Leading up to the holidays, I wanted to create a fun school wide reading activity to keep students engaged right up until break. It’s realllllllly tempting to want to reach for a fun movie to watch or other ‘fluff’ activities in the last few days, but I’ve found that more often than not, this backfires. You want them to watch a movie so you can quietly get some work done (and not have to take any of it home for the holidays!), but they are full of energy and antsy, or completely bored into a coma because they are watching movies in every.single.class.
I created this quick little video, as well as a google form, which was really easy to push out to students via email or google classroom. They simply have to watch the video, then submit their response in google forms.
This is the message I emailed out to my colleagues: “Reading activity for ALL grades and subjects – here is a link to a school-wide reading activity that will be available for the next 2 weeks. This could be a great option for students who are ‘done,’ for the To Do List workday, for a pinch-hit or sub day activity, etc. All are invited to participate in ANY class! No prep required, just share the link with students (via email or Google classroom)”
The video was really easy to make – I just used Quicktime to record an audio file (on my desktop as “incoming message”) of just me talking. Then I used Quicktime again to do a screen recording, in which I played the audio recording (to give it that cool tin can sound). Just be sure to have all the pictures and tabs loaded that you’ll need. The final unnecessary touch was importing into iMovie to add the explosion and color screen in the end. From iMovie, you can upload directly to youtube. The whole thing took me about an hour.
What I like about this activity is that it encourages students to do some self-directed research. They can spend as much or as little time on Newsela looking around as they need. They get to practice their citation skills (article title) and summary skills. They also have to provide a pretty thorough argument as to why the article they chose should be widely read by our entire student body. And, the article they chose could have a real impact at our school! There will be a Part Two of this activity, once we’ve selected the top 3 student submissions (this part is still in the works). Students will have a chance to promote their own topics of interest and engage the whole school in a grass roots kind of way. Yay reading with a purpose!
If you are looking for some other meaningful, engaging, and powerful activities to do leading up to Winter Break, I highly recommend this article by John Spencer. Students are craving something engaging and meaningful to get them through these long days before a much needed break!
I’d love to hear what you are doing in your classrooms in these next 2 weeks. Please let me know in the comments!
Have you ever considered doing a read aloud with middle school students? This is an immensely popular practice in elementary schools, but I had never heard of it being done in my 6th – 8th grade building. Since I am providing reading interventions for students with learning disabilities and dyslexia this year, I decided why not give it a try? These are students who are highly intelligent, but for whom reading is laborious. If I could read an engaging text out loud to them, they could finally relax and simply enjoy being swept away in a story!
My first step in each of my 3 intervention classes was to pitch a pile of books and have my students vote on a favorite. Here were our selections:
6th grade: Choose Your Own Adventure, and Scary Stories by Alvin Schwartz
7th grade: Sounder by William Armstrong
8th grade: Bruiser by Neal Shusterman
After we selected our books, I selected goals for each grade level. These goals would guide our reading and discussion every day. Below are our learning goals for each grade level:
6th grade: Read 15 mins daily. Ask questions. Discover new vocabulary terms. Rediscover a joy for reading.
7th grade: Read 15 mins daily. Develop background knowledge. Summarize each chapter by writing a new chapter title. Rediscover a joy for reading.
8th grade: Read 20 mins daily. Track character relationships, personality traits, and details. Rediscover a joy for reading.
Then, we just began reading! I told my students to find a comfy place in the room and relax. Many closed their eyes. I have beanbags, lounge chairs, and office chairs for the students to choose from. Each day, we read for our allotted amount of time, pausing once per page to discuss or add notes to the board. My students never had to do more than simply listen or talk – no writing or assignments involved. I wanted this to eliminate any burdensome activities and simply focus on what we enjoy most. Here is how each grade level went:
My students had never heard of “Choose Your Own Adventure”, so I felt a social obligation to expose them. I had ordered quite a few of these for 75 cents each off of half.com, and we chose to start with Terror in Australia. The students – most of whom have been self- or peer-branded as ‘poor readers’ – really, honestly enjoyed this experience. They got to pretend they were the main character and make choices that impact the outcome of the book. Whenever we came to a decision, we democratically voted and flipped to the correct page to continue our adventure. When the students didn’t like how quickly the story ended, they requested that I go back to the beginning and make some different choices to steer us toward an alternate ending. This second round WAS much more fun, since we had a better idea of what was going on. Students even noticed how the two timelines of the simultaneous stories somewhat overlapped.
We finished this book in 3 days, so we then moved on to Scary Stories. I let the students select 2-3 stories a day, and we turned off the lights and sat in a circle as if we were telling ghost stories at overnight camp. They couldn’t get enough! Even though, as we agreed, the stories were cheesy and not that scary at all, they were still really fun.
For both of these books, vocabulary was a major factor in our conversations. We had to build background knowledge on so many things. What’s an undertaker? Why do cars need high beams? Who are aborigine people? Lots to discuss.
This class selected to read Sounder. It is a short book, however the Lexile level is over 900L. I did not steer them away from this book because, as I reasoned, we were going to slog through it together and discuss it as we went. We needed to activate (and fill in) quite a bit of background knowledge as we progressed through the book. First, we had to set the stage of the post-slavery South, with sharecropping and extreme racism. In fact, it wasn’t much better than slavery for so many. What really confused my students was how much the main character coveted books and wanted to read. We had a great discussion about how reading is power, and why that knowledge would be a game-changer for the main character (and anyone, really). We came across many vocabulary words as we read that prompted discussion. Occasionally, perhaps once per chapter, I would choose a very difficult sentence to break apart and analyze with the students. Here is an example from page 89:
“Feeling defeat in the midst of his glee because the boy had not run but stood still and defiant, sucking the blood from his bruised fingers, the guard stopped laughing and yelled at him…”
First, we would have to define defeat, glee, and defiant. Then, we’d have to discuss… WHO is feeling defeat? Who has bruised fingers? Then, WHY would the guard feel this way? Why would the boy act this way? These are text-based questions that are worth our time to stop and analyze.
Finally, I did find myself making a few text modifications as I read out loud, simply for clarity’s sake. I might switch the order of dialogue to make it clear who is speaking. For instance, instead of saying,
“Hello,” said the boy.”
The boy said, “Hello.”
In this way, it would be clear to the students who was speaking the dialogue right away. I’d also find myself defining words in context as I read. For example, I might add the part in parenthesis: “The men were stooped over white-washing (or painting white) the stones along the path.”
I was surprised at how much the students loved this book and requested it at the start of each day.
Since none of the chapters have titles, our reading activity was to name each chapter. This prompted a pointed discussion about summary and main idea, which was our goal. We couldn’t always pick our favorite title, so we recorded several for a chapter.
My 8th graders voted to read Bruiser. We began by reading the back of the book and watching a student-made book trailer on youtube. This helped to pique their interest and lay the groundwork for a somewhat confusing plot. We also leafed through the book and discussed how it is organized – each character (Tennyson, Bronte, and Brewster) gets sections of the book to tell from their own perspective. This means that the point of view or perspective on events shifts throughout the story. We discussed the benefits and limitations of this unique form of story-telling.
I personally LOVE this book for a read aloud. It’s very fun to read and act out – the characters are very vibrant and realistic. Their sassiness is perfect for 8th grade. They are very intelligent characters, raised by literary professors, so they often speak in advanced vocabulary and make literary references that require brief explanations. Yet, at the heart of all the verbosity are characters with very relatable emotions and concerns.
We have been mapping out characters on the board as we read, adding details that we learn along the way.
The other activity I have really enjoyed doing is creating a 3D character map for Brewster. Since he’s sort of a mystery, this has been perfect to record our unfolding knowledge. I rescued this little white board guy from a rummage sale for 50 cents – he was part of a Pictionary Junior game. We haven’t heard many physical details about him yet, but we will add them as we learn more (especially the physical injuries he displays throughout the story).
So, have you done a read aloud with middle school students? How did it go? What did you do? Was it well received?
At the beginning of the semester, I decided that I needed a reading bulletin board to celebrate catching my students reading. I wanted to fill my room with positive images of students filling their hearts and their brains. The initial blank board looked like this:
The hashtag at the top reads #wmsreads. Note: This was never posted on actual social media – this is for my classroom use only.
I added about 2 – 3 photos each week. The students REALLY looked forward to seeing their pictures appear on the wall! I began by catching candids, but after a while, students came up with their own ideas and asked to pose for pictures. By the end, students were taking their own pictures and submitting them to me for approval and printing.
All in all, it was a very fun activity, and it helped spread a positive message about reading being ‘cool’ 😉
Here is the final product. And wouldn’t you know, the very DAY that I finish the board, Instagram went and changed their logo on me? Oh well, I like this one and I will keep it up for a long time!
Tomorrow is Dr. Seuss’s birthday AND Read Across America Day! We have big plans to celebrate in 7th grade.
Today, we read a biography about Dr. Seuss and answered some text-based questions. I purchased this activity from BusyBeeInGradeThre. I added an additional activity for my students – highlighting with a purpose. I gave them 3 different colored highlighters and 3 different reading purposes, and I asked them to highlight accordingly. This really made them think about their purpose, rather than just painting the entire page, which is NOT useful! (IF this is the kind of activity that interests you, here is another product that hits this goal)
Then, I made a Dr. Seuss themed bookmark for my students, which they cut out and colored. (Want your own? Download for free here: Dr. Seuss Bookmark).
Tomorrow will be a full Free Reading Day. We have checked out a big, plush room in the building (usually used for teacher meetings), and I invited students to bring in snacks, pillows, and blankets. We are just going to lounge around and read ALL HOUR! Yippeee!!
What are your big plans for Read Across America Day? Can’t wait!
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?
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?
I know, I know – It’s supposed to be “High Five for Friday,” but our last day of 2014 this year is on a Tuesday! We go right up to the 23rd. Hey, some people complain, but I like it for several reasons. It gets us out earlier in the summer, it keeps us busy, it forces me to be more prepared and organized for the holidays, and I know some kiddos are getting the warmth and food they need as close to the holidays as possible. So I don’t mind a bit!
Here are some highlights from our last week(s) of school:
1. Reading Turning Into Fun!– One of my 8 intervention students decided to make this game – ALL BY HERSELF! She asked if we could play it during our intervention class. I got everyone a game piece and one die for the group. Then, we read a Newsela article. After we finished each section, I asked the students a reading comprehension question (ranging from simple recall to inference and analysis). They enjoyed this, and I will definitely bring it out again.
2. Grammar Posters – I just made up a few random sentences and hung them on my bulletin board. We’ll see if they help!
3. Paper Wig Fashion Show – In art class, my students made a series of paper wigs. They look phenomenal, in my opinion! They asked the teachers to each model a wig and do a ‘runway fashion show’ for the school. I had such a blast! I really wish I could keep the wig, too – it’s really neat!
4. Krumkake – My mother, sister, and I got together for an afternoon to make Norwegian Krumkake. They are made on a hot press and then rolled onto a wooden dowel until they cool into this conical shape. You can eat them as is, or fill them with whipped cream. YUM.
5. Ready for Christmas! Here is Ruffy (one of my two dogs) in his Christmas best! Such a sweetie. We have all our gifts purchased, wrapped, packed, and ready to go! I just love Christmas 🙂
How were your last few days of school before Winter Break? I hope they were filled with good memories to last you until the New Year!
You guys… Thanksgiving is only 6 days away! Less than a week! The excitement!!! With Week 12 behind us, I feel like the next month or so is just going to fly by! Before you know it, it will be time for the holiday break. Even though the days are growing cold and short, I still enjoy keeping up my High Five for Friday tradition to focus on the important highlights.
1. Vocabulary Loop Game – I was inspired by some elementary vocabulary loop activities I found on TpT and Pinterest, so I began searching for an 8th grade version. When I didn’t find one, I made my own! I have 35 laminated cards with vocabulary words we will encounter this year. Each student gets one card (some may get two depending on class size). As the first student reads out the definition on his/her card, the class listens to see if they have the matching vocabulary word. Then, the winner readers his/her definition, and so forth. The last card loops back to the first card. Sorry if that sounds confusing! The goal is to play this frequently and to beat our class record each time. I plan to add clear instructions and make this available on TpT soon (UPDATE: It is now posted here). We played it this week, and the students said it was both fun AND helpful!
2. 28th Amendment– This past week, I had my Social Studies class split into small groups and research/propose a potential 28th Amendment to our Constitution. Their class presentations included 3 pieces of evidence and an explanation of how the proposed amendment connects to the principles of our constitution. After a rigorous day of debating and voting, the class reached consensus on our new 28th Amendment: Legalize Gay Marriage. I was very proud of my wise, hard-working, respectful class!
3. Holiday Change Drive Update – We are continuing our school wide change drive to provide a holiday donation and gifts to the local Ronald McDonald house. The jugs are right outside my classroom, and I get to see students walking by all day long dropping their change in. It is so heartwarming to see! In case you are wondering, the girls are totally winning right now 😉
4. Book vs. Movie – This past week, we read “Battleground” by Stephen King, then watched the movie version (from Nightmares and Dreamscapes on TNT, which I purchased on Amazon). I had my students make a T-chart of all the differences they noted. Afterward, we discussed this handout that I made regarding reasons a director would make changes from the original text version (CCSS RL8.7 – click for this free download.). The students told me they had always wondered why there were differences, and they enjoyed trying to figure out the logical reasoning behind them (besides just assuming the director just ‘felt like it’).
5. First Snowfall– Most of the United States is under a cold snap and has received some snowfall this week. Wisconsin, of course, did not escape this fate. We have only an inch or so, but it is freeeeeezing (literally! it’s less than 10 degrees)! I just hate being cold. Dear Elsa, I do NOT want to build a snowman! I’ve even had to break out sweaters for the dogs. To highlight a silver lining, I will say that I do enjoy my winter fashion, from sweaters and boots to scarves and hats. I am also looking forward to a bit of a thaw coming up, as I was told we might return to the 40s soon.