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Showing posts from 2015

Candy Canes, Books, and Masks

What happens when you give a middle schooler a candy cane?  See for yourself!  Anyone remember the days of going to Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour and getting an Astro Pop just so you could turn it into a dangerous weapon and stab your sister in the arm with it? Not that I ever did such a thing!  

Anyhow, I ended the week by giving each student a piece of black paper and a piece of white card stock.  I read them the poem "Please Hear What I'm Not Saying"  by Charles Finn. It's about the "masks" people wear and why they wear them.  One of our essential questions for The Outsiders was "Why do people wear masks and try to hide their true selves?"  Students chose a character from the novel and created the character's self portrait using just black paper, scissors, and a glue stick.  After glueing it onto the card stock, they wrote a poem about the masks the character wears in the novel, as well as what is really behind the mask.  Students seemed t…

Never Quit Growing

Each year I set at least one goal for myself as a teacher.  Last year it was to start my own blog and to commit to blogging each week.  I did it!  The previous year it was to embrace technology in my classroom.  I did it!  This year one of my goals was to find a way for students to publish their writing-to have an authentic audience.  I did it!

I started off my looking into online literary magazines.  I tried a few but it was a lot of work for me.  I had to upload each piece of student writing.   To do that for every student was extremely time consuming.  Also, it wasn't visually appealing.  So I spent last weekend researching a solution online and found one-a classroom blog!  After researching a few student friendly platforms, I decided on  It is reasonably priced, EASY to use, and students have numerous choices of avitars and banners. They can also comment on each other's writing!  

This platform is quite safe.  Only my classes or people I invite, can see the cont…


Students have already finished chapter 6 in The Outsiders.  In fact, I gave them permission to finish the book over Thanksgiving break, and many of them did!  They love the book, so it's not hard to get them to read.  In an honors class, I have them read most of the book at home.  That allows us to use class time for discussions and activities.  

After the first three chapters, we had a fishbowl discussion.  After reading the next three chapters, I showed students Costa's Levels of Questioning and assigned them to write two Level 2 or Level 3 questions about the chapters.  When they returned to class, I divided them into three groups.  Each group had a facilitator, recorder, time keeper, and summarizer.  I gave students approximately twenty minutes to discuss their questions.  

As groups were discussing, I circulated around the room.  Most of the groups did a fantastic job and were very engaged in the discussion..  I observed that in a few groups seemed to interrupt one another,…


Before leaving for Thanksgiving Break, my students took the SRI test for the second time this year. This test measures each student's lexile level.  This is an exciting time for my students but  also creates a bit of anxiety in both my students and me, the teacher! These students give up their elective to take this class, so I definitely want them to feel as though their hard work is worth it! As you can see from the chart below, we would like students to be between a 970-1185 at the middle school level.  Before the test, I gave the students a pep talk, had them look at their first score, and then sprinkled them with fairy dust (aka glitter).  Don't worry!  I only sprinkled those who wanted to be sprinkled!  
I told students they were welcome to take a bathroom break, go get a drink, or just get up and stretch at any time during the test. They were so focused!  After about twenty-five  minutes, students began to finish.   One by one, I'd hear an excited voice say, "Mrs…

Fish Bowls and Common Core

Middle school students are very social creatures (for the most part).  They enjoy talking, debating, and listening to what others have to say (well, okay, maybe they are working on the listening part). 
Anyhow, after reading Readicide by Kelly Gallagher,
 I decided to revisit my approach to teaching The Outsiders this year.  Last year, I required students to find quotes from each chapter that addressed our essential questions.  Not only did they have to find the quotes, they had to provide the context and an analysis of each one.  I will admit that we had some great discussions using this method. However, what better way to kill the love of a book than to require students to stop every few pages and complete a quote response?  Gallagher asserts that there is a happy medium, and I agree!

This year I assigned three chapters as homework.  Students read the chapters without interruption.  In class, I numbered them off.  Each number correlated to an assigned chapter, and students had to then…


I am really excited about how the final projects turned out using GoAnimate!  I really feel students created thoughtful theme statements and gathered excellent evidence from the text to support their theme.  Their analysis was also impressive.  Here's a link to one of my favorites, which also happened to win the Best Video Award for that period.  

Monsters are Due on Maple Street Theme Video

And another Honorable Mention:

Another Great Example

After the project, I had students complete a reflection in a Google Form.  Most of the students enjoyed the project.  A few were frustrated at times (but they powered through)!  Almost all students agreed that it was a nice change from the usual essay.

Celebrating the Good Stuff

Another idea I stole from Kelly Gallagher,  my favorite author of books about reading and writing, -bulletin boards with a focus.  Rather than displaying entire student essays, (which nobody actually reads) select a focus for the board and display work that demonstrates excellence in that area.  A few weeks ago, my students wrote personal narratives.  My bulletin board this week focuses on great hooks. The students were excited to see their work on display.  Next time I will have another focus!

Go Animate

First of all, I couldn't resist including a few photos of my students in their Halloween costumes.  

We just finished reading Monsters are Due on Maple Street.   Last year I had my students use Powtoon to create videos focusing on a theme in the teleplay.  Although I liked  Powtoon, there were not too many options in regards to scenes and characters (at least not with a free trial).  Therefore, I decided to give GoAnimate a shot!  I am so glad I did.

First students wrote a theme statement about the teleplay and got it approved by me ( a bad theme statement would make for a bad video project).  They then had to find four pieces of textual evidence to support their theme, as well as explain  the context of the evidence.  Finally, they wrote an analysis of each quote explaining how it helped develop the theme.  The next step was to incorporate all of that information into a video.  

I was shocked at how quickly students caught on to using Goanimate.  Within ten minutes, they were record…