Making Books for our Writing Projects

My students LOVE to make these books for their writing projects.  We try to make at least one a month for their final copies!  This is our first one of the school year.  We wrote persuasive essays about which type of zoo animal we should adopt this year, and we chose the okapi.  The students then wrote informational reports on the okapi in order to learn more about it!

Materials Needed (per book):

- 2 sheets of 9 x 12 cardboard (we order them in bulk from PaperMart)

- one piece of bulletin board or butcher paper

- duct tape

- scotch tape

The first step is to lay the cardboard pieces onto the bulletin paper with a small space between them.


Next place a strip of duct tape down the center, pressing it into the space between the cardboard sheets.


Fold up the paper on the bottom and top of the cardboard sheets and tape it into place with scotch tape.


Then fold the sides up, just like when you wrap a present and tape them to the cardboard sheets.


Next, add we added the table of contents sheet to the left side and the author information page to the right side.


Tape the outside edges of each sheet, half on the sheet and wrap the other half of the tape around to the outside edges of the book.  Use duct tape for this step.


Next place the actual report pages (we staple them 3-4 times down the left side) into the center of the book and tape down each side (front and back) with a strip of duct tape.


Now you can tear a strip of duct tape in half and place half at the top of the side page and half at the bottom of the side page, on both inside cover pages.


The book is now done!  Students just need to add a decorative cover and write their report!  Here are some finished pages!


The kids are always so excited to complete these projects!

Shark Week Freebies Blog Hop

All teachers know that kids learn more when they’re excited and engaged. Today a team of bloggers come together to help your students take a BITE out of learning with a theme your students are sure to love! Get ready for a feeding frenzy of FREE activities relating to sharks!


I am always looking for ways to get my students engaged in writing and research activities. These two content areas are the least favorite of many kids. In order to change kids from feeling these important activities are boring, make them more engaging! Just changing the way the information is presented can get kids excited about it! Using trading cards is a highly engaging activity in my classroom. The students love to make them and they go crazy when they get to actually trade them! They write and research with a lot of excitement when we are creating trading cards, no matter the subject. Of course, picking topics the students are interested in (like sharks) always helps, too!

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My Shark Week inspired freebie are Shark Trading Cards! The file contains everything you need to complete this exciting activity! Be sure to grab your Shark Trading Cards download! Slide1 Slide3 Slide4 Click HERE to try it out!

Don’t forget to go through the rest of the linky. You do not want to miss the chance to take a BITE out of these shark freebies!  Get ready for a feeding frenzy of your own in the classroom because your students will gobble these lessons up! Be sure to go for a swim in the linky party below. Every blog in the Shark Week Blog Hop features a fishy freebie for you and your students- but hurry! Shark Week only lasts until Sunday, August 17th  : )

Time to Talk about Assessments

The next part of the 10 week back to school linky party involves assessment.  Once again, everyone is linking up with Mrs. D’s Corner and Miss V.’s Busy Bees!


Assessments are one of those things that we all do all the time, but when you try to explain what it is you are doing…well, it gets really difficult, doesn’t it?  My school district (and I am sure most others) has teachers working with TBTs, or Teacher Based Teams.  These are weekly meetings which involve sharing assessment data, coming up with interventions, and sharing strategies that work well in our own classrooms.

We use short-cycle assessments in our classrooms for reading and math.  These are designed to span about three weeks of instructional time and they are focused in on just a few standards that we are teaching at that time.  We give a pre-test at the beginning of the three week span and share the results, plan some projects,  lessons and interventions based on the results, and  begin thinking about how to group students most effectively.

Here is an example of a reading short cycle test.  We used this one during a unit on Space and while we were reading the novel, “Neil Armstrong is my Uncle and Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me”, by Nan Marino.  It is a work of historical fiction.
















The assessment pack includes a prompt, a variety of questions, an answer key and a way to record the data for students.




We keep data folders and students track their own progress from pre-test to post-test.   The students get really excited to see their growth.  Meeting with my TBT keeps me on track with my grading and the work I need to be doing.  It really is a great system for assessment!

In math, we also do pre-tests and post-tests in short-cycle time periods.  We also add in benchmark check sheets so we can see how students are mastering the individual concepts needed in order to be able to do the higher level, multi-step problems required of our grade level.





These pictures show what a benchmark quiz looks like (top right) as well as what the pre/post tests look like (there are two versions in the pack).  Here are the data sheets we use:

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You can find this fractions pack here!  It is only $3!

What do you do to assess your students?  Share your ideas in the comments section!

I just created a FREE Student Data Notebook pack for intermediate grades to keep track of those assessments for reading and math!  Click here to grab your free pack!


Good luck!


Back to School ~ 10 Week Link-Up

Hey there!  I am participating in a great link-up with Mrs. D’s Corner and Miss V.’s Busy Bees for 10 weeks all about back to school!


The first topic is Behavior Management.  I have been teaching for 18 years and I feel like I have tried just about every behavior management system out there at least once!  I have never been able to keep up with the clip chart system (in any form) and I hate to obsess about rules.

We establish a set of class rules at the beginning of every year during the first week of school.  These are posted in the room.  I have the students get into groups and they create mini-posters for each of the rules.  Since I have 6 tables, there are usually 6 rules.

I have to say that I work really hard to form a relationship with each and every student.  Because of this, I have minimal behavior issues in my classroom.

My students earn paws (mini cut-outs I got at the teacher store) as a whole class when their behavior is excellent in the classroom or in the other areas of our school building.   I have used different themes throughout the years (cookies, shells, stars, popcorn, paw prints, owls, etc.) depending on my class theme at the beginning of the year.

You can find these on-line from Trend.  Here are the paw prints I will be using this year!


Once the students have earned a certain number of paws (we usually do 30), they earn a class reward.  This could be an extra recess, lunch with me, etc.

I also use Weekly Behavior Reports as a way to communicate with parents, about good behavior as well as behavior that may need to be corrected.  This form also contains a place to record how much homework was turned in for the week.  Parents just have to sign the form and students return them on Monday.  If they turn the form in on time, they get a ticket which is entered into a weekly drawing for a trip to the treasure chest.


Click here to download the FREE Weekly Behavior Report form!  It takes only about 10 minutes to fill in the form for my class of 30 students and the parents and students really like the communication every week!

My advice:  Try a lot of different things and find what works for you!  Click on the other participants in this linky and I am sure you will get loads of ideas!

Good luck!


The BEST Common Core Standards Resource for ELA!

This is the BEST Common Core Standards resource I have EVER found!  Kristen Bowers of Secondary Solutions has developed the easiest to use CCSS resource book for ELA that I have ever seen!  I just got my hands on this amazing resource and I know I will use it every day!  Secondary Solutions has one of these for each of these grades: 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th-10th, and 11th-12th.



This resource will be in my teacher binder for sure!  It is a great resource to have for planning!  Not only does it have the standards, but it has TONS of question stems/prompts for each standard!   There are questions for peer-teaching and peer-assessment as well as for teaching and assessment.  We all know that some of the standards are pretty complicated, but this resource makes them easy to understand and to thoroughly teach to students!

You NEED this resource if you teach ELA in grades 3-12!

Click here to go to the Secondary Solutions site!  


Earthworm Dissection

We dissected earthworms and it was quite a memorable experience!  I ordered the preserved worms through a company called, BioCorp.  Click here for the link to their site.  They are really inexpensive and the kids get crazy excited about it!

This whole lab started with a few unexpected questions from my students:

Why do worms come out when it rains in the spring?  Why do so many of these worms dry out and die?  Can we do anything to help these worms?

We decided to write questions, research earthworms, and make observations.  We used live earthworms (from the bait store) for some of the labs.  Don’t worry, no live earthworms were harmed!  After the live worm labs we released them to the garden!  We observed the live earthworms so we could understand how they move, what they prefer (light or dark, dry or wet, etc.), and how they react to stimuli (like gently blowing on them).   Here is a link to the live worm packet in case you need or want it!

We wrote informational reports about worms and then we dissected them to learn about their internal anatomy.

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Why not ask your students to ask their own questions about ANYTHING?  It may lead you to some great class activities and projects based on the interests and questions of your students!