Mrs. Amy Finley

7th Grade Lions Language Arts


August 2013

Looking for A Book?

Check out the new “Need A Book?” tab on this blog! I’ll frequently be updating it with more great websites to help students find appropriate middle school books! Happy reading!

~Mrs. Finley


Friday, August 30, 2013

Happy Friday!

I hope everyone enjoys a long and relaxing weekend.

2nd and 5th hour began MAP testing today in the computer lab. They will continue their test on Tuesday.

In 3rd and 7th hour we finished discussing the book talk guidelines ¬†and I shared some more books that might interest the students for their first book talk on realistic fiction. It has been great so share many books that the students said they did not know existed! I had five students in one of my classes actually go out and purchase one of the books which is part of a trilogy. One of the students told me he was up all night reading it and is planning on getting the next in the series as soon as possible! This is music to my ears! ūüôā

As you know, the beginning of the year is usually a little hectic as we are getting students adjusted to a new year with new teachers. I am so lucky to move up and still get to see so many of my students from last year on a daily basis! However, there are many students that are new to me this year and I am really enjoying getting to know them in class.

The first few days I always go over the school and classroom rules and expectations. This usually takes a few days to go over and to allow the students to absorb it. The second week is when I really get the opportunity to start to get to know all of my students. This year I decided to let the students decorate the covers of their Interactive Student Notebooks (ISN’s). I am now in the process of tapping the pictures that they glued on to their notebooks so that they can hold up all year long with clear “shipping” tape. It has been so fun to see their personalities reflected on their ISN’s! The kids really enjoyed doing this activity and I am really learning a lot about them and their interests. I will have to do this again next year!

I took quite a few photos to share with you of their ISN’s which stay in our classroom. I have blacked out student names, but they are fun to look at and see all the different personalities!


Here are some of the covers the boys have decorated on their ISN’s:

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Somebody loves food… ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† Cars are also a bit hit with the boys…. ¬† ¬† Oddly enough Dr. Oz even made an appearance!


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Funny faces & cars                                                  Cars, sports & monsters!           Somebody has their dream cars picked out!



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I love the letters cut out to spell whatever they wanted! ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† More sports… ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† and a few “nutty” kids!

Nothing like a dog hanging out the window of a convertible!


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Food seems to be on the mind of                       They could decorate the inside too!

a lot of my boys!



I made a “fakebook” page to learn more about the kids on the first day. It was fun to read their answers and see what they liked and disliked about Language Arts class.

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Great info. on my students! ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† A few that are trying to get on my good side early! ūüôā ¬† ¬† ¬†Great input on ideas that make them enjoy ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† class more!


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I love seeing what they want to do as a career in the future!


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This is one of my favorites! This student listed that he did not like to read, but look at his TBR list after I shared some books with him! I think he has written down almost every book we have shared!




Another one trying to get on my good side early! ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† This last student was a bit upset with me that I brought ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† donughts in for another class and didn’t share with his class! HA!



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More great information!                                                                                                                 This is a list of book genres that we put in our notebook                                                                                                                                                                                    so we had a definition of each genre. This should                                                                                                                                                                                    help when we are trying to find books for our                                                                                                                                                                                                                 book talks too!


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Here are some of the girls covers…. lots of hearts, shopping, nailpolish…. ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† I love the quote!


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The picture of the raccoon with lips cracks me up!      More great examples of my kids personalities!


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A few were with the boys on food, but mostly desserts!       Other students spelled out their favorite TV shows or quotes!


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Animals are really popular among the girls and the boys.


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Some of the inside covers……more fashion, purses and shoes, and pets!



NotesJust Right Books

These are some notes we have taken so far ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† We also discussed finding a “just-right” book!

this year on symbolism and on the elements of

a narrative.


TBR List Open TBR List Student

To Be Read “TBR” lists my students keep in the back of their notebooks to add to throughout the year.




These close up so more can be taped on top as we need them and to save space!


If you have any extra magazines feel free to donate them to our classroom library! I always keep magazines over there for the kids to look at when they have finished their work early. Sports, cars, animal magazines, fashion magazines, even celebrity gossip is really popular! I just cut off my address label and stick them in the classroom library for the students to enjoy! I’ll take these donations at any time during the school year. ūüôā¬†


This next week I will be MAP testing my classes (3rd and 7th hour will MAP test on Wednesday & Thursday) and I intend to share a few more books with them that they could possibly use for their book talk. I also want to show them how they can find more books they might be interested in based on books that they have liked in the past.

We will then begin to get into our Greek Mythology unit! Each group of students will be selecting a book on their independent reading level to learn more about Greek Mythology. I will then be meeting with groups to discuss their books. They are not reading their books together, but just coming together for discussion. I will also be teaching lots of mini-lessons on our 7th Grade Standards through these books, such as making inferences as they read, identifying character traits of the characters in their books, etc. They will be doing a lot of journaling about these standards in their ISN”s as they read in their mythology books! ¬†I will also be working on some reading strategies with them to help them become better readers.



2nd hour: Summer reading project is due on Friday, September 13! Also, remember to get a good night’s sleep on Monday night for MAP testing on Tuesday! Try to eat a nutritious breakfast too so you are ready to focus and do your best!

3rd, 5th & 7th hours: Summer reading project is due on TUESDAY, September 3! Also, please turn in your book expectations signed homework as soon as possible and return the reading/interest survey if you have not done so yet! You can go ahead and begin to read your realistic fiction book for your book talk too!


~Mrs. Finley

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Good evening!

Today in class I had the students set goals for their upcoming reading MAP test. We spent a little bit of class time discussing why the MAP test was so important and how their score affected them as a student. We discussed that these scores are what helps teachers place students in advanced classes and that these advanced classes can earn them Advanced Placement credit later in high school which then means less college classes they are required to take. I also shared with the students that this test allows me to really see how each student is progressing individually with their reading skills. It breaks down each student into reports for me so that I can help them reach their potential. Therefore, if a student does not take the test seriously it makes it a lot harder for me to help them in the classroom because I have to figure out exactly what gaps they are having.

We also had some “business” that we had to finish in our Interactive Student Notebooks (ISN). I will post some pictures of what these notebooks look like in the next few days so you are able to see how we are using them in the classroom. My hope is that by spending time setting these up the students will be able to quickly find the pages that they need and realize how helpful it is to keep everything organized. Today we had to tape in a few pages, such as how to select a “just-right” book (we discussed this yesterday in class) as well as a page that listed all of the genres of books on them and gave a brief definition of the genre. I hope that this will help students as a reference tool for book talks each month.

I gave the students a “To Be Read” TBR list yesterday. This is an acronym that I did not make up and have found as a common acronym in several of the book blogs that I read. This is where students can keep a running list of books that they are possibly interested in reading. I am so happy to see students quickly filling up these pages! I have been discussing a lot of books in class and will share a new book every day with the students. If they are interested in reading more they can check it out from my classroom library or even add it to their TBR list. The goal is that during the book talks by other students they can keep this TBR list out too so that they can add books their peers recommend. Their peers are the best advertisements for books! It also then allows them to discuss the books with one another after they read them.

I have a few things I realize I need to clarify about the book talks and I apologize for not being more clear in my letter home.

The monthly page limit can be reached through multiple books. My intention is to meet with students individually twice a month so that I can talk to them about the other books that they are reading that they might not be presenting for their book talk. This is a quick assessment that will let me know whether or not they actually read their other books.

“Age appropriate books” can be difficult with middle school students. I understand that some parents are okay with their student reading books written by Stephen King or Veronica Roth. I fully support your decision to permit or not permit a student to read a book. As mentioned before, if I feel that a book might not be appropriate then I will ask the student for a parent signature saying they are okay with their book choice. I always like to air on the side of caution and make sure that the lines are open between the parent and teacher.

I have also been sharing a few books with the student that fit into the realistic fiction category. This genre is very broad and many books fall into this category as well as others, such as historical fiction, romance, dystopian books, etc. I have read some of the books that I am showing the students in class but not all of them. The books that I have compiled to share were selected as great books by the American Library Association (ALA) (great website if you are looking for books:¬†and some have even won awards. The problem is that some were categorized as best for 13 and over and some were just labeled as “middle school.” I have reiterated to the students that they need to be aware of what their parents are comfortable with and to make sure they choose an appropriate book.

The reason for my sending the letter home and asking for the parent signature is really in lieu of doing reading logs. I find reading logs to be tedious in middle school because I feel like students dislike having to write down every time and day they read (some forget to do this while others just can’t keep up with the papers) and I think it is tedious for the parents to have to require a signature. Because of this my letter home was simply to make sure that the lines of communication are open and that I expect them to be reading at least 20 minutes a day and that you were also aware of this expectation too. This is really nightly homework for my class. With that being said, the students will have a book log to keep on hand to write down the title of the book they are reading and how many pages they read each day. This will let me know if they are meeting the page requirement and will also allow me to see what books they are reading. If they “abandon” a book they can still count the pages that they read. I can pick-up pretty quickly if they actually read their book or not through our independent¬†discussions. This will also help them to set their goals for each month on their own page limit goal (some will probably easily exceed my limits I have set!).

We have gone over a lot of information in the past two weeks of school and things should slow down as we get into the routine of reading/writing workshop, independent reading and book talks. I feel like the more organized I can get the kids right now the better off we will be for the rest of the school year.

2nd & 5th hour are MAP testing tomorrow, Friday, and Tuesday, September 3.

3rd & 7th hour are MAP testing Wednesday, September 4th and 5th.

I anticipate that after the craziness of MAP testing next week we will be able to take off with our reading workshop and book discussions.

Don’t hesitate to e-mail me if you have any further questions or concerns. I try to get back within 24 hours.


2nd Hour: Summer reading essay is due Friday, September 13.

3rd, 5th & 7th Hours: Parent signature on reading expectations & Summer Reading project is due on Tuesday, September 3! (5 days!)

~Mrs. Finley

Minor Note

You may have noticed that some of the due dates vary for different classes. The reason for this is pretty simple… sometimes it¬†depends on how long it takes for me to go over the material in class (student participation greatly varies from class to class and even time of day) and sometimes there are events out of my control, such as fire drills, school assemblies, etc. that will take up class time or mean that I don’t get to even see a class period at all on that day.¬†This is why some due dates are different than others.

Also, my advanced classes will have some different assignments than the other classes so you may see alternate assignments pop-up for them.

~Mrs. Finley


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Today in class I introduced the idea of book talks to the students. This was the project I had mentioned on Monday in my post and even put in the links. You can find all of this information on the blog by clicking on the tab that says “Book Talks.” There you will find all of the information for this project all year long.

As mentioned, the students will be responsible for a book talk once a month. My expectation is that they should be reading 20 minutes minimum every night. We discussed in class today how you have to practice reading to become a better reader, just like you have to practice football before you go out for the big game. I also spent some time discussing “just-right” books with the kids in class. We talked about how to find a book that is on their ability level. A student can open their book to any page (near the middle is recommended) and silently read the page to themselves. If they find that they do can’t pronounce or just don’t ¬†4 or more words the book is too hard for them to read on their own. If they find that ¬†they know all of the words on the page or only 1 word they didn’t know it is probably too easy. We discussed a “just-right” book should have 1 to 3 words that you don’t know or are unable to pronounce. This kind of a book is great practice and can help them to become better readers.

We also discussed that sometimes we do just read a book for enjoyment. I thoroughly enjoyed¬†Diary of a Wimpy Kid,¬† however I know that it was too easy and didn’t teach me any new vocabulary. These types of books are fine to read for fun, however we also need to mix in some more complex texts to build our vocabulary and increase our comprehension. I will be meeting with every student at least twice a month just to discuss their independent reading one-on-one.

I really love the book talks because I think it takes the pressure off of the idea that they have to create something. It really is as simple as standing up and giving a presentation. I DID tell the kids to look over the rubric carefully because I will be grading them on those Grade 7 Speaking & Listening Standards, such as making eye contact with the audience, speaking slowly and clearly, etc. This is an important life skill that I feel students need to start preparing and getting comfortable with to help them in the future.

Please note: An “appropriate” book varies for middle school students. I spoke with the students about this today. I did let them know that if I question their book choice I will just ask for a parent signed note or signature saying they are OK with the book their child is reading. Some students have already been asking to read Stephen King, Nicholas Sparks, etc. I am OK with this so long as parents are aware of what they are reading as well. I fully support your decision to let your child read or not read a book. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have¬†any questions or concerns.

Tomorrow I am going to share some books that will fulfill our first book talk on Realistic Fiction and then they will have some time in the library to check-out books. We are also going to discuss MAP testing and set a goal for our first MAP test. 2nd & 5th hour are MAP testing on Friday and Tuesday. 3rd & 7th hour are MAP testing on Wednesday & Thursday.



2nd Hour: Summer Reading Essay on symbolism is due Friday, September 13. 

3rd, 5th & 7th Hours: Permission slip for book talk needs to be signed. Summer Reading Essay due Tuesday, September 3.


~Mrs. Finley

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Today we discussed the elements of a narrative. The students took some notes on how to identify a narrative and what elements are included in a narrative. 

At the end of our unit students will be writing a narrative piece. I think the students will have a lot of fun with this writing piece. They get to create a new god or goddess and explain their purpose by writing their own original myth! The kids were already really excited when I discussed this with them today in class.


Homework: 3rd Hour: Reading Interest Survey due tomorrow!

3rd, 5th & 7th Hour: Summer Reading Project due September 3! (7 days away!)


FYI: Picture Day  is officially scheduled for Thursday, September 19th! More info. to come!


~Mrs. Finley

Monday, August 26, 2013

Another Monday!

Here was my picture of the day I shared with the kids today:


Monday 2

I try to add a little humor into our classes every day. I usually have our agenda up on a PowerPoint every day when the kids walk in so I try to add a humorous picture for them to enjoy.

I’m sure you have also heard of “Youtube” time. This is a class incentive I use so that we stay on task all class period. The students can earn class Youtube time¬†if we get through our lesson for the day. This means we can’t frequently stop for discussions about how cute our hair looks or to ask my table partner about a new TV show. I really want students to understand that there is a time and a place for these types of discussions but it can be distracting when we are in the middle of a lesson and someone brings up their hamster. So it is really an incentive to stay on task. If the students earn Youtube time it is at the end of class after the lesson. They can then share any school appropriate videos. This means no cussing, no violence, etc. It also gives me an idea of some of the stuff that they are interested in and watching at home. I learn a lot about the kids by doing this–everything from who they are listening to their sense of humor. I even watched a cat who was dressed as a shark ride a Roomba in a kitchen (quite humorous!).

Sorry for getting a little off topic…these are just some fun ways I try to make our classroom even more enjoyable during the school day. I try to sympathize with my students and realize that they need to have fun in class. If I can make Language Arts entertaining they will learn more and pay closer attention in class.

Today in class we discussed symbolism. I briefly went through a quick PowerPoint that was just an overview of symbolism and had the students identify some common symbols that they see every day and what they represent.

I then shared the classic children’s book¬†The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. Some students have never read this book while for others it has been awhile since they last read it. I have a digital copy of the book and so I projected it on the screen and read it to them. We then discussed the symbolism of the tree as a class. Most of the students hit the nail right on the head, but then I started discussing the deeper meaning of the tree. We discussed how when the tree gave the boy all of her branches she really sacrificed herself so that the boy could build his house. That is why the next part of the story she is “whispering.” She is slowly dying. It is something that you might not have picked up on the first time you read the book as a child, however it is really deep. We discussed how this can also symbolize man’s relationship with the environment.

2nd hour did not get to finish the reading of the book yet. 7th hour did not even get to start reading the book…by the end of the day we sometimes have longer discussions on symbolism and the kids are usually more talkative and want to share out more. These two classes will finish up the book tomorrow.

Homework: Summer reading project due September 3! (8 days away…)

As always, don’t hesitate to e-mail if you have any questions or concerns.


I will be linking up a homework project in the next few days for the kids. I am implementing “book talks” this year and the letter and information I am sending home will really explain this project the best. I haven’t had a chance to talk to the kids about it yet, however am hoping to do so on Wednesday. ¬†You will need to know what hour your students has me in Language Arts class because there is a slight variation on the length requirements between the classes. My more advanced classes will be reading more compared to my other classes. Here is the information a little early:

2nd hour: Book Talk

3rd & 7th hour: Book Talk

5th hour: Book Talk

Project List for ALL Classes: 10 Different Book Talks Guidelines


These will be linked to a page at the top of the blog for reference throughout the year as well.

~Mrs. Finley

Thursday, August 22, 2013

My goal today was for us to play a “survival game” as a class. The purpose of this activity was to let students work in their assigned groups and to then come together as a class to discuss some rules that we will need for group work to make things run smoothly. I explained to the students that throughout this school year they will be working with all sorts of different students and that to eliminate problems we needed to brainstorm some rules together. I thought the best way to do this would be to first give them a task where they had to work together (and really have fun with it!) and then come back together to discuss what worked well and what did not work well. This way it was really fresh in their memory and they did not have to recall events of past group activities.

It worked out really well! The students had a lot of fun today and it was interesting to hear their reasoning behind their choices in the game. It also gave me an opportunity to really observe the students working in groups and to see who some of my natural leaders are, who are some of my students that are better at compromising, etc. I also had the students reflect on this when they were done and they let me know who was a really great leader in their group, etc.

All classes were able to come up with some group rules that I will continue to come back to throughout the school year as students work with their groups on activities.

I hope everyone enjoys a fantastic 3 day weekend!

Homework: Summer reading project due September 3! (note: this is not for 2nd hour…yet! Ms. Hamlyn and I have not had the opportunity to discuss their project but will do so within the next week)

~Mrs. Finley

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Today I gave the students time to decorate their Interactive  Student Notebook (ISN).  I wanted to really give them a day or two to personalize their journal with things that they like or feel that represent them. This is one way that students begin to take more ownership of their notebook because they feel that it truly represents them so they are more likely to want to use it in class. Many students need a second day to finish these up so I will also give them tomorrow to finish. On Thursday we can then set-up the notebook with our table of contents, vocabulary section, page numbers, title, etc. so we are ready to go for the rest of the school year.

If you have any extra magazines at home that you do not want  feel free to send them in with your student. I could really use some extra sports and car magazines too!

A few students decided to take their notebooks home tonight to work on them at home. Please remind them to bring these back tomorrow because they will need it for class. They can also bring their own magazines and pictures tomorrow to finish this project in class.

Homework: Summer reading project is due September 3!

~Mrs. Finley

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