I've Got Writes!

Teacher, Writer, Proofreader

Archive for the tag “middle school”

What Do You Make From Scratch?

I know that English prepositions can be tricky for second language learners, and SUPER tricky when they’re part of an idiomatic expression. For example, let’s talk about the expression from scratch.

The dictionary definitions of from according to Merriam-Webster are as follows:

1: used to show a starting point 

  • a letter from home
  • School starts a week from today.
  • He spoke from the heart.

2: used to show a point of separation 

  • The balloon escaped from her grasp.

3: used to show a material, source, or cause 

  • The doll was made from rags.
  • The author read from his book.
  • He is suffering from a cold.

When used as a verb, the word scratch means the following:

1to scrape or rub lightly 

  • scratch an itch
  • He scratched his head.

2to injure by scraping with something sharp 

  • He scratched his thumb on a nail.

3to make a scraping noise 

  • The dog was scratching at the door.

4to erase by scraping 

  • scratched out my mistake.

When used as a noun, scratch means this:

: a mark or injury made by scraping with something sharp

However, when you make your favorite chocolate cake from scratch, that means something different. It means you’ve made your cake from the basic, natural ingredients— like, flour, eggs, baking powder, salt, sugar, and oil—instead of using  pre-mixed or pre-packaged ingredients.

Using a cake mix from a box is NOT considered making it from scratch. (But, that’s what I like to use!) 🙂

More examples

My grandma and mom used to make homemade noodles and biscuits from scratch. YUM!

Free stock photo of kitchen, bakery, flour, baking

A builder creates a house or structure from scratch. Taking materials like cinder blocks, lumber, cement, etc., to create a house, shopping center, or office building.

Person Cutting Wood on Table Saw during Daytime

Also, I’m currently building an online course from scratch. I’m using what I already know, researching what I don’t know, and writing my own lessons. This post is part of that process.

So, what can YOU make from scratch? Can you think of other examples?

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Idioms Are Right Up My Alley

Hey, there!

Let’s talk about idioms! I’m an English teacher, so that’s right up my alley! I love words, their multiple meanings, and the weird ways their literal meanings can be disregarded when they’re used as idioms.
Let’s take the words up my alley. When you’re speaking literally, it means something or someone is perhaps going up a narrow street behind or beside your house or apartment. (See other definitions here.)
However, the idiom up your alley refers to something that you really like or something you’re really good at doing. Frequently, the word right begins the phrase, but it’s not required.
For example, my boyfriend LOVES dogs. (So do I.) When we go to the doggie park, it’s right up our alley. We can watch, pet, and play with lots of cute dogs there.
I have students who love playing soccer. If they were to win tickets to a professional soccer game, that would be right up their alley.
If you’re an amazing cake decorator, opening up your own cake decorating business might be right up your alley.
If you love to draw Japanese anime, watching a video titled “How to Draw Anime Faces” would be right up your alley.
Here’s a funny comic from toonpool.com.  If funny stuff is up your alley, you’ll enjoy it! 🙂

Idioms, Not Idiots!

So, the English language is made up of sooooo many idioms and can make learning it as a second language (or even as native speakers) tricky and confusing. What is an idiom, exactly? Merriam-Webster defines it as the following:

  • an expression that cannot be understood from the meanings of its separate words but that has a separate meaning of its own

  • a form of a language that is spoken in a particular area and that uses some of its own words, grammar, and pronunciations

In other words, idioms are figures of speech. They are groups of words that, collectively,  mean something other than the literal meanings of each word in the group. The most common example I use in my middle school classroom is, “It’s raining cats and dogs.” Does it literally mean you’re going to get smacked in the head when you go outside because cats and dogs are falling from the sky? Nope. It just means it’s raining really hard.

Image result for royalty free images it's raining cats and dogs

 

Idioms are so embedded in the language that native speakers don’t realize how difficult and confusing it can be for those who are learning English as a second language. For instance, let’s say a second language learner hears someone say, “Man, that guy is over the hill!” at a birthday party. They might know the dictionary definitions of guy, over, and hill; however, they will likely be thinking of this:

Image result for free stock pictures over the hill old person

 

Instead of this:

 

Image result for royalty free images old person

 

I will be creating a course just for idioms, especially constructed to assist second language learners in the coming months. For now, here are some other helpful sites for learning idioms. And here.

Enjoy and stay tuned!! (That’s an idiom, by the way.)

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List of Items on My Prediction Board

Later, I plan to create printable PDFs that you can quickly produce and attach to foam board or poster board. I’ll let ya know! In the meantime, here’s a quick bullet list of items and supplies that you can use to create your own prediction board. I found most of the items at Dollar Tree.

ITEMS AND SUPPLIES

  • Foam board–I used black, but color is optional.
  • A pack of green plastic toy soldiers
  • America decoration–Easy to find around July 4th
  • School bus–Found in the teacher section at Dollar Tree.
  • Foam letter stickers–These don’t have to be foam, but I like the texture.
  • Dog leash
  • Empty honey bear bottle–washed, of course
  • 1 green envelope
  • Low-heat hot glue gun
  • One or two sheets of scrap booking paper for background behind words–optional
  • Washington D.C. sticker or photo
  • Firecracker sticker

I tried looking for a toy tire and a small blue bunny, but couldn’t find what I wanted in the time I had. Not necessary, but they would be a nice addition.

IMPORTANT WORDS ON THE BOARD

  • loyal
  • blame
  • fear
  • love
  • friend
  • PTSD
  • family
  • honor
  • foster care
  • sorrow

I like the dimension of my board because tangible items make it more interesting and pleasing to the eye. If you want extra dimension under your words, buy two foam boards. Attach your letters to one foam board, then cut out each word. Glue the cut out word to the second foam board that will be your prediction board. I cut out blame, loyal, friend, honor, family, sorrow, and fear from my old board, then glued them on my new board. See the picture below:

20180107_125423.jpg

If you’re on a time crunch, I will soon have PDFs for you to print and glue. 🙂

 

What I use to Engage Students Before Reading a Novel

How does a reading or English teacher get students excited about reading a novel? Perhaps you’ve used the following strategies:

  • Fill out and discuss anticipation guides.
  • Preview text features.
  • Examine the picture on the book cover.
  • Read the summary on the back of the book.

I’ve used all of the above pre-reading activities during my twelve years of teaching. Not a huge fan of any of them. I mean, they’re fine if that’s what you want to use. Maybe you’re much better at using those methods to get kids geared up to read a story than I am. However, I’ve used something for 4 years now that sucks them in more effectively and is tons more fun for me!

About five years ago, I watched a teacher on Teaching Channel who created a bulletin board full of objects, pictures, and words that related to The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. If I remember correctly, she used it to give the kids a heads-up on some unfamiliar vocabulary and to provide some background knowledge to help them understand what they would be reading before each chapter. I loved the idea of using tangible items, not just pictures.

Since I do not have time or motivation to be changing my bulletin boards with any kind of frequency, I modified this idea. Also, I wanted something I didn’t have to tear down. I wanted to create something that I could use year after year. Something easy to store. So I did.

I created a prediction board for The Mailbox by Audrey Shafer. (I’ve blogged about it before.) I used words and objects that related to the story, but did not give any details away. See photo below of the original:

20170118_141327.jpg

This is the first one that lasted me 3 years.

20180107_125423.jpg

This is the new and improved version. I added two more words and two more images.

This one board creates more questions, more curiosity, more class discussion, and more fodder for writing a prediction paper than any other strategy I’ve used.

More details later . . .

Fidget Spinners to Loaded Guns

Last year my colleagues and I had a collection of fidget spinners that we’d confiscated. They’re supposed to help kids with attention problems to be more focused. Well, they were more focused. On watching the damn thing spin around, not on doing their school work. They were trading them, changing the colors or whatever—anything besides being focused on their jobs. We were all sick of seeing them. The spinners, I mean. (Well, if I were being totally honest, we kind of get sick of seeing certain kids, too. Don’t judge. If you’re a teacher, you get it. If you’re a parent, I’m assuming you get it, too. We all know that you can’t wait for them to go back to school after a long break because they’re driving you nuts.)

Though we do not have metal detectors and don’t search backpacks at the door, we did search pockets and shoes on the last day of school last year in order to be sure that no one brought anything they weren’t supposed to bring. Specifically, yep, you guessed it, fidget spinners. Of course, we still confiscated some because most middle schoolers think they’re slick and won’t get caught.

Fast forward to January 2018. Not even a year after the fidget spinner chaos and crack-down. Now we’re wishing that those damn spinning things were the most distracting items found at our school. They seem to have disappeared. I suppose the craze has worn off.

What’s rattling us now? The fact that our kids can hide guns in their hoodies and shoes. Two of our students proved it. Last week. Unsettling? Startling? To say the least. Not that we are naive enough to rule out that possibility, but we thought things were going fine. We have cameras in all of the hallways. We haven’t had major problems in our school for several years. (Since before I started working there.)

But now, we’re on high alert. Cracking down on procedures and rules that we’ve been lax with and implementing new procedures to help prevent this from happening again. Do I think no other student in our school has ever brought a gun to school? Nope. But, I really hadn’t thought about it before, not at this school anyway. Do I think there’s a possibility that another student was carrying even after this incident? Definitely won’t rule it out.

To think about a kid sitting in my class with a loaded gun hidden on their person scares the shit out of me. You never know what’s really going on with a kid. When you have over 20 kids in your class at once and see about 120 walk through your class per day, it’s kind of tricky keeping up with who’s in what kind of mood, who’s on an IEP, who’s got a difficult home life, etc. I tend to piss students off from time to time. Goes with the territory when you’re trying to push kids to do their best. I’d rather the child whom I’ve angered NOT have possession of a firearm.

I’d welcome fidget spinners now if it would eliminate the possibility of guns in the hands of my students.

 

Today’s Roller-Coaster Moods

I was on an emotional roller coaster today. Weepy. Grateful. Thanking God that all my students and colleagues are safe. Thinking, “Why am I responding so strongly? I wasn’t even in the mix of what happened. I was just working in my room while everything unfolded.” It could have been so much worse. The potential was brewing, but no one was hurt. Too many students and teachers eslewhere have experienced so much more. Horrific, graphic tragedies. We didn’t. But, I was still emotional. I guess it’s the realization of what could have transpired. I’m sure there’s a scientific or medical term for it, but I don’t feel like looking it up right now.

My colleagues who responded, running on fear and adrenaline, kept the situation under control. Kept us safe. My heart expands for them. Much respect. Much gratitude.

I’m sad for the two who made wrong choices because they are receiving consequences for their actions that will change the course of their lives, at least for several years.

To be honest, one thing that might be playing in to my emotional state is the fact that I went two days without my hormones. Makes it a little more intense. I’m hoping to get a good night’s sleep tonight. I should schedule a massage soon. I need the stress worked out. The weekend is coming up. Love me some weekend relaxation.

This isn’t going to make my 500 words, but I’m rambling to sort out some thoughts before I go to bed. Maybe tomorrow I’ll write something more significant, or more cohesive.

 

Potential Tragedy Snuffed

I don’t usually answer my phone when I don’t recognize the number, but for some reason, I did today.

My colleagues, parents, and I received a recorded phone message this afternoon from our principal briefly explaining an incident that occurred right after school. Apparently, two students were arrested for possession of guns. One, a real gun and the other a BB-gun.

I’m certainly grateful for whomever alerted our leaders to this situation. I’m also thankful that those guns did not go off at school. My assumption at this time is that the students were carrying the weapons around in their pockets or backpacks, or that perhaps they stowed them away in their lockers for the day. I don’t know, but I’m really glad that one of them didn’t get pissed off at somebody and make a fatal decision.

I suppose we were not put on lockdown because the situation unfolded after all the students were out of the building? I’ve never really thought this through before, but do we not put the building on lockdown if there’s a situation and only the faculty is in the building? I have a few questions. I’m hoping some will be answered in the emergency meeting that’s set for tomorrow after school.

Why the hell did middle schoolers think bringing guns to school was a stellar idea? Maybe they were scared of a bully and wanted to bring some protection? Maybe they wanted to impress their friends? Maybe they had a plan? Maybe they are in a gang or are heavily influenced by someone else who is coercing them to join?  Maybe they hunt or a family member collects guns as hobby?

I don’t know the answer. I only hope that the investigation reveals some sort of answer that can be addressed effectively in order to prevent such an occasion from arising again.

I’ll admit, my brain was rattled after that phone call. Should I end my teaching career at 12 years and call it good? Should I apply immediately to an online school? Should I apply ANYWHERE else? Should I just let it roll off, just like every other situation that has risen along the way?

Again, I don’t know. This seemed different. There was no way we would have known which kid had a weapon and which kid just might get angry enough to do something tragic.

God, thank you for your protection today. And, thank you in advance for protection tomorrow. Send someone to connect with those kids and their families to help them navigate safely through our society.

No more statistics, please.

No more.

I want to go to work to teach and train, not to lose my life or watch others lose theirs at the hands of a hurting and hurtful young person.

Keep us safe and guide us in spreading love, not hate. Kindness, not rudeness. Peace, not chaos. Truth, not deceit.

Keep me alert, agile, swift, and wise.

Rampant Apathy and Learned Helplessness

Twelve years ago in central Oklahoma, I began my teaching career in middle school in an area infested with gangs. I’ve probably learned boatloads more than I’ve taught. I’ve had roughly 1200 students pass through my classroom door. (Would’ve been more, but I looped with a group of kids through their middle school years.) I’ve witnessed and experienced a lot of sadness, joy, apathy, excitement, fear, fury, bat-shit craziness, “you can’t fix stupid,” and straight-up “I can’t make this shit up!” Any educator should know exactly what I’m talking about.

Which brings me to today. This school year with sixth graders. I have many hard-working, creative, and well-mannered kiddos for whom I’m grateful. It’s the “others” that are a problem. A problem not just for me because they’re in my class and make me question why the hell I did this to myself, but a problem for you and everyone else in society who will have to deal with their “idiosyncrasies.”

All kids are self-centered and think the world revolves around them and think the world owes them something and think that every adult in their presence is a complete idiot. It’s the age. It’s normal. Irritating as hell, but normal. We all did it to some extent.

Here comes the “but” …

BUT, THIS GROUP! Holy freakin’ cow! The apathy, the learned helplessness, the unwillingness to participate in any way in their own learning is ABSOLUTELY ASTOUNDING! I’m truly frightened for anyone who has to deal with them as adults. I can only pray and hope that somewhere along the line, someone will be able to connect with them and motivate them toward excellence, or some semblance of it, at least.

 

The Mailbox Prep

So, I’m about to embark on the 5th time teaching The Mailbox by Audrey Shafer to my 6th graders. I’ve refreshed my prediction board because it was starting to look a little sad. I’ve added a couple of words (foster care and PTSD). It looks great, even if I say so myself. What do you think?

20180107_125423.jpg

I’ve also loaded links into Google Classroom that will be used as extended activities or added background information that connect to the story. I haven’t specifically nailed down the order in which I’ll share these with my kids, though. This is the first year all my kids have had their own iPads and have quick and easy access to internet searches. So, I’ll try to keep detailed notes and plans on how and when I’ve used them. I don’t want to spoil anything. Also, I’m thinking that some of these might be used when we must be “flexible” because circumstances outside of our control will change my class times, or will take some of my kids out of my class. (ELL testing, assemblies, snow days, etc.) See those links below:

In addition, I have loaded vocabulary words from the first chapter into Quizlet.com. One word, however, is not in the chapter. It’s dialect. Most of my kiddos don’t yet know what this is. Every time Uncle Vernon speaks, he is using his dialect, which tends to throw them off. You could have a mini-lesson on dialect, using examples from other books. I will probably only have time to brush over it, which is why I added it to the vocabulary list.

Ideally, I will load words from each chapter onto Quizlet, or maybe later into the book, I will use some other vocabulary lesson. I know there are better ways to teach vocabulary, but my kiddos need something that will help them learn a boat load of words in a short amount of time. Most of them are English as second language learners.

Now, notice I said ideally. Once we get going, I’m going to be pressed for time.  I’ll be spending weekend time, like right now, on prepping for this. At some point, being with my family and taking care of my personal life will take precedence. I’m planning on starting the book after next week. Or, at least, creating and building anticipation and excitement in my students for the book. It makes a difference. It captures the attention of more kiddos, even those who haven’t paid attention or given a flip about school since day one. That should be something else I keep track of, come to think of it–the individual kids who haven’t participated in their own learning during the first semester.

Sidebar: I’ve missed a few days of my 500-words-a-day challenge. So, I’m going to do a couple more posts today to try and catch up.

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