Interactive Notebook Motivation!

Not too long ago, I publicly vowed to never join a linky party just to be at the party.  Well, Joanne's Spark Student Motivation Saturday linky is a perfect place for me to brag a little about how great my students are doing with their Interactive Reading Notebooks.
Before we go any further, a little background information about my 6th grade class is necessary.  My main group is considered an intervention class - the whole class, all thirty of them.  All are really struggling in Language Arts, and all (but a few) are really struggling with Math.  A little over half of them are in Read 180, and the rest are starting out in System 44.  I get to have them for four periods in a row, and we do everything, except Science.   I love it, and I wouldn't have it any other way.  For me, this is where the magic happens.

This year we are going all out with our Reading Notebooks.  In the past, they have done great things, but they have all been done individually.  I have assigned traditional reading logs, and then struggled to figure out why I was getting so few turned in.  This year we went with composition notebooks.  There is something about comp notebooks that make you feel like a college student; I remember feeling so grown up when I had one.

Last Sunday, I shared what their homework looked like, but in case you missed it.....
"We" or I read in class.  They are expected to re-read and answer one question.  I prep them in class by asking questions and allowing them to Think-Pair-Share before they go home.  They are expected to write about 1/2 a page.
This week they were expected to find evidence from the story to support their answer - very focused questions.  I challenged them to use quotations from the story, and daily modeled how to do it.
Do you see them Quotation marks!!!!  This is from one of my System 44 kids, awesome right?  This was not easy for him, and you can almost pick up the "focus vibes" from the page. 

So why would 29 (one was absent) struggling 6th graders triumphantly turn in their Interactive Reading Notebooks for a grade, the second week in a row?

1.  I demanded that they do it.  I took no excuses and no prisoners.
2.  I told them about how impressed the other teachers were at Language Arts meeting, and that the "other kids" (or non Read 180 kids) weren't doing anything close to what they were doing.
3. I pulled sticks everyday.  If their name was pulled, they shared their Notebook under the camera.  We all got to help them revise and fix what needed to be done.  That act of bravery won their table 10points!
 4. Most importantly, I told them that on Friday I was pulling 5 name sticks and those Notebooks were going to be read and graded by our assistant principal.  She was going to talk to each of them about their Notebook.  If they didn't have their Notebook complete, then they were going to have to explain that to her.

Now, many of my students have been to the office in elementary school on more than one occasion - it comes with the "intervention" territory.  Rarely do I actually send them, it is usually a problem at lunch or PE.  One has already spent some time up in the office, and more than a couple will visit her again.  For me, it is really important that she knows them, and that they know her, before any disciplinary problems arise.

How did the kids feel about it?  Well, by Wednesday I had at least twelve volunteers.  They wanted to go see her and share their Notebook.  On Friday, as my basket was filling up, about six more asked if their notebook could get turned in to her.  As I was leaving school, I dropped them off in her office and she squealed with delight.  It was a win-win situation...well, I still have 24 Notebooks to grade.

Next week, I think the 8th grade AVID teacher is going to get them, or maybe our School Resource Officer, or maybe our WEB advisor, or maybe their PE teachers, or maybe all of them and then I have no Notebooks to grade over the weekend.....mmmmm.

Five For Friday - Notes and Read 180

Whew!  I am done!  Done for the week and done with the heat!  The only thing that got me off the couch was the fact that it was indeed Friday, and time for Five For Friday!
So, five random things about my week and then I can collapse for the night!
It has been unbearably hot this week!  Not just hot, but Texas and Georgia style hot!  Sticky and thick heat, that does not work well with 7th graders in the afternoon...after PE.  There is no amount of air conditioning that could possibly make that bearable...
Yesterday, it was over 101 degrees with huge thunderheads all around at 4:30 in the afternoon.
Did I mention that it was it hot?
My kids have really gotten in to Otzi!  They are so fascinated by his story.  We watched a great video this week.  I chunked it, and replayed it for them so that they could take notes.

 The variety amazed me!  Some chose to mainly draw, and others clustered their information.  I told them that not only were they going to use these notes for their essay, but that they could use them during the quiz next week.  And there was no word bank!  They did pretty good!
Three is for three cheers for Juan!  Our wonderful computer tech who came and spent the day sitting next to my kids trying to figure out why the new computers, headsets, and Read 180 were randomly not communicating.  We are finally up and running in real rotations!!!!  I will spare you the ranting and raving about stupid computers and stupid headsets, and say that my 6th and 7th graders were AWESOME and so patient with "rotating, and now we are not rotating!"  Both classes had complete and successful rotations today...three cheers for us!

And speaking of rotations, my new rotation expectation signs have worked out well!  This year I used neon index cards (instead of name plates) for the different groups.  Today during our rotations, I just used a magnet and put blank cards of matching colors next to the signs.  It was quick, simple, and easy for the kids to see to where they were supposed to be for the next rotation.  I blurred the names to protect the innocent - what can I say, I grew up on Adam12:).
And finally, for those of you who just started this week or won't start until next week, think about this...I have grades due on Tuesday for the 1st mid-quarter progress report!  We have been having so much fun, doing so many activities, and conferencing, that I seriously had forgotten about that thing called a GRADEBOOK!

Oh, I almost forgot!
Thank you so much to my Bloglovin followers!  This week, I noticed that I had passed the 200 mark!  I cannot tell you how ridiculously giddy that made me!  Thank you for letting me share my passion for teaching with you!

Sweet Rainbow Numbers by

A Peek At My Week - Maroo and Interactive Notebooks

Happy Sunday everyone!  I am linking up with Jennifer of Mrs. Laffin's Laughings, for her new linky!
Now that the school year has begun, I am going to try to limit my blogging to about two times a week.  I really like the idea of this linky, because it will motivate me to get my PLANNING done for the week!

So here is a peek at my upcoming week!

1.  There are still about sixteen Early Goal Conferences to go!  My schedule is packed, and that doesn't include my six students that will have a "conference" at the SIT meeting this week.  As I said in Friday's post, so far they are going great!

2.  This year instead of a single piece of paper Reading Log, or a spiral notebook of summaries, I wanted to try something a little different.

This is a peek at last week's homework and classwork.  This year, I wanted to roll their "Reading Log" and "Classwork" into one.  Yes, I realize that this is not new to some of you, but it is different for me.  In the past, their Reading Logs for homework stayed separate from classwork.  We would do great things in class, but they were turned in as single assignments.  So, this year I am going the Interactive Notebook route.  I am going to try to keep everything, but essays in this notebook. 
We are reading Maroo of the Winter Caves in class.  Most of my students are not able to read it on their own at home, so their homework consists of "re-reading" sections that we have gone over (and over) in class and answering questions.  Just one question per night.  This week, we are going to be focusing on finding evidence to support their answers.  The questions are typed up, printed out four to a page, and cut - that way they only take up half a page.  We have discovered that they need to be taped down, because the glue sticks left them falling off about halfway through the week.  Part of their morning warm up is to share their answer with a partner, and revise it if necessary.

3.  This last Friday, I gave the kids a peek at the Iceman by letting them watch about ten minutes of a video.  They are hooked.  This week, we are going to dig into some text regarding the discovery of the Iceman, and tie it in with archeological evidence and techniques in Social Studies.  This is how we are starting...
With my kids, we might spend a few days doing this activity.  I have printed it out so this is all on one page for them.  When we are done, they will cut them in half and put them in their Reading Notebooks. 

My goal is to go DEEPER this year with my students.  We are not doing Common Core yet, but this is just good teaching - I don't need any other reason. 

Make sure you check out Jennifer's linky over at Mrs. Laffin's Laughings and take a peek at what everyone else is doing!!!

Five For Friday: Goal Conferences

Friday evening is still officially Friday, right?  This is a little late, but I have been remiss in my blogging and do not want another day to go by without posting!  It has been really busy lately, but I could not miss another Five For Friday with Doodle Bugs!

There has been so much to blog about and so little time!  Instead of regaling you with tales of my Zumba class (picture Saturday Night Live doing a sketch about a middle aged teacher with two left feet knocking down perky chicks with rhythm...and there you have it!), or about killing a rattle snake with my lawn mower (snake pieces really do keep wriggling for an amazingly long time), or being told that we (meaning me) cannot get walkie talkies and uniforms for our Neighborhood Watch (again), I thought I would share about my parent conferences.

It seems early, but I have found that my year goes much more smoothly when I have EARLY conferences.  I have sign ups available during Back-to-School Night, and send home letters over the next few days.  This was my 2nd full week with the kids, all the tests have been done, the data is available, and I like to go over homework and behavior policies one on one with parent and child.  It is a great opportunity to have a relaxed chat and start off the year on a positive note. 

1.  First in their folder is a two-sided Language Arts Assessment and Reflection sheet.  I write the cluster scores as a fraction (correct over possible) and as a percent.  I have been using different versions of these for over twenty years - all the way back to my days on the training/conference circuit for Student Led Conferences.

With my intervention kids, it is much quicker to give them some options for their goals rather than spend the day explaining that "trying harder" is not a measurable goal.  For their next set of conferences, they will be more independent with writing their goals.

2. Next, is their Math Assessment and Reflection.

Again, with the first conference it is better to keep it simple and sweet.  At this point, the scores and goals are really just conversation starters between teacher, parent, and child.  We will build on these same forms for later conferences.  In addition to these forms, I share an essay and math diagnostic test.

In the first few days of school, the students wrote an essay.  They were told to "impress me" with their writing skills.  The prompt was three things that they wanted to accomplish this year.  No organization tools were provided, so it gave me a good idea of how they organized their writing.  Also, they were given a math test that was broken down by skills and approximate grade levels.  It is painfully obvious to all when certain skills are missing. 

4. After we discuss the data and goals, I make sure they have a copy of my parent letter.  I reinforce signing the Agenda, explain what the homework looks like, and tell them that the complete syllabus is online.
It is designed as a two sided tri-fold.  The complete syllabus is mandatory, but since it is over eight pages long, not many parents want it nor do they read it.  This gives them the basic facts.

5.   Finally, I give them a permission slip for HW Club!  It sounds so much better when you add "club" to it!  Right?  And my Student Information sheet for them to fill out.

Out of my thirty 6th graders in my self-contained class, eighteen have scheduled conferences.  Another eight students will be having their "conference" in the context of a SIT meeting (Student Study Team, Student Intervention Team???).  They are the first ones of the year, and are a carry over from their elementary schools.  I did not want to ask them to come to two meetings in one week, so they were given the option of just attending the SIT meeting - four of the eight have scheduled an additional conference with me.  It is looking like it will be a great year!

So far, I have to say that I am having a wonderful time meeting my students and their parents.  This year, I have started off each conference by thanking them for allowing me to be their child's teacher and for doing such a good job raising them.   They have all visibly relaxed and smiled.  The transition to middle school is scary for the parents too:)!

Hopefully I will be able to share a little bit of our Interactive Reading Logs later this weekend.  I am so excited about them and eager to share what they have done so far!  Happy Friday everyone!

Behavior Expectations

During the first few weeks of the new school year, it so important to set expectations for behavior and to establish routines.  This last week, it took my group of 6th graders three tries before they got to walk all the way to the library to check out their textbooks.  I turned them around again and again.  Our campus security aide (retired military veteran), gave me the nod and a smile when they finally got it right.

In the past I have been really good about things like that, but have often wavered in classroom procedures.  I get panicked about how many lessons my neighbor is ahead of me in math, and how we haven't started Social Studies, and give in.  The demands of curriculum win, and I plow ahead without being really happy with where they are in classroom procedures.

Then sometime after Thanksgiving and before Christmas, instead of a minor flare-up, it implodes.  And I am back to square one, frustrated with 6th graders because I didn't take enough time to train them.  This year I vowed to do better, to be more explicit, and to be willing to go back and try again - in the classroom.

Before school started, I saw several different pins on Pinterest regarding Independent and Group work expectations, and they got me thinking.  One in particular caught my eye, it was pinned by Brooke Taylor (click here to see it, because for the life of me, I cannot get it to embed!).  So I pinned it, and pondered it.  Eventually, I revised it to fit my classroom.

I used my favorite frames from Krista Wallden to make them.  I know what you are thinking...did she put them on magnets?  Of course I did!

 This is from the first day of class.  They were all displayed on the board.
This is from my Classroom Tour post.
This last week, I was very careful to go over them for each phase of the assignment, and the only one on the board is the one we are referring to for expected behavior.  I use one of the pennants from Amanda Zanchelli's freebie as a pointer.  When they are getting a little off task, I simply go over to the board and say, "1, 2, 3, eyes on me," and tap the sign.  It seems to working, and we did a pretty messy art project in the first few days.  

Now the challenge is to keep it up and stay consistent!  If you are interested in my little signs, click here to download them for free at my TPT store!  My Read 180 rotation signs are included in the folder, and you are going to have to apply your own magnets...oh who am I kidding!  If it were possible, I would be happy to put the magnets on and clean out your cupboards:)!

Happy Saturday!

Classroom Tour!

You know that bone tired feeling when you want to go to sleep, but you are too wound up to even try?  Well, I just got home from Back-to-School Night and that is where I am at right now.  So I figured that if I can't sleep, then I should blog:).  Pictures, very few words for this post...I might be able to finish before I fall asleep.

View From the Door

Sign In Table
I worked at a flower shop in college, and have never gotten over having fresh flowers for special events.  They really brighten up the classroom - $5 @ Vons - well worth it.  One clipboard is for 6th grade and the other for my 7th graders in my intervention period.

Table Baskets
From left to right: In Progress work folder, point clipboard, book bags, Math Notebooks (just started), and the table No HW Notebook.  The little envelope is for their points, and in the basket are a set of crayons and colored pencils.  It seems like a lot, but the Math Notebook and book bag will be going home with them after we establish that their lives will be forfeit if they lose either one:).

Book Bag
I had seen pin on Pinterest with duct tape on the sides...I hate using duct tape.  So, I used heavy duty plastic bags, hole punched them and put the hole reinforcer thingies on both sides of the holes.  Name tag in the middle.  It seems super strong, but we will see.

My Refuge
Not exactly spectacular, but it works.  I had grand plans to spray paint the file cabinet, and then realized that it was a lot of work.  The little board will be the Word Count board for Reading Counts, but for now it holds my syllabus and master schedule.  The other board holds the map, and the 5 WBT rules (I think they were a freebie by Rachel @ The Tattooed Teacher, so tired).

White and Chalkboards
I have shared close ups of most of this before, except my book envelopes...
Each student in my 6th grade class has one, and will be placing the old fashioned library book cards in them.  This is not necessarily a way of keeping track of the books, but rather a quick check for me to see what they are reading.  The envelopes have magnets, of course!  The kids are intrigued, and I think that I can live with the fact that they will never all be straight.

"Front" of the Room
This is my 20 minutes a Day bulletin board, and it was a huge conversation starter with the parents!  It really got them asking questions.
On the other side of the Smartboard, is my Academic Language board.  These pocket charts will hold their sentence frames and vocabulary for Read 180.  Currently they hold sentence frames for how-to-work-together-in-a-group-and-disagree-without-getting-into-a-brawl.  There might have been an issue in another class and I might have gotten a phone call.  Way over in the corner are my Divisibility Rules that I made before my current students were born - lamination works!

This board usually holds my current charts and other content notes, but we did a little art project.  My kids "get" Read 180 as their "elective."  So, this year while they were SRI(ing) and taking turns learning how to log on to the computer, we did a version of this pin.


You can find the instructions and more detailed pictures at Oodles of Art.  I didn't have the right size paper, so they traced their hands and feet on a separate paper and cut them out.  They turned out pretty cute, and the kids were happy.  One of the conversations that I overheard my 7th grade boys having about who could legitimately draw a mustache on themselves is sure to be on my Top Ten List of Things I Overheard My Students Say for years to come.

Future's So Bright
This turned out so awesome!  Even my bad-boy 7th graders were good sports and posed for pictures.  They loved showing their parents this board and telling them all about posing for the pictures.  I wish I could share it "unblurred" but I am super protective of my boo-boos.

View from the Real Front
This is the view from the real front of the room.  My table with the projector, document camera, and laptop are in the middle.  Three tables run in to it, which means I can do a small group from four different angles - front, left, right, and on the floor in front of the Smartboard.  You can see the library shelves at the back (more on those next week or so).  This shot gives you an idea of the seating arrangement. 

Conference Sign Ups
Finally, at the back table (where one of the listening centers is usually), I put my giant sign up sheet for Goal Conferences.  I like to meet with my parents within the first month of school to go over scores and expectations.  It helps establish an early partnership, and really helps with behavior.  Since my kids have typically had a rough school career, it helps put the parents at ease about transition to middle school.  Are they mandatory for me?  No, but the extra effort makes the year go smoother.

Well, that is about it, and I am done.  Really done, as in I think I might be able to go to sleep.  This is the first full week of school, and of course I have duty!  Off to bed:).