One of the biggest confusions my students show, no matter what their grade level, is how they are supposed to know how closely to read the text. We practice annotating our reading, but then I ask them to read for fun, or give them a time limit on their reading. And then the next day I ask them to read several passages extremely closely, and to synthesize new information based on their reading.

I broke Close Reading down into 4 stages to help my students out.

Casual or FUN Reading

This is reading that you do to enjoy reading. You are not looking for new information. You can skip words or even whole sentences, and you can skim or even read the book out of order.
These books may look like:
          *Comic Books
          *Fiction Books
          *Nonfiction Books you are interested in

Reading for an Answer

This is reading you do to find one or two simple answers. You might be looking to answer a question such as WHO, WHAT, WHEN, or WHERE. You may only read part of the passage, depending on what information you are looking for. You might read with a highlighter only to find specific information.
These books may look like:
          *Nonfiction books about a specific subject
          *Product Manuals
          *How-to Instructions
          *Blog Posts
          *Magazine Articles
          *Fiction books you want to understand more
          *Newspaper Articles
          *Directions for an Assignment

Detective Reading

This is reading to find more complex answers to more complex questions. You might be looking for the answers to questions such as HOW and WHY. You may read all of a passage, and will pay specific information to each sentence. You will look for specific word choices that deliver specific meaning, as well as word choices such as similes and metaphors. You will most likely read with a highlighter and pencil.
These books may look like:
         *Nonfiction books
         *Memoirs and Auto-Biographies
         *Primary Documents (letters, journals, maps, annotations, etc)
         *Secondary Documents (what other people have said about an event they did not witness based on their research)

Archaeologist Reading

This is reading to find complex answers when you don't even always know the questions. You might be researching a specific topic using several different sources, or you might be looking for facts to support your synthesis of new information into a Secondary Document of which you are the author. You will read every word several times, and will notice every word choice, syntax choice, etc. You will always read with a highlighter, pencil, and notebook.
These books may look like:
         *Primary Documents (letters, journals, maps, annotations, etc.)
         *Secondary Documents (what other people have said about an event they did not witness based on their own research)

These 4 Stages have not only helped my students to focus their skills during a Close Reading assignment, they have helped the entire classroom (including myself) to think about how we plan to read and take notes on every text we pick up.

Getting back into the swing of things at school doesn't leave much time for blogging, it seems like. But there's always time for FREE STUFF!

(Thanks to Krista Walden for the Little Guys, and Mercedes Hutches for the background! )

As a teacher, I get to meet all different kinds of parents and students. Some students spend so much time traveling with their families that they are barely in the classroom. Others students have never been anywhere but their house and the school. While I am not encouraging you to check your child out of school, studies have shown that children who have lots of "life related" experiences outside of the classroom will be more likely to perform better in the classroom, and to feel more confident outside of their homes.
What can parents do to provide these experiences for their children? It doesn't have to be expensive, or ridiculously time-consuming. Here are my top 5 things that you can do with your children to make everyone happy!

1. Take your children to the public library. Almost every public library in the United States has a specific children's area, with a children's librarian who can help you find books perfect for any level of reader. If you child is old enough (most libraries suggest kindergarten or older), sign them up for their own library card. It's free, and they will experience the application process, as well as the interaction at the checkout counter when they get books. Your children will spend the rest of their lives checking things out with cards.
      *BONUS* Most libraries have free children's programs during the summer. These can vary depending on the library, but most will invite you and your child to listen to a story and complete a craft related to the book read.

2. Go to the Farmer's Market. Most cities have a local farmer's market, where farmers showcase their fresh fruits, vegetables, and flowers. Many students that come into the classroom have never seen or heard of  fruits and vegetables that are less popular in the local cuisine. (In my area, the most commonly unheard of fruits and vegetables include eggplants, artichokes, and pomegranates) Don't have any money? Don't worry! There is no charge to walk around, look, and talk to your child about the foods. Some farmers will even offer samples of their produce. Remember, talking to your child about what they are seeing is what makes this activity worthwhile. Depending on the age of your child, talk about the colors you see, how the foods are grown, comparisons of different produce, etc.

3. Take a Walk. You don't have to go somewhere special to take a walk with your children. You can take a walk with your child around your house, around your block, or down the walking or bike trail nearby. This activity is also free, and it allows you time to talk with your child. You can talk about the colors and shapes you see with your little one, or the different structures and plants with your older children. You might take the time to collect flowers or leaves for a scrapbook, depending on the time of the year. Just walking with your children is healthy for everyone involved, but it gets your children outside, away from computer and television screens (and even books), and experiencing the world around them. Adding meaningful conversation increases the benefits and learning for your children.

4. Visit a Local Museum. We live in an area where there aren't any museums, or so I thought when I was growing up. I always loved when my family would visit museums on vacation. Now that I'm an adult, I realize that we actually have several museums. As a child, I just never knew they were museums, so you may have to hunt for these. Locally, we have the Shiloh museum, the new art museum, the Pea Ridge Military Park & Museum, and the Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park & Museum. The experiences you will have depend on the kind of museum that you visit. Some museums have a relaxed children's area, where they have specific tours or hands-on areas for children. Others are more strict, but that doesn't mean that you and your child won't have fun seeing all the different artifacts. I would suggest checking out the guided tours before you sign up for them, though. Many may not be appropriate for your children, because they are geared towards an adults vocabulary, spend too much time per exhibit, or are simply too long. If you are in doubt, skip the tour and just talk with your child about the different things that you see. You don't have to memorize all the information in the museum in one trip!

5. Visit a Nearby National or State Park. Most national and state parks have programs and activities designed specifically for children and families. You can sign up for a short hike, bird watching outing, picnic, video, footprint discussion, or many other different fun activities. Each one is designed specifically to teach you and your child more about the local and national flora and fauna, and proper care of the forest. The cost will depend on where you live, but most parks also offer free family days.
     *BONUS* Can't make it to a park any time soon? Your children can visit to learn more about the parks, play games, and see photos and stories of animals and plants. This doesn't take the place of actually visiting a park, but it does give your children an opportunity to at least experience information about our amazing native living creatures.

There are hundreds more amazing things you can do with your children to provide learning experiences. These are my Top 5.
What resources does your area have to promote learning experiences for the family?
<a href="">Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>

I've been toying with this idea for a while now. Trying to get busy parents involved is hard enough in today's classroom. There are so many resources I would love to share with my students' parents, but I know most of them just throw away the weekly newsletters without ever checking out the websites. And that's if the newsletter ever makes it home in the first place!

I end up having parents every year that want good book ideas for their students, websites with games, websites with more information on special needs, etc.

This year, I have taken the initiative to create a few Pinterest boards specifically for the parents of my students. They can get all the resources they need, no matter where they are, on their Smartphones, Ipads, etc. I'm even contemplating making one of them a collaborative board so that my parents can share ideas that they think will make parenting easier.

Since I am just starting this, I can see some of the pros, but I know I haven't predicted all the cons yet. So what do you think? Would you use Pinterest boards for your parents? What resources would you link?

YIKES! It's back-to-school time already! Our house, being new construction, had a delay. So, instead of moving today, we won't get to move until the 9th. Which means I'll be back in school and trying to move, something we tried hard to avoid. Oh, well. I guess my blogging will just have to suffer some more. :(

Back to School means all new plans and decorations and great ideas, though. That's why I've linked up with Dawn at Love.Learn.Teach. for her Back-to-School linky. There are lots of awesome back-to-school ideas you should go check out!

If you're wondering about my contribution, wonder no longer! I've had very little free time, but I've come up with a few more close reads for my TPT store


Take a few minutes to check them out. I don't think you'll be disappointed! 
So, I'm not doing to well with this blog thing. I posted for awhile, and then vanished! Other than the craziness of end-of-school we all suffered through, this is why:

43 days to closing, 44 days to moving! YIKES!!!

I know I normally write about school, but I thought I might throw in some packing tips I've come up with, gleaned from the internet, and blatantly stolen from my friends! :)

Go buy some fun duct tape--one color or pattern for every room in your house. Use a quick stripe to help your movers (i.e., all of your husband's guy friends that can be bribed with pizza) know where to put your boxes in the house.

Green for living room, yellow for kitchen, purple for office. Super easy to see, right?

Label every single side of every box. I learned this when moving into the apartment. I would want something that hadn't been unpacked yet, and half the boxes were turned writing-side away from me. Not helpful!

Drive to Walmart during a less busy hour. Find someone who is smiling and looks like they are in a good mood, and ask if you can have some boxes for moving from their recycling pile. Our local store gave us this stack, plus my Jeep stuffed full of boxes. (You might have to weed through them when you get them home, though. I don't think my husband's friends are going to take too kindly to having to carry a box labeled maxipads!)

Make packing fun for yourself. When you start, pack what you want to, as long as you won't need it before you move. If you don't want to pack the desk drawers because you know they're messy and have to be organized, leave it and pack something else first! (As long as you are continuously packing, procrastinating is okay, I promise!)

 Consider what you will really use between now and your move, and pack everything else. I started packing 7 weeks before our move, and decided I wanted to thin out the pantry first, so I could try to use up the foodstuffs we already had on hand. In went the toaster, blender, food processor... I mean, let's be honest. There is no way I would break those out for some serious cooking while moving!

Buy the good kind of trashbags, even if you normally buy the less expensive kind. I splurged and got the Glad ForceFlex, and I am so glad I did! I've pitched so much junk we had laying around the house, and didn't have to worry about sharp corners or overfilling. 

Make a packing box. I have two, one for scissors and sharpies, and one just for tape. They go with me to whatever room I'm packing right then, and I never lose my supplies! It makes packing go much faster, especially for those of us who are rather...absentminded. A basket, office caddy, or large jar would work great, too!

Unless you are moving across country, or are super strapped for space in a moving truck, put what you have in the box, then just close the box and walk away. Yup. Just walk away. I would rather have more boxes that have a few empty gaps in the top than spend hours trying to fit everything together like a jigsaw puzzle. (Make sure your box is full enough to prevent everything from rattling or shifting too much, of course!)

Pack books in smaller boxes than you think you should. I made this mistake on our last move. When you have a medium sized box full of books, it weighs about 50 lbs. And your helpers are not happy with you, especially if there are stairs involved. Right now, I'm using boxes that hold about 20 paperbacks or 10-15 hardbacks per box. I can pick up the box when I'm done, which is awesome!

Put all your liquid items in baggies (the good kind, just like the trashbags!). I'm taking out extra insurance for my shampoo, body wash, lotion, etc. by lining the box with a trash bag, then filling it with the baggies. That way, when (not if, when!) something leaks, it doesn't soak through the box and get everything nasty.

Clear out a wall or corner if possible. Make it the "Finished Boxes" corner. As you pack boxes, stack them precariously in the corner (or have your husband do it, like me!), so that you have more walking and packing space. There is nothing worse to me than trying to build a box and bumping into packed boxes in all directions. You could do this for every room. I have two, on in the living room along an empty wall, and on in our office. No boxes in the bedroom at night is nice, too. Otherwise, I think I might start having nightmares about boxes attacking me!

I hope these tips help make your packing smoother. I know they are helping me to stay on top of the craziness that has become my house! (Not that it wasn't crazy before...)

Any other awesome packing or moving tricks or tips? Let me know in the comments, or link to your own blog post!

This week, one of my students had a birthday. Common occurrence, right? Well, his grandparents decided they wanted to send a surprise to him at school, but didn't figure he'd want flowers like they sent his sister. They called the flower shop to see what they could come up with, and this is what arrived in our classroom:

 How precious is that???? :) Obviously, I made him take the Dr.Pepper home to drink, and made him choose just two pieces of candy to eat during school. 
I took a really close look, and I KNOW that I can make this the next time I need an awesome award for something!

All you need: 

A can of Coke, bottle of water, bottle of Gatorade, can of Pringles... the choices are endless!
A colorful straw
LOTS of curly ribbons in different colors/sizes/patterns (or you could keep it simple)
Bite-sized candy bars
Hot glue

Take the ribbon and hot glue it to the top of the can. Curl, fluff, and decorate to your heart's content. Then, use small bits of hot glue to nestle the candy in. Be sure not to use too much, or you might melt the candy! Don't forget to slide the straw in as a finishing touch!

The theme possibilities are endless. Color themes, candy themes, movie night themes, seasonal themes, coffee themes...

And of course, the giving opportunities! Birthdays, Valentines, Christmas, Teacher Appreciation, School Parties, Children's Party Favors, Secretary Day, Get Well Soon, Just Because...
I now want to make one for everyone I know!

Teachers deserve to be appreciated. Lots of times, I feel very, very under-appreciated. Long hours, crazy kids, grouchy parents, boring information-packed faculty meetings, spending our own money on the classroom... The list just goes on.
I can't change any of that, for myself, or for you. But I can join in with my colleagues at TeachersPayTeachers to say: We Appreciate You! And because we appreciate you, we're throwing a SALE! Come shop TPT on May 7th & 8th to find some AMAZING deals!

 (Thanks to Learning in Wonderland for the awesome sales banner!)

Everything at TPT is 10% off with the sale code TAD13. Everything in my store is also 20% off, for a total of 28% OFF! (Yes, I can do basic math. The 10% is taken off after the 20% is taken off.)

One awsome savings you can find at my store:

This bundle is already a 20% discount from buying each product separately, and now it's 28% off of that price! That's over a 40% discount!!

Close Reading not your thing? I (and the other amazing sellers at TPT) have TONS of items on sale right now, just for YOU! Head on over and take a look!

Happy Shopping!

Working with Literary Heroes has really given me some AWESOME ideas. The boys love it so much, I simply cannot express it. And of course, the gushing blood from Saint George and the Dragon put them over the top! :)

I just made a close reading passage for my kiddos, because we needed to focus on pulling information out of the text. The hero books were just too long for a good close read, plus, I didn't have a class copy of the shorter ones. This is what I ended up with:

It's in my TPT store here if you want to take a look.

Graphic Organizers have been great for this unit as well. This one I am especially fond of:

Students fill in the hero trait on the left, and then have to draw details from the text to support their responses. This works AMAZINGLY with the Essential Question for Literary Heroes:

"Can Heroism be conveyed in words?"

The kids are learning to use the language, "He was a hero because he was _______. I know that because the author said _________."

I put together the graphic organizers that we have done so far, and they can be purchased at TPT here, if you're interested. :)

So this is the type of week it has been. A week of Mondays, as my husband put it. (And yes, that stool is very broken)

But my kids have absolutely ROCKED at learning to use protractors to measure angles this week!!
We did a sorting activity with angles (Obtuse, Right, Acute), and then measured them to the whole degree. They worked with partners, and you wouldn't believe the math language I heard them using! :)

We also did another angle measuring activity, and one of my students looked right at me and said:

"Mrs. R, this isn't math, this is fun!"

Bless him. He has no idea how much that made my day. So now I'm working on putting some finishing touches on it. Be prepared for an awesome freebie when I get it together!

We're beginning our Literary Heroes unit (finally!) tomorrow!! I'm so excited to introduce it to the kids, and I know they're going to love this unit. I've been searching all over for ideas on how to introduce the unit, but I haven't had much luck finding anything. I did find this awesome video by Matthew Winkler on YouTube about What Makes A Hero:

I can't decide if it is a little complicated for my fourths, but I keep thinking I'll show it at some point. I don't think I'll use it as an introduction, though. Has anyone else found a great multimedia resource for literary heroes?

So with the launch of my new blog, I decided I needed to put my best foot forward. I redesigned my profile picture for Teachers Pay Teachers, and am working on making a blog button as well. Here's my new design:

I'm hoping to get the blog button up and working tonight, but I'm having some trouble with the coding. Ah, the wonders of the modern world! :)


I am participating in a Spring Cleaning Sale at my Teachers Pay Teachers Store! (Almost) Everything is 20% off! Come take a look around!

Many thanks to 4th Grade Frolics for the darling poster!

Benchmark is right around the corner! But what comes after that for 4th grade? 
Common Core Unit 6: Literary Heroes
I don't know about you, but I haven't read all of the books that are listed for student reading yet. So yesterday, I grabbed The Young Merlin Trilogy by Jane Yolen and started reading.

After the first page, I grabbed a pad of sticky notes and started marking.

And after the second "book," I ran out of sticky notes and had to stop!!

If you haven't read this book yet and plan on reading it with your students, you need to know two  very important things.
         1. This book is AMAZING, and your boys will love it!
         2. The vocabulary in this book is killer!

Just to give you an idea:
I have noted these words, along with many others, that 4th graders will probably have trouble with:

  • tincture
  • wodewose (which are explained as the wild people)
  • Matins
  • stolid
  • yearning
  • perilous
  • imperceptibly
  • sotto voce
  • oblation
  • haunches
  • capricious
  • wanton
  • cosseted
  • penance
And the list goes on, and the list goes on (la da da da de, la da da da di (insert music from Sonny & Cher here))

Seriously, though. You need to know that this is coming before your students ask you these words. The book has a healthy amount of figurative language as well. Boys (and girls) will love the few magic things that happen, but you may have a few that feel dissapointed. With a book titled Young Merlin, they (and I) assume that this will be a story of magic, and swordfighting, and dragons, and knights in shining armor. The only knights are in the army that marches through, the only magic in the last few chapters of the book. And all the dragons are in his dreams.

I can't WAIT to read this with my students, but I have no idea how this roller coaster is going to be. It may be pretty bumpy!

Has anyone ever taught with this book before? I would love to hear how your students did with the deeper, underlying currents of the book!

As I became more and more involved as a seller in Teachers Pay Teachers, I realized that I needed a better way to track my expenditures. Brooke from Hilderbrandb asked about a spreadsheet on the TpT forums, so I decided to post the bare bones of my spreadsheet for reference.

I broke my spreadsheet into several main categories: Yearly Costs, Monthly Charges, Computer Charges, Clipart, and Business Charges. Here is a view of the spreadsheet that I use:

You may download this spreadsheet for your own use here.

I hope this gives those of you without a system some inspiration to get organized. Does anyone else have a specific system that they use to track TPT expenses? I would love to hear about it!

Be sure to visit Happy Teacher Heaven to check out her 100 follower giveaway! 

(You can find her blog here)

TONS of great things up for grabs, including this little gem from my personal store:

(You can buy this yourself here)
Good Luck!


I had the honor today of being featured by Victoria Leon on her "Best of Teacher Entrepreneurs" blog for one of my free Teachers Pay Teachers products!
Check it out and see what you think here:

The Best of Teacher Entrepreneurs: FREE SCIENCE LESSON - “How Clouds Are Made, or Cloud in a Jar”

I am excitedly exploring my new blog layout, playing with settings and deciding what I want it to look like. Spring Break is almost over, and Benchmark is looming over our shoulder. I have accepted a position teaching 4th grade until the end of the year for a teacher going on maternity leave, so expect to see lots of 4th grade-geared posts and products on Teachers Pay Teachers for now.

My husband and I took a few moments for a photo-op at our town square. 

I am thrilled that you stopped by to visit!