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3 Phrases to Stop a Student Meltdown

One day not long ago, a student I don't know very well stood in front of me and had a full-on, mostly irrational, arms-a-wavin', tears-a-streamin', nose running meltdown.

Maybe it was the stress of six long days of state testing.

Maybe it was due to rushing around for the 20 minute periods that were shortened because of those tests.

Maybe it was the weak coffee from Dunkin Donuts.

Okay. That part was me. It was a tough week or two, so it's no wonder the kids felt stressed out.

I was too worn out to think clearly about what to say. Boy, did I need this student meltdown list.

I felt helpless; I knew I wanted to help the student calm down, but my brain was so fried that I stumbled trying to find the right words. The calm-down took much longer than it should have, and left both of us feeling crummy. I knew I had to find an effective and efficient strategy for handling such an event in the future.

So I went to an expert. I spoke with a good friend, a therapist who works with troubled teens. She told me that the keys to all effective communication must be both active and constructive. She then gave me an emergency script that teachers- and parents- can use to calm a young person who is agitated.

 These are the soothing words that you can use:

1) Speak slowly. I'd like to help you.

This breaks the cycle. It provides the student with hope, and it provides them with constructive advice. They learn that you are empathetic, and if they calm down, you will try to help.

2) What can I do to help you?

This also breaks the cycle and provides the student with a specific action. It gives them an opportunity to articulate exactly what they need at that moment.
3) Let me repeat what I think you said...

The third phrase becomes the beginning of a dialogue. You repeat what they've said to show that you understand. Put the student's feelings into words, which they might be too agitated to do themselves. Thus begins a calm, back-and-forth dialogue.

One more thing. Use the student's name often. In How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie said this about using a person's name:

Acknowledging the student's name will make them much more likely to listen to you.

I'm keeping the phrases on a card behind my desk, just in case I need them. If you click on the image below, you can print one for yourself.

Good luck!
 Stop a Student Meltdown

Literary League Back to School Giveaway!

The Literary League, a group of exceptional secondary English Language Arts teachers, is hosting a Back to School Give-Away. Enter to win a choice of gift cards, middle school and high school ELA resource bundles, and shopping sprees to middle and high school ELA TPT stores.

By the time I grab my books and I give myself a look I'm at the corner just in time to see the bus fly by. It's alright’ cause I'm saved by The Literary League! That’s right, we are at it again! It’s one of the biggest back-to-school give-aways courtesy of some of your favorite ELA sellers. 

We’re teachers too, so we know that feeling of going back to school.  Cure those back to school blues by entering this HUGE give-away. Not only multiple prize packs, but also multiple winners!

The give-away will run Monday 8/31 to Monday 9/14. You’ll see some familiar and maybe even some new faces, so follow our stores and our social media accounts, and stay updated with what’s new! Winners will be announced Tuesday 9/15.

The Literary League, a group of exceptional secondary English Language Arts teachers, is hosting a Back to School Give-Away. Enter to win a choice of gift cards, middle school and high school ELA resource bundles, and shopping sprees to middle and high school ELA TPT stores.

Prize # 1: Gift Card of Choice
Win a $50 gift card to Teachers Pay Teachers, Amazon, Staples or Target.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Prize #2: Middle School Resources
Win all of the resources listed below for your middle school ELA classroom.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Prize #3: High School Resources
Win all of the resources listed below for your high school ELA classroom.
Close Reading: Guide Your Students Through the Process
Interactive Notebook Bundle
Rhetoric: The Art of Persuasion
Common Core Literature Bell Ringers for Secondary English
Found Poetry Packet
Introduction to Close Reading for Middle and High School - Model and Practice
Critical Thinking: What is Textual Analysis #2
Fiction and Nonfiction Test Passages
Short Story Starters Task Cards 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Prize # 4: Middle School TpT Store Shopping Spree 
Win a $10 shopping spree to one of the TpT Stores listed below.
2 Peas and a Dog
The Creative Classroom
Literary Sherri
Mrs. Spangler in the Middle
Darlene Anne
Fisher Reyna Education
Brain Waves Instruction
Stacey Lloyd
James Whitaker's Sophist Thoughts
Created by MrHughes
ELA Everyday

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Prize #5: High School TpT Store Shopping Spree  
Win a $10 shopping spree to one of the TpT Stores listed below.
Room 213
The Daring English Teacher
Making Meaning with Melissa
Linda Jennifer
Brynn Allison
Juggling ELA

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Smart Pinterest Strategies for Teachers

A few years ago, I went to set up my classroom before school started, and I noticed a shiny new teacher hanging posters in the room across the hall. As I walked over to introduce myself, I had to negotiate my way past several big black garbage bags, full to the brim. I was pretty impressed with shiny new teacher's drive and ambition.

We chatted, I welcomed her, offered to help, yada yada. And then I noticed. The huge filing cabinet, drawers wide open and totally empty. My name, in Sharpie, written down the side.

It was mine. My file cabinet. Empty.

The garbage bags? All of my files. All of my plans. All of my everything. 

After waxing the floors, the custodial staff had placed my file cabinet in the wrong room. Shiny new teacher couldn't have known, so I tried to cry in private. I didn't want to tarnish the shine. 

Times have changed. These days I use that very same file cabinet to hold an extra pair of sneakers and an extension cord. Why? Because of my computer. And because of Pinterest. 

Pinterest isn't just for sharing recipes and cute outfits. It can be a classroom teacher's best friend. Here's how I recommend using it.

Create Unit of Study Boards

 Nonfiction for Middle School StudentsCreate a board for each unit of study that you teach, and pin photos, videos, books, and lessons pertaining to that lesson. With everything in one place, I can easily locate the anchor chart or mentor text I had in mind for a lesson. When I pin a YouTube video, I often remove the annoying sidebar first, so I'm never scrambling to hide the inappropriate images that sometimes appear. 

On my Middle School Nonfiction board, I keep track of books I'd like to purchase for class. When I'm in a bookstore or at the library, I can easily whip out my phone and open the board using the Pinterest app. Before Pinterest I would have everything in my notes app. Or worse yet, I would text myself titles. Try scrolling through that mess to find something quickly. Sheesh.

Share Ideas with Teammates

Make a teammate a co-pinner on the board so that you can collaborate and share ideas and resources.You'll avoid sending a lengthy list of emails links that get lost in the email abyss. The board will be easy to find, and the information on it can be accessed whenever it is needed.

I teach an short advisory class and often team up with a coworker to raise money for a local children's charity. We buy supplies, and spend the 10 minute period making crafts, which the kids then sell to other kids and teachers in the school. It's difficult to find a quick, easy, and cost effective project that can be started and completed in a timely manner, so when I come across something in my Pinterest "travels," I pin it to my Creative Ideas board. I love that board and also use it to pin classroom "hacks."

Use Pinterest as a Muse

Pinterest's search function provides a wonderful way to find educational sites, helpful blog posts, and all kinds of teaching ideas. You can be as specific as you would like. Just type in a variety of search words and terms and see what comes up. You can modify your search to look for pins or boards, which is extremely helpful. For instance, let's say you are interested in finding writing ideas to use in a middle school classroom. Search "writing, middle school students" and then click "boards." You will have a chance to look through the boards of someone who has already pinned useful information, saving you a lot of precious time.   

Don't forget to follow pinners who have similar interests as you. Often, they will follow you back, and you can be online "collaborators" of sorts, sharing information with ease. 

While you are exploring the wonders of Pinterest, you might want to check out our Secondary Smorgasbord board. It's the place to go to find pins related to our wonderful and informative monthly blog hops.
 Ideas for Secondary Teachers

Close Reading Strategy: Three Rounds

I get a lot of emails from teachers who want strategies for close reading in the content areas.

I'll be blunt. I get desperate emails from frantic teachers who are NOT trained in reading. They need practical close reading strategies that do NOT detract from the content they have to teach.

So over the next few weeks, I'm going to share some close reading strategies that can be used by teachers of any subject. I'll also answer some questions I get about the strategies.

Let's start with what we know: Close reading of a text involves careful, purposeful reading and rereading of a text. 

Sounds simple enough, right?  

In an ideal world, we hand out a complex text with complex questions, and we say, "Read this complex text. Then reread this complex text. Then, before you answer the complex questions about the complex text...rereread it.

If only it were that easy.  In fact, if it is easy for you to get your students to reread several times without involving bribery,  please come and teach mine. (And then make your way over to my house and convince my personal children to make their beds.) Because no matter how many times we tell our students to reread, most of them don’t do it.

We  have to convince our students that rereading will result in deeper comprehension by giving them a purpose for rereading.
This time we are going to try one of my favorite strategies: the three-round technique. It is a combination of a couple of other techniques, and it encourages rereading because it requires rereading.

How does the three-round method help improve kids’ reading skills?
The three-round method forces readers to slow down and approach a text in a deep and thoughtful manner. There is built-in scaffolding, so all students will benefit. In fact, if you are using this in professional development, I recommend that you have teachers try it themselves, with one of the provided texts or with another short text.

Here we go!

Three Rounds
Begin by assigning kids to work with a partner.

Round 1
  • Have students read a short passage. Then ask them to independently  find one significant word from the passage, and write down why the word is significant.
  • Give partners about a minute to discuss the word they chose and whey they chose it.
Round 2
  • Now ask students to find a significant phrase and explain why it’s significant.
  • Give partners 2 minutes to discuss the phrases they’ve chosen.
Round 3
  • Direct students to find a significant sentence from the passage and explain.
  • Give partners 3 minutes to discuss the sentences they’ve chosen.
Wrap Up
  • Have students independently determine the central idea of the passage.
  • Give students several minutes to discuss the central idea and share evidence.
  • Come together as a class to share ideas.
What Now?
Students have now read the text at least three times. They’ve shared evidence, discussed it, and they’ve carefully examined the text.

Use the same procedure with other texts. Just be sure to start with short passages or text excerpts. Short passages are less daunting to students, so they are much more likely to focus. Also, in real-life reading or in a test situation, students will rarely have to reread an entire text. Instead, they will reread sections or chunks of texts, so it’s best to practice with short passages.

Eventually, you can ask students to find something other than central idea. You can ask specific, content-based questions.

You can also use the strategy with a longer passage and jigsaw. Break the kids up into small groups and assign each group a different part of the text. The entire class can come together to share their findings.

If you doubt the effectiveness of this strategy, (or if you are like me- mischievous) assign a complex text, go straight to the central idea question, and then discuss it as a class. If the text is truly challenging, the chances are good that your kids will be way off the mark. Then you can try doing the three-round method with the same text. When the kids see how much easier it is to comprehend the text after rereading, you have a complete buy-in to rereading. 

It's a double win. They think you are brilliant for teaching this, and you have them convinced that rereading is worthwhile. 

And I won't get your desperate emails ;)

If you know about any other great close reading strategies, please comment here or on my Darlene Anne's ELA Buffet on FaceBook page.

Let's help each other, so we can all help our students. 

Everything we teach our students will make the world a better place.

I Love Going Back to School with the Literary League!

Have you started having those back-to-school teacher nightmares yet? I have them every summer. If you don't, consider yourself fortunate.

And I'm trying really hard not to hate you.

It's tough though. I'm just so jealous. Those nightmares are rough.

Don't get me wrong. I love meeting a new group of students. Nothing is more promising than the potential of a new school year!

Shiny new Flair pens help too.

But I have recurring dreams about not being able to find my classroom. And about the class from h-e double hockey sticks, with kids who throw things out the second story window. Often, my nightmares involve me being totally unprepared. I stand in front of these kids -the best, most attentive kids in the history of education- and I've got nothing.

Nuh. Thing.

The only thing I can do to quell the nightmares and alleviate my suffering, is to be prepared. I make the copies I need for the first few weeks, and I make a "big picture" plan for the first few units of study.

Needless to say, I will depend on TpT resources- mine and those of others- to get me through. And I will be shopping at TpT during the Love Back to School site-wide sale. I love to save 28%, and I love to shop at the Literary League stores below!

Danielle Knight (Study All Knight)
Darlene Anne- ELA Buffet
Mrs. Spangler in the Middle
Created by MrHughes
The Classroom Sparrow
The Daring English Teacher
ELA Everyday
Juggling ELA
Literary Sherri
Making Meaning with Melissa
2 Peas and a Dog
Secondary Solutions-Simply Novel
Addie Williams
Linda Jennifer
Fisher Reyna Education
The Creative Classroom
Stacey Lloyd
Room 213
Brynn Allison
Open Classroom
Perfetto Writing Room
Secondary Sara
Tracee Orman
James Whitaker
The Superhero Teacher
Created for Learning
Brain Waves Instruction

ELA Buffet Goes Back to School

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that an English teacher in possession of great ideas, must be in want of other like-minded teachers.

Hence, the birth of the Literary League.

This English teacher is proud to be a part of the "League." You'll probably agree that it is a teacher's nature to share. We were the only kids in the sandbox without a shovel.


Because some other kid wanted it, and we obliged. We share.

That's how we roll. The Literary League is all about sharing creative ideas, best practices, and fantastic resources.

About Moi: (I do not speak French, but I have read every book the divine Miss Piggy has written.)

I love teaching. When Confucius said, "Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life," he could have been speaking about me in one of my past lives as a teacher in 500 BC. My master's degree is from Stony Brook University, and I've taught almost every grade from 3rd through 12th. For the past dozen years I've been teaching middle school English.

I'm not quite certain if I love it because I'm darn good at it, or if I'm good at it because I love it. Either way, it works. I've won teaching awards, my curriculum resources have been successfully used in thousands of classrooms, and my methods have been used in professional development courses for teachers all over the country. But my most precious award is housed in a battered binder. It's a collection of cards and notes from my students. I love that binder, and I pull it out for support when things get rough. If you teach middle school, you know exactly what I mean.

My Favorite Classroom Library Book 

Nay nay. Not going there.

If I say Freak the Mighty, I'll get angry emails from the S.E. Hinton fan club. Pick a Wendy Mass book and the James Patterson fans will complain. If I say Harry Potter, I'll get angry emails from... Rick Riordan.

Just kidding. I've met him and he's quite pleasant.

Nope. Not choosing.

My Favorite Getting to Know You Activity

Most of my students have known each other since they were 5. Ask any one of them who ate the most glue in kindergarten or who is deathly afraid of clowns, and they'll tell you. So a good old game of Two Truths and a Lie won't fly. They can spot those lies like a pink moose in the school cafeteria.

 Back to School Tools of the TradeSince I'm the only one who can't "see the moose," I have the kids make name tents. They love it because they get to write and talk about their favorite topic- themselves. And I learn about their lives, while also getting to know their names. It's a win-win. For those of you interested, it's in my Back to School Tools of the Trade resource, but if you want a no-frills version they're actually easy to make.

A name tent requires kids to fold a sheet of paper (held vertically) into thirds and write their name in the center. They draw pictures of things they love around their name. On the other two thirds they write two positive adjectives to describe themselves, along with supporting details.
 Back to School

Propping the name tents up on their desks allows me to learn their names in a just a couple of days. But the kids like to use them long afterward, and they even take them out when there is a sub in the room.

I hope you enjoy reading about the other fantastic Literary League teachers.

The most exciting part? We're just getting started, people.