Friday, August 3, 2012


Hi All!
  I have been working on updating my blog (see!?!?!) and my TpT store and all that good stuff.  Anyway, I just wanted to send you all this freebie.  I totally give this out in the beginning of the year and keep it with my parent questionnaire (more on that later) as a reference throughout the year!  While you are there, be sure to check out my other freebies, rate my store, and become a follower!


Go to TpT for the FREE download!!!

Currently....AUGUST (What!?!?!)

So it's August.  Yeah, that's depressing since I am pretty sure that I JUST (like yesterday) liked up with Farley at Oh Boy 4th Grade on her July linky.  I am so completely and totally not ready for school to begin.  I would have hoped everything would magically do itself.  Anyway, here's my link up & be sure to leave some l-o-v-e!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Work in progress...

Started working on my room yesterday and went out of control, staying all day and plugging along. Finished products coming soon! Here's a sneak peak:

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

BAM! Directions

So, once I pinned my concept for Spelling/Vocabulary BAM! on Pinterest, I saw a sweet increase to my page.  Since I've gotten some requests, I pretty-fied the directions for the game and posted them to my Teachers Pay Teachers account (free, of course) for anyone to download.  If you like it, please leave some positive feedback!

Link to Teacher's Pay Teachers

Much love!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Linking up with {6th Grade} All-Stars!

I am so very excited to be linking up with {6th Grade} All-Stars!  First, it's because I love linking up.  But more importantly she will teach her first year in 6th grade this coming year and teach ELA, Science, and History.  What's even better is that since this will be my second year teaching 6th grade ELA & Science I can totally hope that I can help!  I promised myself that I will do a better job this year blogging about ELA here on this blog and Science over on Sixth Grade Science Rocks.  I shall try!  Anyway, everyone ought to go and link up too!

So anyway:
I teach 6th grade in a little rural district.  My class size was small last year but I am looking at around 24-28 kids per class next year (which for me is big!)  I teach these little 11-year olds Science (in 3 different sections) and one group of kiddos a double period of ELA (every day)

Technically speaking, my first year teaching was 2 years ago when I was a .6 Social Studies teacher (my pre-blogging days!)  Anyway, my mentor used to just tell me "that we smile and nod" no matter what.  It has been useful!  One of my favorite personal quotations is the following:

I wish I had a checklist tailored to what I need to start the year!  I more or less just make my lesson plans for the first week of school and make sure I have everything copied.  This includes my science syllabus and the corresponding parent form.  I love that I "give the parents homework" on the first day of school.  The kids get a kick out of having to give their parents homework.  Basically it is a questionaire for parents about their children.  Once I finish mine for this year I will post it on my TpT for free!

The "must-haves" in my classroom would have to be probably ample books, this system for passing back student papers (each student has a hanging file in one place), and a comfy area to read/work on assignments.  I definitely feel the most important thing is that everything has a place and is clean, neat, and orderly.  That way, kids are ready to keep it that way and always know where to find things!

{{five}} thing every teacher should have in his/her classroom would have to be a good pencil sharpener!  And lots of art supplies!  Creativity is key! :)

This was fun!  It made me want to get going on my classroom.  As you know from my previous posts, my whole room had to be taken apart.  When does everyone start school?  We don't begin until after Labor Day in September!!

Much Love,
Ms. D.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012 July

Hello all!
    So yesterday I could have officially gone back to school and get my keys back and see what has been going on.  I'm putting it off since I know that once I do, I will want/feel the need to be there every day and therefore, bye-bye summer.  Anyway, something interesting happened yesterday.  My wonderful boyfriend's fabulous step-brother called me up to get a ton of his extra teaching supplies.  The worst part of it though was that he is officially not going to teach anymore.  He went to grad school an interned at a local urban Middle School...and was hired immediately for the next two school years.  Budget cuts threatened his position so he found a new job teaching at a very wealthy high school nearby.  The budget there cut him again.  This past year he worked at another very suburban and highly-regarded high school...and found the budget cuts there forced 3 English teachers out...and he was one of them.  He is now going back to school for EMT training, and it breaks my heart.  He was a phenomenal teacher and always made me want to do my job even better.  He is pushing through and doing well, but I can't help but wish he still taught.  Anyway, I received a collection of items that I am trying to sort though so I can re-claim my living room.

Assorted things, including 7 CD players

TONS of lined paper packs and folders

A bunch of teaching books as well as some
"How to Play the Banjo" books for my boyfriend...and he doesn't even own

These I purchased yesterday!  I love the idea of lanterns hanging
in a classroom.  I have this little nook in my room where I am going
to hang these three.  The best part is that they were so inexpensive!!
99 cents each for the small ones and 1.49 for the larger one! I went to
another craft store later in the day and they wanted so much more!!!

Soooo my classroom still awaits.  It's a cloudy day here in NY.  I am going to pick up and maybe get some scrapbook things together.  I'm feeling crafty! :)

Much Love!
Ms. D

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Strangest Dream

Hi Everyone!
    I have to run errands in a second but I just had to update you on a dream I had.  I dreamed that my room was a hybrid of my "real" room and the woman next-door's.  Then, I dreamed that two other teachers were sharing my room.  They taught music/foreign language/some other random things.  Anyway, when I went in, all of my stuff was like there, but they had hung up all of these obnoxious decorations/posters.

For example:

Random, different borders on all of the boards, and everything was bordered.
Weird posters with tabs hanging off, some of which were missing
Annoying purchased, uncreative posters
Disney Micky Mouse character cutouts....

The list goes on.  THEN, they were angry when I seemed upset and wanted to stick to my color scheme/plan, even though I was trying to be tactful and nice.

AND THEN, I realize that in fact, they did paint my room (see this post) like I asked, BUT it was bright yellow on 2 of the 4 walls of the room.  The rest were a patchy white.

Needless to say, I woke up horrified.  Anyone else have some wild dreams?

p.s. Yes, I know the whole blog layout is different.  This one isn't staying.  I'm just experimenting at the moment with some new designs.

Happy Thursday (My favorite day!)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

What I Left...

So, I have not even been on vacation for two weeks and I am already thinking constantly, non-stop,


about my room for next year.  It's the first time that I haven't had to spend my summer looking for a job too so it's been pretty crazy.  Anyway, we aren't even allowed to get our keys back for a week or so, and I am already scheduled to go to Curriculum Development (paid!!) on the 18th so that will be my first day back at school and seeing what has been done to my classroom since I've been gone.  Does anyone else have to completely strip down their room or is it just me?  I feel like going crazy...this is what I left on the last day:

(I only have 3 pictures, sorry!)
View at my desk, totally stripped down.  I left the hanging map/shower curtain because
I was totally not scaling the wall in 95 degree heat...hopefully that's okay.  Next year I am
going to put a blue shower curtain behind it for water, don't know why I didn't think of that sooner.
I covered all of my bulletin boards to prevent fading of the blue material I used this year (and will use next year).  In
front of the desk are all of my "comfy chairs" and tons of boxes just outside the frame.

View of the room from the door.  Bookshelves empty (everything's stacked in boxes
in front of them), board covered.  Also some of my desks already pushed out into the hall.
Empty walls.  I did put in a request for those chalkboards to come down.  I didn't use them
ONCE this past year.  I think having them down would make the room seem less "old."

I took this picture because no, that's not a glare behind the bookcase.
I decided to move furniture and get stuff out of my room to make it more open.
I didn't have time last year between the date I was hired and the day I had 22 6th graders, so things
pretty much stayed where they were.  I went to move things in June and they were literally WAXED
TO THE FLOOR and they were never painted behind.  LOL.  No lie.  Anyway, we will have to see how
this works out!

So the only things not really pictured is the front of the room which has two giant white boards and two spaces on either side that are technically old chalkboards but I cover as a bulletin board.  I also have a "nook" as you enter the room because I have the storage closet off my room.  My wonderful boyfriend will be converting that to a mini computer lab for my kiddos in August.  Anyway, does anyone have any wonderful ideas?  I have some crafty projects as a work in progress which I will post when complete.  My color scheme is still blues/greens/black.  (p.s. I am also painting the bookshelves so they are 100% black.  Issue last year was that I had ZERO bookshelves and had my dad make me some quick...but the paint wasn't drying very quickly so I had to leave the shelves plain wood!)

I also want to give a
to both my new and old followers.  I jumped for joy when I found out that I had a few new followers this week.  So super sweet.  I would love love LOVE to get to 100 during the fall months! :-)

Until then, have a wonderful 4th of July tomorrow!

Much love from NY

Monday, July 2, 2012


Much love!  I have some projects beginning in the next few days that I will post about.  Last week was my first week without teaching in what feels like forever so my brain checked out.  But I'm ready to go and recharged (almost!)  Meanwhile, enjoy the linky and be sure to link up yourself and follow the RULES OF THREE. ;-)

Friday, June 15, 2012

30 second recap

It's been nuts.  Seeing this is my first fulltime job, where I stay at the same school for the following year, there has been so very much to do.  I also started pulling the entire room apart to make it better for next year, so I have been teaching in utter chaos.  My kiddos have been overall really good about it.  We have 4 days with kids next week and then Friday is a 1/2 day for teachers.  I cannot believe it is already the end of JUNE.  I feel like I was just hired!!!  

Anyway, here is a recap of everything I didn't end up getting to blog about (I will try better next year, maybe even have some freebies if I can figure that out) that I found on my iPhone...

My grant for the BEYOND QUESTION remote system came in!
These are awesome...every kid gets one and they enter answers to questions
I project on the Mimio board.  I need to perfect this system for progress
monitoring in the future (aka September)!

Testing snacks...note the clear water bottles without labels...
didn't want to get in trouble for "cheating."  Speaking of NYS
tests...I want to see my kiddos scores!!!

I was awarded this lovely hot pink duct tape bracelet
inscribed with "World's Best Teacher"

We took a trip all the way from here to Lynhurst, NJ for Medieval Times!

Donor's Choose books came in for next year's partner reading projects
that I'd love to launch!  My kids made this set-up for posting online
to thank our generous donors!

Unrelated note---my brother is going to be starting college at Marist College
in Poughkeepsie next year!!!

Going through my kiddos journals to write their note (see below for info)...
and I come across this one when we brainstormed facts and opinions...
The second "Opinion" made me smile.  "Some where awesome (Including Ms. D)."
She meant "were" but anyways...adorable.

I write my kids personalized notes each year.  I did it student teaching, and this
year I did it for my ELA class.  I wrote them in their journals.  Anyway, this kid
"hates" school and tells us all every day.  Anyway, I was touched because after
I passed out the letters (you can kind of see it peeking through the back of this page), he
scribbled this down and came up to me before the bell and said, "I wrote back!" AWWWW

In other news:
1.) I did the balloon countdown thing I saw on Pinterest (gosh, I love Pinterest)...where you hide a surprise written on paper inside balloons and pop them accordingly.  Anyway, my kids LOVED IT!

2.) I will be the 7th grade class advisor for next year so I get to see my kiddos after they are all grown up from the summer.  I'm so glad and thankful that I don't have to say goodbye.

Sending love and happy end-of-the-year wishes to you all in BlogLand.


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

I'm Baaaackkk (in more ways than one!)

So, I haven't posted in forever?  Why you ask?  Well, we had massive state testing.  And I was told I didn't have my job next year so I was applying like a madwoman.  Oh, and we had several serious issues with students.  My boyfriend graduated.  And he got a new job.  6 million things went wrong in my apartment.  Life happened.

But I just HAD HAD HAD to share exciting news---which is that I WILL BE BACK NEXT YEAR!  With the passed budget and a retirement, my job is now safe.  I will be in the same room, on the same team, teaching grade 6 science and ELA again.  I.  Am.   So.   So.   Happy.

:) So you all get another year (which hopefully I am better at recording) of my blog posts about life in the superlative six. :)  Much, much love!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

I can breathe again!

*exhale*sign*shrug*grin*relax*stretch....the list goes on.

THE NEW YORK STATE ELA EXAM IS OVER!!!!  AFTER THREE LONG DAYS OF 90+ MINUTES EACH I AM SO HAPPY AND RELIEVED.  Now it's time and sit to wait for the scores.  It's literally certification-revoked-serious to talk about the exam now that the state has made them I won't be doing any of that. All I can say is that I hope my kiddos did well---I saw them really putting in effort (made me proud!)

Anyway, 3 days of testing is crazy long.  To help them along the way I gave them many treats like this:
Cereal, a gummy snack, and a water bottle (no label to make sure it stays cheating-free!)
and like this...
Cute pencils and a saying

along with bagels for breakfast (more on that later this week too!) and animal crackers and some smarties (forgot to take a picture) for my "smartie pants"....okay, I definitely tried everything to keep them focused and confident.  This week also made me remember why I teach---um, I can't sit still that long either!

Since there was testing, we didn't have ELA class Tuesday-Thursday.  Instead, we still had all three of the other "cores"---science, math, and social studies.  Since I knew my kiddos were exhausted and stressed....check out what we did in science! (fun with clay!)

On Friday I started diving into The Giver with them.  Yes, we read it in 6th grade in our district.  Since I love the book, I'm not complaining.  But I'll admit it is definitely an upper level read for them so I've come up with lots of new ideas to share about that during this coming week!

I am also VERY excited about the Everything Intermediate Teaching Expo that I won a ticket to!  There are four fabulous presenters and I hope to post on everything I learned and picked up on in the coming week too!  Oh so many goals for this week....and yet so little time.  I grade those ELA tests all day on Wednesday and we test for math Wednesday through Friday! eeeeee!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Test Prep #2--Centers!

So I set up 8 centers for my students to rotate between.  Naturally, we ran out of time so I will need to find a way to get back on schedule.  The reason why I did 8 is is that for certain times/days during ELA there are 3 teachers.  That leaves only 5 stations where students are independent.  Which is what I usually have during "The Superlative Six."  Plus, with 8 rotations I can have SUPER SMALL 3 kids, which is beyond awesome.  That way I know they are engaged and involved.

On to the stations...

1.) Listening  I totally forgot to take a picture of that one. Anyway, the state releases the listening passages (except last year's because now it's Top-Secret) along with the questions.  I had students take turns reading the passage out loud.  Meanwhile, they took turns recording the GAP notes on the white board.  They then answered the three short answer questions.

2.) Context Clues (with teacher)

Students went and worked on finding the meaning of words based on context clues.  By putting the sheets in laminated protectors, it gave me the chance to reuse without making a million worksheets.  Since they were working with a teacher, she could check them as they went.

3.) Review of Practice Test
yes! That top one does say just "minus one"!!!
Anyway, here students were grouped based on the questions missed to go over and review what they got incorrect.  They worked with our AIS Reading teacher so this was structured and guided!

4.) CandyVocab

You can find out how I repurposed CandyLand here.  Anyway, I used this vocab practice cards which were pretty challenging for my kiddos as the questions.  Does anyone else use this brand of cards?  It was still tricky for some of them!

5.) Mimio Game Using the Mimio (basically a device that makes your white board a SMART Board, I found a review game for Main Idea on Quia.  The kids, naturally, LOVE this station.

6.) Would You Rather...?
This is how I ended up using the "Would You Rather?" cards.  I wanted kids to work on orally restating the question, providing and answer, evidence, and then summing it all up again.  I used the poster behind it for students to guide them at first and then eventually removed it.  Kids picked a card and then decided on what they would "rather" do.

7.) Author's Purpose/Too-To-Two Folder Games   These are two games I found in blog-land.  I made them and set them up for the kids to play as review.

8.) Ants in the Pants Comprehension I made this little center:
What does it do?  You might ask....well...
My kiddos have a short reading passage and four questions.  They work independently to answer the questions.  When they go over it, they can earn one "ant" for each correct answer.  Then they can play the game by trying to flick the ants into the plastic pants.  Total hit. :)

So in short, that's how I made Test Prep Centers!  We will be doing several more of these rotations in the coming 2 weeks before Spring Break and ultimately, The Test.

Happy Weekend!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Calling all ((middle school)) + other teachers!

Hey All!
   This post has nothing to do with any of my test prep ideas (those are coming tomorrow), or school, or ELA, or my job or anything.  It has to do with what Crystal over at Kreative in Kinder has started.  As you may (or may not) know, several schools in the Kentucky/Indiana region were impacted in March by tornadoes.  She started a Google Doc of four schools that were in need...letters of encouragement, tangible donations, electronic donations...etc. I am amazed by the outpouring of support---but primarily in the lower elementary grades.  The middle school especially in Salyersville has almost no donations.  I signed up my kiddos under the 6th grade at one of the elementary schools and for the 3 science classes.  I have a few tangible donations I am going to send but was waiting to see where items were needed since they were pretty generic school supplies.  I waited.  It's been 6 days and it is still so bare bones for the middle school.  They are in need too!  I would pretty please urge all of us middle level teachers to make a donation---a simple gift or spare school supplies...even used items from our storage.  As Crystal put it, imagine all the money we have invested in our classrooms...not just physical materials but also all of the time and home-made items.  PLEASE visit the Google Docs and consider signing up.

If you think about it, the post office sells those flat rate boxes for pretty cheap.  I will probably fill a medium box for around $10 or one of the packing envelopes for around $5.  Please please please think of donating just a little something.

If you want to get your class involved, here is a great YouTube video (OK so how did teachers teach before YouTube?)  I showed my students this today before they took their quick quiz on latitude/longitude.  After the quiz they made cards.  I'll post pictures Monday!

Anyway, consider doing some spring cleaning and helping out fellow teachers! We have to stick together!  Thank you thank you all in advance!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Test Prep #1--As Promised.

First, I would love to thank Kim and MrsL and Living a Wonderful life for their comments on my previous posting.  It is essentially official---I will not be teaching 6th grade next year.  Unless New York decides to fund that case I won't be holding my breath.  I need to figure out a plan for next year.  Should I relocate?  Do I stick it out?  I know it's just March but I like to plan ahead and I am mighty worried.

ANYWAY, I promised last week that I would share some of what I have been doing with my kiddos to prep for the state exam.  It began yesterday with a little of this:

WHATTTTT!?!  You may ask.  We had about 12 of these black posters with a label up around the room. n I basically took 4 of the state exams from the past and copied them on different colored paper depending on the year. I cut apart I had one of my awesome student helpers cut apart the multiple choice questions.  From there, I determined on my own the major categories, Inference, Word Meaning, Adding Information, Setting, Prediction, Text Features, Author's Purpose/Craft, Non-fiction, Interpreting a character's feeling, Poetic/Literary Elements, Main Idea...etc.  I then passed them out among the students.  The tougher questions I gave extra to my quick thinkers.  Anyway, we taped them up where we thought they should be.  I scanned through them and we fixed "ones that needed a new home."  This worked SO WELL to show my kiddos what they need to work on in order to be successful...and what is generally tested ("ohhhh so that's why we do so much with inference!-student).  I would HIGHLY recommend a similar activity for your students.  Understanding WHAT the question is ASKING is 1/2 the battle!  It was fun, interactive, and my kids loved when I said "Today I cut apart the state test" (*gasps*) "That's right, and we are going to sort the multiple choice questions and you can complete this successfully without reading one passage!" (*cheers*)  It was sweet.  Then we took a practice test for the multiple choice section.  Not their favorite, but necessary.  One of my SPED kids only missed 2 of the 26 questions---woo hoo!

Then, today we started to tackle the listening section...aka book 2.  We did a TON of modeling where the push in SPED teacher and I modeled taking good GAP notes, filling in, etc. while the other read.  We then started working on the short answers.  I introduced this:
They remembered it!  We then started in on the extended response.  We were doing such a nice job and I could tell we were getting restless.  So I made the executive decision to go outside for the last 15 minutes of the block. Good choice since here in NY we are already in the 80s....yes, the 80s...this week.  It is SO hot here!!!

Anyway, those are just some quick ideas on Test Prep...I will share more tomorrow when we start centers!!!

Much Love,

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Trip to the Principal's Office

So today was just an average day in 6th know, a little one crying over lunchroom drama, a trip to the nurse because a kid tripped up the stairs (yes, up), ELA test prep, technology malfunctions, I-forgot-that-was-due-isms, emptying of a binder too full to even close...standard procedures.

Until period 8 when I get a call that I have to go to the Principal's Office at the start of 9.  The teacher next door will be covering my study hall.  *gulp*  Doesn't sound good.  I first run through my mind any possible reason why I would be called down.  Naturally, my paranoid mind skips to something awful and I am fired.  Then, by the end of the period I decide it's either the budget (which ultimately means my demise as a 6th grade teacher) or the fact that I was going to do a PD on those awesome buzzers I have for my room (more on that another day).  I hoped for the latter.

It turns out it was about the budget.  To water it down...basically tonight the Board decides on some fund allocation that, when announced, will result in either me keeping my job (as the last one hired), or since other positions will cut, someone else will teach my little spectacular (future) 6th graders.

And so we wait.  (insert panicked, sad face here)

On a happier note---Test Prep Has Been AWESOME!  More on that tomorrow too when I'm more in a blogging-mood!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Literature Circles: Week 3 (+ Giveaway)

 First, I have to tell you about this ah-mazing chance to be part of, essentially, virtual Professional Development.  It is awesome that people are organizing together for middle level teachers!  For more information about how to win a ticket to the expo go and check out Mor's awesome info here at A Teacher's Treaure!
In other news....
WE THE 6TH GRADE TEAM are now done with our first round of Literature Circles here in the 6th grade.  We would have been done on Friday but we were pulled to meet with the district's literacy coach so now we had the final day today.  Anyway, we had an interesting week.  Check out some ideas!!!

1.) Fact "Mum" a spinoff of Mumball. For those who don't know what that is, it is when kids silently throw the ball around the room and try to get people "out."  My boys and girls LOVE this.  So we played it but instead of being 100% silent they had to say a fact from the story (since we just finished it).  Repeats meant you were out.
2.) Final Role Sheets/Discussion
3.) The "Ellen" Show:  Another way we practice talking and feelings.  3 kids volunteer to be on the show.  I play the "Ellen" theme show music from YouTube and we dance.  The "audience" takes turn asking the volunteers "talk show worthy" questions.  They have to be juicy!!! We asked questions about life in the Middle Ages mostly
4.) I went over their assignment for the week which is to write a 4 paragraph essay comparing life then to life now using examples from the text.
One of the kid's drawings who was the Artist for the day, re-enacting the before and after
scene of how the main character (Robin) was treated.  This was the "before" when he was taunted.
So detailed---he is quite the artist!  The "after" picture was a bunch of smiley faces to show how
he was appreciated even though he couldn't walk.  I LOVE the detail (such as the crutches under
the guy's arm whose carrying Robin)!

1.) KWL-"L" section-What we learned
2.) Symbolism mini lesson.  We reviewed symbolism.  Then, I made these adorable little "doors" out of paper bags.  Behind them had a time in the book where the "door" was referenced as a symbol.

Re-purposed some paper grocery bags for this one!

3.)  The students worked in 3's to figure out the meaning of the symbol in that section.  They wrote their answers on a sticky note and shared aloud.
4.) I then explained their thematic projects.  We talked about the major themes in the book and I had them decide who they were working with and what they were doing. The themes are:
-Overcoming Adversity
-Do Your Best
-Self Discovery
-Inter generational Relationships

1.) I had a passage on castles that I read aloud for Listening Practice.  The students took notes and then I had questions for them to answer on the back.
2.) Time to work on thematic projects

1.) Collect 4 paragraph essays
2.) Character Traits discussion.  I put all the characters on the white board and gave each of my 11 kids a marker to write ONE character trait under each character----no repeats!  We then discussed them.
3.) Time for projects!

Monday (TODAY!)
1.) Time to wrap up projects/final touches
2.) Presentations.  After the presentation, the groups had to explain how their projects tied into the specific themes of the story.  We had skits...
Posters..."Overcoming Adversity"
Even a puppet show!  Paper puppets on paint stirrers!  Styled after
 the "Punch and Judy" shows!

3.) Rubrics---Their evaluation of their project and space for mine!  We wrapped up by discussing what we liked, and what we would change about literature circles! 

Here we have it----the conclusion of Lit Circles for this first grade-wide rotation.

Stay Tuned for Test Prep Tomorrow!!! :-)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Would You Rather...Ideas!

It's Saturday! Woo-Hoo!  I am so annoyed with myself because I forgot to take pictures of my Lit Group stuff AND my awesome test prep project and I don't want to post without pictures!  Soooo I decided to post this:
My AMAZINGLY AWESOME Teaching Assistant brought this in because her son is now too old for it.   She is so sweet and always thinking of me/our classroom/the kids and their well-being.  Now, I am thinking I am going to make it into part of my Test Prep on choosing questions and rephrasing them?  What do you think?  Do you use anything like this in ELA?  I would love to hear your ideas!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Be Prepared...for new ideas!

    So this is kind of a lame posting.  I'll warn you right off the bat.  I basically was on here because I have some terrific new followers so I wanted to follow them and therefore Blogger has popped up in my Gmail lots today.  Oh, and naturally, I'm always checking Blog Land for new ideas.  Especially since I must/need/have to/will do begin really super serious working with my students on test prep.  I do this all year, in those secret, hidden and undercover ways where the kids don't know that they are actually preparing for the test.  It gives them anxiety.  With the dark, looming cloud of a possible school merger/closing/consolidation, the kids are stressed.  Why add something more?  Well, Literature Circles end Monday (more on those later) so next Tuesday begins more serious test prep.  I will have 4 days next week, 5 days the following week, and a guaranteed 3 (maybe 4 depending on an apparent school spirit/volleyball activity the day before spring break) to work on this stuff.  I have a 90 minute block each of these days with random support.  Ok, it's not random but I have to coordinate a Special Ed teacher push in, the AIS reading teacher's push in, my 1:1 aide to best utilize her skills, AND a HS student who comes to help part of the period all together so we maximize what needs to be done.  And I refuse refuse REFUSE to make this prep dull and boring because quite frankly, my kiddos will shut down, do nothing in a virtual boycott, resulting in me panicking about their apparent "low" performance while all the while they are capable of being successful and are making choices NOT to because they are bored. I wish I was exaggerating.

Anyway, my short rant there is just to say that I promise some exciting test-prep infused lesson ideas in the coming weeks.  I am currently concocting one now...which entails me going through the Part 1 of the NYS tests archived from '06-'10 and itemizing them.  woo-hoo!  I'm such a wild lady on a Wednesday night! LOL Maybe I can finish this so I can implement it tomorrow before they take a practice multiple choice section on Friday with my substitute! (I have a gr. 4-8 ELA meeting with our district lit coach....)

Happy Teaching! :)  Ideas coming soon....promise!!!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Literature Circles: Week 2

So folks we just wrapped up the second week of Literature Circles with one more to go before we spend the time drilling and prepping for the state exam looming in the future.

I never posted on the "schedule" that I try to follow so let me take a moment to do that.  The kids return from lunch at 11:05am (yes, that early!)...and we have about 10-15 minutes to have them in their "homebase" ELA class until 11:20am.  At that point we switch into the Lit. Group rooms until 12:10pm.  From 12:10-12:36pm we have our original group for "homebase" ELA.  Within that 50 minute block, it usually runs like this:

11:20-11:25---> organizational stuff, get folders, books, settle down
11:25-11:30---> whole group opening activity 
*Translate the letter (below)
*Mini-Lesson: How to ask "thick" instead of "thin" or "right there" questions
*An important quote written on the board
*I Have...Who Has (below)
11:30-11:40ish----> time to complete your role independently
11:40ish-11:50----> discussion time
11:50-12:10-----> whole group extension activity
*"Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" boys v. girls game
*Who is the bravest character? with 4 names/corresponding corners: where students went to one of the four corners of the room to "vote" on their choice before sharing
*Comprehension Quiz
*"Punch and Judy" puppet show---a school appropriate one---viewing on YouTube (this was something mentioned in the text that the students had no idea what it was).  How did people teach before YouTube!??
*Note: if we finish the extension activity early, then students have a chance to begin reading their assigned chapters for the following day!

Anyway, we had some definite improvements this week.  I allowed one group out of my three to go and sit in the "Comfy Corner" on beanbags, inflatable chair, etc.  They loved it and it freed up some space in the rest of the room.  I also introduced these since I had a few kiddos who didn't seem to understand that they had to let others speak, and others that wanted to just sit back and not say boo:

Now, I know these can be cuter.  In the future, they will be and I will add them to my list.  But after realizing this weekend when I wanted to get them ready but everything was at school I had to make these Monday morning.  So basically they are baby food jars labeled on top with the Lit Group's "team names" they made on Day 1.  The side reads, "Participation Jar."  Inside are four chips of each color.  During discussion time, each kid has one color of chips.  Every time they share something valuable they pass in a chip to the jar.  During the discussion everyone has to have all of their chips gone by the end.  This is how I made sure everyone participated.  It was funny---one of my kiddos took it really serious and guarded the jar, only letting people who "said something actually for the conversation" put a chip inside. :)

Other changes included:
"Word Wizard" students got to use these fun pens as they looked up and defined the words!

Students who finish their role early can complete a word search
I just wanted to share a few more things from this week:
On the back of the self evaluations I occasionally give
a quick comprehension quiz on the chapters read for that day.

Edited a template found online here for an "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?"
style game.  Of course, I teach 6th so, "We are hafta be smarter, Ms. D!" they told me.

This was the letter I copied out of the book where kids worked
to change the wording from "old fashioned" writing to modern-day wording
A quick round of "I Have...Who Has..." that we started
Lit. Groups with one day!  If you haven't used/heard of this
before I would highly recommend it!

Hope this gave you some new ideas for Literature Circles!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Two Awards---Oh My! & Linky

I need to get caught up.  Here, especially, but pretty much everywhere.  My desk at work looks like a disaster area and it's freaking me out.  I have laundry up the wa-zoo and there are only about 4 teaching weeks until The Test. 

Anyway, more on that later.  The other "Miss D" (Emmy) over at Daydreams of a Student Teacher bestowed not one but TWO awards to me this week.

So I decided to combo the two for one sweet deal to some lucky recipients (that I just adore!)  So the main rule is to link back to the person who gave you these awards, which I did.  Seriously---check out her blog.  She's student teaching like all of us once did!  The next is to award these to ten (Top 10) and fifteen (for the Lovely Blog one) bloggers.  Sooooo I am going to award them to 10 and hopefully these people weren't already covered!  I'm trying!

Here's the list:

Speech Room News:  What a teacher!  I love her enthusiasm and even though I don't teach speech, I see her ideas and think of ways I can make them general 6th grade stuff!  I love it!

Teaching in Room 6:  Her daily fluency routine is to die for!!! :-)

Adventures of a 6th Grade Teacher:  She's in the same boat as me---first year in 6th grade!

Piece of Cupcake Life:  I teach science and I am so inspired by her creativity towards the subject!

Juice Boxes and Crayolas:  She cracks me up!  Also, she is a runner which motivates me to get back into the swing of things.  To think that I ran a 5k a few years ago and now I feel totally out of shape!

Miss McTeacher: Great blog that I just discovered when she became one of my followers!

Teaching Tweens: I love a good middle school teaching blog!  

Lesson Plans and Lattes: A fellow NY teacher! Woo-hoo!

Pushing Through 6th Grade: 6th grade.  The beasts that are not elementary and not yet adults.  :)  The awesome middle!

One Reading Idea at a Time: I love reading her reading ideas!

Alright, one last thing:  Farley's Linky

That's all for now!  Love to all!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Literature Circles: Week 1

Hello Everyone!
   This week we were able to host 4 whole days of Literature Circles!  I didn't get as much done as I would have liked to in the first two but I felt better on Friday.  We had a SNOW DAY on Thursday---our very first one and seeing that we live in upstate NY we usually have many more/delays.  It's been such a mild winter---so mild that it makes me want to move South since if we aren't going to get snow up here, it might as well be eighty degrees!

   Anyway, as promised I am going to try to blog about what happened with my Literature Circle each day that we hold it.  It's my first time running one so I am trying to get a hang of it all.  For information on how these were organized across a 66 student 6th grade with 5 teachers, click here!

Okay, so I started Monday by:
1.) Signing books out to students and setting up team folders that they will keep in my room.  The team folders are just three of the same folder that I had lying around.  Each day, I put the activities and items the group needs inside.  This minimizes the passing out/organization confusion.
One side has our packets (more on that later), and this day had paint cards (more on that too!)
Day 1
  We gathered together and it was pandemonium for a moment...or ten.  The kids wondered if they were in trouble, why they had a different teacher, who they were working with, what were we reading, what were other kids reading, was this going to be hard/fun/boring, and when do they go back to their old room and if it takes the whole period....etc.  So after I answered some of the most pressing issues, we moved on.  I made a quick Xtramormal video on the different roles to provide an overview (the kids are in 6th grade but have NEVER done Lit Circles before so this is TOTALLY new).  We decided our roles would be "Head Honcho" "Connector Director" "Artist Extraordinaire" and "Word Wizard"  If you are interested in the Xtranormal video it is on YouTube and found HERE!  After that we made up our roles for being unprepared, rude, etc.  The kids were harsh!  Here are the rules written up by one of my kiddos before we signed them on the bottom:

We decided if you aren't prepared with a book, first time is a warning, second time you write an essay basically covering what you WOULD have done in the group.  For not reading you have to go read/not be included, make up the work and do one of the assigned tasks they devised.  They had fun with the "rules."  As for keeping track, I have a similar folder as the groups do and I just have a sheet of paper that I write down when someone is not prepared to keep a log.  This took most of the 40 minutes but at the end we had some time to begin a KWL on two pieces of paint cards glued back to back on what we know about Medieval life.  Here is a sample:
The "K" and "W" on one side, leaving lots of space for the "L:

Day 2
We gathered and started reading together to get us into the book.  My group is reading The Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli.  It's TOUGH for being a page-wise short book.  The first chapter has a lot of medieval terms and language complexities so we read it together.  We agreed at the end that by our next meeting we would read up through Ch. 2 to discuss.

Day 3
Like I said before, my kids have never done these before so we needed structure.  And lots of it!  I decided to spend our third day with kids finally getting into the roles, but instead of independently, using the pages in the packets, and in their small groups, we would make one giant group.  Partners/3's each got one of the 4 roles on a piece of poster paper.  They had about 10 minutes to work together to complete their role.  We then got together and the two "Head Honchos" lead us all in a discussion.  Since there are only 11 kids in my room with me, this worked out well.  I don't think it would be as easy with 12.  We modeled how to speak, add something, clarify, and participate.  I am using the posters they created as anchor charts/reference for the rest of our Lit Circles time.

Word Wizard, (should say) Connector Director, and Artist Extraordinaire 

Head Honcho created discussion questions...Thick and Thin Questions
Day 4
LET 'EM LOOSE! When the kids came in they got into their groups.  I have two groups of 4 and one group of 3 (it would have been 4 but one of my little girlies changed districts more on that here).  Anyway, they took out a packet from their folders.  Actually, what happened is that 3 forgot to read.  So I ended up switching groups so that we had two groups of 4.  I know that in a true Lit Circle (and maybe in the future) we won't stay on the same pages.  But for now, this works because I just KNOW people will not have their reading done and it makes it hard to get everyone completed with their roles plus a mini lesson/activity during that short 40 minutes.  ANYWAY...

So we had two groups of 4 going.  Each group takes out a packet and a recording form to write down who has which role (since we will switch each meeting).  The one determined to be the Head Honcho takes the packet apart and gives each person the sheet with their role (looks almost identical to the posters above!)  I set the timer for about 10 minutes and students complete their sheet.  After that, we launch into group discussion.  It went sort of was contained but not very interactive, more just share their role and move on.  Overall, we wrapped that up and then I had them come back and cut apart a final page in the pack which has EVALUATION CARDS.  We called the three kids back who didn't read and had another task to do.  They had to rate themselves on what they did and how well they did (including being prepared and participating).  After that I started an activity with them in their groups that we will finish first thing the next time we meet (Tuesday...Monday we are a teacher short), so I will explain that in a separate post.

What To Try Next Week...
-I think I need talking chips so that I get them all participating.  Some of them were raising their hands and waiting to be called on.  One girl barely said anything the whole time except to read her connections like a robot.  I am thinking talking chips might help.

-Alternate Seating.  I think I will have at least one group get to use clipboards and sit in my comfy corner.  

-Keep working on independence for my almost-7th-graders!

Thanks for reading!