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Monday, February 23, 2015

It's a TpT Sale!

Teachers Pay Teachers is having a "Teachers are Heroes" sale on Wednesday, February 25th.

I have joined in and put my whole TpT shop on sale.  If you use the TpT promo code HEROES you will be able to get a 28% discount!  
Now is the time to stock up on some great resources at some great prices!
A few of my favorite resources from my TpT shop include:


I already have a crazy number of items on my wish list that I plan to purchase during the sale!  

Biomes - Close Reading

I just finished working on a huge project for my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  It was very time consuming, but I am really happy with how it turned out!

    Introducing:  Close Reading - Biomes.

I created this close reading resource to combine science and reading together into one activity.  We all know how pressed for time we are as teachers, so any time I can teach multiple skills/concepts together I am all for it.  

In this resource you will find:
  • 6 reading passages (each about a different biome)

           each passage is written at three different reading levels from 4th to 7th grade
  • text dependent questions to answer after the first read, after the second read, and after the third read
  • text annotation symbol sheet
  • a graphic organizer for each passage
  • a vocabulary activity for each passage
  • answer keys for the text dependent questions

A larger preview and the entire resource can be found in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

Happy reading!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Biomes Poster Project

We wrapped up our study of biomes this week by creating biome posters.

The kids worked in groups to gather more in depth information about the biome that was assigned to them.  They would need to share/present this information on a large poster.

Some of the requirements of things they had to show on their poster included:

     name of the biome (title)
     a description of the landforms in the biome
     plants and animals found in the biome
     a food web from the biome
     at least 2 plant adaptaions
     at least 2 animal adaptations

The kids loved this project!  I really think it gave them the time to really go in depth learning about one biome, and I could tell they better understood why plants/animals had certain adaptations and how they helped them survive.

On the final day each group had to present their poster to the class and explain the information they learned.  I was really impressed by the quality of their posters and the work they put in to presenting to the class.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Animal Adaptations

I love teaching about animal adaptations!  Kids always seem to love to learn anything about animals, so they were engaged right from the start when we started this topic a couple weeks ago.

We talked about the six biomes (tundra, taiga, savanna, rainforest, deciduous forest and desert) and the features of each environment.  I then showed the class many photos of plants and animals from all over the world and we discussed the adaptations each plant or animal has made to survive and thrive in its environment.

Many of my kids had never really stopped to think about why a birds beak may be shaped a certain way, why an animals ears are small or large, or why some animals in the desert burrow underground.  They could not stop talking and sharing there new insights into the structures and behaviors of all kinds of plants and animals.

I then showed two short video clips from StudyJams.   They have a great video on plant adaptations and another one on animal adaptations.  I don't know about your students, but I can show a video once and they will remember every word, jingle, or idea that is in it.

Then I introduced their project.  (I have a very arts and crafty class this year, so they are always up for a project).  I gave each kid a short scenario with details about an imaginary environment.  Their job was to create their own animal that would be able to survive in its environment.  They could make their animal as realistic or imaginary as they wanted to, but they had to include at least five adaptations on their animal that would allow them to survive (hunt food, stay warm/cool, stay safe from predators etc...).  They had to label each adaptation explaining what purpose it served.

student created animal with adaptations for its environment

close up of the labeled adaptation

The kids LOVED this project.  They could not stop talking about how they were going to design their animal, what features it would have, what it would eat.......  I knew they would enjoy the project, but I was not prepared for this much excitement!  It was great to see them so excited to apply what they had learned about adaptations.

Here are a few more student samples:

As you can see, the kids came up with some really creative animals and some great adaptations that would help their animals survive.  These are definitely going up in the hallway for conferences!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

What I'm Reading Wednesday

A couple weeks ago CNN aired a special documentary marking the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.  One of the men featured, Martin Greenfield, survived Auschwitz as a child and is now one of the most popular suit makers/tailors, making suits for presidents, movie sets, and other well known leaders.

He wrote a memoir about his life growing up and how he became who he is today. I had to go out and buy it right away, and I was not disappointed.  Martin's book, Measure of a Man, is a great story about how people can overcome horrible situations and experiences.  Martin's story is inspiring, even though reading about his childhood is very sad. He has such appositive outlook on life, it is contagious!   If you like memoirs, holocaust history and inspirational stories you should read this book!

At school, I am reading the book Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson as my class read aloud right now.  This is the sequel to the book Chains (which we also read, and loved!).  Forge is a historical fiction novel set during the Revolutionary War and tells the tale of Curzon, a former slave/servant who escaped jail and joined the Patriot army to fight at Valley Forge.  American history is the main focus of our social studies curriculum and this book is a wonderful tie in to all the things we are reading and learning about in social studies.  The kids learn so much about day to day life, different perspectives, and what fighting for freedom was really like- things they wouldn't learn from just reading a textbook.  The story is a page turner and has the kids saying "nooooooo.....don't stop reading!" every day.  Even if you aren't studying American history I would strongly recommend this book as a strong work of historical fiction that includes internal and external conflict, a great plot, and strong characters.

What are you reading right now?  Any suggestions of good books I should add to my reading list?

Monday, February 9, 2015

14 Ways to use Task Cards

I LOVE using task cards with my class!  They are such a versatile way to practice and review concepts.  Plus, it can get the kids up and moving.  My students are very engaged when working on task cards, and I overhear some great discussions going on when my kids work together to solve a card.  Movement, engagement, and student discussion....what more could I ask for!

 I I have come up with 14 different ways that I , and you,  can use task cards with your class. 

  1. As a whole group-  hang the cards on the wall and have kids circulate and answer each card.
  2. As a math center/math rotation-  have the task cards at one of the small group areas.  Kids can work together or independently to solve each card.  You can put a whole set of cards out at once, or put several different ones out each day.
  3. As homework-  send a set of cards home with a child that needs extra practice with this skill
  4. As enrichment-  use these task cards for your “above level” kids-  they can be a homework activity, in class activity, part of a contract for individual work, a “I’m finished, now what do I do?” etc…
  5. As a small group teaching tool-  introduce the concept with a small group and go through the task cards together to provide guided practice
  6. In pairs-  have students quiz each other or complete and correct each others work
  7. As game questions-  quiz show games, relay games, board games, card games and more!
  8. As a scavenger hunt- post the questions around the room in more “hidden” places.  Kids have to find and solve each card
  9. To start class- have a task card displayed on the board when kids arrive for them to start working on right away
  10. Test Review-  have kids practice the skill featured on the task card on the day(s) before a unit test
  11. As an exit slip-  have students complete one task card as an informal assessment at the end of class.
  12. As a part of your interactive math notebook-  photocopy a task card for the students to glue into their notebooks.  They can solve the problem right under the glues in problem, and also use the area to take notes as you introduce new concepts!
  13.  RAP (read, answer, pass)-  kids sit in a circle, each with a different card.  When you say “go” they read their card, answer it on their answer sheet and wait for you to say “pass” (then they pass it to their neighbor).  This works well with vocabulary task cards that the kids can read and solve quickly.  When I use this structure with vocabulary I usually give the kids 30 seconds for each card.
  14. Relay game-  create “teams” with your students.   Print multiple copies of a task card set, or split a set up into equal piles for each team you make.  For the relay one person in each group must run/walk to a specified area, grab a card, and bring it back to their group.   They need to answer the card as a group, and then check with the teacher to see if it is correct.  If it is correct, they send another teammate to get a new card to solve.  If it is incorrect, they must continue working on the card together as a team until it is correct.  You can make the goal to be first team to finish all their cards, to solve the most cards correctly in ___ minutes,  or any other set up that works for your class!
I hope you found a new way to use task cards with your class.  Do you have any additional ways you use task cards in your class?  Leave a comment, I would love to hear your ideas!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Greek and Latin Word Roots

A few years ago I started teaching spelling and vocabulary built around greek and latin word roots.  I pulled together bits and pieces of resources, ideas, information from everyplace I could find and finally created my own resource that I knew would work well with my students.  These resources have really increased my students ability to figure out the spelling and meaning of new words, and increased their vocabulary.

I wanted to focus on several roots each week, so I created word lists focused around several roots around the same theme.  I made two different lists using the same roots, one a bit more challenging than the other.   I was very pleased with how my students responded to the word lists and learning word roots.    This was my first Greek and Latin resource in my TpT store, and is one of my best sellers!

This fall I wanted to expand the activities I did each week with the word lists to help my students remember the roots, their meanings, and also the meanings of the words on the lists.  I created an interactive notebook so that the kids would have a resource with all the roots and words they learned and well as a place to collect other words they came across with the same roots.  This has been a very popular activity with my class each week!  It allows them to be creative, and they love that!

Finally, what classroom could be complete without a word wall????  Based on the traditional sight word wall used in many primary classrooms, I created a Word Root Wall for the big kids!  The colorful cards brighten up my room and are a great visual to remind the kids what the roots mean.


I put together a free sample of these three products that includes resources for the roots bene, bon and mal.  The freebie includes two spelling lists, interactive notebook pages and word wall cards.  

Click on the image to download this freebie from my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

What are some activities or games you have done to teach vocabulary?