Monday, February 19, 2018

8 Amazing Blogs for Middle School Teachers

These blogs are always on my reading list because they're filled with a wealth of information and resources for middle school teachers and homeschool groups!
I'm Lovin' Lit

Erin's blog is filled with great ideas for middle school language arts teachers. I love her tips on using interactive notebooks and her general advice on being successful in a middle school classroom. She always has wise words to offer her readers!

Secondary Sara

Sara writes about all things reading and language arts on her blog. As a social studies teacher, I love using her blog to gain helpful tips on creating engaging writing activities for my own students and learning about ways I can support the ELA teacher on my team.

Maneuvering in the Middle

Noelle is a math teacher extraordinaire! Her blog is chock-full of ideas to engage students in math class. Her website is beautifully designed and her content is relevant and insightful. She even has posts that appeal to teachers who teach other subjects, like this one that I love: 12 Creative Incentives for Middle School. Your math colleagues will thank you for passing it along to them!

Stephanie's History Store Blog

Stephanie's blog is perfect for middle school social studies teachers. She has tips on teaching kids in middle grades and writes about fun and engaging ideas for history classes. I loved her blog post about analyzing historical images!

The Science Duo

Beyond a beautifully designed blog, The Science Duo are known for writing tons of helpful posts specifically for science teachers in secondary grades. I love their idea for a domino review game - it's definitely a post I'm passing along to my friends in science class!

Brainy Apples

Heather's blog is designed for teachers looking to go the extra mile for their students. You can feel her passion for teaching exploding from her posts. Although she writes about a variety of subject matters, one of my go-to posts is about using primary sources in the classroom. She brought up a lot of important points that every social studies and language arts teacher should read, in my opinion! We should all strive to use more primary sources in our units. :)
The Cult of Pedagogy

Jennifer's blog is a powerhouse of content for teachers and administrators. I could spend hours pouring over the posts on her blog. One area in particular that I find unique and relevant are her posts on educator collaboration. I firmly believe that by working together, teachers can create resources of the highest quality. Collaboration can be really tough...but it can also be one of the most beautiful experiences on campus.

Minds in Bloom

Rachel's blog is well-known for creating helpful content for teachers in many grade levels and always features stellar blog posts from guest writers. From parent involvement in the classroom to novel ideas to excite kids in pretty much every subject in school, Rachel's blog is a great resource for every middle school teacher.

If you think I need to add a blog to my reading list, please leave me a message in the comments section!

Monday, February 5, 2018

Reflection Connection: February

February is the month of pastel hearts, cupid's arrows and little treats to show you care. In the spirit of love and all things wonderful, this month's Reflection Connection gives us an opportunity to consider what we love most about being an educator. Some of us are definitely in difficult positions or are dealing with a lot of stress at work. Still, it's important to regularly reflect on the positive aspects of life to keep everything in perspective. :)
Question: What do you love most about being an educator?
My Response: I love so many aspects about being an educator that it's pretty hard to choose just one! I love finding and designing lessons that make history come alive for my students and I'm very blessed to have supportive teammates and colleagues who collaborate to create engaging activities and a positive atmosphere. Most of all, I love working with students to instruct them in historical content and teach them life and social skills that they can use in the years to come. Middle school can be a confusing and exciting time in a young person's life. I'm thrilled that I get to guide them along in their journey, even if for just a brief time.
Now it's your turn. Leave your response in the comments below or write it into your reflection journal!

Monday, January 22, 2018

The Best Websites for Teaching the Constitution

 I love teaching students about the Constitution. It can certainly be challenging, but there's a beauty to the document that's undeniable - after all, it's one of our country's founding documents! I love to encourage my students to explore it in depth, debate it's principles and understand that it's a "living" piece of our government. Finding ways to link it to modern news stories is always interesting and my students love seeing the modern day implications of the decisions our Founding Fathers made two centuries ago. While nothing can truly beat studying the actual text of the Constitution, there are some useful websites that help bring it to life in new ways. Without further ado, here are my favorite websites for teaching the concepts in the Constitution:

The Constitutional Convention: Before diving into the Constitution, it's important to set the stage. Teaching American History has a fantastic interactive site that discusses various aspects of the convention in an engaging way. From interactive paintings to in-depth information about the delegates, this website covers it all. Click HERE to check it out for yourself.

Interactive Constitution: This is one of my favorite websites to use to examine the text of the Constitution. The website breaks down the Constitution into manageable sections and summarizes the content while providing student-friendly examples. Check it out HERE.

iCivics: I know I've probably said this before on the blog, but my students L.O.V.E. iCivics. They actually beg to play the games if they finish a test early during class. It's music to this teacher's ears because they're actually learning while playing a computer game. Genius. There are several games that pertain to the Constitution and honestly I find so many effective that I can't pick just one favorite! Click HERE to see the full list of games available. Don't be surprised if you find time slipping away quickly while testing these games out for your classroom!

National Constitution Center Games: Along with creating that amazing interactive Constitution resource I mentioned above, the National Constitution Center also has a page with games that reinforce Constitutional concepts. There are four to choose from - the "Which Founding Father Are You?" activity was fun and educational! Click HERE to visit the site.

The Constitution: Many of us have access to a textbook with a copy of the Constitution inside, but if you're the exception or prefer have a digital copy available online for your students to access at home, look no further than the National Archives. They have a transcript of the Constitution HERE for all to read.

Did I miss any websites? If so, let me know in the comments. I'm always on the hunt for great resources for my classroom!

Monday, January 15, 2018

How to Use Reader's Theaters in Middle School

One of my favorite ways to engage my students in historical content is through the use of reader's theaters. Reader's theaters are small skits that students read aloud either in small groups or to the whole class. I use them in social studies and they are commonly used in ELA. I'd love to see more geared towards science content as well! Here's how I use reader's theaters with my middle school students:

The Prep

Before using a reader's theater skit, I determine if there's any vocabulary words that my students need to understand. If so, I teach them the key words first.
The Reader's Theater
I've used reader's theaters both to introduce and reinforce content. That's the beauty of this type of activity - each teacher has full discretion over when to use it! I always use them as a whole class activity. I choose some students (usually volunteers) to play the roles and provide each student with a script. Since I use many reader's theaters throughout the year, I ensure that every student has the opportunity to be part of at least one skit. Usually there's plenty of roles for students to become historical figures multiple times throughout the year. As the small group reads and acts out the skit, the rest of the class watches and listens quietly. Since the skits are short, engaging and informative, the students LOVE to watch their peers!
The Assessment
After the reader's theater ends, I hold a brief class discussion to asses student understanding of the content. If you purchase the reader's theaters from my TpT store, there are 5 discussion questions already included. I use that time to address questions, take student comments and connect the skit to the concepts we've been learning in class.
From start to finish, the whole process usually takes 20 - 30 minutes depending upon the amount of time needed during the prep phase. Overall, they are an efficient and engaging way to reinforce my classroom content!
If you're interested in trying one out in your classroom for free, click HERE to download the Declaration of Independence Reader's Theater Freebie from my TpT store.
To see all the Reader's Theaters currently offered in The Teacher's Prep store, click HERE! I'm adding to the collection all the time.
Happy Teaching!

Monday, January 8, 2018

The Best Hashtags for Teachers on Instagram

Finding ways to connect with other teachers online is easier than ever if you use the right hashtags! Hashtags are words or phrases preceded by a pound (#) sign. They are used to group posts by topic to make searching for pictures, statuses, tweets, etc. easier.
While many hashtags will connect you with other educators, some are more popular than others. I love using hashtags to find new social media accounts to follow while gathering inspiration from fellow teachers.
Before you jump into the world of education hashtags, think carefully about how many hashtags you're using on your posts. Buffer suggests only using two for Twitter while on Instagram you can get away with 11 and still see a high level of engagement. Click here to read the blog post on Buffer to learn more.
Here is a list of some of the most popular hashtags that educators are using on Instagram, in no particular order:


Have I missed any? Leave a comment below and I'll look into it! :)

Monday, January 1, 2018

Reflection Connection: January

The first days of January always feel so full of promise. We set goals for the new calendar year and make plans to grow personally and professionally. This entry in our reflection journals is a very personal one and honestly quite challenging to write.

Entry 6: What unique talents do you bring to the classroom? What makes you a good teacher?

My Response: So often we are asked to think of how we can improve...always implored to think of ways we can increase the learning gains of our students. It's important that we reflect and improve our practices, but it's equally important that we consider what we have already achieved and "toot our own horn" to celebrate our own selves. This month, reflect on your incredible talents and the things you do to change the lives of your students. You are amazing - recognize it! :)

Monday, December 4, 2017

Reflection Connection: December

YOU GUYS! I feel like a little kid this time of year because I LOVE the Christmas season! As soon as Thanksgiving is over, I'm whisking out all of the decorations and blaring Christmas music in the house. It's truly the most wonderful time of the year! This month's Reflection Connection is all about joy.

Entry 5: What brings you the most joy each day?

My Response: On a professional level, seeing my students collaborate well with their classmates and make good decisions brings me the most joy. As a teacher, I aim to help my students learn how to be compassionate individuals who can navigate our diverse world with understanding and kindness. Watching them learn those skills and deal with challenges in a productive way brings so much joy to my heart because I know (hope!) that these are skills they'll take with them long after they leave my classroom.

Your turn: What brings you the most joy each day?