Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Decorative Journals

Last year, while searching the internet for new and creative ideas, I ran across a YouTube video teaching how to alter a regular composition book into a gorgeous journal.  I got inspired!  So, I made a few of them as Christmas presents for the lovely and talented ladies I eat lunch with everyday.  We call ourselves, "The Lunch Bunch".   They absolutely loved them.  I've also made some for personal friends who love to write.

Here are pictures of the journals I decorated for "The Lunch Bunch". (Forgive my amateur photography skills, but I think you will be able to get the idea.)

 These are examples of the inside of the front and back cover.

In August many of the composition books go on sale, so it's a great time to stock up.  
Many of the craft stores put stickers and decorative paper on sale for 40% to 50% off, as well.    
An additional teacher discount is given to teachers with a school ID card.  Some schools do not issue teacher ID cards.  If that's the case, sometimes they accept other forms of proof of employment. 

The initial purchase of supplies may be a little bit of an investment.  
However, after purchasing the initial supplies, the following journals could range between $5 to $20, depending on how elaborate it's made.   One idea is to save birthday cards, calendars, ribbon, and scraps of decorative paper to use for future projects.  This lowers the cost.  I keep all my scraps of paper and stickers in a binder with pocket dividers.  This makes for easy storage and less clutter.  

Here is a list of materials I use:

A Composition Book

Decorative Paper

A Paper Cutter

Double-Sided Tape Dispenser

A Variety of Stickers, Accessories, Ribbons, ...

If you love to write, and create, this is a fun project.  
It's a wonderful gift that is useful and very much appreciated.
It's also a great project for our middle school students.  Kids can decorate their journal to show their unique personality and personal interests.  
I think I may have a journal decorating contest this year...  

Here are the You Tube videos that inspired me.

This video shows another example of an altered journal made for an elementary teacher.

This last video shows the same concept for spiral notebooks.


Unique Book Reports Projects from Unique Teaching Resources

Wonderful Creative Book Reports

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Student Learning Portfolios

 As all middle school teachers know, personal organization is crucial for the middle school student.   Students have 6 or more different teachers requiring different systems of organization.  And, each teacher is as different as night and day.    One method may work for one teacher and not for another.  After trying several methods, I have finally found a system that works for my students and me.  At the end of every year I give a survey to my students about different procedures and policies we used. Each year I receive high student ratings for our portfolio method. 

Portfolio Materials:
1 Binder (2 to 3 inches)
Lots of wide-ruled notebook paper
8 Dividers (Store bought or homemade)

Divider Labels:
1 - Housekeeping       Class Letter, Procedures, and Policies
2 - My Progress          Data, Progress Monitoring, Goal Setting, Progress Reports, Assessments
3 - My Recognition    Awards, Compliments, Assignments students are proud of
4 - Reading                Organized by Units
5 - Vocabulary           Organized by Units
6 - Writing                 Organized by Genre
7 - Language             Organized by Rules
8 - Literature             Organized by Genre

*Each unit includes a cover sheet.  The cover sheet includes the Learning Focus, Objective and Learning Strategies.  It also includes assessments and reflections.  Each assignment and or assessment is filed behind the cover sheet.  When we finish a unit, the cover sheet and corresponding work goes in the back of the section, the new unit we will start working on goes in the front of the section. 

*As students receive assignments back, they file the assignment in the corresponding division.  Note-taking and pending projects also are also filed in the corresponding division. 

*Once a week we take a few minutes from a class period to catch up on filing.  More organized students usually have everything already filed so they help students who are more laid back. 

*Students are given a score for the organization of their notebook at the end of the nine weeks.  A checklist is given to them with the due date in advance so that they can know what I will be checking.  The checklist includes a score for turning in the portfolio on the due date, 8 labeled divisions, assignments filed in the corresponding division, neatness and reading/language arts material only.  Being that we are always monitoring and helping each other with our portfolios, very seldom do I ever receive a very unorganized notebook.  Credit is always given for effort.

*Portfolios are kept in class.  If students need to study for a specific test or quiz, they take out what they need and file it back when they are finished.

*Each day I give out stickers for various reasons.  Students may receive stickers for quickly attending to class procedures, an incredible response, helping someone, turning in their assignment on time and/or neatly, ...  My students usually collect the stickers on the binder covers.  Middle school kids love stickers and so do I.  I try to buy different and interesting ones that they would like.  

These are some benefits of using this system:

1) Every assignment or hand-out has a place.  This fixes the problem of lost papers. 
2) Students appreciate personal organization.
3) Students are prepared, more often than not. 
4) Students find pending assignments quickly.
5) Portfolios become running records of skills learned. 
6) They become a source of personal academic pride.
7) Students can quickly demonstrate to anyone what they are working on and what they have learned.
8) Portfolios are very informative in parent/teacher/student conferences.
9) They are useful tool in student led conferences.
10) Students who enroll in the middle of the year are able to quickly get organized and follow the same rhythm.
11)  Being that my students come to me twice a day for both Reading and Language Arts, everything we need for both courses is in one binder.
 12) This system is more practical with smaller groups. Teachers with over 100 students may not be able to store so many binders in their room.  In this case, students could keep 9 week portfolios in a 1 inch binder, rather than a 2 to 3 inch binder.  At the end of nine weeks, students can file their information in a manilla folder to make room for the next nine weeks materials.  I've seen teachers at my school keep crates for each period with manilla folder portfolios.  Another variation is the spiral notebook.  I've included a video of a spiral portfolio in this post. 

13) At the end of the year, my students clean out their portfolios, but we discuss what things they should keep as resources for the next year. 

These are a few examples of some portfolios we've had.  Each year they take on a new look and we may change labels, but in essence it's the same system.  I'm the only ESL teacher at my school, so I get to see my students at least 2 of the three years of middle school.  Many invest in a good binder in 6th grade and they use it the three years. 
Students Place their Portfolio Checklist in the front of their binder
Table of Contents

Class Letter filed in Housekeeping Division
Cover Sheet for one of our Reading Unit  (This binder has homemade dividers using manilla folder tabs)

My Recognition Sticker Book

Labeled Dividers
Journal Entries filed in the Writing Division

Writing Rubrics filed in the Writing Division

 I'll take more pictures this year of our 2014 Portfolios once we set them up. 

This YouTube video presents a great variation to this portfolio with Spiral Notebooks.  

Austrailian Parents Pressured to Drop Home Language for English ( Leader Community Newspapers )


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

First Day On The Blog


I'm super excited to have finally started writing my own blog.  I've been inspired by the many bloggers I've been following and visiting on the web through the various websites and social networks.  Wow, just amazing...  I hope I can become as helpful and encouraging as you all have been to me.  Looking forward to posting tips and treasures that have helped me grow as an educator throughout the years...