A Peek at my Week


First, my students and I will be coming back from being off for an entire week AND then we have to take benchmark tests (math, reading, writing) PLUS begin our "plot diagram" unit with SpringBoard - our required textbook.  Whew!  

With all of that, I want to "lighten the mood" and I know that I can teach the same objectives with something more Christmas-y, you know?  

So...#2....It's a good thing that the Cyber Monday Sales are upon us!!

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#3....And I just saw exactly what I needed at I'm Lovin' Lit!!


#4....I too will be offering my products for the full 28% off at Teachers Pay Teachers.

#5....I would particularly like to spotlight my 12 week Expository Essay unit which I am giving away to one lucky winner!

You can get the whole first week for free HERE to see what you think.  In this file you will find the entire 12 week table of contents/lesson plans.  The unit contains:

And if you end up not being the one lucky winner tomorrow, you can still opt to buy the unit at a nice savings!  

Thanks for stopping by & Enjoy the sales!

Wishlist Wednesday

I confess:  I USED to be a Black Friday shopper.  I did not, however, push, pull or fight.  I enjoyed the thrill of the hunt.  

But this year, the sales just start too darn early and I cannot justify going when I would have to sacrifice that special family time.

So I will just have to settle for Cyber Monday!

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All of my products will be 20% off and that means everyone ends up getting the full 28% off!

My start on TpT was in 2000 with reading comprehension games.  I write setting, character, plot and theme questions using Bloom's Taxonomy for popular novels.  The games are generally played like the TV show Jeopardy but I include other ideas for small groups and even assessments.


I have been recently improving the games' "look" as I have been learning more and more about such things.  I am starting with my best sellers and working my way down the list.  Here is my favorite feedback from my game about Freak the Mighty:

But now, my wishlist:


They are Reading Exit Slips by Melissa O'Bryan.  I do not know her but have her products on my list because I need help with closing my lessons.  :)  Plus they look like they will help give me some direction on my mini-lessons.  And let's face it, with special education, it's all about mini-lessons!

Now for something I just learned from Jivey:

So now you have an even better reason to work on your feedback!  You can get an even bigger discount and completely maximize your cyber shopping!  

There's also a sale at Teacher's Notebook where they offer bundling:

AND, I'm offering a Giveaway for my 12 week Expository Essay Unit:

Thanks & Enjoy!

Tried it Tuesday - Common Core Writing

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As a middle school teacher in Florida, for years we have been entrenched in FCAT Writes.  (FCAT is our Florida Standardized testing).  With the Common Core upon us (although Florida hasn't officially decided if we will go to Common Core or not), I have had to make some shifts.

For FCAT, the pattern for writing a body paragraph is this:
-topic sentence with reason from thesis.
-definition of reason
-example of reason
-anecdote about reason
-closing sentence with connection to thesis.

Now enter Common Core!  This is what we have been told the pattern must be:
-topic sentence with reason for thesis
-supporting detail #1 about reason 
-evidence that backs up supporting detail #1
-supporting detail #2
-evidence that backs up supporting detail #2
-closing (optional)

Now it is important for me to tell you that I have grades 6-8 in the same room at the same time as I teach Special Education because my 8th graders will still take FCAT in February while the others seem likely to take the PARCC next year.  So my challenge was how to make writing essays work for everybody.  Time for some BRAINSTORMING!

What I came up with is using both sets of terms to combine ideas. 

Since my students LOVE Spongebob, we read and watched an episode of Spongebob.  Then the prompt was:   Which is your favorite character?   We made a plan for our three reasons and then filled in a kind of FLEE map with this structure:

-topic sentence with reason from thesis.  
Spongebob is my favorite character because he is kind.

-definition=supporting detail.  [What Spongebob says or does that  seems kind.]
He is very kind to his friend Patrick.

-example & anecdote = evidence (proof that he is kind)
I remember a time when Patrick almost completely beat up Spongebob because he was in a Krabby Patty costume that Patrick thought had eaten Spongebob.  Spongebob didn't get mad at Patrick even though it hurt to be pounded out of that costume.

-definition=supporting detail.  [What Spongebob says or does that  seems kind.]
Spongebob is also kind to Squidward.

-example & anecdote = evidence (proof that he is kind)
Squidward is always yelling at Spongebob because he thinks Spongebob is annoying.  Spongebob never yells back at Squidward and even tells Squidward that he's glad they're friends.  

That's why Spongebob's kindness makes him the best character.

Of course we went back and added different adjectives, synonyms, vivid verbs and so on but at least the scaffolding seemed to help us get ideas down on paper.  

This was tough for my students from the get-go but since they love Spongebob, this made it a bit easier.  They all wrote their final copies on the last day before Thanksgiving break and at a first glance, they look pretty good!  I just hope we can make this shift without too much confusion so my 8th graders still can do their very best on the last FCAT writes.  

I am giving away my 12 week unit for Expository Essays this week. Feel free to check out the Lesson Plan oragnizer for the entire unit and the first week's worth of lessons HERE and then enter the giveaway if you like what you see.  Or you can also purchase it at the Cyber sale!  :)

Thanks & Enjoy!

Expository Essay time with a FREEBIE!

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Happy Thanksgiving week!  

If you are like me, you are doing all you can to maximize this week's "Black Friday" sales for your classroom.

Well I have great news for you!

I am holding a giveaway for my 12 week Expository Essay unit!

I believe that kids think essays are boring and "tune out".  It is important to teach the writing process and six traits along with the terms like "thesis" and "predicate" but the students need some kind of interest catcher to get them engaged.  

How about rich, ooey-gooey, luscious cupcakes?   

I give the prompt:  There are many kinds of different foods for dessert.  Think about your favorite dessert food.  Now write an essay to tell why this dessert food is your favorite.  

Then I tell the students that we will write this essay together and so I picked cupcakes.  And since we need to do a little research, each person will need to eat a cupcake.

You'd think we'd all just won the lottery!  The students LOVE this!  Of course, it's all very structured and no one HAS to eat the cupcake.   However, since we've had such an engaging beginning, students are more invested in the process.  The process I speak of and use in my 12 week unit is all very structured and organized and includes:

So now the FREEBIE!  

Week one of my unit with the lesson plan organizer for all 12 weeks is HERE for free.  Take a look - you might want to enter the giveaway or snag the unit during the sale this weekend!

Freebie Fridays

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Thanks & Enjoy!

Responsive Classroom and a FREEBIE

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Have you heard of Responsive Classroom or Tribes Learning Community?  

These are ways of creating community in your classroom (or even at the school level).  Both are primarily targeted towards elementary schools, but I think why not middle school?

So I have been working on making my own adjustments to make it work for me.   I use the Tribes agreements (some people call them "rules") and now I am trying the Responsive Classroom model to start a lesson.  

First, there is a morning message:

Next, students gather in a circle and greet one another by going around the circle and saying good morning or giving a high five or whatever you choose.  Then students share whatever you prompted them about on the morning message.  Finally there's an active activity related to the learning goal for that day.  

This is where it's challenging for me.  Right now we are working on expository writing.  So on Monday I think I will give each student a different piece of a paragraph we made in class and ask them to put it all together - like a puzzle.   

(Disclaimer:  I teach special education and our paragraph is still a bit awkward so please understand it's a work in progress.)

And that's the FREEBIE for this week!  You can get it HERE  on Google Docs.

After the activity, students return to their seat to move on with the rest of the lesson. So, in essence, this is just an "starter" for the lesson but this is great way to meet Marzano's design question #5 with:
  • Using Physical Movement
  • Maintaining a Lively Pace
  • Providing Unusual or Intriguing Information
  • Providing Opportunities for Students to Talk about Themselves 

There are other pieces to Responsive Classroom and Tribes - but that's a post for another day.  :)