Tuesday, February 9, 2016

A New Adventure...Digi-ISN's!

So I decided my teaching needed a change. I applied for a tech pilot for next year, and while I wasn't able to get in on this round, I figured I would still pursue this next adventure in teaching, as we have a lot of access to computers in my building. I've spent my time between baby snuggles and diapers creating things my students can use when I return, and next year in my classroom, and I'm also putting them up on TpT for others as well! Plus, I'm just having so much fun creating these I can't stop!

Dream: Have a paperless classroom.
Drawbacks: But I love my ISN's and Writer's Notebooks! We don't always have access to computers!
Solution: Digi-ISN's! (Digital Interactive Student Notebooks)

Why does this work? 

1. A Digi-ISN (Digital Interactive Student Notebook) allows students to access their notebooks at any time. 

While my students have not lost assignments in the three years I've been doing these notebooks, they do sometimes leave them at home, or they get shoved in a locker or left in another classroom. With the digital version, students all have their notebooks at all times. I can also check in on their work via Google Classroom, which is awesome! That means no notebooks to drag home over the weekend, and an easier way to go through and grade and check their work! 

2. Using them encourages and develops technology skills. 

Students in our district all received google accounts this year, and we have access to google classroom. I really feel that using these activities will show students not only how to navigate using online tools, but discovering on their own all of the things they can do inside docs and slides. Also, many of the features are quite similar to Word and Pages, so it transfers over!

3. It's flexible!

It allows me to make changes without students having to redo their entire notebooks. How many times have you had students glue in pages for a unit, only to discover you've missed an activity or skill you really wanted to do? I don't know how many times I've had students gluing in pages at the edge of other pages, or renumbering their notebooks. With them being digital, I can simply insert the slide where it needs to go!

4. Maintains the organization of a paper notebook, without the mess of cutting and glue.

I love my ISN's. If you read my blog, you know I do. What do I not love? Using glue and scissors every single day, or for a few days at the beginning of a unit. My room looks like Edward Scissorhands went crazy, and someone always spills an entire bottle of glue on the desk, and "forgets" to tell me until they're done playing with it. Yes, I teach 7th and 8th grade, yes, these cutting skills should have been mastered in pre-school, and yes, I literally have a drawing on my board that says "4 drops of glue will do!" It doesn't matter. There is something so tempting about writing your name in glue or drawing a smiley face....and consequently gluing every page of your notebook together.

5. Reduces paper consumption in your classroom, and saves time.

I don't know how much paper I go through a year, and I don't want to know frankly. It makes me slightly sick to my stomach the amount of time I spend in the copy room. Digi-ISN's not only save me time, they save time that the students would spend gluing and cutting and picking up papers. Have you ever noticed that no matter how well you organize handouts that need to be glued in, someone always ends up short of one paper that they need?

How does this work for students? 

I assign students a Digi-ISN in Google Classroom. Even if you don't have google classroom, you can send them the link to the Google Slides. 

They make a copy for themselves, or you assign a copy to them if you're in Google Classroom. That's. It.

Students can work inside the Digi-ISN with your guidance and modeling. They can insert text boxes, pictures, manipulate pieces, and make the notebook their own. If they are tech savvy, they can play with fonts and colors, highlight text, and insert graphs and charts. I've taken my favorite anchor charts, activities, and added some new and fun interactive activities for students to keep them engaged!

Here's the great part, even if you don't have access to computers for the whole class for a day, you can project this and work through it with your students, and assign different sections for homework later. If students don't have technology at home, you always have the option to print out the pages as well if you need to! I also love that students can access Google Drive resources on tablets and smartphones!

What's next?

So far I've been able to create Digi-ISN's for a Writing Notebook and a Grammar Notebook, as well as a Digital Sub Spiral (which I wish I had thought of before maternity leave! Thank goodness I already had my paper version, but it would have been nice to communicate digitally with my sub with updates and things I invariably forgot!

On my to do list for the Digi-ISN are Portfolios, Argumentative Unit, Novel Studies, Socratic Seminars, Writing Workshops, and Data and Growth Charts for now. With each section being split up into different notebooks, it makes it easy to assign in Google Classroom in chunks, and we can work on it throughout a unit! I'm so excited to see what's in store for this new way of learning for students!

I want to learn how to do this, where do I go?

That's easy, check out Danielle Knight at Study All Knight. She has an AMAZING Google Drive Toolkit you can purchase, that can guide you through how to get started if you want to create digital products! 

Do you use digital learning in your classroom?
If so, how is it working?
If not, what's holding you back? (Funding, Materials, Knowledge of how to use tools, etc...)
What kind of Digi-ISN's would you be most interested in?

Ok. Now for the fun part. I've been so ridiculously excited about this, that I wanted to share my joy by offering an AWESOME giveaway. This is not sponsored in any way, I just purchased some amazing gifts for Valentine's Day to share my LOVE for teaching and all of you!

This giveaway is valued at over $200, and will run through the Valentine's Day weekend. Giveaway ends Monday night at 11:59pm CST. Winner will be announced on Tuesday!

What You Can Win: A pink themed prize pack including an arm knit infinity scarf, Fujifilm instax mini 8 camera, snack box, washi tape, file folders, pencil pouch, pencils, and push pins!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Road Back...

I'm attempting to get back into blogging again, now that I have my little cutie on somewhat of a schedule, and can usually find an hour in the day to sit down with my laptop. Who knew taking the laptop out would become such a luxury once a kiddo comes around?

So what's new? Not much, which is why I haven't been blogging. I settled into a routine this year that works, and with maternity leave sneaking up on me two weeks early, I kind of left everything, and didn't think about school once she got here. I never thought I'd be like that, but it really does change everything...

Since it's still January, I figured I'd start off today with some things I want to continue with my teaching, and some goals for when I get back in April. Yes, I'm staying home till April, which is amazing, and also requires some very strategic budgeting on our end, but I know it'll be worth it!

Things that work:

Grammar Invitations- Without a doubt, this strategy has been absolutely amazing for teaching grammar to students in an authentic way. Also, writing small assignments and then having choice for a larger piece is great for my students!

Which leads me to Writer's Workshop- Hands down, the best time saver and effective use of instruction and discussion I've done in my classroom. I love the feedback students give each other, and I've only had a few students not turn in a paper, which is a win on its own!

Google Docs- Students this year were all given google accounts at our school, and having all papers digital makes it easy for me to track progress, give comments, print for workshop, and note revisions! I also have students color code their grammar invitation sentences, which makes it easy to grade!

Classroom Management Strategies: I started using a paper gradebook in my EC Planner again this year, in addition to our online gradebook, because we switched to a new system (Schoology) that was a little glitchy at first. This, along with my No Assignment Forms, were a lifesaver when assignments didn't save! My While You Were Out spiral has also been great, especially for students with a lot of absences!

Things I want to try or transition:

1. Interactive Notebooks. I love them, I do... but I'm tired of justifying the amount of time spent putting pages in. It's worth it for students to always have everything, but I'm craving to have them be digital and go paperless. I want to find a balance for both, so this is something I'm currently working on!

2. Incorporating skills more with novel studies. Novel studies have been demonized a bit with common core, but I really feel they are valuable for teaching the CC skills. How can I justify using novels all year to teach skills, along with relevant nonfiction and fiction articles and stories? 

3. Advocating for change. I really want to see some changes in education, and I want to jump away from being a bystander to helping develop change in education. 

4. Streamlining materials in my classroom. I LOVE organizing, and I'm again on the hunt to re-evaluate how my classroom runs in a functional sense. I actually may survey my students on how my room layout is or is not meeting their needs.

5. Finally- providing valuable content to people who read this or follow me! 
  • What do you want to see more of regarding middle school language arts? 
    • Content/Lesson Plans, Classroom Management, Organization, Technology?
  • How do you want to get it? 
    • Blogging? Instagram? FB? Twitter? Periscope? 
  • What works for you?
Since my time is a little more limited, I want to make sure I reach the majority of you where it is easy and convenient. :) What are you working on for the new year/semester? I want to know, so comment here or on facebook!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Managing Multiple Preps!

Anyone here have more than one prep (class/course) that you teach in a day? Chances are, you do. Chances are, you might be like me, and have five! I'm here to tell you, that instead of panicking, as long as you have an organizational system, it is possible to still have time to breathe in your day!

Here's my current course load, just so you can see where I'm at.

1st Period- Planning Period (no students)
2nd Period- 8th Grade Language Arts Regular (Reading/Writing)
3rd Period- 8th Grade Language Arts Regular (Reading/Writing)
4th Period- 8th Grade Language Arts ET (Gifted- Reading/Writing)
5th Period- 8th Grade Enrichment Course (Genius Hour)
6th Period- SLC (Small Learning Communities/Homeroom)
7th Period- 7th Grade Language Arts 1 ET (Gifted/Reading)
8th Period- 7th Grade Language Arts 2 ET (Gifted/Writing)
9th Period- 8th Grade Language Arts 1 ET (Gifted- Reading/Writing)

Our classes are 42 minutes long, and my 8th grade classes only meet for one period, as these students take foreign language in lieu of a second period of Language Arts, so I teach both reading and writing in the 42 minute class)

1. Teacher Planner and Calendar

You must have a planner. I've made my Erin Condren Teacher Planner work for me as a secondary teacher, repurposing some of the pages that are more elementary. I love using the main calendar for meetings and reminders that are not academic, this helps me have one place to look for things happening in the morning and afternoon.

2. Monthly To-Do List

A to-do list that is specific to each month. This does not include daily copies I need to make, but more long-term/monthly goals that I need to finish. This includes forms I need to turn in, upcoming due dates, etc...

3. Weekly Planning

I use a paper planner to sketch out my weeks, along with Schoology. This is super helpful for me to sketch out and see what I'm doing, and writing it helps me remember. I color code my classes, and then divide my book out by course.

Keeping the colors consistent is helpful for me, and always putting the same type of activity in the same box (ex. bellringers on the first line, homework on the last two lines) helps me find information quickly.

4. Long Term Planning

I use my extra notes section to do long-term planning. Obviously this looks different throughout the year, but I can sketch out what selections I'm using based on testing data, and I can rewrite this each quarter to include specific selections. You can see that this quarter is very specific (2-3 week increments) and then they get chunked out for 2nd, 3rd, and 4th quarter. This will be super helpful to have a timeline as I get closer to maternity leave as well.

5. Short-Term To Do List

I have this awesome pad from C.Jayne Teach that is divided into four quadrants, "Things to Do", "People To Email", "Pages to Copy" and "Students to See". As much as I loved having it on my desk, I decided to fold it in half and laminate it. Then I clipped it into my TP with the coil clips, and I use a wet erase marker for to-do lists that change weekly. 

Here's where I mark things that must get done this week, as well as staff and parents I need to get in touch with. (Covered to protect parent names)

I make a ton of copies during the week, and having this right in my planner is very helpful! My students to see includes students who may be absent, or need benchmarking. 

6. Copy Folder

Here's my folder with all of the items on my "Pages to Copy" list. I keep this in my planner, and make sure I have it when I take my planner home. This way, if there are no meetings, I can go straight to the copy machine in the morning before I even go to my room!

Do I still get frustrated? Oh, yes. Sometimes I feel like my head will explode trying to juggle everything, but this helps me at least keep treading water!

Today is my Work Free Wednesday (no school work happening in this house tonight)! Did you take my challenge I posted on the Middle School Mob last week? How's it going?

Sunday, August 30, 2015

First week is in the books!

Hi All!

I skipped my regular post this week in favor of this Flipagram of my ISN that I posted on my Facebook on Monday or so!

I also had plans derailed because I *of course* came down with a massive chest cold within the first three days of school!

Today I'm going to talk about ISN's, yes, again. Are you doing them yet? Why not? Why are you?

Here are the top five reasons why I do the ISN with my middle schoolers:

1. Students are organized
2. Students are organized
3. Students are organized
4. Students are organized
5. Students are organized

Obviously there are many other reasons, such as ease of grading, less time spent looking for papers, clear expectations and routines, etc... but my biggest takeaway is that students know where to find stuff. We spend a great deal of time getting this ready to go at the beginning of the school year. More so this year because I really want to be prepared when my maternity sub comes in, and I want students to clearly see the importance of this notebook. We are finally starting content on Monday, as we spent two days doing this, one day with Library Orientation, and two days doing Performance Series testing last week. I'm so pumped to get into some actual content with my kiddos!

 I printed these out on Astrobrights cardstock so they would be more sturdy, and it was definitely cheaper than buying a ton of tabs for students!

I can tell my new big thing this year is going to be these "task" sheets, as I've done them a handful of times this year already with the ISN, Learning Styles activities, and the stations!

I would LOVE to offer this in my TpT store, but I wanted to get some feedback first. I'm planning to include the following in this bundle, but I want to know what you would want from this!

What do you want to see on the tabs and cover pages? What more would you want in here? What other questions do people have about "doing" interactive student notebooks?

So what's coming next? Look for a content heavy post coming up soon on how I do my introductory unit with students to teach anchor skills! :) Hope everyone is happy, healthy, and making time for themselves!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

So unprepared, but here we go!

Here we go!

So I am finally feeling at peace with the fact that my room is not finished, and it's ok! One of my awesome colleagues suggested we have students help us on Friday during our PBIS day, and it was like the heavens opened up and angels started singing. Genius!! We had two hours today for work time on our own, and guess how much of that time was productive? If you guessed ummm....none of it, that would be correct. So I left, went home, greeted my forlorn puppy, made some quick handouts that I needed to copy, and headed back to school. I was SO much more productive when I got back! I was in and out in a little over an hour, and I'm feeling at least ready to have students enter my room!

I've been stalking The Literary Maven for a few weeks now, in fact, this particular blog post has been open in my tabs forever! She had the awesome idea to do stations for her first day back, and I just think it's an amazing idea. I get really nervous for no good reason, and I HATE reading through my syllabus over and over again all day while the students sit glassy- eyed. I tweaked her stations a bit to fit my needs, but I'm so excited because her plans fit right in with mine to start off the year with Literature Circles!

We have about 35 minutes in class on the first day, so they will have about 7 minutes for each station.

Here's Station #1. A scavenger hunt using the syllabus and classroom to answer questions in teams. 

Station #2: Goal Setting. The Literary Maven provided a link to these adorable bubbles on the blog I linked earlier! This will be great for parents to see at Open House!

Station #3: Read Dating. I chose One for the Murphys, Out of My Mind, Schooled, Ungifted, Stargirl, The Pretenders, and Wonder for my lit. circle choices. Students will examine the books and rank their picks and turn it in. I can organize lit. circles immediately to begin within the next two weeks!

Station #4: Materials Pickup. Students have to pick up their two homework assignments, a manila folder, and copy down the homework on the board and put it in their agenda to have me sign. This gets them used to the idea that I expect them to write down their homework each day.

Station #5: Classroom Utopia (questions). Students will share ideas on what an ideal classroom, teacher, school, and student would look like.

Here's my truth time. TWELVE boxes packed full of books that need to be sorted and put on shelves, plus the ones already on the shelves. I'm hoping I can get some students to volunteer to help get these out for me. I could tell when I got home tonight that I pushed it a little too hard today!

Here's my homework board and daily schedule (which is still on a to-do list to be printed). I got this chalkboard vinyl from amazon!

So here we go! Cheers to all of you incredibly hard-working teachers going back into the classroom!

I'm also setting some expectations for myself in my blogging life. Here's what you can expect from me this year:

- I'll be blogging on Mondays or Tuesdays each week!
- My goal is to have 2-3 new products a month in TpT
- I also blog once a month over at the Middle School Mob

One last thing, TpT is having a ONE-DAY sale tomorrow! Everything in my store will be 28% off, so click on the picture to stop on by!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Classroom 2015 "Lite"

This year, I realized that I will need to tone it down a bit with my classroom, as I was exhausted just unpacking boxes! My husband and dad were so awesome, because they helped empty out the storage unit we had unnecessarily rented for the summer, and were able to load in my room in just a few hours! I was left behind on their second trip to start unpacking, and the value in completely purging and emptying your classroom is that there isn't that much to move back in, and it's really organized if you take the time to do it when you're packing!

To compare and contrast, feel free to check out my classroom reveal from last year, featuring all of my classrooms through the years here!

Here's the view into the pod. I'm going to be covering up the garage door with Astrobrights paper and binder clips to hang student work. The bookshelf will house all of my classroom dictionaries, along with other books and resources we are using. Next to the bookcase is my pocket chart, which I LOVE using for my ISN handouts!

Here are my "cubbies" from last year. I made some new signs to hang for each class period, and students will store their ISN's and materials in here. In the top cubbies are canvases students painted, and one small box of student examples.

The custodians took all the vinyl that I painstakingly put up two years ago on these back white boards, but I think it will end up being a blessing in disguise! I was mighty irritated at first, but I realized that I project my agenda every day at the front of the room, so it's slightly unnecessary to have the whiteboards at the back taken up with an agenda board too. Instead, I'm going to put a homework board at the front of the room that serves as a permanent reminder of what's due. These back boards will be used for Writing Invitations, Notes, and other whiteboard space for student use!

 I changed up my reading nook this year, and I'm loving it! I still need to bring in my floor pillows, but Bella has been enjoying them so I'm waiting. Check out my Instagram to see some pics of her on said pillows. :) I moved my desk out of this area from last year, and I like how wide open it is. I also ditched one of my bookcases, since I purged a TON of books from my classroom library last year. I haven't unpacked those boxes just yet, so I hope they fit!

Here are said boxes of books...this is what I'll be doing when we get time to work in our rooms on Monday, along with my usual to-do list (see end of post!)

Here's the other side of the bookcase. I house the laptop carts for our grade level, and then I'll be putting up a bulletin board where the wood is!

Here is my desk area, with my filing cabinet. I LOVE this desk, and I am using my extra chair on the other side so that I can conference with students.

I love this area, and my goal is to keep it clean and tidy this year.

On the other side of the room is my supplies area and materials pickup area for students. I'll be putting up my Organization bulletin board here again this year, for students to pick up all their classroom forms!

I put this on my instagram last night, but I was super inspired by a lesson plan template I saw and decided to adapt it for my daily agenda. I use Microsoft OneNote (one of the only Microsoft programs I like) and I'll simply fill this in every day and project at the beginning of the period!

I've put a copy of my template in Dropbox that you can download for free! I used KG Fonts: All of Me, Falling Slowly, and Flavor and Frames. Please note this template will only work in OneNote!

Now here is the part of my room that I am most proud of. It used to be that every single cabinet and shelf behind my whiteboards was FILLED with stuff. If you look at the pictures, I have a lot of cabinets. Other than our textbooks, this is all I have in my room, so it feels so awesome to declutter!

Supply Station for students

Here are my novel studies, I only have six of each out, and the rest are packed away in the boxes. I also gave away quite a few last year!

Bulletin board and classroom decoration supplies

Extra supplies!

Empty boxes and bags

I plan to keep foldable materials in these two long drawers!

My absolute favorite sterilite bins that I use for extra supplies. Students can refill easily for me since these are labeled.
This is my only "teacher storage" area. It can be locked, and I have a first aid kit, small tools, teacher books, my Keurig, and a laminator.

Finally, this is usually a pit, but I would love it if this could stay this clean looking all year!

To Do List:

Bulletin Boards: Grammar Invitations, Inspirational Quotes, Organization Station
Student Work board
Finish "decorations"
Put away Classroom Library Books
Put away copies/make copies

This might be the shortest to-do list I've ever had going back. How are you paring down to make life easier this year?