Test Prep - Reading Boot Camp

It's Spring Break!  Time to re-charge, relax, and get ready for the 4th quarter!

When we return from break, we will have two weeks to refresh our students' memories before state testing begins.

One team's approach to Middle School Test Prep!

My 6th grade team and I decided to host a Reading Boot Camp.  There are 5 teachers and 5 days in the week.  So we are each taking one benchmark (standard) that the students need more work with based on the data and we will teach just that standard to all of the 6th grade classes in a rotation for one week.

So on Monday, I will have my own students but on Tuesday - Friday, I will have the other 4 teachers' students - a different set of students on each day.  So I will essentially teach the same lesson all week long.  That may seem a little like a broken record - but only to me - the students will truly benefit because they will get to hear a lesson presented by someone new and as a result, they are more likely to pay attention due to the novelty of a new teacher and a new room.  

I will be teaching non-fiction text structures.  Before I developed my plan, I really had to dissect the standard and how it is tested on our state test.  Essentially, students need to be able to use academic vocabulary such as analyze, contribute and development in concert with the text structure to locate and trace the change in the information and ideas across multiple texts to gain insight and strengthen understanding.  

Sounds easy, right?  Sure....well maybe if it were simplified a bit:

Breaking down Non-Fiction Text Structures before the big state test!

The entrance/exit ticket will have 3 questions that must be answered using pencil only:

Entrance/Exit tickets for a test prep non-fiction text structures lesson!

Next, I'll use my own video with matching Pixanotes® ...
Non-Fiction Text Structures Pixanotes® are great for helping students remember key information for state tests!
Then I'll conduct the "vote with your feet" activity.  To run this activity, I plan to hang 5 text structure posters in 5 areas around my room.  Next, I will read a passage and ask the students to classify it into one of the 5 categories.  Then, I am going to ask them to "vote with their feet" and stand by the poster that they think is the correct classification.   Next, we'll discuss their choices and finally the answer.  It will be a great way to keep everyone involved and engaged!

Finally, I plan to have students re-visit the entrance ticket and change their answers based on their new knowledge.  
(Now you know why I was being particular with pencil! :)  )

So now my boot camp lesson is ready!  This lesson combined with the other four teachers' lessons should make for a great test prep review!

If you'd like to save time and get this ready-to-go non-fiction text structure test prep lesson with entrance/exit tickets, video, Pixanotes®, posters, passages with questions and directions for "vote with your feet" PLUS all answers - Just click here!

It's test prep time and here's an engaging non-fiction text structure lesson that's ready to go!

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Ideas to Combat Apathy in the Classroom

It's approaching that time of year when my 6th graders are starting to flex their behavior muscles and turn to types of behavior that are more "cool".  You know, a general shunning of anything that might be remotely like work.

Enter the "too cool for school" students who couldn't possibly be bothered to lift a finger to write, let alone pick up a book or notebook.

This is when I really have to dig deep into my teaching repertoire and find ways to combat the apathy.

I'm truly thrilled to have my first post featured in WeAreTeachers, one of my favorite sites for new classroom strategies and where you'll find 5 ways to increase student ownership in your classroom.
  I'd love it if you'd visit and check it out!

5 Ways to Increase Student Ownership in Your Classroom

This middle school teacher shares her tried-and-true tips for getting her students to take on more ownership in the classroom. |  Mrs. Spangler in the Middle on WeAreTeachers
Source - WeAreTeachers

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Get some more great Show and Tell from Forever in 5th Grade

Celebrating Kindness

Celebrate Kindness!

In a world with so much conflict, I believe students need reassurance from a trusted teacher that character still matters.

In my 6th grade class, we were recently discussing the topic of plagiarism.  I gave a (somewhat) famous example of a now Harvard grad that was very publicly "busted" for copying multiple passages from an earlier published novel.  The students were quick to judge based on the evidence.  We talked about the fact that whatever one puts their name on is a representation of that person.  Therefore, it is important that whatever bears one's name reflects back what the person stands for.  They all emphatically agreed given my first example.

Then I told them that this relates to them too.  How?  Well, when they slap any old thing down on paper and then send it my direction which bears their name, what does that tell me about them?  
Silence.  Contemplative looks.  
Now they were judging themselves.

So then I began to think about challenging the students to define what they stand for so we could display it as a constant reminder that character matters.  

This is how I did it:

#kindnessnation FREE Character Matters Activity that helps students determine what they stand for!

You can do this too with my free resource:  

It includes a link to the lyrics, a link to an online "What do you stand for quiz for teens, and mirrors you can copy for your students.

I use the "Man in the Mirror" song to help students reflect on what they stand for.

The key in all of this is that students are reminded daily that they
need to reflect what they stand for in their words and actions. 
So, when they are tempted to “talk trash”, these serve as
reminders to look for these positive traits in their classmates.  I will
often tell my students “Be a treasure hunter, not a trash
collector!”  My goal is to create “treasure collecting” as a culture in
my classroom.

I think kindness shouldn't be just an act we perform here and there, it must be a habit.  I plan to celebrate it EVERY day by encouraging my students to live the kindness they want to see in others.

I think kindness shouldn't be just an act we perform here and there, it must be a habit.

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New Year - New Tech!

I'm so excited to tell you that my school district finally has access to Google Classroom!

The first thing I did was set up my "classrooms" and get my students to join.  We have been using Edmodo so this was somewhat like joining a class there.  This seems better than Edmodo though because it seems to organize things a bit better.

Google Classroom might just be the next best thing in Education!

The next thing I did was to try a Google Quiz for our weekly vocabulary.  I liked it a lot but it did not give the students their scores as a percentage.  Instead, it would say something like 100/120.  All day I was asked "But what is my grade?"  Of course, it was a great mini-lesson in learning that a fraction says "divide" and that's how to figure out one's own grade, but I would prefer percentages too.  I found a quick fix by using Flubaroo that gave me percentages even if the kids have to do the math!

A self-grading quiz?  Yes, please!

I made this quiz using Google Forms and then assigned it to my students through Google Classroom by attaching it from my Google Drive.  You can even assign the same thing to multiple classes all at once!

The next thing I am going to try is an online assignment I made.  After we took our vocabulary quiz online, my students actually suggested that their vocabulary practice actually be digital too!  So wish me luck with my first try this week!

Digital Vocabulary Practice!

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Stop by Forever in 5th Grade for some more great Show and Tell!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!  2017 will bring a new blog series on teaching "basic skills" to students as well as interactive content lessons!

2016 had its highs and lows with many new changes.  However, I feel especially blessed to be able to teach 6th grade ELA at a new school where learning is valued.  It has allowed me the opportunity to try new things and spread my teaching wings!

I plan to blog about my teaching wing discoveries in 2017.  You can expect a series on teaching "basic skills" like teaching students how to fail, how to study, and how to manage time.  

You can also expect posts about my experiences with interactive classroom content including visual notes, digital playlists, centers/stations, and various engagement strategies from places like Kagan.

So as we head "out with the old", I am happy to share the best parts of 2016:

Best of 2016 Sale!  December 28-30, 2016 > Search #bestof2016sale on Teachers Pay Teachers!

My Top 2 resources for 2016 that are 20% off December 28-30 are:

My top 2 resources for 2016!
Just click on the image above to see these resources as featured items.

  I'm always looking for new ways to do ordinary things and these two resources do just that!  Plus, they save teachers time and get the job done!

A new resource that I have created that meets these same criteria is:

These notes combine traditional notes, interactive notebooking and visual notes all at the same time!  They're a great way to collect all the important details of setting, characters, plot and theme for ANY novel with a variety of formats for differentiation.

These notes combine traditional notes, interactive notebooking and visual notes all at the same time!  They're a great way to collect all the important details of setting, characters, plot and theme for ANY novel with a variety of formats for differentiation.

And you can get it for FREE for subscribing to my periodic newsletter.  Just click here!

Thanks for stopping by!  Here's to a fabulous 2017!

Show & Tell: 4 Ways to Harness Holiday Hubbub!

The last week before the long Winter Break is enough to make any student excited but then add in all the treats of the season and you have holiday hubbub!

So here are my top 4 ways to have fun and still learn during this time of year!


Play SCATTER with Task Cards to use physical movement to help your students learn!

I tape task cards around the room and have students wander around to write the answers down on their papers. The movement helped them continue to learn through their excitement!  


Play ZAP with your students to review key concepts and have fun at the same time!

This is a fun team game where students must choose a question strip from the cup/can and answer correctly to keep the question strip.  They have to choose carefully, though, if they choose a ZAP instead of a question, they lose all their question strips.  The team with the most question strips wins!


SCOOT is another fun way to use task cards and physical movement in the classroom!

Tape task cards to the desks.  Give students one minute to write their answer, then call "SCOOT!".  All the students then move one seat to their right.  Continue the pattern until students have returned to their seats.  Finally, have students put a star next to their 3 (or whatever number you prefer) best answers, then just grade those!


I love playing Quiz Show with my students on Kahoot or with questions they made just using my white board!

I love playing Quiz Show with my students on Kahoot or with questions they made just using my white board!

You can play like the popular T.V. Show "Jeopardy" but with teams to ensure the entire class is engaged.  Kahoot is a great way to do this and allow students to use their beloved devices.  Accounts are free and easy to use!  

Or, if you're in a time crunch, just put up numbers on your white board and ask each student to write a question.  Write the point values on the back, have students form teams and you're ready to play!

Ready to give some of these game a try but are short on time?  
No worries!
I have some below that are ready to use!

FREE ZAP GAME to review the play version of  "A Christmas Carol"

Play Scoot, Scatter, ZAP, and Quiz Show with your favorite novels!

Click on either image above to get started!

Then be sure to get some more "Show and Tell" by visiting Stephanie at Forever in Fifth Grade!

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Secondary ELA Blog Hop: Saving Teacher Sanity AFTER The Break!

For many years, I tended to focus on "just getting through" the last few weeks until the break.  It was a busy, hectic time and I was tired.   So when that last day came and the students were gone for the break, so was I!

But then, when I came back from the break in January, I realized I had forgotten a few things - like my passwords....and copies....and....oh no!  January was beginning just as hectic as December ended!

This is how I saved my sanity after the break:

The last week before the break begins, I complete one small task each day.

To make the rules game, all you need is a stack of index cards.  I have 22 students so I make 11 questions about our classroom rules and procedures on one set of cards and 11 answers to match on another set of index cards.  On the first day back from break, students get new seats along with a question or an answer.  After we've each shared the best thing we did over the break, I have the students find their index card match!

After the rules review, then we work on goal-setting with a New Years Activity.  Below is one of my "punny" New Years Activities that is my gift to you this holiday season.

Click here or on the image above to get this freebie!

Now, with this plan, I am at least ready for the first day back!  This has been such a sanity saver for me!

Something else that might help save your sanity is 7 more days of great ideas, freebies and giveaways!  

Today, you can enter to win the following:

Enter Here:
The 12 Days of December
Next, you may want to hop over to Using Your Smarticles to get another sanity saver and the 12 Days of December Hub for the full 12 days of December low-down!

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