Sunday, September 25, 2016

Seven Great Activities for Charlotte's Web


We just finished reading our Charlotte's Web as a class before the end of the first nine weeks of school. I feel that this is the most beautiful read aloud ever. Year after year, my students absolutely love the characters and they love this sweet story of friendship and kindness.

In the past I have moved from read aloud to read aloud without any further ceremonies. 
This year, and in the future, I want to celebrate every single read aloud and show my students how we can take a piece of literature and make it ours.
Last Thursday we celebrated in a big way and I really wanted to show you all what we did.

On the eve of Charlotte's Web Day, I asked my classroom parents if they could come and help me get the spider web words and the "salutations" banner up. I had to leave somewhat early to get my sweet N from middle school.
While I was doing the read aloud, I went in depth about the vocabulary and the meaning of the words that Charlotte weaves to save Wilbur. So I felt it was just about right to hang the words around the classroom. Luckily we found some fake spider web to hang the words! 

We also created this great "some class" bulletin board. I wrote the kids' names on little pieces of paper and  let them pick one at random. Once they had picked one name, they wrote about the friend that they picked. Opinion writing from the heart!
They wrote the most beautiful things about each other.
Made me cry.
After they wrote,  they got to assemble a spider for each other as well.

I also made posters with memorable quotes for display.  I had the classroom parent crying too.

We also completed this craftivity where we analyzed the characters of Wilbur and Charlotte. We also reviewed theme and author's message with it!

You know how at the end of the story, Charlotte's babies (the balloonists)  fly away from the barn cellar? Well, I  figured that we could have a STEM activity where we help the baby spiders land safely. We made parachutes using ribbon, Dixie cups, paper towels and other things.
They completed a STEM mat where they recorded their attempts and illustrated their prototypes.

Towards the end of the day we had spider eggs and Wilbur's brew. Yum!!!

At the end of the day I handed "Charlotte's Web" awards. Just like  Wilbur won a special prize at the  fair, each student received a special award that tied them to a special character in the story.

We had a grand time.
I cannot wait to finish our second read aloud and celebrate!

Just in case you are interested in doing these activities with your students, they are available in my TPT store. They are perfect for any time of the year!

You can get it by clicking HERE!

Thanks for reading teacher friends, until next time!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

How to Throw a Book Tasting For 2nd Graders

Teacher friends
Desperate times call for desperate measures.
A couple of weeks ago one of my students came back from the school library with a board book.
Yes, a board book.  And don't get me wrong here. I want to empower my readers and let them choose what they want to read. But I also want my readers to challenge themselves and tackle grade level stuff. After all, there is a standard that requires us to address text complexity, right?
This is one of my most capable and skillful readers.
The next day he came back from the library with a Jack Sparrow book with a lexile level of 1070.
Yes, that is about a 7th grade level. I mean thank you for trying to challenge yourself, but 7th grade?
Speak of desperate.

I have told you all before how my school librarian, Mrs. Parker,  is the best librarian in the history of librarians.
And I mean that.
So I went up to her and told her how most of my students were not making good book choices.
And then she asked:
-Well have you shown them what series are available?
Umm no.
- Have you had a series of "just right books" lessons with them?
Umm yes.

We both came up with the idea of a book tasting event based on something that we saw on  Pinterest.
We set a date and divided on things to do.
This is what she did:
  • Decide on a genre
  • Look for 6 different series or authors who have several books out
  • The series picked needed to be within the 300 and 500 Lexile levels
  • She also  made the tasting plates

This is what I did:
  • Make props like tasting cards, a menu, and a selection sheet for students
  • Make label for trail mix
  • Get donations from parents in terms of snacks, tablecloths, and disposables.
  • Set up a parent volunteer who could come and help us on the day of the tasting.

These are some pictures:

Click HERE to download this book tasting menu. And BTW I made this menu using Canva.

Mrs. Parker decided that for our first tasting, the flavor of the month should be realistic fiction. So we made realistic fiction trail mix! 
My sweet DBo (My  former and talented assistant made the labels) you can download them by clicking HERE!

Each student got a book sample slip. After Mrs. Parker introduced each series, the students walked around the library and took a taste. After the taste, they would circle YES or NO to show if they liked it or not. Each student was also required to make a final choice. To get this sample slip, please click HERE!

All in all the kids had an absolute blast! The activity was different, enlightening, funny. Mrs. Parker has a gift for engaging audiences.

Mrs. Parker created the tasting plates. She wrote a blurb... we are are becoming true expert blurbologists.

In order to get a copy of the series-snack labels, please click HERE!!


Of course not everything was rainbows and fairies.
At the end of the day, we got back together and touched base on a couple of things before we throw our second book tasting event around Halloween time.
These are the changes that we will make:

  • No food on the tables. We noticed that some students were more focused on getting snacks than anything else. We will still keep the trail mix in a bag, and the students will get to take it home to families to discuss the contents and what they have learned.
  • We will both dress up for the second book tasting.

I still have a couple of students who are not making good choices. And I am still reflecting on how to  help them get hooked on a book they love. Hooking kids on reading takes time, and that is OK. 
I would love to hear your suggestions and the things that you do in your classrooms to reach every reader.
Thank you for reading teacher friends, until next time!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Anchor Charts for the Beginning of the Year

Well we are  finally settled into our second grade little classroom! The days are productive and enjoyable, small groups for reading and math are in full sail, and I... well, I finally have some time to blog.

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook you have probably already seen all these anchor charts.  I am a a BIG believer in the power of anchor charts as a "first time learning" tool and an anchor for ongoing reference.
If you want to learn more about anchor charting, these are the resources I have read and learned from:

Click on the picture to get from Amazon

Click on the Picture to get from Amazon

The authors of these two amazing books, also have a super blog, that I check regularly for fantastic ideas, you can go there by clicking HERE!

Of course you also need anchor chart paper and Scentos markers. My favorite scent comes from the brown marker... it smells like ooey gooey cinnamon buns. Yum!

Click on the picture to get from Amazon
Click on the picture to get from Amazon.

So let me show you and tell you the why, how, and when of the following anchor charts.

Growth Mindset

Growth Mindset is a super powerful idea by Carol Dweck in her book "Mindset the New Psychology of Success."   I felt it was important to show my students that we can approach our goals with two different mindsets. A growth mindset, and a fixed mindset.  I don't think, my students have ever heard about this concept before. In order to make things relatable I made the following anchor chart the day after:

Well I figured that my students know about Cam Newton. {We are in NC, go Panthers!} Every single time, anyone feels like giving up on something, I ask them: Is that what Cam would do? Just in case you are wondering, I found this picture online.
Plain all Google images. 
I posted this anchor chart in one of the teacher Facebook groups. Most of the teachers thought the idea was genius... they just had to use another athlete.


Let me just tell you that this anchor chart is NOT my idea. This anchor chart came from this top-notchness of a book:

Click on the Picture to get from Amazon.

Goal setting, strategies, and really approaching needs to make my readers more aware... that's what I am all about. After  creating this anchor chart, I have met my students individually to check on the type of strategies that they need to work on in order to advance on their reading journey
I also made this form (also inspired by The Reading Strategies Book) in order to give my students something to hold on to when they are practicing their strategies without teacher support:

You  can download this form by clicking HERE!

My students keep this form in their reading strategies/tools folder and they refer to it constantly. I leave them notes when I confer with them, and they give themselves a check mark every time they use  the strategies successfully.

Now, this anchor chart I simply wanted to share with you. It is not something that necessarily has to be done at the beginning of the year, but it is good reference since my second graders have to be proficient in asking and answering questions with who, what, when, where, why, and how.

Y'all I am the "Just Right" books police I swear! This year, I am determined, more than ever, to help my students become life-long readers. So this lesson, took place at the very beginning of our Daily 5 routines. I made this flow map showing my students the steps in choosing just right books. After the lesson, I have made sure to double check on their reading choices. Even though, I do not want to limit my students' reading choices, I am teaching them to find the right fit when it comes to books!


A number of years ago I read the BEST book on writer's workshop by far.

Click on the picture to get from Amazon

I never forgot how the author talks about her visiting a classroom and seeing the kids' drafts full of red marks. She was very surprised and taken by the fact that the red marks came from the students own editing pens. And here we go back to the idea of learning from each other and helping each other be better.  So one of the first lessons that I did with my 2nd grade authors this year started with this anchor chart:

I also provide a small cup full of  ink pens. For the past two rounds of Daily 5 stations, I have asked my students to write a piece, THEN find and editing partner and edit together.

This week, this was one of the pieces produced by my students. I mean really. Happy teacher heart. I have the best job in the world.


Oh word problems! We will certainly tackle you this year. And it all begins with teaching our students an assortment of strategies to problem solve.

I am not a math person. I have written before about my 6th grade math teacher and how she ruined it for me. I go back to those years, and I so desperately want to do math the right way for my students and my own boys.

OK friends, this is all for now. I have to get going since my sweet Nico will start middle school on Monday and I need to go shopping.
Until next time!