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! ;-)

Monday, February 11, 2013

A Quote for Short Response Practice

There's no better time than now, as we approach the marathon that is the test taking season, to not only practice strategies for success, but to inspire success as well.

Share this quote, one of my favorites, and use it to empower your students.  Give them time to reflect and make them think about how it could apply to their own lives while practicing RACE - a tried and true "formula" for answering short response questions:

Click HERE to download and print a copy.  Project the quote and use the question sheet (which also includes the quote) for your students' responses.  Share answers and discuss how powerful a positive attitude can be!

I hope that both you and your students find this freebie helpful.  I'm linking this post to Classroom Freebies' Manic Monday for February 11th.  Be sure to click on the link and check out all of the great resources available to you!

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday
Freebie Fridays

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

7 Reasons Why the Teaching of Roots and Affixes Is a Middle School Matter

In the 14 years that I've been teaching, I've seen a real shift in the philosophy of English Education.  When I started, whole language was the focus of all reading and writing instruction.  Quite honestly, this was a shock to me since, as a student in a very small K-12 school in upstate New York, I only knew traditional methodology.  My English classes were filled with diagramming sentences, memorizing the forms of the verb "to be," and studying vocabulary - including root words and affixes.  That being said, as you can imagine, seeing my own students read and write just for the love of reading and writing...not concentrating on the number of complex sentences versus compound-complex sentences in a passage, was exciting!  I loved it!  My students loved it...ELA was fun!  

But...the question of whether or not it was wise for the pendulum to swing so far to one side and seemingly abandon the systematic teaching of grammar, conventions and vocabulary - specifically Greek and Latin roots and affixes - now arises. Is there something to be said for the shift to a "back to basics" approach that the Common Core Standards require?  When looking carefully at the CCSS and researching the benefits of learning and internalizing the basic building blocks of language, to me the answer is a resounding, "Yes!"  The interesting thing I found is that the CCSS vocabulary standards pertaining to Greek and Latin affixes and roots begin at 4th Grade and end at 8th Grade.  Here's some of what I've found and why I think this is so:

1. Quite simply, let's start with knowing the parts helps our students to understand the whole.   Knowing commonly used roots and affixes can help students infer the definitions of new words in context.

2. The ability to infer meaning: Knowing Greek and Latin word parts helps students recognize and gain clues to understanding of other words that use known affixes and roots (Nagy & Scott, 2000).

3.  Over 60% of the words students will encounter in school textbooks have recognizable word parts; and many of these Latin and Greek roots (Nagy, Anderson, Schommer, Scott, & Stallman, 1989).  This means that word study can helps students' comprehension in all content areas.

4.   Recent reading research has supported the morphological approach to vocabulary development in elementary and middle school.  In linguistics, this practice of identifying and analyzing the parts of words in a given language is helpful in its acquisition.

5. Content area vocabulary is largely Greek and Latin-based and research supports this instruction, especially for struggling readers (Harmon, Hedrick & Wood, 2005).

6. Knowing commonly used suffixes can help students identify a word's part of speech, further helping with correct usage in writing.

7. Lastly, standardized tests assess students' vocabulary.  Whether we like it or not, state testing seems to be here to stay.  That being said, giving our students the tools necessary to be successful can turn what is often a stressful situation for many into an opportunity to confidently show what they know.

In doing some research to answer my own questions for this post, I also found a very well-written and thorough research summary on the topic created by the National Middle School Association.  In it you will find a great deal of research that not only supports the instruction of vocabulary in language development, but the need for word study at the middle school level.

So, with all of this said, we now need to examine how.  How do we meet the needs of our students without swinging the pendulum all the way back in the other direction...forsaking student-centered instruction for skill and drill?  I think balance is the key.  Direct instruction of vocabulary is a place to start, but time should be given for students to explore and analyze word parts in small groups or learning centers and on their own.  This gradual release of responsibility approach - which we know so well in the instruction of reading - pertains to vocabulary as well.  

In an effort to help you find materials that can help with organizing cooperative learning opportunities for word study, I'm also including a link to my Content Areas Roots, Prefixes and Suffixes - which includes a PowerPoint for reviewing word parts and their roles in language.  
CCR and CCSS aligned for ELA 5 - 8


It includes charts and Memory Match cards for roots in ELA, Math, Science and Social Studies as well as for commonly used prefixes and suffixes. My Student Accountability Form and my My Vocabulary Keeps Growing graphic organizer are also included.

Please feel free to click HERE  if you would like more details.

In providing links to some of the free materials I've created for vocabulary, and following the post I wrote for Common Core Classrooms, I've received some great feedback, and questions as to the whys and hows have been asked.  I'm hoping that I've given you some more information, places to look for additional answers, and have offered some resources that may be helpful.  Are you teaching roots, prefixes and suffixes in your classroom? If you have fun ways that you have had your students review or practice...please consider sharing more in the comments below.  The more insight and resources we can gather, the better!

Harmon, J., Hedrick, W., Wood, K. (2005).  Research on vocabulary instruction in the 
Content areas:  Implication for struggling readers.  Reading & Writing Quarterly, 21, 

Nagy, W.E., Anderson, R.C., Schommer, M., Scott, J.A., & Stallman, A.C. (1989). Morphological families in the internal lexicon. Reading Research Quarterly, 24(3), 262-282.

Nagy, W. E., & Scott, J. A. (2000). Vocabulary processes. In M. L. Kamil, P. B. Mosenthal, P. D. Pearson, & R. Barr (Eds.), Handbook of reading research (Vol. III, pp. 269–284). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Valentine Parts of Speech Fill-in FREEBIE

Let's hear it for some Parts of Speech-love for Valentine's themed review!

(Click on link to download Google Doc.)

Your students can complete a valentine for their mom.  The finished piece will not only be an expression of love that will touch both hearts AND funny bones.  

I hope that both you and your students have fun with this freebie.  I'm linking this post to Classroom Freebies' Manic Monday for February 4th.  Be sure to click on the link and check out all of the great resources available to you!

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Also check out:

Freebie Fridays

Friday, February 1, 2013

Friday Favorites, a Freebie AND a Big Sale? Good Times!

It's that time once again...Friday is here and there's much to celebrate!  (I'm hearing Kool and the Gang in my head right now..."Ce-le-brate good times, come on!")

First, I would love to share with you a couple of great finds that I made recently.  One of them is a video that was brought to my attention by a former student who thought it might be something "cool to share on my blog." (How much did I love that, by the why?  It made my day!)  He was so right, and I posted it to my Middle School Matters Blog FB page, not knowing who Kid President was but loving everything that he said in the short clip that is both inspirational and guaranteed to make you smile.  Wouldn't you know, I then saw Kid President was featured on the Today Show a few days after?  Social Media is amazing.  Who would've thought it possible that Matt Lauer would be taking cues from me? ;-)

In his "A Pep Talk from Kid President to You," this adorable 9 year old's  platform is simply that "it's everybody's duty to give the world a reason to dance."  It's one of the best pep talks I've heard, touching both my heart and my funny bone.  

In case, like me, this is the first you've heard of Kid President, there are other sweet video that your kiddos will love...even if they've seen them before.  They are great catalysts for discussion and/or writing prompts, for sure!

My second favorite I would like to share is a blog that I discovered through my first giveaway last week!

This is a great blog to visit to find TONS of creative ideas for your teaching and for your classroom.  Tina offers her own creations, but she also generously shares ideas she discovers from others so that her audience can easily find them, too.  Talk about "bloggy love!"  What better way to start February - the month of hearts, valentines and all things kind - then to bring your attention to a blog that shares the love all year round?!  
Speaking of Valentine's Day, I also have a new FREEBIE that I would like to share.  The beginning of a new month means the introduction of a new theme for my Cooperative Learning Partners:
(Click on image for download)

This month, I decided to ignore the temptation to focus on the "lovey-dovey" theme that Valentine's Day brings immediately to mind and chose to focus on perfect pairings for food - a theme much more palatable for middle schoolers. :)  Be sure to click HERE to visit the first post about how I use Cooperative Learning Partners as a classroom management tool for cooperative learning.  By visiting my FREEBIES page, you'll be able to pick up previous months' themes as well. 

Lastly, I want to make sure that you are aware of two fantastic sales going on this weekend - as if the Super Bowl doesn't bring with it enough excitement!  Teachers Pay Teachers AND Teacher's Notebook are both offering amazing deals on their own...and I am also providing additional discounts at both of my stores.  MANY teacher sellers are taking part and making similar markdowns, so be sure to take time this weekend to visit all of your favorite stores and attack those wishlists!

Teacher's Notebook:  Sale Saturday and Sunday (February 2nd and 3rd) all products in my store will be will be 25% off!

Teachers Pay Teachers:  I will be running a sale for 20% off both Saturday and Sunday (February 2nd and 3rd) AND on Sunday, February 3rd, TpT will be contributing and ADDITIONAL 10% discount off my already discounted price! (That's 28% OFF! Sa-weet!)  Just enter promo code: SUPER at checkout on Sunday.

Check out the savings at all of your favorite stores.
Have a great weekend filled with  family, friends, football, fantastic food and FABULOUS SALES!

Freebie Fridays

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