Thursday, June 30, 2016

Readers' Theater Article

Sitting here on a beautifully sunny day, watching my little guy play, drinking a Mint Condition and surfing Pinterest.  Life is good!

Ain't that the truth!!

I came across a good article on Pinterest about Readers' Theater.  It's not a how-to but rather a just-do-it article about the hesitations and doubts one might have trying to incorporate RT into an already busy schedule.  The author is Sarah Wiggins and her blog is called More Than a Worksheet.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

What's the Difference?

Here's a little quiz.  Write down or remember your answers and then scroll down to see how you did.

Are these pairs of animals the same?

                   A)  cougar & puma
               B)  turtle & tortoise
               C)  crow & raven
               D)  jackrabbit & hare
               E)  crocodile & alligator
               F)  firefly & lightning bug
               G) butterfly & moth

               A)  yes
               B)  no
               C)  no
               D)  yes
               E)  no
               F)  yes
               G) no

How did you do?  If you're wondering why B, C, E and G are NOT the same then I've got the thing for you. . . actually it's for your students.

Click to get
Click to get
I remember wondering, about a year ago, "Are ravens and crows the same thing?", as I watched a raven (revered by certain Native Alaskan groups) caw at me from a light post at my school one morning.  Right then and there I got the idea for yet another Readers' Theater pack and my brain started racing to think of more animals that were similar but not the same.

Each play comes with 2 different comprehension checks: a Venn diagram fact sort and a 6 question opened ended response sheet.

I came up with so many animal pairs that I'm going to start working on pack #2, followed by pack #3!  

Next week I'll be at a cabin in the woods, on a lake, in the middle of no where and I'm excited to churn out some more writing!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

DIY Classroom Decoration

I saw the coolest DIY decoration in a cute little boutique yesterday and my first thought was, "I have to have this in my classroom!"

It's a curtain rod attached to the wall and from it hang random strips of ripped fabric that are tied together.  The left half shows how it can be long and the right half shows how it can be short.   This is a no-sew project and you can either do the random fabric colors and patterns or do a specific color.

I already have a moveable, stage-like curtain in front of my main whiteboard, so I think this will fit right in.

Not the best picture, but you get the idea.
The walls of my classroom library are bare (hate to admit that) except for a medium-sized, framed, magnetic black board on which I post reading posters.  So this was my first thought when I saw this DIY.  My library is in a corner, so I'm thinking of doing 2 curtain rods and maybe putting the blackboard on an easel right in the corner.  

Setting up my classroom each year is my FAVORITE thing because I love to decorate and use my space wisely and efficiently!

My son and I were strolling around downtown Bemidji, Minnesota (where I am for the week as my daughter goes to Spanish camp), just going in and out of stores and I'm so glad I had my camera!  Now I want to do some more strolling and looking tomorrow :-)

Monday, June 27, 2016

Build It

Over the past few years, as both a teacher and person, I've developed a love of building things!  It's such a great creative outlet for all the ideas swirling around in my head.

When I dove into doing small math groups 2 years ago, I started looking for and collecting  building-type manipulatives that my students could use for an independent building group.  Now I love to stumble upon new ones when I'm out and about and on vacation. I found an awesome toystore recently in Hopkins, Minnesota and ended up buying 2 new building manipulatives.  And I've finished up a building activity card set that comes with a list (pictures and links) of all 18 different manipulatives that I've found!

Most of my student's favorite thing about our classroom is our small math groups and the B for Building group.  I also leave an old iPod out so kids can take pictures of their creations.  They can have a friend take it, do a selfie, or put their name tag next to it so I can tell who made it.  And then on my website,  I post the pictures so parents and relatives can see (plus it's great motivation for kiddos).

If you know of a building material that is NOT on my list (that is suitable for this activity) please let me know and I'll add it and reward you for sharing :-)

Tuesday, June 21, 2016


All of the above are true. . .but #3 is a treasure I found the other day doing one of my favorite things: browsing the children's section in a new library.

The thing I was drawn to with this book was the artwork and the SEL connection.

My favorite!

I am definitely adding this book to my SEL lessons about feelings and created a class book to go with it.

You can get it for FREE by clicking here!

The one thing that amazes me each year when we do our feelings lessons is the response to these questions:
"Is it okay to feel _______ (mad, jealous, excited, etc.)?"   "No."
So we spend a lot of time talking about how it IS okay to feel a certain way, how you act upon that feeling can either be good or bad (angry: taking 5 deep breaths -v.s- hitting someone).  So that's why I titled the class book "We can feel..."

And I'm feeling excited to go visit my grandparents and a favorite beach of ours on Madeline Island in Northern Wisconsin tomorrow!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Summer Vacation for Teachers

I'm so fortunate to be a teacher because I have my summers off. . .or do I?

I'm willing to wager that 1 out of 10 teachers does absolutely nothing school related from the time summer vacation begins to the time it *sniff* ends.  But 9 out of 10 teachers are thrilled to finally have time to get ready for the next school year.  We go about our summer vacationing, always thinking about something school related and then are pumped to work on it (for example: revamping the way I do small math groups because I know how I can do it even better)
the little angel sitting on one of my shoulders
But then I start to enjoy NOT having to do school work and 

the little devil sitting on my other shoulder

and before you know it

So it becomes a balancing act of enjoying the time off with getting some school stuff done before the roller coaster (that is teaching) leaves the station again.

Friday, June 10, 2016

The Sun and the Wind

I'm now back in Minnesota, my home state, for at least a month to visit family and friends and do lots of fun things!  Today, our first full day here, I took my kids to SandVenture, which is basically a swimming pool that looks and feels like a lake.  It was hot. . .upper 80's with some humidity (remember we live in Alaska so it's like culture shock).  The sun, although hot and shining brilliantly, was tempered with a nice cool breeze.  I made a connection right then and there to the fable "The Sun & the Wind".

Later on I was sitting outside in a very cool one-person swing my sister has, listening to the wind blow through the trees and appreciating the shade from the sun and got the urge to write. . . a Readers' Theater script.  If you're not familiar with the story, here's a cute video:

This play has 4 characters, is 3 pages long and comes with both a comprehension check and inferential group discussion questions.

Hope there's lots of sun, with a nice cool breeze, wherever you are!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Greatest Hits

If you know me, you know how much I L-O-V-E Readers' Theater.  Freebies are also something I love! So I combined both of them.

You can now have 17 fiction & non-fiction scripts at your fingertips in one file.  You can use the TinyPDF app to use them sans paper.  Also included is some information about Close Reading and Readers' Theater.

And along the lines of Readers' Theater, I'm not sure where I got the idea but this past year I put up a permanent stage curtain in my classroom, in front of my main whiteboard and meeting area.  
It was a great decoration, was our stage for Readers' Theater presentations and was useful when I wanted students to only see part of the board and keep something out of view.  I bought a long curtain rod and 2 wall-mounted things to put the curtain rod on (kind of like brackets that you'd hang your bike up on when winter comes around)....not sure of the name.  But I got them at Home Depot and will put in a third one up (in the middle) next fall.

I took my kids to the library today and as they played I roamed the aisles of book and grabbed ones that stood out.  So I have some more (fiction) Readers' Theater inspiration.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

LEGOs Rock!

Automatic Binding Blocks.  Not a very catchy name, right?  How about LEGO?  Much better!  LEGOs are a fantastic building tool and now a days they can even be used to help teach math, reading, science and social studies!

I had a blast researching the history of LEGOs as well as what the LEGO factory in Billund Denmark is like.  I was in Denmark this past March but didn't have enough time to take a train from Copenhagen to Billund to check out the factory for myself.  But now that I know so much about it, it's going on my bucket list!

My latest non-fiction Readers' Theater script is a partner play about LEGOs.  I hit the jackpot in combining fun reading fluency practice with pretty much every child's favorite toy!

And here's a fun idea to try at home with your kids or at school with your students:  Marble Maze using the bigger, Duplo, LEGOs that kids outgrow but you don't know what to do with them.  My daughter and I did this last weekend and we had so much fun!
You put a marble at the top and let it go and wait to see which container it will ultimately fall into on the bottom.

The long, blue board was something I purchased at a local toy shop.  It's 2-sided (small LEGOs and big Duplos). 

I stumbled upon a fantastic blog called and the blogger has some awesome ideas for using LEGOs!  I'm going to try many of her suggested ideas and see how I can adapt them for use in my classroom.