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Monday, July 17, 2017

Writing with Mentor Texts Series - Lesson #3


Hey there! I've got Lesson #3 today and it uses the most BEAUTIFUL mentor text, When Marian Sang!! I love the pictures and layout of this book, and I love how it demonstrates different ways to transition from scene to scene when writing.




Thanks for stopping by!



Thursday, July 13, 2017

Writing with Mentor Texts Series - Lesson #2


Hey Friends! July is buzzing along. Our summer learning program has been amazing! I've got such a great group of kids and they are such eager beavers when it comes to writing!!

Okay, as promised, here is Lesson #2 of my writing unit using the book Wilma Unlimited.



Enjoy!



Monday, July 10, 2017

Writing With Mentor Texts Series - Lesson #1



Hi Friends!! Welcome to the first lesson in my Writing with Mentor Texts Series for 2017! You can read all about my objective for my summer learning program here.

Okay, I'm just going to get started! Day 1 took a bit because I had to explain the project and let the kids put their notebook together. For the covers, I used some awesome clip art from Prince Padania available on TpT. I love the caricature look and the variety of cultures represented. (Of course some students elected to create their own cover and that is fine, too!)



For notebooks, I just used some of those flimsy marble notebooks. The size is 8.5 in. x 7 in. and there are 36 leaves per book. You can find similar ones at Walmart.

Once the notebooks were covered, it was time to get started with our first lesson using a mentor text. Today we used the book The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus.



We focused on creating a timeline of "principal events" in our lives like the one in the book. You can see my model down below. (PSA... make sure you are doing this project along with your students!! You are the BEST MENTOR!)



Okay... that was a lot for one day. Luckily, I have a 75-minute period during the summer, otherwise this would definitely have taken more than one class!

Hope you enjoyed this lesson! Remember, this summer I teaching an entire unit in summer school, so each lesson will build upon the next. That means you'll need to check back throughout the summer for the rest of lessons (there are 10 in all!), so come back soon!


Friday, June 23, 2017

It's Summertime!

Hey Friends!

My hope is that June is treating you all well so far :)

We've been finished with school for just over a week. Then end of the year, like always, comes at you like a ton of bricks! June 1st arrives and you think, "Ah, I've still got a couple weeks. There is so much I can get finished!"

And then WHAM!! 

Picnics, field trips, half days, pictures, assemblies, locker clean-out, parties... and before you know it, the last day is here and all the stuff you had planned goes by the wayside because you are too busy signing yearbooks, giving hugs, and singing Moana at the top of your lungs with the kids who drove you nuts all year but who you now suddenly realize are leaving you and you are not sure how you can go a week, let alone a whole summer, without hearing any of them ask you for a pencil! Phew!

Anyway, there isn't much time to lament because our summer learning program starts in about two weeks. Like last year, I plan to share all of my lesson plans with you here on the blog.

All the writing lessons that I'll be doing this year in summer school are FREE on the blog: musingsfromthemiddleschool.blogspot.com

So, this year I will be teaching writing again to 7th and 8th graders. My plan to have the students write their biography... and yes, I did mean biography and not autobiography! Something that I've noticed about kids is that they give me more detail when they are writing fictional stories. They do a better job describing the characters, how they look and act, and the conflicts they are involved in. I'm wondering if they write about themselves in the third person if I can get some of the same detail. Not sure how it will work, but that is what I love our summer learning program: we have the freedom to try out all sorts of new ideas and techniques!

I've got an amazing bunch of biographical picture books to use as mentors.


My goal is two-fold... to get kids to do some awesome writing AND to teach them about some awesome people! Something that I've noticed over the years is that kids don't just know "stuff" anymore. And I'm not sure why, exactly, but I can't help but wonder if a steady diet of niche YouTube over plain old television has something to do with it?

Anyway, I want to share with them books about important and interesting people whose stories deserve to be known! 

I'll start posting the lessons the second week of July... my plan is to teach the lesson and see how it goes, make some tweaks if necessary, and then post it here for you all.

So, enjoy the rest of June and stay tuned for some great lessons :)


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Monday, June 5, 2017

Present Participle List for June


Grading... our Video Game Projects. For realz, this project saves my sanity at the end of every.single.year. Kids love it, I love it, parents love it, administration loves it. Win, win, win, win.



Prepping... for our summer learning program. I'll be offering lots of free "writing with picture book mentors" lessons like I did last year. We are working on a biography/autobiography writing project this year and I'll be using these beautiful picture books.



Making... these sweet little end-of-year treats for my kiddos! Grab them here for FREE!!



Reading... these PD and "grown-up" books this summer.



Cleaning... out my classroom! I'm moving to a new room next year (still in the same position), and anytime I move, I use it as a time to PURGE! The mess is making me twitchy, though!!



Loving... that this was the sky when we left the beach at 9pm the other night!! Happy summer!!



Enjoying... the hot sun and icy drinks :) I am a summer girl at heart!!


What is your present participle list for June so far? I'd love to hear from you!!



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

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!!