Tag Archives: English

Anchor Activities for Free Time

5 Sep

I survived the first day of school unscathed! I still have three more of my classes tomorrow but it feels good to have the first day under my belt. I honestly can’t remember being more excited and enthusiastic about beginning the year. I guess it’s because for the first time, this isn’t the first year at a new school for me. This is my sixth year of teaching and every single year but this I’ve had to change schools or districts. It was the most underwhelming beginning of the year I’ve ever had- and it was fabulous.

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Calm before the storm

Our kids are receiving 1:1 I-pads TONIGHT and I’ve been busy googling and pinteresting away at all the amazing things I will be able to do. It’s a lot to think about and I know I will start small, but it sure is exciting.

I have really been trying to reflect and make this year great by thinking about mistakes I made last year and how I can change that. I know that the first days of school are really important in setting a precedent and communicating expectations to students. I feel like I have always struggled a bit with classroom management a bit. I constantly think about how I can change and get better at it. Over the last school year I really noticed that having a well run classroom isn’t about being super strict or enforcing consequences or following a stringent rule plan like I read about my first year of teaching in Harry Wong’s book. It’s more about the atmosphere you create in the classroom. I think because this is the smallest school I’ve ever worked at…it’s really easy to gauge the atmosphere and overall ‘aura’ of the class and if the students are actually even listening to you, engaged and on the same page. I think this year instead of focusing so much on giving detentions and following a strict rule plan I will focus on creating a classroom atmosphere where the students feel motivated to do well because a) they like and respect me and b) they really are engaged in what they are doing so they don’t have time to act out. I think the I-pads will be a great launching pad (no pun intended) for this.

Last school year I was really frustrated about the amount of free time kids were given and them wasting it. My kids have a lot of study halls and fluff classes and it’s difficult to motivate them to do anything when there is no grade attached to it. When they claim to be “done” with their homework they have free time and start to act out. I started getting annoyed with this so I created this Anchor Activities requirement in my classroom. A quick Google search for anchor activities will explain what they are- basically activities that students have to complete when they are “done” with the day’s work to prevent idle down time. They are also great for differentiation when you have some kids who finish first and are just sitting around. This will work well in my inclusion classes where I have a range of abilities. I made up 8-10 activities like making flash cards, spelling lists, creative writing prompts, class journals, free rice and Brain Pop. Each activity is worth a certain number of points and students have to get 50 points a marking period.

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Required is their AR (independent reading) quiz and they have to read at least one book per marking period.

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I’m explaining the program to students next class. I really want it to go well and help fill up time of students who finish activities early and are just sitting around wasting time. Maybe it will even encourage them to try harder and put more effort into things instead of just rushing to get it done.

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Whole Class journals students can write in and respond to others in

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I’m really looking forward to this year and trying to enjoy every minute of this exciting back to school time!!! I’ve really never felt this not busy to be actually excited and looking forward to the year! It’s a great feeling.

Stargirl and Lit Circle Projects

4 Mar

I recently blogged about the literature circles I was doing in my classroom. Students were grouped in ability level and read three different books: Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli, The Skin I’m In by Sharon Flake and Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. We recently ended the unit and I wanted to share some of the amazing book projects they put together.

I gave students a choice for projects including making a fake Facebook, doing journal entries as one of the characters, a book cover, a collage, scrapbook, power point or Prezi presentation…and many more. There was even a choice to do an essay and one student picked that!

Here are some of the good ones:

A student’s Prezi– Prezi is a great tool for presentations if you haven’t already seen it.  It’s more interactive than power point and allows you to zoom in, show relationships between ideas, and embed pictures and video. Take a look at the Prezi my student did on symbolism in Fahrenheit 451.

source

 

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A student’s  book cover Stargirl.

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Awesome collage!!

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The inside

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Stargirl scrapbook

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Awesome job!!

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Facebook project

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More scrapbooks

End of book projects for the book Stargirl

Students did a great job! I love projects like these to assess their understanding of a book rather than giving a pencil and paper test.

How to deal: when your lesson doesn’t go as planned

4 Dec

MP910220894Yes, it’s been one of those days. Only Tuesday. Eek. Everyone has them- days when the students just aren’t getting what you intended and you become frustrated. This happened today. The students are struggling with the material, and quite honestly I am a planner. I have everything planned out perfectly until after Christmas break and already set and copied. But the problem is everything doesn’t go as planned. Even veteran teachers run into problems and I am no veteran. I had to calmly talk myself down today and reminding myself of these things helped quite a bit:

1) It’s okay to stray from the plan. It’s easy to get caught up in “I have to get this done” and “I need to get through this material” and “This doesn’t go along with the plan”, but when it comes to following a plan, if I have to change something and put what I initially had planned on hold, IT’S FINE! My main goal is for the students to learn, not for me to “get through material”.

2) If you don’t cover the material now, it will cause problems down the road. I’m not a math teacher, but I could only imagine if I ignored the fact students were having problems doing addition, and just pushed ahead because I had to ‘get through things’, there would be an even bigger problem when I tried to teach them how to multiple. Skills build on one another, so slowing down now will be worth it in the end.

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3) The main goal is student learning. Yeah, I might have to push my unit back a week. Yeah, we might have to spent more time writing thesis statements. Who cares? The main thing to remember is that the goal is student learning. If I have to push things like paperwork, planning and extra curricular activities aside, so be it.

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It’s going to be okay!

Whew! I feel better already. After the day I’ve had, I decided to revamp a couple of lessons that I plan on doing in the next few days and slow down the instruction to insure that students are really getting it before moving on. I hope this will help me avoid problems in the future.

New Vocabulary Word Group Strategy

30 Nov

Happy Friday! The lost awaited school post. Although I have been blogging about food and fitness for the past couple of weeks since I was on vacation, I did originally start this blog for teaching.

Vocabulary.

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Eeek. I’ve tried many a strategy. We all know that having students look up words in the dictionary is ineffective, but I remember being told to do it. Who uses a dictionary anymore??? If want to know a word, I Google it.

I find that my students don’t know many on level and even below level vocabulary words ( I had many students in 9th grade last year who were unaware of what ‘courage’ meant). But you can’t teach students EVERY word in the entire world that may or may not be on a standardized test.

I’ve always heard that the best way to learn new vocabulary was to read more. Duh. But how should you approach vocabulary in your classroom? I’ve tried things like:

The Frayer Model

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Our American Dream Frayer Models on the articles we read:

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I’ve tried Marzano’s six steps:

 

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Also, teaching root words, suffices and prefixes seems to be popular with the common core today. I used the method two years ago while teaching 7th grade English. It was semi-effective. Just because I tried it once and it didn’t work that well doesn’t mean it definitely doesn’t work, but what I noticed is that even if the student knew the root, it didn’t necessarily mean he would be able to decipher a random word containing that root. Case in point:

vocab

Even if the student knows that BIO means life, they still need to have extensive knowledge of the suffices to understand what the world means. And again, you can’t teach them EVERY prefix, suffix and root in the world.

I’ve even tried having students pick their own words from the books they are reading to look up, study and take quizzes on, and that didn’t seem very effective either.

I decided to try a new strategy this year that revolves around what I call word groups. Students don’ t need to know the full definition of a word (how often do you recite the entire dictionary definition of a word when you hear it?). They just need to understand the basic connotation of the word. I give students a list of words that all mean something similar to study. I have had this poster in my room for a couple of years and it seems to be successful. Students look at the poster when thinking of words to write instead of ‘sad’ or ‘mad’. So this is where the idea of teaching the word groups came from.

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The first word group I did was ‘sad/negative words’:

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I created a sequence of activities for students to complete for ‘bell ringers’ at the beginning of each class surrounding these words. The idea to work with the same set of words for five days came from a co worker of mine, who is doing the same thing but using root word groups instead. I modified her idea to use my ‘connotation word groups’. The sequence goes like this:

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Students aren’t necessarily working with ALL of the words each day, but my goal is for them to just sight recognize them on the quiz so they can tell the difference between that ‘sad’ word and another word that they may or may not know when answering multiple choice vocabulary questions.

I just finished my first round of this and the quiz grades were great! The strategy seems to be successful. We just started our second word group today.

Question: What strategies have you tried for vocabulary that have worked or failed?

ELA Common Core Bulletin Board + Expanding my Blog!

9 Nov

I am lucky and blessed enough in the school district I’m currently in to have a special ed co-teacher who works with me as well as an amazing teacher assistant. I wanted to share the great work she did on a bulletin board for (Thanks, Becky!) Although I consider myself very thorough as a teacher, I sometimes am not the most organized or most artsy-creative person in the world. That’s where my co-teacher comes in! I wanted to design a bulletin board that reminded students how to build an argument according to the common core- making a claim and using evidence to prove it.





I have also been teaching my 8th graders strategies I learned from the book Writing Analytically by David Rosenwasser and Jill Stephens (a book we used for professional development in the district I was in last year). This asks students to look for repetitions, binaries and anomalies in order to analyze a text. Believe it or not, the 8th graders are doing a great job with it.

Cooking adventures- healthy ‘pepper pasta’

Lately I have really been thinking about expanding my blog from just teaching ideas to a broader view of my daily life including recipes, food, fitness information and workouts. I know there are a million blogs out there, but I enjoy doing it and want to weave writing (why I became an English teacher in the first place) into my life. It is a goal I have set for myself and I don’t want to give up on it just because ‘there are a million blogs out there’. I am really having a tough time thinking of what to name my blog! I want it to let readers know what I’m blogging about- cooking, working out and teaching. I think I can appeal to more people and get more people to read my blog if I also blog about these things. In the past year I have been teaching myself to cook as well as adopting a healthier lifestyle and I want to incorporate those things into the blog.



My first 5K



I am having such a hard time thinking of something..but when I do be prepared for my blog to be changed from just lesson plan ideas to a place where you’ll find recipes I try out and workouts and ideas for health and fitness.

Any ideas for a blog name?!?!?

Spooky Tell Tale Heart Lesson for Halloween

31 Oct

arts,Edgar Allan Poe,famous people,famous persons,literature,men,persons,Poe,poets,text,writers

I’ve been planning for WEEKS and stressing out just to make sure I could do this lesson on Halloween. Things got a little derailed when we had an unexpected ‘weather’ day Tuesday due to the hurricane that didn’t really hit us. But I was still able to do the lesson today on Halloween.

For the last three lessons we’ve been reading Edgar Allan Poe poems and studying his life. Today we read “The Tell Tale Heart” and watched a short You Tube Video that went long with it. The website  Knowing Poe has a great interactive audio along with text for this story. The students followed along and listened to the story and did ‘sticky notes’. The interactive on the website allows you to add comments as you go along, so I would stop every now and then and ask students to share a comment. I really wanted to do this on the Ipads and students could have listened to it and done their own comments individually…..but you can’t get Adobe Flash on Ipads and that’s the program the website used 😦

Then we watched a short You Tube video that was a 10 minute adaptation of the story. The kids enjoyed it and pointed out the differences.

Then we answered some close reading questions that I made up. This was one of the first items I put on Teachers Pay Teachers, and it is my best selling item! Check it out!

Tell Tale Heart with Questions

Maybe I should have charged more than a dollar! Happy Halloween
celebrations,cropped images,cropped pictures,decorations,Halloween,holidays,jack-o'-lanterns,PNG,pumpkins,special occasions,transparent background

IPad Apps for the Classroom

22 Oct

Today was a professional development day and I was able to play around with my Ipad and test out different Ipad apps to use in the classroom. Our grade level has a cart of Ipads to sign out, and the sixth grade in our school is actually getting 1:1 Ipads. I’d love to get 1:1 Ipads someday but right now it’s not a reality, so I have to make do with what I have.

Here is a list of the ones I found most useful:

Voice Thread:
Voice thread allows you to record voice and make notes about a video or snapshot. It really doesn’t do anything that amazing, but it’s the creative ways teachers are using it that makes it cool. I plan on having students take snapshots of their narrative essays, and record their voice reading it and making comments on it.

They will do this for all their major assignments throughout the year and at the end of the year they will have a ‘digital portfolio’, with all their pieces of work and voice recording explaining the work.

You could also use it for class discussion about text- but it would require all students have their own Ipad and email addresses. You could take a picture of the text and have students write comments as you read. Here’s an edutopia article regarding more you can do with Voice Thread.

QR Reader:

This is a rather simple one that most people have heard of. You can embed a code into a certain QR, then have students scan the QR code with the Ipad and it will go directly to the link/video/website that the QR links to.

This isn’t much different than just giving kids the website or directions to find the video, but it’s much easier and avoids the headache of students not typing in the address right, not following directions, etc.

You could do a scavenger hunt of QR codes around the room/school and have students do a sort of ‘mobile’ web quest.

Show Me:
Basically another avenue to annotate and record over pictures and/or diagrams. The only thing is you can only work with one ‘slide’ as opposed to many pages. This would work well if you wanted to record yourself doing a math problem in action or explaining a concept to students. You don’t have to remember what you said each time, you can just record the notes and the conversation.
You can just this for white board notes and not have to re-write the notes for every class. This might be a good tool for teachers who teach in a lot of rooms.

If you have great Ipad apps and ideas that you are currently using in your classroom, please comment below! This is just a sampling of what I even did today…I know there are many more!

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