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Sunday, April 23, 2017

Five Ways to Create a Strong Finish for the School Year

As the school year draws to a close, we’re all looking for fun ways to keep our middle school students engaged and learning– right up to the last day!

The Middle School Mob has come up with a list of five activities that are sure to help you make the most of these last weeks…and keep you sane at the same time! 

1.  Sharon from Classroom in the Middle uses Summer Practice Cards.  Summer Practice Task Cards are designed to provide a review of language arts skills for middle schoolers or students in upper elementary grades. The 30 half-page cards include five each on six summer topics: At the Beach, Life on the Pond, Low-Tech Fun, The Ball Game, Picnic Time, and Vacation and are perfect to use with a fun classroom game or activity. A coloring page cover and a checklist of assignments completed are also included so that the cards can be sent home for a summer practice booklet.

2.  Shana from Hello, Teacher Lady says that no school year is complete without a little reflection! This End-of-Year Student Reflection & Feedback Google Form encourages students to reflect on their year while providing teachers with valuable student feedback and insight. The responses are automatically stored in a Google Sheet for easy viewing from any device, so no need to worry about collecting paper or wonder where you're going to store all those paper stacks.

Shana says, "I love using this digital form with my students not only because of its ease and convenience, but also because the thoughtful responses have helped me reflect on my year and improve my own teaching for the following year. (Psst - you can download the form for free in my Teachers Pay Teachers store!)"

2.  Lisa shares Mrs. Spangler in the Middle's top 3 ways to finish the year strong! There's an inspirational video, a positive reinforcement system that culminates on the last day of school and even a daily motivator for those tough classes.

4.  Lit with Lyns recommends this Digital End of Year Student Reflection as a great way to give students the opportunity to reflect on their year. It also allows them to provide feedback on what they thought worked well, as well as what they would like to change in specific classes.

"Not only did this help my students to reflect," Lyns says, "it also allowed me to do the same. After reading their suggestions, in addition to what they liked, I was able to implement some of their ideas into different activities and strategies I used the following year. This resource is truly a WIN-WIN for both students AND teachers!!!"  It comes in both digital AND printable format!

5.  Marypat from Just Add Students recommends having your students create a Reading Legacy Project.  This is a fun way for students to reflect on all the great reading they’ve done through the school year.  Students create a resource for next year’s class that includes book reviews, scrapbook pages, “best of…” awards, and signature pages for notes of encouragement to the upcoming class.  Great resource for next year when your students ask, “What should I read?”

Give one of these ideas a try and let us know what you think... or offer an idea of your own that makes the end of the school year a breeze!

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