Saturday, November 9, 2013

A Look Back at the Week: Writing with Students + Creative Poetry

This week I have done one of my favorite things, not just once but twice, with my students: writing!  When I was in high school, I hated writing - it was actually the thing I feared most about becoming an English teacher. I never felt like I could do it well and as a self-proclaimed perfectionist, I wanted it to be perfect, but new I couldn't be.  I had no idea how to write well and then how to teach it.  Then I met Dr. Tom Romano.  Oh, TomRom.  And my eyes were opened to a beautiful world.

He taught me - to pre-write, to be creative, to fail, to rewrite, to scrap all you've started with, to brainstorm some more, to draw and do things in a way that worked for me, to choose words with power and persuasion.  Then he modeled for me by writing with me - how to teach my students all this.   He wrote beside me.

I don't get to write with my students as often as I wish.  Between all the new paperwork, the lesson planning with a new prep, grading, and life - I usually put it off.  However, this week, I channeled my inner TomRom and wrote with my students.  And I LOVED IT!

Here is a look at my writing week :


        Freshman: Reviewed Formal Writing with a sorting activity - What's Hot and What's Not

After spending time looking through freshman papers this past weekend, I realized how much their formal papers needed to work on formal language and word choice.  Before having my students revise a piece, we spend some time deciding what was "hot" writing (formal) and "not hot" writing (informal).    I am now in love with sorting activities when I need to introduce something very factual to students.  Rather than using a powerpoint to introduce the info - students made decisions about where they thought it should go - in partners and physically moved the correct answer where it went (good for tactile learners!).  Students interacted with the info, I verbally reviewed it, and then we applied it to our writing.  I just wish I would have modeled this for them as well!  


Juniors: Creating a Facebook Profile for Character Development in the Crucible

My juniors created some hilarious Facebook profiles for the characters in The Crucible - they showed great thinking in a creative way!  So fun! Wish I would have wrote with them on this one!  


Freshman: Mood + Blackout Art Poetry

My students are so afraid of poetry - so I'm creatively integrating poetry writing into our curriculum.  We will push that fear out! :) 

We have been working on mood in short stories and we transferred that skill over to poetry on Tuesday using a t-chart.  On Wednesday, I created Blackout Art Poetry for the students using the poem "The Sharks" by Denise Levertov - I circled the words that I felt best fit the mood of the poem and then "blacked out/colored out" all the other words by creating a picture behind it.  My poem beautifully showed the mood of the poem- dark fear I named it - when complete.  I even had a student say that is soooo much scarier than her poem!  My students then created them from the poem "Egg Horror Poem" by Laurel Winters - a hilarious, chilling personified poem.  It was so much fun!  Below are some of the most creative pieces.  The poems really show the imagery of fear and the personification of humor.  Students also had to explain their choice of colors, lines, and images and how those fit the mood they identified in the poem - great standards based activity for RL.9-10.4 :) 


a no writing day :( 


Juniors: Character Poems (The Crucible

Once again, even my juniors are scared of poetry - or they think all poetry rhymes - so we are creatively integrating poetry creation into our lessons.  

Character Poems take the lines from the text and combine them in a pattern to show the reader who the character is.  My poem is below - it's for Abigail Williams: 

This poem, I hope, shows who Abigail is as a character in the play.  The lines she says are italicized (like her thoughts) and the lines other characters say are regular.  
The students search the play for lines of both the character and other characters that showcase who their character is as a person.  They then place the lines in an call and response format- not necessarily following the plot, but in a way that allows for the reader to see who the character is.  These lines are from both Act I and Act III, yet they bounce back and forth and multiple characters respond to Abigail even though they are not in the play when she says what she says. 
I loved this and am so excited for my students to finish their poems and present them in class!

See my TpT store for the lesson on Character Poetry

If you would like to learn more about writing with your students in a beautiful and passionate way - check out Penny Kittle's book Write Beside Them and her website  Reading this book does not make you feel like you are reading research or educational resources - it is more like an open window into Penny's classroom and her soul.  I read this in Dr. Romano's class and it made my writing soul flourish. I was able to meet her at NCTE in 2011!  She is phenomenal! 

How do you write with your students???? 



Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Character Development + The Crucible

After weeks of practicing our research skills and gathering information on The Salem Witch Trials and McCarthyism, my juniors have moved on to the world of The Crucible.  As we are reading the play, the students are summarizing the plot, tracking the characters, and thinking about their motivations.

After finishing ACT I, I wanted students to think about the characteristics of a character as well as the character's motivations. In discussions as we read, I've noticed how much my students are struggling with making inferences and applying what they know to a different situation.  I decided to do character stick figures with my students during a 45 minute period one day and then a symbolic representation of the character a second day with textual evidence about the character.

I modeled the activity using a main character - Rev. Parris.  We completed a graphic organizer (from Ed that has students give more literal answers like enemies, friends, a character description, and the character's actions.  We then flipped the graphic organizer over to the stick figure below- this organizer asks students to think about the internal workings of the character including their motivations.
From Holt : see here for pdf

After modeling with students, I had students work in pairs to create a stick figure for a main character from the play so far.  Students worked to also find two piece of textual evidence from Act I that supported their thinking about their character.

The next day, Ms. B and I reviewed symbolism and some common symbols with the students.  After reviewing symbols, I modeled a symbolic representation of Rev. Parris using the stick figure/ organizer from the previous day.  Students then used their own character's stick figures to help them create their own symbolic representations.  

Students who had been struggling with textual evidence the previous day were given multiple pieces of textual evidence and asked to choose which quote best supported their thinking in order to help them practice using textual evidence.  Student groups who had found textual evidence the previous day used what they had found.  

The students came up with some really creative stuff!  Below are my two period's symbolic posters:  Students presented their posters to the whole class when they were done and each group member was required to present something!  In my class,  NO ONE is allowed to be shy :) 

6th Period: 

Posters displayed in the room for students to refer to as we continue the play + to show off their awesome work to others who are in the room. 

Abigial - she is given a broken, black + red heart to symbolize her broken love for Proctor and how that has made her bitter and evil. 

Textual evidence for Proctor: states how he feels he is "some kind of a fraud" :) one of the best finds for textual evidence!

Proctor - has a pitch fork for being a farmer, yet is stabbing a sinner with it b/c he hates sinners (yet knows he is one)

Tituba: the flag of Barbados to show where she is from and wishes to go back. 

7th Period: 

This class needed more time to brainstorm and think (typical of this class) but they worked hard.  Many students wanted to pre-write before starting their posters (to the joy of my mentor teacher who spent so much of last year teaching them to pre-write!) They still struggled with inferences and symbolism more than my 6th period and we spend more time supporting that difference in this classroom.  

This poster project shows that no two classes are alike and you must be flexible in realizing that different classes sometimes need to work at different paces even if it is the same grade or class.  I love developing each class's pace and lessons for what that class needs.  It doesn't always happen because of time constraints or my sanity;  however, I believe it benefits students so much!      
7th Period's classroom display :) Ignore the mess of student stuff- these were taken while students we re at lunch

Abigail - these students wanted to be very literal at first and we worked very hard to come up with creative symbols-  my favorite that they came up with was the fact that she was caught doing bad things at night so they put a moon and stars to symbolize this. 

These students were very detailed artists :) They got very drawn up in the drawing and did not focus as closely on the symbolism.  They added the heart at the end as a symbol. 

This was one of the best presentations - it seems so simple on paper; however, their presentations showed the depth of their thinking - proctor carried the weight of his sins in the wheelbarrow !

Tituba- this group needed more supports and did a lot of brain storming.  My two favorites from this one is that they felt Tituba was smart b/c she figured out that they were cornering her during questioning (the students drew a brain to represent this) and the hangman game to represent that she admitted to being a witch because they were going to hang her.

I loved the hard work my student put in and the critical thinking that was occurring.  We did discover that our students need to work on group work skills so be following me because more will be coming on teaching students to work in groups as well as on group discussions!  

- Best, 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Must Reads!

This weekend has been glorious.  I have spend many hours cleaning my house, watching tv, getting a massage, and reading.  After the refreshing weekend, I've decided that it's time to return to blogging. In lieu of my return to blogging, I am sharing with you some of the fun find blogs I've discovered during this weekend's return to sanity and relaxation.

1.  Curbing the Caffeine Addiction 

Madison, from Espresso and Cream, spoke to my soul as I read this post.  Lately, I've been feeling really crappy.  Stress does a number on my body and it also encourages me to drink mass amounts of Diet Coke and coffee.  (Stress also kills my bank account because I love fountain pop and pumpkin spice latte's are back at Starbucks! ) She encouraged me to cut back on the caffeine and start drinking more herbal tea and water!  Please feel free to comment below on ways to help me not die from the withdrawals! 

2. Allowing Students to Run Wild

Megan, my kindred soul from M*Print, shares about allowing her students to wow her on their own.  She let her kids be what they wanted to be - sportscasters and gave them expectations and loved that her kids met them :) I also loved that she gave her kids real life ways to be writers/composers!  
I'm being observed by my principal this week and I have decided to use a lesson that requires my kids to create rather than just discuss.  I hoping that the "running wild" that I am allowing them to do during the lesson helps prove Megan's theory that students need the chance to "run wild."  

3. Best Practices?

I've been spending some time on Terie's site, Crazy Teaching.  She is a teacher who believes in her students and believes in teachers.  She uses Standards Based Teaching and she exudes well-thought out optimism.  This post "Best Practices?" and many others have reminded me that it's important to stay focused on what I want my students to learn. 
Many times in the last few weeks, I have been frustrated with all the distractions in school - early release days, assemblies, in-service days.  I feel that I have not achieved much with my students.  It's like every time we get into a routine, we have a day off or a day with 20 minute classes.  She reminds me that I need to continue to create a classroom centered around my students gaining skills that they need and where they know what they are being asked to do.  


Saturday, September 21, 2013

What are you teaching?

I stumbled across this video on Hello Giggles and felt that it was just too cute to share.  A great pick-me up after the long week!

This video not only made me giggle, but also made me question - what am I teaching?

I aim to teach my students reading skills, writing skills, and the other educational skills they need to make it in the workplace.  However, I strive to teach my students more than that.  I desire for each of my students to walk out of my room with:

1. A respect for others

In my classroom, students must treat each other with respect.  We often talk about what respect means and we apply that to the literature we read.  I want them to respect themselves and others (especially people who are not just like them).

2.  A wider view of life/the world

Living in a smaller town where most people have similar values, many of my students have been raised with a singular view point on life.  One of my big goals in my classroom is to show them that there are other ways of thinking and that not everyone HAS to agree.  Its ok to disagree. AND it is ok to respect the other person even if you disagree.  We read literature from around the world, watch videos on feminism, talk about book burnings, think about stereotypes we assume, etc.  This is probably my favorite part of teaching - expanding thinking :)

3.  Loving learning

My students walk into my room and say "I hate English/Reading" and from the moment those words form on their lips, my goal is to make them say "I love learning."  Students think English is about reading and writing, which is true.  But I hope to show them new information, ways to do things, and new ways to think.

What are you teaching your students???? Comment Below !

Friday, September 20, 2013

High Five For Friday :)

I'm linkin up with Lauren Elizabeth for her High Five for Friday post this week!

 photo H54Fbutton-1_zpsa7aaa665.png

1. Dress Down Jeans Day TODAY!!! 

jeans + black top with beading: LOFT
watch : Liz Claborne (JCPenney clearance)
Woo!!!! I'm rockin' my new(ish) LOFT jeans.  Heck, yes.  So comfy and cute.  I am saddened though because we've had another heat spike here in the Ohio... and its going to be 81 today.  No boots for me!  Still rockin the cute sandals... I guess I should revel in it.  I love sandals.... well, maybe not today.. but usually.

2. I've found a new "system" for making dinner

Since school started, I've dreaded making food.  I come home from school and I'm exhausted.  Thus, I usually opt for the unhealthy, pre-packaged food for Wade and I for dinner.  I hate being unhealthy all the time.  And when I don't even want to do pre-packaged .. we eat out.... even more unhealthy... 
BUT, I had a revolution in my kitchen late Tuesday  evening.  I realized, that if I make our dinner... eat... and then cook the next day's meal so that all I have to do is heat it (crockpot, stove, oven, microwave) the next day-I will cook healthy things!  Its awesome!  I spend about the same amount of time cooking, but I'm not starving like I usually am when I make dinner the old-school way.  I kinda feel like what I'm doing with my kitchen could be compared to "flipping" a classroom --- it's the "flipped" kitchen :) 

3. Tomorrow.... Tomorrow... I love you... 

I'm getting a massage and my hair dyed/styled.  So excited for a mid-afternoon of relaxation!  Much needed after the chaos of life lately.  

P.S. : It seems that many of the blogs I'm reading have a general theme (as well as other teachers I talk with)... we are all tired and dealing with things in life that aren't easy.  I'm just glad to know that I have kindred souls who remind me that I'm not alone in my fried, mush brain syndrome I've been dealing with lately.  Maybe, we all need to carve out a little love time for ourselves.  
My new favorite hair spray

4. Birchbox love <3

I ordered my first Birchbox inspired purchase yesterday.  I just love this hairspray .... Meta Luxe Hair Spray by Serge Normant. It has amazing hold and kept my spiral curls in tact all day while teaching - with humidity in the air!  That never happens!  Its not the best on my flat ironed hair because it seems to sticky/stiff to run my fingers through, but its great for updos or curls!  Love!  

5.  My man :) 

My man cleaned- swept and did the dishes for me this week.  I came home from the longest day ever and he had cleaned.  That's why I love him!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Collaboration = Creative Genius (Better Together Linky)

M*Print, one of my daily blog reads (from Bloglovin), is hosting a linky, where teachers are focusing on being Better Together.  I love that Megan created a link up that is not only about teaching, but also concentrates on how teachers can become better together, rather than alone.

Megan's blog is filled with creative ways to get students engaged, and her linky stems from her own complications in the classroom.  She brings up classroom management, differentiation (high AND low), and others.  

Last year, during my first year of teaching, I taught 4 inclusion classes a day.  I struggled with making sure ALL my students were learning.  I had several students with very low reading levels and several students who seemed to already know everything I was teaching (or they learned it so fast that most remedial stuff bored them) and I also had kids who many times were lost in the shuffle because of the students who "needed" more help.  This year, I teach 4 periods of general English 9 and 2 periods of inclusion English 11.  As I struggled through this in my first year (and even this year), I shared my frustration with many other teachers (some in Language Arts and some not), and through my collaboration, I was able to learn a few things:

1. Paired Work

Students who do not want to engage in work or who "seem" to know it all both benefit from paired work.  I almost always pair my students and I do it based on personality and ability (usually diagnosed from a formative assessment or observation).  Letting students pair themselves defeats the purpose.  I love pairs and speak highly enough of paired work!  

First, the high knowledge student who knows all the content and that you can't keep engaged focuses because now they have to help someone else and often times "teach" what they know to someone else. Second, the low knowledge student who doesn't know the content learns from a peer (which often engages students ... you would think that they don't want to show that they don't know to a peer, but they are more likely to show it to a peer than they are to a whole class).  

I have had so many students that paired work benefits (it shows not only in the quality/quantity of work they turn in during paired work, but also in their individual assessments).  Paired work is also a great way to create modifications for students - i.e.  students who struggle with handwriting can be paired with someone who enjoys writing and they complete one paper.  

One student I had last year began the year as a non-responsive student.  He would almost never complete in class work, he was being suspended frequently, and he struggled to pass the class even with his accommodations/modifications.  As the year progressed, I began to do more paired work and I moved his seat near the front with a higher, highly engaged and social student next to him.  He was paired with this student and was able to show incredible growth by the end of the year.  He went from an angry kid who hated anything a teacher asked him to do - to a engaged student who even participated in class and shared learning with others!! (Note: I know this students change cannot be completely attributed to pairs or my teaching even; however, I KNOW that he benefited from the grouping procedures in the room in the process of his learning).  

2. Tiering Your Questions, Handouts, Projects, and More

Last year, I began tiering handouts and class questions for students.  The idea is that students will work through the questions they are able to do and the questions will slowly push them to think in a more critical way.  This benefited students because they were able to be pushed to higher level questions if they were able to and gave all students an opportunity to grow in their learning.  

This year, I and the lovely teacher down the hall from my - Jules, spent several days this summer creating 4 point rubrics for each standard in the common core for our students.  We pre-assess, track learning, progress check, and post assess using these rubrics for each skill that the common core requires.  (Right now, we've only made our 1st Quarter curriculum map standards..... we have to carve out a Saturday to keep truckin along on them).  

These rubrics are great because each # on the rubric (0-4) outlines specifically what a student is able to do - and students need to show their growth when they track from the pre-assessment to the post assessment. It is a Marzano style way to teach/assess and I discovered it while student teaching with my cooperating teacher. See my post Classroom Management and Zen which shows several of the handouts the students use to track their learning and the basic rubric shows the 0-4 basic idea that I've then modified to fit each Common Core standard.  

I love these rubrics and the kids are slowing getting the hang of it.  Jules and I are hoping to possibly post all the rubrics on TeachersPayTeachers when we have critiqued and perfected (and created) all of the rubrics.  I love collaborating with her :) 

3. Extension Cards

Extension cards are a discovery I made earlier this summer on TeachersPayTeachers.  

These cards are amazing!  They are from the Super Hero Teacher and she did a wonderful job making it :) They use each Reading Literature Common Core standard and give 4 different prompts for students to use.  I copied each standards cards on card stock and then laminated them.  They sit in a lovely little "extensions" box on my student resource bookshelf.  When students finish early, I send them over to the extension box and they choose any card they want.  These cards are high level thinking and are great for those students who "know all the answers."  I give students a bonus point for each one that is completely completed-- quality and quality of work.  (So far this year, I've only had 2 students who have finished things early and who have successfully completed their cards... it's not like the bonus points are raking in...)  I highly suggest using these cards in a language arts classroom.

4. Switching Students

One last collaborative decision that I just did today with one of the other grade level teachers (you guessed it, Jules...) was to switch students.  We grouped our students based on the ones who knew the plot stages and can identify/explain them and students who were still struggling with that skill.  Jules took the higher group and I took the lower.  We had students analyze narrative songs :) SOOOO FUN !!!  We used an 80s rap song "Just a Friend" by Biz Markie and "Ol' Red" by Blake Shelton.  

My group of students identified the plot stages and conflicts and the words that let us know why we were in that plot stage.  We used highlighting and color blocking to help students learn definitions, how to apply them, and finding words that support our thoughts.  (a "2" on our rubrics... the basic skill of the grade level standard)

Jules group worked to review plot stages and conflicts and to get students to analyze the suspense, mystery, or tension created by those plot stages and conflicts.  (a "3" on our rubrics... the basic and complex skill .. the student is at grade level).  Then tomorrow she is spending time helping the students compare the plot structure of the two songs (a "4" on the rubrics - above what we explicitly teach/the grade level standard).  

We are really enjoying it with our kids!  I love that students who usually are over shadowed by eager participators had a chance to show what they knew.  We were also able to focus directly on what students did not know so that eventually they will be able to apply the higher level skills.  It's also fun to work with a few different kids. I'm excited to continue working with my group tomorrow :) 

I highly suggest this to anyone who works closely with their other grade level teachers!!!!

Side Note: 

Much of what was said in this post is not directly link to the title : "Collaboration = Creative Genius."  However, the title exists because ALL of the above things are ideas that I came up with through collaboration - whether it was a conversation with my mentor, with my co-teacher, with my favorite grade level teacher or other building colleagues, "creatively borrowed" from Pintrest, blogs, or my cooperating teachers during student teaching.  

I believe with all my heart that good teachers THINK, SHARE, and CREATE with each other to help their students.  The best ideas I've ever had came from somewhere else - I just tweaked or changed them or created something new from them and made them my own.  


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Sometimes the best laid plans... a positive take on the last two weeks.

After a two week hiatus from blogging, I've returned.  The last few weeks have been incredibly crazy and I've struggled to keep my head a float.

  • My classes this year are full of phenomenal kids! I love how hard they are working and the amazing things that they come up with.  However, I am struggling with keeping up with them!  Lesson plans, grading diagnostic and formative assessments, and trying to keep up with the different ability levels are all kicking my tush to the curb.  
  • Sleep has become a favorite pastime that does not seem to happen as much as I want it too OR it happens for too long and I get very few things done.  
  • Personal life has become an emotional coaster and keeping my head strong has been a lot to hold on to.  
  • Fall open house happened this week and I met some amazing parents.... during the hottest day of the summer (we broke a record - 97 degrees on Sept. 11 - and my room is upstairs!) 
  • The intense heat last week made teaching and learning difficult for my students... BUT FALL IS FINALLY HERE! 
  • I ran my first Marathon Relay --- but woke up with a cold that morning.....
  • Amid the chaos ... there has been many positive things :) ...... 

Marathon Relay

Marathon Relay (minus one)... 

Wade preparing for his 3.4 mile leg of the relay ... bright and early at 5 am

I'm ready!!! 

Our relay - Running Rams 

Fall is finally here! 

I absolutely love fall!  The chilly weather, the sweaters and jeans, my favorite scarves and boots, and most of all - pumpkin flavored things!  LOVE 

First Pumpkin Spice Latte of the year.  It's officially fall!

Fall also means ... FOOTBALL season :) My baby brother is growing up ... he is a big bad senior this year... I'm so proud of him to have done well in school and to be growing up, but it's going to be hard to realize how old this means I am....

Dad, Matthew Paul, and Mom at Senior/Parent Night

Fall also means coffee!!!!! Plus my birthday!
Wade is amazing and bought me a Keurig :) LOVE

I enjoyed the last days of summer in a convertible!  wooo!!

Wedding plans have began again.... below are the cupcakes for tasting... delicious!!! 


Throughout all of the busy, chaos of fall,  I've realized that sometimes it is ok to lay on the couch and watch a football game with the man and not work on school every waking moment.  It is ok to slow down and smell the roses and spend time with those you love.  I stumbled across this blog post from (in)courage this morning that reminded me that I'm not the only one who feels like their house exploded and makes random decisions that were not the best plan (like spilling blueberry juice on the floor or spilling coffee all over student work).  Sometimes the best laid plans.....

Coming soon... a post about some of the things I've been doing in my classroom to get my students engaged and on-task.  Plus I'll be linking up with M*Print this week with a post on working with an intervention specialist and being Better Together :)

- Best, K

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Making Inferences

As my freshman have began their first unit on plot elements, I've realized many of them struggle to make inferences, especially inferences with support from the text.  So for our Fun Friday activity, we worked with inferences :)

Pintrest encouraged me to use pictures to model inferring as well as videos.  Below is the powerpoint I used.

Inference graphic organizer and activities from kmcclai2

After we went through this powerpoint and checked out the pictures first with students and I modeling inferences with support out loud, then students making inferences with supports on their own, we watched a wordless animation and students had to make inferences from the video.
The Literacy Shed has a whole "shed" dedicated to animations.  We used the 5th video down "Girl in the War" which not only requires students to make lots of inferences and identify plot elements, but it also is a great discussion video that allows you to analyze why the composer chose to do some of the visual elements -- we kept asking why did the author chose to do that? These videos are great! Check em out!

I am also thinking about using this video with my juniors to practice inferring at the beginning of our war unit. :)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Tech Tuesday : Prezis and Memes

Earlier this summer, I was determined to include memes in my classroom this year.  See this glorious post dedicated to my meme blurbs. Well, I've done it folks....

My first day presentation was a crafty, fun structured Prezi that included memes :) Two technologies in one!  About half the memes were a find from Pintrest, but the other half were ones I created myself of

Side note: I found out that many meme generators are blocked on my school's network; however I found that Imgflip is not blocked on my school computers!  WOOO! My students are most definitely going to create memes using it later this year!  

I love Prezi.  Its is interactive and less linear (which my jumbled brain loves) and has beautiful ways to present! My students were engaged on the first day, and we didn't go through the boring syllabus (which bores me by the end of the day... and I HATED "Syllabus Day" in college... my favorite professors were the ones that gave me the syllabus to read and asked me to do activities... I felt that freshmen need the information reviewed; however, I did not want to read from a syllabus).

I even had a student raise his hand half way though the presentation and tell me that I am now his favorite teacher because I used memes.  Gotta love Freshmen :)

On a fun note: I spent most of my day chatting with Freshman about conflict, plot structure, and fabulous movies!  I love when students make connections with things they love and English!  We even had a conversation about how Titanic is basically every conflict possible in one.... love <3. Plus we watched a clip from Aladdin.  It was a good day!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Classroom Management and Zen

My Classroom Feels Like This... WHHHHAAATT????

Week one has ended.  My brain is tired and many weary hours have been spent at school this last week preparing, organizing, and thinking.  I wanted things to run as smoothly as possible this week and I, along with the help of my wonderful colleague Jules, created lots of new management/procedural stuff to help the classroom flow and support learning.   I'm instituting a LOT of new management and learning mojo into my classroom this year: 
  1. We are following standards based grading this year in my classroom including pre, formative, and post assessments.  All grading is based 4 point (Marzano style) rubrics directly taken from the standards.  The goals is to have students focused on the skills and seeing how they can get better directly from the rubrics. Students worked so hard on their pre-assessment for plot elements and main idea/supporting details today!  I'm excited to see how they do and how that can shape what I teach!
  2. Students will track their learning and goals set.  We will keep all assessments/rubrics in a learning binder that stays in the classroom.  Students will track their learning on a "track my learning" sheet that stays in the binder as well.  Students will be officially introduced to this next week. 
  3. Since the classroom is focused on what students learn, students have the option to retry when they don't do well.  This year, I'm instituting a Request to Retry form.  Taken from pintrest and adapted to fit my students needs...... 
  4. I also have made a behavioral form to help students not only figure out how to resolve their behavior, but also to help me keep track of behavior and calls home.  

    Side Note:

     I am reading Touching Spirit Bear to my 5th period class when they return from lunch (5th has an extra 15 minutes in it to accommodate all 3 lunches in our building).  And this form reminds me of the "schoolified" version of the Circle Justice program Cole (the main character) is going through.  It's a great book to show kids how to deal with anger and hurt.  You should check it out! 
  5. Missing work form - taken and adapted from E, Myself, and I to help keep track of those kiddos who don't turn in their work
  6. While You Were Out form -  this form has been incredibly helpful!  First, it helps me explain what the students missed and second, it allows me to just put it in the folder and teach the student to be responsible for their absent work.  I've created a lovely little station of file folders for my students to find their absent work.  Today, I gently reminded one of my freshman who was absent yesterday to check the absent folder for the work she missed (hopefully, but the end of 1st Q it will be come natural to them just to check there and I won't need to remind) and she had it all ready to go! I didn't have to remember where yesterday's handouts were or get all the directions together for her.  

At the end of 7th period today, my intervention specialist told me that the classroom "just feels peaceful." And she's right.... the room has an aura of peace. Whether that is a beginning of the year thing, a personality thing, a management thing, or just a room thing.... only time will tell, but I'm going to relish in it for now!  

Off to grade Freshman pre-tests... I'm actually kind of excited to see how they do.. I'm such a nerd. :) 

Monday, August 19, 2013

SLOs (not to be mispronounced "slow") and other things to prove I'm teaching

Today, I officially began writing my SLO (Student Learning Objectives).  I have been in meetings since March about these looming documents.  I've grappled with student growth measures, data, and how to best assess my students for this state mandated, district run teacher evaluation quality.
These SLOs are a lot of paperwork to prove that my students are growing in their learning. We are required to choose a standard, create a pre-test over that standard, analyze the data from the pre-test, create a tiered growth measure to show how much students should learn in the next few months, and then in March give a post test where students hopefully show the adequate growth you predicted in your growth measure tiers.  I love all the pieces to this and it is what I'm trying to do in my classroom all year when my students track their learning with pre assessments and post assessments.   In theory, SLOs are great; however, no one can agree on how it will work and the state keeps giving districts new information. Basically, as my district curriculum director put it, "They are building the plane while flying it."

Needless to say, this has been a lot of stress on districts and teachers.  I have a two inch binder billowing with papers on SLOs. (Maybe all the paperwork is why no one can agree on all the qualities that make up an SLO).  I walked into my meetings today in a bundle of stress - I literally could not stop shaking.  It might have been the extra strength coffee, though.  I spent my morning creating a pre-assessment and my short afternoon creating the SLO itself.  Creating the SLO itself was not difficult and the pre-assessment just required some mulling and collaborating by my colleagues and me.  Overall, the amount of stress and paperwork applied to the SLO process made it much more daunting than it was.... however, it's not done yet!

What is your state and/or district doing to evaluate its teachers and analyze its students with the new Common Core Standards and imminent PARCC exams??

Tomorrow I'm off to district and staff meetings and students arrive Wednesday!  Tomorrow, in leu of Tech Tuesday - I will have a tour of my classroom including how I'm integrating technology into my beginning days! :)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Tech Tuesday: DocScan Pro (...and a fun post I stumbled upon for B2S!)

I love my iPhone.  I sit and listen to friends without iPhones who struggle to complete awesome tasks with their not as awesome smartphones and think... "If only they have an iPhone..." I tell them about iPhone (and Apple's) phenomenal apps and abilities and hope to convert them to the land of Apple --- Ok, ok.  I don't think I'm quite like this... but I can proudly say that I love Apple products.

One of my new favorite apps for my phone is DocScan Pro.  As a teacher, there are so many papers that I wish I had access to frequently, but I don't want to carry it around or save it in my email to jump through hoops to open on my iPhone's email when the 3G is lacking.  This app allows you to:

  • Scan documents into PDFs on your phone. 
  • Annotate and highlight on the PDF
  • Share the PDF with your Dropbox account or others with DocScan Pro.  
  • Scan a book and have it "uncurl" the pages.  
  • Organize all your pages 
The app cost $1.99 in the iTunes store. There is a free DocScan App; however, it does not allow you to share the PDF.  

I have found that this app is great for papers like school calendar or those staff meeting notes that you might need to reference while chatting with someone in the cafeteria (nowhere near your stack of papers) and it also allows you to toss those papers rather than ending up with a stack of staff memos a mile tall (that's never happened to me before..... ;)) 

Side Note: Fun Back 2 School Post

I love my Bloglovin' updates - it keeps me up to date with all my favorite blogs without having to check each site individually to see if they have updated their blogs..... if you don't have a Bloglovin' account, you should get one ... and then you should follow me! (see button on left top).  

Yesterday, on M*Print, Megan shared her favorite blog posts of the week in her Monday Mash-up.  She shared Love, Teach's post "If I Ran a Professional Development" and it is a truly hilarious writing that makes me wish teachers ran their own PD in my building.  Check it out!  I especially love the bear idea! haha

Friday, August 9, 2013

High Five For Friday :)

1.  My classroom is finally coming together!  With only one week of summer left, I've been busting to get my new classroom together.  I've still got class lists to work on, lesson plans, and a desk arrangement problem to figure out; however, it will soon be here!

2.  I ran 2.25 miles this week!  I can't believe I can run for 20+ minutes straight! Ridiculousness! In June, I couldn't run for more than 5 minutes straight.  The beautiful Ryan Gosling has been encouraging me.  Plus, the handsome Wade is a fabulously wonderful work out accountability man!

3.  Had a Girls Night in with the ladies last night: the giggling, eating of copious amounts of chocolate chip cookies, and ridiculous games of MASH which took me back to my days of junior high sleep overs---- all were vary much needed! 

4. JoAnn Fabrics has their Teacher Appreciation Days this weekend.  Stoked to go buy all my crafting and decorating needs at 25% off!!! 

5.  Going big city shopping with one of my bestie Laura and our momma's tomorrow :) Planning on buying back to school clothes and an engagement photo shoot outfit !  

Side Note:

A bit of grammar humor for the weekend: 

Linking up with Lauren Elizabeth for her HF4F.  

Thursday, August 8, 2013

My Favorite School Supplies and a Freebie

I love the smell of new school supplies.  Crisp, clean, with a hint of crayon.  Wonderful.  Each year, the bundle of school supplies fall onto the shelves of my favorite shopping centers, and I become a full-fledged nerd.  I want to buy all the planners, highlighters, book covers, and more.  I spend hours in the aisles of the Back to School Section.

Because of this love for school supplies, this morning I am going to share with you the five most helpful/ lovely school supplies that every teacher needs!

1. Papermate Flair Felt Tip Pens, Assorted : These pens kick butt!  They are fabulous for grading because they stand out on the page more than a ballpoint pen, but they don't bleed through your pages.  They come in a million fun colors.  They are like sharpies, but better.  Fabulous purchase here.  Last year, I went cheap and only bough the 6 pack and I regretted it.  This year I went big... so I didn't have to go home.

2. Cardstock: This is Astrobright colors from Staples; however, any bright card stock would do.  I love cardstock.  I has so many possibilities.  I make bookmarks with reading schedules on it.  It makes a great binder cover because it slides down the front easily.  You can use it as a binder divider.  And it's bright... so you can't miss it!

3.  Various Binder Clips: The creator of binder clips had to have been a person on the verge of a mental breakdown.  The clips have been my life savor most days--- in all their various sizes.  They clip little stacks of papers, big stacks of papers. And they don't let those little papers fly away.  They hold your bangs back when you are going crazy during 6th period.   Binder clips are coveted in my building- our office ran out of them before spring break this year, so you want your own little stash of them to save your sanity to the end of the year.

4. Desk Calendar : While this calendar is not the most colorfully/aesthetically pleasing, it is wonderful.  I had it last year and bought another one of for this year.  It has great tabs in the corners of it that keep the calendar in its place, and it's great because you can put notes in the tabs and they don't fly away.

5. Highlighter:  I love highlighters.  I believe that these highlighters from Sharpie are the best around. The are long lasting and vibrant; however, any highlighters work.  I love highlighting as I read and I use highlighters in my classroom with my students to keep them focused as they work.  I often highlight as I grade and more.

This week, I created my own Teachers Pay Teachers store.  In light of that exciting fact, I'm sharing my first product for free:

Get To Know You Activity- Englishbook 2013-2014

An icebreaker activity for your English Language Arts classroom. Set up like Facebook, but entitled "englishbook". Get to know your students likes, goals for the year, family, and educational preferences plus have them give you a self portrait!

enjoy getting your classrooms ready for your students, my loves! 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Tech Tuesday: Online Stopwatch

I don't know about you, but students in my classroom often struggle to stay on task.  My students are in career tech programs and spend much of the day together- either in the same career tech program and/or in the afternoon they are in the same academic classes.  It actually becomes a community within the school-- and I believe it would be an interesting anthropologic study for someone (like Bones... I've definitely been watching to much of that show lately!).  However, the community it creates causes students to want to talk and be friends much more than they want to work on the compare and contrast chart they are doing.

That said, I love group work.  I think it is one of the best ways for students to indirectly learn communication skills and think out loud, and I'm constantly thinking of ways to make group work better.  During the last month of school, I  discovered this fun timing set that can be projected onto my Smartboard.  The timer is great when you want to give students a specific amount of time to work on something.  They can refer back to the timer to see how much time they have left.  It keeps them more focused because they recognize how much time they have rather than me nagging and reminding them.  The timer is also super easy to use.

The timer also come in a million (ok, not a million.  That might be a hyperbole) fun styles.  My favorite (which always makes my students giggle) is the swimming one (I coach HS Swimming).

The swimmers race until the end of the timer - and what's fun is someone different wins each time.  Timing my students visually helps them: 
  • stay on task
  • be independent learners (because I don't have to nag them) 
  • work on staying focused for short increments of time (I don't use timers for more than 15 minutes worth of activity and I usually try to keep my classroom activities to about 15 minutes in length)
    • This is good for classrooms with students with IEP goals that require them to practice staying on task. 
Check out the Online Stopwatch and comment below how you think it would help your students !  

Link up your own Tech Tuesday using the link below and please leave my tech tuesday button (see here) or say something like "Linking Up with The Oatmeal Chronicles for Tech Tuesday" at the end of your post! (please leave a link to my blog then!) 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Classroom Pintrest Wish List

Since my graduate work ended on Thursday, I've spent way to much life time on Pintrest... Pinning everything imaginable, but mostly things for my classroom.

Here is my own Top 10 Classroom Pintrest Wish List:

1. Fabulous First Day of School Activities: Awesome Acquaintance Alliteration Activity (no alliteration intended)  and Meme Syllabus (see my post on Memes

2. Better Planning and Organization (although, I think this is on every teacher's wish list):


3. Parent Communication: I've already submitted a P.O. for 4x6 cards to make this mini-binder (don't always have up-to date info in our schools progress book so these cards are great for a quick look up and a place to document contact).

4. Creative activities for my Freshmen's first unit on conflict and plot:
     A: Popsicle Stick Activity

This picture will take you to an elementary teacher's site where she has taken the date night popsicle idea to the classroom - students identify character, setting, conflict, and a "special idea" from different books on colored popsicle sticks, then you add to it  your own sticks with other possible characters, settings, conflicts, and "special ideas."  Students then pull one of each color from a jar and create their own story based on those ideas.  I love this idea for students to generate creative writing as well as practice elements of a story.

      B: Story Bags
I've know about story bags since working with some middle childhood majors during my undergrad, but I'd never thought about using them with high schoolers until I read this post by a parent encouraging creativity.  Fill the bag with items and students have to create a story using those items.  Students then identify setting, characters, conflict, resolution, etc in their own stories!

5. Anchor Charts
I'm officially obsessed with anchor charts on Pintrest (see my Schoolie Stuff board for all my anchor chart loves).  Many of the charts need amped up a bit to be more rigorous for my students, but the basic concepts are fabulous.

6. Evidence
I believe students need to support their answers with evidence (usually from the text), but many of my students balked at this last year.  My plan is to immerse my students in the idea of always citing and supporting your opinions and analyses. I'm going to make a bulletin board or anchor chart similar to this one for my students to know what I expect:

I'm going to change the "it said so on page" to "[author's name] said, '.........' (pg #)." and omit"from my reading, I know that..." .  I may also add some other ways to cite evidence on there.  I want my students to write and speak like scholars and well-rounded knowledgable high school students.

7.  Hitting all of Bloom's Levels/ Extension activities 
I've found somewhere in the world of TpT and Pintrest a set of cards that have "generic" literature questions aligned with Bloom's levels.  If I do not find them, I plan to make my own cards, color coded and laminated, to use for students who finish an activity early.

8. Fabulous Standards Based Grading Methods
This year, I and another teacher are integrating standards based grading with in depth rubrics from every standards and I discovered these small rubrics made on labels that would be fabulous for grading in student notebooks or formative grading instead of pulling out a giant rubric to grade on each time.
9. Bulletin Boards
I stole this one from M*Print's Pintrest Finds.  I loved it so much I had to share!  How cool is a board where students are encouraged to compose in their free time.  It just will require some monitoring, and high expectations, to make sure all things posted are appropriate.

10. Blog Loves
I've been struggling to find well-rounded secondary teaching blogs... and throughout my pintrest addiction moments these last few days, I found two awesome ones!

M* Print : Megan is new to the blogging world (like me!) and shares all sorts of lovely, nerdy English teacher things on her blog.  Just spending 5 minutes scanning her recent posts I found 11 Tips to Using a Classroom Facebook Page and Setting Soft Goals for Students (goals that are not linked to standards or tests - like passion, etc.).  She really wants her students to succeed and seems to love things like memes, vintage fashion and photos, typewriters, and poetry.  I think I've found a kindred soul.

E, Myself, and I i: Elizabeth is a blogger who shares about teaching high school English, but also focuses on real life ... and she has a real heart for her blog audience, not just freebies, etc.  I really enjoyed her posts on classroom organization and Classroom Organization Facts - she uses a "Missing Work" sheet in her classroom to help encourage students to complete missing work, remind students that more points get taken off the longer they wait, and to help her organize her classroom (the paper is yellow!).  I made my own version of this "Missing Work" sheet.

I've copied these on bright yellow paper, but I changed a few things from her original.
1. I asked students to give me the reason they've not turned it in.  I teach inclusion and often have students who feel overwhelmed by the project or who just need that extra time (all students, not just students with special needs).  I wanted to give them an open spot to let me know that they need extra time (if they have been faithfully working in class).
2. I gave the reminder to students that they will have points taken off the longer they wait; however, I did add that prior approval by a teacher for those students who need that extra time.

I'm excited to implement this in my classroom!  I hope it helps me avoid losing late papers and it encourages my students to complete their missing work sooner!

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