Thursday, December 29, 2016

Managing Discipline in the Middle School Classroom

I have been teaching for 5 years now . I've had anywhere between 120-150 students per school year, 6 classes per year. Each of those years, each of those classes have had a different personality. It feels like I'm constantly struggling to reinvent the wheel when it comes to my classroom management.

I have been done it all. I've given them freedoms, revoked those freedoms, I've started off strict and then loosened up. I've started off friendly and nice and gotten mean. I've yelled. I've called home to parents, referred them to counselors, I've had one-on-one meetings with them about choices, lunch detentions, after school detentions, referrals, everything.

I've talked to teachers with 30+ years of experience, scrounged Pinterest for ideas. Incentives, consequences, positive reinforcements, free days, textbook days.


I feel like no matter how many years of classroom teaching experience I get, managing behavior is going to be something everyone struggles with, unless they're some kind of wizard. The nature of the kids is constantly changing, because their expectations are changing. The way their parents set examples for them changes.

Our President-Elect sets the example that to be a bully is to be presidential. To insult people based on the way the look is to be presidential. So how can we expect our children to not follow by the example their are given?

Working with students who are between 11-14 years old is TOUGH. These kids are still struggling to figure our where they fit in their world. They've just learned how to push boundaries and are wanting to experiment to find out just how much they can do.

I work with 7th graders. The middle children. They're no longer bright and shiny 6th graders, still scared of their brand new environment, running to get from class to class, believing every single empty threat their teachers tell them. They're not yet top dog 8th graders, above it all, bored and ready to leave to high school. 7th graders are a unique group of kids because they are in the middle of the middle, and figuring out what they can get away with.

In a world where digital everything rules, this is a more accessible approach to paper documentation. It does require some set-up, but as soon as I pick these little notepads up, a hush falls over the room.

These are a variation of my campuses official Discipline Documentation Forms, just condensed, user-friendly, and easier to understand. They're technically the same thing.

So, on yellow paper, I print the warning. The message conveyed here is "I've already warned you to stop doing what you're doing, you've kept it up so you're getting an official warning. Continue and you'll get a DDF and detention/call home". I keep them both near me and if a class is being particularly unruly, I'll carry them around in my hands. Both require the student to fill out their offense and turn in to me, where I keep them stored.

For my classes, the yellow warnings reset every day, the red ones accrue over a 6 weeks period. 4 red ones will result in an Office Referral. On the back I write detailed explanation of what happened when I have time.

I print 4 copies per page, then cut them using a paper cutter, line up the edges, clip them with binder clips, and add Elmer's liquid glue and let them sit for a day. Once the glue is dry, they're little notepads. Check out my tutorial here.

To download my template for both forms, visit my TpT store here.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

New Personal Blog:

Hi, everyone! It's been an absolute whirlwind since I last posted in here.

I wanted to create a new personal blog where I can write about Momming, crafting, living, and loving. I feel like the tone of OMST has always been more about #teachering than personal, so it just felt right to start again.

If you're interested, feel free to follow me at:


Friday, May 29, 2015

New Followers

I've noticed an influx in followers from Bloglovin'. I have been such a terrible blogger, in that I basically stopped posting months ago, but that's because teaching sucks so much energy out of me. Not only that but,
We're expecting!

Baby is due August 1st, right around the start of the school year, and prepping for her arrival and teaching and maintaining a relationship with my husband and family and friends takes up so much time. Not only that, but the last thing I want to do on my time off is talk about work on the internet. 

These things happen. 

Be that as it may, I'm sure my posting frequency will once again increase through the summer. I have a history of restless boredom during off time and feel the need to start planning for the next year a couple weeks into summer. 

I'm still selling actively on my TeachersPayTeachers account. There's some new stuff up there, too. 
2. First Day of School Stuff & Misc Posters $5, Includes 20 pages of 13 documents, 
Included are the following:
  1. 1. Student Information Sheet (PDF & Editable)
  2. 2. Five Minute Quiz (PDF only) Test your students' ability to read and follow all directions prior to beginning an assignment. 
  3. 3. Student Technology Use Permission Form (Editable) Get parent permission for student technology use in the classroom, including following your classroom social media accounts. 
  4. 4. Student Technology Questionnaire (PDF) Poll your students early in the year to see what access to technology they have on them or at home. 
  5. 5. Table of Contents (PDF) PDF of a TOC for classroom notebooks/journal. 
  6. 6. ISN Rubric (PDF) Grading rubric for a student ISN or classroom notebook/journal. 
  7. 7. Detention Sign In Log(PDF) Keep track of your kids for detention!
  8. 8. Detention Letter (PDF) Ever wonder what to have your kids even do during detention? This document will help you. 
  9. 9. 3 Week Bell Ringer Answer Sheet (PDF)
  10. 10. GrumpyCat Teacher Poster "This is what I look like when you talk while I'm talking"
  11. 11. 4 Silent Hand Signals (Locker, Water, Restroom) Teach your students to use hand signals instead of interrupting the class. 
  12. 12. Classroom Posters Fairness, Science of a Student, Work Hard and be Nice, Diagrams Rubric
  13. 13. Scientific Meme-method

So, there it is. Have fun, y'all! Enjoy your summer. :)

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

I am so. freaking. tired

Hi reader(s)!

It's been quite some time since I've updated over here, and it's mostly due to the fact that I am so incredibly busy & worn out, that on my off-time the last thing I want to do is to talk or write about work.

Most of my evenings and weekends are filled with staying in pajamas, napping periodically, watching a combination of appleTV, Netflix, and Hulu+. I've given up on all hobbies.

It has been such a busy year. Right now we're benchmarking for the upcoming STAAR tests, and I'm avoiding grading.

We have approximately 3 months until the end of the school year, with only 2 more breaks: Spring Break and then a Friday off for Easter. The summer cannot come sooner.

We have a crazy summer to look forward to. I'm so thrilled to share that I am currently 4 months pregnant, and we will be expecting our new little addition July 31st. The last Friday of school, I will be 30 weeks pregnant, which will allow my last 10 weeks to be off and prepping for baby. After baby is born, I'll have 6 weeks paid maternity leave. I MIGHT want to take 2 weeks of my sick time on top of that, but I also might want to save those days to take throughout the year in case baby is sick. I wish I had more days saved up over the years, but since I just started teaching last March, I only have my 7 days left from this year and I'll get 10 days for next year (for a total of 3 weeks, 2 days). And who know's how many days I'll have to take for the remainder of this year for appointments and stuff.

Buuuut anyway, the school year is doing well. My students are performing average, which is really all I can ask for considering the demographics and region. We're still the top performing middle school in our district (out of 9) so that's sweet.

This Friday & Saturday, I will be accompanying 4 groups to the Regional Science Fair to compete against hundreds of other competitors from all over the lower and upper RGV.

Next Friday & Saturday, husband and I will be driving up to Austin to visit some friends and to see a band.

Theeeeen, the NEXT weeks is Spring Break! We're also on the hunt for a new rental, either house or apartment. Our rent is going up by $100/month and we're paying so close for what we were paying in New York. Since we have an emerging mouth to feed, we must downsize to save $ for baby. Spring Break will be spent searching for that place.

Ugh, too much to do.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Halloween Biodiversity

I know it's already passed, but I wanted to share a special activity that I did with my 7th graders during our Biodiversity & Sustainability lesson that just so happen to fall on Halloween.

In Texas, our 7.10B TEKS states that students need to observe and describe how biodiversity contributes to sustainability in an ecosystem.

I found this super fun activity on TeachersPayTeachers called Biodiveristy Game: Monsters in the Forest.

There's a free workbook (found here). That you print out for the kids. There's a warm up that goes over what the word "biodiversity" means by breaking it up into it's prefix and suffix (GREAT FOR ELL'S). How it works is that there are 2 stacks of cards. The first stack is MOSTLY one type of monster (species). The teacher is supposed to be a disease that only infects monsters that move or make noise, so it helps if the teacher is highly animated to get them to laugh. This monster is not immune to the disease, so if this monster gets infected, it also infects other monsters of the same species, and they die. This is an example of an ecosystem with little biodiversity.

The second set of cards contains a bunch of different types of monsters. The students make predictions to how the disease will impact this ecosystem if some of them are immune, but others are not. Then the teacher goes around "infecting" monsters. Monsters of the same species that are infected, sit down because they are dead.

Students should see how in the first ecosystem, because monsters were mostly the same species, the ecosystem collapsed due to and infection. In the second scenario, students should observe how many different species of monsters allowed for only a few monsters to die off due to biodiversity.

It was fun & the kids loved it and they REMEMBER.

10/10 Highly recommended product.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

My Science Plans {Week 2}

I'm continuing my blog series: My Science Plans, where I post my weekly "hopeful" lesson plans. I say "hopeful" because my week rarely follows my plans exactly. Sometimes I yank stuff out last minute, add stuff, or change the order of what I teach. It's always up in the air, constantly evolving.

Set up iPad’s
-Bookmark class website
-Bookmark Skyward
-Download necessary apps
What is a Dendrite: Activity from here
iLearn Science Presentation from here
-Glue in Notes sheets in Spiral
-Begin taking on Safety

iLearn Science Presentation
-Tools notes
-Measurement notes

Introduce Lab Roles 
Measurement and Safety Tools Lab

Namesake Activity (Our principal wants us to spend a day researching our school's namesake)

Sci-Tek Lab

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Actually Week One

I started a blog series including my weekly lesson plans and now that the first week is done, I get to backtrack and compare how I wanted things to go versus how they ACTUALLY went. 

In my first 2 weeks of teaching, I always taught content. It was in my plants to teach content this year. My two other 7th grade science teachers taught content this week. I did not. I didn't have enough TIIIIIME.

I seriously spent so much time introducing, discussing, and modeling classroom rules & procedures this week that I did not start a single lesson on Science Safety and Measurement. UGH. This is either a good or a bad thing. I feel like it's a bad thing because The Other Two (Mr. N & Ms. R) are already so ahead of me. But I also feel like this is a good thing because I want my kids to know our rules and procedures backwards and forwards.

I wanted to spend a day setting up their iPads (downloading necessary apps, signing up with access codes, and bookmarking my class website) BUT I DIDN'T GET TO IT. I had all of my internet stuff posted on the walls, so some of them signed up on their own.

I was able to go through The First Day of School presentation (w/notes sheet) but it took me 2 days instead of 1. I had them take a quiz on Wednesday instead of Tuesday. We began setting up our ISN's on Wednesday & Thursday.

On Friday, I started THIS activity from The Science Penguin to teach the kids how we learn. We had a lengthly conversation about HOW the brain works and about WHY I ask them to do activities that include writing definitions with drawings, coloring, cut-and-paste activities, etc etc.

So, officially, I'm like 3 days behind. But whatever. I'd rather spend the time NOW explaining to my kids what my rules are and explain to them WHY each rule exists and have them really really understand whyyyyy teachers ask them to do all this stuff so that I save time later. I think this is good.

I'm glad my students now understand the importance of how they learn. When the bell rang on Friday, one of my kids was like "Nooo, I love learning this stuff!" and that felt awesome.

A few other last minute changes:

I got one of those charger stations. All of the exposed wires were driving me batshit and I was terrified of one of the kids tripping over one and knocking all my stuff down. The librarians wanted to get rid of it and other teachers didn't want it because of how bulky it is. I LOVE IT. I need some posters to cover the ugly gray. 
I bought these little caddies for $1/each, 20 pairs of 8inch scissors for $1/each, and a bag of colored zip ties for a $1. These are AMAZING. Each table group (4 kids each) gets a little caddy with 4 pairs of scissors, 2 bottles of glue, 1 box of markers, 1 box of colored pencils, and sticky-notes. Saves so much time compared to last year. I put zip ties on all of my scissors and bottles of glue so kids to walk away with my stuff. 
I printed out 6 copies of these desk orientation. I made them in Keynotes, just adding shapes. I wrote down each kid's name on a little sticky note and wrote whether they were Sp.Ed. or an ELL. This will allow me to just unstick one and move it at the drop of a dime if I have to rearrange.

A new thing I'm starting. I just bought a poster and laminated it so I can change out the stuff up here every week.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Classroom Tour

In preparing for my third year of teaching, I am finding more & more ways to improve the quality of education that I provide for my students. I'm learning that I AM getting better, and that there is still 

In my first year, I spent a TON of money on classroom decorations that I wasn't in love with and I feel like they didn't do ANYTHING to help these kids feel inspired. 

In my second year, I recycled a lot of stuff to save money. 

Now this is my third, and I've spent money on *accents* as opposed to central content that was made by other companies. This year, I'm taking ownership of my classroom and designing a lot of stuff from scratch, then having them printed at a print shop. Downloading fonts off of and playing around in Pages has been a lot of fun, too. It was leading up to this year of teaching that I started putting stuff up on TeachersPayTeachers and I've made some spare change. I currently have 30 active products and have sold 422 units, for total sales of $1,040.93, and total earnings of $839.20. I know it's not a lot compared to other TpT shop owners, but for me this is huge. As a relatively new teacher who's just worked on 30 measly products, I'm incredibly proud. 

Thank you to all of you that read my blog and purchase from my store. 

Now that I've said that, here is a short tour of my classroom. It isn't much. It certainly isn't color coordinated, but I've been working on a small budget. And I lack the creativity that others excel in. 

Here we go!

Here is the front door to my room. I hot glued clothespins to the door so I can change out the stuff I have pinned (or easily remove them during testing). That's the poem that's been floating around Pinterest for the last year. I made a 38 page PDF version w/ cute fonts with a variety of things students can be depending on the subject taught that can be downloaded here in color and here in b&w.  Only $4!

View from the very back of the room. 

My homeroom #iHelpers page. Student jobs will rotate weekly. I also have a page with my social media and my tutoring info. I should have printed the social media page in color but it was one of the last minute things I did yesterday. And we don't have a color printer. 
I made those 4 posters a few days ago and printed them at a Copy place for $1 each. They're 11x17 and can be found here for $2 for all 4!  I know they're not centered and I will fix that this week.
#AwSnaps are my student incentives by class period. Every time a kid does something right (raise their hand, volunteer to read, answer a question, they'll get a ticket. At the end of the grade period, we'll hold a raffle and they'll win Drop The Lowest Quiz Grade, Free Homework, Listen to Headphones, or Sit In Teacher Chair For a Day passes.
I also have my #ScientistoftheMonth section that I need to elaborate on. I will also print out quotes and a QR code for more information. I have 17 Scientists, 11 of which are female. You can get it here for only $4. It's my most popular product. 
I made those hand signal posters. I haven't uploaded them, and I don't know if I will. I guess I can. Hold up.......
Ok, here it is for only $1.50. 
7th grade's got #SWAG (Success, Willpower, Ability, & Goals). I guess I'll upload it, too. Brb.
Here ya go, only $1.

Since we're an IB school, we have to have all this stuff posted. Whatever. 

My principal is all about the H.E.A.T. framework (google it) and the 4Cs. A coworkers wife made the "HEAT" sign for me and the 4Cs came to us from the office. 

Got this free download from They're descriptors of the different roles students have during labs. 

Scientific MEMEthod. 

Word Wall. 

View standing where the Word Wall is. 

Another mandatory IB poster. And my Quote of the Week poster. 

Mandatory SIOP posters

My front lab table and desk. 

My view. I want to put more stuff on the back but that will happen later. 

Our mascot is the cobra so I glued a little cobra to my sink. :)

That should be it! Good luck to everyone who has already started and who has yet to start. Tomorrow is our first day and I'm already freaking out. Woooooo!

Friday, August 22, 2014

New TPT Product! Classroom Poster Edition

Hi, lovelies!

So tomorrow is my last workday before we start school on Monday and I'm scrambling.

Scrambling because I took absolutely EVERYTHING off my walls prior to the summer break and started from scratch (since I inherited my classroom mid-year in March, a lot of the stuff that was up wasn't mine). I've put in a lot of time, $$, and effort in working to make my classroom feeling warm, welcoming, relevant, comfortable, and MOST IMPORTANTLY: conducive to learning.
I under purchased stuff for walls because I honestly thought I had limited space. But, being in a Science Lab, I underestimated how much wall space I actually have. In addition to our campus mandated requirements of having certain stuff up, I want to put more stuff up to help the kiddos remember how to act.

Here they are!

Link -> only $2 for all 4. :)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Letter to Parents

School starts on Monday and I'm still nervously tweaking my first week of school plans. Constantly editing and figuring out the best way to deliver the information that I need to in the most efficient way possible. I came across this post on tumblr that another teacher posted that perfectly conveyed my feelings about the first days of school. It's nerve-wracking. 

As soon as I FIIINALLY finalize my Syllabus (I should do that in the next 2 days) I will send out a welcome email to parents prior to the kids entering my classroom on Monday morning. Here's what I got so far. 

Dear Parents and Families, 

It is with open arms and great enthusiasm that I extend a warm welcome you and your child into our classroom this year. I am looking forward to meeting your student(s) this next Monday. I wanted to be one of the first to welcome you to a brand new year. I am excited to develop a strong and supportive learning community and am anticipating all the fun experiences we will have this year!

About me: This will be my third year teaching at _____ Middle School. I am a proud twice alum from the University of Texas Pan American (Class of ’09 and ’11) and a former New York State resident. On my time off I like to play with my dog, cat, & frog, and learn new ways to incorporate technology into my classroom. My husband is a current PhD candidate in the beginning stages of writing his dissertation. 

I want parents to understand that I will get to know their child well. I care about each student enough that I will get to know their handwriting, the kinds of mistakes they make, the places where they can shine and where they’ll need a boost. I will be there to give them a helping hand when they need it, as well as the “eye” when they are trying to slide by without doing their best.
I would also like you to know that my class will sometimes be challenging. I have high expectations of my students that I know they are capable of meeting.  I will never leave their child unsupported even if he or she feels a little lost. In Science, I teach my students to be curious about the world around them and to discover how it works for themselves. We are all scientists and explorers. 
In 7th grade Science class, students will explore the Life Sciences. This includes the life and world around them. In about a week, I will send home an email (and a printed out copy for your refrigerator) a schedule of what we will be covering and when. It’s important that you play an active role in your student’s education. We can work together to ensure that your student grows and develops vital life skills and organizational habits at the same time of exploring new content in each subject they take. 

I look forward to meeting you and your student in this next week. If you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to email or contact me at school. 

I will attach links to my syllabus and instructions to sign up for several communication services that I will utilize this year: Schoology & Remind. 

If you see something that I miss, typos or grammar issues, anything really, LET ME KNOW. Again, everything is still a WIP.



Sunday, August 17, 2014

My Science Plans {Week 1}

Hey y'all! I'm starting a new goal that I will TRY to keep up with every week this year (partly because it organizes my brain to write stuff out and partly because I love sharing stuff). I might also post links to stuff on my google drive to share with y'all.

Remember that I teach 7th Grade Science in Texas, so my timeline will likely look different from yours. I see 5 classes a day for 54 minutes each. So here we go!

I DO teach content in the first week of school. But I also like to go over and review procedures and consequences. I hope to be able to fit in a lab by Friday, a simple one, just to review lab procedures. 

MONDAY First Day of School
1. Vocabulary Seating Chart
2. Technology Questionnaire
3. First Day of School Presentation (w/notes sheet)
4. Pass out Syllabus
5. Sticky Notes Closer
                  -Our classroom should be _______ everyday. 
                  -Science is important because _________.
                  -Mrs. Cortez can be most helpful by __________.
                  -This will be my best year in Science because _________.
HW: Sign up for Remind & get syllabus signed. Download apps. 

1. Sticky Note Warm-Up: Post as many rules/procedures that you can remember. 
2. Discuss rules/procedure
3. Rules/Procedures Quiz
4. Discuss quiz
5. Set up iPad. 
        -Download necessary apps
        -Introduction to Skyward Science Starters and Schoology
6. Sticky Notes Closer: What app are you most excited about using this year in Science & why?
HW: Bring in your ISN and scissors, glue, and coloring stuff to class tomorrow.

1. Sticky Note Warm-Up: Post a rule/procedure that you think you'll have the most trouble with this year. Post a suggestion for how to make sure you follow through.
2. Start setting up ISN.
3. Discuss Rubric.
4. Cover Sheet Activity.
5. Brain Activity
6. Sticky Notes Closer: What is a way to ensure you grow dendrites in your brain?
HW: Bring in your ISN, scissors, glue, and coloring stuff to class tomorrow. 

1. Science Starter via Skyward
2. Lab Activity: Discuss roles
3. Cup Stacking Group Challenge
4. Write out Lab
5. Begin Safety
6. Sticky Notes Closer: 

1. Science Starter via Skyward
2. Continue Safety Notes
3. Still trying to figure the rest of Friday out. I'll come back to this.

*Almost tiiiiiime!*

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Summer's Over

Even though we don't have to go back until Thursday, and the students don't start until the 25th, I've felt like the Summer has been over for the last 3 weeks.

My last 2 weeks of July was filled with 54 hours of training hours and my first week of August was spent helping out with Registration on campus.

Here are some Instagram pictures showing my last 3 weeks:

Our district provided 24 hours of training to learn how to use Macbook Pro's in the classroom and teachers that participated were issued a brand spankin' new computer. I immediately dove in and started downloading fonts to make pretty worksheets. :)
The Macbook training was being held for the district on my campus, so I was able to visit my classroom for the first time since the last day of school. I was greeted by this delicious mess. Apparently, my classroom was being used for another training, and this was the setup they had. Gross.

Another mid-Training/working lunch pic. I can't stop once I'm on a roll otherwise I might run the risk of losing an idea or momentum. Can't stop won't stop ah ah . 

The following week was 30 hours of GT training. *cue screaming* Not that this isn't helpful information, but the trainer from Region One kept referring to the movie Lucy for illustrating traits of gifted learners and how they use more of their brain that regular people. And her voice was annoying. And she added the words "right?" and "okay?" at the end of EVERY sentence. Worst. Training. Ever. 

The end of the month meant me setting up next month's calendars, synching my personal calendar with my work calendar, setting up bill pay and writing EVERYTHING down on my paper calendar on my fridge. #allorganizedeverything

Day 2 of GT training and I got so sick of the lady's voice that I started keeping tally of every time she said "right?" or "ok?" at the end of every sentence. It's something I've done since I was a kid when I noticed something and it forced me to pay attention and listen for certain words. Which meant I was actually listening and not day-dreaming. One of my GT students did this to me last year and I thought it was the funniest thing ever. Apparently, I say "Ok, so let's talk about…" a lot. hahaha. 
More working lunches. I'm incorporating a TON more of technology in the classroom this year. 
This is something I started last year. I would post homework updates, and cool science stuff I found on Tumblr. Over the summer, I've kept up with it, keeping in touch with about 70 of my ex-students. It's private and I don't follow any of the students so they don't feel like their privacy is being compromised. I'm going to keep up with it next year and also cross-post to my classroom Twitter account, so that we all stay connected and up-to-date with homework assignments. 
This last week was campus registration. I volunteered to help on Monday and Thursday. 
July & August are always my busiest months on TPT. I got one of these comments on a product I offer. *angry emoji* This person never emailed me. 
I loved that super cliche poem we've all seen floating around Pinterest, so I made my own. One of my friends said that he remembers feeling so alone and down on himself when he was this age, that even reading something like this would mean the world. 
Sneaking in the library to hoard the laminating machine before we officially return and I have to wait in line competing with other teachers to use it. I'm *JUST* about done.
I bought this 8GB shark flash drive on Amazon for $10 and I will use it EXCLUSIVELY for school stuff. Just in case my Dropbox, Google drive, and Macbook all die at the same time. BACK UP ALL THE THINGS.
Got a free Mockingjay pin from the Samsung station at Best Buy. Just in time for the new year!
Back-to-School hair!
It was my last Friday off before we have to go in for Staff Dev and we all slept in until noon and cuddled and it was very sweet. 
One of my very favorite discoveries this summer. And it wasn't even brought up by the district. Schoology is an online learning platform that is free and so incredibly organized and user-friendly. I've spent the last week working on it and uploading my content for the first week of school. It's exhausting but definitely worth the extra work. If you're not familiar with it, I strongly suggest going to youtube or vimeo for a quick tutorial on what it is and how you can use it in your classroom. 
I'm ready to start, but not, you know? It's always bittersweet saying goodbye to lazy summers filled with love and leisure and laying in the sand and sleeping in and watching marathon sessions on Netflix. But, it's exciting to start another school year off fresh and on the right foot. I'm looking forward to all the trials and tribulations of this year. It's going to be awesome not being a first year teacher, teaching a grade level that I have already before, and not starting in the middle of the year.

#thirdyearteacher #7thgradescience #texasteacher