Thursday, February 26, 2015

Warm Up and Chill Out Test Prep Blog Hop and $50 Starbucks Gift Card GIVEAWAY!

Are you gearing up for state testing?  We all know it can be THE MOST an especially stressful time of the year, so my Lesson Deli friends and I wanted to make this time as stress-free as possible.  We have put together a blog hop that gives you the chance to snag some TEST PREP FREEBIES as well as have the opportunity to enter to win a $50 Starbucks Gift Card and some other sweet goodies along the way.

To get your students geared up for fiction, I have created these Character Analysis Task Cards.  I have found that while my students tend to LOVE fiction, it can be a real challenge to get them to analyze and respond in writing to the kind of questioning that is expected of them.  They can discuss text verbally all day, but when it comes to getting their ideas down on paper, some struggle to answer multiple step questions, and simply answer only the first portion of what is asked of them.  I need them to be able to support their response with information from the text or by citing textual evidence, so I created these task cards.

For some assistance with helping students navigate this reading literature expectation, snag this FREEBIE:
This FREEBIE includes:
  • directions for immediate implementation
  • 8-task cards with student answer document
  • answer key
I utilize these task cards in a couple of different ways.
  • small group to reinforce character analysis with those struggling
  • whole class
  • in a literacy center
You can grab the whole product here:
The entire product includes:
  • clear directions for immediate implementation
  • notes for student understanding
  • 32-character analysis task cards
  • student answer document
  • answer key for quick assessing
After entering the Dunkin' Donuts Giveaway below, head to my friend, Caitlin's blog for another great resource to help you and your students continue down the path to most prepared during this test prep time!  Hang in there!

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

My Teacher Heroes

As I reflect back on my own learning I had some AMAZING teachers.  It all began in kindergarten with Mrs. Shea.  The best thing about kindergarten in Granville, Massachusetts was that I had a jungle gym inside my classroom.  I wished I had that "center" activity everyday.  I have debated exercise equipment in my own classroom at times.  
Mrs. Cavanaugh, my 4th grade teacher was another teacher I am grateful I had the opportunity of learning from.  I was Alice in our Alice in Wonderland play and loved the fact that she had a writing center that we could rotate into each day.  I still remember my Cabbage Patch Kids writing folder filled with writing that I completed based on her inspiring writing prompts.  

Junior high and high school had some other clever characters and fun learning experiences.  My high school trigonometry teacher taught me that you could get away with a whole lot of silliness "back in the day."  He used to take the dry erase marker and mark across our foreheads as we headed up to the board to complete math problems.  Imagine trying that with your kiddos today?!

College allowed for me to have the chance to have some incredible learning experiences.  My student teaching in Lakota Schools at Shawnee Elementary with Amy Burns was the best experience I could have possibly had as a "soon-to-be-on-my-own-classroom teacher."  Amy was a young, vibrant fourth grade teacher.  She oozed with enthusiasm for teaching and was always so motivating.  Collaborating with her and all of her professional guidance was just what I needed to be ready and confident as I embarked on my first year as a self-contained 5th grade teacher.  I had the opportunity to develop novel units, incorporate technology, create science experiments, and dozens of displays and bulletin boards.

I ran into her at Walmart--10 years into MY teaching career.  Two children later, and an attempt into the role of assistant principal for her, she was still as energetic as always talking about her role as a classroom teacher.  I am both thankful and grateful for my time with her.  I still have the paper-cutter that she gave me at my last day of student teaching party with each student's signature neatly written on the bottom. 

Today I continue to be inspired by the educators that surround me everyday.  My children's teachers, my teacher friends, and fellow bloggers keep me motivated and most enthusiastic about this profession 15 years in...I am truly lucky to have had such superhero educators as inspiration!

Here is a pic of me and a few of my favorite superheroes of all time-I LOVE these two!  Ziegler is a superhero because of the amazing work he does as an educator as well as starting the non-profit Norwood Connection in order to help families in need within the school district.  He is selfless, tireless, and inspires me everyday.  His pranks are pretty clever, too!

Burns is a superhero because she has been through the wringer, but gives 100% each and everyday as an educator, mom, and friend with a joke to share and a smile on her face.  She is the BEST science teacher you could ever dream of having!  She comes up with challenging lessons that make the kids feel like they aren't even learning because they are having so much fun!  Her sneeze will make you jump out of your socks, but her laugh and dance moves are contagious!  

I would love to hear about the inspiration behind your teaching career and send you off with the chance to grab some amazing deals (28% off) in my TPT store for being your students' superhero!

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Thematic Thursday Linky Party~Historical Fiction Novels for Upper Elementary to Middle School
A little early, but I have linked up again with my friend, Carla from Comprehension Connection to share about some essential historical fiction novels to share with your middle-upper elementary and middle school students.

I have to be honest and tell you that I am not a big history buff.  I never enjoyed my social studies classes in elementary school and was always hopeful for a solid, whole-class-period-in-length film in my history classes in high school.  Have you seen this meme?  This brought pure delight back in the day!

As a teacher and mom, I now have different expectations about what history class should look like.  My third grade son is obsessed with history, and I have worked hard to find historical fiction novels for my students in my ELA classroom. 

Here are a few of my son's favorite historical fiction texts...

He has plowed through the entire I Survived...series of 11-novels.  He is so fascinated by historical events and these books bring up some awesome discussions with him.  While some of these events hadn't yet taken place when I was in elementary school, I would have enjoyed history more with books like these.

If you are looking for high-interest historical fiction texts that are fast-paced to hold student attention, find these at your local library, or buy them.  Your students will fly through them.  The books are designed for grades 3-5, but can easily be utilized with older readers.  The author's website allows you the chance to read about each book by clicking on the cover.  In addition, she provides an Educator's Guide for teaching the novels that are common core aligned.  Head to her website here: Lauren Tarshis

A few historical fiction novels I have utilized with my 6th graders are: 
  • Bud, Not Buddy (The Great Depression)
  • The Whipping Boy (1700s)

These two books contain male main characters that are both witty and on a quest for true happiness.  These early adolescent years send most boys and girls on a bit of a quest to figure out who they are, so my 6th grade students are really able to connect to these clever characters.

Summary of Bud, Not Buddy: Bud is an orphan after his mother's death and is sent from the Home to the Amoses where he is mistreated and flees.  He wants to find the person in the flyers he keeps in his suitcase that he believes to be his father.  Bud takes the reader on an adventure to find his forever home. 

Summary of The Whipping Boy: Prince Horace is known as Prince Brat to all of the kingdom.  He is a spoiled brat that refuses to learn and loves to play pranks on others because he has no consequences.  He has a whipping boy that gets punished every time the prince has a misstep.  One night Prince Horace decides to runaway and takes Jemmy, his whipping boy, on the adventure of their lives.  As much as they boys seem to despise one another at the beginning of the story, they form a bond and their lives are changed forever by the end of the novel.

Your students will love Bud's quick wit and resilience.  They will also grow tired of Prince Horace, but understand that the life of the rich and famous is not all that it is cracked up to be.

I created this FREEBIE summary organizer that works perfectly for any fictional text, so grab it below...

I have also created novel units with lesson plans to go with Bud, Not Buddy and The Whipping Boy.

Challenge your students with these AMAZING historical fiction texts-they won't be able to put them down, and more importantly, they won't need special videos to learn about history! I would love to hear about any historical fiction gems your students can't get enough of!

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Friday, February 20, 2015


You know those movies and books like Adventures in Babysitting (I am dating myself) or Cat in the Hat, where the kids go on a wild adventure, but as soon as the parents' car pulls in the driveway, the kids are in their beds, no mess can be found, and the sitter is snuggled on the couch?!  That just about sums up my parenting week!  Minus the snuggled up on the couch part...I am standing at my computer relieved that it is Friday!

My husband went to Orlando on Monday morning for a business trip for the entire week.  On Monday, we drove him to the airport in a crazy snowstorm and he easily made his way to sunny Florida.   I say easily because he got to go ALL BY HIMSELF!  Of course he called to share that it was only "55 degrees" yesterday to which I responded in sub-zero, tundra of Ohio temps, "You are talking to the wrong lady!"

So here is a retelling of our sans daddy adventurous week...

Monday-drop lucky husband off at the airport, drive home watching cars fly past and spin out all over the highway, big kid goes sledding with friends and has a milkshake, big kid comes home and THROWS UP on the basement carpet, while gagging, I clean said carpet to the best of my ability while trying to help big kid navigate the stomach bug for the rest of the night.  Showers, books, shows, bed!

Tuesday-NO SCHOOL! Wahoo!  Schedule Stanley Steemer, Stanley Steemer cancels, big kid has fever, sister and little brother get geared up and shovel, with bucket in hand (in case of more vomiting) we race to Walgreen's for carpet cleaner, Ring Pops (for the littlest), more laundry detergent, and Gatorade, big kid begins feeling better, I scrub carpet until my hands are raw, off to Potbelly we go! Showers, books, shows, bed!

Wednesday-NO SCHOOL! Bummer!  Little kid swimming lesson cancelled, big kid has no fever and hasn't thrown up since Monday night, Stanley Steemer cancels due to cold temps, big kid, sister and little brother help shovel, friends come over to play, I must get out of this house, off to Panera and Target we go!  Showers, books, shows, bed!

Thursday-NO SCHOOL! Lord help me!  Re-scheduled little kid swimming lesson cancelled, my running buddy comes over with her girls to watch my three kiddos so I can go run on the treadmill, come home, feed 6 kiddos lunch, have friends play for the day, MUST GET OUT OF THIS HOUSE, off to the mall we go, Sbarro for dinner! Showers, books, shows, bed!

Friday-NO SCHOOL! For the love of all things holy, I am hanging by a thread!  We head to Recreations, a local indoor play place, THANK YOU STANLEY STEEMER for coming and making that awful smell go away, sister plays at her friends' house, big kid plays with friend, little kid napping, on our way to pick up daddy!

We made it!

It was an exhausting week!  I have always had an incredible respect for single parents who do it all, on their own, all of the time, but after spending EVERY WAKING MOMENT with my kiddos this week due to snow and cold temps cancelling school, I am even more grateful for my husband! Would you believe that I am actually looking forward to running 14 miles on the treadmill tomorrow?!  Training calls and the snow continues to fall!

Hope you had a warmer and less adventurous week!

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Expository Writing FREEBIE-Inspired by our New Pet!

So this past week we won the lottery-the 3rd grade Crayfish Lottery, that is!  My son had been studying crayfish in science, and after his classroom learning was completed, his teacher decided to allow students the opportunity to take one of the three classroom crayfish home!  While I figured it would be a long-shot to win the permission slip crayfish lottery, we did!  You have never seen a boy more excited about winning such a prize!  My sweet third grader could not have been more excited to bring home a plastic container with a real, live, crustacean. 
Here is a pic! 

So Norma, our crayfish, is not the snuggliest pet we have ever had, but she has added some excitement to our pet-free home.  In addition, Norma got me thinking about how I can share this experience with my students...

Along with Norma, Brennan came home with a simple note about what we needed to do to care for our new family member.  To bring this critter home, we needed to do a bit of research to learn as much as we could to keep her alive.  We did a Google search to find out what to feed her, what size tank she would need, and how to make sure she was most comfortable.  Through our research and new crayfish experience, we have learned something we didn’t know how to do before, which made me consider my students…what experiences can our students share that they have learned to do?  With some reflecting, brainstorming, and discussion, you can turn student knowledge into a fun writing exercise.

And here is what I created if you are looking for an expository resource to enhance student writing, grab this FREEBIE!

 The FREEBIE includes:
-directions for immediate implementation
-Teacher Lesson Planning
-Notes on Expository Writing
-Notes on Sequential Writing
-Sample Essay Organizer
-Sample Essay Labeled for student understanding
-Brainstorm Organizer
-Student Drafting Organizer

I hope you can use it to enhance the writing abilities of your student writers!  

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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Thematic Thursday Linky...Friendship Themes in Upper Elementary Novels and a FREEBIE

I am linked up with my friend, Carla from Comprehension Connection this week for the Thematic Thursday Linky on FRIENDSHIP!  I love the following quote...

Such truth about those friendships that are so essential in our lives, right?!
As an upper elementary teacher, mom, wife, sister, daughter, coach, troop leader, and friend, I find that friendship is a focus of so much of my day.  If you teach 6th grade, you might spend a great deal of your planning time, lunch time, and after school working out friendship issues.  This might take place between girls or boys, problems arise no matter the gender.  Some days I feel more like a counselor than a teacher of a content area, but working out issues comes with our territory.  If this sounds like you, be sure to grab the FREEBIE below!

I try to be proactive with the texts that I select and share with students in order to give them examples of true friendships.  Here are a list of books that are ideal for upper elementary that I love to share with my students because the theme of friendship is so apparent...

Crash is about a boy named John Coogan, AKA Crash who struggles as a bully for the majority of the novel.  Crash struggles to recognize the selfless acts of Penn Webb, until his family is dealing with his grandfather's health scare. He then realizes he has been wrong all along about Penn and that he has always shown how to be a true friend.  It is a hilarious and heart-warming novel that will have your students reflecting on their own friendships with others. Grab the novel unit here... Crash Novel Unit

The Lottery Rose is a book about a lost soul, Georgie Burgess. He is a little boy that is abused and has never learned to read because no one has ever taken enough of a liking to him in order to get beyond his tough exterior.  Finally, he is shown kindness by others and he begins to thrive even when he tries to push them away.  Your students will be cheering for Georgie and the strides he makes once he is given- a new place to live, food to eat, books in his hands, and the kindness he has always deserved.  Get your tissues ready! Grab the novel unit here... The Lottery Rose Novel Unit

Wringer is one of my all-time favorites.  Palmer LaRue is a boy that is dreading turning ten because that is the age he must become a wringer-a boy that wrings the necks of birds that are shot and downed at the annual Family Fest.  He wants desperately to fit in with others, but it is an unlikely friendship with a pigeon and Dorothy Gruzik that get Palmer through his peer pressure struggles.  Your students will definitely rethink those friendships that are most important after reading this text.  Grab the novel unit here... Wringer Novel Unit

Be sure to check out each of these AMAZING novels with FRIENDSHIP themes to engage your upper elementary readers!  Finally, here is a FREEBIE! I find that I am always dealing with friendship issues in my 6th grade classroom.  Friendships among students can be tricky at this age and I am always in search of ways to help my students navigate their friendships as optimistically as possible.  Click the image to grab this resource and keep me posted on how you utilize it in your classroom.

I would love to hear about any texts you LOVE that focus on the friendship theme in your upper elementary classroom!  My students can use all of the tools I can get!  Happy February!

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