Sunday, September 30, 2012

Halloween Cinquain

Tomorrow's October 1st!  Wow, this year is flying by...and if the trend continues, you can be sure Halloween will be here before you know it!  If you're looking for a quick activity that follows the theme of the season and is, at the same time, a good review of the writing process and a little grammar, my Halloween Cinquain may be your answer.  Whether you are in search of a task for the whole class or an activity for a literacy station, this would work perfectly at the 5th and 6th grade level...and would be useful if differentiating for various skill levels in a 7th or 8th grade class.

This 2 page activity has an example of the poem your students will be writing and space for planning.

You will also find a guide for your students to use in writing their rough draft and questions to guide revising and editing.  The bottom half of the page above is for writing the final draft and, once separated from the top along the dotted line, can easily be used for publishing - sharing with an audience on a bulletin board or in a writing folder.

Click {here} to see more. :)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Reading for Information - Common Core

I've just completed my next part of the Common Core project I'm working on! Yay! :)

(Click the image above to go to my TPT store.)

RI.7 - Reading for Information at the 7th Grade level has now been broken down into student-friendly "I can..." statements. In addition, I've defined key terms for each standard in the strand AND included a Reading Response for Nonfiction printable for each standard (except RI.7.10).

Please consider clicking on the image above to go to my store and have a better look.  I hope that this pack is a helpful tool to use for planning and checking for your students' understanding. Writing and Language Strands are on their way, as well as similar packs for 8th grade.  Check back soon! :)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Fall-Themed Freebie!

Fall is my absolute favorite time of the year, here, in upstate New York!  The cool crispness in the air, the bright colors of autumn in the leaves, and the delicious scents of pumpkin bread and apple cider surround me like a warm hug.  It's that feeling of comfort that a good book can bring as well! Today's fall-themed freebie for Manic Monday will help your students to share a good read of their choice with others.

Just click on the image above to go to my freebie on Google Docs and download.  As students fill this out, papers can be collected and displayed on your fall bulletin boards.  Encourage your colleagues to fill these out as well.  Kiddos love to see what we're reading, too!

I hope you find this freebie useful.  Be sure to check around the other link-ups to Classroom Freebies today to find some more great ideas! 

"Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much." - Helen Keller 
Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Monday, September 17, 2012

Manic Monday!

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

It's Manic Monday!  Thank for stopping by.  I have linked up once again with this great resource created by Charity Preston. Today's freebie is a sheet that can be given to students to use as soon as they walk through the door of your class.  It's four opportunities for them to think on paper - and for you to gather some data through formative assessment.

Click the picture to get your copy. :)

The upper-left box has space for students to record answers to a "Do Now" activity that would be ready for them to tackle as soon as they sit down.  Then there are two spots for "Stop, Think & Share" where students can record thoughts about a topic of reading or discussion, answer a question, reflect on an activity, etc.  They can then share with a partner, small group or whole class.  The last box on the bottom right is a Ticket Out spot.  Students can record an answer to the last follow-up question of the class, list a few things they have learned, or ask a question about something they would still like to know.  Then, this whole sheet would be their "Ticket Out the Door" - handed to you as they leave.

Bonus: If they know that you will be seeing each of these at the end of the period - as well monitoring them while they are working during class - they are much more willing to stay on task! :)

Now you have a chance to go through the papers and really see who is getting it!  Hand back the next day or save in their folders - it's up to you how you use them, but the information you can get from these little sheets is very helpful in planning the next day's lessons.  

I hope you find this freebie useful.  Be sure to check around the other link-ups to Classroom Freebies today to find some more great ideas! 

"Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much." - Helen Keller 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Common Core, Here We Come!

As an educator in New York State, I've been very aware of the The New York State P-12 Common Core Learning Standards, which were adopted by the New York State Board of Regents in January 2011 for both ELA & Literacy and for Mathematics. The overall implementation of them, however, is new this year to many in our state.  When thought of in its entirety, a daunting task to be sure.  Yet, with a little help in breaking these standards down into manageable chunks, the overall goal for every state that is implementing Common Core - that of ensuring our students are graduating from K-12 schools college and career ready - seems much more attainable. 

It is with this in mind that I have begun tearing down the Common Core Learning Standards for ELA.  My first project is working with the 7th grade standards, as I am most familiar with those.  The first "bundle" I have completed in this project is the Reading Standards for Literature Strand.  

In this bundle you will find each of the Reading Standards for Literature for 7th grade (RL.7.1 - RL.7.11).  I have taken each standard and created “I can…” statements in simpler, student-friendly language.  You will also find that next to each standard, taking into consideration the “I can…” statements, I have included definitions of terms that your students may need to help them truly understand what is expected.  Once our students know what they need to do, reaching the standards will be much easier! J

 Standards - "I can..." - Definitions of Key Words

The next part of this bundle is a collection of graphic organizers that I have made to help students negotiate meaning from literature and make connections following the learning standards of the Common Core.  I call these Stop, Think and Share Sheets, as I often use these to facilitate classroom discussion and, of course, as a means of formative assessment while I'm monitoring who's "getting it." While your students are working on stopping and filling them out...thinking on paper BEFORE they share, you can easily monitor and intervene with one-on-one attention when necessary.  You’ll know for certain who may need some extra help, and your students will feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts with others.  You will find that there is one graphic organizer for each standard, save RL.7.8 and RL.7.10, for which graphic organizers are not useful.  At the top of each graphic organizer students will find the standard, an “I can…” statement and any necessary definitions that will help them understand the task at hand.

Examples of Graphic Organizers 

I am also including a copy of my Daily Plan Template.  This tool is a freebee also found in my first post here and in my store, but I feel that the tips I include with the template may be helpful with incorporating the standards into you teaching, so I am attaching my template to this bundle as well.

I hope that you find all of these resources to helpful tools as you start your school year.  I am planning to make similar bundles for each strand of the Common Core for ELA at both the 7th and 8th grade levels.  Be sure to click here for an even better look if you are interested in the first of many Common Core resources I have planned.  Let me know what you think below.  Feel free to suggest other ideas as well.  If I know what other teachers are looking for, I can more easily create resources that will fit your needs for your classrooms.

"Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much." - Helen Keller 

Monday, September 10, 2012

My First Manic Monday!

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Thanks once again for stopping by!  Today is the first time (of hopefully many times) that I will be taking part in Classroom Freebies Manic Monday. This is a great resource created by Charity Preston and I have followed it for a while.  I've found many useful ideas, and I am beyond excited to actually be posting something on her site today in hopes of paying it forward!

As an English Teacher, I'm working hard on incorporating the Common Core in all that I create for use with my students.  Here you can find a graphic organizer that I have made to help students make inferences that are supported by text details.  I call these "Stop, Think and Share Sheets," as I often use these to facilitate classroom discussion and, of course, as a means of formative assessment while I'm monitoring who's "getting it" while my students are working on stopping and filling them out...thinking on paper BEFORE we share.

I hope you find this freebie useful.  Be sure to check around the other link-ups to Classroom Freebies today to find some more great ideas! 

"Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much." - Helen Keller 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

September 11 - We'll Never Forget

Today during mass a special prayer was said for those who perished on September 11th - what will be eleven years ago this Tuesday - and for those who survived.  I immediately remembered where I was on that horrible day.  I remembered how our school was actually on a two-hour delay that morning for something entirely unrelated. I remember realizing, while watching the news during a team meeting and waiting for our kiddos to walk through the doors, that they would know something terrible was happening.  I remember how what we thought was an unbelievably horrific accident slowly became something that none of us could wrap our heads around.  Being in upstate New York, many of our staff and our students have family members and friends working and/or living in the city...this was a day of numbing fear for all of us, but for many families in our community, it was personal.  The only thing we did know for certain was that our students would have questions - as we did - and I remembered how we struggled to compose ourselves and prepare.  In that one day, the world as we knew it...changed.  The world as we knew it...I remembered.

Then, while thinking of how I was affected by those sad events, I looked at my son.  He is five years old.  He looked up at me, eyes sparkling and smile beaming, and I was reminded that he doesn't remember.  He has absolutely no idea.  He has no concept of what "The World Post 9/11" means.  He doesn't remember the pure heartbreak that we felt as New Yorkers, as Americans, as human beings when we discovered the wide scope of the devastation as the day's tragedies continued. He doesn't have the recollection of the terrifying images that will forever be etched in my memory.  I am thankful for that.  Yet, like the students in most of our classrooms, he will need to eventually learn about that fateful day.

As we work on creating lessons for our students, we need to remember that many of the children in our classrooms most likely have very little, if any, memories of September 11th.  Our students will need help in understanding the sadness related to the day.  Perhaps even more importantly, they will also need to recognize and appreciate the incredible acts of heroism and expressions of love from all over the world that came about as a result.  It is those acts that, as a nation, I truly hope we never forget. Ensuring that doesn't happen can only start by teaching our future generations about it. Of course, therein lies the challenge!

In looking for resources, I came across a site that I would like to share.  The Ultimate Resource Guide to Teaching About September 11th was actually put together last year just prior to the 10th anniversary.  There's lots of dependable, informative resources to use in giving our students the needed frame of reference for activities and discussion.  In addition, what I really liked is that there are also lesson plans and ideas that move past the sadness and focus on heroism, survival and hope.  You will find ideas and lessons for all grade levels, but many are great for middle school!

Take some time to look around, and if you find something that is helpful in your planning, please think about leaving a comment below to share.

This blog post was written in response to the 5 Star Blog Challenge at  The Organized Classroom Blog. There are lots of other 5 Star Blogs that are linked-up, so visit her site! :)

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Classroom Management - Respectful and Effective

UPDATE: September 18, 2012
The blog post below was written and posted a couple of weeks ago, but it really meets the needs of "What the Teacher Wants" - especially at the middle school level. :)  I'm including this in a linky party with What the Teacher Wants in hopes that it may offer some insight and helpful resources for middle school.  Thank you for the opportunity to share!

One of my favorite things about teaching at the middle school level is the reaction I get from others when I share my profession.  The conversation often goes something like this:

My new acquaintance:  So, what it is that you do?
Me:  Well, I am a teacher.
My new acquaintance:  (in awe of my choice of such an honorable profession) That’s wonderful!  What grade do you teach?
Me: Oh, I teach at the middle school level - 7th and 8th grade ELA.  
My new acquaintance:  (with a stricken look that is either one of pity because that was my only choice, or confusion as to why that would be my choice)  Ohhh.  Well, that must be…interesting.

Yes.  Yes, it is interesting.  My classes of tweens and newly-turned teens are full of energy and excitement.  Of course, the excitement is not always related to academics.  The middle school years are ones filled with emotions.  These emotions are often pertaining to anything from the thrill of a new relationship to grief at the thought that last year’s friend is no longer this year’s friend.  Middle school aged children want to be independent, young adults…yet, they sometimes still crave the loving support of someone from home.  It’s a time when their peers become the centers of their universes and the desire to find a place to fit-in and be accepted somewhere becomes a priority.
Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of blog posts regarding classroom management.  Questions are being asked about class rules and policies.  How do we create them?  How do we display them?  These are great questions to ask as we start the new school year at any grade level.  That being said, I would like to take the conversation to the next step – an even more important step at the middle school level, when the previously mentioned emotions may be a factor in some poor decision making.  How do we consistently enforce our rules and policies while being sensitive to the needs of middle school students?  How do you as the classroom teacher find out why a student is acting out, correct the behavior and keep from disrupting the learning of the other students in your class at the same time?  Well, if your magic wand is broken, I may have an answer for you!

 Let’s Stop and Think – I've used this in my classroom and have found it to be a very useful tool.  Just make several copies of this form and have them in a folder on a desk to the side of the room.  According to the class rules that you have in place, if a student makes a poor choice and has been warned, this may be your next step. 

     I really dislike sending students to the office, especially when that means they will be losing seat time in class.  I want them with me, even if they are just hearing the content that is being discussed.  When I feel a behavior has warranted the “next step,” I motion for the student to go to the desk.  From the first day my students know that this is a time to "Stop and Think," and they only bring a pen or pencil with them.  They fill out the form, having a chance to reflect on the choice that was made, the reason for that choice and what could be done differently to turn it around.  Once the rest of the class is engaged in an activity, and when I am ready, I can go take a look at what was written.  
     Sometimes what seems like a blatant disregard for rules is really a misunderstanding or an action made out of frustration that has nothing to do with your class.  A teacher doesn’t know this unless the student shares.  This form serves that purpose, as well as giving the student time to reflect and refocus.  When and if the student joins the class again is up to you, but at least if he or she is not disruptive, and the student isn’t missing everything by being sent out of the room.  Once signed and dated, this can go in the student’s file (I like to have a file for each student right from the first day.) so that if a meeting or conference comes up in the future, you have some great anecdotal notes – in the student’s own words – to share. 

     Please feel free to click on the link above to get a copy of Let's Stop and Think.  I have found this opportunity for students to reflect on their behavior and have a chance to take the responsibility to correct it very helpful.  If you find this useful, you may want to visit my online store as well.  This form is actually part of a larger Classroom Management Kit I've made which includes three other forms and tips on how to use them. Please consider sharing any ideas and tips that you may have for classroom discipline - as we all know the "honeymoon" will soon be over. :)

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