Humor

15 Would You Rather Questions for Teachers

Whether you are hanging out with your colleagues over a couple of beers this summer or planning something to do with new staff members on the first teacher day, these teacher Would-You-Rather questions should spark some interesting conversation.

Teachers, would you rather …

Be honest! What would you rather do ...

Classroom Ideas

19 Classroom Management Anchor Charts

Whether you’re getting ready for back-to-school time or you need enforce a few more rules in your classroom, classroom management anchor charts can be a great solution. We pulled together our favorite charts on classroom rules, procedures, expectations and more, along with a few of our own emoji designs. Don’t forget to watch the emoji video at the end to see how we put them together!

Plus if you have a favorite classroom management anchor chart that’s not on our list, put a link in the comments!

1. Dos and don’ts

Emojis make this anchor chart easy and perfect. Draw your own or have them printed.

 

2. Basics of good listening

You can tailor this to fit your age group or specific classroom needs.

SOURCE: F is for First Grade 

 

3. L-E-A-R-N

More emojis! It’s hard to see in the picture, but each emoji has a hashtag to go with it. For instance, “Respect others” uses #benice and “Always try your best” uses the hashtag #hardwork.

 

4. Avoid “I’m done”

When you want to avoid the oh-so-popular “I’M DONE!” phrase in your classroom, this anchor chart is perfect!

SOURCE: Teacher Trap 

 

5. Learning respect

Ask your students for feedback, and include them in making the list.

SOURCE: One Less Headache 

 

6. How to be positive

Because we can all use reminders of positivity no matter what time of year it is.

SOURCE: Crockett’s Classroom

 

7. Sub rules

You might now have this anchor chart on display year-round, but it’s a good one to get out at sub time!

SOURCE: Step Into Second Grade

 

8. Making class rules

This is a great way to develop your own classroom rules while holding everyone accountable.

SOURCE: Upper Grades Are Awesome 

 

9. No excuses

There are lots of writing anchor charts to use, but this is one of the most simple and essential ones we recommend.

SOURCE: Indulgy 

 

10. Active listening

Active listening takes practice, and this chart makes it easy to remember!

 

11. Be a problem solver

Every teacher in the country could use something like this! Tweak it to match your needs or the problems you hear about most.

SOURCE: Hello Literacy

 

12. When to say something

You can do as this teacher did and also use the book to reinforce the lesson.

SOURCE: Unknown

 

13. Teacher and students jobs

When you can give yourself some accountability as well, it can really help your students respect you!

SOURCE: The Hawk Nest 

 

14. Treating books with respect

Clipart makes this anchor chart easy and perfect. Draw your own or have them printed.

SOURCE: Larremore Teacher Tips 

 

15. End of day rules

Not only do you want students to start the day right, but you also want them to end it right too!

SOURCE: Around the Kampfire 

 

16. Hall procedures

Feel free to skip this one if your students are totally perfect in the hall.

SOURCE: Teaching with Terhune 

 

17. Glue rules

Your craft area NEEDS this one. So simple and so valuable at the same time!

SOURCE: Teaching with Terhune 

 

18. The group promise

We love this idea because it really encourages students to take ownership.

 

 

19. Rockstar group work

It’ll make group work something both your students and YOU look forward to!

 

If you liked the emoji anchor charts featured above, you can download this PDF to make your own. Though you can find your own emojis online, this PDF has all the emojis that we featured. Here’s a video that shows how they all came together too. Thanks to art teacher Vicki Cowger for creating the easy PDF for us and designing the charts!

 

Humor

The Reality of Being a Teacher Spouse as Told in Memes

My husband and I started dating before I became a teacher. In our first two years together, I finished my second B.A. with a double major in sociology and English before beginning and completing an M.Ed. in English education and my first year of teaching simultaneously.

At the time, he probably thought once I was out of college, our life would settle down some. Little did he know what it meant to be a teacher spouse. Here are a few things he probably wished he knew before picking a teacher for a wife:

 

At the end of a long day of teaching, a teacher may not have the energy left for productive conversation.

Teacher Spouse

 

As a teacher’s spouse, you are now a de facto chaperone.

Teacher Spouse

 

Social events often include high school athletic events (including cheerleading competitions) and school plays BEFORE you have your own children in them.

Teacher Spouse

 

The end of the quarter, semester, or year can literally (ok, maybe not literally) bury your teacher spouse in paperwork.

Teacher Spouse

 

You may have to physically restrain or trick your sick teacher spouse into staying home from work.

Teacher Spouse

 

You will have to assist in preparing arts, crafts, and various baked goods.

Teacher Spouse

 

You will become an object of fascination for your spouse’s students.

Teacher Spouse

Career Advice

Why I Want My Students to Get Detention

Every year, I have my students write about their goals for the year during the first couple of weeks of school. And every year I have a few kids who make it their primary goal in life never to get in trouble.

“I won’t get detention all year.” “I will never miss a homework assignment.”

It’s a conversation-starter every year, because I think it’s a terrible goal, both in school and in life. I believe it’s crucial to learn from mistakes.

So here’s what I tell my students about getting in trouble:

“Some of you guys wrote that you want to make it through the whole year without getting detention. I totally get that, because detention is boring and miserable. It’s supposed to be. But I think you might want to give that goal a little more thought.

You see, if your number one goal is to avoid getting in trouble, you’re going to miss out on a lot of life experiences. I’m not talking about smoking in the bathroom—that’s an experience you can definitely afford to skip. And I’m definitely not talking about bullying or being stupid on the internet because that stuff can follow you forever.

I’m talking about laughing too loudly with your friends at the lunch table or getting so engrossed in a project that you get caught working on it in your next period class. I’m talking about feeling so strongly about what you want to say that you forget to raise your hand before you say it. Having so much fun with your friends that you slip up and forget your homework one night because you’re outside playing until it’s dark.

“If you’re focused on never getting in trouble, you’re limiting your opportunities to learn from mistakes.”

You guys are kids. Making mistakes and getting in trouble is basically your primary function during this part of your lives.

There are so many things you have to learn as a middle schooler—how to help your friend through a bad breakup. How to defend somebody who’s being picked on. How to defend yourself against rumors and gossip. And nobody, nobody gets it right the first time. You’ve got to do these things the wrong way and get in trouble and figure out better ways to cope next time, or you’ve learned nothing.

And here’s the other reason it’s important. At some point in your life, you’ll be faced with a situation where doing the right thing will get you in trouble. Maybe it’ll be at work, where your boss wants you to do something slightly unethical to make a profit. Maybe it’ll be in a relationship, where being honest with someone you love results in anger and resentment. Or maybe it’ll be here in school, when you see someone with power—student or faculty—misusing it against someone without.

“If you don’t know how to get in trouble, then you’re going to have a much harder time doing the right thing when that crisis arises.”

I never want you to get in trouble for being mean to somebody. I never want you to take the kind of risks that end in tragedy, like experimenting with drugs or gang activity. And I don’t want you to get in trouble because you just decide that homework isn’t really your thing this year.

But I do want you to get in trouble. I want you to make mistakes and drive me crazy and make my life more difficult. You’re my students; it’s not your job to make sure my day goes smoothly. It’s your job to screw up and let me help you learn.

So instead of focusing on never doing anything wrong, how about you focus on doing what’s right? Even when you’re not quite sure how, even when you go about it the wrong way, even when it gets you in trouble? A kid who never gets detention may be an excellent student. But we don’t want you to grow up to be star students. We want you to grow up to be fulfilled, engaged, compassionate, wise adults.  And making mistakes is the only way to get there.”

It’s a dangerous message to send because the kids misunderstand.

They’ll expect me not to hold them accountable when they screw up, “because I told them to.” And it’s often not a message their parents will agree with. I understand and respect that—and God knows, I appreciate it—but I also have to help these kids become good citizens the best way I know how. And one of the ways I do that is by encouraging them to make mistakes.

I’m not sure the message gets through to most of my sweet perfectionists. I still have kids who make it through the year without ever doing anything wrong. I really don’t think they’re just slick, either; they really put that much pressure on themselves to do everything absolutely perfectly. But when a kid comes to me complaining about her first detention in eight years of public school, I don’t tell her I’m disappointed or commiserate with her about how much it sucks. I congratulate her and tell her that she’s gained a new life experience because that’s what I truly believe.

Classroom Ideas

Try This Clever Pre-Writing Activity to Help Kids Brainstorm From A to Z

The time students spend planning what they are going to write about, i.e. pre-writing, is one of the most important steps of the writing process. Recently, teacher Julie Woodard shared this clever writing activity to pass on to all our teacher friends.

“This Alphabetability activity,” she tells us, “is a helpful activity for brainstorming during the planning stage of writing because it engages the writer’s brain and connects it to the topic, guides the writer in creating strong vocabulary, and helps lead to a successfully written piece.”

pre-writing activity

How to use the Alphabetability pre-writing activity:

  • On paper, in writing journals, on the computer, phone, etc., write out the letters of the alphabet vertically down the lines of the paper or screen.
  • Brainstorm words or phrases related to your writing topic for as many letters of the alphabet as possible. More than one word or phrase per letter is OK, in fact it’s helpful.
  • Adjectives, adverbs, nouns- all parts of speech, are fine.  
  • Save your list to use throughout the writing process. 

When your list is complete, you’ve not only engaged your brain and focused your thinking on the topic, you have an awesome vocabulary list to start your writing!

Alphabetability is an activity students love and can be a valuable tool for writing throughout the school year.

Life & Wellbeing

I Shouldn’t Have to Work a Second Job to Survive as a Teacher

We are teachers. We are also baristas, waitresses, tutors, and dog walkers. Teaching is an incredibly demanding job and yet, the number of teachers who need to work a second job is staggering.

Teachers cannot teach today without a master’s degree, and many are enticed by increased compensation for credits earned above that degree. So we invest countless hours of professional development every week (usually given at a time when one might be dreaming about how to invent an inconspicuous, yet portable wine bottle) in addition to the many, many hours spent in the classroom.

If our brains are worth so much, why do so many teachers have side hustles just to make ends meet?

It’s all about the Benjamins.

Many teachers have racked up mad moula paying for said master’s degrees, and we need to pay off a little something every month so as not to demolish our credit. We want to have a family, buy a home, and live out some version of the American dream. So we work a second job to earn more money.

But at what cost?

Teaching is not a job you can generally phone in. Unless you enjoy the snores from your students and death stares from administration.

In a typical day, you’ve got a kid in the middle of telling you his parents are getting divorced, another screaming and refusing to start her work, and rumor has it there is going to be a fire drill today. It’s only second period and you’re existing on two sips of (cold) coffee. Your child’s daycare may have even called regarding a slight sniffle.

Teachers are “on stage” all day. We sing, we dance, we inspire, and we go home and pass out. No wait, scratch that. At 3:00 PM, we head to Starbucks to begin taking orders for double half-caff lattes with extra foam.

Where are we supposed to find the energy for that?

“I just want to lie on my couch and binge-watch Netflix,” we cry. “I want to see my adult friends,” we wail like toddlers.

Teachers are responsible for so many people’s needs all day, we often forget about our own self-care. We work at roadrunner speed and make multitasking look like an Olympic sport.

There’s planning, grading, calling parents and updating the course website to contend with. If lunch and prep aren’t cutting the muster in terms of time, we take it home. “Wait; did that sole cracker I scarfed down during period 3 count as lunch?!”

It’s a bummer to bail on happy hour when you really need to unwind with your bestie because you have to hustle to your second gig.

If I can make more money, why shouldn’t I?

Then there are those who feel guilty because if we “get home early,” we feel obligated to work a second job. After all, we do have all those supplies we need to buy.

You don’t want to be near a teacher when they get the circular for the sales at Staples. I’ve actually heard people contemplating bottling the smell of freshly sharpened pencils and selling it as perfume (hmm…another side job idea). Bottom line, we love us some school supplies!

But why are we teachers expected to dig into our own pockets to ensure there are enough bottles of hand sanitizer to survive the plague?

Not the best idea for a number of reasons.

For starters, you begin ignoring the people in your life. You neglect your home, yourself and your sanity. You fill every waking minute with work and leave yourself without any breathing room to rest, relax, and rejuvenate.

And that, no matter how you look at it, is just not fair.

Humor

What If Saved By the Bell Were Set in 2017?

Saved By The Bell has a special place for those of us who grew up in the 90s. While times have definitely changed—no one knows this better than a teacher—we can’t help but think about how Zack, Kelly, Jessie, Slater, Lisa, and Screech would fit into today’s classroom. If you were a current teacher at good ol’ Bayside High, here’s what it might look like to have the gang walk your halls.

 

Grande, double shot with an inch of almond milk.

Jessie no longer needs a caffeine pill addiction, she has Starbucks. And easy access at that …

 

Is this organic?

The gang is shocked to discover The Max is now a hipster hangout where they don’t get freebies, sodas are free-trade, non-GMO, and served in Mason jars. A round costs $20. To further the blow, this new place doesn’t allow dancing, not even Lisa’s “The Sprain.”

 

Watch out, Zuck, here’s Zack.

Zack meets the internet = Mind. Blown. He uses its powers to introduce the world to the Zack Attack Band and their hit, “Friends Forever,” creates an online business scheme selling giant cell phones as the next new, quirky-cool thing, and uses fake Facebook accounts to manipulate the world.

 

A few seconds, a lifetime of regret.

Slater tries to out-cool Zack by sending racy images of him and the girls in their Buddy Bands on Snapchat.

 

Those bangs though …

Dear, sweet eternally-perfect Kelly Kapowski remains unchanged, unflawed, and beloved. I mean, she’s Kelly! Not even a change in decades can affect her.

 

Safety first!

The gang is shocked that Bayside High stopped the Practice Being Married assignment after students requested condoms to help with homework.

 

Can you say, Fashion Blogger?

Kelly starts a trend of using school hallways as runways for 90s fashion.

 

High School MusicalThe Prequel 

At any moment, the gang breaks into dance in the halls. No one ever understands why or attempts joining in.

 

Forget SoulCycle.

Kelly, Jessie, and Lisa go all out trying to bring Jazzercise back into gym class.

 

It was weird, TBH.

Mr. Belding is fired because of his inappropriately close relationship with the gang and obliviousness to the other students at Bayside.

 

Nerd culture is in right now.

Screech meets the internet = Controls. It. Finally having found an outlet for his super brain, Screech’s weirdness falls to the wayside and is replaced by a calm, all-knowing coolness similar to that of Neo from The Matrix. He becomes the elusive, cool kid at school.

 

That hair will always be iconic.

Zack tries to use his ‘Time Out Powers’ to thwart Screech’s increasing popularity, only to realize they no longer work. His disdain for the present grows.

Classroom Ideas

7 Easily Built STEM Centers that Foster Creativity

Creative classrooms not only look different, they feel different. They provide an environment where children are encouraged to think outside the box, build their problem-solving skills, and learn to collaborate with their classmates.

Building STEM centers that foster creativity doesn’t have to be complicated. All you need is a smart layout that provides designated areas stocked with a wide variety of everyday materials, and time for your students to let their imaginations run wild.

Here are seven easy STEM centers to include in your classroom layout.

1. Tinker Workbench

Kids love to put on their inventor hats and assemble gadgets and gizmos in new and exciting ways.

Items to include:
Odds and ends, nuts and bolts, hinges, magnets, rubber bands, paper clips, keys and locks, corks, gears, wire, aluminum foil and pans, tin cans, old phone cords, plastic lids, simple tools.

STEM center activities to try:

  • Share a few pages from The Way Things Work by David MacCauley, then create your own invention.
  • Create a 3D sculpture of a nature scene made from hardware bits and pieces.
  • Construct a machine that demonstrates the concept of balance.

Source: https://tinkering.exploratorium.edu/2014/02/07/hanoch-pivens-drawing-objects

 

2. Writing Nook

Create an enticing space for your little Shakespeares to express their thoughts on STEM topics using the written word.

Items to include:
Different types of paper (lined, bordered, colored), stationery, colored pens and markers, samples of writing styles, comfy seat, quiet, privacy, alphabet, high-frequency words, book-making supplies like this paper bag book, topic lists.

STEM center activities to try:

  • Create a poem about an animal you’re studying.
  • Write your own how to book to describe a simple procedure.
  • Compose a thank you letter to a famous inventor.
  • Write a story about one of the inventions you made at the Tinker station.

 

3. Mini Robotics Lab

Your kids can learn to code just by playing and exploring with these adorable robots and Wonder Workshop’s new K-5 Learn to Code curriculum which includes 72 sequenced Challenge Cards. Each card has a story that engages students in creative problem-solving scenarios.

Items to include:
Dash & Dot robots and Wonder Workshop task cards—which we’re giving them away right now!

STEM center activities to try:

  • Teach Dash how to get down and boogie.
  • Help Dash escape from the Dot monster.
  • Design a game of Duck, Duck, Goose for Dot to play with friends.

Dash & Dot Challenge Cards Must-Have Spaces That Foster Creativity

 

4. Building Station

Tap into your students’ natural engineering skills with a space for your students to build and create.

Items to include:
LEGO bricks, tinker toys, wooden blocks, K’NEX, connectagons, magnetix, Brain Flakes, any other type of building materials.

STEM center activities to try:

  • Have a challenge to see who can build the highest tower with the fewest pieces.
  • After reading a fairy tale, create your own dream castle.
  • Build a model that demonstrates the concept of pattern.
  • Construct a bridge strong enough to support Dash the robot’s weight as he rolls over it.

 

5. Nature Table

A nature table is a wonderful way to invite children to learn about the natural world as they engage in play-based learning.

Items to include:
Rocks and pebbles, sticks of all sizes, pine cones, assorted shells, acorns, dried grasses, sand, seeds, pods, moss, bark, raffia, bird seed.

STEM center activities to try:

  • Make a model of the planets using natural materials.
  • Create a beautiful design that demonstrates symmetry.
  • Recreate a scene from a story.
Nature Table Must-Have Spaces That Foster Creativity
Source: http://montessoribeginnings.blogspot.com/2011/10/autumn-nature-table.html

 

6. Sensory Area

Sometimes the vibe in classrooms can get pretty chaotic. Create a special area for students who need a place to refuel and reconnect with their creativity.

Items to include:
Noise-cancelling headphones, fidget items such as soda tab fidget or stress balls, bean bags, squishy balls, stretchy bands, Rubics cube, coloring books, yoga ball.

STEM center activities to try:

  • Do stretches with stretchy bands.
  • Put on noise-cancelling headphones and color for five minutes.
  • Close your eyes, breathe deeply and slowly, and occupy your hands with a fidget item.
  • Mellow out with a rain stick made with materials from the Nature Table.

 

7. Art Corner

Ask any young child if they are an artist and they will answer with a resounding YES! Give them space to work with a variety of craft materials to create their masterpieces and incorporate art into STEM.

Items to include:
Paint, markers, papers, scissors, glue, yarn, cardboard tubes, pom-poms, foam shapes, googly eyes, tin foil, popsicle sticks, empty spools, buttons, tissue paper, clay, pipe cleaners, contact paper, cotton balls

STEM center activities to try:

 

Classroom Ideas

11 School and Classroom Themes Students Will Love

As an educator, this is one of THE most serious decisions you have to make each year—picking out the perfect classroom theme. You don’t want it to be too trendy because that’ll get old quick. You also can’t have it be too obscure or self-serving because let’s face it—not everyone shares your joy of Star Wars. You want a theme that is fun, recognizable, and one all students can get behind. This serious decision shouldn’t be taken lightly!

We know back-to-school time is busy enough, so we want to help make your life easier by identifying some of the best themes out there. All of these can be done in a classroom, at a school level, or for this year’s yearbook.

1. Encourage Happy Campers

Bring a little of the outdoors in with this camping theme. You can have a lot of fun with the signs throughout your room. Then add stars on the ceiling and wild animals throughout the room for a fun learning environment your students will enjoy.

SOURCE: Schoolgirl Style

2. Go Around the World

If you love traveling or maps, then this is the theme for you. Do a quick search on Pinterest for “map classroom projects,” and you’ll be overwhelmed by brilliant ideas. You can pick up maps for really cheap at thrift stores and rummage sales, so this is a really inexpensive theme to pull off. We like that you can take it in either the travel/culture or maps/geography direction.

SOURCE: The Savvy Schoolteacher

3. Get Lost in Harry Potter

If you teach older students, this might be the perfect theme for you. We found lots of amazing projects out there. Be sure to check out this teacher’s theme as well as this article with several classroom ideas in one convenient spot.

SOURCE: Unknown

4. Travel Under the Sea

You can have all sorts of “school” puns with an underwater or ocean theme. We love this reading area, but there are many other resources for creating cubbies, name tags, bulletin boards, and more.

SOURCE: Teaching Happily Ever After

5. Join the Superheroes

You can never go wrong with superheroes… ever. We adore Schoolgirl Style and her themes. She really goes all out, offering ideas for every little inch of the classroom. The superhero theme is popular, but this is one of the best designs we’ve ever seen.

SOURCE: Schoolgirl Style

6. Fall in Love with Owls

The owl craze is still here, so it’s easy to find owl items and accessories to create this theme. You can keep it fresh all year, finding ways to get your wise little scholars motivated.

SOURCE: Clutter-Free Classroom

7. Welcome Your Students to the Jungle

Kids will ALWAYS be fans of any theme that has to do with animals, and with this one, you have so many to choose from. You could also do a rainforest theme that would be very similar to the highlighted jungle theme.

SOURCE: The Creative Chalkboard

8. Go to Far Away Places

Between planets, constellations, and spaceships, you’ll have plenty of material to outfit your entire classroom. You’ll have lots of opportunity for “blast off” puns and decorations.

SOURCE: The Gilded Pear

9. Celebrate Dr. Seuss

You can never go wrong with the great Dr. Seuss. With so many good books to choose from, you’ll have so many characters to fill out your year. You could even feature a different book for monthly classroom themes!

SOURCE: Clutter-Free Classroom

10. Get in the Game

You can start with jerseys at the beginning of the year, and then end the year with everyone signing a baseball. To cover more interests, you can mix up the sports throughout the year.

SOURCE: Create 2 Educate

11. Go to the Movies

Here’s one more idea from Clutter-Free Classroom. (She has great info on her site in general about creating a theme.) It’s a movie theme! Feature a different inspirational movie every week or month to keep it fresh.

SOURCE: Clutter-Free Classroom

Try one of these themes for your yearbook this year! Lifetouch is the leader in school yearbooks, and these would all make great themes. In addition, check out the Lifetouch PrintShop where they create custom or personalized art for just about anything!

 

Classroom Ideas

How I Teach Kids to Write Strong Book Reviews Using 3 Simple Steps

I’m a reader. I’ve always been a reader. And, while I do believe it’s okay to just read and move on, I personally need to process what I read. When I reflect on a book I’ve read and when I connect the book I’ve read to myself and to the outside world, I am changed. That book becomes a part of me.

I’ve created a three-paragraph structure that helps me consider all the ways I learn about any story I read. The good news—it’s a great model for students too!

Yesterday I finished a fantastic book called It All Comes Down to This by Karen English. I’m going to use this book and my reflection of it to show how to write an awesome book review in three parts. Start doing this now and by the time school starts you’ll have several examples to show your students so they can do it too!

 

1. Make a personal connection

In the first paragraphs, I write about my personal connection to the book being reviewed:

When I was 12 years old, I remember the first time I realized my parents were just people. It’s always a bit of a disheartening, coming of age moment, isn’t it? My mom was mad at my dad for something. This wasn’t unusual, as they had been divorced since I was four. On this day, though, my mom told me that she thought my dad’s wife dressed poorly. “Imagine,” she said, “wearing black socks with sandals. Ridiculous.” At an earlier age I might have incorporated this comment into my mental list of don’ts about dressing, but at 12 I knew it meant something bigger.

My mother didn’t want me to like Alice. She was just like any other friend who might tell me something about another girl to ensure her friendship with me. This kind of more grown up thinking is the start of adulthood. In It All Comes Down to This by Karen English, Sophie discovers that her father may be seeing another woman behind her mother’s back. She also realizes that she may have to spend her entire life being accused of things she didn’t do just because of the color of her skin. These are the discoveries that bring Sophie headlong into the start of adulthood. Following along as someone bridges the gap between being a child and being an adult is fascinating because there isn’t a soul out there who hasn’t had those moments.

2. Include a summary of the story

In the second paragraph, I sum up what the story was about. I don’t dwell too much on this because I think the author tells the story, it is my job to introduce the reader to the text. In fact, I oftentimes tell students to just copy the summary from the book flap or from Amazon as long as they credit the source. The point of this writing is about reflection and connection, not summary assessment. So this one’s from Amazon.

It’s 1965, Los Angeles. All 12-year-old Sophie wants to do is write her book, star in the community play, and hang out with her friend Jennifer. But she’s the new black kid in a nearly all-white neighborhood; her beloved sister, Lily, is going away to college soon; and her parents’ marriage is rocky. There’s also her family’s new, disapproving housekeeper to deal with. When riots erupt in nearby Watts and a friend is unfairly arrested, Sophie learns that life—and her own place in it—is even more complicated than she’d once thought.

3. Make a connection to the larger world

Finally, I share why I think this book helped me connect to the world around me:

I’m a 48-year-old white woman who grew up in New York City with a housekeeper/nanny who was African American. Margaret was the light of my childhood. She talked to my mother when I couldn’t say what needed to be said. She bought me a blue jar of Noxema and showed me how to wash my face at night. She made fried chicken every Friday afternoon before she went home for the weekend. Sophie, the main character in It All Comes Down to This by Karen English had a housekeeper too. The difference is that Sophie and Mrs. Baylor are both black.

This book made me want to hear other African American voices and be wide open to really listening. This book speaks to coming of age, but also to coming to understand how race changes the way we live in our world. As a result of reading English’s book, I ordered several other books about and by African Americans. It’s also opened my eyes to really see and read articles like 10 Books I Wish My White Teachers Had Read.

This review writing process helps me learn so much about who I am as a person, as well as a writer and a reader. It also helps me reflect in a really purposeful way. I’ve used it to teach third graders, fifth graders, and middle schoolers. They loved it. I’ve also taught it to teachers to see if they might be able to use it to reflect on the reading they do. They loved it as well.

The format generates intense discussions. Everyone tell me how much they enjoy sharing their personal feelings about a book and how great it is not to have to summarize as they’ve always done.

Want to try this? Tell us how you like it in the comments.