Kindness Matters

Every year I do an anti-bullying unit. Sometimes I find relevant articles about teens who have been bullied, sometimes I show YouTube videos about bullying, a few times I've shown the film Bowling for Columbine because it discusses the possibility that the boys who did the shooting were picked on and bulled in high school. Many people teach anti-bullying units in October and just last year I learned about Pink Shirt Day which is in February.

Certain books that I've taught also lend themselves to discussing bullying in school. One book that I've taught 8 or 9 times is Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. In the young adult novel Speak the main character Melinda is bullied because she called the police at a party and a lot of people got in trouble for underage drinking. The novel traces Melinda through her entire freshman year and it deals with not just bullying but depression, rape and suicide as well. Another popular book that deals with bullying in schools is the novel Wonder by R.J. Palacio. I haven't had a chance to teach this novel yet but I'm looking forward to it. I think it will bring up meaningful classroom discussion.

Whenever I start discussing bullying in school I always have one student (or more) that says, "bullying doesn't happen in this school." Sadly they're wrong and I can list a few examples I've witnessed over the years.

Kids have always been cruel but it's gotten progressively worse with technology and social media. When I was in high school I remember seeing a senior knock some books out of the hands of a 9th grader. I heard some name calling but it wasn't anything horrible. I don't remember what year it was but I remember in the beginning of my career there were two seniors that broke up and apparently the girl had texted the boy a naked photo. He printed out many copies of the picture and posted them all over school with some words I won't be using in my blog but I'm sure your imagination can fill in the blanks. Her parents pressed charges and it would have been worse if they both hadn't been 18. The girl ended up transferring to another school to finish her last few months of high school. In NYC there are so many schools it's easy to transfer.

The 2010-2011 school year was the worst school year for cyberbullying that I ever witnessed in my career. A group of students (no one knows how many) started a Facebook group where students were prompted to post pictures and make fun of people in the school. Many girls were bad-mouthed for being easy (that's not the word they used) and other people were called ugly, gay, fat, etc. I'm sure there was more, I never saw the page myself. What I do remember is that there were 26 fights in my school in one month because of that Facebook group.

The worst of these fights happened right before Christmas Break and resulted in a security guard and an assistant principal getting injured. I had students arrested during that fight. I didn't witness it because I was teaching when we went into lockdown. The principal involved the police and they were able to trace the computer where the Facebook group was created. That one student took the blame for everything even though everyone knew it was more than one person that created that group. He was just the unlucky one whose computer was used.

Two years ago a similar incident happened on Instagram. One of my students created an account and she posted pictures of people in the school making fun of them. She was suspended for about a month but I don't think her punishment was harsh enough. I saw some of the printouts and she wrote some awful things and encouraged others to do the same.

How can we as teachers foster kindness in our classroom? We can show films, read books, read articles and hold discussions. The truth of the matter is, we have to lead by example. I go out of my way to be nice to everyone even if they're mean to me. I work in a poor area and many of these kids view kindness as a weak trait. I find that sad but I'm not changing who I am. I will always treat others how I want to be treated.

I created my Kindness Quotes Task Cards so that I could force students to think critically and analyze an array of quotes about being a kind person. I hope that these quotes foster a positive learning environment. I hope that the discussions that come out as a result of these task cards are meaningful. I've always enjoyed using quotes in my classroom.

The Kindness Quotes Task Cards are free in my TpT store.



I know that many teens today face bigger challenges than my generation did. We have to do everything in our power to try to lead them down the right path. Hopefully we can show them being kind isn't a sign of weakness and they should choose kindness.






Thank you The ELA Buffet and Desktop Learning Adventures for hosting this blog hop.



Playing Educational Games in The Secondary Classroom

Some people think that playing educational games in the classroom is only for elementary school. Some people think that with all the mandates from state exams and getting ready for college that the secondary classroom has to be boring to be rigorous.

I teach in the inner city and my students need fun and innovative ways to learn. Students today don't have the attention span that students had when I was growing up. You can blame technology for that. Although my generation had TV and video games, I was in the generation that went through high school without the internet and definitely without cell phones. Although technology makes life much easier I am thankful that I grew up in a time-period before it took over our lives.

For the most part my students dislike reading. One thing I have always done is create Jeopardy review games before unit tests. I used to do this by hand and write on my chalkboard (go ahead and laugh). In 2012 I got a smartboard in my room and all of a sudden I was able to take my teaching to the next level. I use the website http://www.superteachertools.us/jeopardyx/ to create my own jeopardy games. You can save them on your account or simply email yourself the link. I love this site. You can also find games on there already. You can create other games on that site as well.

The NY State Exam (The Regents) has literary terms on it. Literary terms are also part of the Common Core State Standards. My students have always struggled remembering these terms. This is why I always have a word wall in my room with these terms. Last year I created a Literary Terms Bingo Game for my 11th graders. We played it on a day before a vacation early in the year. I gave out free homework passes as prizes. The kids had so much fun that we ended up playing the game (by request) every time we had either a half day or it was the day before vacation. I ended up posting this review game in my TpT Store.









Jeopardy had always been my go to for review games but to be honest with some classes the game got too loud. Playing with two teams sometimes leads to students making fun of each other when they win. When playing bingo it's every man (or woman) for themselves. This school year I decided to create bingo games to review difficult works of literature. Since my students have always struggled with Shakespeare I decided to start with that. So far I've created bingo review games for five of Shakespeare's plays. They're a fun way to review characters, symbols and terms in the plays. I plan on making more of these review games in the future for other works of literature.
















There's no reason why students can't have fun and learn at the same time no matter what age they are. 

Argumentative Writing and The SEE Method

The common core places an emphasis on argumentative writing. In NYC high school students take a city-wide exam every year called the MOSL (measure of student learning) exam and that test has an argumentative essay on it. The NY state exam (The Regents) that students need to pass in order to graduate high school also has an argumentative essay on it.

My students struggled with their writing no matter how many times we practiced this style of essay in class. I tried picking topics that were relevant to them:

Should cellphones be allowed in school?
Should students have to wear uniforms?
Should minimum wage be increased?

Finally another teacher and I came up with a mnemonic device that was easy to remember and it worked every time. We called this The SEE Method.

What is the SEE Method?

  • The SEE Method is just a way for us to remember what we need to include in each body paragraph that we write.
  • One reason why this method is so great is that it is easy to remember, plus it's short and to the point.
I keep this up on chart paper in my classroom: 

State Your Claim
Provide Evidence
Explain Your Evidence
We use the SEE method to help us craft arguments. 




 I hope that you can use this method to help your students with their argumentative writing.