Tag Archives: 8th grade

With Love,

The day after I emailed S.E. Hinton, I received an email from another author, Lois Lowry, who I also contacted.

Her email was short, but sweet:

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 9.07.16 PM

And then today, her letter was in my school mailbox at the end of the day.

In the one page letter, she wrote about her life, growing up, her interests, and a little about her writing career.  Did you know Lois Lowry has written 45 books?

While I’m saving the whole letter for my 8th graders tomorrow, I am pleased to share a sneak peek of Lois Lowry’s love:


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!!

Writing an Argumentative Paper

After reading Side-Yard Superhero I had big plans to have my students write an argumentative paper on big city living or small town charm. I wanted them to make a choice and defend it.  As that time approached, I knew that it wasn’t a realistic assignment.  Most of my students, like most people in this small town, won’t ever leave this town.

So then I thought back to last year and the research project my students did on resilience. You can read about it by clicking the link.  Each student chose their own topic (a disease or illness that they had an interest in) and the final presentations were some of the most genuine and touching I’ve seen.

It only made sense to let them pick their topic this year too.  I did provide a list of questions that I found somewhere online (credit to whoever made this list).  I modified it somewhat and created the three handouts below.

Argument Paper Part 1 – Pre-writing, list of prompts, a prior knowledge sheet, and an opinion sheet for 6 other people – peers, parents, teachers. This was one of my favorite parts  – the students’ response to what people wrote on their paper. I appreciated the cooperation of my co-workers who took it seriously and gave my kids some extra attention.

Students were encouraged to ask others their opinion about their topic. This provided somewhere to start for those who were really struggling. It also made them rethink their own opinions.

Students were encouraged to ask others their opinion about their topic. This provided somewhere to start for those who were really struggling. It also made them rethink their own opinions.

Argument Paper Part 2– This is a 5 page graphic organizer for the intro, body, and conclusion of the paper.  We used the ACE model to write our body paragraphs. If you aren’t familiar with ACE, head on over to I’m Lovin’ Lit and read this blog post.   This is a strategy I found this summer and now all the 6th and 7th graders in our building are using it.

This was challenging for my students, but made them consider all the options. They enjoyed "debating" with each other about the topics.

This was challenging for my students, but made them consider all the options. They enjoyed “debating” with each other about the topics.

Checkpoints Argumentative Paper – I used this checkpoints paper as a way to guide my students through the beginning steps of the process.

Some of the topics my students picked:

  • Later start time for school
  • Being able to work at age 14
  • Dropping out of high school (She has since decided that is a BAD idea!)
  • Eating snacks in class (I’m a fan of that!)
  • Pitbulls as pets
  • Separate classes for boys and girls
  • Exotic animals as pets
  • Seat belt laws

I will admit that Christmas Break, followed by 3 snow days and an in-service day,  cut this project a little short.  We are going to have to go back and work on citing text some more, and we also need to spend some time on the concluding paragraph.  This writing assignment lends itself to a presentation and can cover a lot of standards. We’ll revisit it later next month.

But right now, we are reading The Giver, with a very heavy focus on close-reading, citing text evidence, and improving reading comprehension. Besides the fact I love the book and loved the movie, I am excited to get further into the book with my 8th graders!  But that’s another post for another time!


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!

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

Mrs. Not-Gonna-Use-Her-Name was my 8th grade English teacher. She loved my writing. She enjoyed my creativity. She praised my poetry.

Didn’t matter.

She was also my homeroom teacher in 7th grade. And on the first day of junior high my mom made me take my trumpet to school because band was on the schedule for Mondays.

So during the extended homeroom period on that first day, Mrs. Not-Gonna-Use-Her-Name kicked my trumpet case out of her way as she came down the aisle. Yes, she kicked it. Hard. And mumbled something about it being in her way and why would someone bring their instrument on the first day of school.

Lesson Learned from an 8th grade teacher: You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Multiple Methods of Presentation: Making Study Tools

Part of my job as an intervention specialist is to provide copies of the class notes for some of my IEP students.

The reasons for this are numerous: poor handwriting, poor processing speed, poor hand-eye coordination, organizational issues, need for review and re-explanation, etc.

My 8th graders are required to take the notes to the best of their ability. In science class, the notes are on the SMARTBoard or taken from the book. For those who have trouble getting notes from the board or book to their paper, a hard copy of the notes is provided. They are allowed to keep these hard copies but they also need to make a valiant effort to copy the notes in the allotted time.

In other words, students get a copy of the exact notes that were provided in class.

However, an additional responsibility is to provide study guides and study materials for my IEP students. It would only make sense that these study guides present the same information, but in a different manner. This is my chance to be creative and do my thing. This is my chance to do what I really love.

I have a variety of formats I use for review sheets and study guides and I tend to mix it up to prevent boredom and to reach students in a variety of ways.

One thing I always try to do: I use the same vocabulary, definitions, and some of the same graphics so they can make connections to what they’ve done in class.

Ways that I modify/tweak/enhance/personalize study tools:

  • Explain definitions in simpler words.
  • Use bold, color, italics, and underline tools to highlight key info.
  • Include diagrams, charts, or additional graphics.
  • Bring in examples and situations we discussed in our intervention study hall. (Ms. K’s car is out of gas. If she pushes it herself, it won’t go very far. If Cory, Paul, and Andrew help push it, it will be easier to move out of the intersection. Which law of motion applies?)
  • I include graphic organizers where students must take the info they learned in class and plug it into charts, boxes, webs, etc. When they get to the test they can visualize the position of the information and remember answers.
  • I load all study tools onto Edmodo so that students who are more digitally inclined can access the tools at home on their computer or on-the-go with their smartphones.
  • I summarize the key information in tri-fold pamphlets.

Below I have included samples of the two sides of a pamphlet for an Astronomy unit. I make these pamphlets on Publisher, copy them front-to-back on bright paper, tri-fold them, and pass them out a few days before the test. Students can keep them tucked in the front of their binder, journal, or book and review the notes quickly between classes, at the start of study hall, on the bus (ok, i doubt that.), etc.


I try to “chunk” related material. I also try to create an “outline” with bullets.


Trying to stay consistent, these graphics are the same ones that the science teacher used in class.

Over the next few weeks I will post some more ideas and examples of study tools I use with my 8th graders. If you have any particular content you are interested in, leave a comment. I just might have a study tool that’s right for you!

A Happy Ending

Today was our “graduation” for the 8th graders and I just have to share the most special moment because, honestly, it’s been on my mind all day long. I can’t stop thinking about it and smiling.

One of my students came through the line to shake hands with all the staff and receive his certificate. Bless his heart, he was not dressed up like the others and he was trying to hide behind a nervous smile. He reached out, looked me in the eye, shook my hand with a solid handshake, and said, “Good luck next year.”

Here I am shaking hands with 100 kids, many of which have no idea how to shake hands and I’m saying things like:
“Nice job, bud.”
“You look so nice today.”
“Have a great summer.”

And this boy….this boy who’s driven me just short of crazy many days this year…..
This boy who randomly makes me shake my head, roll my eyes, breathe deeply, count to ten, pray for sanity, silently chuckle….
This boy who has surprised me with answers, delighted me with questions, made connections I didn’t dream students in my Resource Room could make, and even made me question myself at times….
This boy who came back to say good-bye two more times before he finally left today….
This boy wished me good luck….

I so didn’t see that coming. It made me shake my head, blink back a tear, and smile. It made my day.

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