Sunday, September 29, 2013

The M&M Guys and Fun Test Prep?

The M&M guys were a hit and they look grate.  Um, I mean great.  I have been having as much fun as the students with these homophone lessons.  We used these M&M guys for homographs (Thanks to Mrs. Russ).  I created this flower/flour one for homonyms.

I used this as a time to review how to make detailed, descriptive sentences.  I told students that if you try to have your sentence answer at least 5 out of the 6 5W and H questions, you're sure to have an excellent sentence.  I chose the most difficult homophones I could find in order to step it up to a seventh grade level. I plan to hang these all over the classroom.


Everyone loves a good joke especially when it's because of a confusion with the words. Using Pam Dahm's idea at Chit Chat and Small Talk, I had students create jokes for other homonyms that they did not use in their M&M guys.  The task was quite difficult based on the difficulty of the words and trying to make them funny.

I expected my test prep day to be the worse, most dull day of the year! Amazingly, it was actually fun once squirrels were involved.  Even though we all hate tests and don't like to teach to a test, tests are part of our entire lives. I explained how to do a process of elimination on multiple choice tests and exactly how they work.  The question of the day was why are they made that way.  A great question that I didn't have an answer to except that it's the format.  (BTW I hate MC tests!) Once I explained that this technique can work every day in all classes that give these kinds of tests, they were more interested.

We had a great discussion about all the tests you have to take your entire life.  Getting your license, getting into college, getting into graduate school even though you have four years of college behind you, and if you want to be a licensed plumber or electrician.  They couldn't believe that you had to take tests to be a plumber!

I told them about my experience having to take the MATs.  They were very curious once I told them that I only had sixty minutes to answer 120 analogies.  I told them you need a game plan.  I stressed how important it is to have a game plan when going in for any test.  "What was your game plan?" they asked.  It was to answer all the ones I immediately knew, go back to figure out all the others, and review all of them.  In the end, I had 10 minutes to spare.  Their mouths were wide open in shock that I had time left! I stressed that a game plan always helps.

Once we started to review the questions and the poem, the "real" fun started once we got to the question about what "in a frenzy" meant in reference to squirrels.  We realized we were able to find the answer in just thinking about all we knew about squirrels without needed the poem.  One of the choices was that they were "cautious".  Everyone shouted out that they weren't cautious at all by darting into the streets and walking on wires.  They loved my impersonation of a squirrel looking both ways to cross the street.  Next, we talked about the "worried" choice not being good either since it's a human trait.  They were laughing at the thought of the squirrel worried getting enough food for the winter or worried about anything.

I was elated that my week ended with fun and not the boring that I was expecting.  Thank you squirrels!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Spreading some TLAP

My team and I hope the students are liking our hallway more since incorporating minions into our latest display case.  Since Despicable Me 2 came out this summer, I loved this idea when I saw it on Pinterest.  I took it one step further by adding many key characteristics of good character which I call "Distinctions" (from a book I read about making writing real for students).  The heading says "Puma students are one in a minion".

One homework assignment I give my students every year is to write about these "Distinctions".  They write about two character traits they feel they are good at and one that they feel they could work on.  I love this assignment because it gives me insight into who they are and their writing skills.  It was very interesting that about 95% of them chose patience as the one trait to improve on.  I was not surprised by this since they have grown up in a world that is filled with instant gratification from watching any TV show they want on demand to instantly seeing and sharing photos that they take.  You can get the homework assignment sheet on my Freebies page.  Check out the Blendspace I made for assignment.  The safety video will have you laughing in stitches!

I love having students apply for jobs in the classroom.  It gives them ownership of our room and keeps me from running around like a chicken with its head cut off.  I shared the application that students fill out on my Freebies page.  This year I tried to have job titles that sounded real and had alliteration.  I have an iHelp board that looks like an iPhone similar to these in Google search.  I already put names on mine so I don't have a picture to share.  Next to this I have my help wanted display with the jobs listed.

I wanted to greet everyone who attended our School Improvement Meeting with a special snack table to start our year of meetings.   I got the cupcake toppers and sign free at Tales of Teaching in Heels blog.  Everyone loved it!

The first thing my students did this week was to finish their word trees that I told you about in my last post.  The students loved seeing many of them on display in the classroom.

Our next topic is homophones.  I remembered the Amelia Bedelia books and how she constantly confused them.  Everyone loves to read books from their childhood even seventh graders.  When I showed them the books, I heard "awww".

I had students read the books, find all the homophones Amelia confused, and write an explanation on why she was confused.  Students paired up and shared their learning with a peer who had a different title.  You can get the activity sheet on my Freebies page.

At night, I texted using Remind 101 with a hook for tomorrow's class.  "Be sure you're in tomorrow because you don't want to miss the M&M guys!"  As soon as they arrived, I was bombarded with questions about who are these M&M guys.

Be sure you visit again to find out who they are!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

TLAPping in the Library?

Many years ago I read about about making writing assignments about personal things for students.  I can not remember the book or author.  I don't have a lot a leeway to do this, but I do assign a homework assignment about "The Distinctions".  These are characteristics of what makes a good, well-rounded person.  Normally I give the assignment with only synonyms of all the words, but this year I used Blendspace (formerly Edcanvas) to explain the meaning of each word better than the synonyms.  My favorites are the safety, kindness and courage videos.  Check out my canvas.  You can use Blendspace as an app in Edmodo.  I did this so my students could watch the canvas right from there.  You can get the assignment on my Freebies page.  I had them choose two that they felt they were good at and one that they could work on. Instead of talking about my expectations, I have this assignment lead to a class discussion about what we can all do to make a great experience for everyone.

I was ecstatic when my Word Root Tree lesson lead to an Aha moment!  Towards the end of making the trees, we took a break to have a game of saying the correct meaning of the word and winning a sticker.  One student and then the entire class started to put together the meaning of the roots and then the suffixes.  They realized that "ist" makes a person's job and the root explained which job.

derm = skin 
dermatologist = skin doctor 
dent = teeth 
dentist = teeth doctor

These trees are going to look great all round the room and a great way to reinforce our roots all year.  You can buy the lesson at my TPT store.

Our final part of our week was a first visit to the library.  The librarian did an amazing job in using TLAP style for our visit.  She showcased all the free things that their public library card can do beyond our middle school library.  Students were showed that they can learn to speak Pirate on Mango Languages.  Students had such fun trying to speak pirate into the mic and hearing it played back.

Anyone with a library card in our state can use it for free.  Besides learning a foreign language, we pointed out to our ELL students that their parents can learn English using the site.  Check out your library to see if you have free access.

The best part of our visit was the YouTube video The Dewey Decimal rap.  We were cracking up and singing along by the end.

Enjoy the start of your week with big smiles and laughs from this video!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Week Two TLAP style

It is possible to make students excited and have fun about prefixes, suffixes, and roots.  Are you thinking, "Yeah right"? I know I can't believe it either!  By the end of the day Friday, students wanted to make a video for YouTube about them.

To TLAP the prefix lesson, I turned it into a game.  Students were given base words and had to add prefixes.  Cheers went through the roof when I showed what they could win if they found the most valid words.

Each group member would get one of these stickers, but they shouted like I was giving them $100 bucks.  You can buy them at Smilemakers.  I've found this to be the best place for tons of great, quality stickers.

We added some rap music/lyrics to our repertoire with the Prefixes, Suffixes, and Roots Rap from Rhythm, Rhyme, Results.  I bought their entire Language Arts CD on iTunes.  They have a CD for each subject area.  The students loved reading along and then singing along on the second time.  They loved it so much that they suggested that we make a music video of it.  One student thinks we'd get a million hits on YouTube.  Right now, I have a poll on Edmodo to see how many others would want to make a video.  I'm up to 10 students so it looks like I will have a new project to start.  I will share it on here when it's complete.  I'll have to research about YouTube since I've never done this before, but it will be exciting.  

Afterwards I realized I should have worn a costume which would've been a better TLAP version.  Next time I use one of their raps, I plan to dress like Flavor Flav.  

That will really get the students and staff talking.  It will take a lot of practice because my tongue gets all tied up whenever I try to rap.  Keeping my students excited and engaged is one focus of my passion so I will do this and succeed for my students!

I like to give some variety/choice to homework when at all possible.  For the first assignment, students had to introduce themselves by using either Wordle, Blendspace, a bio-cube, or a letter.  While many chose a letter, I did have a few create Wordles, who also figured out how to share them on Edmodo.  Wohoo, for them! I had very few do the bio-cube, but I really like how a few of them turned out.

The second assignment is a brand new idea that I created this summer.  I find root words extremely boring.  I imagine most do, especially tweens.  They love fortune tellers/cootie catchers so I created one for Root Words.  They came out better than the practice one I did.  They are excited for school Monday so they can play the game I created for it.  You can purchase the assignment at my TPT store.  

Have a great week! We will be rapping, playing games, and creating word trees that I blog about at the end of the week.