Tuesday, October 9, 2012


My school has begun its journey down the Danielson Framework for evaluation this year.  We were given some trainings, watched a few videos, received some hand-outs, and now we are beginning our first year of teacher evaluations based on the four domains and 22 components of Charlotte Danielson.  Sound tedious?  Stressful?  YES!  Luckily, I am off-cycle this year - which means I will not be evaluated under this framework.  Instead, I will create a Professional Development Plan Goal and be able to show proof of my goal throughout the year.  So...what is my goal you ask???

After meeting with my principal this morning, we narrowed it down to conferencing and how to implement conferencing with students.  My district has decided that we need to change the structure of our daily schedule.  Now, they want us to begin with some sort of advanced organizer.  Bellwork is forbidden!  The organizer will lead in to the Reader's Journey (our workbook-like-textbook)  mini-lesson.  This will then lead in to Guided Practice - applying what I taught during the mini-lesson to the anchor book.  Then, we continue with independent practice.  Again, applying the skill to their independent book.  Once finished, we switch to writing and end with word work.  Wow!  That was exhausting.  But you probably have lots of questions that I will be answering as the year goes on.  But, let's get back to conferencing.  This happens during the Guided Practice stage.  I plan to do more research on conferencing skills and how to confer correctly & appropriately.  I want my conferences to become student-led.  I plan to use reading response notebook entries as my guide.  I might even create a class blog or wiki to draw in more engagement. 
For now, how do you lead your conferences?  What works for you? 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

My First Anchor Charts

In 6th grade, we don't really use anchor charts...ever.  We just write notes on our white boards or project notes on an overhead or projector.  They are usually boring lists or definitions of words that do not stimulate or engage the students. 

Today, I decided to do things differently,  I was able to get an easel pad and I made anchor charts for my notes.  We covered What is Schema? and How to Make Predictions.  They were more visual because I added my own pictures as well as colors.  I drew boxes around important words and bolded the main topics.  It was actually kind of fun for me (although the students still had to take notes).

Here are my anchor charts.  I did get the ideas off of Pinterest.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Motivation - Death Crawl

So, I finished grading my all About Me books (finally).  I learned many things about my 6th graders.  I was also happily surprised in their writing skills.  I was a bit worried their writing would need plenty of work.  But they wrote good paragraphs with some details.  That is a big skill we work on in 6th grade at my school.  However, there are always a handful of students that did not put forth the effort in their books.  They turned something, but it was either missing pieces of the assignment or the writing was too short & not detailed.  So, it is time to show them and review with them...the death crawl.  I think the video clip describes it best!

After watching the video, I go into my speech about putting 110% effort in all you do.  I use the phrase "to death crawl" their work.  I think this video is great for motivating students to do their best.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

My 3 Words

Today, I introduced the My 3 Words activity we do each year for curriculum night.  This activity is based on the Your 3 Words  segment on Good Morning America.  Basically, the students come up with a positive 3 word phrase.  Then, they put each word on a separate piece of construction paper and decorate it.  Finally, they come up with a creative way to present their 3 word phrase without talking and I videotape it.  I compile all the My 3 Word clips from all my student groups in to one video and put it to music.  The final products come out great!  My team then plays it while the parents are waiting during the curriculum/meet the teacher night.  It is a very fun way to start the year and the kids get so excited seeing the final video.

Here is one of the Good Morning Examples:

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Wordle is Still So Cool!

Today was one of those great teaching days.  I introduced my students to Wordle and the wonderful world of word clouds.  We are finishing up our All About Me books and the final section is to create a word cloud on Wordle.net that represents you.  So, I opened up wordle.net and projected it on the big screen for all to see.  I went through the whole assignment and....they were amazed.  As I started to show them how to modify the word clouds by changing layouts, fonts, and colors, they couldn't wait to get started on their own.  Tomorrow, we will be making the word clouds but I have a feeling they will be experimenting with wordle tonight.  I hope so!

Sunday, August 26, 2012


Congratulations to Lindsay over at My Life as a Third Grade Teacher for hitting 600 followers.  Check out her giveaway here.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Sad Day

Earlier this week, the real one and only Ivan the gorilla passed away.  Here are some lnks about Ivan and his death.

One and Only Ivan

Saturday, August 18, 2012

And so it begins

I started back at school this week.  Monday was our first institute day and Thursday was our first day with students.  I have been teaching now for 16 years and every year I am filled with anxiety as the new school year begins.  Thursday was filled with those feelings as well as fear, excitement, and exhaustion.  I am realizing, though, that this thing called a grace period does not exist anymore...at least at my school it doesn't.  Kids are coming in a lot more comfortable and chatting with each earlier.  Not cool.  Anyway, I have been so busy with beginning of the year activities, meetings, copying, technology issues, etc that when I get home, I am just done.  Where is the closest pillow?  I hope to share more ideas with you next week as my body will hopefully get used to this schedule.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Best English Teacher Website

By far, the best and my go to site is...The English Companion Ning.  Jim Burke's site is an award winning ning just for English teachers. You must check out this website and join.  It is an amazing place to see what other English teachers are doing in their classrooms.  I go here for novel ideas, chat with other middle school teachers, and to get motivated for the upcoming school year.  I highly recommend you poke around this ning, join a few discussions and even make a post.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Beginning of the Year Activities

As many of us start to prepare for back to school meetings and prep work, I begin to think of the icebreakers I will use to get to know my incoming 6th graders.  I believe that middle school is a transition time and we teachers must really form a bond with our students.  That bond helps the students succeed in a positive classroom environment.

One of the ice breakers I like to do is the "about me" bags.  I am sure you have seen or heard of these.  I come to class with a bag (one that describes me) and fill the bag with items that tell about my life, personality, family, etc.  I share my bag with my classes and then I send around a sign-up sheet for each student to sign up for a time they will present their own "about me" bag.  I usually do 5-6 a day and it takes about 10 minutes or so.

Another ice breaker I do is a time capsule/survey.  I have each student fill out a 10 question time capsule sheet, collect them, and put them away for the year.  On the last day I have them fill out the same sheet as I pass back their original one.  We then discuss how our lives changed over the 182 school days.  It is interesting to see who has all10 answers that changed.

I also do a 2 lies/2 truths.  This is where you come up with 2 truths and 2 lies about yourself.  Then we guess what is true and what isn't.  The kids love to share these.

I also begin an All About Me book that the students create.  It is a writing activity that we cover in 4-5 days.  This booklet tells me a lot about my student's backgrounds.

Another thing I use to get more information from my students' parents is A Million Words or Less assignment.  It is a homework assignment for the parents :)  It is basically a questionnaire for the parents to reflect and write about their child.  It gives me some great feedback on my students and their strengths, weaknesses, and the type of learner they are.

All About Me 2011

In a Million Words or Less

Monday, August 6, 2012


Check out this great new giveaway over at Adventures of a 6th Grade Teacher.  Lots of neat prizes and easy enter.

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Animoto for Educators - School Videos

At the beginning of the school year, instead of going through a syllabus on paper - I have created a video that gives my students an idea of what we will cover over the course of the year in Language Arts class.  I use Animoto to create my video.  You can view it here:  Beginning of Year Video.

If you like integrating technology - you might want to apply for an educator's subscription through Animoto.  This way you can make videos that are longer than 30 seconds.  You can also sign up your students and they can make videos of a longer length as well.  I did this with Greek Myths and the students loved it.  If you would like to see what we did on Animoto with Greek Myths just comment and I will get back to you.

I definitely prefer using Animoto over Movie Maker.  I find that Movie Maker freezes up and has glitches.  You should check it out for creating movies, book trailers, and video slideshows in the classroom.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Two years ago, I started using Edmodo in my 6th grade Language Arts classroom.  If you are not familiar with Edmodo, it is a social network type site; however, it is made specifically for educators.  It is has a browser similar to Facebook so it is user-friendly.  I enjoyed using Edmodo as a means to communicate with my students, as well as, the parents. 

Last school year, my team decided not to use Edmodo as they had never used it and were not ready to jump on the Edmodo wagon.  By the end of the year we were the only 6th grade team not using Edmodo in the classroom.  Looking back, I don't know why I didn't go ahead and start using it.  Maybe because it was a team decision.

This year, my team has already decided that we will instill Edmodo right from the start.  I am excited about this.  I am already thinking about new ways to use Edmodo in my classroom.

1.  Communication - obviously, I will continue using it as a great communication tool to update the parents on what is happening and what is coming up in my class

2.  Assignments - I will post assignments, handouts, review sheets, test dates,articles, videos, etc that we covered in class

3.  Reading Response - this will be new for me.  I hope to have laptops periodically and have students blog about their reading.  This way I can respond to their blog instead of collecting 85 notebooks.

4.  Writing - I hope to do more writing (similar to reading response) but reflecting on themes, life events, etc on their blogs instead of in notebooks.

I am always looking for new ideas.  Please share if you use Edmodo or blogs in your classroom. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012


Every summer I try to read one adult book along side all of the young adult/teen fiction I try to catch up on.  Last summer, I read Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett.  This summer, my dad and best friend's wife recommended I read Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand.  This World War II story of survival, resilience, and redemption is amazing.  Louie Zamperini grew up in Torrance, CA and is quite a handful growing up.  Guided by his older brother, he turns to running to turn his life around.  He trains and competes in the 1936 Berlin Olympics and even crosses paths with Hitler.  Crazy, right!  He joins the army air corps and prepares for battle.  While on a search mission over the Pacific, his bomber goes down and he and 2 members of the crew begin a gripping survival story that takes you in to the heart of POW camps in Japan. 

I was glued to this story and think there are many teachable moments.  I think this book should be read in all high school classrooms.  It would be a great companion piece to Night by Elie Wiesel as it tells a side of WWII that we don't hear too much about - what happened to those captured by Japanese.  I highly recommend this book!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Wreck This Journal

In my Pinterest searching, I came across this very cool writer's notebook called - Wreck This Journal.  You can find it here.  It seems like a very cool way to bring creativity in to my classroom.  I think the journal is geared to any and all writers.  However, it makes you think outside-of-the-box when it comes to writing.  For example, one page is dedicated to just scribbling.  One page tells you to pour water on it in the shower.  I guess the job is truly to wreck the journal.  But, I do think it has a lot of writing possibilities.  Have students do the strange yet clever journal topic.  (Maybe hold off on the shower prompt).  Students can reflect on how it felt to color outside the lines or do thumbprints on a whole page.  What was running through their minds as they did this?  I think this would make those students who are perfectionists or those who are shy really come out of their writing shell.  I plan to check it out and figure out more ways to incorporate it in to my classroom.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Amazing Giveaway...

There is an amazing 1,000 follower giveaway over at Kleinspiration.  If you see or read this blog, definitely check it out!!!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

One and Only Ivan

Yesterday, we all went to the Brookfield Zoo.  It is one of two large zoos in the Chicago area.  While trekking through the crowds, we made our way to the final stop - Tropic World.  This is where they house monkeys, apes, mandrils, orangutans, and silverback gorillas.  It is broken up in to three separate buildings - South America, Asia, and Africa.  Normally, I find Tropic World a bit boring as it is long, crowded and humid, and the monkeys don't usually do much.  However, today I must have felt different.  When I reached Africa and saw the male silverback gorillas, the first thing that came to mind was Ivan - the male protagonist from the novel, The One and Only Ivan.

Ivan is a strong silverback stuck in a run-down small-town circus.  The other thing that really stands out for Ivan is that he loves to paint.  He paints everything he can.  But when a new baby elephant shows up, he wishes one thing - for all of them to be free from this horrible place. 

As I sat and stared at the silverback gorillas at the zoo, all I could think about was Ivan and the wish to be free.  The One and Only Ivan is written in a beautiful verse-like style.  It is a very fast read yet it really touches the heart.  I highly recommend it.

Check out the site here:  http://theoneandonlyivan.com/

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Choose Kind

Wonder Part 2:

My last post was a bit of a review of R.J. Palacio's wonderful debut novel - Wonder.  As I was reading the latest post from the Nerdy Book Club, I came across this blog - Watch. Connect. Read.  On Mr. Schu's blog, he had a button that leads you to the Choose Kind website.  This site is an anti-bullying campaign based on the novel, Wonder.  I was amazed by this because of all the recent bullying in the news.  Most recently, the bus monitor bullied by middle school students.  I wish everyone who reads this book will visit this site and Choose Kind.  That is what I instill in my students.  I will show them this site as we read Wonder in the Fall. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Wonder is...

I realize that there has already been a lot of amazing reviews of the book - Wonder by R.J. Palacio.  I just want to add my two cents.  This book is a MUST read not just for every classroom teacher but also every parent.  I read Wonder this past school year as a read aloud to 2 of my classes.  (The third class wanted to read Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes which I will save for another post).  Each time I would read the chapters, I would always find new topics to discuss.  My students would beg me to keep reading as they were glued to this wonderful story about Auggie.  I think this book is the perfect book for 6th grade students.  Even though Auggie is a 5th grader, my students could definitely relate to what he was dealing with in school.  My students could not stand Julian.  It was fun to see their reaction and listen to them discuss the relationships in the book.  I also showed them a book trailer which is on R.J. Palacio's site.  It is great to show them because it is true to the story.

I plan to use this book at the beginning of the year as my first novel read aloud.  I say my first novel read aloud because I start every year with a short story read aloud, "Curses, Inc" from the book of short stories, "Curses, Inc."by Vivian Vande Velde.  I like using "Curses, Inc." as my first read aloud because it is great for think-alouds and getting the students used to my reading style.  Once I begin Wonder, I  plan to use some of the creative ideas from this site - Help Readers Love Reading. 

In short, if you are looking for a great book to read now or with your students - check out Wonder! 

Saturday, June 16, 2012


Now that I am off for the summer, I have found myself to be addicted to Pinterest.  What a great site!  I think I am on Pinterest more than Facebook now.  Ha!  Just means I am on the computer way too much.

I have found so many amazing and creative activities I want to try next school year.  I have also found cool websites & blogs to use to assist in my lesson plans.  If you are interested in checking out my boards, here they are.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Book Study & Giveaway

I am very excited to start a book study on the Daily 5 and CAFE.  This book study will be taking place at weread,weblog,weteach..  So, hop on over and take a look.

Also, there is a book giveaway before the book study begins:  Adventures of a 6th Grade Teacher

You will definitely want to sign up.

Friday, June 1, 2012


This is my first post to start a new era in my life.  Today, I begin a blogging life.  I hope to share ideas for your classroom and suggestions to help those teachers in need.  There might be a few posts about healthy eating and my side job - DJ.  But for the most part, I will be discussing lessons, activities, and ways to add a spark to a 6th grade classroom.