Friday, January 29, 2016

Strategy #4 - Four Corners (Engagement Strategies Series)

I LOVE Four Corners! It is seriously one of the easiest strategies to boost engagement that I know of and it's a cinch to put together!

Basically, all it requires is four signs for your classroom:

Hang one in each corner. I leave these up all year so that I can use this strategy anytime the opportunity presents itself.

What you do is present students with an idea. Recently, we were prepping to read a story about segregation, so I presented them with the statement: "Fair is not always equal."

Then, have them travel to the corner that best represents their level of agreement with the statement... Cold = you totally disagree; Cool = somewhat disagree; Warm = somewhat agree; Hot = you totally agree.

When they get to their corner, have them discuss their thinking with the others who moved there, too. Once students have had some time to talk to their group, have each group present their thinking to the class.

**It's really fun, then, to have each group try to convince other classmates to change their thinking and move corners. The kids will become so persuasive and it's great prep for argument writing :)

Ever used this strategy? How did it work for you? I'd love to hear about it!!

Happy Teaching!!

Check out all five of the posts in this series:

Friday, January 22, 2016

Strategy #3 - Read-Around Groups (Engagement Strategies Series)

Happy Friday!!

Here in South Jersey, were are eagerly awaiting snowageddon!! Blizzard + coastal flooding + four kids under the age of 7 stuck inside all weekend = CRAZINESS!!

Anyway, before we lose power to the snowpocalypse, I wanted to post the latest in my engagement series and it's one of my absolute FAVORITES!! Now, I will make no claims to have "invented" Read-Around Groups. Just a quick Google search will lead you to countless awesome teachers who rock this strategy on the daily.

Read-Around Groups are for sure, the BEST way that I've ever found, to actually get students investing in revising and editing their papers. THE BEST!! You have students complete them after they've finished writing their first drafts of an essay. Don't let students write their names on the paper... Have them use a number instead (like their birth date... Nothing too personal, but a way to identify them without the whole class knowing whose paper is whose).

Try them a few times and you will be hooked, I promise! It's great for the kids to glimpse almost everyone's first draft of their paper, and it really helps them get some great ideas for revising and editing their own papers.

 Have you ever used Read-Around Groups? How do you do it in your classroom? I'd love to hear about it!!

Happy Teaching!!

Check out all five of the posts in this series:

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Start Your Year Inspired - TpT Sale!!

Oh, Friends!! Don't you just love a good sale?!?

Now is the PERFECT time to get yourself some of this:

And don't forget about this:

And if you're really feeling ambitious... the prices for these cannot be beat:

And check out this! Hot off the presses and perfect for Black History Month:

My shopping cart is full!! I love starting the new year inspired :) Don't forget the code: START16

Happy Shopping :)

Friday, January 15, 2016

Strategy #2 - The Scavenger Hunt (Engagement Strategies Series)

Here comes round #2 of my series on Engagement Strategies. This activity is one of my FAVORITE things to do in my classroom. It works well for me because I have a large classroom library, but you can always take the kids to your school library and have them do it there.

I think this is the best way to teach grammar, figurative language and sensory details, characterization techniques, mood and tone... anything, really, can be taught through this activity!

So, just what am I talking about? It's a...

Library Book Scavenger Hunt

The concept is super simple: decide on something you want students to "find." In these pictures, students are looking for details that appeal to all five senses (we had been working on figurative language and sensory details for a few days prior to the scavenger hunt).

Then, set them loose with a bunch of literature and have them record the examples that they find in the stories!

After about 20 minutes or so, have them share their favorite examples that they recorded in their notebook!

I love this activity for several reasons: 

1.) Kids are READING!! 
2.) It is the most authentic way in the world to teach reading and writing elements. 
3.) Kids are READING!! 
4.) You can literally hear a pin drop in the room... they LOVE getting this much time to just page through books! 
5.) It can even make grammar fun! (This is, in fact, pretty much the only way I teach grammar... give them a few mentor sentences that illustrate what I want them to know, and then send them off to find me as many examples as they can of that skill.)
6.) They are READING!!! 

Have you ever tried a scavenger hunt? Think you will in the future? I'd love to hear how it goes!!

Happy Teaching!!

Check out all five of the posts in this series:


Friday, January 8, 2016

Strategy #1 - The Graffiti Wall (Engagement Strategies Series)

I am so excited to launch my first "series" of blog posts! It's making me feel all grown-up and blogger-like :)

My first series is going to be on increasing student engagement in the classroom. Over the next several weeks, I'll share with you some strategies that I've found really increase student focus and motivation. At this point in my career, I feel like these are pretty sure-fire. When I see kids zoning out - or even (gasp!) dozing off, when I have a lesson that I need every kid to really understand, or when an administrator walks into the room and I want to "WOW!" them, these are the activities that I use!

The Graffiti Wall

The first strategy is something that I call the "Graffiti Wall," but I've seen it called all sorts of other things on the Internets.

Basically, you put large pieces of paper around the room with questions or prompts, and have the students travel in small groups and respond to them. (On this day, I was getting ready to introduce a new unit in our anthology, so all the questions/prompts reflected the big themes of the unit.)

As the kids travel, and the paper starts to fill up, they can begin responding not only to the question/prompt, but also to the comments written by their peers.

After every group has had a chance to write on each paper, bring students back to their seats and use their responses to generate a class discussion.

I love Graffiti Wall because it gives kids time to think-out and talk-through their ideas. In teacher-lingo: it gives them processing time. Don't we all function better with adequate processing time? Isn't our thinking better/clearer/"smarter" after we've had time to talk it out? Of course it is!

Have you ever tried Graffiti Wall? Would you ever? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this strategy!!

Happy Teaching!!

* * * * * * * * * *

For each strategy, I plan on making a reminder card for teachers to print out and keep handy. After this series is over, you'll have a stash of strategies on hand to bust out whenever you need them!

Check out all five of the posts in this series:

Friday, January 1, 2016

Writing Through the Year

Happy New Year!! I hope this post finds you well, rested, and geared up for the second half of the school year!!

Did you lesson plan over the break, or are you cramming it all into this weekend?!?

So, I did some planning... a lot of planning actually!!

If you've read this blog for a while, you know that this is my first year teaching 7th grade. Before that, I had taught 6th grade (both ELA and math) for YEARS!! Anyway, I'm a long-term planner... like, I try to have a tentative year-long plan in place starting in September. But, since this is my first year in a new grade, in a new building, with a new curriculum, I had to feel some things out before I put my year-long plan in place.

I am happy to say, though, that I think I've got it down, at least for writing... and it looks a little something like this:

Obviously, September-December is already over... but, this is similar to what I did in 2015, with a few tweaks that I'll be following for next year.

Ahh... I cannot even tell you how GREAT it feels to have this finished! I love having a game plan for the year... it calms me :)

I've also bundled (bundle is Teachers Pay Teachers lingo for $avings!!) all these units together and put them up for sale on TpT. Because the units are so large (combined, all twenty units are over 700 pages!), I had to split them into two parts.

A Year of Writing-Part 1 (September through December) is available here.

A Year of Writing-Part 2 (January through May) is available here.

Yes, I am loving life now that this is finished!! I won't be able to set a year-long plan in place yet for reading because I need to spend the year with the new anthology before doing that (seeing how kids react to the stories is essential for effective planning). But, since I've got writing finished, I can focus my whole summer on planning for reading!

So, did you plan over your break, or was school the furthest thing from your mind?!? I'd love to hear from you!!

Happy Teaching!! (and New Year!!)