Monday, August 28, 2017

I'm Back!

Oh my goodness! I can't believe I've been gone for a year! I wanted to take a quick second to give an explanation as to why I disappeared and let all of you know what I've been up to. And, of course, I'll throw in some pictures of a cute new bulletin board I constructed this week! 

Let's just get into it, shall we? Here's the short version: In May of 2016 I was working as an 8th grade honors English teacher at a junior high and decided I needed a change (for multiple personal and professional reasons). A position for a freshman English/yearbook/journalism teacher at the high school next door opened up and I knew it was where I needed to be. So, I put myself out there and took on an absurd amount of responsibility for the 2016-2017 school year. I taught three sections of freshman English, helped my section of yearbook students produce a 364 page award-winning yearbook, and helped grow lead our tiny and very new journalism program. Needless to say, it was a very exhausting, crazy, and super rewarding year. Of course, I have tons of new things to share with all of you now that I'm teaching a new grade level and additional content areas. I'm so excited get back to blogging and collaborating with all of you!

Anyway, as promised, I wanted to share a fun little bulletin board idea in this post too! My publications kids (yearbook and journalism sections combined) have been working on ideas to get the student more involved in our program, so I decided to create an interactive hall bulletin board. I'm going to be honest, my brand new Cricut Explore Air 2 (not a sponsored post, I promise) and my teacher's aide made this project a super easy task. However, I'd imagine that this project would still be super quick and easy sans the fancy cutting machine and extra help!

I started out knowing I wanted to do something with the idea of "paying it forward," and I really love that saying, " spread kindness like confetti" that has been crazy popular lately so I decided to mix them together. I had my TA cut out rectangles of of cardstock to be the oversized confetti pieces and then we came up with an assortment of acts of kindness on some of them. Next, I had my Cricut cut out the bulletin board lettering in plain white cardstock and purchased a square yard of fabric from the craft store.
I then took two seconds to type up some contest rules/instructions and had my TA hang everything up! Essentially, the directions instruct students to take a piece of confetti off the board, have someone take a photo of them completing the act of kindness on the confetti, post the photo and tag our publications accounts on social media, and be entered into a drawing for a gift card.

Beyond being super cute, the bulletin board creates a positive message that we're spreading on our campus of almost three thousand high school students, and who doesn't want that?! Anyway, that's all I've got for today! Please keep a look out for more to come very soon and subscribe!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Refurbishing, Redecorating, Repurposing: Giving That Old Teacher Bar Stool a Facelift

It's the time of year where most of us teachers are getting ready for the upcoming school year. I love the idea of freshening up my classroom every year because I spend SO much of my time there, but if you're like me, it might not be financially responsible to redo your entire classroom theme. With my husband working on his doctorate, I'm our only source of income, which means I have a very small classroom redecorating budget to work with. With that said, I've decided not to scrap my current color scheme but to spruce it up a bit! Because a lot of this "sprucing up" involves a great deal DIY, I've decided to do a blog series on varying classroom projects I have planned. The series is called "Refurbishing, Redecorating, Repurposing" and this is the first post! I hope you enjoy and find something you can use in the freshening up of your own classroom for the upcoming school year! Happy teaching!

 Giving That Old Teacher Bar Stool a Facelift 

We all have that bar stool in our classroom that sits at the front of the room near our podium, front table, standing desk, etc. My particular stool was inexpensive when I bought it and, honestly, not very sturdily built. Despite the fact that it rocks a little (it isn't supposed to) and it's a little dirty, I love my bar stool. I decided that instead of shopping for a new one this summer that I would first attempt to give mine a makeover. Now, before I start in on how I did this, I want to add a disclaimer. The following project should be done at your own risk. I do not promise/guarantee that your end project will look like mine (though hopefully it will!). 

My old bar stool has a metal frame and a fabric cushion seat. If yours is all metal or all wood, you have an easy fix! Simply repaint it , spray it with an acrylic sealant (found next to the spray paint in almost any store that carries it), and voila! If your chair looks like mine or you would like to purchase one from a secondhand store (my sister purchased one for the purpose of refurbishing it for $3.50 at a Goodwill), the directions down below will walk you through how I personally did it!

-staple gun (handheld, not electric)
-fabric of your choice (amount depends on the size of the cushion, but 1 square yard should be more than enough)
-*If the fabric you choose is light in color (like the one I chose) you may need to purchase a plain color fabric to line the padding

Step #1:
Flip the bar stool all the way over so the legs pointing at the ceiling and the underside of the seat is exposed. There should be screws visible that attach the cushion to the chair frame. You'll need to carefully remove these screws. Be sure that you do not remove any of the screws that are holding the actual frame together! I started to remove the wrong screws but quickly noticed and put them back in without issue. 

Step #2:
Next, lay out and smooth your fabric. If you have a lining fabric, like I did, put one over the other. You can save a little time by cutting them at the same time because the cut doesn't have to be neat! Lay the cushion and the support board (if there is one) on top of the fabric and trace a circle about 2 inches larger than the cushion itself. 

Step #3:
Cut out your circle(s). As you can see in the pictures, I didn't worry about drawing or cutting a perfectly round circle. If you're a perfectionist, I promise it will be a waste of time to trace and cut perfect circles because no one will be able to tell once you're finished!

Step #4:
For this step, you may need an extra set of hands to help you out. I made my husband use the staple gun while I held the fabric in place. Make sure that you're pulling the fabric taught as you secure it to the underside of the support board. You will also need to make sure that you aren't pulling it too taught and stealing fabric from the other sides. Just take your time and, if you need to, pull the "uh-oh" staples out!

Step #5:
The last step (before securing the seat cushion back on the bar stool frame) isn't completely necessary, however I didn't skip it because I feel it polishes the whole look of the "new" bar stool. Anyway, most cushioned bar stools have a piece of fabric stapled over the upholstery fabric on the bottom to cover it. When I took my cushion apart, I carefully removed the bottom cover fabric and then re-stapled it to the bottom when I was finished. However, I noticed while I was in HobbyLobby the next week that you can purchase this material in the fabric section in a rainbow of colors. So, you can forego this step completely, you can save the old fabric and reuse it, or you can purchase new material and add it at the end. The choice is yours!

** One step I considered adding during this process was painting the frame when I had removed the cushion. My classroom has a lot of black and grey, so I decided against it because the black works for my room. Spray painting the frame outside with multipurpose spray would be a piece of cake though!
So, there it is! A brand new bar stool! Inexpensive and super easy! I'd love to see how yours turns out! Post a picture in the comments below!


Friday, March 11, 2016

Silent Reading-Getting Secondary Students Excited About Reading

I teach 8th grade English and it is no secret that most of my beloved students hate reading. I know, I know! That statement hurts my heart too! Every time I ask my students to get out their independent reading books (IRBs) or their class novels, I hear a groan of disappointment and dissatisfaction. When I ask them why they hate reading so much, most of them say it’s because they can’t stay interested, they don’t like what they’re reading, they can’t get comfortable, or they get sleepy. It occurred to me that not one of my students’ replies to my question was that they genuinely harbored a hatred towards the act of reading. This was reassuring to me and honestly, quite fixable! So, this year I set out on a mission to inspire a love (or at the very least, a tolerance) of reading in my students! I took each of the four main complaints and have attempted to come up with a solution for each. Hold onto your seats though, this is going to be one of my longer posts!

Let them get comfortable!

I find that letting my students read in a comfortable and laidback environment puts them in a better mindset for reading. Instead of making them feel as though they’re being forced to do something they really don’t want to do, I want them to feel like it’s a treat! Being that most of my students (sadly) don’t like to read to begin with, forcing them to do so within the confines of their desk area makes me feel as though I am a prison warden.

Instead of reading at their desks, I like to let my students read their novels in whatever position they feel is most agreeable to them. To facilitate this, I make my classroom look and feel different for the day. I move every single desk and chair to the outside border of the classroom to create a huge open space! The reaction I receive when the kids walk in for class that day is my favorite because they suddenly remember that we’ll be sitting/lying on the floor that day. In addition to opening my classroom up and allowing the students to sit/lie down, I like to let them bring in their pillows and blankets from home (if they choose to). Like I mentioned before, this is all about making reading seem like a privilege and not a forced punishment. Of course I do have rules for silent reading days in my classroom. They are as follows:
  1. No student may fall asleep during Silent Reading Day. This is not naptime. If you are caught sleeping, you will promptly be woken up with a pass to the library where you will read your novel every Silent Reading Day for the rest of the year.
  2. No student may share their pillow and/or blanket with another student. If caught sharing pillows and/or blankets, all students involved will no longer be allowed to bring in such items for Silent Reading Day.

Let them eat!

Though eating does create a level of comfort for my students, when I decided to attempt letting them bring a snack in for Silent Reading Day, my main goal was to prevent students from falling asleep. My theory is that you can’t fall asleep if you’re eating, right…? On the day of a silent read, I told my students that in addition to being allowed to bring a pillow and a blanket, they could also bring a snack. Of course, that had to come with a set of rules as well. They are as follows:

  1. Do not bring messy snacks in for Silent Reading day. We want there to be absolutely no cheesy or sticky fingerprints on the pages of our books!
  2. All students will clean up after themselves! If you leave your trash or crumbs behind, you will no longer be allowed to bring a snack in for Silent Reading Day.

Let them choose!
When it comes to reading, I personally can attest to the disappointment and dislike of being forced to read a book I didn’t choose for myself. How can I expect my students to be excited about reading if I’m making them read something they don’t necessarily want to. This year instead of having all of my students read Night by Elie Wiesel for their Holocaust novel study, I picked nine different age appropriate Holocaust novels and put a packet together with descriptions of each book in it. I let them use that packet to choose the top three books they’d like to read and then I took those choices and placed them in groups according to their reading level and behavior. Ultimately, I made the final decision on which book they read, but even just letting them choose their top three books first there was a considerable surge in buy-in.
Obviously there will be times when students will be required to read specific books because they are part of the curriculum or because those books are required reading as mandated by district/school, but when starting a novel study that is a little more open-ended, giving students a bit of a choice makes reading, once again, feel like a privilege and not a punishment.

Now, I know my approach to silent reading may be different than what you feel is appropriate for your personal classroom and students and that’s okay! Having and sharing the mindset that reading is a privilege and not a punishment is the main idea to take away from this post. Do you have to go all-out like I do with moving your classroom around allowing students to eat and lounge about? Of course not, but try something new like taking your students to the campus library or the outside lunch table to read! You could even try something as simple as letting them bring a snack to eat while they read! The possibilities are truly endless!

-Taliena (Koch's Odds 'N Ends)

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Trying Something New: We're writing on the desks?!

Wow! Where did the last two months go? I know I said I was going to make sure I was posting at least once a month, but I guess I just let it get away from me again. My apologies!

It's at about this time of the school year every year where my eight graders begin to think they're too cool for school. They start caring less and showing off more. When they get like this, I start wracking my brains trying to think of ways to get them to "buy-in" to class activities again. We're starting a new summative writing assessment and that's always the worst when it comes to student interest. I decided I needed a fresh way of getting my students excited about their writing.

So I put it in the back of my mind as I helped my husband with some of his physical therapy school homework. His homework consisted of measuring and timing him complete physical fitness tests. Bare with me; it's important that you know this. As I was taping off my kitchen floor for a flexibility test, it occurred to me that I could ditch the tape and use a dry erase maker to record the results directly on the floor. I tested this in the corner, where no one could see before I decided to go for it out in the open.

That idea led to another idea. What if I gave each student a dry erase marker and let them do their prewriting for their essays directly on their desks? I knew I didn't have enough whiteboards for each student and it wasn't an option to have them share. Once again, I tested this out in one of the corners of one of the desks before I gave 180 teenagers each a marker. It came off with water beautifully!

When I announced that we would be writing directly on our desks I told the kids in a quiet voice "Today, we're going to break a school rule." The reaction I received from my students was the best. "Are you sure, Mrs. Koch?" was the most common question I was asked.  After I assured them that it would be okay, they began their prewriting assignment with devious looks on their faces. There was complete buy-in! SUCCESS!

Before I handed out wetwipes, I had students take pictures of their completed charts with their Chromebooks and upload them to our Google Classroom. We did this assignment two weeks ago and I'm still being asked when we'll be drawing on our desks again.

Have you ever tried this in your classroom? What was the result? Did your students love it? Tell me your story in the comments below!

-Taliena (Koch's Odds 'N Ends)

Monday, December 14, 2015

Literature Reference Bookmarks

Hey there,everyone!

This week my kiddos finished reading The Giver by Lois Lowry. I've been waiting for this for two reasons. 1) It means Winter Break is so close I can almost taste it! 2) I can now post about their reference bookmarks because I have examples to show and more insight!

This year, I decided to start using reference bookmarks as a way of helping my lower level readers on the same page (pun intended, of course) as the rest of the class with important aspects of the novel. I also use them because it holds my students accountable for what they read and retain during a novel study.

The lit. reference bookmarks I use are ones I made to fit the specific needs of my classroom and students, but they are pretty basic. They come in two different formats. The first is the activity template and is the format I use most often. This format has space for my students to write down specific information from the novel as they read.

For my lower level readers or for higher level novels, I like to use my pre-filled bookmarks. This format lists all of the same specific information topics, but comes with all of that information already filled out for the student.

Topics included on both formats include:
-Author name
-Original publishing date
-Context (historical or within the author's life)
-Main characters (name and brief description)
-Favorite quote/Memorable quote

For my classroom, this is the basic information I would like all of my students to know at all times. For your classroom, you might like to include things like point of view, conflict, connections, or even the points on a plot map! Depending on what you want your students to get out of a novel and what you want them looking for as they read, you'll want to add topics and replace some altogether.

In my classroom, I collect and grade bookmarks (the fill-in template format) at then end of a novel study. I love seeing that many of my students bookmarks get turned in worn and written on in different colors. This proves to me that they were recording the different pieces of information as they identified it in their reading. If I've handed out the pre-filled version, I like to discuss the different aspects as they appear throughout our reading. In the honors setting, I have my students add to the pre-filled version or have give them a pre-filled bookmark with basic information and a blank template bookmark with other information listed.

Truthfully, the possibilities are endless! I'm so glad I decided to give these a try this year! I plan on using this new tool with every new novel I introduce. Have any of you used these or something similar in your own classroom? I'd love to know what information points you include on yours!

If you'd like to purchase my bookmarks, you can find them here!

-Taliena (Koch's Odds 'N Ends)

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

HyperDocs: Digitalizing Your Worksheets

Hello again!

I wanted to take a few to discuss something I learned about while studying to take my Google Certified Educator exams (more on that later!). Now, I’m not claiming to be an expert, by any means, but I did want to put this idea out there! As I was combing over the basics on how to utilize Google Docs in the classroom, I came across a very brief snippet on something called a “HyperDoc”. It looked interesting and I jotted the idea down to check out later. When I finally finished the studying and passed the exams, I did a little research and, eventually, made my own!

So, what is a HyperDoc? Well,  “HyperDoc is a term used to describe a Google Doc that contains an innovative lesson for students- a 21st Century worksheet, but much better”( Changing Digital Pedagogy). Because my school went 1:1 with Chromebooks this year, I have been doing many of my lessons with the integration of apps and other digital resources. With that said, I have often run into the problem of figuring out what to do when it came time to do a worksheet. I really take pride in the worksheets I have designed and I really didn’t want to give them up, so to speak. Through the use of a HyperDoc, I didn’t have to give up my awesome worksheets! I simply turned them digital and added interactive components to make them even better!

This particular worksheet was simply an article (with a metacognitive marker key for marking the text) with questions to follow. The assignment itself was nothing impressive, but I was semi-proud of how polished I had made it look as a paper assignment. It was time to revamp it! I’ll tell you all about the first HyperDoc I ever made and how it fared in my own classroom! I'll post pictures beneath the steps. The examples are real student work, so you're not only able to see the HyperDoc design, but you get to see how it was used in my classroom!

Step 1: I turned my .pdf file into a Google Doc by opening and saving the file in the Google Docs app.

Step 2: I decided I wanted to turn this very independent and straightforward assignment into a semi-collaborative and interactive one. With that new thought in mind, I found four more articles that tied into the same subject as the original and decided to go in the direction of a jigsaw.

Step 3: I came up with a pre-reading question and created a table at the top of the doc with enough rows for each student in a group of five (I chose five, but you can do any number of students in a group for a HyperDoc activity. The possibilities are endless!).

Step 4: Next, I took the five articles that I had found on the same topic and created a simple chart that consisted of the following: article title, a short description of each article, and a link to each article. The directions above this chart asked students to each choose a different article and read it (no one from the same group should read the same article).

Step 5: Under the article link chart I made another table with questions for the students to answer about their articles. After filling out their own column, students were instructed to jigsaw (share) a short summary of their article and their findings that they had recored in the above mention chart.

Step 6: After jigsawing, students were asked to answer another question using information from their discussion. I created a chart identical (with the new question instead of the old) to the first question chart for this.

Step 7: I took this versatile digital worksheet as an opportunity to reinforce a strategy we had been learning. The last portion of the worksheet was an easy way for my students to get some practice with that strategy while also utilizing information they had gained after reading their articles and jigsawing with their peers.

Step 8: I put specific and bright directions on what to do when finished (how to turn the assignment in for grading).

Now, like I said at the beginning of this post, I don't claim to be an expert in all things HyperDocs, but I do think they are a phenomenal way to boost student engagement/collaboration and an even better opportunity to cover more than one subject,strategy, standard, etc. If you would like more information on how I use HyperDocs, or if you would like an editable copy of this very HyperDoc, comment below or drop me an email and I would more than happy to share everything and anything I have with you!  

-Taliena (Koch's Odds 'N Ends)

"HyperDocs - Changing Digital Pedagogy - 2014 Mountian ..." 2014. 4 Nov. 2015 <>

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Found Poems!

    It's been awhile, my friends! This week my honors classes finished their dystopian independent novel study that they started three weeks ago. I thought I'd reward them by doing something a little more creative and fun (but still academic! shhhh!).  I decided to do found poems with them! I love this activity because the kids have so much fun with it, but I also love it because I can use it as a formative assessment! Now, for those of you who don't know, found poetry is a type of poetry where a passage is taken from a larger piece of text and reframed into poetry. The original text is reframed by adding, deleting, or covering text. If you can't picture it, don't worry! I have plenty of student examples below!

    Because my school recently went 1:1 with Chromebooks this year, I had my students pull out their dystopian novels at the beginning of class and choose what they thought to be the most pivotal 2-3 pages.  This alone can take them a good 10 to 15 minutes. Deciding is so difficult! After they choose, I have them type up their pages in a Google Doc and then resize it to take up most of the page. I make sure I limit it to one page though, because the artwork piece doesn't really work if there are multiple pages involved. Next, they print! I make sure they each print two copies (rough draft and final draft). On the first copy I have them go through and circle words and phrases that are absolutely necessities to the overall meaning and movement of the scene. This ends up being their poem! I have them use the same copy to sketch out a rough draft for their design or picture that will go over or around their selected words and phrases. They must show me a rough draft before they move on to a final draft. 

    I love this activity! When I grade it, I can quickly and easily tell if students understood the main points of their chosen passage. Sometimes I use this activity as an introduction to or refresher on summary writing. It's a great way for your more visual learners to see how a summary comes together! 

Check out these awesome student samples!

If you're interested in doing this in your own classroom, I have my found poem template for sale on my TpT store here!  Check it out!

-Taliena (Koch's Odds 'N Ends)