Monday, August 26, 2013

Hot, Hot, Hot!

So it's crazily hot here in Minneapolis right now. I have to admit I'm in a newer building (built in 1996) that has air, but one of my sisters-in-law teaches elementary ESL in Minneapolis, and they have no air conditioning. "I'm sure it will be an urban fiesta of confusion and heat." She continued, "Enjoy your kid free AC meeting :)."  And I did, but whew...brain overload when you are used to hearing Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom every day instead of tech changes, AVID information, WEB information, union information, and on and on.  Even with the mental shift, it was great to be back!

We got to head to our rooms about 11am, and it was go, go, go of course :)  I missed lunch completely (I think a lot of us did today) and printed out all the things I've been working on.  I'll include it in the photos below.  I also am trying to settle some new pieces of furniture found at either the thrift store or yard sales. Gotta make it welcoming and comfy when you won't be retiring any time soon :)

Here are some of the photos from the day. Thinking of you if you are with kids...I will be soon enough!

Happy teaching!


Thomas dancing on the table during one of our last week day lunches together for a while. 
Yes, he was ready to go back to day care ha ha!

All set the night before. Diapers, check!
Final things I had brought home over the summer, check!

A new-to-me side table and ottoman (two of those) from a near-by yard sale. $5 together!

A WHOLE lot of planning, creating, and now teaching :)
The bounty of summer...

Proof that I'm still smiling after my first day back 
and after my husband's and my
5th day of C25K. Remember, it was
upwards of 99 degrees here today
and BALMY!!!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Middle School is Worse than Meatloaf

Have you seen this book?  Middle School is Worse than Meatloaf by Jennifer Holm? If you haven't, find it soon! 

I didn't know about this book until I was showing a Scholastic Tab book pick video a few years ago, and Allison chose it as one of the monthly highlights.  I had it on my shelves but hadn't read it, and the book talk was awesome.  When I took a look, I knew right away that it was a gem in terms of teaching inference, summarizing, and predictions.

We are using it to refresh the kids on inference before we talk about making inferences with Gary Soto's "Seventh Grade." Here's what I have!

 We don't have class sets of this book yet but home to get some this year.  I think it is a great vehicle for teaching comprehension and can't wait to see how it works with the kids.

I also hit up some garage sales this morning after we went to the farmer's market and went on our C25K run...more books and things for the room.  Photos next week when I am back in full swing.

Enjoy your weekend!


Has it Been Over a Week?

Hmmmm. I didn't mean for it to be this long, but I've been working like a crazy woman on both anti-bullying curriculum and 7th grade English curriculum for the past week, with the exception of yesterday when I invited one of my sister-in-laws and her three kids to join Sam, Thomas, and me at the Mall of America's Nickelodeon Universe.  We host our annual National Night Out block party each August, and the city of Minneapolis sends Nick U Mystery Tickets to give out. We get plenty, so late August and September is our chance of the year to go on rides there (for free.) We got about 10 6-pointers and 1-100 pointer, which gave us five hours of ride madness with a baby (no rides), a two-year old, a four-year old, a five-year old, a six-year old, a 7th grade English teacher) me, and an elementary school library (Anna.) We also enjoyed Dairy Queen thanks to a school kid gift certificate Anna had and stopped by Naartje Kids and Gap Kids. All in all, an awesome way to spend our last weekday off before we both go back to teacher workshops.

But leading up to that, I have been working my tail off.  Carly and I also had four more paid hours to plan (thank you ISD 196!), and we used them well.

I have lots to share, but my hubs, the kids, and I are supposed to be heading to the farmer's market, so I thought I'd add a snapshop of part of our focus for Gary Soto's short story "Seventh Grade." I've used this SS for years, but we tightened up the focus this year.  Vocab, connections, and inference. 

Here is what the new "making connections" PPT looks like!

 I don't have rights to the clip art, so it's not on TPT or anything, but you can always copy the photos or pin them and paste them into your own PPT for now...teachers helping teachers :)

Happy Saturday, and to those of you who started with workshops or with kids this week, I hope it went well!!

Happy teaching!


Just realized I uploaded and added the slides from the "notes PPT" for kids to fill in.  Here are the first two slides with the words filled in.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Sticks in the Fire

You ever feel like you have too many sticks in the fire, and it's not even the start of the school year yet?  Do I know who I'm asking?? Of course you do.

The past few days I have found myself jumping around from planning, to creating visuals, to working on our OLWEUS anti-bullying curriculum, to trying to sort files I brought home, to trying to get out the door with my boys before the summer is over, to trying not to feel guilty for working so much right now...and it feels like too many sticks in the fire.  Well, maybe not too many, but a whole lot. 

I keep telling myself that the more I plan and prepare right now, the more smoothly the school year will run, the less stress and anxiety I'll have, the better my students will understand what we are doing.

I've also been trying to finish some visuals and activities because my 7th grade English colleague, Carly (well, she teaches 8th grade English, too), is coming over tomorrow afternoon for a paid half-day of inquiry-based planning.

Which reminds me...we got an email about job openings for ELA: one lead teacher per grade, 6-12, to get extra professional development on inquiry-based teaching and lead the district at pertinent grade level in inquiry-based planning, meetings, etc.

I'm applying!  

It's a stipended position, at about $5000 a year.  Kind of like coaching as I'd have my regular teaching duties (if I were to be hired for it, that is!)  

I'm excited to (apply to) do something for the district.  I'll be starting my 15th year, and I know the 7th grade ELA teachers pretty well--a great group overall. And I've always felt strongly about strengthening the profession, so I think this is a pretty cool opportunity.

Anyway, I am in the midst of working on some more visuals before Carly comes over tomorrow (and during time I can...when the boys are tucked into bed!)  I thought I'd share some posters I just made (well, designed...we will get them printed and laminated at school.) I've also been working to improve the "Seventh Grade" and "Names/Nombres" vocabulary activities as well as create some for a Navy SEALs article we read around September 11th.

To those of you back in workshops or starting with kids this week, I hope all is going well!!  Sorry I missed the blog hop that a lot of you are room isn't together yet, and I'm still trying to be a mom (mostly!) so I missed the memo and didn't post until today.  I'll try to hop on some of those weekly things (which I love to read about!) sooner than later!

Happy teaching!


Below are the new posters I worked on in the last hour.  There is another "Our Purpose" that has "Skills We Are Learning" but it wouldn't load...working on getting Picasa set up as I type :)


Thursday, August 8, 2013

A Liebster Award!!

Awesome!  The Liebster Award has been passed on to my blog, and I am super grateful! I was offline yesterday while at the Minnesota Zoo and at my sister-in-law's/brother-in-law's new house, so I thought I'd post today before heading into curriculum work.

Liebster details...this award is passed around to blogs with less than 200 followers as a way to connect, highlight new bloggers, and find new blogs. The rules are:

There are a few rules/guidelines:
1. You have to link back to the blog(s) that nominated you.
2. Answer the questions posted by the person that nominated you.
3. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
4. Nominate 5 more blogs that have less than 200 followers.
5. Post 11 questions for your nominees to answers.

Tiffany at Middle School Stories and  Karie at Anchored in the Middle have both nominated me; thanks SO MUCH ladies!! I appreciate it! Since both of you nominated me, I am going to take questions from each :)

Questions from Tiffany:

1. Where did you go to college, and what was your degree in?
  I went to Minot State University in Minot, North Dakota, where I grew up. I double majored in English and Spanish with a Middle School Endorsement. I got my MAEd from Hamline University in St. Paul, MN.

2. What is your favorite professional book?
  Well, hmmm. I have to include a few. I have to say that Nancie Atwell is one of my favorite standard teacher authors as I used lots of her principles and ideas to start teaching in a more effective way.  I love Heather Lattimer's Thinking Through Genre as it added a whole lot more to my units, and I am trying to work through Harvey Daniels' & Nancy Steineke's Mini-Lessons   for Literature Circles because he has lots of great ideas.  Can I mention Fountas and Pinnell's   Guiding Readers and Writers as a Bible as well?

3. What is your must have food/drink/candy to get through a day at school?
  Water, water, and more water.  I also have to keep something like a Detour Bar (something with high protein) nearby.

4. How many years have you been teaching?
  This will be my 15th year teaching! I've been in the same position the whole time, but the format has definitely changed over the years.

5. What makes you most excited for the new school year?
  As with any new school year, I am excited to start fresh, to try new ideas, to try to teach more effectively. It will also be my second year co-planning with colleagues, which has been SO incredibly awesome.  My teaching is definitely stronger than it ever has been.

Questions from Karie: 
1. What was your favorite subject in school?
  School was pretty easy for me, and I liked almost everything.  I probably liked English and Spanish the best, though!

2. Why did you begin blogging?
  I began blogging to share, connect, be helpful. 

3. What is your dream vacation?
  I'd love to take my husband to Europe!!  My other dream vacation is an all-inclusive resort where it is 75 degrees, sunny, and restful.

  4. If you were not an educator, what would you be?
  With my second son, I spent 3 weeks on hospital bed rest (during a 12 week bed rest stint), 20 days with him in the NICU, and 6 days at Children's when he had RSV/pneumonia at 6 months old. If I wasn't teaching, I'd love to work in a children's hospital helping/supporting  families who are there.

  5. Do you have any "guilty pleasure" television shows you watch?
  We don't have cable, and I don't think Nova or Antique's Roadshow count ha ha!  My husband and I only have two shows that we watch together: Downton Abbey and Mad Men. Our daycare provider's son in real life is Vinnie Kartheiser who plays Pete Campbell on Mad Men, so we love to watch!!

  6. What is your favorite childhood memory?
  My parents were both teachers, and so we always spent summers at our lake cabin in rural North Dakota.  Love those memories!! Campfires, my dad playing guitar, bouncing on the  bunk beds...

11 Random Facts About Me:
1. I am a middle kid true-to-role and happy in the middle :)

2. I was in an all-girl punk band named Madaline when I was in late high school and college.
3. I was also a cheerleader from 7th - 12th grade. 
4. My favorite sport to cheer for was wrestling, and I still love wrestling to this day.
5. I am married to an awesome guy who cooks, fixes things, and is generally awesome! This is the second time around for both of us, so we appreciate each other even more! Our 10-yr anniversary was this past May.
6. I have a 2 year old (Thomas), a 5 year old (Sam) who is heading into kindergarten, and a 17-yo step-daughter (Abbey) who will be a senior.
7. My dad was a 7th grade English teacher as well. My mom taught 1st grade. They are both retired, and since my childhood home flooded in the Minot flood of 2011, they are permanent RVers.
8. My husband is one of eight kids, and I am one of three kids. In our families combined,  our parents included, there is at least one teacher in each of the 13 families.
9. I am horrible at finishing books.  I just finished The House Girl for my book club, though!
10. I love, love, love x 200 being a mom!
11. One of my personal goals for this year is to hold at least one Story Bowl in Minneapolis I think it would be awesome.

And I Nominate:
1. Anna, a fabulous teacher-librarian at A to Z Library

And as the Liebster is being passed, I need to find blogs that are new and don't have them yet! next four may take a while.  Thanks for your patience!

Questions for my Nominees: 
1. What was your favorite subject in school?

2. Why did you go into teaching?
3. What has been your favorite place to travel to?
4. How many years have you taught, and what have you taught during that time?
5. What is your favorite YA or kids book?
6. What is your favorite adult reading book?
7. What do you most look forward to about the upcoming year?
8. What would make your school year easier?
9. If you weren't in education, what would you be?
10. Why did you begin blogging?
11. What's your favorite online resource?

Thanks again to Tiffany and Karie!  

Happy teaching, 


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Another Visit (and one of my favorite topics...thrifting!)

I have been finding it a little tough to stop thinking about my classroom right now and getting things back in order.  Our building is used pretty heavily during the summer--summer school, gifted/talented academy, enrichment classes, sports, adult ed, YMCA camps, language camps, summer band, even a church rents it on Sundays--so I cover my shelves at the end of the year and don't uncover them until late August.

My husband and I have been pretty big into thrifting for about a year (yep...I'm gonna pop some tags...)(no leopard print for this Mama, though!); we both lost considerable weight after I had Thomas (our two-year-old)(thank you, Medifast and a supportive husband...55 lbs gone!) and buying clothes full price on a teacher's and photographer's paycheck wasn't in the cards.  We are lucky in that we live in Minneapolis (I teach in a southern suburb, Apple Valley) and have fabulous thrift shops within arm's reach. I still love window shopping at Banana Republic, J Crew, Gap, Loft, etc...but I know that I never need to pay full price for any of these brands anymore.  Some of my best finds...crushed velvet maroon flats by Coach for $16. Banana Republic trouser pants for 99c. I could go on and on, though, so I'll stop there and just say that 90% of the time, I am wearing thrift finds. I digress, though...this DOES relate to school! (And my Tumblr is a currently-poorly-tended tale of our thrifting finds...I haven't been too dressy this summer, but I'll get the Tumblr flowing more fervently once school starts again.)

Not only do we find clothes and shoes and kids' toys and books and home goods at our favorite thrift stores, we also find THINGS FOR MY CLASSROOM!! The shutters as well as the knitting holder in this photo are second-hand:

This fashionable! fake ficus tree was $8 thrifted:

This computer hutch-turned-bookshelf ($15) as well as my desk ($90, solid wood, hand made) were both Craigslist finds from when I was on bed rest with Thomas for 89 days and had lots of time to think about my classroom! (Even my school bag, which is in front of my desk in this photo was thrifted: $3 with tags on!)

So whenever we are in a home goods section, I scout for displays for my room. I've had white plastic gutters lining either the back counter or floor right along the wall for about five years, but one seventh-grade foot will set the whole lot face-flat onto the floor.  Now, thanks to a new-to-me bookshelf and a handy-most-awesome husband, problem solved.  Here he and our boys are yesterday in Room 156.

When pushed up against the far book shelves, the gutters didn't meet in the middle under my whiteboard, but they overlapped with the new shelf (which according to the name and date on the backside was a shop-class project, and I have it upside down since it's on the floor!) So, Stephen brought his hacksaw and tin snips with the goal of getting the middle shelf to fit as well as pinning the gutters so the books wouldn't flop forward.  Score on both accounts! He snipped the front lip but left the bottom and back. That allows the gutter ends to sit snug against the book shelves but also be pinned underneath and behind the shelves.  Not sure if it all meets custodial/safety standards, but I'll corner my custodian on that one when we go back for real :)  At the moment, it works well!  

If you look closely, you'll see another awesome fix that my husband came up with, the white board ledge! I had books falling off the ledge frequently, and it was annoying as well as super hard on the books. We thought about it for quite a while, first testing with a wire curtain hanger from IKEA, but what finally worked was three large C-clamps, a span of wire, and some wire crimps and small zip-ties.The kids mess with it on occasion but I  make it clear that I don't want it broken, and they are generally pretty respectful about it. Here is a close-up of the clamp. 

I'm also playing around with the display under my SMART board. I have the shutters there and had put the knitting-basket-turned-book-basket there, but I also found this wire holder second hand, and it fits smaller novels really well.  I'm not so sure about how it looks, my ideal world something like old fruit crates would look much better. Well see how it turns out. It needs 3M sticky hooks to sit right against the wall without tipping, but it's just propped right now. Here's the current status:

Anyway, I should probably switch gears and get the boys out of the house right now, so I'll leave you with that! I'll do a full scale in-class library and display post with photos of my four tall book shelves, back counter, and IKEA Expedit 4x4 when I am back in the room and everything is settled. 

Happy Tuesday, and happy teaching!


Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Land of...

I live in Minnesota.  The land of 10,000 lakes. The land of 10,000 mosquitoes. The land of 10,000 Target stores!!

My five year old and I ran to Target this morning to grab some milk for breakfast, but of course you can never leave Target without buying more than you came for Did you find everything?  Did I find everything?? Need you ask?!  

Sam and I took a little jaunt past the school supplies (after looking at school supplies...), past the home goods, past the clothes, and landed in our destination: The Dollar Spot.  To be fair, he was hungry and getting cranky, and he just wanted to get the remaining things on our list, apples and bananas, and leave.  It was I, horrible shopping Mom, who made him linger in such a tempting place.  He got stickers; I got school stuff.  

I had seen PVC holders for small pocket charts on Pinterest (BTW, I haven't figured out how to do the code right so people can pin photos from my blog.  Any tech help would be welcome!!  I'll Google it, though, too.) But I had never seen the small charts in the Dollar Spot before, and of course I left with a few and maybe have plans to get some more.  At $1, you really can't go wrong. I'm thinking of using them with some sort of connotation/denotation/shades of meaning work for the kids.  I like Jen Jones's ideas here, but I think I may make my own. Any of you have good middle grade uses for mini-pocket charts?

Well, I'll leave you with a photo of my loot from the Dollar Spot.  We did eventually go home, but only after picking up the bananas, apples, and a chocolate cake donut for Sam :) He was happy with that. 

Off to finish cleaning the garage :)

Happy teaching!


Saturday, August 3, 2013

My "Getting Ready" List

Now is the time of year when my brain starts to flutter.  I think all teacher's brains start to flutter in August.  I told my husband the other day that August is like one big Sunday for me, and he smiled.  Sunday has never been my favorite day.  So much to little time...will I get it all done...will my alarm clock work?

After I thought about it some more, though, I decided that it is really a matter of perspective.  I can either look at August as the last gasp, the last bit of freedom for a long while, the last few weeks of being a full time mama (this one is probably the hardest for me...I LOVE my time with my boys) or I can look at it as a gift.  We still have three full weeks of break left ( my head I'm still lamenting that it's oooonly threeeee!) and know what??  In January, three weeks of break would seem like a gift. So there, brain. Please, please, please stay with that thought!

I need to also remember that I love my job, and I love my colleagues.  The beginning of the school year is a gift of new beginnings and a welcomed time to reconnect with colleagues I haven't seen over the summer (I am getting good, however, at playdates with fellow teacher-mamas!) This past school year was the first one ever (in 14 years) where I really, truly heart-missed the ladies I work with.  I mean I've missed colleagues before, but not like this summer. This past year, there was a trio of us who did the main planning for 7th grade English and then my special education co-teacher who I work closely with as well.  One of the trio moved back to Florida, and it was like I had a grade-school friend moving away.  Really.  I'll write a different day about collegial work, though, and about how awesome it is to work on a solid team when you haven't had people to plan with before.  So I also need to remember that I'll have my school support system back, too.

Anyway, when I was out at school the other day, I came across a list that I made several years back re: what I need to do before workshop week.  It looks like this:

At this point I am able to delete a few things, like "ask for wall to be closed" since I'm no longer in Room 250 where we had a collapsible wall between 250 and 251, or "agenda for department meeting" and "make sure tech is set up for department meeting" since I haven't been a department chair in two years, but I'll definitely be adding a few things, too.

I thought I'd write out my list here so I can internalize it and maybe try to get some of these things done before they should be.  It would also be interesting to see what you, lovely blog readers, have on your "super-to-do lists" pre-work!

My giant list of "to do:" 
  • Prepare room if possible
  • Desk/chair numbers
  • Clean up and prepare Moodle page
  • Class lists and #s
  • MCA score files
  • Q Comp goals & meet with peer leader
  • Emergency lesson plan
  • When is hall duty
  • Essential learning poster (purpose poster)
  • Find dates of MAP and MCA testing
  • Update parent homework
  • Update self and class ppt if I am going to use them
  • Print homeroom roster
  • Print schedule template for homeroom kids
  • Print class rosters
  • Make seating chart
  • Rosters and seating for Robin and for subs
  • Copy room sign-outs
  • Copy book check-out
  • Copy mid-day passes for all months
  • Get extra pencils ready
  • Get book shelves and displays ready
  • Copy out-of-class passes and make sure lanyards are hung up
  • Any ELA prof. dev. dates to get subs for?
  • Any co-taught prof. dev. dates to get subs for?
  • Scholastic online ordering: get ready online
  • Scholastic online ordering: make sure to locate catalogs & make parent letter
  •  Check on relicensure and how I'm doing on CEUs (good for a while, though!)
  • Added: when will Anti-bullying committee meet?
  • Added: make packet for 7th grade teachers/students for OLWEUS meetings
  • Added: prepare for skit for a-b committee time during workshop week
  • Added: get the 17 Chrome Books organized, etc.
The list doesn't include what we need to do (7th grade English teachers) to get ready for the first few days...plans, any supplies, copies, etc. but we have that on a shared doc on Collab, which is our district's Google Docs.

Internalizing......start.  Actually I'm feeling a little overwhelmed after typing that out, but at least I'm overwhelmed at the beginning of August with this list instead of realizing I had the list in October and scrambling to do these things randomly the the last week in August during workshop week. :)

Any tips or things that you get ready in the calm before the storm??

Happy teaching!


At-home Reading

Carly and I decided to start the year on a reading note right from the very first day this year.  Usually I spend some time introducing myself and the curriculum, talking about the at-home reading log we give, giving a parent assignment (In a Million Words or Less...I'll share it here soon.) Then we introduce the bio-poem and they get to work.

Not anymore!

We decided mid-last year to nix the bio-poem.  It's an assignment that I've given since my second year or so, and I always used it as a gauge to see which kids turned in homework, which could get a "very best work" assignment turned in without wrinkles or rips, as well as to learn a little about the kids.  It's not a bad assignment, per se, but we've decided to ditch it and pass it on to the homeroom teachers who can use it with homeroom kids during the first two weeks if they'd like.

We decided that this year we will start in with a stronger emphasis on reading than just giving the reading logs, so in addition to still explaining them, we are giving a reading interest inventory (nothing new, I know...) and then exploring reading resourceswith the kids.  Don't worry about the parents; they'll still get the Million Words or Less assignment!

Let me start here with our at-home reading logs. After several years of assigning book reports (including cereal box book reports which were cool even if some students forgot to take the cereal out! Oh, and the one kid who wrapped a heavy library dictionary because he forgot to do the assignment at home...) I decided to align with the then-8th grade teachers and use an at-home reading log. They have kids chart per trimester, but as a procrastinator myself, I wanted time segments that would be more manageable for 7th graders but not as paperiferous as the weekly logs my step-daughter got when she was in grade school. 

I decided to do all the math and figure out what the weekly goals from the 8th grade numbers (both page requirements and minute requirements) and just pair it down a little.  Here is what the logs for this year look like for September. We chart and collect by month.

This is the front side--a calendar with reminders.

This is the back side--the grading guide, parent signature line, & a few of the guidelines.

Somehow, I decided to be a little over-ambitious and make these for the whole year up front.  I don't know why we hadn't ever made them for the whole year before; it seems like a no-brainer now!  Anyway, I am really happy that they are ready to go, ready to copy for the whole year, ready to add to the web (to our Moodle pages) so parents and students can easily access them if they lose them, etc.

So what are our guidelines?
  • All reading logged must be done outside of the school day, which means before 8am and after 3pm.
  • Students need to read at grade level (or at their level if they are under) or Junie B. Jones or Magic Tree House.  
  • We don't let them log comics, even though comics are awesome. If they have something they think has enough continuous text, they can always ask if it will work. Also, if they are baby sitting and get roped into reading lots of children's books, the can ask to have it credited for some pages.  
  • Students can earn up to five points a week for their reading. They can choose to log by minutes or by pages. Most choose pages, as it is quicker for most of them. They can switch back and forth on a week-by-week basis to see which method they like best.
  • Students need to read at least once a week to get credit and aim for the minimum requirements.  We know they are busy, and it is up to them and their parents to decide when, etc.  
  • We have students log as many pages as they read, not just stopping once they hit the minimum.  Of course some kids will have 60 pages, no more, not even if they stopped in the middle of a sentence right in the middle of the climax....that's ok. Many of our students read more than 60, some even reading over 1000 pages a month. Some years when I am feeling nice/organized, I record who reads a ton (usually over 1000 pages a month) and randomly draw for a small Target or BN gift card. I haven't done that in a while though. I mean, I'm still nice, but I've been in Mommy-fog mode for the past five years!
  • We do raise the bar every three months with a bit higher requirements. It's not much though. Sept/Oct/Nov it is 60+ pages a week for an A. Dec/Jan/Feb it moves to 70, and Mar/Ap/May it is 80. Minute requirements move up, too, of course.
  • What else??They HAVE to have a parent signature to get a score.  If the parent signature is late, the log is late. Before I get into those issues, let me say that parents can email, write a note, etc. Not a problem.
  • When are they due? I used to always have them due the Tuesday of the week following the end of the month's log.  There was a higher success rate when I could remind them, and that was ok with me! Carly decided to accept them the entire week they are due, and I'm now following suit.  
  • Late logs? In the past, I'd take a point off a day for a late log until it hit the half credit point. Then they were just half credit. Now, they are full credit all that week they are due. If they are turned in after that, they are half credit.  The assignment will be expired at the end of the month they are due.  If a student has an IEP, they always can earn full credit and can always turn them in.
  • This year I want to do a better job of communicating with parents of kids who never turn in their at-home reading.  With the first log (September) we attach a sheet with examples of "great" and "not so great" filled in logs, and a hand written (then photo-copied) letter to parents.  There is a parent signature line so we can ensure they get home and the parents are aware of the requirement.  While I'm mentioning parent signatures, I should say two things. 1) Yes, a few kids will try to forge. I'm sure you've been there! I usually address it, especially if I've seen the signature for several months and recognize it. Erased and re-written cursive capital letters are always a dead give away! Yes, I've made the mistake of inquiring when it really was parent bad-penmanship. No one has been too bent out of shape. 2) One of my old colleagues who teaches another grade now always maintained that kids don't read outside of class and parents just sign regardless.  My take--many of our kids DO read outside of class. Sure some don't, but they usually don't turn them in, and that's why I want to make a better effort at communicating with those parents this year. Secondly, if a parent "just signs regardless..." well, that's in their court. I choose to believe that most are honest.
  • Anything else??  We run these September through May.  I took out a week at winter vacation and spring break this year...I'm sure the kids won't mind! 
  • If you have any questions on how these run, feel free to comment/ask.

So do you use at-home reading logs with your students?  Any tips, add-ons, etc?

We would like to add in some sort of reflection/literary accountability, but we haven't done that yet.

That first day this year, we want to share, maybe by hard copy but hopefully by computer, reading resources for our kids. I put this list together this morning.

Awesome lists for all to check out!
Good Reads Popular Middle School Books
Good Reads Young Adult Book Lists (awesome!)
International Reading Assoc. Young Adults Choices Reading List
American Library Assoc. Best Fiction for Young Adults 2013
Young Adult Books Central
National Public Radio's 100 Best Ever Teen Novels
National Public Radio's Young Adult Book List
If you like...then's why!

A great reading listTeen Reads

 Awesome lists for the guys!
Guys Read

Good Reads Best Books for Teen Boys
Wall of Books: 140+ books for the boys of YA
8 YA authors recommend books for boys
Reading Rants: Boy Meets Book

 Awesome lists for the ladies!
Good Reads: Best Teen Girl Books
BN: Girls & Young Women Teen Fiction
New York Times: What's a Girl to Read?
Good Reads: Teen Girl Book Club
YA Mother/Daughter Reading Recommendations

 Lit videos!
Book trailers
from Epic Reads
Scholastic video book talks
Scholastic author videos

 Mrs. Shaffner's You Tube book playlists
  Historical Gothic
Publishers' You Tube channels
   Penguin Young Readers Group
   Harper Teen
   Simon and Schuster

You can also find the list on my Moodle page under Reading > Reading Resources for Teens. Log in as a guest.  They updated the interface this summer, and I haven't shaped mine up it may be a little weedy right now!

Any other great links you'd suggest? 

Well, that's it right now for at-home reading and on-line recommendations. I hope it helps!

Happy teaching,


Classroom Current State and a Tour of My Area

My room right now--covered in pink!
It will be nice to clean this area up!
I tried the Pinterest shutter idea, and it will work for this spot!
I've used gutters in my room for years, but I can't attach them to the walls,
and it only takes one 7th grade foot to accidentally knock down the whole row of books!
My helpers, Sam and Thomas!  Sam made a "chair bridge work of art!"
So it seems like my learning curve for blogging is kind of steep :) Thanks to my sister-in-law/teaching librarian, Anna, who blogs at A to Z Library, I now have the Blogger app on my phone and can more easily put photos into posts.  Whew!  My next mountain is actually typing in some text before inserting photos...I think I can do it :)  

At any rate, these are photos from my classroom a few days ago when I drug my kiddos out to school to grab some books.  As you can see, my school has mostly open classrooms. It's a beautiful school, built in 1996 (I've been there since 1999), and we have between 1200 and 1300 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. We used to teach with the house concept, so the area above that I'll describe below always housed one of each teacher: English, Social Studies, Art/Tech Ed/FACS, Science, Math, and Communications.  Two years our district changed the model and went from an 8 period day to a 6 period day.  And we were more or less departmentalized.  Both systems have their positives and negatives.  I guess we just roll with the punches in the middle :)

As far as my room, three walls are all I have, so I created my wo-man cave with Ikea bookshelves (one with school funds and the other with my funds) to make sort of mock-up walls on the open side.  I also have a small gray divider you can see in the last photo.  I got that through an inter-district "trading post" many years ago. (Can I say "many years ago" yet?? I'm not new anymore??) 

We work in horse-shoe-like areas. If you look closely in the last photo, you'll see an area with half walls toward the top; that's in the center of our area, a computer area for the kids. Across the way (at the very top) you can see the maroon room dividers of Gregg (on the left...teaches American Studies) and Carly (on the closest colleague--teaches 7th and 8th grade English.) 

From the second photo, you can see that I have a half wall on one of the sides of my room near the entry. Right over the wall is a smaller classroom for my special ed co teacher, Robin.  It has been invaluable to have her right there.  Great for us to plan, for kids to work in, etc.

There are three other classrooms in our area. Beside me, to the left in the last photo, is a room with a door. There is one of these in each teaching area (there are 8 areas like this in the school,) mostly for the teachers who teach Communications and students give speeches.  This year it will be taken up by a new colleague who has been out on a parenting leave. She's taught 7th and 8th grade English before (in-district) and it will be nice to have her next door.  The other two classrooms in the area are to the right if you are looking at the last photo.  They are science rooms, and two great colleagues, Mike and Jamie, teach there.  They have awesome windows, which is the cause of some jealousy, but their rooms are pretty fickle with the weather, so I guess I should just be happy :)

Well, I'm going to wrap this post up and work on one about at-home reading logs. I'll be adding more detailed photos with my room set-up when I'm b2s in a few weeks.

Happy teaching!