Once upon a time, when I first started teaching, I started building my classroom library. 

I gathered books from retiring teachers and Goodwill. Throughout my career, I've grown my library by using Scholastic Book Club points, visiting Scholastic Warehouse sales, and shopping for specific series lots on eBay. The bins are from Dollar Tree, and they've held up well! 

I must say - I'm super proud of my library! 


My first school required me to have my library sorted by guided reading level. I get that! Students, in order to improve reading skills, should be reading books on or slightly above their instructional reading levels. 

My library looked like this for six years... until now. 

I noticed this year especially that my students rarely visited my classroom library unless I forced them to "book shop." They LOVE reading on Epic! where they can easily search and sort by categories. 

Plus, as a grow as a teacher, I've learned that the most important thing about a child reading is that they are learning to LOVE to read. What if they can't find a book they love in their reading level basket? I don't want to be the adult in a child's life that turns them off of reading. 



So, I decided to take on the hefty task of reorganizing my library by categories and genres. The kids helped me brainstorm, and it actually only took a few days to do! 

Here's what we ended up with:

  • Short Fictional Stories (aka 5 baskets of picture books)
  • Early Chapter Books
  • Fiction Favorites
  • Magic Tree House (the only series that could fill a basket on its own)
  • Fantasy
  • Sports
  • Silly Series
  • Mystery
  • Historical Fiction
  • Realistic Fiction
  • Adventure
  • Math
  • Fables, Folktales, and Fairytales
  • Animal Fiction
  • Animals: Nonfiction
  • Nonfiction

I added examples to some of the labels to help students out. For instance, Junie B. Jones and Horrible Harry fall under silly series. If you want to see more - or use my labels for your classroom - you can find my classroom library labels HERE. (It's a Google Doc, so you'll need to make a copy to your own Google Drive in order to edit it. Click File, Make a Copy!) 

The labels are the perfect size to fit inside the clear pocket labels from the Target dollar spot. That makes it super easy for you to change out if needed, too! 


The biggest issue I face now is the book return, because I've willingly made the system more complicated. Honestly, kids put books back wherever they want - even when they literally had to match the letter on the book to the letter on the basket - and I'm sick of it! 

Until I can come up with a better system, like labeling my books again (which I know will take forever), I've decided to create a book return basket. 



For now, this will be my job to replace the returned books. I know it's another thing to add to my plate, but it's a task I'm willing to take on in order to save my sanity. Plus, I'm thinking that if kids are finding books they actually love, they won't be trading out books as often since they'll be enjoying them from start to finish! (Wishful thinking?)

Eventually, I'd like to train students to be in charge of the book returns. I may train my after school program students, who are the last to leave during dismissal and already file all my papers for me - ha! Or, I'm thinking that I could add the task to my team jobs. We'll see! 


The pink label bothers me a little as it doesn't match my color scheme, but I hope it stands out enough for kids to actually use it! 


Any questions? Leave them in a comment below!



    





It's that time of year, y'all! *finally*

Time for students to reflect on their year of experiences while you start packing up your classroom. Whew! Exciting, but hectic! 

One of my favorite projects for the last week or two of school is this newspaper creative writing task



It's a meaningful, creative writing activity for the end of the year! Students use all those writing skills they learned throughout the year to write about how they feel about the end of the year, their favorite memories, and advice for next year's students.



We all have standards that state something about "using standard conventions of English" and "with the support of an adult, publish a writing piece." This is a great end-of-year assessment tool to see how much your students have grown in their writing abilities. Copy one of the pages as a work sample, if you need one! Most importantly, it's also a fun way for our students to "publish" their writing by creating their own newspaper; They love it! 

It's up to you if you use just one page or all four! I personally like to use all four pages and have students glue them on a 9x18 piece of construction paper so that the end result looks like a real newspaper. However, you could also do one page front and back so that it ends up looking more like a newsletter or pamphlet. Your classroom, your decisions!


The comic section is - of course - the favorite of many students. They will likely need a reminder that the comic strip should portray an event from the school year, not sometime completely random AKA related to Fortnite. 

Prepare to be shocked by how excited students get about the newspaper project and how engaged they are while working on it. This is a great task for students to work on while you wrap up end-of-year testing, makeup work, or other tasks! 



The newspaper ends up being a great keepsake for the students, too. Bonus points!

I know what you are thinking. Do I have this for your grade level?

OF COURSE! You can find all of my newspaper products right here to locate that one that best suits your classroom. 


Best of luck to you as we wrap up yet another school year! We've got this! 






We finished testing last week. Whew!

Now we relax AKA anxiously await the results. *fingers crossed*


I already told you some of the things we did to prepare for testing, specifically 4 ways to reduce testing anxiety, but here are some things I did throughout the testing week to keep kids calm and positive. 


Say Goodbye to Worries:

One day, we read Wilma Jean the Worry Machine, which is a Julia Cook book about a young girl who suffers from anxiety. Throughout the book, she learns that worrying isn't helpful and what she can do to deal with it. You can find it on Amazon here (affiliate link) or watch on YouTube here


After reading, we talked about all of the testing "What Ifs" that students may be wondering. Like Wilma Jean, we discussed worries that we CAN control versus worries that we CANNOT control. Lastly, I encouraged students to write down their worries on a sticky note. I told them no one would see what they wrote - not even me. 




Peer Letters of Encouragement:

Another day, students wrote letters to a peer. They drew a classmate's name out of a hat - actually, a box, LOL - and settled down to write a meaningful note of encouragement. 

I included a checklist at the top of the template to hold students accountable. The checklist gives ideas and suggestions for students to write about. That way, even if they drew a name of someone they do not know very well, they still had plenty to write about. I really wanted all of my students to write, and therefore receive, quality letters. 



This template is available for only a dollar right here in my TPT store. Print on colored paper, chop on the dotted line when students are done writing, and leave them on desks for your precious students to find one morning of testing. 

You've got this, teach! Go get 'em! 



 


Spring has sprung, and  a new season means new text features passages!

First, let me tell you about how I teach text features in my classroom. 

  • I love cutting up an old book, magazine, or Scholastic news to make an anchor chart. It's a great way to teach text features in context and make the concept a little less abstract. 



  • Hand motions! Lots of hand motions. Whole brain teaching strategies help vocabulary stick. 

See the full video here

  • Revisit constantly. Every time you see a text feature, point it out, and discuss how it can help you with comprehension. 

  • Three words: text features passages! 


Learn more:

I love using text features passages as practice and assessment. I originally created these products for my own classroom. I needed a way to assess my students’ understanding of text features other than by observation, and I wanted the assessment to tie in to our science and social studies curriculum. Thus, this idea was born. The kids have fun using different colors to identify the different text features, and it provides great work samples for me. 

Want to try some out for yourself? 

I actually have TWO freebies for ya! 

The first, about the life cycle of a butterfly, can be downloaded for FREE in my TPT store. Click here to find and download the free sample. 




One teacher says, "This product is a great way to bring science and writing together. It made the text features explicit so students could have that "ah-ha" moment."

Want another freebie? I have another passage to offer you all about the life cycle of a frog:





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    The frog freebie would be great to use in conjunction with the other free article about the butterfly life cycle. Try comparing/contrasting the text features OR the content!



    Looking for more to engage your students even more? 

    Holiday text features passages may be for you! 

    These passages are always a HIT with my students. They get excited about the holiday and forget that they are working! 

    I love using these passages to practice 
    • determining the main idea using text features, 
    • making text-to-self-connections, and 
    • using context clues to infer the meaning of unknown words. 
    • Fluency practice always works, too! 

    The first page in each pack is called “Comprehension Check.” Just choose the passage you are going to use, then copy the Comprehension Check onto the back of the chosen passage. You will then have a two-sided nonfiction assessment that will assess text feature identification as well as reading comprehension. 

    The holiday content just makes all that much for fun!

    I do have an Easter passage included in the holiday pack. 



    Memorial Day is also included, which is right around the corner!

    Check out the holiday text features pack right here

    One teacher says, "This is a fantastic product! I recommend this to anyone who is teaching text features!"

    Another says, "I kid you not, this bundle is pure perfection! My students literally cheer when we do this, and they are begging for more. You will not be disappointed by this product or any other from this seller!!"



    PIN FOR LATER:







    I'm so excited, because April is HERE!

    It's my favorite month because...
    1. spring break (duh)
    2. my birthday 💁🏼
    3. NATIONAL POETRY MONTH!

    I love using poetry books to teach my students poetry.

    I recently updated my poetry books to meet the needs of my third grade classroom:




    Use this book as a tool to teach your students poetry!
    Types of poems included:
    • acrostic
    • bio
    • shape
    • 5 senses
    • haiku
    • personification
    • cinquain
    • diamante (synonym and antonym)




    This product includes an example, a scaffolded prompt (You Try It!), and a blank space (Write Your Own) for EACH type of poem. 


    You can print 8.5 x 11 size books, or choose the format suitable for the mini books found in the Target Dollar Spot - sooo cute! 

    You can purchase the poetry book here. Use it year after year for fun with your students!
    *                  *                  *                  *                  *
    After your students write their own poetry, try having a poetry slam in your classroom as a culminating celebration event! Dim the lights, bring some snacks, and TA DA... instant engagement!
    You can read about my poetry café here.

    Don't forget to tag me on Insta and Twitter so I can see the amazing things you're doing with poetry!






    It's almost that time! *sigh*

    I've learned a lot about standardized testing throughout the years - unfortunately. Here are 4 of my favorite ways to help reduce my students' testing anxiety:


    1. Put a Positive Spin On It

    Your language is important and will absolutely impact your students' attitude towards the test and therefore their performance. Start saying things like, "This is your opportunity to show how much you've learned this year," and "Your parents and I cannot wait to see how much you have grown!"

    Image result for kid president quotes

    Do you test in your classroom? Me too. That means I have to use butcher paper to cover up basically everything in my room, which is U-G-L-Y. One idea to make it better: Write inspirational quotes on top of that butcher paper.




    2. Read All The Books

    There are many books about testing, but it's also a great time to talk about reducing anxiety and having strong work ethic. Here are some of my favorites:



    Testing:

    Reducing Anxiety:

    Building Confidence:

    *These are Amazon affiliate links. The products are at no extra cost to you, but I do receive a small portion that I use to keep this blog up and running. Thank you!*


    3. Gather Letters from Parents

    I love the Internet and all of the amazing ideas out there! One concept that I adopted last year is having parents (secretly) write letters to their children to be distributed on the first day of testing.

    I write a letter explaining the process and include it in an envelope along with a blank note card. You can be cheap, but cute, note cards at Dollar Tree or in the Target Dollar Spot.

    Kids LOVE this, and I would guess that it does wonders for their moods and confidence levels on day one of testing.


    Want me to send you my letter template so you can edit and use it for your own students? Join my newsletter list below, and I'll send it straight to your inbox immediately!

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      4. Lots of Yoga and Affirmations

      Don't underestimate the power of some yoga and affirmations in the morning before testing. GoNoodle has plenty of yoga options for kids, and some of them are themed!

      After students have their testing areas setup (since we test in our classroom), we take a moment for some yoga to get blood pumping. Then, simply do some repeating of affirmations.

      Here are a few examples:

      I am well-prepared for this test.
      I have what it takes to rock this test. 
      I can stay focused and do my best.
      I have strong stamina. 
      I am smart.
      I love being challenged. 
      I can do hard things. 
      This test does not define me. 


      *               *               *               *               *

      Okay, teachers, get out there! Maybe do some yoga and affirmations of your own as we enter testing season. WE'VE GOT THIS!

      Just a reminder - this test does not define YOU, as a teacher, either. 
      You're amazing, no matter what.




      So I heard you love Ivan as much as I do... !

      We finished reading last week, but my students weren’t ready to let go yet!

      I love completing these activities after I finish reading The One and Only Ivan to my class. I don’t tell them that it is based on a true story until after we finish the novel. The surprise makes the content even more captivating and engaging!



      Ivan was actually adopted by Zoo Atlanta - where we live! - which makes my kids go crazy with excitement! We spent 3 days using these resources. Day one was for researching, day two was spent comparing and contrasting, and on the last day, students chose a newspaper prompt and wrote their articles.

      Of course, it’s totally up to you how you wish to use these resources. I like to give my students plenty of time to research on their own using QR codes linked to kid-appropriate news articles and videos.  . You may want to copy the “Field Notes” or "Observations" pages double-sided depending on how much time you are going to give your students.


      The Venn diagram is great for hitting that compare and contrast standard (RI.2.9 or RI.3.9), while the writing topics are great for assessing those opinion writing, narrative writing, and point of view standards.

      You can check out my Ivan resources HERE. I hope you find them as engaging as I do and that you enjoy using them with your students year after year after year! 


      Want to save this idea for later? Pin this image: 






      I was shocked to find out that most of my students had never read A Bad Case of Stripes! It’s usually a back to school book for me, but pulling it out in February to help us talk about empathy and compassion was perfect! 

      I tied it in to our reading skill - comparing perspectives - and then we had a class meeting to reflect on what makes each of us unique and why that’s so important. 


      To take it a step further, students wrote about something that makes them unique. I snapped some quick pics and printed them on computer paper for students to color over. It looks great in the hallway! 

      Want this writing template? Simply join my email list (no spam - I promise!) and I'll send the freebie your way immediately! 

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        Talk soon!