Sunday, October 20, 2019

Personal Narrative in Your Head

Creative Writing is an elective at my school that 6th graders take. The teacher is amazing and she asked me to help her come up with something fun for personal narrative writing. We talked through how students would be thinking and writing about themselves for their writing. I immediately thought of a DoInk video I had scrolled through on Instagram. DoInk Green Screen is an app for iPhones and iPads that has endless possibilities using green screen technology. 

Students made movies with images about themselves in iMovie. We set the pictures to flip every 2 seconds so it would look like the thoughts were moving through their head. We used green paper to create a green screen for our heads. The app did the rest!

DoInk uses layers allowing you to choose videos or images or a combination of both or you can even record live from the app. For this project, we added their iMovies on the bottom layer. We used the video on the app to record their head with the green screen on it.

Students were nervous about sitting there for 30 seconds "thinking" and kept asking what they should do during the videoing! I would say make the face you have when you think! 

Next time we do this, I need to figure out a way to do their original videos of images so that it fits in the circle. Some of their images couldn't be seen because they were so big. The student below got fancy and added sound to his thoughts!

The Creative Writing students are now ready to write their personal narratives! This was a super fun project. This green screen app makes my head swirl with ideas of what I can do with it next! 


Tuesday, September 10, 2019

RCA Inspired House System

I am starting my second year as a curriculum coach so over the summer I was able to plan all the back to school things! I have had the mindset with this position that I want to treat my teachers just like I did my students. So I am always trying to build community, make professional development fun, and build my street cred! Ron Clark is my teacher idol and his house system is amazing. I thought having a house system would be a great way to create camaraderie with my teachers. We tend to stick with our grade level and/or our content area in the secondary world so I wanted to mix things up! And bring on the competition for motivation!

Look at that super fun wheel! It is not the Ron Clark 47' wheel but it was made with a lot of love. We {and by we I mean my husband} started with a trip to Lowe's for lumber and paint. But it was a day date and we were in my car so this is what that looked like! 

I created the wheel in PowerPoint and printed it poster size. We found a piece of plywood already cut in a circle so I just had to measure. Then it was ModPodge for days! I love the way it turned out!

For the first day back, we rolled out the red carpet, played loud hype music, dressed up in house costumes, and got ready to greet the teachers! The House Sort started and each teacher took their turn spinning the wheel. My administration went wild when someone landed in their house and it was oh so much fun!

After everyone was sorted, we explained how the house system would work and what they could earn points for. Everyone sat with their house and enjoyed breakfast. Then, we sang the Welcome To My House {to the tune of Flo Rida's version} school-wide song to give them an example of what we would be doing at each faculty meeting.

The point system has been a little controversial because admin are our house leaders and some like to make it rain with the points! Also, we have two houses that are tiny, a medium sized, and a ginormous one. The luck of the wheel! Points are given to teachers for teacher-y things using Class Dojo and I keep house totals posted in the workroom. 

The added competition has made it a lot of fun so far! We have had two faculty meetings and at those we have one person from each house spin the wheel for points and we all do our house chant or song. 

I hope this continues to bring us together and gives us something fun to look forward to each month at faculty meetings! I also hope we can expand it to our students next year once the teachers feel comfortable with it. I love my teachers and how they go along with all my ideas. I am so lucky to have this dream job with these people!


Sunday, August 18, 2019

Classroom Community Building

I recently presented at the Gulf Regional Innovative Teaching Conference that my school district puts on each summer. It is an amazing un-conference with many, many different instructional strategy sessions offered from coding to the dark web. I was honored to present four different sessions this year including a FONT class! My fave! With back to school festivities in full swing, I wanted to share some community building things that have worked in my classroom.

I found this idea from Sara Van Der Werf a few years ago and it immediately became my all time favorite way to get to know my students. The first year, I found my students were having a hard time coming up with comments on their own so I added questions for each day. I had them tell me their baseball walk-up song, what they looked for in a teacher, what they are passionate about (hello Genius Hour!), their strengths and ways we could use them, and what success would look like for them. Students answer the questions each day and I comment on them each night. You get to know so much about your students and it is a great way to connect their names to something you can remember. It does take a bit of time each night to write back to each student but is sooooo worth it! 

Team work is a BIG deal in my classroom. We work as a team in everything we do from math problem-solving to taking care of our space. So it is important to set that community and team vibe from the very first day. One of my favorite back to school team building activities is the cup stacking challenge. You may have done this before by just stacking the cups but this is a series of six challenges. They get progressively more difficult and my students love it! 

You can find the challenges from this website and I have linked directly to them at the end of the post! It is a great way to build community with very little prep. Another great activity is the 100 numbers task. I have used it for several years and it always shows students the expectation of what group work should look and feel like.

Yes! Classroom jobs in the middle school are amazing! Students love them and I love the ownership it gives to our classroom community. I love that my teacher assistant remembers to take attendance since I never do! 

Job applications are taken at the beginning of each quarter. Students can fill out the paper version or the Google Forms version. The application includes a section for them to explain why they would be an asset to the class at the position they are applying.  

When students enter the classroom, they grab their badge to wear during class and return it at the end. They take a lot of pride in their jobs! It really gives them a sense of belonging and purpose in our learning community. You need to have classroom jobs!

Having conferences with my students is one of my top priorities. I love the one-on-one interaction with them to really dig deep with their learning and how I can make instruction better for them. Even with these conferences, I found I was letting a couple of the perfect, quiet students slip by without my attention. To help me ensure I was reaching EVERY student I created a calendar and designated 4-5 students each block, each day that I made sure I spent time with. It was easy to look at right before the class started and to target those students. This helped me reach everyone and gave me another way to create connections with each of them.

Yes we gather like kinders on a carpet! Yes they love it! Yes we work out so many problems! Community meetings happen every couple of weeks or as needed. We discuss things like work ethic and taking care of our classroom when things aren't going quite the way we want. We take care of social and emotional needs. When students were scared of being deported or losing their family, we made it a safe space for them. Community meetings are so powerful and can serve such a big purpose in your classroom. The best 10 minutes you can invest in them!

Middle school students have needs! And it is our job to meet them. Even the small ones like being hot and needing a fan in our super hot classroom so you can do math!

This play table always has someone at it! Maybe they needed a brain break or they finished early, it was a space to create or solve riddles. I changed out the materials every week or two to keep it fresh. 

I did a post about my auction and paper plate awards here. Students earn "JRICH Dollars" for going above and beyond what is expected of them. At the end of each quarter, they use their dollars to bid on items at our auction. I have junk and my fave, Mountain Dew. I also give out Paper Plate Awards that are tailored to each student and the connection we made. You can read all about it here!

On Mondays, we do "One Good Thing" from the weekend or the week before. Students get a sticky note and write down something good. It could be anything from got new shoes to grandmother cooking their favorite meal. I wrote about this in detail here. It is the one small thing that really made a difference in knowing my students outside of school. From their one good thing I learned who played sports, who danced, who participated in tractor races or worked on cars with their family. It was a great way to invite every student's voice into the room on a Monday. They could share or they could say pass but every student spoke. 

Creating a positive classroom community is all about the little things you do to let your students know you care and love them! A growth chart so they can see how much taller they are than their teacher and how much they grow in the year. Positive words all over the room that let them know they matter and are welcome. Having supplies available so they can do math and not have to worry about a pencil! All the little things matter!

I hope you try some of these things to build a community or let me know the things I can steal from you that you already do! 

Everything can be found at the link below!


Monday, July 8, 2019

5 Teacher Things to Do in July

We have celebrated the 4th of July so I know you have ALL gone to your schoolhouses begging for the key to your classroom so you can start bringing all your June ideas to life! I love that our brains have the down time for ideas to swirl with a fresh new school year ahead. I have put together 5 Teacher Things to Do In July that will get you back into the swing of things as you begin to plan for your new students. And that have probably been on your to do list for a while!


Our team created a postcard to send to our new students that would get them excited about the first day. It also let them know who we were and that we were ready to have fun! Another example is a favorites postcard. This one let the students know a little about each of us. It also gave us something to talk about the first day when we met everyone. I did two to a page and printed front/back on card stock so it was inexpensive. The color photo one I took to Staples to have printed because INK! It was still less than $20 and that is money well spent to start building those relationships!


I add to my summer reading list all school year and make big plans to read all the books! Most summers that list does not checked off but I love to read all the inspiring teacher books I can get my hands on! I also like to throw in a trashy mystery while I soak up the sun. So if you haven't gotten all your summer books read, get out there and read while you still have time!


Tidy up your space! I know those piles of papers do not bring you joy! Thank them and file them!


A couple of years ago, I transferred all my files into binders. I organized everything by unit and in the order of my interactive notebook pages. I did it all through the year instead of in one big swoop and I think it really helped me get rid of things I had not used in years. We teachers really like to keep things that we {may} use someday!

I need to clean up my binders and make new spines and covers after using them for two years. I also want to F I N A L L Y get my task cards, games, paper anything out of the waffle box from the cafeteria! 

I have had my eye on these photo and craft boxes for a while. I caught them on sale so I bought TWO! I can't wait to get all these zippy bags organized into the little plastic boxes and then I can label everything!


The teacher toolkit has by far been one of the best things I added to my classroom. I love how students can get what they need all in one place. It perfectly holds all the most common things they ask for. With the toolkit, they can just get what they need!

Now that I am in an office instead of a classroom, I Rae Dunned my toolkit to be a little more adulty! I changed some of the labels to things I frequently use. If you don't have a teacher toolkit, you really need to get one! 

I hope your summer is amazing and that these 5 Teacher Things to do in July get you organized so you can get to the fun decorating and running 47 gagillion pieces of Astrobright paper through the laminator!


Friday, June 21, 2019

Combining Like Terms UNO Card Game

Combining Like Terms is taught before they get to me, but it is always good to have a quick review before we start equations. This is one of my favorite additions to the review! You can grab the cards here. I printed on red, green, yellow, and blue paper and then cut. I wasn't sure if I would love it, so I did not laminate. I also made copies of the directions for each group because I tweaked the game play just a little. 

Students shuffled the deck and dealt five cards to each player. I did groups of 4-5 and that worked out well. The deck was placed face down and the game started. 

Once play began, you could lay down a LIKE TERM or LIKE COLOR on your turn. If you did not have a play, you drew one card. If that card didn't play, your turn was over. This differs from real UNO, so make sure you go over the rules or you may have an uprising! 

Skip, Reverse, and Draw Two only worked for their color. The WILD card worked whenever! When a player had one card left, they had to yell UNO...which was hilarious to hear all across the classroom! The player to get rid of all their cards was the winner.

I love friendly competition and my kids got really into this game of UNO. So much so, this group started getting their JRICH Dollars out to bet! Don't worry! I shut it down before any actual bets were placed! They groaned because they wanted to win extra money to use at our Auction. You can read about why money for the Auction is so important here!

Things I would change...put a card stock back to the cards and laminate. It took away some of the strategy and surprise because you could see what colors each player had in their hand. On the set I linked, I added some patterned pages to use for the back of the cards. Other than that, my kids LOVED this! It was amazing to hear them check each other when they played a card that was not like terms. I love when my students speak math! Let me know how it goes if you play with your students, and what we can do to make it better.

Download the UNO Cards Here!

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