I've Got Writes!

Teacher, Writer, Proofreader

What Do You Make From Scratch?

I know that English prepositions can be tricky for second language learners, and SUPER tricky when they’re part of an idiomatic expression. For example, let’s talk about the expression from scratch.

The dictionary definitions of from according to Merriam-Webster are as follows:

1: used to show a starting point 

  • a letter from home
  • School starts a week from today.
  • He spoke from the heart.

2: used to show a point of separation 

  • The balloon escaped from her grasp.

3: used to show a material, source, or cause 

  • The doll was made from rags.
  • The author read from his book.
  • He is suffering from a cold.

When used as a verb, the word scratch means the following:

1to scrape or rub lightly 

  • scratch an itch
  • He scratched his head.

2to injure by scraping with something sharp 

  • He scratched his thumb on a nail.

3to make a scraping noise 

  • The dog was scratching at the door.

4to erase by scraping 

  • scratched out my mistake.

When used as a noun, scratch means this:

: a mark or injury made by scraping with something sharp

However, when you make your favorite chocolate cake from scratch, that means something different. It means you’ve made your cake from the basic, natural ingredients— like, flour, eggs, baking powder, salt, sugar, and oil—instead of using  pre-mixed or pre-packaged ingredients.

Using a cake mix from a box is NOT considered making it from scratch. (But, that’s what I like to use!) 🙂

More examples

My grandma and mom used to make homemade noodles and biscuits from scratch. YUM!

Free stock photo of kitchen, bakery, flour, baking

A builder creates a house or structure from scratch. Taking materials like cinder blocks, lumber, cement, etc., to create a house, shopping center, or office building.

Person Cutting Wood on Table Saw during Daytime

Also, I’m currently building an online course from scratch. I’m using what I already know, researching what I don’t know, and writing my own lessons. This post is part of that process.

So, what can YOU make from scratch? Can you think of other examples?

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Idioms Are Right Up My Alley

Hey, there!

Let’s talk about idioms! I’m an English teacher, so that’s right up my alley! I love words, their multiple meanings, and the weird ways their literal meanings can be disregarded when they’re used as idioms.
Let’s take the words up my alley. When you’re speaking literally, it means something or someone is perhaps going up a narrow street behind or beside your house or apartment. (See other definitions here.)
However, the idiom up your alley refers to something that you really like or something you’re really good at doing. Frequently, the word right begins the phrase, but it’s not required.
For example, my boyfriend LOVES dogs. (So do I.) When we go to the doggie park, it’s right up our alley. We can watch, pet, and play with lots of cute dogs there.
I have students who love playing soccer. If they were to win tickets to a professional soccer game, that would be right up their alley.
If you’re an amazing cake decorator, opening up your own cake decorating business might be right up your alley.
If you love to draw Japanese anime, watching a video titled “How to Draw Anime Faces” would be right up your alley.
Here’s a funny comic from toonpool.com.  If funny stuff is up your alley, you’ll enjoy it! 🙂

Idioms, Not Idiots!

So, the English language is made up of sooooo many idioms and can make learning it as a second language (or even as native speakers) tricky and confusing. What is an idiom, exactly? Merriam-Webster defines it as the following:

  • an expression that cannot be understood from the meanings of its separate words but that has a separate meaning of its own

  • a form of a language that is spoken in a particular area and that uses some of its own words, grammar, and pronunciations

In other words, idioms are figures of speech. They are groups of words that, collectively,  mean something other than the literal meanings of each word in the group. The most common example I use in my middle school classroom is, “It’s raining cats and dogs.” Does it literally mean you’re going to get smacked in the head when you go outside because cats and dogs are falling from the sky? Nope. It just means it’s raining really hard.

Image result for royalty free images it's raining cats and dogs


Idioms are so embedded in the language that native speakers don’t realize how difficult and confusing it can be for those who are learning English as a second language. For instance, let’s say a second language learner hears someone say, “Man, that guy is over the hill!” at a birthday party. They might know the dictionary definitions of guy, over, and hill; however, they will likely be thinking of this:

Image result for free stock pictures over the hill old person


Instead of this:


Image result for royalty free images old person


I will be creating a course just for idioms, especially constructed to assist second language learners in the coming months. For now, here are some other helpful sites for learning idioms. And here.

Enjoy and stay tuned!! (That’s an idiom, by the way.)

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Course Surveys

So, I’ve been working through a course that I found on Udemy.com called The Complete Digital Marketing Course – 12 Courses in One. I’m only a short way in, but I’m excited to have learned how to create and share free surveys on typeform.com to do some market research. I’ve had such a hard time narrowing down my niche or target audience. Hopefully, this is going to help me do just that.

Here are the two surveys I’ve created so far. I’m pondering a third.

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List of Items on My Prediction Board

Later, I plan to create printable PDFs that you can quickly produce and attach to foam board or poster board. I’ll let ya know! In the meantime, here’s a quick bullet list of items and supplies that you can use to create your own prediction board. I found most of the items at Dollar Tree.


  • Foam board–I used black, but color is optional.
  • A pack of green plastic toy soldiers
  • America decoration–Easy to find around July 4th
  • School bus–Found in the teacher section at Dollar Tree.
  • Foam letter stickers–These don’t have to be foam, but I like the texture.
  • Dog leash
  • Empty honey bear bottle–washed, of course
  • 1 green envelope
  • Low-heat hot glue gun
  • One or two sheets of scrap booking paper for background behind words–optional
  • Washington D.C. sticker or photo
  • Firecracker sticker

I tried looking for a toy tire and a small blue bunny, but couldn’t find what I wanted in the time I had. Not necessary, but they would be a nice addition.


  • loyal
  • blame
  • fear
  • love
  • friend
  • PTSD
  • family
  • honor
  • foster care
  • sorrow

I like the dimension of my board because tangible items make it more interesting and pleasing to the eye. If you want extra dimension under your words, buy two foam boards. Attach your letters to one foam board, then cut out each word. Glue the cut out word to the second foam board that will be your prediction board. I cut out blame, loyal, friend, honor, family, sorrow, and fear from my old board, then glued them on my new board. See the picture below:


If you’re on a time crunch, I will soon have PDFs for you to print and glue. 🙂


If I’d Only Known

Language alert! If you are offended by a little profanity, then please forgive me or choose to read a different post. 

I’ve lost momentum on my 500 words per day, so I’m going to get some in now before bed time. Per Jeff Goins, I’ll write about something that I wish someone would’ve told me 10 years ago. Or maybe long before that. Yes, in my teens and 20’s.

I wish someone would’ve told me that there is more to life after high school besides finding a boyfriend, getting married, and having children. Mind you, I did only the first, and it was the worst 3 years I’ve ever experienced with relationships.

I grew up on Disney movies, with Prince Charming and happily-ever-afters clouding how I perceived myself and what my goals were and my potential to grow as an individual.

I went to church with well-meaning leaders and pastors who perpetuated this ideal. No where did anyone mention to me the possibility of traveling, seeing and experiencing the world while I was young while having few adult responsibilities. My parents were just trying to make ends meet. To dream too much wasn’t practical. It didn’t pay the bills or put groceries in the fridge. So, they didn’t exactly pump me up with, “You can do whatever you set your mind to” or “Go see the world” or “Create, invent, experience.”

In the church world that I was so busily dedicated to, it was always, “Why aren’t you married yet?” or “Haven’t you met anyone yet? Don’t worry, God will bring you someone in His timing.” Though the latter might be true, why did everyone assume that I couldn’t be complete or a whole, content person unless I said “I do”? It made me feel inferior. Like my life wouldn’t really start until I found someone who would love me forever as his wife.

I spent years in singles groups, reading books about finding your mate, making lists of “What I Want in a Husband.” I guess I can look at it as a learning process, but it kind of makes me sick right now to think how much time was dedicated to these things instead of just learning about and enjoying who I was.

As a 47 year-old, strong, and content woman, I’m just going to say that all of that was total bullshit! Now, I’m not saying that I don’t respect marriage and see it as a covenant before God. What I AM saying is that it’s not for everyone and it shouldn’t be expected of anyone, nor should it be suggested for anyone under the age of 30! NO ONE knows who the hell they are when they’re 20! Divorce is rampant, so why push marriage on “kids” who don’t have a fucking clue about being themselves. Who are self-centered insecure to the point of trying to control the other person?

I wish someone would’ve encouraged me to somehow raise money to go be an exchange student somewhere. Or just to go visit another country. I wish someone would’ve guided me through my college years. My parents didn’t have the experience to do that. The only friends of my dad who had gone to college had majored in psychology and philosophy. He thought they were nuts and had strange ways of thinking. He was afraid I’d do that too. Become too big for my britches and think I was above all the common folk. (Truth be told, every young person thinks they know more than their parents until about age 25.)

I believe everyone can benefit from leaving their own comfort zone, if only for a few days, a few weeks, a few months. Get out of your own little world and see that there are other cultures to learn from, other people with different traditions than you. With different ideas. I don’t mean you have to suddenly embraced someone else’s belief system. Just learn about it. And in the process, you’ll learn that you’re not so different from them. They laugh, love, hurt, and hate just like you do. They have goals, ambitions, likes, dislikes, personality quirks just like you do.

With all of that being said, I’m finally in a relationship. A year ago yesterday, we met. And we’ve been learning about each other ever since. Slow and steady, we’re experiencing life with each other. Allowing each other to be themselves. Is it always easy.? No, of course not, but so far, it’s fulfilling enough for us to want to keep going.

If I’d only known back then that being in a committed relationship does not define me. We should complement each other, make each other better individuals. That’s what I’m trying to do now. If I’d only known.




Successful Prediction Discussion


Last week, I got my students pumped up about the book with my prediction board! I had the board turned against the wall, propped up on a desk so they couldn’t see it until I turned it around. I gave them the run-down of what we were going to do. Then, I teased them a little, like, “Are you ready to see it? Are you sure?”

So, here’s how it went:

  • Students were instructed to stay quiet for a minute, or until I made my way around the entire room with the board.
  • They were to look closely, at all of the objects and pictures and read all of the words carefully.
  • After I made it slowly around the room, I asked if there were any words that they weren’t familiar with or didn’t know how to pronounce. I first let other students give the meanings if they knew them. If not, I explained what the words meant.
    • Usually, they need me to clarify the words “sorrow” and “loyal.”
    • Since I added “PTSD” to my new board, I had to give a brief explanation of what it stands for and what it is.
    • I was able to include a personal story about my grandpa who is a 92 year-old WWII veteran and still suffers from nightmares and other symptoms of PTSD.
  • After clarifying a few words, I gave them 3 or 4 minutes to have a discussion with their partners (or in a triad) about what they thought would happen in the story, based upon the information on the prediction board.
    • I gave them a sentence starter stem, like, “According to  _______ on the prediction board, I predict the story will be about . . .
    • Or, “Based upon the ______ on the prediction board, I predict …
  • I perused the room and listened in on the predictions. At that point, when they asked me questions about the book, my go-to response was, “I don’t know, but that’s a great question.”
  • When time was up, we stood and delivered our predictions, making sure to use the sentence starters. I took volunteers first, then I cold called (drew popsicle sticks.)
  • An exit ticket was a quick way to wrap up. The next day, we wrote a draft of a prediction paragraph, did some peer editing, and rewrote the final copy to be turned in.

I went ahead and asked my principal to come in and observe for my evaluation on prediction day because I knew the kids would be engaged more than usual. She loved it! She said it was fun and it made her want to read the book, too.

One of our more challenging students went up to her at lunch and told her how much he “loves this book!” That was something that she never thought she’d hear coming from this particular student. Me neither, but it happens every year. That’s one of the reasons I get excited about reading a novel with my students, especially this one.

The Mailbox by Audrey Shafer

Previous posts about using this novel in my class.

What I use to Engage Students Before Reading a Novel

The Mailbox Prep

Writing Prompt Day 6: Something You Were Proud of in the Last Few Days

What I use to Engage Students Before Reading a Novel

How does a reading or English teacher get students excited about reading a novel? Perhaps you’ve used the following strategies:

  • Fill out and discuss anticipation guides.
  • Preview text features.
  • Examine the picture on the book cover.
  • Read the summary on the back of the book.

I’ve used all of the above pre-reading activities during my twelve years of teaching. Not a huge fan of any of them. I mean, they’re fine if that’s what you want to use. Maybe you’re much better at using those methods to get kids geared up to read a story than I am. However, I’ve used something for 4 years now that sucks them in more effectively and is tons more fun for me!

About five years ago, I watched a teacher on Teaching Channel who created a bulletin board full of objects, pictures, and words that related to The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. If I remember correctly, she used it to give the kids a heads-up on some unfamiliar vocabulary and to provide some background knowledge to help them understand what they would be reading before each chapter. I loved the idea of using tangible items, not just pictures.

Since I do not have time or motivation to be changing my bulletin boards with any kind of frequency, I modified this idea. Also, I wanted something I didn’t have to tear down. I wanted to create something that I could use year after year. Something easy to store. So I did.

I created a prediction board for The Mailbox by Audrey Shafer. (I’ve blogged about it before.) I used words and objects that related to the story, but did not give any details away. See photo below of the original:


This is the first one that lasted me 3 years.


This is the new and improved version. I added two more words and two more images.

This one board creates more questions, more curiosity, more class discussion, and more fodder for writing a prediction paper than any other strategy I’ve used.

More details later . . .

Fidget Spinners to Loaded Guns

Last year my colleagues and I had a collection of fidget spinners that we’d confiscated. They’re supposed to help kids with attention problems to be more focused. Well, they were more focused. On watching the damn thing spin around, not on doing their school work. They were trading them, changing the colors or whatever—anything besides being focused on their jobs. We were all sick of seeing them. The spinners, I mean. (Well, if I were being totally honest, we kind of get sick of seeing certain kids, too. Don’t judge. If you’re a teacher, you get it. If you’re a parent, I’m assuming you get it, too. We all know that you can’t wait for them to go back to school after a long break because they’re driving you nuts.)

Though we do not have metal detectors and don’t search backpacks at the door, we did search pockets and shoes on the last day of school last year in order to be sure that no one brought anything they weren’t supposed to bring. Specifically, yep, you guessed it, fidget spinners. Of course, we still confiscated some because most middle schoolers think they’re slick and won’t get caught.

Fast forward to January 2018. Not even a year after the fidget spinner chaos and crack-down. Now we’re wishing that those damn spinning things were the most distracting items found at our school. They seem to have disappeared. I suppose the craze has worn off.

What’s rattling us now? The fact that our kids can hide guns in their hoodies and shoes. Two of our students proved it. Last week. Unsettling? Startling? To say the least. Not that we are naive enough to rule out that possibility, but we thought things were going fine. We have cameras in all of the hallways. We haven’t had major problems in our school for several years. (Since before I started working there.)

But now, we’re on high alert. Cracking down on procedures and rules that we’ve been lax with and implementing new procedures to help prevent this from happening again. Do I think no other student in our school has ever brought a gun to school? Nope. But, I really hadn’t thought about it before, not at this school anyway. Do I think there’s a possibility that another student was carrying even after this incident? Definitely won’t rule it out.

To think about a kid sitting in my class with a loaded gun hidden on their person scares the shit out of me. You never know what’s really going on with a kid. When you have over 20 kids in your class at once and see about 120 walk through your class per day, it’s kind of tricky keeping up with who’s in what kind of mood, who’s on an IEP, who’s got a difficult home life, etc. I tend to piss students off from time to time. Goes with the territory when you’re trying to push kids to do their best. I’d rather the child whom I’ve angered NOT have possession of a firearm.

I’d welcome fidget spinners now if it would eliminate the possibility of guns in the hands of my students.


Today’s Roller-Coaster Moods

I was on an emotional roller coaster today. Weepy. Grateful. Thanking God that all my students and colleagues are safe. Thinking, “Why am I responding so strongly? I wasn’t even in the mix of what happened. I was just working in my room while everything unfolded.” It could have been so much worse. The potential was brewing, but no one was hurt. Too many students and teachers eslewhere have experienced so much more. Horrific, graphic tragedies. We didn’t. But, I was still emotional. I guess it’s the realization of what could have transpired. I’m sure there’s a scientific or medical term for it, but I don’t feel like looking it up right now.

My colleagues who responded, running on fear and adrenaline, kept the situation under control. Kept us safe. My heart expands for them. Much respect. Much gratitude.

I’m sad for the two who made wrong choices because they are receiving consequences for their actions that will change the course of their lives, at least for several years.

To be honest, one thing that might be playing in to my emotional state is the fact that I went two days without my hormones. Makes it a little more intense. I’m hoping to get a good night’s sleep tonight. I should schedule a massage soon. I need the stress worked out. The weekend is coming up. Love me some weekend relaxation.

This isn’t going to make my 500 words, but I’m rambling to sort out some thoughts before I go to bed. Maybe tomorrow I’ll write something more significant, or more cohesive.


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