Forest City Middle School

My teaching, units, lesson plans/planning, and experiences in my second student teaching placement at Forest City Middle School in Forest City, Iowa.

6th-grade-reading 8th-grade-reading book-club-dugout




The Goodbye Is The Hardest Part - Yesterday marked the first full week without my middle schoolers. It's crazy how you get so attached to the little guys in such a short time. 🙂 🙁
Creating Eiffel Towers Out of Canned Goods! - For the last day of my student teaching placement, students in Dugout (the group of sixth, seventh, & eighth graders that hang together on Fridays at 10:30) participated in a canned food drive where they made sculptures out of their items!
Nothing’s Better Than PJ’s on a Friday - Today was Pajama Day at Forest City Middle School. Pay a dollar and wear some comfy pj's. All proceeds donated to the American Cancer Society. Of course I had to join!
Esperanza Character Chart - Esperanza, the main character of House on Mango Street is a dynamic character that undergoes much change from the first vignette to the last. She is the main figure in the coming of age story, and it's essential that students understand who she is and how she changes through the course of the story.
Themes in House on Mango Street - Themes are so important in House on Mango Street. From identity, home, and family to growing up, friendship, and culture, the book is filled with themes and it's essential that students understand them. Thus I created a notes sheet and lesson designed to help students grasp the main ideas of each vignette.
Sarah Plain & Tall – KWL Chart - Today's focus for Book Club is on the book, Sarah Plain and Tall, which is an easy read I selected to read with my students during the M-Th 30 minute class sessions.
Class Dojo - Have you heard of Class Dojo? This is an awesome way for teachers and parents to stay connected and stay updated on student behavior.
Post-Turkey Day Reflection (Week 13) - Ahh...the snow is blowing, the leftover mashed potatoes are settling at the pit of my stomach, and our first school day back after the holiday break is cancelled. Can you say crazy?
Theme of Growing Up – Notes - One of the major themes in House on Mango Street is growing up. As Esperanza grows up, she starts to realize things about herself and the adult world--hence why this is called a 'coming of age' novel!
Dear Sixth Grade Self - As my eighth graders discussed the theme of growing up in the novel House on Mango Street, I had them connect the idea to their own lives---How had they grown up? Especially in the transition from sixth to eighth grade?
Contemporary Music & Reading - “Hey, can I talk to you for a minute?” I pulled one of my Book Club students aside after class. He had been dozing on and off the entire thirty minutes (yes, Book Club is only thirty minutes) and I wanted to see what was up. “Look,” I said, “I know you’re tired, but it hurts my feelings when you fall asleep during my class."
Figurative Language Challenge - What's better to middle and high school students than a game/competition/individual challenge? (The answer is nothing). That's why I wanted to create an extension activity and figurative language activity that would engage my eighth graders and let them have a little fun.
Learning On My Feet - My student teaching experience has taught me to learn on my feet, which means always being prepared and positive, no matter what the day might throw at me. With crazy schedules, snow days, and lessons taking off in completely different directions, I've realized the most important thing is to take things one step at a time.
“Us & Them” Comic - Students need a break from the same-ole-same-ole. That's why I wanted to create a comic activity to spice things up! My students were reading "Those Who Don't," one of the shortest vignettes in House on Mango Street.
“Darius & the Clouds” Activity - My students finish assessments at different points--this is a given--but it makes it essential to create extension activities and keep them busy and focused on the classroom curriculum.
I Am ___. - I'm excited for today's activity! For the past two weeks I've worked with my eighth grade students on understanding figurative language. They did Notes, the My Figurative Language Family assignment for practice, and now this will be their actual assessment--but a fun one!
Role of Women - The role of women is a huge theme in House on Mango Street, even in the early vignettes. Today's lesson focused on "Marin" and "Alicia Who Is Afraid of Mice" and my eighth graders compared/contrasted the two girls and related their stories to the already existing theme of the degradation of Mexican women.
Wolves Project – Writing Help - Today my sixth graders were continuing with their notes for the Wolves Research Project. Many of them were finished and looking to move towards their project-making, but before that, my co-teacher and I wanted them to write. To make things easier for them to understand, I created a new Google Document to help them stay organized and get a better grasp on the writing part of the project.
Emails Home - Communication with parents is huge, and when one of my eighth graders was gone for a week, I made sure to get involved with not only him, but his parents to catch him up on things he missed.
Text-to-World Connections - As my Book Club students grasped text-to-self connections, it was time to move to text-to-world. To help them understand this, I created a PowerPoint/Google Presentation and walked through it with them.
Connecting to Novel Characters - Making connections while reading is hard! That's why I created this resource to help not only my struggling readers in Book Club, but for for any struggling reader or young reader (fifth grade through eighth grade).
Learning Targets & Lesson Planning - At the start of every week, I post our plan and learning targets. Sometimes these targets even change daily! This is a simple way I plan for my classes, keep students aware of the weekly objectives, and make the learning relevant.
“Louie, His Cousin and His Other Cousin” – Report Writing - Today my eighth graders read "Louie, His Cousin, and His Other Cousin." In this vignette, we're introduced to a family of cousins that live on Esperanza's block (one of which is Marin, the oldest, who we will talk about tomorrow!) and one of them is the unnamed cousin who one day shows up with a brand new, shiny, yellow car.
My Grading Process - Standards-Based Grading can be crazy, but it's something been completely thrown into and have to accept 🙂 It's not so bad on the teacher end once you get started with it. It's just very individualized. And can be quite a lot of work.
What Does Friendship Mean to Me? - Today I had my eighth graders focus on the idea of friendship--What is friendship? What does friendship mean to us? What defines a solid friendship?--I had my students write their ideas all over the white board in a silent-discussion format and then we talked through them.
Wolves Research Project - Piggy-backing off of the previous research activity I did with my sixth graders for practice, the Adopt a Pet, I started this week with a Wolves Research Project.
“Piano Lessons” – Close Reading & Question Set - Ahhh...close reading passages, a necessary evil. Students aren't big fans of close reading, but these mini-readings are important for their skill building, especially if there is a set of questions that are relevant to the skills they are practicing.
Monster in the Barn - For Book Club, I'm always looking for good resources to help my students make connections to their reading. I came across this great source from ReadWorks, and I created two sets of questions to correspond and help with text-to-self and text-to-world connections!
Dear Mom and Dad - To help my sixth graders understand how to research and get some practice before their assessment on informative/explanatory writing, I had them work on the Adopt a Pet project, where they had to research an animal of their choice, take notes, and then draft a letter to their parents/guardians about why they should buy that pet!
Poetry Connections - Making text-to-self connections can be pretty simple when you're working with a story, explanatory text, or short passage. Poetry, on the other hand, can be a challenge. That's why I wanted to specifically work on this with my Book Club students.
The Super Short Week (Week 11 Reflection) - This week was the shortest week in history! We didn't have school on Wednesday because our high school volleyball team made it to state (hooray!) and then we had off on Friday because of conferences on Monday and Tuesday
“My Name/My Family Crest” - How can I connect students and their home lives to House on Mango Street? The answer is a family crest, giving students the opportunity to learn more about their unique cultures and connecting their lives to the life of the main character, Esperanza.
What is Dugout? - Dugout is a program put into place on Fridays at Forest City Middle School. The focus is to promote relationships between students and teachers outside of the curriculum.
Adopt a Pet Activity - Once my students moved from their How Do I Research? introduction presentation to The C.R.A.P. Test worksheet to help them find credible sources to gather notes from, they were finally ready to take notes! Yay!
The CRAP Test (And Notes) - I introduced my students to their research project, 'Adopt a Pet,' where they would choose an animal to research, collect two legitimate websites, take notes (in their own words) and write a short letter to their parents/guardians, convincing them to buy that animal as a pet!
How Do I Research? - My sixth graders are going to begin a short research activity to prepare them for a larger research project on wolves the following two weeks. For this short research activity, I wanted them to research about an animal that they would want to have as a pet...but before doing that, I knew I needed them to understand how to research and how to find credible sources.
Week 10 – Mock Sub Notes and Overplanning - I wasn't able to be in class on Friday due to a doctor's appointment, so to prepare myself for my future teaching career, I created mock sub notes for my cooperating teacher, so that she would know exactly what I wanted my students to do for each class period!
My Figurative Language Family - To go along with teaching my students about figurative language with their Types of Figurative Language Notes, I had them relate what they learned to their own lives and work on generating original examples!
Teaching Figurative Language! - Figurative language is so complicated, yet so much fun! I created this AMAZING (okay, I might be bragging just a little, but I'm super excited!) resource to teach students. It is a scaffolded set of notes that include examples, pictures, and even song clips for learning figurative language in more ways than one!
A House, A Home - After reading "House on Mango Street," the first section in the book, this is a great way to help students visualize the Mango Street house and compare/contrast it to their own.
Connecting to Holes, by Louis Sachar - Who doesn't like the book Holes, by Louis Sachar? This is one of my favorite books from my elementary/middle school years. And because it's such a good book, I wanted my Book Club kids to connect to a descriptive passage in it.
Perseverance Unit Reflection - A powerful skill for students to be able to master, especially by eighth grade, is the ability to reflect and synthesize information. As students finished out their units on perseverance (Hunger Games for my section) my co-teachers and I wanted to create a final reflection to see how they connected their novels, people they researched, and collaborative discussions.
Boys vs. Girls - I wanted to do something fun with my eighth graders today--a discussion/debate between girls and guys--that related to House on Mango Street.
My Favorite Book - My Book Club is made of eighth grade Reading Intervention students who really struggle with reading. One of my girls told me, point blank on the first day, "I don't read." My goal is to change that by making reading fun and by caring about the students and working with them individually over the course of the three/four weeks.
What the Heck is a Vignette? - To introduce my students to House on Mango Street, I knew I had to teach them about the book's format: vignettes.
Introductory Letter to Parents/Guardians - Just like I did in my first student teaching placement at Mason City High School, I wanted to introduce myself to students and parents and send them something that would help us get to know one another before I began full-time teaching.
FCHS Conferences – Round 2! - Since I had started my placement in the middle of the year, I had less of a head role in these conferences than I had at the high school. I will still very excited to be a part of all of them, chiming in with information, ideas, notes, and positives about each of my cooperating teacher's ten students.
Intro to House on Mango Street – WebQuest - As my eighth graders were finishing up their collaborative discussions on people who have persevered, I wanted to transition into the next unit--House on Mango Street--so I created a WebQuest that they could work on when they weren't discussing with their groups! A great time-saver and way to have them learn independently and still be productive towards finishing their previous unit.
Making Connections - Today's (and this week's) Book Club topic is making connections, specifically making a Text-to-Self connection. To help my students understand this, I created a presentation and notes sheet.
Intro to Making Connections - Today was my first day with my Book Club students, so to get to know them (there's only five!) and to introduce the topic we'd be covering in the first few weeks, I created an intro activity!
Week 9 – I’m Ready! I’m Ready! - After a second full week at the middle school, I feel like I have a good grasp on students, their behaviors, names, interactions, and most importantly how to teach them. I've integrated into the classrooms pretty well, teaching mini-lessons, helping with instruction, and working as a co-teacher. Now I'm ready to take over!
My Kids Write the Darndest Things! (Halloween Style) - Okay, this one made me crack up. (And cry a little on the inside)
Help Me With Halloween! - To keep with the Halloween spirit, I created an extension activity that incorporated the holiday and student writing--Help Me With Halloween!
Someone Else’s Shoes - Another extension activity! This time I made the students think creatively and outside the box.
Sentences Competition - Today my sixth graders were finishing up the editing process for their personal narratives. They were all at different places--just starting, halfway through, almost done--so I decided to create some fun, Halloween-related extension activities for those who were finished.
Extension Activities - With Standards-Based Grading, students may be at completely different levels of learning. There might be a student completely finished writing her narrative, while another boy is just finishing up his paragraph--polar opposites--so how do you accommodate? The answer: Extension Activities.
CRAP Test - My eighth graders are working on a perseverance project to tie into Hunger Games. To connect main character Katniss' life with other lives, the students are researching a person in their field of interest and finding evidence as to how that individual persevered through difficult times and challenges. To do this, they need to use the internet---thus the CRAP Test--finding reliable sources.
Pre-Planning House on Mango Street - Next week I will completely take over the eighth grade classes and teach House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. Since I will become, in my cooperating teacher's place, one of the two eighth grade English/Reading teachers, I needed to plan and collaborate ahead of time to prepare for teaching the book.
The Boring Words Funeral - Today my 6th grade co-teachers and I held a Boring Words Funeral for the overused, boring, '2nd/3rd grade' words in our vocabulary. This was a very somber event. Students and teachers wore black. We wrote words down on notecards, placed them in burial shoe box, processed around the room, and said our final words.
Assessing Character Symbols - Okay, Marisa. You can do this. I coach myself as I begin my first Standards-Based Grading. Just be honest. Be consistent. And be smart. 
Concerns from the Community – Standards-Based Grading - "When I think about my school experience, I think of multiple choice and true-false and fill-in-the-blank. I think of a score at the top of the page. What kind of feedback is that?"
My Hamburger Narrative - The focus of my sixth grade classes is narrative writing: short stories about the student's own lives. To help with the structure of writing a short story, we explained a hamburger model of writing. The buns are the topic and concluding sentences, the 'meat' is the essential components of the story, and the condiments are the supporting details, evidence, and sensory details!
Week 8 Reflection – Middle School Isn’t Too Bad - Heading into my first week at Forest City Middle School, everyone at the high school said I'd be wishing to be back after day one. (They made me nervous, I'm not going to lie!) But I was ready for a change and for some younger faces. So I braved the halls of FCMS with a confident face.
Integrating Hunger Games Movie Clips - My eighth graders finished the Hunger Games today. Boy, did I forget how heart-wrenching the ending of the first book was! In addition to the Character Symbol activity I had them working on, I also wanted to integrate the movie in some way, so I used YouTube clips and a discussion post on Google Classroom to enhance and deepen student understanding of the end of the book.
Book Talk: A Face First - Encouraging students to read is important. As a teacher, modeling reading is even more important! So today I gave a book talk on one of my favorite books from elementary/middle school: A Face First.
What Is Skills Iowa? - One of the assessments my cooperating teacher uses for her sixth grade Reading/Literacy is Skills Iowa. These are assessments that match with the Common Core and show learner progress in specific areas.
Hungry Hungry Hippos! - This was a super fun activity that FCMS participated in during their Dugout time--a human-sized, human-version of Hungry Hungry Hippos!
Baladino! - One of my first extracurricular activities at Forest City Middle School happened in my first week! On Tuesday there was an assembly for the musical group Baladino! Okay, I thought heading into the gym, I hope this is good. Boy, was I in for a surprise!
Connecting to Book Club - When I started my second placement, my cooperating teacher was in her last week of meeting with the second round of Book Club students. These kids would switch the first week in November. However, I still wanted to get to know them, so I started engaging through Google Classroom.
Character Symbols - Today I am completely taking over the 8th grade classes! They are almost finished reading the Hunger Games and since the standard that we are assessing is the ability to cite textual evidence and make an inference, I created a Character Symbols worksheet to help them work on inferences in a different (and hopefully fun) way!
The Whats and Whys of Standards-Based Grading - The goal is to remove traditional grades from the education system and have the focus be on learning. Are students learning new skills? Are they proficient in those skills?
First Day of FCMS Professional Development - PD Days are on Wednesdays at Forest City Middle School. There's a shortened schedule, and students are let out at 2, which means from 2:15-4 is an all-staff meeting/professional development/teacher prep time.
Hunger Games – Scaffolded Notes - I stepped into this placement at Forest City Middle School while my eighth grade students were in the middle/end of reading Hunger Games. This was a difficult spot to enter, but I squeezed myself into the lessons by reading aloud to the students and helping with scaffolded notes.
Note Card Names! - It's round two of the note card name tags (well, sort of). Just like I did at the beginning of my first placement at Mason City High School, I had students create note card name tags with their names on the front and three things they wanted me to know about them on the back!
Welcome to Middle School - "It'll be crazy." "You'll be calling right away, begging to come back to high school!" "Those kids are nuts!" This is what I heard the days leading up to my second placement at Forest City High School. Uh oh. I thought. I'm going to be in over my head.
Pre-Placement Meeting: Round 2 - Earlier this morning, I met with my second placement cooperating teacher, Mrs. Sopko! Even though it's been sad leaving my students at MCHS, I'm excited to work with new students and get a taste of the middle school daily life at Forest City!
Almost Time for my Second Placement! - Today is September 25th. Can you believe it? I sure can't. Today, being Friday, marks the end of my third full week in Mason City High School. Which means I am halfway done with my first placement. That's crazy to think about.