Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Me...Jane by Patrick McDonnell

In addition to writing several picture books, Patrick McDonnell has created the comic strip Mutts.  Me...Jane is about Dr. Jane Goodall and her dreams as a child that led her to grow up to work with animals.

I found this book inspiring for me personally and I shared it with my students to show them the importance of finding ones passion in life.

Here is a link to a free printable story board to use as a prewrite or for your budding cartoonists.

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

Monday, July 29, 2013

Seeking Balance Part 3 -- Meal Planning

I was talking with some other teacher friends about struggling to make meals during the school year.  When I told them about my favorite kitchen appliance, the crock pot, they agreed but weren't sure what to cook.  When I shared my favorite series of cookbooks, they each pulled out notebooks and wrote them down.  I thought I would share them with all of you:

Fix-It and Forget-It is designed for the busy cook.  The recipes are contributed by a number of cooks.  I make sure I use the recipes that cook 8-10 hours without an addition half-way through.  Sometimes I use the recipes as inspiration for my own creations.
This one is my favorite in the series:

I don't like long complicated recipes.  Often several of the items are already in my pantry.  I can write the one or two remaining items on the shopping list for the week.

There are also some editions for special diets:

There is something about walking in the front door from work and knowing dinner is ready.

What is your meal-planning strategy?  I would love to hear about it.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Quote of the Week -- July 28, 2013

"I think a hero is an ordinary individual who finds strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles."

 Christopher Reeve

Friday, July 26, 2013

Time Capsule -- Back to School Printable #1

Click here to download Time Capsule from my Teachers Notebook Store.

Click here to download Time Capsule from my Teachers Pay Teachers Store.

I know different school districts begin and end their school years at different times.  My first contracted day isn't until a month from tomorrow, but many of my readers are going back to school much sooner.

This printable is the first assignment I give my students the first day of school as they walk in the door.  It is also on their desks as they walk in the last day of school.  I use it the first day to get to know them.  I use it the last day to have them think about how they have changed throughout the year.

This last year, one of my students looked at her paper and said, "Boy, I didn't even write sentences at the beginning of the year." Others noticed how their tastes in books and games had changed.

To make the time capsule itself, I covered an oatmeal box (cylinder) with aluminum foil and wrote on it with permanent marker.  I rolled the stack of papers and put them inside with the lid.  I left the time capsule on a shelf in full view all year.

Every now and then a student would mention the time capsule to see if I had forgotten it.  I love having traditions like this one in my classroom.

Freebie Fridays

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Grandpa Green by Lane Smith

My first exposure to Lane Smith was as the illustrator of The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Tales and I have come to associate him with silliness.

Grandpa Green is more serious.  Grandpa Green's great-grandson takes the reader on a tour of the garden.  The hedges in the story illustrate the different stories the child knows about Grandpa. 

This book would be great for Grandparents Day or to prepare a class to interview an older person about their memories.  Students can create a list of the types of stories about Grandpa Green.  This can generate questions a student might ask an older adult.
For an explanation of my rating scale, click here.
Find me at Goodreads.

Monday, July 22, 2013


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The part of “What Not to Wear” that I can’t abide by is the discussion of shoes.  If you aren’t on your feet all day, maybe you can pull off wearing heels all the time.  I haven’t worn heels in about ten years.  During testing weeks, I build my entire wardrobe based on comfortable shoes.  I have four pairs of Skechers. The rest are flats from various places.

One of my activities this summer is finding another pair or two or comfortable shoes.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Quote of the Week -- July 21, 2013

"A teacher who is attempting to teach without inspiring the pupil with a desire to learn, is hammering on cold iron."

Horace Mann

Friday, July 19, 2013

Name Patterning Art

Click here for the Free Printable Grid we used to complete this activity.

I did this activity with my fourth graders this past June, but it turned out so well, I think I will use it at the beginning of this school year and post them on a bulletin board. 

First, I gave my students the blank grid and had them write their name as many times as it takes beginning at the upper left corner and ending at the bottom right. 

Students create a different design for each of the letters in their name.  Each name will create a different pattern based on the number of letters and any that repeat.

After they have finished the design, I had them cut out the grid and choose a 9 X 12 piece of colored construction paper  on which to mount it.

I hope you enjoy this activity with your students.

Freebie Fridays

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein

I have to confess I read this book to my fourth graders just for fun.  I did have them predict what would happen as we went along.  I pointed out the story structure had three bedtime stories that the father read to the child.  Many fairy tales and folktales have a pattern of three (three bears, three pigs, three goats, three wishes, etc.), and we had just studied the genre.

Here is a free printable graphic organizer for analyzing a fairy tale or creating a new one.

Interrupting Chicken is fun to read aloud...and isn't reading supposed to be fun?
For an explanation of my rating scale, click here.
Find me at Goodreads.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Pinterest Pet Peeves

I've been using Pinterest to find and sort projects and recipes I want to try out this summer.  I have learned to click through to the actual website before I pin, to see if the blog post really gives me the information I need.  I have been fooled more than once by the picture and the description.

Here are some pet peeves:

1. A blog post that just has pictures of projects but no materials list or directions.

2. A blog post that is advertised as a recipe, but first I have to wade through family photos of a trip to Chicago.

3. The website crashes my computer with long scripts and pop-ups.

4.  A blog post that rehashes someone else's post.  The original was more focused and succinct.  (See #2.)

5. TMI (never relevant information).

It got me thinking.  I know there are people who feel that they should only post once a day.  I have to say as a reader that I would prefer two clearly labeled posts that are short and to the point over one long post with multiple topics.

I'm just saying...
Is anyone else with me on this?

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Quote of the Week -- July 14, 2013

“Sure, education is expensive, but living in a world of ignorance is even more expensive.”

Seth Godin from Stop Stealing Dreams
Section 8 “Is school a civic enterprise?”

Friday, July 12, 2013

Gomoku on the 100s chart

There are many versions of Gomoku online game.  Two players take turns claiming squares and the goal is to get five squares in a row.  Rows can be horizontal, vertical, or diagonal.

Here is a free 100 chart with larger squares so many math materials will fit as markers. 

To use this game to practice number sense, students must claim their number with an equation.  For example, when the red player chooses the space 45, he must claim it by telling the other player 9 X 5 = 45.  The blue player verifies that this equation is correct.

Students may use any process we have learned in class to claim their number.  I have each pair turn in a paper with the two names and a list of the equations they used to play the game.

Update November 2: Now available as a set of seven games in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. Gomoku Games is also available in my Teacher's Notebook Store.

Freebie Fridays

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo

I found this book in a local bookstore recently and immediately loved it.  Elliot visits the aquarium with his father and comes back with a pet penguin.  The story reminded me a little of Mr. Popper's Penguins (the book, not the movie), but as a picture book I would use it a little differently in my classroom.  The ending is not what I expected.

I focused on picture books with my students the last several weeks in class.  I find that older children still love picture books and are happy to have me sit and read one to them.  I can use them to teach many of the reading strategies we are working on and we can use them as starting places for our own writing.

Here are some prewriting questions to think about:

Having a penguin as a pet (or some other exotic animal) is a fantasy of many children.  What exotic pet would you want to own?  What problems would this cause for you or your family?  What problems would this cause for your neighbors?  What would you need to take care of this pet? 

Here is a free printable graphic organizer to plan a story.

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

Monday, July 8, 2013

Summer Theater Workshop

For the next two weeks, I am volunteering at a Summer Theater Workshop for middle school and high school students.  They have already auditioned and started memorizing the scripts.  July 19-20 we will have performances open to the public.

We are working on an original musical called, "Miss Compton's School and the Dangerous Dig" written by a creative husband-wife team. 

I love having time to pursue this opportunity.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Friday, July 5, 2013

More Activities on the 100s Chart

Update: To download a free 100 chart that will accommodate many math material cubes, click here.

Today's freebie is really two activities that you can have students do with the 100s chart.  The first one is called the Sieve of Eratosthenes.  Students take a chart and shade in all the multiples of 2 (not counting 2).  Then they shade all the multiples of 3 on the same chart (not counting 3).  They should notice that all the multiples of 4 have already been shaded when they shaded multiples of 2, so they continue with multiples of 5. The multiples of 6 have already been shaded, so finish up the chart with the few multiples of 7 that have not already been shaded.  The multiples of 8, 9, and 10 will already have been shaded.
The result should look something like this:

Those that are left uncolored are the prime numbers.  Prime numbers have exactly two factors, one and itself.  Composite numbers have more than two factors.  One is neither prime or composite.

Once students have completed this chart, they can use it to develop strategies for the Factors and Multiples Game.  I introduced the Factors and Multiples Game on my blog a couple of months ago.

Activity number two is a variation on the game.  Like the original version, the first player chooses an even number less than 50.  The second player chooses a number that is either a factor or multiple of the first player's number.  Instead of using strategies to choose a number that has no uncovered factors or multiples, the students work cooperatively to create the longest factor/multiple chain.  Teams record their chains on a class chart and see who can create the longest chain.

I hope you and your students enjoy these activities.

Freebie Fridays

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett


I loved the premise behind this book. A girl finds some yarn in a box and begins knitting.  Each time she finishes a project, she has enough extra yarn to start another project.  Soon the whole town is colorful and then the yarn is stolen.

We studied several genres of short stories this year in my fourth grade classroom.  I put this in the fairy tale genre, although there is a strong moral at the end.

Students can create their own fairy tale or analyze this one with this graphic organizer.

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

Monday, July 1, 2013

Teacher Trash Talk

When I wake up this morning, our state budget crisis may have narrowly averted.  Our state budget expires June 30 at midnight, and as I schedule this post, no agreement had not been signed.

One of our legislators, decided that a solution was to write "An Open Letter to Educators" that I found insulting.  Liz Pike suggests that teachers who are discouraged by a lack of cost of living adjustment should find employment elsewhere.

When I first started an education blog, I thought I would be a voice for teachers.  I soon learned that it was healthy for me to ignore the critics.  I avoid reading the comments under educational news items.  I know that my principal, colleagues, parents, and students are happy with my work.  I don't go looking for self worth on social media.

I can't always ignore Pike's attitude and those like hers.  I notice that these attacks happen when we are talking about compensation and they come from people who are far away from today's school setting.  These comments about pensions and time off are nothing new.

My first year teaching, a non-educator friend parroted what she had heard about teachers and pay.  If we cut the pay of teachers then the ones who really want to be there will stay.  Somehow this will improve teacher quality.

Maybe if I should work for free, because I just really love my job.  (I'm sorry, family, I couldn't afford groceries this week, but the good news is I have a fulfilling career.)

I would love to apply this to our legislators who can't agree on public fish consumption statistics, so they can't come up with a budget.  Maybe if we cut pay and benefits, only the ones who care would show up.

I'm willing to give it a try.
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