Whiteboard Lettering: Week 1

School started, so now I’ve got 135 students standing between me and lettering practice. To keep up my daily lettering goal and build on my practice as an English teacher, I have a new project for the school year: whiteboard lettering with literary quotes.

Part of the new Texas teacher evaluation system requires that teachers have a professional goal that they actively work on throughout the year. Mine is to incorporate a short book talk and 10 minutes of reading time at the beginning of every class period as a way of encouraging reading in my classroom, and my school. That’s where the lettering comes in. To start my book talks, I share an essential quote from the work–a quote that I have lettered on the board. Because my school is a strange one that has no walls and no assigned classrooms, I get to leave literary quotes throughout the building, hopefully getting not just my own students curious about a book, but the others at the school. In about a month or so, I need to start turning over book talks to the kids, so I may have to adjust my goal. But for now, I’m loving it. Here are this week’s boards and a little of my experience so far:

Day 1: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

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I have ALWAYS wanted to say Dumbledore’s words at Harry’s first Hogwarts feast on the first day of school, and this year I got the chance! Very few students admitted to knowing the quote on the first day. Three days later, after I had thoroughly shown my nerdy side, the majority of the students were proud to raise their hands and admit that they knew the story of The Chosen One.

Day 2: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

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I got the idea for daily book talks from the NTCTELA conference in June–basically, a huge gathering of North Texas English teachers. The keynote speakers were Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle, celebrities in the ELAR world. Gallagher led a session about guiding kids through confusing pieces, and used Jekyll and Hyde as an example. Hearing him speak about the continued relevance of classic literature, when I feel like I am stuck in a world that is emphasizing only vocational reading and writing, was absolutely refreshing. Most of my book talks this year will be classic pieces because I want my learners to be aware of literary works that have and continue to influence our modern culture.

Day 3: Not really CS Lewis

This was to get kids started on reading an essay that I hoped they would be able to connect to. It was also a good chance for me to talk about Google quotes–this one is often attributed to C.S. Lewis, but it’s actually from Shadowlands, the biopic about him.

I found out that I could play with filters on my phone to clean up the glare and grime from my whiteboard, but then it looks like digital lettering… so I’m choosing the #nofilter route to show that this is, in fact, lettered on a whiteboard.

Day 4: The Namesake

Because I draft and practice the night before on paper, the whiteboard lettering process has only been taking me about 10 minutes. It’s still a fifth of my planning time in the morning, but it’s also 10 minutes of “zen” time that helps me calm down and get in the zone for teaching.

Day 5: The Lord of the Rings

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At this point in the week, the kids were comfortable enough with each other to raise their hands when I asked if they had read The Hobbit, and even give a little exclamation of nerdy excitement to see that I was going to talk about Lord of the Rings.

This project has been fun and scary… When there are no walls to hide behind, it’s scary to think that your work is valuable enough to share with a whole school. Stay tuned – I plan on sharing my boards and reflections every week (as long as grading doesn’t get in the way)!

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