Category Archives: Reading

Native American Resources and Regions Maps


This past week we learned about the four main American Indian Cultural groupings: the Pacific Northwest region, Southwest Desert region, the Prairie region, and the Eastern Woodland region. My class sits in groups of four so this ended up being an easy jigsaw activity. One person from each group was assigned a region to research. Information focused on climate and resources. Students reported out their findings to the whole class, so we could make sure that everyone’s information was accurate.

Once we had our notes on climates and resources, students were given a blank map to transfer the data to. The requirements: a map title, a completed map key that matched the information on the map itself, and each region had to have three pictures or symbols representing resources. They ended up beautiful!


We have also been analyzing the structure of a five paragraph essay. Next week we will be using our Native American region and resources notes to write a five paragraph essay. I am looking forward to reading their essays.


Helping Our Buddies with Poetry Reading and Physical Health


This past Friday we got together with our second grade buddies and combined two favorite activities… Poetry and running. First, we worked on building reading fluency by reading the poem “On the Go” from Scholastic’s Partner Poems for Building Fluency. I enjoyed listening to big and little buddies read together.


The poem is pretty short, so we used some of our time together to run a mile. My class has been running at least a mile a week to prepare for the fifth grade physical fitness test. Overall, they have been enthusiastic and eager to monitor their times in the hopes of improving. Big buddies enjoyed sharing this activity with their little buddies.

Current Events


My class and I enjoyed our first week of current event projects. I especially enjoyed student illustrations and props that were brought in to support their presentations.

Not only do we enjoy the presentations themselves, but they fit the new Common Core standards for fifth grade nicely. I provide my class with Scholastic News magazines, however, they are encouraged to use other sources too.

Their assignment is to:

* Find a current nonfiction article of interest.

* Identify the title, author (if given), and genre of the article

* Summarize the information in the text (written and oral)

* Write an opinion about the article (written and oral)

* Cite source using correct writing conventions

* Present article in an interesting manner (visuals, props, costumes, music, etc.)

* Speak clearly at an understandable pace

* Audience members are expected to actively listen and the class provides each speaker with two questions and two compliments

A favorite presentation this week was about a Legos article in Scholastic News Grades 5-6.


I love seeing my student’s enthusiasm for these projects.

Reading Incentives


Some people possess a natural desire to read, and some learn to love to read by watching others enjoy it. Still, there are some people that resist reading and/or struggle with it. It can be quite a challenge to motivate some students to read.

Personally, I have always enjoyed reading. Reading was my way of escaping the real world. I could experience the life of someone else, meet different people, visit places I would never be able to visit otherwise, and even learn new languages.

As a teacher, I use many strategies to get my students to love to read. Every day I build in a “read aloud” period where I read literature to my students so they can hear fluency and expression. We also discuss author’s purpose and craft. Independent reading time is also provided for them. However, just providing time does not mean students will use it productively. So I also use a school wide Accelerated Reader (A.R.) incentive program and a 30 Book Challenge.

For the A.R. incentive student progress is tracked on a chart, and performance is rewarded at different times throughout the year.


I got the idea of a 30 Book Challenge from The Book Whisperer. Students that make the 30 book challenge will be rewarded with a book from Scholastic Reading Club at the end of the year. What an eye opener for them! I have a few students that have already met their point goal, but they have only read 5 books. The class had quite a discussion about both programs.


How do you motivate your students?

Math and Language Boards


There has been a huge push for Math and Language Boards as a way for repeated practice on key standards. Students do benefit from exposure to these skills before they are taught as well as for review. However, many teachers are not provided the materials for these boards. This can be an added stress for teachers that already find themselves short on time.

This summer I found a wonderful resource! Stephanie at Teaching in Room 6 has created a spectacular spiral math review program called Calendar Math.I have been using it with my class and have found it to be an effective time saver. I purchased her 5th Grade Starter Kit which has already made questions and editable sheets.


Now, I would love to find a similar program for Language Arts. Do you know of one? What do you use for spiral review?

The Homework Dilemma


H-O-M-E-W-O-R-K.  Tired or assigning, collecting, and correcting the standard workbook sheets? It works fine for the students that put effort into it and/or have the family support to go over it. However, I was noticing an increasing trend of just quickly scribbled answers in order to avoid recess detention. I decided that I needed to make a change.

So, this summer I took a closer look at how I have always assigned homework and revamped it. My objective for assigning homework is for my students to apply what we learned at school that day. I also want them to use their reading, thinking, and writing skills. So this year I am using a homework notebook instead of worksheets.

Once a week I sit down to lesson plan, and I write reflective  homework questions as I write my lesson objectives. Then I print a daily sheet of questions per team.  Every day my students cut and paste their homework questions into their spiral bound notebook. At home they have to read the questions, solve the problems, and explain their thinking. The next morning they discuss their answers with their teammates while I check that their homework was completed. Then we go over the answers whole class and they correct their work if needed. It has been a learning curve for all of us. However, the payoff makes it worth it.

What I like about my new homework procedure:

* Students are more engaged (cutting and gluing) when putting homework materials together.

* Students need to pay attention to the lesson in order to answer their homework questions.

* Students are reading, thinking, and writing.

* There is peer coaching/teaching involved when discussing homework answers.

* Students enjoy discussing their answers with their team and the class.

* Students must still participate in team and class homework discussions even if they are unprepared.

* The number of students coming to school with completed homework assignments has increased.


How do you assign your homework? What are your thoughts on homework?

Buddies are the Best


This week my fifth graders met their second grade buddies! They spent time interviewing each other and getting to know each other.

I enjoy buddy classes. I feel they are great for character education. Buddies work on the character traits of compassion, responsibility, respect, and integrity.

Our buddy classes are going to work on building reading fluency using Scholastic’s Partner Poems for Building Fluency.  In the spring, buddies will be citing a poem in a performance. We’re looking forward to an academic, fun, and rewarding experience.


Wonder is Wonderful for Teaching Character


Have you ever seen someone that looked “different” and found yourself glancing at that person? Did you wonder what that person’s story was?

Wonder by R.J. Palacio is a realistic fiction book that you will not want to put down. It tells the story of a boy, August, who was born with facial defects. He was home schooled through fourth grade, and he enters a school environment for the first time in fifth grade. The book is written in sections with each being from a different character’s point of view.

I am planning on starting the school year off reading this book with my class. It’s perfect for teaching about character. We will explore character traits, perspectives, motives, actions and effects on others. I found this great culminating character activity at  Keep ’em Thinking.  I’m looking forward to sharing my students’ finished projects with you when we are done.

Have you read Wonder and/or used it in your classroom?

Readers and Writers Workshop


After reading The Book Whisperer (Donalyn Miller), I began to think about how I ran my reading and writing workshops. I remembered reading a book about using notebooks in workshops a few years ago and pulled it out again. Boy, am I glad I did! Notebook Know-How by Aimeen Buckner is full of easy to implement lessons for the writer’s workshop. Things I like about her lessons: she has included the objective and why the students need to learn that skill, as well as, extension ideas. Hopping on Amazon, I discovered that she wrote another book for the reader’s workshop. Notebook Connections by Aimee Buckner. I love collecting resources, so I bought this book right away. It is formatted in much the same way as her first book. I’m looking forward to trying some of her lessons this coming school year.

Have you used her lessons?

The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller


I love this book! This was the first book I read on summer vacation. It was so engaging that I was not able to put it down, and I finished reading it in one day.

I am itching to get back in to my classroom to change my reading program. New and old thoughts for my reading program:

* Reorganize my library. I currently have it set up by book level. I plan to organize it by genre. Instead of focusing on Accelerated Reader (A.R.) points, my class is going to use a 30 book goal with genre requirements.

* Spiral review “morning work” will now become homework (which will be corrected). This will give me more time for independent reading.

* Reading homework will be skills based. Independent reading will be assigned, but a log for homework will not be used.

* Students will bring books with them to Picture Day, the library, and field-trips (if they are allowed to carry a bag).

* Accountability will be monitored through the use of a reader’s notebook and performance on Accelerated Reader (A.R.) quizzes. My school uses Accelerated Reader/STAR.

* Book Commercials – I love the idea of having on-the-spot book recommendations. It reminds me of Reading Rainbow and Scholastic Book Fair videos.

Have you read the book? What were your thoughts?