Category Archives: Middle School

My students are all published authors – thank you Picaboo :)

2015-06-23 18.17.35I mentioned a while back that my students were working on memoirs and that my students were each going to put their memoir in to a class book. Well, we completed our book and even added some of their art work, in addition to their memoirs. The books arrived just last week and the quality is awesome (and they took less than 2 weeks turn around time from when we submitted the final proof). The kids did a super job and the site that we used, Picaboo (which is actually a yearbook site) was fantastic to work with. We used the site to self-publish, essentially. However, they also sent me a copy of their actual yearbooks to get an idea of quality – and both hard and soft covers are really well-made.

Not all of my students could afford a yearbook this year, but the Picaboo yearbooks were only $10 a piece – that’s pretty affordable. There are no minimums for orders and so the teacher could order one book for the class library, or each student could purchase their own copy. Picaboo also offers free ebooks, so students could still share their work with parents etc.- just online. 2015-06-23 18.14.52

The day the books arrived, I allowed my students time to mingle and check out each others’ published work and even write “yearbook” type comments – since every student did get a copy of our class book of writing, “From the Minds of 7B ~ A book of Memoirs”. They thought it was great, because again, they hadn’t all gotten yearbooks and this way they did get to sign messages to each other and it was almost MORE special since it was something that only our class was a part of.

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Even my reluctant writers were pretty proud of their work and I think using a site, like Picaboo, to self publish is a must to give purpose for writing. This site is affordable, easy to use, and has tons of extra options for anyone who wants to “get fancy” with their class writing project. And again, at the end of the day – the site is a Yearbook making site – and I would recommend looking into them if you’re getting started with yearbooks in your school or classroom. Their customer service was wonderful!

Really, it’s pretty cool (in my opinion) to create a class book of writing, include artwork, class photos, cool backgrounds and borders – and all for $10 a book. I’m proud of the work that we did this year in writing and I’m happy that each of my students has become a published author before the end of the school year.

 

Elora of Stone

Engaging Middle School Writers with Picaboo – Trust Me!

It can be difficult to engage kids in writing – that’s just a fact. Therefore, I am excited to share a site that I found called, “Picaboo Yearbooks” to publish a class book containing my students’ writing. My students have bought in and so I’m stoked! You can actually create lots of different things on the website, but I am using it to create a class book of writing to engage my kids, and so far, so good!

I had been searching for a “self-publishing” type of site and couldn’t seem to find just what I wanted, in terms of style, practicality or price. Picaboo’s books are affordable (less than $10 for a 20 page book – full color, softcover and less than $20 for a hardcover) so I’ll be able to purchase one to have in my class library – this way everyone will be a published writer this year. There are no minimums needed to buy a book, either. If I just want one book – I’m free to order just one! Also, the way that I am choosing to set things up, each student has their own page to create. All I had to do was make ONE login and they can all access our class book. They know to work on their own page and not to mess with anyone else’s page. They can also easily read and give feedback to classmates, as we create this one collaborative collection of their writing. Finally, they love that they can change the layout, and add fun pictures and backgrounds to their pages to make them even more polished. They are enjoying the fact that this book will be published and so have been putting forth commendable efforts, so far.

In terms of particulars, I was going to have students write directly into the template, and some are. For others, they rather use Word to create their draft and then they are pasting the draft into the website to get feedback from peers. There was a little bit of a learning curve, however, the site is very user friendly and the kids are having no issues with the technology side! They’re grade 7 – technology is their forte!

Oh, and I did contact Picaboo before I decided to do this project to get a sample of their books. They actually sent me a beautiful sample and I was sold on the quality! If you are thinking about doing a class yearbook or wanting to engage your kiddos by setting up your class with Picaboo so that they can all get published – I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. They also have tons of helpful videos, and Live Chat to help out as well, if you use the yearbooks as yearbooks, since they are more involved than what I am using the site for.

I only wish I had incorporated Picaboo earlier in the year with my kiddos – we could have made a larger collection of their work. Oh well, there’s always next year!

Picaboo Yearbooks

This is a first draft that one of my students is working on in the Picaboo Yearbooks template…

 

Elora of Stone

Enter to Win A New Middle Grades Read: “Elora of Stone”

Elora of Stone, written by Canadian author Jaime Lee Mann, is the first in her Legend of Rhyme Series. Aimed at children in the middle grades, this book is fantasy, magic and fairytale combined into one. Her descriptive language paints a picture for the reader, making it a really enjoyable read! This, together with the twists and turns of the story will have your kids hooked!

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From a teacher’s standpoint this would be a great mentor text to have in your classroom, as it is filled with descriptive language and wonderful word choice to use as models for your students. This novel would also be a great read aloud, and there are discussion questions at the back of Elora of Stone, which is a nice touch.

A bit about the book?

When four-year-old Asher Caine vanishes while playing near the woods with his twin sister Ariana, his family is convinced that he is gone forever. In the Kingdom of Falmoor, twins are cursed. Since the evil sorcerer Larque turned the good witch Elora to stone, all twins in the Kingdom are doomed to separate, either through death or mysterious disappearances.

When Ariana later learns that her brother is alive, she knows that must find him in order to save Falmoor. With their magic blood and powerful bond, the Caine twins must release Elora from her stone imprisonment. Only then will Larque be stopped from spreading darkness throughout the kingdom. Will the twins find each other in time? Can they save Falmoor from evil and remove the curse of the twins forever? You’ll have to read to find out!

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Want to win a copy of Elora of Stone? Three lucky readers will win a signed copy of the book for their classrooms, as well as the option of having a live chat with the author for you and your students! Good luck, and also watch for installment #2 in the Legend of Rhyme series, Into Coraira, which comes out in May. elora of stone2

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An excerpt from the first novel in the Legend of Rhyme series, Elora of Stone

With one grimy green hand, Grimblerod reaches up into the thin white roots of the plants above. His other hand steadies the candle near eye level. The roots are twisted in knots, curling into each other, clinging to the dirt like tiny gnarled fists. Grimblerod pinches two long dirty fingers around a juicy grub.

Bringing his fingers to his face, Grimblerod studies the grub more closely in the candlelight. Satisfied with his prize, he pulls a leather drawstring pouch from the pocket of his tattered trousers and plops the grub inside.

Grimblerod’s stomach twists with hunger, but he has work to do. His candle is close to burning out, and beads of melted wax drip onto his hand leaving bumpy yellow trails along his skin. He has just enough light to get to the opening in the tree.

He grunts as he trudges along, piercing the deafening silence with snorts and other impolite sounds. Once he reaches the opening, Grimblerod blows out his candle and sets it down. He then shimmies his fat little body up a slender brown root into the fresh night air.

After surfacing, Grimblerod shields his eyes against the light of the full moon. Instinctively, he checks his feet, ensuring that he is still in goblin form.

The sound of crickets drowns out his rumbling stomach, and the glow of the moon guides him through the dark.

A thick, white mist creeps along, hiding him from sight. A gentle breeze rustles the leaves on the giant tree making them tremble in the night.

As he waddles along, an owl cries out in the dark. One might say it was a warning to the villagers of Rhyme of the evil acts about to occur.

It is the type of setting the best nightmares start with, and tonight, a mother’s most unspeakable dream will come true.

 

Elora of Stone

Do You Teach Your Students About Having a Fixed Vs Growth Mindset?

In one of the courses that I am taking for my Master’s of Education, I came across a topic that really struck a chord with me. I am taking two courses at the moment ( my March “Break” has been pivotal in maintaining my sanity with this 2 courses at once, business). In my Differentiated Instruction course, the idea of a “Fixed Mindset” versus a “Growth Mindset” came up. To put it simply, some people (kids included) believe that we are born with a certain amount of intelligence – it’s “fixed”. In comparison, hose with a “Growth Mindset” understand that putting in effort to learn new things expands our minds, and that effort is what makes us successful and “smarter”.

I don’t know about you, but I have certain students, who constantly question themselves and do not give their full effort! Like, ever! Oh wait, unless it’s a really simple task. It is extremely frustrating, as the teacher, to sit back and see that if s/he just TRIED they would achieve the success that they wish for. What I have learned is that people with a “fixed mindset” see effort and “having to try” as threatening to their intelligence. This exertion of effort actually makes them feel stupid because they feel like they should already know the material. They think that others just “get it” while they do not. Kids with a “fixed mindset” don’t realize that other students are actually working harder than they are (exerting effort to do well) and it is the effort of these other students that causes them to gain more academic success, not intelligence that they were born with.

I teach grade 7 and I think that junior high students could really benefit from being informed about “fixed” and “growth” mindsets. Recognizing the type of mindset that they have and looking at how they can make simple changes to actually “grow their brains” and make themselves smarter? I would have to think that idea would be appealing to kids!

I found an interactive quiz to share with your kiddos if this is something that you’re interested in. Below the quiz are two videos – a Ted Talk by Carol Dweck who has researched this phenomenon, and a second video about how the brain works that would be suitable for middle school and up. I also found another quick video comparing “fixed” and “growth” mindset.

Carol Dweck’s book is titled, “Mindset” if this is a topic that interests you.

I also dug around and found “Mindsets in the Classroom” which I am adding to my Amazon wishlist. It looks fantastic and very user-friendly!

          

I think that the main thing that I got from the articles that I have read for my MSED on mindset, is that kids need to know that they have the power to “make themselves smarter”. Their effort is what matters – they haven’t been born with a certain amount of intelligence. Exerting effort to learn something new makes the neurons in their brain fire and can actually cause their brain to grow (whereby making them smarter than if they hadn’t exerted effort). Even sharing or reminding kids of that fact, and pulling the topic in when kids with “fixed mindsets” balk at challenges would be helpful with motivating and inspiring all kids to achieve.

I am excited to get back to class and share some of the things I have learned about mindset with my kiddos (the ones with clearly “fixed mindsets” especially). I would love to hear your opinions on this topic! Are you familiar with Dweck’s work? I have spoken to my kids on the topic of effort, but never in the terms of mindset and intelligence and I can’t wait to hear what they think!

Virtual Field Trip to Africa

Take Your Students on a Virtual Field Trip To Africa

How does a trip to Africa sound? Your school doesn’t have the budget for that? No worries! If you teach grades 3-8 – listen up!

Virtual Field Trip to Africa

Nature Works Everywhere and field scientist Charles Oluchina have joined forces to provide a live virtual field trip to the deserts and grasslands of Africa! I know, right? Pretty cool!

Virtual Field Trip to Africa

 

What will you experience on this amazing virtual adventure?

You and your students will visit Burkino Faso and learn how one African farmer helped bring back forest lands that were being lost to desertification. Then, you’ll head to Kenya to learn about the importance of grasslands and the effects of ecotourism. And all from the comfort of your own classroom! Technology rocks! Oh wait? Did I mention that this is all free? Yep! You just need to register and you’re set!

 

A Google Hangout  is being used for the VFT which is so smart! The VFT to Africa is streamed live on YouTube, on February 5th, at 12:00pm Eastern Time, or you can view it at your convenience. The field trip is about 40 minutes in length – which is great because that is about the length of a class period. You and your students will also get a firsthand look at a PBS LearningMedia collection of videos, digital games and educational resources from the new PBS series EARTH A New Wild.

In case you are interested but worried about dedicating the class time to such an event, here are the key terms and concepts that will be addressed during the VFT: People and Conservation, Desertification, Global Agriculture, Smart Development, Ecotourism, Habitat, Grasslands, Reforestation. Not only that, students will learn the science behind how nature works for us—and how we can help keep it running strong. 

 

Nature Works Everywhere and The Nature Conservancy have lots of other resources to check out as well.

 

Farming the Desert | EARTH A New Wild from The Nature Conservancy on Vimeo.

 

If you choose to attend the VFT, please come back and comment how it went!

Virtual Field Trip to Africa

Feeling the Love

As teachers, there are times that our jobs are stressful and we get to the end of the day and wonder if we actually taught anybody anything! Or, maybe that’s just me!

Well this was the opposite of one of those weeks. This week I was feeling the love! I came back from Christmas vacation to find a little card in my school mailbox. When I opened it, I discovered that it was from a student I taught last year, and who I had for Math again this year. She moved a couple of months ago. I only wish there was a return address on the envelope! I’m going to have to track her down!

So sweet, brought a tear to my eye.

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I mean, come on! How lucky am I to receive such a special card – this one filled my bucket for at least the next few months.

And then as I was just getting ready to head home today, I noticed this on the board. Now, they’ve written this on the board before, but they usually add, “And ——– is her favorite student!” This message was anonymous, and it topped up my bucket – I’m good until the end of June, now!

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Just in case you haven’t been told recently, YOU ARE AWESOME! Enjoy your weekend – I certainly have a little extra energy for the Master’s work ahead of me!

 

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Have Yourself a Moby Little Christmas

Updated: Congratulations to Meghan L., the winner of the MobyMax tablet!

I know that everyone likes a good giveaway, and this is a pretty sweet one! Have you heard of MobyMax?  MobyMax tablets offer teachers and parents an amazing option to help their kids gain skills in Language Arts and Math. Students can work to close gaps in their learning by working through lessons on the Moby tablet, and continue to challenge themselves to move ahead. Teachers and parents can monitor their child’s results through reports that Moby offers. There are games and other “fun stuff” to motivate kids as well! 

 

MobyMax curriculum is based on the research of professor John Hattie, and it is a great way to differentiate in your classroom.

 

Although these tablets are specifically loaded with MobyMax curriculum so that you can individualize your instruction, they are still tablets and so you can load them with your favorite apps, as well. Want your own Moby? Entering is easy, and one lucky follower is going to a have a “Moby little Christmas”! 

 

Check out these specs!

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MobyMax Curriculum includes all of this? Wow!

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Contest ends December 21st, 2014! Be sure to enter!

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Age of Opportunity: Lessons From The New Science of Adolescence

age of opportunityI’m well into my second course of my MSED! As I suspected, time is going faster than ever before. Report cards are almost ready to go home and parent-teacher interviews are on Thursday and Friday of this week. It’s incredible that we’ve gotten to this point in the school year already.

I am enjoying my Master’s program even more than I expected. However, it has been a huge adjustment – I feel like I don’t have enough time to get everything done that needs to be done. Working full time, having 2 children, my MSED work, and maintaining some time for “fun” has been a balancing act. I’m trying to make it work, though.

I have been reading LOTS since I started this program in September. I am reading for my course work but I have also been reading beyond that as well. That is one thing that this Master’s program has sparked in me, already. The more I learn, the more I want to learn. Even though I don’t really have the time, I’ve been doing more professional reading over the last two months than ever in my career – by choice! I can’t help it!

One book that I am currently reading is not for my course work for my own information – Age of Opportunity, by Laurence Steinberg. It basically challenges many myths that we currently hold about adolescence and offers insight into the science behind why adolescents act the way that they do. As a grade 7 and 8 teacher, so many times I have found myself thinking, “Why did he do that? Why would she take that risk? Didn’t he consider what would happen based on that choice?” In his book, Steinberg offers new insight into the science of adolescence. But, the best part is that it doesn’t read like a boring text book! Yes, it contains information on neuroscience but in a way that is very easy to understand and digest. He includes great, real life examples, scenarios, and ancedotes making it easy to relate to, as well.

My own boys are only 4 and 7, but the teen years will be here before I know it! Steinberg offers an entire chapter for parents and how they can help their adolescents most effectively. There are tons of ideas that I have to go back to when my own kiddos hit this period in their lives. What really hit home, though, was the recommendations for educators. Steinberg definitely has some interesting suggestions such as spending less money and time on classroom based health education as it seems to glean little in the way of results. He also suggests preparing adolescents for psychological demands of college, not just the academic ones.

Working toward my Master’s has been a huge adjustment. I have less time for myself than ever before, I have huge commitments of course work – reading and writing. However, there’s also so much considering and thinking that I have been doing. If I wasn’t doing my Master’s I probably would not have been considering my teenage learners and how their brains work, and I wouldn’t have picked up Age of Opportunity. However, I am so glad that I am on this journey of life long learning. Yes, I know it sounds cheesy, but it’s true! I’ve been reading lots of great books lately and this is just one of them. However, it’s also the kind of book that I know I’ll go back to in the future. If you own or teach adolescents, you should check into Age of Opportunity!

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Master’s Update and Math Apps!

I have been working really hard this year to try to differentiate a bit more effectively for my students. Last year I looked into Guided Math, and although I loved the way it sounded, I know that I fell short of actually following through with my well-intended plan. As part of a Master’s assignment this year, I actively started incorporating more small group time for guided practice into my classroom. Honestly, I can already feel the shift. The things that I thought would happen (a bunch of hands up in the air as I try to help those in the group) haven’t really been an issue, yet. Those who need help are with me and those who do not are able to move along and complete their work. It’s actually kind of simple. I also established some anchor activities for students to choose from when they do complete their work. I haven’t worked out all of the kinks, but knowing that I’m going to get to more students more quickly makes me feel as though I am teaching more authentically! If you don’t do much “guided practice” after your initial lesson, try it! For a week or two, try to build in more time to work with students in a small group. And keep it simple! Right now, I have it established that after my mini-lesson anyone who feels that they would like to work through a few more examples can join me at the back table. The students CHOOSE to come. What I love MOST is when the students who choose to join are the ones whom I was worried would be acting up and making it difficult for me to teach. They are CHOOSING to come back and work through examples with me. I still have a few students that I’d like to see join me at the back, however, I will give them time to decide if they need my help or not. If they should be going through more examples with me, I will ask them to join the group as well. I’m playing this part by ear, so far. What I’m also really happy about, is that my small group time has been with many different students. Initially I was scared that there may be a negative stigma attached to coming to the small group for more guided practice. However, this has not been the case. This small change to my teaching practice this year has been amazing and I’m looking forward to really harnessing the power of small group instruction.

As a part of this week’s assignment for my course I found a great blog post on Math Puzzle Apps and another on Incorporating Games into the Classroom . Math games and puzzles are simple options to use as anchor activities for students when they have finished the assigned work for the day. They keep the kids engaged while you can continue to work with those students who need your help.

I haven’t checked out all of the Math Apps in the article yet, but it’s on my to-do list for later this week!

Do you have any great Math Apps for middle school that don’t require internet? Please share if you do! I’m always on the lookout!

 

 

CTV is Coming to Our School!

I have news! So, my school won the Aviva Community Fund competition a few months ago (kind of  proud of that) which funded our Playground for All project. Monday morning, the next round of voting begins for new projects, and CTV News will be at our school in Souris, PEI to launch this next round of new projects and voting for Aviva. Pretty exciting! If you tune in on Monday morning, you may see us! The Aviva Community Fund competition is such an amazing opportunity to get projects funded and there are so many worthy causes – here is one project that will be looking for your votes in this new round: Autism Ontario, Niagara needs help to support parents. If you have a project that needs to be funded, and you’re in Canada, it’s definitely worth checking out the submission process, so long as you are committed to doing the hard work that needs to be done to get your project to the end and come out a winner!

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