Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Publishing Students' Writing

Ever feel like you're pushing a boulder up hill trying to get your students to write?  Wondering how to motivate them?  One of the best things I've ever done to turn my students on to writing is the assure them that they'd never have to write for me-well, not just me, that is.  They would choose an audience, write for them and share it with them.

Writing is a form of communication, and it only becomes meaningful when students are communicate with an audience that holds value for the them.  So, here are 20 ideas of ways to help your students  publish their share it with a real audience.

1. Publish on blog-Have your students create a blog.  They can post their work, share it and comment back and forth.  Google and yahoo have free, user friendly blogs.

2. Publish on allow students to create their own website and publish their work.  They can share access to a site and work together on a piece.

3. Put into a class book-Have students write short stories, poems, raps, etc and create a booklet collection for all of the students to keep.

4. Put in newsletter-If your school sends out newsletters, ask if your students can write a column.  I had one of my classes write weekly essays.  I chose the best one to be published in the weekly school bulletin.  Students were excited to revise their work when it was being published and shared school wide.

5. Create a contest-Sponsor a writing contest.  Select community members and/or staff to judge the essays and award the winner publicly.

6. Present in a talent show-Have students share their writing in school assemblies and talent shows.

7. Poetry slams

8. Bulletin board-Post student work on bulletin boards...the more public, the better.

9. Place student writing in doctor/dentist offices-Create booklets with student writing and ask local dentists and doctors if you can leave them in their waiting rooms.

10. Pen pals

11. Reviews-Make part of the students' grade sharing what they wrote with people outside the school and collecting reviews/feedback forms.

12. Dedications-Have students create dedication pages and encourage them to share their essays with those the papers are dedicated to.

13. Portfolios-Have students keep portfolios with their writing.  Share these portfolios with families during parent teacher conferences.

14. Turn their essays into speeches-Have them present their writing to the class.

15. Submit to magazines-Have students submit their writing to magazines that publish entries.

16. Books-Oriental Trading Company sells blank books students can decorate and fill in.

17. Young Authors Society-Start a group where students can share and publish their writing.

18. Nationwide Writing Contests

19. Make it a gift-Have students turn essays into gifts.  For example, in May they can write letters to important women in their lives and give them to those women for Mother's Day.

20. Dramatic readings to younger grades-Have students write and share their writing with younger grades.  They can turn them into books and leave them behind for the younger children's classroom library.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Thanksgiving Fast Finisher Art Freebie!

I recently posted my latest product on my TPT store, a freebie for Thanksgiving! Check out my Thanksgiving Fast Finisher Art Activities pack. This pack contains 10 printable drawing pages that are perfect for the fast or early finishers in your classroom. Each page is printable in black and white or color and is easy for students to complete in your classroom to encourage their creativity.

Each page either contains artistic information or informs students about the Thanksgiving holiday. A wide variety of drawing exercises are included.

If you enjoy this packet, please take the time to rate it and then check out my year round Fast Finisher Creative Art Activities Pack which contains 50 printable fast finisher pages.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Fabulous Friday Freebies: Teaching Writing

There are so many quality sites to that offer assistance and free resources for teaching writing to all ages.  Here are some of the ones I find the most helpful and/or frequent the most...


#1: Rubistar has a ton of pre-made rubrics that you can alter to fit your assignment.  It is quick and easy to use.

#2: 6 + 1 Trait exemplars  allow you to norm your expectations as you work on various objectives from voice to organization to fluency.

#3:   is not a free website, but they have several examples that are posted on line for free.


#4: Life Magazine  has an online archive of photos.  They make great writing prompts.  Students can look at a picture and write a story about what happened before the picture, what is happening when the shot is taken and what is going to happen.  Or, students can look at the subject and write an internal monologue.  So many of the pictures are powerful and provocative.  If you want to connect it to what they're studying in social studies you can search by topic. 

Lessons and Programs:

#5: Writing Fix has a bunch of high quality materials and lessons to help with teaching writing.

#6:  6 + 1 Traits is one of the most widely used and highly respected writing programs for teaching the various components of composition and norming language and expectations amongst the staff.


#7:  Grammar Bytes   is a website with a plethora of printable exercises for teaching grammar to middle and high school students.


#8: Purdue Writing Owl has instructions for how to use MLA formatting in your research papers.

I hope at least one of these is something you can add to your toolkit.  If you have ones of your own that you like, please post them in the comments section and share them with our readers.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Dressing Up for Halloween

I realize that not every school allow or encourages their staff to dress in costume during Halloween or other holidays. However, if you ARE at a school that allows their staff to dress in costume, there are plenty of fun ways you can still teach your students with what you're wearing! Here are some costume ideas perfect for teachers that love to dress up.

This is me in my favorite teacher costume! I am an art teacher so of course I had to do something artistic and so I made myself into a painting. It was a very affordable costume which cost nothing since all I needed was a large piece of cardboard and paint (which I already have). Even though some students have already seen that costume I keep it around each year since students always get a kick out of it.

Here are some other ideas for perfect teacher costumes! has several suggestions of Halloween costumes for different teachers. For literacy teachers, you could dress like a character in a book your students are reading. Social studies or foreign language teachers could dress up from a certain culture or time period. has a cute article on making a book fairy costume. This could be perfect for a literacy teacher, librarian, or elementary school teacher. sells costumes that would be perfect for teachers but I think that many of these ideas could easily be made with either things you have around the house or with a simple trip to a used clothing store. A Sherlock Holmes costume could be easily put together or a Where's Waldo? costume as well. To create the classic stripes you could paint red acrylic strips on a white shirt.

Do you have a cute Halloween costume idea for teachers? Please let us know in the comments below.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Free School Year Reading Programs

Are you looking for a free reading program for your students to join during the school year? During the summer many companies sponsor these programs but the selection is more limited during the fall and spring. Here are two free programs still available you might enjoy participating in!

Book It is a free program sponsored by Pizza Hut. This program runs from October through March 31st during the school year. You can still enroll for this year! Students from K-6 are allowed to participate. Each month, teachers set a reading goal for their students and if the student meets the goal for that month, they earn a personal pan pizza and a passport book. Each subsequent month that students meet their reading goal, students get a personal pan pizza and a stamp in their passport.

Read to Succeed is a reading program sponsored by Six Flags. Any schools that have K-6 grade students within 250 miles of a Six Flags theme park can participate. You must register by March 1, 2013. Students must complete 6 hours of recreational, non-school related reading to earn one free ticket to Six Flags. If teachers submit the reading hours of at least one student, they can also earn a free ticket!

Do you know of a free reading program for students during the school year? Please share below and I'll feature it in a future article.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Fabulous Friday Freebies! Halloween Freebies Part II

Here is part II of the Halloween edition of Fabulous Friday Freebies! If you missed part I, check it out here. Otherwise, look before for some fun freebies for your little classroom ghosts and goblins.

First is this fantastic Halloween descriptive writing pack I found after checking out all the links on our favorite freebie linky party. I was impressed with a freebie of this length (20 pages) and the pages are very high quality. This lesson is recommended for 4th-6th grade.

For younger children that might be scared by most Halloween themes, this set of monster visual direction cards would be a fun way to incorporate friendly monsters into your classroom this year. Each monster has various cues to help remind students of their expectations.

If you are looking for a fun artistic activity, here are two free roll a dice drawing games. In one game you can draw a monster by rolling the dice and in the other you can create a jack-o-lantern. These type of activities help with students who get stuck on thinking of new and creative ideas and makes drawing more unpredictable.

This set of Halloween themed would you rather questions are perfect for a variety of ages. You can use these for a brain break, to start classroom discussions, as journal prompts/starters, or even answer the questions in small groups for team building.

Lastly, this science experiment idea is a fun twist on a classic science experiment. See all the details here! I can't imagine a student that would not have fun with this activity.

Thanks for checking out our Fabulous Friday Freebies!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Word Analogies

Students build their vocabulary through making word associations. They build their logic skills through analyzing analogies. So, word analogies are exactly the type of critical thinking skills we should have students engaging in on a regular basis. Included in my analogy packet are six word analogy centers around subjects including: U.S. geography, math, art, measurements, opposites, and word parts. Use these during a unit on one of the subjects above or have them available as extra credit stations for students to finish when they have a little extra time. They will surely be useful handouts to have in your bag of high quality activities to fill a few extra minutes here and there.

The last person to review it said, "Great for Daily 5!" 

For just $1.50 you can have a 4 star activity to make your students think!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Halloween Literacy & Fun Packet for Sale

Recently I updated my Halloween Literacy Packet which was the first item I ever posted on my TPT store! Since my first item I have learned a lot about how to make packets more appealing to students and how to include different types of lessons so I made some big changes.

Before I updated this packet it had only about five meager lessons with few graphics and few open ended activities. Now there is a greater variety activity, lots of fun graphics, and one of the centers includes a blank page so you can add your own words to the activity.

The packet now includes five literacy centers and two fun activities, all with a Halloween theme. The literacy centers that are included in this packet include a compare and contrast Venn diagram page, a Halloween writing prompt, a draw a description page, a Halloween story writing game, and a Halloween synonyms center.

Two fun activities are included which are a Halloween word search and a Halloween word scramble. The fun activities are perfect for a bonus fun activity, the last few minutes of class, or for fast/early finishers.

I'm excited about the game included in this packet. Students roll a die to determine their character, setting, and story's problem which is a fun way to encourage their creativity in writing. Two pages of Halloween themed writing paper is included for them to record their story on.

Thanks for checking out my Halloween literacy packet!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Fabulous Friday Freebies! Spanish Heritage Month Freebies

Here is this week's Fabulous Friday Freebies post...a special super-sized Saturday edition.

September 15-October 15 is Spanish Heritage Month.  Have you run out of ideas for what to do to cap it off on Monday?  Forgot all about it?  Looking to extend it?  Personally, I am a believer in teaching students about different cultures regardless of the time of year.  And, as a Spanish teacher, I know I will be putting these resources to good use throughout the calendar year.

Here are ten of the top sources on the web featuring free images, videos, lesson plans, games, printables and more.  

Número Uno: Over 50 free plans, activities, printables, etc.

Número Dos: Information/activities on famous entertainers to use in language arts, and economics to use in math.

Número Tres: Interactive web activities about people, culture, history, etc.  Great for a computer learning center.

Número Cuatro: Free printable coloring pages, wordsearches, etc.

Número Cinco:   The Smithsonian has free, high quality lesson and activities for all ages on a variety of topics.

Número 6: Government site with the history of the celebration, images, videos, short articles and more from the federal archives.

Número 7:  Free printable coloring pages of the flags of Latin American countries.

Número 8: National Education Association has lesson plans for all grades.

Número 9:  Spanish Heritage video created to recognize famous Latinos in all walks of life in the U.S.

Número 10: Lesson plans and articles from the New York Times

Monday, October 8, 2012

My Favorite Freebie Linky Party!

 We would like you to join us in our first ever Linky Party! Freebies are always a wonderful thing for teachers to have and use in their classroom so that is the topic of this linky party. Here are each of our favorite freebies.

My Zoo Animal Math Game freebie is my favorite because it is versatile (can be used with multiplication, addition, or subtraction) and all the cute zoo animals that are included! Everything is included in this game, all you need to supply is a pair of dice. More than 8,700 people have already downloaded this fun freebie!

Etc.'s favorite freebie is her Christmas Cookies freebie. She is a fantastic cook and this collection of recipes are all bake-less so you could even make them in your classroom, if you should so choose. I have tried all the recipes and they all are delicious!

So, those are our favorite freebies. Please share your favorite educational freebie in our party below by linking directly to your post with the freebie or the freebie itself and feel free to include our button! Please no giveaways.
<a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="" width="125" height="125" /></a>

Lesson on Peace

For just $2, you can purchase my newly posted lesson about peace. It includes a word map, higher order thinking journal prompt and art activity. The lesson will prompt students to think about what it means to live in peace and have them create a peace tree to decorate the classroom with or take home to discuss with their families. I've done this with my second and third grade students, and they were excited to share what they had learned and done.

Peace Trees from a brown paper simple yet so popular with the kiddos!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Fabulous Friday Freebies: Halloween Freebies!

As the weather chills down and the children prepare for a sugar rush, the freebies heat up! Here are some fabulous Halloween freebies! If you have a Halloween freebie that you would like to share, please let us know in the comments and we will consider featuring your freebie in one of our future October freebie editions.

This Halloween Dry Ice Secrets packet gives a ton of information about dry ice and ways to use it in your classroom for science experiments! I found lots of useful information and fun ideas to try in the classroom. This would be perfect for a variety of ages.

This Halloween Poetry Bookmarks freebie is a different way to get students to write by following directions written on Halloween themed bookmarks. Also included are blank bookmarks that can be used for poems and themed writing paper as well.

I selected this Halloween logic puzzle because these were one of my favorite activities in school. Although it is not geared towards any subject, it's a great activity for students to use their logic to figure out the puzzle.

Find a huge list of fun Halloween science experiment ideas on Science Bob's blog! There is a huge list of activities to capture your students' attention including an idea on how to make a screaming cup and a recipe for homemade slime.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

When Students Struggle to Comprehend: Vocabulary

Teaching students to decode words is the first major challenge for reading teachers.  The next is helping them comprehend what they read.  As a reading specialist in a high school, I've spent hundreds of hours  assessing students' ability to read using everything from ACT results to the Basic Reading Inventory by Johns.  Usually when they come to me they can pronounce the words.  The hard part is identifying who the word callers are...those students who can say the words, but don't understand.  And trust me when I say it: they exist in every classroom.

If it is frustrating to pinpoint our students' deficits, let us not forget how frustrating it must be for them.  They sit in class and all too often pass for proficient reads based on their ability to real aloud, knowing the whole time that they really don't understand...too embarrassed to ask a bunch of questions.  If their struggles are exposed by one of the many tests we administer, the exact struggle is not identified.  And, even if it is, the results may suggest something that isn't really true.

So, what do you do?  Start by teaching students vocabulary.  Here are a few tips...

#1: Teach students word parts.  This helps them to make associations.  For example, if they know that malnutrition means bad nutrition, then they can start to connect the prefix to other words.  They might not know what malady means, but they can process that it is something bad.

#2: Teach students context clues.  When I introduce a reading I make a table.  In the first column is the vocabulary used in a sentence.  In the second column students write what they think it means based on that sentence.  In the third column, they circle the context clue they used (analogy, definition, example, inference).  In the fourth column they read the word as it is used in one of the sentences in the reading.  In the last column they reword the sentence from the reading.  This is a great pre-reading activity.

#3: Have students do word sorts.  Give them words on individual slips of paper and have them arrange them in categories.  This helps them work on word associations.

#4: Don't overwhelm them.  Giving students a list of 5 words a week is plenty.  Make sure these words are relevant to what they're studying.  Pick the words that are key to understanding the lesson's central text.  These are the words that they will use to discuss and write about the text, thus creating meaningful and lasting connections.

#5: Put the words on a word wall.  Refer to the wall.  Have them decorate it with visual cues.  Make it interactive.

#6: Use word maps to allow students to interact with the vocabulary in a variety of ways. They can define it, use it in a sentence, draw it, identify synonyms, etc.

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