Sunday, September 14, 2014

Grammar Invitation #2

I have been having trouble deciding what I'm going to blog about when lately, because I teach four different classes, and I want to make sure I'm sharing consistently about all of them! is the schedule I'm hoping to follow from now on. This doesn't mean that I won't be blogging on the days not listed, it just won't necessarily be on a specified topic. :)

Mondays: Interactive Student Notebooks
Tuesdays: Technology Tuesdays and Genius Hour
Sundays: Writer's Workshop and Grammar

Today is Sunday, therefore I will be talking about Grammar! Yay!

When I last left off, students were finding their mentor sentences from their silent reading books. This ended up taking almost TWO class periods!

Students started off with their own books, and quickly escalated to grabbing piles of books off my shelf and flipping through them. I stopped them around ten minutes in and asked them what methods they were using to find AAAWWUBBIS words. They immediately gave feedback on scanning on the first lines down the page, and the beginnings of chapters. At the end of the first period, I allowed them to "steal" one from someone else, but only if they had cited it correctly! (last name #). This had them peer checking each other, and I heard a lot of, "That's not cited correctly, you have to do it like this!" Bonus! The second day, I allowed them to work in partners to finish up for about ten minutes.

Then, they had to identify what was in their sentences. I had them circle the AAAWWUBBIS word, underline the subject in each half once, and the verb in each half twice, and highlight the comma. They did this in partners.

Invitation to Imitate:

Once they finished, they had to write 5 sentences modeled after any of the mentor sentences we had used. These included the two from the second day, and the ones they identified on their own.

Invitation to Write:

Students had to write a short story (one page) about when they were little. Almost every single student started their story with, "When I was little, ..." I had a substitute this day since I was out at a department meeting, so the next day I gave them ten minutes to finish up their stories.

Invitation to Edit:

Time to introduce the express-lane edit!

I put up my story on the board, with some of the sentences purposely missing the comma. We wrote Express Lane Edit on the page opposite their story, and set up the Shopping List and Receipt. I asked students what we usually do when we go shopping. "We look for stuff to buy", "We get stuff we need", etc... I asked them what was on their receipt when they left the store. "A list of what we bought." I told them to copy down the following. "We are looking for sentences that start with AAAWWUBBIS words, and have a comma in the right place." I will amend this in the future to say sentences that contain an AAAWWUBBIS word, because many of them were writing complex sentences featuring AAAWWUBBIS words at the end.

We went through the story, and identified a sentence that had an AAAWWUBBIS word but not a comma in the right place, a sentence that had everything correct, and a sentence we could add an AAAWWUBBIS phrase to.

I modeled what we could write for each of these in the receipt.

For ADDING/FIXING: I added a comma in between little and liked because it started with "When".
For CORRECT: I wrote a sentence , closer in the 2nd line using "Because".
For ADDING: I added an opener , sentence with "While" to "I hate getting into trouble."

Students had to then go through their own stories and find FIVE things to put on their receipt. I also asked them to highlight the sentences they identified or fixed.

This week, we are starting FANBOYS, yay!

Here's the plan for the week:


Invitation to Notice: We are focusing on Simple and Compound Sentences and FANBOYS. I'm condensing the simple sentences in with compound because they already have a good grasp of this, so it's just a quick review.

I'm going to review Simple Sentences using Memoirs of a Goldfish, which is just hilarious, and I wanted a reason to use it :)

We are simply going to identify the subjects and verbs in a few of the sentences, and then move on.

Next, to do compound sentences, and continue on with the personal narrative theme, I chose the first page of Paper Towns by John Green, because it is one of my favorite books, it uses FANBOYS, and it talks about a person. It's a great model for writing, I think!

The second one I'll use is the "Cheese" section from Diary of a Wimpy Kid because it uses FANBOYS and it describes and event that happened at school.

We will "notice" as we did last week, and identify what we see in both examples to try and get to "FANBOYS". 

Then I will handout our anchor charts for the week and we will glue them in our notebooks.

Simple and Compound Sentences chart and Fanboys Chart

I will update later on in the week with progress!

I'm taking a page out of the boy/girl scouts book, and making stickers to give to students when they complete or master a skill. Tomorrow I'm printing these off,

 and I'll have a bundle of them available on TpT soon!

Have a great week, everyone!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

DIY Weekend Fun

Warning- This post is not school related (that will come tomorrow) :)

Last week I was lusting over the blue Kitchen-Aid mixer, I even entered a giveaway to try to win one, even though I have a perfectly good red Kitchen-Aid Artisan mixer that we received as a wedding present. So I thought, "I wonder if I can paint mine?" I went to Google, and lo and behold, other people had thought the same thing!

After ordering our new island for the kitchen today, we stopped at Lowe's, and I found the perfect color for my new mixer!

BTW-Here's the new island, I'm so excited! Our current one is unsealed butcher block, and it's just kind of gross to prep food on, so I'm pumped to have the stainless steel.
We purchased it from Crate and Barrel

I picked up this color, if they had it in gloss I could have skipped the clear coat, but I wanted it shiny!

The hubster dragged out my mixer, and eww, I'm gross, I know. I didn't get the bits off the last time I used it because...well, I was lazy. No judging, please.

So I went to work cleaning it off, and it looks nice...I almost changed my mind, but I'm kind of over red. (When we got married, everything we got for the kitchen was red, and I was convinced I would never ever get sick of it.)

Then I used a sanding block, just one of the cheap finishing ones we had leftover from our fireplace, and buffed out the shine and wiped it with a cloth. It took maybe five minutes, tops.

I unscrewed the metal band, the back section, and the bottom plate. Then, I taped off anything I didn't want sprayed, and used an X-Acto knife to cut around the large screw areas.

I just put a ziploc bag over the back, and taped the cord and put the excess in a ziploc bag to protect it.

Off to the garage! I did one coat, and I got kind of close, even though it says 8-10 inches. I would have been out there forever, and I'm kind of impatient.

Then I let it dry for half an hour and sprayed the clear coat.

I reassembled everything, and now it looks awesome! It also matches my blue IKEA kitchen cart, bonus!

Total Time for project: A little over an hour. 
Materials Needed: 2 ziploc bags, a screwdriver, spray paint, painters tape, x-acto knife
Difficulty: minimal, just be sure to not overspray or you will get drips, and wait until completely dry before doing another coat or clear coat. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Using Egocentrism to Your Advantage

having or regarding the self or the individual as the center of all things: an egocentric philosophy that ignores social causes. having little or no regard for interests, beliefs, or attitudes other than one's own; self-centered: an egocentric person; egocentric demands upon the time and patience of others 


If I were to ask my students what the connotation is of this word, they would more than likely say it is negative, but my mission is to turn this into a positive!

We all know about this. We've taken Educational Psychology, right? Erikson's Psychosocial Stages of Development points it out clearly. At the adolescent age, teens are all about themselves, and that's normal!
Adolescence (12 to 18 years)Identity vs. Role ConfusionSocial RelationshipsTeens need to develop a sense of self and personal identity. Success leads to an ability to stay true to yourself, while failure leads to role confusion and a weak sense of self.

Instead of assuming that this "generation" is more self-involved than the last, we need to recognize this happens to almost everyone, and we need to use it to our advantage in our instruction.

So how do we do that?

In Reading, we need to provide choice for students when they read. I think it is so important to have students take interest inventories to help them self-select books that will be interesting to them. 

When doing literature circles, offer a variety of choices and let students rank their preference, then create groups based on that. 

Take time to allow students to talk about themselves in class. It gives us insight into who they are as people, and allows them to connect with each other and share their ideas. 

When studying poetry, or actually doing any kind of close reading, concentrate on the "connections" aspect. If they can tie it to something they know and care about, I can guarantee it will mean more to them. 

Middle school students and young adolescents have the amazing ability to "zone in" on something, at at times it can even become fanatical. They are frequently "obsessed" with things, be it Starbucks, One Direction, or a television series. They can talk forever (sometimes to the detriment of the class) about issues they have or things they love. Everything is the end of the world, or their entire world. 

Here's my question: What if learning was their entire world? Isn't that basically what they do? I know my students go home and spend hours on tumblr looking at quotes from their favorite books, or looking at pictures of their favorite band, or taking hundreds of pictures of themselves in order to get that perfect "selfie" where they look absolutely amazing. We take so much time to teach them how to analyze when they already have this skill. In fact, they overanalyze everything! If someone looks at them wrong they think about it forever when they are supposed to be taking a math test. Same goes if someone looks at them the right way. They might as well have little cartoon hearts floating above their heads!

Here are some concrete examples of how I have utilized their egocentrism in my classes this year:

  • For Walt Whitman, we discussed how "O Me! O Life" consistently shows the good and the bad in each stanza. He is forever "reproaching himself". Quick: What does it mean to reproach yourself? How do we reproach ourselves on a daily basis? Can you relate to what he is saying? Yes? Ok- now you've connected with someone who wrote this 150+ years ago. We all have this problem!
  • Students took an interest inventory that helped them decide which books would be best for them to read. It doesn't just ask them about genres and types, but what their hobbies and interests are. Students love taking this. Why? Because it's a survey, about them. They know what they like and don't like, and therefore everyone can succeed at this activity.
  • When reading a non-fiction article on the ALS Ice Bucket challenge, they connected to the pros and cons. They wrote connections about how they knew someone who had taken the challenge, or they had taken the challenge. We talked about the "me" generation, and the counterclaim in the article that said it wasn't as much for charity as it was about posting a video of yourself doing something silly for attention. We talked about how a lot of people tend to post things that are crazy or outrageous just to get attention, and debated about whether this is the reason so many people took the challenge.
  • In writing, they are doing their first writing assignment about...THEM! When they were little... They have spent the majority of their time thus far writing their "100 Things I Love", "Amazing Places" (to them), "Writer's Eye (I)" (which is all about them).
  • They found AAAWWUBBIS sentences in their own books, rather than me giving them sentences. They own these, because many of them come from their favorite books.
  • And finally, Genius Hour... this entire class is egocentrism in action. They are studying their own topics, setting their own timelines, and determining their own final projects. Everything in that class is directly related to their personal interests and preferences. Have I heard any complaints about Genius Hour yet? Nope.

I leave you with the end of "O Me! O Life" by Walt Whitman:

That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

Every single student that we encounter has something to contribute. Our job as educators is to guide them to make that contribution meaningful to themselves, and to the world.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Update on the ISN

My 7th graders have finally finished up their introductory unit, and we focused on Close Reading, Types of Questions, and Notice and Note signposts. I feel like with these "anchors" in their notebook, they can successfully conquer any text!

First- how cute is this notebook?? I think it's my favorite so far this school year!

Here is a student created key for close reading

These are our models for Fiction and Non-Fiction. I used the first page of Hunger Games for the fiction and an article from NewsELA for the Non-Fiction. We did these together as a class.

I walked through the Types of Questions with students, and we explained each in depth. We even color coded using Green, Yellow, Red to signal that the Green are "Good to Go" and easy to find, the Yellow means "Caution: switch up your way of thinking and be aware" and the Red means "Stop and think before you answer". Students then wrote their own questions using their favorite book or a book they have read before. 

Here's my poster I created and hung in my classroom for types of questions:

Finally, I had students create mini "anchor charts" for the Notice and Note signposts. We use these to do mind mapping, so I thought it would make sense for them to have them accessible in their notebooks.

I'm excited to get into the first unit starting on Monday, even though midterms are already on Tuesday (yikes!). I just feel like setting up the expectations immediately is so important, even if it means we don't get into the units in the textbook until later. Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Genius Hour Update

Here's what we've been doing over the past two weeks in Genius Hour!

Week #2

On Tuesday and Wednesday they did brainstorming and played with the formatting on their Weebly website.

On Thursday they started formulating their Essential Questions and Proposal (I gave them a full week to work on these so that they took their time with it), and on Friday they did a Blog Post on their brainstorming and I met with students for Sacred Conference Time. I created a Google Doc that students could edit with times for Friday conferences. Originally, I had 10 minute slots, but it ended up being around 5 for each student, so I changed it to that. If students needed more time, they could sign up for two slots. 

Here's an example of one of the brainstorming sheets:

Week #3

Tuesday and Wednesday they wrote their proposals, using the outline I have up on Teachers Pay Teachers. 

On Thursday, students gave their pitches to the class. I have 28 students, so I split them in two groups and assigned them their order on Wednesday. They had two minutes to give their pitches to each other. While the pitches were going on, students were to write down questions to ask at the end of the pitches. They decided at the end to go back through the order asking questions, allowing one minute per person for questions, and then went back at the end with extra time. They only had two rules: two minutes or less, and no reading off their paper. The pitches were actually incredible. They shared, and students were actively listening and writing down questions. I had the last people in each group be the timekeepers, and they kept each other on track. I walked around between groups listening in on their pitches. 

On Friday they completed Blog Post #3, where they basically described their project, how their pitch went, and if they were making any changes to their proposal. 

Week #4

Now that students have their projects, they are ready to research! Our classes are shorter on Mondays, so I use that for Tech and Research Tips. This week, we did a lesson on Google Searches, and how to be more effective. We walked through a variety of ways to perform a Google search, and I showed them the different results they get and how beneficial it is to sort them. We also talked about Bookmarking sites. One of my favorite sites, Delicious, is no longer around (or is going soon), so we talked about options. Here are their favorites:

(Also, this is what happens when I'm looking at kids and writing on the board, it ends up looking like a crazy person was writing) :)

This student is doing a search using his new found Google Knowledge. sound + travel, love it!

This student is watching a youtube video on the creation of engines. They absolutely amaze me. 

For the rest of this week, students are on their own researching, and on Friday they will have another blog post and Sacred Conference Time (SCT) with me if they sign up. It looks like we are off to the races with Genius Hour!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Writing Notebook: Finishing up "Write Ideas" and first Invitation: AAAWWUBBIS!

Happy Monday!!

Today I am continuing on with the Writer's Notebook! Last time I left off, students had just finished their "100 Things I Love". After that, students completed their writing territories, which I got from Nancie Atwell's book Lessons That Change Writers. We spent the first day discussing writing territories out loud, going through the list in detail, so that students had ideas of what to write about. I told them to think of it like the caption for a picture. One to two sentences that could become something more. Students had to complete this for homework.

We also completely numbered our table of contents so that we could add in sections and start working in other parts of the notebook.

 Students wrote their writing territories on these pages.

Then we moved on to the Writer's Eye (I). Students had to place terms that described them within their "I" or around their "Eye".

I created my own sensory writing activity by having students do "Amazing Places". I asked students to draw their ultimate amazing place in the middle and then write places they love and have been or want to go around it. They had to have a minimum of twenty-five, and they had to be real places. 

 Finally, we are ready to WRITE! Cue cover page.

So then I jumped into a lesson I had seen on a TpT item, and it turns out I was going out of order from the Jeff Anderson book, Mechanically Inclined. I was under the assumption that the writing notebook kit I bought would go in order, which is not a huge deal, but is at the same time for me, because I like being sequential, ergh. 

Anyway, students brainstormed a list of memories from when they were little, and shared with each other. Then, I found an online reading of "When I Was Little" by Jamie Lee Curtis on YouTube, and played it for the kids on Friday. We discussed what we noticed in the book, and then someone said, there is a comma. Yes, yes there is. Why? They didn't know, so I said, that's what we will figure out Monday and the bell rang. 

Today, the fun began! I wrote "AAAWWUBBIS" on my objective board, and nothing else. Of course they asked what it was. "What is Triple A, Double W, U, Double B I S?" one student asked.

We discussed our "Mentor Sentence" from last week "When I was little, I cried a lot" and pointed out everything we saw about it. We wrote this in our notebooks next to the brainstorming from Friday. Then we created our own sentence that was just like the mentor sentence. When that was done, I put up the sentence Jeff Anderson recommends, "If there were an Olympic contest for talking, Shelly Stalls would have sweep the event" from Flipped. We talked about the sentence, and one student even knew that it said "were" because it wasn't a real contest. Yay!! We made our own sentence for that one as well, and then we moved on to AAAWWUBBIS!

I said it very weird. They looked at me funny. Then they laughed (phew!). I had one of those moments that John Mulaney talks about: 

Middle schoolers can be very....blunt, so it really could have gone either way! Thankfully, they started shouting AAAWWUBBIS right back at me. :) We talked about them being "Comma Causers" and how when you see one of those words at the beginning of a sentence, you will need a comma. When will you need the comma though? After the phrase, which will have a subject and a verb. Geniuses!

Students went to page 69 and made a cover page for Grammar Invitations. 

Then they picked up the handouts I had made (I didn't want to spend time writing them all in) The student handouts are blank after the AAAWWUBBIS words.

We also put in the Complex Sentences chart I made for them (based off of Jeff Anderson's anchor charts).

Tomorrow, students are bringing their silent reading books, and we are going to find examples for each AAAWWUBBIS word and write them down. Before they left today, I flipped around in Thirteen Reasons Why and found a quote using "After" and wrote it down so they know how to model their citations. 

Until I got into it, I felt very unsure as to how this all would go. I am not a fly by the seat of your pants type of person, so jumping into this with no set outline caused me a bit of anxiety. Now that I have the hang of it, I think we'll be good to go!

Today was probably the only time I'll spend the entire time on this, especially since we also have Word Within the Word to do. The rest of the week will probably be 15-20 minutes tops. 

Here's our rest of the week:

Tuesday: Invitation to Compare and Contrast
Wednesday: Invitation to Imitate and Celebrate
Thursday: Invitation to Write
Friday: Invitation to Edit