Sunday, April 23, 2017

Common Core Setting Comparisons

When it was first announced that the Common Core Standards would be implemented in schools across the United States, I spoke to many teachers who were searching for Common Core materials. We all thought we'd be given resources that would help us "get off on a good foot" but it didn't happen.

Many teachers attended professional development workshops to prepare them for the Common Core,  but no one was given specific resources they could use with their students. Everyone was scrambling for materials; no one wasn't happy.

For that reason, I designed Common Core resources that can be used with any books or stories that include "student friendly" rubrics.

Because it's very important students recognize similarities and difference of different settings, I Included five setting selections from five different books with activities designed so students could compare/contrast them.  

The books' settings are on different reading levels, to accommodate a wide range of readers especially because reading groups are usually heterogeneous. 

For example, it's very common to have a fifth grade ELA class with some students reading on a third, fourth, fifth, sixth and even reading on a seventh grade level!

The student friendly rubric, included, helps students understand what's expected of them in a way that's easy for them to understand. 

If you like this resource, I've created others like it, that can be used with any books or stories. There's one for almost every reading strategy... theme, cause/effect, problems/solutions, main idea, character comparisons and other Common Core resources. 

photo of Common Core Setting Comparisons PDF, Teacher Park



You may also like...

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Homophones Are Fun!

Which witch is which? I remember my fourth grade teacher writing that question on the board and explaining what homophones are and why it's important to always write the correct spelling of them.

To this day, I remember the important lessons I was taught and still "hear" and "see" my teachers as they stressed important concepts and strategies. 

I had little tricks I used to remember some of them. The word "witch" contains the word "wit" so I thought of a nice witch who had a good sense of humor.  Little tricks like that can make difference. 

Another example are the homophones "bear" and "bare".  The word "bear" has "EAR" in it. Bears have ears! That one is easy. 

As I teach homophones we brainstorm for little tricks like that and I'm always amazed the kinds of clues my students think of to remember the correct spellings of homophones. 

Download my free homophone activities and have fun!

photo of Homophones are Fun, PDF, free, homophones, Ruth S.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Spelling Activities for Any List of Words

When we were first told that we would no longer be using spelling books with our students, I thought our principal was kidding... I almost laughed out loud. Good thing I didn't, because he was serious! We were all stunned, then almost fell off our chairs when he announced the following.

"As of today, you will create your spelling lists as a team and add content words from your language arts, science, social studies and math classes".

In my opinion, those spelling books we had always used were as an important as cherries on a NY style cheesecake. :) Well, the books weren't quite as delicious as cheese cake. :) :)

Most importantly, the lessons in those little books reinforced spelling patterns, word families,vowel and consonant sounds, blends and even included word definitions. Each unit spiraled to the next and all had review pages of the earlier taught units.

So I decided that if we weren't allowed to use those lovely little spelling books, I would create activities to accompany spelling lists I assigned to my students.

My packet has 24 different worksheets that can be used with any spelling list and yes, my activities reinforce much needed spelling rules, vowels sounds, etc. 

Take a few minutes to ask your students what a long and short "A" sounds like. Or better yet, ask them what a soft and hard "g" sound like. EVEN better ask them to tell you what a digraph is or to name a three letter 
consonant blend! 

Ask them to explain the spelling rule "when two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking". I had a student tell me that it's like when his mom and dad go for a walk... His mother never stops talking. I could barely keep a straight face!!

I can almost guess that many of your students' responses will be puzzled looks, almost like you're speaking a foreign language...

I created these activities to use as informal assessments to see who's achieved mastery and who needs a review! 

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Bloom Ball Reports

Okay I'll admit it, I LOVE creative hands on projects! I've blogged about it before!  Why? Because growing up,  my teachers always assigned the same kind of book reports and projects, which never included creative activities. It was always "read the book and write a report about it". BORING! 

When I became a teacher, I swore I'd NEVER assign a book report or project that was strictly a two or three page written report. 

Yes, a report should have written parts, so teachers can determine if students understand how to apply reading strategies and comprehend what they read. A combination written and hands on project allows students, like I was, to not only write, but to also do hands on, creative projects that demonstrate their talents.

Some of the creative projects students can do include:

drawings, illustrations
build models
comic strips, cartoons
wood carvings
original computer generated pictures
mini books
design costumes for book characters
write music or lyrics for songs
use unusual materials to design posters (yarn, glitter, aluminum foil, etc)
And the list goes on and on and on!

Over the years, I developed my Bloom Ball report project that requires students to draw illustrations on templates and glue them together. I had searched for templates on the Web, but never found any that worked, so I designed my own. 

The first Bloom Ball report students should do, is the biography report. This fun report give students the opportunity to "talk" about themselves and highlight certain times of their lives. I always do this report at the beginning of the year, so students can get to know each other. It's a perfect time have them work in small groups so they can talk among themselves while they write, draw, cut and paste!

Once the balls are completed, they can be hung from the ceiling where they can stay, as a permanent display all year round!    
I love teachers' comments about them that can be read below the description on my store page. 

The book report part of the project, involves designing the templates based on a book that involves Common Core aligned written parts, combined with art work

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. 

Easy instructions with visuals!

Bloom Ball Reports



Design A Game Book Report

I want to share a book report that I've done with my students for a number of years. It's been  a HUGE hit with not only my students, but their parents, as well.

We all know that kids love to play games, so I decided to design a game book report. My objective was to convince my students that they should read books that are different genre. 

Ask your students what genre they like the best. I bet many will say realistic fiction is their favorite. There are some who gobble up mysteries, some will swear that fantasies are their favorites.

I also wanted to get parents involved in some way. That's when I decided to add a "bonus points" feature because the majority of my students love to earn bonus points.

I decided to title it, "Design A Game" book report.  Really original title eh? :)

The parent involvement is easy! All they have to do is play the game with their kids at home and sign the letter stating they played the game with their kids. A whopping five points can be earned for a total of 105 points if everything else is done correctly. 

The way you introduce it to your students is fun. Pass out the "Congratulations" slips to them and watch them sit up and take notice. It's an announcement that they've been chosen, by a game company, to design a game based on a book.  Just this little slip of paper and its message, makes them feel important.

The kids have to design a game board that has questions or statements about the book they're reading. Then we have a game day where they all play each others' games and learn about new books. It's amazing how many comments you'll hear as they play the games like, "I really really want to read this book!"  "I never thought I'd like historical fiction, but this one sounds really good."  

The kids talk about the project with their friends and tell them about a new book they want to read. The word spreads and pretty soon, you'll see your students reading new books of different genre. 

WHAT'S REALLY FUN IS TO HAVE A game "night" so parents, friends and family can join in the fun and play the games. 

At the end of the year, there are always students who are kind enough to leave their games with me so I can share them with my future students! :)

Everything you need is in the packet. Parent letter, student rubric, how-to game instructions and more.  Be sure to read teachers' comments below the product description and you'll see how popular my Design a Game Book Report is! 

photo of Design A Game Book Report, PDF, book reports, games, Common Core, Language Arts, Ruth S.

Have fun!


Friday, March 31, 2017

Brown Bag It Healthy Foods

This is a great Earth Day nutrition/healthy food activity. 

Discuss healthy foods with your students and what choices they should make in order to fill up a bag lunch.  

Show them how to read food labels and what to look for that's nutritional and what's not good to consume.  

Working in small groups they can makes list of the foods on the mini poster or draw pictures of them.  

Ask them to save cereal boxes and to bring them to school to compare the ingredients. 

This is a free download!

Brown Bag It Healthy Foods

This activity can be found in my complete
FREE Earth Day resource!

Have fun!



Monday, March 27, 2017

Poetry Activity Cards

I used to have a hard time motivating my students to write poetry. I tried everything! That's when I came up with the idea of poetry cards. 

These 27 Poetry Activity Task Cards can be used to create poetry packets, at centers or to model different types of poetry. Each card has a definition and example of a particular poem. Included are traditional types of poems such as couplets, cinquains, odes and more. Humorous and serious poems are included. These cards will even motivate those students who say they dont like poetry, to join in the fun! 

This is also a time to blend poetry with art. Have your students select the poems they would like to illustrate, then display them around the room. Suggestions are given of how to use these cards and how to develop a poetry packet that is a great family keepsake! Laminate and cut out for future use.

Have fun!!

photo of children's poems, poetry activity cards, task cards, couplets, haiku, poems, poetry

Sunday, March 26, 2017

101 Book Activities Kids Love!

When I was in elementary school, my teachers always gave us the same kinds of book reports to do. They were VERY boring and that's when I decided that when I became a teacher I'd NEVER give those kinds of book reports. 

Typical assignment:  Write a report about the book. Remember to include the main characters and setting as you write the plot. 

WHAT?? UH?? 
I wanted to write a short skit about the book, or a poem, or write lyrics for a song. I did NOT want to write a boring old report without pictures or something creative. 

So, when I was in fifth grade, the first book report was....yes you guessed it! The same boring assignment to explain what the story was about and where it took place. 

What did I do? I drew an original cover for the book. I spent hours cutting pictures from magazines that would tie in with the plot. I laid it all out, and pasted everything on colorful construction paper. To me the bright colors livened up the plot, and was visually appealing.  On the last page, I wrote my opinion of the book and recommended that everyone should read it. 

As my teacher walked around, collecting the book reports, I handed it to her with a huge smile on my face. She took it from me, flipped through it quickly and said


I remember it like it was yesterday. I cringed, slumped down in my seat and mumbled something and thought to myself, I did follow the directions, I just presented it differently. 

Did my teacher understand that there are kids who like to express themselves using art or music? No.

Did my teacher understand that creating a report with hand drawn pictures and presenting it in a colorful way is a lot of work and demonstrates that I'm artistic? No. 

Would she see that I followed her directions? Probably not. 

When I first started teaching, I decided to give my students book report choices. Over the many years I've been teaching I've been collecting ideas and creating new ones. It was a year or so ago I decided to compile them and offer them for free on TeachersPayTeachers. 

Why? Because I want teachers to have this list at their fingertips, so they can offer their students many different ways to report about books. 

Give them a list of two or three to choose from and you'll feel their excitement as they talk about which ones they really, really, really want to do!

photo of 101 Book Activities Kids Love, FREE, PDF, Ruth S. book reports, Ruth S. TeachersPayTeachers

Have fun!


Monday, March 20, 2017

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Vocabulary Detectives 2

This is the second set of my FREE Vocabulary Detective Cards that I created when teachers told me how excited they were about my first set. Using these cards is a great way to motivate students to learn new vocabulary words and to be able to find synonyms, antonyms and homonyms when they read books in class.

Here's how I do it..

Make a Detective Jar. A Mason jar with a wide opening is the best to use.  Print a label for it on a large piece of white paper that says "Detective Jar".

Make copies of the cards for your students. Explain that you'll be running a weekly contest and that you'll pull three cards from the jar at the end of the week.  Be sure to have prizes for the winners. I order them online in bulk from the Oriental Trading Company.

Explain that there must be correct answers on the cards in order to win a prize.

Tell them they shouldn't cut the cards until they've entered the information on all cards. When they're finished they can cut the cards and fold them in half, then put them in the jar.

Hope you and your students enjoy these contests! Thanks for stopping by!


Vocabulary Detectives 2, Ruth S, antonyms, synonyms, homonyms, vocabulary, free, detective jar, word study,

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Common Core Standards Worksheets to Use with Any Book or Story!

When the Common Core was adopted, I decided teachers would need Common Core worksheets they could use with any story or book. 

To make sets of these worksheets, would take more time than teachers have on hand, so I've developed some that will make teachers' lives easier. 

Don't you find that students often confuse main ideas with themes? Mine do! These first two resources will help them understand the differences!

photo of Common Core Standards Reading Themes PDF Teacher Park

photo of Common Core Reading Standards Main Idea PDF Teacher Park

Each year, I discover that many of my students don't know the "basics" thus I created foundational skills task cards that can be used as informal assessments to find out who's mastered the skills and who needs a gentle review. :)

photo of Common Core Task Cards Foundational Skills PDF Teacher Park



Friday, March 17, 2017

Tony Danza's book "I'd like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had"

Once in a blue moon, a book comes along that makes me want to jump up and down, reach for the stars, sing and dance, laugh and cry, and share with the world. This is a book dedicated to teachers but should be read by everyone. 

So often I've told people they just don't understand what it's like to be a teacher. The joy, the sorrow, the frustration, the hope, the thrill. I usually end the conversation that centers around "teachers have their summers off" with the statement, "You have to walk in my shoes to understand".  If only they would. They might understand.

I was at a book signing event last week to hear author, Tony Danza's presentation about his new book "I'd Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had". Some might remember Danza on the television shows "Who's the Boss" and "Taxi". I really expected him to appear on stage playing one of those roles, but the minute he stepped out from behind the curtain, my assumptions were dashed.

The Danza event was so huge, it had to be moved from our wonderful local book store, "R.J Julia's, who sponsored this event, to a middle school auditorium. 

When we arrived, the school parking lot was packed. There were lines of people waiting to get inside and as we joined the long line, I felt like I was waiting in line to see a rock concert. 

We all had a common mission that night.. To hear Danza talk about his one year teaching experience at Northeast High School in Philadelphia after being an actor for so many years. We all remember our first year and how difficult it was. Did he have the same feelings? Was he treated differently at the school because he was a "star"? Was he given preferential treatment?

When he walked out on stage, he started by telling us he had many, many regrets in life, but the biggest regret was that he never became a teacher. Teachers cheered and applauded. I felt tears well up and it was all I could do, to keep them from streaming down my face.

Danza's presentation was endearing, humorous and it was very obvious that things he was saying touched the hearts of everyone in the audience. He spoke of the educational crisis in the U.S, the kids of yesterday and today, those kids who seemed unapproachable, and other issues that today's teachers face. 

Danza mentioned how teachers' roles have changed. We're teachers in a complex world and we face complex day to day situations. How many times have I been asked for parenting suggestions at student conferences? Parents are facing tremendous challenges at home. They ask us for advice about how to motivate their kids, what to do to get their kids to do homework and more. I've even been asked how I'd discipline their kids. I know my parents never asked those kinds of questions when they met with my teachers. They were there to ask about my grades and progress in school.  

As Danza's presentation continued, there were people smiling and nodding as they connected with his experiences of being a first year tenth grade English teacher. His descriptions of the staff were very easy to relate to. I only wish he had talked for another couple of hours.

His book "I'd Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had" was taped by A&E and was called "TEACH".  I wish I had seen even one episode of it but my usual evening schedule, when the show was aired, was to correct papers, write up new lesson plans and then fall into bed thinking of my next day... of teaching. 

When I handed him the book to autograph, I told him I grew up with Ron Palillo who played Horshak in "Welcome Back, Kotter".  Ron passed away suddenly, a few months ago, and Tony told me he knew Ron and they had done some theater work together. I felt his sincerity and was going to tell him he should be back in the classroom, but I had taken enough of his time, so I moved on. 

After chatting with some high school teachers, we walked into the parking lot and you know what? I HAD been to a rock concert. Tony Danza ROCKS!

If you read his book,  you'll laugh, cry and constantly shout out "YES! YES! THAT happened to me". 

But most importantly, you'll feel extremely proud to be a teacher! 

I wish Tony had stayed in the classroom because he's a natural born teacher. His ability to sense what kids will respond to and how to connect with them without being their "friend" is usually only what seasoned teachers know and understand. 

His heartfelt attempts to reach the unapproachable kids was deja vu for me. One of my former students is on death row and I have to keep reminding myself that I tried. I spent sleepless nights trying to figure out how to reach him. If only that boy had been mine, I kept thinking, things might be different for him  today. 

Tony Danza walked in our shoes and understands what it's like to be a teacher.

See an excerpt

Listen to Tony talk about his experience and feelings about education. 

Tony: For me, teaching was the road not taken. If you look at my acting work, so many of the roles involve being a teacher. Tony in “Who’s the Boss?” becomes a teacher. I studied history education in college. I wanted to be a teacher. Teaching always appealed to me. Arthur Miller once said, “The best thing you can hope for is that you end up with the right regrets.” I didn’t want to regret not trying this.  ~from Amazon

Click on the cover and listen to Danza talk about his book.

photo of Tony Danza, I'd Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had

Friday, March 10, 2017

Connections Text to Self, Text to Text, Text to World

Kids need reminders to connect what they read and write, to themselves, to other text and the world.
Writing about themselves is easy. Ask students to express their feelings about pets or sports they play or family vacations and you'll hear connections immediately.

Making connections to other books, articles or magazines they've read is a bit easier too. If you ask them to connect two characters in different stories they're usually able to do so. I use character personality trait charts for this connection.

From my experiences, teaching writing for many years, the most difficult of all is making connections to the world. I usually model this connection by selecting a short story or book we've read, as a whole group, and have them think of the problems that had to be solved.

An example I use is the novel Hoot and the middle school kids who decide to fight "city hall" because construction at a restaurant is going to endanger some burrowing owls on the property. I ask if anyone knows what endangered means and if they've read any books about endangered animals and the problems they face. As we brainstorm for connections, I record their responses for everyone to see.

As a culminating activity, we write a good solid paragraph together explaining the connections of two problems from two sources.

Displayed is the cover of the packet of three different mini posters and one of them that's included in the free download. Click on the cover to get all three posters! Thanks for stopping by!

photo of Text to Self, Text to Text, Text to World, free pdf Teacher Park Ruth S.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

A Special Way to Say Happy Birthday!


Kids love to choose what they want to do on their birthdays! 

Print this free page and keep it handy with a birthday calendar nearby. 

It's your special way of saying "Happy Birthday" to your students!

Please note: More birthday cards have been added to the packet. 

If you already downloaded, please download it again for FREE!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Trifold Book Report

I'm always thinking of new ideas for book reports, so the kids can have fun yet demonstrate to me that they understand strategies and skills. I also love giving kids choices. 

I remember doing book reports when I was in elementary school and it was always the same. No creativity. Nothing fun. We never had choices of what we could do. Write a book report for the book you're reading. That was it! BLAH!

When I became a teacher, I told everyone that I would NEVER teach like some of the teachers I had. I'm from a very musical and artistic family so I was always creating something new and different. Playing the piano, writing miniature symphonies when I was ten, poetry, pen and ink drawings, designing terrariums for the salamanders I caught, knitting... just to name a few. 

Not all of my teachers were like that, though. I had one very special high school English teacher who rocked my world! He taught us grammar by using lyrics to songs. He got us out of our seats and we could have rocked and rolled 'til the sun went down! When I run into him, I always tell him that he inspired me to become a teacher. He beams! So do I!!

My trifold book report can be done using any fiction book. There are three trifold pages and a "bonus" page with all kinds of activities that the kids can choose from in order to earn bonus points.  Have a share day so that all of your students can read their friends' reports, then put them on display! It's also a great way to expose kids to new titles that they might want to read!

photo of trifold book report, reading, Teacher Park

Sunday, March 5, 2017

How to Spell Plural Nouns

Over the years, I've noticed that kids can't spell. Plain and simple. It started a couple of decades ago, when there was a lack of phonics instruction in primary grades because of education reform. We were told that kids would figure out how to read by just reading a book. I disagreed then, and I still disagree.

The people who thought up this brilliant plan didn't understand that kids have to know the sounds of letters, blends, etc. in order to decode words. Short, long vowel sounds. What sound does "CH" make?
What happens if you put an "E" on the end of HOT? We, who had phonics instruction and were taught spelling rules, know that an "E"added to the end of a CVC (consonant, vowel, consonant) word, gives the vowel "O" a long sound. If kids don't know the CVC rules, how are they going to master spelling at a young age?  What about two vowels together? We learned "When two vowels, going walking, the first does the talking".  Isn't this true of the word BOAT?  What vowel do you hear? Right! "O". Any child that isn't taught the "rule" might have no idea of how to pronounce it.  

One year, when I was teaching fifth grade, a boy pronounced "boat" as "BO- AT".  It really didn't shock me because I knew that he had little or no phonics instruction up to fifth grade. That's a perfect example of why we need to stress spelling and pronunciations of words. 

Another year, I was giving a "Back to School" presentation and told the parents that even though we weren't "allowed" to teach phonics, I teach it. I got a HUGE round of applause! One parent told me that she had been frustrated because it wasn't being taught, and she was teaching her daughter, phonics and spelling rules at home, the best she could. 

That's a long story about why I created this "How to Spell Plural Nouns chart and activity!  Why is it free? I'm hoping that MANY teachers download it and use it with their students, then hopefully, future generations will know how to spell!

photo of How to Spell Plural Nouns PDF work page by Teacher Park

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Shiloh Student Worksheets

I don't know about you, but as a child, I loved dog and horse stories.  It seems that when I was growing up, girls loved animal stories and boys loved mysteries and adventure stories. 

The Call of the Wild by Jack London, Old Yeller, Sounder, The Black Stallion by Walter Farley and so many more were on my "must read" lists in fifth grade. It may sound a little strange, but I always selected library books that had the shabbiest covers, figuring they had been read by thousands. 

I was always drawn to animals stories when animals were saved from terrible circumstances.

I used to help my sister save baby animals that had strayed from the burrow or nest. How could we leave a poor baby robin on the ground when it had fallen out of its nest? A neighborhood cat would have it as a snack if we didn't.

We took our lives in our hands as the mother robins would screech and dive bomb us as we chased the little bird around the yard. It usually couldn't fly, so the chase always ended quickly. We always placed those little birds in a high bush or shrub close to where the nest was. 

Then we'd run inside and peek out the window to see if the mother would fly down to her fluff ball baby. We were never disappointed because mama robins will try to coax their little chirpers up to the nests and if that's not successful, they'll fly down and feed them big fat juicy worms. Yum!

When I first read Shiloh I immediately loved Marty for trying to save the little beagle, Shiloh, from his mean tempered owner. I knew it would be a great read aloud and the girls in my class would be wiping tears from their eyes as they, too, wanted Marty to save Shiloh.

When I introduce a book to my students, I always explain that authors have reasons or purposes for writing stories. Many times they have an experience that sparks an idea for a story. Mrs. Naylor had an experience with an abandoned dog during one of her vacations. The dog never left her thoughts so a few years later, she wrote "Shiloh".

My 54 page packet, with ready to print worksheets, is aligned with the Common Core for grades 4 an 5 but can be used with grade 6, too!

Click on the cover to learn much more about the packet. 

photo of Shiloh Student Worksheets, PDF, student worksheets,  ELA, writing,  Ruth S.

NonFiction Bingo

Kids will learn nonfiction elements as they have fun playing Bingo! Run a weekly Bingo contest! Winners put their Bingo coupons in the Bingo Jar and win prizes! Laminate and use year to year!

Included in the packet are:
Call out card
4 pages of creative design markers
6 different bingo cards
Bingo winner coupons
Bingo labels for the Bingo Jar

Click on the cover for more!

photo of nonfiction, bingo, games, Language Arts, Ruth S.

nonfiction, games, Language Arts, Ruth S.


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

NonFiction Find It, Check It

When I first started teaching nonfiction, I wanted to model a lesson for my students that would be fun. That week, we brainstormed for topics they like reading about. I asked them to give me topics and not specific genre. Before I knew it, my board was covered with topics I never knew interested them. Some listed hobbies, others listed sports, and games they enjoy, but the topic that won, when we voted, was animals.

I think back to when I was in school and my all time favorite topic was horses. I lived, breathed and dreamed about black stallions, prancing pintos and buttermilk colored mares with dark manes. I was sure that if I asked the girls what specific animals they loved, it would be horses.

This was the perfect time to write TOPIC on  the board and under it, the word SUBTOPIC. I then asked for a volunteer to give me the name of a specific animal.

One of my eager girls was oooo'ing and almost fell off her chair as she waved her hand wildly. 

"Call on me, call on me!" she moaned.  I was sure she was going to say "HORSE" so when she yelled "CAPYBARA" I was stunned. Capybara are in the rodent family and are, from what I've read, the largest rodents in the world. They live in South America and are quite vocal! From her response, I realized that times sure have changed. I wondered what the rest of the kids would say....

Here's a little video of a capybara being petted at the Explorarama Lodge on the Napo River in the Amazon. Listen to the chitter chatter of this cute critter!
I showed this video to the kids and they were all crying out "I WANT ONE! I WANT ONE! I told them I wasn't sure if their parents would really like it if they brought one home and told them my two dachshunds would definitely NOT like it at all.

Capybara - YouTube

Back to Nonfiction....

I told my capybara girl that I didn't think we could think of a lot of details about the capybara, so we had to select another animal on the board. I praised her for knowing about capybara and she beamed.

The kids added many subtopic animals to our list on the board. Some were giraffes, dolphins, lions, tigers, hamsters, guinea pigs, hippos and more. I found it strange that most were wild animals instead of domesticated pets like kittens, puppies, canaries and HORSES!

At that point, I had them vote for one so I could continue my lesson, which by this time, had the kids really interested and on task. They selected dolphins. I kidded with them and told them dolphins would be too big for their home aquariums. Immediately, I had one boy blurt out that he'd build a HUGE aquarium for it. I grinned and told him I'd like to be in on that project.

We then listed details about dolphins... mammals, live in water, eat other fish, intelligent, etc. Right after that I handed them one of my worksheets that I created and broke them into small groups. They were to do some research about other animals and had to have all the same answers on their worksheets which means they'd have to agree about what was important and what wasn't.

I recently put this Nonfiction Find It, Check It packet together to share with everyone. You'll find worksheets that can be used with any Nonfiction text, a poster, bookmarks with NonFiction features and more.

I also included a detailed animal lesson with excellent kid friendly websites. The Smithsonian National Zoo has animal cams the kids can watch. There's a NASA site with facts about the sun. The National Geographic animal site is another excellent website I included.

This is a great packet that teaches kids the features of nonfiction and motivates them to find the features in any nonfiction text.

I'm still wondering why kids don't like black stallions or pinto ponies.  Times sure have changed...

photo of Nonfiction Find It Check It, PDF, Teacher Park, student worksheets

Have fun!


Ireland mini report for St. Patrick's Day FREE

Your students will love working on this mini report about Ireland as a St. Patrick's Day activity. Included are writing, drawing, map making and researching topics. These ready to print, creatively designed worksheets can be used in both social studies and Language Arts classes. Click on the cover page for this FREE download! :)

photo of Ireland Minir eport for St. Patrick's Day ruth s, ireland, St. Patrick's Day, maps, research, social studies, write, draw

Sunday, February 26, 2017

FREE Punch or Stamp Cards for Classroom Management

No matter what time of year it is, teachers are always thinking about school! 

Classroom management and behavior are two top teacher issues.  

My FREE punch cards packet is a positive reward system that works! Over the years I've been teaching, I've tried many different classroom management systems and this one is great! I love positive reward systems. so I highly recommend this one. 

Just keep in mind that if you begin a reward system or any other type of behavior/classroom management system, it has to be done consistently.  If you don't follow through, your students will know. In my opinion, that's why some teachers have difficulty with behavior management techniques. Follow through is extremely important if the system is going to work.

Oh! If you don't want to punch the cards, each time a student reaches a milestone, you can stamp them with your special teacher stamp or you can use decorative punches that can be purchased in craft stores! 

Try the cards with a student who doesn't do homework or who has a hard time managing his or her time or materials and you'll definitely see positive changes.  The packet has all the instructions needed.  These cards have been used with 5th, and 6th grade students. 

I did, however, have a 7th grade teacher friend of mine,  who just couldn't reach a couple of her students. One, a very bright girl, was totally disorganized and the other student never completed his homework when it was due. She asked if she could try my punch cards. I told her the illustrations would be too "young" for her students. Well, it worked!  The students were a bit immature and needed a special pat on the back and TLC. That and the cards were a perfect fit. 

Click on the card to see more.. :) 


photo of Punch or Stamp Cards, classroom management, Ruth S., grades 1 - 6

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Design-A-Game Book Report

I created this book report when I was my state's representative on the Weekly Reader National Teacher Advisory Board.  A few years later, I presented it at the NELMS (New England League of Middle Schools) convention for four years, along with other activities and resources I created. Over six thousand educators attend the NELMS convention, so it was really exciting to be asked to be a presenter. 

The feedback from teachers, parents and students about this book report has been phenomenal! 

Surprise your students by handing them the certificate that says they've been chosen to design a board game for a game company before you introduce the project and watch the fun begin! 

The main objective is to reinforce comprehension strategies. As class friends play the games that have 16 events in sequential order, they'll be introduced to a book they might want to read. What better way to learn about new books!

Kids have to design the board game at home so there is a sheet of instructions and a rubric for parents. This 19 page packet includes everything you need for this book report including my detailed instructions. Kids have told me over the years that it's one of the best reports they've ever done. 

Have a "Game Day" and invite other classes to come play your students' games with them. 
You'll be amazed when you see how creative the games are. 

Find out more by clicking on the cover of my packet!

I LOVE sharing this book report with other educators. 

Design a Game Book report, book reports, comprehension strategies, rubric, sequence, homeschool, novel, books, gameboard

Friday, February 24, 2017

Behavior and Classroom Management Forms for Teachers

I bet most teachers will agree that behavior and classroom management is 
topic these days. 

Stop and think about it...

How many different ways have you tried to stop students from disrupting others, or even disrupting themselves? You have Tom who's drumming on his desk, Susie who's gazing out the window and humming her favorite Lady Gaga song, Ben who's fiddling around with his book bag, zipping and unzipping every single pocket.  Joe who's texting his friend who sits right next to him.  And the list goes on and on and on...

How many times have you arranged and rearranged seating charts to separate the talkers or those who don't get along?  You've moved your desks or table arrangements so much that the only next move would be to hang the desks from the ceiling!

How often do you think about classroom management and find it a very frustrating topic? 

I can bet that thinking about classroom management is constantly on a teacher's mind. You dream of a perfect class atmosphere with all students on their best behavior. They're sitting up straight, with their hands folded on their desks, looking at you, smiling and ready to learn.

Then reality smacks you. Your dream deflates and you are back to square one. Behavior management is a teacher's enigma!

Driving to school, you think about contacting the social worker about a student who's very disruptive. On your lunch break, you talk with teachers who have tried different ways of discipling students. The thoughts are always the same. Contacting parents, meetings with the school support staff. The list goes on and on and on. 

Managing classroom behavior actually isn't a new topic. it's been around since the days of the one room school house. One room school houses? Did teachers have discipline problems WAY BACK THEN? 

My great aunt was a teacher in Pennsylvania, in a little one room school house. She taught kids ages 5 - 14. Sounds like a nightmare, right? Think about it. How did she provide individualized lesson plans for that wide range of ages? How did she manage the paper work, the lesson planning? HOW DID SHE MANAGE THE BEHAVIOR OF ALL HER STUDENTS?

Well the stories passed down generation to generation went something like this.

In those days, the school was built by neighbors, townspeople and people with certain skills.

People donated materials, worked without pay and had a great sense of pride when the school was finished. There was no building committee, no governing body to dictate how high the walls should be, no one to say how long the school day should be. That was determined by the local people.  Some times kids were pulled out of school to help their parents plant crops and harvest them. It was necessary for family survival...

What did kids do to disrupt the class back in the one room school house days? Hardly anything. Teachers were respected and if parents found out their children were being disrespectful or were disrupting and interrupting the teachers, there were consequences, set down by the parents. God forbid my great aunt had to tell a farmer that his kid was being bad in class! Any kid who misbehaved paid the consequences at home.

 So what happens these days?

Teachers plan their lessons hoping they'll get through them with no interruptions. They pray that students will pay attention and learn what's being taught. They cover their bulletin boards with good citizenship posters, classroom rules and consequences and good feeling quotes as reminders, and hope it will reinforce good behavior. 

I'm not saying that displaying posters and good feeling quotes is wrong. Not at all. They are good reminders for students. In the good old days, there were shortages of paper, no computers, no printers and the teachers used what they had. They told the kids what was expected of them and laid down the rules at the beginning of the school year knowing parents backed them up. 

Is that reality? Certainly not. Our students aren't perfect. They're individuals who come from different backgrounds, different family environments and have different life experiences.  Some reach out for attention at home and school in negative ways because that's the only way they know. I f you throw a tantrum at home, you get attention. If you act out and misbehave, you get attention. So why not misbehave in school? Yes, it's negative attention, but it DOES get attention. 

How many times have I walked passed a teacher's room and heard a student being reprimanded in front of others? How many times have I heard a teacher, beyond frustration, yelling and reprimanding an entire class when it was only one or two who caused the disruption? Too many times. 

I'll never forget the day when I entered my first period, 11th grade history class, a couple of minutes late. The teacher lashed out at me verbally and berated my tardiness in front of the entire class. Being a very quiet girl, at that time in my life, I was mortified. I had a disagreement with my mother before I left for school, so with that heaviness on my shoulders, I had to listen to an angry teacher make things even worse. 

I ran out of the class in tears and went to my guidance counselor's office, where I sought solace. The saddest part of my experience is that I've never forgotten it. I can still see the teacher's face, hear his angry words and feel the embarrassment of being reprimanded in front of my peers.

At that point, I had already decided to pursue a teaching career, so that one incident changed the way I viewed class behavior and class management. NEVER would I embarrass a student in front of his or her peers. NEVER.

Okay, so you're probably wondering what I do, when a student disrupts others or interrupts a lesson. 

Read my skit below to see what happens in my class when there's a disruption.

I introduced a lesson and began explaining how to begin the preparation.  I looked up and saw Joe bothering friends who sit at his table. He poked Bob's arm and spun around in his chair and began bothering Mary. 

I nonchalantly and very calmly walked to the table, stopping to commend Mary for the effort she was demonstrating.  I turned around and without saying a word, motioned to Joe to follow me. He looked puzzled,  got up and followed me out the door, into the hall. I close the door. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that all eyes are on us. A hush falls over the room.

Once we're out in the hall, the conversation goes something like this.

Me:  Hi Joe. How are you doing today?
Joe: Uh, good. (He looks puzzled and looks down at his feet. I KNOW he was expecting me to raise my voice)
Me: You're good? I noticed you were doing something you shouldn't have been doing. 
Joe: I was?

Me: Yes you were. Can you describe what you were doing?
Joe: Uh. (Looks down at his feet) I was talking.
Me: Right. You were talking among other things. What happens when kids talk when I'm giving directions about a lesson?
Joe: (He pauses and looks up at me) They don't hear what you said?
Me: That's right. What will happen if they don't hear the directions? 
Joe: They won't know what to do?

Me: Right again. Let me ask you something. 
Joe: Okay. 
Me: Do you like being in my class? (He looks up at me with a puzzled look)
Joe: Yeah. 
Me: Would you like to stay in my class?
Joe: Oh yeah I would.
Me:  Well, if you continue disrupting others I might have to call your parents and discuss it with them. Or I might ask that you be moved to another class.

Joe: What???? Oh pleeeease don't call my parents. Please!  I don't want to be moved to another class. (I had one student get on his knees and actually plead with me not to call his parents. He's a very theatrical kid.)
Me: Well, if you don't want me to call your parents, I guess I'll have to call Mr. _______(principal's name) A look comes over his face and once again he makes his plea for me not to contact the principal.

Me: How do you think YOU can fix this problem?
Joe: By not talking and interrupting?
Me: Sounds good to me. Listen, we're not going to mention this conversation to anyone, ok? You walk back in the room, sit down get ready to listen. I'll walk in and explain the directions, and continue with the lesson. Deal?
Joe:  (Huge smile) Deal.
Me:  This is the last time I'll have to talk with you in the hall, right? And you won't say anything about it when we go back in class, right?
Joe:  Right. 
Me: That's good because if it happens again, I will call your parents and speak with the principal or dean about it. Is that understood?
Joe: Yes. 

I extend my hand and we shake on it. 

As we walk back in the room, every single student is looking at me and looking at Joe. 

Were they expecting me to say something to them? Of course. They were expecting me to storm in the room and reprimand the entire class.

Were they wondering what happened in the hall? Of course. 

Did I say anything? Absolutely not. 

Did Joe tell them what I said to him in the hall? Maybe... 

Does this work with every student? For me, it works 90% of the time. Naturally, there are always exceptions.

What's the best part of my method of classroom management?

 Word gets around.           Kids talk.           They Tweet.  

They know I won't yell at them in front of their peers, therefore they respect me. 

Respect and fairness are keys to successful behavior management. 

Again, it won't work with every student, but trust me, it's worth a try.  

Think about it. Your blood pressure won't soar,  you won't feel your face flush. You won't have to scream, yell .. You'll feel that YOU have control....

That said... 

You might want to check out my "Behavior and Classroom Management Forms for Teachers" resource that contains MANY forms for managing those who need guidance and assistance. Some forms are for school use only, some are for students and some help keep track of parent communication. 

I've also included award types of cards that can be handed to those who make good strides as well as larger types of cards that can be used as bulletin board toppers. 

Check out the preview of the packet, to learn more. 

photo of Behavior and Classroom Management Forms for Teachers, PDF, behavior management, Ruth S.,