Monday, March 31, 2014

Laughing and Learning with Elvis

No, this is not a blog post about Elvis the singer.  {Sorry!}  It's just a quick post to let you know about the most hilarious book that I have read in a long, long time, Elvis and the Underdogs by Jenny Lee.
I first heard about this book from the (also very hilarious) Alison at Rockin' and Lovin' Learnin'.  She raved about how funny her kids thought the book was and even had them write book recommendations for her blog post.  I was sold!

If you are a fan of the book Wonder, you will also love Elvis.  Here's the review from Amazon:

From Jenny Lee, writer on the Disney Channel show Shake It Up!, the number-one-rated kids' show in the country, this feel-good middle-grade novel is about a sickly boy whose life is turned upside down when he gets a therapy dog . . . who can talk!Benji Wendell Barnsworth is a small ten-year-old boy with a big personality. Born premature, Benji is sickly, accident-prone, and at the hospital so often he even has his own punch card. So when Benji wakes up one day from a particularly bad spell, his doctors take the radical step of suggesting he get a therapy dog. But when a massive crate arrives at Benji's house, out walks a two-hundred-pound Newfoundland who can talk! And boy, is he bossy.
If you are looking for a fall-off-your-seat-laughing, heartwarming story of courage, perseverance and friendship, this is it!  Elvis and the Underdogs would make a great read aloud, and it can also be used to teach literary devices such as point-of-view (the story is told in 1st person) and inferring.  Each chapter begins with a really cute illustration that could be used to infer what will happen:

I can't wait to get back from spring break to share this heartwarming and hilarious story with my 4th graders.  I'm linking up today with the very talented Amanda at Teaching Maddeness to share this must-read chapter book.  I hope you will check it out!

Happy Reading!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

A Peek at My Week {3-30-14} -- Spring Break Edition!

Yay!!  It's spring break!!  Time to share what I'm going to do with all my "free" time this week.
My family is returning from their band trip to Disney tonight.  I have had the WHOLE week all to myself. Yep, just me and the dogs!  Loved it, but I am looking forward to having someone to talk to at home again.  The dogs just don't cut it when it comes to conversational skills.
As you may remember, I did a major spring cleaning on my daughter's room after she left last week.  
This has gotten me in the mood to keep on cleaning!  (It's a sickness, I am sure...)  Today, I am taking ALL of my winter clothes upstairs to the guest closet and bringing down some spring/summer things.  Hear that Mother Nature???  Winter is OVER!!

I am also meeting some friends for lunch this week, but other than that, I have a whole bunch of nothing planned and that is just OK with me!  I'm going to take the week to recharge so I am ready to return to school in a week refreshed for our final quarter.  We do not have testing to prepare for because in Wisconsin, we take our state test in the fall.  I wish all of you who are preparing for the dreaded tests the best over the next few weeks!

How about you?  Anything exciting (or not exciting) going on this week?

Before I go, I wanted to share a little friendly blogger tip for those of you with newer blogs. You may not know this, but when people leave comments on your blog, there is this annoying "Prove You're Not a Robot" thingy that pops up where your commenter has to enter a series of numbers in order to have their comment post.  This is supposedly to avoid spam.  

If you would like to disable this function to make it easier for people to comment on your blog, please follow these directions.  In my year of blogging, I don't think I've ever gotten any spam (knock on wood) by disabling this annoying function. (Can you tell how much I really dislike this function?)

To disable 2-step verification for commenters:
1.  In the upper right corner of your Blogger page, click on the down arrow next to your name and choose "Account Settings."
2.  At the top near the center of your page, click on "Security".
3.  In the Passwords box, next to "2-Step Verification," click "Disable".
4.  Save your changes.

Wishing you a great week!  Don't forget to come back on Thursday for my new linky party, "Positive Thinking Thursday."  You can read more about it here.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Need Some Positive Thoughts??

Ahhhhh...spring break!  Although we had several (5) snow days this winter which meant unexpected days off from school, there is nothing like a solid week of rest and relaxation.  This past week was a crazy one at school.  I know how I was feeling -- I can only imagine how my students felt.
Funny Workplace Ecard: The week before spring break for teachers..... Two words: CROWD CONTROL.

I saw this video this morning and it made me laugh.  It kinda sums it all up...Can you relate?
Anywho...All this craziness reminded me how important it is to stay positive and try to find the bright side in everything.  This can sometimes be a difficult thing to do.  By nature, I feel that I am more of a "glass half empty" than a "glass half full" person, but I am working HARD to change that.  

I wanted to share something I've been doing at school this year to help everyone feel a little more "positivity" in their life....Positive Thinking Thursdays!  Every Thursday, I print out a positive thought that I found on Pinterest and leave a bunch on the table in the teachers' lounge.  Throughout the day, teachers and staff visit the lounge and can take a positive thought with them if they'd like.  Here are some of the positive thoughts from this year so far:
Be gentle with yourself.  Yo're doing the best you can.  Breathe.  And be grateful for small blessings. ~ Vicki Reese
I am strong
Nelson Mandela Quote Posters (free printables in the blog post)

1/2 air 1/2 water technically, the glass is always full
This one I could really relate to!!

At first, I didn't think that Positive Thinking Thursday was a very big hit.  (Yes, a few even made fun of it...Those are probably the ones who need it the most.)  But now, I always hear nice comments about each week's thought, and I even hear teachers talking about the thought with their students.  (I love that we can also use these to teach inferring -- bonus!)  One of my fellow teachers even shared with me that she was out on Thursday at the dentist.  She said that while she was having her procedure done, realized that it was Thursday and wondered what the Positive Thought was for this week.  I love that!!!

I was thinking that we could take Positive Thinking Thursday global...How about if beginning this Thursday, I share my Positive Thinking Thursday thought on this blog and invite you to share yours as well? Start looking through Pinterest and see what you can find!  You can visit my Inspirations Pinterest board here if you'd like to start following me.  (I am addicted to pinning positive inspirations, much to the chagrin of my family who follows me!  :)

With that, I am going to link up with my good blogging buddy, Joanne at Head Over Heels for Teaching,  who fills my life with much positivity (and exclamation points!!) for her Spark Student Motivation linky party.  I know this post is not necessarily for students, but we all know that happy teachers = happy students so we need to take care of us too!
I hope you will visit again tomorrow for my weekly linky party, A Peek at My Week!  

Before I go...I'm having a Spring Cleaning SALE at my TPT store until Monday!  Happy Shopping!!
Have a great Saturday!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Tried it Tuesday -- Spring Cleaning & Researching with Fact Monster

I'm excited to link up with my sweet friend, Holly at Fourth Grade Flipper, for Tried It Tuesday.  It's been awhile since I was able to join in, but I'm happy to be here this week.
I actually have two "Tried Its" for this week, one teaching related and one that isn't.

First, the "isn't"...

So my two kids left Sunday morning for the band trip to Florida.  I was looking forward to spending the day relaxing and catching up on blogging.

Then I made the mistake of going into my daughter's room to find her fish food so I could feed her fish while she was gone.  BIG mistake on my part.  After I pushed my way through her door (she apparently told me she "cleaned" on Saturday before she left....), I was overcome by the need to do a little straightening.  (Anyone with teenagers will recognize the irony in referring to any teenage mess as "little".) day, six bags of garbage, two bags of clothes to donate, and 12 loads of laundry later, her room is "clean."  Needless to say, my relaxing day turned out to be not-so-relaxing after all...but at least she will come home to a clean room.

I consider this experience a "tried it" because we are NOT going back to the theory that as long as the door is closed, you can choose to keep your room any way you want to. We tried it her way, but it didn't work. Sorry, honey (if you are reading)!

Now for the teaching "Tried It"...

You may remember that my students have been working hard on researching and writing their biography projects.  I have received a few requests (thank you!) for more information about websites that I have used. The one website that my students enjoy using is
There is TONS of information on this website, which makes it great for research.  Here's the page we used for researching our famous American heroes.  I love the search bar option too!
There is also a handy encyclopedia page.
Need help with homework?  There's a page for that too.
I think it would be fun to let the kids look around the "Cool Stuff" page.
(Even the "Dating and Marriage" section has some interesting facts about dating/marriage customs around the world.  Maybe a project for Valentine's Day???)

As with any website, you need to teach your students how to use it safely and responsibly.  Most of the links stay on-site, but there are banner ads that may distract some kids.

What have you tried lately?  Head on over to Fourth Grade Flipper to check out more ideas!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

A Peek at My Week {3-23-14}

Welcome to another edition of A Peek at My Week, my weekly linky party where you can share what you've got going on this week!
This is our last week before Spring Break and also the last week of the quarter.  That means that it is MAJOR catch up/finish up time.  I will be working on report cards this week so I don't have to do them over break.

For our read aloud in class, we have been reading The Lemonade Wars by Jacqueline Davies.  I managed to pick up 25 copies of this book from Scholastic Book Clubs earlier this year when they were $1 each so each student has one to hold in their hand and follow along during read aloud time.
If you haven't read this book, I would highly recommend it.  The students are loving it!  It shows how math is used in the real world (the students love trying to figure out the math before the author reveals the answer in the book), is great for teaching point of view and has some amazing "golden lines" that can be lifted for writing.  We will be finishing up this week.  

I'm trying to figure out what we should read next, after we return from break.  I'm thinking about The Fairy Tale Detectives by Michael Buckley.  I read this to my class last year in 4th quarter while we were learning about tall tales, fractured fairy tales, and mythology.  It was a great read aloud!
Also this week, students will begin drafting their biography research projects.  I was going to try to have those all finished up before break, but I don't want to rush the important drafting and revising stages.  My goal is to have all drafting done this week.  I will collect the drafts for break (so they don't get lost or tossed).  Then we will revise and publish the week we come back.

Finally on Friday, we will be having a Pancake Snack to as we look at some old slides (yes, slides!!) of lumber jacking in Wisconsin history.  We have parents coming in to make pancakes with lots of fun toppings to enjoy while we look at the slides.  We are starting to get into the more modern history of our state (if you call the 1800s modern) and the kids are learning some pretty cool things.  Did you know that Wisconsin is called the Badger State because the lead miners that came to Wisconsin in the 1800s with the lead rush were too busy to build houses so they dug holes in the sides of hills and just lived there (sometimes with their families -- not my idea of comfort!) when they weren't at mining lead?  The kids thought this was pretty fascinating!

Wishing you a great week!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Monday Made It -- A Win & a Fail

Just a quick link up with Tara from 4th Grade Frolics for her monthly Monday Made It linky party.  This is where we all get to share our craftiness and creative sides, two areas of our psyche that are not nurtured enough during the school year.

Today, I am sharing a Win and a Fail.

First, the "win".

Last month, I finished up working on my new TpT product, Super Writer Research.  I am addicted to all things writing and am obsessed with helping my 4th grade students write better.  I currently teach two sections of writing and love it!  I can definitely see growth in my writers since the beginning of the year.  I can't wait to hear what the 5th grade teachers think when they get them next year.  :)

We are working on research writing and I noticed that my students love to get on the internet and do research, but they really don't know the difference between a reliable source and an unreliable source, how to take notes, and how to prepare a bibliography.  My new Super Writer Research unit teaches them all they need to know to prepare for research.  You just add your own topic after going over the presentation.

Now for my "fail"...

I consider myself a pretty good cook.  Yesterday for our family St. Patrick's Day dinner, I made an ice cream grasshopper pie.  Well, let me tell ya, I don't know what I did, but it did not turn out.

How simple could it be?

Take a half gallon of mint chocolate chip ice cream and soften it.  I added in about 1/2 cup of mint syrup (the kind you could add to coffee, no alcohol), and poured it into a chocolate cookie crust.  I let that freeze up for a bit.  Then I smoothed on some hot fudge sauce and refroze for a few hours.  Finally, I added some Cool Whip and mint chips to the top and froze it again.  When it was time to eat dinner, we took it out of the freezer and let it sit on the counter for about 15 minute to soften a bit.

When my husband went to cut it to serve it, the pie was so soupy we could have eaten it through a STRAW!  I would have taken a picture of it but I was too busy trying to help scoop what little remained frozen out of the pie plate to serve it.  Uggghhhh....Any idea what happened?

I am looking forward to spring break in two weeks to nurture more of my crafty side.  Can't wait!  I'll probably leave the cooking alone for awhile...

I'm looking forward to seeing more Monday Made It's at 4th Grade Frolics.  See you there!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

A Peek at My Week {3-16-14}

Top of the week to ya!  That's leprechaun speak for "Welcome to this week's edition of A Peek at My Week," the weekly linky party where you share what you've got going on this week.
Judging from the activity in blog land, many of you have been on Spring Break this past week.  Not me....I still have two weeks of school.  My kids, however, only have one more week and then they are off to Florida with the high school band to perform at Disney and Universal for the week.  So at home this week, it will be utter craziness with packing, shuttling them back and forth for nightly band practice, and making sure that nothing is forgotten at home when we drop them off at 6:30 am next Sunday.  My daughter is fully prepared though.  She ordered every imaginable cable/plug/charger for her Kindle and iPod from Amazon -- just in case one should break on the trip.  Heaven forbid!

As you know, Monday is St. Patrick's Day.
(Love this super cute clip art by Melonheadz!)
How will we teachers celebrate at school?  We are having a baked potato bar at school for lunch.  Yum!  Then later on in the week, we will welcome in the first day of spring with a Salad Luncheon.  Lots of staff have signed up to bring a different kind of salad to share.  (We LOVE to eat at my school! :)  Here is the salad I plan on making -- Cashew Chicken Rotini Salad.
Cashew Chicken Rotini Salad ~ Loaded with Cashews, Grapes, Chicken, Pasta and Dried Cranberries!
Two days of group lunches means two mornings I don't have to scrounge around the freezer to figure out what I'm bringing to eat.

In class this week, we are beginning our research for our Famous Heroes research project.  Last week, students pulled names of famous people from a basket.  In the past, I've let them choose their own person, but this year I wanted a little bit more control over the craziness.  (And I'm sorry, but Justin Bieber has no business being considered a hero...But try to tell that to 9 year old girls.)

We have almost finished going through the research process using my new product, Super Writer Research. The kids have done a GREAT job with learning how to take notes from a source without plagiarizing (think I've scared them to death) and using short phrases instead of complete sentences in their note taking.  Now they are ready to roll!
I was hoping to wrap up these research projects before Spring Break.  That gives us 10 days...I'll keep my fingers crossed.

Wishing you a wonderful week!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Blessing or Burden?

On Monday, I was in a bad mood.  Not just any bad mood -- I was having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.  It was like everything bothered me and nothing seemed right.

I asked my principal to send me home with a bad attitude.  She said "no."

I made it through the day -- and so did everyone else around me -- but I'm sure it wasn't pleasant.  I tried to keep my bad mood to myself, but you know how it is....I just wasn't on my game.

Until I thought of one of my students....

This student has been working really hard to improve at reading.   I mean, working-her-butt-off hard. When school began, she was reading at the second grade level and is now reading practically on grade level (4th grade, 7th month).  She reads everything she can and is always pushing herself to read something more challenging. She asks me if she can take the STAR Reader test almost on a weekly basis to see if her reading level has gone up. Every time she gets a 100% on an AR quiz (which is VERY often), she is practically beaming.  If she doesn't score well, she still picks up another book and gets reading.  Reading has always been difficult for her, but with hard work and a positive attitude, her efforts are paying off.

Sure, it would be easy for this student to get weighed down by the "burden" she faces on a daily basis as she has worked through her reading struggles but she doesn't.  She keeps going.

I asked her what has made the biggest difference in her turning around her reading ability.  She told me that although reading is very difficult for her, she doesn't see it that way.  She sees reading as a gift.  One that not everyone in her family has been given.  She said she just wants to be the best reader she can be!

Talk about a positive attitude!

So this made me think...

When we are faced with adversity (or a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day), do we focus on everything that goes wrong at the sake of looking at what is going right?  Do we dwell on the coffee that dripped on our sweater, the kids who "forgot" to do their homework, the data meetings we have to sit through (again) or the parent who feels that we don't understand their child?

Or do we focus on what is going right?  What our blessings are every day?  How lucky we really are?  How, thanks to those data meetings, we now know how to target our instruction to help our students achieve?

The great Dr. Wayne Dyer said that when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.  Everything happens for a reason, I believe.  So what is there for me to learn in every situation, even the bad ones?
If you change the way you look at things... #Quote
I know that sometimes this will take some time and distance to realize, but I'm going to try really hard to see more blessings than burdens in my life.

This, I believe, will be the key to happiness and will help me have more terrific, awesome, totally unbelievable, make-me-smile days.

How about you?

Here's wishing you more blessings and less burdens in your life--

Sunday, March 9, 2014

A Peek at My Week {3-09-14}

Welcome to another edition of A Peek at My Week, the weekly linky party where you can share your plans for the upcoming week.  I just love checking out what everybody else has going on!

The sun rose an hour later here in Wisconsin....Daylight Savings Time.  That means an hour of lost sleep -- but also an extra hour of sunlight tonight.  Ahhh....I think spring is on its way!

I hope you have a great week planned for yourself. I know many of you have spring break this week. I'm so jealous. We don't have break until March 31st. Oh well...Here's what I've got going on this week:
This week, we are beginning to work on our biography research projects.  While planning for this unit, I reflected back to how I've taught it in the past and decided it was time for a change.

As a lifelong learner myself, research is something that comes naturally to me.  Anyone who knows me, knows how addicted I am to reading professional books that will help me learn new things.  I am always on the prowl for ideas and best practices that can help improve my students' achievement.  While this is good for me, it is something that I assume is everyone knows how to do.  Even my students....But they don't.

When I've taught this research unit in the past, I have always assumed that my students knew HOW to research.  But as I reflect back on this, I realize that their idea of research was copying information off of the internet and recycling it (sometimes word-for-word) in their own research project.  Ughhh...

So this year we will begin our research project by learning HOW to research.

I am excited to share my newest product in my TPT Store -- Getting Ready to Research!
In this unit, students will learn 
     * The difference between informational and research writing
     * The pros and cons of using books, encyclopedias & the internet to research
     * Evaluating website reliability
     * How to avoid plagiarism
     * How to take notes & paraphrase
     * Citing sources
     * Creating a bibliography
I just know this unit will help set my students up for success in researching!  I'll let you know how it goes.

I wish you a great week!  Thanks for stopping by and for linking up!!