Pledge of Allegiance

My son’s class was scheduled to give morning announcements last week. When he missed class, he was very sad that he couldn’t help give the daily announcements. Never having heard the announcements before at the elementary school, I was blown away when my son asked if he could make his speech in the hotel room and preceded to give a four minute announcement that he had down verbatim! First he announced whose class he was from, then he said the pledge of allegiance in english, then in navajo (and he made mistakes but my students watched the video and said the pledge along with him and it sounded pretty close!). I’ve worked here for 12 years, and I still don’t know how to say the pledge in Navajo!  After the pledge, he announced a Navajo word of the day and gave a pep talk about NWEA testing.  What a great morning announcement!  I had to cut down the speech because it was too long to upload to my youtube account:)  Hope you enjoy the clip!  Completely not aligned with my typical website content, but children have a way of diverting our attention that way!

youtube clip:

News Article Analysis Worksheet

Part of the Social Studies Curriculum is to include the study of current events. I like to approach this as if they are training to become journalists. Yes, we focus on the content of the stories and how it applies to the Social Studies content, but I also like to make this a writing based unit.

First, students must learn some basics about journalism. We discuss the difference between “hard” and “soft” news.  Another important element of journalism that we focus on is the five Ws and the H that must be included in the story. The Five Ws and One H: the Secret to the Complete News Story is a great online article that explains why this information is vital to news articles. We discuss how hard news stories are written in an inverted pyramid style, which means these significant facts are packed into the beginning of the story.  Soft news features do the opposite and typically sprinkle the significant facts throughout the story.  Students practice reading articles and extract this information as they read. Here is an analysis worksheet I have implemented in my classroom. I’ve doctored it up a bit over the years, but this handout is something I’ve used for many years in some variation or other.

News Article Analysis Worksheet

Another great way to further support students’ skills at identifying the five Ws and the one H is to have them practice writing a news article.  First, I have them do a fun writing assignment where they draft a news article based on a well known fairy tale.  Next, they take an event in history they have studied during the school year and report on that event.  I would like to coordinate this unit with the ELA teacher, because I think it has great potential to become a strong across curriculum unit shared between the two content areas.

If you would like to explore the idea of having students write a news article based on a fairy tale, here is a link to some online resources that will help with this assignment.

The 5 Ws Daily News worksheets

Here is a smilier worksheet to the ones above, but this one focuses on making the news story a social studies relevant assignment rather than connecting the writing to fairy tales.  SocialStudiesNewsArticle

Literature Circle Task Forms

In my last post I described our upcoming Literature Circles project. My materials link included schedules and forms for the specific books we are using next week.  If teachers want to use the task forms for other literature books, they won’t want all the pages in my earlier post. Here is a link that includes only the task pages and rubrics. Six pages- much simpler to view. Enjoy :)


My heart is melting just a little bit right now. Riley is playing teacher with her friend and they are making worksheets! Here is Riley showing off her classwork- “Put the letter J in the afbet soop.” You can’t see it in the picture, but Gavin is standing with his nose in the corner because the girls told him he didn’t do his homework…  too cute!


How to Implement Literature Circles

The Grand Plan: Literature Circles. The ELA teacher and I want to end the school year with a literature circle project. This will be a challenge. Keeping one hundred 7th graders engaged and on task while reading a novel is difficult, let alone getting them to have in-depth, student-led discussions about the text. Student-driven discussions are the basis for literature circles. The execution of the discussion circles will have to be meticulously planned in order for us to finish this project in such a  short amount of time. I plan to rely on structure, structure, structure to make it happen! And I will be crossing my fingers and toes and praying that my students cooperate! :)


Step one: Choose the book or books. Our high school library had a 4 book series of fictional novels set during World War II that have luckily just been bequested to the middle school. (Yay!) The four novels include: Early Sunday Morning,  The Journal of Ben Uchida, The Journal of Scott Pendleton Collins and My Secret War. These scholastic books have a recommended interest level of 6th to 8th grade and a Lexile Level measure of 930L.  Another plus is two of the books involve female main characters and two have male main characters. We have just enough copies to have a set in both the Social Studies and ELA classroom.

Step two: Plan groups and assign which novel each group will read.  The Literature Circles materials linked at the end of this post include a blank table for listing students in each group.

Step three: Create a Reading Schedule for each book.  As the end of year is approaching, it is critical that students stick to the planned daily reading assignments to ensure they finish reading the book within ten days.  For this to happen, the expectations must be clearly communicated.  The schedule includes what pages to read, which classroom to read them in, when group discussions will be due, and when presentations to the teacher will occur. Examples of our schedules are included in pages 1-4 of our Literature Circle materials.

Step four:  Decide on Roles.  I found there are a plethora of roles to choose from after doing some research and getting materials from our high school librarian and instructional coach.  The five roles outlined in our materials packet include the following:

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Step five:  Develop Task Forms for Each Role.  This was the fun part!  I really liked making these.  I found some great free clipart from a site which allows free use of the images as long as a link to their site is included on the web page and credits are given on the document (here is the link  The task forms are pages 6-10 in the materials packet.  Here is an image of page 6 just to give you an idea what the task forms look like:

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Step six:  Plan Method of Group Accountability. All students must participate during meetings in order for the group to have a successful discussion.  To this end, I developed a rubric (page 15) based on four items of criteria (quality of participation in discussion, quality of role presentation, quality of written work, and time management).  Students will complete a group evaluation form (page 16) every other day following their team meeting.

What I’ve got so far: Literature-Circles-WWII-Materials

My next steps: 

1. Prepare a practice round of how to implement the roles.  One “model group” will perform the roles for the class using a children’s book The Dot (here is an animated link to this awesome children’s story: .  My little ones ADORE this book and I bet I’ve read it to them a hundred times. I think my students will like it as well. After introduction to the roles, they will begin reading.

2. Create fun Role Name tents that will set on their desks to help the group members know who is acting in what role during discussion.

3. Prepare links for the investigator to use and add them to the social studies class website.

4. Prepare reading task cards.  I love task cards!!!  I want to make a set of cards that ask reading reflection questions like “what is your favorite part of the book?” or “why do you like or dislike the main character?” etc.  If every student gets a task card, they are told to stand up and move around the room until they have shared task cards with at least 10 other students. This way they get to interact with students reading a book different then the book their group is reading. Students can make a quick matrix in their notebooks to record their answers.  Just need to make the cards.

5. Develop enhancement activities for my speedy readers.  I’m sure that while I might have readers who struggle to finish by the deadline, I will have just as many who finish quickly and will want something else to do while they wait on team members to catch up.

6.  Plan the culminating project- nothing too elaborate because it will be the last week of school!!!! Yippeee!  This cartoon was posted on Facebook recently by our Curriculum Director… hahahaha!


Yertle the Turtle: an Allegory about Dictators

This post is for Social Studies teachers who need to introduce the concept of dictators. The lesson is shared as a prezi. This is the second prezi project I have made. I think this one was a little easier to make than the first one. I’m getting the hang of it :) I tried to include a video clip within the prezi but loading the video was really slow, so instead I included a link to the video below that can be viewed before beginning the prezi. If you want to use this prezi for a social studies lesson, there is also a LP linked to my Lesson Plan page.

Link to animated story: Yertle the Turtle
The Prezi can be opened at the following site:  Yertle the Turtle Prezi

School Librarian Shout Out!

One of my FAVORITE parts of teaching is accumulating resources. Whether it is instructional strategies, new technology resources, a new book, a new worksheet, a new expo marker, a freshly sharpened pencil… it doesn’t matter how big or small… .I LOVE resources. I don’t think I ever outgrew the absolute love I had as a child when we would go “school supply shopping”. I can still recall that burst of happy energy I would get as a kid when I would fill my backpack with fresh, unused notebooks and folders. As a teacher, that love for school materials has expanded beyond the school supply aisle at Wal-Mart to include research books on Amazon, instructional strategy searches on Google, and goodness don’t get me started on Pinterest. I have killed SO MANY HOURS on Pinterest I should be ashamed.

Sometimes the best place to go for resources isn’t a website or a store. If your school is lucky, it is the school librarian! One thing I think our district struggles with is sharing among schools, whether it is ideas, materials, or staff expertise. There is one person in Pinon who truly supersedes this limitation. The high school librarian is amazing. My last post mentioned how important it was to BE EXTRAORDINARY if we want to make a difference. Well, Anne Cambridge should be pictured next to the word in the dictionary!!! And I’m not just saying that because I consider her a friend! Her love for reading and her passion for students is incredibly inspiring. Yesterday I went to visit her at the high school with the vague mission of finding a novel that I recalled coming across in the PHS library years ago when I taught there. No title, no author,very slim description…I just remembered thinking that this book should be for middle school students. Based on this description, she not only found the book, but an entire class set. The books are Scholastic “Diary of America” book sets about World War II. I was thrilled!

Don’t judge me- but as a teacher, the months of April and May are the pits. The AZ Merit test is over. The NWEA test is looming. The kids are burnt out. The teachers are burnt out. According to my curriculum map, I should start economics next week and continue to the end of the school year…. I think I’m going to make some map adjustments, complete my economics unit quickly, and begin this book set. My dread of the last month of the school year is abated thanks to my visit to Anne. Not only am I not dreading these weeks, but I am getting really excited. The ELA teacher wants to co-teach the unit, and we have enough of the books to have a set for both classrooms, so the instructional planning will be shared. Anne has offered some resources about literature circles. I can’t remember the last time I felt this excited about the tail end of the school year! I’ve been looking up lit circle strategies, and retelling sticks, and group reading tracking forms. So many new resources to research!!!

We are very lucky to have a librarian who LOVES books. She is a pro at matching books to students. She knows our curriculum and can find anything we need and make recommendations we haven’t even thought about. Not only does she have a degree in library science, but she is also a certified english teacher. She volunteers to co-teach and is often the person to initiate the co-teaching idea; she has introduced the 7th grade to a multitude of available research tools on the Navajo County public library site; she brought this novel set to my grade level. I find her constantly helpful at the middle school even though she works at the high school!! She is truly there for every teacher in the district, not just her building level. She rocks! Not only that- but she has introduced me to SOOOO many books for personal reading…I hope every school has such an amazing resource in their librarian!
Thanks to this new unit, I get to approach the end of the school year as if it is a fresh new challenge awaiting resources, ideas, and collaboration! :) I have that giddy-school-supply-shopping feeling again as I approach a new unit!!!
Thanks, Anne!


I am currently reading a book called Closing the Attitude Gap by Baruti K. Kafele. It’s really good. Kafele states “In classrooms across the United States, teachers are feeling the pressure to perform to a degree that I believe has never before been seen in Achievement levels must rise, so the number-one priority in schools is raising test scores…” A pretty obvious statement, but it is always nice to hear someone acknowledge the challenging pressure we are under. Our school has spent the last three weeks taking the computer based AZ Merit test. You could feel the tension in the air. Kafele argues throughout the book that the panic and pressure felt by educators and students must be handled with support from a strong school culture and climate.

Here is my favorite quote from the book so far…

“If you are going to do your part to produce extraordinary results, you have to feel extraordinary as an educator. After all, how can you consider it realistic that you will achieve extraordinary results if you don’t even know what “extraordinary” feels like?”

I love this thought. So motivating. Every school administrator needs to remember this as they advise their staff. Teachers need to remember this as we communicate with our students. We all need to be told daily how incredible we are :) We have to FEEL extraordinary!



What is an infographic?

The world is so plugged in to technology these days, that there seems to be something almost archaic about simple word documents.  They seem so flat and lifeless compared to the information we are constantly perusing day to day on our mobile devices, computers, and televisions.  Printed material is never going to disappear, but there is no reason it can’t sometimes catch up with the flashy world of technology, right?  On Pinterest, I’ve been tagging lots of documents that display information in tables, graphs, and flowcharts.  They are interesting and eye-catching, and while I liked them, I didn’t even know what they were called. Here is an example of one such flowchart that caught my eye:


After googling with searches like “how to make flowcharts/ posters/ diagrams”…. I finally stumbled on the word used to apply to these great little gems…. “infographics”.  Okay, so now I know what they are called, but what I really want to know is how to make them. After a little more searching I found a free online software that can help teachers create their own interesting graphic displays.  If you want to try to make your own infographic, try this website:

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Before you click on the piktochart website above, I want to give you fair warning.  After you set up your free account (they just need an email address) and you begin selecting which template you want to use, ONLY look at the first two rows.  I made the mistake of browsing all of them and getting really excited about the multitude of options, only to find out the free membership only gives you access to the first two rows.  The available options are still great, just a lot fewer in number.  Access to all the choices requires paid membership and the annual fee is almost $300.00.  So I suggest avoiding temptation and don’t even look at the entire library of templates… unless you plan on making lots of infographics and have some money to burn :)

Here is the template I decided to use.  The software is SO easy, it only took about 20 minutes to make this simple graphic.  (It took me longer to discover what these graphics were called than to make one!)  Just click on the template you want, then select the text icon when you want to type or select the image icon to search/ add pictures.  Very easy.  Here is my first infographic….

After saving your project, you can download it, share it, or publish it. If you download, I found that I had to change the file format setting from png to jpeg. I also shared it directly from to my pinterest account. If you publish it to a website, you just have to copy the embed code and paste it into the text block of your blog.

Super easy!  And again… FREE!

So why am I making graphic images and blogging when I should be teaching my 4th period right now?  I stayed home today because this little guy is sick….



Using Google to create a class website

I’ve been wanting to create a class website for awhile.  Our school just purchased mobile iPad labs a couple of months ago, so that option is awaking me to the possibilities of bringing more technology to my classroom. It’s been a while since I’ve had a class site, so I had to research what my options were. The last time I created a class site I used iWeb, which was expensive. This blog is written on wordpress (which is free) and stored on a dream host domain (which is not free- but still not as expensive as iWeb used to be). My priorities in class platforms were 1) user-friendly and 2) free… Most teacher blogs I read claim google is one of the best options to create a free classroom website so I started there.  Just go to the web address You do have to create a google account if you don’t already have one. When you log in you are asked to create a name for the site.  This can be frustrating, because all the good names are taken :( After choosing the Classroom Template, the page was pretty much built for me. It took me a while to figure out how to edit some areas of the site. Overall, it was pretty simple, and given that it’s free, I can’t complain too much.  You have to pretty much stick to the template- there isn’t a lot of flexibility. I still haven’t figured out how to update or change the calendar and the poll. I’m not finished setting up the site but it’s a start.  Here is what I’ve got so far…

Now I’ll just have to wait until AZ Merit testing and NWEA testing are over to introduce it to the students.  Until testing is finished the mobile labs will be tied up…

Create Online Review Games

I was looking for a quick template to use for creating a review game and I stumbled on a great website.

Every teacher at some point has created a jeopardy game using a powerpoint template.  Nothing new there.  Still, I really like this site because after you create the game, it can be accessed online.  This means that kids who have internet access at home could actually practice the review game as homework! Another cool feature of this version of jeopardy is that it can keep track of multiple team scores.  Also, you can adjust and set a timer so that students must answer within a time limit.

Speed Match and Who Wants to Be a Millionare are also available on this website.  I created a Speed Match review game for my students to complete during their computer science class.  Our computer teacher is currently using the iPads since our labs are being used for the AZ Merit testing.  So he kindly agreed to have the students play the game on the iPads tomorrow.  I’ve only played it on the laptop using the mouse, but I think on the iPad students will be able to touch the screen to move the cards which should make it more tactile and interesting.

Great site.  And it’s FREE!