Freaky Friday is Back for 1 Day Only!

Need some awesome plans for your students, but don't have time to make them yourself? 
Find yourself digging out your personal credit card for interactive lessons and games for your students?
Take a stroll through almost 50 different resources from a variety of teachers, all marked down to $1 for Friday, October 28th only!

I love using task cards when my class gets squirmy before a holiday. These Halloween task cards are sure to please, with a fun take on some multi-step story problem practice!

Check out these fun, classroom-friendly task cards here!

So I'm sitting here grading 9 weeks assessment essays, eating candy corn by the handful and chugging Dr. Pepper to stay awake. (Don't judge, you know you've been there, too!)

And these responses are just killing me, for a variety of reasons. Parents really just don't understand how their child's essay affects us, and that doesn't even count the fact that I have 60 to grade!

Students were asked to write an essay stating whether they would rather go on a field trip to a museum or have an astronaut come speak to the class.

Let me share a few with you:

Student #1
[internal thought: If I bang my face on the keyboard a few times, she'll never notice, right?] Produced result: asdofijweaoifj (repeat ad nauseum for a page).

Student #2
I think we should go on a field trip to visit an astronaut because I've always wanted to go to the moon!

Student #3
I don't like Science. (Yes, ladies and gentlemen. That was the extent of this student's essay.)

Student #4
We should visit a museum because all astronauts are dead anyways. (Oops, sorry astronauts. Guess there's something someone forgot to tell the rest of us. Or you. By the way, did you know there are now zombies running the International Space Station?)

What are your favorite student essay responses?

Book Title: Armstrong -
The Adventurous Journey of a Mouse to the Moon
Author: Torben Kuhlmann
Publish Date: 2016
Publisher: NorthSouth Books

Elements of Elementary Book Review | Armstrong -- The Adventurous Journey of a Mouse to the Moon
Armstrong by Torben Kuhlmann

Suggested Grade: 3rd & up

Suggested Format: Read aloud, Individual, Small group

Armstrong is a mouse with his eyes pointed at space. Unlike his fellow mice, he is quite sure that the moon is a rock, and is not made of cheese. After meeting an old mouse from the Smithsonian and learning about the history of airplanes and mice, he begins to design the equipment for a trip to the moon. With a few struggles, some ingenuity, and a few disasters, Armstrong heads to the moon with his spacesuit and rocket-powered spaceship.

Teacher's Notes: 
This is an AMAZING book for teaching some of the science and details behind space exploration. It's also wonderful for discussing failure, hard work, and creativity, even when others are negative. There are lots of opportunities for students to focus on STEM skills. 
The illustrations and words are wonderfully detailed and historically and scientifically sound. There are tons of great details hiding in the story and images, which make this book so much more than just a picture book.

Overall: 10/10

How I Got the Book: NetGalley ebook

Suggested Interests: space, STEM, fiction, science
16 lesser known but still AMAZING books for middle school | Elements of Elementary
16 Lesser Know but still AMAZING books for Middle School
Books are my thing, obviously. I teach about them, I read them, I blog about them, and nothing makes me happier than finding that perfect book that a student hasn't already heard about. Here are my top 16 awesome books that are not well enough known in my opinion. These are books I haven't seen in student's hands, on co-workers bookshelves, or in blogs or on social media. I bought all of these on my own for myself and my students, (with two exceptions) and love each of them equally. You may have heard of some of these, but I'm willing to bet you aren't familiar with all of them!

1. How I Came to be a Writer by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
             Everyone knows about Shiloh, but most teacher's I've met have never heard about her child-friendly autobiography. This is a quick and fun non-fiction read about the struggles and triumphs of life and writing.
Great for: students who love biographies, non-fiction, awesome women, and writing

2. & 3. Face-Off at the Alamo and Panic in Pittsburgh by Roy MacGregor
            I had to include two of these, because they are both so much fun. MacGregor has created a hilarious, slightly miscehvious middle school hockey team that manages to get into trouble and solve mysteries along the way. I did receive these books for my classroom from the author, but I would have eventually found these and purchased them anyways.
Great for: students who love hockey, mystery, and humor

4. Protecting Marie by Kevin Henkes
           Fanny had to give up her wonderful, beautiful dog because it disrupted her father's painting business too much. She is given another chance when her father brings Marie, a new dog, into her life. Fanny must overcome her sadness and mistrust in order to befriend and protect this new charge.
Great for: students who love dogs, animals, and sappier stories

5. The Chicken Doesn't Skate by Gordon Korman
            Milo is working on his science fair project - a live exhibit of the life cycle - when disaster strikes! When his chicken hatches, most of the students decide to befriend it. Henrietta the chicken quickly becomes the mascot of the school's hockey team, whose championship game is about the same times as the science fair. The school must band together to save their mascot before he becomes chicken nuggets!
Great for: students who love animals, hockey, and humor

6. Ravenmaster's Secret: Escape from the Tower of London by Elvira Woodruff
           Eleven year old Forrest Harper lives in the shadow of the Tower of London, helping his father tend to the ravens. He dreams of someday being able to prove his strength and loyalty by guarding prisoners in the tower. He gets his chance unexpectedly when a Scottish Rebel is captured, but the prisoner turns out to be the rebel's daughter instead! Forrest ends up facing a difficult choice - will he allow his new friend to be executed, or will he commit treason to help her escape?
Great for: students who love historical fiction, suspense

7. The Naked Mole-Rat Letters by Mary Amato
            Frankie is a twelve year old whose world is falling apart. Her father is in love with a crazy zookeeper from Washington, D.C., her brothers are terrible, and school is worse. In an effort to fix her life, she begins writing anonymously to the woman, trying to ruin her father's relationship. In the end, she gains more than she bargains for from her correspondence.
Great for: students who love fiction, books about change, and coming of age stories

8. The Golden Door by Emily Rodda
            One of my all-time favorite books! This is a fantasy page turner that will enthrall almost every reader. Rye's world is under attack, and his older brothers are missing. The only thing left for him to do is to lie about his age and join the government mission to stop the skimmers from attacking the city. He hopes the flying dragons don't eat him before he finds his brothers and returns home, but finds a world much larger and stranger than he had imagined.
Great for: students who love fantasy, dragons, and adventure

9. The Owl Keeper by Christine Brodien-Jones
            Max's grandmother used to tell him wondrous stories of the now-extinct owls and what the world was like before the Destruction. His teachers and the government wanted him to think something totally different, however. The owls were evil, they preached, and he was allergic to the sun and must never see the light of day. This is a fun, suspenseful post-apocalyptic tale that is not too gruesome or violent for middle school readers, with fun twists and turns.
Great for: students who love fantasy, post-apocalyptic, and plot twists

10. The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica: The Search for the Red Dragon by James A. Owen
            Someone is kidnapping the children from the Archipelago of Dreams, and John, Jack, and Charles must return to save them. They discover a plot to find a Dragonship, which would mean disaster for the Archipelago. There is lots of myth, legend, and adventure woven into this fun tale, which is book 2 of the Imaginarium Geographica. (I don't own book 1 yet, which is why I couldn't feature it, but the library has it!)
Great for: students who love fantasy, dragons, and adventure

11. Den of Thieves by Julia Golding (A Cat Royal Adventure)
            With the Royal Theater closed, Cat is asked to take her acting on the road and join a dance troup in France. Once there, she discovers that she is expected to spy upon the French and report back to London during the first days of the French Revolution. Her friends are captured, and Cat may be next!
Great for: students who love historical fiction, suspense, action, and spies

12. The Key to Rondo by Emily Rodda
            Yes, Ms. Rodda gets 2 books in here, they are just that good! Leo inherits a magical music box from his great aunt, but he is always careful to follow the rules. When his cousin comes to visit, however, one of the first things she does is play with the box, which unwittingly releases a trapped sourceress and unlocks a hidden world!
Great for: students who love fantasy and adventure

13. Phoenix Rising by Karen Hesse
            Nyle has lost much in her young life, but she is happy living with her grandmother. An accident at the nearby power plant shakes up her world as she has to deal with masks, evacuations, and contaminated food. Once she adjusts to all of that, her grandmother decides to rock her world once more and take in two of the accident's survivors, a young woman and her son. Nyle has to choose how she will accept this change, and if it will finally break her.
Great for: students who love fiction, hope, and a classic story line

14. Hatching Magic by Ann Downer
            A small wyvern is hunting for a nice place to lay her eggs when she accidentally stumbles into a time hole that dumps her in 21st century Boston. An adventurous race begins as evil and good sorcerers, magicians, and a few mortals hunt for the magical creature.
Great for: students who love fantasy, dragons, and time travel

15. The Latte Rebellion by Sarah Jamila Stevenson
            Asha and Carey have just graduated from high school, and are trying to raise money. They start selling t-shirts to advertise for their club, the Latte Rebellion, which helps raise the awareness of mixed-race students. The plan takes off overnight, and Asha finds herself drowning in her own viral revolution. 
Great for: students who love reading about other ethnicities, cultures, and social causes

16. Winter's Bullet by William Osborne
            Tygo is forced to help the Nazis loot abandoned Dutch homes in order to survive after his father is killed in teh war. The Resistance wants to recruit him badly, but he knows that he must not join them if he wishes to live. He discovers a hidden refugee and finds out about a treasure hunt adventure, and has to make a choice whether to risk his life for wealth and a possible end to the war, or to live in relative safety working with the enemies he finds evil.
Great for: students who love WWII, historical fiction, action and suspense

What awesome, "underground" books do you love to read, or keep for your kids?

I love planners, notebooks, and anything else that seems organized and pretty. And I'm really good with keeping up with least until October!

I've tried several different planners for lesson planning over the years... I started with the old fashioned ones that you can remember your teachers using back in the day, but they were huge and a pain to carry around, plus, they weren't very sturdy.

Then, I tried the Plum Paper Designs planner. It worked pretty well, and was a nice size for me, but it was very plain. Just black and white lines on a page with numbered dates. I got bored easily, but if you want to customize your own, or like plain and simple, theirs might be the planner for you! I ordered mine through Etsy.

My co-workers were raving about Erin Condren, so I decided to give it a try last year. I ordered the teacher planner, and was thrilled when it arrived. I quickly discovered, however, that I don't teach by subject, and it was a pain to have to go through and try to write in times at the top, plus a full day doesn't fit in to the boxes if numbered by hour.

I started pestering my co-workers again this May, and discovered that they were using the Hourly Life Planners instead of the teacher planners, and swore that they were amazing. So of course, that's what I chose to order this year. It's a few inches smaller all around than the teacher planner, but the layout makes up for it.

My order arrived today, and I am super excited to get started filling in dates for the year and outlining the basic units I plan to cover!

Here's what it looked like unwrapped but still in the box:

Erin Condren Life Planner & Party Pop Pens

Yes, that is a set of markers. I was going to be good and order just the planner, but they were calling to me, and I couldn't resist the siren song of brand-new, colored pens. I'm a teacher, okay? I have a problem with new school supplies - I can't say no!

Here's a look at the planner itself:

I love the cover I chose!

I didn't go with customization and my name on the cover because that's just my style, but they do that, too, if you want it. I chose to go with the neutral design on the inside, because my life could use some calm organization, and all the colors from the other one were a bit overwhelming for me. Some people thrive on color - I love that they offer both choices!

Here's a look at some of the inside:

Even in the "Neutral" theme, there is some color.

Quotes and color washes separate the months.

I am in LOVE with the black and white monthly pages.

The vertical hourly layout will work better for planning the school day.

Here's a closer view of the hourly. It goes from 6am to 7pm, which is great-- most school events have ended by 7!
If you're interested in buying this planner or any other product from the Erin Condren line for the first time, you can use my referral link for $10 off your entire purchase. Also, just a note that this is not a sponsored post. All opinions are my own, however, I do receive $10 off my order as well when you use my referral link.

Book Title: the dragon of the month club
Author: Iain Reading
Publish Date: 2015
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing
Series: Book 1, sequel to come

the dragon of the month club by Iain Reading

Suggested Grade: 4th, 5th, 6th

Suggested Format: Small Group, Individual Reading, Read Aloud

Ayana is the new girl in school, dealing with the move, bullies at school, and her father leaving. Tyler is a quiet, academic sort from the school down the street. After one particularly bad day, Ayana retreats to the city library's deepest, darkest corner to cry. There, she bumps in to Tyler, and a tentative friendship is born. In their reclusive corner of the library, a tiny book falls from the shelf. "how to conjure your very own dragon in six easy steps" looks silly to Tyler, but to make Ayana feel better, he agrees to give it a try. Several hours of practice and a few mistakes later, Tyler's room is covered in water, but a tiny dragon (made of water, of course), is flitting around his room.
Everything is going great - each month, new instructions appear, and Tyler and Ayana look forward to seeing each new and unique type of dragon. There are always warnings that a missed step in conjuring can have drastic consequences, but they are careful, and nothing ever happens. When they attempt a steam dragon, however, something goes terribly, terribly wrong, and suddenly, they find themselves in the world of Tyler's books that were spread throughout his room. Together with the dragons they have learned to conjure, they must find a way to get out of the books and make it back to normal life.

Teacher's Notes: 
This is an AMAZING book! I absolutely could not put it down, and I can't wait to pass it on to my students. I will say that the moment I finished the book, I really wanted to throw it across the room, but in a good way. I won't spoil the ending, but I cannot WAIT for the next book to come out!
I will say that if you have students who want a book to end completely resolved and everything wrapped up nicely in one bundle, you might not suggest this story for them, as there is definitely an opening for book 2.
The vocabulary and word choice in this book is excellent for 4th/5th grade students, and I love that it pulls in just enough magic to be fun and exciting, but not enough to cause most parents any concern.
The character development is perfect, and I think will open the door for lots of great student discussion in small groups. 
There is a definite, purposeful use of lowercase lettering in this story, but I like the opportunity it gives to discuss the reasoning behind mechanics conventions, and when it is okay to not follow conventions when writing.

Overall: 10/10

How I Got the Book: Provided by author for review through Book Publicity Services

Suggested Interests: Magic, Dragons, Fantasy, Adventure

Book Excerpt: 
I loved this book SO MUCH that I asked if I could provide you with an excerpt so that you can see for yourself how amazing this story is, and how much you need it in your classroom life. :) Keep reading to get a taste!

Chapter 2 – The Book

Following their most unlikely of beginnings, the friendship of Ayana and Tyler grew quickly, and before they knew it, they were the best of friends, meeting up with each other almost every day. Sometimes they met up with Ayana’s mother after school at the downtown Dairy Queen for ice cream. Other times they climbed the edges of the coulee behind Ayana’s school and went to Tyler’s house where they did their homework together in his room. But most of the time, they just agreed to meet up at the place where they’d both accidentally bumped into each other on that very first day—amongst the dusty old bookshelves of the old library at the row between the history of the anatomy of earthworms and the illustrated guide to the indigenous mosses of Iceland.

It was on just such a day that Ayana and Tyler first discovered THE BOOK—a name that would be forever capitalised in their minds whenever either of them dared to utter the phrase aloud.

It was a magical book. That much was clear almost from the outset, so perhaps the manner in which these two unlikely friends happened to come across it was magical as well.

It all started on a typical Friday afternoon. Ayana and Tyler had agreed to meet at the library right after school. Tyler had a dentist appointment and would either be a few minutes late or a few minutes early, depending on how long that took. Not surprisingly Tyler was a few minutes late. This could have been expected since Tyler took dentist appointments very seriously. For weeks ahead of time he would be sure to brush his teeth five times every single day—once when waking up, once after breakfast, once after lunch, once after dinner, and once again before bed—which was two more times a day than he usually did. (He normally deemed the wake-up and after dinner steps unnecessary.) All of this was in addition to flossing, rinsing, and otherwise generally trying to keep his teeth in the best possible shape for the check-up.

To Tyler, going to the dentist was like studying for a test in school. Failure was not an option. So it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that once he was actually in the dental chair, he expected the dentist to be every bit as thorough as he was, a process that required a bit more time than it normally would with less fastidious patients.

So Tyler was late.

And so, when he finally arrived, he hurried down the stairs and quickly navigated through the maze of shelves at the back of the library and found Ayana sitting there, crouched on the floor, sobbing her eyes out.

Tyler sighed heavily. He could already guess what must have happened: Heather van der Sloot... again.

He took off his backpack and set it on the floor. Folding his legs under him, he lowered himself down until he was sitting next to Ayana, not too close, of course, but as close as he dared to.

“What happened this time?” Tyler asked.

Ayana sobbed and buried her face even deeper in her hands. After a moment her left arm shot out, pointing an accusing finger toward a stack of soiled and dishevelled papers lying in a heap on an empty space on the shelf opposite them.

“That,” Ayana cried, her voice thin and cracking.

Tyler stared at the papers, and it took him a moment to realise what they were.

“Your poems,” he gasped.

Tyler had to take a breath and swallow. Ayana’s poems were a work of art, neatly written in careful flowing script, one to a page. Ayana carried them with her sometimes in a stiff green cardboard folder with trees on it that had little strings that you used to tie it shut.

Ayana nodded, still sobbing.

“She threw them all over the playground,” she said, her voice raspy. “She grabbed my tree folder away from me and threw them everywhere. I... I ....”

Ayana stuttered and couldn’t speak for a second.

“I don’t know if I got them all back,” she finally said, finishing her thought. “I think I lost some.”

Tyler nodded and crawled over on one knee to pick up the chaotic stack of papers. He sorted through them, one by one, trying to put them back into some kind of order. They were smeared and scratched and crumpled. One even had a dirty footprint stamped squarely on it.

Normally Ayana wouldn’t even let Tyler glance at one of her poems, so he was surprised that she wasn’t bothered by his looking through all of them now. She clearly wasn’t thinking straight, so he tried to make as neat a stack out of them as possible and set it down on the carpet in the middle of the row of shelves.

“There are a lot there,” he said, sitting close to her again. “Maybe you did get them all.”

Ayana shrugged her shoulders hopelessly.

“It doesn’t matter,” she said, staring blankly at the pile of papers. “I don’t care.”

Tyler felt a sudden squeeze around his heart. He had no idea what he was supposed to do to make Ayana feel better.

But as his mind was racing, trying to think of something, the universe intervened.

“I hate her, Tyler,” Ayana said. “I HATE her!”

On this second last syllable, Ayana kicked at the opposite shelves with the heel of her shoe, making the wooden frame shudder and some of the books rattle around. One particular book—a small, thin one high up on the very top shelf—tipped forward as if in slow motion until it was hanging precariously at an impossible angle, almost as if it was levitating, before tumbling end over end to the floor.

Tyler tried to catch it but he was too slow, and instead it crashed into the stack of papers, scattering them slightly, before it fell flat on its back, right side up right in front of them.

how to conjure
your very own dragon
in six easy steps the front cover of THE BOOK in bright yellow letters against a wavy blue background.

Tyler frowned and Ayana stopped crying for a moment. They both stared at THE BOOK with wide-open eyes, neither of them quite able to believe what they were seeing.

“How to conjure a dragon?” Ayana asked, kneeling forward to grab THE BOOK.

Tyler crawled next to her as she opened the front cover.

THE BOOK was very thin—more like a pamphlet, really— with no table of contents, no copyright page, no dedication page. There wasn’t even an indication of who the author might be. It just went straight into the first chapter, which was entitled:

the water dragon

“A water dragon?” Tyler read over Ayana’s warm shoulder.
Underneath the chapter title was a brief list of the various characteristics of the water dragon.

category: lesser dragon
difficulty: medium
classification: common

Below that was a basic introduction and explanation of the dragon followed by some advice to those who might want to conjure one:

this spell is a relatively simple one, but be forewarned that the water dragon is a damp and clumsy creature, prone to making messes and causing trouble. It is recommended to have plenty of towels at hand when undertaking this conjuring.

Underneath this brief introduction was a list of materials needed to actually conjure the dragon.

required material(s): water, towels (optional)

And last but not least came the instructions, six simple steps to conjuring your very own dragon. Tyler could hardly believe what he was reading. The steps were so simple. Just a series of strangely specific hand gestures performed by two people simultaneously. The instructions even had little helpful sketches to help you understand what to do.

It reminded Tyler of IKEA assembly instructions when his parents bought new furniture and let him put it together for them. But that was furniture made of wood and fabric and those little IKEA screws that needed a special tool to screw them in. This was supposed to be a dragon, whatever that meant. How could such simplistic instructions possibly result in assembling anything, much less an actual dragon?

“We have to try this!” Ayana said excitedly.