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Freedom from the Grip of Facebook

When I first came back on the blogging scene a month and a half ago, I wrote about the app called “Freedom”. The app allows me to block websites and certain apps on my phone.

I basically have all social media (except Instagram) blocked for 23 hours a day. I can only access those sites from 9 pm-10 pm.

It’s been over a month, and my Facebook habit has been broken. I don’t miss it at all.

Maybe twice a week I will use my Chromebook to just check my notifications, but I’m realizing the less I use it, the fewer notifications I receive.

Before I tell you the positive changes it has made in my life, let me put a few disclaimers out there.

First of all, if you enjoy Facebook and other forms of social media, I respect that. This is about me and my personal decision.

Now, onto why I had to get away from Facebook, in particular.

It’s not that I don’t care about people’s lives, but sometimes it’s overwhelming to read about every tragedy. The world is so full of sad news, and it hurts my heart to read more. I would often find myself in tears over a link I clicked on, but I had absolutely no connection to the person whatsoever. I would hope if something tragic happens that I need to know about right away, I would be contacted outside of Facebook.

Sometimes the negativity of every gripe and “Dear (fill-in-the-blank)” letter that is posted brings me down. I know people use FB as a sounding board, a dumping ground, and place to vent, and that’s ok. I used to do it too ~ before I broadened my circle of Facebook friends beyond my immediate family and closest friends. Once I added colleagues and old high school acquaintances, it just felt weird to post those personal complaints.

Then there are the time-sucks ~ mainly the quizzes (for example, Which Disney Princess are You?) Let’s be honest, any true princess fan knows how to pick the right answers to get the princess you already think you are or want to be. (If I want to be Jasmine – which of course I do, I mean have you seen Aladdin? – I pick a tiger for a pet.)

All of this probably sounds harsh, so let’s get to the focus of this post: What positive things has Freedom (and leaving Facebook) done for me?

I read more. Always an avid reader, I now grab the iPad instead of my phone. I’m on my third book of the year already.

I truly relax. Instead of scrolling during lunch, I read a magazine. I pet the dogs while I drink my coffee.

I get on that stinking treadmill. I’ll admit, right here, that part of the treadmill habit is because I’ve learned about the joy of binge-watching on Netflix. Now I make myself watch at least one episode of a binge on the treadmill.

I feel happier. First off, see above. More exercise leads to better moods (so I read in a magazine at lunch one day). But also… less comparing, less jealously, less wanting of things I don’t have in my life. Less reminders of bad or sad break-ups because a post is similar to something I once felt or said or thought or shared on Facebook.

I plan. I am of a special group of people they call “planner addicts” or “planner girls.” My Erin Condren Life Planner obsession is a hobby, provides a creative outlet, and balances my work and play.

I create. Blogging, writing, bullet journaling and lettering are other things I’ve been working on instead of getting lost in Facebook.

I listen. It sounds cliché, but it’s true. I listen more – to my kids talk, to music – I’m particularly obsessed with the soundtrack to “The Greatest Showman”- and to the music my kids make.

After the free trial of Freedom was up, I did pay the full-year “premium” price for the app. I think it was about $20, which seemed worth the time and peace I gained from it.

What app could you/would you say “Good-bye” to if you could?

How could it/would it change your life?

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Reading Folks

My 7th grade Language Arts students will be starting the novel, Seedfolks by Paul Feischman this week.

I really wanted to do something different, like my Literature Circles. However, I only have 8 students in this intervention class, and I knew I needed to make some modifications for something like this to work this year.

This new collection of Seedfolks Chapter Worksheets has 13 graphic organizers (all the same, but labeled with each character’s name.)

Screenshot 2018-01-07 at 4.48.30 PM

I plan on completing the first few together, and then have them work with a partner or group on others.  At some point near the end of the novel, they will do one on their own for a grade.

I also made 8 different pages that look like this:

Screenshot 2018-01-07 at 4.51.43 PM

Each page will ask the students to list three character traits, which is a review from earlier in the year.  Also, on each page, the students will have to ask one question, as if they were talking to the character in the chapter. I’m excited to see what they come up with for this box!   The box across the bottom and the box on the right-hand side are  different on each of the eight pages, covering a variety of reading skills including:

  • Inferring
  • Visualizing
  • Characters
  • Making Connections
  • Author’s Craft
  • Asking Questions
  • Reflection
  • Evaluating Text

My plan will be to pass a different one out to each student at the start of the chapter, and then we will discuss in a literature circle type fashion.

Seedfolks is based on the concept of individuals coming together to create a community garden.  My lessons will be based on the concept of a community of readers.

I may just call them my “Readfolks. “

Tiny Check Sheets for Grading

In an effort to make my grading more efficient and to provide appropriate instructions and feedback for my students, I created several “tiny grade sheets” for writing assignments.

Originally, I printed these out on colored paper, cut them, and stapled a slip to each assignment when it was turned in.

Over the past few months I decided it made more sense to paste the tiny grade sheet right into the assignment.

The benefits are obvious:
1) Saves paper
2) Reminds students what they need to include in the assignment
3) Saves time
4) Provides a permanent record they can clip in the binder (no lost quarter-slips of paper)

I have created one Google Doc with three of my most commonly used grade sheets: Tiny Check Sheets for RACE and Paragraphs

  • The single RACE response
  • The double RACE response (or what I have labeled as RAC²E Response)
  • The 5-7 Sentence Paragraph

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As I create an assignment, I just go to the Google Doc and copy and paste the grade sheet into the text of the assignment.

This works for hard copies that I pass out in class, but it also works with Google Classroom when I post a template for students to work with.

Note: This does require me to print out the submitted assignments. However, we are doing more and more of our writing on Google Classroom these days, so it’s worth it. (If you don’t know the trick to printing an entire class’s work with the click of one button, go look up pdf.mergy)

I know there are rubric add-ons, applications, and extensions you can put into Google Docs, but sometimes I get so tired of looking at the computer screen, I just find this a better option for me.  Plus, who doesn’t love to grade with their Paper-Mate Flair pens?

How do you speed up grading?

How do you provide feedback?

What other grade sheets, check sheets, or rubrics would be useful in your classroom?  

Leave a comment and share your thoughts, ideas, or questions!

 

My Felt-Board Message is Different than Yours, and That’s Okay.

2018 is here! Happy New Year!

As I sat home last night with my two dogs and 1.5 cats (Ellie was around somewhere, I suppose) waiting for my teenagers to come home from parent-chaperoned parties, I scrolled through Instagram.

I’ve done that a lot over break. Probably too much.

As much as love the written word, I love the images more. The whole “a picture speaks a thousand words” concept, you know?

I enjoy seeing the happiness of others – my extended family, my work friends, people I don’t even know – celebrating major life events.

Sometimes, I admit, it leaves me thinking, “What would I put on one of those trendy felt-boards if I owned one?”

What if I owned one when I was me ….20, 18, 12, or 8 years ago?

Would I have jumped on the felt-board bandwagon?

Would my life have been captured in public posts announcing the biggest moments of my life?

I’m sure it would have been.

We all want to share our happiness, our joy, and our life-changing moments with the world.

But what if my happiness this past year was different than yours?

What if the things you celebrated seemed like tiny accomplishments or things you wouldn’t carefully spell out on a felt-board, but they made you feel good just the same?

It’s ok.

Really.

We are all in our own seasons of life, and all the things that make each season exciting are going to look a little different in photos and on felt-boards.

It doesn’t mean my 2017 was less than, or greater than, yours.

My 2017 was just different.

I suspect my 2018 will be exactly the same – different.

May your 2018 be felt-board worthy, if not on Instagram, then simply in your heart.

~Melanie

Happy New Year Tic-Tac-Toe

We’ve got about 36 hours left in 2017 and less than 4 days left of break, so it’s lesson planning time…

We start back on Wednesday, which I know will be rough. (Better than a Monday though!)

For my “First 15” (i.e., bell-ringer, bell work, seat work), my students will have a special Tic-Tac-Toe board to tell me a little about their break. (Download the PDF at the end of this post.)

I want to hear about everyone’s break, but I also don’t want to stress any of my students out with a standard journal prompt about their best gift or favorite part of being away from school.

Shortly before break, I saw a quote on Instagram (which I will paraphrase here): The best part of the holidays for some kids are the days leading up to break.

That spoke to me.

Not everyone had the best break. Not everyone got trendy clothes, cool shoes,  expensive gadgets, or a wallet full of gift cards. Not everyone had family surrounding them. Not everyone had delicious meals around a big table.

I’m asking my students to respond to just 5 or 6 of these prompts, because then I will know how their 2017 ended and how our 2018 will begin.

Happy New Year Tic-Tac-Toe

I hope your holiday break was filled with rest, relaxation, and some fun.  I hope you are recharged and ready when that alarm goes off in a few days. May 2018 be your happiest Happy New Year yet!

Melanie

Maybe now it’s time…

Freedom.

Have you heard of it? It’s an app that lets you disable websites and apps on your phone for set periods of time.

Right now I’m am being super strict. I allow myself one hour per day when I can actually be on social media.

That’s 23 straight hours of no Facebook, no Twitter, no Snapchat. (I can’t figure out how to block Instagram, and I still need to see pics of cute dogs, planners, and Christmas trees.)

It’s only been 9 days, but I feel like a lot of bad habits have been broken.

I don’t reach for my phone first thing in the morning.

I don’t reach for my phone while I’m watching tv.

I don’t reach for my phone when I’m with friends.

What do I do with my time? The same things I’ve always done but with more attention and more intention.

Maybe now it’s time to get back to blogging.

Christmas Countdown 2014 Version

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Tomorrow is December 1st!?!?!

Back to school for 15 days and the last day of school is my birthday!

I realized my 7th graders weren’t around two years ago when I did my “Christmas Countdown 14 Days of Writing,” so I decided that would be our journal writing for the next three weeks.   Here is the PDF version for you to download and use in class:  Christmas Countdown 2014

Good luck to the teachers of the very young and of the teenagers as well! Our winter started early and December is bound to be rough.

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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.

Peach-Tea.

S’mores.

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.

dumdum2

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!

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