Weekly Blog Roundup: Teacher Bullet Journaling

I stumbled upon bullet journaling one day on Pinterest when I was looking for a new planner. As a middle school teacher, I, like many others, am addicted to office supplies. I know what pens I like, I know what size sticky notes I prefer, and I know that the idea of a fresh new notebook makes me almost giddy. I even started making my own notebooks with my dad as a hobby because I love notebooks so much.

How to Make a Research Unit Plan in Three Hours

Whether you have one of those moments where you decide to change your whole game plan up, or if you have something (like I did) that caused you to go into an unexpected mad scramble, sometimes it is helpful to know how someone else tackled a difficult task in a short amount of time. Research is the mother of all daunting tasks that may be the hardest thing to accomplish imaginably...in a small amount of time. 

The Teaching Ikigai: Passion, Mission, Vocation, and Profession

I love and hate the self-help book section. It is packed full of gems like Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, and many others that make the wheels in my teacher-entrepreneur brain go crazy. However, I also have visions of myself as the teacher that is seen staring at the self-help book section in a bookstore with a crazed look in her eye, teacher bag thrown over their shoulder, dark bags under each eye, that just seems in need of...help. How many of us can relate to this image as we struggle with the teaching profession as a whole and the day-ins and day-outs of being a teacher? Enter in why I picked up this cute little blue book by Penquin press. I was tired, and it seemingly seemed to address a question I ask myself all the time:

Is teaching my purpose in life?

How I Am Adding Exercise Into My Teaching Schedule

I hate working out. I rather grade 100 rough drafts on a Saturday night without rubric codes than complete a workout at times. Not that I don't want to move my body, but the feeling of sweat, the time, the showers, and the allocation of energy just isn't there on any given day that I am teaching. Considering that the 21 days to form a habit idea is a myth, I am going to give it the 70 days needed to form a concrete habit. I am halfway through. This post is my halfway update.  I would like to say in advance, my goals do not involve becoming a marathon athlete or a bodybuilder (yet both are great goals), my goals simply involve moving my body more to build an immune system. 

Weekly Blog Round Up: Growth Mindset

...Her concepts of the growth mindset and fixed mindset were not new, but the way they were phrased was profound and interesting to the English educator giving feedback. I initially keyed in on the type of feedback I was giving students. I wanted to make sure I said more than "good job." I was also saying things like, "I love the way you added detail" and "great job revising your paper" to give specific feedback. This idea of rewards and feedback was just one single aspect of growth mindset studies; it does not capture the entire picture. The best way to describe growth mindset is how you build new pathways to learning...without giving up. I have adopted this mantra with the teaching of writing.  I mean...my blog is called writing MINDSET after all. How we think about teaching, writing, and learning. This is what matters. It would be negligent to not discuss growth mindset in my practice as it has directly impacted how I think about teaching outside of the classroom in meaningful and significant ways

How Hop-Checks Keep the Writing Teacher Sane

I first starting calling these things labeled "hop-checks" as a joke. I was talking with my teaching buddy on our plan time, and she was telling me about her "class list" system that she uses during class. "So, you just hop around with a pen and pencil and check off what they are doing?" I asked. Her response was "Absolutely, I do." Little did I know that hop-checks would become not only common practice- but exemplary practice- in my writing classroom. 

Weekly Blog Round Up: Grammar Instruction

For the first every weekly blog round-up, I wanted to start with one of the hardest and most controversial topics to teach when it comes to English Language Arts and writing instruction: grammar. Understanding grammar is essential to understanding how to put thought on paper, and yet it often falls off to the side of any planbook because we get stuck on ideas, content, voice, and organization. Even with my new rubric coding following the six traits of writing, I grade voice, organization, and ideas first, and only then do I go back in and help students edit and revise in terms of conventions, grammar, word choice, and sentence fluency. 

The Writing Teacher's Guide to Sub Plans

I waited tables at a restaurant during college as many of my pre-education partners-in-crime did. I hated whenever I had to order something OTF or On The Fly. Why? Because immediacy demanded attention out of me, the cook line, and everyone else around me. I would dare say that the entire field of education operates under OTF standards. Every thing is an emergency in education, yet there is no fear like the fear that sets in when sub plans have to be made. In my 105 Ways to Make the Most of Winter Break post, I remind everyone to schedule those sick days...even if you aren't sick. However, the ultimate fear of scheduling sick/sub days-planned or not planned-is making sub plans. These lessons take hours, are a giant hassle, and sometimes will get printed or setup correctly, and then sometimes not. This post strives to give 25 different sub plan ideas for the writing teacher. These could be used for any teacher, but they are particularly helpful if you are an English teacher that focuses on writing. 

The Best of Writing Mindset in 2017

Last year at New Years, my friends and I dubbed 2017 the #yearofselfish. What this meant was engage in more awareness when it came to self-care, workout, invest in personal opportunity, meditate, seek out a work to life balance, and try new things. I definitely tried new things. Writing Mindset was a leap out of nowhere that constantly challenged me on one end because I thought of it as a personal business move, but I also saw it as a way to reflect on teaching. Writing Mindset simply was a way to connect to my teaching and share my teaching with others. I set up my LLC, invested in a website hosting platform that I thought was aesthetically pleasing, and then tried to write a lot. Then, I realized that writing and working full-time were more difficult than I ever imagined. 

Transform Your Teacher Weekend

Granted this upcoming weekend is a "winter break weekend," but it still counts as a weekend. Now is the time to practice amazing and nurturing habits for the back-to-the-grind that is about a week away. I have rested this past week between the Christmas holiday and New Years with the full intention of getting to my pile of papers next week after the last holiday (casually looks at all the teacher memes that say we aren't touching it even with the best intentions). I need to get into that stack. I have three preps worth of essays that I think I can get through using my rubric coding system with the six traits. I feel good about being updated with grades and lesson plans by the time we get back, yet, I know that it will be all too easy to get wrapped up in the Monday-Sunday, when we open our eyes to when we close our eyes, day-to-day that is teaching. The re-takeover of our time starts with the weekend. It was always meant to be ours anyway. 

105 Ways to Make the Most of Winter Break

The final bell rang yesterday after our all-school assembly to start Winter Break! Congratulations fellow educators, we made it to break. This is the time of year when teachers get to rest and rejuvenate. How will you spend your winter break? Here are 105 different ideas on how you could incorporate some self-care into your Winter Break broken down by mental tips, physical tips, practical tips, social tips, writing teacher specific tips, and general teaching self-care tips.

Update and Reflection on Using Rubric Codes

My #goals are constantly around trying to get unburied from a stack of paper. This week, I got through 64 argumentative essay rough drafts. I spent three hours total. Insert dramatic pause for reflection, thought, and awe. For any English or writing teacher, this may be making your brain go all fuzzy or blurry because before rubric coding I was spending 5-6 minutes per paper. That would have been 6.4 hours. How did I cut this time in half you ask? The power of rubric codes. 

Making a Teacher Self-Care Kit

It is the time of year when you see all the memes of skeletons crawling and you know teachers are just trying to make it to Winter Break...alive. I listen year after year and hear teachers say, "we have four weeks to break this year." I laugh it off until I then realize that four weeks is longer than any professional development session, any mandated testing session, and any back-to-school training that is out there. This four weeks is real. As I am getting over my second round of being sick due to stress and being buried under papers, I came across a great post about a "self-care kit" on the Dani Dearest blog. She even has a great checklist for making a kit. I simply adapted it to my teacher needs. 

Journal Entry: Reflection on Routine Paragraph Warm-Ups

Observation #1: This writing every day thing is more difficult than imagined. Even if it is a quick write. 

Observation #2: I am to the part of the school year where I am evaluating on a macro level what strategies and routines are working...and which ones are not. 

One of the changes I made this year was to routine paragraph warm-ups. I was sitting in a professional development in August, and the facilitator asked the question, "who uses warm-ups to start class?" I had decided to change, but the overwhelming majority of people do use warm-ups. My question, as a person who never used warm-ups and had anticipatory sets for all lessons for each day, I was curious as to what was working and what was not. Many people use Daily 5, etc. However, I was interested in having all students write a paragraph-no ifs, ands, buts, about it. 5-7 sentences is the expectation for the daily warm-up, and all students, I repeat, all students are hitting this benchmark at this point in the school year. Routine paragraphs are expected routines on a given thematic concept for each day. They involve note-taking, opinion, or critical-thinking.

Research: Closing the Gap with the Gutter (Graphic Novels in the Classroom)

Today's research quick post is about comics and graphic novels. I am a comic fan. Graphic novels, comic books, images and words put together on the page...you name it. I like it. Yesterday, I picked up Marvel's Black Panther for library day today. The appreciation I have for Coates' writing and the illustrations in this text are nothing short of a work of art. Amazed. However, the whole time I was reading today I had a bugging/nagging/tingling feeling in my mind about my struggling readers that may gravitate to this genre, but may not understand the words. Considering that the ever popular Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series by Jeff Kinney is a 950 Lexile (Above 6th grade level), many of my students are reading around the 3rd-4th grade level range. Yet, they are able to make sense of these images with the pictures. They beg for these books to the point where the small graphic novel section is always checked out. Why? And why is this section sometimes scary in education?

Snaps: Theme Stations with Novel Study

Today, I want to share some snaps of students who were working on "putting the puzzle pieces together" regarding theme. This is also a shoutout to the resource from Room 213 on Teachers Pay Teachers titled "Discovering Theme Learning Stations. I love stations. Whenever I can get students moving, I can. It is critical for engagement, and it is conducive to how they learn as young people (and old people, too). These theme stations had the concept of puzzle pieces. You could use them after any piece of text read; however, I am using them after we read the novel text Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor. Students are still trying to sort out plot elements and what they mean in sixth grade so I am having them rotate to each station with their book, and then look at the guiding questions at each station. 

Strategy: Narrative Summary and Pixar Shorts

Today's quick strategy focuses on using Pixar Shorts to teach the Narrative Summary Strategy Somebody Wanted But So Then. Somebody Wanted But So Then is a widely taught strategy for teaching summary while reading fiction. While the materials for SWBST are vast, I often find the easiest way to teach this memorable technique is through the use of quick shorts or Pixar shorts that are available on YouTube. I use the gradual release of responsibility model that focuses no I Do, We Do, You Do. This technique is best applied as a scaffolding technique to reach a higher level goal. 

Sneak Peek: November Blogging Challenge!

So, after a busy weekend, I am coming around to looking at my take-home-and-grade bag and I am also looking at Writing Mindset. It was October 13 the last time I posted on the blog. My grading bag is still full and I am feeling like I am not reaching my goals of taking less paperwork home. I gave myself some time to feel overwhelmed, and then I formulated a plan. Time to rejuvenate! This is an overview post of what you will see over the next month. I won't post over Thanksgiving break...but every other day? You are about to see plenty of words...in a different way. 

Completely Change How You Grade With Rubric Codes

This started on a Saturday, the Saturday before the Monday when I had to hand back rough drafts to my students. I wanted no part of them. I wanted nothing to do with them. Glancing at my comfy blanket and cup of coffee, I was a human replica of the emoji "ugh." Not wanting to embrace my stack of papers, I started texting a fellow English teacher about her method of using rubric codes. She uses numbers to correspond with different points on a rubric that come up over and over. We have had this discussion before, yet, I was resistant because I had always wanted to follow "traditional" feedback routes. Things I love: ink over typeface, writing in the margins, and seeing a child's face go, "You spent alllll that time on my paper?" Yes, yes I did. I have had many conversations about the writing process lately because it seems as ELA teachers, we all tackle this beast differently. I am not willing to budge on giving feedback on rough drafts, even though some instructional models no longer call for this step in the process. Rubric codes never seemed to fit...until it did. 

Why the First Skill I Teach is Annotation

Even though I am up to my eyeballs in testing and pre-testing, I still want to take a moment to pause and acknowledge the first skill that I teach students every school year: annotation in reading. I use the Article of the Week to implement this right away because it establishes routine, and it also is a skill that we will use the most throughout the rest of the year in a variety of ways. I have sixth graders and seventh graders this year, so I teach and review this skill right away. In this post, I will outline how I go about teaching annotation skills, providing purpose for annotation, and how to keep mixing it up to keep kids interested.