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A New Year: A New Beginning

What a great year of teaching ideas! New for the 2009-2010 school year, be sure to check out Stacey Burt and all the teacher advisors at Classroom Solutions for more tips and teaching strategies from real teachers.

You’ll find lots of videos, photo slideshows, and quick-to-implement teaching ideas. Come check it out and leave a comment. We’ll be glad to see you there.

Final Blog

This is my last blog for Scholastic. It has been an amazing year! I would like to thank Kathy Walsh for the opportunity. I thank Linda Southworth for all of her advice and hard work.  Linda is an amazing writer! I would like to thank my school, Greenway Middle School in Phoenix, Arizona, for their support throughout the year. I appreciate my principal, Jesse Acosta, for allowing me to take on this extra load this year. I especially want to thank two of my colleagues that have helped me SO much this year with my posted lesson plans and blogs: Ralph Carnesi and Bryan Smith. You have both been so kind, understanding, and professional-I thank you from the bottom of my heart!

I appreciate the hard work that the other teacher advisors put forth this year, as well. You are an amazing group of teachers and it's been a pleasure working with you this year. 

On a personal note, I have 2 exciting events coming up: first, I am waiting each day on the birth of my granddaughter in Arkansas. I am hoping my flight will get me there in time to witness her birth.  Secondly, my grandson in California is due August 4th. So I will spend my summer rocking babies! 

I hope all of you have a restful summer and enjoy some quality time with your families. I wish you all the best! 

End of School

I'm finishing up my grades for my six classes. We are taking our final test this week. Each year, I make notes on what I would like to do differently next year, or suggestions on how a lesson could be improved. I either place those notes inside my planner or I tape them inside my cabinet. If it's a suggestion that I need to work on during the summer, I take it home with me. It's also time to clean my office and my classroom. I have to take some personal items home for the summer, since there will be workers in our classrooms. I usually cover my bookshelves, but with the budget issues, I will not use up our butcher paper this year. I have already added new posters to my walls for next year. 

I tried a new strategy this year  for equally calling on my students either to read or to answer questions. I typed a list of my students for each class, down the left side of the paper. When I call on a student, I either write the first letter of the day, or I draw a symbol:triangle, circle, star, etc. That way I can keep up with who I call on in each class. I really don't want to depend on my memory! That way all my students, boys and girls, get called on equally. Since I am a reading teacher, I am assured to hear every student in my class read orally each week. I really like this strategy.

I wanted to find something unusual to do with my students. I remember back in middle school (we called it junior high),  I had a coach for social studies that was always putting trick questions on our tests. One time, he handed us a paper and we started on #1 and had to yell our name, and jump up and down, etc. until we got to #15 that stated all we had to do was put our name on our paper. You were suppose to read all the directions before starting. I thought if I remembered that for 38 years, I would try to find a similar paper. Thanks to the internet, I found 2 interesting papers. I hope you will try at least one of them.

This has been an amazing year. I will be blogging my final time next week. 

Interesting Websites

Now that the end of the year is approaching, I thought you might want to look at some interesting websites.The first one is for those of you that work with ESL or beginner readers. You can get a free list of the 300 instant words everyone needs to know.

2. This is to help you teach life skills and character in middle school:

3. This website has some interesting suggestions for some fun projects for the last weeks of school. Look for the Grades 6-8 tab.

4. The last one is a site where educators can create, edit, and share classroom resources and lesson content. This one is a scholastic site.

I hope these websites will help you. 

Community Night

Thursday, April 30th, from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., we had Community Night at our school. This is the night we encourage our students to bring their families and neighbors to our school to see what Greenway has to offer. We display our students' work in our rooms and have a schedule of events for the evening. We also auctioned off themed gift baskets to raise money for a new school sign.    

  I am including our schedule for you to view:

Here are a few pictures from the event:

Team SCC: Pic. 1-pick a pop   2. Ms. Bradley and student  3.Mr. Carnesi displaying a student's literary term visual dictionary  4. Ms. Rosales 5. Student's Amusement Parks

Team NAU: 1 and 2- teachers enjoying the FREE Starbuck's coffee


Team ASU: 1-Mr. Saragosa playing soccer   2-Mrs. Saragosa and the cupcake walk  3. Flor painting Ms. Ford's daughter's face-Mia Isabella   4. Students on the cupcake walk
ASU1 ASU2  ASU4 Cupcake

Team PVCC:  Ms. Ricio demonstrating how to hula hoop

Team YCC: 1.-Ms. Fainkujen shows Mr. Skowronski how to race in Wii   2. Ms. Mastropolo beats a student at Wii  3. Ms. Debow's granddaughter, Alejandra, almost makes it to the finish line   4. Sack races were fun!

Team ASU West:1. Ms. Herrera, camera shy, in front of her ELL Wheel of Fortune 2. student's work  3. Ms. Shen ready for visitors

Team U of A: Ms. Retts talking about CPR


Art: Ms. Shultz demonstrating her pottery skills


Culinary Arts: 1. Mr. Apostolides serving hamburgers    2. Students selling snowcones

Tech Lab: Mr. Doyle and students were launching rockets

Choir: Ms. Bustos and her choir performed


Our lovely office secretaries who were in charge of the basket auction: Irma Luna and Alice Jimenez


Students enjoying the evening:

Samples of student's work


Finally: why we have Community Night....A FUTURE GREENWAY STUDENT


Cinco De Mayo

 Cinco de Mayo (Spanish for 5th of May) is a regional holiday in Mexico. If you would like to discuss the history with your students, here are a few sites:










Some activity sheets you can use, go to these sites:







Here are some suggestions:

1. Have your students research Cinco de Mayo and write 10 questions each. You could then choose at least 25 good questions and have the students in each of your classes answer all the questions by researching online. 

2. Allow your students to draw and color the Mexican flag. 

3. They could write if and how they are going to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.

4. They could make a collage of ads, pictures, etc. of Cinco de Mayo that they find in newspapers.


I hope your students enjoy celebrating Cinco de Mayo.

Earth Day

Wednesday, April 22, is Earth Day. To read about the history of Earth Day, go to this site:

These are some interesting websites for Earth Day activities:












A good movie to watch:

Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth, the 2007 Academy award winner for best documentary film. This film highlights the effects of global warming on our planet.

More websites:








Websites to make puzzles:











Scholastic websites for Earth Day:


 A list of books you can use for Earth Day:




 Your kids can vote on Scholastic's Environmental Report Card:


I hope you enjoy sharing Earth Day activities with your students. If you have more interesting websites or ideas, please email me at sblair@pvschools.net and I will add them to this blog. Thanks!



Fun Day

Last year, we had the Fun Day before our AIMS testing to pump up the kids. This year, we decided to have it as an award, after the AIMS testing was finished.


Our students are divided into teams. The teams are the names of our colleges in Arizona. For Fun Day, the teams rotate from station to station.


In the morning, our students attend all of their classes for a shorter period of time. After we  have our 2 lunch periods at an earlier time, we begin  the Fun Day rotations.


Our two coaches, Shani Kmetko and Chris Hannah, really help organize the rotations. Also, our testing coordinator, Cristal Bradley did all the scheduling. We have 5 physical activities and one rotation is a 25 minute cartoon video. We have 2 elective teachers at each station who are in charge of keeping that station up and running and helping the core teachers organize their students. Each student on each team has to sign up for 2 events. We do not give prizes. They earn the right to attend Fun Day by working hard and behaving during the 5 days of testing.

I am attaching our schedules so you will have an idea how to plan a fun day or a field day at your school.

Download FUN DAY 3 

Download Aims-fun-day-schedule-2-2 

Download FunDay.Sign-ups 2 


We encourage the students to wear sunscreen, hats and bring bottled water. 

CoachKmetko        CoachHannah      Basketball      Kickball     Soccer      Tugofwar      Movie     Volleyball

Picture 1: Coach Kmetko     Pic 2: Coach Hannah    Pic 3: Basketball   Pic 4: kickball  Pic 5: soccer   Pic 6: tug of war    Pic 7: movie    Pic 8: volleyball

Next year, we will have our rotations in the morning. It got a little "warm" during the afternoon.

Math Hunt

I received my monthly Scholastic Teacher Update, grades 6-8. Make sure to get on their mailing list. You can find lots of valuable teaching resources. If you do not receive this, click on the following:   


This month I found a game called Math Hunt. Even though I do not teach math, what grabbed my attention was this description: Send your students out on fact-finding missions that test math skills, provide practice researching on the Web, and boost reading comprehension.  I'm always looking for ways to boost my students' reading comprehension. So I first read the overview in the Teacher's Guide and then the General Objectives. Next, I actually clicked on the game and selected a topic and played. If you don't know the answer, you can click on Hunt for the Answers, which will send you to a different area where you can find the answers or at least find clues to help you figure out the answers. It is really a great way to motivate your students with a cross-curricular activity. My students were challenged playing this game.  I hope your students will enjoy it, as well.
This is the website to go directly to the game:


Wilson Reading

Photo 27 I asked one of my colleagues, Patti Mastropolo, to share with you her curriculum at our school. She uses the Wilson Reading Program. 

              Hello, my name is Patricia Mastropolo. I have been teaching at Greenway Middle School for 4 years. I am originally from Rutherford, New Jersey and started my teaching career in the Bronx, NY. I graduated Arizona State University and completed a Master's in Education from Walden University. I have three dogs, Igby (chihuahua) Sonny (French Bulldog) and Bella (Carolina dog). Some of my interests are: traveling, reading, volunteering, fashion/beauty and spending time with friends and my family!

IMG_0034              The Wilson Reading Program is extremely structured and instructed in small settings. Students will study the structure and science of the English Language to develop their own reading skills.


              The Wilson Reading Program addresses the areas of:


            1. The sound and symbol relationships of the English alphabet

            2. Decoding

            3. Spelling

            4. Vocabulary Development

            5. Sight Word Instruction

            6. Comprehension

            7. Fluency

                       The reading lessons are designed systematically, directly, and employ the use of multiple senses. The lessons progress in difficulty as each reading level is achieved.

                           Vocabulary is very important and we follow a certain formula in our Wilson class.

                         Step 1: Read and write vocabulary word.

                         Step 2: Find meaning/define.

                         Step 3: Make a well-structured sentence using the vocabulary word.

                        Step 4: Draw a picture of the word or a picture of the vocabulary word used in a sentence.

                        Step 5: Invent a physical sign/movement demonstrating the vocabulary word.

Photo 21Photo 26Photo 27Photo 31Photo 33

The Wilson Reading System is a research-based reading and writing program designed for students (grades 2-12 and adults) who have difficulty with decoding (reading) and encoding (spelling). It is a complete curriculum that has 12 steps, beginning with phoneme segmentation. Its main goal is to teach students language and word structure through a carefully planned program. The program was developed in Massachusetts in the 1980s by Barbara A. Wilson, based on knowledge gained from working with adults with dyslexia using Orton-Gillingham methodology at Massachusetts General Hospital's Language Disorders Unit, and with students in an after-school reading clinic founded with her husband, Ed Wilson. The Wilson Reading System, published in 1989, is now commonly used in various settings throughout the United States and several other countries.

For additional information, go to the website:  www.wilsonlanguage.com



Read 180

You may think it's too late, but it's not. The deadline for entering your Read 180 students in the Read 180 All Star's is March 16th. I am still in the process of entering 7 of my students. Everything is completed online. The student will have to write a paper (75 words minimum) about what Read 180 means to them. The student's parents will have to sign a parental form that you can fax to Scholastic. You have to download their SRI growth chart and a picture of them. I am still in the processing of taking their pictures today. You will also have to write about each of your students. 

The only problem I am having is downloading their pictures. Apparently my pictures are too big. I'm waiting on my tech guy to come help me. So hopefully I will finish today. 

If you are interested, do the following:
1. Go to this website:   http://teacher.scholastic.com/products/read180/community/honorsawards/
2. You will need to check your SRI's and see who has gained over 150 lexile points.
3. Send parental permission forms home with them and tell them to write a paper about what Read 180 means to them.
4. You will need to follow the online process and fill in all the information. 
5. If one of your students is chosen, they will receive a check for $1200.00. You will receive $1000 worth of Scholastic products.

If one of your students win, please let me know. Good Luck!!

Also, next week I am on Spring Break-so no blog next week. 

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Inside Sandra's Middle School Classroom are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.