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April 28, 2013

Mentor Text(s) - Social Studies - Civil War

Social Studies is my FAVORITE subject to teach, so I am beyond excited to to link up with Amanda and Stacia this week to share my mentor texts.

In Texas, 4th graders learn Texas History. Even though, I'm originally from Kansas, I have learned a LOT about it over the past 20 years.

We are currently studying the Civil War. Last week, we read two stories about slavery and the war.



Now Let Me Fly by Dolores Johnson is one of the mentor texts included the Comprehension Tool Kit by Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis. It is a chilling account of a slave family's journey from capture in Western Africa to a plantation in Georgia. Students were shocked and appalled by Minna's story of tragedy and loss. 

The lesson in the tool kit focuses on note taking using the "FQR" (Facts/Questions/Responses) strategy. Rather than copy the chart from the kit or make my own, I had students burrito fold a piece of copy paper. Always fun! By now, only a few students still need help. Those who can do it, love to help those who can't. Only one did it vertically this time. 

Their questions and responses were both inquisitive and thoughtful! 

The next day, I read Pink and Say by Patricia Polacco to them. It is a beautiful story of an unlikely friendship between Say, a young boy from Ohio, and Pink, a former slave fighting for the Union. The kids loved that it was a true story passed down from generation to generation. As I read, they completed a Venn diagram comparing the main characters. 

There are many text-to-text connections that can be made between the two stories. We discussed them, but I think the next time I read these two stories, I will have the students record them.

Now you can follow me on Facebook, too!
Looking forward to reading about all the other Social Studies mentor texts! 

April 27, 2013

Sparking Student Motivation - Cookies & Choice

It's that time of year when we are all looking for a little motivation; students and teachers. This week we finished our last two state tests. Normally, I start Mondays by filling out our planners and passing out homework. This past Monday, I didn't. They kept asking me are we going to have homework. [My partner gave Math homework the week of the Writing test. They did not see or understand his vision (preparing them for the Math test this week).] Near the end of class, I passed out a note upside-down and told them they couldn't read it until I said OK. Finally, I said OK. They read it. I told them to glue it in their planner, then I handed out the "smart" cookies. One sweet girl said, "Mrs. B., can I have more homework?" Another boy, wolfed his cookies down, looked up at me and smiled, and said, "I already did my homework." Totally worth the time, effort, and expense!
* Note: A friend shared this note. I'm not sure of the original source.

The other way I motivate my students is with CHOICE. Recently, I blogged about CLASS DOJO. (Click here to read the original post.) When I needed to spark some motivation for DOJO again, I had them brainstorm a list of rewards that they would like to earn. Then, we chose the point value for each reward (10, 20, 30...80).  Now, I start each class by showing them their current points, and we end class by checking again. On Friday, if they have reached the next level, they get to choose from 3 reward coupons for that level. For example, at 10 points, they could choose a "Bring a drink pass", "Free Drawing Time pass" or "No Shoes! pass". I have been using the "Classroom Rewards" packet from Jackie from My Organized-Chaotic-Classroom. I really liked them, but my kids are creative and came up with rewards that weren't in Jackie's pack, so I had to create some of my own. Click on any picture to download.

An editable version is available in my TPT store. Click here to download.

Check out these two great giveaways!

Now you can follow me on Facebook, too!

April 26, 2013

Five for Friday Flashback - The letter F

 This Five for Friday and Friday Flashback brought to you by the letter - F.

1. FIRST - When businesses make their first dollar, they frame it. This week, I sold my first TPT item. Well, I printed out the receipt, and I think I'll frame it. 

2. FACEBOOK - I wasn't going to start a Facebook page for my blog, because I didn't think I needed one. Also, I'm already addicted to checking Facebook at least 3 times a day. My husband gripes about it ALL the time.  However, I felt like there might be things I want to share, but not necessarily post on my blog. Then, I saw easy the Colloboration Cuties post. It was so easy! (Hubby actually thought it was a good idea and asked if I would invite him to my page. Isn't he the best?)

3. FEARS - Testing fears. I didn't think my kids were nervous. In fact, they were acting like they didn't care about the test at all, which was making ME afraid. Anyway...Wednesday morning, one of my characters came in, and said he had a dream that he was drowning in pencils. Then, he went to his desk and noticed that I had not written "Good Luck!" on his water bottle. (I did the day before.) He brought it to me and asked if I could write for him before he left to go small group testing. It is funny what matters to them.

4. FITNESS - Time to admit something personal. I'm LAZY! You wouldn't know it by watching me on a daily basis, but when it comes to exercise, I AM. I like to walk (the dog around the block in 15 min. or less).  I don't like to walk if it is colder than 55 degrees or hotter than 85 degrees. I won't walk if it looks like it might rain or if it rained earlier that day. Needless to say, this limits the actual days that I can walk in Texas. Hubby decided after months of research to buy a treadmill. No more excuses! Friday morning, I got up at 5 a.m. and walked for 10 min. I'll do 20 more tonight. My goal is to do at least 30 min. a day. UPDATED: Done!

5. FREEBIE - TODAY ONLY! My Seed Packet Craftivity is FREE! Click here to download it today.


April 25, 2013

Peace, Hope, Love, and Kindness

As a teacher, we often find ourselves teaching more than just reading, writing, and arithmetic. We must teach them compassion, empathy, peace, hope, love, and kindness. After the shooting at Sandy Hook, I found myself wanting to inspire my students to be more kind. (They were already a pretty nice group of kids.) I read The Energy Bus for Kids and started a "Ticket of Appreciation" campaign. (You can sign up for his free teacher packet here.) Whenever someone helped them or was kind to them, they would fill out a ticket. At the end of the week, I shared them, gave them a little treat, and their peers applauded as they came up to receive their tickets. At the end of February, they asked if we could continue to do it during March. So we did. I loved watching them go out of their way to carry binders, clean up supplies, and loan pencils to each other. My heart smiled when they filled out tickets for me. They beamed when I filled out tickets for them. I will definitely do this again next year, maybe at the beginning of the year.

On a lighter note...last night I was checking Facebook right before I went to bed. I saw that a friend had posted a video. Even though, I should have turned off my phone and gone to sleep. I stopped and watched it. I was really glad I did. There is goodness in the world! 

Want to read about more goodness, click on the picture below.

I wish you peace, hope, love, and kindness!

April 22, 2013


This is going to be a really short post, because the TEST is tomorrow. I laughed when I saw this on Facebook and couldn't resist sharing. If your not in Texas, insert your own state test and giggle. 


April 21, 2013

Mentor Text - Fly Traps (Science) & Let's Get Acquainted

Once upon a time, when I was self-contained and taught using the basal reading textbook, I integrated science and literature. During our plant unit, we read Fly Traps: Plants that Bite Back by Martin Jenkins

Most kids have probably heard about the Venus flytrap, but what about the squishy bladderworts, sticky sundews, or the cobra lillies. Great illustrations help diagram how plants eat (at least carnivorous ones).

After reading the book, students were challenged to create their own carnivorous plant and create a seed packet. I put the project along with examples in my TPT store. Click here to download the project.

Example of student's work

I love linking up with Amanda & Stacia at Collaboration Cuties! Their mentor text linky has given me the chance to go back in time and explore some of my old files. Thank you ladies!

This week's topic: 3 favorite parts of my classroom

Top of my cabinet
This is generally wasted space in most classrooms, but in my classroom it houses 
my collection of teacher memorabilia,  including an antique desk. 

My DIY storage
These cuties sit on my desk. This picture was taken at the beginning of the year.
Unfortunately, there is a pile of stuff to file in front of them now. 

My library corner
I love my library. 
A few years ago, I won a Really Good Stuff gift certificate. 
I redeemed it on baskets for my books.
Hopefully, this summer I can phase out the red and replace it with green.

The last two state tests are this week, math on Tuesday and reading on Wednesday. Good luck to everyone else out there on your tests! 

April 19, 2013

Five for Friday Flashback - Civil War edition


It's Friday, and I'm as happy as a little pig leaning out of a car window with a whirlygig going "Weeeeee!!!!". 
Time to link up with Kacey at Doodle Bugs Teaching.

1.  Civil War lapbook - I am super excited about starting our Civil War lapbook. Our textbook only has 2 lessons, but our scope and sequence says to teach it for 6 weeks (Well, it did last year. It was revised this year. Now, we are going to cover it in 4 weeks. Much better!) 

I love Home School Connections free lapbook templates. I love them even more, since I found the Civil War templates. Awesomeness! I was able to use most of their templates as is, but did modify the one about ships to become our "Naval Battles of the Civil War in Texas" tab book. I found my information here

We are supposed to cover women of the civil war. I used Home School Connections book shape template to create a mini book. It looked sort of old-fashioned to me. I thoroughly enjoyed researching the women. There were some really interesting ladies. For example, Sarah Seelye ran away from home disguised as a boy, so she wouldn't have to get married. She joined the Union army and served for nearly two years. Do you want to know more? Click here for my resource. 

*Disclaimer: The rest of this is not completely school related, because of #2.

2. Blah! - Home sick Wednesday and Thursday. I took 2 naps for a total of 3 hours extra sleep, but did NOT enjoy the sore throat and sinus headache. 

3. SPCA donation - Every month, the staff at my school participate in a "Bulldog (our school mascot) Benefactor" program. For either $10 or $20 depending on the month and benefiting charity, we are allowed to wear jeans with a certain color shirt. During the month of March, we collected $ and donations for the Houston SPCA and wore gray. Thursday, I took our donations to the shelter and got a behind the scenes tour from the Director of Volunteers, my step-daughter. The sweet girl in my lap is named Lena. I don't know if you can tell, but she was hugging my arm. 

4.  Clinton Kelly's Peanut Butter Balls - Since, I was home sick, I got a chance to watch The Chew. Clinton made Peanut Butter Ball truffles. (Do you like how I use just his first name like I know him?) Later that afternoon, so did I, except I used Cocoa Rice Krispies. OMGoodness! Click here for the recipe.

5.  Joke of the Week - Puppets
Again, I got a chance to catch up on my "Ellen" episodes while I was home sick. I saw the episode with Matthew Perry, where he tells his puppet joke. Then, Jennifer Aniston tells the joke again Thursday. It gets funnier every time I hear it. All week I've been driving my husband crazy by finding ways to work it into our conversations. If you haven't heard it, click here to hear the joke and vote on whether it is stupid, funny, or stupid, but funny.