I wrote about my true feelings for homework in a previous post.  I have spent a lot of time thinking and planning for my approach this year. In my opinion, there are 3 things that upper elementary students should be doing for homework.

Yes, you read that correctly.  I don't like homework.  I am a teacher and I DO NOT LIKE HOMEWORK!  Surprised?  Maybe you are or maybe you are not.  If you are like any other teacher or parent on the planet you have probably seen the great homework debate playing out.  It has been all over social media, the news, and in various forms of print.  Many people think that this is a new issue.  It isn't.  The debate has been going on for years!

Back to school is slowly sneaking up on unsuspecting teachers. Wouldn't it be AWESOME if you had a list of teacher tested read aloud books? Well, consider this my gift to you! I asked some teacher blogger friends to share their favorite books to read aloud at the start of school. Check out the list to see the books we love. 

Wonder by R.J. Palacio is my favorite book to read at the start of the school year. There are so many things to discuss in this book. Themes of character, acceptance, friendship, and trust all lend themselves to building your classroom community. If you haven't read this book yet, you should! But, make sure you have a box of tissues close by. 
Grades 4 - 8 (Although I think ALL kids would benefit from it.)

"This book is based on a true story of a young boy named Salva Dut who gets separated from his family during a civil war in the Sudan. Salva perseveres despite his situation to learn to read or write and make it all the way to Rochester, NY. He is later reunited with some family members and uses his resources to raise money to bring water to neighboring tribes. Students fall in love with this story. They are in awe of how different life is in other countries that do not have electricity, let alone running water, as well as the determination Salva had to survive despite the difficult circumstances. It is a remarkable story that lends itself to many classroom discussions and lessons."
Grades 5 - 7
"This book is so much fun to read out loud! The chapters are short (great for a time to "settle" before class). Chapters end with cliff hangers (kids beg for more reading). It has a wide variety of characters, so if you can, use different voices (you'll get to practice your Australian accent!). And best of all, it's funny! My students (even hard-boiled middle schoolers) love this little novel. A great way to model reading with expression. Just a fun, fun little read!"
Grades 4 - 7 
"It is a very simple book with a powerful message about being yourself. It also is a good lead in to getting students to share important things about themselves."
Grades 1 - 5
Julie, from The Best Days, loves this book by Chris Van Allsburg.
"I read this book at the end of my author study on Chris VanAllsburg. I read this at the end because our focus of study is inference. This text is very different looking and is a mystery. What the students don't discover until the end is shocking -OR their inferencing allows them to dig to the bottom of the mystery presented to them as readers and they MUST hold the secret till the end. I do NO talking during this text specifically to wait for the gasp that happens when they discover that the town of Riverbend has been a coloring book all along! It is extremely well written and the pictures are plain and progress to strange, but in the end, it totally explains why the pictures were so strange all along! There always is a second viewing of this book, simply because the kids want to see the pictures again once they know it was a coloring book!"
Grade 3

Renee, from Science School Yard, loves this book by Rebecca Kai Dotlich.
"Teachers struggle finding ways to incorporate science into their school day. Picture books are the perfect solution to springboard any science topic. Starting off the year with this book is a perfect start!"
Grades K - 2
Michele, from Michele Luck's Social Studies, recommends The Lorax by Dr. Seuss.
"I used The Lorax every year to start off my Geography Review unit for my middle and high school History classes. It always got my students' attention and taught them the 5 Themes of Geography, but also taught them a valuable lesson about the importance of caring for our environment."
Grades 6 - 12

Jennifer, from Cookies, Coffee, and Crafts, likes this popular book.
"Pete the Cat is a familiar character and it teaches different areas of the school building and what they are used for. It also shares what students do in the lunchroom, playground, library and the classroom. Plus like all Pete the Cat books it has a repetitive pattern which children love."
Grade K

Samantha, from Secondary Urban Legends, is a fan of this book by Gordon Korman.
"Use it for growth mindset. It is easily relatable to students who have struggled in school and have "owned" it in the form of a nickname."

Wendy, from First Grade Fireworks, likes Wodney Wat.
She says, "It teaches kids about antibullying." Who wouldn't want kids to learn about that?
Grade 1

Rachel, from Fifth is my Jam, LOVES Hatchet by Gary Paulsen.
"I have been obsessed with this novel since 6th grade. Gary Paulsen is an amazing author and really brings the character to life! I love the mystery and thrill in this survival story! My students are obsessed with it and always want to go back for more!!"
Grade 5 - 6

Leigh, from The Applicious Teacher, suggests First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg.
"I love this book and read it year after year! It's a great way to connect with students about their feelings when starting school. I also love the twist at the end. Most students are so surprised by the fact that the girl in the story is actually the teacher. This book allows for so much conversation about the use of illustrations, inferencing, and feelings. The connections students are able to make to the book make it a perfect lead in for close reading as well!"

Wow! This list of books makes me excited to start thinking about school again. I love introducing my students to books that they have not read. I hope you enjoyed this list. If you sign up for my newsletter you will receive a freebie that can be used with just about any book! If you like the freebie you can check out some other resources here.

What is your favorite book to read aloud?

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Math Workshop a.k.a. guided math is an amazing way to approach math instruction.  Organizing it on the other hand can be a challenge. 

1.  Create Groups with a Purpose
In order to best meet the needs of all learners students should be grouped purposefully.  The best way to do that is to figure out what your students already know.  Give a pre-test at the start of each unit and form groups based on the data.  Following up with a post test at the end of the unit will clearly show how much each student learned.

2.  Organize Materials in the Classroom
A clear defined space for math materials makes organizing a breeze.  I organize math work by group.  Each group has a plastic basket.  Math books,  interactive notebooks, and group folders are kept inside.

Keeping math manipulatives together is another way to help organize for Math Workshop.  When materials are kept together students can easily find what they need to be successful at each station.

3.  Plan Ahead 
A clear plan helps Math Workshop run smoothly.  Differentiated lessons that are targeted to each group help to keep students engaged throughout each station.  I use a folder system to keep each group on track.  Work for each group is placed inside the folder along with a set of directions for the group to follow at each station.  Folders are prepped each afternoon before I leave the classroom. Here is an example of the direction sheet that I use.  The direction sheets follow the order of the math stations the group follows.  If you are interested you can check it out here.

I also use my interactive white board to show the order of the Math Workshop Rotations. This is helpful if there are other teachers, teacher assistants, or administrators coming and going throughout your math class. You can find it here.

Check back soon to read more about how I use Math Workshop in my classroom.  How do you organize for your math class?

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