I love history and it’s quite obvious when you are in my living quarters or classroom. Books are stacked on my shelves (most on my need-to-read list), displayed like trophies.

Since coming to my school, I’ve been putting a lot of my focus on basic English skills and reading/writing/grammar mechanics. Amazon has been a lifesaver and my co-workers have been nothing but generous when it comes to sharing resources. However, not being in my content area has been less than comforting.
English/Language Arts came easy to me all through school, but there are several things that fall into E-LA that I can’t explain. When students ask me questions, sometimes all I have for an answer is, “that’s just how it works in the English language.” I think I’ve learned just as much as my students have this year.

Never fear, we’re slowly incorporating historical texts in our 8th grade class! We’ve read several stories and excerpts that discuss people and events surrounding the Civil War: Harriet Tubman, Abe Lincoln, and Frederick Douglass to name a few. While browsing through some old resources in a cabinet, I came across a writing workshop. This workshop focuses on using descriptive language that walks students through activities on how to effectively describe a person based on different sources (of all mediums). One of the older textbooks has a wonderful story called  Mysterious Mr. Lincoln that uses exceptional imagery.

Can you guess who we’re going to do our descriptive writing workshop on? Obviously, Lincoln. I’m reading bits from the book Killing Lincoln by Bill O’Reilly. He gives us a different perspective of Lincoln, more of the internal battles Lincoln faced. The student’s have really enjoyed those bits. I have them close their eyes and create their own image of Lincoln as I am reading. Once we are finished with those, we’re going to watch Lincoln starring Daniel Day Lewis. If you have not had the opportunity to view it, I highly  recommend it. You are exposed to many different sides of the Civil War and the interpretation is relatively unbiased.

All has been well with this unit, I’m anxious to see the final products!



Amazon Addicted

Good morning, everyone!

As a teacher, I use Amazon quite frequently. Due to the copious amounts of money we teachers make, I have a hard time spending it all. Reread that sentence in sarcasm voice; we all know the truth. Even before I was a teacher, as a college student, I used Amazon for text books, computer/phone/tablet accessories, and even to rent movies! I also use it for gifts, decorations, and other daily items. It really has endless features to use.

Recently, I’ve come across a few blogs that share how to earn money/products by simply offering a review for products you purchase on Amazon. If I’m making purchases online, why not give a respectful, honest opinion about the product and get a little something on the side? I’m new to all this, so we’ll see how it goes.

I created my public profile and have signed up for one review site called Reviewsio. You earn points with each review you give and can get better deals on the items you purchase, from my humble understanding. This is a new adventure for me, but I haven’t found a downside yet. Check it out, if you’re also an Amazon addict. Saving money is an excellent hobby. 🙂

If it is something you’re interested in, click this link here.

Empty Shelf 2016

One of my favorite authors, Jon Acuff, introduced a challenge in December of 2013 for the upcoming year. Its called the Empty Shelf Challenge. You empty out a shelf somewhere in your home/office and as you finish a book, you add it to the shelf. I started this challenge last January, but fell of the train rather quickly.

This year, my goal is to read at least one book per month. I’m almost finished with my first book The No Complaining Rule by Jon Gordon. I highly recommend any book written by him, or Jon Acuff. Their books are easy to read and incredibly relateable. Jon Gordon even has a few books geared towards children.

To keep myself motivated, I’ve devised a schedule to provide deadlines. I always do well under pressure like that. 🙂 I have a list of books lined up and I’m hoping to get 13-15 read this year. I have a shelf at home ready to fill, but I also have a digital shelf on Pinterest that you can see here if you’re curious about my readings.

I’ve included the link to Jon’s blog describing the Empty Shelf Challenge here. I highly recommend browsing his site for all kinds of challenges and motivation, and some comedy here and there.



English-Language Arts is a great class to teach. As the teacher, you are providing the students with skills they’ll use daily throughout their adult life (in middle school, anyway). It’s rewarding hearing a student correcting themselves when they speak with incorrect grammar.


My love is history. I have a passion for bringing the events to life to help curve the stigma that “history is boring”.

*I’m a firm believer that those who do not study history, will be doomed to repeat it. If you don’t believe that, turn on any news channel and watch for 10 minutes. The discouragement of studying events of the past is causing issues in our society today.  Sorry, end of rant.*

As I dig deeper into the standards we must cover in E-LA, I’m finding that I can use stories of historical events to manipulate our skills. It’s quite exciting, for a nerd like myself. I’m finding excerpts of stories about Abraham Lincoln, Harriet Tubman, fiction characters of the Civil War. I am thrilled to finally be implementing my love into my work.

Maybe, hopefully, the school’s counselor gives me a history class or two in my schedule next year. I would love nothing more!

Happy New Year!

Wow, Christmas break went by way too quickly. Didn’t feel like much of a break at all, actually, with all of the traveling and lack of routine.

Now that it’s 2016, wedding festivities are getting into full swing. My bridesmaids and attendant hosted the cutest bridal shower for me this weekend. You could tell that they put hard work and thought into the event.

L-R: Megan, Susan, Kenzie, Me, Kimberly, Anna, Jenny

It was more than I could have asked for: coffee, cute mugs, and brunch! They incorporated the wedding colors (ivory, black, & gold), had fun games planned, and had the Heritage Room looking adorable.

I am so grateful for these wonderful ladies and for the guests who helped us celebrate. They went above and beyond to make this day special.

Just under four months to go!



Its so close…so close I can smell the pine needles. Christmas is just around the corner and my students’ efforts are showing as such.

The week after Thanksgiving break wasn’t bad. Attitudes were refreshed from the long weekend and we were very productive in the classroom! It’s truly a teacher’s dream. However, this week has shown to be a struggle.

Yes, I am aware we have only completed Monday. I’m making a point here. 

Today, all but one of my classes were reluctant to do anything.

  • Do we haaaave to use complete sentences?
  • Do we haaaave to fix all the corrections on DOL?
  • Do we haaaave to turn in our papers on Friday?
  • Do we haaaaave to have a parent signature in our planners?

In case you were wondering, all of these answers are yes 99.9% of the  year. 🙂

Motivation is down and we’re working to build it up. I’ve come across a few exciting (in my opinion) activities that will hopefully get us through the next 6 days.

On a positive note, I’ve recently added a Teacher’s Sarcasm board on Pinterest to bring a little humor to my day. I’m a firm believer that sarcasm benefits the middle school student. It is December and I shouldn’t have to answer the same questions I did in August. I have found many memes that would be hysterical responses. It takes all the power in me to keep from using them.

My favorite one is…

“I do this for the money,” said no teacher ever. Preach.

This wasn’t a warm-fuzzy blog, it happens. It’s only fair to show both sides of the coin. There are days of frustration, but only a small amount. This just happens to be one of them.

Back From Hiatus.

Its been a crazy few weeks with editing videos, grading essays, making finals, and Thanksgiving! I do apologize for not keeping up. 🙂

Last time, I discussed the videos my classes were making (7th and 8th grade) about what they were thankful for. This project turned out infinitely better than I had anticipated. It hits several standards (bonus points for me) and the students LOVED filming and watching their videos.

The 7th grade video can be viewed HERE. The 8th grade video can be viewed HERE.

Looking back, I would film all the students myself. I designated one student each class period to film after I had shown them how to work the camera. It was a great idea in theory, however, it became more of a time-waster than anything. Students feel more comfortable talking to a peer than a teacher, but this relaxed atmosphere created giggle fits–funny once or twice–and blurry recordings. It is also something I will probably make exclusive to the 8th grade. They are more mature and can handle filming on their own.

Positive things to take away from this activity: it taught my students that they CAN speak in front of people (in class or on YouTube) and it also sparked an idea to continue doing videos. Once our videos were finished, each class was given the opportunity to give feedback anonymously about the project. The 8th grade reviews were so enthusiastic, we decided to keep filming and create a weekly classroom vlog. Big goals for this group of young people, but I have no reservations about what they will be able to accomplish.

The vlog will allow the students to have more responsibility in the video process. We’ve discussed different jobs that are available and how to execute this. We’ll start in January after Christmas break with our weekly videos due to the chaos of these next few weeks. These kids continue to amaze me.


we are thankful.

Attitude of Gratitude To wrap up our grammar unit, we’re making a video! We are doing a multi-media project with the 7th and 8th grade. It is a video titled “I am thankful.”

I’ve broken the project down into a series of steps. We start by brainstorming the people and things we are thankful for and then why. I give them 1-2 minutes each category. There is no judgement in brainstorming; anything goes.

Then, Mix-Pair-Share, a Kagan structure, is used to gather more ideas and refine the not-so-great ideas. This is where we can start judging the ideas. I tried to emphasize the importance of sounding well-rounded when producing something that is public. We will be having a discussion about how to keep things fun, but appropriate. As you can imagine, that is a tough concept for middle schoolers. 🙂

Once we have solid ideas, we will begin writing. The idea is to build a speech. We’ll go through the steps of revising, peer editing, and speaking with a partner, then with a small group before we actually get in front of a camera. There are revising guides and peer editing checklists to give the students something to look for.

My friend, Kimberly, has agreed to teach me the ropes of movie editing. This will be a huge help when I’m attempting to compile all of the clips together. Obviously, we want bloopers.

The goal is to have everything edited and filmed by the the end of next week so we can have the video ready for Thanksgiving. Even if it is a total flop, I’m sure the kids will still enjoy the process.

chaos, cookies, & conferences

Holy intimidating. Now that the chaos is over, I have time to reflect on the madness. The best kind of madness, obviously. 

Gym floors are canvased, tables arranged ever-so precisely. We all have name plates at our tables; my table is in the middle of the floor, about half court.

Watching the parents come in was probably the most nerve-wracking part. I had no idea who these people were. I know their students, but to know the parents is a task.

My first two hours of conferences, I only had other teachers stop by my table to discuss their student. I appreciated that. It was a nice warm up and stress-reducer. They were good practice-rounds and helped me along as I stumbled through verbiage and my series of tasks I wanted to accomplish. Most gave suggestions, which I was so thankful for.

“Say it like this…” or “Start with a positive, end with a positive…”


I’m pretty sure my face broke out because of my nerves.

For the most part, the parents that showed up were the parents who have upstanding children. Seems to be pretty logical, students who care have parents who care. Of course, there are exceptions. Not every family is that way. Learning family dynamic is eye opening.

Meeting parents was great! I learned so much about the students by meeting and having small talk with their parents. A few parents had especially nice things to say about me, or shared their student’s perspectives of me. This was heartwarming. One mother even brought me a goody plate (which I shared with the masses, we’re trying to work on the wedding bods) to thank me for being a teacher. Makes all the paperwork and PD’s worth it when you hear how appreciated you are.

Third quarter conferences will be a breeze.

Identifying Nouns

For the last week, my 7th graders have been focusing on nouns (common, proper, concrete, abstract, collective) and verbs (action, state of being). What I thought would be a one day lesson turned into a week-long unit. I shared a picture on Monday and had several people ask what the process was, so this is my response. 🙂

My first resource was a workbook I found at Sam’s Club. It is a standard-based book for 6th graders, but I use it with all of my classes (6th-9th). It has a great introductory “funsheet” that discusses the differen2015-10-12 14.52.16t types of nouns and verbs. The types of nouns were defined at the top of the page, followed by examples. This was something I thought my 7th graders would nail on day one. Turns out to not be the case at all.

I started brainstorming. How can we get this to sink in? I was told by a mentor of mine back in high school that “repetition is the hammer that fastens the thought.” This is what sparked my ideas. The next class we defined each type of noun and wrote down examples one at a time. We discussed examples in the room, outside the room, and at home. We turned to partners and shared with them what each type of noun was and gave our own examples of them. Once we shared, we paired up with another person and came up with our own lists of each type of noun to share with the class.

The next day, we had a brief review over the different types of nouns. Today’s lesson was more of a game. Once we reviewed the definitions and two examples of each, I had them get out a piece of scratch paper and label different areas for the five types of nouns. I gave them 10 seconds of think time and 30 seconds to write down as many nouns as possible under one category. We did this five different times (one for each type). I had them share their categories with partners, partners would check them for accuracy and we’d discuss when necessary. By the end of the class period, each student had correctly labeled categories to take home with them.

Our next lesson was also more “game-like”. Each student was given 5 note cards. They labeled each one NOUN on one side. Then, on the opposite side, labeled CONCRETE, ABSTRACT, PROPER, COMMON, and COLLECTIVE. I had them look around the room and write nouns that fit under each category. We checked with partners to make sure our examples were correct, then I gave them 10 seconds each category to place their notecards near/on their nouns written on the card. Some students were more creative than others, which created healthy competition. The whole process took up the class period.

Our final (hopefully) activity focusing on nouns was a debate. We did the timed lists again to light the competitive fire. This time, we were not allowed to share with partners or check. Once we had all five lists created on our own, we began the debates. We “mix-pair-shared” one list with partners. If two partners had similar nouns, they marked them off and didn’t count them towards final points. Partners were aloud to correct and debate with each other over noun placement. If the debate became too heated, I stepped in to resolve. The partner with the most correctly placed nouns won and stayed in the winners bracket (double elimination). We mixed until there was only one winner.

Not everything went as smoothly as I had described. During the debates, I had two students shed tears. One student thought she was being bullied because no one would let her win, another was beat out in the final round. Two extremes of the spectrum of competition.

Sorry for the lengthy post, but I want to be able to look back at this and remember details for next year. 🙂