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Sunday, April 24, 2016

Getting Ready with Summer Reading Plans: A Five Post Series

Picture it...ocean waves splashing, the warm sun shining on your face, the sound of seagulls chirping, and the squeals of delight from young children playing. Ah yes. Summer time is in the sights, and you may even find yourself quietly visualizing this scene as you actively monitor for state testing. No, the year isn't over yet, but this is the perfect time for me to set the stage for something exciting I have in mind to support you and your students. It came to me as I was walking my dog today, and so, before the thought escapes, I want to roll the plan out to you. 

Need summer reading ideas for your child/student? Check out this post about a Cyber Book Club hosted by Comprehension Connection.

How do you help your students avoid summer slide?
We know Summer Slide happens and for me, it is really troubling. I've been teaching 25 years and throughout my career, I've watched as our children in poverty lose the most. We think and think and think some more about ways we can support these kids. We work all year on building fluency and stamina, deep thinking and written language, but it's two steps forward and one step back problem we face. I know we all hope each year will be different, and perhaps some of these ideas will help you and your students.  

Over the next few weeks, I am going to do a five part series across four different blogs. I plan to lay out Summer Reading plan ideas with a different focus on each of the collaborative blogs I'm contributing to, and I will end the series with a culminating post back here on Comprehension Connection. 

Readers Need Plans
Now is the time to lay the groundwork. You have about a month to plant your seeds, water, and fertilize them, so gardeners, let's do it! Step one is to get your kids making reading plans. They MUST have a long book list, goals to accomplish, and a way to track their progress. You could put the traditional contract together and even have them keep a reading journal that include book summaries, but I propose one of two things (if your students will have access to the internet), and here they are.
  1. Set up a Class Blog on Blogger for a place where your students can interact with you through the summer. 
  2. Share this link with your students so they can participate in one HUGE cyber bookclub using Where Wild Readers Roam as the platform. By May 15th, I will post the details for the kids, parents, and teachers that might be interested in following and/or participating in it.
Summer Book Club
How many of you are part of a book club?  How many of you actually read the book?? Okay...I know the answer to that, and with this project, I hope we actually get the kids reading. I think the key is choosing the right books, and this is where your help is needed. I have a long list of book choices in my head, but we couldn't possibly do them all.

Book clubs could work really well with younger children (primary grades) if a parent were meeting with them face to face and doing group discussion. Little people don't have the tech skills to navigate and respond appropriately (in most cases), so my target audience for this idea is fourth and fifth grades, and since we want both boys and girls to join in, the book choices need to appeal to most children. I know many of our readers will be either above or below grade level, but for this project, I'll target grade level text. If you do not think grade level texts would work for your kids, then you may wish to go with option number one and get a class blog going.

If you'd be so kind, I would love help in selecting the books for this project. Throughout the week, I'll post discussion questions, project ideas, and writing prompts to guide the kids in their reading. As I develop the plan more completely, I'll try to figure out a way for participants to share photos of their work, etc. They will have the option to comment and share to their parent's comfort level, but commenting will not be required for participation. 
Which titles would you choose?  
Please complete the survey below.

We have worked so hard this year, and who wants their students to forget everything they learned? Keeping kids reading during the summer is one way to prevent Summer Slide, and I hope this idea supports you and your kids. We want Wild Readers, and I look forward to making use of an otherwise dead blog for a great purpose! Let's keep them reading!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Making the Most of your Blog Post Images

They say, "Pictures are Worth a Thousand Words", and with blog posts, that is so true. Today, I'd like to share a little information on how to make the most of your blog post images. When you are just starting as a blogger, it is a little scary trying to figure out lingo and how to use the different features of blogger. I've been blogging for a few years now, and I am constantly learning about new things. Recently, with the help of fellow bloggers, I learned a few important tips related to images, and since it was all via Facebook, I thought I'd write up a tutorial post to demonstrate for others.

Let me begin by saying I am NOT an image expert by any means. There are much more experienced bloggers out in Cyberland, but I really like paying it forward. we go...
Just getting started with blogging? Need help with how to insert images and use them to bring traffic to your blog?  Check out this tutorial for blogging tips.
Making it Pinworthy
I use a combination of Powerpoint and Picmonkey to enhance my images. With Powerpoint, you have two options. You can use the design tab and make your photo the "background" if your slide size is a similar shape to your photo, or you can insert the photo as an overlay and just layer text boxes over the top. With the image above, I made the photo my background, but I had to format the background offset so the image wasn't distorted. Once you're happy with your slide, you "save as" a jpeg or png file and upload it into your post. Many beginners insert their photos "centered". Do not feel nervous about moving them to the right or left of text. All you do is click and drag it where you want. If Blogger doesn't cooperate, then you can always delete and retry with your cursor in a different location. You can also resize them. I use a variety of sizes and have actually gotten brave enough to resize photos to a custom size in the html side of blogger, but I don't recommend that unless you're familiar with html. 

I mentioned Picmonkey earlier. Sometimes, I use Picmonkey to edit a photo, to create custom sized graphics, or for the collage option. You can easily add frames, edit the photo, add overlays such as ribbons, labels, or partially transparent shapes. Picmonkey also allows you to use your own fonts with their program, and I love that I can grab the resize buttons of text boxes and stretch the text to the exact spacing I want. For details on how to use Picmonkey's features, check out this video (and search for others on Youtube). Picmonkey is such a great FREE site, but if you see "royal" features you like, I personally feel it's worth the $4.99 a month price.

Image Editing Features in Blogger
Once you've prepared your image, the important work begins. Remember, your images are pinned, so think from the pinner's point of view. A year from now, what will the pinner need to know?  They will need to know where the photo came from, so be sure to watermark EVERY image in your post. If you went to my archive, you'd see that watermarks are missing on photos I used. Guess what I'm working on this summer??  Do what I say...not what I did!!  Before you put that photo into your post, make sure you have done this step.

After you insert the image, you will need to take care of a few more steps. So that I don't forget, I always take care of labels and my search description first. You see these post settings on the right side of blogger. If Search Description is missing, you need to check your blogger settings (Search Preferences) and turn on the Meta Tag.

Next, work on the settings for your image. Set the image size (Large or XL for images that you really want to feature or Small/Medium for products or less important images). Then, you will click on the properties tab. This step is very important. Once you click that, you will see two lines, title text and alt text. It is the alt text line that you use to add the words you'd want for the pin description. Now, this works IF you use the Pinterest pin it button. If you have a cute pin it button installed, what will show up with the pin is the blog post title only.

How to install the BEST Pin It button for your blogger blog | Chalk & Apples
[THIS POST] on CHALK AND APPLES will walk you through how to fix this on your blog. Again, remember the goal is to make your content work for the reader, and the description helps those who pin from your blog as well as pinner who happen to see the pin on Pinterest later.

When you add your description to the alt text, try to be consistent with using the same phrases in your title, search description, and alt text. When pinners search by topic, these phrases will help your pin show up in the search results. Notice in the image to the right. I wanted National Poem in Your Pocket Day to be in my alt text, search description, and title since that's likely a search phrase.

Image Size for Social Media
Sharing your post to social media is the final (and probably the most important) step, but there are important considerations for this too. [THIS POST] includes all of the dimensions you need to know for social media. I recommend you create a file in Powerpoint with the slide dimensions preset for each social media site you plan to use. Of course, Instagram is easy. Any square image will do. You'd likely want to share to Facebook too, so make sure you have a landscape image (or create one) that you will use there. It does not have to be part of your blog post. For this post, I made this image for Facebook, but again, I don't always include that image in my post, but rather just get the post URL, write up a post description, and insert the image I've made.
Just getting started with blogging? Need help with how to insert images and use them to bring traffic to your blog?  Check out this tutorial for blogging tips.
My final tip for beginners is to use what's available on Youtube to help you. I am a visual learner, and if I am ever unsure how to do something with technology, I search Youtube first. There are so many great tutorials out there that you can almost always find what you need by Googling or Youtube. As you begin your blogging adventure, remember it's a journey. You won't know it all with the first post and you learn best by just digging in and trying. Blogging, for personal or professional goals, is a great way to share information. For teachers, it provides us with a great way to reflect on our practice. No matter your reason for blogging, I hope you find it a great experience.

Have a great weekend!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

What Poem Will You Put in Your Pockets?

If you ask your students to name their favorite poets, would they have an answer for you? Would they even be able to rattle off a few names? I hope the answer is, "Yes and Yes!" I think over the past few years (with the help of blog posts and reading research), we've learned the value of using poetry in the classroom, and I also think we've learned to use poetry all year long.  Even so, having a day dedicated to poetry and poets helps our students attach positive memories to poetry reading, right? So then, ...
National Poem in Your Pockets Day is April 21st. What poem would you put in your pocket? Check out this post for ways to celebrate this special day.
If you're an elementary teacher, chances are that it won't be one from Emily Dickinson or Robert Frost. In my classroom, it'd more likely be Jack Prelutsky or Shel Silverstein. However, I have found a few others that my kids have thoroughly enjoyed. Ken Nesbitt and Brod Bagert are two that can quickly cause an uproar in my room. Have you read the poem, "Booger Love" from Brod Bagert's book, Giant Children?  Gross as can be, but oh so hilarious (especially if you want to hook in your boys)! I also love "Invisible Line" from Brod's book, School Fever.  The poem I would choose for my back pocket would be "The Library Cheer" from his book, Shout! Little Poems that Roar. As a reading specialist, you can probably guess why. 
National Poem in Your Pockets Day is April 21st. What poem would you put in your pocket? Check out this post for ways to celebrate this special day.
Several years ago, Brod came to visit our school, and since then, I have been a huge fan of his poetry. In fact I'd say he even inspired me to give poetry writing a try, and of all of the resources I've developed, the two I am attached to most are the Concept of Word Poetry Sets for our youngest kiddos and the Poetry for Your Pockets Bundles I put together. There is just something about creating a piece of work all by yourself that is completely originial, and I think giving that power to our kids is really super important. Since Brod's visit, shortly after he published Giant Children, I've had the pleasure of meeting quite a few authors including Steven Kellogg, Jan Brett, Gary Paulsen, Jeff Kinney, and this year's highlight, Jacqueline Woodson. Each visit has given me such great memories and attachments to their books. Children need those opportunities too, so if you're able to bring in an author, by all means, make it happen. Brod is a great choice! 

Here's a video clip from one of Brod's school visits.

So how can we celebrate poetry on this special day?  
Well, here are a few ideas.
  • Poetry is best shared orally, so be sure to read them aloud.
  • Explore sensory words and imagery, as well as other poetic elements.
  • Spend time writing a poem as a class, in small groups, and individually.
  • Pull together an assortment of poems for your students to read and rank to make a Top 20 List
  • Introduce your students to more serious poets-Langston Hughes, Walt Whitman, and Robert Frost.
  • Visit the library to show your students where to find poetry books.
  • Bring in "Famous Poets" (aka moms and dads) to share their work.
  • Have your students do a mock interview of the "Famous Poets".
Resources You Might Try Out
Of course, I will share a few things I have available in my store and tell you a little about each. 

The first set is my Spring Poetry for Your Pockets bundle. As I mentioned earlier, the poems are all original and include activities to go with each. There are 10 original poems in the set (42 pages). It is priced at $5.00 in my store. 

This set is also part of a yearly bundle (4 sets/160 pages) for $15.00. Poetry Yearly Bundle

Another poetry bundle that I have in my store is geared more toward poetry analysis. It includes anchor charts and organizers for all of our poetry standards. (sensory words, imagery, figurative language, poetic devices, and poetry terms). I have a free preview of it if you'd like to try it out.

Free Preview ActivityBuilding Poetry Pros: Imagery Mini Lesson

Finally, I used this last freebie with many different poems to prepare my kids for our state testing. If your kids are tested on poetry, you might check it out to see if it would work for you too. I used poetry from Jack Prelutsky, Giggle Poetry (online), and a few from Shel Silverstein.

Analyzing Poetry Freebie

Regardless of how you choose to celebrate National Poem in Your Pockets Day, I hope you'll find a way to help your students enjoy and appreciate the rhythm, rhyme, meaning, and feeling of a great poem.  
Pin for Later:

National Poem in Your Pockets Day is April 21st. What poem would you put in your pocket?  Check out this post for ways to celebrate this special day..
Have a great week, and if you have special ways you celebrate, I'd love to hear your ideas. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

How to Help your Readers Become Deep Thinkers

Help your readers become deep thinkers with these teaching techniques.

Look at this happy teacher and enthusiastic children.
Every hand is raised.  
Everyone is smiling, and there is 100% engagement. 
A teacher's dream, right?

The reality is that many of our students require us to scaffold instruction for them and do not get concepts with our first lesson. For many tasks we do in the classroom, deep thinking is the goal and this takes hard work for some of our kiddos. We aim for the higher level of Blooms because we're hearing the request for rigor in the classroom, and we know all kids can do it. We can't and shouldn't "dumb down" the curriculum to make it easier. Yet, we hate to see our kids hit frustration and/or fail.

What does deep thinking look like?
thinking beyond the basics
analyzing and explaining
demonstrating creativity
decisions supported with evidence
compares and connects ideas to other learning

We are closing in on end-of-the-year testing now, and we know that these assessments require deep thinking, but here's the deal. We can't hold our students' hands during the assessments, so eventually, they have to do it themselves, and folks, the struggle is real! I have been teaching my heart out with two intervention groups I've been asked to help, and in the past few months, I am definitely hearing deeper thinking and kids process the texts better. I know that some won't make it, but yet the bar is set high because even if they don't make it, they achieve more when more is expected from them.
Help your readers become deep thinkers with these teaching techniques.

Today, I want to share teaching strategies for deep thinking. There are certainly methods that get you more for the teaching buck than others, so why not make use of the most effective techniques.
Help Your Students Connect
One of the first steps we need to make as teachers is to hook the kids in. An engaging story, random object that you can connect to the lesson (Check out Comprehension Connections by Tanny McGregor for great examples.), or an element of suspense work well. As you hook them in, use think aloud to model your thinking. This provides the scaffold for kiddos who need to see the connection more concretely. 
Talk It Out
Group discussion offers the opportunity for all students to share their thinking AND hear other points of view. You can embed discovery into this by using open ended questioning. Having kids brainstorm ideas and problem solve together encourages deep thinking to find different solutions. Collaboration in the workplace leads to better ideas, and collaboration in the classroom can pull the best from all.
Take Advantage of Technology
Man, when I first began teaching, we had one computer available for games and it was black and white I think. Fast forward 25 year, and I am glad to say that our schools now are headed to one-to-one laptops. We use Google Apps for Education, and the kids have so much more at their fingertips than I ever thought possible 25 years ago. With all the devices, it has become necessary to balance the amount of screen time and ensure that we use technology in effective ways which lead to increased thinking and interaction. Making use of technology to research, create, and expand ideas is what we need for deeper thinking. 
To Save Them or Not...That is the Question
You've got your kids into groups, and they're in deep discussion. Suddenly, the hands shoot up. Do you answer the questions or run?  Well, running probably isn't an option, so how do you avoid saving them? The answer is to reflect their questions back to them. When the student asks you for help, ask him/her what he/she thinks the answer is. If you get "I don't know," reply back with, "Let's figure it out together." You can continue with questioning that puts the workload into the hands of the student.
Require Expanded Responses
Oh, the groans... We all hear them, but do not give in to groans. The reading-writing connection is huge, and by expecting our kids to elaborate in their responses, we're growing writers (and readers who are deeper thinkers), and if at first they don't succeed, have them try, try again. They may not be happy to redo work, but they will thank you later. If we accept mediocre, then our kids get the message that it's okay to accept mediocre of themselves. 
Praise, Praise, Praise the Effort
We know a growth mindset is necessary for our kids, and that effective effort leads to growth. Growth takes time, so we need our kids to put forth hard work over longer stretches of time to build stamina. We don't get deep thinking just because we ask for it. It takes lots and lots of practice. With written responses, I am always thrilled to see how vocabulary grows, sentences expand, and how kids explain their connections.

In my room...
Help your readers become deep thinkers with these teaching techniques.During the past few months, I've been working with a few intervention groups on test taking strategies. Well, I think of these strategies more as thinking strategies than test prep. As part of our sessions, we've tackled the following: Close Reading with PROOF, Question-Answer Relationship, Text Structures, Reading for a Purpose, and specific reading skills such as main idea, drawing conclusions, etc. Throughout this process, I've been working on using the same five step plan to provide my kids with a basic checklist.

When we complete a big project for our administrators or in our coursework, we like having a checklist or rubric to follow, right? Well, I have noticed that transferring what kids have learned to the testing situation doesn't happen easily. By having a checklist, I am hopeful they'll be more successful, and so far, this PROOF anchor chart seems to be helping. 

To begin, we PREVIEW the chosen text. The kids record their observations prior to digging into the reading. Then, the kids READ to get the gist. (surface reading). I suggest they number the paragraphs and record one sentence summaries in the margins. Next, the kids OUTLINE AND UNDERLINE the important details. They may draw arrows for connections, box or circle key words, star main ideas, etc. [close reading practices] After they've read for the second time and feel ready to tackle the questions, they ORGANIZE THEIR THOUGHTS by matching information needed to the questions. Finally, they FLAG the evidence with their highlighter. We do not use highlighters until the last step. Last year, I found my kids overdo the highlighting, so this has eliminated that issue. You can download your copy of the PROOF chart if you'd like to give it a try.

Help your readers become deep thinkers with these teaching techniques.
As we gear up for our state testing, my kids are growing their thinking portfolio. The notebooks are a record of all of our lessons. I love what I am seeing and how our discussions are shifting. I may not get 100% over the mark, but I know they are connecting these lessons to their approach with reading and thinking.

If you are interested in checking out this growing bundle in my store, you can click on the image below. I've tackled the most challenging part for the kids first with comprehension and vocabulary, but there will be additional sections added for word analysis and poetry. If you have questions or specific areas of need, please feel free to message me to let me know.

So remember, deep thinking doesn't happen overnight or easily, but with strategic methods, we can help ALL children become deep thinkers who use the strategies we share.

Have a great week, and until next time, happy reading!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Mentor Texts that will INSPIRE your Struggling Readers

With the arrival of Spring, it is more challenging than ever to keep kids reading and interested in learning. What techniques keep your kids inspired? How do we keep them motivated to work when their minds are on getting outside? How do WE stay motivated as the year winds down? The answer in my opinion is to use mentor texts lessons to embed reading across the curriculum. By making careful book selections for your mentor texts, we can expose kids to great literature AND meet our curricular demands. Make sure your book choices match your reading/writing skills, content area needs, AND are appealing to your students.
Mentor texts keep learning fun and interesting for students. This post includes ways to use them to build motivation, add rigor, and give purpose to reading.

Best Authors for Spring
Leo Lionni Author StudyFor this time of year, there are a few authors I have as my go-to authors. The first two are perfect for the primary grades, and their books are great for comparison since they both utilize collage for their illustrations and seems to match the season Can you guess who they are? Yes, they are Leo Lionni and Eric Carle.

Last fall, I revised all of the Leo Lionni units in my store. The bundle expanded from four titles to seven, and now includes Inch by Inch, A Color of His Own, Swimmy, Alexander the Wind-up Mouse, Fish is Fish, Frederick, and A Busy Year. Kids LOVE animals, so you can pair any of these titles to nonfiction works as a way to tap into kids' interest in animals. Honestly, they'd even work for upper elementary too if you want to share a part for modeling. You can also weave in studies of habitats, animal adaptations, and plants. I love using these books for character and plot development too.

Eve Bunting Author StudyAnother author that has quite a few books for Spring is Eve Bunting. In fact, she has something for any time of year to be honest. I chose three titles for the spring set in my store including Someday a Tree, Butterfly House, and Sunflower House. With these three titles, you can teach Earth Day or environmental education (Someday a Tree), life cycles (Butterfly House), and plants (Sunflower House), but each of the titles can work as mentor texts for writing ideas and word choice too. [This post] includes more details about these ideas.
The Bee Tree by Patricia Polacco
One of my favorite author for upper elementary is Patricia Polacco, and she has several books that could be paired with nonfiction too. I love The Bee Tree for spring when bees are active, and I think kids are really interested in how bees form honey as well as other bee topics such as how hives work and the roles of the queen versus worker bees. You can also include how to handle bee stings, etc. too.

Another on the same line as The Bee Tree is When Lightning Comes in a Jar. It's a great one for tying in lightning bugs or family reunions.
Just Plain Fancy by Patricia PolaccoJust Plain Fancy and Chicken Sunday are great for spring too. My students were very curious about the Amish way of life, so we explored it a little bit as we worked with that book. Peacocks are also interesting, and many kids are unfamiliar with them. You could tie both of these into a study of birds. Chicken Sunday works well for family traditions and friendship, but all of these titles are perfect for building word choice and voice with writing as well as character development and plot. Patricia Polacco is truly an author every upper elementary classroom needs to study. [My author study bundle] includes materials for thirteen titles if you're interested.

Finally, I'd suggest Bear Wants More and Bear Feels Scared by Karma Wilson. I just love this series, and so do the kids. It is written in rhyming verse, so each "verse" has a rhythm about it. I love how Karma Wilson uses tier 2 vocabulary throughout her books too. I feel like my students learn so much each time I use books from this series. Other titles in the series include Bear Snores On, Bear Feels Sick, and Bear's New Friend (another great book for Spring). With the Karma Wilson Author Study, I've included a Bear Research lapbook too, so again, you can tie fiction and nonfiction themes. In addition to researching bears, students can explore weather, sharing, diet and nutrition, and even food chains (herbivore, omnivore, and carnivore). Click the image below to explore the full series.

Bear Wants MoreBear Feels ScaredKarma Wilson Author Study

Activities that Involve Reading
Project Based Learning is GREAT for all students. Visit this post on Adventures in Literacy Land to read about the research supporting it, benefits for students, and how to get started.Aside from doubling up ways to use literature in the classroom, giving purpose to reading is huge. Using Project Based Learning is one research based technique that requires deeper reading. [This post on Adventures in Literacy Land] explains why PBL is a great choice and where you can find great resources to help you implement PBL in your classroom. Nell Duke shared recently at the VSRA conference that the reason PBL is for ALL learners is that it gives purpose for reading and requires students to dig more deeply into their texts which adds rigor.

Another way increase reading opportunities is through use of text sets. If you're teaching plants, pull together a variety of texts about plants at various reading levels to allow all students to access the content. Text sets can extend content beyond just your text book and allow for second and third exposures to concepts you might only hear/read about once otherwise.

This last quarter is brutal, and I hope these ideas help you re-energize just a little. As we know, the end of the year is rough. If we can put this off just a little, I am sure you prefer it.
How will you keep your kids inspired to keep learning til June? If you have other ideas, please feel free to share in the comments. 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Combating Spring Fever with Kid Friendly Themes that ...HOOK...THEM...IN

Having a room full of students on task, happy, and learning is a teacher's dream, but then spring hits, and ... Bam! Those plans seems to fly out the open window into the spring breeze, but there are ways to combat spring fever. Using kid friendly themes to engage and spark motivation will hook even the most distracted student. Read on to see which themes might work for you.
Combat Spring Fever with these Engaging and Motivating Kid Friendly Themes.
Icky bugs for Big Kids AND LITTLE KIDS
Gross can be intriguing, but guess what? Pull out a few rubber bugs and have a little fun. "Eek!" they'll scream, but then you know you have them in the palm of your hand. Now, you can pull in research skills, nonfiction comprehension skills, math problem solving, and many life science standards with a study of icky bugs, can't you? Last week, I shared a PBL project idea in my post over on Adventures in Literacy Land you might consider. Project Based Learning has been proven to be very motivating, so this is one direction you could go with an Icky Bug theme. Here are a few book choices to get you started:
If you dig into this theme, you might find these resources helpful in your planning. 
Bug Hunt Observation Journal  Bug Observation Freebie  STEM Activity Challenge Jumping Bugs K-2nd Grade
ooey gooey messy science
Kids LOVE to get messy (at least most kids do). One of my students' favorite activities is to use shaving cream on our desks for cleaning. I can work in word study or fluency work with the shaving cream AND clean desks at the same time, and many of you have seen or made Gak which kids love. You know how excited they get feeling it in their hands.  If you'd like to explore this theme, here are a few books to get you started, but your library is sure to have a few "slimey" books too.
If you decide that this would be a fun directions to go, you might work in opportunities for cooking, chemistry, matter, and body systems. You can research famous scientists and/or ooey gooey substances in our environment. Here is the recipe for GAK.
Ooey- Gooey Homemade Gak (chemistry experiment for little hands)
Make Spring Weather work for you
The weather can be somewhat unpredictable during the spring, so why not use the unpredictability work for you by studying storms. Storms can make all of us a bit uneasy, and yet, this uneasiness can lead to curiosity too. Kids want to understand how storms form, what kind of damage they can do, and how we can remain safe through them. [THIS POST] that I wrote for Virginia is for Teachers includes a long list of recommended book titles, resources, tech links, and more.
Make your kids WILD about learning with these Wild about Weather ideas on Virginia is for Teachers.
Our fourth grade students learn about storms, cloud types, weather tools, and such. The close reading set below was created to work on some of these skills AND comprehension of nonfiction.
Weather Close Reading Bundle

Combat Spring Fever with these Engaging and Motivating Kid Friendly Themes. Use this booklist to help you prepare for a Gardening Theme.Go Green with Gardening
Like the Ooey Gooey section above, this theme takes advantage of kids need to get messy. Why not get them out in the fresh air and digging in the dirt. Kids can learn a lot from gardening, and tapping into that interest in the classroom with books about plants can lead to more meaningful reading. Your kids will have a purpose for reading if they're learning how to make their garden produce. My school put together a garden area for our families, and believe it or not, most of the plants and seeds were donated. Parents came in to help with planting, and during the summer, many of our families came to enjoy the fruits of the kids labor.

In addition to these book ideas, I have a few book companion sets in my store that could tie in to a gardening theme.

The first is one I listed in the book list, by Eve Bunting. Several of Bunting's books work beautifully during the spring, so I'm also going to share the 3 book bundle that includes Sunflower House and two others,

Sunflower House by Eve Bunting Someday a Tree by Eve Bunting Eve Bunting Author Study
Mrs. Spitzer's Garden 
Forensic science offers a great opportunity to do a variety of scientific tests in one fun science project.:
Not long ago, I came across this pin on Pinterest. It got me thinking about how much upper elementary aged kids would enjoy a series of Who Done It lessons, and since making inferences is so challenging, what better way to weave in that skills! Well, the wheels have been turning on this, and I've now built up a decent board on Pinterest. I was surprised how many great resources are out there for mysteries. Just look at all of these great book titles.
Combat Spring Fever with these Engaging and Motivating Kid Friendly Themes.

In addition to these attention grabbing titles, there are also many great lesson options on TPT. My friend, Melissa at Don't Let the Teacher Stay Up Late has a great series of mystery products that are so much fun, and let's face it, drawing conclusions is a challenging skill. Check out this freebie from her store to try out with your kids. If you like them, she's developed a series that you could add on.

I also loved this this mystery genre study idea that integrates technology. Tech with Jen. Jen has set up the mystery in a confidential file, supplied all of the ingredients to the mystery, and even integrated tech into it. You have to check it out.

For other fun detective ideas, check out the Pinterest board below.

Well, I hope these ideas will give you ways to keep spring fever at bay and your kids engaged and motivated. There is certainly a lot of learning ahead.  

Have a great day and one last reminder that our Growing Readers and Writers giveaway ends tomorrow morning. Did you enter?  If not, click [HERE] to do so tonight.


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