Sunday, April 13, 2014

Teaching About Inappropriate Touching

 Please welcome Selena Smith. Selena doesn't have a blog yet, but she is a teacher on a mission to stop sexual abuse!  Thanks for sharing Selena!

Have you ever noticed an outgoing child in your class become an introvert almost overnight, a top-notch student suddenly become complacent about school, or a passive child become aggressive in a short period of time?  There are number of factors that can contribute to changes in the behavior of children, and sometimes those causes are minor; other times there is a substantial issue going on in that child’s life, abuse being a possible cause.  April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and though teachers and parents are certainly familiar with various forms of abuse, child sexual abuse seems to be a silent epidemic running rampant.  It remains “silent” because only a small percentage of victims report the abuse, children are often threatened to remain quiet by an abuser, and adults sometimes avoid the subject altogether because they are unsure of how and when to approach it.  Thus, children are left to suffer alone in shame and silence.

Sexual abuse often goes undetected because the physical signs are not very obvious.  Sometimes there are no physical signs at all, for bodily contact is not the only facet that determines sexual abuse.  Anything an adult or older child does for sexual gratification when a child is involved falls under this category.  This includes voyeurism, showing a child pornography, intentionally performing sexual acts in front of a child, and taking lewd pictures of a child.  All of these are crimes against children and are punishable by law even though no physical contact occurred.  Then, there are the physical forms, which are unimaginable and incomprehensible.  The statistics for sexual abuse are alarming.  According to Darkness to Light, a leading training center in South Carolina for sexual abuse prevention, “about 1 in 10 children will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday.”  This statistic is for “contact abuse only” and does not include non-contact forms listed above. 

Over ninety percent of this type of abuse comes from someone the child knows – a neighbor, older child, coach, preacher, teacher, acquaintance, family friend, or family member.  Rather than shout the abuse from the mountain tops, children often hide it because they have never been told what to do in that situation.  Moreover, since the abuse typically comes from a familiar person, the child is even more conflicted about telling and getting that person in trouble.  Yet, if another child trips them on the playground or pulls their hair, they run without delay to a teacher with the news.  Something needs to change. Our innocent children must be taught at a young age what inappropriate touch is and what to do if it happens, no matter who the abuser is. 

The sad fact is that when children endure sexual abuse, they face a life time of repercussions.  They battle with trust issues, behavior changes, depression, decline in grades, low self-worth, and the list goes on.  According to Darkness to Light, sexually abused children face greater risk for delinquent behavior, sexual promiscuity, posttraumatic stress, suicide attempts, dysfunction, physical aggression, teen pregnancy, health problems, eating disorders, and drug addictions. is full of helpful information regarding this issue, and their Stewards of Children training program can be taken online or in a face-to-face sessions.  This organization declares about sexual abuse: “The real tragedy is that it robs children of their potential, setting into motion a chain of events and decisions that affect them throughout their lives.” 

Erin Merryn from Illinois has set out on a mission to remedy this situation.  A survivor of child sexual abuse herself, she is taking the proper steps to get Erin’s Law passed in all fifty states in the U.S.  This law requires abuse awareness and assault prevention be taught in all schools in all grade levels.  According to her website, Erin’s Law has passed “in 8 states: Illinois, Missouri, Indiana, Maine, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Nevada with 18 more states introducing it in 2013-2014.”  Although my home state of North Carolina is on the list for implementing Erin’s Law soon, sexual abuse prevention has been a part of its Standard Course of Study as Healthful Living Objective 3.01 directly addresses this situation: “Differentiate between appropriate and inappropriate touch and demonstrate how to seek adult assistance for inappropriate touch.”  Erin’s law aims to educate all children, but it may leave some school systems grappling with how to effectively teach such a sensitive topic.  Most states allow individual schools to decide how they will teach this issue, which provides autonomy and freedom for educators to select the curriculum of their choice.  Fortunately, there are age-appropriate materials out there, and a few of them reside on Teachers Pay Teachers.   

As teachers, we often struggle with when and how to act on our instincts.  Of course, we don’t want to misjudge or assume; more importantly, we don’t want to let something important go unattended.  This is most certainly true with child sexual abuse.  If a teacher suspects that a child is being abused in any way, it is his/her duty by law to report it to the proper authorities. Teachers can ask the school social worker for information and contact law enforcement and social services immediately.  Some agencies even allow anonymous reporting.  If sexual abuse is involved, refer the child to the nearest Children’s Advocacy Center as well for much needed guidance and help.

Parents and educators must remember that the goal is prevention.   It is easier to build strong boys and girls than to repair broken men and women.  Teachers must be fearless in approaching this topic in the classroom. Let’s face it: there are some parents out there who rarely spend time with their children and are not going to discuss this important safety concern with them.  I guarantee that there are children in classes all over the world who need to hear it.


Selena’s Teachers Pay Teachers Store
This is my 19th year of teaching.  I have my Master’s degree in English Education, and I am National Board Certified.  I am also married to a teacher, and we have two daughters.  I am a speaker/writer for child sexual abuse awareness and prevention. 

I am the author of Joey Wants to Know, a children’s book that teaches about inappropriate touch in a non-threatening, child-friendly way. 


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Integrating Forms of Energy and Earth Day

Hi Friends...My name is Anna from Simply Skilled in Second.  I am so excited and honored to be a guest blogger here at Minds in Bloom!

Today I wanted to share with you some fun, interactive, and interesting ideas and activities that I have been working on with my class the last few weeks, which in turn blends in very nicely with my upcoming unit on Earth Day.

Recently, my class was learning about different forms of Energy.  Our grade level decided to make our Energy Unit more fun and interactive so we decided to have an Energy Fair!  Each of the five teachers took one form of energy to teach and all of the classes rotated to each classroom.  The kiddos LOVED it and learned so much from our Energy Fair.  At every class they did an experiment pertaining to thier form of energy.  My energy experiment was on Light Energy... Here are some of the things that we did..

This was the briefcase that the students collected all of their science experiment recording sheets in.

This is the light energy mini-book that I used with my students during our light energy experiment.

The BEST culminating activity to our unit on energy was going on a field trip to 

This energy plant uses household trash to create renewable Electrical Energy!  HOW COOL IS THAT!  We had a tour of the facility and they explain to the students HOW electrical energy is made by burning household is that for being GREEN!  Wheelabrator Energy plant is a FREE feild trip as well.  They have 17 different Wheelabrator Plants around the country.  

This is a really cool video that shows the whole process of how burning household trash can be turned into renewable electrical energy!  Very Interesting and smelly...But COOL!

When we returned from Wheelabrator Energy Plant, we completed a writing activity on how Wheelabrator creates electrical energy using time order words and wrote in a fun little book.

This was our culminating project for our Energy Unit.  Each child made a flip flap book which allowed them to "Show What They Knew" about the different forms of Energy.  They also wrote an opinion paragraph about the form of energy they believed to be the most important and added it to the back of their Energy Flip Flap Book!

What I LOVE about this unit is that it directly correlates to our unit on Earth Day!  As soon as we finish our unit on Energy, we move into our Earth Day lessons and activities during Science because they are intertwined ideas and concepts.  During our Earth Day unit, I read a few different books and I show them this cute little video.  My students will write about how and why to conserve water, electricity and trees.  The will write and learn about how to protect our environment and draw and label pictures about how they can Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.  They will also write a short acrostic poem related to Earth Day and define important vocabulary.

Here is a fun little video that I show my students every year...

I also read these books to my kiddos...

I tend to be more of a project-based teacher, so I always try to come up with innovative ways to get my kiddos excited about what they will learn and accomplish at the end of a unit.

For Earth Day, my students will create a lapbook to display all of their activities in.

Here is what our lapbook will look like...

If you would like to take a peek at this unit, you can head on over and check it out in my TPT Shop!
Just click the image above and you can head on over there :) new friends... This in a nutshell is how I integrate teaching Forms of Energy and Earth Day.  My kiddos LOVE all of our activities because they are interactive and FUN :)  What more could they want!

As I promised... I wanted to share a few FREEBIES with you from this post :)

Click the image below to snag my Trash Can writing templates and my Light Energy mini-book from my Energy Unit!   I hope you can use some of these resources in your classroom!

I am so excited that I was given the opportunity to share my ideas and resources with Rachel's followers!  It's been a BLAST!

Just a little about me....

I have been a teacher for over 21 years.  Most of those years I have been teaching second grade.  What I find so exciting and challenging is that I have students with such varying ability levels.  I love to differentiate my instruction to address the different ability levels in my classroom, so many of resources can be used for students up to 4th and sometimes 5th grade!  Creating rigorous, FUN, and interactive resources that are aligned with the common core state standards is what I strive to do with each unit I create. 

Big Hugs,

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Adding Geography to the Daily Lesson

Please welcome Michele Luck of A Lesson Plan for Teachers!  Did you know Michele and her husband travel the United States everyday in an RV?  They live and breath geography and social studies.  Today, she shares with us the many ways you can incorporate geography into your lessons.  Thanks for sharing Michele!

Many elementary teachers are stressed with time limits as they attempt to teach all the standard-based content to their students each year.  Oftentimes, this leads many to make the hard decision to remove those subjects deemed less important from their curriculum.  Typically at the top of this list is Social Studies, especially Geography.

When basic Social Studies skills are not taught at the elementary level, students are ill prepared for middle and high school courses, but more importantly, they are hindered in their ability to navigate our ever-changing world.

Still, the time constraint requires teachers to make changes.  How can teachers make those adjustments, while still addressing the skills that will be important to their students for the rest of their lives?
  • Utilize Reading passages that address Historic or Geographic content.  Use travel brochures or country guides to expose students to informational text Reading.  Allow students to investigate their favorite vacation destination and to read the reviews on tourist attractions to plan for their next visit.  Read about different cultures or the history of a location to use in analyzing the characters from a Reading text.

  • Learn and practice Math skills by reading maps and analyzing Geographic data.  Analyze mileage from location to location and compare routes based on distance.  Evaluate transportation costs to travel from place to place by using mileage information and current gasoline prices.  Practice mapping coordinates with longitude and latitude or by viewing the world in the four different hemispheres. 

  • Review images from around the country or around the world to engage students in Reading content.  Use spiral questioning techniques with images to prompt critical thinking.  Assign travel projects where students create image collages for the places they wish to visit.  Utilize Chamber of Commerce or Tourist sites to introduce students to other regions of the world and allow them to make comparisons through the analysis of images.

  • Allow students to research different parts of their country or the world to practice gathering evidence and providing factual information.  Pair students to research to create maps of their favorite place or of the place in a book they are reading.  Practice presentation skills with facts about other countries gathered through student-centered research.

  • Encourage students to write about Geographic topics, from those based on visuals to personal accounts of family travels.  Have students create brochures or maps for their dream vacation or their personal utopia.  Use country facts to prompt comparison writing assignments as a daily practice activity.

  • Build Archeology Sites from which students can "dig up" informational text on focused topics of study.  Use the Dig Site to hide matching cards on book characters or factual information for a class review.  Insert images and fact cards on Math or Science content into the Dig for students to gather and analyze.

  • Travel the settings of classroom literature through Walking Tours or Gallery Walks to allow students to see the story as they read it.  Allow students to create their own Museum Wall for a class Walking Tour for review at the end of book reading. 

  • Use Games, Scavenger Hunts, or Task Cards to attack one fact or skill a day that reviews from the Social Studies content area. Set up your classroom like a game board for class review, and practice Geography skills (directions, longitude, latitude, hemispheres, etc.) to play the game.

If students are introduced to Social Studies in elementary school in ways that are more fun and more engaging, it will help them grow to love a subject area that is often under-appreciated or hated in the upper levels.  It will also set the foundation for them they need to help them be more successful citizens of our world as they grow into adulthood.

Happy Teaching!
Michele Luck


Michele Luck's Social Studies
 Growing up as a military dependent, Michele Luck learned to love travel and everything Social Studies as a child.  After earning a BA in History and Education, and a Masters in Secondary Social Studies and Curriculum Instruction, she taught in the Kentucky public school system in grades 6-12 for over 15 years.  She has recently sold her home and all her possessions to travel the country in a 40' motorhome with her husband, where she admits she is learning about the country's Geography all over again!  She opened her TpT Store in 2007, offering Social Studies resources for grades 6-12.  She also writes her blog, A Lesson Plan for Teachers, hoping to offer guidance to new and experienced teachers as they navigate the ever- changing world of the classroom!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

7 Reasons to Use Interactive Notebooks

Hello! My name is Jennifer Smith-Sloane from 4mulaFun and I am ECSTATIC to be here at Minds In Bloom with you today! I have been using Interactive Notebooks in some way, shape or form for the past 8 years and "officially" the correct way since Fall of 2010. I have seen so many benefits with the usage of them over the past years as well as grown and developed as a teacher to better help my students. Currently I travel around and present not only about the benefits but also how to implement and sparking ideas in teachers to help them along their way.

So what is it about Interactive Notebooks that make them such a hot commodity in education? Why are they such a beneficial tool for students and teachers? What can classrooms and parents gain from their usage?

1. Interactive Notebooks teach students to organize and synthesize their thoughts.
By working with students to create a process for them to organize their thinking you will be able to teach study skills without "teaching" them. Processes build structure and and the with use of left and right side pages students will naturally organize their thoughts.

2. Interactive Notebooks accommodate multiple learning styles at one time in (and out of) the classroom.
Whether you do teacher input activities as a whole group or a small group, student output activities give students the ability to show exactly where they are in their understanding of the subject.

3. Student-Teacher-Parent interaction is built and strengthened with the use of Interactive Notebooks.
When students are working on homework at home with their Interactive Notebooks, not only will students be able to use them but parents will be able to have a resource into the learning that is taking place in the classroom.

4. Students are building a portfolio that allows for teachers to track growth over time.
Reflections of what students are learning in their output pages (as well as the work shown) will show how they are synthesizing the information learned in class and as students develop further skills this will be reflected in their output. These reflections are great to show during parent-teacher conferences and even discuss during student-teacher conferences.

Comparing Quantities with WKU Flippable

5. Interactive Notebooks have students create a resource to use as they continue to extend their learning.
An interactive notebook works as a textbook for students that is theirs. Not only are they taking beneficial notes, practicing and reflecting on material but they are also using that information as they work on future activities. Students are going back and reviewing the prior pages repeatedly and therefore building exposure to the material each time.

6. Students take ownership of their learning through color and creativity.
One of the main things that helps students to buy in to the use of Interactive Notebook is not the benefits they can see from it but the ability for it to be their own. When students know, and are allowed, to use color in their notebooks it makes their notes come alive. Using colored paper, markers, colored pencils, etc. make it easier to sort information and group things together. This creativity also sparks the visual learning when they are expected to remember and apply the information at a later date.

7. Interactive Notebooks reduce clutter in the classroom as well as in student's lives.
By having students take all of their notes and then also practice and reflect in one location it allows for them be organized and therefore eliminates excess papers being lost and misplaced when students would benefit from using them as they learn.

Are you looking into starting Interactive Notebooks in your classroom? I've compiled several of my resources into an Interactive Notebooks Starter Pack to help you get started or even to enhance what you are already doing in your classroom. Just click on the image below to grab your copy for free by clicking on the image below.

Interactive Notebooks Starter's Pack


I have been an educator for 10 years with experience in elementary, middle school, and college. Math has been my passion since a young age which no doubt resulted in my secondary math-teaching career. Currently I am a a Differentiated Curriculum Designer and Presenter traveling the nation to train teachers on the effectiveness of Interactive Notebooks and Differentiation in the classroom. When she is not traveling and training I live in a Dallas, TX suburb with my husband Michael and our two dachshunds, and spend time blogging at 4mulaFun and creating resources for my TpT Store.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Awesome Movement Activity for Task Cards, Review, Brain Breaks and More!

I recently came across this awesome freebie from  Literary Sherri. It will get your kids up and moving and can be used in so many different ways!

Basically, you have your students form two circles, one inside the other with an equal number of kids in each one. The students on the inside face outward so that each one has a partner on the outside circle. Then the pairs ask and answer questions before one of the circles moves in a particular way (which Sherri details in her freebie). It isn't just moving one space to the left or the right and that is part of the fun. Sherri also lists a whole bunch of ways to use this idea and provides some tips as well.

It occurred to me that if you were going to do this with task cards, you could give one to each student. After reading their cards to their partners (and answering) students could switch cards before moving on - kind of a twist on Quiz, Quiz, Trade. Then when they got new partners, the learning would be reinforced when they read their new cards. If I were working with younger kids I might also give it a more kid-friendly name...maybe Circle Up!

So, be sure and download the freebie and if you would like to share how this game works for you and if you like it, be sure to leave some feedback on the product page.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Reading Informational Text and Doing Research in the Dual Language Classroom

Please welcome Kelly of Learning in Two Languages.  Today she gives us a wonderful peak of how she teaches reading informational text and research in a dual language classroom.  Thanks for sharing Kelly!

Teaching children to effectively use comprehension skills to understand what they read is not an easy task. As teachers we know that we can spend months helping students tackle complex texts; however, I have learned that it all becomes clear whether we have equipped them with all they need when they have to apply what they have learned. There is not a better way to gauge our students’ reading skills than when we ask them to do research.

In the dual language classroom (where students receive instruction in both Spanish and English) children are expected to be able to read complex informational texts in both languages. Using the reading block alone is not enough; therefore, all instruction needs to be connected to be able to work (social studies, science, writing, and reading). During our informational reading unit, students began exploring texts in Spanish, writing in English, and finished by doing research in both languages (reading in Spanish and writing in English).

When the informational unit was introduced, we looked at the different features present in these types of texts (titles, subtitles, photos, captions, bold letters, italics, and more). Children read plenty of texts at their independent reading level. During writer’s workshop, students wrote about a topic they were ‘experts’ on, so they could focus on really learning the features of non-fiction rather than doing research. We then moved on to learn about text structures and how non-fiction may be organized (chronological order, cause & effect, problem solution, etc.) This was a challenging concept for some students, but it was the first time (as fourth graders) they were studying this.

In the State of California, a big unit in fourth grade, centers on the Spanish Missions. This was the perfect opportunity to see students in ‘real’ action as they were reading to gather specific information on a topic that was new to many of them. During reader’s workshop, children learned different ways to take notes (using sticky notes, read-think-write, and partnerships among other strategies) and how to look for specific information when doing research. During the writing and social studies periods, children continued doing research and meeting with partners, or with me (either independently or in small groups).
It was a trial and error at first, especially because as dual-language students they were reading in one language and writing in another. The truth is we tried MANY things, but I feel that the one strategy that was most beneficial and effective was a combination of partner work and breaking down passages into smaller
more manageable pieces. Here is how we did it:

First, I paired up children who were strong in Spanish with children who were not as proficient but could handle writing in English. Why? Because in this combination students really needed each other to succeed.
Second, I went to the local library and checked out books on the missions in both English and Spanish (over 50 books).
Third, I made copies of many of the books. Copies? Yes, this way students would be able to highlight, write, and make specific marks/take notes when reading directly on the page.

Fourth, I specifically taught highlighting skills and how we should treat our highlighters as gold (you cannot waste it and highlight everything).
Using the ELMO to model highlighting

Fifth, we practiced, practiced and practiced what it meant to work on pairs. What it looked like? What it sounded like? I am a big believer in modeling and teaching children exactly what we want from them. Students had several discussion starters and practiced using them throughout the day (not just during reading/writing/social studies). I also filmed them with the purpose of analyzing those conversations and work as a class. The debriefing part was fascinating and while children a bit shy at the beginning, they loved it towards the end.

Sixth, I purposely divided the sections on the copies I made. This way students were asked to STOP after a specific section, discuss what had happened and either record something they found to be important or keep reading.

Seventh, teach them to read and research with a purpose. What information where they looking for? What questions did they want answered? We discussed how it is always easier to find something we are looking for.

Eight, use technology last. Computers were used towards the end because I felt that students were too overwhelmed by the information that was available at times and too much time was spent looking at sources that were not very reliable.

Ninth, I met and coached students as they needed. Some groups were able to do great without much input; others needed more guidance and support.

Tenth, I reemphasized the importance to really THINK about their reading did they understand and can they explain what they read. If there were not able to, they had to re-read. That was the first sign that they needed to take out and use another reading strategy.

And finally, hold them responsible for their final piece. It does not have to be something big, but a small presentation (2 minutes) will suffice.

I know it is quite a long list, but children need to be explicitly taught how to read for information, answer questions and take notes. Many students, I felt, were able to master and do great research. Others, I know still need to work on this, but I am glad I know first hand who they are. I am proud of not only their bilingualism, but also their biculturism. 


Born and raised in Ecuador, South America, Kelly moved to the United States when she was 18. She obtained a bachelor degree in business administration and later worked in the private sector for a few years. She returned to school and obtained her teaching credentials and master degree in education. Kelly’s teaching journey has taken her many places, and this year she moved to a dual-language school, which is the main reason she decided to start her own blog (Learning in Two Languages) and create her own bilingual teaching resources.
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