Tag Archives: 7th grade

Which Outsiders Character are You?

Screenshot 2015-08-09 at 7.44.35 PM

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! 

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.


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!

“The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” – Vocabulary Unit

My 7th graders just read the Rod Serling teleplay, “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street.”  I was able to find an adapted version that went with our Holt literature series and with some doubling up on parts, my class of 8 students was able to read the play out loud.

Being the first play we’ve done all year, this group was a little hesitant, unlike in the past when I’ve done reader’s theater type activities with our novels.

By Act II, some of them really started to get into their roles, and we had a great time. After reading the play, we watched The Twilight Zone version and did some comparing and contrasting.  

This is the frame I used for the compare and contrast lesson after viewing the video. (I stopped the video at several exciting points to allow them time to record their thoughts in their journals and to build suspense.) Monsters Compare and Contrast Frame

Besides the obvious media vs. text lesson, one of my primary focuses for this reading selection was vocabulary. Between the stage directions and the narrator’s part, there were a lot of unknown words that allowed for context clue lessons.

I have attached the Vocabulary Squares and the differentiated activities I created for my class.  For the worksheets and the quiz, all of my sentences came from http://www.wordsinasentence.com as I explained here.  I have also included a link to my Quizlet for the vocabulary words I have chosen.

Monsters HW Vocab Sentences
Monsters Vocabulary Tic Tac Toe
Monsters Vocab Squares
Quizlet for Vocab practice

Standards: CC.7.RL.3, CC.7.RL.7, CC.7.L.4

FYI: Easy Access

Did you know the easiest way to access many of my graphic organizers, handouts, and other goodies is to go to the Easy Access page?  It is located in the menu bar or you can click here. Check it out!!

Differentiated Literature Circles

My 7th graders are starting A Wrinkle in Time in about two weeks and I decided to use Literature Circles. This will be my second time attempting Lit Circles and this time, with a push from our district, I created two versions of each role to meet the needs of various learners in my classroom. Read this previous post about my first experience with Lit Circles. 

diff lit circles

The “A” version is for my higher resource students and my “B” version will be for some of my students who are alternatively assessed and follow the extended standards. Here is an example for one of the roles.

A and B roles ex

A few students will be paired up so that they are doing the same task as a classmate but at a different level. For example, I will have two students doing the “Discussion Director” tasks for the same chapter but one will do the A version and one will do the B version. Everyone will be responsible for participating daily.  (See the grading system at the end of the unit).

The roles are similar to those I used last year, but with new worksheets and a page with the corresponding standards.

  • Word Wizard
  • Passage Picker
  • Clever Connector
  • Figurative Language Lover
  • Discussion Director
  • Sci-Fi Guy (aka Game Changer)

As we read the book, I’ll try to update on our progress and success.  Let me know what you think and if you see any immediate changes that need made.



Differentiated Vocabulary Boosting Activities

There are a lot of theories about teaching vocabulary.  Are you bored with your method? Is it not working as well as you’d like it to? Are you looking for something other than flash cards or your standard vocabulary activities?

Try some of these activities I created for our 7th grade Inclusion Language Arts class.  These activities allow for differentiation, discussion, and real world experiences with vocabulary words taught in class.

We are currently using these activities with vocabulary from A Wrinkle in Time.  The students were broken into appropriate groups (test scores and our best judgement), and each group received 2 or 3 of these activities to complete.

The activities require students to make connections, use vocabulary in short narrative paragraphs, break words into syllables, identify word parts and parts of speech, use metacognitive strategies, and discuss and use vocabulary with peers in real conversation.

I am attaching the PDF (Differentiated Vocabulary Activities PDF) and I will also attach a link to a Word file you can save and edit for your own purposes. (Word version)

What are some of your favorite ways to teach vocabulary?

How do you differentiate your vocabulary assessments?

I’d love to hear your ideas!

I Underestimated Seventh Graders

Seventh grade is a grade I managed to avoid in my 17 years of teaching. Believe it or not, I have taught every single grade except 7th grade.

Yay me!

When I first started teaching, I thought I only wanted to teach the little ones. I taught ABC’s and counting for a few years.

Then a move back to my hometown forced me to take a job at the middle school level and I found I liked that maybe a little more than the elementary.

For 17 years, I bounced around from elementary to middle to elementary to middle to high school and back to middle school.

I thought I found my place when I was involuntarily moved to the high school. It was the most challenging and the most rewarding job I’ve probably ever had.

Then, because I clearly like change, I moved to 8th grade and thought I could easily stay there forever. I spent 5 years in 8th grade, my longest stint in teaching.

How silly was I to think that!?

I was moved to 7th grade this year and I wanted to cry, “But I don’t like 7th graders!!”

For some reason, I had developed this unfair but very real fear/dislike for these awkward, hormonal preteens. I was always one to boast I had never taught 7th grade.

Well, let me say here, on the last day of my first year in 7th grade, I was wrong.

I love 7th graders.

Want to know why 7th grade trumps 8th grade?

I have seven reasons.

1. 7th graders still think you are funny. Hilarious even. 8th graders think you are lame.

2. 7th graders want to be the Teacher’s Pet and want to help you with everything. 8th graders want to be cool. (Teacher’s Pet = NOT cool)

3. 7th graders want you to like them. 8th graders couldn’t care less if you do.

4. 7th graders say “Hi” and acknowledge you in public, and then they talk about it the next day. 8th graders act like you are invisible.

5. 7th graders never forget funny moments. It could be months later and they keep an inside joke going and going and going…. “Zach Frost” was a joke that started in early winter. Even though it hasn’t snowed in months, it still comes up at least once a week.

6. 7th graders ask, “Can we have you again next year?” 8th graders rarely even say good-bye.

7. Whether it’s “officially changing your name to Fa-Delmo”, doing an Irish jig in study hall, or happily and willingly playing board games with the teacher for three periods on the last day of school, 7th graders just make me smile.

Just Enough to Get Me Through

As I looked in my mailbox at lunch today, I saw what appeared to be a “Please call Mrs. So-and-So” memo from the secretary.

My heart sank.

What now? Who did I give detention to? What did I forget? Whose grades are not where they should be?

The year is ending in 11 days and my sights are already set on next year: Year 2 in 7th grade. I just need a fresh start. A do-over, if you will.

This year was not a stellar year for me. New grade level, new content, new co-teachers, new administration….I just never felt like I was on top of things in a fabulous ‘Super Teacher’ sort of way.

However, the conversation turned out a little differently than I expected.

“I just wanted to thank you for working with R. this year and being so patient with him and so understanding about his needs. It’s no secret he hates school, but he told me last week that he doesn’t want this year to end.”

(Hmmmmm….What 7th grade boy says that??)

His mom continued, “I asked him why and he said, ‘Because Ms. K won’t be my teacher anymore.'”

I think I may have said something like, “Awwww…..I just love him!” I told his mom that I knew he’d do great next year in 8th grade and that he’d be in good hands. Truly, he gained a lot of confidence this year and really matured. I couldn’t be happier with his new and improved attitude and effort.

That was ALL she wanted to tell me.

I hung up with a smile on my face and a warm, happy heart.

And I skipped out of the office to face the rest of the day.

This whole year I felt like I hadn’t done enough.

Was I giving enough, teaching enough, learning enough, helping my kids grow enough??????

Right at a time when I really needed to hear it, when eleven days feels like ten too many, one simple phone call was exactly that – enough.

Teacher Appreciation Week has passed. End of the year gifts are nice and all. But trust me, in times like these, such a simple gesture means a lot.

#8 of 13 Teachers Who Made Me Who I Am: 7th Grade

I have been procrastinating with this series because suddenly I am at the junior high level and as I am reminded of it on a daily basis at work, who wants to remember those days? And honestly, my memories of junior high and high school are a little blurry.

I think middle school/junior high is an age where you are pretty much in a world where you are the center of the universe.

Admiral Bodee and I are noticing that more and more these days (with four kids between the ages of 9-13). Not that either of us have selfish children; they are caring, helpful, great kids. Really. But we are noticing that sometimes we’ve got all these little balls of fire radiating a lot of energy outwards and they don’t appear to be absorbing much.

But we all know that is true. Kids (and teens) are sponges and they soak up whatever is said and done to them. They may not realize it at the moment, or for years to come, but they do.

Mr. G. was my 7th grade science teacher and he was also the husband of my high school band director. After 5 years of marching band, I got to know him pretty well.

Mr. G was a great teacher. He had that natural talent for teaching that is too hard to capture in a short post. So I will just share one story.

During 7th grade, Mr. G’s son was very ill and in the hospital many times during the year. Consequently, we had a lot of substitutes and we did not get to do the much-anticipated “frog dissection.”

Well, a few years later at band camp, my best friend and I were talking to him about how we never got to dissect a frog, so he promised that he would let us come in and dissect a frog when his current class got to that unit.

It was one of those things we always joked about with him, but it never happened. And then in the winter of senior year, he said, “If you are going to dissect a frog, then this is your last chance. Come in on Saturday morning.”

That Saturday, we met him in the lab and Mr. G went through the entire process just as he would with his 7th grade class. We sliced the skin on his belly. We identified his organs. We inflated his little lungs. It was creepy and fascinating.

So many times we make promises to kids (our own children or our students). Sometimes we let kids or students down, because what they thought was a “promise” wasn’t really a promise. It was more of a bribe or a way to hush them when necessary.

I have done better at wording things with Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Ian so as not to promise specifics. Because, honestly, sometimes our best intentions don’t work out.

I also try to stick to my promises with my students. Believe me, even if they don’t listen to you too much, they never forget the day that you promised a reward.

During the first nine weeks, I promise a can of Mt. Dew to anyone who avoids detention. On the last day of the nine weeks, they hold you to it and it seems like a small price to pay. I would give them the pop in 7th period study hall and many of them would savor it, just so they could take it 8th period and show it off.

I have had reward lunches for my high school at-risk students who met certain goals. I don’t necessarily think the actual 6-inch Subway sub was the real reward for them. I think the reward was the fact that an adult made a promise, recognized their effort, and followed through.

Lesson Learned from a 7th grade teacher: Be careful what you promise and take care to keep those promises.

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