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

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Bring Your Bible To School Day 2016

If you have children of your own who attend public school, take a look at Focus on the Family's page on Bring Your Bible to School Day. This year's event falls on Thursday, October 6, which in Idaho is a teacher in-service day, meaning students aren't in school. Check your school calendar to find out if your child's school is in session, then see if the event is something you and your child want to participate in. So many teachers, parents and students are unaware that it's legal for kids to take a Bible to school. The Web site includes downloadable free speech tools to help raise awareness.

Monday, August 29, 2016

See you at the Idaho Super Conference: Learning Across All Dimensions

School is going full steam ahead, with new faces, new adventures, and new blessings at every turn. I'm so thankful to have an enthusiastic freshman class this year. It's also been a blessing to see my youngest child enter Kindergarten and make new friends. My high school field trip to see Shakespeare's First Folio has been approved, and my advanced literature students and I are loving reading Fahrenheit 451!

One more blessing to add to my overflowing cup this fall is finding out that my two session proposals for the Idaho Super Conference have been accepted. That means I'll have a roomy ninety-minute presentation on Faith and the Public School Teacher, and I'll be giving my Choose-Your-Own-Adventure-inspired narrative writing presentation to a wider audience.

Join some 1500 teachers at Timberline High School and White Pine Elementary in Boise on Oct. 6 and 7 (state teacher in-service days). Registration closes Sept. 14, so be sure to sign up now. Professional development credit is available from Boise State University.

Writing and Publishing Narratives Using Digital Technology
Description:  In this session, teachers will learn to apply choose­-your-­own­-story structure to narrative fiction or nonfiction writing. Using Google Drive, teachers will learn to link story pages to form narratives with alternate endings.

Faith and the Public School Teacher
Description:  Can your faith coexist with your professional life? New legislation and news headlines may shake things up, but by identifying your stance on faith in the classroom, you will face the turbulence of our changing world with more confidence. In this session, teachers will learn what the law allows and expects of teachers who hold to a religious faith; take a look at teachers whose actions have come under scrutiny; and share appropriate ways to live out faith in the public school environment.

Planning to attend? Let me know in the comments! And join me on Facebook to chat with me and other teachers who'll be there.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

A Student-Friendly Checklist for 9th and 10th Grade ELA Writing

It's challenging to find user-friendly checklists for the Common Core standards. This year I've been playing around with some formats to help my students keep track of how they're doing. Here's my new student-friendly checklist for 9th and 10th grade ELA writing standards as a Google doc. I plan to use the same format to create check lists for the other standard sets I teach.

Obviously, teaching something once is not enough to merit a check mark. How has the student demonstrated understanding of the concept? For a brush-up on assessing understanding, read Edutopia's excellent article, 'What Exactly Is "Understanding?" And How Do We Assess It?'

Have a great resource to help teachers and students track understanding? Please share!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Begin the New School Year With Boldness

". . .and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak." Ephesians 5:19-20 NASB

The theme of this blog is upholding Christian teachers in public schools, who in some way are like Paul in chains: ambassadors for Christ who live and serve under restrictions placed upon them by worldly authorities. In our workplaces, we seek to live out the servanthood and love of Jesus, even though we are forbidden from verbally testifying of His salvation to those around us.

In the passage above, Paul at least was able to speak, and speak boldly, as the Spirit gave him utterance. That was the request he wrote to the believers at Ephesus, to pray that he would "make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel."

Not "that I will be released from these chains." Why complain about the chains? It was for the Gospel's sake that he wore them. He knew God would work despite them.

At the beginning of this new school year, I pray that God will use all of us to accomplish His purpose. I pray for boldness, not to utter the mystery of the Gospel, but to live the good news in our daily lives in the classroom and the break room and the hallways of our schools.

May our faces reflect the joy of sinners who have been saved by grace. May our hands give freely because we have been given much. May our ears be quick to listen and our feet quick to serve. When we speak, may it be with confidence that we are fulfilling God's call upon our lives to teach.

It's so tempting, while we're at it, to pray for an easy year. "Lord, let us have smooth sailing." But I think it's our responses to the tough times that allow our lights to shine before the unsaved most clearly. If we have smooth sailing all year, how will they know what God can do in a life surrendered to Him?

So please, dear Lord, let us shine as lights for you in a darkening world, even if it means we face difficult days ahead. You promise to walk beside us and uphold us. We submit ourselves to your teaching, that others may see you in us.

Blessings on your new school year, my friend.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Shakespeare's First Folio Comes To Boise, Idaho

Learn about school trips
A rare First Folio is coming to Boise! Visit the First Folio Web site to plan a class trip or other visit. There are lots of fun activities for kids and adults, as well as PD opportunities for teachers.

From the school trip registration page:

"Free Field Trip Opportunity from Boise State University, Albertsons Library and The Arts and Humanities Institute
You are invited to encounter Shakespeare's 1623 First Folio. Help theater, poetry, and literature come alive for your students at this once-in-a-lifetime event.
In celebration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's 1616 death, the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. has arranged the ultimate book tour, with a Folio stopping in each state for a limited time.  As the only stop in Idaho, Boise will play host to the book that gave us The Bard as we know him.  Don't miss this unique chance to share Shakespeare with your students!"

Dates: Monday, August 29 - Friday, September 16

To find out more, contact the First Folio team at firstfolio@boisestate.edu.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Idaho Coaching Network, Year Two

I'm excited to be attending training meetings this week for the Idaho Coaching Network. It's my second year, so I'll be mentoring a "newbie" to the program and helping her with planning and drafting a unit, among other tasks. This year I'm the only teacher from my district participating in the ELA branch of the Network, but I get to hang out with (and learn from) lots of generous, dedicated, experienced teachers from other districts. Our coaches are wonderful, and I can honestly say it's been the best teacher training I've ever received.

One of the biggest benefits to me has been my growth as a presenter, whether it be in professional developments (PDs), conference sessions, or the public speaking aspect of classroom teaching. I've learned to give more meaningful feedback and to plan and write engaging, meaningful units that align with the standards. And I'm seeing myself as more of a teacher-leader, which encourages my administrators and colleagues to view me in that role, too.

If you teach in Idaho, consider learning more about the program and asking your district to let you participate next year. It's a time commitment for sure, but the training and research will stretch you as a professional. Continuing ed credits are available through Boise State University.

Visit the Idaho Coaching Network for more information and lots of free resources. If you're on Twitter, join the conversation at #IDedchat.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Free Ninth Grade Vocabulary Presentation with Lots of Images to Help Kids Learn Words

Words 1-50
As the summer winds down (I can't believe I'm saying that!) I am finally getting to my vocabulary reboot. The one I promised myself I would accomplish this summer so my students don't have to endure bland, rote, pictureless vocab instruction for one more day.

Although I certainly haven't finished the project, I'm off to a good start at last. The list I'm using as a base for freshman vocabulary comes from 100 Words a High School Freshman Should Know on vocabulary.com. Some words on the list seem fairly basic (like camouflage), but can students use the word camouflage to describe the pattern of fur on a wildcat, or do they think it only applies to a military-inspired, splotchy green pattern of fabric? And for ESL students, this may be the first exposure to the word.

Words 51-100
Here's my Vocab 9 presentation in two parts, free for you to use in your classroom. I don't own the photos in the presentation, so be sure not to use it for anything but educational purposes. If you share the slides with a colleague, please attribute it to me, Amy Ballard here at ChristianTeacherPublicSchool.blogspot.com.

This is only part of an effective vocabulary curriculum. I hope it helps engage students visually with words that might otherwise seem abstract. Be sure to let me know how it goes!


Tuesday, August 2, 2016

National Coloring Book Day and a Grateful Heart at the End of Summer

The early days of August are typically a stressful time for teachers as we are forced to acknowledge that school is officially just around the corner. We know that the calendar still says it's summer, but there's a mental shift that has to take place. Are we ready for this?

Skyscapes Coloring Book
Maybe not! There's that tiny voice of panic that can invade even the cheeriest summer morning. "Dear God," we may be praying, "I don't know if I can do school in two weeks!"

It's a good reminder to be thankful for the good things in life, to savor the gifts of a good God at the end of summer. I'm savoring blueberries today! This week I'm also connecting with friends new and old because it's just harder to do that during the busy school year.

Need a nudge to even meet with friends? Visit Christian foodie and blogger Melanie Kathryn's cheery site, Gather For Bread. I plan to make her Blueberry Chocolate Chip Muffins today.

In addition to being thankful and connecting with encouraging friends, we may need some targeted stress relievers as we head into teacher work week, end of summer conferences, or training.

It Is Well With My Soul Coloring Book

Maybe it's time to hop on board the adult coloring trend. Today is National Coloring Book Day! This blog is affiliated with two companies that publish gorgeous coloring books for the secret designer/artist in you. Using the links in this post and around this blog will help support Christian Teacher, Public School when you purchase from Dayspring and Dover Publishing.

Angular Animals from Dover

Whatever your remaining summer days look like, remember to spend time at Jesus's feet (Luke 10:42), and if you have children, bring them with you. In my family it's challenging to get my three kids on the couch at the same time in the morning for Bible story time, but God has blessed richly when we make it happen. Let's be like Mary and "choose the good part" this August.


Adult Coloring Book