Reading Choices: Daily 5, SSR, & Homework

Do you find that your students check out the same types of books at the library?  If so, it is time to expand their horizons on the Reading Highway!  
You can incorporate the Reading Highway with:
  • Daily 5
  • D.E.A.R. time
  • SSR
  • Reading homework
  • Genre unit
  • Social Studies
  • Geography
  • Read Across America
It is an easy way to document your students' free reading at school or home.  The added bonus is you are integrating reading and social studies.  Too often, social studies is a subject that is takes a backseat to other subjects because of standardized testing.  With a little planning and integration, you can expand your students' reading horizons.
Too often, when we visit the library we naturally gravitate to books that we love.  It wasn't until I joined a book club that more structured than most, that I changed my philosophy on adding a little structure to my students' free reading choices.  I joined a book club that read a book from a different genre each month.  One month the selection for my book club was non-fiction.  I have never been a fan of non-fiction.  In fact, if I buy something new, I am more apt to try to put it together without reading the direction first.  I do not recommend this policy!  Our selection for the non-fiction month was Malcom Gladwell's, The Tipping Point.
Oh!  My gosh!  I was completely hooked from the first chapter.  As a teacher, I have always looked for these type of things - tipping points.  What are the tipping points, the changes or tweaks that I can make that can have a ripple effect on my students' reading achievement, improved behavior, and less paperwork?  Gladwell's style of writing makes it hard to put down his books.  I now buy all of his books as soon as they come out.   I don't even wait for the paperback!
After my experience with my book club, I was bound and determined to expand my students' horizons, too!  I told my class what had happened to me.  I also explained that I didn't necessarily love every single genre that I tried, but it is a little like food.  You have to try several before you know for sure that you don't like it.   You can read more about my book club experience and pick up a FREEBIE by clicking HERE.
I have structured my students' free reading time different ways.  Some times I have a genre focus.  Other times I divided my class into groups and each group had a different genre to focus on for that month and then we rotated genres each month.  At the end of the month, groups gave a mini report about the genre.  It was like a commercial for that genre.
Another way I have structured free reading time is by integrating social studies and reading.  Students have to read books from different states or regions.  
I found my students were more motivated when I used this visual.  Students names were on a car and the students put the cars on the state to show the setting of the book they were reading.  Each time they changed books, they moved their car.  My students loved to watch their classmates' travels on the Reading Highway.  It was one of those "oh, this is why I became a teacher moments" when I heard when my students comparing details from their stories about the climate and terrain plus other details from the story that showed me my students were becoming more aware of geography and how it impacted the story .  These were snatches of things I heard when we were lining up for specials and lunch.  Love it when a lesson spills over into their conversations.  You should have seen how many times my students were crowded around the map!  I bought a map at Costco several years ago that was really large and was already laminated.  I hot glued it to my wall where we lined up.  It was a great investment.
If you want to structure using the region program, I would recommend that you put your students in region groups.  I found it easiest to have tubs of books sorted by regions.  You can also ask your librarian to sort a few for you before your class goes to the library.
I have a Pinterest board with links to book lists, books, and other resources that are helpful.  Click on the picture below if you'd like to check these out.
I also have a FREE sample of my Reading Highway packet for you.

You are invited to pop over to my blog.  I love to share tips and free stuff.
Sources to make my blog post graphics can be found HERE. Click HERE to read my blog's disclosure statement.

Quick Tip: Timeline In Your Classroom

Hey everyone!

I do this easy little thing in my room that 1) Reminds kids of what we've done, 2) shows admin a public record of our learning, and 3) makes for easy room decorations!

What is it? A timeline of subjects we have studied.

You could choose to do the main idea for the month or art project of the month. September was government, October was graphing, November was rocks and minerals. As you can see, it is super simple and easy. Really doesn't take much effort and my kids love reflecting back on it!


Using Mini-Lessons to Revamp Reading Instruction

Hi all! It's Courtney from Swimming into Second. I'm dropping by today to tell you about how I've revamped my reading instruction this school year.

This year, my district got a new reading series. I'm sure you know how that goes but I felt like I was drowning in materials last year. I'm happiest teaching with picture books and coming up with my own lessons. So at the end of last year, I decided that I needed to make a change to save my sanity. 

Around this time last year, I decided to ditch the reading series (for the most part) and do my own thing. I found a book that I love in my classroom library. 

If you've never read "Arnie the Doughnut" by Laurie Keller, you really need to check it out. She also has a new series of chapter books featuring Arnie that my students love.

So I pulled out this book and I thought, "What can I do with it?" I came up with a lesson on character traits.

Before reading the book, I cut out some doughnut circles from some brown construction paper. As I read, I stopped after every few pages and had my students come up with character traits to describe Arnie. Then, they wrote these down on the doughnuts and we taped them to our anchor chart.

After the whole group lesson, I gave my students a brown circle for their doughnut and had them glue it in their reading journal. Then, they wrote character traits for Arnie around the doughnut and decorated their doughnut to look like Arnie.

I love how these turned out. So cute and my kiddos loved this lesson!

I made this lesson with some added printables into a freebie for you. Click on the image to download.

If you like this, I've also made some mini-lesson packs out of the resources I have for Reading Street. If you've bought my Reading Street pack, you already have these but I wanted to make these available for those who don't use Reading Street.

Have a great weekend!


Easy Accommodations for ALL Students

Hi everyone!  I wanted to share some easy accommodations that any teacher can use with their students just to make life easier.

When I give my students things to copy from the board, I always give them an exact example of what they should copy along with some kind of visual cue.  This helps them know exactly what they should be doing.

My students need boundaries!  Using painters tape is an easy way to divide a space and it doesn't leave  sticky residue.

My students have the HARDEST time finding the page in their textbooks.  To make things easier on my students (and me), I taught them to move a sticky note as we work through the book.  

So nothing groundbreaking, but I'm all about finding quick tricks to make my life easier!  Do you have any good ideas to help accommodate for your students?


Presidents' Day Freebies Just for You - Plus a Little Bit More!

Fern Smith's Classroom Ideas Presidents' Day Resources and Freebie
Hello Friends,
Hopefully you have today off and are enjoying your three day weekend. While you're planning for next week, I'd like to share a few freebies and resources to help you with your up coming weeks.
 With and without lines for your grade level.
 Fern Smith's Classroom Ideas Presidents' Day Resources and Freebie Lessons and Freebies!
 Fern Smith's Classroom Ideas Presidents' Day Resources and Freebie Lessons and Freebies!
I also have two larger resources for sale, 
Fern Smith's Classroom Ideas United States Presidents Book - Kindergarten and First Grade Version
Fern Smith's Classroom Ideas United States Presidents Book - Second and Third Grade Version
For all of February, to celebrate Dental Health Month, I have a Color for Fun freebie for you.

Use it for fun, for morning work, for a writing prompt at centers or morning work, the possibilities are endless! 
Click here to get it too! 
Fern Smith's Classroom Ideas for Dental Health Month with a Freebie! Color for Fun, Dental Health Fun! Color for Fun Printable Coloring Pages.
I also have a new set of free task cards for introducing or reviewing time to the "five minutes" for analog and digital time.
 Click here to get them.
Fern Smith's Classroom Ideas FREE Telling Time Task Cards for Time to the Minute

For more ideas, visit my blog for videos, resources, books and all sorts of Presidents' Day fun.
 Fern Smith's Classroom Ideas Presidents' Day Resources, Tips, Books and Freebies.

I'm Fern from Fern Smith's Classroom Ideas, stop by my blog anytime for tips, tricks, resources and freebies for your classroom!
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Testing Season is Coming {Freebies}

I don't know about you, but our end of the year testing is coming up in just a few weeks!  EEK!  Yes, yes, I know we're just over halfway through the school year - *SIGH*

There are a few things I've found over the past few years that really help to encourage my students to work really hard and give 100% on these tests.
Remind them of the fable, The Hare and the Tortoise, and to take their time to do their very best.  It's not good to be the first finished.  It's not a race. Those who work slow and steady usually do the best!

Give them their goal.  We take the MAP test so they have a fall score and a goal.  Students LIKE trying to reach goals.  

I print these turtle goal cards on green cardstock and laminate to reuse each year.  Students take their goal cards with them as a reminder to strive for their goals and work slow and steady. 
Download yours below!
There's research that supports the idea that chewing gum before a test could boost performance.  Now, gum is not typically "encouraged" at school, so last year my students thought it was a BIG deal that I let them chew gum!  Of course, I made a big deal about it...telling them how it could help their brain, and how they had to chew it very quietly and keep it "undercover" as not to get me in trouble ( bubbles!) ;)  They ate it up! Parents were like, "that's all my child talked about when they got home!"

So, here's a little tag of encouragement I made to go along with the gum.  Just add your name to it and leave on students' desks with a piece of gum right before the test!

Before heading out to the lab for testing, I have each of my students give me a high-five and say something that they're going to do.  For example, "I'm going to do my best." or "I'm going to hit that goal."  or "I'm going to use good test-taking strategies."  Just having them verbalize what they're going to do with a high-five is like having them pledge to you that they are going to give 100%.

I hope these test-taking tips help your students.  It's hard to believe it's almost that time of year, isn't it!?

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