Sunday, July 24, 2016

Teacher Must-Haves to Start the Year Smoothly

Are you looking for things that will make the beginning of the school year go more smoothly?  How about things that will get you organized and save time?  If so, then read on to see what my top five sanity-saving (and must-have) items are!

1. Personal Laminator

Teacher must-have items: Personal Laminator

Skip the long lines waiting to use the industrial-sized laminator and get some of your laminating done at home. Plus, the quality of the laminate is so much better. This is a Scotch TL901. I've had it for several years and I love it!

2. Flash/Thumb Drive
Either go through and organize the files on last year's drive, or buy a new one and copy the files you want from the old one. Either way, make sure the files and folders are organized in a way that makes it easy to access the things you need.

3.  Remind (Text Reminder Service for Parents and Students)

Beg, Borrow, and Teach!: Using Remind technology to communicate with parents and students.

As soon as I know how many classes I'm teaching, I set this up!  I relentlessly  send several paper copies home on how to sign up, and I email parents with the instructions.  I usually have about 70% of my students/parents signed up each year, and they love it, too!  If you'd like to read more about how I use this, click here.

Document Camera

Top 5 Teacher Must-Have Items: Document Camera

If you've always wanted a document camera but it isn't in the school's budget, this is an affordable option. It's an IPEVO, and I bought mine several years ago for about $70. This thing is awesome! A small list of what you can do with it: Record videos, take pictures, project what you're doing on a screen (I do this every day to show students what I'm highlighting in their notes). There are many more things that can be done with it, but these are the ones I use most often. It's been worth every penny!

Hot Glue Gun

Top Teacher Must-Have Items: Hot Glue Gun

I absolutely LOVE this hot glue gun!  It has a removable cord.  It heats up fast.  It stays hot for a decent amount of time when you unhook it from the cord.  It cools down relatively quickly when you completely unplug it.  If you want to read more about how I use my hot glue gun to put up posters on the wall, read this post.

What can you absolutely not live without at the beginning of the school year?  I'd love to hear your ideas?

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Close Reading for Complex Texts

I just finished reading Guided Highlighted Reading by Weber, Nelson, and Schofield.  It's a great addition to my Close Reading strategies I've already gathered.  This book focuses on techniques for complex nonfiction texts, such as historical documents and classic literature, such as the works of Mark Twain.  I gained some valuable techniques I will be applying to our science articles as well.

Guided Highlighted Reading

This book gives instructions for using complex texts to teach the following strategies:
Author's Craft
Multiple-Choice Questions
Common Sense Text (including vocabulary and Cloze assessments)

One of the things I plan to use them for is Guided Highlighted Reading of online texts. Essentially, all you need to do is the following:
1:  Find a text online and copy/paste it as a Word document/Google Doc OR simply type up a text you want to use and save it that way.
2:  Number the paragraphs or lines and save the document on Google Drive.
3.  Provide the link to students or share it with them on Google Drive.
4.  Have students use the highlighting tools on Google Add-ons to highlight (see picture below)
5. Have students share the link/document with you (see picture)

How to highlight/annotate online texts using Google Drive

I also plan to use the strategies I learned from the book in conjunction with my Close Reading in Middle School directions.

Enriching early finishers in middle school with Close Reading articles

As you can see in the picture below, we didn't have an orange marker so we just colored over it in red and used that instead.

Close Reading/ Guided Highlighted Reading of print texts

I like to laminate the first few articles so they are reusable and I can practice with all my classes.   It also allows students  to use dry-erase markers to annotate directly on the article, just as the would with highlighters or colored pencils on a paper copy.  This is also is a form of differentiation for students who do not yet have the skills to highlight a text online.

Close Reading/ Guided Highlighted Reading of print texts

Do you have any other strategies for teaching Close Reading/Guided Highlighted Reading of online or print texts?  I'd love to hear about them!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Hanging Posters so They Don't Damage Walls

Are you looking for a way to put your posters on your walls that ensures they will stay up but won't damage the walls?  How about a method that goes up and comes down quickly?  If you answered yes, then this post is for you!

First, I put up painter's tape in approximately the same shape, but slightly smaller than the actual poster.

Use painter's tape in a slightly smaller shape than the poster to affix it to classroom walls.

I absolutely LOVE this hot glue gun!  It has a removable cord.  It heats up fast.  It stays hot for a decent amount of time when you unhook it from the cord.  It cools down relatively quickly when you completely unplug it.  

Using painter's tape and hot glue to affix posters to classroom walls.

After I've arranged the painter's tape the way I like it, I put a line of hot glue on each of the strips of tape and quickly affix the posters to the line of glue.

And that's it!  If I need to take the posters down or to replace them, I just peel them off the painter's tape.  If I need to take the whole set up down, the tape neatly peels right off the wall and leaves no sticky residue.

How do you put up posters so they stay up, but come off the wall neatly and quickly?  I'd love to hear your ideas!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Multiple Intelligences Quiz for Grouping and Get-to-Know-You

Would you like to get to know your students' on a deeper level, right from the start?  Would you like to be able to group students based on learning styles that both compliment and balance each other?  Then this post is for you!

Using a Multiple Intelligences Quiz to group students

This quiz asks several questions such as: "Would you rather work in pairs/small groups or by yourself?"  It is a great tool to use at the beginning of the year to get to know your students' learning styles and how they will interact with others. 

Using a Multiple Intelligences Quiz to group students

It has an answer key at the end and a chart in which you can tally students' answers for quick reference throughout the year.

Using a Multiple Intelligences Quiz to group students

You can pick up a copy by clicking here.

How do you group your students?  How do you discover their learning styles?  I'm always looking for new ways to do this, and I'd love to hear your ideas!

Multiple Intelligences Quiz for Grouping and Get-to-Know-You

Sunday, June 26, 2016

How to Answer EVERY Student's Questions

How do you acknowledge and answer every student's question, every day?  You may be thinking it's impossible with all the time restrictions and curriculum requirements, let alone the sheer number of questions students ask each day. Believe me when I say it is possible, and I'm here to share how!

Allow me to present my "Burning Questions Board". This one bulletin board has single-handedly cut down on unrelated comments/questions and helps nurture student wondering/creativity.  

Students write their name, date, and class period on a slip of paper, along with their question or comment.  Then then put the slip of paper in one of the library card pockets.  

I check the pockets on a daily basis or each class period if I have time.  If it's in relation to something we're currently discussing, I try to answer it on the spot with the whole class. 

If it's a question I don't know how to answer, I might assign it to my student researcher, who will use an approved device/search engine to find the answer and share that information with the class. 

If it's a totally unrelated/inappropriate comment or question, I may discard it or put it aside to address later.  If I keep it, I will write a comment on it that lets the student know why it wasn't addressed publicly. 

Do you have any tips on how to make students feel validated when they ask questions without taking up to much time?  I'd love to hear about them!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Class Schedule Cards

If there's one question students consistently ask ALL.YEAR.LONG.... it's "When is lunch?"  "When is recess?"  Etc., etc.

In an effort to help students read a schedule and an analog clock on their own, I put up a schedule.

This is a PDF that can be printed and laminated to use for showing your daily schedule. There are 15 different subject cards, ranging from "Arrival" to "Social Studies", and 20 blank analog clocks so you can draw the times in for each subject.

You can pick a copy at my TpT store.

What do you use for scheduling?  Do you think it's important to have something like this in the upper grades?  What about Middle School?

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Summarization Techniques That get Students Moving and FREEBIES

I just finished reading Summarization in Any Subject by Rick Wormeli.  It was a quick read because I found so many things that gave me a "light bulb moment".  It's all about different techniques to incorporate meaningful summarization activities into your lessons.

I just kept finding more and more activities that I wanted to incorporate into my curriculum next year!  In particular, I looked at activities that get the students up and moving.  All students need to move more throughout the day, especially middle-schoolers.  The following are my favorites:

Human Bingo:
In this technique, a bingo board of summary questions is given to each student.  They must try to find another student who can answer the question and sign their initials.

It got me thinking that this would be a great twist on that "get-to-know-you" activity that many teachers do at the beginning of the year!  I almost always start with a unit on the Scientific Method.  I decided to combine the two.

To pick up a FREE copy, click here.

Carousel Brainstorming:

  • Put up different pieces of chart paper around the room with Lesson Essential Questions (LEQs) or key concepts from the lesson.  I like to make my LEQs based on the language of my state's standardized testing.  For example, if the guidelines say, "The student will investigate and understand similarities and differences between plant and animal cells", I would write "What are the main differences between plant and animal cells?" on the chart paper.
  • Create student groups of 3-5.  I like smaller groups.  It seems to facilitate more conversation.
  • Give each group a different color of marker/writing utensil.
  • Each group either answers the question, adds something to what another group has written, or considers what another group has written.  They can also draw a diagram, concept map, or other graphic related to the question.
  • Set a timer for group rotations.  Even if the group is not finished writing, they move on to the next station.  You can always discuss later what they intended to write during group discussion.
  • After all groups have visited all stations, assign each group to a station again.  This time, they will summarize the information from all the groups that have visited the station and present their findings to the class.


In this technique, students line themselves up according to a set of criteria.

For example, Life Science standards state that students need to be able to name the major contributors to our understanding of DNA (Gregor Mendel, Reginald Punnett, Rosalind Franklin, and James Watson and Francis Crick).

I would divide students into groups of 5 (one student for each person previously named).  I would present the groups with cards with each of the scientists' names on them and ask the group to arrange themselves in the order in which the discoveries were made.

There are actually several correct answers, since Mendel and Punnett and Franklin, Watson, and Crick made their discoveries around the same time in history.  They just have to be able to explain why they have lined up the way they chose.

Partners A and B:

This is a great way to teach minilessons and then quickly have students summarize that information.  After teaching your minilesson, pair students up (Partner A and Partner B).  I like to use my Life Science Clock Partners sheet for this.

Set a timer.  Partner A talks nonstop for 1 minute, saying anything that comes to mind about the lesson.  If they get stuck, they may use notes or other materials to help.  During this minute, Partner B is only allowed to listen.

When the minute is up, the roles reverse and Partner B talks while Partner A listens.  The catch:  Partner B may not repeat anything Partner A has said.  They may use their notes and materials if they get stuck, as well as pointing out things that still confuse them.  This will be valuable feedback to the teacher as to the level of comprehension of the minilesson.

Share One, Get One:

This Cooperative Learning strategy asks students to fill in 3 of 9 boxes with information they recall from the lesson.

They then move around the room and ask their classmates to fill in new information from the lesson, until all boxes are filled.

As a challenge for students who need it, early finishers take the information and write a summary of it.  This written portion may also be assigned as homework for that day or as an opening/review activity the following day.

I created a board for students to write their summary information.  You can pick up a copy by clicking here.

Do you have any summary activities that get students moving?  Any other books that compliment Summarization in Any Subject?  I'd love to hear about them!