Friday, October 14, 2016

Post-it Annotations Template

After using Post-its for about two days to annotate, I realized that with 90 students, it would not be feasible for me to continue supplying the sticky notes. Instead, I used this handy resource so that the students could still appreciate the idea of using the sticky note format, but we weren't flying through tons of sticky notes in the process.

If you'd like to use this template, grab it here. I left extra space in the directions box for you to instruct your students on the specific requirements for your annotations. 

Let me know if you have any questions, and be sure to check me out on Instagram @theengagingstation! :)

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Zombie Attack Lesson Idea

Need a quick, engaging idea to get your students writing? Have zombies attack the classroom and school, and allow the students to choose how they will survive!

To set the mood, I turned off the lights, played The Walking Dead theme song, and had my first PowerPoint slide displaying when they walked in.


I explained that they would be completing a writing assignment so that they were not surprised after the "fun" part. The first part of surviving a zombie attack is getting resources together. I gave them a list of seven items to choose from, and I told them that they can only take four. They had to decide as a group which four to take. This is where the team-building part comes into play.

After they picked their items, we went over each item, discussing the benefits and drawbacks of each, and why each group picked the four items. You can continue to narrow this down to three, two, and even one item.

After they agreed on their resources, they had to pick their weapon of choice to defend themselves in the zombie attack. You can either have the group decide on one weapon for the entire group, or have each person pick just one item. It's always funny to see who gets stuck with the stick! :)

After they are well-equipped with survival necessities and a defense, they had to escape the school. The problem is that the nearest exit is locked, and everyone in  the hallway had become a zombie. For this, I projected a map of the school, and they had to create an escape route. This is a neat opportunity to discuss the school building as well.

Finally, after they escaped the school and everyone lived (yay!), they had to complete their pre-assessment. You can choose one for everyone to respond to, or you can present a few options. You can see two options below:

You now have a piece of writing from students, and they had a chance to have some fun! Be aware that this lesson is SUPER engaging and therefore, the students will want to talk A LOT. Just set the expectation beforehand that they need to be quiet when people are presenting their choices.

To use this in your classroom, simply click on the pictures that you want, right-click, save the image, and add right into your presentation software.

Happy surviving!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Classroom Transformation: Bowling Review Game

Need a fun way to review information? Give your kids a bowling ball, some pins, and a disco light, and you'll have a SUPER engaging review session ready to go! The best thing about it? This transformation can be adapted to all content and topics!

The Preparation:

Materials needed:
  • Bowling pins
  • Butcher paper or table cloths (for the lanes)
  • Bowling ball
  • Disco light (get the one I used by clicking here)
  • Optional: Chromebooks
  • Optional: glow sticks. There are great packs at Walmart, Five Below, and Amazon (click here)
  • Construction paper
  • Scissors
  • Glue

I was able to get the bowling pins and jelly bowling balls from my school's gym closet, the butcher paper from our stock, and I had the construction paper already. The only items that cost money were the glow sticks and disco light, but I can honestly say that these two items TRANSFORMED the lesson. My kids were SO excited about the glow sticks, and the disco light, for such a cheap price, lit up my entire classroom. Even the kids walking by couldn't help but look in! 

If you do not have access to bowling pins/balls, and you're not sure about investing too much money into them, I have seen lots of DIY ideas for bowling using soda bottles! Check out some ideas on Pinterest. You can make this work!!! :)

The preparation took about 1 hour. I covered my windows with butcher paper to black out the room, lined the floor with two lanes of butcher paper, plugged in the disco light, and BOOM, a bowling alley was created!

I also printed out this sign to wear. I constantly pretend to be other people, and my kids buy into it. I'm a bit of an alliteration abuser (see what I did there? :D), so I just had to make this sign! I just attached it to my lanyard, and the kids called me Becky all day!

The Lesson:

Over the course of two days, my students traveled to the Arcade Room, Burger Bowling, and the Concession Stand. Those were code names for the different stations at which the students would work.

The students walked into the classroom and were shocked at the transformation. We started things off at the Arcade Room in which students played Pac-Man (if you haven't played on ClassTools, you are missing out!). Students reviewed how to cite evidence (check out my game at Citation Pac-Man). They played for ten minutes, and the highest scorer earned a special spot on the score board!

After Pac-Man, the students moved to Burger Bowlerama! They each received a Burger Bowlerama booklet. We played just like real bowling with 10 rounds. After each round, students had to answer four questions in their booklets. The questions were all review questions for what we have been learning. I am all about rehearsal and practicing!

We turned the lights off and the disco light on for this! It was just like cosmic bowling. I also had music playing like Cascada and some old Britney Spears, so it gave it the old-school skating rink vibe. After each round, I kept track of their scores on the bowling score chart (see bottom of post for link to this). The students motivated each other, clapped for each other, and it was pure awesomeness! Follow me on Instagram to see videos of this!

In between turns, they used their glow sticks to light the way to answer their booklets!

Finally, they ended at the Concession Stand. I saw this idea on Pinterest before, and I knew I wanted to try it! I gave each group their Team Pack complete with construction paper, scissors, glue, and Emoji Self-Evaluation Tool (grab it for free here). They had to cut out the parts to create the BEST burger in town and build a paragraph about it. They had to have topic sentences, detail sentences, supporting sentences, and a summary sentence. We have a specific writing program in my district, so this aligned with those requirements.

The end result of the burgers:

Some of them actually look pretty tasty!

If you want to take a peek at and/or use my resources, check them out here (for free!):  
  • Burger Bowlerama booklet and Becky signs: click here!
  • Slides from my PowerPoint, including the bowling score chart: click here!
Overall, it was a cheap transformation and well worth it to break up the end of the year and keep them engaged! Let me know if you have any questions in the comments, and be sure to tag me on Instagram if you do this transformation! :)

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Team Packs

You know when you see a cool idea, then you obsess about it, and you realize that you HAVE to have it? That's what happened with these team packs. I saw them from Kagan, and I loved them. The Kagan ones come with markers, super thin whiteboards, crayons, and a spinner, and they retail for around $15. I wanted the same concept, but I didn't want to spend upward of $75 with shipping, so I decided to turn it into a DIY project! :)

I went to The Container Store to get the bubble envelopes. I was able to get them for $2.99 each. You can see them online here: Bubblopes.

After that, I used some Astrobrights paper to make the labels. I laminated them first and used Glue Dots to keep them down. Advice: Glue Dot the entire thing down. I did just the corners, and then the kids were putting their hand through it like a pocket.

As far as what I put in them goes, that changes all the time. That's another positive thing about the DIY method. For example, when we were working with persuasive techniques, I gave the kids blank paper, markers, and a mysterious item in another small bubble envelope. 

I think I'm going to use them as close reading toolkits, participation packs, and more. The kids  really like them both because they're different, and they're pretty. I had them out for a few days before we used them, and one girl said, "They are so pretty!" and another boy said, "I am very intrigued by these." Of course, I also received questions like, "Can I pop the bubbles?" Nonetheless, they were a hit, and I'm very excited about my $12.00 investment!

Leave a comment if you have any questions! :)

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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Filing Cabinet Organization

I think we all have that filing cabinet with the endless amount of file folders and the random, misplaced task cards and matching cards, and as much as we try to organize it, it's better left closed.

Here is what my filing cabinet looked like before:

The obvious problems: there are no clear indicators of where one unit begins and ends, all of the files are the same color, and I'll be honest: most of the time, I do not put the folders back in the right spot.

The solution that I came up with: I will color-code my units and resources. For example, all of my Romeo and Juliet (including short stories that I use) will be coded pink. So, I used PowerPoint to create some strips (the font is called Sweet Pea), and then I printed and laminated them. I made sure to test this out on white paper first to make sure that my filing cabinet still closed without the papers hitting the top.

After I laminated the strips, I simply taped them to the inside of a green folder. Not only are these much larger than the little plastic things that come with hanging folders, I also like that I can use different colors and my own fonts. If you want to grab these editable labels, check them out here: Editable Filing Cabinet Labels/Strips.

Then, I organized my manila folders into their green folders, and this is the end result:

 I am so pleased with how these turned out! I can't wait to use blue for The Freedom Writers Diary and green for my writing unit, and so on. How do you organize your filing cabinet? What has worked well for you?

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Friday, March 25, 2016

Staff Morale Boosters

There are so many great ideas out there to boost staff morale, and I was inspired by those great ideas to give our copy room a little makeover.

I started by creating some motivational posters. I went for both school-related and just general quotes to spark some positive vibes and motivation. I even printed a few extra for my classroom. Print them on Astrobrights paper or any bright cardstock for an extra pop! If you want to grab them for yourself (for free), click here: motivational posters!

After I printed and hung the posters up, I started on my next few projects: the staff shout-outs wall and the great ideas wall!

The great ideas wall will become a wall for people to post their great ideas including brain breaks, activities, handouts, websites, and more. The staff shout-outs wall will become a place for people to give a shout-out to other colleagues for doing neat things both in and outside of the classroom. If you want to grab my posters for these walls, click here: wall posters!

By the end of the second day, there were already quite a few shout-outs on the wall! I downloaded these neat shout-out slips from Teach Create Motivate :) 

In case you are wondering, I used my Cricut to create the cursive cutouts. :)

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask! Don't forget to follow me on Instagram to continue to see the transformation and other cool things that I do in my classroom!

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Saturday, March 19, 2016

Hula Hoop Tic-Tac-Toe Review Game

Let me start by saying that my kids LOVED this review game. They laughed, learned, and helped each other throughout the entire game!

What you'll need: 

  • 9 Hula Hoops
  • Some kind of marker. We used Frisbees, but you can use bean bags, fabric, paper plates, and more. Use something that's not bouncy so that it stays in the hula hoop.
  • Optional: scooter boards

How to play review game style:
  1. Have the students separate into two groups. My classes are roughly 15 students in each, so it worked out really well for my class size. If you have a class of 25-30 students, you might consider having rotating groups and another stationary activity on the side or possibly arranging two sets of the game.
  2. We've been working with the ICE method for citing evidence, so I typed up about 15 slides for students to review the method, add punctuation to sentences with textual evidence, explain each step of the method, and more. Whatever content you want to review, just print up a variety of slides and either laminate them or put them in sheet protectors for repeated use. They will likely review each slide a few times, but all rehearsal is good rehearsal!
  3. Designate two people to start. I structured it so that there was one person doing the movement part and one person doing the answering. When the person answered the question, the other person could run/twist/scooter/hop/etc., over to the Tic-Tac-Toe board and place his marker.
  4. The person with the slides then passed the slides to the next person in the relay line, and then that person answered a question while another person placed the marker on the board.

Doing it that way ensures that all students participate in answering the questions and they get more practice with the material.

If you want to see a video of this game without reviewing, click here. This is NOT my video, but it's a good reference.

All in all, this game is great for incorporating movement in your classroom, playing a brain break, developing class cohesion, and reviewing information. 

How will you use it? :)

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Why You Should Call Their Parents

I could be wrong, but I don't think that any of us LOVE calling parents. Sometimes those calls can be awkward or confrontational, but other times, they can be AMAZING!

Positive phone calls home are equally if not more important than the negative ones. I recently started using reward coupons in addition to lollipops. I assumed that my teenagers would always want the lollipops, but surprisingly, there have been two clear coupon winners: the option to listen to music while they work and positive calls home.

I started to wonder: why did so many of my students want positive phone calls home? I try to acknowledge their positive behaviors all the time in class, but they want more than just my recognition. I think we assume too often that their parents don't care, but maybe that's because we only call to discuss the negatives.

I have started calling home more, and I've had two students tell me their rewards for those calls:

1) One student told me that he was taken out to dinner because of his accomplishments in class.
2) Another student, just yesterday, told me that her mom took her out for ice cream because of the call home.

I plan to start devoting 30 minutes a week calling home to discuss positive behaviors in class. I'm excited to see the good news that my students bring to class.

See some of my reward coupons below! I use these whenever a student demonstrates positive behavior. If you'd like the template, please click here and make a copy. I used KG All of Me and KG Second Chances for my fonts, both of which are available on and TpT.

What do you do to reward your students? Do you call home?

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Questions and Answers on the Desk!

I've seen a lot of posts on Instagram of teachers writing on student desks. I love the idea, and let me just say that it was actually FUN to write on their desks with an Expo marker!

I wish that I could leave little individualized notes/compliments to the students, but I have five back-to-back classes, and I don't do assigned seating, so that strategy wouldn't really work well in my classroom.

I decided to instead write review questions on their desks and leave a post-it for them to write down the answer.

There's a few ways to approach this: 

1) Write on every desk to hold each student accountable. This is time-consuming to write all the questions, but every student will have a question to answer. You could then have the students play some musical chairs to find a new seat and answer the next question/determine if the answer that the previous person wrote is correct.

2) Write on one per group or every few desks and put a few post-its on the desk for multiple answers. Allow the students to discuss the question and answer(s), and then have them move to the next group.

3) Give students a few post-its each and have them answer a few questions on the desks. Make it a little competition: Who can get rid of their post-its the fastest by correctly answering five different desk questions?

They are bound to hit/touch/smear the writing. In that case, just have them write it again, come up with new questions, or rewrite them yourself if you're OCD like me. :)

What will you do? Comment below or let me know on Instagram!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Teaching Students How to Write an Email

I was never taught how to write an email. I just knew that I should include a subject, address the recipient, format it like a mini-letter, and close it. One might think that our current students, having grown up in a digital world, would have adapted accordingly and write something resembling a normal email. I don't want to speak on behalf of all of us, but this is certainly not the case from what I have experienced over the last few years. From what I recall, I have never received a properly structured email until after I explicitly taught my students the structure.

I have received emails with missing subjects, names, greetings, and closings. I have even received emails with angry emojis after I posted grades. Emojis. I have noticed the "Sent from my iPhone" default message at the bottom of their email which may attribute to their texting language, but at least in my opinion, it's not okay. They need to learn how to write emails and at least learn some email etiquette.

Think about how many times you have opened your email to find something that resembles the emails below:

All of this becomes even more frustrating when it's or I'll be the first to admit that back in my AOL days, I had some interesting usernames and email addresses, but by high school, I had a more professional one with my first and last name.

The good news is that it doesn't take long to address and fix their errors. Maybe it's not our job to help them or it doesn't fit in with our curriculum/plans, but it's a great skill to address especially as many schools are shifting towards a 1:1 digitally blended classroom.

How do you weigh in on this topic? What do you do in your classroom to address this? Comment below or let me know on Instagram!

If you want an easy way to approach this in your classroom, check out my two Emailing Activities products by clicking the pictures below! :)

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

New Semester, New Rules!

For many of us, the start of a new semester means the start of new classes. New classes, content, and students can be great. I have year-long classes, so I wondered how it would go if I tried to introduce new expectations midway through the year. Well, I did, and you should too!

The three images on my door were three PowerPoint slides that I reviewed prior to the start of class. They saw the large "Positive Vibes Only" as soon as they walked into the room. After that, we reviewed the new expectations, inspired by the Ron Clark Academy, some of which were "If someone does something well, we will recognize and congratulate that person" and ""We will high-five when you walk in and when you leave." As I've mentioned in other posts, I teach 9th grade, so their initial reactions were confused looks and "Whaaaaaat?", BUT I received a high-five from all 70 of my students, and it was awesome. Some even want a secret handshake!

We tested out the Positive Vibes Only throughout the rest of the lesson. We reviewed some awards for achievements from the last marking period, and we all held each other accountable. They kept repeating, "Positive vibes only!" Even later in the day when I saw them, they would say the little phrase.

I am excited to continue using the Positive Vibes Only method going forward and especially the high-fives. I was hesitant about using it, but now there's no looking back!

Do you high-five your students, or have you come up with any new strategies to try in the new term?

Monday, January 18, 2016

Musical Chairs in the Classroom

Musical chairs is a great brain break because it gets everyone moving, it's fast-paced, and it requires no prep or money. That's my kind of brain break! I'm not lying when I say that my students constantly ask to play this game. There are two ways that we play in my classroom:

Option 1: My students and I have recently been playing musical chairs with a twist, and they LOVE it! Instead of counting the chairs and students and moving chairs to the side, we keep all of the chairs in the game. I play the music (my go-to song is The Gummy Bear Song because it's upbeat, and most of the kids recognize it) and then they start walking around. I stop the music, and they literally RUN to the nearest seat. The last student standing is out and becomes a referee. This continues until there is one student remaining. Award that student with bragging rights, a little piece of candy, or some other reward. An entire game can be completed in under five minutes.

Option 2: Amp up the first option by throwing in some trivia questions about anything that you want so that students can buy their way back into the game after they are eliminated. For example: We just wrapped up with Romeo and Juliet, so any time a student lost, I'd ask a quick recall question about something from the play. If the student answered the question correctly, that student was able to play again. If the student answers the question incorrectly, they become a referee, and another student answers the question.

Do the chairs move? Yes. Will you room look a little disheveled afterwards? Yes. Is it worth it? TOTALLY. It's such an easy way to have the students out of their seats. I use it between activities, as a warm-up, as an exit ticket, and sometimes when I can just tell that they're having "one of those days." 

Try it out and let me know how it goes. What do you do in your classroom to get your students moving? Leave a comment!