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Show and Tell: Boom Cards™!

Online, Digital Task Cards with Boom Learning℠ are highly engaging, self-grading, and fun!

For my show and tell this month, I would like to share something "new" that I "discovered":  Boom Cards!

Perhaps you have heard of them before, but they are new to me and I am soooo excited about these online task cards!

Why am I so excited?  

Students work through the set of task cards online and get immediate feedback.  A correct answer allows the student to move to the next card, whereas an incorrect answer requires the student to try again.  That means the cards are SELF-GRADING!
(You can even access individual results with a Basic Membership.)

I love anything that self-grades - I mean that mountain of grading in Middle School can really pile up with 130 or so students, right?

But it's not just that - they are very engaging and I can see so many uses for them like:

Making special cards for my ELL or Special Education students (differentiation made easier!)
Assigning them for homework
Using them for remediation
Maybe even holding a competition

How does it work?

First, I signed up for a free Starter account at https://wow.boomlearning.com/

Then, with that Starter account, I could set up one section with 5 students and make 5 private decks so I could use some cards in Fast Play mode to see if it is right for me and my students.  I could also try out other free decks and play them as a whole class.

However, I learned that if I received a free deck of cards from Teachers Pay Teachers, I would be given a complimentary Basic membership for one year.  

What's so great about a Basic Membership?

It gives you access to individual score reports for up to 80 students once you set up classes!  
Talk about data collection!  

So I immediately tried to make my own deck.  My ELL students need more practice with Language Skills like spelling, grammar, and punctuation.  So I made a 10 card deck for these skills just to try it out.  I think it came out pretty well for a first try!

And you can try them out too - just enter your name and e-mail below and I'll share them with you.

What if I don't have time to make all my own cards?

Not a problem!  There are plenty of card decks available for sale too!  It works on the Boom Learning site by buying points or you can purchase Digital Task Cards to be used on Boom Learning℠  from Teachers Pay Teachers that will link you to the site.

If these cards work as well as I think they will, they will be a game changer as we become a 1:1 school!

Let the good times roll with more Show and Tell from Stephanie at Forever in 5th Grade!

Thanks for stopping by!
Boom Learning℠ and Boom Cards™ are the trademarks of Boom Learning Inc. Used with permission.  Lisa (Mrs. Spangler in the Middle)  was not paid in any way to write this post.   She is an Ultimate Member who is using Boom Learning℠ with her own classes and plans to share as well as sell some of her creations.

Find Central Idea in 4 Steps!

Show Students How to Apply Learning With A Blueprint To Find Central Idea!

This year, I am teaching 7th grade and according to our scope and sequence, the first thing we are meant to teach is "Citing Evidence and Analyzing Central Idea/Theme".

Can you see my students' eyes glaze over from where you are?

I'm not sure if it's just my students, but they seemed to have no recollection of even the most basic terms!

So, we started with vocabulary.

Having a Word Wall with the Important Terms is a Good Starting Point for Learning to Analyze a Central Idea!

Then we played a dominoes game with the words:

Using dominoes to practice with vocabulary is fun and gets the job done!

Now that they seemed to know the definitions (again), we worked to find the central idea together through examining an article from NewsELA.

Even though the students seemed to understand what central idea is, they still had a hard time pulling it out of an article.  

So I decided to make a recipe or formula to help them figure out exactly how to get to the central idea and supporting details.  I did this by making a PowerPoint with a foldable:

Four Easy Steps to Identifying Central Idea and Supporting Details!

We used an article on sinkholes because we are reading the novel Tangerine by Edward Bloor, but really you can use any article with these four steps!

The steps are:

1.  Read the article and pay attention to the text features and text structures to determine the subject of the article.

2.  Ask yourself  "What is the subject of the article and what does the author reveal about the subject?"  (That's the central idea!)

3.  Turn the central idea into a question.

4.  Answer the question.  The answers are the supporting details! (which leads to citing evidence!)

I was amazed at how many "lightbulbs" came on during this lesson!  I think this is because they really don't know how to apply the definitions they have learned.  It's kind of a lightbulb moment for me too, really - I guess as a teacher we think some things are obvious when they really aren't.  

That's great news though!  Now I know to focus on the "how" in terms of the standards I need to teach.

Next up, theme!  :)

Until then, you can get the word wall and dominoes set by entering your e-mail below!

Or if you'd like to check out my PowerPoint or maybe even the entire mini-unit, with all the pieces and parts all ready to go, click on the images below.

A full mini-unit on finding central idea and supporting details that leads to citing evidence!  Comes with Pixanotes, Word Wall Cards, Dominoes game to parctice with vocabulary, and a PowerPoint of the Four Easy Steps to finding central idea complete with interactive notebook foldable!

Thanks for stopping by!

Give Students a Blueprint for Applying Their Knowledge to Find Central Idea!

You're Here For A Reason

One of the best books to use to build community in your classroom!

I am excited to share with you one of the best books I have come across recently to build classroom community!

You're Here For A Reason by Nancy Tillman is a book with a very powerful message:  Each and every person is needed in this world because...
Even the smallest of things that you do
Blossom and multiply far beyond you. 

How great is it for ALL students to hear that they are needed and valued?  AND how amazing is it for them to hear that from their teacher??

How great is it for ALL students to hear that they are needed and valued?  AND how amazing is it for them to hear that from their teacher??  

But it's not enough just to hear it, it has to be brought home to make it "really real" for the students.
I shared this book as a read aloud and then I had all my students come to the front of the room to form a "community circle".  There we all introduced ourselves one at a time and then had a seat on the floor.
I used a toy microphone as a "talking piece" and then asked each person to participate by keeping what is said in the circle to themselves in this community.  Students were also told they had the "right to pass".

Then, I asked if any of us were perfect.  No one indicated they were.  I asked if it was possible for anyone to be perfect.  Again, no one indicated we could be.  So then I said "Well then, it only makes sense for us to focus on progress, not perfection.  What do you hope to make progress on this year?"  I shared first and then I passed around the microphone and listened.  I learned so much about my students!

That led me to say "In this class, we will be focused on writing.  We write because our ideas matter and our words have power.  This means details matter and we need to remember what we stand for. So what do you stand for or how do you want to be known?"

Again, the microphone went around the circle and everyone shared.  Powerful stuff.

Now I was ready to bring it on home.

"I truly believe we are all here in the is class together for a reason.  Together, we can work to make each other stronger.   What is the reason you think we're together?"

I guess I expected one or two snarky answers that share the obvious answer - "to learn"  but what I got was more like "so I can share my talent with perseverance" or "so we can help each other" and "so we can work with one another - you know 'work it out'".  

I really felt a connection at that moment and was feeling like this is the pinnacle of teaching - to form that bond that connects students to school.  That is what it's all about - connections (relationships).  That's what really stops bullying and many of the other social ills we face.  If we could all just take care of each other, what a world this could be!

But for now, I'll settle for my middle school classes.

Want to read it with your classes?  I recorded it here:

Thanks for stopping by!

Back to School - Harry Potter Style!

Every year, my middle school has a theme.  Last year it was "Superheroes".  This year it is "Harry Potter" and I am loving it - even though I have been moved to 7th grade ELA and they are Slytherins...

A peek at a 7th grade ELA Classroom with a Harry Potter theme!

Let me show you around!  

Proclamations of our class agreements hand at the "student center" in the classroom.

This is right by the door and where the students store their textbooks and hand in their work.

The four "proclamations" of rules are actually our agreements.  I talked about this recently on Facebook if you're interested:

Next up is my "Book Nook" with Book Pennants from Study All Knight.  Also pictured here is Madam Pince, the Hogwarts librarian, watching over things:

The "Book Nook" with Madam Pince watching over things.

I recently downloaded a new free app - Booksource - to use to check out my books.  It's pretty great as you just scan your ISBNs to build your library!

I'm also excited about my new reward system.  I use Class Dojo to collect points for every student for following (or not following) our class agreements.

Then, as students reach certain levels of points, they earn certain rewards:

Magical Merit point clubs for students to earn rewards in my Harry Potter themed classroom!

The top reward is the "Prefect Table"!

Harry Potter version of a V.I.P. table - the Prefect Table!

Once students earn 500 points, they get a week to sit at this exclusive table with all the best school supplies and even a snack or two!  :)

I also purchased some Harry Potter themed Growth Mindset Posters and Harry Potter themed Imagery Posters from B's Book Love to display along with "portraits" of Professor Dumbledore and the founders of Hogwarts.

Harry Potter themed Middle School ELA classroom - all set up for a magical year

I'm excited about this new adventure and all the possibilities!

Thanks for stopping by and be sure to visit Stephanie at Forever in 5th Grade for even more great show and tell!

A Busload of Prizes and Surprises!

It's been an amazing summer and I have made many great memories with my own children, but I am hearing the honk of the bus horn!  Why?  Because there's a busload of prizes that just pulled up!

You can also enter the Middle School Mob's giveaway:

You'll get several great tips AND the chance to enter to win several amazing resources PLUS $70 to Teachers Pay Teachers!

and then complete the loop!

And if that wasn't enough Prizes and Surprises for your Back to School excitement, there's also a SALE!

All of my resources, (Yes, EVEN BUNDLES) are the full 25% off with code:  BTS2017

You can get several versions of full week long back to school plans that focus on community building, going over class agreements (rules)/procedures and group dynamics. 

New for this year:

This resource gives you the opportunity to have your students do something with your syllabus instead of just pretend to read it.  ;)

 Students can construct a blank mini-book and fill in all the important information from the syllabus or you can give them a mini-book with all the information pre-printed inside and just have them fold it into a book.  

It is completely editable and comes with a video to show you and your students how to assemble the mini-book.

The best part?  Each mini-book requires just ONE sheet of paper per person!

Well, that's all for now!  I hope this helps you get ready for your best year yet!  

Thanks for stopping by!

Best Practices for Using Video in the Classroom

If you're like me, you are starting to think about the new school year and the concept of using videos is really appealing because you know that they are super engaging and they allow you to monitor the students even better.

However, you want to make sure that what you are using is educationally sound - that it uses best practices.  But what are video best practices?  Here's what I've found:


My biggest takeaway from this pdf is that when using video, there should be no more than 6 minutes of view time before there is an interactive activity.  

I saw this same idea of short videos with interactive activities repeated over and over across the web from various colleges and universities.  I agree that short is better to help keep students focused and interactive is the name of the game!

Vanderbilt University suggests looking for videos have one or all 4 of these items:
1.  Signaling with the appearance of key words
2.  Segmenting of information (aka chunking)
3.  Weeding - the process of eliminating unnecessary extras like odd sound effects
4.  Matching modality - students can see and hear the same concept at the same time.

These four items make a great checklist for anyone when choosing videos for their classes.

And commonsense.org  suggests that transcripts can be powerful tools as students can annotate them.  They also suggest multiple viewings of the videos so as to explore them from different points of view.  

I really like the idea of having transcripts not just for annotation, but also a kind of notes to help students remember what they have seen.

I have tried to incorporate all these things into videos that I make for my own classes.  Currently, I have been working on a step-by-step video to teach my students all the pieces and parts of writing a text-based informational essay.  And you can try the planning part for free! 

You'll get a link to the video portion that comes towards the end of the Full Unit after I have taught all the pieces and parts of the text-based informative essay that shows how to plan the essay.  You'll also get the writing prompt, 2 texts and a planning sheet that are referenced in the video.

Thanks for stopping by!

How I Make Video Lessons In 5 Easy Steps

In previous posts, I shared how powerful video was for engaging my students in my 6th grade ELA classroom and the educational benefits of using video.

As you may know, I decided to make my own videos to maximize the learning in my classroom.  
So how do I do it?  
Here are my 5 easy steps:

1.  I decide on my objectives and write a script.

  • My objectives generally come from my standards, but many times my video theme is something I take into consideration at this point - especially as I write the script.  If I want to teach essay writing in connection with the book Walk Two Moons, my images might be of places that the main character visited in the book, for example.
2.  I record my script with a green screen, soft box lights, and a microphone.  

  •  I record my videos using my iPhone.
  • The green screen really is an important piece as I can place *any* image behind me and really create some very relevant videos for the students.  
  • The lights I use came with the green screen with bulbs!  The bulbs are "daylight bulbs - 5500K" and make all the difference with looking good.
  • Speaking of looking good - remember to record on a good hair and makeup day!  :)
  • I have a lapel microphone that cost me about $13 on Amazon.  You can try to record with just the iPhone microphone and see how it sounds in the room you are using.

3.  I run my green screen recordings through the Green Screen App by Do Ink ($2.99)

  • Next, I take what I recorded with the green screen and run it through this app to put in whatever image I choose behind me! Later, I add what I make in this app to iMovie when I am ready to edit.
  • Note on images:  I only use images that I have made myself or are in the public domain.  A Google search for images will pull up many copyrighted images and could put you in jeopardy of being in violation of the law.  I use Pixabay.com for public domain images.

3.  Determine the objectives and write a script.

  • My objectives generally come from my standards, but many times my video theme is something I take into consideration at this point - especially as I write the script.  If I want to teach essay writing in connection with the book Walk Two Moons, my images might be of places that the main character visited in the book, for example.

4.  Edit all clips in iMovie on my iPhone

  • This is arguably the hardest part.  This takes some time to learn because I have to insert clips of what I recorded, cut out pauses or flubs, add music, titles, captions and maybe even special effects!

5.  Save and upload!  
  • When I'm finished, I first download the movie to my iPhone's video album.
  • Then, I hard wire my phone to my computer so I can put the finished product on a jump drive to take to school. I find that this is the quickest way to get the video from the iPhone.

So that's how I do it!  It's easy once you get going, but if that seems like more than you're ready to tackle, then maybe you'd like to see one of my videos as an example and maybe even try it with your classes.

Right now, I am focused on preparing to take my "rookie" 6th graders through the steps in writing text-based essays, and I am happy to share that first stage of the process with you below:

Thanks for stopping by!  Be sure to stop by Forever in Fifth Grade for some more great Show and Tell!