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Top 3 Tips For Movement in the Middle School Classroom

Middle School Activities and Ideas for Movement in the Classroom.  #teaching #tips #tools


We all know that obesity in children is on the rise.  (Fortnite, anyone?)  So, we know the students need more movement  - but in Middle School?  Where the students are already all over the place?  Are you kidding me?

That's what I thought when I first heard this was the subject of our professional development after a long day in class.  

Then the presenter started showing us some games - but not just gallery walks, brain breaks or other simple exercises - actual ways to incorporate games and movement as part of the lessons.

Some of the ideas were not new - they were "old" cooperative learning tactics but renewed with movement.  Soon I started to think about how I could adapt my favorite learning techniques and add in movement.


Do you want to incorporate more movement into your Middle School classroom?  Try "Slide"!  #teaching #tips #activities


The first game I came up with is something I call "Slide".

Two rows of students face each other.  One row has the questions on index cards with answers.  The other row has to answer the questions.  As a pair faces one another, if a student answers correctly, they switch places.  Soon, the teacher calls "Slide!" and the answer people move one space to the right to face a new partner with a new question.

I keep calling "Slide" until I believe that all questions and answers have been revealed enough times.

It's fun and can be used with any topic.  It can be used with task cards or with questions & answers that you put on index cards.  


Get your Middle School students up and moving with this school version of "Deal or No Deal"!  #teaching #tips #activities #movementintheclassroom


You could use the same task cards/index cards to play a version of "Deal or No Deal" by placing the cards inside numbered file folders.  The first student up has to choose a number and when the contents of that numbered folder are revealed, they must answer the question correctly to get the folder and have another turn.  Otherwise, that file holder is allowed to move to the front of the room.


Here's a game that can be adapted to ANY subject area that will also increase the movement in your Middle School classroom! #teaching #tips #activities


The last game I have is "Tic-Tac-Toe".  Super quick prep using nothing more than those task cards/index cards and your whiteboard:


1.  Divide the class into two teams.  One is the “x” team and one is the “o” team.
2.  Draw a tic-tac-toe board on the whiteboard.
3.  Ask a question to the first member of the “x” team. If he/she is correct, then he/she places the x on the board!  If he/she is incorrect, he/she simply lose the chance to place the “x” on the board.
4.  Now repeat #3 with the “o” team. 

5.  Continue with each member of each team until you have a winner with 3 in a row!  You might even give bonus points as a prize!


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Reading Test Prep in ONE Week!

Middle School Reading Test Prep Review:  Fun Activity when you are short on time!  #teaching #languagearts #quick #easy #smallgroups


It's that time of year again!  
Time to review for the Big State Test in Reading.

So I polled my students to see what they thought were the best kinds of review.  It probably comes as no surprise to you that my middle school students said "competition"!

So I put on my thinking cap to figure out what I could do to make a fun and productive review.  Then I had it - The Racing Ruckus!

It will work like this:

1.  I will intentionally group students into teams of 4.

2.  They will choose a team name and a team car.  The car will be labeled and placed on the track.

3.  Each day we will have a short mini-lesson on a few standards.  I will show a PowerPoint with definitions and examples and students will record the information in a mini-book.

4.  Then students will each have to answer practice questions on the mini-lesson in their groups.


Middle School Reading Test Prep:  Have Fun Teaching and Reviewing in the Classroom with this Activity and Game!  #languagearts #learning #comprehensionquestions


5.  I will draw a number.  The student in each group who has that number will answer for the group.  The groups with the right answers earn a point and can move their car to the next flag on the track.

6.  Every time a team passes the finish line (thus completing a lap), they will get a Lap Point.  The team with the most lap points after the state test is done, will earn the big reward.  I will post the Lap Points for each team and each class period on the Leader Board to rev up the competition.  ;)

7.  For individual accountability, there will be exit tickets.  Those who score proficiently will earn their team bonus miles on the track.

We only have a week to do this, so it's "Go time!"  I know the kids will love racing against each other and hopefully, this will make enough of an impression on them to commit the skills to memory just before the big test!

If you'd like to give this a try, I have a PowerPoint, mini-book, and practice sheets all prepared for eight out of nine fiction & nonfiction standards.  The only one missing is multimedia!  It's all prepped and ready to go!


Review almost all of the Middle School Reading Skills in one week!  #fun #testprep #languagearts #teaching



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Nonfiction Made Easy!



I recently had the pleasure of talking with Danielle from Study All Knight Resources about one the best digital tools for nonfiction - NewsELA!

The main thing I love about it is that you can select your grade and the standards you want your students to work with and NewsELA will show you articles from all kinds of subject areas with online quizzes to match!

Want to learn more?  Watch the video below:



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Essay Writing Hack for Struggling Students


Teaching Essay Writing?  Try this hack for helping struggling Middle School Students!


This year I am teaching 7th grade English Language Arts and I have two full classes of all ELL students.

As a result, I had the very difficult task of teaching 48 students who speak Portuguese, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Arabic and French as their first language how to write a text-based essay.

This was pretty new to all of them as no one would admit that they ever had to write a text-based essay in their country.

So I had to get creative.

At the outset, I taught them the parts of an essay with self-made videos and picture notes.  We used those notes as a reference with a fill-in-the-blank essay.  That seemed to work well enough but they still didn't seem to truly get it.
So then recently, I had an idea -  Essay Task Cards.  I took the prompt that we were working on and wrote out an essay.  Then I made a task card for each of the sentences.  


There's more than one way to learn the structure of an essay!  #teaching #middleschool


I had the students work in groups of 4 with 4 task cards at a time.  They decided on the answers together and if they couldn't agree, I would settle the disagreement.  ;)

The students put their answers on specially made answer sheets where they were required to write out the entire answer.   Once a student had filled in every box, he/she had an essay!  

Then we used the checklists to decide where the paragraphs would be in the essays.  Finally, students wrote out the essays on notebook paper.

There were so many "A-ha!" moments during this activity.  Students really got into the idea of identifying the right answer and understanding why it was right.  Then to see it all put together, it was like magic!  They were genuinely working to write and felt like they accomplished something big when they were finished!


It's like training wheels for an essay! #teaching #middleschool


I know that next year, I will definitely try this earlier and more often because it really helped the students make sense of essays.

Want to try this with your own students?  I have a prompt, texts, an organizer/checklist and task cards with answers all ready to go - just click here!

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Essay Champs and Mud Pies!


Motivate your Middle School Essay Writers with this Activity!


Our Big State Writing Test is nearly upon us, so I knew I needed to get creative to get my students motivated!

First of all, I talked about the Super Bowl.

Me:  "So when the two teams that are going to be in the Super Bowl are getting ready, do they say 'Man!  This stinks!  I don't want to play in the stupid 'ol Super Bowl!' ?"  (I walk around and kick at the floor with an exaggerated tone.)

Students:  "No!" with sincerely incredulous looks on their faces. (They probably thought I'd lost my mind.)

Me:  Right!  Of course not!  Instead, they run around screaming "We're gonna win because we're the best and we're awesome and the other team doesn't stand a chance and when we win, we're gonna go to Disney World!"  (And I literally screamed this like I was a football player.  So then they were sure I'd lost my mind!)

But then I said "Our big state test is like our Super Bowl - a Super Bowl for writing.  You should be excited to go in there and show what you know - to show that you are the best and that you are a winner!"

Then I went on - "We've been training for months - with running 'writing laps' by writing in our journals, and doing 'writing push-ups' when we correct our writing, and even doing some 'writing sit-ups' when we write double-entry journals.  Now we're ready for some regular season games.  This is the Mud Pie league."

Then I explained that there would be several "games" - tasks really - and for each "win" (successful completion of a task), they would earn one piece of a puzzle.  On the appointed day, whatever the completed puzzle showed was awarded.  The full puzzle showed a pudding cup surrounded by various add-ins like sprinkles and chocolate chips to make a "mudpie".


The Mud Pie League motivated my Middle School students to be better essay writers!


Each day I would go around and check students' papers.  If they had completed a task correctly, I awarded a puzzle piece and signed their checklist.  If they had a mistake, they had to find the "fix" in their writing folder, notes, flashcards or on the videos I made for them.  

Then on the next go around, I would re-check anything they'd like and repeat the process for signing the checklist and giving out puzzle pieces.

I did this for one solid week from Monday through Friday.  On Friday, I gave them all "overtime" but at the bell, time was up!  The following Monday students would receive their awards for jobs well done.

Overall, I count this as a success as students had to struggle a bit to find answers and write essays that would score well on the state rubric but students were definitely engaged and learning!  They worked for their reward by putting in the effort to write and be essay champs!

Want to try the "Mudpie League" with your students?  You can check out the ready-to-use activity by clicking here.

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Easy Memory Improvement Idea


Quick and Easy Memory Improvement Idea for your Middle School Classroom!  #memory #teaching


My students are preparing for our state's big writing test.  We've been working on essays all year long but they still seem to be struggling with the basics?  How can this be?  

They aren't memorizing the basics.

Why?  Well, I sat down to try and figure this out when I read this great post by Secondary Sara:

Secrets From the Tutor: What Your Secondary Students Need This Year


In that article, it explains how even though we as teachers think we have said something 100 times, it's because we say it 6 times a day and so it feels like we're repeating ourselves incessantly.  However, to the student, they have heard that information just one period a day and that information is competing for space in their brain along with 6 other classes, after-school sports, clubs, and other activities.

It was like an "Ah-ha!" moment for me as I realized that my students need more repetition than I thought they did; They need more re-teaching and more time.

My solution:  Flashcard books!


Flashcard books are great teaching tools for kids to help them with organization of ideas!  #vocabulary #DIY


Every day we review some part or function of an essay.  Then we record it in our flashcard book.  That night, they are to study all the flashcards that have information on them.  The next day, I ask each student one question from what was on the cards out loud at the start of the period.  If the student gets it right, it's a 100.  If the students is on the right track, but not "there", it's a 75%.  If it's wrong or they do not remember, it's a 50%.  I mark this on a copy of my roster and at the end of the week I average their scores and enter that average as one grade under the title "Verbal Quiz".  

To make sure that I ask every person a question, I have all my students' names on popsicle sticks.  As I draw a name, I put it back inside the cup but inside a paper towel holder.  


This is how to make flashcards work in your middle school classroom!  #engagement #study


As we add at least 1 card each day, any question can be asked of any card so it's a cumulative kind of thing.  Each day we are building up our knowledge.  It's also quick and easy to see who is studying.  Since my students care about their grades, this works very well.  I have seen students who were not able to answer the first or second day, come in on the third ready to go.  

I tend to come up with my questions on the spot, but that's probably because I have been teaching for 23 years.  If you think you might need a little more structure, then maybe this would help:


This is exactly what I used with my students last week.  Instead of doing a little each day, I wanted to get model introduction, body and conclusion paragraphs in the notebooks and the basic information in the flashcards.  We have just about 6 weeks before our big test so I need to get going!  However, if you have more time, you could do a little each day which was my original plan until all sorts of other school testing and such got in the way...  


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My Top 5 Tips To Start The New Year Right!

Happy New Year!




School will resume soon and so I thought I'd share how I plan to #startstrong in 2018!

1 - First, we'll play an expectations review game.  


Middle School Lesson Ideas for the New Year  - Mrs. Spangler's Top Tips!  #teaching #newyear


I write 11 questions on index cards and then the 11 answers on separate index cards.  Then I'll pass out one card to every student as they enter the room.  After everyone finds their NEW seats (which is on one side of an index card tent), I'll ask them to find their partner - all questions must have answers.  :)

2 - Next, I plan to read this picture book:

Click on the title to see this book.  This is an affiliate link.

This book is about how one person took what was trash and turned it into something beautiful.  This has a double meaning for me and my students.  We currently have a problem with trash at our over-crowded school and I'd like to open the discussion in what we can do to solve it.  Plus, I want to help my students realize that they can take what seems to be a problem and make something positive out of it in a growth mindset kind of way.  The way I see it, students need to see that they can take ownership of a "problem area" at school and turn it around.

3 - Then it will be time to set goals related to the trash and/or taking ownership of problem areas.  But not just any old goal that we just say we're going to accomplish - this needs to be for real with steps to accomplish it.  

4 - Next it will be time to think of one word that summarizes our goals and put that on the other side of that index card tent (that gave them their new seat) as a daily reminder.


New Year Tips for Middle School Classrooms - Get a Free Essay Vocabulary Review Printable!

I'll need to be patient as our goals will take time.  Plus, it will take patience as we review what we learned in the first semester - especially when it seems like the students have forgotten everything!


5 - Last, but not least, we will tie it all together to focus on what we need to accomplish in class.  In our case, our big state writing test is March 6th.  We will have just a little less than 2 months to get our game on!  

So that's a challenge that will require some creative thinking like the one demonstrated in the book above!   But I have a plan!
We will start the essay challenge with reviewing vocabulary using a fortune teller!  


Free Printable - Essay Vocabulary Review Fortune Teller!


We'll see how it goes!

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