Stomp Out Bullying Day

Happy ‘Stomp Out Bullying Day’ – aka ‘Blue Shirt Day!’ It is a day to stand in solidarity and educate about bullying and cyberbullying.

My sweet students made these awesome posters, which we hung up around the school. They also created videos, poems, and raps to share with the class. We did this during PBIS time (Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports), a time built into our school schedule for character building.

Did you celebrate ‘Stomp Out Bullying Day’ at your school?

Stomp Out Bullying Day (c) Kristen Dembroski

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Grandma’s Oatmeal Bread

Around this time of year, I start craving my grandma’s oatmeal bread. It’s filling, nutritious (well, it has oatmeal in it!), and it reminds me of fall and home and Grandma’s house. This is a staple in our house, and I hope it will become one in yours, too!


* 1 cup oatmeal (I used old-fashioned)
* 1/2 cup butter or margarine
* 1/2 cup white sugar
* 1/2 cup brown sugar
* 2 eggs
* 1 tsp. vanilla
* 1 & 1/2 cups flour
* 1/4 tsp. salt
* 1 tsp. baking soda
* 1 tsp. cinnamon
* 1/2 cup nuts (optional. I like walnuts)
* 1 & 1/4 cup boiling water

To start, I get out all of the ingredients:

Grandma's Oatmeal Bread (c) Kristen Dembroski

Next, you’ll want to put the oatmeal and butter in a large bowl, then pour the boiling water over the entire mixture. You need to let this stand until all of the butter is melted and the mixture is cool. Once the butter is melted, you can put it in the fridge to speed up the cooling process. All about a half-hour for this.

Grandma's Oatmeal Bread (c) Kristen Dembroski

Grandma's Oatmeal Bread (c) Kristen Dembroski

(Yes that is my crazy awesome fridge with the Instagram magnets. My husband and I collected them over years and ordered them from StickyGram.)

While that is cooling, prepared all of your other ingredients. You’ll want the sugars in one bowl and all of the other solids (flour, soda, salt, cinnamon) in another bowl.

Grandma's Oatmeal Bread (c) Kristen Dembroski

Then, go ahead and preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Grease 1 large bread pans or 2 small bread pans. I prefer 1 large pan.

Once your mixture is cool, begin by adding the sugars.

Grandma's Oatmeal Bread (c) Kristen Dembroski

Then the vanilla and eggs. (Psst – I actually use this amazing vanilla I bought in Mexico – it’s the best ever!)

Grandma's Oatmeal Bread (c) Kristen Dembroski

And finally, add the flour mixture, a half at a time.

Grandma's Oatmeal Bread (c) Kristen DembroskiThen, it all goes into the pan, and off to the oven for 50-60 minutes (mine took 58 minutes)

Grandma's Oatmeal Bread (c) Kristen Dembroski

Check with a toothpick to make sure it is completely cooked through. The last part is the hardest – actually allow the bread to cool off before you cut and eat it. Yes, I realize it smells amazing and you’ll want to devour it right away, but patience is a virtue, and burned hands and tongues don’t feel so nice. I feel your pain.

Grandma's Oatmeal Bread (c) Kristen Dembroski

I love to heat up a couple of slices in the microwave, add some butter, and enjoy with some tea for a lovely, filling fall breakfast. Enjoy!



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Celebrating 1 Year on Teachers Pay Teachers

1 Year Anniversary (c) Kristen Dembroski

This October marks my one-year anniversary with Teachers Pay Teachers, a great website in which I can meet other committed, passionate teachers like myself, find new ideas for lesson plans, and share/sell my own lesson plans and materials. I have loved being a part of that community, and it has definitely made me a better teacher.

In celebration of my one-year anniversary, I am having a sale and a giveaway! Everything will be 15% off this Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Now is a great time to stock up on those items on your wish list. Can I recommend a few great items? These are my top sellers:

Fingerprint Poetry
Finding the Main Idea
Argumentation Writing Unit
Argumentation Instructional Workbook
Word Tower: Greek and Latin Roots
Descriptive Writing: Show Me!

To be part of the giveaway (a $10 gift certificate to Teachers Pay Teachers), please enter below. Yay!!!


a Rafflecopter giveaway


Update: CONGRATULATIONS to Emily Makinson, the winner of this $10 Gift Certificate Giveaway!


Some of my other Teachers Pay Teachers friends are also having some amazing sales and giveaways:

Teaching High School Math


The Little Red Tree House

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High Five For Friday! 10/4/13

Hip hip hooray – Another Friday!

Lots to celebrate this week

High Five For Friday (c) Kristen Dembroski1. School Duty: Are you blessed with an extra school duty? I have morning duty for first quarter. This means I get to monitor the ‘holding tank,’ a hallway in which students must stay before the first bell. I used to be pretty disgruntled about this – I mean, every second before school is precious time to set up my room, prepare materials, and get ready for the day. I am trying to reframe my thinking these days and cherish my morning duty instead. I actually really love hanging out with my students. I get to learn so much about them. Building relationships with my students is a cornerstone of my teaching, and this is a critical time where I can check in with students and hear about how things are going at home, problems they are having at school, or just sharing some laughs. Yesterday, my students wanted to use their iPads to snap some fun photos. On the top left, we used our feet to make a star, and on the top right, we made a giant star with peace signs. I’m the pink nail polish in both, of course!

2. Rewind, Pause, Review Day was such a success! (Read more here.) I am still so proud of my students and so grateful we took a day to get caught up. Progress reports were due today, and I know a lot of students who are going to get to keep their cell phones and video games thanks to improved grades …

3. French Twist Oh La La: I cut my hair 4 years ago for Locks of Love, and I’ve been keeping it short ever since. It’s just SO much easier to take care of, especially with the thick, heavy, wavy huge head of hair that I have. But my husband asked me if I would grow it out again, and I’m giving it a try. I was so happy to discover that I can do a French Twist again! Tres chic!

4. Fall: Yeah… I don’t usually have many nice things to say about Fall. But, since it is High 5 For Friday and the point is to find the silver lining, I will make a confession. I really do enjoy the satisfying crunch of golden leaves under my feet. When I take Rocket out for a walk, I deliberately hop from small crispy pile to pile.

5. Reading Interventions: I am making some real progress in creating a reading intervention system for our students. This year, I was freed up from the classroom for 1 hour a day to become our school’s Reading Specialist. I am defining my job as I go, which is lot like building a plane as I fly. I started by identifying all of the students who performed below the cutoff on our recent MAP Reading test. Then I deleted the ones on that list who already receive any other kind of support, like Special Education, Speech and Language, or Read 180 (a reading program). That left me with roughly 15 kids per grade level. Now I am deciding how to best serve those students through pull-out reading tutoring, small group interventions, additional testing, etc. Phew – my mind is swimming! But the good news is that I am making progress, and we are finally going to have a plan to address the students whose needs are not being met in any other way.

How was your week? Feel free to link up in the comments below!

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Rewind, Pause, Redo Day!

So here we are, 5 weeks into school, and I wasn’t liking the grades I was seeing. Students had lots of missing work, and that’s not good news. Furthermore, they weren’t realizing that 8th grade means giving more effort than 7th grade – their work was off topic, didn’t follow directions, or was riddled with simple errors. This showed me that students weren’t taking their work as seriously as they need to. What to do…. what to do…

I decided to stage a “Rewind, Pause, Redo!” Day. It meant we would be off track of our schedule by one day (I bumped my Tuesday plans to Wednesday), but I felt it was necessary and definitely worth the sacrifice.

Before school, I made instructions for 4 different stations. I then made copies of the instructions and handed them to the correct student as they entered the room. These were my 4 stations:

1. Great job! You are all caught up on your work, and you received an A on our last writing assignment. Please read your library book and work on your Independent Reading Project.
2. You received a B or a C on your first writing assignment because either your evidence wasn’t specific enough, or your links were weak or vague. Please look at my comments and focus on revisions and editing. You should also refer to the model writing piece for ideas and sentence stems. Turn in your revised writing piece by the end of the hour.
3. You received a D on your first writing assignment because your piece was missing critical elements. I have created a scaffolding grid to help you focus on one piece at a time and to make sure you don’t miss anything. Let’s work on this together this hour.
4. You have missing work. You have until the end of the hour to complete and hand in your missing work.

At the beginning of my 3 classes, I listed how many students were receiving each letter grade in their Language Arts class. Then, at the end of class, I revised the numbers so they could see how their hard work paid off. I was honestly so impressed, I was almost moved to tears. The students were incredibly proud of themselves as well. I don’t believe that students earn ‘bad’ grades because they are naughty or lazy – they just haven’t yet received the support they needed. Taking a whole class to address their questions and concerns was an eye-opener for all of us! I can’t afford the time to do this every week, but I know that taking a “Rewind, Pause, Redo” Day early on in the year set the tone for our class for the rest of the year. Here are their MAJOR improvements:

Rewind Pause Redo Day (c) Kristen Dembroski

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Happy October!

Some of you are probably very excited about the transition from summer to fall. I will always miss summer. My favorite season is definitely spring – I love how the world ‘wakes back up.’ New smells, sights, colors – I just love spring awakening! But back to reality – it’s fall, and with that comes a lot of fun and exciting activities. I definitely need to start preparing for Halloween – eek! Thank goodness I bought Rocket’s costume last year on clearance.

At the beginning of every month, I set goals for myself. This is something I teach my students to do, so I need to model it. Here are my goals for October:

* Work out 4 times per week
* Stay on budget
* Get to work early every day
* Be in bed by 9 every night
* Collect all Phase 1 data for my dissertation
* Identify all of my students who need reading interventions
* Start planning / budgeting for Christmas
* Complete my Christmas gift for my 2 nieces and 3 nephews (a collection of my hand-drawn pictures of animals turned into a custom coloring book)

Some events I am looking forward to:

* Our first family portrait (Mom, me, my brother, sister, and spouses)
* Jessica and Erik’s wedding
* The Humane Society’s Halloween Party / Fundraiser
* Trick or Treating with my niece and nephew
* Carving pumpkins with my nephew
* Walking Dead!

So what are your goals / plans for October? Anything exciting?

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High Five For Friday! 9/27/13


High Five For Friday (c) Kristen Dembroski

Happy Friday! Whew, Week 4 is done! Summer feels like such a distant memory these days…

Every Friday, I do a High Five For Friday post to celebrate 5 highlights from my week. We’ve got to focus on the positive, people!

1. Goal Maps – This week in Language Arts, we focused on setting goals. We learned about doing a cost-benefit analysis of goals while reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens. For a culminating project, I had students create a metaphorical map to their goal. They had to have a start (8th grade) and finish (end goal), goal posts along the way to prove they were on the right track (ex: for a goal of going to college, goalposts might be staying in school, acquiring good grades, finishing high school, applying, being accepted, etc.) and potential road blocks along the way (ex: dropping out of school, getting in trouble with the police, failing a class, missing a deadline, etc.). They did a great job with these, as you can see!

2. Happy Happy! – My family had a party on Sunday to celebrate 3 July/August birthdays, and 2 wedding anniversaries. We had so much fabulous food, laughter, and just a wonderful relaxing time!

3. Vinylux – Well have you heard of it yet?!?! It’s great! It’s the new gel or shellac manicure without all the pain. I purchased it on Amazon for a very reasonable price. It dried completely within 8 minutes, and I have been ‘chip free’ since Sunday. I’m sold! This color is Lavishly Loved.

4. Haircuts – I got a haircut, and so did Rocket. I think we both look pretty great 😉 By the way – his haircut costs more than mine, argh!!

5. MAP Testing – My students finished MAP testing this week. They took the Reading test on Tuesday and the Language Arts test today. The MAP test is a standardized computer-based test to measure growth over the year. My students are totally wiped out, and I don’t blame them. I’m glad this week is over, but that was kind of overkill for everyone involved. I’m also glad it’s over, because the MAP test results are part of the data I am collecting for my dissertation.

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Writing Desk – A New Tool for Writing Workshop!

The Writing Desk (c) Kristen Dembroski

I am SUPER excited about this new tool I developed for my classroom. The Writing Desk is a reference tool to be used during Writing Workshop, such as writing a draft, peer revising, and/or editing.

I took two manilla folders and overlapped them to create a 3-way standing ‘desk’ or divider. Then I created the printouts that are glued on the 3 inside surfaces. It’s designed to look like a cork board with lots of helpful ideas and ‘post its’ tacked up. The ideas include:

* Commonly Misspelled Words
* Introductory Elements – AAAWWUBBIS
* Transition Words
* How to correctly quote
* The Do’s and Don’ts of Peer Revision
* A publishing checklist (for final drafts)
* Compound Sentences – FANBOYS
* Appositives
* Other Ways to Say ‘Said’
* Our 6 Traits CCSS writing rubric that we use for all of our expository writing
* A TEL-Con sandwich graphic organizer. If you aren’t familiar with TEL-Con, it’s an organizational structure we use in our school for writing body paragraphs. You can learn more about TEL-Con through any of the following links:

Cross-Curricular Prompt Writing: Middle & High School: Common Core Organization
Argumentative Writing Instructional Workbook Grades 7-10: The Paper Chain
Argumentation Writing Unit: Common Core: Online Collaborative Discussion

I kid you not with this story: I have a high school ‘helper’ – a former student who volunteers in my classroom, and she is helping me make these writing desks. I explained the project to her, and the first thing she says is, “No fair! I wish you had thought of this when I was in 8th grade!”

I’ll be working hard for the next week or so to create a whole classroom set. If you’d like to purchase this for your classroom, click here!

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Glo Run 2013

We had an AWESOME time tonight at the Glo Run! It’s a 5K event that takes place at night, obviously so you can appreciate all of the glow-in-the-dark and fun lights and music. I went with my husband, Ryan, and our very good friend, Cait. We got to run for about half of the time – for the most part, people are walking and appreciating the sensory overload of the event, which makes it kind of hard to run. Ryan didn’t think he’d survive, but he did great! I love events like this Glo Run and the Color Run – they are very engaging, motivating, and rewarding for staying active! I would definitely do this one again. Glo Run 2013 (c) Kristen Dembroski

Glo Run 2013 (c) Kristen Dembroski Glo Run 2013 (c) Kristen Dembroski Glo Run 2013 (c) Kristen Dembroski Glo Run 2013 (c) Kristen Dembroski

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