What Every Teacher Should Know about Copyright Restrictions


As English teachers, we carefully craft writing assignments, rubrics, and lectures to teach students the merits of academic integrity and the pitfalls of plagiarism, but sometimes (hopefully unintentionally) we forget to take our own advice.  Breaking copyright laws can negatively impact educational publishers and land teachers in hot water. Today, I’d like to look at some of the issues around copyright in the classroom.  Please note: I am not a lawyer, and the best way to know for sure that you are appropriately using copyrighted materials is to:

  • Read and follow the copyright statement or terms of use (often published at the beginning or end of a resource).
  • When in doubt, ask the author or publisher for permission to use a resource.
  • Check out more at Copyright.gov.

Most of what we use in the classroom falls under copyright law and as teachers, we should be an example of respect to authors, creators, and publishers.  Classroom teachers are given certain leniencies under the fair use exception, which allows limited use of a copyrighted work without permission for purposes such as teaching, research, scholarship, criticism, parody and news reporting, but we are not immune to copyright restrictions and we MUST be mindful of how we use all kinds of copyrighted materials, including (but not limited to) published reading guides from Secondary Solutions and other educational resources. Unless they are sure that something has been published under Creative Commons or is currently in the public domain, teachers must legally respect the rights of the author, which include:

  • the right to copy (see exceptions below)
  • the right to create derivative works
  • the right to sell, lease, or rent copies of the work to the public
  • the right to perform the work publicly
  • the right to display the work publicly

I cannot speak for the permissions of every type of resource from every creator, but I can give you some direct insight into the terms of use for reading guides offered by Secondary Solutions.

What Teachers MAY Do With Copyrighted Materials Like Secondary Solutions Guides:

  • Teachers may photocopy materials for use in the classroom.
  • Teachers may post materials to closed or password protected websites.  The site must only be accessible to students currently enrolled in the course and not to the general public or other teachers.
  • Teachers may use the information to prepare lectures and classroom activities.

What Teachers MAY NOT Do with Copyrighted Materials  Like Secondary Solutions Guides:

  • Teachers may not post materials on an open website. This violates the author/publisher right to sole permission in displaying or performing the work publicly. Not only is this against the terms of use and detrimental to the business model of a publisher like Secondary Solutions, it also thwarts the efforts of other teachers who plan to use part of the resource as summative assessment.
  • Teachers may not distribute to other teachers.  Unless the teacher has purchased multi-user or bulk licensing directly from 4SecondarySolutions.com, he or she may not email the PDF or photocopy the book for other teachers’ use in the classroom.

A note about public domain: Public domain is not synonymous with “found on the internet”.  Images, articles, charts, and other resources published on the internet are not necessarily open for public distribution without permission. Teacher beware.

We’d love to hear your questions, comments, and concerns when it comes to copyright in the classroom!  Thank you for stopping by.

Keeping Your Teacher Cool When You’re Falling Apart:

Falling Apart

Back to school teacher meetings for my school start at the end of this week and the first day of class is next Wednesday. Usually, this is a stressful, but fun blur of a week filled with post-it notes, to-do lists, meetings, and classroom decorating. This year is different. A few days ago I received the devastating news that my little brother passed away. In that instant all of the lesson plans and school supplies fell to the absolute bottom of my priority list. While writing this blog post is a somewhat cathartic experience for me, I think it can also be a help to others in a variety of difficult situations. In my ten years teaching, I’ve witnessed countless teachers navigate the classroom while battling loss, divorce, miscarriage, home fire, bankruptcy, legal troubles, depression, and many other emotionally intense situations. Although I do not think there is only one way to balance personal trauma and classroom teaching, I want to share my tips in this area and I invite you to leave comments, questions, and advice in the comment section below.

  1. Communicate proactively: If you are going through something that will impact your attendance or performance as a teacher, I think that it is better to communicate proactively. Many times administrators and colleagues will jump in to support you if they know what is going on. Chances are you will also have a better substitute situation if you let your administrator know that the days off may be coming. Even if you are not sure which days you will need a simple heads up will likely lead to easier coverage.
  2. Communicate professionally: Know your administrator and share details only as appropriate. I tend to keep the details close to the vest unless the situation necessitates more sharing. You may consider writing an email instead of a call or face-to-face meeting. I’m a crier and my boss would likely not understand what I’m saying after the first sentence or two. It’s also usually best to avoid people seeing you leaving the principal’s office with tears streaking down your cheeks. That is a quick way to start the high school rumor mill and you have enough on your plate as it is.
  3. Allow others to help: Most teachers I know are control freaks to some degree. I usually feel like I must leave foolproof step by step instructions for every minute of sub time, but sometimes that just can’t happen. A few years ago I had to leave the classroom for a few weeks while I battled post-partum depression. When I came back, a found a small miracle. The classroom had not fallen apart. The curriculum had not suffered. My department members had rallied together and taken care of everything. If you have a co-worker, department chair, assistant principal, or other person on campus who offers to help, swallow your pride and take them up on it.
  4. Decide what to share in the classroom: It is very important to decide exactly what you will say when you return (if you take time off) or when you have an emotional moment (if you work through the pain). Off the cuff, you may over share or lose control of your emotions. While I don’t think it is wrong in every circumstance to share your grief with teens, it must be productive or quick if mentioned at all. You know your school and can make the decision with care. For example, at my school, it would be frowned upon for a teacher to discuss a boyfriend/girlfriend break up or financial problem, but other traumas can be instructive. When I teach Tennyson’s “In Memoriam AHH”, I mention briefly the impact of the untimely loss of a good friend and fellow teacher. When I teach Emily Dickinson’s “Certain Slant of Light” I mention the very real struggle with depression that many face, including myself. A word of caution: Be mindful that students may have experienced relatable pain. While it can be healing to see that they are not alone, it can also be an incredibly destructive force if done without care. Read your audience and plan your words carefully.
  5. Don’t rush yourself: Good teachers want to get back to the classroom as soon as possible. It may be cathartic to keep busy. The mounting sick day total may be causing stress. Evaluate all of the factors before going back into the classroom. Remember good teachers must also take care of themselves in order to be effective to their students.


We’d love to hear your comments, questions, or suggestions below. If you found this post while going through your own pain, please know my heart is with you. Teachers have to stick together.

Tips for Planning the Upcoming School Year

Planning for the School Year

In 10 years, I’ve learned that long-term planning is the #1 way to manage the crazy stress and overwhelming to do list faced by teachers. I’m sharing my process for planning below.  If you are reading this as a new teacher, I cannot stress enough the need to come up with some system for organizing your long-term goals and curriculum.  If you are a fellow veteran, I’d love to hear your process.  Either way, join the discussion in the comment section below!

Start with Goals and the Big Picture by Quarter, Trimester, or Semester: For each grading period include required literature, major projects, and other must do items. Tip: Add district and state assessments also!   Here’s an example:

  • Quarter 1:
    • Summer Reading
    • Short Story Unit (list specific stories here)
    • Vocabulary: lessons 1-5
    • Grammar: Verbs- transitive, intransitive, linking, basic sentence patterns (lessons 1-5)
    • Writing: Intro to MLA and 5 paragraph essay + 1 process essay
  • Quarter 2:
    • To Kill a Mockingbird
    • Vocabulary: lessons 6-10
    • Grammar: Parts of Speech
    • Writing: 2 process essays
    • Video Project
  • Quarter 3:
    • The Odyssey
    • Nonfiction Unit (list specific selections here)
    • Vocabulary: lessons 11-15
    • Grammar: Phrases and Clauses
    • Writing: Research paper
  • Quarter 4:
    • Poetry Unit (list specific poems here)
    • Vocabulary: lessons 16-20
    • Grammar: Sentence types
    • Writing: Infographic project

Move to a Broad Weekly View: This step is primarily meant to double check that you will have enough time to fit in everything from step one.  For example:

  • Quarter 1:
    • Week 1: Summer Reading (with vocab lesson 1 and grammar lesson 1)
    • Week 2: Intro to MLA and 5 paragraph essay: Writing Architect  (with vocab lesson 2 and grammar lesson 2)
    • Week 3: Elements of Short Story + “Short Story 1”  (with vocab lesson 3 and grammar lesson 3)
    • Week 4-5: Freytag’s Pyramid + “Short Story 2 and 3”  (with vocab lesson 4 and grammar lesson 4)
    • Week 6-7: Conflict and Characterization + “Short Story 4 and 5”  (with vocab lesson 5 and grammar lesson 5)
    • Week 8-9: “Final Short Story” + Essay (incorporate vocab and grammar from the quarter)

Pencil in a Monthly Calendar: You can buy one or print it out/save it from this website.  I love technology, but for some reason, it makes it feel some much less overwhelming to literally use a pencil on the printed calendar. You can just as easily type into the calendar template.

Work with Lesson Plans on a Weekly Basis: I have a couple of co-workers who stick to the long-term plan exactly as written, but I usually need to reassess weekly based on formative assessment and flukes in school schedules.  When I have done the long-term planning outlined above, my weekly lesson plans only take a fraction of the time.  I also feel like I’m going to meet my benchmarks without forgetting any of the many strands of my class!

Are you drowning in weekly lesson plans?  You are not alone!  Do you have ideas for managing long-term and short term plans? We’d love to hear from everyone in the comment section below!

Back to School Sale on TPT!


It’s that time of year – and we’ve got some great deals for you!  Check out the Super Secondary Yearbook to get a glimpse of the amazing Secondary teacher-sellers on TPT!  Save up to 28% August 4th and 5th with promo code BTS14.

We’ve got our entire store 28% off…so NOW is the time to grab all those wishlisted items you’ve been wanting! Visit Secondary Solutions TPT Store now!

Also, don’t forget to check out the Secondary TPT class of 2014-2015 and their great deals August 4th and 5th, 2014!

2 Peas and a Dog 

21st Century Math Projects


A Space to Create

Addie Williams

All Things Algebra 

Charlene Tess 


Created by Mr. Hughes

Danielle Knight

Darlene Anne 

FisherReyna Education

For the Love of Teaching Math

James Whitaker

Juggling ELA 

Kate’s Classroom Café

Live. Love. Math

Liz’s Lessons

Making it as a Middle School Teacher

Margaret Whisnant

Michele Luck’s Social Studies

Miss Math Dork

Mrs. S

Pamela Kranz

Science Stuff

Secondary Solutions

Teaching FSL

Teaching High School Math

Teaching Math by Hart

The Career Ready Teacher

The Classroom Sparrow

The Creative Classroom

The SuperHERO Teacher

The Tutor House

Tracee Orman

Preach it Weird Al! Why English teachers love “Word Crimes”!

If you are an English teacher and participate in any social media, I’m sure that you have seen Weird Al’s new viral video, “Word Crimes”.  If you haven’t seen it, you really must watch it.  Let’s be honest, even those of us who have seen it several times will probably click to watch it again!  So what is it about this video that resonates so deeply with English teachers and everyone else for that matter? I’ll break down my love of this song below:

  • We are not alone! Too many times, students think that English teachers are the only ones who actually care about proper grammar. Weird Al has made it cool for celebrities, family members, bloggers, and everyone else in society to jump on the grammar bandwagon by sharing this video.  I hope this fun little parody sends a serious message to young people to listen up in our classes!
  • Online writing counts! Weird Al points to blogs, social media, hashtags, and other online writing with the message that spelling and syntax matter even on the internet.
  • He fits in all my pet peeves! I love the whole song, but these four drive me up the wall:
    • I could care less.  When I hear students say this, I always want to retort, “well, you certainly could care more about your correct use of idiom” or something else snarky.
    • Quotation Marks for “emphasis”.  When I see this happening in my classes, I love to bring up this website for a couple minutes: unnecessaryquotes.com.  It gets a few laughs and brings the point home.  (Tip: Always preview the page before bringing it up in class.  Some examples are not safe for all schools.)
    • Literally.  This one is everywhere in my school: I literally have a ton of homework, my head literally exploded, I literally can’t even.  Sometimes I have to forcibly control my eye rolls.
    • Your and You’re, There, Their, and They’re, Its and It’s.  This shouldn’t be a problem in high school, but it is.  I’m thinking about making big posters for the front of my room this year, so I will let you know how that goes.
  • He uses Proper Terminology. The English class lingo is often discounted as boring and irrelevant, but he breathes new life into terms like contraction, preposition, dangling participles, and oxford comma.  I never thought I would say this, but thank you Weird Al!


Did you love this video as much as I did?  What are your word crime pet peeves?

Where to Spend $5 to Get Tough Tasks Off Your Teacher To Do List

How to Spend $5 to Finish that Teacher To Do List
How to Spend $5 to Finish that Teacher To Do List

It seems like everywhere I turn these days I see a new resource to help students take short cuts around the valuable work we do in our classrooms.  When I was working on a side project recently, I came across fiverr.com, which is a global marketplace offering a variety of services, or gigs, starting at $5 each.  I was disheartened to see sellers offering to do homework or analyze a book, but it did get me thinking about how I could switch the dynamic around to give teachers some much needed shortcuts.  Here are the $5 gigs I found that can take tough tasks off of our teacher to do lists, so we can focus on other important classroom priorities:

1. Custom Songs: Many fiverr sellers will take your lyrics and make them into a song with your choice of genre (reggae, rap, country, pop, etc).  I have these little chants I do to help MLA rules stick and I always hear my students singing little ditties to remember long math formulas.  We could take that idea to the next level with a custom song for our classroom!

2. Custom Voice Overs:  This gig could bring interest factor to a prezi, flipped classroom video, or other in class project.  Sellers will do a range of professional and cartoon/impression voices.

3. Convert Powerpoint to HD Video: This is a great gig for  teachers who are flipping their classrooms and running out of time. It could be combined with the custom voice-overs in a pinch.

4. Website installation or help: There is a lot of pressure on teachers today to incorporate edtech into our classrooms including classroom blogs and wikis.  If we can’t afford a full service website technician, there are hundreds of fiverr gigs ranging from installing word press to trouble shooting that widget you are trying to install and everything in between.  Personally, $5 is worth my sanity in the IT department, especially when it can be done quickly and efficiently by someone else while I am grading that last stack of papers!

5. Custom Social Media Art: Most teachers I know are starting or maintaining a classroom Facebook/twitter/instagram/google+/edmodo/schoology/etc.  For $5 you can have someone create cute or creative custom cover art to give your classroom social media that polished look without a lot of effort on your part.

6. Design materials: If you have a great idea for a poster or infographic for your classroom wall, a custom stamp or any other simple graphic design project, there are designers waiting to make it happen for only $5.


Like other online marketplaces, there is a feedback and communication system so that you can make sure that your job is done correctly, but we should still exercise caution when purchasing gigs.  What do you think? Would you take advantage of fiverr to get one of those tasks off your to do list? Let us know in the comment section below.


What Your Kid’s English Teacher Really Wants: 10 Great Gift Ideas Straight From The Source

Let’s just get one thing out of the way: teachers do not sign up for this gig for the gifts! That being said, we really appreciate any act of generosity from parents and students and judging by my Pinterest feed, parents are inspired to treat teachers to a little something here and there.  I decided to write this blog post because my Pinterest feed has been chock full of the most adorable back to school teacher gifts interspersed with this popular ecard:


I do not want to come off as ungrateful, but I think we can find a happy medium here. We would love the crayon wreath, but if crafting is not your thing, below are 10 gift suggestions humbly suggested by this high school English teacher:

1. Support: This is a cheat gift, but very cheap and incredibly valuable to teachers.  Having our back is the best gift a parent can give when the time comes to battle the homework, deadlines, book choices, classroom management, etc.

2. These Amazing Mugs: Click here for a link to buy the mugs from amazon.  Trust me, this will be an instant favorite with every English teacher!

pPBS3-15580627reg pPBS3-15580643reg


<——–First Lines Literature Mug $12.95


                 Shakespearean Insult Mug $12.95  ——–>



3. Target Gift Cards: Chances are, we are going to put the money back into our classroom, so help us offset our school expenses with a gift card of any size.  Every little bit counts and we totally understand that you may be buying small gifts for several teachers.

4. Coffee Gift Cards: I cannot count the number of late nights I’ve spent slaving over student essays/research papers with the comfort of a good cup of joe.  I love my job and I wouldn’t change it for the world, but this English teacher still needs her caffeine and I suspect the same is true for most of us!


5. Secondary Solutions Gift Certificates: The best way to help a teacher save time is to help buy quality products.  This one also goes directly to a quality education for your student, so it is a win-win.

6. The Really Cool Office Supplies: There are some supplies that we just can’t justify on our back to school shopping list, but we would love them.  Get us the good stuff.  Here’s my list:

  • Pretty Post-Its: We can usually get our hands on the square ones, but I think we all secretly love (and can’t afford) the ones shaped like arrows, apples, stars, etc.
  • Washi Tape: There are entire Pinterest boards dedicated to beautiful washi tape classroom ideas. Click here for an example if you are not familiar with this little beauty.
  • Sharpies: I drool every time I pass by the giant sharpie packs at Costco, but with a cart full of other school essentials, I can’t always justify $20 on permanent markers…even if they are amazing! I especially like the fine tip ones, which are perfect for poetry annotation.
  • The cute baskets and organizers: With 100-175 students filling in and out of our rooms, organization is a survival strategy.

7. iTunes Gift Cards: There are so many amazing edtech apps and iTunes books out there; I am sure this one would be a hit with almost any teacher!

8. A Stapler: Maybe this is a personal problem, but my classes run through staplers like they are going out of style. I’ve spent hours trying to fix them and yet inevitably on essay due dates I’m down to one erratic stapler and a chaotic collection process.  As crazy as it sounds, I could really use 1 new, quality stapler each year so that I consistently have a couple working staplers and an efficient classroom.

9. Awesome Stamps: With all of the feedback that we give student papers, stamps can be a fun way to save time.  Click on each image below to see the etsy store it comes from:








10. Teacher Gadgets: We love cool gadgets.  I mean who doesn’t want these? Click on each for more info.









Teachers and parents, we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below!

5 Tips for Spicing Up Summer School


There can be so much variation in summer school programs, but in my experience, the class sessions tend to be longer, class sizes tend to be a little smaller, and most students tend to be a little less motivated, especially if they are retaking a class that they failed.  With budget cuts, I’ve also experienced a tendency toward combo classes like English 9 and 10.   While these factors can be barriers to engagement, I think there are a few things we can do to spice things up in the summer (and during the school year too!). I’m sharing my 5 tips for spicing up summer school and I’d love to hear your questions. comments, and suggestions in the comment section below!

summer school1. Quiz-Quiz-Trade: I learned this strategy at a Kagan workshop during my first year teaching in junior high.  Although Kagan structures are geared toward younger students, many of them still work like a charm in secondary English.  You can check out the Kagan website here.  To use quiz-quiz-trade, you have students create flashcards with vocabulary, literary devices, or other terms.  Then students mingle around the room creating temporary pairs.  When they pair up, they quiz each other on one card each, trade and then mingle to new partners.  It doesn’t take very long, but it gets students up, moving, and studying.  I’ve had so many students tell me that it helped them remember vocab.  If you have a combo class, you can create mingling areas for students with like words.

2. Showdown: Showdown is another Kagan structure in which students work independently on an exercise. When “Showdown!” is called, students show teammates their work, and they begin the process of checking, coaching, and celebrating.  You can read more about it here.

3. Literature Circles: Literature circles are ideal for motivation, especially if you can incorporate student choice in books and roles.  It is also easy to manage with multiple grade levels.  Here is a link to my post all about literature circles.  

4. Socratic Seminar: Socratic Seminar is my favorite way to get all students involved in a discussion, even when some are more reluctant.  If your summer school class is made up of students repeating a class, chances are they did not get to show off their literary analysis skills during the regular school year for whatever reason.  Socratic Seminar can offer a nonthreatening way to feel personal and peer success.  Here is a link to my post with more information about the logistics.

5. Engaging Informational Texts: We need to incorporate more informational texts in our classrooms, but it is hard to find the time to go through all of the options.  If you have more freedom in summer school curriculum, it is a great time to try out a few new reads. A few summers ago, my class did Nickel and Dimed one session and The Tipping Point another session. Students were interested in the reading and I was able to pull out excerpts to use during the regular school year.  Depending on the level, I’d also recommend Blink, Freakonomics, and Fast Food Nation.

What do you do to spice up your summer school sessions?  We’d love to hear your questions. comments, and suggestions below!

Hot off the presses! Secondary Solutions Launches SmartFlip™ Common Core Reference Guides for Grades 3-12

Secondary Solutions SmartFlip Common Core Reference Guides
Secondary Solutions SmartFlip Common Core Reference Guides

The first of their kind, SmartFlipCommon Core Reference Guides give teachers a smart tool for creating Common Core aligned lessons and assessments. 

Secondary Solutions®, (www.4secondarysolutions.com) known for superior-quality standards-based Common Core Literature and Writing Guides for Grades 3-12, today announced the release of the entire line of SmartFlip™ Common Core Reference Guides for English Language Arts for grades 3-12.   These handy spiral-bound flip books include the Common Core State Standards in their basic form along with each standard broken down into easily understandable, “translated” guidelines for CCSS skill mastery, culminating in hundreds of question stems and prompts, standard-by-standard, designed to enable teachers to easily create lessons and assessments with the question types required by Common Core standards, and found in PARCC and Smarter Balanced Assessments.

“When we evaluated our own products for Common Core alignment, we found that there were very few resources available that enabled our writers to specifically address the standards and raise the rigor in our Literature Guides. Since we knew that we were having trouble finding resources to help us create our materials in line with Common Core, we knew teachers were in the same predicament when trying to design their own lessons and assessments.  We decided to create our SmartFlip™ Common Core Reference Guides for teachers of grade 3 and up to help fill that need, and so far, the response has been overwhelming!  Teachers are thrilled!” said Kristen Bowers, President and owner of Secondary Solutions.

To visit Secondary Solutions, go to www.4secondarysolutions.com

SmartFlip™ Common Core Reference Guides for grades 3-12 are available HERE

Secondary Solutions’ SmartFlip™ Common Core Reference Guides:

  • are available as a handy “flip book” reference guide for the Common Core English Language Arts standards
  • provide accessible and understandable Annotated Standards that break the standards down into teachable “chunks”
  • give you HUNDREDS of CCSS-Aligned Question Stems for lesson planning and assessment preparation
  • are in-line with PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) and Smarter Balanced (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium) assessments
  • help you assist your students in preparing for the revised SAT® test


CCSS (Common Core State Standards), PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers), Smarter Balanced (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium) and the SAT test (College Board) are registered trademarks and rights are reserved.  This product is not commissioned nor endorsed by any entity.