Friday, June 22, 2018

Ten Websites with Free Articles and Passages

This summer, after attending a reading workshop, I've made it my goal to amp up and improve my guided reading and shared reading instruction. With this in mind, I've been rounding up my favorite go-to websites for free articles and passages for upper elementary, and I thought I would share those with you.

Science News for Kids is a fabulous website that contains interesting and informative stories about research and current events that are all STEM related. Two things that I really love about the articles are that they come with "power words" located under the text as well as a link to classroom related questions. The articles are arranged by topics, and each article can be easily printed if desired. 

I realize that most teachers are very familiar with Readworks, but if you have not joined readworks, I highly encourage you to. Teachers are asked to set up an account, and once you do, you will find a wealth of articles, stories, and lesson plans all organized by grade level, lexile level, and topics. My favorite feature of Readworks is the ability to easily assign a story in Google Classroom. Vocabulary and question sets are included as well.

Common Lit is another fabulous website that contains passages for grades 5-12 and has recently added content for 3rd and 4th grade as well.  This site is full of history and science articles as well as fiction stories, and each one has question sets that students may answer online. Suggestions for paired texts are available as well. Resources are also available to track student progress. This is an amazing resource!

If you are teaching fables, this website from Library of Congress contains a large variety of Aesop's fables. Of course, since they are fables, they are very short, but it is a great place to find both familiar as well as less familiar fables and use to teach students the characteristics of fables.

Softschools is a website with both science passages and social studies passages for reading comprehension. All passages have comprehension questions that students are able to self-check.

This site contains fiction and nonfiction passages as well as many resources organized by grade level. These short passages are perfect for close reading. Although this site is a little harder to navigate, it is worth the time to explore the many passages and resources that they have to offer.

Kids Discover offers over 100 quick reads that are great for fluency practice or for pairing with a longer text.

Time for Kids has a large amount of articles written just for kids. Although they offer a subscription, they do provide many articles for free that are organized by grade level.

Smithsonian Tween Tribute contains a good variety articles for kids.  You have the ability to choose articles based on grade level, but I also like that  you have the option of choosing a lower or a higher Lexile Level of the same article which is perfect for differentiation or for challenging your gifted students. Once you create an account, you have the ability to assign passages and students are able to take quizzes. 

What can I say? Mr. Nussbuam is simply amazing! You can actually find just about any topic or skill with games, printables, and more on his site! A large amount of reading passages with comprehension questions can be found HERE. Another great option for passages are the numerous biographies that Mr. Nussbaum has on his site. 

A perfect resource to use with any of the fiction and nonfiction texts and articles from these websites is my Reading Graphic Organizers Bundle.  This packet contains almost 250 graphic organizers that can be used with almost any fiction or nonfiction text. Each one is aligned to the Common Core Standards for grades 3-5. Of course, if your school system does not use Common Core Standards, the skills that are covered in this packet are vital for any 3 through 5 reading classroom. This bundle is perfect for guided reading, small group instruction, homework, close reading, independent practice, assessment, and more! Be sure to check out this bundle.

I hope you check out these sites, because each one contains wealth of resources for your classroom, Just be sure to set aside plenty of time to peruse these websites. It is easy to spend a lot of time reading the mountain of information that is provided on these sites. 
Have a blessed day, and enjoy reading!

"Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with any of the above websites or am I receiving any form of compensation. These are simply some websites that I enjoy using as a teacher with my classes."

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Earth Day Ideas, Activities, and Freebies

April is the perfect time for celebrating nature and the beauty of our planet. Also, it is the perfect time to remind our students of our responsibilities to keep our planet healthy. My family and I live on a small farm, and a big part of farm life is striving to be good stewards of our land. We personally strive to take care of the earth, conserve, and simply do our part in preserving our beautiful world. One of my personal pet peeves is for people to throw trash out of car windows. In our area, this is a big problem, and I'm always saddened to find that so many students find this act normal and ok. Because of this, I always try to find the time whether it is in April, or even at the beginning of the year, to encourage students to make changes in their habits to keep our planet healthy and beautiful.

Here are some ideas that are not only great for April and Earth Day, but they are also perfect for anytime of the year when you are studying ecology, protecting the environment, or reduce, reuse and recycle.

✔️Ask permission from your administration for your class to participate in acts of environmental kindness around your school campus. Take 15 or 20 minutes to do one or more of the following activities.
  • Pick up trash around your school.
  • Water a flower garden at your school.
  • Plant flowers around your campus.
  • Set up a recycle bin.
✔️Encourage students to promote environmental kindness. Discuss simple changes that students can make to help our earth.
  • Take shorter showers.
  • Turn off water while brushing teeth.
  • Plant trees, plants, and flowers with your family.
  • Place a trash bag in your family vehicle and encourage everyone to use it instead of throwing trash out of the windows.
✔️To encourage students to make changes to help the environment, download this freebie from my store. Students can document their environmental acts of kindness for one week and write a poem to celebrate Earth Day. Also included are brag tags for Earth Day. Use these brag tags for students who document their environmental acts of kindness or simply give each student a brag tag as a reminder to take care of our earth.

✔️Each year our fourth grade attends a Water Festival sponsored by our local water boards. It is a fun day filled with experiments and activities centered around learning about the water cycle and our environment. At the Water Festival, the highlight of the day is always the magic of Steve Trash. His show is funny, amazing, as well as educational. He combines magic with a lesson on reducing, reusing, and recycling in such an entertaining way that he is always the topic of conversations on the bus ride back to school. Another great thing about Steve Trash is that he offers free videos on his website that are perfect to show around Earth Day. His free videos include "Renewable-Nonrenewable", "The Water Cycle", "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle", and "Pollution." Check them out HERE. Your students will love them!

✔️For even more great activities in honor of Earth Day, try out my fun Earth Day Packet. This packet includes Earth Day themed print and go language arts activities as well as activities centered around Earth Day. 15 fun and easy printables that can be used in your reading, language, as well as science classes are included. Activities that center around adjectives, grammar, synonyms and antonyms, creating an environmental bumper sticker, and more are included. Colorful reduce/reuse/recycle posters can be used for bulletin board or wall displays, and coloring sheets/booklet are all included for your students. This easy to use packet is just what you need this spring.

Have a blessed and beautiful day!

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Informational Writing Tips- Writing Introductory Paragraphs

I'll admit, I've had a love/hate relationship with teaching writing over my teaching career. Teaching students to write can be exhausting, frustrating, and demanding, but it is also very rewarding to see students develop into young authors. Years ago at a writing workshop, a presenter shared a statement that freed me and allowed me to view my job as a writing teacher in a new way. Her secret, "Don't think that you have to read entire papers and/or grade every piece that students write."

What? How will students improve? How will their writing be perfect? That's just it. It doesn't have to be perfect. Students are growing as writers, each at her own pace. Instead of expecting perfection, celebrate each child's growth as a writer.  In order to grow, students must do a lot of writing. Now, writing is one of my favorite things to teach, and one of my favorite parts of teaching writing are the mini lessons.

The Focus

Recently, I spent several days presenting mini-lessons on writing introductory paragraphs for expository (informational) writing. Yes... For 3 days, we focused only on the first paragraph. I know that seems like a long time, but I wanted to give students a firm foundation on ways to introduce papers, not just for today, but for future papers as well. For our writing lesson, I used writing prompts and graphic organizers from my Month by Month Writing Prompts and Posters Packet. I love using these prompts, graphic organizers, and posters throughout the entire year to help teach my students how to write narrative, opinion, and informational writing. My students love choosing from these fun, out of the ordinary, writing prompts, but sometimes for focus lessons, I like to give everyone the same writing prompt.

Grabber Leads: A Must for Introductory Paragraphs

On day 1 we began with learning how to write the grabber lead. Students were already familiar with writing grabber leads for narrative writing, but writing a grabber lead for informative or expository writing can be slightly different. We used an anchor chart to discuss five great ways to write a grabber lead for informative writing: questions, dialogue, onomatopoeia, personal opinions, and strong persuasive statements. There are many other ways that I could have also included, but I limited our study to five, so that hopefully, the students would internalize these five ways and be able to use them in future writings as well.

We spent time discussing and reading examples of each type of lead. Then each student practiced writing great grabber leads by creating sentences for each type. Of course, students shared their leads with their partners, and I shared some of the best on our document camera. I firmly believe that our sharing time in writing is a very important step. I encourage students to listen to other students writing styles and ideas to help them become better writers.

For day two's mini-lesson, students wrote 1 to 3 more sentences expanding on their grabber leads. We simply spent a lot of time talking, sharing ideas, and modeling what these sentences should sound like. We discussed what worked, what didn't, and how to improve.

The Thesis Statement: What It's All About

On day 3 we focused on the thesis statement, the last part of the introductory paragraph. I explained that the thesis statement is the main idea statement that lets the reader know what the paper will be about without saying, "I'm going to tell you about..." To help students begin the thesis statement, they referred to this anchor chart. The idea for this chart was borrowed from the amazing Teaching with a Mountain View. Students chose one of the four ways to begin their thesis statement. I must admit, I was surprised at how well they did! I was expecting a lot more questioning looks, but the students got busy, and Wow! What some great results!

Glow and Grow

Finally, students shared their finished introductory paragraphs with their partners. Then each partner shared a "glow and grow." They shared one glow (one thing they like about the writing) and one grow (one thing the writer could improve).

Hopefully, my students are now armed with strategies for writing excellent introductory paragraphs for their informational writing, and I hope you have a new idea or two for your writing lessons as well!

Have a blessed day!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Fun Ways for Your Students to Respond to Reading

My students hardly ever notice a new bulletin board, and if they do notice, they rarely say anything about it, that is, unless the bulletin board is filled with their own creations. Students love seeing their work displayed. When I recently began creating these Flip Its! Reading Response Flipbooks, my students loved seeing their flipbooks displayed on the bulletin boards. Not only did my students enjoy seeing these flipbooks displayed, so did my coworkers. Flip Its! Reading Response Flipbooks make gorgeous bulletin board displays, but more importantly, they are a fun way for your students to respond to their reading. These Flip Its! are perfect for responding to independent reading, classroom read-alouds, basal stories, literature circles, picture books, chapter books, and more!

Flip Its! Reading Response Flipbooks are seasonally themed flipbooks that your students will love using to write about their reading. Providing students with opportunities to write about their reading helps students connect ideas, analyze, summarize, and interpret key ideas from the text. Once complete, you will have a colorful bulletin board display. 

Flip Its! Reading Response flipbooks come with 3 versions of the same shaped flipbook. Most packets contain two types of fiction flipbooks (usually story elements and sequence) and one version for nonfiction. Each packet also contains letters that can be printed on colored paper to create an eye-catching bulletin board display. There are also bulletin board pictures and suggestions for adding elements (not included in the packet) to create a bulletin board that will be the talk of your hallway. Some of the Flip Its! packets include:

Acorn Flip Its! Flipbooks are perfect for fall.

Turkey Flip Its! Flipbooks create a neat November display!

Christmas Tree Flip Its! Flipbooks are fun for December!

Winter Mittens Flip Its! Flipbooks are perfect for winter!

Your students will enjoy all of these seasonal flipbooks. These and more Flip Its! packets are available in a bundle that you can find here

Your students will love these flipbooks! Look what teachers have said, 

"This was by far a hit! My students worked on this for our fall themed bulletin board and people loved it! I don't want to take it down! Super cute, thank you!"

"My students really enjoyed doing this activity. I got a lot of compliments from staff and parents. Thank you!"

Be sure to check these out and for more fun ways to respond to reading check out my blog post at Upper Elementary Snapshots! Have a blessed day!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Christmas Bulletin Board Ideas

Our school is looking merry and bright this December with cheerful bulletin boards and colorful Christmas displays that are "decking our halls." Our teachers and parent volunteers have been busy creating a festive mood at our school, and I think these bulletin boards and displays turned out adorable! If you are looking for some holiday bulletin board or display ideas, then take a peek at the pictures below.

This first display was created by our parent volunteers. A sweet little elf sits on top of a Christmas mantel to greet children and visitors as they enter our school. Red bulletin board paper was wrapped around boxes that were stacked to create this fun mantel. My favorite part is the fire made from tissue paper and bulletin board paper.

This adorable bulletin board was created by my sweet teacher friend. I just love this Santa's Clothesline bulletin board, and the "Merry Christmas" undies are just too cute! I love how she used a real Santa hat and real shorts along with the coat and pants that she drew and created.

Whimsical Christmas trees on a black and white polka dot background create a simple, but eye-catching bulletin board. I love the simplicity of this board. It is so bright and colorful and will definitely catch your attention.

If you are looking for a holiday display that is student-created, then this board is for you. Create a beautiful student-made bulletin board with this packet from my store. Students will create flipbooks to respond to books that they have read.  Included in this packet is one Christmas tree pattern with 4 different choices for responding to fiction or non-fiction books. The flipbooks and the lettering are inlcuded in this packet. Simply print the letters out on colored paper and cut out. All other pieces in this picture are NOT included in the packet. Your students will love creating these adorable flipbooks, and your bulletin board will be the talk of the school. Check it out. 

Have a blessed day!