turkey cartoon

Thanksgiving From the Turkey’s Point of View Writing Assignment

Have your students write a Thanksgiving story from the turkey’s point of view.  This is an excellent writing assignment for early or late November.  You can add in lessons on voice, point of view, and suspense.  

Check out our free resource to guide you in this lesson.

We provide two choices.  Option one guides students in thinking through things in the way that a turkey would.  For example, a turkey wouldn’t call a gun a “gun”.  It may call it a “bang stick”.  Option two provides prompts for students to write in a way that builds suspense.  There is also a self evaluation and a rubric included.  Hope you enjoy this fun lesson!


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Happy Turkey Day!



Affect vs. Effect Mnemonic to Remember

Here is a handy trick to use in your ELA classroom!  Use the following mnemonic to help teach the difference between affect and effect. RAVEN


Affect is a


Effect is a


If students have trouble, tell them to plug in the word “outcome”.  If the word outcome sounds right, instruct them to use “effect”.  If it doesn’t, tell them to use “affect”.  This is a trick of course, so it only works 95% of the time, but for our seventh graders, it has done the trick!


Check out our Grammar Gremlins resource to find more tricks like this one!

dead word bulliten board

Dead Word Funeral ~ A Lesson in Word Choice

It’s that time again in my seventh grade ELA classroom, time for our “Dead Word Funeral”.  It’s a somber, yet exciting event.  My students dress and act the part.  We carry tissue out to the “grave site” and shed tears as we read our eulogies. We nod our heads and say an occasional, “I’m going to miss him.”   We even sing songs! This is a super fun activity to teach a valuable and unforgettable lesson on word choice.  Here is how I go about it:

  • As a class, we brainstorm a list of words that we want to bury.  I warn students that once we bury the words, we will no longer be allowed to use them in writing assignments. Whenever a student suggests we bury a word like love, I always say, “What are you going to write instead?” When they see that there are not many words to substitute it, we move on without adding it to our list.  Instead, we choose words that have multiple synonyms and words that just seem elementary for seventh graders (big, little, etc.).  Click here to see a list of the words we are saying goodbye to this year.
  • Next, I pull Popsicle sticks with students’ names on them to let them choose the word they want.  (I use Popsicle sticks for everything.)  When I pull a stick, that student chooses his/her word, and then I pull another. This is a fair way to let them choose.  I try to come up with enough words for each student in the class to have a different one.
  • Now, students are ready to create both an obituary and eulogy for their beloved word.  This is the fun part, as they have the chance to be very creative with this fun writing assignment.  For example, students must come up with a list of the deceased word’s family and friends.  The word Run could be married to Whisper and have a child named Tiptoe.  Click here to see a list of my requirements for the eulogy and obituary.
  • Students are given an index card on which to write their word.  These cards will be placed in the casket during the funeral.  Students make their words big and colorful and decorate them accordingly.
  • On my part, there are a few things that I do to prepare for the funeral.  Some years, I go all out.  I call our local mortuary and ask to borrow a small casket.  Our local funeral home has display caskets that are small and perfect for this activity.  Other years, when I don’t feel like going through the hassle, I make my own casket out of a box or plastic tub.  If you drape a black sheet over it and call it a casket, it will work.   I set the casket up on a desk or table.   I also have several tombstones that I set up on the floor or ground (if we hold the funeral outside) around the casket.  These can be made out of cardboard or Styrofoam.  You can also find some really cheap around Halloween. One year, I even made cake squares with all of the names of the words we were burying on them!  Most years, I tell students that people always eat after a funeral,  and then I ask some of them to bring in snacks to share with the class.  Oh, I also download some music appropriate for walking out to the funeral.  This always sets the mood.
  • On the day of the funeral, students dress nicely or in black.  As the music plays, we walk quietly and in a single file line to the “grave site”.  I have tissue on hand for those students who are very upset.  I act as the officiator of the funeral and open with a few words about the deceased.  Then, students take turns reading their eulogies.  Once these are read, we sing two songs that I have written for the occasion.  Then, one by one,  students walk in a line to the casket and say their goodbyes as they place the index card with the word on it into the casket.
  • When the music begins again, we somberly return to the classroom to eat snacks.
  • I collect the index cards from the coffin and hang them on a bulletin board.  For the rest of the year, students are not allowed to use the words in their writing.
  • We have created a packet of everything we use to hold our dead word funeral.  In this resource, you will find examples of eulogies and obituaries,a fill-in-the-blank eulogy and obituary for students who may be struggling  with writing their own, the lyrics and tunes of the songs that we sing at the funeral, as well as other practice with writing strong verbs.  Click here to purchase our complete Weak Words, Dead and Gone Packet.
  • Have fun!

The Best iPad Apps for the Middle School Classroom

At our school, only teachers have iPads in the classroom.  Our district can not yet afford for every student to have one.  Still, there are some great apps that I have found to be AWESOME for classroom use!

  1. GradeCam – This by far is my favorite!  With gradecam, you print off your own scantrons, and simply hold your ipad over a test to grade it.  It grades it in a matter of seconds!  It will tell you which numbers the student missed and keep a roster with all of the grades for you.   This is wonderful for many reasons.  It saves time, and you can grade papers right in front of the students if you wish.  Kids work harder when they know they will receive immediate feedback.  Plus, sometimes the best way for students to learn is to return to a question that they got wrong and try it again.  There is a free trial for gradecam, but after that, it is $15 a month.  Our school purchased it for every teacher, but I would have paid the $15 myself.  It’s that worth it!
  2. Stage – This app is an interactive whiteboard and document camera in one.  It is super easy to use, and it’s a free app.  I use it with my apple TV to project students’ writing on the whiteboard.  As we discuss a paragraph, for example, I can annotate it with the pen icon on the canvas.
  3. Plickers – This is a super fun and interactive way that teachers can give real-time formative assessments. It’s perfect for classrooms where the students do not have ipads or other devices.   Students hold up cards (that are printed from the site) with answers to questions that the teacher creates.  Your ipad scans the cards to give you immediate feedback.    It’s hard to explain, so just visit the website to check it out.  It is a free app, and your students will love it!
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Halloween Story Starters and Acrostic Poem Middle School ELA

Students love a good story, especially a good scary one.  Why not let them write their own?  Download the FREE handouts to use in your classroom this October.  You will find a list of potentially spooky story starters.  There are several ways you can use these.

  • Allow students to write their own individual stories. You may want to assign a length so that they don’t become too long or too short.
  • Put each student with a partner.  Give a different story starter to each pair.  Set a timer and pass the stories after two minutes.  Each pair of students must read what’s been written so far and add to it.  At the end of class, read the stories out loud.  It will be fun to see how the stories end up.
  • Allow students to work with a group as they complete the story together.
  • Allow students to create a PowerPoint or other multimedia presentation that tells the story.

An acrostic poem is also fun.  There is a sample included in the free download.  Tell students to come up with more than one word for each letter.


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Guided Reading in Middle School? Will it Work?

As a middle school teacher, I was eager to learn about guided reading.  It’s the craze in elementary school, and I was anxious to know if it would work miracles in my seventh grade ELA classroom.   Here is what I determined after all of my research on how guided reading works.

  1.  Not all students need guided reading at the middle school level, but some could benefit from it.
  2. Literature circles are more effective for many students at the middle school level.
  3. I can do both, (guided reading and literature circles) and generate excitement in my classroom by calling it “Book Clubs”.

Literature circles do not sound very fun for students, but at the mention of book clubs, students’ eyes light up!  The word “club” sounds like a place to belong, a place to eat snacks, and a place to have fun.  I have found that with these ingredients, I can have a classroom where my students are actively involved in reading and discussing literature.   I can also sneak in guided reading sessions with those “clubs” who need it the most.

I make three lists of books (books that are high interest and that I have multiple copies of), one list for my top readers, one for those who fall in the middle range, and a list for my struggling readers.  I allow students to choose a book from the list made for them, and then I form my groups.    My students will have three meetings, so I divide the books into sections that must be read before each meeting.  During meetings, I allow students to sit in bag chairs (which fit nicely in a big trash can in our classrooms) and eat snacks as they discuss the novel that they are all reading.  I walk around to monitor groups and listen in on their discussions.  I also hold guided reading sessions with those groups who need it.  I can ask these students to read portions aloud to me and work with them on strategies for reading and comprehending.

Recently, I read Notice and Note Strategies for Close Reading by Kylene Beers and Robert Probst.  This book introduced me to the six reading signposts.  All I can say about this is WOW!  This is a game changer for the way I teach reading.  Now, I have students look for the six signposts while preparing for book clubs.  When I meet with those groups who need the guided reading, we discuss these signposts together.

Check out our Literature Circle/Book Clubs resource for everything you need to start book clubs in your own classrooms.  This resource will explain the six reading signposts and provide you with handouts to teach them to your students.  Plus, you’ll have everything needed for book clubs using any novels that you wish!


We have also created an in depth resource for 24 specific novels.  Check out our FREE sample of Book Clubs for 5th -7th Grade.

Here’s what this complete resource includes:

  1.  A list of 24 novels at different levels
  2. Comprehension Checks to make sure students are completing the reading assignments
  3. A Book Club Preparation Form to guide students in preparing for the meetings
  4. A Book Club Discussion Guide to guide the actual meetings
  5. Book Club Projects for clubs to complete at the end of the book
  6. Tests for all 24 novels

I hold book clubs once per nine weeks.  Students absolutely LOVE it, and I do too because I know it is so valuable.

short stories free printables blog post

Short Story Lesson Plans for Middle School

Check out our list of short stories below for free printables and a look at how we use these stories in our classrooms.  Sometimes, what is included in our literature books is just not enough.  We have created handouts, guided questions, and activities to accompany many short stories.  If you do not have these stories in your book, google the titles to see if you can find the stories online.

Print Common-Core lesson plans for the following short stories.

Check back often.  More are to come!

After Twenty Years by O. Henry”

“All Summer in a Day” by Ray Bradbury

Amigo Brothers” by Piri Thomas

Duffy’s Jacket” by Bruce Coville

The Emperor’s New Clothes” by Hans Christian Anderson

Hearts and Hands” by O. Henry

“The Highwayman” (narrative poem) by Alfred Noyes

The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street (teleplay) by Rod Serling

The People Could Fly

Rikki-tikki-tavi” by Rudyard Kipling

Rogue Wave” by Theodore Taylor

Sorry, Wrong Number” by Lucille Fletcher

Three Skeleton Key” by George G. Toudouze

The Ruum” by Arthur Porges

1st nine weeks plans

7th Grade ELA 1st Nine Weeks Plans

7th Grade Lesson Plans for 1st nine weeks of school

Sometimes it helps to see just how other ELA teachers are fitting in everything that we have to teach.  At our school, we have 60 minute classes.

This is our basic plan for the first nine weeks of school.

  • Every day – Daily Dose and Core CHOMP – These are our bellringers, and we cover tons of ELA standards each day with these two resources!
  • Grammar Gremlins – one per week starting with its vs. it’s (Monday: introduce, Tuesday-Thursday: practice and review, Friday: quiz)  This is a spiraling curriculum that helps take care of pet peeves in student writing once and for all!

Week 1

Back to school activities, interest inventory, go over rules and procedures, set up interactive notebook sections, set up daily work folders, explain  Daily Dose and Core CHOMP procedures, poetry lesson – Autobiography in Five Short Chapters

Weeks 2-6

Novel study – The Man Who Loved Clowns by June Rae Wood

We use this novel as a whole-class study.  Teacher reads aloud most chapters, students read in groups for readers’ theater for two chapters, and some chapters are assigned to be read independently.

Students love this novel, and they fall in LOVE with our class because of it!  We laugh together, get mad together, and cry together all while reading the awesome and memorable story.

Here’s how a typical day looks in our class during the first nine weeks:

  • Class enters the room and students begin working on Daily Dose and Core CHOMP.
  • After approximately seven minutes, teacher goes over the word of the day, calls on students to correct the edit sentence, and calls on students for answers to Core CHOMP, using teachable moments as needed.
  • Daily work is placed back in folders, and folders taken up.
  • Now it’s time for  Grammar Gremlin work.   If it is Monday, the lesson will be distributed.  Students will put it in their notebooks and highlight important parts of the lesson as the teacher explains it.  Students will complete the practice questions as teacher walks around to monitor and assess.  If it is Tuesday-Thursday, the gremlin will be reviewed and practice will be provided.  If it’s Friday, students will take the quiz.
  • Next, with approximately thirty minutes left in class, it’s time to turn to our novel. We will read a chapter or two and complete an activity in which we will cover a literary term, respond to the literature, or analyze the author’s craft.
  • Weekly Reading Homework – Each week, we assign a story out of the students’ Close Reader workbook.  Students read the story independently and complete the questions throughout the story. On Fridays, we give a quiz on the story to make sure students actually did the reading. Students have the entire week to finish the reading assignment.

Weeks 7-9


  • Read the play Sorry, Wrong Number by Lucille Fletcher. This play is in our Literature book which is Collections by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.  The play can also be found online.  We begin this story by showing a power-point about the history of the telephone.  This provides students with needed background information.  We assign parts to students and let them read aloud.  They LOVE this play!   When we finish reading, students answer some open-ended response questions.  Then, we show the movie.  We ordered the movie from Amazon.  There is a good bit added to the movie, so we provide note-taking handouts for students to use while watching.  After watching the movie, we give a test comparing the play to the movie.  Check out our resources for Sorry, Wrong Number.


  • In the first nine weeks, we make sure that students can identify and explain subjects and verbs. In the writing section of notebook, students will glue or tape in handouts with lists of strong verbs.  We have students practice changing sentences with helping verbs to sentences with action verbs, teaching students to “show” and not “tell” in their writing. We complete mini lessons on word choice and practice identifying good word choice in the literature we are reading.
  • Begin to prepare for the “Dead Word Funeral” by having students complete obituary and eulogy for a verb or adjective that needs to be “laid to rest”. Each student has his/her own word. Sample words to bury: went, big, stuff, said
  • Hold the Dead Word Funeral in which these words are laid to rest. This is an excellent way to reinforce lessons on word choice, and it’s a perfect activity for late October.  After the funeral, we create a dead word bulletin board and put all of the words on the board.   We tell students they may no longer use the words in their writing.

All of this takes us through the first nine weeks.  In the second nine weeks, we begin writing strong verb paragraphs.  To see our plans for the entire year, download this FREE glimpse into our seventh grade year.  You’ll find lots of great printables that you can use today in your own classroom.

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Teach 7th Grade ELA ~ A Glimpse Into Our Yearly Plans, Activities, and Best Practices

Download this resource to see everything we do in our 7th grade ELA classrooms!  There is so much to teach in 7th grade ELA.  Reading, writing, grammar, research… It’s hard to fit it all in! While we are always learning and changing or adding to our curriculum, we have put together this resource, which contains a wealth of information and samples!  It will give you a glimpse into our seventh grade classrooms and what we do throughout the year.

Included in this FREE packet you will find our best advice for classroom management, our classroom layout, what we use for bellringers, and even what we teach each nine weeks. We break everything down so you can see how we fit in grammar, reading, literature circles, writing instruction, and more!

There are a ton of useful and FREE handouts included for you to use immediately in your own classroom. We hope you find this packet helpful!

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Want to eliminate “out of seatness”? Best Classroom Management Tip for Middle School

The key to eliminating “out of seatness”? “Stations”! These “stations” limit the need of students to get up and down over and over for supplies. First, take a look at this picture – it’s a “bird’s eye” so you can see a portion of all three long rows. Yep! I really use rows….in 2015! But, there is a method to my madness! I find that if I place my kiddos in groups, they are too “social” when I need their undivided attention. In my rows, I have kids placed next to a partner they can turn to when I need them to discuss something!

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If you look at the middle row, in the center is a supply station. It’s simply a desk turned vertically.  What’s at a station?

  • colored pencils/markers
  • a paper tray
  • a book basket, hand sanitizer
  • a trash can

My book baskets right now are holding an AMAZING novel! The Man Who Loved Clowns by June Rae Wood! If you have never read it, you HAVE to put it on your “to read list” today! You and your students will be SOOOOO happy you did! It is full of delightful characters that make an impact that your students will always remember. Here’s a free sample of the novel unit I use while reading it.

I also use supply boxes. The boxes are the plastic pencil boxes you can find at Wal-Mart and Target for a dollar or so. I glue them with hot glue in between two desks. Two kids share what’s inside.

Here is a close up of a supply station and a supply box.

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The supply box contains

  • pocket sized tissues
  • a hand-held pencil sharpener
  • highlighters
  • scissors
  • pencils (why fight that battle, huh??)
  • tape
  • pens

Many of these supplies are used nearly daily for our interactive notebooks. When these things are within a student’s reach, valuable time is saved each day. And, we all know every minute is a treasure!

See those cute little paper binoculars in the paper tray?? That’s a handout ready for the kids to use Monday! It will go it their Grammar Gremlin section of their interactive notebook and reinforce the pesky to vs. too. Here is a copy of this handout for you if you’d like to use it too! And, if you like that, here is a sample of the entire Grammar Gremlins book.