October 23, 2014

TBT: Scary Stories for Halloween

With Halloween a week away, I thought it would be a good idea to share my favorite activities. Of course, for most of us, we're long past the days of actually being able to celebrate the holiday with costumes and trick-or-treating, but I like to honor it by introducing my students to some of my favorite scary stories!

I like to turn off the lights and play some eerie music for an appropriate backdrop as we read our scary stories. If you have those fancy finger flashlights, this would be a perfect day to use them! Otherwise, you can use a lamp or just turn off some of your classroom lights. I've also seen people use tissue paper to cover their light panels... it creates an awesome atmosphere, but I'm not sure how the fire marshall would feel about such things.

Anyway, this link will take you to a collection of my favorite stories and poems that I've used with my middle school students to introduce suspense, foreshadowing, and even irony. I have scoured the interwebs to link you to the texts and also accompanying videos where they apply. You could easily spread them out for your reading activities for the week or just do a day of scary stories.

Happy reading!

October 21, 2014

Accountability with a Subsitute

Now that I'm back on this day-to-day subbing thing, I've been keeping my eye out for tips and tricks to share with you guys from the many classrooms I visit.

Those of you who teach in middle and high school settings (okay... this probably applies to some upper elementary students too) understand the frustration of leaving work with a sub only to return and find that there was little accountability for your students. Nothing is more annoying than spending all that time putting together sub plans and return to a class full of students who didn't complete them.

Sometimes, this is because you get a bad substitute who doesn't really manage the classroom, but other times this is simply because your students see a sub and decide they're taking the day off from work. When I was out for a week with a double ear-infection, I was SO DISAPPOINTED to learn that my students literally did NOTHING the entire time I was gone.

Please tell me I'm not the only one who's been there!

A science teacher I've subbed for a couple time recently uses a classroom management strategy that I think is pretty fail-proof. It requires very little work from the substitute and holds students accountable for the work they're supposed to complete in your absence.

He simply breaks the assignment (usually reading independently and taking guided notes) into sections. As students finish each section, they come check in with me (the sub). I simply initialed the completed page with a highlighter and then gave them an answer key to check their work. Then, I gave them the next part of the assignment.

The greatest part is that the classroom teacher is able to see how far students got based on the substitute initials. This could easily translate into classroom points for participation if you use such things in your gradebook.

Because of this accountability factor, I've noticed that students in this classroom are much more likely to work productively than in similar classrooms where they don't have this check-in. Of course, the same idea applies for any assignment that is submitted at the end of class, but this also relieves your substitute of having to collect any papers from students and reduces the risk of papers being lost.

Or... you can just do this...

Happy teaching! :)

October 20, 2014

IMWAYR: Twisted

Every time a friend asks for book recommendations, I watch the suggestions like a hawk. The book I just finished was recommended by a few women I know, and it's definitely worth sharing.

Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson tells the story of Tyler Miller, a high school senior who has always been the underdog. He's spent his entire life being bullied by the jocks at school and by his verbally abusive father at home. After being sentenced to a summer of community service for vandalizing his school, Tyler starts his senior year with a new, muscular physique and the bad boy appeal that attracts his longtime crush.

Nothing, though, is ever as simple as that. Sometimes, being in the spotlight can bring unwanted attention, and it certainly doesn't help that his parents and administrators seem to be waiting for him to mess up again. Even when he tries to do the right thing, he's accused of doing wrong. The events of one night lead to a downward spiral, leaving Tyler questioning if he can ever redeem himself.

After the night in question, the story moves forward very quickly. I found myself eager to read "just one more" chapter until I reached the dramatic climax, which was a real page-turner!

At that point, though, I feel like the book just kinda ended. In my opinion, all the loose ends tied together too quickly, and it felt forced to me. I mean, I definitely appreciate the closure, but it didn't feel authentic. Anderson spent so much time on the character development and backstory leading up to the main conflict that I felt a little let down by how easily everything settled.

I definitely think this book is worth the read, but I'm interested to know if others felt the same about the ending. Have you read it? 
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