Saturday, March 23, 2019

Top 5 Favorite Chapter Book Read Alouds

What's the one time you look forward to every single day when you come to school? For my class, it's our read aloud time. Right when we come inside from recess and are trying to calm down, we settle at the carpet for our chapter book read aloud.

It is seriously the BEST time of our day. Every day when we inevitably have to end our read aloud time, my kiddos all say, "Touch your nose if you want Mrs. Fretwell to read one more chapter!!!" They never want our time to end!
I thought it would be best to share our TOP 5 FAVORITE read alouds for the year. You can find the links to all of them (and a few more) in my Amazon shop.

Heads Up: My post contains Amazon affiliate links, so if you buy something through it, you won't pay a penny more, but I'll get a small commission to help keep Simply Creative Teaching up and running!

5. My Dog, My Hero by Betsy Byars
I really love to read this book at the beginning of the year. In this book, eight dogs are chosen to compete for the Hero medal. In each chapter, the owner nominating the dog tells the story of how that dog is a hero. The chapters and stories for each dog are short, but the stories are engaging, detailed, and kids are absolutely captivated! By the end of the book, everyone is debating which dog they think will win the Hero medal. It's the perfect book to read at the beginning of the year to hook your students into daily read aloud time. I promise they'll love it!

This is another favorite book that I usually read at the beginning of the year. These stories are silly, weird, and your kids will LOVE hearing all of the craziness that happens at Wayside School!

3. The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
This is my personal FAVORITE. I cannot go a year without reading this book to my kiddos. This book tells the story of a brave mouse named Desepereaux who is banished to a dungeon, but he is also in love with a princess named Pea. Kate DiCamillo often speaks to the readers in this book and asks questions of those reading by saying things like, "Reader, do you believe ____?" Your kids will LOVE it. Cross my heart. 

Yes, it's another animal story, but I promise The World According to Humphrey is another wonderful book your class will love! Humphrey, a hamster, is a class pet. Each weekend he goes home with students and has amazing adventures. But, there's one problem... Everyone loves Humphrey, except the dreaded teacher, Mrs. Brisbane, seems to be out to get him! 

1. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo
Edward Tulane is by far my number one favorite every single year. Edward is a rabbit who belonged to a little girl named Abilene who loved him very much. However, one day he gets lost and his miraculous journey begins. It's an incredibly well-written, engaging story, and my students are always eager to hear what's happening next on Edward's journey and who he'll meet.

Hopefully you found a title or two that you want to read to your class! Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Creating Effective Student Behavior Charts

Finding yourself with a student who might need a little extra help when it comes to managing behavior? I feel you! That's why I wanted to quickly show you my favorite little behavior charts that you might find helpful with one (or a few!) of your students!

These {editable} behavior charts are designed 2 per page, and you can add your daily schedule to them. As students go throughout the day, they will color in the emoji that aligns with their behavior. You can choose between 2 emojis (happy/sad) or 3 emojis (happy, straight, sad).
For one of my students, I used these Crayola Color Switchers (affiliate link), which are basically just magic markers. You can use them to hide smiley faces, and I let my student color in boxes in a little grid when he earned a certain number of smiley faces for the day. When he found a hidden 5 smiley faces, he earned a reward.

Recently I decided it'd be fun to add seasonal/monthly behavior charts. They are basically the same, except they have seasonal emojis for each month. For example, February has heart face emojis, October has pumpkin faces, etc.
Hope these little charts help some of your students! :)

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Organizing Math & Reading Rotations

After seven years of teaching, I finally found the best way to organize my small group rotations. I'm going to share with you how I organize my rotations. Keep in mind this is what worked for my students and my classroom - you might adapt or change these ideas as you see fit!

First: Rotation Charts
I've tried multiple ways of making sure my students knew where they were supposed to go during rotations, but I always encountered a problem... Poster/Chart on the wall = not enough wall space; Rotation chart displayed on my interactive whiteboard/screen = technology is never on my side and won't work OR I have a sub and he/she can't log in so students don't know where to go... SO. MANY. PROBLEMS.

Soooooo... I finally decided that EVERYONE gets a chart! For math, I had 3 small groups and named them different fruits. For reading, I had 5-6 small groups and named them different animals. Every group had their own chart (see picture below), and every student kept their chart in a sheet protector. (I also kept master rotation charts in my guided math & guided reading binders for my reference).
Next: How many rotations do students have?
In math, I had my students in 3 rotations a day.

  • Teacher Table: students work at the carpet with me
  • Independent Work: students go to this station AFTER teacher table & complete a few practice activities that we learned about during teacher table (also a good time to get in district mandated math curriculum work)
  • Games & Centers: students complete differentiated math centers that include card games, board games, puzzles, fact practice, and more.

I differentiate my independent work each day by putting appropriate work in the folders for each group. When students go to independent work, they pull their work out of the correct folder.  
Here's a sample math rotation chart:
In reading, my students go to 3 rotations a day; however, they will only go to teacher table a few times a week (so they'll have 5-6 total rotations). I always have my lowest group meet with me every day (ex: they start their reading rotation at teacher table everyday). My highest reading group meets with me 2x a week (ex: they meet with me on a Tues/Thurs rotation). My on level groups meet with me 3x a week (ex: they meet with me on Mon/Wed/Fri).

Here's a sample reading rotation chart:
Last: How long do students spend in each rotation?
For math, I begin with a 10-12 minute whole group lesson. This includes a number talk and a short mini-lesson so I can be sure that EVERY student is getting grade level instruction. Then, we start rotations and students spend about 20 minutes in each rotation.

For reading, I usually have a read aloud (10ish minutes) and mini-lesson (5-6ish minutes) before starting rotations. Student spend about 15-20 minutes in each rotation. I do not include read to self time as a rotation; we ALL do read to self at the same time together later in the day so that I can conduct one-on-one reading conferences.

I hope you've found some of these ideas for organizing your rotations helpful. You can create your own rotation charts here!