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!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Wonder of Google Docs

I am very new to Google Docs.  In fact, my recent preference for keeping my files has been dropbox.  I love dropbox.  However, I am excited to start using Google Docs to ease the transition to chromebooks.  Our school is doing a chromebook pilot this year.  The seventh and eighth graders will have a personal chromebook that they take to all their classes and home with them.  Like any techy teacher, I am really looking forward to this resource.  Last year the upper schoolers all shared a computer lab.  I imagine this is pretty typical, but it did make it hard to get computer based projects and papers completed due to scheduling.

There are multiple perks to GoogleDocs (which is now formally called Google Drive).  One obvious perk is that it automatically saves.  This is amazing.  You can even revert back to previous saves, in case you made changes that you no longer want.  Of course, there is also a traditional undo button.
Here is what a new document looks like:

I also like that you can easily search for your documents.  Rename your document by clicking the "untitled document" button.  The idea is that you give it a name that you clearly associate with the document, even if it has five words in it.  Then you can search those words and find the document in a snap.  Now, I'm not sure if I can totally eliminate the use of folders.  I love folders and organization, so even though I currently haven't organized my Google Drive, I think it's coming soon.  

A very powerful aspect of Google Drive is collaboration!  Multiple students (or teachers) can be working on the same document simultaneously.  In fact, if multiple people are working on the same document, you can see where the other person is typing.  I can see this working best on a group project that is based in Slides (Google Drive's form of Powerpoint).  Each student can be working on their own slides, but they don't have to wait for one person to finish before they start.  This means they will be more productive during class (and at home- as long as they have an internet connection).  

Since all of our seventh and eighth graders will have chromebooks, we are also going to be using the Chromebook Management Console.  This isn't exactly Google Drive, but a tool for chromebooks that will help students organize their documents...and so much more.  Although I haven't started using this yet and don't know the full extent of all the pieces, it has great potential for classroom use.  It can do things like push-out apps and websites to all student computers.  This will make it easy for everyone to be on the same web page without needing to type in long web addresses.  I am planning on using web based grammar drills at the beginning of class and this will allow the class to seamlessly get started.  There is also the ability for the teacher to see what is on every students' computer and what tabs they have open.  Cha-ching!  Can you say classroom management.  This is definitely one area that I was concerned about, and although I haven't tried it yet, I think this will save us a lot of trouble.  At my school, I think that the students knowing that we will be watching the links they are on will be enough for them to stay on-task.  However, if they do decide to go to an unapproved website during class time, the teacher can CLOSE the tab.  That's right...I've got the power. I am so excited to have this tool, even though I hope to never need to use it.  Also, as I mentioned earlier, this console will provide a folder for each of the students' teachers.  That means that I can put google doc worksheets in their English folder.  No more excessive printing.  No more, "I can't find my worksheet, can I have another one."  Now, I know not all of my worksheets will be on google docs, there are some reproducibles that  I didn't create that I still need to copy.  But, I am very excited about the prospect of being (more) paper-free.  I can also grade the papers right from the management console and still not need to print.  I have yet to figure out how I will motivate myself to grade when I don't have a stack of papers three inches high.  I think I will need to have a system of grading that I stick very closely to in order to not get too behind.  For example, grade all seventh grade Wordly Wise on Wednesday nights, etc.  I have always wanted to have a system like this that I follow, and now it should be easier because I can access the assignments from anywhere I have an internet connection.  Can you tell I'm excited.  I am sure there are other features of the management console that I don't know about yet, but this is what I gained from the overview.  

Here are some links for further reading:

Google Drive Tutorial from Lauren @The Sweetest Thing.  She goes into much more depth than I have.  If you want a step-by-step for Google Drive, this post is for you.

30 Ways to Use Chromebooks in the Classroom from Educational Technology and Mobile Learning.  This post goes into reasons that Chromebooks are the way to go if you are looking at 1 to 1 solutions.

Chromebook Management Console a brief look.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Blogging Adventure Continues...

Through my blog reading tonight I found a cute BlogLovin' button thanks to Miss Third Grade.  I found it on Middle School Shenanigans, so thanks for sharing!  Click the button below to get your own.  

I also added a button to my page, so make sure to check it out.  It has been a productive evening :)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Tech Tip- how to link in a blog comment

I am such a blog newbie, despite the fact that I have technically been blogging since November.  Recently I joined BlogLovin' and I am LOVIN' it.  So far I have transferred all of the blogs I follow to BlogLovin' (now that number is a whopping 86), downloaded the app for my iPhone and iPad, and slowly I have started to see my number of followers crawl up.  Thank you to the nine people following me.  Since I have been reading a lot of blog posts, I have been so inspired.  Occasionally, I want to learn more and that usually means that I want to comment on a post.  Thus came the motivation for this post. 

Why isn't my link showing up as a clickable link? 
 When commenting on others' posts I wanted to include my blog name, thus giving them easy access to check out my blog.  But, every time I copied my blog's web address into the comment it didn't show as a URL.  So my easy access...not so easy.  In order to see my blog, the reader of the comments would have to be motivated enough to copy and paste my web address into their browser.  I did a little research (i.e. I searched google for the answer) and I am sure it will not surprise you that there was an answer to my problem.  I still feel that there may be an easier answer, but I am happy with the solution.  Now when I include my website in the comment it actually shows up as a link.  

I found my answer at The Bexter Review (at this post), so you can read the original post if you would like.  


Copy this code into your comment section, but change the blue portion to the link you want and change the pink portion to the text that you want displayed.  It's that easy!  

<a href="">Follow Dava Smith English Teacher on BlogLovin’</a>

Thanks for reading my Tech Tip.  Feel free to let me know if I there is an easier way.  I am always eager to learn new things.  

Monday, July 15, 2013

It's Monday! What are you reading?

I am linking up with BookJourney's It's Monday! What are you reading? today.

I am pleased to say that I finished two of the "adult" books that I set out to enjoy this summer this week.
Losing the MoonLosing the Moon and The Lost SymbolThe Lost Symbol (Robert Langdon, #3)
I really enjoyed Losing the Moon by Patti Callahan Henry.  It is the second book of hers that I have read.  Previously I read and loved The Art of Keeping Secrets.  This book was not quite as suspenseful, but it was still good.  I like the way that Henry weaves in love stories.  This book did make me a little uncomfortable due to the illicit nature; however, in the end I was satisfied by the way the story panned out.

I didn't enjoy The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown as much as my chick lit choice.  I read it in anticipation of Inferno, but my reaction caused me to be much less excited for Inferno, which I'm reading for a book club I'm in. The Lost Symbol had a lot of masonic secrets which didn't jive well with my Christian beliefs.  Especially the details near the end of the book pertaining to the Bible.  Despite my misgivings, it was an entertaining read.

Esperanza RisingEsperanza Rising and The Wave The Wave

I am also reading some YA fiction right now in preparation for the new school year.  I am in the midst of re-reading Esperanza Rising.  This is the seventh grade summer reading book.  I feel that this book may be a little young for seventh graders, despite the age of the main character.  I think they will do well with it as an independent read.  When we start school I will begin the unit with pertinent background information.  I am currently making a GoogleDoc worksheet that will take the students to various websites for more information about the book and the time period.  I plan to write a post very soon about the wonders of GoogleDocs...I'm in love.

The Wave by Todd Strasser is the Social Studies summer reading book for eighth graders.  It documents the tale of an accidental social experiment that help the students see how the Holocaust could have happened.  This will inform our reading of Anne Frank's diary and connect with what the students learn in Social Studies about the Holocaust and Hitler's brainwashing abilities.  I am writing journal entries to go along with (some of) my reading this summer.  You can check them out here, and of course I'm using GoogleDocs!  I am not finished with this book yet, but I am enjoying it.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Teachers Write- Thursday Quick Write

I just found a professional development of sorts.  It is a virtual summer camp for writing called Teachers Write.  Check out the details here:

So here is my response to the quick write Thursday prompt:

What We See vs. How We See.
Full description of the assignment:

I am going to write from the perspective of two different characters.  I am taking the term "quick write" quite literally.  I am writing what comes to mind and then doing a quick edit of my work.  See if you can figure out who my two characters are.

1.  Finally, a moment alone and the book was calling her name. my pages...delight in the story that I'm here to tell you.  But, Shanda didn't actually get the chance to open the book.  Five seconds after her "moment alone" she heard the dreaded words, "Mom, when's dinner?"  Of course, it was always her pleasure to be serving her family.  Making dinner and doing laundry and doing dishes...but how she missed those moments alone.  Thinking that dinner could wait, Shanda slipped outside on the back deck and opened her book.  Instantly she was transported into the world of Thomas and Katherine and their sultry love scenes.  Although Shanda only got to read one chapter, a smile was on her face for the rest of the evening.  Dinner was cooked; dishes were done; laundry was put away, and yet Shanda was still with Thomas and Katherine in their woodland cottage.

2.  Sarah avoided the kitchen table like the plague.  There was an item on the table that she did not want to see, think about, and certainly not read.  The book was assigned three weeks ago and had to be read by Monday, only two days away. Sarah hated reading and knew that this book would not turn that around.  She found other things to do instead of walk past the table.  Sarah organized her closet, did her math and science homework, and spent two hours on facebook.  Unfortunately, the time had come and the book could no longer be avoided.  If Sarah wanted to have any chance of finishing her assignment she had to get started.   She trudged over and flung out her arm.  Even without looking, her hand found the exact object that she had been avoiding for three weeks.  The location had been seared in her mind, and soon, the words would be as well.

This was an interesting activity for me.  I usually write along with my kids when I assign quick-writes in the classroom; however, those are almost always connected to the literature that we are reading.  It was harder to pull something out of thin air.  I think it is a valuable activity, and I want to start doing more of this next year.  I still think that you can dig deeper into the thoughts of characters by stepping into their shoes, but it would also be nice to see what the kids come up with when given a more open prompt.