Saturday, August 30, 2014

MakerSpace Help

Any advice from anyone who knows about Makerspaces (  

Awarded a $1500 Walmart grant for a makerspace at school.  What are some must haves to get us started? #Makerspace #makered

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Dystopian Literature Circles

My school is located within a 20 minute drive of where part of The Hunger Games was filmed in an old mill village.  Being the intelligent teachers we our, my teammate and I jumped on the excitement and interest in this book along with other dystopian novels to create a series of literature circle books.  Chosen for this series were other books that qualified with their dystopian societies.  This dystopian series would also create a perfect interdisciplinary unit for our team.  In 7th grade in our state, students study genetics and government organizations which are all found within dystopian literature.  Math and language arts are easily tied into these novels. 

The books we used for our literature circles included:  Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix, The Maze Runner by James Dashner, The Uglies by Scott Westerfield, Divergent by Veronica Roth, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, True Sight by David Stahler Jr, City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau, The Giver by Lois Lowry, and Matched by Ally Condie. 

The great things about these books are that each of them are part of a series.  Therefore, when students found one they liked, they had others in the series to read.  This was especially helpful with my gifted students who would NOT follow the reading schedule and would always read ahead. 

We started out reading Among the Hidden as a whole class.  Students were placed in their literature circle groups or "book clubs" as we called them.  We held our meetings every Friday.  Students were given the typical role sheets that can be found just about everywhere.  I start out with a whole class literature circle first so that students understand how important it is to complete the readings and how important each role is within the set of assignments.  Each day, students complete the same role until each role has been completed, then we work on each member of the group each having a different role.  The first meeting is modeled in front of the class with me being the discussion director and other class members are randomly chosen (using the SMARTboard) to participate in the meeting with me (that way they know they must have their work completed).  We finished this first book in a couple of weeks, then the real process started.

Students listed the books they wished to read in the order they wished to read them on an index card.  I took these cards and went through them to create 8 different groups, each group reading a different novel from the list above with 4 students in each group (yes, I had 32 students in one class and 31 in another).  A couple of groups in one class would have to contain 5 students as I found that 3 students per group was just not enough to have a meaningful and thought-provoking discussion. 

Students had four weeks to complete the reading of their chosen novel.  Some students had more to read while others had less each week.  This balanced out when the novels were rotated every four weeks.  Discussion directors were chosen for each week during the initial group meeting.  After our first couple of weeks, I realized that the typical role sheets were not challening enough for my gifted students.  That is when I spent a weekend searching for alternatives and found a few things that I then combined to create out new literature circles sheets and activities.  Instead of completing one role each week, students would complete parts of each role every week and complete an activity from a list.  This worked much better for my classroom than the typical literature circle roles (not that there is anything wrong with those!).

I hope this answers some questions I have had about how I used the dystopian novels as literature circles in my language arts classroom.  Just an FYI, none of the literature circles activities were placed in our interactive notebooks.  One of the additional activities was glued into the back of our notebooks so students would always have a copy. 

A copy of my literature circle roles and additional activities can be picked up for free in my TpT store by clicking on the following picture of each item or they can be downloaded from my school documents web page by clicking here for the literature circles sheet or by clicking here for the additional creative activities page.

Thanks for reading and please ask if you have any questions.  I will try my best to answer!


Sunday, May 5, 2013

Teachers Pay Teachers Teacher Appreciation Sale

My store will be 20% May 7-8, plus get an additional 10% off from TpT upon checkout when you use the code TAD13.  Now is a great time to purchase those things from your wish list!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Cyber Monday +Bonus Tuesday Sale

The Middle School Mouth is participating in Teachers Pay Teachers Cyber Monday +Bonus Tuesday Sale November 26-27.  Check out my store for some new products that were just recently added.


Saturday, October 20, 2012

Nonfiction in Science

Wow, I cannot believe that it has been two months since I have last blogged.  This school year has been one of the most hectic and stressed that I can remember.  I hope that this feeling of being completely overwhelmed soon disappears!  Anyway, enough of the whining and onward to using nonfiction in science.

I am currently teaching two AIG (gifted) language arts classes, one standard science class, and one inclusion science science.  I am thoroughly loving it all, just hoping that I am doing all four groups justice.

Since my background has mostly been language arts in  middle school, my strengths lie there.  I think that science is the perfect place to teach those nonfiction text features and structures. 

In North Carolina in 7th grade, we teach weather and climate.  My inclusion class was struggling with the concepts associated with the topic. As I was meandering through the picture book section of Barnes and Noble, I stumbled across the book Climate Change by Peter Benoit.  As I sat (yes, in the kiddy section of Barnes and Noble) and read this book to see if it was something I could use, I had many ideas running through my head.  I bought the five copies they had on the shelf and had them order me three more so that my students could work in groups of fours. 

The book is written with several different text structures:  cause/effect, problem/solution, question/answer, and description.  Along with finding these text structures, it had many of the nonfiction text features we have been studying.  Students used their copies of the nonfiction text features cards created by Beth Newingham to identify the parts of the text to make reading it a little easier. 

For one section, students were given enough sticky notes so they would have three per subheading.  While reading each section, students were required to write in their own words three facts/ideas/pieces of information, one per each sticky note. 

Students really enjoyed this activity and seemed to actually learn the information they discovered while reading the book.  I was pleasantly surprised at how well they did with this activity and how much information they retained after reading. 

As you can see in the pictures below, there are three other adults in the room with this class.  There are an inclusion teacher, a student intern, a one-on-one assistant for two of my autistic students, and myself with 24 students.  Even with that many adults in the room, we feel wiped-out and unsure of any progress after working with that class each day. 

Climate Change by Peter Benoit

Students working on reading and taking notes on their sticky notes in their interactive notebooks.

More note taking...

Intern working with a group of students.

Another groups of students using sticky notes to take notes in their interactive notebooks.

Inclusion teacher working with a group of students reading Climate  Change.

One-on-one assistant working with two of our autistic students.
My group of girls working together to take notes and understand our climate. 

Enjoy and hopefully it won't be another two months until the next post.


Sunday, August 19, 2012

My New to Me Room

Not much to blog about this week other than the overwhelming feeling I have (like many others) about what I am doing and how I am getting it done.  Our state has switched over to Common Core this year, which is great, but I was a trainer for our new Social Studies Essential Standards that roll out this year as well so I missed all of our language arts training sessions.  And to top it off, I am now teaching Science instead of Social Studies - can we say STRESSED?  And another addition...I am also a new (as in recently certified, never done this before) AIG Specialist in 7th grade and am struggling to understand and complete the paperwork for new students placing into the program and meeting with those parents, plus dealing with my own students.  ENOUGH of my whining though!

I was lucky enough to move into one of the newer, more spacious rooms on our campus this year (yeah, add that to all the stress of learning Common Core and Science over the summer).  I teach at a middle school that was an old high does have character with many room having creaky wooden floors, steam radiators for heat, windows that do not open (or close entirely), and very small rooms.  Last year I had 28 - 6th graders in my room.  We had no room for a small group table, well we didn't even have room to sit on the floor.  Any time we needed to do a spread  out, work on the floor, movement type activity - we headed to the hallway!

So, to say the least, I am very lucky to have this new to me room even with its bowling alley shape.  It has a sink, storage, and plenty of room for all 30 of my student desks.  The biggest bonus - no real bulletin boards!  Yay me!  It is a work in progress, since students arrived this past Monday...adjustments will be made to make it more conducive to active learning.  I will be getting a SMARTboard at some point when it arrives - I just hope it doesn't hang out in the room for a couple of months before they get around to hooking it up for our class. 

Without further ado - here are some pictures of  my room!  I tried to make it not quite so prissy, but neat and organized and somewhat color coordinated.  So far, it makes me happy!

Back of room, the only bulletin board type area.  Objectives, assignments, etc on that board.  Also room to work with small groups.
Our dystopian literature circles study - all of our interdisciplinary units are planned around these novels. 
Scientific Method for science (yes, I teach 2 AIG language arts classes and 2 standard science classes).
Nonfiction Text Features reminders - perfect for both language arts and science!  These were found through a pinterest score.  They were created by Beth Newingham and can be found at her Scholastic Blog. Click on her name to go to her site where you can download them for  FREE!
The front of the room.  The board is off center and it drives me crazy (I did not set up this room, I inherited this way).  BUT - there will be a new SMARTboard hanging out on the wall in the near future.  It will be centered on that wall, starting under the flag, so it will work better for all students to be able to see.  Can you tell that I am a huge The Big Bang Theory fan?  One of my students last year gave me that poster for my birthday.
The side wall with the storage and door. most fabulous computer stand/teaching desk.  The classroom rules are posted here as well (using an Ikea bar) to create a little artwork on the wall.
Our class/team rules.  At first, this was a great idea I had, but then as I painted and attempted to attach all these frames together I thought this was one of the dumbest ideas I had ever tried.  It looks ok, I know it isn't all straight and such...but I am calling that creativity and character so that my OCD self can deal with it.  If you try this, trust me on this idea - take out the glass and use old school overheard transparencies!  I took out all of the glass before attempting to hang it to make it lighter - so glad I did as it crashed to the ground on the first hanging attempt. 
The wall opposite the door.  It will become my word wall.  Of all the things in my classroom, my word nerd wall poster creation is my absolute favorite!  I put the graphic I purchased with the words and uploaded that to Staples and they had it printed for me before I even arrived at the store. 
 I hope you have enjoyed this sneak peek into my classroom.  It will soon not look this neat and clean as these were taken the first day of school before students entered the room.  Thanks for stopping by and feel free to share any ideas you may have to make the room better.