Meaningful Assignments for Students Serving In-School Suspension

I always hate the assignments I send with students when they serve ISS.  I hate everything about ISS.  Obviously, when students are fighting or behaving extremely disrespectfully, they need to be removed from class.  But once he/she is taken to ISS, I despise gathering work for the student to do all day because I know I’m going to do a terrible job of doing so.

I always end up feeling guilty for the work I send.  I know I should have already prepared packets of work, but planning ahead is not exactly my strong suit.  So I end up grabbing workbooks and textbooks.  I spend about two minutes looking for things that will take this student a long time to complete.  Then I slap a few post-it notes with pages numbers to complete.  The entire time, I’m thinking, “This is such pointless work.”

These are the students who need the most support, and I’m sending pointless busy-work for them to do right after they’ve had a serious altercation with another student or teacher.  I always feel guilty, but I feel like I have no options because I only have a few minutes to find work because I’m in the middle of class.  The work also has to keep him/her busy for a day without requiring too much effort from the ISS teacher who already has a million other things to do.

These are the students I’ve kept in mind as I’ve written over 200 passages about famous athletes.  As I research athletes like Kevin Durant, Tom Brady, Ronaldo, and Usain Bolt, I look for stories about times they’ve made mistakes and how they overcame them to achieve success.  When Kevin Durant was in high school, one of his basketball coaches was murdered.  Kevin was really upset because this coach was like a father-figure.  Kevin’s performance on the court suffered because he started disrespecting opponents and hogging the ball.  But then Kevin realized his old coach would not want him to play like that.  Kevin stopped doing those things and his play improved.  The students who are sitting in ISS need to realize that huge celebrities like Kevin Durant make mistakes just like them.  Our students need to read stories of successful people who learn from mistakes and are determined never to make the same mistake twice.  Now, Kevin Durant is one of the most respected players in the NBA.

When I write these passages, I also include stories of how hard these athletes have worked to achieve success.  I describe how these athletes have put in years and years of insanely hard work to be successful.  When NFL quarterback Tom Brady was growing up, he hated that his sisters were better athletes than him.  He was determined to do whatever it took to be the best athlete in his family.  Now he is one of the greatest NFL quarterbacks of all-time!  Here are some passages where the headline shows you the focus of the passage.

Meaningful work for ISS

Each of my sets of paired texts includes three sets of passages.  For example, my set about LeBron James and Michael Jordan includes paired texts about their childhood, pro sports career, and charity work.

Meaningful work for ISS students

Each set of paired texts includes a quiz.  There’s also a writing prompt that ties all the passages together.  The first page, which you can give to the ISS teacher, explains which two passages go together.  Answer keys are also provided.  You can print a few copies of each set to have in a file folder for those times you have to immediately send work for ISS.

Meaningful work for ISS students

Some teachers have told me the work for ISS should be boring busy-work, which I totally disagree with.  The punishment for the student should come in the form of isolation from his/her peers, not pointless assignments.

In addition to classroom teachers, I encourage ISS teachers to try a few of my paired texts. I’ve had a few ISS teachers leave feedback on my paired texts saying they were a huge help when kids in ISS finished their assignments, or when the teacher is unable to send work on time.

Click the image below to see all the paired texts I have available in my TpT store.  I’ve written passages about 68 athletes who compete in a wide variety of sports, so I’m sure you’ll find topics that will interest your students.

Meaningful work for ISS

Feel free to email me at kgeswein@gmail.com or leave feedback in my TpT store to let me know how these work for you.

Inspirational African Americans Your Students Need to Learn More About

 

 

Dr. Martin Luther King and Harriet Tubman

I taught third grade at an international school in China for four years.  Most of my students were Korean children whose parents worked in China.  Our big project every year was a wax museum presentation, where students would dress up as famous people and stand like wax statues, speaking only when people walked up to them.  EVERY YEAR, I had several boys ask to be Martin Luther King and several girls ask to be Harriet Tubman.  It was so cool to see my Korean students in China be so inspired by these two!

During my ten years of teaching the US, I tried to keep as many books about Dr. King and Harriet Tubman in my classroom library because my students loved reading about them.  It was a no-brainer for me to write informational texts about them.  I think it’s great for students to see how hard these two worked to help African Americans.  It’s also cool for students to compare the way they worked — Tubman often worked in secret to help slaves escape via the Underground Railroad, while Dr. King wanted most of his actions to be made publicly.  This leads to some excellent class discussions about how two completely different techniques can be used to achieve the same goal.

Here’s what my paired texts about MLK and Harriet Tubman look like.  Click the image to see the product in my TpT store.  From there you can download a preview to see more of this or purchase the set for $4.

Paired texts about inspirational African Americans

 

Edmonia Lewis (sculptor) and Garrett Morgan (inventor)

These two should receive more attention.  Edmonia Lewis is the first African-American woman whose sculptures received international recognition.  She attended college in 1859 to study art, but she had to leave before earning her degree because she was accused of crimes she didn’t commit.  Then she had to break into a profession that was dominated by white men.  She refused to take no for an answer and eventually found someone to mentor her.  She made a sculpture that helped her earn enough money to move to Rome.  But my favorite fact about Edmonia is how she carved her own marble sculptures in Rome.  Most other sculptors who worked in Italy made a model, then hired locals to do the physically-demanding job of carving the sculpture into the marble.  BUT NOT EDMONIA!!!  Even though she was about four feet tall, she refused to hire help because she didn’t want anyone to question the validity of her work.  Edmonia’s sculptures featured characteristics of her African-American and Native-American (Chippewa) heritage.  Kids who love art will be inspired by her story!

Garrett Morgan invented things that saved lives.  He saw problems, then invented things to solve them.  He noticed the firefighters sometimes died from suffocation when they entered buildings full of smoke.  So he invented the first gas mask in 1912 that allowed firefighters to breathe in smoky buildings.  This invention helped him rescue miners who were trapped in a tunnel in Cleveland in 1916.  Garrett’s gas mask helped him breathe long enough to rescue two men who were trapped.  A few years later, he witnessed a terrible car accident at an intersection in Cleveland.  So he invented a traffic signal that included a “warning” signal to give people time to slow down before the signal turned red.  It’s why traffic lights today have the yellow light.  Garrett’s story will inspire students who have a passion for creating things that help people.

Click the image below to see my paired texts about Lewis and Morgan.

 

Gabby Douglas and Simone Biles:  Olympic gold-medal gymnasts

Simone Biles dominated gymnastics at the 2016 Olympics like no one else has ever done before.  But in 2011, she missed making the US team by one spot.  She made the US team the next year, but she was a year too young to compete in the 2012 Olympics.  So that meant she was going to have to train for four years to compete in the Olympics.  Instead of getting discouraged, Simone got to work — and she did so with an amazing attitude.  Her story is a perfect example of how to handle disappointment and how years of hard work can pay off in incredible ways.

Gabby Douglas is one of the few US gymnasts to compete in two Olympics.  She became a superstar when she won the all-around at the 2012 Olympics.  She was disappointed that she didn’t win any individual gold medals in 2016, but she was more disappointed at all the criticism she received.  For some reason, Gabby has been the focus of lots of unfair, hurtful criticism on social media during both Olympics.  Some reporters in Rio seemed more interested in getting her reaction to mean tweets than asking about her gymnastics routines.  But I hope you show your students this quote from Gabby because it sets such a powerful example of how to respond to people who criticize you:

“When you go through a lot and you have so many difficulties and people against you sometimes, it kind of just determines your character.  Are you going to stand or are you going to crumble?  I have no regrets coming back for a second Olympic team.  It’s been an amazing experience.  It’s been teaching me a lot.”

My paired texts about Gabby and Simone are FREE!  Click the image below to download this free item.

Inspirational paired texts about African Americans

 

LeBron James and Michael Jordan (NBA)

When LeBron James was young, he moved a lot and was raised by his mother.  They didn’t have much money.  I think it’s powerful for young people who are living in a similar situation to realize they can grow up to be successful.  Sports played a huge role in stabilizing LeBron’s life when he was young.  When he started playing football and basketball, he met lots of awesome people who were great role models for him.  Maybe you have students who are in a similar situation…maybe sports can be the positive thing they need in their life, just like LeBron when he was young.

Michael Jordan is one of the greatest players in NBA history, but he didn’t make his high-school varsity team his sophomore year.  Lots of kids know that story, but it’s important for your students to read about his failed attempt at playing Major League Baseball.  Michael abruptly retired from the NBA in 1993 at the peak of his career.  He then tried out for the Chicago White Sox because he has always loved baseball.  But he wasn’t very good.  He spent his brief baseball career in the minor leagues, where he didn’t hit very well.  It was so strange to see one of the greatest athletes ever struggle so mightily on the baseball field.  Michael retired from baseball in 1995 and returned to the NBA.   It’s great for your students to read about one of the world’s greatest athletes TRYING something new, FAILING, then returning to DOMINATE the NBA!

Click the image below to see more of my paired texts about LeBron James and Michael Jordan.

Paired texts about inspirational African Americans

I hope your students will learn a lot by reading about these inspirational people!

Paired Texts That Will Have Your Students Begging for More

Engaging paired texts about famous athletes

When I think about my experiences in school, I remember being bored during reading class.  The stories in our reading book were always so boring.  I remember rushing through my work so I could read the things that I wanted, which were books about sports!

My best memories of school came during the Scholastic Book Fair because they had books about football and basketball!!  Every year, I eagerly bought all the books about my favorite athletes and teams.  Then I returned to class and rushed through my work so I could read them.   I credit these sports books for developing my reading skills because I was such a picky reader.  I bet some of my teachers considered me a “reluctant reader.”

Fast forward (more years than I’d like to admit) and I realize that several 5th graders in my class are just like me.  There are lots of kids who are desperate for something to read that they can relate to.  I feel like there are lots of great fiction books, but it seems a lot of students zone out when they read nonfiction.  There are lots of kids who are huge sports fans, but I’ve noticed there’s a shortage of high-quality, nonfiction reading material about sports.

That’s why I have written over 200 passages about famous athletes for grades 1-6.

Here’s what a set about Steph Curry and Kobe Bryant looks like.  (Steph and Kobe are famous basketball players.)  If you click the image it will take you to that product and you can download a preview.

Engaging paired texts about famous athletes

Students will perform better in reading class if they are reading about a topic they care about.  We have tons of kids who love sports, but it seems like there aren’t enough stories about athletes.  The passages I’ve written about LeBron James, Cam Newton, Lionel Messi, Usain Bolt, or Simone Biles will light a spark under some of your reluctant readers because they will finally be reading about a topic they care about.

I’ve been pleased to hear from many teachers that these passages engage even their most reluctant readers, students who sound just like me when I was in school!  Here are some of the things teachers have said after using my paired texts with their students:

“It really peaked the interest of my 4th graders, especially the boys…kids were asking to do extra!

“Students loved these and begged for more!”

“My students cheer when they see these selections.  The question that comes after is, ‘Can we have more?  We love reading about sports figures.'”

“All of the texts are full of great information.  Finally, I’ve found something that my kids will read!!”

“We used it for center time and they were talking about the players long after!”

“My students really enjoyed reading them which makes teaching a whole lot easier.”

“Boys in my middle school intervention class loved this!  Something they would finally read about willingly!”

“It really makes reluctant readers want to read.” 

“The kids loved how they could relate to the topic.  They’re much more engaged when they love the topic!”

“All of my students enjoyed the passages and they sparked lively discussions.”

I started by writing these passages on a 5th-6th grade reading level.  Then I had several teachers say they needed these passages written on lower reading levels.  So I have also created several sets for kids who are reading on a 3rd-4th grade reading level and 1st-2nd grade reading level.

The following three images show an example one set of paired texts written on a range of reading levels.  Click any of these three images to download a free sample that best suits your needs, or grab them all so you can differentiate!

      

If you’d like to see more, click any of the three images below to browse my selection of paired texts for the reading level you want.  Most sets are either $3 or $4.

I make sure to include stories about these athletes working hard, overcoming challenges, and dealing with criticism.  I also include passages about each athletes’ charity work.  I’m confident your students will learn a ton about hard work, perseverance, and helping others by reading about these athletes.

I spent 30-40 hours researching, writing, and proofreading each set of paired texts.  I ensure all of the quiz questions are aligned to new standards.  I triple check facts in the passages for accuracy.

I’ve been a huge sports fan my whole life.  These passages will help some of your students become a huge fan of your reading lessons.

 

 

These Four Athletes Are Awesome Role Models for Your Students

Athletes who are great role models

I started writing informational texts about famous athletes in August 2015.  My goal is to create high-interest nonfiction passages for students who normally don’t like to read.  But after researching over 70 athletes, I have realized that young people can learn a lot of important life lessons by reading about these athletes’ lives!  Yes, there are athletes who make bad choices.  But there are so many who set awesome examples for our students!  Here are my main takeaways after a year of reading about famous athletes:

** Lots of them are INCREDIBLE ROLE MODELS FOR YOUR STUDENTS for reasons that have nothing to do with their athletic ability!!

** They are really smart!  The “dumb jock” stereotype needs to be done away with forever!

** Your students need to read how hard they have worked their entire lives.  When they face challenges and criticism, they don’t quit.  They use it as fuel to work harder.

These are four athletes who have really impressed me while I researched them.

Aaron Rodgers  

Life lesson:  Small kids from small schools can achieve big things!

During my 14 years of teaching, I’ve taught several boys who think they can’t play sports because they are short.  But Aaron was small when he started high school.  He attended a small high school that produced few college football players, much less future NFL stars.  Aaron put up incredible numbers playing quarterback in high school, but no big colleges offered him a scholarship.  So Aaron went to tiny Butte Community College, where he continued putting up incredible stats.  Finally, after years of hard work and persistence, he was offered a scholarship to play football at the University of California Berkeley.

Even then, people doubted him.  Aaron says a college professor laughed at him when he said he was going to play in the NFL.  Then when Aaron was drafted into the NFL, he had to wait three years as a backup to Brett Favre before he got to play.  But Aaron never complained.  He took notes on what Brett did every day in practice.  He observed the questions Brett asked in meetings.  Aaron refused to get discouraged.  Now he is one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history.  Aaron also does a ton of charity work to help raise awareness and money for childhood cancer research.  Once, he surprised a 12-year-old girl whose younger brother had recently died from cancer.  When Aaron heard how much this girl was doing to raise awareness for cancer research, he wanted to help her.  He spent the day  helping her with her project.  Aaron’s heart is as big as his talent.  Click below for passages your students can read about Aaron.

Aaron Rodgers Brett Favre Paired Texts

Simone Biles

Life lesson for your students:  Years of hard work can pay off in “golden” ways!

Simone Biles has dominated gymnastics in a way that has never been done before!  She won four gold medals at the 2016 Olympics.  She dominated the World Championships for two years before that.  But Simone missed out on the 2012 Olympics because she was just barely too young.  That meant training for long hours every day for nearly four years to achieve her dream of competing in the Olympics.  It’s really tough for gymnasts to stay at an elite level for that long, but Simone was up to the challenge!  More importantly, Simone’s coach said she kept an amazing attitude during all these years of training.  This incredible attitude was on display during the 2016 Olympics when Simone made a mistake that cost her a gold medal on the balance beam.  But she cheered like crazy for fellow American Laurie Hernandez as she won silver in that event.  Her attitude and work ethic are just as incredible as her talent.  Click below to see my paired texts about Simone and Shannon Miller.

Simone Biles Shannon Miller Paired Texts

LeBron James

Life lesson for your students:  Sports can provide stability when life gets tough.

LeBron James was raised by his mother.  They didn’t have much money, so they moved a lot.  LeBron thinks he moved six times when he was 4th grade!  Do you have students who are being raised by just one parent?  Or students who move a lot?  They need to read LeBron’s story!  Once he got involved with football, his coaches became father-figures.  They encouraged him to stay in school and get his homework done every night.  One of these coaches taught LeBron how to dribble a basketball.  Before he became a basketball star, LeBron needed stability in his life.  You probably have students who could use sports as a stabilizer in their life, just like LeBron.

Kids also need to realize that the man who is currently king of the NBA was one of the most hated and mocked athletes in the country from 2011-2012 when he went to the Miami Heat.  But he used it as motivation to work hard.  He also does a TON of work promoting education.  He has an awesome program that helps at-risk kids from elementary school all the way through high school graduation.  He gives awesome rewards for kids who have perfect attendance and good grades.   There are many reasons Cleveland should be proud of LeBron.  Click the image to see the passages I wrote about LeBron and Michael Jordan.

LeBron James Michael Jordan Paired Texts

Carlos Correa

Life lesson for your students:  Set goals and work like crazy to achieve them!

Of all the athletes I’ve written about, I’ve been most impressed with Carlos.  One of MLB’s brightest young stars grew up in Puerto Rico.  His dad worked construction jobs and made Carlos help him starting when he was eight years old.  Carlos learned what it meant to work hard.  So when he decided he wanted to become a pro baseball player, he worked as hard as he could to improve every day.  He also worked hard to learn English.  He saw many MLB players who needed a translator when they were interviewed.  So when Carlos was in third grade, he asked his parents to send him to a school where he could learn English.  He wanted to be able to speak for himself when he became an MLB player one day!  Carlos was an awesome student who graduated with the best grades in his high school class.  He scored a 1560 on the SAT!

He also has a huge desire to help others.  He started helping homeless people in Houston just a few weeks after joining the Astros in 2015.  He says God has blessed him with an incredible talent, so he has a responsibility to give back to his community.  Carlos is an incredible person for your students to learn about!  Your students will learn a ton about hard work if they read these paired texts about Carlos and Cal Ripken Jr.!

Carlos Correa Paired Texts