Friday, November 30, 2012

Common Core Sample Assessment Items

This is a great site to gather sample test items for the Common Core. 

Scroll down to page three to find the links listed by grade level.

Math is also available on this site. 

Using Jog the Web in Your Classroom

This web site allows you to make a list of sites to use in research, give quizzes, or view videos that you find appropriate. I am starting a cause, effect, and fact project over natural disasters with my 8th graders. Students are going to be assigned a particular natural disaster to research. they will then write a five paragraph essay on their topic using MLA citation, and make a Prezi to present their projects to the class.

This is quite a bit to try to cover before Christmas break, so I asked our fabulous librarian for some help. She introduced me to this site and has gone in an listed 5 different sites for each natural disaster on our list. My kids will link to it from my classroom page and start doing their research. This tool will be beneficial to keeping them focused  and cut down on having to closely monitor 28 kids while they freely surf the web, and free up time for me to help them with the actual assignment. There are also jogs already listed for you to use in your classroom. Just click on the link below to check it out.
I am planning on posting the project when we get it completed so stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Free Common Core Vocabulary Lessons for Grades 9-12

I was doing a little surfing yesterday and came across this site at Visual Thesaurus. These vocabulary lessons are for grades 9-12 and are aligned to the common core. I am creating a vocabulary unit for my freshmen and as definitely using some of these.  If you teach high school and are looking for something a little different and challenging for you kids check it out!

You can get to the visual Thesaurus common core lessons by clicking here.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Liebster Award!

I've been nominated for a Liebster Award...Awesome! The Liebster Award is given by bloggers to up-and-coming bloggers with less than 200 followers to let them know they're appreciated. Well I certainly feel appreciated!! :) Thank you to Tales of Teaching in Heels for nominating me!!

The Liebster Rules:
- You must post 11 random things about yourself.
- Answer the questions that the nominator set for you.
- Create 11 questions for the people you nominate.
- Choose 11 blogs you love (with less than 200 followers) and link them in your post.
- No tag back (but please leave me a comment on this post with the URL to your Liebster post so I can learn more about you!)

11 Random Things About Myself:

1. I have been teaching middle school language arts for 16 years, I actually am certified in elementary education with an emphasis in middle school science and social studies. (I got the language arts certification by accident!) 

2.  I have a grandson who is 8 years old  and is the light in my life!

3. I have a golden Retriever named Leo and he is smarter than I am.

4. I refer to myself in class sometimes as "The Giant Talking Head". This is brought on by frustration.

5. I have married, divorced, and remarried my husband. (aka Lifers) 

6.  I love to try new things in my classes! This year it is Interactive Notebooks. 

7.  I work seven days a week, 365 days a year, and only accept pay for 180 days. (aka Stupid) 

8. I have a great since of humor and can be quite funny at times.  I think this is why kids like my class.

9. My most embarrassing moment: Forgetting to take the nozzle out of the gas tank when I was finished pumping, and driving about a quarter mile before I realized I was dragging the nozzle, and hose, down the street:) I probably would still be dragging it if I hadn't noticed the people running behind my car!!

10. Every morning on my drive to work I get to a four way stop, and ask myself the same question: When a child walks into your room does your face light up? As long as I can answer "yes" to this question I will continue to teach.

11. I work in a district with a lot of poverty. I sometimes have trouble sleeping because I am worrying about my students.

11 Answers for Tales of Teaching in Heels

1. How long have you been teaching? 16 years, three at my first job, and 13 at my current school.

2. Do you have siblings? I have a sister who is twelve years older than me. She says I am a "Martini Baby".  I think she means I was an accident, because I don't like martinis :) 

3. How many times have you moved? Six in my entire life and I hate it! I plan on dying where I am at now, or at my desk. 

4. Have you taught all the grades your credentialed for? I'm certified for k-9, and have taught 5-9.

5. What is your favorite dessert? Banana Poke cake! I found the recipe on Pinterest. Easy and awesome!!!! I have also become a chocoholic and am in search of a support group to help me control this addiction.

6. Why did you start your blog specifically? I wanted to share some of the things that work in my class, and provide some of the resources that I use to make our difficult job a little easier. I have a couple of things on TPT, but am considering making all my items free.  I would rather someone use my stuff, than make a dollar or two. I feel like some bloggers are promoting their business more than the craft of good teaching. 

7. Do you like blogs that talk about random things, or just blogs that give away free printables and school "stuff"? Both, I like to see what neat thing others are doing in their classes and I especially like when they freely share their ideas and materials.  I also like DYI blogs and anything that has to do with cooking or home organization. I think that is why I like pinterest so much, because of the variety. 

8. What is your professional goal for the next 5 years? I have a Masters in Educational Administration and am almost done with my Specialist in Education certification. With this said, I plan on being in the classroom or helping teachers in some capacity. I would accept a position in administration if something came along that suited me, but I prefer being around the kids and don't want to have to find a new job every couple of years like most administrators do.

9. What size shoe do you wear? :) 8 1/2 welcome to the gunboat show!

10. If you could have one superpower, what would it be? The ability to cast a spell and make ALL people caring, compassionate, and tolerant of each other. Or fly, that would be kind of cool:)

11. What is your favorite thing about teaching? The kids, the kids, and the kids!!!!!

11 Questions for Nominees

1. What is your most memorable teaching moment?
2. Who was you favorite teacher in school and why?
3. Why did you start your blog?
4. Are you an animal lover?
5. What is the best book you have ever read?
6. What do you think is the most important subject taught in school? 
7. What kind of student were you in school?
8. What drives you crazy about the teaching profession? 
9. Are you conservative or liberal?
10. How would your students describe you?
11. What is your favorite age group or subject to teach and why?

11 Blogs I Nominated for This Prestigious Award

This page is a work in progress !
I keep finding blogs and getting distracted! This is very hard for those of us with ADD! Hope to have 11 nominees soon :)

Friday, November 23, 2012

Awesome Photo Journals for Upper Grades

Interesting photo journal that I made for the Promethean Board using the fabulous writing prompts of Matt Novak. These are truly original and thought provoking.  You can see his work at Photo Writing Prompts. These are for middle and high school aged students.

I have created a Photo Journal Flipchart of 52 (there are 100's of others) of his prompts to use in my classroom.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Writing by Numbers

This is a fun and free creative writing assignment that I do with my seventh graders. Students pick four numbers in advance and then find out who their characters are, the setting, and the plot. Even my most reluctant learners are thinking, and excited about writing. Try it in small groups, or independently.  Students will be eager to share their final product so try to set aside some time for them to present their stories. Below is a copy of the student handout and a PowerPoint to display. Have fun, and let me know how it went.

Get free directions and student handout HERE.

Click HERE for a copy of the PowerPoint to display on your board.

Monday, November 5, 2012


Here is a site that I plan to put on my classroom page at school for my Freshmen who finish early when we are in the computer lab. This is a great site for high school kids to practice vocabulary skills for the GRE, TOFEL, and the SAT. Here in Missouri kids take the ACT and I think it can be helpful for them too. There is also a word of the day and a dictionary. Just click on the link below to get started.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Time Fillers

Our school has a homeroom class at the end of the day. It is a full class period and I often find my kids are finished with their homework early. This can lead to trouble so I like to have fillers to keep the peace. On Fridays I will show the week in review at This has a seven dollar a month subscription fee but I use several of the videos and songs on the site.  The week in rap covers the top news stories for the week and a new one is available every Thursday. My kids remind me that we need to do the "Week in Rap".  The website can be found HERE

Here is another fun website to use. It has "Wuzzles" which my kids love to try to solve. You can link to this site HERE

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Websites for classroom videos

I have recently been working on my short story unit and have come across several good websites that I wanted to share. The first is Watch Know Learn. The site has short useful videos from all over the web, not just YouTube. They can be downloaded and embedded into whiteboard presentations. My school has YouTube blocked and since you can't download the videos, I am often limited on what I can use. This site has a wide variety of subjects and even has a section dedicated to the Common Core. Check it out.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Noun Game

I have been playing the Noun Game in my room for years and the kids love it!! I have created a Promethean chart  with a list of words and directions.. I usually divide the class into two groups, and  boys against girls really gets them going.

To play I have one student sit with their back to the board and another player sits facing them. The player facing the board will give one word clues, as a list, to describe the word on the board. The player with their back to the board will try to guess the word. I give them one minuet to get as many words as possible. There are no hand gestures allowed nor are they allowed to pass.  Also, if they say a form of the word their turn is over and no points are awarded.

I call it the Noun Game because I will usually teach them how to play when I am teaching nouns and adjectives. However, It usually turns in to their game of choice if they earn a reward day. We have also used vocabulary lists to play with. It may take a couple of turns before the kids get the hang of it but most catch on quickly. This Promethean Flip chart has 27 slides of words and I just use the revealer tool and go down the list. It really is hilarious fun for everyone.  It's free all I ask is that you let me know how your kids liked it.

The Noun Game

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Most Dangerous Game

This week in my English I class we read "The Most Dangerous Game" by Richard Connell. This is one of my favorite stories to teach because the kids get so into it. We are located in a rural community and many of my students love to hunt! Even my most reluctant readers come to attention as we start talking about "Game" as prey and a sport. I have redone my unit plan and put some of the resources I have collected over the past few years together to make a unit that is more organized and teacher friendly. I hope some of you out there can use it. It includes my day by day plans and worksheets and activities to go with it.

I also bought the original movie at amazon ($8.93 for Prime Members) and they have taken the 1932 classic and color enhanced it. (In my opinion this is the best version) I still need to make my compare and contrast assignment and will post it here when I finish it. I also have my Promethean board presentation that will be posted here on Monday (accidentally left it at school). It is just a student version of my lessons to project.

Since I am doing interactive notebooks for the first time this year, I have also put in the left side and right side activities in my plans. This has been really helpful. I teach three different grades and it can become quite confusing for me to try to remember what goes where sometimes. I keep a model notebook for each class and I have found it difficult to keep all three notebooks up to date, and do all of the other things that come with the job. Hopefully next year will be easier.

Anyway, I hope some of you can put this unit to use.  To get a copy of the free unit click on the link below.

The Most Dangerous Game Unit Plan

Vocabulary quiz

MDG Flipchart

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Off and Running!

Well school is definitely back in session!!! After reading a few blog post from other teachers, it's nice to know that I'm not the only one who feels that there are not enough hours in the day. It seems like no matter how much time I spend during the summer to prepare, I still feel like I am swimming to stay on top of things. I have created flipcharts for the first few pages of my ISN's and wanted to share them with those of you who have Active Inspire software installed.

These are the some of the latest charts I have made for my seventh and eighth grade classes.
Strategies for Active Readers
Seventh Grade by Gary Soto
Elements of Fiction
Setting up the interactive notebook
Checkouts by Cynthia Rylant- Vocabulary using synonyms as context clues

 Hope someone can use them and it frees up some time for you. Will be posting more later. thanks for stoping by and have a great week.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Teaching Binder Bliss

I am done with the set up of my binder and finally took the time to take some pictures. I bought a one inch binder and felt it may be too small, so I went to 11/2' and like it better. I really don't want to carry around a giant heavy binder and if I buy a three inch I will fill it up. This size will make me keep it streamlined with only the information I need. I plan to file some of the contents, like lesson plans at semester. When you purchase your binder make sure to get a "D" ring. They hold a lot more than the round ones and are easier to flip through.

My divider pages came from the Editable Teaching Binder by Nicole. I started with her free download and liked it so much I bought the one I could edit. It is only $3.00 and so cute! She also has many very cute ideas for other items as well. many of them are not specific to a single grade level. You can visit her blog at Rowdy in Room 300. It is definitely one of my favorites! Thank you Nicole!

Now for the binder pics!

Inside the cover I have a pencil case to hold post-its, pens, etc... I also have my thumb drive which has a copy of almost every document and flip-chart, PowerPoint, etc,,, (basically everything) attached to a ring. I have post-it note tabs on each divider page and they are inserted in alphabetical order.

On the inside cover I have my school's yearly calendar. Then I have my monthly calendar that I got free on Pinterest from It is color coded for professional development days, no School days, early outs,and Mentor meetings. This is a really nice calendar for free!

I also got this checklist sheet free on Pinterest I don't remember where and the author's names is not on it. The sheets are in different colors and adorable! I also have small tab to separate  my classes by grade level.

 My classroom management section holds class procedures, attention grabbers, a list of exit ticket question, and a behavior to document behavior issues on the spot.

The Common Core section has a pacing guide that I am currently working on and also has small tabs to separate each by grade level. 

I have my school schedule on the inside cover of my lesson plans section. to keep the size of the binder down I am using one half of a lesson plans page with the tops of the pages highlighted by grade level. I teach two sections of 7th ELA, 8th,ELA, and English I. I did not see any reason to repeat the lessons. The pink arrow lets me quickly find the week I'm on.

This Need/Want sheet is for next year. I always forget some things when I order at the end of the year. I hope that this will also save me time when I am doing PO's.

I will keep all assessment data here both State from last year and any from class. I print my grade sheets 
bi-weekly, I will take the old ones out and insert the new ones to keep the binder up to date.

I will keep all student contact information information as well as any usernames, passwords, medical, IEP modifications, etc,,,

 This log is to help keep track of the many different usernames and passwords I have. This was created by me and there is a link on an earlier post at the bottom of this page if you would like a copy,

 And finally, I have a folder to put papers that need to be copied or paperwork that needs to be filled out and turned in.

I am adding a section for professional development this weekend. (not sure how I overlooked that!)
I have a Pinterest board for classroom organization and it has several links for free teaching binder forms and covers. If you are looking for ideas to start one, it would be a good way to find some of the great blogs out there dealing with this topic. 
So that is my binder. Pinterest has allowed me to create it very cheap and it is very functional but cute. I would like to thank all of the creators of the various free forms and ideas. Leave me a comment and let me know what you are doing with your binder, or if you have any questions. I would love to hear fom you!!!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Seventh Grade Orientation Activity for Parents

For several years I have been doing an activity that really gets my year off to a great start! It is a homework assignment called "In a Million Words or Less..." and I assign it to the parents not the kids. However, they can help their parents is if they need to.

In A million Words or Less

The assignment: Parents you are to write an essay or letter to me telling me about your child. It can be on any thing that you feel will allow me to better know your child and help them to succeed. The requirements for an A paper are listed below:

  1. You can NOT use more than one million words! However, you may use less.
  2. The essay must help me to get to know your child. It can be about their academic achievements, hobbies, personality, emotional issues, etc.. The sky is the limit!
  3. This assignment can be typed or handwritten.
  4. An exemplary essay will have minimal grammatical and punctuation errors.
  5. This assignment is due by ___________________. 
You may email me your assignment at ____________________________,  or you may send it in with your child. Often parents like to drive their kids a little crazy after all of the teasing and send it in  a sealed envelope to keep their essay confidential. This is perfectly okay and I will not betray your trust.

Please remember that you are being watched carefully by your child. This is a great opportunity to model what you consider to be appropriate student behavior. Thank you so much for sharing your child with me and participating in our classroom. Good luck!

You should be able to just copy and paste this on to a document. I always get positive responses from parents and the information I collect is invaluable!!!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Something the Kids Will Love!

I just went to an awesome site and just had to share. It is The site has rap for all types of language arts and social studies lessons, and all grade levels! Not just elementary!!!~ You can get a two week free trial  and the subscription only costs $7.00 a month or $63.00 a year. I know my 7th-9th graders will love it! Heck, I loved it! Check it out.

Just another ADD random moment. Have a great day!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Promethean Flip Charts

Last year I got a new Promethean board for my room and I love it. One of the great things about ii is that you can import Smartboard and Powerpoint presentations. I assume that you can do the same in reverse but I'm not sure. On this page I would like to share some of the flipcharts I have made that I think you might fined helpful. They are editable and hopefully can save you some time. I often get items from Promethean Planet which is a great resource. However I find that once again the resources for middle and upper grades is limited. I will update this page regularly so check back often.

You will need Active Inspire software to open these charts. You can get a free version to download  at

Daily Oral Language Charts: I use these as Warm-up activities.  The students start when they enter the room correcting two sentences and then we quickly go over them together. I will randomly call them a quiz and take a grade in my grade book, This keeps them honest and doing their best work.

Daily Oral Language Hairy Beast Saga Grades 6-9

DOL 3-7 
DOL 6-10
DOL 8-10
DOL 11-13

10,000 Dollar Pyramid


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Plot Diagrams

I start off my reading program with a short story unit every year. When we finish the unit I have my students complete a plot diagram over a book they have read independently.  The kids like doing them and it really requires them to analyze the literature they are reading on their own.  This year I will probably have them complete a draft in their interactive notebooks before I give them final copy paper. The teacher input side will be notes over the requirements for the poster.  

 The link for the student guide can be found here in my TPT store.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Create a Free Avatar for Your Class

Hello, I just wanted to share the voki I created for open house. It was really easy and fun. I created one of my dog since I seem to mention him pretty often, but you can create a wide variety of avatars using the free version. There is of course a paid version that you can buy. Go check it out!
Just click on the Voki link above and your on your way!

You can get your Voki here

Friday, July 20, 2012


My name is Renee Miler and I am new to the blogging scene. I want a place to share some of the random things that take place in my life, and in my classroom. I also want to share some of the interesting sites, blogs, and people that I come across on the web. I have seen so many awesome blogs lately that I must admit I am a little bit intimidated.  However, most are geared toward the elementary classroom and this one will be more for those of us who are crazy enough to teach in the middle.

I have been a teacher for 16 years at a small rural school in Missouri. I teach 7th grade, 8th grade. and Freshman language arts (no pressure there).  I really like teaching and I love my job. I must admit though that it seems that teachers have become the "bad guys" in the last few years both in the media, and with lawmakers.  If you have tenure and have devoted you life to a school district, people assume you no longer work as hard, or you are unwilling to try new strategies in your classroom. I think this current mentality is what has prompted me to start this blog. 

I have changed the way I do things every year in my room. I am constantly on the lookout for some way to make my lessons more engaging for my kids.  I will be sharing some of my finds, and some of the things that I have learned over the years on weekly posts to this site.  Hopefully, you will be able to find some ideas to help you in your classroom as you pursue your career in the ever changing world of education.