About Dr. Cantrell

I have my PhD in English from Texas A&M University-Commerce.

Donors Choose

Donors Choose Projects

Donor’s Choose is a wonderful crowdfunding sites for schools. I have used it to complete over 7 projects with materials and a trip valued at a total of $3665.39. Descriptions of the these projects and links to their Donor’s Choose page are below. I highly recommend Donors Choose whether you have a project you need to raise funds for or if you are looking to donate to a school or teacher’s classroom.

Field Trips

Take Us to Broadway! – Field Trip to see Wicked performed at Dallas Summer Musical – $1473.31

Spring 2016: This project raised money to send my high school theatre class to see Wicked performed at Dallas Summer Musicals in Fairpark. It paid for tickets and dinner. Click on the link above to go to the Donor’s Choose project page to see more photos from the trip. This was a student lead project- they put together the project for Donors Choose and I posted it. Many of these students had never seen professional live theatre before. Most of their theatre experiences have been school productions and One Act Play competitions. Seeing a massive live performance like this was a great experience for them.

Before the trip students watched the behind-the-scenes on YouTube of how Wicked was put together called Behind the Emerald Curtain. Seeing it will allow them to get a complete picture of the show and an understanding of how a show of this scale is put together. Seeing Wicked live gave my students a wider perspective and a theatre experience that they will not forget! The following year (Spring 2017) I took a group of students to see STOMP. It was only $15 a person so this time students paid for it themselves with drama club covering a portion of it.

Books & Class Materials

I Am Malala Memoir – Class Set $405.76

These books have been used in my ENG 2 courses to incorporate multicultural reading materials into the classroom.  With the “I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World” class book sets my students are able to read it to gain a greater understanding of this amazing young woman and her experiences. It also jump starts a research project into education and freedom of speech issues/debates around the world. This student edition of this memoir has photos and materials that help my students with this project. This memoir helps my students gain a deeper understanding of the middle east and the Islamic communities who are also negatively impacted by terrorism. With world events I think this is a crucial time to encourage students to learn more about this and of brave people fighting the good fight such as Malala.

Reading Survivor – $156.19

I was able to get a set of the I Survived series of books which is high interest for low readers. Students who are normally reluctant readers eat these books up. They provide my students a look at places they haven’t been and interesting parts of history. They are interesting, they are on their level, and these books are motivating my students to keep reading.

Theatre Production Class Materials – $266.02

My theatre class received special effects makeup kits that were used to practice skills such as creating bruises, cuts, wounds, etc. as part of our technical theatre unit. The students had a blast and loved learning this professional skill!

Holocaust Memoirs Class Sets – $365.73

This project gave us class sets of Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl and Long Journey Home: A Young Girl’s Memoir of Surviving the Holocaust. We also received a few books about World World II to help students research the time period. Students read both books to get two perspectives: One from a girl who survived and one from a girl who didn’t. They then researched this period each coming up with their own research questions related to the historic events in the memoirs.

Women in History Research Project – $393.07

This project was for a bunch of novels, memoirs, and nonfiction texts about women throughout history. This allowed students to read across genres. This women’s history project helped expose students to conditions and cultures around the around and within other parts of our own country. This is important as students in this rural school rarely travel far outside of the county. I’ve chosen books about diverse women and books at different reading levels to meet our students needs. These books opened my students eyes to other cultures and expand their views on what roles/jobs women are capable of. This was a spring board into a research project where students developed their own research questions based on the books they had read from this project.

Engaging British Literature Through Comics – $605.31

This project was for two class sets of graphic novels: Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta and Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Shakespeare in comic book form grants students better access to his work by giving them visuals to help them understand his language. It engages multiple forms of literacy and presents Shakespeare in a way that they can relate to and get excited about. We use these graphic novels to examine how Shakespeare has endured and continues to be adapted into different forms (such as this comic book). We also discuss how this comic book adaptation impacts our reading of this play. V for Vendetta by Alan Moore is a prime example of popular culture serving as social commentary in that it continues the conversation in Orwell’s 1984 dystopia- allowing us to tie it into British literature tradition (we will discuss that during this unit). Comics engage students and utilize multiple forms of literacy including print and visual literacy. Using the V for Vendetta comic we are able to tie into larger media (such as the film) and current events (such as how protesters around the world utilize iconography from Moore’s V for Vendetta comic).

My Secondary Classroom Tour

Secondary Classroom Tour

I am lucky to have 14 refurbished iMacs in my classroom and a few windows laptops. This way I can have a group of students working independently on the Google Classroom while I work with a smaller group reteaching or giving additional tutoring. It is also great for students to create presentations or essays on the Google Classroom. I use a variety of education apps in addition to Google education.

My school district uses desks instead of tables to encourage us to use more project based learning in our lessons. This setup allows me to freely walk around the room during class to observe or assist each group throughout the project or lesson. The white board is on the right side opposite of the computer wall. Most posters were taken down before the photo was taking to accommodate testing in this room and have not gone back up yet because more testing is on its way.

I utilize a hanging folder for missing work. Each class period has a folder. Students who were absent are reminded to check their class folder for any assignments they missed as well as checking the Google Classroom. This makes it super easy for me to keep up with missing work. I just write down the students name and date on the paper and stick in the folder during class. That way I don’t have to search for it later and the students know where to find it when they return to school.

I only have one bulletin board in my classroom. I change up the displays throughout the year. This one features the A.C.E. strategy for writing short answers or extended responses. A.C.E. stands for Answer the question, Cite evidence, Explain how the evidence proves the answer. Answer, Cite, Explain. The folder has instructions and models that students can utilize when working on short answer responses.

This is my central command. The desktop is connected to the projector. On the hanging wall organizer I have my handouts and work sorted and organized. It’s ready to go for each class I teach (I teach several different classes this year: ENG 1 Honors, ENG 2 Honors, ENG 2, Dual Credit English, Theatre – High School level, Theatre – 8th grade level, and STAAR EOC remediation). I have my college wall above it with my diplomas, certificates, and my college gear to inspire my students to reach their college dreams.

 

 

Dystopia: Teaching Rebellion

For my English II courses I have done a year long theme of dystopia in order to be able to make connections about themes across genres by authors from different countries (TEK E2.2A). We focused on the novel The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, the play Antigone by Sophocles, and the memoir I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai. We also tied these texts into the purposeful persuasion units.

We started off this handout by Read Write Think that lays out the definition and characteristics of a dystopia. We specifically focused on how dystopian texts have totalitarian government which Merriam-Webster defines as “of or relating to a political regime based on subordination of the individual to the state and strict control of all aspects of the life and productive capacity of the nation especially by coercive measures (such as censorship and terrorism)”.

Our fiction unit starts with Suzanne Collins The Hunger Games. She is an American author and it was published in 2008. Students began reading The Hunger Games novel on their own while taking notes about anything that meet the definition or characteristics of dystopia or totalitarian government. As they work through the book they take their notes on post-its looking for textual evidence that meets the characteristics of a totalitarian government from the handout I gave them. They write down the quote, chapter number, page number, and their name on a post-it note. When the reading is due they discuss their post-it notes in groups then add them to our textual evidence wall. It’s a long piece of poster paper on display in the room and each post-it added to it becomes a “brick” of evidence on the wall of textual evidence that we are building together. The top of our poster has the question listed: How is the world in the novel a dystopia with a totalitarian government? They having a reading schedule for deadlines for each part of the book. They discuss their analysis in small groups, we compare parts of the book to clips from the film, and we do various activities with the book in order to analyze it and make inferences. We read some articles about The Hunger Games to model the type of analysis they should be doing. One such article is Social Control & The Hunger Games by Sarah Ford. She even has great questions at the end that you can have students answer.

Throughout this process I have them choose some of what they see as their best post-it notes and place them on a graphic organizer where they write to the side how it is an example of a dystopia with a totalitarian government. They have to explain how that quote or the summary of that event meets a characteristic of a totalitarian government. This helps them practice analyzing textual evidence before we start the essay. As we finish up the novel unit they write an essay over them theme of the novel, specifically explaining how Katniss challenges these totalitarian characteristics as she fights to have agency over her own life and retain her individuality despite the state’s attempt to squash it and make her conform or die. They should use the textual evidence they collected on post-it notes and the graphic organizer. It all leads into the essay and serves as planning their evidence and analysis.

The post-it note handouts and essay prompt/rubric can be found on my Teachers Pay Teachers store:

Our drama unit features Antigone by Sophocles. It is an ancient Greek tragedy written around 441 BC. We start with an overview of the structure of Greek tragedies. The Kennedy Center Arts Edge has a great website for this which gives students everything they need to know about Greek theatre before we dive into the play. Like The Hunger Games, Antigone features a female protagonist of the same name who also challenges her government.

We read the play aloud as a class with students volunteering to read certain characters. We stop to summarize and analyze certain scenes along the way. When we are done reading the play I introduce them to archetypes. We start off with this YouTube video from TED-ED called “What Makes a Hero?” by Matthew Winkler. It explains the hero archetype and the hero’s journey. It even uses Katniss from The Hunger Games as an example.  This is a great handout that explains the term archetype, the different types of heroes and journeys, along with the situational, character, and symbolic archetypes. We use the handout to define a tragic hero (AKA transcendent hero) as “the hero of tragedy whose fatal flaw brings about his downfall, but not without achieving some kind of transforming realization or wisdom.”

Students are split into groups and each group is either assigned the character Creon or Antigone. Each group creates a poster with the characters name in the center and around it quotes that prove that he or she is a tragic hero. They write the quotes with the line and page numbers. Each group will present their textual evidence with the class creating a student lead discussion about how Antigone and Creon are both transcendent heroes. Later we compare Antigone to Katniss. Both are young women who go on an archetypal hero’s journey to challenge their totalitarian government as they fight to exercise their own agency. Both stories end differently- one lives and one dies thus making one a tragedy. Even though these texts are written in different time periods in different countries they share the common theme and a similar female protagonist.

During our powerful persuasion unit we focus on rhetoric and propaganda. Our textbook’s persuasive unit includes a selection of political ads: Daisy and America’s Back. It includes an explanation of visual and persuasive techniques used in advertising. The work in our textbook analyzing those ads covers TEKS 10B,12A-B, 12D, and 15D. We also learned other propaganda techniques such as logical fallacies. Students extended the project by working in small groups on an ad agency project. Each group was an ad agency responsible for a political campaign for a character either from The Hunger Games or Antigone. They had to come up with a commercial (like the ones we examined together) and a printed billboard poster using the persuasive techniques we learned. This allowed students to make connections between nonfiction and fiction across genres. Each group presented their ads to the class. We discussed how the government in The Hunger Games and Antigone utilizes powerful persuasion in an attempt to get characters such as Katniss and Antigone to do what they want. When that didn’t work those some government entities tried to use those persuasion techniques to turn the people against their female protagonist to no avail because ultimately Katniss and Antigone were more persuasive then President Snow or Creon.

I Am Malala shifts the focus to real life. We discuss what a memoir is and who Malala Yousafzai is. As a young girl her and her family actively spoke out against the Taliban in their home town in Pakistan. She actively blogged about her experiences and her thoughts on the local terrorism. As the terrorist community grew they made it more difficult for girls to go to school before outright banning it. She defied this and spoke out against it, leading them to attempt to kill her. They shot her in the head and she survived. She continues to fight for girls education and is the youngest ever Nobel Prize laureate. Her memoir details those life experiences. There is a young student edition of the memoir as well that has more photos and things aimed towards students.

Students read the memoir on their own and in class we discussed the totalitarian characteristics of where she lived in Pakistan that lead her to free as well as propaganda used by the Taliban. We extend the study to a research project where students research the persuasion and propaganda that terrorist use to target people and expand their communities. We study how Malala herself uses persuasive techniques to continue her activism. We compare her to the fictional heroes Katniss and Antigone, seeing how these themes and archetypes apply to real life.  We compare and contrast the moral dilemma’s that all three heroines face and discuss the overall themes of standing up for your beliefs / rebellion.

A few of the many TEKS covered throughout these units:

E2.2A Compare and contrast differences in similar themes expressed in different time periods.

E2.2B Analyze archetypes (e.g., journey of a hero, tragic flaw) in mythic, traditional and classical literature.

E2.2C: Relate the figurative language of a literary work to its historical and cultural setting.

E2.5B Analyze differences in characters’ moral dilemmas in works of fiction across different countries or cultures.

P.E.E.L. Kit

The P.E.E.L. kit I discuss in this post can be found in my teacher pay teacher store:

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/PEEL-Essay-Kit-STAAR-1714227

I created this P.E.E.L. kit to help struggling writers remember how to structure an essay. I had students with a variety of needs so I created different versions of this to address those needs. You don’t have to use everything here- use what your student needs.

This page can be made into a poster to hang in the room or given to the student as a reminder of body paragraph structure. The body paragraph should make a point that supports the thesis statement (break the thesis statement up into points that can be assigned to each body paragraph). Provide evidence that proves the point. Explain how your evidence proves the point. Link this point to the next one with a transition sentence. This is a common acronym to help students remember this structure. The points are usually covered in order of importance, depending on the topic.


 

Most of my students were able to produce this paragraph structure using this graphic organizer. Listing the PEEL at the top gives a reminder of what the paragraph should include and what order it should follow. I provide a model that can be shown or given to students.


Some of my struggling writers still had trouble incorporating all the elements of PEEL and needed a graphic organizer to help them accomplish each part of the paragraph. This handout helps with that. Each component has it’s own box and a reminder of what they should do. These students can fill this out and show it to the teacher or a peer for feedback. From there they can combine it into one paragraph on the above graphic organizer to see how it fits together. I also included a model for this graphic organizer.


That’s all you need if your students just struggle with the body paragraphs. However, if they also struggle with introductions and conclusions I have handouts that help with that too. These handouts explain the different elements found in an introduction and a conclusion.


I created an outline that can also be used for struggling writers to help them outline their entire essay. This may not be necessary for all students. I found my advance students just needed the PEEL organizer and could the introduction and conclusion without the full outline. My struggling and reluctant writers needed this outline to keep them on track and in order.


In addition to these graphic organizers I also included two handouts that discuss the components of a persuasive essay versus an expository essay. These can be used to help you teach or they can be given to more advanced students instead of the above outline. My advance students preferred the outline explanation below rather than the graphic organizer above. However, it was the opposite for my struggling or reluctant writers- they preferred the outline above. I also include a list of possible topics for both types of essays to give you assignment ideas.

I hope these graphic organizers and handouts help your students succeed in writing! Please feel free to message me any questions on Teacher Pay Teacher. You can find this product in my store:

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/PEEL-Essay-Kit-STAAR-1714227

They are full size pages. For this post I took screenshots, added my website tag in pink, and shrunk it down to fit the post. The actual product is high quality and full normal printer paper size.

Using Google Docs with the Google Classroom

I love using Google Docs with the Google Classroom. It’s easy to create a template in Google Docs and then create a copy for every student in the Google Classroom. The advantage to this versus having them create their own Google Doc is it allows you to pop into their Google Doc and see their progress in real time.

Advantages of using Google Docs:

  • You can view your students edit history on the document. You can see anything they typed or added then deleted. It also allows you to see if anyone else has contributed to the document.
  • Click on the share button to see if they have invited anyone else to edit their Google Doc.
  • I have students do peer workshops on their essays or creative stories by inviting their workshop members to suggest on their Google Doc. Their workshop members can then leave their feedback as comments. I provide them with a list of things to look for and comment on during the workshop.
  • I can also leave the students feedback in the form of comments.
  • When I have students revise it and turn in a final draft I have them highlight everything they changed so I can easily track the changes. Of course you can also go the edit history to see changes.

Here is how to set up the Google Doc in the Google Classroom.

1.) Setup the Google Doc the way you want it. It can be simple with just the prompt or you can have the prompt on one page then the MLA format template on the next page. Here is an example of a simple prompt setup:

Google Doc Setup

Setting up the Google Doc assignment template.

 

2.) Create the assignment in the Google Classroom. Click on the “Attach Google Drive Item” button.

Google Doc to Google Classroom

Adding Google Doc to the Google Classroom

3) Find the Google Doc in your Google Drive and add it.

Google Drive

Find your Google Doc in your Google Drive and add it.

4) Change the setting to “Make a copy for each student.”

Change Setting

Change Setting to “Make a copy for each student.”

5) Then Click “Assign” and you are done!

 

They sky is the limit as to how you setup the Google Doc. Add images, add the full instructions, list of topics, etc. It’s an easy way to keep track of students progress before they turn it in to make sure they are actually working on it in class or at home.  Google Docs is a staple in my English classroom.

Teaching with Google Classroom

Our school uses Google for our school email so we are able to use Google Classroom. Google Classroom is a great tool: It allows teachers to create online classrooms and assign students to each one. On the classroom page teachers can post assignments (along with handouts, videos, and relevant links), announcements, etc. Students can easily see a list of due dates along with which assignments they have turned in and which ones they still need to complete. Teachers can return grades on the assignment along with comments all within the digital classroom.

Here is a video I made for my students showing off some of the features:

It saves all work to the Google Drive. Students can create Google documents, presentations, or spreadsheets right within the classroom- this saves it to their Google Drive and makes it super easy to turn in. This way they can access their work and digital classroom from anywhere.