Top 5 reasons I LOVE Flocabulary!

As an inclusion teacher, I am always on the look-out for new ways to reach and teach the most challenging students.  Over the years, I have discovered that most students relate very well to music.  In fact, catchy tunes sometimes stick in all of our heads whether we want them to or not.  So when I found Flocabulary with its catchy tunes, I was immediately interested.

Flocabulary takes all kinds of topics and content and sets them to rhyme with very catchy hip-hop tunes along with accompanying videos.  Right now, Flocabulary has 700 songs and videos for Math, Science, ELA, Social Studies, Vocabulary, Current Events and even Life Skills!  Plus they add content every week!

So it should come as no surprise that Flocabulary is a huge hit in my classroom and this is why it works for me:

The music and rhymes are very engaging all by themselves, but wait until you see the videos that go with them!  The students love them.  I have even heard students singing the Flocabulary songs in the hallways.  Shoot, I have even been caught humming the songs myself.  (That always cracks the kids up.)  :)

All this humming means we are remembering!  And all this remembering means we were (are) engaged and definitely learning!  And this is why I teach!  

The information that is presented in the songs is standards-based meaning that not only does Flocabulary align their content with the Common Core, they cover the things I need to teach.  Additionally, Flocabulary's content is rich and not just a surface treatment of the material.  For example,  "Five Elements of a Story" doesn't just name the elements, there's an embedded definition of each in the song that not only makes sense but is relevant to the students.  

Did I mention that Flocabulary also has lesson plans to go with these great songs and videos?  There are lyrics worksheets and exercise worksheets to practice with the content.  Plus there are quizzes, games and graphic organizers!

By Learning Styles I mean that Flocabulary covers all these ways of learning:  auditory, visual and even kinesthetic.  The auditory and visual parts come from the song and the accompanying video.  The kinesthetic comes from when the students actually begin to sing or hum the songs.  My belief is when you can address all 3 styles, you have the proverbial hat trick of educational gold.

That's right!  Flocabulary is now offering any reader of this blog and their entire school a free 75 day trial of Flocabulary so you don't have to take my word for it, you can see for yourself!  Click on the image or caption below to sign up!

Click here to get your FREE trial!

Thanks for stopping by!

Show and Tell: Pixanotes!

I'm thrilled to participate in the FIRST EVER Show and Tell Linky from Stephanie at Forever in 5th Grade!

I would like to share a brand new resource that was born and raised in my own Middle School classroom:  Pixanotes!

I had been looking for ways to boost my students' ability to comprehend and recall information and came across some interesting research.  According to Dr. Kouyoumdjian ... 

Research has proven that visuals decrease learning time and increase comprehension and recall!  This is why Pixanotes was born!

I always loved anchor charts, but after reading this article, I thought how can I do more to harness this power of visuals?

That's how Pixanotes was born!

Try these interactive guided notes to reach all the learners in your middle school ELA classroom!  #teaching #languagearts

They are a blend of traditional two-column notes and interactive notebooks consisting of fill-in-the-blanks on the right for critical information and picture "flaps" to illustrate key ideas on the left!

The pictures serve as memory cues to help students remember the critical information and are interactive!

But then I thought about that fcat that some of my students need more scaffolding so I made 4 versions of the same notes!

Now all students can have the same content but with different levels of support!

So then I took my new notes to school...

Combine the right brain benefit of visuals with the left brain advantage of structure to say heelo to higher test scores! #teaching  #middleschool #languagearts

  Students were super engaged and working together!  Yes, working - including  my Special Needs and ESOL students!  In fact, it seemed like this was right up my exceptional students' alley!  I heard all sorts of conversation focused on the topic at hand.  Good conversation too - they were discussing why certain visuals were a good match and why others were not.  
This would have been perfect for my observation!!

Then I thought, what could we do to use these new notes and visuals to practice our learning?

I actually came up with TWO ideas for practice:

A dominoes game to practice the content from their interactive guided notes!  #middleschool #languagearts #teaching

The students loved the dominoes game!  The first round was just getting the hang of things and trying to remember the terms.  The second round was "game on" and everyone wanted to win even though the "prize" was just bragging rights!  That's when I knew they were hooked!

So then I also thought about how students could practice digitally...

Digital notes with visuals for the win!  #middleschool #teaching #languagearts

...because students love their technology!  
We worked on this Friday and it was another good review and practice opportunity for students.  I am curious as to which type of notes they prefer - paper or digital.  They seemed equally engaged on both so we'll see!

Any way I go with Pixanotes, I have already seen some very encouraging engagement.  And one thing's for sure - they definitely have some great ways to recall the information!  For once, I'm excited for those test results!!

Thanks for stopping by!

The Secondary Smorgasbord has your Sub Plans Managed!

Most teachers believe that it's harder to do sub plans than to just go in sick!  Trust me, I've been there - and spent HOURS into the night setting up my classroom - but not anymore!

How did I fix it?

 I keep a few "emergency" plans ready to go!

But what's in the folder you ask?

Well, for me, sub plans have to be:

1.  Easy
For students and subs alike!  I often get subs that let kids do insane things like sit at my desk and then suddenly things are mysteriously missing <sigh>.   I have now included that in my list of Substitute Do's and Dont's that is with my seating chart in my sub folder. 

2.  Enough 
(you know what they say about idle hands)

3.  Relevant  
(the students still need to be learning but I generally use sub plans for review, reinforcement or enrichment.)

I have found that fit my 3 criteria perfectly!

I use the Reading Passages because you can choose the Lexile level to suit your students.  Since grade level for 8th grade is 1010, I search for passages that range in that vicinity.  Then I select that I would like vocabulary and questions with the passage.

I get plenty of choices that I peruse for various skills and then I copy ones that review concepts that we have already learned in advance and put them in one of my manila envelopes.  I actually have 3 envelopes ready to go labeled Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C.  

This way whether I get sick or have an eye problem (you know, like I can't see myself going to school that day), I know my plans are managed!

English Teacher Giveaway!

It's a new year, a new semester, and a new opportunity to connect with other secondary English teachers! I joined other middle and high school teachers in a GIVEAWAY for ELA! Enter any or all of the three opportunities below to win incredible prizes. All three contests close at the end of the day on Sunday, January 17th, so don't wait to enter!

Prize #1:

These gift cards were brought to you by the following middle or high school ELA teachers. Be sure to browse their stores as you prep for second semester!

Prize #2: 

To see the full list of the items included in the prize pack, click here.
Enter below!

Prize #3: 

To see the full list of the items included in the prize pack, click here.
Enter below!

Good Luck, and Happy New Year!

Thanks for stopping by!

New Year's Ideas, Resources and A Giveaway!

If you are looking for some New Year ideas for your Middle School classroom, then this post is for you complete with TWO linkies and a Giveaway!!

First up are 3 pins that I found to help me start my new year off at school right!


I want to tweak my behavior system by combining it with progress towards goals.  Since behavior directly impacts learning, the idea of a "Super Improvers Wall" seems like a perfect fit!  Students earn their way up the ranks based on their progress on the standards.  At each level, students earn certain privileges.  The privileges are yet to be determined for the upper ranks as I want to include my students in that part of the decision making for "buy in".


Since we are going to be earning our way up the ranks based on our progress on the standards, I thought this was a perfect fit!  Now students can see what they need to do to move on up!


My New Year's resolution is to get more organized and pencils in my classroom are definitely a part of that!  This little idea is to number the pencils and assign a number to each student desk.  At the end of the week, students who still have their pencil, earn a reward.  I am so trying this when we get back!

Check out some more ideas below in the link-ups!  There are actually two this time...the first one is for the best Pinterest pins and the second one is specifically for Middle School New Year resources!

For the second linky, I'm sharing my idea for a twist on goal setting.  Having goals is sooooo important but making them "do-able" has to be part of it!  Too many times I have seen the goal "Get good grades" with no plan of action behind it despite my efforts.  Not this year!

Get your FREE copy of this resource by clicking HERE!

My students will work in pairs to sort the goal "cards" into "General" and "Specific" categories.  Then they will pair up the general goals with the matching specific goals.  

After a short discussion of the correct matches, then students will choose a goal from the activity (or from their own ideas) and record it using the same level of specificity which they just worked on a piece of "toast".  Finally I hang up the toast as a reminder to the students of what they are working for.

Get some more New Years ideas below and then enter the Giveaway too!

Lit with Lyns - Argumentative Writing Process & Task Cards
EB Academic Camps - New Year's Unit & Activities for Middle School
Caffeine and Lesson Plans - PROBE Notebook: A Creative Yearlong ELA Research Project
Just Add Students - Poetry Analysis - "A Day" by Emily Dickinson
Raising Rigor and Readers - Winter Reading and Writing Activities
Anchored in Reading - ELA Text Dependent Analysis Questions - Author's Craft Task Cards
Teach Inspire Change - Student Behavior & Parent Communications Binder
Mrs. Spangler in the Middle - The Giver Reading Comprehension Games - Four in All!
Tori Gorosave: A Middle School English Teacher's Journey - Expository Close Reading: The History of New Year's
Edison Education - Multiplying and Dividing Integers
Koch's Odds 'N Ends - Student Worksheet for Self-Review / Analysis of Test Results
The Marvelous Middle - Looking Back Looking Forward New Year's Activity

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Increase Your Students' Retention of Content!

Has this ever happened to you?

You've made a detailed anchor chart full of critical information with your Middle School students, asked some killer questions, and received spot-on answers.  Then, the next day, no one knows what you're talking about from yesterday!

Pixanotes can help to increase students' memory of important concepts!

How is this possible?!

 Dr. Kouyoumdjian says that research has proven that pictures increase comprehension and retention of information because our brains are primarily image processors as opposed to word processors.  

This means we can engage students better with visuals like the ones found in Pixanotes!

Ah ha!  So all those words on the chart and all that talking were not playing to our brain's strengths!  In fact, when I think about it, I know I spent many an hour studying vocabulary words in high school and college, but I would be hard pressed to remember them as well as the day I received my driver's license!

In fact, in one study that Dr. Kouyoumdjian cited, students were asked to memorize a list of three words.  Those subjects that associated the words with visuals remembered more words that the subjects who just tried to repeat the words over and over.  

This has fantastic implications for our students!  As teachers, we have known that pictures can de-mystify concepts, but did you realize how much more retention visuals can create?  

This is the research behind Pixanotes!!  Did you know that research has proven that visuals decrease learning time and increase comprehension and recall?

As I was thinking about how I could harness the power of visuals in learning, Pixanotes was born!

Pixanotes are a blend of traditional two-column notes and visual notes / interactive notebooks with fill-in-the-blanks (or fully printed content) on the right and pictures (pre-printed or on flaps) to illustrate key ideas on the left.

Pixanotes help students record critical content and have pictures to boost recall!

In paper form, students can cut out the picture flaps and place them on the left to match the content for a more interactive notebook experience.  Later, students can write signal questions under the flaps for a more full Cornell notes type experience.

Or students can work with the Pixanotes that have pre-printed pictures since Pixanotes are fully differentiated too!  They come in four formats including:

★ Pre-printed Pictures and no blanks (highest level of structure)
★No pre-printed pictures and no blanks (moderate level of structure)
★ Pre-printed pictures with blanks (moderate level of structure)

★ No pre-printed pictures with blanks (lowest level of structure)

Each format has the same information so you could have 4 versions of Pixanotes out in your class at the same time.  This is perfect for students who have learning challenges or who have limited English proficiency.
Get a free copy of Pixanotes!
Any way you go, you'll find that students experience more success with Pixanotes because there are more cues for them to use to retain content!

 Get a free sample of the Pixanotes title referenced here AND SEE how to use them by clicking here!

There's also a digital version that can be accessed on any device that can connect to the internet!  There are movable text boxes and pictures for students to interact with the content.

Students remember more with visuals like those found in DIGITAL Pixanotes!

Thanks for stopping by!