Friday, December 6, 2013

Book Clubs- Oh the Woes!

On this icy snow day in Texas I'm taking some time to reflect on this week. My students are working on our Media unit. I'm reading some amazing reflections from them over their views on the media and how it affects them. I'm starting to see them mature from 7th graders into full blown 8th graders. I love this time of year with them. 

While in my bubble, I took some time to talk to the other 8th grade teacher about her classes. I teach PreAP and she teaches the majority of the on level students. Needless to say, sometimes I get a little out of touch with the different struggles we have at school. Her classes are starting their book clubs with historical fiction books over the American Revolution and we started talking about how it was going. 

They already chose their books, had their role sheets, and this was supposed to be the first day for their discussions. At the start of the day only a few came to class prepared. This trend continued as the morning went on. I know she was disappointed and frustrated. Managing book clubs is never easy. Add on to that kids who aren't motivated makes an additional challenge. 

What's great about this teacher is that instead of getting mad at the kids or giving up and just reading a whole class novel she changed how they did book clubs. New role sheets were made up. These were more streamlined. There were questions to guide their thinking more. She met them where they were and what they were ready for. It was really great! I need to get a copy of what she did now that I'm thinking about it. 

So, how do you successfully manage book clubs or literature circles in your class? As a middle school teacher it's not an easy task when you have 150+ students and 45 minutes of time. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Late Night Update-Well, For a Teacher During the School Year

I don't usually post this late at night. Anyone who knows me knows I'm in bed by 8:30. Tonight was the Twitter chat on student blogging and I would say it went pretty well. My HootSuite was giving me some problems so I didn't get to say everything I wanted but oh well! 

So now I'm still awake. With student blogging on my mind I started thinking about my own students' blogs. Where do I want to take them? What's going to be our next step? We have commentary down. My kids are responding to their peers with some really good stuff. We did a Socratic Seminar over The Giver the other day and I had them extend their conversations to the blog. I was impressed for sure!

The question remains- where do we go from here? I guess the next step is to take the blogs so they extend their audience reach and learn about readers and how to follow blogs. If I could get my students on Blogger we might be able to work it out. We might even be able to have real linky parties!

At this point I have even more in my head than I started with and will turn in for the night and probably dream about all this!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Oh It's Been So Long!

It has truly been forever since I posted. I had no idea just how busy I would be this year and how exhausted I would also be. Even though I haven't posted, I've been thinking daily of what I would say about this year. There have been many successes and some failures. Let's do a recap:


  • Blogging! Oh yes indeed. I'm excited to say that my students have taken to this and are getting the hang of it (finally!). I introduced it in phases. All of our students at our school are participating in the 25 Books Campaign (reading 25 books throughout the year). I had them in phase one just post book summaries of those books to receive credit. Then we would meet one on one about the book to talk. Phase two, which is where we are, I introduced a Weekly Blogging Schedule and Commentary Guidelines. Now I opened the blog up for anything my   students wanted to blog about and they had to provide commentary to one another. The commentary is exciting to see! Our superintendent has even been checking out the blogs and really liked one and wants to use it. For what? I'm still not really clear on that but it was so exciting to tell my student that her blog is being used by our superintendent as a model.
  • Connecting with my students via Twitter and Instagram- Pictures that I take of them working and anchor charts that we create are posted to Twitter and Instagram. Parents mainly utilize Twitter and my students are all over Instagram. Bases covered!
  • Theres really just one right now and that is that I'm wearing myself out. I have to take some breaks and find time to not think about work and do work. There have been a couple of times these past couple of weeks that I've reached a breaking point or was close to a breaking point.
It sure does feel good to be back to blogging. It's been a long time. Hopefully, I'll be able to continue writing on a weekly basis. I think for my mental state I will need it. 

If anyone is interested in being part of a Twitter chat on student blogging in the classroom, I'll be moderating a chat on Tuesday (10/29) starting at 8:30. Search #nisdnov8. I'd love to have you part of the chat!

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Monday, September 2, 2013

September Currently

It's September! What?!? Summer is officially over. School is in session everywhere. That can only mean one thing- it's time to link up with Farley at Oh' Boy 4th Grade for September's Currently.

LISTENING: Listening to The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. My daughter loves watching Mickey and friends. What can I say?

LOVING: Loving the time I'm getting with my family this weekend. I've done absolutely nothing (except on Saturday morning) but spend time with my husband and Avery. It's been wonderful!

THINKING: Thinking about the number of things I need to do before tomorrow. We have Open House tomorrow so that's a long day for Miss Avery and myself.

WANTING: Wanting every weekend to be a 3 day weekend. Think how much more relaxed everyone would be!

NEEDING: Needing absolutely nothing. Right now all is perfect :)

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Saturday, August 31, 2013

EduBlogs Grrr...

I haven't had a voice since Tuesday. It's been really hard to give directions and start my kids on all the technology we use and my classroom procedures without it. I've been trying though! Tuesday, when we get back, I'll start them on blogging!

I'm so excited to start blogging with my students. I have things all setup. I finally have them all entered and blogs created on EduBlogs. I decided to abandon KidBlog this year. I thought that I could so much more on EduBlogs. I think that I can except for one thing: linky parties. I really wanted my students to have linky parties following the schedule I posted about earlier in the summer. Come to find out WordPress powered blogs can't. Yeah... any ideas out there about how to get around this?

I've also spent the past 3 hours today at Starbucks. It was the only way to get any work done. Hey- I got a blog post completed, 152 blogs created, lesson plans submitted, emails sent and a start on the following week's lessons too. Not too bad for a Saturday at Starbucks. Thanks Starbucks for letting me hang forever.

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I wish I had more excitement about the beginning of the school year but I've just been plain worn out. Next week awaits!

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Day 1! Whew!!

Day 1 is officially over! Teething baby, first day madness, 12 hour day, and now no voice, but it's all over and time to {try} and rest for tomorrow. Hopefully, my voice will be able to rest tonight and I'll have a voice to talk with. I've lost my voice at the end of the year but never after the first day!

Even after all the things going against me, this has really been a good day! You know it must be a good day if I can put the baby to bed, watch a little Real Housewives, and blog for a bit.

I have an amazing group of students this year. They are so enthusiastic and ready to go! I want them to keep that enthusiastic spirit even after the first week goes away and we really get down to business. I told them that they were going to be blogging this year. I could see some expressions of fear but there were also glimmers of piqued interests and real interest in what this is all about.

We ended the class today with an ice breaker that I found called "I Mustache You a Question." (If this is yours, I want to give you credit so please contact me! I can't remember where I got it!!) The kids loved it! I can't tell you the number of excited little squeals when I started passing out mustaches.

The idea is the student reads the mustache to their group (I had them get in groups of 3). The other two members answer. Then after everyone has had a chance I had them introduce each other to the class, read their question, and share the other person's answer. It was a pretty low risk activity. The questions aren't even personal questions about themselves but questions like "What does Santa smell like?" and "If you could be the cafeteria chef for the day, what would you serve? Why?" You can't help but smile when you read these!
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That's all I had time for today! I introduced myself, my class, and played the game! Whew! Maybe this is why I have no voice. Crossing my fingers for tomorrow! Have a great week everyone.

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Twitter Chat Part 1 and Storify app

Last night was the first Twitter chat as part of a series for Aimee Buckner's Notebook Know-How. This was a new format of book study for my entire department. Their participation and enthusiasm for the discussion was so great! I have watched Twitter chats before but never participated in one. Wow! They are fast paced. As a Language Arts teacher, brevity is not my forte! We were all forced out of our comfort zones and pressed to be concise in what we wanted to say.

Below, is our Twitter chat in a published form. It's not always pretty, but I found this to be a great way to quickly share our thoughts in a short period of time. We can always come back to this and add to one another's conversations. I hope to see this grow and use it in the classroom.

I used the app, Storify here to make this transcript. You can quickly and easily create a transcript of something like a Twitter chat. This would be such a great tool to use in the classroom.

If you are interested in participating in tonight's Twitter chat it's over Ch. 3 & 4 and will again take place from 8-9CST. We hope to see you there!
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Saturday, August 17, 2013

Portfoliyo vs. Remind101: A New Way to Connect With Parents

I'm always looking out for new types of technology to use in the classroom. I especially like trying various things to connect with my students' parents. I used Remind101 last year. Many parents didn't understand how it worked and were hesitant to try it out. I had more students than anything sign up. They liked getting notifications about upcoming assignments.

I recently found Portfoliyo. I'm a member of Tioki, which is a site similar to LinkedIn but just for educators. Portfoliyo's setup is similar to Remind101. Send a text to a number, answer a few questions to get started, and bam you're set to get reminders.
Portfoliyo Signup Screen

The main difference between the two is that Remind101 doesn't have two way communication. You the teacher send out information. The parent receives it. It stops there. With Portfoliyo, you send out information and the parent can respond to your text. The parent can also respond to your text without you sending anything to them. They only need your special text number. This is a feature different than Remind101.
Dashboard in Portfoliyo

I can see Portfoliyo being especially useful for those parents that don't have email and it's hard to reach them on their phones. I'm pretty sure that the majority of my kids' parents have cell phones that can send and receive texts but they don't all have emails. I like the feature of the two way communication. With Portfoliyo, you login to their website and you can see any messages that you have waiting for you. You can invite other teachers and create groups.

Depending on what you need, I can see benefits to both applications. I would like to see an app for Portfoliyo. That would be beneficial to the teacher. Try them both out! They're great ways to add communication with your parents.
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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Technology Overload!

Right now I'm on a lunch break from my Technology Integration Academy. I'll be linking up with Technology Tailgate (I know it's not Tuesday but I've been here since Tuesday!)

 My school district is BIG into technology and after your third year they expect you to have a certain amount of techno skills! Three days of straight technology information is a lot but I have learned so much and now I have some really neat tools to use in my classroom. Some I've used/played around with before but never really knew the true capabilities of it.

Our district uses Moodle for teachers' assignments. Each teacher has a Moodle page and that allows parents and students access to files and other activities determined by the teacher. During TIA I learned that Moodle is now Moodle 2.0. Boy! Talk about bells and whistles. I'm going to need a class on the new Moodle to learn it all. I can now have a Twitter feed embedded into my Moodle page. And yes, I went ahead and created that!

I also discovered Livebinders (I know I'm super late to that party!). I've heard of them and seen people talking about them but never knew how to use them. Watch out 8th graders because I'm pretty sure you'll be using this (can we say PBL??).
Livebinders: used a Google search to fill with articles! WHAT?!?!

We also delve into Google forms. Again, I'm all over this. I'm thinking about creating a spreadsheet on Google forms to use as a Status of the Class for my Language Arts class. I've been the one that has been asking them what page they're on in their independent reading. Why am I doing all the work for them?? These are 8th graders. They need to take some ownership over their own learning and responsibility for it!
Google form: Status of the Class in progress
 We also played around with making a simple form for parents to sign in at Open House. You know sometimes things are just so simple you don't think of them yourself!

Google form for Open House- Please sign in!
We start back pretty soon. I see we're going to be talking about QR codes. I'll have to tell you in another post about my QR code and book trailer idea for my classroom library. It's time to get back to work. I just love technology!!
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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Aimee Buckner's Notebook Know-How

Yesterday I posted about starting a book study Aimee Buckner's Notebook Know-How. Just a quick update on this book study. My department is starting the book study next Tuesday night with a nightly Twitter chat from 8-9 CST under the hashtag #ladeptreads if you would like to join our discussion. I'll then blog about some highlights of what we talked about.

Chapters 1-2: Tuesday
Chapters 3-4: Wednesday
Chapters 5-6: Thursday
Chapter 7: Friday

I hope you'll join us in this invaluable book study!

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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Book Study: Notebook Know-How

I am so excited about this! While cleaning out the former department chair's closet I came across a set of books for Aimee Buckner's Notebook Know-How. If you haven't read this book, here's your chance to join my Language Arts department in our first book study of the year! {I know members of my department reading this right now are thrilled to learn of the book study this way :) }

In this book, Aimee Buckner takes the reader through keeping a writer's notebook with a very realistic and applicable way to use it in your curriculum. I was rereading it last night and taking notes all the while thinking, "Why am I not doing this with my writer's notebooks???"

So, if you are interested in participating in this book study with my department, go get a copy of Notebook Know-How (or dust off the copy on your shelf!) and keep up with my blog for updates for the book study. We'll be meeting on Twitter #ladeptreads. I hope you'll join us! CTMS LA teachers: get ready!
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Monday, August 12, 2013

Busy Busy Week

Summer has unofficially ended for me. Last week I attended a two day Administrator's Academy as part of my new role as Language Arts department chair. I was completely brain dead after the first day and loopy by the end of the second day! I did enjoy getting together with everyone and working through what we want our campus to work towards this year. I hope these kids are ready for it! They're gonna work!

On Friday, I went up to work in my classroom. Two of my sweet friends, who are now stay at home moms but used to teach with me, came up to help me get some work done. My friend, Laura, pretty much did all my boards under my direction. She's A-mazing!  She helped me last year while I was pregnant and again this year and I'm not even pregnant! The good news is I think my walls are done. The bad news is I still have to finish organizing my library(a beast of a job), room arrangement, cleaning/organizing my area, etc.

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Laura and I went into my old department chair's room to look at what's going and staying. I had to take a moment or 10 when I opened the closet and saw all the stuff I had to now clean out of there and find a home for. Laura had to leave but luckily my other friend, Carissa, and her two boys were on their way!

I must say, her son got right to work helping clean out the closet, take stuff off the cart, and actually organize it on my desks.  It took us two trips to the closet and it was done. That was a huge lifesaver! I was done after that though and needed to leave the mess on the desks for when I go up on Monday. I do  have a plan for what I need to do with it all which is good since I didn't have a single plan when I opened that door!

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After the closet was unloaded into my room
Today, unfortunately, was my last day working in my room. I'm by far not even close to being done. Everything that came out of the closet has been found a home (well except for some office supplies). I've begun the task of working on my classroom library. New labels and organizing to come! I feel like I've gotten stuff accomplished but it sure would make me feel better to be able to work in it this week. This will be the last summer I sign up for a three day training the week before staff development!

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Anchor chart wall
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Using Post Its to remind me the genre until the labels are finished
I'm exhausted. So that's going to have to be all for now!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Tried It Tuesday!

I know. I know. I know. The quietest classroom pencil sharpener has been blogged about before. But not by me! Today I'm linking up with Fourth Grade Flipper for Tried It Tuesday!
A few weeks ago, I blogged about ordering the quietest pencil sharpener. Well, it came in! I was so excited to try it out. The problem was I didn't have any pencils! How was that possible that I didn't have pencils? My husband works for an office supply company and I'm a teacher. No idea! Problem solved by going to the Target Dollar Spot. For $1, I bought a pack of pencils and brought them home to get started.

Step 1: Attach the pencil sharpener to a surface. I chose my countertop. I have no other surface to put it on.

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Step 2: Get your pencils ready!

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Step 3: Pull out the front piece and squeeze the black pincher thingy at the top to insert your pencil. (These are technical terms here. Try not to be confused!)

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Step 4: Sharpen your pencil! (Photobombing courtesy of Collin, the pug)

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After all those steps and in a matter of minutes you will end up with some perfectly sharpened pencils. Some mighty sharp pencils too!

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A suggestion: don't leave this permanently on your countertop because first your husband or significant other may ask you why you bought a pencil sharpener for the house and why it's in your kitchen of all places. Also, the countertop is not the best place to attach this. It's a little wobbly. I'm thinking it has to do with the rounded part of my counters. 

I can't wait to use this in my classroom. I'm hoping my 8th graders love it as much as I do!
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Monday, August 5, 2013

Another Liebster(!!!) and News

I'm so excited to be nominated {another} Liebster Award! As many of you all know a Liebster Award is an award given to bloggers with less than 200 followers to recognize one another! This Liebster Award is from Lil' Bit Country in the Classroom.

Lil Bit Country in the Classroom

Liebster Awards do come with a few guidelines (I don't really like to call them rules):
  1. Link back to the blog that nominated you
  2. Answer the questions that the person who nominated you asked
  3. Share 11 random facts about yourself
  4. Nominate some great blogs with less than 200 followers! (My favorite!)
  5. Present 11 questions for your nominees to answer

Let's get to it!

1. What is your favorite sports team?
Easy. Dallas Cowboys. It's actually a love-hate relationship with them. Anyone who follows football can probably understand why. In the end, I'm going to love them but sometimes they just make me so darn mad!

2. What is your perfect weekend?
The perfect weekend is spending time with my husband and daughter. It really doesn't matter what we're doing. He's away on business during the week, so the weekends are super valuable family time for us.

3. What is a must have at your desk?
Something that is a must at my desk is a drink! Coffee in the morning, then water, and after lunch a Diet Coke.

4. What is your favorite professional book?
My favorite professional book(s) would be Readicide by Kelly Gallagher, The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller, In the Middle by Nancie Atwell, and Teaching Reading in Middle School by Laura Robb Very good! Gosh, I could keep going. These are books I read and reread. 

5. What would a utopian society be like to you?
I teach the The Giver by Lois Lowry every year. I do not want to be part of a Utopian society! 

6. Name three things you would bring to a deserted island?
After watching Naked and Afraid on the Discovery Channel, I've decided I would make sure I had clothes on and bring:
  • A lighter (there's no way I'm going to figure out how to start a fire otherwise)
  • A person who has survival skills (I have none so I need to bring an expert)
  • Sunblock!
7. If you could mentor a first year teacher, what would be the first thing you would tell him/her?
If you have questions, no matter how dumb you think they are, ASK!

8. What is your hobby?
I knit!

9. What would you be if you weren't a teacher?
I would probably want to be a journalist. I find that life exciting!

10. If you could move anywhere in the U.S. where would you move?
I love living in Texas. I don't think I would want to go anywhere else.

11. Who is your favorite president?
Abraham Lincoln. I am uhb-sessed with Abraham Lincoln. I find him to be a super fascinating person in history. I also think that he was a monumental figure. 

11 Random Facts About Me:
  1. I am the least coordinated person on the planet
  2. I played the saxophone in high school
  3. I am horrible at math (like really bad)
  4. I've been to Paris and did not have a great time
  5. I like taking bubble baths- they relax me
  6. My favorite movies are the ones from the 1940s
  7. My favorite actor is Cary Grant
  8. My favorite actress is Katharine Hepburn
  9. I love the movie Gone With the Wind and have seen it countless times. I have lines memorized. I'll quote them. That will be annoying to people.
  10. I'm susceptible to motion sickness. You don't want to be in the backseat on a windy road with me! Or a boat...
  11. I love office supplies and used to work at Staples

My Nominees are:
  1. If you could go anywhere, where would it be? (This doesn't have to be a real place)
  2. What's your favorite sport?
  3. What's your guilty pleasure?
  4. What's your favorite word?
  5. What's your favorite part of starting the school year?
  6. What's the worst thing about starting the school year?
  7. Is the glass half empty or half full?
  8. What advice would you give to teachers for starting the new school year?
  9. What's the last book you read?
  10. What is your favorite professional book?
  11. What's your favorite flower?
The News of the Day:
During my training today, I received a phone call from my principal asking if I would be the new Language Arts department chair. So, after some thinking and talking with him I accepted and officially can say that I am the new Language Arts department chair at my middle school! Our former department chair was given an assistant principal job at another middle school last week. Add this to my back to school craziness! This is definitely going to be some year!

Thanks for all the bag recommendations. I went with the Cindy Tote from Thirty-One. Hopefully, this will help me contain all my junk!
Have a great week everyone!
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Friday, August 2, 2013

August Currently

Is it possible that it's already August?? Where does the time go? Today I'm linking up with Farley over at Oh Boy 4th Grade for the August Currently.

Listening: I'm listening to the Disney Channel. Right now, it's Sofia the First. Avery's on the floor playing and Disney is on in the background. I always said I'd never be the mom to turn on TV to entertain my kid. Ha! That was a great fleeting thought before I had one!

Loving: I can't say enough how much I've loved spending every minute I've been able to spend with Avery this summer. She is so much fun to play with and watch! Yesterday, we went to the pool and she was able to practice going under the water and "swimming." My eight month old can hold her breath for 6 seconds! Next week she starts daycare so that I can go work in my room and go to some trainings. I think I'm going to be the one that has the problem.

Thinking: This coming school year already has so many changes! We lost a great AP and my department chair. I'm getting a new teacher to teach with (not new to teaching though). I'm starting a literary magazine (scared to death but excited). There's a lot I'm thinking about. I will probably drive my husband, friends, and self crazy. Sorry everyone!

Needing: I need to work in my classroom. Period. I hate waiting until the week of staff development to get work done because that's never enough time! I need to work ASAP!

B2s must haves: I have to make sure there's plenty on my Starbucks card. I'll be stopping daily more than likely! I also need a new tote bag. I have a laptop, a tablet, an iPad, an iPhone, a planner, and all my crap. Suggestions? And of course, lots of pretty pens to play with!
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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Blogging Epiphany and FREEBIE!!

I love words. I love the word epiphany. Today, on the way home from a super fun playdate, I had an epiphany. I'm pretty sure if I was able to still teach with the two ladies, Laura and Lori (from The Thompson Trio in Texas), I would have more of them.

Blogging has become a kind of obsession with me this summer. It annoyingly (sorry everyone) comes up in my daily conversations. I was determined to make this work. Life has a tendency of getting in the way of so many things, but I thought if my students were going to do this then I'm going to do it too. So, needless to say, blogging has been on my mind.

On the drive home, I began thinking about blogging with my kids. Was I going to use kidblog or Edublogs? Was I going to have the same requirements as last year? What was I going to introduce to them first? How? Then it occurred to me. The teaching blogs I read, I've been exposed to them through a linky party. Why not have a linky party with my students? Why not have guest bloggers on my teacher blog page? Thus, the epiphany!

I came home and began to think of all the things that I want my kids to do on their blogs. This is their reader's/writer's notebook. I want them to write reflections, wonderings, book reviews about their books, etc. I also want them to be creative and create their own writing. I want them to share with their peers. I want them to give each other feedback about their reading and writings.

That's what we do as professional educators. We aren't reading one another's blogs looking for mistakes and how to edit our writing. We're learning about teaching from one another. We're looking at the content of the blog post. I learn just as much from an elementary blogger as a middle school blogger as a high school blogger. This community has so many talented people in it. I want my classroom to have that same sharing of ideas and community feel.

I made this schedule for my students to follow. I won't require them to blog every day. Let's be real here- these middle schoolers have their plates full with athletics, extra-curriculars, and academics! I do expect one blog post a week. They can pick the day. They'll link up like we do here in "teacher blogging land" and share with one another. Here is the schedule I've created. It's FREE on my TpT store. Get it now!

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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Back to School Goals and Easy Anchor Chart Redo

Last summer I was cruising Pinterest {no surprise} and I came across this idea for gluing tacks on the back of clothespins to hold my anchor charts up. I'm sure many of you have seen this same thing. I went to Joann's, found some fabric, mod podged it on the clothespins, and hot glued the tacks to the clothespin. Score! Well, I used them last year in my classroom {I really wish I could find the picture!}.

They were so cute...until the day the tacks started to separate from clothespin. Great. What was left? Ugly brass tacks holding up my anchor charts.

I decided to handle that this year! This past week, I took all those clothespins, tacks, and E6000 glue. Yeah I brought out the big guns. I reglued those bad boys back to the clothespins. This time I also attached two tacks to the back of the clothespin too. I'm hoping for better success this time! Only time will tell...

I'm also linking up today with I {heart} Recess for the Monthly Goals Back to School edition.

Here's mine!

Personal: Leave work by 5:00, eat better, and workout
Okay. Our school gets out at 4:30. That leaves me 30 minutes to get my stuff together and be out. Now that I have Avery I just don't have the time I used to have to be able to spend at the school! I know this is going to be challenging but I'm going to have to make good use of my time and not spend so much time socializing. {That's} going to be hard! Eat better and workout...hmmm. Eat better isn't too bad. I kind of ignore that over the summer and do an okay job during the school year. Working out is going to be the tricky part. Ugh. Just thinking of it makes me cringe. I'm going to do it though! I have to do it! I wrote it down...

Organization: I have a tendency of not wanting to grade written work until I absolutely have to. I {hate} grading essays. Especially those the kids give me at the beginning of the year before I've had a chance to cast my spell over them and brainwash them. This year, {because I'm writing it down- this is starting to be a problem ;) }I'm going to have those essays graded AND put in the grade book within a week. Yup. I said it. One week.

Planning: Mr. Bush wasn't thrilled about the price of the Erin Condren planner but I'm going to use it! It's going to be used to organize my life and help plan out my lessons. I'm going to use it for good and not to just show how unbelievably cute it is.

Professional: This year I'm going to reach out to students' parents even more to keep them in the loop and continue the communication. I feel like I've made a good start with what I discussed in the last blog post about connecting with them through Twitter and Instagram. I still think I can continue that and more.

Students: Our school has a 25 book campaign where each student's goal at the end of the year is to have read 25 books. It is so hard to get 8th graders excited, motivated, and keep them on track. I feel like last year when I was out on maternity leave for two months I really wasn't able to guide them the way I normally would have to achieving their goal. As a result, I'm sad to say many of mine didn't reach it. It really breaks my heart too. This year, I'm going to spend more time conferencing with them about their goals and what they need to do to reach their goals

Motto: My motto for the year is going to be "Take it one day at a time!" I think that's perfect for me and my students alike.

One more thing. Have you started following Life With Middle Schoolers on Facebook yet? Check it out! Have a great week everyone!

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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Beginning of the Year Prep

I've gone to school one time. I've gone to training multiple times. Now is the time that I really have to buckle down and start thinking about what I'm doing this coming school year. I've decided to incorporate more ways to connect with my students and parents. With all the technology available to my students and their parents I feel as though I should really utilize it.

Our students will each have a Dell tablet. I'm going to have them blog for their Reader's/Writer's notebook again. It was pretty successful last year and I've learned a lot. I have a much better idea of what to expect from them and what I need to do this time to start them off. I loved seeing the progress they made. It was such a great journey we had together. My favorite moment was when one of my students who was dead against blogging at the beginning decided to start a story. She had submitted multiple chapters and I had been getting behind in approving posts. So she came to me and asked me to hurry up and at least approve hers because she had people who were asking when the next chapter would be out! I loved that! From not wanting to blog to having fellow classmates waiting for the next chapters? That to me was awesome!

I still haven't decided which blogging platform to use. We used kidblog last year. It worked. It was easy to use both for students and myself. This year, I've been seriously thinking about Edublogs. It gives my students a little more options with widgets and personalization that they didn't necessarily get with kidblog. If anyone has thoughts on that, please comment below! I would love to hear about your experience. If you have never blogged with your kids and want a place to start, I would recommend using kidblog. It really is super easy!

I've made an additional Twitter account where I'll be posting upcoming assignments and reminders for parents and students to follow. From last year, I learned my students are using Twitter more than Facebook and I really do like being able to shoot a quick tweet about what we're doing. This would help communicate with parents and hopefully allow my 8th graders a way to take some ownership over what they're responsible for.

I also added an additional Instagram account. This is going to be more of a headache for me going back and forth between my personal Instagram and school one. I think I'll manage though. I want to use this to show parents the work their kiddos are creating as well as a place for my students (and parents) to reference anchor charts over what we're learning. My kids rely on the anchor charts and I have them create them as well. The anchor charts at school aren't helpful when they're working on something at home and don't have that visual reminder.

Due to all these places to connect, I plan on making these magnetic business cards for parents to pick up at Open House. It gives them access to all of it conveniently placed on a magnet! I'll have this information on my school website for parents that can't make it.

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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Technopalooza 2013

So the first day of Technopalooza didn't happen due to my mom getting hit by an 18 wheeler. Yeah... Long story short she's okay. The car isn't pretty and my daughter wasn't with her. Needless to say, I missed the first day and was super disappointed but thought it would be better. I did get my Dell tablet! But didn't get a chance to work on it.

Technopalooza Day 2! I'm pretty excited today. Either I've had too much coffee or it really is excitement causing my nervous shaking and fast talking. I was surprised at how few people from the district were there. Our district is {majorly} into technology. With an opportunity like this to spend a couple of days and learn more about technology available to us I would have expected more people to be there. That's kind of disappointing.

Here we are! Day 2 peeps!

One of the neatest sessions I was at today was one about Google apps. I'm going to have to do a blog post dedicated to only this after I've had more time to go through these and try them out. There were some that I had no idea about. The guy who presented had us scan a QR code when we got in the room that connected us to a website that was packed full of lessons and links to even more for all grade levels and subjects. I mean {all} subjects! Not just the core ones.

Some sessions I was disappointed in to be honest. I am no technology guru but after working in this district, I know a lot! I wish there were more differentiated sessions for people who are more advanced than others. The district did a great job of putting this together. I got to learn how to use Windows 8 today on my tablet and that was a {HUGE} accomplishment. I felt like such an idiot today not knowing how to use this. I got it now though. The tablet's charging and we're going to get to work on getting some things done!

If anyone has any suggestions of some great apps to use in a Language Arts class for a Windows tablet I would love to hear about them! Comment me below.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Unproductive Day :(

I went up to my school today to do some cleaning, organizing, and getting some of the stuff I've bought out of my house. I took Avery with me and my mom came to help. This was probably the {least} productive time I've ever spent in my classroom. Ever. This little girl makes me and anyone in range only want to play with her. Therefore, not much work was done. But, she's pretty cute.

I did get my filing cabinet cleaned out. It was stuffed with folders and student work that I was holding on to. I saved a few things and took pictures to save electronically to my computer to use as exemplars and trashed the rest. I hate saying that but I can't hold on to it!

I plan on using my filing cabinet as a magnetic board. I think I will implement a "No Late Work Club" or "Homework Club" idea. Once I see what classes I'll be teaching this coming year I'll be able to wrap my brain around that.

I'm so excited about tomorrow and Thursday! My district is having it's annual Technopalooza!! I will definitely be blogging about this in the next couple of days. Talk about a technology overload! We also are going to be getting our new Dell tablets! I can't wait to see what all I can do with it.
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