Monday, January 30, 2017

Differentiating with Google Classroom

As I shared in a previous post, my students have been working in digital literature circles with the books we're currently reading.  I typically allow them to work on their assigned reading/jobs about 3 days a week for approximately 20-30 minutes.  There are a couple groups who have finished their work early, and this is where the new Google Classroom feature comes in-- assigning work to individual students.

I can't tell you how excited I was when I found out that we could now assign work to individuals, groups, etc. without assigning activities to the whole class!  This makes differentiation a breeze!  Now, when I have early finishers, I have them choose from a couple of these Digital Reading Activities that work for ANY novel or short stories.

To assign work to individuals in Google Classroom, follow these easy steps:

For those of you who use Google Classroom, how do you plan to differentiate using this new feature?  I'd love to hear all about it in the comments below!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Digital Literature Circles

I have been so excited about how well the Digital Literature Circles went in my classroom, that I had to share them here with you!  It turned out better than I could have ever anticipated.  

For anyone who's new to lit circles, they are a collaborative and student-centered way to get students involved in the book they are reading.  Students are put into groups, based on the book they have been assigned or have chosen (whichever way you choose to do it).  Then, each student is given a job for the week. The ones I use are:  Discussion Director, Vocab Finder, Character Catcher, Main Idea Maniac, and Figurative Language Finder (if you happen to have 5 to a group).  

Doing these activities digitally is a great way to incorporate 21st century learning!  Every aspect takes place online through Google Classroom or whatever learning management program you use, except for the reading (unless they have the books on their own devices).   That also means no paper!  Everything from the tracking of the page numbers and jobs, grading of the activities, etc. is done virtually!  Now that Google Classroom has the new feature that allows you to assign work to individual students, groups, etc. it makes it EXTREMELY easy to assign digital lit. circle groups!  I LOVE THIS!!!  It makes differentiation a breeze!!!

This is how the lit circles are ran in my classroom:

When putting my students into groups, I  make sure that each group has 4, but no more than 5 members.  On the first day, I tell my students how many days they will have to read the book, and try to allow for approximately 20 minutes of literacy circle work each day.  Of course, this doesn’t always work out, so I also let them know that if our schedule changes (we don’t have class due to testing, school event, etc.) that I will add a day to the agreed upon days.  For example, if on Jan. 1st, I tell them they have until Jan. 31st to complete the book, that gives them approx. 20 class periods to complete the book.  If our schedule is interrupted and they lose a day for whatever reason, I add the day back and allow them to have until Feb. 1st to complete the book. 

On day 1, they are to see how many pages are in their novel, and then divide that number by the number of days they are given to complete the book.  This tells them how many pages should be read each day.  

At my school, I usually only have just enough books for each class to use, so this means they have to do all the reading at school and can’t take books however, if a student doesn’t get finished w/ the reading that day in class, they can come back to me at the end of the day and check a book out, as long as they bring it back first thing the following morning.  I also remind them that they may also want to try and check it out from the library or download on their personal device if they have one (just in case their aren’t enough books available for them to check one out that day).

One thing I have learned in doing these for several years, is that all directions HAVE to be EXTREMELY clear.  Students have to know exactly what it is that they’re expected to do.  Before we actually get started, I go over each “job” that they will have to complete at some point while reading the assigned book.  For the first week, I assign the jobs, mainly because I want to be the one to choose the discussion director--who serves as group leader-- for the first week.  Then I typically allow the students to decide who will do what job in the following weeks.

It’s also very important that they complete the Tracking Sheet (slide 1), because this tells me who is doing what, what pages they’re supposed to read, etc.  Then, when I go in to check their work, this allows me to see who was supposed to complete the discussion director, vocab finder, etc. jobs.

Since students are completing their jobs digitally, on the first day, I have the discussion director for each group pull up the file, which I have posted in Google Classroom., but you can share the link via whatever digital program you use..  Then I instruct the discussion director to share the document with each group member by clicking the “share” button, and then enter each group members’ email.  This way they are all collaborating/working on the same file.  Next, I instruct the discussion director to also make at least 4 duplicates of each slide.  This is so each person can have a copy of each slide when it is their turn to perform the job.  This is also why it’s EXTREMELY important for the group to accurately complete the Tracking Sheet each week, because again, this shows me who is completing each job that week, when I go in to check their work (see p. 17 for example).

Weekly Lit. Circle Meeting

Each week, usually Friday, the groups have their weekly meeting.  This is where each group member shares the information they were required to find for their assigned job.  This is also where it’s very important for students to follow directions and stay on task.  Otherwise, these meetings tend to not go as planned.  With this in mind—in addition to seeing what other experienced teachers do– I have my students follow a script that I have created and included on pages 18-19.  The script is also included for students in the slides on p. 2-3.   The script is used by the Discussion Director, who also serves as the group leader for that week.    At the end of the meeting, I make sure that each group has determined who is doing each job for the next week, and I also make sure everyone is aware of what pages they are to read.  I require that they document all of this on the tracking sheet before the meeting is over.

These activities also cover several of the Common Core Standards:
Cite textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
Determine a theme or central idea of a text and how it is conveyed through particular details; provide a summary of the text distinct from personal opinions or judgments.
Describe how a particular story's or drama's plot unfolds in a series of episodes as well as how the characters respond or change as the plot moves toward a resolution.
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone
Analyze how a particular sentence, chapter, scene, or stanza fits into the overall structure of a text and contributes to the development of the theme, setting, or plot.

Check my Digital Lit. Circles out here to use these digital activities with your students!  If you would like to see how to assign activities in Google Classroom, check out this blog post.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Making Reflection Meaningful

Welcome to our Making Reflection Meaningful Blog Hop!  I'm so happy to be a part of this amazing group of teacher-authors and hope you enjoy our tips and ideas!

I begin to have my students reflect on the past year by using video journals.  Using videos for student journal responses is a great way to incorporate technology, while also enforcing 21st century learning. The video journal responses address various areas included in an infographic (goal setting, SMART Goals, resolutions, making positive changes, symbolism, etc.).  I have students complete the infographic once they have finished the journal responses.  You can find the Student Reflection- Video Journal Responses here.

Another activity I use is New Year's Character Reflection Task Cards This activity requires students to think critically about the character(s) from a story that have read or are reading, as well as to support their answers with evidence.  The task cards can be used at any time in the year, not just around the holidays.  For a free sample of these activities, click here.  

How do you reflect and set goals, not only for yourself, but for the classroom, as well?


Sunday, November 27, 2016

Laughing All the Way Blog Hop

I'm super excited to be linking up with some amazing teacher-authors to share some of our ideas and stories that we use leading up to the holidays...not to mention the chance to win a Target and Starbucks gift card.  We all know that this time of year can be extremely hectic, and it's important to find ways that we can all keep our sanity!

For the last week and a half or so before the holiday break, I begin to have my students reflect on the past year by using video journals.  Using videos for student journal responses is a great way to incorporate technology, while also enforcing 21st century learning. The video journal responses address various areas included in an infographic (goal setting, SMART Goals, resolutions, making positive changes, symbolism, etc.).  I have students complete the infographic once they have finished the journal responses.  You can find the Student Reflection- Video Journal Responses here.

I also have a similar activity that my students do with task cards, based on characters from a recent story that we have read.  The tasks encourage students to think critically about the character being addressed, and to support their answers with evidence. Approximately half of the cards require students to reflect on the character’s past year or the year to come. The other half focuses more on characterization, in general (types of conflict the character has been involved in, internal and external traits, etc.). *These task cards can be used at any point throughout the year, not just for New Years. *  For a free sample of this activity, click here

Make sure to enter the giveaway for your chance to win a Target or Starbucks gift card.  Also, check out the other blog posts to get more ideas and resources to use leading up to the holiday break!
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Monday, November 14, 2016

How to Add Assignments on Google Classroom & Put Students into Groups

For those of you who are new to the AMAZING Google Classroom (I know, I'm addicted), I created a video to show you how to add assignments, as well as how to put your students into groups in G.C.  I hope you find the video helpful!  I'd love to hear how you use Google Classroom in the comments!

Click the link below to view video:


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Best of the Best Secondary ELA Lessons

I'm SUPER excited to be a part of this amazing Best of the Best Blog Hop with such incredible secondary English teachers, hosted by Secondary Sara!   We're also giving away 3 $25 TPT gift cards!  I have learned so much from them, and it's awesome to be sharing our lessons together.  Our goal is to share our best lessons in order to help other educators gain tips and resources that can be used in their classrooms.

As a secondary English teacher, I want to develop strong writers.  In the 21st century, it's imperative that students understand how to implement complete sentences and paragraphs that are descriptive, well thought out, and demonstrate a variety in length and structure.  In order to be able to do this, they not only need to clearly identify the various parts of speech, but they also need to understand what constitutes a simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex sentence.  Because these aren't always the most engaging lessons, I wanted to come up with interactive and digital activities that students would not only learn from, but would also have fun while doing them.  This is how my Digital Grammar Skills & Parts of Speech Bundle was born.

My students absolutely LOVED these activities and have grown so much in the process!

This product includes:

• Capitalization Digital Task Cards
• Comma Digital task cards
• Quotation Digital Task Cards
• Subject & Predicate Matching Activity and Digital Task Cards
• Types of Sentences Matching Activity and Digital Task Cards
• Independent & Dependent Clauses Matching Activity and Digital Task Cards
• Types of Verbs Matching Activity and Digital Task Cards
• Types of Pronouns Matching Activity and Digital Task Cards
• Interactive matching activities on all 8 parts of speech
• Individual interactive activities on nouns, pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, verbs, prepositions, conjunctions, and interjections
• Answer Key

Google Drive Info
• Instructions for both teacher and students on how to use in your class
• Link to activities
• Instructions for Microsoft OneDrive users
• Tips & Tricks for Teachers and Students

What are some of your favorite go-to activities?  I'd love to hear about them in the comments.  Make sure to "hop" by the other Secondary ELA blogs for more tips and resources, and enter at the Rafflectopter below for your chance to win one of the TPT gift cards!!!

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Sunday, October 16, 2016

Spooky Story Lesson for Halloween

Every year I get so excited about Halloween, because there's so many fun activities that you can incorporate.  Around this time, the kids are usually pretty wound up, so it's always good to find lessons that will keep them focused.

For the last couple of years, I've used the 3:15 series by Patrick Carman, which is a collection of several multi-media short stories.  I first learned about this from the incredible, Erin Cobb of I'm Lovin' Lit.

What 3:15 stands for are the 3 elements that make up these stories:  listen/watch the introduction, read, and then watch the conclusion.  The 15 is because you're supposed to be able to do all this in 15 minutes.  But I'll be honest, my 6th graders haven't ever been able to do it that quickly.  I use this to teach story elements, which I go introduce prior to this story.  As I'm Lovin' Lit stated, this is a great story to use for teaching this skill, because the various parts of the plot are fairly easy to identify.  The ending is actually the climax and also leaves you with somewhat of a cliffhanger, wondering what may happen next. 

To have your students complete this lesson, you will need the following, which I have included here:
As they're reading/listening/watching the story, I have them fill in a story pyramid to check their understanding of story elements.  As a supplement to this, I also use these Digital Reading Response Task Cards, which address main idea, setting, main/minor characters, predictions, author's purpose, and more.

What spooky stories do you use around Halloween?  What activities go w/ the stories?  I'd love to hear all about it in the comments below!