Short Constructive Response – STAAR English EOC

Digital Learning, Lessons, STAAR

I have updated my ACE Short Constructive Response graphic organizer to meet the new STAAR English EOC Short Constructive Response part of the test.

Writing a short constructive response is tricky because the STAAR character limit is 475. My example is 469 characters. I had a difficult time cutting it down to fit that character limit, meaning students will find it difficult too. After using the graphic organizer to draft their response, I suggest having them type it in a Google Doc and check their character count. Then have them revise and edit it until it is 475 or less characters. You could have students compose a response in groups first and have them collaborate together in the same Google Doc to try to edit their response. Collaborating in a group allows them to bounce ideas off one another, receive feedback, and learn from each other. Groups with students of mixed abilities help make this successful. If the group has all weak writers, they will struggle to complete this and won’t learn from each other. Afterwards, print and paste the responses around the room and do a gallery walk (replace the names with group numbers so students are not embarrassed). This allows students to see other responses and to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses. This strengthens their revising and editing skills when composing their own responses. 

Afterwards, I would have them individually complete responses and see how they do on their own. You could repeat the gallery walk or you could select a few to project and evaluate together as a class (remove the names so students are not embarrassed). Or you could have students partner up and peer review each other’s short response before they revise and edit it. 

Before they start writing their response, you could have them go through the text and highlight possible pieces of textual evidence they could use in their responses. Then have them rate that evidence with 1 being the strongest. Discuss how it’s important to pick the strongest piece of textual evidence to support their answer. 

You could take it a step further by either putting them in groups to discuss their individual rankings or discuss their chosen evidence and rankings as a class. Discussing it allows them to confirm or correct their own choices and learn from their peers. I have included a copy of the Most Dangerous Game that students can use for this activity (it’s in the public domain), or you can use your own text and prompt. 

I usually have them handwrite the rough draft on the Google organizer and I don’t let it leave my classroom so I can ensure they didn’t copy it from online or get someone else to write it for them. I usually have them type the final draft so they can practice typing it as they would on the online STAAR test. They can also use the character count tool for the final draft. See the state STAAR website for character limits as they sometimes change it. I did not include a rubric, as TEA has their rubric posted publicly online. 


There is a digital copy of the graphic organizer and gallery walk page (it’s a Google Slide).

Attach the Google Slide to your Google Classroom assignment and select “make a copy for each student.” If you only want one of those graphic organizers, make a copy of the Google Slide and then delete the page you do not want. Rename the copy and use that in your Google Classroom assignment. 

The digital gallery walk is great for putting all the responses a single Google Doc for them to view and rank. Be sure to replace names with numbers so nobody is embarrassed. On Google Classroom, attach the Google Doc with the student responses and select “make a copy for each student” if you want them to leave comments on each response about strengths and weaknesses. Or you can just attach the Google Doc responses for students to view and have them fill out the Gallery Walk paper (or digital copy). 

Check out the state’s free resources and guidelines:

Problem Solving…

Organization, Teacher Chores

My school has been recently renovated and added on to. They don’t want us hanging anything on the new walls. We are only allowed to hand posters on the one self healing wall in the room. It’s not enough space to display all of our anchor charts, reminders, and behavior management posters. I have 3 dry erase boards so I decided to use some of that space to display my posters. I bought some magnetic strips at the store and attached them to the back of the posters. I made the posters with Canva. They look great!

At the end of the year I store my posters in this art carry all case.


Creating Your Own Class Posters

Graphic Design, Teacher Chores

This year another introduced me to Canva and I love it! Educators get free premium features. Check it out here:

I used it to create some posters. My district has a printing center where we can print and laminate posters. I used that to print my Canva designs. Making them was incredibly easy! I’ll show you how I did it.

I started with a motivational quote from a book or song that I wanted to use. I used the poster template on Canvas choosing the blank option. I make it landscape by switching the numbers in the size option. I looked through the background and found one I liked that I thought went well with the quote.

I decided to book the book cover on the poster. I used one of their frames to make the book cover look better on the poster.

Then I added the quote and played with the font until I liked how it looked. They have different special effects you can use. I used the neon effect on this poster.

On another poster, I did a similar process. For this one I found an image of the band and used the background remover tool. I used that same tool on a image of their logo. I took the additional step of adding lined shapes to the edges that I found under elements on Canva.


They were easy and fun to make. My students were surprised when I said I made them, they thought they looked professional!

Looking for a way to print your posters? I was lucky that my district has a resource center that we can use to print posters. If you don’t have that, another option is have affordable prices! Canva now offers print services as well.

Student Accountability

Grading, Lessons, Teacher Chores

After a 3-week or 6-week progress report: I have the failing students fill out a Google form that get’s them thinking about why they failed and how they can succeed. The Google form includes their name and period. It also includes the following questions:

Reasons for failing has them reflecting on the things both in and outside of their control that contributed them to failing the class on that progress report.

Next, asking about their intentions to pass gives me a clear view of where they are at and their willingness to pass.

This last question gives me ideas for how to help these students. After collecting this form I would conference with them to put a success plan in place. If they said they need help with time management then we would sit down and I would help them make a schedule or show them how to use a planner. If they need help with organization than we would sit together and work on that. If they said they need a contract than we would work together to create one. Students are more likely to “buy in” if they have a hand in this process.

I have the settings on this form set to email students a copy of their response. We will conference again later in the semester to see if they are meeting their goals. This helps students reflect on what is not working, and what they need to do to succeed. It allows teachers and students to collaborate on a plan. Students are more likely to follow the plan when they have a part in making it. This also creates a record that is helpful for documentation should you need it.

The Hero’s Journey Unit

Lessons, Projects

I love teaching Greek mythology! I incorporate a variety of texts across different genres in this unit including fiction, drama, informational texts, YouTube video and movie clips, poetry, and comic books.

Introducing the Hero’s Journey

We start with the hero’s journey plot pattern archetype. I like to introduce it with this TedTalk. also has an article about the hero’s journey that thoroughly introduces this plot pattern and provides examples from the Hobbit and Hunger Games. Either one can be used to introduce this plot pattern before starting the Odyssey. As we read the about various Greek hero’s we will make connections to how they complete these stages of the hero’s journey. I start off with the story of Perseus since it’s short. There are various free and paid versions out there. Some textbooks have it. My favorite version is a play in the book Greek Mythology for Teens: Classic Myths in Today’s World (ISBN: 1593637179). #ad I assign parts in class and students love reading their parts. Afterwards we compare it Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief #ad (I show the trailer and scenes from the movie that can be compared to Perseus).

To check for student’s understanding about the hero’s journey I have them do a presentation project. I put them in pairs or small groups. Each group picks a book or movie that has a hero in it. They create a Google Slide presentation showing how that hero completes each stage of the hero’s journey in that book or movie. I approve all book/movie choices before they begin and ensure that no group has the same one. It’s a multimedia presentation- they should include texts, images (or animated gifs), and video clips (or even add music). They present these to the class.

Before We Read The Odyssey

Before we read the Odyssey there is some background knowledge that students will need to know. has a great article about Greek Society that explains how Greek society was structured covering: classes, women, children and adolescents, laborers, slaves, and foreigners. It was a provide background knowledge while practicing reading nonfiction skills with an informational texts. We apply this knowledge as we read the Odyssey, making connections between these texts from different genres. This is a great way to cover multiple standards in one unit! Would you rather show a video then have them read this informational text? This YouTube video also explains the basics of Greek Society.

I like to introduce and summarize the Trojan War with a fun play adaptation called Meet the Olympians by TPT seller ELA Alley. This play is a spoof about the Trojan War while poking fun at Twilight, American Idol, Michael Jackson, 300, and wrestling. It provides a great introduction to the Greek gods and goddesses, introduces the idea of don’t anger the gods, and sums up the Trojan War. I assign parts to students in class to read aloud. If we have time, we might act it out as well. Students love it! It’s hilarious and a great introduction to Greek mythology and story telling!

We continue our talk about the Trojan war by examining two poems written in different time periods about Helen of Troy. I introduce Helen of Troy with the Shmoop Video and students take notes in their Interactive Notebook. We compare her origin story to that of Perseus: like Perseus she is a demigod whose father is Zeus. Next we read over two poems about Helen of Troy written in different time periods by different authors: “To Helen” by Edgar Allan Poe (1845) and “Helen” by Hilda Doolittle (1924). We will annotate the poems, answer short answer questions comparing and contrasting the central theme in the poems, and analyze literary devices and figurative language.

This TedTalk, Everything you need to know to read Homer’s “Odyssey” – Jill Dash, explains important concepts before we read the Odyssey such as in medias res and xenia. It also introduces Homer and this tradition of Greek oral story telling. I have students take notes in their interactive notebook as we watch it.

As We Read The Odyssey

We read the graphic novel version by Gareth Hinds. They love it! It’s usually their favorite text our of everything we read. The illustrations really help them understand what’s happening and the time period it takes place in. As they read I have them take notes about the themes and the role of xenia throughout the story. They also take notes about how Odysseus completes the hero’s journey. I assign sections ahead of time that they read on their own and then we discuss it and their notes in class. We examine the images as well as the words. I will show sections of the 1997 TV miniseries so we can compare how it was adapted for film (I usually show the cyclops scene). We discuss the differences between the comic and film medium and how it impacts the story telling. We also discuss how this is an ancient story being retold in multiple mediums today and why we still relate to this story and it’s hero.

Unit 2: The Hero’s Journey (Greek Mythology)
Lesson / Text / Activity / ETC. TEKS (Texas State Standards for ENGLISH I)
What is mythology? Intro to Ancient Greek Society & The Hero’s Journey > with informational texts. Identify the author’s purpose, audience, and message within a text.  Make connections to our lives today. E1.4(G) evaluate details read to determine key ideas
E1.5(G) discuss and write about the explicit or implicit meanings of text
E1.7(D) analyze characteristics and structural elements of informational texts such as: (i) clear thesis, relevant supporting evidence, pertinent examples, and conclusion
E1.8(A) analyze the author’s purpose, audience, and message within a text
E1.8(B) analyze use of text structure to achieve the author’s purpose
E1.8(C) evaluate the author’s use of print and graphic features to achieve specific purposes
We will read a play about Perseus and Medusa and study how he completes all stages of the hero’s journey. Students will pick a part and we will read it as a class. We will talk about the roles of the gods in the play and how it fits into mythology. Students will answer questions about the play. Analyze how setting influences theme, characterization, and plot. Interactive notebook: How Perseus completes each stage of the Hero’s Journey. How the hero’s journey can be applied to our own lives.E1.4(H) synthesize information from two texts to create new understanding
E1.7(C) analyze the function of dramatic conventions such as asides, soliloquies, dramatic irony, and satire
Compare the Greek myth of Perseus and Medusa to parts of Percy Jackson (using clips). Examining how ancient myths are retold in 20th century literature and film. Analyze how setting influences theme, characterization, and plot.
Short answer questions over Perseus and Medusa analyzing the hero’s journey and the role of the gods in ancient myth. 
E1.7(F) analyze characteristics of multimodal and digital texts
Group project: Pick a film or book that has a hero in it. Create a multimedia presentation explaining how the hero completes each stage (12 total) of the hero’s journey. Using Google Slides and turning in on the Google Classroom. They have to outline their presentation for me before creating the Google Slide. Students will present this to the class.E1.7(F) analyze characteristics of multimodal and digital texts
E1.11(I) use an appropriate mode of delivery, whether written, oral, or multimodal, to present results
E1.1 Developing and sustaining foundational language skills: listening, speaking, discussion, and thinking–oral language. The student develops oral language through listening, speaking, and discussion. 
E1.8 Author’s purpose and craft: listening, speaking, reading, writing, and thinking using multiple texts. The student uses critical inquiry to analyze the authors’ choices and how they influence and communicate meaning within a variety of texts. The student analyzes and applies author’s craft purposefully in order to develop his or her own products and performances. 
E1.1(C) give a presentation using informal, formal, and technical language effectively to meet the needs of audience, purpose, and occasion, employing eye contact, speaking rate such as pauses for effect, volume, enunciation, purposeful gestures, and conventions of language to communicate ideas effectively
E1.1(D) participate collaboratively, building on the ideas of others, contributing relevant information, developing a plan for consensus building, and setting ground rules for decision making
Read the story “Black Ships Before Troy: The Story of the Iliad” on our online textbook portal. Students will annotate with focused reading questions, do a vocabulary exercise, take a quiz, and answer an essay question with textual evidence. Students will learn how to login to the online textbook, use the assignment tools, and submit an assignment. 
E1.4(G) evaluate details read to determine key ideas
Introduce Helen of Troy with Shmoop Video and notes for Interactive Notebook. Info text about the Iliad War.
Read 2 poems over Helen of Troy written in different time periods by different authors. We will annotate the poems. Short answer questions comparing and contrasting the central theme in the poems. Analyze literary devices and figurative language.
E1.5(G) discuss and write about the explicit or implicit meanings of text
E1.7(B) analyze the structure, prosody, and graphic elements such as line length and word position in poems across a variety of poetic forms
An informational text introducing Homer and The Odyssey. Also a TedTalk introducing the Odyssey. Guided reading and analysis questions. E1.4(G) evaluate details read to determine key ideas
E1.8(A) analyze the author’s purpose, audience, and message within a text
E1.8(C) evaluate the author’s use of print and graphic features to achieve specific purposes
We will read the Odyssey graphic novel adaptation. Some of it we will read in class and parts of it students will read independently at home. We will go over how to read a graphic novel and the genre conventions. Discuss the non-linear plot of the story, how Odysseus completes the hero’s journey, the major themes, the role of mythology and xenia in the plot, and characterization. 
 Compare scenes in the graphic novel version to the movie version of that scene. Venn diagram of similarities and differences in interactive notebooks. We are examining how an ancient story is transformed into 21st century storytelling and how it is adapted for modern audiences while keeping the core of the story the same.
E1.5(B) write responses that demonstrate understanding of texts, including comparing texts within and across genres
E1.6(B) analyze how authors develop complex yet believable characters in works of fiction through a range of literary devices, including character foils
E1.6(C) analyze non-linear plot development such as flashbacks, foreshadowing, subplots, and parallel plot structures and compare it to linear plot development
E1.7(F) analyze characteristics of multimodal and digital texts
E1.8(C) evaluate the author’s use of print and graphic features to achieve specific purposes
Expository Essay :Define what makes someone a hero.E1.5(H), E1.7(D), E1.9(A),  E1.9(B),  E1.9(C), E1.9(D), E1.10(B), E1.11(C) (editing and writing related- see writing unit for details)
TEKS that apply to the unit across texts and activities:
E1.4(A) establish purpose for reading assigned and self-selected texts
E1.4(B) generate questions about text before, during, and after reading to deepen understanding and gain information
E1.4(C) make and correct or confirm predictions using text features, characteristics of genre, and structures
E1.4(D) create mental images to deepen understanding
E1.4(E) make connections to personal experiences, ideas in other texts, and society

E1.4(F) make inferences and use evidence to support understanding
E1.4(I) monitor comprehension and make adjustments such as re-reading, using background knowledge, asking questions, and annotating when understanding breaks down
E1.5(B) write responses that demonstrate understanding of texts, including comparing texts within and across genres
E1.5(C) use text evidence and original commentary to support a comprehensive response
E1.5(D) paraphrase and summarize texts in ways that maintain meaning and logical order
E1.5(F) respond using acquired content and academic vocabulary as appropriate
E1.5(H) respond orally or in writing with appropriate register, vocabulary, tone, and voice
E1.5(F) respond using acquired content and academic vocabulary as appropriate
E1.6(A) analyze how themes are developed through characterization and plot in a variety of literary texts
E1.6(D) analyze how the setting influences the theme
E1.7(A) read and respond to American, British, and world literature
E1.8(D) analyze how the author’s use of language achieves specific purposes
E1.8(F) analyze how the author’s diction and syntax contribute to the mood, voice, and tone of a text

Turn a worksheet into an editable Google Slide

Digital Learning

It’s easy to turn a worksheet into an editable Google Slide.

You can watch this video I made or just read these step by step instructions.

Link to my video on YouTube:–FTy0o2H14

First you need to export your PDF to an image file. I prefer to save it as a PNG file. There are several programs that can do this. I use Adobe Acrobat. Or, if you have it as a paper version you can scan it as a high resolution image.

Then open your Google Slide. Go to File > Page Set Up. Change it to custom. 8.5 x 11 inches. Or, if you need it in landscape you can do 11 x 8.5.

Next go to Slide > Change Background > Chose Image.

Once you have set your background you will need to add text boxes where you want your students to type their answers.

If you are using the Google Classroom: Create a new assignment. Attach the Google Slide and be sure to select “make a copy for each student.”

Like my ACE short answer worksheet? You can find in on my Teacher Pay Teacher Store:

English I and II STAAR EOC Test Prep- Writing

Lessons, My TPT Products

I have taught both English I and English II in Texas. Both grades have an English STAAR EOC test that includes a writing portion. On the English I test students have to write an expository essay. On the English II test they have to write a persuasive essay. I’ve put together the strategies and models I’ve used in my classroom into these materials that you can use. They can purchased in my TPT store. You can either buy a bundle for both ENG I and ENG II or purchase the one you need.

I am in Texas and originally created this for my English II students to help prepare them for the persuasive  or expository essay they would have to write on the STAAR English II or I EOC test. The advice and common mistakes are aimed towards the goal of passing that writing test. However, I have a PhD in Composition and have tried to create this unit to fit best practices for persuasive essay writing in any situation (whether for a standardized test or a dual credit class or in general).

I did not include a rubric because what you are evaluating can change greatly between standardized test, dual credit courses, or general classroom writing goals. If you are using this to prepare students to write a persuasive essay on a standardized test go to your state testing website and look for a rubric. Texas STAAR has a rubric and lined writing paper for the English I expository EOC essay or English II EOC persuasive essay. You can find released Texas STAAR tests here on the state website. You can find the rubrics for the writing portion of the STAAR English I and II EOC here along with other state writing resources.

Here is a preview of what it is in the persuasive bundle:
This writing kit is good for any persuasive essay needs, not just the Texas STAAR test! It has been updated and is now 27 pages long.

It includes:
– 5 pages of writing instructions handouts with detailed examples. It goes paragraph by paragraph.
– It has two versions on the example. One version has notes about the organizational structure.
– Tips & Common Mistakes to Avoid
– A list of transition/linking words
– A persuasive essay outline map for students who need a short structure guide
– Outline with the organization structure labeled
– Blank outline (some states allow blank organizers to be used on standardized tests)
– A list of types of evidence with definitions
– A list of 12 persuasive writing prompts
– 12 Persuasive Essay Writing Prompt Cards
– Notes for the teacher on how to use this kit

Here is a preview of what it is in the expository bundle:
This expository essay writing kit is 25 pages.

It includes:
– 4 pages of instructions on how to write the essay. It breaks the essay down paragraph by paragraph with examples. Includes the introduction with an attention getting device and thesis statement, body paragraph structure, transitions, conclusion, etc.
– An example essay with and without a dissection of its parts
– An outline graphic organizer with the components labeled
– A blank copy of the graphic organizer (some states allow this on state tests)
– A list of common mistakes and advice
– A handy outline map to briefly remind students of the structure (handy for students with IEPs for additional handouts)
– A list of transition (linking) words for student reference
– A list of 12 expository prompts
– A set of 12 expository prompt cards that can be printed and laminated for student use
– Notes for the teacher with tips on how to use this kit.

+More about the writing prompt cards+
The prompt cards allow for practice with various prompts. You can print each prompt on a different color paper (the duplicate of that prompt should be the same color as the original). You can laminate them then have students choose a topic at random to write about. The second time around they merely pick a different color to ensure they get a different topic. Included is a blank set of cards for your own prompts.

Crafting the Syllabus

Organization, Teacher Chores

A syllabus is an important document. It introduces your students to your class, your policies, and your expectations. I give students a copy of it. They also get a home contact sheet where I collect their parent/guardians information and have both them and the student sign a statement on it that they received the syllabus and understand the policies. I also make the syllabus available on our Google Classroom for easy student reference.

For the high school classroom consider including these policies and expectations in your syllabus:

  • Break down of grades (categories, weights, etc.)
  • Late work policy (or statement that late work is not accepted)
  • Makeup work policy
  • Technology policy (think about cellphones, smartwatches, tablets, etc.)
  • Restroom use policy (unless your school has a campus wide policy that you follow)
  • Cheating/Plagiarism Policy (or a statement reminding them that this policy is in the school student handbook if that applies)
  • Class Rules/Expectations
  • Supply List
  • Remind sign up info (or whatever site you use if you use one)
  • Any information for a class website, Google Classroom, etc.
  • Expectations for how to turn in work (Do you have a bin? Do you take assignments electronically? When is an assignment considered late?)

If you search Pinterest or teacher blogs you will see several beautiful syllabi with images and magazine style layouts. Those are eye catching but don’t feel pressured to make yours look like that if you don’t have the skill or the time. What’s important is the content in the syllabus rather than the way your syllabus looks style wise.

I got the job! Now what?

Organization, Teacher Chores

First year secondary teachers, congratulations on your first teaching job! There is a lot to do to prepare for the year beyond curriculum stuff. You need to think about the following:

  • Will you accept late work? If yes, under what conditions?
  • How will you make sure students receive and turn in makeup work?
  • How will students turn in assignments?
  • How will you organize the papers that you need to grade, enter in the grade-book, file, document, or hand back?
  • What are your classroom rules? Consequences for breaking the rules? Rewards for following them? How will you keep track of consequences and rewards?
  • How will you deal with cellphones, smartwatches, tablets, etc.?
  • How will you manage classroom supplies?
  • What about your restroom policy? How will you handle students request to leave the classroom?
  • How will you document and track frequent behavior issues or missing/incomplete work?
  • How will you keep track of parent contact?
  • How will you keep track of RTI you have implemented?
  • How will you document accommodations or modifications that you have followed for students receiving such things?
  • What is your cheating policy?
  • What is your routine for starting class? Will you have a bell ringer activity? What about a routine for ending class? Will you have an exit ticket?
  • Create a substitute binder or folder and put together emergency sub plans for times when you are unexpectedly too sick to come in.

Grading Made Easy

Grading, Teacher Chores

I am always looking for ways to make grading go quicker. Through Pinterest I discovered an app called ZipGrade. It is fantastic! ZipGrade allows you to create your own answer bubble sheets (similar to Scantrons) and to grade them with your smart phone or tablet! It is great for exit tickets, quizzes, tests, or any multiple choice or True/False (T/F) assignment. You can create answer sheets with up to 100 questions. Free download and 100-scans per month or Unlimited Scanning: $6.99 for 1 year. I purchased the unlimited scanning option and do not regret it. It has saved me so much time!

I use it to instantly show students what they scored and which questions they got wrong. It also gives me the feedback to know quickly if they got the material and we can move in or if they haven’t grasped it yet and we need to slow down. With multiple choice and T/F reading quizzes ZipGrade allows me to see at the beginning of class who read the assignment and who did not. With quizzes or multiple choice / T/F assignments they turn in the answer sheet, I scan and keep it, then we go over the assignment together. They also marked their answers on the actual assignment. It allows me to collect the grade and immediately be able to discuss the answers and why those are the right answers so students can learn from their mistakes while the material is fresh on their mind.

It takes a photo of the answer sheet and saves it so you can pull it up online if you need to see it again. If you use an answer sheet frequently (such as a 5 question exit ticket) you can laminate it and have students use a dry erase marker. Simply have students erase it after it has been scanned and reuse the answer sheets for the next class.


  • Download and print free answer sheets
  • Install ZipGrade
  • Create new quiz and define key
  • Scan and grade papers
  • Review item analysis and graded papers
  • Export PDF or CSV reports
  • Use with or without student names and ID numbers
  • Internet access not required to create quizzes, scan, and grade.
  • Import student rosters (CSV) via ZipGrade Cloud website
  • Create answer sheet packs with student names and ID numbers pre-filled
  • Multiple marking and scanning options
  • Click through item-analysis to groups of students