I was very excited to learn that I hit a major milestone on Teachers Pay Teachers. It has been such a wonderful community and opportunity for me for the past 3 years, and I am so incredibly grateful. I made this post a year ago about why I LOVE Teachers Pay Teachers! “It has been a true blessing for me and for my teaching practice. I have learned so much over the past year by meeting and collaborating with other teachers, discussing important educational topics on the forums, and learning how to create engaging and targeted lessons. I always felt that my lesson plans were solid – targeted, authentic, scaffolded, and meaningful – but I never thought to take it the extra step to make it even more engaging.”
It is a checklist of the short but essential tasks that students must complete to revise, edit, and publish their work. The backside of the checklist includes mini-lessons or reminders of each of the editing requirements for quick reference. Perfect for encouraging accountability and independence!
At the end of the checklist, students must sign their name, attesting that they have actually attended to all the items on the checklist.
To all of my followers, collaborators, and fellow educators, thank you for your support, encouragement, and for celebrating this major milestone with me! Have a wonderful week!
Happy 2015-2016 School Year Kick-off! I hope you are all having a wonderful start to the year!
Well after teaching 8th grade for 8 years, I have been moved to the 7th grade this year. I will be teaching Language Arts, Social Studies, and FPS Future Problem Solvers (a Gifted and Talented LA class). It’s a lot of change!
To top things off, this also meant a room change for me. Have you ever moved 8 years worth of classroom ‘stuff’? It was a major undertaking! Luckily I am blessed with some wonderful colleagues who leant a hand.
Here is the ‘Before’ picture of my new room (ho, boy…):
I was able to spend 1.5 days fixing it up, and here is the ‘After’ photo:
I have a LOT more work to do, and I still have a big blank bulletin board at the back of the room. Look for pictures throughout the year as we add to our classroom and make it feel more like home.
Decorating a classroom may seem like a trivial thing to some, but it is very important to me. It communicates many things to my students: that I care, that this is a space they can enjoy, etc. It was well worth my time to give up 2 extra days of my summer to come in early and prepare my room.
1. Spring – Happy 1st day of Spring! Spring is my absolute favorite season. The world is waking up and coming alive again. I have green shoots rising from my garden, the snow is all melted, and the world smells of rich soil. It’s the best!
2. Selma – We went on a fieldtrip to see “Selma” in the movie theaters this week. It is such a powerful movie. During the credits, all of the students (we took up the entire theater) sang along with “Glory.” Afterwards, when they were writing a reflection, many students expressed that they ‘had no idea’ and that this movie really brought the time period to life for them. They didn’t realize that women and elderly were beaten alongside young men. If you haven’t seen this movie, it is definitely a must.
3. Musical – Our high school gave us a teaser performance of their musical “Once on This Island” yesterday. Such talent! I love going to see the high school musicals and witness the transformation in my students, many of whom I haven’t seen since their last day of 8th grade.
5. St. Paddy’s Day – I hope you had a fun and safe St. Paddy’s Day. Our 7th grade math department always does these great graphing activities, and they hang them in the hall for admiration and judging. I love this one in particular, which makes me smile every time I walk past it 🙂
Did you know there is no “I” in teaching? Okay well there is ONE “i” in teaching, smarty pants, but you know what I mean! None of us works alone. None of us can take sole credit for our students’ successes, nor their failures. We are a group, a system, a well-oiled machine, a… professional learning community. In fact, and here’s the real truth of education, none of us can really take credit for even creating a completely new idea. No: we are inspired, influenced, and motivated by others – we stand on the shoulders of giants and build on what has come before us. Like scientists, we hypothesize, develop ideas, collect research, and adjust accordingly. Truly great teachers can take a spark of an idea and mold it into something that is just what his/her students need. We tinker. We tweak. We ‘Frankenstein’ bits and pieces of an idea together. We adopt and adapt until it’s ‘right.’ We are really very innovative scavengers, honestly!
I’ll tell you another honest truth. I may use the word “I” a lot on this blog, I mean I selfishly named it after myself, but none of the ideas on this blog are solely mine. My intent is to share with you my experiences, what works for me, in an honest and helpful way. I scavenge and alter ideas I find on Pinterest, other blogs, Teachers Pay Teachers, any resource, really, that will give me a spark of an idea. And then, I take that idea to my coworker, my partner in crime.
All of our lessons originate with a conversation. “I found something really cool last night!” or “I had a great idea in the shower this morning!” or “I read about a cool idea in this professional magazine,” etc. And then, we brainstorm. We discuss and mold and shape an idea. Are we done? No, we tweak it some more. Then, we try it out with our first hour. In the hall after first hour, “How did that go?” “Well, here’s what I am going to do differently next hour…” and so forth. We never stop. We never even teach the same exact curriculum from year to year. We reflect and record what didn’t work, and then we change it again. The truth is, no class of students is the same, and every class needs something a little different. Nothing is a one-size-fits-all for all students. And that’s something that is a sign of a really great teacher, one who knows that his/her work is never done.
So this post is an homage and a dedication to my amazing colleague. We are yin and yang, socks and shoes, Bonnie and Clyde, Beavis and Butthead (I’ll be Butthead). She’s a big picture person, and I’m a detail person. And sometimes, we switch. Nothing is more true than 1 + 1 = 3.
Do you have an awesome coworker? Who is the peanut butter to your jelly?
Wow, did February fly by! Week 26 is over, and when we return on Monday, it will be MARCH! Yippee skippy! I hope you had a fantastic week. Below are the highlights of my week.
The Education Dream Team!
1. Author Visit! – We (my coworker, Linda, and I) were THRILLED to host author Trudy Krisher at our school on Monday of this week. She came to provide a writing workshop for our 8th graders who are also currently reading her novel Spite Fences. Students selected an object from a table and developed some creative, sensory language to describe the item. Ms. Krisher had lots of great tips and suggestions for bringing the writing to life. We especially loved when she shared her own writing process, which includes a long and arduous journey of many, many revisions. How lucky are my students?!
2. Freedom on the Menu – To accompany a chapter in our novel study, we also read “Freedom on the Menu” this week. This picture book is about the lunch counter sit-ins of the 1960s, as told from a young girl’s perspective. It provides a powerful ‘first hand’ account of the events from the questioning, curious mind of someone who doesn’t understand everything just yet. A great read!
3. The Jungle – In Social Studies, we are learning about the Progressive Era. When we reached a section in our text about muckraking, I had my students read select excerpts from Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, which is about the horrific conditions of the meatpacking industry during the Gilded Age. I think more than a few students walked out of my classroom as vegetarians 🙂
4. Political Cartoons – The Progressive Era is known for its many political cartoons. These are often very challenging for students to understand. To that end, I created a packet of cartoons, and we analyze one cartoon a day. This gets them into the mindset of analyzing the imagery, background, and message of the image beyond just the literal. As a culminating project, I will have them create their own political cartoon about an important concept from our unit. They did a rough draft today, and there were so many great ideas! It is very rewarding to see their minds develop right before my eyes.
5. Important Words – I came across this image on facebook this week, and it definitely struck a chord. I have learned in my years in the classroom that some students desperately need/want attention, and they will take any kind they can get (positive or negative, and sometimes both in the same hour!). I have a student who recently started a new habit where she comes and gives me a hug at least once a day. That is just one of my many jobs; educator, cheerleader, nurse, librarian, bookkeeper, accountant, part-time-parent, disciplinarian, and sometimes, a hug-giver.
Week 24 is in ‘da books! Below are this week’s highlights!
1. Author Visit – Trudy Krisher is coming in just 3 days! We are so excited! In preparation for our discussion of her novel, Spite Fences, we have been preparing a display of items that would be found in Zeke’s Cart (a main character from the novel). Students are bringing in ‘white elephant’ type items that we will do a creative writing around under her guidance on Monday. Can’t wait to share that with you!
2. Assembly Line Production – We also did a fun activity this week in Social Studies, engaging in a hands-on experience with the pros and cons of assembly line production. I had students time themselves and compute average production time per item (and yes, they got to eat the final product, a cookie ‘burger’). Needless to say, this activity was a big hit! They loved it, and they even cleaned up after themselves and asked if we could do it again. I liked exploring this important element of our modern economy and discussing the benefits and potential chllenges it causes as well.
3. Valentine’s Day Activities – On Friday of last week, my Language Arts class also completed this Valentine’s Day Close Reading activity. We have been focusing on close reading and finding supporting evidence all year in all classes, so this was a good review. It’s also kind of interesting to learn facts you didn’t know about this popular holiday.
4. Readbox Doors – You may have seen my earlier post about the Readbox Bulletin Board I put up in our cafeteria. Well our student-run art club also made some additional Readboxes that could be displayed throughout the school. I think they turned out great!
5. Just For Fun – I thought I’d share with you a project I recently completed. If you follow this blog, you know I love to hand make all my gifts (whenever possible). I found this awesome pattern on steotch.com and it just makes me chuckle every time. My husband is always making ‘Ermahgerd’ jokes, so I mostly made this for him. If you like ironic, snarky cross-stitching, then head on over to steotch’s website or etsy page for some laughs.
I hope you had a great week and that you aren’t totally frozen or buried in piles of snow. It is bound to warm up soon, so hang in there!
::spooky voice:: OOoOOoOoooH, Friday the 13th! ::knockonwood:: nothing goes wrong today! I don’t really believe in superstitions, though. I hope the students are well-behaved today! Here are 5 highlights from this week:
1. Author Visit – First, my best news – we are honored to have a visit from Trudy Krisher! She will be visiting our school in just 10 days. We are so excited! I can’t believe how lucky we are! More to come on that later!
2. Would you? Our students are doing their own self-designed Science Experiments, which is a fantastic, student-centered, inquiry-based lesson. So a student came up to me and handed me 2 cups of water, asking, “Would you please take a sip from both of these and tell me which one is tap water and which one is bottled water?” I can’t believe it, but I did it. I had so many questions (Are these new cups? How did you get the tap water? Did you DO anything to this water?!?), but I took a leap of faith and gave it a shot. Turns out, I was wrong! I thought the more metallic tasting water would have been tap water, but it was actually the bottled water. Hmm!
3. Coloring Book – I’m working on my next coloring book on – you guessed it – dinosaurs! It will be a gift for all of my little nieces and nephews as well as a new product up on TpT. If you are interested in any of my other coloring books, they are Zoo Animals, Rainforest Animals, and My Animal Coloring Book.
4. Cooking – I got back into cooking this weekend. I had really fallen off the wagon this winter, eating lots of soups, fried eggs, and pasta, because I had been hit with one virus after another and I went for the easy/quick fix foods. Well I had forgotten how meditative, relaxing, and fulfilling it is to make your own foods from scratch. This weekend I made Bacon-Topped Spinach Meatloaf and Broccoli Egg Bake, two of my favorites. Lots of protein and vegetables for the win!
5. Stir Crazy – Okay, we are all going a little nuts around here. Me, my students, even my dogs. Winters are HARD! I feel so bad for this toy monkey, but then I realize he is pretty much a metaphor for my life. We are in the heart of winter and in for at least another 2 and a half weeks of freezing temperatures. I miss sun! At least I have little dogs who can get a lot of exercise just playing inside. For my students, on the other hand, indoor recess isn’t cutting it. We need an outlet for all our energy! Maybe a roller skating field trip?
I’m so embarrassed that it has taken me so long to put up this post! I have been very excited to share with you all of this year’s homemade Christmas presents. I start working on them right away in January/February because it means so much to me to be able to give from the heart. It’s a trait I’m sure I inherited from my grandmother, who loved to make things to give to others. As each of her 5 children went off to college, she knitted us a special afghan that I treasure (and can’t even bring myself to take out of the drawer!).
This past year, I began working on my sister’s Christmas present just a few days after last year’s Christmas. It took a looooong time, but it is totally worth it to have a family treasure that can be passed down and enjoyed for many years. I made this advent calendar by combining ideas from several different blogs (like here and here) as well as etsy (like this). Jenn just LOVED it! I made one for myself at the same time 🙂
Another project I finished over the summer was a book of my grandmother’s recipes. When she passed away, I asked for her recipe box and books. I spent countless hours pouring over the recipes, cherry-picking her favorites, separating them into categories, and typing them up. I spent the rest of the summer cooking many of the favorites to have pictures to include in the book. I also wrote a forward that attempts to capture what made her, and her cooking, so special. The final product was printed for brothers and sisters, each of her children, and grandchildren. I wrapped each book with love and hand delivered them on Christmas, and there were many, many tears.
It wouldn’t be Christmas if it weren’t for our lovingly handmade treats, as well. My mother, sister, and I spent an afternoon making Krumkake. The plate of cookies below were made by yours truly, including chocolate-dipped shortbread, chocolate cakeballs, and peanut-butter cup cookies (are you sensing that I LOVE chocolate?). The final result is the gorgeous display of our family’s cookie haul. YUM!
Last, but not least, I got a wonderful handmade surprise from my aunt on Christmas. She had found the pattern for my grandmother’s famous House Slippers. When you visited Grandma’s house, she always wanted to make sure you were warm enough. She insisted that you put on a pair of hand-knitted house slippers. I used to fight her on this and think they were big, clunky, and hideous. Then, over time, I grew to love them. I’d remind her if she forgot to have me put them on. When she passed away and we cleaned out her home, we all imagined we’d find a pair hidden in every nook and cranny of the house. Unfortunately, for unexplained reasons, we couldn’t find a single pair in the house. Had they walked off on their own? Well my aunt surprised us (all grand- and great-grand children) all by knitting us a personalized pair for Christmas – over 9 pair in total. More tears, for certain.
I’m already hard at work on Christmas presents for next year. No, I will not give away my secrets and tell you what I’m up to! I guess you’ll just have to wait….
Week 22, and that number is HIGHER than the temperature these days! It’s -15 with windchill right now…Brrrr!!! Below are the highlights of this never-ending week:
1. Friendship 9 – Did you hear the fantastic news about the Friendship 9? This week we read a Newsela article about their expunged records from the 1961 lunch counter sit-ins. Then, we viewed the wordlessnews.com entry on the topic to discuss the use of symbolism and imagery. What a powerful image! Justice is served! This fit in perfectly with our current unit on Spite Fences.
2. Kahoot– I’ve mentioned on this blog before how we like to use Kahoot with the student iPads or laptops as a fun review game. It’s always a hoot! The kids get SO excited and into it that I have to stop and calm them down after each question. If you haven’t tried it out, what are you waiting for? 🙂 This week, we used the game to review our Social Studies chapter on Reconstruction after the Civil War.
3. Bobblehead – So how cool is this? A student made a bobble head of me! I guess my head is too big and the mattress spring doesn’t really keep it up, but that’s fine by me. That hair! Those eyes and lips! I’m GORGEOUS! LOL. I hope I get to keep it in my room after the art show!
4. Sister Day– I am so blessed and lucky to have a superhero I mean sister. She is very busy being amazing as a pediatric oral surgeon, and I’m very busy being a kick-ass educator, and there is never enough sister time. So this past weekend, we scheduled some. She took me out for a pedicure and froyo, and lemme tell you, that is my idea of Heaven. I can think of nothing better.
5. Projects – I gotta tell you something: Winters in Wisconsin are HARD. Like really hard. I suffer from seasonal depression, and there’s not much you can do besides try to keep your spirits up and wait it out. One thing I like to do to keep my mind and hands occupied is to find little projects like making Christmas presents. I’ve started a few this week, and it feels so good!
How was your week? I’d love to hear how you ward off the Winter Blues. And aren’t you just loving these longer days?
Week 21 is donezo! These winter months are so hard; it feels like the weeks just drag on and on. I miss the sun. And temperatures above 20 degrees. But there are a lot of fun things going on inside the classroom that help keep us all going (and keeping an eye on Spring Break, only 9 weeks away, but who’s counting?!). Below are the 5 highlights from Week 21!
1. Theme – We have been working on and discussing theme all year. This is one of the hardest concepts for 8th graders to grasp. In general, they want to come up with morals or how they think things should be (i.e. Never tell a lie), and not how things really are (i.e. Lies create big messes). We spend a lot of time on this. Plus, I think limited exposure and life experience makes this a difficult task for adolescents as well. So I found a few themes from some popular movies on Pinterest, and I hung them up in the classroom as inspiration. I need to add a few less ‘Disney’ or rose-colored themes to my board as well, so that shall be forthcoming (i.e. “All Summer in a Day” – sometimes, people are just terrible to each other out of jealousy). Any tips or suggestions will be gladly accepted!
2. Discussion Groups – as we are making our way through our current novel unit, Spite Fences, we are trying a new thing this year with Book Chat Groups. I have grouped my students into 4s, and for each chapter they rotate their role. The roles are: Discussion Director, Illustrator, Vocabulary Recorder, and Summarizer. This way, they are in charge of building meaning from the chapter and not waiting for the teacher to tell them what was important. So far, this is going quite well!
3. Wordless News– In Social Studies, we have been exploring Wordlessnews.com by Maria Fabrizio. Each day, she selects a current event to illustrate in one powerful image. We discuss the following questions for each image:
* What is shown (list elements)
* What current event or topic is this referencing, and how do you know?
* What role does color/size/shape/etc. have in making this image have meaning?
* What message might this be communicating? Can you tell where the artist stands?
* What are some positions or responses other people might have about this topic?
In the collage above, you can see the assignment my students completed after perusing Wordlessnews.com. They had to find their own current event and illustrate it. I think they did a fantastic job with this! (Bonus, they really enjoyed it, too. Illustrating is not too simplistic a task for an 8th grader).
4. Musical Auditions – We have finished auditioning and created a cast list for our 2015 Musical, Shrek Jr.! I am always blown away by the amazing talent and guts of middle school students. I am very excited for this production, my 4th production at WMS (including: Music Man, Seussical, and Honk!). The cast list goes up today, and I know everyone is very excited!
5. Atlantia– I am now on Chapter 8, finally to a point where I don’t want to put the book down. I had to hang in there and wait a long time for the plot to pick up. I think that’s an important lesson for our students – books don’t always start with a bang. Sometimes, a slow exposition makes it even more interesting. We’ll see how the rest of the book goes!