5 Best Pins for Organizing Partner Discussions in Middle School

Are You Organizing Students for Learning?  Then check out this post on Partner Discussions!

In my neck of the woods, we use the Marzano evaluation system to evaluate teachers.  Part of the system requires teachers to complete a Deliberate Practice Plan.

This year I have chosen "Organizing students for learning" with some strong encouragement from my administrator.  :)

To start this plan, I realized that I needed to understand this element better.  So, I bought the book and then I began with the first strategy - partner talk.

First, I need to set expectations:

Active Listening Expectations are just one piece of Preparing for Partner Discussions!

Then, I might need a fun activity like this one to demonstrate the power of our discussions:


Moving forward, I think my students might need some "starters" to help them elaborate on the content:

This rubric may not suit me perfectly, but it would definitely be important for students to have one:

Last, but not least, this kit looks like it might just have all the things I might need to make for my partners:

What do you do to organize students for partner discussions? Join in the conversation by leaving a comment below!

Thanks for stopping by!  Be sure to visit Stephanie at Forever in 5th grade for even more great ideas!

Top 10 Tips for Teaching Middle School ELL, ESL, ESOL Students

Some days teaching a full class of non-English speakers seems daunting, but this list actually helps me remember the things I can do and I hope it helps you too!

I teach 7th grade Language Arts and have a class of 22 students who speak Spanish and Portuguese as their first language.  They are all together in my sheltered ELA class.  That means that while it is a regular class for students to learn how to USE English (and not how to SPEAK English), there are more strategies, interventions and scaffolding present.

What strategies and interventions you ask?  
Here is my Top 10 List:

10.  Can-Do Descriptors
These free "Can-Do Descriptors" give teachers a list of things students can do in the classroom based on their level of proficiency.

These come from WIDA - "WIDA advances academic language development and academic achievement for children and youth who are culturally and linguistically diverse through high quality standards, assessments, research, and professional learning for educators."

These free "Can-Do Descriptors" give teachers a list of things students can do in the classroom based on their level of proficiency.  What I found helpful is that it gives me an idea of what I can ask these students to do even though I am supposed to teach them the same standards as the rest of the 7th grade.

9.  Giving out discussion questions a day early.
I really want all my students to practice speaking in class but I know they need time to think and process what they want to say in English.  So, I give them the discussion questions the day before I want to actually discuss.

8.  Classifying/Categorizing
This is a great word sort activity that can be used to scaffold any text or concept.  Since I have to teach essay writing to students who have no concept of what an essay even is, I will be using this concept very soon.

7.  Communication Games
Games like "I have____, who has____" help students practice their English and the concepts at the same time.

Use games to help your ELL students communicate!

I also enjoy standing or sitting in a community circle and asking the students to say hello to the person next to them using their name and then giving a word to describe our unit.  
(I change this up with other "words of the day" like a word to describe how they feel that day, or a word about our unit, or a new word that they have learned.)  

6.  Centers/Learning Stations
These help me make sure that my multi-level students each get something that either isn't too hard or too boring.  I have students who range from speaking absolutely no English to those that are on their way out of ESOL.  Centers allow me to tailor activities to the level of the student.

5.  Chart Progress
I have experimented with a Super Improvers board from Whole Brain Teaching and have had some good success with it.  The focus is on progress, not perfection and when a student is able to show progress, they earn a point towards moving up a level.  Each level has certain privileges tied to it.  I ask the students what privileges they would like to earn and then set the levels.  This year, I have been keeping track of points by using Class Dojo.

The Super Improver Wall is a great tool for charting progress, not perfection!

The students like to see that they are making progress and it helps to motivate them.

4.  Whole Brain Teaching Gestures

These posters work as great anchor charts or reminders to students on the gestures corresponding to punctuation and capitalization. This grammar strategy is used by Whole Brain Teaching to focus on Oral Writing.

Whole Brain Teaching gives you non-verbal hand gestures to use to teach various concepts including the ones pictured above.  I have even made some of my own!  They are great for engaging students in an action and helping them remember important ideas!

3.  Cloze reading passages
We're reading Tangerine by Edward Bloor in 7th grade.  All students have to take the same tests, so even my ESOL students must take these tests even if they are struuuuggggling to read the book.  So what did I do?  I made Cloze reading passages:

Cloze reading is #3 in my Top 10 Tips for Teaching ESL/ELL/ESOL students!

As you can see, Cloze reading passages just leave out key words for the students to fill in.  I actually included a word bank too.  This worked really well for my students but the research also says that it helps poor readers:

I also use a lot of sentence frames which are similar to cloze passages to help my students with their writing too.

Do you have any ELLs in your classroom this year?
2.  Graphic Organizers

This free writing resource has 10 Graphic Organizers helpful for writing paragraphs and essays. It is based on brainstorming 3 topics, ideas or details for your writing. I call it- the power of 3!
I try to use graphic organizers for just about every concept I teach in my ESOL class.  The more visual I can make something, the better!
1.  Pictures
Ok, this seems obvious because we all know that when students can correlate a picture to a word/concept, they can remember it much better.

So building on this, I have made it so that most things I present in my ELA class (reading and writing skills) have pictures that accompany any words that go on my Word Wall:

We all know that pictures help students remember more and these free reading and writing skills cards are perfect for any ELA class!
Get a free set of these cards by clicking here!

Plus, I have incorporated these same pictures into my own brand of notes called Pixanotes:

Pixanotes are a blend of 2-column notes and interactive visuals that boost comprehension and recall!  Get a free sample!

These notes have four differentiation options:
1.  Fully printed content and pictures. (Students highlight key words.)
2.  Fully printed content and picture flaps (Students highlight key words and match up pictures.)
3.  Fill-in-the-blanks content and fully printed pictures. (Students use a word bank.)
4.  Fill-in-the-blanks content and picture flaps. (Students use a word bank and match up pictures.)

Try a sample for free by clicking the image below!

You can also see them in action here:

Some days teaching a full class of non-English speakers seems daunting, but this list actually helps me remember the things I can do and I hope it helps you too! 

Thanks for stopping by!

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, Developing Ideas and Characters!

Want to get started with teaching this 4 step Process?  Enter your e-mail below and get the word wall and dominoes set for free!

Or if you'd like to check out my PowerPoints with INB foldables or maybe even the entire mini-unit (that includes both PowerPoints), that are ready-to-use, click on any of 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!