Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Year of Changes

Well, I know it has been a LONG time since I have posted anything on my blog.  Many things have changed over the past couple of years, great changes full of opportunities and learning experiences!

I moved from teaching English language arts to PLTW (Project Lead the Way), which prepares students to be the most innovative and productive leaders in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) and to make meaningful, pioneering contributions to our world. Through an engaging, hands-on curriculum, PLTW encourages the development of problem-solving skills, critical thinking, creative and innovative reasoning, and a love of learning.

This move has been one of the most rewarding and rejuvenating of my career!  Although I teach almost every student in the school and only have them for 9 weeks at a time, I get to see students in a completely different way and in a class that most times they do not hate.

I teach a robotics class, a green architecture class, and an app building/programming class. Learning all of this material has been a challenge, especially with having more of a language arts background.  Luckily, that one year of teaching science in middle school plus a few in elementary school has come in handy.

I still love my interactive notebooks and use a form of them in my PLTW classes, we just call them engineering notebooks.  We use them more for creating sketches of designs and ideas and spend less time attaching items in the notebook.    

This past year has also been spent creating a makerspace at our school.  I will be writing more on that in the future. We had an empty, unused space in our basement and a supportive principal and we went for it!  We are the only middle school, well, the only our district to have a dedicated makerspace for our students.  And, with lots of grants writing, we have obtained a fair amount of items for our space.  

This post is written to serve as an announcement that the direction of my blog will be changing from that of language arts to more technology and STEM related.  Plus a lot about makerspaces and the journey to create the best tinkering and learning space for our students that we have named GFMakerS.

In our makerspace quest, I also became a littleBits Chapter leader.  We are one of five chapters in the North Carolina, which is pretty cool because the others are in rather large cities. 

I will still post any language arts infused activities that I use with my PLTW classes or in our makerspace, but they will have a definite technology or STEM twist to them. 

Stay tuned for a great 2016 with lots of fun and exciting projects, activities, and learning opportunities!  And...I promise to do better at blogging and answering questions!  Learning the PLTW curriculum presented a huge learning curve along with many new opportunities and challenges.     

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.