June 20, 2019

How to Use Project Based Learning to Put on a Parade!

Have you ever wondered how you could easily add a Project Based Learning activity to your classroom?  Are you wondering how to put the project on display?   Sometime it can be merged as one!  Simply put on a Project Based Learning Parade!  

Float Parade Blog Post header

Where to Start?

First, pick a theme!  Every parade has a theme, so a Project Based Parade should have a theme!  Dive into your curriculum to see what could be developed into a project with the outcome as a float-because that's the point of a parade, great floats!  Here are two ideas:  

State Park Floats:  This project explored both the state in general and the region of the US it is found in.  It is primarily to learn about the 50 States.

State Park Float

National Park Floats:  This project explored both the National Park's history and the ecosystems found there.  It incorporated the food chain found in the National Park.  

National Park Project float

You see, both of these have a rich research base.  So, another piece of advice when diving into your curriculum is to look for something with a rich research base.  State flags, maps, park outlines, dates, ecosystems, tourist spots, etc. are all parts of the research base for this kind of project.   What topic are you studying that can allow for this rich base to be met?

Technology Integration

Next, you need to think about how much technology integration do you want?  Students can create research outcomes to accompany the float through the use of technology.  PowerPoints and other documentation can be help students to organize and present the information that they need beyond the actual parade float.  Consider this in your decision making process.

State Project

National Park Project

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Research Time

Questions about Research Time include how much of a guideline do you want to provide, how much time do students need, and do you want them to complete research in class or at home?  This will also determine your lesson plans and the development of your research questions.  This last point is key to where students go.  Scaffolding them in their research will help them to feel successful throughout the process, whether completed at home or at school! 

National Park Pages Preview of student work


Next, you will want to think about how the presentations in class will be planned and what you will need for them.  Developing a rubric is SO important to this part-and the whole!  Research says that when teachers provide  a rubric, students can succeed at a greater rate.  Plus, it eliminates any negotiation for students who do not complete the task.  So, develop that rubric and get it into students hands!  

National Park Project Teacher pages

Once you are ready to present, have volunteers go first.  Students who are comfortable presenting will boost other's confidence and provide a foundation for others.  I try to pick students I know will offer great presentations so that others see and know what the expectations are.  This will often spur them into practicing more too!

The Parade

Finally, coordinate the parade beforehand!  This means you should send our emails to your staff to let them know the day and time you will be parading!  Students in other classes give the project builders the ooo's and ahh's that just make them feel successful!  Visit as many grade levels and classes as possible!  This means lots of eyes on their projects and a desire to make projects in the future!  That's a key to great project success!  

Once you have engaged in a Project Based Parade you will fall in love and want to do it every year!  Here are two projects to get you going - they provide everything you need for a great project parade!  

State Float Park Parade

National Park Float Parade Project

As always, I'd love to hear from you and what you like to do for Project Based Learning!  Drop a comment below or follow me over at Instagram or Facebook for classroom updates!  

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Float Parade Pin

June 13, 2019

7 Must-Have Items to Make Your Bird Theme Classroom a Hit!

I had come to a conclusion.  I was no longer happy with my classroom theme!  I wanted my classroom to take on a different feel, one that would represent more of who I was, even as a teacher.  I LOVE superheroes and had used this theme for about 5 years, but I needed a change!  Watercolor is all the rage, but I'm not a succulent kind of girl!  So, I wanted something more "me" and, to be honest, more kid friendly. (Most kids don't know what a succulent is!) So, I dove in with an idea-Watercolor Bird Theme Classroom!  And, it was a hit, even with the boys.  So, here are 7 must have items for your Bird Theme Classroom!

1.  Table Signs

Watercolor Bird Table Signs

I just love being able to remember my table numbers!  Yes, because half the time I can't remember with so much going on!  These are designed to be placed back to back-so you get birds and birdhouses in this product. Simply print, laminate if you want, and staple them back-to-back.  Then, I used fishing line and paperclips to hang them.  That way, you don't even have to poke a hole!

2.  Calendar

Every great classroom needs a beautiful calendar (even if the month never gets put up!)  This is print and go ready with everything you need - days of the week are included!  I paired it with my Watercolor Bird Theme Editable Job Cards, which is make a really nice bulletin board-especially when you add the month!  Ha!!

3.  Birthday Display

This was so easy to use!  I simply printed out the months and stapled them to the wall.  Then I used my Cricut to cut out the banners.  I used KG A Little Swag Font (Free for Personal Use) to create the banner!  I then added the colors of the decor behind the banner to give it the punch of color you see here!  LOVE this!  

Watercolor Bird Birthday Display

Watercolor Bird Theme Birthday

4.  Schedule Cards  

I didn't have my schedule up right away this year and I paid for it with my students.  I tend to play around with my schedule till I get it "just right", so I always wait till it is "just right" to put it up.  And then I paid for it for the first month.  The students constantly asked, "When is..."  Once my schedule is posted, both with the written time and the clock time, I don't answer those questions any more!  It trains the students to learn the schedule and the time.  And, isn't that the whole purpose of having it posted!  As you can see, I didn't use the editable part, but it is there for you to use!  

Watercolor Bird Theme Schedule Cards

5.  Go-Home Banner

Our school is big on knowing how kids go home so I have embraced the Go-Home Banner!  I write the student's names on their go-home mode of transportation with a dry-erase marker so that I can change them if they change transportation.  Then, at the end of the day, this is how I also call the line-up order for going home.  I switch who goes first each week based on the chart and the students LOVE that!  Who knew something this simple would bring so much pleasure! 

6.  Word Wall

Everyone needs a Word Wall!  Student can access words they need easily and teachers can add words that students need to spell regularly if they are not already on the wall.  I use simple card stock pieces of paper under each letter that I have typed common words that 2nd graders need on them.  Then I handwrite words in as the year goes on.  Easy-Peasy!  

Watercolor Bird Word Wall

7.  Great Bulletin Board Paper

A great looking room many times relies on great bulletin board paper!  I grabbed this Pacon Fadeless paper from Michael's at the beginning of the 2018/19 school year!  It was the PERFECT match for this Watercolor Bird Themed Classroom!  In addition, I added white and azure blue scalloped bordette from Lakeshore Learning!  LOVE! 

Watercolor Bird Classroom Decor

Now, there are more choices you could add to your classroom!  Good thing they are easy to find in my Watercolor Bird Theme Classroom Decor Bundle!  

Watercolor Themed Classroom Bundle

All of these goodies and more are found in this set!  You could add the alphabet, number cards, rules, and so much more to your awesomeness!  There are many more editable materials in here too!  And, while you are checking it out, grab this FREEBIE!  

Watercolor Bird Theme Rules

So, drop me a comment on what you would add and any other ideas you might have about this Watercolor Bird Theme Classroom Decor!  I'd love to hear what you have to say! I'd also love for you to join me on my classroom adventures!  Follow along at Instagram and Facebook for all the latest news!  

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Bird Blog Pin

June 6, 2019

Why Contraction Surgery Succeeds!

Contraction Surgery is such a simple, yet wonderful, way for your students to succeed at learning contractions!  Often we think and believe that contractions are an easy skill for students to learn and understand.  When we apply a project to this skill, it becomes a delicate art of skill and knowledge hidden in the fun of Contraction Surgery

Student engaged in Contraction Surgery.

My interest in Contraction Surgery started years ago when I saw a simple pin online, even before Pinterest was a hot spot for ideas.  Just the picture alone got my mind spinning!  I was teaching first grade at the time and thought, "I'm going to do this!"  I created this product, and headed on my merry way!  And it was FUN!  

After being away from Primary teaching for a few years, I have returned to Second Grade with the promise in my heart to complete Contraction Surgery again, and really dive into discovering why it is such a success!  

Why is it a Success?

Contraction Surgery wraps two things together that make it a success.  These two things are hands-on learning and FUN!  Yes, I said it, FUN!  Imagine that in today's learning environment!!  So, let's start there!

Students are engaged in Contraction Surgery


Contraction Surgery is FUN if you make it so!  You don't have to create a total classroom transformation for this to happen.  I did something simpler.  I added some blue Dollar Tree table cloths to the ceiling for a "operating room" feel, bought some masks and gloves from Walmart, and, with the help of another teacher on my team who participated with this in her room, gave students hospital gear to wear!  (Donations from doctors offices and emergency rooms can help you gather these things too!) 

This classroom is set up for Contraction Surgery!

I dressed in a super cheap scrub from Walmart! Our Dr. Apostrophe decorated our board and welcomed our "Contractionologists" into the surgery suite!  

Contraction Surgery Dr. Apostrophe welcomed students to their surgery day!

 I also hit the bulletin board paper room for the "surgery table" covers.  I also rolled out a long piece of paper on the floor for our "patients" to "recover" on.  All this set the stage to engage and get the kids ready for FUN!  These steps are so simple too, so don't skip over these fun little extras!  

Student table is set up for Contraction Surgery

Hands-On Learning!  

Don't underestimate the lack of understanding students may have with contractions!  Contraction Surgery provides the opportunity for students to manipulate the word cards in a way that goes to their higher-order thinking. They must analyze the word and work to create the new contraction.  Many times we take it for granted that students just "know" the two words, because we use contractions all the time in our conversations.  But, in reality, this activity makes them deconstruct their knowledge of contractions and work in a backwards thinking process.  I "know" contractions, but now I have to apply my knowledge to the process in front of me-much more difficult than we can imagine.  To scaffold this instruction, I allowed my students to access a contraction list and to "consult" with one another!  

Students enjoy helping each other with their Contraction Surgery work!

I also allowed students to perform "emergency measures" on words that were incorrectly formed.  This meant that other students could pick up "dying" patients from the recovery room and fix the contractions they found were errors.  We saved these to be talked about later!  

So, as you can see, although we think contractions are easy for students to apply and learn, it, in many ways, is an opposite situation!  By creating a fun, safe environment through Contraction Surgery we can allow them to practice the process in a way that is both memorable and fun!  

Contraction surgery was a BLAST! I had completely forgotten how amazing it was! It was engaging, rigorous, and fun all in one! And guys, we are making assumptions about what kids know about contractions! I had most of my class needing to access our Kindles and Enchanted Learnings list to feel successful at this! They learned a lot and had a great time doing it! Product link in the bio!! Honestly an amazing process and so worth the time!! • • • #secondgradeteacher #secondgrade #secondgradefollowloop #secondgradetribe #secondgradeteachers #secondgradefun #secondgradesquad #secondgradeshenanigans #2ndgradeteacher #2ndgraderocks #2ndgradeclassroom #2ndgradeswag #2ndgradefun #iteachsecond #iteach2ndgrade #iteachsecondgrade #iteach2nd #classroomtransformation #teachersfollowingteachers #contractionsurgery #teachingcontractions
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And, what's even better is that it doesn't have to stop there!  You can provide additional practice with contractions in this product!  In addition to getting everything you need to make your Contraction Surgery a success, you get additional practice pieces!  

Click to find Contraction Surgery in my TpT Store!

AND, so fun items to make a great page in a school memory book or just to take home to hang on the fridge!  

I'd love to hear your thoughts on Contraction Surgery, so drop a comment below!  Also, to check out all the things going on in my classroom, I'd love for you to follow me over at Instagram or Facebook too!  

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Contraction Surgery set up!

February 19, 2019

The Error You are Making with Flat Stanley's Original Adventure

Everyone loves Flat Stanley!  He is so much fun to make and send off in an envelope to parts unknown!  People take pictures with him and send him back so that you can see all the amazing things he got to do-just like when Flat Stanley went on his adventure to California!  Great learning, right!  What if I told you that there was something you totally missed?  What if I told you that you made a major teaching error by just reading this book and sending Flat Stanley on his way.  Because you did, you missed something really remarkable in this tale! You made a teaching error...

Learn all about how you can get more out of your study of Flat Stanley's Original Adventure!

Flat Stanley is much more than a paper doll you are sending out.  Teachers have missed a key opportunity to teach some amazing things through this book because we use it as a Social Studies opportunity and it is, well, fun! There is an entire world of literary wonder at just the right level for late first graders, second graders, and early third graders to learn about.  This book is written at a level that allows students to critically examine a text for elements they need to know about.  It is also written for them to have fun!  Why not combine the two and have a great book study!  Let's look at how! 


Although it doesn't look like there are opportunities for great comprehension, there is!  Each chapter packs a little bit of an opportunity to think about and comprehend what is in the chapter.  For instance, in the first chapter, (Grab the freebie here!) there are some interesting parent interactions!  There is also a chance to look at how this story is a fantasy.  And, it even has a chance for some fun measuring in your classroom to get kids ready for the deeper stuff.  

This continues throughout the rest of the book, building deeper and deeper meaning and thoughts expressed by the author.  All of this can be assessed through comprehension questions that help students build true understanding of the text.

Character Reactions

Students can have a different kind of experience with Flat Stanley by examining character reactions.  This can be done with a Wants and Needs Chart.  This chart is not the typical wants and needs we complete in the Social Studies Standards.  This looks at what character want and what they need to do to accomplish that want.  What happens when we examine characters in this way, we can look deeper at what the author's purpose is.  This, ultimately, leads the students to discover themes for each character and the book overall!  This is a priceless way to use Flat Stanley, because it exposes sibling rivalry to students who are always amazed at how much Stanley and Arthur have in common with their lives!  


Although Flat Stanley doesn't jump to mind as a great vocabulary teaching opportunity, it is in there!  This story was written at a time period where different words were used.  Fragile, jostle, and rummage are examples of the strong words used by Jeff Brown in his authorship of this book.  

And More!  

There are even more opportunities packed into this text.  Looking at dialogue, character feelings, and more can be done with Flat Stanley.  Don't miss out on the opportunity to boost your students' skills with this great book AND this great product!  Everything you need for a great novel study is found inside!  

I'd love to hear what you have to say about Flat Stanley!  What have you done to get the BEST out of this study!  Drop me a comment or follow me over on Facebook or Instagram to share on a post!  I'd love to hear from you!  

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Are you wondering what errors you made with Flat Stanley.  Read how to get more out of it!

February 12, 2019

Book Clubs for Kids: 5 Tips for Grading Student Book Clubs

Book Clubs for Kids is one of the BEST ways to use real literature to build comprehension in students. Student choice and student jobs, or roles, are key components to success in Book Clubs.  But there is the question that teachers who want to start Book Clubs ask the most-How do I grade Book Clubs for kids?  Let's take a Look at some tips to grading Book Clubs!

Tip #1:  Use a Well Developed Rubric to Grade

Honestly, this is the BEST way to grade.  I spent years examining what my students were doing in Book Clubs for kids to adapt and change to meet their needs.  Once I created an area, I would try it out and see how it worked for a diverse number of students.  It was adapted and changed over and over again until I found the perfect combination of social interactions and academics.  I used this grading rubric with groups I sat through and groups I observed as I walked around.  It is a life-saver when it comes to scoring students.  
Rubrics for grading are one easy way to get a grade from Book Clubs for kids.

Tip #2:  Grade their Meetings

Document everything!  It is key to keep track of what was said in Book Clubs beyond what the students provide.  When I first start Book Clubs for kids, I sit in on their meetings.  I also ask Higher-Order Thinking Questions. I take the time to write down what each child is saying.  What do I do with this?  I keep the papers so that I can tract their progress over the year.  I also examine these pages for strengths and weaknesses in students and to readjust groupings.  This also leads me to lessons I can teach to build our Book Club skills.  

Tip #3:  Grade their Book Club Jobs

In addition to using the rubric, I also grade the Book Club for kids jobs.  This is where I gain valuable grades, as you can either grade these separately or all together, depending on the level of skill your students have.  In the primary grades, I grade them as one grade.  In intermediate, I tend to grade these as stand-alone grades because of the amount of work it takes to prepare them.  You can also apply point values to each job and, then, add those up as one score in the end.  There are plenty of variations along the way to play with.  Try some out and pick what works best for you!  This is key!  

Tip #4:  Grade for Specific Skills

Book Clubs for kids can also be adapted for specific skills.  On top of the Book Club jobs, you can add open ended pages to the Book Club to target a specific skill you want to assess.  Be thoughtful about the amount of extra work though.   You don't want to add too much to their plate, as reading and completing the main tasks can fill a student's time.  

Tip #5: Grade with Expectations

Sometime teachers look at Book Clubs for kids as "fun work".  It is important to grade with the same expectations you would on any class assignment.  This is NOT "fun work".  Yes, kids have fun in Book Clubs, but their work should be taken as seriously as any classwork is.  Look at content, conventions, and anything else you would normally look for in student work.  This can take their work level to the next realm of learning!  Expect and they shall achieve!  

Need a great rubric for Book Clubs for kids?  Check out my two levels of Differentiated Book Clubs!  They have a variety of assessment pieces built in for you to use!  I'd also love to hear about your tips for assessing kids in Book Clubs!  Drop a comment and share your ideas!  Or, ask a question!  I'd love to hear them!  

Other Book club for Kids Posts to Read: 

Why I Don't Do Guided Reading:  Book Clubs Exposed

Student Choice in Book Clubs

The Secret of Getting the Best out of Student Jobs

5 Things You Should Look for During Book Clubs

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5 great tips for Book Club grading in your elementary classroom.