Five For Friday: Centers, Basketball, and a SALE!

Hello friends!  We made it through the week without a snowday!  That's pretty big news for us.  We have already used the two snow days our district allows, and I don't want to give up any of our break.  We already are going to school until the end of June, and well friends, that's softball season!  I don't want to be adding extra school days!
I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs for Five for Friday!

1. Center Time:  A week or two ago I blogged about having the epiphany of creating more than just 5 centers for the week. I tried to put together about a nine center rotation knowing it would take me 12-14 days to get through.  We always have interruptions for this or that.. or I forget something.. or a whole group lesson takes longer than I planned.  You teach, you get the gist!  Well, this past week we really worked on getting our centers in rotation.  I'm happy with the progress we made. 

This is one of the great boys in my class.  He is working through a Snowman Synonym packet from Tales Along the Yellow Brick Road.  This is fabulous for center work.  It is differentiated, so you can choose what your students can do.

2.   We also used centers from my Chinese New Year for Upper Grades pack.  My class really needed extra practice on combining sentences and pronouns.  I figured a fun way to do these more tedious tasks was to incorporate a little holiday celebration into the mix!

3.  We started a new novel, The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordin.  I love this story.  It is a perfect companion to the ancient Greece social studies unit that we just completed.  My students read the first chapter as a cold read, came into class and did a Carousel of Quotes activity.
Don't mind the sepia picture, I've been playing around with my camera. <hee hee>  Have you used Carousel of Quotes before?  You find important quotes within the story/chapter and write them on chart paper.  Students wander the room, read the quotes and then write what they notice and wonder.  Each quote that I used provides evidence about Percy Jackson's character, so my students wrote about what they noticed about Percy, and then what that made them wonder about.  They loved it!

4.  Tomorrow my Syracuse Orangemen are playing Duke in a huge rivalry basketball game!  There will be over 35,400 people at the Carrier Dome.  The game is going to be so exciting.  I can't wait!

5.  To celebrate this awesome game and of course that other important football game this weekend, I'm having a sale in my TpT store.  Every item will be 20% off.  If you've been looking to add a little something, this is a great time to go over and grab it.  There are center activities for ELA and  a bunch of foldies and task cards for interactive notebooks in math.
One of my favorites is my integers task cards.  I'm currently teaching this subject in my class, and my students love the phrase task cards.  I can use them in a whole group, or set them up as a sorting center.  

Some of my blogging buddies are having a sale this weekend too!  Check them out below!


Using Post It Notes for Text Evidence

Last week I taught my class a great lesson on citing text evidence and using post it notes.  I'll admit.  It was nothing new, but it was exciting to see the post it notes WORK!  Most of the teachers out here reading blogs know about Common Core and citing text evidence.  Close reading is coming back into fashion and students are interacting more with the text.  My students read an article called "I Was Homeless" which was in our Scholastic Scope magazine.  The story is narrative nonfiction and describes the life of Kevin Liu and how his family was wrongfully evicted from their home in NYC.  The family lived for several years in a homeless shelter before finding subsidized housing.  I gave my students the claim and then I had them find evidence in the text to support it.  We posted the evidence on our chart.
I love the evidence that my students were able to find within the text.  Here are a few examples:
My Smarties seem to do a great job of this when dealing with novel, but I don't always get good results with informative text.  It is one of the things I like about discovering that Newsela allows my students to highlight on the computer.  Instant, continuous practice.  WOOT!  
When we finished this discussion I had my students do a timed writing activity and answer a broader question about the challenges the homeless face and what is being done to help homeless families.  I allowed my students to use the article as well as any of the post it notes on the board.  I chose to time them because they need to be able to write a succinct piece for our assessment, and we need to build up our stamina for that.  My students use ACE for this.  Answer, Cite Explain.  I was thrilled to see that one of my Bloggy Friends Erin at I'm Loving Lit also uses this strategy.  Yes!  I was on the right track. She has a great interactive lesson about this.  You can check it out {HERE} if you need something to help your students. Small steps!

Do you use post it notes when citing evidence in text? Often I have my students write and highlight right on the page, but we don't write in our Scope magazines because they are for our team of students. I would love to hear what you do to help your students find solid text evidence and more importantly, what do you do to have them explain it when they have found it.  Thanks for stopping by to visit today!


Ancient Greek Myths Informational Text Posters

We are just finishing up our social studies unit on ancient Greece.  One of the best parts about this unit was the 7 days we spent studying ancient Greek mythology.  My students ate this project up because they got a chance to use the school's Ipads for research.  Any time I can grab the Ipad cart it will be on my agenda in the future. I was amazed at the collaborative learning that went on with this!  Each student in my class chose a Greek god, goddess or creature related to mythology.  They had to read a myth about the person, find out how he/she became a mythological creature, and learn about the symbol relating to the god.  I was amazed by how much they helped each other!  As we were working I loved hearing pockets of students share information as they realized that their topic overlapped someone elses.  Hello!  Middle School Smarties collaborting on a school related topic?  HOLLA
After we gathered our information we organized web pages for each god or goddess.

Each student created a template for the web page providing a summary of a myth containing the character, information about how the god, goddess or creature was related to others, and then an informative paragraph about the symbol.  My teammate found the posters from Really Good Stuff.  They are Show What You Know about Informational Text posters.  You can find them {here} if you are interested.  This post is not affiliated with Really Good Stuff, the poster is something we ordered with grant money and felt Greek mythology was a good way to use them.  

I read a new (to me) picture book while my smarties were searching for information. It's called Persephone and the Pomegranate by Kris Waldherr.   The book I read is this:
photo from Amazon
I was already familiar with the myth, but not this version.  The illustrations are beautiful! Unfortunately, the book is out of print, so I am very grateful that our library has a copy of it.  I know I'll be on the hunt for it at library sales to add to my personal collection.  I'm continuing our study of myths in Language Arts by reading The Lightning Thief.  Most of my smarties are familiar with the novel, but I am going to push them to dig deeper with evidence.  Stop back over the next few weeks and see how it is panning out for us!
Do you study ancient Greece?  I'd love to hear what you do with mythology.


Changing up my Center Work and Chinese New Year for the Upper Grades

I've been thinking about centers in ELA for my middles lately.  I love doing centers with my ELA class.  But I have 80 minutes and a huge amount of standards to get through, and it is a tough job.  I'm not ready to abandon it, but I do know that based on the recent benchmark testing, I need to make changes.  Changes that might not fit with what else is being done in my middle school.  I may have to go a bit rogue.....Making this change came to me while reading Catherine's blog... The Brown Bag Teacher.. Have you seen her blog?  Go {HERE} and check it out!  Just like Catherine, 5 day centers are NOT working for me.  I can't fit it in, and I spend way too much time trying to find things every week that are on level for my smarties.  Catherine blogs a lot about her centers, and I love that she uses 9-15 centers at a time depending on what she is doing.  Hello?  Knock Knock?  Why didn't I think of this? So much easier to manage!

At any rate it is worth an attempt as I start a new novel with my students and we practice our close reading strategies.  So starting this week I'm going to put my kids through a 10 Center rotation instead of trying to squeeze 5 centers in one week.  The 10 centers might take us 12-15 days, because inevitably something will interrupt us, but I figure it's worth a shot.
I made a bookmark for them to keep track of what they are doing.  I don't assign my smarties specific centers each day.  Sometimes they will have to do a center with their triad group.  This is a group that I am using with our Lightning Thief novel.  I plan to mix these up throughout the unit.  I like them to have a choice as far the activity that they complete for the day.  It makes them feel less like they are in elementary school, and I have not had many issues so far with this.

I used my new laminator... George..... don't ask me why my children named it.. but I will call him George..and I will love him.. and squeeze him, and pat him and pet him... and I digress..... to make my center cards a little more durable.

 I noticed my smarties needed some Word Work practice, and we are still working on pronouns, so I laminated my Chinese New Year Pack and have it ready to go.  We don't study Chinese New Year in middle school, and ancient China isn't in my social studies curriculum, but I thought my smarties might still enjoy a little learning on the subject. I'm going to integrate the different centers between this rotation and the next.  Stop by soon and see the centers I chose for this rotation. I'll be posting pictures soon.  Meanwhile, think about going a little rogue with your teaching, and mix things up a bit.  It may help you get through this Long Cold Winter!

NEWSELA.. a little update... Look What I Discovered!

Hello friends!  I hope everyone enjoyed that little extra time off yesterday.  I stayed home in my jammies all day long.  I did a little laundry, watched a Harry Potter marathon, and worked on a little school work.
While I was in school mode and cruising through NEWSELA to find a fun article to assign my smarties for the week, I stumbled upon the highlighting feature.  First, if you don't know about Newsela you can go {HERE} and read my blog post about it.  Second... seriously.. those of you that use Newsela, did you know you can highlight?  I love this site.  I really do.  But honestly, I was worried about my struggling students who need to practice the close reading pretty much daily.  Reading on the computer was not going to do it for me.  Even with my higher students I was worried about them breezing through the article with little accountability.  But I discovered that you have the ability to highlight text on Newsela and the teacher (ME) can go back into the binder, select a student and SEE what was highlighted.  HELLO!! The accountability rating just got a few notches higher.  My friends, it is so simple too!
WOW! The possibilities for using this site exploded for me!  For example, do you teach your students about writing solid paragraphs?  How about having them choose part of an article and highlighting the main idea, details and conclusions in different colors?  If you look through the articles you can find argument style writing.  Students could highlight the arguments in different colors.  Teaching text structure?  BAM! Highlight cause/effect, compare/contrast... my mind is spinning.  Want to know what else is AWESOME?  Paperless... as in no accumulation of paper sitting on my desk for me to grade... I can see who has mastery and who's not there yet, right from my iPad and use that data quickly to see who needs more teacher group work.

Do you use Newsela?  Do you have any tricks that you've learned?  Please share them, and I will continue to post about anything that I find!
After All This Time...... ALWAYS!  Carry on my friends.


Sparking Student Motivation: Using NEWSELA

Late last week I introduced my students to a new website:  NEWSELA.  It allows my students to read newsworthy informational articles on a variety of Lexile levels.  Friends,  THEY LOVE IT!

We went down to our LLC (Library Learning Commons) on Friday and signed up for a free account.  My smarties are grouped under a classroom that I set up.  This allows me to assign them specific articles to read.  Some of the articles also have online quizzes, so they can work as practice for CCSS and state assessments.  One of the things I love about the site is that each article is written on four different Lexile levels.  They range from 540 up to about 1100 depending on the article.  My students can adjust the Lexile level themselves for each article.  I loved the idea that I can assign a specific story to my class and also assign them the Lexile.  But, they also have the option of going to the site and changing the Lexile level depending on the article they read.  I found many of them adjusting the War and Peace  and Science articles down, and the Kids and Arts articles up.  Just a little piece of data for me to file away in my brain.
Primarily I am going to use this site as a center/task rotation.  For a few weeks I'm going to just have my students choose what they would like to read on the site, and then I will start to assign articles based on the concepts I'm teaching as well as increasing rigor before our assessment.  One of the other things I liked about the site was the ability to print the article and quiz as needed.  So if I have a student who can't get to this particular center for whatever reason I have the ability to print the article.  I am going to use this print option a little more when I'm working with my lower reading groups so we can focus in on some close reading strategies.  This print options allows them the ability to  mark up the page.  Many need more practice with this.  It's also great if you don't have a ton of computers or iPads in your room. You can still get high quality informational texts for your students written on their level.

After our first run through on Friday I was AMAZED at how much they loved this site.  How else could I have EVER gotten them talking about North Korea without an article like this:

It was so cool to see my students talk to each other on the way to lunch about the articles they chose to read.  Many of my students actually connected to students they don't spend time with because they realized they had read the same article.  I am hoping this will foster new friendships in  my classroom as we head into the second half of the school year.
Have you found a fun way to keep students motivated in their learning?  Go check out Joanne at Head over Heels for Teaching and find other ways to Spark Student Motivation.  Also, have you used Newsela?  If you have, and you have any tricks of the trade, I'd love to hear them.!


Teaching Pronouns with videos and FREEBIES

Hello friends!  I'm linking up with Molly today to share a Freebie on the Fifteenth!
My smarties have been focusing on various parts of speech using mentor sentences from the novels we are reading.  Basically, I review nouns, verbs and adjectives.  In sixth grade our main focus is pronouns, so over the next few weeks, they will be the focus in our Word Work Notebooks.  To help  my students I made a foldable for our interactive notebooks.  You can click the picture to download it.

On the inside, I listed a definition and examples.  We are also going to watch a few videos to review:

I love this one with Bugs and Daffy.  I usually play this one more than once, because some of my students don't get how Bugs changes the pronouns and gets Daffy in trouble.  With a little pronoun conversation, I see a lot more lightbulbs going off!

Do you have anything fun for pronouns?  I would love to hear from you! 
I have also updated the Messare Clips and Design page with a new Freebie of the United States, just click on the page link at the top.  This design has so many possibilities!


Giveaway Time!

Two of my favorite BBBs have reached an incredible milestone...within an hour of each other I might add!  They are having a fantastic giveaway, and asked me to be a part of it.  Today is my day to add to the fun by giving away my Salt in His Shoes Reading and Reflection Pack.
This is really great book written by Michael Jordan's mother, Deloras.  It tells how Michael yearned to be part of the basketball pickup games at the park, and how practice, determination and perseverance helped him become an amazing athlete.
photo from AMAZON
I used this book last year to reinforce inferencing skills, and character traits.  It became a mentor text for biography writing.  If you are interested, you can read about it {HERE}.  
Included in the pack is a series of reflective quotes that students can use to make text to self and text to world connections.

Feel free to visit my TpT shop for a further description.  By downloading the preview you get a free graphic organizer to read with it.  Follow my store too if you're so inclined. <grin>

Definitely stop by and see Joanne at Head over Heels for Teaching, and Holly at Fourth Grade Flipper and enter their amazing giveaway!


Tried it Tuesday: Using an Online Planbook

On my freezing cold, -27 degree, Snow Day <grin>  I'm linking up with my BBB, Holly at Fourth Grade Flipper for Tried Tuesday.

I recently looked into using an online planner.  I like all of the pretty planners that I see people using.. <Erin Condren...SWOON>  but I'm finding that my home life is pretty much a taxi cab service with my kids involved in sports and music.  I spend a lot of time sitting in the soccer center <thank you free wifi>, and on the softball field.. <thank you nearby Dunkin Donuts>.  I don't like carrying around my planbook, so I figured I would check it out.  The online planbook I like the best is

They give you a free 30 day trial and then they are only $12 for the whole year.  Thanks to a fabulous friend, I got a free year.  Thank you Diane!
The online planbook allowed me to put in all of my information, color code it.. ok the OCD side of me LOVES that feature, and organize it in as much detail and space as I need.
Here is an example of my plans this week:  Sorry the picture appears blurry, not sure why.

This picture basically shows my first ELA block, but it continues with the math and social studies plan.  One of the things I like about the online planbook is the idea that I don't have to write the same   material over and over again.  For example, you can see that my homeroom information is the same.  I only had to write that once, and apply it as a template, and it repeats every day that I want it to.
If I need to add something to a particular day, for example a reminder to collect something, I can edit the box for that particular day.  There are a ton of videos about how to use the Planbook on Youtube, so when I haven't been able to figure something out, I just check there.

Here is what I LOVE:
  • I can view my plans as a single day, week or month
  • I can add standards directly into the lesson
  • I can bump an entire day of plans... SNOW DAY ..WOOT WOOT or extend plans for a single class in case I need to finish something the next day.
  • I can save my plans as a PDF and print them for a paper copy if I have a sub OR I can send the PDF as an attachment to our school secretary if I am unexpectedly out sick.
  • I can attach pdf files to my plans so I can print them at school.
  • There is an app for use on my ipad. 

My principal does not require us to submit lesson plans weekly, but being able to send them electronically would be a plus in my book.

I do want everyone to know that in NO WAY am I affiliated with, I just like their product, and for people who don't do well with a paper planbook, it is worth a look.

Stop on over and visit Holly and see what everyone is trying on a Tuesday..  Stay warm!  While your are there, check out the awesome giveaway that Holly is hosting along with Joanne at Head over Heels for Teaching.  They both have reached 1000 followers on Bloglovin and are having a week of great giveaways!


A Peek at My Week on 1-5-2014

Boo...hoo... sob...sob...sniffle...sniffle...  I have to go back to work tomorrow.  Our cold, cold weather won't be appearing until at least Monday night, so I know that I'll be visiting with my smarties tomorrow morning promptly at 7:30am!  I may need an extra cup of coffee to get me through the day.
I'm linking up with Jennifer for a Peek at my Week.

In ELA I'm going to be reading a non-fiction narrative article from SCOPE magazine called  "I Was Homeless."
It is a true story of a young boy who spent time being homeless in New York City.  What I love about this article is that Kevin is not a typical homeless person.  He has a family that was illegally evicted from their home.  My students live in a pretty sheltered suburban environment.  This article does a really nice job of showing how a child can look just like everyone else and actually be living in a shelter.  We are going to be focusing on close reading strategies and looking at the story through a specific lens.

I love Scope Magazine.  Do you use it in your class?  The paired readings are amazing.  The homeless story is not part of a paired reading, but it does include a video segment.  Scope does a fantastic job of helping students make text to world and text to text connections.

For writing, we'll be completing a New Years Goal Craftivity from Runde's Room.  This freebie will help my smarties set academic, athletic, social, organizational and leadership goals.  Perfect for sixth graders.

When I finish this, we'll be practicing our ACE responses with "I Was Homeless."  ACE is Answer, Cite and Explain.  It is a way to practice written responses to reading.  Erin at I'm Lovin Lit does a great job in her Interactive Notebook for Writing.  She has a free bonus lesson about ACE.  You can go {HERE} and check it out.

In Math I'll be continuing to work on multiplying and dividing decimals with my smarties.  One of the things I'll use for this are my Decimal  Task Cards or Scoot.  This set reviews all four operations with decimals and includes word problems.

Lastly, in Social Studies We'll be using Ipads and doing research on a favorite Ancient Greek God or Goddess.  We are going to make a Facebook style research page for them as well as a neat craftivity I'll blog more about as we get going.  If you are studying Ancient Greece, check out the post I had last week for Thursday Throw down.  It includes a funny video that compares Athens and Sparta in a Wife Swap.  You can check it out {HERE}

Enjoy your first few days back!


Thursday Throw Down: It's All Greek to Me

Today I'm linking up with one of my blogging buddy's Erin at I'm Lovin Lit to share how I used my interactive notebooks in Social Studies.
Some of you may know that I am new to teaching Social Studies this year.  My school has 17,  sixth grade teachers.  Everyone teaches one 80 minute ELA block and three sections of a core course (Math, Science, Social Studies).  One of the teams obviously cannot be a team of 3.  WOOHOOO! That's me this year.  I have to teach 80 minutes of ELA, 2 math classes, and one social studies class.  We teach Ancient Civilizations in 6th grade, so my smarties and I have been wandering around the middle east for a few months.  We did a huge project on Ancient Egypt in November.  You can read about it in 4 parts starting {HERE}.  Now I'm on to Ancient Greece.  We used our interactive social studies notebooks to review two important city states: Athens, and Greece.  I always find my lessons go better when my students use their notebooks.
After reading about Athens in our social studies book we created two pocket files.  I used templates from Erin's Interactive Foldables.  We wrote down information gathered based on the Essential Question:  What made Athens an important city-state?  We did the same for Sparta.  I also brought in resource books for my smarties to add extra information that they had found.

Another source that I used to make the lesson more interactive was a video from Horrible Histories:  It's called Wife Swap: Athens/Sparta.  The BBC does a great job of showing the differences between these two city-states.  Check it out below.  It is a MUST for anyone teaching Ancient Greece.  My sixth graders thought it was pretty hysterical.

When we return from our winter break we will be learning a little more about the people of Ancient Greece, mythology, and the Olympics.  I will also be beginning a review in ELA of Greek root words.
I would love to hear what others do to teach Ancient Civilizations.  Drop me a line and share your ideas!

Back to Top