Category Archives: Language Arts

Week 6: A Summarizing Tool and Evaluating Writing Notebook Entries

Week 6/Midterm Week was a long one!

Chilly fall weather abruptly arrived, and I’ve also been sick, but it was another week where it felt like things just came together.

Two big ideas this week:

Summarizing

As we continued to read informational text to prepare for our novel, I taught some summarizing skills.

My learning target and goal:

  • I know that by annotating the text and asking questions, I will understand the text on a deeper level.
  • I can write a one paragraph objective summary using my annotations and a graphic organizer.

We still have a lot of work to do, but with sites like Newsela, it will be a skill we can work on often with current, relevant articles.

I’ve been using leveled articles related to refugee situations in Syria and Sudan to build background knowledge for Fish by L.S. Mathews.  This is the graphic organizer I created for my 7th and 8th graders.  After they answer each

5W Summary screenshot

 

Here is the PDF to download: Summary Graphic Organizer

 

Writing Notebooks

Four different days this week we started class with a writing prompt. I searched Google for some images that would work with my class.  I lead the students through brainstorming activities for each of the prompts with the following learning targets and goals in mind:

  • I know that following the writing process can lead to quality writing.
  • I can use my brainstorming to write a complete paragraph with grade-appropriate vocabulary and language.

 

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  • On Day 1, students had to create a web or list.
  • On Day 2, they completed a graphic organizer that resembled a comic strip. They had a choice to write or draw the events.
  • On Day 3, we had a discussion about Author’s Purpose and they listed the 5 purposes in their journal.
  • On Day 4, we made a T-chart for cause and effect.

My goal is to get them in the habit of doing a pre-writing or brainstorming activity every time they write. I see too many disorganized, off-topic responses.  I also tried to use a variety of activities to meet the needs of all types of learners.  Eventually they will get to choose their own strategy.

I created a rubric/checklist for grading their Writing Notebooks. I am trying to use this sheet for documentation as well. Every student received a copy and they had some time to self-evaluate before turning everything in.

Click the links below to access PDF files:

Refugee Writing Prompts

Writing Notebook Rubric Checklist

I’ll be excited to share in the coming weeks because we are participating in the Global Read Aloud!! I’m hoping for some great collaboration with other schools. Have a great week!

Week 5: Cutting Text Evidence and a Mentor Sentence Mash-Up

Cutting Text Evidence

This week I had my students literally extract their evidence out of their articles, by cutting and pasting sentences into a graphic organizer.

By physically cutting it and placing it in the appropriate box, I was hoping to show that citing text evidence requires you take words right from the text. 

We cut up three articles we had read over the past week or so; they all had a similar theme (overcoming hardships).   It was very easy for those who had annotated!!

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Language and Author’s Purpose Mash-Up

In order to review and practice author’s purpose and introduce direct objects, I decided to make sentences for my 8th graders that not only had direct objects in them, but were able to be analyzed for author’s purpose. In the 7th grade, they worked on helping verbs and author’s purpose.

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This young lady was ready to go with an assortment of markers and highlighters.

Students also had to create their own visual representation of Author’s Purpose in the journals next to a page of copied notes in Author’s purpose.

We talked about neatness, adding color, visuals, “smart spelling”, and  including the appropriate information (title, definitions, and examples).

The day they were due, they had to complete a self-evaluation of their work.

Imagine my face when a young man came up to me and said, “You are going to be disappointed in me. It was a crazy week. I didn’t have time.”

Here are a few of the better examples from this assignment:

It was a good week even though I was exhausted beyond belief.  It’s hard to believe we are at midterm already!

Week 4 Recap: Annotating, Subjects/Verbs, and I Wish My Teacher Knew….

So many great things are happening in my classroom, and I want to share them, but between golf and marching band, I can’t find the time.

I decided to try to highlight some things that happened in my room this week, and perhaps I will post a little recap each week. Never mind there is no Week 1, Week 2, or Week 3….. I’m officially starting with Week 4.

Annotating

We have been working hard on annotating the short informational texts we are reading in class. These text selections from Newsela and Readworks  are building background knowledge for the novel we will be reading in October, Fish by L.S. Matthews.

By the end of Week 4,  my 8th graders came up with the following for our WE KNOW bulletin board.

We Know Annotating

The premise behind this bulletin board is where I want to post some really big concepts that can be applied to all parts of school, and beyond. I let them decide on the wording because I wanted them to “own it.”  Students copied the final wording in an Annotating Foldable.

We’ve been practicing annotations using a set of  symbols and following these rules:

1. Don’t go highlighter crazy!

2. If you highlight,  you must write!

Here is a link for the quiz I made:  Annotation Quiz  (The story I used for annotating is from Readworks. I just wanted to provide my students with a large margin.)  Readworks: Famous African Americans Muhammad Ali: The Greatest

Subjects and Verbs

My 7th grade is working on identifying subjects and verbs, while 8th grade is finding subject, simple predicate and complete predicate.  I continue to use Mentor Sentences to teach these concepts. Again, I used the reading from readworks.org to make short simple sentences for the 7th grade.

Subject Verb Mentor Sentences example

 

I used sentences from an article we read on Newsela for the 8th graders.

 

Subject Predicate Mentor Sentences

 

Before I forget, did you know that Kahoot! now has “Public Kahoots.”  Maybe they always have, but I didn’t know it until this week when I was getting ready to make my own subject/verb Kahoot.  What a relief when I found something that worked perfectly!!  My students had a lot of fun reviewing for their quiz with this particular Subject & Predicate Kahoot someone else made!!

I Wish My Teacher Knew

Obviously, you can guess what I had my students do.  I asked every student to write me a 6-8 sentence paragraph in their Writing Notebooks using that prompt: “I wish my teacher knew….”   My heart melted and ached as I read some of their responses. I did not expect to get such honest responses, and I learned so much about my students.  I spent the next two evenings writing a half to full-page response back to each of them.  It was a simple activity I recommended to all of my teacher friends.

So there are the highlights of Week 4. If there is anything you are specifically wanting to know more about, leave me a note in the comments.  Hopefully I’ll be able to post again at the end of Week 5!

 

Mini Unit: Go, Fight, Win!

As the year begins, one of my co-workers has been assigned a “Plus” class, where she will provide reading instruction to a small group of students who will benefit from an additional period of language arts.

She came to ask me for some ideas, and together we figured out a good starting point.

I figured as we developed the lessons, I could share them here as Mini-Units.

The resource I gave her was from Achieve the Core. (Click here to go to the Fluency Packet for the 6th-8th Grade Band.) The passages are going to be used to work on fluency, but also as a springboard/mentor text for the week’s plans.

We are starting with the first text selection which is a speech by Muhammad Ali called I am Still the Greatest. For an audio, click here.

This is a good starting point for the year because it sends a great message about not giving up.

We liked the Achieve the Core resources because each of the passages comes with  a few extended response questions and some vocabulary to teach, as well.

I then showed her this video, which I was already planning to use on the 2nd day of school.

I just love Mr. Humphrey’s energy, delivery, and message.

At the end of the video he says, “That is what defines who.. .you… are.”

…A perfect lead-in to some positive self-affirmations (an idea I stole from my blogger friend, Miss AuburnChick) and our bulletin board entitled “I Am…” where students will post their affirmations.

Finally, we talked about adding some current music, and I immediately thought of “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten and all of the figurative language. Plus it’s just a great song.

Other ideas:

  • Speaking and Listening: Performance Fridays
  • Possible Research Topics: Muhammad Ali, Olympics, Parkinson’s Disease
  • Language skills are hidden throughout the passage for use with mentor sentences
  • Text-to-Media connections

As we come up with more ideas, I’ll add them here.  As always, if you have a great idea to add, share it in the comments!! 

Which Outsiders Character are You?

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Our 7th graders will be starting out the year with The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, so I wanted to share the activity I used last winter when I read the book with my Resource Room.

I needed something to hook the kids, and from my experience with the book, the characters can be quite confusing for students.  I decided that I would assign each student a role, and they would represent that character while we read the novel.

Going with the very popular idea of quizzes that we all take on Facebook (Which Disney princess are you? I’m Jasmine!)…I decided to do something similar with my students.

Because I don’t know how to make an actual quiz like that, I just used a Google form and with 8 students, I figured out the results to strategically meet the needs of my individual students.

First, the questions:

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The next day, I handed out the slips of paper one at a time and read the descriptions to the class.  They then inserted the description, as well as a photo I had printed, into a 4 x 6 acrylic picture frame.

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Each day as class started, the students would get their frame and sit it in front of them on their desk. As we sat in a circle, I was able to reference/point to students as we were summarizing.

By having them associate the characters with their classmates, it was easier for them to keep the characters and plot straight.  It was also fun to build suspense and keep students interested.

“Will Johnny/Blake live or die?”

 “Will Cherry/Sydney fall in love with Dally/Josh?”

“Will the Socs/Nathan seek revenge for Bob’s death?”

Other skills I covered during this activity:

  • Point of View – Students were asked to rewrite their description several times – in 1st and 3rd point of view.
  • Perspective and Summarizing- After major events in the book, students had to get into character and write a journal entry or letter about the current situation.
  • Predictions – Students were asked to make predictions about their characters.

I am not sure how this would work in a very large class, but I am anxious to hear your thoughts.  If you could use this technique with a novel you are reading, please share in the comments!!

 

 

If you read a children’s book to your 7th graders…. 

Today on the board my 7th graders saw “Flashback Friday” under “How We Will Achieve Our Goals.”

Of course, that sparked their curiosity.

How could it not? I was speaking their language.

After everyone was seated, and we took care of our other learning goals, they gathered around while I read this “classic” out loud.If_you_Give_a_Mouse_a_Cookie

 

While I read it, some giggled, some read along, and some rolled their eyes.

But all of them had to help me find the independent and dependent clauses in the book.

Oh, and they identified sentence types too.

Pretty sneaky, huh?

By the end of the book, they were seeing the pattern of the complex sentence. And luckily, Laura Joffe Numeroff included some simple and compound sentences just to keep it interesting. We had a nice discussion about how the author used a variety of sentence types to create a story that children would enjoy.

The learning didn’t stop there. I had more planned for them!

Taking some concepts from our novel, The Outsiders, I wrote the following on the Smart Board:

If you give a Greaser a……

If you give a Soc girl…..

I kept the directions simple: Finish the dependent clause and add an independent clause to make a complex sentence. 

After they conferenced with me, they were able to glue them on the poster below.

 

I know the post-its are hard to read, so here are a few of my favorites: (Spoilers ahead!)

  • If you give a Soc a car, he will mess with the Greasers.
  • If you give a Soc girl a hard time, she will most likely throw a Coke in your face.
  • If you give a Greaser a dollar bill, he will be your best friend.
  • If you come home late to Darry’s, you should not mouth off.
  • If you give a Greaser a blade, he will use it to defend himself.
  • If you attack Ponyboy, Johnny will kill you.

They had such a great time with this lesson, and I felt like I was able to hit a lot of concepts in one period!

Independent and dependent clauses and sentence types are a Common Core standard for 7th grade.

We worked on editing our sentences for capitalization, punctuation, and spelling which is a definite need of my students.

We were able to review characters and events from the first four chapters of the novel.  (Some of them got a little creative and didn’t have true facts from the story, but I wasn’t looking at that.)

At the end of class, students had to mark and label clauses in four different sentences I had taken (and possibly slightly adapted) from the novel.

  • If I had worries like that, I’d consider myself lucky.
  • They were getting over it though, as we walked to Two-Bit’s house to pick up the car.
  • When I was ten I thought Mickey Mouse and Soda looked alike.
  • When you’re thirteen in our neighborhood, you know the score.

My students asked if they could bring in other children’s books from home, so we could find complex sentences. Who am I to say no?

They decided that would be their homework this weekend.

Honestly, when I put the book in my book bag earlier in the week, I felt like it would be too immature and they would hate the activity.  I almost trashed the idea at the last minute. I’m so glad I didn’t.

Maybe give it a try in your classroom and see how it goes. You never know!

If you give a 7th grader an idea, they just might run with it!

Have you used children’s books to teach a middle school concept?

How was it received by your middle schoolers?

I’d love to hear some ideas, so share in the comments! 

My Superheroes, My Outsiders

I really did hit SEND. (Note: Some details have been left out of this email for the sake of my students.)


 

Dear Ms. Hinton,

Last fall, my 7th and 8th grade students had the experience of a lifetime when Rick D. Niece, author of Side-Yard Superhero: Life Lessons from an Unlikely Teacher, visited our classroom and had a book discussion with us.

The day Mr. Niece visited was the very best day of my 19 years of teaching and probably the best day of my students’ lives as well, at least when it comes to school.

The positive influence Mr. Niece’s novel had on my class and myself is indescribable, although I have tried to capture it in my blog.

https://allaccesspassblog.com/2014/10/12/total-admiration/

My 7th graders are just starting The Outsiders, and they’ve already asked the question I was expecting: “Can we meet S.E. Hinton too?!”

While Mr. Niece has local ties to this area, I felt it was only right of me to reach out to you, out of respect and love for my students. I have never been prouder of them than that day when they stood and recited one of Rick’s poems in unison. The moment brought tears to both our eyes and still makes my heart swell.

Not that I wouldn’t love to meet you in person…but I am requesting nothing more than an email or letter encouraging my class to continue to be the amazing “superheroes” they proved to be last fall.

They are, in their own way, “Outsiders” too. They have never had the special treatment they have been given this year, and I want to continue the magic just a little while longer.

The opportunity to read Side-Yard Superhero was a completely serendipitous moment that I almost passed up. But I said “Yes” to the book, and the rest is, well….just amazing.

I have taught The Outsiders for many years, and this year I already feel the anticipation and excitement building in my classroom. Should you be able to send us a letter, our address is:   XXXXXXXXXXX

With much respect,
M

Understanding the Structure of Sentences

One of 7th grade Language standards is learning the different sentence types: simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex.

We’ve been working on this a lot, but some students are still not seeing the pattern.  I created this flowchart for them, and it seems to be helping.

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Sometimes students can figure this out by following formulas:

Ind. = Simple

Ind + Ind = Compound

Ind + Dep = Complex

Ind + Ind + Dep = Compound- Complex

This flowchart provides a visual and a series of choices and steps for students to follow.  We made a small copy for each student to paste in their journal. Now the trick is to get them to reference them!

All In ~ Creating a Novel Experience

When I read a novel in my classroom, I tend to go a little overboard.

I try to create an environment that reflects the book.  Between the use of props, visuals, and specific language, I try to recreate the world we are reading about. This is very easy with The Giver. (If you haven’t read The Giver, you might not understand the lingo I am using here.)

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For a journal entry, students had to make two observations about the apples and make an inference as to what Jonas might be observing. Of course, we has to toss them around before we started writing.

My students have been placed in Reading Communities.  The Green, Orange, and Red Communities perform differentiated group Tasks in their designated Community Areas a few days each week.

When I need to conference with a student individually, they may hear this:  “Community Member 13, please report to the Grading Area immediately.”

And what about homework?? Well, my Thirteens and Fourteens no longer have homework. But, they do have Dwelling Work

I require students to speak with “precision of language” whether we are talking about the novel or just casual conversation. It’s a great way to promote the use of stronger, more specific, content-related vocabulary.

By taking on the language and adopting unique characteristics of the novel, I am improving their understanding of the book and making the characters come to life.

No matter what my own children say (“Mom!! That is soooo lame!”),  or what my students say (“Oh my gosh…seriously???). I know they love it.

I couldn’t wait until we read Chapter 7, and I could say to them daily, “Thank you for your childhood.”

Stay tuned for more posts about this novel experience!

Meanwhile, how do you make a novel come alive in your classroom?

Did you see The Giver movie? What did you think?

Inspired by The Flip, The Cube, and The Apple

Earlier this week I attend the Ohio Middle Level Association conference with seven people from my building, many who happen to be some of my best friends. We left after school on Wednesday and got home Friday just before dinner.  It was a whirlwind trip with lots of laughs, lots of honors, and lots of inspiration.

We had some time to catch up with each other beyond the confines of our classroom walls, talk about our personal lives, learn new things about each other, and realize, despite the bad things happening in our schools these days, we still share the same common desire: to engage and relate to middle school kids.

Sometimes getting away from the classroom can be just what you need.

I am excited to put some new ideas into action and tweak some other ideas to fit my classroom and my personality.

THE FLIP
One of my friends presented a session called “Just Flip It”. Not only did she do an amazing job of presenting at 8 a.m. on Friday the 13th, she inspired me to try some flipped classroom concepts myself.  I guess, somewhere in the back of my mind, I thought “flipping” was only meant for the math classroom. I couldn’t picture flipping anything in Language Arts.  I realize now I was wrong.  Anytime you have a chance to frontload students, flipping is an option.

The key points I took away from her presentation:
-Start with someone else’s videos.
-The videos don’t have to be perfect. (In fact, she said they’d be downright ugly at first.)
-Keep your videos short!
-You can hold students accountable in a variety of ways. (eduCanon, guided notes, Poll Everywhere)

Yesterday I sat down and made 6 short videos (the longest is 3:23 minutes) for my 7th grade Resource Room Language Arts class.  The videos introduce the 6 Notice and Note Signposts.  I did start with some YouTube videos I found here, but having students who struggle with reading, I added a voiceover, and I included some of my own material to match what I already have created in my classroom, which you can see here.  I probably spent an hour making the videos and the accompanying handout, and each video was a little easier and faster to make.

If you’d like to know more about flipping the classroom, I am sure my friend wouldn’t mind sharing her presentation.

THE CUBE
I also attended a session called “Strategies to Revitalize and Energize Your Classroom.”  The two presenters were so similar in personality to me, and I enjoyed every moment of their presentation.  I am now searching for a perfect cube-shaped box, so I can make a “Team Challenge Cube.”   Just imagine students bringing their agenda, their book, a pencil and their homework to class everyday, and never needing to give that lecture!   Look for a future blog post about my experience with The Cube. 

Click here for contact information for both presentations.

THE APPLE
Sometimes you can be your own inspiration. When you get just enough confidence and believe in yourself, when you put yourself out there in a new situation…it’s exhilarating.

My principal asked me to write a proposal for a presentation at this conference, and I did just that.  My presentation was posted here on the blog a few days ago, so many of you may have already taken a look.

I was incredibly nervous and my mouth felt like it was full of cotton balls, but I did it. I gave a 45-minute presentation on something I am passionate about: writing.

My friends said I did great; I have to take their word for it. I remember very little, but I am so glad I took the risk and had the opportunity to present.  It may not have been perfect, or completely how I envisioned it, but it was a learning experience and something I look forward to doing again.

So where does the apple come in? (This is where I brag a little.)  On Thursday night, following a social hour with some of Ohio’s top middle school teachers, I received the Ohio Middle Level Association East Regional Award for Best Middle Level Practice. Nominated by my administration, primarily for my experience with author Rick Niece, I received a certificate and an apple. Oh, and this special ribbon to add to my name tag.

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The thing about it all, the reality…I could not have won that award without my 21 students.  They were there with me every step of the way. They were the reason I stood in my driveway and made the call to Rick Niece in the first place. They were the reason I won this award. Everything I’ve done this year, I’ve done for them.  Without them, I wouldn’t have this apple.

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