Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Another Worthless Gift Guide

If you read my last post, you'll know I've got some bitchy complicated feelings about gift giving and receiving.

However, I also have great taste and like to tell people what to do, so here is my gift guide anyway.

I'm sure you don't need or want it, but I wanted to make it. 

The Happy Home


These great and little bear prints. (So freaking cute!)

For the lucky few who get to keep their butter on the counter.

A brass and glass lantern or terrarium to fill with candles or sparkly things. I just bought this one at TJMAXX. I've seen others at Michael's.

This stunning coffee table book.

These water bottles keep your drinks cold for hours. Really. 

Anyone with pets needs one of these.

*I want. You want. Everyone wants. It's the solution to half of my problems.

Fun for All

A swearing party game. I'm in. Oh wait, the goal is to not swear. Dammit.

Jumbo dice for those outdoor games of Yatzee.

I don't even use mugs and I swear I need this.

Donkey Mug

A plush Scully. Perfection. All babies need this (sans the necklace, because choking hazard.)

For the Lone Gunmen in your life: prayer candles.

Young or old, there is a person in your life who needs a bucket of shit. No really.

*And this toy cactus. I bought one as a gift recently and it's amazing.


Any piece from this Etsy seller.

Geo Necklace

Zodiac Constellation charms for that friend sister who believes that stuff.

Black silhouette jewelry holders in the shape of birds, a ballerina, and more birds.

A unisex bag that's been in my shopping cart for months.

Lapel pins are back in. A dandelion. How you doing? I know a few people for whom this applies.


I am positive my mother needs this ironed onto a jean jacket.

Too Bad So Sad Patch

I saw a gal walking across campus with this bag and I fell a little bit in love with her that day.

If you'd like your cat to look like a 16th century jester AND you'd like it to stop eating birds, try this.

Cat Collar


A box of greeting card "pick your own" charts can only go awry if the gifted has no sense of humor.

We all need a box of these.

This Rocketbook smart notebook is pretty dang cool.

The Night Voyage coloring book. 

A set of the best coloring pencils.

On My List

For real though, I want this. I'm not being ironic.
(Okay, maybe I'm being a little bit ironic, but I have been a doomsday prepper since the 3rd grade.)

What's On Your List?

Leave a comment below, or visit on facebook to tell us what you want for Christmas.

Sign up for my newsletter and follow me on Instagram.

For more ideas on how to manage gift giving during the holidays, check out my holiday themed newsletter.

If you need gift ideas for tweens, I made a list a few years ago.
It's a bit outdated, but there are lots of gems on here.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Gift Giving and The Love Languages

Have you heard of Gary Chapman's Love Languages? In this schemata, each of us have different channels through which we most easily feel and give love. The Happier Podcast recently did an episode on it if you want to learning more. If you want to find out your love language, take the quiz here.

I've had a lot of thoughts on gift giving rolling around in my brain for years, yet learning about the love languages helped me clarify some of them. 

Photo by Mike Wilson on Unsplash Open Domain

My primary love language is acts of service, like how my husband vacuumed my car last week *heart eyes.* The best acts of service are things I don't have to be in charge of. For instance, my husband says he'll cook for me, but when I have to ask him to cook, and then tell him what to make, I feel anxiety and shame rather than loved. But, if he just cooks something for me, I eat it and feel nourished.

For years I've asked people to not buy gifts for me. Many might think I hate gifts or hate holidays or am just a joy kill. But my reasons for asking people to not buy gifts for me are more complicated than that, and related to my core story

First, I hate for stuff to be not used. The stuff in our homes should be meaningful, useful, or beautiful. I don't like waste or random stuff that doesn't fit into that category. And I really dislike things that might be useful to someone, but are not useful to me, piling up. Those of you who follow me on social media have witnessed this, as every time I clean out a closet I want stuff to go to a good home rather than just the trash or a thrift store. 
Ultimately, I believe we show major disrespect for the planet and the future if we don't value the things we have. So, that's the first part of my no gifts puzzle. 

Morgue Free Image

The second part is that, for years, even when I was explicit about what I liked or wanted, I got other stuff instead--sometimes gobs of other stuff, or other stuff similar to what I wanted but not quite. At a core level, the story I was telling about these gifts was that the people who gave them: did not get me, did not understand me, and didn't think it was worth figuring me out. 

I get I'm a bit of an enigma, but am I really that bad?

What I've realized recently is that my secondary love language is receiving gifts even in all of these years of no gifts. Huh. The trouble is, random things, or things that don't fit into the meaningful/useful/beautify metric, make me feel misunderstood and unloved, so it's a double-edged sword. The results here are that I'm a complete asshole and only feel loved when people get the gift magically right, which is nearly impossible. Thus, no gift is better than some gift in this labyrinth

Gifts in recent memory that really meant something to me: two years ago the only gift I got on Christmas was an Amazon gift card from my in-laws. I got to buy books of my own choosing with it and I didn't feel compelled to buy household shit. The second gift was when my husband taped a Dutch Bros Coffee gift card to my steering wheel at the start of the new semester. I felt seen and understood in both of those moments. 

Friday, October 7, 2016

The New Neutrals

Any color except beige
Large florals
Animal prints
Safety orange
Back fat
La Croix
Starbucks cups
Chicken pox

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The 24 Stages of Grading Essays

  1. Collect digital copies of essays.
  2. Email all the students who submitted their essays incorrectly.
  3. Hope you’re a new person this semester who can start grading essays immediately upon submission, instead of procrastinating.
  4. Decide you’re too tired to start now. You’ll do better with a fresh brain.
  5. Lose sleep because you’re worried students are worried about the lack of feedback on their essay.
  6. Follow interior decorators on Instagram. 
  7. Like every Instagram photo you see with flowers arranged by folks in England. 
  8. Read 2-5 books unrelated to the discipline you teach.
  9. Prep lessons for next few classes, just to get it out of the way.
  10. Research new career paths because you can’t keep doing this.
  11. Lose more sleep. Have that dream again where you eat the table cloth at a swank restaurant with the wrong fork.
  12. Come up with excuses for why you’re not done yet.
  13. Nap.
  14. Grade one essay. It’s not that bad.
  15. Oops, the next one is terrible.
  16. Set a timer for how long you’re going to grade before you can check social media again.
  17. Hydrate.
  18. Pee.
  19. Reset the timer.
  20. Obsess about all the creative things you would be doing if you didn’t have this soul leeching task leeching your soul of all creative impulse.
  21. Stab self with grading pen you no longer use because you’ve gone digital.
  22. Get around to grading 143 essays somehow. You have no memory of how it happens, really, but they are done except for that one student you fully expect will never to return class again, but he shows up so you have to scramble to grade it really quick during class so he doesn’t wonder why you didn’t grade his and only his.
  23. Vow to become a new person.
  24. Collect another set of essays.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Printables and What-Not Roundup #beforethepen

If you're here, you probably like paper & pens, planners, printables, stationary, journals, and all the other what-not that relates. Here are some what-nots I've found recently that might be of interest. 

Creative Commons Unsplash

I love this printable weekly to-do. Some of these printables get so busy with unnecessary junk. HeatherInk keeps it simple. (Free pdf download from dropbox.)

If you're into Cornell notes and like to experiment with different style of paper, like grid dot or blank, here are a bunch of choices. (Free downloads from google drive.)

These printables from Crossbow Etsy Store are very reasonably priced and well-designed for all your planner and organizational needs.

This weekly schedule printable is nice for helping students get their weeks organized. I downloaded the docx and changed the design a bit to reflect my campuses needs. (Free in multiple formats.)

Do you freeze a bunch of meals and then never know what's in the freezer? Here is a freezer inventory printable. (Free pdf.)

I want to try these landscape legal pads, but they are a bit pricey for me. I am cheap.

We all need this donkey note holder. Since I'm already buying myself new pens, and I've already admitted to being cheap, I just can't splurge on another gift for myself. But, he's so cute.


What are your favorite printables and what-not? Leave a comment and lets us know. Even when there is only one comment on the post, lots of people tell me they've been here lurking about. Say hi instead! (I'm lonely!) You can also send me an email at wordyporter @

Everyone on the newsletter mailing list by the end of August is automatically entered in the drawing to win one of of two #ReadWritePlan themed organizationpacks; let's get some more folks added to drawing so my husband doesn't accidentally win. He doesn't write notes or in journals, nor  does he use pretty file folders. ;-) If you don't want to win one for yourself, pass this along to a friend who does. 

To sign up for the newsletter, just enter your email address here for Cherri's collected links on women, comedy, social justice, sex+, teaching, nonsense, music, and of course, videos and gifs.

Bottom of Form

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Ask Cherri: Unbox The Test

Dear Cherri, 
I'm teaching a general education college course that has 50 students. I've taught it many times, in many different formats. I'm going to try something new for me: giving the test twice. For example: Monday, take exam for 30 minutes and then check in with class for 20. They’ll return exam to me so I can assess problem areas between Monday and Wednesday. Then on Wednesday, we’ll spend the first part of class reviewing the problem areas of the exam, and then retake the exam for the last 30 minutes of class. In the end, I will accept the better of the two grades. Is this a good idea?
Signed, Test Twice

Minerva instructing cherubs in the art of painting
Minerva Instructing Cherubs, NYPL Public Domain Image

Dear Test Twice,

Thanks for being the first person to ask me a question and thanks for asking a juicy one. *Throws confetti* I think you’re on to something here. There is lots of good research to support changing the way we test students, and the very least we can do is experiment with new things and see what works with our diverse and complex college populations.

As a student I loved taking tests because I got to show how smart I was. Most of the time anyway. There were plenty of tests I took where I demonstrated my absolute averageness, too. And that was okay. Most of the time anyway.

As a writing teacher, my attitudes about tests have been mostly negative. For one, grading handwritten essay exams sucks a whole lotta grizzly shit. Then, there is the fact that students freak out about exams; they don't shine; and they don't do their best writing and thinking. Instead, in their panic they lose what little thread of sense we think they’ve acquired in our classes and write wacktacular theories about how more guns and processed food will make preschoolers healthier and I just can’t read that crap and maintain my sanity. Testing as done by most of us is a pedagogical nightmare I have avoided as much as possible. Besides the department-required exam at one school, and a reading quiz here or there, I've mostly said no.

That is the attitude and experience I brought to James M. Lang's work earlier this year. The key thing his work has asked of me is to re-think the value of testing for students--and there is value for students and that's the reason to do it, which is what the rest of this post is about.

There is no box when it comes to the kinds of tests we can give and how we can organize them for the benefit of our students. 

A test is not something that has to happen on paper and come at the end of the unit, done exclusively as a solo activity.

Nope. Not only can we test outside the box...there is no box.

By Aaron Burden, Unsplash

We should be organizing tests for the benefit of our students. Think about that. What happens to the whole system when we ask this question:

How can we create testing practices that help students shine?

I hear some of my colleagues laughing, but if we actually want students to learn, and not prove what they haven’t, we’ve got to re-think the whole shebang.

That’s where the work of James M. Lang comes in. He illustrates the retrieval effect in the first chapter of his book, Small Teaching.
"Put as simply as possible the retrieval effect means that if you want to retrieve knowledge from your memory, you have to practice retrieving knowledge from your memory. The more times that you practice remembering something, the more capable you become of remembering that thing in the future." (20)
This is a step secondary and college teachers often skip. Maybe it’s because we are naturally quick at our subjects or because students look bored, but somehow we assume they don't need as many opportunities to practice as they do, or we expect them to be excited to practice, or we expect them to practice outside of class. Since most of them don’t even know what this retrieving knowledge practice looks like, that’s a hard sell. Us teachers repeatedly reminding them of the material, or them passively reading the material, is not retrieval practice, and thus not testing their memory. On a very basic level, our testing strategies are failing students and not the other way around. (If you're going to look this up in the research it is sometimes called the retrieval effect and sometimes called the testing effect. The research is cross disciplinary, spanning neuroscience, psychology, marketing, etc.)

What this means for us and for this question asker is that to write a good test we need to start way before the test by giving students opportunities to practice retrieving their knowledge well before test day. In addition, there are many ways to practice and demonstrate knowledge retrieval beyond what we think of as the typical college test of either multiple-choice questions or short answer or essay exams.

If we think about testing as a way to measure what students know, we fail them and us.

If we think about testing as practicing retrieval, as reinforcing neural pathways, as part of the learning process, we blow open the framework for how we might use testing in the classroom.

So, Test Twice, you are on to something with your idea to structure your test over two days and address the problem areas. I suggest you try it and see how it works. You can even frame it for students that way. Since you’re giving them the option to take the highest grade, if it goes sideways, I think you’re safe. If a student misses one test day, or decides to skip, they keep the grade they got on the one test. Just be sure to outline all the rules before hand so students are clear on the expectations.

Other possibilities. (Some of the following ideas are mentioned in Small Teaching, but in doing research, I saw variations of these ideas all over the literature in various forms so I didn’t specifically site any of them.)
  • At the end of each lecture you could ask two or three of the exam questions for students to answer on a note card anonymously or via a google forms link or some other social media survey if your students are media savvy. You would then get an immediate sense of what material students know and don’t, which could be reviewed at the beginning of the next class.
  • You can open each class with a question that would be on the exam pertaining to material from one of the last two classes and ask students to answer the question either individually in their notebooks, on notecards you collect and look at immediately, or in small groups. This, of course, takes time, but it does get them practicing recall. It also sets them up to know they need to review their notes before class because they will be asked to recall what they learned previously in this class session.
Give these activities time because many students will find them completely foreign and stare at you like you're crazy and even resist. I’ve had stubborn classes that refused to participate in my new ideas and other classes that jumped right into the crazy void with me.
  • If you use an online course management system you can have regular quizzes that students can take as many times as they want (for no points or extra credit) but you can look at the results of those and can see which questions they're missing and note patterns. Many textbooks have free quizzes on their websites you can encourage students to use as supplement, and the course management systems often have textbook tools that integrate without you having to do more than select and import. Since you’re not pointing activities, you don’t have to go through them and monitor them the way you would if you were using them as part of your own exams, so the workload is minor.
  • I've also seen a variation on the two day testing. On the first day students took the exam by themselves, turned it into the professor for scoring, and then went home to study what they were unsure about. On day two they back to take the exam in a small group. Now, some teachers might think it is cheating that they got to work in groups, BUT, what we know about the neuroscience is the important part--they reinforced their own learning by testing their memory. It’s the retrieval effect in action that matters, and not that they got to work with peers. The result is that everyone, even the slackers, had the chance to learn the material a bit deeper and test their own knowledge. You could let students choose if they want the individual or group score, you could weight them both, or pick the highest score of the two.

I hope this helps Test Twice. There are plenty of possibilities. Maybe this will whet your appetite. Let us know how it goes.

If you have more ideas or thoughts to add, leave them in the comments.

Post script: there is an interesting rubric in this article for conceptualizing the kinds of questions we might design for exams I found really interesting. 

If you have a question for ask Cherri, you can send her an email at wordyporter @ or use the google form.

I do want to specifically recommend Lang's Small Teaching and his online columns. His work both synthesizes the current research and contains practical examples of what teachers are doing in their classrooms across the curriculum. If you’re a new teacher, his On Course book is worth your time.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

#ReadWritePlan Giveaway

For the #ReadWritePlan Challenge Month I’m doing a giveaway.

There are two prize packages of journaling and organization supplies pictured here. 

How do you win?

1. You sign up for my newsletter. That’s it. You can go to to sign up, or type in the widget in the upper right side of this page, but don’t forget to finish subscribing after Tinyletter emails you a confirmation. You can read the archived newsletters at that link as well.

2. In the upcoming Back-to-School newsletter there will be an announcement for a second way tot win, so get on the email list today.

Don’t forget to check out the other challenge posts all over social media using the hashtag #ReadWritePlan 

And, don't forget to Ask Cherri if you have any organizational and/or life questions you want me to tackle with my overflowingbrainofthingsthatmayormaynotbehelpful. 

Giveaway details: On the 1st of September I’ll draw two emails at random from the newsletter mailing list and those names will be announced as winners in the first newsletter sent out in September. Winners will have one week to contact me with a mailing address they want their prize sent to. If winners do not contact me in that week new names will be drawn. 

United States addresses only.