Read-aloud time is my favorite part of the day. We come together as a class to listen and discuss books. The conversation is important because it helps us grow. 
Teacher reading aloud to students
There are many ways to choose read-aloud books. I look for books that will spark conversations. I also like to use the first book in a series because it will inevitably hook students and they will want to read more!

Here are some of my favorite read-aloud titles:

This book is perfect for starting the school year. It opens discussions about being new and fitting in with classmates. The story is told through multiple characters and their unique perspectives. 
One of my favorite activities is to compare and contrast the book and movie. It is interesting to see which version my students like better. I would choose the book version every time. 

This is the first book in a series. It is told through the eyes of seven different characters. This book is great to use when discussing point of view and perspective. Last year my students brought up the idea of stereotypes. We used this book to discuss that big idea, too. 
My students loved finding dollar words while reading this book. They found them everywhere!

This book is part of the Rick Riordan Presents series. Rick Riordan presents is a part of the Disney Hyperion publishing company and the goal, according to the website, is " publish great middle-grade authors from underrepresented cultures and backgrounds, to let them tell their own stories inspired by the mythology and folklore of their own heritage."
I am working to add more books from other cultures to my classroom library. Fantasy is my favorite genre so I was excited to read this last year. My class loved it! Rick Riordan highlights many other authors, too. You can find out more on his website. 

This is one of my favorites! The main character does not like to read. He loves playing games. As you can guess from the title he has to escape from the library. 
My class loved the book. We made rebus puzzles and board games when we finished. There are other books in this series, too. 

This book is wonderful. The story takes place on 9/11, but the book is about friendship and hope. The book is told from two different characters point of view. The chapters alternate between the main character and the man in the white shirt. 
My students had a lot of questions about 9/11. I paired this book with I Survived 9/11 to help. This book is great for discussing theme. 

This book is not available until October 2019. But, it has my curiosity piqued. It is about a girl that writes about the perfect best friend. She calls her Zoe. Her writing notebook disappears and a girl named Zoe moves to town. 
I can't wait to read this book. I hope that it is as good as it sounds. I have a lot of possible ideas to go along with it. 

What books do you read aloud to your class? Let me know in the comments below. 

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My friend Luke teaches history at the secondary level. He just shared a great blog post about "insta-worthy" teaching activities that are great for any level! The title refers to museums catering their exhibits to Instagram. Because people love documenting their experiences on social media, museums have started making visually engaging exhibits that are designed to be photographed and shared. Luke explains that he was inspired to create similar activities for the classroom to increase student engagement.  
Luke shares 6 activities in this post that are sure to engage your students! The activity that I am the most excited to try is a CSI activity. This type of lesson would be great for analyzing primary and secondary sources. I think my students would love learning about the causes of the American Revolution in this interactive way. 

Another idea that I want to try is Magic Portraits. They are described in his post as video portraits that can be used to make presentations come alive. This activity requires the use of an app to make a historical person come "alive". This would be great for my unit on Explorers!

Some of the other "insta-worthy" activities are pop-up notes, 3D lessons, tableaus, and green screen activities. I love that all of these cool activities could be done at any level!

If you teach social studies or history at the middle or high school level you should definitely check out his page that has awesome resources! 

Which activity are you excited to try? Let me know in the comments below. 

Have you ever considered starting a buddy program? I did and I loved it! Older students act as mentors to younger students and both groups gain from the experience. Younger students get the opportunity to learn and grow with an older peer model while older students develop important skills like patience and understanding. Watching the learning that happens when buddies work together is amazing. 

STEM Buddies
A colleague and I had been discussing a STEM challenge that my students had done. She commented that it would be fun to do something similar with her kindergarten students, but that she would need some extra hands to make it work. This is where the idea for STEM buddies originated. 
STEM challenge
How it Works
Choose a grade level to buddy up with and plan to meet once or twice per month. Carefully and deliberately partner up the students. The goal is to have the students work with the same partner all year to help foster a bond. 

The beauty of using STEM activities when the buddies get together is that the activities can be done in groups of four. The partners stay together, but the pairs work with different students each time.

Each activity starts with a picture book, video, or another type of mini-lesson. Next, we quickly review the steps of the engineering design process: Ask, Imagine, Plan, Create, and Improve. 
The students are reminded that they will plan a prototype, test it, make improvements, and test it again. Then the challenge is introduced, the STEM sheets are passed out, and the groups get to work. 

The STEM sheets can be copied for every student or one per partnership. If you decide to have one copy per partnership you may want to photocopy the pages when finished so that each student can have a set. At the end of the challenge, each student fills out a reflection sheet. I like to have each student fill one out.

First Meeting
I start STEM buddies at the end of September. I set aside two days for the first meeting. The first time the students get together is set up as a meet and greet. We introduce the pairs and complete some getting to know you activities. We meet again the next day to start the Bucket Filler STEM challenge. Fill out the form below to grab the Bucket Filler challenge and a bonus challenge for your class. 

We start by reading a book about bucket fillers. Then the students are challenged to create a freestanding bucket holder that can hold the most compliments. At the end of the activity, students are asked to share something that their partner did well. The discussion is lively and the positive spin promotes the theme of the book. 

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    My fifth graders LOVE working with their buddies. I love watching the connections between the students grow stronger throughout the school year. 

    The month of February lends itself easily to holiday-themed activities and projects. Groundhog Day, the 100th Day of School, and Valentine's Day are all perfect for school. I don't celebrate Groundhog Day, but I do like to incorporate some holiday fun for my fifth graders because let's face it if they are having fun while learning they will be much more invested. So, I am going to share some of my favorite activities and a FREEBIE!

    Hundredth Day of School
    I started celebrating the 100th Day with my students two years ago. I didn't do anything prior to that because I hadn't been able to find any activities that were geared for upper elementary students. So, I set out to create some. Math is my favorite subject, so I started off by creating some review activities. 
    Area, perimeter, equation writing, and a few other math activities kept them engaged during our math block. I couldn't ask for more than that! 

    Then I decided it would be fun to add in some ELA activities. Would You Rather style writing prompts and envisioning 100 years in the future were two of the favorites in my class last year. 
    They also loved working through a variety of task cards. Now, the 100th Day is one of the days that I really look forward to during the year. If you are interested you can check out these activities here. 

    Valentine's Day Fun
    There are so many fun activities available for Valentine's Day that it can be hard to choose. My students love creating writing assignments and STEM challenges, so I combined the two and came up with some fun ideas:
    • Cards are an important part of Valentine's Day. This STEM challenge asks students to develop cards and packaging for a card company. so why not have your students make some. Check it out here.
    Boom Cards
    I love using digital resources in my classroom for math stations. Boom Cards,self-checking digital task cards, are my favorite! My students love them, too. I will be using some Valentine's Day themed decks this year. This adorable love bug Boom deck practices adding, subtracting, and multiplying fractions. How would you like to try this deck for FREE? Click here

    A membership is required, but it is free to join. There are other membership levels, too. You can check out some other fun Boom decks here. 

    If you looking for more ideas for Valentine's Day check out this blog postDon't forget to get your free boom deck! Click here

    It's the most wonderful time of the year. Or is it? It's only the beginning of December, but students everywhere are counting down the days until the holiday break. Let's face it - some teachers are, too. 

    Finding activities to keep students engaged at this time of year can be a challenge. Here are some of my tried and true December Activities.
    One way to keep student engagement up is to add in some holiday themed projects! There are a lot of quick and easy ways to do this:
    • Go shopping - Bring in some catalogs, give students a budget, and let them shop. This is great practice for adding and subtracting decimals!
    • Recipe Conversions - Have students find a favorite recipe and convert the measures of ingredients to feed a large crowd like your whole school or a local soup kitchen. 
    • Cookie Swap - I created this project to work on multiple skills: converting measures, adding and subtracting decimals, multiplying fractions, and writing. Check it out here
    Another way to engage students is through writing. Yes, you read that correctly. Writing, but with a twist.

    I love using quick writes with my students, so I decided to do a quick write with a twist. I came up with five different quick write story starters, typed them, and cut them into strips. 

    Next, I had my students count off by 5s. All the 1s went to one table, the 2s to another, and so on. Each student at the table received a different story starter. I set the timer for ten minutes (without the students knowing) and had the students copy the starter onto writing paper and continue the story. 

    When the timer went off I asked the students at each table to rotate clockwise. Then, they read what the student had written and continued the story until the timer went off again. We continued to rotate until each student arrived back to his/her original story. The students had a blast reading the stories and discussing how they turned out. Would you like to try a set for free? Fill out the form below. 

    The story starters or writing prompts, can be used in many ways. You can use the strips and have students copy them over or use the full sheets. I even created a digital version. Check them out here.

    How do you keep your students engaged at this time of year?

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