Sunday, January 29, 2017

Spreading Kindness in the Classroom with Kindness Challenges!

Hey y'all! It's Chandra from Teaching with Crayons and Curls! I don't know about you, but I definitely feel like the world needs some more kindness! And, what better place to start than in our classrooms? I mean, we do have the future of the world in our classrooms!

So, in order to spread kindness, I started a {Kindness Challenge} with my students! My group this year is pretty competitive, so they love anything that involves a challenge!

On the 100th Day of School, I sent home a letter and hearts! Students were instructed to complete acts of kindness for people they know or don't know and write about each act on a heart! As they completed the hearts, they had to send them back to school to add to our Kindness Counts board!

As hearts were coming in, I realized that my students really needed a better understanding of kindness and what it actually looks like! So, Amazon Prime to the rescue! I ordered some amazing books and we spent a lot of time discussing random acts of kindness and how they can be kind to others! 

We even made an anchor chart to showcase all of their ideas! I mean, how sweet!!

It was so much fun reading the hearts and what my students were doing to spread kindness. We discussed the hearts each morning during our morning meeting and I loved starting the day in such a positive way! This is definitely something I will continue each year! Since I teach in a multiage classroom and have the same students for two years in a row, I came up with a different version to do next year!

I am in LOVE with the saying "Throw Kindness Around Like Confetti" and I love how perfectly the kindness challenge fits into it! 

For this challenge, students will complete confetti pieces instead of hearts! This makes THE CUTEST bulletin board! Students can write about ways they showed kindness OR write how others showed kindness to them on confetti pieces! 

If you are interested in your own {Kindness Challenge}, you can download the FREE Kindness Counts version here! 

Or, you can get the {Confetti Kindness Challenge} here!

And, just because {KIND is the new COOL}!!!

Happy Teaching and Kindness Spreading!!!


Thursday, January 26, 2017

Integrate Content on Groundhog Day!

It's SO much fun to incorporate the holidays into the classroom whenever possible, but of course, it's also important to ensure you are teaching the standards. Here are some fun activities you can do on (and the week of) Groundhog Day, February 2nd, that will integrate the holiday into your content areas!

Start off the day with an explanation of Groundhog Day. You can grab the free passage below which explains where the day originated in a simple way, and it has a vocabulary/context clue question, a genre question, and two questions where students must apply the text (use evidence) to draw the situations. 

Download a free reading and science integrated activity to use on Groundhog Day!
Click above or click here to download!

Of course, the last two questions will also lend to a great science mini-lesson on light and shadows! Have students take turns practicing being the Sun (hold a flashlight) and being a groundhog (sit on the floor for better position of the light above them). Which way does the groundhog need to come out of its burrow to NOT see its shadow? (Facing the sun or with the sun directly overhead!)

You can integrate a quick graphing lesson by having students take a tally of their peers, then graph results- will the groundhog see his shadow? Do you want a longer winter or early spring?

Next up, share a fun (and INFORMATIVE) mentor text with students to get some ELA skills in, too!

Click here or on the book above to purchase the book using my affiliate link on Amazon.  The few cents I make from purchases add up to fund awesome giveaways!

Groundhog Gets a Say is a very entertaining nonfiction text. Students love it because the creatures in the book have funny, sarcastic comments (in speech bubbles) to say about each other. I love using this book because it teaches students all about marmots (I've even learned a thing or two from the text!) and also is written in a persuasive way! We know that writing genre is always tricky!

If you'd like to get print-and-teach activities for this mentor text, you can get it here from Ideas by Jivey's TpT store. It includes a tally page, fact-recording sheet, turning facts into opinions activity, a brainstorm page to use for opinion writing about another animal, and a quotation marks and tags practice page. 

Happy Groundhog Day!!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Winter Writing Favorites

I'm sure many of you agree with me when I say I have a love/hate relationship with bulletin boards. I don't know about you, but I feel a lot of pressure to make my bulletin boards show work that is attractive yet rigorous! (Tell me I'm not alone!)

To gear all of us up for January/February bulletin boards, I've collected a few of my favorites to share with you.


Who doesn't love penguins? I typically start my informational writing unit with penguin research reports. We do some shared research and shared writing, then students do their own research on a chosen species of penguins. The end project is adorable.

I decided to simplify the process a little bit this year by creating a writing template for the penguin belly, which you can grab for free here. The link also shows how I make the tracers for the penguin body.


We don't get much snow here in Georgia, but students love snowmen nonetheless. It's not new information that a snowman is the perfect subject for how-to writing. Start your lesson off by showing (and singing) Do You Want to Build a Snowman from Frozen (bonus points if you dance along).

Allow students to create their own snowflakes for the bulletin board, which can also turn into a great (yet difficult) how-to writing piece.


Another all-time favorite of mine that is more appropriate for the South is a melting snowman. I love this project because it is so versatile! It's great for a creative narrative, but works just as well for a science writing piece about the water cycle. You can find a whole blog post about this project here.

These are three boards that I've done myself, but I also have to share my favorite winter writing activities that other amazing teachers have done. Check them out below!


Happy creating!

Kristin from School and the City

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Classroom Birthday Celebrations - How do you do it?

Happy New Year Peachy People!

   It's 2017 and I always like to start off a new year with MY BIRTHDAY!! That's right, yesterday was my 47th biggest birthday yet. That other milestone is looming closer and closer every year. I'm already throwing out ideas for that big blowout. We'll see which one takes hold.

   Which brings me to my topic of conversation for today's post. How do you celebrate your students' birthdays? Do you make a big deal about it? Quietly give them a hug and move on?

  I've done a few things in the past, but nothing feels really special enough to make that one kid feel like today is the best day to come to school.

  Here are some of my past ideas:
*I have a large "Happy Birthday" sign that came with some bulletin board kit years ago that I break out and put on their desk before they arrive.

*I bought a stack of "Happy Birthday" postcards and on the day I pass one around the room for everyone to sign and then give it to that birthday student.

*Our school let's the kids come up and get a birthday ribbon on the morning news announcements.

*Give everyone a half sheet of computer paper and let them write out a message to the birthday student and then illustrate the page. We bind them all together for a birthday book.

*Our new principal has finally lifted the ten year ban on birthday cupcakes at our school. Parents are now free to bring in treats for the whole class. Those with allergies, I try to provide a different treat choice.

Yesterday I decorated my room with streamers and gave out party favors with a SpongeBob theme. The kids love telling me about Gary, the snail on that show. So I thought the theme was spot on. I told them we would be celebrating my birthday all week.

If you look back at the first picture on this post you'll see yellow balloons on the ceiling. I filled six of them with little slips of paper with a special prize. I told them that if we had a good day we would pop one and have the prize the next day.

I can celebrate my special day with the best of them, but I want to find some things to celebrate their special day. And maybe that doesn't mean a lot of work on my end.

I did some research online to find the answer. I found TeachJunkie's post with 9 easy suggestions. I like the one about the silly straws.

Realmomnutrition gave some ideas for a food-free way to celebrate. Her VIP for the week idea could help bring in more parents and improve communications.

If that isn't enough here's a Pinterest board with 1000+ ideas for celebrating student birthdays. That recycled crayon Lego mold looks so cool!

What would you try?


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Character Snowmen: A Fun Character Trait Craftivity for Winter

I'm excited to share a fun winter themed literary activity with you today! Have students create snowman characters to show what they've learned about character traits and text evidence. Students choose a favorite book character or a character from a book you've read together. It could even be a historical figure from social studies! 
Have students create a snowman of the character adding details specific to the character they have chosen. Students want to make the snowmen look like the character. In this example, Goldilocks has blonde hair and a purple dress with sequins.

Give each student white circles or let them cut their own and a piece of blue construction paper. You can provide students with crayons, markers, construction paper, stickers, yarn, sequins, felt, etc. to create their snowmen. 
Then, students create character trait snowballs. They write a character trait on each snowball and text evidence to support the traits they've chosen. In this example, the student chose four character traits to describe Goldilocks. She wrote each character trait on a snowball and cited evidence from the text. Depending on the the grade level, you could do this step with students as a whole group or students could work independently. You could also brainstorm a list of character traits together that students can refer to while they work. For students in the lower grades, you can give students a printed list of character traits and they could cut them out and paste them on the snowballs rather than writing their own. 
This is an easy, engaging hands-on way to assess student learning! These make a great display for bulletin boards and hallways too! 

I hope you and your students enjoy designing your snowman characters! 

Have a great day!

-Stacia from Collaboration Cuties

Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Do's and Don'ts of Guided Reading

Since it is about midway through the year, how about we do a guided reading refresh? December was always so crazy, that my reading block was often affected. January was a nice, fresh, blank slate where I was ready to really dive back into guided reading.

Now here is a little disclaimer: These Do's and Don'ts of guided reading ARE my opinion.  Some of them ARE backed by research.  Others are backed by experience. I DID complete my Master's Degree in Reading, so I have been "around the block."  HOWEVER,  as with anything on the internet, take these with a grain of salt when consider your students, your classroom, and your school.

Let's do this!



Without a doubt, the teacher should always be prepared before guided reading.  This means reading the book BEFORE groups begin and creating a plan of instruction. Consider any vocabulary you want to highlight and any comprehension or decoding strategies you can teach and practice. If you need some guidance on what to include, check out these FREE guided reading lessons for transitional readers (Levels J to P) I adapted from Jan Richardson's book, The Next Steps in Guided Reading.



Guided reading time should be relatively short and efficient.  Each group should be about 25 minutes long at the most (this can be hard with the big kids- I struggled with this, too). If you are teaching kindergarten or first, they may be a bit shorter due to attention spans, text level, and just developmental appropriateness.

If you are looking for WHAT to do during this time period, check out my blog post on the "anatomy" of a guided reading group. Lots of freebies are included!

I once heard an awesome Lucy Calkins quote about routine in regards to Workshop.  I am going to butcher it because my memory is terrible! I think she said, "Writing Workshop is deliberately predictable so the unpredictable can happen." She also compared the routine and structure of a laboratory to the classroom. This routine and expected structure allows for the unexpected to spark!  This is just like guided reading.  By having set routines (which in turn, can help keep the group time short), students can use their time to THINK and LEARN rather than wonder about what will happen next!



Text selection is so important in guided reading.  First, make sure the text is an instructional level text for students.  There is no point in pulling students for groups to read a text that is too hard or too easy (UNLESS the focus is solely on fluency- then as independent text is appropriate).

I prefer to use books in groups. I was very lucky to work in districts that valued guided reading and provided extensive leveled libraries for teachers. If your school does not have a leveled library for you, consider finding printable leveled book.  Reading A-Z is a paid membership site with printable leveled books. Our school actually paid for a membership, so you may want to approach your principal.  I have written several leveled texts that are available in my store. All of the ones pictured below are part of a series.

You may also want to consider poems and passages.  I have several in my store and is a fantastic site with leveled FREE passages.

This is a series of texts with multiple levels of the same passage.  I have tons of different topics available in my store.

This is a personal opinion, although Jan Richardson's mentioned this in her book (Yay!).  I don't believe that (larger) chapter books are the best use of guided reading time.

DISCLAIMER: Easy/ early chapter books like Henry and Mudge, Frog and Toad, etc. are not included in this blanket statement because they can be read in 1-3 groups settings.  I am talking about the longer books that will take WEEKS to complete.

Let's break it down.

If guided reading groups are short, then you will only have about 20 minutes of reading time a day.  It will take a million years to finish a chapter book.  If you ask students to read outside of groups so you can "get through" the book faster, and discuss during guided reading groups, then kids are reading an independent level text...which is not guided reading. That is more like a literature circle.

There are times when reading chapter books ARE appropriate such as an interactive read aloud, book clubs, reading conferences, reading partnerships, and literature circles.  I just don't feel the guided reading setting is that time. And to be totally honest, not ALL students were in guided reading groups in my classroom.  Some years I did guided reading groups with some kids and literature circles with others. Not everybody did the same thing some years! I did this (partnerships, literature circles, and guided reading) all during the Reading Workshop.

The difference between literature circles and guided reading (in my opinion) boils down to the amount of support given to the reader. While the names may feel interchangeable, they really are not. This matters because it simply might matter to your district or admin! LOL!

If you are struggling with guided reading, I did a Facebook Live several months ago with more DO's and Don'ts.  You can catch the video here.

If you feel you need more support when planning guided reading, check out my Guide to Guided Reading!

If you would like more ideas from The Primary Peach, be sure to follow us on PinterestInstagram, and Facebook to catch all the freebies and ideas and more!