Monday, January 15, 2018

How to Use Reader's Theaters in Middle School

One of my favorite ways to engage my students in historical content is through the use of reader's theaters. Reader's theaters are small skits that students read aloud either in small groups or to the whole class. I use them in social studies and they are commonly used in ELA. I'd love to see more geared towards science content as well! Here's how I use reader's theaters with my middle school students:

The Prep

Before using a reader's theater skit, I determine if there's any vocabulary words that my students need to understand. If so, I teach them the key words first.
The Reader's Theater
I've used reader's theaters both to introduce and reinforce content. That's the beauty of this type of activity - each teacher has full discretion over when to use it! I always use them as a whole class activity. I choose some students (usually volunteers) to play the roles and provide each student with a script. Since I use many reader's theaters throughout the year, I ensure that every student has the opportunity to be part of at least one skit. Usually there's plenty of roles for students to become historical figures multiple times throughout the year. As the small group reads and acts out the skit, the rest of the class watches and listens quietly. Since the skits are short, engaging and informative, the students LOVE to watch their peers!
The Assessment
After the reader's theater ends, I hold a brief class discussion to asses student understanding of the content. If you purchase the reader's theaters from my TpT store, there are 5 discussion questions already included. I use that time to address questions, take student comments and connect the skit to the concepts we've been learning in class.
From start to finish, the whole process usually takes 20 - 30 minutes depending upon the amount of time needed during the prep phase. Overall, they are an efficient and engaging way to reinforce my classroom content!
If you're interested in trying one out in your classroom for free, click HERE to download the Declaration of Independence Reader's Theater Freebie from my TpT store.
To see all the Reader's Theaters currently offered in The Teacher's Prep store, click HERE! I'm adding to the collection all the time.
Happy Teaching!

Monday, January 8, 2018

The Best Hashtags for Teachers on Instagram

Finding ways to connect with other teachers online is easier than ever if you use the right hashtags! Hashtags are words or phrases preceded by a pound (#) sign. They are used to group posts by topic to make searching for pictures, statuses, tweets, etc. easier.
While many hashtags will connect you with other educators, some are more popular than others. I love using hashtags to find new social media accounts to follow while gathering inspiration from fellow teachers.
Before you jump into the world of education hashtags, think carefully about how many hashtags you're using on your posts. Buffer suggests only using two for Twitter while on Instagram you can get away with 11 and still see a high level of engagement. Click here to read the blog post on Buffer to learn more.
Here is a list of some of the most popular hashtags that educators are using on Instagram, in no particular order:


Have I missed any? Leave a comment below and I'll look into it! :)

Monday, January 1, 2018

Reflection Connection: January

The first days of January always feel so full of promise. We set goals for the new calendar year and make plans to grow personally and professionally. This entry in our reflection journals is a very personal one and honestly quite challenging to write.

Entry 6: What unique talents do you bring to the classroom? What makes you a good teacher?

My Response: So often we are asked to think of how we can improve...always implored to think of ways we can increase the learning gains of our students. It's important that we reflect and improve our practices, but it's equally important that we consider what we have already achieved and "toot our own horn" to celebrate our own selves. This month, reflect on your incredible talents and the things you do to change the lives of your students. You are amazing - recognize it! :)

Monday, December 4, 2017

Reflection Connection: December

YOU GUYS! I feel like a little kid this time of year because I LOVE the Christmas season! As soon as Thanksgiving is over, I'm whisking out all of the decorations and blaring Christmas music in the house. It's truly the most wonderful time of the year! This month's Reflection Connection is all about joy.

Entry 5: What brings you the most joy each day?

My Response: On a professional level, seeing my students collaborate well with their classmates and make good decisions brings me the most joy. As a teacher, I aim to help my students learn how to be compassionate individuals who can navigate our diverse world with understanding and kindness. Watching them learn those skills and deal with challenges in a productive way brings so much joy to my heart because I know (hope!) that these are skills they'll take with them long after they leave my classroom.

Your turn: What brings you the most joy each day?

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Best YouTube Videos for Teaching the Revolutionary War

I always get so excited when I find YouTube videos that supplement my lessons perfectly. Some are funny others are purely informational but all the ones I choose fit specific parameters that I'm looking for in a particular lesson.
The Revolutionary War is one of my favorite topics to teach because I find that era of American History so fascinating! I love finding ways to bring the content to life in my classroom and brief videos help students to learn in engaging ways.
Here are my favorite YouTube videos for teaching about the Revolutionary War (in no particular order).

Soomo Publishing: Too Late to Apologize: A Declaration

This is a staple favorite in my classroom to segue from the causes of the Revolutionary War to the war itself. It's very well produced and has some great symbolism. The kids LOVE it! 
Disney Educational Productions: Schoolhouse Rock! The Shot Heard Round the World

I think it's safe to say that we've all seen this one before, right? I remember watching it when I was in school! It is geared towards younger students but I still think it's a fun way to reinforce the battles of Lexington and Concord. I usually show it at the end of class when we finish learning about those battles. The kids think the tune is catchy and (surprisingly!) several in each class have never seen it. I guess that means I'm old. ;)
Crash Course U.S. History: The American Revolution
Personally, I really like Crash Course videos. They're clever, thoughtful and informational. These videos are great for older students - definitely high school and even gifted middle school students, as well. I've shown them to 8th grade students and several understood it (John Green speaks really fast). When in doubt, I post them to my class website so that students can access them at home.
Civil War Trust: The Entire Revolutionary War
I LOVE this YouTube video! It goes through many major events of the Revolutionary War and feels very cinematic. I don't show the entire video at once. Rather, I show it section at a time to correspond with our studies. The whole video is just under 20 minutes but each section is approximately less than 5 minutes (sometimes shorter).
The Civil War Trust also has great 4 minute videos that highlight specific topics related to the Civil War. Click HERE to visit their YouTube playlist.
Kristina Edgar: American Revolution Episodes
Kristina makes learning about the American Revolution extra fun. She creates clever and engaging videos that are PERFECT for middle school students. They're informational and humorous.  A perfect combination for that age group.
To Win a War, You Need a Plan
Parliament Taking All My Dough
Declaration of Independence
I hope these help you jumpstart some fun lessons on the Revolutionary War!
Happy Teaching!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Reflection Connection: November

I love November because it kicks off the start of the holiday season in my house! Delicious food, more time to spend with friends and family and thinking of all the things I'm thankful for in my life make this season truly special.

Entry 4: What do you feel thankful for in your life?

My Response: At school, I'm most thankful for supportive colleagues who are always ready to collaborate with each other and constantly put students first. At home, I'm thankful for the unconditional love and support of my family. Life isn't always perfect, but the people around me sure do make it fun!

Now it's your turn: What are you most thankful for in your life?

Monday, October 16, 2017

DIY String Art Tutorial for the Classroom

When I started to see string art in home d├ęcor stores, I knew I wanted to create a custom piece for my classroom! I'm a novice at crafting, so bear this in mind as you read the post: if I can do it, you can do it!


I snagged most of these supplies at Walmart. Here's the list:

1. Embroidery Thread: $2.28
2. Stencils: $3.47
3. Nails: $0.97
4. Spray Paint: $1.00
5. Wooden Board (Lowe's): approx. $3.00 (I forgot to keep the receipt - oops!) 

I measured the board and placed the letters in the center. Watch out for the spacing! I had to re-do a couple letters because I didn't space them out evenly when I started. All it took was a little erasing - an easy fix.

After tracing the letters it was time to add the nails. Originally, I spaced the nails about an inch apart (see the picture above). I realized that I wanted the thread to really fill up the inside of the letters so I added more nails after the picture was taken. You can see the difference in the picture below.

I read some tutorials online that suggested painting the board before starting the project. I wanted to paint the nails, too, so I opted to spray paint the entire project at one time. It took a few coats of spray paint to cover the wood but I LOVE the end result.

Once the paint has dried, it's time to start the tedious (but gratifying!) process of attaching the string to the nails. I chose a nail on the outside corner of a letter and tied a knot. I left quite a long "tail" on the knot because I'll be tying a couple more knots to it and didn't want to be fumbling with a tiny piece of string later. We'll cut off the extra string at the end of the project.  

Next, wrap the string around the outside of the next nail. By wrapping the entirety of the outside of the letter first, you'll create a nice clean edge.

Keep the string pulled tight as you continue wrapping it around the nails on the outside edge of the letter. If you don't keep the string pulled tightly, it has a tendency to pop off the nails. It happened to me a couple times. It's a bit annoying but a great reminder to always keep a watch on that string!

Continue the process until the outside of the letter is wrapped with string. Tie a knot back at the first nail. Then fill in the center of the letter by wrapping the string around the nails! There's no particular way to wrap the string. I just kept wrapping it around the nails until I got the look I wanted. Once I was finished, I made sure to end at the nail with the knot, tying one last knot to finish up the letter.

This part of the project is my favorite - seeing everything come together so beautifully! I love how the color pops off the white background. Once all the letters are complete, take your scissors and cut off all the extra hanging strings.

Ta Da! I LOVE the finished string art project and can't wait to place it in my classroom! I'll probably attach two little hooks to the back to hang it on the wall.

If you make string art for your classroom, I'd love to see it! Share it with me via email at or on Instagram: @teachersprep. :)