12 April 2017

TPT Flock 2017 Recap and Giveaway!

Last weekend I had the privilege of hanging out with a bunch of
 AMAZING Teachers Pay Teachers authors!

We all flocked together!

TpTFlock17 was a meet up of teacher-authors/bloggers in Rochester, NY.  It was organized by a team of upstate New Yorkers and a few others with roots in the NY region.  These women pulled together an amazing workshop filled with teaching advice, business advice, and even some TpT "celebrity" sightings! 

Thank you for putting on such a great event!

The event was held at the beautiful Woodcliff Resort and Spa in Fairport, NY.  We had a group dinner Friday night, then Saturday was filled with workshops on Pinterest, Instagram, Blogging, product creating, and more!  I feel like I need to take a week off from school to sit at a computer and make new products and pins and blogs!!!

For me, the best part of the weekend was meeting new people.  I had the opportunity to get tips from successful TpTers like Danielle from Study All Knight, Tammy from Juggling ELA, Tabitha from Flapjack Educational Resources,  Jamie from The Not So Wimpy Teacher, Erica Bohrer, Karen Jones, and Hallie from Speech Time Fun.  These women are all so helpful and just fun to be around!  Staffers from the TpT HQ in NYC were also in attendance!  Amy and Elliott led a panel where we were able to ask questions about TpT as sellers and buyers, and they were really listening to our suggestions and concerns. 
Dinner at Champps

Hanging after the conference with Amy from TpT HQ and Tricia from Tricia's Terrific Teaching Trinkets

Chatting with Danielle Knight
  Jenny from Art with Jenny K was the keynote speaker and led us all in an incredible group art project that was revealed at the end of the day!  How cool is this creation??
Everyone at the conference made one little square and it turned out THIS cool!
Besides taking away TONS of ideas and tips, the gifts and giveaways were amazing!  Many of us participated in a gift exchange- items that we all use to make products or our lives easier.  I received this fun bag of goodies from The Teacher's Cat filled with Flair Pens, Post It Notes, and a waterbottle.

We also received a "swag bag" filled with donations collected from Teachers Pay Teachers, Starbucks, Tailwind, and generous TpT sellers such as Melonheadz, Illumismart, KB3 Teach, Poppydreamz, SillyOMusic, AlinaVDesigns, and Pigknit...just to name a few!

I loved everything about this meetup...it was honestly as good as the full Teachers Pay Teachers conference in the summer...just in a smaller dose.  If you are interested or involved in TpT in any way, you HAVE to check out this conference next year.  It was well worth my trip from Michigan, and I've already got it on my calendar for April 2018!

Giveaway Time!

I'm still on cloud nine from all the fun and I want to share the love with you!  Comment below for a chance to win a $10 Target gift card by April 30, 2017.  Write a comment about what kinds of things you'd like to see more of on TpT, your favorite resource from my store (or anywhere on TpT:), topics you'd like me to blog about in the future...whatever!  On May 1, I'll choose a commenter at random and he/she will win a $10 Target gift card!

30 March 2017

10 Tips for Helping BIG KIDS Manage Themselves at SCHOOL

I have a 5th grader and an 8th grader at home.  I just received letters from both the HIGH SCHOOL and MIDDLE SCHOOL informing me that I now, officially, have BIG kids!  How will I not have any little kids anymore?  My mommy heart is crying crocodile tears, but my mommy brain is spinning with thoughts of "how in the world will these two handle the new responsibilities of middle and high school?"

So, instead of looking at baby pictures with teary eyes and a glass of chardonnay, I stepped out of my mommy-self and put on my teacher-thinking-cap.  I work with big kids every day.  I help big kids get organized in my classroom.  I advise parents JUST LIKE ME on how to help their kids adjust to middle school.  Plus, my son has survived middle school with great grades and minimal drama, so I must have done something right. So, I sat down and made a list.  (Doesn't everything seem easier to handle when you start with a list?!?) Actually, I made 2 lists...one for teachers at school and one for parents at home! I'll share each list in a separate blog post :)

TOP 10 Tips for helping BIG KIDS Manage Themselves at SCHOOL

1. Each student should have a dedicated homework folder.  This folder goes to EVERY class and only work that needs to travel between school and home goes in it.  Now there is no need for kids dragging 50-pound backpacks home or forgetting something important in their locker!

2. Teach kids to use their planner/assignment book.  Spend time at the beginning of the year teaching this skill, then follow up throughout the year with occasional check ups.  Reward those students with fully filled-in books.

3. Use Google Classroom!  It is SO easy to set up and manage.  You can post assigments, a calendar, e-copies of work, online textbook links, video links, just about anything you can think of.  This is a life-saving resource for kids who forget papers...all they need is an internet connection and device!

4.Use remind.com to make parent/student communication quick and easy!  Just sign up for an account, then you can send texts to remind parents and students of upcoming due dates, tests, etc.

5. Create a team blog to use as an online assignment book.  Our 6th grade team all has "ownership" of a blog and we all post our daily assignments in one place.  This is especially helpful for students who struggle to fill in their planners.  Google Sites and Blogger are really easy to set up and use!

6. Have a box of extra copies in your classroom.  Put a file folder in for each day of the month.  Toss in a few extra copies of papers passed out each day for absent or absent-minded students.  If today is March 30, the papers go in file #30.

7. Don't let important materials leave the room!  I like to have ISN/Journal storage bins in my classroom.  I also don't let textbooks leave...students have online textbooks for home.

8. Offer a "Get Out of Jail Free" card!  Let kids know that we understand mistakes happen and occasionally we are all forgetful.  I like to give out one or two homework passes per quarter and my team uses "oops" coupons which students can attach to late work for no point loss.

9. Reward GREAT behavior!  Our school is a PBIS school and we give coupons to students who are caught being good.  Then, each teacher has a "store" in their classroom where students can redeem their coupons for candy, late work passes, leave class early passes, sit in the teacher's seat reward, etc.  Students really love these rewards and it helps keep them on task!

10. Offer help, but set boundaries.  I like to open my class for lunch one or two days a week to students who have questions, need extra help, or need to make up work after an absence.  I also make myself available via e-mail.  However, many students (and parents) try to overuse this help, so make sure you set boundaries about how quickly parents should expect a response from e-mail, how many times a student can come in at lunch, or how late in the day is acceptable to send e-mails about homework.

Have questions about how I organize things? Have other ideas to help students become more responsible?  I'd love to hear what you do! Comment below or e-mail me at teachwithmrsb@gmail.com!   

05 March 2017

How do you teach VERBALS?

This is a shout out to all my 8th grade teachers!  We are all tasked with trying to get students to understand VERBALS! (thanks Common Core 😱) Those pesky "verbs in disguise" are confusing as heck for students!

If your school is like mine, you probably were given a big set of grammar worksheets and maybe a reference book to use, right?  B-O-R-I-N-G for teachers and students, and not especially effective for getting kids excited about the thrilling world of grammar!  Over the past few years, I've tried to jazz up my grammar lessons by using games, coloring, and interactive activities. I rarely use the worksheets given to me by my district, however I do use them when teaching verbals!

So HOW do I teach verbals? Well, verbals are HARD to understand, no doubt about it, but they are even harder to understand if a student doesn't have a solid understanding of the parts of speech.  Even though CCSS doesn't have standards in 8th grade related to teaching nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs, I feel very strongly about reviewing these parts of speech before even mentioning verbals.  I focus most of my 2nd quarter grammar lessons on practice with nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs- especially adjectives and adverbs.  I love using ISN templates as a place for students to take notes and I've created Color By Code review sheets for students to practice.  I spend at least 2 days reviewing each of these four parts of speech.
ISN Templates for Note Taking

Adjective and Adverb Color By Code

Parts of Speech "Minute to Win It" sorting game

Playing "Scoot!" with task cards
Once I feel that my students have a solid understanding of the jobs of nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs, it is time to BLOW THEIR MINDS with verbals!

I love using ISNs, so I start with having my students glue an anchor chart in their ISNs.  You can grab the one I use for FREE here. Then I've created Nearpod presentations to use to introduce verbals as a whole individually.  (If you'd like to know more about Nearpod, an interactive PowerPoint platform, click here to read my blog about it!) You can use whatever lesson-style you like to introduce the basics of verbals, but I personally love turning PowerPoints or Google Slides into Nearpods!  I spend four days introducing verbals, and this is one of the few times of the year I actually use the worksheets given to me by my district, because kids need A LOT of practice identifying verbals:

Day 1: Intro Verbals as "Verbs in Disguise", anchor chart and explaining the three types of verbals and how they look like verbs, but don't act like verbs in sentences.  I give them a packet of practice sheets which we will do in class together.
Day 2: Participles- I have a presentation just on participles in Nearpod.  Then we do a practice worksheet in class together.
Day 3: Gerunds- Nearpod and worksheet
Day 4: Infinitives- Nearpod and worksheet

Now that my students have had some experience with the three types of verbals, I add in the FUN!  I truly believe learning comes from student experience, not teachers' lectures.  So, I spend the next few days letting kids play around with verbals.  I use these task cards in a variety of ways with my students.  First, I post them around the room and give them a task card form.  The students "scoot" around the room reading sentences on the task cards and determining which type of verbal is used in each sentence.  I ask them to compare answers with a partner and if their answers differ, they work together to try to figure it out.  I also like to use these cards to play "Score Four!".  Score Four is a lot like the card game "Spoons".  Kids work in small groups and try to be the first to collect four task cards containing the same type of verbal, then grab a spoon or pencil from the center of the table. Students LOVE the fast-paced nature of this game! Here is what the cards look like:
Click picture to grab this activity!
By now, my students usually have a pretty good grasp on those pesky verbals!  As a final review, I challenge them to recognize when a word is being used as a verbal or when it is just acting as a verb in this Color By Code activity:
Click picture to grab this activity!
 I've tried teaching verbals a variety of ways over the last few years, and incorporating a combination of interactive introduction presentations, worksheet practice, and games to keep students engaged in reviewing has really upped my students' scores on the assessment!  I hope these strategies will help you too!

If you've got great ideas for teaching this tricky subject, I'd love to hear your suggestions!  Please post ideas in the comments, because teaching is all about collaborating!

15 January 2017

Celebrating Holidays in the Middle School Classroom

Let's face it...no matter how old the students are, they are still crazy on holidays!  ESPECIALLY those holidays that lead into breaks!

So what can a teacher do to get through the holiday or the day before a holiday break? (other than pop in a movie!)

I'll let you in on my tried and true holiday-crazed-kids survival plan!

First, for each holiday, I gather a collection of holiday-themed worksheets...yes, worksheets-they DO have value at times! Then, I think of ways I can get kids up and moving for SHORT amounts of time. Next, I think of things students always want to do in class, but rarely are allowed to. Finally, I make it all into a competition with some sort of prize attached!

Sounds simple, right?  That's the best news...IT IS THAT SIMPLE!

Let me break it down for you.  Let's take Halloween as an example.  Halloween this year was on a Monday, so in my 6th grade ELA class, we celebrated "Monster Monday" (I've had years when I've called it "Witchy Wednesday" or "Freaky Friday"...you get the point!).  I hung a few decorations and turned the lights down.  When kids came into class, they picked up a "Monster Monday To Do List".
I created a list of grammar worksheets, silly challenges, and physical movements that all tied into Halloween some way or another.  I told them the first 2 students to complete all the challenges would win a prize from me (this time it was ghost-shaped Peeps candy from the Dollar Store). The students had fun working together on the worksheets, and they LOVED having the chance to draw on the whiteboard!  I had fun watching them do jumping jacks and moonwalk.  Because it was a challenge, they all got competitive and worked hard to win!  

This is the best way I've found to keep kids engaged during holidays!  It is super-easy for teachers, too!  Once you've found the worksheets and thought of the activities, you can use the same plan year after year.  Now, I can actually enjoy holidays with my students because I know they aren't just wasting a class period watching a movie.  Plus, since the kids are interacting with each other and with you, it's a great relationship building day!

I do this for many holidays: Halloween, before Winter Break, Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, before Spring Break!  Here's another example, this time of a Winter Break to do list:

I hope that gives you some ideas to get through those tough-to-manage days ahead!  

If you are looking for some ELA activity sheets to get you started on your collection, I just added a bunch of new Color By Code holiday-themed activities!  Visit my Teachers Pay Teachers Store to check them out!

03 October 2016

Classroom Reveal!

Hello again!

I've been so busy getting my room ready and the year started, that I just realized I hadn't posted pics of my classroom!  (Actually, I've dropped the ball on blogging all together in the month of September!  Ugh, sorry!)

This year is really exciting for me.  It's the first time in a few years that I get my OWN classroom!  I've been sharing the past few years, so I haven't been able to make the room truly mine.  It's hard to decorate and organize a classroom with ELA stuff mixed with social studies, math, and even French! It has been so long since I'd set up a room, that I actually didn't mind all the hard work!  (Ask me again next year...I may be ready to share rooms again just to avoid doing bulletin boards-LOL!)

So, here is the new room 22!

I wish I could say that I had new furniture or even a classroom that is close to being 21st century-stylish, but we all work with what we have!  What I have is no teacher desk, and somewhat matching wobbly student desks, and mismatched chairs.  But, at least I have enough seats for my 32(!) students each hour!  I do also have a document camera and projector, new as of last year, and all our students will have 1:1 Chromebooks!  Based on the type of desks I have and the use of technology, I decided to set up the room in a horseshoe with 6 tables inside the horseshoe.  This enables all my students to see the whiteboard, where the projector shows.  It also enables me to stand in the back of the room and see most of the Chromebook screens when students are working on them.

This is my "office".  Since I don't have an actual desk, I'm using an old computer table and table I scrounged from the teacher's lounge to create an L-shape area for me to set up my document camera, laptop, and desk supplies.  Above my desk, I found a cute banner in the Target Dollar Spot and I am posting my "I can" statements below it!  This is a good place to post these since it is literally over my head, so I won't forget to change them!  I chose this corner for my teacher station so that I can also utilize the long table attached to the wall to store my teaching materials, such as copies for the week, teacher manuals, etc.  (Truth be told, I have no idea what this long table was meant for...no other room in my school has one!  I'm guessing my room used to be a home ec room, and sewing machines went here, based on the number of electrical outlets on the wall!)

The other end of the mystery table houses my student turn in bins.  Each hour has their own tray for turning in homework.  This helps me stay organized in my grading!  I also have a file box with folders for each day of the month where I keep extra copies of handouts for students who are absent or have lost work.  They know there will always be extras in the folders; they just have to remember the date that the handout was given to find it!

I also have my late work turn in bin set here.  There is a "LATE" stamp inside for students to mark any late work.  I take points off for late work, but late is better than never!  The other blue bins are student storage bins.  I require my classes to keep an Interactive Student Notebook (more about this in a future blog!).  It is basically our class Bible.  It is practically irreplaceable if lost, so I allow students to leave them in my room if they are worried they may not be responsible enough to keep it in good condition all year.
I'm kind of obsessed with my #ELA display too!  I just discovered Hobby Lobby (I know I'm late to that party, but as I said earlier, better late than never!) and these metal letters were 50% off!  The hashtag even lights up!  The ledge above the bulletin board was the perfect place for them...and then I found some cute wood signs to go with it!  One says "Don't ruin a good today by thinking about a bad yesterday", one says "Look at faces, not devices", and the third says "In case of fire, exit building before putting it on social media!".  

The bulletin board stretches the e-n-t-i-r-e length of my room.  I hit the Dollar Spot jackpot again when I found the cute looseleaf paper banners to hang along the top!  This is my anchor chart wall.  Right now, the parts of speech posters, punctuation poster, and proofreading marks poster are on display, but this will change with whatever we are focusing on at the moment.  It is also my "word wall" with pertinent vocabulary terms to our current units.  (Just FYI, I didn't make the Parts of Speech posters or vocabulary posters, but I did find them on TpT!  There are so many talented teacher-authors out there!) Also on the giant bulletin board, I've hung up a parking space for no-name papers.  The "This belongs to" clipboard was yet another Dollar Spot steal!  My students know that if they have work showing up as missing, that they should look here first!  So far, it's worked really well!  I also posted our PBIS matrix here where it's easily referenced if needed.

I also have this giant bulletin board in the back of my room.  I had NO IDEA what to hang on it at first!  So I decided to hang my students' goals from our first day of school stations here.  I love referring to their goals each day!  They are there as a reminder to students to do their best and to have a growth mindset!

On either side of the goals, I've hung up my Class Expectations posters.  These will also be there year-round as reminders for procedures and expectations.

The most referenced bulletin board is in the front of my room!  All year long, we teach and discuss plot.  I've made a giant plot diagram, and labeled the five stages.  As we read different selections, we'll be sticking sticky notes all over it!  It's a fun interactive, reusable anchor chart!

Next to the Plot Diagram, is my assignment book display.  I wish I had better handwriting, but it works!  I keep a week up at a time which helps students when they are absent.  It also helps me remember what I'm doing with each grade! 

Between the "I can" statements and assignment book display, the board is blank so that I can project whatever I need for the day.  Every class period starts out with a "warm up" slide like this.  Friday was a half-day, so I also posted the time :)

So there you have it!  I'm a month into the year, and I'm loving the functionality and purposefulness of the arrangement.  The students and I have settled into our routines, and I'm loving having my own space.  If you've blogged about your classroom, I'd love to see it!  Comment below with a link to your blog so we can all share ideas!

***If you don't have your own space this year, check out my blog about being a mobile teacher for tips that may help you out!  Being a mobile teacher isn't bad once you get the hang of it!***

29 August 2016

First Week of School Plans

3 Simple Activities to Help You Get Back Into the Swing of Things!

I know some states have been back to school for a while, but here in Michigan, we are just getting ready to go back! Kiddos in Michigan start the Tuesday after Labor Day every year...state law!  We like to get as much summer vacationing "up North" in as we can!

Today was my first "official" day back at work, but I've been working in my classroom a little bit over the last few weeks.  Isn't setting up fun?  Seriously, no sarcasm!  I LOVE setting up my room, especially since this year I HAVE a room!  I'll post my classroom makeover in a future post because believe me it's a big change from what I walked into a few weeks ago!

Now that my room is ready to go, I sat down today with my teaching partners and we planned out our first week!  I'm super excited to share what we've got planned with you because it is SO student-centered and EASY for the teacher to implement!

Since Labor Day week is just a 4-day week, here are 4 days worth of plans, all ready to go!  All the activities are in my TpT Store, so if you are a middle school or high school ELA teacher hop on over and your first week will be all set!

Day 1: Get to Know You Station Rotations!

The first day is a wild day...especially for incoming 6th graders or 9th graders.  Students are overwhelmed with new teachers, new rules and routines in each hour, and wondering which friends are in their class.  Many teachers begin day one with a lecture of expectations or a reading of the syllabus.  Others start with icebreaker or get-to-know-you activities.  I've decided to do things differently!  I'm not going to stand in the front of the room and talk at my kids.  I'm just going to say  a general "hello, I'm Mrs. B", then sort the kids into 7 groups and let them loose at stations.  (To make grouping easy, each desk will have a sticker on it when the kids come in to identify their group.) Each station consists of an activity designed to get kids talking to each other, to get them to understand me and my classroom, and for me to get to know my students.  Here is a breakdown of the stations:

1. Syllabus Search-students read the syllabus looking for answers to questions I've asked on a worksheet.

2. ELA Continuum- students place a sticker along a continuum to show their perceived ability and interest in each ELA area.

3. Book Recommendations- students talk about books they've read and jot down favorites.

4. Goal Setting- Students create a speech bubble for a bulletin board by writing down a goal for the year.

5. Questions for the Teacher- students have a safe, anonymous place to jot down questions for the teacher.

6. Brainstorming the Perfect Teacher, Student, Classroom- students list ideas for what could be used to describe the ideal teacher, student, and classroom. (Further discussion to follow at a later date)

7. Taking a Selfie and Posting to Instagram - students will use an iPad to take a selfie and then create a bio for themselves which will later hang in our classroom so we can all get to know each other.

Our first day is just a half-day, so we may need to finish these activities on day two.  I'm thinking the kids will really enjoy this, and it will give me time to meet kids at their groups to start building relationships right away!

Day 2: Class Rules, Routines, and Expectations!

The second day, we will get down to the business of rules, routines, and expectations.  This can be a very dull lecture, so I decided to make it more fun.  I've created a set of posters in "tween talk" to keep kids interested and to let them know that even though I do expect them to follow the rules and routines, I am not a big meany!  I used these last year, and my 8th graders really responded well.  We all laughed together, but my message was loud and clear.  The file is in PDF form, but I showed it like a powerpoint presentation.  After presenting and discussing, I will print the posters to hang in my room as a visual reminder to all students.

Day 3-4: What is Your Theme Song?

This is my ABSOLUTE, MOST FAVORITE activity to do with my kids!!!  We are jumping right into learning and they don't even know it!  Isn't that awesome?  This is a 2-day activity with the first day being a quick intro (or review) of the definition of "theme".  Then, in groups, students analyze lyrics to theme songs of popular TV shows (such as Scooby Doo, Phineas and Ferb, and Friends).  They have to explain how the theme song matches the theme of the show.  (I also have youtube clips for each song...I love hearing the kids sing along!).  Then, once they've discussed all the TV show theme songs, I ask them to pick their own personal theme song.  They have to pick a song and find the lyrics to bring back to school the next day.  I always share mine first...it's "The Good Life" by One Republic.  On day two, the students write an essay explaining WHY they chose the song to be their theme song.  I share my example (included in the activity), but give no further help.  These essays are my first look at students' writing AND I get to know about my students based on their song choices!  I also ask students to share their song choices with each other...another kind of an icebreaker!

Whew!  That's a full week of lessons and a full week of fun, without a full week of prep because it's all done for you!  You can click on the pictures above to see previews and full descriptions of each activity.  So get back to doing the fun stuff...decorating your room and enjoying the last few days of summer!  I've got you covered!

Let me know how these activities work in your classroom by commenting below, by leaving feedback on TpT, or by emailing me directly at teachwithmrsb@gmail.com!  I wish you the best back to school EVER!

29 July 2016

Back to School Sales and Contests!

The Back to School craziness is fully upon us!  Since I know way too many of us use our own hard-earned money to buy school supplies, I am joining up with other TpT authors to giveaway a TON of goodies!  

Julie Faulkner and Lauralee, at The Language Arts Classroom, are hosting a giveaway contest August 1-5 on Lauralee's blog!  Click the link above to learn more about it and enter!

We have 87 amazing secondary sellers joined up this year and over $400 of excellent secondary resources for all subjects!  Here's a sneak peak at the Middle School English prize pack!

There are prize packs for all subjects at middle and high school levels!  

And....here's the coolest, biggest news!

Teachers Pay Teachers is sponsoring this event!  Along with grabbing over $50 of free curriculum from awesome TpT sellers, the winners will also get a bag full of Teachers Pay Teachers SWAG!

How cool is that?!?

Personally, I've been busy getting ready for the Back to School season updating and creating new Back to School activities!  I'm really excited about my First Day of School Activity Stations pack! I can't wait to use it with my middle schoolers!  Instead of kids just sitting and listening to me drone on about expectations and curriculum, this set of 7 activities will get the kids up and moving!  The activities include: 
1. Syllabus Search
2. ELA Attitude Continuum
3. Book Recommendations
4. Goal Setting
5. Confidential Questions
6. What Makes the Perfect Classroom/Student/Teacher?
7. Selfie Station

Each of these activities will help the teacher get to know their students, and help the students get to know the teacher's expectations and get them interacting with others!  The set also includes blank templates, so if you want to change any of the stations to better fit your needs, you totally can!

Another fun Back to School product I've updated is my Editable Class Rules Posters Set! This set includes posters in "teen talk" asking about common classroom procedures and expectations with the teacher responding in a clear, yet fun way.  This set is also fully editable for you to include your own picture to the teacher's speech bubble, or to add your own questions and answers if I didn't cover all your needs.  This is a Power Point slide show, so I always show it to my kids on the projector the first week of school, then print the posters and hang them in my room for year-round reference.

Here's a sample poster.  You can upload your picture or use an avatar with the bottom speech bubble! There are 2 sets of 11 different designs: 11 with rules already written, plus 11 blank templates.  Also included are a set of late homework passes.

I also have a quick print-and-go ELA Interest Survey that is perfect for middle school and high school and it's only $0.50 for the month of August!  

I wish you all the best of luck with everything Back to School!  Don't forget to check out The Language Arts Classroom blog August 1-5 to enter to win lots of great products and swag!