Sunday, February 5, 2017

Super Bowl Sunday $130 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway!

It's Super Bowl Sunday! While you spend time catching the last part of the game, why not hop through our Teachers Pay Teachers Giveaway Loop? We're giving away a $130 Amazon Gift Card!

How it Works:
- Visit each of our Teachers Pay Teachers stores - you'll see an image similar to the one above.
- See that pink "U" on the football on the right-hand side? Collect each of the letters/numbers found on each of our TpT store pages. There are 13 letters/numbers total. Write them all down!
- (To visit the next page, simply click on the image itself)
- Unscramble the letters (HINT: It has something to do with the Super Bowl)
- Come back to our website -
- Write your answer in the RaffleCopter below!

Ready to get started? Click on the image below to be taken to the first Teachers Pay Teachers store!

Got your letters unscrambled? Enter your answer in the RaffleCopter below! Best of luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Fun Classroom Activities for the Winter Months

It’s January, and teachers are deep into that long winter stretch in the classroom.  Meanwhile, what the kids (and teachers) are actually thinking about is snow holidays and how much fun they could have with a few of those! 

With the major winter holidays behind us, it can be difficult to think of fun classroom activities to keep everyone interested and engaged.  With that in mind, I’ve collected some links to ideas for the smaller winter holidays still to come and just for winter in general.  I’ll mention just a few below, but you can see more on my Winter and Winter Holidays Pinterest board.

Groundhog Day
I’ve listed a number of ideas in a Groundhog Day post that I wrote recently for my own blog, but I’ll just mention one favorite here.  These groundhog cookies, from Sheknows, are so cute.  They’re made from no-bake cookie dough.  You could make the cookies ahead and have the kids just add the groundhog for a quick, edible craft.

Valentine’s Day
“Today I Got a Valentine,” by Kenn Nesbitt, is one of the many funny kids’ poems that you can find at one of my favorite poetry sites, Giggle Poetry.  Explore the site a little further, and you’ll find a whole section of silly love poems that might also be perfect for the holiday.

President’s Day
The History Channel has good informational text and a video for President’s Day.  The text tells about the origins of the holiday and holiday celebrations, and the fast-paced two-minute video is full of facts about the White House.

Saint Patrick’s Day
“Saint Patrick’s Day Riddles” is a FREEBIE from my own store, Classroom in the Middle.  With this PowerPoint, students reveal clues one at a time to solve Saint Patrick’s Day Riddles.

For a Saint Patrick’s Day treat, these little shamrocks, from a blog post at Qbees Quest, look really great.  They’re made from Hershey’s Kisses and heavy paper (green, of course).

·        The “Winter Storms” web page, from Scholastic includes informational text, a vocabulary cloze activity, and an experiment.  Students will also enjoy the “interactive weather maker” where they can manipulate temperatures and humidity to create weather changes. There are related pages about volcanoes, earthquakes, and other types of severe weather.

·        Recently, I found these directions for making sparkly snowflake window clings from puffy paint, glitter, and plastic freezer bags at the blog One Little Project at a Time.  This project looks like one that can be enjoyed by any age.

·        "Close Reading – Wild Winter” is a resource available in my store.  It includes four informational text articles, and everything needed for a full three readings of each.  The image below shows all of the activities for one of the readings.  

·        Sticker Snowmen Cards, a project from Art Projects for Kids, looks like a fun activity.  Kids make a number of snowmen using round white stickers, mailing labels, and markers, and then change the expressions on each one and even give them a sense of movement  by altering just  the facial features and the snowman’s buttons.

Do you have favorite lessons, treats, or fun activities that you like to pull out mid-winter?  If you would like to share, please leave a comment!

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Friday, December 9, 2016

Novel Study Format

Novel Study Format

After experimenting with various ideas of what to focus on with my novel studies (There are so many possibilities!), I finally decided to concentrate on a few key elements:  common core skills, using text based evidence, and higher level thinking/reading skills.  Now I have a format that I really like, and in fact I think that my novel studies were one of my best ideas this past year!

 Two of the elements that I include – using text based evidence and using higher level thinking/reading skills – can be difficult to write questions for on the quick, and I thought that good novel studies with plenty of these types of questions would be the most useful for busy teachers.  And from comments that I’ve received, it seems that other teachers think so too – always great to hear!

Here is how I combined these elements for each set of chapter questions:

Key Ideas and Details
Getting key ideas and details correct is at the top of the list in several grades’ reading/literature standards, so I wanted to be sure to include questions and activities about those elements.  With novels, that means making sure that students get the story elements correct, and straight from the text.  Characterization, setting, plot elements, themes – students need to be clear about these before they can go on to more complex, inferential questions.  And when they can back up their answers with details from the text, they know they’re getting them right.

Context Clues
Context clues are another great place to start kid looking for text based evidence.  Whether they are working on practice exercises or vocabulary from a novel, as kids learn to look for and use more types of context clues, they get more out of what they read.  Kids can go back to the text of a novel to define important story vocabulary, to choose among multiple meanings of a word, to decide why an author chose a particular word to describe a character, or to complete a cloze exercise such as a chapter summary.

Making inferences is the biggie, the complex reading skill that kids can improve on throughout their years in school.  It’s the basis for coming up with really good responses for many comprehension activities such as predicting, answering the harder chapter questions, determining character traits, stating themes, summarizing, and evaluating.  Requiring kids to provide text based evidence for their inferences gets them in the habit of using evidence for all of their inferences later on even when they may not always have to spell out the evidence.

In my novel studies, I now include all three of these sections – Key Ideas and Details, Context Clues, and Inferences – in every set of chapter questions.  These types of questions keep kids thinking and referring back to the text, and hopefully they make these novel studies a good resource for their teachers.

In addition, I also include separate activities in each of these three areas, for use after reading the novel or whenever a more comprehensive review seems appropriate.

I now also make two “side items” every time a do a new novel study.  These are two smaller resources that I list separately in my store.  One is usually an I Have . . .Who Has . . ? game.  These little whole-class activities make a nice quick review of the “facts” before testing or other final activities for the novel.

The second thing I like to make separately is a little freebie, something that just seems to go with the specific novel.  For example, for the football-themed novel CRASH, my freebie is a yearbook activity.  For the novel SCHOOLED, it’s an activity about metaphors in the novel.  You can find the freebies for each of my novel studies in the novel study section of my Teachers pay Teachers Store.

CRASH novel study

SCHOOLED novel study

So what’s next?  Next year I’ll probably try out a few new types of resources, and for sure I want to do more novel studies.   Now I just have to decide which novel to work on next.  Any suggestions?

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Classroom in the Middle

Monday, November 21, 2016

Activities to Use Around the Holidays in ELA

Hi Everybody!  This is Lyndsey from Lit with Lyns, and I'm going to share some activities I use with my students right before the holidays!

We all know that the last couple of weeks before the Christmas holiday break can be, well.... interesting to say the least (that's why I thought this meme by Presto Plans was so fitting).  Every year I try to come up with ways that I can continue to teach my students things that are Common Core aligned, but will also keep them engaged.

Last year, I decided to use these Holiday Task Cards to review figurative language, and my kids LOVED it!

Then we read "Twas the Night Before Christmas" by Clement Clarke Moore, because we all know that students at all ages still love to hear this.  We read this as a class to begin with, and then students worked with a partner to analyze all of the figurative language and sound elements that they could find.  Once we were finished, they asked if they could find more Christmas-themed figurative language on their own, which I thought was great!

What activities do you use right before the holiday break?  I'd love to hear about it in the comments below.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Giving Thanks in Middle School

In my district, we have to come to school on the Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving.  I know that many of my students will be absent due to holiday travel plans.  So I know I can't teach anything new.  So instead, I'm going to use the time to review main idea with a twist!

My idea is to read The Important Book to them using this video I made:

We will discuss how it relates to main idea in that main idea is the very important part!

Then, I will ask them to brainstorm all the words they would use to tell why they are important by describing themselves and their friends.  I will record these on the Smartboard.

Next, I will hand out turkeys and ask each student to write their name on it.

Last, students will pass their turkey to the left and each person will write one word from the Smartboard on another student's turkey and then pass it again.  When each person gets their own turkey back, we will look at all the reasons why each student is important and give thanks for these important words.  :)

Combine Thanksgiving and Main Idea with this Quick and Easy Activity!

This activity meets the need for a middle school student to be valued and helps to create a community of learners where everyone is important.  

And that is how we will Give Thanks in Middle School!  :)

Get a free copy of some "Thankful Turkeys" that are ready to go by clicking here.

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Fifteen Favorite Stories, Poems, and Non-fiction Readings for the Christmas Season

There are so many fun holidays coming up, but for this post, I’m sticking to the one I know and love the best – Christmas!  One of my favorite parts of the Christmas season is all the preparation in the weeks leading up to the holiday.  So in the classroom, as well as at home, Christmas for me always started early.

Today I’m posting with ideas of stories and other readings for this holiday season.  There’s something of a mixed bag here – classic stories, funny poems, informational articles, and a play.  I’ve included some links so that you can go right to the stories to check them out.  Some of the stories can be copied for class use directly from that site, but not necessarily all of them.

Snowball (poem)
Snowball is a very short, funny poem by Shel Silverstein about a snowball that does what snowballs do when they’re brought indoors.  It’s not strictly a holiday poem, but it’s a fun read at this season.

A Cowboy’s Letter to Santa (poem)
This poem by Eric Ode is one of the many funny, kid-friendly poems on the Giggle Poetry site, in the Holiday Poems section.  It’s about a cowboy letting Santa know that what he really, really wants is a horse.

Christmas Truce (informational text)
Different versions of the story of the World War I Christmas truce are available in various places.  The article on this site, Ducksters, is short and easily readable with the information divided up under subheadings, and there is a quiz at the end.

The Grinch Who Stole Christmas (story)
I couldn’t write a list of favorite Christmas stories without including this Dr. Seuss classic picture book, and popular Christmas movie.  The Grinch steals all the presents but can’t stop the Whos from singing out their Christmas joy.  Finally like Ebenezer Scrooge, the Grinch undergoes a Christmas Day transformation.

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas (poem)
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, by Clement Clark Moore, has been published in numerous picture books and seems to be readily available online.  If you plan to project it directly from your computer to read to the class, this version, from the American Literature site, includes nice illustrations.

National Guard Flies to Remote Arctic Village (informational text)
The Tween Tribune site from National Geographic has several interesting Christmas articles. This article, from 2014, is about an Operation Santa Program that brought toys, treats, and other gifts to children living in poverty in an Inupiat Eskimo community.  You can choose among four lexile levels ranging from the 800s to 1200.

The Polar Express (story)
This picture book, by Chris Van Allsburg, is another story that I just couldn’t leave off my list, even though everyone has probably already read it!  It’s about the Christmas bell that can only be heard by those “who truly believe.” There’s a movie, too.

Must be Santa (poem/song)
Must Be Santa, a Christmas song, originally written by Hal Moore and Bill Fredericks, includes poetry elements like rhyme and repetition and a call-and-response format.  Bob Dylan’s version, on a YouTube video, is fun to listen to and seems to include the names of a few US presidents mixed in with the reindeer!

The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree (story)
This is a lovely picture book – both the story by Gloria Houston, and the illustrations, by Barbara Cooney. The story takes place in the Appalachian Mountains and features a brave little girl and a dad who’s a soldier and returns just in time for Christmas.

The Elves and the Shoemaker (story)
This traditional story by the Brothers Grimm is also available from the American Literature site.  The elves secretly help the shoemaker; the shoemaker returns the kindness.  Everyone lives happily ever after.

A Christmas Carol (story/play)
In Charles Dickens’ classic holiday story, Ebenezer Scrooge mends his miserly ways after receiving Christmas Eve visits from three ghosts. You can read the story here, but there are also versions written as a play, and in simpler, more modern language, that kids seem to have fun with year after year during the Christmas season.

The Christmas Song (poem/song)
“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire . . .”  The Christmas Song, written by Mel Torme and Bob Wells and made famous by Nat King Cole,  is a good example of a poem with (mostly) four line stanzas and rhyme schemes ABAB and AABB. 

Christmas Bells (poem)
There’s a Civil War connection to Christmas Bells, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and you can find lessons online that expand on that connection and incorporate both English and history.  This poem, too, is commonly encountered as a Christmas carol.

The Gift of the Magi (story)
The Gift of the Magi, by O. Henry, is widely available online, but I especially like the picture book version illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger.  This is a story set at the turn of the twentieth century and about a young couple who each sacrifice their most prized possession to buy a special Christmas gift for the other.

A Child’s Christmas in Wales (story)
A Child’s Christmas in Wales, by the poet Dylan Thomas, is told as a nostalgic remembrance of a wonderful Christmas in the past when the speaker was a young boy. At various times, readings of “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” were recorded for radio and TV.  It’s not an easy read with its complicated and old-fashioned language, but for a class that could appreciate it, this would be a great holiday story.

Hope you’ve found a Christmas reading that you enjoy here!  And if you have stories to add to the list, I would love to hear about them!

Happy holiday season!  
From Sharon, at Classroom in the Middle.

Classroom in the Middle

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Friday, November 11, 2016

Classroom Management Before Break? No Problem! Use Incentives!

The time between Halloween and Winter Break can be so difficult!  Build in positive reinforcement incentives to keep lessons moving forward and classroom management under control.

What's the problem?

You don't really need me to answer that do you?!  There might not be a more frustrating period of time to teach content than November and December.  Students are distracted by school programs, secret Santas, decorations, countdown to break, social events, more school programs, time off for Thanksgiving.... Okay, we know what the problem is!

What's a teacher to do?

Build incentives into your teaching that will motivate students to stay on track and work for you.  Incentives also provide students with a positive reward that will help improve your classroom management.

1.  Find what they like

By this time of year, you know your students.  You know what activities they've delighted in and have begged for more of.  Maybe you had a cool art project that went with a novel study.  Maybe your students loved the "pass back" story activity or had a blast with your bingo vocab game.

Choose an activity you think your class will work for.  It can be a bit of a trial and error process, but that's the great thing -- you can do something different every time.

2.  How can you incentivize it?

Take you idea to your students.  I wanted to have a "game day" every other Friday.  I proposed the idea to my students.  What if we had a "game day" if we finished all of our scheduled work?  My students loved that idea.

3.  Get organized

My students formed groups and chose what game they wanted to play.  I discovered that many of my students had board games at home that they have never played!    I made sure I had information from each group:  who was in the group (making sure it was a reasonable number for the game and that everyone was in a group), what game they were playing, who was bringing in the game, and if they knew how to play the game or not.

4.  Working toward a goal

I let my students know what we needed to complete before we were eligible for the game day.  For ELA, it included writing goals that I posted on my board each week and broke down for each day.  

The daily goals for the class helped reduce student talking and off-task behavior that wasted class time -- students used peer pressure to work for their goal.

While I originally wanted to stretch out the goal for two weeks, the first time we tried this, I had the game day at the end of the week.  This gave students a taste of what game day looked like and why they wanted to earn it.

5.  Keeping it fresh

Having a game day every Friday would quickly lose its novelty for middle schoolers -- no matter how much they try to convince you it wouldn't!  

After the first week, I stretched the reward out two weeks.  I also asked students to change games and groups.  

I also kept a few games in my closet.  Students would forget to bring in a game, or they became bored with the one they brought.  You could also have a whole-class game day to play that Bingo game you have stashed in your cabinet.

6.  Kicking it up a notch

My original game day evolved into an annual Scrabble Tournament.  Even my principal was impressed!  Words!  What could possibly go wrong?!!

If you're interested in hosting a Scrabble Tournament, here's how I did it Scrabble Tournament.
Give it a try!  Lots of fun!

What do you think?

What incentives would work for your students?  Share your ideas in the comments below!  

Happiness always!