Monday, June 19, 2017

Finishing the School Year...and I Already Have Grammar Goals for Next Year (as well as a few other things)!

Hi Everyone!

Happy end of the year for many of you, and happy summer for those who have already started their glorious summer.  I have five more days left (YAY), and I am typing this as I watch 25 sixth graders take their math final!

I am wrapping up the end of the year like many of you; however, you might think I am crazy I have ideas and goals already for next year! Most people are thinking about the beach, vacations and sitting by their pools; nevertheless, my brain NEVER stops.  I am alway thinking of new, modified and better ways to do and implement things in my classroom.  So what goals do I already have for the 2017-2018 school year? You wouldn't believe it...

1.  Implementing Grammar Back into my Curriculum: My first major goal is implementing daily to weekly grammar back into my curriculum.  Over the past few years, slowly, grammar instruction has disappeared from my curriculum due to the restraints I have with the literature and the timing of everything.  I started using Bell Ringers last year, and my students loved them! I am thinking of implementing them into my Bell Ringers twice a week. I find it very important English students have grammar implemented into their instruction, as well as the practice. I believe this is why many of our students struggle with writing complex and sophisticated sentences and as well as paragraphs.  It is so sad when I ask my 7th graders what a verb is, and some of them cannot even give me an example?!?!? They need the instruction at any age. 

I recently polled a Facebook Group (2ndaryELA) on what grammar books and resources are truly resourceful and helpful to teachers.  In addition, these books the teachers felt they had the best results with, and the students were not bored out of their minds all of the time. This is the key.  Here are some of the books these brilliant teachers recommended, and some I cannot wait to purchase for my summer reading:

A  Janette Snelson recommended Grammar to Get Things Done:

B.  Lisa Braden Carlson recommended Kelly Gallagher's, Write Like This . Lisa has been using this in her classes for 17 years, and she feels that it is the most practical, effective and painless grammar method! 

C.  Jennifer Reid Galmoff suggested Evan Moor's, Daily Language Review.  She implements this as a Daily 10 minute warm up resource at the middle school level.

D.  Linda Fittro Lanchak and Shauna McNabb both recommend Doug Stark's, Mechanics Instruction that Sticks.

E.  Stephanie Hughes Ruback has been using Phyllis Hostmeyer's, Tools Students Need to Be Skillful Writers: Building Better Sentence Patterns, and she has been using this book for 12 years and absolutely LOVES IT!

F.  Need some resourceful online grammar resources?  Lauralee Epplin Moss wrote an amazzzing blog series about grammar and implementing it into the classroom.  You have to check it out!

**Another great online resource recommended by Janice Ruschman O'Brien is NoRedInk.

**Lori Hudeck recommended English Grammar 101-I personally checked this one out and absolutely loved it!

(I just thought I would share my idea :)

2.  Chalkboard Bulletin Board-I have a small bulletin board in my room which probably is about 3ft x 3ft in size, right by my door.  I really never know what to do with it because it is not large enough to have an entire class worth of projects displayed on it, and sometimes it is just wasted space, though last week, a brilliant idea came to mind.

On my front white board, I always write the quote of the week-a motivational, sometimes curriculum related quotation.  Recently, I purchased this fantastic book on learning how to write in chunky calligraphy with markers and pens. You have to check it out! I already started practicing, and you will love it!

I decided when I go back in Septemeber, I am going to buy chalkboard paint and paint the bulletin board in the paint-


The next step is to buy some snazzy chalkboard markers-

I am really hoping that my chalkboard/bulletin board will look like this!
Wish me good luck.  I will take lots of pictures of them once I get the ball rolling!

Kim, English, Oh My!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Summer is on the Horizon!

Hi Everyone!

Happy summer to all my southern teachers! I know that this Friday is your last day, and I know you are absolutely elated! I have 13 more teaching days, and 21 more actual days before I can wave goodbye to my school for the summer.  We are getting there!

I have to be honest, I have been MIA this month; however, I have been missing in action for a realllllyyyyy good reason.  I have partnered up with another Teachers Pay Teachers seller, Kathy of The Fun Factory, and we have been hard at work creating an INCREDIBLE July sale-Sun, Sand & Savings Summer Sale!

We have 75 sellers participating in this incredible sale, and JUST WAIT until you see the deals and steals that are coming, along with unbelievable giveaways.  I just want to hook and bait you a little, because the month of July is going to be something for buyers.  STAY TOONED!

I hope your school is winding down successfully, and you are on the brink of dipping your toes in the pool!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

What Should I Do with My Children During Spring Break?

Hi Everyone!

Happy April, Happy Poetry Month, and Happy Easter & Passover!  This past week, I had the opportunity to guest blog on Danielle Knight's blog, Study All Knight.  I wrote a post about how to make poetry a little less grueling with 7 steps!  Check it out!

If you are like me, I had this past week off for Spring Break; however, I do know some of you have this upcoming week off. Yay!  I am very lucky because the weather was outstanding, and my son, Joe, and I had a chance to spend a ton of time outside in the 70 degree weather.

I am sure many of you are beginning to plan out your week, and asking yourself, "What should I do with my kiddos during the break?".  We don't want them to be glued to the boob tube, IPads or their devices, so what else can they do?  Here is a list of things my son and I did that did not cost a lot of money, and we enjoyed our time together.

1.  Two Hikes in the Woods:  Take your children for a nature walk in the woods! We went to a nature preserve about five minutes from us twice this past week.  This beautiful preserve offers a few different trails varying in mileage.  We packed up Yale, our black lab, and we hiked the mile trail through the woods.  Joe used his imagination and created fairy/troll houses in the crooks of trees, we looked for bugs, cool rocks, and any other fun finds (I also got some much needed exercise!).

2. Paint: I bought Joe some small canvases from Walmart and let him paint away on our table in the backyard.

3.  Chalk Creations on the Driveway: I had Joe create friendly images and nice notes for the passing cars. In his creations, he drew a friendly "Happy Easter" sign, eggs, smiley faces and other adorable 7-year old art.

4.  Ride Bikes:  Last year, Joe was a bit leery riding his bike (he is a cautious kid).  This year, two-wheels is a breeze, and we biked miles around our neighborhood.  During our bike rides, we would make up stories on where our bike riding adventures would lead.

5.  Trampoline Park: If the weather is cold or dreary, do you have a local trampoline park near you?  We have Sky Zone very close to us, and what a way to expel some energy if you cannot get outside.  We went over to Sky Zone with a friend and jumped away!

6.  Local High School/College Games:  Joe is in love with lacrosse, and he plays it three times a week.  During the break, our high school played a rival team.  We decided that we would go to the game and root them on.

7.  Quality Time with Friends:  I am sure you agree, but during the regular school year, it is hard to get together with friends and their kids.  We made it a priority to see Joe's Godmother and her kids, as well as some other dear friends.

8.  RELAX:  Don't forget to relax.  Being home is sometimes more crazy than working. Remember, it is called a break for a reason.  Treat yourself to something you have been wanting.  Get some much-needed rest and relaxation.

I hope this a helpful beginner list for you for the next week.  Just some food for thought as you begin planning. I hope you have a wonderful week!


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Don't Reprimand Your Students Who Doodle. They are Learning.

Do you have students who are constantly hunched over, copiously doodling while you are lecturing in front of the classroom?  Does it drive you nuts because you think they are not paying attention? Think again.  Please, do not yell at your students who doodle.

I am a person who constantly doodles, sketches, and draws on ANYTHING.  I always have, and I am sure some of you can relate with me.  I remember sitting in Spanish class in middle school, and in the margin of my Spanish notes were doodles of flowers, stars and designs.  I doodle/d on everything!   On my worksheets, on the front of my binder, and today, I will doodle on sticky notes or paper when I am on the phone or listening intently. You should see my faculty meeting agendas! Most teachers would think that doodling is mindless and information is not being retained, but think again.

I can recollect six years ago, when I had a highly-functioning autistic child in my class.  Throughout the entire class, this student did not take one ounce of notes, but drew, sketched, and created vast landscapes all over my note taking pages.  At first, like any teacher, I was frustrated and insulted that he found my class boring, and he did not have enough respect to follow my directions; however, it was quite the opposite.  When we would go back and review the information presented, this student was on point with every answer, his hand flying in the air to answers many of my questions.  Though he didn't take detailed notes, he comprehended and retained everything that I had taught the class, and he DOODLED the entire time.  Believe it or not, for some students, doodling is a form of thinking, learning, comprehending and processing information.

In a TIME article, "Doodling Helps You Pay Attention", the author states, "In a delightful new study, which will be published in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology, psychologist Jackie Andrade of the University of Plymouth in southern England showed that doodlers actually remember more than nondoodlers when asked to retain tediously delivered information, like, say, during a boring meeting or a lecture." ("Study: Doodling Helps You Pay Attention, 2009).

In other words, for those of us who fidget and have a hard time paying attention, us doodlers doodle to think and learn.  It helps with our concentration, problem solving skills, taps our creative outlet, helps us visualize, and it helps us makes connection to what we are learning.  Amazing, right?!?!

Even more interesting, Jackie Andrade also discovered, "The group instructed to doodle remembered 29% more information than did the control group." (Hughes, "Keep Calm and Doodle On").  There is a direct correlation between learning and doodling.

Check out this amazing doodle by Professor Guilia Forsythe explaining how doodling helpings with learning:

There are many Teacher-Authors who have introduced Doodle Notes into their classroom and Teachers Pay Teachers stores, including myself.  I wanted to share a list of Teacher-Authors who have beautiful doodle notes for a variety of subjects.  These notes will help with your visual learners and will differentiate your instruction.

Here are two pictures of my Literary Terms Draw, Jot & Scribble Notes you can find in my store:

1.  Danielle Knight, Teacher-Author of Study All Knight has incredible ELA Sketch Notes in her store.  Check them out HERE.

2.  Math Giraffe-Check out these math Doodle Notes! How fun would it be to learn math like this?
3.  The Morehouse Magic-These creative science doodle notes are perfect to learn all those science terms! Check out these science doodle notes here.

4.  History Gal-Check out these history/social studies doodle notes! What an engaging way to learn terms, definitions and dates.  Click here.

5.  Brain Waves Instruction-This teacher-author has incredible study skill doodle notes in her store.  Check them out here.

All in all, do not reprimand your students for doodling, sketching and drawing.  They are learning, processing, and listening.  You will be surprised how much s/he is learning just by a simple sketch.

Thank you so much for reading this post! Feel free to comment on how you have used Doodle Notes in your classroom.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Reading Notebooks in the Middle School Classroom-PART III

Hi Everyone!

I hope that your week has been productive!  This past week, Long Island schools were out for another snow day.  I do not know about you, but ever since the clocks went ahead, I am for sure ready for spring.

I am very happy with how the reading notebooks are going in my 7th grade classroom.  This week, students worked on Reader Response Questions, read the next 13 pages in their books, worked on a reading log, were introduced to a new mini-lesson, and completed a group activity.

I have been creating all the notes in Google Slides, and I can easily project items right up on the SmartBoard.  Take the Reader Response questions the students answered this week.  I choose questions I figured all the students who have read about in the first 13 pages of their book-setting, characters, inference, and personal response.

The students worked with their group members on these questions, and it took them the entire period to get through all the questions.

On Wednesday, the students read their next 13 pages of their novel while completing their second reading log.

Thursday I introduced my students to the third mini-lesson on "How a Lead Hooks a Reader".

We discussed how in YA novels, the author will try to hook a reader within the first couple of paragraphs.  Otherwise, they will lose interest in the book quite quickly.  After the students wrote down the notes in their Mini-Lesson section, their job was to locate the hook of their book.  It is quite interesting to see what "hooked" different students about the same book!

Lastly, on Friday, my students worked on a Literary Scavenger Hunt, a product I created.

With the Scavenger Hunt, the students have to go back into the text that they read, and find four of any of the devices listed on the right hand side.  They then have to quote the line from the text with the device, and explain how the line shows the device.  What is nice is that this sheet can be used over and over!

If you would like to check out this resource, you can find it here:  Scavenger Hunt for ANY Piece of Literature

Enjoy your week, and I will update you with more activities from our reading notebooks!


Monday, March 13, 2017

Reading Notebooks in the Middle School Classroom-Part II

Hi Everyone!

I hope your Monday if off to a great start!  Long Island is anticipating a blizzard tomorrow, so it looks like I will not have school tomorrow.  This means I will be adding a day onto one of my breaks at some point (😡).

Last week my 7th grade students really dove into their reading notebooks.  As I mentioned in my last post, my students are reading three different books, and I was not all that sure how this was going to work out in the classroom.  I was anticipating a little bit of chaos, but so far, it has been working out fairly well!  ALL my students are completely engaged in their books!

Here is how last week went:

Monday:  My students assembled their notebooks, adding their tabs and cover.  If you would like a copy of the tabs, here is the link:
Tuesday:  We went over the reading log expectations, and my students took notes on their first mini-lesson, "Reading Notebook Structure".  I wanted my students to understand what was expected of them and how I would run the periods.

Wednesday:  I began the period by going over the students' second mini-lesson, "Analyzing a Title".  Take a look at the image below of one of my student's notebooks and notes.  
Following, ALL of my students read the first 13 pages of their novel, which worked out for me because it covered one or two chapters in their novels.  While reading, they completed a reading log.

If you would like a template for this reading log, grab it here:

Thursday/Friday:  I then went over the Reader Response section with my students, and my students glued in the reader response pages.  Check them out below:

The great part about reader response questions is that you can ask the students to answer any number that you want them to answer, and it gives the students choice!  For the first reader response questions, I had my students answer the essential question about the title from the mini-lesson.  I also had them answer a question about setting, making a prediction and drawing a conclusion, being that they only read the exposition of the novel.

I hope this has been helping you gather ideas for reading notebooks at the middle school level.  If you missed my Part I of this series, check it out here: PART I

Enjoy your week!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Reading Notebooks in the Middle School Classroom-Part 1

Hi Everyone!

I hope your March is off to a great start, and before we know it, it will be summer break!  I don't know about you, but this year is flying for me.

I am about to start something new with my 7th grade students this upcoming week: Reading Notebooks.  Reading notebooks are often found at the elementary level, but I have been spending some time tweeking (and planning) the elementary version to fit the middle school classroom.

How Did This Begin?

After wrapping up our first novel of the year, I wanted to give my 7th graders an opportunity to choose their next book.  I have two 7th grade classes who are unmotivated readers.  I get a lot of, "uggghhhss", when we read; therefore, I said to them, "How would you like the opportunity to choose your next book?"  My students really liked this idea, so I chose three high-interest novels the students could choose.  I didn't want the students to choose any book, but books that I have read before, so I could keep track of their reading and have conversations with my students.  The books I chose were: Touching Spirit Bear, Inventing Elliot, and Fever, 1793. If you have never read these books, they are perfect for the middle school classroom!  They also appeal to both the girls and boys.  However, then came my next difficult task: How am I going to keep track of all my students' reading and their comprehension when three different books are being read in the classroom?!?!
Reading Notebook

I looked at some reader response journals, group discussions, literature circles, but then I found the READING/READER'S NOTEBOOK.  After scouring some of the most fantastic elementary websites, I then asked myself, how can I adapt a elementary method into the middle school classroom?  With much planning and organizing, I think I figured it out! You are going to go on this journey with me, so I will talk about the successes and failures of our reading notebooks!

1. Elementary Schedule: In the elementary reader's workshop are set up with a 5-10 minute mini-lesson with modeling, independent or group reading, and the last five minutes students share. During the independent reading, the teacher has certain groups break out, and the following day is a new mini-lesson.
Middle School Schedule: I am going to follow the model above, however, I am going to visit all the groups throughout their reading.  In addition, I am not going to start a new lesson the following day, but the students are going to work on reader response questions from the day prior as well as a group discussion activity.  This will give me a great sense of my students' comprehension of the text.

2.  Notebook Setup:  From what I have gathered, teachers set up their reading notebooks differently depending on the needs of their students.  I am going to have my students set up their notebook with the following sections: Mini-Lessons, Reader Response, Chapter Reading Logs & Vocabulary.

My students are actually going to set up their notebooks today!  I will take pictures and share them with you.  Stay tuned!

Glitter Notebook by Glitter Meets Glue Designs

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Differentiation Instruction for the Novel, To Kill a Mockingbird-Graphic, Abridged Novel FREEBIE

Hi Everyone!

I would like to introduce to you MRS. C, my new product, blog avatar! What do you think?!?!? How cute is she? She is definitely much more attractive than the real person ;).

I just finished chapter 2 in To Kill a Mockingbird with my 8th graders, and I forgot I had created an abridged, graphic version of chapter 1 for my Integrated students last year!  I created this version because my students really struggle with all of the information in chapter one-the history, vocabulary, language and length.

Rather than the chapter being 15 pages, I cut it down to 6!  I add pictures and clipart to make it easier for my visual learners, and I made the vocabulary a little easier, so my students could understand the concepts, comprehending the text.

You have a chance to get this awesome product for FREE!
Starting RIGHT NOW, from January 31st-February 5th (to celebrate Super Bowl), sign up for my
(You can find it in the top left hand corner of my blog, or just click on the link!)

I hope you are having a wonderful week!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

To Kill a Mockingbird & and A Long Walk to Water Resources and Activities

Hi Everyone!  

I am so sorry it has been so long since I  have posted (I have not posted anything since November)!!!  With the holidays and an unexpected trip to Mexico, I have been trying to get myself back into the groove. My goal this year is to try and publish a blog post at least twice a month.  Wish me good luck!  

First and foremost, Happy New Year! I hope that 2017 is starting off well for you. Now that the new year has come and gone, I am off and running with my two novels with my 7th and 8th grade students.

My 8th graders are about to start reading To Kill a Mockingbird, while my 7th graders just started A Long Walk to Water. If you read any of these novels with your students, I wanted to share some resources that I made (and found!) that are extremely helpful and interesting for the novels.

To Kill a Mockingbird
Let's start with To Kill a Mockingbird.  Whether you reading it at the middle school level or high school level, anyone who has ever read this novel, knows that it is challenging.  Furthermore, bringing your students into the time period (the Great Depression, the deep South, racism is rampant, and tensions are high), can be rather difficult.  Before beginning the novel, I like to dive deep into introducing my students into the historical aspects of the book.  I truly believe that in order for my students to be able to understand the novel and the language, they have to understand the background of WHY the events are happening in the novel.  

I created a Prezi Presentation that not only introduces your students into the novel, but helps your students to understand why Harper Lee wrote this book.  Here is the link, and I hope you find it useful:

Secondly, one of my favorite activities to do in an English class is prediction activities.  I love when my students use their inference skills to try to predict what is going to come next or what is going to happen in a piece.  


Have you ever engaged your students in an anticipation guide? An anticipation guide is a great way to get discussions going about the books without giving the book away.  In an anticipation guide, the students are given general statements in reference to the themes of the novel/text.  The students have to decide if they agree, disagree or feel neutral about the statement.  They then have to support their claim with elaboration.  Check out my anticipation guide for To Kill a Mockingbird below.  The anticipation guide also has some great journal questions!

Have you ever tried the activity called, "Probable Passages"?  It is sooooo much fun, and your kiddos will love it! This is another fun prediction activity.  

How Probable Passages works is you give your students a list of 10-25 words, phrases, dialogue, characters, conflicts, etc. Next, the students have six boxes to choose from-Characters, Conflicts, Settings, Outcomes/Endings, Unknown Words/Phrases, To Discover.  The students then have sort their list into what box they believe the term should go (the tricky part is they are only allowed to put the word/phrase into one box and one box only).  Once they have sorted all of the words/phrases/terms, the students have to write a gist statement of what they believe will happen in the text.

This year I printed all the statements out on half sheets, and the students have to glue the statements onto a roller coaster (the roller coaster metaphorically stands for the plot). 

Want to try out the Probable Passages for To Kill a Mockingbird? Here it is!

A Long Walk to Water

My 7th graders are reading A Long Walk to Water.  I found two amazing videos that I wanted to share with you.  Even after giving my students background information, it is amazing how much they do not realize what is taking place throughout our world, especially in a place like Sudan.  

On the Water for Sudan website, I found a great video introducing the struggles with water in the Southern Sudan.  You can find that video here:

In addition to this, in 2016, National Geographic produced a documentary called, "God Grew Tired of Us".  It is absolutely fantastic (and mind-blowing), and the viewer follows four Lost Boys on their journey from the refugee camp in Kakuma, Sudan to their relocation in America.  My students found the documentary to be extremely intriguing, and it gave them more insight into the troubles in this country. Here is the link to the documentary:

"God Grew Tired of Us"

I hope you are having a wonderful January!!!!

I have an incredible freebie coming for To Kill a Mockingbird-Let me give you a hint! It is graphic, and it is perfect to use for chapter one and to differentiate instruction.
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