Saturday, August 17, 2019

Back-to-School 2019! Volume 2: A Giveaway!!

Hey friends!! Just wanted to let you know that Tim Smith and I are currently having an AWESOME giveaway over on Insta. So head on over and enter to win one (or all!!) of these beautiful images for your classroom :)

Hurry up!!

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Back-to-School 2019! Volume I: Spilling the Tea & a Giveaway!!

Musings from the Middle School BTS Post 2019

Hello Friends!! Welcome to my first Back-to-School post of the 2019-2020 school year! Here in NJ, we still have some time before we head back. That means that for the most part, I am still on "summer vacation mode," but I am starting to prep. And as a result of that prep, I've just recently stopped my #bookaday challenge over on Instagram. If you don't follow me over there (and I can't imagine why you wouldn't be?!?), I took up Donalyn Miller's challenge to read a book a day during the summer.

Musings from the Middle School #bookaday challenge
Just some of the books I read this summer during the #bookaday challenge!

Starting in the last week of June, I committed to read a book a day. Sometimes it was a picture book or graphic novel, but most of the time it was a novel or nonfiction. Then, I did an IG Story about it. One of my main goals of the challenge, aside from the reading, was sharing books and authors with you that you may not know about. I talked a lot about books needing to serve as mirrors, windows, and doors (thank you, Rudine Sims Bishop) for your students. I stressed the importance of kids finding mirrors of their lives in books, so it is ESSENTIAL that we have titles for kids of all races, ethnicities, and religions. We also need to make sure that our LGBTQ+ students and our students dealing with mental illness and disabilities, can find themselves in our library. I mentioned that not only are these books important to be mirrors, but also windows and doors for other students into the lives of those kids. There is no greater way to make your classroom "culturally responsive" and welcoming to ALL students than having a library that reflects everyone.

I loved this challenge for a lot of reasons. The first was that it definitely cut down on my scroll time. Since starting Musings from the Middle School, I spend more time on my phone than I like to admit. But, with my reading commitment, I had far less time to fall into the black hole that is social media.

The other thing I loved was getting to know you all so much better. Prior to doing these stories, I rarely received DMs via IG, but that changed this summer. So great to chat with so many of  you!!

I can also say that I am FINALLY over my fear of stories. I felt so stupid for the longest time doing them, but making one every day changed that. I actually look forward to making them now.

Okay... so back to Back-to-School talk...

I don't officially start until September 3rd and I won't have students until September 5th. But sometime around the 21st, I can get back into my classroom to prep.

And I've got a LOT of prep to do because my position for this school year is changing!!

I will still be teaching ELA to seventh graders. However, my class is going be organized a little differently. Rather than being an ELA teacher on a team (like I've been for the past four years), I will be my own team, pulling 7th graders from all four of our teams.

My class size is going to be smaller, anywhere from 12-15 kids per class. These students are non-classified kids who just need a little more support in ELA. It's not an intervention class per se, as these kids aren't identified as intervention students. Instead, they are kids who just have a few gaps and our hope is that with a small class size, they will be able to quickly make up those deficits and be performing like average 8th graders by next year.

Make sense?

Anyway, as a result of that move, I'm going to be making some changes to my curriculum. I am so excited about that since I've been doing pretty much the same thing for the last four years straight. I love new challenges and I am eager to meet my students, assess their needs, and get into creating some new stuff!! So, be sure to stay tuned because I will be sharing my trials and tribulations along the way this year :)

In addition to changing up my curriculum, I will also be moving into a new classroom. While I know that moving is stressful and annoying to a lot of folks, I really don't mind it. It gives me a chance to purge and I love the "fresh canvas" to decorate.

If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, then you know I've teamed up with my good friend, fellow-teacher, and artist-extraordinaire Tim Smith, to create some new artwork for my room.

Tim Smith Art

I first met Tim years ago when he was hired as a elementary school teacher in my district. He has since become a reading specialist in a new school district (the one where my own children happen to go!!) and has a budding art career. His style is AMAZING and when I started to imagine how I wanted my new classroom to look, I couldn't get Tim's work out of my mind. I approached him with a crazy idea of creating a line of artwork for schools and he jumped at the chance!

Tim has designed four pieces of art for my classroom. The jpegs of his pieces will be available for sale in his new TpT Store, Tim Smith Art, soon. Once you purchase these high-quality jpegs, you will be able to print them from your home computer or have them blown up to poster-size at your local print shop.

New Artwork by Tim Smith for my Classroom

Aren't these extraordinary?!? I cannot wait to see them hanging in my room!!


Soon, Tim and I will be doing a giveaway and some lucky teachers will be winning one of these pieces for their classroom. And one lucky teacher will win the entire set of four! Be sure you are following both Tim and me on Instagram so you don't miss out!!

So, as a result of these new paintings, I'm redesigning my bulletin boards to match. I have three large bulletin boards in my room (about 44" X 44"). Here's what I'm thinking...

Bulletin Board Mock-Ups

I have to have a "While You Were Out..." board. I've written about this board before and I CANNOT live without it. I also need a "Write Like This" board. This is where I hang copies of the mentor pieces we use for our writing units. It's so helpful to have them all together in one place for the duration of our unit.

In the past, I've always had an "Article of the Week" board, but I think I'm making some changes to that routine this year. I'm really hoping to go completely paperless with AoW this year and do it through Google Classroom. I do not have the logistics worked out yet, but in anticipation, I've decided not to do the bulletin board this year. I'm replacing it with a "binge-worthy" reads board. I love that I can change the books out whenever I remember each month or so and I think this will be a fun addition to the room.

I am in LOVE with the commUNITY clip art from Illumismart over on TpT and I can't want to see it all blown-up and on the boards!!

I am hoping to have the boards (or at least pieces of them!) up on my store once they are finished.

So, what do you think? You like 'em!?! I'd love to hear your thoughts, so drop me a line here, or over on Facebook or Insta.

If you are already back to school, I hope you are having the BEST start. If you still kicking it in vacation mode, enjoy these last few weeks of sunshine.

I'll be back soon with some more BTS info, so stayed tuned!!

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Summer School - Week Three - Seventh Grade ELA

Hey Friends!! Happy August!! I cannot even believe that some of you are back to school already! Here in NJ, we don't go back until after Labor Day, so we are just in the middle of our summer break. In fact, I just finished up summer school!

Anyway, I just wanted to share with you my plans for my third week of our summer program. We did actually go for four weeks, but the final week was just some stuff that had to do specifically with our school and district, so they wouldn't really be helpful to you.

Not much else to share, except that I'm busy as a bee prepping for the back-to-school season!! I've got lots of great resources, blog posts, and give-a-ways to share with you this month, so stop back soon!!

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Summer School - Week Two - Seventh Grade ELA

Summer School-Week Two-Free Lesson Plans for 7th Grade ELA

Hello Friends!! I'm here today to post my lesson plans from week two of summer school. Yes, we did just wrap up week three, but I've had a bunch of computer issues, along with a wicked stomach bug that has plagued my kiddos, and so I am just getting around to posting week two.


Always something!

Anyway, the poem we worked with during week two is one of my all-time favorites: "Where I'm From" by George Ella Lyon. I adore this poem and I adore the poetry this poem inspires my students to write.

Poetry - Lesson Plans

We started by reading and analyzing the poem. And then we did some brainstorming for our own.

"I Am From..." brainstorming organizer

After that, we wrote... and shared... and critiqued... and wrote some more!! And, as always, my kids blew me away.

We also worked on commas this week.

Word Work Lesson Plans
Of all the punctuation, commas are the most tricky! I actually began by reading Eats, Shoots & Leaves which is always a great place to start any lesson on commas.

I have to say, despite how little the kids seemed to know about commas on Monday, they were much improved by Thursday. Will it transfer? Gah!! Who knows? Overall, I'm still unsure of how much teaching grammar skills in isolation even works, but I also feel like I need to try. And the beauty of summer school is that we are free to try all kinds of strategies, activities, lesson ideas, etc. without the pressures of giving grades or tests. It's actually what I love best about summer school: the ability to test-drive some teaching that is out of my norm!!

Well, like I said, I just wrapped up my third week and will be posting those plans in a few days. That will be the last week that I post because even though we still have one more to go, we have a few things that we are doing that are exclusive to my district and kids... in otherwords, not helpful to share with you.

Hope your summer is going well. It certainly is going fast, that's for sure!! I can't believe that in a few weeks, I'll be posting back-to-school stuff!! Eek! Slow down!!

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Summer School - Week One - Seventh Grade ELA

Summer School Free Lesson Plans

Hello? Hello?

Is this mic on?

Anyone out there?

Friends, it has been a MINUTE!! The end of the school year was, as always, bonkers. The first two weeks of summer was double bonkers!! And now, I am working through the second week of summer school! (It's half over!! Can you even?!?)

I have just about eleventy million things to share with you... but I'm going to try to narrow that down to just the most important!!

Big News

So, my job is changing. Next year, I will be the 7th grade intervention teacher. I cannot even BEGIN to tell you how excited I am for this. The kids who are smack dab "in the middle" and would benefit immensely from smaller group instruction and a bit more scaffolding/support have always been my favorite students. I just have such a soft spot for them and often feel that they can get "lost" in the big setting among all the brilliant kids, those with IEPs, those with behavior plans... do you feel me?!?! Anyway, I can't wait for the school year to begin and get started on this new adventure.

One aspect of this job change is that I need to move classrooms. If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook then you might have seen that I've teamed up with a good friend of mine, fellow teacher and amazing artist, Tim Smith, to create some custom art work for my room. My new space will be designed around these incredible pieces of art and I'm so stoked to start decorating!

Artwork by Tim Smith for Musings from the Middle School

Tim and I will be giving away a set of prints of these designs early in August, so make sure that you are following both of us on social media so that you don't miss out on your chance to win!

#bookaday Challenge

I'm doing the #bookaday challenge that Donalyn Miller talks about on Nerdy Book Club. Check out my Instagram for my daily stories talking about the books I'm reading.

Summer School - Week One Lesson Plans

So last year, I had a boxed curriculum that I had to use for summer school. It wasn't bad, but I couldn't share the lesson plans because they weren't mine. But this year, I was free to do whatever I wanted, and so I'm back with my FREE plans. I'm focusing on parts of speech, using commas, figurative language, and writing poetry. All of these kids qualified to be in my class next year, so we definitely have some skill deficits to make up. Also, I wanted to do some writing, but in a totally non-threatening, low-stakes way, and so poetry it is!! So far, so good!!

Summer Learning Lesson Plans

I've got my first week of lesson plans, along with all the resources that I created to teach them, up for FREE on in my store.

Free Lesson Plans - 7th Grade ELA

We had an awesome first week...

Speed Dating with Books

Speed Dating with Books

We speed dated a whole bunch of books!!

Teaching Growth Mindset

Worked on our Growth Mindset.

Writing on Desks with Dry Erase Markers

Talked all about poetry!

Literally vs. Figuratively Anchor Chart

 And discussed how the misuse of the word LITERALLY is LITERALLY my biggest pet peeve going!

So, head on over to my store and grab a copy with my plans, along with the resources that I used last week.

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Phew!! That was a lot! I hope you stuck with me (through this loooong post and my little blogging hiatus!!)

I'll be back next week with my next set of summer school lesson plans, so stay tuned!!

I hope you are soaking up every second of summer. Now is a time to relax and recharge. You deserve it!!

Sunday, May 5, 2019

End-of-the-School-Year Survival Mode!

Friends, here we are... MAY! The busiest, craziest, funnest, insanest, and any other "-est" you can imagine that describes the mad dash toward summer break.

We are here, we are exhausted, and we are hanging on.

I don't have much in me right now, but I had to stop in and share some of stuff that helps me survive the chaos that is the end of the year.

First, up: State Testing.
I use these tags and bookmarks during state testing to motivate and engage the kids during this super-stressful week. Grab them both for FREE in my store.

Next: Teacher Appreciate Week.
These tags turn easy dollar store purchases into handy little gifts for the awesome teachers in your lives. You can download them for FREE in my store.

Then: Projects to Keep Students Focused and Engaged.
These projects are tried and true activities that will keep you kids working right up until the very end of the year!

Finally: Saying Good-bye with a Little Gift
I love to send my kids off with these little treats when we say our final good-byes in June. Add a few gummy worms to these FREE gift tags and viola!

Okay, folks... I've got eleventy million things to prepare for this week. As my own children age, I am astounded at how busy we've become. Every weekend is nothing but prepping for the week to come.

I do have some great stuff coming up this summer, though, so while I might not be posting much until my school year ends, make sure to check back during the summer for some great giveaways and lots of FREEBIES!!

And, I almost forget!! Lots of awesome savings over in my TpT store during the Teacher's Appreciate Sale! Head on over on May 7-8 and use code GIFT4YOU for up to 25% everything in my store.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

April/May Book Display (and a Freebie!!)

Animal Friends Book Display

Happy April, Friends!! We are still two weeks out from spring break, and boy!! I am SOOOO ready!! The crazy thing is, when we come back, it's practically May. MAY!! Can you even?!? This year is flying.

So, I've got my FINAL book display for the year for you today. I'm leaving this one up for April and May because with spring break and state testing and all the end-of-year festivities, instructional time takes a hit.

Animal Friends Book Display

This display is for books with lovable animal friends. Notice that I have some "elementary" reads gathered here. Most of my students read books like Because of Winn Dixie, Charlotte's Web, Shiloh, and The Tale of Despereaux in third and fourth grade. Typically, those books were read aloud to them, which creates such a comforting community of readers, and so the kids have fond memories of those stories. When you have a reluctant or struggling reader, pairing them with those books has a pretty magical effect. They already know and love the story, and so reading it again (this time on their own!) is not a daunting chore. It's often just the spark they need to become a reader.

If you make a book display for your classroom, I'd love to see it!! Tag me in your pictures :)

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I also just posted these bookmark freebies over in my store:

Bookmarks for Reader's Workshop

If you follow me on FB or IG, then you saw these handy little things last week. One of my brilliant co-workers has been using these as an easy way to keep track of students' reading. I love this because when you sit to conference, you can help students set page goals for their reader's workshop time. How help for building speed and stamina?!? 

Bookmarks for Reader's WorkshopBookmarks for Reader's Workshop

So, a big shout-out to Jeff for this great idea and for allowing me to put them up in my store to share with you. Go grab yourself a copy!!