B-I-N-G-O… in the classroom?

I don’t know about you, but one problem for writers is a blank page.

What do I write about?

This question pops up all too often, and it can keep students from achieving their personal writing goals. Students have loved writing bingo in the past, so I created a Google Form for them to submit their own ideas for bingo cards.

I was not disappointed. To be completely honest, I was awestruck by the amount of ideas they generated!

The ideas!

After gathering all their ideas, I created lists of them in Google Docs. The lists make it easier to input the ideas onto the bingo card at Print Bingo.

Each set I input creates 10 cards — all different. My amazing 7th grade students gave me enough ideas for five sets, which equal 50 different cards!

Here are a couple from each set for you to see what their creative minds came up with!

Expectations…

Bingo is by no means a requirement. Students can complete a bingo at any time in their writer’s notebook for a reward, or they can simply use he cards for inspiration. (I have a collection of pens and pencils for them to choose from for rewards.)

The question is, can I expect them to write if I don’t? Can I expect them to complete a bingo if I don’t even try?

My answer is — that depends on the example I, as a teacher, want to set.

I choose to set a positive and encouraging example to the young writers I encounter every school day.

Without further ado, here is my Bingo, and I hope it encourages my students to publish theirs on our class blog when they’re done, too!

BINGO!

My Bingo card is from set 3:

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“Write how you feel about winter” — I chose to use a list for this one.

Write a brainstorm in different colored pens” — I doubled up with this one by combining it with “create a character map about a frog.”

“Write about your favorite teacher” — I love poetry, so I chose that format to write about my most memorable teacher.

“Create a character map about a superhero you make up” — This was difficult for me, so I asked Twitter and Facebook for help!

“Write a poem about writing a poem” — Again, poetry is my favorite!

Reflection:

Reflecting on our process is an important part of our class. To emphasize that, I’ll reflect on this process.

I loved that students were excited to share all their writing ideas with me and each other. I can’t wait for them to start sharing their creativity with the world more by using their blog.

I loved creating a new superhero even though it was super difficult — thank you to those who gave me ideas! (Please note, the “stick man” idea is from Corbett Harrison who has a ton of amazing ideas for the classroom!)

In the future, I plan to incorporate a few of these ideas into stories. I also plan to try out some more bingo ideas (maybe even another bingo card)!

Comments

Please feel free to share with me your thoughts or questions in the section below. Also, if you use any of the ideas from the above Bingo cards, let us know!

Why I teach…

Why are we teaching? What keeps us teaching? What makes us come back after the break (especially after Christmas break)?

November is almost at an end, which means most teachers are counting down the days until Christmas break. I’ve decided to do a different kind of counting this year: I’ll be counting all the reasons to return to my profession after the new year…

One thing we need to think about during this holiday season is why we’re here in the first place. Why are we teaching? What keeps us teaching? What makes us come back after the break (especially after Christmas break)?

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I’m in my sixth year of teaching, and I still enjoy teaching as much as I did when I first started. I even like *whispers* Mondays!

What? It’s true!

For those of you who still enjoy teaching as much as you did on day one, I hope you keep the spirit alive during your holiday break. For those of you who are contemplating a career change, take a moment to reflect on all the reasons you became a teacher in the first place.

I look forward to Mondays…

I know I said it earlier, but it’s true. It’s also probably one of the top reasons I still enjoy teaching.

Mondays offer a new beginning, a fresh start. Weekends are often filled with ideas about what I can do differently (often only in my head), and I’m eager to try these new things in the classroom.

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The most difficult thing is having a great idea on Friday afternoon and having to wait until Monday to try it, having to wait until Monday to see if it was truly a great idea or not.

Waiting isn’t easy, but it’s worth it (especially with those sparks of wonderful ideas).

I love to hear students say they love writing…

How many people can say they love to write? Now divide that in half (at least) and you’ll have the number of students who love to write.

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Written for me by student 23LM2-12.

We write a lot in my class. Students have personal writing goals that they work on for six weeks. They write anything they want as they work through the writing process in their notebooks.

Maybe they simply enjoy the freedom they have when they tell me that they finally love writing, but I’m hoping it’s more than that. I’m hoping they’re finding themselves a bit as they write, which is all any writer can ask for.

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Students’ writer’s notebooks — they get to decorate them any way they want in order to personalize them and encourage more writing.

I enjoy trying new things…

Similar to my love of Mondays, I love to try new things in the classroom. I’ve learned about several new things via Twitter chats, Facebook teaching groups, and Region 12 workshops.

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Our “Writing Process” board to help students (and me) visualize their progress on our class assignment — an idea given to me from a workshop.
  • Writer’s Workshop — I adapted this method that I found on Twitter to fit my classroom.
  • Anonymous Suggestion Box — This idea came from a workshop in Student Voice. Suggestions have included: more time to write in class, adding a daily warm-up, play more classical music, and more writing prompts.
  • Interactive Presentation — I started using Pear Deck after experiencing it in a workshop. My students love it!
  • Interactive Videos — I started using Edpuzzle after encountering it in a workshop. My students like that they can answer questions and hear explanations we’ve learned in class.
  • Blog — Although we’re still getting used to having one, my students love updating their blog: CMS Cubs Write, an idea I gained from many sources.

I don’t enjoy failing, but I do love to learn from my mistakes…

After several years of teaching, I’m still failing. I learned about my biggest failure this year: greeting students at the door. This seems like such a small thing, insignificant, but it’s definitely not.

Before this year, students had assigned seating in my class. I thought it would help with classroom management and peer tutoring (I was not disappointed).

However, I learned about flexible seating this summer and wanted to give it a try. I don’t have all the fancy seating, but I did manage to group desks to make it a bit flexible: groups of three, pairs of two, and single seating. Students come in every day and choose the seat where they are most comfortable learning.

I had one major problem (other than possible behavior issues) that I could foresee: learning student names.

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Everyone, including me, made name plates to put on our desk the first week or so of school. This was great for learning names during class, but it was terrible for taking role.

I had to come up with a way to take roll without wasting class time.

The idea of greeting students at the door isn’t a new idea. I’ve seen it on Twitter, Facebook, blog posts, and education articles for quite some time. Regardless, I gave it a try: students couldn’t enter the room until I said their name and checked them off my tangible role sheet.

By the end of the first week of school, I had every student’s name memorized, even the two sets of twins!

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Yay! I’m as smart as a pig! Wait…

This wasn’t my big lesson. Well, it was a little since I learned names faster, but it wasn’t a real lesson until today, the first day back to school after Thanksgiving break.

I was greeting students at the door as per usual (no role sheet needed for quite some time), and one student smiled at me. Our short conversation that followed will always stay with me:

“You remembered!” she exclaimed.

“Of course I remembered your name,” I answered. “It’s only been a week.”

“Yeah, but most teachers forget about me.”

“I will never forget about you ____.”

Another smile.

Lesson learned and accepted. Students care. It might seem like an easy way to take roll, but they don’t see it that way. They enjoy hearing their names as you look them in the eyes and greet them before they walk into the classroom. Isn’t that true of us all — don’t we all enjoy being seen?

All that to say…

I am thankful for teaching. I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve learned, the people I’ve met, the students I’ve taught, and the ideas I’ve tried (failed or not). I enjoy Mondays, and I look forward to my future as an educator.

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What about you?

Share with me in comments. If you’re a teacher, tell me what you enjoy about teaching. If you’re not a teacher, tell me one of you favorite memories of a teacher.  I’d love to hear from you.

When Writing Takes a Backseat – Author Toolbox

If your September has been anything like my September, then you have been a busy bee. School started, so my days are filled with teaching, lesson planning, and after-school activities. (Thank you #51Writers for today’s topic of Oxford commas. As you can see, I am definitely on #teamoxfordcomma!)

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Image from here.

The problem…

Okay, so we’re busy. What is the problem exactly?

My novel is suffering! That’s the problem. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t had any quality writing time since July’s Camp NaNo event. I was working on the second round of revisions for my paranormal mystery novel, and I’m still not finished.

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Camp NaNoWriMo

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still writing in order to use mentor pieces in my classroom, but that’s not helping my novel. Which leads me to the big problem… What do we do when our writing takes a back seat?

1. Figure out why you’re not writing.

When faced with several non-writing days in a row, take a few minutes to analyze the reason or reasons. Ask yourself a few questions:

  • Do I have writer’s block(No, I know what I want to write next.)
  • Do I know which step of the writing process I’m on, or what I need to do with this step? (Yes, I’m working on revisions at the moment.)
  • Am I struggling to complete my first draft(No, my first draft is finished… This particular one is, anyway.)
  • Am I unsure where my brainstorming is leading? (No, I’m not working on brainstorming.)
  • Do I have all my writing tools available? (Yes, I have everything I need. I could probably use a bit more time, though.)
  • Am I simply busy with everyday life? (Yes! That’s it!)

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2. Stop feeling guilty for not writing.

That’s it. I give you permission to not feel guilty when you don’t get to write. Many people will tell you to write every day. Well, yes… That is ideal, but it’s not always achievable.

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Think about the goals you’ve set for yourself. Writing every day is beneficial. We all know that. However, if your past few months have been as busy as mine, then writing each day hasn’t happened.

It’s okay. Don’t feel guilty. Instead, feel excited when you do get the chance to write. Build up that momentum to hopefully continue to write the next day or even a few times that week.

If you keep attaching negative feelings to your writing (guilt), then writing will lose the thrill when you do get the chance to sit down again. Attach the positive feelings that made you fall in love with writing to begin with!

3. Write when you can.

My best writing time is in the evening when my kiddos are in bed for the night. As I determined above, my life is simply filled with all sorts of other tasks right now, so writing isn’t a top priority. (I can already see some of your faces…)

What do you mean writing isn’t a top priority?

It’s true. I don’t know about you, but I have a family. I have a day job. I have other tasks taking over my writing time. That doesn’t mean that I don’t write, though. Sometimes, in order to curb the feelings of guilt completely, you simply have to write when you can:

  • Wake up a little early.
  • Write during your break at work.
  • Write during your lunch break at work. (Don’t forget to eat, too.)
  • Write in the evening.
  • Write when the house is silent.
  • Write while you’re sitting in your car before you go into work (leave a little early).
  • Set a timer, and write for only that amount of time.
  • Set aside specific days, and write a few times a week.

The most important thing here is figuring out what works best for you. We all know that in order to become better writers, we have to write. Try a couple different things until something works for you. My big one lately has been the timer. Every ten minutes helps me get a little closer to the end of my novel.

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What is your point, exactly?

It’s okay to have some off days… Even when they all stick together and form off months. The trick is making sure that you are still writing when you can and feeling positive about the progress you do make.

Just be you.

Share with me in the comments: how do you handle writing when it takes a backseat to life? What do you do? How often do you still write?

Author Toolbox

This post is part of the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop, which is dedicated to helping writers become stronger and more confident in their craft. Click here for more information, to continue hopping through other posts, or to join in!

Nano Blog and Social Media Hop2

Resources

Online Timer

Camp NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo

Micropoetry When Life Is Busy…

School started here this week, so I’ve been quite busy learning new names and faces, teaching classroom procedures, setting up notebooks, and encouraging a variety of writing from the very beginning.

Since I’ve been busy with school, I haven’t been writing a whole lot… Okay, I haven’t been writing at all. I don’t have writer’s block; I’ve simply been busy. I have been thinking about writing, though. Does that count?

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These past couple days have gone rather well. Students are respectful and are quickly learning the classroom rules and procedures. They are eager to write, too. A few of them asked if they could take their writer’s notebook with them and write at home!

Of course you can!

Since we are focused on the beginning stages of writer’s notebooks this week and poetry next week, I’ve decided to share some of my poetry, micropoetry to be specific. I learned about this mini form of poetry via Twitter, where forming anything is done in 140 characters or less.

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Photo from here

I’ll share the poem and the corresponding  hashtag so you can see some of the different places to look for micropoetry prompts. I hope you enjoy reading these.

#MadVerse (and the photos that accompanied the prompt)

What do you see?
It feels like both halves
have been ripped away –
and exposed
to the world…

Lost in though
Train whistling
in the distance –
Star shining
in the sky –
Peace humming
in my mind –

Lashing out at
repressed memories,
unrestrained torture in
a bottle.

#BlackDahliaProse (and the photos that accompanied the prompt)

All of us making wishes
are simply blowing kisses
to the wind. Time to face
the winding wheel of Time,
and be free.

Heartache,
like a cold wind,
still shivers.
broken and alone –
waiting for the warmth
Time promises.

peeking out behind
the darkness –
is just the smallest sliver of
the sun –
suddenly gone again.

#DimpleVerse (and the photos that accompanied the prompt)

temper trapped in
a cycle of war –
eyes entranced by
the victims left behind –
time wasted as
another fuse is lit-

growls escaping
and time grows short –
anger is slowly
tempered by fear –

#TLPoetry (and the photos that accompanied the prompt)

You healing all my
broken thoughts and
shattered dreams
is worth more than
all the words
ever said to me

Jumped into
a book –
searching for
a new
Adventure.

#PoetryPortrait (and the photos that accompanied the prompt)

Somewhere
in the city lights –
Someone
sits alone and cries –

nothing matters but
the music of life –
time may pass and
people may die –
yet the words will
always live on –

#SenseWrds (and the photos that accompanied the prompt)

wrapping me
in a blanket of smiles –
never want to miss
those moments – all ours –

Missing home –
snow inching up
to my knees,
while I create three
orbs of laughter.

Thank you!

Thank you for taking the time to read a few of my micropoems. Were there any you especially enjoyed? Share with me in the comments! If you want to read more of my tiny poems, follow me on Twitter.

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Resources

Here is a list of all the creators of the prompts I use (when I use a prompt):