Sunday, July 2, 2017

14 Fabulous Time Fillers for Language Arts

We have all been there (no matter how long you have taught or how well you have planned a lesson). You have just finished a fantastic lesson. Everything went as planned and the students were highly engaged, but you glance at the clock and you have 5 or maybe 10 minutes left before time to transition to lunch, music, or to exchange classes (if you are departmentalized). Now you think, "What should I do now?" For times like these it is great to have easy time fillers on hand or in your back pocket ready to use. Because I teach reading, writing, and grammar,  I am going to share 14 Fabulous Time Fillers for language arts. Of course, at at the top of the list for time fillers in language arts would be independent reading and/or reading aloud to the students. It is so easy to simply say, "Take out your independent reading and read,"  but it is also great to have a variety of activities ready to use. Here are 14 time fillers that take only 5 to 10 minutes that will review previously learned concepts, motivate your students to read, or engage your students thinking.

1. Share an idiom and its meaning. Not only is this a great time filler that students will enjoy, but it is a great way to help review a skill that your students need.

2. Call out a word and have students tell the part of speech. You may want to limit the parts of speech to 3 or 4 at a time. For example, you may want to let the students know that the words will be nouns, verbs or adjectives; or they may be verbs, adverbs, conjunctions, or pronouns.

3. Have students write a simple poem such as a haiku or an acrostic poem.

4. Have students to write a sentence containing alliteration. This could be a fun tongue twister.

5. Show a Grammar Rock video from Teacher Tube. Here is the link to the collection.

6. Create and display a partial metaphor or metaphors. Have students complete or make suggestions on how to complete each one. For example:
     He was so mad, he was a ____________________. (raging bull, steaming tea kettle)
     He was a ________________, hidden by the darkness of the night. (ghost, dark shadow)
     As the storm grew worse, the rain turned to ___________________. (rocks pounding on my head)

7. Have students complete the sentences by using personification.
     The wind _____________________________________.
     The car ______________________________________.
     The sun ______________________________________.

8. Show book trailers from SchoolTube. There are several choices available to show such as Wonder  and Hatchet.  This one for One and Only Ivan is very good.

9. Watch and listen to a book being read by an actor on Storyline Online. Several of these are over 10 minutes time, so just jot down the time that you get to and finish watching it another day when time allows.

10. Give a book talk about one of your favorite books from your classroom shelf that you think your students will enjoy reading independently. Share the book blurb from the back of the book and why you like the book. Ask your students who wants to read it, and watch the hands go flying up. Pick someone who gets to read it independently. This is a great way to motivate those who are struggling with finding a book for independent reading.

11. Have students to list the alphabet down their paper. Then give them 3 minutest to write one noun that begins with each letter. (ex: apple, bear, cake, dinosaur) You can also do this with verbs or adjectives.

12. Have a quick review of irregular verbs. Write 5-10 irregular verbs on the board. Have students write the past and past participle for each one. For example:
     run    ran      run
     sing   sang   sung

13. Use this free set of cards to review "there, they're, and their." This easy activity is a great way to have a quick review of these confusing words.

Pirate Homophones:  They're, There, and Their

14. For a quick review of similes, metaphors, and personification, use this fun "Show Me the Card" activity. If you like the free activity above, you'll love this activity too!

Figurative Language Show Me the Card Activity:Similes, Metaphors,Personification

I hope you enjoy these ideas and find a few that will be helpful to you and your kiddos!

Have a blessed day!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Tips for Using Collaborative Conversations in the Elementary Classroom

Collaborative conversations in the classroom can be characterized as listening and speaking strategies in which students participate in discussions with varied partners. Through these collaborations, the goal is for students to learn to build on one another's ideas in order to express their own ideas clearly. Whether or not your state uses Common Core Standards, we as teachers probably all agree that effective communication skills are important for our students to learn. We want our students to be capable of sharing ideas, validating opinions, and citing evidence to support argument. When we incorporate collaborative conversations into our lessons, students will gain these vital communication skills.

Tips for Using Collaborative Conversations in the Elementary Classroom

Benefits of Using Collaborative Conversations 

When we incorporate collaborative conversations into our  routine, not only will our students become good communicators, we will see many other benefits as well. Benefits include:
  • Students will gain a deeper understanding of the text through discussion and citing evidence.
  • Students learn to make connections between reading, listening, and speaking.
  • Students learn to work in groups.
  • Students work with peers to ask questions, clarify meaning, compare and contrast, and analyze and synthesize information.
  • Students learn to build on other's ideas to gain deeper understanding of texts and topics.
  • Students develop career and college readiness skills.
  • Students learn to share and support opinions.
  • Students become good communicators.

Examples of Collaborative Conversations

  • Turn and Talk- This is probably the most common form and simplest to use. Once a question is posed, students simply turn to a partner to discuss. This is a very effective strategy for elementary grades. Using stem sentences also helps students speak in complete sentences. For example, if you ask, "What was one problem in the story?" Give the students the stem,"One problem in the story is________."
  • Think-Pair-Share- This strategy is very similar to Turn and Talk, but it involves writing. Once a question is posed, give students a moment to jot down an answer (think). Then have students turn to their partner and tell the answer they wrote (pair, share).
  • Round Robin- Students are divided into groups. Each group member shares ideas verbally about a topic. Group members share in order, without interruption, discussions, or questions until everyone has an opportunity to share.
  • Numbered Heads-Students are divided into groups of 4. Each group is given a number. The teacher asks a question and tells students to make sure everyone in the group can answer. After time is given for discussion, the teacher spins a spinner or draws a number (1 thru 4). The teacher then announces the number. Students have one more minute to make sure the student with that number can answer the question correctly. Finally, the teacher spins or draws and announces the number of the group that must answer. 
Of course, there are many other options for collaborative conversations. These are just a few of my personal favorites. 

Desks Arrangements to Encourage Collaborative Conversations

I love setting up my classroom to enhance and encourage collaborative conversations from the beginning of the year by placing pairs of  desks close together so that everyone has an elbow partner. To be truthful, I usually start slowly. What I mean is, I like to begin with partner collaboration and model one strategy at a time. Once a strategy is modeled several times, we then practice using this strategy many times before adding a new strategy. Although it is great to have flexible partners, I usually assign partners until students are very familiar with the process, routine, and expectations.

Once the class has mastered partners (turn and talk/think-pair-share), then I like to rearrange my desks into groups of four (or five depending on the number of my students). We then work with eyeball partners and elbow partners. Once that is mastered, we begin group conversations such as round robin and numbered heads.

By scaffolding these strategies, students know classroom expectations during conversations. Once routines are clearly established to eliminate any potential behavior problems, the focus can be on increasing learning through effective conversation.

What is your favorite collaborative conversation strategy?


Sunday, May 7, 2017

End of the Year Activities

The end of the school year can be filled with so many emotions: relief, a little sadness, anticipation, anxiety to squeeze in all of the curriculum, and a lot of excitement (even from the teachers). With the year winding down, it is a perfect time to plan some fun and memorable activities for your kiddos. Here are a few ideas.
Here are some great end of the year activities that you and your students will love!

Time to Reflect

Take time to reflect on the year with this easy prep activity. Have students sit in a circle. Use a Random Name Selector (such as the one here) or simply toss a bean bag. Begin by selecting a name  or tossing a bean bag to a student. The person chosen should share a memory from the school year. Continue selecting or tossing. Each student selected should tell a memory without repeating one that has already been shared.

Have a Game Day

The end of the year is a perfect time to review everything that your students have learned this year, and what is a better way to review than to play games? Pull out games that you have used at centers, task cards that can be used with purchased game boards, and divide the students into groups. Give each group a game and let the fun begin! If time allows, rotate games and start again. This is a perfect way to review and have some fun at the same time.

Sidewalk Chalk

Even big kids love sidewalk chalk, but why not make this activity more than just drawing a picture? Let it be a review of what your students have learned this year. Take your students outside to the nearest school sidewalk, give each group sidewalk chalk, and ask each group to draw a mural related to something that they have learned this year. Students can create murals depicting topics they have studied in science or social studies.

End of the Year Party

Even from my own elementary days, I remember some of our end of the year parties and celebrations. They were a special time. One way that my coworkers and I enjoy making this time special is by having a biscuit brunch for our students. We have a local fast food that serves great biscuits, and they are happy to help us with our plans. We usually pre-order our biscuits and run through the drive through on the morning of our brunch to pick them up. We serve them juice. This is always a hit with our students.

End of the Year Memory Book

A memory book is a great activity for those days when students can't wait to get out of school, but it is also a great keepsake for your students. Plus, parents love these precious keepsakes!

Your students will love this end of the year memory book/posters.

The last few weeks of school we work to complete the pages from my Owl About My School Year End of the Year Activities packet. Students absolutely love completing these pages and reflecting on the school year. Click on the picture above to visit my TpT store to purchase, or enter to win this packet by clicking on the Rafflecopter below to enter for a chance to win this memory book along with a $10 TpT gift card.

I have teamed up with he wonderful bloggers listed above for a fabulous end of the school year giveaway! Don't miss out! Beginning May 8th, be sure to enter to win a $100 gift card from Target! Yes, $100!! Leave a comment below that you have entered, and be sure to complete all of the requirements to be eligible for the $100 Target gift card. Once you have completed the Rafflecopter, click the link below to visit the next blog in order to complete all requirements for this fantastic giveaway! Remember, giveaway begins May 8th and continues through May 13th!

Have a blessed day!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Spring Art Activity

Spring fever has hit my classroom! I'm not talking about the feeling of restlessness and excitement (although, yes, that has hit, too...), but rather, a kind that includes spring art around our classroom. With spring fever in the air, it is the perfect time to create some colorful spring tulip art! My students absolutely enjoyed creating these beautiful spring tulip pictures to brighten up our room.

These colorful tulips are very simple to make and always turn out beautifully (even with a class full of art-challenged students). To make, first give each student one piece of white construction paper (9"x12") or a piece of drawing paper, 1/2 sheet of yellow, orange, or red construction paper, and 1/3 sheet of green. Demonstrate how to draw a simple tulip shape. I always demonstrate this on the board and tell the students to draw a "u" shape. Then make a wide "W" shape to connect the top. Students will need to draw 2 larger tulips and 2 smaller tulips. This is the challenge: encourage students to make the larger tulips about the size of a mayo jar lid. In my experience, students always want to draw tiny tulips that are much too small for this art project. Once students have 4 tulips, then demonstrate drawing the shape of the tulip leaves. Students will need to cut out 4 stems and leaves for each tulip. 

Once all of the pieces are drawn and cut out, students then assemble the tulips onto their paper and glue down. I usually simply show several examples of previous students' work. (You could simply project some of the pictures from this page for the students to use as a guide). Now comes the fun part. Depending on the color of the tulips, students need 3 shades of that color crayon to match the construction paper. Beginning with the lightest shade (of red, orange, or yellow), color a thin area around each tulip shape. Then with the next darker, color around the area previously colored. Finally, color with the darkest shade. (See pictures) Repeat this process with the 2 or 3 shades of green around the stems and leaves. Finally, have students color the top 1/2 of the background blue and the bottom half green. Your students will have created a simple springtime masterpiece, and you will love how simple this spring art activity is! 

Yes, when I grow up, I'd love to be an art teacher! ha ha! Until then, I'll simply sneak in some fun art activities in my classroom when I can.

Have a very blessed day! 

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Benefits of Using Graphic Organizers in the Classroom

Graphic organizers are charts, graphs or diagrams which encourage students to see information as a component of systems rather than isolated facts. After many years of using graphic organizers in my classroom, I am a firm believer in their benefits. Graphic organizers can certainly be used as a teaching tool, but I would like to focus on the benefits as a learning tool for reading comprehension.

Here are 3 great reasons why using graphic organizers is a benefit to your students.

Improves Comprehension

The most obvious reason that I use graphic organizers in my reading classes is because of their benefit of improving reading comprehension. Using graphic organizers helps students to visualize and internalize the material they are reading/learning which leads to a better understanding and a deeper understanding of the material. We want our students to "think deeply" about their reading, but how do we help them do that? Graphic organizers is one way. Graphic organizers can help students organize and prioritize what they are comprehending, and through this visual organization, students are actually able to see the relationships and connections to the information they are reading and learning which leads to improved comprehension.

Benefits All Students

Sometimes, finding materials to benefit all of your students with all of their learning abilities can be difficult. No matter the learning ability of each child in your classroom, graphic organizers can benefit them all. Graphic organizers can be easily changed and altered to help with differentiated instruction for RTI or ELL's. Also, they are a perfect tool for ELL students and students with learning disabilities because they provide a hands on approach to learning. They also help all students to connect new material to prior knowledge, draw conclusions, make inferences, identify main ideas and details and to summarize.

Increases Student Engagement

Students love using graphic organizers. Because of their graphic nature in representing information in a pattern, students tend to stay focused. I know my students are highly motivated and excited to use graphic organizers. I enjoy seeing their excitement in learning.

As with any tool of instruction, modeling how to use each graphic organizer is a key component. We cannot simply expect to assign a story and distribute graphic organizers with the instructions of, "Ok. Read this story and complete the graphic organizer." Teacher instruction on how to use the graphic organizer is vital for success of graphic organizers as a learning tool. Modeling each new type of g.o. is very important to the success of your students. This can be done whole group with chart paper or a document camera. Another key component is feedback. Without proper feedback, students will not improve their responses to reading. I like to have partners or tables share, but to ensure that students are seeing and hearing high quality responses, I like to choose 2 or 3 students' responses to share with the class. (I usually place these under my document camera so the student can see the responses as well.) This has proven to be a very effective way of helping all student improve on their writing responses on their graphic organizers.

If you are not using graphic organizers in your reading class, I highly recommend trying them in your classroom. Over the years, I have definitely seen the benefits of this reading comprehension tool, and they have become one of my favorite strategies that I use in my classroom.

If you are looking for some great free graphic organizers to use with your students, I have some in my store.

Also, be sure to check out my best selling graphic organizers. They are one of my favorite sets, and I use them in my own classroom!

Have a blessed day!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Valentine's Day Activities for Upper Grades

Valentine's Day can be a lot of fun, even for upper elementary students. I know that my fourth graders still love exchanging cards and candy, but here are a few other fun activities that your students will enjoy in addition to cards on or around this fun holiday.

Valentine Cities in U.S.

My students had so much fun with this map activity. Working in groups, students were given 3 or 4 specific states to research and find cities with names associated with Valentine's Day. Then they visited this website to find cities in their assigned states. Next, on heart cutouts they wrote the name of the city and state. They then searched for each city on google maps to find the exact location of the city. Finally, they took each heart label and attached it to our large U.S. map located in our hall. This was an enjoyable activity that gave students a chance to improve their map skills. 

Hershey Kiss Descriptive Writing Activity

I have used this writing activity in my class for several years, and I am uncertain where I originally found this idea. It is great to use around Valentine's Day. Give each child a Hershey's Kiss and instruct the students to not touch and only look and to imagine that he/she has never seen this object before. Students will then "jot notes." On a piece of paper jot details, words, or phrases to describe how this object looks: ex. size, shape, color, etc.

Next, have the students pick up the object and feel, but do not open. Now write descriptive words and phrases that would explain how this object feels. 

Then have students to listen closely as they open up the object. Write words and phrases to explain and describe the sound that is made.

Finally, it is time to taste the object and write how this object not only tastes, but how it feels in their mouths.

On another piece of paper, have students use their jot notes to complete a paragraph or essay to describe this object (Hershey's Kiss). Once finished, let students share their descriptive essays. For a fun twist, give students a variety of flavors of Hershey's Kisses. After sharing the essays, students could guess which flavor of Kiss was being described.

Other Language Arts Activities

You and your students will enjoy these easy to use printables for Valentine's Day. They are perfect for that "little extra" during the month of February and will take very little of your time to plan. Simply copy these printables for your students to use as a whole class, in groups, or at stations. These are perfect to review ABC order, parts of speech, grammar, synonyms, and antonyms in a fun way during the month of February. Students will also enjoy decoding puzzles, writing acrostics, and going on a classroom scavenger hunt. Simply click on the link here or below to purchase. 

Valentine's Day Language Arts Activities

I am so excited to announce that I am once again blogging along with my friends on Upper Elementary Snapshots. For some more great ideas for Valentine's Day, visit HERE to read my blog post at Upper Elementary Snapshots. 

Have a Blessed Day!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Snowman Bulletin Board and Free Mitten Clipart

This simple bulletin board was very easy and quick to create. I think it turned out cute as a button, and my students loved it! I simply cut a large circle from white bulletin board background paper, an orange triangle shape from large construction paper, small black circles from black construction paper and two eyes. I printed the letters from my computer and finally, pinned cotton balls for snowflakes. Cute, bright, and easy, and such a nice change of pace in my classroom.

If you have no visited my store lately, I have added a lot of fun and new clipart packets to my store and even have a nice freebie just for you! (Your feedback is always greatly appreciated!) Just visit my store by clicking on the link below and download this set for FREE!

Thanks for stopping by, and have a blessed day!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Snowflake Themed Reading Lesson

A Winter Reading Lesson for Upper Elementary Using Picture Books, a Reading Passage, and a Simple Similes Activity

Here in the South where I live and teach, snow is not a common winter event, so when it does snow, or there is potential for snow, our students get a little excited. I knew that a snowflake themed lesson would be the perfect way to engage my students and create a little excitement over our reading and learning. I used these lessons during our short week back from Christmas break, but they could be incorporated anytime during the winter season.

To introduce our snowflake theme, I began with some wonderful picture books about snow. There are many wonderful choices, but I chose to use Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, and Snow by Cynthia Rylant.

I first read Snowflake Bentley. As I read, I modeled my thinking and we discussed this amazing man and his photographs.

Next, I used the nonfiction article "Cool Prize" from  (There is also a fabulous lesson for Snowflake Bentley that you may choose to use on this website.) If you don't already have a free membership to Readworks, it is very easy to join, free, and packed with amazing articles, lessons, and passages with question sets. My students "chunked" the text "Cool Prize", which means that we broke down the article as we read it in order to read closely and understand the text. This is a guided whole group lesson that helps students read with purpose. I have included the directions and questions that I gave to my students as we broke this text down, but of course, you can guide your students to search for key information or ask skills related questions that best meet the needs of your students.This is a strategy that my students and I love.

Here is how I chunked this passage:

We numbered the paragraphs. Then students followed the directions below.
1. After reading paragraph 1 silently,  predict what you think this passage will be about, and write your prediction in the margins. (Once students are finished, we stop and discuss.)

2. After reading paragraph 2 silently, circle who this paragraph is about, underline what he is doing (the main idea), and number the steps in the process. (When students are finished, stop and discuss.)

3 and 4. After reading these paragraphs, underline the honor that Libbrecht received and circle the reasons why he received it.

5-9. Before reading the section Winter Wonders, we discussed the text feature of bold faced words. Students found the word artificial. Then they skimmed the text for clues to its meaning and circled these clues. We then discussed their findings. Next, they found the word water vapor, skimmed the text, and circled clues for its meaning. We then discussed. We repeated this for the last two bold faced words. I then had students to partner read this section.

10-15 Snow Days. Students read this section silently and wrote two facts in the margins that they learned. When everyone finished, they turned to their partner and shared their facts.

Frosted Flakes- We discussed this play on words. Then we choral read the paragraph. Next we discussed the text feature, a chart.

I chose to stop my lesson here. Students simply read the rest of the passage with a partner. After reading the remainder of the passage, we then watched a wonderful video clip on Discovery Education called "Snowflake".  This shows Dr. Libbrecht photographing snowflakes. If you don't have Discovery Ed., or if you would like to show another video clip this video clip from youtube is another great choice that goes along with "Cool Prize" that you may wish to show.

Next, in our journals, we compared and contrasted Snowflake Bentley and Libbrecht, the scientist in "Cool Prize." Students simply drew a Venn diagram and wrote similarities and differences.

The following day, I read aloud the book Snow by Cynthia Rylant and discussed figurative language found in this book. This book contains several similes and examples of personification. I then reread the two examples of similes found in Snowflake Bentley. My students then created Snowy Similes posters. We simply took a large sheet of white construction paper, folded it in half 3 times, and opened it back up to create 8 sections. In the first section, students wrote Snowy Similes. In the remaining spaces, students created 7 similes about snow or winter and drew pictures for each. These turned out so cute and look fabulous displayed in the hallway.

Thank you so much for stopping by! Have a blessed day!