Coach's Corner

Welcome to the CHSSA Coach’s Corner. This blog will be updated by members of the CHSSA council with materials for the classroom, to help build your competitive teams, and to provide insight into what coaches across the state are doing. Look out for new information to be added throughout the school year.

Recognizing Excellence: Gay Brasher

Congratulations to Gay Brasher!

Leland High School coach, and CHSSA Hall of Fame member Gay Brasher has been in education for over fifty years. In that time she has changed countless students’ lives, impacted thousands of coaches’ careers, and achieved success at the highest level. In recognition of her excellence the National Communication Association awarded her the 2016 Marcella E. Oberle Award for Outstanding Teaching in grades K-12. Congratulations to Gay for this exceptional recognition. You are a valued member of the CHSSA community, and we can’t wait to see what you do next.

For more information about this award you can read this fantastic article written about Gay by The Mercury News:

(Click Here for Article)

Edmodocon – Repping Debate to the Teaching Community

EdmodoCon 2016

-Jennifer Kindred

Edmodo is an educational website and app that takes the concept of social networking and refines it for use in the classroom.  In addition to allowing students to communicate with each other, Edmodo allows teachers to answer questions after hours and guide students through assignments and projects.  Edmodo also functions as a classroom providing a platform for students to turn in assignments electronically, take quizzes online and a plethora of other apps and functions.


My teaching partner, Wendy Dowler, is an Edmodo aficionado.  She and I have used it for many projects these past few years, and during the first week of August, she and I presented at EdmodoCon 2016, “a live online event where educators from around the world connect with each other to share how they’re using Edmodo and other digital tools to personalize learning.”  Both of us were honored to have been chosen, and we had an awesome experience at the Edmodo headquarters in San Mateo.  Our project was called “Live Feed: Facilitating Audience Engagement During Debate.”  CHSSA members may be interested in this project either in content or form.


Some background is necessary.  At our high school, history and English classes are fully integrated.  We must stay aligned the entire year, and we have combined assignments and projects each quarter.  As many can imagine, this involves compromise and creativity.  My experience is that history can move quickly through various eras whereas English often needs time to finish a literary work or time to gain writing skills.  We immediately hit a roadblock within the first week of school when as English teachers we wanted to teach The Crucible and as history teachers, they wanted to quickly review the founding fathers and the Revolution which students had already learned in 8th grade, and move on to their district mandated standards. And so we were at an impasse.  How could we possibly cover two different time periods at once?  Wendy and I had a brainstorm: what if we actually did cover two periods at the same time with a combined project at the end?  This led to what we call the Puritan/Founding Father Smackdown.  


We decided to have the kids debate this essential question:  Who has had a greater impact on American society and culture: the Puritans or the Founding Fathers?


This is how it works: The English teachers covered the Puritans through their study of The Crucible, John Winthrop and Jonathan Edwards.  The history teachers covered early America including a focus on Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, Ben Franklin’s autobiography and the letters of Abigail Adams to her husband.  The students were assigned a specific historical or literary figure to research.  Through their research, they answered questions such as: What is your figure’s opinion about separation of church and state? Or, what does your figure see as the role of government?  These questions prove challenging since they ask students to a) develop an answer that cannot simply be lifted from the Internet, but must be inferred from what they’ve read and b)develop an answer from a perspective that is independent of their own perspective–exactly the skills that colleges are looking for and the skills that argumentation teaches.


They turned in their research via Edmodo, which satisfies our school’s commitment to paperless projects.  Both history teachers and English teachers then divided up the research notes and scored and commented on them.  This is one of the most wonderful parts of collaboration–the lessening of everyone’s work load.  Each of us took on only 40 – 45 papers instead of a full load.  We all used the grading features of Edmodo to score the research; this ensured that everyone had access to their students’ grades.  We also used this opportunity to offer comments and hints to those students and groups who had gone astray by not adopting the persona of their figure or by using spurious sources.  In this way, we were able to ensure the highest quality debate.


In the meantime both history and English teachers were covering argumentation in small chunks.  After finishing each act of The Crucible, students take a poll on Edmodo.  For example, after act one students decide the motivations of the girls for crying witch.  Were they afraid of Abigail?  Or were they afraid of the Puritan elders.  The next day,  I show students the results of that poll and we have an impromptu group debate.  Each student has to provide evidence from the play to support their opinion.  History teachers used resources such as Ben Franklin’s autobiography to flesh out what his values and beliefs were and to what extent these values were supported today.  All of this culminates with a debate in September over the essential question.


We were inspired by March Madness brackets.  Our tournament begins with “quarterfinal” rounds during which a group of students portraying a Puritan face off against a group of students portraying a Founding Father.  Students vote for winners and the second day we hold the semi-final and final rounds.  Those who advance are entered into a drawing for gift cards provided by our ASB.  The winners of each period win a pizza party.


On the day of the debate, English and history classes for each period are combined.  Students groups are pitted against each other.  Student teams take on the persona of Ben Franklin vs. John Winthrop or Thomas Jefferson vs. Jonathan Edwards.  The audience for each round are armed with iPads, iPhones, or Chromebooks and were all logged into Edmodo.  The English teacher serves as moderator of the debate by first throwing some general questions to each team from their research.  From there the teacher/moderator expands the questions to the presumed attitudes of these literary/historical figures toward modern day events. All the while Edmodo is projected on the screen at the front of the room, and the students audience is asking questions.  In this way, the Edmodo page becomes a “live feed” of student questions for the panelists.  I assign one student to monitor the live feed so that I can focus on “crowd control” and continue to moderate the discussion.  At certain points I turn to the student who is monitoring Edmodo who asks the best questions that come from the audience. After the debate is over, audience members vote via Edmodo poll to choose a winner of that debate.  In all, the students heard four debates on the first day.  The second day were the semi-finals and final round.  The format is slightly different on day two.  We ask each advancing team to deliver an opening statement to prove that their historical figure has had the greatest impact.  Day two is also challenging depending on which teams win the first day.  It is possible that on day two Alexander Hamilton might have to debate Thomas Jefferson.  This requires students to understand the nuances between both Enlightenment figures and Puritans.  At the end of the final round, students voted for the winner of the entire “tournament.”


Finally, all students write an essay that offers their opinion on the essential question of who has had a more lasting impact.  They turn in their essays via Edmodo which again allows both the history teachers and the English teachers to divide up the responsibilities of scoring. And again, all students’ grades are visible to all the teachers.
This process of “dividing and conquering” is not limited to English and history classes.  There are unlimited opportunities for integration.  As those of us who practice it know, it requires compromise and communication; however, the payoff is huge.  Student understanding is enhanced, it allows both students and teachers to delve deeper into content and it allows teachers (and students) to work smarter instead of harder.

Putting the “FUN” back in to Fundraising!

Fundraising Fatigue is no joke and something we all feel at some point throughout our coaching careers. It’s that all too familiar dread of having to once again put your hand out, making those sales pitches, attending auctions, e-mailing everyone, and begging strangers.  The key is to keep your fundraising fresh, exciting, and most of all FUN. Here are some awesome ideas from our California coaches that you should definitely try.
* Park in style: Selling parking stalls to teen drivers and teacher alike increases creativity and community, while decreasing the competition for the perfect spot.

* Culinary Competitions: Whether it be bake offs, chili cook outs, dinner on a dime or just trying tasty treats, try rounding up supporters and foodies around a friendly culinary competition. Contestants create their best dishes with a specific ingredient, or other criteria, and people pay to taste and cast their votes.

* “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder:” Enlist local artists, pit students against teachers, schools against schools and have them create some avant-garde masterpieces out of recyclables or other waste products, and auction off the pieces. Center your creations around a theme, traditionally a cause near and dear to your community, then step back in awe!

Mary Poppins Side Walk Art: While a silly scene from a movie, a great idea; sell a square and have a picture painted with side walk chalk.

Roll in the Dough: How about switching up the usual Walk-a-thon with a roller-skating marathon? Or create two opposing roller derby teams and have then skate to prove who’s great? Or bring in a local derby team and have the sales support your team!

* “Chores for Charity:” Nobody likes doing chores. But if you have a group of students willing to work, business partnerships or community members willing to donate their time and/or handy skills in exchange for donations to your nonprofit, then you have yourself a great handyman/chores services fundraiser!

* “Trivia Tournament:” Much like the Battle of the Books you gather a few groups of intellectuals, who play against one another, and like speed dating they are talking trivia! Pick a night and host a tournament for teams of students to compete in. Charge an entrance fee as well as admission for the audience.

* Blockbusters: Ready to snack on fresh popped popcorn? Then these movie moments are just for you.
– Host a film festival and have participants enter their own unique productions. You can even turn it into a contest, where attendees pay in order to cast votes for their favorite films.
– Do a Drive-In in the parking lot of the school, broadcast a movie on the outside wall and enjoy!

* Balloon Bust: Set up the school gymnasium or another place for a school gathering. Fill up the space with a couple hundred balloons. In 10% to 20% of the balloons, place slips of paper redeemable for prizes. In the rest of the balloons, put a piece of paper that says “Good try!” Charge for each balloon they want to pop.

* “Bagger for a Day:” Grocery stores are often busy places where shoppers have to do their own bagging. This idea lets you raise some money while providing a service that many in your community will find helpful.

* “Paw-fection:” Do something with animals! Owner and pet Picasso paintings. Dog treats sold at dog parks. Door to Door Dog walking/grooming.

There is no doubt that there are a gazillion different ways to “raise the dough you need;” these are just a few of the tried and true, and some brand spanking new ideas to help you get started!

We hope that perhaps you have been given some inspiration, or at least some ideas, so that you can continue to find the funds and facilitate the greatest activity the high school world has to offer! If you have ideas to share, please send them to

May fortune ever be in favor of your Forensics team!