Monday, July 28, 2014

Reading in Math

I always loved the looks my students would give me when we would start to discuss the importance of reading in math class.

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Reading. Math. Reading in Math? AGGGGHHHHHHHHHH! But this is MATH class. We don’t READ in MATH class. WHYYYYYY????? It was honestly one of my favorite classes of the year. Is that bad of me? Oh well, if it is, let it be.

It was even more entertaining when I told them that, after our discussion, they were going to be given practice reading in math. Their reactions generally turned from confusion to panic.

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Most of us are math people or we are reading/language arts people. Students, middle school students especially, have a hard time understanding the concept of cross curricular learning. In Elementary School, many students stay in the same classroom for the better part of a day. They are used to learning multiple subjects in one room and receiving instruction from the same teacher. Once they get to middle school, everything is suddenly very separate. They have one teacher and one room for science. A different teacher in a different room for English / Language Arts. A different teacher still, in a different room for Math. They usually see 4-8 different teachers a day, in 4-8 different rooms. When they leave math, their math brain shuts down. I’m sure most science teachers would agree with me on that one!

Asking students to pull from their reading skills in math class is about as easy as pulling teeth. You bring up terms like “context clues” and “read entirely” and they kind of lose their minds. During my second year as a middle school teacher, I was SO frustrated with way my students reacted when given word problems. They would often look for the numbers in the problem and then perform some random operation on them.

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I created a lesson that forced them encouraged them to read. I took pride in knowing that, even for one single lesson, they were forced to read. Their grade was dependent upon whether or not they were finding key words and identifying proper operations, not just coming up with an answer.

I think it is SO important for teachers at any level to incorporate cross curricular learning into their classrooms as much as possible. We tell our students that they need to learn the things we are teaching because it will make them better students, they’ll need to know it in the “real world”, etc. But, how can we expect them to believe that it’s actually information they’ll need if they don’t need it anywhere other than in one specific classroom? So math teachers, encourage your students to read more this year! English teachers, bring a little bit more history or science into what your students are reading. Art teachers, have students measure things (you’d be horrified over surprised at how many middle school students cannot use a ruler properly).

If you haven’t already picked it up, download my FREE Reading in Math lesson. This was the first product I posted on TPT and the resource I used in my own classroom to get my students reading!

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Are you met with resistance when you try to work another subject into your classroom? If so, how do you manage it?

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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Announcing - In The Middle

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I am SO excited to share with you all a new collaborative blog I am honored to be part of. There are so many fabulous collaborative blogs out there for the lower grades, but we noticed that there didn’t seem to be ONE place for Middle School teachers to go! Of course, there are tons of great Middle School blogs that cater to 0ne subject {like mine} but we wanted to do more!
In The Middle – Maneuvering the Middle Grades is going to be a place Our goal is to make all posts over at In The Middle relevant to all middle school teachers, regardless of where {or what} you teach, what the demographics of your school are, or how long you've been teaching. We hope you'll find each post inspiring, useful and maybe a little bit funny!
So, who are WE? I’m joined by Erin Cobb {The fabulous Lovin’ Lit herself}, Shayna {The Super Fun Science Teaching Junkie}, Kathleen {The Marvelous Middle Grades Maven} and Mr. G {the Wonderful Mr. Educator}.
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Please head over and check out what we’ve got for you all so far! We want In the Middle to be a community, not just something you read! Head over to our blog, follow us on Blog Lovin and say HELLO on our Facebook page! We're SO excited to bring Middle School teachers together!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Surprise

I've been a little quite around here lately, because I've been working with a few pretty great people on something that is missing from the Middle School Teacher world. Stay tuned...


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Middle School Classroom Management–My Journey

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I spent 8 years in the classroom, so I am in no way an expert on… well… anything. But, I taught in a pretty tough environment. I think perception of classroom management differ greatly depending on where you teach. Many teachers work in schools with a large population of high functioning students, tons of parent involvement and little negative outside influences. Those teachers have a totally different set of challenges {ahem, parents} than students who teach in a school like mine.

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Of the 8 years I spent in the classroom, 6 were in middle school. EVERY year (no joke) I had at least one student who was pregnant or already a parent. At least one student who was classified as homeless. I had students from jail, one who was a registered sex offender and many students who were gang members. The neighborhood around our school was an open air drug market that was full of crime and prostitution. My husband gave me explicit instructions on the roads I was allowed and not allowed to take going to and from work each day.

Here is a little bit of current crime information for the city where my former school was located. The second image is data for only about 1/2 of the city…

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I spent my first year in this school learning A LOT. I made the huge mistake of trying to be “friends” with my students. I remember telling them on the first day that I didn’t care what they did last year, yesterday or 10 minutes before coming into my classroom. They were here for a fresh start. Little did I know, that would come back to haunt me. I was honestly, terrified of some of my students. I had fights in my room that involved chairs, and students, being thrown. It’s hard to command respect from people you fear.

My students mouthed off to my special education assistant one day (who was close to retirement) and I gave up. I was so frustrated with their lack of respect that I broke down in tears and walked away. I walked back into my classroom, grabbed my things, and told my principal I was going home sick. Looking back, I’m super glad I didn’t get fired! I hated my job that year. Every single second of it.

The next school year, I was pregnant throughout most of the school year with our first child. I gained a TON of weight and ended up swelling like crazy and having elevated blood pressure (imagine that). To avoid my doctor forcing me out of work, I did nothing but sit on a stool for the last few weeks before my daughter was born. My classroom management pretty much didn’t exist because I was miserable. I went out on maternity leave in March and returned mid-May. My long term sub was a “friend” to my students and my classroom was in disarray when I returned. I was not able to get things back on track and the remaining few weeks of the school year had me on survival mode. NOTE: If you have a baby, do NOT return for just a week or two at the end of the school year. Trust me on that one. Take the unpaid leave {if you can} and just stay home!

Year 3 in middle school was a HUGE year for me. It’s the year I finally figured it out. I didn’t try to make my students like me. I didn’t try to make my students fear me. I was determined to make my students respect me. I had very clear classroom expectations and procedures for every little thing. My students knew what to do if they were absent. They knew I 100% didn’t lend out pencils. Ever. They knew I didn’t take late homework/makeup work/projects. I didn’t bend for anyone. BUT… I respected my students. If they were having a bad day, or I heard they were troublesome earlier in the day, I’d find a way to touch base with them before class or during the warm up. If I knew a student was dealing with something at home, or had a sporting event coming up, I would talk to them about it. My students knew I cared about them – but they also knew my rules for them. My classroom was suddenly a much more manageable place than years before.

A few weeks into the school year we had an intake meeting for a new student. All I was told is that he was coming from an alternative education school in the next state and he was going to be in my math class. During the meeting, the vice principal and other classroom teachers were very stern with him. Almost mean. He was so polite to everyone, “Yes ma’am” and “No sir” to all the adults even though they were treating him as though he was a problem before he even started. I made the decision to treat him like my other students, regardless of his circumstances. A few days after our meeting, I asked about him. I was told that he had just been released from jail for armed robbery. Another teacher spoke to him about his involvement and asked him if it was just a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He replied, “Nope. I was the one with the gun.” He ended up being a student who LOVED math, which made me super happy. He was one of my favorite students that year. He didn’t give me any problems, even though he had a tough thing going in the community and was an issue for other teachers.

From that year on, I maintained my philosophy that in order to have a truly successful classroom, my students were going to have to respect me. Not be afraid of me, not hate me, and not want to be my friend. Each year, the types of students I had didn’t change. I had many students come through my room who were absolutely terrible in other classrooms, but they were fabulous for me. Now, I certainly DID have my problem students. Whether they just hated math, or me, or my rules, they were not fun to have in class. But, I didn’t let those students bring down my attitude or the rest of my class. Even though we are the teachers and we are the adults, we need to RESPECT our students. They are people too and they deserve the same respect that we command from them. respect

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

First Grade Prep

My daughter is going to be entering 1st Grade this fall and she LOVES learning. We got pretty lucky with this girl! Each week this summer we are taking one day and focusing on learning. She loves using Dreambox Learning for math practice, but I wanted her to have something to physically use.

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I purchased this Summer Review No Prep Packet from The Moffatt Girls and it has been perfect so far! I had it printed with coil binding so she has her own little booklet. I decided to keep the front of the booklet blank so she could add her own pictures to the front.

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If you have little ones at home and you are not a primary teacher yourself, I highly recommend grabbing this (or any) packet from The Moffatt Girls! It’s perfect for summer work!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Top 5 Vegas TPT Tips!


Ok, my last Vegas post... I promise! I'm linking up with Becky over at Teaching, Learning & Loving to share the top 5 things I learned from the TPT Conference in Las Vegas.

Networking is huge. Since I started TPT before it was as large as it is today, I have always felt as though I needed to just work alone. I'm determined to network with a bunch of Middle School sellers this year to bring my audience (and theirs) a more well rounded look at Middle School education!

TPT Sellers and Staff are so kind. Seriously. I have never been around such a well rounded, kind hearted group of people. I think most sellers at the conference really have the best interest of everyone at heart. Usually in business, there's a lot of negativity going on, and that's something I didn't really see or hear.

Don't include links in your store to send people out if it. That was a face palm moment for me.

Make plans before! I'm a super shy person. Like, super duper shy. So flying to Vegas alone without plans to get together with others was kind of a silly move. Next year, we're having dinner together friends!

You don't need fancy technology or drawing apps to make your own clipart. Nikki from Melonheaz Illustrations draws all of her clipart by hand. Paper and marker. That's it! I've always been interested in creating clipart (like I have time for that right now) and have been frustrated with trying to create it digitally. I really appreciated her taking the time to show us how she creates her super cute clipart!



Monday Made It!

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Shew. This has been such a busy week!

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If you attended my session in Vegas, hopefully you picked up one of these little booklets. I had originally made them to use for marketing purposes, but they just required too much time! I picked up these little composition notebooks from Walmart and Target (I drove to 8 stores one day and cleaned them out) and used my favorite sticky glitter tape from Michael’s to jazz them up a bit! I keep one in my purse to record my mileage as I’m driving around for business purposes!

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I guess this is something I made as well. One of my hobbies (ok, my only hobby) is photography. I used to have a small business, but just don’t have time anymore. I still photograph friends and family because I really enjoy it! This little guy is the son of my brother’s best friend. He just turned one and we had his little 1st birthday photo session yesterday!

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