First Week of School Assignment

August 2, 2010 by  
Filed under Mini-Lessons

Top 10 Nouns That Represent Me Speech

Here is a first week of school, getting-to-know-you assignment I’ve been using off and on for 11 years now!!!  I’ve used this for my speech, reading and English literature classes; it suits almost all levels and classes.  It’s a fun, easy exercise for the students to get to know the teacher and each other at the beginning of the year.

Summary:  Students brainstorm a list of 50 nouns that represent them.  {This proves to be a terrific parts of speech review.}  Many students find this to be a daunting list .  . . one hint I offer is to go home and stand in the middle of their rooms.  What do they see?  Write down those things.  Once the list is generated, students must narrow it down to their 10 favorites, being sure that each of those 10 items can be easily represented with a tangible token (that they can bring in!).  Students will present their top 10 list along with the ten tokens in a short glorified show and tell.  I tell the students they can explain each item as much or as little as they choose:  some opt to simply read off the list and hold up each item; others unleash unique stories behind each item.  Either way, the speeches tend to run 1 – 3 minutes each.

Students find out more interesting quirks, passions and values about each other in one – three minutes than they may otherwise have the opportunity to discover if we dive directly into curriculum. This a great way to get them up in front of the class very early in a relaxed atmosphere; I don’t evaluate their presentation skills for this early speech.  As a model, I present my own noun speech on the very first day of school.  It’s the perfect context to disclose a little about myself (past items I’ve shared – movie ticket stubs from my favorite movies, health magazines I read to exemplify my fitness enthusiasm, my colored whisk to reveal my propensity for kitchen experimentation, my favorite sports team pencil, etc) As I tell my students, it’s an easy A!  By the same token, this is super easy to evaluate.  As illustrated in the rubric, if the student completes the assignment, it’s an almost guaranteed A.  The only real way to fail this one is not to complete it.  Check it out →


Top Ten Nouns That Represent Me


Noun Speech Rubric

Come back and share your experiences with this assignment.  How did your students like it?  I’ll share my own classroom experiences with this speech as soon as school starts.  TTFN, as Tigger says!

Move with a Movie Review . . . GG Style

With all the spirit of the Academy Awards upon us, this week’s blog assignment will be for the students to write a movie review. 

Move Us With a Movie Review


Here is what you need to include in your blog post:

Paragraph 1
Include the following: name of the film, stars of the film, basic setting ( time and place), and type of film ( comedy, adventure, drama, etc.)

Paragraph 2
Write a plot summary for the movie. Do not reveal the ending! Discuss at least 5 events and be sure to cover the entire scope of the movie except the very end.

Paragraph 3
Discuss one aspect of filmmaking. You may choose from acting, directing, editing, costume design, set design, photography, background music, or anything else you may think of. Be sure that you are specific and cite examples from the movie.

Paragraph 4
Discuss another aspect of filmmaking. You may choose from acting, direction, editing, costume design, set design, photography, background music, or anything else you may think of.  Cite examples from the movie but obviously choose something different from what you discussed in the previous paragraph.

Paragraph 5
Give your overall reaction to the film as well as your opinion on the quality of the film. Last but certainly not least, include the grade you give this film based on your previous description.

Steps to Prepare for Writing This Post:

  1. Think about what you like and don’t like about a particular movie you have recently seen. Jot down your likes & dislikes in a free-write list.
  2. Next, write down as much information as you can about the movie (plot, aspect of filmmaking, etc.) 
  3. Begin to articulate the information into your blog.  Aim for about 600-700 words for the entire review.
  4. Save your draft and proof your work.

 ***Hint:  Attempt to match the tone of your review with the style of the movie. For example, a humorous writing style would work well for a comedy, whereas a more serious tone would be good for writing a drama review.

Bringing Blogging to the Classroom #4

This is what I shared with my students before they wrote their first comments to each other’s posts:

Follow these simple rules when writing comments on your peers’ pages!!!!  


Rule #1 — Determine Your Reason for Commenting

Are you trying to get the writer’s attention? Do you appreciate the writer’s work and want to say thank you? Do you disagree so strongly with what you’re reading that you simply have to rebuttal? This will help you decide what type of comment to write.

Rule #2 – Be Clear

When people come to the page later and read the comments, it isn’t always clear what you’re talking about. It’s most important to provide context when there are a lot of comments. If comments are coming in really fast, for example, yours can get separated from the comment to which you’re responding.

For example, instead of just starting out “Technique is important too!” it’s helpful if you start with some context like “TLC has a point about showmanship, but has missed one important point” and then go on to talk about technique. That way other commenters won’t be confused as to why you started talking about badly executed dance moves on a post about showmanship on American Idol.

Rule #3 — Be Respectful

I shouldn’t have to tell you this, but comments that start out “You’re an idiot” or are laced with profanity, or are just plain disrespectful are inappropriate. You shouldn’t say anything you wouldn’t say in person.   In fact, use this as a rule of thumb WHENEVER YOU ARE ONLINE ON ANY SITE!!

Rule #4 — Make a Point

Don’t just say “Wonderful!” “I love it!” or “LOL”  Why is it wonderful? Why did you love it?  Why is it funny?  It’s even more important to make a point when you disagree. It’s a waste of time to just write “You’re wrong,” Make sure you include the reason you disagree.  This is where the commenting gets fun!

Rule #5 — Keep it Brief

Remember, this is a comment . . . not an entire blog post.

Rule #6 — Proofread

I know it’s hard – those boxes in which you write comments can be tiny, and they usually don’t include spellcheck; but, proofreading is important because if you have a lot of typos or misspellings, it undermines your authority.

Bringing Blogging to the Classroom #3

February 24, 2010 by  
Filed under Blogging in the Classroom, Mini-Lessons

Today, students are typing their first posts!  All is quiet as they anxiously type, edit, and insert away!!! Here is the initial worksheet I used to aid in their set-up. 


Getting Started with Your Blog! ☺

Go to .  Click the box labeled “Sign up here”

Create a Blog Domain – this will be the url address that everyone will visit. This should be short and memorable. It should also be something that you won’t mind using for the rest of your years in high school.


Create a Blog Title. This is the title that appears at the top of the home page each time someone logs on. This title should be a reflection of your personality or interests.

Privacy – You must click on NO, so that your blog cannot be searched within search engines.

You must click on NOT INTERESTED for additional information.

 Your username should be something that is short and memorable for you.  Additionally, your password should be something you will always remember.  Do not use a password that you use for other applications!!!
Posts are the individual writings you add to your blog.

To add a new post:
 On your page, click on “Site Admin.”  It is on the bottom right column of your page.
 Now you will be in your “Dashboard.”  This is the back of your blog, where you can change the look of your blog, add new items and delete old items.  

Click “Posts.”
Click “Add New.”

You can now start typing or cutting/pasting a document into the post.

You will be able to upload photos, but I will need to approve them first.

Don’t worry!!! Blogging is easy and enjoyable!  As long as you take your time, you will learn more and more about blogging as you go along.    Happy Blogging!!!


Lay Down the Lie

February 22, 2010 by  
Filed under Grammar, Mini-Lessons

There are so many misused words in our crazy language.  This pair is one of the most confusing because the past tense of one is the same as the present tense of the other.  ⇒ ⇒

The parents of this beautiful, precious baby laid her down for a nap.

Lay vs. Lie 


Lay means “to place something down.” It is something you do to something else.

Incorrect: Lie the coat on the chair.

Correct: Lay the coat on the chair.
(It is being done to something else.)

Lie means “to recline” or “be placed.” It does NOT act on anything or anyone else.

Incorrect: Lay down on the hammock.

Correct: Lie down on the hammock.

(It is not being done to anything else.)

But . . . the real reason lay and lie are confusing is their past tenses:

The past tense of lay is laid. (remember, to lay is to put something else down)

The past tense of lie is lay. (remember, to lie is to recline yourself)  THIS IS THE CONFUSING PART!!

Incorrect: I lay the box down here yesterday.

Correct: I laid the box down here yesterday.
(It is being done to something else.)

Incorrect: Last night I couldn’t sleep and laid awake in bed.

Correct: Last night I couldn’t sleep and lay awake in bed.
(It is not being done to anything else.)

And to add to the confusion . . . We use the past participle of verbs when we are indicating a timeline during which no specific date is given.

The past participle of lie is lain.

The past participle of lay is like the past tense, laid.

Correct: On Sunday, I could have lain in bed all day.  (indicating the action, in this case lying in bed, will be complete at some point in the future, but you don’t know when)  I KNOW THIS SOUNDS WEIRD . . . I MEAN, WHO TALKS LIKE THIS, RIGHT?!  WE SHOULD BECAUSE IT’S CORRECT!!

Correct: They have laid an average of 500 feet of sandbags a day.  (indicating the action, in this case laying sandbags, was finished at some point each day)

BTW . . . Layed is a misspelling and does not exist. Use laid!!

Bringing Blogging to the Classrooms

February 15, 2010 by  
Filed under Blogging in the Classroom, Mini-Lessons

11/1/2013 Note:  Below describes the first year I brought blogging to the classroom.  Some activities remain; some have since changed:

Last week, my students signed up for their blogs!  They are excited to write their first post later this week. Here is the deets on this new blogging project we’ve embarked upon ~

WHO:        3 classes of sophomore Reading Strategies (students reading scores below grade level)

a.  Two introductory activities (click here for GG’s activities)
b.  Blogging etiquette discussion (see below)
c.   Initial sign up & theme choice
d.  This week = first post!!!!

WHEREEdublogs by WordPress

WHEN: ongoing throughout this semester

WHY:       to facilitate motivation and fluidity with students’ reading and writing skills.

HOW:      Students will be blogging once a week.


When you write anything in the blog, please use the following guidelines. There are some questions so you may want to reflect on your posts.

1. Only post things that you would want everyone (in school, at home, in other countries) to know.
Ask yourself: Is this something I want everyone to see?

2. Do not share personal information.
Ask yourself: Could someone find me (in real life) based on this information?

3. Think before you post.
Ask yourself: What could be the consequences of this post?

4. Know who you’re communicating with.
Ask yourself: Who is going to look at this, and how are they going to interpret my words?

5. Consider your audience and that you’re representing Palatine High School.
Ask yourself: Do I have a good reason/purpose to do this?

6. Know how to give constructive feedback.
Ask yourself: What will I cause by writing this post?

7. Treat other people the way you want to be treated.
Ask yourself: Would I want someone to say this to me?

8. Use appropriate language and proper grammar and spelling.
Ask yourself: Would I want this post to be graded for proper grammar and spelling?

9. Only post information that you can verify is true (no gossiping).
Ask yourself: Is this inappropriate, immature or bullying?

10. Anytime you use media from another source, be sure to properly cite the creator of the original work. Otherwise, this is considered plagiarism and is reason to fail the class.
Ask yourself: Who is the original creator of this work?

Commenting Guidelines

As a blogger, you will be commenting on other people’s work regularly. Good comments:

  • are constructive, but not hurtful;
  • consider the author and the purpose of the post;
  • are always related to the content of the post;
  • include personal connections to what the author wrote;
  • answer a question, or add meaningful information to the content topic;
  • follow the writing process. Comments are a published piece of writing.

Blogging Terms and Conditions

  1. Students using blogs are expected to act safely by keeping personal information out of their posts. You agree to not post or give out your family name, password, user name, email address, home address, school name, city, country or other information that could help someone locate or contact you in person. You may share your interests, ideas and preferences.
  2. Students using blogs agree not to share their user name or password with anyone besides their teachers and parents. You agree to never log in as another student.
  3. Students using blogs are expected to treat blogspaces as classroom spaces. Speech that is inappropriate for class is not appropriate for your blog. While we encourage you to engage in debate and conversation with other bloggers, we also expect that you will conduct yourself in a manner reflective of a representative of this school.
  4. Student blogs are to be a forum for student expression. However, they are first and foremost a tool for learning, and as such will sometimes be constrained by the various requirements and rules of classroom teachers. Students are welcome to post on any school-appropriate subject.
  5. Students blogs are to be a vehicle for sharing student writing with real audiences. Most visitors to your blog who leave comments will leave respectful, helpful messages. If you receive a comment that makes you feel uncomfortable or is not respectful, tell your teacher right away. Do not respond to the comment.
  6. Students using blogs take good care of the computers by not downloading or installing any software without permission, and not clicking on ads or competitions.
  7. Students who do not abide by these terms and conditions may lose their opportunity to take part in this project.

Bringing Blogging to The Classroom #1

As I embark on a new semester, I’m planning a unit in which my reading students create and utilize their own blogs.  I’m hoping this facilitates motivation and fluidity with students’ reading and writing skills.  The blogs will provide a place for students to publish their work and feel a sense of an audience other than me.  I’m piloting this with and will incorporate this into other class curriculums if it proves somewhat successful with this group.

**I will update with more activities as I administer them along with the successes and tribulations as they come!***

Activity #1:  This will spark the initial discussion on blogging.  →  →  →


Directions: Next to each statement, please put an A if you agree with the statement or a D if you disagree with the statement.  We will discuss these issues together!

_____1. Computers are necessary.

_____2. Email is better than the telephone.

_____3. Text is better than email.

_____4. IM is better than text.

_____5. We would be nowhere without advancements in science and technology.

______6. We need weapons of mass destruction.

______7. The only people who are responsible for weapons of mass destruction are the people who use them.

_____8. I would like to have a clone.

_____9. To cook = to microwave.

____10. When I was little, playing with my friends meant playing outside.

____11.. When I was little, playing with my friends meant playing video games together.

____12. Friends and family are more important than anything money can buy.

____13. Man has power over technology.

____14. Technology is more powerful than man.

____15. My social life would not be as fulfilling if it wasn’t for social networking sites such as Facebook or MySpace.

____16. Blogging is a productive way to read and/or share information.

Activity #2:  To provide a baseline for writing skills at the opening of the semester, the course requires students write a five-paragraph opinion paper.  I’ve slanted the requirement to the blogging project.  →  →  →

Technology = Friend or Enemy?

Believe it or not, when your incredibly young, hip, stylish teacher was your age, the Internet or World Wide Web was just getting off the ground; we certainly did not have it available in school.  There were no cell phones.  Oh, there were those lovely, large car phones that could not be removed from the car and that only worked when the car was on.  So, at least, if one had an emergency while the car running, it was all good.  One of my favorite video games was Kaboom, which was an Atari game – I’ll be shocked if any of you remember that awesomely addicting game!  You know, I thought that in the year 2010 we’d be living like the Jetsons by now. (wait . . . that cartoon is way before your time too!)

Aside from the few prehistoric items I mentioned above, think about the many technological innovations we have today:  the vast array of communication tools, medical advances, entertainment breakthroughs, space exploration and other transportation, weapons technology, and more.  We have come a long way in the short time since I was in your position — sitting in my freshman English class wondering, “What are we doing today, and why do I even care?”  Well, today you should care.  This assignment is a chance for you to finally voice your views.  All I want you to do is think about one question:  Is technology our friend or our enemy?

I’m not talking about just you or just the people in this class.  I am talking about the entire human race.  Based on what you do or don’t know about the colossal world in which you play a significant role, write a five-paragraph essay on why you think technology is or is not the enemy.  In this age of IPod and IPhone and portable DVD and Flip movie camera, etc. . . this question is more important than ever!


Yes, this is an opinion paper, but you must use support.  Your support can be from your own life experiences, experiences of others, what you have seen on the news, what you read about in the papers, etc.  The point is that you must make your reader understand why you feel the way you do, and you must try to make the reader agree with you based on your support.

Paragraph 1—Introduction, which contains a thesis statement.  This statement is your main opinion statement; it is the basis for the whole paper.  It is your statement about whether technology is our friend or our enemy.

Paragraph 2—First body paragraph, first reason why technology is friend or foe and why (support).

Paragraph 3-Second body paragraph, second reason why technology is friend or foe and why (support).

Paragraph 4-Third body paragraph, third reason why technology is friend or foe and why.

Paragraph 5—Conclusion, which restates the thesis in different words, and summarizes the whole paper.

This paper is worth 45 Points.  Due end of hour!!!  Cannot be completed for homework!




Focus and Organization (15 Points)              Content/Support (15 Points)

*Thesis is clearly stated.                                *Concrete Details

*Thesis is maintained throughout.              *Specific Examples for Support/Persuasion

*No tangential issues.                                    *Each paragraph supports thesis

*Style requirements are met.

*Appropriate Paragraphing                       Grammar/Usage (15 Points) *spelling, punctuation, diction,

Some Advice on Advise

January 13, 2010 by  
Filed under Grammar, Mini-Lessons

I previously posted about using advisor vs. adviser, but I neglected to share the tricky difference between advice vs. advise.

Advice vs. Advise

Parents give the best advice they can to their children.

advice = an opinion about how to solve a problem; guidance (noun)

advise = to offer advice; to counsel (verb) pronounced advize


Please give me some advice about what to do.

Please advise me about what to do. (The act of advising is an action or verb.)

Toast a Boast!

January 6, 2010 by  
Filed under Mini-Lessons, Writing Practice


Here’s a way to introduce English Literature in the classroom:

(adapted from an assignment by the great Jeffrey Leathem, a colleague in my department!!)

Anglo-Saxon Boasts

We’re going to do a little old-fashioned chest-thumping Anglo-Saxon style.

Your boast should include the following elements:

A. Self-identification (I am . . .)

B. Your immediate ancestry and something about your lineage

C. Boasts of at least three past achievements and/or hobbies

D. Boast of an achievement to come

E. Include at least three identifiable kennings (Identify in margin)

F. Include at least three identifiable alliterative phrases (monster-mashing, Grendel grater) (Identify in margin)

Should be 20-25 lines – approximate verse form (no need to rhyme)

***Extra Credit will be given to those souls who dress up like Anglo-Saxon Warriors and deliver the boast aloud in class

Anglo-Saxon Boast Example

Hail young thanes who gather about me –
For I am GG, dweller of the creek.
From the land of Lincoln, here in Chicago.
Daughter of the late RC, chief motivator of the crowds,
And N, seller of homes. Sister of D,
Online gamer consult & seller of homes.
From the high plains I come! I roar!
Reader of books, dancer of songs,
Scribe of stories, and essay-assigner.
Commander of the hardwood battlefield,
I approach my foes and float on them with the
Fine fin, wading through water,
Snapping waves, watching for whacks from my foes.
I speak of and boast of the victories of the
Blue and White Small Bear Warriors!
And how ‘bout those Blue and Silver Boys?!
I stretch with force forming a fine angle –
Blasting my limb-movers and walking-propellers with
Momentous endurance.  Defeating my enemies.
Flying on the human-kite at 1300 ft. above ground.
Pale-hosed, I prepare the fire feast – The great celebrations.
Under sweltering sun in the flame’s face.
I barbecue the grub –Party Host Champion I am hailed:
Planner of Surprises!   Host of many!
A challenge is decreed by my heir –
I am  healer of wounds, listener of qualms,
Helper of homework, preparing the way for
My heir to this mighty mead-hall.
I’ll make good on my boast and talk all the louder –
Poets will celebrate my actions with rousing cries,
Shaping my deeds into timeless songs.


Like, When Do I Use As?

November 27, 2009 by  
Filed under Grammar, Mini-Lessons

“Like” must be one of the most abused words in the English language.  Like, what’s up with, like, the overuse of, like, the word “like.” Like, I don’t understand how, like, people are actually, like, communicating with as many uses of the word “like.”   Like, the most used word in, like, most high schools in America is “like.”  Whoa, I can’t do that anymore.

I don’t know how that use of “like” actually started but I’ve been on a personal crusade to alleviate it for quite some time.  I assign a speech early on during the year in which I deduct a point each time “like” is used out of proper context.  Sadly, two out of 22 students earned an A on that speech this year.  Beside this annoying misuse, “like” is often confused with “as” when making a comparison.  This may be easier to correct.  Let’s try:

Like vs. As

This looks like the dog(s) I grew up with and the cat I now own.  I miss my doggie!

This looks like the dog(s) I grew up with and the cat I now own. I miss Prissy and Cindy!


Like is a preposition used for making comparisons.  (Like can also be a verb, noun, adjective, or adverb; but, GG is concentrating on comparisons here.)  Like must be followed by a noun or pronoun:

Roman looks like my dog.    My dog looks like him.

As is a conjunction.  As is followed by a verb:

Taylor does as her friend says.     Do as I say, and as I do.

When you are uncertain whether to use like or as, look for a verb.  If a verb follows, you’ll know as is the word to use:

Every day the child acts more like her father. (no verb)     He acts as if he saw a ghost. (verb = saw)

**Tricky point ~ In comparisons, the verb may sometimes be left out to avoid wordiness.  In that case, you need to pretend it’s there:

Linda loves the city as much as I.  (the verb, do, is left out)

Disregard the Irregardless

October 13, 2009 by  
Filed under Grammar, Mini-Lessons

A student came up to me after class and asked if irregardless was a word.  This prompted GG’s latest mini-lesson:

Irregardless vs. Regardless

To answer my student’s question, irregardless is not a word.  It is a double negative, combining the words regardless and irrespective.  Yes, there can be double negatives in English as well as mathematics.  Let’s take a closer look:  Regardless means despite something or without regard.  If we say irregardless, we are literally saying without without regard.  This does not make sense!

Here’s an example of the correct usage of regardless:

Regardless of the obstacles, he persevered and overcame his hardships.

Regardless of the obstacles, he finished the race!

Regardless of the obstacles, he finished the race!

Between is Among the Difficult

October 2, 2009 by  
Filed under Grammar, Mini-Lessons

Here is another pair of words many of us interchange incorrectly.

Between vs. Among

Between A Rock and a Hard Place (cupcakes2 on Flickr)

Between A Rock and a Hard Place (cupcakes2 on Flickr)

Use between when you refer to to people, places, or things.

Example:  Kimm had to choose between going on a cruise and catching three Broadway shows.

Use among when you refer to three or more people, places, or things.

Example: The gold treasure was divided among the crew of the pirate ship.

What Bugs You?

September 14, 2009 by  
Filed under Mini-Lessons, Writing Practice

People love to complain, rant, and rave – my students are no exception.  I use this lesson early on in the year to get them warmed up to writing.  They rarely experience brain freezes for this one!

What Bugs Me . . .*

What bugs you??

  • Talking loudly on cell phones at inappropriate times and places
  • Shopping on the day after Thanksgiving and the day after Christmas
  • Subscription cards that fall out of magazines
  • Telemarketers
  • People who lose all manners to get a parking space
  • Filling my car with gas
  • Drivers who don’t observe the rules of the road and crash into your less than 2 month old car!!!!
  • People who say “ta” instead of “to.”
  • People who update their FB status 12 times a day.

. . . You get the picture!


  1. Brainstorm a list of at least ten things that bug you.
  2. Choose ONE to write about.
  3. Type a one-page description of why this particular issue/item/etc. bugs you.

There!  Doesn’t that feel good to get that off your chest?!?

adapted from Kelly Gallagher’s Teaching Adolescent Writers

« Previous PageNext Page »