Mrs. Spangler in the Middle Leaps Into Literature!

Looking for new ways to engage your students in literature, especially with classics that might seem old and outdated? In this secondary English Language Arts blog hop, the Literary League showcases resources that can be used with any literary text, time after time, year after year.Here at the Literary League, we’re a group of English teachers who truly love literature (we bet you already figured that part out). Given free time, we can all agree that there’s nothing better than leaping into a good book. But, even as avid readers, we have to admit that those spare minutes tend to be few and far between, especially during the school year, and there are times that we just have to …
  • leap into a book recommended by a friend, a colleague, or especially a student, who is anxiously awaiting our review
  • leap into a new novel we’re teaching, whether or not we’ve had time to fully prepare a complete unit
  • leap into a classic, maybe not one of our favorites, but something we know students need to sit with in order to grow as a reader

For those instances, the Literary League is teaming up to share some of our favorite resources to help you Leap into Literature. These are resources that are not tied to a particular book, but ones that can be used over and over again, both with your favorite novels, as well as with new texts or classic pieces you’re trying to breathe new life into.

A favorite resource I use to engage my students in literature is Figurative Language Pixanotes!  Pixanotes are a modified form of Cornell notes with fill-in-the-blanks for content and pictures to represent key ideas!   Pixanotes are based on research  that has shown that visuals improve comprehension and increase retention of content.

First, the notes help me introduce the critical content.  In this case, the critical content is definitions and examples for simile, metaphor, alliteration, personification, onomatopoeia, idiom, hyperbole and irony.

Using my document camera, I read the information with the blanks and ask students what they think belongs in the blank. Sometimes, they already have some ideas about the content! Finally, I write in the correct information into the blanks and students record this new knowledge along with me.

If you have students with learning challenges or language challenges, there are also notes pages with no blanks that students can highlight which is perfect for differentiation.

Next, students match up the included pictures to the correct definitions in the notes.  They cut out the flaps and place them next to the correct definitions.  Then I check to see if they have placed the pictures in the correct places.  If all is well, then I allow the student to glue them down with glue being placed just along the top rectangle so it can be used as an interactive notebook flap.  This way, I have the option to direct students to write a question under the flap that can be answered with the information that is recorded there for a more full Cornell notes type experience,  After all the pictures have been glued, students play the included dominoes game to deepen their understanding. (There are additional picture options included for students with various challenges.)

Now that students have a firm foundation of the critical content, I can use the terms and the notes with ANY text!  This is what I did:

I gave my students a copy of the lyrics from "Let It Go" and asked them to highlight the similes in pink.

After the highlighting was complete, I asked the students to "partner up" and discuss what they highlighted to determine if what they had highlighted were actually similes.

The partners then decided which lyric from the song to write down in the notes as another example of simile.

Finally, I asked each partner group to share the example they wrote in their notes and why their example was a correct example.  This last part is important so that I can truly ascertain if the students fully understand the application of the definitions.

I can repeat this pattern many times with the same text (there are examples of metaphor and hyperbole in this song and I will ask my students to use different color highlighters to mark the text for these other terms) or with ANY other text!

This and ALL of my Pixanotes resources are on sale today and tomorrow for the TpT #SuperLeap Sale!

Read about other engaging literature resources from the other Literary Leaguers linked up below and also enter in the rafflecopter below for a chance to win them all.

Thanks for stopping by!

The Best Teaching Advice I Ever Received!

This month's Secondary Smorgasbord is all about sharing the best advice we've ever received.

Mine is from my Dad.  He taught Jr. High English for about 15 years and then was an Assistant Principal at another Jr. High for several more.  He was my "go-to" resource for all things teaching because he had "been there, done that".  Plus he always knew just the right thing to do.  And this pearl of wisdom was no exception:

I know this doesn't sound profound but it was just the sort of thing I needed to hear when I felt overwhelmed and behind.  My Dad always said as long as everything was ready for me to teach the next day, then I would be fine because the primary objective - the students' learning - is all set to go.  Then during the day there will be time to chip away at that "To-do" list and it will get done even if it is little by little.  This has worked for me going on 22 years so far!  It's a "keep it simple" approach and I think it's one that we need more than ever these days.  

How I help my students pay attention ~ Show and Tell

This month I want to share one of my best teaching tricks!  It's a way to help my students pay attention when we are reading something out loud in class.  It's called Stop-Challenge.

I read the text out loud and then when I come to a key word, I say Stop.  Challenge.  The challenge is for the student to write the next word.  The only way the student can do this is if they are paying attention!

That's it!  Pretty simple but very effective!  And it works with all kinds of students from special needs to gifted.  For high-level students, you can let the students take turns reading and calling out the stop-challenge.  They enjoy taking on the responsibility!

Here's a video so you can see how Stop-challenge works!

And here's a FREE template you can use to try Stop-Challenge in your own class.

Thanks for stopping by!
Be sure to check out some others' show and tell ideas by visiting Stephanie from Forever in 5th grade!

Heart to Heart: My 3 Teacher Truths

There are many truths about teaching that I could choose to share, but today I will share the 3 that are closest to my heart.

I am in my 22nd year of teaching.  I have seen all kinds of education procedures, policies, programs and the like come and go.  Right now, the "it" thing where I am is Marzano.  His domains & test scores are used to determine my effectiveness as a teacher.  People freak out about this but honestly, when I went to college all of the "Marzano stuff" was part of my degree.  I took classes that covered every part of his plan.  Marzano is simply good teaching and it's nothing new.  You, in your heart, know what good teaching is.  Always remember this no matter what new thing is the latest and greatest and you will be fine.  Really, even with the test scores -  because in the end if you are doing your best, then you are doing the most anyone can ask of you.

When I started teaching, I was going to save the world but I had to settle for the students in my classroom.  I put just about every ounce of energy into them and some definitely benefitted on some levels (I was able to help get a lot of kids some much-needed services that they had somehow not been able to get in elementary school) while some did not change their ways much if at all.  It's hard to un-do 6 years of bad habits once they get to Middle School.  So it took a few years for me to realize and accept that I can't save them all.  I know I can make a difference for some and I had to accept that that is ok.  

It's ok because I know I am doing my best and if the student (and their parent) doesn't take ownership and do their part, then it really doesn't matter how much I do.  After all, I cannot take their tests, I cannot fill out their job or college application or attend their job or college interview in their place.  The student must act by using the tools I have provided to them.  

Once you have peace with the first two aspects of teaching that I shared above, then you can have fun in your classroom!  Look for the joy in every day.  Find new ways to connect with your students and bring something new into your classroom.  I'll try anything at least once to see if it makes the classroom more lively or more fun.  Don't get me wrong - I teach the standards - I just look for ways to make them fun.  Usually, that means finding some hands-on activity, a new song, or hopefully a new game to help my students learn a concept.  Right now, I am obsessed with Plickers and Pixanotes.  :)  

So, dear reader, in honor of this Valentine's Day, I have poured out my teaching heart to you.

Thanks for stopping by!

Digital Learning Day - Internet Tutorial for Students!

This year, Digital Learning Day is February 17, 2016.

I know there are tons of new and exciting digital opportunities with Google Drive activities that interest me and I am sure would interest my students.  But before we can get into these things, we have to put the horse before the cart.

I teach Middle School and I have wrongfully assumed that because my students seem to proficient with their phones, that they would be fluent with the terms when using the internet on a laptop or computer. 

When I recently provided an internet address like so that my students can log on directly to participate in a game and take a quiz, I found that 75% or more of them were going to Google and then copying this web address into a search box rather than placing it into the address bar.  Never mind the fact that they do not know that it is called a URL.  Or the fact that they have no idea how to tell a reliable site from an unreliable one from the list they generate using the search bar.  

So I thought I might find a good little video on You Tube to help teach my students some basics.  Wrong again!  There are lots of videos but the authors either say "um" A LOT and are confusing or they are too long-winded.  So...I made my own.
Disclaimer:  I am not a professional video maker.  I am "just" a teacher.

After watching the video, I will have students complete this activity:

You are welcome to use this video and the activity too!

Just click HERE to get your own copy of the activity.  :)

I have made a few activities that are compatible with Google Drive that are waiting in the wings as I ready my students with the basics.  Besides learning the ways of the internet, my students are making sure they have e-mail accounts since our district doesn't have Google Classroom.   It won't be long before we're ready to take on all kinds of new ways of recording and representing our knowledge digitally!

Thanks for stopping by!

Best Middle School Pins for Valentine's Day!

I found this "fortune cookie Valentine" idea and thought it might be something I could make to give my middle school students.  And perhaps they could make some in class too!


This next Valentine is great for boys to make!!

I think this could end up being very therapeutic for everyone!  :)

And last, but not least, a blast from my past - Junior High folded notes!


If  you click through, you'll find step-by-step picture tutorials on how to make 2 different versions!!

I hope you found some great Valentines ideas here but there's even more inspiration below!

Thanks for stopping by!