Monday, February 24, 2014

100 Follower FREEBIE...Memory Book

This weekend I hit 100 FOLLOWERS in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  As a special thank you for being my buddy through my blogging journey, my product development, and the fun I have had building my store to help me achieve this fun milestone, I am posting a brand new product that I have just completed...Moments and Memories of Middle School: My Reflection Journal for those last days of the school year. 

Directions for use:
  1. Simply copy the document for each student.
  2. Share expectations for completion-complete sentences using CUPS?  Use how you see fit.
  3. Send home on the last day for a way to always remember the school year.
If you are looking for a fun, ink-saving, time-filler for those last days that students will love to complete, click the image to DOWNLOAD this FREEBIE now!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Hip, Hip, Hooray! It is ALMOST time for Opening Day: Baseball Close Reading FREEBIE

After 9 more feet of snow, I am ready for spring!  OK, maybe only 4 inches, but enough is enough!  I have officially had it with winter.

I have been so excited to see the updates that the Reds' pitchers and catchers are reporting that I was a bit inspired to create.  I am still on my inspiring-male-readers-kick, so in addition to focusing on basketball and football, I have enhanced my knowledge of baseball.

When I think about baseball, I wish I could  tell you that my focus is on the game-how many hits, errors, RBIs, etc.  However, I most love going for the people watching, snack-eating, craft beer sampling, and the chance to see how excited my children get when the snow cone guy approaches. 

Unlike my All About Athletes Close Reading Bundle, this Baseball Close Reading Bundle focuses on more of the history of all things baseball: Bobbleheads, the Seventh Inning Stretch, Take Me Out to the Ballgame, Forbes Field, and The History of Baseball Grub.  While many baseball players are worthy of writing about, I wanted to focus student thinking on the sport, not just the people that play.

If you click on the image, it will take you to a FREEBIE passage with text dependent questions and a cause and effect graphic organizer.  This is to be utilized for one-on-one, small group, whole class, or reading center test prep.

Keep me posted on what you think!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Valentine's Day for Upper Elementary and Middle School

I HEART Valentine's Day.  I know that may seem cliche', but I don't care!  Pretty much any holiday that Hallmark decides upon, minus Boss's Day, I am a sucker for and someone celebrating can likely expect some gesture or little gift from me to celebrate.  I don't care about being on the receiving end, I love to be the gift-giver.  Fun surprises for others truly makes me happy!

In 5th grade for my students, there was no Valentine's Day celebration, so they were quite excited to learn that Valentine's Day would be acknowledged, even though they were another year older.

So what do you do?  With my interdisciplinary team, we have turned it into fun.  For a few weeks before, we sell boxes of Valentines in our grade level store, I come up with age-appropriate crafts to make with the students, we have some goodies, and that is that.  Just a 30-minute blast of fun and life for my 6th graders is good.  If you think that they are beyond giving and getting Valentine cards with cooky sayings on them, you are crazy!  They LOVE it!  In fact, I think they may love it more than younger students because they love to analyze the cards they receive.  The one rule is, if you are passing something out, you must give to EVERYONE!  No leaving anyone out because this is a day about showing kindness toward others.

Here is the ring craft we made last year...we were in the middle of Hunger Games and the idea of the Capitol fashion was fresh in our minds-that was my curricular connection.  If you click on the image it will take you to the cute mom blog where I borrowed the idea from.  Steps and all! My 6th graders, boys and all, LOVED this!  I had many request to make more than one:)

 Bring on the Bling Valentine Ring

If you aren't much for crafting, card-giving, and candy exchanging, here is a reader's theater that is the perfect tool to share with upper elementary to middle school students.  I wrote it in order to inspire my students to be more considerate of others...Challenged by the school principal to perform kind deeds and reflect on them in a journal, a group of 6th grade students comes up with a plan inspired by their best friend to add some Valentine's Day fun at a local senior living center. 

I can't wait to hear about your plans for this very special day of the year!

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Monday, February 10, 2014

Inspiring MALE Middle School Readers...How do you do it? AND an ATHLETE CLOSE READING FREEBIE

I come from a very sports-centered family and have quickly realized my kiddos are obsessed with sports, too.  Here are a few pics of my kiddos and my almost 85-year old, Gram, who just had the pleasure of meeting her favorite sport's icon, Geno Auriemma, the UConn Women's Basketball Coach, and one of her favorite former players, Jamelle Elliott, the University of Cincinnati Women's Basketball Coach...
Lilah before her first soccer game ever!

Landon, future Team USA Luge Gold Medal Winner in the 2030 Winter Games

Brennan, my second grade football, basketball, baseball star, and all things sports enthusiast!

Gram and her bud, Geno!

Gram and her bud, Jamelle

As a 6th grade teacher I find that the majority of my lowest readers are uninspired boys.  They have made it to my classroom and developed a "love of NOT reading!"  I get it!  They have yet to find that text that has grabbed their sports-and-competition-minded attention.  I am not saying there are not a gazillion resources out there to grab them, they have just not been guided to find them.  A few authors that cater to the sports genre for middle grade readers are:
  1. Dan Gutman
  2. Matt Christopher
  3. Mike Lupica
But sometimes the problem isn't directing the kiddos to the books, it is getting the books in hand and helping the students to navigate the reading process from the beginning of the text to the end successfully.   I often tell my students, "it is useless to go to the library to check-out a book that you are not going to read, as it only adds to the weight of the stack of materials that have to be carried from class to class."

What I have realized about my reluctant readers is that they need more strategies to help them with text navigation.  No longer do I want them grabbing a book and not caring about completing it, instead I want to add some tools to help them want to read it.  So after countless after school walks home getting skill drilled by my son about the NFL stars on his football cards, I was inspired.

After going through countless rounds of "Who's this?" with my son as he flashed football cards in my face, and doing some A LOT of research on current NFL and NBA superstars, I decided to develop this Informational Text Close Reading BUNDLE to help my sports-minded kiddos.  Here is FREEBIE sample from the bundle.  Questions are also included in the Google doc download.  I'd love to know what you think!

If you like this tool and want more for those student sport fanatics, click on the image below.  Included are the Close Reading Strategies I utilize with my students, graphic organizers to further develop student understanding of informational text, and 8 more close reading passages with answer keys.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Spring Student-Led Conference Evaluation Form FREEBIE

This time of year is always more than full-winter vacation has passed, spring break seems forever away, and state testing seems closer than ever!  In addition, there is data to analyze, students to shift and shuffle to accommodate learning needs, and a GAZILLION meetings that steal planning time, lunch time, and before and after school hours.  Time is of the essence, for sure.

On top of all of the above, spring conferences are happily upon us!  I adore meeting with students and parents, but I abhor the planning aspect of it.  It seems that report cards have just gone out, and once again the need arises for more information to share with parents.  After pouring my heart and soul into thoughtful comments within 250 characters, what more can I possibly say in a clear and concise manner in a 15 minute conference?  To avoid this additional stress, I created this Spring Evaluation Form that is an extension of my Fall Student-Led Conference Evaluation Form.

Download this conference FREEBIE to make your spring conferences a success.

While you with still need to come armed with data, this form is completed by each student in preparation for their conference.  Questions are reflected upon and answered, work samples are gathered, conference times are scheduled, and you are ready to go. 

Here is how I utilize this:
  1. Pass out Student-Led Conference folders from the fall
  2. Have students read through their fall evaluation
  3. Pass out this Spring Evaluation Form
  4. Go over expectations for completing
  5. Collect completed folders and check for completion and student responses
  6. Partner students up to read through form and samples with a peer and share work samples (this is sort of like a dress rehearsal for the actual conference)
  7. Schedule student-led conference and allow students to share 
  8. Share parent attendance data with administrator
DONE!  Conferences are student-centered, student-led, and much more effective because students are taking ownership over their work in the classroom.

I would love to hear how you effectively engage students during conference time and any time-saving conference tools or strategies you have.

Happy Groundhog's Day!