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Author Archive: melanie

Lebron: The Story of the Summer

If you are from Ohio, particularly Northeast Ohio, the story of the summer was Lebron James’ move to the L.A. Lakers.

I have spent countless hours watching Lebron and listening to my son’s details analysis and play-by-play of everything Lebron over the years.

I also have some students at school who loved to talk about him, and obviously, we have some catching up to do when we get back.

With one particular class in mind, my 8th graders who I know well, I decided to use Lebron’s stories – leaving Cleveland and his new school in Akron, Ohio – as our first unit  this fall. It will serve as a review of some language and literature terms, allow me to observe them working in groups, and provide some good conversation and debate.

I have four reading resources ready to go:

#1 and #2 –  Newsela has two articles I’ve chosen to use. One on each of the stories mentioned above.  I love Newsela for many reasons, particularly the ease of leveling text by Lexile.

#3 – I am using the text of Lebron’s essay from 2014 when  he announced his decision to return to Cleveland.  I ran this through the Free Lexile Analyzer and found the Lexile range to be 600-700L.

#4 – I am using the letter to Lebron “from Cleveland” that I found on Instagram and in Sports Illustrated magazine.  The Lexile for this text is 400-500.

Related image

 

Below are the activities for this unit, which I expect to take about 5-6 days:
1. Students will complete a class flow chart activity I’m doing over several major summer stories. (More on that this weekend.)

2. Language Review Scoot based on the “Dear Lebron” letter.

3. Close Reading Activity based on Lebron’s “I’m Coming Back to Cleveland” essay.

The text and the activities  can be found in PDF form  by clicking the links below:
Lebron James Student Response Sheets
Dear Lebron, (both texts are on here)

4. The Newsela Articles will be read in small groups or independently using the PRO features our district has access to.

Depending on your students, these activities could be a fun, high-interest activity for the start of the year.

Just a few fun facts about what I have in common with Lebron James:

  • His number is 23, and this is my 23rd year of teaching.
  • He is going to L.A. and I teach L.A.

I thought I’d share those cheesy facts with my students, but first I ran it by Ian this morning to see his reaction.

Me – Ian, do you know something Lebron and I have in common?
Ian – You’re the Greatest of All Time?

Ah, not what I was thinking, but I’ll add that to the list.

 

 

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Student Grade Checks and Accountability

About three years ago, my student teacher and I decided to implement a weekly grade check with our class.  It has since evolved.

First, the “West Wing” (i.e. Intervention  hallway) adopted this procedure to be completed in Core Plus More on Mondays.

Last year, 36 grade check sheets were added to the back of the student agenda and it became a school-wide project.

I made a few adjustments based on student and teacher feedback, and we are rolling out a new and improved version in the student agendas this year.

First, let me show you the cover of the agenda, because it is ADORABLE.

Designed by a student, this cover displays our “goal” for the year. Short and simple: BE KIND.

Next, a shot of the entire grade sheet along with a PDF for you to download.

The top half is where they login to Progress Book and record their grades (as well as color code.) This helps them visually notice progress or a downward trend.

This part is a little more challenging, because it requires students to go through each subject and look for M’s for missing work or L’s for late work. They also have to read teacher comments such as, “Needs to retake this quiz.”

Our Building Leadership Team decided we should purposefully instruct the students on how to do this grade check the first few weeks of school.  It is definitely a learning curve to this, especially for our 6th graders. In general, many students struggle with the goal setting as well.

I created a Google Slide show for the staff which they can share in their Tornado Times (which is when grade checks are done.)  Usually this is done on a Monday so that they have the week to work towards completing missing work.  I’ll attach a PDF of the slide show as well.

Some highlights first:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

This process, while time-consuming, especially at the beginning of the year, has been well-received by our staff and students. Check out the links below for FREE downloads.

Grade Check Discussion

18-19 Agenda Book Grade Check Recording Sheet

 

Do you have a similar activity in your classroom or building?
What goes well? What needs to improve? 
I’d love to hear your ideas. Leave a comment. 

 

My IEP Checklist

Even though I’ve written IEPs for 22 years, I still feel like I need a checklist to get me through the process.

My new Erin Condren Teacher Planner has a perfect checklist that I can track my progress for each student on my mentor list.

Organization AND motivation! I can’t wait to see all those boxes filled in!

Keeping track of ETR paperwork, documenting the invites, and getting a general ed teacher to commit is always a challenge!

The most important part and the step I always procrastinate on – the actual filing of the IEP in the office!

I still have boxes to spare, so tell me…

What could I be forgetting?

What is YOUR process?

How do you stay on top of your IEPs?

Leave me a comment and share your ideas!

2018 First Day of School Scavenger Hunt

Viral videos and big moves in the NBA have led me to change up my scavenger hunt for the first day of school.  Click the link: 2018 Classmate Scavenger Hunt for the PDF.  See the links below for other versions of this activity.

Screenshot 2018-07-28 at 1.35.57 PM

Muddled Seasons

That blogging resolution I made didn’t last long.  The last time I posted, it was WINTER, and the ground was still covered with snow.  Things started getting crazy busy in March, and to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t feel very motivated to talk about anything school related outside of school. (Just one of those seasons of life.)

SPRING was consumed by my son’s first year of varsity tennis

and my daughter’s last few months of high school.

Banquets, concerts, graduation, parties, HER party, and then SUMMER was finally here.

 Finally, time to rest.  Rest involves walking the dogs twice a day.

Reading every night before bed.

Practicing my lettering over coffee.

Decorating my Erin Condren planner.

I had one week I went on three consecutive lunch/dinner dates with friends.

After the 4th of July, I started getting some ideas for my classroom. I have been in the same room for six years now, and it is starting to getting a little cluttered.

I decided to set a budget of $100 to revamp my classroom’s decor/vibe/aesthetic. I  figure if I’m going to have to be there, I need it to be a place a WANT to be.  It has been fun perusing Pinterest and Instagram and then bargain-shopping and up-cycling some random finds.

Look for more posts now that I’m back from a short trip down south to visit my cousin and her family.

Until then, enjoy your final weeks of summer vacation!
~Melanie

The Kindness Bug

Be kind.

I know it’s a popular expression lately, but there’s nothing wrong with that.

The more people who say it, believe it, do it….the better, right?

Maybe it’s because of the constant school violence and threats of violence.

Maybe it’s because of the increasing number of teen suicides my area of the state has seen.

Maybe it’s because I finally saw the movie, Wonder, last weekend.

Maybe it’s because I am trying really hard in some areas of my life to show extra kindness.

It could be a combination.

It doesn’t matter why. Do I need a reason to remind my students to be kind?

This week I decided to put a quote in place of the typical school events on the white board each day.

My 2nd period class gets 15 minutes to 1) copy the quote in their agenda (instead of homework this week) and 2) respond to the quote in their journals.

Some students have chosen to share what they’ve written. I hope by the end of the week everyone will share at least one journal entry.

This afternoon I asked my hallway custodian, who is an incredible example of KIND, to give me the quote for tomorrow. She was so happy I asked her.

I’ve opened Thursday and Friday’s slots up to my Instagram followers.

What’s your favorite kindness quote?

Do you have a good theme for next week?

Leave a comment. I’d love to share your idea with my class.

Owning Our Mistakes

My 7th graders got an earful from me today (in the nicest way possible).

  1. They really need to stop starting every sentence with the word so.
  2. They also really need to stop starting every other sentence with and, then, or but.
  3. They also really need to stop starting every sentence with I.
  4. They can always make their writing better.

My goal: To help students identify ways to improve their own writing by using actual anonymous samples from their latest creative writing pieces.

improvingwriting

As I was reading their writing from the other day, I noticed some trends in the types of mistakes they were making in sentence structure and overall style.  (Obviously those mistakes have already been pointed out above in #1-3.)

We spent about 25 minutes practicing ways to improve their writing by eliminating those three problems.

I included random lines from their samples – with the intent of making the task authentic and relevant. I told them it was not to make fun of anyone, but to show them that there are ways they can all make their writing better.

(That’s a rule of mine. They cannot say, “I’m done” or “Is this good?” when they are writing.  They must ask “How can I makes this better?”)

Through some revision practice on the Smartboard and their dry erase boards, I reminded them of the rules they’ve learned this year in LA 7: subordinating conjunctions, FANBOYS, simple, compound, and complex sentences, phrases, and clauses.

Before we moved onto their next task –  to write another piece avoiding those three no-nos we listed above – I  passed out their papers and had them analyze their mistakes.

I asked them to reflect and identify their biggest writing problem. I also wanted them to come up with a solution or strategy to make their writing better.

Here are a few examples of their reflections:

 

I am anxious to read their new writing assignment.  Hopefully, today’s lesson was effective.

One of the boys did say to me as he walked out at the end of class, “You are going to love my story. It is SOOOOO good.  I mean, it’s…it’s…it’s…amazing.  SOOOOO amazing!”

He laughed all the way out the door.

Do You Bitmoji?

I use Bitmoji in approximately four ways:

1) To participate in group holiday texts with my family

2) To tell my kids goodnight if they are at their dad’s house

3) To express sarcasm, enthusiasm, or exhaustion with my colleagues (don’t we all?)

4) To get my students attention (This either makes them laugh or makes their eyes roll.)

I’ve seen a lot of teachers customize the expressions and phrases to fit their classroom.

Instead of getting out of bed and starting the laundry, I decided to do likewise.

Going for the IXL Gold

So yesterday I was sick in bed and an idea came to me as I went in and out of sleep.

I decided to create the IXL Olympic Games.

I created two podium slides for each class period for two different areas: the time students spent on IXL and the number of skills students have shown progress on in February.

The kids simply went wild for this silly idea, as you can see below.

We will wrap up the competition on February 28th. Right now, it’s anybody’s game!

Tell me about a silly spur-of-the-moment idea that was well received by your students. I’d love to hear from you.

Managing the Differentiation of IXL Assignments in My Classroom

I’ve tried several ways to assign IXL so that the assignments are appropriate and differentiated.

(If I were using IXL for math, I could have students use the Recommended Lessons on the Math Diagnostic, but that isn’t an option for Language Arts.)

I’ve found a good way to assign a series of lessons on a given topic that will meet the needs of my students who range from Beginning Reader to Lexiles in the 1100s.

These tiny IXL tickets get stapled into the student’s agenda books so they have the sequence of lessons with them at all times.  Students mark off each lesson they complete, and then I meet with them near the due date (typically two weeks) to check their progress and award stickers for their iPhones.

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Below are the PDF versions of the IXL Tickets I’ve used in class most recently. I plan on going back and tweaking some from earlier in the year.

When you take a look at these files, you will see they cover different grade levels and sequences depending on the skills.

Students have the option of working horizontally or vertically on some tickets, finding just the right place for them. As always, I encourage them to “Level Up!” when they can.

IXL Ticket Author’s Tone and Purpose

IXL Ticket Sensory Details

IXL Ticket Word Relationships

IXL Ticket Sentence Structure

IXL Ticket Figurative Language

IXL Ticket Organizing Writing

IXL Ticket Compare and Contrast Text 6-8

IXL Ticket Compare and Contrast 3-5

IXL Ticket Theme

IXL Ticket Author’s Purpose 3-5

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