Monday, October 26, 2015

Class Tools

My third period class has over thirty individuals and at times, it can be difficult to hear each student's voice.  My co-teacher and I figured that equity sticks could be the answer to this problem, but feared that physical objects would get mixed up with other class's materials. Therefore, I searched for an electronic version and found the Random Name Picker on the Class Tools website.

Upon further investigation of this website, I found a treasure chest of resources.  For example, the SMS template allows students to create chat conversations between two historical or literary characters.  Other electronic templates include a timeline generator, an electronic Venn Diagram and a hamburger paragraph graphic organizer.  Students can share their work by creating a custom link or embedding it on a class webpage.  

This website also allows teachers to administer quizzes in creative ways.  Students that answer questions correctly earn the right to play Pac-Man or other arcade games.  In addition, students can demonstrate their knowledge through a classification activity or by creating a BrainyBox.

This website is free, but does appear to depend heavily on Flash.  This could prove to be problematic for iPad classrooms.  In addition, this website was developed across the Pond, so students will notice that some of the terminology is a bit different (ex: bin vs trash can).  Check out the video below for more information.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Finding Free Leveled Text

Last spring I was asked to submit my "wish list" of materials.  In years past I have never been asked to do such a thing, yet randomly received a class set of Scholastic Scope about every other month or so. My students enjoyed using this resource and I found it particularly useful to include with sub plans.  I put this item on my list, which of course guaranteed that my subscription is no where to be found.  Luckily, I have my list of go-to resources, which are free.  Here they are:
  • Tween Tribune: This site is brought to you by the Smithsonian Institute.  This website offers middle school-friendly news across a variety of Lexile levels.  Teachers with a free account can assign articles to students and keep track of student progress through the online dashboard.
  • Newsela: This website offers articles across Lexile levels and content areas.  Students can keep track of their progress through free quizzes, but teachers must have a paid account in order to chart the progress of their class.
  • ReadWorks: This site offers both fiction and non-fiction articles.  My only fault with the site is that the selections at the lower Lexile levels are geared towards the elementary set, a problem for middle school teachers with a variety of student ability levels.  
  • ThinkCERCA: This is another freemium product.  Most of the text selections require a paid upgrade, but there are a limited number of audio-supported texts with suggested writing prompts.
  • Scholastic: There are a limited number of Scholastic Action articles available with included audio support.  These articles periodically change, but are Scholastic quality with a five finger discount.

Sunday, October 11, 2015


A few weeks ago, my class completed a question stations activity.  In a nutshell, this involved the students forming groups and rotating around the classroom to complete a variety of tasks.  The students were completely self-directed and engaged.  In fact, my only jobs were to answer the occasional question and yell "rotate" every few minutes. Since this lesson was such a hit, I plan to incorporate other station activities into my classroom.  While hunting for ideas, I came across Literacy Station Inspiration.  The creators of this site have uploaded a variety of station activities that are all set and ready to go.  While not all of these ideas will make it into the trenches, I appreciate the effort that these creative educators have contributed to the overall community.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Power of Being Positive

About a month ago, the technology teacher came to me and begged me to work with her second period class.  The majority of the students in that class are ESOL students and were acting like, well, seventh graders.  Many of the students in the class came over as unaccompanied minors last school year and are still having trouble adjusting.  Rather than break into Preacher Ninja mode, I decided to take a positive approach.

I grabbed the class's attention at the beginning of the period.  I told them that I was very proud of them because out of all of the technology teacher's classes, they had the potential to become her very favorite.  I asked them to brainstorm ways that they could become the favorite class and they were quick to come up with answers such as listen, follow directions and help one another.  I told them that I believed in them and would hold them to their responses.

Today around lunch time, my phone began to make noise.  The technology teacher was so impressed by this class's work ethic that she snapped pictures and sent them to me.  The students were engaged and appeared to be helping one another with the class assignment.  When I went to check in with the technology teacher, she confirmed that this class has indeed become the one that she looks forward to working with the most.  I made sure to visit this class before the end of the day and let them know to keep up the good work.

It's days like today that make me glad that I chose this path in life.  While the trenches can get messy and downright frustrating at times, remaining positive can mean making a difference.