Engage the Brain: Vocabulary Practice with a Twist

The students in my classes have been using a web-based resource for vocabulary learning called Membean. Membean is a tool that can help students build word consciousness.  Knowing the meanings of words, and being able to use them, is an essential skill for both reading comprehension and effective writing.

Membean is individualized.  When the students joined a Membean class, they took a pre-assessment to determine their placement.  Then, they began learning words that are appropriate for them. Words learned are continually reinforced.  Students are assessed on the words they have learned over time. When the students have mastered one level, then they can move to the next level.  Students are learning the words they need for success.
There are many components to Membean that appeal to many various learning styles.
Learning the Word in Context:  students can listen to how the word is pronounced and how it is used in context.
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Root Trees:  (Word Ingredients) students learn how the root words are used.
Pictures Association of the Word and Spelling the Word
Memory Hooks
  • ways to bring the word to life for the students
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Picture association and spelling of the word

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What I like a lot about Membean is the fact students can track their own progress. Students are able to see their progress after each study session.

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Amount of time spent practicing word study.

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Progress after word study session.

It is important that students spend at least 25 minutes a week on word study outside of school.  This helps them to remember the words they are learning.  Students are assessed on their progress every two weeks with an assessment that has been created based on the words they have learned.

In the next few weeks, students will be utilizing the words they have been learning in context.

Please ask your child to show you what he or she has been learning with Membean! Some cool words are being learned!

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Women’s History Awareness

To celebrate Women’s History month (March), some of the students participated in an essay contest sponsored by one of our State Senators. The students had to respond to the following:  “Important Women in Connecticut’s History and How Their Contributions to the State and Nation Affect Me”.  The students picked a woman important to Connecticut- some of the women picked were: Suzanne Collins, Helen Keller, Lindsey Jacobellis, Dorothy Hamill, Dr. Pat Bragdon and Mary Burke. Then the students responded to the prompt.

Below are the essays from the winners for our school:  Michelle-first place and Sarah- runner-up.





Notable Women of Connecticut Essay

Remember when it seemed like it was impossible for people who needed a hand to get back up on their feet, or to get an extended hand to pull them up. How about when one person asked for help and everybody turned the other cheek. Well, in 1991, I CAN inc was founded by Dr. Pat Bragdon and Mary Burke. Since 1991 till now at 2015, both Dr.Pat Bragdon and Mary Burke are still helping those in Connecticut who need a hand and a shoulder to lie on at Ann’s Place. At Ann’s Place volunteers are giving their hand to those who fell down.

At Ann’s Place Dr. Pat Bragdon and Mary Burke provide professional counseling, support groups, wellness activities and more at no charge. This helps the community in a big way to comfort those who can’t pay, but are getting the support and guidance that they need. With all the help from Ann’s Place, more people are understanding the need to lend a hand to those who need it. Ann’s Place serves over 800 people, both those with cancer as well as their family members, people of all ages, and with all types of cancer from across Connecticut and Hudson Valley New York. Can you imagine how many people Ann’s place have helped?  These are people that live in the area, your neighbors, colleagues and friends, and they become not only part of our community, but when you get to know a person like at Ann’s place, they start to become part of you.

The people of Connecticut are being supported by people and volunteers at Ann’s Place with the determination of helping others. Many people think that winning a race or beating someone at a game is what a winner is. But at the end of the day when you look back and see how many people you’ve lent a hand to, or even made them smile, that makes you a true winner. At Ann’s Place they are doing that everyday and that truly influences me to want to help others more by donating money to charities and fundraisers, volunteering for community work when I have the time, and the greatest of them all, to listen to those who are in need of someone to hear their story so that anyone can see what they are going through. I want to be making the difference of helping and inspiring others so that little by little we can all make the world a better place.




Woman’s History Essay

Helen Keller was 19 months old when her world stopped. In 1884 the young infant dropped to the ground and never heard or saw again. What she was diagnosed with scarlet fever, or commonly known back then as brain fever. Imagine, never being able to see your own mother, listening to the waves of the beach, or even looking at your own reflection. Despite this, Helen was a tremendously quick learner and wouldn’t let her disability get in the way of achieving her dream of being a normal girl. As a result, at the age of 7, Helen had a new found understanding of the world around her with help from her teacher Anne Sullivan. Helen was able to learn 30 words in one single evening. Automatically, Anne knew Helen would be someone special one day, disability or no disability. By the time she was a teenager in 1900, Helen became an undergraduate at Radcliffe College and by 1903 the young disabled women had published her first book “The Story Of My Life” and was a true inspiration to disabled men and women around the world.

Helen Keller inspires me on tremendous levels. Her determination, and persistence pushes be to the best I can each day, and the way she choses to use her disability to help others puts me in awe. That is why Helen Keller is an inspiration to me. Keller worked hard each day with Anne Sullivan to learn as much as a little girl possibly could. She had big and what many thought were impossible dreams, Helen experienced many haters and many disbelievers, but the young girl had a goal in mind and she was determined to meet it. Helen no longer wanted to be mute, she wanted to say what was on her mind. She published two books in the course of five years, one specifically on how she feels about the world. But, besides her great accomplishments, besides trying to please herself and do good for herself she still chose to help others. Keller dedicated most of her to being an active supporter on behalf of the disabled. She received many awards for her dedication and care such as the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964, she was the first women to receive an honorary Doctorate from Harvard, and named one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th Century by Time Magazine according to cwhf.org. Helen has made history not because of famous parents, or from being a sports superstar, but rather her caring for others even when she might have needed it more herself. Not only that but she defied the odds learning to talk and write while being blind and deaf. She was not only an inspiration to all the disabled in America, but myself as well. She has inspired me to be a scientist with medicines, that will hopefully find a cure to help someone just as Helen Keller did.


   I am so proud of these girls’ achievement! 

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A Simple Talk

The students read IRB’s (Independent Reading Books) throughout the year.  Reading is social, and I am always thinking of ways to incorporate IRB discussion and recommendation into our classroom.  The latest project I assigned is the simple yet powerful book talk.  Students picked a novel to read,, set a goal (filled out calendar for how many pages to read each night) and then picked a date in March that they would present their novel. When finished with the novel, students had to write a summary and recommendation for their novel.  Next, the students had to prepare for their book talk- the expectation, the students would present their novel to the class without reading from their paper.  The students were amazing!  But don’t just take my word-watch some of the presentations!



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Energizing Brain Breaks

I teach reading and language, double blocks- 80 minutes with the same group of students on most days.  At times I observe the students yawning, disengaged, or wanting to leave for those “bathroom breaks”.   In order to tackle these issues  I have been reading about a not so new technique, Brain Breaks.

I had so many questions about Brain Breaks:   How would I fit it in? What are the best type of Brain Breaks?  Would the students buy into it?  Would the brain breaks work?    As I read,  many of the questions were beginning to have answers.

Brain Breaks are:

✓ A short mental break, taken during instruction and
used to achieve better learning outcomes
✓ Brain breaks are best when they are physical
**Blood and oxygen moves to the brain
✓ Brain breaks are limited to five minutes or less
✓ Brain breaks allow the brain to refocus on learning

I figure I would implement them any time after 20 minutes of instruction or between different segments of the lesson(s).

Some ideas for Brain Breaks…………………….

A Great Way to Start the Brain Break Moment- That’s My Song- begin and end Brain Breaks with students’ favorite songs (previewed of course). Also, a great way to connect to students- what better way then to discuss some of their favorite music.

Some Activity Ideas:

  • No Stress Test  (2-5 minute walk break)
  • Mime Yourself (have students get into pairs and without talking, mirror each others’ actions
  • Friend Connect (take 2 minutes to connect with a friend- provide questions to ask)
  • Brain Toss Across (students split into small groups, stand in a circle, toss a ball back and forth to each other while asking content questions- the student receiving the ball must answer the question)
  • Jamin Minutes (stretching exercises) 10 reps each of the following:  march in place, face chair tap toes on chair, feet together- hop side to side, sit and stand up, hands on abs-squeeze and release abs)
  • Calm Down (lead students in a different type of stretches to help loosen up tension- maybe before an assessment)  Have students hold each stretch for 15-20 minutes:  reach for the sky. touch toes, arm circles, neck circles, knee to chest, quad stretch, etc.

I plan on implementing Brain Breaks tomorrow- so I will keep updates coming, especially about student engagement.  In the meantime, if anyone uses Brain Breaks or has ideas for Brain Breaks please comment- I would LOVE to hear your thoughts and ideas!

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New Year New Goals



Tomorrow starts a new adventure in a new year!  Even though school started in September and I am coming back to the same students, I love the fact new goals can be set, changes can be made, and bad habits can be broken.

I intend to do all of the above~ starting with this post.  I can say I miss blogging.  As you can see, my last blog post was on October 22.  I had high hopes for blogging at the start of the school year.  I wanted to blog all the time and to get the students into it.  But other tasks and priorities took its place.  Well, I am back to say in the new year blogging is a priority.  I miss connecting to other classrooms and having my students visit various students’ blogs.  So much can be learned from connecting and collaborating with others.  That is where the real world learning takes place.  That is the experience I want to provide to my students.  

My goal is to learn new ways to connect with various learning communities and to extend and build on my current  knowledge. 2015 is sure to be a great year utilizing a variety of tools for learning and collaborating!

What are your goals for the new year?



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Positive Post Its

Today in school all students and teachers were greeted with a nice surprise,  inspirational messages on every locker and door.   October is Bully Awareness Month, and our students took that message to heart!  A few students took the time to hand write positive messages on post it notes and hang them on lockers and teachers’ doors around the school.

This morning when students went to their lockers, they were left wondering who did this wonderful deed.  Many students commented on how this little act left them with a warm feeling in their heart.

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“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”  Jackie Robinson

Some of our wonderful students made a huge impact today.  What can you do?
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It has been awhile, but I am back……..

It feels like I have not blogged in a long time.  So now I am back with so much to share about the start to a new year.

We started off the new year with building our classroom community and getting to know each other.  In order for students to introduce themselves in a different way, they completed two different task.

The first is one of my favorites- The Six Word Memoir- students needed to describe themselves in six words.  This task was all about the power of words- or like what I like to call “Word Consciousness”.

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The second task introduced students to Animoto- a web based video creation program.  In order to get students acquainted with the program, students created videos about themselves.  Some examples follow-

I look forward to sharing so much more about our learning community!
Once again we have begun to Make Waves in Sixth Grade!

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So How was Your Day……

Advice for Parents

Since my son started elementary school two years ago, it has been a struggle to get information out of him.  Now that I have two boys in school, it is doubly hard.  I have to catch both at a talkative moment.  Thank goodness that their teachers have provided information to help me ask the right questions.  On Friday night as I was watching Nightly News with Brian Williams, I realized I was not the only parent with that problem.  The following piece caught my attention.

Below is the piece from the news broadcast.

Also included on the NBC News post was a list of questions to ask besides- “How was your day?”.

Liz Evans, a blogger, offers some tips to get your kids talking.

25 Questions to help with finding out about your child’s day.

#1. What was the best thing that happened at school today? (What was the worst thing that happened at school today?)

#2. Tell me something that made you laugh today.

#3. If you could choose who would you like to sit by in class? (Who would you NOT want to sit by in class? Why?)

#4. Where is the coolest place at the school?

#5. Tell me a weird word that you heard today. (Or something weird that someone said.)

#6. If I called your teacher tonight what would she tell me about you?

#7. How did you help somebody today?

#8. How did somebody help you today?

#9. Tell me one thing that you learned today.

#10. When were you the happiest today?

#11. When were you bored today?

#12. If an alien spaceship came to your class and beamed up someone who would you want them to take?

#13. Who would you like to play with at recess that you’ve never played with before?

#14. Tell me something good that happened today.

#15. What word did your teacher say most today?

#16. What do you think you should do/learn more of at school?

#17. What do you think you should do/learn less of at school?

#18. Who in your class do you think you could be nicer to?

#19. Where do you play the most at recess?

#20. Who is the funniest person in your class? Why is he/she so funny?

#21. What was your favorite part of lunch?

#22. If you got to be the teacher tomorrow what would you do?

#23. Is there anyone in your class that needs a time out?

#24. If you could switch seats with anyone in the class who would you trade with? Why?

#25. Tell me about three different times you used your pencil today at school.

The above questions were geared for K-6 grade students.  Liz Evans also came up with questions to ask your teen.  Link is below.

25 Ways to Ask Your Teen About Their Day

Just a way to keep the lines of communication open- I look forward to trying some of these questions with my sons this week!

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Welcome Back

We’re back, and I am so excited!  Today I welcomed a new sixth grade class.  The first day of school brings mixed emotions- happiness to see friends yet anxiety-not knowing what to expect.  Today the students learned all about the expectations.

The half day of school was spent on PBIS- Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports. PBIS is a program implemented in order to reduce disciplinary incidents and promote a climate of greater productivity, learning, safety, and kindness.

Students interacted with various teachers and each other in order to learn the expectations of our middle school.

Activities throughout the day included expectations for the:

  • Cafeteria
  • Bathroom
  • Technology
  • Attendance/Dress Code
  • Classroom
  • Being a Productive Student
  • Organization

Also, students were introduced to their Guidance Counselor.

Today was a wonderful way to introduce the students to their new school.  It is always important to introduce the students to what is expected of them right from the start.

Below is a video that sums up some of the learning today! (A special thank you to our World Language Teacher for showing it)



Good Luck to a successful school year!

Think about this:  What do you want to teach the world?

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