Top 10 Things for English Teachers to Do on a Snow Day

January 31, 2011 by  
Filed under Listing through Life

I’m sitting here watching the news getting more than a little anxious about our pending potential blizzard.  I know my East Coast colleagues can’t say the same but my school district has yet to declare a snow day this year; in fact, we didn’t partake in the snow dance last year either.  While the amount of snow the wise weathermen are declaring is daunting, I’d really like just one measly snow day . . . just one.  After all, there’s so much we teachers can do to remain our productive selves.  Here are the top ideas.  What would you add to this to-do list?

1.  Always wanted to create a blog?!  Snow days are perfect days to begin one.  If you’re creating a blog for your classroom, I highly recommend  Edublogs is free (or $40 for the ad-free Pro version) and student-friendly with helpful hints every step of the way.  Check out my latest, newest classroom blog for my senior expository writing class:  Writing Well

2.  Check out the archives of #engchat for all the great convos you’ve missed.  You’ll pick up insightful ideas from a resourceful network.

3.  Read, read, read!!!!  Curl up with one or more of the books piled up on your nightstand.  I’ve got Before I Fall and Sisters Red waiting for me.

4.  Make ahead a scrumptious lunch to bring to school tomorrow.  My recommendation:  Baby spinach leaves + dried cranberries + grilled chicken + cinnamon roasted pecans + pomegranate vinaigrette = one amazing lunch! (Thanks @MichelleLMyers!)

5.  Bake a batch of cookies, brownies or cupcakes to bring to your students.  They will always remember you for it!  OR bake a batch for your colleagues to share in the office.  A favorite in my office:  Mint Chocolate Brownies

6.  Plan ahead!!  Vow to plan at least two week’s worth of lessons for at least one class.  If you’re so inclined, do this for all your classes and/or increase it to one month’s worth.

7.  Organize that inbox!!!  Create folders for your work emails and organize them!!!  Make a folder for each class, a folder for technology tips, a folder for student information, etc.

8.  Exercise.  A healthy teacher is a happy teacher.  Try my Workout for the Weary that will take you about 15 minutes to complete.

9.  Of course, catch up on that pile of papers or set of blogs to grade!!  You know I had to include this one.  Maybe the least fun of ideas but perhaps the one that will make you feel most refreshed when you return.

10.  Take time for fun.  Snow days are as exciting for teachers as they are for students.  When was the last time you made a snow angel, built a snowman, sled down a hill, had a snowball fight?

Move Your Memory

January 25, 2011 by  
Filed under Mini-Lessons

1.  To memorize lists, use acronyms.  For instance, to remember the names of the Great Lakes, think of HOMES:  Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior.  NEVER EAT SOUR WATERMELON will help you remember the four directions:  north, east, south, west.  ROY G. BIV will help you remember the colors of the rainbow:  red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.

2.  To memorize long numbers, divide them. Divide them into a series of smaller numbers and try to crate associations for that number.  For instance, 183,332,310 becomes 18 (the “legal” age), 333 (3 three’s!), 23 (Ryne Sandberg’s #), and 10 (your curfew?).

3.  To remember dates, associate them.  Associate them with dates you already know.  For instance, November 30th might be four days after your birthday; November 25 is Christmas Day except a month earlier.  The year 1519 can be remembered as the ages of two people you know.  (of course, this will only work for a year!)

More GG Memorizing Tips →

~ Rhyme it!! “Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492.”

~ Speak it!! To memorize my Human Anatomy notes back in college, I used to read them aloud.  It worked – I earned some of the highest scores in the class (and the class was full of pre-meds!)

~ Hear it!! Record yourself reading your notes and listen to them before you go to sleep.

~ Type it!! Type all your notes on your smart phone or computer.  Just typing will cause you to think about them, and you’ll remember the material longer.

~ Post it!! Put everything on Post-It notes and stick them where you’ll see them ALL the time.

The “iGeneration” in the Classroom and Beyond

January 24, 2011 by  
Filed under Favorites

Free Hot Technologies

(these are courtesy of a handout prepared by the tech coordinator at my school!)

~ . . . Website for creating electronic forms.  Best of all, data can be collected and imported to Excel.  This site allows you to be much more paperless and “green.”

~ . . . Website that allows you to share live video.  (Teachers, if you assign your class a project that requires them to interview people, they can use their phones to record and then use to store and playback the interviews for their project almost immediately.)

~ . . . Computational knowledge engine  [Example given:  3x + 2, enter your birth date, enter your name, Burger King Whopper, AAPL Stock Look-UP.]  Also does data comparison.

~ . . . You are able to animate movies by typing text, picking characters and camera angles.

~ . . . Easily make comic strips about a variety of topics.  Cartoon characters are easy to edit and the gallery has a vast amount of pictures and backgrounds to choose from.

~ . . . Geographic location sharing with your smart phone.  Useful for parents!!!  (New York Times rated it as one of the top 10 must have iPhone applications!)

~ . . . From any email address (Gmail has largest capacity to send attachments), send Posterous PowerPoint attachments, Word docs, music, etc, and it will create a free webpage with all your content.

~ . . . Can open any version of Word, PowerPoint, etc.  Has a sky drive (25 GB free) to save per account and internet TV useful for showing clips.

See my previous free technology site recommendations here:  Technology Tools to Try

The Importance of Collaboration

January 23, 2011 by  
Filed under My Writing

I made a poster out of this and have it hanging in each classroom that I teach. 

The Importance of Collaboration


We remember . . .


  • 10 percent of what we read
  • 20 percent of what we hear
  • 30 percent of what we see
  • 50 percent of what we both see and hear
  • 70 percent of what we talk about with others

Thus, the act of collaboration itself raises the reading comprehension of every student in this class.  Let’s collaborate!!

**Adapted from Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teenagers

You’re Wearing My Color

January 22, 2011 by  
Filed under Mini-Lessons

It’s winter and we could all use a little more color to brighten our day . . . yes, even my West Coast friends!  Just as the sun affects our moods, gazing at, wearing or surrounding ourselves with certain colors evokes different feelings.  Check out my post on Colorstrology for details on the intriguing belief that we are connected to certain colors based on our birthdays.

We use color to distinguish between teams (Go Blue and Silver!), to hide pounds, to accentuate curves, to decorate rooms, to mark occasions.  Just as I can’t imagine a world without music, a world without color would be a world with less smiles.

Advertisers, marketers, actors and musicians strategically use color to evoke a response from their audiences.  As a semester opener for my communication classes, I ask my students to answer the following questions about colors.  There are no right or wrong answers but these spawn thought and discussion as to how we can subtly use color to evoke desired responses when conveying messages.  I give students slips of paper with a different color labeled on each.  They answer the questions below according to their given color.

It’s your turn.  Pick a color, any color, and replace the X with that color.  Complete the rest of the sentence with that color in mind.

Color Questionnaire

  1. The personality of a person whose favorite color is X may best be described as ____________________, ____________________ and ____________________.
  2. The personality of a person who has an extreme dislike for X may best be described as ____________________, _________________, and _______________________.
  3. When I visualize X, my thoughts and feelings can best be described as:  ___________________________, ______________________, and __________________________________.
  4. My first impression of a book whose cover is X is that the book is _________________________________.
  5. My first impression of a woman who wears X a great deal is that the woman is ________________________.
  6. My first impression of a man who wears X a great deal is that the man is ___________________________.

Color for thought:
~Do certain colors appear masculine (or communicate masculinity in some way) and certain colors appear feminine (or communicate femininity in some way)?

~Which colors would you categorize as masculine?  Why?

~Which colors would you categorize as feminine?  Why?

What colors would you use to communicate the following feelings and characteristics?  Why?

a.  Friendliness

b. Hostility

c. Warmth

d. Sex appeal

e. Love

f. Satisfaction

g. Anger

h. Strength

i. Weakness

j. Happiness

What colors would you use to package the following products?  Why?

a.  a new and powerful detergent

b. an expensive line of chocolate chip cookies

c. an extremely powerful personal computer

d. a mild liquid laxative

e. an expensive gold watch

GG’s reflection questions:

How universal do you think the impressions that people get from various colors are?  For example, do men and women get the same impressions on the basis of color?  Would young and old derive the same impressions?  Would members of different cultures?

Comment your responses.  This is fun!

Do You Have a Goodness Allergy?

January 17, 2011 by  
Filed under My Writing

I err on the optimistic side – arguably, to a fault – consistently attempting to see the good in everyone and the positive outcomes in every situation.  Moreover, I tend to express more than the average intensity of spirit or enthusiasm. And I’ve been known to shout out in glee for seemingly no reason at all.  At times, my positiveness is tested during everyday affairs such as promoting new initiatives to disgruntled colleagues or during much more significant transitions such as my father’s unexpected death and my divorce.   As I blogged a few days ago on my One Cannot Earn an F in Life post, life is full of lessons large and small in which we may stumble but always learn from and become a better, stronger person for it.  That’s why it can be difficult for me to understand consistently pessimistic people.  Why choose to be sad or mad or resentful?  Yes, it is a choice.

As Iyanla Vanzant describes in her book Until Today!  Daily Devotionals for Spiritual Growth and Peace of Mind, someone with a “goodness allergy” finds something wrong when things are going well.  Undoubtedly, as you read this, someone you know is coming to mind.  Every one of us knows someone like this.  A person such as this tends to focus upon what happened yesterday rather than on the good he is experiencing today.  Just as a person allergic to cats tries to stay away from the little critters, a person allergic to good shuns happiness by believing nothing good will occur.  Believing begets reality.

A diagnosis for a goodness allergy includes relying on the past.  It’s safer because the past is familiar and doesn’t require doing something scary or taking a risk – in fact, it doesn’t require doing anything at all except pining.  A goodness allergic stays mad about what happened in the past, keeping the argument going.  When the allergy really flares up, this person finds something wrong with how good came or who brought the good.  This person questions why he is receiving the good and how much it is going to cost.

A goodness allergy is caused by fear.  Fear of getting hurt.  Fear of losing what one has.  Fear that one doesn’t deserve good because of something done in the past.  Fear that if one opens up his heart and mind to receive good, he will have nothing to complain about.  At the very, very heart of a goodness allergy is the fear that if nothing is wrong, then one must be all right – and that would be just too good to be true.

True to my optimism, I believe there is a cure.  It may not occur right away, the “medicine” may take some time to take effect, but anyone can curtail the symptoms if not erase the allergy altogether.  First, acknowledge the allergy.  All too often those with the strongest allergies deny it.  Second, write it down.  I’m a firm believer in the power of writing, and writing it down can be one way to diminish the allergic symptoms.  If one spends time writing down all the good things that have happened in a given day (for oneself and because of oneself), it may be easier to concretely see all the good that is truly happening.  Ponder over the list and reflect on how you really feel about all the good that you’ve received and have done.  The “itch” of the allergy will dissipate soon and be replaced with the contagious feeling of peace and joy.  And when all else fails, never underestimate the power of a smile.  🙂

A Lovely List of Lists

January 15, 2011 by  
Filed under Listing through Life

I ♡ lists!  Making lists provides a provocative, probing expedition into your mind, heart and soul.  I invite everyone who reads this to complete one of these lists!!   In the classroom, this provides a fabulous writing warm-up or a lesson in itself.  Students can choose one item on their lists to elaborate on further.  Let’s list!!

A Lovely List of Lists

~ List all the names you’ve been called, endearing and not so

~ List what’s consistently in your garbage

~ List the things you think you can’t live without

~ List the transitions in your life that taught you the most

~ List what you learned from each of your ex-boyfriends or ex-girlfriends

~ List the times you said yes when you wish you said no OR  vice versa

~ List the foods you’d eat if you’d never ever gain calories or fat

~ List the toys, clothes and other items from your childhood you wished you’d saved

~ List all the magazines you subscribe to

~ List words that touch your soul

Some of these prompt disclosure of very personal pieces of information; nevertheless, I can’t wait to complete mine in future posts.  I promise I will.  And I have ideas for more lists when these are complete!  In the meantime, see a smattering of GG’s Listing Through Life previous lists:

~ Things You Can Never Do Too Many Times

~ What I’ve Learned In Life So Far

~ First Lines In Literature

~ Reasons The Newspaper Won’t Die

Care to share your list?!

Workout for the Weary

January 14, 2011 by  
Filed under Exercise

No matter your shape, size, age, agility, strength – you CAN benefit from even the slightest amount of exercise.  I’m about to give my secret away here and reveal the exact exercises I’ve been performing for the past 19 years, exercises that helped me lose 33 pounds within three weeks after my daughter was born, that not only helped me maintain my desired weight every year since but made me more toned than before I was pregnant (honest!), and that energize me on even the weariest mornings.  They will cost you a mere 5 – 10 minutes and they are easy enough for everyone to work up to.  Why not do them while watching the morning news?  Or turn on some soothing morning tunes.  If you’re a night owl, perhaps you can squeeze them in while catching some late night T.V.?  . . .

Are you ready?!  This is the exact amount, exact order I execute.  Nothing fancy, not a lengthy routine at all ➜

**You can do these simply with your body weight or you can use a set of 10 or 12 lb free weights.  I alternate between body weight and free weights, and purchased my dumbbells at Target for about $12 – 15 per set.

This is as far as you need to go - that's it!

1.  100 narrow stance squats:

At first, break them into smaller sets, completing 10 – 15 at a time and resting before completing the next sets.  Work your way up to four sets of 25.

  • Feet pointing forward, shoulder width apart
  • Hands on hips OR arms at side with or without weights
  • Be sure your knees do not extend past your toes as you squat
  • No need to bend down too far
  • More challenge:  perform bicep curls or overhead presses at the same time

2. 100 wide-stance squats

At first, break them into smaller sets, completing 10 – 15 at a time and resting before completing the next sets.  Work your way up to four sets of 25.

  • Feet pointing outward, past your shoulders
  • Hands on hips OR arms at side with or without weights
  • Be sure your knees do not extend past your toes as you squat
  • You will naturally bend farther than with the narrow stance squats.  As you get the hang of it, attempt to execute deeper squats.
  • More challenge:  perform bicep curls or overhead presses at the same time

3.  100 calf raises

I usually just do 100 in a row.  Again, you can break these up into sets; you’ll earn the same benefits.

  • Perform these holding weights OR simply with body weight

4.  100 abdominal crunches

  • see Diet, Exercise, or Act of God for easy details on how to do this!
  • Beginners, do the first set only.  Incorporate 2nd – 4th set as you progress.


After this routine, you should feel like you got a pretty good run for your time.  These fare me well whenever I can’t go to the gym for whatever reason.  The best part is that they can be done anywhere, anytime.  Try them and let me know what you think.

One Cannot Earn an F in Life

January 13, 2011 by  
Filed under My Writing

It’s that time of year at many schools, the end of the semester, the point in the school year during which teachers hear all too often too late, the infamous question, “What can I do to raise my grade?”  I get that same sensation of despair when a student earns an F as I did back as a first year teacher.  Even after all the extra encouragements, the extra times before or after class, the reminders, the talking and emailing parents, the tutoring . . . . we teachers can’t help but wonder what more could be done . . . it’s the nature of the beast of the biz.

The fact is that we ultimately teach the students NOT the subject.  Before she hired me, the principal of my school (now our superintendent!) asked me which I teach – no brainer – I instantly declared the students.   Yes, we have a curriculum to follow but it is the life lessons that students walk away with that help shape them into the bright, capable young adults they soon become.

Case in point . . . one of my sophomore reading students, upset over his grades and the realization he completed too little too late, wrote himself off as a failure.  I stopped him right in his tracks today and asked him, “Did you know there’s no such thing as failing in life?  You absolutely cannot fail.”  He shot back a quizzical stare as I continued to explain that, yes, he may have to attend summer school or take a class he doesn’t want to take, but under no circumstances that matter in life can he ever truly fail.  He may stumble as he is stumbling now with his grades but he can use that despair to push himself forward.

A young man may break an arm but perhaps gain some more mobility in the other arm and appreciate dexterity all the more when the break heals.  A driver may get lost but discover an uncharted road with special sights she may never have seen had she not taken the wrong turn.  A woman may lose something, have something taken away at a time she believes she cannot do without it.  Something else eventually replaces the loss, something special she may not have gained otherwise.

In other words . . . regardless of what happens, when it happens, or how it happens, the one thing one absolutely cannot do is fail.  Live and learn is a cliché but it’s the truth.  Our hardest stumbles can lead to our greatest triumphs.  Yes, some of us even gain scars from those stumbles but all scars fade as time goes on.  We can live peacefully with those scars and move on.

We may not always get an A in school or an A on a GG review,  🙂 but we cannot fail in life.  Move through every experience and situation with grace, knowing your success is assured.

World’s Fastest Disappearing Dessert

January 11, 2011 by  
Filed under Recipes, School's Out

Need a fast crowd pleaser??  Even the kitchen illiterate can master this one . . .

With 38 of us (including T.A.’s) in the English department, there’s always food in the office.  We celebrate birthdays and “half” birthdays (for those born in the summer) by taking turns bringing in a small spread usually consisting of cake and/or snacks or lunch.  A dear, close colleague is retiring this year and we requested to host each other’s birthdays since we won’t be able to again.  🙁  Her birthday is approaching and below is the cake she requested.  Every time I make this, this is gone by Period 3 of an 8-period day!!!

To satisfy 38 hungry intellectuals, I’ll be making this along with Crème de Menthe Brownies

and Chicken Sausage Pasta with Vodka Creme Sauce (ask me for this recipe!).

Notice a theme?!

Warning:  This is not an Eat Clean recipe!!!!!

Amoretto Cake


  • 1 Vanilla Cake Mix
  • 1 Instant Vanilla Pudding mix
  • 1/2 cup Orange Juice
  • 1/2 cup Amoretto
  • 1/2 cup Oil (I use Vegetable or Corn)
  • 4 eggs


  • 1 cup Powdered Sugar
  • 2 tbs. Orange Juice
  • 2 tbs. Amoretto

Mix the cake ingredients and place in a greased bundt pan.  Bake according to the cake mix directions.  While cake is baking, mix the glaze ingredients and set aside. Once the cake has cooled, pour on the glaze.  Voilà

This cake is so moist that some like it without the glaze as well.

. . . thank you to my dear Aunt Adelle for the recipe long ago.

Best Yoga Pants EVER!

January 10, 2011 by  
Filed under Fitness, Reviews

I’ve been working out at the gym since college and have yet to come across a better piece of exercise apparel.    These yoga pants are universally body-friendly for women of varied shapes and sizes. Over the past few years, I’ve donned a couple pairs from other brands but I always come back to my go-to gear from Victoria’s Secret.

photo courtesy of Victoria’s Secret catalogue

I’m getting friends and family hooked on these!  Just tonight, two of my friends who asked me where I get them had on pairs of their own!  I love to share the wealth when I find something I can truly stand behind.

Where can one get these?! Order them by phone through the Victoria’s Secret catalog.  These are NOT exactly the same as those carried in the Victoria’s Secret store.  I’ve tried the store styles on and, while nice, not quite as many colors are offered; additionally, the store version fits me higher on the hips.

What is truly unique about these is that they are offered in 4 inseams: 30, 32, 34, and 36.  Additionally, they come in XS – XL.  One of my friends who just purchased her first pair is fairly tall and the other friend is rather short.  The pants flatter both equally well because of the different inseams.  I don’t like my pants too short, and having a few inseams to choose from ensure the length is just right.   To further my point, I convinced my choosy mother, my impeccably-fashioned sis-in-law and my hard-to-convince colleague to try these.  I can vouch that these pants flatter women of varied shapes and ages.  And did I mention how comfy these are?!

Let’s not forget what else makes these difficult to pass up:  they are priced modestly in comparison to the average workout pant, $29.50 or two for $50.00 (at times, on sale for as low as $14/pair).  New colors and styles are offered each season so many of these are placed on clearance fairly regularly.  Plus, Victoria’s Secret always offers money off with a minimum purchase . . . that alone offsets the shipping cost.   Despite this lower price, quality is not compromised.  I own some that I’ve had for years – the stretch still holds and the cotton maintains its durability.  Btw, these are officially called “yoga pants” but I wear them for both strength training and cardio.  Yes, they stretch seamlessly for yoga, but they definitely hold up for more rigorous exercise.

Grading Girl gives these pants an A+ for economical style, versatile color choice and flattering shape.

For the record, because I’ve been asked, 31 of these pants live in my closet.  Mind you, I’ve purchased them over the course of the past few years . . . and a girl needs her colors . . . . umm . . .  am I obsessed?!

Collaborating Words

January 9, 2011 by  
Filed under Quotable Quotations

Fresh from this evening’s EC Ning Webstitute, “Work with Me:  The Essence of Authentic Collaboration,”

I’m devoting my most recent collection of Quotable Quotations to the art of collaboration.  Teamwork!

  • “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” ~Henry Ford
  • “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” ~Isaac Newton  Ask the experts, work with the best of the best.
  • “Individually, we are one drop.  Together, we are an ocean.” ~ Ryunosuke Satoro
  • “Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” ~ Anonymous
  • “Respect your fellow human being, treat them fairly, disagree with them honestly, enjoy their friendship, explore your thoughts about one another candidly, work together for a common goal and help one another achieve it.” ~Bill Bradley   . . . a good formula to follow
  • “Let everyone sweep in front of his own door, and the whole world will be clean.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe   A little goes a long way if we all pitch in.
  • “One piece of log creates a small fire, adequate to warm you up, add just a few more pieces to blast an immense bonfire, large enough to warm up your entire circle of friends; needless to say that individuality counts but team work dynamites.”  ~ Jin Kwon
  • “It’s amazing how much you can accomplish when it doesn’t matter who gets the credit.” ~ Anonymous
  • “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” ~ Henry Ford  Everything has a way of falling into place.
  • “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”  ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery . . . The author of one of my favorites, “The Little Prince.”
  • “Art is a collaboration between God and the artist, and the less the artist does the better.” ~ Andre Gide  I like this one a lot!!