Monday, May 30, 2016

End of the Year: Summer Poetry and Activity Pack

With just weeks of school remaining, I am thinking about what worked and what didn't this year. 
I will be posting and sharing different practices that I will continue to use and those that I will put aside as I go into Fall 2016.  One mainstay for me has always been and will always be the use of poetry to develop fluency and expression. Besides that obvious advantage, poetry can also be used as a vehicle for comprehension and vocabulary instruction. 

My students use a marble composition book as a poetry journal. We set it up during the first week of school and add poems throughout the year. By the end of the year, they have a whole anthology of third grade poems. 

Our poetry sequence goes like this: 
I usually introduce the poem in a whole group lesson. I will often display it on the smartboard and will cover key words. Students use context clues to determine possible missing words. Then we uncover the words and read and discuss it.  
Students love the activity called: Actors and Reciters. For this, half of the class recites the poem while the other half acts out each line. Then we switch roles. I love this because it gets them up, moving and it appeals to those dramatic types in the classroom. The reciters are attempting to read it all together. That helps model fluent and expressive reading for those readers who may be struggling and give them a chance to hear it read loud again. 

Then the week's poem will go into a reading station for the next day. Students get a copy of the poem and glue it on one side of their poetry journal. Students will read it again three times with a partner. The first time they read it by themselves to warm up.  The second time, they read it by taking turns reading stanzas and the final time, they read it chorally- two voices at the same time. 

The next step is having the students create a meaningful illustration to go along with the poem. 
We call this the visualization - or the mind movie. 

Students are encouraged to add words as captions or labels to explain their illustrations. 
I call all spelling for this activity: no excuse spelling. The words are in the poem- this helps students practice accurate spelling.

The next day, they will be given a poetry follow up activity based on the week's poem. 
This requires them to dig back into the text to hunt down certain words or to look for evidence to answer comprehension questions. Here is an example of a follow up: 

We also use our poetry journals for word study word hunts. Students may need to word hunt in past poems for different spellings of long a words, for two syllables words, compound words, contractions, etc. 


The poetry journal words fabulously for oral language practice too. A few times a year, I have students pick a past poem to recite out loud for the class. Students usually pick a partner or two to recite with. They figure out how to act out the poem with gestures or props. They perform their poems for their peers. We will sometimes call this: "Popcorn and Poetry" or "Popsicles and Poems" and I will offer the audience a treat to enjoy along with the recitals.  Students get so clever and creative with how to share their poems. It is always a good time.

I will be sharing the poems I use in my poetry journals on my Teacher Pay Teacher Store. 
I will bundle them by seasons. The first one I have posted is the Summer Pack. 
It will take you through 7 weeks if you introduce a poem a day. 
I have also used them stapled together in booklet as just a "Summer Poetry Journal" and have used them for the last week of school. They read and respond to a poem a day. 

Click this link below to check out the listing:

How do you use poetry in the classroom?  I would love to hear!
 Please comment below or email me:

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Sunday's Words for the Week and The Emotional Flood

“There are no failures, only outcomes. As long as I learn something, I am succeeding."
Tony Robbins

Hello Teacher Friends! It has been a long time since I posted Sunday's Words for the Week. 
I thought these were so appropriate for this time of year. 

We have just weeks left of this school year. It is now that I find myself thinking back through the year. It has been a year of ups and downs and highs and lows. This winter I began a study of Tony Robbins' Unleash the Power Within. More than a decade ago I worked through his Awaken the Giant Within seminar and got so much from it. I felt I needed a refresher this year so I threw myself into his newer teachings. 
His message is simple and direct: Power was given to you the moment you were born. Its source is unlimited. We can seize that power and use it to make remarkable improvements in our lives, in our communities and in our world. 

It is Memorial Day weekend. What a great time to take a moment to acknowledge all that you are grateful for.  Try this emotional flood will be left feeling blessed. 

Who inspires your teaching and the way you live your life? 
Would love to hear: comment below or email:

Saturday, May 21, 2016

A Wall of Words: Dictionary Guide Words and ABC Order

We have spent a ton of time working on words this year. Nouns, verbs, adjectives, synonyms, antonyms, homophones...we have worked through them all. In fact, the students have created an entire wall of words. We called this our reference wall and students did use it regularly to remind themselves which words were which. 
It really was a student masterpiece. The kids thought of the words and created the illustrations. I just wrote up the headings. It all came down this past week. We will be taking the state reading test in our room this coming week and so all our words had to go.  My walls look barren...I wonder how many kids will look to that space when they need to think of a word during that test.  

We have been reviewing our dictionary skills and practicing our ABC order in preparation for the state tests and fourth grade. 
We added a dictionary and guide word note sheet to our reading journals.

Guide words and ABC order practice can become boring fast. We played some games to make it more exciting and fun. We played a guide word matching game. 

Students played ABC War. This is played a lot like regular WAR. The students each flip over a random word card and compare the two words. The student whose word comes first in ABC order gets to keep the card. Third graders are dealing with trickier words that begin with the same 3-4 letters. 
This video shows the game in action.
I love how they are working through the thinking together. 
 These materials along with a dictionary poem and check up pages can be found in my 
Teachers Pay Teachers Store:

How do you make practicing ABC order fun?  Would love to hear!
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Sunday, March 13, 2016

Ancient Mali and Chatterpix

I went to the public library to seek out a new book to read to my third graders.
This book, The Mysterious Traveler was highly recommended. What a fabulous choice!
We were just finishing up a study of  the Ancient Civilization of Mali and this book tied in so wonderfully.  The students and I were hooked from the first chapter and they booed when I had to stop for the day.

As we studied Mali, we read about camel caravans and how the Ancient people of Mali would trade salt for gold in the city of Timbuktu.
I decided to skip the traditional end of the unit social studies test and instead have them do some writing to assess their understanding of the content.
I had them tell me all that they learned about this Ancient Civilization as they wrote about their life as a camel in Mali. The kids were way into it.




I decided to let them share their stories using the Chatterpix App.
Do you know that one? You must check it much fun!

ChatterPix Kids is a free iPad app that you and your students can use to turn pictures into talking pictures. To create a talking picture just snap a picture with your iPad or import a picture from your iPad’s camera roll. After taking the picture just draw in a face and tap the record button to make your picture talk. Your recording can be up to thirty seconds in length. Before publishing your talking picture you can add fun stickers, text, and frames to your picture.

So this turned out to be not only a great writing activity, but a great reading fluency practice. 
Children were intent on getting all their story read in the 30 seconds. 


This took several tries for some.  Meaningful rereadings!
They loved sharing them with each other!
Click the youtube video below to hear this child's camel tell its story. 

Can you think of other ways to use this app?
Would love to hear!
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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Engaging Students With Music: Free Flocabulary Trial

Well, after 5 snow days in a row, we are back to school tomorrow.
A friend sent me this video of Ron Clark dancing with his students to get me charged up and motivated. It did the trick and I  had to share it. 

What an amazing teacher and what a thrill it would be to teach at his academy. 
It is possible that I would pay him to allow me to work there, that's how much I respect what he is doing.
I think what I admire most about him is his dedication and determination to help all students, not just those who are easy to teach.  He will do anything and everything to get them to learn. In a recent interview, he talked about how important it is to find a way to connect with students on their terms, on their level.  He says music is one way to make that connection.

I get that, has a way of engaging even the hard to reach student. I know it because I've seen it work. We sing a lot in my class. We make up jingles and songs to help us remember math, social studies and science content. 

I'm also a big fan of a program called Flocabulary. It's is a web-based learning program that uses educational hip hop music to teach students and increase achievement. My third graders absolutely love it. I use the Flocabulary songs and corresponding materials to teach and reinforce language arts skills like parts of speech, synonyms, antonyms and even reading skills and strategies like making predictions and inferences. 

They also have great songs to use as you teach math skills.  We are using the multiplication songs now to help students develop their speed and accuracy with the math facts.

Interested in try it out?  Flocabulary is offering up a special free 75 day trial. You can sign yourself up, your teammates and your entire school.
 Click the link below to check it out: 

Do you use music in your classroom?  Would love to hear!
Comment or email me

Monday, January 25, 2016

A Blizzard of Books...A Book Report and Craft Idea

The Blizzard of 2016 came and left.  
Left us with mounds and mounds of snow and another snow day to savor and enjoy. 
It is breathtakingly beautiful. I spent some time outside in awe just marveling at the splendor of it all. 
My jack russell can't stand being cooped up inside. I can so relate! He is meant for speed and action and despite his small size and lack of warm fur, he tore through the snow. 
He's my example of how to have a good time!


As I am grading my rather large stack of student papers, I am wondering what my kids are doing with all their free time. I am hoping they are doing some reading. I should have loaded them down with books before I sent them off last Thursday.  
Here is our classroom library.  Too much time on my hands has me thinking about my book organization.  I have them organized by genre in these baskets.  I recently read a post from a blogger who has gone to shelving books rather than putting in baskets.  

How do you organize all your books?  Would love to hear!


Along with lots and lots of reading, we are doing lots and lots of writing. 
It has become a way my students communicate to me about what they are reading and what they are thinking. My mantra is "reading is thinking"  and books need brains, so it is important for them to share what is going on in their minds as they are turning those pages. 


. Whether it is reading for information or for pleasure, I want my kids to respond to what they are reading.
Here was a Fall reading response they did that we called: 
"Here's a Book to Gobble About". 
They told me about about a book they were reading during book nook time 
(independent self choice-stamina building reading time). 
This response sheet works for fiction and nonfiction.  My students LOVE nonfiction and I love that they love it.  It builds background knowledge and helps develop Tier 3 vocabulary.
Many of these responses were nonfiction based. 

We enjoyed reading each other's book responses. 

This writing activity helped me to assess how deep they were going in their thinking. 
I asked them to use the skills we have been working on so far:
identifying the main idea, visualizing and making connections. 
Then they got to be show their artsy, creative side by making a turkey to go along with it. 
I gave them all the same exact template, yet the turkeys were all so different. 
Love the way they make it their own!

I'm doing that again once we get back into the classroom.  
I'm calling this one: "It's a Blizzard..of Books!"

We've moved onto writing summaries, so I want to see if my students can sum up their book by just identifying the most important parts.  We are hitting vocabulary hard, so I also want them to find an example of a pizzazzy word in their book. They will write it down and share its meaning. 
How will they know what it means?  Using context clues of course, and then they will confirm by using a dictionary. 

I am big on having students share their "mind movies' with me...aka..visualizations. 
They have a spot to draw the **most important** visualization of the entire book. 
We'll see if they can narrow it down to that one scene. 
The "cool connection" box gives them a chance to share a text to self, text to text or text to world 
connection.  Even those who struggle to read and getting the hang of connecting to the text. 


I have added this set to my Teachers Pay Teachers Store. 

Click this link to check it out: 

Would love to hear what you have been spending your snowy days doing?
Planning for first day back?  Please share!
Comment below or...
Email me: