My Favorite Scary Story to Tell on Halloween.

This is my favorite scary story to tell to children on Halloween. The trick is to tell it in first person and make it sound as if it really happened. If you decide to use it, be sure to embellish it (this is the bare-bones version) and change some of the details to make it seem more realistic for your own situation. So, as they say on my favorite storytelling podcast, It's story time!

When I was about twelve years old I went to summer camp with my best friend, Becca. While we were riding to camp on the bus, we saw an old abandoned house kind of off the road a bit. Another kid on the bus said the house was haunted. That was enough for Becca. She set her mind on going to see for herself. I really didn't want to go, but I also couldn't let Becca go by herself. What if she got lost or hurt? So, when she woke me up in the middle of the night, I agreed to go with her.

It took us about half an hour to get there. Luckily, we both had flashlights, and there was a lot of light from the full moon. When we got there, nothing looked out of the was just an old, abandoned house. Of course, Becca had to check it out. So we went up the creeeaaaaky stairs. The door wasn't even locked, we just pushed it open. Everything was dark inside. There was some old, dusty furniture. We looked around a little and then Becca saw the naturally, up she went, with me following.

Here is where it gets weird. There was a dim light coming out from the door at the end of the hall. Slowly, we walked toward the door. Slowly, Becca opened the door. And do you know what was inside? A glowing, empty coffin! It was upright and the lid was open! That was freaky enough, but then it started to move toward us. We both screamed and ran for the stairs. The coffin followed us! We ran through the living room and into the kitchen...the coffin was still coming! There was no door in the kitchen, we were trapped. In desperation, we opened the cupboards and started throwing things at the coffin...bowls, plates, cups...but the coffin kept coming! It was only a few feet away when I grabbed an old bottle of cough syrup. I threw it as hard as I could and do you know what? That cough syrup stopped the coffin (get it? coffin-coughing?).

Always a hit!

FREE for Halloween: Fun Scattagories Type Activity!

As if you don't have enough Halloween freebies already, here is another one! I was actually inspired to make this by a game my friends and I used to play in college called STAMP. This was long before the board game Scattegories came out. We just drew grids on notebook paper and made up our own categories. I adapted that game to create GHOST.

You could use this activity for a fun homework assignment, at a Halloween center or even at your class Halloween party. Be sure to give your students time to share their answers!

Teaching Blog Traffic School

Teaching Blog Traffic School

If you have a teaching blog or if you sell teaching materials online or if you have written books for teachers or created any other teacher resources, then you really need to get Charity Preston's Teaching Blog Traffic School. TBTS is an amazing collections of 30 videos that will teach you everything you need to know about online marketing. Not only that, you also get to join the secret TBTS networking group when you buy the videos...which is an opportunity not to be missed. You can find out more about why I love TBTS in this short video.

Get More information about Teaching Blog Traffic School here.

Four Halloween Freebies

Just in case you missed it, here is the link to the Halloween edition of the short, fun and highly useful Minds in Bloom Newsletter. It includes links to four Halloween Freebies along with some terrific tips on how to survive Halloween on a Monday. There are even a few Halloween jokes to share with your students. Don't forget to sign up for the Newsletter if you haven't already!

Free Halloween Activity Ideas Ebook!

I compiled this ebook of Halloween Activity Ideas as a little Thank You to all my followers. Minds in Bloom Newsletter subscribers got it a few days ago, but I want to make sure everyone has a chance to download it, so I am posting it here. If you haven't subscribed to the newsletter yet, now would be a great time! Every issue is includes freebies like this one as well as teaching tips and other neat stuff. It is of course free and comes out about once every three weeks. Just use this link or the fields on the right sidebar.

Halloween Fun with Witches' Brew

Witches' Brew is such a fun concept to work with because so many disgusting things can go into it. Here are three fun ideas for using Witches' Brew:

Add a Verse
Primary students will love Hap Palmer's song, Witches' Brew. You can see the lyrics and listen to the song right here on Songs for Teaching. In addition to learning the song, you can make up your own verses - either as a class or individually. What makes this activity fun and not to difficult for little ones is that the rhyming scheme in every verse is the same. Only the first line changes and as long as it rhymes with "too" you are good to go.

Here is a sample of one verse:
Spider web, moldy bread, mucky mud, too.
Stir them in my witches’ brew.
I got magic! Alakazamakazoo
Your students will love making up and singing their own disgusting verses!

Write Your Own Recipes
Older students will enjoy writing their own recipes. You may want to start by brainstorming some good ingredients as a class. You will also want to be sure that students understand the format of a recipe with the list of ingredients first and then a set of step-by-step instructions. You could have students do this on Cauldron shaped paper for a nice bulletin board display or you could combine the recipes to create a Witches' Cook Book. If you want something a little more guided, check out this awesome free activity from Shelley Gray

Do Some Math
Recipes are always great for practicing math, especially fractions. Here is a free Witches' Brew Worksheet to try with your students.

Freebie Fridays

Laura Candler's Power Reading Workshop

"As you implement the Power Reading Tools and students accept more responsibility for becoming better readers, reading instruction in your classroom will become student-centered rather than teacher-centered. You'll become a reading coach instead of a reading teacher. in so doing, you'll empower your students to love reading and to grow as readers."
                                                                   -Laura Candler

When I taught reading, I usually used novels. There were two or three ability-based reading groups each reading a different book. While this was a huge improvement over a basal text, it was a great deal of work for me and did not really meet the needs of all of my students - especially in terms of individual interests and learning styles. What I needed, what I would have loved, what my students would have loved, is Laura Candler's Power Reading Workshop. Laura's program offers a truly differentiated and highly motivating way to teach reading. In my opinion, this is THE way to teach reading to students in grades 2-6.

The Basics
 The core of the program is made up of five components:
  • Whole class read alouds
  • Strategy mini-lessons
  • Self-selected reading time
  • Individual reading conferences
  • Response to reading
A Power Reading Workshop session is designed to last about an hour and typically begins with a whole class read aloud and a targeted mini-lesson. Students are then free to read their own self-selected material and to apply what they learned in the mini-lesson to their own reading. During this time the teacher meets individually with students for short reading conferences. In addition there are twelve Power Reading Tools that can be added to the basic program which include several different response to reading strategies.

The Book
What I love about Laura's book is how she gives you everything you need to put this program into action.  Power Reading Workshop includes an easy to follow, step-by-step guide for the first ten days of the program - including teaching instructions, recommendations for read aloud books and printable versions of everything your students will need. Once you have completed your first two weeks, you should have no problem continuing on your own, especially since Laura gives you many more tools and ideas.

In the second part of the book, Laura details twelve Power Reading Tools that you can use with the workshop. Not only does she tell you how to use each of these tools, she also supplies printable versions of  the needed forms and handouts. Some of the areas Power Reading Tools focus on include goal setting, response to reading, group reading discussions, exploring different reading genres, and self-assessment. You can add these tools one at a time as your students are ready for them. 

Another feature in this book that I really appreciate is the "Laura's Tips" sidebars that appear frequently throughout the book. These little tidbits are really helpful for managing the program and making everything run smoothly. 

You can  hear Laura explain why she wrote Power Reading Workshop in her own words in this short video. 

As I am sure you can tell, I highly recommend this book. I can think of no better way to instill a love of reading in your students. One of my early mentor's credos for teaching was, "Freedom within Structure." That is what this program is. The freedom to self-select reading materials empowers students to take responsibility for their reading while the structure ensures they are learning required concepts (such as common core standards) and holds them accountable.

You can see twenty more enthusiastic reviews for this book right here on Amazon. But if you want to buy it, be sure to go to Laura's site because if you buy the book there and sign up for her free weekly newsletter Candler's Classroom Connections, you get the digital version for free!

Creative Writing Link Up!

The post about writing good journal prompts below got me thinking about creative writing. I know many teachers are looking for good ideas, so please contribute to the very first Minds in Bloom Link Up Party!

You can link up any blog post or freebie (TpT product page is fine) that has to do with creative writing. Please no for-sale product pages for this particular link up.

If you link up a blog post it would be great if you could back link on the post so that your readers can get more creative writing ideas from this link up - but that is not required to link up.

Thanks so much and happy linking!

Find more great Linky Parties at Teaching Blog Addict!

How to Write Great Journal Prompts

The other day, my sweetheart's third grade daughter, Claire was talking about how much she loves her new teacher. When I asked why, one of the first things she said was, "She makes writing fun! I used to hate writing but she gives us neat stuff to write about." When I asked for an example, she enthusiastically told me about how the teacher had them write about the perfect school day. Contrast that with a parent who was recently telling me that her child was bored because the only prompt the students ever got was, "What did you do over the weekend?"

Writing in a school journal can be tiresome drudgery or creative magic and which it is has a lot to do with the prompt. Here are some guidelines for writing good ones.

Ask a Good Question
Often a journal prompt is in the form of a question. The main thing to keep in mind is that these questions should be open-ended and require more than a few words or sentences to answer. Consider the classic prompt: What do you want to be when you grow up? This is a bad journal prompt because once the child writes, "a rockstar" there isn't much else to do. This question can be improved in several ways, here are just a few:
  • What do you want to be when you grow up? Why?
  • What are five things you would like to do before you are twenty years old?
  • What is your dream job? Describe a typical work day at this job.
  • What do you think your life will be like when you are thirty years old?
  • What are the three most important jobs in the world? Why are these three jobs so important?
  • Would you want to be the president? Why or why not?
  • Would you rather be a famous writer, a rock star, or a doctor who finds a cure for cancer? Why?
Allow for imagination
Often a good journal prompt is like the one that Claire's teacher gave. Students love to imagine what could be, what might be, what could never happen in real life. These prompts often start with, Imagine that... or What if....Here are some examples:
  • Imagine that you can do whatever you want for a whole day, even if it costs a lot of money. Describe your amazing day.
  • What if animals could talk? How would the world be different?
  • What if you could be invisible? Write about what you would do.
  • Imagine that you get to plan a party for your class. What would you eat? What games would you play?
  • What if you could make your favorite fictional character real? Write about spending a day with that character.
Consider Real Life
The trick with having students write about their real lives is to make sure that the prompt will lead to an interesting response. "What did you do over the weekend?" may not be very inspiring to the kid who played video games all weekend or had to spend his weekend doing chores around the house. Try these instead:
  • Describe a time when you did something you were proud of.
  • Write about a time when you did something you have never done before.
  • Write about the last time you helped someone
  • What is one of your favorite memories from when you were...(pick an age)?
Ethics are interesting
Posing ethical questions can make for some really interesting journal entries and also helps students to further internalize their own values. Consider some of these:
  • What are the most important qualities in a friend? Are you a good friend? Why or why not?
  • Is it ever okay to lie? Why do you think so?
  • What are three things that every parent should do? Why are these things important?
  • It has been said that money can't buy happiness. Do you agree or disagree? Why?
  • Would you rather be beautiful, smart, or athletic? Why?
Reluctant writers like lists
While some of your students might balk at writing a paragraph, most are willing to make a list. If you choose a good subject, list writing not only is a worthwhile activity on its own, but could be the foundation for deeper writing later. Here are some good list topics.
  • Things that make you happy
  • Favorite activities
  • Places you want to go
  • People you admire
  • Things you would like to do or learn someday
  • Things that make you angry or upset
  • Things you are grateful for
Don't want to write your own? Try these:

Ten Reason's to Teach the Novel Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

My Plate: What You Need to Know about the New USDA Nutrition Recommendations

Are you ready to start teaching My Plate? Here are the basics of what you need to know. 

My Plate was introduced in 2011 and is based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The My Plate icon replaces the My Pyramid icon which has been in place since 2005. The My Plate icon is meant to be used as an easy to understand reminder for healthy eating rather than as a specific guide. Every meal does not have to follow the proportions shown on the icon. This quote from First Lady Michelle Obama about what parents should see on their children's plates may help to clarify this point:

"As long as they're half full of fruits and vegetables, and paired with lean proteins, whole grains and low-fat dairy, we're golden. That's how easy it is."

In addition to the Icon and the five food groups, My Plate includes several key messages, nutritional information, and tips for healthy eating. You will find these incorporated in the unit materials. These messages include:
  • Avoid oversized portions
  • Make at least half of your grains whole grains
  • Make at least half your plate fruits and vegetables
  • Vary your veggies
  • Get calcium-rich foods
  • Go lean with protein
  • Drink Water instead of sugary drinks
The guidelines also include information about what exactly is included in each of the five food groups and how much of each group is needed each day. Here are the serving recommendations for children ages 9-13:

As you can see, it could get a little confusing with some servings being measured in cups, others in ounces, and others in "servings." Fortunately, the USDA also has information about exactly how much of specific foods makes up a serving. Here is a chart that shows the servings sides of some common foods: 
It can be a little confusing, but fortunately there is a lot of information on the USDA My Plate websiteOne of the best resources is the Ten Tips Nutrition Education Series. Each of these 14 colorful and informative printouts offer 10 tips for better eating in accordance with the My Plate recommendations. These would be great as posters for your room or to send home with students.

Another good resource comes from The University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Alice Henneman MS, RD has created a terrific slideshow about My Plate

If you are looking for the no-hassle way to teach My Plate, you can purchase my 80+ page Eating Healthy with My Plate unit which is jam-packed with posters, handouts, worksheets, graphic organizers and quizzes. There are activities for each group and everything is ready-to-use. To the best of my knowledge, at this time this is the most comprehensive ready-to-use resource available. 

Teaching Resources

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