Literary Response One-Pager Activity

IMG_3793

I was going to save this post until August when I had been properly AVID-trained, but I get so many questions about these One-Pagers on Instagram! They turned out so beautifully, and it’s such an easy strategy that I think we can all implement it with or without the full training.

A Literary Response One-Pager is an AVID summarizing strategy in which students use evidence from the text as well as graphics to convey the overall idea or theme of a story. It’s a very versatile strategy, and I’ve seen teachers use it in history and science classes as well. My co-worker had her class do this assignment for The Diary of Anne Frank and I loved how hers turned out, so I used the same strategy. I came up with my own instructions and posted them on Google Classroom for my students to refer to.

Literary Response One Pager

(I use LucidPress to create most of my digital flyers instructions, and the flat lay graphic is from Laine Sutherland Designs on TeachersPayTeachers).

The examples here are from my 8th grade English class, using the Anne Frank play from the HMH Collections Curriculum. We had engaged in so many discussions while reading the play, and my students had written so many shorter, focused writing pieces, that I didn’t want to assign another long essay at the end of this text. But because Anne Frank’s story is so powerful and so profound, especially to readers who are her same age, I knew we needed a reflection piece.

IMG_3803

Before we started working on these One-Pagers we talked about tone. Color choices would reflect students’ understanding of the tone of the story, and would allow them to express their interpretations of the story. I love using Flocabulary’s video and resources on Tone & Mood to introduce this topic.

Similarly, the excerpts that students chose to use from the story also demonstrated both their understanding of the main ideas and theme, and allowed them to choose the sections that they connected with the most. I love when an assignment offers choices to students, but also keeps them focused on a specific task.

IMG_3795

Clearly, the graphics on these projects are stunning! We have an amazing art program at our school, and I also just happened to have a class full of some of the most artistically talented students I’ve ever met. I also love that calligraphy/hand-lettering is kind of a thing again, and these students like to make all of their hand-written assignments look extra amazing. It isn’t necessary that all of your students have professional drawing skills in order to do One-Pagers, but it is nice if they put a little bit of effort into the details of their graphics. These girls (yes, they were all girls), looked up what the actual cover of Anne’s diary looked like, and they studied pictures of her to make sure that their drawings were accurate. I gave them two days of class time to complete this assignment, but the students who did these examples took them home to complete and spent extra time and effort.

IMG_3797

The “Personal Response” section is always my favorite to read. Ideally the response will be connected to the quotes that the students chose to emphasize from the story. They can comment upon these quotes, make connections between them or to a larger topic, or provide their interpretation of the text. This is great with a long text like the Anne Frank play, but it also helps students to think more deeply about short stories. I haven’t used this strategy with poetry yet, but I have a feeling it would lead to some outstanding projects, and I’m definitely going to try it next year.

IMG_3799

One requirement that instantly improves the quality of everyone’s project is banning white space. (“Fine, except for clouds and eyeballs,” I always end up saying). It forces students to think about the background of their scene, or fill in blank areas with items or symbols from the story. I tell them to add a border if they don’t know where else to start. This also helps to emphasize mood and tone since students have to make decisions about color choices and cannot just leave blank space. We are not Taylor Swift here.

IMG_3800

My students know that I am not a fan of pencils (I always use pens!), and in my class, pencils are for practice. A project in pencil is not complete, it’s just a rough draft. For One-Pagers, students need to go over pencil in pen or marker or crayon or whatever other tool they’d like to use. When students show me their work and it’s just a few things written or drawn in pencil I say, “Oh that’s a good rough draft, I can’t wait to see how it turns out when you finish it!” I spend a lot of my own money and time acquiring plenty of art supplies for students to use because I really value good tools to help students produce work that looks high-quality and that they can be proud of.

IMG_3801

I was so impressed with the effort and thoughtfulness my students put into this assignment, and I’m so glad that they have inspired so many teachers to use this strategy as well. I’m looking forward to participating in the full AVID training in August, and I’ll be sure to update you on other effective strategies that I incorporate into my class. Be sure to tag me on Instagram if your students create their own One-Pagers. I’d love to see them!

Spring Bulletin Board in a Box

IMG_3526

Since I teach middle school I rarely get to do the cutesy seasonal bulletin boards with every student’s name on them, but sometimes I wish I could! My mom, on the other hand, teaches kindergarten, but she gets overwhelmed by switching up her bulletin boards for every season and holiday. So I thought I would do some of the detailed work for her and give her the gift of a bulletin board in a box!

IMG_3516

I purchased this cute bulletin board set from Ms. Thornton’s Thinkers on TeachersPayTeachers.com and printed the letters and flower shapes out on card stock from Michaels. My favorite color schemes for my classroom are Sugar Candy and Soda Pop, which is what I used for the flowers as well.

IMG_3518

It did take a couple of hours to cut out all of the petals and stems, but I like to put on my headphones and listen to the In The Heights soundtrack while I work, so before I knew it I was done (and ugly crying when Abuela Claudia died and cheering for Nina and Usnavi to get together in the end). I arranged each flower set with a paper clip so that my mom can give a set to each student.

IMG_3522

Since the theme is “Look How We Have Bloomed,” I was thinking that each kid could write words they learned to spell on each petal, or maybe a math problem they know how to solve. I am so far removed from the Kindergarten world that I’m not sure exactly what they will write on the petals, but I can’t wait to see pictures of how they turn out!

IMG_3530

I also found this clear plastic box at Michaels, and all of the pieces of the bulletin board fit inside perfectly! Now after she takes it down at the end of the year, my mom can store the letters in the box and she’ll be able to quickly find it again for next spring. I also gave her the blackline copies of the petals and flowers so that she can re-do them for her class next year.

IMG_3533

I taped the title page from the Tpt product to the inside of the box as a label and I think it looks so cute! If you’re looking for a fun bulletin board that you can use every year, this one is adorable. And also, if you’re trying to think of a Teacher Appreciation gift for a teacher who doesn’t love the process of creating bulletin boards, consider making her or him a bulletin board in a box! It was fun for me to do, and it saved my mom a lot of time and energy that she definitely needs for those little ones!

To see the whole process in action, check out my YouTube video!

 

How to Help Your Students Improve Their Writing

improve writing

The editing process was not my favorite thing to teach middle schoolers. It was a struggle to pull a rough draft out of many of them, and then going through another lesson on editing at the end of a project used to feel like too much. I couldn’t possibly give all of my students in all of my classes sufficient feedback, and often, when they peer edited (even in guided stations), I wasn’t sure that they were truly receiving useful or applicable critiques.

Enter Newsela. I’ve used Newsela for a long time now as a reading resource. It’s great because each article is rewritten at various lexile levels, so it provides access to information for all of your students. I’d often assign the same article to a class, and then walk around the room as they read on their Chromebooks, noting the difference in vocabulary, syntax and structure between the different level of articles.

I decided to use this feature to help my students analyze and improve their own writing. I chose a high-interest, current article from Newsela (which are easy to find!), and had my students read this article at the lowest reading level, usually around the 2nd grade mark. We summarized the article and noted the length of the sentences, the vocabulary used, etc.

Then I raised the lexile level of the article up a few hundred points. We re-read the article and noted that now, the sentences were more complex, some of the vocabulary words were more sophisticated, and the author included more details in each paragraph.

Finally, we read the article at the maximum reading level and again noted the differences. I had my students choose any other article they would like to read on the site and repeat the same activity, observing the changes as the lexile level increased. I asked them to observe 3-5 specific improvements in the article, and then apply those improvements to their own writing project.

Before we tried this activity, my students would always default to vocabulary as a way to improve their writing. They would simply plug each word into a thesaurus, pick the word that sounded the most complicated, and shove that word back into their essay. Often, the connotation no longer fit the purpose of their essay, and the tone would become clunky and indirect.

I realized, however, that this was really the only strategy they had been taught to improve their writing. I’m a big fan of mentor texts and giving students as many concrete examples of good writing as I possibly can, but I tended to only use these as a jumping off point for writing projects. I see now that they are perfect resources for editing, and I no longer dread the editing phase of my students’ writing projects.

Here is a more thorough example of the kind of lesson I did with my students:

 

Fair Trade Cozy Sweatshirt

I recently shared a post about my favorite t-shirts from PAN Clothing. Now that it’s finally getting cooler here in L.A., I’ve been reaching for my PAN grey fitted sweatshirt. I love that it isn’t bulky or sloppy. It’s the perfect weekend sweatshirt for grabbing a cup of coffee and catching up on reading–but like, in public, not on my couch.

MeganPAN-4 (1)

I love how the band along the bottom of the sweatshirt is wider than on most sweatshirts, which prevents it from flipping under. Because it lays flat around my hips it’s so much more flattering than typical sweatshirts. Still, it’s a simple grey sweatshirt, so it has an unfussy, effortless quality. For reference, I’m wearing a medium for a more fitted look.

MeganPAN-5

Just like with their t-shirts, PAN donates five textbooks to underserved schools with the purchase of every sweatshirt. Plus, all of their clothing is ethically produced in a vetted factory in China. I love that my purchase supports fair wage employment and quality education for students all over the world.

MeganPAN-7 (1)

I can’t think of any of my friends who wouldn’t love to receive this sweatshirt as a Christmas gift. If you’re still trying to decide what to get your sister-in-law or your roommate, I think this is a great option! It’s ethical, it’s stylish, and it’s super comfy.

I have a few ideas for styling this sweatshirt with some of my dresses during Dressember, so be sure to follow my Instagram to see how it goes!

 

Necklace | The Giving Keys

Jeans | Just Black Denim

Shoes | TOMS

Location | Intelligentsia Coffee

Photographers | Joyetic

10 Fair Trade Dresses for Dressember

Dressember is approaching quickly! For the entire month of December I’ll be wearing a dress every day and posting a picture to my Instagram in order to raise awareness about human trafficking, and to raise money to help combat modern day slavery.

While working to help eradicate slavery, I also want to support fair trade clothing companies, rather than pour more money into companies who exploit their workers (sadly, this includes most of our favorite brands. For more info, see here). Instead, I’ve rounded up ten beautiful dresses that I would love to wear during Dressember, all manufactured by ethical clothing companies.

Albion Dress

I am a sucker for stripes. They are so versatile during Dressember–I pair them with jean jackets, floral scarves, even plaid. I’m definitely going to purchase this adorable long sleeved dress from Albion for $78. I have two pairs of super cute leggings and a swimsuit from Albion, a fair trade company that produces some of the most Instagram-worthy pieces I’ve seen. If you’re in Salt Lake you can visit their store in person (lucky you!).

Albion Dress 2

Yellow is my color. I love a good mustard yellow sweater or dress, and this one, also by Albion for $68, is gorgeous. It looks so cozy for fall and winter.

Bead & Reel Dress

Bead and Reel carry so many items on my splurge wish list. They are a great source for ethical and female-owned companies. This beautiful wrap dress by Symbology is such a statement piece. It’s an investment at $168, but I imagine that the forgiving cut would allow you to wear this dress through maternity and nursing.

Dressember Dress

I’m planning on purchasing this simple but elegant olive dress at the Dressember party this week. It is manufactured in a fair trade factory in Nepal, and it was designed specifically for us “Dressemberists” by Brit Moore Gilmore of The Giving Keys. This dress is $60.

Everlane dress

Everlane is a great resource for ethical, work appropriate clothing. All of their designs are sleek, modern and simple. I love the stripes on this crisp dress for $75, and they have plenty of other dresses I’m eyeing!

Krochet Kids Dress

This burgundy shade is my favorite for winter, so I’ve been checking out this casual t-shirt dress from Krochet Kids. At $54 it’s the most affordable dress on my list, and I’m already picturing it with black leggings, a jean jacket, and brown boots.

Mata Dress 3.png

I love everything about this yellow plaid shift dress from Mata Traders. I literally want to style it exactly like the model and then go play in a field! This one is $89.

Mata Dress 2

Another option from Mata Traders is this blue ikat shift dress. This dress is so timeless and would be perfect for teaching. It is $98 and manufactured at a fair trade women’s cooperative in India.

People Tree Dress

This sleek black dress is such a staple piece in an ethical wardrobe. It’s $115 from People Tree, an amazing company out of the UK. I ordered a dress from them last year and I had to talk with my credit card company to approve the purchase since it was outside of the United States. It shipped surprisingly quickly, and I’m actually wearing the dress I purchased right now as I type!

Elegantees Dress

I can never have enough black dresses, and I particularly love dresses that are slim on top and then float away at the waist. The neckline on this swing dress from Elegantees is so flattering and feminine. I recently purchased a different dress from Elegantees and tried two different sizes before ultimately returning it since it did not quite fit my body type. Their customer service is fantastic, and shipping was free both ways. I’m going to order this one for $78 to replace my first purchase since I still want to support the company, and I know that my purchase directly supports women in Nepal who have been rescued from human trafficking.

I like to remind my readers that rather than focusing solely on finding good deals, my aim is to find quality, beautiful pieces by companies that respect both their employees and the planet. I buy much less clothing than I used to, but I often pay more per item than I was accustomed to paying before I started purchasing fair trade clothing. The transition takes some getting used to, but know that there is a reason that these dresses cost more than the cheap, fast-fashion dresses at the mall.

I hope that you’ll join me in doing Dressember this year, and that you’ll consider wearing a fair trade dress. Please tag me on Instagram if you end up rocking any of these dresses! Happy Dressember to you!

My Dressember Fundraising Page

Vegan Black Leather Jacket

brevity1.jpg

Every woman needs a sleek, well-fitting black leather jacket to wear with skinny jeans and a t-shirt, or draped over a dress for a night out. Black leather jackets are so versatile, effortless, and they instantly make your look so much cooler. In this case, the jacket is vegan leather, which is even better!

Brevity’s  Do Anything Jacket is the most comfortable jacket I own. It’s made of soft, vegan leather, and it molds to your body like it was custom made. With a slight lift in the back and expertly placed darting and paneling, it is so slimming and flattering. I usually have a hard time finding jackets that don’t overwhelm my narrow shoulders, but this jacket fits me perfectly.

IMG_3290.JPG

I began my journey to build a wardrobe comprised of only fair trade clothing, or clothing made in the United States about a year ago, and one of the first places I looked was Kickstarter. I found so many amazing small companies looking for help financing ethical, beautiful products. These designers took care to produce their products sustainably and with great respect for the humans making them, so it was more difficult to find investors than it would be for many “fast fashion” retailers.

I found Brevity’s Kickstarter campaign through a Facebook friend and immediately fell in love with both their product and their mission. As you can see, the jacket is gorgeous. It is also produced in a women-owned factory in San Francisco, CA. The owner is a young woman who wanted to create a polished jacket that looked professional, but felt like leisure wear. She knew that women needed a sleek jacket that could take them from coffee with a friend, to campus, to a business meeting, to a night out.

brevity4.jpg

I immediately donated to the Kickstarter campaign, and when I received my Do Anything Jacket I filmed an unboxing video for my YouTube channel. This piece was one of my first steps toward investing in a more ethical, sustainable wardrobe. I love that it is vegan, and it supports female business owners and employees. I’m so glad that the weather is finally cooling down in Southern California so that I can wear it everywhere!

It’s just as comfortable as a hoodie, but infinitely cooler. It completely elevates my look every time I wear it with a more casual outfit, and I recently wore it to a wedding with a fancier dress. It was perfect to throw on during the outdoor reception. I love the classic look of this black jacket, and now it’s also available in a light grey and blush pink.

brevity2

My friend who got married was the Facebook friend who had shared the Brevity Kickstarter campaign. The owner and designer of Brevity, Dara Elliott, was a bridesmaid in the wedding, so I actually got to meet her! I was so excited to take a picture with her in my jacket, and I loved hearing from her first hand about the company and the production. She is an incredible businesswoman and I’m so impressed by how she runs her company and produces her amazing pieces.

Check out her gorgeous jackets from Brevity Brand and definitely put one on your Christmas wish list!

My Favorite Fair Trade T-shirts

MeganPAN-34.jpg

Sometimes several of your passions collide into one super, amazing, jumbo passion. Like Hamilton, for example. I remember showing Lin-Manuel Miranda’s White House performance to my 8th graders a few years ago and explaining Hamilton the Musical and one kid said, “Wow, it’s all of your passions in one thing: history, hip hop and musical theater.” Truer words were never spoken, kid. (And he totally got an A).

Anyway, I just found my t-shirt version of Hamilton. Pan Clothing makes fair trade, totally cute t-shirts, and donates five textbooks to classrooms in need for every product sold. Ethical business, relaxed style and support for education all in one!

MeganPAN-22.jpg

Pan Clothing was founded last year by two college students who have a heart for overseas service missions. Jacky and Tanner helped to build schools in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, but as they spent time with the teachers and principals, they realized that some classrooms literally only had access to one textbook. They wanted to do their part to support literacy and education in these schools, so they started a t-shirt company with a mission to donate five textbooks for every piece of clothing sold.

They also make men’s t-shirts, but I’m obsessed with their women’s line. These shirts are soft, comfy, and come in three muted, wearable colors. They have a scoop neck, a pocket detail, and they are cut slightly longer in the back. They are perfect everyday t-shirts, and they’ve become weekend staples for me.

MeganPAN-36.jpg

My favorite thing about Pan Clothing is that even though they are a small, startup company, run by two friends who are still in college, they made a commitment to producing their clothing ethically. I had the opportunity to speak with Jacky and Tanner personally, and they told me that they researched Patagonia’s manufacturers and built relationships with some of the same factories. The teacher in me was thinking, “What great problem solving skills! They refused to be limited by the fact that they were a new company and used established businesses’ models as a template for their own business.” They get an A also. 😉

Another impressive aspect of their company is that these t-shirts are only $24. I’ve been getting pretty deep into the fair trade fashion world recently and I don’t think I’ve EVER come across a $24 fair trade t-shirt. Not only are you getting an affordable, ethical t-shirt for $24, but you are also donating five textbooks to a classroom in need with your purchase. Just a win-win-win all around.

MeganPAN-13.jpg

To incorporate yet another of my passions, Jacky and Tanner also have a vlog channel where you can follow along with their travel adventures and see your dollars in action as they bring textbooks to schools around the world. It’s amazing.

I definitely encourage you to order a t-shirt or two for yourself, but you also have the opportunity to win a gift card to Pan over on my Instagram. Follow my account, Pan Clothing, and let us know in a comment where you would like to travel next. Tag the friend you want to travel with! Best of luck to you on the giveaway–now I’m going to go listen to the Hamilton soundtrack…

 

 

*I am not being sponsored by Pan Clothing. They graciously gave me clothing to try, and I genuinely love and support their products and mission! As always, all opinions and reviews are my own.

 

Necklace by The Giving Keys (another ethical company that I love)

Photography by Joyetic (a husband and wife photography team who also strive to be ethical consumers)

(Check out my YouTube video about Pan Clothing!)

My Favorite Teacher Shoes Ever

I know I just wrote a post about teacher shoes, but I’m doing it again because this is a very important topic! Like, we should have professional development days dedicated to effective educator footwear. I’d show up for that.

And these are my actual favorite teacher shoes. Ever.

MeganPAN-11

I’ve been wearing Toms ever since I started running after school programs seven years ago. I wore a pair of grey wedges (similar) every single day with jeans and my YMCA t-shirt and they were perfectly comfortable even during activities and games. I wore a black pair (similar) nearly every day during my first year of teaching, and I’ve owned two pairs of the strappy version as well. All together I’ve had about seven pairs of Toms, but I’ve actually never owned the classic alpargatas (I had to look up the official term!). They are so comfortable that I rarely feel the need to venture out to other brands.

I went on the Toms website to look for another pair of the black wedges that I loved so much, but I was drawn in by these black leather heeled sandals. They sold out a couple of times while I was trying to decide whether or not to order them, so the next time they were in stock I jumped at my opportunity! I’m sorry to report that at the time I am publishing this they are sold out again. This pair is similar, and I’m considering getting them in another color.

FullSizeRender (3)

For me, wedges and shoes with a block heel are more comfortable than flats. I also love that they give me a little bit of height, and they make me feel slightly more dressed up. The ones here are particularly comfortable since the leather forms so well to my foot, and the open toe ensures that there is no rubbing or pinching. Today I wore them all day while teaching and then taking care of Jenson and I didn’t even remember to take them off until about 7pm. Twelve hours in and they were still feeling great.

MeganPAN-31

You are probably already familiar with the Toms mission to give away a pair of shoes for every pair sold. They also provide vision services, access to clean water, safer birth resources, and they donate to causes to prevent bullying. Production-wise, they produce one-third of their shoes in the regions where they give them. They have factories in Ethiopia, Kenya and India, and they also employ and equal ratio of men to women. I’m happy to incorporate their products into my increasingly ethical and sustainable wardrobe.

These black heeled sandals are hereby declared my official teacher shoes of the 2017-18 school year. What are yours?

Black jacket

Denim

T-shirt

Necklace

Photography

Tieks Review: The Best Teacher Flats?

The number one most-hyped teacher fashion item has got to be Tieks flats. If you spend fifteen seconds on Pinterest looking for anything teaching related, you will definitely see an image of a beautiful rainbow assortment of ballet flats somewhere in your feed.

I’ve had my eye on a pair for a few years now, but they’re quite pricey (some will set you back over $200). One of my teacher BFFs bought these chestnut beauties a few months ago though, and they looked so cute on her that I just had to try them! Here are a few of my thoughts on my Tieks:

MeganForbes-22

The packaging they arrive in is GORGEOUS. I’m a sucker for packaging.

They are only available in full sizes. I usually wear a 7 1/2. The website suggests sizing down since the leather stretches, so I bought a size 7. I wore them around the apartment for about an hour and they felt way too small, so I thought I would try an 8. Tieks sent me the 8 right away so that I could compare the two sizes, and then I sent the size 7 back. I was happy with the larger size and with the customer service on the exchange.

They are very comfortable. At this point in my life I have worn too many cheap, uncomfortable pairs of flats and I’m just not doing it anymore. I would rather invest more money in a quality pair that doesn’t give me blisters or pain in my arches. They are the kind of shoes that you just don’t really have to think about. Sometimes after a day of teaching I can’t wait to get home and kick off my shoes, but I haven’t felt that way with my Tieks.

MeganForbes-21

They ARE really great for teachers. We have to stand on our feet for most of the day, plus we have to maneuver around roller backpacks and lunch boxes and then climb on a chair to hang the top row of student work on a bulletin board. These are perfect shoes for the that. I wouldn’t choose to wear mine on a long outdoor hike, and they aren’t well-suited for cold weather, but they are great as a casual, indoor, comfortable, classroom flat.

They look cute! I remember loving the little black flats that Cinderella slips into before she goes to feed the animals, and these simple flats remind me of that. I copied my friend and ordered the neutral chestnut pair, but another teacher friend of mine ordered the gorgeous rose gold pair, and I love this printed leopard pair. The teal sole is also totally adorable.

Lastly, I was under the impression that Tieks were made in the US, but from what I can now tell, only the last stage of assembly is done in Los Angeles. They contribute to a women’s empowerment fund called Kiva, but do not claim to be a fair trade company. I consider these an investment piece (they are the most expensive pair shoes I own!) and I will incorporate them into my increasingly fair trade and American-made wardrobe.

However, I am interested in trying out other boutique flats companies that have a stronger mission and purpose. Rothy’s are made from recycled plastic and are slightly less expensive than Tieks, Oka-B flats are made in the state of Georgia, recyclable and affordable, and The Root Collective has gorgeous fair trade flats. I’d like to try give one of these companies a try the next time I’m in need of a pair of teacher flats.