Saturday, April 19, 2014

Summertime Wreathing

Since finishing my spring wreath for the classroom, I have had wreathing fever! Here's my wreath for summertime!


1. flat, wooden wreath ring
2. one 2 yard roll of yellow burlap
3. one large roll of plain burlap
4. wooden letters spelling S-U-M-M-E-R
5. craft paint
6. two spools of colored fabric ribbon
7. one sheet of card stock paper or scrapbook paper
8. hot glue gun


1. First, I painted the base of each of the letters. By the time I finished with the base of the R, the S was dry, and I could start painting the designs on each. To do the designs, I cut a piece of weighted scrapbook paper to create a stencil.


2. Once the letters were finished, I started the base of the wreath. I used a flat wooden wreath ring. I forgot to take a picture before I started, so I found this image of the exact same ring on Google.

I wrapped the yellow burlap along the bottom three-fourths of the wreath. Each time I made a loop around the wreath, I slightly overlapped it on what was on the wreath before. After finishing with the yellow burlap, I covered the remainder of the wreath with the plain burlap. 

3. I then evenly spaced the letters and hot glued them to the base. Between each letter, I glued a strip of the fabric ribbon. Where the plain burlap met the yellow burlap, I put two strips - one of each color.

4. Finally, I made a bow using the plain burlap. I glued two strips of the fabric ribbon to the center of the bow. I used hot glue to attach the bow to the plain burlap section of the wreath. 

I am pleased with the way it turned out, but if I could do it again, I would change a few things:

1. Since I used yellow burlap, I wouldn't paint the base of any of the letters yellow. In fact, I'd change all the colors of the letters...or just use one color. Possibly just the purple?
2. I would  position the letters a little differently - especially the Ms.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Twitter in the Classroom

Using social media safely in the classroom can be tricky, but it can also be very, very valuable. This year, I have implemented the use of Twitter in my room.

I wanted students to be able to concisely summarize text and identify story elements within texts. I also wanted to give them a way to create "teasers" for their favorite books. What better way to do this than through Twitter?

I knew I'd have to come up with a way to keep this safe for all of my students. I teach 6th grade, and the world wide web can be a scary place for young students. I decided from the beginning that I would control  our Twitter account, and my students (though many have their own accounts) would not be able to actually send the Tweets from our class account themselves.

After we read a text, I give my students a Twitter page handout (you can buy it on my TPT page here). Students then write their Tweets on the paper and turn them in. I choose the best ones and send them from our account. Then, I write the Tweets on laminated "Tweet sheets" using a Vis-a-Vis marker and post those on my classroom door. You can see some examples below. (These Tweet sheets are also on my TPT.)

It has worked like a charm this year. The kids love it, and it shows me so much about their understanding as we read!

Check out our Twitter account here!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Poetry Analysis - Like a Pro!

I LOVE POETRY! I love to read it, write it, and teach it, and above all, I want my students to love it too! In order for them to love it, however, they have to understand it. I've always had a difficult time getting students to think deeply when it comes to poetry analysis, so I decided to develop a new process this year to help them practice.

I ended up with a seven step process. To practice, I put together a packet of six of my personal favorite poems. We went through the packet together, in groups, individually, etc. until I felt confident that my students were getting it. Then, I gave them a pop quiz using the same process! I have put this packet on my Teachers Pay Teachers account for free, so go download it and use it! One thing that isn't on TPT, though, is the Google Presentation I used with the packet. You can check that out here!

Here are the seven steps:

  1. Number the lines in each poem, and label the rhyme scheme if there is one.
  2. Read the poem several times. Circle any unknown words.
  3. Summarize each stanza.
  4. Annotate the poem by noticing and labeling any literary devices, figurative language, symbolism, imagery, etc.
  5. Identify the major theme of the poem, and provide evidence to support your choice.
  6. Identify your favorite line or phrase from the poem, and explain why you chose it as your favorite.
  7. Choose one of the unknown words you circled and develop a definition (in your own words!) based on context clues from the poem. 
And here are some examples of the poems once they have been analyzed!

The 4th Nine Week's Slump

No breaks from January to April. Testing, testing, & more testing. Warm sunshine & blue skies. The anticipation of those last few days of school. What do each of these have in common...?

They all play a part in the inevitable and dreaded "4th nine week's slump." By April of each year, I can pretty much count on lower grades, less motivation, and sky high energy among my students. This year I wanted to try something new to help combat the daily struggle that accompanies our dwindling days of school.

Our school is a data driven school, and our students love healthy competition. When thinking of what I could do to get the kids re-motivated, I knew I could use these aspects of CRMS to my advantage. When I recently visited my cousin's high school language arts class, an idea that incorporated data, friendly competition, and fun finally came to me!

I popped in to observe my cousin's classes on a day that he happened to be celebrating a recent high test average. When the class average on a test is a 90 or higher, he gives them a "trivia day." He develops a fun, educational trivia game, and the students are able to choose groups and play as a reward for their hard work on the assessment. I absolutely loved this idea, and I knew there was a way to incorporate it into my middle school classroom.

So, here's what I came up with: THE LEADERBOARD!

With this board, I'm keeping up with four things for each class. 

1. Current Class Average - Each time I add grades to the grade book, I update the new class average. (This is super easy with the PowerTeacher online grade book used by our district....all the numbers are crunched for you!) 
2. Class average on the most recent test/quiz - First, note that I don't use classwork or homework for this. I'd be changing it ten times a day! After entering grades for an assessment into my online grade book, I update the class average on the board. 

- I use three stars (first place, second place, and third place) as a visual for students to see which class average is in the lead. 
- At the interim and report card, the class with the highest average will win a trivia day. 
- I didn't want to give a trivia day every time a class made a 90 or higher average on an assessment because I felt that would take away too much instructional time. Instead, when a class gets a 90 or higher average on an assessment, they receive a half day word game day (such as Scrabble, Apples to Apples, etc.). 

Below, I've included a close up picture of one class:.

3. The top three highest averages for each class - I don't list the actual average, I just list the names of the students with the highest three averages in the class. 
4. Honorable Mention - I give honorable mention to the student who raises his/her grade the most between assessments. (ex. Student A scored a 60 on last week's quiz but made a 100 this week. She increased by 40 points - more than anyone else in the class!)

- If more than one student has the same average (ex. 3 of my students have 100 averages), I let them tie for first place. 
- At the interim and the report card, the top three students will receive the opportunity to exempt a quiz, classwork, or homework assignment of their choice. 
- There is no reward for the honorable mention, but I am finding that the students who appear here usually don't appear in the other slots. They are SO proud to have their name on the leader board; it really works to motivate them to continue raising their grades. 

Below, I've included a close up picture of one class:.

We've only been using it a few weeks, but so far it's working like a charm. Not only are my students motivated, they are feeling a sense of responsibility for their participation and effort as members of a class. All of my classes have improved their averages, and for the first time in a while, I'm seeing them really put effort into studying!


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Back in Action!

Well, sometimes I guess you take two years off from your blog and don't even realize that's how much time has passed! It's spring break, and I've got some time on my, I've decided to revive my blogs! Hopefully I can keep them alive...

In the time that has passed, I have actually moved to a new school, and I am no longer teaching fifth grade. I am now teaching 6th grade language arts at CrossRoads Middle School. I'm in my first year there, and I absolutely LOVE it. We are a sixth grade only school, and we host students from 10 of the 12 elementary schools in our district. We also offer single gender classes, so my schedule looks like this:

Block One - CP boys
Block Two - CP girls
Block Three - Honors girls
Block Four - Planning (WOOHOO!!! Who knew that teachers actually had planning!?)

While I loved teaching elementary school with my whole heart, I have fallen head over heels in love with middle school. It has been such a blessing!

I've learned so much about middle school students this year, and I've already identified many changes that I will be putting into place over the summer to make my classroom a better environment for next year's students.

There is so much research surrounding classroom set up and decoration, but I've yet to find what's perfect for me. In elementary school, bright colors and patterns were my go to. My kids and I both loved the happy, cheerful environment, and it was stimulating and inviting. So, naturally, that's how I approached my sixth grade classroom when I moved in at CRMS. I've got bright colors, patterns, quotes, and pictures. It's pretty and colorful, but I've learned this year that middle school students need a different approach.

I've made a long summer to do list that includes a major classroom makeover. My new goal is to create a simple, calm atmosphere that reminds students of home. I'm going to include desk lamps for softer lighting, live plants for a touch of outside, and new curtains for a finished, put together look. I'm thinking about a gray and yellow color scheme (because that's my personal favorite combination!), and I also have some ideas for new seating and wall decor. I want my students to walk in and feel like our classroom is different and special - a place to be respected and respectful.

I didn't want to do the overhaul midyear (really because there just isn't time during the work week), but I did want to start at least one project to begin the "home" transformation. I settled on a wreath for my classroom door. There isn't much that's homier than that!

After wandering around Michaels for an hour putting things in and taking things out of my basket, I settled on a spring themed burlap wreath. I'm so happy with how it turned out! It was super simple, cost about $15 (the burlap was on sale!), and took about an hour to make.


- 9 yards of burlap (I bought four different colors with two yards on each roll. I had one roll of plain burlap already at my house for the 9th yard.)
- 1 metal wreath ring
- wooden letters that spell S-P-R-I-N-G
- craft paint (already had at home)
- flower decals
- pipe cleaners (cut into thirds)
- hot glue gun


1. First, I painted the letters with pretty pastel colors that matched the burlap I picked out. I wanted to let the letters dry while I worked on the rest of the wreath.

2. Then, I cut each roll of burlap in half so that I had two one yard pieces of each color. There are 9 sections of the wreath frame, so I wanted one yard of fabric for each section.
3. I began connecting the burlap to the frame section by section. This wasn't a difficult process, but it wasn't that easy to take pictures, I'll do my best to explain. I attached one end of the piece to a crossbar on the wreath frame with a piece of pipe cleaner. I then created loops and wove them in and out of one section of the frame. There was no rhyme or reason to this - I just went with what looked good! When needed, I used a piece of pipe cleaner to attach the burlap to the frame. When I finished with one section, I started with a new color in the next section.

 4. By the time I was finished with the wreath, the letters were dry. I hot glued a flower decal to each letter.

5. Then, I hot glued each of the letters to the wreath and made a simple burlap bow. I wanted to make a plain burlap bow to go on the bottom of the wreath and balance the fact that each color except the plain had two sections, so I made sure that the section with the plain burlap was on the top. Here's the finished product!

Happy wreathing!