My Newest CIM: RL.7.3

For those of you who read regularly, you’ll remember that I’m working on my 7th grade line of Continuous Improvement Model mini-lesson resources. I’m making good progress and I have recently finished and posted the CCSS.ELA.RL.7.3 resource. With this, I’ve also made a bundle with RL.7.1, RL.7.2, and RL.7.3, so you can save over 15% if you are interested in all 3.

What is a CIM? The acronym “CIM” stands for “Continuous Improvement Model.” It is one name for the research-based strategy that follows the “I do,” “we do,” “you do,” teaching model. In this resource, there are 3 lessons. Lesson 1 is a teacher-modeled lesson. Lesson 2 is a collaborative lesson where the teacher leads the class. The students complete lesson 3 independently. This resource is, in and of itself, a scaffolding tool. It is designed to help students master standards in a gradual manner.

This product is a 3-5 day tool for teachers to instruct, assess, and reteach skills and concepts associated with the RL.7.3 standard: Analyze how particular elements of a story or drama interact (e.g., how setting shapes the characters or plot). It also aligns with Florida’s standard: LAFS.7.RL.1.3, because of how Florida adapted their standards. It may also align with your state’s standards if your state doesn’t use CCSS.

The only Common Core practice I’ve been able to find is general and mixed-standards. Mine is the only one I know of that does individual standard, targeted instruction and practice. It’s low-prep and easy to implement. I use literature in the public domain from reputable authors (like Kipling, Twain, and Poe – this resource uses works by Hawthorne and Maupassant), so you’re exposing your students to quality literature with targeted standards practice. It takes out all the prep and guesswork!

If you’re looking for a quick, targeted, and easy resource for this standard, come check it out!

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Why I Recommend SparkNotes to My Students (and how I encourage its use)

I was a pretty obnoxious kid growing up.

Okay, fine. I’m still pretty obnoxious. But as a kid, and more specifically, as a student, I was obnoxious. I wouldn’t have wanted to have me in a classroom (Hey, what do they say? Teachers make the worst students? Even as a secondary student I knew I wanted to be a teacher.). I talked all the time; I was a total smart-ass (not to the teachers…usually…or directly…). I am telling you the absolute truth when I say that my freshman year of high school, my World History teacher (who, by the way, was also the Dean of Students) took hold of my desk – with me in it – and flung it about 20 feet across the room because he was so exasperated with me one day. In his defense, I purposely provoked him, asking all sorts of inane, yet, just believable enough to be answered questions, with the sole goal of postponing the day’s test.

sparknotes obnoxious

Yeah. That was me.

But I’ll tell you one thing I wasn’t. I wasn’t a cheater. It wasn’t that I had a strict sense of morality. Other stuff I did growing up would disabuse you of that notion pretty quickly. No, I was an intellectual snob. Well, I suppose a better way to say it was that I didn’t trust anyone’s brain but my own. If I didn’t know it, or didn’t remember it, there was no possible way anyone sitting around me would, either. Of course, given who my circles of friends were at certain points in my secondary education career, I may have been spot on about that. But those less-than-stellar-albeit-necessary-for-making-me-who-I-am-today choices are neither here nor there. The point is, when my senior government teacher accused me of cheating on one of my last high school tests ever, I was justifiably affronted. I would NEVER cheat off of someone.

sparknotes horrified

And so, with that sense of justice (and because I was really worried about what would happen to me if I got caught doing it), I approached my Physics teacher before final exams that year and asked her if it would be considered cheating to program (okay, I’m using that term loosely…I really just wanted to save it in a file/page) the formulas into my TI-whatever-number-was-out-in-1998 graphing calculator and use it on the exam. She paused, seeming impressed – whether at my honesty or comfort level with the technology, I’m not sure – and said that if I could figure out how to do that, she’d be fine with me using the calculator. So I did, and I don’t think I really used it more than once or twice because I was well-prepared.

I tell you this background and anecdote to give you context for my decision as an English teacher to openly guide my students toward – and even encourage them to use – the resources on SparkNotes.

If you’re not familiar with SparkNotes, you should be. And I’d wager that you are familiar with Cliff’s Notes. It’s even a colloquialism these days – “Give me the Cliff’s Notes version!” Meant to only include the information of utmost necessity. Enough to pass the test. Because who really has time to read every assigned novel in British Lit? Or American Lit? Or all of high school?

sparknotes aint nobody

Cliff’s Notes has a pretty negative reputation as being a cheater’s way through the material. Good teachers would know right away if you’d only read the Cliff’s Notes version, because your answers would only skim the surface. And likely be phrased far too sophisticatedly for an average high school student.

SparkNotes is the modern-day version of Cliff’s Notes. On Steroids.

So, why would I encourage my students to go there, when no self-respecting English teacher would hand out Cliff’s Notes copies of a novel to students and say, “You know what? Go ahead. Skip the real thing. Hell. Watch the movie. It’s close enough.” Now, you might think you know the answer to this, because if you follow my blog, you know I often write posts that seem, perhaps to some, like I just lower the standards for my low-performing students. Like, I know they’re not going to read the novel. Why fight the battle? Why not give them something they actually might, if all the stars and planets align, find it in them to do? Would it really be that terrible?

But that is not what my rationale is. No, I don’t direct my students to SparkNotes because I just like to lower the bar. (And I prefer to think of my philosophies more as “realistic expectations,” thank-you-very-much.) No, it’s because of what SparkNotes offers.

Go to a Sparknotes unit for a novel and you will find a veritable cornucopia of resources for that work. You’ll get the context of the work, the plot overview, character list and analyses, and even discussion about themes, motifs, and symbols. And then, if that weren’t enough, you’ll get chapter summaries. They even have quizzes and review questions. They explain important quotations. And it’s all free. Free for students, free for teachers.

Now, I am an avid reader. I love to read. And I hate, hate, hate previewing the story. It’s like nails on a chalkboard having to find out what happens at the end before I even start. That was my least favorite part of being an English teacher. We had these story previews in our curriculum workbooks that gave a synopsis of the entire story before the students even began. It drove me crazy! Where was the suspense? The situational irony? Everything was ruined!

Until I had to teach Julius Caesar. I’m not a humongous Shakespeare fan to begin with, but Julius Caesar isn’t my favorite play of his on the best of days. What made it worse was that I remembered studying it in high school but didn’t actually remember anything other than that I did actually study it. I retained nothing. I’m not sure if that was because I just didn’t understand it or I didn’t read it and spent the discussion time being obnoxious. Probably the latter. But I was not excited to have to teach it. I didn’t even want to read it. I felt like a whiny student.

sparknotes whiny student

So I found SparkNotes. I read all the Act summaries. I read the synopses of character analysis, themes, important facts, etc. I even – praise the literary powers that be – used their “No Fear Shakespeare” modern text version to get me through the PITA that is early Modern English in iambic pentameter. And then I picked up my copy and read it through. And it made sense. And I flew through it. And it wasn’t hard. And it wasn’t boring. And it didn’t make me want to carve my eyes out with a spoon. I was amazed. I wished I’d had SparkNotes in high school. It would likely have helped me get through other classic literature without falling asleep (*cough cough* Great Gatsby, I’m looking at you).

Yes, I already knew the ending, so I’m not sure how I’d feel about some other story being “spoiled” by reading SparkNotes first, but I’ve found – to my surprise – that my students didn’t seem to mind that aspect.

sparknotes i dont get it

So, when we would get ready to read a novel, I would encourage my students to go to SparkNotes. I would tell them to spend time reading everything SparkNotes had on that work of literature so they would understand and notice the subtleties of motifs, symbolism, and sub-plots. Sparknotes does such a great job explaining all this that we were able to spend our time in class talking about other meaningful aspects of the novel. SparkNotes is the modern-day Cliff’s Notes version. But it does it better. It includes so much more that makes it easier (dare I say, enticing?) to read the entire work. But it leaves a little mystery. As a teacher, I just made sure to look at the review, quiz, and essay questions that were on the site and steer clear of them. There were plenty of other things to discuss and put on my assessments.

SparkNotes is the modern-day Cliff’s Notes version. But it does it better. It includes so much more that makes it easier (dare I say, enticing?) to read the entire work. But it leaves a little mystery. As a teacher, I just made sure to look at the review, quiz, and essay questions that were on the site and steer clear of them. There were plenty of other things to discuss and put on my assessments. SparkNotes didn’t rob me of a unit. It didn’t give me a way to fail kids easily because they’d obviously only “read the Cliff’s Notes.” No, by using SparkNotes as a scaffolding tool, I made novel study more engaging and meaningful during class. And heck, it made me a better teacher, too. I like to think of myself as a version of my old Physics teacher who, rather than forbid what could potentially be an extremely valuable tool simply because it seemed like it would lead to slacking – or cheating, embraced it and all it had to offer, and that resulted in student success.

sparknotes hooray

Newest Resource Reveal!

I’m excited to announce the completion of the entire grade 8 ELA Common Core (and LAFS, for Florida) CIM series bundle! It’s taken me about a year to complete, and I’m very pleased with what I’ve been able to create for you. In the bundle, there are 17 different resources. Each targets an individual standard with three mini-lessons. Each CIM uses excerpts that have been adapted to be (or were, in their original format, already) appropriate for 8th-grade readers. This was assured through the use of the Lexile® analyzer as well as several other online readability calculators (Flesch, etc.).

If you’ve never heard about or used my CIM resources, they use the research-based “model – teach – assess” technique. They are quick (10-15 min) mini-lessons that target specific standards. The only Common Core practice I’ve been able to find is general and mixed standards. Mine is the only one I know of that does individual standard, targeted instruction and practice. It’s low-prep and easy to implement. It even includes suggestions for differentiation and extension!

I know many of you have been just waiting for me to finish the rest of the bundle, and now it’s finally ready for you! Buying the bundle instead of all the individual CIMs will save you a, well, bundle! If you’re looking for a quick, targeted, and easy resource for these standards, come check them out!

ALL RL.8 RI.8 Bundle

Common Core Practice for RL.8.4, RL.8.5, and RL.8.6

For those of you who read regularly, you’ll remember that I’m working on my 8th grade line of Continuous Improvement Model mini-lesson resources. I’m making good progress and I have recently finished and posted these resources:

CCSS.ELA.RL.8.4

8th grade CIM RL4

CCSS.ELA.RL.8.5

8th grade RL5 1

and

CCSS.ELA.RL.8.6

8th grade CIM RL6 1

I’ve also bundled these so you can save over 10% if you purchase them together.

8th grade CIM RL4-6

If you’ve never heard about or used my CIM resources, they use the research-based “model – teach – assess” technique. They are quick (10-15 min) mini-lessons that target specific standards. The only Common Core practice I’ve been able to find is general and mixed-standards. Mine is the only one I know of that does individual standard, targeted instruction and practice. It’s low-prep and easy to implement.

If you’re looking for quick, targeted, and easy resources for this standards, come check them out!

 

New Resource for RI.6.8!

It took me an extra week, but I finally finished my newest CIM for RI.6.8: Trace and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, distinguishing claims that are supported by reasons and evidence from claims that are not.

6th grade CIM RI8 a

This CIM follows the same format as my others, and it uses seminal US documents – adapted for 6th-grade students: Patrick Henry and the Declaration of Independence. So not only is this a great resource for 6th grade ELA teachers, but it could be incorporated into a Social Studies classroom as well if you’re studying the American Revolution time period!

There are 3 questions per lesson, so depending on your students it could take anywhere from 3-5 days (if you’re not familiar with my CIMs, there are 3 separate lessons: I do, we do, you do, and they are designed to take about 10 minute each). Of course, just like my other CIMs, included are 1) pages to display questions with answer choices and questions without answer choices, depending how you choose to teach; 2) information for how to get to the excerpts for each day to display, as well as graphs for lessons 1 & 2 to display; 3) the lesson scripts/guides for the 3 lessons. Pages for students are also included (but in separate files).

6th grade CIM RI8 b 6th grade CIM RI8 c 6th grade CIM RI8 d

If you’re wondering if the CIM model is right for you, check out my freebie: RL.6.1

I’m working on RI.6.9 this week and plan to have the RI 7-9 bundle, the whole RI 1-9 bundle, and the full 6th grade CIMs (all RL and all RI standards) up by Cyber Monday, so be sure to follow my blog and my TpT store for updates on when these great resources will be available! Also, I will begin work on the 8th grade standards next, inter-spliced with CIMS from other grade levels 3-9/10.

Have a great week!

My Newest Common Core Practice Bundle

I’ve been MIA for a while because I grossly underestimated how much work it would be to go back into the classroom! But I put in a lot of work into making my Continuous Improvement Models (CIMs) for RI.6.4-6 (Author’s Craft & Structure) so I really wanted to post about it. I just want to give an overview of the CIMs in the bundle and explain to you why you should be interested in my resources if you teach upper elementary/lower middle English/Language Arts.

I’ve been working on my CIM for RI.6.7 and I was having trouble finding texts and even looking for resources with sample questions to make sure that my resources are valid and on point with the standards and other resources out there. Well, I started realizing there weren’t any resources out there that target individual standards. Sure, there are lots of things out there for teachers that have texts and questions for Common Core, but everything I’ve found gives teachers a handful of questions that target multiple standards. For example, I might get 7 questions, but each one only targets 1 standard, so I really only get 1 – or maybe 2 – questions on any given standard. And nothing I’ve found uses the format I do – the “I do,” “we do,” “you do.” And none of the resources I’ve found give teachers the tools to work through teaching students how to correctly identify answers for the given questions. Everything I’ve found only identifies which standard the question assesses and the correct answer. Sometimes it will have reasoning for why it is the correct answer, but nothing more than a few sentences. My resources are much more in depth. There are 3 mini-lessons for an individual standard. In this particular bundle, each individual lesson has at least 2 questions. For lesson 1, there is a full script that explains, in depth, how to determine the correct answer(s). In lesson 2, there is a script to guide students through determining the correct answer(s) themselves. In lesson 3, there is ample explanation on why the incorrect answers are incorrect and why the correct answer is correct, in case students need re-teaching or explanation.

If this sounds like something your students could use, check out my newest bundle for Reading Informational Text Grade 6 standards 4, 5, & 6.

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/6th-Grade-Common-Core-Practice-RI4-5-6-Authors-Craft-and-Structure-Cluster-2120055

Making Poetry Meaningful

I am a poetry snob. Perhaps one could call me uncultured, but I am very picky about the poetry I choose to read. To be perfectly honest, I really only enjoy two poets: Edgar Allen Poe, and myself. Well, in general. There are isolated poems from various poets that I enjoy. “The Charge of the Light Brigade” (Tennyson), “Because I Could Not Stop for Death” (Dickenson), and a few others. So suffice it to say that I empathized with my students when it came time for our poetry unit each year. Writing poetry comes easily to me, but that’s not the case for most students. In fact, in my years of teaching English, I found that the predominant reason for my students disliking poetry was that they struggled with writing it. Also, they’d had countless other teachers who had made them memorize and recite poems (I won’t editorialize on that practice…the fact that I NEVER made my students memorize and recite poetry in my class should speak for itself), which mostly served to turn them off of poetry completely.

I found that they also struggled with identifying different poetic devices within poems and analyzing poetry for any sort of meaning. Often, this was due to the fact that the poets they were forced to read were dry and confusing. What if my students were just like me? What if the poet they would enjoy reading the most were themselves? How could I get my students to write meaningful poems when they didn’t know how to write poetry?

First, I started small. I had to disabuse my students of the notion that all poetry had to rhyme or have some set rhythm and meter. That was difficult. Once I got that through their heads, though, I would show them examples of acrostic poems. I always had my students begin with an acrostic poem of their name. Eventually, the majority of my students were able to construct a reasonable attempt at an acrostic poem.

To help them understand rhyme and rhythm (and meter) I would use songs/song lyrics. This is also how I taught the poetic device: refrain. The jump from song to poem was easy with the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” I found (in my biased opinion, of course) that the best poems for teaching meter/rhythm were Poe’s poems. My two favorites are “Annabel Lee” and “The Raven.” Incidentally, when my own middle school teacher required that we choose a poem to memorize and recite, I chose “The Raven” simply to be obnoxious. It was the longest one I thought I could actually memorize. I got about 3 stanzas in before she forced me to stop and sit down. Yeah, I was “that kid.”

Occasionally, I would give the traditional quiz on the various poetic devices, but I never gave an end-of-unit test. Instead, I wanted what they’d learned to be meaningful to them. From the onset of the unit, I let them know that they would be creating their very own poetry product: a calendar. I would usually have it be the full next calendar year, January-December, although, that might change based on the time of year during which the poetry unit was taught.

I picked 11 of the most important (to me, as the teacher; the most prolific, common, whatever you want to call them) poetic devices we studied during the unit. Then, I told students that they would be responsible for writing their own poems for each month: one poem per month; one device per poem. The 12th month/poem was a free choice for them. I encouraged them to relate the poem to the month, season, or event that occurred during the month. I strongly suggested they think about personal connections to months: birthdays, family trips/vacations, etc. Of course I gave them the major holidays (New Year’s Day, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, Father’s Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas), but also suggested things like winter break, spring break, exams, summer break, back to school, etc.

I printed out the calendars for them and gave them free reign to decorate them according to their poems (if it focused on a birthday, then they would label that day on the calendar and illustrate it appropriately; if it was Valentine’s Day, same thing). They left ample space for their poems on each month.

I found that the vast majority of my students responded well to this authentic task. I had lots of students who would decide to give the calendar as a gift to a parent or relative (depending on the time of year you can suggest it as a Mother’s Day gift or a holiday gift for a parent/relative). Many of them expressed their excitement that the calendar would be hanging somewhere (on the fridge, in a parent/relative’s office, etc.), and they put in quite a bit of effort. It became meaningful to them. They suddenly were able to write poetry because they had a purpose and context. Over the years I got some very poignant, touching work (Veteran’s Day poems, poems to grandparents or others who had died, etc.). Not all of the poetry was going to win awards, but the students took the assignment seriously and did a reasonably good job. I was easily able to tell who had mastered the various poetic devices and other literary concepts.

The best part about this assignment was that it could be tailored to any level. I started with it in 7th grade and used it all the way up through my high school students. I had poems as simple as limericks and haikus all the way up to full-blown Shakespearean sonnets. And not only did the kids (many of them, anyway) actually enjoy writing the poems, but they (dare I say “all”?) enjoyed coloring and illustrating the months in the calendar. And I was able to photocopy the best ones to keep and display in my room that year and use as examples in subsequent years.

Creating the calendar (in its entirety – writing the poems, illustrating the pages, etc.) usually took about 2 weeks. Sometimes less, depending on the students, but never more. With my honors kids, I would often assign a certain amount as homework so it didn’t stretch too far into class time. I found that the kids needed my help, though, in many cases, so I shied away from assigning the whole (or majority of) thing as homework.

If this sounds like something you’d like to do in your classroom, you are in luck. I’ve already created the templates and rubrics for the project. All you have to do is decide which poetic devices you want to assess.

Click here for the Poetry Calendar Project.

Coming of Age

Picture this: Small-town girl’s best friend moves away the summer before high school starts. Small-town girl is insecure, introverted, and lonely. New neighbor moves in across the street: It’s another rising freshman from New York City. New girl is everything Small-town girl wants to be: pretty, talented, popular. They become unlikely friends. School starts: Cue the drama. New girl gets noticed by a member of the basketball team and invites her to high school party. Both girls go, and New girl gets raped by 3 boys on the team. Small-town girl wants to tell someone; New girl makes her promise to keep quiet. Small-town girl struggles with the decision to be loyal to New girl and keep her friendship or be honest and tell someone what happened and get New girl the help she needs. New girl begins drinking, smoking, cutting, and sleeping around. Drama ensues. The girls fight. New-girl climbs to the top of a water tower during a storm and dies. Did she fall? Did she jump? Small-town girl doesn’t know. Guilt eats away at her. She blames herself. She can’t handle the guilt. She starts cutting. She starts failing her classes. She climbs to the top of the water tower, and…she realizes she wants to live and decides to ask for help. She turns her life around. She comes of age.

purple storm kindle edition

Sound like just the kind of angst-filled story your students will love? Mine did. I read the novel over the course of a week and my students begged – begged, pleaded, cajoled – every day to continue the story. They loved it even more when they learned it was inspired by actual events. When it ended, they were devastated. They demanded more be written. I asked them what could make it better: they gave feedback. Based on that feedback, I crafted a revised version of the novel. That’s right, I wrote this story, and used feedback from the target audience (young adults) to make the book everything they wanted it to be.

It’s short (just 124 pages in paperback), readable, and engaging.

purple storm paperback edition

Buy a copy and see if you think your students will like it, then buy a copy for your classroom. Or, just buy a copy for your classroom and see what happens when one of them picks it up. Who knows, if it becomes a hit, you could even do a whole unit on it (which I’ve created – comprehension questions, vocabulary, graphic organizers, discussion questions, quizzes, and a test – everything you need).

If you teach a non-English subject, pass the information along to your English-teaching colleagues. They’ll thank you!

Novel - Purple Storm

Here are the links to the novel:

To buy paperback

To buy on Kindle

To buy the unit on TpT

Teachers are Heroes!

It’s true, teachers really are heroes! Teachers are leaders, nurses, parents, psychologists, social workers, friends, confidants, and so much more. If you’ve been waiting for the perfect time to check out Teachers Pay Teachers, it has arrived! Today (only for a few more hours!) everything on the site – in every single store! – is at least 10% off! My store has everything 28% off! That’s right! If you’ve been eyeing that perfect lesson, activity, or resource, now is the time to stop by and stock up! There probably won’t be another sale until my birthday (that’s all the way in April, people!), so get test prep, Common Core and LAFS resources, math lessons, writing resources, reading activities, and so much more! And don’t forget, there’s a TON of free stuff on the site, too – not just my store, but hundreds – thousands (literally, there are over 70K stores on TpT!) – of stores with something for everyone. So no matter what or you teach – in a classroom K-12, early childhood, college, or even homeschool, there is something for you! Head on over and check it out!

sale_300_250

Get your teaching resources while the getting is good!

Football Freebie! 11/18/14

I know, I know, I’m cheating again this week – but I’m hoping to maybe have a real post later this week. In honor of the (now #6 in the country!) Buckeyes’ victory Saturday against Minnesota (or as my goofy husband calls it, “tiny Pepsi”…back off, ladies, he’s all mine…), I have prepared for you the vertical alignment of the CCSS Language standards. I used it all last week in my work with my district’s second semester exams, and I thought (and hope) it might come in handy for all the teachers out there. It’s definitely great to see the progression of grammar, punctuation, etc. in an easy-to-read chart format.

11-18-14

Here’s an better (albeit cropped) shot:

11-18-14a

ccss vertical alignment L

Football Freebie!

 

This coming Saturday, Ohio State takes on Indiana at home. I will be on Thanksgiving break all week and won’t be able to post the inevitable (sorry, IU fans, but…seriously…) freebie earned by the Buckeyes’ victory. Instead, I will be scheduling a pre-Cyber Monday event at my store. This Sunday, everything will be on sale for 24 hours! Stay tuned for more information.

Go Buckeyes!