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How I *Finally* Got My Students' Attention!



It's summer, which means I'm allowing my mind to wander and ponder ideas for next school year.

This past year, I was constantly trying new tactics to increase student engagement.  Like you, I want to make sure my students "get it" and then can remember "it" for classroom and state tests.  

And then an amazing thing happened.  I created something fairly mundane (or so I thought) to show students how to take textual information and put it into an essay plan - on video.

My students listen to me better on video than in person!


I shared this video with the other four 6th grade Language Arts Teachers at my school and they showed it to all their students.

It wasn't long before students from other classes began to compliment me on the video and asked me if they could re-watch it!  So of course, I obliged, and it was posted on our school site.  Now even absent students could watch it!

(They were engaging with the video of me (not someone "cool") outside of class?!  What?!?!)

Soon students were asking me if I had a YouTube Channel because they follow lots of "YouTubers" and would happily comment on my video and tell about their favorite parts!  

(Their favorite parts?  You mean they actually remembered what I said?!)


This shouldn't have exactly surprised me as YouTube is the #1 search engine for those under 30 and the old saying is that a picture is worth 1000 words...but still!  The power of the video had me in awe because it seemed like I finally got their attention!

So then I really began to think - what is it about this video thing?  Why do my students listen to me better on video than in person?   How does it benefit the students educationally?   Could I "up" my video skills and get even better results?  After all,  that first video seemed pretty boring to me so what would happen if I could make them even better?

Some people suggested I use EdPuzzle or PowToon and many others to get the desired effect.  So I began looking into these and trying them out with the students.   

I like what some of them can do - like the whiteboard effect in Powtoon and making a YouTube video interactive in Edpuzzle. 

Since I am all about simplifying ideas in a practical sense, I even compiled what I found and learned about these tools into a kind of Video Resource Guide and you can get a Free Copy below!




But, as I am sure you suspected, making videos using these tools isn't quite what I expected.  And I'm not sure they really worked as well as my "boring" video.  Why is that?  

Next time, I'll share my research with this question and the ones above.  And let me tell you, all that glitters on the internet for video is not gold!

Thanks for stopping by!  Be sure to visit Stephanie at Forever in 5th Grade to see some more great Show and Tell!

End of the Year Gifts - Emoji Bookmarks!



It's Show and Tell time and I am excited to show you my new end of year gift for my 6th grade students - Emoji Bookmarks!

Great End of Year Gift Idea - Emoji Bookmarks!




Here is the video I made to show you how to make these:





Now here's the written version of the instructions:

1.  Cut a piece of paper in half.  Each half will make one emoji bookmark.
2.  Take one half and fold a corner up to make that rectangle a square.
3.  Cut off the excess paper.  Now you have a triangle.
4.  Fold the end of the triangle up to the point of the triangle on both sides and then unfold.
5.  Fold down the middle to the bottom.  Leave that there.
6.  Fold the ends back up and tuck them inside.
7.  Unfold them and put some glue down on the lower part.
8.  Fold the ends back up and tuck them inside.  Press firmly to get the glue to stick well.
9.  Place a glass that is just slightly larger than your creation top down and on top of your new creation.  Trace the glass's circumference onto your creation.
10.  Cut on the pencil lines being careful to keep some of the top fold intact.
11.  Decorate and enjoy!


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How I Made Research Interesting!


As the school year or semester winds down, students seem to become "antsy".  They need something that is self-directed so there's no time for them to "zone out" or cause a disruption.  This is when I like to have students work on project based learning.

This year, my 6th grade students are going to work on a research project with a twist - they will research a trip for their Pine Cone Pets!

Research doesn't have to be boring - it can be creative too!


You might know about a famous book character known as Flat Stanley that many an elementary student made a version of and sent off to a faraway relative to see what adventures Stanley could have.  Pine Cone Pets is based on the same idea although we won't actually mail off our pets!  Instead, students will research all the ins and outs of where their pet will visit and combine their information into a PowerPoint complete with budget and bibliography!

You might think this is a zany idea, but zany is exactly what middle school students love about this project!  They loved naming, dressing and making personalities for their pets.

My Procedure:

1.  At least a week ahead of time I surveyed my students and asked them to name one place that they had never visited, but would like to visit in the future.  I also gathered pine cones and glued on googly eyes.
2.  I gathered many travel guides to these places at my local library like Fodor’s Guides, Frommer’s Guides and more.  (we are not 1:1 and getting the computer carts was limited due to testing.)
3.  On Monday, I refreshed their memories of Flat Stanley with a small read-aloud of just the part about when Stanley went on a trip to introduce the Pine Cone Pets.  I explained that groups of students will plan a trip for their new pets.  Then after the students read the project requirements to themselves, I provided an explanation of how they would be graded with the rubric and my fair grading systemNext, students formed groups of no more than 3.  The groups chose a destination out of a “hat” (based on my previous survey).  Then I allowed them to just explore the books and name their pets.
4.  On Tuesday, we went over the due dates which are the steps of the research process These steps are great for chunking for your students with an IEP or 504 plan!  Then I taught a mini-lesson on note-taking and citing sources in a bibliography.  Afterward, students had time to research & take notes.


Note-Taking Mini-Lesson on Biteable.



5.  On Wednesday, students continued to research and take notes.
6.  On Thursday and Friday, we used the computer to begin to assemble the digital products.  
7.  The following week we had another day or so with the computers to put it all together and then it was time to practice presentations.
8.  Finally, students presented.  I graded the entire group using the rubric.

9.  Students reflected and determined points awarded to each group member.

Pine Cone Pets - Research with a Twist!

 The students loved this because they could unleash their creativity not just with their pets, but also with their trip plans.  They really enjoyed investigating new places that now they could talk to their parents about visiting.  Best of all, they were very engaged and learning at the same time!  

If you'd like the complete lesson with all the project directions, rubric, due dates, links to other resources and more, then you might want to take a look at this:

Click here on the image to learn more!

It will be 28% off with code: thankyou17 during the Teachers Pay Teachers sitewide sale for Teacher Appreciation Week on Tuesday, May 9, 2017 and Wednesday, May 10, 2017!

You could also take your chances at winning a $10 Teachers Pay Teachers gift card!


All you have to do to enter is comment below with your e-mail address and respond to this post or tell me what you do for research projects in your class!  

I'll pick one lucky winner on May 9, 2017 - Tuesday - by 9pm EST!  That will still leave the winner the rest of Tuesday and all of Wednesday to shop, shop, shop!  :)

Good luck and thanks for stopping by!

Test Prep - Reading Boot Camp


It's Spring Break!  Time to re-charge, relax, and get ready for the 4th quarter!

When we return from break, we will have two weeks to refresh our students' memories before state testing begins.

One team's approach to Middle School Test Prep!


My 6th grade team and I decided to host a Reading Boot Camp.  There are 5 teachers and 5 days in the week.  So we are each taking one benchmark (standard) that the students need more work with based on the data and we will teach just that standard to all of the 6th grade classes in a rotation for one week.

So on Monday, I will have my own students but on Tuesday - Friday, I will have the other 4 teachers' students - a different set of students on each day.  So I will essentially teach the same lesson all week long.  That may seem a little like a broken record - but only to me - the students will truly benefit because they will get to hear a lesson presented by someone new and as a result, they are more likely to pay attention due to the novelty of a new teacher and a new room.  

I will be teaching non-fiction text structures.  Before I developed my plan, I really had to dissect the standard and how it is tested on our state test.  Essentially, students need to be able to use academic vocabulary such as analyze, contribute and development in concert with the text structure to locate and trace the change in the information and ideas across multiple texts to gain insight and strengthen understanding.  

Sounds easy, right?  Sure....well maybe if it were simplified a bit:

Breaking down Non-Fiction Text Structures before the big state test!

The entrance/exit ticket will have 3 questions that must be answered using pencil only:

Entrance/Exit tickets for a test prep non-fiction text structures lesson!


Next, I'll use my own video with matching Pixanotes® ...
Non-Fiction Text Structures Pixanotes® are great for helping students remember key information for state tests!
Then I'll conduct the "vote with your feet" activity.  To run this activity, I plan to hang 5 text structure posters in 5 areas around my room.  Next, I will read a passage and ask the students to classify it into one of the 5 categories.  Then, I am going to ask them to "vote with their feet" and stand by the poster that they think is the correct classification.   Next, we'll discuss their choices and finally the answer.  It will be a great way to keep everyone involved and engaged!

Finally, I plan to have students re-visit the entrance ticket and change their answers based on their new knowledge.  
(Now you know why I was being particular with pencil! :)  )

So now my boot camp lesson is ready!  This lesson combined with the other four teachers' lessons should make for a great test prep review!

If you'd like to save time and get this ready-to-go non-fiction text structure test prep lesson with entrance/exit tickets, video, Pixanotes®, posters, passages with questions and directions for "vote with your feet" PLUS all answers - Just click here!


It's test prep time and here's an engaging non-fiction text structure lesson that's ready to go!


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Ideas to Combat Apathy in the Classroom


It's approaching that time of year when my 6th graders are starting to flex their behavior muscles and turn to types of behavior that are more "cool".  You know, a general shunning of anything that might be remotely like work.

Enter the "too cool for school" students who couldn't possibly be bothered to lift a finger to write, let alone pick up a book or notebook.

This is when I really have to dig deep into my teaching repertoire and find ways to combat the apathy.

I'm truly thrilled to have my first post featured in WeAreTeachers, one of my favorite sites for new classroom strategies and where you'll find 5 ways to increase student ownership in your classroom.
  I'd love it if you'd visit and check it out!

5 Ways to Increase Student Ownership in Your Classroom


This middle school teacher shares her tried-and-true tips for getting her students to take on more ownership in the classroom. |  Mrs. Spangler in the Middle on WeAreTeachers
Source - WeAreTeachers

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Celebrating Kindness


Celebrate Kindness!

In a world with so much conflict, I believe students need reassurance from a trusted teacher that character still matters.

In my 6th grade class, we were recently discussing the topic of plagiarism.  I gave a (somewhat) famous example of a now Harvard grad that was very publicly "busted" for copying multiple passages from an earlier published novel.  The students were quick to judge based on the evidence.  We talked about the fact that whatever one puts their name on is a representation of that person.  Therefore, it is important that whatever bears one's name reflects back what the person stands for.  They all emphatically agreed given my first example.

Then I told them that this relates to them too.  How?  Well, when they slap any old thing down on paper and then send it my direction which bears their name, what does that tell me about them?  
Silence.  Contemplative looks.  
Now they were judging themselves.

So then I began to think about challenging the students to define what they stand for so we could display it as a constant reminder that character matters.  

This is how I did it:

#kindnessnation FREE Character Matters Activity that helps students determine what they stand for!

You can do this too with my free resource:  



It includes a link to the lyrics, a link to an online "What do you stand for quiz for teens, and mirrors you can copy for your students.

I use the "Man in the Mirror" song to help students reflect on what they stand for.



The key in all of this is that students are reminded daily that they
need to reflect what they stand for in their words and actions. 
So, when they are tempted to “talk trash”, these serve as
reminders to look for these positive traits in their classmates.  I will
often tell my students “Be a treasure hunter, not a trash
collector!”  My goal is to create “treasure collecting” as a culture in
my classroom.

I think kindness shouldn't be just an act we perform here and there, it must be a habit.  I plan to celebrate it EVERY day by encouraging my students to live the kindness they want to see in others.

I think kindness shouldn't be just an act we perform here and there, it must be a habit.




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New Year - New Tech!



I'm so excited to tell you that my school district finally has access to Google Classroom!


The first thing I did was set up my "classrooms" and get my students to join.  We have been using Edmodo so this was somewhat like joining a class there.  This seems better than Edmodo though because it seems to organize things a bit better.

Google Classroom might just be the next best thing in Education!




The next thing I did was to try a Google Quiz for our weekly vocabulary.  I liked it a lot but it did not give the students their scores as a percentage.  Instead, it would say something like 100/120.  All day I was asked "But what is my grade?"  Of course, it was a great mini-lesson in learning that a fraction says "divide" and that's how to figure out one's own grade, but I would prefer percentages too.  I found a quick fix by using Flubaroo that gave me percentages even if the kids have to do the math!

A self-grading quiz?  Yes, please!

I made this quiz using Google Forms and then assigned it to my students through Google Classroom by attaching it from my Google Drive.  You can even assign the same thing to multiple classes all at once!



The next thing I am going to try is an online assignment I made.  After we took our vocabulary quiz online, my students actually suggested that their vocabulary practice actually be digital too!  So wish me luck with my first try this week!

Digital Vocabulary Practice!

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