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How I Wrapped up the Year with Learning Maps

A few weeks ago I read an article about having students create an end of the year learning map.  I liked the idea of having students reflect on all that they'd learned but was a little irked that there were no pictures or clear instructions.  Fortunately, I had a picture in my mind and promised myself I'd publish my own pictures when my students finished.

I cut three large pieces of butcher paper and wrote the following in the middle:  writing, reading, and listening/speaking.  In the meantime, I gave students about forty minutes to review all of their work published to our class blog, all of the comments they received from me on turnitin, their English notebooks, and the grade book.  I told them to jot down notes about what they specifically learned this year as they reflected on their work.

Then, I placed the posters around the room and asked students to visit each one, writing down what they learned this year.  I told them to consider writing down the activity and what they l…
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Moments that Matter

Of course, I love teaching The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and showing my students why Twain is a genius.  Of course, I love reading a spectacular student essay that we worked on for weeks.  Of course, I love listening to students have thoughtful, insightful discussions about things that matter.  Yet, what I love about teaching are the connections I make with students.  The moments that fill my heart with joy both when they are happening and sometimes years later.
Wednesday my students were working on creating a playlist for The Pearl.  They had to come up with a song that represented each chapter and write an explanation to support their choice.  It was the perfect assignment for the end of the year.  The kids could socialize and listen to music while working on the assignment.  The room was filled with happy chatter.  As I walked around checking in with and talking with students, I noticed one of my students sitting alone.  She was working on her project, but something seemed a little o…

Celebrating Ice and Ice Cream in Read 180

I supplement the Read 180 program with many of my own lessons and activities.  Two key components of my class are Newsela (which I've blogged about already) and Scholastic Action magazine.


 My students look forward to getting our monthly magazine and enjoy having a tangible copy to hold in their hands.  It's filled with high-interest, age-appropriate articles. Students also appreciate the colorful pictures, graphs, and charts.  Although the magazines could easily stand on their own, I often like to develop my own lessons to complement them.


This month's magazine features an article called ICY HISTORY and is followed by another called ICE CREAM FOR ALL.  I immediately knew I had a great excuse to bring in ice cream for my kiddos! Any excuse for ice cream!


I began my pre-teaching a few key words from the article.  I use  Kate Kinsella's  method for teaching vocabulary.  We then read the article using the cloze reading strategy--one of my favorites. The teacher reads the ar…

It's not all Unicorns and Rainbows

When I read through my past blogs, I realize that they are overwhelmingly positive. I make it sounds like everything always goes as planned and students follow directions. Let me assure you that things do not always go as planned and students rarely follow directions.  Yet, at this point in my career, I both embrace and accept this! Kids fall out of their chairs in the middle of deep discussions, kids get up to sharpen pencils (mine is electric) when I am in mid sentence, kids ask to use the bathroom in the middle of instruction... Heck! We've even had a bird fly in our classroom. You get the idea!  It's called teaching middle school.  

Sometimes my lessons don't go as planned either.  Last week is a perfect example!  We had just read "The Pedestrian" by Ray Bradbury.  Written in 1951, Bradbury envisions a futuristic society where television has taken over the world.   Walter Meade, the protagonist,  refuses to embrace this kind of world and ends up getting arrest…

Getting students to RESEE their writing

When students are asked to write, they often want to "get it done" and turn it in as quickly as possible.  I often ask them to look over their writing and look for places they can improve. Sometimes I even have them read each other's work and provide feedback.  Yet, even after I do these things I receive papers riddled with errors and flat out bad writing.  For years I have provided students with feedback (I try to offer as much positive feedback as I can).  I tell them, "Good verb choice. Great imagery. Fantastic argument. Wonderful hook."  However, I am frequently frustrated that  I am also continuously making comments like  "Sentence fragment.  Run-on.  Verbs aren't consistent."  You get the idea!  What's even more frustrating is that even though I make these comments telling students what they did incorrectly, the make the same errors on future assignments!

So, two weekends ago, I dedicated some time to researching add-ons available on Goog…

UPDATE-Using Favorite Authors to Inspire Student Writing

In my last blog, I promised an update on the lesson I was going to teach, and I finally had a few minutes, so here it is! It was a hit! I loved it, and they loved it even more. I won't bore you with the details, but I will say that I am SO glad that I had two examples that I already written ahead of time. I won't even share those because my students' examples are even better!
After the assignment, I gave them a few days to work on revising, focusing on figurative language, specific nouns, and powerful verbs. Then they published the work to our blog and read and commented on each others.
Finally, I created a Google Form to provide feedback on the assignment. One suggestion was that I ask them to find a longer passage from their book. Other than that, they loved the opportunity to be creative. Here are a few of the questions and answers: Did Mrs. Karney explain the assignment clearly? Give suggestions or compliments. * Yes, the sentence seeds assignment we did before w…

Using Favorite Authors to Inspire Student Writing

It's rare that I post about something before I've tried it, but I couldn't resist. It's also rare that I can claim an idea as  100% mine, but this is all mine (maybe I should wait until I try it before I claim it as my idea)!   Currently, my students are participating in book clubs.  This provides an excellent opportunity to weave in some fun activities like mentor sentences, punctuation, and narrative writing.  My son, who also happens to be in my class, is currently reading Unstoppable by Tim Green.  He's not a big reader, but he loves this book.  The other night while sitting on the couch reading his book, he starting laughing.  "Mom, listen to this!"  He then  began to read a long, descriptive passage from the book that describes an angry coach.  Green  uses sensory language, vivid verbs, and figurative language to create a vivid portrait of this man. My son stated   that the way Tim Green writes is one of the main reasons he is enjoying the book so m…