Middle School Novel Units

We have a lengthy list of middle school novel units to share!  As seventh grade teachers, we use the following middle school novel units for book clubs, as class reads, and for independent novel studies.  Our favorite whole class novel that we begin each year reading is The Man Who Loved Clowns.  Our students fall in love with our class a little more each day as we read this book that makes us laugh and makes us cry.  Another book that we love to read as a class is The Devil’s Arithmetic.  This profound book is not only a great read, but our students learn so much about the Holocaust.

Over the years, we have created standards-based, engaging, and fun lesson plans and activities for several novels suitable for middle schoolers. Each title includes a handout for each chapter of the book and tests as well.  While we developed these lessons with middle school in mind, some of the middle school novel units in this list can also be used in upper elementary grades.  Check out each title below to download a sample free lesson plan or activity from each one! You can use these free handouts today in your classroom, and if you like them, come back to download the entire unit.  You’ll have it for years and years, and your planning will all be completed for you!  Oh, and if you have Pinterest, make sure you pin this page so you will always have this list of middle school novel units!  As we continue to create units, we will add them to this page.

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo is a middle school favorite!  Your students will love the award winning book Because of Winn-Dixie.  While this book is often used in elementary school, this is one of the middle school novel units that is perfect for struggling readers in the sixth, seventh, or even eighth grade.  Print free lesson plans for Because of Winn-Dixie.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, an unforgettable tale of the Holocaust, is sure to hook your most reluctant readers.  Print free lesson plans for one of our best middle school novel units, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson tells a heartfelt story of friendship.  Your middle school students will hang on to every page of this book!  Print free lesson plans to teach this novel.

Bud, Not Buddy  by Christopher Paul Curtis is an excellent middle school novel.  With a backdrop of the Great Depression, Curtis weaves together a story of friendship, family, and acceptance.  Print free lesson plans for Bud, Not Buddy.

The Cay by Theodore Taylor is a story of survival and friendship.  Your students will not want to stop reading this awesome and powerful story!  Print free handouts and lessons for The Cay.

The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen is a powerful and touching story of the Holocaust.  Check out our lesson plans and tests for this novel.  Plus, recently we created an interactive notebook edition of this novel unit.  If you use interactive notebooks in your class, check out this post to download a free interactive activity!

Double Dutch by Sharon Draper is sure to be a hit with your middle schoolers.  Check out our free lesson plans for this novel.

Freckle Juice by Judy Blume is a fast and easy read.  It’s another one of those great middle school novel units for struggling readers in middle school.  These lesson plans would also be suitable for elementary school students.  Print free lesson plans for Freckle Juice.

The Great Gilly Hopkins is sure to be a hit with your middle school students!  Gilly proves to be a realistic, hilarious, and somewhat wayward character who really just needs to be loved.  Print free lesson plans for The great Gilly Hopkins!

Flush by Carl Hiaasen  is just as good if not better than Hoot.  Carl Hiaasen’s second novel for young readers is filled with his usual quirky characters, and it centers around environmental themes, and life lessons.   Noah’s dad is furious that raw sewage is being carelessly dumped from the Coral Queen casino boat.   In fact, he is so upset that he sinks it and ends up in jail.  Noah is determined to right the wrongs of his father while all the while seeking to find justice himself.  Click here to view free lesson plans to teach this novel and a test for the first seven chapters.

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen has become a middle school favorite!  Print free lesson plans to teach this novel.

Holes is a must-read for middle school students!   Print free lessons and activities for the novel Holes.

Hoot by Carl Hiaasen is sure to be a hit with your middle schoolers.  In his first novel for a younger audience, Carl Hiaasen brings readers right into the middle of a mystery, involving endangered miniature owls, a goofy police officer, the Mother Paula’s All-American Pancake House, and three middle school kids who are determined to do whatever it takes to fight for what is right.Of all of our middle school novel units, this one has the greatest reviews, and it is an unforgettable book!   Click here to view freelesson plans to teach this novel and a test for the first seven chapters.

Island of the Blue Dolphins is full of suspense and action.  Print free standards-based activity sheets and a portion of a test for this novel.

Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key by Jack Gantos is a lighthearted novel suitable for middle school kids.  Your students will laugh at Joey’s antics yet sympathize with his needs.  Print free lesson plans for Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key.

Love, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli is the touching sequel to Stargirl.  In this novel, Stargirl writes letters to Leo as she tries to come to terms with their complicated relationship.  Print free lesson plans for Love, Stargirl.

 The Man Who Loved Clowns by June Rae Wood is a number one favorite among middle schoolers.  They will laugh like never before, and they may even shed a tear or two!  This moving novel tells of the hopes, struggles, and fears of a teenage girl and her  special relationship with her uncle who has Down -Syndrome.  Your middle school students will love this book, and they will never forget it!  Click here to view free lesson plans  for the novel.

Maniac Magee is a page-turner your students will not forget!  View free lesson plans for Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli

Number the Stars, a book about the Holocaust, by Lois Lowry is a Newberry Medal award winning novel.  This compelling story will hook your reluctant readers and pull them into and unforgettable story of friendship, courage, and hardships.  Print free lesson plans for Number the Stars.

On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer tells a powerful story that your students will never forget.  This book is short and a suspenseful page turner.  It’s perfect for reluctant readers!  Print free handouts for On My Honor.

Rules  by Cynthia Lord will keep your middle school students interested as they read about twelve-year-old Catherine and her autistic brother David.  Catherine just wants a normal life, but there is more than her younger brother that complicates that.  Print free lesson plans for Rules.

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton is always a favorite among middle schoolers.  This classic is timeless and will never be forgotten.  Print free handouts for The Outsiders.

Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan is a heartfelt, touching story that will captivate your students.  This is a short and easy read for reluctant or struggling middle school readers. Print free lesson plans for Sarah, Plain and Tall.

Small Steps, Louis Sachar’s newest book stars Armpit, one of the guys from Camp Green Lake.  Armpit is now in his late teens and while trying to make something of his life, finds himself in some tough situations.  This humorous and touching book gives a real world outlook and teaches a notable life lesson – The secret to life is to take small steps and just keep moving forward.  Your students will love this fun loving, adventurous novel!  Print free lessons to accompany Small Steps.

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli is also an awesome novel for middle schoolers!   Your students will fall in love with Stargirl and laugh as she tries to fit in with the students at her new high school!  As soon as they finish reading Stargirl, they will rush to read the sequel, Love, Stargirl!  Print free lesson plans for Stargirl!

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume is suitable for students in the third through sixth grade.  Your students will automatically fall in love with the character Fudge and laugh through every page!  Print free handouts for tales of a fourth grade nothing.

Tuck Everlasting is a touching novel your students will not forget!  They will love to read about Winnie as she becomes friends with the friendly yet unusual Tuck family. Click here to get our free lesson plans for Tuck Everlasting.

The Tale of Despereaux  is a magical story that your students will remember forever.  Print free lessons for The Tale of Despereaux.

The Watsons Go to Birmingham is sure to be a hit in your classroom!  Print free lessons for this novel today!

Check back often!  Our list will grow!  Happy teaching!

The Devil’s Arithmetic Lesson Plans

Every February, we read The Devil’s Arithmetic as a whole class novel in my seventh grade classroom.  The first year that I read this novel, my The Devil’s Arithmetic lesson plans only consisted of reading, learning new vocabulary words, and answering comprehension questions for each chapter.  My, have my plans come a long way!  Now when it comes time to read this novel, I know that I will successfully teach Common Core based standards as we examine the literary elements and author’s craft.  More importantly, however, together, we will feel a minuscule hint of what it was like to be a part of the Holocaust. It is that “hint” that the author provides that keeps me from moving on to a different Holocaust novel.  Jane Yolen takes us into Hannah Stern’s world – one in which she takes for granted at first before she travels back in time and finds herself in a concentration camp learning all about the devil’s arithmetic.

There is so much that I am able to teach while we read this novel.  I would like to share a few of our activities.  I am also including a link in this post for you to print these activities from our The Devil’s Arithmetic lesson plans.

First, I must tell you that the first seven chapters of this novel do seem to read slowly if you’re using this as a whole class novel that you read aloud.  You may want to consider having students read these first chapters independently or with a reading partner.  In recent years, I typed up all seven of these chapters as a readers’ theater script, and we read it that way.  Whatever you do, do NOT give up on the plot.  Once you hit the end of chapter seven, your students will beg you to keep reading!

The first The Devil’s Arithmetic lesson plans activity I would like to share with you is one you can do prior to reading the book.  On the day that you plan to begin the unit, tape The Star of David on random desks throughout your classroom. (The free download has a printable page of stars for you to use.)

As students enter the classroom, begin to treat those students who have a star on their desk differently than you do the other students.  For example, make them stand instead of sit.  Have them remove their shoes and put them under their desks.  Take away their pencils and give them to those students who do not have stars.  Tell them that they cannot talk, but allow those without stars to talk all they want, etc.  Your point is to make the “the have nots” experience just a “pinch” of what it feels like to be mistreated for no reason at all, and to allow the “haves” to experience what it feels like to watch others be mistreated for no apparent reason.

Once you can tell that your point has been made, which probably won’t be very long without a riot, hold a discussion allowing both students with stars and without to talk about how they felt.  This discussion can then lead you into the beginning of your Holocaust unit.

I am also sharing two other handouts with you.  The first one should accompany chapter three.  It will allow you to teach the literary elements of symbolism and foreshadowing and take a look at how the author uses them in this chapter.  The next activity page goes with chapter seven.  This is where the reader meets that unforgettable and slightly eerie character – the Badchan.  Students will examine his poem and then write one of their own.

We hope you enjoy these free activities from our The Devil’s Arithmetic lesson plans.  Click here for your free download.

If you enjoyed these free printables, consider purchasing our entire teaching unit for this novel.  All of your plans will be complete, and you can use them for years to come!  Happy teaching!

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas Lesson Plans

This post contains a FREE sample from our The Boy in the Striped Pajamas Lesson Plans unit!

When my colleague Tammy and I first began developing The Boy in the Striped Pajamas lesson plans, we had our students in mind.  We did not want to bore them with generic vocabulary work and comprehension questions.  We wanted to challenge them as readers and engage them with this wonderful and profound story of the Holocaust.  There was so much to include:  a look at the impact of the point of view, the irony included, the conflicts, the theme, and of course the author’s craft.  We created a teaching unit that would not bog down our students with busy work.  Instead we created one that would help them engage with this unforgettable text.

We are quite proud of our The Boy in the Striped Pajamas Lesson plans, activities, and handouts, and we would like to share it with you.  Click on the link below to download a free sample from our teaching unit.  If you like it, consider purchasing our entire unit.  All of your planning will be done, you can reuse the unit year after year, and you can rest assure that you will teach the novel with the purpose of helping your students become better readers.

Click here to download a free sample from our The Boy in the Striped Pajamas Lesson Plans unit!

Literacy Centers in Middle School ELA

If you had asked me ten years ago if I would ever use literacy centers in middle school ELA, I would have replied, “I teach middle school, not kindergarten.”  Today, however, literacy centers in middle school ELA are all the craze, so I wanted to figure out if there was a way I could use them.

I started some online research on how teachers incorporate literacy centers in middle school ELA classrooms.  I found that many teachers  rely on centers during guided reading.  While the teacher works with small groups, the other students are using centers.  Centers are also perfect for individuals or small groups who need to be pulled by the teacher for writing instruction.  In addition, I found out that a lot of teachers simply use centers once a week or month so that students can work together and have time for hands-on, student-centered learning.  Of course, centers are perfect for early finishers too.

I was convinced that adding centers to my teaching repertoire would be a good idea, but I didn’t want activities that just provided busy work or ones that were simply fun.  I wanted centers that would challenge my students and make them better readers and writers.  After much planning, revising, and creating, I had the following tenliteracy centers in middle school ELA to try out in my room.  We spent five days rotating through them, and they were a huge hit with my students!    You can click the first one to download the complete center.

  1.  Poetry Fun
  2. Fun with Fables
  3. Informational Text Time
  4. Quote Analysis
  5. Extreme Makeover Writing Edition
  6. Strong Verb Paragraphs
  7. Argue Your Point
  8. Vocabulary Memory
  9. Would You Rather Expository Writing
  10. Creative Writing

While researching the use of centers for my classroom, I came across several ideas to house the centers.  One teacher keeps hers in bags which hang neatly in her room.  I liked the portable center plan, but I decided to house mine in three ring binders.  This way, students can grab a binder and take it to their desk or designated area to work.  All ten binders fit nicely in a crate.

lit center pictures of all notebooks and crate

As for grading the work, I decided to have students keep a “Center Portfolio”.  Each student has a three-pronged folder, and each time work from a center is complete, it goes inside this folder.  I created a checklist to be placed at the front of the folder, and students check off each center as they go.  Once a work sample is complete from ten centers, the folder is turned in for a grade.  I developed an easy checklist to help me grade the work quickly and efficiently.

I plan to add to these centers as time goes on.  The other day, I saw one of those Great American Mail Race letters in my workroom box, and I thought to myself, “This would make a great center!”  Students could respond to letters and participate in the race themselves.  I think this would make a great center because it provides an authentic writing experience.

I’m glad I’ve added these centers to my classroom.  Now that I have them created and inside the notebooks, I will have them for life!   I’ve even considered using them for emergency substitute work. One thing is for sure, my middle schoolers love to work cooperatively, and they definitely learn from one another. Centers allow this to happen!

You can create your own literacy centers for middle school ELA just by thinking of important lessons and developing fun activities to engage and challenge your students.  If you’re interested in the centers we have created, you can purchase them here.  Everything is ready for you to print and place in binders, including the checklists for grading them.

literacy centers cover page

Happy Teaching!

Middle School ELA Christmas Writing Activity

I wanted to share my favorite middle school ELA Christmas writing activity that I do each year a couple of days before our Christmas break.   We  play a gift exchange game, but students do not have to spend any money.   The best part is that students have a ton of fun, and I tie in some writing instruction as well!

So, here’s how this middle school ELA Christmas writing activity works.  Students bring in something from home – nothing new and something that they can give away. They can bring it in wrapped or wrap it at school with wrapping paper provided by me. The number one rule is that they must not tell anyone what their gift is, not even their BFF!  It can be a gag gift but must be appropriate for school. I’ve had students bring in everything from a potato to a cute pencil pouch.  Some students get really creative.  One girl brought in a can of beans with a note that said “homemade bubble bath”.  I usually spend some time giving examples of what is and what is not appropriate.

Once students have brought in their gifts, we complete the first writing assignment.  I explain to students that we will be playing a gift exchange game and that someone in the class will choose their gift.  The thing is, however, students will not be able to open the gifts that they choose.  Instead, they will read the paragraph out loud that describes the gift.  A day or two before the game, students must write a paragraph describing the gift in an interesting way.  They cannot use the name of the gift or anything that would be a “dead give away”.  Instead, they must describe what someone could do with this gift in an imaginative, creative way.  For example, if a student brings in a potato, in the paragraph, I could not write, “This is something you bake or boil and eat.”  I could not use the word potato.  Instead, I would have to describe an imaginative use for it, like, “This will be a perfect paper weight.  If you are often bothered by your papers flying all over the place when your windows are open, then this is the ideal gift for you.  It is just the right size, weight, and color to nicely hold your papers in place.  Also, this gift can be used as a pencil holder.  It can hold at least ten or twelve pencils or pens nicely.”

Once all of the wrapped gifts are in class and all of the paragraphs are written, we are ready to play the game.  This is perfect for the day before the break!  Each wrapped gift has the paragraph with it.  I pull Popsicle sticks with students’ names on them to decide the order in which students choose gifts.  Each student chooses a gift and reads the paragraph out loud.  No one can open a gift until everyone has one.  Students can “steal” a gift from another student when it is their turn or choose from the pile.  Of course, the only thing they have to go on is the paragraph, but if a paragraph does a good job describing some wonderful use of the gift, people will want to “steal”it.  I allow a gift to be “stolen” three times before it is “frozen”.

Once all students have a gift, they open them one at a time so we can all oooh and ahhhh or laugh.  Then, it is time for our final writing assignment.   Students must write a thank you note to the person who gave the gift thanking them for it and telling them how they will use it.  Students must be creative with their thank you notes and be grateful no matter what it is that they received.

christmas gift game for blog

This middle school ELA Christmas writing activity is loads of fun, adds a festive atmosphere to your classroom, and includes two creative writing assignments!  Click here for the free download of the directions, a rubric, and a cute handout for kids to use to write their paragraph.  Merry Christmas!

P.S.  I always bring in a few extra “gifts” for those students who may forget one.  Remember, anything can be a gift, even things like paperclips or erasers in your teacher desk drawer!

Looking for more ELA based Christmas lessons?  Check out our fun and meaningful activity that focuses on analyzing figurative language in the song “Mr. Grinch”!

Literature Circles Using Reading Signposts in Middle School ELA

Have you heard of the reading signposts?  If not, you need to purchase the book Notice and Note Strategies for Close reading by Kylene Beers and Robert Probst.  More information is provided about the signposts later in this post.  Mainly, however, this post will explain how we hold literature circles using reading signposts in middle school ELA.

We call literature circles book clubs in my classrooms.  The kids just get more excited about a “club”.  We recently had our second book club meetings in my seventh grade classroom, and I must say that it was a success!  Four main ingredients contributed to the success:  snacks, comfortable spots, great novels, and the six reading signposts.

First, snacks. Snacks generate excitement.  It doesn’t have to be something huge, just a cookie will do, or a Blow Pop, but allowing students to have a little treat during meetings keeps them looking forward to the discussions!

Comfortable spots- carpet pieces, comfy chairs, bean bags, anything goes.  When students get the chance to get out of their desks for a while, they see that as a treat, and the opportunity to have book club meetings should be a treat!

Next, good novels!  Don’t put boring books on your list of book club books.  You want books that students will fall in love with and won’t soon forget!

Finally, the remainder of this blog post will be about the six reading signposts.  Wow, they have seriously changed my ELA world!

Recently, I introduced my students to the six reading signposts which are described in Robert E. Probst and Kylene Beer’s new book, Notice and Note Strategies for Close reading (which by the way, you need to order ASAP if you have not already).  The signposts are a game changer when it comes to teaching students to complete a close read.   Basically, there are six noticeable concepts that are present in most all novels.  These are called “signposts”.  Each signpost has a question that accompanies it.  When students recognize a signpost, they are to stop and ask themselves the question that goes along with it.  This will help them to comprehend and analyze what they are reading.  For example, one signpost is “Words of the Wiser”.  This is present when an older character gives advice or insight to the main character. (I bet you can think of plenty of young adult novels with this signpost, right?) When students notice this in a text, they should stop and ask the question that accompanies this signpost, which is “How might this change things?”  Each time students see this signpost, they stop and ask themselves the same question.

Click here to see a chart of the six signposts and the questions that accompany them.  

As students are reading their novels, they place post-it notes where they see one of the reading signposts (contrast and contradiction, memory maker, tough question, again and again, aha moment, words of the wiser).  I do not require them to stop and write anything, only to mark the signpost and think of and answer the question that accompanies it.  I provide bookmarks with the six signposts, definitions, and questions for them to use while reading.

In preparation for the book club meetings, students look back through their books at the Post-it note marked signposts.  They choose two that they think would make worthy discussion for the meetings.  Students record those two on their book club preparation sheet, complete with the question that accompanies the signpost and their own answer to that question.  Then, this is one of the main items on the discussion agenda during the meetings.

By far, having book clubs or literature circles using reading signposts in middle school ELA has worked wonders.  My students agreed.  I asked them to give me honest feedback about using the signposts as springboards for discussion during the meetings.  They all assured me, “Mrs. Temple, it works great!”

Check out our book club resource before leaving our site!  It has all of the resources that we use, including signpost bookmarks and preparation sheets for students to use along with their signpost post-it notes to prepare for the meetings.

book club pic

Illustration for Thanksgiving From the Turkey's Point of View Writing Assignment

Thanksgiving From the Turkey’s Point of View Writing Assignment

Have you ever had your students complete a Thanksgiving from the turkey’s point of view writing assignment?  If not, you’re missing out on a great opportunity to teach point of view and voice.  We have our students complete this writing activity in early November to allow us time to share them and discuss the power of point of view and voice.  Of course, this assignment would work well for late November too.  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 for our Thanksgiving from the turkey’s point of view writing assignment.  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”.  Before writing, students will brainstorm the way a turkey may see or describe ordinary objects.  It is always fun to let students to share their stories after they are finished to hear just how creative they were in describing things from the turkey’s point of view.

Option two provides prompts for students to write in a way that builds suspense.  After writing this story, they can use this same suspense building technique in other stories that they write.  There is also a self evaluation and a rubric included.  We hope you enjoy this fun lesson!


turkey story rubricturkey story thumbnails

Happy Turkey Day!


Affect vs. Effect Mnemonic

The words affect and effect are sometimes hard for middle school students to understand.  Here is a handy trick to use in your ELA classroom!  Use the following affect vs. effect mnemonic to help teach the difference between the confusing words:   RAVEN


Affect is a


Effect is a


This affect vs. effect mnemonic will not work, however, if students do not know the difference between nouns and verbs.   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”.  Take a look at the following examples:

The medicine had an immediate outcome (effect) on the pain.

Pollution affects our environment.  Pollution outcomes our environment does not sound right, so I know that it’s affect and not effect.

This is a trick of course, so it only works 95% of the time, but for our seventh graders, it has worked wonders!


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

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 in our dead word funeral.
  • 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 dead word 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 dead word 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!