Monday, September 30, 2013

Read, Yo!

Last year, I had a student paint a portrait of Lil Wayne as part of a multi-genre research project. She let me keep it. Needless to say, I got creative with it:

He now suggests different books for the kids to read. Each book is based on what we're doing in class. For example, the book in the right is about the Death Penalty, which is based on the book we're reading in class, The Innocent Man by John Grisham. I have one student who is reading that book independently because he enjoys The Innocent Man so much!

Yo, Yo, Yo, Check it Out!

Monday, September 23, 2013

$2 Giant Magnet Board!

Pinterest, once again, saved me when it came to decorating my room. I wanted a little more space to put projects or announcements that would constantly be on a rotation. I looked at the different white boards and whatnot at WalMart, but I am entirely too cheap to spend $10.

So, I found Classroom Collective. It had the best idea! Turn two metal filing cabinets sideways and cover with fabric to create a magnet board!

I didn't have 2 cabinets, but I used the one. The fabric was leftover from my bulletin board and the border was on clearance at Michael's for $1.

The border was peeling off in the picture, but here's what less than $2 made me :)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Fishbowl Failure

I have 3 sections of English I. 2 of those classes are small and manageable enough that I have all those grandiose ideas and activities. I love that planning high, where you're not imagining the thousands of things that can and will go wrong, but rather the beautiful way a student will come up to you and say, "Ms. Turley, thank you for today. I really learned something."


Friday was not that day for me. I planned a Fishbowl Discussion with a bunch a freshmen. What was I thinking?!

I set up the room so that my smaller classes could have one discussion with the class split in half - one watching, one discussing. I allowed them to use any resources they needed for the topic (we just finished reading The Odyssey and the kids knew they were going to get one of three different topics).

Here were the topics I used:
  • How did Homer portray the gods in The Odyssey? What role did the gods play in human life?
  • Choose a hero from popular culture. How does the director/writer make you feel about that hero and his/her opponents? Compare and Contrast that hero to those in The Odyssey?
My first and second hours went great! A clear leader shined in each group and everyone participated, even if it wasn't always on task participation. The outer circle "graded" the inner based on "Respect for Others," "Comprehension," and "Willingness to Participate." It was a win-win-win-win. The students practiced with rubrics, discussion skills, listening skills, comprehension check, and except for a few changes, they handled the grading for me!

...And that's where I got my confidence up.

My 6th hour is by far my largest class - and the loudest. It's the end of the day, they're squirrelly, and it's just an interesting mix of personalities. I set up 2 different groups because one large one was going to be impossible, so there were a total of 4 circles... and it was awful all around.

One group didn't speak at all. One wouldn't get on topic if it meant to save their mothers from fire. One got upset because they wanted to talk longer. And the other - well - they tried. Really, they did.

I'm now in the reflection stage of planning. What can I do better next year?! I know that this isn't nearly enough information, but if any of you have suggestions, I definitely want to hear them!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

I'll Give the Teacher an Apple - Teachers Love Apples

I'm having a moment today... a student gave me an apple.  My very first teacher apple *sqeeeee*

Monday, September 16, 2013

Exit Card Idea: T-Shirt Design

As I've mentioned before on this blog, I am a big fan of using exit slips/cards. It helps me keep track of what students are actually learning before the test AND it forces even those who weren't paying too much attention to produce something before they leave the room.

My problem is that I don't always want a summary - that's super boring. I've tried to think of different, interesting ways to assess this, such as Ice Cream Flavors. I came up with this one after randomly finding this website - an entire "store" dedicated to To Kill a Mockingbird merchandise.

I'm not even sure how I got there - all I know is that I was planning my TKAM unit and there it was. Anyway, the idea.

Have the students create a T-Shirt design based on the section of the book/article they were supposed to read for that day. What would it look like and what it that design's significance? It takes it one step further than "summarize what you read."

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Common Core Daily Planning Made Easy

Common Core has made it so that teachers must focus on the standards almost 100% of the time. Gone are the days where teachers can plan their lessons the way they want and then add the standards in later.

The Instructional Coach for our district came up with this neat little form that has made my daily planning so much easier:

It's really nice because I can create a document for the entire unit and it has everything I need. My favorite part of the objective and assessment. This keeps me accountable for daily formative assessments, such as exit slips, and helps me figure out if the students are actually understanding the standard/objective for the day.

I can't imagine planning without it any more...

Monday, September 9, 2013

Modeling Literature Circle Meetings

Starting next week, my freshmen are going to attack a literature circle. Last year, I did this unit at the end of the year, after they had some practice with discussing. I'm nervous about doing it so soon, but hopefully this "sink or swim" will prepare them for the rest of the year, especially since it's so guided.
(Not my Students, but this is typically what it looks like)

Anyway, I was concerned last year about modeling a circle meeting. Reading in a circle is fine - the students have done it before. It's discussing on their own that's a struggle. Luckily, I found this video to help out. I tried to embed it, but it didn't work :(

It's a 9th grade circle meeting, using the traditional roles. The best part about it is that there is a student that didn't actually read the material! The girls roll with the punches. It serves many different purposes.

In additional to watching it, I have to kids make a T-Chart about what they Hear and See in the video. We discuss and use it to create circle norms and rules. It worked well last year and I'll be sure to let you know how it progresses this time around!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Stock Up on Paperclips!

If you're anything like me, you hate passing back papers and assignments once they have been graded. It takes forever, students must be left to their own devices on independent assignments (just something else that needs to be graded), and there are always those students, who know they didn't do the work, asking why they got such and such a grade on the assignment. In fact, you might even put off this task until the stack of paper is so high that it takes an entire class period to complete.

Well, after a couple months of doing it this way, I had enough. It actually completely stressed me out. I hated those days and my students weren't getting feedback in a timely manner. How are they supposed to improve when they don't know specifically how they're doing?

After a little brainstorming, I started this process:

  1. Create a student packet for all the assignments from the previous week.
  2. Paperclip the papers together.
  3. Go around the room once (which isn't a big deal because I'm constantly moving anyway).
  4. Once all packets are distributed, make a second lap to answer any questions students might have.

I typically do this on Article of the Week days, when students are annotating or working in partners. I don't have to plan anything differently than I already do AND it keeps up a routine that they're used to, so I don't have to constantly redirect of repeat instructions.

These are the results:

  • Students go through the packet, piece by piece.
  • When I go around the room a second time, they have all their questions organized, so I'm not running around.
  • Those students whose confidence plummeted at the sight of a  not-so-good mark can build back up with a good grade/comment on something else. I don't have to deal with bruised egos as much and I can focus on actual productive questions that will help my students in the long run.

I was concerned at the beginning that sorting the papers and creating these packets was going to take way too much time. However, I've found that in less than a plan period, I can get all 5 of my classes sorted, clipped, and ready for distribution. I typically do this the day before, so I can just grab a stack and go!

Extra Perk: I'm forced with this routine to keep up with my grading, so it doesn't stack up and stress me out when final grades are due!

Friday, August 30, 2013

SSR Accountability

Since I decided to become a teacher, I have read probably over a hundred scholarly articles about every literacy subject I can think of...  but none so much than the benefits of reading. Often.

I am a huge fan of SSR, especially in 9th grade. In fact, I spend the first 8-15 minutes of class EVERY DAY on SSR. The only exceptions to this rule are Assessment Days and Half Days. Part of the problem that I ran into last year for this was accountability.

I had a quarterly project, which worked fine, but I often felt like students would waste the actual class time and just cram the project in the night before it was due. Typical. To try to combat this, I had a daily reading log, where students would record the title and pages read in one column and give a brief response in the other.

Sounds great in theory, but here are some of the most typical responses I would get:

  • This book was ok today.
  • I don't really like this book.
  • This book seems really cool.

I had to change it up for this year. I wanted something that couldn't faked as easily - and even if a student just did each activity based on something they read in class, it would still be beneficial. I found this elementary Weekly Reading Log on Pinterest and adapted it for my secondary classroom.

Here are the results:

They turned in the first log today - I haven't graded them yet, but from a couple glances, they look pretty promising!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Ice Cream in the Classroom!

With the Common Core (not so) slowly taking over, I've found it very helpful to implement strategies, such as exit slips, in my room as formative assessments. It's really easy to tell if a student has mastered a particular standard when I only have to focus on one a day.

In my English I class, we're reading The Odyssey and yesterday we finished the Cyclops Adventure. The standard for the day was:

I can cite thorough textual evidence to back up my analysis and inferences about the text.

I was trying to think of an interesting way to introduce an exit slip to test that theory - and beyond reading a ton of really boring summaries, I was lost.

Then, very luckily, for both myself and my students, a colleague sent me this Buzzfeed List. It totally saved the day! "6 Ice Cream Flavors Inspired by your Favorite Books!"  How perfect is that?!

I had the students create an ice cream flavor based on the Cyclops story. They had to name it, explain what the flavor was, AND explain the significance of their choices. Below are some of the more clever names:

The best parts of this activity, at least in my opinion, are these:

  • I could VERY quickly discover whether or not the students understood the material.
  • The activity took exactly 4 minutes at the end of class.
  • The kids got to be creative and seemed to really enjoy it.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Reading in the Hallways

While surfing for ideas this summer, I came across a picture of a small whiteboard a teacher made - it showed her reading activity.

I 100% stole the idea, but have since lost the original link... so if you come across the OP, let me know, so I can link to her!

Anyway, this is right outside my classroom door:

You'd be surprised how many kids (mostly students I had in class last year) come by and ask about the books.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Travel Themed Classroom - the Cheap and Easy Way

The minute I got the idea to go with a travel themed classroom for this year, I did what any sane person would do - I went to Pinterest. While most of the ideas were for an elementary room, I did find a couple good ones to adapt for my secondary classroom.

Since I was trying to find ideas on the cheap - I'm really not the type of person that will spend a $100+ decorating my classroom - I found lots of idea for printables, such as for signs in the classroom. I even looked at some birthday party themed sites. Evidently "airplane parties" are a lot more popular than I would ever imagine - and people PAY a lot more for those parties than I could ever imagine...

Anyway, here are the adaptations at work in my room:

"Upgrades" are book recommendations for the students. This board is next to my classroom library.

By the door, I have the sign for "Exit" and my class hour list was creatively made into "Arrivals and Departures."  This is one of my favorite subtle pieces of decor I made. It cost just enough to print the sheet of paper - almost nothing - and the kids that are the most observant get a chuckle out of it.

This bulletin board is in the front of my classroom and it's reserved for student work, which is why it looks so sad and empty now.

The binder rings hold "I Can..." statements for the Common Core. It gets changed every day, depending on the goal for the day. It's called the "Destination" because it's where we're aiming.

Finally, the "FlightPlan" is the plan for the day. I filled out the calendar for the month and the daily agenda is written before school.

And if you go to my previous post here, you can see the room as whole. There are a couple larger details that go with the theme as well :)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Procedure Review and Book Pass

Before we get into curriculum tomorrow, I did a final review-introduction activity with my kids today. Tomorrow, we're going straight into the Article of the Week, so this was a nice cap to the end of my first days activities.

Procedure Review Game

Going over the procedures in class, I had the kids get into groups of 2-3. Each group then got a whiteboard and markers for each person. I called out a category (Example: SSR) and the kids had to write down everything they remembered from the syllabus on that topic. The catch was that only one person could write at a time and EVERYONE had to write something. Set the timer for a minute and see what they got!

Musical Book Pass

I try to encourage reading as much as humanly possible. It's the key to success in English, whether the kids like it or not. To introduce the students to my classroom library, we did this activity.

I set a book under each desk in my room. Students received a book pass form with sections for title, pages, and comments. I played music and they had to move around the room, not hovering at any particular desk. When I stopped the music, just like musical chairs, they had to race to the nearest desk. The last person standing had to stand up in front of the class and tell about their favorite book.

The book pass portion came after each round. Students took the book beneath their desk and recorded the title on their sheets. They then read silently for a minute and commented in the space provided. Some kids really found some books they were interested in reading!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Make-Up Work Stations

It's only the first day of school, but due to the lifestyle of those I teach, I already have some absentees to worry about. In any given week, I could have 2-3 students per class absent at least one day (and this is with class sizes no larger than 25). I do not have enough time to keep track of all those papers.

Last year, I had a small bin with Monday through Friday folders for each class. The problem came in with students that were gone for longer than a week (or were not quite responsible enough to ask for an assignment within the week).

So I got an idea from a website on Pinterest (yes, Pinterest, again). Unfortunately, I lost the original poster, so if you can find it, I'd love to link to them.

Let me introduce you to my Make-Up Work and Supplies Station!

I have a bookshelf in the back of my room, where these two bins are placed - one for each of my preps.

Upon closer inspection, each bin is filled with hanging files, numbered 1 - 31. You got it! One for each day in a potential month. I place each make-up assignment in the respective date. For example, my CCSS Self-Assessments will be going in the 19th :)

On the shelves below are the supplies and dictionaries. Students are responsible for their own - they don't both me and I don't bother them.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Reading Takes You Places

School starts on Monday! I'm really excited...

As promised, here are a couple detail photos of my classroom decorations. I'm trying a theme out this year...

This is anchor of my entire room. It's behind my desk and pretty much takes up an entire wall. It's pretty eye catching. I got the idea from this website about bulletin boards for classrooms, as well as themes. I know themes tend to be more elementary, but I see no reason why they can't extend to secondary - teenagers deserve pretty rooms, too.

I used small paper plates that I bought from Target for the main lettering, just to make them stand out a bit more. They were like 200 for $2 or something ridiculous like that. The idea came from Pinterest, with the original poster from this blog.

Here are some details. I had originally just thought of having the world map, but since I have American Literature, I just couldn't stop myself. It was also nice that my mom had these from a project when I was graduating high school. She donated them to my room (thanks, Mom!).

I used a free business card template and created cards with the book covers, titles, author, and locations of over 110 different books. I wasn't able to put them all up - that could have just been insane. To get started, I did a quick Google Search for "Books Set Around the World".  These websites were the most helpful:

I only wish I could have found a free version of these "maps":

Friday, August 9, 2013

Paint on Canvas

It's been a while, but I went on vacation and then decided to just sit back and enjoy what was left of my summer. School starts in 10 days!  I'm definitely getting excited.

I've been in my classroom the past couple days, trying to get things in some order so that the room doesn't depress me AND so I'm more than ready for the kids when they finally come back.

I'll have more details on everything that I've done in my room coming soon - I have a bit of cleaning up to do, as well as a couple things left to bring in... but, here are some photos for you!

This was taken on the first day I was allowed in from the door after I dropped off a couple things (such as that ugly step stool). Below is what it looked like right before I left for the day.

This next set is the view of the windows (I have lots of light in my room) and it's also the first thing most students see as they walk in...

Above is Before and Below is After

The area around my desk is kind of a hub. It holds the netbooks and it's where I had the classroom library last year. Here is what I looked like when I walked in on the first day:

Here is what I was when I left today.

Finally... we have the front of the room, where the focus of the kids "normally" is. I put this in quotes because my students aren't relegated to rows all the time (or even most of the time).

I hadn't actually seen these photos side by side like this until just now. I'm pretty pleased with what I've done so far based on this. Hopefully once it won't take me another month to get those detail shots up here :)

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Must Watch Videos!

If you haven't discovered it on your own yet, you really need to go check out!

The entire website is dedicated to 1-10 minute videos, made by real teachers in real classrooms, give some nuggets of advice.  These can be life-hacks, Common Core Sources, lessons, or whatever!

Here are a couple of my favorites:

I've used (or am currently using) every one of these in my classroom.  Let me know if you want more information on any of them or how I used them!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Bringing da Noise!

One of the most challenging aspects of classroom management, at least in my opinion, is cutting back on the chatter, social elements, and flat out noise. In my classroom, especially, they love to test me during assessment times. I've voided more tests than I ever thought I would...

I found this idea on Pinterest - one of the few I think really work for a secondary room - and latched on to it. The original post came from this Tumblr account.  I found it too late to use for this past year, but I'm definitely using it this year.

Every conference I've ever been to (including when I heard Charlotte Danielson speak) and almost everything I've ever read has stated that one of the best methods of getting rid of the noise is to have a silent signal, like raising your hand. That system doesn't work for me, but I need something. This is the solution.

I am posting these letters on my white board in the front of the room, where they are clearly visible. Whenever it gets too loud, I take off a letter, starting with the "E".

Eventually, this is what's left...

And this "NO" means exactly what it says - NO more. The classroom basically goes on lockdown. No talking, no working with partners, no getting out of seats, etc.  

I like this because it gives the students a chance to regulate themselves and seems a lot clearer than putting strikes on the board or what-have-you. Having this decoration up all the time shows that expectation is always there, as opposed to being able to "forget" when there are no strikes.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Journaling with a Purpose

Journals and short writing prompts seems to be a favorite amongst us Secondary English Teachers. It keeps the students writing, and we all know practice makes perfect. We also strive to make writing worth something, so the more writing we can give the students that can connect to their lives OR let them give their opinion, the happier we are.

But who, in reality, has the time to create those interesting journal prompts, especially if you journal every day.  Here is a solution that a colleague of mine came up with...

Every day, put up a random, interesting photo. It can be a setting, a person, an animal, ANYTHING (school appropriate, of course). Students write a section of a short story every day that has to do with that photo.  Soon, with only 5-10 minutes at the beginning of class, students have a solid short story. If you keep the photos random (or create a PowerPoint with several random ones), you might even get the reaction of "What am I supposed to do with that?!"  This makes me happy :)

Imagine going from this....

To this the very next day...

This is how he does it...

  • 12 school day cycle, on average - 3 days of photos and 1 day of revision X 3.
  • Day 1 has at least 1 person in the photo, real or fictional, and that person becomes to central character to the students' stories.
  • From there, he just puts whatever interests him that particular day - here are 2 sites that could provide very interesting material...
  • Revision days follow the RADaR method, and it's either an individual or a partner activity.
  • He floats around the room offering suggestions... but mostly, he lets the kids use their creative brains to make the connections themselves - and we all know making connections is not necessarily easy for some students.
It's really nice because after about 3 weeks of bellringers, the students have a solid narrative that they spent (on average) 90 minutes drafting and 30 minutes revising. How often are you going to get students to write that long - and with almost complete attention?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Meeting Kelly Gallagher!

I went to a seminar today at the community college, about 45 minutes from my house. I was definitely not looking forward to getting up early, especially since I've really gotten used to sleeping in and spending my entire day reading (using Goodreads, which is an amazing site) and playing with my dog. However, I went...

And it. Was. Awesome.

It was a talk by Kelly Gallagher, who, if you have never heard of him, will really open your eyes to several completely practical ideas what you can incorporate into your classroom. He's all about reading and writing, but it could completely work for any subject area.

I don't know if I could even begin to describe my 5 hours at this seminar, so here's what I'll do. Links to his website and Amazon...

Here are the main points of today:

  • Writing scores are at an all-time low - NCLB obviously did not work.
  • Formulaic writing is "fake" -- Kelly even dares his students to find a published 5-paragraph essay.
  • To achieve greatness, you need 10,000 hours of practice in ANYTHING. That averages out to 4.72 hours of writing or reading every school day from K-12... and we don't have that kind of time.
  • Don't just "assign" writing - teach it.  Write along side the students.
  • Students have been doing entirely too much "Frugal and Gorbit" reading.  See if you can answer the 2 questions following the passage below. If you can, it proves his point.
As he rudled down the laskin, the jolet frugal plamed the gorbit.
"Phat plamp me again," quirfed the gorbit, "or I will sasted you."
"Oh zep," corped the brated frugal. "You always misto."
Away went the blotted frugal and the whorlotted gorbit. Perhaps the listents could thormi another day.

1. What did the frugal do?                                                     2. What might to listents do another day?
     A. blotted himself                                                                 A. plame
     B. plamed the gorbit                                                             B. thormi
     C. sasted his zep                                                                  C. rudel
     D. plumped his quirf                                                             D. blot

Here are just a couple of the methods to incorporate writing and higher order thinking at the same time:

  • Instead of having students fill out endless worksheets, have them write their own headline for the reading. You can't fake the comprehension there.
  • Incorporate an Article of the Week!
  • Have students break down what a writer is doing sections after section and have them follow that pattern - students can imitate style... and sometimes it gets them going easier than looking at a scary blank page.
  • Have students summarize in TONS of different ways - 17 word summaries, reflections, shrinking notes, whatever. Students can fake multiple choice, but not summary.
Food for thought...

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Course Mason

I just got home from a PD about this amazing new Common Core resource... It's a website called Course Mason and it was designed by a local assistant superintendent.  It has all the big essentials in one place - Standards, Essential Questions, Resources, everything!  The best part is - it's free!  If you read my previous post, this is basically an electronic version of the Big Binder!

Here are some pictures of what I worked on today, so you can see what this program offers:

When you log in, it sets you up with your different courses/classes -- I'm lucky enough to just have 2 preps, but you can create as many as you need.
The entire thing is really easy to navigate -- huge buttons at the top and sides in order to find everything that you need.
The first thing you're asked to do is choose which standards you need to apply to your course... this site has all the Common Core standards and they're adding more every day.  When I spoke to the developer, he said his goal tonight was the add the Next-Gen Science Standards. The picture above is from RL 9-10.
Next is to input your units and figure out what time frame you're working with. It's pretty nice to pace everything so you don't run out of time or spend an extra week or so on something you don't need to.
Assign the standards to the unit you've chosen.  I think it's much, much easier to work in everything when it's in small doses, as opposed to 70+ standards, looking at them, thinking "HO-LY crap. What am I going to do?"

Once all that is done... and it takes time, you can start creating assessments, like good backwards planners. If you use this program, it forces you to really work with the standards first, instead of trying to twist the standards to fit what you already teach... you can start designing the different units.
Assessments first... you lay them out on what days you think they are going to take place. They can be changed (nothing is set in stone, especially since nothing works that way in education, anyway).
Assign your standards to the units...
And then the MAGIC!  This site already breaks the standards down for you!  No more having to bend over backwards trying to figure out what exactly they're asking you to do.  You could even use the "I can" statements from my previous post and make it even easier!
It prompts you to put in essential questions and big ideas...
And finally, you can see your unit (broken down into weeks), as well as where the assessments are supposed to happen.  They're expanding this every day.  Some teachers focused on one unit today and uploaded PowerPoints, YouTube videos, and day-by-day plans. They're ENTIRE unit, from start to finish, is uploaded here in one place.

I didn't do that - hence my units look pretty bare.  I focused on getting assessments uploaded. I can plan the day-to-day stuff later and during the year. It's not like pep rallies or mock ACTs are scheduled that far in advance anyway.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Common Core "I Can" Statements

The CCSS are not exactly written in people-friendly language. It takes hours to deconstruct the skills and concepts in each standard into something a teacher can actually work with.  Many companies have published flip charts and various other resources that have that already done for you, but here's the thing. I'm cheap. I don't want to spend money on something if I don't have to.

So, here is the resource I have found that has saved my life.  It's a breakdown of the ELA CCSS...

9-10 Grade Span

11-12 Grade Span

Don't spend money if you can get the exact same thing here!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Binder That's Saving my Life

With Common Core taking over American education, almost every teacher I know is up in arms.  The old guard is half freaking out because of the differences it will cause in the way they teach, and half apathetic because they don't necessary believe it will last very long -- NCLB, after all, was deemed awful in less than 10 years.

Anyway, I belong to the new guard and am completely focused on making sure my curriculum and activities are completely aligned and that my students will be able to complete those skills outlined in the standards.  Luckily for me, my school district employs an Instructional Coach... and SHE IS AMAZING.  She loves organization just as much as I do and created binders like this for each English Teacher for each core course (English I, English II, English III).

Here is the cover... pretty, pretty

She made tabs for everything we need for complete Common Core organization.  School calendar, Quarter Outlook, Quarter Breakdowns of Standards and Texts, as well as tabs for aligned assessments.

This is what the "Quarter Outlook" looks like.  We teach based on a particular theme each quarter, so it gives space for the theme and then the titles we will be teaching based on those themes.  I put the number of weeks that text should take... just to make sure my pacing doesn't get too off.

The next thing she had us do was break down the CCSS into the 4 quarters.  We didn't assign them anywhere beyond just which quarter we will hit them.  Breaking the standards into smaller chunks has been a lifesaver so far in planning for alignment.

Finally, we divided the standards into each unit for the quarters.  This fancy little graphic organizer helps us divide up the Concepts (the fun ELA stuff we all get excited about), Skills (how the students will show those concepts -- AKA verbs), and the Blooms level of each.  Breaking these down helped me to understand the standards better AND make sure there is a range of Bloom's levels in each unit.

Sorry for the sideways picture... I'm not as computer literate as I pretend to be.

Here are some "detail" pictures of those organizers...

Finally, the last couple tabs.  All the assessments I design that are aligned correctly will go here.  This will aid in backwards planning, since the end goal will already be designed and easily accessible.  Plus, it's just best practice.

This whole idea is pretty easily adaptable... and like I said... it's saving my life and my sanity.