How I Teach The Organization of Essays!

Use graphic organizers to teach your Middle School ELA students to learn how to organize an essay!  #outline #template

I have been teaching middle school ELA for quite some time now and I have to tell you, teaching writing is my favorite thing to teach!

Previously, I shared how I introduce the essay writing vocabulary with a blend of traditional two column notes and interactive notebooks called Pixanotes.  

This time, I will share how I teach the organization of essays.

Over the years, I have found that my students can generally write complete sentences and paragraphs but have trouble figuring out how to use text to inform their work and organize it into an essay. And even though I may show them model after model, the concept of organization still seems to evade them.

My solution?  Patterns with outlines/frames.

In my research on patterns, the ASCD said "When students seek patterns in the world around them, they see order instead of chaos, which builds confidence in their understanding of how the world works and gives them a feeling of control."

This makes perfect sense to me.  As teachers, we use patterns to create lesson plans as we use the same template over and over. Sure, we add things to the template as the needs arise, but the same basic structure remains.  This same principle can be directly applied to students learning to write essays.

I am all about making ELA time-savers to reach all learners.  These outlines work to do just that.  The idea is that on the left, the concept of what needs to be written is presented in words with a picture to help the student create a memory cue.   The right is where the student writes his/her own sentence according to the concept presented on the left.

Give your middle school students a writing frame to help them learn how to organize their essays.

Now I know some will say that this creates very basic writing and that is true because this is just a foundation.  Think about it like this:  How could one decorate the walls of a new house if the walls haven't been built yet?  They can't!  The organization of essays are those walls.  Once those walls are up, then word choice, voice and more can paint them and add other embellishments like mirrors or artwork.

You can get these outlines to use with your own classes too!  They're available in my Writers' Toolkits along with all kinds of other sentence starters for transitions, evidence, commentary and more.  You can even get a free sample of the Informative outline which is in my resource library.


Click on either image to see more!

Thanks for stopping by!

Show and Tell - More Top Google Tech

I'm always happy to join the fun with Forever in 5th grade's Show and Tell linky!

This summer, I have been researching Google Apps that can be used without Google Classroom.

I've been experimenting with using Forms to collect student information, Sheets to collect student data, and Doctopus to share assignments with large groups of students all at once.  (I'm still working on Doctopus - it's a bit overwhelming.)  I promised to post each Saturday and missed this past one but I think that this post will make up for that.  :)

With the new school year quickly approaching, I am focused on tech that will help me with my students that are learning English or have special needs.

First, I know I will have many ELL students this fall and certainly some with special needs or 504 plans.  I also know I will need to track their accommodations and be prepared to provide this information for observations.  This task can be daunting but I think Google Forms will make it easier!

All I have to do is make a Form for me to fill in with all the pertinent information:

Need to track students' needs and accommodations?  Use Google Forms!

Then later I could add dates or assignments to the form for even more detailed records.  Plus, anytime I need to add a student or change information due to a meeting, it's easily done!
To add, just complete your Form again.

 To edit, just click on "responses" and let the Form create a spreadsheet of the information.  Go into the spreadsheet and click on whatever you need to edit.

Easy Peasy and printable!

I know that many students have the accommodation of having tests read to them.  Did you know there's an app called Read and Write for Google that will read things on the computer out loud?  All you have to do is click here to find the app, then install the app, highlight the word/words you want read to you and then press the play button! 

Do your students have the accommodation of having tests read out loud?  Use Read and Write for Google!

You will see that there are premium features that seem to require you to pay in order to keep them.  However, teachers get a FREE premium account!  Click here to sign up for that free account! 

The last app that I have been playing with is Voice Recognition.  This allows you to speak what you want written and it will do the writing for you! This one takes some time to work with as it has to "learn" your voice, but I think it's worth it!  Imagine having students who can't seem to get the words out on paper, but could speak them and end up with a text they could edit!

Help your most challenged students write using the voice recognition app!

Click here to get this app!

I hope my little adventures help you find ways to differentiate for your students this year. I enjoy finding ways to break down thorny concepts into fun and practical activities.  You'll find lots of these activities in my periodic newsletter.  You'll also get ideas and freebies like the one below:

Tame the ELL and Special Needs paperwork with a free copy of a form that you can use to track your students' needs and accommodations!

Thanks for stopping by!

Top Google Tech for Teachers - Doctopus!

Exploring Google Apps to use without Google Classroom!

Welcome to this week's Google exploration!  If you've been here before, you know that I have been working to learn all I can about Google Apps to use without Google Classroom.

Recently, I have been on a search to figure out how to distribute templates to all my students and I was told Doctopus was the answer!  So I began looking through some videos...

This was my favorite from all the ones I watched!

My biggest takeaway from this was all the sharing options and control I could have as the teacher.

Top Google Tech for Teachers - Doctopus!  Powerful sharing and control features!

Once you have a roster (that you can create by having students fill in a Google Form that you make), Doctopus will set up an amazing spreadsheet with not only students information, but their assignments with a link and when they worked on the document!  Now you have proof of who worked and who didn't!

Plus, you can share the same document with individuals or groups or you can share different documents with individuals or groups.  Perfect for differentiation!  Plus, if they are group documents, you can restrict who can see or edit what!

I am still not sure how this might work for my digital data tracking plan.  There's just so much in Doctopus to wrap my head around!  I need more time to let all the new information percolate and then to try out some ideas.  I am hopeful that I will have a good idea on this topic for next week.  :)

Before you go, you might want to enter this fabulous giveaway:

English Teacher Giveaway!  Ends July 10th!

How do you enter?
1) Browse the stores in the image above and choose 1 or 2 teaching resources for $7 total in each store.
2) Follow the TPT stores.
3) Write the title of the resources you have chosen in the Rafflecopter field.
The giveaway went live on July 6 and will end on July 10th at midnight EST.
The winner will be chosen randomly via Rafflecopter. You will have a chance to win only if you complete all the actions! Good Luck!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Thanks for stopping by!

Top 3 Summer Pins for Middle School Teachers!

Ahhh...July...Summertime at its finest!  While I spend lots of time catching up on my home project list and playing with my boys, back to school is always in the back of my mind...

Even though I teach Middle School, I am all about themes.  I love the idea of adventure and the Disney movie "Up".  We'll see if this makes it on my door or another theme as this pin leads to several more!! 


I've also been mulling over some new ideas for my syllabus...


Sometimes when I am not able to turn off that teacher brain, I think I need this:


I'm not really stressed, but I definitely need to turn my teacher brain off for a while, ya know?  

I'll try to limit my planning to one day a week.  We'll see how that goes!  Feel free to follow my Pinterest board to see how I'm doing (Ha!)

An InLinkz Link-up

Before you go, click {here} to celebrate summer with a blog blowout that has freebies and a chance at $100 TpT Gift card!
Thanks for stopping by!

School's Out Blog Blowout!

Welcome to the Summer Blog Blowout!
I know you might have been expecting my summer series on Google Apps so I hope you'll forgive me because I just had to join up with some swell bloggers to celebrate summer!

Even though my school is not 1:1 yet, nor do we have Google classroom, there is a huge push to "go digital" and I am trying to figure out how I can incorporate various strategies given our limitations.  There are many opinions on the "flipped classroom" and I have seen it done poorly and seen it done well.  I think the difference is in the follow-up.  There's no way a video can replace a teacher as you can't ask a video questions or have it show you the concept in another way.  That's where a teacher is completely necessary.  However, the engagement with videos and other "hyperdocs" is magnificent!

This book is definitely helpful as is all my independent research on all the Google apps one can use with or without Google classroom.
Stop back by next Saturday and check out Doctopus with me!

My limited-time freebie is my newest Back to School set of plans for Middle School:

This is FIVE days of plans complete with THREE getting to know you activities and craftivities, THREE activities for rules, procedures and expectations, and a great plan for a super Socratic Seminar using the short story "The Veldt" by Ray Bradbury.

Click {here}to get this freebie but only until July 8th!  
All I ask is that you kindly leave feedback!  :)

Ahh, summer...the time when lost arts are re-discovered and there's time to enjoy them...

  I will play, play, play with my boys who are growing before my eyes:  Frisbee, swimming, badminton, riding bikes, hopscotch, going to Disney, board games, card games, science experiments, writing books, making new music...

 I will play the piano more and maybe learn the theme song from the Disney movie "Up".

  I will learn the "Lava" song well enough to sing with my ukelele-playing husband.

  I will experiment with new recipes to make dinner time better next school year!  Maybe some prepare-ahead and put in the freezer kinds?  How about some crock pot meals?

  I will organize!  There are too many nooks and crannies in my house that need attention so tackling one each day will hopefully get the job done!

School's Out Blog Blowout

Thanks for stopping by!  Now it's time to...