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Wednesday, March 8, 2023

5 Fresh Spring Ideas to Keep Your Students Engaged

  Springtime is in the air and the end of the year is coming quickly. Are your students having a hard time staying engaged in their learning? Today I am going to talk about all things spring and helping to keep your students engaged during this challenging time of the year. 

    Spring is a great time to review skills that your students have been learning all year and one fun way to do that is with math crafts. Students love these activities and they don’t even realize they are reviewing skills they have learned. These types of crafts also make great decorations around the room. Teachers love having these projects for open house to help showcase all the skills their students have been learning. One of the favorite projects in my classroom is the flower telling time. Students love to create their flowers and show off what they have learned about telling time. This is also a great project for beginning telling time or it can even get more advanced with telling time to the minute. 

    Another activity that my students love is digital task cards. Task cards are low prep and allow students to practice the skills that they are working on. You can create digital task cards in google slides and then you can easily assign them through google classroom or whatever school management system you have. There are also a lot of different activities you can set up for your students with task cards. You can have them just straight answer the questions. You can set up the questions on google forms and make it like a digital escape room. You can have students scoot around the room to different questions and have them record their answers on their own papers. There are lots of different things that you can do with digital task cards. 

    Along the same lines as the math crafts, students love showcasing their writing with fun crafts. One project that is always a hit in my classroom is insect stories. Students create their own insect and create a story to go along with it. Another project that is always a big hit is the rainbow poems. April is National Poetry month, so this is a great project to celebrate this special month. Students love showing off what spring items are the different colors of the rainbow. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

My Nine Favorite Picture Books To Teach About Kindness

  Reading picture books to my class is always a highlight of our day. I try to find different times throughout our day when I am able to share a great picture book with my students. Books that teach about kindness are some of my favorites to share, and today I am going to share my list of top kindness picture books to share with your class. 

     The first book on the list is Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller. This book has such a sweet message about being kind. The main character puts together a list of ways to be kind to the people in her life. Then at the end of the story, she finds a way to show kindness to a new girl. This story has beautiful pictures with very sweet and simple words for students to understand. 

     The next book on the list is I Am Love: A Book of Compassion by Susan Verde. This is another great story with a sweet message. It is all about love and how we show love and kindness to the people around us. This book is full of wonderful examples of how we can show kindness, live with gratitude, and take care of our minds and bodies. An extra bonus with this book is the amazing artwork of Peter H. Reynolds. 

     Here is another favorite book on my list, I Walk With Vanessa by Kerascoet. This book is perfect for younger students because it is a wordless book. The detail in this book helps students to understand how to help students who are being bullied and how we can stand beside them and help them. This book shows how one simple act of kindness can help a whole community come together to help stop bullying. I love to use wordless picture books as writing prompts for my students. 

     The next book on the list is Do Unto Otters by Laurie Keller. In this book, Mr. Rabbit gets new neighbors who are otters, but he doesn’t know anything about otters. He learns from Mr.Owl to just treat them the way you would like to be treated. The author focuses on how to be a good neighbor and friend by simply using The Golden Rule. Children will even learn how to say different kind phrases in different languages. 

     The next book on the list is Have You Filled a Bucket Today? By Carol McCloud. This book talks about an imaginary bucket that gets emptied with unkindness and filled with kindness. The book teaches valuable lessons about giving, sharing and caring. The book challenges children to fill other people’s buckets by saying kind words or doing kind acts. This is always a favorite book to share and it really helps my students understand how to help other people feel good about themselves.

     Another favorite book of my class is Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed by Emily Pearson. This book is about an ordinary girl who picks some blueberries for her neighbor. Her neighbor makes blueberry muffins that she shares with friends. This creates a chain reaction of doing good deeds that help change the world. This story teaches random acts of kindness and shows how one person can help change the world. 

     The book Peace is an Offering by Annette LeBox is another great book about kindness. This book is written in rhyme, which is a fun way to present a book to your class. It’s about a group of neighborhood children who learn to find peace in everyday items that are all around them. This book helps children to find calm and happiness in their own community every day. 

     The next book on the list is Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson. Chloe and her friends are not nice to the new girl Maya. Maya eventually stops coming to school. The teacher did a lesson on kindness and how even a small act of kindness can change the world. Chloe realizes that she missed an opportunity to be a friend and show kindness to Maya. 

     The last book on the list is Tomorrow I’ll be Kind by Jessica Hische. This story encourages young people to promise that tomorrow they will be grateful, helpful, and kind. This story helps all people to realize that even the smallest gesture of kindness can help to change the world. Everyone needs to remember to be kind. 

     Kindness is a skill that students need to work on. What books do you like to use to about Kindness? Share them in the comments. I can’t wait to hear what books you like to use! 

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

My 5 Easy Steps To A Smooth Writers Workshop Block

Writing is an important skill that our students need to learn, and should be a part of our daily schedule each week. It is amazing to see the improvement of our students’ writing when we are including it as part of our daily schedule. You can have your students write daily with just a few simple steps and systems. 

     One of the most important parts of Writers Workshop is the mini-lesson. I like to use concepts that I see my students having a hard time with and then incorporate that into a mini-lesson. The mini-lesson can be a grammar skill you see a lot of your students struggling with, or it can be a writing skill like word choice or sentence types that your students have trouble with. The mini-lesson should not be more than 10 - 15 minutes. We don’t want to have our students sitting there for a long time, instead, we want to get them to their writing. 


     The next step in running an excellent Writers Workshop block is mentor texts. Bringing in books that focus on different skills as writers is a great way to help students understand what they should add to their own writing. I like to start each new unit with a couple books that fall in that genre of writing. There are so many great books out there that go along with each of the different genres of writing that we teach. I usually display the books on the smart board so all my students can see the pages as we are reading. This also makes for a great way to discuss the books and ideas to add to their writing because all of the students can see the pages. 

     I use lots of graphic organizers during our Writers Workshop block. Graphic organizers are great because you can reuse the same organizers for the whole writing unit. This allows your students to get used to the organizers that are being used. This also makes it so I can reuse the organizers year after year. Just make the tweaks you need to make for each new year. Graphic organizers make my life so much easier and after the first few weeks of school, the students know exactly what to do with each organizer and how to use them. When my students need to add more pages to their writing they just go and grab the organizer that they need. Some students will only use one or two organizers, and some will use a lot more. Using graphic organizers makes it easy for my students to transfer their work to regular paper. As they finish their writing, they meet with me for a conference to go over it and make sure they are ready for the next step.  I love the functionality of graphic organizers, and my students love them too!

    The next part of a smooth Writers Workshop block is publishing. Once the students are done with their writing and they have met with me to go over it, they are ready to publish. The publishing process can be done in a couple of different ways. Some teachers really like their students to hand write everything out on paper. Other teachers like to make everything digital. I like to do a hybrid of the two. After the conference with me, my students get a publishing paper and write their piece on the paper. Just like the graphic organizers, I always have plenty of extras out for my students so they can just grab what they need on their own. Once they have written out their published piece on paper, they then type it on the computer. I have them use Google Docs to do this. I create an assignment in Google classroom and then they are able to type their piece. I like to have them type it also because they need the practice with typing for state testing. The more opportunities we can give them to type, the better. Also, when they type their work, all of their published pieces are organized and in their Google Drive and this makes it easy to add work to their digital portfolios. 

     The last part of running a smooth Writers Workshop block is the organization. I like to keep these paper trays from Lakeshore Learning around the room. I have a spot in the classroom for all our writing materials. I l keep our graphic organizers, rough draft paper, and publishing paper in the boxes. Once the students learn how to use the different papers and where to find them, it makes our writing time run so smoothly. Students just get up, grab what they need, and then return to their seats. Having the supplies organized is so important. I love being able to help my students become independent learners. 

     With just a few simple steps you can have your students writing every day. Your Writers Workshop will be so organized that you can run your sessions in a snap. Your students will become better writers and be begging for writing time. What step in the Writers Workshop block are you most excited to try in your classroom? Tell me in the comments! 

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

My Top 5 Picture Books for Celebrating Christmas in the Classroom

Christmas is one of my favorite holidays and times of the year. At this time of year I love to share my favorite picture books with my students. Do you enjoy sharing picture books with your students? Take a look at my list of favorite books and let me know what you think!

The first book on my list is The Polar Express. This is a really fun book about the magic of Christmas and Santa. I love sharing this story with my students. Our favorite thing to do is come to school with our PJ’s on and enjoy this story with a cup of hot chocolate. This is a great book to enjoy on the last day of school before winter break!

     The next book on my list is Pick a Pine Tree. This is a great story about the traditions of decorating for the holidays. It focuses on picking your Christmas tree and decorating it. I love doing a writing activity to have my students describe decorating their tree and how they would do it. 

     The next story on my list of favorites is Dasher. This is a fun story about the life of Dasher the reindeer and how her life changed when she took the opportunity to work with Santa. This is always a favorite of my students. 

     The next book on the list is Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree. This is a really fun story about making Christmas special for a whole community. Mr. Willowby’s tree is too big for his house so the top of his tree gets passed around to many different houses to bring holiday cheer. This is a great story to help spread the holiday cheer in your classroom! 

     The last book on the list is Red and Lulu. This is a great story about two birds that make their nest in a beautiful tree. Once a year the people around the tree put lights up and decorate the tree. People come from all over the country to visit the tree. One day the two birds are separated and they don’t know if they will ever find each other again. (How does it end?!?)

     Picture books are such a fun way to celebrate the holidays. Tell me in the comments what your favorite picture books are to share with your students!

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

My 4 Tips of How to Keep Your Students Engaged Before the Holidays


The holidays are coming, and that means that students are going to start getting excited about a break!  They are also excited for the Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukkah holidays. This is the time of year that we need some extra activities to help keep our students engaged. I love finding fun things for students to do so they can be excited about learning as it gets closer to the holidays. Today I am going to share some great ideas that I use in my classroom with my students as it gets closer to this time of the year! 

     Incorporating writing into our day is important. I use holiday writing prompts as much as I can. My students get so excited to see fun topics that focus on the holidays. Adding in some fun writing activities will help your students stay engaged before the holidays. I usually add some fun writing topics that are in addition to our normal writer's workshop block. 

     Holiday themed crafts are another great way to help keep your students engaged. When you add in a craft for your students to show their learning, it always helps to keep your students invested. You can use crafts with content for reading, writing and math. Crafts are a great way to display the content your students are learning around your classroom. This helps to decorate for the holidays and your students will love getting to do crafts so much, they won’t even realize they are showing what they have learned. They will also enjoy seeing their work around the classroom. 

     Another activity that I like to do before the winter holiday break is a Holidays Around the World Unit. I tie this in with our reading unit as well as our social studies unit. My students always enjoy researching about the winter holidays in different countries and then presenting what they learned to the class. My students really like creating crafts for the different countries and holidays as well as trying some of the different holiday treats that come from the different countries. This is always a highlight of our holiday celebrations in the classroom. 

     The final idea that I always bring into the classroom to help keep my students engaged before the holidays is picture books. I love to read to my class and introduce them to new books. The holidays are the perfect time to share new stories that your students have not heard before. There are so many wonderful books about the different fall and winter holidays that can be shared. My students get so excited when I have a new book to share with them. I usually tie new books into our reading time. But I will also share fun books at different times throughout the day. I really like to read to my class after lunch to help calm them down and this is a great time to share new, fun holiday books with them. 

     There are so many wonderful activities that you can share with your class to help them stay engaged before the holidays. Today I shared some of my favorites. What are some of your must do holiday activities to help keep your class engaged before the break? Share your ideas in the comments. I can’t wait to try them out!

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

My Favorite Picture Books to Share in the Classroom Each Fall


I love sharing picture books in my classroom! Fall is one of my favorite times of year to share picture books, and today I am going to share some of my favorite picture books with you!

     Fall is the perfect time to learn all about apples and pumpkins. I love taking time to teach my students about how apples and pumpkins grow and what makes them special during the Fall. It is also great to have field trips for your students, like to an apple orchard or the pumpkin patch. 

   The topic of Autumn is another great subject to share. There are so many great activities that happen in the Fall and it is really fun to read about that. Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn is a perfect story for this. Awesome Autumn is another great picture book all about the Fall season. 

    I love using picture books for Halloween. There are so many great topics that you can cover leading up to Halloween. I like to cover a different Halloween topic and book each week leading up to the holiday. I enjoy doing a week all about spiders. Stellaluna by Janelle Cannon and Spiders by Gail Gibbons are some of my favorites. I love to do another week all about pumpkins. A couple of my favorite books for this topic are Pumpkin Jack by Will Hubble and The Pumpkin Book by Gail Gibbons. All four of these books allow students to compare fiction literature with nonfiction literature. I think it is so important to introduce nonfiction books and stories as much as possible. During the weeks leading up to Halloween, I also love to share fun stories like Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds and Peter Brown and I Need My Monster by Amanda Knoll. There are so many fun books for the month of October and Halloween! 

     Thanksgiving is another great time for Picture Books. I love to share Thanksgiving stories with my students all of November, but I really beef it up the week leading up to the holiday. The week before the holiday, I like to read a story each day. Sometimes I will tie it in with our reading instruction and sometimes I will read the stories for our read aloud time. The students love to listen to stories. They don’t care when you share the books, as long as they are being shared! Some of my favorites for Thanksgiving are Turk and Runt by Lisa Wheeler and A Turkey for Thanksgiving by Eve Bunting. Fry Bread is a great story about the Native Americans and how they make fry bread. This is a fun story to share leading up to Thanksgiving. 

     Fall is the perfect time to read picture books that teach about math and science. One of my all time favorite books to read is How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? By Margret McNamara. This book allows me to introduce some really interesting concepts for math and science. My students always enjoy learning about estimation. I break my students up into 3 different groups and give each group a different size pumpkin, and they count the seeds that are inside the pumpkin. It is always fun to guess the amount of seeds and then see the excitement of the kids as they realize the amount of seeds does not have anything to do with the size of the pumpkin. I also use this book to do pumpkin investigations while we have the pumpkins open. This is a highlight of the fall season for my students. Another book that I always use in the Fall is From Seed to Pumpkin by Wendy Pfeffer. This book is great for teaching the science behind how pumpkins are grown. This would be a great time to have students grow their own plants so they can see steps in growing a plant, and it would also be a great time to visit a pumpkin patch so they can see how the steps of how pumpkins are grown in real life. 

     There are so many wonderful topics that you can cover during the Fall. Your students will enjoy learning about apples, pumpkins, Halloween and Thanksgiving. Let me know in the comments what your favorite picture books are for the Fall. What are your favorite activities to do with your students? I can’t wait to try them out in the future! 

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

How To Organize Your Classroom So It Stays Organized All Year Long

It can be a challenge to keep your classroom organized for the year. So often, students burst into the room and all of a sudden it looks like a tornado blew through! That’s why I love to create systems that help my students keep our classroom clean and organized. Today we are going to look at all the different ways you can organize your classroom and help create systems for your students. 

     The first area of the classroom that needs to be organized is your cabinets. This is an area that people don’t really see, but having this area organized will help you easily find things all year long. I love to use small and medium-sized plastic boxes. This allows you to see what is inside. I put all the different supplies that students will need throughout the year in the small boxes. I have a box for each item like pencils, glue sticks, extra crayons, and scissors. Using these small boxes allows me to pull out what we need, and they have a home to go back to when we are done. I also love to use medium-sized boxes for larger items that we use all the time. This can be paper, manipulatives that we use all the time, or any other larger item that you use in your classroom. One of my favorite types of boxes to use is the flat paper-sized boxes. I use these for our different centers around the classroom. Each week I put out the different activities that we will be working on and then put the lid back on them. They stack in the cabinet when we are not using them and then when we need them, I put them out on the tables and everything the students need is all ready to go in the box. These flat boxes work perfectly! 

     The next area of the classroom that we need to organize is the paper. I love to have paper supplies out for students so they can get what they need and don’t have to constantly ask for things. I use paper trays for students to get more paper for Writer’s Workshop and also for students to turn things in. There are times that I choose one student from each table to turn everything in for their group. By using paper trays, the students know exactly where they need to turn in the assignments. I also love to use magazine boxes for our folders. This makes it easy for students to find their folders at the start of the day because the folders are all upright instead of stacked inside a paper tray. The last place that a lot of papers go in our classroom is in the file box that I have for students. 

I love keeping portfolios for my students. We keep digital portfolios with all the digital work that we do, but we also do a lot of paper work too. Each week when I hand work back to my students, I have them pick a couple pieces of work in each subject to add to their portfolio. I use a file box to keep all of that work in. This allows the students to quickly put the work in their folder and it also keeps everything organized. When parent teacher conferences come around, I just pull out the portfolio for the student and then they are ready to share all the awesome work they have been doing. 

     Your desk is another area that is so important to keep neat and organized. I love to keep a stacking paper tray on my desk. Each of the sections is for different things. The top section is where students put notes from home. I also put things from the office there until I can go through them. The next section is for things that need to get done right away, and the final section is for important papers that I need to keep, like our school calendar or checkoff sheets that I am using at the time. I also love to use some type of desk organizer. This keeps everything that I use all the time at my fingertips. I keep pens, pencils, scissors, post-its, and tape in mine. Inside my desk, I love to use drawer organizers. This keeps everything in its place, instead of everything spreading all over the place. This is where I keep extras of items like pens, pencils, markers, and paper clips. I love having my desk area organized so I can easily find things. 

     I love to have a kidney bean table in my classroom. This is a perfect place to pull students to do small group instruction. I like to keep a utility cart next to my table. This allows me to keep everything that I need at my fingertips for our small group instruction. In the utility cart, I keep all my teacher supplies in the top section. The middle section has everything that I will need for Language Arts, and the bottom section has everything that I will use for our math small group instruction. It always works out perfectly to have all the supplies students need in the cart. Having everything in a utility cart lets you move it around to different locations around the classroom if needed. Using drawer organization also allows you to be able to find things quickly. I also like to use a round sectioned organizer for all the items like pencils, crayons, and markers, that students will need all throughout the small group instruction. 

     The last area that we need to organize is the students' materials. I make sure that students always have a folder in their desk to put all their papers in. I have my students use a packet for the week before they turn things in, so it is important that they have a place to keep those papers. I like to use plastic folders because they hold up for the whole year. I also like to have my students use pencil pouches rather than pencil boxes to keep their supplies so they can easily move around the classroom with our flexible seating. I recommend using fabric pencil pouches because they hold up well. The last thing that I love to use with students is plastic envelopes. These always work out well for giving work back to students. They take them home, parents review the work, and then they return them the next day. Once again, I like to use the plastic envelopes because they hold up so much better. One issue is that sometimes students do not return the envelopes. I like to have some kind of incentive, like class money, for students to be motivated to return the envelopes. 

    Keeping your classroom organized is so important. An organized classroom will help your students know where things go. It will also help your students to keep the classroom clean and tidy. When everything in your classroom has a place to live, your classroom will always stay organized and clean.


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