Easy Memory Improvement Idea

Quick and Easy Memory Improvement Idea for your Middle School Classroom!  #memory #teaching

My students are preparing for our state's big writing test.  We've been working on essays all year long but they still seem to be struggling with the basics?  How can this be?  

They aren't internalizing the basics.

Why?  Well, I sat down to try and figure this out when I read this great post by Secondary Sara:

Secrets From the Tutor: What Your Secondary Students Need This Year

In that article, it explains how even though we as teachers think we have said something 100 times, it's because we say it 6 times a day and so it feels like we're repeating ourselves incessantly.  However, to the student, they have heard that information just one period a day and that information is competing for space in their brain along with 6 other classes, after-school sports, clubs, and other activities.

It was like an "Ah-ha!" moment for me as I realized that my students need more repetition than I thought they did; They need more re-teaching and more time.

My solution:  Flashcard books!

Flashcard books are great teaching tools for kids to help them with organization of ideas!  #vocabulary #DIY

Every day we review some part or function of an essay.  Then we record it in our flashcard book.  That night, they are to study all the flashcards that have information on them.  The next day, I ask each student one question from what was on the cards out loud at the start of the period.  If the student gets it right, it's a 100.  If the students is on the right track, but not "there", it's a 75%.  If it's wrong or they do not remember, it's a 50%.  I mark this on a copy of my roster and at the end of the week I average their scores and enter that average as one grade under the title "Verbal Quiz".  

To make sure that I ask every person a question, I have all my students' names on popsicle sticks.  As I draw a name, I put it back inside the cup but inside a paper towel holder.  

This is how to make flashcards work in your middle school classroom!  #engagement #study

As we add at least 1 card each day, any question can be asked of any card so it's a cumulative kind of thing.  Each day we are building up our knowledge.  It's also quick and easy to see who is studying.  Since my students care about their grades, this works very well.  I have seen students who were not able to answer the first or second day, come in on the third ready to go.  

I tend to come up with my questions on the spot, but that's probably because I have been teaching for 26 years.  If you think you might need a little more structure, then maybe these task cards would help:

Review the structure of an essay with your middle school students using these task cards!   It's low prep, fun, and easy to grade!

These task cards go over the 6 steps in the writing process, the 3 sentences included in an introduction, the 8 sentecnes in a body paragraph, the 6 sentences in a counterclaim paragraph, and the 3 sentences in a conclusion.

You can use these for the daily questions and then later, play a Scoot or Scatter game a with them!  This way these cards do double duty!

You could also try adding in a little friendly competition with the Essay Challenge!  This requires students to apply their knowledge of structure.  You can read more about it by clicking here.

Add in a little firendly competition as you review essay writing with your middle school students using this challenge!  It's fun, gets the job done, and makes a great display!

I have also had success with using these Cloze Activities.  This is where students have to apply their knowledge of the terms.

Review essay writing structure with this cloze activity.  Students read through the passage that "talks through" what an argumentative essay should have structure-wise. There are blanks to fill in using a word bank.  This quickly and easily tests students' knowledge so you can prepare any last minute review before their big state writing test!

Whatever you do, I hope one of these ideas helps your students to be ready for their state test in writing!  

Thanks for stopping by!

Top 5 Novel Activities for ANY book in Middle School

When I read a book with my class, I want my students to keep track of the story elements.  I have tried several different methods like:

1.  A plot diagram.

Plot diagrams are one great way to help students keep track of story elements but there's at least 4 more...  #teaching #middleschool #novelstudy

I added a lot of structure to this diagram to be sure that students could give me ALL the story information.  I have even used the school's poster machine to hang this in the room so we always had a nice reference.

Also, depending on the class, I have taught the students what each part of the diagram was first using this video and notes.

2.  A double entry journal.  (Springboard, anyone?)

Double Entry Journals are one way to keep track of a novel AND they help students collect information for essays!  This is just one of four ways to track story elements for a #novelstudy.  #middleschool #teaching

These are great because they serve a double purpose - they track story information and allow the students to collect evidence and commentary for an essay.  The downside is that they are pretty difficult for students who are not advanced so those students need a lot of help.  I used to fill in some of the information (as seen above) and then ask my challenged students to fill in the missing parts.  That helped but sometimes they still fell off the wagon.

3.  Storyboards

One of the 5 ways to track a novel is to use storyboards!  They give students a creative outlet!  #teaching #middleschool #novelstudy

Students really enjoy these at the outset as they get to draw pictures in the boxes.  The trouble is with the summarizing.  Even though we do a few chapters together, when left to their own devices, these summaries get less and less complete.

4.  And even just a plain 'ol graphic organizer 
(which are actually pretty darn effective)

Middle School Novel Study? Try Graphic Organizers or one of the other 4 activities in this post!  #teaching  #anybook

With this graphic organizer, I made a blank one for some students to fill in on their own (advanced) and with pre-printed plot events that other students (not advanced) had to glue into the boxes in the correct order.  

All of those work reasonably well for most students but then some students begin to feel overwhelmed and stop fully participating.  Why?  Because they are basically one size fits all.

Once I realized this, I just knew that making my own notes was going to be necessary.  And since I had already had success with Pixanotes, I thought why not try it with novel study?

So I did!  And these notes are perfect for all levels because there are different versions to suit different learners.

5.  Novel Study Pixanotes - 4 versions to help meet all students' needs.

Give middle school learners more support with novel study content!  These notes come in 4 formats to provide different supports all at the same time!  #teaching #intheclassroom #differentiatedinstruction #languagearts
Give your most challenged students notes that look like everyone else's but have more scaffolding for your Middle School Novel Study!  #languagearts #teaching #differentiatedinstruction #classroom

Some middle school students need very little support so give them this version of the novel study notes. All students will have notes that are tailored to their needs and no one has to know the difference!  #differentiateddinstruction #languagearts #teaching #novelstudy
Some middle school students need writing supports like sentence stems.  These novel study notes come differentiated so those who need sentence stems get them and those that don't can use a different version.  #teaching #languagearts #differentiatedinstruction #novelstudy

These Pixanotes got the seal of approval from my ELL students this year as they truly struggled with the required in-class novel. Of course, this isn't the only thing I did to help them understand and process the novel, but that's a whole other post!

Thanks for stopping by!

Want to get copies of the activities from above?  Join the Teacher Troop to get these members-only extras!