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Monday, December 16, 2013

T'was the week before Christmas Break...

And all through the school students and teachers alike are anxiously awaiting for the final bell on Friday!

While I may still be relatively new at teaching, one thing I have learned with the week leading up to Winter Break is you can't really do your usual routine.  It more than likely won't work.  This is an ideal time to be a little more laid back and have fun with your lessons.  Continue to make them rigorous, but make them fun as well.  Your students will be forever grateful that you did!

Here are some suggestions to do with your class:


  • Projects (Have the project due on Friday - all they do is present :))
  • Have group work for each day - do jigsaw, gallery crawl, presentations, 
  • Watch a movie of a text you just finished and have students compare text to the movie (Many school districts do not approve of movies, but if assignments that go along with it are rigorous and involve students comparing media to text and discussing differences, it is CC aligned!)
  • Choice board - great for introducing a new unit in a fun way or or use a Choice board as a test and give students projects in the choice board that they can complete in the course of one or two days.
Keep in mind that it's not that students don't want to learn the week before a break, they just have other things occupying their minds that they are not as likely to be invested in their academics.  We just need to step up our lesson plans and make it interesting, fun, and engaging.

Cheers!

Ms. Bergin



Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Nuggets of December

Hey y'all!

We are in the midst of the Holiday season!  One week left to Christmas break, or the more politically correct title, "Winter Break".  I cannot believe how fast time has flown.  It seems only the other day I had wrote on the blog, just to find out it was last month.  Oh boy, I truly need to step up on the blogging. :)  

My students have been working feverishly on their Romeo and Juliet projects, and I am so excited to see the final product on December 20th.  As I have mentioned in my previous post, there are three sets of projects - a movie, a newspaper, and an advertisement.  As I work with the students on their projects, I realize that  I truly love teaching best when students are working on projects, not doing basic run of the mill "old standard teaching".  Gone are the days where sitting in rows and kill and drill methods are effective. Kill and drill methods can be effective, in some aspect, but not for all.  Gone are the days where students are capable of sitting in desk and listening to lectures, doing cornell notes, whole class discussions, etc.  It's all about group work, collaboration, using laptops, and utilizing 21st century skills.

I have been doing intensive research into Project Based Learning, more commonly known as PBL.  An effective PBL classroom has the students choosing a project to do and the teacher revolves any mandatory mini lessons around the project.  For example, if a class decides to write a novel, the teacher can teach theme, characterization, point of view to assist them in creating their novel.  I am blown away by High Tech High, located in California.  They are truly an exemplar at PBL.  I can only hope that as I move towards PBL in my classroom, that I become as good as the teachers at High Tech High!

I have backed off on editing papers myself and started allowing my students to edit one another's papers.  It gives me my time back, and allows the students to learn from one another.  I developed a Critique packet that has several different methods of critiques, based on Ron Berger.  My students LOVE it. It gives them a chance to talk out where they're going with their papers, get (extremely honest) feedback on how to improve, what they do well on.  To students, they take to heart what their friends say, not necessarily what the teachers say.  This also teaches the 21st century skill of collaboration. Look for the packet on TPT, coming soon!

Happy Thursday!

Ms. Bergin

Monday, November 11, 2013

Where has the time gone?!?!

Hey y'all!

I've been meaning to update my blog for so long - it's like I turn around and it's November already and the holidays are creeping up on us! Where has the time gone!?

I have been super busy with planning awesome lesson plans, going through my first observation of the year and working to incorporate the Chromebooks in the best way possible.

We are about to dive into the wonderful world of Shakespeare and read the classic play The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet.  I am pretty excited about this unit and the unit projects in particular.  The unit projects will be assigned to students according to level of ability and thanks to the Chromebooks, students will be able to collaborate with other classes to create an awesome final project.

My higher level students will collaborate with higher level students in my other classes to develop and shoot a script of a post-apocalypse version of Romeo and Juliet.  My medium level students will work with one another to create a Sundays Verona Times Newspaper.  My lower level students will work to create an advertisement of Romeo and Juliet. My medium and lower level students will work with students at their levels in my other classes on their project - theirs will be cross-class collaboration as well :)  I am super excited about this and super nervous since I've never done cross-class collaboration and want this to be a success!  If you have had success with this type of project, Please let me know what works best for you!

I have also become somewhat obsessed with Google Plus lately - I think I'm going to retire from Facebook pretty soon and just use Google Plus - it's so much better!  If you haven't had a chance to explore Google Plus, I urge you to just explore it!

Happy Veteran's Day to all who served!


Ms. Bergin

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Three days into the school year!

Wow, it's been three days since school started, and I am still as pumped as the first day!

I have all 9th grade English and we are well underway in our semester.  I'm pretty sure I've been called a hardass behind my back, but quite frankly, I don't think I mind.  It just goes to show that I have high expectations.

The first few days has been all about drilling procedures, taking pre-assessments to ensure my students are in the correct class and reviewing basic stuff (plot/conflict/tone).  While teaching mini-lessons and having them do assignments, I go through grouping procedures, passing out/in papers, answering/asking questions.

I also have what some may consider absurd rules in my classroom, but I am hoping these rules will limit distraction and increase learning.

1. No one is allowed to open the door except the student sitting closest to the door.  I let the two students who are closest to the door choose who on the first day and that person is responsible for the semester.
2. Knocking on the door must be done appropriately (firmly, but not obnoxiously - I had students demonstrate!)
3. Food is not permitted at all in the classroom.  Food that is seen in the room will be thrown out.
4. 5 bathroom passes in a grading period (6 weeks in a grading period).  If you have any left over, you may turn it in for extra credit. If you go over 5 passes, you will have an administrator walk you to the restroom and you will give back the time in lunch detention with me (I have planning during lunch, so this works perfectly!) I was told that 5 was generous and I should do 3.  I will need to try 3 next semester!  I even have set times when they are NOT allowed to use the restroom and when they are.  It is so explicit!


One thing I really need to work on is my whiteboard.  In all honesty, I think it needs serious improvement. In addition, I need to learn how to write objectives!  I just am never happy with the objectives I do write - I feel it's not rigorous enough, does not explain the objective enough...  Any suggestions?!

One thing I was concerned about were lack of pencils, but since establishing a rule in which students must ask their neighbors before me before the final bell is working beautifully!

We get our Chromebooks in two weeks and I am stoked!  If y'all have any GREAT interactive learning programs that works in your high school class that I can incorporate, please let me know!  I plan to use Google a lot!  I feel that would be beneficial with the writing.  I did the laptop 1:1 last year, and while that was awesome, I want to go in complete technology mode and really make it an integral part of the classroom.  Teachers with  this kind of success, I could use your words of wisdom!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

How to organize all these awesome ideas?!

Hey y'all!

It's been quite a relaxing summer!  Just a few more weeks til we're back in school hitting the books again!
I've taken the time this summer to really look through different sites such as Pinterest, TeachersPayTeachers, blogs to gather ideas for the upcoming school year as well as traveling to visit family.  Now I'm starting to feel overwhelmed with everything I want to do and such little time to do it all!

Does anyone have good organizing strategies or a way to not feel so overwhelmed with awesome stuff to create to fit you best?

What I've been doing is making a list of things I want to do and dividing it up accordingly and then I plan on tackling as much as I can in the next two weeks before I go on vacation to the beach!  No, I don't plan on doing work at the beach, but I am definitely bringing a notebook to jot down thoughts as they come to me!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Collaborative Test Taking

In today's world, we are require to instill 21st Century Skills in our students.  One of those skills is to be able to work with others to solve "real world" problems.  I came across an idea on the wonderful world wide web: collaborative testing.

With collaborative testing, our students work with a few other students to come up with answers, and as expected, generally score higher on those assessments as opposed to independent test taking.  I thought this was an interesting idea - one I definitely will be incorporating in my class for the 2013-2014 school year.  However, I will be having students take the assessments independently first, then working in groups to answer the questions.  I believe I will then average out the two test scores, putting more weight on the first assessment.

Any thoughts about this?

Ms. Bergin

Thursday, June 6, 2013

End of year sale!

Hey y'all!

I've been slacking on my blog big time! :-(  It's be hectic with end of year and running around!  I am hosting an "End of Year" sale at my store on teacherspayteachers.com - several items are 10% off!! :)

Hop over to my store and check out my products!  teacherspayteachers.com/store/colleeen-bergin .

I promise to be updating more often now that we are heading into summer vacation as well as updating my store, so stay tuned!

Ms. Bergin

Sunday, May 19, 2013

End of year suggestions

Hey y'all!

I cannot believe we only have 3 weeks left of school! Well, technically 2 weeks left and 1 week of testing.   Still, nonetheles, it's been a long and great year, I'm shocked it's finally ending!

I recently went to a workshop that discussed what to do at the end of the year, especially after exams.  Thankfully, my school does exams the final week so we do not have to worry about what to do following exams.

Here are some suggestions you can do with your students:

Project Based Learning - give them a rubric, set your expectations and let them go wild. Let them choose their topics! It's a fun project for the end of the year

Teach your students something you may not otherwise have time to teach - what are you most interested in? the Titanic? Pearl Harbor? the era of the 60's?

Ms. Bergin

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day!



Hey y'all!

I just wanted to take a moment and thank all the tireless mothers out there.  The mothers who are stay-at-home moms taking care of their children, the mothers who work as teachers being mothers to not only their kids but their students at times as well, and mothers who work in the workforce.  You have done an amazing job so far and will continue to do an amazing job! 


Ms. Bergin  

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Using Music to Teach

Hey y'all --

Let me start off by saying, I never really knew or understood how music can help someone learn.  I am not huge on music as I am hearing impaired. However, I don't let my hearing loss keep me from doing something that may be beneficial to students.  After all, our lessons should be geared towards student learning right?!

I have started incorporating music in my unit plans.  I did not realize it would be a big hit and help students retain and understand novel information.  I had originally compiled music videos as a way to make the lesson or novel entertaining.  After I had the playlist for Of Mice and Men playing in class, students asked if I could play it again after we discussed the music and how it ties into the novel.  An example: Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? - this is geared towards the Great Depression and how people did not have money to spare.  This song launched into a discussion of today's recession and ultimately leading back to Of Mice and Men and how the men need to migrate to find jobs so they can earn money.

Below are playlists geared for three units - The Odyssey, Of Mice and Men, and 1960s-1970s - I use songs for poetry when covering this time period. For the 60s-70s, I use songs that focus mostly on the Civil Rights Movement and the War in 'Nam.

Enjoy, these are visible to the public on Youtube, so feel free to use!

Ms. Bergin



Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Biggest Sale of the year is here!


The sale of the year is here!  FINALLY!  I have SEVERAL products in my store that are on SALE!!  Just click on the image above and hop over to my store.

Ms. Bergin

How to make life easier for our substitue...

Hey y'all!

Warmer weather approaches us and some of us might want to take a personal day.  However, we don't like leaving our class with the sub and chances are, we don't like what we return to even more.

 Most of us are required by our school administrator to put together an emergency lesson plan for subs in the event we must be absent and do not have time to put together a more current lesson plan to go along with what students are learning. This is what I call "busy work". Inside the folder we leave subs, we include our roster, seating chart, and a note telling the sub to leave names of anyone who gives the sub difficulties and we will take care of it when we return. As a teacher who has prior experience with day-to-day subbing, let me tell you, the plans the teacher left me are generally a joke. It had worksheets or reading assignments for students to do - assignments that with the teacher lecturing and conducting class may have taken the entire block, but with just the students, they can be done in 20 minutes or less. Sometimes, students know it is a joke and know teachers won't grade it so they don't do it at all. Substitutes do not have the same level of authority as teachers do, and students know this! Students also know the sub more than likely does not know their name and will take advantage of this tidbit. So WHAT can you do to make your classroom run more effectively in the event you are not there?


  • Leave your most updated seating chart If you leave the seating chart, the sub can announce that he/she is taking roll by seating chart and if they are not in their assigned seat, they are marked absent.  This helps the sub know who's name belongs to who in the event there is an issue. If you need seating charts, check out my packet of blank seating chart!
  • Leave constructive assignments Examples are: web-quest, project, assignment with a rubric and have the sub announce they only have that day to finish their assignment, it will count as X amount of test or quiz grades. If you think you've left enough, you need to double it - better to have too much than not enough and have your classes be loud and disruptive.
  • Leave your rules and procedures - for leaving the classroom to use the restroom, eating food in class.  Note any students who may need to be permitted to use the restroom at any time.  
  • Leave a list of students - good students and students that you believe may give the sub a difficult time. List tasks the "good" students may help the sub with, and inform the sub what they can do should the difficult students give the sub a hard time - who can the sub bounce the student to? How should the sub call the office if they need an administrator?
  • Leave a list of teachers  - the list of teachers should be teachers that can assist the sub - list one for each block, it would be smart to list a different one for each block (list the teacher for the block they have planning)
  • Leave writing utensils - students for some reason that I cannot understand, do not seem to have pens or pencils on them when it comes time to do their assignment.  If you leave a bag or box of pens/pencils out next to the lesson plan, the sub will not go through your drawers, students will not sit around doing nothing simply because they do not have something to write with.  It also does not hurt to leave paper with the sub in case students don't have their notebook.  It just eliminates excuses students use to not do the assignment.  
  • Leave your contact information - allow the sub to email you, or call you if you would like. If you build a relationship with your sub, you may be able to request him/her in the event you need to be out again.  Some subs leave notes, but not all leave their contact information when they do.  Be the one to open the line of communication!
The rest is in the hands of the substitute, if you do all of this, you have done your part.  If the substitute chooses not to do his/her job, and your class is disruptive and loud, you can relax knowing it was not your fault and the only thing you will need to do is discuss with your students how you were disappointed that they did not behave accordingly.

Another tip - does not hurt to go over expectations you have for your students in the event you are out.

Ms. Bergin

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The ULTIMATE Lesson Plan Template

Hey y'all! As teachers, we know the importance of writing out our lesson plans. However, we probably do not make it as detailed as we should. The more detailed, the better the lesson will be executed. I was given a lesson plan template by a mentor after I had seen it at a workshop she hosted. This lesson plan is so detailed, down to identifying how I differentiate, the 21st century skills I incorporate, and what NC teacher standards I meet with this lesson plan. I have made this template available at teacherspayteachers for FREE. This lesson plan template is fantastic for NC Teachers! Enjoy! Ms. Bergin

A way to make writing fun!

Hey y'all! Yuck, this weather has been bringing me down all week... I sure hope it gets warmer and the rain stops! In the meantime, I'm enjoying some country music while working on different things for my classroom :-) One thing I would like to try to incorporate next year is a writing piece - in this I would like to have my classes write (penpals) with another class that is in a different part of NC, or a different part of the country. I have found that students need to work on their writing, and what a fun way it would be if they could write to someone outside their school district, or even out of their state. It would be far better than writing essays upon essays that have no true purpose other than showing your teacher your writing skills. With pen-pals, the students have a purpose - they have a letter they need to answer to, they have a person who is interested in what they are writing, it is a conversation. Of course, there would be guidelines and all - that has yet to be developed, once I find a class to write to. If you want to do this, feel free to let me know! Anyone have any suggestions for improving writing skills that is fun? Ms. Bergin

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Calming the Chaos

Blog Hop Participants
Check out this Great Giveaway!

Hey y'all!

We are in the home-stretch!  One thing I have been thinking about lately is what I can do to keep students engaged.  This time of year is preparing and taking state exams.  After state exams, students just are not into the class anymore.  As an English teacher, I still have a good 2-3 weeks left with these students.  What do I do to keep them engaged?  Simple, I host competitions.  I do Trasket ball,  Jeopardy, Who Wants to be a Millionaire as well as having a race track up on the SMART board with a variety of cars and each team can move their car to the next pit stop when they are done with a section of their assignments.  I generally keep hard candy in a jar so the winning team gets a little something other than bragging rights. 




I have attached the racetrack Pit-stop for your SMARTBoard as a FREEBIE!!  Who doesn't love a freebie?!  This is saved in Google Drive, so no need to sign up for anything to get access, just download and use :)

Click here  to get the Pit-Stop.  It has the Pit-stop plus a general description of how to use it.  Students can just go up to the board and move their car! 

Ms. Bergin

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Welcome to the South

Hey y'all! Well I got schooled today in the purpose of belt buckles (If you didn't already know, I'm originally from CT). This student came in flaunting off his belt buckle that he had in this case. He asked me if I knew why he got the belt buckle. I knew enough to know you earn it at rodeos, that's about the extent of my knowledge, or it was, until today. He was clearly extremely proud of that belt buckle. He went on to tell me all about how the rodeo works and how I really need to check out a rodeo event one of these days if I really want to experience southern country. Maybe I will catch a rodeo one of these days... maybe. I will admit the first time I asked a student a yes or no answer and I got a "yes ma'am", it threw me off. I guess a part of me thought it was just something you see in the movies, that it didn't really happen. Up north, you definitely don't hear a student say "ma'am" or "sir" - Culture shock much?! Other than that, I think I've done well with the culture difference and didn't really think there as much of a difference apart from a few things - yes, southern hospitality does exist down here - my sister and her friends visited in March, they could not stop commenting on southern hospitality. When I first moved down here, I did think the southern hospitality was a bit much, but now I like it. Though it does make northerners seem a bit mean and self absorbed when I visit the north now ;-) I have officially finished my online portfolio (yay!) if any of y'all want to check it out -- colleenbergin.weebly.com.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Electronic portfolio

This weekend, I decided to put together a portfolio.  This portfolio is to show growth and includes artifacts supporting my growth as a teacher. It is STILL a work in progress - meaning I am in the process of uploading the actual artifacts now. :-)  You read that correctly,  I am doing an electronic portfolio.  It is so much neater, displays my knowledge for technology, and much easier to give multiple people access to at the same time anywhere they may need it!

Check it out when you have a chance and keep in mind it's still a work in progress.  I hope to have it completely done by the end of the week with all artifacts uploaded.

colleenbergin.weebly.com

I used to have an eportfolio, but it was boring, confusing, and  a lot for both the user and guest viewers to navigate.  Weebly is so much better!  I could recommend blogger as a site to keep your artifacts, but I feel weebly is much cleaner and simple that even those who are not tech savvy can use it.

Ms. Bergin

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Students and reading assigned texts

When I was in high school, I was expected to read a certain amount of books each summer.  There were some required reading and then we were able to choose from a list of ten books some years, other years we had to read only the required reading.  I remember spending the summer before my freshman year trying to get through Everyman, Morte d'Arthur, and Edith Hamilton's Mythology.  It was pure agony.  I didn't even understand Everyman.  Out of the three, the one I enjoyed most was Mythology.  Based on this, you might think I went to private school or catholic school.  The reality is, I went to a Title 1 PUBLIC high school.  In the years that followed, I read texts such as Canterbury Tales, Grendel, Lord of the Flies, The Things They Carried (my favorite summer text of all texts), Portrait of Dorian Grey, and many more.  Generally, I hated reading these texts, apart from The Things They Carried.  When I re-read them much later for my own pleasure, usually at the request of someone to give the text another chance, I liked it.

These days, it seems summer reading lists have faded away and reading during the summer is an elementary school thing.  High school students don't seem to be eager to read.  A part of me feels we should require summer reading list for students and have the textbooks relevant to their English courses, and in some cases, other courses as well, if possible.  I asked several students this question. Whether they would be into summer reading requirement and they all said no.  I asked whether they would read if the list had popular books such as Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games.  They said no, because they like the series and being assigned the text would make them hate it.

This brings me to my next questions, do students oftentimes dislike texts they read in English simply because they are required to read it?  Would they enjoy it more if they had the option to choose when to read it in the course?  How can we make the stories more enjoyable when it's already painful trying to decipher the text, such as The Odyssey, any of Shakespeare's play, or Beowulf?  I have noticed when students can understand the text, they are more inclined to both enjoy and understand it.  It's the texts that are difficult to understand due to language differences that make students and teachers alike sometimes feel a root canal would be more enjoyable.

I welcome your thoughts and advice on teaching students novels, poetry, short stories, and plays with hard to understand language.  How can we make it more enjoyable, make it more accessible, especially for those not on grade level?
I also welcome your opinion on summer reading lists.

Ms. Bergin

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

#BostonStrong

Hey y'all!

It's been a hectic few days between classes and withdrawal symptoms of caffeine - yes I am giving up caffeine and it's been a long few days. 

My students are now finishing up Romeo and Juliet.  I think they're so estatic they're nearly done with the play, but secretly, I think I'm a little more estatic than they are!  It's just gruelsome getting through Shakespeare, and hearing them groan and complain about having to read and figure out the language does not help me.  I've tried to keep it fun and light, but it is time to move on... I'm at my 3 week cap limit!  Next is Of Mice and Men.  They are going to love that book so much more. 

I am so grateful to know that Boston and the rest of the country is having a calm week after last week.  While I currently live in NC, I am originally from CT, attended college in RI, a mere 1.5 hour from Boston.  The Boston Police did a fantastic job apprehending the suspects!  Keep in mind those lives who are forever altered and those who did not make it through the ordeal.  We stand united with Boston -- #BostonStrong!

My students were glued to the CNN Student News each day to find out updates.  They certainly asked questions about Boston, if I knew anyone there (I did, but thankfully, none were injured or near the explosion at the time it occurred). The one thing that flabbergasted me of all... they were not familiar with the Boston Red Sox... personally, I'm a Yankee Fan, but the majority of my family are Red Sox fans.  I still remember the day the Red Sox won the world series in 2004.  I spoke to my class about it, because even though I am a Yankee fan, I had to celebrate the fact they finally won after 81 years.  They just looked at me like"ok?" Tough crowd!

How did your students react with the Boston Marathon explosion?  The capturing of the suspects?  How did you deal with it?

Ms. Bergin



Sunday, April 21, 2013

Entry for blog hop is CLOSED

Wow!  It's been a busy few days for me!  Been busy cleaning my house, doing yard work and all I want to do is collapse on the couch! Before I do, I wanted to make a post.



We are at capacity for the blog-hop! YAY!  For those of you who emailed Kristy, Thank you!  We no longer have room to add new people to the blog hop.  Stay tuned for another blog hop, and I will let you know how this blog hop goes!


We are almost in the final grading period!  Grades are due this week (AH!), weather should be faring quite well (thankfully!) and I am on a new health streak.  It's day 2 of eliminating soda completely!  Those who know me, know that I am known to always have a Mountain Dew.  I've tried multiple times to quit in the past, just to get suckered in.  The last time I quit, I was quite successful, until I landed in the hospital for appendicitis and my mother visited.  While she visited, she stocked up my kitchen with food, and soda and I fell off the wagon.  I should have just thrown out the soda instead of drinking it all, but couldn't let it go to waste!  I've also eliminated processed food (I am also known for lean cusines in the teacher's lounge for lunch!) and am now getting pretty good at cooking my own food again (yay!). This week I plan to get into a routine that allows me to exercise and push myself.  Hopefully it will become a routine I can stick with!  

Thursday, April 18, 2013

End of Year Blog Hop Rules

If you are interested in participating in End-Of-Year Blog Hop that is being hosted by Kristy (http://2peasandadog.blogspot.ca/)  Please contact her at 2peasandadog@gmail.com


Here are the requirements for the hop:
1.     Create a new posted called Calming the Chaos - this must be the title as it will affect the back links and the html code

2.    Schedule the post to go live on May 4 @ 12am EST (use World Time Server if you need to convert this to another time zone)

3.    Share 1 idea only that you do with your class at the end of the year to keep them engaged. Think about a one or two paragraph post at the most with a picture or clip art to attract the readers. We are all super stressed right now so please don't feel you need to write more than 1 paragraph.

4.    Have a freebie download to thank people for coming to your blog. The freebie has to be hosted somewhere that does not require a log in password (Google Docs). You can also offer links to Teachers Pay Teachers and Teachers Notebook, but for those people who do not use those sites a blog based freebie is best. If you want to promote a paid product please only promote one, and position it under the freebie with clearly labeled the cost. I don't want people to get discouraged. Freebies can be 1 page. Do not feel you need to make a 10 page freebie. 


I will send you all the html code you need and introduction etc. All you need to do is write the post AND email Kristy the PERMALINK to your post so I can link it up. 
If you are using blogger right under the scheduler, their is a place called Permalink. It will tell you the link URL even though it has not been published.
Please email me with your permalink by next week and/or with any questions you might have. 

Please consider doing this blog hop, it means more exposure for all involved in the blog hop!  This is meant to be fun and give us creative ideas for our classes as we wind down the school year with students who are not as engaged due to warm weather, summer vacation approaching, etc.

Have a wonderful Thursday and I hope to see you all at the blog hop!

Ms. Bergin

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

End-Of-Year Blog Hop!

A fellow blogger will be hosting a "Blog Hop"!  So far, she has 16 people who are interested in the blog hop.  I know if more people knew about the blog hop, they would sign up! 

Her blog is http://2peasandadog.blogspot.ca/

An email was sent to me regarding the blog hop and how it will work.

The requirements for this blog hop is to share 1 idea only that you do with your class at the end of the year to keep them engaged. Think about a one or two paragraph post at the most with a picture or clip art to attract the readers. I was also thinking we should have a freebie activity for download at each blog. 

I think we can blend our grade levels because I think most ideas can be adapted for older or younger grades. 
 

If you are interested in joining, please email Kristy at 2peasandadog@gmail.com

Ms. Bergin

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

How to read aloud

Hey y'all!


Over the weekend, I scoured the internet in hopes of finding a strategy to use to help students become better readers.  My students tend to mumble, read quietly or plain refuse to read.

I found this website --

http://www.smp.org/dynamicmedia/files/e1aa1f0ffe1e3816162198e673a73244/TX001317_1-Method-Training_Students_to_Read_Aloud.pdf

It helps student to learn how to read aloud by focusing on tone words and punctuation clue meanings.  My students had a blast doing this activity.  It's definitely worth a look-see!

Have a Terrific Tuesday!

Ms. Bergin

Saturday, April 13, 2013

What college students wish their high school teachers did...


I read a very interesting article on what college students would like to tell their high school teachers.  Some points were made and I think I will try some of these points (syllabus) for next year!  Read below..



Drew Appleby was the director of undergraduate Studies in the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis Psychology Department. Now retired and living in Sandy Springs, he sent me this fascinating essay on what college students would like to tell their high school teachers.
By Drew Appleby
I read Epstein School head Stan Beiner’s guest column on what kids really need to know for college with great interest because one of the main goals of my 40-years as a college professor was to help my students make a successful transition from high school to college.
I taught thousands of freshmen in Introductory Psychology classes and Freshman Learning Communities, and I was constantly amazed by how many of them suffered from a severe case of “culture shock” when they moved from high school to college.
I used one of my assignments to identify these cultural differences by asking my students to create suggestions they would like to give their former high school teachers to help them better prepare their students for college. A content analysis of the results produced the following six suggestion summaries.
The underlying theme in all these suggestions is that my students firmly believed they would have been better prepared for college if their high school teachers had provided them with more opportunities to behave in the responsible ways that are required for success in higher education
1. Give us a syllabus on the first day of class that has the schedule for the class planned out for the whole semester (e.g., tests dates, deadlines for papers, and grading scales), and then stick to that syllabus the way college professors do.
2. Don’t tell us at the end of each class what we will be during the next class period. That allows us to be irresponsible because we don’t have to read the syllabus to know what we are expected to do. Please help us to become as responsible as possible when we leave high school and go to college.
3. Don’t accept lame or undocumented excuses about why we don’t have assignments done, and don’t allow us to sweet talk you into letting us make up tests that we are unprepared to take. College professors seldom accept these types of excuses because they try to be fair by making sure all their students have the same amount of time to study for tests.
4.  Be sure to teach us how to be academically honest by requiring that we cite all the sources we use to support what we write in our papers. Most importantly, don’t ignore situations in which you suspect we may be plagiarizing. We need to know exactly what plagiarism is so we can avoid it when we get to college. College students who are caught plagiarizing flunk classes and are sometimes kicked out of school or are not allowed to graduate.
5.  Don’t let us pass classes just because we earned a lot of homework points or extra credit. In college, we will be graded on our ability to demonstrate that we have actually learned the material we have been assigned by passing tests. In college we are graded on our performance, not our effort.
6. Don’t teach us the answers to all the questions on your tests. Be sure to ask us some questions that come from the reading assignments you haven’t covered in class. In college, we must learn to be independent learners by reading and comprehending the information in our textbooks without having to rely on our professors to explain everything to us. Our professors are more than willing to help us with difficult-to-understand information in our textbooks when we ask them questions in class, but they are unwilling to “spoon-feed” us all the information we are supposed to learn from our reading assignments.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog
http://blogs.ajc.com/get-schooled-blog/2013/02/07/what-college-students-want-to-tell-their-high-school-teachers-be-tougher-on-us-force-us-to-be-responsible/

Friday, April 12, 2013

FREEBIE FRIDAY

Hi y'all!

Who is as excited as I am that it's FRIDAY!?!?  It's been a quick and long week back from spring break and I for one could use a few days to just relax. 

In honor of Friday, I have a few FREEBIES for y'all! 

Click here for grouping cards - fantastic way to group students.  Included are instructions for how to use the grouping cards

Click here for research topics.  High school students are required to do a research paper at one point in their high school careers.  This is a handout that list 30 topics.  Students must choose a topic and formulate a question pertaining to the topic of their choie that they plan to answer.  My students LOVE this, it gives them freedom and allows them to be interested in their project rather than be assigned a specific topic.  This can be modified to work with middle school as well!

Click here for a character analysis and timeline activity.  My students are currently doing these projects and it is remarkable the blogs students wrote up and timelines students created.  It is tailored to Romeo and Juliet,  but can be modified to fit any novel or play. 

If you download any of these, don't forget to leave feedback and follow my store!  Always looking for ways to make my products even better!

Have a Fantastic Friday :)

Ms. Bergin

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Bright constructin paper makes all the difference in an assignment!

Construction paper, especially bright colorful ones seems to get students engaged into a project immediately!  I'm not sure what it is, maybe the fact it's so colorful and different from the boring construction paper, but my kids are loving it! 

What's more, the kids that have "Crazy Scissors" are probably even more engaged and designing extremely creative timelines!  I purchased the colorful papers at Walmart - a cheap 3 bucks a pack and borrowed the crazy scissors from the library.  I think I'm going to have to invest in my own set of crazy scissors. Something tells me it will be a good investment! I need to add that to my wishlist! 

If you didn't know already, I teach high school!!  When you walk in my room, there's alot of consistency, daily routines/activities we must do, but then we have fun activities like this! 

Some of the more tech-savvy are doing their timeline on the computer, using a variety of programs such as PowerPoint, online INTERACTIVE timeline (I'm extremely curious about this timeline and cannot wait until it's done to see it in action!) and Microsoft Word.

I uploaded the timeline activity handout to TeachersPayTeachers.com for FREE! http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Romeo-and-Juliet-Timeline-and-Character-Analysis  It may be modified for any novel study to assist students in remembering the order of events.

I will be honest, this is not an original idea of mine.  I had to do a timeline in my British Literature course in college and emailed my professor for her handout since I lost mine.  I refined it to fit my classes and it is going quite well!  I told the students this project was based on a project I did in college, but modified to fit the novel.  They are elated to know that I think they are capable of doing level 300 college course projects! My college project was much more extensive and more indepth thought required, this project is just to keep the events straight along with identifying mood changes and elements of the plot.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Thoughts on Technology

While doing our timeline today (for Romeo and Juliet) as a review of what we read yesterday, students asked if they could take a picture of the timeline after we put it together instead of copying it down.  I was ataken back by that request, but allowed them to do it.  It definitely helped move things along quicker and I did not need to pause to have students spend 10 minutes copying it down. 

Is this an effective tool to use?  I have no idea and it remains to be seen.  We all know the old tried and true way - writing helps you remember. 

The thing is, this is a different generation than the generation I grew up in.  I  grew up on the brink of technology.  I grew up in the days of AOL Instant Messenger and E-mail as primary internet communication.  The landline was the primary use of phone and cell phones were big blocks.  I went to school and took notes - pages upon pages of notes  (It probably did not help I did not know how to take notes until I got to college).  Nonetheless taking notes was the primary way to get information teachers gave us.

Now, we have cell-phones, web sites where we can upload our powerpoint, activities, etc.  Smartboards can be found in the majority of schools across the country.  Students are always telling me awesome ways to use technology (still have not been convinced of twitter yet!) and it is easy to see that students are most comfortable with a computer.

After this class took photos of their timelines, I couldn't help but think, are we on the brink of drastic change?  Are our roles as teachers continuing to change?  The role of a teacher has changed drastically since I've been in high school, but it is still changing - rapidly!  Thanks to technology today, the role of a teacher is starting to become more of a facilitator, allowing students to discover and learn on their own.  At what point does the change stop?  At what point will teachers be able to breathe and relax a bit before the next piece of technology is thrown at us and we need to revamp our teaching style yet again?

I believe in teaching according to student learning styles, and that's the way it should be in all classes.  Yes, we have different learning styles over the years and we take that challenge head on and it makes us better teachers.  With students so dependent on technology, we need to incorporate technology in our lesson plans.  I love technology and incorporate it often.  Does technology make our students lazy?  It's so much easier to just take a picture of a timeline than write it down.  Will we reach a point where everything is done through technology?  Will it happen during my teaching career?  It's hard to say.  I will say, I will embrace the challenge head-on and am eager to learn about new technology.  I just worry that students may lose something if they use technology 24/7. I'm not sure what they will lose, but they will lose something.

I will continue to encourage students to use technology and embrace it because they are truly the first generation growing up with the world at their fingertips and every piece of information they ever wanted a click away.

Ms. Bergin

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Interactive Timeline

Hi y'all!

The weather is beautiful, my sister got into and is going to attend Notre Dame with little loans, and the day went well!  On cloud nine!

Today, we reviewed Act I, scene i of R&J and read scene ii and iii. 

Here's a fun way to have students review what they read the day before - have them do an INTERACTIVE timeline!

I created a timeline on the SMART Notebook, listing all the events that occurred in scene ii, along with the moods.  I placed them all at the top of the page and students had to take turns coming up to put the events in the correct order and with the correct family (the top of the timeline is reserved for Capulets while the bottom is for the Montagues).  After students put the events in order, they had to identify the moods of the events.  Students LOVED it.  It helped with their understanding and a great refresher - especially for those who were out yesterday!

Since students have a project in which they must create their own timeline, they copied the information down so they had the correct information.

What I plan to do is after ACT I, continue the timeline, but eliminate the mood and have students come up with THEIR OWN mood words.  Once we are at Act IV and V, students will continue to put the events in correct order, but there will be less events posted on the page so students will need to fill in the gaps by writing on the board the events in between.  This activity will be available on TPT when we are done with R&J.  Stay tuned!

Just FYI - Students also have to identify the element of the plot, so we are currently in "Exposition" of R&J. 

Here is a "before" and "after" picture.  It took a good half hour (with students writing the information down), but it will definitely be worth it with their projects!



Speaking of their timeline projects, we are only day 2 into the R&J unit and students are bouncing ideas off of me for their timeline project, and let me tell you, I am anxious to see their final product! 


Ms. Bergin

Monday, April 8, 2013

It's back to the grind!

Day one back to school after our much needed Spring Break!  Students were obviously very chatty about their spring break!  A good tip regarding day after a long break - give the students that 5 or 10 minutes to chat about their break.  Remember, they probably haven't seen each other since before break and want to catch up, and that's human nature.  So give them that 5 or 10 minutes - it can make all the difference in the world in terms of classroom management.  An idea - have a timer on the board and let students know when the timer goes off, it's back to the grind!  Students will appreciate the time given.

I started Romeo and Juliet officially today.  Most classes seem to understand what is going on in the text, but one class seems to be a bit lost, which we are all working together to decipher the language.  One thing that thankfully is consistent with all classes is they all seem to enjoy the projects I have designed for them! 

One project focuses on Character Analysis.  Students are to write down the thoughts and feelings of their assigned character after an event occurs and if they are in the event, explain their actions.  They must do this in first person.  The thing that really gets the students excited?  They are doing it on Blogger!!  So part of their grade is to decorate their page to fit the character's personality and mood. The students did their first blog today and did not want to stop - usually it's like pulling teeth to get them to write anything!

If you struggle getting students to write, consider (if you can) having them create a blogger or something similar.  It's so much cooler than writing in a notebook or on loose-leaf paper.

Happy Marvelous Monday!

Ms. Bergin

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Cursive vs. Print

When I started the semester off with my new crop of students, I decided I was going to write and type everything in cursive.  I made sure the cursive on the board was large enough for the students to read and understand (or so I thought).

I grew up in a public school system, while we did learn cursive in grade school, we were not required to write in cursive on every paper we did (that was more of a catholic school thing).  Despite not being required to write in cursive, we were expected to be able to READ and WRITE in cursive when necessary.

So, when I started off this semester writing in cursive - something all students in my opinion need to be able to read and write in, students complained and would not do the work.  I quickly realized students did not know how to read in cursive, nor could they write cursive.  I could blame this on not being taught cursive since that appears to be the case, as well as typing everything these days instead of writing.  Since I teach high school students, I did not have time to stop and teach cursive to the entire class (all three classes mind you), I had to revert to print.  Is cursive going the way of the landline? Is it really becoming obsolete?  Everyone really needs to know cursive to be able to sign their names for crying out loud.  If you don't know cursive, you are to put an X as your signature.  Will it get to the point that every person puts an X as their signature instead of their own distinguished signature?

I propose we bring cursive back!

Jeff Foxworthy's You know you're a teacher when...

Here's a quick, fun read for today! How many of these apply to YOU!?

You Know You're a Teacher When...

HOW DO YOU KNOW YOU ARE A TEACHER?
by Jeff Foxworthy

1. You can hear 25 voices behind you and know exactly which one belongs to the child out of line.
2. You get a secret thrill out of laminating something.
3. You walk into a store and hear the words "It's Ms/Mr.> _________" and know you have been spotted.
4. You have 25 people that accidentally call you Mom/Dad at one time or another.
5. You can eat a multi-course meal in under twenty minutes.
6. You've trained yourself to go to the bathroom at two distinct times of the day: lunch and planning period.
7. You start saving other people's trash, because most likely, you can use that toilet paper tube or plastic butter tub for something in the classroom.
8. You believe the teachers' lounge should be equipped with a margarita machine.
9. You want to slap the next person who says "Must be nice to work 8 to 3 and have summers off."
10. You believe chocolate is a food group.
11. You can tell if it's a full moon without ever looking outside.
12. You believe that unspeakable evils will befall you if anyone says "Boy, the kids sure are mellow today."
13. You feel the urge to talk to strange children and correct their behavior when you are out in public.
14. You believe in aerial spraying of Ritalin.
15. You think caffeine should be available in intravenous form.
16. You spend more money on school stuff than you do on your own needs.
17. You can't pass the school supply aisle without getting at least five items!
18. You ask your friends if the left hand turn he just made was a "good choice or a bad choice."
19. You find true beauty in a can full of perfectly sharpened pencils
20. You are secretly addicted to hand sanitizer and finally,
21. You understand instantaneously why a child behaves a certain way after meeting his or her parents.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Technology - what is in and what is NOT...

A few weekends ago, my sister traveled from snowy CT to beautiful blue skies Carolina to visit me. During her visit, she mentioned a comment that my youngest sister made to my mother - "...Mom, no one emails anymore, we tweet, message, instagram..." Naturally, I burst out laughing because that had to be the most absurd thing I ever heard of. I consider myself to be up to date on social media and the popular way to communicate. I still email regularly as does every one I know (apart from my sister apparently). Fastforward to the last week of March. Students had to write a paper. Some students did not print their papers out and wanted to go to the library to print. I told them no one was going to the library and instead they had to E-mail their paper to me. Imagine my shock when after 10 minutes students were still trying to email their paper to me. I went around to different students' computer and saw they were either creating an email account, OR retyping their paper into the email. I was flabbergasted! I pull up my email account and directed all students to follow my directions and that it did not matter what email account they were on, it was all the same. I had to teach ninth graders how to attach a document to an email and email it to me. After this experience, I had to think back on what my sister had said -- did she have a point? Is E-mail really becoming obsolete with this up and coming generation? What methods of communication and exchange of documents will be use in the future? I currently use Moodle with my classes and it works like a charm - they had been exposed to it in the past and are familiar with it, though I am learning Moodle this year as I go since it is my first year using Moodle. If there's anything I can learn from this, it's that students will make sure I am up-to-date on the latest form of communication -- Students have already started trying to get me to have an Instagram and Twitter account and have made very convincing arguments why these social medias should be incorporated in lesson plans and activities. Ms. Bergin

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Classroom Walls

Decorating your classroom

If you are a new teacher, the first thing you think of when planning on decorating your classroom is running to the teacher store and getting all these colorful posters and hanging them up.  If you are a high school teacher, you may not hang up much except a few posters relating to your content, because quite frankly, who has the time to concern themselves with classroom decoration when the more important thing is to prepare AMAZING lesson plans that will leave your kids wanting more at the end of the lesson.  

The truth is, if you go and buy posters and hang them up (after laminating of course!), what use are they in the classroom?  Your classroom wall should consist of teaching materials.  They should be posters, life size graphic organizers, or student work that you can point to while teaching.  This will help your students learn easily!

The best way to decorate your classroom?  Have your students do the work!  Identify your best artists, students who may need the extra credit, students who like to stay after school and have them post student work on the board or create posters relating to the unit.  By changing your walls for each unit, you keep your room updated, interesting, and creative!  Make those assignments pop by putting construction paper behind the student work!



April Vacation - a wonderful time to relax and recharge!

I have been on spring break this week and let me tell you, it has been FANTASTIC to just relax and recharge!!  When I get back to work, we are diving right into Romeo and Juliet, one of my favorite plays!  I've already gotten the students set up on a few projects, one of which will require students to keep a blog of their assigned characters.  The students are really excited about it, since it will be online, students can decorate their blog, add photos, and blog the thoughts and feelings of the characters.  It's a modern twist of keeping a journal!  Another project that I am extremely exited about is creating a timeline.  Students need to have a timeline of the events that happen in the play and the timeline will be updated continuously and will be checked weekly!  In addition, there will be a CLASS timeline so students can refer to it during reading!  Students who want extra credit can come after school to work on the class timeline (because as a teacher, I certainly do not have time to do it myself, and isn't it much better to have it student-created?!  I started the timeline off, but students will continue it and finish it off for me!)

In the meantime, as I relax and recharge, I scouring the internet for more fun activities to do with my students!  I came across an awesome project where students work with another class in creating a movie of the book they are reading (at the same time).  I thought it was so genius I immediately called my friend I went through the education program with in college and she apparently came across the same project.  She lives in MA, and I am in NC, we have decided this is a project we need to try out next year!  To see what I am talking about, visit this link - http://www.slideshare.net/npro6979/epic-rj-project 
It certainly looks like a very time consuming and intense project, but I believe if my fellow colleague and I plan extensively ahead of time, there is no reason why we should not be able to pull it off!  Any comments on it?!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Update

Wow!  It seems I fall off the grid when it comes to blogging!  I really need to update this much more often than I do. It's been a work in progress with my students this semester.

The thing that astounded me the most was when I gave them a quiz, and they were required to write a sentence using "sale" and a second sentence using "sail" -- yes we were working on homophones, and yes these are ninth graders.  I got papers back saying "I have to sale my Ipod" or "I sale my car to pay my bill".  I was flabbergasted!  I immediately launched into a mini-lesson, and to my surprise, students fought me on the correct way to use sale.  It seemed someone had drilled it into their minds that "I sale my car" was the proper way to do it.  What is your take on this?!

In other news, I have permanently reduced my prices on TeacherPayTeachers!  I currently have 19 products in my store and more to come!  Please visit my store, purchase some products, I promise, you won't regret it!

Thursday, January 3, 2013


I am loving these new graphics I found on TPT for free!  I just made up these great posters for type of conflicts!  Available for FREE for a LIMITED time!  Click to download!


My store has reduced prices on several items!  visit to see what I have and follow me so you can see all the new materials I will be uploading soon!!

teacherspayteachers.com/store/colleen-bergin