Literary Whiteboard Lettering, Weeks 5-6

Because I work at a PBL school, my weekly schedule can get pretty weird depending on where we are in a project. Weeks 5-6 of the school year were part of our transition from Project 1 to Project 2, so I had to give up some English days to cover things like presentation etiquette and practice presentations. Our second project of the year covers American regions, so I continued presenting works from various parts of the US.

Day 20: Brown Girl Dreaming 

I adore this book of autobiographical, narrative poetry. This is a good entry into poetry for readers who are intimidated by it. It tells the story of Woodson’s youth during the Civil Rights era as she and her family moved through the Midwest, South, and Northeast.

Day 21: The Bean Trees

This book surprised me. On the surface, it seemed like a piece of “chick lit”: a young woman gets tired of living in her tiny town and seeks adventure by driving out west. When she makes a pit stop in Oklahoma, someone drops a baby in her car and vanishes. She takes the baby with her and finally settles in Arizona when her car breaks down. It sounds like a Lifetime movie. But this book has a sense of humor as the narrator navigates through her new parenthood, and grapples the topic of undocumented immigration when she makes her new family in Arizona.

Day 22: Dandelion Wine

A few years ago, I had a student who was terrified of growing up. All the adults in her life either pressured her about growing up or told her (truthfully) that growing up sucks. By the time she got to me in the 9th grade, the transition into high school had completely shaken her. I suggested that she read this book, the story of a boy who realizes that childhood and life will end one day, and she loved it. A lot of things happened that school year to give her more confidence about her place in the school and life, and I’d like to say that this book was one of them.

Day 23: The Great Gatsby

Yes, I realize I got the quote wrong. It should be “Can’t repeat the past?…” But I was going off memory and lettering while the IT Specialist was talking to me about some student concern. I didn’t realize until the end of the day. Oh well… It still applies to Gatsby.

Day 24: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

Another book that surprised me. This is an beautifully written work of YA literature. I love the writing style, and it’s got a touch of the surreal: it’s the story of a girl born with wings. It feels like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn with the way it describes the history of her family, and like Chocolat with the way it shows how her family settles in a new town in the Northwest. It’s got a touch of romance for teens, and a touch of melancholy for adults.

Literary Whiteboard Lettering, Week 4

Life got busy. The lettering and Instagram went on, but my blog got neglected. I’ll be updating all weekend! 

Week 4 was the week of September 11. School was officially in full swing, and everyone was in the weeds. This was the week when I learned that I need to keep my boards simple. All my morning meetings cut it too close to the start of class for me to have an intricate typographical masterpiece.

Day 15: Leviathan Wakes 

I haven’t read this book, but the math teacher has. He’s a good source for sci-fi literature, a genre I’m still unsure about, but which my STEM students crave.

Day 16: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

I was pleasantly surprised when my students smiled and laughed over the story of Tom and the fence. Mark Twain does it again!

Day 17: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

One of my favorite books. I read this when I was feeling disillusioned with teaching, and it reminded me why I love working in education.

Day 18: O Pioneers!


I haven’t read this books either… but as my students are in the middle of a regional project, I thought Willa Cather was appropriate. Plus, there’s a pretty cool plaque for this book on the New York Library Walk .

Day 19: Seraphina

I don’t like many YA books, but I enjoyed this one because it seems to try to explore race politics through dragons. I love dragons.

Literary Whiteboard Lettering, Week 3

It’s always the short weeks that feel the longest.

With Labor Day off, I only had 4 boards to do this week. And I felt rushed through 3 of them. Now that we are getting deeper into the school year, I’m feeling time and obligations pulling me in every direction. The time I spend lettering in the morning is helping me stay grounded.

This week’s boards:

Day 11: Flowers for Algernon 

Day 12: Oliver Twist

Day 13: The House on Mango Street

Day 14: The Princess Bride

The Princess Bride board was the only one that I actually had time to perfect this week! Love that one!

Favorite thing this week was hearing students and teachers share their opinions of the books and authors they’ve read from this week’s boards. I’m loving how much this project is encouraging discussions about Books! 

Literary Whiteboard Lettering, Week 2

Even though I had only been whiteboard lettering + giving book talks for a week, I’m already seeing an impact: the world studies teacher gave her own book talk to start a lesson, and students and teachers alike are getting interested in learning lettering! Here are Week 2’s boards:

Day 6: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

This was for the day I was paired up with the Math teacher, of course. 

Day 7: Lord of the Flies

Day 8: The Glass Castle

The night before,  I had resolved to finally learning the art of the flourish. 

Day 9: Night

I caught a few reluctant readers with this book talk!

Day 10: 1984

Unfortunately, we had a gas leak scare (it wasn’t a gas leak) on Friday that disrupted our schedule, so I didn’t get to give a book talk to 2 classes… good thing I chose a book that they’ll read in 10th grade anyway!

On to week 3! Posting these all on @nerdladydraws on Instagram with #literarywhiteboardlettering. 

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)!