Sunday, November 22, 2015

Lesson Share Sunday

I got to teach one of my favorite lessons last week under the watchful eye of a hopeful student teacher. I did not know she was going to be here but I was glad that she was able to watch this lesson unfold. 
Part of our sixth grade curriculum is teaching students how to use context clues to differentiate among multiple meanings of words. This allows students to read more complex text and increase vocabulary, right? :) I always find that context clues is not something you can just stand and deliver-- It is something the students have to be taught in exploration. I always tell students that this is something I cannot teach them, but I can give them the tools to learn and teach themselves. 
A few years ago, a colleague gave me a copy of Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky". 
Confession: The first year I didn't want to use it- simply because the words terrified me. I love reading aloud to my students and I certainly did NOT want to read these words aloud! 
So this year I tweaked what I attempted to do with it two years ago and MAGIC! 

I start by displaying this picture on the SMARTboard for their journal entries. I really enjoy the mystical tales they create. Students are often really inspired by picture prompts. 
After, students are allowed to share out. This often sparks even more interest into the unknown beast. I still do not lead on to the lesson ahead. 

Afterwards, I give students a quick mini-quiz asking them to define and describe words from the Jabberwocky without telling them where the words are from or what they mean (their answers are quite creative). On the backside of the mini-quiz is an identical copy of the quiz. After they read the poem, I prompt them to take the other mini-quiz (but later on). 

I pass out Lewis Carroll's poem. I prompt students to read it all the way through, without stopping on words they don't understand, without re-reading stanza's, without making notes-- just read to enjoy reading. Before they begin, I ask them to turn over their poem when they are finished (a quick visual indicator for me to move on). Once all students have read over it once, I ask for feedback. Almost always students will say they didn't understand a single thing! Most students seem relieved to see that others feel the same way about the words they just read that seem to be haphazardly thrown on a page. Great conversation usually follows. 
Next, I'll display a quick annotation guide on the board. This guide suggests students to circle words they don't understand (( I usually make a joke that they can't just circle the entire poem and be done with it. Cirlcing words you don't understand is typically for words that you think impact your understanding of the poem)), underline key information or powerful passages, ask questions in the margins, and draw arrows for connected ideas. 
I ask students to read again and practice using those annotation skills. 

Here is a sample of a students annotations. 

Next, I play aloud a reading of "Jabberwocky", by John Green. I love his inflection, his animations, and his voice! 
I prompt students to listen for the second read aloud by John Green but ask them to then annotate when his reading helps them understand the poem more completely. 
Lastly, as mentioned before, students take the identical mini-quiz again.  This time they can use their poem and their annotations to answer. I ask students to clue me into how they figured out those words, now, when they were never given a dictionary. And Voilá--CONTEXT CLUES!  
I usually take a bow and tell them I just taught them context clues without teaching them context clues because they teach themselves context clues and so on and so forth! 
It is really excited to see them make connections, discoveries, and conclusions on their own-- acknowledging their own strengths and understanding. 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Lesson Share Sunday

I've decided to start sharing lesson plans once a week from the previous week. Not just to show how awesome students are, but so that others can steal and tweak these lessons to inspire students everywhere.

This week we are learning and mastering properly punctuating dialogue. It can be tricky. Students don't notice how often they see it, how it works exactly, and how to write their own. They often don't recognize it as dialogue. 

I start by having students analyze objects in the bin. They are then to brainstorm about how these objects would act as if they are humans- as a way to introduce character traits. Some of the objects I put in their bins this year were paper clips, fuzzy pens, pom-poms, and eraser tops. They get pretty creative with the items. 

After that I prompt them to then brainstorm the different words they could use as speech tags to convey to their audience those character traits. (Speech tags like said, yelled, and asked are off limits) 
Notice the fuzzy red pen ("she" will come back into play later on).

Then, in their "table-hoods" they are to create a poster about a character of their choosing (does not have to be from the object bin) and (1) illustrate the character, (2) surround him/her with the speech tags, and (3) frame the picture with 4 examples of dialogue. 

This is the draft I show them:

 And then I tidy it up a little bit.
This year one of my classes really made me giggle. They were so inspired by the character they created of the Fuzzy Red Pen they used her as their character for their poster.

Her name is Beatrice. 

She is a granny who loves tracksuits, eats too much bubble gum, and speed walks around the mall! Their poster was just as hilarious. Please notice some of the dialogue-
 "My chewing gum brings all the boys to the yard," announced Beatrice. 
"Excuse me, I need to buy another tracksuit," informed Beatrice. 
"My chewing gum is losing flavor!" shrieked Beatrice. 

And my personal favorite...
"I'm single and ready to flamingle!"cackled Beatrice. 
Even my principal got to witness that little gem in class.

 Their creativity and enthusiasm was pure magic. 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Our Saturday project

For the past 15 years, about, a ghastly florescent light has attempted to provide enough light for our kitchen. When I'm cooking, I cast a shadow on the stove.  When I'm washing dishes, I cast a shadow on the sink.  When I have a migrane, it is a killer! 

Today we (Matt) spent the day drilling, measuring, and mounting various things for our new light fixture. I've never been one to be able to put things together- especially with patience. But he did an amazing job! 

Let there be light! 

Friday, March 27, 2015


Dog post day 2. Because now I have two dogs. Gunner is a goofball. In his heart, he is kind, gentle, playful, and curious. But his body is large, clumsy, and relentless when searching for his next treat. He does the most peculiar things. 
He thinks at 100 pounds that he is a lap dog. I assure you, he is not. 

But he is loyal, kind, and loving.  We would be lonely without him.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Murphy Belt

As I type, I have on what my dad calls, "The Murphy belt". Stretched across my body is a furry, white mass of puppy too adorable for words. 

I have always loved dogs. In elementary school, in Gahanna,Ohio as a first grader, I once wrote, "I love my mom because she lets me ride my dog around the house." What a great sentiment however, I never had a dog. Believe it or not I drew a picture to further accompany the tale in my head. 

It wasn't until I was in a new state and a new school when my parents finally caved and got me my first dog, Charlie. I enjoyed his companionship for 18 years.  He passed last year. 

In January, 2014, I decided just to casually browse the adoption websites and look for puppies that need a home and I fell in love. His name is Murphy. His short white hair, chestnut patched eye, and adorable little spots suckered me right in! I just had to have him. 

I want to say that it was a Sunday when I sent in my application and by the next Sunday, I had my little bundle of joy all the way from New Hampshire. 
He changed my life. He saved me.  He was a ray of sunshine through the night, the fog, and the clouds.  
Here's to the little Murph Man- the day after National Puppy Day! 

Monday, March 23, 2015

I swear I am an adult

Yes, I attend middle school everyday. Yes, I sometimes lolly-gag in the hallway talking to my friends. Yes, I talk when teachers are talking. Yes, I sometimes forget to do my homework. Yes, I bring pizza lunchables to school, sometimes. Yes, I get nervous when I get called to the main office. Yes, I dream and pray for snow days. Yes, I long for summer vacation. And yes, I currently have a tongue tattoo from my fruit roll up. 

My current guilty pleasure. 

I am an adult- I swear. 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Apple, Blueberry, Cherry, Pumpkin

3/14/15 9:26 
Yesterday in all of my Math7 classes we celebrated the Pi day of the century! And this morning, I am posting in celebration of this auspicious occasion! My students were really excited about the Pi day of the century all week! They were mildly, well, greatly disappointed I did not bring them pies to indulge on! But we celebrated with a few crafts- to include an ode to math poem- that's right! Poems! And a competiton, as to, who could remember the most numbers in Pi. 

Happy Pi day of the century! 

Our Pi day bracelets- the varying colors represent the values in Pi and beneath us is the room long Pi chain we made- again representing the values of irrational Pi. . 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Tomato soup and grilled cheese

The only thing that feels better than my bed is a hot mug of tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich.

Cheers from the infirmary! 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Better late than never

So, I've been pathetically curled up in bed with my dogs, sick as a dog. I know they would feel betrayed after staying by my side all day that I'd use that expression! However, after a long nap I am still tired and going to bed. 

Loyal all day and only a tad bit obnoxious. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Three River City

Today at school it is primary color day. 7th grade, one of the grade levels I teach, was designated to wear yellow. I rummaged through my closet- which is colored coded already- to discover I do not own anything yellow! It is not something in my color pallet. Red- I have plenty. Blue- don't even get me started. But yellow? Nada.  So I opted for a gold, University of Pittsburgh shirt. I have already longed, twice today, to visit Pittsburgh sometime soon. I don't know what it is about that city, but I love it. I still have close family ties to Pittsburgh and visit often; but every time I round the corner on the turnpike and I catch the first glimpse of the skyline (small skyline, that is) my heart jumps a little bit. I love the food- Primanti Brothers and The Original Hotdog Shop-- I crave them daily! I love the sports teams; I don't miss a Penguins game. I get excited when I notice that movies are filmed in the city. Let alone if a movie even mentions Pittsburgh. I get frustrated with people forget the 'h' at the end. --My first reaction after seeing a sign in Northern California for Pittsburg, CA was, "That sign is spelled wrong." I love to see the spirit of the city represented all over the world.

So today, while I am in Virginia, I will represent the city I love so much with a plate full of Heinz Ketchup, donning the black and gold, and adding fries to my sandwich.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Reluctant Writer

Every day as my students enter my classroom, they grab their writing journals and become writers. Often we write about our weekends, things that we enjoy, and things we are looking forward to. For the most part, my students seem to enjoy it. I have some students who are writing books- and other who write about the way the letter “J” looks in the Journal Prompt. Regardless, they are writing.

As the bell rings at 2 pm, my 4th block starts. Pencils begin to make words on the page.. all but one. One of my students, a sweet, quiet- yet energetic girl never seems to want to write. She claims that she doesn’t know how to begin, what to write next, or have anything to say. We have been working together in her journal- often struggling to write more than a sentence. I even began scribbling what she was saying into her journal as she spoke her creative, imaginative ideas to me. She is a bright girl with a lot to say but that translation to print is missing.

Everything changed yesterday. After talking to an experienced teacher, who loves to write, I decided to use one of her journal prompts in my class. Write about the word, Laugh. Laugh. One word. It seemed so simple but something I haven’t thought of yet. I didn’t think that by using this journal entry I would see something new come out of her… but I did. I thought that this would just be another addition to my classroom from a peer.

She wrote an entire paragraph by herself! She even added an illustration.  Her eyes gleamed as I mentioned the word laugh. I could not be more thankful that I found something to get her to start writing. She has GREAT ideas and now I am happy that she is able to express herself!


Monday, March 9, 2015

Could it be?

Could it be? We actually have to go to work 5 days this week? How can they do that to us the week of daylight savings?! When I woke up with morning to an alarm, the first time in almost a week, I was shocked that it was still dark. I was warm, cozy, comfortable, yet tired. I peeled myself out of my bed and slunk across the room into the shower at a very mopey pace. I have already laughed about it with a few of my colleagues. At the beginning of the school year, I am prepared and ready for a 5 day work week. I have a schedule. I am in the rhythm, in the groove of a work week. But the second the temperature drops below freezing, every morning I wake up hoping for a snow day. From December until early March-- I wish that wasn't so, but who doesn't love a day of lounging around and getting things done around the house that we put off?! I have a mix of emotions. While it is great to spend so much time at home, parts of my daily routine are not as productive. I find that my productivity is in full gear when I know I am on a schedule, where there is no wiggle room. But with ample time off, those things seem like they can be pushed back. I like to stay busy and I love what I do. But I do love my sleep! 

Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho, it's back to work I go! 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Ink to the page

This could be an ode to Barnes and Noble. Truly, one of my favorite places to be. There are two somewhat close to me. One in Manassas, where I used to travel more frequently, and the other is in Tyson's. Yesterday, as I was zipping past the mega mecca while on the Beltway. I saw a glimpse of, what felt like, hundreds of people doing exactly what I waned to do. Browse titles, fill their arms with classics, and sip their ever-tasty Starbucks coffee. I love to lose hours in that store. I say losing because I never realize how long I have actually been in there until I step outside and it is no longer illuminated when I entered in the mid-morning. I could never have enough books. I have a lot of them, don't get me wrong, but I could always use some more. Suggestions welcome! 

But I meant this to be about journals. As I'm browsing the clearance sections, as if whispering for me to take a closer look, my body is drawn to the wall of journals. They are beautiful. Awaiting to be filled with ink. Memories, thoughts, questions-- all for the taking. I don't always buy a journal-- I always buy a book. In fact, I have many journals around my house that have yet to be penned. Some are full. Well, almost full. Some were for traveling-- I never felt right about adding other things to a particular travel journal.  My most complete journal is from my study abroad time spent in Cambridge. Even when I think back to those memories, I don't add those thoughts to that journal. I guess I could? -- Something magically just happened while I was scrubbing this. Something I will explain in a later post! I think its magical, the gods would probably just say coincidental. I digress. Journals. I admire them, but need to use them more. 

I'm putting my boots on and venturing out to Barnes and Noble. 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The day to remember.

My brother moved to Baltimore in August of last year. My family is very close- and this distance was pretty hard for all of us (mildly pathetic, I know). My mom, dad, sister, and I decided to come visit him this weekend to celebrate my dad's birthday. We all piled in the car for the one hour trip up to Baltimore. Boy, how things have changed. I was instantly transported into previous road trips with my entire family to numerous places; Florida, New York City, Pittsburgh, the outer banks- fighting over the leg room, playing the license plate game, and calling out what animals were on our side of the car!  With 5 adults, the car definitely feels different. Still the control over the radio is troublesome but barable.

We are spending the day dining this morning with Mimosas and coffee at Spoons and the afternoon observing the aquatic life at the Baltimore Aquairum. My brother is doning his ever-popular fish shirt that we bought last year in honor of our upcoming trip to Greece.

Oh, and my dad ordered "cold-white milk" with his breakfast. Cheers!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Daybreak- my version of it

I would love to say that I am a morning person. There is something about morning that I found alluring. I find the quiet, peaceful daybreak- a reminder that every day is a fresh start, an opportunity to take the time to add something different and meaningful into your 24.  But when my alarm goes off, and I'm ashamed to say at 7 o'clock, I cringed at the thought of disentangling my body beneath my grey, heaven-like comforter and feel the numbing, winter air. -- as if I sleep outside!--  So I usually stay beneath the sheets- distinctly separated from the new day. 
Luckily, today on our 12th snow day, I was able to sleep in until the harsh sounds of bathroom desperation, barking seeped through the walls from the next bedroom.  There is still morning light left. Still a reminder of the new day. And still time to delight in the future soon upon us. 

I think Murphy likes the morning sun as well and appreciates my efforts to let him enjoy it. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Snow days

We have slowly been adding elements to our bedroom that assist in the creation of a caved, oasis-- shielding my eyes from the light of day to postpone the morning for as long as I can, encouraging a deep slumber. 
But there is no stopping the bright, white, snow light. There is nothing like it. I'm pretty sure the fact that I almost always have off work when it snows furthers my love for a good snow. Every year as the first few flakes begin to fall, I make a point of it to take a little stroll enjoying the floating, white flakes as they descend towards the ground. But here we are, at the beginning of March on my eleventh snow day- so I'm simply going to stay put, bundled up with coffee, a book, and my dogs -- simply a captive audience for the snow dance. 

March Madness

As I was introduced to the Slice of Life writing challenge, I thought, "This is great! I will finally be able to begin the blogging life style that I have been secretly admiring." But then I think, the idea of blogging, publishing your inner thoughts on the interweb- yikes!  I've discovered it takes courage, dedication, and, let's be honest, creativity! 
With all of our snow days, grading, lesson planning, and life I thought March was further away! We aren't starting until March? Great! I have plenty of time to get my thoughts together. But here I am 4 days late on my first post! 

So buckle up, readers. Blogging will be in full force now that my internal clock is also acknowledging that it IS in fact, March

Commence blogging!