Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Very Touching Essay About Mr. Bradley

I've been telling myself all week that I needed to do a reflection post on my blog detailing my experiences of my first semester of teaching junior high. Today we had the writing section of our midterm exam and a student from my 4th period turned in the most touching essay....it was very timely. :)

The essay prompt was "Write an essay explaining why hard work is important to be successful." Sure, he's lacking a clearly defined thesis statement and developed introduction/conclusion, but this was the most touching essays I've ever graded.

"Mr. Bradley is young and he is a teacher. Those two things usually don't mix together, but he made it work by being fun, funny, and cool. He is also pretty nice when he is not mad, but he doesn't want to get mad at us but we push him to. Given all of his qualities and skills I would say that Mr. Bradley is a successful human being. He always tells us that we have to try harder on focusing and doing our work and I agree. I am going to try to work harder so that my grades will improve, but also because more than 50% of our class failed the test we were given a couple of days ago. So that's another reason I have to work harder, so that I can improve that percentage to a better one, then Mr. Bradley can be proud of us. I am incredibly impressed by Mr. Bradley. Our class and some of his other classes are super misbehaving and not doing their work, but he keeps trying because I guess he has faith in us - that we can work harder and do better and then get better grades. He is the youngest teacher that I have had but possibly the strongest mentally. He never gives up and is somehow still not insane. I bet it's because he worked hard and in the end he was successful."

This is just what I needed to hear at the end of my semester when you're wanting to pull your hair out and feel that no one knows how much work you're putting in. Apparently, kids notice things that you think go unnoticed. Every little thing you do is some how transcribed into their head for later use. I absolutely love teaching junior high school, especially English. It's always great to read a positive essay that's about you. I'll still be doing a reflection post later. :)

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Classroom Management and Student Motivation in Junior High

I've been getting many emails and Instagram comments inquiring about the classroom management techniques I use in my junior high classroom.  To be honest, many of the strategies I use this year I also used when I taught Kindergarten and 3rd grade. I am going to summarize it into a top 8 list.

Most importantly {top 8}...

1. Choose your battles wisely. We all have bad days. My students (as well as every other ELA class at my school) are required to read their library book quietly for the first 15 minutes of class. Every day they come in and put their homework at the corner of their desk and then get their book out to read. If I see a student who's just sitting there with a book on his/her desk and not reading but they're being quiet...I don't say anything. As long as they're not distracting other, it's fine. If it continues the next day then I'll address the issue.

Supply battles - I gave up battles over supplies along time ago when I taught 3rd grade. Yes, they should be responsible. Yes, they should be prepared and have a pencil. BUT....your going to spend way more time talking about how they should be responsible and lecturing them. That takes time..the precious time that you should be using to teach and build relationships with your students. Just be happy they made it to school that day and give them a pencil. If my kids need a pencil they know the drill. Phone goes on my desk and they get a pencil...put the pencil back and get your phone back. It's simple and they all have a phone.

2. Reprimand students privately. Junior high kids hate for teachers to correct them in front of their peers. Everything's about your appearance and reputation in junior high. If I see someone doing something wrong I'll give a generic reminder to the entire class - "Please make sure your homework is a the corner of your desk and your reading your book quietly." If they still don't get it after the generic reminder I make it more specific - "Most of you are doing a fantastic job of reading quietly! There are just maybe 1 or 2 people who are off task. If you're one of those people please make sure you're on task very soon." If I still don't have the desired behavior I do one of two things: write them a note and give it to them or quietly ask them to speak to me at my desk or outside. The notes work for some kids, but not others. After you've done it for awhile you should know who the notes work for. Finally, do not punish the entire class for the actions of a few students. Once that happens you end up losing the respect from your compliant students.

3. Remind, remind, remind....then remind again. Everyday when my students enter the classroom I say the exact same thing - "Please put your homework to the corner of your desk then get your book out and read silently." The day I don't say it is the day the bell rings and I step inside and find kids standing by each others desk having conversations or boys running around. Also, remind them to put their names on their paper. I say it when I hand the paper out and again when I'm about to pick them up. When I say it at the end I usually see over half the class writing their name on the paper, which means they didn't do it the first time.

4. Praise and reward often. Let them know you notice what they're doing and you appreciate it. Below is a picture I posted on Instagram the other day. 

Here was my post:

"This kid has improved so much. The first two months of school he spent his days in class sleeping and complaining about anything that required effort. He has changed his attitude so much. He is getting all of his work turned in, staying for tutorials, and in class I hear him encouraging other kids to do the right thing. Today he stayed after school for over an hour so he could finish typing his essay and get all of his English homework done for the rest of the week. I wrote him a note and game him a Scentos highlighter and pencil. He was so excited after he read the note he came to me and gave me a hug and said "thank you for noticing my hard work. School is a lot better now! You're the only one that noticed....and can I show this note to my mom?!" This doesn't happen everyday with a 13 year old boy people. I consider this a successful week!"

I always write their praise notes on Gator paper since that's our school mascot.  Some of the students love the notes so much that they glue them in the back of their interactive notebooks! I frequently catch many of them re-reading the notes sometimes. On the notes I'm always sure to mention that I appreciate what they're doing and I am proud of them!
I have a treasure box with many different things in it - pens, mechanical pencils, bubble gum, stickers, markers, highlighters, bouncy balls, etc. You'd be surprised at what a 7th grader gets excited about! Sometimes I let them pick and other I pick things I know their going to like.

5. Be open to student suggestions! They know what they need in order to be successful! I had a student request that I put a student desk behind my teacher desk so he could sit closer to me and won't be distracted by other. I did it...and he's been having great days ever since. Here's a post I made on Instagram that can better explain:

"I have a kid who I've been struggling with since day one. Disrupting the class, walking out without permission, using profane language...you name it. He loves sitting behind my desk on the floor, so on Monday he asked if he could have a desk behind mine. I honored his request and even gave him a job - checking homework. The kids have to put their homework on the corner of their desk when they enter and then read silently. He walks around with his clipboard and checks off the names of students who completed their work then reports back to me. He has been amazing this week and caused me zero problems! If he's good for 14 days with no more than one infraction he gets a Sonic popcorn chicken meal (his favorite) on Dec. 19. Whatever it takes to change his behavior!"

6. Build relationships with your students. Know who they live with, what they're interested in, what sports they play, etc. It's not exactly effective if you you keep telling little Johnny that your going to call his parents when he actually lives with his aunt or grandmother because his parents are incarcerated/deceased/etc.

Be involved. Go to their events. The look on their face when they see you sitting in the bleachers at their event is priceless! I will never forget they day I went to some of my students football game. Eight of them were in my class and that's all they talked about for the next week is how I came to their game.

7. Let students make decisions in the classroom. Take votes sometimes. It gives them ownership. We use Poll Everywhere often where the kids can text in and see their response update on the projector immediately. They love it and it's non-threatening and anonymous. 

8. Last one....take a joke and make a joke! Don't be a stick in the mud....laugh with your kids! I joke and use sarcasm with my students all the time. They get it...it's me.

Of course there are many other things that can be done to effectively manage your classroom, but these are the top 8 that I find most successful. :) 

Thanks for reading!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Christmas Decorations

I can't believe it's already December! I love Christmas time! I was sure to decorate my classroom the first day back from Thanksgiving break! Take a look!

If you live in Texas, don't be afraid to decorate! Read the short article below.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Boosting School/Team Moral With Random Acts of Kindness

If you know me or have been following me for a while, you know I'm all about boosting school moral, school spirit, making people happy, and just random acts of kindness. I make sure I get all 7 members of my team a gift on every holiday or major occassion! Maybe that's too much, but doesn't everyone love receiving gifts?! I love giving just as much as I love receiving gifts. :)

No one said it had to be something expensive. I went to the a Dollar Tree this weekend and found these awesome Halloween themed wine glasses. Even though it's only Septemeber, I figured I better get them before they run out! I purchased some crinkled paper in our school colors (royal blue and white) along with some Starburst, Kit Kats, Twix, Milky Ways, 100 Grand mini candy bars, fake spiders, and some Halloween ribbon. I have a ton of post-it notes at work, so I went through and took out all of the purple and orange ones since they match the cup. I always stock up at back-to-school sales,  so I always have some sharpies and Expo dry erase markers. Candy is great for Halloween,  but how about something practical for the teacher?! That's why I always throw in a few teaching supplies with my gifts.

This is what I'm doing with each wine glass:
1. Put a little blue and white crinkle paper in the bottom of each glass.
2. Line the inside edge of the glass with the assorted chocolate candy bars. 
3. In the middle of the glass put the Post-it notes, 1 Sharpie, and 1 dry erase marker.
4. Fill the extra space with Starburst (You could also use additional crinkle paper) and top it off with a few fake spiders.
5. Place the glass in a cellophane bag.
6. Use the Halloween ribbon to close the bag.
7. This is where I need to your help! I need some catchy phrase to make a tag and place on each bag. Can anyone think of anything that involves teaching and Halloween stuff?! Please leave a comment and let me know! :)

All of this stuff came from Dollar Tree with the exception of the post-its,  Sharpie, and Expo. Each filled wine glass only costs about $3-4 per person!

After taking the kids out for Trick-or-treating on Halloween, I can imagine most of the teachers going home to drink wine out of this glass, especially since Halloween is on a Friday this year! Haha.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

First Project of the Year - Literary Term T-Shirt

All 7th grade students at my school made a literary term/figurative language t-shirt for our first project.

This is how it works:

The students have to choose a figurative language or literary term and make a shirt. We had them buy a solid colored t-shirt. The t-shirt is required to have the term, definition, written example (in a sentence), and a picture. Anything extra is fine, but it must include those four components. We count it as a test/project grade and it is worth 100 points.

Components (word, definition, example, picture) - 50 points
Creativity - 10 points
Neatness - 10 points
Wear Your Work - 15 points (the day it's due they have to wear it to school)
Strut Your Stuff - 15 points (All of the 7th graders go to the auditorium and walk across the stage with their shirt on. There's music playing and the kids make it fun...it's like a fashion show.

We give them one day in class to start designing their shirt on paper and then after that it is an at home project.

Check out some of ours below:

This is an up-close shot of my shirt. My kids got a kick out of my example sentence.

Here are a few examples from my 2nd period class.

This is one of my students from 4th period. Can you guess which word he chose?! Yep, onomatopoeia! For some reason onomatopoeia is everyones favorite type of figurative language! I've known this kid since he was 7 years old in 2nd grade and rode the school bus route I drove when I was in college! Now I have the pleasure of teaching him in 7th grade! How many people can say their former bus driver is now their teach?! Not many!

I hope I've explained it enough. Please let me know if you have any questions! :)

Setting Goals for College

During the first 3 weeks of school my Advisory class met daily for 30 minutes. Some teachers just let their kids talk the entire time, some make their kids read. I wanted to accomplish something a little more. We talked out the importance of getting a college education. After we talked about the importance of going to college I had my students research careers and colleges they're interested in. After the research they were given a blank pennant flag and I had them create a flag for their college. On the back they had to write the admissions requirements for the college, three goals they have related to college/career, and three steps they can take right now in their life to make sure they are on track to achieving the goals they listed. Once they were finished I laminated them and displayed them on the storage cabinet doors in my classroom. I wish I would have remember to take a picture of the back before I put them up. I made one too, as I still have college and career goals. I hope to go back to school in the next year or so to start my Ed.D.

I present to you the college Class of 2024!

Big thanks to Mrs. Mitchell at Teach. Inspire. Change. for this activity! My students loved it, I loved it, and so does everyone who walks into my room! :)

Teach. Inspire. Change.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Meet the Teacher Blogger

Linking up with Falling Into First for the Meet the Teacher Blogger Linky! I'm way late to this! ;)


Apple products. Starbucks. Photography. The Beach. Blogging. Jeans. Converse. Traveling. TV. Snowdays. Any show about a teacher or a plane {Lol, planes. IDK...I just like movies about planes. Maybe I should have been a pilot?}.


Well, my degree is in Pre-Law, so I guess I'd be a lawyer practicing family law. I'm also quite good a cooking. I've always wanted to own my own restaurant! maybe I can be a lawyer during the day, teach online at night, and run my restaurant on the weekends?! Hahaha.


Ambitious.  Caring. Loyal. 


"I really love going to ARD meetings...said no teacher EVER!!"


Hillary Swank! I don't know why, but I love her, especially in Freedom Writers. I may have decided to become an English teacher because of her. Maybe. Lol. I'm sure the real Erin Gruwell would hate the fact Hillary Swank is the one that inspired me instead of her. Haha.




"If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. Don't complain."  -Maya Angelou


I am definetely a night owl. I regulary stay up until 2-3am and wake up at 5:30am to go to work. Yes, I'm sleep deprived.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Currently September

Linking up with Farley at Oh Boy Fourth Grade for Currently September!

LISTENING - Just listening to Pandora. It's Saturday morning and I usually don't turn the TV on for a while.

LOVING - I LOVE my new school and my group of 7th graders! My kids are so sweet and they all try so hard! I love the fact that I only have four classes and I can get to know my students more.

THINKING - We are starting our first project on Monday which is a figurative language t-shirt. I need to make my example so they know what theirs should look like.

WANTING - When I taught third grade it was departmentalized and I taught 4 classes of 3rd grade reading each day for 60 minutes each. We did stations on Wednesdays and Thursdays and it worked perfectly. My 7th grade ELA team met the other day and we are all on-board to start stations in our classrooms! I am so glad that we think the same or else people would think I was crazy when they pass my class and see students rotating stations! "Aren't stations just for elementary school?!" Ummm...no!  

This is what we're thinking about doing (which is the same thing I did when I taught 3rd):

Monday - Introduce new topic/concept/skill - "I do"
Tuesday - Guided Practice - "We do"
Wednesday & Thursday - Stations spiraling previously learned skills and the new skill of the week - "You do"
Friday - Assessment (grade in class for immediate feedback)

NEEDING - I need more college shirts! My new school really pushes college, which is great! On Mondays teachers are allowed to wear jeans if they wear a college shirt or military branch shirt. I only have one college shirt, so I need more. We're also allowed to wear jeans on Friday if we have on a school spirit shirt - I need some of those too!

I guess you could also say I need a paycheck, too! LOL! I was issued my last paycheck from my former district around July 20th and I'm waiting for my first paycheck from my new district on September 15th. I will be so happy to see that paycheck!

3 TRIPS - I went to Aspen 2 years ago during Christmas break and I loved it! I will be going back this year during Christmas. I hope to make it to NYC during Spring Break and to Aruba during summer break.

Tracking Student Data in a Middle School Classroom

 I stayed late at work yesterday to write everything on my data charts and update them since my students took their first test today. Here's how it works: I use blue incentive charts from Creative Teaching Press along with their book and pencil stickers. I have a chart for each class period. To keep names confidential,  I write the students ID numbers along the left side. I use my roster so the kids are still in alphabetical order, it just has their number instead of name. Across the top I write the skill that was tested. This particular test was figurative language. If the student showed mastery (70% or more) they get a sticker for that skill/objective. Those students who did not show mastery have the opportunity to work with me during GO time (our tutorials during the school day) until they show mastery and earn their sticker. Tracking data is important and a great way to keep students accountable and wanting to strive for more! It also allows you to just glance and see where your students are struggling the most and allows everyone that comes in your classroom (including administrators) to see data results. Plus, I just love data! :)
Now, my question for you is - How do you track data? I'd love to hear. Please share! 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

2014/2015 Classroom Reveal!

This is my first official week on inservice and it's a miracle that I have time to post. I'm actually just procrastinating...I have a ton of other things I should have done before the blog post, but oh well! Haha! :)

I'd like to apologize in advance for the reflections/blurriness on some of the pictures. I tried everything I could, but the lights in my room are so bright and every time I take a pic it reflects off the lamination on the posters, etc.


Outside of room

View from door

View from back corner

My desk area

This is a double sided rolling shelf. On the other side I have the literature textbooks, dictionaries, and thesauri.

Each wall

These cabinets are blank because during the first few days all of my classes will create goal/college pennant flags and I will display them on the cabinets. We have open house on the fourth day of school, Thursday, August 28th! Eeek!

Love my data wall! I used Incentive charts by Creative Teaching Press to track data! Objectives will go across the top and students names or ID numbers will down on the left. Once they master a certain objective they get to put a book or pencil sticker on their chart. Those were also courtesy of CTP!

Reading Area

Interactive Notebook storages

Chair for sharing our writing

Student table for turning in work, getting bell work, etc.

Student desks/groups

Each table has a caddy name after an author with four pencil boxes. Each pencil box has a pen, pencil, dry erase marker, highlighter, eraser, and glue stick. There are also two hand held pencil sharpeners in each caddy. The little pails are for trash to minimize students getting up. Students are assigned a numbered desk to sit at an must use the corresponding pencil box with the same number on it.

Panoramic pictures

I don't have time to type much, but if you have any questions or comments please let me know!


Sunday, August 3, 2014

Bringing in the New School Year With a Team Gift!

School starts in exactly three weeks and I have to say I work with the best team ever! I already love working with them, so I thought I'd make everyone a small gift bag to start the year off! I have 6 teachers in my 7th grade ELA cohort and 4 teachers in my "family/team." With that being said I needed 10 gifts. I don't have a ton of money since I'm switching district and my former district issued my last paycheck at the end of July and I don't get paid from my new district until September 15th. The gifts I choose to get were very cost efficient and I will give you a great down below.

Contents of each bag: 
  • Box of Starburst (Dollar Tree - $1)
  • 4-pack Bic Velocity Bold Pens (Staples - on sale this week for $1)
  • Royal Blue Sharpie (Our school color) - (Office Depot - on sale this week for $.25)
  • Bag of Popcorn - (Box of 3 at Dollar Tree for $1, $.33 cents each)
  • Chiclets Gum - (Package of 6 at Dollar Tree for $1, $.17 cents each)
  • Blue and Green Gift Bags - (Package of 13 at Joann's for $6, .46 cents each)

Total Price for each gift bag filled with goodies - JUST $3.47 each! ($3.76 with local tax)
Total price for all 10 gift bags - $34.70. ($37.56 with local tax)

I made the labels quickly in PowerPoint and was sure to include our Gator mascot and school colors, blue and white.

This gift idea was inspired by Steven over at The Superhero Teacher! His Instagram post last week gave me the idea to do something nice for my team! Thanks, Steven! :) He teaches middle school ELA too...click the button below to visit his blog and follow!


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Monday Made It and a FREEBIE!

The other day I was thinking about how I want my desks arranged in my 7th grade classroom. Traditional rows, cooperative pairs of two, U-shape, groups of four???? I finally decided that I want groups! I may keep them in pairs of two for the first month, but then groups it is!

After I got to thinking, I realized I only had a set of primary color caddies that I used for Kindergarten. These would definitely not work in my junior high classroom! I chose black, neon green, and blue as my classroom colors, so I went out and searched for lime green and blue caddies. I searched, searched, and searched and couldn't find any! I tried Lakeshore, Hobby Lobby, and my local teacher supply and I got the same response from everyone..."I'm sorry...we had some, but a teacher came in and purchased all of them." Ugh! Teachers! Lol. It's only July 8th people! I thought I still had time before teacher stuff started selling out! Apparently not! Anyway, after no success a light bulb went off! I forgot to check at Mardel. I quickly pulled up the webpage, clicked on the lime green caddy and saw the message "These are currently out of stock online. Check with your local Mardel." I grabbed the phone to call my local store just 10 minutes from me and she said they were all out. I gave up after that...until the next morning. Duh! This is Houston, they have more than one location! I called a store 58 miles from me and talked to the most helpful sales associate. She checked for me and found 5 lime green caddies and 3 blue ones! That's all they had left and she put them on hold for me! What a saint! I jumped in my car and battled rush-hour Houston traffic and nearly 2 hours later I was there!

Here they are!

In the midst of me looking for the caddies for several days, I created labels to go on them that depict famous authors and poets, a famous quote and a picture. Instead of calling out table 1, 2, etc, now I'll be saying Shakespeare table, Twain table, etc. How perfect is that for an ELA classroom?! It's probably the best idea I've had all summer!  

This is what they look like:

As soon as I got home last night from Mardel I grabbed some scissors, Mod Podge, and a foam
 brush and went to work on my #mondaymadeit. They came out great! 

Look at how AwEsOMe they are!

These look so great that I couldn't resist sharing them with you guys! Click on the picture below to claim yours! Please show me some love on TPT and leave feedback! :)

Enjoy! :)

Saturday, July 5, 2014

July Currently

I'm so excited to link up with Farley at Oh Boy Fourth Grade for the very first time!

Here goes July Currently:

Listening - I'm watching The Haves and the Haves Not. It's seriously the only show I make a point to watch each week. It's just the best. show. ever. There's so many plot twists you just never know what's going to happen! I'm catching up on the last two episodes since I was on my cruise...which was 7 days in paradise I might add. :)

Loving - I started my Advocare 24 Day Challenge on Tuesday, July 1st and as of today I've lost 5 lbs! Did you hear me?! 5 lbs in 4 days! I'm so excited! Going on two cruises in the past two months made me gain 10 pounds! If you've never experienced a cruise before the food is unlimited! Pizza, lobster, ice cream...oh my! Anyway, I'm excited to see my results after the last 18 days of the challenge! I was so excited after the first day of the challenge, I decided to become an Advocare distributor! If you're interested in trimming down before the school year and having more energy, please visit my website by CLICKING HERE.

Thinking - I just have 28 days of summer left! Not even an entire 28 days. I have to want to go in 2 weeks early to get my classroom ready!

Here's how my August schedule looks:

1st week - Reading Training, 5 days
2nd week - New to District Teacher Training, 4.5 days
3rd week - PD/In-service for all teachers, 5 days
August 25 - School Starts

Now you see why I have to go in 2 weeks from now. I have virtually no time in August to do anything in my classroom, with the exception of a half day during the second week.

Needing - I really need some ELA materials! My favorite local teacher supply is having their annual summer blowout on July 12. They are offering 25% off everything and all kinds of freebies like desk calendars, tote bags filled with goodies, FOOD (which I don't need)! Lol. I'm patiently waiting for this day!

4th Plans - Nothing special. Same old, same old. When you live in Texas there's BBQ for every occasion, even Christmas. Okay, maybe not Christmas, but we Texans love our BBQ! When I say "we" I mean "them" because I don't like BBQ and I hardly ever eat any. Lol.