Got Poetry? How to Teach Poems All Year

You can and should teach poetry all year! Here is how.
Hi! I'm Marypat from Just Add Students. I'm thrilled to be a guest blogger on Minds in Bloom today. Thank you, Rachel, for giving me a forum to write about my favorite topic: poetry! Most of us teach poetry in April. We pull out fun lessons with figurative language, haiku, couplets, and limericks. And why not? After all, it is National Poetry Month. But poetry is so much more than something we can pull off the shelf once a year. It is an excellent teaching tool to use year round.

Why teach poetry all year?

1. Poetry is liberating. Have you ever asked a student to revise something, and all he or she could consider was spelling or punctuation? Poetry allows us to bend the rules of conventions that are sometimes crippling to student writers. If e.e.cummings can write his poems in lower case -- so can we!
2. Poetry is fun! Read a few Shel Silverstein poems to your class or "The Jabberwocky" by Lewis Carroll. These are funny, silly, even nonsensical -- but delightful!
Don't wait until April to teach poetry! You can incorporate poetry into lessons all year long.
3. Poetry teaches us about word choice. Due to the condensed nature of a poem, the right word is important! But we can also play with words (or even make them up as Lewis Carroll did). Samuel Taylor Coleridge made the distinction between poetry and prose as, "Prose: words in the best order. Poetry: the best words in the best order." Poetry pushes student writers to choose that "best word."
4. Poetry teaches syntax. Often, poems contain phrases and clauses that require the reader to engage more deeply with the text.
5. It teaches us about pacing -- a well written poem is like a joke with a punchline. We look to the ending for a surprise, a laugh, or an epiphany. Think about the surprise at the end of a poem like "The Cremation of Sam McGee" by Robert Service. Sam McGee is so cold that he's only warming up when he's being cremated!
6. They cross genres. Nancie Atwell refers to poetry as the "mother" of all genres. They can be a narrative ("The Cremation of Sam McGee"), an opinion ("Bed in Summer" by Robert Lewis Stevenson), expository ("Hope is the Thing With Feathers" by Emily Dickinson), and even research based ("Mice" by Rose Fyleman).
7. Poetry teaches so much about the elements of good writing: word choice, organization, ideas, sentence structure, figurative language, voice...even conventions (thank you, e.e.cummings!).
Don't wait until April to teach poetry! You can incorporate poetry into lessons all year long.
8. It's compact. We often refer to poetry as "condensed language." Because a poem is short, it can be read, appreciated, and examined in one lesson. Teaching a poem doesn't need to involve "beating it with a hose/to find out what it really means" as Billy Collins tells us in "Introduction to Poetry." Sharing poetry with students can be just for fun and appreciation.

9. Poetry is the ultimate cross-curricular genre. Poems can be written about any topic! The University of Minnesota Rochester combined creative writing and chemistry by challenging students to write haikus for the periodic table. A haiku for each element! Brilliant!

10. Student poems make excellent assessments. If a student can write a poem about the water cycle, she probably understands it. The condensed nature of a poem means there is no room for wishy-washy writing or vague terms.

How can you teach poetry all year? Do you have time?

1. Start small. Begin by sharing poems with your class. This can be as easy as reading a poem on Monday morning. You can even read that same poem each day of the week. Don't feel like you have to analyze the poem down to the last stanza. A simple, "What part did you like best?" question is all you need to get your students engaging with the text.

2. Keep it small! Teach a form of poetry with which you are comfortable. You could even adopt one poem form for the whole year (Shakespeare didn't write just one sonnet! He spent many years working with the form), or you can teach a new form each grading period.

3. Keep it simple. Once the students know a poetry form, allow them to practice that form repeatedly. They can write about any topic. Read Write Think has a cool, interactive online diamante poem maker that is a great place to start. The more students practice writing about different topics, but using the same form, the more comfortable they'll be with it. Easy poetry forms to start with include diamante, haiku, "I Am" poems, acrostics, or just simple couplets (two rhymed lines).

You can and should teach poetry all year! Here is how.
4. Fearless poets! Sometimes students get stuck on making sure things rhyme -- to the detriment of the topic! Be sure to address that with your students. Not all poems have to rhyme! By teaching a form that doesn't require rhyming (an acrostic poem, for example), you will take away the worry about what rhymes with "orange!"

5. Apply across the curriculum. Once your students are familiar with a form of poetry, ask them to write poems in that form for other classes. What would a diamante poem look like for life in Colonial Times or characteristics of a landform? What would an "I Am" poem look like for a fraction, an earthquake, or a magnet? These also make great assessments as an alternative to a formal written test.

6. Share and rejoice! A poem wants to be read! Be sure to build in the opportunity for students to share their poems. This could be on a class blog or Edmodo page, a recording of their reading on your class web page, a monthly "Author's Chair" reading (be sure to invite parents and admin), or a hallway display of poems. When poetry is part of your lessons and classroom activities, it becomes just plain fun!

7. Write with your students. This is powerful! Sit in a student desk and write (and share!) your own poems with the students. Now imagine what would happen in April when National Poetry Month rolls around, and you've been teaching poetry all year. You could use that month to dig even deeper into some challenging poems because your students already understand so much of what poetry is and how it works. They know how to listen to poems. They understand figurative language and imagery. They aren't afraid to read or write poems. And they already have a poetry portfolio chock-full of all kinds of poems. Fabulous!

Ready to get started?

I love Robert Lewis Stevenson, so I have to recommend him! You probably have a collection of A Child's Garden of Verses tucked into your bookshelf.  Those poems have been around since 1885, but they are still easy for students to understand and oh so delightful!

Don't wait until April to teach poetry! You can incorporate poetry into lessons all year long.
The poem "Bed in Summer" is about the lengthening and shortening of daylight hours due to the rotation of the earth, but it is also just fun to read (the drama of going to bed when it's still light outside!) -- and easy to relate to. Students can feel the rhythmic nature of "The Swing" that nearly sounds like the action of swinging. But whatever poems you choose, pick ones that you love and will enjoy reading to your students. If you'd like help getting started adding poetry to your class, the Weather Poem Lesson on my TeachersPayTeachers store will take you step-by-step through the process of reading, analyzing, and writing poems about the weather. I also have a resource for "Hope is The Thing With Feathers" by Emily Dickinson (I love the poems my students write in response to that poem!) and a Preposition Poem lesson.

You can and should teach poetry all year! Here is how.
My freebie, How Cold Is It?, is a lesson in writing hyperboles...such a fun way to practice figurative language! If you have any questions or need any help, please feel free to contact me at I blog about all sorts of educational topics (including poetry!) at And if you'd like to swing by my TpT store, it's open 24/7! I hope you'll consider adding poetry to your everyday lessons. Just jump right on in...the poetry is fine!

  my signature

About me: Can you tell from this post that I love poetry?! Besides having a passion for poems, I have over fifteen years in the classroom -- teaching all things ELA to students in grades four through college. My teaching resources can be found at Just Add Students.

Ways to Make Interactive Notebooks Manageable

We're welcoming Gay Miller to the blog today. She's sharing her tips on making interactive notebooks more manageable, which she's gleaned from many years of using them in her own instruction. She also includes pricing tips, so by the time you finish her post, you should be ready to run out and get started yourself!
4 Ways to Make Interactive Notebooks Manageable
Hands-on teaching has always been my preferred style, so when I first learned about foldable organizers at a conference, I knew my new teaching direction was going to be incorporating interactive notebooks. Years later, I have seen repeatedly how these "folded pieces of paper" have helped my students organize their thoughts, use higher order thinking, and retain information.

This article will provide a few methods I have discovered to make using interactive notebooks more manageable. Be sure you check out the bottom of the post for some free foldable organizers so you can give interactive notebooks a try.

#1 Teacher Copy

I learned this lesson the hard way. For several years, I created an interactive notebook, just like my students, as a sample to show the students how the finished product was supposed to look. Every year something would change. I would teach skills in a different order, I found organizers I liked better, and so on. This meant I started from scratch each year making a new sample interactive notebook.

Here’s a great solution: Instead of making a notebook, just create sample copies of the organizers. If the organizer requires outlying information written on the page, glue the sample organizer onto an ordinary sheet of notebook paper. You can store the sample organizer, along with the printable pattern inside a page protector. Place all the page protectors inside a three-ringed binder. (I usually buy the largest three-ringed binder I can find.)

Now you can resort organizers in any order and easily swap out one organizer for another. Also, everything is in one place; there is no endless searching for "that perfect organizer" you used last year. Plus, you now have a completed organizer to place under your document camera for students to see.

Managing your foldable organizers
Hint: When you make copies for your class, simply slide them inside the same page protector as your pattern and sample.

#2 Purchasing Notebooks

Instead of having students purchase their own notebooks, ask parents to send in $1.00. This way Johnny’s mother doesn’t send a “slightly used” notebook, and Megan’s mother doesn’t send one with a really cool picture on the cover because “Megan just had to have it.” Having identical notebooks remedies many problems.

Stock up for the entire year at the beginning of school. Prices go up drastically after the back-to-school rush.

Wal-Mart Pricing

Advantages/ Disadvantages
Composition Notebook
Composition Notebook
100 sheets
more sheets

smaller sheets (9 3/4 by 7 1/2 inch)
Tape Bound Notebook
1 Subject Tape Bound Notebook
80 sheets

larger sheet size (11 by 8 1/2 inch)

most expensive
5 Pack Spiral Bound Notebooks
Spiral Bound Notebooks (5 Pack)
70 sheets each
$.16 each
least expensive

11 by 8 1/2 inch sheet size

Wires need to be taped for durability. *
Gorrilla Tape
Gorilla Tape
2.88 inches by 30 yards (enough to bind 98 notebooks)
$.15 per notebook
You can substitute any type of duct tape. I like this super wide tape because you only need one strip to cover the wires.
Spiral Bound Notebook with Gorilla Tape
Spiral Bound Notebook plus Gorilla Tape Binding
This is my preference. I like the larger size sheets, and the price can’t be beat.
Sticky Notes with Tabs
Sticky Notes with Tabs
Package of 60
(One package contains 10 sets. If you think your notebooks need more than 6 divisions, students may need 2 sets.)
I love these tab/sticky notes. Students can write the Common Core State Standards directly on the sticky note.
 * Wrapping the spiral wires keeps them from being snagged and pulled. The duct tape also keeps the front and back covers attached to the notebooks. Once students lose a cover, more and more pages seem to come loose. Using duct tape can be fun. Camouflage, college logos, and neon colors are just some of the varieties that are available.

#3 Color Code Notebooks

If you have a self-contained classroom, color code notebooks by subject, i.e. red for math, green for science, and so on. If you are departmentalized, color code notebooks by periods, i.e. red for 1st period, green for 2nd period, and so on.

When you can say, “Get out your blue notebooks,” students are much more likely to glue materials in the correct notebook. Also, having all notebooks for a class the same color makes sorting them easier when grading.

#4 Notebook Organization

Leave three to five blank sheets at the beginning of the notebooks for title pages, table of contents, teaching standards, etc.

Have students number the pages in the rest of the notebook. I like small numbers on the bottom outside corners of the pages. Yes, numbering notebook pages takes about 10 minutes of class time, but you’ll find that it saves a huge amount of instructional time in the long run. If you teach upper elementary or higher, one time-saver is to have students write numbers on only the even numbered pages.

Numbering pages helps you keep similar skills together. For example, you may have students place an organizer for the prefix dis- in their notebooks on page 87 this week. A couple of weeks later, you can tell students to turn to page 88 to add a different prefix organizer.

Use tabs to section off divisions. Your divisions may be based on the Common Core State Standards or subject content such as geometry, explorers, vocabulary, grammar, prefixes/suffixes, etc. This takes some planning ahead to know approximately how many sheets you will need for each division. If this is your first time using interactive notebooks, I recommend using just a few broad divisions.

Give interactive notebooking a try with one or more of these free foldable organizers:
Teaching students different types of analogy relationships is a fantastic way to improve students' vocabulary test taking skill. If you are new to interactive notebooks, these free simple to assemble organizers are a great place to start.
Teaching students different types of analogy relationships is a fantastic way to improve students' vocabulary test-taking skills. Plus, if you are new to interactive notebooks, these simple to assemble organizers are a great place to start.

Students will learn to locate the 13 colonies, major details about each colonies settlement, as well as how colonists made a living in each region with this set of organizers.
Students will learn to locate the 13 colonies, learn major details about each settlement, as well as learn how colonists made a living in each region with this set of organizers on Colonial America.

Students will have fun learning about volcanoes as they first read 10 Interesting Facts, then answer 5 questions about volcanoes to form this five page booklet.
Students will have fun learning about volcanoes as they first read 10 Interesting Facts about Volcanoes, then they will answer five questions about volcanoes to form this 5-page booklet.

Give interactive notebooks a try. Soon you will wonder how you ever taught without them. 
Gay Miller Gay Miller taught special education for 33 years, primarily in the upper elementary grades, in self-contained, resource, and inclusion classrooms. She's currently sharing an RTI position with another retired teacher.
Clipart Credits
Teaching in the Tongass

Modified Guided Reading for ELLs

Kristen is our guest blogger today, joining us from A Walk in the Chalk. She's sharing her strategies for reaching ELLs in the classroom by incorporating modified guided reading strategies.

Modified Guided Reading for ELLs
Guided reading is an important component of a balanced literacy program. It is when individualized reading instruction is provided to a small group of students. The group size is typically between 4 to 6 students, and each lesson is approximately 20 minutes. The teacher meets with each group several times a week and provides targeted instruction on reading skills and comprehension strategies.

Aren't guided reading lessons the same for ELLs (English language learners) as with native English speakers? Yes and no. The same effective strategies used with native English speakers ARE used with ELLs, but additional strategies are necessary in order to help ELLs navigate through their new language. Let's face it, our ELLs are learning content and the English language at the same time. In order for them to fully understand and interact with the text, certain instructional strategies require more attention and scaffolds need to be added to support the language. Let's take a look at how we can modify guided reading instruction to best support our English language learners.
Modified Guided Reading for ELLs
Choosing the Right Text

When we choose a guided reading text for our ELLs, it's important to keep some questions in mind. Does the book topic provide cultural relevance? Will students have prior knowledge of the topic? What background knowledge will you need to provide the students? Choosing texts that students can relate to will add to their level of comprehension.

Additionally, as with any guided reading group, we want to choose books, or texts, that are at the students' instructional reading levels. For ELLs, we also want to choose books that don't have a heavy language load. If I find a book at my students' reading level, but the language is heavy with a lot of new vocabulary or grammatically complex sentences, I may choose to find a different book.

It's also important to chose age appropriate books for our ELLs. Avoid "baby" books, especially for the older students. Students may be reading at a primary level in English, but providing "babyish" books can have a negative impact on a student's self esteem. It can also be a source of embarrassment for them. It may be more challenging to find emergent leveled books for older ELLs, but they are out there.

When choosing a text, also note areas that might be confusing. Some areas that can hinder comprehension are the use of figurative language, homophones and multiple meaning words, new vocabulary, as well as grammatically complex sentences. Addressing these before reading will greatly support students' understanding.

Modified Guided Reading for ELLs

Lastly, whenever we are able to integrate reading with other content areas, the better it is for our ELLs. This provides multiple exposures of a topic, allowing students to gain a deeper understanding of the content. I love finding books or passages that tie into the Science and Social Studies curriculum because this additional exposure also sets them up for further success in those classes.

Modified Guided Reading for ELLs
English Explorer Books are excellent leveled books
 to use for integrating content with reading
Introduce the Text 

As the text is introduced, clear and concise objectives should be provided. I post both content and language objectives at the beginning of each lesson. The content objective is "what" I want them to learn, and the language objective is "how" they will show their understanding. Setting clear objectives gives students a purpose for reading, as well as a goal that is clear and attainable.

Modified Guided Reading for ELLs
Next, and one of the most important components of modified guided reading, is activating or building background knowledge as a pre-reading activity. ELLs often lack the background knowledge needed to fully understand a text. In order to bring cultural relevance to a topic, we need to activate the knowledge they already have, or when there is none, we need to build it for them. We can build this by using real world items (realia), videos, pictures, or shared readings. This component is crucial for setting ELLs up for success. Imagine your new student is from a tropical country, and the book you are reading with him/her is about a snowy winter. The student may not have background knowledge of what snow looks like, feels like, tastes likes, sounds like, or smells like. Using pictures, video clips, and realia can provide the background knowledge the student needs to gain a deeper understanding of the text.

As the text is introduced, we also want to frontload new vocabulary before reading. This includes both academic vocabulary, as well as any tricky everyday vocabulary. I always try to look at vocabulary through the eyes of an English language learner. A word that may not seem tricky to me could be for my ELLs.

Introducing the text, building background knowledge, and frontloading new vocabulary is critical to scaffolding the guided reading text. Spending extra time on this component will be extremely beneficial.

Check for Understanding

Next, monitoring student understanding as they read is done with quick comprehension checks. I listen to each individual child read, then I will ask him/her open-ended questions or have him/her make a connection, a prediction, or an inference. The student then "turns off their volume" and continues to read silently while I listen to the next student. This continues as I get to each student in the group. We can't assume our ELLs understand; it's necessary to provide those comprehension checks to either help them navigate the text further or confirm that they are indeed understanding.

Respond to Reading

This is the "language objective." It's the "how" they will show what they know.  You may choose to incorporate a guided writing activity, fill in a graphic organizer, use drama, participate in a discussion, or answer questions about their reading. This component will help solidify understanding and afford the use of language output in a low anxiety setting.
Modified Guided Reading for ELLs
guided writing
Modified Guided Reading for ELLs
Students answer questions and engage in discussion
 with a fun Read n Roll activity
Word work is also an important part of reading instruction, and your guided reading lesson is a great time to incorporate it. Our ELLs need word work. Instructional time devoted to phonics, spelling patterns, and sight words will help build a foundation for learning English. I typically find areas of focus within the guided reading text. I also look for sounds in English that are different in my student's native language and focus on building awareness and pronunciation of these new sounds. Spending just a few minutes each lesson on word work will have a great impact on your ELLs' progress in both their reading and writing skills.

Integrating listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills within a guided reading lesson will provide opportunities for students to grow in all areas of literacy. The goal is to provide ELLs with the skills, strategies, and support they need to understand and interact with the content and curriculum at each grade level. By doing this, the ultimate goal of closing the achievement gap can be better realized.
Modified Guided Reading Lesson Plan Template
Modified Guided Reading Lesson Plan Template
Modified guided reading instruction enables the reading and language skills of students to be developed. It targets the specific needs of ELLs and provides them with a deeper and broader understanding of text. Through this practice, the literacy skills, language development and self confidence of your English language learners will flourish.

Kristen of A Walk in the ChalkI'm Kristen Vibas, an elementary ESOL teacher living in northern Virginia, teaching since 2005. I am passionate about teaching English language learners and creating fun and meaningful resources that support them in their mainstream classrooms. You can find me at my blog, "A Walk in the Chalk," or at my TPT store, "Kristen Vibas."

Kristen of A Walk in the Chalk

6 Ways to Teach Kids about the World

I'm Becky Morales, an ESL and Spanish teacher and mom to 5 kiddos through adoption, foster, and birth. As our family grew, and because we have such a mixture of cultures in our house (U.S., Mexico, China, and Ethiopia), I began to look for simple ways to celebrate our heritages and to learn about the world. I founded initially to share ideas with other multicultural and adoptive families and my fellow ESL and Spanish teachers. It grew and grew, and now I am happy to share ideas there with families and teachers to help kids learn about all world cultures and geography. The most common question I get from teachers is, "How can I incorporate global learning or multicultural lessons into my existing curriculum?" or, "How can I teach my kids about the world while still meeting the standards I need to cover?" Here are 6 ways you can feature different countries and cultures in your classroom and open your students' eyes to the world around them.

  Teach Kids About the World- Kid World Citizen

1. Read quality multicultural literature.

As teachers, we read to our kids all the time. By carefully choosing the books, we can:
  • join the Global Read Aloud. This worldwide book club uses Twitter, Skype, Edmodo, their wiki, email, regular mail, Kidblog, Tackk, and any other tools you can think of to make connections and discuss the book. There are several books to choose from, and kids in kindergarten through college can participate!
  • map the settings of the books you read and make sure you are covering all continents.
  • incorporate multicultural folktales and fiction while also exploring culture in nonfiction books that feature kids' real lives.
  • read books that defy stereotypes by showing more than one side of the story. For example, when learning about communities, include books from other countries. Read about kids in urban, suburban, and rural, South Africa so that kids realize Africa is not just a vast rural stretch of land with abundant wildlife (which does exist, but is not the whole story).
  • compare literature and learn about cultural values from Cinderella Around the World, Gingerbread Stories Around the World, or the "Trickster Tale" Around the World.

Map the Settings- Kid World Citizen

2. Celebrate!

Learn about traditions and customs for festivals, celebrations, holidays, birthdays and select some favorites to celebrate. There are countless holidays around the world to choose from, but here are three of my favorites:
  • Día de los Muertos (Mexico and a handful of other Latin American countries)
  • Diwali (India)
  • Chinese New Year (China and many, many other countries in Asia)
Start small: Research the holidays and find out the background of the celebration. There are great multicultural calendars available to help identify the world festivals. We have invited a mariachi band to our school, West African drummers, a lion dance troupe for Chinese New Year, and a wonderful Hanukkah storyteller. If you can't invite visitors, re-create a piece of the celebration in your class: Watch clips on youtube, talk to friends of the same culture to gather details, or read books to learn more. I have used a Chinese New Year lesson plan in multiple schools and libraries with ages pre-K to 3rd grade, and it only requires a couple of props and books.

Chinese New Year Lesson Plan for Kids- Kid World Citizen

3. Learn some new words.

Language is such an important part of any culture. If your elementary schools is like ours, there are no foreign language classes. First, choose a language to focus on for the year. Try to learn some conversational phrases: "Hello," "How are you?" "What's your name?" "Thank you, friend," etc. Second, pick a time to spend 5 minutes on the word of the day. My children's teachers have used calendar time to introduce numbers and days of the week in Spanish. Incorporate music and little songs sprinkled throughout the week. Teachers can get some CDs from the library to play for a musical brain break, and youtube has tons of videos that introduce vocabulary in other languages for kids. Putumayo makes my favorite world music CDs for kids! Next, practice reading and writing the words you are learning as a way to incorporate emerging language skills. Finally, find some bilingual books at the library to share with your students that use language in context.

Bilingual Books for Kids English and Spanish- Kid World Citizen

4. Connect with classes around the world.

Use your computer to connect with classes around the world! If you're on Twitter, try asking for participants with #globaled, #globalclassroom, #commentsforkids, or your grade level chat (#kinderchat, 1stchat, 2ndchat, 3rdchat, 4thchat, 5thchat, etc). I get requests all the time to help teachers find sister-schools, and the most common place to make a match is on Twitter, where teachers around the world can look up conversations by the appropriate hashtags. Once you make the match you could Skype, tweet pictures, share what you're learning via a blog post, or send letters to each other. You could also connect with a class using regular pen-and-paper pen pals. There are many places to look for pen pals for your class, but the safest and most popular site is ePals.

5. Add a global twist to existing lessons.

Take a lesson you've always done and expand it to include a wider perspective. For example:

Five senses
Learn more about a country by using your five senses.

Water cycle
Follow the route of snow melting in the mountains to the tributaries of major rivers, such as the Amazon, Yangtze, and Nile, and back to the sea.

What differences and similarities do you find in families and communities? Look at schools, homes, children (how many, how they are treated, how long they live at home, what jobs they are expected to do around the house), and sports around the world.

Famous people
Include inspiring people from around the world (such as Wangari Maathai, the "Mother of the Trees" from Kenya) when you study biographies.

Healthy eating
Learn about where in the world our foods come from; investigate healthy multicultural cuisine. Look up slide shows of school lunches or breakfast around the world.

Discover native flora and fauna and habitats around the world; discuss hibernation (related to weather patterns) and migration routes with maps, such as this lesson on monarch butterflies.

Taken from The Global Education Toolkit for Elementary Learners, by Tavangar and Morales (2014)

Home Around the World- Kid World Citizen

6. Create beautiful art.

Teachers of art and music may serve as the greatest advocates for incorporating cultural lessons into existing curricula. Working in tandem with the art teacher in your school, students can create beautiful pieces of folk art or use techniques popular in certain parts of the world in art class, while deepening their learning about the specific culture back in their regular class. Look for Pinterest boards with loads of ideas (including those below) for creating multicultural art with your students.
Multicultural Art Projects Kid World Citizen- Kid World Citizen
These are some of the many ways we can teach children about varying perspectives, while awakening them to the world outside their community. Global awareness is a 21st century skill that is critically important to success in today’s world and one that we can start to develop with children in elementary and preschool. I hope these activities give you some ideas to use in your classroom!

KWC Family- Kid World Citizen
Becky Morales is the founder of, where she shares fun multicultural and geography activities with teachers and parents. She is an ESL and Spanish teacher and speaks about global learning in workshops for schools. Becky is passionate about world cultures, world languages, and world travel. You can find more lessons and activities on her TeachersPayTeachers page.

5 Tips for Flipping the Elementary Classroom

Sally from Teaching Redefined is sharing her top five tips for turning your elementary classroom into a flipped one! She's come to love having a flipped classroom, and she wants to help more educators do this in their own classrooms.
5 Tips for Flipping the Elementary Classroom
A "flipped classroom” has become another trendy phrase in the education world. What does it actually mean? A flipped classroom means that students get their instruction in the form of videos that they watch for homework. Then, in class they practice the skill with the help of the teacher. This is flipped from the traditional model of in-class lectures followed by homework practice.

Flipped classrooms have become increasingly popular for math teachers, especially in the older grades. I’ve fallen in love with my own variation of a flipped classroom that fits perfectly with my elementary math students. These are my top tips for anyone interested in flipping the upper elementary math classroom.

Tip #1

Decide where your videos will come from. You have two options: create your own or use videos that are already created. This really boils down to personal preference and what’s available. You can also use a combination of both.

If you’re interested in creating your own videos, I recommend using a basic screen-casting app on your tablet. My personal favorite is Doceri. Check out my YouTube video on how to use Doceri.

If you’d rather not record yourself, there are tons of videos available online. Some great sources to check out are Khan Academy, LearnZillion or YouTube. All the videos I create for my classroom are available on my YouTube channel.

Tip #2

Decide how and when your students will use the videos. You can have your students watch the videos for their homework. This would be a traditional flipped model.

I have my kids watch the videos in class as part of their math workshop/math stations time. (Check out my blog to learn what math workshop looks like in my class.) This option works great if you’re at a campus with devices for each student.

Tip #3

Not sure if you want to fully commit to a flipped classroom? Find other uses for instructional videos. Videos make great resources for kids when they need homework help. They also help communicate teaching styles to parents. Post the links to helpful videos on your website and direct parents and students there when they’re struggling with a concept.

You can also use videos as a resource in class for students who need additional help. If they’re still struggling with a concept after a traditional lesson, they could watch the video to hear it again or hear it in a different way.

Tip #4

Hold your kids accountable. There are a variety of ways to make sure your kids are accountable for the information they are learning from the videos. You could have your students fill out a chart or a worksheet along with the video. You can also have them complete an “exit ticket” or short assessment for each video.

Another great option, and my personal favorite, is using a website like Educanon. This free site allows you to imbed questions and prompts to any video (one you upload or find online). The kids have their own student account, and you can see the answers to the questions. The best part to me is that they have to answer the questions before they can continue the video. Check out a lesson my students watched at the beginning of this school year.

Tip #5

Supplement your flipped lessons with guided math groups. Videos are a fantastic resource, but kids still need time to work on concepts with your guidance. You could use quick assessments to decide which students need to meet with you, or you could meet with everyone.

I meet with all of my students each week. My struggling students meet with me for a lesson before they ever watch the video. My higher groups meet with me after they’ve watched the video and completed the math workshop activities. We meet together to work on enrichment and to check for understanding.

If you’re interested in implementing guided math into your classroom, check out my guided math lesson plans in my TeachersPayTeachers Store.

Sally is a 4th grade teacher in Texas. She loves integrating technology into her math and science classroom. In addition to teaching, Sally is a new TpT author and blogger. For fun, Sally enjoys spending time at the lake, relaxing with a good book, and traveling.

Reclaim the Snow Day with Blizzard Bags

Reclaim the Snow Day with Blizzard Bags by TeachNouvelle
Hello! I'm Danielle from TeachNouvelle, and I'm so excited to be here today on Minds in Bloom. I love Rachel's dedication to creating rigorous resources for students, and I always keep rigor in mind when creating and teaching, too.
Today, I want to share what I've learned about Blizzard Bags. Even though some of us haven't even said goodbye to summer yet, it's not too early to start thinking about snow. A snow day can be a great thing, especially in the late winter months. But six in a row? Ten? That's when we start panicking about how to keep kids on track to meet learning targets by the end of the year. We all know that tacking on a day or two or six at the end of the year is a joke, so is there a better way to keep kids learning through bad weather? Yes. A Blizzard Bag. A Blizzard Bag is a take-home activity that can replace a classroom day in the event of bad weather. Many districts across the United States (particularly in the Northeast and Midwest) have adopted eLearning days to help promote student engagement during a long stint of winter weather. Basically, they are trying to prevent prolonged winter events (Boston, anyone?) from extending the school year by two weeks or even a month in some places! Each classroom teacher can submit a certain number of eLearning lessons, and students can complete them when school is cancelled. Many districts agree on five eLearning days before they start adding bad weather make-up days. And, honestly, even if it's not a district mandate, it's not a bad idea to have a few take-home lessons for your students. You can design your lessons to be submitted electronically, or you can send kids home with a packet. I like the idea of packet work because it can't be disrupted by power outages. When you choose independent activities for Blizzard Bags, you want them to exhibit four main characteristics. Let's take a closer look at these characteristics. Independent activities should be:


Use this opportunity to get your students to learn, create, and have fun! As tempting as it is to send students home with test prep, we can't use this opportunity to dump activities on them that we already find boring in a classroom setting. Blizzard Bags need a special spice, since students won't have the energy of the classroom to motivate them. These activities also need to be specifically designed to be non-threatening to struggling readers. Remember, you're not going to be there to help your students, and you don't want them to give up before they've accomplished anything.
  Scaffolded Practice - TeachNouvelle
For example, this Making Inferences activity presents several puzzles, and students get to figure out what's going on. These begin as heavily-scaffolded and move to more complex tasks as students hone their skills. Each puzzle is meant to be intriguing so that kids are hooked and want to continue. You can use this out-of-school opportunity to reinforce skills like identifying (and using!) direct and indirect characterization, using context clues, and so much more!


Each activity is designed to take about an hour, making it easily accomplishable in one or two sittings. Once again, you don't want to send kids home with so much work that they don't do any of it. Also, even if the district declares an "eLearning day," kids are still going to want to spend some time having fun in the snow.

Example Inference Paragraph 
Here's an example of the puzzle paragraphs from Making Inferences. Each paragraph will take students about five minutes to read actively and annotate. This kind of chunking also makes it easy for students to take breaks.


These activities specifically target skills that students are acquiring during the school year. This isn't the moment to introduce new skills but rather to reinforce what students are already learning. In the reading section above, students practice RL.1 as they draw conclusions based on textual evidence and support their claims. In the writing portion (making their own puzzle paragraphs), they practice W.3. This is the perfect opportunity to get some more practice on a troublesome standard.

Inference writing

Easily assessable

You also need a way to assess the final products. When students come back to school, how are you going to grade their work? I strongly suggest designing rubrics using "I Can" statements, as shown here. You can use these rubrics as a self-evaluation, peer-evaluation, or teacher-led evaluation tool.

Making Inferences Rubric
You can also grade the work using Peer Grading. Students love sharing their writing with their classmates, so why not have a sharing day when you return to school? Blizzard Bag learning can stretch back into the classroom to promote even more practice! The other great thing about collecting high-quality, independent activities is that they are versatile. If you're lucky enough not to need them during the winter, you can use them for sub plans, enrichment, or summer packets. Here's a freebie from the Making Inferences activity from above. You can use this as part of a Blizzard Bag or even as part of an inference lesson. My students love these puzzle paragraphs and always ask to do them at the end of class!

Thanks again to Rachel at Minds in Bloom for giving me this opportunity to guest post. Hopefully, it has given you ideas about how to reclaim bad weather days.

-Danielle @ Nouvelle

Danielle has taught in Oregon, North Carolina, France, and Germany. She is a military spouse, an avid reader, a cook, a sometimes-runner, and an armchair psychologist. She lives in Puerto Rico with her wife and their adorable cat, Crookshanks. You can visit her blog, TeachNouvelle and her TeachersPayTeachers store. If your life needs more pictures of cats and books, follow her on Instagram.

Interdisciplinary Connections through Wildlife

Clint and MacKenzie, owners and founders of Zoo Wild, join us today to share their insight on how wildlife offers interdisciplinary connections. Read their take on how teaching their son about wildlife from an early age jumpstarted his learning!

Interdisciplinary Connections through Wildlife
When my son was born, my wife and I desired to be parents that empowered our children, built empathy, and encouraged creativity. As a high school teacher and principal, these are skills with which I believe many of our outgoing graduates struggle. Without question, the most significant empowering, inspiring, empathy builder that we have ever discovered is through wild animals. Today, as experienced educators we can’t help but think that certain aspects of our family’s life could help engage early elementary classrooms. 

This has sent us on quite a wild adventure. How exactly can wildlife become an empowering tool? While the road certainly wasn't clear to us when our journey began, in retrospect, it is illuminating.

As a father, my weakness is staying engaged in play with my young kids. The mind wanders. Whether it was a selfish motive or a happy accident, I could not get through an A-B-C animal book. The images were designed for toddlers, the facts were so basic, and by page five, I was ready for my nap. One day at the library, we picked a real deal animal encyclopedia, realistic art mixed with real photos and interesting facts on each page. Hey, why can't reading time be a little more interesting for daddy? Let's just say that that was the first of hundreds of animal texts that we have checked out.

Even though our son was two, you could also tell his preference. You couldn't slip the A-B-C animal book back into the rotation. Within weeks, he was able to start pointing out siamangs and echidnas. My wife loves, and I mean loves, reading to our kids. His (and her) animal knowledge soon would explode. Before we knew it, if he came across an animal in a book, he'd wander back to his room; "What is he doing?" we asked. Believe it or not, he found another animal book and was bringing it out to us. He'd show us the same animal in his other book! I struggle to get my algebra students to remember content from one week to the next, and our two-year-old remembered, connected, and transferred this seemingly innocuous info. Before too long he could remember entire pages worth of animal species — species that my wife or I had never heard of before we read that book.

Two-year-old empowerment step: I can find animal information in a book.

A teacher’s observation: High interest content breeds excitement about learning. High quality, real world, non-fiction content can teach more than what is on the page.

The animal pictures began. With an animal book at his side, he'd start trying to draw the animals with his crayons. This soon became very frustrating. He'd say that he hated it, but he wouldn't stop trying. Regardless of us trying to redirect him, he was bound, determined, and usually crying. He couldn't get the pictures to look the same. My wife and I would look at each other and think, "Which one of us is going to have the, 'Son, you are three. It's not going to look the same'?" conversation. Then it hit me. The fatness of the crayons was too problematic for the detail he was trying to achieve. A quick trip to the grocery store for a pack of colored pencils changed everything. Let the details begin!
Zoo Wild Galapagos Tortoise Printable

Three-year-old empowerment step: I can draw animal pictures the way I want to.

A teacher’s observation: Sometimes students just need a tool to flourish. Often there are layers to a student's struggle.

Since we are fully committed to animal encyclopedias, this brought with it a few interesting connections. Many of these books include different symbols around the animals, and often they represent their conservation status. Of course, to our now four-year-old this was a curious thing that he had never noticed before. We began to learn about endangered species. Before you know it, he was going back through his other books and finding out which species were endangered. The idea that an animal might die and not exist anymore really hit him. While many teenagers are still considering their own feelings as the center of the universe, we could see elements of empathy in our four-year-old. (Hey, there's still plenty of egocentrism going around the house though!) Soon, he and his mom made their first (of many) endangered species flip books.

We began to let him know that there are ways to keep animal species alive. This was prime information to him. Soon we were learning about deforestation, pollution, global warming, and poaching. We let him know that species are endangered because of a consequence of our human action, and conservationists work to reverse the trend. Again, to him, learning about these things in isolation wasn't enough; he wanted to know which of these global issues affected which species. Each one. As you can imagine, mommy and daddy are getting way over our heads. "I don't know, buddy; maybe we can look it up" became a catch phrase. As a piece of parental manipulation, we said one day that if you don't turn off your lights when you aren't using them, it will waste electricity and maybe melt the polar ice caps a little bit. Today, lights are never left on. In fact, he'll make sure his new sister turns off the lights too.

What do you want to be when you grow up? "I want to go stop the poachers."

Four-year-old empowerment step: I can do something to help animals.

A teacher’s observation: When you put students in a position to make a difference, they’ll want to. Shepherd them through so they can do it themselves one day.

By now, we realize we have a little activist on our hands. As a teacher at an international school, I have worked intimately with global issues. Soon, all those beautiful maps in those info-packed animal encyclopedias began to be used. Continents and oceans soon turned into countries and regions. The first time I saw him point and name, "Patagonia," I about fell over. He'd then tell me some of the animals that live there. Today he can locate 80% of the world’s countries on a map.

We are slowly working on culture, history, and current issues in different parts of the world — that affect animals, of course!

When I think about what our young people are asked to do in school, whether it be classifying shapes, nouns and verbs, or types of government, our zoo-crazy boy has spent years sorting his animal toys by world region, by classification, by endangered species status, or by diet.

Now the he is four and in half-day kindergarten, he claims that he knows the names of every student in his class of 21 students. In my classroom, I’m not sure I got there by October. The real impact of this learning we may not know for a decade, but he dazzles us with his memory and ability to categorize. I know many zoo-loving kids could accomplish the same feats with a little help from wildlife.

I can’t help but imagine a classroom that uses wildlife to teach geography, culture, and environmental science. Despite the NGSS insistence to teach more interesting things, like bacteria, I think the engaging world of wildlife can span into all content areas.

Over the years, we’ve developed a lot of early learning wildlife resources to fulfill his appetite. Recently, we’ve decided to send them off into the wild known as TPT. We hope to build a little bit of savings for his and his wild sister's future education and donate to his favorite wildlife causes.

Five-year-old empowerment step: I can teach others about animals!

A teacher’s observation: Wildlife learning naturally branches into interdisciplinary study like few other topics.

Clint and MacKenzie of Zoo Wild
Clint and MacKenzie are educators from Columbus, Ohio. Together they have experience in K-12 as an elementary teacher, a high school teacher, a speech-language pathologist, a high school assistant principal, and an elementary school principal. Most importantly, they parent three awesome kids! We're just getting started with this TPT adventure with our store, Zoo Wild! You can also stay updated through our website, Twitter or Facebook.
Zoo Wild TeachersPayTeachers

Teaching Resources

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Pin It button on image hover