30 April 2016

Grammar Worksheets Don't HAVE to be Boring!

Do your students groan when you pass out a worksheet?

If your curriculum is like most middle school/high school curricula, you were probably given an anthology textbook along with supplemental blackline master sets of worksheets, right?  You've probably been told to read certain text excerpts and have students fill in the worksheets analyzing particular lit terms or practicing reading strategies.  Your grammar curriculum (which most likely came with the anthology set) is probably a book full of fill-in-the-blank, black and white, Times New Roman font-covered, dull-as-a-dishrag, worksheets, right?


ELA curriculum doesn't have to look like this!

Let me tell you a little secret...you can use your district curriculum with fidelity (gotta love the academic terms being thrown around these days!) but jazz it up to make it more fun!  I've been doing it for years, and I've found my students' engagement level has increased astronomically, and their retention of knowledge has grown, too!

Here's what I've done: I've taken my 15 years experience teaching elementary school and brought the kind of teaching I did there into my middle school classroom.  What exactly does that mean?  It means 2 things:

1. I DON'T lecture all hour.  I DON'T expect students to sit still all hour. I DON'T overwhelm them with pages upon pages of black and white fill-in-the-blank worksheets in Times New Roman.

2. I DO play games with my students.  I DO get my kids up and moving and talking to each other. I DO create my own worksheets that are fun and colorful.

My absolute favorite thing to teach is grammar.  It is also most students' LEAST favorite topic to learn!  So what did I do to get my students excited about grammar?  I created "Color By Code" coloring sheets!  My students LOVE these!  I LOVE these because my students are engaged!  They are analyzing sentences, they are identifying parts of speech, they are thinking about punctuation marks, they are working together and debating the reasoning behind their beliefs...and most importantly they are on-task, having fun, and remembering these topics long-term!

Here are a few examples of my "Color By Code" activities:

These activities each include 25 sentences to analyze and a coloring code.  Students read the sentences and either identify the underlined word or decide which punctuation mark belongs in the blank.  Then, they color the picture to match the coloring code.  It's like a color-by-number!  Kids enjoy coloring...it's not something they do much of in middle school, and it is calming.

As a teacher bonus, these are SUPER easy to correct!  Just post a master picture and have kids see if their pictures match up!  Each "Color By Code" comes with an answer key!

One of my students told me "I wish all homework was like this!"  Have you ever heard a student HAPPY to do homework?!?  Here are some examples of students hard at work :)

If you'd like to try these out in your classroom, I have many to choose from in my TpT store: Tween Spirit Boutique!  There are topics to use in elementary and in middle school! You can even grab my Types of Sentences edition for free by clicking on the picture below!

If you LOVE these activities, you can find many individually in my store, but I'm offering 10 for the price of 6 in this bundle!

Click the picture to find out more!

I also have just added a holiday-themed bundle of Color By Code Grammar Activities to my store!  You can buy each separately, but you'll save $2 if you buy them all in the bundle. There is one for Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, Easter, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and December Holidays! 

 Click the picture to find out more!

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17 April 2016

Liebster Award!

I'm so honored to have been given a Liebster Award from Tierrany at www.misstierraney.com!

The Liebster Award is given by veteran bloggers to new and upcoming bloggers!  The award was first given out in 2011 to give attention to new blogs and bloggers.  Every year, previous recipients of the award nominate others.  It is a great community and I'm so proud to be associated with all these wonderful bloggers!  

In case you were wondering where the name "Liebster" came from, I'll tell you!  "Liebster" is a German word, meaning "sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome".  What kind things to say about my blog! Thanks, Tierrany!

One particular goal of the Liebster Award is to give blog readers insight to the personal side of bloggers.  So, Tierrany has asked me to list 11 random facts about myself, then to answer her 11 questions. So here goes!

11 Random Facts
1. I have lived in 3 countries, but only 1 state.
2. I love traveling and have been to over 25 countries.
3. I love college sports, especially Michigan State Spartans, but don't care much for pro sports.
4. I am an avid reader.  My son's name came from a book that I was reading while pregnant.
5. I love the beach and Jimmy Buffet songs!  My daughter's name comes from one of his songs.
6. I am married to my high school sweetheart.  We began dating when I was 15.  
7. I am an only child, so friends are like family!  I'm still tight with my best friend who lived across the street from me as a child and my college roommates.
8. I dabble in writing and editing.  I'm trying to get a children's book published, and I've written articles for a parenting magazine in Switzerland called "The New Stork Times".  I've also edited a travel guide titled In and Around Zurich with Kids and a romance novel titled Starting from Lost.
9. I have been teaching for over 15 years.  I've taught pre-school through 8th grade, only skipping 1st and 7th grades!  I have a Bachelor's and Master's degree from Michigan State.
10. I believe in life-long learning.  I only began running at 31 and ran my first half-marathon at 36. I learned to speak German at 32 while I lived in Switzerland. I learned to ski in my 30s, too. Just last week, I took my first surfing lesson! I take online courses for fun to learn about technology, teaching-related topics, and writing/publishing.  Starting a business on Teachers Pay Teachers was a brave leap for me last year;I'm considering taking some business classes soon!  You are never too old to try something new! 
11. I'm a manic multi-tasker.  I usually have 4-5 projects going on at once.  I'm trying to be better about focusing on one thing at a time, but my brain is like a computer with 10 tabs open all the time!

11 Questions from Miss Tierrany
  1. What is the best compliment you have ever received? I've been told many times that my children are kind and polite.  That is the nicest thing a mom can hear!
  2. If you could only have one meal for the rest of your life what would it be? crab legs and baked potato
  3. What did you do to celebrate your last birthday?Perfect timing for this question!  I just celebrated 40 a few weeks ago!  I learned to surf (something that had been on my "bucket list") and then this weekend my husband threw me an amazing surprise party!  
  4. What youtube channel do you watch the most? I don't really watch youtube...unless I'm looking for videos to use in my class. In that case, my go to channel is "Shmoop".
  5. Why do you blog?I love writing, teaching, and my family...blogging is cathartic and I want to share ideas with others who also love teaching and family!
  6. Who do you trust the most? My husband and my mom
  7. What is/was the most challenging part of being a working in education? Negativity.  It is hard working in a field where someone is always saying negative things, whether it is kids, parents, politicians, or other teachers.  
  8. What is your dream job? Either being a curriculum designer/consultant, an author, or a travel guide!
  9. What is your favorite thing to do when you are not working? Read, exercise, play with my family
  10. Would you rather change the past or be able to see into the future? I think I'd worry less if I could see the future...but not all of it!
  11. What was the last picture you took with your phone? A picture of my niece, nephew, and me celebrating our birthdays.  We are all 10 years apart, so we celebrated 20, 30, and 40 together!

I'm nominating some of my favorite new blogs and bloggers too!  Liebster Awards all around for:
Samantha @ Aurora Publicity
Christopher @ Courage to Core
Cristina @ Nerdy Music Mama

Here are the questions I want you all to answer:

1. What is the best vacation you've ever taken?

2. What is your favorite hobby?

3. What social media/tech tool is your favorite and why?

4. Who do you most admire?

5. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

6. What is the one article of clothing or accessory you can't live without?

7. Who is your favorite author?

8. What is something you'd like to learn?

9. Are you an early bird or night owl?

10. What is your "theme song"? What song represents your life or personality best?

11. What is your #1 goal for 2016?

Make sure you go check out their amazing blogs and tell them I sent you!

1. Thank the person who nominated you, and post a link to their blog on your blog.
2. Display the award on your blog — by including it in your post and/or displaying it using a “widget” or a “gadget”. (Note that the best way to do this is to save the image to your own computer and then upload it to your blog post.)
3. Answer 11 questions about yourself, which will be provided to you by the person who nominated you.
4. Provide 11 random facts about yourself.
5. Nominate 5 – 11 blogs that you feel deserve the award, who have a less than 1000 followers. (Note that you can always ask the blog owner this since not all blogs display a widget that lets the readers know this information!)
6. Create a new list of questions for the blogger to answer.
7. List these rules in your post (You can copy and paste from here.) Once you have written and published it, you then have to:

8. Inform the people/blogs that you nominated that they have been nominated for the Liebster award and provide a link for them to your post so that they can learn about it (they might not have ever heard of it!)  

11 April 2016

Another Celebration!

Help me congratulate Nikki at Teaching Autism celebrate 1000 followers on Teachers Pay Teachers!  A whole bunch of us joined up to create a really great giveaway!  Check out Nikki's blog "Teaching Autism" to find out how to register for this Rafflecopter giveaway!

Way to go, Nikki!  

05 April 2016

Nearpod is FUN!

Have you all tried Nearpod yet?  

If you use Google Slides slide shows you HAVE to check it out!  Especially if your school has 1-1 devices!  It is seriously a game changer!

Nearpod makes Google Slide presentations interactive!  I've uploaded, or "nearpodized" my Google Slide presentations for my 8th grade Verbals unit and my students have been much more interested in learning about participles, gerunds, and infinitives than I've ever seen before!

So here's how it works:
1. First, go to nearpod.com and set up an account.  I use my Google account so it connects with my Google Classroom and Drive, but it's not necessary.

2. Here you've got a few options.  You can find free nearpod presentations in the "Explore" section to check out how they work.  There are also presentations made by others that are for sale.  Or, you can create your own nearpod so it perfectly suits your needs in the "Create" section.
3. I like to create my own nearpods by using Google Slides I've already created and used in the past.  The easiest way to do this is to go to the Google App Store and get the "Nearpodize This" extension.

 4. Once you've got the extension, you'll see a little black circle with overlapping parallelograms (Nearpod logo) in the upper right corner of your computer.  Now, open a Google Slide show from your drive, then click that circle.  You will be directed to either "launch" or "edit" your slide show in nearpod.  Then, once you've got your Slide Shows uploaded to nearpod, you'll see them in the "Library" section like mine below.
5. Here comes the cool part!  In editing mode, you can add interactive activities to your slide shows!  You can choose from quizzes, fill in the blanks, drawing activities, and others!  In this slide, I want the kids to use the drawing tools to box in the prepositional phrases and underline infinitives.

This slide activity is a multiple choice question.
6. Once you've added all your activities, you click "publish". Now you are ready to use in the classroom!

So you've created a nearpod, now what??

To use in the classroom, you will need to choose the "Live Session" option when you hover over the nearpod presentation.  You'll then get a code for students to log in with.  Each student needs their own device to use nearpod, which is why it is perfect for 1-1 districts!  When students log in, they will see the slides, but YOU control them on your computer, cool huh??

You can use the presentation like you would any other, but the activity slides are what make it so cool!  When you come to one of the activities, your students will see the screens in step 5, but you will see the student responses on your teacher screen!  What a cool formative assessment tool, huh?
Nearpod keeps kids engaged in your presentations and gives you immediate feedback about their understanding.  It is definitely my newest obsession! Go to nearpod.com and play around with the sample presentations and try making a few of your own.  It's always fun to find new ways to use technology in the classroom,,,especially with tech savvy middle and high schoolers!