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Friday, May 19, 2017

The End of the Year is Approaching!!

Here we are, Ladies and Gentlemen!! Down to 16 days left in the school year! To say my schedule is packed would be an understatement. Of those 16 days, three of them are all-day kid events, 2.5 of them will be professional days for me, and one is the last of school/yearbook signing. 

Sigh.

I'm exhausted just thinking about it! Oh, and I am also moving classrooms, so add to that: PACKING!!

Anyway, my posts will likely be few and far between for the rest of May and June. But, I'll be back in full-swing during July and August when I'll be sharing all my lessons that I've created for our summer learning program. Everyone seemed to love the series I did last summer, so I've decided to bring it back with all new writing lesson plans that use mentor texts.

I think this summer we are going to write our autobiographies in the form of a picture book and I'm checking out the books below to use for mentors. Stay tuned for those lessons!!


If you are on Instagram, I've teamed up with some amazing secondary teachers to create of quick, easy, and free gifts for big kids. Just search #EOYGiftsforBigKids and you'll find some great stuff to make this time of year a bit easier!



Here is my contribution:


Lastly, I've got a little self-promoting to do. I've been using the project for the longest time, and in all seriousness, it is a life-saver!! For real! This project keeps my antsy, tired, almost eighth graders focused until the very last day. And that, Friends, is simply priceless!!


Grab yourself a copy of this resource today and I promise you won't be disappointed!!

Alright, Folks! If you are already finished for the year, CONGRATS! And if you are still counting down the days, HANG IN THERE! Hopefully this summer will be a time of rest and recharging so we can return in the fall fresh and ready to educate tomorrow's future!!




Monday, May 8, 2017

Interactive Anchor Posters

Ladies and Gentlemen... I've got something so AWESOME to share with you!!



THIS, my friends, is an Interactive Anchor Poster and it is the ANSWER to those of you that love the philosophy behind Interactive Student Notebooks (ISNs), but have no time for all that cutting and gluing!

If you've read my blog, then you know that I am a huge fan of the ISN. I've used them for years and I cannot express enough how much I believe they help my students in the classroom. Of course, there is boat-loads of research that support their use (just ask Siri), but beyond the "research," I've watched their effectiveness with my very own eyes for a long, long time.

One of the biggest complaints that I've heard from fellow teachers over the years is that they take a lot of time... and a lot of cutting... and a lot of gluing... did I mention a lot of time?!? And, they do. There is no way around it. Typically the kids need to cut, and then glue, and then fill the organizer in, and then color.

It.is.a.lot. But, again, it's so worth it!

Anyway, next year, my schedule is changing. We are shifting around teams and times and periods. Loooong story short, my ELA time is getting cut... by almost 20 minutes! In playing around with my plans for next year, I came to the conclusion that something needs to go from my current lesson plans... something that is not part of the curriculum (because I have to teach that!)... and for me, that something is likely going to be my precious ISN.

Knowing that there was NO WAY I could totally give up my favorite tool, I started to think about ways to get around all the cutting and gluing. How could I get kids to still work with the interactive organizers, getting all the "good stuff" they have to offer, in a quicker, easier (re: less cutting and gluing) way?

The answer? These anchor charts!

So basically, these anchor posters are big versions of the interactive foldable organizers that we put in our notebooks. This allows the teacher to create them (saving time!) and the kids to use them during lessons.


Above, you can see some of my students working with the Plot Elements poster during their book club meeting. I had made five of these posters and laminated them. Then, I gave one to each book club and let them fill it in with a dry erase marker. This allows them to get the benefit of using the organizer without having to make it themselves. And since they used a dry erase marker on the laminated poster, they can just erase after they finish and I can use the poster again!

Oh, my! I think this are truly going to change.my.life!

These posters are available in my TpT store. I won't lie, they do take some work to put together.


First, you need to print the pages and trim them.


Then, you need to tape them together to make a 16" x 20" poster. (Then laminate!)


Next, you need to prep the "foldable" parts. (I laminated these parts after I colored them.)


And then secure the foldable parts to the poster. (If you are dealing with laminated pieces, you will want to use hot glue or packing tape to secure them together).


It does take time, but look at how nice!! And again, if you laminate them and use a dry erase marker to write then you can use them year after year!

Another way that I plan to use them is to give the students all the pages in a packet and have them color and assemble their own. They can use their reader's workshop books to fill in the information. It will make a nice alternative to a book report or reader's response activity. Wouldn't these just look so beautiful all completed and hanging in the hallway!?! Gah!! I can't wait!!

So, these are my latest creation... and they will be 28% off for the next two days during the TpT sale, so now is the time to pick them up! I'm so curious to hear what you think?

Currently I have three posters available:




What others would you like to see? I'm thinking some comprehension organizers and definitely some for nonfiction.

Go shop the TpT sale! Don't forget promo code THANKYOU17.


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Library Permission Slip



If you watched my video, The 4-1-1 on Reading Instruction, then you likely heard me mention my library permission slip. Since I published that video, a bunch of you have reached out asking for a copy of the one I used.

I am going to attach my letter below, but a few things first:

1. I do not remember where this letter came from originally. I know that I made a bunch of modifications to the model that I used, so most of it is my work. But, I cannot find the original source of that model and I wish I could give him/her credit for this.

2. Please modify this letter to fit your needs and accommodate your classroom library. You want parents to give permission for kids to use your library, not mine.

3. It is always good to check with your school librarian and administration to be sure that you can even have YA and adult books on your shelves. Luckily, my district is very open to all literature and our school libraries are stocked with all kinds of books! All of the books on my shelves are available in our building library, so technically I don't even need a permission slip, but I do like having one just to keep parents aware and to keep me on the safe side :)

Okay... that being said, here is my letter:

 Dear Parent(s)/Guardians,

        Reading is one of the most important skills your child will develop during their school years. It is also the cornerstone of our classroom.Throughout this year, your child will read, and read, and read some more, as practice is the only way to ensure our kids will grow as readers. Some reading will be required, but your child will also have opportunities to choose his or her own book for independent reading. I work to help all students find a book that he or she will enjoy and will help him or her continue to grow as a reader.
        In order to better match students and books, I maintain a large classroom library. I work hard to keep my library updated and full of books that are interesting, challenging, and accommodating for all the learners in my classroom. I am sensitive to ensuring that I have appropriate material in my library, but you and I may define the word “appropriate” in different ways. Because of this, I ask you to be aware of what your child is reading, so you may approve of the content. The books range from elementary to college level (everything from the beloved picture book, Goodnight Moon, to the works of Stephen King, master of the horror genre), so your participation is essential in guiding your child to appropriate and challenging material for him or her. Some books have been donated/purchased recently, and I have not had a chance to read them all, but I do my best to ensure the quality of the books available in my library.
        The books in my classroom library are never assigned, and some students may choose to read books from home or from your local library instead. Some students use the library often; others never at all. But, any student who checks books out of my library must have a parent or guardian sign below indicating that this classroom library letter has been read and understood.
        If you would like to meet and/or discuss our classroom library, feel free to call or email me. Thank you for your understanding!
(Your best bet would be to copy and paste this onto school letter head (or any document of your choosing) and include a line for them to sign at the bottom.)

Hope that helps!


Saturday, April 8, 2017

The 4-1-1 on Reading Instruction!

Hey friends!

I've got a new vlog for you... and it's all about reading instruction!! Check it out and let me know what you think:



Monday, April 3, 2017

The Debating Game!


Okay... I've mentioned before that I'm super uncomfortable writing a blog post that is all about one of my TpT products. But, with that said, welcome to a blog post all about one of my TpT products!

And, I'm okay with it.

Because, for real, this product ROCKS! If I do say so myself :)

So, argument writing is hard stuff. I love teaching it. And eventually, I think the kids like knowing how to do it. But, it's hard. SO.HARD. Especially in the beginning.

I was looking for a cool way to ease us into it. A way to slide in so that it didn't seem so intimidating. An approach that made it seem exciting, even a little bit FUN! But, I couldn't find anything! And so, like anytime Google lets me down, I got creating and this little gem is the fruit of my labor!

The Debating Game is fun. My kids LOVED it! So much so that they asked to play it every day for almost a week during free write time.





And while playing, they are practicing supporting claims with reasoning and evidence... exactly the skill necessary for opinion/persuasive/argument writing! It's a total win-win. Fun and learning!

You should know, this product does take some time to put together, so please don't buy it if you need to use it exactly five minutes later. There is laminating and cutting and organizing involved in putting these together.


I made six total games for my classroom (I stored each complete game in a pencil case). I also went to the dollar store and bought one-minute sand timers and golf pencils to put in the case along with the game pieces for easy playing (though they are totally not necessary!). And you'll see I used a standard die, but there is a template for making your own dice to use when playing, so it is not necessary to have your own.

It took me about an hour to print, laminate, cut, and organize all 6 games. But, now that they are together they are ready-to-go anytime we need them. I definitely see myself putting these in a writing center, using them for an anchor activity for early finishers, and leaving them in my sub plans. The kids enjoyed playing far too much to put them into storage until next year!

So, if you teach opinion/persuasion/argument writing and you are looking for a fun way to practice the skills necessary for this, The Debating Game might be for you!

My own students loved it and if you try it out, please let me know what yours think about it!

Happy Teaching!!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Teach This Lesson Tomorrow - Blackout Poetry


So, the other day, I have 8 kids that needed a catch-up day in writing. That meant that I had 18 other kids that would need something else to do! I wanted something quick and engaging, yet completely higher-level and creative. Enter BLACKOUT POETRY!

Blackout poetry is a blast and could not be easier! All you need are some markers and a couple of busted-up books that Duck tape can no longer save...

Newspapers can also work!!

The idea is that you give the kids a page and they block out or circle some letters, words, phrases, and sentences that, when read together, resemble a poem. Next, they use some markers to darken the rest of the page so that the words pop.

Here are some examples:





Cool right?!?

Anyway, this makes the perfect "in between" writing assignment, center activity, or sub plan! The kids really enjoy it and they have to do some serious thinking to put together something that makes sense. And when they are finished, they look awesome hanging in the hallway :)

Are you or your students blackout poets? I'd love to see some of your work!



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I'd be remiss if I didn't share the most popular blackout from the other day... from the minds of "trending" middle schoolers:

 (Don't worry if you don't get it! I had no idea what it meant until a few weeks ago!!)

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Writing from Lists - The Video!!

If you've been a reader of my blog, then you know that writing from lists is my JAM! It's definitely one of my best practices and I can't tell you how much better, more authentic my students' writing became once I started using lists to generate writing topics.

I put this video together to give you a better picture of how I make list writing work in my classroom. I'd love some feedback, as I see more and more "vlog" posts in the future for Musings from the Middle School :)


Do you use list writing in your classroom? Think you'd like to give it a try? I'd love to hear from you!



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PRODUCT LINK: