Sunday, October 16, 2016

4 Fabulous Ideas for Teaching Theme

Teaching theme in fourth grade is not easy, but it is very rewarding to see the students' little light bulbs come on! In my experience, students need many opportunities to find theme in stories, and I love giving my students a variety of ways to do this.


 Picture Books

To introduce the concept of theme, I love using picture books. Using picture books as model text is one of my favorite things to do in reading, and for me, it is a great way to introduce theme. Some of my favorite picture books for teaching them include:

Mr. Peabody's Apples
 I am not a Madonna fan, but I do love this book by her and the message in this story. The theme of, "You should not spread rumors about others" or " Once a rumor is spread, you can never take back those words" are themes that most students can easily recognize in this book. I highly recommend this book if you can locate a copy. Unfortunately, I think this book is now out of print, but you may be able to locate a used copy. I stumbled upon this book  several years ago at our local used book store and have never regretted the purchase. I use it every year for multiple skills and strategies.
Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge
Although the reading level of this book is lower, the theme in this sweet story about a special friendship may be slightly more challenging for some of your students to express, but it is worth the challenge. Students will enjoy this story as well as the theme of, "Friendships can span generations."

Three Hens and a Peacock
 This is a fun story with colorful illustrations. Your students will quickly recognize the theme of "Always be yourself" in this humorous story. This is a great choice for those struggling with theme.


The Junkyard Wonders
Finally, any of Patricia Polacco books are wonderful choices when teaching theme. The Junkyard Wonders  was my choice this year to use with my students while teaching theme. Most students can easily recognize the theme of "Never give up" in this beautifully told story.

Anchor Charts


After reading aloud Sister Anne's Hands, the students and I worked together to chart the character's words and actions, our inference, and the author's message of the story. This modeling activity helped my students tremendously in understanding and finding theme. This year, I actually began teaching theme by reading this book aloud to the class as a model text. We discussed and "turned and talked" throughout the story. we then worked together to create the anchor chart. Finally, I paired up the students and gave each pair the books that I listed above (in #1). After partner reading the picture books, students worked together to create charts in their journals similar to the chart above.

 I have also included a link to a free journal reference page for theme. Simply print the page, cut it in half, and give one-half to each student to use as a reference when searching for, writing about, or discussing theme with groups or a partner. This freebie will make a great reference for your students.

Theme Songs

My students loved the next activity that we used to review theme. I played the theme song to "Fuller House," and my students worked together to determine the theme of the song. (Families are always there for you. Families will stick together. etc.) This was a fun, quick activity to open up a review lesson on theme. It definitely caught my students' attentions, and they loved singing along. The link to the theme song on Youtube is here: Fuller House Theme Song  If your students are not familiar with this show or song, you may want to play the longer version with the words Fuller House theme song with words and focus on the chorus of the song.
Also, if you are not familiar with SafeShare.TV, this is a great way to show Youtube videos in your classroom to insure only the video and no inappropriate content will be shown. It takes away any advertisements before an video previews at the end. It is a must in your classroom if you are showing Youtube video clips, and it is very quick and easy to use. I have this on my favorites bar so that it is just a click away.

Graphic Organizers

If you have followed me for a while now, you probably already know that I love using graphic organizers. After going through extensive training on reading strategies several years ago, I became hooked on graphic organizers, and the results I saw in my classroom convinced me that graphic organizers are an excellent tool that I want to continue to use with my students. For me, there is no question about using graphic organizers when teaching theme. My best selling Common Core: Graphic Organizers for Reading Literature contains 4 graphic organizers perfect for teaching theme, moral, and lessons in stories. They are a fabulous way for students to use with any book or story and to write about their reading. They also make a great assessment tool as well.  This packet comes highly recommended. I'd love for you to check out all of the wonderful reviews on this set.

I hope you found these ideas helpful for your own classroom! Thanks so much for dropping by, and have a blessed day!

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Four (Plus) Fabulous Bulletin Board Border Ideas

Whether you are looking for inspiration for creative borders to complete your bulletin board or need some unique and interesting ideas, these creative bulletin board border ideas will add a flair to your bulletin board creations!

I love bulletin boards! To be truthful, I have always begun planning my bulletin boards for my classroom months before the beginning of school. In fact, when I began teaching (many years ago), it was trendy to change your classroom bulletin boards every month or at least every season. I must say that I am glad that I am a little wiser and now plan my bulletin boards to be functional throughout the entire school year. One of my favorite things about bulletin boards today is the creative ideas that teachers have in designing unique bulletin boards, and part of that creativity involves creating unique bulletin board borders. Here are some creative ideas that I found throughout my school this year.

I have shared most of these bulletin board with you already, but I wanted to point out the borders on these creative boards. Look closely at this octopus bulletin board made by our school counselor. The entire border is bubble wrap!! How cute and perfect is that for an under the sea themed bulletin board!  Although it is not technically a border, wouldn't chain links be another great idea to use as a border as well!

Paint chips cut in half make another bright, colorful, and free bulletin board border. You could use multi-colored chips, as shown here, or choose paint chips in the same shade for a more uniform look.
I just love this owl bulletin board, also created by our school counselor, and these borders are some of the most creative I have seen! I just love the feather boa border! It is bright and colorful and adds texture to this amazing board. Also, she lined the bottom of this board with small green pom pom shakers. Too cute!
This bulletin board border was a happy accident. When I designed these parts of speech posters, I thought I had green and blue borders at school. After searching, I realized I did not have any borders in either one of those colors. I did not have time to order border and receive it before the beginning of school, and we do not have a teacher store in our town, so I went searching through my closet and found blank index cards in the perfect shade of green and blue. This was the final result, and I think this border is much better than my original plan.
Thank you so much for stopping by, and have a blessed day!


Saturday, September 17, 2016

My Week In Review: Vocabulary Flipbook, Run on Sentences, and Free Football Clipart!

This week was a busy week, but even so, we had a great week of reading and language arts. I also had the opportunity to attend a technology training this week. Today, I just wanted to quickly share a few highlights from my week.

My students created vocabulary flipbooks using their history vocabulary words. I love having students create flipbooks for vocabulary reinforcement and review. They simply wrote the word on the front of a flap and drew a picture. Then, on the inside, they wrote the definition. You can also have students use the word in a sentence. This is not something that I do with all vocabulary words or with every unit, but I like to change things up and have students create these every now and then. It gives students a who enjoy drawing a chance to be creative, and most of the students enjoy creating these flipbooks.
My students are still struggling with run on sentences, and these task cards are a quick and easy way to practice identifying run on sentences. This set of task cards simply require the students to identify run on and complete sentences. This was the first time that we have used task cards to play scoot in my class this year, so this simple set was a perfect set to teach my class how to play. They did a great job! Another fabulous thing about learning to play scoot was that it really was a great exercise in listening skills and following instructions, and my class did great with that as well! You can find these cute task cards here in my TpT store.
I am loving the testing shields that I purchased at the end of the year last year! (I am in no way affiliated with the company. I just love this product!)  They are the perfect solution to desk arrangements with students sitting in close proximity to one another.
I also found time to create a quick and easy homecoming door decoration. Just incase you are in need of football clipart, the football can be found for free in my store. I simply inserted the football clipart into PowerPoint and printed it out in poster size to make it large enough for my door. They would be perfect for printing for your students to color this football season, creating bulletin boards, or for creating products for your Tpt store, and they are free!
Have a blessed day!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Why I Never Post Rules in My Classroom

I never post rules in my classroom? I know. I know! This sounds completely crazy! Posting rules is a must in every classroom, or is it? In my early years of teaching, I always posted my 5 rules. They were large and visible on a prominent wall in the classroom. I went over them the first day of school and expected everyone to follow them. Sometimes students did, and sometimes they didn't. When they didn't, there were consequences. I guess my concern was, did I want my students to simply follow the rules, or did I want my students to gain character traits that they could carry with them throughout their lives?

About five years ago I removed the classroom rules from my wall, and instead placed motivational posters on a bulletin board. These posters contained sayings that reflected character traits and behavior that I hoped to help encourage and instill in my students. We spent time during the first day of school discussing the meaning and importance of each poster. Throughout the year, we read and referred to these posters often. Although my students weren't perfect and they made mistakes, I must say that motivational posters had a tremendous impact on my classroom. I found that for my students, having motivational posters worked beautifully, and I saw positive effects from using them. Most importantly, I witnessed my students learning to be a respectful, caring community. Because of this, I have continued to use motivational posters each year.

Motivational posters are truly a positive way to encourage your students to be their best each and every day. We all need reminders from time to time, and motivational posters are a great way to encourage positive behavior in your classroom. They encourage students to work hard, respect one another, and be the best that they can be.
Over the past few years, I have used several different sets of motivational posters in my classroom, and I have created several different sets for my TpT store.
My Owl Themed Motivational Posters are one of the top sellers in my store and are still one of my favorite sets.
I created these Bright orange, green, and blue motivational posters a couple of years ago for my classroom. I love the bright wood grain backgrounds.

This cute set of Birds and Chevron Motivational Posters would look great in any classroom.

I love the posters that I am using this year! These green and blue posters are so bright and colorful. I hope to add these soon to my TpT store.

This may be my favorite set yet! I have these posters on my bulletin board next to my classroom door. My students and I refer to it often.

Have a blessed day!

Monday, September 5, 2016

How to Find My Clip Art in My Store and Happy Labor Day 20% Sale!

I know that we have only been back to school for a few short weeks, but after 25+ years of teaching, I must admit that I always look forward to Labor Day. It always seems to be the perfect refresher after the busy and hectic back to school season. I hope that you will be able to spend today relaxing and spending time with your family. I know that my plans for today.

If you have a chance to stop by my TpT store, everything is on sale 20% off today and tomorrow! Today would be a great day to add to your border collection.

Which sets are your favorite? I love my Borders #2, Doodle Heart Borders are dear to my heart, and my Border Hoarders #3 (Arrows) set are all some of my favorites! If you have trouble finding my clipart in my store, let me show you an easy way to locate it.

There are a couple of ways that you can access my clip art in my store. The first way is to click the "clip art" custom category to the left of the screen (blue arrow) or you can simply click the "Kelly Benefield borders" header at the top of the store (green arrow). Both of these will take you to all of my borders and clip art in my store. If you are looking for anything else in my store, graphic organizers, PowerPoint Lessons, Writing, etc., you can access these as well using the custom categories on the left. I hope this helps you navigate my store a little easier.

Have a blessed day!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

4 Fabulous 3D Bulletin Board Ideas

What do feather boas, pompom shakers, chain links, and tissue paper all have in common? Bulletin boards! That's what! I work with an amazing group of teachers. Not only are they amazing at teaching and working with our sweet kiddos, but they are pretty amazing decorators as well. and this year they have created some of the most colorful and creative bulletin boards for our school hallways! Today, I want to share 4 fabulous 3D bulletin board ideas from our school with you!
4 Fabulous 3D Bulletin Board Ideas!
 Bright, colorful, and creative would be how I would describe each of these bulletin boards, and boy, do they add a splash of color and a POP to our hallways!

The bright colors and tissue paper flower of this bulletin board definitively make it a stand-out in our hallways! It is absolutely gorgeous! Don't you just love these encouraging words? This bulletin board simply makes me smile!!
Now, you probably know that I love owls, and when our counselor put up this amazing owl bulletin board, I was so excited! Feather boas, pom-pom shakers, and a tissue paper tree make this bulletin board an absolute show-stopper!

I know that I have seen several versions of this 3D bulletin board floating around Pinterest, but our counselor's version of this paint brush bulletin board is just too cute to not share!

Under the sea themed bulletin boards are always cute, but this board is beautiful with all of its 3D effects! The octopus with chain link legs is simply adorable!!! Our hallways are looking good with all of these fabulous bulletin boards in our school! Today's post is short and sweet, but I hope you enjoyed these bulletin board beauties!
Have a blessed day!


Sunday, August 21, 2016

Using Chrysanthemum in Upper Elementary at the Beginning of School

One of my most visited blog post is Favorite Read Alouds for the First Week of School. In this blog post, I listed several picture books that I love to read during the first week. This list includes a few different titles that are usually not listed for the beginning of school. I did not, however,  list one of my favorite back to school books in this post. This year, I went back to that old favorite, Chrysanthemum! I love reading this book to my students partly because of the overwhelming response students have to the story. I'm always surprised by how many fourth graders are not familiar with this book.

This year, after reading the Chrysanthemum, I helped demonstrate how to draw a simple picture of the main character. Then on the left side of the paper, the students wrote words to describe how the students' cruel words made Chrysanthemum feel. On the right side, they wrote how Chrysanthemum's parents and Mrs. Twinkle's kind words made her feel. Next, on an index card, I had the students to write what they learned from the story about how to treat others.

Not only did the students' pictures turn out adorable, but I knew from the paragraphs that were written, that the class understood the message in the book. This helped to reinforce the ideas of classroom community that we have been establishing the first week of school.

These adorable drawings and writings made a perfect hall display for back to school!

Have a blessed day!