Sparking Teaching Motivation: Ron Clark and Learning to Move Your Bus

I recently had the opportunity to go to our local university and listen to Ron Clark speak.  Most teachers know, but just in case, Ron Clark is an educator in Georgia who teaches at and runs the Ron Clark Academy.  This is a very prestigious middle school that does an amazing job of teaching it's students how to prepare for life.  They also have thousands of teachers visit the school each year for professional development.  I hope I can visit there one day!  In the mean time, I was super excited that Ron Clark visited South Alabama and I was able to go listen to him for free!  I wanted to link up with one of my BBBs Joanne at Head Over Heels for Teaching and sparking student motivation. This isn't student motivation, but sometimes teachers need motivation too!

Mr. Clark is a dynamic speaker and motivator.  My attention never wavered the entire speech.  One thing I really loved was how he defined the people at your school.  There are runners, joggers, walkers and riders. These terms all come from his new book Move Your Bus. Runners are people who basically push your school forward.  They are constantly on the move, involved and innovative.  They have new ideas, and go above and beyond what is required.

Joggers are next.  They are a lot like runners, but not quite as fast.  They get involved in school activities, and help push and move the school to be innovative; they do their jobs well without pushing themselves.

Walkers barely move the bus. They get pulled along by the runners and the joggers.  Riders pick up their feet and let the others do all the work.  They tend to slow down the entire process.

One of the stories I liked best about Mr Clark's speech was his story about "Don't trust the bundt cake." It describes the type of teacher who comes in and is super friendly to new teachers and staff. Outwardly they seem like the go to people, friendly helpful etc.  But really they are saboteurs.  They talk about what people are or are not doing at the school, but never contribute anything positive to the school as the whole.  He ended this segment of the presentation with Don't trust the bundt cake. I went back to school and used one of my sentence strips to write #donttrustthebundtcake and put it up on my teacher wall. It is a great reminder to neither be the teacher who accepts the bundt cake, nor the one who bakes it.  LOVE THAT!

Clark talked about basic rules that apply at his school.  Things like: move and have passion, if there are kids in the room, don't sit down, improve the QUALITY of time that you are teaching, NOT the quantity of what you are placing on kids.

Normally, I would consider myself a runner.  I like being involved in activities at my school, but honestly, I feel like lately I've been more of a jogger.  I need to get my Fred Flintstone feet moving.

Have you had the opportunity to hear Ron Clark or visit the Ron Clark Academy?  At the least, check out Move Your Bus.  It really gave me food for thought! You can click on the picture below to go to Amazon and check out the book.

Sometimes, it's not just about motivating your students, but motivating yourself!
Thanks Joanne for letting me link up and share a Spark of Motivation!


Using Mentor Texts to Teach Personification: Twighlight Comes Twice

We have been steadily working through a review of figurative language here in Coffee Cups land.  I like to start out my year giving a basic definition of several types of figurative language, and then spending a week or two digging a little deeper into their use.  When I have finished with each type, we spiral through again throughout the year with different activities.   I try to introduce each type with a fun video.  Geico Insurance is a master as personification in their commercials.  Here is the video I use-  It's fun and grabs their attention.

I also like to use one of my favorite mentor texts: Twilight Comes Twice by Ralph Fletcher.  He has such a beautiful way with words.  It is very easy to get caught up in the imagery of the text.
Amazon Link

I mean who would not fall in love with text like this:
Fireflies appear, swimming through the air, writing bright messages in secret code.

I begin by reading and discussing the text with my students.  We talk about the other types of figurative language that are found in the text, and there are tons!  It is a perfect review if you have already done similes, metaphors, onomatopoeia and alliteration.  Then I give each of my students a half sheet of cardstock and a strip of paper.  Each paper strip contains an example of personification from Twilight Comes Twice.  As a class we review the sentences and discuss what the "person" is in each sentence, and then how we could draw a literal example of the image.  Finally, each student spends class time drawing an example of their personifed sentence.
Here are a few examples from my class.

Don't you LOVE when students take different perspectives of the same topic!  They never cease to amaze me!
There is also a video of Jeff Hardon reading Twilight Comes Twice on Youtube  which has great music added to it.  I use it in my classroom as a reference tool for students because our next step is writing personification poetry.

Have a great day!

Squared Away on a Sunday: Candy Corn Dominoes and Halloween Figurative Language

Happy Long Weekend Friends!  I know many of you have an extra day off on Monday to celebrate Columbus Day.  My students have the day off, but I have a PD day Monday.  Boo Hoo!  I don't always mind PD, but I'd rather have an extra day in my weekend!

We just finished our first quarter of school.  I can't believe how fast it has gone by.  I'm currently trying to prep a few small group activities for my math and ELA time.  I wanted to share a few with you.  Honestly, the math isn't Fall or Halloween related.  I mean, I teach sixth grade, we don't have pumpkins in our curriculum, but I try to do a few things that make the month fun, AND get in the curriculum.
So here is what I've squared away on this Sunday:

1) We have been studying and practicing exponents.  My smarties have struggled and struggled with this concept.  I created a game for them called Exponent Dominoes.  You play this game similar to the way you would play any dominoes game.  To make it work for "October/FALL/Halloween"  I printed the pieces out in white, yellow and orange.

Yep, now we are playing Candy Corn Dominoes!  The winner gets a small packet of candy corn when we play at the teacher table.  My students get the extra practice with exponents and they think it's a Halloween activity.  Boo- Yah!

2) We've been working like crazy to review Figurative Language.  I like to spiral this throughout the year.  I begin with reviewing the basics, practicing and assessing each type.  I take each one a week at time.  Usually we will do some sort of visual activity, use a mentor text to practice identifying the type, practice with sentences and then assess.  Over the past few weeks we have covered similes, metaphors, onomatopoeia and alliteration.  I LOVE this washi tape that I found at Office Depot for our Onomatopoeia week!

This past week we worked on alliteration.  I used a Halloween theme, and had my students create extreme alliteration with tongue twisters about a Halloween topic.  They did a great job! 

Closer to Halloween we'll have finished up with all the types I review in the fall semester.  Then I add in Halloween Figurative Language Centers to the mix.  This is a task card sort with all the types of figurative language.  Students sort the cards, or they can also play concentration/memory with them. Finally, I have two different formative assessments that I give to make sure we are keeping up with our skills.  I can differentiate these as needed, and they go right into our interactive notebooks.

So what have you Squared Away on this Sunday?  Do you also "trick" your students and "treat" them to fun activities that aren't really Halloween or Fall based?  I'd love to hear your ideas!

Divisibility Rules, Prime Numbers, GCF, and LCM

Can you believe it is already October?  I am amazed that in just another week our first quarter of school will be over!  It seems like yesterday was Meet the Teacher.

We spent a ton of time this week reviewing divisibility rules and prime numbers.  My students have REALLY been struggling with this, and I knew I had to take a week from my normal sixth grade curriculum and do a quick review.  I started by having them put a foldable in their notebooks that gives the divisibilty for 2,3,6,9, 5 and 10.

After my students got a little more comfortable with divisibility, we took on Prime Numbers.
First in the lesson I showed my students a video of Eratosthenes.  He is teh Greek philosopher who is credited with finding that all numbers can be factored into primes.  The video focuses on Eratosthenes as a whole person.  He is also credited for finding a very accurate measure of the circumference of the Earth using a sundail.  Here is the video:

We use a hundreds board and divisibility rules to find all of the prime numbers from 2-100 and color code them on the board.  

We add the hundreds chart to our notebooks and complete a sorting activity for prime and composite numbers.  

We had to relearn GCF in order to be successful using this concept with combining like terms and the distributive property.  I teach LCM and GCF using the prime ladder method as well, so we spent the rest of our week practicing this new concept.  I think that combining like terms will be so much easier next week!  When I teach LCM and GCF I use a foldable as well.  You can read the original blog post I wrote about this lesson {HERE}  If you are interested in any of the foldables you can go {HERE}.  The lesson plan I use to teach finding the prime numbers on a hundreds chart is also included in the packet.  I also have a BUNDLE which includes the lesson plans for each concept, interactive notebook foldables and practice problems.  Check it out {HERE}

I would love to hear how you teach these concepts!  Please feel free to share below!


Great Graphic Novels for the Classroom

I'm linking up with the wonderful people over at the Nerdy Book Club to blog today about amazing Graphic Novels that I have in my classroom.

One of the best items I've added to my classroom in the last few years has been graphic novels, and I'll be honest, at first I was a skeptic.  I thought that having them would make my kids grab them more over the traditional novel.  Now, get beyond the whole, "Well, they are still reading" thing.  I still want my students to read that traditional novel.  They need practice making visual cues, and they need to work on stamina and context reading long term.  But graphic novels have surely won me over.  They are an amazing way for students who struggle to feel like they fit in with your star readers.  

Rick Riordan is one of my favorite authors for sixth grade.  My students devour The Lightning Thief series, and if I can get them hooked, they usually read The Kane Chronicles as well.  


I know that my struggling readers want so badly to read these series.  I've suggested audiobooks in the past, but graphic novels are SO.. MUCH.. BETTER for them!  I use The Lightning Thief graphic novel in my classroom with students to teach reading strategies.  It often gets the point across quickly within my small groups because my struggling readers can use the picture clues to determin character traits. Analysis becomes easier for them.  Then they can transfer their information into the lengthier traditional novel.  I use the Lightning Thief when I teach about the concept of The Hero's Journey.  If you teach this as well, you can go {HERE} to Google drive and download the organizer I use.

I love that the Nerdy Book Club has decided to devote Thursdays in the month of October to graphic novels.  When I head to the library this week with my kids, I'm going to look for a few more interesting GN's to share.  If you know of any I should check out, please leave me a comment below!

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