Thursday, June 23, 2016

Building a Community of Readers

As a child, my friends and I would talk about the books that we were reading while we ate our PB&J at the lunch table and on the bumpy bus rides home.  Something tells me I wasn't your typical kid though.  So, how do we get our students to discuss books?  To share their favorites?  To reveal why they abandoned a book?
Building a community of readers in an elementary (or secondary) is so important!  So, how do you do it?  This post has some awesome ideas!
Here are some things I've used in my classroom to encourage my kids to talk about what they are reading and to encourage each other to pick up a good book.  As a result, a community of readers was created among my class.

1. Book Review Binder
When a student finishes a book, they fill out this quick book review from Rachel Lynette. All pages go into a binder in our classroom. It serves as a resource for the students, but also a way for me to track student reading and be aware of what each student enjoys. 

2. Classroom Bookshelf
This idea came from Literacy for Big Kids and my students thought it was awesome!  When they finished a book that they thought others would enjoy, they wrote the book title and author on the "spine" of the book and taped it on the shelf. 
Building a community of readers in an elementary (or secondary) is so important!  So, how do you do it?  This post has some awesome ideas!
Here's the completed door (before the fire marshal made me take it down):
Building a community of readers in an elementary (or secondary) is so important!  So, how do you do it?  This post has some awesome ideas!
You can grab the book spine templates for free here!

3. Teacher board 
This board was so much fun to create! I printed out a picture of the cover of the book I was currently reading and hung it up on this board.  My students would check every day to see if I had changed my current book. Most times, if I had, they requested to read that book next!  They even started recommending books to me, just as I did for them. 
Building a community of readers in an elementary (or secondary) is so important!  So, how do you do it?  This post has some awesome ideas!

4. Fishbowl
This idea I haven't actually tried yet. I saw it in a library at another school and knew I had to give it a whirl!  Readers write their book recommendations on a fish template and place it in the fishbowl.  If a student is in search of a good book, they reach into the bowl and pull out a title!
You can grab the fish templates here for free!

5. Status of the class
This idea came from DM's book, The Book Whisperer. It is, by far, my favorite way to share books in the classroom.  Each night, my students are required to read for 20 minutes. I don't do book logs or questions or parent signatures. Those had no meaning for my students or myself. 

Instead, we spend the first 5 minutes of class each day sharing a one-sentence summary of what we read the night before. I say "we" because I join in too! Each student is required to share a sentence. It is a great way for students to hear what others are reading and, more often than not, they find a book that they might enjoy. 

If two students are reading the same book and one student is further along, the second student will cover his ears or run into the hall quickly. It's fun to watch them look out for each other!  Sometimes I track what they share, especially if I know they are struggling with finishing a book or finding a good fit.   You can learn more about how I do Status of the Class here.
Building a community of readers in an elementary (or secondary) is so important!  So, how do you do it?  This post has some awesome ideas!
Please note that I did not utilize all of these ideas in one year, as that would be overkill and diminish my students love of reading. I have used 1 or 2 each year I have been in upper elementary.   What have you used in your classroom to build a community of readers?

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A Teacher's Summer

A teacher's summer might not be what you think it is!  Five ways they prepare and organize for back to school in the fall.  I think #1 is my favorite!
What does a teacher's summer look like?  Many use this time to become better teachers!  Crazy, right?  Here are some of my plans for these warm months.

1. Read!
Kids Books
Summer is a great time for me to get a jump start on chapter books that my 5th graders might be interested in during the year.  I pick up brand new releases so that I can recommend fresh books to my readers.  Our state also chooses 20 books to celebrate throughout the school-year, with games for the students to play during Reading Week, if they have read them.  I make sure that I read these as well, since they are always a big hit in my class!
A teacher's summer might not be what you think it is!  Five ways they prepare and organize for back to school in the fall.  I think #1 is my favorite!

Professional Books
I'll be honest, when I was in college and professional books were "required reading," I may not have read them as thoroughly as I should have. Or at all. Now that I have the freedom to choose, I love getting my hands on a good research-based book.  I look to my colleagues for recommendation, as well as other teachers who I follow on IG, Facebook or blogs. Not only do I pick up new ones each year, but I re-read ones that have made an impact on my teaching. I find it to be rejuvenating and motivating to learn about best practices from other educators.  And it makes me motivated to get back into the classroom!
A teacher's summer might not be what you think it is!  Five ways they prepare and organize for back to school in the fall.  I think #1 is my favorite!

2. Plan for next year
This one is a biggie. A majority of this planning is done on my own, but I also meet up with my grade-level colleagues to discuss the upcoming year. I reflect on what went well the previous year and what didn't quite go as planned. 

I set up my calendar for the year.  Doesn't the blank calendar look all pretty?  It will fill up fast!
Click here to grab The Calendar Notebook
 I create a year-long calendar based on our curriculum's scope and sequence.  This gets hung up behind my desk to help keep me on track.
A teacher's summer might not be what you think it is!  Five ways they prepare and organize for back to school in the fall.  I think #1 is my favorite!

3. Prepare the classroom
This is the fun part!  As tiring as it is to set up and take down my classroom every year, I look forward to a clean slate in August.  Some years I keep it exactly the same, others it is completely different.  I enjoy creating decor for the room and deciding how everything is going to be organized to make teaching and learning easy for myself and my students.
4. Shop!
It's no secret that teachers love school supplies!  I actually prefer to shop for Crayola products than clothes (true story).  Most teachers provide a majority of the school supplies for their classrooms.  We scour the Target Dollar Section and the Staples ads all summer to score good sales on everything from notebooks to glue sticks.
A teacher's summer might not be what you think it is!  Five ways they prepare and organize for back to school in the fall.  I think #1 is my favorite!

5. Spend time with family
And the most important thing I do over the summer...is spend quality time with my own family.  Sometimes they get a tad neglected during the school year as I am writing lesson plans and grading papers.  I come from a family of teachers, so we do a LOT of catching up over the summer!  The best place to do so is by the beach, of course!
A teacher's summer might not be what you think it is!  Five ways they prepare and organize for back to school in the fall.  I think #1 is my favorite!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Pick Me!

In my second grade classroom, especially at the beginning of the year, my students were nervous about participating in class.  Or they were too eager!  I often found that a handful of students loved to participate, while a majority were happy to sit back and let this handful of students do all of the work.  My solution?   Participation sticks! 
Looking for a way to increase participation in your classroom?  Use participation sticks!  A quick, easy classroom management tool for teachers.  It's not as random as you (or your students) think!
Each student had a stick with their number on it, which I placed in a container on my table while I was teaching a lesson.  I would randomly draw a stick when I asked a question and that student would get to answer!
Looking for a way to increase participation in your classroom?  Use participation sticks!  A quick, easy classroom management tool for teachers.  It's not as random as you (or your students) think!
I taught an inclusion class, so my resource teacher often helped out with this.  While my students thought that the selection was random,  I was actually much more strategic about it.  I picked students who I knew would be successful answering the question or would be able to work out the answer with my assistance (or their peers).

I also had students who were quite high academically, but very shy.  I would help build up their confidence before pulling their number to answer a question.  This helped them feel more successful while stepping out of their comfort zone.

The best part of this technique was that, as the year went on, we built a caring, trusting community in our classroom.  Not long after starting the participation sticks, the students would get really excited to see who would be picked next.  Eventually, we didn't even need the sticks anymore, as the students were clambering over each other to participate in the class lessons.

For more bright ideas, browse the link-up  below!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Teacher Appreciation Week

Next week is Teacher Appreciation Week!  At our school, we get all the students involved to show the staff how much we really care about them.   It's a really simple, easy project that has a big impact.
What a great idea for a teacher appreciation day gift!  Easy and free for students to put together to celebrate all the staff at their school.
Each student receives a blank template to complete.  Classroom teachers can decide to do this in class or to send home for the students to complete on their own.  The student chooses at least one staff member (teacher, aide, janitor, etc.) that they want to recognize.  Using a combination of words and drawings, the student shares why they appreciate that adult.
What a great idea for a teacher appreciation day gift!  Easy and free for students to put together to celebrate all the staff at their school.
Students are given the option of choosing more than one staff member, they just need to use one template per adult.
What a great idea for a teacher appreciation day gift!  Easy and free for students to put together to celebrate all the staff at their school.
All the cards are collected and a folder for each teacher is created.  I keep a checklist of all the staff members to ensure that each adult is properly recognized.
What a great idea for a teacher appreciation day gift!  Easy and free for students to put together to celebrate all the staff at their school.
Oftentimes, the teachers who don't see as many students, such as the speech teacher, don't receive quite as many.  I then recruit students to help fill those gaps.

At the end of the week, we place the filled folder in each teacher's mailbox.  It's such a wonderful gift to receive each year.  I love reading what is important to students and fuels my teaching, especially as the end of the year approaches.
What a great idea for a teacher appreciation day gift!  Easy and free for students to put together to celebrate all the staff at their school.
And you better believe that I keep every.single.one!  Want to start this project with your school?  Click here to grab all the templates for free!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Poetry Notebooks

Having students create their own poetry notebooks is a fun way for them to practice reading fluently and accurately.  This post incorporates many pictures on how to get one started in your classroom!
Poetry is a wonderful way for students to build fluency and accuracy while reading.  I was a little upset when they pulled it out of our second grade curriculum.  I knew I wanted to incorporate it into our classroom, even if I wasn't explicitly teaching it to my students.

I decided to have my students create poetry notebooks.  Each week they would receive a new poem to add to their notebook and by the end of the year, they had quite a collection!
Having students create their own poetry notebooks is a fun way for them to practice reading fluently and accurately.  This post incorporates many pictures on how to get one started in your classroom!
On Monday, I would read the poem out loud to my students during our morning meeting.  We would discuss any unknown words or literary devices that were used in the poem (in this case - onomatopoeia).  Oftentimes we would talk about the sensory details that the poem depicted.
Having students create their own poetry notebooks is a fun way for them to practice reading fluently and accurately.  This post incorporates many pictures on how to get one started in your classroom!
The students would then get their own copy to put into their poetry notebook.  I would give them about 5 minutes to color in the pictures on their poem to give it a sense of personalization.
Having students create their own poetry notebooks is a fun way for them to practice reading fluently and accurately.  This post incorporates many pictures on how to get one started in your classroom!
We would practice reading the poem together every day during morning meeting.  This helped the students to not only be able to read all the words, but to get a sense of the flow of the poem as well.

Their poetry notebook was kept in their book bag.  At any time during Reader's Workshop, they were able to pull out the notebook and practice the poems that we had collected.
Having students create their own poetry notebooks is a fun way for them to practice reading fluently and accurately.  This post incorporates many pictures on how to get one started in your classroom!
This was a great resource for them, especially if they were at the "read to a partner" station.  Each partner had their own copy of the poems and they could read them together or take turns.
Having students create their own poetry notebooks is a fun way for them to practice reading fluently and accurately.  This post incorporates many pictures on how to get one started in your classroom!
There were times when I would also have the students pull out their poetry notebooks when they were meeting with me.  This often depended on what I was working on with a particular group or if I saw that certain students were struggling with a poem.

I chose poems in a variety of ways.  I liked to choose ones that went along with the current season or holiday.  Other times, I would select poems that went along with a particular skill that we were learning in Reader's Workshop.

When I did teach poetry, I liked to hang these fun posters in the classroom for students to reference as we created poetry journals with our own work.
Having students create their own poetry notebooks is a fun way for them to practice reading fluently and accurately.  This post incorporates many pictures on how to get one started in your classroom!

Having students create their own poetry notebooks is a fun way for them to practice reading fluently and accurately.  This post incorporates many pictures on how to get one started in your classroom!
Since April is Poetry Month, I've added quite a few poetry resources to my "Think Spring" pinterest board - check it out!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Westing Game

Many of my fondest memories of elementary school occurred in my fifth grade classroom.  Not only did my teacher constantly expect our best effort, but she made learning fun.  When I was moved to fifth grade a few years ago, my goal was to emulate her teaching strategies.  Not a day goes by where I don't think back to how I felt as a student in that classroom and how I want my students to feel - engaged, yet challenged.

One activity that stands out was her read-aloud of The Westing Game.  Quickly, this novel became one of my all-time favorite books.  I knew that I HAD to teach it in my own classroom.  Thanks to Scholastic's Dollar Deals, I quickly acquired a class set of novels and we got right to work.
The Westing Game is a wonderfully intriguing mystery and a great novel study for upper elementary and middle school students.  This blog post is chock full of ideas, activities and lesson plans to bring this book to life in your classroom!
There are a lot of characters in this book (over 20!), so it's important that we keep track of them.  We put all their names into a bucket and each student draws one name (if I have more students in my class, a couple of them will double up).
The Westing Game is a wonderfully intriguing mystery and a great novel study for upper elementary and middle school students.  This blog post is chock full of ideas, activities and lesson plans to bring this book to life in your classroom!
They are then in charge of that character throughout the novel.  They keep track of that character's personality traits, behaviors and possible motives.  After each chapter the students report to the rest of the class what they have discovered about their assigned character and adds notes to the character chart.
The Westing Game is a wonderfully intriguing mystery and a great novel study for upper elementary and middle school students.  This blog post is chock full of ideas, activities and lesson plans to bring this book to life in your classroom!
We also keep track of the characters in our Detective Case Files.  In this file, we have a layout of the apartment building where the novel takes place (this is crucial to the story), as well as character notes.  The students can also use this file to take notes on each chapter.
The Westing Game is a wonderfully intriguing mystery and a great novel study for upper elementary and middle school students.  This blog post is chock full of ideas, activities and lesson plans to bring this book to life in your classroom!

The Westing Game is a wonderfully intriguing mystery and a great novel study for upper elementary and middle school students.  This blog post is chock full of ideas, activities and lesson plans to bring this book to life in your classroom!
An extra activity that the students are allowed to do (on their own time), is to create character trading cards.  These are so much fun to make!  The students write down important information about each character on the back of the card and sketch a picture on the front.  Side Note: these drawings came from MClaSSy on TpT.  I have the students draw their own characters.
The Westing Game is a wonderfully intriguing mystery and a great novel study for upper elementary and middle school students.  This blog post is chock full of ideas, activities and lesson plans to bring this book to life in your classroom!
As we move into the novel, the students begin to play "The Westing Game" along with the characters.  They each receive a $10,000 check just as the heirs do and, based on their excitement level, you would think it was real money!
The Westing Game is a wonderfully intriguing mystery and a great novel study for upper elementary and middle school students.  This blog post is chock full of ideas, activities and lesson plans to bring this book to life in your classroom!
The students also receive all the clues as they are revealed in the novel.  I print them on different colored paper, so that the students can keep track of which clues belong to which set of pairs.  This is their absolute favorite part. 
The Westing Game is a wonderfully intriguing mystery and a great novel study for upper elementary and middle school students.  This blog post is chock full of ideas, activities and lesson plans to bring this book to life in your classroom!
Whenever they finish their work, they are allowed to pull out their clues to try to figure out what the answer to the mystery is.  I have to say, it's my favorite part too!  It's amazing to watch their minds work and hear their predictions.  It is definitely a thinking-outside-the-box moment for my students.
The Westing Game is a wonderfully intriguing mystery and a great novel study for upper elementary and middle school students.  This blog post is chock full of ideas, activities and lesson plans to bring this book to life in your classroom!
The students also have a comprehension packet to complete as they read the story.  We use this as a basis for our class discussions after each chapter.  Oftentimes, I let them read and complete the packet in partners because I find that they get so much more out of the book when they are able to talk about it with someone else.  They are also required to look up some of the vocab words from each chapter.
The Westing Game is a wonderfully intriguing mystery and a great novel study for upper elementary and middle school students.  This blog post is chock full of ideas, activities and lesson plans to bring this book to life in your classroom!
As I mentioned before, there is a LOT that happens in the book.  And sometimes even I get a tad confused!  To alleviate that, I keep a file of all my own notes.  I use this just as a quick reference for myself, since I would rather let the students lead a discussion to share what they find to be important to the plot of the story.  In my binder, I keep my chapter notes, a chart of all the partners and their clues, notes on each character and an answer key to the student comprehension questions as well as the vocab definitions.
The Westing Game is a wonderfully intriguing mystery and a great novel study for upper elementary and middle school students.  This blog post is chock full of ideas, activities and lesson plans to bring this book to life in your classroom!
My enthusiasm for this book is unrivaled and I think my students can tell.  They get so into it every year and I love being able to bring it alive for them.  When we use this novel, I feel as though I can see the wheels inside their heads turning as they are trying to figure out the mystery.  It also creates amazing conversations and debates among my students.  I highly recommend bringing this book into your classroom!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Flat Stanley goes on an Adventure!

Have you ever gone on an adventure with Flat Stanley??  It was one of my students' favorite activities in second grade!  
Full of ideas, templates and activities for organizing a Flat Stanley project in the elementary classroom!
We would read the original novel by Jeff Brown (there's a whole series) together.  It is a wonderful story about a a young boy who is flattened (but unharmed) by a bulletin board.  He then shares his adventures being only 1/2 an inch thick.    One of his adventures includes mailing himself across the country in an envelope.  So, as a class, we create our own Flat Stanley projects!
Full of ideas, templates and activities for organizing a Flat Stanley project in the elementary classroom!
I sent letters home to parents, asking each student to bring in at least one address of a family member or friend who lived outside of our town (the farther away. the better!).  Not all students would bring in an address, but some students would bring in multiple so everyone was able to send at least one Flat Stanley out.

Once we had the addresses, each student designed their own Flat Stanley with a template that I provided.  We would write a letter to our Flat Stanley's recipient with instructions to take him on an adventure.  In the envelope, we would also include a blank fact sheet for the recipient to fill out about their state/country.  Side note:  our class would use my How to Write a Letter packet to learn how to set up their envelope and friendly letter.
If a student didn't have an address to send their Flat Stanley to, they could take him on their own adventure over the weekend.  They would create a Travel Journal for him, detailing what they did in pictures and words.

 As each student received their Flat Stanley back (hopefully!), they would fill out an info sheet for our class binder.  It became a great reference tool for our classroom library!  You could also use this Studying the States packet to research our country and create a binder for the class.

We would also track Flat Stanley's travels on our very own maps.  Each student has a file folder with two maps in it, one of the USA and one of the world.  We would color in a state or place a star on the country once Flat Stanley visited there.  The students were so excited to do this!  And it was great geography practice too!
Full of ideas, templates and activities for organizing a Flat Stanley project in the elementary classroom!
As we read the book, the students would also answer comprehension questions, practice their vocabulary and complete some activity sheets to show their understanding of the novel.
Everything in this post can be found in my Flat Stanley Project pack so that you can re-create it in your own classroom!