A Week of 5th Grade Reads

Hello readers!

Again, my apologies for waiting so long to blog, but I have been super busy! The life of a teacher is one that requires more hours than the day can produce!

Over my time subbing in the district that I  grew up in, I have made an agreement with a 5th grade students that I would read some new books that came to our town library.

  1. PAX by Sara Pennypacker
  2. The Island of Dr. Libris by Chris Grabenstein


A story that isIMG_8666 bittersweet and contains a valuable life lesson, Pax is a story that touches the hearts of all boys and girls in 5th grade. The story begins with Peter, and the heart breaking moment where Peter realizes that his father is taking his pet fox, Pax, back to the wild in hopes to release him back to his natural habitat.. or so that was Peter was told to believe.

Now that Peter’s father has been called back to serve in the war, Peter decides to go find his pet in the wild. Peter embarks on a hard journey where he learns the importance of acceptance, the value of friendships, and the hard life lesson of letting go.

Rating: 4 out of 5!

The Island of Dr. Libris

If you have a 10-12 year old who LOVES fairy tales, this would be the book for them! Sir William , also known as Sir William to Robin Hood and his merry men, regretfully starts his summer in a cabin with his mom with no tv, no internet, and no friends. Once his iPhone breaks, he is forced to discover the secret library of Dr. Libris, which contIMG_8667ains shelves upon shelves of books that would include Hercules, Robin Hood and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. When reading these books, Billy discovers a powerful connection between the book, himself, and the Island that is a boat ride away from his mother’s cabin.

This story focuses on the magic of Sir William and his newly found friends as they  venture out to the island to discover a variety of fictional fairy tales that seem to come to life when Billy reads a story. What makes Billy so special? Will he be able to use this Island to save his parents marriage? Can he save himself?

Rating: 3 out of 5!

Until next time!

-Ms. L


Literture Circle Building 101

Hello readers!

I am just wrapping up my student teaching experience and I have so much to share!

I started my student teaching experience this fall, which is the VERY LAST STEP towards my dream of graduating college with my degree. Of course, I still have a few other things to do to achieve my ultimate goal (have my own classroom), but this was a large accomplishment for me!

My student teaching experience was a total of 16 weeks. I was placed in a Kindergarten classroom for 8 weeks, and then I was moved to a 4th Grade classroom. I had the privilege to work with some great teachers during my experience and I learned SO much by participating, observing and teaching.

That being said…

One of the things that I was able to do in my 4th grade classroom was lead and plan my very own literature circle. When my cooperating teacher had asked me to do it, I was thrilled! I love reading and this was my chance to prove that I know some stuff about reading.

The book that the cooperating teacher and I had choose was Frindle by Andrew Clements.

Of course, this was my very first literature circle so I had things that worked out really well, but I  also had things that I wish I changed.

Here is a list of things that I found effective for my group of 5.

Post-It Notes:

I used post-it notes in multiple things. One of those ways was to have students write down vocabulary words that they didn’t know and find the definitions to teach the group. For every chapter we read, the students had to find one vocabulary word that they didn’t know or thought the group would not know, write it down on a post-it note, use a student dictionary to write the definition of the word, and place it on the poster for the group to view. The book we studied was based on words and using dictionaries so I wanted to include that interactive process as well. Every student also had a different color of post-it note.

Visual Aids:

As you can see, we used a variety of visuals to help with our books study. I made this poster before the literature circle started to not only teach with, but to keep the students and myself on track. The poster also was aligned with what the students were learning in class during those weeks.


Frindle Poster 4th Grade 2015


Final Project:

I wanted the students to have a final project for several reasons. The biggest reason was that it was my form of assessment to see who did benefit from the study and who needed more work. I also wanted students to have something to keep for our time together. Our final project was a interactive profile that included a character list for the main character, a summary, and a page for the students to explain to those who have not read the book why they should read it.

Book Talk:

I did not have enough time to have a lot of book talk with the students, but we did have time to discuss Nick (the main character) and what was happening to him throughout the story everyday for 5 minutes. I wanted the students to have a lot of time reading.

Google Docs:

I had the students use Google Docs for a couple of things. Every student in the school that I was student teaching in has a Google Docs account, so I was able to create my own through the district thanks to our tech guy, and I had students complete tasks online. I would give feedback to each student and they really looked forward to reading those comments the next day. The students really liked it, and they were able to do some quality work for me.

Task Cards:

I used task cards that I found on TeacherPayTeacher during my book talks to encourage students to think deeply into the text. Some books will have discussion questions in the back of the book. I used those as well.


I didn’t just read to the students during this time. I had the students practice a variety of reading methods such as popcorn reading, silent reading, whisper reading, and partner reading. I had a group of decent readers so this proved to be beneficial.

Of course, the group was not perfect and there are some things I would change:

  • Monitor the post-it note usage: Some of the students that I had got WAY to carried away with the post-its I gave them. I started to monitor when and how many they would need and only give the students that many post-its. For example, if they only needed one post-it for vocabulary, then the student only received one post-it. I should have started that earlier.
  • More time with book talk: I wish I would have given the students more time to discuss and share what they were thinking about the story. The students did not have a lot of time to do this with me. We dedicated 25 minutes to do all of these things.

This was a very quick, easy beginning to developing a literature circle and I I’m very proud of their efforts. Stay tuned to hear about the next book genre we studied during the time I was with them!

Until next time!

Bullying, when does it end? Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

Hello all my wonderful readers!
I know it has been a while since I have blogged, but I am out of college for the summer of 2015, and I plan on getting back into the blogging world as well as completing my 2015 Summer Reading List that seems to be growing by the day!

With that said and done, let’s talk about what I have been reading.

After much delay with completing homework assignments and getting things ready for my student teaching experience in the Fall (which I am pretty excited for) I final finished the first book on my 2015 Summer Reading List. Jodi Picoult’s Nineteen Minutes was a book that I dreaded putting down and stayed up way to many nights during the week getting lost in the life of high school students who had their life flipped upside down in a matter of only 19 minutes.

Nineteen Minutes by Joci PicoultBefore I start talking about the book, I feel the need to express the importance of reading it. If you have ever read any of Jodi Picoult’s  books, you know that she writes stories that are real, and she takes you into a reality that makes you question how you would handle the situation on every page. We see many examples of this, such as in “My Sister’s Keeper,” which was a personal favorite of mine along with “Change of Heart.” What I liked most about Jodi Picoult is that she takes these realities, these stories, and makes it feel as if the story is actually happening in your very own life. Her stories are real, they focus on real issues that most readers do not want to face.

Nineteen Minutes was a book recommended to me by a former classmate and friend, who is also on the path to becoming an Elementary Teacher. She told me that it was a book that every teacher should read, and after reading the first 50 pages I completely agree with her. Any individual who works with kids, whether it be a teacher, a counselor, a friend, and even a parent, should read this book.

Here’s why…

The book talks about Bullying.

Picoult paints a picture of the typical high school setting….different groups of friends (“nerds,” “jocks,” “cheer team,”), and brings focus to a particular student named Peter, who doesn’t really fit into any group and is bullied and teased for most of his educational career. Peter has a tough life, with very little friends and  a thousand enemies as he tries to figure out who exactly he is. The beginning of the book starts with the description of one of the most horrific events I think to ever happen in the United States.

A school shooting.

As Picoult describes this horrific event, she also takes you through the life of Peter who is pushed over the edge and decides to harm and kill many students in his high school. As you find out more about him and the details of his life, the reader becomes sympathetic in a way. Some readers may not be sympathetic towards Peter, yet other readers will see the side of Peter that was hidden away by pain, suffering, and the denial of “fitting in” with his peers.  At the end of the story, Picoult lets the reader decide: did Peter have the right to do what he did at his high school? Was he out of line?

Or my personal favorite..

How does one handle this issue before it becomes out of control?

Sadly, it seems that massive crimes on school grounds are becoming more frequent in this country, and there doesn’t seem to be one set solution on how to deal with a student who comes into a school with a gun planning on harming or killing others. How do kids get to that point? What drives them over the edge?

I believe that educating students on how to deal with emotions and conflict at a young age is a key to developing those skills infuture years. I think that in the public schools today, and even as parents at home, we stress the fact that all kids should like each other and get along. We forget that kids have distinct personalities that set them apart from others. We force kids to like each other instead of teaching them to respect everyone’s differences. We forget to tell our students and kids that it is okay to not like someone and it is okay to be angry or sad with someone as long as you can deal with the conflict in a positive manner. I don’t think that forcing kids to like each other works in a school setting anymore.

Are there other factors to the equation? Absolutely. Kids are a product of their environment. They absorb what they see and hear. Sometimes there are going to be answers to why kids would want to do something so destructive and harmful to other kids or themselves such as bring a weapon to school such as Peter…

Sometimes there are no answers.


Regardless on how you view conflict, or whether you agree with me or not, bullying and school violence continues to be an issue. Nineteen Minutes takes you inside a typical high school that is trying to rebuild itself from rock bottom. The words of Jodi Picoult ask you to listen to the story of Peter, and challenges you to find the answer to why or what causes a teenage boy with his whole life ahead of him, to make a life altering choice that leads to many injuries and too many young deaths.

How will you solve the problem before it is too late?

“As it turns out, kids are more like us than we think: damaged, through and through.” #jodipicoult #19minutes #teachacceptance

Who Teaches Who?

Listen is a verb that is defined by the following four criteria from;

1. to give attention with the ear; attend closely for the purpose of hearing; give ear.
2. to pay attention; heed; obey (often followed by to  ): Children don’t always listen to their parents.
3. to wait attentively for a sound (usually followed by for  ): to listen for sounds of their return.
4. Informal. to convey a particular impression to the hearer; sound: The new recording doesn’t listen as well as the old one.
Let’s examine the first two:
1. to give attention with the ear; attend closely for the purpose of hearing; give ear.
2. to pay attention; head; obey.
A teacher, and really anyone who has had experience working with a child or group of children knows how hard it is to grab their attention. Whether you are trying to show a child something, or teach them a basic formula for the Math test on Friday, children and teens struggle with the ability to pay attention. This is not something that has just developed, but rather it is something that has been going on in the schools for years. Teachers often ask; “why aren’t my students paying attention to my awesome lesson plan?” or “why aren’t my students interested in what I am saying?”
4005631298_50241b41abThere is a big problem that is occurring in our schools today and the problem is listening.  The students however, are not the only ones guilty of the crime. Sadly, the teachers also share some of the guilt. If you are a teacher or have had some experience working with a children or teens in a school setting I want you to ask yourself, do you listen to your students? If the answer is yes, then I am sure you have no difficulties in your classroom and should probably stop reading this post. If you’re not sure of the answer, consider this. If you aren’t listening to the wants and needs of your students, why should they listen to you? Teachers are paid to stand in front of the room and deliver lectures and present lessons to the entire class, but the students aren’t getting paid to go to school. Why would they listen to someone who doesn’t take the time to understand their educational needs and desires? Why listen to someone who doesn’t take the time to get to know them?
This my friends, is what I want to fix in my classroom, and I might have a solution to the problem.
I believe that learning is an individualized process for every student, and not all students learn the same way. Even though I am eventually going to be paid for standing in front of my own classroom and talk about my lesson plans, I will be talking to a brick wall if my students have no interest or desire to learn anything from me because there is no teacher-student connection and they are doing the same exact things over and over again every year. Once that occurs, why teach? What is the point of teaching if all we do is follow in our ancestors foot steps having them complete the same assignments, and delivering the same lectures?
Last time I checked, brick walls don’t have ears,
Through all the lesson plans that I have built, the units I have put together and all ideas that flash through my head at night before bed, one question remains the most important. How do I get my students to like me and the way I teach? How do I get them to like learning? The answer: choice, encouragement, acceptance, and a developed professional relationship with each student in my classroom. If my students are able to choose what that want to learn, and are given a variety of options on how to learn that material, who knows what they will be capable of.
Writing Inspiration, Sheet 1

Writing Inspiration, Sheet 1

This is why I value the ideas and structures of a Writing Workshop when it comes to teaching my students about writing and English. When talking about the “terms and conditions” of teaching writing, there is no set rulebook on how to make all your students the best writers in the world (although how awesome would that be!). Teachers think on their feet, know who their students are, and teach at the level that their students would benefit the most from, in all areas of education. We are not going to create a world where everyone loves English and Literature and Writing; this would be unreal. What we can create is a world full of medical doctors who were able to complete medical school because their medical essays got them the degree, or we can create lawyers who can read case files four hours, making detailed notes as they go along. Writing is not just for English, it is a skill that can be used in all areas of life.
I want my students to have the skills that will provide them with the ability to be flexible writers. Having my students write numerous amounts of book reports, and maybe a biography about themselves and calling that good does not meet Ms. Becca’s teaching standards. If we want our students to be successful writers, then we must give them conditions to where they are writing for a variety of purposes. The book reports, the essays, the letters, poems, journal entries, etc. are all important types of writing that I want to explore with my students in workshop, but those are not the only reasons someone would want to write. The purposes of writing are large; why not take advantage of that and search for those purposes with my students?
Our students are tired of writing poems and essays and book reports. The purposes of writing are becoming so narrow that as teachers, we are not listening to our students and forcing them to have a negative relationship with writing and with learning. I want to avoid this problem in my classroom.
Mr. Becca’s classroom will recognize that learning is fun because I will make it fun! Routine is necessary, and the content will remain somewhat similar, but how I choose to teach the content can be something both new and exciting for my Elementary students. Book reports can become short, fictional stories, analysis papers can become poems, and research papers can become letters if we so desire. Learning doesn’t have to be a negative, boring journey. Learning can be fun, exciting and thrilling if we as teachers can make it happen!

A Theory on Teaching Writing

I can’t tell when, where or how old I was when I said my first words. According to my mother, the first word that I ever said to my father and her was “mom;” a popular first word for a lot of toddlers. At such a young age, my communication skills were very limited, but the fact is that I was able to recognize what the word “mom” meant and give it meaning of my own. My first word experience, along with all other toddlers who communicate for the first is an example of the significant importance of human language.

A-kid-drawing-or-writingLanguage is a big deal.

From the moment we are first brought into the world until the final days of our life, human beings have a need to communicate with others. Whether it is through sign language, oral communication, letters, texting, e-mail, etc., communication is a large part of who we are as people, how we communicate our needs and thoughts, and how we are to be accepted among others. Language is as necessary for the individual to live a long healthy and happy life, as is food, water or shelter. As proven by toddlers all over the globe from babbling sentences to drawing pictures and making marks on the walls of your home, language is a large part of what makes us different from all other living creatures.

If you don’t believe me, let’s take a look at what life would be without the ability to communicate.

We have all been in confrontation situations where one person is angry or upset with the other (*cough* the male in the relationship does something wrong, just one example). In intimate relationships, the need to communicate with each other is a huge element to a successful marriage or partnership as it is will all other relationships. If you can’t talk to the person your upset with, there is no solution to be found.


Yes, this is what usually happens.

What if you wanted to write your girlfriend a love note to express you deepest thoughts and feelings? Or write your husband a quick note to remind him to do the dishes because he always seems to forget that they are sitting in the sink? Or (for the men) your wife or girlfriend takes too long to get ready for a dinner party; how are you going to tell her that she needs to hurry up (tread carefully)?

The point that I want to address first as part of my theory of teaching writing is the importance of communicating and language in a person’s life. Long story short, you can’t live without the ability to communicate. In order to communicate, you need some form of language!

Language can be expressed in many different ways, the two main ways being written and spoken. Anyone that knows me personally can tell you that I love to talk, not only for their own amusement, but I like to share my stories and experiences with others. My writing is a bit different. Sometimes I write to escape and get away from a bad experience, other times I document my feelings and emotions in my writing so that I can deal with difficult situations in a positive way. Writing itself serves different purposes for everyone.

photo(2)In the elementary classroom that I hope to one day be teaching in, writing serves a different purpose for those groups of children than it would for me. The purposes of writing can range from when you are first learning how to form letters in Kindergarten to writing a response to a book that you read in 5th grade; it all varies on the age or development level of your students. However, despite some of the age differences between kindergarten and 5th grade, I believe that I can still show my students the values of written language and how it is necessary for them to become not only better students, but to become good people once their educational journey has ended.

Here are my views:

Writing is a way of thinking. When you write, you are reflecting your own views and beliefs.

Ranging from what my students have learned from their parents to what they are learning on the playground and from me, they will reflect their own beliefs and thoughts in the way that they write.

Writing is personalized.

Every writer is different. Every student is unique in their own ways based on what they think and how they choose to express their individuality. A piece of writing is very much personalized to the author who wrote it.

Writing helps to create who we are as people, even if we are still growing and developing.

I think I will always be a little immature when it comes to certain things. BUT, as a future teacher I do have to acknowledge that my students rely on me to guide them on their journey to becoming an adult, even if it is only for a year. Focusing on every student in my class and how they write will only benefit them in the long run. Writing challenges the individual to rethink, regroup and organize their thoughts in such a way that it makes sense to their audience. When I write an issue that brings to account my personal beliefs and morals, I question myself and what I hold to be true. I expect my students to go through a similar experience that questions who they are as people and what they truly are thinking.

Writing allows room for self-expression.

Because writing is personalized and sometimes brings one’s morals and beliefs into the picture, writing can be a place where a student can express who they are. Both the paper and pen have the power to help students express themselves in a safe, non-judgmental environment away from the world.

Writing, a way of understanding.

Reading and writing work as a pair. What you read, say or write allows you to gain a better understanding of who you are, what you believe, and what you think of the world. Sometimes writing in your personal journal or even taking notes from a class lecture reinforces understanding.


“Becca, how can we create such a passion within or students? How do we teach them the values of writing? How do we motivate them?”

What a great question! After reading Penny Kittle’s Write Beside Them (I highly recommend), I found that I loved almost all of her ideas on how to motive students to love writing.

photo(1)Here is a few tips on what I believe can inspire students to read and write and actually love doing it. These ideas were all inspired from Penny Kittle’s Write Beside Them.

  • Give your students FREEDOM. Give them CHOICES and TRUST them! For too long we have been assigning research papers and book reports, and we expect students to become better writers after writing about topics that they honestly don’t care about. Just let them write.
  • I do understand that grammar is important, but avoid over correcting them too. Kittle does a nice job explaining the damages of over correcting drafts in her book.
  • Give students a variety; let them write poems or essays or short stories.
  • Give them time!
  • Give feedback and allow them to edit/revise their own work. Show them how that can make their pieces better, then trust them to do it.
  • Writing workshop, need I say more?
  • Communicate with your students; ask them questions about their writing. Point out both strengths and weaknesses of their piece.

More than often do we not give our students enough credit for their own intelligence. Even at the younger grade levels.

Don't underestimate your students!

Don’t underestimate your students!