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Study Smarter with Hide and Peek!

Middle School and High School Students can study better and more effectively for exams and for tests with this special idea called "Hide and Peek".  #howtostudy #study #teaching

If your students are like mine, they will INSIST that they studied and cannot begin to understand why their score on their test was low.  The beg and plead for extra credit or to re-take the test.

Student:  But I NEED an A!
Me:  What did you do to study?
Student:  I looked at my notes.
Me:  And what did you do when you looked at your notes?
Student:  Read them.
Me:  And then what?
Student:  ??????????

What I have come to understand is that students need help with learning how to study.

I learned how from my own father when I was in 4th grade and miserably failed a test on the Iroquois that I hid and that he later found out about (of course).

What he taught me was what I call "Hide and Peek".

Step 1:  Look and Say
Look at the first piece of information and say it out loud until you think you will remember it without looking.

Step 2:  Hide and Say
Hide the information you were just saying out loud and try to say it without looking.

Step 3:  Peek
Check to see if you were right:
If the answer is "Yes", move on to the next piece of information.

If the answer is "No",  Repeat steps 1 and 2.

 I used this method to graduate both high school and college - even graduate school!

So I have finally put this into a video and you can watch as my own 8th-grade son takes you and your students through the process of using Hide and Peek to study with accompanying Pixanotes!

Thanks for stopping by!

Teach "Hide and Peek" to your Middle School and High School Students to help them study better and more effectively for tests and for exams!  #howtostudy #study #teaching

Is Ability Grouping Within the Middle School Classroom Necessary?

New ideas and tips about ability grouping children for learning activities in middle school.  #teaching  #groupwork

My Deliberate Practice Plan is focused on "Organizing for Learning" and so I have been personally pondering the concept of ability grouping.

I'm not going to try to convince you whether ability grouping is bad or whether it's good - there's loads of research out there that you can read and reflect on.

What I have come to realize is that if the organizing is done appropriately, ability grouping doesn't necessarily have to be a thing I focus on in my middle school class.


It's all about the goals, expectations, and routines.

If your goal is to have students process critical content or practice their learning, then who a student works with may not be as important as what they are working on.

Add in that students are expected to actively participate, listen attentively, and add on to what was said and they will be involved in the learning.

Then, provide a routine to follow for who is to speak first and how one is to listen so there's a structure and you have a recipe for success!

How did this work in my middle school ELA class, you ask?

I tried it just this week with writing essay introductions.  I provided a "micro-text" and then a prompt.  I asked partners to discuss what the first, second and third sentence should be using these posters:

Middle School Classroom Group Work Anchor Charts Create Learning with Accountable Talk.  Perfect Posters for Language Arts or Any Subject Area!  #teaching  #anchorcharts  #groupwork
I made a handy desk reference for these posters that you can get for free
by entering your e-mail at the bottom of this post.

The first time we did this, it was a little new and I'm not so sure I heard students using academic language.  

However, the second time we did this, I explicitly told students I was listening for academic language and so I heard much more.

This taught me that I need to be very specific with what I want to take place during the discussions.

One thing that I will work on next is requiring that there be a written component that shows what each person is adding to the discussion in a larger group of 4 students.

This could be a "placemat" where each group is given a large piece of paper and everyone will write their ideas on their side of the placemat with a final consensus in the middle or it could be as simple as using mini-whiteboards where each individual records their piece.

However, moving forward, I don't think ability grouping has to be a "thing".  Of course, there will be instances where ability grouping is appropriate (like to have two advanced students challenge one another) so I'll never say never but I believe that as long as the routines and structures are in place, students will be able to do more with their learning regardless of their achievement level. 

I think it's all about progress, not perfection.

I made my students a handy desk reference for the expectations and routines that are on the posters above.  I streamlined it with the expectation followed by the routine.  

Discussion Expectations & Routines for Middle School with Sentence Starters!  #teaching #discussions #groupwork

In my class, I copied them onto colored paper and placed them under clear contact paper on the students' desks.  This way they always have the information right where they can see it.  If you'd like a free copy, just enter your e-mail below:

Thanks for stopping by!

5 Best Pins for Organizing Partner Discussions in Middle School

Are You Organizing Students for Learning?  Then check out this post on Partner Discussions!

In my neck of the woods, we use the Marzano evaluation system to evaluate teachers.  Part of the system requires teachers to complete a Deliberate Practice Plan.

This year I have chosen "Organizing students for learning" with some strong encouragement from my administrator.  :)

To start this plan, I realized that I needed to understand this element better.  So, I bought the book and then I began with the first strategy - partner talk.

First, I need to set expectations:

Active Listening Expectations are just one piece of Preparing for Partner Discussions!

Then, I might need a fun activity like this one to demonstrate the power of our discussions:


Moving forward, I think my students might need some "starters" to help them elaborate on the content:

This rubric may not suit me perfectly, but it would definitely be important for students to have one:

Last, but not least, this kit looks like it might just have all the things I might need to make for my partners:

What do you do to organize students for partner discussions? Join in the conversation by leaving a comment below!

Thanks for stopping by!  Be sure to visit Stephanie at Forever in 5th grade for even more great ideas!

Top 10 Tips for Teaching Middle School ELL, ESL, ESOL Students

Some days teaching a full class of non-English speakers seems daunting, but this list actually helps me remember the things I can do and I hope it helps you too!

I teach 7th grade Language Arts and have a class of 22 students who speak Spanish and Portuguese as their first language.  They are all together in my sheltered ELA class.  That means that while it is a regular class for students to learn how to USE English (and not how to SPEAK English), there are more strategies, interventions and scaffolding present.

What strategies and interventions you ask?  
Here is my Top 10 List:

10.  Can-Do Descriptors
These free "Can-Do Descriptors" give teachers a list of things students can do in the classroom based on their level of proficiency.

These come from WIDA - "WIDA advances academic language development and academic achievement for children and youth who are culturally and linguistically diverse through high quality standards, assessments, research, and professional learning for educators."

These free "Can-Do Descriptors" give teachers a list of things students can do in the classroom based on their level of proficiency.  What I found helpful is that it gives me an idea of what I can ask these students to do even though I am supposed to teach them the same standards as the rest of the 7th grade.

9.  Giving out discussion questions a day early.
I really want all my students to practice speaking in class but I know they need time to think and process what they want to say in English.  So, I give them the discussion questions the day before I want to actually discuss.

8.  Classifying/Categorizing
This is a great word sort activity that can be used to scaffold any text or concept.  Since I have to teach essay writing to students who have no concept of what an essay even is, I will be using this concept very soon.

7.  Communication Games
Games like "I have____, who has____" help students practice their English and the concepts at the same time.

Use games to help your ELL students communicate!

I also enjoy standing or sitting in a community circle and asking the students to say hello to the person next to them using their name and then giving a word to describe our unit.  
(I change this up with other "words of the day" like a word to describe how they feel that day, or a word about our unit, or a new word that they have learned.)  

6.  Centers/Learning Stations
These help me make sure that my multi-level students each get something that either isn't too hard or too boring.  I have students who range from speaking absolutely no English to those that are on their way out of ESOL.  Centers allow me to tailor activities to the level of the student.

5.  Chart Progress
I have experimented with a Super Improvers board from Whole Brain Teaching and have had some good success with it.  The focus is on progress, not perfection and when a student is able to show progress, they earn a point towards moving up a level.  Each level has certain privileges tied to it.  I ask the students what privileges they would like to earn and then set the levels.  This year, I have been keeping track of points by using Class Dojo.

The Super Improver Wall is a great tool for charting progress, not perfection!

The students like to see that they are making progress and it helps to motivate them.

4.  Whole Brain Teaching Gestures

These posters work as great anchor charts or reminders to students on the gestures corresponding to punctuation and capitalization. This grammar strategy is used by Whole Brain Teaching to focus on Oral Writing.

Whole Brain Teaching gives you non-verbal hand gestures to use to teach various concepts including the ones pictured above.  I have even made some of my own!  They are great for engaging students in an action and helping them remember important ideas!

3.  Cloze reading passages
We're reading Tangerine by Edward Bloor in 7th grade.  All students have to take the same tests, so even my ESOL students must take these tests even if they are struuuuggggling to read the book.  So what did I do?  I made Cloze reading passages:

Cloze reading is #3 in my Top 10 Tips for Teaching ESL/ELL/ESOL students!

As you can see, Cloze reading passages just leave out key words for the students to fill in.  I actually included a word bank too.  This worked really well for my students but the research also says that it helps poor readers:

I also use a lot of sentence frames which are similar to cloze passages to help my students with their writing too.

Do you have any ELLs in your classroom this year?
2.  Graphic Organizers

This free writing resource has 10 Graphic Organizers helpful for writing paragraphs and essays. It is based on brainstorming 3 topics, ideas or details for your writing. I call it- the power of 3!
I try to use graphic organizers for just about every concept I teach in my ESOL class.  The more visual I can make something, the better!
1.  Pictures
Ok, this seems obvious because we all know that when students can correlate a picture to a word/concept, they can remember it much better.

So building on this, I have made it so that most things I present in my ELA class (reading and writing skills) have pictures that accompany any words that go on my Word Wall:

We all know that pictures help students remember more and these free reading and writing skills cards are perfect for any ELA class!
Get a free set of these cards by clicking here!

Plus, I have incorporated these same pictures into my own brand of notes called Pixanotes:

Pixanotes are a blend of 2-column notes and interactive visuals that boost comprehension and recall!  Get a free sample!

These notes have four differentiation options:
1.  Fully printed content and pictures. (Students highlight key words.)
2.  Fully printed content and picture flaps (Students highlight key words and match up pictures.)
3.  Fill-in-the-blanks content and fully printed pictures. (Students use a word bank.)
4.  Fill-in-the-blanks content and picture flaps. (Students use a word bank and match up pictures.)

Try a sample for free by clicking the image below!

You can also see them in action here:

Some days teaching a full class of non-English speakers seems daunting, but this list actually helps me remember the things I can do and I hope it helps you too! 

Thanks for stopping by!

Show and Tell: Boom Cards™!

Online, Digital Task Cards with Boom Learning℠ are highly engaging, self-grading, and fun!

For my show and tell this month, I would like to share something "new" that I "discovered":  Boom Cards!

Perhaps you have heard of them before, but they are new to me and I am soooo excited about these online task cards!

Why am I so excited?  

Students work through the set of task cards online and get immediate feedback.  A correct answer allows the student to move to the next card, whereas an incorrect answer requires the student to try again.  That means the cards are SELF-GRADING!
(You can even access individual results with a Basic Membership.)

I love anything that self-grades - I mean that mountain of grading in Middle School can really pile up with 130 or so students, right?

But it's not just that - they are very engaging and I can see so many uses for them like:

Making special cards for my ELL or Special Education students (differentiation made easier!)
Assigning them for homework
Using them for remediation
Maybe even holding a competition

How does it work?

First, I signed up for a free Starter account at https://wow.boomlearning.com/

Then, with that Starter account, I could set up one section with 5 students and make 5 private decks so I could use some cards in Fast Play mode to see if it is right for me and my students.  I could also try out other free decks and play them as a whole class.

However, I learned that if I received a free deck of cards from Teachers Pay Teachers, I would be given a complimentary Basic membership for one year.  

What's so great about a Basic Membership?

It gives you access to individual score reports for up to 80 students once you set up classes!  
Talk about data collection!  

So I immediately tried to make my own deck.  My ELL students need more practice with Language Skills like spelling, grammar, and punctuation.  So I made a 10 card deck for these skills just to try it out.  I think it came out pretty well for a first try!

And you can try them out too - just enter your name and e-mail below and I'll share them with you.

What if I don't have time to make all my own cards?

Not a problem!  There are plenty of card decks available for sale too!  It works on the Boom Learning site by buying points or you can purchase Digital Task Cards to be used on Boom Learning℠  from Teachers Pay Teachers that will link you to the site.

If these cards work as well as I think they will, they will be a game changer as we become a 1:1 school!

Let the good times roll with more Show and Tell from Stephanie at Forever in 5th Grade!

Thanks for stopping by!
Boom Learning℠ and Boom Cards™ are the trademarks of Boom Learning Inc. Used with permission.  Lisa (Mrs. Spangler in the Middle)  was not paid in any way to write this post.   She is an Ultimate Member who is using Boom Learning℠ with her own classes and plans to share as well as sell some of her creations.

Find Central Idea in 4 Steps!

Show Students How to Apply Learning With A Blueprint To Find Central Idea!

This year, I am teaching 7th grade and according to our scope and sequence, the first thing we are meant to teach is "Citing Evidence and Analyzing Central Idea/Theme".

Can you see my students' eyes glaze over from where you are?

I'm not sure if it's just my students, but they seemed to have no recollection of even the most basic terms!

So, we started with vocabulary.

Having a Word Wall with the Important Terms is a Good Starting Point for Learning to Analyze a Central Idea!

Then we played a dominoes game with the words:

Using dominoes to practice with vocabulary is fun and gets the job done!

Now that they seemed to know the definitions (again), we worked to find the central idea together through examining an article from NewsELA.

Even though the students seemed to understand what central idea is, they still had a hard time pulling it out of an article.  

So I decided to make a recipe or formula to help them figure out exactly how to get to the central idea and supporting details.  I did this by making a PowerPoint with a foldable:

Four Easy Steps to Identifying Central Idea and Supporting Details!

We used an article on sinkholes because we are reading the novel Tangerine by Edward Bloor, but really you can use any article with these four steps!

The steps are:

1.  Read the article and pay attention to the text features and text structures to determine the subject of the article.

2.  Ask yourself  "What is the subject of the article and what does the author reveal about the subject?"  (That's the central idea!)

3.  Turn the central idea into a question.

4.  Answer the question.  The answers are the supporting details! (which leads to citing evidence!)

I was amazed at how many "lightbulbs" came on during this lesson!  I think this is because they really don't know how to apply the definitions they have learned.  It's kind of a lightbulb moment for me too, really - I guess as a teacher we think some things are obvious when they really aren't.  

That's great news though!  Now I know to focus on the "how" in terms of the standards I need to teach.

Next up, Developing Ideas and Characters!

Want to get started with teaching this 4 step Process?  Enter your e-mail below and get the word wall and dominoes set for free!

Or if you'd like to check out my PowerPoints with INB foldables or maybe even the entire mini-unit (that includes both PowerPoints), that are ready-to-use, click on any of the images below.

A full mini-unit on finding central idea and supporting details that leads to citing evidence!  Comes with Pixanotes, Word Wall Cards, Dominoes game to parctice with vocabulary, and a PowerPoint of the Four Easy Steps to finding central idea complete with interactive notebook foldable!

Thanks for stopping by!

Give Students a Blueprint for Applying Their Knowledge to Find Central Idea!