Monday, November 30, 2015


If you are reading this, you survived Black Friday.  This is the first year in a long time that I have worked retail the day after Thanksgiving.  I'm taking a year off from teaching to get some perspective on things.  

One of the reasons I became dissatisfied with teaching was the emphasis on test scores.  Teaching had to be data-driven.  We test what we teach and as a result we teach what we test.

What I'm finding out is that happens in the business world as well.  I expected to have sales goals, but I didn't expect to have goals on signing people up for credit, issuing care plans, and remembering to ask people to take our survey at the end of each interaction.  I'm not criticizing the company I work for, because I have learned that every business has these types of goals.  Business is data-driven.  Some much more than others.

I notice that I have a better attitude in both business and educational environments when I focus on the people. "Who did I help today?"  The interactions I have in my store may not bring an immediate sale and all the other measurables.  I'm looking long term.  I want people to want to come back another day when they are ready to make a purchase.

How many times as a teacher have I had a student who struggled with me come back and tell me about their successes?  It may not have shown up on my test scores, but it happened later in the important parts of their lives.  And they came back to tell me because they knew I would want to know.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Quote of the Week -- November 29, 2015

"Hope is the power that gives a person the confidence to step out and try."

~Zig Ziglar

Have a great week,

Friday, November 27, 2015

Wanted: Elf on a Shelf

I don't have an actual Elf on a Shelf that I use in my classroom, but so many of my fourth graders were obsessed with him anyway.  I have a blank wanted poster that I created for other assignments and I decided this would make a quick writing assignment and bulletin board.

 To download a blank wanted poster for this and other assignments, please click here.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Middle School: My Brother is a Big Fat Liar by James Patterson

Georgia Khatchadorian wants to succeed in middle school, but she has one problem.  Her brother Rafe has a reputation for being a big, fat liar.  Can she establish her own reputation?
This was the first book of this series I read, because it was nominated for an award here in Washington State.  I loved the book, but I recommend reading the series in order.

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

Monday, November 23, 2015

A Book Review, Honesty, and Internet Safety

I have been posting a book review every Wednesday for about three and a half years.  I love reading and sharing my finds.  Most of my reviews are positive meaning I don't bother to share the ones I don't like, so most of my reviews are blue or red ribbon books.

One day I received a comment on my blog asking me how the book ends.  I wondered if it was a student who was asked to write a book report.  I clicked on the Blogger Profile and found her name, her school, access to her classmates' blogs, and her teacher's name.  I emailed him explaining who I was and what I suspected.  He talked with her and the next day she deleted her comment and wrote a more open ended discussion type of question.

I share this story with my students because I want them to know that what they do on the internet is public and can be traced back to them.

I share this story with other teachers because I am concerned with the liability we place on ourselves.  I was a concerned teacher who reached out to a student and her teacher about integrity and love of literature.  What if my motives had been different?

Last year my district issued Google Accounts to every student in the district.  It took one of my students about three hours from the time I introduced the account to start misusing her email.   It was frustrating because I wanted to teach my students to use the platform, but I didn't want them to get into trouble with it.

I want my students to use technology as they learn.  I'm just concerned that sometimes we give them more than they can handle all at once.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Quote of the Week -- November 22, 2015

"The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be."

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Have a great week,


Friday, November 20, 2015

Writing Prompt: My Unusual Thanksgiving

This lesson started with a guest poet in my classroom and I have added a little bit to it each year.  The original prompt was describing "My Unusual Thanksgiving."  The visiting poet's family was a mix of cultures and she shared some of the traditions that her family celebrates this time of year.

We collected ideas in our writing notebooks and then wrote list poems.  I also did the assignment and created the poem shown above.  To download a printable copy of "My Unusual Thanksgiving" click here.  

The next year I taught the lesson myself, but this time I used a simple graphic organizer to collect sensory details.  To download the Five Senses graphic organizer shown below, click here.

Happy Friday!


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Magic Marks the Spot by Caroline Carlson

Hillary Westfield wants to defy her society's expectations for girls and join a league of pirates.  She finds a way to leave home and start her adventures on the High Seas carrying her magical gargoyle with her.

I think tweens will love this mix of fantasy and adventure.

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

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Quote of the Week -- November 15, 2015

"Knowledge is power, but enthusiasm pulls the switch." 
~ Ivern Ball

Have a great week,

Friday, November 13, 2015

Beginning Public Speaking -- My Special Object

Public speaking is a scary experience, but with practice students can succeed at this important life skill.  Here is an introductory activity for public speaking in the classroom.  It includes directions, a graphic organizer, and a rubric for grading.

To download My Special Object, please click here for my Teachers Pay Teachers store and here for my Teacher's Notebook store.

This is one activity from my larger unit "Six Steps to Creating a Better Classroom  Presentation" I created for my Teachers Pay Teachers and Teacher's Notebook stores.

This product includes the rubric and graphic organizer.  It also includes the six steps that can be used as a presentation or printed out as posters to remind students of the steps.  I recently updated this product and included a list of class presentation topics with links to free resources.

Happy Friday!


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

I read American Born Chinese last summer and shared it with a friend who is Japanese/Korean American.  (Yes, I know the difference, but if you read the book you will understand that is the point.)  He helped me understand the folk tale references in the book.  We also had discussions about prejudice, privilege, and misunderstandings about the different cultures that live in the U. S.

Gene Luen Yang begins with what appears to be three stories.  By the end of the book he has woven them into one.  This book is deceptively simple, but it stretched my brain.  I can see younger students reading it at one comprehension level and older students reading it at another.

(Note: the only reason I don't recommend it as a read aloud is because it is a graphic novel.)


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

Monday, November 9, 2015

Critical Reading Skills: All About Explorers

Have you used the website All About Explorers with your students?  All About Explorers is a site designed by teachers who wanted to teach their students about good internet research techniques.  All of the biographies on the site are fictional.

After teaching students quality resources about explorers, students can explore the "information" on this site.  (Many of the "biographies" are humorous.)  This is a great way to teach critical thinking while reading.

To read my original post about my explorer unit, please visit this post here.
To download the questions I use with the report, please click here.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Quote of the Week -- November 8, 2015

"If you can clearly articulate the dream or the goal, start."

Simon Sinek 

Have a good week,


Friday, November 6, 2015

Friday the Thirteenth Activities

Next Friday is the Thirteenth of November.  I love learning about superstitions with my upper elementary students, and I have created several lessons I teach on Friday the Thirteenth.

The latest lesson is create your own superstition.  Students fill in the blanks in a worksheet like the one pictured above.  This could be used as a writing warm up or literacy station.

To download "Create Your Own Superstitions" click here.

In case you missed the other Good Luck/Bad Luck lessons, here is a list of previous posts:

Friday the Thirteenth Writing Prompt
Friday the Thirteenth List Poem
Good Luck/Bad Luck Poem
Good Luck/Bad Luck Story

I recently packaged all my superstition activities as a freebie in my Teachers Pay Teachers and my Teachers Notebook stores.

Happy Friday!


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate

Kek moves from Africa to live with family in Minnesota.  He hopes his mother has survived and will join him.  As he adjusts to the different culture and climate, he makes new friends including a cow that reminds him of home.

Katherine Applegate has a gift for creating a distinct voice in Kek's character.  As he learns about America, we see it with fresh eyes.

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

Monday, November 2, 2015

Free Health Resources for Grades 3-6

 Organ Research Report @TPT or @TN

We are supposed to teach health, but that isn't a subject that usually gets curriculum updates.  Today I want to share with you two free assignments and a website I use for research.  Both assignments are available in my Teacher's Notebook and my Teachers Pay Teachers stores.  They each include rubrics for easy grading.
 Healthy Habits Poster Project @TPT or @TN

If you don’t have a set of health books on body systems, I recommend  I have used this site for health resources and also as evidence in persuasive writing units.  The main page has sections for parents, children, teens, and educators.  

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Quote of the Week -- November 1, 2015

"There is the risk you cannot afford to take, and there is the risk you cannot afford not to take." ~ Peter Drucker

Have a great week,

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