Journal Entry: Reflection on Routine Paragraph Warm-Ups

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.

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

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?

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Snaps: Theme Stations with Novel Study

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. 

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Strategy: Narrative Summary and Pixar Shorts

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. 

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Sneak Peek: November Blogging Challenge!

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. 

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Completely Change How You Grade With Rubric Codes

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. 

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Why the First Skill I Teach is Annotation

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. 

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First Week Reflections for the 2017-2018 School Year

First Week Reflections for the 2017-2018 School Year

It doesn't seem right that the school year is already heading into week three. I wanted to take a moment to pause as we approach the end of week two, and to take the time to reflect on how the first two weeks of school have gone. The goals for the first two weeks involves setting foundations, establishing systems, building community, and getting know to know each other in Writing Lab 615. There have been highs, mids, and lows in these two weeks. I am teaching on the split team this year. This means that I have two sections of General English 6, two sections of Advanced English 6, and one section of Advanced English 7. 

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Classroom Tour: Chalk Brights, Rainbows, and Burlap....Oh, My!

Classroom Tour: Chalk Brights, Rainbows, and Burlap....Oh, My!

I always show my husband my classroom each year. I get the same feeling that I am sure Chip and Joanna Gaines on Fixer Upper from HGTV get when they ask, "____, do you want to see your fixer upper?" Except, I'm like...."Honey, do you want to see where all of that Target and Hobby Lobby shopping went?" So begins the classroom tour. I went a little brighter this year with a Rainbow Chalk theme. Students from last year have already stopped by and asked why I am so fancy this year. The short answer? Because I can be. Each part of the Writing Lab has a purpose. Even though the cliche exists that elementary school teachers make the best decorated classrooms, I am hoping to inspire some secondary educators as well to setup classrooms in way that these rooms are also colorful, inviting, and meaningful.

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How To Makeover a Middle School Syllabus Using Canva

How To Makeover a Middle School Syllabus Using Canva

The fall inevitably brings about the desire and need to change and update your course syllabus. I have been reflective this summer in trying to make all activities and handouts in my room purposeful and intentional. The syllabus is no different because it should be the means to an end in the method of communication regarding basic rules of the classroom. 

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Ideas to Spark Your Culturally Responsive Teaching Mindset in Writers' Workshop

Ideas to Spark Your Culturally Responsive Teaching Mindset in Writers' Workshop

I just finished re-reading Zaretta Hammond's book Culturally Responsive Teaching & The Brain: Promoting Authentic Engagement and Rigor Among Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students. Something about this read resonated more with me than previous times I have read this book. Perhaps it is all my focus on writers' workshop as I prepare for back to school, or maybe it is while I get ready to help facilitate back-to-school professional development on this topic to my colleagues that I paid more attention to the conversation or lack thereof about culturally responsive teaching in the English classroom.  Either way, I like to call this the "brain-on-fire syndrome." You wake up thinking about an issue and have to write, talk, or meditate it out in order to get it through your teaching processing system. Culturally responsive teaching involves a shift in mindset about students in my classroom, but more specifically about students that I often will label as "struggling writers." It is not a coincidence in teaching that the term "culturally responsive teaching" often is parallel to conversations about students of color, English language learners, or students of lower socioeconomic status. My general education classroom looks entirely different from my advanced education classroom.

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Paper Problem Series Post 3: Make a Plan

Paper Problem Series Post 3: Make a Plan

After confessing the reason I would leave teaching, I wanted to tackle the whole paper problem head on. I often will get an idea in my head and have that "brain-on-fire" type of feeling when it comes to teaching. It is one of the reasons why I teach. However, taking on too huge of a problem without a step-by-step plan is going to lead to burnout.  I feel like the whole "paper problem" is too much to chew on before I am back practicing in real life in the classroom. I want to think about implementing some key changes that I took away from my readings over summer break to change not only my methods, but perhaps the way I do business. From my post where I identified the main problems that exist in my systems and mindset, I have concluded to focus on these three main areas for going back to school:

1.) Using mentors for the teaching of writing. 

2.) Restructuring the writing workshop. Students will write more in class, participate in stations, collaborate with each other and me, etc.

3.) Streamline processes that I have in place so that I am taking less paper home that does not need to go home. (I.E. paper that does not require extra feedback)

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Paper Problem Series Post 2: Reviewing My Systems

Paper Problem Series Post 2: Reviewing My Systems

One of the biggest pieces of advice that I give to new teachers is to always be prepared. Not just the regular "I have got a plan prepared," but the "I have a plan and 2 backup plans just in case this whole thing goes to the birds" type of prepared. The term "systems" always has sounded fancy to me, but the instructional routines, expectations, and actual structures that are in place in any classroom dictate the quality of the learning environment and level of success regarding classroom management. Simply, the routines of how we do business in the day-to-day in my classroom impacts learning on all levels. I have a type of organized process for many things...and then for some things I don't. After coming to terms with the paper problem, I wanted to start by reviewing the systems I have in place so that I can take on the school year in the fall ready to give high-quality feedback in a high quantity without going completely insane. 

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I Don't Hate the Five-Paragraph Essay

I Don't Hate the Five-Paragraph Essay

I have been spending some time reading books, blog posts, and other resources on the internet about how to manage giving quality feedback without going insane. It is part of my Paper Problem Series I am working on because I believe that if I can figure out how to maintain the level of feedback I am giving AND not work 15 or more hours on a weekend-I can stay teaching. A lot of the books, articles, and other resources I am looking at bring up (to no surprise) the five-paragraph essay. I cringe whenever I read these parts. I think back to a moment that has happened many times over the past seven years. One of my students will come up to my desk and state: "Mrs. H I have a ton more reasons for my thinking, do I have to narrow it down to three for my essay?” I always die a little on the inside. For the given assignment? Yes, you have to narrow it down. For the real world? Not at all. Another one of my students bit the proverbial dust of the five-paragraph essay form. This happens each year because I would like to admit right away...I teach the five-paragraph essay. 

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Paper Problem Series Post 1: Identify the Problem

Paper Problem Series Post 1: Identify the Problem

I love a good problem. Problems that seem to have impossible solutions seem to be the best puzzles to try to solve in the field of education. Something like getting Math teachers to love writing or eliminating tracking in student schedules or figuring out how to motivate the one student that seems like no strategy, plan, solution, or special team can figure out a plan to help. The problem that I am trying to tackle involves English teachers and how to take in, process, utilize, and implement grading practices/feedback during writing instruction and in the day-to-day ELA classroom. 

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The Reason I Would Leave Teaching

The Reason I Would Leave Teaching

The post is titled "The Reason I Would Leave Teaching" because the reason I am going to discuss is the only and main reason I would ever consider getting a different profession. I could easily go to nonprofit work or even sit behind a desk. I wonder sometimes what it would be like to pee whenever I wanted to or to be able to go on a lunch hour to a spot "around the corner." These are luxuries that teachers don't have. And many reasons that teachers leave do not involve my main reason for contemplating leaving. In fact, I am in love with classroom management. I love tough kids. I see many teachers leave the profession because they are not getting the support when it comes to classroom management or organization. I also see teachers leave due to pay, working conditions, lack of supplies, lack of support from administration, class sizes, etc. Eddie B Comedy offers some amazing jokes about teacher issues and the Michigan Education Association wrote a pretty great article titled "The Disappearing Educator." I often give this article to interns to make sure they know what they are getting into in terms of this profession.

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Second Week of Creative Writing Camp in Review

Second Week of Creative Writing Camp in Review

Creative writing camp got done almost a week ago on June 30. If you remember my last post, Third Coast Writing Project and the McGinnis Reading Center teamed up to do something awesome this summer: reach out to kids to develop skills and have fun with reading and writing at Western Michigan University. The second week was all about the revision of drafts of creative works of fiction. This post will include the goals for the week, show a sample daily breakdown, highlight some amazing pictures/highlights, and show a key peer revision skill called clockwork editing. 

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First Week of Creative Writing Camp in Review

First Week of Creative Writing Camp in Review

The McGinnis Reading Center and Third Coast Writing Project Camp for Young Writers have teamed up this year to put on a MEGA reading and writing camp! We had our first week this past week with Middle Schoolers focusing on WorldBuilding: Taking the Scenic Route. Students started to create the elements of their own worlds focusing on character, setting, plot, and conflict.

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Last Project of the Year: Students Design Their Own ELA Class

Last Project of the Year: Students Design Their Own ELA Class

What is it that students want?

This was the question I asked my sixth graders in an alternative assignment to giving them an end of the year survey. I know some of the usual answers that sometimes we as teachers don't take as seriously (and maybe should) and I also was hopeful of the answers that may seem surprising and shocking. I have included both in this post to start a conversation. 

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Starting Fresh: A Reflection to Start Summer

Starting Fresh: A Reflection to Start Summer

The past week has been a whirlwind of starting to wind down and say goodbye to the 2016-2017 school year. Students finished their Common Growth Assessment writing test and also their last blog post. The final days are both bittersweet and painful. Mainly because everyone wants a break, but also because it isn't any fun to say goodbye. 

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