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 :)