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 We Are Teachers
Source - WeAreTeachers

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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!


SCATTER!

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!  




ZAP!

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!

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!



QUIZ SHOW!


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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Laughing All The Way!


Read funny stories and get fun ideas to use in class this holiday season!


My funniest Christmas story happened when my boys were about 5 and 6 years old.

It was Christmas Eve and I was putting the boys to bed when as we were saying our prayers, we heard heavy footsteps on the roof!  My youngest son immediately pulled the covers over his head and exclaimed "Skip my prayers, Mom!  He's here!"
"Oh no!" wailed my older son, "We're not asleep!"
"Just cover your head like me!" the younger one whispered emphatically.

I ran to the front door and swung it wide open so that the jingle bells on the doorknob rang loudly.  Then I yelled out into our front yard "Oh Santa, the boys just went to bed!  Could you please go to Ali's house across the street first and come back here afterward? (pause)  Oh, thank you, Santa!  I'm sure the boys will be asleep by then!"

Having fun with Christmas is one of best feelings for me!  And I love experiencing this feeling in my classroom too!


Then, I ran back to the boys' bedroom and said "Santa said he'll come back in a little bit!  You'd better get to sleep!"  They both pulled the covers over their heads and giggled nervously.

Then my husband appeared in the living room, back from the roof, asking me if I realized how loud I was yelling into the night.  
He was fairly sure the neighbor kids heard me and probably none of the kids on our street slept one wink that night! 


Want to have some great holiday fun in your classroom?  Have your students share their favorite personal holiday stories!


My students love it when I share personal stories (like the one above) with them and they love sharing stories back!  To do this, I ask students to share their favorite personal holiday story in their journals.  This is great because students can write about ANY personal holiday story they have at this time of year.  Plus, when we share our stories, we tighten our bonds as a class.  Not to mention that we usually get a good laugh or two out of these stories.  

Then, the stories become a great lead-in for when we read "A Christmas Carol" because I tie all the stories together with common themes.  And since I really focus on the theme of giving, I am giving away this freebie:


Play ZAP with your students to review the plot of A Christmas Carol!


When we read "A Christmas Carol", it's fun to write from various character perspectives sharing our stories as those characters.  Not only is it great for point of view, but it's all about the sharing.  Students love this concept because everyone likes to be heard.

If you love this story as much I do and plan on teaching the play version this year, you might want more than just a game:

This resource for the play version contains:  ★ Discussion questions for all 6 scenes ★ Cornell notes for each scene (with answer key) ★ Plot diagram questions (guides) for each scene.  ★ A full size blank plot diagram ★ A compare/contrast graphic organizer so you can compare the play version to the video version. I suggest using the Muppets Christmas Carol. ★ A multiple choice & short answer test with answer key ★ An essay assessment option with outline and checklist



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