Sunday, June 28, 2015

Fabulous Freebies: Finding Grade Level Texts

Recently I was asked for tips on helping find appropriate texts for students.  So, I've compiled a list of resources that  are free and accessible.  These resources offer suggestions for how to assess a students' independent level along with how to find texts on a variety of levels and topics.  

#1: Unite For Literacy  is a site that has a collection of picture books.  Students can flip through the books online, read the text themselves and then listen to the audio recording of the page being read aloud.  Students can search according by content area.  Two new books are added to this site each week.

#2: Reading A to Z is a resource that costs about $100, but they do have free leveled sample texts online to download.  They also have programs and apps that they offer two week free trials on.

#3: While this is not a free resource, it is a bit of free advice for quickly assessing students' reading level.  The formula for testing whether or not a book is a good fit for the child is pretty simple.  Listen to a child read aloud.  If they make more than 5 uncorrected errors in a 100 word passage, the book is not at their independent level.  If the child shows an interest in a book that is beyond their independent level, don't discourage the child from reading it.  Instead make that a book they read with a buddy reader.

#4: Scholastic has a book wizard where parents can go and search for titles and cross check the levels.  If there is a series that the kids like, I'd encourage them to go through all of the books in that series, as they will all be at approximately the same level.  (For example, the Henry and Mudge books are all listed at level 16.)

#5: Project Gutenberg  has an online collection of children's literature whose copyright has expired.

#6: There is a collection of audio books at:

#7: Students can listen to books read aloud to them at:

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Eyes on the Prize Viewing Guide

Eyes on the Prize is a seminal documentary on the Civil Rights Movement. It is broken into 14 parts, each approximately one hour in length. So often today students feel so out of touch with that era, and have a difficult time conceptualizing what went on then, how it must have felt, etc. This documentary does an excellent job of bringing that piece of important history back to life.

I've bundled the six guides and am selling them for the discounted price of $5 if the buyer purchases all six at once instead of purchasing them individually (they are $1 each, if purchased separately). It includes:

AWAKENING about Emmett Till and the Montgomery Bus Boycott
FIGHTING BACK about integrating the schools
AIN'T SCARED OF YOUR JAILS about the sit-ins & Freedom Riders
NO EASY WALK about organizing & the March on Washington
IS THIS AMERICA? about Mississippi and the Freedom Summer
BRIDGE TO FREEDOM about the march from Selma to Montgomery

Each viewing guide is between 10 and 16 questions and includes an answer key.

Again, each of these is also sold separately for $1. If you interested in certain ones instead of the bundle, visit my store. 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Fabulous Freebies: Teaching Poetry

One genre that has always been challenging, yet rewarding for me to teach is poetry.  The Common Core expects students to dig into the nuances of language.  Poetry slow students down, requiring them to think through punctuation, word choice, tone, mood, etc.  So, I've been adding to my folder of resources for next year.  Here are a few of my new favorites...

Poem Hunter is a website that I have used many times.  You can search for free for just about any poem by just about any renowned poet.  There are biographies and videos available to accompany lessons.  This site can be used to access the texts or do a biography study of favorite poets.

This is one Limerick Writing lesson available for free on Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT).  The packet has examples, notes on what a limerick is and student friendly handouts so your students can write their own.  This would make a great writing lesson, introduction of limericks, extension lesson after students have read limericks or even a simple sub plan.

This is one of many Haiku Writing lessons available for free on TPT.  Like the limerick packet, this lesson comes with examples, notes on what a haiku is and handouts so your students can write their own.  It would be a great lesson to couple with a unit on Japan, poetry, and/or nature.

This Poetry Packet is another lesson I'm filing away for next year.  It is another TPT freebie.  It has descriptions of the following poem types: Acrostic, Cinquain, Couplet, Diamante, and Haiku.  There is a template so students can write their own book of poems.  It would be a good project idea to summarize a poetry unit.

Auto Rap is a new free app.  Students record their poems and the recording is automatically synched with a rhythm and turned into a rap.  I can't wait to try this with my students and let them hear their voices rapping the poems they write!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Wednesday Website: Brain Breaks with Go Noodle

GoNoOdle is a must-check-out-because-your-students-will-love-it website.  It is ideal for the primary grades where students' stamina is limited to small burst of time.  You can create an account for free and then access any number of brain break videos/exercises.  Olympians will take your students through short training sessions before leading them in a virtual athletic competition.  It is a great way to give your students a short break to get out the wiggles in the classroom before transitioning into a lesson.

For other virtual tools, check out my pinterest board of "websites useful to teachers."

Friday, June 12, 2015

Fabulous Freebies: Free Readers Theater Scripts

One great way to encourage your students in the upper primary grades to read fluently and closely for more in depth comprehension is to have them participate in a readers theater.  If you do the Daily 5 in your classroom, you probably have students reading with someone.  A fun way to encourage that and hold them accountable is to have them practice reading scripts together that they can then perform in front of the class.  There are a lot of great resources online to choose from.  Here are a few of my favorites...

TeachingHeart is a website with links to well over 50 scripts for transitional readers.  There are some well known classics such as "Casey at Bat" and Rumplestiltskin.  But, there are also many, many more to explore that relate to a range of topic and themes.  There are scripts for Christmas, Earth day, animals and more.  This site is definitely worth checking out!

Readers Theater All Year has scripts for just about every holiday.  Most of the scripts come with approximate grade levels so you can quickly search based on theme and readability.  

Finally, don't forget about TeachersPayTeachers.  If you do a search for free plays and scripts, you will find a number of quality resources to download.  

The plays the thing to catch the interest of your students!!  Check these sites out today.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Weekly Website: Newspaper Generator

If you are looking for a fun way for your students to create nonfiction pieces, check out Foley's newspaper generator. It creates a mock clip of a newspaper clip and story. I love the look of the newspaper and it's very easy to create. Students can even have fun selecting a name for their newspaper as well.

You could even alter the article to make it an opinion piece as well for a different twist.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Fabulous Freebies: Summer Fun

Our minds are working every day, all the time.  We are constantly learning, growing and changing. Our interactions with the world around us are forming our realities of how the world operates.  New books and people bring us new vocabulary and perspectives.  This is especially true of children.  They don't stop learning because they are on summer vacation.  So, why not encourage parents to use that time to enrich the academic side of summer learning?

Here are a few ideas....

#1-Check out this Scholastics article on ways to keep kids busy while learning.

#2-Send kids home with a summer reading log.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Weekly Webtool: Awesome Site for Teacher Resumes

Throughout my teaching career I've changed jobs several times. I as well as anyone who has looked for a teaching job knows it can be tough even to get your resume noticed and marked for an interview. During my most recent job hunt I wanted to update my resume and make it more noticeable so it could stand out from the others. I looked at many examples and websites with templates, etc but to me nothing compared to the A+ Resumes for Teachers site.

Although the site is based on a paid service to redo your resume, I found the examples there helpful and a great starting point. I loved that they had examples for each teaching area so I could see something more similar to what my own resume experiences entailed.

While I didn't sign up for the service since I was conserving funds, I found the website a wonderful starting point at recreating my own resume. Within a short time I had redone my resume in a completely new style and reworded all of my experiences to match the new format. After I did this and sent my resume out with more applications I did notice a distinctly higher amount of interviews scheduled which helped my land my most recent teaching position!

I highly recommend this site if just for the examples which are a great starting point. Good luck to those on the search for a teaching job!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Fabulous Freebies: Ways to Teach with Free Travel Brochures

Since it is almost summer and vacation season, I thought I would share some ideas of what you can do with fun vacation related freebies like travel brochures and other things you can get for free by requesting the through tourist and convention centers.

If you don't have any travel brochures handy here are some resources to get you started:

- Free Visit Orlando Vacation Kit

- Free State of Alaska Vacation Planner

- Free Enjoy Illinois Pack - Can add on highway map and state park guide

Once you get your materials, here are some ways to start using them:

Use brochures to:
- Read for information
- Compare prices and deals
- Compare and contrast different hotels/attractions/or even two different cities
- Compare the city/state to your home town
- Create an itinerary for a set length of time
- Use the brochures as example for your own travel brochure project
- Have students write about why or why they wouldn't want to visit the destination

You can also use the  maps for directions, planning routes, calculating distances and other real world math problems.

If you have any other ideas or ways to use travel brochures in your classroom please share it with us below!

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