The Joy Of Writing With Others

As you may know, I’m teaching a creative writing course this semester and I’m enjoying it more than I ever expected.  My students are amazing–a dream come true.  They are creative, have excellent attitudes, and don’t hesitate to get right to work on their writing.  I can’t imagine a better group to initiate this new chapter of my career.

Today we started on our first “official” genre–Realistic Fiction.  We’ve done a few warm-up activities, but this is the first story we plan to read to each other.  When it comes to reading and writing, I believe in sitting down and doing it with the students.  Luckily, I happen to love both of those things.

So, as my students started their first short story, I started one as well.  I fully intend to partake in each genre, to read my work to them just as they must read their work aloud to the group, and to basically experience the victories and frustrations as an active participant, not just an objective observer.

I’ve been writing regularly for a long, long time now, and virtually all of it has been by myself–mostly in a basement of some sort or another with the lights off and music playing.

Today I wrote in a classroom full of teenagers.  Some of them were sketching characters, some of them were developing plot in their journals, some were typing away.  I’ve always listened to music as I write, so I allow them to listen with their earbuds as well.  I would intermittently look up to see my students lost in their own creative endeavor.  I heard the tap-tap-tap of their keyboards.  I saw the words appearing on their screens, the characters taking shape in their journals, or the pencil gliding across their notebook paper.  I took all of this in and it brought me great happiness.

At the end of class I mentioned to them how fun it is to write with others.  I explained that writing can be such an isolated, lonely activity–to sit in a room and write with others … it felt so … nice!  (Excellent writing there, huh?)

Guiding these young people though the first steps of what I hope will be a lifelong writing journey has not only invigorated me as a teacher, but it’s also already provided a sense of community in regards to writing that I didn’t even realize I craved.


Are You Excited For These Movies? Read the Books First!

Do you love to read the books that movies are based upon before those movies come out?  Check out this activity I had for my students today.  In order to get excited to read the source material, I had them watch the correlating trailers for upcoming films.  I’m happy to say they were very enthusiastic for several of the books (and movies)!  My primary goal as an educator is to help people want to read.  Take a look below and let me know which book you would most like to read, and also which movie looks the best to you.

Black Panther (Trailer)

Black Panther (Book)


Forever My Girl (Trailer)

Forever My Girl (Book)


12 Strong [Horse Soldiers] (Trailer)

Horse Soldiers (Book)


Maze Runner: The Death Cure (Trailer)

Maze Runner: The Death Cure (Book)


Annihilation (Trailer)

Annihilation (Book)


Avengers: Infinity War (Trailer)

Avengers: Infinity War (Book)


Every Day (Trailer)

Every Day (Book)


Ready Player One (Trailer)

Ready Player One (Book)


Red Sparrow (Trailer)

Red Sparrow (Book)


A Wrinkle In Time (Trailer)

A Wrinkle In Time (Book)


Love, Simon [Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda] (Trailer)

Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (Book)


(Last year’s movie trailers and books can be found HERE.)


(Did you enjoy this post?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

Tomorrow Begins a New Chapter In My Teaching Career

I’m so excited because tomorrow begins a new chapter in my teaching career.  Tomorrow marks the first day I will teach a creative writing class.  It’s hard to believe that I’ve taught for sixteen years without ever once instructing a creative writing course, but it’s true.

I’m particularly excited because I can share with the students quite a bit of real world application when it comes to creative writing.  We can explore so many traditional and nontraditional publishing avenues, contacting agents, setting up readings, developing a website, partaking in social media–all of those things that are necessary to reach an audience.  After all, writing the story is just the first step.

I am ecstatic to help these students find their voices, experiment with different genres, hone their craft, build their confidence, and learn about the business side as well.  I’ll share with them my victories, but also my blunders.  I think both will provide ample learning opportunity.

However, my number one priority when I meet them tomorrow for the first time?  Ask them what they want to learn.  Their requests will drive the course.

Wish us luck!


Use AnswerGarden To Grow Your Class

As you’ve heard me discuss before, our school has recently initiated a One to One program.  The idea is that every student has a laptop on loan to them by the district.  They are expected to bring this laptop to every class and to take it home with them every night.

Personally, I love it.  So far it’s gone wonderfully and is exceeding my expectations.

One activity I really like to initiate with the students is real-time word clouds.  They get to plug in a word or phrase and the word appears in a bubble.  The more the word is repeated, the larger it becomes within the bubble.

I wanted my students to visit our class’ “Recommended Readings” page, click on titles that sounded interesting, explore those titles further, then list the final three choices in a world cloud.  I hoped they’d get to see the word cloud formulate in real time while noting what books looked good to their peers.

But, of course, I know that all classes have a few comedians, so I also wanted to retain the ability to remove any irrelevant additions to the word cloud.  After a little bit of research, I settled on AnswerGarden.  (Full disclosure: I was one of those “class comedians” and still am, even as the teacher.)

AnswerGarden does not require students to log in, it can be used by a simple link you give to the students, and it allows the teacher a great deal of editorial abilities.  No, it cannot tell you who exactly posted what, but it does allow you to remove anything you want in real time as soon as any malicious material appears.

I tried it out yesterday and it worked perfectly.  In fact, here’s the word cloud of books my students were most interested in reading …


(Note: they added a few not actually suggested, but that’s okay.  And yes, I totally recommend Fight Club.  Great book.)

If you’re looking for a simple way for students to experience real time word cloud building, I recommend AnswerGarden.  You will need to open an account to access the editorial control, but it is completely free with no strings attached.


5 Items I Need To Remember When Meeting My Freshmen For The First Time Tomorrow

  • These are people’s children – treat them as I expect my own to be treated
  • I could be the only positive male role model they encounter – act accordingly
  • Everyone learns at different speeds and in different ways
  • Some of these kids are dealing with things I can’t even fathom – keep an open mind and a kind heart
  • No matter what, I have to remember I’m the grown up (even though it’s sometime’s really hard)


*Find me on @ScottWFoley

A Safer Way To Show Video Content In the Classroom

If you’re like me, there are times when  YouTube proved vital in showing necessary video content in the classroom.  Frankly, though, there have been times when the video in question ended and something inappropriate appeared in the little thumbnail previews they offer pertaining to other content.  I would close it down typically before any students noticed, but it still agitated me that this could be an ongoing problem.

We all use video in nearly every aspect of our lives.  Want to see the hot new trailer for a cool movie coming out?  Go to YouTube.  Want to know how to bake chicken ?  Go to YouTube.  Want a refresher on how to raise your kid’s handlebars?  Go to YouTube.  I love that when studying literature, we can now watch video content that relates to topics introduced by the novel.  I love that my students can go and watch interviews of contemporary authors.

But with my school’s students going One-To-One and each having their own laptop, that ever-present inappropriate preview may prove too tempting for some.  Yet, I want them moving at their own pace through modules and links.  The Internet is fertile with information and provides limitless learning opportunities, but I need a way to make sure students ONLY see the content I intend when I post video links.

That’s where SafeShare.TV comes into play.  I happened across this site when researching resources for the blended classroom.  The idea is that you take a link to any video anywhere on YouTube, run it through their site, and they eliminate advertising and get rid of those distracting buttons everywhere that you tend to see on YouTube.  Is it 100% effective?  No, but any extra level of protection makes me feel better when linking to online video.

You can visit SafeShare.TV by clicking HERE.  Be sure to then click on the FAQ link to learn how it works and how it can bolster your teaching.

I’ve also provided a quick video I made with YouTube then filtered through SafeShare.TV.  You can view the origional YouTube version by clicking the below link …

You can now view the same video through the SafeShare.TV filter …

Unfortunately, SafeShare.TV does not yet provide the opportunity to embed video within a post.

I hope you found this information useful and feel free to offer feedback in the comments.



Do You Have a Child In Elementary School? I Have a Request.

I make this request every year, so prepare yourself because I’m about to sound super pretentious, which is way more more than my usual pretentious …

It’s around this time of year that I notice, online, the parents of elementary students discussing teachers they hope their child will get.  Now, I won’t pretend to lie to you — my wife and I have definite opinions about who we hope our children will get, too.

Here’s the thing: I’m a teacher and I’m married to a teacher. We can tell you it hurts when there’s a chance we can have someone’s child and they say they hope their child gets someone else.  Of course, the parent may not mean anything malicious by it, but it’s still hard not to take it personally.

But it can actually get worse.  When a parent’s child gets a particular teacher and publicly states they wish they’d gotten a different teacher — yikes.  That can open a wound that stays fresh all year long. I know teachers are supposed to be above such reproach, but we’re only human.

Anytime something is said on Facebook, Twitter, etc., there is always the potential for it to get back to the teacher in question.

Do I blame you if you’re upset about getting a teacher you didn’t want your child to have?  Absolutely not!  We all have opinions about such things.  I’m just asking that you keep it off social media.  The Internet is already such a breeding ground for misinterpretations and misunderstandings, no need to add to the mix, right?

So, as a teacher, I’m asking you, the parent, to help set the tone for a great new school year.  Even if you don’t like the teacher your child gets, let’s avoid publicly stating you wish you’d gotten someone else.  It will save everyone hurt feelings and lingering resentment.

Okay, I’m switching off “super pretentious” and now going back to “regular pretentious.”  Thanks for reading.