Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Girls in Animal Print are Trouble

The 6 Traits of Writing encourages teachers to use picture books to help students generate ideas and details. For practice in narrative writing, we read Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, then used it as a spring board for the students’ individual writing.

http://educationnorthwest.org/traits (Official website of the 6 Traits)

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Here is the writing prompt and outline I gave my students. You can see that the student has quite a terrible day to write about. But it was his second point that had me laughing:

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Cheetah print? The known calling card of a skank, even to 7th graders! I gave him an A.

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My Students are Hilarious.

On one of the first few days of school my students wrote out their expectations for how the class would behave in order to get along as a whole. Am I the only one who finds this implied threat hilarious?

Class Expectation

What To Do On a Snow Day? Craft!

Snow days are the best days for teachers. True, you’ll have to make them up on warmer day, but who cares?! Snow days are unexpected gifts. However, if you are anything like me, then you have to figure out what to do in order to avoid feeling stir-crazy! One of my favorite things to do is get crafty. So when my friend, and fellow teacher, and I saw that a blizzard was about to hit Monday night, we stopped by Hobby Lobby after work to store up on materials.

Our craft of choice? Clipboards. They are very handy teacher tools. Clipboards hold my lessons for the day, the roll sheet, the seating chart, the weird assembly schedule for the day that I know I won’t remember, and usually a stack of papers I am grading and shuffling. If you are a future teacher, get yourself a clipboard. A decorated clipboard is even better though.

Here are some basic materials you’ll need to decorate:

Modge Podge  and Foam Brushes: to protect with a clear layer of shellack whatever cutesy-ness you feel like putting on your board. We chose to keep it simple: scrapbooking paper and decorative scrapbooking embellishments. We chose embellishments that would lay flat and could be Mod Podge’d over for protection.

Putting the scrapbooking paper on the clipboard is simple, and we each chose separate ways. First paint a thin layer of Mod Podge on your board, then lay the paper on flat. My friend used an X-ACTO knife to fit the paper down to size, while I used a small sheet of paper and decorated the edges with a collage of small paper squares. I didn’t think I would be able to perfectly cut the paper to fit and then perfectly position it straight on the board, and any imperfections would have driven me crazy! So something purposely imprecise was what I needed.

After the large paper and any designs are glued down, paint several layers of Mod Podge over it, painting each layer in opposite directions, horizontal strokes and then vertical. After this, decorate with your embellishments then repeat the layers of Mod Podge again. At this stage you will want to flip your board over to start on the reverse side. Lay the board on some aluminum foil to avoid sticking. This is not a gluey project where newspaper should be used!


The end result of our project is this:

Front

Back

And then mine….

Front

Back


Weird Questions…Cause You Have Teacher Answers

One thing I never expected as a teacher was the weird questions. So many weird questions. As a teacher, it is easy for your students to see you as a “know it all,” and if they do- that’s GREAT! They think you are smart, that you are an authority on information, and a place they can go with their questions…their weird questions.

Be prepared to get some questions that come out of left field or questions that shock you as simple things you expected everyone to know. For example, an 11th grade boy once asked me, “What is communism?” I explained the highlights, shocked a 17 year old didn’t know about communism, when he threw me for another loop with, “Did the US ever have that?”

Just a few days ago a couple of my 7th grade girls stopped me in the hallway to ask me a question, “What is a Jew?” Being randomly approached mid-stride made me think at first that they were joking, starting in on some off-color joke. Then I realized, “These are just inquisitive 12 year olds who don’t know it all!”

Menorah

I sometimes forget that I did not always “know it all,” hard as that might seem to believe! Building up that big storehouse of knowledge in our head takes a while, in fact, our whole lives. Sometimes the pieces of knowledge you think everyone already knows haven’t clicked into place yet. Be patient, explain the Mickey Mouse questions in a way that isn’t condescending or impatient. Be proud that you get to be that educator who helps them seek out answers.

There are plenty of other weird questions you can expect to answer, especially ones concerning who you are (I’d like to think it’s ’cause they care) like,  “Do you have kids that go to this school?” (even if you are 24 and you teach junior high) “Do you have a boyfriend?” (nonya!) or  “Where do you live?” (creeeepy) These are often funny and if too personal- don’t feel obligated to answer them! I like to turn the question around on them, because teens are more likely to want to talk about themselves than you.

Seat Signals

Seat Signals are a clever way to keep the classroom pace ticking along smoothly and students focused with minimal distractions. Unfortunately, junior high kiddos aren’t exactly low-key with their needs, so it is important to create very low-key ways to take care of business and continue with the learning.

Raised Hand

Seat Signals- nonverbal ways students indicate to the teacher they need something without getting up from their desks.

  • Bathroom Visits- raise hand with hall pass out on desk to be signed.
  • Pencil Sharpening- hold up pencil in raised hand. Wait for teacher to visit desk and switch out student’s pencil for a sharpened one. Keep lots of sharpened pencils on hand. They can pick their pencil up at the end of class.
  • Tissue- raise hand and pinch nose with other hand.
  • Library Visits- hold up book in raised hand with hall pass out on desk to be signed.

All of these nonverbal requests should also be responded to nonverbally- either a nod of a head indicating a “yes,” a pencil or tissue handed to the student, or a hand signaling, “not now” or “in 5 minutes.”

You might be wondering why sharpen the pencils for the students…well, pencil sharpening is a loud and time consuming process. The sharpener in my class is attached rather high on a bookcase and its screws are loose so the whole thing wobbles. Naturally, the short kid without a steady arm gets a junk pencil every time. I’m just going to take it down and buy an electric sharpener for my desk, just for me to use!

Notice that for trips outside the classroom, the students have hall passes which must be signed. They receive these passes at the beginning of the year- 3 for each week. Once they use them, it’s too bad, so sad. This is a school-wide technique and I really love it. The students must learn to conserve passes and not use them all up on Monday. If your school doesn’t do something like this, try initiating it on your own! It’s very clear-cut and there is no ground for confusion.

Acronyms for Learning

Acronyms might seem cheesy at upper levels…but they do work at locking away information in your memory. Just take a look at this:

PlanetsBlasphemy! I clearly remember my very educated mother jut served us NINE PIZZAS. Yes this may have been back in 2nd grade, but see? I’m proving my point!

Even if acronyms don’t receive the constant spotlight they deserve in the classroom from you, at least make sure to post them prominently on your walls. Students will be able to refer to the acronyms as they work and hopefully allow some of that stellar knowledge to seep in.

Teaching Tip: Want to ensure that students remember the material? As an activity, let them create their own acronyms and mnemonic devices for what they have learned. I promise you they will remember it much more easily after taking an active role in creating a way to store it in their brain.

Here are just a few acronym examples, focused on English, since that is what I teach.

Conjunction Words-

  • For
  • And
  • Nor
  • But
  • Or
  • Yet
  • So

Essay Introduction Information-

  • Author
  • Title
  • Type of selection
  • Time Period

Essay Prompt Reminder-

  • Answer the
  • Question
  • Asked

Writing Checklist-

  • Capitalization
  • Usage (grammar)
  • Punctuation
  • Spelling

Poetry Analysis-

  • Title’s meaning
  • Paraphrase
  • Connotation
  • Attitude
  • Shifts
  • Title- reevaluate meaning
  • Theme

If you have any more acronyms worthy to add to this list, please mention them!

Who is Teaching Spark Notes?

Owls

I am an English teacher at a regular, plain, ‘ole public school. After finishing up my first year in the classroom, I am eager to fine tune my skills. No one wants to be mediocre at their job, especially when there is always a sassy teenager itching it point it out to you. Since I want to be the best, and so do you, here we are blogging about it. I’m not a touchy-feely miracle worker teacher. Perhaps because I can’t work any miracles. This blog is not about high-fiving or griping, nor is it inspirational. I merely want to convey basic, easy to use steps for teaching based on the tried and true methods of other teachers, research, or my own hilarious failures in the classroom. Enjoy!

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