Thursday, July 10, 2014

Sixth Grade Tales has moved!

Good afternoon blogger friends! I hope you will join me at my new blog, Tales of a Carolina girl.  Just click the button below to take you there.  I am no longer teaching sixth grade so I have changed my blog name.  Also, don't forget to follow me on Bloglovin! I look forward to really getting back into blogging mode this summer and learn a lot from other great teachers.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

More changes

 Summer is finally here!  I hate I didn't post a lot at the end of the school year but I had A LOT going on.  The major thing was that I got a new job teaching behavior support at an elementary school next year!  I'm super excited for this transfer in positions, as my master's degree is in emotional and behavioral disorders.      As a behavior support teacher, my job will include teaching students with behavior disorders in my own classroom and also working on behavior plans within the general classroom.
  With this big change in jobs I plan on soon renaming and changing my blog.  I would LOVE some ideas for what to name the blog, so please feel free to comment your suggestions. 

   To wrap up the end of teaching sixth grade I am attaching some pictures of the end of the year with my students.  I can not say enough how blessed I was this year to have such great students.  I will miss them all! 

 The last week of school we had a camp day.  We told ghost stories, made smores and played camp games.

Making smores on camp day

Eating smores while watching Ghostbusters!

Class kickball was a huge hit!

This would have been my cheerleading squad for the next school year.  The next coach will be very lucky to get to work with these girls.

My empty classroom.  It makes me sad to see this but I am excited for the next adventure in my teaching journey!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Exciting News!

   It's been a while since I've had a chance to post which is sad because I've taken a lot of pictures of things that my students have been doing recently.  A few weeks ago I became a Mary Kay Independent Beauty Consultant.  I'm super excited about this new side job so I've been working hard on getting everything set up.  I'd love for you to join me as I get started on this new adventure, by liking my business facebook page. Right now I have a giveaway going on for a free mascara! All you have to do is like and share my page for a entry into the drawing. If your friends like my page as well, you will get extra entries!

Now to catch you up with what's been going on in my classroom....

We had field day earlier in May.  Our whole team ordered matching shirts which turned out great. My class won 3rd place overall so I was very happy.  We all had a blast!

One really fun activity I did in language arts was comparing genres.  In social studies we were studying the middle ages and the black death so we looked at a play and an article.  I then drew a venn diagram on the board and talked about how the mood and tone of each piece was different. My students always love acting out plays.

In social studies I offered an extra credit project where students had to build their own kingdom.  I was so proud at how elaborate my students got with their castles.

As they presented their castles they had to talk about the laws they created for their kingdom and what each person living on the manor did for a living.

This student was so creative. She used clay, popsicle sticks, cardboard, felt and many other things!

Next week is the last week of teaching before EOG's begin.  It's going to be crunch time but I'm excited to see how my students do this year.  They have been a great group of kids! 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Ancient Rome & Nonfiction

    I wish I would have taken more pictures during my ancient Rome unit.  I feel like at this time of year I am rushing to finish getting everything taught in social studies.  One thing I really enjoyed with ancient Rome was how much I constantly reviewed.  By the end of the unit, my students could tell the whole story of ancient Rome from the ages of the Kings to the fall of the empire.  I would review with vocabulary on whiteboards and also by telling the story of Rome and throwing a ball for a student to catch and fill in the missing word to the story.
    When teaching Julius Ceasar my class did a fun play.  I also showed the horrible history videos.  If you haven't seen those, you should definitely check them out.

    In Language Arts my students turned in their non-fiction book projects this week.  They had to read a non-fiction book and then make a cereal project out of it.  Their cereal had to include a prize on the inside, a summary on the back and a description of the book on the front to turn their book into a cereal.  I had some really creative projects and they really seemed to enjoy sharing their boxes with each other.

   Next up is the Middle Ages in social studies and reviewing for EOG's in language arts! Luckily a much needed Spring Break starts Friday!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

What's working lately

    It is a new rotation at my school and with a new rotation schedule I have started to try some new things in my classroom.  One thing I have done is constant review of key words we are studying.  Every day we start the class period with a whiteboard game.  I call out a definition and they write the word on their whiteboard.  Sometimes we play the first person to 10 words correct wins, or they will just try to beat a peer in the room. I can tell this repetitive review is really helping my students and they look forward to it! 

   Another change this rotation has been what I do during what we call connections time.  This is the last 20  minutes of the school day where we are supposed to do some type of remediation.  I have grouped my students into groups based on what they need the most help with.  There is a group for vocabulary, comprehending non-fiction, comprehending fiction and even a phonics group. I have advanced students helping in each group and I work with the lowest group.  Everyday they know where to sit and what to get out, they begin working and usually do pretty well on their own.  I've found this to be a great way to utilize the mere 20 minutes we get for remediation.  Before I was just playing the news, so I find this much more beneficial. 

   In one of my language arts classes we are reading the novel, Tuck Everlasting.  We read most of it together and then have an activity to do with what we read.  During the activity students have a group to sit with and discuss questions or a mini-project with.  This has been working great because when I say move students know exactly where to sit and what to begin working on. At first I thought the book would be too hard for class but now it almost seems too easy.  It is a great book to use to review fictional story elements.

   Overall what I've learned lately is the importance of structure.  When my students know where to sit, what to get out before I say go they get so much more work done. Even in language arts I've made sure to give students something to look forward while they are doing independent reading.  Just having a consistent routine helps them stay much more focused.  It seems so simple but it's something I wasn't doing as well before now. 

   What has been working well for you lately? It's spring let's think positive! 


Monday, March 17, 2014

What I've been up to lately

I haven't posted much lately so I thought I would do a recap most of some things I've been up to so far in March.

1. Surviving all the weather days.

This year we have already had 15 or more days that school has been out, delayed or with an early release.  About a week ago our power went out for a couple of days.  Here is a picture of what my mom and I made for lunch using the fireplace.

2. Jack graduated puppy school

My sweet puppy has learned his manners and graduated puppy school.  I'm proud to say he can pretty consistently do sit, down, stay, leave it and walk on a leash.  We are still working on coming when called and drop it but he will get there.

3.  Lots of running

In April I am going to run my first 5k for the year.  I've been going to the gym about every other day and running.  It feels great to get into better shape.  Now I'm ready to buy some new running shows.

4. Trying out some new foods

This past Saturday I had an Irish meal for St. Patricks day.  It was corned lamb, tator tots and some kind of special bread.  The next day I made my own sweet potato fries which were pretty good, except I need to figure out how to make them a little more crispy.

5. Reading

I have really gotten into the Divergent series. I'm currently on the last book of the series.  It is one of the best books I've read in a very long time. Any suggestions on what I should read next?

6.  Catching up on my shows

I have really gotten into watching Nashville and The Following.  If you haven't ever watched Nashville and you are a country music fan then I highly recommend it.  Here is one of my favorite songs from the show.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Literature Circles

   One of the best things I've done with my AIG class this year has been literature circles. I bought some popular novels through Scholastic to use for the circles.  I tried to keep them all science-fiction related so I used Hunger Games, Matched, Divergent, Bar Code Tattoo and Search for Delicious.  To get started I had all my students read a summary for each of the books and select their top three choices.  I then grouped students based on their choices and reading ability. I spent a couple of days introducing literature circles and they could not wait to start their books!
     Each group was given a blank calendar and they had 3 weeks to finish reading their books.  It was up to the group to determine how many chapters they would read a night so that they were finished in times.  Groups would discuss every other day.  For example, I would have the Hunger Games and Matched groups discuss on Monday and the other groups of Tuesday, then it was back to Hunger Games and Matched on Wednesday.
   My daily schedule during literature circles always went like this: 15 minute mini-lesson, 30 minutes for the different group discussion (each group usually discussed for 10 or 15 minutes), 15 minutes for everyone to write in their journal and 10 minutes to review the mini-lesson as a class.
    Mini lessons would vary based on what I saw they needed when I met with their group. I started off with mini-lessons such as asking good questions during discussions and writing a good journal entry.  Once students got into the book we had lessons on theme, point of view and other story elements.  At the end of every class students were required to relate the mini-lesson to what they had been reading about.
    I was able to get several grades for literature circles.  I had rubrics for their discussions and journal entries that I averaged together.  I also had questions to go with each novel that I collected.  After the novels were finished everyone took a vocabulary quiz on their novel and then had a few days to work on a final project with their group.  Below is a picture of the rubrics I used for discussions and journal entries.

   For the final novel project groups were able to be creative on how they wanted to present what they learned as long as it was creative and showed they understood the plot, characters and setting of the story.   Groups came up with their own ideas and came up with creating an Imovie, skit, clay model and even a board game.

Here is project showing the scene of Rue's death in The Hunger Games.

This project shows a plot summary of The Search for Delicious and is also a board game.

   What I loved the most about literature circles was that students were motivated to stay up with their reading.  They knew they would be graded on if they contributed to their groups discussion.  They also were excited to get to discuss their books with their groups. At the end of the unit they were asking me if they could read the sequels of the books with their groups.
    I hope to post some more pictures of things that went on during literature circles soon!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Currently March

I'm so thankful that it is March, mainly because that means Spring is near!  I'm linking up to Farley for this month's currently.

Listening: In the background right now is the Carolina/Notre Dame basketball game.  I am not a Carolina fan at all.

Loving: I have the sweetest students this year and I am so thankful to go to work everyday to teach them. They actually want to learn and try really hard. I will really miss this group of kids at the end of the year. 

Thinking: I'm finishing up nonfiction this week so I need to figure out what fiction books I want to start teaching next week. I'm thinking about ordering a set of books from Scholastic with my bonus points.

Wanting:  Today students went home early because of a wintry mix. Yesterday it was almost 70 degrees.  This crazy weather change is making me really want summertime to get here.  I can't wait to lay out and soak up the sun everyday.

Needing: I will be going to Minnesota in May for a mission trip staff retreat. I need to buy my ticket to get there soon, but I keep thinking I might find a cheaper price.  I should probably stop procrastinating though because I'm guessing the prices are going to start getting higher.

???: So this a new game this month, where I have posted the answer and you try to guess what the question is. Take a guess for my stay, ok answer then post it as a comment. 

It is time for my Monday night tv shows to come on.  Have a great week and don't forget to link up to this month's currently. 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Currently February...

I'm thankful that it is February because that means spring is getting closer.  Since it is the first day of the month I decided to link up to Farley's monthly currently.

Listening: I am in love with the show Nashville on ABC.  On the last episode Scarlett made a single called "Black Roses," it is amazing! 

Loving: This week we had 3 snow days and a half day on Tuesday. I've had a lot of extra time to spend with my puppy Jack and I know he has been a happy boy.

Thinking: I had plans and copies all ready for this past week. For me to be perfectly planned out doesn't happen often so now I feel behind.  I'm super excited to be teaching Greece and finish up non-fiction so  I didn't really want to be out of school this week.

Wanting:  I'm in love with the book Divergent by Veronica Ruth.  It is one of the books I will be using in the literature circle units I am working on.  I am doing these circles with my AIG class and I've already let them pick the book out that they want to read.  Each group is reading some sort of science-fiction book that revolves around a dystopian society. 

Needing: Speaking of literature circles I really need to hurry and finish the activities I'm making for each book.  I'm putting together my own reading organizers and discussion questions for each of the books that are going to be read. I'm trying hard to include the critical vocabulary from the common core.  There is a book that talks about teaching these critical words, it's pretty interesting.  

2 truths and a fib:

Truth: I am happy to be gaining weight.  I have wanted to gain weight for as long as I can remember and somehow I have finally put on several pounds in the last couple months.  I know many people think the idea of actually wanting to gain weight sounds crazy but when you've always been underweight and finally break the number needed to give blood, then you are a happy camper.

Truth: I love mint chocolate cookies.  My mom found a recipe online that uses Ande's mints instead of chocolate chips.  I must say they are way better than any store bought cookies I've ever had.

Fib: I'm NOT sad that cheer season is almost over.  This isn't because I don't love my cheerleaders, it is because I can't wait to have more free time.  I've had enough of late night basketball games for this year.  Next week are playoffs and then our season will be over.

I'm going to finish reading Divergent. Don't forget to go link up to this month's currently over at Oh Boy, Fourth Grade!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Helping students love to read

  I was so excited this week at seeing how excited my students were about reading.  I try my very best to give students the chance to read books that interest them.  I only read about 3 novels a year as a whole class and the other novels they get to choose themselves.  The biggest challenge for me is getting students to start finding books that they enjoy.  So how do I foster a love of reading?

1.  Independent Reading Time

My bell work for both my language arts and social studies class is for my students to simply read.  It is easy for me and they always know what to do.  They come in my room, get their cereal box (which is what they store their interactive notes and novels in,) and then start reading.  They then have 10 minutes to read.  Anytime they finish something early, they know to read.  Having these expectations in place makes it easy for me to see who does not have a book that is just right for them.  Those that are looking around the room during independent reading time, usually need some one on one assistant finding a good book.

2.  Scholastic Reading Club

My students love getting new flyers from Scholastic.  I talk up the books in those flyers like they are the best things ever. I just got an order in this week and the excitement on my students face to see the book box come is priceless.  We ordered enough this time where I was able to give every student a free book coupon.  Every student that ordered also got a stretchy bracelet from Scholastic.  With all the points I have saved up I was able to buy several new books for my classroom library, which leads me to the next point….

3. A revolving classroom library

I don't keep the same books in my book bins all year.  I have a rack for new books that students always want to look at first when selecting a book to read.  I buy books from Scholastic, Goodwill and Salvation Army so that I'm constantly able to give my students new choices.

4.  Book Talks

My students are each required to give a book talk.  I have them stand at the front of the room with the book they want to recommend.  They give a short summary, make a connection to it, tell what kind of person would enjoy the book and then read a favorite part from the book.  I've already had students taking the suggestions of their fellow peers.  If I didn't have the books in my library then they have even gotten excited enough to go out and purchase them.

5.  Myself as a reader

I talk to my students about what I read.  It may be an article from the newspaper that I share with them. I want them to see that reading isn't just for school, it's for fun and something they should be excited about all throughout their lives.  I have a sign on my door that tells my students what book I'm currently reading.  It isn't rare to find a student with the same book I'm reading after I change my sign.

6.  Goodbye reading log

Last year I had a reading log that students had to fill out every night to show how many pages they read.  Then they had to do a short assignment like make a connection or give a sentence about the main character. I found that this just made students not want to read because it was a chore to them.  If students were interested enough in their books, then they would want to read outside of school.  If they weren't then they would just fake the reading log.  My best way of making sure students read at home is  to assign projects to go along with their independent reading, such as book talks or novel in a bag.

Here some of my students are reading their books while waiting in line outside the bathroom.  I have permission to post their pictures online, but I decided to dot out their faces in this so no one knows which were the ones that did or didn't want to bring their books.  I bet next time we go to the bathroom even more students will read while waiting in line.  The power of peer pressure can be a good thing!

How do you motivate students to read?

Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Peek at my Week - {1/26/14}

   I am super excited for this coming week.  Mainly because I have it all planned out and even most of my copies made for the week.  Since I'm planned out, I decided to link up with Mrs. Laffin's Laughings for A Peek at my Week.  Stop by her blog to see what other teachers have planned for this coming week!

    I'm also starting a new unit in social studies which is my favorite, Ancient Greece. For language arts I am finishing up non-fiction with both of my classes.  Here is a look at my lesson plan template.

I made this template to go with exactly what I teach.  I teach language arts and social studies but to two completely different leveled classes so often the lessons are very different.

Language Arts this week

     This week I will be wrapping up my nonfiction unit.  One thing that I'm super excited about is using Newsela. If you haven't visited this site yet, then you should definitely check it out. He has passages available with their Lexile Levels and quizzes to go with them.  I'm having my students pick out an article of their choice to read and respond to.

    I'm also using to print passages for my students to go along with what lesson we are discussing.  They have passages to go with topics like point of view, main idea, author's voice, etc.  I have been doing mini-lessons and then putting students in group by reading level to work on practicing that skill.

Social Studies This Week

    I love teaching ancient Greece for many reasons but this year the biggest reason is because I have the unit organized.  I put together a binder of all the resources I have. It has sections for each major topic with the passages or activity behind them.  For example, behind geography there is a map of Greece to color code, a few articles on geography, and a cause and effect activity. Once I had the binder put together it was so much easier to plan for the unit. 

   I am doing a lot of stations with Greece and interactive activities.  This week they will be starting a folder with information they learn about Greece so that they can later use it to write a story about their own character from ancient Greece. 

There was nothing exciting about seeing the binder I'm using but I thought Jack made it more interesting! He has been wore out this week from getting to spend extra time playing with his mommy. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Random Finds

This weekend I purposefully didn't bring any school work home so that I could give myself a break. I knew I would have the workdays Tuesday and Wednesday of this week to get plenty done.  However, I can never get teaching off of my mind so I ran across some pretty cool things while browsing online.

1)  Oriental Trading = Free shipping

I used the code FSJAN14 to order a few things from Oriental Trading with no minimum purchase.  I just bought some bookmarks and China trading coins for my students.  My total was just under $5.

2) Twitter Chats

Over the Summer I was very involved in Twitter and meeting other professionals to share ideas.  I have been slack on joining weekly chats lately but I found a good schedule that lists some of the top educational chats. Check out 13 Great Twitter Chats for Educators if you are interested. I'm going to join the #tlap chat tonight at 9pm EST.  If you'd like to follow me I am sixthgradetales on Twitter.

3) Awesome Websites for Social Studies 

I am super excited to have came across the site Book Unit Teachers.  It has sites filled with facts, games and activities for many of the social studies units I cover.  They also have language arts resources as well.  

4) Pinterest Boards

I am a moderator for two educational Pinterest boards. One is for Middle School Language Arts and the other is for Middle School Social Studies.  If you pin things for either of these subjects, please let me know. I love adding more pinners to the board so that we always have fresh pins.  

Follow Teachers on Pinterest's board Middle School Social Science on Pinterest.

Follow Teachers on Pinterest's board Middle School English on Pinterest.

I hope you are all having a fabulous Martin Luther King holiday.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Halfway point!

Today marked the halfway point of the school year which is very exciting.  I gave my Ancient China test today and overall my students did fairly well.   Last year my test for China was basic recall of facts because I really just didn't spend that much time teaching it.  This year I did a lot more fun things with them and had a more in depth test.  What I enjoyed best was how I reviewed what we learned.  I set up 8 different stations and had students do an activity at each to review and put answers on their study guide.

We learned about oracle bones and then painted a Chinese message using characters.

In this station we learned the history of chopsticks and how to properly use them.  They then tried to pick up some rice. They realized it is much harder than it looks. 

In one station they made Chinese lanterns.  They decorated them and then wrote a wish they would send up in the sky for the Chinese New Year.

At the end of the day I gave each student a job to do to help clean up.  It is so nice to have a decent looking room after doing arts and crafts all week.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

First lessons of the year

This past week I only taught for two days. Although no one wanted to be back, it was a good transition in from Winter break. I eased in by taking a break from literature in Language Arts and focusing on grammar. We made a one word resolution that they had to figure out what part of speech it was and then write a paragraph about how it would guide them throughout the year.  We also played parts of speech bingo which was really fun. You could tell with more repetition of hearing examples that my students were becoming better at correctly identifying the parts of speech.

In social studies we reviewed what we had learned last year. We then added information onto the dragon we made that is hanging in our hallway.

We learned about the religions and beliefs of ancient China, including Daoism and Confucianism.  It was fun to have deeper conversations this week really connected how these beliefs shaped the Chinese culture.  In college I read The Tao of Pooh, which is a book that uses Winnie the Pooh to illustrate the Taoist principles.  I read some of a chapter to my classes and we tried to infer what the chapter was saying Inner Nature meant. It was a lot of fun because all my students knew the Winnie the Pooh characters to be able to relate to what the chapter was discussing.

Next week we will continue learning more about the different dynasties in China. I have some fun activities planned to keep them interested.  We will be having a debate, learning to say a few Chinese words and possibly trying to use chopsticks if I can find some cheap enough. 

I have added two new books to my books to read list.  For Christmas one of my friends bought me Fires in the Middle School Classroom and The End of Molasses Classes.  These are two books about better understanding middle school students.  I'm not sure when I will have time to read all that I have now but I look forward to it.

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