Reading Goals

It is the beginning of the year, so that means it is time to set goals.  One of those goals should be how many books your students should read by the end of the year.

If The Book Whisperer was on your summer reading list, you've probably set 40 books as the goal for your students.  Whatever your goal may be, one thing your students need is access to quality books.  You may already have a class library.  But is there such a thing as too many books in a class library?  No, I don't think so.  


There are a different ways to get more books for your library.  One way is to send home the note above and ask parents for donations.  You will usually get a good response for this at the beginning of the school year and around the holidays.  These are both times when parents are cleaning out (clothes) and books that no longer "fit".

Another way is to order books through Scholastic.  Your students order reasonably priced books and you earn bonus points for organizing it.  You may purchase books with your bonus points.  To build interest in the book order, I suggest having a genre scavenger hunt using the book order form.   Let students work with a partner to complete this assignment.

Click HERE to get a copy of the genre scavenger hunt and Scholastic parent letter.

Freebie Fridays


Back to School Blog Hunt - Day 26

I hope you have been enjoying our Blog Hunt.  Hopefully, you have some new ideas and lessons to try out this year.  I thought I would share my Wall of Fame with you since the beginning of the year is the perfect time to set goals.

Goal setting is a skill that should be taught through out the year in all grades.  One easy way to teach goal setting with primary students is with a "Wall of Fame".  You need a fairly large wall or you can even use your windows.  You will need several different categories/goals that your students will work to achieve throughout the year.   Try to have a mixture of simple, moderately challenging, and challenging goals.  Have a simple goal that most can achieve right off so your students will buy into the Wall of Fame.  For kindergarten, a simple goal might be identify basic shapes or colors.  For first grade, a simple goal might be letter identification.  When students achieve the goal, let them write their name on a small cutout such as the ones below.

My students write their name on a shoe when they can tie their shoes, plus I give them a piece of shoelace licorice.  They hang their shoe under the sign (above).

Students sign their name on a pencil when they can write their first and last name using upper and lower-case letter correctly.

Students write their name on a piece of popcorn when they identify all of the letter sounds . . . you know the sounds that "pop" in their mind.

My students study letter sounds using the Popcorn Sounds homework program.  When all of my students know their letter sounds, we have a popcorn party.  

In my packet are 2 editable signs that you and your students can use for your own goals.
Click HERE to get your own copy.

Looking for more Back to School ideas?  Click on the pictures below:

Vocabulary Ideas

A few weeks ago, I asked teachers on my FB page for topics of interest.  I wrote all of the topics down and pinned them on my office's bulletin board.  My bulletin board is my "go to" place when I need a topic for a blog post.  Today's topic, vocabulary games, is courtesy of my FB readers.

Here are a few games I found that you might like to try:

This site has elementary and middle school games.

Middle School Vocabulary Activities

Elementary and middle school vocabulary game.

My all around favorite site that had MANY activities including this one:
Click to visit the site.  It is great!

This vocabulary packet is aligned with 1st - 3rd Common Core Standards.



FREE read alouds

Listening centers have always been one of my standard centers.  Students are listening to a good model of fluent and expressive reading. An added bonus is the headphones. I love the magical effect that headphones have on my students. 

Students are able to tune out the rest of the class and focus on the voice of the reader while watching the words. This is a must-have center when teaching small groups. Students are engaged which makes this center the quietest group of students in the classroom.


I asked my technology specialist for broken headphones which she was more than happy to provide.  I cut the cords off of them.  Students that want to use headphones during work time are allowed to wear these.  I wrote students' numbers on the headphones. They hang them on the sidebar of their desk.  This is my way of taking preventative measures when it comes to the possibility of lice.  These headphones help students who are easily distracted by noises and movement.

There are many sites that books read aloud.  Below are a few of my favorites.

I love the way the Just Books Read Aloud site is organized.  You can choose the length of the book, author, narrator, topic, reading level, and language. 

Mercer Mayer reads some of his books.

The Indianapolis Public Library site features 100 free video read alouds.  These are all books your students will love!

I love the Storytime Before Bed site because the authors read their books.  Some of the authors incorporate skills within the read aloud like discussing parts of a book.  Love it!

The National Geographic Young Explorer site has issues that are read aloud.  Great source for informational text.

Scholastic: Listen & Read includes 15 nonfiction read aloud stories about community helpers, animals, and the President.

I have some reading response pages that you can use with some of these stories.

What are your favorite sites?

Freebie Fridays


You Know it's Back to School Time When . . .

Jeannie @ Kindergarten Lifestyle is having a linky party and I'm joining the fun!

The beginning of the school year always brings for me a discovery of muscles I never knew I had.  Suddenly, parts of my body were aching that had never ached before!  Who has ever heard of your pointing finger aching?  Weird, right?  But, if you scrape enough stickers off with your pointing finger or pull out enough staples out of a bulletin board, at the end of the day your finger will let you know that it is tired.   So much of the time, setting up a classroom, is spent climbing on and off a step ladder to reach heavy boxes, take them down, put them back up, and repeat over and over.  A teacher should make a video of this stuff and call it "teacher aerobics".  If we did these same aerobics all year, we would be as shapely as Jillian Michaels.

This brings up a good point, for many years I used a chair or table or any other tall flat surface to reach the places I needed to reach.  Then one day I spotted a step ladder at a thrift store and bought it.  That was some of the best money I ever spent.  I highly recommend you adding a step stool to your "wish list".  Maybe a parent will buy it for you for Christmas.  You will be surprised at how often you will use it when you get one.

Speaking of aches and pains . . . one of the best things ever invented for headaches, aching shoulders, and other sore body parts is this miracle (see picture above).  It works like a heating pad except it's better because it contours to your body.  Have you ever gotten a migraine at school and had to stay at school and teach?  Yes, you can tell your students to walk quietly like little mice and whisper that day, but that will only go so far to help the pain in your head.  I have one of these at home and one at school.  If you get a migraine in the middle of class, you can usually find some teacher walking down your hallway who is willing to go warm this in the microwave for you.  Drape it over your shoulders to get instant relief.  You'll thank me for it!   These would also be great gifts for your fellow teachers.  If you have the Martha Stewart gene, you can make homemade ones that are sure to be a hit!
Click on the picture for directions to make these.


Return Work to Students

How do you return students' graded papers to them?  Returning papers can take up so much time, there has to be a better way.  Through the years, I've tried countless different ways but I have yet to find the perfect way.  I'll share a few of the ways I've tried and then I'd love to hear your ideas.  Maybe together we can solve this dilemma.

Mailbox System:

Each student is assigned a number (alphabetically).  Students put their name and number on all assignments.  My mailboxes were numbered so I didn't have to add names to the mailboxes each year - a definite plus.  I graded papers and put them in a bin.  Student helpers (mailmen) put the graded papers in the mailboxes.  Some years I had my students collect their "mail" at the end of the day and other years mail gathered in the box until Friday when they took it home.  The problem with this system is it can get crowded around the mailboxes.  It can be time consuming to send a few students at a time to collect their mail.  I tried assigning a group of students to get their mail on each day of the week.  Example:  Student #1-5 get their mail on Mondays, students #6-10 get their mail on Tuesday, etc.  The problem with this system is what do you do when you have time sensitive papers that need to go home? I.E.  test that needs a parent's signature

Weekly Folder:

With this system, I graded papers and stuffed them in folders that were sent home on Fridays.  This system, by far, took the least amount of class time.  Ya for that! But . . . drum roll . . . it took many hours, hours of my personal time, to stuff the folders.  Think of how much time two students helpers spend a week stuffing the mailboxes.  Then take that times two since there are two students mailing the papers when there is only one of me and you can see why this system is so time consuming.  The glitches to this system is what do you do when students forget to return their folders?  The big positive about this system is parents knew graded papers were coming home on Friday.  The consistency factor of this system is a major plus!  Signatures on tests and other required paperwork came back from parents better with this system.

Wrap Up:

Wrap up was the last 15 minutes of the day.  Students were assigned jobs to do during wrap up.  One of the jobs was passing back graded papers. The plus of this system was students got feedback (grades) quicker.  When graded papers went home on Fridays, the papers weren't always looked at which is a shame because students miss out on an opportunity to learn from their mistakes.  The other thing that happened with this system is I often found graded papers on the floor after students left at the end of the day.  Paperwork that required parents' signatures did not come back as readily with this system.   

How do you return your students' work?


Tips for Student Teachers

A few days ago, I was asked for advice from a future student teacher.  I thought this would be a great topic for a post.  Maybe you could share some hints, too.

Through the years I have had several student teachers.  Of those student teachers, I was fortunate to have a few that were clearly outstanding.  From the first day that they walked into the classroom, they were "naturals".  When I reflect back over their experiences, I tried to figure out what made them outstanding.  They each had different personalities but shared similar characteristics and actions.

The importance of this experience:

The outstanding student teachers (O.S.T.) understood that their student teaching experience was their top priority.  It came before part time jobs, plans with friends, and all the other obligations a college student has on their "to do" list.  Although they were receiving college credit/hours for the experience, this wasn't a class that you showed up for at 7:30 and left at 3:15.    This was their opportunity to not only put into use the knowledge they had learned so far in their course work, but also gain first hand experience in the trenches.  This would be their one and only time to have guidance when they are working side-by-side with a mentor.

Constructive Criticism:

The O.S.T. asked for constructive criticism.  Rather than let constructive criticism hurt their feelings, they saw it as a tool to help them grow professionally. They had this drive to always improve themselves.  Even when a lesson went smoothly, they dissected their lesson to see which part could be better.  Should they ask different types of questions?  Should they allow more wait time?

Build Relationships:

A teacher is one cog in a system called school.  Although you are alone when you close your classroom and begin to teach your class, you are still part of a system.  All it takes is one cog to get out of alignment for you to realize the importance of each person in a school.  Get to know everyone in your school and build relationships with them.  A friendly "Hello, how was your weekend?" is a great ice breaker.  Custodians, cafeteria workers, secretary, teacher assistants, special ed. teachers, specials teachers all play a role in keeping a school running smoothly.  I have seen the relationship my O.S.T. built with staff members besides myself pay off.  Many times when there is an opening at a school, staff members know about it before it is officially posted on the district's website.  A librarian, spec. ed. teacher, or classroom teacher might see a friend from another school at a workshop and ask if he/she knows of a good candidate for the position.  My O.S.T. who built relationships with staff members besides myself were often recommended.  One of the things I heard most often said by other staff members about my O.S.T. were "they came early, stayed late and always looked professional". This is a visible way to show your dedication to your job.

Professional Dress and Mannerisms

One of the colleges that we received student teachers from had this wonderful, wonderful, wonderful professor who was the liaison between the college and elementary schools.  I loved getting her student teachers because she gave her student teachers practical, down-to-earth advice.  She constantly stressed with her S.T. that their job was to learn to be a teacher and to get a job.  Here are a few of the conversation she had with her S.T. :

Student Teacher:  Can we wear jeans?
Professor:  No, you need to wear professional clothes every day.
Student Teacher:  But, my cooperating teacher wears them on Fridays.
Professor:  Your cooperating teacher has a job, you don't, so you won't wear jeans.

Student Teacher:  What time do I arrive and leave school?
Professor:  Ask your cooperating teacher what time he/she arrives and leaves.  Then you make sure you arrive before him/her and leave after him/her.
Student Teacher:  But, a teacher's contract time is ______.  Yes, teachers who are under contract can do that, but they have a job contract, you don't.  You need to arrive early and stay late because there should be plenty for you to do.

Student Teacher:  What do I do if I don't agree with my cooperating teacher's discipline plan?  I think he/she should use more positive reinforcement.
Professor:  The principal would not have selected this teacher to be a cooperating teacher if he/she didn't have confidence in the teacher.  You currently have classroom management knowledge on a philosophical level from your classes.  This teacher has that and practical knowledge as well.  Watch and observe so you will have both, too.

 She stressed the importance of dressing professionally.  No, you don't have to wear a dress suit to work.  She meant you should:

*Look at the district's dress code for students.  This is good guideline for student teachers except for wearing shorts or jeans.

*Wear dress, pants or a skirt (not jeans).  Look closely at the length of your skirt.  Sit on a chair and have a friend of yours sit on the floor in front of you when you are wearing your skirts.  This is the eye level of your students.  Ask your friend if your skirts are appropriate for school.  Gentlemen, your pants should sit at your waist.  Your student should not be able to tell whether you prepare boxers or briefs.  Either buy pants that fit or buy a belt and use it.

*Shirts:  Do the bend over test in front of a mirror.  This is what your students see when you bend over their desk to help them.  Ask a friend to look at you from behind when you bend over.  Does your shirt come up and show skin or underwear?  This is what your students will see when you bend over a desk.  Shirts should be modest in design and material.  Save the see-through material or spaghetti straps for your personal time.

*Hair and makeup:  Hair should be clean.  Your makeup and hairstyle should not detract from the learning environment.  Save Easter egg hair colors and mohawks for your personal time, not school hours.

Do you have any advice to give future student teachers?


Common Core Curriculum Map: Chapter 2 - 2nd Grade

Focus Standards for Chapter 2:
RL.2.2. Recount stories, including fables and folktales from diverse cultures, and determine their central message, lesson, or moral.
RL.2.9. Compare and contrast two or more versions of the same story (e.g., Cinderella stories) by different authors or from different cultures.
RI.2.6. Identify the main purpose of a text, including what the author wants to answer, explain, or describe.
W.2.2. Write informative/explanatory texts in which they introduce a topic, use facts and definitions to develop points, and provide a concluding statement or section.

Howdy partner!  For chapter 2 we are traveling back in time to the Wild, Old West.  So, saddle up and come along for some fun!


The essential question for chapter 2 is "How does setting affect a story?".  Students will read books set in the Wild West.  Since the setting is much different from their life, setting will be at the forefront of their thinking.

Create a word wall of Old West words.   Reinforce collective nouns when you share stories with your class.  Here are some collective nouns signs you can download:

This book gives suggestions for integrating the Wild West theme into other subjects.  Here is an example:

Integrate:  Art & Writing 

W.2.1. Write opinion pieces in which they introduce the topic or book they are writing about, state an opinion, supply reasons that support the opinion, use linking words (e.g., because, and, also) to connect opinion and reasons, and provide a concluding statement or section.
W.2.3. Write narratives in which they recount a well-elaborated event or short sequence of events, include details to describe actions, thoughts, and feelings, use temporal words to signal event order, and provide a sense of closure.

Students compare the artwork of George Catlin and Edward S. Curtis.  How do the two artists' styles differ in their approach to Native Americans?

Here is an example of Catlin's work:


Here is an example of Edward S. Curtis' work:

Let your students use this page to organize their thoughts before they begin their writing assignment.

Integrate:  Music and Reading

RL.2.4. Describe how words and phrases (e.g., regular beats, alliteration, rhymes, repeated lines) supply rhythm and meaning in a story, poem, or song.
SL.2.2. Recount or describe key ideas or details from a text read aloud or information presented orally or through other media.
L.2.4. Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grade 2 reading and content, choosing flexibly from an array of strategies.

This traditional cowboy ballad is great for introducing Old West vocabulary words to your students.  Ask your students to highlight or circle words from this time period while they watch and listen to Roy Rodgers sing this song.  Afterwards ask if they can infer the meaning of the words.  Add the words to your Old West word wall.  Then discuss the main idea of the song.

This is just a small glimpse of chapter two.  I recommend you getting your own copy, if haven't already done so.  You can purchase a copy of this book by clicking on the picture below:

One more Common Core tip . . . if you look at the bottom of my blog, you will see a Common Core widget.  This is a handy shortcut and it's free!  You can download your own widget by clicking here.  There is also an app for smart phones available.

This is a book study blog hop.  Each day a different blogger will share their insights about the book.  You can find out more about this book at the following blogs:

2nd Grade Overview:  Yvonne @ Sassy in Second
2nd Grade - Chapter #1:  A Season for Chapters:  Jennifer @ Best Practices 4 Teaching
2nd Grade - Chapter #2:  Me
2nd Grade - Chapter #3:  Building Bridges with Unlikely Friends:  Sally @ Elementary Matters
2nd Grade - Chapter #4:  A Long Journey to Freedom:  Mandy @ Mandy's Tips for Teachers
2nd Grade - Chapter #5:  Hand-Me-Down-Tales from Around the World: Yvonne @ Sassy in Second
2nd Grade - Chapter #6:  Taking Care of Ourselves - Me
Pacing Guide:  Jennifer @ Best Practices 4 Teaching


Differentiating with Literature Circles

Do you ever feel like you're in a "If you Give a Mouse a Cookie" book? Sometimes my train of thoughts works like that! The latest mouse episode happened on my FB page. I gave a link to a list of best chapter books and then someone asked for a list with grade level equivalents. Then I shared one of my favorite teacher tools - Scholastic Book Wizard. Next, I gave a link to a post I wrote giving suggestions for organizing Literature Circles. Then someone asked how you could use Daily 5 and Literature Circles.
Are you caught up with the trail of cookie crumbs? At the end of the trail, I thought I should tell you how you can use the Scholastic Book Wizard when you plan Literature Circles.

This is a hypothetical class which we will call Mrs. Mouse's class. Mrs. Mouse has 25 students. Mrs. Mouse has divided her class into 5 literature circles.

With today's hectic schedules, one way to use your time wisely is to integrate subjects and skills as much as possible. Mrs. Mouse is going to use the Scholastic Book Wizard so she can find books on the appropriate levels about the objects and subjects she is currently teaching - ancient times (Greece, Rome, Egypt)

Step #1: Click on Scholastic site (click on picture)

Step #2:

First, type Ancient Rome in the search box.

Second, choose what type of reading level system you use. I chose grade level equivalent.

Third, choose "search by level"

Step #3: Mrs. Mouse chose reading levels 2.0 - 4.5

Step #4: This step is very important when you use Literature Circles with older students. I found this out the hard way when I helped my friend who is a 6th grade teacher organize her groups. Fluency plays an important role with older students. You can have 2 students reading on the same level, but if their fluency rates differs greatly you will have issues. So, a word to the wise, look at fluency rates if you teach older students. If you don't have time to test your students' fluency rate, you can take a quick survey. Ask your students to write down their 3 favorite books and the title of the book they are currently reading for pleasure. Generally speaking, the longer the book, the higher the fluency rate.

Step #5: Mrs. Mouse put her students into the following groups:

Group #1 (level 2.0 - 2.4 / Low fluency)

Group #2 (level 2.2 - 2.6 / Average fluency)

Group #3 (2.5 - 2.9 / Average fluency+)

Group #4 (3.0 - 3.5 / (High fluency)

Group # 5 (4.0 - 4.4/ High fluency)

Step #6: Mrs. Mouse took her list of groups and the list of books she found in her Book Wizard search to the library. Mrs. Books, the librarian, was happy to show Mrs. Mouse which books the library had multiple copies of and said she could borrow more books from the public library for her.

With some planning and organization, Mrs. Mouse class was able to learn about Ancient times during their reading lessons, which were also differentiated.
Do you follow my Facebook page?  I am going to give 4 copies of the books in the pictures above to one of my FB followers.

Looking for more ideas?