overusing the same sentence structure and the same word or phrase.  (Note: I would not show the clip of this movie in class as the main characters are drinking in a club during the scene, but students are familiar with the context for the most part and can understand the premise just with the brief explanation.)

double check


This meme reminds students of the horror experienced in the movie Home Alone when the mother realizes she forgot one of her children.  I could accompany this with advice about the absolute necessity of proofreading and double checking for style and usage. This clip is easily found on youtube to drive the point home.


Although Ferris Bueller took his day off in 1986, this cult classic is well-known among the high school students in my area of Southern California. The monotone teacher can remind students to add variety in vocabulary and sentence structure as well as interest to arguments.


Poor Olaf!  Everyone who has seen Frozen knows that this wacky snowman is unaware of the consequences of summer, basing his whole song on a false premise.  I could use this as a jumping off point for using research and literature appropriately.  The song (or essay) can  be catchy and beautiful, but if the facts don’t support the argument or miss a major premise, the reader is laughing at you, not with you.


What pieces of writing advice do you give over and over again?  What memes would you add?  We’d love to hear form you in the comment section below!

5 Times When You Realize How Awesome It Is To Be a Teacher:

Happy Labor Day! Let’s celebrate by listing just a few times when we realize how awesome it is that our labor of love is teaching!

When we get to talk all day about stuff we love: Teaching allows us to continue and deepen our love affairs with Steinbeck, Lee, Shelly, and the art of a skillfully crafted argument. What other job could give us this kind of satisfaction?

When a kid thanks us: Teens and tweens are often the first to complain that we expect too much, that we push too hard, and that we assign too much reading. However, when the hard work pays off and the high expectations are met, they will often be the first ones to thank us and those two simple words mean so much from them because they are hard earned.  I keep a stack of meaningful student thank you notes through the years in my desk drawer to remind me on hard days that the work pays off!

thank you

When we get free things with our teacher ID: There is no denying that teachers are underpaid for our extensive hard work. And you better believe I’ll be there when starbucks is giving a free coffee, the theater is giving a teacher discount, or chipotle is giving a free burrito. It is the least they could do for us, right?


When we get a certain autonomy: Of course we take mandates from (and sometimes do battle with) administrations, legislators, and textbook publishers, but for so much of the meaningful instruction, we are the queens and kings of our classrooms. We build spaces conducive to learning, we plan carefully, and we interact authentically and we do so for the most part with our own style.

When a kid gets it: Hands down, the best part of teaching for many of us is watching the ah-ha moments. Just one student lightbulb moment can recharge a weary teacher for months.

get it

What is the best part of teaching for you?

Games to Help Students Write More Precisely and Concisely

I always seem to have students who believe that effective writing is verbose. If they exceed the page minimum, they expect a high grade.  These students tend to applaud themselves for the hard work on essay assignments, and it can be very difficult to convince them that their style of writing is actually quite lazy. As English teachers, we try to teach students that writing should be precise and concise. In order for students to accomplish this goal, they must have an extensive vocabulary and clear command of syntax. In short, we teach the adage:


Below are two games that can be used in the English classroom to emphasize these writing traits.  They can be used as a warm-up, brain break between lessons, after test activity, or any other time that works for your instruction.

Game 1: The Synonym Series


  • Before the game begins generate a list of precise, high level vocabulary words that your students would be familiar with. You need 1 word for every two students in your class.
  • Divide students into 2 groups.
  • Invite 1 student from each group to face off.
  • Show the first word to the students who are not in the face off. Make sure face-off students cannot see it.
  • Then, each side will take turns giving one word clues to their team member.  Clues can be synonyms or descriptors like: stronger, weaker, formal, informal, and the like. No rhyming, sound clues, or other shenanigans.
  • The first person who guesses the correct word scores a point for his or her team.

Example: Elated

Clues: Happy, Stronger, Stoked, Formal, Euphoric, Jubilant, Joyous, and so on until one member guesses correctly.

Benefits: This game enhances vocabulary by recognizing and using synonyms. It also helps students pay attention to connotation (stronger, weaker, angrier, etc) and audience (formal, informal, jargon, etc).

Game 2: Least Words

  • Before the game begins write long sentences that can be written more concisely.
  • Divide the class into 2-3 teams.
  • Project or write the first sentence on the board.
  • Have students re-write the sentence using more concise language.
  • The group that writes the shortest sentence, retaining the most precise language scores a point.

Example: The football game was seen by us as a way to suggest the fact that we are not as talented a school as our cross town rival.

Revisions would omit and reword phrases like “was seen by us as a way”, “the fact that”, and other overly wordy parts of the sentence.

Benefits: In this game the teacher overtly places value on concise sentences, reinforcing them for students. It also allows for several teachable moment grammar mini-lessons when evaluating which condensed sentence best retains the original meaning.

What strategies do you use to teach precise and concise language?  We’d love to hear from you in the comment section below.

5 Tips for Remembering Students’ Names

5 Tips to Remember Students NamesWhile some teachers can have everyone’s name down pat by the end of the first period, others need a little more help. If you are struggling to remember your students’ names, here are 4 time tested tips and 1 new, fun project idea to get you going:

  1. Create a seating chart right away. Seating charts will help you quickly connect names and faces during attendance and when calling on students. If you keep the seating chart on the podium in the front of your room or on a clip board, you can covertly glance down at names when needed so students won’t be the wiser! I suggest marking the seating chart with students’ preferred names to avoid confusion (e.g. Chris instead of Christopher).
  2. Greet students at the door. I like to stand at the door and casually greet students as they come in. I’ve had collogues who effectively and joyfully shake hands with every student as they walk in. I take a less formal approach, smiling and saying good morning, using names whenever possible to reinforce them in my brain. I also make quick chit chat with them because knowing a little about them helps me solidify a relationship, not to mention remember names.
  3. Make name cards. If the seating chart doesn’t help or you choose not to use one, paper tent name cards can also help. You can ask students to tuck them in their books and reuse them all week until you have a better grasp on their names.


  1. Say their names when you call on them. It may sound weird at first, but it is a networking trick in the business world and beyond. The adage says that saying a name 3 times when you meet a person will help you remember. You may be hard pressed to use every student’s name 3 times in a class period, especially if your numbers are creeping up to 35+ like they are in my area. However, after a few days of diligence, you can sure get in your fair share of naming and remembering.
  2. Make a fun selfie project! Why not harness the incredible technology so readily available to today’s teens? Sample directions: Take a selfie with something important to you. All photos must be school appropriate. Include your name and period number in the picture. Students could turn them in to you via google docs, celly, email, schoology, evernote, or any other technology that you are comfortable with. Then you can easily study their pictures with names attached and as an added bonus you have great conversation starters built in for getting to know students. Here are to samples of a teacher and a student:


The student is posing with a piece of his art from sculpture class and I am posing with my new baby Willa!  Both of these could be great memory devices and conversation starters!

What helps you remember students’ names? How long does it usually take you to know them all?

Episode 4: 5 Tips for Leaving Work at Work


Leaving Work Podcast Pin

Episode 4: Five Tips for Leaving Work at Work

Every school day, teachers everywhere arrive an hour before school starts and leave at least an hour after school ends, often hauling a bin or crate of grading or prep to complete.  We spend hour upon hour researching the best methods to teach, to differentiate, to engage.  We spend hours, creating, preparing, and tweaking lesson plans, activities, and assessments. At the elementary level, teachers spend hours decorating and cutting and laminating and stuffing little sandwich bags for new activities.  At the secondary level, English teachers, for example— sift through, read, correct, and comment thoughtfully on 120 students’ 3 page papers (which totals 360 pages of material – for one assignment.

If you are that teacher – If you are taking home hours of prep and grading per day, every day, you could be working in excess of 60 hours per week – and many of you know you are guilty of spending in excess of 3 or 4 hours per day working overtime. It’s no wonder that teachers feel run down and drained by the end of the school day – let alone the school year.

We know why we do it.  In our minds…we have to.  Ultimately, it’s for the kids.  But where does that leave us?  Drained, exhausted, irritable, and uninspired.  In very few professions do employees take their work home with them.  So why do teachers take work home?  We are pushing ourselves to get more work done at home, blaming it on more testing, more students, more pressure.  All of these are true – we do have more testing, students, and pressure than before – all with less support.  But we don’t get compensated for that extra work. Teachers don’t get extra pay for spending time working at home or during the summer – especially at back to school time or when grades are due, when we tend to work extra hours daily to get our expected work done. (Don’t get me started on teacher pay – that’s a whole other rant, for sure!) I know it’s not about the money (Lord knows I know it cannot be about the money) – I know it is about the kids – I get that.  My concern here is burnout.  What can we offer the kids if we are burned out and exhausted?  What can we give our students if we are not there because we are out dealing with health issues?

What if I told you that you can still be effective by working 8-9 hours a day.  40-45 hours per week?  What if I told you that with a little change in mindset and a few active steps, you can get everything you need to get done – and have time for yourself and your family without sacrificing your teaching or hurting your students? With a firm commitment, and a few changes in habit, we can win back time with our family, ourselves, and get back our health.

Tip # 1 Change your mindset.

As with any change in behavior, before you begin to change your habits, you must change your mindset. such as taking on a new workout plan or diet, we have to commit ourselves to the change.  Just as we must set goals with a new workout or weight loss plan, we must also set some goals for cutting back and eventually eliminating the amount of work we take home.  Ask yourself, what will cutting back give you? More time with your family?  More time with your kids?  More time for yourself?  Better health? Less stress?  Decide on your ultimate goal, and write it down.  This will be your driving force – your ultimate motivation.  Once you have this, decide specifically what you could be doing with that time.  If spending time with your family is the ultimate goal, what about spending more time working with your kids on their homework, or going over their homework, or having a family game night, or sitting down to dinner – together, or watching TV with your husband before bed?

There is absolutely no reason you should feel guilty for not taking work home with you every day.  There is no reason you should feel guilty for wanting time with your own family.  Get rid of the mindset that you have to take things home or have to spend hour after hour after school “getting things done” to feel as if you are giving the most you can for your students.  You can still give everything you have to your students without sacrificing yourself.  All it takes is a change in mindset and habits – working smarter not harder.

Tip #2 – Plan Ahead.

Keep a calendar of assignments and due dates. Plan what you are going to do at least a week before you do it.  Every Thursday (I recommend Thursdays rather than Fridays because on Fridays we tend to want to get the heck away from school and start our weekend) spend 20-30 minutes planning your next week’s lessons, assignments, and activities.  Have your planning done before you head into the weekend, so that you GET a weekend to relax and not have to think about what you have to do the next week. 

Use your planner to keep notes throughout the year.  Jot down notes to yourself on what worked and what didn’t for next year.  Knowing this ahead of time will free you for the next year.  As you plan the next year, you will then know what you should continue to do, and the ideas you should tweak or trash and replace.  With your planner, keep a file with copy of the assignment, any directions or notes, plus your notes, and  – very important – keep an exemplary student sample.  Not only could this help you with future grading, as they say a picture – an actual exemplary finished project to show students – is worth a thousand words, leaving you with a thousand words you won’t have to say that day!

TIP #3 Stop trying to recreate the wheel.

Are you trying to start every project, lesson, or activity from scratch, wanting the material to be 100% your own?  Why?  So you can say you did?  So you don’t have to pay for lesson plans and ideas?   This is your ego talking and you have to get over it.  In an ideal world you would be compensated for those fabulous materials – and the time it took to create them.  Your kids would be engaged through every activity, and confidence, skills, and test scores would zoom up the charts. 

Take an honest inventory of your skills.  Are you better at teaching and engaging the kids, or are you better at creating the materials with which to teach?  If you are better at teaching, your time is better spent teaching – not creating materials.  Instead, rather than spending hours working on creation, try finding innovative, and successful ideas that have already been classroom tested, and put them to use in your classroom.  If you are an elementary teacher, there are a TON of blogs out there giving out free ideas and materials.  For both elementary and secondary, TeachersPayTeachers.com literally has over 250,000 FREE items at the time of this podcast.  The site also has over one MILLION items in the $1-$5 range.  To not take advantage of this resource is foolish.  Even if you don’t have the money, there are enough free resources and ideas on this site alone to buy you hours of family time.  If you are better at creating materials, you may want to sign up to sell your materials on TPT – and make a little money while doing it!  Some teachers – including myself – have now created a career out of this, and have left the classroom altogether.  Here’s my referral link if you do! https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Signup/referral:secondarysolutions

TIP #4 Make everything you – and your students – spend your time on count. 

Take a step back and look at what you are giving your students to do.  Why are you assigning that project?  That paper?  That homework?  Everything you give your students to do will eventually end up back on your desk to grade, right?  Take an assessment of what and how much work you are giving your students.  Busy work is worthless.  Kids hate it.  You hate grading it.  It doesn’t do anyone any good.  Get rid of the busy work, and instead, be cognizant of what you hand out or assign your students. 

Ask yourself:

What is this homework assignment/project/activity expected to do for the student?  Is it introducing a new skill?  Is it reinforcing a new skill with practice?  Is it assessing a skill? Or, is it just making more work for you to have to look at?

What do you need to get out of this assignment/project/activity? Is the assignment just to send something home for homework’s sake? Is it going to show you once again that the same kids do their homework and the same kids don’t?  Is it going to make you spend time putting a check in a box, just so that you have something to base a participation grade from? Or is the assignment really going to tell you how well the students have grasped your lesson?

If it is expected to introduce a new skill, consider that this is risky.  Simply assigning an assignment or homework introducing something new may not give you the return you are looking for.  Expect to feel disappointment from wrong answers, incomplete work, and work not turned in.  Instead, commit yourself to ONLY introducing new skills and information in class, during class time.  This will save you TIME, as you will not have to spend time sifting through these papers, only to realize that you have to go through the information because the vast majority of kids didn’t pick up on the skill or information.

If the work you are assigning is expected to reinforce and practice a new skill, this may be more effective – if the assignment is good.  When giving students work to do, whether for classwork or homework, decide whether the work you are giving them TRULY practices what you have taught.  (Remember, no new information should be presented if you are going to grade this work.)  If it does address the skills/information you have taught, is an adequate amount of practice given?  I have seen worksheets that have two menial questions on them.  Not only does this kill trees, but what is the point?  It won’t show you anything about who actually learned the material.  It won’t give students practice.  Instead, evaluate the assignment to see if an adequate amount of practice is given at VARIED levels of difficulty.  For example, if you are teaching how to answer text-dependent questions using evidence from an article, the practice/assignment should range from very easy (pre-lecture knowledge) to very difficult (above grade-level knowledge).  This is much more effective than giving students 100 questions, all at the same level, over and over.  If they got 10 right, chances are they will get 100 right, so why would you spend the time grading all 100? Do you want to grade all 100 for each student when you could grade 10 for each?

If the work you are assigning is expected to evaluate how well you taught or how well the students grasped a lesson, choose your assessment wisely.  The assessment should not be more practice.  If you want to assess whether your students read the chapter you assigned, ONE well-crafted question could show you who read and who didn’t.*  I’m not talking about asking a question such as “What color were Joe’s shoes?” as this is not going to give you a true evaluation of the reading.  A student could read the chapter, but not pay attention to unimportant details.  Instead, create one question that is something students could not easily Google or use Cliffs Notes for.  Asking students to “evaluate a decision” a character made based upon the events or to “explain the importance” of an event in that chapter could split readers and non-readers right down the middle – and rather than having 10 answers per student to grade, you have one per student, significantly cutting down on the amount of work you have to do.  This could also be the case for in-class quizzes or tests.  We are stuck in the mindset that quizzes and tests need to be a long, drawn-out compendium of questions, when asking ¼ – even one eighth of these questions in a particular, well-crafted manner means not taking an entire period to assess students, and cutting grading time down to a quarter of the time.

*Be sure to have separate questions for each class, or a selection of 5 or 6 questions that students can randomly receive – word can spread quickly what your quiz is on from class to class.

By taking a little more time to find excellent materials or tweak others, you can buy yourself hours of time.  More focused, deliberate effort in the beginning will save you time and frustration later.

TIP #5 Cut your grading load in half.

There are two ways to do this – either grade only half of what you get turned in to you, or grade only half of what you get turned in to you.  Huh?  What I mean is that you can cut your grading in half by splitting your stack in half.  For example, rather than grading 120 essays, let your students know ahead of time that you will be looking at and grading a random selection of papers, maybe half.  The students will not know whose will be picked, so they must put forth their best effort in case theirs is chosen for a grade.  Very important!!  Keep any and all of the papers that were not graded in that round.  Let students know that if it comes down to the difference between getting a B+ or an A- or passing or failing, that you will refer to these essays as the decision maker.  It is also important that you let students know that just because their paper was chosen before, does not mean that they are exempt from being picked randomly again.  Of course, you will want to “randomly” choose wisely to be sure you eventually see every student’s work.

Another way to cut your grading in half is to only grade half of the assignment.  Focus on only certain aspects to grade.  With the essay example, remind students that you may look specifically at mechanics the next time so they should always turn in their best work, but that this time, (unless it was distracting) you chose to ignore grammar, punctuation, and spelling things for the purposes of this essay assignment. The next essay, you can focus on two or three different aspects of the essay.  Don’t tell your students ahead of time, so they turn in their best work, but for your sake, don’t try to do it all.  There is nothing worse than watching hours with your family being tossed into the trash can when the student couldn’t care less about the comments you made on his or her paper.  Another option is to try grading only the odd or the even questions.  I don’t recommend only grading the first half of an assignment, because the more difficult questions tend to be towards the end.  If you really want to do it that way, start in the middle and move to the end from there.  This will help you get a better idea of the students skill level or grasp of a concept.

Finally, lighten your load with more peer-editing.  Students can effectively grade simple assignments, quizzes, worksheets, and even essays, with the right directions and tools.  Done right, grading and peer editing can become an effective learning tool  – making it a “win-win.”  I have a blog post on How to Integrate Peer-Editing on my blog.

Ultimately, changing your mindset and working smarter – not harder, will help you reach your goal of leaving your work at work, allowing you more time for what is most important to you.  Take baby steps towards your goal, and almost immediately, you will be able to feel the difference!

I hope this podcast helped.  Please leave a review – I am interested in your thoughts, and truly appreciate hearing from those who may have benefitted from this session.

Good luck, and

Happy teaching!

Links Referenced in this Podcast:

Sign up to sell on TeachersPayTeachers.com – My Referral Link

Tips for Integrating More Peer Editing in Your Classroom

Creative Summer Reading Assessment Ideas

creative summerSummer reading can be a struggle for students who can sometimes lack time, motivation, and skills to complete the task. Not to mention, with all of the internet shortcuts and summaries at the tips of their fingers it is an equally daunting task for teachers to assess whether or not the reading has actually been completed. Although this struggle is formidable, personally, I do not think it’s time to throw the baby out with the bathwater. As English teachers, we work everyday to hopefully make small strides toward creating a love of reading among our students. One way that we accomplish this goal is through a three prong assessment structure:

  • Accountability assessments: traditional tests and assignments that aim to keep students accountable to completing the reading.
  • Critical thinking assessments: higher level thinking assignments that encourage students to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate the reading material.
  • Creative assessments: projects and other assignments that require accountability and critical thinking, but also include an element of creativity and, dare I say, fun!

These three prongs of assessment overlap more often than not, but today I want to focus on using creative assessment as part of the summer reading evaluation.  I think that fun and teen relevant assignments like the ones suggested below reward students for completing the struggle of summer reading (or any other reading for that matter) and when used effectively can motivate students to read future novel assignments as well so that they can fully participate in the next creative adventure.

Below are a few ideas for creative summer reading assessments.  I’d love for you to add more in the comment section below!

1. Snap Chat Conversation: Secondary students all over the nation are snap chatting constantly.  The widely used phone app allows users to “add to their story” through a series of pictures with text and other visual overlays. Students could create snap chat conversations from the point of view various characters.  Screen shots of those snap chat images could then be added to a PDF, powerpoint, or other medium to turn in or present.  The images and captions would need to reference the reading in meaningful ways. I wouldn’t worry too much about explaining to students how to create snap-chats. Chances are, you have a room full of experts!

2. Award Ceremony: Students could create a mock award ceremony, giving creative awards to various characters with the accompanying explanation for why he/she received said award.  (For example: Boo Radley could receive the award for “Hero Least Likely to Need Sunscreen” for his valiant rescue of the Finch children after years of reclusive behavior that stemmed back to his rebellious youth and stern father.) To add to the fun, another student could come up to receive the award and give an acceptance speech in character with references to the text.

3. Character Letters of Recommendation: Upperclassmen, especially seniors, are all too familiar with the pressure and weight of letters of recommendation.  Take this stressful college application requirement and turn it around so that the students are doing the writing.  They can praise, thinly sugarcoat, or criticize characters using the voice of a high school teacher/counselor. Clear references should be made to specific character traits and plot points.

How do you assess summer reading?  Would you add any of these ideas to your current repertoire?  What other ideas can you add?