Wednesday, February 26, 2014

TeachersPayTeachers 3 Million Teachers Strong Sale!

Can it be true?
Another great TeachersPayTeachers sale? 

Thursday, February 27th and February 28th! 
Mark your calendars for this fantastic sale
Please note the promo code on the sign.
Use it when you check out, to get more off
each resource you purchase! 

photo of TeachersPayTeachers Sale!, February 27 and 28th,

Everything in my store will be on sale

Monday, February 24, 2014


I'm posting this free sequencing worksheet that I use as an assessment to see how much my students have retained. I like to review comprehension strategies and skills the first couple of weeks in January so that I have a good idea of who will need a mini review lesson. If I find that many haven't remembered the lessons earlier in the year, I'll review with the whole group. If there are only a handful or one or two, I'll work with the kids individually or in small groups. Hopefully it's the latter!! 
Click on the page to get this freebie!
Sorry it looks a little blurry because it isn't! 

photo of sequencing, packet, Grades 4 - 6 by

If you'd like to see more of my sequence student worksheets, click on the words

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Bloom Ball Reports

Click on the arrows to see my other lessons! 

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE hands on projects!  
As I've said in many of my posts, we have to really encourage creativity in our
classrooms these days, even if it means a ten minute group brainstorming, problem solving
topic that makes the kids THINK. 
I know that with all the mandated test preparation it's often difficult to break away 
it's important that students remember their teachers and school experiences
for reasons other than 
just preparing for tests. 
I run into many of my former students who are have graduated from college
and are starting new phases of their lives. Their greeting is always the same..
  "I'll never forget the GeoBear project you did with us.
I still have my GeoBear and all the postcards and letters he sent me when he
was traveling around the world."
"You made school so much fun. I'll never forget when I was a Senator and wrote
a bill that said kids 12 years old should be allowed to have driver licenses. 
I remember how hard we worked on that bill, but the House of Representatives, sent it back to us and we had to amend it. 
Then it was approved by the House and YOU vetoed it."  (HAHA! I was the President!)

By the way, those kids almost ran me out of the room when I vetoed their bill. 
They had told me that 12 year old kids should drive 
because they have 16 year old siblings and they're not responsible, but 12 year old kids are! 
The House kids said that 12 year olds wouldn't be able to reach the gas pedals or see over the steering wheels.
The bill was amended to read: 12 year old kids will strap blocks of wood to their shoes 
so they can reach the gas pedals and sit on pillows  so they can see over the steering wheels.
 (I tried my best to keep a straight face throughout the proceedings) :)

To prepare for Congress, they chose a state they'd represent, made name tags, and even came to school dressed UP! I was soooo impressed. AND they kept their name badges on ALL day.. 
Senator Smith from New York, Representative Brown from Massachusetts. It was GREAT!

THESE are the things kids remember. Interactive, creative, collaborative, fun projects! 

This is one of those unforgettable types of projects 
where creativity walks hand in hand with academics. 
This update of my Bloom Balls packet has the latest verbiage of Bloom's Taxonomy. 
Included is everything needed to create colorful displays for your classroom
 while encouraging higher level thinking. 
Students will have fun working in groups to create their reports. 

There are instructions/rubrics for a fiction book report as well as a bio report.
Templates included are two sizes, in black and white and in color. 
Detailed instructions demonstrate how to put these displays together. 
Use for ELA, science and social studies reports.
 High school teachers are using them for literature reports, science and history reports! 
I suggest playing some soft background music as the kids work on these reports. 
It creates a nice atmosphere for learning!
Best for grades 4 and up. 

photo of Bloom Ball Reports, PDF, ready to print student worksheets, Ruth S.

My poster of the new Bloom verbiage that's included in the packet. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

The first time I read this book, I kept thinking... I wonder how many students know what happened during World War II? How many even know where Germany is or Europe for that matter? 

Before I even introduced the book to my students, I asked them to locate Germany and Europe on our world map. My expert map student was raising his hand, almost leaping out of his chair and making those familiar "Ooo, ooooo" sounds, we teachers know well. He pointed to Germany and the surrounding countries as well as the Atlantic Ocean. Isn't it great to have an expert in class to help introduce lessons? :)

Then, I asked them to raise their hands if they knew one fact about WWII. One boy said his great grandfather fought during WWII. A girl raised her hand and said that WWII was a big war. Those were the only students who volunteered answers. I was shocked, to say the least. 

It was then I decided to write up a packet of student worksheets for Number the Stars that would include an informational piece about World War II. It was a good way to introduce WWII and even though it wouldn't be a detailed history of the War, it would give my students a "taste" of events and the causes of the War. 

I always try to integrate social studies with my ELA classes so this was perfect!

Lois Lowry's book, Number the Stars, has students walk in Annmarie's and Ellen's shoes as the story unfolds. The setting is Copenhagen, Denmark in 1943, the third year of the Nazi occupation of Denmark. Annmarie and Ellen, who is Jewish, are best friends. The story is how Annmarie's family take Ellen into their home to protect her from the Nazis. The story is filled with facts presented in a way students will relate to themes like friendship, trust, honesty, conflict, and hope. 

It's no wonder this historical fiction book won the Newbery Award, in 1990, as the most distinguished contribution to children's literature and remains popular to this day. 

This is my 69 page packet to accompany the book. It has detailed instructions for pre-readinng, reading and post reading activities. Also included is the nonfiction, informational article to provide students with a better understanding of World War II. 

To read the full description of the book, click on the map. There is also a free preview of the packet of my ready to print student worksheets that can be downloaded.


photo of Number the Stars Activities and Worksheets, historical fiction, Ruth S., ELA, historical fiction, reading, writing

After speaking with many of my former students' parents, over time, it's apparent that students aren't receiving a good base of American history throughout their school years. I noticed the changes in textbooks when I was on the social studies curriculum committee for a number of years. The information in textbooks seemed watered down and lacking in good solid information about our history. I began wondering who was writing the text for the publishers and who makes the decisions about what's included in their textbooks.  That remains a mystery, but one we educators should be asking. I hope you are. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Valentine Coupon Booklet

This is a Valentine's Day project I do with my students every year. 

It's a way to give Valentine's Day gifts without spending a dime!
Each coupon has a task like 
clearing the table after dinner, feeding the dog, helping a neighbor and many more. 
There are 24 coupons in the packet. 
Punch a hole in the corners and
 put them on a special Valentine's Day key ring. 
Free download! 
Happy Valentine's Day!


photo of Valentine's Day Coupon Booklet, free, pdf, Valentine's Day,, Ruth S.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014



How many times have you heard friends and family members say they're going to make New Year's resolutions, but never follow through? Many times it's something they've talked about, like losing weight or other personal goals, but honestly, it's not always easy to stick to what we vow to do.

For many years, I've had my students write their resolutions, a typical lesson they've done in previous years, so I decided to change my approach and make it a little more challenging and interesting.

I thought about the year 2013, with all that's happened. Has there ever been a year of more distressing news with natural disasters, world events, war, famine, politicking? 

Those thoughts, then, became the basis of my new New Year's Day Resolution lesson. Keep in mind I'm a 
Socratic type of teacher. Raising questions to challenge my students has always been one of my main methods of teaching.  

I started off by asking my students if they've ever set goals for themselves. 

I asked ... "Are goals basically the same thing as resolutions?" 

I hear some "hmmm's", one fiddled with his shoelace, and others stared at me, quizzically.

One of my deep thinkers speaks up... "Mrs. S, isn't a resolution the same thing as a revolution?" 

I explain that a revolution is when you rise up against something you're determined to resolve, change or fix, like a problem. A revolution can be positive or negative. 

I then ask if they all think a resolution, is a revolution. 

I see some nodding their heads, others tapping their pencils on their desks and one who's passing a note to a friend. 

I whisper..... "I sure hope that note is about your New Year's resolution, which is not to pass notes in class during a lesson, Joe." 

He slides down in his chair so quickly, I think he's sinking in a swirling pool of quicksand. His friend, sitting next to him, begins to giggle, then covers his mouth when I slowly turn my gaze to him and wink. 

Dan sheepishly raises his hand. "Doesn't a revolution cause a resolution, something like cause and effect?" He lowers his hand slowly. 

I'm speechless. This boy is connecting all the dots and it's wonderful, incredible, AWESOME (as the kids would say)!! 

I praise him for his answer, have everyone applaud and then continue.

I point to the goal poster on the wall and ask volunteers to describe some of their goals and whether they've attained them. The majority of them admit they never follow through. 

I ask ... "Why is it difficult to reach your goals? Is it you or something else that causes you not to reach them?"

I ask for a volunteer to describe a goal and if it was achieved. 

Beth raises her hand and describes her goal. She wants to read for an hour at home, but she describes the many distractions like younger siblings running around the house, usual home distractions like television, texting and other things, that keep her from reading for an hour.

A couple of students eagerly chimed in. They offered suggestions about how she could make her life more manageable and lessen the number of distractions. They told her they had the same thing happening at home and how they "fixed" it.

I always love these types of brainstorming sessions. Kids reaching out to help their peers, offering many great alternatives and solutions! 

After a few minutes, they concluded that if Beth found just fifteen minutes of quiet time when she could read, it would be a great accomplishment.

I ask... "Did Beth reach her goal? Her goal was to read for an hour a night. Everyone just said that reading for fifteen minutes was really good. But did she actually reach her goal?" 

Robert raises his hand slowly, so slowly, I figure his response might not be 'on the mark'. 

"It's the effort that counts," he whispers. 

 What?  Did he REALLY say THAT?

I ask him to repeat his statement in a BIGGER voice.

I then call for applause from everyone. 

I ask... "Okay, effort is needed to achieve a goal. What's another word that means great effort to follow through to complete or attain a goal?"

After a few minutes of mulling it over, Rosie, leaps out of her seat and blurts out, "I know. I know what the word is ! It's determination. It's on the goal poster." She points to it. The room is so still you can hear a pin drop. I ask both Robert and Rosie to come to the front of the room and take a bow.  Everyone applauds again. :)

Next, I explain their assignment will be to write resolutions for themselves, the school, the town, the country and the world. They looked at me as if I was an alien from Planet X. 

Joey raises his hand and says, "I'm not sure how to write a resolution for our school, the town, country or world. They're not people." 

Love this kid! 

I told them to think of the school as if it was a person. 

I ask .. "What are some problems our school would like to fix or improve if it was a person?" 

Hands shot up! It was one of those "gotcha" moments.. :) I let them take the ball and run with it and as they discussed their ideas, I wrote them all over the board. 

I  stop the conversation for a minute and say, "Well it's really obvious I have a class of problem solvers and geniuses."
They look up and grin! I grin back!

It's amazing how the quiet kids, who usually never contribute to class discussions, are actually voicing their opinions and coming up with excellent ideas. I'm mesmerized as I listen ...

I ask ... "What kind of goal might you write for our town?" Again, ideas covered the board as they brainstormed. 

Fill the pot holes in the roads, build a skateboard park, provide more lighting at the town baseball field. The list went on and on and on.. I pictured them as adults at town meetings, voicing their opinions and collaborating to fix problems around town. 

The very same thing happened when I mentioned the country and world. It absolutely amazes me how fifth graders can solve problems so smoothly and logically, by brainstorming, drawing conclusions, and compromising. I tell them they should all run for office and work with others to solve our country's problems. 

They grin! I grin! We all grin!

I began handing out the New Year's Day worksheets and tell them, they're problem solvers who have collaborated,  brainstormed and brought all their ideas together in a thoughtful, peaceful and brilliant way. 

They grin. I grin. In fact, I grinned the rest of the day and night. Life is good when you have a grinning day!

Here is the packet I created for New Year's resolutions. Enjoy!

photo of New Year's Resolutions Mine My Town/City My Country the World, New Years, ELA, Writing Ruth S.

Friday, December 6, 2013

North Pole Prepositions

Have you noticed how small prepositions are? They're little words that can sometimes cause BIG problems. Why? Because prepositions are probably the most controversial words in the English language.  

How many times have I heard... "I'm waiting ON line".

One day I saw a student from a distance and called to her, "What are you doing?"

She said "I'm waiting ON line".  I worked my way OVER TO her and noticed she was standing BEHIND another girl waiting to get ON a bus. (Notice all those little prepositions!) 

Me: So you're waiting ON line?
She: Yes, I am.
I looked down and asked, "What line? Where's the line?"

She looked at me and said, "Uh"? 

Me: Well, you said you were waiting on line. I pointed to the sidewalk. "Are you standing ON a line?" 

She giggled and said.. "Oh! I'm IN line waiting to get ON that bus..

So was she wedged within a line?

BUT WAIT... Is that the correct usage of the word ON? 

If you're in New York City, you'll hear it..
"I'm waiting on line"  (Do not confuse it with being ONLINE doing Google searches.)

I'm waiting on line because there's a huge sale and I want to be the first to walk in, through ???  the door.

As crazy as it sounds, does walking THROUGH the door indicate you have a special power to walk through glass, steel or wood, like Superman? 

If you're in Los Angeles, you'll hear "I'm waiting IN line". 

So who's correct? 

Another one.. The Case of the Missing Preposition... You Decide

Girl:  I have to babysit my brother.
Me:  You have to what??
Girl: You know, I have to babysit my brother. 

Is there something missing? If you guessed the preposition, FOR, you might be right, but then again, you might not be..
Look at it this way. BABYSIT is a verb. Change the sentence by substituting the word "watch" for "babysit".

"I have to watch my brother."

 Does it make sense? Yes. You could assume the girl is keeping a careful eye on her brother. (Keeping a careful eye ON her brother?? I won't even go there with that one !)

 Is "watch" a verb in that case? Yes.

Other parts of the country you might say, "I have to babysit FOR my brother." 

Replace the word babysit with watch and add the word for." 

 It changes the entire meaning of the sentence, right? 

"I have to watch for my brother" might mean she's waiting for her brother to arrive or waiting to catch a glimpse of him in a crowded room.

When I introduce prepositions to students, I tell them a preposition indicates PLACE, LOCATION, TIME and it can also demonstrate a COMPARISON but even then, it's sometimes  no easy task for students to figure out the correct usage. Can you imagine when Webster first wrote his dictionary and tried to write definitions for prepositions? 

Prepositions can pose the most difficulty to non English speaking people.  They wrestle with them  and often pause to try and figure out which ones to use.

I remember an adorable nonEnglish speaking little girl who told me she and her mother had to run IN a train after school.

What a visual!! Running in a train?? I knew she meant "running FOR a train" because the mother had told me they were going to visit her brother in a town north of us.

Here we go again...

Substitute the word FOR with AFTER and picture the girl and her mother chasing a train!!

We have to run AFTER a train this afternoon!

Your students will have a lot of fun as they work on my North Pole Prepositions worksheets.

The illustrations they'll create will be adorable, unless, of course,  one depicts a picture of 

reindeer sitting 
ON Santa, 
instead of standing BESIDE him.   :)

Click on the cover of the packet to get my free packet.


photo of North Pole Prepositions, PDF, Teacher Park, grades 4 - 6