Writing Wednesdays - Start with Vocabulary!

I'm excited to link-up with Lyndsey from Lit with Lyns to explore writing strategies!

When I begin to teach a specific type of writing, I always start with the relevant vocabulary.  I want to think that a middle schooler would know what "evidence" is but I almost always discover that I'm only maybe 1/2 right.  ;)  And since there's so sense in talking about how to cite evidence when some students don't even know what evidence is, we have to start with the critical content of definitions.

So let's take Argumentative Writing, for example.  There are many terms like claim, opposing claim, counter-claim, evidence (both relevant and irrelevant), reasoning, logos, pathos, ethos, purpose and audience that students need to be familiar with and I would like them to become part of their notebooks so that these words can be referred to over and over.  

And, since research says that visuals improve comprehension and increase retention, I created Pixanotes!

Pixanotes are a blend of traditional two-column notes and interactive notebooks.   They come in FOUR formats to help you differentiate the content more easily:

1.  The most scaffolding:  Fully printed content and pictures. (Students highlight key words and color pictures.)
2.  A little less scaffolding:  Fully printed content and picture flaps (Students highlight key words and match up pictures.)
3.  Even less scaffolding:  Fill-in-the-blanks for content and fully printed pictures. (Students use a word bank.)
4.  The least scaffolding:  Fill-in-the-blanks for content and picture flaps. (Students use a word bank and match up pictures.)

Pixanotes are perfect for differentiating Language Arts content in your Middle School Classroom!  #teaching #pixanotes #interactivenotebook #notes

To use the fill-in-the-blanks with my class, I put a word bank on the board and allow students to work with a partner and a dictionary.  Then students are asked to cut out the picture flaps and match them to the definitions.  Once I have checked that their flaps are in the correct locations, then they are allowed to glue them in.

Next, students need to practice with their new concepts, so I added a matching dominoes game!

Students worked with partners to match the visual cues to the correct terms.  First, they used their notes to work with the dominoes, then notes were put away and a friendly competition ensued to see which team could finish first!

Pixanotes were a hit!  All of my students, including those with special needs or limited English, experienced success with them.  Plus, they loved the "hands-on" experience.

I loved that we were all on the same page before we began the process of learning the organization of argumentative essays! 

Next time, I'll share how I teach organization!  Until then, thanks for stopping by!

Top Google Tech for Teachers - Spreadsheets

Thanks for joining me on my weekly adventure to learn about new Google Apps and tools that one can use without Google Classroom!

Last week, I explored Google Forms as a way to digitize my student information sheet that I typically give out in paper form with my syllabus.  You can read more about that here.

In my quest to use more digital tools, I thought it would be great if I could have my students track their own data digitally.  I thought this would be great for portfolios and parent conferences!

At first, I thought a Form might be the answer since I thought I could just add a required question where a student would have to choose their name from a drop-down.  Then that information would go to a spreadsheet and I could sort by student name.  That would work if I was the only one that was going to look at the data, but I want students to see their own data too, of course!  The reflection part is so important!

That led me to a Google Spreadsheet.  

I knew I could set up a nice chart in Sheets for my students that might look something like this:

Using Google Sheets to create Digital Data Tracking

Now if you're like me, you're thinking "Great!  I can send the spreadsheet to my 130 students, but wait, I will have to look at 130 spreadsheets to see if the students are actually tracking their data..."
  So I went in search of another way.  I found this AWESOME template from AliceKeeler.com that you can use to make a tab for each student at the bottom of the spreadsheet so you can view an entire group or class at one time.  I thought that was THEE answer, but no - because then all the students can see each other's tabs.  

However, this tab template could be used for some pretty creative collaboration between students for group projects!  AND it helped me to see how I could make/design a template and then share it with my students.

BUT, I still have the problem of 130 spreadsheets...but apparently there's an add-on called Doctopus that will fix all that...?

I'll do my best to find out by next Saturday!

Thanks for stopping by!

Show and Tell Tuesday - Teacher Summer!

I love show and tell so I can never pass up an opportunity to link up with Forever in 5th Grade!

My family has a tradition that every year, right after school gets out for summer, we head to the beach.  Vero beach, that is - at Disney's Resort.  It helps us all decompress from the end of the year and begin to truly relax.

My primary summer "teacher project" is to learn as much as I can about using Google Apps in the classroom without the benefit of Google Classroom itself.  I am blogging about my "finds" and what I've learned each Saturday through July 30.

Summer Blog Series - Top Google Tech for Teachers who do not have Google Classroom!

My next summer "teacher project" is to develop some new materials for my new teaching position in 6th grade ELA!  
(Be on the lookout for some new story elements Pixanotes coming soon!)

NEW Story Element Pixanotes Coming Soon!

  I transferred to a lovely middle school in my area where my husband already teaches.  So now, we will get to carpool and have the same schedules!!

Last, but not least, my teacher summer would not be complete without time to just be, you know?
Like just be with my boys who are growing tooooo fast.
Or just be laying by the pool.
Or just be doing mini household projects, or trying new recipes, or taking time to play the piano...

Time to just be.  :)

Thanks for stopping by!

Visit more great blogs by visiting Forever in 5th Grade!

Top Google Tech for Teachers - Google Forms

Using Google Apps without Google Classroom!

Welcome to my summer project of learning as much as I can about using Google in my class without the benefit of Google Classroom.  I know it seems strange, but my district does not have Google Classroom.  Both teachers and students have district Google accounts and Google e-mails but not Google Classroom.

However, since we all DO have Google accounts and Gmails, I know there's still a whole great big world of great tech tools that we can use if only I can find out about them!  So that's how my summer project began!

First up, I have been working with Google Forms.  I know this might seem "old school" to many of you but for the first time, I think I might be ready to try using these forms instead of the old paper surveys I usually send home with my syllabus!

Forms are found right in Google Drive and are ready for you to just click and type!

Use Google Forms instead of a paper student information sheet?  Yes, you can!

I am going to be teaching 6th grade ELA this Fall and will have 6 periods of classes.  Does that mean I need 6 Forms?  No!  That means I just need to ask a question like "What period are you in Mrs. Spangler's Language Arts class?" with a list of periods to choose from.  I will be sure to make this question required by toggling this button to ON.  This way, when I am ready to sort my spreadsheet, I can sort by period and keep my classes organized!

Student Information Sheets gone digital!  You only need one Google Form even if you teach multiple periods of the same subject!  Just be sure to toggle the "required" button to ON! :)

One thing that has kept me from using a Google Form instead of paper was the fact that I would write my parent contact logs on the back of my paper student information sheets.  I think what I might do instead is add a column to my spreadsheet after everyone has entered in their information and use that to record my phone calls so all the information is all together.

My next project for Google Forms is to figure out how to use it for students to track their own data and reflect on that data.  I love the charts and spreadsheets that Google Forms produce and I would like to see this data but I definitely do NOT want the students to see each other's data.  What to do!?
Well I looked around Alice Keeler's Teacher Tech website (as she is a Google for Education expert) and still wasn't sure so I tweeted her:

And she replied!!

So now you know what next week's post will be about!  Until then, I have some work to do!

In the meantime, leave a comment about your uses for Google Forms.

Thanks for stopping by!

Time to Celebrate!

My kind friend, Lit with Lyns, is having a big 'ol follower appreciation giveaway!  

Just look at all the fabulous prizes!  

If you're still wrapping up your year, you might just find some things below to get you to that finish line.

OR if you have finished your year, then you might just find some things that would be great to have for NEXT year!

And you can enter to win these prizes below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

There are also options to get a "Winner's Choice" from some of these fine teacher-authors below:

Enter for "Winner's Choice" here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Good Luck and thanks for stopping by!

Top 3 Pins for Teacher Summer Projects!

Summer Vacation begins in just 7 days for me - S-E-V-E-N!  So I am thinking about what I want to focus on this summer for next year and I have decided to focus on technology!  
And that's what my pins are all about!


First up, I want to learn as much as I can about using Google apps to go digital in my classroom.  Not only will this save paper but technology is so engaging for students!  I have found that even my most difficult students enjoy using digital learning resources!

We don't have Google Classroom in my district but we do have Gmails so I know we can do just about anything Google!  I plan to do a weekly blog series about what I discover beginning Saturday, June 18th so stop back by and join me!

Next up,  I also want to look into digital portfolios.  I have heard about See Saw and even signed up but have yet to figure it all out.  I'm excited for what kids could do with this!  I think this will really motivate students to be invested in their learning because there's a place for it to be displayed that isn't limited to school.


Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't look at options to engage parents.  Did you know you could send a classroom newsletter using Google Docs?  Me either!  

All of this technology "stuff" excites me and I think it will excite my students too!

Check out my Pinterest board where I have been collecting pins for this summer project and then check out some other great pins for June:

An InLinkz Link-up

Thanks for stopping by!