Monday, October 27, 2014

The Book Whisperer : Chapter 6

Missed the previous chapters?  Read them here!

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I can't believe I have ONE chapter left after this one! This has been an amazing book that really has transformed my way of thinking about the reading component in my classroom. I really encourage everyone to get their own copy and read it. It's an easy read, and very thought provoking. I bet it'll change the way you teach reading in your classroom!

Cutting the Teacher Strings

Chapter 6 is a long one, but very interesting. She gives reasons why traditional reading practices don't work, such as whole-class novels, comprehension tests, book reports and reading logs and then gives us a list of alternatives that would really enhance our reading programs in our classrooms.

She understands that most of us are mandated to teach reading strategies or are required to teach certain books or novels, but she gives us alternative ways to teach what we have to teach, all while making sure students read what they want to read.

While reading this chapter, I couldn't help but think back to my classroom. Where students had to read what I forced them to read, and answer questions based on different reading strategies. I taught the strategies one by one, having students practice that strategy over and over again. I remember questioning this practice once when students who obviously had no issues reading were forced to do this work that just made reading awful. But I never actually stopped this practice. I never sat back and tried to think of a way to change my classroom for the better.

So this is it for me. No more comprehension tests, no more forced book reports, no more reading logs. I can teach what I have to teach while students read what they want to read.
Developing readers don't need more reading strategies to help them. They need to read. What's the point of throwing more strategies at them that is simply taking away from reading time? Plus, have you ever noticed how students can recite to you what the reading strategies are and yet they don't always apply them?

So what am I going to do instead? Miller lists so many alternative ideas that are fantastic! I've also thought of a few myself (look for new blog posts soon!)

I'm actually really looking forward to implementing these changes in my classroom!

Are you ready for this week's freebie? Make sure to grab it because NEXT Monday, I am taking them all down and releasing an amazing HUGE file that will help you implement everything that I have learned from this book. 

This week, I am offering a rubric for grades 4-8 for a book review.

Enjoy and see you next week for the final chapter of The Book Whisperer!

Read Chapter 7

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Book Whisperer : Chapter 5

Missed a couple of chapters? Before you read on, catch up here :

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If you've read through all my other blog posts about this book, you'll notice how excited I am about this book. And chapter 5 doesn't disappoint! It's not a very long chapter, but it's an important one. A very important one.

Walking the Walk

Are you a reader? Do you always have a book in hand? Do you share with your students about your reading experience or do you keep it hidden?

When I was younger, I always had my nose in a book. I always had one with me, up until my early to mid- twenties. I would be the one to whip out a book anywhere I was - Dr's office, in line at the grocery store, waiting for the bus, etc. Unfortunately, I don't anymore (I believe it correlates with my first smartphone... hmmm...), but I still consider myself a reader:  

Saturday mornings, there's nothing better than sitting on the couch, sipping my coffee and reading my book. If it's a great one, I'm often reading it until I'm done!

Every night before bed, I have my nose in my book. Unfortunately, that can lead to some late nights if it's a good book, but it's always worth it!

I belong to a book club that meets up once every two months to chat, eat and discuss our thoughts. Our next meeting is in December and we're reading Defending Jacob by William Landay.

I have an ereader that is bursting to the seam with books to read, I have 3 borrowed books from the library that are impatiently calling my name and two more that I've bought recently that are also on my to-read list.

So yeah, I'm a reader. And yet, I have never shared that part of me in such a way that shows my students that reading is fun. Reading is enjoyable. It's an amazing past time. I have talked about various books with different students, but it's always just been a quick :

"Have you read this one Mme?" (I teach in a French school)

"Oh yes, isn't it great! It made me cry." 
"Me too!"

That's it. I have asked to borrow books that my students have brought to class (and vice versa), but they're quick, small exchanges that go unnoticed by other students.

I walk the walk. But not really. If I did, every student would know about my love of books. If I shared my passion, if I started really recommending books, having long, meaningful discussions with students over certain books, making a big deal out of going to the library every week, I'd probably see a big difference in my classroom.

Although I'm glad I read this book now, I'm a little sad that it's taken me 7 years of my teaching career to do so. I'm sad that my previous classes never got to really learn to enjoy reading (other than the ones who already did). And I vow not to let that happen again.

This is what chapter 5 was all about. About walking the walk. You want your students to read? Then show them why it's enjoyable. Show them why it's a part of your life.

And if it's not a part of your life, then make it a part of your life. Find 15 minutes a day to read. Steal those precious minutes. Because if you don't take the time, your students will know. And they won't take the time to read either.

I am not including a product today with my blog post because I think the message here is very clear. Instead, I want you to take those few minutes it would have taken you to download my free product and go read a book.  

And then let me know if it's a good book so I can read it too!

Read Chapter 6

Friday, October 17, 2014

{Giveaway} Halloween in my Classroom

A few bloggers and I have gotten together and have created a Halloween Blog Hop.  This hop is full of great tips, goodies and ends with a giveaway.  Enter the giveaway at the end of this blog post - you have until the 19th!

Halloween in my Classroom

Part of the Halloween fun is seeing how everyone is dressed up, but at my school, we don't have a celebration or assembly, so it's a little tough to do.  Instead, I take my students and we tour the school, going to each classroom and simply taking note of everyone's fabulous costumes.  My students love it, as they can show off their costume as well as see what everyone else is wearing.  Some costumes are downright amazing!

After we head back to the classroom, we have a discussion on all the costumes we saw, which were our favourites, our least favourites, scared us, gave us ideas for next year, etc.

This leads into our writing activity : My Favourite Costume.  It's a quick writing activity where students write about their favourite costume of the day.  We've already brainstormed, so the students start on their rough draft, swap with another student to revise and correct it and then use the template to write their final copy.  The final copy goes up on their lockers (I have hot-glued a page protector on their locker to show off their work).  Make sure to grab your free copy of the template (I also included a US spelling version for my American friends!)

Since holidays are always a very exciting time in the classroom, I really try to find educational activities that are fun and exciting for the students.  For my math block, I love doing Math Scavenger Hunts with my students.  I have one device capable of reading QR codes that's often used in a math center, but for this day, I'll allow students to use their own device.  In groups, they'll work to decode the 3 hidden messages by solving various math problems.  I love this activity!  They get to interact with their friends, use technology and (shhh! Don't tell them) do some math work!

I know not every classroom has access to QR codes, so I made a version of my Halloween Scavenger Hunt that doesn't have them.  Maybe not as much fun, but still really neat!

Halloween afternoon, I try to keep it relaxed, as they spend the morning working.  We will do a craft, listen to some spooky music, read our read-aloud book and just plain ol' talk.  It's a great day spent together, and it's even better now that Halloween falls on a Friday and we won't get the sugar-high students tomorrow! :)


Don't forget to enter this amazing giveaway!  Who doesn't need some extra TpT cash to spend!

Congratulations to our winners!

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Book Whisperer : Chapter 4

Missed a few chapters?  Read from the beginning : 

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Are you as excited as I am to read on about Chapter 4? Seriously, so many ideas are going through my head and I can't wait to get back in the classroom and let my students READ! I was doing it ALL wrong before - "forcing" them to at least finish the book, always telling them to put it away, that it wasn't time to read, etc... Things are going to CHANGE in my classroom! What about yours?

Reading Freedom

This was the chapter I was waiting for! I loved reading the previous chapters and learning all about the why but now we're getting into the how. How does she make it work? How does she get her students all excited? How does she do this and other stuff in her classroom?

Now, I can't tell you everything, because that wouldn't be fair to Donalyn Miller, but I can tell you that this book is worth EVERY SINGLE PENNY! Seriously. I have bought many educational resources in the past, but this is the only one that has ever gotten me this excited. This one makes sense, through and through.

Anyway.. I was saying...

Chapter 4 talks about the how. Throughout the book, you can tell that Miller much prefers discussions and anchor charts to worksheets and notes with her students.

The chapter starts with Miller in the front of her classroom, chart paper ready and marker in her hand and she's asking her students how readers choose a book for themselves.  She gets the typical answers (you know the ones - the ones the students have memorized from years of telling them exactly what we want them to say), then she throws them a curve ball : "Who has chosen a book because it is short? Who has chosen a book to read by checking how long it is?"

HA!  Can you imagine!  The funny thing is that I've done it too.  We probably all have.  Sometimes we just don't want to read that super long novel with itty bitty writing.  Sometimes we want a quick read.  

And that opens up the flood gates - students start realizing that "cheating" is ok!  It's ok to choose a book because it looks easy, or because the pictures are pretty, or because you read the ending first and it seemed interesting.  

What if that one student pipes up and says that books are boring?  Of course SOME books ARE boring!  Have you ever had a book that you just weren't able to complete?  It didn't grab you?  And guess what - that's ok!  It's ok to put it down and start a new one!

In this chapter, Miller also discusses her 40-book requirement and why she chose this number.  But to properly set the stage, Miller spends a lot of time at the beginning introducing all genres to her students.  They discuss, they debate, they wonder and they discover.  In her 40-book requirement, she requires students to read a certain number from different genres (for example, 5 poetry anthologies, 2 historical fiction, 2 mystery).  This can change year to year, especially depending on what students are interesting in (the mystery requirement was added after a certain classroom requested it).  

She also discusses her Reader's Notebook.  This notebook is comprised of 4 parts : Tally list (the requirements), Reading list (what they've read), Books-to-read list (what they want to read) and Response entries (where they write letters and reflect, and Miller responds in an authentic way).

There's so much going on in this chapter, it's impossible to touch on it all, but let me tell you, it's FANTASTIC!  I even read ahead a little bit because I was so interested (and I try not to do that before I've written the blog post!)

This week, my freebie is an amazing product!  I'm offering you templates for your own Reader's Notebook.  Now we're already on chapter 4 (of 7) and don't forget that these freebies are only available during this blog hop book study, and then they become a paid product, so make sure to grab your copy today (and leave feedback!)

Yeah, I learned a lot in this chapter!  I learned that I made a lot of mistakes in the way I was implementing independent reading in my classroom.  But the good news is that now I know better :)

Read Chapter 5

Friday, October 10, 2014

5 math riddles that will have you scratching your head!

Another Friday (time sure seems to fly sometimes!) and I'm linking up once again with Doodle Bugs Teaching for her Five for Friday.  This week, my theme was math riddles.  On the phone with my dad earlier this week, we reminisced over the math riddles that often came up during long road trips when we were younger, and I knew that was going to be my theme for this week!

Are you ready to get your math game on?

A knight comes to a castle where the princess is trapped. The castle is surrounded by a square moat that is 10 feet wide (it forms a square around the castle). The knight is able to fashion two 9 foot long planks to cross the moat.

How can he do this?

(Answers will all be at the end of the post to give you a chance to try!)

Does an ounce of gold or an ounce of feathers weight more? (Yes, a classic!)

Caleb is walking home. He has $400 he has to bring home to his mom. While he is walking a man stops him and gives him a chance to double his money. The man says "I'll give you $800 if you can roll 1 die and get a 4 or above, you can roll 2 dice and get a 5 or 6 on at least one of them, or you can roll 3 dice and get a 6 on at least on die. If you don't I get your $400."

What does Caleb do to have the best chance of getting home with the money?

Use the numbers 2, 3, 4 and 5 and the symbols + and = to make a true equation.

Note: Each must be used exactly once and no other numbers or symbols can be used.

As I was going to St. Ives,
I met a man with seven wives,
Each wife had seven sacks,
Each sack had seven cats,
Each cat had seven kits:
Kits, cats, sacks, and wives,
How many were there going to St. Ives?

Answers :

1 : The Knight in Shining Armour

He puts one plank across the corner of the square (where two sides meet) and puts the other perpendicular to it to form a 'T' shape in the corner allowing him to cross the moat and save the princess.

2 : The Classic

You would think they both weigh the same, right?  Nope! In fact, the gold weighs more!In avoirdupois weight (feathers are measured in this way), one ounce = 437.5 grains. In troy weight (gold is measured in this way), one ounce = 480 grains.

Now read on to find out why a pound of feathers actually weighs more than a pound of gold : Measuring Gold Weight

3 : Poor Caleb

This is the perfect riddle to introduce probability to your students!  The best way for Caleb to keep his $400 is to not take the bet at all! This gives him a 100 percent chance of getting the money home. 

If he takes the bet with 1 die he has a 50 percent chance of winning. If he takes the bet with 2 dice he has about a 56 percent chance of winning. If he takes the bet with 3 dice he has about a 42 percent chance of winning.

4 : Equation time!


Perfect to introduce students to exponents! haha  

5 : Read the question thoroughly!

I love this one, it really teaches students to read, figure out what the question is asking and then only using the data required!

The answer?  Only 1 is going to St.Ives, me! :)

Want more great math riddles? Check out this website.  These are perfect for your math class - and I bet you'll find that your "weaker" math students are often the ones that can answer these correctly!

Have a fantastic weekend everyone!  Don't forget to head back to Doodle Bugs Teaching for more fantastic Five for Friday posts.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Looking for Thanksgiving activities? Look no further!

Thanksgiving is just around the corner!  Have you thought of ways you're going to celebrate this holiday in your classroom?  In my classroom, we always focus everything we do on giving thanks and being grateful for everything we have.  It also means a lot of conversations and discussions on what we have to be thankful for! 

I created this product for Thanksgiving that I'd love to share with you.  It's an original poem (written by me!) that students analyze by using the close reading method.  They have a printable poster that they record their answers on and can then decorate afterwards.  It makes a great bulletin board idea! Afterwards, students go through different steps to create their own thanksgiving poem about what they are thankful for. 

This is perfect for a whole-class activity, or you can add it to your literacy centers for the week.  To get your copy today, click here!  I've discounted it by 50% until Monday!

Thanks to A Sketchy Guy for images.

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Book Whisperer : Chapter 3

Want to start from the beginning?  Click here for Chapter 1 and here for Chapter 2!

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On to Chapter 3 of The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller. The more I read this book, the more I'm amazed at how easy it is to have my students read! 

Trust me, read this book and it will change your classroom forever!

There's a Time and a Place

Reading is the #1 literacy activity that will increase student's comprehension, vocabulary knowledge, spelling, writing ability and overall academic success.  With all these benefits, Miller wonders how could anyone NOT focus on independent reading in their classroom.  One colleague even asked her if she thought that her students would rush through their other work just to be able to read, and her immediate answer was "I sure hope so!"

That really changed my views.

In this chapter, Miller gives us tips and ideas on how to maximize independent reading in our classroom, as she is aware that not every school permits independent reading.  

Here's a list of times and places where your students could pick up their books and read :

  • After they're done their work
  • While you are interrupted (whether by someone at the door or a phone call)
  • Going to the school library
  • Picture Day (or any time when you have the whole class waiting for one person)
  • As morning-work, while waiting for everyone to be ready
One of my absolute favourite lines from this book so far is "Once students catch the reading bug, they will go to great lengths to find time to read."  Isn't this so true?  When I am enthralled in a novel, I am finding myself stealing every second of the day that I can to read even just a few lines, and our students will do the same!

This week, as your Chapter 3 freebie, I have made some really neat bookmarks as well as book recommendation post-its for your classroom.  The book recommendation post-its are really neat and encourage students to share the books they love by recommending them to others!  

You can download these freebies in my TpT store.

Don't forget - they might be free now, but when the book study is done, all my freebies will be collected into one larger paid product.  So hurry up and get them now while you can!  I really would appreciate the feedback as well.

Hope you're enjoying this book study as much as I am!

Read Chapter 4

Friday, October 3, 2014

5 fantastic science demonstrations to get your students excited!

It's Friday! I'm linking up once again with Doodle Bugs Teaching for her awesome Five for Friday weekly linky party.  This week, I've decided to spice up your classroom with some amazing science demonstrations that I'm sure will get your students sitting on the edge of their seats!

Sit back, enjoy while sipping your coffee and don't forget to visit Doodle Bugs Teaching for more great Five for Friday link ups!

Air & Gas Properties

Here is an amazing demonstration to show that CO2 gas is actually heavier than air!  I love it, because it shows you that the CO2 molecules are there, even though you can't see them.  The list of materials is short and easy, so get ready to amaze your students!

Gas, Liquid and Solids

Have you ever wondered why Ivory soap floats?  Me neither. In fact, I didn't know that it was the only soap that floated until I started doing some research for this blog post, but once I found this video, I knew I had to share!  I was amazed!  It even explains why it happens (which is perfect)

Light Bending

I always have a hard time teaching optics because I never have the proper material on hand!  But this video is really neat and shows how the light rays bend when they enter a difference substance and really does a good job of explaining why it happens.

And then I saw this video!  Now this you can do in your classroom with materials you probably already have!


I am absolutely LOVING this next demonstration! It's the perfect way to show how different forces work.  In the first example, the penny was only slowed down due to gravity (very little friction since it's round) and the hex nut slowed down much much faster due to friction AND created vibrations/sound waves! 


This is a classic, but this one has a twist!  It shows you how to get the egg back out of the bottle too!  It's easy to do, and I'm sure your students will love trying to figure out how it happens!

Any of these videos would also be great to do in front of your students and then let them figure out how it works!  Science is way too interesting not to have fun with it!

See you next week!