Sunday, April 2, 2017

Building and Remodeling Sentences



In the early grades, students use word cards to build little sentences.  In this way they learn about the parts that sentences are made of and how those parts fit together.  It’s an elementary school thing, but the concept of a sentence as building blocks fitted together in a precise way can be applied to activities at any grade level.


In the middle grades, the building blocks are all the parts that make up well-written sentences – the eight parts of speech as well as sentence elements such as phrases and clauses.  The tools for fitting them together into well-crafted sentences are the rules of grammar.  Incorporating these rules specifically into writing assignments, starting at the individual sentence level, helps students become experts at their job of writing.


There are lots of ways to incorporate sentence writing practice into daily language arts lessons with a variety of short assignments used either as bell ringer activities or as individual practice.  Students can begin with these practice activities, and then apply the specific skill they’ve learned in each one to a short sample of their own writing.  Here are some of my ideas, starting with activities that focus on nouns and verbs and moving on to other parts of speech, phrases, and clauses. 

Nouns and Verbs

·        At the simplest level, students can fill in the blanks in sentences with nouns and verbs of their choice, either from a word bank or from their own ideas.

·        Students can identify the nouns or verbs in sentences and then replace them with more interesting ones.  To apply to their own writing, students choose a few sentences with overused nouns or verbs in a piece of their writing and then replace those overused words with better ones, maybe using a thesaurus for ideas.

More Parts of Speech

·        To illustrate a sentence, have students first identify whichever sentence elements you want to work on, and then draw an illustration that shows that particular element (adjective, prepositional phrase, etc).

·        Do a “refrigerator magnet” activity in which students choose and combine words to write sentences as directed.  To focus on parts of speech, include in the directions just which parts of speech they need to use in each sentence.

·        First, students identify the parts of speech in a mentor sentence; then they write a sentence of their own following the same pattern.  Start with a short simple sentence so that they get the idea, but as their skills permit, the sky’s the limit with this one.


Phrases and Clauses

·        Picture prompts are great for writing sentences, not just longer essays.  Give students a set of small pictures, and instruct them to write a sentence with particular elements (for example – a prepositional phrase and a dependent clause) for each one.

·        Give students a paragraph made up of very short sentences.  Instruct them to revise the paragraph by combining sentences with coordinating or subordinating conjunctions, or to imbed the important detail from some of the sentences into other ones by using adjectives, adverbs, and prepositional phrases.

·        Activities such as the refrigerator magnets can also be done with phrases and clauses.  So can the mentor sentence activity; just substitute a longer text in place of the mentor sentence, maybe a part of a classic story or a page from a science textbook.

These are some of the ideas that I used in preparing my new writing resources for building and revising sentences.  If you are interested in some new, ready to use activities, click on the image below to view a preview. 

Writing and Revising Sentences, Activity Sheets and PowerPoint



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If you enjoy reading about activities for middle grades language arts, stop by my own blog, Classroom in the Middle!

 Classroom in the Middle




Sunday, March 26, 2017

Top 3 Test Prep Ideas


Top 3 Test Prep Ideas from the Middle School Mob!

We have two weeks after Spring Break before our State Testing begins.  That means we have two weeks to drive those final concepts home.  How might we do that without the drill and kill?  Well,  here's my top 3 ideas:

1.  Start with vocabulary
Academic vocabulary is comprised of the words that are most often used in informational texts (such as textbooks) and literary texts (such as novels), but not likely used in everyday speech.  This is the vocabulary that our students will find embedded in test passages and test questions.  That means that this vocabulary has to be explicitly taught.  What I did is recorded here:   http://middleschoolmob.blogspot.com/2016/03/the-secret-to-top-scores-on-state-tests.html   It involved me going through my state's test item specifications and pulling out the key vocabulary and then making games to help students learn the words.  Which brings me to #2...

2.  Use games.
May I suggest Kahoot?  It's a FREE, online quiz game.  Students love it and it is super easy to input test questions from your state's practice tests.  You could also make much more low-tech games like Tic-Tac-Toe.   Here's how I have used this game:

1.Divide the class into two teams.  One is the “x” team and one is the “o” team.
2.Draw a tic-tac-toe board on the whiteboard.
3.Ask a question to the first member of the “x” team. If he/she is correct, then he/she places the x on the board!  If he/she is incorrect, he/she simply lose the chance to place the “x” on the board.
4.Now repeat #3 with the “o” team. 
5.Continue with each member of each team until you have a winner with 3 in a row!  You might even give bonus points as a prize!


3.  Use centers.
Even big, bad middle schoolers like centers.  I would suggest that you look at your data, pinpoint the areas of need, and then set up centers or ahem, stations, around your room. Here's a list of possible activities for centers:

1.  Playing skill specific games on quia.com
2.  Reading a picture book and then drawing the main idea.
3.  Completing a cause/effect graphic organizer on a picture book.
4.  Making a poster of text features based on a non-fiction text.
5.  Making a foldable for a picture book that uses compare/contrast.

I have done this type of thing without setting up formal centers but instead using a menu. I used the picture book Miss Rumphius because of its great message for students.


Have you ever tried using menus for test prep?
Click here or on the image above to be taken to this great freebie!


If you'd like to read more about Test Prep, stop by my blog for my latest installment on a reading "boot camp" my fellow teachers and I are conducting by clicking here:

http://mrsspanglerinthemiddle.blogspot.com/2017/03/test-prep-reading-boot-camp.html

Thanks for stopping by!



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 - www.middleschoolmob.blogspot.com
- 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).

Winter
·        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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