Language Arts Karma!

Wow!  I can't believe it has been a week since I have posted!  That's what happens on the week you come back from a winter break. Did I really have last week off? I think I blocked it out after my poor Syracuse boys lost to those Icky Georgetown Hoyas..  When Monday came around, school took off like a shot!
This week we read THE BEST article in our TFK about how the United States is considering getting rid of the penny.  My Smarties were all about this because they had heard about how Canada had stopped making the Canadian penny in early February.  This lesson was a PERFECT FIT this week because we are just beginning a writing unit on argumentative pieces.

I had just put up these benchmarks on Tuesday, and began a discussion about choosing a thesis statement.
{I love these standards posters I'm making!  Right up my alley with the converse sneakers!}

Enter the Penny story:  Waiting for Change... a compare/contrast Non-Fiction piece that gives an ARGUMENT! woot woot.. Language Arts Karma my friends, KARMA.. not that I didn't know there was a connection, but I thought I would have to push, plead, bribe and pull these Smarties kicking and screaming into recognizing the text structure.. BUT>>> I didn't!  WOOT WOOT!  They totally GOT it!
I had taken pieces of my Navigating Nonfiction Unit.. the Buddy book marks and my Key Words for Non-Fiction Structures: (Compare/Contrast) which I had my students make into book marks as well, and my smarties worked together to identify HOW the Penny Story was a Compare/Contrast structure. Then, they had to discuss the story using the Buddy book marks. It was fabulous!  
This became a great foundation for our writing unit!  I'm so excited to begin this section next week.  I'm going to be co-teaching with my librarian.  She is going to introduce the databases my smarties can use to do research for their thesis statements, and then complete a lesson on what makes a credible source for the internet.  And best of all-- I get to end my week by going to a conference to hear Lucy Calkins speak tomorrow!  Karma.. my bloggy friends... KARMA!

Hall Pass Linky!

I was totally BLOG stalking  surfing and found Reagan at Tunstall's Teaching Tidbits where she created a Hall Pass Linky!  This looked like too much fun to pass up.  Reagan is right.. mid year, the kids are heading down the path, and it's the teacher right now who needs the escape of a Hall Pass.

Here are mine and as I'm taking a much needed classroom break this week!

My favorite product is my Navigating Nonfiction Writing Unit.  I love that I can incorporate this into the reading that we do with our Time for Kids Magazine subscription.  It is interesting to listen to my Smarties talk about the Text Features.  They are pretty solid with features, and feeling their way through the structures, pretty easily.  With the Common Core change to stronger nonfiction reading, the text features and structures have been pretty much occupying my life lately.

My favorite area in my classroom is difficult.  I teach teach middle school.  I have no group reading area, no independent reading area etc.  So I guess my front wall is a favorite place.  It contains my favorite anchor charts about Stamina and Character.

In our Middle School our class periods are 42 minutes, so a bell is our biggest transition.  But if I have students doing group work and I need everyone's attention, the signal I go to the most is "Shush your Neighbor."  When I say this everyone turns to someone, put their finger to their mouth and "Shhhhs."
Pretty basic, kids like it, works fast.

I keep myself sane with a lot of coffee and chocolate.  These are my recent favs.. LOVE me some Mini Eggs!  Something else I do to keep sane is listen to a little Dave Matthews Band during my lunch time.  If I don't have students that want to eat lunch with me, you will find me "Wasting Time" with my ipod earphones plugged in.

If you are in need of a HALL PASS stop on over to see Reagan and link up!
And if you are a DMB fan too leave me a little love and let me know your favorite song!
AND.. if you are interested in a new Reading Lesson for Grades 5-8 stop by this post and check it out. I'm randomly picking a winner on 2/22 to receive one for free.


Book Utopia! and a Giveaway!

Today I'm linking up with Denise at Sunny Days in Second Grade for her Show and Tell Tuesday linky party about BOOKS.. I couldn't resist.. I'd spend all my free time reading if I could just find someone to do all of this housework and laundry for me!

So Denise asked up to share books that we love, and I would be writing a post forever if I listed them all, but I had to blog about a few stories I have recently discovered and read with my Sixth Grade Smarties.
The first is.. believe it or not... from my basal series [Treasures] called "Let it Shine."  It is the story of Rosa Parks.  Let it Shine is part of a larger book called  
Let it Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters
(If you want to learn more about this book, click on the picture above to go to AMAZON)
The story of Rosa Parks in this book is AMAZING for upper elementary and middle school students.  NONFICTION my friends.. NONFICTION!  My smarties really got into learning more about the type of person she was.  It went well beyond the basic fact that Ms.Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus.  It was also a perfect lead into my biography writing unit that we began.
At one part in the story, Rosa Parks speaks of getting "bullied" by members of the Ku Klux Klan.  My kiddoes weren't really familar with that concept, so of course, off I went to find a companion picture book that would explain the concept, but not SCARE them at the same time. 
 Enter: Mississippi Morning by Ruth Vander Zee.
(Again, click on the book to head to AMAZON)
This book is wonderful.  It tells the story of young James William who loves his Pa and is so proud to help him out.  He begins to learn throughout the book that his father is not all that he says he is, and his opinion of him changes.  FABULOUS BOOK TO REINFORCE CHARACTER ED and your own beliefs.. especially if you still have curriulum to cover.. TWO BIRDS.. ONE STONE <hint hint>

So then.. why stop there... I had to include another book.  Why not pull in a little test prep without the kiddoes KNOWING it was test prep.. no need to get them amped up too early, but a formative assessment would be great. 
Enter:  Keeping the Night Watch by Hope Anita Smith

(Again, click on the book head to AMAZON)
This is a book of poetry and one poem in particular hits it home:  Seven Ways of  Looking at My Father.  Perfect companion to compare/contrast.. a HUGE ELA test skill.
I was in LOVE LOVE LOVE for more reasons than Valentine's Day last week.  It was Reading and Writing UTOPIA!  Don't you love when your best laid plans come together and the kids just GET IT!
That was my moment last week, and how great that Denise decided to talk about books THIS week... KARMA my friends, KARMA.
After talking to a few colleagues, I spent the weekend overhauling what I created for my smarties and posted the product {HERE} if I've inspired you.  I'm feeling generous tonight as well, so if you leave me some comment love below about a book you have found LESSON UTOPIA with lately, I'll randlomly pick a number on FRIDAY and send you a copy of the activity packet for your very own.

If I have inspired you to think about the books you love, head over to see Denise at Sunny Days in Second Grade and link up!


March Freebie for St. Patrick's Day!

I know, I know it's not even the end of February, but I have had St. Patrick's Day on my brain today since I stopped with my kids at McDonald's yesterday and got a SHAMROCK SHAKE!
Our family is in love with this minty deliciousness.. crazy! YUM!

I figured since it was on my brain I would create a few organizers for my smarties to use with their 
Book Challenge reading in the month of March.  

They love St. Patrick's Day too.  Our town even paints the double yellow lines GREEN for the parade.  More on that when it actually gets closer. 
 I know there are some of you out here who like to plan ahead like me, so if you are interested in adding my St. Patrick's Graphic Organizers to your collection, feel free to click on the picture above or  {HERE} and download yours.
If you love it or find it useful, leave me some feedback love.


Valentine Happiness

Happy POST Valentine's Day!

1) I hope everyone got a little extra chocolate, and a lot of extra hugs and kisses this week!
My smarties were very excited for 2/14 to arrive because it was the offical "Passing out of the Lollipop" brigade.  The student council at our school sells lollipops for 50 cents and the kids get to give them to their friends.  I must have had over a 100 lollipops for my students on my desk!

2) This week to brighten our mood before our winter break,
I asked the kids tell me 5 things they are loving in February.

I had to have them add the mustaches to their hearts.. ADORABLE!  They LOVE LOVE LOVE anything that is mustache related.  As you can see, many of them are into our SU basketball team which has the LONGEST home game win streak in the nation.... WOOT WOOT
What I really love is that the kids love their Youth Group.. ski club... SCHOOL! and the BIOGRAPHY unit I'm teaching.. who would have thought!  That was very exciting.  My middles go through a little slump mid-winter.  They don't want to do whole lot of work on their own, basically it feels like they lose their Stamina.. But my heart melts a little when I see these pieces.

3/4) We also wrote in our Communication Journals to our families.  We do this every Friday.  I give the kids prompts about their school week, and they write a friendly letter home to a parent.  The parent then writes back over the weekend.  It is such a great working memory.  I've had students who are graduating from high school and cleaning out their rooms tell me they found their CJs from sixth grade and read them.  AWESOME.
This month with all of the work we are doing in our biography unit, I figured I would add in a little more fun, so we did Farley's Currently!  I had my smarties fill one out, and then glue a blank one in for the parents. They got such a kick out of this!  In March, I'm going to have them do this again, and then write a paragraph about 3-4 of their choices.

5)  This has been spirit week at our school.  We needed a little pick me up mid winter and today was crazy sock day!  I love how this smartie dressed for the day! So cute!
and another of my "cutie pi's"
gave me a dozen cookies from the bakery her family owns! YUM!!

What did you love this week about your classroom?  Stop by and share!
You can also go to Doodle Bugs and link up by clicking her button at the top of the page.
Enjoy your weekend!


Homophone Hearts and a Funny Monkey Book

This week the skill in our basal reader reviews Homophones and Homonyms.  Most of my smarties in sixth grade have mastered this concept, but I have a few who still have trouble with the vocabulary meanings of some words.  I found this great book that has been perfect for them in my Word Work Center.  It helps my students who are still having trouble with the homophones, and it gives all of my students FLUENCY practice.  It can be hard to read those "double words."
Aunt Ant Leaves through the Leaves by Nancy Coffelt is about Monkey who is trying to get the animals to help him get bananas home to make a pie.  The book has the same "set up" as The Little Red Hen where all of the animals are busy.. Aunt Ant can't help because she has to visit her niece, Bee has too many things to do because his honey shipment is due... etc.

To go along with the book I made homophone hearts.  My students who needed a little extra practice read the book in small groups as they had Word Work Centers to complete.  They sorted the homophones from the story by playing memory.  Then they chose one of the pairs and wrote their own homophones to show they understood the vocabulary.  It was an easy quick way to get in a little Valentine LOVE this week.
Although the homophones are heart shaped, they ceratinly could be used any time of year in a center, and the book has no seasonal connection.  If you are interested, you can find the product in my TpT store {Here}
On another note, my smarties took an assessment today on Rational Numbers.  I am so pleased with how they did.. especially when love and lollipops (our Student Council sells them and the kiddoes get them from friends on Thursday)  seem to be all they are thinking about!
What have your smarties done this week that you are proud of?  Let me know! and share the LOVE!!

Valentine Monday Made It.

This weekend I finally managed to finish putting together my valentine's for my students.  We don't do a whole lot to celebrate Valentine's Day in middle school.  We don't have a party or exchange Valentines, but I thought since my students seem to be EATING my PENCILS lately anyway, I would share a little February Valentine LOVE with them this year.

I made these valentine's that are Math related and put them in my TpT store. They are FREE --if you need something last minute, you can go {HERE} to download them.

During the great SUPER SALE at TpT, I picked up Kristen's InFACTuated Valentine Math Fact Set,

and with all of the SNOW {blech} that we managed to get this weekend, I have been busy cutting out this great set.  I still have some smarties that are not solid in the math fact department.  This is so disappointing, but as annoyed as I may FEEL, it doesn't help the kids to be annoyed, so Kristen's set is a perfect way for my assisstants and me to work with those kiddoes.
One of my assistants began working with a student on Friday, and he LOVED practicing the facts with her.  He was so excited that he could actually see the facts he didn't know, and went home happy to practice with a set over the weekend!  AWESOME.. <I'm doing the HAPPY DANCE>

Lastly, I made this Homophone Hearts Word Work Pack for my Smarties. I'm going to blog about the book I used later on in the week, but thought I'd get the picture out a little early.

Stop by and see Tara at Fourth Grade Frolics and Link up with her Monday Made-Its Linky Party
AND!  Don't forget you can still go visit my friend Krystal at Lessons from the Middle and enter her Birthday Blog Giveaway until February 11th.


Helping to Celebrate a Bloggy Friend's Milestone! Join Me!

Krystal Mills of Lessons From The Middle is celebrating her FIRST Blog Birthday in a big way. There are close to 100 teachers who have donated their fabulous products/gift certificates for her giveaway. There are prize packages for grades K-3, 4-6 and 7-9 - so there's something for almost everyone! Be sure to make your way over to Lessons From The Middle Feb. 8th - 11th to enter.  
Celebrating my first Blog Birthday - Lessons From The Middle
I wanted to let all of my followers know about Krystal's awesome Giveaway.  I'm donating one of my *Best Selling Products*  My Salt in His Shoes Reading and Reflecive Writing Lesson.  

This is great for Black History Month, or as a new book for  Character Education Lessons.  You can read about how I used it {HERE} or if you can't wait to WIN IT from Krystal, you can purchase it {HERE}

Clip on Kyrstal's Birthday Picture above to head over to see all of the fabulous goodies Krystal has in her Giveaway and be sure to enter to win!
Happy Birthday Krystal!!


Wacky Wordies Algebra Task Cards

I'm so excited I managed to get this product done today.. for at least PART of the Sale I'm having at My TpT store

These are part of my "Wacky Wordies" word problem task cards for Algebra.
I've included 4 word problems for each of the following categories:
Numerical Expressions, Algebraic Expressions, One Step Equations, Two Step Equations, and Algebraic Properties.

I put these word problems together in my classroom when I completed my Expressions and Equations unit in the fall, but never really got around to sprucing them up for sale.
I'm going to bring them out again before my smarties take the state assessment in the spring, hoping that they will REMEMBER how to complete the tasks!
If you are looking for more practice with ALGEBRA WORD PROBLEMS go {HERE} and pick up your set while they are on sale!! Don't forget through TODAY you can get up to 28% off and Monday you can get 20%!


FeBrUaRy CurRenTLy and Sale REmIndER

I love the beginning of a new month,  and February.. what's not to love about a SHORT 28 day month,  Ground HOGS!  Woot woot...,  Superbowl.. Mardi Gras....LOVE.. who can't LOVE Valentine's Day.. Winter Break, and my Hubbies Birthday!
February is a pretty busy month in our house and I like every minute of it.  It is DREARY weather here in February and having a bunch of things to look forward to makes the month go by quickly!
Here is my Currently for February... of course you have to LOVE Farley!

I'm a little late on the Modern Family Bandwagon.  We are currently working our way through Season 2, but my kiddoes are loving it too, which makes it a fun show to watch together.
I can save my obsession with Elementary and Nashville for after they go to bed.

As I had stated earlier, February is a busy month for us.  I am going to try and make it a special month in our house.  The winter is cold and dreary and I am TIRED of it already!

Of course there is weekend school work to be done.  I can't remember the last time I actually had a weekend free from school work.  I think I'm a pretty good planner, but there always seems to be something to finish.. or START.. Ha

I am wanting a cup of Chicory Coffee.. LOVE is an obsession.  I tried it for the first time in New Orleans at the Cafe Du Monde.. now every time my hubby travels there, he MUST come home with a can.  I savor every cup!  Happy Mardi Gras!

I'm needing a serious dose of chocolate right now.. Isn't this box of chocolates so cute!  It has a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy on it! My Berner was a cute puppy too.. I've sent the picture to my hubby several times.. hint hint... 

And last, but not least, I am participating in the TpT Super Sale tomorrow, February 3rd.  You can visit my store and get up to 28% off of your purchase!  I've got a ton on my wishlist!

Go link up with Farley and share your CURRENTLY


A SuPEer SaLe on SuNdAy --February 3

I just wanted to let everyone know that I am going to be participating in the Superbowl Sunday Sale on February 3rd at Teachers Pay Teachers!  You can get 28% off of the products in my store if you use the CODE: SUPER when you check out!
You can stop by my store before Sunday and put a few products on your wishlist.. then don't forget the code on SUNDAY!  Simply click on the TpT button on the side of my blog, or click [HERE]
I have a lot of products for ELA and Math including the foldies I've been blogging about as well as the Navigating Nonficiton and Salt in my Shoes ELA packet.

Happy Shopping!
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