Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Linky!

Over at Secondary Solutions, Kristen invited me to her Linky Party!  I can genuinely say that I was so excited when I got the email (much like how our students are excited to be invited to that "cool" party).  I am relatively new to blogging--I started just this past school year--so it was all pretty exciting.  Anyway, all you middle level teachers should link up here at Secondary Solutions Linky!

Also, I was happy to see that some of my favorite blogs to read like Adventures of a 6th Grade Teacher have already joined in the fun.  I would recommend one of my other favorites, Finding JOY in 6th.  Both blogs are AWESOME as we tackle 6th grade ELA!

One blog that I just found through this Linky is Miss Orman's Class.  She teaches HS but I LOVE her TpT store FREE resources for the new year.  Modified for my little monsters, they will be perfect for this week, as I am sure I will spend a good chunk of it teaching, and reteaching, how to conduct ourselves in ELA after this LONG (but much needed) break!!!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Word Wall Revised

This past week has been a week of revision.  We had a snow day and a half day, so it was probably not the best week to stir stuff up, but yet I did.  We re-did our Word Wall, fixing the letters so that they had a background of orange, and expanded the space.  We also added the Word Party costume pictures so that we can easily lookup the write words.  Take a look:

Love it!

Organizing Centers

I decided that my old system of setting students up for centers wasn't flexible enough.  I needed students to be able to work in more flexible groups, and have this change each and every week.  Enter my latest invention.  I'm not going to lie and say that this is an easy system to create, set up, organize, or maintain each and every week.  I'd be lying if I said I had it mastered so far.  And I would be equally as much of a liar if I said my students understood this.  Although, they are adapting well, given that this is only their third week using it.

It looks like this:
Yeah.  It looks insane, I know.  Basically, there is a section for each student, and 6 center task cards for each student's name.  The 6 centers are still: Flex, Read to Someone, Read to Self, Word Work, Listening, and Writing.  Here's a better look at it close up:

Each student decorated their own business-sized card label.  Each student has a section of the pouch chart (so nicely given to me by another teacher who wasn't using it!) and 6 color coded cards.  After they complete a station, they flip the task card over.

HERE is where I made it complicated.  One of the foundational components of the "Daily 5" which I modified for my classroom is student choice.  I needed to give choice.  AND I needed to pick some of the cards.  So at the start of each center week, I have to set up which cards are "stationary", meaning I pick them and kids don't move them, and which ones I allow for a choice.  The nice part is that I usually split it 50/50.  That way, I can separate kids who shouldn't be working together at certain stations, while at the same time I allow them choice for others.  I am working on a printable that will help me organize it on paper before trying to arrange my cards.  I will post on this soon!! :-)

Quia & Quotations

So I know I have already ranted on about Quia and it's awesome-ness.  Once again, I am amazed.  Teaching Author's Purpose this week, I found a battleship style game that kept the kids entertained and learning during the FLEX center.  YES. 

Here was a new way I set up for students to practice quotations.  Students rolled out a mat which had paragraphs/sayings on them.  They then used elbow macaroni to put " " quotations around the parts that needed to have this punctuation.  Cute!  And they seemed to enjoy it!
Pasta Rocks!

Newest Addition to Writer's Workshop

Soooo I have been working on writing with my kiddos all year.  It has become however, a terrible nightmare to keep all of their writing organized. ie: who is behind, who is ahead, who do I need to conference with, who is ready for a peer editing conference?

Yes.  Victory.  This sweet little sorter made entirely from recycled boxes, leftover contact paper and printout labels I made on the computer.  It's lovely.  Students leave their writing folders in whichever step of the writing process they are in.  Finished work goes into the last box so I can grade it and then conference with students as time allows.  It is wonderful.  I would highly recommend any teacher take the time to make one, use purchased magazine holders, or come up with a similar system.  Life has gotten 10 times easier since this.  Before, I had a stack of folders in a bin which was a total pain!  This makes it easy to find and see. Plus, now that it's November, I remember which folder belongs to which student so I can easily say "I need _________ to work on _________!"

Yayyy organization

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Plague

I am sitting here grading our ELA practice tests and it never ceases to amaze me how my students resist writing like it's the Bubonic plague.  I remember in school I always wanted to fill the entire page...every.  single.  solitary.  line.  Actually, come to thing of it, I did the same thing on my teaching exams...old habits die hard I suppose.

But where did I learn this?  It's probably inherent (says the girl who blogs for fun).  But anyway, it's going to be my job to somehow change this for my little 22 kiddos.  It's only November (Okay...basically December).  I still have 7 months.  Time to get a move on.

Which made me think.  I started the year with a read aloud when the students returned from lunch.  It changed to Daily Oral Language practice.  Now, I want to change it again.  What about a 5 minute free-write (where we have to restate the question)?

The wheels are turning...

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Week 5: Sequence, Inference, and more writing...

So I'm on my way out and don't have a bunch of time but I wanted to update this week's centers to stay ahead, instead of behind, on blogging.  (See? I am trying to be better!!)

Anyway, here are the centers for this week:

Read to Someone:  Chart their WPM rate on their graphs, use a stopwatch to time each other.  Use their book club books for the text.

Read to Self: Read their book club books (Comic sequence project due the following week so they must read, Read, READ!)

Listening:  Listen to the story and then close the book, shut off the tape, and write down everything they can remember, in sequence.  I need to work on new ideas for this center.  More to come in the next few weeks!

Writing:  Work on their explanatory/How-To writing.  They selected what they were an expert on, and have been writing on that.  We are on the typing/publishing stage---wah-hoo!

Word Work: Soooo we had an awesome "party" on Halloween....a Word Party!  Students picked awesome, long, and new words and had to dress up like their word.  (see post on www.myclassyroom/  Anyway, to expand even more (and so that I can see each student really "knows" their word), I added this as a center.  The kids LOVED them.  I wish I could post all 22.  What was even better was listening to them discuss and justify their selections.  I was so proud! :)

Love it.

On to the last center...

Group:  This was my last week with the materials borrowed from the library at college so I used the social inference cards.  It was a good way to assess how much they knew about inference.  It seems as though they have a grasp on social inferences, so the key will figuring out how to tie that in to literature.

I like these kits.  Mostly the secret decoder :)

Happy Saturday---I'm off!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011



   If you are arriving here via Pinterest, welcome!  I decided to post my ideas on there in hopes of better sharing all of my center work ideas and lessons.  If you are a Blogger user, follow me or comment and I would LOVE to follow your teaching or DIY posts as well!  Thanks & happy pinning & happy teaching!


Week 4: Sequence (Giant Test Prep, Sequence Popcicle Sticks, Quia)

Welcome Again!
    So, first of all, I am so very pleased with the fact that it is Tuesday and I am blogging about this week's centers.  Normally, I'm running behind so this is a good thing!  I have made a promise to myself, my students, life, that even though November is going to be CRAZY with days off (Veteran's Day, Conference Day, Thanksgiving), we will still be completing our centers.  I can't stop now, we are on a roll!
    Speaking of this "roll" that we are on, I am pretty pleased with how this block is shaping up to be.  We are getting to a point where the students are managing themselves.  Granted it helps to have an aide, as well as push in SpecEd and AIS Reading certain days, plus a library that graciously is open and running so that my "read to self" kids can have a quiet place to go.  In no way are my kids little angels applying for sainthood, but generally they can take care of themselves and do what they need to do.  I am so thankful we took centers slow, discussing each one so the expectations are clear.  That way, when we have drama...tape players that are on a setting so they sound like chipmunks blaring across the room, a deck of homonym cards dropping on the floor for a classic game of 52 pick up...we can stay on track pretty well!
   Anyway, I should note that I am not leading a group this week.  I am taking the time to complete Fountas and Pinnell benchmarking on 5 of my students.  I learned the system with grade 2, and grade 6 takes so much longer!  So, I have been using this time to benchmark while the rest of the students work on centers.
   Without further ado, here are the centers for this week.  We are reinforcing main idea/details from last week, as well as beginning sequencing.  The sequencing skill ties in to our next Writer's Workshop task, which is Explanatory, or How-To, writing!

Read to Self: Students are reading their book club books, independently, in the library.  They are also continuing to record their reading (# of pages) in their logs.

Writing: Reinforcing main idea and details.  Students are reading short stories/informational paragraphs and filling in a graphic organizer on what happened.  Why this rocks?  Because we enlarged the pages so they are bigger, mounted two each on poster paper, and laminated it.  Now, we can use those Vis-A-Vis markers for overheads and wipe them clean with baby wipes in between use.  Wonderful! Yes!  Plus, what kid doesn't enjoy markers and big, bright, orange paper?
 Listening: We are sequencing with the story, The Mitten...and before you say, "Isn't that used in, like, well, 2nd grade?"  I will answer that.  Yes, it is.  There is a distinct reason for this.  One, kids are familiar with it to practice a skill with. Two, it is a full fledged sequence based story.  Three, it is the perfect length to complete the activity.  Which was to first listen to the story only.  Then use a batch of popsicle sticks, one per person, to sequence events of the story (the sticks have phrases/story events on them).  Then, students were to listen to the story again, using the book this time, and check their work.
 Word Work: Seeing that this week's spelling words were to focus on words needed for our book clubs (realistic, genre, personality, character, fiction...) we had a place for a fun word game.  Plus, I had these cards out from the Sage library, which helped.  We discussed what a homonym was, and then students used cards with the words in context, "I ate STEAK for dinner" and "I tied my plants to a STAKE in the ground" to play a modified "Go Fish!" game.

Read to Someone: Out of the necessity to have students work with students not necessarily in their book clubs (due to the benchmarking), and out of the necessity to work more with expository writing, our read to someone center had students reading an article of their choice from an old issue of NatGeo's Explorer magazine.  The students could choose from "Crunch, Crunch, Crunch" (about caterpillars), "Vanishing Cultures" (about world traditions/lifestyles), or "Swimming with Flat Sharks" (about manta rays).  Students then used the same "checkmark" questions for checking their 5W's of the story.
Awesome idea of the week.  I taught the two years at Junior Achievement where they gave me one of those plastic briefcase-like bags for my materials.  I had two.  I have two groups at "Read to Someone."  Perfect! These handy plastic bags look cool, have an outside pocket, as well as inside pockets.  Each week or so I will be adding something else to that bag for students to work on.  Sometimes I will assign the materials, and other times I will be leaving it up to them.  Either way, it is so awesome!  It keeps everything so neat and pulled together!!! YAY for organization!

 Group: I think I am formally going to rename this center to "Group" (originally "Teacher").  I've decided that I will be using center time to conferencing about writing, reteaching/reinforcement of a past week's concept, benchmarking/assessments, monitoring, etc.  I will also be meeting with whole groups, but it hasn't been realistic so far to do that during this time (between my own BRI assessment, and now Fountas).  Anyway, this center was absolutely great this week.  Using my fixed projector, I projected the Quia site onto the screen.  Students worked to number the sequence on mini chalkboards.  Then, one student went up to enter it in.  A correct sequence yielded the image beneath to be revealed.

For those of you who have not checked out Quia, I recommend it.  I just stumbled upon it this weekend and loved it.  It has a bunch of free quizzes that you can have students complete as practice.  Unfortunately, you can't seem to search the site without a membership.  However, you CAN Google "Quia Character Traits" and the links will arrive that way.  Here are the ones I used for sequencing:

Making homemade pizza:

Making toast:

Planting flowers:

Washing your hair:

Brushing your teeth:

Carving your pumpkin:

Have a happy week!
Lisa :)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Week 3: Main Idea (& Spelling BAM! Game)

Hi all!
    I can't believe that it is already OCTOBER.  There is so much going on but I'm still loving every second of it.  I forgot to post about this previously, but for all the non-ELA related things (including my most recent hall pass invention), you can visit my second blog at

I like to try out different formats and settings, so I used to have a blogger "for life", then I created that one on wordpress, and now I'm back on blogger.  Besides, there are so many teacher pages on blogger that I wanted to access.  Enough rambling.

Week 3 centers went the best yet.  The frantic business has subsided.  Also, they were very "active" centers, which could have gone either way.  Then I remember back to my 9th period 7th graders last year who were off-the-wall.  If we did a play or a game or something where they moved (even sometimes just taking their notes from standing up around the room), they were 7million times more well behaved.  There's got to be some science to that.  Anyway, here are the pictures for the board; this week's topic was "Main Idea"

Read to Self: Still in the library, logging their minutes in their center folders.  Students read their "Book Club" choice book.  I used bins from the $1 store and labeled them with index cards.  There are 2 more baskets as well, I don't just teach 12 students!  There are 5 more in each of the other bins.  The stories are all under the Realistic Fiction genre.  They had a choice of reading Granny Torelli Makes Soup,  Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, Diary of a Wimpy Kid Book 1, Who Ran my Underwear up the Flagpole, School Story, and There's a Boy in the Girl's Bathroom.  These books are easier so that they can be worked on independently for all of my students.  We will be working more with non-fiction and more challenging texts after our Book Clubs.

Read to Someone: Around the classroom, still working with their "Book Club" books.  We added "Checking for understanding" with a blue checkmark.  Students asked each other the 5W's at the end of each chapter.
I cannot wait to show you what I am adding to the "Read to Someone" station in the coming weeks!

Listening:  Students listened to an audiotape of 3 short Aesop fables.  In their center folders they recorded the main idea for each.

Teacher/Group:  I had to add the "/" in there.  I just finished all but one administration of the BRI (Basic Reading Inventory) for my own record keeping.  Next week, I need to pull my students for at least 30-40 minutes each day to administer 5 different students benchmarking with F&P.  So, while I wanted a strictly "teacher" group, that isn't going to happen.  So, therefore, over the next few weeks, I am going to have that bunch of students play a game as reinforcement of what we are learning.  This week they used cards with a "secret decoder" that shows the answer to work on Main Idea.  They kept a score tally on the whiteboard.  Also, which I forgot to photograph, I made "A B and C" answer cards using paint chips from WalMart.  The free ones.  I wrote a letter on each of the colored sections and students slide a butterfly clip to the answer.  Yay!
(I was in Troy by my alma matter, Sage, this weekend for "Chowderfest."  I had Tom stop the truck so I could go and pick up some of the game sets they have!)

Writing:  Students finished publishing (final copy, cover page) their Pro/Con of 6th grade essays.

Word Work:  By far, the biggest hit of the week.  I had 3 of my students stay after just to play it again!  This week was a review week for spelling.  So, I created Spelling BAM!  What is that, you ask?  Well, I took a container from the iced tea mix I finished up (*goodbye, summer*), and decorated it.  I was in a rush, but it looked pretty good.  I can always cover it in the future.

Next, I filled it with cut up index cards that had all of the spelling words (1 time each), two cards that said "swipe" and two cards that said "BAM!"
The final step was to secure the rules on the back with packing tape.  Basically, kids sit in a circle and take turns pulling out a card.  They give it to someone who reads the word.  The first student needs to spell it correctly.  They do, they keep the card.  They don't, it goes back.  A "swipe" card allows students to take a card from another player's pile, if they can spell it correctly.  A "Bam!" card means all of that player's cards goes back into the jar.  At the end of the centers, the student with the most cards wins!  (This could me modified for vocabulary practice too)

On to planning Week 4!  Have a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Week 2: Using the Dictionary

We made it to Week 2!!!

This week our Centers theme focused around the skill of using the dictionary as a resource to discover new words.  This paired well with the finishing of the class book, Frindle.

Listening:  Students listened to the book, Max's Words.  The story is about a boy who collects words cut out from a magazine and makes them into stories all his own.  Students listened to the book on CD and then completed a Venn Diagram in their folders which compared and contrasted the main character, Max, to the main character in Frindle (Nick).  Below is a sample of a student's Venn Diagram.

 Read-to-Self:  Students read from their Independent Reading book in the library, or used that time to find a book from either the class library or school library.

Read to Someone:
Students read to each other from the books provided which focused on defining words, using "big words" or making words and stories from letters the characters collected or had.  Next week, we will be focusing on fluency and recording our words per minute, so this was preparing us for that next big step!

Teacher:  I continued to administer the BRI (now working on the Running Record and comprehension piece) while my group prepared cards and played "Dictionary Deception."  For those unfamiliar with this game, students were to find a unique word from the dictionary.  They then had to record the correct definition along with two "fake" definitions.  Students practiced guessing the words others came up with and defending their reasoning. 

Word Work:  In keeping with the dictionary theme, students selected a word that they were unfamiliar with or interested in from a large list of "Weird Words" that I provided them.  They worked to complete a profile on that word that the then shared with others in their group.  This profile sheet included the word, definition, a picture, the part of speech, a sentence using that word, and what the word "Is Like" and "Is not like."  This student profiled "nimble" and said it, "Is Like: A cat running" and "Is Not Like: Loud and Slow"

Writing:  This center took the Listening activity story and allowed students to apply it for themselves.  Using magazines, student cut out words and formed them into sentences.  We are going to use these sentences next week for our grammar lesson on subject/predicate and how to structure sentences.  Meanwhile, the students had fun creating their silly sentences.  This got them thinking about writing without physically writing, which I found really benefited my reluctant writers.  They were engaged and involved!!  In the future I would want to have more words already cut out...I am trying to come up with a better way to organize the words so that the students can easily and efficiently find what they need.  Ideas are welcomed!

"The strong chicken in checked pants ate dry ice for lunch."

Week 1 (I Am Poems for Open House!)

As promised (too many weeks ago), I would post the first week of centers.  This was a VERY introductory week, as we worked out the logistics of centers.  "Where do I go?" "What do I do?" and "How does this work?" Were among some of the most frequently asked questions.  All in all, after tons of modeling and review, we were off for our first week to try working independently, with partners, and in small groups.  The focus of this week was to get them used to different tasks, the routine, the time limit, and how to monitor themselves.  Here is what we worked on:

Listening:  Students listened to a story about baseball on an audiotape and then quizzed each other on the comprehension/vocabulary words (highlighted in blue and yellow).  By the end of the week we figured out how the tape player works, where to sit, how loud it should be, and all of the other "good stuff" that we needed to!

Word Work:  Drawing out of my "Making Big Words" collection, I set up a station where students use the laminated clues to make words using letters individually cut out to manipulate.  The students recorded their word list in their folder paper.
Read To Someone & Read To Self: Reading in our class book in progress, Frindle.

Teacher:  I administered word lists from the BRI, Basic Reading Inventory as students filled out a student reading inventory survey.

Writing: Students finished their "I Am" poems and collages for open house.  We traced their faces using the overhead projector to make a silhouette.   They came out great for the hallway bulletin board!

Thursday, September 29, 2011


I must give my apologies out for being so behind on my posts!  We have had the second week of stations completed today.  I keep trying to remember to take pictures of both week's stations...but I have to remember my digital camera.  The camera on my phone is esentially painting the town pink...and while it is pretty, it definitely doesn't really work.  Tomorrow I will try my best to remember my camera and I'll post Week 1 and Week 2 stations!  Happy Thursday!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Plan.

So as I was developing "The Plan" for Superlative Six, I got thinking of my college professor, Dr. Ellen Adams.  She is a fantastic literacy guru, by the way.  Aside from that, she also used to say (pretty much every time I saw her), "A great teacher is a great modifier." After this whole literacy planning phase, I'm pretty sure she predicted my future.  You will see in the following weekly posts that I pretty much changed everything I could find to fit what I thought was appropriate, and necessary, for 6th grade.  Anyway, on to the scheduling plan:

10? minute minilesson/skill introduction (that fits into one or more centers specifically)
10 minute centers explaination
20 minutes of center rotation #1

20 minutes of center rotation #2
20 minutes of center rotation #3

10? minute minilesson refresher
20 minutes of center rotation #4

20 minutes of center rotation #5
20 minutes of center rotation #6

40 minutes which include independent reading, free choice journal entry, and one-on-one teacher conferencing on weekly goals/tasks completed

I suppose it would also help to know the 6 stations:

Read-To-Self: Students will go to the library for silent, independent reading.  Students will have a task to complete relating to a goal.

Read-To-Someone: In partnerships, students will read aloud for fluency.  This includes alternate page readings, scripts/puppets, and eventually possibly having students record their words per minute (wpm) and/or a modified Running Record?

Teacher Group: Some kind of skill-based/goal-based/? work.  I am not sure how this will play out.  For a bit of time I will probably be administering the BRI to them as a personal benchmark.

Writing: Prompted writing in some way, shape, and form

Word Work: Some kind of vocabulary, making words, grammar, parts of speech, etc. kind of activity station

Listening: Again, a work in progress.  A goal for this becoming students listening to podcasts, books on tape, short stories, poems, etc. and answering questions.  Since this is a part of the NYS ELA, this is important to practice.  My hope is that students can practice rewinding the tape and/or hearing and looking at the text at the same time to build their auditory skills. 

So that's what I have so far in a nutshell.  Stay tuned for next week's first stations!  I admit that I am starting of slow so that I can get everyone used to the process.  We have been practicing each all week in an attempt of getting used to them.  Making Words was probably the biggest success by far!  Writing would have to be in dead last.  A majority of my students seem to dread the horrible "W" word.  Give me 'till June to change that! :-)

Change Was A Necessity: Welcome to the Superlative 6

    This summer, after I was hired as an ELA/Science teacher for 6th grade, I began a quest for new ideas of what may work in the ELA classroom.  I have a full 90 minute block, which has pros and cons.  On the plus side (and there are many more pluses), we have a solid span of time, students are focused, we are after lunch so students have been fed, and I only have 22 students.  On the con side, it's after lunch and it's for 90 minutes.  My goals evolved into these questions, "How do I break up 90 minutes?" and "How do I differentiate and measure progress?" 
   Enter the CAFE books by "The Sisters."  I loved the idea of having a Daily 5/Centers.  The issue became that I really felt this was meant for younger grades with shorter attention spans and different needs.  I needed a longer chunk of time per center (I settled on 20).  I needed to only do 1-2 centers per day (so that I could leave time for other ELA instruction).  I couldn't do 5 per day.  I needed a change.  It was necessary.
    So while I am planning on implementing this on Monday for the very first time (eeeeek!)  I *think* I have changed and modified my schedule to fit my needs.  I will post it shortly.  Oh, and why "Superlative 6" you ask?  Well, "superlative" and "buoyancy" were my two favorite words I picked up in late elementary school and have never let go of.  Come on...who doesn't love "SUPERLATIVE!?"