Poem of the Day


I have tried (and failed) at incorporating bell ringers into my class in the past, but this summer I stumbled across something that I knew I had to try. I read a post published by Edutopia on their Facebook account which suggested that covering a poem each day with students can have a dramatic impact on their outlook and understanding of poetry. I like to teach what I love, and I don’t love poetry. I usually teach a short poetry unit at the end of the year which encourages students to explore types of poems they like and write their own poems according to style guidelines (aka- go outside and write nature haikus when the weather is nice). We don’t spend much time analyzing, and we don’t give the classics the time they deserve. I knew I was doing my students a disservice by not covering poetry like I should. I also knew that I was going to have two sections of college prep English 9 this year, and many of those students would later go on to take AP English classes which would require them to critically analyze poetry more frequently.

I wrote a post a while ago about the power of working outside your comfort zone, and I thought this might be a great way to cover poetry without the overwhelming stress that a poetry unit brings me. My school bought a school wide contract with Blackboard in January, so I decided I would use Blackboard for my students instead of Google Classroom or Edmodo which I have used in the past. I have taken some of my master’s courses online, so I’m familiar with forum/discussion posts. When I realized Blackboard has the capacity for forum posts, I thought this might be a great way to incorporate my daily poems.


I did some Googling over the summer and began to compile some poems that I liked. They had to be short enough for students to do a quick reading and have a general understanding and they had to be interesting. I was able to find more than enough poems to use for the year. Some of the poems are classics that any English teacher would suggest I teach. Some of the poems are silly. I loved reading Shel Silverstein when I was a kid, so his poems show up throughout the list. I created a folder in my google drive and started saving poems. I did a new doc for each poem and saved them all in the Poem of the Day folder. I wanted to make sure that I had these poems archived for the future in case the district decided to terminate their contract with Blackboard. I would always have them compiled on my drive. From there, I set up a Poem of the Day tab in my Blackboard class and created weekly folders within that tab. After that, I created my discussion posts. I named each post with the day that the poem would be presented and set the date which they would appear to my students.


Students will have 5-10 minutes each day to read their daily poem and answer the question I ask along with the poem. I have the due date set on Blackboard as 11:59 pm on the day the poem is assigned. So, if a student needs more time to work, they can complete their response outside of class My questions will vary and will cover all of those poetry analysis items they will need to know how to do. Sometimes we will discuss the poem in class, sometimes they will just answer and I will respond. I will be doing this with over 50 students a day, so sometimes the grade will just be a completion grade for participating.


My purpose in this activity is exposing them to a TON of poetry. I want to almost desensitize them to poetry so they don’t have the fear and anxiety of poetry that I have. I want them to be able to view poetry as a piece of literature and a text just like anything else I give them instead of something scary. Incorporating a daily bellringer also helps create routine and structure within the class. I am hoping to start with some basic comprehension and response questions and then build my students up with their ability as the year goes on. By the end of the year, my hope is they will be able to do a quick but critical analysis of a poem and come up with some IDEAS about the poem that they could write about when asked. I’m hoping the discussion forum setting of the bell ringer helps me stick with this activity. It seems silly, but I always forgot to write the bell ringer on the board. Blackboard should let me sit down and load a few week’s worth of poems and questions at a time, so I have a better chance at following through.


What are some poems that are MUST READS in your class? I wonder if they are on my list.

Be sure to check out Edutopia’s original post on 4 Reasons to Start Class With a Poem Each Day. 

Moving Toward the Magic



We are all guilty of over enjoying the comforts in life. We want the most comfortable bed, shoes, clothes, and car. We equate comfort with quality of life. When I first heard the idea that the greatest things in life happen outside of your comfort zone, I was a bit confused. Don’t we work our whole lives to achieve comfort? Why would great things happen when I’m uncomfortable? I didn’t really get it, but I’m not typically a risk taker. I’ve never climbed the face of a cliff. I panic at the thought of purging my material items and living in a trendy “tiny house.”  I don’t have the need for speed, and I picked my car for safety and comfort over style ad fashion.  Leave me in my comfortable bed while you risk life and limb in search of magic. I’ll like your dangerous-feet-hanging-out-of-the-airplane picture on Instagram while snuggling with my puppy and sipping chamomile tea.

Then I started thinking about risks and comfort zones within the classroom, and I realized I’m actually a risk taker! Stacy McNally may fear the risks in life, but Mrs. McNally will do anything it takes to improve and make learning fun. Mind. Blown. I’m not afraid to stand on a desk and sing a song I wrote about properly answering text dependent questions. I’m not afraid to send my kids on a scavenger hunt throughout the school for pieces of a puzzle to create the perfect thesis. I’m not afraid to start blogging with my students when all the other teachers in my building are still writing traditional essays. I’m not afraid to dress like a puritan woman and walk through the halls during class change to get my kids excited about what we are doing in class. I have certainly failed when taking risks. When I dress in costume and walk with (okay, maybe chase) my students down the hallway, they are mortified to know me. They call me crazy, but they are excited to come to class.

I spent the last six years of my career teaching in West Virginia. When we added twin baby boys to our family, being away from home didn’t feel right to my husband or me any more. We needed our children to be raised with family. My husband started his job search first to bring us home. He was a police officer, so we thought he would have a tougher time finding the right job. We thought wrong. Within a month, my husband had landed an amazing job and was set to begin at the start of the year. It was one thing to talk about making this huge jump and moving back to my hometown. It was another to actually do it! I started getting my portfolio ready to present to a future employer. I filed my paperwork for Ohio certification, and eventually I had an interview at my dream school. I was hired and I will start teaching at Beaver Local High School in a few weeks. They have a 1-1 initiative which will allow each student to have their own iPad. Their new K-12 School is the most innovative school in the state (and I would venture to say country). I am so excited to begin this new journey.

Since beginning this transition to come back home, I have told myself over and over, “The magic happens outside of your comfort zone.” I have taken this risk in uprooting my family and career with the faith that magic will happen. I am confident that my new school will allow me to blossom into a greater teacher than I could ever have imagined. I’m determined to continue to push myself  until I am making magic in my students’ lives every single day. I believe it will happen. If you’re interested in seeing my journey to the magic, subscribe. I will keep you posted on the highs and lows of teaching outside of my comfort zone.

How Blogging Transformed my Classes

This semester I incorporated blogging into my classes. I decided to use Edublogs and encourage each student to set up their own blog. All the individual blogs link back to mine, and students can see one another’s work on their “Dashboard” when logged in. This is nice because instead of clicking on the link to each student’s page and then searching for the posts, recent published posts show up on the dashboard for easy reading. Students can then create lists or subscribe to peer’s blogs for easy reading. Edublog allowed me to monitor and have editing rights to the students posts in an educational setting. Edublog was easy to learn and my students picked up the basics so quickly. I did pay a small price for a year long subscription to a Pro Account, but I believe it was well worth the nominal fee. Edublog has tons of resources to help you format and make your blog as complicated or as simple as you would like. I do not have experience using other blogging platforms, but I would highly suggest Edublogs to anyone looking to get into blogging for the first time. I know nothing about coding or website building and I think my blog is pretty impressive. Even if you think you can’t blog, you can! Now, on to why you’re really here- How blogging has transformed my teaching!

I was apprehensive about how blogging would impact my classes at first. I wanted to make sure that blogging was meaningful and not just replacing typical essays we would write in class. I was worried I would not be able to find the balance between students writing for academic purposes and students writing for self expression. Looking back, I had nothing to worry about. I was able to easily balance the blogging assignments so my students were able to show their personality as well as practice fine tuning their writing skills (specifically research and citation skills).

Obviously I worked with my students on the writing concepts I wanted them to display in their blogs, but the real magic happened when students were reading one another’s posts and interacting in the comments. I hoped this would happen, but I wasn’t sure how much I would have to coach them to make meaningful connections with their peers work. At first, I instructed students to comment on a certain number of posts, and I even gave them guidelines about what to include in their comments. Once students had a baseline understanding of my expectations, they took off. Most students read every single one of their peers’ posts. Many students commented tons of posts. All students talked about posts and suggested posts to their friends to read. Seeing my students engaged in one another’s writing and beliefs and opinions was powerful. Can you imagine if every student printed out their persuasive essay and we passed them around class to read and comment on? WOOF! I’m even bored thinking about grading all those assignments that way. Blogging made the writing fresh and fun. Blogging made my students interested in what their peers had to say and opened up so many meaningful classroom conversations that would have never happened in a traditional classroom.

I also noticed my students working harder to produce quality work. Most students knew that their friends and peers would read their posts, so they wanted to make sure they were bringing their A game. Students were naturally revising. Through my teaching career, I have struggled to get students to actually go back into their writings and revise and edit. With blogging, my students were publishing their post, viewing it on their page, going back and changing formatting, editing grammar and spelling mistakes, revising and changing because they wanted their work to be the best it could be. Their writing went from being a teacher-student communication to a public communication. They were intrinsically motivated to make their work better because they knew more people would see it. This is not to say all posts are perfect. If you look through my students’ pages, you will find plenty of mistakes. My students are still just sophomores in high school and they make plenty of mistakes. That’s how they grow. I saw every single student grow and develop as we were blogging.

The student blogs allowed each student to show their personality in a safe manner. Today’s student is different than even my friends and I were in high school. We were starting the online movement with chat rooms and AIM. But our students now are often more comfortable behind the anonymous nature of a computer screen and screen name. Students could show their personality by choosing a theme they liked or customizing their blog with images and fonts that showed off who they are. We spent a few days in class experimenting with the looks and layouts of the blogs. Their first assignment as to delete the sample pages, create a tag line, and publish an “about me” page. It was really awesome to see kids figuring out how to do something and then teaching one another what they learned. Students were looking at their peers’ pages for inspiration and giving praise when someone figured out how to do something cool. Blogging allowed my students to break out of their shells and form relationships with students they never would have worked with or even spoken to. When a self proclaimed “redneck” read a post by a transgender student about the struggles LGBT people face, I saw one of the most powerful conversations I have ever witnessed. These two students probably would have avoided working together at all cost, but were able to form an understanding because of their blogs.

When I decided to start blogging, I wanted to make sure my kids would learn the same skills as the other 10th graders who were writing one long persuasive essay (for the whole semester) with a fresh and new spin on writing. I wasn’t sure that I would be up to the challenge of many smaller argumentative essays, or that my students would even like blogging. My fears were totally unfounded. My students embraced blogging (and dare I say LOVED it) like I hoped they would. Although initially blogging was intended to really replace what we were doing traditionally, it opened so many more opportunities and dialogs that traditional writing has never allowed in my classes. Writing was redefined by student blogs and I will never go back to the old ways. Blogging transformed my teaching and my students’ learning in just a few short weeks. I am so excited to start next year with blogging. I cannot imagine the impact an entire year of blogging will have on my students, but I have some really great ideas about how our student blogs can really change the culture of a school.


Stay tuned, because I know you’re going to like what’s to come!

Letter to first year me

Dear First Year Teacher Stacy,

Congratulations on your first English teaching job in public school! You are going to have some tough times ahead of you, but they will help you grow in to a great teacher. I’m writing to you from year six, and I can promise you that you will love your job soon. Here’s some advice about a few things I have learned along the way. I hope it helps you through the rough spots that you will inevitably face.

1. Don’t try to be the coolest teacher. Be the best teacher.

In your first year, you will struggle a bit to find the balance of being a good teacher and being well liked by students. At first, you care a little too much about being well liked and not enough about being effective. You spend a little too much time off topic and not enough time focusing on developing skills. It is more important for a teacher to have students respect than their favor.  You need to try and find a balance between fun and effectiveness. Students will respect you for creating a solid rapport within a challenging class. Students will enjoy your class because you are a great teacher. They will enjoy your activities and lessons. They will laugh with you and learn with you if they can respect you.

2. You can never regain control once it is lost.

It is essential for you to start the year on a good foot. You should work hard at the start of the year to teach your students the policies and procedures you want them to know. This is when you establish the accepted behavior of the class. Your first year at JMHS started in a whirlwind. You were hired on Thursday and you started the following Tuesday. It took you some time to get on your feet and running, and it showed. You didn’t take the time to set proper policies and procedures because you weren’t sure how things were done at your new school. Once you were comfortable, you struggled to regain control of the class and hold them accountable. In the future, set the standard for acceptable behavior and classroom rules from the start. As a veteran, I now start the year on a strict note and I tend to loosen up as the semester goes on. If you have the opportunity to start at a new school, be confident that you know the right way to run your class, even if you may not be comfortable with the school’s way of doing things yet.

3. Follow your heart, your gut, your brain, or any other vital organ giving you messages.

Your first year Your first few years at John Marshall were rough emotionally. You knew what you should be doing for your students, but that wasn’t always the norm for the other teachers in your department. When you tried to innovate, they talked about you and ridiculed you. So you stopped. You adopted their old school ways of doing things and your student engagement dropped. You student discipline problems skyrocketed, and you hated your job. You put what you believed was right on the back burner and you did what everyone else was doing. It took you a few years to realize the disservice you were doing for your students. Around year four you will throw caution to the wind and do what you have known was right all along. Do it sooner. Follow your heart and connect with your students in the way you know is right.

4. Consider what the best teachers would think.

My decision to do what was right instead of what was normal came after reading What Great Teachers do Differently. The book encourages teachers to consider what the best teachers in the building would think of your words, actions, lessons, and behaviors. This was groundbreaking for me. What would Mrs. Kuskey think if she walked into my room right now? What would Mrs. Dewitt think of this email I’m about to send? What would Mr. Little or Mrs. Joseph think of the way you’re teaching this story? Would Mr. Swiger think this PBL was a waste of essential class time or would he believe you were growing students’ problem solving and cognitive thinking abilities? When I thought of these teachers in comparison to myself, I realized I needed a change. From your first year on, consider what the best teachers would think of the happenings in your classroom. Elevate yourself to their high standards.

5. Hold students to higher standards.

First year was rough, and understandably you struggled to find a balance between what your students could do and what you expected them to do. When students didn’t meet your expectations right away, you lowered them to try and help students succeed. You didn’t realize it at the time, but you were really not helping them at all. Students will test you to see what they can get away with. Naturally, most won’t do more than they have to due to the lack of intrinsic motivation in a traditional classroom. Set your expectations high and stick to them. Then find ways to motivate your students to meet the goals. You figure this out pretty quickly, but it’s worth the mention.

6. Stay away from the drama.

Dr. Camden taught you to stay out of the teacher’s lounge, and you follow her directions. But there are plenty of other hubs for negativity in a school too. Really, you need to approach your day with a mentality which keeps you free from the negative undertone which ripples through schools. When people complain, try and offer a solution. Understand that it is easier for some people to see the bad then to fix the problems. Do what you can to help, but don’t be part of the problem. You have a powerful voice that you can use to move the school forward in a positive way. Around year 5 you embrace your voice and work hard to stay away from the negativity (The No Complaining Rule was the game changer for this mentality). Do it sooner. You, and only you, control your happiness. If you want to love your job, make it happen. Kids feed from your energy, make sure what you’re putting out into the world is positive.

7. Read, Grow, Learn

You don’t know it all. You don’t even know most of it. Continue your education on your own. Your school before JM would send you anywhere you wanted to go for professional development. Marshall County has a ton more teachers than Abraxas had, and they cannot offer you the possibilities of attending any and every training you want to attend. But in today’s day and age, you can do it alone. Get online, read, and connect with educators all over the world. Use Twitter, read studies on motivation, and continue to take classes. There is so much more you can learn and do. You don’t need county funds or CE days to learn.

8. Be Crazy

Let your students see your silliness. In a few years, Dave Burgess will write Teach Like a Pirate and it will describe the teacher you have always wanted to be. Lose the fear; Embrace the crazy. Wear costumes, speak in accents, decorate your room, teach creativity, and let your passion show.


First year me, you’re going to make it through the rough times. There will be lots of smiles, laughs, and a few tears. You will grow into a strong and confident teacher. You will connect with hundreds of kids and you will change lives. Some days are hard, but looking back I can honestly say that they were all worth it.

Good Luck,



There IS room for crying in English

The Book Thief

I took a risk in teaching The Book Thief this year to my sophomores. There has been a grand movement within the 10th grade team of English teachers to all work together and teach the same things at the same times. We agreed that we should teach a novel this spring, but we couldn’t agree on what novel to teach.

I am passionate about introducing students to literature that doesn’t SUCK. Yes, I know that language is unbecoming of a proper English literature teacher, but so many students are turned off by literature teachers teaching only the classics in boring ways. I can’t be that teacher. I won’t be the teacher that turns a kid off from reading or tunes him further out. I want to introduce my students to classics in fun and innovative ways, and literature they can connect with and love. I have 180 days to turn my students into literature lovers (I guess I will settle for appreciators). If I teach a book that I don’t even want to read myself, I am positive I will not turn any of my students into literature lovers or even appreciators.

I taught The Crucible, one of my favorite classics, in the fall, so I really wanted to do something more contemporary in the spring. My kids enjoyed the story, and I worked hard to make the classic relevant and fun for 2015.  After looking through my bookshelf and the text exemplar list for 10th grade, I decided to stick with what I believed was right for my students. We read The Book Thief. What a powerful novel! My students have recently written blog posts with their review of The Book Thief. You can check them out by exploring our class blogs listed below to see their personal reactions to the novel. Add your comment and let them know what you thought of their words!

By taking a risk and going against my team, I was nervous at the results I would see. If my kids didn’t connect with the literature like I had hoped, I would have failed. As we made it though the 552 page novel, there were certainly high points and low points. There were points that we were tired of reading and just had to push on. The story was always good, but snow days and breaks sometimes made it hard to stay focused. I thought I was keeping them interested and engaged, but sometimes I wasn’t sure. On the last day of reading, I told my kids that I had a feeling I knew how the book would end. I warned them that I would likely cry, and to not judge me. I joked and encouraged them that all the coolest kids cried while reading. I even went so far as to pass out tissues to each of my students, just incase they were more like me than they cared to admit. I wanted them to feel comfortable and at ease. I wanted them to know that they didn’t need to try to hide the emotions they would likely face, but to embrace them like I was doing. I wasn’t sure if they would actually feel as I hoped they would.

As we read, the greatest thing happened. I wasn’t the only one crying. Many of my students shed tears over the ending of the book. They cried for the characters, and I ended up crying for my students. How often have high school students sat in English class and openly cried while reading a book? I have never had that experience with any piece of literature. Actually, I have never had students even come close to connecting with literature like that. My risk was worth the gain. I turned some students into literature lovers and appreciators.

I have often heard the quote that our best work happens when we break outside our comfort zones. I broke outside mine to teach a book that no one else thought was important or relevant for my students, and I had the greatest “Teacher Moment” I have ever had. The reaction of my students was candid, real, and honest. It reminded me that although it is important to work well with your peers, it is most important to always do what is best for your students. I did what I believed was right, and I introduced my students to a piece of literature that will forever change their views and thoughts on the Holocaust and humanity. I am certain that they will carry The Book Thief with them in their hearts for years and years to come, as it has stolen a little piece of them and me.


3 Days Into Student Blogging

Batty for Blogging

We are three days into blogging, and I wanted to take a minute to step back and reflect on the week. I need to do a better job of blogging regularly, and I think connecting my students to my blog will be just what it takes. I have also dedicated a section of my planner to blogging ideas for students and for me.

I was nervous to incorporate blogging into my classroom, but decided the risk was worth the gain. I am so excited with the progress I have seen this week. Students were a little apprehensive as they were signing up. We did run into some problems here and there. For some reason, we had a few students who signed up and then were denied access to their accounts. Once we were all on, the students began exploring and creating.

My biggest pet peeve as a teacher is when students would rather ask me how to do something than explore and figure it out on their own. I love teaching and I know it is my job to teach them, but if they ask me something that they can figure out or look up, I won’t answer it for them. Students get frustrated at first, but then they have a sense of pride and accomplishment when they figure out how to fix the problem on their own. Many students asking questions were answered with one word from me: Explore. Once they realized I wasn’t going to give them step by step instructions, the learning and fun began. Students were picking themes, creating tag lines, helping one another and learning. I had fun mingling around the room to see what my students were doing and how they were customizing their pages. Faces lit up when I praised their layout or tag line. Students worked hard to perfect their blogs when I made suggestions or critiques. There were lots of happy teacher moments when students began checking out their peers’ blogs and asking one another for help achieving the look they wanted.

When we started on our first assignment, the real magic happened. Students were given a “To Do” list to be accomplished by the end of class Thursday. Sign up, link with my blog, come up with a unique title that includes their first name, write a fun tag line that reflects their personality, customize the look and theme, read and comment the blog guidelines and comment guidelines on my page, and create their own about me page. I believe I connect well with all of my students. Some I have stronger relationships than others, but I pride myself of my rapport with all. As students were creating, I was reading and watching. Once most students had published their about me pages, I started commenting. I was blown away at the connection I could make with my shy students. These kids were sharing things that were appropriate, but meaningful; things that I didn’t know about but wanted to know more. One student shared a link to their photography website and I got a glimpse into the real them. I saw my in person relationships grow with these students who weren’t always comfortable speaking out and taking risks in class.

In just three short days, I have already felt the connection to my students grow because of blogging. Next week we will begin our blogging boot camp and do some intensive writing and blogging how-to. We will then move into learning about the powers of persuasion and we will center blog posts around our persuasive writing (instead of doing a traditional persuasive essay). I am so excited to connect on a deeper level with my students through blogging, and I am beaming to see the pride on their faces after they figure out a tough formatting problem. I can’t wait to hear the voice my students develop through their blogs.

For now, click around the bottom of my page under “Class Blogs” to see what they have created! Comment their work and join our learning community!

My First Post- A Pirate’s Life for Me!

Yoho, Yoho, A Pirate's Life For Me

Here it is: My First Post!

     I am so excited to start this blogging journey!

     As I set up my blog, I find myself really wondering, where do I start? How will blogging impact my classes? What will I ask my students to blog about first? Will they enjoy blogging as much as I hope they do? Will anyone care what we are saying?  Will my students find their voice through blogging? I am nervous for the answers to these questions, but fear of the unknown is normal in any new adventure, and adventure is just what I am looking for this year. 

     This past May, I had the opportunity to attend a workshop at West Liberty University with Dave Burgess covering his AMAZING book, Teach Like a Pirate. I had heard excellent things about Dave and had followed along silently in a few of his Twitter chats, but was advised to read his book after attending his seminar. From the moment he began, I was captivated. I was instantly inspired. I couldn’t wait to get back to work from my maternity leave and reconnect with my students. My wheels were constantly turning and thinking of ways to meet my students’ learning goals and needs in fun ways. Yes, FUN! That can happen in an English classroom, contrary to what a bad experience may have told you.

     I finished the year strong with my students, and set off into the summer sun with high hopes of planning an “experience” for each unit I would cover in the next year. I have enjoyed my summer, but I am totally ready to get  back in the classroom and get to know my new students. I have so many amazing ideas that I know will soon form into experiences for my students. I am looking forward to revamping and upgrading my teaching style to really, deeply impact each and every one of my students. I know then, and only then, will I truly create the learning environment I am passionate about creating: A community where each student feels safe, valued, and appreciated while growing and experiencing English Language Arts in a life changing manner. 

     To my students:This brings us to the start of the year! I hope you’re ready to experience English in a way you haven’t experienced yet. My hope for each of you is to grow to appreciate literature and writing in a way that will make you lifelong learners of language. Let’s set sail on our Pirate’s journey through the 2014-2015 school year!

     To my fellow educators: I would LOVE your suggestions! Please tell me how you use blogs in your classroom! What do you say is the, “must know” info for my first year blogging? How can I TLAP while blogging?