6 Ways to Create Warmth & Joy in Your Classroom in December

Happy December, Everyone!

I am so excited to join 27 teacher bloggers in the 12 Day of Christmas Blog Hop and Giveaway.  We are all discussing six ways we create comfort and joy in our classrooms, and you can check out all of these bloggers right HERE.  You will get to meet all the bloggers, and see the schedule of all the blog posts.  In addition, we are giving away four pretty amazing prizes!

Raffle #1 (December 3rd) - $25 to Barnes and Noble
Raffle #2 (December 6th) - $75 to Target
Raffle #3 (December-9th) - $100 to TpT
Raffle #4 (December 12th) - $200 GRAND PRIZE to Amazon

You can enter the giveaway right HERE!

6 Ways to Create Warmth & Joy in My December Classroom

1.  Instilling Kindness:

Besides being an English teacher, one of my most important goals as a teacher is to instill kindness in my students.  I had the opportunity to teach Character Education for a few years, and we spent a tremendous amount on this subject.  In my classroom, I make sure it is repeated and learned.  

Last year, I created a kindness calendar, and started a campaign called, "Ignite Kindness." Check out the free calendar HERE.  Feel free to use in your classroom! My 8th grader created a hashtag on Instagram for this purpose.  

Using Class Dojo in the Middle School Classroom

Hi Everyone!

I wanted to share with you one of my classroom management ideas I use with my 7th graders.  You may have heard of Class Dojo, but if you are a middle or high school teacher, you normally do not see it used at our level.  It seems to be used primarily at the elementary level, and middle school teachers may not feel a need for it because they believe their students will find it to be "babyish".  Let me start by saying, my 7th graders love it, and because they are often competitive, it makes for a great incentive program in the classroom.

How does Class Dojo work?

First, Class Dojo is free.  All you have to do is sign up for an account.  Once you create yourself an account, you can set up your classrooms. The Class Dojo interface is very easy to use, and it is simply adding your class by "adding a classroom".  You will name your class, and then begin adding students.  I added my students individually by first name, last initial; however, you can enter your students' names in any fashion.  In addition, Class Dojo also has an easy upload, where you can download your rosters from Microsoft Excel.  You then can decide if you would like to invite parents to see their child's work.  I opt out of this, especially since I use this for incentives in the classroom and not specifically for classroom management.

Engaging Bell Work Activities and Websites

Hi Everyone!

Happy almost November!  Do you believe it?!?! This year is flying by.  I am in the throws of my short story unit with both my 7th and 8th graders, and soon enough, we will be reading our first novel.

This year, I have implemented bell work for the first time.  I have seen bellringers on Teachers Pay Teachers, and I implemented bellringers with my 8th graders last year; however, I will admit it was slightly disorganized.  This year, I have stuck to a schedule with my 8th graders, which I will share in a bit.  First though, I want to tell you about the bell work I have created for my 7th graders and work that they ACTUALLY rave over!

In the last two weeks, I have heard the following comments: "Mrs. Crouch...I love doing the bell work.  It is so much fun!" and, "This is my favorite part of the day."  I know...you would not think a 7th grader would say this about "work", but somehow I have hooked them.  I created the bell work with the intentions of keeping my 7th graders busy for the first five minutes, but I thought, "What a great product for TpT!", so you can find my bell work in my store.  I have gotten some great feedback, and my sellers look and ask for it each month!

Creative Writing Prompts That Will Get Your Students Writing (Particularly Boys) and Don't Suck!

Hi Everyone!

I hope you are having a wonderful September, and you have not been affected by these awful hurricanes that seem to not want to leave the islands and the mainland alone.  My thoughts are with those who have been affected by Harvey, Irma, and Maria.

My very good friend and collegue, Mrs. Jayne Traver, actually inspired this blog post.  Jayne is teaching an 8th grade creative writing course for the first time this year. When Jayne first found out she was teaching this course over the summer, she called me with such excitement because she is in the middle of writing her novel, and she couldn't wait to share and inspire her kids with her skills and techniques. She was also hoping her students would be able to inspire her as well, helping her gain momentum in her novel writing while her students worked on their own projects. This was also the first time our building has ever offered an elective like this for our 8th graders, so it was really energizing.

Teaching Your Students to Elaborate on Their Writing & Thinking

Hi Everyone!

As many of us are readying our classrooms to return back to school, I wanted to share something that works in my classroom when it comes to having your students elaborate on their writing and thinking.  This is usually a difficult skill for students, especially for middle school students. Middle school students do not always have the cognitive maturity to make deep inferences, and their explanations are usually vague and lack thoroughness.  Let me share with you with works in my classroom with elaboration:

Normally, in writing, our students elaborate when responding to a quotation, text-based evidence, and literature (fiction & non-fiction), and this goes for any subject.  Again, when we ask our students to elaborate on their thinking, it usually falls short.

I use a two-step method:

Using Prezi in the Classroom-For Students & Teachers

Hi Everyone!

This week, the Secondary Series is presenting a week long series of Back to School Tech Tips.  Each night, a few of our girls are presenting for 10 minutes on an awesome tech tip you are not going to want to miss.  If you have not signed up to be part of our Secondary Series, you can find the link here.    The best part of our Tech Series is if you complete and answer the exit questions for the entire series, you can earn PD hours as well as a chance of winning a $50 gift card!!

Tonight at 7:20 CST/ 8:20 EST, I will presenting on the tech tip topic, "Using Prezi in the Classroom-For Students & Teachers".  You have to come and see this, and I may even blow your educational mind!

What is Prezi?

Unbelievable ELA Professional Development on Facebook Live You Don't Want to Miss!

Hi Everyone!

As many of us approach the half way mark of the summer, I wanted to share with you some AMAZING Facebook Live English Language Arts series that will be starting at the beginning of August.  Believe me.  You are not going to want to miss these!

I, along with many other incredible English teachers, are going to be sharing some very helpful back to school tech tips and teaching strategies that will help you get your classroom off the ground, as well as help you implement some new strategies and programs into your classes.

Using Pixar Short Films in the English Language Arts Classroom

Good Morning!

I just wanted to share with you that I went live on Facebook yesterday discussing how to use Pixar Short Films to teach and review literary terms. I am part of the Secondary Series group, where we discuss, post and share tips and ideas on using technology and creativity within the English Language Arts classroom. The broadcast was about 10 minutes, and you can find it right here.

I also wanted to share with you some of the worksheets and freebies I shared with the viewers.  I love using the Pixar Short Films in my class because they are quick, funny and an engaging way to intrigue my students to learn.  As I explained in the video, one of the first items I like to review is literary devices because we use them all year long.  I have never been a write-the-notes-from-the-board type of teacher, as I find this technique anticlimactic and rather boring. In addition, the kids do not learn a thing from just copying notes, and it is the application that is the most important.

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. 

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!

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.

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.

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.

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!

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

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!

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.
Want this freebie?
Sign up for my NEWSLETTER!

Back to Top