Saturday, January 23, 2016

So Cal Bloggers Winter Freebie Blog Hop -All Summer in A Day

Can you tell I LOVE San Diego?

My Dutch View
For those that don't know, I spent the vast majority of my twenties living abroad. I adored hopping from place to place.

I LOVED actually living new cultures and really getting to know different cities and the cultures that make them unique.  I got to live in The Netherlands, Spain, Korea, Turkey, Mexico and visit so many more wonderful places!

For a long time it was really hard for anyone to think of me as coming home for more than a summer. I lived in such GORGEOUS places with such wonderful people and got to visit other countries at the drop of a hat! What's not to love?

 Nonetheless, a special part of my heart was always in San Diego. This blog hop is filled with other teachers who share my love! For those of you who have been hopping, you know the drill! Each blogger will share why they LOVE Souther California, and then link to a freebie. Once you've snagged it, you can keep hopping to the next teacher! There are SIXTEEN for teachers from third through eighth grade, so that's plenty of freebies for you.

Plus, there's a contest, so be sure to read until the bottom!

Two years ago I moved back home and I couldn't be happier. While my all time favorite part of living here is my family, I'll be honest and say the thing that I missed the most when abroad was the food! It isn't just the quality of food in Southern California, but the variety.

I LOVE that I can have Vietnamese pho for breakfast, then hit a Mexican (as in Mexico City) place for Micheladas, and have Ethiopian food for dinner (not pictured). What an AWESOME place to live, right?

Of course it isn't just the food, I also adore the diversity my classroom brings. I love when I ask students who are studying Martin Luther King if anyone has been to a Baptist church and hands spring up!

When we study the rhetoric used in poems about immigration, many of my students can tell their own stories of coming to America!

But the best part is that San Diego has COMPLETELY spoiled me with awesome weather! I am a big wimp for anything under 80 degrees! Sadly so it my cat. When the weather gets cooler he is the first to curl up by the fireplace or heater despite his fur.

This was me in November!
As a result, I figured I'd offer a freebie that most teachers can use whether they be teaching third grade or tenth! All Summer In a Day is a great short story to read especially if there's a blizzard or rain pouring! Students can really get into the characters' brains as they long for sunshine.

I use ink pinks with my fast finishers. I create a bunch before each unit that use the vocabulary words in our unit.

For example here's an All Summer in a Day packet that includes an Ink Pink worksheet. I have taught All Summer in a Day to fifth grades through high school! It is a simple short story, but filled with figurative language, topic starters and a great lesson for any ages.

As for the Ink Pinks, you can do these as a class, or use them for fast finishers. Despite their juvenile appearance, they are GREAT at helping students use their critical thinking skills and, depending n the level, reinforce or introduce new vocabulary.  Download your free page here and have fun!


Teacher Ms. HWell I hope you had fun! Hopefully you've enjoyed the freebies you have found so far. The next blog is with Teacher Ms. H has one too. Check out her blog to see what she loves about San Diego and find her freebie.

Don't forget to enter for your chance to win!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, January 15, 2016

Grading Made Easier

All teachers grade. It is an inevitable part of life. In some ways technology has made things MUCH easier. 

When it comes to assessments, I really believe that the sooner students get feedback, the better.

Somehow online grading has REALLY helped me with this. My school uses Haiku and students turn things in there. In the past  I'd often take grading on "field trips," you know the drill...I'd pack it up, drive it home, take it inside, and do nothing. In the end, I'd end up taking the papers back to work with one (if at all) graded.

Electronically I am able to take my laptop almost anywhere and grade with downtime. Many of the places I accept work have built in rubrics. TurnItIn, Haiku and even Goobric works for those of you who use Google documents.

With the rubrics right there I find I can grade them faster plus make notes as needed and then send it back. Since there is no physical "handing back" once I have made my notes I am done. I don't need to make the time to pass things back in class.

Not handing back is already a HUGE time saver (no alphabetizing, no putting things in students' folders, just send!). 

It's also important to consider what the purpose of the grade is. Is it a draft where lots of feedback will help? A homework assignment we will discuss in class and I just want to see that they've done some preparation? Sometimes I can "cheat" when grading. Give a credit or no credit grade. 10/10 if they did everything right. 7/10 if they did most of it right 5/10 if they didn't follow directions or it is incomplete 0/10 for cheating or nothing. I leave notes as well, but this basic "rubric" keeps things streamlined.

Finally, and students know this. I rarely assign "answer questions 1-10 from the textbook" But when I do...I don't grade them all. I randomly pick two questions I'll grade. If they explained those two questions completely (which is more important to me than right or wrong), and the rest seem completed they get full points. If not, I actually go through and read the rest to determine. 

They could get lucky and have those two be the only ones they did well, but mostly it is an easy way for me to see if they have the right idea without reading every answer. We always take time to go over answers in class, so really I am just checking that they are coming to class prepared.

What grading tips do you have?

Monday, January 4, 2016

Zombies and Teamwork

In addition to my year long English courses I teach two semester classes. As the new year starts, I begin a new class as well: speech!

I LOVED taking speech as a student, so it is really fun to teach it now.

As most of my readers know, many of my students do not speak English as their first language. Sometimes this isn't an issue, and they are motivated to speak, write, and read in English. In other cases however, there is a tendency to use as little English as possible. As a result, I use an adapted version of a team building activity I love. The point? To show them that they don't need to rely on language...period. love using this to start my speech class as it focuses on nonverbal skills (something many students lack). It also builds their teamwork (key since this class involves LOTS of  group projects). Finally, it involves some critical thinking which I feel is always a plus.

Without going into too much detail, students are divided into groups of three to four and the dire situation is explained. The tower that normally keeps the zombies away has fallen and it is up to this group of students to reassemble it without going into the zombie zone.

Of course, as zombies are VERY sensitive to noise, they must work in complete silence with absolutely NO talking.

Students are graded based on their teamwork, their ability to follow the rules, and whether or not they complete the mission.

To be honest, this is an old activity (though I used to teach it with nuclear issues instead of zombies). I wasn't sure how it would go with my students. I hit a few speed bumps early on. Normally, I use hula-hoops taped to the ground as the city barrier, but my trusty dollar store was out, so I taped off squares instead (amusing since all of my directions stated circles, but students got it).

You can download a free preview of the Zombie Teamwork activity at TeachersPayTeachers which basically explains the concept in more details, but here's a step by step guide of setting your classroom up.


You can use a lot of things to make this happen, but you NEED string, cups, and rubber bands (the rubber bands should be able to expand to go around the cups). You can give the students pre-cut string, or one loooooong piece and scissors.

Other things you'll need
  • A way to make an enclosed section (hula hoop taped to the ground, chalk, tape, etc.). 
  • Random school supplies (You don't NEED this, but I like to give the students random things and see what they can do. Today they had: Velcro strips, pennies, paper clips, a high lighter, pencil erasers, pencils, and binder clips

  • I also like to put little Lego men inside the city. I would put zombies inside, but I don't have any zombie toys, so I tell my students the zombies are invisible.
Set Up
  •  You'll need space. I don't like the groups to be much bigger than four students, and each group needs at least 3 square feet to work in. Spread them out so they aren't sitting on top of one another. Each group gets a "city" The cities should all be the same size and have three cups inside, Lego men inside, and a cup or box with all of their supplies nearby.
  • I didn't get a chance to this time, but you can usually score some really cheap zombie decor after Halloween. Anything you can throw in the room gives it that extra appeal. My students likes my DANGER ZOMBIE INFESTATION signs I had on the door and around the classroom.
  • I leave copies of the directions (one per group) by their city as well.
 Buy In
  • I HAVE taught this class without speaking, but for my students this year we walked through the directions. They were intrigued from the start! I am glad I went with zombies this year...the topic definitely caught their attention.
Depending on the group of students you have, there are MANY different ways to have them build the tower. Have it be a three cup pyramid, or a six cup pyramid. Have one student be blind-folded etc. There are more variations discussed in detail in the pack, but get creative!

Walking around I was really impressed with my students. They were working together, getting creative and learning from their mistakes.

What did students think? One of my favorite parts of this lesson is the debriefing where they can sit and reflect on what they did and why they did it. Here are some of the insights my students shared with me:

"I learned that communication is more than just the words that come out of our mouth. It is also what we do with our bodies"

"I learned that I can get things done if I just put my mind to work."

"I solved most of the problems we had not talking by paying more attention and not being lazy. Basically, I had to think harder" 

The best part? A student who stopped by after class, "I just wanted to tell you that your class was really fun today!" Well heck! That makes it a better day.

If you have a new batch of students in January and want a fun activity, or you think your students would do well with some practice in group work. This is a great zombie download for you. Until the 6th it is only $2.20 (that's 20% off the normal price of $2.75). Try it out and let me know what your students think.

If you don't have it in your budget right now, enter to win below! You get one free entry just for reading! You can earn more by tweeting or pinning. The contest opens the fifth and closes the tenth!

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