Monday, June 27, 2016

Monday Made It

More like Monday Makeover!  

These three pieces have been useful in my classroom but don't really go with my forever-and-always blue theme.  The little metal piece is magnetized and usually holds chalk or markers for my anchor charts.  I bought it my first year in this district.  It was pink.  I do not like pink.   

The box with wicker drawers was an ugly scratched up wooden box my assistant gave me after she cleaned out her house.  It's pretty useful...just not so pretty.  I contemplated on painting the drawers, but decided against it.  (I also ran out of spray paint.)

The other "thingymagiger"  I found in my grandma's basement.  I think it is supposed to be for drying dishes??  It was an ugly olive green.  I could just throw it out, but I really like using it for my scissors.    

And so... now all of my useful items are now useful and blue.  My forever-favorite classroom color.  

Sunday, June 26, 2016

New Room, New Chalkboard

The other day I told my good friend that I was moving to a new classroom.  He's also a teacher in a district about an hour away from mine.  This is how our conversation followed...

Him: "Nice, so now you have air-conditioning?"

Me: "No, but I have windows!!"  (I really stressed the "s" sound in windows as my last classroom just had one.)

Him: "Uhh ok.  So you have a Smartboard now?"

Me: "No."

Him: "Whiteboard?"

Me: "No, but now I have TWO blackboards."

Him:  "How is that better?"

Me:  "It's two! and my room is bigger!"

The conversation pretty much ended from there.  My friend congratulated me but didn't know how I could possibly teach without a Smartboard.  It is gives us some pretty amazing tools, but at the end of the day, it isn't the Smartboard that teaches the kids, right?

While perceived as devastating to my friend, I really don't mind my school environment.  We have laptops for the kids to borrow and projectors for each classroom, so I do implement technology in my teaching.  Still- I feel that my very best lessons have stemmed from an inspiring writing prompt, pencils, and paper.  Or a really deep conversation about universal themes relating to our class novel.  And so, I honestly don't care about being "Smartboard-less."  I loved my former classroom with the blue chalkboard.  And I will love my future classroom with two black chalkboards.

Technically, this will be my very last blurb from the blue chalkboard.  (Although I will keep my blog name!)

I know that I haven't been the best of bloggers.  This year has been challenging with a lot of changes.  Next year will be my dream come true.  My schedule goes back to teaching just English.  I'll have 3 English classes that will meet for two periods each.  Two fifth grade classes and one 6th grade.  I am so happy to have this time again.  I'm also feeling inspired and rejuvenated.  I am thinking about starting an Instagram account as it might be easier to keep up with and fun to add!  Any ideas for a name?  (Blurbs from the Blackboard?) Should I keep it the same as my blog?

Thanks for reading!  Please comment as I love getting feedback!


Monday, January 4, 2016

How I Fit Writing Instruction into My ISNs

This marks my third full year using ISNs (Interactive Student Notebooks). When Pinterest first came around, it introduced me to this world of teacher blogs,, and, of course, interactive notebooks.  Like a million of other female teachers, I've always considered myself crafty, creative, and a visual learner. So, upon first glance of the beautifully colorful ISN pages, I knew I would be hooked.  When Erin Cobb came out with her interactive notebook pages, it all clicked for me.  I absolutely love her products and they have become a MAJOR part of my ELA curriculum.  Her literature  and informational text pages are perfection and I use them pretty much verbatim for how she laid them out/wrote them.

While I also purchased her writing pages, I found that I did not really use them.  It's not that they aren't good, it's just that writing curriculum has always been more comfortable to me than literature (Weird-since I was a Lit major!).  I tend to be in my own element for writing and kind of teach using my own strategies and resources.  For the past two years, I had my students write in their journals and put writing mini-lessons in there.  Last year a student told me he didn't really want to keep the journal of writing drafts (they take home a published portfolio in June) but that he "guessed" he would because he wanted to keep those writing lessons. make an already-too-long story short, this year I split the composition notebooks into an "English/Writing" side and a "Reading" side.  So far the only topic that students disagreed with me on which side to go in was figurative language.  I won and it went in the English side. ;)

I think this has been my best ISN year to date.  I feel much more organized!  I have a Table of Contents which is split down the middle.  I just  had the kids write English on the left and Reading on the right.   Erin's Grammar pages are great and a lot of those have gone in as well. We're nearing the end of the writing side, but it works out because we're now delving into literature.

Resources on the left from: Lovin Lit (TPT)

Resources on the right from: Teaching Teens in the Twenty First (TPT)

Most of November and December was spent on my Personal Narrative Writing Unit.  It seems like a lot of time spent, but I use that as the basis for many skill lessons.  We close read mentor texts, learn applicable grammar skills (compound & complex sentences), learn stylistic writing strategies, and more. It seems that when the writing topic is personal to my students, they are much more invested.  So basically, I really work this unit to get as much out of it as possible.  First the kids brainstorm, then pre-write, then draft.  Then the lessons come in.  By the time I have to teach essay writing, my students already have a great skill-set and I don't spend even half the time on essays as I do narratives.

This week I'm gearing up to glue in all of these writing (student) anchor charts in their ISNs.  I found it to be way too distracting to glue anything when we were in the midst of writing.  I have a writing portfolio cart and students just kept everything in there.  Tomorrow we will spend a solid day on ISN organization.  We'll glue all the past writing lessons in as well as glue in new interactive notes for upcoming lit lessons.  While doing the writing portion, we'll highlight and review!

Finally, I want to share with you the link to my TPT store so if interested, you can check out my Personal Narrative resource.  I think this might be one of my favorite out of all of my products, but I know there is always room to grow!  If anyone would like to review my packet and provide me with some feedback, I'd love to send it to you for free in exchange of your opinions and constructive criticism.  Maybe there's something I can add or expand on.  :)    If this product works well (and it did for my students) I'm hoping to create a similar style resource for expository and argument writing.

Wow!  If you made it through my post, thank you, thank you for reading!  I really enjoyed sharing how I've made my own writing lessons work into the ISN.  



Sunday, January 3, 2016

Welcome Back Plans and 3 Freebies!!! (2 mine - 1 recommended link)

 Among all of the other reasons I love partaking in teacher blogging is the feeling that I'm not alone.  Sometimes I'm frustrated with my current vocab. curriculum and come on here to look for ideas. Summer sneak peaks of classrooms are always super exciting (and I really meant that super).  And this week...well it was just nice to know I'm not the only one with bittersweet feelings about winter break ending.

While it is kind of depressing to look to less sleep and more stress,
 I find it satisfying to get back into planning.  

With our school moving to block scheduling, I have been teaching a project enrichment class elective.  This class is a bit nuts, since I'm pretty much inventing the curriculum as I go.  Still there are a lot of sweet perks to it.  Anytime I see cute project ideas online that I'd never have time to do with my English classes....bam!  They're perfect for my enrichment class.  It's a perfect way for me to get my creative fix in since my English class time has been cut in half and I'm pretty no-nonsense these days. There are TONS of New Years Resolutions activities out here for FREE on TPT and I'm excited to be using at least one of them next week.

The following link and picture look fun!  I think If I were a kid, I'd want to fill it out!
New Year's Resolution Link

And then on to English class. well we're going to be reviewing a bit of figurative language and going through some literature ISN lessons from i'mlovinlit before starting novel units.  But before we even get to that, we've got to glue a whole bunch of anchor charts in our ISNs from the last writing unit.

I really want to talk about that as well, but since this blog post is already a bit too long for our casual (and hopefully restful) Sundays before work, I'll dedicate another post to that.

Last but not are two freebie links from my TPT shop.  Grab them now because I'll be making these and more into a priced bundle of mini-project activities.   I just like activities like these because they're quick and easy project ideas that are perfect for sub plans or fillers.  I will be using these with my enrichment class.  I think these are perfect for any enrichment or elementary class.  Enjoy! 

Campaign Poster Assignment

 Figurative Language Poem Project

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Writing "Do Nows & Transition Words

This year is all about the "Essential Question."  Forget differentiation, this is the new learning fad! my school at least.  What's new in my district is the requirement for standards and objectives to be posted, as well as the stress for an essential question to be posted.  This is all needed for the new procedure of administrator "walk-throughs" three plus times a year. Lucky for me, our Literature textbooks include one-two per story/article.  Soooo...I have been incorporating the essential question into about 1/2 of our daily "do nows."  I project something like this from my laptop when students walk in and they get right to work copying.

October 23, 2015                                       "A Royal Mystery"  (Drama)
Objective: to identify traits of a play/drama               Standards:  CCSS.....

Do Now:  Respond to the essential question for this week's reading in your journals. 

How do art and performance help us understand a text?  

Class Activities: 
1. Essential Question (share)
2. Read "A Royal Mystery" 
3. Complete WB page 10 (HOMEWORK if not completed in class)

I love this strategy for a few reasons.  And because I love lists, I will list them. ;)

1. Everything an observer could possibly need to know is posted. 
2. The darkness calms students.
3. I have a few quiet minutes to check HW and talk to students if I need to relay any messages.
4. Based off the writing, we discuss and this serves as a great anticipatory set!
5. Students are WRITING!  Often!  
        a. These quick responses are not daunting and students enjoy don't mind doing them.  
        b.  I grade the journals on the weekend and these little bits of writing show me a LOT about my                students skills.  (Some write two pages; others two sentences.)

After grading this week's lessons, I noticed my students do not use transition words.  This weekend, I put a little anchor chart together for them in an easy-to-use/kid-friendly format.  

Here's the link at my TPT:

Feel free to check it out!  Next week I am doing a two day Writing Workshop on Personal Narratives before a long weekend break for the teachers' convention. Let's hope these transition words help my pre-teen cherubs! ;)

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Motivating Students Blog Series-Reaching the Unreachable

Sorry for the delay, my dear blog readers, but this school year came in like a lion...and I'm still waiting for that lamb part.  ;)

Back to motivation...
We all have been there with that one or two (or depending on your district maybe 20!) students who come from families that don't really care or provide support.  The story is the same for each kid.  The parents don't care about them, so they don't care about themselves.  In my district, it's usually the minority kids. These students are usually good kids that have good hearts, but are troubled and lacking a positive role model. 

According to my class reading, it is important to build a relationship with minority students prior to motivating them to do classwork.  

I know what you're thinking, this is all great in theory, but what happens when you're dealing with these kids in real life?  And they are horrible?  And ruining my class?

Well, I'll share my own (it's still a work in progress) success story.    I have a student in my English class who completely fits the mold.  He is a minority student and comes from a family of eight in a more-urban-than-suburban part of town.  During the very first week, I considered this strategy  with this student.  When giving out tickets (to trade for rewards) I made sure to give him some after he gave a correct answer, I complimented him often, I told him how he's such a good boy (cheesy I know, but I think he needs to hear it) and complimented the whole class, saying how bright they all are and how I'm so happy to have them all.  

So how is it working?  Said boy is still rambunctious and chatty, but I do feel that when I reprimand him he tries to listen and generally respects me.  After each time I dole out reprimands, I am mindful to try to give out compliments too.  This motivation aspect of teaching is a work in progress, but I do feel that it is important to remember why we all began our careers.  

If you've ever been asked why you became a teacher, I highly doubt your answer would be: "because I love testing, SGOs, IEPs, grading, paperwork, emailing parents, dealing behavioral kids, etc."  The list goes on!  I'm also sure that most of us would not include "summers off" or "holidays" in our responses.  If you're like me, you'd probably respond with "because I love working with children and love helping young minds grow."  

So even though a lot of these motivational ideas are common sense, I felt that these ideas were great reminders to bring me back to my original goals.  Hopefully my post will do the same for you! :) 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Motivating Students Blog Series ~Top 5 Ideas to Increase Student Motivation

Hi all,

Yesterday I wrote about my inspiring grad class on motivating students.  (Click here to see that blog post: Intro Link  ) Out of all classes I have taken, this was my absolute favorite.  It provided many ideas that are *borderline* common sense, and yet ideas I never directly considered.

So without further ado, here are the ....

Top 5 Ideas to Increase Student Motivation

1. High Energy >>>>
-Increases attention level
-Be passionate, be YOU
-Show students why you do what you do
-Your high energy may inspire, motivate and, at the very least, interest them.

2. Missing Information ???
-Give students some information, but all
-Students will soon be curious and interested
-Can be done in the form of trivia ?s about your topic, a definition of a word they will learn for the day, cloze passages, etc. 

3. The Self-system***
-The self-system is basically how students feel about class
-Have they had past successes in this subject or in school?
-Is the information relevant to them?
-How to work with the self-system: 
      -give students opportunities for success
      -give explanations on WHY they need to learn the lesson
      -Make CONNECTIONS to past lessons or interesting topics
      -Make learning FUN

4. Mild Pressure+++
-Helps students put some stress on themselves and their work
-Students are more likely to pay attention if they don't know when they'll be called on.

5. Mild Controversy and Competition!!!
-Turn test-prep into a game with teams
-Utilize discussions and debate when possible
-Allow students to research to form individual opinions

That's it!  Easy right?  Just something to consider as we begin a new school year. :)
Stay tuned for tomorrow's post on....

Reaching the "Unreachable"