Thursday, December 5, 2013

Expository Writing and The Book Whisperer

I have obviously not stuck to my goal of blogging once a week, so thank you for sticking by my side!  So many wonderful things have happened so far this year, and as always, life has been overcome with busyness.  There are a few things that inspired me to pick up my laptop and write a post today.

First of all, I have started to read Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer.  It was talked about on many blogs this summer, and I have chosen it for my professional development book this year.  Donalyn is an inspiration to all teachers, readers, and parents.  I love what she says about inspiring young readers and making a reader out of anyone and everyone.  Basically, to awaken the inner reader, you need to give the kids time to read books and help them find books they enjoy.  She has her students read 40 books a year.  I have my students read for fun, but most of them are still in the phase of reading just to fulfill the requirement.  Another crucial step is that you (as the teacher, reader, or parent) need to help students find books that they will enjoy.  Donalyn has an extensive classroom library and knowledge of books.  While I enjoy reading, and have a small classroom library, I do not have the knowledge that I feel I need to help my students find books.  I love the idea of putting my books in bins by genre and knowing the level, but it is overwhelming to know where to begin.  I hope that this will be something that I can spend more time on throughout the year and summer (I know, I'm really thinking ahead).  I want to inspire my students and create life-long readers within my classroom.  Thank you, Donalyn, for your wise words.

I also want to talk about writing.  Throughout my years as a teacher, I have had my students do countless writing assignments.  This year I made a very specific writing plan for my students, so they knew what to expect.  I have about two assignments in each genre- expository, narrative , and argumentative.  It is interesting though, that the majority of my past assignments have been narrative and argumentative.  So now it is time to teach my students how to write an expository essay.  The goal of the assignment is to build background knowledge for reading Anne Frank's Diary.  I had about ten topic choices, and instead of assigning them, I let students pick what they wanted to research.  I gave them some website resources, directed them to use easybib, and told them to start with general note taking.  At this point, I need to figure out the next step.  In doing some research, I have determined that I want to review the organizational patterns, as these are often used as organizations for expository essays.  I was thinking of doing a foldable, so that is what I am in search of now.  Even though we are primarily using chromebooks this year and going "paper-free," I think switching things up will invigorate the class.   After reviewing the organizational patterns, I would like the students to pick an organization for their essay and start drafting.  I decided that I would complete the assignment as well, to model it for my students, and it is quite difficult.  Most of the topics have lots of information and require background knowledge to fully understand them.  Why is it so easy to make a powerpoint or a prezi, but not to take that same information and write it into a paper?   I am sure the students do this in Social Studies all the time, and yet, now it is designed to help them build background information.  What are your thoughts?  Have you ever done anything like this before?  Let me know because I am thinking that this might not be the best way to teach expository writing.  Maybe the students already need to have sufficient prior knowledge to write a cohesive paper.

Hope to hear your ideas!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Classroom Reveal

Linking up with

I don't know about you, but it has been a whirlwind since school started on September 3rd.  Thursday night was Back to School Night, and since I had my room all spiffied up (again), I thought I would take my classroom reveal shots.  I have used quite a few strategies and decorating schemes that I originally found on Blogs.  I am not sure where I found most of these ideas, but you will notice some chevron fabric which I LOVE and the NOISE sign.

This is the area behind my desk.  I love my letters lamp that I got from Kohl's a couple years ago, even though the plug behind it is an eye-sore.  I also have my Read Chart here.  I made it this year, instead of buying it, to save a buck.  I think it turned out perfectly.  You can almost see one of the lines already has twenty stickers...that student read all those books this summer!  I count their yearly reading from June-May, so that they can have an accurate total of how many books they read in a year.  Here are some other fun things- an electronic hole puncher, which was a birthday gift from my husband a few years ago,  a Jack Russell Terrier calendar in honor of my pup, and my stuffed animal corner with my favorite...BEES.   Under my Work Expectations poster you can also (sort of) see a collage and birthday card that a student made for me.  She made numerous copies of my picture from the yearbook and collaged it with pictures of Beyonce, because we share a birthday.  Isn't that fun; I feel so loved!

This is my sideboard.  It is right across from the bulletin board that you just saw.  You can see that I had some fun with clothespins.  My NOISE sign I made with clothespins and ribbon because I thought it would be easier to turn the letter around.  I have only had to turn letters three times so far.  Hopefully this trend continues!  At the top of the board are comma posters that I made.  Even though they are a little hard to read from students' seats, they are still a good reference.  You can also see the film photo frame.  Inside, I have put pictures of my advisees and their interests.  Two of my purchases from VistaPrint are also displayed on this board: Absent Postcards and Agenda Magnet.  To read more about my VistaPrint finds check out this previous post.

I also decided to do jobs this year.  Here is a close up of my signs.  I use Rick Morris' student number concept, so that is why the clothes pins have numbers, not names.  This will make for a more seamless start to next year.  Other than adding a few clothespins to account for a different number of students in each class, they will already be made.  And a quick shout out to my wonderful mom and sister who helped me color 60 clothespins :)

Interested in these signs?  Let me know, I'll email them to you.  

I also used clothespins for my passes.  How simple and less germy for sure.

For the front of my room, I have decided to show before and after photos.  I think that this is the most significant change I have made.  I love the cohesion between the two chevron covered boards.  I got the figurative language signs from TpT.  Check them out here. All the other posters I have made.

These 6+1 Trait posters are in my TpT store. Also, don't miss my fancy hot pink pencil sharpener.  So far it totally lives up to the hype!

Now I am off to enjoy a lovely weekend.  Make sure to take some time to relax and rejuvenate on your days off.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

September Currently

So, today is my birthday.  I had a very special day at school, with one student not only remembering my birthday, but making brownies and bringing me a gift of books for my classroom library (oh and let's not forget the collage of my face mixed in with Beyonce's-who shares my birthday).  In addition to all that fun, two classes sang to me and countless students and teachers wished me a happy birthday.  On that note, I am already loving my new pencil sharpener.  I got the awesome new hot pink one.  It really does work!  I have never had a sharpener that was so effective.
It is also my second day of school.  To help break the ice yesterday, I had my students do a September Currently.  Then I read through them and the kids had to guess who wrote it.  It was quite fun.  I can't wait to have them try it on their blogs (which I haven't yet set up).  I thought that it was only fitting for me to get in on the action.

Because I am thinking of "plan, plan, plan(ing)," I better go do that now.  It has certainly been a busy couple of days, and I still have much to do tonight.

Link up at Oh' Boy Fourth Grade's Blog.  If this is your first time joining a "currently" you might need a tutorial (like I did).  Find a great one at Chickadee Jubilee's Blog.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

What have I been up to???

I have been away for a long time.  Not literally away, but away from the blogging world.  I have been very busy in my education life and in my home life.  My dad came to good old Maryland for a visit (in fact he is next to me right now)!  I have so enjoyed having him and taking a few more days of vacation before heading back to school.  Prior to that, I worked on a number of posters for my classroom.  I started by making posters with cute backgrounds from Run Miss Nelson's Got the Camera.  I made posters with a chevron background, but then I realized that my bulletin board fabric was chevron.  Then I made the same posters with the crazy dot background, but even that looked too busy on the chevron fabric.  So I settled on a lime green and black background with white letters.  I think it will look great!  You can check them out here:  Six Traits of Writing Posters.

Here's a preview:

What do you think??  

I will also be posting my chevron and dot posters for sale on TpT, but I don't have them quite ready.  If you're interested, like my store and get updated when they are added!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Monday Made It- Planning, Common Core, and Freebie

As promised, here is my Monday Made It with 4th Grade Frolics.  

1.   The "Write" Stuff resource sheet.  You can find this on TeachersPayTeachers as a freebie by clicking the link.  Here is a quick preview.  This is linking back to my post about fun fonts.  I love the look of these two fonts.  You can read more about the fonts I chose in this post.  If you like the fonts, you can click on the link in my sidebar for free scrapbook fonts by Kevin and Amanda.  I still need to finish the resource sheet for my seventh graders, but when it is finished I will also post that as a freebie on TpT.  If you want an editable version of this resource sheet just request it and I'll send it by email.  This is very specific for my class and the papers that we are writing throughout the year.  Also, the 6 trait resource sheet that is referenced is not yet made.  : ) 

2.  I made my plan book today.  I still need to figure out how to cover it because I'm using an old binder.  I think I'm going to try and find some colorful (or chevron!) duct tape to make it fun.  I really liked the plan book that Lauren made (check it out at her blog-Life in Middle School), but in order for it to really fit my needs I had to make a few changes.  I used hers as a template and made my own.  I used GoogleDocs, which was a little tricky, but it was what was available.  Here is a preview and it can also be found at this link.   I decided to include an objective for each area that I want to cover.  Even if I am only doing a small activity for Wordly Wise or for grammar, it will help me to ensure that I am balancing all the areas that I need to teach.

When I started to copy my plan book I realized that there is not a ton of room in these boxes.  I teach seventh and eighth grade so I decided to copy the pages twice for each week.  I think I will like this better than the traditional plan books that include the class periods of the day.  This spread is seventh grade for one week, and when you turn the page it looks exactly the same, but it will be for eighth grade.  I love how having new resources brings excitement to things like planning!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Saturday Snapshots-A week in the life

Wow, two posts in one day.  I know, you're all as thrilled as I am.  I decided to link up to Saturday Snapshots today because I have been collecting a lot of fun pictures recently.  This is my very first Saturday Snapshots, and I am really hoping that my iPhone photos look alright.  

Here it goes...

Home and Personal Stuff

 I loved the look of the birds on the roof of my neighbors home.  Can you see them?  You might have to squint.  

I made these curtains for our guest room!  This is my first (and perhaps last) sewing project.  They are also fully lined to keep out the heat and sunlight.  Unfortunately, I already bought the fabric for the office, so I'm on the hook for a few more curtains.  I want to finish those this week so I can put away my hideous sewing table.  

Can you think of anything better for a forty-five minute commute.  I just got these two books from the library today.  I love chick lit!

At the Beach

My mom and I went to Florida for the beach wedding of a long time friend.  The pictures are actually in reverse order.  The wedding was on Saturday at Mexico Beach, and then we went to Panama City Beach on Sunday.  

This is the partial beach view from our room at the Sandpiper Beacon Beach Resort.  We were in the lazy river for most of the time, but there are no pictures of that because we were in the water! 

These are from the Luau.  They have this special entertainment every Sunday and Wednesday.  

Beach Wedding

First Dance

 The view from our hotel in Mexico Beach.  

Short and Sweet Saturday-Fonts

           I'm linking up with Miss McDonald's Memoirs for Short and Sweet Saturday.  This is the perfect opportunity to talk about a new favorite of mine...FONTS!  I am new on the font train and I'm giddy about the resource sheet that I made this week.  Stay tuned because it will be posted for Made it Monday.  I found the most amazing font website-  There is so much to love about this website: recipes, life stories, and FREE FONTS!!  Gotta love free fonts, and they're even available for commercial use, just follow these terms of use.  So far I'm using monster paparazzi and wish I were taller.  I have combine these two for a cohesive title for my Common Core resource sheet (check back Monday) and used wish I were taller throughout for headings.  Ahhh, I am so excited about fonts!  

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Best Google Keywords

I just found a very exciting blog post.  I have been searching some Google resources and this post was linked to on one of the pages: 12 Best Google Keywords for Finding Classroom Resources.  I am a self proclaimed "bad searcher" on the Internet.  In fact, I often make my husband create my searches because I think I will get better results that way.  I think this archived blog post could change all that.  Now, I haven't tried any of these words yet, but I am very excited to!  I think that they will help make searching much more successful.  Here is a sneak peak of the keywords, but make sure to read the full blog post by clicking the link above!


                              Discussion Questions

                                                      Practice Exercises 


                                                 Internet Scavenger Hunt

                                     Lesson Plans


                                                     Reader's Theater(e)



Worksheet or Handout



Thursday, August 1, 2013

Thursday Throw Down- Making Learning More Interactive

I am excited to join in on I'm Lovin' Lit's linky party this week.  In a way this could also be a "Throw Back Thursday" post.  I have really enjoyed reading all of the ideas in this linky party, and I have added a lot to my list of new ideas to try this year.
I have a few things that I do to make learning interactive for my students.  One of my go to places for strategies and lessons is the AVID handbook.   I no longer teach in an "AVID" school, but I went to the workshop before I left that school and I continue to use all of the fun resources.  AVID stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination and you can find out more about it here.  One of these ideas was showcased in my very first blog post.  Here is an excerpt from that post, originally posted on November 21, 2012. 

My most recent project with my seventh graders was the Theme One Pager.  This AVID technique is a very succinct way to sum up a novel.  The students need to pick a scene from the novel that represents one of the themes of the book.  The picture should take up the majority of the page, with as little white space as possible.  On top of the picture students need to put two quotes that support their theme, a paragraph explaining the theme and the connection to the quotes, and a personal reflection.   We had finished reading The Giver, by Lois Lowry, so some of my students chose a black and white color scheme to represent the colorless world that Jonas lives in.  The students were encouraged to do a rough draft first and then put it onto a plain sheet of printer paper (white or colored).  This took us about three days in class, and then students needed to finish it at home if they didn't finish it in class.  

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Extra Time Bulletin Board

I have been thinking a lot about my Bulletin Board for when students have extra time.  I have seen a lot of ideas on other blogs, but I just am not sure what I want to do yet.  Last year I had an extra time board.  Here is a picture of it:
On the paper that is bottom/center there were a list of activities that students could do that related to vocabulary, and students had the same handout in their binder.  Here is the one ever followed the recommendations.  When students had extra time, most of them wasted it, and a rare few read their free reading book.  This year, I want to make the bulletin board more interactive and enticing.  I was thinking that I could put some "fun" and educational activities in the file folders- MadLibs and Boggle for example.  I also thought that perhaps I could have some flash cards on a ring for student review.  The question is, would students actually use these?  It will take time to make the cards, laminate them, cut them out, put them on a ring, and I want to have a few sets.  I think that it would "look" like fun, but once the students realize they are just flash cards, will they continue to use them?  I also was thinking of including some writing prompts somewhere, perhaps on flash cards or 1/2 sheets of paper.  

Have you guys ever had success with an "extra time" bulletin board?  Let me know what has worked for you!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Tune into Technology Linky

I have one quick tip for the Tune into Technology Linky this week.  The theme is organizing technology.  A teacher friend of mine gave me this tip two years ago and it has revolutionized my file organization.  Here it is...numbers!  Sounds simple, right?  Here is a quick look of what I mean-

This is a picture of my seventh grade literature file.  I number the books in the order that I teach them.  That may not seem that revolutionary, but imagine inside one of the folders.  That's right.  It is all in order.  From activity 01 all the way to the end of the unit.   Here's a look-

This makes it so easy when coming back to my files the next school year.  I can just look through them in the order that I did them.  WOW!  Notice that I have three files with the number 03.  That is because this was all one lesson.  Sometimes I also make documents in advance and I don't know exactly where they will fall.  In this case I just assign a number that I think will be valid and change it if necessary.  

Thanks for reading.  I hope that this was a helpful organizational tip for your technology! 

Liebster Award!!!

I have been nominated for the Liebster Award by Heather over at Middle School Shenanigans.  I am so excited!  I have seen these posts going around, and I can't wait to get in on the action.  

In order to accept this award, I have to do the following things: 

1. Link back to the blog(s) that nominated me
2. Nominate 5-11 blogs with fewer than 200 followers
3. Answer the questions posted by my nominator
4. Create 11 questions for my nominees
5. Share 11 random facts about yourself
6. Contact my nominees and let them know I nominated them

Heather asked me:

1. If you could describe your teaching personality in three words, what would they be?
Creative, Caring, Motivated

2. What/who inspired you to be a teacher?
I have wanted to be a teacher for as long as I remember, but my true inspiration was my 10th grade English teacher.  She was so supportive and caring.  No one wanted to leave her class!

3. What is your biggest pet peeve?
When I'm not in the moment of teaching it is hard to think of what my pet peeves are.   Off the top of my head, I'm thinking that it is kids purposely ruining school supplies (pens and pencils for example) for no reason. 

4. What is the one school supply you can’t live without?
Only one...
I definitely can't live without my computer and projector.  I use these everyday.  I also really love fun pens and markers. 

5. If you could travel to anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
I have been seeing a lot of pictures of floating bungalows in tropical islands.  I want to go here!  Why?  Ummm...warm breezes, cool waters, beautiful scenery.  

6.What is the best piece of teaching advice you have ever gotten/given?
Never give up and try your best.  I went through some rough times and this advice helped me get through.  I am so happy I stuck it out because I feel like I have finally found my stride. 

7. What is the best teacher book you have ever read? Why?
I think the top book I've read is Rick Morris' New Management Handbook, and all his related books.
These books have helped me with my classroom management plan.  Last year I implemented class cards and music cues in my classroom routines.  

8.  What was your favorite thing about this past summer? 
I am happy to announce that my summer won't be over for another month!  So far my favorite thing has been spending lots of time with my friends and family.  This is something that I don't get to do as much during the school year, and I thoroughly enjoy it.  Oh, and going to the POOL!!!

9. Why did you start blogging?
Originally I started blogging to bring more traffic to my TpT store.  Now, I just like to share ideas and learn from all the amazing bloggers out there.  I get so inspired and it creates renewed excitement about teaching.

10.  If you weren’t in education, what career would you want to have? 
I would hopefully stay in education in other ways like curriculum writing or tutoring.  If I was totally out of the world of education I would want to be a realtor.  I really like looking at houses, so selling them wouldn't be that different, would it?

11. Which blogs are your favorites to follow?  Why? 
I like following LOTS of blogs (there are 98 on my list right now).  I like lower education blogs for their creative classroom decoration ideas, and I like upper school blogs for their curriculum ideas.  

11 Random Facts:
1.  I am a reality TV junky, but I just started watching Big Brother this year.
2.  I have a Jack Russell Terrier named Lexy.  Isn't she sweet!

3.  I don't eat Red Meat.
4. I got married on the day after Christmas, 2010.
5. I have been teaching for five years, and I have worked in 3 different schools.  I am hoping to be in my current school for a very long time!
6.  I love to read, and I'm not that picky about books.
7. My favorite kind of ice cream is Turkey Hill's Chocolate Peanut Butter.  Mmmmmmmm!  I might just go get some right now.
8. I have recently been having trouble falling asleep due to thoughts of decorating my classroom.  I have a problem!
9.  I have worked at Kohl's part time for four years...while teaching.  Gotta love the discount.  Don't worry, I only work on weekends during the school year. 
10. My favorite restaurant is Olive Garden.
11.  I wish I had an unlimited budget for PD books and classes.  I love to learn more about techniques for teaching, technology, etc.  I have three books in my Amazon cart right now, but the $75 price tag is scaring me.

I have looked high and low for blogs that haven't been nominated already, and I think I have succeeded with the seven blogs below.  And the nominees are...
Juggling ELA
Middle School Matters
Teach it Write
2 Peas and a Dog
Life in 6th Grade with Ms. V
Keeping it Fresh in 6th Grade
Sliding into 2nd

Questions for my nominees:
1. What is your favorite professional development book for teaching reading, writing, or grammar?  If these aren't your areas of expertise, pick any PD book that you love.
2.  What thought inspires you to continue through the tough days?
3.  What is your hobby (i.e. what do you do when you aren't teaching, planning, grading, etc.)?
4.  What is your favorite book to teach and why?  If you don't teach books, pick your favorite topic.
5.  Explain aspects your classroom organization system that help your classroom run smoothly.
6.  What is something new that you are going to try next year in your classroom?
7.  What is your favorite store and why?
8.  What type of technology do you use most in your classroom?
9.  What's your favorite teaching moment?
10. What advice would you give to new teachers?
11. What is your teaching style?

Thanks everyone for your participation.  I can't wait to read your responses!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Monday Made It- VistaPrint

My very first...

I am excited to report that I have used my Vista Print groupon.  I found this deal on Ms. Potter's blog, and I jumped at the opportunity for this great deal.  Through perusing blogs and Pintrest, I had tons of ideas for my classroom.  Two blogs in particular gave me inspiration, Ms. Potter's blog (see above) and Mrs. Finley's blog.  I pinned my favorite ideas from their blogs: check out my pins!

Update:  For some reason, some of the images in my post are gone!  I have updated the information below based on which images are still showing up.   I have used all of my custom Mrs. Smith sticky notes (not pictured).  They were probably my favorite item that I ordered.  I also still use a magnet that I made for my agenda which I made from a car door magnet.

Here are some other things that I made:

Ideas from Middle School Minions:
made from a postcard

  On the back of this card there is a place for the names of the missing assignments and additional notes.

Ideas from MSKCPOTTER:
made from a loyalty card

One of my biggest complaints during the school year is students forgetting items that are required for class.  I didn't want to say that they could never get their supplies from their lockers, because it negatively affects their studies.  I think this is going to be a good solution.  I will give the students five freebies.  As long as they have their punch-card, they can go and get their required supplies with no consequence.  Once the card fills or if they lose their card they will owe a detention for forgetting supplies.  I am really excited to try this!

UPDATE:  I have been using this system for three years and it works really well.  I allow students to share a punch with a friend if their friend has run out or forgotten their punch card.  It helps the students become accountable for bringing their supplies to class.  This was a WIN!