March is such a great month! Not only are we occasionally seeing hints of spring emerging out of the frozen grip of winter, but it’s Women’s History Month! I love learning and teaching my students about all things history, but it is particularly special to highlight various women who have made an impact on history!
To help share some of these women’s stories with my students, I’ve put together the stories of 12 amazing women–many of whom were trailblazing pioneers in their respective fields! Each woman’s history is incredible! Your students will be captivated and inspired by their achievements–often in the face of extreme adversity.
Women in History Bundle
While each of these twelve mini-biographies are available individually, the real value is in the bundle!
First, you will receive the twelve two-page biographical texts. Each text also comes with a comprehension crossword puzzle that will assess students’ understanding of each women’s story.
Student Activities for Women’s History Month
Additionally, a student discussion guide and multiple graphic organizers are included that can be used with the text provided, plus nearly any other informational text you many read with your students in the future! I love having a file of versatile graphic organizers that I can use with my students when I’m in a hurry to find an activity!
I’m starting to feel like an infomercial salesman, but wait! There’s more!
Reading informational texts is not always easy for many of our students. I like to arm these students with a variety of reading strategies that will help them better approach informational texts. With the bundle, you’ll receive a Slides presentation that introduces 14 reading strategies for engaging with informational texts! I’ve also included several “fix-it” strategies that will help students know what to do when comprehension breaks down! This is a great resource for helping struggling readers!
I’ve mentioned on there before that I like to increase the amount of informational text my students read around this time of year. Standardized tests are looming in the distance and this is my unofficial way of preparing them for the test without teaching to the test. Whether you use these activities as individual assignment or group jigsaw reading, your students will enjoy these stories!
Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns!
Do your students like sports? While definitely not for everybody, sports are a great way to connect with many students! Personally, I love using this easy method of connection to engage students. Black History Month is a great time to share with students the stories of several notable Black athletes from history!
Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson, Alice Coachman, Wilma Rudolph, and more have incredible and inspiring histories! Jesse Owens proved world leaders wrong! Jacki Robinson endured persecution on nearly every front but changed the sport of baseball for the better. Alice Coachman began her career training barefoot with homemade equipment and eventually became the first woman of color to win an Olympic gold medal! Wilma Rudolph was told by doctors that she would never walk again, but with hard work and perseverance, she broke three world records running at the Olympics!
Inspired by these stories and more, I’ve put together seven mini-biographieshighlighting some of my favorite Black athletes. These individuals were not only incredible in their sports and personal lives, but have made significant contributions to justice and equality outside of athletics.
Each two-page biography comes with a comprehension crossword puzzle, a partner discussion guide, and additional comprehension graphic organizers. (BONUS: these graphic organizers are compatible with any text!)
Between you and me, the best value would be to try out the bundle which includes not only the 7 texts and student activities but contains a Bonus Slides Presentation introducing strategies for reading informational texts. The Slides Presentation discusses 14 strategies for before, during, and after reading. Additionally, it highlights several “fix-it” strategies to help students when understanding breaks down.
These texts work well for jigsaw reading and group discussion. Whether students complete the activities individually, as partners, or in groups, they will definitely enjoy learning about these amazing individuals!
Is there a more uncomfortable day in the year for middle school students than Valentine’s Day?
Amid the inevitable awkwardness, Valentine’s Day can lend itself for some fun learning activities! If you’re wondering how to channel your students’ nervous energy on Valentine’s Day, I’ve got you covered!
Valentine’s Day Activity
For this month’s freebie, I’ve put together a fun Valentine’s Day Poetry Writing Project! With these resources, students will write an “Ode” to whomever or whatever they choose! If students want to be serious, of course that’ s okay. However, I find that most middle school students like to have some fun with this assignment.
In the past, I’ve had students compose poems in honor of their pet snakes, their favorite sport, or their grandma! All of them have been hilarious!
Whatever students choose, I find this is a really fun and low-pressure way to enjoy the spirit of the holiday without delving into the dark world of middle school romance!
In the spirit of no drama, I love using this holiday to review the poetic elements and devices. The assignment asks students to include figurative language, imagery, alliteration and more in their poem. It’s a great way to reinforce all they’ve learned about poetry thus far in the year!
The best part? Zero teacher prep is required!
Additionally, if you wanted to take this activity a step further, you could have students make creative posters or signs on which they can write their poems. These are fun to display in the hallway or around the classroom. February can sometimes feel like a gray and dreary month and I think it helps everyone’s mental health to spruce it up with thoughts of love and gratitude and bright colors!
Did I mention this if free? Click the link below and I’ll send your resources straight to your inbox!
Hello Teacher Friends! How is your 2022 going? For me, this year is just zipping by! I cannot believe it is nearly Black History Month already! Since February is so close, I wanted to take a quick minute and highlight one of my most popular resources in my TpT Store. My Black History Month Research Project is incredibly popular this time of year. This resource has helped literally hundreds of teachers and thousands of students learn the research process and commemorate important Black individuals! I’ve recently updated the entire product and wanted to break it down and show you how I use this resource in my classroom!
Black History Month Research Project
With this resource, each student will research an influential Black individual, write a biographical essay about their individual and create a visual representation of their person! While this sounds like a lot of work, I promise I have broken it down into manageable chunks for YOU and your students! Even students who struggle with reading and writing have succeeded with this project!
Phase 1: Building Research Skills
Before beginning, students need a research subject! Included in this resource is a list of over 140 Black individuals who have made significant contributions to society—including many influential women! Personally, I like to randomly assign names to students. (Actually, I usually have them pick a name out of a bowl.) I do this for a few reasons. First, I think there is value in learning about someone new that students maybe haven’t even heard of before. If given the choice, students often default to the Black figures they already know! I don’t want them to do that! Second, I like to have all my students in all my classes have different names. This way, when we display them in the hallway or classroom, we don’t have any duplicates!
After students have their research subject, it is time to learn how to research. Instead of setting my students loose on Google right away, I like to teach them the research process. This direct teaching does take a little bit of class time. However, it is totally worth it! Not only will your students’ end results be infinitely better, but they are learning foundational research skills. Research skills that they will use again and again throughout their educational careers!
In these lessons, students will learn about different types of sources, how to determine if a source is credible, and how to recognize an author’s bias.
I’ve included a “Source Credibility Checklist” for students to keep as a reference that will help them determine whether a source is a “good” source or not. I’ve also outlined a fun activity intentionally using a completely biased website! It’s a real eye-opening activity for students that shows them the need to use multiple sources and check for credibility.
Phase 2: Research & Note-taking
The next step in the Black History Month Research Project is to research! I have two Slides Presentations giving students tips for conducting thorough research and taking notes to keep track of the information they have gathered! Students can take notes on their KWL Chart. I’ve also included a Note-taking Graphic Organizer that helps students keep track of what information came from what source. Keeping track of their information will come in handy later when they create their bibliographies!
Phase 3: Writing Black History Month Research Project Essays
Following the research and note-taking process, it’s time for students to outline and draft their essays. I’ve included a suggested outline that students can use to organize their information. In the Slides, I show how to take the information from their outline and notes and turn it into paragraphs in their essays! In my class, we talk a lot about writing excellent paragraphs. Here is another resource that can help if your students are struggling with this basic building block of writing!
Also in this phase, students will work together to edit and revise one another’s essays. This collaborative process is a great way to teach students how to give and accept feedback. It is also helpful in learning how to improve one’s writing from the first draft to the published final copy!
Additionally, students will also practice citing their sources by creating a bibliography. At the middle school level, I don’t require my students to stick with MLA or Chicago styles or anything in particular. I’m most interested in them understanding that they should be giving credit to the original authors. I don’t worry too much about formatting it in a specific style. I’ve included a Simple Bibliography Guide for students to use!
Phase 4: Visual Display & Class Presentations
Finally, students will create a visual display of information for their person. There are endless options for this portion of the assignment. You could ask students to simply use a large sheet of paper, a poster board, etc. to create a visual by hand. Alternatively, I heard from one tech-savvy teacher who asked his students to create a Slide for their visual component. He compiled the Slides, set up a projector in the front of the school, and looped the Slides all throughout February to allow others in the school to learn from their research!
I generally stick with a low-tech option and use large sheets of paper (my school has 12×18 sheets of paper that seem to work well). Students include the the most important facts and information about their individual. I also ask them to include pictures and a quotation on their poster. When students have finished their essays and their posters, students present their Black History Month Research Projects to the class. Afterwards, I like to display the posters in the hallway outside my classroom to allow others to learn as well!
Phew! If that sounds overwhelming, don’t worry! I’ve got you covered! This resource includes over 120 Instructional Slides that literally walk you through the entire process! Also, if you need any help along the way, I’m just an email away!
How do you like to commemorate Black History Month with your students? I’d love to hear your ideas!
Can you believe it’s 2022?! Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is next week! Where does the time go?
I am currently sitting at my computer, wrapped in 5-6 thick layers under a heated blanket and I’m still shivering! I hope, wherever you’re reading this, you’re feeling much warmer!
Commemorating Martin Luther King, Jr.
By the time our students come to us in middle school, they have probably learned about Dr. King every year since they were in kindergarten. Personally, I think this is great! It is so important for students to be aware of so many of the diverse individuals who have worked and sacrificed to help improve our country! This does, however, pose a challenge for us as secondary teachers to focus on Martin Luther King, Jr. in a way students haven’t already done before to avoid it feeling repetitive!
This time of year, I like to increase the amount of informational texts that I am introducing to my students. We all know that testing season is looming in the distance. Increasing nonfiction readings is one way I like to prepare my students for those upcoming exams without “teaching to the test.” This year, I put together an informational text about Dr. King! It is a two-page mini-biography highlighting some of the main events of King’s life. As we read texts like this, I like to review strategies for reading informational text with my students (like finding the main idea), along with informational text features, how to use context clues to figure out unknown words, etc. Doing so helps this time be productive learning time for students in addition to discussing Martin Luther King, Jr.
Reflective Writing Assignment
After reading the mini-biography with students, I love to 1) ask students to reflect and think critically about some of Dr. King’s famous quotes; and 2) ask them to write about their own thoughts and feelings about these very real issues. Middle school students are very aware of the current issues facing the world. I have found that they generally LOVE to express their own thoughts and ideas about difficult subjects and ideas-especially if they feel like the adults in their lives are listening! This is why I put together this reflective writing assignment for students! This is one writing assignment that students won’t mind completing!
The Best Part!
In the attempt to help teachers both commemorate Dr. King’s accomplishments and help students develop reading and writing skills, I’ve decided to make this resource completely FREE! This Free Martin Luther King, Jr. Resource comes with a lesson plan, a two-page Informational Text about the life of Dr. King, and the Dr. King quote reflective writing assignment!
Think of it as my “Happy-New-Year-I-Hope-You’re-Somewhere-Warm” Gift! That’s a thing, right?
Anyway, click on the link below to grab your free Martin Luther King, Jr. materials! If you have any questions, drop a comment or email and I will get back with you!
I wanted to share some FREE Holiday Activities with you to help make your planning and preparation go a little smoother this December! I’ve included 10 Holiday-themed Journal Writing Prompts. These prompts cover a wide variety of topics, ranging from writing fictional stories to personal narratives to more serious and reflective responses! You can easily pick and choose the activities that will work for your classroom.
Additionally, I’ve included writing paper for each prompt as well as a Slides presentation with a slide for each prompt! No-prep is required! This is simply an easy, low stress holiday activity that also helps students improve their writing! Everybody wins!
Family Holiday Traditions
One of the writing prompts asks students to discuss some of their holiday traditions. My all-time favorite holiday tradition is the Sibling Gift Exchange! This is something both my family and my husband’s family did when we were growing up and we’ve continued it with our own children! Watching my children pick out small gifts for each other is simply magical! My kids are always thrilled to choose something they think the others will love! Ironically, these small gifts often become the favorite gift–even when larger or more expensive gifts are received! I just love it!
I LOVE hearing about traditions from other families and cultures–what do you do to celebrate these winter months?
“Gratitude is not only the greatest of the virtues but the parent of all others.” – Cicero
[FREEBIE ALERT! Keep Scrolling!]
Happy [Early] Thanksgiving Teacher Friends!
While I understand that Thanksgiving can be a complicated holiday for many reasons–which I don’t at all want to discount–I do absolutely love celebrating the Spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday.
And…I will be totally transparent here: I also really like Thanksgiving food! I love the challenge of planning and preparing an amazing Thanksgiving feast with everything hot (or cold) and ready all at the same time!
I view it as my own personal Great British Baking Challenge.
(And yes, I do recognize the irony in that comparison!)
Anyway, I wanted to share a little bit about how the virtue of gratitude has played an immense role in my life in recent years.
I’m sharing this story in the hope that in some small, tiny way it might help someone else.
Several years ago when my third child was just a few months old and I was juggling post-partum hormones and three young children under the age of four…
I found myself in a slump! I couldn’t see the positive side of anything. Literally everything–from getting out of bed in the mornings to brushing my teeth to taking care of the little humans in my charge–felt just so incredibly hard. Looking back now, it’s very clear that I had some undiagnosed post-partum depression going on; but for whatever reason, I couldn’t see it back then.
After speaking to a close friend who was struggling in a similar way, I started to recognize how unhappy I was feeling. But, I thought, how could I be unhappy? I have everything I have ever wanted: I’m married to my best friend; I have three [now four] awesome kids; I work at my dream job; I am blessed with a lovely home in a lovely neighborhood.
With so much privilege and so many blessings, what right did I have to be unhappy? What in the world was wrong with me?
As I was contemplating these questions, inspiration happen to strike at the most unlikely of places: at the movie theater in the middle of a show while on a date with my husband! I don’t remember the movie we had gone to see, but I will always remember the moment when I realized exactly what I needed to do!
The answer? Gratitude!
Somehow, I intuitively knew that I needed to practice being more grateful for what I had. I actually ran out of the movie theater and called my friend and together we made a plan.
We decided that, each night, we would text each other and mention just one thing about our day for which we were grateful.
Truthfully, this was super hard at first! We had been steeped in negativity for so long that we just didn’t have many positive things to say! But, as we practiced looking for the good and retrained our minds to see the good, we experienced a complete shift in our daily experience.
After a few weeks of these nightly texts, we started sending not just one thing, but whole lists of good things about our days. It’s important to note that, fundamentally, nothing had changed. Our lives were still the same. The challenges we faced at home, at work, with our friends and family–they were all still there. What had changed? Our thinking! With this subtle shift in our mindset, we were better equipped to handle those challenges and still find joy!
When she told me about this, it blew my mind! I had experienced this firsthand and had no idea it was actually “a real thing” that was true beyond my own experience. This knowledge made me want to shout my story from the rooftops!
Important Note on Gratitude
Please understand, that I am not suggesting that making a list of good things will cure any kind of illness. I am not a health professional of any kind. If you have questions or concerns about your physical and mental health, please reach out to your medical provider. It’s okay to need help!
I am simply sharing my story about the incredible impact of gratitude.
Additionally, with my current (albeit limited) knowledge and understanding, if I was ever feeling similarly to the way I was in this story, I would think about increasing my gratitude practice, but I would also definitely talk to my doctor!
FREE Student Article on Gratitude
In my small effort to share this information, I have put together a student-friendly informational article on Gratitude (link below). With this FREE resource, you can help students begin a practice that can improve their own mental health and overall well-being! Please feel free to copy and share this article with all your teacher friends!
If we help one student improve their mental health, then we will have made a huge difference in the world!
The week of Thanksgiving has always felt strange in my classroom. Of course, every school’s calendar is different, but during the week of Thanksgiving, we often seem to be left with those two awkward days before the long, five-day Thanksgiving weekend. For the students, it’s fantastic; however, for teachers, the two-day school week just feels awkward!
Additionally, I know my mind is already thinking about one of two things: 1) All the delicious food I am going to eat; 2) All the work I still have to do in order to make the delicious food I am going to eat!
Bottom Line: It’s hard to have a great “school week” with the time constraints and all of the outside distractions! What’s a teacher to do?
Over the past few years, I have learned about the importance of instilling a daily gratitude practice into one’s life. Surprisingly, there are an incredible amount of benefits associated with being grateful! These benefits include improvements in mental, emotional and even physical health! In this day and age where mental health is such a huge concern, I think it is so important to equip our students with skills that promote good mental health habits! Being grateful is a great place to start!
Thankfulness Informational Article
In this product, I’ve included an article that argues that the practice of writing thank you notes should still be commonplace. In addition, the article discusses the health benefits of gratitude. It’s the perfect informational text to ask students to read for a Thanksgiving activity!
Thank You Notes
Following the students’ reading of the article, they can put into practice what they’ve learned by writing thank you cards of their own. I’ve also included in this product some printable thank you cards. Colored versions are included as well as black and white. Alternatively, students can design their own cards as a fun creative project!
Students may choose someone to whom they can send a thank you card. Another idea would be to find a group or organization that might be appreciative of some thank you cards. For example, hospital staff, the local police force or the local fire department. You could also encourage students to write thank you notes to their favorite teachers! 😉
This is perfect activity to fill those two odd days just before Thanksgiving! It’s quick; it’s easy; and it’s curriculum-related!
How do you like to use two-day school weeks?
Brenna (Mrs. Nelson)
P.S. Check out the Thanksgiving Bundle for more Thanksgiving-themed Middle School ELA lesson ideas!
I cannot believe that it is already November 2021! Thanksgiving (and the end of the year) will be here before we know it!
If you’ve been around here for a while, you know I love all the things about the autumn season and November is no exception! Even in the classroom, there are so many seasonal lessons and activities that coincide with this month! I’ve linked up a few of my favorite resources that are great ways to engage middle school students in learning ELA curriculum while connecting with what’s happening in the outside world!
Elizabeth George Speare’s classic tale, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, is a great story to read with middle school students. Although the story takes place in the 1600s, many of the conflicts and themes are still relevant today! My students have always loved delving into the world of Puritan New England and experiencing it through the eyes of the protagonist, Kit Tyler, who was born and raised on the island of Barbados. My complete unit includes resources for building students’ background knowledge, supplemental readings, creative activities, and more!
This History of Thanksgiving PDF is the perfect reading to help your Language Arts students understand the facts of the complicated history of the Thanksgiving Holiday. The best part? There is NO-PREP required for teachers! Included in this resource is a four-page informational article, “A Brief History of Thanksgiving,” that is based on facts from primary sources. Students will learn the full picture of historical events surrounding the famous feast of 1621. This resource also includes multiple student assignments with answer keys! Comprehension questions as well as a crossword puzzle that can be completed with details from the article.
I love finding authentic writing assignments for my students to complete, and this one is definitely among my favorites! This resource asks students to write an essay that discusses one person in their life for whom they are grateful. As you can imagine, these are really fun to read! I love hearing from my students about an individual who has impacted their lives. They are often very sweet and touching essays! Student instructions, a pre-writing graphic organizer, writing paper, an example/model essay, and a grading rubric are all included!
In some of the states where I have taught, procedural texts or instructional texts have been a significant part of the state learning standards for ELA. It makes sense–it’s helpful to know how to read step-by-step instructions when you’re learning how to do something new! This festive take on procedural texts is both informative and fun! This mini unit begins with a fun (for you) hook activity where students are asked to fold an origami turkey. The catch? The first set of instructions are terribly written! I love using this activity to show students the importance of writing clear and detailed instructions when teaching someone how to do something. This resource includes an Instructional Slides Presentation, multiple fun student activities, student writing assignment, grading rubrics and more–all with a Thanksgiving theme!
Around Thanksgiving is the perfect time to revive the lost art of writing thank-you notes with your students! This resource includes an informational article on how to write a thank you note and some templates for students to write their own notes! Bonus points for them if they actually deliver them! This is a great activity for those awkward two-day school weeks!
I LOVE Autumn! It’s my favorite time of the year! Football, Halloween, cooler weather, fall family activities, beautiful trees changing colors–I am here for all of it!
If you’ve been around here for a while, you know I love to incorporate holiday-themed lessons that both teach ELA content and bring in a bit of festive fun! Halloween is no different!
This year, I’ve put together a series of Scary Short Story lessons that engage students in standards-based activities, and are also a way of enjoying the seasons! I chose three short stories to incorporate into my curriculum:
All three of the short story lessons are jam-packed with ELA content instruction and review. Text annotation, characterization, reading informational texts, satire, suspense, and so much are presented in engaging ways to students! Slides Presentations and multiple student assignments accompany each–and, answer keys are, of course, included!
In my TpT Store, these resources are all available separately OR buy the Bundle and save 20%!