NewsELA (not just for ELA)

When I transitioned into the science classroom from ELA several years ago, I was very surprised how many science teachers didn’t know about NewsELA. It was a resource that I used at least weekly with my ELA classes. Naturally that did not change when I became a science teacher. I started pulling articles relevant to our topic of study, and found that students were very engaged with the current-ness of the articles.

How to find articles and What to do with them?

  1. Go to newsela.com
  2. Type in your topic (in my example below I looked for fossils)
  3. Find an article that may work for your group.
  4. Print it with the additional resources OR save the url to share with your students (there is also a pro version where you can create classes and assign articles)

Here is an example of the search and what comes up after you search:

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What I really like about newsELA is the ability to differentiate. You can give the same article but change the reading level. One thing that I do is ask for my students reading level when they take their reading level assessment (STAR or MAP) from my English department. That way I can pinpoint what level students need for their articles.

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Another cool thing is that, if you use BrainPop, NewsELA is now linked to Brain Pop!! Yay! That means it automatically pulls in targeted articles based on the topic of the brain pop.

So, if you have not explored NewsELA I highly recommend that you do so. You can pull in some close reading strategies and really engage students with real-world content! Let me know if you use NewsELA or try it out in the comments below!

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Teaching About Toilets and Thinking Outside the Box

With the beginning of this new semester we have started our unit on hydrology. This unit focuses on all the water found on the Earth and the water cycle.

I feel like as a middle school teacher I am constantly thinking of out of the box ways to pull my students into a lesson. It is something that is becoming more common in the Science classroom as we search for real life inquiry phenomenon to aid our students understanding. Usually some of my out of the ordinary ideas come up in the form of videos – I mean have you realized how many clips from kids movies can contain science??? I’ll share some of those ideas another time.

This past week I was teaching the kids about ocean currents and more specifically the Coriolis Effect. (Just in case you forgot what that is – it is the concept that water rotates clockwise in the northern hemisphere and counter-clockwise in the southern hemisphere) In the middle of class I immediately thought of toilets flushing. I mean as a kid I had always heard that toilets flush one way and another way in Australia. I mentioned this to the kids during our lesson and then set out to find information.

Now many people claim that this is not true. For example in a fact check  I read that this was false because toilets contain such a small amount of water and so forth. Plus with the way toilets are made today it really depends on where the valve is placed inside.

I did not stop there, because there has to be a glimmer of truth behind this tale. My digging proved to be true. On The Guardian – Speculative Science I found many accounts about toilets and their flushing on the equator. One man even said that while in Ecuador he saw an experiment that proved this phenomenon.

Well this was all the encouragement I needed to add this to my science tool belt. I created an info-graphic for my students to color and add to their notebooks.

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You can find this in my TpT store if you are interested. I know that adding a toilet to a handout seems a little weird, but as a middle school teacher the stranger (and sometimes grosser) things are the better!

Happy Teaching!!

A “Rock”-ing Autobiography

Recently there has been a push to add more writing in all content areas. Being from an ELA background I have welcomed this with open arms. I love writing and being able to see the creativity of my students through their writing.

We just finished a unit over the rock cycle, and to close our unit I created an assignment. My students had to pretend they were a piece of sand at the bottom of a river and write about how they became a rock and went through the rock cycle. They had an option to write a story or create a comic strip. I am very impressed with what they came up with. I had some stories about the sediment floating by SpongeBob’s pineapple and others about the rock being crushed in Super-Mario.

Here are a couple of examples that I thought really displayed their understanding of the rock cycle!

Story Choice

Comic Choice

If you think you would like to use this in your classroom, I made a downloadable product on TeachersPayTeachers. Just click the picture below:

Rocking Autobiography - Rock Cycle Writing Task

 

Already in America?

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.

~ ~ ~ ~

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?

 

The Grand Tour

Before I  start packing and  transitioning into the new year I wanted to share my classroom. I am going to post some pictures of my classroom decorations and arrangement. Please keep in mind this is my first year and first attempt at classroom organization. I am so thankful that you live and learn, because I have tons of new ideas for next year 🙂

You will notice I have a boggle board, but you may not know that I have centers. I decided to try centers with my middle-school students. I was pleased with the results. I had four centers set-up around the room – Greek and Latin Roots, Non-fiction, Writing, Vocabulary and Game. I called them stations because it sounded more middle-schooly 😀

Most of my walls are empty. I like to fill them with student work. Sometimes it can get a bit chaotic. Next year I really want to find an easier and more efficient way to display student work. I made a sandwich bag quilt, but it only works for flat  and letter sized papers.

What are you going to change about your classroom next year?

Teacher Appreciation Week

I am super excited about next week!  It’s Teacher Appreciation Week and we’ve got a huge jackpot for you.  Everyone’s a winner not just one person.  We’ve put together an amazing blog hop for you to find some of the best teacher resources that are normally a paid item, but for one day they are FREE just for you.  Isn’t that exciting?!  I’ll let you know the value of all the products that you are going to get for free on Saturday.  It all starts on Sunday, May 6th.

We wanted to show teachers how much we care for them and appreciate all the hard work you put in each day at school.  Each gift will be valued between $3.00 and $8.00 (which equals a jackpot of over $600) You can only download them from Teachers Pay Teachers.  If you don’t have an account there, set one up so you can be ready to download like crazy!

Because there are so many bloggers participating in this event, we have it split up into three groups. I am in  the 7-12 Jackpot.  Even if you are not a 7-12 teacher you can still get in on the action by visiting the other hosts sites.

Make sure you watch for another amazing promotion just for teachers May 6-8.

You are one LUCKY person!

Click Here for My Free Product – Coke or Sprite Inference Lesson and Game

This product was created for an EFL class, and is only free today (normally $3.75). The lesson introduces students to critical thinking, strategy, predictions and/or making an inference. Students play a game and try to create a strategy, persuade other players and make predictions. It could be used as an intro to teaching students how to make an inference when reading.

What is included:
– Vocabulary and Questions
– PowerPoint (12 slides)
– Coke or Sprite Strategy Game

Getting Ready for Chinese New Year

Our Door

It is January 20th and in two days we will celebrate our first Chinese New Year. We are not yet in school for spring semester. We do not report back until January 31st. That may sound like a long time, and I think it actually is compared to most schools in the states. We got out of school on December 23rd, which means that we have approximately 39 days out of school.

It also gave me a lot of time to work on things for the upcoming semester. Currently I am preparing a Romeo and Juliet Unit, Light and Sound Show Unit, Zoology Unit, Theatre History Unit, and an Inside the Earth Unit. I am tired just typing it out 🙂 Today I took a break and created a new product for my TpT store. It is an activity pack for The Count of Monte Cristo.

How are we going to celebrate Chinese New Year? My teacher friends and I are getting together and making zip-loc quilts. These are not blankets to cover up with. They are wall displays. I have a picture of one posted on my pintrest board called “classy classroom ideas.” We were told by other friends who live here that it gets a little crazy on New Years Eve hear. Fireworks go off all around, and it sounds like a war zone from noon until two a.m. So following some other peoples advice we are going to hangout inside and watch the fireworks from the safety of the apartment window.

I will let you know more details about how it all went and hopefully have some pictures of our zip-loc quilting bee!

~ Jessi