Sunday, December 2, 2012

Trying Something New: Conversation Logs

My posting has been sporadic, but you all know how teaching goes.  I have once again received a new co-teacher so we're working out our teaching styles now.  However, I did have one thing that we're doing that I'd like to share.  Conversation logs.

A curriculum expert from the service center of our parent company came to observe and assist us for two days a few weeks ago.  We had just started reading The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton with our class and she thought we might want to get them doing a little more writing and responding to the book so she suggested Conversation logs.

The idea is this:  We have a class set of composition notebooks (I'd bought tons when Staples was selling them for 10 cents each this fall).  Each student is assigned a number that corresponds with a notebook.  Every few days I put up a prompt.  Then, my first period class responds to it.  The second class then comes in and responds to the prompt as well as responds to their peers response.  And so on with my third class.  They can ask each other for clarification, ask another question, agree or disagree, as long as it is appropriate and on task.

I was skeptical at first, I was worried about managing the materials etc.  However it hasn't been too bad and the kids for the most part seem to enjoy it.  A few will even ask if they can check their logs to see if someone wrote back to them.  In light of that I may open it up so that if they'd like to write even when I haven't asked them to they may.

I'll take some pictures to show you how it's going and put them up here, but I think it's a neat idea and would work for many grade levels not just middle school!

Any great insights on how to get kids writing?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Creating Resources

One of my more favorite things about teaching is actually creating my own resources when possible.  I'm not sure why, but I definitely get a lot of satisfaction out of it.  As I've been looking at other blogs and websites I've realized this seems to be a common theme and a lot of people are using their skills to help out others by posting their resources on sites like Teachers Pay Teachers and earning a little extra cash at the same time.  I'm sure you can see where this is going... I've jumped on the bandwagon!

Check out my TPT site.  I'm slowly editing resources I've made in the past and creating new ones to post.  So far there is one FREE option and two different versions of a comprehensive vocabulary activity set for the book Tears of a Tiger by Sharon Draper (which I'm currently teaching.)  Hopefully some of the resources I create are helpful for you!

This week we are focusing on writing so we will be doing writing workshop.  Stay tuned for my thoughts on that!

Sunday, September 16, 2012


Teaching is always a job of changes.  Changes in classes, responsibilities, and even your team.  This past week my paraprofessional was switched with an "academic specialist" from the 6th grade.  I was already friends with my new team mate so I'm fine with the switch although it was sudden.  It's been two days and already we're shaking things up!

Miss. A and her lead teacher from the 6th grades had started workshopping with their students a week or two before I attempted it so they'd come up with a few solutions that I hadn't stumbled upon first.  So here are our expectations for workshop time- at least for now while the students get used to the routine.

1.  We are invisible while workshopping with our groups.  That means that any students not being pulled may not ask us any questions.

2.  If a student has a question they are to write it on a post it note on the corner of their desk.  In between groups we walk up and down the rows answering specific questions while our next group gets ready.

3.  Those not in workshop are expected to remain at a "zero" voice level, i.e. no talking, no whispering.

4.  Students may only get up to sharpen a pencil (manually) or grab a tissue.

5.  Students must complete their "must dos"- assignments that they must do, (clever name eh?) before they can do any "may dos" which are review or fun activities that are content driven.  So far we've only introduced silent reading of their Accelerated Reader books- but I plan on having games and folder activities for them.

We are getting there.  It was a bit crazy these past two days because we literally had approximately 15 minutes before classes started Thursday to get on the same page, and as I have classes Thursday nights and a staff meeting Friday morning no time Friday to talk either.  But we will be more in-sync this week.

For those of you wondering how I leveled my groups I gave all of my students an assessment from the McDougal-Little Bridges to Literature books.  I then placed them according to scores in Bridges 1, 2, 3 or the Language of Literature grade 7 text book.  For those of you unaware the Bridges to Literature series is meant for students who are reading below level.  The Language of Literature is a true 7th grade text.  Because all the books are by the same publisher I have been able to find stories that all teach the same concept i.e. plot, cause and effect, characterization etc at each level.

Because of this my weeks will generally focus on one comprehension/literature topic but each level of student will use texts appropriate for their reading level to learn the concept.

I hope to have more info for you soon.  Stay tuned for my first attempt at anchor charts!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The First Few Days...

The first few days of school are done.  I've made it through Wednesday.  I have to say the hardest things have been:

1.  Figuring out all the daily housekeeping duties (attendance, lunch, dismissal etc)  they vary so greatly from school to school and not all of them were clearly explained.  I'm pretty sure I'm still missing some of them.  Oops.

2.  Having enough energy at the end of the day.  I'd forgotten how much energy it takes to be "on" all day. 7:30 to 3:30.  Add in my grad classes that conveniently started the same day the kids did and I am beat.  I'm hoping my body adjusts soon.

3.  Establishing procedures when I'm still not one hundred percent sure how I want things to go... but the kids are adjusting with me well.

I'm really excited about the year.  I enjoy the kids and I feel like I'm setting a good tone.  In fact this morning my dean, kind of like a department head, used my classroom as an example for other teachers as to how homeroom should look.  Very flattered!  And proud of my kids!

I'll update you soon as to how my plans are coming, the groups I'm setting up, and how I plan to manage workshops!

Hope you all are having a great start to the year too!

Friday, August 24, 2012


I'm Ms. F and I am starting a new teaching job this school year.  In fact, the students return on Monday!    I am an English Language Arts teacher, and my classes are non-proficient for the most part.  My new school will be utilizing the workshop model for all classes and I hope to share the successes, the trouble spots, and anything else I encounter along the way.

Keep Reading!

Ms. F