Monday, August 15, 2016

Back to School Classroom Scavenger Hunt and Giveaway

Can you believe it's back 2 school time already?  This is one of my favorite times of the year - new school supplies, new classroom decor, new students - a whole year of new possibilities.

And it to kick it all off, I am teaming up with 50 great teacherprenuers to bring you tried and true classroom management and organizational strategies that work in our classrooms. 

Please make sure that you hop to each participating blog! We are also hosting a giveaway. Enter to win one of two great prizes. We are giving away the chance to win a $50 TpT Gift Card and classroom resources from over 30 teacher authors. Good luck! 

To help you prepare for the first day of school with your new kiddos, I'm sharing my Back to School Classroom Scavenger Hunt. I love this activity because it gives kids the chance to explore their new classroom.  It's a fun, get em' up and moving, way to teach your brand new students where important stuff is located in the classroom.  And it serves as a great icebreaker too since they work in partners.  Plus, it's editable so you can customize it to fit your classroom needs!!

Download it for FREE right HERE.   


This activity is one of the first things we do each year, after discussing rules and expectations of course.  I randomly pair students up to work and set them off to explore their new domain.  The hunt usually takes about 30 minutes and then we discuss each item and what they noticed around the room.  This usually leads to a great discussion about other classroom procedures as well like cleanliness, pencil sharpening, bathroom breaks and more!!

Enjoy!!  And don't forget to enter the amazing giveaway below!!!!  Happy first day back to reality everyone!!

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Tuesday, August 9, 2016

5 ways to enhance your academic vocabulary instruction - #4 - PLAY with the Words

It's time for installment four of my "5 Ways to Enhance your Academic Vocabulary Instruction" series.  If you're interested in Way #1 - SEE the Words - Click HERE, or Way #2 - WRITE the Words Click HERE, and Way #3 - KEEP the Words - Click HERE.

Way #4 is PLAY with the words.

In post number one I reminded you that it's critical for students to SEE several visual representations of new vocabulary words (examples, models, drawings, word wall cards, representations, etc.) and in post number two we discussed that it's imperative for students to have time to WRITE about new vocabulary words (descriptions, definitions, examples/non-examples, synonyms/antonyms, meaningful sentences, test questions, and so on). Lastly, in post number three the strategy I shared to help your students reach vocabulary success is to KEEP the words in a common, easily accessible location (vocabulary notebooks, folders, binder rings, interactive bulletin boards, word walls), so students can reference new vocabulary words as much as possible.

Today we're going to move on to the fun stuff - PLAYING games with new vocabulary words. Research shows that often students forget new vocabulary words for three reasons:

1.  They are not properly stored in student's minds (long term memory).

2.  They are not practiced enough.

3.  They are not related to students own experiences and interests.

Playing vocabulary games can help with all three of these issues.

According to The Effect of Games on Learning Vocabulary by Maryam Rohani and Behzad Pourgharib, some teachers think that vocabulary games are a waste of time and prefer not to use them in the classroom.  But in fact, games provide students with strategies to improve their vocabulary proficiency.  Games offer visual aids, drama, role-play, critical thinking, connections and much MORE.

It's been proven that students learn new vocabulary more quickly and retain it better when they get to apply it in a relaxed and comfortable environment such as center or game time. Vocabulary aquisition should be enjoyed and fun.  Games are not a distraction but the perfect way of helping students to use new vocabulary repeatedly, connect it to their own lives, and store it in their long term memory.

In our classroom, we play vocabulary games once a week during our word work block.  I teach one game at a time until all games have been learned and after that the students may choose which game center they want to attend during game time.  The games we love are:

Flip It - (Headbandz) - Students can write vocabulary words on index cards. They will take turns flipping a card up to their forehead and attempting to guess the word with question stems like......
Does it mean? or is it a synonym of? or is it an antonym of? etc.

Memory - Again students can write new vocabulary words and descriptions/examples on separate index cards.  Mix them up, turn them over and match up the words with the meanings.

Bingo - Give students a blank bingo sheet and have them write in new vocabulary words.  Read off descriptions/examples and students will cover the corresponding word on their card.

Swat - Write vocabulary words on your whiteboard.  Call two students up to the board. Give them each a fly swatter. Read off a definition and the student who swats the matching word first earns a point for their team.

Puzzle Match - Write words on one half of an index card and descriptions/examples or synonyms/antonyms on the other half.  Cut the cards in half with a fancy cut to create two puzzle pieces.  Mix up all the pieces and try to match them back up.  Cut several cards with the same fancy cuts so students have to read the examples and not just match up the cuts.

Master It! - Use any game board and game pieces.  Use index cards for the question cards - write questions like: Use ____________ in a test question, or Use ____________ in a meaningful sentence, or Give a synonym/antonym for ____________.  On each card, give directions for how many spaces to move if answered correctly.  Also create wild spaces on the board and use index cards for wild cards that tell students to lose a turn, reverse the play, go backward 4 spaces, etc.

You can make all of these games yourself or you can purchase a set I made for my classroom right HERE.

Once again, studies have shown that students make the greatest gains in word knowledge when an interactive approach is used. Teachers who engage their students in vocabulary acquisition through books, think alouds, hands on activities and games are setting their kiddos up for vocabulary success.

PLAYING with new vocabulary words will help your students do better in school, on state tests and in life!

And, best of all, it's fun!!!!

Stay tuned for the final installment of my "5 Ways to Enhance your Academic Vocabulary Instruction" series - USE the words.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

A teacher's summer break........

Wow, I can't believe it's already week 3 of summer break for us teachers here in Michigan.  Time flies when you're having fun. So far summer has been full of music, dancing, singing, sleeping, reading, creating, and tubing!

Week one was a blur of spring summer cleaning, landscaping and house projects. And sleeping in of course!  It was also filled with music as my daughter started piano lessons, I started rehearsals for Legally Blond the Musical and my husband took me to see Guns & Roses.  We were blown away, it was an amazing show! Go see them when they come to a city near you!

Slash hasn't changed one bit!!!!!

During week two, I started my summer reading stack.  My amazing friends at #wecantputbooksdown have been recommending the best new YA lit and my pile is massive.  I can't wait to share these new books with next year's 5th graders.

(Amazon Affiliate links are used in this post)

I've already finished the whole Percy Jackson and the Olympians 5 Book Paperback Boxed Set  (definitely recommend these to your Harry Potter fans) and Booked by Kwame Alexander.

Booked is now my second favorite read this year, next to Pax - it's amazing! Your sports loving boys will actually read this novel in verse, I promise!

If you're not following our wecantputbooksdown instagram page - you need to!!!  We share anything and everything that promotes the love of reading!

During week two I also began thinking about decor for next year's classroom.  Yikes, I know.  But I can't help it!! I loooooove decorating a new classroom each year and making it a fun, exciting place to learn for my new students.

First on my list was updating my word wall cards.  I have 6 bulletin boards in my classroom and I dedicate 3 of them to word walls.  Academic vocabulary is so crucial for students to master and after we are immersed in these ELA, Math and Common Core Critical Verbs and Nouns, my kiddos constantly refer back to these words to use them in their writing and discussions.

My classroom colors are black, white (zebra print) and lime green. But I also have word wall sets available in bright chevrons and polka dots, rainbow colors, nautical colors, black & white, animal print or no backgrounds at all (great for conserving printer ink).


Plus, super easy bulletin boards! Just my style! Hang up a heading banner (I have tons of FREE ones available in my TPT store - just scroll down the page, they are near the bottom), post the vocabulary cards as they're taught, and that's it - a year long, interactive, useful bulletin board.

Week 3 of summer break called for a trip up north, along with most of the people in Michigan. We've been tubing ever since.


What has your teacher summer consisted of so far?  Enter the rafflecopter and comment below with your favorite summer activity for a chance to WIN a FREE word wall set of your choice from my store!!

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Monday, April 4, 2016

Middle Grades TBR list!

Put these books on your reading list if you teach middle grades.

It's finally spring break and I am thankful for the extra time to spend with my family, catch up on my TBR (to be read) list, sleep in and yes - even clean my house!

Today is the first official day of spring break, but I already finished the first book on my TBR list over the weekend - Percy Jackson Sea of Monsters.  I've wanted to read this series for years, but some especially persistent 5th graders finally convinced me to move it up on my list and I'm so glad I listened.  I love a good series and this one doesn't disappoint.  Click on the image to learn more about this book.  (This post contains Amazon Affiliate links.)

The rest of my TBR list includes these amazing titles.....................

1. The remainder of the Percy Jackson series - books 3-5. Click on the image to learn more about these books.  Harry Potter fans, you must read these!

2. The Key to Extraordinary - the book of the month in my Goodreads book club and written by the same author as Snicker of Magic which I loved. Click on the image below.

3.  Amulet #1 (My reluctant readers have devoured this graphic novel series this year and I HAVE to know what it's all about.) Click on the image if you LOVE graphic novels too!


4.  Booked - the newest release by Kwame Alexander - I'm not usually a fan of novels in verse - but if you've read The Crossover (last year's Newbery contender) and put it in the hands of your sports loving boy readers, you know why I HAVE to read this title.

5.  Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead - I don't know a lot about this new release but I enjoyed Liar & Spy - it had a fun twist and a good message.  I'm hoping for the same from this new title.  Click the image below to learn more.

6.  Hired Girl - I've heard great things about this one, set in the early twentieth century and focused on women's rights - and I'm a sucker for Historical Fiction. Click the picture to learn more.

7. The Honest Truth - A student reacommended this book to me because I loved The Fault in Our Stars and Everything, Everything. He knows I love tear jerkers!  Click the picture to read more about this title.

8. Nimona - my own son came home from 6th grade one day super excited about this graphic novel because of a student book recommendation he'd heard in class that day.  So of course, I HAVE to check it out.  My son doesn't get excited about many books. Click the image to learn more.

9.  Mr. Lemoncello's Library Olympics - have you read the first one?  I loved all of the allusions to my favorite books and the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory feel to this mystery.  I can't wait to see if I enjoy the sequel just as much! Click the image below.

10.  Lastly, Seraphina and the Black Cloak - two girls in my class have raved about this book this year.  They showed us a book trailer that was creepy and suspenseful and hooked me on the spot.  I have to read this one fast, because there's already a list in my class for who gets it next when I'm finished. No pressure!!! LOL  Click the image to find out more.

Happy spring break teacher friends!  I hope you find time to spend with family, friends and a good book too!!  And maybe even a little time to clean house.  Or maybe not!!  :)

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