Tuesday, November 29, 2011

For the Love of Books: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

By: Mary Bauer

Mary’s Store on Teachers Pay Teachers

Minli lives in the shadow of Fruitless Mountain.  Her family barely grows enough rice to feed themselves, but Minli buys a goldfish on impulse.  When her mother criticizes her purchase, she sets her pet free and decides to change the family fortune by finding the Old Man of the Moon.

Grace Lin’s book Where the Mountain Meets the Moon reads like a novel-length Chinese folktale with shorter tales in between.  Her artwork enhances this impression.

I have been a Grace Lin fan since the year my niece was adopted from Taiwan, and I have enjoyed buying and sharing her books ever since.

This book is most appropriate for grades 3-6 or a read aloud to a younger child.

Monday, November 28, 2011

To Teach or Not to Teach Shakespeare: “That is the Question!” 11/28/11

Photo from Wikimedia Commons
By Beth Hammett

Visit Beth's Teachers Pay Teachers Store

As a middle school teacher, my decision to teach Shakespeare was simple. In my mind, students needed an introduction to the famous author and his classic works.  After all, the themes of the plays are timeless.  There are also other novels and short stories students will encounter that reference Shakespeare.  It seemed logical that an overview would benefit students and their future teachers.  Were there objections?  Yes, there were high school teachers who opposed my teaching Shakespeare in the earlier years. They argued that the works were already covered in their entirety in eleventh and twelfth grades, but once these colleagues reviewed the lower-level materials, everyone approved of the lesson plan.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Featured Teacher: Stephanie Patten Wrobleski

1. How long have you been on Teachers Pay Teachers?  What made you decide to be a part of it?
I discovered Teachers Pay Teachers by accident one day about two years ago.  I was just surfing the web for teaching ideas and came across it.  I decided to post a few items as an experiment.  

2. When did you know that you wanted to be in education?
I cannot remember not wanting to be a teacher.  At first, it was a chance to be bossy toward my younger sister and cousins.  Now, it is an opportunity to make a positive impact on my students.

3. How are you currently involved in education?
I am a reading teacher and English teacher in a high school.  I work with grades 9 - 12 teaching core English classes and English academic intervention classes that focus on skill improvement.

4. What would be your advice to people who are considering joining Teachers Pay Teachers?
Take some time to learn from others by reading the blogs and looking at the products of successful sellers.  I have learned so much from the TPT community.

5. What has been a highlight, thus far, about being on Teachers Pay Teachers?
The highlight thus far was receiving some really positive feedback from buyers/fellow teachers.

6. What is something fun about you that other teachers don’t know?
I am a former collegiate rugby player.

7. Do you participate in education outside of the classroom?  In what type of role?
I write for Teach Hub and am involved with the National Writing Project.

8. What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?
I would love to dive head first into professional writing.

9. What profession would you not like to do?
I could never work in a situation where I sit at a desk for long periods of time.  I have to move.  I teach on my feet all day long.

10. Who is your favorite author?  Favorite educational author?  And why?
My favorite author... that's not fair, there are so many.  I do love John Steinbeck because he is a fabulous story teller and loved to write about the underdogs of the world.  Right now my favorite educational author is Kelly Gallagher because what he writes makes sense.  I also admire that, even in the wake of his fame and popularity, he remains grounded in his classroom.

Stephanie Patten Wrobleski

Stephanie's Prized Products

I aimed to create a teacher and student friendly resource for the popular Shakespeare play.  I have incorporated journalism writing tasks and rubrics for each act.  Students have fun and learn.

This easy to use resource makes teaching the parts of speech a little easier.  It is designed to offer varied levels of scaffolding so teachers can decide how much help to give students. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

For the Love of Books: Skippyjon Jones Class Action

By: Melissa
Plug-n-Plan Blog
It's time to start practicing your "very best Spanish accent," because our favorite Siamese Chihuahua is back again, and this time he's going to school!  That's right, Skippyjon Jones Class Action is here, so get excited!  This newest adventure featuring the adorable kitty-boy who thinks he's a chihuahua was released this summer (July 2011), making it the 6th Skippyjon Jones picture book by author Judy Schachner.  If you (oh, and your students) loved the first 5 picture books, then you're sure to love the newest adventure. 

This time, Mama Junebug's little mischief-maker sneaks off into his closet when doggie school is placed off limits.  There he meets up with his old friends, Los Chimichangos, and goes paw-to-paw with wooly-bully.  There's no doubt Skippyjon will have you chuckling away as you follow him through the most disorganized school day ever! 

The storyline is brand new, but your kids will welcome the familiarity of structure and rhymes used throughout the Skippyjon stories.  Even though much of the imaginative language involves translation through the addition of "-ito" to the end of words, Schachner also throws in a handful of actual Spanish vocabulary.  I always love involving my Spanish speaking students as we read, drawing on their knowledge of the language.  Their faces light up as they recognize words from their native language and swell with pride as you ask them to explain what they mean.  I find this particularly important for my entering level ESOL / ELL students.

Aside from the wonderful storytelling which transports you into the wild imagination of a kitten convinced he's a dog, there is so much more than entertainment to be found in the story.  As a teacher you can use the faux Spanish and actual Spanish words to teach your students to use context clues to decipher meaning.  The story is also great for fluency and decoding practice.  The rhythmic writing provides a great practice ground for fluency as students read to self and read to others while the chants and made-up words throughout the story challenge students to use their reading strategies to decode the unknown words.  Fun and educational!

Truth be told, I'm not really sure who gets more excited about these Skippyjon Jones books: me or my students?  I think we must feed off of each other.  Though it's hard for me to choose my absolute favorite Skippyjon adventure, my students definitively voted Skippyjon Jones Class Action as their new favorite.  Whichever installation you love best, none have disappointed, so I for one will be waiting anxiously for my next opportunity to join my big-eared friend on his next trip into the closet!

Check out the book trailer from Amazon!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Online Resources

By Carolyn Wilhelm

Students are excited when computer time rolls around!  There are so many online resources to use when teaching or letting children use computers at home or at school.  The many options can be overwhelming.  A great way to narrow choices for site selections is by using the following criteria:

 1. No or limited advertising

 2. Educational values

 3. Benefits for teachers and parents

 4. Associated with nationally known groups or businesses

 5. Students should be able to explain what they learned

 6. Includes SMART Board use that engages all students in the class

First, limited or no advertising is an important requirement, especially for young viewers.  However, there is still the need to teach children not to follow extra links that look enticing without asking permission and being willing to accept “no” for an answer.

Second, reinforce that cheating to complete online activities is not acceptable.  Many students use codes, tricks, or advice from friends to win while playing electronic games at home.  Therefore, they are very familiar with such techniques.  Parents and teachers need to point out that getting to the end of activities is not the goal whether working at home or on school computers.  The goal is to learn.

Third, the best sites have teacher or parent resources associated with them.  If you look at home pages for educational sites, there are varieties of free resources and materials for students, parents, and teachers.

Fourth, the sites should be associated with nationally known groups or businesses that are likely to remain in business over time.  These are the most excellent and reliable types of sites.  Websites that look like they could change hands tomorrow may disappear quickly.  Also, be sure to review new sites for appropriate child content.  Remember, parents and teachers need to be nearby during children’s computer uses.

Fifth, children should be able to explain what they learned during computer time.  The best sites offer print-outs of activities, which children are happy to share.  If children simply "had fun", check the site for education values then assess whether new or different sites might be needed.  Having fun, although it can be a motivational component of the lesson, is not the goal of educational computer time.

Sixth, if SMART Boards are available in classrooms, educational sites meeting the above criteria should be able to hold interests of students for whole group site demonstrations.  SMART Boards save time in computer labs, and they help students avoid advertising links. 

By following these simple guidelines when looking for appropriate online resources for students, your computer lessons will be educational, as well as engaging and fun!

Related Products at Teachers Pay Teachers:

Simple Machines Hot Spots for SMART Board $1.50Winter Writing Prompts with Coloring Sheets Free!
Steps to a Great Paper Free!
Antonym Dogs $3.00
Tic-Tac-Toe Journal Prompts Choice Grids 252 Great Prompts $3.75

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Featured Teacher: Charlene Tess

1.   How long have you been on Teachers Pay Teachers?  What made you decide to be a part of it?
I have been with Teachers Pay Teachers from almost the very beginning in July of 2006. I had published an ebook, Simple Steps to Sentence Sense, that I was selling from my website. When I discovered TpT, I realized I had many units and materials that might benefit other teachers, so I joined and began selling those products also.

2.   When did you know that you wanted to be in education?
My grandmother and my mother were both teachers. I grew up in a family that values education. In college, I became a substitute teacher to earn money for tuition, and after my first day in the classrooom, I was hooked. I changed my major to education, and never looked back. I taught in public schools for 34 years, and have worked as an educational consultant and as a creative writing teacher for adult education classes.

3. How are you currently involved in education?
I teach creative writing classes to adults, write educational materials, and write an educational blog.

4.   What would be your advice to people who are considering joining Teachers Pay Teachers?
It is a wonderful place to share materials that have been successful in your classrooms, and it is a great place to meet and converse with other teachers. I would advise anyone to join and participate.

5.   What has been a highlight, thus far, about being on Teachers Pay Teachers?
I have enjoyed getting to know other teachers who sell materials on TpT, and I have enjoyed corresponding with people who have purchased my products.

6. What is something fun about you that other teachers don’t know?
I write romance novels, and general fiction as well as nonfiction grammar workbooks.

7.   Do you participate in education outside of the classroom?  In what type of role?
I am an educational consultant.

8.   What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?
I am happy with the professions I have chosen.

9.   What profession would you not like to do?
I would not enjoy a profession that required mathematical skills.

10.                 Who is your favorite author?  Favorite educational author?  And why?
James Lee Burke is one of the most gifted authors I have ever read. His use of imagery and his strong, realistic characters are as well drawn as many of those in the literature books being taught in classrooms today.

Richard Lederer is my favorite educational author. He is witty and wise and I learn something every time I read him.

Charlene Tess 
Charlene's TPT Store

Charlene's Prized Products

I am most proud of my Simple Steps to Sentence Sense books that have been used in classrooms since 1996. I developed a method of teaching grammar and sentence structure in the early '60's. It works. My students and teachers who have used my books agree, that learning grammar this way makes it easy and fun.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Turkey Talk

By Crystal Radke

Let’s talk turkey! It doesn’t matter what grade you teach, there are many lessons that involve this funny bird. Last week, I drew a turkey on a piece of art paper. 

Then, I let my kindergarteners color it. This activity is good for students’ fine motor skills, and they take ownership of the project if they help create it.

What else can be done with this big bird? Use different colored sticky notes and label them with: adjectives, colors, nouns, facts about turkeys, and their body parts. The possibilities are endless! Large Thanksgiving pictures can be turned into interactive writing charts. For example, a Native American Indian, a teepee, and a pilgrim can be used to write about cultures, lifestyles, settings, and symbolism throughout your Thanksgiving unit.

Another holiday learning activity students enjoy the week before Thanksgiving break is to read aloud Monster Sandwich by Joy Cowley. Create a chart of items students want to place on their Monster Sandwich. Then, have students sign up to bring goodies for a “Thanksgiving Feast” to build a Monster Sandwich.

Make sure students have jobs, such as cutting tomatoes, handing out plates, seating guests… Finally, feast as a group! I never thought I would share a six foot sandwich layered with cucumbers and a side of Cheetos, but my students loved this activity.

The project is a great way to make a connection with the text while learning about pilgrims and Native American Indians.

These Thanksgiving holiday learning activities will have your students using higher level thinking skills. Remember to give your students opportunities to expand on what they have learned and to apply concepts to real life for lasting connections. Students will be THANKFUL for your contributions to interactive learning!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Related Products at Teachers Pay Teachers:
Turkey Teaching! Thanksgiving & Pilgrims Literacy & Math Centers Unit $5.00
The I Am Poem $1.00  
Thanksgiving Would You Rather Questions for Kids Free!   
Thanksgiving Writing Prompts Free!   
Pumpkin Predictions $4.00   


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

For the Love of Books: Laura Candler's Power Reading Workshop

Review by Rachel Lynette
Rachel's Website
Rachel's Store on Teachers Pay Teachers

Have you been thinking about implementing a Reading Workshop program in your grade 2-6 classroom? Then you must get Laura Candler's Power Reading Workshop. This book will tell you everything you need to know, and even includes printable forms, worksheets, and graphic organizers.  In addition, there are detailed lesson plans you can use for the first ten days of your program.

A Reading Workshop session should take about an hour and is made up of  five components:
  • Whole class read alouds
  • Strategy mini-lessons
  • Self-selected reading time
  • Individual reading conferences
  • Response to reading
In addition, there are twelve Power Reading Tools that can be added to the program. These tools include: goal setting, response to reading, group reading discussions, exploring different reading genres, and self-assessment. You can add these tools one at a time as your students are ready for them.

There are more great reviews of the book right here on Amazon. However, the best place to buy it is on Laura's site, because if you sign up for her free weekly newsletter Candler's Classroom Connections, you get the digital version along with the book for FREE! The newsletter is brief and includes lots of goodies for your classroom: seasonal ideas, exclusive freebies, and a 20% discount on certain products. Check it out!

Monday, November 14, 2011

'Tis the Season to be Thankful

by Alysia Battista aka Miss B. Busy Bee


It's easy to get caught up in the stress of the holidays. Yet, it's important to remind ourselves and others what we are thankful for.

Past teachers had no copy machines or computers with printers. Therefore, we are thankful for advances in technology. We are thankful for document cameras and SMART Boards. All of these reinforce active learning, and we are thankful administrators are encouraging more hands-on learning.  

We are thankful to have Blogger to share and collect great ideas from creative teachers. We are very thankful to be able create and sell teaching materials on Teachers Pay Teachers. Also, we are thankful for other inspirational, educational sites that encourage teachers to collaborate. 

But, mostly, we are thankful for opportunities to become teachers... 
The statement "If you can read this, thank a teacher" is a great reminder for Thanksgiving. 

Teachers Pay Teachers Freebies to be Thankful For:

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Featured Teacher: Melissa Wilcox

1.   How long have you been on Teachers Pay Teachers?  What made you decide to be a part of it?
I have been on Teachers Pay Teachers since May 2011 (so going on 5 months now).  I had been kicking around the idea of starting a web page to share my ideas and materials that I make in my 1st grade classroom when a friend told me about TPT!  It was exactly what I wanted to do, except I wouldn't have to start it from scratch!  I only wish I had known about TPT sooner.

2.   When did you know that you wanted to be in education?
I've known I wanted to be in education since middle school when I realized that my fear of sharks and other predatory animals would really hinder me from pursuing marine biology!

3. How are you currently involved in education?
I am a 1st grade teacher in the public school system, and now I share my lessons and materials on TPT and on my blog.

4.   What would be your advice to people who are considering joining Teachers Pay Teachers?
Know your audience.  Create your materials to be visually stimulating and appealing to your target audience, but don't sacrifice content for the "cute factor".  Products should be cute AND challenging at the same time!  (Differentiating materials is also highly effective for the classroom and broadens your appeal to the teacher.)

5.   What has been a highlight, thus far, about being on Teachers Pay Teachers?
I have really enjoyed receiving positive feedback from those who have downloaded my materials.  It's good to know that others appreciate what you've made and that it can be of use to others.

6. What is something fun about you that other teachers don’t know?
When the desire to become a teacher first took root in my mind, I was strongly drawn specifically to 1st grade.  I'm now going into my 10th year of teaching 1st grade; and it's the only grade I've ever taught outside of my student teaching days!

7.   Do you participate in education outside of the classroom?  In what type of role?
Yes!  I help my husband with the middle school ministry at our church.  I also used to lead a women's small group at church, and lead a coed small group with my husband when we first got married.

8.   What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?
I would love to be a chef, baker, or caterer.  I'd also love to do photography if I had the guts to put myself out there!

9.   What profession would you not like to do?
Anything you might find on the show "Dirty Jobs"!

10.                 Who is your favorite author?  Favorite educational author?  And why?
That's so hard!  There are so many amazing authors out there and it would depend on my mood!  I love Judy Schachner's Skippyjon Jones books.  Then again, every year I fight back tears reading Deborah Wiles' Freedom Summer to my class.  As for educational authors . . . I am currently really into Gail Boushey and Joan Moser's The CAFE Book.  There's are a ton of books on my reading list, though, that I'm sure will jump to the top of the list too.

Melissa Wilcox - Plug-n-Plan
Melissa's TPT store

Melissa's Prized Products

I worked really hard on my It's Owl Time! Unit on Time.  It covers time to the half hour and hour with ready to go centers, games, practice sheets, and assessments!  It's my plan to create more differentiated, ready-to-go units in the future.

It's Owl Time

I'm also really happy with my Math Assessments package!  It includes 12 units of 1st grade math assessments for the entire year!  My friend, The Lesson Plan Diva and I got together to create a year's worth of assessments to compliment each other.  (She did Language Arts.)  Each test is 10 questions long, so they are great assessments that will save you time on grading as well!

1st grade Math Assessments

Friday, November 11, 2011

Teachers Pay Teachers Link Up: FREE Thanksgiving Resources!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Reaching Out to English Language Learners

By Rosshalde Pak

Often there is the view of ESL students being low or lacking in intelligence.  In reality, they are lacking English language skills. Being an English Language Learner (ELL), or learning English as Second Language (ESL) students, means needing the skills to be proficient in the language.  It’s as if a native English speaker went to live in a foreign country and had to learn that language fluently.

As our classroom sizes continue to grow, more and more students who need 1:1 or pullout instruction times, aren’t going to receive it.  With that in mind, I came up with some tips on how to best reach and teach your ESL students in mainstream classrooms:

1.   Get to know students and their backgrounds:
Everyone wants to feel special, unique, and important. Too often we are so focused on teaching these students English that we forget they have deep cultural heritages.  As you get to know all of your students, spend extra time with your ELL students by learning about their cultural backgrounds.  Ask questions such as:
                                          ·         How long have you been in this country?

·         What do you like about America?

·         How is it different from your home country?

·         What are some of the special days celebrated in your  country/culture/family?

·         What are popular games or sports in your country?

·         Who lives at home with you?

By taking moments to solely get to know your students’ backgrounds you are showing who they are is important to you, and it will allow them to open up more to you. This also helps them to want to win your approval and work harder to grasp those English Language skills.

2.   Integrate students’ native languages into your classroom:

Closely connected to understanding your ELL’s background, is the idea of integrating their home languages into lessons and learning. Some students, especially younger ones, may be confused as to why they are learning another whole language. Others may be afraid of learning new languages and forgetting their native ones.  This is especially common for students whose (extended) families live with them and/or speak native tongues. As the teacher, use the below ideas to easily integrate learners’ home languages into their lessons:

·         Create flashcards that have words/phrases/sentences written inh English on one side and home languages on the flip side.

·         Have students teach you how to say social greetings in their languages.

·         Have students use English for lessons then you try to learn the same phrases in their home language.

By using these small steps, you are, again, showing your ELL students that you respect their first languages and are not trying to erase them.

                    3.   Utilize peer support:

As an ESL teacher, I’ve come to appreciate how much it can help to have students around. They are so eager to help!  I’ve never had a year when there weren’t several students eager to help their peers. For ESL students this is great news!  By utilizing students who are proficient in English (and perhaps another language), your ESL students can read and work on their fluency and pronunciation skills with peers rather than you. This is important because sometimes ESL students are embarrassed or nervous about their lack of understanding with the English language.  When they can have classmates listen to them read, or vice versa, it helps to build confidences.  Plus, ESL students are not as worried about ‘disappointing’ their teacher with errors made.

                     4.    Break material into smaller chunks:

Who doesn’t feel overwhelmed when faced with reading five chapters in an Ancient Civilizations text or frustrated when you have to write a ten page paper on why David Bowie is the modern renaissance man?  Now, imagine having to do that in a foreign language.  By allowing your students to complete assignments in smaller chunks, you’re giving them the chance to be successful and feel pride in what they have been able to accomplish.  This also helps them from falling further behind. As the teacher, let them focus on writing a single paragraph at a time.  If their task is to read an entire chapter, you could let them focus on one page at a time, reminding them to read aloud at their own pace.

            To make tasks even easier, provide students with checklists of work needed to be completed (useful for any learner).  Watch out—you want students to focus on what they have achieved rather than putting all their attention into seeing how much they have yet to accomplish.

           In addition, keep in mind ELL students are learning the same science materials that their classmates are—plus, ELL students are learning English, too. Sometimes, especially when students are all together, it’s easy to be so in the moment of teaching you forget students with various learning needs are there, too.  

           If you are able to put a few of these tips in place before classes begin, they can save time in the long run.

             5.  Utilize colors and images:

    After repeated use, a grey pencil or blue pen becomes monotonous. Adding splashes of color can help liven up mundane materials. In that same respect, books with pictures can provide more entertainment than plain textbooks. Colors and images can also diversify works.

            Try to utilize colors and images when having ELL students do their class work.  Have them write different parts of grammar with certain colored pencils.  Then, utilize the same colors to identify parts of speech within whole sentences and paragraphs. Colors can help distinguish between spelling and vocabulary terms and how to conjugate those terms.

            Using color-coded images is key for students who are working to develop their English language skills.

                 6.  Learning a language is comprised of four components:

    To learn any language, even learning one language, there are four key steps to fully acquiring a language: (1) Listening, (2) Speaking, (3) Reading, and (4) Writing.  It is crucial to keep these in mind when aiding your English Language Learners:

1.        Listening is the easiest to do, and it takes very little effort on the part of the person listening. It is the most basic of the four steps.

2.       Speaking is just beyond listening.  Now, instead of just nodding along in agreement, students have to respond to what others are saying.  They have to have basic understandings of sounds of words in order to pronounce them correctly.

3.       Reading is the beginning of advanced skills. With reading, students have to know spelling, grammar, phonics, pronunciation, and sentence structures.

4.       Writing is the most difficult and advanced component of learning new languages. There is not as much flexibility with writing—either your students know it or they don’t.  Here, all the previous components come into play.

Although these strategies are specific to needs of ESL students, many of them can be utilized with all types of learners.  In addition, remember we all do better with some encouragement and positive reinforcements.  

Think back to when you were taking foreign language classes in high school and college.  Remember how much time it took to practice those verbs and conjugation?  How difficult was it to learn to ‘trill’ your R’s just the right way? Those same frustrations are happening to English Language Learning students. Those frustrations are even more prominent in young children who are trying to learn the fundamentals of lone anguage—let alone two. Plus, as they become older, people who are proficient in multiple languages have distinct advantages and opportunities that are not open to people who only speak one language. Give students and learning time, put work into smaller chunks, and keep in mind they are learning many required subjects, as well as English.

Our students want to gain our approvals and being English Language Learners can be quite challenging.  If you remind them of how super they are, it will make them feel great!  It’s takes time, but with your patience and support—your students will get there.

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