Tag Archives: middle school language arts

Anticipation

We are finally wrapping up When Zachary Beaver Came to Town by the end of the day Tuesday.

Oh my goodness, does anyone else feel like novels can drag on forever?

This was actually the fastest I’ve gotten through a novel (5 weeks), but I am glad to be done and moving on.

I am also really excited for the activities I have planned for the next two weeks. Yesterday things just sort of fell in place as I was planning and I came up with not one, but TWO, weeks’ worth of plans with a variety of new activities. I love the idea of NEW ideas.

Things I have on tap that I am really anticipating:

In an effort to be current and real, we will be brainstorming, Instagram-style, on Schoology in an activity I am simply calling #zacharybeaver.  Ian and Dee loved practicing this activity the other day. (#guineapigs)

To differentiate and get kids engaged with the informational text unit, we will be trying out the .99¢ app called ReadNRespond.

To get everyone involved in discussion and control the conversation dominators, I am going to try a strategy called “Two Chips”. (I think it was originally  called “Three Chips,” but I only have 8 students in my class so I needed to adjust.)

To get a feel for my students’ use of Quizlet for studying, we will be using the quiz feature to assess vocabulary.

To push the writing (because, honestly, we don’t do enough) , I am going to try a book that I bought two weekends ago called “Writing Frames for the Interactive Whiteboard” by Scholastic. Based on the concept of modeling, I think this will help my students organize their thoughts and write structured, organized paragraphs for a variety of purposes.

To move away from Language worksheets (blech!), students will be using the Explain Everything app in groups to work on combining simple sentences.

To teach Theme and Author’s Purpose, I am going to use the lessons from my favorite Interactive Notebook collection.

To fulfill my SLO duties,  we will also be completing our pre-assessment for writing/language this week…not looking forward to that quite as much!

I know this is just a teaser post, so stop back soon to hear more about the things that interest you!

First Impression of Quizlet

quizlet

It’s almost the end of the 1st nine weeks and I am wrapping up our first novel, When Zachary Beaver Came to Town, and moving into an informational text unit.

I wanted to do a review game/activity on the iPads but couldn’t choose an app. I decided this was a good time to try Quizlet, which has been on my “Want to Learn About” list since July.

I created these two set of cards this morning:

Character and Conflict Quizlet

Literature Terms Review

I haven’t upgraded to the $15/year or the $25/year option yet. I want to see how it goes with the class week, but I am optimistic.

First impression: I love how easy Quizlet is to use.

  • You type in the terms and choose from a list of “auto-definitions”  or type your own. I am a very fast typist so I had them done in no time. Actually, after I got started, I realized I could copy and paste from the PDFs I already have.
  • You can switch the terms and the definitions with one click.  Sometimes it is better to present the definition first and ask students to recall the term. Other times, it’s more appropriate to do it the other way around.  I
  • Quizlet has a “Speak Text” option, which will be great for my class. (I just picked up cheap headphones for the iPads. I have issues with a lot of noise and this should help. A few students also have ear buds of their own.)
  • There are hundreds/thousands of sets already created on Quizlet and I spent some time a few weeks ago searching for something that would work.

Now that I’ve realized Quizlet is so easy to use, I shouldn’t have wasted my time searching for an almost-perfect fit, and should have gone this route.  Now I have exactly what I want for my class based on what we have studied. (I used the exact definitions we used in our Interactive Notebooks to be consistent)

I was able to quickly link the two card sets to my Schoology course and I will introduce Quizlet tomorrow after our reading quiz (also on Schoology).

The real trick will be if the kids can remember their logins for Schoology!!

What are your thoughts on Quizlet?

How do you use Quizlet in your classroom? 

Would you/Did you pay the extra $15 or $25 to upgrade?

Maybe most importantly, how do you get kids to learn their usernames and passwords to multiple online accounts? Our students building-wide are dealing with our new g-mail, Schoology, Chrome books, Khan academy and online text books and it’s been quite a challenge!

Connecting a Novel with Non-Fiction Text

During the 3rd nine weeks, my Resource Room Language Arts students read the Jerry Spinelli novel, Stargirl. This fiction selection’s Lexile is 590L. This is a little low for the grade levels I teach (6th-8th) but the text fits the needs of my students.

It takes me a long time to get through a novel – longer than I really want most years. I like to throw in writing activities, games, and projects which lengthens the time I need to get through it.

This year I am working with a block schedule and may find it easier/faster to get through the book.

To keep a good balance between fiction and non-fiction, I am going to incorporate a piece of informational text every few chapters.

I have previously mentioned the huge non-fiction selection at ReadWorks. I decided to use this resource to come up with related non-fiction texts. I used the keyword search to looks for passages including: bullying, high school, fashion, and names

While I haven’t quite decided exactly where each of these selections will fit in the book, this is the list I am working with. I have noted the Lexile and the skills covered for each passage.

Fashion Do or Don’t ; Lexile 980; Fact and Opinion

How to Overcome Shyness; Lexile 860; Multiple Skills

Back Off (Deals with bullies; Lexile 630; Multiple Skills

Stop Bullying; Lexile 740; Genre

Boys Only – Girls Only (Same sex schools); Lexile 690; Multiple Skills

The Billings Middle School Badger News: Are School Uniforms Really That Bad?; Lexile 990; Fact and Opinion

What’s in a Name?; Lexile 860; Theme

You may want to consider this option with your next novel. I think it will break up the daily reading of the novel and provide an opportunity to incorporate more Common Core standards.

Recognizing Text Structures (Prezi)

Looking ahead to the last three weeks before the OAAs, I am going to be hitting on a few final things.

Next up: Text Structures.

Be warned: I had to put in an annoying, but popular Spongebob segment, because I felt like this Prezi was lacking as far as media.  This commercial is strategically placed right before I ask students to do more practice!

I’ve also created a page for all my Prezis, which you can see in the menu bar at the top of my blog.

What’s next?

I might go back and hit Author’s Purpose again.

Story elements?

Maybe I’ll make a hodgepodge of OAA type questions.

Suggestions? Requests?

I’m open to your ideas!

Figurative Language in Pop Songs (Prezi)

When I am in my car I am always listening to music. And not only am I always singing rather badly, I am listening for examples of figurative language.

Yes, I am a nerd. My boyfriend is a nerd, too. We’ve actually had arguments over the use of figurative language in songs.

Anyway, one song that recently seemed to be screaming “USE ME FOR A LESSON ON FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE!!” is a newer song called “Gold” by Britt Nicole. So, I made another Prezi…. Figurative Language Prezi

Keeping “Classics” vs. The Common Core

For the past three years I have taught Language Arts 8 in a Resource Room setting. Working with students with decoding and reading comprehension skills below grade-level, I am forced to modify the materials and curriculum used by the other Language Arts teachers. Choosing reading material isn’t always easy – it must be high interest and low readability. I feel like I have a pretty good choice of novels and selections from the text book that cover everything I need to cover.

The four novels I read during the school year are

*With the exception of Stargirl, the general education teachers at my grade level use these exact same novels.

However, with the adoption of the Common Core, I am faced with a decision. All because of increased lexile bands.

According to the Common Core State Standards Initiative, the lexile levels will increase for each grade level band. 6th-8th graders who were previously reading in the 860L–1010L range but will now be expected to read in the 955L–1155L range.

20120610-161643.jpg

Taken from the Common Core, Appendix A

While the jump is not earth shattering for high ability readers, it is significant for students with reading disabilities.

Look again at the novels I use with my students with disabilities:

20120610-171555.jpg

According to the lexile levels, only one of these books falls into the new range for 8th graders. In fact, three of these books are apparently in the range for 2nd and 3rd graders! If you haven’t read The Outsiders or The Giver, there are definitely some scenes that are not appropriate for 7-8 year olds. (I do understand the the Common Core is not recommending students at that grade level read these particular books, but you must get what I am saying.)

So does that mean that we ditch the books that have been middle school “classics” for years? The content is appropriate and the literary elements are there. I’ve seen these books make non-readers read because of the story lines. I’ve seen non-readers take these books home or ask if they can keep a copy because they love them. I’ve had students say that their parents are now reading these books because they’ve raved about them so much. In my mind, these books are keepers!

My frustration is in the fact that some people think that these novels, because of their lexile levels, must be thrown out. How can I justify not using three of the four books I have built my curriculum around? Especially when these novels are perfect for the students I work with.

At this point, I plan to use these novels and supplement with increasingly more difficult text as my students are able to handle it. Supposedly, we will be getting some software that will allow us to determine a student’s reading range. This should be helpful in writing the IEP and planning instruction, but will I be allowed to use these novels with 8th graders? That answer will hopefully come when we receive additional training in the Common Core later this summer.

How do you feel about the new lexiles and the Common Core?
Would you discard a classic novel that is grade appropriate because of its lexile?
How will you select your novels as your district adopts the Common Core?

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