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Cheers to New Beginnings: LOVE TANESHA

Well, I've been here for the last two years, and it's been amazing!!! I've thought about my purpose for blogging, and I've decided it's time for me to switch it up...and that includes my name. Raising Rigor and Readers was the birth child of imitation. I created it because I was trying to be like other bloggers, and lost myself. I want to continue sharing my thoughts on teaching and so much more. If you are interested in following along I'll be at WWW.LOVETANESHA.COM

Positivity & Praise for Big Kids

Teaching middle school is hard. Really hard. There are emotions, hormones, strong opinions, relationships, feelings, and so much more. Below are a few strategies I use to keep it positive in the land of the MIDDLE. 

Positivity and Praise
Posi-texts - This gem involves the families of my students. It's a low lift/high impact activity. When I catch students making great decisions, I snap it, jazz it up with a photo editor (optional), and send it to parents. Imagine being a parent and receiving a text that shows your child being awesome in school!  On the other end of this imagine being a student not knowing your teacher has "caught" and shared this moment with someone you love. 

Posi-notes The sister to the posi-text is the posi-note. No better way to spread the love than with words. My students really appreciated receiving cards/notes that celebrate something they've done. It's kind of like getting mail. They are a low lift/high impact way of celebrating students. I simply write something about students on cardstock, post it note, piece of paper, or even it type it out and place it on the desk of a student. It's the ultimate surprise when they realize its for them (not their parents) and is celebratory.

100 Club - There are weekly opportunities for students to join "100 Club," which connects to the daily learning output. I would rate this as a medium lift/medium impact largely because it takes some motivation to get students invested in top quality work. While there are my top flyers who are always down for perfection, I've had to work on motivating students who haven't always experienced academic success. In execution, I grade student exit tickets (which is sometimes uber time consuming) and then pass out little coupons that say "100 Club." When students collect five they can grab a "You Pick" card (see below). 

Specific Praise- This is something I love. When students make positive choices, I give very specific praise and recognize. Instead of saying "good job," I am specific "when you kept asking questions to better understand, it led to a better classroom conversation, and your exit ticket demonstrated..." When appropriate I give the praise publicly so that other students know the actions that are leading to growth and recognition. 

Raffle Tickets - This is an oldie, but a goodie! It's one of my favorites not only because it's a low lift, but also because the kids love the idea of randomization. There have even been times when someone who struggles wins and the students are so happy that they won. This melts my heart. EVERY.SINGLE.TIME. The key that I've found is to mix up your raffle tickets! I love a raffle ticket that doubles as a note home (example)! Winning! 

Unlock the Magic - This idea was taken from the fabulous Hope King. I love it, but it was certainly a high lift with a medium-ish impact. For clarity I'll walk you through the steps and what it is. There's lost of room for teacher agency, but I'm going to share how I set it up in my room. The idea is that students earn keys that go do locks. I have nine locks, and 90 keys. There's only ONE key that unlocks each of the locks so the more keys students earn, the more chances they have of unlocking one of the locks. 

  1. Purchase 9 nine locks from Lowes, or Home Depot. Depending on your classroom, you can decide how many locks you have. I decided to have 9 because I found a cute key container from Home Goods that could be spray painted to match the color of the locks, and it had nine drawers. 
  2. Make copies of lock keys. I bought nine locks with the same key code, and one had a different key code. It's crazy, but the locks came in packets of four, and all the packs had the same code (on the back of the lock packet). I then bought a one pack that had a different code. I used this one to create the "trick keys" that didn't unlock the locks. The most difficult part is getting the keys made. I suggest starting with the key that is one that will unlock each of the locks. I had 9 locks so I made 9 copies of this key. Next I made 81 copies of the "dummy" key. 
  3. Place a ribbon on each of the keys that matches the color of the bin they will be in. I went to JoAnn fabrics and grabbed ribbon for about $2/each. 
  4. *Creating the keys was financial and time commitment. Therefore, I had to make sure that I didn't give them to students and risk losing them. I created a bulletin board that matched the colors of the keys. Each time a student earned a key, I wrote their name on the key, and gave them a PAPER copy of the key. On the "reveal" day, students were given the actual key. 
  5. Purchase/Create lock holder (from Michaels). You can find them here, here, and here
  6. Invest students in it!  
Nothing beats the sound when students finally "Unlock the Magic!"


Pick a Prize - A really simple idea that students love! After collecting five "100 Club" tickets, or for a raffle, I allow students to pick their own prize. I found some cute envelopes on Amazon, and created the prizes. There's a ton of different selections such as:
  •  Phone Call Home
  •  Artsy Activity with the Teacher
  •  Game Day
  •  Blackboard Time 
  •  Prize Box
  • and more! 
Scholar Dollars - These can be passed out at will, and traded in for something special, determined by the teacher. My co-teacher uses these with the students and they are obsessed. The only issue she ran into is ensuring that students write their names on the dollars and determining the right prices for the prizes. At first she priced items too low, and found it hard to manage all the dollars students earned. 

TARGET! - The Target dollar spot has some amazing prizes for students that can be used to build your classroom treasure chest. 

These are a few of the things I am doing in my classroom, what additional suggestions do you have? I'd LOVE to know! Let's connect in the comments. 

Black History Month: Getting Beyond Dr. King

I Have a Dream -- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 
Refused to give up her seat -- Rosa Parks 
The Problem We All Live With -- Ruby Bridges 
The Peanut Man -- George Washington Carver 
- Black History Month 
End Scene.

Black History Month is upon us, and I am reflecting on how to celebrate progress while engaging with key issues plaguing the African American community. Last year I jotted a few thoughts here, and I am back with a few bloggers sharing their opinions. I asked one of my 6th graders "What does BHM mean to you?" Her unfiltered thoughts: 

“When black history month comes around, what do we think of? Usually it’s always Rosa parks, Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, etc. They are important, but this is a whole new generation. We appreciate all the things they have done for the black community, but we should start recognizing the young black men and boys that are killed on the streets everyday. This is a big issue in the African-American community and we need to start celebrating and recognizing that their lives matter. It started with Emmett Till who was killed with no justice, and it continues with other black boys. If we can prove to the world that this is important, maybe the injustice will stop. On the news there is always violence going on because of the pain people are feeling. These young boys should have statues, memorials because as Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks are important so is their memory.”
6th Grader & Thinker

From the mouth babes! Abiba's response reminded me that the children are watching! I certainly don't want to cultivate students who view black history month as praise for past heroes. I also don't want to use black history month as a history cram. I am fortunate to have a district curriculum that includes diverse perspectives and an opportunity to celebrate African American history throughout the year, but this hasn't always been the case, and isn't the case for teachers throughout the country. For any topic, especially this one, I think it's critical to share the past in relation to the present and future. It is my hope that students will not come to me tired of the(ir) past, but rather inspired and poised to have an impact.

The Past (Africa - 1970s):
The list to the left is by NO means all inclusive. Creating a "list" was difficult because there are so many ideas and pathways to celebrate the tremendous accomplishments of Africans and Americans(I purposefully separated the terms). I tried to pull out time periods, influential people, and events. To engage with topics, I've compiled some project ideas which include:
- Create mini-timelines for a time period.
- Provide biographical information about important people.
- Draw or paint portraits of important people and events and write a short bio
- Research the key contributions of Divine Nine fraternities and sororities.
- Create a mini-documentary about a time period. 
- Pick a decade in history and in addition to the music of that time period, research its significance to politics and culture, the social justice context of the music and the genre’s influence on dance and clothing styles.

The Present (1980s- Today): 

- Compare and contrast the philosophies of people during a specific time period (e.g. Marcus Garvey, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B Dubois).
- Organize a black film festival for the school. Create a program and a schedule and show films throughout the month of February and beyond.
- Discuss bias and stereotypes in films and clips.
- Read articles about a topic (Black Lives Matter) with different view points and analyze which author presents a stronger argument
- Review census data, collect and analyze statistics and create graphs and infographics which illustrate housing patterns (Chicago is a great start).
Be the Change: 
I wholeheartedly know that our country has made tremendous progress. I know that I am standing on the shoulders of giants, and value their contributions to the movement to end inequity. That said, anyone who believes that we live in a post-racial period is not paying attention. If you're not paying attention, you're not learning. Regardless of the population that teachers serve, we must present multiple perspectives and expose students to current events. If not I wonder how we'll ever move forward, and get beyond Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The active participants in the Civil Rights Movement set the charge and got the ball rolling and we can't be passive. The list to the left provides ideas for taking an active approach during Black History Month so that students think about the world we live in. There is so much we can learn from that past to prevent history from repeating itself. Watching the news is a real testament to the need for more relevant ongoing conversations and reflections about race and class with our students. If not, I fear we will continue to see incidents like this, this, this and this.

Hit Reset After a Break...And a Giveaway

I am joining in with a few of my blogging friends from the Middle School Mob to share a few quick tips on resetting after break. We've all been there before! You know that point when you come back from an extended break well rested and ready to pick right up, but your students have other plans! Below are a few (quick) tips on how to hit reset and quickly build momentum with your class! 

1. Reestablish key Rules and Procedures: Simply put, I remind students of expectations and practice as necessary. It might be me, but there's something about practice that establishes the tone and sense of urgency around getting started right away. I give students strong rationale and try to get keep practice quick, positive, and lecture free. This means no, "you guys forgot the expectations so we are going to practice until we get it right!" Instead I say something to the tune of, "If you are like me you gave your full attention to the break! Let's make sure we are all on the same page with expectations. We might practice a few if we're rusty."

2. Change Seats - Nothing says reset like a good seat change, and one of the best times is after a break. I market it as a fresh start and a chance to get to know another teammate. 

3. Let them Share - Last, but not least, I advise giving students a change to share about their break. This doesn't have to be long, but sometimes students come back after having an AH-MAZING, or AW-FUL break. In either case, students sometimes just need a minute to vent/talk it out, and then move on. This can be done in the form of a turn and talk, or in small groups. In my experience when I just mowed on to the next topic without taking 5-10 minutes for students to chat, we lost time because I had to continually address students talking about their break. 

Well, that's all I have for now! I'd love to learn more strategies for resetting after break in the comments, and be sure to click the links below for more strategies and resources for the new year! 

In addition to our linky, we're giving away 12 of our best-selling resources. We've even included some products that are perfect for bringing in the New Year with your students! Make sure to enter using the Rafflecopter below.

Lit with Lyns - Argumentative Writing Process & Task Cards
EB Academic Camps - New Year's Unit & Activities for Middle School
Caffeine and Lesson Plans - PROBE Notebook: A Creative Yearlong ELA Research Project
Just Add Students - Poetry Analysis - "A Day" by Emily Dickinson
Raising Rigor and Readers - Winter Reading and Writing Activities
Anchored in Reading - ELA Text Dependent Analysis Questions - Author's Craft Task Cards
Teach Inspire Change - Student Behavior & Parent Communications Binder
Mrs. Spangler in the Middle - The Giver Reading Comprehension Games - Four in All!
Tori Gorosave: A Middle School English Teacher's Journey - Expository Close Reading: The History of New Year's
Edison Education - Multiplying and Dividing Integers
Koch's Odds 'N Ends - Student Worksheet for Self-Review / Analysis of Test Results
The Marvelous Middle - Looking Back Looking Forward New Year's Activity

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