Thursday, October 31, 2013

Guest Post on ATUE

Today, I am excited to share a post I wrote for All Things Upper Elementary.  I love reading and writing poetry with my students and I am grateful for the opportunity to share this with some new readers.

If you don't know about this collaborative blog, I recommend you visit them regularly.  Some excellent 3-6 grade teachers share tips and materials.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

All Things Upper Elementary

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erksine

Caitlin has Asperger's and up until now she has always gone to her older brother Devon for help deciphering the world.  Devon has died and Caitlin's father is struggling with the tragedy.  Caitlin decides that what she and her father need is "Closure."  She just isn't sure what that is or how to get it.

I loved the voice of this main character.  I have taught several children who approach the world in a similar way and I alternately laughed and cried at Caitlin's confusion.  I might consider this as a read aloud for older elementary or middle school students.
For an explanation of my rating scale, click here

Monday, October 28, 2013

What Persistence Looks Like

I believe that I am a good teacher because I am persistent.  None of my students want to fail.  They may give up because they don't see another option.  I love watching the light bulb pop on for someone who might have otherwise given up.  Recently, I had that moment for myself.

I was teaching Virtually Montessori's Create a Geometry Star Lesson.  I could not understand why one of my students, an otherwise gifted artist, was struggling to create her star.  I sat next to her, I modeled for her, and I held the ruler while she drew the lines.  Still her project looked more like a polygon than a star.  I walked away for a bit, not sure what to do next.

I started helping a different student who had missed the first part of the lesson.  "Can my lines cross?" he asked as he was starting the second part.

"Yes, they can," I replied and the light went on.  "Carol, did you know your lines can cross?"

She shook her head.  "Oh, well they can, see?"  Now she could make her star.  It was beautiful as I expected it would be.

I teach my students to be persistent with a task.  Sometimes, they need to walk away for a moment to find a new approach.  This isn't giving up...even though it might look like it at first.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Quote of the Week for October 27, 2013

"If the school board gives the teacher lousy instructions, the teacher can easily put up his hands and say, 'I'm just doing my job.' The great teacher doesn't do that, of course. He provides a buffer between the administrators and the his real customers, the students." Seth Godin

I found this quote a few weeks ago in a blog post called The GIGO Buffer.  It completely resonates with how I feel.  I am the buffer between insanity and students.  (Substitute school board with any influence on education that is frustrating you.)

Friday, October 25, 2013

Reading Strategies Poster and Bookmarks

When I taught kindergarten, first, and second grade, I taught my students this set of strategies for attacking new words.  I printed it up for my volunteers so they had a list of strategies to coach emerging readers besides simply telling them the word.
Now that I teach fourth grade, I find the strategies work well with my struggling readers.  We have first grade buddies and I hope that the older readers can coach the younger readers with this book mark handy.
Choose below which method to receive this free download:

Freebie Fridays

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead

I guess with the title Liar and Spy, I should have expected the theme of this book to be everybody lies.  Without spoiling too much of the book, you need to know that everyone in the book is telling a lie about something at some point.  This turned the plot into  a mystery for me, but Rebecca Stead works out all the situations in a satisfactory way.

At first I was concerned at the lack of honesty, but as I finished the book, the characters stayed with me awhile and I thought it would be a good book to discuss why people lie.  I do not know if I will have time to read this aloud this year, but it is a possibility.

Some character traits create both problems and solutions for a character.  Click here to download a free form where readers can collect evidence from the text for this.

For an explanation of my rating scale, click here.
I use Grammarly for proofreading because I don't want my fellow teacher bloggers to get out their red pens. This post is sponsored by Grammarly, an online proofreading service.  It also checks for plagiarism, so I can check student work as well.   I rarely have sponsored posts, but this service is one I actually use and can recommend to others.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Poverty, Planners and Scholarships

I teach in a school with a 41% free and reduced lunch rate in a neighborhood north of Seattle.  I was curious how much money that meant a month: a family of four grosses $3,600.  These numbers are set nationally and I know our area has a higher cost of living.  All of this to say there isn't much disposable income here.

I wonder what will happen each time we charge for field trips and special events.  Once I had a pizza lunch where we charged a few dollars and many students came without funds.

This year, I ordered planners for my students.  I should have considered the cost and asked more questions last spring.  When they arrived I created an order form that had a box marked "Scholarship Request."  Only four of twenty-three received scholarships.  That's better than what I thought our statistics would bear.

One child who I expected to request a scholarship brought in enough money for two.  Her mom wanted to provide a scholarship for another child.

This is typical of the families I work with: many struggle financially, but they are generous.  They know what it means to be in need.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Quote of the Week

"Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them become what they are capable of becoming." -- Goethe

Friday, October 18, 2013

Happy Birthday Poems of Silliness--Free Gift for You

Two years ago next week, I started a poetry blog for children with a commitment that I would post (or schedule) a poem each day.  I want to celebrate achieving this goal by giving my friends and followers a special freebie.

Click here to download Tongue Twisters from my TpT store.
Click here to download Tongue Twisters from my TN store.

I was working with a summer theater workshop and used tongue twisters to help the actors practice enunciation and projection.  It occurred to me that the same exercises would help students read orally with accuracy, appropriate rate and expression -- a Common Core Standard.

To help students practice their accuracy, fluency, and expression, model reading one of the tongue twisters, slowly at first to practice accuracy.  Next, have students read in unison after you.  Then distribute the sheets to have students practice in duos and triads.  Students could "perform" their chosen tongue twister or lead the class with call and response.

To have students write their own alliteration, find a free lesson and printable here.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer Holm

Turtle's mom becomes a housekeeper for a lady who doesn't like children, so Turtle moves to Key West, Florida to live with relatives she has never met.  I admired Turtle and her adventure.  She discovers family secrets and a place to belong. 

I have read quite a few books by Jennifer Holm and I love her strong female characters. I recommend this book for intermediate classrooms.

For an explanation of my rating scale, click here

Monday, October 14, 2013

In Honor of School Lunch Week

I would like to thank our district's food service for giving me the opportunity to do stand up comedy each morning.  They don't realize that the document they call the school lunch menu is hilarious.

Here are a selection of entrees from the October Menu.  (As Dave Barry says, "I am not making this up.")

Whole Grain Pepperoni Pizza
Whole Grain Chicken Burger
Whole Grain Bean and Cheese Burrito
Whole Grain Chicken Corn Dog
and my favorite
Whole Grain Cheese Pizza.
(I don't think the texture of whole grain cheese would be appetizing.)
Last week I began giggling when I read about the Whole Grain Fish Nuggets.  Have you seen a whole grain fish?  Steven tells me they smell like fish.  I don't find that very comforting.


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Quote of the Week

"Ideal teachers are those who use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross, then having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create bridges of their own." -- Nikos Kazantzakis

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Flash Sale at Teachers Pay Teachers

Head on over to Teachers Pay Teachers to catch this sale in celebration of 100,000 Facebook Followers.

Many stores are having sales -- including mine.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Interview a Pumpkin

I confess that I love writing lessons for my students.  I come up with a prompt and a graphic and a format and creativity flourishes.  Recently I awakened at 3:00 and had to get up to write.  Yes, I am obsessed.

This week I want to share something I had my students do this week: Interview a Pumpkin.  I knew if I introduced the topic I would have 23 stories about a pumpkin about to become a Jack-o-lantern.  If I wait a few weeks, I will have 23 stories about pie.  I don't want to read 23 similar stories.  (I tell them this.)  I have them brainstorm at least 10 situations they can use in their pumpkin account. 

You can decide if you want them to include Punkin Chunkin in their list.  Hint: if 23 students raise their hands simultaneously and ask, "How do you spell trebuchet?" you may want to ask them to stretch their thinking a little more.

Interview a Pumpkin is available in my TpT store.
Interview a Pumpkin is now available in my TN store. It's forever free in both places.

I hope you and your students enjoy this lesson.

Freebie Fridays

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Masters of Disaster by Gary Paulsen


Masters of Disaster by Gary Paulsen is definitely written for boys ages 8-12 and possibly girls with a sense of adventure.  Henry leads Riley and Reed into several adventures to avoid boredom and impress girls.  Just the scene on the cover gives a future reader a hint of their antics.  I hope the readers in my class do not try these stunts at home.

Here is a printable character sketch form where readers collect words and actions of a particular character that show an attribute.

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

Monday, October 7, 2013

Who is Invisible?

A couple of weeks ago, I took a long road trip with family for a memorial in another state.  On my way I tried to picture each of my students.  I went around the seating chart until I could picture and name each one.  After three weeks with them, no one was invisible.

It helps that I only have 23 this year and I haven't had a furniture thrower in awhile.  I want to make sure that each person is noticed and called on and helped.  It is usually the quiet girls I have the most difficulty picturing. 

I know there are children who prefer to be invisible.  When I was 17 and joined the army, I figured out that staying quiet and following directions kept me out of the drill sergeant's wrath.  Being invisible is a good defense at times.  I want to see everyone.

I know there are teaching strategies to make sure I get around to every child and no one opts out.  I find closing my eyes in a quiet moment away from school to make sure I haven't forgotten anyone impacts the climate in my room.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Quote of the Week

 "A formidable person is one who seems like they'll get what they want, regardless of whatever obstacles are in the way."  Paul Graham

I want to be a formidable person.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Multiplication Bingo Freebie

At the beginning of the school year, I tested my students for fluency in their multiplication and division facts.  Let's just say with where we started I can easily document student growth.
Here is one of the games my students have been playing to increase fluency.  The free Google doc has a filled in multiplication chart, the rules, and number cards. 

Multiplication Bingo for 2-3 players

Materials: Filled in Multiplication Chart, Number Cards, Dry Erase Markers


1.  The first player draws a number card.

2.  The first player picks a multiple of that number on the multiplication chart and marks it.  This number can be any number on the board that is a multiple.  It does not have to be in that column or row.  For example, if the player draws a 12, he or she can choose 24 anywhere it appears on the chart.

3.  The first player says aloud the equation that matches that number on the board.  For example, if the player placed the marker in the fourth column and sixth row, even though he or she drew a 12, the correct response would be 4 X 6 = 24.

4.  The second player begins the next turn.  Play continues until one player has filled an entire row or column.  A player could also win by filling in the spaces diagonally corner to corner.

I printed the multiplication chart on one side and the 100 chart on the other.  I put the page in a plastic sleeve and have dry erase markers and wipes in a tub.  I have been collecting number sense games at various levels with these simple materials.  I have a single routine for set up and clean up and a math station that lasts my entire year.

Freebie Fridays

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

October Currently with Oh Boy 4th Grade

I can tell I am completely immersed in school when I don't start my Currently post until the second day of the month.  (In case you are new to the teacher blogging scene, Farley at Oh Boy 4th Grade does a once a month blog party on the first day of each month.  Check it out!)

Currently I am listening to the dryer where my husband is doing laundry.  (Good man...yes, he is.)

Currently I am loving that I get to pull out my sweaters.

Currently I am thinking about a lesson I am creating.  This is an understatement.  I have been obsessing about writing curriculum lately.  I woke up at three earlier this week and had to start writing.

Currently I am wanting hot tea.  I have a nagging scratchy throat and I'm hoping this will help.

Currently I am needing to schedule parent conferences which happen in a few weeks.

I decided to pass out treats. 

Click here for this free eBook in my TpT store.

Click here for this free eBook in my TN store.

Happy October!

Love, Aubrey by Suzanne La Fleur *Spoiler Alert*


I could never read this book aloud to my students, not because there was anything inappropriate, but because I couldn't get through the ending without sobbing uncontrollably.  I adored the main character who begins the book living alone and using her birthday money to buy food.

Fortunately, Aubrey's grandma arrives and takes her home to live while Aubrey's family issues get worked out.  I would happily recommend this to a 9-12 year old child.

The book touched me personally, because of the many foster children I have taught over the last twenty plus years.  Often a family member would step in, but many times the child was placed with some amazing foster families I have known.

Spoiler below the red ribbon.

For an explanation of my rating scale, click here.
Every child wants a good relationship with his or her biological parents.  Every adopted child I have met has had questions about that relationship.  And yet I firmly believe that every child needs a stable home first.  Too often I have watched foster children get dragged for years through a system waiting for biological parents to get it together.
I was worried that Aubrey would choose to go back with her mom too soon.  I was elated that she chose to stay with her grandmother a while longer.  Children like Aubrey should have relationships and visitation with birth families, but all children need a safe place to grow up first.
No I'm not passionate about this at all.
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