We will share everything from classroom management tips to technology that works for us in these blog posts. If it is something to help teachers, we will share it!

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!

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.

How to Keep Students From Getting Out of Their Seats! 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!

classroom pic

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.

box picturedesk station

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.

Top Five Reasons To Use Interactive Notebooks in Your Middle School ELA Class

top five reasons to use interactive notebooks blog coverInteractive Notebooks in middle school ELA Classrooms are wonderful!  Check out these top reasons to start using them in your classroom today.

  1. Students stay busy with interactive notebooking. Students can forget going to sleep or even daydreaming.  With interactive notebooks, students are actively engaged during each lesson!
  2. Students enjoy it. Most students take pride in things that they are able to create, and they have fun making their notebooks a prized possession.  We all know that a little fun makes learning easier.
  3. Notebooking provides “built-in” brain breaks. Brain breaks are the new craze.  For example, these days, teachers find themselves stopping in the middle of class and doing ten jumping jacks to give everyone’s brain a rest.  Well, with interactive notebooks, the cutting and gluing provides built in mini breaks.  And don’t worry; the cutting and gluing does not take up too much class time.
  4. It will help you as the teacher stay organized! I teach four classes, and I have four notebooks.  Everything that my students do in class, I do along with them.  So, if I forget where we are in our lesson or what we did the day before, I simply look at my notebook.  If my first period and third period are in different spots, my notebooks easily let me know.  It’s wonderful!
  5. Everything that you do for the year is in one place, and it makes review easy. We use five subject notebooks and divide our notebooks into 5 sections.  Take a look at how we organize them below.
  • Grammar Gremlins – We cover one pesky writing problem a week (like it’s vs. its) and call them gremlins.  The notebooking is working perfectly for these lessons and foldables, and I LOVE that the kids have all of the lessons to look back at when needed.  It’s like their own little handbook.  After every five “gremlins”, we give a review test.  This spiraling approach is so important when teaching problems to overcome in writing.  Take a look at the picture below to see some of the foldables we create in the Grammar Gremlin section of our notebooks.

GG interactive notebook collage

  • Literature – In this section, we glue handouts on literary techniques and any handouts that we complete within our novel units or short story lessons.
  • Writing – This is where students have glued their four square prewriting guide, types of grabbers, and other lists and lessons that they can refer to when writing.
  • Roots/Affixes – After we finish our 26 week curriculum with Grammar Gremlins, we begin our weekly study of roots and affixes.  We use this section of the notebook to make foldables and cutouts for our six weeks of study.
  • Miscellaneous – This section is left blank for any other activity we may do that does not fit under the other four categories.

The following is what I have found works and helps when using interactive notebooking in my ELA class.

  • Set up stations with glue and scissors.  I bought pencil boxes and glued them to every other desk.  Inside, I put two pairs of scissors, colored pencils, a pencil sharpener, and highlighters.  I have a shelf in the middle of each row of desks with baskets of glue.  Use the bottled glue, not the sticks or tape.
  • Tell the students to put dots of glue, not strings of it.  I once read another teacher’s blog that said “Do not toaster strudel your glue.”  I now say that too.  All they need to do is put a dot of glue in each corner.  This takes practice, and I repeat it every time we work.
  • Keep a notebook yourself for each of your classes.  I have four classes, so I bought four different colored notebooks and labeled them first period, second period, third, and fourth.  This helps in so many ways.  First, as we cut, glue, and fold, I do my own.  The modeling really helps some students.
  •  Glue in, complete, and write everything that the students do.  This is an awesome way to know how far you got with each class.  If I am not sure how far I got in second period, I can just look at my notebook to see.  Also, it’s easy to let a student who was absent copy something from your notebook.  As my students are cutting and gluing, so am I.  Once I’m done, I announce, “I’m finished cutting and gluing, so you should be close to finishing too.”  This seems to help the slow pokes hurry it up.