Penguins for all seasons!

Okay, out here in the desert, I am WISHING we had longer winters... so I thought I'd bring a little bit of inspiration and engagement with my All About Penguins Informational Text Unit!

Click on the link to my store or any of the pictures below to find out how to download yours.

Ready for summer? Wishing for more snow? Here's an EASY unit  - print and go! - for your primary students. I've included 5 different mini books to compare and contrast some of the most common types of penguins, vocabulary cards, graphic organizers, and a close read.

Here's an example of a great vocabulary activity for students... cut, match, and copy. Students can use this for a center, or in small groups. Includes 6  tier 2 and tier 3 vocabulary words taken from the mini books included in this unit.

Wish your students would write more about what they are interested in? Here's a way to get students citing text, even in the younger grades.  Students can choose from any of the five foldable mini books, 9-page book, or informational text page to write about what they learned. Perfect for whole group or center activities.

Gentoo, Galapagos, Rockhopper, Little Fairy Blue, Emperor penguin mini books! Easy to fold and send home, or use for small groups or centers.  Each mini book includes a graphic organizer to complete so students can show what they know about what they read.
 In addition to these graphic organizers, I've included a venn diagram comparing two and three different types of penguins. Oh, the places your students can go with these!

Enjoy, and Happy Spring!


It's ON! Spring Cleaning Sale this weekend!

I'm hosting a SALE this weekend. Get 20% off anything in my store Friday - Monday!

Empty those wish lists! Click on the link to my store or the image below to start shopping!

Spring Cleaning SALE!

Who doesn't love a sale??

 Stay tuned for details on how to grab my anything from my store ON SALE coming soon... Real soon...


Perfect for Spring: Frogs and Butterflies Units Bundled!

Unsure of what to teach for the next few weeks? Need some easy, print-and-go actives that are meaningful and engaging for your students in Language Arts? I've created this bundle just for you!

I put together my What Does the Frog Say? (love that title, hee) and All About Butterflies Unit to kick off Spring.
Click on the link to my store or any of the pictures to find out how to download yours!

This comprehensive unit includes foldable mini books on butterflies, frogs, and frogs and toads.

 Graphic organizers hold students accountable for what they are reading. Perfect for a small group or reading center.

I've also included a mini foldable book comparing frogs and toads, along with a Venn Diagram.

 Cut and sort activities for frogs help keep students engaged and categorize information.

I've also included vocabulary cards, which are great for matching in a center or on a word wall.

The Monarch Butterfly is fascinating! Your students will love learning more about this insect's migration, and can map it while reading about it. 

 I've also included vocabulary matching! There is too much to pass up!

Happy Spring!! 


Using Standards for Mathematical Practice in Journals and Link to a FREEBIE!

If you are anything like me, then you are constantly searching for the perfect template to help guide your students through the dauntless task of problem-solving, a critical piece to Common Core State Standards. Well look no more! I've created this student-friendly template just for you!

Embedded within the Common Core State Standards are the Standards for Mathematical Practice, which require our students to reason, persevere, critique, and calculate in multiple ways. This can be challenging to accomplish within a small window of time, and still allow yourself and your students enough instructional math time to cover all of the other standards.  Until now!

I'm calling this template Thinking Through My Problem Solving. It's visually easy to work through, and allows enough space for even first graders (pictured below) to navigate easily. At the top of the page, there's room for students to copy (or cut and paste) the problem. I also have a team at my school which prints their word problems on address labels and sticks them on, saving their students and themselves a ton of time! And time is priceless in the classroom.

There is space for students to reason through what they already know (MP.2), model using pictures or diagrams (MP.4), and make use of structure (MP.7) while constructing fact families or distinguishing between patterns within their work.

The end result is a beautifully well-written journal prompt to put into math journals or folders. I like to save my samples for parents conferences or data meetings. Students can trade and critique the reasonableness of others (MP.3) as they discuss what they found. Sound great?

If you'd like a copy of Thinking Through My Problem Solving to use in your classroom, click on any of the pictures or the link to my Facebook page. Like my page, and the link is yours in the top right corner under "Fan Only Freebie".

I hope you find this useful in your classroom!


Graphic Organizers after a Read-Aloud for Upper Elementary Students

Wondering how to incorporate graphic organizers into your read aloud? Me too! Using an incredible book and student-friendly graphic organizers from the fabulous Laura Candler, here's how! 

Click here or on any of the pictures to find out more. 

I began by reading aloud a story called A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park, which begins as two stories, told in alternating sections, about two eleven-year-olds in Sudan, a girl in 2008 and a boy in 1985. The girl, Nya, is fetching water from a pond that is two hours’ walk from her home: she makes two trips to the pond every day. The boy, Salva, becomes one of the "lost boys" of Sudan, refugees who cover the African continent on foot as they search for their families and for a safe place to stay. Their lives cross in a touching way. 

It's short and suspenseful. My fifth grade students were fascinated by Salva's story and begged for more information about the famous "lost boys" of Sudan. (If you don't know anything about these boys, then you've got to find out more!)   
After we read aloud, I used two graphic organizers from Laura Candler's Graphic Organizers for Reading: Teaching Tools Aligned with the Common Core. 
I was impressed with the Literary Response Scroll! It includes simple yet high level thinking for students in an easy-to-use form. My students were excited to be able to share their personal responses about the characters in the story, and I was easily able to gage whether or not they grasped the literary elements and theme of the novel - a plus for any busy teacher! 

I was more thrilled with the Poetic Reflections graphic organizer.  I found a poem written by a local university student summarizing A Long Walk to Water , which allowed me to use both graphic organizers in one sitting. What my students and I really like about this graphic organizer is that it also has a personal reaction to the poem. Fifth graders LOVE to share their opinions, and we were able to respond to the text by citing the poem which is a critical part to Common Core.

The Poetic Reflections graphic organizer was short and sweet, yet effective. Perfect for a quick informal assessment partway through a text, or at the end as I used below. 
Once again, the talented Laura Candler delivers easy-to-use print-and-go materials for teachers grades 2-6. I can't wait to use more of these in my classroom! 

Happy Teaching!


Five Easy Ways to Communicate to Parents

As an educator, there are always lessons that are learned the hard way. Today I'm hoping to cut back on your tough lessons learned with 5 Easy Ways to Communicate with Parents. It starts with the very first day of school. 

Whether you are beginning as a first year teacher, changing schools or grade levels, coming back into the workplace, or simply beginning a new school year, it's obvious that our first focus as teachers is obviously our students. We spend hours and hours (and sleepless nights) planning, fretting, and preparing for them during the summer and on breaks from school. Blood, sweat, and tears, all before Day 1. And then, they arrive!

1) Reach out to families on Week One. We seldom take the time to open up communication with parents from the very start. I can't tell you how thrilled parents are when they receive a phone call, note home, or email welcoming their family into your classroom. Not only are you opening up the lines of communication for them, but you're also beginning the school year on a positive note. Parents will leave your conversation with a good feeling about the school year. It takes 2-3 minutes, but makes such a great first impression. 

2) Follow up with an organized way to keep up the lines of communication regularly. After  you've introduced yourself and given parents an idea of your excitement for the upcoming school year, it's important to keep up the lines of communication regularly. I use the Weekly Student Reflection* rubric attached to my spelling tests (just for ease of grading) to write positive notes, celebrations, and challenges and send these home weekly. 

*For more information on how I use this weekly progress note, click on the link to my previous post or the picture below. 

3) Remember that parents are human. When our students leave our classrooms, they have a whole other world outside of school. Unfortunately for us, sometimes their outside lives take over. It's important to remember that families cannot always control for example the amount of sleep a student receives the night before a test, whether or not homework is completed or checked each night, and sometimes don't even know from where their next meal will come. However I can guarantee you that, although it might not always be obvious, parents want what's best for their student. Just like we do. Be helpful by reaching out to parents if you notice that their child is slipping academically or exhibiting odd behavior, and ask how you can help parents at home. It could be something as simple as offering an extra day to complete an assignment, or it could lead to a more structured intervention or behavior program. Often you'll find the parents receptive and grateful for your concern. After all, it takes a village... and we ALL want our children to be successful.

4) Always be ready to explain WHY. If a student begins to slip, be prepared for concerned (and sometimes emotional) parents to question you. Not because they don't trust you or question your experience as a teacher. But because they don't know how else to ask for support. Anticipate these questions, and be ready with one or two quick responses that begin with something like, "One thing you can do at home to help Johnny is...," or "One easy way to help your child to be successful is...". Be positive, calm, and supportive. As teachers, we are emotionally invested in our students. Remember that parents are invested two-fold.

5) Celebrate the little things. I have a folder in my filing cabinet at school with some of my favorite affirmations from former students and their families. Whenever I'm feeling like I've been defeated (which we all feel at one time or another,) I pull out my file and remember all of the wonderful families who entrusted me with their most precious gifts. Cheesy, I know. But all it takes is for me to re-read a handwritten note from a student, a thank you note from a parent, or glance at an old hand-drawn picture to remember that parents are grateful. My favorite note as of late was drawn by my then-kindergartner. I hope it makes you smile.

For more tips, products, and freebies, click here to find me on Facebook  . 
Happy Teaching! 

Informational Text Unit on Frogs - No Prep Needed - and Link to a FREEBIE!

Need some quick, easy, and high interest printables? Well you are in luck! I'm excited to share my latest creation, aligned with CCSS & prep-free! Just print and go! These are perfect for teachers just like me - with too little time to prep and NO time to plan. You'll find each and every activity highly engaging for your primary students. And best of all, it's as easy as click, print, and go! Click on the link to my store or any of the photos to find out more.

I've created an extensive unit all about frogs, including graphic organizers, a close read and more! The graphic organizers are meant to pair with any of the 3 mini books, including two foldable mini books which can be printed and folded - no prep needed! Here's a sneak peek...

This example is the nine-page mini book about characteristics of frogs with great Tier 2 & 3 vocabulary. Perfect for a reading center or group!

 I've included six vocabulary cards pulled from the text, which can be used to match within a center, or for an interactive word wall in your classroom!
Common Core aligned! I love this graphic organizer. It allows learners of all levels to be creative, and refer to the text to reference. Citing is critical to CCSS. 

Here's my close read about frogs. Kid-approved! This also includes Tier 2 & 3 vocabulary and can also be paired with any of the graphic organizers in this unit. There are sorting activities which are great for centers, Venn diagrams, and so much more!!

Also, I'm attaching a link to my FREE frogs and toads foldable mini book and graphic organizer! Its' a perfect sneak peek into my unit :) Just click, print, and go!

Happy Teaching! Xoxo,

May the Test Scores be Ever in Your Favor

Standardized testing season is upon us. Students are whispering, pondering, questioning, and fretting about "The Test."  Seventy-three times daily I hear my students ask,
"Will THIS be on The Test?"
"Will I need to know THIS for The Test?"
"Is this question gonna be on The Test?"

Additionally, I find myself saying an average of eighteen times per hour, 
"THIS. Is. Really. Important."  

Easing students' fears about "The Test" is as simple as preparing them with a few strategies for test-taking situations. Without specifically "teaching to the test," I always prepare my students by showing them what test-taking is all about. It is a skill, just like writing a paragraph or multiplying numbers. It should be explicitly taught. Blah, right?

I like make this otherwise monotonous task of filling in bubbles after reading passage (after passage, after passage) into a game, where they can earn points via a point box that they keep, for each of the six letters of the test-taking strategy that we call RUNRAP.

We use this strategy for reading test-taking. Beginning as early as January, I introduce this concept with the idea of "beating the test-makers". Friendly competition in testing grade levels is always fun, and it allows students to find some internal motivation during an otherwise unnaturally awkward environment. I have found that students of all levels can grasp this acronym, and are feeling more successful to SHOW WHAT THEY KNOW during Testing Time.

This is a fifth-grade reading passage with four multiple-choice questions and one written response. Students put their rectangular point box on the bottom of the page, along with the acronym RUNRAP. We review what each letter stands for quite awhile, and pretty soon it is committed to memory. Download my posters and begin using this strategy NOW, by clicking on the link to my store or the pictures below. 

Students "practice" using RUNRAP just like we would during "game time," and then we check our strategy work as a whole group. I remind students to give themselves a point for each time they complete one of the RUNRAP strategies using their point box. During reading, this is their way of showing their work. This means that they earn more points by trying than actually getting the right answer. I find this helpful for student accountability during testing. We also use this time to discuss and model how important elimination is throughout the testing process.

May the Test Scores Be Ever in Your Favor! Happy Testing Season.