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

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Lucky Me...Lucky You!

Happy St. Patty's weekend!  Besides the facts that I love weekends, the color green, corned beef and cabbage with a nice pint of Guinness...and, of course, Leprecauhns, I am feeling celebratory for a few more reasons.  Here's why:

1)Lucky me...lucky you! I have some great news, and in the spirit of St. Patrick's Day this weekend, I will share it in the form of a limerick:

There was once a Deal of the Day

That made me so happy to say,
“Teacher’s Notebook’s the place
To put a smile on your face
With forty percent less to pay!”
(Thank you...Thank you...LOL)

What does this mean for you? Well, Teacher's Notebook has started a new program called Deal of the Day. Sellers bid for the chance to be featured, and I won the spot for 7th grade TODAY! This means a 40% savings for you on the product of my choice...which is: Content Area Roots, Prefixes and Suffixes - PowerPoint and Memory Match Centers (Originally priced at $9.00 - today it is on sale for $5.40!) 

(Click on the image to see the Daily Deal at TN.)

In addition, I have put the rest of my products at Teacher's Notebook on sale, too!  

Take a look and click an item that interests you! :)

2) Teachers Pay Teachers SALE - Well, I need to share the luck, I think!  All products at my TPT store are 20% off as well!

(Click on the image to go dirctly to my TPT store.)

BOTH SALES RUN TODAY and TOMORROW - 3/16 and 3/17!
Lucky me...Lucky you!

3) The Teacher's Chair Giveaway -  Talk about some incredible luck...There's still time, my friends, to enter a fabulous giveaway being held at The Teacher's Chair!  Make sure you head on over in the few hours remaining to check out all of the fantastic prizes that will go to one lucky winner.

You have a crazy number of chances to win and you may find some great new blogs to follow in the process.
May our good fortune continue to grow! :)


Friday, March 15, 2013

Friday Favorites!

This was another of those crazy busy weeks where you just don't seem to know if you're coming or going!  Between the usual routine of school and home, getting ready for some St. Patty's celebrating and our son's growing involvment in swimming and Taekwondo...forget about the lion.  This month is coming in like a whirlwind!  One of my favorite moments of the week actually shows how quickly time is going by:

This is a picture of our 6 year old getting his green stripe in TKD.  He looks like such a big boy!  How can this be?  Wasn't he born just yeaterday? ;-)
So proud of him!

Since this day in the middle of the month - known as the Ides of March thanks to Julius Caesar and some amazing play writing talent from William Shakespeare - falls on Friday Favorite Day, I'm also sharing another favorite.  Flocabulary is a fantastic educational website that has several free videos.  One that I have used in my classes is about the elements of fiction, and my kiddos LOVE it!  The information from various subject areas is shared through hip-hop style songs and videos that are so fun.  We all (absolutely including me) sing and dance right along to this one imparticular:

These Are the Five Things: "This song covers the five main elements of a story: setting, plot, characters, conflict and theme. Whether you’re studying a short story, a novel, an epic poem, a play or a film, if you don’t find these five elements, you’re not looking hard enough. With a catchy chorus that’s hard to forget, this “five elements of a short story” rap will get you or your students hooked." -

There is a fee for full use of this site, but there are several things offered for free - including printable lyrics and lesson plans that go with the videos - that make visiting the site worth while.  Take a look...they keep adding new resources all of the time.

To go with my link to this favorite video of ours, I'm also including a FREEBIE!  I have made some bookmarks that students can use to remember the elements of fiction.  Just click on the image below to print your copy, cut them apart and share.

(Click image)

What are some of your favorites from this week?  Consider sharing in the comments below. :)
Have a great weekend!

Freebie Fridays

Friday, March 8, 2013

Friday Favorites

My Friday has been exceptionally nice here this week!  We had a little bit of snow on the ground when we went to bed last night...and lo and behold: SNOW DAY today!!  The only thing better than a surprise snow day as a teacher was seeing my Kindergartner's face this morning.  He was up with the phone call (at 5:46 AM), way before he needed to be, but he was not tired at all.  His was the kind of happiness that only Santa, the Easter Bunny and...some good ol' snow can bring, and it was my favorite moment of the week. :)

This opportunity to have a lazy day with my boy leads me to my first favorite I'll be sharing today.  I happened to catch this craft project on The Chew today, and instantly thought how this would be awesome in a classroom.  It's a DIY Dry Erase Calendar that seems pretty easy to make, and looks pretty sweet!

Picture from The Chew @

Here's the link to materials and directions: Clinton's Craft Corner Coasters and Calendar. (The coasters are petty cute, too!  Scroll down the page.  The calendar is the 2nd project.)  I'll wait a day or two to see if a video clip of the project is added to their site and I'll post the link for that, too.

The second thing I want to share with you for my Friday Favorites this week is a video that has been making it's way around the world of social media.  It was actually brought to my attention recently by a person who posted it on my Facebook wall.  She also made a simple, touching and quite eloquent request.  She asked me to please "tell all of the teachers this. It is true. "Sticks and stones can break your bones, but words can never hurt you," is the biggest lie that parents and teachers tell. Those of us that survived being bullied, did it by believing the bullies were wrong. But we will spend the rest of our lives with the doubt. This is the best thing I have ever seen explaining what it feels like."

I was touched by her honesty and her desire to share something that was so personal in order to make sure that this moving video about the power of words continues to be seen. The To This Day Project is well worth the time to watch for both teens and adults. Containing an important message that is shared in a way that will undoubtedly get the attention of middle school students, this is a perfect catalyst for free-writes or discussions.  If you haven't come across it yet, please think about taking a few minutes to watch...and consider passing along.


Lastly, I just want to remind you that a fantastic giveaway is still going on at The Teacher's Chair!

There's still time to see if March 17th will be your lucky day!  If you haven't checked out all the great prizes (including a product from my store), take time to visit and enter to win!

Have a great weekend!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

March Currently

Holy March Madness, Batman!  It's the third month of 2013 already?  Where are the days going?  Seriously.  It may be because my son seems to be growing up right before my eyes.  It may be because the 3rd season of Downton Abbey just ended way too soon - and in a shockingly horrific fashion - as I was just getting the story line figured out.  It may be because I will be leaving my 30s behind this year and turning the BIG 4-0 over the summer.  I just don't know...but things are moving a little too quickly lately!

The good part about starting a new month, however, is that Farley at Oh' Boy 4th Grade has created another Currently!  Here is mine for March:

LISTENING  - our son's favorite movie changes from time-to-time, but since Dr. Seuss' birthday yesterday, we have watched The Lorax 87 times. :)  He knows all of the lines and says them with the characters, which is cute, but nothing compared to a 6 year old dancing around and belting out, "How baa-a-a-aaad can I be?  I'm just doing what comes naturally."  Hysterical!

LOVING - our new healthy banana oatmeal cookie recipe.  Only 3 we added chocolate chips.  Still pretty healthy, though!  Here's a link to the recipe if you are interested:  Skinnytaste Healthy Cookies.  You'll love them, too!

THINKING - about March...see my introduction.  Enough said. ;-)

WANTING -  to look into National Board Certification.  I'm thinking more and more about going down this road.  I know it's a huge investment in time, and it would prove to be a challenge to find a balance between work, study and family time.  I may wait until our son is a little bit older...but I am definitely feeling that I am interested enough to begin investigating my options.

NEEDING - I found a meme this morning that read, "My blood type is COFFEE."  Could not be truer, my friends.

LIKE, LOVE and HATE:  This month Farley asked us to use the first letter of our first names for this category.  My letter is "S" since my first name is Stephanie.  This led to my picks of "spaghetti squash," (yummy alternative to pasta), "son's smile" (sweetness) and "sickness" (Hate is tough for me, as I instantly hear my mom's voice in my head, scolding me for using a very strong word as soon as I think about it. Sickness is something that I can say I feel that strongly about.)

I love this idea and the opportunity it gives me to think, write and share with you.  Be sure to go to Farley's linky party to learn about other bloggers...some may be your favorites that you already follow and some may be new to you.  Either way, there's lots of fun reading there!


Friday, March 1, 2013

Friday Favorites and an Upcoming Giveaway

TGIF!  Seriously.  Just one of those weeks where I'm glad to have a chance to reflect and share with you some favorite things to remind myself of what's important...things including kindness and compassion, a new freebie AND this week, a little news about an up and coming giveaway that I'm super-excited to be a part of because it's celebrating a fantastic bloggy-buddy!

First up is my favorite find of the week.  This video clip has been making the rounds, and though you may have seen it, it's worth a second look.  Consider making time and sharing it with your students and your children, too.  It's another great example of young people stepping up and and showing that kindness and compassion do exist in our schools.  These student athletes have followed the examples of the adults in their lives - specifically parents and coaches in this instance - to go above and beyond in making sure that a very deserving peer is able to experience success on the basketball court.  A must-see:

Love it!!

Next up is a FREEBIE!  March 1st it is (SO hard to believe it's already here) here is the next in my Cooperative Learning Partners monthly themes.  This month it's:

(Click the image to download.)
Make copies on cardstock, if possible, to make them more sturdy.
3-hole punch them along the top so that they can stay in the front of each student's binder for quick referencing. :)

(Click HERE for the October post that started it all and explains how to use them in your class.  Check out my FREEBIES page as well to collect the previous months if you would like, too.)

Lastly, I'm so very happy to share some big news with you!!  I can't give too many details yet, but a wonderful bloggy-buddy is planning to share some really great stuff this Saturday.  Tracey from The Teacher's Chair has created the Teaching Blog Circle (a true example of kindness in and of itself) and many of us in it are participating.  She has posted some details of one part of her giveaway already and I would love for you to see it.  Click on the image below to check it out.  Then, be sure to stop by The Teacher's Chair first thing tomorrow to find out how to enter for chances (That's right!  Way more than one!) to win.  What a great way to start a long-awaited weekend, right?!  Yay!! :)

The Teacher’s Chair
Enjoy the weekend...and good luck!

Freebie Fridays

Thursday, February 28, 2013

New Puzzle for Suffixes

A few weeks ago I wrote a post titled Puzzle Me This...Prefixes that had some great response.  Many people asked if I would be making any more 12 Square Puzzles, and in fact, I have!  I have now combined the prefix puzzle with one for suffixes (for a total of two separate puzzles) and have them available for free in both of Teachers Pay Teachers and Teacher's Notebook stores.

Click here to download:


Hoping you like them! :)

Friday, February 22, 2013

Friday Favorites...This Time From Our Winter Break

This week has looked so different across the country: some schools had a long weekend for President's Day while others have had a week-long break.  For us, Winter Recess has been a week of family fun and good times.  The kind of times that, as I sit and reflect on the days we've just spent reconnecting, will make great memories for my husband, my son and myself.  I am truly thankful.  Of course...our time away has kept me a bit removed form Middle School Matters Blog this week.  As I settle back in and begin finishing a couple of new projects that I have started and am hoping to share next week, I'm hoping you don't mind if my Friday Favorites this week are more personal than professional in nature.  These finds may not be directly classroom connected...but there was a lot of learning that happened this week!  Here are some of my family's favorites:

1.  Those of us in Upstate New York remember the snowfall we had a couple of weeks ago, but the New England States really got dumped on by Nemo!  We went to Mystic, Connecticut to visit the aquarium there, but along our road trip we made a couple of stops.  One of our favorite places to eat is a little place called Sylvester's in Northampton, Massachusetts.  We could not get over the snow that was still there and our little guy had never seen such mountains of snow!  Keep in mind that time had passed since the storm AND it had rained the night before...that's a lot of snow, friends!

2. Another stop that we made was at our favorite shop - Yankee Candle in South Deerfield, Massachusetts. If you are ever in the area, you need to go!  It's way more than candles.  Santa's Workshop, a Bavarian Black Forest (inside - decorated with lights and snow.  Amazing!), a castle, entertainment for kids (We saw a performance of The Little Mermaid that was interactive with the audience and really well done.) are just some of the things you'll find.  My husband's favorite though, surprising as it was, was actually one of the candle displays.  The Man Cave included Buttered Popcorn and Bacon...mmmmm, bacon...scented candles.  Crazy!

3. Once we made it to Mystic, the aquarium was our first stop.  We love it there, and again, if you happen to find yourself in the area it is one of many great things to do.  Mystic is full of maritime history and great food...including Mystic Pizza, for any Julia Roberts fans. ;-)  The best part for us this time, though, was Mystic Aquarium.  We had taken our son with us a couple of years ago, but he was too little to remember, so this was like new to him.  Randy and I have been many times, and still saw new things.  It was Weird Science Week, so there were many things to observe and do.  We were able to pet stingrays, saw a 4D movie, toured the Titanic (A. Ma. Zing.  Seriously.), watched a great sea lion show, and spent time at each of the beautiful exhibits.  Here are some of our favorite sights:
 Sea Turtles - Little Man wanted to bring one home, but we settled on a stuffed animal version.

 A Touch Tank with baby stingrays and starfish.  He wanted no part of it...until we went the big tank that had adult stingrays.  We all were so busy interacting with them that we didn't get any pictures. Lol

Titanic Exhibit - Iceburg

I really wanted him to reach his arms out and cry, "I'm king of the world!" but he didn't quite get it.  Generation gap...some day he'll see the movie and meet Rose and Jack.

Learning the difference between seals and sea lions - it's all in the flipper!

Sea Lion Show

My FAVORITE picture - up close and personal with a beluga whale!  It swam back and forth and played with us for a while.  So cool!

I'm including links to the favorite places we visited this week.  If you are ever planning a trip to this part of the country, I hope you consider creating some great memories in these great places, too!  

Have you ever been to these places and have favorites moments of your own?  Please consider sharing below. I would love to read about it!  Here's to taking time to make memories...may they get us through to the next opportunity! ;-)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...