Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!  2017 will bring a new blog series on teaching "basic skills" to students as well as interactive content lessons!

2016 had its highs and lows with many new changes.  However, I feel especially blessed to be able to teach 6th grade ELA at a new school where learning is valued.  It has allowed me the opportunity to try new things and spread my teaching wings!

I plan to blog about my teaching wing discoveries in 2017.  You can expect a series on teaching "basic skills" like teaching students how to fail, how to study, and how to manage time.  

You can also expect posts about my experiences with interactive classroom content including visual notes, digital playlists, centers/stations, and various engagement strategies from places like Kagan.

So as we head "out with the old", I am happy to share the best parts of 2016:

Best of 2016 Sale!  December 28-30, 2016 > Search #bestof2016sale on Teachers Pay Teachers!

My Top 2 resources for 2016 that are 20% off December 28-30 are:

My top 2 resources for 2016!
Just click on the image above to see these resources as featured items.

  I'm always looking for new ways to do ordinary things and these two resources do just that!  Plus, they save teachers time and get the job done!

A new resource that I have created that meets these same criteria is:

These notes combine traditional notes, interactive notebooking and visual notes all at the same time!  They're a great way to collect all the important details of setting, characters, plot and theme for ANY novel with a variety of formats for differentiation.

These notes combine traditional notes, interactive notebooking and visual notes all at the same time!  They're a great way to collect all the important details of setting, characters, plot and theme for ANY novel with a variety of formats for differentiation.

And you can get it for FREE by entering your e-mail below!  

Thanks for stopping by!  Here's to a fabulous 2017!

Show & Tell: 4 Ways to Harness Holiday Hubbub!

The last week before the long Winter Break is enough to make any student excited but then add in all the treats of the season and you have holiday hubbub!
So here are my top 4 ways to have fun and still learn during this time of year!


Play SCATTER with Task Cards to use physical movement to help your students learn!

I tape task cards around the room and have students wander around to write the answers down on their papers. The movement helped them continue to learn through their excitement!  


Play ZAP with your students to review key concepts and have fun at the same time!

This is a fun team game where students must choose a question strip from the cup/can and answer correctly to keep the question strip.  They have to choose carefully, though, if they choose a ZAP instead of a question, they lose all their question strips.  The team with the most question strips wins!


SCOOT is another fun way to use task cards and physical movement in the classroom!

Tape task cards to the desks.  Give students one minute to write their answer, then call "SCOOT!".  All the students then move one seat to their right.  Continue the pattern until students have returned to their seats.  Finally, have students put a star next to their 3 (or whatever number you prefer) best answers, then just grade those!


I love playing Quiz Show with my students on Kahoot or with questions they made just using my white board!

I love playing Quiz Show with my students on Kahoot or with questions they made just using my white board!

You can play like the popular T.V. Show "Jeopardy" but with teams to ensure the entire class is engaged.  Kahoot is a great way to do this and allow students to use their beloved devices.  Accounts are free and easy to use!  

Or, if you're in a time crunch, just put up numbers on your white board and ask each student to write a question.  Write the point values on the back, have students form teams and you're ready to play!

Ready to give some of these game a try but are short on time?  
No worries!
I have some below that are ready to use!

FREE ZAP GAME to review the play version of  "A Christmas Carol"

Play Scoot, Scatter, ZAP, and Quiz Show with your favorite novels!

Click on either image above to get started!

Then be sure to get some more "Show and Tell" by visiting Stephanie at Forever in Fifth Grade!

Thanks for stopping by!

Secondary ELA Blog Hop: Saving Teacher Sanity AFTER The Break!

For many years, I tended to focus on "just getting through" the last few weeks until the break.  It was a busy, hectic time and I was tired.   So when that last day came and the students were gone for the break, so was I!

But then, when I came back from the break in January, I realized I had forgotten a few things - like my passwords....and copies....and....oh no!  January was beginning just as hectic as December ended!

This is how I saved my sanity after the break:

The last week before the break begins, I complete one small task each day.

To make the rules game, all you need is a stack of index cards.  I have 22 students so I make 11 questions about our classroom rules and procedures on one set of cards and 11 answers to match on another set of index cards.  On the first day back from break, students get new seats along with a question or an answer.  After we've each shared the best thing we did over the break, I have the students find their index card match!

After the rules review, then we work on goal-setting with a New Years Activity.  Below is one of my "punny" New Years Activities that is my gift to you this holiday season.

Click here or on the image above to get this freebie!

Now, with this plan, I am at least ready for the first day back!  This has been such a sanity saver for me!

Something else that might help save your sanity is 7 more days of great ideas, freebies and giveaways!  

Today, you can enter to win the following:

Enter Here:
The 12 Days of December
Next, you may want to hop over to Using Your Smarticles to get another sanity saver and the 12 Days of December Hub for the full 12 days of December low-down!

Thanks for stopping by!

Laughing All The Way!

Read some funny Christmas stories and get some great teaching ideas for the holiday season in your middle school classroom!  #Christmas #teaching

My funniest Christmas story happened when my boys were about 5 and 6 years old.

It was Christmas Eve and I was putting the boys to bed when as we were saying our prayers, we heard heavy footsteps on the roof!  My youngest son immediately pulled the covers over his head and exclaimed "Skip my prayers, Mom!  He's here!"
"Oh no!" wailed my older son, "We're not asleep!"
"Just cover your head like me!" the younger one whispered emphatically.

I ran to the front door and swung it wide open so that the jingle bells on the doorknob rang loudly.  Then I yelled out into our front yard "Oh Santa, the boys just went to bed!  Could you please go to Ali's house across the street first and come back here afterward? (pause)  Oh, thank you, Santa!  I'm sure the boys will be asleep by then!"

Having fun with Christmas is one of best feelings for me!  And I love experiencing this feeling in my classroom too!

Then, I ran back to the boys' bedroom and said "Santa said he'll come back in a little bit!  You'd better get to sleep!"  They both pulled the covers over their heads and giggled nervously.

Then my husband appeared in the living room, back from the roof, asking me if I realized how loud I was yelling into the night.  
He was fairly sure the neighbor kids heard me and probably none of the kids on our street slept one wink that night! 

Want to have some great holiday fun in your classroom?  Have your students share their favorite personal holiday stories!

My students love it when I share personal stories (like the one above) with them and they love sharing stories back!  To do this, I ask students to share their favorite personal holiday story in their journals.  This is great because students can write about ANY personal holiday story they have at this time of year.  Plus, when we share our stories, we tighten our bonds as a class.  Not to mention that we usually get a good laugh or two out of these stories.  

Then, the stories become a great lead-in for when we read "A Christmas Carol" because I tie all the stories together with common themes.  And since I really focus on the theme of giving, I am giving away this freebie:

Play ZAP with your students to review the plot of A Christmas Carol!

When we read "A Christmas Carol", it's fun to write from various character perspectives sharing our stories as those characters.  Not only is it great for point of view, but it's all about the sharing.  Students love this concept because everyone likes to be heard.

If you love this story as much as I do and plan on teaching the play version this year, you might want more than just a game:

This resource for the play version contains:  ★ Discussion questions for all 6 scenes ★ Cornell notes for each scene (with answer key) ★ Plot diagram questions (guides) for each scene.  ★ A full size blank plot diagram ★ A compare/contrast graphic organizer so you can compare the play version to the video version. I suggest using the Muppets Christmas Carol. ★ A multiple choice & short answer test with answer key ★ An essay assessment option with outline and checklist

Get it here:

Get 10% off with code:  BlogReader

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Thanks for stopping by!

Show and Tell: My Holiday Behavior Tip!

Keep your Middle School students engaged during the last week before the winter break with "Smackdown"!  #teaching #classroommanagement

It's holiday time and you know what that means - students are restless and excited!  What's a teacher to do to keep those rascals engaged?

Tell teams of students that they're the next contestant on 
"Language Arts Smackdown"!
(simply substitute Language Arts for your subject area ;) )

This is what you need:
Fabulous Prizes
Exit ticket questions
Ability to use Kahoot, Plickers or another student response system.

This is how I did it:
I set up teams of no more than 4.  I asked them to choose names.
Each day, at the end of the period, we would use Kahoot or Plickers or another voting type student response system as our exit ticket. I would ask questions that could only be answered if one was engaged and paying attention. Kahoot now has a team option, but I had the students each earn their own points.  Then they would "pool" their points with their team (to promote individual responsibility and maybe even a little positive peer pressure).  Then the team with the most points earned a point on the scoreboard toward the "Fabulous Prizes".  
(I kept it a point to keep it competitive for the long haul.)

I use friendly competition and "fabulous prizes" to keep my students engaged before the holidays!

What were the fabulous prizes, you ask?

Well, I went to the dollar store and bought those small stockings and put candy canes in them.  Then I asked my school's Partner in Education, Chick-Fil-A, for whatever they might be willing to donate.  They donated small coupons for free sodas and such.  I placed these in the stockings too.  Next, I placed homework and tardy passes in the stockings.  Then, I told the students that the prize packs were worth at least $x in cash BUT were actually priceless in terms of other reallyreally great school benefits (the homework and tardy pass).  I hung them up across the front of the room above the whiteboard and referred to them often like a product model on The Price is Right.  :)

FREE homework and tardy passes for your Classroom Smackdown!

Save some time and download my ready-made homework and tardy passes for free by clicking here.

The end result
You know what?  They ALL wanted those stockings!  And the only way they could get them was to pay attention in class so that they could contribute to their team's win at the exit ticket time!  The best part was that not only was learning still occurring, I had found a way to harness all that energy and excitement AND track that learning with the student response systems all at the same time!

Thanks for stopping by!
Be sure to visit Forever in 5th Grade for more great Show and Tell!

How I Use Video Clips To Increase Engagement

Need Engagement?  Try video clips!  You CAN make your own!

Remember the teacher on Charlie Brown?  She always sounded muffled and was perceived as boring by the kids (including me!).  
I know that sometimes, kids hear their teachers like that too so I try to capture my students' attention right away at the beginning of a lesson with a video clip.

First, I tootle around YouTube for short videos - no more than 5 minutes in length.

Next, I pin them to my Class Videos Pinterest board.

Then, when I am ready to show them, I run them through safeshare.tv to remove all ads that may not be appropriate for school.  ;)

The point of these videos is to be a "hook" for the topic we are studying.  Take this one for example:

I teach 6th grade English Language Arts (ELA) and where I teach (FL), this class is focused on writing.  So this is a perfect lead-in as we began the year.

Sometimes, I have even tried my hand at making my own videos.  I like to use screencast-o-matic.com
Once, during an observation, I was showing my own video (below).  My administrator remarked that the students seemed to pay more attention to the video than to me even though it was my voice on the video!   I could have been embarrassed, but instead, I decided to harness the power!

Teaching students how to cite evidence and want more structured support?  I've created a resource with two original texts, interactive notebook foldables, posters and video clips that walk your students through citing textual evidence.

I use video clips (that I make myself!) to engage my students with content like citing textual evidence.

Click here or on the image above to find out more!

Thanks for stopping by!

Mrs. Spangler in the Middle Shares the Best of the Best ELA Lessons!

The Best of the Best ELA Lessons ~ Pixanotes™!

It was a regular old Thursday.  You know the kind.  The one that seems like every other day.  No big deal.

Until in walked the District ELA Coach AND the School Curriculum Coach -  iPads in hand - totally unannounced.


This particular day I had planned to teach my students the ACE method for writing expository paragraphs.  I had just picked out a fun video (thanks to my son's teachers at his school) to introduce the concept and then the students would use my new picture notes I made afterward.

Deep breath.

I showed the video:

It was catchy and the students dug it.  The ELA coach and the school coach were smiling.  So far, so good!

So then I introduced my picture notes.
First, students worked with a partner and a word bank on the board to fill in the blanks.  

Pixanotes™ help students comprehend & remember more key concepts!

After a short time, I displayed the correct answers so students could ensure they had the correct information.  Next, students cut out the picture flaps to match them to the definitions.  I handed out glue once I saw the flaps in the right places.
Pixanotes™ are a blend of traditional two-column notes and interactive notebooks!

Of course, about this time, the two coaches began to circulate in the room, to see what they students were really talking about and asking questions.  I was distracted by a few students who did not seem to be able to manage the glue appropriately so I couldn't listen in.  

Soon the bell rang and it was my planning.  The duo waited until everyone had left and then...the questions began.

"Those notes are fantastic!  Where did you get them?  
"You made them?  How did you get the idea?"

First, I was thrilled that they thought my work was valuable.  Then I was excited to hear my school coach use words like "innovating" (that later showed up on an official evaluation!).

The research behind Pixanotes™!But honestly, I made them because I read that visuals cause students to comprehend and remember more than words alone. The article explains that our brains are mainly image processors rather than word processors.  In fact, it says words are abstract to our brain and images are concrete which is why we remember things like the Starbucks logo much more easily than a grocery list.

That shouldn't exactly be shocking since the saying "a picture is worth a thousand words" has been around forever.  Plus, you probably know that YouTube has pretty much replaced Google as the number one search engine for those under the age of 30.

So it simply made sense to harness the power of visuals!  I knew that my school favored the Cornell style of notes but I also knew that students responded quite well to interactive notebooks.   So I put the two together and called my new creation PIXANOTES!

The best tool to record key ELA concepts is Pixanotes™!

Not only do Pixanotes use visuals, they are differentiated in 4 ways so you can accommodate short class periods, students with special needs, students learning English and even absent students!

But really, the best part was that later the coaches told me that when they asked the students questions, the students specifically referenced the pictures when answering the questions.  
That makes it all worth it!

So, since that day, I have been continually adding to the 

Get every paper-based edition of Pixanotes™ with a Growing Bundle!

Pixanotes are digital too!

Pixanotes™ have gone digital!    

Save time and help your students enjoy increasing their comprehension and recall of important ELA concepts with Pixanotes®!  

Three are more great time-savers to reach all learners where this came from!  Join the Teacher Troop to get in on the action!

Thanks for stopping by!

Top 3 Ways I Use Music To Increase Engagement In My Classroom

Join Mrs. Spangler in the Middle for Engagement Ideas for the Classroom - this week:  Music!

Thank you for joining me for my new blog series on engagement!  First up, music!

I believe that music is an integral part of learning.  It not only soothes the soul but lights the lamp of curiosity as students ponder its messages.  It's no wonder then that I use music in my classroom for several purposes: 

For Inspiration

I'm always looking for new ways to inspire my students as we work through the routines of our days.  For instance, we always begin our days with journal writing.  I know the power of music to inspire, so I have decided to play a song during our journal time each day.  I call it "song of the week".  In the beginning, I choose the songs.  Later on, students get to choose as they move up the ranks on our Super Improver Wall.

Here are some of my favorites:

Best Day of my Life by American Authors

You Get What You Give by New Radicals (use the Glee version)

Don’t Stop Believin’by Journey

Stand by Me by Ben E. King

Firework by Katy Perry

Lovely Day by Bill Withers

What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong

Go the Distance (Hercules) by Michael Bolton

Who says (you’re not perfect) by Selena Gomez

Just the Way You Are by Bruno Mars

Good Life by One Republic (Radio Version)

My Wish by Rascal Flatts

Put a Little Love in Your Heart by Jackie DeShannon

You can find most (if not all) of these songs by searching on YouTube.  Or if you have Amazon Prime, you can get them all there like I did!  :)

My students look forward to the song of the week and the idea of having the chance to choose that song.

As a Timer

 Plus, using music is not "just" inspirational, it's also a good timer!  I tell all the students that they must be done with their planners and writing in their journals at noise level 0 (no talking) by the time the song ends.

This gives them some "wiggle room" to get settled and have something positive with which to frame the class.

Sometimes, the song of the week is used to time other things - like students must be done cutting and gluing interactive notebook foldables by the time the song ends.

Other times, the song of the week's lyrics "mysteriously" appear in lessons that same week too.  While this isn't a timer, it's great timing!  ;)

And if you're brave, put out a song suggestion box.  Who knows what you might find!

As part of a lesson

Last, but not least, I try to find songs that I can play on my guitar or that my husband can play for me on his ukelele.  There's nothing like putting a concept to song - especially if the teacher is the singer!  I think students like seeing their teachers "be real".

In fact, I recently put our body paragraph organization to song using the "Head Shoulders Knees and Toes" tune:

An - swer - r

An - swer - r

Explain - n

A - n- d
Th - is

An - swer - r

What musical tips can you share?  Join in the conversation in the comments below!

Thanks for stopping by!