Sunday, December 3, 2017

Figurative Language and a FREEBIE!

During Writer's Workshop, I emphasize to my students that writers have a toolbox filled with tools and devices to revise and edit their writing. One of those tools is figurative language to be used by the writer to help the reader see, hear, taste, smell, touch, or feel what s/he is describing.

I often introduce a concept with a slideshow in which definitions and examples are provided, examined, and discussed. Students are then given the opportunity to work in pairs to identify, explain, and create. In the case of figurative language, I created a PowerPoint to teach six literary devices for writers: simile, metaphor, personification, idiom, alliteration, and onomatopoeia. The slides are often animated and interactive. Below is a snapshot of some of the slides for "Simile" instruction.

Providing additional practice identifying these figurative devices is key to helping students create examples of their own. When reading to students during Hear Me Read, I tell them to listen for the type of figurative language we are currently learning. When someone points out the device, we talk about how it helps us understand what the writer is saying. I also encourage them to be on the lookout for examples in books they are reading and to keep their ears open as they watch TV or talk with their parents and friends. Students write down their discoveries and share them with the class during the next Writer's Workshop. 

In addition I provide practice with activities such as this Simile/Metaphor Sort.

In this Figurative Language Adventure Game students compete to be the first to reach the Writer's Toolbox by reading Figurative Language cards and identifying the type of literary device as they move along the game board.  

Following instruction and practice identifying the literary device, students write and illustrate an example of their own. This can be done by hand or on the computer as seen below in the idiom example. 

Often we take a Museum Walk in the classroom to share our work. Students clear their desks except for the illustrated literary device. We walk slowly and quietly about the room to view the illustration and read the author's work. This gives students a chance to see what their classmates have created. I often hang the examples in the hallway for parents, teachers, and other students to view as they travel about the school. Another option is to make a class book of the students' examples.

The Figurative Language PowerPoint, the FL Adventure Game, and the FREE Simile/Metaphor Sort are available at my TpT store.


Thanks for visiting. Here's luck and a fair wind to you!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Honoring Our Veterans

Ahoy Mateys! Veterans Day is around the corner, and I want to share with you an activity I did with my little scallywags to honor our friends and family members who have served or currently serve in our country's armed forces.

First thing on my list was to gather children's books about Veterans Day. These were displayed on the rain gutter tray mounted below the whiteboard. (The rain gutter idea came from Jim Trelease, the author of The Read-Aloud Handbook! When perched on the rain gutter, the books' covers are easy to view.) In addition, I searched for student-friendly websites for background information on Veterans Day.

I introduced the topic of Veterans Day by asking my students what does "veteran" mean. Once we arrived at the definition related to the holiday, I distributed KWL charts and asked students to list in the "K" column what they knew about Veterans Day. I had also made a poster size KWL chart. After the kiddos had made their list, I had them share their knowledge with each other and called on volunteers to write on the class chart. We then brainstormed questions we had about the holiday and wrote these in the "W" column.

Next the kiddos gathered on the carpet in the Reading Corner for a read-aloud of Veterans Day by Rebecca Rissman. This book provides information on the history of the holiday and how it is celebrated. After the reading, we returned to our KWL charts to write in the "L" column the facts we learned from the book.

The following day I talked with the students about an idea I had to honor the veterans we personally know. I showed under the doc camera a copy of the Veterans Information Form I had created. For each veteran in their family they would complete the form with a family member's help. If there were no veterans in their family, they could fill out the form for any family friends who were vets. (A letter explaining our project would be sent home along with the Veteran Information Forms.)

I explained that we would create a Veterans Wall of Honor on the wall outside our class door by displaying the information forms. In addition, I encouraged them to bring photos their families or friends might have of their veterans to place on the wall as well. For students who did not personally know a veteran, they were assigned to write a paragraph about the "Who, What, When, Where, and Why of Veterans Day". These would also be displayed on the Wall of Honor. 

Throughout the rest of the week, we continued to read more Veterans Day books and view the various VD websites.

On the day that the assignments were due, I provided students with red construction paper on which to glue each cut-out form and photo. Students who wrote paragraphs also glued their writing to the construction paper. Once that was completed, I distributed blue and gold stars. I explained to students that during World War I a family tradition began of placing in the home window a white banner with a blue star to honor a family member actively serving in the armed forces. Later another tradition was started. Gold stars were sewn onto the banner to honor family members who died while serving their country. Students then glued the appropriate star above the Veteran Information Form to the red construction paper. 

After school that day I hung the red construction papers on the hallway wall outside our door. The students were very excited to see the Veterans Wall of Honor when they came to school the next morning! 

If you want to create a Veterans Wall of Honor with your students, click on the picture below. This FREEBIE contains the resources and directions for completing this project to honor and remember our veterans.

Thanks for docking your ship here for a while, me hearty. 
As you sail on to a new adventure, I wish you well!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Back To School with Free Practice Activities

Ahoy, teaching pirates! 
By now ye and your little scallywags are settled on board for another year of sailing in the Sea of Learning! And the Pirate Queen has some teaching treasures to help keep the wind at your back.

                   Kinds of Sentences

The four categories of sentences are usually taught early in the school year. In 2nd and 3rd grades the category names are in simpler terms: Statement, Question, Command, Exclamation or Feeling. While in the upper grades, the names become more sophisticated: Declarative, Interrogative, Imperative, Exclamatory

One of the best ways to practice categories is a sorting activity. The free product below provides a set of ten sentences minus the ending punctuation. Students must read each sentence and use their knowledge of the definition for each type of sentence to decide which category each individual sentence belongs.

Click on the picture to preview this product.

With baseball playoffs scheduled in the fall, I chose to write sentences related to one of America's favorite pastimes. This particular set of sentences honors legend, Lou Gehrig.

Once the sentence strips are cut out, students read each sentence to determine the category and place the sentence below the category label. A recording sheet and answer key are also provided.

Story Elements

A second ELA area that is often reviewed or introduced early in the school year is story elements: Characters, Setting, Plot. This Freebie assists your instruction and provides students practice in identifying and explaining the setting of a narrative.
Click the picture to preview the Free product.

A graphic organizer setting map and sample are included in the Freebie. Also provided are questions that can be used for class or group discussion as well as for written response. These resources can be applied to any narrative form.

                                      Place Value Freebie

Many district math curriculum maps begin the year with Place Value. In keeping with the seasonal time of year, these task cards ask questions about the number of pumpkins in the pumpkin patch. Understanding that ten ones is the same one ten and that ten tens is the same as one hundred is the key to place value. Solving the riddles help students to grasp that concept.

Each of these Practice Freebies is part of a larger product that provides additional resources and more practice. If you like any of the above treasures, check out the ones below. "They be worth their weight in gold, me hearties!"

Kinds of Sentences Sort will provide 30 more sentences to sort.   

Novel Study Resources includes graphic organizers for all story elements, theme, vocabulary, and summaries and can be used with all narratives,     picture book stories, and chapter books.

Pumpkin Patch Place Value Riddles has 32 additional task cards giving your students the opportunity to build their understanding of multi-digit numbers.

Happy Sailing, Buckos!  See you next month!


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Free Labor Day Activity


Labor Day is approaching, and the Pirate Queen has a fun activity for your students and their parents. 

If you ask children what kind of work their parents do, they are probably able to name the job or profession of their parents. However, how much do they really know about the details of the work that their mother and father do most every day of the week? 

To teach students about the history of Labor Day, I have created a FREE product that provides background as to how and why a holiday was created to honor American workers. In the process, students also learn about the type of work their parents do by interviewing their mom or dad about her/his job.


Before introducing Labor Day to your students, gather books from your school or local library about the history of this holiday. (A list is included in the product, Labor Day: Worker Interview Activity.) Display the books to encourage students to review, and select a few to read to the class for background. In addition, I recently added to this Labor Day resource an up-to-date list of websites dedicated to the holiday, including a few that are designed for children.

When you are ready to begin this mini unit, ask students general questions such as: What are jobs? Why are there jobs? Ask students if they have thought about what they want to do when they grow up. Discuss various careers and make a chart listing different professions and their purposes. Introduce the word, labor. Ask students if they know what it means. Then remind them that Labor Day is approaching. Ask what they and their families will do to celebrate. Be sure to ask why do we have a day for celebrating labor. At this point, show one of the websites or read one of the books to help students understand the reason for Labor Day.


After a day or so on the history of Labor Day, talk with students about their parents' jobs. Ask if any of them have been to their parents' work place. Ask students what their parents' work day is like. Some students may know quite a bit about the work their mothers and fathers do. Others will know very little. 

Page 1 of Interview Sheet
Distribute the Parent Letter/Interview Questions and go over the questions with students. Remind students that they are to choose one of their parents to interview. Make sure they understand that "Stay-at-home Moms and Dads" can be interviewed. After interviewing their parents, students will present to their classmates information regarding the type of work their parents do. Also, if possible, students will bring a "Tool of the Trade", something their parents use to do their work. For example, if a parent is a nurse or doctor, the student might be able to bring a stethoscope, a "Tool of the Trade" in the health profession. 


To help students prepare for their presentations, distribute the Oral
Presentation Scoring Checklist and go over the characteristics of a well done speaking presentation. Model for them how a speaker should stand, how to make eye contact, how to hold and present an item for viewing.  Suggest that when they practice their presentation at home, their parents can use the score sheet to evaluate the student's presentation and help the student to make improvements. Set aside three or four days for students to share what they have learned about their parents' jobs.

I recommend taking photos of students holding the "Tool of the Trade" their parents use. These photos along with pictures that students draw of their parents at work can be displayed on a wall in your classroom or in the hall outside your classroom for others to see.

If you would like to download Labor Day: Worker Interview Activity, click on the product cover which will take you to my TpT store. 

Happy Labor Day, Matey! 

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Novel Study Resources and a FREEBIE

Ahoy, Bucaroos! I have been on a rather long shore leave which is why
I've been out of touch. But now I'm ready to sail again into the vast Sea of Learning!
While on leave, I created a gem of a teaching product, Novel Study Resources for Grades 3-5.  Knowing how time consuming creating resources and printables for each chapter book read during a typical school year is, I collected various graphic organizers I had designed for specific books and edited them to work for any fictional narrative. This TIME-SAVING treasure can be used with any novel or  chapter book for Intermediate    grades.

Nine graphic organizers, which I like to think of as treasure maps, help students organize their ideas and thoughts as they read and analyze the narrative. These printable organizers for characters, setting, plot, theme, and vocabulary can be cut out and glued into reading journals. There are also organization maps to assist with writing summaries. Working samples of summaries and graphic organizers are included so teachers can show students how a finished product might look. 


Examples of Graphic Organizers

Story Plot Organizer
One of three Summary Flow Maps

In addition 40 discussion and/or written response questions are provided. Some cover story elements. Others explore various fiction genre: realistic fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, mystery, and science fiction. As a bonus, I created a mini anchor chart identifying these genres and listing their characteristics.  You may want to choose some of the questions as an assessment.

Finally, Common Core ELA Standards to which this product aligns  are listed for you, and teaching tips explain how to utilize each of the resources with your students. Click on the Novel Study Resources cover above to preview the product.

If you want to try out a small piece of this product, then click on the Setting Teaching Resources FREEBIE below.

I hope you find these treasures helpful, Mateys! If you do and if you have suggestions for other teaching products, please leave a comment below.

Happy Sailing!


Sunday, April 30, 2017

Independent Reading Challenge FREEBIE!


                             Although the school year is coming to an end, you may be already
 thinking about what areas of learning you might approach differently next year with your students. For me one year, it was independent reading. 

I have always been a firm believer that to practice and improve reading skills, students should read independently both in and out of school. Part of my classroom's daily routine was a twenty minute independent reading time. We called it SQUIRT, an acronym for Sustained, Quiet, Uninterrupted, Independent Reading Time. 

To help my students remember what the letters stood for, we reviewed the meanings of the words. In addition, we practiced the words with an auditory and kinetic routine described below. 

  • First, making a sweeping motion from left to right with our arms, we chanted, "SUSTAINED! Over a period of time!"
  • Then we placed an index finger to our lips and whispered, "QUIET!"  
  • For "UNINTERRUPTED", we extended our right arm with the palm side forward like a traffic cop signaling a driver to stop.
  • Next, we stood at attention with our arms by our sides and shouted, "INDEPENDENT! On my own and by myself!"
  • When we called out "READING!", we put our hands side by side and palm up to represent an opened book.
  • Finally, we looked at our left arm and touched our pretend wristwatch and chanted, "TIME!"  
For the first couple of weeks of school, we would practice our chant at the beginning of SQUIRT time. Also, for homework students were required to perform our acronym for their parents before reading at home. Prior to SQUIRT officially starting in our classroom, my students and I brainstormed what SQUIRT should look like and came up with a set of guidelines to help us focus on our reading. Initially, I modeled those guidelines and then asked for volunteers to model. Then the entire class practiced and I observed. If I saw someone not focused, I stopped the reading and gathered the students to review the guidelines.  Eventually, the result was during SQUIRT, students grabbed their independent reading books and usually a pillow, staked a spot on the floor or remained in their seats, and silently read. 

Although this routine was a success, what I noticed over time was that some of my students were not making good reading choices. Some chose books that were too easy or too hard, and overall the literary quality and complexity of the books were wanting. I came to the realization that students needed guidance on book selection. As a result, I created the Pirate Independent Reading Challenge. 

First, I made lists of quality children's books in the following genres: realistic fiction, fantasy, and historical fiction.  Over the next few weeks, I introduced some of these books to the students. I gathered the students to our meeting area and presented a book or two each day. I shared with them the front cover, read the publisher's summary, and read a chapter usually from the middle of the book. Often there were students who were familiar with some of these books, and I would ask them to offer their opinions. I left the books out for students to examine on their own during free time or when they had finished daily assignments. By the time I was ready to begin our new policy for selecting independent reading books, the students were ready to make a selection and were excited to begin.

Fortunately, most of the books were available through our school library or were among the many books within our class library. Having provided parents with the lists, many took their children to the public library if the desired book wasn't available at school. Students read these books during SQUIRT and at home. I had already required students to read at home for at least 100 minutes within the school week. The number of reading minutes were recorded on their weekly assignment calendar which had to be signed by their parent and
turned in on Friday. With the newly introduced independent reading policy, students were provided with a reading log and recorded each day the following information: 1) date of reading 2) book title, 3) author, 4) number of pages in the book, 5) page number started on, 6) page number ended on. These logs were also turned in weekly. This allowed me to see how each student was progressing with the selected book of choice. If only a few pages were read daily, I would meet with the student to determine if the book was too difficult or just not enjoyable, and if so, we hunted for a new book. There were times that students found books they wanted to read that were not on the lists. If that was the case and I was not familiar with the book, they brought the book to me for approval. 

Once this routine of the reading log was solidly in place, I introduced the reading journal. Luckily I found a good deal on composition books with unique covers and purchased them for my students. I explained to them that it was important to practice reading skills and to show their comprehension of the books they read. Each week students were given two assignments to complete in their journals. One assignment which was a weekly requirement was to select a word from the reading that was unknown to the reader or a word that they had seen before but did not fully understand. They were required to write the sentence from the book in which the word was used and provide a definition. Also, students drew a picture to help them remember the meaning of the word.

The second assignment varied depending on the comprehension skill focus. For example, to show their understanding of the main character's traits, students made character trait maps using a graphic organizer. As seen in the above example, students were asked to determine the traits of the main character and provide proof from the book. Other skills such as identifying the setting and summarizing were also assigned.

I am happy to say that revising my independent reading program resulted in better book selections, reading skills improvement, and students' enjoyment of reading as a pastime! 

If interested in utilizing the Pirate Independent Reading Challenge for the next school year, you can download a FREEBIE from my TpT store that will help you with the implementation. Click the picture below for a direct link to this product.

    Thar be treasure in books, matey!


Thursday, March 30, 2017

Argh! U.S. Measurement...Plus a FREEBIE!

U.S. measurements are not easy. In many cases, they are quite frustrating for children and adults alike. I bet you have asked the question: Why don't we use the metric system here in America? I certainly have!

5,280 feet in a mile; 16 ounces in a pound; 8 pints in a gallon! How are we supposed to remember these equivalencies? Well, most of us memorize if we can, and yet the numbers don't often stay with us. Of course, if we use the information frequently or on a regular basis, it will stick with us. But how often do kids use this kind of knowledge? 

Memory techniques such as mnemonics and songs can be effective. When I took piano lessons, I learned the treble clef line notes by reciting this mnemonic-- Every Good Boy Does Fine. I also am able to remember how to spell the word, encyclopedia, after learning a song sung by Jiminy Cricket on the original Mickey Mouse Club TV show! And how many of us have fond memories of School House Rock?

                                          "Conjunction Junction what's your function?"
                                          "Hooking up words, phrases, and clauses." 

(Did you sing along as you read the lyrics?!)

So here is a math gem for you. Math Lessons by NUMBEROCK, a TpT store, has numerous songs and music videos to help you teach math concepts including measurement, both U.S. and metric.

And here's a gallon story, although not technically a mnemonic, found on Pinterest to assist students with U.S. capacity equivalencies. Together the Gallon Castle visual combined with the story of the four Queens is very useful for remembering these unit equivalencies.

Of course, memorization isn't enough. Students need to interact with the measurement equivalencies. One way is to apply those equivalencies to mathematical story problems as in the sample below.

Download this FREEBIE for more of these capacity task cards...



...and here's an additional product that will provide more practice opportunities for your students.

Finally the best learning experience for U.S. measurement equivalencies is real life events. Cooking dinner or baking cookies with Mom or Dad, weighing fruits and vegetables at the grocery store, and helping measure a garden plot in the backyard--these are real experiences that will help those equivalencies stick.

So here's a final gem, No Bake White Chocolate Raspberry Cookies! Have a "no baking day" with your students or send the recipe home for a family chef night! Click on the picture below to link to the Super Healthy Kids website where you will find this recipe and others!


Thanks for dropping anchor! Happy Sailing!