New Year, New Goals

This is the time of the year when everyone starts making New Years Resolutions. One of the more popular New Years Resolutions is about losing weight. This is a New Years Resolution I have made myself countless times. I used to say things like I will not eat chocolate this entire year (yeah right).

Everyone is going to holiday gatherings and indulging. I'm currently a weight watchers member and we were told that the average person gains between 7 and 10 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Years. If you start counting the holiday season with Halloween it's probably closer to 15 pounds instead of 10. I need to stay focused because I don't want to go back to the old me. I'm not saying I deny myself 100% because that's unrealistic. I don't want to push things off and say "I'll start again after the holidays." No one is perfect but if I indulge, it's just one day, I need to make sure I'm back on track the very next day.

When I used to call them resolutions I never stuck to them so now instead of resolutions I make goals. I also try to set realistic, attainable goals. If I make my goals too big and I don't reach them I'll be disappointed in myself. So I set numerous small goals and I reward myself (not with food lol) when I reach them. I know that using the word goal instead of resolution is just semantics, but I feel like that helps me.

I'm not just talking about my weight, although my weight and my health have been a major focus in my life the past two years. I always say "this year I'm going to be more organized" and that doesn't happen because I don't have a great system. I've tried a folder for each class, I've tried a hanging folder with different pockets, and I've tried having a tray for each class. If you can think of a way to help a teacher that can't find her desk that would be great.

The only thing that's truly helped is collecting less papers. I only collect essays, projects, quizzes and tests now. I don't collect classwork or homework anymore. I walk around with my iPad with my nifty online gradebook and I give them credit on the spot. I do a lot of journal writing with my students and they keep them in the back of the room. I tend to only check those at the end of each marking period. I tell the kids how many entries they should have and I use a rubric.

I have my students make goals in September and we revise/update them in January when we come back from the break. I make them come up with 3 measurable goals that are attainable. We come up with both individual goals and class goals. My school likes to use SMART goals.


What are SMART goals?

Specific
•Well defined
•Clear to anyone that has a basic knowledge of the project

Measurable
•Know if the goal is obtainable and how far away completion is
•Know when it has been achieved

Attainable
•Agreement with all the stakeholders what the goals should be

Results-based
•Within the availability of resources, knowledge and time

Time-bound
•Enough time to achieve the goal
•Not too much time, which can affect project performance

Click here for a free PowerPoint Lesson and a SMART Goal template I use in my classes.




I hope you have a wonderful new year. Good luck with setting goals for yourself and helping your students set their own goals.




6 Winter and Holiday Themed Activities for Your Secondary Classroom

It’s December which means one thing in secondary classrooms: everyone is counting down the days until winter vacation. It’s the time of the year when both teachers and students get restless.  You have gifts to buy, holiday menus to plan, decorations to put up, and parties you’ve been invited to. You’re being pulled in all of these different directions and you need to find some engaging activities for your students who have vacation on the brain. Here are some fun and creative things to do in your ELA classroom this holiday season: 

1)  Kindness Quotes Task Cards – These task cards are free in my TpT store. Each task card has a quote about kindness that students will interpret and respond to. This is the time of the year when we want to promote kindness. These task cards can be used for Bell Ringers or a writing center. These task cards can be tied in with different pieces of literature as well. I used these task cards with the novel Wonder by R.J. Palacio


2) Secret Santa - Traditionally a Secret Santa buys a gift for someone else but you can do this in your classroom with a little twist. You can have your students write letters instead of buying gifts. Instruct students to write letters to their Secret Santa telling him/her what they like about them. You can also have students give little hints so that the letters turn into a guessing game or a scavenger hunt. 

3) Winter and Holiday Themed Short Story Starters on Task Cards – These task cards are free in my TpT store. There are 12 short story starters included in this free product. This activity is aligned with the CCSS for grades 5-12. You can use these task cards in a variety of ways: 

  • Give each child a different story starters. You will have to do some repeats. They have to use that story starter as the first sentence (or in some cases 2 sentences) of their story. If you want to give them a page or a paragraph requirement it's up to you.
  • Give each child a choice of 2 or 3 short story starters. They get to pick which one they want to use. They have to use that story starter as the first sentence (or in some cases 2 sentences) of their story. If you want to give them a page or a paragraph requirement it's up to you.
  • Put students in a circle. Have them each write their short story starter at the top of the sheet of loose leaf and write for a set amount of time (3-5 minutes) and then they pass the story to the next person in the circle. That person then continues the story wherever the other person left off. In the past when I’ve done this the stories have been hilarious. Since I work with older students I have to lay down some ground rules about cursing and school appropriate topics. I had the students share them aloud when I used this method.

4) You can have students analyze holiday song lyrics. I often use song lyrics in my classroom when I’m doing a poetry unit. Many students don’t like poetry but they love music. You can have students just read the lyrics or listen to them and follow along. Students should look for figurative language in the lyrics.

5) Winter and Holiday Themed Writing Prompts on Task Cards. This is a product in my TpT store. There are 24 winter/holiday themed task cards in this product. Some of them are journal prompts and some of them are quotes for students to write responses to. You can pick and choose which ones you want to give to the students or let the students decide. You can give each student all of the cards, you can give each student one card or you can give each student a choice of two or three cards. It's up to you how you want to use them. This activity is aligned with the CCSS for grades 5-12. 


6) Watch clips from different holiday movies. This can be a standalone activity or you can relate the film clips to literature you've read in class. Here are a few activities you can do with holiday films:

  • Analyze the characters and review characterization with your students. Example: In A Christmas Carol, the character Scrooge is a round character whereas Bob Cratchit is a flat character.
  • Show your students an example of a movie review from a newspaper like The New York Times and have students write a movie review for a movie you watch in class.

Students are always extremely excited the day before the vacation so my school does a school-wide potluck lunch followed by a student/faculty basketball game. The potluck works because I work in a small school. This might not work in larger schools.

 

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