Friday, September 6, 2013


Our instructional coordinator shared a Pinterest pic with me that had an awesome bulletin board idea. Although I loved the idea, I didn't love the $$ I would have to spend getting pictures developed. So, I decided to add my own little twist. I thought about having my new third graders summarize their favorite story instead, so we did that in our journals one day last week.

I was a little is the beginning of the year, and due to time, I decided I would just give them a sentence starter, have them complete the sentence on notebook paper, bring it to me to see if we needed to make any corrections, then have them complete their final version on blank 5x7 index cards. They would write their sentence, then draw a picture to illustrate the sentence.

I collected the finished index cards, glued them onto construction paper, and cut the construction paper so that it was a little wider than the index card. Then, I went to the trusty ellison machine, and cut out some upper case O's. Those would be glued onto the bottom part of the construction paper, making it look like an iPod. Once the glue was dry on the O's, I wrote Menu at the top,  > and two vertical lines at the bottom, and on each side, I drew the rewind and fast forward icons.

Here is the final product. I like it. :-)  Just having issues with kids wanting to play with the ipods as they walk by. THEY ARE NOT REAL, KIDS! Leave them ALONE!

If you want to do this for your bulletin board, here are my sentence starters: (They could change it up if they wanted to...these were just suggestions.)

My favorite person to read with is:

My favorite place to read is:

I love reading because:

I have to admit, my favorite sentence was this one:

I guess I can be sometimes! ;-) But I knew what she meant, and I loved it!

Please add your own suggestions! This bulletin board was such a hit with my kids, I'm sure I'll do it next year too! What sentence starters would you add?

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Yoga Balls in the Elementary Classroom

"You're gonna let these kids sit on yoga balls in class?!"

When my co-worker and good friend of sixteen years first told me her plan, I'll admit I was a little skeptical. I may have even told her she was nuts. Upon asking her later, she agreed, "Yep, you told me I was nuts. It's okay, I still love ya!" We have that kind of relationship. I know her. She is not the kind of teacher who is appreciative of kids "bouncing off the walls," and this is just what I was imagining happening with this crazy idea of hers. However, she has always been the kind of teacher who takes the bull by the horns, and she usually ends up taming the bull somewhere in the process. Meet my friend, Elizabeth.

She is a doctoral student who drives 75 miles one way to school every day, usually going 75 mph, but her speed is beside the point, I guess (hope there are no GSP officers reading this)... Anyway, she calls this her "thinking time." This can actually be considered more dangerous than her speed! She stumbled upon this idea of the yoga balls while perusing the internet one night. She pondered it further during her "thinking time," and approached our principal with this idea - full of ammunition. She had her research to back up what she believed was a good idea. Let me just say, we are lucky to have the principal that we have been blessed with. She is awesome. She thinks outside of the box, and encourages that in her teachers. If you approach her with an idea, and if you have sound research to back it up, and if you truly believe your idea can make a difference in our students' lives, honey, she'll make it happen.

So that's how Elizabeth ended up with a classroom full of yoga balls. And you see our principal smiling in the doorway. Elizabeth is four months into this experiment and it is working well. But you should have seen the looks into her classroom when folks walked by and saw her students bouncing up and down in February!

Now, let's go back to Elizabeth's commute. She has a long ride, and she listens to the morning shows to pass the time.  One show that she enjoys listening to is Bob and Sheri  in the morning. Well, one morning, they happened to be discussing yoga balls in general, and how they didn't do all that they were cracked up to do. That's all it took for Elizabeth to get out her cute pink phone, and dial that number, and let them know, "OH YES THEY ARE!! I teach with a classroom full of third graders bouncing on yoga balls!" This was said in her most authoritative teacher voice. Smart hosts that they are, they knew they had a story, and told Elizabeth to call back in eight minutes, and they would put her on the air. You can listen to her 15 minutes of fame.  (As of right now, this link doesn't work. I'm gonna put Elizabeth on the task of taking care of this. Rest assured that it will be back up soon!)Fast forward to 1:20 into the program to hear her story.


Since she is now a minor celebrity, I thought I'd interview her.

Me: What in the world, girl?
Elizabeth: Well, you work with me, so you know we have several students with ADD/ADHD, students who are on the autism spectrum, and some with simple maturity issues. I wanted to find a way to keep our students engaged, so I started researching.
Me: You know, I like your idea, but I was skeptical at first. It seems to be working, but how do you manage this? How do you keep these kids from bouncing from one wall to the other?
Elizabeth: We had a class on yoga ball etiquette. What we do and don't do on the yoga balls. Modeling was involved. We don't stick pencils into the balls, obviously. Boucing is allowed, even encouraged! Why have them, otherwise?
Me: And what about you? Do you have a yoga ball as well?
Elizabeth: You know I do! I even teach from it sometimes!
Me: You are a bundle of energy yourself! I can see that happening! Would you mind sharing your "yoga ball etiquette?" How do you make this work in your classroom? 
Elizabeth: Okay. Yoga ball etiquette is as follows:
  • Feet on the floor.
  • Small bounce.
  • Slightly roll side to side.
  • Only sit on one ball.
  • Sit on bottom - not on knees.
  • Do not throw ball.
  • Do not roll so that you are lying on your back.
  • Do not lie on your stomach. 
Me: What about the ones who just can't/won't follow the yoga ball etiquette? What do you do then?
Elizabeth: All students are given a choice. We have a few students who choose to sit in chairs. When we got the balls, I stacked all my chairs into a corner of the room. Students who prefer to use chairs switch them out as they come into the classroom. Some students change daily depending on their mood. They may prefer a ball on Monday, but on Tuesday they would rather sit in a chair. It is up to them. And for the one or two who abuse the yoga balls, either by diving into them or poking holes into them, they sit in chairs as well.
Me: So, overall, would you say that yoga balls are effective in your classroom? 
Elizabeth: Yes. Of course, as I mentioned earlier, there are some who do better in chairs, so that's where they sit. But overall, the balls seem to keep my kids more on task; more engaged.
Me: What about grades? Have they improved?
Elizabeth: I've not had the balls long enough to correlate grades to them. But I can tell you that I was AMAZED at how well they worked during state testing. I could really tell a difference from previous years...the kids who finished early kept quiet and were less 'antsy' while waiting on the others to finish.
Me: What other benefits have you seen?
Elizabeth: When they have their feet on the floor, the bouncing strengthens their core, which leads to increased blood flow to the brain. Both sides of the brain are engaged due to bouncing and balancing. This increases focus. It also keeps their little bottoms from going to sleep like it does in a hard chair. When the body is moving, the brain is working. That's what we want for our kids!

And there is my conversation with my friend and coworker, Elizabeth! Thanks, girl! Love ya!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Teacher Appreciation Sale!

I am excited to announce an awesome sale over at my Teachers Pay Teachers store! Everything in my store will be 20% off on Tuesday, May 7th and Wednesday, May 8th! You can get an additional 8% off by using the code TAD13 when you check out! Please hop over and check it out! Thanks so much!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Guest Blog Post

I have some very exciting news to share! I have a guest blog post over at Rachel Lynette's Minds In Bloom! I can't tell you how excited I was to open her email telling me that my idea for a guest post was accepted! This was BIG for me. I'm a new blogger, a new seller on Teachers Pay Teachers...old teacher, but some of my students tell me I look 17...(I do tell them I dock points out of the gradebook if they say I look older than 29, so that may have something to do with it.)

Anyway, please hop over to Rachel's blog, and check out my post! I share strategies that we can use to help us prepare for the big standardized test, without all the undue stress.

And to help reduce stress for my students, my five year old son, who is in Pre-K and doesn't have to take the test, drew this cute little creature on my board yesterday. He called it a tank, but I called it the happy test monster! Good luck on the TEST!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Penguin Fun!

There is so much more to reading than just *reading* when it comes to young learners. You have to make to make it real to them. We all know this. You have to find ways to get them involved and interested. My class recently read the story Penguin Chick. It's a non-fiction text that describes the life cycle of the emperor penguin. Before we read this, my students weren't really interested in penguins at all, I would guess. By the end of the week, my kids were eager to learn more! That's what I love! They were reading the other books about penguins that I had in my personal library, and were checking out books from our school library. 

One thing I did to rivet these little readers was to find a live webcam of penguins. San Diego Penguin Video Cam is the one I used. The kids absolutely LOVED watching this! Who knew penguins could be so funny and interesting! Some even went home and watched them on their own computers! I even had a parent tell me that her son went home and taught his younger sister everything that he'd been learning about penguins! LOVE that!

Another thing we did was to put ourselves in the place of the emperor penguin father. Poor guy has to carry that egg on his feet for two whole months! Fortunately, I have a good relationship with our PE teachers, so I asked to borrow some bean bags from the PE department. We went outside, shuffled our feet with the bean bag eggs on top, (yep, that was a vocabulary word) as we played a relay game to see which penguin daddy could bring the egg back home safe and secure first. They had a ball with this, as you can see! 
See how innovative he is? 
Spoke too THIS is innovation! I'm gonna tie that egg to my foot!
I loved using this text with my students. It was a precursor to our novel for the 9 weeks, Mr. Popper's Penguins, which they also loved. If you teach penguins, and/or Penguin Chick please check out my unit on Teachers Pay Teachers. You will find reading and writing activities that go along with this text. My students especially enjoyed completing a Venn Diagram comparing their family to the family of emperor penguins. We then used that Venn Diagram to write about these similarities and differences. Some of these were quite entertaining! I love when my third graders get into their writing! Enjoy! 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Fantastic Freebies for Your Classroom!!

I just love freebies! Today, I'm going to share one way that I've gotten some great, high quality freebies for my classroom.

You know those envelopes you get in your school mailbox from Highlights Magazine with the little yellow slips of paper that they want you to send home with your students? DO THIS! DON'T trash them! I have gotten magnets, pointers, stickers, notepads, sticky notes, FREE subscriptions to Highlights...but my all time favorite was the pack of reading highlighters that I got for FREE, simply by sending home those yellow slips of paper, and getting them back with a parent's signature.

Do whatever you have to do to get those slips back. I put a big X where the parent needs to sign, and I tell my kids that I don't care if their parents order or not, just bring that paper back with a signature! I share the free magazine with my students, then put it on my bookshelf with the others, so they can peruse it at their leisure. I also show them all the freebies I've gotten, because previous students have done exactly what I'm asking them to do! To ensure that the slip is seen by parents, I attach it to the top of the papers that I send home to get signed. I have also (on occasion) told my students that if they bring it back signed, they can use it as a homework pass.

I almost always get them all, or mostly all, back signed. Some even sign up for a subscription. If three parents sign up, you get additional freebies! You can enter all of your information online as well, so it's easy-peasy to do! It does take a little time (that we have so much of) but believe me, it is worth it.

Back to those highlighters I mentioned earlier. They are awesome. I'm a big fan of color. I'm a big fan of novelty. The brain loves both, and this thing combines them! I bring them out with much fanfare at the beginning of the year. We talk about how we must not bend them, so they will last. They have lasted two years so far. They don't go home. Students can make their own for home use by cutting a strip of those colorful transparent binder dividers that you can find at any office supply store. I love these because they allow students to focus on the line that we are reading. It keeps them engaged in the text, and helps them to not skip lines when they are reading. They love using them, and they don't let me forget to bring them out. I even have to go down the roll, so each child has a turn passing them out!

And no, the magazine did not contact me to blog about this, or offer me any additional freebies. I'm a new blogger; they don't even know who I am. ;-) But if they were to see this, I would welcome any and all freebies they had to offer! ;-) I'm easy like that. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

What's In a Name?

I decided to create this blog a couple of months ago, and the part that I've agonized over the most was, "What do I name this thing??" I really struggled with this. I wanted something catchy, and I wanted something that reflected my purpose for creating the blog in the first place. I teach third grade reading, and reading is my one of my biggest passions - I love to read, and I love teaching reading. I don't just want my students to view reading casually...(and certainly not negatively!) I want them to become immersed in lose themselves in a book, to feel connected to the story on a deep level. As I was pondering over this again Friday night, I had what can only be described as an epiphany of sorts. Connections. Deep connections that can't be easily disconnected. Rivets. Riveted Little Readers. That's what I want for my students. 

I thought of my iron and how I easily plug it in, iron my clothes, and then just as easily and without much thought, unplug it until it's time for its next use. That's not what we want for our students. We don't want them to view reading as a mindless task that we easily plug into and out of as needed. So what do we want for our readers? Hmmm...I then thought of the rivets in my little boy's jeans. Those things don't budge. They are STUCK in there for LIFE! They are attached to those jeans, and I don't know that you can disengage them. Now that's what we want for our readers! We want them to become so attached, so engaged, that reading becomes a part of them and part of what's important to them. And we want this to be a life-long attachment; just like the rivets in my little boy's blue jeans. 

So I present to you: Riveted Little Readers. Hope you enjoy this journey with me. Please participate! I want this to be a forum in which we can all share what works and what doesn't. What are some things you do to turn disengaged readers who just plug in and out as needed into riveted little readers?