Christian Teacher, Public School

". . .the word of God is not bound." II Tim. 2:9b

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Shhhh. . .Murder! Now Available

I just received my first batch of Shhhh. . .Murder! anthologies from Darkhouse Books. It's so exciting to see my story, "Bookish Dreams," in print! Though I've had short fiction published online and even as an audio recording, this is the first time I've held my published short story in my hand.

And mine isn't the only story in the collection. Twenty-four library-themed cozy crime stories fill the pages of this anthology, edited by Andrew MacRae at Darkhouse Books.

Learn more at or on my author Website, If you read the book, be sure to leave a review on the Shhhh. . .Murder! Amazon page!

Thursday, July 12, 2018

A little bit of mystery

". . .how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow."

Seems like a funny quote for a teacher to post.

Don't we want our students to learn of the world, to understand that their native town is not all there is?

And what's this about "than his nature will allow"?

Where does this quote come from, anyway?

Great questons. The kind of questions we want students asking. The kind that comes from mystery, omitted information, suspense. The kind that leads to deep understanding of a text like. . .drumroll. . .Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.

Okay, Frankenstein has been on my To-Read list for. . .a lifetime. After reading Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley, I moved Frankenstein to my To-Read-This-Summer-If-I-Have-Time list. There it sat.

Then I went to the (most fun ever!) P20 Educator Conference this week and attended Laurie Roberts's fantastic session entitled "Why Don't They Read? Leveraging the Power of Mystery." I knew this would be a powerful session for me because

  • Laurie is a fellow-Idaho Core Teacher Network alum
  • My students need all the help they can get when it comes to reading literature
  • I need all the help I can get to hook kids on reading
  • I love improving the way I approach teaching literature
  • Adding mystery and suspense to anything is always a good move
  • Laurie is an awesome presenter (did I already mention that?)

Lo and behold, in her session, Laurie unfolded an adaptation of the Document-Based-Inquiry (DBI) process using none other than Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, now in its 200th year of publication. She engaged us with the text right off the bat by having us read the first letter Robert Walton writes to his sister in the opening pages of the novel.

Frankenstein Thrift Study Edition

How was that mysterious and/or suspenseful? The mystery was organic, since most of us had no context other than the paper in our hands and the vague notions of the plot of Frankenstein we had garnered from pop culture. Even as we read silently for eight full minutes of dense pre-Victorian text, the story began to work its magic on us. Laurie had provided a notecatcher for recording notices, wonders, and predictions, so we scribbled away as we read.

Why did his father not want him to go to sea? I wondered.

This text is straight-up Romantic Era literature, I noticed. The second paragraph is full of descriptions of nature, and the whole thing emphasizes emotion.

I'm a slow reader, so I didn't finish in eight minutes, but I couldn't wait to read the rest of it later. In the meantime, Laurie gave us time to discuss within small groups. My group included three other teachers, two of whom consider themselves avid readers and one who considers herself a reluctant reader. We took turns sharing what we'd noticed, wondered, and predicted while reading.

Each of us took something different away from the reading, while of course there were overlaps, too. I shared that I had at first struggled to figure out the object of Robert Walton's explorations. Another teacher shared that she had noticed the emotional highs and lows that Walton experienced. We nominated her to share out to the whole class when Laurie moved on to calling on each group

As I listened to the many perspectives on the pages we had read, I thought how powerfully the process fostered peer-to-peer instruction. Laurie wasn't teaching us Frankenstein. We were teaching us Frankenstein.

Needless to say, I was mentally moving the novel to my Must-At-All-Costs-Read-As-Soon-As-I-Get-Home-From-This-Conference shelf!


In her AP Literature classes at Timberline High School in Boise, Laurie repeats the 8-minute reading, note-taking, and discussion process with the other letters from the prologue of the novel. Notecatchers typically aren't graded. Each new letter adds layers of meaning, new information, sparking new notices, wonders, and predictions.

Where's the monster? Isn't there suposed to be a monster?

Does Robert Walton like men?

This expedition is not going to end well.

I said at the beginning that this process is an adaptation of the DBI process. A typical Document-Based-Inquiry begins with accessible texts that may be in video, audio, or image form. The process then moves into more informative, more complex text forms that add the next layer of meaning. A third and final round of documents may include texts that help students synthesize what they have learned. What Laurie did with Frankenstein was get readers hooked on the text itself, rather than potentially distracting or boring them by lecturing about the author, showing a PowerPoint, or otherwise "introducing the text." There's no need. You can do that stuff later if you need to. The suspense is in the text, if we'll just tap into it.

Now I'm several chapters into the novel. The anticipation I built by reading Romantic Outlaws and attending Laurie's session are being fulfilled on every page. I only hope I can hook students on literature as effectively in my classroom.

Thanks, Laurie!

Want more?
Follow Laurie on Twitter @lauriedroberts.
Here's an awesome exemplar DBI that a teacher in the Idaho Core Teacher Network created.
I share my process of revising my Band of Brothers unit, which includes a DBI, here.
Follow me, Amy Ballard, on Goodreads.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

P20 Conference 2018: Looking Forward to Another Awesome Experience!

Along with my awesome coworkers, I accepted the Rilla Award this month.

Another P20 Educator Conference is almost here, and I'm excited to be presening Faith and the Public School Teacher twice! My first session is July 10 at 11:10 a.m., and my second is on the 11th at 1:30. I'm psyched to update my presentation using some of my newly-acquired tech skills and bring encouragement to a new group of teachers this year. Yes, you can hold to a personal faith and teach in the public school! The only trouble is, there are so many other great sessions going on at the same time. I will just have to get the notes! P20 is such a great conference and the keynotes are awesome every year. If you're in the Twin Falls, Idaho, area, sign up!

After taking a year off blogging, there's lots to catch up on. Here are some of the highlights of my teaching life and God's work in my personal walk of faith heading into summer.

  • Reading the book of James with my kids
  • Seeing some of my freelance writing efforts come to fruition
  • Attending a writing conference from the Idaho Writers Guild
  • Revising unit plans to fit the Understanding By Design (UBD) template (webinar here)
  • Taking "Behavior is Language" class
  • Accepting the Rilla award from Silverback Learning Solutions with my school
  • Gearing up for the P20 conference at the College of Southern Idaho (see above!)
  • Adding fun products to my TPT store
  • Gathering engaging resources from around the Web to use in my classroom this year
  • Creating and sending a summer survey to my students using Google Forms
  • Catching up on reading great books (find me on Goodreads!)
I also have to share that it was a great blessing to lead my first-ever prayer walk before school started last fall. Another teacher and I spent half an hour or so walking around the school campus and praying both silently and out loud for the year ahead. It was wonderful to know that a sister in Christ was praying with me, sharing the burden of seeking grace for our students, staff, and community. It was a year of successes in so many ways, and I love that "two or three" of us (okay, it was two) gathered in His name (Matthew 18:20) to ask God for that at the beginning. Let me encourage you to start something similar at your campus. Remember that it's legal, and it can be a great blessing. Check with your administrators if you have questions.

It's so good to be posting again! 

Blessings on you,


More Reading:

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

I'm taking a year off blogging, but couldn't resist popping back in to post a link. My flash fiction story "The Ghosts of the Composers" is live in the current issue of Penultimate Peanut! The story has a Magical Realism flavor, which I hope you'll enjoy.



Friday, August 4, 2017

Pinterest Boards Full of Back to School Goodness for Teachers

If you're like me, you're already scouring your Pinterest boards for fresh teaching strategies for the new school year. It seems like I'm constantly digging for helpful articles on organization, classroom management, lesson planning, and content area resources. Then in the middle of the school year, I head to Pinterest for glimmers of inspiration to help me get through the tough stuff of school. Whether it's a promise from the Bible or a funny baby animal meme, there's something in my boards to put a smile on my face.

In case you're looking for some Back-to-School teacher goodness, here are links to some of my favorite boards! Enjoy!

American Lit
Teaching HS (primarily ELA-focused)
Google Awesomeness
Writing Fiction
Teacher Supplies (Okay, I love this one!)
Classroom Decor
Classroom Management
Teaching Vocabulary
Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality

For the Teacher's Well-Being
Christian Teacher, Public School
Smart, Professional Clothes
Healing Garden (Take a walk in my garden! It's soothing!)
Healthy -Ish Snacks
Blessings (Can I get an "Amen"?)
Books to Read in My Nonexistent Reading Nook When It Rains
Teacher Gifts
The Florist Shop

I hope you enjoy these Pinterest boards. Have a favorite teacher-pinner? Share the boards you return to again and again!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

How I Use Famous Shakespeare Quotes to Teach Literary Elements

Visit Brevity on TPT!

Just a few more hours to scoop up savings at Brevity and other stores on Teachers Pay Teachers at the Back to School sale! I've already found lots of great resources to help inject some Core-aligned energy into my lesson planning.

First Folio, cardboard cutout, the Bard, teacher
Me and Will Shakespeare
One of the units I teach every year in 9th, 10th, and 12th grade English is Shakespeare. They say "Necessity is the mother of invention," and necessity certainly inspired some of the Shakespeare unit resources I've created. I wanted a memorable way to teach literary elements and introduce students to the plays they would be reading before they ever got to the prologue.

I also wanted a way to build character through quotes from the play and the discussions the quotes would ignite.

The wall docs I created for Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, and Julius Caesar help make connections for students, which is always a good thing. They build understanding of terms students will work with throughout the Shakespeare unit, and they help students remember what they learn.

How I Use Literary Elements in Famous Quotes Wall Docs in My Classroom

At the beginning of the semester, I hand out the full list of quotes and their corresponding literary elements, such as metaphor, symbol, or rhyming couplets. I explain that students will not be expected to memorize the quotes, but that they will need to be able to match the literary element to the quote that demonstrates it.

I then post the first quote doc on the wall and ask the class to read the quote aloud with me, either from the wall doc or from the handout. We then discuss the quote, the literary element, and how the language of the quote exemplifies the literary element. That's it for Day One. 

Macbeth quotes on my classroom wall
Each day, we repeat the reading and discussion for one week. On Monday of the next week, I introduce a new quote. Periodically, we review previous quotes and the terms that match them.

I assess students on terms and quotes as I see fit. This resource allows the teacher to use informal assessment daily without imposing an extra quiz on stressed-out students.

The beauty of working with specific famous quotes in a targeted way is that before students even read a line of the play, they become familiar with some of the famous lines and plot elements. Then, when we read the play and come across these quotes, light bulbs go on all around the room. Students see the quotes in context, understand the richness of the language, and remember the mechanics behind the poetry of Shakespeare. As an added plus, my students often tell me, "I was watching Sponge Bob and they quoted Shakespeare!" I love it when kids recognize literary allusions in the world around them. It's all about making connections!

Purchasing Shakespeare wall docs and other teacher resources from Brevity helps keep me blogging and helps keep ads on ChristianTeacherPublicSchool to a minimum. To take advantage of the Back to School Sale, just enter code BTS2017 at checkout! Thanks for your support!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Back to School Sale at Brevity on Teachers Pay Teachers

Welcome to August, teachers!

I'm excited to announce the Back to School sale at my shop, Brevity, on Teachers Pay Teachers! It's the first time I've participated in this fun sale, and I'm offering a 20% discount off all items in my store! The sale runs for just two days, so I hope you'll swing by and check out all the great deals and steals August 1-2! Remember, TPT shops offer freebies, too, so do yourself a favor, stock up and make your life easier this school year.

What will you find at Brevity on TPT?

greeting cards
8 Encouraging ECards for Teachers, Summer/Fall Collection

What else is new at Christian Teacher, Public School?

Dalene Parker (left) with Amy Ballard

I just got back from a wonderful visit with family in South Carolina and Kentucky. One of the added blessings of the trip was finally getting to meet my friend, author Dalene Vickery Parker, for the first time! Dalene and I talked about teaching, family, faith, and lots of other things over coffee at Due South Coffee in Taylors, SC. It was great to see her and talk with her instead of just exchanging emails and texts. 

If you haven't had a chance to read Dalene's books, please visit her on Amazon. Christian Teachers in Public Schools is a fantastic resource and an encouragement for the heart of the busy teacher. Words to Live By is a devotional focusing on one spirit-building word per week.

During my stay at my parents' home in Kentucky, my sister took me to an open mic at Etcetera Coffeehouse in Paducah. I got to read several poems from my chapbook, Landlocked. The room wasn't packed, but the crowd was great. And I highly recommend the coffee!

In other news, I decided to get off Facebook, so that means Christian Teacher, Public School is also off Facebook. You can still reach me by clicking on "Comments" below each post, or through my Web site, Thanks for following!

I was recently challenged to organize a prayer walk to invite God's watchcare over staff and students at my school for the upcoming year. We'll see if my busy life can take that on, but in the meantime, let's all stop and pray right now for the new school year. I wish you all the best as you begin teaching soon!



Wednesday, July 12, 2017

More Fun at the P20 Educator Conference 2017

This afternoon I get to present Choose Your Own Adventure: Writing and Publishing Narratives Using Digital Technology at the P20 Educator Conference in Twin Falls. It's always fun to hear other teachers share strategies for teaching writing while we learn to hyperlink and create alternate-path stories. Narrative writing is such an adventure!

Want the slideshow? It's yours! Go to

For more encouragement today, one of my favorite conference-related posts is Avoid Burnout and Get the Most Out of an Education Conference. At the P20 conference, I don't expect to feel burnt out. It's only two days, and the sessions have been awesome! Hope you get as much out of your conference as I already have! Share in the comments some of your take-aways. I'd love to hear them!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

P20 Conference 2017

Amy at the P20 Conference
The P20 Educator Conference at the College of Southern Idaho is going full steam ahead, and I'm excited to share my presentations. This morning it's Faith and the Public School Teacher, followed by Choose Your Own Adventure tomorrow afternoon.

In today's session I'll give away a copy of Words to Live By: 52 Words That Lead to an Extraordinary Life, a wonderful devotional book by Linda Gilden and my friend Dalene Parker. Don't miss Dalene's first book, Christian Teachers in Public Schools: 13 Essentials for the Classroom.

Looking forward to an awesome conference with my fellow Idaho teachers! May the Lord bless us as we gather tools and strategies for the coming school year.

Words To Live By

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

April: The Downhill Slope, or Uphill All the Way?

Easter, egg, daffodils, vintage, the graphics fairy, April, May, spring
April showers bring May flowers

April showers may be falling, but teachers and students can't slow down to go puddle stomping just yet. It's state standardized testing season! The juniors at your district may be taking the SAT, and everyone's talking about prom, academic fair, concerts, and drama plays to wind up the year. Next thing we know, it'll be final exams and graduation! Where did the time go?

From my white board
During this frenetic month of April, I'm constantly reminding myself to pause and pray.

If I don't, I'll lose sight of God's care over me. I'm praying for my students to learn empathy, to do their best on their ISATs, and to learn their lines for drama. For my own kids and myself, I always ask for a good day. No matter how rushed we are in the morning, I stop the car at the stop sign on our road (our "praying spot") and my sons and I pray for God's blessing on our day.

How thankful I am for the bright spots coming our way this stressful month! Students showcase their learning, teachers celebrate improvement, and we all start counting down the weeks till the end of school. April is National Poetry Month, National Child Abuse Prevention MonthAutism Acceptance Month, Mathematics and Statistics Awareness Month, and, ironically (to me at least), Stress Awareness Month. April 24 is Idaho's Day of Holocaust Remembrance, a great opportunity to learn about a very dark time in history so we can prevent its being repeated. The message couldn't be more timely.

And for the believer, Easter reminds us of God's resurrection power.

Luke 24:5-8 says, "and as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, 'Why do you seek the living One among the dead? 'He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.' And they remembered His words, and returned from the tomb and reported all these things to the eleven and to all the rest."

May we all seek the Lord this Easter season and know His power to raise the dead and save the lost.