Friday, February 14, 2014

Novel Studies: Monitoring Comprehension

With the novel we are reading I allow time for group reading, whole class reading, partner reading, and individual reading.

You know how it tell the students to read to a certain page, you walk around to make sure everyone is on task, you do the associated activities, the bell rings, and you are left wondering who really understood. 

I wanted a quick way to tell what students got it and what students needed some additional help.  So, I came up with 6 quick formative assessments to monitor comprehension.

 With my students who struggle with reading, I do a lot of the I Remember and Determined Doodler to make sure they are understanding the basics of what we read.  The higher level students benefit from the Possible Predictions and Notable Quotes. 

I print off the sheets {you can get them here

and have them readily available for a ticket out the door.  With a quick glance I can tell who needs extra help.   It's a easy way to make sure students are not falling through the cracks.  

Happy Teaching,

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Dealing with Student Absences

I have to admit I am not the best with keeping up with absences and make up work.  I've determined it's probably due to a lack of a system and having 125+ students. Over the past eight years I've tried several things, but nothing has stuck.

With the new novel we're reading, it is imperative students keep up with reading and assigned work...even if they are out.  So I've come up with something new and I have to say, to my surprise and excitement, it is working fabulously!

How I have kept ahead of student absences...

1. I printed off a colorful student roster sheet for each class.  {You can get a free printable here!} and put them on a clipboard.

2.  I assigned every student a number {so elementary school of me} that correlates to the number of their classroom novel.  As the students walk into the door, they grab their book, go to their seat, and start on the bell ringer.

3. As they are writing down their question of the day and getting out their homework, I grab my clipboard and walk over to where I keep the novels.  Whatever books are left in the baskets are the students who are absent that day.  I just write a little AB next to their name and move on with the lesson.  It's so easy and takes a few seconds.

4.  At the end of the day I fill out the absence form {you can get it here}, attach any sheets they need {copy of notes, homework, powerpoints} and stick it in my cute classroom folders.

5.  When the students come back to school, they grab their sheets out of their class folder {I have mine labeled with their class color}.  If there is any reading they need to do as soon at they return, I have them read instead of doing the bellringer and vocabulary portion of the class...I note this on their assignment sheet.

Like I said, it has worked great!!  I think the major thing for me was finding a system that flowed with how my class runs, being consistent, and training students to get their make up work from the folder {middle schoolers tend to need several reminders!}

What about do you keep up with student absences & make up work?

Happy teaching,

Monday, February 3, 2014

Middle Schoolers & Poetry

I wanted to share a picture of my 7th grade students studying and talking about poetry...Annabel Lee by Edger Allan Poe to be exact. 
Real Life Poetry Seminar!!

Implementing seminars {<---- click here for the original post on how to run a poetry seminar} is one of the best things I have done as a teacher....the students take charge of their own learning, they are actively engaged and excited about reading poetry.  {!!!!}

For the month of February my starter Poetry Seminar lesson plan is FREE!!  Click here to get it!

Hope you enjoy...let me know what you think!!

Happy teaching,


Thursday, January 30, 2014

Teaching Poetry to Middle Schoolers

Me (in my most excited, I love teaching voice): "We're starting poetry next week!!"

{insert student groans}

Them (in their bored, disinterested voices): "We hate poetry.  It's stupid! It's SOOOOOO hard!"

Me (taking my excited voice up a notch):  You'll love it!  I promise!!

{insert skeptical looks and eye rolls} do I get my students to love {like/tolerate} poetry?

I let them take control of the lessons.  I am simply a facilitator posing debatable questions to poems they have read.  The students discuss the answers with each other {NOT ME} constantly referring back to the poem to support their answers!

Through the process, they organically understand theme, mood, author's purpose, etc without me beating them over the head with it!!

How it works...
1.  Introduce your poet.  Do a web hunt, have a guest speaker, watch a video. Whatever you need to do to get the students to understand who the poet was/is.

2.  Introduce and work with vocabulary from the poem.  I have my students look up the words, draw cartoons to go with each word, and perform actions to go with each meaning.

3.  Sit your students around one table {or a lot of tables pushed together.  We do our seminars in the school library}

Read the poem and annotate/jot.  I tell them it may be hard and they may have to read it more than once to get an understanding.  Let them know that is ok and normal!

4.  Pose debatable questions to the group.  The questions should be open ended...not yes/no.

5.   Give a writing prompt to go along with the poem.

We might spend a week on one poem and author, but that is OK!  They really understand {and dare I say} the poem at the end of the week.  They will ask you if you can do seminars everyday, all day!!! 
Quality over quantity.

Has anyone else used the seminar method to teach poetry?  

If you would like an example of a poetry seminar lesson plan, click here

Happy teaching,

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Why I Teach Novels

I am a huge fan of teaching novels in the language arts classroom.  When I hear rumblings of doing away with novels in the middle school classroom and replacing the time with chapter excerpts and passages, it makes my heart sad.

I remember my third grade teacher read aloud Island of the Blue Dolphins and I was mesmerized!! I looked forward to the next day's lesson......I daydreamed about what would happen to the characters....I wanted to read other books by the same author...I learned to love reading.

Isn't that what teaching reading is all about?  To get them to LOVE want to do it on their own?!?  I don't sit down at night after the kids have gone to bed and just read excerpts of novels.  I read books that engage me, that I love, that I just can't put down.

If we can get students to love what they are reading, then they will read.  The more they read, the more proficient they will become.  Stamina will be built, comprehension will happen, and natural readers will be born.

Currently, I am in the planning process for two new novels to read with my seventh grade students.  I can't wait to share what we're going to do with these amazing is sure to be exciting!  Until then...

Happy Teaching,

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Increasing Motivation: The Effort Meter

Does anyone have those classes that are super hard to motivate?  The ones where the idea of a zero is not scary and reason enough to to the work.  I do... {insert heavy sigh}

I have tried several motivational strategies (tickets, rewards, praise, punishment) for those students who would just not do their work.

In a moment of frustration {and slight craziness}, I stomped to the white board and announced 7 people did their homework last night and promptly wrote it really big in red expo marker.

Then I announced we were going to do a little math lesson.  We counted how many students were in the class, 31, and I wrote it under the seven.  As a class we talked about how to find a percentage and I had the students figure out what percentage of students did their homework last night.

 Just 23%.

They were honestly shocked.

I kept the number on the board and told them we were going to see if we could increase the number the next time we had homework.  And they did.  Thus, The Effort Meter* was born.

 What do you do to increase student motivation in your classroom?

Happy Teaching,

*It's called The Effort Meter because I got tired of students saying they were not getting close to 100% turn in rate because they weren't "The Smart Class."  I tell them over and over it has nothing to do with what they have coined "smart" and has everything to do with effort.


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