Tag Archives: Back to school

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.



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

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.



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.


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!

Top Back-to-School Posts on All Access Pass

These are some of my most popular and useful Back-To-School posts:

First Day of School Scavenger Hunt – Great ice breaker that  gets kids out of their seats and helps you get to know your students. Download the PDF to customize it for your grade.

Updated Scavenger Hunts – Three levels of first day scevenger hunts to meet the needs of your particular students.

Identifying Student Learning Styles – Two links to PDF learning style inventories and one link to an online tool for determining how your students learn best.

I am a Squiggle Stuck Inside a Square – Another great ice breaker that encourages teamwork. Middle schoolers love this one. Hopefully you have a nice mix of shapes in your classroom.

Great Resources for Classroom Posters – Link to a blog that offers free printable posters of all kinds! My son would love a classroom full of posters like this one of Kevin Durant.

I Gave Schoology a Chance  – A graphic that shows all of the ways I have used Schoology in my classroom. I just realized my old course from last year was wiped out, so this will be a helpful post for me!

Team Teaching Options – Descriptions of five ways to team teach.

Summarizing Short Stories: Story Elements and Conflict – Free PDFs for these basic concepts that are often introduced in Language Arts at the beginning of the year.

Easy Access – This link will take you to one place to find everything that is free.  Wait!!  Everything is FREE on All Access Pass!!  Go here to find an organized list of downloads.

Do you have a favorite Back-To-School post or a post that is wildly popular on your own teaching blog?

Post a link in the comments!

A Mash-up: The Cube of Fate

So I first wrote about “The Cube” months ago, and then I shared Katie’s Team Challenge Cube video.

Now it is time to present to you my attempt to combine two of Katie’s ideas, the Team Challenge Cube AND the Sticks of Fate (another video you need to go watch.)

Katie gave me the go-ahead to make it my own and do what works, and for whatever reason, this mash-up works wonders in our 7th grade classrooms.

I present to you…..The Cube of Fate.

Pretty fancy, huh? Although hard to tell from the picture, it is probably a 10″ cube.

So how does it work?

  • After talking with my co-teachers, we made the following list for our classrooms. (There’s room for flexibility depending on your particular classroom.)
  1. pencil
  2. book
  3. agenda
  4. journal
  5. homework
  6. novel/book
  • Someone rolls the Cube of Fate across the floor. However, no one may ASK to roll The Cube of Fate. “No One controls fate.”
  • The cube comes to a stop, everyone cranes their necks to look, and everyone whips out the necessary item and holds it in the air.
  • We scan the room, assign points per table, row, or whole class. (We change it up as we see fit.)
  • We reiterate the importance of that item and why it is needed on that particular day.
  • We begin class.

Why use The Cube of Fate? 

  • After spending several weeks refining the process, it takes no more than 2 minutes at the start of class.
  • Students come to class prepared with all necessary materials.
  • Class starts the same way every day with an engaging, motivating activity that allows us to set the tone and begin class promptly.
  • Students are learning valuable organizational skills.

Observations We Have Made 

  • Students will quickly run back to their locker to get something they’ve forgotten.
  • Students are anxious for class to start.
  • We cannot start class without rolling the cube; students do NOT let us forget.
  • Students will check each other before class starts (call it peer pressure, call it accountability, call it cooperation, call it awesome)
  • Students will share pencils and pens if they must, just in case The Cube of Fate calls for one.
  • Students would probably be content with the ‘”team point” although we do try to tally the points and give a piece of candy from time to time to the highest scoring teams.  One class was not rewarded for over two weeks, and they never questioned when they would get their candy!


  • Both my 7th and 8th grade Resource Rooms are playing as a class.  There are only 8 students in each class, so they must earn 10 class points in order for me to bake them something. This has been a challenging goal to attain, but they were both sitting with 9 points the day before Spring Break. I see some pumpkin muffins in their near future.
  • Our 3rd period class plays by rows.  This is a class of 26.  On Fridays, the highest scoring rows get a piece of candy.
  • Our 7th period class plays by table. This class has 17 students and some tables seemed to be “stacked” with responsible students, but overall, the are buying into The Cube of Fate.  This is the class that went two weeks without being rewarded with something tangible. Stars on a piece of paper were enough. The winning table also gets the honor of being the “Kings of English.”

I hope that my colleague will vouch for the crazy success of this lopsided, hand-made cube wrapped in duct tape here in the comments, or post something on his on blog.  I feel like you have to see it to believe it.

But trust me, the concept is just crazy enough that it works. Maybe it’s the fate concept. Maybe it’s the “fairness” of fate. Maybe it’s the ridiculousness of the whole idea. Maybe it’s the way we sell it.

It works; we won’t question it.

We never question The Cube of Fate.

Back to Business: “Dear Parent” Letter

After a much-needed break, I’m almost ready to dive back in. I have eight precious days of summer vacation left. So between all the last-minute appointments for things I’ve put off all summer and the final fun days with my kids, I thought I’d get myself back into the groove by posting one Back-to-School idea a day.

We shall see how this goes….

At the beginning of the year, we all want to know more about our students, gather important phone numbers, e-mails, and information.  There are many ways to gather such information: a Google form, a paper questionnaire, office files….

For years, I spent a lot of time perfecting my letter to parents about myself. It always ended up sounding like a mash-up of a resume and a letter in a Christmas card.  Who was I trying to impress?

After about 10 years I education, I learned to keep my letter short and sweet.


This will be easy enough for you to type up in less than 5 minutes. If you are really pressed for time, I will attach a word document at the bottom that you can customize in a matter of minutes.

This will be easy enough for you to type up in less than 5 minutes. If you are really pressed for time, I will attach a word document at the bottom that you can customize in a matter of minutes.


As a parent, I feel overwhelmed by all the paperwork that comes home in the first few days.  So, I only ask for the things I really need to know!

Short and sweet and non-threatening - kind of like me!

Short and sweet and non-threatening – kind of like me!


This system works well for me for a variety of reasons:

  • It’s easy to prepare, explain, and send home. (Just be sure you round-up some pink cards early in the shopping season!)
  • I learn valuable, pertinent information on each specific child. (How many times do you mark “n/a” on a form?)
  • It gives parents a chance to say what they need to say. (Parents can fit a lot on a 3×5 card!)
  • I get a glimpse into the home-life and background of each student. (I still read their cumulative files, but this is the most current, up-to-date info I need to know right now.)
  • It’s easy easier for students to keep track of this card. (I am not against offering candy as a bribe.)


ParentPinkIndexBlank (This should be the word document you can customize. Please let me know if it doesn’t work! It’s hard to test out on my MacBook.)

ParentPinkIndexBeginningoftheYear (Here is a PDF if you just want to cut and paste the index card directions to your own letter.)



How do you communicate with parents at the beginning of the year?

What information do you most want to know?

Share what works for you in the comments!


Lamest Post Ever….

I hate that I haven't had time to blog, but as you can see...September was a rough month. I don't even know how to start back into regular posting. What do you want to hear about the most? It's too hard to decide (or find the time!)

I hate that I haven’t had time to blog, but as you can see…September was a rough month. I don’t even know how to start back into regular posting. What do you want to hear about the most? It’s too hard to decide (or find the time!)

Two Words: Interactive. Notebooks.

So…I was hurrying through Walmart yesterday and ran into a friend from work. She had a cart FULL of school supplies….glue, markers, notebooks….I love school supplies, so I felt a little sparkle just looking at them. If I’d had more time, I would have backtracked and bought some of my own school supplies!

We caught up on the happenings of our summer and parted ways.

Two little words stuck in my head the rest of the day: “Interactive Notebooks”

By late last night I had pinned several sample pages and was basically convinced that this is the path I need to take this year.

(Remember, I am teaching the same students for the 2nd of 3 years in a row, so I need new material and strategies.)

Last night Ian texted me and asked me what I was doing, “Ummm, I am researching interactive notebooks online. I’m a nerd.”

“No you’re not, Mom.” (Thanks buddy, but yeah, I am.)

This morning I ran out and bought my .29 cent spiral notebooks (although I may consider some other options – not a big deal considering the price and that we can always use paper.)


First school supplies of the year!

I spent some more time today researching and looking at sample notebooks. I found a great set of foldables/graphic organizers (with activity descriptions and teacher instructions) on Teachers Pay Teachers (click here to go to her blog, I’m Lovin Lit) Usually, I would refuse to spend money on something I could make on my own.

However, for $12.00, I felt it was totally worth it. School starts in THREE weeks and my calendar is jam-packed. And the content looks really good. I hit the PayPal button.

If only I had some INK in my printer so I could print out some pages and start my notebook. (Isn’t it funny? Kids always say, “My printer was out of ink” and we think, “Yeah, likely story.” It IS a legitimate excuse!)

I am so excited to find ways to mesh the interactive notebooks and my iPads. My students sometimes have difficulty with neatness, creativity, and drawing in general, but I think we can paste in some of our iPad work and I can make some very real connections.

I love when I get this excited about something. This is what it’s all about for me.

I just sent a text to my friend who planted the seed…

“Interactive notebooks???? Really???? Why did you have to tell me???? Why??? I am obsessed!”

And she replied:

“Lol!!! You crack me up! But now that I think about it INB’s are totally your style!!! :)”

21 days until the first day of school…

What are YOU excited about?


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