Differentiation is NOT Easy - but TRESmart™ is!


Standards based Middle School ELA Reading Lessons with BUILT-IN Differentiation!  #teaching #activities #commoncore #readytouse


As a teacher, I know my job is to differentiate for all the various learner needs in my classroom.  And I've spent a lot of time researching how to best meet these needs.  During that time, I've found a lot of lists, ideas, and strategies.  That's all good stuff but it still takes LOADS of TIME to implement them!  (Never mind how long it took to just find all this information.)  
That's the Trouble with Differentiation.

But there's more to know about differentiation.  When I dug into the research, I found that if lessons were designed to meet the needs of the learners from the very start, then following a pattern of teach-reteach-enrich would make differentiation a much more streamlined process.  While that gives teachers a better plan to follow, it still leaves plenty to do with creating the reteaching and enriching activities (and never mind the hundred other responsibilities a teacher has in a day).

That's why I say "Differentiation is NOT easy!"

But what if the work had already been done for you?
What if there were lessons tailored to the standards with differentiation already built in?  

The kind of differentiation that has options for content (teaching), process (practice) and product (reteaching and enrichment) which will lead to an optimum learning environment for students?

Sounds like a dream, right?
Good news - it's not!!

  I sat down and put my best work from the past 24 years of teaching Language Arts into this very format.

I call it TRESmart - *Teach*Reteach*Enrich - which is a 'Smart' way to teach because it helps to reach all learners!

The first TRESmart unit that is now available is Theme and Central Idea.  
It is aligned to R.CCR.2:  Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

This unit includes:
-a teacher script for day by day plans
-editable lesson plans that could be submitted to an administrator
-unit introduction
-unit vocabulary with worksheet and word wall cards
-embedded videos (no links!)
-PowerPoints
-differentiated content with Pixanotes® (downloadable)
-practice with task cards (downloadable)
-additional practice
-quizzes (downloadable)
-menus for reteaching (labeled as enhancement) (downloadable)
-menus for enrichment (downloadable)
-A Final Assessment (downloadable)
-Answer Keys

All the work is done!  Just make the copies & teach!

And you can try the Theme part of the unit for FREE!  Just click below and try it out for yourself on Thinkific!
(When you click through it may look like you are ordering the unit, but you will not be asked for credit card information.  It looks like this because I'm technically giving you access to a paid course (unit).  It's just that the first half is free!)



OR you could also check out the Theme Unit (for free) and the Central Idea Unit (paid) on Teachers Pay Teachers:


Standards-based Middle School ELA Theme Mini-Unit with BUILT-IN differentiation for content, process, and product using the teach-reteach-enrich format! #teaching #languagearts #commoncorereading #theme #lessonplans




Standards-based Middle School ELA Central Idea Mini-Unit with BUILT-IN differentiation for content, process, and product using the research-based teach-reteach-enrich format!  #lessonplans #teaching #commoncorereading #languagearts #centralidea

In this resource, you'll find:

★ A video of me reading "The Important Book" to use an introduction to the unit.
★ Editable lesson plans
★ Day by day Teacher Script
★ Vocabulary Worksheets with Word Wall Cards for these words: inference, drawn, theme, central idea, cite, evidence, objective, summary, text, textual analysis, determine, explicitly, several, and development.
★ Central Idea PowerPoint with an original text and that tells students how to find the central idea and supporting details in 4 easy steps! 
★Pixanotes that match the PowerPoint and come in 4 versions os you can differentiate the content.
★ Task cards to practice the skills with directions for 3 ways to choose to use them so you can differentiate the process.
★ A Central Idea Quiz
★ Teacher page for reteaching and enriching options so you can differentiate the product.
★ Student pages for reteaching (labeled as enhancement) and enriching
★ Reteaching video (Quick Review of Central Idea)
★ A Final Assessment for Theme and Central idea (the TRESmart™ Theme unit is FREE - see above!)
★ Answer keys

All of these same items can be found on the TRESmart Thinkific platform too.  The difference is that all of these items are laid out in order for you making it easier for you when planning and when presenting to your students.  

Either way you go, (Teachers Pay Teachers or Thinkific) you'll be ready to reach ALL learners!

Thanks for stopping by!

Top 5 Best Ways to Organize A Middle School Classroom


Middle School Classroom Organization Ideas!  #teaching #backtoschool


During a normal school year, I teach about 130 middle school students over the course of six periods in a day.  To keep all my classes straight I am big on having dedicated spaces and places for things as well as routines.

At this point, I have been teaching for 24 years and so I have had time to really craft some good organizational techniques and this is what has worked the best for me:

1.  Restroom procedure.
Students write their name on the board in a special spot on the board in order.  If Sally's name is first and Fred's name is second, once Mrs. Spangler is not instructing, then Sally gets up, signs out on the clipboard by the door and goes to the restroom.  When she returns, she signs back in, erases her name and tells Fred it's his turn.  That's it.  No fancy system.  Nothing to track.  Works like a charm.  


2.  Paper turn-in place.
Near the door to the room, I have two bookshelves - one on either side.  Each class period has a shelf.  On that shelf is a tray.  That's where that class period hands in all papers.  I make a big deal about it at the beginning of the year and tell them "I don't care if I am swinging from the light eating Fritos, your papers go in THIS tray."  

  Notebook/textbook storage is also
on the class period shelf where the turn-in tray is located.

The idea behind this shelf system is that it's near the door so that on their way in, the students can pick up materials and it's an easy drop off on the way out.  I think of it as classroom "feng shui".

3.  Student center
Near the bookcases, by the door, I also have a "student center" with the pencil sharpener, tissues, hand sanitizer, and of course the restroom clipboard.


Middle School Classroom Organization Ideas!  #teaching #backtoschool


4.  Beginning of class bell work

This changes from year to year but whatever I start with whether it's a journal or mentor sentences is what I continue throughout the year.  Why?  Consistency.  Every day the students can count on the fact that as they walk in, they retrieve their things from their class shelf, go to their seats, and get out their bell work.  Period.  It's the same each and every day.  


5.  Supplies


A creative way to store supplies in the middle school classroom.  #teaching #organization #classroomorganization


And the best for last - how I store classroom supplies.  I put this toy organizer right in front of my desk and keep all the crayons, marker, glue, scissors, colored pencils and such in the bins.  See those little blue baskets on top?  I use those to divvy up the supplies that partners will use during class and place them on the desks before school.  

I love this because I am reusing a toy organizer and because everything is always very handy.

Want more great ideas like these?  Join the Teacher Troop!



Thanks for stopping by!

Technology in the ELA Classroom - #2ndaryELA

Join secondary English Language Arts teachers Tuesday evenings at 8 pm EST on Twitter. This week's chat will be about technology.
Brynn Allison, The Literary Maven, & Lisa Spangler, Mrs. Spangler in the Middle, host #2ndaryELA on Twitter every Tuesday evening from 8 - 8:30 PM EST. #2ndaryELA is a weekly chat for secondary English Language Arts teachers focused on a topic. Every Sunday, we post the topic and questions on our blogs to allow you to prepare for the upcoming Tuesday evening's chat. Thank you to everyone who joined us last week and we hope that you will join us again.

We'd also love for you to join our 2ndaryELA Facebook group, even if you aren't on Twitter. 2ndaryELA is a group of middle and high school English Language Arts teachers looking to share ideas and best practices. This group is an extension of our Twitter chat and a place for collaboration, questions, and encouragement. Feel free to post teaching ideas, success stories, resource links, photos, etc. that will enhance our instruction.

On Tuesday, July 31, our #2ndaryELA chat will be about technology.

Join secondary English Language Arts teachers Tuesday evenings at 8 pm EST on Twitter. This week's chat will be about technology.

The Directions:
1. Log into Twitter on Tuesday from 8-8:30 PM EST.
2. Search for tweets with the hashtag #2ndaryELA in the search bar. Make sure to click “Latest.”
3. Introductions are for the first 5 minutes.
4. Starting at 8:05 (@literarymaven or @2peasandadog) will post questions every 5 minutes using the format Q1, Q2, Q3, etc. and the hashtag #2ndaryELA.
5. Respond to questions using the format A1, A2, A3, etc. with #2ndaryELA.
6. Follow any teachers responding and who are also using #2ndaryELA.
7. Like and respond to other teachers' tweets.

You can schedule your responses to the questions ahead of time using a scheduler like TweetDeck or HootSuite (but don't forget to use A1, A2, etc. and #2ndaryELA). Links are encouraged, so be sure to use a link shortener like tinyurlbitlygoo.gl or ow.ly Just visit one of those links and paste your long link to shorten it for Twitter. Using images is also encouraged when relevant.

New to chats? Here are the rules:
1. Stay on topic & stay positive!
2. Please do not post or promote paid products unless specifically asked.
3. If you arrive late, try to look through other posts before beginning.
4. Feel free to just read, like, and/or retweet.
5. Always use our hashtag #2ndaryELA, including in your replies to others.
6. Make sure your twitter feed is set to public. (Also keep in mind that Twitter is completely public – that means students, parents, and administrators can and will read what you tweet.)

You can also check out a quick video tutorial in this blog post.

Be sure to spread the word to any teacher friends who might be interested in joining us as well. We look forward to chatting with you Tuesday evening and in our 2ndaryELA Facebook group!

Get caught up on past chats here:

#2ndaryELA Recap - Back to School Planning


Back to School Planning from #2ndaryELA - PD You Want From The Teacher Community You Need!  #teaching #english #languagearts #middleschool #highschool

This chat was all about getting ready for the new school year.  Teachers shared what they do on the first day, how they organize their rooms, and even what will be their first content lesson.

Back to School Planning with #2ndaryELA

Join secondary English Language Arts teachers Tuesday evenings at 8 pm EST on Twitter. This week's chat will be about back to school planning.
Brynn Allison, The Literary Maven, & Lisa Spangler, Mrs. Spangler in the Middle, (that's me!) are hosting a chat called #2ndaryELA on Twitter every Tuesday evening from 8 - 8:30 PM EST. 

#2ndaryELA is a weekly chat for secondary English Language Arts teachers focused on a topic. Every Sunday, we post the topic and questions on our blogs to allow you to prepare for the upcoming Tuesday evening's chat. 

Thank you to everyone who joined us last week and we hope that you will join us again!

We'd also love for you to join our 2ndaryELA Facebook group, even if you aren't on Twitter. 2ndaryELA is a group of middle and high school English Language Arts teachers looking to share ideas and best practices. This group is an extension of our Twitter chat and a place for collaboration, questions, and encouragement. Feel free to post teaching ideas, success stories, resource links, photos, etc. that will enhance our instruction.

On Tuesday, July 24, our #2ndaryELA chat will be about back to school planning.


Join secondary English Language Arts teachers Tuesday evenings at 8 pm EST on Twitter. This week's chat will be about back to school planning.


The Directions:
1. Log into Twitter on Tuesday from 8-8:30 PM EST.
2. Search for tweets with the hashtag #2ndaryELA in the search bar. Make sure to click “Latest.”
3. Introductions are for the first 5 minutes.
4. Starting at 8:05 (@literarymaven or @2peasandadog) will post questions every 5 minutes using the format Q1, Q2, Q3, etc. and the hashtag #2ndaryELA.
5. Respond to questions using the format A1, A2, A3, etc. with #2ndaryELA.
6. Follow any teachers responding and who are also using #2ndaryELA.
7. Like and respond to other teachers' tweets.

You can schedule your responses to the questions ahead of time using a scheduler like TweetDeck or HootSuite (but don't forget to use A1, A2, etc. and #2ndaryELA). Links are encouraged, so be sure to use a link shortener like tinyurlbitlygoo.gl or ow.ly Just visit one of those links and paste your long link to shorten it for Twitter. Using images is also encouraged when relevant.

New to chats? Here are the rules:
1. Stay on topic & stay positive!
2. Please do not post or promote paid products unless specifically asked.
3. If you arrive late, try to look through other posts before beginning.
4. Feel free to just read, like, and/or retweet.
5. Always use our hashtag #2ndaryELA, including in your replies to others.
6. Make sure your twitter feed is set to public. (Also keep in mind that Twitter is completely public – that means students, parents, and administrators can and will read what you tweet.)

You can also check out a quick video tutorial in this blog post.

Be sure to spread the word to any teacher friends who might be interested in joining us as well. We look forward to chatting with you Tuesday evening and in our 2ndaryELA Facebook group!

Get caught up on past chats here:


What You Need to Know About Differentiation


Get to the brass tacks on differentiation in the classroom with an exciting sneak peek of something new!   #teaching #middleschool #languagearts


I've spent a good amount of time this summer reading through various books on the subject of differentiation.  


What I'm reading these days for my own personal teacher summer PD!  #teaching #middleschool #languagearts #differentiatedinstruction


It's become a hot topic in my neck of the woods with teachers being required to show examples of how they have differentiated instruction for students with special needs and those learning English.

Of course, my research has shown that to differentiate, teachers must modify the content, process, and product.  But what does that really mean?

Well, it actually all started out in 1984 with a non-profit organization called CAST - The
Center for Applied Special Technology.  Their primary goal was "to explore ways of using new technologies to provide better educational experience to students with disabilities."  

(source)


"As CAST researchers tested and refined their principles, priorities, and vision over that first decade, they came to a new understanding of how to improve education using flexible methods and materials.  They called this approach Universal Design For Learning." (source)

In Universal Design for Learning Theory and Practice,  Anne Meyer, David H. Rose, and David Gordon suggest that the curriculum is the problem, not the students.  It is the curriculum that needs to change to meet the needs of the students and not the other way around.  This means minimizing the barriers to learning yet maximizing the levels of challenge and support.  
With this mindset, lessons would be designed to meet the needs of the broadest range of learners from the start.

That's the heart of differentiated instruction.

Diane Heacox, Ed.D. explains in her book Differentiating Instruction in the Regular Classroom: that "Differentiated instruction is the best response to standards-based education."  "Differentiation, in fact, may be the key to your students' success in a standards-based education system." (p.14)

Why?   Because your goals are defined - they are the standards.  How you get students to the standards is where the art of teaching comes in.  Art is not one-size-fits-all and neither are our students.

Carol Ann Tomlinson explains it best in her book How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-Ability Classrooms by reminding us that "we go about learning in a wide variety of ways, influenced by how our brains are wired, our culture, and our gender (Delpit, 1995; Garner, 1982; Heath, 1983; Sternbertg 1985; Sullivan, 1993)." (p.9)

So if we want the students to meet the standards, we have to be willing to give them multiple pathways to that standard.


Differentiated Instruction in the Middle School class explained with the research and a sneak peek of something exciting and new!  #teaching #languagearts


Diane Heacox offers a way to get started:
"...start small, differentiate one subject or target specific units for revision.  ...and then design additional activities for reteaching or extending learning as necessary." (p.14)

Carol Ann Tomlinson says in her book How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-Ability Classrooms that this process could take up to four or five YEARS.

The problem is most us teachers are being asked to do this RIGHT NOW - not in four or five years.

So, what can we do right now?

Based on this research, I have come to the conclusion that differentiation can be achieved if one follows a "Teach - Reteach - Enrich" pattern in teaching their lessons.


Teach:  Offer multiple opportunities for taking content in and multiple ways to process or practice that content.

Reteach those who struggle:    "If struggling learners can't learn everything, make sure they learn the big ideas, key concepts, and governing principles of the subject at hand." (Tomlinson, p.13)  

Enrich the advanced learner:  "Continually raise the ceilings of expectations so that advanced learners are competing with their own possibilities rather than with a norm." (Tomlinson, p.12)

Now if you're like me, you know in your teacher's heart that this would work and is what real education should be.  However, back in the real world, you're not sure this is something you could totally make happen in the classroom.  After all, you probably already have at least 100 pins of differentiation lists, strategies, and ideas but you never have time to go through them let alone make the things they suggest!

But what if I told you that I had been developing lessons that are standards-based, differentiated and ready to use using the 
Teach-Reteach-Enrich pattern which is clearly a "Smart" way to teach?

That all you need to execute these kinds of lessons is all in order, ready to print, and ready to present?

See what I developed by watching the video below and clicking here to learn more!





Thanks for stopping by!