October 23, 2014

TBT: Scary Stories for Halloween

With Halloween a week away, I thought it would be a good idea to share my favorite activities. Of course, for most of us, we're long past the days of actually being able to celebrate the holiday with costumes and trick-or-treating, but I like to honor it by introducing my students to some of my favorite scary stories!

I like to turn off the lights and play some eerie music for an appropriate backdrop as we read our scary stories. If you have those fancy finger flashlights, this would be a perfect day to use them! Otherwise, you can use a lamp or just turn off some of your classroom lights. I've also seen people use tissue paper to cover their light panels... it creates an awesome atmosphere, but I'm not sure how the fire marshall would feel about such things.

Anyway, this link will take you to a collection of my favorite stories and poems that I've used with my middle school students to introduce suspense, foreshadowing, and even irony. I have scoured the interwebs to link you to the texts and also accompanying videos where they apply. You could easily spread them out for your reading activities for the week or just do a day of scary stories.

Happy reading!

October 21, 2014

Accountability with a Subsitute

Now that I'm back on this day-to-day subbing thing, I've been keeping my eye out for tips and tricks to share with you guys from the many classrooms I visit.

Those of you who teach in middle and high school settings (okay... this probably applies to some upper elementary students too) understand the frustration of leaving work with a sub only to return and find that there was little accountability for your students. Nothing is more annoying than spending all that time putting together sub plans and return to a class full of students who didn't complete them.

Sometimes, this is because you get a bad substitute who doesn't really manage the classroom, but other times this is simply because your students see a sub and decide they're taking the day off from work. When I was out for a week with a double ear-infection, I was SO DISAPPOINTED to learn that my students literally did NOTHING the entire time I was gone.

Please tell me I'm not the only one who's been there!

A science teacher I've subbed for a couple time recently uses a classroom management strategy that I think is pretty fail-proof. It requires very little work from the substitute and holds students accountable for the work they're supposed to complete in your absence.

He simply breaks the assignment (usually reading independently and taking guided notes) into sections. As students finish each section, they come check in with me (the sub). I simply initialed the completed page with a highlighter and then gave them an answer key to check their work. Then, I gave them the next part of the assignment.

The greatest part is that the classroom teacher is able to see how far students got based on the substitute initials. This could easily translate into classroom points for participation if you use such things in your gradebook.

Because of this accountability factor, I've noticed that students in this classroom are much more likely to work productively than in similar classrooms where they don't have this check-in. Of course, the same idea applies for any assignment that is submitted at the end of class, but this also relieves your substitute of having to collect any papers from students and reduces the risk of papers being lost.

Or... you can just do this...

Happy teaching! :)

October 20, 2014

IMWAYR: Twisted

Every time a friend asks for book recommendations, I watch the suggestions like a hawk. The book I just finished was recommended by a few women I know, and it's definitely worth sharing.

Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson tells the story of Tyler Miller, a high school senior who has always been the underdog. He's spent his entire life being bullied by the jocks at school and by his verbally abusive father at home. After being sentenced to a summer of community service for vandalizing his school, Tyler starts his senior year with a new, muscular physique and the bad boy appeal that attracts his longtime crush.

Nothing, though, is ever as simple as that. Sometimes, being in the spotlight can bring unwanted attention, and it certainly doesn't help that his parents and administrators seem to be waiting for him to mess up again. Even when he tries to do the right thing, he's accused of doing wrong. The events of one night lead to a downward spiral, leaving Tyler questioning if he can ever redeem himself.

After the night in question, the story moves forward very quickly. I found myself eager to read "just one more" chapter until I reached the dramatic climax, which was a real page-turner!

At that point, though, I feel like the book just kinda ended. In my opinion, all the loose ends tied together too quickly, and it felt forced to me. I mean, I definitely appreciate the closure, but it didn't feel authentic. Anderson spent so much time on the character development and backstory leading up to the main conflict that I felt a little let down by how easily everything settled.

I definitely think this book is worth the read, but I'm interested to know if others felt the same about the ending. Have you read it? 

October 14, 2014

Bluff Review Game Freebie

Look at me posting two days in a row! AND you get another freebie! I guess that's the benefit of me not working again today.

Today, I get to give you a Teaching Tip, which I haven't done in WAY too long, AND I get to link up with Tried it Tuesday because this was a new idea that I just LOVE!

Since I was a student, Jeopardy has been one of the go-to review game in class. The problem I've always had with it as a teacher is that the majority of your students are just not engaged. If they're not engaged, they're not paying attention. If they're not paying attention, they're not really reviewing anything.

During my leave cover, I was introduced to the perfect solution: Bluff Review Game!


Bluff is a twist on your average jeopardy game that gets all students involved. Here's how it works:
  1. Divide you class into two teams.
  2. Team A selects a question.
  3. Everyone on Team A who knows the answer OR wishes to bluff stands up silently.
  4. Teacher selects ONE member to answer the question.
  5. If that member is correct, one point is awarded per standing member. This is why it's fun to take the risk and bluff!
  6. If that member is wrong, Team B gets a chance to steal all of those points.
  7. Switch to Team B until all questions have been answered.
Can students still choose not to participate? Sure! It's never going to be perfect! BUT... there's a lot of positive peer pressure to participate because they want to earn the most points possible. They also learn pretty quickly to be sneaky with their bluffs because I love to call on the students who I think don't know the answer. 

We played this a chapter review before a test and again on my last day as a review of what they had learned about me this year. Every single one of my students LOVES this game!

If you click on the Bluff image above, you can download a blank Bluff board (in PowerPoint) for 30 questions, which already has all the links in place for you! (Note: I give the answers orally so there is no place on the board to write them.) I hope your students enjoy this as much as mine!

October 13, 2014

Where I've Been and a Late Freebie for You

Dear Readers,

I must apologize for my abrupt absence. So much has happened in the past few weeks that blogging has taken a backseat.... or I guess it's really further back than that. Maybe it's been stuck in the "way back" of my mom's old station wagon... you know what I'm talking about. You used to sit there, facing backwards, waving to people in the cars behind you too. 

Anyway, the long-term position I covered has now ended, so I'm back to the day-to-day grind of looking for work. I have been fortunate that I've been working MOST days in the school where I completed the long-term thanks to my awesome principal who gave me a plug during a staff meeting (I was told by several coworkers that this is the first time any sub has ever been given her stamp of approval. It helps that her daughter was in my class and loved me.) 

I did spend one day working in another building and HATED it. I forgot what it's like to be a nobody again. The kids test... oh do they test, and the staff mostly ignores me. It's pretty lonely, I have to admit. So, I tend to hold off on accepting jobs in other schools as much as possible. But, a girl's gotta work!

On my last day with my kiddos, we played a review game about what they've learned about me. It was a great way to end our time together. I was overwhelmed with letters, cards, chocolate, candles, and Starbucks gift cards from my thoughtful students. Every time I walk into the building now, I'm mobbed by my kiddos asking if I'm subbing for one of their teachers. It's a great feeling!

Also, in my absence, I forgot completely about my Bears Victory Freebie, which I owe you all for yesterday's win in Atlanta. I am so jealous of all my friends who went down for the game. One of my friends had amazing tickets for $160. It was cheaper to drive down there for the weekend and the game than to attend here in Chicago. Plus... they had beautiful weather. I guess that explains all the blue and orange in the stands yesterday.

 Click here for Bears Victory Freebie!

If you click here, you can download a social studies freebie I did with my kiddos during my last week. It's called Dumpster Dive, and it's a lesson in how archeologists use primary sources (in this case garbage) to learn about the people who left the item behind. My students LOVED this activity, and I hope yours will too. 

Since I'm late to share this, I'm going to leave it up for a couple days. Hey... maybe you'll get lucky, and I'll forget to take it down! 

I promise I'll try to be better for the next win! :)

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