Monday, September 9, 2013

Teaching the Iowa Core Literacy Standards

Now, I realize this applies mostly to my teaching friends that actually teach in the state of Iowa, however if you're looking for a bit of standards based organization, read on for a bit of inspiration. 

I teach at a school that endorses standards based grading.  Out of necessity, I put together this little organizer to help me make sure I covered all of the standards I needed to.  Plus I wanted a way to document student proficiency on each standard. 

So, behold... a little graphic organizer that does all of the above. 

If you browse through the preview below and want to pick up your own copy, dash on over to my Teachers Pay Teachers store to pick one up. 

P.S... Two blog posts in one day!  Can you tell I had a day off?  Happy teaching!  





Letter Writing Mini-Lessons

I have the very unique opportunity of being able to eat lunch every day with my homeroom students.  This extra time with my 30 homeroom kiddos really gives us the chance to bond - and for some of my students, pick up an extra credit.  Over my homeroom block, I decided to teach a creative writing course to a few of my students that needed an extra English/Language Arts credit.  So...how did I start of the course?  With letter writing!

Because I work in a residential program, my students are not given the opportunity to go home to their parents every night, or even every weekend, so writing letter becomes VERY important.  I've noticed that the majority of my students understand how to write informal letters, like what they would write to their family members, but try to use the same format when writing formal letters.  I wanted to provide my students will the skills they would need to succeed when writing formal letters like the ones necessary when applying to some jobs and colleges.

To help my students write better letters, I whipped up a 50 minute lesson designed to help the students understand the tone and formatting that are so important to writing both formal and informal letters.  The lesson bundle includes:

-A lesson plan including objectives and common core aligned standards for grades 9-10 and 11-12
-A letter writing guide handout (a great reference material for students to use throughout the year), including a BONUS PAGE covering how to appropriately address an envelope
-A letter writing activity/assessment (scenarios that can be given to students to gauge their understanding of formal and informal letter formatting)
-A self-editing checklist (an excellent resource that can be used for other assignments)
-A letter writing rubric to aid in the grading of the letters.

Although my original lesson followed the Iowa Core Standards, this bundle is Common Core aligned to better suit everyone's needs. 

This lesson addresses the following standards:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.1d Establish and maintain a formal style and objective tone while attending to the norms and conventions of the discipline in which they are writing.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

Additionally, this lesson would be appropriate for a variety of different grade levels, including middle school and, with some adjustments, upper elementary school students. 

If you're interested in what you see, take a gander at my Teachers Pay Teachers store and pick up your copy.


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Library Log and Self Edit Teaching FREEBIES

Ahhh... life as a second year teacher.  I will say that the start of this year has been A LOT easier than the start of my first year teaching.  I certainly feel more organized and prepared as I walk into the classroom each day, however, being a young teacher still means that you lack the wealth of materials that you accumulate as the years go by.  That said, I have been creating TONS of worksheets, printables, and guides for each classes.  Below are links to two FREEBIES that will hopefully help you out in your classroom as well! 

The first is a bird themed classroom library check-out list.  I plan to print a bunch of these and place them in a binder in my classroom library.  Hopefully this well help me have the ability to hold the students accountable for returning our classroom library books in a timely manner AND it will help keep our library a little more organized.  I hope you find the same!  Grab your free copy from my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

The second FREEBIE is a generic self-editing list appropriate for a variety of grade levels and composition projects.  I have found that when I ask my students to self edit their work before turning it in, they do not check their work thoroughly.  This self-editing list includes a variety of errors to look for as well as a box where students are required to check, indicating they deem their paper free of any errors in that category.  I explained to my students that these check marks are almost like a contract where the student agrees that they have edited their paper to the best of their ability and the are prepared to receive whatever grade he is assigned.  Pick up your free copy from my Teachers Pay Teachers Store.

If you enjoyed your freebies, make sure you leave some kind feedback on my Teachers Pay Teachers store. 

Enjoy the start of the school year!  Happy Teaching!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Weekend Adventures and Design on a Dime


A snapshot from my Monday night walk with Patrick and Iroh.  There isn't a thing that I don't love so far about living in Des Moines.
Let's just say I LOVE the fact that this weekend was a long weekend!  I was able to get ahead with my lesson planning, finish some decorating and DIY projects, spend some time with friends, and relax a bit with Patrick.  What could be better?

A bit of motivation for finishing a few decorating and DIY projects was the fact we had some friends coming over on Saturday for a Labor Day weekend grill-out.  Plus, the more time I have away from work usually means at some point I'm going to start tinkering with some sort of DIY project.  Amazingly, I've found that Des Moines literally the best junk/vintage/antique/found object stores I have ever seen.  I'm pretty thrilled with the way our new house is becoming a home.  Take a virtual tour of some of my favorite parts.  


My pretty little workspace in the office with a DIY dry erase memo board above it made from wrapping paper purchased from RSVP in Iowa City and a discount frame from Michael's.  Table: Pier 1 as-is clearance, desk calendar: Anthropologie, Pug book ends: T.J. Maxx, lamp: Target.
Our little library.  The books look like they're placed randomly, but they're actually organized (somewhat) into categories.  I like how the pops of color of the bindings gave me the opportunity to add just about any color to the room.  Bookshelves: IKEA.
A cozy reading nook in the office, complete with pillows, an ancient chair that I picked up years ago from Artifacts in Iowa City, and Sheldon, my stuffed otter that Patrick picked out for me at the Phoenix Zoo.  The breeze and the natural light from the window makes it a pretty comfy place to curl up and read a book... or write a blog post. 

A DIY chalkboard art project.  My inspiration came from My Vintage Window's perfect "imperfect" tutorial "How I Letter In Chalk".  I used a chalkboard marker for sharper detail.  Chalkboard marker: Michael's, Frame: World Market.
The "bigger picture" of where I displayed the chalkboard art.  Also, Patrick and I thought it was fitting to set up a cabinet to showcase the rest of our wedding wine.  Liquor cabinet: Target. 
What happens when Hobby Lobby has 50% off all their lanterns?  You make terrariums!  We picked up some small succulents at the Des Moines Farmers market and added some dried moss and rocks around the bottom to hide the plastic pots. 
The "bigger picture" with our couch, coffee table, and map.  Polka dot pillows: IKEA, brown pillows: Pier 1 clearance, sofa: LazyBoy coffee table: IKEA, wall art: World Market with added hearts created using a heart shaped paper punch and white card stock.  (Ignore Patrick's computer cable.)   
A few finishing touches in the living room.  I love our tiny little cloche and plant (yes, it's real) from Seed.  The glass jar was a steal found at Found Objects (East Village) with faux moss from Hinge (Valley Junction), a letter "T" wooden letter press block from Vintage No. 35 (Valley Junction) and river pebbles from Target. 
One of my newest obsessions- fairy gardens.  This cute container was found at Earl May.  We added some polished rocks Patrick found in the desert when we lived in Tucson.  Can you spot the little gnome hiding in there? 
Patrick and I had TONS of Polaroid pictures from our wedding and I had been looking for a good way to display them.  After a trip and some inspiration from Vintage No. 35 in Valley Junction, we have some "artwork" that anyone can find something to comment about.  Metal grate: Vintage No. 35, Vintage postcards, game pieces and grocer's tags: Vintage No. 35, Clothes pins: Walmart. 

It seems like every time Patrick and I move, we find that the average bathroom has one towel rod.  Let's get real.  If two people are using that bathroom, how are your towels going to dry if you have one towel rod?  Instead of installing a towel rod that wouldn't match the first one, we opted for this guy a towel "hanger" found (on sale) at World Market. 
...And this was by FAR my favorite DIY project we've done in the house so far - a vintage ladder with hanging lanterns.  A few weeks ago, Patrick and I walked into an expensive home decor store that shall remain unnamed and spotted a rustic ladder hanging above one of their display tables.  We fell in love with the look, but the price was out of the question.  We took the inspiration and created a similar look for about 1/5 of the price.   Vintage Ladder: Vintage No. 35 (cut down to size), Eye hooks and rope: Home Depot, lanterns: Hobby Lobby (50% off!), candles and dried moss: Hobby Lobby.  Didn't Patrick do a great job tying those different knots?  I love the light fixture feel this project created above our table.  I can't wait to redecorate it for autumn and winter. 

Well, there you have it!  A few of the projects we've completed with the house so far.   I can't wait to add more as we complete them!  Relax and enjoy the last few hours of your Labor Day weekend!  

Happy Crafting!  

Hopefully your weekend was as relaxing as Iroh's! 

Five Paragraph Essay Fun

Tuesday marks the start of the second week of my Composition and English 10 classes.  To start of the semester with my Composition students, I decided it would be best to start with the basics- the five paragraph essay.  Now, teaching the five paragraph essay raises A LOT of controversy in the English teaching world.  It seems like every English teacher has an opinion about whether the five paragraph method should be taught and how to do it.  I will admit, while I think it is important to provide the students with the knowledge of the framework of the five paragraph essay, I don't want to teach them such a structured format that the students literally "plug in" information, wrecking any chance for them to write with voice, exercise artistic freedom, or develop an appropriate and natural flow to their writing.  I suppose my theory follows Pablo Picasso's idea - "learn the rules like a pro so you can break them like an artist."

That said, I whipped up a Prezi presentation to present the five paragraph essay format to my students.  You can borrow the Prezi I used by clicking here.

As a fun way to test how well my students are understanding the information, I created a Five Paragraph Essay BINGO game, complete with four different BINGO cards and a corresponding question sheet for the teacher to read (answers are provided.)  This game also provides a nice gateway to a quick review of an terms and concepts that students still have questions about or have difficulty understanding.

A snazzy BINGO tip I learned from a veteran teacher in Tucson is to use plastic overhead projector sheets and whiteboard markers instead of trying to use small BINGO pieces that frequently get lost and/or become a distraction.  I found that regardless of the age of the students you are working with, the whiteboard markers seem to be an easier way to go.

Take a sneak peek at the download below.  If you like what you see, snag your own copy from my Teachers Pay Teacher's store!  Don't forget to leave me some kind feedback!