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!

28 July 2016

Class Dismissed!

Ms. Bryce has been teaching FOREVER, but this class is the WORST she's ever had to deal with!  One day, a science experiment goes wrong and Ms. Bryce gets fed up and quits...right then and there!  The only problem is that only the students of class 507 know she's gone!

Class Dismissed, the latest book by author Allan Woodrow, is one of my favorite new books this year!  The comedy of events that lead to the students of class 507 having full control of their class for TWO WHOLE WEEKS before the principal or any other adult finding out their teacher quit is hilarious, yet somehow believable!  

There is a cast of main characters who tell the story from their multiple points of view.  Kyle is the troublemaker; the student who is considered the class clown and never does any work.  Samantha is the spoiled, rich girl who is more concerned with fashion than learning.  Adam is the resident creative mind.  Eric is the quiet, studious kid who is afraid to stand out in class.  Maggie is the resident "know it all" and outspoken leader.  Brian is the class bully. Each chapter has a different character as the speaker, which is a GREAT way to explore point of view and narrator with your students!  Each of the main characters change throughout the story, as they learn about themselves as students, grow as leaders, and realize that their way of doing things is not always the only way or the best way.

This middle grades (3-5) novel is the PERFECT back-to-school read!  It works well as a read-aloud, but it's even better as a novel study!  Your students will love reading about how the class figures out ways to hide their secret from parents and administrators, and how the kids negotiate roles in the group to "teach", keep guard, and manage the class.  You will love that the students soon realize that they actually do need a teacher and that teaching is not an easy job!  

If this sounds like a book your students would love (and I promise they will!), I've created a print-and-go novel study unit that is perfect for grades 3-5!  This unit includes vocabulary words, comprehension questions, character study, point of view exploration, figurative language practice, stages of plot, narrative and opinion writing prompts and more!  You can use all of it, or some of it, whatever best suits your students' needs and your time.  Click on the picture below to find the unit in my TpT Store!

This is an 40+ page study guide and includes answer keys for each vocabulary word, comprehension question, character chart, and plot diagram.  

Here are some sample activity pages...

Happy Reading!

19 July 2016

Christmas in July!

Merry Christmas (in July!)

Even though I'm sitting in the sand this week, my mind is still on my classroom and TpT!  I've been busy creating and updating products to get ready for a new school year.  To celebrate taking the week off to be with my family at the beach, I've decided to throw a "Christmas in July" sale with some of my TpT friends!

This is a one day sale only, but hundreds of products will be 10-20% off! It's the perfect time to stock up on back to school goodies!  My entire store will be 20% off all day July 20th!

You can check out the sale in a few ways:

1. Click on my logo to go directly to my store to start shopping my sale!

2. Search TpT with the hashtag: #TptChristmasInJuly!

Many products have been tagged, so this search will lead you to many sale products!

3. Go to http://bit.ly/29KYoUt

This will take you to a Google Sheet with a list of all the stores participating in the sale, as well as links to their stores!

Have fun stuffing your bag full of goodies!  As soon as I get back from the beach, I'll be back at creating new products...so stop by my store and take advantage of the sale tomorrow, and then come back again later this summer to see what else I'll be creating before school starts again!

12 July 2016

Help Students Become Comma Rock Stars!

I just found out that I will be teaching 6th grade this year!  I taught one section of 6th grade my first year in middle school, and was just trying to keep myself one step ahead of the kids while I learned new curriculum!  Now that I'm feeling confident with my 8th graders and 8th grade curriculum, this is a great time to dive back into 6th grade, too!

So, guess what have I been up to this week?  CREATING new activities!

The major grammar focus in 6th grade is commas.  Commas can be so confusing to kids because there are SO MANY rules about when to use them!  Commas are either over-used or under-used by novice writers...some people sprinkle them all over their work, and others avoid using them at all costs!  I've always been pretty confident in my comma usage - I was taught to use a comma anytime you take a breath - I still think about that when I write, but that was pretty much my entire education regarding commas. It wasn't until I began teaching with a heavy focus on grammar that I really researched ALL.THE.RULES.  I never realized how many different ways the cute little comma is used!  Nor did I realize that standards involving comma usage are found in all grades (1-10) in the Common Core State Standards!  That means that every single school year, students are being explicitly taught how to use commas in their writing!  That's awesome!  Our students will be comma rock stars by the time they hit high school and never misuse that cute little comma, right?

WRONG! Even though teachers are teaching commas starting in 1st grade, 8th graders don't always know when and when not to use commas.

Now that I'm teaching 6th grade, I've got the time to really dig deep into commas with my students (and hope I won't have to spend as much time re-teaching commas with them as 8th graders!).  This month, I've been busy creating activities to help me review and teach commas.  The first thing I did is create anchor charts to hang in my room to answer this question:

I created one poster for each major comma rule (10 in all) ranging from 1st grade standards on up through 8th grade standards.  I know it seems odd to be reviewing 1st grade skills with 6th graders, but believe me, they need reminders!  (Of course, I won't tell them which are 1st grade standards, like using commas in dates and lists, but it sure doesn't hurt to review!) No matter what grade you teach, you can use some or all of these posters in your room! You can see samples of all 10 posters in the product preview in my TpT Store.

Here's a sample of a poster for a 6th grade standard:

Once I finished the posters, I got busy making a few new Color By Code activities!  My 8th graders loved these and actually asked me to make more!  If 8th graders actually admit to liking something school-related, it must be good!  So, I made 2 versions to review commas- one with elementary comma rules, and one with middle school comma rules!

In the process, I discovered a super-cool new clip artist who calls herself "Mae Hates Mondays" and draws big-kid friendly clips. Even her store name is PERFECT for middle schoolers!  I'm loving her clip art teens so much that I had to make another picture with them!  So I made a third Color By Code activity to help students identify simple sentences, compound sentences, complex sentences, compound-complex sentences, and sentence fragments.

I mean how great are these characters???

So now, I'm ready to head back to school to teach these 6th graders how to use commas like rock stars!  Click on the pictures of each product to learn more!  I hope you find them useful, too!

30 June 2016

Stop the Summer Slide!

Every parent worries about the dreaded SUMMER SLIDE!  How can we keep our kids learning over the summer without burning them out or driving ourselves crazy?!?  Summer camps are great, and so are workbook pages...but GAMES and COLORING are even better!  I thought I'd share a few ideas I have for elementary and middle school kids today!

Now that I'm a middle school teacher, I don't often create or post things for elementary students anymore.  However, one of my FAVORITE creations is my list of math games you can play at home with manipulatives most people already have at home!  

You can click on the picture below to check it out!

This product has saved teachers a lot of time and they've gotten big thanks from parents who are using these tips!  Here are some product reviews:

"Perfect to give to parents looking for ideas at home!"

"Thank you. The parents and kids loved the games. It helped to enhance my open house night."

"Great resouce. I used it at our Math Night and it was very well received. Thank you!"

You don't need to be a teacher to love these activities!  I have played all of these games at home with my kids and they don't even realize they are practicing math skills :)

Here are 2 FREEBIES for the older kids!  Many middle schoolers struggle with the summer slide, too! We can't forget about them...especially since curriculum moves SO fast in middle school.

These free products help kiddos review the 4 types of sentences and the different types of nouns.  Most ELA teachers in middle school do a super fast review of these topics the first week of school, but they really expect kids to have at least a general idea of these basic ELA topics when they come in.  These FREEBIES are a great way to give your big kids a head start right before heading back to school!  Click on the pictures to grab these from my store today!

Hopefully, you will be able to stave off the dreaded summer slide with help from these activities!  If you are looking for more great FREEBIES, check out the "Summer Slide Linky" going on at The Teaching Bug's blog!