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Fall Themed Middle School Lessons

Fall lesson ideas for the middle school classroom including Halloween, Thanksgiving, Remembrance Day and Service Projects from the 2 Peas and a Dog blog.

Summer and fall both rival each other for the favourite season spot in my heart. I love each season for different reasons. As a teacher, I love the fresh air and new school year that fall brings. It can be challenging to find quality lessons related to the season. 

During this season move your lessons outdoors as much as possible, because over the next few months winter moves in and your class will spend too much time indoors due to cold weather days. 

Check out the various ideas below to get inspired for your classroom. 


When the fall holiday season arrives I like to change up my lessons to acknowledge the new season and add some different activities to my lessons. My tip is to embrace the season and all of its holidays. Click the image for more information.






Remembrance Day is a very significant day on the calendar as it encourages people to stop and reflect on all of the sacrifices the people in the military have made and continue to make on a daily basis to ensure the freedom of the western world. Click the image for more information.






A full week of middle school focused contemporary lesson plans are included in this blog post. Click the image for more information.





The fall is a great time to start planning your winter holiday service project. Check out this blog post for ideas from other teachers and how they are making the Christmas season about giving not getting. Click the image for more information.




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Fall lesson ideas for the middle school classroom including Halloween, Thanksgiving, Remembrance Day and Service Projects from the 2 Peas and a Dog blog.

#2ndaryELA Twitter Chat on Tuesday 9/19 Topic: Literature Circles

Join secondary English Language Arts teachers Tuesday evenings at 8 pm EST on Twitter. This week's chat will be about literature circles.
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, September 19, our #2ndaryELA chat will be about using literature circles 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: How do you select books for literature circles? By theme? Genre? #2ndaryELA
8:10 Q2: Share the titles of your favorite literature circles. #2ndaryELA
8:15 Q3: Do you assign students to groups or allow them to choose? How do you prevent too few or too many students in a group? #2ndaryELA
8:20 Q4: How do you hold students accountable for their reading? Are they assigned roles? #2ndaryELA
8:25 Q5: How do you assess students during and after reading in literature circles? #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!

Get caught up on past chats here:








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Grading Policies and Tips in the English Language Arts Classroom

If you ask any English Language Arts teacher they will tell you that grading/marking is the most time-consuming part of their job. During this week's Twitter Chat, teachers shared their best advice for balancing the marking load as well as getting students to utilize assignment feedback from the 2 Peas and a Dog blog.

If you ask any English Language Arts teacher they will tell you that grading/marking is the most time-consuming part of their job. During this week's Twitter Chat, teachers shared their best advice for balancing the marking load as well as getting students to utilize assignment feedback. 


Q1: What student work is graded in your classroom? What isn’t?
-Ss receive grades for major projects, speeches, and tests. Drafts & HW are graded for completion.
-Summative, of course. But also important to grade formative ones as well. Where's the balance between feedback & grades, tho?
-Only "good" copies are formally graded. Lots of diagnostic and formative assessment to guide instruction.
-I mainly assign grades to summative projects/assessments with a few other smaller, formative checks throughout.
- I offer feedback and credit on all student work but high mark grades are on formal writing pieces and larger projects.
- We do lots of practice that may only be graded for completion, assessment is graded after practice


Q2: How do you hold students accountable for implementing feedback? Do students do any revisions/reflections after grading?
-Self-assessment after projects always happens. It's a graded assignment. As far as revisions, I highly encourage Ss to do so.
-When I provide feedback on rough drafts I look through the good copy to ensure corrections have been made.
- I also look to see if feedback has been utilized. Overall, I want to see growth over the unit.
- I give minimal feedback on paper - use tech tools or ask kids to meet. They CAN rewrite for a new grade-only 10% usually do
-A lot of revision/editing in my class comes before anything is graded, so the grade reflects implementation of suggestions
-Homework, most class work, essays.
-Google Docs makes providing feedback and revision easy!
-On our senior paper, we grade the drafts together and they help me determine their grade. They take ownership of their own effort!
-We discuss the importance of learning from mistakes. Anything to make the benefits of revision palpable!
-Grade final drafts but clear expectations for the target skill that includes a lesson, peer editing, and feedback first!


Q3: Schools are moving towards standard based grading. Thoughts? Experiences?
-Standard-based grading encourages student growth & success. Writing instruction lends itself to it w focus on revision
-Like the idea, but the amount of work involved on the grading side seems like a drawback...don't want focus to shift to grades
-I'm all about standards-based grading (& rubrics)! Ss should clearly know & understand assessment criteria to demonstrate it.
-We have been using success criteria and rubrics almost my entire teaching career. We are not encouraged to mark using points.
-Standards based is more clear & effective, set goals know what you're working towards, and COMMUNICATE w/examples @FreshGrade
-I use rubrics a ton because I think they help to make grading less subjective.
- My district has built its own standards based rubrics that we have all had the opportunity to influence and shape. Works well!


Q4: Some schools are moving toward students grading themselves. Thoughts? Experiences?
-I have Ss self-grade on small-group presentations and portfolios. They're much more critical than I am!  https://t.co/bajxCXXcSF
-Here is an example of having students self-assess https://t.co/IKmJ5K3mtj
-Ss should always reflect on their learning. Self-assessment empowers Ss. But T input shouldn't be erased. Trust professionals!
-Self-assessment is always encouraged, but students cannot just select their own grades.
-We've implemented something similar as a part of our formal teacher observation. It'd be cool to score Ss and compare w/ them
-Self-grading leads to OWNERSHIP and EMPOWERMENT, set guidelines, model, and support w/rubrics & examples
-I have involved Ss in the grading process & giving that responsibility & trust empowers them to rise to their own standards
-Def value Ss self-assess, but not necessarily as a final grade. Rubrics before completing work offer opp for the desired grade.
-I love having Ss reflections and eval. Usually, I agree with their assessments!


Q5: What tricks have you learned to help manage the marking load?
-Rubrics are a lifesaver! I use them for *everything*! Here are other tricks I've learned. https://t.co/s9zoHBWdmr
-I have written several blog posts about reducing the marking load here is one. https://t.co/DJZIoN9PUO
-Not everything needs to be graded. Conferences allow for quick, focused feedback. Sometimes when Ss work, you also work.
-Gradebook hacks https://t.co/TlWGfNBCGK
-Agreed! Ts input is still powerful, too. I think most of the value would come from the conversation between teacher and student.
-I use this method for formative assessments. https://t.co/5gqu8FLrMg
-Staying at a school an extra hour daily and 1 night a week at Panera with a salad, sandwich, lemonade, and a stack of work!
-Conferencing helps familiar w/work, req feedback & reflection helps grade on growth, @FreshGrade saves taking home huge paper stacks
-Only assign what I can assess within 1 wk. Digital grade books. Hyperdocs to package learning & make it easy to assess as one.

Read more tips about how to manage your marking load here.





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If you ask any English Language Arts teacher they will tell you that grading/marking is the most time-consuming part of their job. During this week's Twitter Chat, teachers shared their best advice for balancing the marking load as well as getting students to utilize assignment feedback from the 2 Peas and a Dog blog.

#2ndaryELA Twitter Chat on Tuesday 9/12 Topic: Grading Policies and Tips

Join secondary English Language Arts teachers Tuesday evenings at 8 pm EST on Twitter. This week's chat will be about grading policies and tips.
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, September 12, our #2ndaryELA chat will be about grading policies and tips.

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 student work is graded in your classroom? What isn’t? #2ndaryELA
8:10 Q2: How do you hold students accountable for implementing your feedback? Do students do any revisions/reflections after grading? #2ndaryELA
8:15 Q3: Schools are moving towards standard based grading. Thoughts? Experiences? #2ndaryELA
8:20 Q4: Some schools are moving toward students grading themselves. Thoughts? Experiences? #2ndaryELA
8:25 Q5: What tricks have you learned to help manage the marking load? #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!

Get caught up on past chats here:








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How To Write Long Range Plans


Long Range Plans sometimes called Scope and Sequence are important for digging deeper into the curriculum (standards), and to ensure you cover all the required material before the end of the year.


Here is my process for creating long range plans for the subjects I teach:


1. Print off a paper copy or use a digital monthly calendar for your school year.


2. Write in any dates that you currently know about such as field trips, holidays, testing, and special events.


3. Print off or use a digital copy of the required curriculum for each subject and grade level (TEKS, Common Core, Provincial Curriculum) you must teach. I prefer a printed copy so I can annotate in the margins, however there are great Google tools to help you annotate PDFs.


4. Close read the curriculum expectations/standards once without annotations. Then read over the curriculum again and make notes in the margins. Use sticky notes to write longer more detailed notes. As I am reading through the curriculum, I make notes on possible lessons, units, resources, books or thoughts I have. These will help me create my long range plans.


5. Use highlighters to colour code expectations that fit together i.e. expectations/standards that relate to spelling and grammar or non-fiction reading/writing.


6. Focus on making connections between the big ideas in the curriculum - what must your students know to be ready for the next year?


7. Start your long range plans with community building activities that relate to your curriculum areas. Also schedule in any diagnostic assessments you are required to give at the beginning of the year. I have to give a mandatory reading test during the first few weeks of the school year. When I taught Math, I would give students a brief diagnostic to see what math skills they had remembered and forgotten over the summer.


8. Using the calendar (write in pencil), start to map out when you will cover each expectation or set of expectations, and how long you will spend teaching each topic.


9. Remember to leave some buffer room around holiday times. At my school, many students are absent the day before any major holiday break (Christmas, March/Spring Break). Those are not good days to start or end any major unit of study because you will be missing many students.


10. Once you have finished writing your long range plans, look them over and show the plans to a colleague. Ask for feedback to see if you have forgotten to include something.
11. Need some inspiration? See how I structure my long range plans here.


12. Now, it is time to focus on writing unit plans that support your curriculum and follow the sequence of your long range plans. For unit planning ideas check here.

Although writing long range plans may seem like a daunting task, it is a valuable experience.

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It is important that teachers plan with the end in mind, and not just day by day lesson plans. This blog post by 2 Peas and a Dog will walk you step by step through the process of writing long range plans sometimes referred to as a scope and sequence. Free middle school long range plans also provided as a guide to help with the writing and planning process.
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