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Monday, November 30, 2015

Growth Mindset

How many of you heard of this new concept: fixed and growth mindset? If you have, I bet you can vouch for me of how great this really is.

Here is what it is:
Many students think in a FIXED mindset. I am bad at this. I will never get this. This is too hard for me.
Students need to think in a GROWTH mindset. Let me try a different strategy. I know I can do this. I can do better work than I am doing right now.

This is not only a positive mindset, but it helps students that may not think they are "smart"--GROW! Research has shown that it is a lot about the mindset of the students because they have been allowed to be in that fixed mindset throughout their whole school career.

I found out about this research last year during second semester and work on it with my kids. I kicked it up a notch this year and wanted to share it with you! I think they really got it!

Carol Dweck is the guru behind all of this and this video below explains more about this process.

One way that I introduced this topic to the kiddos is through picture books.

I used the following books:
The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires
Lily the Unicorn by Dallas Clayton
The Dot by Peter Reynolds
Going Places by Peter and Paul Reynolds
Ish by Peter Reynolds
There by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick
It is hard to get this across the students so I love to show them through videos. Here are the ones I use below:

All of the above videos are FANTASTIC! They really teach the kiddos that they DO HAVE THE POTENTIAL to DO IT!

Finally, I incorporated FOOD into my lessons because students always seem to understand it more with food? Am I right?

I made a Growth Mindset snack mix. Here is how I did it:

I split up each letter over seven days. You can see when you look at the chart that each letter is representative of one skill that is needed to have a growth mindset. We watched a video and then talked about why each letter fell with that food. I then gave them ONE of that. For example, one marshmallow, one piece of life cereal, etc. We then did that for each day. At the end of our seven days, we reviewed everything and it order to make our mix they had to recall everything. We then ate! While the kiddos were eating, I had them work on this book I found this book is a freebie from Growing Firsties. Even though, it is first grade--my kiddos still loved it! It gave us something to remember and recall everything we have learned.

Here is a freebie just for you about all of the reasons why I used that certain food! Some of them are a stretch because I wanted specific food for allergy purposes, but if you buy into it they will too! They will love it!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

12 Days of Christmas Activities (FREEBIE ACTIVITY)

Happy Holidays Everyone!

We hope all you USAers (is that a word?) had a fantastic Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends! We are officially into the Christmas and Holiday season, and it is oh so exciting!

Celebrating the holidays was one of my favorite parts about being a teacher. I've always taught in Catholic schools, so Christmas was a huge deal to say the least. I used to decorate my classroom with Christmas lights, play Christmas music all day long, decorate with student Christmas work everywhere. You get the idea ... I stinking love Christmas.

This year, Jessica and I created an awesome 12 Days of Christmas Activities unit that can be used in conjunction with any unit of study! Since you are all awesome Middle School Mob junkies, I want to direct you to an EXCLUSIVE FREEBIE that is not featured in our TpT Store. You can only access it by CLICKING HERE!

Here are some awesome pictures of the complete unit. How cute are these activities for students, which you can then use as decorations for your classroom? It's a win-win if you ask us!

Wishing you all a joyous Holiday Season!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Hiding our Turkeys - When School Needs to be More Than School

Hey there, Susie from Anchored in Reading here to share a free resource and to talk about something always on my mind. School drop-out rates are soaring, students are experiencing stress like no other generation, and, some may say, the focus on testing has caused a shift in the focus of education and learning. This first sentence is not meant to depress anyone, but to show that there remains an increasing number of factors to consider when planning for instruction. The expectations of our students continuously changes and this weighs heavily on our learners. I, for one, have one plan of attack for all of this. I believe I have the solution, the magic formula, the answer to our conundrum. You might not believe it, but I’m saying it anyway. Fun. Yes, you heard me loud and clear and I hope you tell on me. Shout it from the rooftops, I'm not trying to ditch rigor for one second, but I want my students to have fun. I want them to enjoy school. I want my students to see the bigger picture beyond testing. They should understand the standards set forth are important to learning, but not life-threatening. I am here to admit that I do take a break from text dependent analysis, close reading, discussing figurative language, and other class work from time to time. My students have fun and they have success. Both can be achieved, really.  And, yes, this may even mean ‘letting’ my students participate in a fun Thanksgiving activity!

Another elephant in the classroom I’ll address regards parent communication. I’m here to say that it is okay to get parents involved in projects outside of the classroom, even in middle school! These types of projects do not have to stop in second grade. Believe it or not, there are students still wanting their parents, grandparents, foster parents, older siblings, aunts, uncles, etc. involved in their school work. These fun home-school projects give many students the opportunity to feel successful. A little bit of that goes a long way. When I taught Learning Support I was always so afraid to send any work home with my students. I didn’t know what type of support they were receiving at home and I wasn’t sure if I would stress them out even more by assigning them work that most likely wouldn’t get done. You know what I found out: students will rise to your highest, or lowest, expectation. How dare I make that decision for these students and their families! I assumed I knew everything and actually singled out my students by making this decision for them. As hard as I worked throughout their school day to make sure all accommodations and modifications were in place so they could participate with all peers, I was robbing them of the chance to participate in all school experiences because I thought they couldn’t handle it.  It’s embarrassing now, but I was doing what I thought was best at the time. The same goes for middle school students. One cannot assume a sixth grade student does not want to participate in a fun project that is to be completed both in school and at home. To create an effective, cohesive, and enriching school experience, we need to offer a multifaceted approach to learning. 

So, how do we do this? How do we support our home-school connection while keeping learning fun (yeah, I used that word again, so what)? Ah, the holidays! This is a time that lends itself to celebrating traditions while working on standards. One way I accomplish this task includes the good old faithful ‘Turkey in Disguise’ project. There are many variations of this, but I encourage my students to make a turkey in disguise outside of the classroom and then we complete a creative writing activity about our turkeys in class. Because there is still a tiny part of me that will always believe there are kiddos who do not have home support, creating a turkey in disguise at home is not a requirement for a grade, but a fun activity I encourage my students to complete. Students complete the writing activity regardless if they actually make a turkey in disguise outside of the classroom.  The prompt students respond to involves the adventures of their turkeys and what happens as they are hiding from the dinner table. Oh the creative disguises we see! If there are students who did not create a turkey at home, I tell them to base their writing off of any disguise of their choosing. I encourage them to think of how they would disguise their turkeys. Lastly, I let my students write creatively. To me, this is acceptable because my students feel successful and not stressed out about paragraph structure, mechanics, and length of the assignment (although I secretly keep my fingers crossed that they will apply the writing skills we have been working on!). In the past, I have graded these based on a strict rubric, but I find that is not always necessary. This activity always proves to be an enjoyable way to end the last couple days before Thanksgiving break.

Take this post as validation that it is acceptable to have fun every once in a while. Provide holiday activities, use current songs or social media in your instruction, do whatever it takes to gain the interest of your students. Don't ignore the other 'stuff' we have to do, but keep in mind it is best practice to provide opportunities for every child to feel successful. Even if you do not choose to do this particular project, think of a way to include fun. You know your students best. How and what I teach now that I teach in a rural area differs a bit from when I taught in the inner city, but I always had the same goal. These moments of letting loose will have a stronger impact than your best-planned and most thoroughly taught lesson. These are middle school kiddos; this is what they need.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Thanksgiving Tangible vs. Intangible

Hello, everyone! This is Mylie from Edison Education writing today.

As most educators know, the holiday season is very difficult for many of our students. So many of our students lack basic needs much less all of the fun gizmos and gadgets that their peers have. Because this separation in economic status takes an all-time high during the holiday season, I decided that I wanted my students to reflect and appreciate on the things they already have. From this, my tangible vs. intangible lesson was born.

We started the lesson off by writing down examples of tangible or intangible things. I had to give my own examples first for scaffolding because my students did not know what tangible or intangible was.

From there, I had the students write down 3 tangible and 3 intangible things in their life they are thankful for on their own tangible/intangible sheet I provided for them. We then shared their favorite from each with the class and I wrote it up on our example board. Here is what they came up with.

I then had them pick the one intangible they are most thankful for in their life to place on their turkey. The students were very thoughtful with their choices. One of my favorites was a student of mine who tends to get into a lot of trouble. She said that she was most thankful for people giving her second chances when she messes up. Tear jerker!

Once they all had their turkeys finished, they got to decorate them and hang them in the hallway outside of my room.

Overall, this lesson turn out exactly as I had hoped. The students were very reflective and thoughtful with their responses. They also got to share so many positive things that are going on in their life that cannot be bought from a store. If you have a lot of at-risk students like I do, this may be a lesson you want to do with your own students in the future. It might just make the holiday season a little more bearable for these kiddos.

I put together the basic format for the tangible/intangible sheet just for you guys! Head on over to my store for this freebie as a thank you for everything every single educator out there is doing for our students! You are all superstars!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Book Recommendations on the Tree (Freebie)

Hey everyone! It's Stephanie from The Marvelous Middle. Next week marks the beginning of the holiday season and my favorite time of the year. Every year I put up a tree in my classroom and every year I struggle with using the same old decorations to trim my classroom tree. So this year, I came up with a way to combine my love of YA books with my love of Christmas. I created an ornament that gets my students involved in the decorating and gives them a voice to recommend books to their classmates. I always love hearing my students talk among themselves about great books they have read during SSR and I often eavesdrop on their conversations about the newest book their classmates should checkout. Yes, my students still ask for my opinion but it isn't the only opinion they seek out. They look to their classmates for book advice. This craftivity gives my students one more way to persuade their fellow classmates to read a book they found amazing, incredibly, or totally awesome. 

Here is one student's finished ornament that I will be laminating and getting ready to trim the tree next week.

The ornament looked like this before it was folded and glued together:

During this activity, the students chose a book to recommend and then decorated the cover of the book on the ornament, including the title, author, and book cover decoration. On the other side, they had to explain why the book they chose was a "gift" to read. The expectation was to pull in the other students by giving them just enough to prompt them to read it for themselves.

If you would like to try this in your own classroom, click here to go to this freebie in my TPT store.

I hope you enjoy this activity as much as my middle schoolers have. Happy Holidays and enjoy trimming your classroom tree.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

History of the Holidays

I don't know about you.....But I'm READY for the holiday break!!  My junior high kids....Even MORE ready!  I think we will all look like this on Friday...

So, what I'd like to share with you are some ideas of what you can do those days before holiday breaks when your kids are READY to walk out the door before you on Friday!

I'm guilty of trying to "cram" in that last lesson and trying to wrap up a unit before we leave for a break.  Sometimes my planning is perfect and the planets align and I'm actually able to pull it off...But that's usually not the case.

So, what I've started to do for the past few years are some fun "History of..." activities of the holidays before that particular holiday.  My students LOVE it!  They are activities that engage my students at a time when they are "antsy" and ready for a break!  I try to include reading/writing/technology/videos to keep them fully engaged.  Depending on the activity, I may just do it on the Friday before we break, or perhaps Thursday and Friday.  It depends on the year and the class!  I have quite a few holiday related activities I do throughout the year, click HERE to see them in my store!

Tomorrow, I'll be doing one of my favorite activities with my students where we delve into a brief history of Thanksgiving and a history of the Thanksgiving holiday here in the US.  Click the image below to see this activity in my store:

My students really get into this activity and it's a great way to end the week!  I want to also share with you some other websites that have some great ideas for sharing the History of Thanksgiving:

What are some activities that you do around the holidays?  I'd love to hear!

Have a WONDERFUL and WELL-DESERVED holiday break!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Black Friday Wish List Linky and a Giveaway!

But wait, there's more!

The Mob is getting into the spirit of giving!  Check out this awesome prize pack!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, November 16, 2015

Thanksgiving Thank You Notes (FREEBIE)

It's Caitlin here from Teach Inspire Change

One thing that I personally love to do is write thank you notes. Generally, when I send someone a thank you note, they are shocked, which says to me that thank you notes are going out of style. And they absolutely should not be. There's something truly special about sitting down and expressing your gratitude to someone through a written note. So with Thanksgiving just around the corner, we put together a super helpful resource for you to write thank you notes in your classroom. If I were still in the classroom, I would certainly spend an entire class period working on thank you notes - you could even make your own thank you notes if you're the extra creative, scrapbook-y type!

I really hope you enjoy using this freebie with your students. Happy Thanksgiving to you all - you're almost there :)

P.S. If you're at a loss for a short and challenging unit to teach before the Thanksgiving holiday or even before the Christmas holiday, our "The Gift of the Magi" unit is an excellent resource!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Adult Coloring in the Classroom

Hello all! It's Shana from Hello, Teacher Lady

Believe it or not, the holidays are quickly approaching! As a teacher, trying to plan around them can be a little tricky -- you've got those days leading up to a break when many kids are out of town and also those pesky (but glorious) half days where you don't see all your classes. Because of this uncertainty, I try not to plan anything major during these times, but then that begs the question of what actually to do (without assigning a bunch of "busy work").

Enter adult coloring pages!

Adult coloring is pretty trendy these days, but for good reason. It's relaxing, fun, and allows you to be creative without having to think too hard -- a perfect activity for excited students on those days surrounding a break! We all know that students can be extra squirrely around the holidays, but I've noticed that adult coloring pages have a wonderful calming effect which helps combat the squirrelyness (yes, these are words!).

Check out some of my favorite resources for free adult coloring printables below:

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Community Involvement

Mandy from Caffeine and Lesson Plans here, blogging about one of my favorite parts about teaching during the holidays... community involvement!

Clipart by Freepik

It's hard to imagine what life would be like without community in our classrooms. So much of what we do is based upon encouraging our students to engage in their classroom and school communities through personal connections, activities, and kindness. It's so natural to extend that community outside of our school walls and into our towns and cities!  For the past few years, I have participated in a few activities a year that help my students give back. I've noticed my students feel more interested in learning about our city and helping people nearby AND within our own classroom. By working together to help others, we are building our own community... which enables us to be better teammates and cooperative learners. It's a win/win! So, here are some ideas for getting your students involved in your local community. 

1. Write a Letter
It seems simple, doesn't it? Just write a letter! Well- here's the thing- it is simple. You and your students can create a batch of letters in just one or two class periods. Their impact is big though. Send them to a local nursing home or hospice around the holidays to bring happiness to the elderly or ill. Write thank you notes to the Firemen and Policemen for all that they do in your community. Let your city councilors, school committee, and Mayor know how much you appreciate their hard work for the school system. Send cheerful "hello" notes to a local shelter for people that are "hard up." Or, just write a letter to someone you admire in the community. Doctors, nurses, mailmen- the options are endless. I always make sure that my students only sign their notes with their first name to maintain confidentiality. 

2. Organize an benefit
Giving to others makes us feel inherently good. Why not capitalize on that? Do something for the community- organize a canned food drive, collect spare change, or ask for old winter coats and hats. See if a representative from the charity can come to your classroom to pick up your donation so your students can see the impact they are having! If not, bring back pictures of the drop off to help them make the connection.

3. Create craft bags
Put together small craft bags for local shelters that cater to families with children. When families are put in a bad situation, any little distraction can be helpful for children. Sometimes nursing homes will be able to use these, as well! I have had success with finding something simple on pinterest, copying easy directions (sometimes with photos), and putting all the necessary bits in a bag. Usually, a messy craft isn't very well received, so I recommend no glitter, minimal glue/paint, and lots of clean-up supplies (if needed). If you want to really stretch your funds, the most inexpensive bags I have made have been a few crayons and some printed our coloring pages. My classroom dropped these off at our local police department to be given to students in crisis. It makes a tough time in life better just a little bit better.

4. Make pet pillows for the local shelter
Take old scraps of fabric or pillowcases, stuff them with batting, and use fabric glue to close them. Instant pet pillows for animals in need of a home! This one can be tricky for younger kids, but my fifth graders had no problem. I did end up running the pillows through my sewing machine as well to ensure the seam would not let go, but I think that could be avoided with a better fabric glue. Don't get yours at the dollar store like I did... lesson learned!

5. Grow plants to donate to public city buildings
Such a fun way to integrate science and community involvement! Last year, my students grew plants in small pots (donated by the local hardware store). We are lucky to have a greenhouse at my school, so we could grow them year round. Once they were flowering, we decorated the pots and brought them to city hall to be displayed. It was fun for the students to see the flowers when they went with their parents to city hall.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Top 3 Service ideas for Middle Schoolers

I live by the phrase "To whom much is given, much is expected."
I like to ask my middle schoolers what they think about this phrase too.  What does it mean?  Do they think it's true?  Why do they think that?  What is expected? 

Generally they come up with the idea of "paying it forward" but they're not really sure how.  So I always have some ready to go ideas that I will share with you today.


Have you ever heard of Operation Christmas Child?  It's an organization that collects shoeboxes full of gifts to give to children in all parts of the world.  For the children who receive these gifts, this is the one and only gift they'll receive for Christmas or for any other reason.  When you tell your middle schoolers that the children won't be getting video games or iPhone or movies or any of the high priced things they hope to receive, they'll be thunderstruck.  They won't believe it's true.  So you might want to show them a video like the one below of children in the poorest countries screaming with glee as they receive their shoebox.

  And then you might just find some students who would like to help you make a class box.  I make one for each class period.  If a student says they can't donate anything to the box, I have them write a letter to the recipient.  This way everyone contributes.



Another great way to be of service is to form relationships with your local seniors at an assisted living facility.

What began as a Christmas Caroling and Craft event quickly turned into a relationship between my 6th graders and our "Grandfriends".  On our way home after that cool, December day, one student said "When can we go back?" and when everyone else wanted to know the same thing, I knew what we had to do.

    We played BINGO with them, invited them to judge speech contests, had picnic lunches with them and then had the idea to host a 100th birthday party for one our best friends.

It was the most rewarding experience ever as the students thought about someone else and planned events to make these people feel like royalty.  In turn, they taught my students the value of a life well spent with stories of work ethic and good, clean fun without technology.

You may never know the impact such a relationship can have on all involved, but you will see growth in your students that you may never have thought possible.



One more way to be of service is to spread awareness.  This sounds "cheesy" to students sometimes until you introduce them to the PSA - Public Service Announcement.  I like to show old ones that make important points, but could maybe use a more modern flair to get people's attention.  

Then I challenge students to  create one for something they feel strongly about.  We use things like and iMovie just to name a couple.  Then I get them played on our morning TV announcements.  

Be ready!  Sometimes these PSAs turn into various drives at school and you'll find yourself collecting cans of dog food for the local shelter.  It's all worth it of course, as long as the students are the ones really doing the work.  :)

What do you do at your school to promote service learning?  Join in the conversation by commenting below!

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

A Christmas Carol Project & Task Cards

Before Christmas break, my students and I were reading the short story version of “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens from Scope Magazine, which I found online and saved here .  I found a great lesson on (RWT) called “Beyond the Story:  A Dickens of a Party.  

In this lesson, students are required to research 4 specific areas (history, fashion, entertainment, and etiquette) regarding the Victorian Period, which is when "A Christmas Carol" takes place.  In order to incorporate technology (and make the assignment a little easier for me to grade) I used the information provided on the RWT website and created virtual task cards using power point on each of the areas students were to investigate.  On each card I included links that students could click on in order to perform their research.  Then I posted this assignment on Edmodo.  This allowed students to have the option to complete part of the assignment at home, if needed, and then submit their work using Edmodo, as well. If you aren't familiar with Edmodo, Education Technology & Mobile Learning posted a great video tutorial on how to use Edmodo in the classroom here.  The lesson turned out great and even kept my students engaged during that last week of school before getting out for Christmas! 

I have included the instructions I provided my students, as well as directions for how to use Edmodo, below.  Have you used virtual task cards in your classroom?  I'd love to hear how they worked for you!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Practicing Gratitude

Help your students learn how to practice gratitude.
Wedged between sugar-coated Halloween insanity and the frenzy of holiday shopping is that quiet holiday:  Thanksgiving.

Younger grades may dress up or bring items to school for a feast to commemorate the first Thanksgiving, but for older students, the holiday is often glossed over as we rush to finish work before an extra -long weekend. 

However, we have the opportunity to create a different, more literal, Thanksgiving.  One that offers life-long benefits … and that is teaching our students the practice of gratitude.

According the Huffington Post’s article The Neuroscience of Why Gratitude Makes Us Healthier by Ocean Robbins, several studies have looked at how expressing gratitude can impact our lives.  The studies conclude that people who practice gratitude are happier and healthier than those who do not.  They have better relationships with others and have improved moods. 

The bottom line:  think about what you are thankful for – and find a way to say “thank you.”

After reading some of those studies on gratitude and then John Kralik’s book 365 Thank Yous:  The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed my Life several years ago, I decided I’d have my eighth graders practice daily gratitude through their journal writing. 

One study had participants write three things they were grateful for each day. 

That sounded easy enough.

After a brief intro, I sat down with my students during journal time and, along with my students, wrote three things I was grateful for. 

But by the end of the week, there was a problem.  My students weren’t really reflecting on what it meant when they created their list.  They wrote vague items like:  1) sports  2) my dog  3) food.  All wonderful things to be grateful for, but repeating the same list day after day (in a variety of versions) wasn’t getting to the heart of gratitude.

We first had to figure out what it means to feel gratitude.  It sounds easy at first – it means to say “thank you.”  But it is more than feeling obligated to say thank you to Aunt Bertha when she offers you a stale oatmeal cookie.  It’s more that automatically saying “thanks” to the person who serves you lunch or holds the door open for you.  Like saying “I’m sorry,” thanking someone needs to be felt.

Help your students learn to practice gratitude.
I then created a series of journal prompts for my students to help them focus and stretch.  True, we are grateful for the circle of wonderful people, places, and things (sports, my dog, food) around us, but we are also grateful for wider circles – such as nature, our earth, cities, countries, the people we never see who provide us with food and clean water…the list goes on and on.  The prompts helped my students think beyond the obvious.  I included inspirational quotes that shared a different point of view about thankfulness.  

And then once we feel that gratitude, can we act on it?  Most of the time, yes!

Do your students know how to write a thank you note?  Students don’t have to be like John Kralik and write a thank you note each day for an entire year (!), but perhaps just one.  

Not only do you have the opportunity to teach your students the forgotten art of writing thank you notes, you are also going to be the catalyst to make someone’s day.  Imagine being on the receiving end of one of those thank you notes!

Of course, we can and should practice gratitude every day.  But November seems like the best time to do this, especially if we can squeeze that practice into the crazy-busy time before the December holidays.

Give your students an opportunity to slow down our frantic October – January by practicing gratitude. 

Thank you for reading!

Ps:  If you would like a free copy of the pocket Gratitude Journal I created, please head over to my TeachersPay Teachers store.  I will be offering it as a freebie for the next 24 hours to say “thank you” to you!