Image Map

July 18, 2024

Book Trailer Tuesdays and First Chapter Fridays

Back in elementary I was a read aloud queen! We read so many books every year though novel studies and mentor sentences. Jumping up to middle school and into a period schedule, there hasn't been time to complete as many, but I still have the passion to expose kids to books to get them reading. The only issue was that I was used to elementary books, but not middle school books.

Enter First Chapter Fridays!
During that first year I found Amanda Zieba's YouTube channel with tons of recommended books. It became the highlight of Fridays being able to show off books that had been vetted by Amanda and have her read the first chapter to the kids. She knows middle school. I quickly found while teaching multiple classes the power behind technology - if I could save my voice and not read aloud my times, the kids didn't mind.

My second year I also found out about Book Trailer Tuesdays from Abby from Write on with Miss G over on Instagram. She also had a list of books that she recommends, she even has links to the best ones. Book Trailers are similar to movie trailers - a visual of what the book is about - usually 1-3 minutes long. The graphics grab kids' attention. I searched Youtube for "________book trailer". There are a lot of creative people out there that have done a great job making book trailers. 

My issue was keeping track of all the books while sharing 2 per became a lot! I was writing them down in my lesson planner, I was putting the links over on a channel on our Microsoft Teams, which worked as a running list that kids could listen to again during silent reading, but it wasn't much of a visual for the kids to remember.

Last summer I was reminded that back in elementary I took the books we read and created a bulletin board display, so I decided to do the same thing with our book recommendations. I took the big list of books that teachers had been recommending to me, and searched for their book cover image, put it into a powerpoint - 8 per page (about 2in x 3in), and then printed and laminated them. 

Last year it was so easy! I just picked one book cover for Tuesday and another for Friday. I stuck them on two small pocket charts near my class library so kids could have the visual. It worked well and did give them ideas of what they may be interested in. 

Okay - here are the books from the multiple lists. If there are less than 8 per page it's because silly me had duplicates. If you want my images to print, just drag and save them to your desktop. On my desktop I just needed to print the images at 200% to make it be near the correct size. 

I have not vetted all of these myself yet since there are sooo many of them. All are considered middle school, and some are considered YA - and definitely for more mature audiences. This past year I didn't use those, even though my 8ths are so close to high school. Some books our librarian recommended. Some are from Amanda and others are from Abby. All in all, the kids learned about some great books and I'm going to keep this routine in the coming years.

Hope this helps. 

July 15, 2024

Reflection Journals and Data Folders

Blogging has always been my way to reflect on what was working in my classroom and the lessons that I've been learning as a teacher. When I started blogging 13ish years ago it was a very stressful year and I needed to remember at least one good thing per day. I would share it and then the internet could help me celebrate. :) This website has also been a record for myself, that I can look back to see how I've grown as a teacher.

I do a lot of reflection with my students too, and that's something I've brought with me whatever age that I'm teaching. When I bumped up to 8th I brought the same routines with me that I know worked.

Reflection Journals:

The first week of school I pass out little notebooks to my students and they add their name to the front. We brainstorm the type of person we want to be during the year. Then we use them every Friday for reflections and some other things as well. I tell them that they are creating a timeline of their 8th grade year. 

Every Friday it's my bellringer for History class (the 2nd time I see them during the day). They date the entry and do a quick 3, 2, 1, <3

3 things they learned that week in any subject
2 things they are proud of
1 goal for next week
They can do an emotion check as well. <3 

It is quick, they grab their notebook from their class' basket and when done they put it back. Some volunteers always want to share.

Our middle school does weekly grade checks during homeroom, so we don't do many grades in there, but for progress reports and report cards we do reflect in our notebooks as well. What is an area they are proud of, and what's an area that they want to grow.

Each trimester we do a much deeper dive into creating goals and that also goes into the notebooks - looking at each subject's skills closely. All in all, I'm still thankful I could bring that up to 8th grade.

What exact notebooks do I use? I like the multi colors so it's easier for kids to find their exact one. Not a huge amount of pages, but we use most of them throughout the year. My dad has been donating them to my classroom. Thanks Dad!

Other reflections that we do are using Data Folders.

I shared about them years ago... but here's the middle school version. I just have them bar graph their learning after pre and post tests, or quizzes by subject. So one square will be history quizzes, another square for ELA quizzes, and another for vocabulary. I want to make sure they are actually looking at their Aeries grades, so approx. every 3 weeks we are spending time pulling out the data folders and opening up Aeries to actually look at their grades. It's usually a whole class end of class task. We spend other times doing error analysis for specifics as to why, etc, but these data folders are for an overview.

The other part is reflecting on the parts of the ELA units and giving themselves a 4,3,2,1. For example our first unit is mainly parts of plot, writing plot summaries, and learning about types of conflict - each skill gets it's own line. They rate themselves to see how they are understanding it. I like them to also see how much they have grown.

4 - I understand it so much that I can teach it to someone else
3 - I got it but can't teach someone else
2 - I almost got it but am still sometimes confused
1 - I am still so lost

Glancing at their 4,3,2,1's I can see what areas they need to build their confidence and skills. It's a reference for them and me when we are doing review. 

Every kid has a file folder with both of these print outs stapled inside and then we add more copies as the year progresses. 

Hope this helps!

July 12, 2024

Back to School Prep - Digital Paperwork

I could joke that I have nothing to do now that I've switched up to 8th grade, but that wouldn't be true. 

I have found that it is far less physical prep for back to school than it was in the elementary grades. Yeah, I'll have to shove furniture around in the classroom, but I'm not packing pencil boxes, creating folders, etc. anymore. It's more the mental and digital prep in order to prepare for a new school year. 

Every summer I still go through my computer file folders to make sure they are still relevant. There's always the chance that I didn't file something correctly in the craziness of the school year, and I have to go through my "Go through" file - yep, I named it that. 

I'm still using Microsoft Teams for my classes - mainly for assignments and posting our daily agenda, and every year I'm creating more photos and details to upload as references on the assignments. The photo below shows part of my direction screenshots.

So I go back through last year's Teams to grab screenshots of my assignment details to file in the correct file folder. It has helped to remember exactly how I explained it last year. If you do this, remember to label the screenshots when you actually take them... learn from me, it's a pain to do it later. :)

I also go through my Week by Week plan and update based on last year's planner. 

After my first year in 8th I created a simple template that I filled in what we accomplished based on the weeks of the year. It's just a simple Week 1-19 on the front, and 20-38 on the back. These simple papers have helped me remember where we're heading while planning out the next unit. It also helps me to not constantly be flipping through last year's planner to check.

ELA Pacing

SS Pacing

Yearbook Pacing

Hope this helps. Next up I need to update my family's school calendars into the computer - min. days and vacations.  This next year we will have 4 schools that we are juggling - 2 colleges, a high school, and then mine. Yikes! When did my kids grow up??

Hope you have a great day!