So Johnny is in the back, yawning and not paying attention to your instruction. Johnny has been here before, and you’ve just chalked it up to “we can’t reach everybody.” As that may be true sometimes, we need to make certain that we’ve attempted all forms of assistance to help Johnny reach his potential in your class.

Some students show lack of interest because of our subject area, our teaching approach, something happened at home this morning; it may be so many things that we may not be privy to.

These 4 problems may give some insight into those students [and Johnny’s lack of energy and seemingly nonchalant, rebellious attitude] in your class, during your lesson. Let’s check ’em out!

NERVOUS student in a library

Because school can be intimidating to some students, they may show resistance to you and your task: teaching them your lesson. It may have nothing to do with your content or you personally; it’s just the whole concept of going to a place that reinforces what they already know – nothing about learning.

Students may fear — and therefore not like school — because of their past interactions with school and education. Maybe they did not learn the foundations, so now they are intimidated and embarrassed.

Here’s how to navigate this:

  1. Try to understand the student: Find out about his/her past. Ask them. For example: this year, I was given a class half way through the year…like in February. I mean…seriously? With that said, I know they hadn’t had a teacher all year, so my expectations were different for that class. I had to do things differently because I knew their past.
  2. Your responses and behaviors: Some students may not respond to the teacher at the chalkboard lectures. Some students may not respond to the teacher giving them treats without them earning it. Some students may not respond to shouting or ridicule. Get to know your students.
  3. Sit with versus standing over your students: Be more conversational rather than instructional. Talk to your students and not at your students. Now, this does not mean that you won’t be stern and “use your teacher voice” at times, but just navigate the space in a way that your students know that your instruction is only to help them, not only to chastise them.
  4. De-emphasize “FORMAL” lesson/education: Yes, I know you have to teach the standards and it seems you’re evaluated daily, but sometimes showing students the “cool” side or “fun” part of your lesson will help them learn more. Making jokes, showing you care about them, more than your content, goes a long way to helping them connect with you.


Student being bullied because of things other students have heard

We all know all students are not coming to the table with the same opportunities and backgrounds. Even if they grow up in the same neighborhoods, family situations, financial circumstances, and other problems may persist.

Here are some things you can do, if you discover something about your students.

a. Refer the student to services: Some schools and districts have multiple services for students with problems, whether they be financial, abusive, emotional, and more. Reach out to others who are experts, either in the building or not. In some districts, it is your responsibility contractually. If it isn’t and you contact these services for your student, they may appreciate it.

b. Try to help out if you can: I keep bath soap, deodorant, candy, and snacks in my closet at work becuase I know some of my students do not have these things at home. I know that at some time during the day, a student will need a Granola bar or a Honey Bun for nourishment to get them through their next class. See if there is something you can offer that doens’t cross any lines or inconvenieces you, but helps your student attmept to do more or better in your classroom.

c. Make it a Class Assignment: Because you don’t want to make everyone aware of a student’s distressing home life or problem, make it a class assignment and speak in general terms. Everyone has to work on it, and the student you are trying to reach will realize that this is how they can work through their issue – nobody else has to know.

d. Work with them: I’ve had several students who have parttime jobs because they need to help out at home financially. When I am made aware of this, I offer to extend due dates for them; only do 2 questions, instead of all 4; I extend my office hours (maybe an hour or so) if they have questions on an assignment. I realize that every student’s household is different and they’re trying to survive, so I’m there for it!

e. Be THAT person for them: Yes, sometimes it gets overwhleming to have students coming to you to get things off their chest or to just sit with you during lunch, but You my be THAT person for them. They understand that what is said here, stays here (within reason and the law), and that regardless of what’s going on at school or home, they have a champion on their side. Like Rita Pierson says, “Every student needs a Champion!” Are you THAT person?


Some students find it hard to brainstorm and plan for their future, even as seniors in high school

Setting goals — long or short — may be problematic for students, so they freeze up and do nothing. So while they know they need English, Social Studies, or Calculus to graduate, because they cannot see where this will take them or how it will impact their future, they do nothing.

Get with your students and help them make a plan. What is going through their minds as it pertains to their futures? Make a supplemental lesson or assignment if you have to.

I relegate anywhere from 1 to 3 weeks of Life After High School lessons for my students because I’ve seen the nervousness and glossy looks every time I mention graduation and what happens afterward.

Help your students find their future. Even if their plans change, at least someone has helped them navigate to this point.

Heck! Adults are still figuring it all out! At least these students would now have a plan of action.


Student embarrassed at not knowing something

Of course, every student who comes into your room will not remember what they should, do what they should, or even have the skill set to do what they should, but that’s ok.

With the embarrassment, comes the opportunity for you to appeal to their softer side and help them out.

When the student is showing lack of interest in your class lesson because they cannot keep up or they don’t understand what’s going on, talk to them and let them know that they’ll get it eventually, seek assistance from administration or an interventionist, pair them up, group them, sit with them and assist during a lesson. Welcome them into your space, so that they know that they have a chance to catch up and learn at their pace.

So next time, Johnny asks to go to the restroom for the 11th-hundredth time because he has no interest in your lesson, approach the situation from any of these points of view. Johnny may come around and be that exceptional student you know he can be.

Hey, check out this video or products for help.


Maximize Your Prep Time

Making the Most of Lesson Planning Time

Confused bearded teacher. Unsure of what to do once his planning period has begun. It doesn’t have to be that way. Here’s how:

We’ve all been there – the wanting to get something accomplished, but nothing comes to us to get anything productive done? We have the time and the desire to do it, but we are just overwhelmed and aren’t sure exactly where to start. Well, here are a few things I do that could help you tremendously.


Whether you prep or plan by yourself or with your grade level peers, you need to know what is expected of you. Now, this goes without saying that your state, district, school, and even your own students have requirements and expectations that you must meet.

Your state, district, and school, usually provide standards [some use the national Common Core Standards].

With this vital information, go into these prep sessions with what you expect your students to accomplish by the end of the lesson. Are are expected to teach the ‘CH’ sound, polynomials, how to sketch still life, the Declaration of Independence,’ or how to write a paragraph. Once you know what you are expected to teach at this time of the semester or year, then you have the beginning of your road map to your prep time journey.

Know What’s Expected by your State, District, School, Department, and even your students.


No! I am not a fan of teachers using their personal time to plan BEFORE they actually go to their planning period on campus. Can you believe that’s expected in my building? Sheesh!

I do, however, believe that you need to have an idea of what you want to accomplish in your classroom that day, week, month or the period of time you’re planning for.

When you begin planning, go ahead and write your ideas of content down, activities you plan to use or you were thinking about, materials needed, etc. This knowledge allows a more streamlined and focused prep period.

Organize your week’s and day’s agenda, either in your head or typed/written up. List all the standards, activities, time required, students needs (IEPS, lower learners, advanced students, etc.]. Having all this information ready beforehand gives you a shorter time in your prepping period.


hEY! gO grab your materials, your laptop, your copies, your list of standards! You don’t want to have to keep getting up and randomly opening up documents and searching emails from your lead teacher to start planning for the week of instruction.

Go ahead and bring these items or at least know where they are when needed.

Things like a calendar of school events, holidays, and activities that may impede a lesson, resources you need to scaffold instruction, list of academically advanced students, list of supplemental resources, etc. are all needed to help make your time of planning more effective and more efficient.

I once had a co-worker who always had to go to her classroom to ‘get something’ in order for us to prep our lessons together as a department [we prepped in one teacher’s classroom]. This slowed us down and inconvenienced each of us who could have been grading or completing other tasks in our own rooms. Don’t be that teacher.

Relax and relate with your Colleagues.


WHOA! Can you imagine finishing up your planning sessions early, so you can accomplish other tasks within a reasonable time? That would be AMAZING!

Another thing that schools and districts neglect or forget is that teacher reflection is key. Teachers need time to sit and reflect on what worked, what didn’t work, or what needs to be done to improve student retention, student behavior, etc. in their classrooms.

Likewise, teachers need to reconnect with other teachers. Especially in the upper levels, teachers get so used to working by themselves, they forget that they all share the same students. Getting key information about what works with little Peter in their class could possibly help with little Peter or even jolly Johnny in other classes.

Yes, Ideas can come about from reconnect with others in your building!

Studies show that teachers feel isolated, so just shooting the breeze and interacting with other instructors while in the building without the pressure of planning a lesson garners connection and insight into the learning situation.

When teachers reflect and reconnect with other educators in their building, they can then…you guessed it…relax.

A relaxed educator always does better educating our students. When stress is alleviated, the teachers shine! Yes, Ideas can come about from teachers who are relaxed. When Ms. Smith and Mr. Thomas can sip on their coffee and catch up on the latest news item or make that phone call to secure that doctor’s appointment for an ailing spouse, it leads to a better day of teaching and instructing.

I mean – isn’t that what it’s all about?




It’s always a good thing to get a comment or review on a product. Customers let you know exactly how they feel about their purchase, and that tells you two things: (1) my product is great! I need to make more just like it, or (2) my product needs work. I will need to revamp or avoid making others like it.

With that said, sometimes customers to do not use all that’s available to them to properly assess a product before they make a product or leave a comment or review. This is why I’ve made this blog post.

If we know anything about TeacherspayTeahcers, we know that descriptions and previews are always available. So it was amazing to me that a few weeks ago, I was left a product review where the customer said “the product wasn’t what she thought it was.”

That’s when I thought I had to create a Youtube Video [see below] to help customers (future and present) understand what a LESSON ACTIVITIES product is.

A LESSON ACTIVITIES product is a document [PowerPoint or PDF] that identifies several activities for teachers to use with their classes. Once they’ve read a literary piece, they can choose any one of the activities to inform, educate, motivate, or entertain students.

The activities range from Background information on writer or time period of the piece, vocabulary, social media, creative art assignments, group projects to individual work and projects and exams and quizzes.

Indeed, these ARE NOT LESSONS! I do not want to throw a whole lot of standards, objectives, and formats at you. I work in an Inner city school where our District is constantly pushing into our classes and dictating to us on what AND how to teach little Mary and Joseph in our classrooms; I’m not that guy!

My LESSON ACTIVITIES is for you to use at YOUR discretion.

If you are a seasoned teacher who needs to spruce up your lessons, adding new activities to something you always teach, then MY LESSON ACTIVITIES Product is for you. You may DIFFERENTIATE activities for your classrooms and, once again at your discretion. Some of these products have anywhere from 25 – 40+ assignments, you may choose any one activity in any order you wish!

If you are a brand spanking new or novice instructor, then these also work for you. If you were given lesson plans and now you need to hold students accountable for their part of the learning or you need to add activities so you won’t lose their interest, then these LESSON ACTIVITIES products work for you as well. Activities will range from puzzles to research to story maps to literary criticisms and more.


What my LESSON ACTIVITIES product is NOT is a pay-by-play of how your class will run. I’ve always been prided and I pride myself on interacting with my students, so I create these products on that premise: YOU WILL HAVE TO INTERACT WITH YOUR STUDENTS.

I make suggestions, but as you work with Mary and Martha in front of you daily, you know what types of activities will or will not work for you OR them. So I basically give choices.

If your students are good enough writers and you do not need to gauge their comprehension of the text that way, then give them a social media recordgin, group poster project, or an interview assignment to test their learning. You have to know what’s going on in your classroom and who the students are in it.

That’s what my LESSON ACTIVITIES are about – teachers who need that added bit of assistance getting their lessons to the next level, so that it will spur student engagement and spark their creativity…and YOURS!

Also, check out the video that delineates WHAT LESSON ACTIVITIES are and HOW to use ’em!

If you are curious to see what these are, check out my teacherspayteachers store and these products below:


My Students understand the standards

In every classroom there is an expectation that teachers have to cover specific standards and a specific number in a certain amount of time. It is also common knowledge that teachers are evaluated on their students’ comprehension and application of these standards, especially when students are mandated to take standardized exams. Yes, teachers stress out about getting student buy-in when it comes to standards, but it is not difficult. Guess what?! Students will understand the standards, recognize, and amaze you with their knowledge of concepts when using the standards. Check out these 3 Tips for getting your students to UNDERSTAND THE STANDARDS.

1. Have Students Personalize the Standards

If students believe this information is not for them, it will not be internalized. Students will think that this is just more teacher jargon (mumbo-jumbo, if you will) that they don’t need to know and can tune out. Here’s how we can change this way of thinking in our students: have them make it their own version of the standards.

Get students to paraphrase the standards. Putting these in their own words will get it committed to memory in their brains and hearts. Some states, districts, schools, and teachers have provided ‘student-friendly’ versions of these standards, but this works better coming from them. Make them come up with the wording!

Have them chant mantras about the standard: “Today’s objective/standard is…,” “I will earn to…,” and so on and so forth.

Create mini-games (matching, jig saws) so they’ll associate fun and activity with particular standards. To get my AP English Literature students to internalize STEPS to understanding their standards, I’ve had them remove a shoe, traced their foot on paper, and made “steps” to understanding texts (they wrote the standards in the footprint they made). Get it? They made ‘steps.’

2. Provide Students a Copy of the Standards

Instead of just posting the standards in some arbitrary area of your classroom for the adults who walk in or being the only person in the room to have access to these standards, provide copies for students. They need to be able to access these and see and use these as frequently as they need to.

I’ve had a co-worker who had students write the standards and objectives down on their assignments each time they cover a new one. You may also post it in the room as well (since most of us are mandated to do it anyway); have no fear – this will only help our cause.

As students are working and you are moving around the room and interacting with them, reference the posted standard/objective. “Which part of the standard is being used here, Johnny?” “Do we see how the standards is applied here?” In my classes, students keep a smaller copy of the standards in their classroom folders, binders or affixed to their desk, as do I. If I don’t assign an actual question based on the standard for them to answer, I have them talk to me. “Which standard is this, Peter?” or I would shout out: “Hey, Lashay, how many parts of the standard did we use today?” Randomly asking these questions keep them on their toes, paying attention!

3. Have Students Reflect on the Standards

After the lesson or before the exam, you want to know your students have arrived at comprehension and the ability of application of the standards. How do we evaluate this? Ask ’em!

As EXIT TICKETS, on formal exams, in discussions, get your students involved in their application of the required standards. The more they know you’ll be asking them to identify and use these seemingly arbitrary numbers and phrases on the classroom board or wall, the more they’d pay attention and become more involved in committing them to memory.

Having students write a final response to their standard/lesson, gets them to personalize their day. Reflect on their learning. Have them ask themselves: “Did I learn today?” “What did I learn today?” “Do I now know how to do X?” They can also pair up and talk about it. “No, that’s not what we did, we learned…” “Cool! You were paying attention, Johnny!”

You’ll start seeing an improvement in their comprehension and application on skills and standards in your classrooms.

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