Friday, August 31, 2012

Daily 5 Resources

Next Wednesday, September 5 is our first day of school.  My deadline for setting up my room is noon on Tuesday when we have our Back to School Event.

I am doing what I usually do when I begin something new: collecting resources.  Here are some links to some blog posts about using the Daily 5 in an intermediate classroom.

If you have other links to resources, please include them in the comments.  Thank you.

Update: Ms. Chrissy B from Buzzing with Ms. B suggested this website

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Long Shot by Mike Lupica

My husband saw this book on the coffee table as part of my personal summer reading.  "Mike Lupica, where have I heard that name before?"

Mike Lupica is a sports writer who now writes sports fiction for the 9-12-year-old group.  Although the main character is in high school, I found the content appropriate for the fourth, fifth, and sixth grade boys I teach.  Succeeding in sports is crucial to the outcome of the book, but developing character traits is even more important. Here is a free printable character sketch where students collect evidence that a character has a particular trait.

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Monday, August 27, 2012

I Changed My Mind

Last week I attended a district professional development day.  Different teachers in our district signed up to give the sessions and I enjoyed hearing from people in the classroom using the materials I am required to use.

I realized that I have had some misconceptions when I thought about the Daily 5 and CAFE:
  • I thought it was more appropriate for the primary grades
  • I thought it was a canned program that wouldn't allow for the creativity I like to bring to my teaching.
After listening to some teachers who are successfully implementing this program in their classrooms, I realized that I was wrong on both counts.  I have ordered the books and I will keep you posted on the results.

I would love to hear from other teachers who teach fourth, fifth or sixth grade who are successfully using these programs. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

At the Beach

Imagine that you are on the coast of the Pacific Ocean.  You see something come in on the tide that you didn't expect to see on the beach.  Write a short news article explaining:
  • What it is
  • Where it came from
  • When it landed in the Pacific Ocean
  • Who is with you when you find it
  • What happens next
(This writing prompt was inspired by the Japanese dock that washed up on the Oregon Coast after the tsunami.)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Amulet: The Stonekeeper – Kazu Kibuishi

This graphic novel adventure series is typical of the cartoons I see targeted for my age group.  Father dies tragically.  Mother is missing.  The children have to battle unusual creatures on their own. They are given powers they don't completely understand.

I was first introduced to this series three years ago when one of my fifth grade non-readers started carrying around the first book.  He borrowed it from his learning support teacher and pulled it out for independent reading. Now that I know how few words there are in this story, I wonder why it took him so long to "read" it.

I don't mind having students read graphic novels during independent reading time.  Graphic novels give my struggling readers support, but they look more mature than picture books.  This book has some elements  of story that I can use in my independent reading conferences.  I won't let them have a steady diet of this type of book.  I just know better how I can use this tool to encourage real reading.

Free printable story board to encourage students to write their own graphic novel.

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Monday, August 20, 2012

The Desk Fairy

Someone emailed me asking about the Desk Fairy Privileges I have included in my free Privileges and Coupons packet.  I will elaborate here.

When I am having students organize their supplies, I draw a picture of their desk and label what I want them to keep in each compartment.  When I was a beginning teacher, I would schedule a time to clean out desks about once a month.  I found this time got out of control. 

Now I award students who keep their desks neat with privileges and they can cash these in like they would any other privileges.  I make sure students who are not as naturally organized have help.  I can reward improvement not just perfection.

For more information about Privileges and Coupons see my previous blog post.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Caring Classrooms -- A Parent Inventory

Laura Candler of Corkboard Connections is hosting a link up for Creating Caring Classrooms.  I want to take this opportunity to share how I begin to build relationships with the parents of my students.  I send home my Parent Information Form to parents the first day of school for several reasons:
  • I get valuable information from parents that I wouldn't read in a permanent record.
  • Parents are invited into their child's education -- or rather I acknowledge the important role they have.
  • When students see that I accept and invite their families into the classroom, they know I accept them.
I don't get the form back from every parent, but it does give every family the opportunity to share with me.  What parents write about their children touches me and I can make sure that I have started the year emphasizing the positive.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

I am often asked by parents and other teachers about the Hunger Games trilogy and when I would have students read it.  I was comfortable last year with my sixth grade students and selected fifth grade students reading them.   I am moving to fourth grade this year and I have already decided not to promote this series to this age group.

I will explain to my students that these books fit in a genre called dystopia and there are other books I am happy to let them read.  The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau is in this category.  Lina and Doon live in an oppressed city that is running out of resources.  They find a coded message and decide to save their people.

Update June 2014: this year when I read this book aloud, my students kept changing their thinking about what was happening in the book.  Here is a printable form with sentence starters so students can write about it.

I know there are other books in the genre that are appropriate in the middle grades.  Please recommend yours in the comments.

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Monday, August 13, 2012

Becoming Independent

My school worked on its mission statement this past spring.  I'll be honest: I can't tell you what we wrote.  Like most committee writing, it is a complex sentence with a lot of big education words because we don't want to leave anything out.

Yesterday, I was doing some online shopping and I found the mission statement for the company.  As mission statements go, it was well written -- a short list of the purpose of the company.

My brain must have been secretly working on my own mission statement, because suddenly it was clear to me what I am trying to do as a teacher.

I want my students to become independent.

When I think about my job through the lens of this statement, my tasks become clear.  I am giving students the skills and the knowledge to engage productively in the economic and government systems we have in our country.  I want them to find meaningful relationships and work.  I want them to be law-abiding so they may enjoy the freedoms we have in this country.

On a day to day basis, I can make decisions about how I run my classroom based on the idea that I want my students to become increasingly independent.  I don't need to take responsibility for class materials and assignments.  I need to give them the tools to take responsibility for themselves.

I don't know why after 21 classrooms, this suddenly made sense to me.  I have plans for class 22.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Quote of the Week -- August 12, 2012


“As soon as we associate reading a book with taking a test, we’ve missed the point.” Seth Godin in Stop Stealing Dreams Section 4 “What is school for?”

Friday, August 10, 2012

Teachers Pay Teachers Back to School Sale August 12-13

This Sunday and Monday August 12 and 13, Teachers Pay Teachers is having its Back to School Sale.  I am putting my entire store on sale for 20% off.  If you use the promo code BTS12 at check out, you will have a total of 28% off.

I would like to feature a tool I created over the last 12 years of teaching upper elementary students:
Twenty-five Book Reports was my reading program for a few years before my district made a literacy adoption.  I assigned a book report a month and made sure that my students were finishing books across genre. 

Now it is a task I have students work on while I pull small groups during reading workshop.  This past year, I assigned mainly the non-fiction book reports to support the science and social units we were studying.

Included in this product are 13 fiction and 12 non-fiction assignments with rubrics for quick grading.  It is normally priced $6.50 but with both my discount and TPT's promo code, it is priced Sunday and Monday at $4.68.

Thank you Christiana Bainbridge of Bunting, Books and Bainbridge for hosting this blog hop.

Bunting Books and Bainbridge

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Alvin Ho Series by Lenore Look

Have you read the Alvin Ho Series by Lenore Look?  The character is a second grade boy who is anxious about nearly everything.  He experiences typical second grade events -- school, birthday parties, camping trips -- with his own defenses that often bring more consequences.

This book may be a little young in reading level for my fourth graders, but I find it is a good way to explain voice in writing.  And the one-liners are hilarious.

Here is a printable character sketch form.  Students list character traits and collect evidence of that character's actions and words that show that trait.

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Monday, August 6, 2012


I try to use humor in my classroom to keep things fun.  I find I can sometimes defuse situations by joking around. 

One of my students challenged me with this a few months ago.  He wanted to know why I could tease people and he couldn't.

This question must have been bubbling around in the back of my brain for awhile, because this week I got my answer.

I was volunteering at church with another family and I was teasing the eight-year-old about jobs I was going to have him do.  His four-year-old sister said, "You can't tease me."

"I'm going to have you mop all the floors," I told her.  She giggled.  She was included in the game.

That's my answer.  If the teasing is fun for everyone, it can be a way to pay attention to someone and show affection.  The little sister wanted to be included in the game I was playing with her brother.

My student, on the other hand, tends to tease in a mean-spirited disrespectful way.  The jokes are not agreed upon by everyone. 

If giver and receiver don't agree to a nickname, it's simply namecalling.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Friday, August 3, 2012

Are You Ready for Groundhog Day?

Yes, I know that Groundhog Day isn't for six more months.  I wondered for two reasons:
1.  My Groundhog Day posts continue to generate Google traffic all year long.
2.  I'm writing my curriculum map for the year and I definitely want to do my Groundhog Predictions again this year.

I want to invite other classrooms to join me.  The classroom materials are a free item in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  Visit to see our work from last year.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

When Do You Let Students Abandon Books?

I don't often write about books I didn't like, but this book raised a question for me as a teacher that I thought was worth a post: When do you let students abandon books?

Let me start by saying that I usually enjoy Shannon Hale's work.  I own several of her books in my classroom library and encourage my students to read them.  Rapunzel's Revenge is a fractured fairy tale and graphic novel set in the Old West.  Rapunzel becomes an out-law and teams up with a man with the goose that lay gold eggs.  Mother Gothel is the oppressive villain.

I didn't connect with the characters, the setting or the format of the book.  I don't have a problem with graphic novels -- an issue I plan to address later on this blog.  I found myself reading it because it was on my list.  It's a book I plan to allow in my classroom, but I don't know that I would recommend it.

I started thinking more about when to stop reading a book.  I can afford to abandon books.  I read about a book a week or so.   It's like when I don't prefer Brussels sprouts; there are plenty of other vegetables I will eat. 

I have a difficult time letting students abandon books when they never finish a book, just as I keep trying to introduce vegetables to promote healthy eating. I keep asking them to try a bite.  "Read the first chapter and come talk to me."  Eventually I hope they find an author and genre that will hook them.

For an explanation of my rating scale, click here.
Find me at Goodreads.

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