End of the Year Novel Projects for Middle School!

What do you do when it's the end of the year and the students are restless?  Try this! #teaching #middleschool

What do you do when it's the end of the year, the kids are bouncing off the walls and your administration directly informed you that there must be an academic focus through the end of the last day?

Multimedia Projects!

We just finished reading The Giver and had a Socratic Seminar to review the themes.  

Socratic Seminar Questions for The Giver!  #teaching #middleschool

Everyone had some strong feelings after that!  So I thought why not have the students have a chance to put their strongest feelings into a video?

First, I made a rubric with directions:

Middle School Multimedia Project for The Giver!  #teaching #projectbasedlearning

Then I made and showed the students an example video that I made with Animoto:

Students can work independently or with one partner and we will watch the videos on the last day of school.

What I love about this project is that it ties our novel study, their understanding of theme and their use of technology all into one!  And I am sure it will be administration approved!

You can get the rubric and directions for free in my members-only resource library when you sign up to join the Teacher Troop!

Thanks for stopping by!

Summer Goals Link Up

Thank you to Miss Monica at I Heart Grade 3 for hosting this linky!

It is perfect timing for me as we have 7 days of school left!

I am completely in "wind-down" mode as I am beginning to pack my classroom and set my sights on the summer.  Every summer, I like to read and go on trips with my family as well as do lots of swimming.  This summer will be no exception.  

It's just that the location of our trip this summer starts in Vegas!
Yup, I'm going!  It's my first time and I am super excited but also super nervous!  
(What will I say to all these sellers and bloggers I admire?  Do I measure up?  Will I have brought all the right things?)

Nevermind.  My goal is simple:  to learn as much as I can.  

After Vegas, my family and I are going to Arizona to show our boys our old stomping grounds (we attended Northern Arizona University together) along with the Grand Canyon, Painted Desert/Petrified Forest and then down to Tucson to see some friends and Tombstone before heading home.  

Then my next goal is to put to use all that I have learned in Vegas.

And I am hoping that not only will I be a better blogger and seller, but that I will find some great teaching ideas too.  Interacting with other teachers is always the best professional development!

So that's it - my summer goals are to read, play with my family and learn!

Thanks for stopping by!

Five Top Tips for Sailing Into Summer

Summer is only 12 days away - 12!  

There are still tons of things to do before closing down shop for the summer and here are my "fast five" top tips for Sailing into Summer:

I have always enjoyed telling my students that there will be a final exam during the last week of school.  They gasp and groan and I just say "Be Ready!" with a wry smile.

What I actually do is have a team Jeopardy competition with questions that cover anything and everything we learned that year. Sometimes, I even ask the students to write the questions (with answers) to submit for "the test".   

Then, we play the game and I give out treats to the teams.  :)

This year, we have "End of Course Exams" so I really cannot play this trick on them - it would be too cruel.  So after our test, we will instead focus on Socratic Seminars for the book we have been reading and making videos regarding our findings.

One thing that worked very well for me this year after various tweaks, was my behavior system.

I give out tickets for good behavior, answering questions, and for grades.  Then, each week, there is a drawing.  If I draw your ticket, you can choose the "sure thing" (a starburst or jolly rancher) or what's in box #1, box #2, or box #3.

I put chips in one box, a candy bar in one box, and some kind of school supply or some other "zonker" in the last box.

How many tickets do I draw, you ask?  Well, that's the beauty!  I keep a tally on my board that reflects whole class behavior and the number of tallies = the number of draws.

My students have really loved this!

One thing I think I would like to change for next year is to use my classroom door (which I forgot to take a picture of and is black) as a motivational piece.  Each period I stand outside my door and welcome the students inside with the door wide open.  On that blank canvas, I would like to put some motivating quotes like:

source:  Instagram from middleschoolmotivation (Burton Bell)

I would put up one new quote a week and then use that quote as a writing prompt on say, a Wednesday, after the students have had the opportunity to see and digest the quote for two days.  

I saw this on Pinterest and I think this is a perfect gift for my para!

I am definitely making this for my para this year and I know she will love it!

Last, but not least, an organizational tip.  But first, a disclaimer - I do not have a very organized storage system in my classroom.  I aspire to be much more organized, however, and in my aspirations, I have discovered this one little tidbit that has helped me:

Making a list of my most commonly used resources with their location.

I know, it's not exciting, but I tend to pack up my things and then forget where I packed them.  Then I spend what seems like forever searching for (and sometimes not finding) various tried and true resources.

Honestly, I know I need a better system, but it has to be shall we say, inexpensive.  I have seen hoards of very impressive bins with fancy labels but that would cost a small fortune that I cannot justify right now.  So if you have any suggestions, I am all ears!  :)

Thanks for stopping by!

Relaxing and Recharging with Secondary Smorgasbord!

This Smorgasbord is brought to you by:

School is winding down - our last day with students is June 3rd.  Then there's 2 days of post-planning where we pack up and turn in our keys.  It still won't feel real - that summer is here and I can actually do what I want.

So the first thing my family does is to go to Vero Beach, FL to unwind - or "decompress" as we call it - so our hearts can feel what our heads tell us is true - that it's summer, so we can relax!

We always stay at the Disney resort where life is very laid back and you can just sit in the sand or by the pool all day long if you like.  You can fish, eat smores, take lovely walks, and eat some great seafood.

That usually takes us down a few notches before we come home and settle into a summer routine that mostly includes a Junior Gator day camp for 3 days for my son in Gainesville and lots of swimming in our neighbor's pool.

I never realized it until I put all these pictures together, but I guess most of my R & R revolves around water and being with my kids.  Maybe it's because I'm a Pisces or maybe it's just that focusing on my children gives me peace.  

Whatever it is, it works because after a few weeks of this "hydro-therapy", my brain relaxes and then the ideas and creativity come freely and not just in the shower anymore!  :)

Thanks for stopping by!

I appreciate Deb from Crafting Connections!

It's teacher appreciation week and there are lots of great teachers out there to choose from to honor with this great linky I discovered this on Diane's blog at Fifth in the Middle:

I have met so many wonderful people through blogging and I cannot wait to meet them in "real life" this summer in Vegas.

One of those people is Deb at Crafting Connections.

I'm not sure if Deb knows this or not, but she has been like a mentor to me.  

I have learned so much from her about blogging just by reading hers.  I always get great ideas every time I read her blog!
  Her ideas for teaching concepts in a "crafty" way always appeal to kids with various needs.  She is great at breaking down concepts with her anchor charts and making them accessible as well as fun.  Whether the concept is context clues or perspectives - Deb has a creative way to teach it!

Plus, she is just a nice person.  She has answered my questions, invited me to join in celebrations and even helped me review/edit a product or two!

So Deb, I appreciate you very much!  Thank you for being a great bloggy friend and inspiration!

What Works - Teacher Appreciation Day 2 with bundles and deals!

Welcome to Day 2 of Teacher Appreciation Week!  If you missed out yesterday, you can check out some great teaching secrets for your classroom HERE.   Also, you don't want to miss out on the two giveaways we are hosting this week.  If you didn't enter yesterday, you can do so now.  Make sure you enter for both prize bundles so you have double the chances to win!

Enter to Win Prize Bundle #2 Here

Enter to Win Prize Bundle #1 Here

Today, we are offering a collection of high quality classroom resources at a huge discount.  Below is a list of Best Selling Resources that have been discounted by 20%.  You can receive an additional 10% off at checkout by using the code THANKYOU.

An InLinkz Link-up

We have also put together a collection of $1.00 Deals to help stock up your classroom for the rest of the year and next year.  I know I have added several of these deals to my cart.  Don't forget to use the code THANKYOU at checkout for maximum savings!

What Works - My Top 3 Teacher Secrets + HUGE Giveaway!

It's Teacher Appreciation Week!
I truly appreciate all the teachers who have worked hard to not allow the seemingly endless stream of tests take the joy out of teaching and learning.  Teachers and Students are MUCH, MUCH more than a test or evaluation score.

To celebrate this week, I am sharing my Top 3 Teaching "Secrets"!
Now since I teach middle school, routine means using the same board configuration every day and the same beginning of the class pattern.  I have always found that if students know what to expect, they do much better.  I even try to keep my homework pretty much the same.  

My pattern is this: I greet the students at the door.  I will direct them to get their book out of the cabinet.  Once the bell rings, I play a song.  The students know they have until that song is done to write in their planner and take their bell work paper out of their books.  I walk around and sign planners for right about the first 1/2 of the year, then I sign them less and less so it's just a good habit.

Then after the song, I always start with a student reading the learning target and then connecting it our scale/learning goals.  Next we go over the bell work and then begin the "meat" of the lesson for that class period.

Made by Amy Mezni on Teachers Pay Teachers

I like a themed scale because I can make ties to the students with it.
For example, instead of level 3 just being "on target", I tell them that's our touchdown.  I think I get better "buy-in".

Last but not least, we end with an exit ticket.  Many days I just have them answer a question from the board on recycled paper.  Some days I use the student responders if I have time to get them out while the students are working independently.


I pride myself in being particularly good at breaking things down for my students.  I guess it's the special needs teacher in me, but I try to think of all the steps one would need in order to accomplish any given task.  

For example, this year our new state test required students to write short answers with text evidence and an explanation.  I used the ACE materials from I'm Lovin' Lit's Interactive notebook as our starting point and then began asking myself questions.

First comes the answer.  How do we begin the answer?  The strategy is to restate the question as the answer so we used some great task cards from Rachel Lynette to practice this.


Next comes the evidence.  Could we underline information in the text that supports our answer?  Do we know what 'supports our answer' means?

Then last comes the explanation.  What does the evidence prove?  We need to "comment" on that.

Then we can tie it all together with a very catchy song and video!


I have tweaked and re-tweaked my behavior management system for middle school and I have found that tickets work best nearly every time.

I give a ticket to students who follow our beginning of the class pattern and have their planner filled out and bell work ready before the song ends.  I give 2 tickets for every 100 on a test or assignment and 1 ticket for every 90.  I give tickets for answering questions when I call on a student as I pick their name out of my cup.  I give out tickets for someone caught being kind.  I give out tickets for...well you get the idea.  Then the students write their name on the back of their tickets and place them in the correct bucket.

This also connects nicely to "filling buckets" ala the book "How Full is Your Bucket?"

On Fridays, I draw tickets for prizes.  Students can choose the "sure thing" - a piece of candy from my jar...


what's in box #1, box#2, or box #3.

I used to draw a random number of tickets every Friday.  Now I keep a Scoreboard on the whiteboard.  The class gets points when they are behaving according to our class agreements and I get points when they are not - a take on the Whole Brain Teaching method.  The difference between the two is the number of tickets I draw.

But wait, there's more to the celebration than great ideas, there's also a great giveaway!

There are TWO fabulous prize packs you can enter to win!  Each one includes a $100 TpT Gift Card and a $50 Amazon Gift Card just to get you started!  Look below to see the full extent of the fabulousness of these giveaways!

 the more entries you have on the rafflecopter the more chances you have to win!

Just take a look at everything you could winOne lucky reader will win this entire prize package!!!

Prize Bundle #1 Includes
PLUS...$140 Gift Box of Fabulous Teacher Supplies sent to you from Amazon

We aren't finished yet...take a look at everything a second lucky winner will win!!!

Prize Bundle #2 Includes
PLUS...$140 Gift Box of Fabulous Teacher Supplies sent to you from Amazon

Be sure to enter both rafflecopters for a better chance at winning one of these amazing prize bundles!

Enter to Win Prize Bundle #1 Here

Enter to Win Prize Bundle #2 Here

You won't want to miss out on all the other great secrets being shared by successful teachers!  Be sure to check out all the other great posts below.

Thanks for stopping by!