Hello, God. Welcome to My Classroom

When the Network Betrays Us…

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on June 3, 2013
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No internet? The network is down? How am I going to print the worksheets I spent hours creating last night for today’s lesson? How will I give the online assessment I planned? What in the world will I do with my students for 90 minutes? How am I going to keep them engaged?

Some days, progress comes to a screeching halt. As a language arts teacher, I have to take step back, pull open the file cabinet, and switch gears. Technology is an amazing tool, but it can’t become the only tool used when teaching because it doesn’t always work. When the panic begins to rise in my throat because I’ve lost my connection, here are a few things I turn to for help:

1) Picture books for narrative writing.  I have a collection of picture books I keep in my classroom now that my own children have grown beyond that age. My favorites are the “Carl” books by Alexandra Day. I usually put students in groups of 3 or 4 and give each group one picture book. As a team, they must “read” the book and write the story that goes along with the pictures. It’s always interesting to listen as they share their interpretations of the pictures and elaborate on them as they write their version of the story.

2) Engage in some team competition. Postpone the lesson planned for the day and have a little friendly rivalry in the classroom. Two of my favorite go-to games are Lingo Bingo and Horrible Homonyms. The kids enjoy them, even while practicing skills they will see on the state tests. Having a Jeopardy game saved can also provide a great review day when the internet isn’t cooperating. This can be used with literary terms, concepts from a recent novel unit, or any other information you want to review.

3) Act up! One great thing about a language arts classroom, there are always plenty of books around. Sometimes I divide my students into small groups and give each one a short story or a folktale. They have to read the story, decide who will play each part, and then act it out for the class. With little preparation and practice time available, the performances can sometimes be quite entertaining.

4) Round-robin writing using pictures. My students love this activity and always beg for time at the end of class to share what has been written. I usually divide students into groups of 4 and give each student in the group a picture from a magazine (I keep a folder full of them in my file cabinet and reuse them every year). Each student begins writing the story of what is happening in his or her picture. After 5 minutes, I tell them to pass their picture and story clockwise. Each student then reads the beginning of the story he or she receives and continues writing it until time is called to pass it on again. Usually the students strive to write the most outlandish stories they can, and the results are normally hilarious.

5) Get out the marker boards. You remember them, right? Mine are simply plain white paper that I laminated. Hand one to a student or a small group of students with an Expo marker and they are immediately more engaged in the examples or questions I’m presenting. Even though my laptop won’t connect to the printer, it will still connect to the projector in my room. Instead of having my students circle the correct letter on worksheets I created, I can project each item on the whiteboard or Smartboard and have them answer on the marker boards. I benefit from instant feedback plus I won’t have a big pile of papers to grade at the end of the day.

Technology certainly makes our lives easier when it works, but don’t let it ruin your day when it doesn’t. Be creative and innovative. Your students will probably enjoy switching gears for a day.


Recipe for an 8th Grade Writer

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on March 2, 2013
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photo (3)


1 unit on sentence structure, end punctuation, and comma usage (This is not optional. They do not remember from previous years. Ditto for all ingredients.)

1 unit on verb tense, subject verb agreement, pronoun antecedent agreement, plurals and possessives, homophones, and double negatives

1 unit on capitalization and spelling

1 unit on narrowing and focusing on topic

1 unit on elaboration and details as main idea support

1 unit on effective introductions and conclusions

1 unit on sentence variety, point of view, tone, and voice

1 unit on purpose and audience

1 unit on organizational structures

1 unit on advanced vocabulary and figurative language usage


1) Mix ingredients one at a time into a slouching, uninterested, unmotivated 14-year-old student.

2) Add additional amounts of any of the above ingredients as needed for desired outcome.

3) Pray. A lot.

Something’s Wrong With This Picture

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on November 2, 2012
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Do you ever take a step back and wonder about a situation in your life?

I have today off school because of a yearly festival in the county where I teach. Autumn and Colton have Monday and Tuesday off school for a teacher workday and Election Day.

Sometimes I think there’s something wrong with this picture.

I am not the poster child for how to become a teacher. After graduating from college ten years after I graduated from high school, I spent nine years in one career before deciding I wanted to teach.

At that time I was 38, pregnant with our second child, and figured if I could give birth at that age, I could change careers as well.

I had an English degree, but not one in education. Because I had been out of school for so many years, I decided to take the Praxis exam to see what it was like. I knew I’d fail but thought it would give me a good idea of what I was facing for my new goal. So at eight months pregnant, I waddled into the testing center and took the exam.

I passed. I could hardly believe it.

That led me to make another decision. Did I really need to have my education credits to begin teaching? I knew some teachers were hired on provisional licenses. I might as well try, right?

I only applied in the county where I live, Mathews, and the next county over, Middlesex. Middlesex hired me, and I’ve always been so grateful for their confidence in me. Over the next couple of years, I taught, took classes to get my permanent license, and have never regretted my decision to change careers.

As far as teaching in a different school division than where my kids attend school, I have always enjoyed being able to be a parent in one and a teacher in the other. It could cause conflicts to be both. I certainly know a lot of teachers who successfully wear both hats in the same school division, but I’ve liked having them split.

It’s only on occasions like today and next week when I question it. With Mark’s job and now with Autumn driving and working, the logistics of where Colton will go each day after school causes some extra stress and even some begging at times. But I have wonderful family and friends who are always willing to help. And I have administration at my school who understands sometimes family comes first.

Today, I wish my kids were home with me, but I have the chance to go to Colton’s fall party at his school, which I rarely get to do. I didn’t tell him I was going to show up, so I hope he’ll be surprised.

There are always blessings in any situation. I simply have to be willing to look.

Do You Like to Win?

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on September 26, 2012
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I do! Thanks to Lisa at Deep and Wonderful Thoughts, I have won the One Lovely Blog Award. You should check out Lisa’s blog, a collection of illustrations on parenting, spirituality, and life. It’s inspiring and thought-provoking, and I’m so appreciative that she recognized me.

According to the rules of this award, I’m supposed to 1) recognize the one who nominated me (see above), 2) tell seven things about myself, and 3) nominate fifteen other bloggers. Here I go…

Seven things about me:

1. I have 2 kids, Autumn and Colton, and a new puppy, Rico.
2. My husband, Mark, is the sheriff of our rural county of Mathews, Virginia, which is a little slice of heaven on the Chesapeake Bay.
3. I teach 8th grade language arts and love to watch as a student begins to believe in him or herself.
4. My happy place is on the beach with a book in my hands.
5. I’m in intense training to learn how to say “no” to committees, roles, responsibilities, and anything else that takes up the little bit of time I have left at the end of the day.
6. My biggest regret in life is living far, far away from my family. I’m still a Missouri girl at heart.
7. The weirdest thing I eat is probably bacon and peanut butter sandwiches (which partially explains my love/hate relationship with my “dreadmill”).

The fifteen blogs I nominate are:

1. Elaine Baldwin at One Another Living. Elaine’s posts always push me to be a better person. I keep reading, hoping it works!

2. Judy at Connecting Dots to God. Her blog is a beautiful exploration of the connection between God and humans, heaven and earth.

3. Lisa Buffaloe shares informational book reviews along with uplifting spiritual contemplation which blesses me greatly.

4. Connie Almony at Living the Body of Christ. Connie provides interesting thoughts and helpful information on a variety of topics, such as adoption, God’s glory, military missions, and learning disabilities.

5. Ivon Prefontaine at Teacher as Transformer: Education, Leadership, Life, and Transformation. I know he’s been nominated recently by others, but I had to give him a mention. His blog is a wonderful collection of poetry, beautiful photography, and inspirational thoughts.

6. Paula Mowery is a writer and Christian who motivates me to work harder in both aspects of my life.

7. Marney McNall at The Volunteer Fringe. I’m not sure how Marney finds the time to blog because she tirelessly pursues every opportunity to serve others…but I’m glad she does blog because it blesses and encourages me every time I read her posts.

8. Elly at Philanthropy, a fashion company opened in June of 2007 with the belief that a business built around charitable works and grounded in Christ could make a difference in the world.

9. Pat Dyer at Ramblings of a Crowded Mind. Pat has provided support, advice, and encouragement in my writing journey. Her blog provides additional writing inspiration and awesome book reviews.

10. Melissa Finnegan at 5020genesis Exchanging Darkness for Light. Melissa offers exceptional, entertaining book reviews along with spiritual insights.

11. Eileen Rife at The Write Stuff. As the site states, it provides musings on live, love, and good books. What a great combination!

12. Lesley Carter at Bucket List Publications. Lesley allows me to travel the world through her outstanding images and adventures she shares.

13. Mique at Thirty Handmade Days. Mique provides great mom advice, recipes, and fun ideas. Her blog makes me smile!

14. Teaching in High Heels. Even though at 5’10” I rarely wear heels, I still love the imaginative teaching ideas in this colorful, creative blog.

15. April at Mama Loves Food. She features great recipes without making me feel guilty for allowing my kids to eat food that’s not completely raw, gluten-free, steroid-free, organic and/or any other label that makes it healthy. Yes, we could and should eat healthier, but it’s nice to find a site that doesn’t make my guilt meter spike.

Thanks again, Lisa. This has been fun!

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