Monthly Archives: July 2012

Facebook Character Profiles

You might have seen that cute Pinterest image of the Facebook page that students can fill out for a person or character. I love this idea! Students can fill it out about a character, a famous or historical person they are studying, or about themselves as a beginning of the school year activity.

I decided to make a primary and intermediate version along with teacher samples. There are many currently on Teachers Pay Teachers, but it’s looking like anything with another company’s logo is no longer allowed on TPT so I made my own. It’s simple but I think the kids would love it!  I had a lot of fun making the sample pages. Not only is it fun, but it would really help the kids to think about the person or character they are writing about.

Here’s a screenshot of the intermediate sample:


Here’s a screenshot of the primary sample:

Here are the downloads:



Have a great day!

Categories: Beginning Year Stuff, Reading, Writing Assignments | 3 Comments

Apples Apples Apples!

I’ve been having a bit of anxiety attack because I don’t have a writing project for September. I’ve been worrying about this months. It has literally been keeping me awake at night. Everything I’ve seen online is some version of “Tell about your summer vacation.” Today it came to me: let’s study apples!

I think one of my most important jobs as a 4th grade teacher is to help kids LOVE to learn. I want kids to be excited to come to school every day. This is especially true with writing. So many kids hate to write, and it’s really sad. I like to make writing projects fun, interactive, and non-boring.  I love the moment in the year when kids start to get excited about writing!

I think this writing assignment is fun, interactive, and is great for fall. While it isn’t life-changing in terms of 21st century learning skills, it is certainly possible to broaden this project. Students could research the drought and its effect on growing fruit, such as apples. Students could research the Honeycrisp apple, which was created at the University of Minnesota and is a cross between Macoun and Honeygold apples. You could have students use their research to propose which apple varieties could be crossed together to make apples with specific characteristics, or to make apples that are more drought-tolerant. You could include a field trip to a local apple farm.

There are three parts of this assignments:

1. Students interact with many different varieties of apples. Students write observations as to how the apple looks, feels, and tastes.

2. Students choose two varieties to compare and contrast, and learn two different ways to write a compare/contrast paragraph. They can then choose which method to use to write their paragraph.

3. Students create a guided art project. They’ll draw the outline in Sharpie and color it in with watercolors.

Here are some images of the assignment:

Parent form:

Planning a compare/contrast paragraph:

Small group observation form:


Art project (picture from Pinterest):


The download is FREE and includes:

Compare/Contrast Paragraph: Method 1

Compare/Contrast Paragraph: Method 2

Final Draft Paper

Apple Day Parent Note

Apple Observations Form
While the download is free, I’m going to make you jump through a hoop to get it. You’ll have to sign up for a free account to Teachers Pay Teachers. I highly recommend doing this anyway because there are so many great resources on TPT, many of which are free!  Here’s the link:

Categories: Beginning Year Stuff, Writing Assignments | Leave a comment

Adventures in Crafting: Part 2

After some trial and error and some lucky finds in my garage, I can now give advice on how to turn a cookie sheet into a cute magnet board.

Follow these steps:

1. Spray a good coat of spray primer on one side, let it dry, then spray on the other side and let it dry.

2. Spray one side with any color spray paint, let it dry, repeat on other side. You don’t need to paint the part that will be covered by paper.

3. Cut scrabook paper to fit an grab a bottle of Mod Podge.

4. Optional Step: Lightly spray the scrapbook paper with clear acrylic spray. This will help eliminate some bubbles.

4. Spread a thin layer of Mod Podge on the surface of the cookie sheet. Then spread a thin layer of Mod Podge on the scrapbook paper. Then attach it, and smooth it down as much as possible.  If you’re really anal, use makeup sponges to spread the Mod Podge. The Internet says this will give a smoother finish. I didn’t do this.)

5. Cover the top of the paper with Mod Podge AND cover all of the paint with Mod Podge! This doesn’t look quite as cute but makes it much more durable, which is necessary in a classroom! NOTE: You will see bubbles and creases. Don’t freak out!! Most of them go away while it is drying! Put the cookie sheet in the garage to dry and don’t look at it while it’s drying because you’ll just freak out about all the bubbles. Most of them really will go away, I promise!

6. Spread Mod Podge over the paint on the back of the cookie sheets too. Let dry.

Conclusion: It’s a lot of work. I don’t know if it’s worth it but it’s done now!

Here they are:

Categories: Crafts, New Classroom, Summer Work | Leave a comment

Time Capsules

Today I’m updating my time capsule assignment for the first week of school.

It’s a quick project that students can complete on their own and in small groups. When they finish, I put all the pieces in a ziploc bag and save it until the end of the year.  Here are the pieces and what I do with them at the beginning and end of the year:

Self Portrait

Beginning of year: Have students create a self portrait of their face, then mount them on construction paper and display them in the classroom. I cover up the name with a tag that says, “Guess who?” and students guess who each picture is. We then reveal the names.

I also draw a self portrait and…. (Shh, this is a secret!)…  I purposefully make it bad while acting like I’m trying really, really hard to show that it’s ok if you aren’t a good artist! I want students to feel comfortable taking risks and making mistakes. They look so cute displayed in the classroom. Here’s a bad picture (I forgot to save the full res version):

End of year: Compare their artwork at the beginning of the year with the end. It’s amazing how much better they get!

Hand Print and Foot Print

Beginning of year: Have students work with a partner to trace each others hand and foot.

End of year: Trace them again on top of the first picture with a different color to see how much your hands and feet grew.

Yarn to Show Height:

Beginning of year: In groups of 3-4, have students help each other cut a piece of yarn that is their height.

End of year: Do this again, then compare it to the height at the beginning of the year. Then students write how many centimeters they grew or shrunk on the board. The best part of this is that they do such a bad job of measuring at the beginning of the year that the end of year measurements are hilarious. Some will see that they “shrunk” 30 centimeters because their measuring skills were so off!

Goal Sheet:

Beginning of year: Have students fill these out individually. Conference with students during your first week of guided reading to discuss their goals.

End of year: If you have time, discuss the goals again with each student. You could also have them write a paragraph about how well their met their goals.

Acrostic Poem:

Beginning of year: Have student write an acrostic poem with their name that describes them.

End of year: Read poems. I didn’t do anything else with them.

Favorite Things:

Beginning of year: Have students fill this out individually.

End of year: Have students fill out another copy individually and don’t show them what they wrote at the beginning of the year. During the last week of school, spend 10 minutes at the end of each day going around in a circle having kids share what their favorite things were at the beginning of the year and what they are now. Sometimes they stay the same and sometimes they change.

Here’s the download:

Time Capsules

Categories: Beginning Year Stuff, Summer Work, Writing Assignments | 2 Comments

Life Without AR

In case anyone was sitting at home worrying why I haven’t been posting (haha), I have been hard at work! I’ve been getting some things ready for Daily 5 and CAFE, and a few other things. I don’t really want to post details until that’s all done. I’m going to work in my classroom on the 30th and hopefully will post some pictures and upload some documents that day.

Anyway, I want to post today about Accelerated Reader (AR). I’ve done AR in my classroom for the last 6 years. AR is a program online where students search for books they read and take basic comprehension quizzes based on the books.

Not everyone is a fan of AR. It isn’t perfect, but I do think it serves a purpose. AR makes sure that the kids are actually reading the books they say they are reading (ACCOUNTABILITY!). It brings comprehension issues to my attention. It also provides a way to keep track of what students read. You can print lovely reports. Parents can have emails sent to them showing their child’s progress.

Now I don’t have AR and I’ve been freaking out a little. What I REALLY wish existed was Goodreads for kids, but it doesn’t exist.  I thought making a blog or doing something on Edmodo and I googled other reading websites but wasn’t thrilled with any of that. I also don’t want to bog the kids down by making them do a ton of writing after they finish a book. We do plenty of writing in class. I just want a quick, easy way to keep track of what books each student is reading.

In the end, I came up with an old-fashioned form for kids to fill out. It is quick and easy. I’ll put it in their binder with their planners so they have it with them all the time. They just fill out the number of the book (to track how many books they read throughout the year), the title, author, date finished, and book level. Then they color in the star rating that they give the book and describe it with an adjective or two. They also write the number of pages in the book and there’s an extra space for any other information they want to add.

The downside is that this definitely does not guarantee that the student actually read the book or understood it. I’ll conference with kids about what they read and hope for the best!

Here’s the download if anyone wants it! Sorry it isn’t cute. I wanted to fit 4 on a page so there wasn’t room for cute stuff.

Book Form

Categories: Beginning Year Stuff, New Classroom, Summer Work | Leave a comment

Brain Breaks

If you’re like me, you might have pinned several links to brain breaks on Pinterest. I’ll be honest…. my opinion is that the best brain break is a second recess.  Last year, my teammate and I both had very active classes. We also had 3 hours of uninterrupted learning time in the afternoons.  At the beginning of the year, we took the kids out to recess between writing and math, and it was great.  However, after a couple months, we were asked to eliminate second recess.  We tried, and by the time math came around, the kiddos were Losing. It.

We tried every brain break we could think of…. dance parties, exercise, yoga, quiet meditation, you name it. Nothing worked! We saw drops of over 15% in math scores. We plead our case, brought recess back, the scores went back up, and the kids were happier, more focused, and able to learn. Huzzah!

Unfortunately, it isn’t always possible to go out for a 2nd recess.  I won’t have a 2nd recess this year, but the school day is split up much better.  Math and language arts are both in the morning with specials in between. We have a late lunch, followed by read-aloud and science or social studies.  It sounds like a great schedule!

However, I’m sure those moments will come when the kids need a quick brain break so I want to be prepared. I looked through some of the brain break links from Pinterest and chose some that I liked. They are all simple,  quick, and fun. I printed them out, glued them to bright colored tagboard, and will laminate the cards. The student helpers of the week will choose a brain break and lead it.

Here’s a picture of what they look like on the tagboard:

I just printed them and cut them out, but you could also use Avery 5371 business cards. The artwork is from

I hope someone out there can use these! Here’s the download:

Brain Breaks


Categories: Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Mobile Coupons!

Did you know that Michaels and Hobby Lobby will take mobile coupons? I have used both this weekend and both were accepted, no problem at all.

Both coupons are for 40% off one item and can be found directly on the Michaels and Hobby Lobby websites. Just find it on your mobile browser and show it to the checkout person. Easy peasy!

Here’s what one of them looks like on my phone. Btw I’m posting this from the WordPress app on my phone, so hopefully it will work!


Happy shopping!

Categories: Crafts, Summer Work | Leave a comment

Adventures in Crafting

I attempted 2 crafts today. One was a fail. I think the other is kind of a success.

Craft 1 was based on something like this from Pinterest:

I do plan on doing something like this with my clipboards, which are covered in 4th grade graffiti. But the clipboards are buried in a box somewhere (probably in my new classroom), so I decided to try something similar with the cookie sheets that I use as magnet boards.

EDIT: I found the Pinterest link to the cute cookie sheet magnet board. Here’s the inspiration pic:

First, I spray painted the back and part of the front. FYI, Krylon works better than Rustoleum and dries far faster. It covers well, but is easy to scratch off. I got a spray enamel to use after I’m done, which hopefully will make it a little stronger. However, I might end up having to use spray primer before the spray paint.

Here’s what it looked like with the spray paint:

The middle didn’t need to be totally painted because I was going to cover it in paper. I tested a magnet to see if it would work through the paper, and it worked great. Here’s what it should look like with the paper:

I used a spray adhesive on the paper and on the cookie sheet. Here’s what it looked like after I put the paper down and tried to re-position it to be straight:


A new layer of spray paint is drying right now. I’ll re-attempt this later.

Craft 2 was a bit better. I saw this done on a blog somewhere.  Basically you just cover a binder in fabric to make it look pretty. I used spray adhesive. It looks ok, but I’m not sure it’s going to stay adhered. We’ll see.

Categories: Crafts, New Classroom, Summer Work | 5 Comments

It’s Book Project Time!

One of the things my team did during our first meeting was map out when we would cover book genres throughout the year.  Every class will do a book project on the same genre at the same time, but everyone has the freedom to do different projects. My assignment is for students to read their book, make a sock puppet of one of the characters, their puppet to the class, and read an excerpt from the book out loud.

The first genre is Fantasy or Science Fiction. Previously, I had called this book report “Fantasy or Animal Fiction”. I’m going to attach the document as Fantasy/Science Fiction, but if you want me to attach a Fantasy or Animal Fiction form, just let me know in the comments and I’d be happy to do so.

Year after year, parents tell me how much their kids loved the book projects throughout the year. I’ve done these projects for the past 7 years (altering them a bit each year), and this particular assignment is one of students’ favorites. They love making a sock puppet!

Basically, the kids choose their own fantasy or science fiction book to read. The rules are that it needs to be close to their independent reading level (not too hard or too easy) and needs to be a book that the student has not read before.

The purposes of book projects are:

1. To encourage students to read a variety of books at their level throughout the year
2. To develop their creativity and project completion skills
3. To think about the stories and characters in new ways
4. To improve basic reading skills (fluency, comprehension, etc).
5. To provide an opportunity for families to work together. I think it’s an extremely valuable experience for families to talk about books and work on projects together.
6. Public speaking and presentation skills are a HUGE part of the new common core standards! In each of these assignments, students will present their project to the class. I always either take pictures or videotape the presentations and put them on a class DVD that goes home before winter break and at the end of the year.  You can also invite parents to the book project presentations.

If you google “how to make a sock puppet”, you will see tons of ideas that you can share with your students. Here’s a cute video from 1969 with Jim Henson about making a puppet:

There are also books about making puppets, like this one:

I have to give credit for this project to my friend Kay. When I started working with her 7 years ago, she shared these book projects with me. I’ve changed them a little, but the ideas are all from Kay. She is amazing!

Here’s the PDF. It includes the project information, grading checklist, and book selection form.

Fantasy/ScienceFiction Book Report



Categories: Book Projects, Reading | 1 Comment

Curriculum Mapping

At the beginning of the year, I always have the best intentions to map out my curriculum for the year. It usually gets about 1/3 done and then I get busy with other things and never go back to it, never look at it again, and just follow the plan in my brain. I was also pretty much my own team because I taught in the gifted/talented program and didn’t have plan time with the other teachers in my grade level.  I did a lot of vertical planning with the g/t team, but that’s quite a bit different than horizontal planning.

This year, I’ll be on a real live team! Yay! To keep us all organized, it would probably be a good idea to complete a curriculum map that we actually use and refer to.

I’m not good at making that sort of thing. I get mad at Excel. Fortunately, my former teammate, Emmalee, lives for that kind of thing. She makes amazing Excel documents and doesn’t even scream at her computer like I do.

EDIT: I just realized I had included the wrong curriculum map, and it wasn’t blank. This one is blank:

Curriculum Map – Blank

UPDATE: To make this a more useful document, we copied and pasted it to Google Docs so everyone could view and change it. It didn’t look as pretty, but was a much more workable document for a team. I definitely recommend doing that!

Categories: New Classroom, Planning, Summer Work | Leave a comment

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