My Students Are Excited for their Research Project! (Part 2)

Three week Winter Break is a wonderful thing!  During that time I was able to come up with a lesson that my students will understand and be able to do.  I am having them write one paragraph answering a research question; however, they first need to create a glog that answers their question with a bibliography for all sites they use for their research.

First, I decided that I wanted to teach them about big ideas and focusing their research topic from there.  I therefore created this Research Report Topic Question PowerPoint presentation which leads the students from 4 large ideas to creating questions, to choosing a topic, and creating a topic question.

Then, I decided to teach students what are acceptable sites for research.  I don’t allow them to use the normal search sites that they are used to, nor do I allow any wikis.  We went over this and discussed why certain sites are acceptable and others are not.  Some of them of course resisted, but once I explained the reasoning behind these restrictions, they grudgingly agreed.   These are the websites I allowed and disallowed.

Digital Library:  the school district’s online research library
LAUSD Kids Search:  includes pre filtered and validated web searches
•Official Websites
Since they were all pouting and I did not want to lose their buy-in, I quickly switched to what they would be doing with a glog.  A glog is an online multi-media poster.  I created my own free teacher account at that gave me a teacher code.  Then, as my students created their free student accounts, they entered my account to link them to me.  However, I believe that this cool feature is only available to me for one month, so I also created a classroom blog where students will be able to post and display their glogs as well as the paragraphs and bibliographies that they will create for this project.  Check out our progress at
Please feel free to use any of these ideas and let me know how they work out.

My Students Are Excited for their Research Project! (Part 1)

This year I am teaching a self-contained ESL 6th grade class.  My students range from newly arrived to those born here, but unable as of yet to test out of the ESL program.  Those who still have not tested out, are the ones I have in my English class. It is now January and we are in the middle of our Expository lesson.  I started by going through the entire textbook and marking all the pages that had anything to do with the skills we would need; then, I assigned a couple to the class and after much scaffolding asked them to answer a few questions on their own to assess their comprehension…EPIC FAIL!!!!

Therefore, I decided to go back to my old standby for student buy-in, technology. I had my students create an Edmodo account, which is a classroom based social network.  I decided that because bibliographies are so difficult for students, I would give that to them first giving them the opportunity for several practice opportunities throughout the lessons.  I began by giving them these links.

That was too confusing for my students so I wrote the instructions on the board for them.


I left this for them as homework over the break and was soon bombarded by messages that they did not understand.  I then posted this video for them.  (The OSLIS website has changed it’s look since I recorded this so just scroll down for MLA, and the audio is not very good so turn it way up.)

For those teachers in LAUSD, you may also find these links useful as you cannot get into the World Book encyclopedia without an account.

  • School E-mail Login (Have students login before they attempt to open the World Book Encyclopedia if they are working from home.)
  • LAUSD Digital Library (If the other link does not work, they can also access the World Book Online here.

If your students are working at home and do not have Microsoft Office, you can direct them to Open Office, which is free shareware.

I will end this lesson here and post what I did for the rest of the research lesson in my next post.


New School Year Lessons

I was recently rehired by the school district.  Yaaay!  However, I do not currently have a position as the school I left lost positions and I will not be going back there.  I am currently looking for a position in both middle schools and elementary schools.  With the school year just around the corner, I figured I better start lesson planning now—but wait, I don’t know what grade or what subject I am going to be teaching.  Therefore, I came up with some ideas that will fit into any subject in pretty much any grade level.  At least I will have some ideas to pull from once I do get an assignment.

Please feel free to add your own ideas in the comments section as I can always use more.


  • Introduction Letter–Write a letter introducing yourself to _____________. Include your hobbies, your likes, your dislikes, and the funniest thing ever.
  • Pet Story–Choose any animal (real or fictional) You get to have this animal as a pet for one week. What adventures would you have with this pet? What type of trouble might happen? Do you still want to keep the animal at the end of the week? Do you love the animal at the end of the week?
  • Advice letter–Write a letter to a student in the previous grade. Give them good advice on how to best survive and be successful in that grade. (SEND letters!)


  • Favorite Things–Draw all of your favorite things on a poster. Label them
  • Adjectives–Write down 5 adjectives that describe you in a way that uses the meaning of the word in order to write it.

Social Studies

  • Timeline–Draw a timeline of your life with all of the important events that have happened in your life.
  • “Where do you come from?” Interpret that question and answer it as fully and creatively as you can. You may write, draw, act, sing, dance, etc.


  • Charades–Act out your favorite ____________. Everyone tries to guess.


  • Measurements, equalities, ratios, tangrams
  • Circle Clap–In a circle place your left hand on top of the right hand of the person to your left. Pass the clap. As you pass the clap you must say the next multiple of _____________. (Count by ___________)
  • Measurement Estimates–In groups have students estimate the measurement of certain objects. They turn in their group papers. They get rulers and measure the objects. Class surveyed for agreement on actual measurements and the group who had the most correct or closest wins.
  • “tangrams”–Using the materials on you, build a(n) ________________. (elephant, fly, piano, tree, etc.) Each group shares with the class.


  • Name Game–In a circle, say your name and do an action with it. When it is your turn start with the first person and say each person’s name with their action. You finish your turn with your name and your action.
  • “Simon” Says–Simon says, but use the leader’s name.
  • Duck-Duck-Goose–If you say the correct name of the person, that’s a duck. If you miss the name or stop for 3 seconds, that’s a goose.

Study Skills

  • Portfolios–Writing portfolio, Project Portfolio, Online/Digital Portfolio, etc.
  • Subject Notebook–Set up notebooks with 5 pages for table of contents (Date, Title, Page) and number the first 50 pages front and back.
  • Agenda books–On the first day received students write that they are to write their homework down every day, check it off as they finish, and show their parents once they have completed it. Student signs and parent signs.
  • Write a complimentary note to each parent and get their signature back
  • Parent Survey–Since the parents are the adults who best know the students ask the parents about the child’s likes, dislikes, strengths, weaknesses, advice on how to best work with their child, and the best (only ONE) phone number to get a hold of them since many calls take place during class and dialing multiple numbers may not be realistic.
  • Mix-Trade-Match–Students are given a card with either an expectation or an example on it. They walk around the room and mix for several seconds. At the signal they trade cards with someone near them so no one ends up with the same card. They find the person with the matching card; if they have an example, they look for someone with an expectation and vice-versa. When they find their match they introduce themselves and shake hands. They then discuss whether the example meets the expectation or not and why or why not. Go around and share what was discussed.

Reaching At-Risk Youth

I read an article today called, Socioeconomic status as child dictates response to stress as adultBasically, this article was about how individuals who grew up poor or lacking in resources, tend to make decisions that are likely to bring immediate rewards as opposed to delayed gratification when faced with stressful/life threatening situations.  “The research also suggests that efforts using a ‘you never know what’s going to happen tomorrow’ approach to persuade at-risk kids to stay in school or avoid risky behaviors might be ineffective.”  They propose that instead efforts should be made to communicate a sense of security and well-being.

I don’t know about anyone else, but when my students come to me telling me about how their cousin was shot at the Taco Bell, or how they don’t get home until 9:00 pm because they have to wait for their father to ride the bus home with them to one of the worst parts of town, I don’t think my saying, “You are safe and all is good,” will really have that much of an impact on them.  So how do we reach these kids?  As I ask that I think to what lead to my success.  I grew up in the projects, the only child of a single mother.  What made the difference for me was that my mother wouldn’t put up with anything less than my best in school.  She took an active role in my education and applied for me to get a scholarship for a private school.  Although I was very aware that I was poor, I was inculcated with the belief that education would make things better for me in the future.  My mom also took some college courses while I was in grade school.  I remember being very proud of her and feeling that her education would lead to a better life for both of us.  She never finished her degree and that was quite a disappointment for me.  I do believe that is when I started being a normal teen and acting out a bit more.  So I guess for me a lack of future security did lead to riskier behavior.

Now, how can we use this knowledge to improve education for at risk youth?  Is it enough to just say that things will be okay?  I doubt it.  I think that youth need to actually believe it and have reasons for believing it.  Also, they can’t be told, “When you graduate from college….”  That’s too far into the future.  Perhaps setting short-term doable goals for them that will somehow improve their life.  Rewards for accomplishments.  Would this be enough?  I have no idea, but I doubt it.  I think back on my 18 years teaching and I remember being successful with some difficult students.  But how?  What did I do?  I think it was a matter of 1) showing them that I cared,  2) taking time to work with them individually, and 3) being a cheerleader for them.  This worked for most students, not all.  And many of those students fell back into their poor academic habits once the year was over and they left my class.

So what’s the answer?  I have no idea!  Any possible answer seems too simplistic and limited in scope, but one thing is for sure…we can never stop trying!

School’s.Out.for Summer!!!

We did it!  We managed to get to the end of the year.  I don’t think I’ve cried that much at the end of the year since 1994, my first year teaching.  I really felt that this was my last time in a classroom setting…at least in this way.  Oh, have I mentioned that I was RIFed (laid off due to reduction in force) and I have gone in to sign up as a substitute.  I’m actually not as upset about it as one would think I’d be after 18 years in the classroom because I have projects that I want to complete this year.  I would like to get my National Board Certification and I want to start an online charter school through LAUSD.  That should keep me busy, doncha’ think?

I got my teaching credential in the late 90’s through the District Intern Program and I have heard that the National Board Process is very similar to that.  Therefore, I figured if I’ve done it once, no reason I can’t do it again.  Now the only question is for what specialty I should apply.  Although I have a multiple subject credential, that is not how I want to be certified.  I am thinking either Math or ESL.  I loved teaching my beginning ESL class.  It was very challenging and always brought something new.  That is right up my alley!  However, there is a national need for math teachers, so I think that it might be smart for me to get certified in math.  However, if I do choose math, there is still the question of “What level?”   Do I select the middle school level, or the high school level?  Just for the sheer challenge, I would love to select high school, but all of my experience is with middle school.  (sigh)  What to do?

Now, I am absolutely jazzed about starting a charter school!  I want a different model than what is currently out there and LAUSD does not have any online charter schools.  I figure the reason is that it is a difficult process, so me being me, I am looking forward to the challenge.  I plan to do a lot of research this summer and I am confident that as I discuss it more, I will be able to get a board together to do it.  My strength is in realistic curriculum that will work IRL (in real life) but I need a board to help with getting the idea from my head and into the real world, or virtual world.  I can’t wait to get started.

As I start these projects however, it is all bittersweet.  I will definitely miss the classroom.  And I can’t begin to express how much I will miss my students.  I love the interaction I had with them and I really love the rapport that I was always able to create with these middle schoolers.  I am going to miss my monkeys.

End of the school year…

It is the best of times; it is the worst of times.  The end of the year is wonderfully, horribly, productively, tiring time.  I love this exhausting time of the school year.  The kids are wild with Spring fever, yet they learn more at this point than at any other time.  No, really, I’m not crazy!

At the beginning of the year I nearly kill myself setting up classroom procedures.  I make sure that the students know what is acceptable behavior and they quickly learn that they will face the consequences if they do not meet expectations, this usually includes my calling their parents and putting mama’s and/or papa’s number in my phone memory.  Throughout the year that phone is within quick reach.  As we work consecutive lessons, the students learn the structures.  Pretty soon they know the routines and what I will say so well that they start saying things before I do—that’s right about the time that I have them start playing teacher for certain activities.  By the end of the year, they’re playing teacher for virtually all activities.  I love when students teach themselves!  In fact this post was written during the work day as students taught themselves.  (Okay, maybe today is not the best example since I did have to actually do some teaching for their upcoming project, but you get the point.)

Blog Stats

  • 337 hits