Student Driven End of the Year Memory Books

The end of the year is! Virginia varies in school ending times, but we're all on the home stretch. Here's an easy, authentic, LOW PREP, idea for an end of the year memory book.

There are hundreds of options for end of the year memory books. Many teachers have a favorite memory book (I always do an end of the year countdown book) but here is an idea you may want to do in addition to your "go to" book to provide an authentic writing experience for your students.

Like many other teachers, I stocked up on the Target Dollar Spot blank books earlier in the year. I chose the 16 page version that had 8 in a pack for $3. That's will cost less than $10 for a class set of books. If you don't have blank books already, you can always just staple blank paper together.

This is an ongoing project for my students during the last few weeks of school. They work on their books for morning work or when they finish work early. I give each student a blank book and a sheet of printed subject labels. They choose the topics they are interested in and want to include in their memory book. I believe student choice is SO IMPORTANT, especially in something as personal as a memory book. One student may love word study while another may cringe at the thought of it, hence why it should or should not be included in their book!

Students simply stick the topic label to the top of the page, write about it, and illustrate. It is so sweet to read what they write and what they consider important. The open-endedness of this project really allows their writing to be authentic and focus on what is important in their school lives. I print a set of class pictures complete with our class name, year, and school to glue to the front of the book. Students can also get autographs from their classmates on the back inside cover.

To help with the prep of this project you can download the FREE labels.

These is just a word document to be printed on standard address labels in comic sans (blahhhhh), but I figured you could edit the font to your favorite and change the topics as necessary. I used Hello Olive from Hello Literacy Fonts for mine. If you're not into labels, you could always just print topics for students to cut and glue or just give students a list of topics they can write about. Whatever method you choose, students will love the freedom of choosing their own topics for their book.

Wishing you and your students a great few last weeks of school. Summer is near which means lots of soaking up the sun while enjoying a great book!

Proposed Changes to the Virginia Studies Standards of Learning

The Virginia Studies Standards of Learning have been updated and revised, by the Virginia Department of Education, for the 2016-2017 school year. Find out the changes the major changes that are coming to Virginia Studies so that you can prepare!

Hello, this is Meghan from Vestal’s 21st Century Classroom! Throughout the past month, many of the incredible teacher bloggers for this site have been writing about the revised math standards that will go into effect at the start of the 2016-2017 school year. But, math is not the only set of Standards of Learning (SOLs) getting an update this year. The history and social sciences SOLs have also be been updated and revised. Today, I will provide an overview of the changes coming to the Virginia Studies SOLs and how you can prepare for them.

I think anytime we hear the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) is planning to revise standards we cringe. The idea of revising standards has become associated with major changes to what is already being taught and more work for teachers. But, I find the revisions to the Virginia Studies SOLs to be nothing but positive. With changes throughout to the wording of the standards, such as “identify” being changed “describe” and “knowledge” being changed to “understanding,” it is clear the VDOE is not trying to completely change or add a bunch of standards. Rather, their goal is to help students gain a deeper understanding and go more below the surface of the current standards. I am excited that the updates to these standards will allow us to move past creating robots who can recite facts about history and move forward towards creating more 21st Century students capable of thinking critically, collaborating with others, communicating ideas, and creatively expressing opinions about events and people throughout history.

Standard VS.1-‘Skills’ has by far undergone the greatest number of changes from what was established in 2008. These changes incorporate three main ideas; tie in more concepts about economic decision making, examine and analyze more types of historical sources, and CRITICAL THINKING. I capitalize ‘critical thinking’ because almost every change made to the revised Virginia Studies standards has to do with incorporating more critical thinking. Previously, students were required to perform tasks such as sequencing events, interpreting historical documents, and discussing issues orally and in writing. Students will now be expected to perform tasks such sequencing events and then providing well thought out connections between each event. Other tasks include explaining different points of views throughout history and understanding what causes a person or culture to maintain those ideas. Students are expected to gain this deeper comprehension of history through the analysis of a variety of sources and conducting research. Since VS.1 has evolved the most, I have provided the entire updated VS.1 standards.

The student will demonstrate skills for historical thinking, geographical analysis, economic decision making, and responsible citizenship by

a) analyzing and interpreting artifacts and primary and secondary sources to understand events in Virginia history;

b) analyzing the impact of geographic features on people, places, and events to support an understanding of events in Virginia history;

c) interpreting charts, graphs, and pictures to determine characteristics of people, places, or events in Virginia history;

d) recognizing points of view and historical perspectives;

e) comparing and contrasting ideas and cultural perspectives in Virginia history;

f) determining relationships with multiple causes or effects in Virginia history;

g) explaining connections across time and place;

h) using a decision-making model to identify costs and benefits of a specific choice made;

i) practicing good citizenship skills and respect for rules and laws while collaborating,
compromising, and participating in classroom activities; and

j) investigating and researching to develop products orally and in writing.

Changes to standard VS.2, ‘Virginia: The Physical Geography and Native Peoples,’ have been minimal. While students are still expected to identify the same geographical features and Native American tribes, they will now be expected to make more connections between the two. Another positive change made is that students will no longer be expected to memorize a long list current state-recognized tribes and their locations. Rather, students will be expected to describe the lives of Native Americans in Virginia today. Removing mass memorization of specific facts is a major component to the revised standards. Below, you can see the wording for the parts of the standard that have been changed.

The student will demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between physical geography and the lives of the native peoples, past and present, of Virginia by

g) describing the lives of American Indians in Virginia today.

The changes to VS.3, VS.4, & VS.5, ‘Colonization and Conflict: 1607 through the American Revolution,’ have also been minor. The only significant difference made to the standards related to Jamestown and colonization (VS.3) is students will be expected to describe the geographic and economic influences for settling at Jamestown. Significant changes made to standards relating to the American Revolution (VS.5) include the addition of the Marquis de Lafayette to list of people students should know in VS.5d and the removal of the Battle of Great Bridge and the ride of Jack Jouett from the list of events students should recognize in VS.5c. Here is how these updated strands will now appear:

VS.3 The student will demonstrate an understanding of the first permanent English settlement in America by

b) describing the economic and geographic influences on the decision to settle at Jamestown;

VS.4 The student will demonstrate an understanding of life in the Virginia colony by

c) explaining the reasons for the relocation of Virginia’s capital from Jamestown to

VS.5 The student will demonstrate an understanding of the role of Virginia in the American Revolution by

b) identifying the various roles of American Indians, whites, enslaved African Americans, and free African Americans in the Revolutionary War era, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, the Marquis de Lafayette, and James Lafayette;

c) identifying the importance of the American victory at Yorktown; and

d) examining the reasons for the relocation of Virginia’s capital from Williamsburg to Richmond.

VS.6, ‘Political Growth and Western Expansion: 1781 to the Mid 1800’s,’ undergoes a few small revisions that will help students to think more critically about the time period. Most notably, is the addition of ‘technological advances’ to VS.5c, which previously only asked students to provide geographical reasons for westward expansion. For teachers, VS.5c also clarifies that students are only expected to understand westward expansion through the first half of the 1800’s.

The student will demonstrate an understanding of the role of Virginia in the establishment of the new American nation by

c) explaining the influence of geography and technological advances on the migration of
Virginians into other states and western territories in the first half of the 1800s.

Yay! There are hardly any changes made to VS.7 and VS.8, ‘Civil War and Postwar Era.’ Other than a few revisions made to the wording, which prompts students to examine the people and events of the Civil War with a more critical eye, no content has been added or deleted.

Finally, I think the VDOE did an excellent job of acknowledging how new history is made each day with the revisions made to VS.9 and VS.10, ‘Virginia: 1900 to the Present.’ Previously, the standards required students to learn about Virginia in the 20th and 21st Centuries. But, the wording of the standards has been altered so that students are required to learn about 20th Century Virginia and beyond. A new strand has been added to VS.9 that will require students to examine how national events of the 1900’s, such as women’s suffrage and the Great Depression, impacted Virginia. Also, many strands from VS.9 and VS.10 have been removed or revised in a way that makes more sense and will be easier on teachers and students. For example, students will no longer be expected to provide reasons for people coming to Virginia from other states and countries. Students will still be expected to know the products and industries for Virginia but they will no longer be expected to match those to specific regions. This strand has been modified so students will gain a deeper understanding of the products and industries and why they exist in Virginia, rather than just memorizing a list. I have provided all the revised strands for VS.9, since it is undergoing some significant revisions, but I have only listed the updated strands for VS.10.

VS.9The student will demonstrate an understanding of Virginia during the twentieth century and beyond by

a) describing the economic and social transition from a rural, agricultural society to a more urban, industrialized society;

b) describing how national events, including women’s suffrage and the Great Depression, affected Virginia and its citizens;

c) describing the social and political events in Virginia linked to desegregation and Massive Resistance and their relationship to national history; and

d) describing the political, social, or economic impact made by Maggie L. Walker; Harry F. Byrd, Sr.; Oliver W. Hill, Sr.; Arthur R. Ashe, Jr.; A. Linwood Holton, Jr.; and L. Douglas Wilder.

VS.10 The student will demonstrate an understanding of Virginia government, geography, and economics by

b) describing the major products and industries important to Virginia’s economy;

Overall, I think Virginia Studies teachers have little to fear and lots to be excited about with the revised standards. While these revisions will go into effect at the start of the 2016-2017 school year, the former standards will still be tested this school year. As you are preparing for the Virginia Studies SOL here are some of my favorite Virginia Studies products, both from my store and other stores. All of these products should be updated, over the summer, to reflect the revised standards. But, if you would like to get the current formats AND the updates once they have been added, everything in my store is on sale April 28-29! 

**Clip art by Zip-a-dee-doo-da, Creative Clips, & Ashley Hughes

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The Virginia Studies Standards of Learning have been updated and revised, by the Virginia Department of Education, for the 2016-2017 school year. Find out the changes the major changes that are coming to Virginia Studies so that you can prepare!
Have a great day!

17 FUN Comprehension Strategies

Hi! This is Heather from Campfire Curriculum with Helpful Heather back for the third and final post in my series. In case you missed them, I began with sharing a view of my classroom on Sunday, a glimpse of me doing what I do, and today, I am sharing a bit of what I've learned so far.

17 FUN Comprehension Strategies 

If you are looking for fun and attention grabbing comprehension strategies this post is for you! You will be treated to 17 exciting comprehension strategies that can be implemented before, during, and after reading. Have fun!
From left to right:  Amanda Hunley, Heather Waild, Kristen Roth
This past March was very exciting!   Along with two co-teachers/friends, I presented at the 49th Annual Virginia State Reading Association Conference.  We worked hard to make sure that teachers went away with strategies that they could implement immediately and effectively.  We called ourselves "The Comprehension Queens" and thanks to Honey Side Up Creative, we were also made into cartoons!

At The Guided Reading Table

Here are some comprehension ideas that you can use at the guided reading table with your small groups.
This activity is called "FLAG IT when you READ IT".  The two above are differentiated for ability and grade level(s).  It's a great use for the flags that are used for page markers in college.  I have a laminated version of this page for my reading table.  Each student receives a set of flags with different colors.  When they are reading and they find one of the identifiers they grab a flag and stick it in the book.  When I see a student reaching for a flag I usually stop my readers and say, "Oh!  Did you find something?  Tell us!"  There have been wonderful 'light bulb' moments using this idea.  Students also are more aware of a purpose for reading when this is introduced. 
This fun game/activity is called "Roll a Response".  After being guided, you could put this activity into a listening center for an 'after-reading activity'.  There are four included here (two for fiction and two for non-fiction).  The teacher can choose which one to use depending on the text given.  If you are sensitive to noise, please use the foam dice that you can find at the dollar stores.  A student simply rolls the die and answers a question that correlates with the number rolled.  If you laminate these boards they can be used year after year!
 Some students struggle with learning how to wonder.  It seems as if it would be very natural but that is not always true.  When I saw this book about the Inupiaq people, I knew that it would be a great cover to introduce 'wondering' with.  You can see that one of my students wondered, "Is she in bed?"  After all of the students verbalized what they wondered, they wrote them in the bubble portion of the activity sheet.  As we were reading, students were encouraged to let us know if they found out the answer to what they just wondered.  This student wrote about the fur that the Inupiaq people wear when she found out that the girl was not in bed, she was wearing a fur coat.

As we sit at the guided reading table we know what kinds of questions to ask.  BUT wouldn't it be nice to have someone write them all down for you?  These guides are full of differentiated questions to ask students.  You can also use them as a "pick-a-card" activity during reading.

Your students will have so much fun with these spinners!  Make your own spinning mechanism with a paperclip and a pencil.  A paperclip is the spinner and the point of the pencil holds the paperclip in the center.  If a student is holding the spinner with his/her left hand they can spin with their right.  Our kindergarten friends may need the teacher's assistance but they will love to spin just the same!  On these (fiction and non-fiction) spinners, picture clues are given.

Centers To Go

Who doesn't love an already-created center? Have fun watching your students using comprehension strategies while reading.

Using these "Anticipation Guides" the teacher can give statements or the students can create their own.  They get to predict if the statement if going to be found true or false prior to reading.  After reading, they can go back and answer with information found in the text.  They can even add page numbers where the information was found!

You have to love an activity where the student is asked to wonder before, during, and after reading.  With this activity students can do all three!  The teacher can put page numbers on the activity or give them a choice on where to stop and wonder during reading.

These choice boards give students the opportunity to choose what they will do in centers.  Throughout a week, the students need to color in three boxes (like tic-tac-toe).  A sneaky (aka smart) teacher will place items that need to be done in a main box.

Laminate these book marks and tuck them into books.  You can even write the page number in the bubble with dry erase marker (in case they fall out of the book).  Students get to that spot in the book, stop, and wonder.  You can even offer students lined paper and they can write down their thoughts (if you choose).

Keep It Current

It doesn't matter what grade you teach, students enjoy activities that are current.  We need to take things that they think are cool and turn them into moments of learning.  Students will want to participate if they are excited about the work in front of them.

All that you need for this activity are these guides and sticky notes.  As students find what they are looking for in the book (character, funny party, a time when they inferred, etc.) they draw the icon or emoji that correlates and stick it in the book!

This activity allows students to wonder, tell how they feel, what they thought was funny, if they were confused, what they liked, and how they reflect on the story.  Using emoji-like characters, the students write about what they find/read.  This can also help you, as the teacher, find group reading that the students enjoy and it can stimulate conversation(s) in small group.

Using a hashtag can be an enrichment activity!  When students read text and can summarize with a hashtag they truly have comprehension skills.  This is fun and the students love it.  I'd love for you to share some of the hashtags that your students create!


This is one of my favorites and I'm so thrilled that students still use them and love them.  You may remember them as Fortune Tellers or Cootie Catchers.  Don't be intimidated.  They are easy to fold (if my husband can do it, you can do it!).  I put them out in centers and also send them home for comprehension homework.  Many times parents do not know what to ask after a student reads a book.  This will help guide them and promote family fun.  I decided to use sight words for the "outside sections" to give my students extra practice with difficult words but you can be creative and implement them in any way that you need.  *A hint for upper grades:  Have students create their own connected to the text that they are reading.  Comprehension Fold-A-Fun can be a great study tool too!

Make It And Take It

The summer is right around the corner!  It's the time that we have to actually meet up with friends and relax a little.  One thing my friends like to do (nerd alert) is to choose an item that we would like to have for our classroom and make it while we are gabbing.  We've always had a fun time while creating for our classes together.  I think you will too.  Here is your challenge:  Meet up with teacher friends once a month and craft something useful for your class.  Here are some ideas:

These 5 finger retells are just as cute as they look!  The students simply slide the bead(s) up when they find the story element.  Your students will love them and want to retell after using them!         

These differentiated "Roll and Know" cubes are fun and quiet!  Cover them with packing tape prior to cutting them (or use a light laminate) and they will last a long time.

Find colorful card stock and laminate them.  Once they are cut out, they make wonderful thought bubbles for comprehension work.  After reading about friendship these students responded that a "Friends have your back!" and "Best friends is BFF friendship".

Using the labels to the right (and they are ready made to be on printer labels) stick them on craft sticks and put them in a container (this one is a coffee container) and make a cute label.  Students will love to answer questions when they get to choose from the Quiz Me Can!

Can You Comprehend How Fun This Would Be?

I hope that you have found one thing that is new to you or that you would like to make.  You should collaborate with your friends the way that I did with mine (shout out to my girls Kristen and Amanda).  Great things happen when teachers get together!  You should make it happen.  Please let me know what you enjoyed or if you have a different spin on things.  We can all learn from each other!  

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If you are looking for fun and attention grabbing comprehension strategies this post is for you!  You will be treated to 17 exciting comprehension strategies that can be implemented before, during, and after reading.