2024 Cicadas ELA Activity and Fun Solar Eclipse ELA Lessons!

Solar Eclipse 2024 ELA Activities and 2024 Cicadas ELA Activity

      In the upcoming months, two remarkable events are set to unfold across the United States, providing educators with a golden opportunity to infuse their classrooms with unforgettable and truly once-in-a-long-time activities. One of those is the complete solar eclipse that will be occurring this April in 2024 and the other is…the cicadas are coming! We have the perfect 2024 cicadas ELA activity as well as some engaging and fun lessons for the 2024 solar eclipse that you can use in your ELA classrooms!

Cicadas Haiku Writing Activity

     Let’s kick things off with a buzz, literally! We’ve got the much-anticipated arrival of cicadas in several states this year. Now, how can we turn this natural phenomenon into a captivating learning experience for our students?  Well, we have the perfect 2024 cicada ELA activity, writing cicada haiku!  Before you do that, you may want to do a little research project with your students. 

     You know middle schoolers are at the age where they don’t know what it’s like to experience these bug reunions.  They were either toddlers or unborn the last time they arrived.  You can start by introducing them to these bugs.  I did this in my own class, and many of my students had never even heard of a cicada. 

 Mini Research Project on Cicadas    

     Once I generated my students’ interest and told them my own stories of experiencing them, I assigned them a mini research project.  I had them create a top-ten facts about cicadas slideshow.  Some used Canva and others used Google Slides, but they really got into this.  They embedded links to YouTube videos and added lots of pictures and facts.  Of course, I let them present their presentations to the class, and we had great discussions about what information was credible and what may not have been.  We all learned a great deal about the broods that will be visiting us soon.  It was wonderful. 

     Once the cicadas emerge here, I plan to bring a few into the classroom for inspiration as we write cicada haiku!  We may even go outside to write the poems.  I have developed brainstorming pages and sample poems to show my students along with directions for writing these poems.  You can grab this free 2024 Cicadas Activity Haiku  pdf here.   

2024 Solar Eclipse Middle School ELA Activities

     It’s interesting that in the same year of 2024, there is another major event on the horizon.  A total solar eclipse is coming in April. We are in SC, and we had a total solar eclipse here in 2017.  You may have been a part of that.  It was amazing!  I don’t think we will get in on this one completely, but I will still use parts of the activities that I did with my ELA students back then.   Creating a black out poem is fun and goes perfectly with this event!  We’ve put together an incredible resource to make this specific 2024 solar eclipse event a memorable learning experience for your students.  It has the black out poem directions as well as an informational text about solar eclipses, a fun analysis activity with the classic ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ song, acrostic poem, haiku, and more. It’s a comprehensive package to explore the wonders of a solar eclipse through various ELA activities.  You can find this resource on our Teachers Pay Teachers store.

     We hope these upcoming events add an extra layer of excitement to your ELA classrooms. Don’t forget to check out our free cicadas haiku writing activity!

Join us as we reveal surprising events in 2024 that promise to infuse excitement into your classrooms. This year in 2024, there are two natural phenomena that can become captivating learning experiences for middle school ELA students. This episode is filled with creative ideas and resources. Listen in to uncover the surprise elements that will add a unique touch to your teaching toolkit. Be sure to grab the FREEBIE mentioned in this episode here!  Also, check out the TpT resource mentioned about the total eclipse of 2024 here.  Don’t miss out – let the adventure begin!

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Laying the ELA Foundation: Essential Skills for Middle School Students

In this post, we will discuss how to lay the groundwork for essential skills during the first nine weeks of school. Our aim is to empower students with lifelong tools that extend beyond the academic year.

In the initial nine weeks, we focus on fundamental skills such as basic grammar concepts, distinguishing summaries from analysis, and brainstorming strategies for literary analysis prompts.

Building a Strong Foundation: Grammar and Analysis

We use daily bell ringers like Core Chomp and Daily Grammar Minutes to ensure students grasp grammar concepts thoroughly. Repetitiveness is key, just like in math, where early concepts support later learning.

Empowering Students with Analytical Skills

We guide students to analyze literature and uncover deeper meanings. We teach them our UAQ strategy—Underline, Analysis, and Questions—to dissect literary analysis prompts effectively.

Crafting Objective Summaries

Objective summaries are crucial for academic success. We teach students a formula to create concise and unbiased summaries, a skill they’ll use across subjects.

The Power of Word Choice

We emphasize word choice through narrative writing, improving vocabulary, and selecting appropriate words to convey ideas effectively.

Gist Statements for Close Reading

Throughout the first nine weeks, we train students to extract main ideas and key details using gist statements, boosting their reading comprehension abilities.

Understanding Themes in Stories

We explore how themes develop in narratives, helping students appreciate storytelling complexities and the messages conveyed by authors.

Versatile Skills for Diverse Genres

While fiction takes center stage during these weeks, the skills we teach, such as the UAQ strategy and objective summaries, apply to nonfiction texts too.

A Cohesive Learning Experience

By strategically incorporating these elements, we create an enriching learning experience for students that lasts a lifetime.

Access Our Detailed Pacing Guides

We provide a free pacing guide for the first two nine weeks, detailing daily activities and texts. It’s perfect for new middle school ELA teachers or anyone interested in our approach.

In conclusion, laying the ELA foundation in the first nine weeks equips students with vital skills for their academic journey. These versatile tools empower them to succeed not only during the school year but throughout their lives.

To access our pacing guide and learn more about our strategies, check the links in our show notes.

From Expectations to Efficiency: Essential Techniques for Classroom Management

Classroom Management Middle School ELA Teachers

In this blog post, we will dive into effective classroom management strategies specifically designed for middle school ELA teachers. Classroom management plays a crucial role in creating a positive learning environment and unlocking success for both teachers and students. Join us as we explore three key categories: establishing expectations and routines, communication and preventing problems, and efficient classroom management.

Establishing Expectations and Routines

First of all, hen it comes to classroom management for middle school ELA teachers, establishing clear expectations and routines is paramount. One highly effective technique is implementing bell work. As middle schoolers thrive on structure and routine, providing them with engaging bell work activities sets the tone for the class right from the beginning, ensuring active student engagement. At our school, we utilize Core Chomp and Daily Grammar Minutes as our bell work options, both available in our TPT store.

Alongside bell work, it is essential to have explicit and straightforward rules that students can easily comprehend. In our classroom, we have two rules: “Respect yourself and others” and “Stay on task.” By differentiating between procedures and rules, we maintain consistency in our expectations. Remember, explaining the reasons behind these expectations, such as the importance of quiet during reading or the need for focused attention during instruction, promotes understanding and compliance among students. Be clear in your explanations, leaving no room for confusion or excuses.

Communication and Preventing Problems for Classroom Management

Next, Building strong relationships with parents and guardians is a critical aspect of classroom management for middle school ELA teachers. Establishing open lines of communication early on, through newsletters, emails, or a class website, keeps parents informed about classroom activities and assignments. Additionally, making regular positive phone calls or text messages to share good news can go a long way in fostering a partnership between home and school. Utilizing tools like Google Voice for text communication can be greatly appreciated by parents.

Addressing challenging students requires a personalized approach. Understanding their individual needs and interests allows us to identify potential challenges and proactively address them. Building relationships and providing one-on-one support to struggling students or those causing disruptions can make a significant difference. Find the strengths in these students and collaborate with them to develop solutions together. However, it is essential to hold students accountable for their actions. Consistency in following through with consequences while continuing to show love and support is crucial.

Efficient Classroom Management Strategies

Finally, smooth transitions are vital for maintaining an organized and productive learning environment in middle school classrooms. By planning and preparing for transitions in advance, such as having materials ready and utilizing technology, you can make these transitions seamless. Implementing organizational strategies, like color-coding folders, having designated places for materials, and keeping supplies easily accessible, contributes to an organized classroom. Using tools like Google Forms for documentation and popsicle sticks for various purposes adds efficiency and structure to your classroom management.

In conclusion

Effective classroom management for middle school ELA teachers is a key factor in creating a positive learning environment and unlocking success. By implementing strategies such as establishing expectations and routines, maintaining open communication, and ensuring smooth transitions, you can set the stage for a successful classroom experience. Remember, classroom management is an ongoing process, and each new school year presents an opportunity to make connections and positively impact your students. Embrace the power of effective classroom management and watch your students thrive.


This is a part two of a mini series.  Click here for the first blog if you missed it!


Click here to see our bell ringers we mention in this podcast!

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One-Pager Assignment in ELA

What is a One-Pager Assignment in ELA?

A one-pager assignment in ELA is a creative and versatile tool that allows students to demonstrate their understanding of a text through a single, visually appealing page. They encourage critical thinking, creativity, and provide an opportunity for students to showcase their artistic abilities. Plus, they’re a great alternative to traditional essays or written assignments.

One-pagers can be assigned any time of the year, but they are definitely a valuable end-of-the-year activity for fictional texts. They can be a  platform for students to reflect on their learning journey throughout the year. At this point in the year, students know about plot, characters, theme, setting, foreshadowing, flashback, figurative language… all of those terms we’ve spent all year talking about.  A one-pager assignment will allow students to demonstrate their knowledge of these terms as well as their growth as readers, writers, and thinkers in a creative and visual way. And one-pagers can also be a lot of fun for students because they get to showcase their individuality and artistic skills while still engaging with the text.

How Are One-Pager Assignments in ELA Done?

Now, let’s move on to some examples of how one-pager assignments in ELA can be done. There are some different approaches that you can take. 

The Classic Approach

Let’s start with the classic approach. A one-pager assignment in ELA can begin with a central image or symbol that represents the core theme or idea of the text. For example, if students were studying a poem about nature, they could create a vibrant, hand-drawn forest as the centerpiece of their one-pager. Then, they could incorporate quotes, key phrases, or lines from the poem around the image, emphasizing their interpretation and analysis.  You can have them write the theme somewhere on the page and put a shape around it.  They can analyze a character and include text evidence somewhere on the page.  They can draw pictures to illustrate the theme.   This is the style that I usually use, and I give my students a list of what I want them to include.  My 8th graders recently did one for Juliet’s soliloquy in I think it’s Act 4 of Romeo and Juliet.  I gave them a list of what I wanted them to include.  They had to find at least two literary devices and label them.  They had to write a summary of the soliloquy. I had them choose words that stood out and create a border with those words.  And I give them the freedom to design the page however they wanted.  They put shapes around what they wrote.  They included color and pictures.  They had to fill up the page and make it visually appealing. 

The Graphic Organizer Approach

Another approach for completing a one-pager assignment in ELA is the mind map or graphic organizer style one-pager. In this case, students can create a central image or word that represents the main character or concept in the text. From there, they can branch out, using arrows or lines, and add key elements like character traits, significant events, or symbols related to the story or poem. This approach encourages students to think deeply about the connections within the text and how they contribute to its overall meaning.  They can add their own shapes around text and colors and images somewhere on this as well. 

The collage-Style Approach

One approach that allows for even more artistic expression is the collage-style one-pager. Students can use a mix of magazine cutouts, printed images, drawings, and even their own photographs to create a visually rich representation of the text. They can layer these elements, incorporating text snippets, quotes, and reflections alongside the visuals. This approach is really good for engaging students who have a knack for design.

Why Assign A One-Pager Assignment in ELA?

One-pager assignments in ELA are quick, and they provide students with a variety of ways to express their understanding and creativity. They have a lot more fun with these than they do with essays, and if your students are anything like mine, they’re pretty checked out at the end of the year, so being able to express their analysis of a text in this way just seems to work.  

Tips for Implementing One-pager Assignments in ELA Effectively

I think it’s very important to provide clear guidelines and expectations. Give them specific instructions on what elements to include, such as key quotes, symbols, or themes, depending on the focus of the assignment.  However, while you want to give guidelines, it’s important to give students some flexibility in their one-pagers. Encourage them to be creative and explore different techniques that match their individual strengths and interests. I have found that some students prefer digital tools to create their one-pagers, using software like Canva or Google Slides, while others may prefer traditional pen and paper.  And I do find that students will be more motivated and engaged when they have the freedom to express themselves in ways that they enjoy and feel comfortable with.

It is also a good idea to provide students with examples of high-quality one-pagers. Show them exemplars from previous students or even create your own as a model. If you google one-pagers, you can find some really good examples.  This will help them understand the expectations and inspire them with ideas for their own creations.

Finally,  it’s important to provide students with an opportunity to share and discuss their one-pagers with their peers. This can be done through gallery walks or presentations. 

So I hope you  now have a clear understanding of how to incorporate a creative one-pager assignment in ELA for poems and short stories into your end-of-the-year curriculum.  And remember, this can be done throughout the year, so keep that in mind as you start thinking about next year. 

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What it Takes to Manage a Middle School ELA Classroom

 Over the years, I’ve witnessed significant changes in what it takes to manage a middle school ELA classroom. It seems that each year, there’s always new technology and social media, which we all know brings drama to the hallways of any middle school.  There is also evolving social dynamics, and we won’t even mention the shortened attention spans of our students. The truth is our classrooms are continually changing and challenging. 

And I see new teachers in my building and all over social media who look and sound defeated and who want to quit because they just can’t figure out what it takes to manage a middle school ELA classroom.  So, if you’re someone who feels that way, I’d like to say first of all, that I get it.  I’ve been there.  But, I’d also like to say to just hold strong… Just hold on and give it a little time.  I was told when I first started teaching to give it three years, and I still think that is solid advice. The days of a one-size-fits-all approach are long gone.  But in three years, your classroom management will get better and better, and it will get easier, and then as you continue teaching, you will continue to improve your classroom management, until it is successful. 

Now, I want to state right now that I don’t have all of the answers when it comes to what it takes to manage a middle school ELA classroom.   What I do have is years of experience and wisdom that I have gained by trying and failing and trying again.   I bring with me 24 years of experience, exclusively in middle school classrooms. I’ve taught 6th grade, 7th grade and 8th grade ELA in a school with classrooms that have often presented challenges when it comes to behavior.

First, I would like to take you back to my first years of teaching.  My very fist year, I was 22, fresh out of college and super excited about my first classroom and my first students.   However, if you asked me then what it takes to manage a middle school ELA classroom, I would have told you that I was struggling to know.   I won’t even go into the fact that the Internet wasn’t even around yet, so there was no way for me to find blogs like this to help.  Anyway, I did have some of the ingredients that I needed in those years to be a good teacher, but looking back, it’s easy to see a lot of what I was lacking. 

I specifically remember one class I had in those early years and a student who everybody called Day Day.  There were only about ten students total in Day Day’s class, but I couldn’t do one thing with them.  In fact, Day Day ran my classroom, not me.  And I loved her.  I LOVED her, but if I’m being honest, I guess I was also slightly scared of her.  If Day Day didn’t want to sit down, she didn’t.  If she didn’t want to do the work we were doing, she didn’t.  I vividly remember one day during class, I was reading something to my students, and Day Day was braiding my hair!  True story.  Now, this is a little embarrassing to admit, and remember now, there was no teachers pay teachers or blogs or well really anything to help me out.  All I had was what I learned in college, and when it came to the Day Day’s, that just wasn’t cutting it. 

The one thing I did have then was the passion I needed to be a good teacher.  I also had the skills to develop good relationships with my students.  Just as much as I loved Day Day, she loved me back… I would argue that they all loved me.  But there were days after school when I would sit at my desk and cry.  I knew that even though I had good relationships and great lessons, my kids weren’t learning every day.  I lacked classroom management.  

So the first, and yes, I would argue, the most important ingredient you and I need to successfully manage a middle school ELA classroom is the ability to develop relationships with students.  But, that alone will not cut it.  However, I truly believe that relationships is the foundation.  You must have positive relationships before anything else, so let’s start here.  

How can you build those relationships?  How can you get to know your students?  With ELA, it can be really hard because we have so much to cover and so much to do.  There isn’t a lot of time for chit chat.  What our subject does lend us to, however, is the chance for storytelling.  

What it Takes to Manage a Middle School ELA Classroom ~ A Little Story Sharing

In ELA class, we’re always reading and writing, right?  When you’re reading a story or having students write something, take the opportunity to share with them stories from your own life.  Most ELA teachers are pretty good storytellers.  Don’t hold back in sharing some of the crazy things that have happened to you over the years as the opportunity arises.  I have always done this and I truly believe it has helped my classroom climate.

One time I was on an airplane and this man sat beside me.  Five minutes into the flight, he started screaming that the plane was going to go down.  I was terrified.  I have a seriously suspenseful and funny way of telling that story.  I go into details about what I was thinking, how I wanted to kill my husband who was sitting in front of me and didn’t jump up to help.  My students hang on every word…and that storytelling.. that letting them get a glimpse of Mrs. Temple outside in the real world, helps them to warm up to me, to like me, to see me as a regular human and not just a teacher.  And you know how it is, when you share a story, their hands go up, and they want to share their own.  My advice is to allow this from time to time.  I know we’re busy.  I know we have standards, and I know that kids want to get us off topic to waste time, but if you will allow this every once in a while,  your classroom climate will become more positive and your room will become more of a fun place to be.  And those times when you don’t have time to listen to story after story, have them turn to a partner and share and then tell them to come up with only two sentences that sum up the story and let them share that way.    Their stories will help you learn about them as well.

Here are some other more intentional ways that you can build relationships with your students.

What it Takes to Manage a Middle School ELA Classroom ~ A Little Letter Writing

At the beginning of the year, have your students address an envelope to themselves, or a postcard if you want to get fancy.  Then, spend some time within the first months of school writing a letter to each kid.  This takes time, but it is such a personal gesture that will go a long way in building relationships.  Brag on things that you’ve noticed about them, even those kids who may seem to be giving problems.  A kid who stirs trouble for example could be told, “I have seen how you are such a leader and how others listen to you.  I am excited to see how you can use those leadership skills in a future career, and I’m so glad I get to be your teacher and part of your story to help you get to that future that is so bright for you.”  

What it Takes to Manage a Middle School ELA Classroom ~ A Little Praise

Some students never receive praise from adults so this can really make a difference, and speaking of praise, this is the next way to build relationships.  Praise them!  Praise them individually and as a class.  You will see a huge difference.  Say things like “I am so lucky that I get to teach you guys.”  or “My job is the best because I get to hang out with all of you!”  Praise them in the hallway, in the lunchroom, and in your classroom.  Praising your students is a way to build relationships with them.  Do it for the whole class and take the time to give individual students praise too, even the most challenging students.

What it Takes to Manage a Middle School ELA Classroom ~ A Little Time to Ask Questions

Another way that you can build relationships is to ask your students a question as they enter your classroom.  We all know that we should greet them at the door.  Why not greet them with a question that will help you get to know them?  One fun thing you can try, even if it’s just once a week is a “would you rather question”.  Ask each kid the question as they come in and get their response.  Then, when you start class, you can repeat the question, tell them your answer and have them stand up to show who answered what.  This would only take seconds, and if you want to only do it once a week, you could call it “Would You Rather Wednesdays”.  If you don’t want to use would you rather questions, you could just ask regular “get to know you questions” like Do you have siblings?  Dogs or cats? What’s your favorite candy? 

In conclusion, developing strong relationships with your students is the key to successfully managing a middle school ELA classroom. By sharing personal stories, taking the time to write individual letters to students, and offering genuine praise, you can establish a positive and supportive classroom environment. Additionally, incorporating fun icebreaker questions like “Would You Rather” can help you get to know your students better and create a sense of community.

While building relationships is crucial, it’s important to note that it is just the foundation for effective classroom management. In the next blog post and podcast, I will delve into specific techniques and strategies that can be employed to manage a middle school ELA classroom successfully. These techniques will address the challenges posed by changing classroom environments, evolving social dynamics, and shortened attention spans of students. Stay tuned for valuable insights and practical tips on managing your ELA classroom with confidence and success.

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Middle School ELA Inquiry Project

Middle School ELA Inquiry Project ~ Writing a Children’s Book

Looking for a fun and engaging middle school ELA inquiry project for your middle school ELA students?  As middle school teachers, we know what it’s like at the end of the year: kids are tired, teachers are tired, and testing is over.  So, we need something to keep our students engaged while requiring little prep for ourselves.  That’s why we’re sharing a project that’s high interest and high engagement for students but low prep for teachers.  This project can be used any time of the year, but it is perfect for the last weeks of school.

Allow your middle school students to work together to write children’s books!  I know that may seem like too much for the end of the year, but truly, it’s not, and the end product is so worth it!   In small groups of three or four, your students will plan their own stories, draft, revise, edit, and illustrate them. All you will need to do is work as a facilitator.  This project is perfect when you need high interest and participation from your students but want low prep for yourself. 

Why Choose a Middle School ELA Inquiry Project  

Now, before we get into the how to, let’s talk about the benefits of using a middle school ELA inquiry project approach. With inquiry-based learning, students are exploring, investigating, collaborating, and making decisions/taking action. This entire project fits under inquiry-based learning. Students begin by exploring the genre of children’s literature. Then, they investigate what makes a good children’s book.  Finally, Students do a lot of collaborating as they create an original story and illustrate it. They also must make many decisions throughout the process and take action to put the book together as a polished piece of literature!

I would recommend at least three weeks for this entire process, maybe four, but you could probably complete it a little faster, and it definitely could be extended into a four week project.  

The best part is that you can make this project a contest, or just have a day where students read their books to each other.  Some years, with careful planning, we have even taken our middle schoolers to our local elementary schools and had them read their finished books to those younger students.  Even if you don’t do this, students love this opportunity when they know that they will get to work together and share what they’ve written.  The artists in your classroom will also have the opportunity to show off their work.  You can even use book creator.com if you want your students to do this digitally. If you do choose to go the digital route, you can save some time.  

Steps for Fostering This Middle School Inquiry Based Project ~ Writing a Children’s Book 

  1. First, in order to write a good children’s book, students should read some. Gather as many children’s books as you can from the library, your house, or thrift stores. Take one class period and require your students to read and analyze several children’s books. Give them a form to help them with their analysis of these books. On this form, you’ll want to have questions or checklists for them to complete as they take a look at what the author does and uses to make a good story.  Is there rhyme?  Is there alliteration?  How does the author keep you wanting to turn the page?
  2. Next, in order to form groups, give students an application. You need to find out who can draw, who has a gift for writing, who has a vivid imagination, and who students can work well with.  So on your application, provide questions and requirements to let you know those things.  Then, take a look at those applications and put your students in groups.  I think groups of three to four are the best, but you could do partners too if you feel like you won’t have as much participation and too much of one student doing all the work kind of thing.   I do not suggest putting more than four students together.
  3. Once groups are formed, it’s time to brainstorm. Provide your students with some forms that they can complete  individually and as a group to help them develop their ideas for plot, setting, and characters. – Have them create different characters, different settings, like sketches, just to get their ideas out.  You’ll need to guide them to make sure they have a plan, so after brainstorming, you could give them a handout asking them to summarize what their main conflict will be and how it will be solved.
  4. Once groups are on their way to completing their book, you’ll want to supplement with mini lessons. Some of the mini lessons that we include are how to make your character’s realistic, how not to overload adjectives, how to watch the tense you use, how to choose the right transition words.
  5. If you skip making the handouts, checklists, and mini lessons for yourself and want to purchase our Writing a Children’s Book  resource from our TpT store, you’ll have everything you need ready for you!

Use Book Creator.Com If You Want to Make This a Digital Product

If your students still have devices at the end of the year, and you don’t want students using paper and pencil to do this activity, then Book Creator.com is perfect for this middle school ELA end of the year inquiry project.  Book Creator.com is a web-based tool that allows students to create digital books with ease. It has a user-friendly interface and allows students to add text, images, videos, and audio to their books.  Your students can collaborate on the same book and add multimedia elements to enhance their stories.  I still had my students draw and color their pictures and we scanned them in to book creator to put in their books.  The best part about book creator is that when kids read their books to the class, it can easily be displayed on your screen, the words and the pictures, so it’s better than holding up a small book. 

To use Book Creator, you will just need to sign up for a free account and then invite your students to join your classroom. From there, students can create their own books and share them with their group members and the teacher.  Trust me, it’s really easy.  Another thing I like about this is that you will be able to view your students’ progress and provide feedback as needed. Additionally, Book Creator allows for easy sharing of completed books, making it simple for teachers to showcase their students’ work to parents and the wider community

Resource That Includes ALL Forms, Handouts, Mini Lessons Needed for This Middle School ELA Inquiry Project

Now, if you want all of the resources that are needed to implement this project ready to go, we’ve got you.  In our TpT store, we have a resource titled Writing a Children’s Book where you can find everything already done for you to make this project work! This resource includes the form for analyzing children’s books, the application for groups, different brainstorming handouts, writing exercises to help students develop characters, plot, and setting, group work forms and checklists, planning sheets for a story with illustrations, and mini lessons to guide them through the story writing process! All of the brainstorming and writing exercises are included in both printable and digital Google Slide formats.  You definitely can make these yourself, but if you want to skip the work and have it done for you, all you will have to do is make copies or post to Google Classroom.   Finally, if you need some other ideas for the end of the school year, check out this blog post.  We hope you enjoy this project as much as we do! 

~ Shannon



Engaging Middle School ELA End the Year Activities

It’s that time of year, time for testing and winding down, so here are two fun, creative, and engaging middle school ELA end the year  activities that are perfect for the last weeks of school! The first activity is called “Welcome to my Fairytale,” where students work in groups to update classic fairytales and perform skits for the class. The second activity is “Slam Poetry,” where students learn about poetic elements and write their own poems to perform. Read on to find examples and ideas for each activity and links to resources you can use to help you with these projects. These engaging activities will keep your students motivated and excited about learning until the very end of the school year!

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The first engaging middle school ELA end the year activity is called “Welcome to my Fairytale.” This project is a great way to get students working in groups and using their creativity to update an original fairytale. Students will work together to write scripts, create music playlists to accompany those skits, and yes, even perform their skits for the class. Encourage your middle schoolers to think outside the box and come up with new and modern twists on classic fairytales. For example, they could update Cinderella to be set in modern-day New York City and have Cinderella and her sisters all trying to go TikTok famous.   Here are a few more examples:

  1. The Three Little Pigs: Set the story in a cooking competition, with the three pigs as aspiring chefs who must create the best dish to win a prize. The Big Bad Wolf could be a celebrity chef who judges the competition.
  2. Snow White: Students could set this story in a high school or college setting, with Snow White as a popular student who becomes the target of jealousy and bullying from her classmates.  Instead of the mirror on the wall, Instagram likes could tell the witch that she’s not the fairest of them all 
  3. Rapunzel’s Locked-In Concert: Set the story in the modern world of music, where Rapunzel is a talented singer and musician who is locked in a tower by her controlling manager. She can only perform online concerts for her fans, but she dreams of performing in front of a live audience.

This is one of those projects that can take students days to prepare and practice.  It’s one of those perfect middle school ELA end the year activities because your students will be excited about it and engaged, and you won’t need to have lengthy lesson plans.  You’ll of course need to walk around and monitor the groups, and set some guidelines before starting to ensure that everything runs smoothly.  Early finishers should keep practicing their skit to improve it.  Insist that the project is never “finished early”  because any extra time should be spent improving the skit.  You could even suggest that if they do find themselves with extra time, to write a commercial that could be acted out halfway through the skit. 

In addition to writing the script, students can complete the following:

  • Create costumes ~ You  can allow them to bring things from home or, you’ll be surprised what they can make from construction paper, tape, and a stapler. 
  • Create backdrops for the setting ~ One option is to have students make a Google slide of backdrop pictures.  They can share this with you so that you can project it as their backdrop during their skit.  If groups have multiple settings, they can use multiple pictures in their presentation, like a forest, a castle, etc.  One student in the group can be in charge of changing the slides when needed.
  • Create a soundtrack of songs to accompany the skit ~ Insist that these are school appropriate!
  • Make a list of sound effects that may be needed during the skit.

We have a product in our TpT store titled Modern Day Fairy Tale Writing Activity.  It has a brainstorming page called the “Fairytale Twister” that students can use as they think through the process of changing an original story into a modern one and it also provides an example of how the skit should look.    In addition, it has some organizational handouts including a rubric and peer evaluation forms.

The second activity I want to share is slam poetry. Slam poetry is a style of poetry that is meant to be performed, and it’s a great way to get students engaged with language and storytelling. To start, you can show your students some examples of slam poetry from TED Talks or other sources. Next, talk about some poetic elements- those things that make poems poems… like repetition, rhyme, and imagery. Watch some more Ted Talks featuring slam poets and look for those devices in action.  

After this, try performing a poem together as a class.  Together, discuss ways that the poem can be “slammed”.  Decide how each line could be read, which words could be said in a different way, or which words need to be emphasized.  You could even have different students “come to life” at different parts of the poem as they read an assigned word or line. 

Finally, students can write their own poems to perform in front of the class. You could allow them to work with a partner on this as well.  Provide prompts to get them started, or encourage them to write about topics that are important to them.  If you have shy students who don’t like this sort of thing, allow someone else in the class to perform their poems.

We have a unit in our TpT store titled Poetry Slam  It has some Ted Talk video links, helpful handouts, sample practice poems and more!

These two middle school ELA end the year engaging activities are super fun, and there are so many ways you can customize them to fit your classroom and your students’ interests. For example, you could have your students create their own slam poetry contests, or you could have them create short films or animations to go along with their updated fairytale skits. The possibilities are endless!  Have fun! 

24 Middle School ELA Test Prep Boot Camp

Test Prep Boot Camp

It’s test taking season, so we’d like to share with you some tips for hosting a quick test prep boot camp!

You should plan to spend a week on your boot camp.  First, you’ll want to hype your students up for this a little.  As soon as middle schoolers hear the word test prep, they’re going to moan and complain.  So instead of saying that, tell your students to help them do their best on the test this year, you’re going to fill them in on some of the big secrets that only teachers know about tests.  Explain to them that you’re going to teach them the secrets that teachers use when making the tests along with a few other strategies to help them ace any test!  

Top Secret #1:  First of all, teach students the trick of true/false when taking multiple-choice tests.  Even if they aren’t dealing with a true/false question, students can still use these two words to help them find the right answer.   Instruct students to read the question and each choice as if they were separate true-false statements. So, they read choice “a” and ask is this true or false? Then choice “b,” and so on.  Eliminating false choices by crossing them out can save time and help focus on finding the correct or best answer.

 Top Secret # 2:  Turn the answer choices into questions.  Read each choice and ask questions.  To demonstrate this, I grabbed a released multiple choice question from our SC education department website from a released test: 

Which sentence explains the most likely reason for the newscast containing nonsense?

A. Gabe is distracted while writing out the news reports on index cards.

B. Gabe wants to play a joke on the reporters and his middle school.

C. Gabe mixes up the index cards when he drops them.

D. Gabe is uncomfortable and reads the news incorrectly

I would take choice A and ask, “Was Gabe distracted while he was writing out the news report?  For choice B, I will ask, “Did Gabe want to play a joke on the reporters and his middle school?  etc.  This seems like a simple test prep strategy, but believe me, a lot of students don’t know to use this type of tactic to help them eliminate wrong answer choices.  With some practice, they will see what a great impact this can make!

Top Secret # 3:  There are only so many ways to make up wrong answers.  So, teach your students some of the most common wrong answer choices that test makers use, and do it in a fun and memorable way!  We do this by personifying the most common wrong answer types.  Click here to download a handout that personifies the most common wrong answer types. 

Here are some ideas for using these personified common wrong answer types in your test prep “boot camp”. 

  1.  Go over all of the common wrong answer choices briefly with students by simply listing them on a handout.  Don’t give them the personification version yet.  So, you’ll just give a list like 1.  Overcomplication   2.  Generalization   3.  Distraction.  Etc.  
  2. Put students in groups of three or four.  Give each group one of the personification descriptions.. For example, the group who has overcomplication is given Mr. Overcomplication.  Have those students create a poster or Google Slides presentation about their particular wrong answer choice.  Have them personify the character even further by creating or choosing a character that matches it. They can use Canva for this or they can draw a character themselves.  The group who has generalization will do Generalization George, and so on.  Then, each group can present their personified wrong answer type to the class.  
  3. If you want, you can also allow each group to take a fable and make up five multiple choice questions to go with that story.  For each question, have them make one of the choices be the wrong answer that they were assigned.  So, for example, the group who was assigned Sergeant Half Right would have to have an answer that is partially right as a wrong answer choice for each of their five questions.   After they present to the class, they can give the class the short fable and the questions.  The students should find all of the half right choices in the questions.  
  4. Another thing you can do is provide short passages that have questions already in place.  Remove the multiple choices from the question, and work together to create the choices, or allow your students to make up the wrong choices together, using the common wrong answer types.  By going through the test making process themselves, students will become better test takers! 

We hope you enjoy these ideas and we hope you give them a try!  

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21 Argumentative Writing Exercises: Breaking Down Arguments: 4 Interactive Ways to Teach Argumentative Writing Without Assigning an Essay

20. Teach Poetry With the Acronym TWIST UP!

Need some ideas on how to teach poetry?  The acronym TWIST UP is a game changer when it comes to teaching poetry!  Listen to learn how this simple strategy will have your students analyzing poems on a deeper level in no time.  The acronym will help create wonderful discussions in your classroom, and everything you need to teach poetry can be included within the letters of the acronym.   

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