Blog Discussion #5: CommonLit: An Online Library of Free Texts

commonlit-768x1017The first post I chose this week for my blog discussion assignment was CommonLit: An Online Library of Free Texts, published on the blog, Cult of Pedagogy. In this post, Jennifer Gonzalez shares a review of the site CommonLit. Gonzalez writes, “an online library of free literacy and informational texts. CommonLit helps teachers quickly locate leveled texts that fit into a lesson or unit, assess student understanding, generate discussion, and even pair the texts with other media, all in one free platform. She had me at free! So I had to stop reading the post and click on the link to CommonLit and found all the other goodies that she spoke of that is free! I really could have spent an entire week looking at all the resources available on the site; however, I have too much homework too complete. I now have a special spot on my iPad for sites to look at when I have free time, I have added this to the list.

Challenging, well written, short, pieces of text (free) organized in such a way that makes it easy for a teacher to locate what he or she needs to teach analyzing, specific literary elements, paraphrasing, and more (for free). You can even search by Common Core reading standards. Gonzalez finishes the post by sharing even more good news! The site adds an average of 10 new titles everyday so there will always be new information available. What an incredible resource this will be in my future classroom, I absolutely love finding resources like these that will allow me to complete my job better as a teacher without all the long hard hours of searching for the right text to complete my goals in the classroom. (oh and did I mention that I love that it is free?)
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Blog Discussion #4: 7 Tips for Better Classroom Management

The second post I chose this week for my blog discussion assignment was 7 Tips for Better Classroom Management, published on the website, Edutopia.

Secondary English teacher, Tyler Hester shares his ideas of what is at the heart of managing a classroom,
“In my mind, the first and most basic obligation of a teacher is to see the beauty that exists within every student. Every child is infinitely precious. Period. When we start from this vantage point, classroom management -- and its flip side, student engagement -- comes more easily. It's an outgrowth of students feeling loved and respected (para. 1,2). 
Tyler continues in his post with an example of this in the following thirty-minute video and by his list of seven tips.


  1.  Love Your Students
  2. Assume the Best in Your Students
  3. Praise What and When You Can
  4. Do Sweat the Small Stuff
  5. Identify Yourself
  6. Forge a Class Identity
  7. Have a Plan
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I found the article to be inspiring as I begin my Classroom Management Plan in EDUC 3302. Tyler’s points put words to my thoughts that I have about teaching middle school and the environment that I seek. 
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Blog Discussion #3: Article of the Week (AoW)

AoWThis week I chose for my blog discussion assignment this week was, #BestFirstWeekEver published on the blog Musings from the Middle School. Jenna Smith shares about her first week back to school for the 2016-17 year.

According to the article they had a successful week and she highlights a few things that they completed: Teaching Growth Mindset with the Paper Challenge, Icebreaker’s that Rock, Numbering Notebooks, Article of the Week and more. Each one these highlights she shares another blog post that she has written in the past, explaining the lesson/curriculum in full detail.

I spent quite a lot of time on this blog post reading each one of these individual posts. I thoroughly enjoyed Article of the Week. In Using Article of the Week in your classroom, Jenna first defines Article of the Week (AoW) as, 

“a great way to get students reading and interacting with lots of interesting and current informational texts” (para. 4).

Jenna uses these as homework in her middle school English/Language Arts classroom. Vale Middle School shares an article each week that is available to teachers and students free of charge. The middle school also provides scaffolded questions for each article based on CCSS which are editable so you can modify them to meet your student’s individual needs. A rubric and a student sample piece that one could model for expectations. Jenna states,

“I can’t say my students love them, but, they’ve gotten sort of amazing at close reading and analyzing them. And what’s more, they are learning about the world" (para. 7)! 

 I am definitely keeping this resource in hand for potential homework, classwork, or bell ringers in my future English/Language Arts classroom. Do you have any experience with Article of the Week? Please share any tips, complaints, or ideas in the comments!

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Blog Discussion #2: Purposeful Middle School Classroom Set-Up

   The second post I chose for my blog discussion assignment this week was, Back to School 2016 on the blog Musings from the Middle School. I decided upon this one, because Pinterest, blogs, Facebook, and Twitter are typically full of decoration, organization, and bulletin board ideas for the Elementary Classroom. This post is directed towards the middle school classroom, Jenna Smith highlights a few key features around her classroom: Photo Display, Article of the Week, While You Were Out, Daily Agenda, Objectives Wall, Classroom Library Display, Growth Mindset Posters, What I Am Reading (teachers book), and a Book Talk List. This post shares a picture of each one of these highlighted areas and a few areas include a link to a blog post that she has written about the purpose and the how to of the specific classroom component.

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I love how simple and purposeful these classroom decorations and bulletin boards are! I may not be in love with the actual colors or particular theme, but I love the ideas presented and the ability to make use of the different aspects of the room to serve a function in the day to day business of a classroom. It is also very organized and am sure will handle the ability to withstand 100+ students every day!  
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Blog Discussion #1: Relationship Building Journals

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This week for my blog discussion assignment, I chose to share the post How Dialogue Journals Build Teacher Student Relationships, published on the blog Cult of Pedagogy. Blog founder, Jennifer Gonzalez interviews Liz Galarza, a middle school writing teacher in New York, who uses dialogue journals to build relationships with her students. A dialogue journal is a simple spiral or composition notebook that students and teachers write letters back and forth to one another.

The first post is written by the teacher to the student, handwritten and personalized (using information she has found out about her students from an intake form). She notes that in this first letter she asks many questions to begin communication. Once she has written the letters to her students it is the students’ turn to respond, and the conversation has begun. The students are asked to write a minimum of one letter a week and turn them in once a week (she staggers them on different days for different periods). Teacher responses take about an hour a class period (when class time is busy she begins a two-week rotation). These journals are not graded, just marked for completion. This is about relationship building (with a little bit of writing practice sneaked in).

 I am in love with this idea! What a great opportunity to get to know your students, and allow them into your world too. While this relationship is building, learning is preparing to make its mark on the entire situation, on paper and in the classroom. I believe, if students feel they are connected to the teacher, and know that he or she cares for them, they are more open to listen to what he or she has to say. I am reminded of the movie/book entitled Freedom Writers, an English teacher who also uses journals to build relationships with her students. She does not respond back to the students; however, she reads them all. They share incredible, horrific moments in their life, the journal gives the students a voice, and in this rough neighborhood it is one that definitely needs to be heard. This journal changes the dynamic in the classroom and the learning begins to take place once the students know that their teacher has their back.


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It is quite the time commitment, yet how else does one get the opportunity to connect one on one with 100+ students each week?

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