Saturday, July 15, 2017

Five Fantastic Ways to Make Flexible Seating Happen in your Room!

flexible seating,6th grade, middle school
There have been a number of Facebook posts recently from teachers moving from primary grades to sixth grade.  One of their big concerns is how to arrange a classroom for older students, who are still kids in many ways.

I have a few pictures of the way I've set up my classroom the past few years which you can see here. This year, I'm going to have the students design the classroom on the first day.  It's Project-Based Learning at its best!  Starting in randomly-assigned groups where they'll have a few minutes to introduce themselves, they'll start talking and planning what our room should look like.
  • Want desks at full-size?  Great!  
  • Should some be lowered so they can sit on the floor and work?  Okay!  
  • What about the kidney table?  
  • The bungee chairs, the pillows, the soccer chairs?
  • They'll get to decide

It'll be interesting to see what they come up with!  They'll have to present their ideas to the class and then together, we'll come up with a workable plan.  To be honest, I keep trying to talk myself out of this, but part of me keeps coming back to it.

In the meantime, here are some posts from other teachers who have blogged about how they've arranged things.  See if you can find some good suggestions here!
Simply Secondary also had some great ideas!







Saturday, July 8, 2017

Three riveting World War II novels for upper elementary students



historical fiction, novels, reading, middle school, The Boy at the Top of the Mountain, Projekt 1065, The War that Saved My Life
Historical fiction is sometimes a tough sell for upper elementary students.  It's not that they don't like the ideas, it's that it often takes a while to establish the setting, and not all students are willing to wait that out to get to "the action."
This summer, I grabbed two unfamiliar books off my classroom shelves to read, hoping to get students as excited about them as they are about The War that Saved My Life.  I hadn't realized until I read them that both of the others were also about World War II.  All three books are very different from each other, but there are some common threads in the ways the characters grow, despite obstacles.
                                                         
Projekt 1065: A Novel of World War II by [Gratz, Alan]Michael, born in Ireland, now lives in Germany with his parents because his father is the Ambassador to Germany.  Michael's mother, with his father's blessing, works for the Resistance movement. Having witnessed the cruelty of the Nazis, Michael is willingly pulled into being a spy.  But he has to keep up pretenses, so he goes to school with German boys, burns books, and joins the Hitler Youth. This action-packed book, which may read a little fantastically to adults (it reminded me in some ways of the Alex Rider series) will keep students sitting on the edge of their seats.  Filled with enough suspense, action, and questions about friendships and trust - as well as short chapters! - students will want to keep reading this.
I like that Alan Gratz slips in historical information about World War II without students even knowing it.  For example, I wasn't aware that Projekt 1065 was Germany's plan to build a turbojet plane (all planes were propeller planes up to that point).  The book also provides an accurate depiction of what it was like to be involved in the Hitler Youth program.
                                                           
The Boy at the Top of the Mountain by [Boyne, John]John Boyne has written a complementary story to that of his famous book, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.   That one broke my heart.  This one left me with a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I didn't like it, but that doesn't mean it didn't move me.                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Pierrot lives in Paris with his French mother and German father, a man broken by his war experiences in World War I.  Eventually, his parents separate and after several years of living with his mother, she passes away from tuberculosis.  Pierrot goes to live with his father's sister, a woman who works as a housekeeper in a home on top of a mountain, which is used as a retreat house.  By Adolf Hitler.  
Although he is only there for brief periods of time, Hitler befriends Pierrot (renamed Pieter to sound more German).  And Pieter craves his attention, taking on the zealotry and bigotry that Hitler expounds on.  I couldn't put this book down although I wanted it to go in a very different direction than it did.  There are some powerful lessons here about how easily we can be taught to hate, especially if those messages come to us at a young age.

This would be a great read for someone interested in this time period but it does require a more mature, thoughtful student.  There's nothing graphic.  It just takes a different point of view from many other historical fiction novels about the Holocaust.
                                                     
Product DetailsThis book has become one of my favorite read-alouds the past few years.  Unlike other historical fiction books which take time to develop the setting first, this one starts off with a bang!  Students will be horror-struck by the way Ada's mother treats her because she was born with a clubfoot.                                                                                                                                                                       This perfect book to teach Growth Mindset is filled with adventures of a new kind.  Ada has been kept a virtual prisoner in her apartment and she emerges (spoiler alert!) by running away with her younger brother Jamie, who's being evacuated from London when the fears of London being bombed by Germany caused many children to be sent to the country to live with relatives.  Or strangers.

Ada and Jamie end up with Susan, a woman who doesn't really want to take them in, and declares herself "not nice."  And yet, her actions prove otherwise, and slowly but surely, each of the characters grows a little more friendly, a little more vulnerable, and a little more compassionate.  Ada's slow evolution from frightened child to more confident young woman is one that will have your students cheering her on.  What a beautiful book! 

There is a scene late in the book that always surprises my students (it did me too, the first time I read it.)  Honestly, it's worth reading out loud just to see the look on your students' faces at that point.  The fact that they're so hooked into Ada at that point shows what a brilliantly written, honestly felt book this is.

I have create a novel study, and a word search and crossword puzzle for this book, which you can find at my TpT store.


Sunday, July 2, 2017

Social Media: Why you should take advantage of Tailwind and tribes

Tailwind, Tailwind Tribes, Social Media
At last year's TpT conference, I  became sadly aware that my presence on social media was pretty nonexistent.  When I got home, I dove right in. Start an Instagram account?  Yup!  Create a Facebook page for my business?  Yup! Start pinning?  Yup!
It was summertime, after all.
And then the school year began....

Where should you spend most of your time?  Instagram, Pinterest or Facebook?  You can't judge them in the same way because they serve very different purposes.  But which is best for you?
Facebook:

  • Puts your information out to a large group of people.  If it happens to catch a lot of their eyes, hopefully they'll share it - that's how things go viral.  
  • Lasts a short while. Think of how much feed is above the first post you read when you've spent half an hour there!


Instagram:

  • Visual and quick.  
  • Great way to share your products and a little bit about yourself - combine some product pictures, some personal photos, and a few thoughtful or funny quotes and you're good to go.  
  • To keep people engaged, you need to have clear and engaging visuals 
  • Post a couple of hashtags that allow others to find you.  
  • Post regularly.  Like multiple times a day.  

Pinterest:

  • Slow moving, but has longer staying power.  
  • Different purpose - people don't use it to see what their friends are doing.  
  • Search and discover tool
  • Because people pin and oftentimes come back later to look at their pins, there's a shelf-life for pins that doesn't exist in the same way for Facebook and Instagram.

That difference taken me a year to figure out.  While my results will be different than yours, when I look at my analytics on TpT, Pinterest is always second behind TpT.  It makes sense to spend most of my limited time there.

So how does Tailwind fit in with Pinterest?

  • Tailwind is an "organizer" app that allows you to pin relevant pins, days, weeks, or months in advance.  
  • You receive pinning time recommendations based on your past history.  
  • You can pin as few as a couple of pins a day to over 100.  Don't go crazy!  I adjusted my numbers a few times before I found that 15 pins a day worked for me.  
  • If you want to take advantage of Tailwind, here's my referral link which will you give a free month's trial.  Tailwind also pins to Instagram now, so you can try that feature, too.

Tailwind Tribes should be a no-brainer!

  • They are free 
  • . Tribes vary by topic or grade level and most expect that you'll pin as many other peoples' pins as you post of your own.  
  • The beauty of tribes is that you benefit (and add to) the collective reach of your pins. Which means that your pins could get in front of thousands, or ten or hundreds of thousands of people you don't normally have access to.  
  • If you're not part of any tribes right now, ask on Facebook if you can join some.  Most tribes are open to having new members.

Remember: your goal is to have more time to create and revise products, not to be working on marketing.  It takes time to create a presence on each of these social media apps so pick the one that works best for you and spend your energy there!