Sunday, January 25, 2015

Using the Grammar Invitations in 8th Grade

I have talked a few times this year about how using Jeff Anderson's book, Mechanically Inclined, has literally transformed my grammar instruction. My seventh graders are seeing incredible changes in their writing, and teaching each concept independently has been a blessing, because I can truly differentiate and personalize instruction for my students who may be struggling.

After reading all of the grammatically correct papers from my seventh graders I was appalled, and a little surprised, to read my eighth graders narratives and realize that they had no idea how to use commas. There were either too many, so, that, their, stories read, like this. Or there were absolutely no commas and the action of the story would just continue from the first page to the last with absolutely no break and I would find myself out of the breath by the time I was done reading. Here's the kicker: I taught them last year!! We went over grammar, I remember spending a very long time covering everything from prepositional phrases to gerunds. I was convinced they had it. I was wrong. Where had I gone wrong? We took notes, we wrote sentences together, we identified phrases and clauses on the board, we corrected and fixed sentences that were wrong, and they took tests and quizzes.

So what's to stop my seventh graders next year from going through this grammar lobotomy? Well, the fact that my students still identify AAAWWUBBIS words and FANBOYS when we are reading, without me prompting them is a sign. We learned that first quarter, and just last week a student said, "But is a FANBOY, that's why there is a comma in that sentence!" Ahh, it warms my heart. :)

A colleague of mine who is also doing the grammar invitations with me has noticed the same thing with her eighth graders, so we decided to incorporate the comma lessons into our non-fiction unit this quarter. I was a little nervous that it wouldn't go as well as it did, but it is one of those strategies that just works.

I had to make a few changes, since my eighth graders only have one class of Language Arts instead of two, so I incorporated the selection they are reading with the model sentence we use for the grammar invitation.

This week, I introduced AAAWWUBBIS words using a quote from an article about advertising in video games.

Here's how it went:

DAY 1:

  • Me: This week we are going to be learning about AAAWWUBBIS words (you have to say it weird, up talking on the 'WWU'), you will be reading a non-fiction article, and writing a short response.
  • Students respond with: "AAAWWUBBIS!" in a variety of voices and pitches
  • One student suggests we say Triple A, Double W, U, Double B I S, because it's easier. We time how long it takes to say. I win. :)
  • We discuss complex sentences, and how they can have an opener, an interrupter, or a closer.
  • I put up the model sentence on the board and ask them what they notice. We spend 5-10 minutes noticing every little thing in the sentence.
  • We pick apart why there is a comma, and identify the subject and verb in each half of the sentence. Someone inevitable asks what a verb is. Someone else asks what a noun is. I pretend to not be horrified, but I die a little inside. 
DAY 2:
  • We spent the next day with them finding examples of the AAAWWUBBIS words in their

    books. They did this in groups of 4-6. I had my seventh graders do it independently, and it took a week, so this worked out much better. I even let them send out a "scout" from their groups to steal one from another table. At the end of the period, students wrote sentences on their own for the words they hadn't found. Then they identified the AAAWWUBBIS word, the nouns, and the verbs for each sentence.

DAY 3:
  • Students were given their writing prompt, and read the article I had assigned. They highlighted the reasoning they found in the article, and then their writing prompt asked them to create a claim and give three reasons for or against advertisers purchasing ad space within video games. They only had to write one paragraph (8-10) sentences, and I asked them to be aware of using AAAWWUBBIS words in their writing.
  • On Monday, we will do an express-lane edit focusing solely on AAAWWUBBIS words. 

Oh, and it was pretty hilarious that a student had a shirt on with an AAAWWUBBIS word, but no comma. I had to fix it. 

Again, I am so thankful to Jeff Anderson for coming up with this strategy, and I so enjoy teaching grammar now. I'm excited to see what they came up with on Monday!

I hope everyone had a nice weekend! 

I cast our spring musical last week, and performed in a Disney Night of Broadway benefit concert last night, so I am a wee bit tired, but ready for a new week! :)

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Life Planner

Well, I totally stopped using my life planner around June of last year, mostly because I was home and didn't have a whole lot going on to justify using it frequently. I said to myself, "Ok, you don't need a new planner then..." so I didn't buy one. Then I remembered. I had placed my twentieth order, and received a $100 coupon to use at Erin Condren. Yes, it's sick that I've placed twenty orders, but a lot of them were gifts (for me, ha!). I decided that I would get a quick ship planner since I still liked my cover from my last planner.

It came within a week (so I highly recommend this option if you don't feel the need to personalize!)

I added the Wellness and the Budget book to my order, because it was free, so why not? I wanted to check them out. So far, the Budget book is great, but the Wellness book is kind of a pain, because I'm lazy. Also, I didn't really know what I'd write in my actual planner if I wasn't tracking what I brought for lunch along with my steps.

The problem with a new planner, is that even though you have an entire office dedicated to your crafting addiction, you feel this insane need to go purchase new washi tape and stickers. I don't even really like stickers, you wouldn't be able to tell that from looking at my planner. 

Now that cute little container of Washi tape? That's my "to-go" tape...yes people. 

Here is the rest of it, currently in my office.

I'm sure there's more hiding at school somewhere.

Ok- so what do I put in my planner?

On my monthly pages, I mark when bills are due, and when we get paid. This way, I know our cash flow:

On the weekly spread, I put inspirational quotes along the left. In the "morning" section, I put what I'm bringing for lunch, since that is a huge focus for me this month. The middle section is my general "To-Do" area. It's really hard not to put school stuff in this section. The evening section is to mark what we have going on in the evenings, along with dinner. Finally, in the bottom section I'm logging my steps and sleep from my Fitbit!

Finally, in the back we have our Dave Ramsey Debt Snowball, Monthly Expenses, Cash Flow, and I've started taping off some pages to use for weight loss, healthy options for eating, and Books I've Read. 

So, I'm still finding my groove with the new planner, and my big struggle is managing both this and my teacher planner. I don't seem to have enough hours in the day to plan all my hours in the day. But I will say, with the stress I have felt this year, doing this is a great way to unwind at the end of the day, and keep myself accountable. 

Do you have a planning system that you can't live without? Feel free to share below!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Top Ten Best Things About Teaching Middle School...

In the spirit of the many "Top Ten Things About (INSERT TOPIC HERE)", I decided to make my own, with perhaps a more positive spin. I love teaching 7th and 8th grade, and these are just ten of my favorite things about it...

Top Ten Best Things About Teaching Middle School...

1. Lessons often start off as an excellent discussion, and can quickly devolve into a kid shouting
“AVADA KEDAVRA” while using his pen as a wand.

2. They will laugh with you when you do something ridiculous, like suddenly lose the ability to talk 9th period.
3. They experience a wide range of emotions. Usually within a 30 second time period.

4. In the last month of school, eighth graders become mushy nostalgic love monsters.

5. PAJAMA day.
6. Sometimes they shock you with their incredible insight.

7. They feel a great need for justice, and will create petitions for almost ANYTHING, like free seating at lunch.
My usual response...
8. Just in between acting “too cool” and “awkward”, they just want an adult they can talk to.

9. They own their obsessions. OWN them. Want to see an argumentative? Just disagree with their favorite brand/music/tv show/book/celebrity/movie

10. They are just starting to find their way in the world, and you get to be a tiny part of it.

Update on my 30 Day Challenge!

My 30 Day Challenge lesson that I did with my students on the first day back from break was a success! I really enjoyed watching them come up with a challenge, and we did a "check-in" a few days ago using Padlet that the students enjoyed. Some are struggling, but some are really excited about their progress! I can't wait to see how many of us have stuck to it after January! I've been sending out little notes to check-in on Edmodo, mostly to build a bit of community. This is a great way to reign your kids back in and connect with them after the break!

**This is not a sponsored post**

In preparation for this 30 day challenge, I purchased the stackable Bentgo box pictured above. It has completely re-energized my packing lunches, because nothing motivates me like having a cute container to fill. Something about throwing food in a paper bag or target bag just doesn't appeal to me! I also purchased the insulated lunch bag, the cup, and two small containers for dressing.

So last Monday, to my horror, I unpacked my lunch at school and noticed *gasp* there was a hairline crack in the bottom compartment of my bentgo box. I could see it lunch box challenge would derail, as I would be completely discouraged. Doing something totally out of character, I actually emailed the company (which is not something I ever do), and they said someone would get back to me within 1-2 days. Well, I checked my email on a break the next morning and lo and behold, they had responded within twelve hours! Their customer service was absolutely wonderful, and my replacement box was going to be on its way within 7-10 business days. This was on the 14th. Yesterday, I arrived home from a Michael's binge (I purchased a new Erin Condren life planner, and was sucked into the sticker thing...more on that another day), and my new Bentgo box was here! Hooray!! Thank you Bentgo, for having awesome customer service, and saving my 30-day challenge!!

What I love most about this lunch "box" above all others I've had (and I have had many), is that it has a large enough space for a nice size salad in the bottom, and two separated sections on the top, which has been great for a fruit and something else, like nuts. Also, it cleans so easily! My biggest issue is forgetting to wash out my lunchbox (admit it, we've all done this), and then it's so far gone you just throw it away... Well, it's so easy to wipe clean after I finish lunch, and the silverware it comes with is sturdy and easy to clean. Plus, it's the first time I've purchased small containers for dressing that haven't leaked. I still get flashbacks to the erin condren lunchbox, and my salad dressing destroying the bottom of my teacher bag and the edges of my planner. *shudder*

lunch planner here:

So I'm obsessed with the Spinach salad, which is obvious as I ate it for the whole first week, (BTW- the Brianna's Poppyseed Dressing is delicious, and I found it at Target!), and the second week I did the turkey wrap. While I was a pretty strict vegetarian for awhile, I've noticed that I have much more energy when I eat lean meats (turkey, etc...), so I am somewhat incorporating them into my diet. I am not saying anything against going vegetarian, as I still have very strong feelings about animal cruelty, and feeling very conflicted about eating protein in the form of meat. But moving on, I am seeing that I need a little variety in my lunches. I tend to go with one thing, because it's easier, for the whole week, but I don't think I'm getting enough variety. Friday was a complete accident, because I barely packed a lunch. I had a dance workshop right after school and a rehearsal in the evening, so I didn't get home until late. Needless to say I was dragging on Friday. 

Today's mission is to go shopping and find some recipes that will spice things up for the rest of the month. Hopefully I can make this habit lifelong, as I have already seen the health benefits! I haven't been drinking pop during the day, and I feel more energized throughout the day. Bonus- I've also lost four lbs!

Here are a couple I've been checking out today!

I'm also excited to check out their recipe e-book that you get for free for purchasing a Bentgo!

On to the 1SE, I'm using the app on my iPhone, and I'm excited about it! It makes each day memorable, but there have been about two days that I forget to video the most exciting part of my day and I'm scrambling for something at the last minute. I hope to get better at this, and the app allows you to set reminders, so I may try that next week!

Are you doing a 30 day challenge? How is it going?

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Cold Day!

Out here in Chicagoland, we are off today for cold temperatures. This is a blessing a curse, as the last half of the school year gets crazy, and every single day is valuable and vital for teaching! This quarter in 8th grade, we focus on

We are starting off our non-fiction study with a focus on Women's Suffrage and studying Susan B. Anthony's speech as well as a counter argument. All of this will culminate in an argumentative paper and writer's workshop at the end of the quarter. To prepare my students to read "On Woman's Right to Suffrage", I gathered a short history from Scholastic:

Then I created a Vital Vocabulary sheet which my students did in small groups with dictionaries yesterday.
Tomorrow we will do a non-fiction close reading together on both the speech and the counter argument.

I want my students to come away seeing that even though Women's Rights seems like a given now, there were arguments against it from other women! We are going to evaluate the arguments for and against together as a class, and then complete this awesome strategy I found through a Notice and Note group on Facebook called Really??? I'm embedding the SlideShare presentation so you can check it out yourself from Kylene Beers

And...I finally uploaded my second set of Grammar Anchor Charts to TpT! These focus on Serial Commas, Basket Commas, and Comma Magnets, and have the Invitation to Write and Edit sheets included! Using Jeff Anderson's Mechanically Inclined to guide my grammar instruction this year has really transformed my teaching, and I love seeing my students recognize these rules while they read and write! We only focused on Commas for the first half of the year in seventh grade, which seems crazy right? However, because we were doing writing along with it, everything was embedded, and the grammar instruction wasn't forced. I was ability to integrate these lessons in with the focus for the quarter, whether it was non-fiction narrative or argumentative. I can honestly say that I love teaching grammar now!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

New Year's Resolutions and a New Lesson!

Hi everyone! This will be a quick one today, since I have to get out grocery shopping and run errands, but I wanted to share a few things!

I shared these on my FB page, but these are my New Year's Resolutions, and I'm linking up with Ms. W at Tales of Teaching in Heels! I am excited to open some doors, and end some bad habits! I think the 30 day challenge will keep it fresh and exciting!

Are you like me? Panicking at the thought of getting into school early enough to get copies made for your new units? Maybe you are ahead of the game, if so, good for you, and I'm very jealous :) For me, I wanted to ease back in a bit, so I came up with this lesson. This is free on my TpT store right now, so grab it if you want something quick and fun to do with your students tomorrow!

And finally...

My giveaway for the infinity scarf ends tonight. I watched a YouTube video and became OBSESSED with making these, and I'd love to give one to you for free! Enter below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway