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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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!

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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 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
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!

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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!

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