Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Great Experience

Follow Me on Pinterest

Recently, I was able to teach two technology classes for our districts technology conference. The first was "Pinterest for Teachers" and the other was "Student Blogging."  I was so excited about each class, but I was also a little nervous, because this was the first time that I had ever taught adults. I wanted to be clear enough so that they all could understand how to do the things I was teaching them and yet not so watered down that experienced people were bored. I believe that I achieved success in reaching a balance. Hurrah!

I thought I would share the info that I shared with my teacher students with all of you. The first workshop I taught was Pinterest for Teachers.

  • I showed teachers how to set up and edit their boards. 
  • I showed them how to follow someone.
  • I showed them the correct way of going directly to the website to pin from there and not just repin from the feed. 
  • We did some random searches and located information to teach various topics. (That was fun!)
 It was awesome! I now have people coming to me for help. Pinterest is such a valuable teaching resource, I don't know what I would do with out it. 

Follow Me on Pinterest

How do you use Pinterest? If you you are not using it what is stopping you?

The second class I taught was "Student Blogging" I promise to talk about student blogging in my next blog post!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Creating Coversations that are Meaningful

Our first unit is called Meeting Challenges. We have been reading articles and stories about people who face different challenges. Last week, we read an article from Schalastic Action called "Homeless to Harvard" by Laura Lin from the October 8th issue. I had the students read it silently first. This was difficult becasue they all had something to say. The article was about a boy who had his home shot up by gang members becasue he refused to join a gang. David goes on to deal with being homeless by setting high standards for his life. Eventually, making it to Harvard. By making them keep their comments to themselves until discussion time, just about everyone had something to say. They were proud of David's accomplishments, angry with the gang members that shot up his home and furious with David's mom. I think that they had "ahha moments" when I explained to them how much money it costs to get a new apartment. It was a great lesson with outstanding converstion.

Use current article.
Use non-fiction information about teens.
Have students collect their thought and write down what they think instead of sharing right away.
Try to bring in real world information whenever possible.
Be real with the students.

What conversations are you planning for this week?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

MMSS Blog (Part 2)

This is the second installment of my new motivational techniques that I am trying this year.  I have already covered the personal conferencing in my last post, however, I thought I would share something that the kids came up with. When I call them up to meet with me they say " Oh No, it must be "Book Therapy" time!" It cracks me up every time they say it. I wish I had thought of it. LOL Anyway.

Motivation #4: The Wall of Fame. When my students finish reading a book and have done a letter to me about the novel, I give them a simple star. They place the star on the "Wall of Fame." Believe it or not, I have about 15 stars already. The kids (8th Graders) ask for the stars, want to put them up on the wall and let me know when I forget to give it to them. It amazes me that these students are so into this. At first, I thought that this would flop with middle school students, they are definitely motivated.Sometimes, I love being wrong!

Motivation #5:Calls home. I am making a point to call home with positive comment to parents. Parents hear so much negative. I want my students to know that  calls can be positive to their parents as well. Praise, praise, praise!

Motivation #6: I began using Whole Brain Teaching techniques this year. One of the techniques is called Scoreboard. Students earn point toward playing a game. I tally the points for following directions, working quietly and  sharing excellent answers. Then on Friday (if they have enough) we play Basketball Trivia. Which is a game, I semi-created. The link to my free directions will be posted at the bottom of this post. During the week I keep a log of questions about the information they have learned throughout the week.
Free Directions to Basketball Trivia


What things have you tried this year to motivate your students? Were they sucessful or a complete flop?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Motivating Middle School Students (MMSS Blog) Part 1

This school year has started off quite well as far as motivating my students.

Motivation #1: Conference With My Students.  I have begun conferencing with each student during silent reading time at the beginning of the class. During this time, I listen to them read, ask them questions about the book that they are reading and show them how to actively read and keep notes. The students are writing a letter to me each week about what they are reading. I make notes of things that I can discuss with each student to help fill in some of the gaps that they have. For example, one student used the wrong form of "their" in a sentence in her letter. I used our conference time to explain "their, there and they're." I showed her a few examples and she got it. After our meeting, she thanked me for helping her to understand the differences. Not only was she motivated, so was I.

Motivation #2: Use the Nook E-readers. Last spring I wrote a Donor's Choose proposal to get a Nook Color to use in my class. I also asked my PTA to assist in funding the project on Donor's Choose. Well the PTA at my school is so wonderful they gave me $300.00 toward going and buying either a Nook or a Kindle Fire. It was Mother's Day weekend and there was a sale on the Nooks at Barnes and Noble. I went and purchased two Nooks to use in my classroom. Then in June my Donor's Choose project was funded and now I have three Nooks to use. They are so motivating to the students. They are all being used on a daily basis. The kids want me to start a list of who gets to use them next.

Motivation #3: Respect Reward Tickets. This week I started to give out a Respect Reward ticket.  Students receive the Respect Reward ticket when they are doing their best and showing respect to their classmates, teachers or themselves. Each month I will pick a winner that will be given 20 minutes to use the Nook to play a game. I have games like Boggle and Scrabble on the nook so it will be educational (Shhh don't tell my students!)

Well that is all for today! Next week I have a few more motivational ideas that I will share.

What kinds of things are you doing to motivate the middle school students that you work with?

Till Next Time!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Great First week with Whole Brain Teaching!

"This is the best class I have ever had!" 
" Wow, That was a fun class!"
" My class was awesome!"
These were the comments I heard this week as I dismissed students from my classroom. This has been the best week ever. It all started with being in a flash mob at the superintendents convocation meeting.

I am in the green on the end.

Then, I used several new (to me) Whole Brain Teaching techniques. The kids loved, loved, loved, them and that is saying alot for middle school students. Whole Brain Teaching actually put smiles on the faces of my students.

First, I taught the students how to stop what they are doing and answer " Yes" when I say "Class."

Next, we learned the class rules and the motions. I showed them how to teach each other and all about the scoreboard. I was amazed at how into it they were. 

Well one week later my grade six students are loving it and very enthusiastic. My grade eight students are okay with it. They take more convincing. We played Basketball Trivia which is my version of Mind Soccer. So I am hoping that will help motivate them to increase their participation. 

Also, another highlight is the 40 book reading goal. I already have five students that have completed reading their first book. this has motivated others. 

So I am off to a great year.
P.S. Check out the new MMSS Blog Store!

How is your year going so far? What new things have you tried?  

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Summer Planning

Hi everyone. It has beeen a long time since I have posted. I took July off from all things children. I also gave up teaching my Sunday School children (grades 3 and 4) for the whole month. I didn't work my second job as an extended day teacher and coordinator for the whole month. Well now I am back and really excited to start thinking about September and the up coming months.

 I am so excited to report that I read a really great book this summer called The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller It is amazing and a must read for every reading teacher. So many of the points were really valid. Often we teach skills, skills, skills and don't get around to letting the students practice nearly enough. I am adopting many of the concepts from this book. I look forward to turning the tide of my non-readers to help them see value in reading.

Book Whisperer  Click the book to check it out. 

I am hoping to kick the year off by setting high expectations and motivating my students to read. I am going to be giving my students a goal of 40 books and plenty of time to read. I will update you from time to time. with how this is going. This summer several of my summer student have read 10 books give a good amount of time to be able to read.

 I  have been writing down reasons that I want students to read. I have been doing this because with middle school students, I need to have my answers to their questions right on the tip of my tongue. If I fumble an answer they have an escape route. An escape from reading. I want to motivate these tweens so quick reasonable answers to their whining is just the answer. Always make it about them!. The Book Whisperer  is the first book that helped me to put into perspective that reasons that I want my students to read. 
I want them to build background knowledge that will help them with life situations. I want them to find information from books that help them become better people. I want them to find out about places and people that they will never see or meet. And much more.... Please check out The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller.

So what have you been reading this summer?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Reading Challenges

Motivating Middle School Students can be super challenging when teaching reading. The MS students I work with do not enjoy reading. So it helps to have things that the students enjoy reading that can spark some type of connection or a topic that they find interesting. This blog will cover three points of interest. How to know what topics students might be willing to read, where to get the various materials and what to do with the materials.

First, how to know what topics students might be willing to read. I suggest a student interest survey to find out what your particular students are about.
Questions like:
What do you want to be when you grow up?
Who is your favorite music artist or band?
What is your favorite sports team or team sport?
What problem do you face?
Favorite animal or insect?
You get the idea.

Next, from the answers to these questions you can do several things to to obtain materials that might interest your students. Visit a library and check out some books. This is my least favorite idea because students my get over whelmed by books. So my suggestion is to visit Google and set up various alerts using the answers that you got on the survey. For example: If one of my answers was that a student wanted to be a marine biologist. I would set up an alert for marine biology, fish, sharks and maybe underwater life. This way I get articles sent to my in box about these topics. I can read the article and print it out for the students to read.
Another way to find articles or reading is to just do a Google search. Visit the various websites and print out excerpts from the site (bookmark the site if it is useful, you may need fresh articles in the future).

Lastly, what do you do with all of the articles? Each article can be kept in a binder by topic. So one binder for careers, one binder for sports and one for animals.You get the idea.  At the link below there is also a free work product question sheet that students can fill out and turn in after they are finished reading an article. The question sheet can be tweaked to reinforce your objectives in the classroom. This way you have lots of material and the students are practicing the reading skills that you are using in your classroom independently You are giving them a greater choice of reading materials and hopefully this motivates them to read. 

Please let me know what you think of this Freebie and if this idea helped to motivate your students. 
Thanks for reading!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Brainstorming Bliss

Today I asked my students, "What strategies have you learned this year that help you to comment or discuss a piece of text?" Then I held my breath waiting for the group of eighth graders to give me an answer. One student said, "You make connections!" Well that is all it took we were able to fill a page with 10 or more things that students can do to comment about a text. I was so excited that they were able to name so many things.

After brainstorming, I used the Graffiti Text activity that I posted on a previous Blog. Here is the link: https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/preview-challenging-topics?fd=1
This activity works great. My students were motivated and engaged the whole time. I used this activity as a pre-reading for an article about Navy SEALs. Having spent a few minutes brainstorming about the types of comments that could be made about a text really inspired the students who struggle. They were able to refer back to the list that we generated and make some awesome comments.

Thanks again to Mrs.Ochoa for posting the vidoe on https://www.teachingchannel.org. Check out the other videos there.
Also, What are some of the ways that you use brainstorming in your classroom?

Have a great day!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Fold-ables for Poetry Devices

I have found that poetry has a great deal of terms and I needed a way for students to be able to identify examples for the various types of devices to meet our objectives for our poetry unit.

The first thing I did was have students set up a tri-fold paper, so that the two outside columns meet in the middle. Then, they cut two lines in toward the middle on each of the outside columns, giving us six flaps. We began to review the the various devices. I chose to introduce/review: onomatopoeia, hyperbole, metaphor, simile, rhyme scheme and personification. . Each device was labeled and defined on the outside of the fold-able flaps.

Next, students read poem books for elementary aged students and various copies of poems that I found, to locate examples of each device. After identifying the device they wrote the device example on the inside of the matching flap and on the inside center they drew a literal picture of the device.

The students were very motivated during this lesson.However, they kept asking if they could make-up their own examples. I had to explain that the objective we were learning was how to identify and locate the various devices not create them. They were find after that. This gave me plenty of time to assist the students that struggle. Also. some students finished quickly and those students helped the ones that were less motivated. This helped to motivate them. 

Let me know what you think and if you try it out let me know how it goes! 


Monday, April 16, 2012

Vacation Week Not Really a Vacation

Well, today is the first day of my school vacation week and I was up at 6:30. Thank you biological clock. I have watched a Teaching Blog Traffic School video and began working on some new products. One thing I started working on is an inferring scenario sheet. I am working on it and looking forward to sharing it soon. What are you guys working on? I am curious how much time you guys spend blogging and creating in a week?


Saturday, April 14, 2012

Motivating Lesson about Primary and Secondary Sources

Primary and Secondary Sources
So, Monday we have a common assessment that our department will be giving. I realized that I had to come up with a quick review of Primary and Secondary sources. So I wrote numerous examples on index cards and decided to review the meanings of primary and secondary source. Then I explained the rules of my game.

The students had to be the first to pop up and name which type of source I described. If the student was correct, they got the card. The student with the most cards won. This was the best activity. The students were all really motivated, it took 15 minutes and only cost me a cool pencil!

The students understood the differences and I think they should do really really well on Monday!

Primary sources I used:
Birth records
A letter to President Obama from the Queen of England
An autoboigraphy about Nicki Monaj
A recording of a speech given by Martin Luther King
An interview given by a passager from the Titanic
A photograph of your great, great grandparents.
A suitcase that was recovered from the ocean floor near the Titanic.
The original screen play of your favorite movie.
Pottery of the Inca.

Secondary sources I used:
A news report about Whitney Houston
A biography about Michael Jackson
An article about the sinking of the Titanic.
A perdiciton about how the Titaanic sunk by scientist of today.
Motivating Lesson about Primary and Secondary Sources.


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Introduction to This Blog

Middle School Students are an unbelievably finicky group of people. I have been a teacher for 13 years and counting. Nine of my years was spent as an elementary teacher in a fifth grade inclusion classroom. The last few years I have been in a middle school teaching Language Arts to sixth and eighth graders. This is challenging for numerous reason. The first of which is that middle school aged children change their mind like the wind. During first term I read Hunger Games with my students, We only got about half way through and the students said this is boring why can't we pick our own books. I did some research and decided that teens need to take ownership of their reading in order to be motivated to read. I let the students choose. You can finish reading Hunger Games or you can choose your own book for the new term. Well, all but one student chose another book. Today students are reading independently and I am giving many reminders to read to numerous students. All of a sudden three girls are saying I would rather read the rest of Hunger Games then finish this book. I wanted to slap them. ( I wouldn't of course.) However, I said a little prayer asking for an extra amount of patience. Then I did say, " I told you so!" because when they all switched originally I told them when the movie comes out in March you will want to finish reading the book.

Teaching eight graders is never a dull moment.