Thursday, October 26, 2017

Awesome Classroom Library Additions!

We all know how difficult it can be to keep up with all the great young adult literature on the market. With so many incredible books (and Amazon Prime!), it's an overwhelming task to stay on top of the best reads for our students.

So, I thought I'd offer a bit of help. Let me start with a recommendation:

Friends, this book!! I can’t even!! I read the whole thing in one day because I absolutely could not put it down. You will laugh. You will cry. You will cheer. Timothy will be your new forever hero! His love for his sweet baby brother will melt your heart. My students love this book so much that I’ve had to put a three-day checkout limit on it due to its high demand. Make sure to add this one to your library today!! 

Next, I want to encourage you to head on over to the amazing blog by Secondary Sara to read all about her tips to keeping up with new books when you're a busy teacher!

Finally, go check out this Instagram loop where several incredible secondary teachers shared some of the best new(ish) books to add to your classroom library.

Hoping this helps a little in keeping your classroom library fresh and exciting!

Happy reading!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Spooky Snapshots

Hey, Friends!

So, it's that time of year :) My favorite season for some great writer's notebook lessons. I've said before that one of my favorite activities is writing Spooky Snapshots.

I've had several folks email me over the last few days asking if I had a good mentor for this. Typically, I draft a "mentor" in front of my students. This is always original and needs some revising to be considered "good." Anyway, I can't seem to remember to save my drafts along with some student samples, but I do have one that I wrote a few years back that I've used in a few different ways (in fact, parts may look familiar to you if you own my Lessons That Create Writers :):

Here is the text:

A bone-chilling breeze rustled the bare branches of the trees. Along with my boots crunching the frozen snow on the ground, the breeze, along with a random woodpecker and an occasional croak from a frog, were the only sounds you could hear. Ahead of me, stood the old church, its dilapidated tower a silhouette against the grey sky. Coming closer, you could see that the vines had grown so unencumbered over the years that the building gave the appearance of having been enveloped by the web of a gargantuan spider. The old man who served as caretaker of the church was there, as I could smell the burning of the fires that he kept lit in the drafty ruin of a building. As I approached the building, I could see he was burning piles of leaves in the old graveyard. The acrid smoke danced through the air and burned the insides of my nose with each breath I took. It was gritty in my mouth, leaving my tongue like sandpaper. Just as I was passing the crumbling structure, the fog began to roll in. Every noise was muffled. The wind rustling the leaves, the frogs croaking by the river, the woodpecker knocking on his tree all sounded as though you were listening to them from under water. The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end as I quickened my step. My heart was thumping in my chest and it felt as though every nerve in my body was on fire. My breath was swift and shallow and sweat beaded on my brow. I began to run.

Anyway, I hope that helps those of you looking for a mentor!! If you do this lesson with your kids, I love to hear about it. Comment here or give me a shout out on Facebook or Instagram :)

Sunday, October 1, 2017

September Happenings

See what we've been up to in my ELA middle school classroom during the month of September!

Ladies and Gentlemen.

Bone tired.

I love September for dozens of reasons, but holy cow!! I am so exhausted.

Back-to-school, prepping a classroom, paperwork, back-to-school night (for my students and my own kids!), beginning of soccer, paperwork, alarm clocks, packing lunches, paperwork, retraining my bladder to only pee twice a day, paperwork, wearing real clothes and shoes every day, laundry, paperwork, forming a PLC and setting an SGO... and all THAT paperwork.


Anyway, enough of my whining because I know that I'm preaching right now to the choir!!

Aside from all the crazy, I've got some great stuff to share from the busy month. My school kiddos are awesome and we've been having the best time getting to know each other.

Like last year, I am starting the year with Writing from Lists in our writer's notebook and we are tacking Information Text in reading. The struggle is real going from two, 50-minutes periods of ELA last year, to one, 60-minute period this year. I can say that while I'm pretty much sticking to my plan , there is absolutely not one second of down time in my room. We work from the second they sit down, until the second they leave. The pace is hard.

So, without further ado, here is what's up in Room B208...


We've got two lists into our notebooks: "Things I Cannot Stand" and "I Can't Imagine Life Without...". We've only managed one "Fast Five" though. I am hoping to really get into a flow next week.


I am starting off the year with studying Informational Text.

Beginning with this unit allows for a much smoother transition into our Article of the Week routine.

I've added some great TpT products into my unit this year. While these products are not new, they are new to me, so I wanted to share.

First, I am in love with Hello Literacy's Short Text for Teaching Text Structure articles.

These are perfect for middle school students when you want to teach a skill and not have their performance be hindered by their reading comprehension. These texts are SHORT, interesting, and come in a variety of reading levels so that when you work on a skill, even your most struggling readers can participate. I've been using them like crazy!!

Next, I'm totally digging Deb Hanson's Summarizing Nonfiction: A Bundle of Activities!

Her PowerPoint is direct and easy to follow and I like the "code" (a.k.a. structure) she gives for writing a short, succinct summary.

And finally, I jumped on the ESCAPE ROOM bandwagon!! I had bought Darlene Anne's Escape Room ELA Comprehension and Writing Break Out Activity, over the summer.

I didn't wind up using it the way it was intended, though. Instead, I used their riddles and decoder cards to put together my own breakout activity.

So, after teaching the students how to summarize with Deb Hanson's PowerPoint and ISN page, I had the kids write summaries for ten of Hello Literacy's Short Texts. Each time they got a summary correct, they earned a few of the decoder cards from Darlene Anne's Escape Room resource. After completing all their summaries, and decoding the riddle (which gave them a clue as to where the key was hidden), they got to guess the whereabouts of the key. The "key" unlocked my treasure box (um... shoe box, really) that was full of candy and incentives (like homework passes and "sit anywhere" passes). 

It was so much fun. AND more importantly, the kids willingly read and summarized TEN nonfiction articles. I can't imagine what I would of had to do in the past to get them to be so excited to do that much work!!

I think I'm sold on the Escape Room/Breakout Box activity. They are a lot of work to put together, but if you get yourself some good resources from TpT, the prep time will be cut dramatically.

Reader's Workshop:

This year, our schedule has a 35-minute period of Reader's Workshop/STEM for all students. That means that every other day, my students get to independently read their self-selected books for 35 uninterrupted minutes.!!

"Yummy" is still my go-to book for reluctant, not-on-grade-level readers. They just LOVE this book.

This makes a great follow-up to "Yummy."

Also, I bought three Kindle Fires during Prime Day over the summer. They were $30 each. I know that $90 is a lot to spend on materials for your classroom, so if that's not your jam, I totally get it!! But, for me, it's been money well spent. I do have an Audible account (and have for a while) because I actually listen to most books now. (It's how I am able to stay on top of all the great YA literature that comes out at a rapid fire these days!!) So, it's been perfect because the kids can listen to the books that I've purchased. It's been AMAZING for our struggling readers!

Around the Room:

Ambient lighting. There are no words for how happy it makes me to not turn on those fluorescent lights every day. My Target lamps rock my world.

New anchor posters. Design your poster on the computer. Project onto the board. Trace on to large poster paper and voila! Beautiful new posters! (All my old ones were ratty and looked dated!) Love how my new ones turned out!!

My karaoke microphone. I've been wanting a microphone in my classroom for a while now for students to practice public speaking. This one is AMAZING! It's perfect for getting their attention, sharing important directions, and class discussions... and sometimes a little singing or "spittin' some bars" as my kids say :)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Whelp, that's what's been happening in my room this last month! I know this is a long post, so thanks for sticking around to the end!!

I'd love to hear what's been happening in your room, so be sure to comment below or drop me a line on FB to share.

On another note, my teacher heart is heavy for so many of our citizens over the last several weeks. Lots of destruction, and chaos, and heart-break. I have several students still waiting to hear from loved ones in Puerto Rico. Healing will take time, but I know that there are so many teachers who will be there giving their all to help our kiddos put their lives back together. To all of my fellow educators who do the hard work every day, even in the face of tragedy, my hat is off to you. Stay strong and be well.