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!

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 Halloween 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 Halloween 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.  We hope you enjoy these free Halloween story starters and the acrostic poem!

Happy teaching!

Guided Reading in Middle School? Will it Work?

Are you thinking of trying guided reading in middle school?  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.  This gives me a valid way for guided reading in middle school to work!

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!  And for those students who could benefit from guided reading lessons, you can meet with those groups during book club meetings!


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.

Middle School Short Stories Lesson Plans

Check out our list of middle school short stories lesson plans printables, and look at how we use these middle school short stories lesson plans and printables in our classrooms.

We teach 7th grade ELA. Sometimes, what is included in our literature books is just not enough, and that’s what we found with the following stories. We have created standards-based handouts, guided questions, and activities to accompany many middle school short stories. If you do not have these stories in your book, google the titles to see if you can find the stories online.  These are some of our very favorites! Click each title below to download a free sample from the following middle school short stories lesson plans.

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

If you have Pinterest, be sure to pin this page because each time we create a new short story unit, we will add free middle school short stories lesson plans and printables to this page! 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