Guess My Costume Freebie

Happy Friday! It's Jen from An Adventure in Literacy. I'm here to share a Halloween costume writing freebie. There are two versions- one for Halloween costumes and one for book characters that can be used year round. This is a super simple activity. Fold the paper in half like a card. The students write three clues about their character/costume on the front. (Yes, in October first graders are still learning how to follow directions!)

Next, they write the name of their character/costume on the inside and draw a picture. 

I collect all of the clues and read them aloud while everyone tries to guess. It is always a fun, easy, educational activity to do on Halloween. But you may want to save it for an easy after Halloween activity, because this year...

Click on the picture to grab your free copy. Happy Halloween!

Focus on STEM and Books!!

Over the years, we have found ways to integrate engineering lessons into history, math, health, art and of course, science. But literature has been our biggest STEM integration success due to the fact that literature is an integral part of the elementary school curriculum and usually teachers have a large block of time for language arts. Literature has the potential to present situations that can challenge students' imaginations. Stories can serve to encourage students to begin to problem solve, generate design proposals, and make connections to engineering.
So, how do we start?  We begin with a "what if...?" question.
Trigger the creativity of children by asking them to imagine the possibilities beyond the story that they know.
  • What if we create a tool or system to help the characters solve their problems?
  • What if we redesign or improve a tool that is already used in the story? With fiction we are only limited by our own imagination! And remember...engineers often think out of the box to solve problems.
  • What if we thought about what happens after the story ends? What future problems might be encountered by the characters? Is there a type of technology or a structure that they might need in the future?
  • What if we knew what happened before the story started? Could a problem be avoided by a tool or new invention?
  • What if we connect math or science to the story?

By incorporating these questions into a book discussion, almost any book or story can inspire a STEM activity or experience. In addition to the regular literature curriculum that we have in our classrooms, we have been delighted by the recent surge of books with strong STEM and engineering connections.

A favorite picture book is Rosie Revere, Engineer.
Written by Andrea Beaty and illustrated by David Roberts, the book tells the story of a little girl who spends her time inventing gizmos and gadgets while dreaming of becoming an engineer. As often happens to children, her inventions were not always appreciated and sometimes did not work. She became discouraged, hid her inventions and eventually set aside her dreams. With encouragement from her great aunt who applauds her efforts, Rosie learns to persevere and use failure as a learning tool during the design process. 
With a clever reference to Rosie the Riveter and the slogan, "We Can Do It!" from World War II fame, Rosie is an inspiration to to elementary children of all ages, especially girls. It will spur great discussions about not only engineering, but also staying true to your dreams and persevering through difficulties. The author has a fantastic website with support materials and engineering ideas:
Rosie Revere Engineer Activity Packet

Another fantastic picture book that we enjoy in late Autumn is Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet. It follows the true story of Tony Sarg who created the giant balloons for Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. So many families watch this parade as a tradition on Thanksgiving morning, that there is an instant connection for many children. With delightful illustrations and great background information on the famous parade and puppeteer, this Caldecott Honor winner inspires several STEM projects that can be included in the classroom. From building their own prototype for a parade balloon to experimenting with paper engineering and puppets, the book inspires STEM challenges while sharing the history of a beloved cultural event. The publisher has a website with some great support materials for the classroom.
Balloons Over Parade Activity Kit
We also have written a STEM activity packet for this wonderful book
Balloons Over Broadway STEM Activity Packet

Whether using picture books, nursery rhymes, fairy tales, a favorite novel, or one of the recently released engineering themed books, the opportunities to focus on STEM with literature are prolific.
Introducing a STEM challenge by first reading the right book, creates a legitimate reason to solve problems presented. It sets the  purpose for the project and allows students to see beyond projects being built with tape, cardboard and craft sticks. They can create solutions to problems that they can identify with and see its importance. Additionally, these books allow students to see that engineers are people similar to themselves. They too had obstacles to overcome and need the same qualities of patience and perseverance that the students need in their own engineering endeavors.
As you plan your literature units, we hope you"Get Caught Engineering' with your favorite books!!

F is for... Fiction (and nonFiction)

This year I choose to teach our Language Arts standards through genres.
I started off with a three week unit on Fiction (realistic, historical, scientific). Then I spent a couple of days comparing and contrasting the fiction vs. nonfiction. I just finished a three week unit on the Informational (nonfiction) genre.
During the week of comparing and contrasting my students completed a Fiction vs. Nonfiction Sort in their Reading Interactive Notebooks. 

Our school has a subscription to Brain Pop and Brain Pop Jr. and I was able to show the BPJr. video clip on Reading Nonfiction. Then we used Scholastic Book Order Magazines and cut out books and students sorted them between Fiction and Nonfiction.

Our grade level has a subscription to Time for Kids. I waited until after my Informational Unit to dive into the magazines. While discussing nonfiction text features, I use old magazines and have students find example of the text features.

It's my first year teaching through genres so I'm still working through the logistics, I hope to share more about this method towards the end of the school year.

Links to Documents in this Post:
Fiction vs. Nonfiction Notebook Sort
Links to Free Fiction/Nonfiction Resources @ The Teaching Oasis:
Fiction Response Questions
Nonfiction Response Questions
Comprehension Menus
Fiction Reading Menus
Links to Paid Fiction/Nonfiction Resources I'm Currently Using:
Exploring Nonfiction Using Classroom Periodicals
Genre Concept Posters
Nonfiction Strategy Posters
Fiction Strategy Posters

Turning AHH to AHA! Using Puzzles in the Classroom

The other day as I was mindlessly scrolling through Facebook I noticed a post by Mindshift on the positive link between guessing games and math ability. Read the post on their site here. Although the research was on guessing games, it made me reflect on my use of logic puzzles in the classroom.

At the beginning of most math classes, I start the class off with some sort of logic puzzle. When I first introduced the different types, my students would complain that they were "too hard". However, after they had enough practice with them and I walked them through the puzzles a few different times they start to love them. My students will constantly ask for them and have learned to embrace the challenges posed by them.

Now I don't actually know if this is helping their math skills, but there are a few things I do know. First, my students are learning to embrace challenges. Although they were terrified at first, they enjoy them and ask me to give them harder puzzles. They like to learn how to do new puzzles and are quickly asking for harder ones. By starting off with puzzles, students learn to embrace the harder problem solving that we do as the year goes on.

Secondly, students have to put in to play the strategies that I teach them with growth mindset. Last month, I posted on growth mindset. I know many of our districts are talking about it along with the world of education in general. From the lessons that we do, students learn about techniques such as positive self talk, visualization, and square breathing. They are able to use these strategies to work through the problems when things get tough.

These puzzles turn my students into critical thinkers that are excited for new challenges. Some of my favorites to use in the classroom are:

1. Sudoku
2. KenKen

  • Printable: 
  • Online:
3. Numbrix


I also really like to use the Rubiks Cube in class. If you haven't checked out You Can Do the Cube you definitely need to! They have a free lending library and free classroom resources. What are your favorite challenges to use in the classroom?

Art in Social Studies

The use of art in social studies curriculum can better develop students understanding of concepts, vocabulary, and content in social studies as art taps into students different learning abilities. Through the use of art we allow students to discover and use different learning styles, we meet the needs of visual-spatial, kinesthetic, and interpersonal learners. Using the arts extends students understanding by providing a tangible product that can connect to social studies curriculum in explicit and relevant ways. Another bonus of using art in social studies is that art allows our ESOL students who have difficulty expressing themselves through speaking and writing, an alternative way to demonstrate their understanding. 

In Second Grade we study the lives of American Indians in the Eastern Woodland, Great Plains, and Southwest Regions. We look closely at their land, climate, and environment to discover how they use their resources in order to live and survive. Many of my students have never traveled to other parts of the United States so getting them to understand that not all of the U.S. looks like the landscape in Virginia can be difficult! That was until I discovered I could have my students study pictures of these landscapes to then create their own HUGE 5ft by 8 ft murals.

After pulling books and online pictures of these three regions we created these three murals as a class. We did one mural each week, for three weeks, so that EVERYONE in the class contributed to each mural. When we were done we displayed these down our hallway and were able to compare and contrast the land to understand why these American Indians tribes lived such different lives.

When we were all done we also created this bulletin board to help us communicate our learning visually! We displayed it right by our murals! If you are looking for an American Indian bulletin board to organize students thinking you can get your very own set in my store!

Through the use of art in our social studies block, students not only had a tangible project to connect our learning in social studies but they also had the opportunity to practice their interpersonal skills by working with each other and using multiple forms of expression. They learned to communicate more effectively, take turns, and provide constructive feedback to their peers.

I encourage you to give it a try and take one social studies unit to think about and discover where a meaningful art project could be added.  Even if you don't teach American Indians, murals could be done of Ancient China or murals depicting the difference between past and present day life. If you have an example of how you already use art in social studies or how you hope to use art in the future I would love to hear it, so leave a comment below!

Thanks for stopping by!

Four Functions of Behavior

Hello Everyone!  It’s Desiree from Papers, Pencils, & Progress Reports. I hope you’ve all settled in to a great first quarter!   However, if you are still frazzled by student behaviors this post is for you!  As a special education teacher, one of my strengths is behavior management and working with student with significant emotional challenges and disabilities. Below, I’ve outlined the four functions of behaviors.

Let’s face it we all have had a student in our class or on our caseload that has exhibited some sort of undesired behavior. I’m talking about serious behaviors the ones that disrupt the learning environment, not just about the teachers-pet peeves. I’m sure a specific student may come to mind, you know the one who often acts out for various reasons we aren’t sure of, heck,  you might even think they stay up late just thinking of ways to annoy or irritate you.  

Students will exhibit undesired behaviors for one of four reasons. It is our job to listen to the behaviors in order to find a replacement so the student can be successful.

 Social Attention
Behaviors occur to gain some form of attention or elicit a desired reaction. For instance a student may engage in a behavior to get others to look at them, laugh at them play with them, hug them or scold them.

A student may engage in an undesired behavior to gain an activity or item.
I always think of the tantrum at the supermarket checkout lane!  You’ve probably witnessed it before the child throws a fit so their parents will buy them candy.

Escape or Avoidance
Many behaviors often occur because students want to escape or avoid something.  I had a student who would become aggressive during recess. It took a while to see the pattern. He would become so bad at recess be would need to be removed from the class and sit in the office.  Although it appeared he couldn’t handle recess, he wasn’t escaping recess. He was having a fit so he wouldn’t have to attend math, which occurs right after recess.

Sensory Stimulation
Sensory stimulation occurs when students need some type of internal stimulation. Maybe the student calms himself by rocking back in forth in his chair. A student may even routinely, chew on clothing or pencil tops. This behavior occurs when students need a specific sensory input.

In order to eliminate or reduce specific behaviors you need to determine a Replacement Behavior.  A replacement behavior a specific behavior you want a student to use instead of the problematic behavior.   Keep in mind replacement behaviors need to serve as the same function.

Teachers/adults think behaviors occur because students are lazy or just trying to be the class clown. Students are communication with us through these behaviors. It’s our job to figure what they mean.  The Virginia Department of Education has some great resources on Behavior management as well as information on Functional Behavior Assessments (FBA) and Behavior Intervention Plans (BIP). They also have a great Problem Behavior Questionnaire.

Here are a few reinforcement questionnaires that may help to determine possible rewards.

Functioning in Guided Whatever Groups

Hello all!

I am Haley from Owls and Lessons, Etc. and I'm really excited to share with you a look into my guided groups organization!

I can hear my co-workers hysterically laughing right now... really?  Organized?  Unfortunately, I missed the organization gene and have had to really. work. at. being. organized.

This was a gift from a coworker... she knows me all too well!!

The struggle is real.

I have really tried this year to keep my desk and guided group area organized and functioning so that I can maximize time and instruction at my table... not digging for books or highlighting tape.

At the beginning of the year, everything looked so fresh and clean. Then by the time September has ended, I usually have piles everywhere.  Long live the Pile Queen!

This was my guided whatever area before I reorganized... not too bad, but it wasn't functioning as well as it could.  Nothing was clearly labeled and I had other things besides my guided group materials.  Cleanse and purge time!

Here is what I did and my "why"... you know, because we get the kids to explain why to us all the time!

For my guided reading groups, I go once a week (sometimes more) to my school's wonderfully stocked bookroom and pull books for my groups.  Once I get back to my room, I will sort my books into each group's reading basket.  Any other extra materials I'll need, graphic organizers, etc., I'll put into a bin labeled Reading Materials.

Don't you just love those dry erase pockets?  They are a must have in any classroom!  

For my reading groups, I bought the chapter book sized bins so that I have more room for books and notebooks.  In each group's bin, I keep each student's reading workshop notebook. The marbled composition books are my favorite size, but spirals will fit just fine. While my students sort their word study cards, I just reach and grab their notebooks from their group basket and pass out while I listen to them sort and justify. In their notebooks, they have the book they read the day before.  Everything is kept organized for a quick start to each group.


I also keep anything my students may need at the table in my bins- extra pencils, highlighting tape, reading strips, sticky notes, whatever.  They are in my awesome bins with labels so I can just point and say "Get it!"  We use sticky notes for just about everything. Below is an example of a student's work as he read the story "The Josefina Story Quilt", looking for characters, setting, problem, and solution.  Keeping them in close reach is really a no-brainer!

For math, I have the smaller binder bins to hold my students' folders. I have them sorted by group with other bins for my most used manipulatives, dice, and other math things.

The labels are ones that I made and printed on cardstock.  Really Good Stuff has a template for Labels for Life when you purchase these bins, but a simple ruler and text box skills will get you labels just as quickly, especially if you have to have everything in a gorgeous font! #selfproclaimedfontsnob

All supplies are easily found and within reach.  Even the children know what to grab if I'm working with another student.

I know it seems like a very simple system, but simple works.  I always enjoy seeing ideas from other teachers and how they have their materials organized.

Thanks for reading today!

Five Little Pumpkins Freebie

Hey all! It's KTeacherTiff here with a little pumpkin freebie for you!
Five Little Pumpkins is one of my favorite rhymes in the fall. My class is working on ordinal numbers right now, and this rhyme fits in perfectly! Just cut out the pumpkins and glue on craft sticks. Students can act this out in whole group and then on their own during station time. Then, students take the ordinal position cards and label the positions of the pumpkins, 1st through 5th. 

I also included a printable of the rhyme for students to read, locate words in, and/or put in their poetry books if they have them! This is a great activity for Pre-K or kindergarten students who are just learning about ordinal numbers. It's a great way to integrate math and reading too!

CLICK HERE to download! 

Reaching Readers with Bookopolis

Bookopolis claims to ignite a love of reading for children. As a teacher I am thrilled to say this site delivers on its claims and a whole lot more! If you have not heard about what Bookopolis can do you for you and your students, then make sure to read my post! I can't believe I just found out about this site this year!

For all the benefits this site has to offer, the best is it is FREE! When you sign up for Bookopolis you will be prompted to create a group for your class. You will choose a login in name and password for your students and they get to choose a personal avatar when they sign in. 

Once your class is set up, students can start adding book titles to their main page. Students can also find other friends on the site so they can recommend books to each other. Each time students finish reading a book, they can write a review. They really like this part because they love to give star ratings!

I love how students have a voice and can interact with each other with book recommendations! Another feature I treasure is the Reading Log! No longer do I need to check agenda's every morning looking for parent signatures to confirm students did their nightly reading! My students click on the Reading Log tab and record their nightly reading! This one feature has helped me greatly this year! I love how I have an on going record that I can access at any time to see where my students are with their independent reading.

Okay, who likes free books for their classroom? If you said yes, then this is another reason to sign up for Bookopolis!!! There is another affiliate company called Kids Rate Books. You can sign up your class to write reviews for specific books. When you first sign up, they will send you 3 free books. Once five students from your class have submitted a review, your class will receive another free book! LOVE IT!

As you can see, Bookopolis has a lot to offer you and your students! For me, it has personally made checking reading logs more efficient and a pleasure. I have a lot more quick conferences with students on what they are reading because it is so easy to access compared to carrying around 20 journals! Give it a try and if you have any questions, the Mayor of Bookopolis is there to assist you!

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