Friday, February 28, 2014

K.I.T: Kids Included Together

Inclusion is something near and dear to my heart. Coming from both a personal and professional background I know how vital inclusion can be in schools and communities. I have seen how inclusion can open doors for individuals and how the lack of inclusion only limits an individuals true potential. The sole purpose of inclusion is to expand opportunities which allows everyone to be an equal participant in life. 

Kids Included Together (KIT) began in 1997. This organization focuses on providing best practices training for communities to include children with and without disabilities into their recreational, child development and youth programs. 

K.I.T believes that disabilities are a natural part of life. They view disabilities as a way to foster diversity opposed to a deficiency. I truly believe that if more people adopted K.I.Ts outlook on disabilities our education system and communities would be completely different. 

For more information about K.I.T you can visit their

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

It might seem crazy what I'm about to say...

But I'm pretty happy that the FL is no longer going to stay. If I look giddy for the next couple of days it's because I am strike that I am ecstatic! 

There are numerous reasons that make me happy...
No more pressure.
No more cheesy writing.
No more essays to grade.
No more ridiculous prompts.
No more tracking down students asking where their essay is.
No more wanting to cry because they don't capitalize the beginning of their sentence.

I'm sure that down the road the happiness will fade...let's face it I teach ESE the land where happiness goes to die.* The chances of bad news coming down the road talking this and that is a possibility. If I hear that so-and-so's essays score was less than pleasing. There is not much I can do about it. The fact of the matter is that my students and myself have been working our tail off since August. So if anyone has something to say that is less than motivating, they should be warned that we will be just's best that they don't waste our time. Because in the end we are happy that we worked hard and did the best we possibly could. I hope people do not take any offense to this. No one can bring us down because today we will be happier than a room without a roof. We know the true definition of happiness lies beyond a test score.

I dare you to watch this video and not be happy!

Reality Check
I teach Language Arts so there will always be essays to grade.

* for those that cannot pick up on sarcasm 
I'm not being negative...I'm being sarcastic
There is a difference

Monday, February 24, 2014

The time has come

The FL writes is tomorrow! Hurray!
I honestly have had fewer panic attacks over this years writing than in years past.  I feel confident that I have done everything within my means to prepare them for this assessment. I know that regardless of what the scores are that my students have the ability to write an essay. My students as well as myself are more than a test score. I will keep my hopes high that they will be able to successful demonstrate how amazing they truly are tomorrow when they are writing their essay. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

The business of running a classroom

There are various methods that tell teachers how to run a classroom. Some will change your classroom for the better while others will not survive to see lunch. 
Kagan is cute
Flipping your classroom sounds interesting
Whole brain learning
Multiple intelligence
and the list continues

My outlook is that I run my classroom like a business. It's simple, logical and makes sense to me...nothing fluffy or cute just the basics. Here is the break down of running a classroom like a business.

Are my clients. You want them to be satisfied and happy so they will  come back the next day ready to learn. I am sure we have our handful of "difficult" clients we have to deal with on a daily basis. 

Paraprofessionals,OT,PT, speech/language pathologists and staffing specialist 
Are my board of directors. Since I am an ESE teacher there are people coming and going at different points in the week. They are the ones that truly see me as who I am in the classroom. They are not administration coming in for a quick observation, they are there to help my students and make my job easier. I feel comfortable around them, they see what I do in the classroom and never pass any judgement. 

To put it simply they are my coworkers. I love them all even the ones that are no longer at my school. The wealth of knowledge that they possess is outstanding and encouraging. There is nothing I like more than brainstorming with them about various lessons. 

Are my investors. Some are overly invested and others are barely there. 

Are the presidents of the company. Not an active participant in running the business, but their presence can be felt and their request are listened to. Truth be told I had a hard time categorizing them...I feel that their role could change...possible by standers in running a classroom.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Under Pressure

Am I the only one that when they hear Queen's Under Pressure they think Vanilla Ice's iconic song is about to come blaring through their speakers? They both start with a similar's pure trickery I tell you!

Needless to say Queen's Under Pressure is a fitting song for the approaching season for teachers. It's time to perform and by perform I mean we will be the spectators to our own Olympic events.

Testing Olympic events will include

Unlike the Olympics where the athletes almost automatically know how they performed we, teachers, students, parents and administration, have to wait months for the scores to be delivered. Will we win a gold, silver, bronze or will we not even be deemed fitting for a medal?

The first event in the Testing Olympics will be February 25th. The Florida Writes is almost here. We had at my school what could be compared to the opening of the Testing Olympics this past Friday. All the 8th graders were gathered and given a surprise writing prompt. The group that I was the spectator of were seven of my own students. Students that I have poured more than enough time and effort to prep them for this test. As I painstakingly watched them frown their little foreheads as they tried to wrap their mind around what they were told to write; I could not help think that my worth as a teacher is riding on how well they perform on a test. Are they able to produce a well written essay? Will they become frustrated and just give up? Am I going to be told that my scores are horrible? How in the world is this fair?

By the end of Friday I had been given a majority of my students essays back from their mock FL writes. I really only looked at one and barely glanced at the others. I cannot tell you how disheartened and disappointed I felt by the one essay I did look at. This essay in particular nearly brought me to tears. It contained a mere couple of sentences in what was supposed to be a five paragraph essay. What makes this essay even worse is that it belongs to a student who has shown the most growth in their writing. I know that my students can write. I have proof. I have seen with my very own eyes that they have the ability to write a well developed essay.

If I were to title the picture above I would call it "Under Pressure"

Monday, February 17, 2014

Persuade me!

Typically, while 8th graders are prepping for the FL writes their interactive notebooks are neglected. Well, there not entirely neglected. After Thanksgiving break we started focusing on persuasive essays. Writing a persuasive essay is typically more difficult to grasp unlike an expository one. To introduce persuasive writing we discussed the difference between persuasive and expository, went over the goals in writing a persuasive essay, the order of this type of essay and then they practiced by writing a persuasive paragraph on soda machines in schools. 
 Each student read their paragraph out loud to the class; who then had to decide if they were persuaded by what they were hearing.

Two weeks ago I gave a mock FL writes. When they finished writing they were given a FL writes rubric. They were instructed to create a fold-able on the four main areas on how their essay would be graded. They then had to pull out information from the rubric that related to grading an essays: focus, organization, support and conventions. On the outside of each flap they wrote themselves reminders on what they needed to do on the day of the test.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Show don't Tell

In preparation for the FL writes we have been focusing on writing descriptive sentences that paint a picture in the readers mind. This method of writing is often refereed to as 'Show Don't Tell'
The students were given this fold-able that I created using Word. I presented six reasons for why showing is better than telling:
1. Helps the readers make pictures in their mind
2. Showing makes writing interesting
3. Showing is more specific than telling
4. Showing makes the reader slow down. Focuses on one thing longer, sentences are longer
5. The sound of words are: smoother, flows and musical
6. Showing requires specific vocabulary
With each reason students drew a picture that correlated to the reason 

They were then given telling sentences that they have to turn into showing sentences. There was a total of eight sentences that dealt with a prompt they were writing. 
I related reading a telling essay to a black & white movie and a showing essay to a movie in color.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Word to the wise

One of the many joys of teaching middle school is note passing. Unfortunately, this occurrence does not happen very often. When I do come upon a student passing a note I causally and quietly take the note. The contents of  the note usually dictates what actions follow. This particular note suited my fancy especially after reading the first line. At the time the class was involved in an independent activity which allowed me time to edit this student's note. Once this was complete, I handed the note back to the student informing them if they are to pass notes they might as well do it with little if any errors. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

To respond or not to respond

When you work with students, especially in middle school, there is a chance that odd little comments and questions will be heard on a daily basis. Since we are officially back from break I have been asked some odd questions as well as heard some interesting remarks. Here is this weeks odd questions and remarks brought to you by a 7th grader and 8th graders

During vocabulary bell work
7th grader: Miss do you have an extra pair of earrings
Me: No, why would you ask me that
7th grader: Because of all of my teachers you would be the one to have an extra pair

While grading an essay
8th grader: Miss do you know what you look like?
Me (awkwardly looking up): Uhh no, what?
8th grader: You look like a baby doll today.
Me (concerned look on my face): Thank you?!?

During a writing group
8th grader: Miss you're Cuban right?
Me: Why would you think I'm Cuban?
8th grader: Because you're blonde and pale...most Cuban girls are like that.
Me: Well, I'm from Texas and I'm definitely not Cuban
8th grader: Oh, if you wanted to pretend to be Cuban you could pull it off
Me: I'll keep that in mind

Friday, February 7, 2014

Ignore method

 I am pretty sure this teaching method was not taught in college.
Some professionals might frown on my method I used on this one particular student, but to each his own.

So this 6th grader is adorable and has potential to be bright. When you uncover the outer layers you realize that this student craves positive attention and will wither at the thought that he has disappointed someone. For instance, on our way back from lunch one day he was mildly clowning around; the assistant principal caught him and reamed him a new one. Well, the poor thing was completely useless the rest of the class period because he was licking his wounds. 

After failing Q1 I decided to step up my game with this young man because he was too smart to fail. I think it's safe to say that every time he picked up his pencil he would quiver in fear I would catch a mistake. You see I wasn't out to get him I just really wanted to help him reach his true potential. Well, he wasn't doing so hot at the end of Q2. I decided to back off a little. Instead of having his desk right by me I put him as far away as possible. I did not check for understanding with him or ask if he needed help. I let him on his own to figure things out. In fact I directly told the student my plan of action.

"Since October I have watched you like a hawk and not much has changed. So now I am going to ignore you and if you need help you know where to find me." The shocked looked on his face and his "huh" said it all. The mama bird was leaving the baby bird to figure it out on his own. If he wants to fly he knows what to do. 

For the next two weeks he sat in the far left corner of the classroom. He rarely asked for help and did not talk to others, he just did his work. At week three during a lesson on author's purpose he sought me out for questioning on an assignment. Each day he would become more confident in his work and would ask questions or check to make sure he was doing it right. You could almost see his feathers fluffing up. The end of week four was approaching when the baby bird made his move. He ever so gently came to me at my desk and sweetly asked if he could return to his desk by the front. I responded by saying of course. 

This brings us to present day where the baby bird is still by my desk. I do not hover over him like before. I let him struggle and make countless mistakes. He knows what to do and how to fix them now. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Praise before critisize

I have graded my fair share of essays this year. I don't particularly care to know how many I have read and marked up because it may lead to tears.  I do know that grading essays can bring forth an array of emotions. Ranging from wanting to hug a student because their essay is pure amazingness and then the other end of ripping an essay up because it is garbage. I have experienced extreme highs and bottomless lows this year all thanks to grading essays. 

I know for my students the act of picking up a pencil, thinking and putting words on a page takes effort. Writing in general is not easy plus there are risks involved. Generating original thought on a piece of paper and awaiting judgement from your reader is ten times more nerve raking than taking a fill in the bubble test. 

In order to build momentum with student's writing as well as encourage them, praise must come before criticism. No student wants to be handed an essay that is filled with errors that needs to be corrected. I feel that it is necessary to recognize students for a job well done before I dissect every word they put in their essay.  Even if it is thanking them for writing legible, find some small part of their work that deserves praise before the cloud of criticism rains down. 
There have been students that have kept the positive post-it-notes that they have received in their writing folder since the beginning of the year; while the criticizing notes have some how disappeared!

Truth moment
It's not always easy to find the positive over the negative in an essay. I am guilty of writing over a student's essay "START OVER AGAIN!"
not my proudest moment

Monday, February 3, 2014

Mastering vocabulary

I have a 6th grader that is not that great at taking spelling and definition tests.
This student is one of those that appears to have a lot of potential, but has yet to figure out a way to use it.
...especially when it comes to vocabulary words...
His main problem is that he does not study. I think he, as well as other students, do not know how to study.
So after another definition test had been taken and failed again I came up with this:
I emphasize breaking spelling words up into syllables that way they seem more manageable. 
This foldable breaks up a spelling words syllables, gives the word as a whole and then has the definition on the back. Depending on how many syllables the word has is how many cuts you make on the fold. 

Time will tell if this student will use this new method of mastering his vocabulary
fingers crossed
First spelling test taken with this new study method resulted in a B-...not too shabby!