Ms. Casey’s Classroom

One of my first encounters with the amazing Nik Casey involved her standing on a table in a cowboy hat leading a group of teachers in rousing chants and cheers. Her energy was infectious then and it is clearly evident today in her classroom. After many years as a successful science teacher Nik switched to English. Her approach is innovative and compelling – thank you for sharing your classroom Nik!

Where do you teach? Denver School of Science and Technology in Colorado

Who are your students? 9th Graders

What do you teach? Humanities (essentially, English with a flare of history and a focus on social justice issues)

“This is the entrence to my classroom with the most important items. Handouts are always placed on this table for the day and students pick them up on the way into class – routine. To the far left is the ‘Make-up Bin’ and to the far right at the corner of the table is the ‘Homework Bin.’ In center is always a stapler and tape – for those last minute submissions that need some organization.”

‘How to Enter the Classroom’ instructions. Trust me, freshmen needs this. . .

Our Library – a cozy must!

Describe your teaching style in one word: Capricious

Ms. Casey’s paraphernalia.

“Hands, Stand, and On Demand” system. ‘ Hands’ is straight forward, for ‘Stand’ you cold-call, and for ‘On Demand’ wacky photos that represent vocabulary words.

What is your go-to literacy strategy? The Art of Close Reading (click here for more info). *Nik also sent along the handouts and power points she uses to introduce herself and her classroom systems to her students during the first three days of school:

Desk arrangement in what I call “debate style” with two sides of the classroom facing each other. Vocabulary cards are on the desks.

Vocabulary Cards – a word, its definition and an awesome picture/photo to help a student remember the meaning of the word (tackling all five of the human senses) is located at each table seat throughout the classroom. We use this to learn the words via tactile activities.

This is last year’s ‘Where I’m From Wall’ – it is about my students, all about them. It includes their “Where I’m From” poems, posters.

This year, I changed the “Where I’m From Wall;” students now come up with at least 40 descriptive, juicy words that represent who we are and these words were then used to create a Word Cloud on Tagxedo. Kids loved it! I taught imagery as the standard to drive this activity. This is an example of what one of my students created. All of this places special focus on the idea of one’s identity and what affects or molds us into who we are and who we choose to be.  This unit’s essential question is: “where does our sense of identity come from?”  In the following units, we focus on a different essential question in regards to one’s identity – what impacts it and how we impact others, our community, our world ect.  Essentially, I have carefully planned each question to mesh gracefully with each text or Literature Circle Unit I teach.

How do you build student motivation in your classroom? Snazzy hooks.  Rigor.  More rigor.  Inspiration.  Passion.  Lots of passion.  TEDx.  Iron Poetry Competition.  Guest Speakers: Holocaust Survivors, Refugees, New York Times Best Sellers.  Oh, and creating FUN.

This is my visual culture wall containing some of the key concepts/skills the need to master throughout the year.

I keep my Mandatory Tutoring List posted by the door. I also have the seating chart up so I don’t have to repeat myself – I just point.

These are examples of one of the major projects we do in Humanities known as the Poetry Chapbook (five different kinds of poem assessed on ten different standards, all free verse, with the freedom or designing the book format in whatever form).

Close-up of the cool ‘record’ chapbook.

Inside the frame is a letter/card that my high school English teacher gave me – thanking me for the piece I wrote for him in his honor; also, there is a clipping about the teacher of the year award he received in Michigan and photos from his classroom. He is the reason why I teach or, what got me into teaching.

‘About Me Boxes’ – super cool project. Students create a box of some sort (I’m very open to size and shapes) and decide what they want to reveal about themselves that is reflected in their writing – for example, some students keep their boxes shut because they don’t want others to know what they can’t see. . .

‘Be Bold’ is our class motto. From the quote: “Think Big. Be Bold. Drive change.” I use the awesome organization, “Echoing Green” as a sound board for our classroom. Pennants of colleges/universities add a nice reminder as well. Using board space well is key to student success. Here we have: Daily Agenda, Do Now, and Homework Assignment.

The quotation is from Henry Miller.


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