Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Science Fiction Booktalks

Tuesday is library day for GOAL students, and today I booktalked science fiction. GOAL students need to have 3 science fiction books read by the end of the school year, so hopefully they're well on their way!

Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Interstellar Pig by William Sleator

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle

The Power of Un by Nancy Etchemendy

House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

The Search for Snout by Bruce Coville

Monday, December 20, 2010

Weekly Preview: 12/20-12/22

Can we make it 3 days? YES, WE CAN! :)

6th GOAL: This week will wrap up your library time for independent project research. You can continue over the break, if you need to, but we will not take any more class time for research.

7th GOAL: We're finishing up independent project presentations this week. If we finish early, we'll be having quiz bowl competitions and other similar mental feats of strength.

8th GOAL: We'll take the rest of class time this week to finish up independent research projects. We'll start presenting right when you get back on the 3rd of January, so make sure you're ready to go with bibliographies printed out and presentations rehearsed.

7th Language Arts: No spelling this week. We'll be focusing on Writer's Workshop for these last 3 days before break. Any writing that you want to count on your quarter grade must be turned in for teacher edit by the end of the day on Wednesday. This means the rough draft is written and revised, the 2nd draft is peer conferenced and fixed, and the 3rd draft has been carefully self-edited. Fill out your turquoise "Teacher Response Form," clip everything together from the best draft down to the worst draft, and turn it into the bin. Good luck!

I hope all of you out in CyberLand have a wonderful, restful holiday break. It's time to count the blessings in our lives, and my students at Fairfield Middle School are among my biggest blessings! See you next year! ;)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Library Day Booktalks: Mysteries

Today was library day, and I booktalked the following selections in the mystery genre. GOAL students should be getting about halfway done with their 40 book contract for the year. 2 of those are mysteries, so I hope these booktalks helped with that requirement!

The Dark and Deadly Pool by Joan Lowery Nixon

Deep and Dark and Dangerous by Mary Downing Hahn

Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett

The Wright 3 by Blue Balliett

The Calder Game by Blue Balliett

I So Don't Do Mysteries by Barrie Summy

Stolen Children by Peg Kehret

The 100 Year Old Secret by Tracy Barrett

Adam Canfield of the Slash by Michael Winerip

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Weekly Preview: 12/13-12/17

It's getting closer and closer to Christmas break, so I'm sure things are bustling in every household. They're bustling at school too! Friday we'll have our annual FMS talent show which is always a big hit. The cast list is also posted for Bye Bye Birdie, and we'll have our first rehearsal this Thursday to read through the show and pass out scripts & cd's. Stop by room 101 to check the list and put your initials by your part to let me know you've seen the list and accept your role.

Here's what else is going on in room 101 this week:

6th GOAL: We will be continuing our library research this week for Independent Research Projects. On Monday, Mrs. Lantz will be showing how to use the online databases. Please use them before trying Google. Your research will be much more productive!

7th GOAL: Hopefully, we'll be finishing up the presentations for our Independent Projects this week. We saw some fantastic work last week. I can't wait to see what else is in store!

8th GOAL: Wednesday will be the last day for research in the library for Independent Research Projects. After that, you'll have until Christmas break to work in class on the projects you'll start presenting on January 3.

7th Language Arts: Monday will be devoted to spelling. The theme for this week is Adding Suffixes that Change Stress of Words. Pretest corrections and p. 100 (1-20) are due Wednesday. For the remainder of the week, we'll work on our Writer's Workshop stories. Remember, these are due for teacher edit by Christmas break which means your story is written, revised, typed, peer-conferenced twice, and carefully edited. You have a lot of work to do to make the deadline. 1/2 your grade comes from the rubric on the back of the page given in class (quality). The other 1/2 (quantity) comes from the following scale: 3+ final draft pages = A, 2+ final draft pages = B, 1+ final draft page = C, and a piece submitted for teacher edit without reaching final draft stage = D.

Week 16 Spelling Words

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Historical Fiction Booktalks

Tuesday means library day for GOAL students. Today I booktalked the following historical fiction selections:

Voyage on the Great Titanic by Ellen Emerson White
Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis
Brooklyn Bridge by Karen Hesse
Piratica by Tanith Lee
The Broken Blade by William Durbin


Monday, December 6, 2010

Weekly Preview: 12/6-12/10

6th GOAL: 6th grade GOAL students will be finishing up their last mock trial and moving into independent research projects. They will be brainstorming for topics, and then they will be researching in the library. Their research will be due on the last day before Christmas Break, and then they'll have that first week to work on projects in class. Presentations will begin on the first day of the new semester, January 10.

7th GOAL: 7th grade GOAL students will be presenting their independent research projects, starting on Wednesday. Everything needs to be done by this time, including bibliographies.

8th GOAL: 8th grade GOAL students will be spending this week in the library, researching for their independent research projects. They will 4 days before break to work on their projects in class, and presentations will begin right on January 3, when they return from Christmas break.

7th Language Arts: Spelling is a difficult list this week (Frequently Misspelled Words), so 7th grade language arts students need to pay special attention to pretest rewrites and the assignment due Wednesday (p. 94, 1-20). Starting on Tuesday, we will be introducing the writer's workshop process and working on workshopping stories on topics of the students' choices until Christmas Break. The deadline for teacher edit will be the last day before Christmas Break.

Week 15 Spelling Words


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bye Bye Birdie Links

The internet connection was not cooperating today in Drama Club, so here are some links to different productions of Bye Bye Birdie to watch. Auditions for the show are Tuesday, December 7, and Wednesday, December 8, after school in the cafetorium. There are TONS of roles for both cast and crew, both singing and nonsinging, both speaking and nonspeaking, so I hope everyone will turn up for a great production!


Monday, November 29, 2010

Weekly Preview: 11/29-12/3

I'm full of turkey and ready for a brand new week! :) Hope you all are too!

6th GOAL: This week, we'll be starting our civil trial. Jack & Jill will be on the witness stand! After wrapping up our mock trial unit, 6th grade GOAL students will move into independent research projects.

7th GOAL: Our independent research is done, and now we're moving into the project phase of the unit. Students will have this week to work on how they're going to show what they've learned to the class. Here is a great link that I used this summer in my Web 2.0 Tools Class. If you're not sure how you want to present, browse through these websites and look at all the possibilities. Remember that your INFORMATION is the important part. How you present is just the vehicle that you're using to show us what you learned. Don't forget to use the rubric I provided in class to see how the project will be graded.

8th GOAL: We'll be using this week to continue research for our independent research projects. Our goal is to become the expert on our topics!

7th Language Arts: We'll be finishing our pen pal letters this week. Final drafts will be due by the end of class on Thursday with all corrections finished from my teacher edits. Spelling words for Week 14 focus on the suffixes -able and -ible. It's a challenging list. Page 88 (1-20) and pretest corrections are due Wednesday.

Week 14 Spelling Words

Sunday, November 28, 2010

6th Grade Writing Opportunity

The Old Creamery Theatre Company is having its annual writing contest, and 1st-6th graders are eligible to enter, so give it a try! Click here for details!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Weekly Preview: 11/22-11/23

It's going to be a short week here at FMS, but we're going to cram a lot into these 2 days!

6th GOAL: We'll continue our mock trials on Monday. We'll be finishing up our criminal trial and moving into our civil trial. We'll also be planning some questions for our Tuesday field trip. On Tuesday, during the regular GOAL class period, we'll be traveling to the Jefferson County Courthouse to take a tour and meet a judge. It will be a short trip, but it will improve our understanding of the trial process.

7th GOAL: Monday and Tuesday will be our last days to research for Independent Research Projects. Of course, more research can be done at home over Thanksgiving break if needed, but we won't take any more time after this week. Make sure your facts are ready, your daily logs are completed, and your NoodleBib is started! Mrs. Lantz will also be helping us learn how to use Diigo to keep track of all our online bookmarks so we can have them wherever we have internet access.

8th GOAL: We will be continuing our research for Independent Research Projects this week. Mrs. Lantz will also be showing our class how to use Diigo to keep track of our online bookmarks.


7th Language Arts: No spelling this week! We'll be working on pen pal letters this week. They're due for teacher edit by the end of the day Tuesday. This means the rough draft is written and revised, draft 2 is typed and peer-conferenced, draft 3 is self-edited for conventions and as close to perfect as possible, and an envelope is addressed and attached.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Weekly Preview: 11/15-11/19

Here's what's coming up next week in Room 101!

6th GOAL: 6th grade GOAL students are in the middle of their mock trial unit. Next week we'll have a local lawyer come to class to answer questions and tell us more about the American Judicial System. Then, we'll be ready to begin our first trial, The State vs. Hansel and Gretel Schmidt! Students have been prepping for the trial this week, and next week, the big event begins!

7th GOAL: 7th grade GOAL students are working on independent research projects. Topics have been chosen, and they will have next week to research and become the experts on their topics. Thursday will be our last day in the library, and we'll be wrapping up the research time using resources in our classroom.

8th GOAL: 8th grade GOAL students are finishing up the Holocaust unit by reading the play of The Diary of Anne Frank out loud. When we're done with this culminating activity, we'll get started on Independent Research Projects.

GOAL students have all started responding to the books I'm reading out loud on a class wiki. Links to the wikis can be found on the right-hand margin of this blog. Wikis are able to be viewed by anyone, but only invited members of the GOAL classes can respond. They are to use their school usernames and passwords for safety. 6th graders are hearing Things Not Seen by Andrew Clements. 7th graders are hearing The Cardturner by Louis Sachar. 8th graders are hearing To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

7th Language Arts: This week will be full of writing. Students will be working on the final drafts of their RAFT stories, corrected from teacher edits. Then they'll be starting a new pen pal letter for the 2nd quarter. Spelling for Week 13 focuses on the suffix "-ly." Pretest corrections and p. 82 (1-20) will be due at the beginning of class on Wednesday.

Week 13 Spelling Words

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Booktalks: 11/9 (Informational Nonfiction)

Today for library day, I had a request to booktalk informational nonfiction. GOAL students have a requirement of 4 books in this genre for the year, so we talked about the genre in general, and I gave them some suggestions.

What are some of your favorite informational nonfiction books? Feel free to comment with your book suggestions!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Weekly Preview: 11/8-11/12

We're all rested up from our glorious 3-day weekend, and we're ready to tackle another week of learning here at FMS! Here's the plan for the week...

6th GOAL: We're almost done with our preliminary research on the American Judicial System. Some possible guest speakers are also in the works, so students will have a chance to ask lots of questions. Our next step is assigning parts and doing research for our first case: The State vs. Hansel & Gretel Schmidt. Students will be the lawyers, witnesses, and jury members.

7th GOAL: We're in the process of finalizing topic selection and beginning research for our Independent Research Projects. Students will be in the library for a little over 2 weeks, documenting their daily progress and setting the next day's goal on a daily log. As expected, the topics so far cover a WIDE range of interests and passions!

8th GOAL: We had a delay on starting our read-aloud of the play The Diary of Anne Frank, but we got started last week. This will be the cap to our Holocaust unit. I love hearing this piece read aloud, and we have the perfectly sized class for the cast.

7th Language Arts: This is a maintenance test week for spelling, so there is no pretest. To review for the big test on Friday, students will be completing p. 75 (1-20), p. 76 (1-20), and p. 77 (1-20) which will be due Wednesday. We're also working on RAFT stories that will show understanding of the Voice trait of writing. Rough drafts are due at the beginning of the class Tuesday, and pieces are due Friday for teacher edit (revised, typed, peer-conferenced, and edited).

As always, feel free to e-mail or phone me if you have any questions or concerns, and have a great week!


I found out last month that my grant for handheld GPS units for GOAL had been approved. In the spring, students will start geocaching as a class, and they'll be able to check out the units for weekend family use as well. Our GOAL classes will have a membership to geocaching.com, so we'll all be on the same "team." What is geocaching? It's technology, connectivity, 21st Century Skills, geography, fun, exploration, cooperation, and more! Watch the clip below for more information...

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Exciting News... Mark Your Calendars!

I'm happy to officially announce that this year's musical will be Bye Bye Birdie! In the past, our production has always taken place the week after February parent/teacher conferences. This year, to accommodate our illustrious accompanist, Mrs. Andersen, and the rest of our band students participating in Ottumwa Solo Day, we're pushing our performance dates back a week. So... mark your calendars.

Bye Bye Birdie
An FMS Drama Production
March 3 & 4, 2011
7:00 P.M.
FMS Cafetorium

Monday, November 1, 2010

Weekly Preview, 11/1-11/4

It's Parent/Teacher conference week here at FMS, and I hope I get to see and meet lots of parents. Conferences are from 5:00-8:30 on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. There will be no school Friday. If you're a parent, and you can't attend conferences, feel free to call me or e-mail me to set up a time to discuss your student's progress.

Drama Club WILL meet on Tuesday, but at a special time. We'll be meeting in my classroom (room 101) from 2:30-3:30. Hope to see you there!

6th GOAL: 6th grade GOAL students are going to start their Mock Trial unit this week. We'll be getting some basic background information about the American Judicial system. Then we'll be having both a criminal trial and a civil trial with students playing each of the parts involved. This unit is always a favorite with GOAL students.

7th GOAL & 8th GOAL: 7th & 8th grade GOAL students will be starting their yearly Independent Research Projects. We'll start by brainstorming, continue with researching, and then students will be turning that knowledge into stellar projects. Independent Research Projects foster a passion for learning in an area of high interest for students. I always love seeing the end products too!

7th Language Arts: In language arts this week, we'll be focusing on the trait of Voice. We'll get the basics, and then we'll start a writing assignment called a RAFT story where students will be taking on the role of any inanimate object and writing from its point of view. Week 11 spelling words are "Words with More Letters than Sounds." Spelling p. 70 and pretest corrections will be due on Wednesday, and the posttest will take place on THURSDAY since we have no school Friday.

Week 11 Spelling Words

Friday, October 29, 2010

How About Some Poe for Halloween?

Nothing like a little Edgar Allan Poe to set the mood for Halloween. GOAL students watched this movie of "The Tell Tale Heart" today. It's the same movie that I remember watching in 8th grade, and I think it still holds up pretty well. We also read "The Raven" and parts of "Cask of Amontillado." CREEPY STUFF!!!

The Tell Tale Heart - UPA (1954) from J.F. Culhane on Vimeo.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Weekly Preview: 10/25-10/29

Here is what is happening in room 101 next week:

Red Ribbon Week! We'll be celebrating all next week with different dress-up days. If you'd like to know more about the history of this week that reminds us to pledge to be drug-free, click here. Monday: “Twin Day” dress up for Red Ribbon Week! Double up to fight drugs! Tuesday: “Crazy Socks” day-Knock the socks off drugs!" Wednesday: “Team Day”-Join our team against drugs! Thursday: “Wear Red!” Honor red ribbon week! Friday: “Boot Day” Stomp out drug usage by wearing boots!

6th-8th GOAL: Monday will be your last class day to work on literature circle projects. These projects are your summative assessment (final test, in other words) over the literature circle unit. Since Tuesday is library day, we'll start presentations on Friday. Remember, I've shared the google doc with you about the requirements for the projects, if you need to refer to them.

7th Language Arts: Next week, you'll be working on the final drafts of your "If I Were Mayor, I Would..." essays. From there, we'll wrap up the trait of organization and move into the trait of voice. Week 10 in spelling focuses on adding suffixes to words ending in silent e. Pretest corrections and book p. 64 (1-20) are due Wednesday.

Spelling Week 10 Words:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Uniting Against Bullying

10/20/10: The Day We Unite Against Bullying

Today, in support of the message "The End of Bullying Begins with Me" being shouted from coast to coast, I gave my classes the following assignment.
They could write any comment that came to mind. I had to share them here for your all... I copied them just like they wrote them.

I was blown away by the responses. They are touching and sincere and honest, and they remind me why I love teaching middle school. The responses give me hope for the future. Stick to your convictions, kids. You can change things!

Orange post-it notes (I have been bullied or I know someone who has been bullied):
* I do not want my family to get bullied.
* It is not funny to be bullied and people should not do it.
* This year I saw a bit of one of my closest friends being bullied. I wish I had done something.
* If you feelings are getting hurt, it is NOT tattle-tailing.
* I've been bullied before, and it hurt. I don't think anyone should have to go through that pain.
* Racist stuff
* I do not like seeing buling
* Bulling is a horrible thing to do. No child should have to endure being bullyed. Mentaly or physicaly it's a horrible thing.
* I don't think people should threaten people. Bullied 4 times.
* I think that people should put themselves in other people's shoes
* I have been called fat and short before right in front of a teacher and they didn't do anything about it.
* I've been bullied and I've seen my friends being bullied. It's not right at all. Bullied 3 times.
* No one should be phisically bullied or mentally. They both hurt. Inside and out.
* One time 4 boys surrounded me and started pushing, kicking, and punching me. It wasn't fun. I hope it doesn't happen to anyone else.
* If you don't like to be called it yourself don't say it to someone else!
* Take a stand for a bullied person
* Blend in with the crowd.
* I see it but don't stop it. Even though I should.
* Making others feel bad will only make you feel worse. It won't make you popular, or cool. Just don't - it hurts
* Getting an adult is the best thing to do
* It's also an action sometimes. Not words!
* Bullying should not go to the extreme like forming a gang and kicking, hiting, shoving.
* There is alot of bullying in FMS and I sometimes bully and I know its wrong
* It happened to them. I won't let it happen again.

Pink post-it notes (I promise to be kinder, more aware, and more respectful of how my behavior affects others):
* Sometimes, people hurt my feelings without meaning to, and realized I do the same thing sometimes.
* this alone can fully stop bullying
* I promise to not bully anymore. I will try to stop other people around me too.
* I will try to keep watch of my actions around people
* Your actions can affect, so I will be nicer!
* Bullying is mean, rude and makes people unhappy. :(
* I will not be not nice to my friends
* I will help people who are being bullied. I will also do what I can to be nicer to people
* Sometimes we bully without realizing it.
* I am a little harsh at times, but I promise to think before I speak.
* I sometimes bully myself and others, but not often.
* I have bullied people before. When I get mad I yell at them. I'm going to try to do better on that.
* I promise to help someone who is being bullied
* I will watch what I saw and do more now.
* I promise to be kinder or more respectful to people except the one who are asking for it.
* I will be kinder in everything I do. I will also help other that can't get an answer on a question
* I'll watch for bullying mor
* Sometimes my friends and I make fun of the girls who make fun of us. Whenever we would do this, I would think, "How am I any better than them by doing this?"
* If everybody does this there wouldn't be any more bullying
* I promise to be nicer and to not make rude jokes/comments.
* I wish bullying would stop in all schools. Life would be a lot easier for some kids
* I think bullying is very bad. I don't think people should do it.
* I promise to be nicer to people
* I call people names sometimes and I guess I never realized what I was doing was bullying too.
* To be respectful and to be more aware is to be a better person all the time. OH YEAH!
* Bullying is wrong
* Sometimes I do bully people but NOT on purpose I'm going to be more careful
* It's true, weve all been bullied. Some have it worse. They don't tell us that.
* Bullying helps no one.
* I've been bullied before by high-schoolers on my bus. I've also bullied people, which was a huge mistake.
* Bullying is a bad things. I've bullied before and been bullied
* Bullying need to stop no body likes it
* I will be nice.
* I shall become as kind as possible. I will treat others well and use my respect.
* I think some bullys aren't aware of the pain they cause

Blue post-it notes (I promise to take a stand to help someone who is being bullied):
* I'm not going to let anyone be bullied. Even if it is a small matter. I will stand up for what I believe in.
* I will stop anyone bullying a friend, or someone I don't know
* Bullying isnt nice. It is pointless and stupid and makes you look mean.
* I will help people by telling someone or helping if they are being bullied
* If you don't help someone thats getting bullied, that means your a bully too!
* it not nice to bully
* I promise to help stop bullying
* I've seen people on the bus fighting and cussing.
* If someone is being bullied I'll stand up for them.
* I will stand up for anyone being bullied
* Bullying is bad!!
* I can't stand to watch someone be bullied
* I see people getting bullied al the time. It never stops!
* I will never beat my dog ever. Even though I've never had before
* I'll defend someone even if it's not the popular thing to do.
* I think bulling is a very stupid thing. If you don't like someone, just don't talk to them
* I promise to do this or my name isent Bob
* Bullying needs to stop. It doesn't benifit anybody
* I think bullying is hurtful.
* When I walk down the hall I see people closing peoples lockers!
* I'm not usually bullied, but I hear people talking behind one specific friend of mine's back. I will take a stand.
* Taking a stand is very effective
* I try to stick up for everyone
* I think that everybody should take a stand if someone is being bullied
* Bulling is unexceptible
* I have seen bulling and I want to help stop it.
* I will take a stand because everybody has been there and it should be stopped People are killing themselves because of this.

After they wrote, I shared my feelings and thoughts. I told them about the Pacer Center's Day to Unite Against Bullying, we talked about why people bully or stay silent, and we talked about what they could do if they saw bullying happening around them.

The responses above are not perfect, in any sense, but the majority were so positive. I know it's easy to write what the teacher wants to hear one day in class, but I hope all these kids will take a little of today with them. It only takes a spark...

Friday, October 15, 2010

Weekly Preview, 10/18-10/21

Here's what's happening in room 101 next week... :)

I will be absent on Monday and Tuesday. I'll be attending the Iowa Talented and Gifted Association State Convention. It's always so informative and inspiring. I know I'll come back with a ton of good ideas for my classes!

6th, 7th, & 8th GOAL: Monday will be your last literature circle discussion. On Tuesday, before going to the library, you will complete your end-of-the-quarter self-evaluation for your reading contract. This will be your last grade of the quarter, and you will have until Tuesday to complete your 10 books for the quarter. On Wednesday, we'll be having mixed group discussions on the overall themes of your literature circles. Thursday and Friday, you'll work on your projects which will show your overall learning during the literature circle unit.

7th Language Arts: Next week, you'll be working on your "If I Were Mayor, I Would..." essays. These will be due on Thursday for teacher edit. Before that point, you should have a handwritten and revised rough draft, a typed and peer-conferenced (twice) second draft, a fixed and self-edited third draft, and a final draft ready for me to edit. The Week 9 spelling list focuses on the suffixes -tion and -ation. Pretest corrections and book p. 58 (1-20) are due on Wednesday. Spelling words include:

Week 9 Spelling Words

Also, there will be NO DRAMA CLUB this week due to me being absent. I'll see you in two weeks!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Mayor Malloy Comes to FMS

Mayor Ed Malloy visited Fairfield Middle School on Tuesday, October 12, 2010, as the kickoff to an upcoming 7th grade language arts assignment. 7th graders will all be entering an essay contest sponsored by the Iowa League of Cities. Their essays will start with the phrase "If I were mayor, I would...," and the papers will reflect on how the students would improve the towns where they live.

Mr. Dailey gave the introductions, and the mayor spoke about his job and answered a few questions from students. Now the 7th grade has a much better idea about what a mayor's responsibilities are. Their essays should be sensational!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Weekly Preview, 10/11-10/15

Here's what's coming up this week in room 101:

6th, 7th, & 8th grade GOAL: This will be the last full week of literature circles. You'll have discussions on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and next Monday (Tuesday: library day). Plan accordingly when deciding the number of pages to read each day.

7th language arts: We will be discussing the Organization trait of good writing this week. Tuesday, you'll have a special guest speaker, Mayor Ed Malloy, who will kick off our topic for the next big writing assignment. Every 7th grade student will be entering the "If I Were Mayor, I Would..." contest. We'll be writing rough drafts of these essays this week. For spelling, Week 8 words all fall under the topic Adding Suffixes to Words Ending in Silent e. Pretest corrections and p. 52 (1-20) are due on Wednesday.

Week 8 Words


Friday, October 8, 2010

Why I Love Lit Circles

GOAL students are right in the middle of their literature circle unit. It's one of my favorite times of the year. Why do I love lit circles?

1. They run themselves. With some good directions & some good modeling, the kids get the routine. They get with their groups and get to work. I get to walk around, observe the discussions, and enjoy the results.

2. Deep thinking and connections. So many strategies all packed into one activity... QAR; text to text, text to self, text to world connections; predicting; visualizing; character analysis... I could go on forever. Lit circles really pack a punch!

3. Great books. I love finding books for lit circles. I love reading books for lit circles. I love sharing books for lit circles. OK. I just love books. This is not new information.

4. Discussion! The discussion is the very best part. I love hearing what the students discuss with each section of the book. Sometimes I interject, but mostly, I let the discussions go where they may. Readers are thinkers, and the sharing of that thinking in small groups is frankly electrifying to me.

I've modified how I've done literature circles over the years, but I'm really happy with my current format. Thanks, Virginia Broz, for getting me to see things differently in how I set up my discussions. Your "Questions, Comments, & Quotes" sheets (QCQ sheets, as the kids and I refer to them) have made my lit circles even better.

Here's the routine: Students fill out the front of the 1/2 sheet as they're reading. They prioritize the items and bring them up in discussion the next day. On the back of the QCQ sheet, they summarize what the group discussed regarding the item they brought up. When they're done, they staple them together & turn them in, get a new color for the next day, and decide how many pages they're going to read. Then the process starts all over again. It's magic! At the end of the unit, they'll choose a summative project to show what they've learned over the course of the unit. As Martha Stewart would say, "It's a good thing." :)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Language Arts Preview

In our quest to coordinate curriculum with upcoming guest speakers, we're going to be covering the 6 Traits of Writing out of order from how I previously introduced them. But, we're flexible, right? We can handle it. :) This week we're covering Word Choice. We'll complete a word choice grid, do some sentence stretchers, and assess some student writing for good word choice.

Stay tuned for the next Weekly Preview to know what's coming up next! :)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Weekly Preview, 10/4-10/8

6th-8th Grade GOAL: All GOAL classes will be having literature circle discussions this week on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Make sure to come to class with your QCQ sheet completed. Don't forget your book, and be ready to discuss. We'll have our Library Day on Tuesday, so bring your books to renew and check in. You should have a book checked out for independent reading in addition to your lit. circle book.

7th Grade Language Arts: This week, we'll be working more with the 6+1 Traits of Writing. Stay tuned for more specifics. The spelling list for Week 7 focuses on affixes. The list is below, and this week's spelling assignment is p. 46 (1-20). The assignment and the corrections from the pretest are due Wednesday.

Spelling, Week 7: Affixes

Monday, September 27, 2010

Weekly Preview 9/27-10/1

Here's the scoop for this week in room 101:

6th GOAL: You will be starting literature circle discussions on Wednesday. Your theme is moral dilemma, and the book titles your group can choose from include: Left For Dead, Al Capone Does My Shirts, Nothing But the Truth, The Secret School, The Power of Un, Hoot, Stargirl, City of Ember, There's a Girl in my Hammerlock, Nobody Else Has to Know, That was Then This is Now, Wish Me Luck, and Holes. You will be completing a "Questions, Comments, & Quotes" sheet as you read to prepare for your daily discussion. This sheet is worth 10 points per day.

7th GOAL: You will be starting literature circle discussions on Wednesday. Your theme is culture clash, and the book titles your group can choose from include: Three Cups of Tea, The Watsons Go to Birmingham 1963, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Define Normal, Under the Same Sky, Iqbal, A Bottle in the Gaza Sea, American Born Chinese (required), Seedfolks (required), Code Talker, Ringside 1925, The Misfits, and La Linea. You will be completing a "Questions, Comments, & Quotes" sheet as you read to prepare for your daily discussion. This sheet is worth 10 points per day.

8th GOAL: You will be taking your Mandarin Chinese vocabulary quiz on Monday. Later this week, you'll be starting Literature Circles. Your theme is the Holocaust, and I will booktalk the following titles for you group to choose: Maus I, Maus II, The Book Thief, Yellow Star, The Wave, Escape from Warsaw, Night, Soldier X, Milkweed, The Other Half of Life, Night, The Boy Who Dared, Emil and Karl, Run Boy Run, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Darkness Over Denmark, and Hidden on the Mountain. You will be completing a "Questions, Comments, & Quotes" sheet as you read to prepare for your daily discussion. This sheet is worth 10 points per day.

7th Language Arts: Your "Grown-Up Rules" stories are due in final draft form on Friday. This means you've revised your handwritten rough drafts, you've typed the story, you've had at least 2 peer conferences and made changes from those conferences, and you've self-edited and fixed mistakes found in self-editing. This is a Maintenance Test week for spelling, so there are no new words. On Friday, we'll have a Maintenance Test over the words in Weeks 1-5. We'll have a big review day on Thursday for those who would rather review than use class time to work on their stories. The spelling assignment (due Wednesday) this week is p. 39 (1-20), p. 40 (1-20), and p. 41 (1-10).

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Teacher Nightmare #486

Today, for Homecoming Week, it was Bad Hair Day.

A student enthusiastically complimented my bad hair.

I didn't do anything differently. This is my normal hair.

Thought you might get a kick out of that. I did! ;)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Weekly Preview

Here's what's happening in room 101 this week at Fairfield Middle School:

6th GOAL: You'll be finishing up the models and design unit by creating free-rolling and self-propelled miniature go-karts.

7th GOAL: You'll be finishing up Big Science: For the Sake of the Nation and starting in on your literature circle unit. This year's literature circles focus on the theme of Culture Clash.

8th GOAL: You'll be presenting your Mandarin Chinese vocabulary skits. Then, you'll be designing and studying for your vocabulary test.

7th Language Arts: You'll be working on your stories inspired by the book The Secret Knowledge of Grown-Ups. Rough drafts are due Monday. Final drafts are due on October 1. In the meantime, you'll be revising, typing, peer-conferencing, editing, and getting things ready to turn in. Spelling this week focuses on double consonants. Page 34 (along with pretest corrections) will be due Wednesday. Words in this list include the following:

Week 5 Spelling: Double Consonants


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Booktalks 9/14

Today for Library Day weekly booktalks, I highlighted the mystery genre. Check out the following books if you're interested in reading a good mystery!

Sammy Keyes and the Skeleton Man by Wendelin Van Draanen

Spirit Seeker by Joan Lowery Nixon

Ghost Canoe by Will Hobbs

Demon in the Teahouse by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler

Storm Catchers by Tim Bowler

Monday, September 13, 2010

Weekly Preview 9/13-9/17

6th GOAL: You will be continuing your models and design unit this week. Your creative conceptual models will be due on Wednesday, and you'll be presenting them to the class. On Wednesday through Friday, you'll be observing the humdinger to see how you think it works. You'll make both a conceptual model and a physical model to show your theories.

7th GOAL: You will be continuing your unit on Big Science: For the Sake of the Nation this week. We'll be discussing the space program, biotechnology, and environmental impact of automobiles to see which area you believe is the most important for our country's focus in the area of science.

8th GOAL: You'll be learning more Mandarin Chinese vocabulary this week. On Thursday and Friday, you'll be writing and practicing skits containing those vocabulary words. Hopefully you'll be ready to perform by Monday!

7th Language Arts: We've wrapped up the first pen pal letter assignment. Those of you who still need to finish your final drafts, you'll have to do that outside of class. Get a pass from me for study hall or before school if you need it. We'll be moving on to study the 6+1 Traits of Good Writing, starting with the trait of IDEAS. You'll have a writing assignment that will go along with this trait and with the book, The Secret Knowledge of Grown-Ups by David Wisniewski. This week's spelling list focuses on compound words. Your assignment (p. 27, 1-20) will be due Wednesday, along with corrections from the pretest.

Week 4 Spelling Words:

dining room
word processing
pencil sharpener
study hall

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


It's Library Day again, and for booktalks this week, I'm highlighting biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs. GOAL students have a requirement to read 2 books in this genre during the course of this year. Here are the books I talked about today:

Boys Who Rocked the World by Laura Carlsmith

The Book of Rock Stars by Kathleen Krull

Amelia Earhart by Susan Reyburn

Knucklehead by Jon Scieszka

Small Steps: The Year I Got Polio by Peg Kehret (I booktalked this last October too, but it's such a great memoir, I wanted to mention it again!)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Weekly Preview

First of all, everyone enjoy their long weekend. I know I will, especially with the first Hawkeye game of the year!

Here's what's happening next week in room 101:

6th Grade GOAL: We'll be finishing up Words of Wisdom presentations, and then we'll be starting our Models & Design unit. This unit combines physics and problem solving, and it's always a hit.

7th Grade GOAL: We'll be finishing up Words of Wisdom presentations, and then we'll be starting our unit called Big Science: For the Sake of the Nation. This unit explores the idea of government-backed science projects. We'll be debating issues of the day and exploring current science issues.

8th Grade GOAL: We'll be finishing up Words of Wisdom presentations, and then we'll begin our unit on Mandarin Chinese. It's important to explore other languages, and Mandarin Chinese is not an option you'll have either here or in high school. It's a challenging but important unit.

GOAL NOTE!!!! This week was a procrastination extravaganza when it came to journal letter writing. I assigned the letters on Tuesday, but I should have known that most of you would wait until today to hand them in (see pic below). Thanks to those of you who did not wait until the last minute, but I am a reflective teacher, and I can see we need a new plan! :) From now on, 6th grade journal letters will be due on Wednesdays, 7th grade journal letters will be due on Thursdays, and 8th grade journal letters will be due on Fridays. This first week will be an adjustment period, but then it will all balance out, and you will still have a week to complete letters. Hopefully, I can stagger the deadline so the crate doesn't look like this at the end of Friday! :)

7th Grade Language Arts:
We'll be having spelling, even though it's a short week. Your assignment (p. 22 1-20 & pretest corrections) will still be due on Wednesday, so you'll only have one day to work on it. Final drafts of pen pal letters will be due on Thursday, and after that, we'll start learning the 6 Traits of Writing.

Week 3 Spelling Words: Long Vowel Syllabication Patterns:


See you Tuesday!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Words of Wisdom Examples

Here are some examples of the GOAL students' work with their Words of Wisdom assignment. Enjoy!

Words of Wisdom (Click link to Logan's animoto)

Click here to see Brandon's Glog!
Click here to see Kailey's Glog!
Click here to see Zach's Zooburst!
Click here to see Loreena's Zooburst!
Click here to see Savannah's Pixton!
Click here and here to see Sarah's Glogs!

Price's pixton comics (click for full-size version):

Corynn's Words of Wisdom on PhotoPeach

Brennan's Epic Words Of Some Wisdom on PhotoPeach

Rachel's Words of Wisdom on PhotoPeach

Click the following to see all of Ashley's pixton:

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Booktalks 8/31

Library Day means Booktalks! Here are the first books I booktalked in the 2010/2011 school year. Have you read either one?

Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen (why not read it before seeing the movie?)

Letters from a Nut by Ted L. Nancy

Don't forget... you can see all the books I've booktalked by clicking the booktalk label at the right side of this blog or right underneath this post! :)

Monday, August 30, 2010

Week 2 Spelling Words

7th Grade Language Arts Students: Here are your spelling words for this week. If you forget to take your book home on Thursday night to study, you'll be able to access your words here!

Don't forget that your pretest corrections and your book assignment (p. 14, 1-20) are due Wednesday.

Week 2: Short Vowel Syllabication Patterns


Sunday, August 29, 2010

Weekly Preview

6th-8th GOAL: We'll have the laptops in class on Monday and Wednesday to finish up our Words of Wisdom projects. I'd like to start presenting on Thursday and finish up Friday. Tuesday is our library day, so we'll booktalk, and you'll have a chance to read and check out new books. You may also work on your Words of Wisdom projects in the library, provided there are no other classes working on the computers at that time.

7th Language Arts: On Monday, we'll have our spelling pretest for Week 2. You'll have the rest of the class period to work on pretest corrections & your spelling book assignment. Both will be due Wednesday. Pen Pal letters are due for teacher edit this Thursday. That means you've hand-written your rough draft, self-revised it, typed draft 2, peer conferenced with it at least twice, fixed it based on those conferences, self-edited, fixed again, and addressed an envelope. If you didn't get your rough draft in Friday, I expect to see it Monday. Otherwise, you can finish it up after school Monday.

Here's to another great week at FMS!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Words of Wisdom

GOAL Students: To present your Words of Wisdom, you may use any of the following Web 2.0 tools. You may also come up with an idea of your own, and that's great too. Run it past me in class. The sky is the limit!

Here's a quick example of the kind of project you can make with Zooburst!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Wal-Mart Wins!!!

I never thought I would type those words, but I found the book at our little Wal-Mart in Fairfeld, Iowa! I now have 2 copies to check out, and there will be more coming when the Amazon.com order comes through. Ms. Mangler has a copy now too, and Mrs. Lantz has ordered three for the library. All your Mockingjay needs will be met!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Sorry, Kids!

I could not be more disappointed in Amazon.com right now. I'm sorry you have to wait for the Mockingjay copies to arrive. I would have bought them at Target had I known they would get here so far after the book's release date. A fellow blogger even called Amazon.com to complain. I feel that I've vented by reading this blog. Maybe you will too. Hang in there. It will be here soon!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Learning How We Learn

GOAL classes are having a mini unit on individual learning. They're getting advice from others to see what's important to people at different stages of life, and they're examining their individual smarts, comparing right and left brain thinking and studying Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences (see image).
By understanding how we learn, we can make the most out of each class & learning experience, tailoring it to our own needs.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Welcome Back!

It was a good first day here at Fairfield Middle School... I was glad to see you all!

Here's what's coming up for the rest of this week:

GOAL Classes: We're going to start/work on/complete the reading survey. Then, we're going to get your notebooks set up for reading journals and reading logs. We'll discuss all the requirements of the independent reading contract at that time.

Language Arts Classes: We're going to complete a personal writing inventory, start DWA (Daily Writing Activity) journals, and get spelling books handed out. If we get all of that done, we'll move on to the first pen pal letter... we'll see how much we accomplish in that time!

Loved meeting you and/or seeing you again today. Here's to a great year!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Purpose

I maintain 2 blogs: one for myself and one for school. As I'm sure you figured out, this is my school blog. I probably need 3 different blogs for school. I know that this blog is probably trying to do too much. My school blog is for: 1. my students... with important information for them to know, 2. professional reflection... where I like to think about what I've done in class and what's ahead, and 3. my colleagues... where I like to post resources for them to use and where I keep track of some digital and building colleagues who blog and post resources of their own. Whew! It's a lot. For now, I'm keeping it all here in the Nelson Universe. We'll see if this format continues to suit my needs.

Why do I blog? I blog to write. I work hard to be a writing teacher who is also a writer. I communicate with others, I reflect on my life, and I get my ideas down and out of my ever-spinning brain.

Do you blog? If so, I'd love to read your blogs. Comment here, & leave me your blog's address. I'll check it out!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Welcome Back!

Students, Parents, Colleagues... lend me your ear... Oops. Guess it's time to get out of the theatre mode and back into school mode. ;) Welcome back to another wonderful year at Fairfield Middle School.

This Monday, I'll be welcoming you new 6th grade students to my classes, so don't forget to come to orientation from 6-8 p.m. You'll feel much more comfortable with the building and your schedule. You'll also get to know your teachers a little bit too... it's always nice to see some friendly familiar faces the first day. I'm looking forward to meeting you all!

7th & 8th grade GOAL students: You'll have a special treat on the 3rd day of school. You'll get to meet some of the cast members from the current Way Off Broadway show Big River. This will tie in with the Mark Twain unit coming up at the end of the 7th grade year of GOAL. It will be a nice preview of what is to come for you 7th graders, and 8th graders can enjoy reflecting back on our trip to Hannibal last spring.

7th grade language arts students: Mrs. Wiegand, Mrs. Wolf, and I have been finalizing all the pen pals for this year. I'm anxious for you to be assigned to one. This will be the 38th year of the FMS Pen Pal Program. It's a great way for the community to get involved in our school and for you to get to know people in the community. It's also a great writing exercise (Sorry, it's the teacher in me... I had to bring that up).

It's back to work for me now. My bare walls are calling for posters and decorations. I will answer that call, and I'll see you all soon!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Summer Enrichment!

Are you getting bored this summer? Want to have some fun? Come to FMS Summer Enrichment!

1. Drama Boot Camp: Do you love theatre games, acting, comedy, and improv? Do you love (or think you would love) FMS Drama Club? Imagine 10 Drama Clubs all crammed into one week! Come to Drama Boot Camp, and spend the week tapping into your creativity with Theatre Games, Skits, and FUN! August 2-6, 2010; 8:30-11:30 A.M.; FMS

Express Yourself: Make your mark! Share your views! Let the world know where you stand! This class gives you the chance. Animoto, Glogster, Debate, Blogs, Poetry Slam, Wikis, Mock Trial, Graffiti Poetry, Movie Making, Online Comics, Games, and more... a multitude of ways to make your voice heard! August 2-6, 2010; 12:30-3:30 P.M., FMS

Cost for each class is $50. You may sign up for one or both. Any student who has completed grades 4-8 may register (entering 5th grade and exiting 8th grade). Lunch is not provided. Make checks payable to FMS, and bring them the first day of class. E-mail me at tena.nelson@fairfieldsfuture.org with questions or to register. Class space is limited, so don't wait! Registration Deadline: July 28, 2010. Come one, come all!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Fight Summer Boredom!

I'm taking a new class today called Web 2.0. I'm learning about some awesome sites. You all should explore them too. Become the experts!

Photo Peach
... yet another cool way to make digital slideshows

Flip Book!
Make your very own digital flip book right here

Voice Thread... this is an awesome way to record comments to go along with pics

I'll post more as I learn more! 50 NUPoints to anyone who tries a site and links their project to the comments for us all to see!

Thursday, May 13, 2010



Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Top 100 Young Adult Books of All Time... ?

I've been enjoying this blog on Schoollibraryjournal.com. Elizabeth Bird is a children's librarian at the Children's Center at 42nd Street of the New York Public Library system. She's been compiling a list of, in her opinion, the best 100 young adult books of all time. It's been so fun to look at the list and compare it to my own favorites.

For 20 NU Points, comment with YOUR list of the Top 10 Young Adult books of all time.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Weekly Preview

Welcome back from Spring Break! I hope you all had a great time and are ready to give your all for the last quarter. It's going to fly, and summer will be here before we know it!

6th GOAL: You will be working on your "Stuff" posters this week. Using the Stuff book about consumption habits, you will all report on a different item. Read your facts and then include the important information on your poster. You will report out on Friday. I'll give you classtime Tuesday and Wednesday to work. You can use time in the library on Thursday to finish if you need it.

7th GOAL: After a quick mini-lesson about the United States Census, we are going to be introducing animation this week. You'll see lots of different examples and techniques. Then, we'll start learning how to use Stop Motion Pro so you'll be ready to make your own movies!

8th GOAL: It's the moment you've been waiting for! You'll be watching To Kill a Mockingbird in class this week!

7th Language Arts: You'll be working on spelling pp. 147, 148, & 149 (due Wednesday) in preparation for your maintenance test on Friday. On Tuesday, you'll take the Parts of Speech pretest, and then you'll start working on your study guide, your Parts of Speech booklet.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

I Love Learning Something New

This week, at the Young Writer's Conference, I learned about two things I'd never heard of before. Author William Durbin spoke about his books and the research that had gone into them. His book, The Broken Blade, is about The Voyageurs of the North West Company Fur Trade. I knew very little about the Fur Trade, and I'd never heard of The Voyageurs before. I found some websites with some information about them.

Info at the Parks Canada website

The other new thing I learned about was the Winter War between Finland and Russia. William Durbin's newest book, The Winter War, is about this subject. I had seriously never heard of this before, and it's an amazing world event. Here is more information:

For 20 NUPoints, check out one of these websites and comment with something new you learned about either The Voyageurs or The Winter War.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Weekly Preview

Here's what's coming up during the first week of March, campers!

6th GOAL: We'll be continuing the Great Ocean Rescue with the Laser Disc player. I loved the looks on all your faces when I showed you the actual laser disc. Classic!

7th GOAL: History Day, History Day, History Day! Exhibits: your projects are due Friday. Performances: your scripts were due today (no one was completely done... grr...), and you'll be spending next week practicing, memorizing, and gathering props & costumes.

8th GOAL: Images of Greatness! We're a little off track with Bio-Riddles because of the snow day this week. On Monday, we'll talk about Bio-Riddles. I'll give you next week to work on them along with your trifold display boards. Buckle down, folks!

7th Language Arts: On Monday, we'll begin spelling unit 21 (Words from Names & Places). Pretest corrections & book p. 129 will be due Wednesday with the posttest on Friday. On Tuesday, we'll go over introductions & conclusions for your Epidemics Research Papers. You'll have the rest of the week to get the whole thing (introduction, body, & conclusion) written, revised, typed, edited, & fixed. Final drafts are due next Friday, March 5.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Secret School

Cast & Crew of The Secret School: FANTASTIC job on opening night. I'm so proud of you! I don't know how you overcame all the obstacles that were in your way during this rehearsal process. The snow days alone would have sunk a lesser troupe of actors. Let's make the final performance even more amazing than the first!

Click here for more publicity...

For 20 NUPoints, comment here by writing a review of The Secret School.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Just in Case You're Not Completely Sick of Looking at Snow...

This website has BEAUTIFUL and AMAZING pictures of snowflakes, up close and personal. Click here to see for yourself!

For 20 NUPoints, leave a comment with a link to something you think is BEAUTIFUL and AMAZING.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

53 Hours Per Week? That's More than a Full-Time Job!

The Chicago Tribune recently ran an article on how many hours kids spend "consuming media." Click here to read the article. For 20 NUPoints, read the article and respond with your thoughts.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Adjustments in the Rehearsal Schedule

Please take note:

The original dress rehearsal scheduled for 9-12 on February 19th (this was supposed to be our day off after parent/teacher conferences, but now we have school) will now take place during the school day on February 19. Please be at school by 7:30 a.m. You will miss periods 1 & 2 and possibly part of period 3. We will also have rehearsal after school that day. It will be another dress rehearsal.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Science of the Olympic Games

NBC Learning has produced several awesome videos about the science that goes into Olympic sports. Click here to go to the site. Click the "Original Video" tab, and then go to "Science of the Olympic Winter Games." They're just fun to watch, but if you'd like 20 NUPoints, comment here about something you learned from each video (20 points for the first video, 10 points for each subsequent video). I just watching the snowboarding video, and it was fascinating. I can't wait to watch the rest!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

New Semester!

Time to start fresh, boys & goyles. Set those goals high, and reach for the stars. Clean slate! At the very least, I know you're all happy about tardies and unprepareds starting over! ;)

Quarter Overview: Here's the very basic skeletal overview of the quarter for all of my classes. Enjoy peeking ahead!

6th GOAL: Invent Iowa (2/17/10) & Oceanography Extension

7th GOAL: History Day (3/16/10) & Census Exploration

8th GOAL: Images of Greatness (3/18/10)

7th Language Arts: Design-An-Ad, Word Collages, Disease Detective Research Papers, and maybe Parts of Speech, depending how far we get.

Before things crank up too far and fast, for 20 (and only 20 this time... no extras for additionals) NUPoints, check out one of the sites in my Idleness Prevention, and comment about it here.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

I'm Just Wondering...

20 NUPoints for responding to the following...

Watch the video clip. Why do people bully others? Why are there some people who are never accepted into society? Why are some of the most profoundly gifted people in the history of the planet ridiculed and belittled? Why are differences not embraced? Why are gifts and talents not applauded by peers? What do you think?

Britain's Got Talent Andrew Johnston - Watch more Funny Videos