What Matters Most

I am happy to join Jackie in Room 213 for this great topic and hop!

I have been thinking about this very idea rather intently for the past few weeks, especially as it relates to state testing.

So, I decided to put my purpose as a teacher into words on a video to help motivate my students for The Test.  
(You can read about that and see my video {here} )

Then, I decided to ask my students about their purpose - why do they come to school?  What matters most to them at home and school?

Here are some of the more interesting responses (I learned a lot!).

This stood out to me because the student is most concerned about doing well for her Mom.  I hope she also wants to do well for herself!

I am paying careful attention to the word "need" here.  That one word says a lot to me.

This one does not surprise me as this is the one whose parents have opted her out of all state testing.  However it does concern me because it makes it hard for me to engage the student if everything is a battle.  Who knows? Maybe I can show her that coming to school can be something she might actually choose.

I think this student know that lots of students will say that the reason they come to school is to learn so he adds "really" to let me know he is genuine.  I like that.

Did you notice that this student does not value her family and that she wants to be better than her parents?  It makes me concerned for what's going on at home but it gives me a way to make learning more valuable too.  

This last one struck me because she values food and  is not convinced that school will make a difference in her life.  I will be sure to work with guidance on the food and obviously need to find out her career plans so I can get her a mentor.  

Amazing what you can learn when you ask what matters most, isn't it?

Thanks for stopping by!

Getting Crafty with Secondary Smorgasbord

This Smorgasbord is brought to you by:

I, myself, am in need of some fresh ideas as I am in the midst of "testing season" as I like to call it.  

Our new state testing began yesterday, April 13, and is scheduled to end on May 22 (with make-ups).  That's 6 weeks of odd schedules, long hours in "holding" until all tests are complete, sharing classrooms, and middle school kids with testing fever.

My remedy?

Well, I thought about going all Charlotte Gilman and becoming part of the wallpaper but then the wallpaper got me thinking... I could just be a bit more crafty...

We are meant to use these consumable test prep books made especially for our new state tests.  I cannot imagine using these for 130 minutes straight while the other grade level tests so my plan is to read a story, answer the questions, go over the questions and then make a related craft.  After all, this is the one thing we never get to do in middle school anymore so this is my chance!

The first story in the book is from Jules Verne's Five Weeks in a Balloon.  So we are going to make hot air balloon pictures! 

I found this great template for hot air balloons for free!


I will ask students to write the adventurous things they want to do or places they want to go in the sections on the balloon and then I am going to get out my water colors and we are going to paint while I play classical music.

I used to do a painting project like this years ago with middle schoolers and it was the most relaxing, therapeutic, and dare I say cathartic experience ever.  I hope I can re-create it!  Or maybe I'll just replicate it if this goes well!  :)

After making the hot air balloons, we will make text structure collages in teams/groups.  Each team will find pictures to represent the 5 common text structures.  We'll present them and tie them in with our prep books. 

Yes, I think crafts will help us prepare us for our tests without numbing our minds!  

Thanks for stopping by!

Sparking Motivation with Purpose!

I am super thankful for Joanne's weekly motivation linky as I always find the best ideas for rallying the troops there!

We are entering "testing season" and I know it's going to be a rough 5 weeks.  Naturally, I want my students to do well but I wanted them to know why I want them to do well.

Is it because I am a staunch testing proponent?  
Is it because I love to make their lives miserable?

Or is is because of something else - like what I believe is my purpose for teaching?

So then I showed them this video I made:

It's my first attempt to put my purpose into "words" and when I told them after the video that the testing preparations are for them as in "It's not for me, it's for you.  I want you to do well", there was quiet, respectful silence.

That kind of silence means they got it and it resonated with them.  At least for the next 5 minutes.  :)  

For an exit ticket, I asked the students to tell me what they believe is their purpose.  Unfortunately, I left them at school but they were deeper than I thought they would be.  
(I'll have to update this post with pictures - click here to see the exit tickets.)

Of course, I will have to remind them why we are moving down the testing path, but the video will be in their "files" and as I remind them, hopefully it will help them remain motivated to stay the course.  

Thanks for stopping by!

Five For Friday ~ Top 5 Things to do with The Giver by Lois Lowry

It's been forever since I've linked up with Doodle Bugs Teaching, so I am past due!

My 8th grade ELA class and I  have been reading The Giver Lois Lowry so this week I thought I would share the 5 best things we have done with the book thus far.

We have been thoroughly enjoying using this flipbook by Study All Knight:

It helps me keep everything organized and is a perfect companion to the book!

Have you seen the new Taco Bell commercial?

It has some of the same themes as The Giver and it's definitely attention-getting!  Plus some students had seen it on TV so it's a great way to connect to the "real world".  

I used this to highlight the concept of conformity before we read a poem with the same theme which is up next.

Since our new state test is just around the corner, I  needed to review figurative language with my students.  So I found a great poem to go with the book.  It's called "The Unknown Citizen" by W.H. Auden.  Since it's copyrighted, I don't think I can display it here but I can tell you that it is an obituary that chronicles a man's life who is only known by his number.  

It tells how he followed every rule and held all the right opinions from the perspective of some government agent who apparently had every agency contribute to this obituary.  Then once the reader arrives at the end, you realize the cost of such conformity.  This naturally sparks a great conversation about conformity in our world.

We read the above poem and analyzed it for figurative language.  We looked for metaphors, similes, hyberboles, and personification.

The we looked for these same kinds of figurative language in the book and recorded them as well as the ones from the poem here:

This flipbook has all the definitions, space for class examples, student examples and examples from books. It's a great review piece and a way to collect information for our study.

(Can you tell I have a thing for flipbooks recently?)

Lastly, we have decided that from our perspective, one of the conflicts of the book is the lack of choices.  So the students were asked to make motivating posters about choice using the ideas below as a springboard.  I encouraged them to use figurative language if they could for bonus points, but that was probably a stretch.  :)

Thanks for stopping by!

Anchors Away ~ Writing Short Answer Responses

It's been a while since I've joined Deb at Crafting Connections for this inspiring linky, but I'm back at it now! :)

We will be taking our new state reading assessments in one week.  What we know about them is that there will be many new types of questions including ones that require short answer responses.

We have been working on it using the ACE strategy from Lovin' Lit but many of my students have still been struggling with it so I/we made this:

Writing Short Answer Responses with ACE(S) & Pixanote® !

UPDATE:  Since my students still weren't "getting it", I made picture notes for them not too long after this post with different symbols that represented what they needed to do each step of the way: 

Pixanotes® is a great tool for students to use to learn how to write short answer responses!

You won't believe it, but I actually had an unscheduled (nail-biting) observation when I first used them and it turned out very well!
 You can read all about it here:

Now back to the rest of the post:

We'll continue to work on this skill this week with The Giver. Our unit of study has us comparing/contrasting themes from various texts.  So we'll also take some time to look at a poem or two that connects to the novel to ensure we have brushed up on our figurative language skills.

We'll make that anchor chart this week.  I think I'll take these FREE posters that I found on Pinterest and then have my class make up their own examples to post with them:

We'll see how it turns out. :)  Thanks for stopping by!

Top 3 April Pinterest Picks!

In some places, April showers bring May flowers.  Here, they bring the Top 3 Pinterest Picks!  :)

A big thanks to PAWSatively Teaching and Inspired Owl's Corner for being the hostesses!

Since it's April, and poetry month, you can bet we're going to be reading and writing some poetry so that's where all my picks come from.

First up is this FREE organizer that I am going to use with my middle school students.

Original website source
Pin source
  We are currently reading The Giver by Lois Lowry and the poems we will be reading are connected to the novel.  One of the poems I plan to read is "The Human Abstract" by William Blake and it's quite rigorous.  I think this organizer will help us to break it down. 

Next up is some poetry writing - this one is specific to tone.

Original website source
Pin Source
This post includes many ways to teach tone and then it culminates with this "art poetry" by which a reader should be able to determine the tone of the passage by looking at the selected words and the art.  This is quite rigorous, but the results could be amazing!

Last, but not least, we have some poetry WITH word choice:

Pin source
Original website source

I love this idea because it is not only poetry, it helps to increase more vivid word choice!  I see this as a way to do two things at once and the end product is not only efficient, but it's pretty too!

Well, that does it for me, but check out some other great pins below:

Thanks for stopping by!