Thursday, August 29, 2013

Grouping Students

Today marks the fourth day of school and I already love my students.

However, they are super comfortable with me and each other.  The kind of comfortable that usually doesn't happen until November or December.

There was no honeymoon period with these students and they already needed a new seating assignment.  Since I do not know them really well yet, I decided to make the new seats random.

Before class started, I put a round sticker with a number {1-7 since I have 7 tables} on the bottom of every chair.

 The students came in and sat in their normal seats....oblivious to how I was going to shake up their world.

Once I reviewed the table numbers with them, I told them to look under their chairs for a new table number {game show style}.

They had one minute to move to their new seat...the whole thing took less than three minutes!! 


Happy Teaching,

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Felt Footies

I used to really want tennis balls on all of my classroom chairs...they would reduce all of the noise that comes with a 7th grade classroom.

I just couldn't get past the price.

And since I wasn't willing to sell my shoe collection, I had to come up with an alternative.

Felt Footies!

They are soooooo much cheaper, the scrapping noise is gone, and it looks super awesome....don't you just love the little burst of color?

PLUS, I can customize the colors...every table is different! 

For just $27 you get felt footies for 35 chairs!

You can get them here or just click on the right.

Love it!

Happy Teaching,

Friday, August 23, 2013

Chalkboard Bulletin Board

Confession:  I am totally obsessed with chalkboards right now!

I asked my friend Cindy, who owns this awesome education store, All About Education, if they sell chalkboard bulletin board paper??


So.....I decided to make my own!

Chalkboard Bulletin Board

It was super easy!

1.  Put up black bulletin board paper.
2.  Rub white chalk {flat side} all over the board.
3.  Rub the chalk in with a white board eraser {I did this in circles}

That's it!!
Here is the final product...

And it was so super easy! Awesome!

Happy Teaching,

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


The first three years I taught I thought newsletters were sooooo elementary school.  I was way too cool for that kind of stuff.

Then I had a child who started kindergarten and I quickly realized their importance.

All parents want to know what is going on in their child's class no matter the age or grade level.

For the past 5 years I have played around with various templates and I think I finally have something that works well...

You can download here

Does anyone else use newsletters in their class?

Monday, August 19, 2013

First Day or Week Activity

A little lesson in thinking outside the box and working as classroom community.

1.  Provide students with 4 12 inch(ish) pieces of string.
2.  Go to a large area {outside works best}  Have students bring their string, paper, and pen.

3.   Once outside, have students use their 4 strings to form a box {if you are outside, give the students boundaries since will need to hear you.  You will always have that one who wants to go a mile and a half away from the group.}

4.  Ask the students to sit/stand inside their box.  Take time to point out the awesomeness and freedom of the outdoors.  Ask, "How do you feel inside your box?" Give them time to write a response.

5.  While staying in their box, ask them to connect somehow with someone they were in class with last year. 

6.  Continuing to stay in their box and connected {maybe} to their person from #5, have them also connect with someone who they do not know or was not in their class last year.  This should be an almost impossible task...but it's fun to watch.

7.  Have them disconnect and ask, "Why was it so hard to make those connections?"  Allow time for them to write a short response.

8.  Ask the group, "What will make it easier?" Hopefully someone will say not being inside their box!

9.  Tell them to step outside their box.

10.  Now repeat steps 5 & 6.  

11.  Add to it until the group is all connected.  You can say things likes, "Connect with a group that is directly beside you." or "Connect with a group that has more people than yours does.' etc

12.  {This is my cheesy moment} Once the whole group is connected say something along the lines of, "I will push you to think outside of the box this year.  You will work harder, think deeper, and accomplish more than you have ever have before.  As a result, you as an individual will grow and we will become stronger as a class, as a family.  We will help, respect, and encourage each other to become creative thinkers.  I will not draw lines around you as you will not draw lines around yourself.  Our motto this year:  We will not be bound by others judgements or their clocks.  Do not draws lines around us because we think outside the box."

13.  Ask students to take their paper and find a quiet spot.  Ask, "What are you looking forward to this year?  What are you scared about?  What do you want to accomplish this year?  How are you going to do this?  Pause between each question to give them time to write.

14.  As they are responding, walk around to each student.  Cut their string and tie it around their wrist to form a bracelet.  Tell them how excited you are to have them in your class, you know they will meet/exceed all of your expectations, and how the string is a reminder to think outside of the box.  

I have done a similar activity in the past and we had students wear their bracelets until they were so old they just fell's a very cool way to build connections and community!

Happy teaching,

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Joys of Grammar

Is anyone else super surprised how students come into middle school without knowing parts of speech?

I know the elementary school teachers are teaching it...for some reason it just doesn't stick in their minds.

So...before I can teach simple, compound, complex, compound complex sentences I have to review parts of speech.

Secret time:  It is one of my least favorite things to teach.  That being said, I try to make it as fun & entertaining as possible.

I made this awesome powerpoint that is sure to excite my lovely seventh graders.  Right??

I will teach it over to course of a week with some fun games thrown in to keep them engaged {hopefully!}

Once I think of these
world changing
make grammar stick in their head games
I will let you know!

Happy teaching,

Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Homeschooler -

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Classroom Name Sign for Door

Room 3 is a language arts classroom.

This is my great I Am a Language Arts Teacher name sign!

Close Up View
That I made!

And it was super easy!  Like 30 minutes easy. 


Here's how I did it...

1.  Print off the Varsity letters

2.  Cut out the letters you need

3.  Trace them on card board

4.  Cut out

5.  Take out a page in an old book and tear into one inch pieces.

6.  Mod Podge the paper onto the cardboard and let dry.

7.  Outline the cardboard letters with a black marker so they will POP!

8.  Attach to the wall with stickies.

Happy teaching,

Friday, August 16, 2013

Bell Ringer: Update!

I am soooo super excited!

I just complied and organized nine weeks of Question of the Day prompts and songs!

That is 45 days worth of mini lesson plans!

Next up: Grammar {wooowhoooo!}

If you would like to share in the awesomeness of having a fraction of your year planned, head over to my TpT store :)

Happy teaching,

Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Homeschooler -

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Classroom Management Tip Middle School Style

On the first day, in about 12 minutes, there is always that one kid who blurts out, "Where's your clock?!?"

I, of course, look around all concerned like someone took it off the wall while I wasn't looking.  "Oh well.  I guess it's gone," I say in my most fake shocked voice and keep on teaching.

I rock it Las Vagas casino style...there is NO CLOCK in my classroom.  Gasp!

How do I know what time it is?  How long to spend on a mini lesson, etc?

My class lives and dies by my trusty little timer.

You'll hear me say, "You have one minute to clean up." And I set the timer.  Or, "Based on what you just read, you have 12 minutes to write the paragraph over from the best friend's perspective.  Go!"  And I set the timer.

I have the students trained that when the timer goes off, they are to be in their seat with their fist up in the air {our we're ready to for your instructions sign} and quiet.

I still get the groan of, "What time is it Mrs. Kepley?"   Gotta love those students.  "It's language arts time, buddy!"   

No clock = no kids staring at a clock counting down the minutes until the bell rings = Awesome!

Here is a great little timer like I have {I have linked it so you just have click the image!}


Happy teaching,

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Bell Ringer

I have already mentioned how we write a TON in my class.  Most of it is a freestyle writing activity at the beginning of every class.

How it works...

1.  As the students come in, they sit in their seats, get out their agenda & homework, and start copying the Question of the Day* prompt into their mini journal.  {This is a procedure I drill into them the first week(s) of school.  In the beginning I make a huge deal of who is doing it right, etc.  By the the end of the second to third week, it should be automatic!}

2.  While they are doing this, I set the timer for 4 minutes.  They have to get all of the steps complete in #1 before the timer goes off.

3.  I explain the Question of Day, talk about it, give a personal example, etc.  This only takes about 1-2 minutes.

4.  I turn off a couple of lights and start the music {gasp! Is that Justin Timberlake you're playing, Mrs. Kepley?!?  In school?!?  Scandalous!}  The music (sometimes super cheesy) almost always connects to the Question of the Day.

5.  The student MUST write the WHOLE time the song is playing.  I put a lot of emphasis on this the first couple weeks of school.  In the beginning you will always get the, "I don't know what else to write about" or "I'm finished."  I just respond with, "Write whatever is in your head.  Even if it is not related to the prompt....the main thing is just to write"  At the end of the song, I have the students read over what they wrote and then sign their name.  During the first couple of weeks, I recognize students who were feverishly writing the whole time and the entire class gives them snaps {our special Legally Blonde way to recognize awesomeness}  

6.  While they are writing, I circle around each student to check homework, write in agendas, give pats on the back, etc.

I have found this to be a great way to start class.  It gets the students focused, interested, and I have time to make a little connection with each one before class gets started on the major activities of the day.

*Question of the Day:  Most of the time it ties in with the literature portion of the day.  It may have something to do with the characters and the emotions and/or experiences they have in the novel....a great way to build on personal connections!

Interested?  I have a little freebie at my TpT store!  It includes five Question of the Day prompts and correlating songs.  Enjoy!

Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Homeschooler -

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Mini Response Journals

We do a lot of writing in my class.


Everyday my students respond to the question of the day, jot, power write, practice vocabulary & grammar, etc.

In the past I had them organize all of their hard work in a spiral binder.

Classic Teacher Requirement

This was working out great until I had to grade them.

All 120 of my students turn them in on Friday, I would put them in four large crates, find a wheely cart, wheel them out to my car, drive them home, and have my husband & son help me lug them into the house.

All weekend they would take over my living room and kitchen.  On Sunday night {more like 3 am Monday morning} I would pack them back into the crates, load them into the car, and drive them back to school Monday morning.

I would have the janitors help me carry them into my classroom and I would distribute them back out to the students.

After about 4 weeks of this I was dreading Fridays!

Then, in a moment of genius I came up with.....

{Insert angels singing}
It's a compact organizational dream come true!

I copy a cover, table of content sheet and 8 filler pages {front to back} for every student.
We  fold, & staple every 4 weeks.  {I spend about 5 minutes having my students make their own.  However, you can always make them ahead of time.  If you had that kind of time.}

Now when I take them up on Fridays, I put 120 of them in one little tote and skip out the door.

It has made my life ten thousand times easier!!

Instead of having the students purchase notebooks for class they just have to buy a pack of paper.

The ease and simplicity of it all makes my heart happy. 

The awesomeness is available at my TpT store!

Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Homeschooler -

Friday, August 9, 2013

First Day Getting to Know You Activity

To me, before I teach procedures & expectations, it is vital I learn the names of ALL of my students.

It's priority one for me...I want them to know how important they are to me!

The challenge in this is that I am super bad with name. Like, really awful! I had to come up with some way to make connections soooo....I came up with this great opening day activity!

To begin with I let them sit anywhere they want (gasp!).

I have a cute welcome presentation with instructions on the Smartboard.
First Day Presentation

They pick two pipe cleaners from the middle of the table and shape it into some sort of person, animal, or object.

They are then required to think of a name, personality, and favorite activity of their pipe cleaner creation.

 As I check roll, they share their creation with the class.

I can then put an image, face, and personality with a name.

It totally helps!!


 It's fun!

The super cute presentation is available on my Teachers pay Teachers store! 

Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Homeschooler -

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Classroom Library

Ahhhh!  Super excited!!!  I finished my classroom library today!

Check out the awesomeness...

7th grade classroom library

9 years ago I started with about 20 books.

Now I have hundreds!!

The secret to a great classroom library....great friends (Thanks, Mr. Davis),  Scholastic Book Clubs*, & Goodwill!

*Every ELA teacher should take advantage of Scholastic Book Clubs!  The students love to order books and teachers get free books.  How great is that?!?  I collect orders once a month...It is super easy to do and doesn't take much time.

Now it's time to start decorating the rest of the classroom :)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Middle School Take Home Reading

I know documenting nightly reading is a huge deal in the elementary school setting.

Personally I think it has its place in the middle school classroom as well.

How I run my {THR}...

My students to pick a book or magazine of their choice (I mean, that's how it works in the real world...I don't cuddle up to a text book at night) to read for at least 30 minutes.

After reading each night they have to complete part of the weekly assignment sheet (not how it works in the real world.  I needed some accountability and connection building for the kiddos though) The sheet typically corresponds with what we are doing in class for the week.  For example, if we are learning about story elements, the students may have to fill out a plot diagram using textual evidence as support. 

If they chose to unplug from electronics one night, the parent signs and dates the TV and the student will get +5 on their THR grade.  Bonus for their brain and grade!

At the end of the week the students & parents/guardians sign the THR.

The students run through my classroom door Friday morning waving their THRs in the air, super excited about their outstanding work! ( my fantasy world they do this!)

For any student who completed all of the assignment (THR, Signatures, & corresponding sheet) their name is immediately* entered into the PRIZE PALACE....a HUGE deal in my classroom.   At the end of class, after a huge drum roll, I draw a name out of the hat.  That student gets a free THR pass for the next week. 

*While they are working on their bell ringer, I quickly look through the THRs and put all of the 100s or 105s in a pile.  I cut the prize palace coupons off, crumple them up, and put them in the prize hat.  This allows me to keep the THR sheet to read over and comment on at a later date. 

So now that you're all excited about doing THR in your middle school classroom you're probably wondering what my sheet looks like.  No worries...I will share.

Here is a preview....

Sample Take Home Reading Sheet
You can pop over to my TpT store for a free download.

Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Homeschooler -

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Classroom Pet

Classroom pets?
In middle school?
I would like to introduce you to mine....
He's cute, He's furry, He squeaks!

Sir Salvador the Squirrel!
Sir Salvador is preparing for his journey to middle school. 

Last year I had a pet unicorn and tried to make some kind of reference to a unicorn everyday in every class. 

It might have been incorporated into my grammar lesson...

Identify the dependent clause in the following sentence

The pink unicorn pranced through a field of wildflowers while singing I'm a Little Teapot. 

Or used to split up groups, "If you're a number one, you will go to the unicorn table!"

Or used to get a students attention, "Brandon!  Are there unicorns outside my window?  If so, wave hey for me and then come back to our lesson!"

A couple of weeks in you will start to get comments like, "Mrs. Kepley, do you like unicorns or something?"  Usually I answer (with a super serious, straight face) "I don't know what you're talking about." And move on with the lesson.

Then the pictures of the class pets start to roll in.  This year they were torn out of coloring books, hand drawn, doodled, etc.  I even got a canvas painting of a colorful unicorn this past year.  

It builds community.  It makes connections.  It's fun!!


Saturday, August 3, 2013

How to Earn Extra Money as a Teacher

Looking for a way to pay off those student loans?  Make some extra spending money?  Gas money?  Put your amazing teaching skills to use and start tutoring after school and on the weekends!  
Now, of course, you can't tutor your own students (ethics and all that).  But there are always others who need a little extra help.  Here is your step by step guide to making that extra cash!

1.  Decide  what subject(s) you have the ability to tutor and how much you're going to charge.  I charge $25 an hour for one student.  Consider cutting deals for 2 or more students if they are working on the same subject.  

2.  Advertise!  Create an eye catching flyer and put it up at the public library.
Here is was created in pages.  

3.  Wait for the phone calls, texts, and emails to pour in. :)

4.  Once you have your student, talk to both the student and parent about their goals and why they need the extra help.

5.  Set a weekly meeting time and place.  I typically tutor at the's quiet and they have large tables where I can spread out all of my fun stuff.

6.  Each week come prepared with a plan and some activities.  This one on one time is perfect for creative hands on lessons.
After a quick warm up and review this is what we did at tutoring today!  Foldables are always super fun and cute!

Polka Dots are always fun!

7.At the end of each session have the student write a progress report for their parents stating what they did today and something new they learned.  I have found parents really love this documentation and it lets you know if your student mastered the goals for the day.

That's it!  
Extra money for you and a chance to get your creative teaching juices flowing! 

Friday, August 2, 2013

I'm Baaaaaaaaack!!

August 1st is my self imposed start date.  
After a brief visit to my mailbox ('s in a different spot!  Oh my!!   I have a new mail neighbor AND her name is Mrs. Kepley too!  Awesome!)
I flung open the door to Room 3 and saw this...

Notice the shiny floors...makes me happy

I think I was half expecting sunshine and rainbows to greet me.
They didn't.
The dust bunnies did.

The best things about my room this year....

1.  My amazing bookshelves!  

They line the back wall and will soon be filled with exciting young adult books!
Love it!

2.  After 8 years of teaching in various classrooms and learning cottages (AKA: single wide trailer out back), I have a large classroom with a wall of windows 
wait for it....
MATCHING BLUE CHAIRS! (Check them out in the first picture)
That's a huge deal in our poor rural school.  I had to do some major wheeling and dealing at the end of last year to make it happen.  I think it only cost me a Kit Kat and Diet Coke.

I'm ready to get started!  My new 7th graders will be here in just 19 short days!!
After pictures will arrive soon!

On Instagram

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