Thursday, December 30, 2010

reading website
I love the posters about conflict on this site. She is a middle school english teacher, but she has lots of great ideas about how to use picture books to teach literary elements such as imagery, foreshadowing, and theme.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Everglades: 5th grade Trophies

The entire story, Everglades, by Jean Craighead George, is in the fifth grade Trophies anthology. I found a great Storyworks resource to accompany the story. The magazine article , Monsters of the Everglades, can be shown on the Smartboard. The website also has a great short video about invasive species in other places in the US. Storyworks provides worksheets and tests as well. After visiting this website, I am considering buying a subscription for the next school year.

If you don't follow Mary Blow from Scholastic Top Teaching, here is a link to her post. She has a great post on the Storyworks site.

This is a vocabulary lesson from the story, Everglades, that I like to use. These words are all synonyms used on page 257 for a large amount.  You could also use a linear array to list the words in a different way. Christine

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Teacher tipster Here is a new website with videos on many topics that I found interesting. Most of the tips are for teachers in the primary grades. Christine

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Day at Pine Glen

What a great video to show all of the wonderful things that go on in elementary schools across the country  on a daily basis (this school is in Massachusetts). Christine

Saturday, December 11, 2010


My students really enjoy using Playaways in the classroom for silent sustained reading time. I get them from my library consortium. Each Playaway comes in a plastic case. Inside is a 2 by 3 inch "tape" of the story. You have to provide your own headsets and battery to run it. The kids like it because its individual...they have total control over the story.I have been reading recently on other blogs about classrooms using Ipods for S.S.R. This is a good alternative if you don't have any Ipods in your school. Christine

Monday, December 6, 2010

The new way vs. the old way

The NEW way (Smartboard)

The OLD way (poster and tape)
 I'm finding that a lot of my posters have become obsolete because of the Smartboard. I love the tools, especially the highlight option (so much easier than my highlighting tape!) We have been working on poetry quite a bit recently. I have found it is just so easy to quickly type a poem into Notebook and then use the tools to teach the lesson. Christine

Sunday, December 5, 2010

I used a site called to copy the Flisti poll onto my blog. I had to take the Walmart add as well. Christineclip

I have been trying to find a way to put a poll on my classroom blog for a while now. This site, allows you to make a simple poll and link it to your site. You can also embed the URL but I haven't figured that out yet! I also love that you don't have to sign up for the site.We are studying hurricanes in class this week. I made a simple poll for my fifth graders about which state gets hit the most by hurricanes, with a link to find out the correct answer. Christine

Friday, November 26, 2010

fiction vs. nonfiction: whats the difference?

Although I like to use my umbrellas for teaching genre (see previous post under genre)I like this lesson as well. I have the students make a list (or use a venn to compare and contrast) to give the elements of fiction and nonfiction. Christine

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

My delicious
If you are interested in sites full of Smartboard lessons for 4th and 5th grade check out my Delicious bookmarks. I have been adding to the account any site I like that has interactive whiteboard lessons.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Have You Filled A Bucket Today? 

We discussed this wonderful book on our Professional Development Day. I have posted the link to Beth Newingham's blog post. I love what she does with this book. I also think its a great choice for the One School One Book program. Christine

Friday, November 12, 2010

Tight Times inferencing lesson
Here is a video of an inference lesson on the book Tight Times by Barbara Shook Hazen

This RI site has lots of videos of educators teaching inferencing skills to elementary age students:

Should There Be Zoos? A persuasive text

I love this book Should There Be Zoos by Tony Stead. I must warn you that it is hard to find a copy. Thank you Sue O. for this lovely gift that appeared in my mailbox one day! I have looked for a copy of this book for three years (I know, what a nut). I found a lesson for this book in Reality Checks by Tony Stead. Let me tell you how it went: We began by answering the question: Should there be zoos? My fifth graders for the most part said yes. Just using their background knowledge it seemed to them pretty straightforward. If you look at the top of the poster you can see that almost everyone was in the first two categories. Next, we read the book together. It is filled with factual essays written by children that either support or are against zoos. Each essay is written to persuade the reader to lean in one direction or the other. We rated each essay with a 1, 2 or 3 for how persuasive they were. We talked about which points persuaded us the most.The children all said that the essays which played on their feelings were the most persuasive.
Almost all of the children changed their position after reading the book. Most of them moved their sticky to the strongly against zoos side. A few children still felt strongly that zoos are necessary and important. Only one child stayed in the same spot. I have to say that the class really enjoyed learning about the pros and cons of zoos. They told me the lesson really made them THINK (something I'm a fan of!) Christine

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Blogging with 5th graders

I recently started blogging with my 5th graders using
I did a little research to make sure the site was safe and then I plowed in. I have to say I am impressed with what they have done so far. I have children blogging about: wolves, myths, ponies, the Red Sox, summer vacation and so on.They are commenting on each others blog posts.Some are posting pictures and Youtube videos about what we are learning in class. I have posted a few questions to get them going like: What did you learn from our M.O.S. program, and what was your favorite book we have read so far this year.
We did have to come up with a few rules. Here they are so far:
  • Be positive in your comments (if you don't have something nice to say, don't comment)
  • Use correct spelling, capitalization  and punctuation. This is not texting with your friends. It is a school site. Proper language is required.
  • Make sure someone can learn something from your blogging. This is our purpose - to learn from each other.
They learned what a moderator was (me). This is still a work in progress but so far it has been a success.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Tight Times inferencing lesson

Here is a picture of my poster on the story Tight Times by Barbara Shook Hazen. This is a really good story for teaching inferencing. You can infer characters motivations and the characters feelings in this book. You can also predict easily what will happen next. I have copies of the book for each child. We read the story together and they make their thinking visible by writing inferences on post it notes. Later we go back and find the text based evidence or picture clue that helped us infer. Christine

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

This week I read the story Miss Alaineus: A Vocabulary Disaster  by Debra Frasier to both the 4th grade and the 5th grade. I was sure someone would guess what my Halloween costume would be (surprise: no one did!) I used the Smartboard to read the story to them. Here is the link  Caution: 90% of the story is on the site, you will need the book to read 2 or 3 pages that are missing from the website. They loved seeing the book projected on the Smartboard and we had a lot of fun playing Hangman on the Smartboard during our Halloween party.  I have another post on the book Miss Alaineus ( a Youtube video).Christine

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The comprehension toolkit

Here is a lesson I got out of the Comprehension Toolkit. Thank you Kathy D. for lending it to me! The toolkit comes with 4th/5th grade nonfiction articles and lessons to do based on the reading strategies in The Keys To Comprehension book by Harvey and Goudvis.It also comes with a CD that I was able to use with my Smartboard. This lesson, Summer of the Shark, was about adding new information to known (background knowledge). The topic of sharks is great because kids do have a good amount of background knowledge on the topic.The lesson also explores the idea of a misconception. I modeled my own background knowledge about sharks, and then hid a misconception so that I could correct my own thinking during reading. I then had the students read the rest of the article with a partner to see if they had any misconceptions. We also added our new learning as you can see from the poster. Christine 

This is the whole toolkit with some picture books

Monday, October 25, 2010


I made my first webquest ever! We are reading Dear Rosa Parks in our 5th grade Trophies anthology, so I made a webquest to increase the students' background knowledge about RP.Here is the link It includes two websites and a Youtube video. Christine

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Saturday, October 16, 2010


Every year I wait. Some years it takes only days, other years it takes weeks. Eventually one of my fourth graders asks why my reading chair has the name Fred painted on it. That's when I put out the book The Old Woman Who Named Things by Cynthia Rylant. Its a wonderful book about an old woman who has outlived all of her friends. She is so sad she refuses to ever again name something that could die. She names her car Betsy, her house Roxanne and her favorite chair... you guessed it! FRED. Her feelings change toward the end of the story. I won't spoil it for you. You'll have to read the book. Christine

Sunday, October 10, 2010

literary report card

We have just finished reading Among The Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix. One activity I did was to have the students produce a "report card" for Jen, a pivotal character in the book. I picked the subjects (which are closely related to character traits) and the children gave her the grade. They also had to produce some text based evidence as to why they gave the grade they did. The students debated what the appropriate grade would be - I wrote what I could see would be the average . Later I asked the children: what characteristics does a good leader need? Having courage, patience, common sense and being a good listener came up. We decided Jen had some of the qualities a good leader needs, but she was lacking others.
After finishing the book I announced that it was the first book in a series. Book two went flying off the shelf! The fifth graders have become big Haddix fans. Scholastic bookclubs (Oct. and Nov.) has her other series on sale: Sent, Found and Sabotaged. Quite a few of the kids ordered them. Christine

Thursday, October 7, 2010

genre posters

 Here are pictures of the genre "umbrella"posters that I mentioned in a previous post. I got the idea from Nancy the Amazing. Christine

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Websites I like for teachers

Here is a great website to visit for intermediate teachers

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Donavan's Word Jar

The focus skill for the story Donavan's Word Jar from the 4th grade Trophies anthology  is narrative elements. I particularly like this story because it has more than one problem. The main problem is that Donovan has too many words in his word jar, but the story also has a smaller problem, a conflict between two characters. Both problems have different solutions. I got this poster directly out of the TE. I give the children a paper copy and we divide it in half  (problem #1 and problem #2). Its a great introduction to the concept that stories can have more than one problem. Compromise is also a vocabulary word for the week. I like that it is also the solution to one of the problems.   Christine

Mr. V's Wrap It Up

Sunday, September 26, 2010

writing website

Melissa Fourney at has some great free resources to help teachers teach writing in elementary school. I really liked the vocabulators and the young writers survival guide (it says this will only be available through the summer). Go check it out! Christine
these are the vocabulators, directions to make them are on the site

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I need my teachers to

What will you learn today? Christine

Sunday, September 19, 2010

teaching the Iditarod

Our fifth grade Trophies anthology has two stories related to the Iditarod: Woodsong by Gary Paulsen and Iditarod Dream by Ted Wood. I like to use two other picture books written by Robert J. Blake: one story is called  Togo and the other one is Akiak. Both stories have the same themes: determination, courage and the refusal to give up against incredible odds.Togo had an important role in the Great Serum Race which is the inspiration for the Iditarod (unfortunately,Balto gets all the credit). Akiak was determined to win the Iditarod and at ten years old he did: fighting injury, bad weather and rules that would have prevented him from continuing. Both stories have excellent maps to show the dog's journey and the pictures are incredible. Christine

Saturday, September 18, 2010

What I am reading right now

I think its pretty obvious to most teachers in the intermediate grades that the traditional weekly spelling test doesn't necessarily produce better spellers. I gave them up entirely a few years ago. But how do you help a child improve spelling skills? My answer to that has always been have them read, read, read and then read some more. This helps to strengthen the internal connection between reading and writing (spelling).I also assess daily writing for spelling and make notes about individual spelling issues my students are having. This book has some great lessons that help children think about how words are spelled instead of just memorizing lists of similarly spelled words. Christine

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Whole Brain Teaching: 6th Grade, Classroom Management

I've been trying out some whole brain teaching techniques such as class/yes, teach your neighbor and gestures. Today we used the techniques while retelling the story we have been reading.The beginning of the school year is a great time to introduce them. Utube has many video clips by Chris Biffle on Whole Brain Teaching, or Power Teaching. This one is a sixth grade math teacher. Christine

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A special book for the first day of school

The Golden Rule by Ilene Cooper was my chosen read aloud for the first day of school. Thinking about this ancient rule: Do unto others as your would have them do unto you is a wonderful way to begin our new school year together. I believe I originally found this book through One Book, One School, a program in which every classroom in the entire school reads, listens to, and talks about one book. (This book could be read to children from K-5.) How do you practice the golden rule? Listen, help others, tell the truth. Put yourself in someone else's shoes. Wonderful advice for children and for teachers.The golden rule is simple, but no one said it was easy. Happy first day of school. Christine

Monday, September 6, 2010

How to annotate

I use annotation (a form of notetaking) in my classroom for MCAS prep. This slideshare presentation shows a good explanation about what it is. Christine

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Chris Van Allsburg

My two favorite Van Allburg books are The Stranger and The Sweetest Fig. The Stranger is a great book to use when teaching inferring. You can see from my poster that I start with: I think the stranger is.... and Here are the clues (details) that helped me:  I put a sticky over the answer. As we read the book I had the children make their thinking visible on post it notes and then stick them to the page.We developed the list on the anchor chart together. Many children are able to understand that something unusual or magical is happening but they don't have the background knowledge to come up with the name Jack Frost. My other favorite Van Allsburg book is The Sweetest Fig. It gives the reading teacher lots to work with:                                      A main character you love to hate, an interesting setting and a terrific ending that makes the reader think. Christine

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Text structure for young readers

Text structure is a fifth grade standard. It is difficult to teach. This slideshare presentation would be very helpful. I think I'll show it on my SMARTBoard. Thank you Emily Kissner! Christine

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Literacy Bags

My summer project was to get some literacy bags up and running for my 4th graders.My purpose is to build background knowledge on various topics through a home/school connection. My mother stitched the names on these bags I found at the Dollar Store. Filling the bags was the fun part. We made 24 in all. I got the idea online. this website inspired me to try the idea with older kids. I tried to put a variety of materials in each bag: puzzles, stamps, games, fiction, nonfiction, read alouds, art projects and more. I'm so happy with the way they turned out! Christine

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Trophies grade four

Here is a poster for The Gardener, the first story in the 4th grade Trophies anthology. The focus skill is narrative elements. I copied this poster directly out of the TE. It is interactive (Velcro is stuck to the back). I think I would also use my retell glove to emphasize major and minor characters ( why are they major, why are they minor). I would also discuss who is the narrator and from whose point of view is the story being told.  Setting: time and place. Have them give text based evidence for both. Time is confusing here because of the genre. The story is told in letters. You have to pay careful attention to the dates above the letters to know when the events are happening (picture clues are also helpful). Problem: the conflict in this story is character against society ( the Great Depression causes the major event). Solution: the solution is interesting. You could say making Uncle Jim smile, but I also think the solution is making the best of a difficult situation. Lydia shows a positive attitude and it makes all the difference. The solution is tied up with the theme of the story. Christine

Saturday, August 28, 2010

tools not toys

Here are some tools I use with small reading groups. The place marker is just a piece of laminating scrap with a line drawn with permanent marker ( red or black) down the middle. I have the kids use it to help them track while reading. I like that you can see above the line and below the line. A regular placemarker like a bookmark does not allow you to do this.This great idea was given to me by Sue, our resource teacher. (I love the recycling idea as well.) The I spy glass is great to use for "word work". I copied them on color paper, then cut the middle out. Next I laminated them and then drew the rectangle in the middle. I have the children use them to look for an adverb or a compound word...any skill you are working on. It also works nicely to have them capture a word in the spy glass and then look for the context clues which surround the word. The witches finger is also good for tracking. You can buy these for $1 a pack at the Dollar store around Halloween. Of course kids look at these tools as toys. I like to get the playing out of the way first. Then we concentrate on using these as tools to help us learn. Christine
I keep my witches fingers in the box!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Harriet Tubman week

My mother is a quilter.(No, she's actually an artist who quilts.) Years ago she made me a queen size quilt called: The Story of the Underground Railroad. I asked her to make me a "mini" quilt of it because I couldn't easily show the large one in class. Here is a picture of my mini. It hangs on the back of my chair in reading circle. During Harriet Tubman week I introduce it to the kids. They love the panel that explains the significance of each quilt square. It acts like a puzzle. I posted both pictures but unfortunately the story panel is upside down :( I think you can still get the idea. Christine

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Number The Stars

Here is a word sort for the story Number The Stars. I had the students sort the list into 4 categories:

  • Character

  • setting

  • problem

  • solution 
After discussion as to where to put each thing on the list I asked them to add more possibilities. We also did a map for Number The Stars.  I will post that at a later date. Christine

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Mysteries from history

I really like this series by Jane Yolen. Each book is a different unsolved mystery from history. The text features she uses are really unique. This is a picture of the bulletin board I made after reading The Mary Celeste (my favorite of the 4) with my class.You can see she uses "stickies" to define words the kids might not know (in this book the words were about sailing). She has another box with background information for the reader. I haven't found a lot of picture books that are mysteries. This series inspired some of my readers to look for paperback mysteries. One thing the kids didn't really like was that these historical mysteries were never solved. At the end of the book,  the author encourages kids to use critical thinking skills to come to their own conclusions. Christine