Tag Archives: middle school

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)

 

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Summertime Favorites

Lemon Shake-Ups.

Caramel Apples.

Cotton Candy.

Peach-Tea.

S’mores.

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.

dumdum2

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!

Summer Reading Suggestions

I have seen a lot of posts about Summer Reading programs for elementary students, and I’ve had a few questions from friends about what their kid should be/could be reading this summer.

One kid in particular is Sam, inquisitive, smart, and compassionate Sam.  Sam is a soon-to-be 2nd grader who is reading at a much higher Lexile level than his 1st grade classmates.

Teaching middle school, I was at a lost as to what to suggest to his mom.  It didn’t hit me until a few days ago after the tragedy in Orlando.  Newsela CEO, Matthew Gross, sent an email to subscribers explaining how Newsela would handle the story and how teachers (and parents) could deal with this tragedy.  As stated in the email, the Orlando “story will not appear in Newsela Elementary.”  (I was not aware of this feature.)

While Sam is not ready to read articles pertaining to the bad in the world, Newsela is full of things I know he would love to learn about.  Best of all, his mom can pick Lexile appropriate text to encourage and engage him in his summer reading.

Knowing Sam and his mom, I am able to easily choose a few articles that would be a great start for him:

Kids: Special cameras help scientists look at wild animals (430L)

Health: A boy gets a special new arm in the United States (430L)

Opinion: Sharks need our help to live (480L)

Money: New York looks for the best way to handle its famous horses (490L)

Sports: 17-year-old can do 7,306 pull-ups in 18 hours (480L)

Science: Eastern states prepare for six weeks of the cicada (580L) – Maybe a little high, but the fact these crazy insects have invaded our area should be encouraging enough.

I hope that reading articles like these will accomplish a few things:

  1. Encourage reluctant readers
  2. Improve informational text comprehension
  3. Provide opportunities for discovery and discussion
  4. Give Sam’s mom some peace of mind as she looks for appropriate texts for Sam’s summer reading challenge

Good luck Sam’s mom!! Hope this helps!

How do you encourage your elementary student to complete summer reading requirmements?

Is there a summer reading program at your library or within the school?

Do your kids read just for the sake of reading? (No prize involved?)

 

 

 

Being the Best Cooperating Teacher I Can Be

I had four student teachers in the first half of my career, which was way before Common Core and Resident Educator Programs.

Now in my 20th year, I am working with a graduate student who decided the career of accounting just wasn’t for him. He’s now committed himself to being an intervention specialist.

He’s already spent some time this school year observing for other courses, and he even taught a lesson before Christmas break.  Now he’s with me full-time, and I’m seeking ways to make this the best experience for him.

I had the custodian bring an extra desk to my room so he’d have his own space and feel official.  I am already self-conscious of how neat and tidy he is able to keep his space! Talk about peer pressure!

I’ve also given him a few small tasks to be responsible for:

  • monitoring the 8th grade students’ progress on their upcoming science project
  • conferencing with students about their upcoming MAP test goal for reading
  • gathering informational text articles for a building wide literacy project

That was all in Week 1!

As I head into Week 2, I’ve found myself making my lesson plans more streamlined and a little clearer as far as the learning goals for the students.

I’m going to be honest, having a student teacher has really made me think about how I am teaching and what I are teaching, because I want to be the best model I can be.  It really requires me to break down the process into smaller steps, and pay attention to the little details…things that come naturally to me with 20 years of experience.

I don’t want to overwhelm him, but I definitely want to make this the best experience for him – allowing him to do as much as possible as soon as possible.

Have you had a student teacher or been a student teacher in the past few years?

What worked well?

What should I NOT do?

Please share your thoughts in the comments!

 

Week 7: Global Read Aloud #GRAFish and Literary Elements 2.0

Global Read Aloud

This week I kicked off our classroom participation in the Global Read Aloud.  I chose the book Fish by L.S. Matthews for my middle school classes.  I am so happy to finally be doing some literature-based activities. Our focus up to this point has been strictly informational text.

We’ve been reading and writing a lot about refugees in the first few weeks of school, so my students have a pretty solid background on refugee camps and current refugee situations.

The GRA is designed to connect classrooms around the world.  While we haven’t made any contacts with other classrooms yet, I created a Twitter account so we could participate in some of the “slow chats”.  However, our school doesn’t allow students to access Twitter, so I am going to need to come up with some creative ways for us to use Twitter as a class.

My 8th graders are already asking if they can tweet questions and comments.  I quickly made this simple exit ticket where students can record their thoughts each day and submit them to me for review before I tweet them. I know there are several versions of Twitter Exit Tickets on Pinterest and TPT, but I figured something simple was fine.

Twitter Exit Ticket

Click here for a free PDF of my Twitter Exit Ticket

Literary Element Graphic Organizers – Simplified

Speaking of simple, I decided to revamp some of my graphic organizers and teaching tools.  Considering I have some of the same students for a few years in a row, I needed some variety.

I will admit, I used to spend a lot of time making graphic organizers and making them “pretty” and “perfect.”

I realized recently, simple works too.  I spend far too much time worrying about the alignment and formatting of my handouts.

It’s time to simplify my life and my classroom a bit and put the creativity into my students’ hands.

As we started our novel, I had students glue each of the organizers below into their reading journals. They glue one on the left hand side and skip the right hand side, because that is where they create their own rendition.

This past week, I gave them three separate pages to glue in.  We will be adding to each of them as we work our way through the exposition of the novel.

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Clicker here to download the free PDF of my  POV, Plot Diagram and Conflict Graphic Organizers

I’ll be sure to share some student samples in the next post.  If these aren’t quite what you are looking for, try my Easy Access page with an entire bank of free graphic organizers and teaching tools.

**If you are reading Fish now too, leave a comment! Maybe our classes can meet up online and talk about the book!

 

 

Materials for Fish by L.S. Matthews

Fish by L.S. Matthews was my pick for the Global Read Aloud.  We are only a chapter and a half in, but so far, so good.

I’ve been making some vocabulary squares for my 7th and 8th graders and thought I would post them here in case anyone else could use them. Even if you aren’t reading Fish now as part of the GRA, maybe you will in the future.

At this time, I have three sets you can download.  I’ve also linked my Quizlets for each set.

Pre-Reading Fish Vocab Squares (PDF)
Quizlet – Fish (Pre-Reading Vocab)
Quizlet – Pre-Reading – Using Words in Context

Fish Vocab Squares Ch.1-2 (PDF)
Fish Vocab Squares Ch.3-4,  (PDF)
Quizlet – Fish Ch. 1 and 4 Vocab

Please leave a comment if you are doing the GRA! I would love to connect with others who are participating!

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!!

image

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.

image

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!! 

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