Wednesday, November 20, 2013

It's Giveaway Time!

Middle School Giveaway

Who doesn't love a giveaway? Well, Krystal from Lessons From The Middle and Kate from Kate's Classroom Cafe have teamed up to create giveaway just for middle school teachers, as a little thank you for all you do! I'm excited to be apart of this middle school giveaway and there are lots of fantastic prizes to be won! Let's get to it!

Middle school Thanksgiving giveaway

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Middle School Giveaway

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Middle School Giveaway

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Middle School Giveaway

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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Book Talk: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Since I began teaching I have dreamed of sharing one of my favorite novels with my students and experiencing that excitement and anticipation that is associated with diving into a new world of characters and places. Unfortunately, I was never able to make that happen because of a lack of time, not having the resources, and plenty of other excuses that I made. 

All that changed, however, when I stumbled across this amazing organization, First Book.  First Book is an organization dedicated to providing books to children in need. If you teach in a Title I or low income school, you can sign up on their website to apply for book grants or shop in their marketplace for heavily discounted books for your students. I have been extremely lucky to have be awarded three separate book grants from First Book.  All I had to do was pay 45 cents per book to cover shipping and handling. The most recent grant was for 96 copies of The Lost Heroes by Rick Roth. It was an amazing feeling when I was able to share the news with my students and they learned that the books would be theirs to keep.

If that was not enough, I was beyond excited to learn that my favorite novel Divergent by Veronica Roth was for sale in the First Book Marketplace. I knew at once that this was a sign and this would be the perfect thing for me to start in my new Extensions class with my students. I couldn't wait to order the books and was surprised when they arrived at school less than a week later. 

My students were hooked from day one! I can still remember that first day of reading and all the questions. Why are there factions? How can someone only show or believe in one human characteristic?  Why is Beatrice so scared of having to make her choice? These were the same questions I had the first time I read it too. What impressed me most were the answers that they came up. I felt like I was the expert at this book since I have read it so many times, but with each answer or thought from one of my students that I had never considered before, I realized I was beginning to see things from a different perspective and that I had so much to learn from them.

I knew that I wanted to incorporate as many of the events from the beginning of the book, like the aptitude test and Choosing Ceremony, as I could. I could have never dreamed though the amount of passion, anxiety, and excitement that my students would show during these two activities. My students spent so much time on their aptitude tests stressing over each answer choice and how it could affect their choice. I had to keep reminding them that the test didn't choose their faction, they did. 

After going though their results, I made an envelope for each of my students that contained their results. I was so excited to give them their envelopes the next day that I could barely sleep. I kept thinking about how excited some of them would be and how shocked others would be about the results. They did not disappoint me. There were cheers, dancing, shocked faces, and more when they were allowed to open their envelopes and see their results. 

A few minutes later, the realization set in that just like Beatrice they would have to make their choice tomorrow. Each of them spent the reminder of that class working on a self-reflection journal entry to reflect on their aptitude test results and decide what choice they would make. I don't think I have ever seen a group of student more serious.

My next hurdle was to figure out exactly how the Choosing Ceremony would work. For those of you who have not read Divergent, each teenager must cut their hand with a knife and drop their blood into the bowl of the faction that they select. Obviously, that was out of the question! I thought about using buckets and having the kids drop a slip of paper with their name on it into the bucket, but that just didn't seem to have the same effect and was pretty boring. 

So I decided on creating a Smartboard presentation for the Choosing Ceremony. I created a slide that had each factions symbol at the top and my students names at the bottom. When a student's name was called they would go to the board and drag their name under their new faction.  Students cheered and celebrated each time a new member joined their faction. I wish I would have taped the entire ceremony, but I was too caught up in the excitement myself.  I figured that the majority of the students would pick Dauntless (let's face it-who wouldn't want to be in Dauntless?), but I was pleasantly surprised at the variety of choices. I was less surprised that no one wanted to be in Abnegation though.

After the Choosing Ceremony,  we took pictures of our new factions and the students wrote another journal entry explaining their choices. Like Beatrice, who changes her name to Tris after becoming a member of Dauntless, many of the students also requested that they be able to change their names. My students also demanded to have new seats because they all wanted to sit with their new factions and not be mixed anymore. I just love how they are really taking ownership and fully embracing the book.

With each day that we read, we discover new things about this world that Roth has created and the students make more connections and theories about what is going on. Yesterday was a particularly interesting reading experience because they could not wait to talk about how it is so obvious that Tris and Four like each other after the Ferris Wheel scene. I'm having to be one tough cookie to not break down and give them spoilers like they want. I cannot wait to continue reading on Monday about the end of the first stage of Dauntless initiation and what it is has in store for Tris.

Any tips out there to what makes your book talks or literature circles so successful? Share them in the comments below!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

It's Been A While...

It seems like just yesterday I was finishing getting my classroom in order and everything done before the first day of school...has it really been almost three weeks since then? I knew I would be busy once school started but not this busy. I know I have been neglecting this blog, but real life and my students come first. With that being said, I finally have a few minutes where I can share what has been happening in my classroom.

It's been a major transition from teaching 6th, 7th, and 8th grade Literacy Enrichment where I saw my students every other day to just 6th grade ELA where I see my students every day. I got very used to the same schedule for five years and now it's almost like my first year over again. Each day I am getting more and more comfortable. I'm hoping that pretty soon everything will go back to feeling normal.

Here are just a few glimpses into what has been happening in my classroom the past few weeks. I always have my students create acrostic poems on the first day as a way for them to introduce themselves to me and their new classmates. I was pleasantly surprised by how creative and how much thought the majority of my students put into this activity.

We also worked on a placemat consensus activity on setting classroom norms and expectations. I combined this with an activity that I saw on Pinterest. So now I have these awesome student created posters hanging in my classroom.

I also introduced the Student Shout Outs to my students. This is my way of encouraging my students to reward their classmates for making positive choices and going above and beyond each day in class. I was so happy with the result at the end of the first week. You can grab your own version of the Student Shout Outs in my TPT store.

Check back soon for another look inside my classroom. Until then keep that creativity flowing :)

Monday, August 5, 2013

Getting My Classroom In Order: FINALLY, It's Done!

Well, today was the first official day back for teachers in my district. Our students return this Wednesday so I guess it's a good thing that I can FINALLY say that my classroom is in order and LOOKS like a real classroom again! It's taken so much longer than I had anticipated and it seemed like each time I completed a task that two more popped up. Now that all of the setting up is done, I am so excited to share the finished product with you. 

One of the biggest projects to undertake was creating my Wall of Fame in my classroom. I am so excited with how it turned out. This is one of the few times that something looks exactly like I pictured it in my mind. I designed the banner using Keynote on my Macbook and then had it made on Vistaprint. I bought chevron ribbon from Hobby Lobby and decorated the clothespins myself. There is glitter EVERYWHERE! It looks amazing and I can't wait to start displaying student work here!

I ran out of glue so I used spray adhesive instead....I am still finding glitter in my kitchen!

I cut the ribbon different lengths so that I wouldn't run out. My mom was nice enough to tie the bows for me.

I used a glue gun to attach the glitter clothespins to the ribbons.

A finished ribbon!

It turned out exactly like I pictured it. I am so EXCITED!

After completing the Wall of Fame, I started to create some extra bulletin board space in my classroom and hallway using Azure Blue paper and multi-colored chevron duct tape. It is the cheapest and easiest way to create new display space in your classroom. All I did was staple the paper to the wall and podium and then outline the paper using the duct tape. 

Trying to brighten up my hallway.

I'm going to use this bulletin board to display my hallway expectations.

This is the front of my podium.

Another important area of my classroom is my self-assessment table. I do not pick up papers at the end of my class. Instead I have students self-assess their learning from that class period and turn in their work in designated baskets. I use a ranking system of Novice, Apprentice, Practitioner, and Expert in my classroom. It is probably one of my favorite things that I instituted in my classroom last year. I worked over the summer to revamp my system and decided to upload the finished product to my store. Click here to check out this amazing self-assessment system for your students! 

After finishing the self-assessment table, it was time to set up and decorate the back walls of my classroom. I call this space my Wall of Wisdom. Usually the Wall of Wisdom only contains posters that I have bought from our local school store, but this year thanks to Vistaprint I was able to create one of my own. 

A few of my favorite pieces of advice to share with my students.

This is the banner that I designed. I also got this design in business card size so that I can staple it inside each of my student's agenda.

Next was getting my teacher space organized. Trying to organize my things and space was a very long and tiring process. It's crazy to think of the things that you accumulate in just a year. I used pink chevron fabric from Hobby Lobby to create a table skirt that went around my desk and side table. I love it! After getting this attached to my desk and table, it was on to getting rid of the clutter and going into super organized mode.

Before the de-cluttering process :(

After the de-cluttering process :)

I don't know what I would do without my teacher toolbox and calendar from School Aids!

This just might be the most organized this bookshelf has ever been...I'm hoping it stays this way.

I also repurposed an old teacher toolbox and updated it to match the theme of my big toolbox. This toolbox will contain classroom management rewards like my student punch cards, stickers, student shout outs and more.If you want punch cards for your students, click here to check them out!

Here's a sample of my positive behavior punch cards!

This thing needs a little excitement added!

Much, much BETTER!

The final beast I had to tackle in my classroom was my office. It sometimes reminds me of Ariel's cave from The Little Mermaid because there is no telling what you will find in there...especially as the year progresses. Seriously, it was so bad that I didn't even take a before picture! At least you get to see the finished, amazingly organized office! :)

I moved my filing cabinet into my office because it was just taking up space in my classroom.

You can actually see the top of the desk :)

If you look real hard, you can see that my shelves slightly resemble a shelf in Walmart...I may have gone a little overboard :)
Here are just a few more peeks to see from around my classroom.

I created this memo board to display computer expectations in my classroom.

This is a perfect example of my OCD. My construction paper is sorted and labeled by color.

A poster that I created on Vistaprint that I will be using on the first day of school

Seriously the best way to display learning targets. It makes so much sense for the kids. Thanks Pinterest! :)

Another way to promote positivity in my classroom by allowing the students to give each other shout outs. You can buy this product in my store if you click here!

I won these books as part of a grant from First Book. I have enough copies to give each of my students!

Last, but not least I have to show you the awesome Common Core planning product that I bought from Study All Knight. She has this flip chart available for all ELA grade levels. You should go check it out!

I hope y'all like the finished product as much as I do. Like I said earlier, it was a very long process and I wanted to give up so many times, but I am so glad that I pushed through. Now the real test begins. I'm really hoping that once school begins in two days that I can continue blogging regularly and sharing what happens in my classroom.