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Hello out there!  If anyone still follows and read my blog...  I could give you a list of excuses as to why I haven't blogged, but I won't.  I just haven't made time for it. Period.  I am hoping to get better at that because I feel like I have so many great ideas to share.

I have to admit this critical activity was put together by myself so that I would be able to get through the first week back to school after winter break.  Being in junior high, we have semester tests the second week we come back from break.  I knew I couldn't start a new topic, but wanted the students to do some review before their semester test. 

Enough rambling & onto the activity....

 
I was looking at Facebook and had seen that someone posted the link to The Year 2015 in Pictures from The New York Times.  It piqued my interest because the first picture that came up was beautifully taken.  I started looking through them and was learning about events that I never knew had happened.  A light bulb came on in my head. 

Here is step by step what I had my students do to complete this activity...

 
I used my Elmo to show the students how to set up their note taking sheets.  I didn't really tell what we were doing, jut tried to get it all laid out.  Here are some pictures of what the note taking sheet looked like. 
 This is what the individual sections looked like.
Here is the sheet as a whole.
 
I have also put one you can print off in the 2015 in Photos FREEBIE in my TPT store.
 
I pulled up the website and showed the students how they could navigate by month.  I told them that for my example I had picked a spring month.  I pulled up my example date.  As a class, we looked at the photo and read the caption.  We also inferred what we thought the cause might be.  (FYI - They were way off.)  I showed them how I used the date and important details from the caption to Google the event.  We talked about what we could infer would happen because of the event.  We also discussed the main idea and evaluated the photo the author had chosen.  When we had finished out discussion, I showed them my example page that I had completed. 
 
Next, we went to the computer lab so that the students could explore the site and pick pictures/dates that caught their eye.  I also had them make sure that they would be able to Google a cause and infer an effect for the event.  (Some of the events will just not work for the activity.)
 
I gave the students 2 class period, so 2 hours to Google the events and get all of their information and thought onto their paper. (I know having students take notes on paper seems like an extra step, but I wanted them to be able to process the information that they were getting.  It also helped make their sentences and answers more refined.)

Last but not least, the student input all of their information into the template I provided.  All answers had to be in complete, original sentences.  I also told them to make sure that they were well thought out answers-I would be asking them about them later and they would need to be knowledgeable about what they put. 
This is the template that we used.  It can be found in my 2015 in Photos FREEBIE in my TPT store.
 
Here are several examples of the amazing work that my students turned in.  If you think this might be a little challenging for your students, you could have them do it in groups or as a warm-up for a whole class activity.









I have to say that I didn't have any students complaining.  They were all into the assignment and even asked if I could find another one like it for them to do.  I'll have to keep that on my mind....

2015 in Photos - A Critical Thinking Activity





So, I totally have mixed feelings about this months currently... I LOVE my girl Farley, but it is also August, which mean school is right around the corner.  I have had an amazing summer, so I really can't complain too much.  Any-who... lets get to Currently!
 
 
Listening:  I am way too happy that I am back at my house and enjoying some peace and quiet.  I have had people working in the back of my house all week.  I appreciate them being here, but sometimes you just need a little peace & quite, right?
 

Loving:  I have also spent the last 2 days getting to hang out with some of my favorite #htxteachers.  They made my weekend.  Between going to an Astros game to bowling, we had a blast.  Every time we get together I know I will leave with a smile on my face and a full heart.  If there are hangouts or meet-ups in your area, DO IT!
 
Thinking/Wanting:  Around Memorial Day, the addition to my house got flooded in the big storms we had in the Houston area.  My house has been in disarray since. I am so glad that they finished yesterday.  Now all I have left to do is clean and move the furniture back.  It will definitely be getting done soon.  I am ready to have my living room back. :)
 

 
Needing:  I have started prepping for back to school.  From making and printing word walls to typing out my scope and sequence for the year.  I feel as if the summer has gotten away from me.  I'll get it all done... I hope!
Theme in a Snap! - ELA Everyday
 
B2S RAK:  I know that the first few days and even weeks back to school are tough.  Information overload really gets to me.  I plan on emailing or giving my fellow teachers positive notes.  A little goes a long way... as long as its genuine! :)
 
Enough of my rambling... Head over and check out Currently!
 



 
Today I will sharing with you several big ideas that resonated with me while reading this section of Unshakeable.  I must say that this chapter is one that will definitely be something that I look back over this school year.  It is something that I find myself forgetting to do and I believe it is extremely important in any classroom or even life in general.
 
When I read through the section, I kept having glimpses back to last year and thinking - WOW, I missed that.  I know that I am a good teacher, but this section was life changing for me.
Let me give you an example:
 
Last year was my first time teaching 8th grade.  I was totally out of my element.  The students and curriculum were new and scary to me.  (8th graders are a different breed-just fyi.) At the beginning of the year I felt like I needed to prove myself.  The principal had asked me to moved up to her campus because she had heard great thing about me.  This put a lot of weight on my shoulders because I pride myself in the job that I do.  Was I focused on my students or was I focused on how well I was completing my job each day? To be honest, I was focusing on how well I was doing my job.  Thankfully I snapped out of that pretty quickly, like within a month, I started to get back to my usual self.  
Now you ask... why all of this rambling?
 Get to the point, Sandy! 
I wasn't focusing my attention where it was needed.  I worried about too many things and had too much on my plate.  As teachers, if we are in the present with our students, we will be much more patient and will be much more productive.
 
 
It also made me realize how high my standards are set for the students in my classroom.  Am I saying that I need to lower my standards? Heck no! I do need to make sure that I am a cheerleader for my students no matter how small the accomplishment.  As teachers, we usually focus on the bigger picture or the light-bulb moment for our students.  I challenge you to really take the time to look deeper and find more things your students accomplish.  All students love praise no matter how small - this will help push them to achieve more.
 
 
Lastly, always be willing to deviate from your lesson plans.  Yes, I know I have a state test my students are expected to pass, but I would be happy to have a conversation that facilitates their love of reading too.  Some of the most memorable things that students learn are those that are authentic.  You CAN'T find them on the lesson plans.  They happen through purposeful conversation.  Am I saying to get off topic? Nope, you are the teacher and you know when it has gone too far left.  Just know that you don't always have to follow the lesson plan.  :)
 
 
What are something you do in your classroom or help you be more truly present and look for those light-bulb moment?  Truly challenge yourself to try these things next year in your class.  I'd love for you to come back and share what you discover.
 
Check out Chrissy's blog for the next section of Unshakeable!
 
 
Also, today is the last day of my birthday giveaway... click the image to take you to the previous post where you can find all the details!
 
 
 



I am very passionate about the next section of Unshakeable that I get to discuss with you today.

 
"That Student"
As educators, I know that you understand what I mean when I say "that student". 
 
I have had several of "that student" in one class at a time. 
 
I have been know to be able to build rapport with "that student".
 
And I have to admit that "that student" is the one that I've learned the most from in my 10 years of teaching.
 
"That student" is the one that I will have grown the closest with by the end of the school year.
 
If I'm around town, "that student" will run up to me and say hi or give me a big hug, even after being out of my class for several years.
 
 
1.  You, as the teacher, are the one who is in control of the climate in your classroom.  The way you handle situations, no matter how big or small, will determine how your students respond and react then and in the future. I'm not going to lie and say that I was always the best teacher at handling things thrown at me.  Are there times that I have raised my voice? Yes! Are there time that I went back and forth with a student and let them have all the power? Or course!  It happens to the best of us.  Every year that I have taught has helped me learn how to control the climate of my classroom better.  I now know that if they come in dragging, I might have to be overenthusiastic to reel them in.  Or if they come back from lunch a touch to active, I am the calming effect.  This also goes along with how you react to "that child".  If you react with anger, you will get anger back, but a lot of times if you react with love--they will learn that you care about them. Just know that you have that control.  You are the thermometer of your class!
2.  Get to know every student.  Yes, even "that student".  Often "that student" is the one that would benefit from it the most.  Am I saying spend all of your time getting to know "that student" and not the others? No way! I am saying get to know all of your students- like, dislikes, hobbies, their triggers, etc. If you do this, you will be able to understand why they choose to do certain things, but you will also build a better relationship with them. I say hi every child, whether they belong to me (are in my class) or not.  I want them to know that I notice them, that they are important, and that someone cares.  I am often drawn to "that student" because I want to know more about their triggers and what they care about.  If I know these 2 things, there time in my class will be much easier for me.  I can stop something that might trigger them or even teach them a coping strategy for the next time.  If I know they accelerate in sports, you bet I will be on the sideline cheering them on. I can see some of you shaking your heads-no, not EVERY game or event - I don't necessarily have to stay the entire time.  I need to make sure they know I am there supporting them. This has been a game changer for me.
 
3.  Redirect and reteach instead of punishing.  This should be common sense to most of us, but I knew I needed to add it to my list.  If a student make a mistake or a bad choice, you do not always have to punish them.  Shocking.. I know!  Often if you review the procedures/rules and have them practice them, the problem can easily be fixed.  And woohoo- NO discipline referral!! Will this work every time. No!  Will this work for severe in fractions of rules, like fighting, cursing, etc? NO WAY!! Use it wisely.  I have been thanked by assistant principals for not writing my kids up for every little thing.  I probably have a lower discipline referral rate than most teachers I have worked with.  Is it because I get all the "good kids"? Nope.  Its because I heed the advice I just gave you.  Even though I teach 8th grade, my students will make bad choices occasionally. Most of the time I can redirect their attention back to where it should be OR I can reteach the procedure that is in place.  Most of the time "that student" will get it after a handful of times.  Does it always get corrected that quickly? No way! But every student if different.  I also firmly believe this has helped me build rapport because I handle it in my classroom instead off giving the responsibility to someone else.  (I have written up discipline referrals, but that is after redirecting/reteaching, conferencing with them, and conferencing with their parent.) 
 
 
Hopefully, you will be able to take my top 3 thing to remember and apply them to your class next year.  They work with all students and not just "that student".
 
Do you have any tips or trips that you use with "that student"? Comment and leave them below... I am always looking for new tips and tricks to add to my teaching.
 
Tomorrow, I will be back with the next section of
Unshakeable - be truly present & look for the light bulb moments.  And it is going to be good... see ya then!




If you missed my post about the previous chapter, which was over creating a positive school culture, you can check it out here.
I have to admit that I cringed when I saw that I had to share my reaction to this chapter.  I mean who enjoys professional development... I DREAD most PDs that my school district requires me to go to.  I can either be found doing 2 things if  it is not engaging or interesting...
Doodling in a notebook
https://iknitipurl.wordpress.com/52-books-in-52-weeks-2013/
or completely zoned out
Image result for bueller anyone
 
Fortunately this chapter was filled with lots of ways that you can take PDs into your own hands.  They may not be "official" hours, but as teachers we are always looking for ways to grow and learn.  I am going to leave you with my personal favorites that every teacher can incorporate and they are absolutely free! 
(You know we teachers love a great deal)
  1. Teacher friend get-togethers - I have been able to network through social media to find some great teachers in the Houston area.  They are an amazing resource.  Often, we are struggling with something.  Maybe a lesson just didn't work or you have policies at your school you disagree with.  Teacher friends some your area are great people to talk about these things with.  They may have insight with something that has worked for them or maybe their district does something a certain way that works.  They are an outlet to question and explores with.  ( I have to add that you do not want to just have those negative conversations, that could hurt your group. Also, make sure you have like minded teachers.  You want other teachers who are driven and want to grow.)
  2. Ed-Camps - I haven't gotten to attend one yet, but my good friend Dailene who blogs over at Not JANE sent me a blurb to share with you. "EdCamps are innovative and unstructured meetups, where professional development is chosen and led by the attendees.  Teachers come together to share what is working in their classrooms related to STEM and EdTech.  Organizers group interests and questions attendees have to create the session topics for the day.  Each session is self-led and gives everyone time to share and ask questions.  It is an exciting way to experience professional development. I really appreciated the enthusiasm all attendees showed. There was no judgement, only sharing and collaboration. I met teachers from all over the greater Houston area who are great additions to my personal learning network. I'd highly recommend attending one of the free #edcamps in your area. I'm even road-tripping to @edcampdallas this fall it was such a great experience. "   I have actually signed up to go to @edcampdallas and can't wait to experience this awesomeness for the first time.
  3. Social Media- I have grown so much as an educator by following some pretty inspiring women.  Whether it be through blogs, instagram, facebook, or twitter -- you can find others who are like minded and have the same values as a teacher.  Instagram is the easiest for me to use on a daily basis.  I can scroll through and if I find a post that catches my eye, I can go to their blog post to learn more about it.  One of my favorite people to follow on instagram is Stacey over at Literacy for Big Kids.  Even though I am a secondary teacher, every. single. one. of her posts speak to me.  She is truly passionate about reading and shares that passion freely with her readers.  You should really check her out if you teach literacy or better yet, if you just want to feel inspired.
 
Those are just a few ways to take your own professional development into your own hands and really make it what you want it to be.  PD doesn't sound so bad now, does it? 
 
Do you have any other ideas for your own professional development? Leave them in the comments for myself and others to explore.
 
Tomorrow, Brittany over at
 Button
will cover the next chapter titled
 "Let your Vision Define your Value and Measure of Success."
 


Hey all!  I know you have been joining my friends (Cassie, Jessica, Chrissy, & Brittany) with their insight in the  Unshakeable  book study, but just in case you haven't --click on their name to get yourself up to speed. 
 
Image result for unshakeable book cover
 
I must say that I am excited that I get to talk about this chapter.  I know negativity can be a problem at most workplaces and schools, so I hope you feel inspired after reading this. :)  
Who has sat in their lunchroom or been in their work room at school and heard other teachers gossiping?  It could have been about another teacher, a student, a parent, or even an administrator.
Who has coworkers or has even found themselves complaining about things at school?
Image result for teacher raising hand
We all know someone or have been guilty  ourselves at some point of these things.  At least I know I have been.  The crazy thing is that when we do these things or let others suck us into their negativity, we have made the conscience choice not to be positive.
 
 
That's where this chapter will come in handy for the next school year or even life in general.  It was all about creating and spreading positivity.  Most of it was common sense, but was definitely a good reminder to have.  I had 2 big takeaways that I will share with you.
 
Image result for spread positivity quotes
 
 1.  Always be positive or find the positive in a situation. - I know this sounds easy, but for me it always seems to be a hard thing to do.  I am type A and always critical of myself & others.  I am going to work on this by - recognizing the negative (in my head) and adding the positive out loud.  So no matter how bad the situation, I can get the negative out in my head & share the positive with others around me to help them
feel at ease.
 
Image result for spread positivity quotes
 
2.  Redirect from the negative. - Let others share their concerns quickly and then move to something else.  Such as changing the subject or letting them know that you can pick up the conversation later.  This would work brilliantly in a meeting setting.  Tell them you can revisit the topic at the end of the meeting (knowing you won't have time). Or excuse yourself to copy papers or answers emails.  So basically if you can't redirect, remove yourself.
 
 Image result for spread positivity quotes
 

 You are in charge of your happiness.  No matter how much negativity is around you, you ultimately choose your mood.
 

  
Comment with one thing you can do next year to spread positivity at your campus.
 
Come back tomorrow to hear about the next chapter - Take Charge of Your own Professional Development.
 
 
 
 



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