Thursday, October 31, 2013

Classroom Management Middle School Style: #planB update

I wrote this popular post about my little classroom management tool, #planB.

This nine weeks I decided to put a little sugar on it....


If ALL of my students are being awesome...they are engaged, working, participating, etc, the class gets a happy face.  If they get three happy faces, they get 5 minutes of free time at the end of class.  
It's so simple and the kids are motivated by earning a little reward for great behavior.  

Give it a try and let me know how it goes!

Happy Teaching,

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

180 Days of Inspired Teaching: Finding Figurative Language

In the past I would give the students definitions of similes, metaphors, onomatopoeia, and personification.  We would do the typical worksheet, some homework, and take a test. However, none of this was really done in context so there was no meaning for the students.  They could tell you what a simile was, but could not explain why authors used them in their writing.  The importance was lost on them. 

And then I had the AHHHH moment.

We were reading Milkweed, a beautifully written historical fiction novel, aloud and I kept coming across similes, metaphors, imagery, etc.  We would stop, talk about it and discuss why Spinelli used this type of language when he wrote.  The students even started showing me the figurative language they found while reading.  It was a warm your heart, magical, happy teaching moment. 

So this year I decided to make an interactive bulletin board to continue with the "found figurative language" concept.

Anytime a student finds an example of simile, metaphor, personification, etc they jot it down on something and stick it to the board.  

So far it's going well...they seem genuinely excited when they find an example! It's something I call awesome!

Happy teaching,

Friday, October 18, 2013

Fun Friday: The 100 Wall

As a little {free!} reward for making a 100 (or level 4) on take home reading, quizzes, and tests, my students earn a star!

How it works...
1.  The student earns a star for every 100 they make.
2.  They take the star home and decorate it however they wish.
3.  Put the star on your classroom wall.

It's so easy and a great way to reward those students who do super work.  And I think it increases their motivation to put forth their best effort on assignments. 

Our goal is to make the stars go all the way around the room.  We can do it!
Bonus:  It makes a colorful display of awesomenessl!

You can download the star for free at my TpT store!  Just click here --> Get my free download!

Happy Teaching,

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Idea: Picture Collages to Summarize Reading

So I was wasting time on Twitter when I should've been grading and I came across a fantastic post from this dude.  

 It's all about creating picture collages using Pic Collage.  

It got my brain going!

What if...

1.  Students
read a book

2.  As they read the recreate important scenes from the book and photograph them.

3.  They import all the pictures into Pic College to create a final product to visually summarize their novel! 

What a great way to work on visualization while reading! 

I love the idea!  I will have to try it out soon....if someone beats me to it, let me know how it works out!

Happy teaching,

Saturday, October 12, 2013

180 Days of Inspired Teaching...Twitter in the Classroom much as twitter can be in the classroom.

Without acutally being on Twitter.

And....without a computer.

The twitter platform is such a great way to teach students about theme, central idea, and point of view! 
My Twitter Board

How to do it...
1.  Have students read assigned pages.
2.  Put a hashtag {#} on the board all characters in the novel could respond to.  For example, in our novel Schooled, one of the hashtags I put up was #newkid,  #ohmy!, #unbelievable

3.  Give each group/table/pair a character
4.  Allow them time to write a tweet from their character's point of view.  The key is the tweet has to center around the hashtag in 140 characters or less.
5.  If time...let them type the tweets or they can just write them on post it notes!
6.  Put up on your super cute Twitter board!

One of the tweets from Zach's POV

It's fantastic! They learn not to include allllllll the tiny details they just read, how to write about a theme, how to summarize from different character's POV, and how to distinguish the similarities and differences of each character's point of view.  

All of this in 10 minutes or less!

Bonus:  Great ticket out the door & quick formative assessment!

*If you are reading Schooled, you can get the downloads for the bulletin board here.  I can also customize one for you if you would like...just shoot me an email!

Happy teaching,

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Why I Love Blogging in the Classroom!

This is not your typical "Why You Should Blog with Your Students" post.  This is not about 21st century learning skills and bring technology into your classroom.

This is a purely selfish reason why I love blogging with my students...

2 words: No Paperwork!  A huge deal when you teach 125+ students.

I am not dragging bags of papers and journal questions home to grade.  All I have to take home is my laptop.  It is AMAZING!!

And bonus: the quality of student responses have increased. They freaked out when they found out everyone was going to be able to read what they wrote so they've stepped up the the plate and are producing some thoughtful responses!

It's great all the way around!!

Happy teaching,

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Budding Blog Linky Party

Jess at I {heart} Recess is hosting a great little budding blog linky party!  How fun is that!?!  Since this party is for those little blogs that have 200 followers or less, I think I qualify!  Although, I do love my 3 awesome followers!!   I might be a little late to the game...but I'm totally doing it!

1. Why did you start blogging?
Truthfully, I started blogging so I could hold myself accountable.  I had a feeling that I wasn't be the best teacher I could be...that maybe I was letting my creative juices dry up or something.  Also, all the negative talk surrounding education was starting to get to me and bring me down!  I NEEDED some positive creativity and WANTED to share that positive with other teachers.  

2. What is your favorite subject to teach and why?
I LOVE language arts.  I LOVE getting kids to find that just right book that sparks a lifelong love of reading.  I LOVE when students come into the classroom on the first day and say, "I hate reading!" They are my personal challenge!!  I'm learning to love the other side of LA too {grammar..ahhhh!}

3. Describe your teaching style.
Wide open, loud, creative, and fun.  This year I am all about my own personal version of the flipped classroom where students are discovering meaning on their own through my guided lessons and taking responsibility for their learning.  We will see if it all works out in the end....but right now I love it!  Is anyone else doing a flipped classroom {<----- click here for more info on flipped classrooms} concept?

4. Give three interesting facts about you.
1.  I love all things cheese...pepper jack cheese, provolone cheese, cheesy movies, cheesy books, cheesy boy bands of the '90s!
2.   Because I love cheese, I run.  A lot.  I'm not sure if I love running, but I do it so the cheese doesn't overtake my body.
3.  I have dreams of being a back up hip hop dancer.   I have absolutely no talent {as told to me by a very embarrassed husband a time or two at weddings}  and have never taken a dance class {thanks, mom}, BUT I would still love to do it.  I watch movies like Step Up and think, "I could sooooo do that!"
5. Do you have a TpT store? If yes, post the link :)
YES!  How else would I pay for my collection of '90s boy band music?!?
Happy Teaching,

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Asking Great Questions

Two things I always struggle with in the classroom...
1.  Asking amazing questions
2. Calling on the same students all of the time!

1.  The question matrix! 

It's a fun way to get students asking their own higher order questions.  All you have to do is copy the board on card stock, cut out the little squares, put the students into groups, and have them draw out a card, write the question, and answer as a group!  I LOVE IT!!

2.  Group Discovery Journals!

At the end of class {or for homework}, each student has to write down a question they have about the lesson that day.
They bring the question in the next day.
The students work in their groups to write everyone's question down in their discovery journal and work together to find/determine the answer!  IT IS AMAZING!!  As cheesy as it is, it makes my heart happy to hear students talking about school and working together to find answers. 

3.  Playing Cards

All you need for this is 2 decks of cards.
If you are going to be asking to questions, hand each student a playing card as they come in the door.  As you ask a question, select the top card off your deck and that person has to answer your question!  It keeps everyone involved and on their toes during your lesson.  AWESOME!

Happy teaching,

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Classroom Management Middle School Style: #Planb

Do you ever have those classes that are just crazy?  Like, if left to their own devices, would run around the room, throwing paper, stabbing each other with pencils crazy?

I have and I do.

I'm awful with keeping up with paperwork so unless a student does something completely outrageous, I don't write them up.

What I've done...instituted something I call #planb

What I do...
1.  Write #Planb on the board

2.  When the class gets a little rowdy, I put a strike under #planb
3.  When they get three strikes, I tell them in my kindergarten teacher calm voice {this freaks them out more than anything} "put everything away, plan A is no longer an option.  Your actions let me know you would prefer Plan b today. 
4.  I pass out the Plan B sheets that are always readily available.  NOTE:  This must be something completely boring that you will grade and hold them accountable for.

I make it so awful and boring that I usually only have to give it one or two times. 

Happy Teaching,

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Investigative Learning: Point of View

I am really big on the students coming up with their own definitions for content related vocabulary.  I have found it helps them remember and internalized the meaning. can be fun!

While my son was watching Hoodwinked {super funny movie!} last year, an amazing idea came to me...I should use this story based on Little Red Riding Hood to teach point of view!! 

You can get the full lesson here!
It has turned out to be the best lesson ever!  The students were super engaged the whole time and we work together to come up with the meaning for point of view.  At the end of the lesson I had one of the little boys in my inclusion class say, "Wow!  I can't believe I just came up with that on my own!"

Mission Accomplished!

Happy Teaching,

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Project Based Learning: Schooled

If you have sat through any staff development then you have heard the latest buzz word in education...Project Based Learning.

It's an idea I love.  I envision students excitedly working on projects, totally into their book!

In the spirit of this latest trend in education, I have created a choices board to correlate with the amazing novel Schooled by Gordon Korman. 

Examples of Projects

The board contains 9 distinct projects grounded in multiple intelligence theory that students can choose from.  It is designed so that students will be required to work on it as we are reading the book. The entire project will be due at the end of our novel and will count as 75% of their assessment grade {the other 25% will be a written test}.

Hopefully all will go as planned {haha}...I will keep you updated. 

Reading Schooled? You can get this project here!!

Happy Teaching!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Classroom Management: Hall Passes

When I first started teaching I was in what we call "The Learning Cottage."  AKA: Trailer.

A trailer that sat pretty far away from the always requested bathroom and water fountain.

Students would ask to go to the bathroom and disappear for about 5-10 minutes.  It just took that long for them to trudge up the hallway, slowly use the bathroom, get water, and amble back to class.  By then they missed a whole mini lesson....super frustrating to me at the time and the students later on when they realized they didn't have a clue what was going on! My teacher sense told me they REALLY didn't have to go to the bathroom, they were just trying to escape my awesomeness {Sad face}
So I implemented the hall pass.
Get a reproducible sheet here

How it works...
1.  Each student gets three hall passes each quarter.
2.  If they need to go to the bathroom, locker, water fountain, etc they have to use one of their hall passes.
3.  When they hand it to me, I rip it up {in a nice, happy way!} and allow them to go to leave.
4.  Any hall passes left over at the end of the quarter may be turned in for extra credit on low test grades.

It has worked GREAT!  I still have students who ask to go to the bathroom.  However, when I ask for their pass they decide it's not worth it.

It's a win win if you ask me!  They stay in class to hear my amazing lesson and get a little boost on an assessment.


Happy Teaching,

Monday, September 16, 2013

180 Days of Inspired Teaching: Plot Diagram Picture Book Project

My students just completed learning about the plot diagram through this fun activity.  I loved hearing the voices my students came up with for each of the characters!  All of my classes {ranging from inclusion to academically gifted} really enjoyed this lesson.

In order to see if they really had a grasp on the topic, to assess their ability to apply their new knowledge, & to tie in with this lesson, I decided to have them write their own picture book!

Picture Book Project

1.  Brainstorm genres as a class.
2.  Students write down their top 3 genres.
{This makes them feel as if they have some control over the project}
3.  Split the class into groups of 4.
{Perfect time for differentiation!!}
4.  Using a graphic organizer, students plan & organize their exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.

5.  Meet with each group to discuss their ideas.
6.  Students story board their rough draft.
7.  They will peer edit the picture books.
8.  Using a template created in Word or Powerpoint, students take pictures of their illustrations, import, add text, & print. 
{This gives their book a more polished look}
9.  Print & Bind final book.
10. Plan a parent reception so they can view the amazing picture books created by your awesome students!  The public library is a great place to do this!

*The download is available here!

 Happy Teaching,

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

180 Days of Inspired Teaching: Plot Diagram

Before the students can figure out how the setting contributes to the climax, we have to be able to define and identify the climax {insert middle school humor here.}  Don't can be really easy and fun!


1.  I LOVE Scope magazine!  They have super interesting plays for students. For this lesson I went with the Seabiscuit play.

2.  Split the students into groups

3.  Give each group a part of the play {you may have to split the rising action up to accommodate the groups} and time to review parts and staging {15 minutes.}

4. Introduce each part on the diagram with a definition & then have the corresponding group act it out!
Presentation available on TpT
Pre-K, Kindergarten, First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth, Homeschooler -

It's super easy on your part & engaging on their part!

Happy teaching,

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