First Quarter Journal Prompts

I am very excited about what I’m about to share with you all.  I am doing a mash-up of Padlet, the CuBe of FaTe, and an idea from a first year teacher I worked with last year.

The photo below doesn’t show you the whole Padlet, but you can go here to access it.

Screenshot 2016-08-21 at 2.52.05 PM.png

Directions for how I will use this in my own classroom during the first few weeks of school:

  1. Roll the CuBe of FaTe at the start of class.
  2. Pull up the corresponding prompt. (By column)
  3. Allow students time to write in their journals.
  4. Share/discuss/collect as appropriate.
  5. Keep track of each class with this printable PDF so you don’t repeat yourself.Screenshot 2016-08-21 at 2.56.12 PM

This activity is geared towards 8th graders, but may work with other grades or be used in different ways.  I’m just providing the Padlet for you to use. I’d love to hear any ideas or how it goes in your room if you try it!


2016 Classmate Scavenger Hunt

With the same students as last year….and so many exciting things happening this summer, I decided to update my Scavenger Hunt.

2016 Scavenger Hunt

2016 Classmate Scavenger Hunt

Here are links to previous posts about this first day activity:

Updated: First Day of School Scavenger Hunts (Contains three variations for different age levels)

First Day of School Scavenger Hunt (Contains the rules, description of the activity)


Summertime Favorites

Lemon Shake-Ups.

Caramel Apples.

Cotton Candy.



Funnel Cakes.

Banana  Splits.

Strawberry Milkshakes.

Which is your favorite summertime favorite?

Hopefully you’ve had a great summer and done plenty of your favorite things and eaten plenty of your favorite goodies. (Lemon Shake-Up for me!)

August arrived almost 72 hours ago. Along with it, band practice, golf practice, back-to-school posts, and an earlier wake-up time (probably the most shocking of all.)

As I get back into the routine, I feel mixed emotions. My daughter is a junior and a squad leader in the marching band this year.  On the first day of practice, I heard her come downstairs.  I hopped out of bed, quickly got dressed, and started my coffee as I rubbed the sleep from my eyes. She looked at me – water bottle, trumpet, music, and keys in hand – and I realized she doesn’t need a ride this year.  She has her own car.  (Imagine both our faces – and my heart – at this moment.)

My son, finally a teenager, is an 8th grader and is on the golf team.  He’s worked hard all summer on his swinging, chipping, and putting.  My parents bought him a giant net that he can set up in the yard. It’s been nice because I don’t have to pay for the driving range, or make his sister drive him to the golf course.   But when I look at my hacked-up lawn…. I think I should put up a sign that says, “A spoiled rotten golfer lives here.”

I’ve started a little of my back-to-school work, but considering this is Year 21, I feel pretty comfortable and have learned to use every second of this precious time for relaxing, refreshing, and re-energizing.

However, during a quick stop at the store this morning, I found the perfect ice breaker activity for my students.

Limited Edition Dum-Dums!

Limited Edition Dum-Dums!  How fun!  I bought two 10.4 oz bags for $4.00 at Discount Drugmart.

After brief introductions of myself and my student teacher, I will bring out the basket.


This is a good time for me to remind them of the rule of saying “Thank You” immediately after receiving a treat, and a warning that candy wrappers left anywhere but the trash can will not work in my classroom.

Now comes the fun:

Screenshot 2016-08-03 at 6.40.59 PM

I’m excited to have my first day activity planned and ready to go. I had most of these students last year in 7th grade, so I have to get creative each year. Plus, this lets us hold onto sweet summer just a little bit longer….

What is your go-to ice breaker?

Do you have something new planned for this year? 

I’d love for you to share your ideas in the comments!

Celebrating #1 and #2

Today is Father’s Day – a  day we celebrate our dads and those who’ve acted as dads in some capacity. We miss the dads who are no longer with us, we mourn the loss of dads through troubled relationships, we post pictures, and we all proclaim we have the “Best Dad in the World.”

I am fortunate enough to have two dads.  I have my #1 Dad, who I see on a regular basis because he lives 4 miles from me, and I have my #2 Dad, my step-dad, who I don’t see nearly as often (400+ miles), although he’s been a father-figure since I was 7 years old.  IMG_0966

dennisHow lucky am I to have two men who have taken the time over the years to help me, teach me, and raise me?  I know they love me, and they love my kids, and would do anything for me.  It doesn’t matter that one came before or after the other. If I didn’t have my step dad, he wouldn’t have me.  I am sure he is ok with being #2.  I have two dads to celebrate. Happy Father’s Day, Dad and Dennis!


Now it’s time to move on to the next big celebration of the day.

This is “potentially the biggest day of my life so far”, or so Ian told me this morning, as he struggled to eat breakfast because of his nerves.

Today could possibly be the day that Ohioans have been waiting on for over 50 years.

Tonight the Cleveland Cavaliers will face the Golden State Warriors in Game 7 of the NBA Finals.

Tonight the Cavs could bring home a championship.

This is probably not news to many of you.  Not if you live in my state anyway, especially if you live with a sports nut like Ian.  I am a mom that knows and cares far more about the NBA than I ever thought I would.

All In

If you’ve grown up in Ohio, you know of the Cleveland Curse, and if you’re on Facebook, you’ve read these comments more than once after a Cleveland loss:

  • “Cleveland never comes through for us.”
  • “I’m never watching Cleveland sports again.”
  • “It stinks to be a Cleveland fan.”
  • “Another disappointment.”
  • “Why do I even bother watching?”
  • “I’m done.”

I hear it from my son….who loves to win and supports his Cleveland teams, but always feels that same letdown.

Until a few nights ago…when every thing changed in Game 5, and winning became a very real possibility.  But now, it’s strangely hard to be this close and know that we could still lose.

With some luck, Ian’s dad was able to get two tickets to the Watch Party in Cleveland tonight, and they are already up there with thousands of others waiting to get into the Q. 

Ian told me, “It’s going to be insane in the Q if we win, but it’s going to be even worse if we lose.”

“Yes, disappointing,”I tell him. “But you are going to the NBA FINALS WATCH PARTY…the closest you can get without hopping on a plane. You COULD see history being made tonight.”

I am sure statistically the odds are in one team’s favor, but haven’t we beaten the odds already?

Isn’t there still a chance?

Isn’t there room for a miraCLE?

Trying to remain optimistic, but preparing him for the worst, I reminded Ian of a quote he had shared with me from Tuesdays with Morrie not too long ago. Tuesdays was a required reading for his 7th grade Enrichment Language Arts class this year, and while it seems somewhat mature in content, Ian said it was one of his favorite books ever, and he cited this specific line in one of his essays.  He wasn’t exactly happy to have me throw this quote back at him.


Ian seems to think that Cleveland fans will hate the Cavs if they can’t win this tonight. That “the rest of the season won’t even matter.”

“How can you say that?” I argue with him. “How can anyone hate the Cavs for doing almost the absolute best they could do? There can only be one winner. What’s wrong with being number two?”

For the last two years we’ve seen improvement in the Cavs. They’ve gone one step further than last year. Who says they can’t take it another step further this year?

And even if they fail, I think the fans in Cleveland, and my son, should be pretty darn proud of the effort, the excitement, and the hope that has transpired in our area.

Please, if we lose, don’t be the person who quits, who says, “I’m done.”  Don’t hate on the Cavs. Be proud of them.  While being #1 is going to be amazing, what’s wrong with being #2?



Summer Reading Suggestions

I have seen a lot of posts about Summer Reading programs for elementary students, and I’ve had a few questions from friends about what their kid should be/could be reading this summer.

One kid in particular is Sam, inquisitive, smart, and compassionate Sam.  Sam is a soon-to-be 2nd grader who is reading at a much higher Lexile level than his 1st grade classmates.

Teaching middle school, I was at a lost as to what to suggest to his mom.  It didn’t hit me until a few days ago after the tragedy in Orlando.  Newsela CEO, Matthew Gross, sent an email to subscribers explaining how Newsela would handle the story and how teachers (and parents) could deal with this tragedy.  As stated in the email, the Orlando “story will not appear in Newsela Elementary.”  (I was not aware of this feature.)

While Sam is not ready to read articles pertaining to the bad in the world, Newsela is full of things I know he would love to learn about.  Best of all, his mom can pick Lexile appropriate text to encourage and engage him in his summer reading.

Knowing Sam and his mom, I am able to easily choose a few articles that would be a great start for him:

Kids: Special cameras help scientists look at wild animals (430L)

Health: A boy gets a special new arm in the United States (430L)

Opinion: Sharks need our help to live (480L)

Money: New York looks for the best way to handle its famous horses (490L)

Sports: 17-year-old can do 7,306 pull-ups in 18 hours (480L)

Science: Eastern states prepare for six weeks of the cicada (580L) – Maybe a little high, but the fact these crazy insects have invaded our area should be encouraging enough.

I hope that reading articles like these will accomplish a few things:

  1. Encourage reluctant readers
  2. Improve informational text comprehension
  3. Provide opportunities for discovery and discussion
  4. Give Sam’s mom some peace of mind as she looks for appropriate texts for Sam’s summer reading challenge

Good luck Sam’s mom!! Hope this helps!

How do you encourage your elementary student to complete summer reading requirmements?

Is there a summer reading program at your library or within the school?

Do your kids read just for the sake of reading? (No prize involved?)




Making up for lost dreams…

If I can sleep like this the rest of the summer, I should be half-way caught up by August. 

#1 reason to love Summer Vacation!! 

Summer TIME

Today is the first official day that my kids and I have been home together since school got out last Thursday.

I had two days of teacher in-service following their last day, and they were also with their dad for a few days.

So today is OUR first day of summer.

This is OUR time.

How nice is it to be able to sit and talk and relax and have no cares about tomorrow.

No rushing, no scrambling, no giant To Do list. Just time.

Will we go get groceries today? Probably not.

Will I let my new licensed driver go pick up our favorite pizza? More than likely.

Will someone say they are bored? Already happened.

Will I let my son stay up to watch Game 3 of the NBA Finals? Absolutely.

Will I fall asleep while reading? Every night.

Will I sleep in tomorrow? Ask my dog.

Will I blog again soon? Only time will tell.


Sometimes life outside the classroom gets in the way of life in the real world. 

Sometimes life in the real world gets in the way of life inside the classroom. 

Sometimes you need a break from both, and sometimes you need to repriortize. 

Funny how my last post was all about prioritizing. 

Maybe I should practice what I teach. 

Teaching Students to Prioritize

One thing many middle school students struggle with is filling out their agendas and getting work  completed on time. 

Some patterns I’ve  noted (and would like to correct before my 8th graders leave for the high school):

  • Writing “none” or “done” or “math” in each of box on the agenda with no specifics on the assignment. (“What page do we have for math again?”)
  • Saving 7th period homework for 6th period study hall. (Rarely do we get quality work there). 
  • Working on a project that is due in two weeks instead of studying for the quiz that is tomorrow. 
  • Coloring a diagram or writing out notecards instead of annotating the next chapter while I play it on CD. 
  • Looking busy but actually accomplishing nothing. 

There are many reasons for the above behaviors, but I decided to focus on one solution. 

During the third nine weeks, my study hall students came in every day, picked up a dry erase board and marker, and took the first five minutes to write out their To Do lists on dry erase boards.

My student teacher and I were then able to walk around and help them prioritize their tasks if necessary.

The prompt they see on the board: 


Now that it’s the 4th nine weeks, we have shifted into writing a prioritized list at the bottom of each day in our student agendas. 

Of course, there’s always that one kid who doesn’t buy into the To Do list concept, but is willing to appease and amuse me:

How do you help your students get organized?

Is there a method that works best for your students? 

How can I make this better? 

Leave me a comment. I would love to hear from you! 

“This Compulsion”

“When I get this feeling, this compulsion, I always do what it tells me. I can’t explain where it comes from or how I get it, and it doesn’t happen very often. But I obey it.” ~ Calvin O’Keefe, A Wrinkle in Time

Just like Calvin, I have this compulsion.  I am compelled.

Compelled to be better. Compelled to do more.

Compelled to teach. Compelled to learn.

Compelled to find a place where I am understood and I understand.

I’m excited to say I’ve been invited and graciously accept the invitation to become part of a blogging community that will post, read, comment on, and share education-minded posts several times a month.

What better name for this group than the Compelled Tribe? 

For a while now, I have been aimlessly searching for a “thing,” for my “place,” for my “people.”

For my tribe.

Of course, I already belong to several “tribes” – my oldest friends, my children, my family, and some work friends.  Even my  8th grade class feels like a tribe.

However, this tribe is different, and I’m excited. I don’t think there’s ever been a time in my life when I’ve needed a tribe like this.

These are tough and challenging times in education, and I am finishing out Year 20 of teaching.  I don’t think I’m alone, or will be misunderstood, when I say that some days I feel like I am at a crossroads.

Luckily, I just happened to cross paths with a tribe that wants to grow.  A tribe who will support me, encourage me, and challenge me in areas that are important to me: writing, teaching, and learning.





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