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!