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

Pin to save for later:

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!