Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Hoot in the Classroom

Hoot, written by Carl Hiaasen, is a wonderful book to use for a novel study or for literature circles in the classroom. Hoot, was published in 2002, and received the Newberry Honor Award for children's literature in 2003. 

Summary of Hoot:
(from the book jacket)

Roy Eberhart has recently, and unhappily, arrived in Florida. "Disney World is an armpit," he states flatly, "compared to Montana."

Roy's family moves a lot, so he's used to the new-kid drill. Florida bullies are pretty much like bullies everywhere. But Roy finds himself oddly indebted to the hulking Dana Matherson. If Dana hadn't been sinking his thumbs into Roy's temples and mashing his face against the school-bus window, Roy might never have spotted the running boy. And the running boy is the first interesting thing Roy's seen in Florida.

The boy was about Roy's age, but he was running away from the school bus. He had no books, no backpack, and here's the odd part, no shoes.

Sensing a mystery, Roy sets himself on the boy's trail. The chase will introduce him to some other intriguing Floridian creatures; potty-trained alligators, a beleaguered construction foreman, some burrowing owls, a fake-fart champion, a renegade eco-avenger, some slippery fish, a sinister pancake PR man, and several extremely poisonous snakes with unnaturally sparkling tails.

Life in Florida is looking up.

This is a great novel with themes of friendship, teamwork, adolescence, corporate corruption, environmentalism, and integrity all told in a writing style that tweens and teens can relate to and enjoy.

This is a great novel to accompany a study of:
  • Florida geography and wildlife
  • Montana geography and wildlife
  • Research the role of the US Department of Justice
  • Research the Environmental Protection Agency
I offer a complete novel study to accompany Hoot for use in the classroom or homeschool. The unit includes both a printable format and a Google Drive™ format for use in a paperless classroom or with Google Classroom.

Here's a preview sample of my Hoot Novel Study:

Please go to my TpT store to see this free preview as well as the complete CCSS alignment checklist for grades 4-6 in its entirety. Please email with any questions you may have!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Make this the Best Year EVER!

The community at Teachers Pay Teachers wants to help you make this school year the best year ever! For a thrifty shopper like me the best way to start off the year is to save money! Now is your chance to save as well with the big TpT Back to School Sale, August 1-2, 2016.

Everything in my store, The Teaching Bank, will be marked 20% off. In addition to that use code: BESTYEAR at checkout to take an additional 10% off everything in your cart!

This is a fantastic way to stock up for the upcoming year at a significant discount!  Complete novel studies and bundles in my store are already marked down 20% or more everyday so add the additional 20% and the 10% coupon code and you can get some substantial products at a deeply discounted price!

Another great way to save is to earn TpT credits for leaving feedback! Head to your "My Purchases" page and leave feedback for all products that you've purchased. Use the credits that you earn to help pay for your cart full of goodies during the sale!

Special thanks to Thrifty in Third Grade for allowing me to share her great video!

So get your credits all earned and your wishlist stocked and get ready to save big bucks at the sale starting tomorrow, August 1st and Tuesday, August 2nd! Don't forget to use code: BESTYEAR at checkout to receive that extra 10% off of everything in your cart!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Bud, Not Buddy in the Classroom

Bud, Not Buddy written by Christopher Paul Curtis, is a wonderful book to use for a novel study or literature circles in the classroom. Bud, Not Buddy, was published in 1999 and received the Newberry Medal for children's literature in 2000. Author, Christopher Paul Curtis, was also recognized with the 2000 Coretta Scott King Award, an award given to outstanding African American authors.

Summary of Bud, Not Buddy:
(from the book jacket)

It's 1936, in Flint, Michigan. Times may be hard, and ten-year-old Bud may be a motherless boy on the run, but Bud's got a few things going for him:
  1. He has his own suitcase full of special things.
  2. He's the author of Bud Caldwell's Rules and Things for Having a Funner Life and Making a Better Liar Out of Yourself.
  3. His momma never told him who his father was, but she left a clue; flyers advertising Herman E. Calloway and his famous band, the Dusky Devastators of the Depression!!!
Bud's got an idea that those flyers will lead him to his father. Once he decides to hit the road and find his mystery man, nothing can stop him - not hunger, not fear, not vampires, not even Herman E. Calloway himself.

This is a great Depression Era novel to use in the classroom to help students understand the struggles of the era, especially as an African-American youth, and to see how perseverance will overcome adversity.

This is a great novel to accompany a study of:
  • The Depression Era
  • The foster care system during the Depression versus today
  • The role of unions on the American economy
  • Race relations and discrimination during the Depression Era.
I offer a complete novel study to accompany Bud, Not Buddy for use in the classroom or homeschool. The unit includes both a printable format and a Google Drive™ format for use in a paperless classroom or with Google Classroom.

Here's a preview sample of my Bud, Not Buddy Novel Study:

Please go to my TpT store to see this free preview as well as the complete CCSS alignment checklist for grades 4-6 in its entirety. Please email with any questions you may have!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Multiple Choice or No Multiple Choice, that is the Question!

To use multiple choice questioning or not, that is the question!

I have a strong feeling about multiple choice. It's more of a hate/love relationship really. In certain instances (a few) I like the option, but in many ways I try to avoid it. I find it encourages far too much guessing, and not enough valid data on what a student has truly learned. I saw this a lot in my classroom, usually with the students that are struggling the most.

The students who were secure in their knowledge of the subject area were going to do just fine no matter the questioning format. I see this so much with my own son, who has some struggles in school. If he is given a multiple choice test more often than not he'll just guess, sometimes not even bothering to really read the questions! In creating work for him I always avoid using multiple choice, except in certain types of situations. He has an IEP, and unfortunately more often than not the teachers have turned to M/C for him as an accommodation and then express frustration at his effort and guessing. If he is dealt a short answer question he is much more apt to look for the answer in the work or work the problem out for himself. If the option to guess it there, he'll always guess and he'll keep guessing until he's eliminated the 3 wrong answers. Yes, he'll eventually get the correct answer, but does that show he knows it or retained it?

I know multiple choice can be a huge time saver for the teacher. It is much quicker and easier to correct papers with multiple choice rather than written answers. I get it, but is it the right choice? What is our ultimate goal? To know the student understood and learned what we were teaching right? How can we be sure with a M/C that it is retained knowledge and not a lucky guess we got?

There are some cases (when done correctly) where I think M/C is fine. In a math problem for instance:

The reason the problem on the left is the wrong way is because the most common mistake a student will make in this instance is the misuse of PEDMA. They will just work the problem from left to right and end up with 6 for the answer. If this is one of the options in the M/C they will choose that and move on, not having any idea that they made a mistake.  Instead, if they worked the problem in this manner and the 6 was not an option they would know they did something wrong and go back and check their work. Of course the guesser, who doesn't even work out the problem could happen in either case, but the majority of the time the student will stop and take a closer look. I am not an advocate for tricking the student, and in this case that is exactly what you do when you give them a problem like the one on the left. It's much less discouraging to a child to have to rework to find a correct answer than to get a test back that they failed due to being tricked!

One of the main resources I offer is novel studies. In my novel studies there are only two places where you will find multiple choice options. First, there is an end of the book vocabulary quiz. A sentence with the word is offered and then there are 4 choices of a definition. Again, there are the guessers who just guess, but most students will be able to know the true definition when used in context after the successful completion of the novel study activities.

The other M/C option I added based on buyer requests is an end of the unit comprehension quiz. I have an identical quiz in a short answer format, this is what I prefer and use with my students. I have had many buyers ask for a M/C option so I have provided that, but I personally don't use it for the reasons that I have mentioned above.

Where I have not changed my product based on buyer requests is in the comprehension portion of the novel study itself, and I won't be adding it. I feel very strongly that while reading the book the student should be thinking about what they're reading in a deeper way. Using multiple choice for comprehension during the reading of the novel encourages the student to skim the text for the answer. It also means most of your questioning will be of the lower order of Bloom's Taxonomy. I use novels to get away from the M/C type skimming that you encounter in a basal series. My goal for using novel studies is to get my student engaged in a novel and to think deeply about the character's motives, make inferences, etc.  I just don't think this can be done properly using multiple choice questions. To maintain the integrity and rigor of my novel studies, I just won't be changing this. I know there are some buyers who are disappointed in this stance and I know that some buy from my competitors due to this stance, and I apologize to them, but it's something that I feel very strongly about.

Another reason I stay away from M/C is because it is far too much like the standardized testing that I am not a fan of. Mainly for all the reasons stated above. I want my students to be deep thinkers, not guessers. Of course the whole topic of standardized testing is a post for another day! ;)

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Wonder in the Classroom!

I wrote a blog post in October 2013 about the new novel study that I had just created for Wonder by R. J. Palacio. This novel study has become my top seller and I have made some updates. The biggest update being that it is now compatible with Google Drive™! The file contains both a printable format to be used in the traditional manner, as well as a Google Drive™ format. You can use this format for a paperless classroom or with your Google Classroom account! 

I am using this novel study with my son this summer using the Google Drive™ option and he loves it! It is so easy for him to work on the computer or iPad as he reads and it is easy for me to check his progress through Google Drive™.

With all the updates I think it is worth revisiting/updating the post. Here it is!

From October 2013:
 I just finished up creating a new unit for the novel, Wonder by R. J. Palacio. Of all the curriculum materials I create novel units are my favorite, but creating Wonder By R.J. Palacio Novel Unit Study~ Common Core Standards Aligned! by far has been my all time favorite! It has been a long time since a novel has prompted me think so deeply on so many levels.

Summary of Wonder:
(From the Book Jacket)
August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you've ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie's just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances?

Auggie's struggles are written on his face. You go into the book knowing you are going to read about a kid who's going to have a tough struggle. The surprising thing with this book is that you end up realizing that the other "normal" characters who seem to have it all on the outside, they are beautiful, rich, smart, etc, all have some type of struggle as well. This book really makes you look beyond the cover and delve deeper underneath. It is a wonderful resource to strengthen empathy and learn to not be so quick to judge a "book by its cover" so to speak. This led me to a great after the book writing activity that corresponds with Plato's quote: “Be Kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

One thing I really love about the unit I was able to create was how the text lent itself to higher order thinking questions. There are very few knowledge level (recall) or even comprehension level questions in the comprehension packet section of the unit. The vast majority are analysis and evaluation level questions because that is just where the text leads you. The book is just so thought provoking!

If you've purchased any of my other novel units you will find this unit set up a little bit differently. This book is written in eight parts so I have expanded the vocabulary activities to cover the eight parts. The comprehension assessments come after Part 1, Part 2, Part 5, and the end of the book instead of waiting until the very end as I do in my other units.

As with my other units this unit is aligned to the Common Core Standards for grades 4-6 and contains the alignment checklists for all of the activities.

I loved how R.J. Palacio subtly adds the character of Daisy the dog as the only soul who does not "see" Auggie's facial abnormalities. Through Daisy's interactions Ms. Palacio shows the unconditional love of animals. This prompted me to add a Reading Informational activity to the unit involving therapy dogs and animal assisted therapy. I know teachers are looking for Common Core aligned resources to help with Reading Informational Text skills so I added this small activity into the unit. I also have offered it as a stand alone free activity, that can be downloaded here:

As you can tell I loved this book. It is one of the best books I have read in a long time and I think it would serve well in any 4-6th grade classroom. However, I do have one minor complaint. In the book Auggie also deals with a hearing loss and there is a chapter that describes his experience in getting fitted for a hearing aid for the first time. I am also hearing impaired and have worn hearing aids for several years. In some ways Ms. Palacio was spot on describing Auggie's feelings about wearing hearing aids around his friends and how he may be perceived. However, Ms. Palacio was very off the mark when she described the experience of getting hearing aids and how they work. This is very understandable as I am sure most people do think that wearing hearing aids is very much like wearing glasses, which is how Ms.Palacio describes the experience. In reality it is nothing like that. After reading this chapter in the book I felt so strongly that I felt the need to add my own supplement to the unit explaining what it is really like to wear hearing aids and have a hearing loss in our modern world. I hope this supplement is helpful to your students. It is also aligned to the CCSS for Reading Informational Text and is offered as a stand alone item here:

As I mentioned I loved this book! :) It hits on so many issues in the modern classroom and appeals to such a wide audience. It really is a must read!

Please go to my TpT store and download the free preview to see sample pages of all parts of this unit as well as the complete CCSS alignment checklist for grades 4-6 in its entirety. Please email with any questions you may have!

Product Description:
Book unit for Wonder by RJ Palacio, is Common Core Standard aligned and contains both a printable format, as well as a Google Drive™ compatible format.

This is a complete novel study that includes many individual products bundled together to offer you extensive savings! This comprehensive unit also includes Google Drive™ format files, additional writing activities, teacher plans, and CCSS alignment that you cannot find in the individual components. This complete novel study is by far your best value!

This unit is designed to be used with some student/instructor interaction, but can easily be used as an independent study for the student. It is written for the 4-6th grade reading level.

This unit works great in a one-on-one setting for homeschool or for a teacher to use as a resource in the classroom for a small group or entire class. The unit is designed so that you can start teaching immediately with little to no preparation on your part. Great time saver!
This unit contains:

Teacher Packet containing:
•Detailed daily lesson plans
•Answer keys

Student Packet (both printable and Google Drive™ format) containing:
 Vocabulary activities for 126 words. 
 Comprehension questions for every chapter. 
 In-depth character studies and writing activities for each section of the novel. 
•Two different non-fiction reading articles and accompanying activity guides that compliment the novel.
Hearing Loss Reading Informational Activity 
Therapy Dog Reading Informational Activity 
•Four In-depth writing and analysis activities to complete after reading the book. **Only available in this complete Novel Study Product!

An Assessment Packet that contains: 
•Vocabulary quiz with both matching and multiple choice questions.
•Four Comprehension quizzes that include short answer, multiple choice, and essay writing for use after Parts 1, 2, 5, and the end of the book.

An End of the Book Activity Packet that can be used with any book.

A Story Elements Interactive Notebook Activity Packet  (both printable and Google Drive™ format) that can be used with any book.

Common Core Standard Alignment Checklists for grades 4-6.This is included at the end of the unit so if you do not need it you can easily discard without changing the unit itself. To see how this is set up please see the free preview for the CCSS checklist in its entirety.

→Please download the free preview to see sample pages of all parts of this unit as well as the complete CCSS alignment checklist (29 pages) for grades 4-6 in its entirety. 

Please email with any questions you may have!

You can also purchase this novel study from Amazon. Using this option the file is mailed to you on a CD. Click on the cover picture to be taken to the product listing if you prefer this method:

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Fifth Grade Social Studies Challenge

My youngest son is in 5th grade this year. He is a highly visual and hands-on learner. He excels when he's actually doing something, not just being lectured to. Social Studies has always been his favorite subject and unfortunately this year the tactic that his school is taking for instruction does not set him up for success and I fear it is possibly damaging his interest in the subject. To combat this I have been working diligently since September to create materials that will compliment his school study, while helping him retain his interest and learn the material in a way that better meets his needs. I am finding that the Interactive Notebook format is perfect for my son's learning style and works very well with the American History curriculum.

I know my son is not unique in his learning style and I know the need for better quality materials is there, especially after looking over the curriculum materials that are being provided to him via a top name educational publishing company. With this in mind I decided to dedicate this year to creating materials for my son while also offering them in my TpT store. I have been very pleased with the results of the work with my son and I am happy to see the demand is there for the products from fellow teachers.

I do use the textbook, Social Studies: The United States Making a Nation, © 2010, ISBN: 978-0-15-385887-1, as a guide while creating my resources since this is the textbook that my son uses in his school. You are not bound by using that textbook, you can use any book or online resource that follows the basic 5th grade U.S. History track alongside my resources.

The first unit of study that I created is Early People of North America:

I just recently finished up the Settling the Southern Colonies:

All of the units follow a similar format:
  • Contain a cover sheet in both color and black & white.
  • An explanatory page explaining the benefits of the interactive notebook format and tips on how to make it work well.
  • Contain a tutorial guide showing how to make all the foldable activities.
  • Contain 2 different vocabulary activity versions (foldable or flash card). The file also contains blank editable pages so that you can add or change the vocabulary to best fit your needs. **This is the only editable portion of the products.
  • Different interactive notebook activities to cover each topic within the section to help students pinpoint and highlight the main ideas and concepts.
  •  An End of Unit Assessment.
  • Answer keys for all included activities.
Here's a preview sample from the Settling the Southern Colonies Interactive Notebook product here:

I am also bundling the smaller units into larger ones and offering them at a 20% discount:

Age of Exploration Bundle
Building the First Colonies Bundle

The New England Colonies Bundle
The Middle Colonies Bundle

The following bundles will be coming within this school year.
Each will contain approximately 4-5 units:
  • Native Americans
  • The Southern Colonies
  • The Colonies Unit
  • The Revolutionary War
  • The Constitution
  • The Young Republic
  • The Civil War
  • A Changing Nation

Follow my TpT store  by clicking the green star under my store name. You will receive an email every time I add a new product to the line. I have been trying to add at the rate of approximately one unit per week.

I am really enjoying creating these units and am so pleased with the progress and enjoyment I am seeing in my son. I hope that you can find as much success within your classroom or home school as I've had!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

5 Facts About Me

Nikki, over at the Teaching Autism Blog has set up a "5 Facts About Me" linky party that I thought would be fun to join and to learn more about some of my TpT friends!

1. I am a pet lover. 

I am currently owned by 2 golden retrievers and 3 cats. Before I majored in education I actually wanted to be a veterinarian! I have never been without at least 2 pets in my household during my adult life. One of the dogs that holds a VIP spot in my heart was Penny, who I found in the parking lot of my dorm in a blizzard in 1990. She was with me for over 14 more years. I really feel like I was the lucky one during that blizzard!
Penny with new puppy Maddie in 1997.

Currently I have two golden retrievers, Katy and Hurley. 

Katy was my first golden retriever and I have truly fallen in love with the breed. A golden retriever is about the most perfect soul on earth! I have enrolled Hurley in the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study to help discover why this breed is so prone to cancer. The leading cause of death in golden retrievers is cancer, 60% of will die from the disease.

I am fascinated with therapy and service animals. Katy would make a fantastic therapy dog. She was actually in training before we the program we were enrolled in shut down and shortly after she had to have a series of knee surgeries. She was instrumental in bringing out the "talking" in my son when he was 3 and speech delayed. She's also a fantastic dog to read to. She's currently on her second round of the Harry Potter series read aloud!

2. I love to travel.

I love to get away and see new places. Over the years, especially with my kids young, my favorite place has been Disney World. I love driving under the "Welcome to Walt Disney World" signs into the utopian world of Disney. It is so easy to escape the problems of life and the world within their walls. 

Last shuttle launch of Atlantis, July 8, 2011.

Other places I have enjoyed experiencing are Space Shuttle Atlantis launch, Washington D.C., The Wizarding World of Harry Potter,  different cruise ports in the Caribbean, and the most beautiful place I've ever seen Alaska!

Stingray City, Grand Cayman

Butter beer and Hogwart's Castle!

The Sawyer Glacier at the end of the Tracy Arm Fjord.

3. Couldn't live without my Tivo!

I hate watching live TV and I hate commercials even more! My Tivo is the best invention ever! I record the shows I want to watch. I can watch them on my schedule and skip through commercials. I can stream through places like Netflix. It really is a wonderful invention!

4. I read the newspaper every day!

 I am still old school and read the newspaper every day! My day is just not right if I don't start it off with a cup of coffee and the newspaper. 

5. I would love to move!

I grew up in Sioux Falls, SD, and I have lived in the Omaha, NE, area for over 20 years. The midwest is a great place to grow up and to raise a family, but I am really ready to change my landscape! After traveling to the beautiful places like Alaska, Florida and the Caribbean, the flat corn fields are getting really, really drab!

In 2011 we spent some time staying in New Smyrna Beach, Florida during our two space shuttle trips. It is such a beautiful little town that isn't overrun with tourism. I could really see myself settling there one day!

So there you have it, 5 facts about me! I'd love to learn 5 facts about you! Head over to the Teaching Autism blog and link up your "5 Facts About Me" post!