Setting the Stage

Setting, it’s so much more than time and place. It is the stage on which the story is set. Tonight as I settled into a new book The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell, I was struck by the resemblance of the map to that of another story. It just so happens that this story is set in almost the exact location of Chains by Laurie Halls Anderson, of which I did as a Novel study my 8th grade class. 

Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal, but today as I took down the projects from my classroom walls in preparation to leave my current teaching site, I started to snap pics of the amazing setting projects my students completed this year. I chose to focus on setting as a major factor and influence of theme in a novel and was blown away by the depth of understanding gained and demonstrated by my students. After teaching for 10 years I felt as though I was finally able to crack the code that is understanding theme in a novel with my class. 

I also realized my sincere appreciation for maps in novels and the pains taken by young adult authors to really set the stage for our readers. I’ve been to so many wonderful places through this years reading; from the Stilts of Red Queen to the digital world of Warcross. Thank you authors for realizing the significance of time and place and giving us so many wonderful places to escape!


Lit Circles with Google Classroom

As I was preparing to embark on our next unit of Literature Circles, I started to think about how this would be different than the last time I taught novels through literature circles. First of all, the kids at my current school actually read the books….not so much when I last taught middle school. My school and district are Google and we have one- to one devices. As much as I feel the need to balance technology and traditional learning, I new I wanted to put a new spin on this stale method of novel exploration. I began to research “Lit Circles in Google Classroom”. Aside from a few snippets here and there I came up short. It seemed as though most people adapted the old packets of “Word Wizard” and “Discussion Director” and made them Google Friendly. This was not what I wanted, so here is what I decided to go with….

1. I read all the books. I wanted to make sure that I could jump into any conversation (virtual or real) at any point and feel comfortable.

2. My grade level team put together a “Book Pass” in which students preview a series of books, ranking by interest and difficulty level.

3. Students completed a Google Form ranking their Lit Circle book preferences and their “hard no” books. I feel that giving them the opportunity to say no to some books helps them feel they are relevant.

4. From the survey, I was able to create “Lit Circle Groups”. I was able to give every student their first, second, or third choice. This was also an opportunity to have a “silent say” in who worked with who throughout the coming unit.
5. Creating shared “Live Doc’s”. This was probably the most time consuming part, but I am already seeing the fruits of my labor. I created a Google Doc for each lit circle group. I used the group feature (using the drop down to select specific students) on Google Classroom to share the doc with ONLY the students in the pre-determined group. Instead of making the doc “copy for each student” or “read only”, I allowed editing access for all students in the group. We reviewed the coolness of revision history and discussed that we would be good scholars and not change/ delete the work of our group mates.

6. Practice. We practiced using the “Live Doc” to communicate within our group. My weekly requirement as of today is:

Each student must generate a response to the text, using Author’s Craft as a focus. In addition to their initial response, they are required to answer any questions on or about their post and respond to two others.

We are on day one and students are posting and commenting. Teacher Heart Happy!! I am loving that I can check on them in real- time, see who is reading and see how they are connecting to the text.

Setting Project

This past week I was selected as one of the lucky teachers to receive an eval by my administration. After ten years of teaching, I have learned that these come with the territory and that it’s best to just go with the flow. When I was younger, without kids, and eager to be the best I strived to put on the “dog and pony show” for all evaluations and observations. Over time, I have learned the value in letting observers and evaluators to see the “real teacher” with “real students” doing a “real lesson”.

Now that I work part time (two periods of 8th grade English), I tend to go with the flow of my grade level and somewhere lost the “me” in my lesson planning. I was caught up in staying with the group, even through I was missing out on the day to day hallway collaboration that helped with the “group flow”. After a pre-evaluation meeting with my admin, I decided it was time to find myself in what and how I was teaching.

I couldn’t have been more happy with the results! I was able to pull together a greta lesson on the importance of setting and its impact on conflict and theme in a novel. As I was building the lesson, I had the great fortune to be finishing and starting two lessons that really helped me develop a rationale and understanding that made this lesson accessible to my students. A week later and my students are actively engaged in a project that I designed on a whim, I received glowing feedback from admin and the students are pulling ideas from the text and making connections I couldn’t have possibly anticipated.

In the fast-paced world of teaching, collaboration, and unit design, sometimes its important to throw caution to the wind and be you!

Back to School

Last year, I looked longingly at all the back to school posts from my teacher friends.  For the first time in my life…I wasn’t doing the back to school preparations.  I knew I was fortunate to have the choice to stay home with our kids, but at the same time I was sad.  I missed all the back to school things: classroom decorating, lesson planning, buying new school supplies….all the pens and planners.  I was able to accomplish a lot in the past year and help me kids grow!

Fast forward one year and guess what…I am going back to school!  I realized I needed the   routines that come with teaching again!  I found the perfect part-time job that let me be a teacher and a mom.  I am fortunate to have walked on to a great team at a great school and to be honest…I feel a little guilty that I get paid for teaching these kids!

Woo Hoo for a new school year and a new job! Harry Potter for the Win!IMG_0098


Work Lunch

What I miss most about being a stay at home mom is a “work lunch”.  Every day my husband calls on his lunch and he’s always doing things like… taking a scenic drive through the hills, grabbing lunch with a co-worker and even just sitting his car watching YouTube. I’m jealous…. my lunches consist of shoving down whatever is easiest, snacking on the remains of a three-year olds discarded lunch, or a lunch date with a three-year-old who prefers my phone to me! I kiss the days when I could lock the door to my classroom, turn on some music and just chill!! There are lots of perks to being a stay at home mom, but I miss my “work lunch”! I would love to hear your thoughts… what do you miss about work… what is your favorite way to “lunch”.  #worklunch #sahm #arbonnefizzismyfuel

Teacher Things

For the past few months I have been writing content for an Ed Tech company.   Great company…super fun creating activities and seeing them come to life.They are doing some amazing things for education and I cannot wait to see them implemented in classrooms around the world. Kudos to those school districts making Educational Technology a priority and purchasing the software and hardware needed to make all types of 21st century learning available to their students.  The possibilities are endless.

My work with content/curriculum has inspired me to continue with my creative outlets and create lessons for Teachers Pay Teachers.  After researching and researching and yep- researching….I have finally begun to develop a few lessons.  I must say I was amazed at what I was able to create using free tutorials and resources! Thank goodness for Pinterest.  Here is a peek of what I have been working on…be sure to check out my Teachers Pay Teachers store when it is up and running!

From Lesson Plans to Tutus and Tantrums

IMG_0055Hi! Welcome to my journey on the Mom Life.  My name is Tristen and I am a former teacher, retired after only nine fun-filled years in the classroom. My husbands job relocated our little family from our hometown to the East Bay of CA. We left grams and aunties, friends and coworkers for a little community in the hills.  So far so good. We’re making new friends and getting involved.  Staying home with the kids has opened my eyes to the challenges of parenting…you know the stuff the grams used to do!!!  Join me on this adventure called Mom Life.