Spring Semester has been a time of many, many breakthroughs for me as an educator. I honestly think that I was in a place of treading water last semester. What I mean by that is, I did not look forward to going to work each day and work felt like work. Now, I have finally come to the place where I am looking forward to going to work each day. Wooowho! (it doesn’t make teaching or managing my classroom any easier at times, but it does make me feel 10x better!)
As I mentioned earlier I have experienced many breakthroughs with my students. We have gotten incredibly close, and some of them call me ‘MA’ – which I equate with Freedom Writers. We have read some Holocaust literature and my students were very empathetic and dove deep into their reading. I was able to get some AMAZING writing from them.
Since spring break (the second week of March) we have been reading The Freedom Writers Diary and each student is required to keep a journal. I thought that this would only be another of my failures to add to my list. Surprisingly my students love their journals. We write about topics we are reading about and they can add their own writing at any time. The main thing that I keep in mind with journal prompts are the themes we are reading about and how relate-able it is to my students.
A week or so ago we had a journal topic about labels. What labels did people place on Ms. Gruwell and her students? What labels have people placed on you? During our discussion my students were not completely understanding the labels aspect of themselves. So I offered myself up as a guinea pig. I asked them what labels they could place on me. They started listing some personality traits and so forth. I redirected and said, “Okay, I walk into a room and you have never met me.” Silence. “Come on guys, I’m White!” Then one of the most amazing and profound thing happened. A student raised her hand and said, “Nuh-uh, Ms. Caldwell – You’re our color!”
I was and still am speechless. I have went through so much with my students just trying to give them a little taste of my passion for learning. It is nice to see how far we have journeyed! I am looking forward to our final moments of the year as bittersweet as they may be! Until next time…
Conversation from last night:
Me – Honey, I feel like I am on autopilot and just coasting through this semester. Is that bad?
My husband – Sweetheart, that is because your mind is already in America.
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Ever since I got accepted in TFA (Teach for America), I have been working on pre-work and trying to soak in as much information as possible about my placement region. Unfortunately, that has led to a sort of nonchalant attitude toward teaching the students that I have right now. I feel like I have been on auto-pilot. This is not easy to admit. My students deserve to have a great teacher right now.
I guess I am in my comfort zone (more so than I was last year at this time). I am teaching classes that I have already taught and I have a good idea of projects and activities that work. My goal for the rest of the year is to take the stuff that I am learning and apply it to my classroom right now. I started looking at some online resources from Achievement First and they have some excellent ideas about how to keep students engaged (which is my biggest problem with the different levels I have in each class). I plan to read up on their strategies and start implementing them into my classes. I am also planning to re-read some books from college – The First Days of School and The Cornerstone for Teachers. Both are awesome books about classroom management.
I don’t think that I am doing a terrible job, but I am sticking to what I know works. So I just want to shake things up and have a more engaging class.
What are some ways that you shake up your instruction when it seems to become stagnant?
This semester in one of my classes I have started using Writers Workshop. So far it has worked out great. My students are excited to have a few minutes each day set aside to just write. This class is the last class of the day and I think the students find relief in just writing for a few minutes. I have used the following ideas in formatting my Writers Workshop:
Mini-Lessons – Each week I teach two mini-lessons pertaining to problems that students have in their writing. So far this has included subject/predicate agreement, run-on sentences, and sentence fragments. After our break we are going to complete mini-lessons on formatting an essay and narrative writing. These mini-lessons do not last the entire class period (only 15-20 minutes), but include practice for the students to do in class or for homework. I also ask for student recommendations for mini-lessons. Usually they can pinpoint ideas that they need help with and we can complete a mini-lesson to review in class.
Conferencing – I also have conferences with students each week to talk about their writing. Before they come to conference they must pick out one thing they are finding difficult and one thing that they really like about their writing. We then discuss these two items and attempt to make their writing better.
Peer Review – Students are required to complete a peer review for their writing each week. This is something we have talked about a lot. Especially how to complete a helpful peer review.
Sharing – One day a week we all share what we have been working on. Everyone reads their writing and we give polite feedback.
Modeling – During this part of the day I write with the students, unless I am conferencing or teaching a mini-lesson. I work on my own writing and share with the students. It is important that they see me writing so that they see it is important to me as an adult.
Music – I have started to play music during writers workshop. It is strictly instrumental, but I heard from another teacher about a really neat group. Vitamin String Quartet actually transposes modern music into instrumentals. My students love it!
Maybe these few ideas will spark some inspiration for your class as well. I hope to add some of my mini-lessons to TpT soon, so be on the lookout!
Love is in the air! I have always loved Valentines Day. My mom and granny always worked very hard to make it a special day for me. However, one thing I have realized is Valentines day is one of those holidays that many of my friends don’t appreciate. Keeping that in mind I try to add humor into my classroom on Valentines day. I use cheesy pick-up lines to play a game or to create writing prompts. They work really well with my ESL kids, because they have an opportunity to understand different figures of speech.
Here are a few ideas for using them in your classroom:
Option 1: Cut apart these cheesy pick-up lines and put them in a bowl. Students should draw one line and try to act it out with a partner. You can choose whether students should look at the line before the scene starts or not.
Option 2: Charades. Have students act out the line without using words. This could be really tricky!
Option 3: Have students choose one of the lines for a writing prompt. They could invent the history of this cheesy line or write a letter to a special someone.
Be sure to stop by my store and pick up my Valentines Day Freebie!
One thing that I truly miss in China is the Super Bowl. We always got together with friends back in the states and had tons of food. My favorite part of the Super Bowl has to be the commercials. This year Teachers Pay Teachers is adding to the excitment by hosting a Super Sunday Sale. Stop by my store before the game and stock up on stuff for spring semester!
During our Poetry Unit my students create portfolios. These portfolios include poems that they enjoyed, lyrics to songs and poems that they have written in and out of class.
I have been able to get some great work out my students through this project. It really helps them to apply the things that they have learned about poetry.
Here is a list of the items I require in their portfolio:
- Cover Page
- Table of Contents
- Glossary of Poetry Terms
- Five Poems with Poetic Devices Highlighted and Explained
- Five Original Poems that They Wrote
- One Song with an Analysis of Poetic Devices Used
Here are some pictures from some of the portfolios I have received:
To teach song analysis I used Tracee Ormans Freebie “Firework” by Katy Perry Song Lyrics Poetry Terms
I have the rubric/checklist for this project available in my TPT store: Poetry Portfolio Culminating Project
My students have a hard time with creating summaries. Thankfully I talked to one of my best-friends and she mentioned this strategy. It is called the Five Finger Summary. Basically, students use their five fingers as a reference to come up with a summary:
- Thumb – Somebody…
- Pointer Finger – Wanted…
- Middle Finger – But…
- Ring Finger – So…
- Pinky – In the end…
It is so easy and you can use it with any story! Keep in mind if there are multiple main characters you would have to make a choice between which one you use.
GRAB MY LATEST FREEBIE!! Five Finger Summary Editable PPT
Okay at first I thought that my students would groan and complain when I introduced using post-its to take notes while reading. However, I was pleasantly surprised. The students actually got excited about using the post-its. One of my students actually asked if she could use more post-its than I required. Holy Cow!
Due to my students interest I have integrated post-its in several ways.
1. When I first introduced post-its we talked about making text connections and six questions students could ask when thinking about what to add to their post its. I then gave students a short story and six post-its to complete based on the questions we discussed (1 post-it for each question).
2. After a few days of using post-its in class we discussed how to extend our post-it note responses. I created a handout and had them choose three post-its to extend. Basically students used their post-it as a jumping off point for a paragraph.
3. After students had practiced extending their responses. Students took one of their extensions and used it to create an essay. I also had students use three post-its to create a summary or analysis of the story.
4. For 1-3 we used short-stories. We are currently doing a novel study. For our novel students are required to write six post-its per chapter and then choose one to use as a journal topic.
I have truly been amazed to see my students work. Many of my apprehensive writers have became excited about writing using this strategy. I think a lot of it has to do with choice and giving them the opportunity to take ownership of their reading and writing.
If this sounds like something you would like to implement, you might want to check out my product on Teachers Pay Teachers:
Post-it Note Reading and Writing Workshop Resource Pack
One of my professors used to say “make everything into a game.” She absolutely loved using games in order to jazz up lessons, especially in Language Arts. I just created two new language arts games. Just in time for BACK-TO-SCHOOL and the sales in my TpT and Teachers Notebook Stores.
Game One: The Five Second Rule
Students have five seconds to name three items in a given category. I use this with my ELL’s, because it helps them to think quickly and recall vocabulary that we have covered in class.
Game Two: Versus
I got the idea for this game after reading the book Shark vs. Train by: Chris Barton.This game is made up of flash cards with different characters, animals and people. You can use these cards in a variety of ways as a whole class or in groups.
For example, if you pull one card that says samurai and one card that says chicken you would then say, “samurai versus chicken.” You will then be able to complete one of the following activities with the students using the cards as the focus.
1. A quick discussion with the class.
2. A writing prompt— tell who would win and why
3. A class debate— students choose sides and debate which would win in a fight.
There are endless possibilities. My students really enjoy these cards and they have lead to many heated discussions in my class.
You can click on the images above to find my versions of both games mentioned. Don’t forget about the incredible sales going on on both TpT and Teachers Notebook this weekend!
Lots of things are happening at this time of year. Teachers and students are busy preparing for back-to-school (perhaps teachers more than students). I wanted to take this time to share with you several things happening online this month.
A few months ago I was asked to give feedback on a devotional for Christian Educators. The devotional book has recently been released. It is truly amazing and really changed the way act and think in not only the classroom, but daily life. I highly recommend this book for both experienced and first year teachers! (Click the image below to find out more)
I have a new post on Global Teacher Connect entitled Authentic Assessment in China. This post shares some simple steps for how to create an authentic assessment. GTC is also hosting a new series called Classrooms Around the World. Teachers from around the globe will be contributing pictures of thier classrooms. This is a great opportunity for students to see how alike and different schools are in different parts of the world (click the icon below for more info about this wonderful project)!
Last but not least TpT will be having their BACK TO SCHOOL Sale on August 12-13th! You can save an extra 10% on all your purchases by using the code in the icon below. My store will be having a 20% off sale which gives you spectacular saving for those last minute Back to School items!
Wow – so much is going on! I am also in the midst of moving and starting a new school. I hopefully will have updates as that progresses! Happy Tuesday!!