Monday, October 27, 2014

October Spelling and Vocabulary Menu - Freebie

When I loved up to 7th and 8th grade this year, I decided we would work through some SAT vocabulary words for our vocabulary this year.  I found a book with SAT vocabulary words and divided the words into 12 lists.  They have around 35-40 words per list.  I am giving them about 3 weeks to work on each list.

I am most interested in their ability to understand the worlds in context and apply the words. For this month, I decided I wanted to give them some creative options for using their words in writing assignments.  (There are less opportunities for thematic, seasonal assignments in middle school).  I created a vocabulary menu to be made with any vocabulary or spelling list.  I love choice menus! They turn in their assignments today, so I am excited to see what they came up with.  Click HERE to get a copy.

What do you use to give your students choice in applying their spelling or vocabulary words?

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Dallas Blogger Meetup

Yesterday, I went to went to a blogger meetup here in Dallas.  It was fun to meet some other bloggers in person.  The blogging world and Teachers Pay Teachers (and probably Pinterest) have changed the reality of education for so many teachers.  You can find exactly what you need almost instantly.  You can find so many great teaching ideas, lessons, and freebies.  We now have an almost endless supply of great resources and inspiration.

When I started selling on Teachers Pay Teachers two years ago, my goal was just to make enough to cover what I spent on my classroom.  The first few years I taught I was always spending way too much of my meager paycheck trying to supply my classroom.  I rarely do things half way and teaching was no exception.  Teachers Pay Teachers has been a wonderful source of extra income toward expenses for graduate school and my classroom, as well as an outlet for creativity.

Anyway,  I had so much fun meeting other teacher bloggers yesterday and being reminded how much I appreciate TpT and this community of educators. 

We went to Bucca di Beppo, which always has yummy Italian food. They had cute mason jars waiting for us with a Texas sticker, wash tape, and a list of everyone's instagram names. 

It was so much fun to get to know some other bloggers.  It is so much work to put something like that together.  For His Glory did a wonderful job.

There were so many prizes.  I won some pens and a super-cute Vera Bradley tote bag.  Who can't use another tote bag?

How was your weekend?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Making Writing an Authentic Habit in the Classroom

As an educator, I believe it is important to strive for authenticity in the classroom.  Learning should have meaning and reflect what happens in the real world.  Finding ways to apply skills to the real world can be difficult.  Approaches to teaching like project-based learning are a wonderful way to incorporate real-world application.  Now, I wish I could tell you my classroom was a masterpiece of project-based learning, but I am striving for authenticity, right? I truly do want to incorporate more PBL this year, but that is another story.

Learning should be authentic. 

What I want to share with you today is about writing. By now, you may know I am working on my PhD in Educational Psychology with a focus in Gifted Education.  One of the things my advisors have been encouraging us to do lately is to set aside time every day to write.  This is nothing new.  I have heard this in creative writing classes and from other graduate professors before. However, that does not mean I have actually implemented this habit in my life.  The hardest part about writing every day is figuring out the time that works best.  My schedule is crazy hectic between work and school. I just started this week and have decided to set aside 20-30 minutes every morning to write.  For me that means, I will probably write most mornings between 5:30 and 6:00am.

To become a better writer, you have to practice.

To produce writing, you have to set aside time every day to write. 

Choose a time.  Be consistent.  Just write. 

It got me thinking.  I want to be a better writer.  I want to actually produce writing.  I want my students to be better writers.  We need to make time for writing...writing without pressure...writing without due dates.  Now, don't get me wrong.  We will have assignments.  We will have due dates, but writing needs to be a regular and authentic habit in my classroom.  Writing needs to be a time to allow for creativity, risk, flow of ideas, and authenticity. 

In the past with my elementary students, I have usually done 5-10 minutes of journal writing.  I find this is a great way to help kids get used to putting ideas down and get over the perfectionism of every sentence having to be perfect. I usually did this almost every day.  This year with my middle school students, we have a block schedule.  Thus, we only have Language Arts twice a week.  So we will only be able to set aside a dedicated space for writing twice a week.  Now, I don't want you to think we haven't been writing.  We have been doing more formal writing assignments, but not necessarily every class. 

I started thinking about how I wanted to collect my own writing every day.  I would rather type it.  I know I do not need 10,000 Word documents.  I thought about storing my journal entries in Evernote, which would work well. Then, I remembered a website I had looked at a couple years ago, but I never ended up using in my classroom.  Penzu.  Penzu is an online writing journal.  Now, if I was writing something super personal, I may not store it online. But for writing for grad school or even writing drafts of blog posts, I think it is a fabulous place to store entries.  With Penzu, you can customize fonts and backgrounds.  They even make the page look like notebook paper, so it feels like a journal.

I decided I wanted to try Penzu with my students this year as well.  I signed up for Penzu Classroom for a teacher account.  This way, I can view their journals and even send them assignments.  I can even comment on their assignments within Penzu, so I am excited to try it out.  Yesterday, I got everyone signed up for accounts. Most likely, I will still have them publish final drafts in Word.  We will use Penzu more for pre-writing, brainstorming, short journal entries, and free-writing. If students do not lock their journals, they can even view one another's journals.  I am thinking this could work well for peer feedback.  We will have to see how it goes. I'll let you know. I also gave my students the option of using Penzu or having a paper journal.  Almost half of my students chose a paper journal, and the other have chose to use Penzu.

You can view a video on Penzu Classroom below.

How do you make writing authentic in your classroom?

Friday, October 10, 2014

Pumpkin Freebies for Grades 1-2

I teach at a very small school, which means we all pitch in when needed.  Our first and second grade teacher had to go out of town suddenly for a death in the family, so I got to sub today for first and second grade.  I am planning some fall related activities for them next week and found some cute pumpkin freebies on TpT.

A Cute PowerPoint on the Pumpkin Life Cycle

An Interactive notebook page on the life cycle of a pumpkin

A Pumpkin Observation Activity Sheet

A Pumpkin Seed Recipe and Experiment Activity - Super cute!

A Pumpkin mini-unit - My favorite resource I found!

Reading Passages for Fall - This wasn't a freebie, but it was too good a resource to pass up.  There are passages for every Fall topic you can imagine. These are awesome for extra reading and fluency practice or to introduce/reinforce different topics.

I have to say I enjoyed the little ones today.  They are so sweet and so full of joy. I have so much respect for primary teachers, though. I don't know how you do it... It was fun for a short time, but I enjoy the older ones.

Friday, October 3, 2014

News Sites for Kids and Teens

With the introduction of Common Core, many teachers are trying to find ways to incorporate more nonfiction in their classroom. There are great classroom magazines like Time for Kids and many of the Scholastic magazines. However, it is nice to have something you can easily access online. I was looking for some good articles for my students about events going on around the world, and I found the following news sites for kids and teens.

Like any good teacher blogger, I thought I would share:

Anyone else remember the Channel One broadcasts from middle school?  What are your favorite sites and resources for covering current events with your students?

I also found some freebies on TpT for analyzing articles:

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Resources for Discussing Ebola with Your Students

My students just finished watching the movie, Guns, Germs, and Steel, based on the book by Jared Diamond.  As a follow up to watching episode 3 of the movie, they are currently researching germs and disease. I checked out a ton of books at the library to aid in their research (whose titles will probably become another post at a later date).

I was searching for some articles to use for our weekly "current events" type class.  I saw some of the articles on the Ebola outbreak.  Being that we also are in Dallas, it seemed a very relevant topic to discuss considering it also relates to what we have been discussing in Social Studies with Guns, Germs, and Steel.  The third episode of the movie also primarily focuses on the history of diseases in Africa with the Africans and the Europeans, so it makes the Ebola discussion even more relevant.

Here are some of the links and articles I found.  I know some of the latest issues of the Scholastic magazines also include articles on Ebola.

PBS also even has lesson plans with activities to help you discuss this topic with your students:

HERE is a link to some suggested answers to questions you may get from your students, put out by PBS.
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