Category Archives: Middle School
So if you didn’t hear, my school is in a competition to win $140 000 for an inclusive playground. I posted about it back in October. Well, you helped us to end the round in first place (thanks again) and catapulted us into the semi-final round. Yay you!
Poof! Semi-finals have begun today and guess what? We are in first place again – out of 92 projects! I’m not surprised – I really do believe that we’re going to win! However, just in case my enthusiasm isn’t enough…I mean, just for safety sake – if you could spare a moment perhaps you could register your email and vote for us? Maybe?
How cool will it be to find out in a month’s time that a $140 000 playground project to help children with disabilities and an entire community, has been made a reality and YOU were a part of it? I’m thinking super-cool! Incredible, even!
So, just so that you don’t feel left out when I post that amazing “WE WON” post, (because again, I really feel like we’re going to win…) how about you hop over to Aviva and register your email and throw your votes our way! You can vote once a day until December 11th. It’ll only take a few seconds of your time and we would VERY MUCH appreciate it!!!! I mean, I can’t even put into words what your votes mean to us. Okay, I’m done – it’s just that this a cause that is close to my heart. Obviously
Thanks so much and happy voting! Oh, did I mention that we’d love any shares, likes, tweets or pins also? We’ll take it all!
So again, “SOURIS A PLAYGROUND FOR ALL” thanks you!
Thanks to everyone who entered our giveaway last week. The winners have been contacted and we’re waiting to hear back from everyone!
A quick note this evening to let you know about the Cyber Monday Sale that Teachers Pay Teachers is having Dec 2nd and 3rd. I’ve decided to begin my sale this evening and my entire TPT store is discounted! Happy browsing!
We’ve already celebrated Thanksgiving here in Canada. (Man that turkey was good, too!) Anyhow, with Thanksgiving just around the corner for folks in the US, I decided it was time for a giveaway! And, I’m not doing it alone!
Kate from Kate’s Classroom Café and I have come together to give thanks for a special group of teachers – amazing middle school teachers, of course! This giveaway is subject specific and just for you!
There are lots of fantastic prizes to be won, so be sure to enter now so that you don’t miss out! Wouldn’t it be nice to have a few new goodies before the holiday season? Of course it would! So let’s get to it!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
So, middle school teachers, thanks for all that you do! You're a special group of people.
You are appreciated! Good luck and thanks for stopping by!
“I think I might actually read this book.” Music to my ears in class just the other day, while doing a simple activity on leads.
The basic idea of the activity is to show students how to take what they appreciate in a good lead -what grabs their attention and apply it to their own writing. Simple. However, I have found that this activity serves more purposes than just that!
Here’s how I like to do my “great leads” activity:
1) Have students make a chart in their LA scribblers with the following headings: Title, Lead and My Thoughts
2) Take your class to the library (I used my own class library this year)
3) Have students choose 5 books randomly from almost anywhere in the library (you may wish to focus just on fiction or non-fiction, and omit poetry)
4) Have students record the info under each heading for the books that they choose
It always amazes me how this simple activity engages even the reluctant readers in the room. I think it’s because the expectations are something that everyone can attain – they don’t have to READ the book, just copy that first sentence and decide if they like it or not – easy!
Although this is a lesson on “what makes a good lead” and how to apply those characteristics to their writing, something else happens during this time.
Kids are looking at books – all kinds of books. They may have expectations of the book and they may not. They may pick up books they’d like to read, books that they think they’d never read, books that look interesting or just plain weird.
What has happened with my students when I’ve done this activity over the last three years, is that it gets them excited about books! They love sharing the great leads that they find and tearing apart the ones that they don’t like. The discussion is awesome! I have found that everyone contributes to the sharing portion of this lesson, because they only have to read one sentence aloud to the class and most (if not all) are okay with that. They also find books that they realize they’d like to read (because they want to know where that amazing first sentence leads). That was an unexpected surprise the first time that I did this activity.
In addition, they hear leads from books that their classmates have found and it’s like it opens up a whole new world to them.
If you haven’t explored leads with your students – try this activity out! You need no prep, and I guarantee you that your students will gain a better grasp of how to hook a reader through their own writing, while getting hooked themselves!
Coming Up With Ideas
Some children struggle with art because they find it hard to come up with new, creative ideas. They look at a blank piece of paper, and all they can see is a blank piece of paper. Finding new ways to help these kids to unlock their creativity can ensure that they get to enjoy art class as much as everyone else. One of the reasons why art is so important in education is that it encourages students to express themselves and to come up with their own ideas. Giving the less artistic kids a little nudge of inspiration can help them all to become more inventive and imaginative. It can be particularly rewarding if you need to reach out to students with additional needs. Children who have ADHD or who are on the autistic spectrum can often surprise you with their dedication and creativity when you find the right subject or material for them to work with in an art lesson. The easiest way to make sure everyone can come up with a good idea is to plan a more directed art lesson, where you offer a particular source of inspiration or starting point for the class to work from, but you can also encourage more experimental creativity by helping your students to look at the world differently.
A good source of artistic ideas can come from linking your art class with a book that the kids have been reading, which can be a perfect opportunity to link in to the core curriculum for literacy, particularly when it comes to finding evidence in the text and understanding figurative language. Try getting them to draw a picture of a character or location from the story, thinking about what visual clues are provided by the book, and how much is left to the imagination, or ask them to draw both literal and figurative versions of things that have been described metaphorically.
A different way to inspire creativity is to encourage the children to find a new way of looking at the world. There are endless ways you can do this, but it can be as simple as getting your students to find a new perspective from which to look at the world, by turning upside down, looking at objects close up or through a mirror, or cutting out and decorating a picture frame that they can use to compose their pictures of a landscape or still life. If you thread string into a grid pattern across the frame, they can even use this as a tool to help them keep their drawing to scale. The grid technique can even tie in with math lessons and the core standards for understanding scale drawings, since it can be used to copy and resize pictures.
Techniques for the Less Artistic
Another issue for some children is that they simply lack the technical skill of some of their more naturally artistic peers, which can really damage their confidence. Introducing a variety of techniques can ensure that everyone gets the chance to express themselves, and it can also make teaching art easier for you, since you won’t have to be particularly artistic to demonstrate them.
1. Photography: taking photos can be the perfect way to allow kids who are less skilled with paints and pencils to learn about composition. If you can get your hands on a cheap, kid-friendly camera, this can also be a great homework or vacation assignment that you can use to get an insight into what is most important to each child. Ask them to come back with five or ten photos of people, places or objects that matter to them.
2. Computer Art: kids who might not come across as particularly artistic in more traditional art lessons can often be the ones who have the best computer skills. Allowing them to show you what they can do with computer drawing and painting tools can give them a big confidence boost.
3. Comic Book Art: a lot of artists start by copying other people’s work, and comic book art and cartoons use bold lines and bright colors, which can be easy for kids to copy and use to create their own stories.
4. Collage: this is the best medium for ensuring that every child gets the chance to do something creative, since it requires willingness to experiment more than technical skill, and it can make a great collaborative art project. You can provide a variety of materials yourself, but it can also be interesting to see what the kids will bring in if you let them collect extra material at home. Encouraging them to see everything as a potential piece of art can generate some really surprising effects.
5. Mosaics and Pointillism: if you want a slightly less messy lesson than collage making, then you might want to look at Roman mosaics or pointillism. This is an art history lesson that can easily merge into a practical art class. You can prepare plenty of little squares or circles of colored paper, like the remnants left over by a hole-punch, or get the kids to tear off tiny pieces for themselves, to glue down to create their own mosaics or dot pictures.
Here’s a fun little freebie for your grade 5-7 Language Arts class -12 Point Of View cards with a Halloween theme. Students take a card and play out the scenario from the unique point of view. I’ve included a werewolf husband keeping his secret from his wife, a witch who is scared of heights, a pumpkin about to be carved – even a shiny red apple in a bowl of Halloween treats, just waiting to be chosen. It’s all in good fun and to spark some creativity in students’ writing. In the download there are also suggestions for a couple of different ways to use the cards and some simple extension ideas.
I love word games and I love having lots of different games available to my students to play upon occasion – free time, indoor days, with guest teachers or as word work in Language Arts class. I received a new word game this summer “Blurt” that I was really excited to try with my students. We had a little bit of extra time in one of our Language Arts classes last week and I thought it would be a perfect time to try it out.
Blurt is a board game for 3 to 12 people and is basically a vocabulary building game. One of the big selling features for me, was that so many people could play – works great for the classroom. The version that I have, is really for two age levels; 7-9 years and 10+ (it depends on which side of the cards you use). The game includes over 300 clues and is extremely easy to play as a large group or even a whole class.
Here’s how I used it!
I left the board and pieces out and just used the cards, to play with the whole class. I created teams and chose words from the vocabulary cards that I felt would be the appropriate difficulty level for my students (not too easy or too hard). So, I read out a definition and then the fun part! Students get to blurt! Both sides blurt out answers until one side says the correct answer. They loved it! Of course, the only difficult part was knowing which side had actually blurted first. In the case of a tie or discrepancy, we rolled the die and the highest roller scored the point for their team. Then two other teams would compete.
When I asked the students how they enjoyed the game, they were all very positive in their responses (maybe it was just the fact that I was letting them play a game and shout…hmmm….).
Ideas for use in an ELA class:
-Use vocabulary words from the game to build short word work activities (using the root word, prefixes, suffixes etc.)
-Use Blurt words to create a word wall, adding a couple of new words to the wall each time you play
-Choose one or more new vocabulary words from the game and use it as a word of the week – students gaining credit/class cash for using the word correctly in context.
-Have students make up their own definitions/vocabulary words to add to the game
There are lots of possibilities!
So where did I get this great little game? A really amazing site called SmileMakers. The site actually applies to various occupations, but has tons of goodies for teachers. They have little prizes, incentives, certificates, pencils, stickers, awards, holiday themed goodies, books and other teacher resources, anti-bullying resources and lots of other great stuff! You can search by occupation, grade or subject level. That’s where I found out that they have a whole Middle School section with games, activities and prizes! I have a wish list going of items that I plan to get from them in the future. My next buy will be a visual-thinking game called Square Up - I know my class would love it and it would be perfect for a pair of early finishers to play together. They also have something called “Teacher Perks“. If you sign up for Teacher Perks at checkout (it’s free to join) orders over $75 receive FREE shipping and orders under $75 are a flat rate of $7.99. Okay, that’s all for now. I know that the last thing you probably need is yet another awesome teacher site to go spend your hard earned money – but it’s a REALLY good one and so I had to share!
DO you have any really good board games that you use in the classroom OR teacher sites that we MUST know about? Please share!
**Also, thank you to everyone who voted for my school and entered my giveaway. The winner was Kelly Brown. Your support helped us to finish FIRST in round one and has advanced us to the semi-final round which will be in December. We’re that much closer to winning the funds for a new inclusive playground for our deserving students. For that, I thank you. Also, we’ll need your help again in December to make it into the finals. STay tuned…**
Thank you SO much for your support so far with the competition that my school is in to fund an inclusive playground for our students! We appreciate it more than you know! As a thank you, I’m hosting a little giveaway over the next few days!
We are currently in FIRST and we want to stay there! If you can spare a minute or two of your time - please support us through your votes, shares, tweets, likes or pins! Basically just get us out there on your social media networks! You can vote every day and so feel free to enter my little giveaway every day as well! Also, share this blog post with your friends, so that they have a chance to win a little something too!
Probably should mention the prizes! Someone will be winning a $25 Amazon gift card and a $25 shopping spree in my TPT store! Not too shabby for a little random act of kindness!
I think you’re going to love this guest blog post, written by expert teacher, Julie Faulkner. Julie has been teaching English in TN for over 10 years. She has taught 7-12 English as well as composition and literature at the college level. Julie has worked this past year as a common core trainer in ELA for TN to train teachers to implement common core.
Take it away , Julie!
Do you ever wonder why some students are so quiet during classroom discussions? Could it be because…They don’t have a clue what to say? Maybe they don’t want to be judged by their peers? Or maybe they don’t see the point? This summer I spent hours training and preparing for common core. In doing so, I realized effective speaking and listening are hugely significant and tied directly to everything else. It became very apparent that effective communication, though, goes way beyond common core and the classroom – it is critical for college and career readiness.
To elaborate a little there – a short story – my husband works for a major business corporation in the US and takes conference calls daily. Never did I realize until I was thinking about how to incorporate talk into my classroom, how this practice actually does fit the mold for “college and career readiness.” I will also say here, that up until this point, I was actually struggling for rationale as to why I should even “waste” my precious class time with discussions. So, this summer I overhead my husband using what we call in the academic world “accountable talk stems.” After I asked him about it, he elaborated that effective communication was critical – maybe even one of the most important things his job requires. Thus was born my entire pedagogical approach and rationale for implementing thoughtful and structured academic talk.
To me accountable talk occurs two ways in the classroom – what the teacher says and what the students say. Teachers usually talk a lot in the classroom setting. After all, we are responsible for covering material, questioning, checking for understanding, and managing class time, right? While the former is true, I realized quickly that what I said and how I said it in my classroom could actually make or break student growth. As a result, I began to change my questioning patterns to use “smart talk stems” myself. But that wasn’t all – WARNING – this next part might be painful. I began to wait on students to answer me. Yes, crickets and all. And in the beginning there were lots of crickets. I was so used to throwing out a question, and if the student couldn’t answer right away, I’d answer for him/her for the sake of time or fear of it looking like I hadn’t explained the topic clearly enough. I might even let another student bail him/her out. Students are used to be nurtured in that way, and it became very apparent to me that I was guilty of giving students an easy way out to the point of actually crippling them from being able to struggle and articulate their own thoughts. Secondly, I realized that I had been allowing students to only answer half-way or maybe even incorrectly. If they answered with a correct one-word response, I would drop it and move on. If they answered partially wrong, I would reword it for them to make it correct. Suddenly, I realized I was doing all of the questioning and answering. In that regard, sadly I had no true measurement of their understanding. I began to slow down- to ask students to explain in their own words. I asked other more eager students to wait and then elaborate on the prior student to teach listening and feedback skills.
Additionally, to truly be able to express a thought and to be productive, there must be justification. Students must be able to say why or how they know with credible reasoning. In my ELA classroom, it is easy to correct a comma in daily oral language and move on. Or, we can fix a subject-verb error “because it just didn’t sound right.” That type of justification doesn’t truly do students any good the next time they encounter that same mistake. I wanted my students to learn how to not only have the answer, but to have the answer and be able to say why.
Once I began to model accountable talk practices with my students, speaking and listening came more naturally to them when it came time for them to host their own talk time. I didn’t start out eating the whole elephant here, either, with this second leg of accountable talk. This type of practices takes a long time to develop. I began to put students in pairs for a “turn and talk” or “pair/share” type activity. We practiced with topics that were easy to discuss. Then we moved to whole group discussions. Each time, though, students come prepared to talk with something they have written first. Afterwards, we also write again to sum up the discussion or for reflection. The talking portion of class is tied to the text and the task. Ultimately, we have a triangle of talk-text-task (and not necessarily in that order every time).
I am reminded of a country music song lyric (not surprising given my TN home) that says, “It’s all talk, talk, talk- talking in the wind.” Unfortunately, a lot of times that can be true. We talk in circles; some talk too much, and others don’t speak up at all. Some comments are useful and some derail the main point. I think having a goal and modeling is crucial for the success of the discussion. Students must be learning not only what is an effective way to listen and speak to each other, but they also must be gaining subject-area content knowledge. And, I think that’s the ticket – this is just yet another tool in our deep and wide toolbox to help us prepare our students for the world in which they must eventually enter and be productive citizens.