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Holiday Season Survival Guide

The Christmas season in the middle school classroom can become chaotic unless some planning is done to ensure routines are maintained while enjoying the season. Find some great ideas for staff and student gifts, as well as festive lessons and assignments from the 2 Peas and a Dog blog.

It’s almost time for the holiday season in our classrooms. As much as I love the holidays, it is also a time when many teachers feel run down and are exhausted from the business of school start up and the ensuing months.

Use the ideas in this blog post to plan early so you can spend the holiday season with loved ones instead of staying up late lesson planning.

Festive Ideas For the Classroom
Promotion Joy During The Holiday Season from 2 Peas and a Dog
Holiday Cheer Through Music from Reading and Writing Haven
How To Be Festive in the Secondary Classroom from B’s Book Love
Holiday Lessons and Assignments from 2 Peas and a Dog
Positive Reinforcement Cards from The Sunny Sunshine Student Support Store
Christmas Themed Classroom Bucket List from EB Academic Camps

Teacher Self Care
Tips for Teachers on Reducing Holiday Stress from 2 Peas and a Dog
Avoiding Teacher Burnout from 2 Peas and a Dog

Staff Gift Ideas
Holiday Gifts from 2 Peas and a Dog

Student Gift Ideas
Jolly Bookmarks from Nouvelle ELA
Community Building Bookmarks from Language Arts Classroom
Zen Doodle Bookmark from B’s Book Love

Holiday Themed Student Activities {Free}
Interactive Christmas Writing Prompts from 2 Peas and a Dog
Reading Ornaments from The Marvelous Middle
December Bell Ringers from Reading and Writing Haven
Christmas Around the World Readings from Kid World Citizen
Winter Holiday Genetics Punnett Square Worksheet from Elly Thorsen

Holiday Themed Assignments {Paid}
Christmas Truce of 1914 Media Analysis Unit

Stay warm this holiday season. 

The Christmas season in the middle school classroom can become chaotic unless some planning is done to ensure routines are maintained while enjoying the season. Find some great ideas for staff and student gifts, as well as festive lessons and assignments from the 2 Peas and a Dog blog.


#2ndaryELA Twitter Chat on Tuesday 11/14 Topic: Socratic Seminars

Join secondary English Language Arts teachers Tuesday evenings at 8 pm EST on Twitter. This week's chat will be about socratic seminars.
Brynn Allison, The Literary Maven & Kristy, 2 Peas and a Dog host #2ndaryELA on Twitter every Tuesday evening from 8 - 8:30 PM EST. #2ndaryELA is a weekly chat for secondary English Language Arts teachers focused on a topic. Every Sunday, we post the topic and questions on our blogs to allow you to prepare for the upcoming Tuesday evening's chat. Thank you to everyone who joined us last week and we hope that you will join us again.

We'd also love for you to join our 2ndaryELA Facebook group, even if you aren't on Twitter. 2ndaryELA is a group of middle and high school English Language Arts teachers looking to share ideas and best practices. This group is an extension of our Twitter chat and a place for collaboration, questions, and encouragement. Feel free to post teaching ideas, success stories, resource links, photos, etc. that will enhance our instruction.

On Tuesday, November 14, our #2ndaryELA chat will be about using Socratic Seminars in the English Language Arts classroom.

The Format:
8:00 – What and where do you teach? Include a link to your blog if you have one. #2ndaryELA
8:05 Q1: What seating arrangement(s) do you use for your seminars? #2ndaryELA
8:10 Q2: What rules/procedures do you have in place to ensure successful seminars with your students? #2ndaryELA
8:15 Q3: How are seminar questions prepared, by teacher or students? #2ndaryELA
8:20 Q4: In what ways do you encourage/track seminar participation? #2ndaryELA
8:25 Q5: How do you assess student seminar performance? #2ndaryELA

The Directions:
1. Log into Twitter on Tuesday from 8-8:30 PM EST.
2. Search for tweets with the hashtag #2ndaryELA in the search bar. Make sure to click “Latest.”
3. Introductions are for the first 5 minutes.
4. Starting at 8:05 (@literarymaven or @2peasandadog) will post questions every 5 minutes using the format Q1, Q2, Q3, etc. and the hashtag #2ndaryELA.
5. Respond to questions using the format A1, A2, A3, etc. with #2ndaryELA.
6. Follow any teachers responding and who are also using #2ndaryELA.
7. Like and respond to other teachers' tweets.

You can schedule your responses to the questions ahead of time using a scheduler like TweetDeck or HootSuite (but don't forget to use A1, A2, etc. and #2ndaryELA). Links are encouraged, so be sure to use a link shortener like tinyurlbitlygoo.gl or ow.ly Just visit one of those links and paste your long link to shorten it for Twitter. Using images is also encouraged when relevant.

New to chats? Here are the rules:
1. Stay on topic & stay positive!
2. Please do not post or promote paid products unless specifically asked.
3. If you arrive late, try to look through other posts before beginning.
4. Feel free to just read, like, and/or retweet.
5. Always use our hashtag #2ndaryELA, including in your replies to others.
6. Make sure your twitter feed is set to public. (Also keep in mind that Twitter is completely public – that means students, parents, and administrators can and will read what you tweet.)

You can also check out a quick video tutorial in this blog post.

Be sure to spread the word to any teacher friends who might be interested in joining us as well. We look forward to chatting with you Tuesday evening and in our 2ndaryELA Facebook group!



Learning Stations and Centres in the English Language Classroom

Using stations is a fantastic way to increase engagement in the English Language Arts classroom. Get ideas on how to use and manage stations in your middle or high school ELA classroom from 2 Peas and a Dog.

Using stations is a fantastic way to increase engagement in the English Language Arts classroom.
Read the #2ndaryELA Twitter chat recap below to get ideas on how to use and manage stations in your middle or high school ELA classroom.

Question 1: How do you use learning stations or centers in connection with reading?

A1: I like to use stations to review literary elements and preview novels https://t.co/wHdS8ltSwJ
A1: I use stations to solidify content after I have taught the lessons.
A1: Learning stations to offer choice and voice to students. Ss all have different needs, stations help them lead their learning.
A1: Various ways (we are prepping for state test)-T-chart and thesis on a prompt, editing a draft, mechanics practice, etc.


Q2: How do you use learning stations or centers in connection with writing?

A2: It would be cool to have an archive of all the stations we've used for writing to pull from - maybe on Google?
A2: I use stations for differentiation: support, practice, or extension depending on past performance. Get to work closely w/Ss
A2: I have used stations to have students edit their work. Each station has a different editing task.


Q3: Are the activities in your learning stations or centers usually independent or collaborative?

A3: Reading stations usually collaborative when reviewing, a mix when previewing a new text. Writing stations usually independent
A3: A mix of both. Use stations to offer challenges; choice for ind or collab. Vary stations throughout semester to adapt to Ss
A3: A mix of both
A3: Stations in my room are always collaborative
A3: I try for a mix of independent & collaborative tasks. I use stations to ensure I meet with all students for small group time.
A3: The process is always collaborative but sometimes the product is individual.


Q4: Is there always a tangible product in your learning stations or centers? How do you hold students accountable for their work?

A4 During review type stations, I just monitor the room, check stations at the end of each rotation. I don't need more grading
A4 Not always about a tangible product. Sometimes it is about reflecting and developing skills. Sharing experiences. Autonomy.
A4: Many times there is a prod. Ss have a checklist that requires them to answer a Q that can only be A by the station wk.
A4 cont: For writing stations, their pre-writing or revising will impact final piece so that work is turned in, but not graded
A4: I don't necessarily grade stations - it's usually practice.
A4: The product is an issue for me as a newbie.Ss are mostly gaining practice, & I don't want to collect it all.
A4: I try to ensure each station has some sort of a tangible item (assignment, task sheet or exit card) or new learning.
A4: I assess mostly for completion. I show models and Ss reflect on their performance using rubrics and samples.


How do you manage student behavior during learning stations or centers?

A5: I make the students practice rotating, putting things away at stations, and always use a timer to keep things moving
A5: You try it, set out expectations and learn together. Adjust, reflect, conference. Don't strive for perfection.
A5: Reminder of expectations and agreements w/ continual monitoring. 3 strikes, Ss sits out.
A5: Stations follow my classroom management routines. I also leave my small group to work for a few minutes and rotate.

Using stations is a fantastic way to increase engagement in the English Language Arts classroom. Get ideas on how to use and manage stations in your middle or high school ELA classroom from 2 Peas and a Dog.


#2ndaryELA Twitter Chat on Tuesday 11/7 Topic: Engaging Students With Non-Traditional Texts

Join secondary English Language Arts teachers Tuesday evenings at 8 pm EST on Twitter. This week's chat will be about engaging students with non-traditional texts.
Brynn Allison, The Literary Maven & Kristy, 2 Peas and a Dog host #2ndaryELA on Twitter every Tuesday evening from 8 - 8:30 PM EST. #2ndaryELA is a weekly chat for secondary English Language Arts teachers focused on a topic. Every Sunday, we post the topic and questions on our blogs to allow you to prepare for the upcoming Tuesday evening's chat. Thank you to everyone who joined us last week and we hope that you will join us again.

We'd also love for you to join our 2ndaryELA Facebook group, even if you aren't on Twitter. 2ndaryELA is a group of middle and high school English Language Arts teachers looking to share ideas and best practices. This group is an extension of our Twitter chat and a place for collaboration, questions, and encouragement. Feel free to post teaching ideas, success stories, resource links, photos, etc. that will enhance our instruction.

On Tuesday, November 7, our #2ndaryELA chat will be about engaging students with non-traditional texts.

The Format:
8:00 – What and where do you teach? Include a link to your blog if you have one. #2ndaryELA
8:05 Q1: Where/how do you find contemporary fiction (short stories, novels) to engage your students? #2ndaryELA
8:10 Q2: Where/how do you find nonfiction texts related to current issues or on topics of interest to your students? #2ndaryELA
8:15 Q3: Have you tried using graphic novels or verse novels with your students? Recommendations? Experiences? #2ndaryELA
8:20 Q4: Where/how do you find appropriate videos, images, and infographics for your students to “read?” #2ndaryELA
8:25 Q5: What strategies do you use to help students read and understand non-traditional texts? #2ndaryELA

The Directions:
1. Log into Twitter on Tuesday from 8-8:30 PM EST.
2. Search for tweets with the hashtag #2ndaryELA in the search bar. Make sure to click “Latest.”
3. Introductions are for the first 5 minutes.
4. Starting at 8:05 (@literarymaven or @2peasandadog) will post questions every 5 minutes using the format Q1, Q2, Q3, etc. and the hashtag #2ndaryELA.
5. Respond to questions using the format A1, A2, A3, etc. with #2ndaryELA.
6. Follow any teachers responding and who are also using #2ndaryELA.
7. Like and respond to other teachers' tweets.

You can schedule your responses to the questions ahead of time using a scheduler like TweetDeck or HootSuite (but don't forget to use A1, A2, etc. and #2ndaryELA). Links are encouraged, so be sure to use a link shortener like tinyurlbitlygoo.gl or ow.ly Just visit one of those links and paste your long link to shorten it for Twitter. Using images is also encouraged when relevant.

New to chats? Here are the rules:
1. Stay on topic & stay positive!
2. Please do not post or promote paid products unless specifically asked.
3. If you arrive late, try to look through other posts before beginning.
4. Feel free to just read, like, and/or retweet.
5. Always use our hashtag #2ndaryELA, including in your replies to others.
6. Make sure your twitter feed is set to public. (Also keep in mind that Twitter is completely public – that means students, parents, and administrators can and will read what you tweet.)

You can also check out a quick video tutorial in this blog post.

Be sure to spread the word to any teacher friends who might be interested in joining us as well. We look forward to chatting with you Tuesday evening and in our 2ndaryELA Facebook group!



HyperDocs Q & A Edtech Tools and Classroom Management

It is important to establish clear routines and procedures when using technology in the classroom. Learn about the ed-tech tools that provide an engaging HyperDocs experience for your students from the 2 Peas and a Dog blog.

A few weeks ago this blog featured a fantastic article about HyperDocs called Use HyperDocs To Increase Student Engagement written by guest blogger Tracy Enos an 8th Grade teacher from Rhode Island, United States. I met Tracy in the #2ndaryELA Facebook Group I co-moderate where she is an active contributor and freely shares her ideas and passion for teaching.

After our initial conversations, I still had many questions for Tracy about how she sets her students up for success in the classroom. She kindly replied to my questions. See our conversation below.


Question: Do you still teach formal lessons or are all of your lessons taught via the Playlist or HyperDoc method?

Answer: I do not use Playlists and/or HyperDocs for everything. I really depends on what we are doing. I do use Playlists for grammar, writing workshop, and book clubs. I prefer whole class lessons at times as well when I feel like a community experience is helpful. For example, when I teach The Diary of Anne Frank (play, mostly), we act out the play and learn together, but the background information provided before we start will be blended to give the kids the chance to answer their own questions. Generally, I find it helpful to blend when you have [a class with] differences in their levels, abilities and background knowledge. That way students can spend more time working on skills or information that pertains to them - which is why [this method] helpful in writing or grammar instruction. My classes are not levelled at all, so I have students at vastly different abilities.


Question: What are the best Ed Tech tools to integrate into Playlists or HyperDocs?

Answer: Anything Google (Google Slides, Docs, Drawing, Forms, Keep, etc.) is fantastic to integrate into Playlists or HyperDocs. Beyond Google, some of my favorites are:


How do you distribute the Playlists or HyperDoc to students?


Answer: I distribute the Playlists and/or HyperDocs in Google Classroom. I make a copy for all students so the playlists can be modified or individualized as needed. They are also able to be seen or changed by any collaborating teachers.


How do you ensure your students are on task while online?

Answer:  It's pretty much the same as any other time. An engaging lesson is probably the best form of classroom management.  I strive to offer lots of choice and creative control over what my students do. I want them to be invested. Because the kids are working on individual tasks/ skills/ assignments, I can help them when they do need it. They don't have to move on to the next step until they feel comfortable. There is no lag or wait time if they finish early. There's always something to do.  

Classroom Management Ideas:

  • I bounce around a lot in class to check-in with students 
  • I keep a tracking sheet to monitor what step everyone is on.
  • I make it a point to touch-base often.
  • Students must fill out check-in forms during parts of the process.
  • I can also see what they are doing online to offer feedback [due to the collaborative nature of G Suite for Education formally GAFE].


Question: When working with small groups how do you ensure your other students remain on task while online?

Answer: It certainly requires relationship and trust. Just like any group work. If my students are interested and engaged in what we are doing, it shows. I have lots of conversation and face-to-face time. I'm constantly checking-in and talk about the importance of time-management. The skills I teach are not just ELA related, but are about how to learn, research, create, question, manage, organize, plan, etc... If a student is having trouble, we talk about it to find strategies that work. Middle Schoolers also love to collaborate, so that's a great incentive for productivity.


Question: What do you do with students who are still working on step 1 and the rest of the class have moved on significantly?

Answer: It would depend on the reason and what we are doing.  If it's a matter of not understanding, maybe they need more explanation. If it's a matter of refusal to work, maybe a conversation to connect the topic to their life in some way... make it more relevant. If they just need more time, that's OK. Fortunately, this doesn't happen often. Since the playlists can be individualized, I may omit certain steps for certain students, or I may change them or have them work on different lessons, etc. The kids can control the pace, up to a point. We generally still have deadlines that they have to meet, but I would certainly try to get to the root of the matter to see what's going on.


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It is important to establish clear routines and procedures when using technology in the classroom. Learn about the ed-tech tools that provide an engaging HyperDocs experience for your students from the 2 Peas and a Dog blog.


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