Saturday, October 25, 2014

Classroom on a Budget

 I promised some pictures of my classroom a while back. Here is a quick blog post that is a compilation of a few pictures from my classroom.

To start, I picked up some motivational stickers that make the view out of my window a little nicer.

You can't see in this picture, but when I stay at school until sunset (which happens far too often) and the sky is clear, I have a stunning view of the sunset over the ocean.

 As for bulletins, I have one long bulletin board divided into two sections.

One of them isn't shown here. It is lined with newspapers and every time we read a story we write a headline and post it up.

The other one you see here has one of my favorite quotes, "A book is a gift that you open again and again." with some of the books I let them read during SSR.
In addition to World and American Literature, I teach a Study Skills class. One of the activities that we do is students create posters with acronymns that will help them be good students.

For example, LISTEN reminds students to: Learn, Investigate, Stay Silent, Take Notes, re Exercise your brain and Not to talk. These are currently displayed in my class, but soon I'll send them to other teachers to share their work throughout the school.

That's a small look at my classroom! What's your look like?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Ways to differentiate texts

I've seen a lot of discussion about differentiating texts for student readers, so I thought I'd write up a quick post about fiver easy ways to differentiate texts.

1.Chunk the text differently.
For this method you would still give all the students the same text, but where one student may have a text with questions at the end. Another student would have one question after each paragraph. This makes it easier for lower readers to process the information.

2. Give a graphic organizer
I am not going to lie. As a student I HATE graphic organizers. They don't work for me. I feel contained and held back However, as a teacher I LOVE THEM. Some students just work better when given boxes or lines. I tend to make my own, but you can find many free templates online. Eduplace for example has decent selection. I have a station students can go to and grab whatever handout they want for whatever activity we are doing.

3. Give help
If students are taking notes on a reading give lower level students guided notes, and higher level students no notes. Give lower level students sentence starters and higher level students the basic question.

4. Adapt the assignment for students.
I feel this is often what teachers do. Rather than changing the reading, they change the expectations. What I think is important here is to make sure that you aren't cheating lower level students out of an education. For example, higher level students may need to find ten new words, define them, draw a picture, and use them to tell a story. Whereas lower level students need to find ten new words, define them, draw a picture and make a unique sentence for each word. Telling a story is a higher level skill, but writing unique sentences will still help our struggling reader learn!

5. Make one version easier.
This is often a time consuming process. Basically give some students the text as is,, and other students the text with easier words or less complex sentences. Unless you know you will reuse an activity over and over, I wouldn't do this. Instead, use a site like this site selects texts on popular current events and rewrites them at different levels. The content is the same, but you can divvy up the texts according to the strengths of your students!

There we are, five relatively painless ways to make it easier for your learners or a bit more challenging for those who need a push.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Creative Character Quizzes

These aren't the quizzes that your students have to study for! These quizzes make your students use their critical thinking skills, inference skills, grammar skills and technology skills...what more could you want?

If your students like taking Buzzfeed quizzes or any quiz online then they will appreciate this assignment.

My students were reading the Crucible, but it can be easily adapted to any book (or even classmates, teachers, local politicians, etc.). For classes that don't read literature I've also used quizzes to review vocabulary.

As a class we discussed what types of questions we could ask. There were two types we discussed:

1. The literal question.
    • These questions asked about things we could literally see. 
      • For example: Would you cheat on your significant other?
        • Never! I am a good honest person.
        • Yes, but I would feel awful later!
        • If they were cute and I liked them.
        • I am very religious so of course not!
    • In this questions we can tell who the answers refer to based on actions or words stated.
        • Elizabeth is a good and honest woman who never cheated.
        • John cheated, but he felt bad.
        • Abigail had an affair with John,so she would be OK with cheating.
        • Hale is a reverend, so he is religious.
2. The symbolic question
    • These questions require more interpretation.
      • For example: What is your favorite color?
        • Black
        • White
        • Red
        • Grey
      • In these question the answer may depend based on who is writing the quiz
        • John Proctor is depressed so he is black.
        • Elizabeth is very innocent so she is white
        • Abigail is passionate so she is read.
        • Hale is grey because he is confused by what is happening in the town and getting more and more depressed.
Once the students understand the differences I gave their requirements.They had to create a 10 question quiz involving four characters. In addition to the quiz they needed to give me a paper that explained their answers.

Once they completed their quizzes they put them online ( is a great site for this) and take at least two other quizzes.

It is a fun project that makes students cite evidence from the text and shows how well they understand the characters.

You can buy the directions and worksheets that go with this for The Crucible on Teachers Pay Teachers at this link

Otherwise be inspired and make your own! Here are two examples from my students

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Using iPads for typing

I think I am a very interesting age. I grew up with a lot of the technology students today had. I was a little girl when my family got our first computer, but I also remember card catalogs in the library. I can't imagaine having to hand write a whole essay (have you seen my handwriting?!?), but I am still not quite comfortable having students use their smart phones to take notes.It is an interesting middle ground and I really enjoy the unique perspectives that it gives me.

One of the adaptations I have been making is to iPads and other tablets. Don't get me wrong, I like iPads. I think making videos on them and using other multimedia or study based apps is amazing. However, many of my students use an iPad and pretty much ONLY an iPad in class.

I quickly realized that while for me creating things in an iPad was a struggle (I am typing this blog on my laptop), for students it came much more easily. What they were missing was software. They didn't have anything they could use to create their documents.

This is where Document Writer comes in handy. I don't know if you have noticed, but even though most of my students are tech "natives" they are REALLY bad with new technology, "Teacher what now?" "Teacher what do I do?" "Teacher what now?" They expect to know automatically how to use something without spending much time learning.

Here is a manual annotation
This was a typed annotation
Different brush strokes students may select
The good news is that is exactly what this app is. Students can link it to their Google Drive or their Dropbox to easily access files. They can also annotate any PDF on their iPad.

Basically, they can complete any handout you give them access to without using a sheet of paper. YAY for going green. Here's an example with one of my handouts about proverbs (that ties into an essay) You can see that one of the photos is landscape and one is portrait. Since this is an iPad students can pick the view that works best for them That includes zooming to stay focused.

From there they can add their answers by writing them in (with a stylus or in some cases their finger), or using the text tool to type their answers.

Students can also use the document writer to write a basic text document: short responses, journals, etc.

This is also available for iPhones, though that's another generation gap! I have no idea how they manage to type so much on those tiny keyboards nor how they manage to see everything on such tiny screens. Nonetheless, if you have a student who is limited to their phone, you may want to have them look into this.

Would you be comfortable with your students completing a handout or other work on their iPhone/iPad? Do you think this app may help? I would love to hear more in the comments!
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