Friday, May 10, 2013

Friday Favorites!

It's time once again to share with you some of my favorite finds of the week!

First, especially poignant this week in light of Teacher Appreciation, I found a link to a great video clip via The Teaching Channel.  It's a performance of Taylor Mali's poem, "What Do Teachers Make?"  I know that many of you may have seen this already, but much like my inexplicable desire to reread "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" every December, I love revisiting Mali's words and hearing this emotional response to a common question during this week every year.  While the calendar says that it's "Teacher Appreciation Week," and it's wonderful to feel the sincere recognition and appreciation for the challenges that teachers face on a daily basis, it is still clear that our profession continues to be maligned and misunderstood by many..."What Do Teachers Make?" reads like an anthem to me. I hope you find it as inspiring:

My next favorite of the week is a blog post from Erin, a bloggy friend at Miss Lifesaver.

I love her blog and all of the great ideas that Erin shares.  Usually, on Tuesdays, Erin shares a Teacher Tip - something that she has found from a variety of resources and tried in her classroom.  This week, however, she had a different kind of post, and I loved that she shared it during Teacher Appreciation Week.  In the post, she explains how she, like many of us, spends so much time and energy focused on students that are behavoirally challenging and interfering with the learning of others - and that, also like many of us, she struggles to find ways (and time) to provide positive reinforcement to students that always seem to make the right choices.  Erin explains how she decided to show one such student in her class that his positive attitude and outstanding efforts, both academically and behaviorally, were noticed and valued.  It makes for a great Teacher Tip post!  Take time to visit her blog and read her story. It serves as a great reminder that, as she wrote, "everyone wants to be appreciated."

Lastly this week, I want to share something a little different.  Besides some of my more obvious loves of reading, writing, blogging...I also LOVE to cook!  I can't get enough of Food TV and The Cooking Channel and I'm constantly adding to my cookbook collection and Pinterest boards.  Yet, with busy weekly schedules, not to mention my son also getting older and becoming more involved in different activities, I'm finding I need to choose recipes that are not only healthy, but quick to prepare during the week.  I tried a good one and want to share it with you!  It's a quick crock pot, kinda dump (the ingredients in) and go (get on with your busy day) kind of meal.  Make a little rice and get out some yummy taco toppings at dinner time, and you're done!  Here's a link to Crock Pot Santa Fe Chicken via  It was super yummy, and even my little guy - who is the pickiest eater I have ever known - liked to help me make it AND tried it.  It was a winner-winner chicken dinner...for real!  I hope your family might like it, too.

Any favorite things that you have found this week and would like to share?  Post in the comments below.  We would love to see them!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Brand New Look!

I am so excited to be writing my first post on my newly designed blog!  In the spirit of spring renewal, thanks to Megan at A Bird In Hand Blog Designs, Middle School Matters Blog has a whole different look. I've been wanting to do something like this for a little while, but I wasn't sure how to go about it.  Now, I can tell you that if you also happen to be a teacher-blogger and are thinking about a redesign, don't hesitate!  It has been really easy to work with Megan, and the results have been so much better than I even hoped for.  She has lots of different packages to offer - and they are all created with teachers in mind.  An even better idea...if someone you know is a teacher and either has a blog or is thinking of starting one...what better gift for Teacher Appreciation Week then hooking that lucky person up with a brand new design?  Just a thought! :-)

Speaking of Teacher Appreciation Week, I just want to take this opportunity to remind you about the fantastic sales happening right now at both Teacher's Notebook and Teachers Pay Teachers.  Both of these online resources for teachers are showing some love - details below:

Check out both sites to find great savings across the board!  Be sure to visit you wishlists and make the most of this opportunity!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Characterization FREEBIE

Introducing a brand new FREEBIE: Characterization Graphic Organizer (for any text)

(click on image above to download)

Focusing on the the CCSS in Reading for Literature, specifically looking at Key Ideas and Details as well as Craft and Structure, middle school students are asked to demonstate such skills as to "analyze how particular elements of a story or drama interact (e.g., how setting shapes the characters or plot)," (RL.7.3) and to "determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to the characters, setting, and plot; provide an objective summary of the text." (RL.8.2)  The first step to begining such tasks is to understand the concept of characterization. (HERE is a link to a great summary of the difference between direct and indirect characterization via Addressed and practiced in earlier grades, the above graphic organizer will assist students in navigating through text details to glean information about specific characters.  Supporting details recorded on this page can then be used to respond to questions pertaining the more complex analysis of a character's development.

I hope you find this FREEBIE useful.  I'm linking this post to Classroom Freebies' Manic Monday for April 22nd.  Be sure to click on the link below and check out all of the great resources available to you!

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Freebie Fridays

Friday, April 5, 2013

Friday Favorites

One of my favorite things about the teaching-blogging world that I've discovered during these months in which I have become involved is the willingness to share and support each other.  I love knowing that there are others, just like me, who love teaching - with all of its ups and downs - and have days so full that often things like sleep and time to exercise are sacrificed to fit it all in...yet are never too busy to share a tip or resource to make the days a little easier for others.  Whether it's a funny meme on Facebook or a poignient post communicating the real and troubling concerns about the path down which education is being steered, I love knowing we are negotiating the day-to-day challenges for teaching together!  For this Friday, I will be sharing with you some places to look for great resources to help with planning and creating fun and interactive lessons and activities for your students:

Teaching Blog Addict - Ultimate Freebie

First up, you may have seen that one of my favorite blogs, Teaching Blog Addict, is celebrating its 2nd birthday this April!  Starting today, April 5th, you can go to this site and download literally hundreds of products that have been created for teachers - by teachers, and are absolutely FREE!  What a way to celebrate and share some love!  Lots of Middle School resources can be found within the 5th and 6th grade collection.  I've found some great things in the PreK- K and 1st-2nd grade collections to use with my little guy at home, too. Thank you, TBA, for such a fantastic opportunity to share.  Happy Birthday!!

Next, just in time for Poetry Month, Pam at Mrs. O's Rockin Resources has put together a Poetry Linky Party which already has tons of great materials and resources for all grade levels.  Take a moment to visit and check them out and/or share some of your products as well.  It will be time well spent, for sure! 

Lastly, I'm sharing with you a link to the Education section of today's New York Times.  In it you will find some fantastic ideas for teaching narrative, argumentative and informative writing - alligned with the CCSS - using baseball as a theme for this week's writing prompts.  

New York Times Writing Prompts

Common Core Practice | Narrative, Argumentative and Informative Writing About Baseball
The baseball season has begun, and our New Jersey classroom collaborators -- many of them passionate Yankees or Mets fans -- explored America’s pastime for this week's writing prompts.

Be sure to also take a moment to check out last Friday's post on Preparing for Testing and the Linky Party that is ongoing here.  There are a couple of great posts that have been shared, thanks to Erin at Miss Lifesaver and Kristy at 2 Peas and a Dog.  There's still time to share your ideas and tips as well.  Hope to see you there! :)

Friday, March 29, 2013

Helping Each Other To Help Our Kiddos

As promised, for this Friday's Favorite Find post, we will be doing one of my favorite things!  Considering that "Testing Season" is either newly here or right around the corner for many of us, we all know that the pressure's on - for us and for our students.  If there are ways that we can making preparing for our assessments a little more enjoyable, and therein make taking the tests a bit less stressful, let's share the love!

To start lending a helping hand, I am making everything available in my TpT and TN stores for 20% off  - and making my Common ELA Vocabulary Review Game Pack FREE in my TpT Store from now through this Monday, April 1st (No April Fool's joking going on here...I swear. Lol)!

**What Customers Are Saying**
"Useful tool."
"Another homerun!  Thank you!  I've also subscribed to your blog!  Great stuff!!!"
"Thanks for creating these fun and educational materials!"

Grab it for free while you can!
Please be sure to look around, grab a FREEBIE or two - and share with your colleagues, too!

For the following linky, create a blog post that shares an idea or tip that you've used or found that can help with content review or test taking strategies.  Are there things that you or your school district do to remove anxiety and motivate kids to try their best?  How do you use technology in your classroom to help prepare? Have you created products that make preparing for state assessments more enjoyable - games, activites, strategies and suggestions for home?  A free product, to start, would be awesome...then feel free to add links to a paid product or two as well.  Anything you are ready and willing to share will be greatly appreciated!

This Favorite Find Linky will start a little later this afternoon and be available to link to through April 6th, 2013 - so be sure to come back with a post that shares lots of helpful resources.  Then, look around for some new ideas to take back to your classroom!

To Link-up:

-Grab my Middle School Matters Blog graphic below to place in your blog.

(Please be sure to then attach a link back to this blog post using the above image.)

-Link up your post! :)

I can't wait to see all of the Favorite Finds we can share!  Thank you for trying this out with me.  I would truly love any feedback or suggestions for this Linky in the comments below.

TBA's Ultimate Linky Party

Monday, March 25, 2013

We Are Our Own Best Teaching Resource

Although our spring break dates may vary a little, the season of seemingly endless assessment is just around the corner for most of us.  Good times!  Well, at least preparing for them doesn't have to be awful times, right?  During the next two weeks I'll be sharing different games and activities that I have created and used in my ELA classroom to help with reviewing the vocabulary and practicing necessary skills.  I'll also share the resources that I've found along the way that may be helpful in other content areas as well.  I know one of the greatest resources we have as teachers is each other, and in that spirit, later this week I'll be giving you some chances to share the strategies that you use and products that you've found or created that help your students feel assessment-ready.  Gather your best ideas and be sure to stop by on Friday, March 29th, to link up your favorites!

For today, I'll start by linking up my newest FREEBIE to Charty's Classroom Freebies.  Click on the image below to download my Literary Terms Word Search.  A quick activity to be used at a literacy center or for a "Do Now" or "Ticket Out," this word search will help you find who has an understanding of basic terms often found in middle school ELA assessments. Your students will need to answer the clues and find the words in the puzzle. Several terms are hidden in the puzzle that are NOT answers to the clues, so they will need to be careful...using the puzzle as a word bank may not be the best strategy! :)

(You will find both the puzzle and the answer key.)

I hope this post gets you started in thinking about the ideas you may want to share.  I'm looking forward to seeing how much support we can give to each other during this - the most wonderful time of the school year. ;-)  

Be sure to check back soon!

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday
Freebie Fridays

Monday, March 18, 2013

SPRING Into a Good Book!

It seems strange to be creating and posting these free bookmarks today, as the county where I live in Upstate New York is under a Winter Storm Warning for later today and tomorrow.  I know that Easter is a bit early this year, but that little bunny is going to be hopping through some crazy snow if Mother Nature doesn't catch up with the start of spring!  So, though I would like to say that I am preparing for spring-themed prizes and/or class gifts ahead of time because I'm am highly organized...I believe the truth is not so much, and it's more out of wishful thinking.

(Click on the link to download, cut apart and share! :) )

It's also a Monday, so I'm linking up to Classroom Freebies!  Be sure to take time to look around at the great resources that are being shared.

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday
Have a great week...even if it snows! ;-)
Freebie Fridays

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