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11 Strategies to Survive DEVOLSON

The back-to-school season is stressful, yet brings new and exciting joy. However, when the "newness" of it all wears off, teachers are often left drowning again.

This month, 10 other incredible ELA teachers and I have teamed up to bring you a variety of strategies to help you survive the downward spiral that DEVOLSON can cause.

DEVLOSON is a term created by the blogger Love, Teach which stands for the Dark, Evil Vortex of Late September, October, and November. Basically, as the daylight hours get shorter and the workload piles up it is hard to find that spark of joy.

Kristy from 2 Peas and a Dog has found that one way to combat this season is to introduce Media Mondays to your students. Media literacy is a key skill that can often get overlooked when we are constantly reminded to teach to the test or get students to read novels. While test prep and novel studies are important parts of an ELA program we need other lessons to engage and round out our curriculums. To learn more about why teachers should teach media literacy click here.

During this season, on Mondays bring media into your classroom in some format. Media could include podcasts, video clips, advertisements, movies, etc. Each week see if you can find a media format to supplement your existing unit or teach a specific media literacy lesson.

For example the show Marketplace from CBC is an investigation series that looks at issues that directly impact consumers. Each episode is broken up into short segments that could be shown in the classroom to spark discussions about consumer and media awareness.

You can find clips of this show on YouTube and search through them to see if they relate to the content in your curriculum. In one segment, students see how men and women’s products are marketed and priced differently. This can open up a wider discussion that can relate to stereotypes etc.

Using a variety of media formats can bring variety into your ELA classroom during the DEVLOSON season.

The struggle is real, y'all. I first heard this term around my second year teaching, and boyyy, did it ring true every.single.year.

I don't know if it's just me but when I show someone else love/appreciation, I always feel a little more recharged and upbeat.

Around the end of October, when I feel like I've gotten to know my students pretty well, I take some time each day for 2-3 weeks to write individual cards of appreciation for them. I task myself with completing at least 5 a day, and before right around Thanksgiving break, I have them all done. Sometimes I do them before winter break, instead. They're not long or anything, but the fact that they are individualized means a lot to the kids.

Trust me, especially if you're a high school teacher like me, the kids don't receive praise/appreciation enough.

It sounds counterintuitive because it's essentially giving yourself an extra task when you're already feeling burnt out, but give it a try one time just to see how you feel afterward. Here's a link to some I've bought in the past in case you want to try it out. Or these here. However, to save time, money, and hand cramps, you can also just type them up on quarter or half sheets (or jazz them up on Canva) and then print on regular computer paper :)

Whatever you do to keep going this season or any, please know that you are a GREAT teacher, you are MORE than a teacher, and you are GOOD ENOUGH in every capacity.

Hang in there 💛

As a teacher, you have likely experienced a day where your lesson plan didn't quite go as planned. (Hellooooo entire month of September?) Maybe the students didn't understand the topic as well as you thought, or perhaps they were a bit more chatty than usual. Whatever the reason, it's important to always have a backup plan in your arsenal.

This doesn't necessarily mean you need a completely different lesson plan ready to go, but rather some activities or exercises that can bridge the gap if needed. Having a backup plan not only ensures that your class will stay on track, but it also allows you to adapt to any unexpected circumstances that may arise.

Before the dreaded DEVOLSON hits, Samantha from Samantha in Secondary likes to make sure she has some of these activities ready to go. Here are just a few ideas to add to your arsenal.

#1: Blank Bingo Boards - Class taking a turn you didn’t expect? Pull out a review game. Blank Bingo Boards can be used for any material. Have students come up with the terms and start calling.

#2: Standalone Close Reading Activities - Samantha has an entire section of her TPT store dedicated to standalone informational text activities. These print-and-go resources are perfect for any day you need to pivot quickly. (Surprise assembly? Substitute? You’re covered!) Download a few on topics you know your students will love and keep them in your back pocket. Check them out here.

#3: Podcast Activities - Search for a few podcast titles that will work for your students and have some doodle notes on standby. There are some fun options that will work for any day like How Stuff Works, Stuff You Missed in History Class, or Hidden Brain. Check the episodes before the activity to make sure you choose something appropriate for your specific students.

Having a solid backup plan can help you feel better about the dreaded DEVOLSON season. So, next time you're planning your lessons, don't forget to make a plan B… and maybe also C and D.

Happy teaching!

If there’s one thing that accelerates a teacher’s path to burnout, it’s the impulses, tendencies, and expectations that stem from perfectionism. If you have ever:

A: set extremely high, unattainable expectations for yourself

B: struggled to start a task because it felt to achievable to do at the highest level


C: felt the weight of the world and everyone else’s expectations crush you from every angle…

…you might know what it’s like to struggle with perfectionism.

Let’s be clear: teaching is already hard enough as it is. If you’re piling on super high expectations for your classroom AND personal life, DEVOLSON is going to be rough every single year.

Here’s a starting point: dial up the Brave New Teaching Podcast. On Episode 130, Amanda from Mud and Ink Teaching spends an entire episode interviewing a therapist and focusing on helping teachers cope with their perfectionism. The episode has tangible strategies, realistic next steps, and feels like attending a live therapy session for free!! Subscribe to the podcast here and check out episode 130 right here!

One of the best ways to avoid that dark vortex is to reflect on habits. Lesa from does this by having students examine their procrastination style, reflect on it, and come up with a plan to combat it.

First, get students' brains into action. Hand out a blank paper and have students fold it so that when unfolded it looks like there are 8 fairly even squares (a quick way to make a comic layout). In the first square students write “Day the project is assigned” and in the final square “Day the project is due.” Ask students to complete the other 6 boxes with what they do between those two moments - encourage them to use drawings or even just some jot notes to describe. Set this aside.

Next, define procrastination. Build in some summary skills practice with a definition challenge (5 cents per word and you can spend 50 cents).

Then use an infographic like this one to identify a dominant procrastination type. (This works for teachers too! Hello fellow perfectionists with a side of self-saboteur!) And work on a mini-reflection exercise with the following questions:

  1. What type of procrastinator are you based on your responses? Surprised? Why or why not?

  2. What tips are offered for your type of procrastinator? (This is on the infographic.)

  3. How might you use those tips to avoid procrastination in this class, at school, or in life in general?

Finally, there are two ways to wrap up the activity. One is to have students return to their initial page with their ‘comic’ and revise the plan with the advice from the infographic… what do the 6 panels look like when you don’t procrastinate? This can be completed on the back. And a second option is to have students create a SMART goal that can be met before the end of DEVOLSON.

One thing that has helped Katie from Mochas and Markbooks to keep a consistent routine and sustain momentum during the long stretch of DEVOLSON months are agenda slides!

Before leaving work each day, Katie fills in the details on an agenda slide template for the next day. This is a great way to mentally prepare and gather any materials needed so there won’t be any scrambling in the morning.

At the start of each class, Katie displays the agenda slide so students can enter and see what the plan is. Agenda slides are also great for listing the materials students should have ready, and any reminders for the day or week. Katie also uses her agenda slides to display the learning goal each day so that expectations are clear.

Another benefit of daily agenda slides is that you can save the slides from each class in a Google Classroom or other learning platform as a running record of what was covered each day. This can be so helpful for students who have missed class, parents who want to see what is being taught, and students who want to go back and review. You can also link resources, videos, and websites on the slides so everything needed for learning is in one place.

If you’re looking to include agenda slides in your routine, you can check out the bundle Katie has created here!

For Yaddy from Yaddy’s Room, using targeted articles of the week is her hack for bringing a bit of life and discussion into the classroom when students and teachers are itching for a longer break. Social emotional nonfiction articles serve to help students wrestle with nonfiction writing standards, while also talking about subjects that matter to them.

A great thing about nonfiction articles is that they can also be tied to other larger units. Some of Yaddy’s favorites are mindfulness, teen love, teen anxiety, toxic friendships, and quiet quitting. These articles have all been a great hit with even her senior class, giving them an opportunity to break from short stories they might be struggling with, and connect their personal experiences back into the learning.

She starts off her students with an anticipation guide, where they move from one side of the room to the other depending on if students agree or disagree with the posted statements. Then, students read the article and answer a variety of short response questions based on the article. These are quick lessons, perfect for early release days or as a quick weekly routine.

You can grab all of Yaddy’s articles of the week here.

Few things in life require Herculean levels of energy and commitment.

  • Running a half or full marathon,

  • Completing an Iron Man, Tough Mudder, or Spartan race,

  • Hosting a major life celebration (like a wedding or family reunion),

  • Anddddd the back to school season.

From back-to-school prep to getting to know 120+ students (and their families) while planning for, teaching, and assessing engaging units of instruction (phew!), the first few months of school are a lot.

Often, teachers don’t realize they are burning the candle at both ends until it burns out.

That’s why Natayle recommends establishing work-life boundaries early in the school year and making your personal mental & physical health a priority.

With something as simple as a personal boundary BINGO card, you can challenge yourself to make things like leaving work on time, exercising, meditating, and disconnecting after hours a reality.

Grab your teacher-bestie (or two or three!), and create your own BINGO challenge. Determine your boundaries/priorities, set a few goals, and pick a fun reward, prize, or celebration to work toward. Whether it’s a special coffee, a happy hour drink, or a new book, find a way to reward yourself for prioritizing you.

Keeping students motivated all year can be a struggle. Carolyn from Middle School Cafe understands that student choice can be a powerful motivator. Student choice gives students autonomy and control over their learning experiences. When students have the opportunity to make decisions about what and how they learn, it can significantly increase their motivation and engagement.

Here are a few ways in which student choice can keep students motivated:

  • Relevance and Personalization: When students feel a connection between what they are learning and their own lives, they are more likely to be engaged and motivated to learn.

  • Intrinsic Motivation: Student choice taps into intrinsic motivation, which is driven by interest, curiosity, and a sense of accomplishment. Intrinsic motivation is often more enduring and sustainable compared to extrinsic motivators like rewards or punishments.

  • Higher Engagement: Student choice provides opportunities for students to engage deeply with the subject matter, leading to better understanding and retention.

  • Positive Learning Experiences: When students have positive experiences in the learning process, they are more likely to associate learning with enjoyment and personal growth.

  • Sense of Responsibility: When students make choices about their learning, they also take on a certain level of responsibility for their progress.

When you think of student choice, you may think that means creating multiple assignments for every task. In this podcast interview, we discuss ways to incorporate student choice without creating multiple assignments and without the overwhelm. Click here to listen!

When the days get dull and the weeks grow long, Olivia from Distinguished English MUST have something to look forward to each week.

Last year, she decided to start Fun Fridays–a weekly tradition where she and her students play learning games that review past and present ELA skills.

One Friday, they might have a sack race to collect cards with similes.

Another Friday, they might act out public speaking foibles and guess what they need to improve.

On yet another Friday, the class might play reverse charades to illustrate their vocabulary words.

Now, even in the toughest of weeks, Olivia’s students race to her classroom on Friday and ask, “What are we doing for Fun Friday!?”

It’s a welcome break for everybody–teacher and students alike.

Interested in Fun Fridays but aren’t sure where to start? Check out Olivia’s FREE list of learning games for the ELA classroom!

As the initial excitement of a new academic year begins to ebb, we often notice a decline in student engagement. Imagine if we could capture that spark and keep it alive throughout the year. This is where classroom goal-setting comes in.

Daina from Mondays Made Easy is always inspired by her students’ drive to meet their personal and academic goals. The process of goal setting offers motivation for students by providing a benchmark for growth. By laying out precise, attainable objectives, students not only get a clearer picture of what lies ahead, but also develop a stronger personal stake in their educational path.

Goals also equip students with essential life skills: they learn lessons on tenacity, adaptability, and forward-thinking. Each time a student re-evaluates their goals tweaks their strategy, or tackles a challenge, they're honing skills that will prove invaluable in their future pursuits.

To focus on goal setting in your classroom, build time into your weekly and monthly schedule to reflect on personal and academic goals. Model backwards thinking by breaking larger goals down into smaller, attainable benchmarks. This digital student planner has goal setting built into the weekly and monthly calendars to inspire students to focus on their future.


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