Amber from TGIF (Third Grade is Fun)
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How to Rock your Basal Reader and Enjoy It!

So you have to use the basal reader..... Well, if you have to use it, then rock it!!!!  I actually enjoy the structure my basal reader provides and yet I love incorporating all kinds of fun, interactive activities with each story.  

Here is a run down for how I schedule my Reading Street basal reader week. I focus on one main area a day (although I do other things each day):

Monday - Vocabulary Focus

1. Introduce vocabulary using phonics rules.

I will show one word at a time and cover all but the first letter or two. I will ask for three words "it could be." Maybe I show the letters "st". They guess "street, stunt, and stinky". Then I uncover the next letter "str". It could be "street" and so they guess two more words. We keep going until they guess the word which might be "straight." This is a great way to intro vocab and incorporate phonics for my strugglers. We can talk about the "ai" giving the long a sound and "gh" often being silent.

2. Vocabulary words as "sight words"

a. "Round the Room" - Line your class up and you stand facing the front of the line with vocabulary cards in hand. The first student reads the first card and then walks the perimeter of the room. The second student reads the second card and follows the first student around the perimeter of the room. Third student - third card. Keep repeating words until each student has read a card. This is a quick, fast paced, get up and moving activity. I don't spend long on it at all!

b.. "Swat it" - Group your class into 4 groups and give the first student a fly swatter. Each team needs a different color. Spread out your vocabulary cards on the floor. Call a word and the first one to swat the correct word gets a point. Challenge the class after a few rounds by adding a level of difficulty. Now give the definition or synonym.

3. Vocabulary Graphic Organizers

I try to mix it up a bit and use different types of organizers so they don't get bored, but this gives the students a chance to internalize the meaning of each word and how to use it in context. Here are 3 vocabulary graphic organizers that we use in the classroom.

4. Make predictions about the story with vocabulary

After introducing the vocabulary and learning the title of our story. We make predictions on what we think the story will be about using just those two clues (vocabulary and title). This is a perfect writing opportunity. You can have your students write down their predictions or even have them write a short story line.

We usually read part or all of the story in class after several of our vocabulary activities.

Tuesday and Wednesday - Story Elements, Skills and Comprehension

Well....this is a large topic! On these two days, we usually read through all of the story or I will pick a section to focus on. (If the story is long, we might read half on Tuesday and half on Wednesday). I use the focus from the book as my focus for the week. There are usually 2-3 skills I might focus on.

Partner Read and Discuss
DON'T make your job any harder than it already is! Use those questions that are posed throughout the teacher's manual. Often I will partner my students and have them read one page with their partner. As they are reading, I will write one of those questions from the teacher's manual on the board. When students are finished reading, they are to discuss it with their partner. To keep them accountable, I may randomly call on two groups to share their answers or I will have them write it on a white board or piece of paper. Quickly share some of their answers and add in your own ideas. Now move to the next page and as they are reading, write a new question up on the board. (Yep, you can collect those and give participation points. I beg of you though, for your sanity, do NOT spend too much time grading them! You will get bogged down and your time is too valuable to put too much time into it. Give 2 points for great effort. 1 point for some effort and 0 points for nothing!)

Skill and Comprehension Foldables
You can simply take a plain piece of paper and fold it into halves. Let's say the focus is making generalizations and author's purpose. Have the students write the title and author on the cover (first page). On the inside, have them write author's purpose at the top on the second page and making generalizations on the third (inside pages). Underneath each you can write definitions of each (this should be inside your teacher's manual). Near the bottom you can write one question from the teacher's manual with this focus and have the student's answer it. Need something to leave behind for a substitute that makes your life simple? Try these pre-made skill and comprehension foldables! Easy!

Thursday - Center Review

So, I admit that Tuesday and Wednesday wasn't all that exciting! This is our day to move around a lot and interactive day! I make centers for my class based off of the concept. Some of my centers are truly ugly! LOL. I usually just use index cards and when needed, painter's tape (to make T-charts or something of the like). Since no one truly loves showing the homemade stuff (plus I don't really have any pictures of the sloppy handwritten cards), I will show you my more Pinterest worthy pictures. But let me tell you THIS IS NOT HOW MY CLASSROOM LOOKS ON A DAILY BASIS.

Sequence of Events (I do this for most all fiction stories)
On cards I will pick on event from most every page and write one on each card. I will number them on the back, mix them up and have a group try to put them in correct story order. I allow them to use their books too! We want to encourage them to use this as a reference to prepare them for (SIGH) "the big test."

Character Match
I will write the characters' name from the story (one on each card) and then I will write a quality or action of each character (one on each card). Have the students try to match them up. I will write matching numbers or symbols on the back to make them self-checking or your can make an answer sheet that they can get from you when they show you they have matched to the best of their ability.

Vocabulary Match
Well this is really the same as the character match set up!

Fact or Opinion
I will often use painter's tape and set up a T-Chart. Write fact on one index card and opinion on another. Seriously, make this next step as easy as possible. Copy about 10 sentences out of the book - enlarge them on the copier and cut out those sentence strips! Make sure some of the sentences are fact and others are opinion. Have the groups sort them.

Fact - Lox is a smoked salmon.
Opinion - Pablo's mother makes the best pan dulce in town.

Writing Station
Choose a question from the teacher's manual to have them respond to. Also there are usually 3 questions for the students to respond to at the back of the story in the student edition. You could also do a "would you rather" writing activity. "Would you rather be _____ (main character's name) or _______ (a secondary character) and why?" You could also do a "prove it" activity. Pose a question, have them respond to it, then find a quote out of the story that "proves it" and then they must end with their own thoughts.

I have some already made centers prepared and I am currently working on making some of my "homemade centers" into TpT resources. If you want something already premade, check out my Reading Street supplements on TpT.

Friday - Review and Test Day

Sometimes we review before the test and other days we don't. Here are a few links that I sometimes use on Friday or I may use them other days during the week. I hope you find some of them helpful. Warning: If it is a review game, some teachers use the exact questions that are one the test. If you can modify them some, I highly recommend it.

Kahoot - This link explains, but basically this is like a game show! You can search for the reading story you are on. I promise there are lots of activities.

Rags to Riches (Prudy's Problem for example) - This is like "Who Wants to be a Millionare" but requires Adobe Flash Player. Just search "Rags to Riches" in Google and then the story title. You will find several!

Read Alouds on You Tube - Just about every story is on You Tube. Some of the reading quality is fair and others - not so much. But, if you don't have the books on CD, this is seriously a life saver when you have a sore throat or want to set up a listening station!

Have any questions? Connect with me on Facebook! I'd love to answer them for you.

A Teacher's Week

We go through a roller coaster of emotions and moods throughout the week, don't we?  Whether you teach in pre-k or high school, I think you can relate!



We got this! Interventions, meetings, differentiation, small groups, documentation - no problem! We are super heroes!

Alright! We are half way though! I mean seriously, did you see how we handled that surprise fire alarm? Perfection!

What? Your administration did not high five you for all that amazing work from the last 3 days? No matter! You are awesome!

Party!  I think a dance party with your students is in order!  You rocked this week!


Oh ya! You deserve it! Watch your favorite Netflix series and put your feet up!

Oh crud!  I didn't do any laundry or housework yesterday!  Two days worth of work in two hours?  No problem - I am a teacher!


You all amaze me at all you accomplish and the creative ways you teach to your students.  Thank you teachers for all you do!  You may not always hear is, but you ARE appreciated!

Do you use Bean Bags in the Classroom? Must read!

Replacing all those little styrofoam balls in bean bags is major $$$! My bean bags were getting flat and so I went to Staples to purchase a bag of packing peanuts to fill them up.  I promptly walked away.  Ummmm, no thank you!  It was over $20 for one bag!  I could have purchased new bean bags for that price!!!!

One of my coworkers came up with the idea of using plastic shopping bags! I just save up lots of my plastic bags after grocery shopping and bring them to school.  Ask parents for them too as I am sure many of them would LOVE to get rid of some of those plastic bags and feel like they went to great use.  It's free and it makes the bean bags so cushiony without the noise.  I just zip the bean bags open and add my piles of plastic bags.  Easy peasy!  My students sure appreciate the extra padding, and I appreciate the savings in my pocket!

Christmas Gifts for Students

It is a dilemma we teachers have every single year.  What do we purchase our students for Christmas (that we can afford)?  I have searched around for some of the best ideas from some amazing teachers.  Here are some fabulous ideas!

1.  $1.00 Books from Scholastic
Every month Scholastic offers a dollar deal in their flyer.  Order several every month and you will have a great assortment by the time Christmas rolls around or just order all the same books for the whole class.  You can also use your Bonus Points toward the books.

2.  Scholastic $5 Book Coupons 
I actually make a purchase of Scholastic $5 Book Coupons at the beginning of the school year and even though the coupons state that they are Birthday Coupons, I use them to purchase my student's Christmas books.  Why?  It costs me $34 to purchase 32 coupons, so each coupon basically costs $1.00, but I am able to purchase $5 books with each coupon!  With my upfront purchase of $34, I can buy $160 worth of books.  Mad Libs is always a fun activity at the party.   

3.  Coloring books and crayons
You can pick up some amazing coloring books for $1.00 or less at stores like Dollar Tree and if you purchase crayons at Back to School time, you can get some pretty amazing deals.  You could also create your own coloring book and staple it together.  There are 3 cute (and free) coloring sheets available on ClassDojo.  Just scroll down to the Classroom Decoration Pack available on the ClassDojo Resources page and download for free.  

4.  Snowman Soup
Assemble items for Snowman Soup!  It's like a mini hot chocolate kit for kids!

5. Homework Pass and Candy Canes  
Print some free editable homework passes and give each child a candy cane!  

6.  Personalized Bookmarks
Print and laminate bookmarks for your students.  Here is a printable bookmark freebie for you.  You can edit the to and from section! 

7.  Pack of Gum with a Gum Pass
Gum has been banned from school since the beginning of time, so allowing your students to chew the gum you bought them during class time is almost downright scandalous!  Telling them, "Don't tell the  principal!" makes it that much more fun.  Download the free printable and editable gum pass here.

8. Make an ornament
Purchase supplies for your class as a present and enjoy an afternoon of art with your students.  You could make a Snowman Handprint Ornament.  

9.  Build a gingerbread house
Purchase graham crackers, white icing, mini candy canes, gum drops, colored chocolate chips (yes, there is such a thing), m&m's or Skittles, and other small candies.  Let the students construct gingerbread houses with the supplies.  Turn on some Christmas music and display a fireplace or Christmas tree on the projector.  Have a fun afternoon together!

10.  Plan a special day
Pajama day, Grinch Day, North Pole Express Day, Game Day, Frozen Theme or visit the arctic.  Make it a day to look forward to and give the gift of fun!

11.  Personalized Pencils
Purchase Personalized Pencils for each of your students with their own name.  They receive 3 pencils in a pouch for less than a $1.00 per student.  Bonus!  When your students lose their pencils, you will know who it belongs to.  Win-Win!

12. Fun pair of gloves or socks
You can find lots of fun and silly Christmas themed socks for $1 at stores like Dollar Tree this time of the year.  $1 gloves would also make a great gift!  Both of these are fun and yet practical because many of our students are in need of these items.  

13. Filled Stocking
Dollar Tree always has $1 stockings available and I have also seen the mini-stockings for less than 50 cents each.  You can fill them with wrapped candies, stickers, candy canes, bookmarks, a hot chocolate package, a homework pass or classroom coupon.  

14.  Personalized Ornament
Purchase plastic ornaments and a metallic sharpie marker.  Write the student's name, grade, and year on the ornament and of course who it is from.  

15.  A donation in their name to a charity
Make a donation in honor of your students.  Print out a certificate stating where the donation was made to and put each student's name on the certificate.  St. Jude's is one great cause you could donate to.

Keeping Students Accountable while using the EPIC app

More of us are engaging our students by using technology in our classrooms.  But how do we keep them accountable?  I use the EPIC app for independent and group reading in my classroom.  It is also a wonderful resource for research. An EPIC account is available free for all educators.  Students can access EPIC on tablets and computers.  You can check out one of the research projects we completed in my classroom below using EPIC.

My friend, Kami from Teaching with APPitude, is such a wonderful resource for all things iPads.  In this video, she teaches how she keeps her students accountable using the EPIC app.  I love how she show step by step how she assigns books in her classroom and how she keeps her students on track in such a simple way.

I have learned so many wonderful easy technology tips from Kami.  You can find her on Facebook and check out many of her videos. She does such an excellent job of explaining, and she is fun to watch too!

Last year, my class created animal report posters and we exclusively used the EPIC app for our research. (Check out our posters below.)  My students were able to gather multiple sources to cite their research, and it was such a blessing because they were able to find books on their level.  

Each of my students picked an animal.  If some students wanted to pick the same animal, I was fine with that.  It actually turned out to be a blessing because they were able to help each other out a bit.  Each of them were able to find several books that were on topic and on level.  Some books were even read aloud books so my students who needed support, had it. Since research for 2nd-4th Graders is such a new concept, having all of the books in one place is so helpful.

I find using the poster display is makes it very possible for my students because it doubles as a graphic organizer for them to gather all of their information.

You can see some more examples below and also a timeline for my lesson plan for the week.

These animal report posters are available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store along with many other research posters.

Teaching Common, Proper and Abstract Nouns with Engaging Activities

I love teaching grammar when I can get my students involved and active!  This week we were studying common and proper nouns (with a bit of abstract nouns thrown in there too).  If you have to cover the Common Core Standards it covers L.3.1C and L.3.2A.  I am not a worksheet type of teacher and so when it can be more interactive and engaging I am all about it!

Some weeks I make my own activities, but I was short on time.  I was saved by Hanging with Mrs. Hulsey, a 3rd Grade teacher from my neighboring state.  At our school, our mascot is the Bulldogs, and I have a dog theme in my classroom, so when I saw her "Paws-itively Perfect Proper Nouns activities, I knew I had to use it in my classroom!

On Monday we started our mini-books.  The kids love stapling them together (why I am not sure, but it is such a treat for them),  I enjoy giving them 5-10 minutes to take ownership of their book by coloring the cover.  I use this time to remember to submit my attendance (which I always forget) and to make sure I have my supplies ready for the next few subjects or bring up the website that I may be using in the next subject.  A lot of times we feel guilty as teachers giving the students time to color when it isn't a "state standard" we have to cover, but I feel like this allows me to get totally organized so I don't waste any teaching time later in the day.

Mini books can be homemade.  Just staple a few index cards together and have the students write a rule on each page with examples for proper nouns, common nouns and abstract nouns.

The mini-book introduces the students to Butch the Bulldog as he takes them through the rules of nouns.  I love that Butch doesn't just "tell" the students the rules, but makes them infer from examples.  On these pages, there are several different ways to practice the concepts of common, proper and abstract nouns.  Check out the quick check practice on the back of the mini-book.  >>>

With a homemade mini book, you could also have students write several words on one of the pages and color code them.

Throughout the week, we had different centers.  The correct/incorrect proper nouns center is one of my favorites because I love having my students sort.  First, they sort by whether or not the proper nouns are written correctly.  Afterward, I had my students rewrite the incorrect sentences.  

I like this type of sorting activity and use it often.  This is where I put those worksheets that I have a dislike for into practice.  I cut up parts of the worksheet and have the kids sort them!  Just like this correct/incorrect sorting activity and then we correct some of the sentences on our white boards.  I find that the kids are more invested and engaged even though they are truly doing the same work.

We use IXL at my school, so another one of my centers involved working toward earning a medal for completing the skills that we were covering:  common and proper nouns and abstract nouns.  IXL is free for the first 10 questions, but it is worth every penny for the subscription!  This is the 3rd year that our school has purchased it.  

The Color-a-Noun center was probably the most popular.  Who doesn't enjoy coloring with dry erase markers?  I laminated this center so I could use it over and over.  However, I tell you one way to get those kids motivated to do this activity would be to let them use the sheet without lamination and allow them to use the smelly markers!  My kids go ape over using those.  

After using this Color-a Noun activity, I was inspired to make a few homemade sorting activities similar to this for my classroom.  It was so easy.  All you have to do is make several shapes (circles "polka dots" are super easy) all over the page and write a word in each one.  Then at the bottom add a code.

The Paws-itively Perfect Proper nouns activity pack has even more print and go activities.  If you love these hands-on type activities as much as I do, you may want to check out similar resources here >>> Grammar resources by Hanging with Mrs. Hulsey <<< 

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