22 Graphic Organizers on sale for a Dollar


On Sale today only for just a dollar at TpT 22 Graphic Organizers to use with literature. 
A new dollar product each day...all posted on my  facebook page.

Critical Thinking in Literature Read Aloud #1

“Claudia knew that she could never pull off the old-fashioned kind of running away. That is, running away in the heat of anger with a knapsack on her back. She didn’t like discomfort; even picnics were untidy and inconvenient: all those insects and the sun melting the icing on the cupcakes. Therefore, she decided that her leaving home would not be just running from somewhere but would be running to somewhere. To a large place, a comfortable place, an indoor place, and preferably a beautiful place. And that’s why she decided upon the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City…"
Today I am starting a series of posts on great read-alouds in which the characters demonstrate critical and creative thinking.

Naturally, I am starting with From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg. Because this is an older book with a goofy title, you may have overlooked it, or just forgotten how amazing a book it is. In a nutshell, this is about two children who run away from home to the Metropolitan Museum of Art which leads them to solve a mystery involving Michelangelo.  Here are some reasons you should consider reading it to your class:
  • The main character, Claudia Kincaid is all about thinking critically and creatively. She planned everything about her escape carefully and chose such an unusual and interesting place to runaway to. 
  • Her chosen partner and brother, Jamie  is a nice contrast to her character. He is smart too, but in a whole different way than Claudia.
  • The book fosters an appreciation for museums. If you can actually visit this museum, having read the book will make it so much more meaningful.
  • The title character is an smart and eccentric 82 year old woman. Nothing like the grandmother stereotype. 
  • There is a mystery. Claudia and Jamie have to solve it and it takes some thinking out of the box to do it. 
  • Because the book takes place in 1968, there is much to talk about in terms of a world without cell phones and the internet. In fact, the book would probably not even have been possible if Claudia and Jamie had had access to the internet They had to actually solve the mystery themselves instead of googling it.
  • The book is a Newbery Award winner. Also, for those in your class who are always looking for a new author, Konigsburg has written many other books.
This was actually one of my very favorite books as a child. I love that it is still being enjoyed by kids today!

Celebrating the Presidents

There is a terrific post by Carolyn Wilhelm on the Teacher 2 Teacher blog about Presidents Day. A great list of ideas, most of which incorporate high level thinking skills. I especially liked the ideas about separating fact from fiction in the presidents' lives and about comparing different time periods of the presidencies.

Introducing, the Pickle Fairy

This is the Pickle Fairy. I drew her as a little piece of clip art to use with a silly story problem about hiding pickles under your pillow. But I found her so enchanting that I felt she needed more exposure. So for better or for worse, I am now declaring the Pickle Fairy as the Official Mascot for Minds in Bloom.

And just for those who might be interested, I drew her with my new toy, the  Wacom Bamboo Pen Tablet. When I learn more about it and actually learn how to use the software that came with it, I will probably do a post about all the amazing things you, as a teacher, can do with it (beyond drawing a Pickle Fairy).

Make it Matter

Today I toured  a university campus with my college-bound son. When the student tour guide was talking about the university's science program, her eyes lit up when she told us how she was taking biology 101, and even though the experiments the students were doing in their labs were very basic, the results were being used as part of a research project that she professor was doing. She loved being part of something that mattered - beyond her own education. That got me thinking...how can teachers get students involved in projects that matter beyond themselves, beyond the classroom? Here is a list of ideas:

Write for Real Readers
Often, the only person that reads a student's work is the teacher, and maybe a parent. What if...
  • Students wrote letters to real people instead of practice letters that never get mailed - to authors, politicians, city officials, companies, newspapers and magazines, friends, relatives, pen pals, soldiers, guest speakers etc. 
  • Stories and/or poems were gathered into an anthology that was bound into a real book. My son's fifth grade teacher does this every year. They produce multiple copies and have a book signing at the local Barnes and Nobel. Enough parents, relatives, and friends buy the book to pay for the printing and to supply each of the authors with a copy of the book for free. Extra proceeds get used for books for the class library.
  • Children got to read their original poems at a school poetry slam, held once a month.
  • A student written haiku was broadcast each morning over the PA system along with the pledge and the day's announcements.
  • The fifth or sixth grade class produced a school newspaper that was distributed to every student.
  • Students published blogs or contributed to a class blog.
Mentor Younger Students
For a variety of reasons, the year my daughter was in sixth grade, the sixth grade classes were a challenging group of kids. The principal was always telling them that they should behave well because they were an example for the younger students, but she never gave them real opportunities to lead. What if...
  • Older students were paired with younger students in a kindergarten buddies program
  • Older students got to participate in meetings about school rules, especially in regards to recess and lunch, and their ideas were considered before decisions were made.
  • Older students were trained as mediators to help with playground disputes between younger students.
  • Older students were trained as homework helpers for an after school program for struggling students.
Community Outreach
Often schools collect food and clothing for the homeless during the holidays. What else can they do?
  • There are many ways that helping the planet can be worked into your curriculum. Plant some trees, clear away nonnative plants, raise salmon to be released (some schools do this in Washington State).
  • There are many nonprofits that have ways for kids to get involved - some such as Free the Children were even started by kids.
  • Start a Random Acts of Kindness or Pay it Forward program in your school or class. 
Just a few ideas...maybe you have more!

Free Valentine's Day Mad Lib Activity

Just in time, here is a fun and free Mad Lib type activity to use with your students.

Get the
Printable Free One Here

Ways to Promote Active Listening in Your Classroom

Often, we talk, they listen....or don't listen. It can be hard to tell (or sometimes blatantly easy - if they are falling asleep). When you are doing a lesson that requires a lot of teacher instruction, how can you keep everyone engaged? Here are some ideas.

Pick a Random Kid
Use Popsicle sticks with your students' names on them or some other way to generate a random name. Draw names frequently. Every student should know that at any moment you may call on him or her to:
  • repeat the last few words you said
  • paraphrase what you just said
  • paraphrase what you said a few minutes ago
  • paraphrase what a classmate said
  • give an answer (to an easy question if you are not allowing students to raise their hands).
  • give an answer to an easy fun, unrelated question, such as "what is you favorite dessert?" (I just think it is fun to throw these in every so often - just one answer from one kid and then right back to the topic at hand.)
Use Individual Group Response
Sounds like an oxymoron, but what I mean is that everyone is responding, but each person can respond differently, which means that it isn't a verbal response. Not only does this keep everyone's attention, it also allows you to quickly scan the room to make sure everyone is with you. Here are some ways to do this.
  • Students respond using individual white boards. Great for math or short answer questions
  • Students give sign language "yes" or "no" answers. Or you could use PowerPoint to give a little multiple choice quiz and have students give their answers in sign language letters - A,B,C,or D.
  • Students hold up the correct number of fingers to answer a math problem
  • Use a set of number cards 0-9, students hold up the number(s) that answers the question in math 
If you can make movement part of the lesson - yippee! If not, then take a Brain Break every so often to play a quick game of Simon Says, do a  quick physical challenge (can you stand on one foot and touch both your ears?), or just stretch. It can make a world of difference.

Make it a Game
Great for review. There are tons of PowerPoint games out there that let you put in your own questions or you can make your own. Or keep it simple: Student who gets a correct answer gets to try to throw a foam ball into a basket. You don't even have to keep score.

Use Technology
PowerPoint and Smartboards are so very cool, and they do help to keep attention, but you still may want to mix it with one of the ideas above, especially if you are using the Smartboard in such a way that only one student can participate at a time while the others watch. I have also heard that some schools actually have tablets or Ipod Touches for students. If you can get 'em....wow!

Often, teachers have students follow along as the whole class completes a worksheet or other activity together. I am not a big fan of this approach (except maybe with the first one or two questions as an example). It is boring for the bright students who want to work ahead and it allows the slackers to turn off their brains. As long as they get the answer that you just wrote on the board in the right blank, they are off the hook as far as actually learning anything.

Kids listen better when they are given time to move. Try these Brain Breaks to keep your students focused.

How do you keep everyone engaged in your class?

Thursday Round Up #4

Here are 20 more terrific teaching resources including my new "Hunger Games"game, Panem to Panem based on the popular party Game Apples to Apples®

Phone Spelling - Fun Free Activity!

Here is a fun way for students to practice their spelling word using a phone keypad. Students use the letters on the keypad to create a number for each word.

To make the activity more challenging, have students translate their words into numbers and then switch papers to solve. Just be sure they mix up the words.

This worksheet, plus another version to use with 20 words, is free on TpT!

You can download it right here.

3 Day Sale!

"Hunger Games" Would You Rather Questions

Got a few extra minutes? Here are some fun Would you Rather Questions to use with your students once you have read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. 
If you are looking for another fun Hunger Games activity, try
Panem to Panem a game based on The Hunger Games and inspired by the popular party game Apples to Apples®

Would You Rather...
1 Have Katniss for a friend or Have Peeta for a friend 
2 Live in the Capitol or Live in District 12 
3 Be a Tribute in a Hunger Games in which all of the other Tributes are your friends or Be a 12 year old Tribute in a Hunger Games in which all of the other Tributes are 17.
4 Be a Tribute or Be an Avox 
5 Try to get supplies and weapons at the Cornucopia  or Run for the woods 
6 Have the person you love most in the world be chosen as a Tribute or Be chosen as a Tribute yourself
Be a Stylist  
Be a Game Maker 
8 Make an alliance with Foxface or Make an alliance with the Careers 
9 Save Rue or Save Peeta 
10 Have a picnic with Gale in the woods or Have a feast in the Capitol with Katniss's prep team 
11 Be given a score of 11 by the Game Makersor Be given a score of 2 by the Game Makers 
12 Grab a full water bottle at the start of the Game before running for the woods or Grab a knife  
13 Be a slow runner, but an excellent tree climber or Be a fast runner but not be able to climb trees
14 Have light green skin like Octavia or Have aqua colored hair like Venia 
15 Have a wardrobe designed by CinnaorHave your own Hovercraft
16 Be chased by one mutant wolf (mutt) or Be chased by a swarm of Tracker Jackers 
17 Spend your time in the training center learning how to use weaponsor Spend your time in the training center learning wilderness survival skills 
18 Spend a weekend with Haymitch or Spend a weekend with Effie 
19 Change the story so that Rue lives or Change the story so that Katniss still wins the Game, but never has to directly kill anyone
20 Get to do the casting for the upcoming Hunger Games movieor Get to play Katniss or Peeta in the upcoming Hunger Games movie

Panem to Panem  a game based on The Hunger Games and inspired by the popular party game Apples to Apples®

Check out Thursday Round Up #3

Looking for some great Valentine's Activities? You can find them plus many other great offerings at this week's Thursday Round Up. My post for the Round Up is a bundle of Tic-Tac-Toe Literature Response Activities. There are 45 different activities. On sale for just $1.50.

Teaching Resources

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