Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Teacher Tidbit Tuesday: My Top 10 Favorite Picture Books



 There are so many amazing picture books available to us, and I think picture books are an incredible resource for teachers at all grade levels! Picture books are short enough to share in a single seating, and can be used to teach all different types of reading skills and strategies. Choosing my top 10 favorite picture books is an impossible task; however, here are 10 of my favorites.

Piggie Pie! by Margie Palatini

1. Piggie Pie! by Margie Palatini is one of my favorite picture books of all time. In the story, Gritch the Witch is looking to make herself a piggie pie, but she must first find all the piggies she needs for the recipe. She has a little trouble in her search, since all the piggies on Old MacDonald's farm found themselves disguises before she arrived. The story is full of allusions, which I teach each year during our Figurative Language unit. 

Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast by Josh Funk
2. Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast by Josh Funk is an adorable picture book told in quatrain poems. The characters are at odds with one another when they find out the fridge is almost out of syrup. They race through Broccoli Forest and Potato Mash Mountain to try and get to the last tasty bit, but discover in the end it is best to be friends (and share.) The clever characters, use of vivid verbs, and juicy adjectives make this book a must for any writing unit.

George vs. George by Rosalyn Schanzer

3. George vs. George by Rosalyn Schanzer tells the story of the American Revolution from both sides. I love using picture books to integrate in our social studies curriculum, and this book is perfect during our study of the Revolutionary War. The book has lots of good factual information about the lives of King George III and George Washington before, during, and after the war. The book is excellent for focusing on looking at multiple perspectives of an event in history. 

Train to Somewhere by Eve Bunting

4. Train to Somewhere by Eve Bunting is another historical fiction picture book. This book gives us a small glimpse into life of a young girl that traveled on an Orphan Train. During the late 1800's and early 1900's thousands of children were sent from New York City to the Midwest to small towns and farms. I like to share this book with my students to expose them to this part of our American history that isn't often talked about in our history books.

Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
5. Stellaluna by Janell Cannon is another one of my absolute favorite picture books. This is story of a bat that is separated from her mother at a very young age and is "adopted" by a family of birds. She learns that not all friends look and act the same all the time. It is a sweet story with a wonderful message. 

 
The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt
6. The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt is such a clever picture book! The story is told from the perspective of the crayons. Each crayon writes a letter to Duncan (the owner of the crayons) to share his/her feelings. It is a great story to teach perspective. I've read it before, and then had the students write from the perspective of other objects (school supplies) of their choice. 

The Junkyard Wonders by Patricia Polacco
7. The Junkyard Wonders by Patricia Palacco is such a special book. This book tells the story of a young girl that moves to a new school and joins a class that is like no other. The students come together after losing one of their classmates to work on special project. This heart-warming story helps to show that everyone is a wonder in their own way. This book is great for discussing theme with students. 

Bad Boys by Margie Palatini
8. Bad Boys by Margie Palatini is a fun story to share with students of all ages. These big, bad wolves are always up to no good. They need to find a place to lay low for a while after causing some trouble. The boys decide to hide out for a while as a couple of wolves in sheep's clothing, but don't worry these bad boys will still get what they deserve! Margie Palatini's story telling is so clever, she's one of my favorite picture book authors. 

Peanut Butter & Cupcake by Terry Border
9. Peanut Butter & Cupcake by Terry Border has adorable photographs to go along with the sweet story. Peanut Butter has trouble going out to make a new friend. He tries out several different combinations before finding his best fit in Jelly. My students loved this story. I used it in one of my book baskets while we were working on identifying theme. Several of them read it more than once. 

The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs! by Jon Scieszka
10. The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs! by Jon Scieszka has been a long-time favorite of mine in the classroom. In this story, the wolf is given a chance to tell his side of the story. I use this book to begin our Fairy Tale Unit on comparing/contrasting stories told in multiple perspectives. We read this book together (I have a class set of this book thanks to Scholastic!) and carefully look at the similarities and differences in how the story unfolds as it is told from each of the different perspectives. We discuss point of view vs. perspective, character development, and write a compare/contrast essay.  After we have done this together, I have the students read other fractured fairy tale to analyze as well on their own or with a partner. 


I'm always on the lookout for new children's literature that I can use in my classroom. I think picture books are one of the best ways that we can teach students new skills & strategies. 

Don't forget to join us again next week for Teacher Tidbit Tuesday! Join us by adding the hashtag #teachertidbittuesday so we can find your posts! 

Melissa



Tuesday, June 12, 2018


I just finished my 17th year of teaching, so my first year of teaching was quite a while ago. I know I was young, and I was excited to be starting out as a teacher. I was sure I was going to make a difference in the lives of so many students. Ha, Ha, Ha. I was young and naive. 

The year I started in my school district about half of us were first year teachers, so my mentor teacher was on her second year (and in a completely different part of the building.) The sweet, amazing principal that hired me for my first job passed away that summer, and I was never able to work with her. We went through 2 part-time principals that first year. So my co-workers and I figured things out on our own. It wasn't easy, but we found our way. 

I remember during my first year I planned out a fancy science experiment for one of my first observations. The experiment turned out to be a total mess, and it didn't go as planned. #rookiemistake 


Setting up the Classroom Requires lots of Help!

It's a little dark, but this was my first classroom.

I've been very blessed to work in an amazing school with wonderful people. I love my job! I don't remember a whole lot about my first year, but those "kids" that I taught are all adults now. I've heard about some of the amazing things that they are doing now, and hopefully I was a small part of what brought them to where they are today. 

Don't forget to join us each week all summer long as we share our Teacher Tidbits. The schedule is below so you can join along if you like, just add the hashtag #teachertidbittuesday so we can find you!



Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Teacher Tidbit Tuesday: A Little About Me!



Today is the first in a series of blogs that I will be completing all summer long. Together with some of my favorite teachers, I'll be sharing some "Teacher Tidbits" each week on Tuesday! 


Today's topic is All About Me. I recently did a post sharing about my teacher life, so I thought use this post to tell you a little bit more about me outside of school. So here are 10 random facts about me!


1. I'm a mom! I have 3 children: Benjamin is 8, Brett is 5, and my daughter Riley is 3. I love having the summer off each year to be home with them! It's part of the reason I went into teaching. I knew I'd be able to have a job that I loved and also have time at home each summer with my family.



2. I have a shopping addiction. It's like therapy for me! I really love seasonal sections in the stores. I love looking at all the cute decor items. Since I started flexible seating in my classroom, I'm always on the hunt for new seating options in my classroom. I like creating a "homey" feeling in my classroom. My favorite stores are Target, Home Goods, Hobby Lobby, and Gap. 

3. I could eat pizza every day. Chicago has some of the best pizza in the country! There are so many different pizza places around our home, it's different every time. 

4. I love Disney. I just think there is something so magical about it. It makes me feel like a kid. I love watching the movies with my kids, and seeing them experience the parks and the magic is so special to me. 


5. My teacher Instagram account has made a huge difference in my teaching. Instagram opened me up to a whole new type of teacher pd. I love seeing what other teachers are doing in their classrooms, and making those ideas work for me. If you don't already follow teachers on Instagram, you need to it right now!


6. I have a husband that is an amazing cook (and he cleans!) I like to cook too, so it's something fun we can do together. He loves finding new recipes to make his own. I'm a lucky girl!

7.  I was born in Germany. My parents met in the Army. We moved to the U.S. before I was old enough to remember anything. 

8. I once tried out for Wheel of Fortune. I was really good at solving the puzzles quickly. I made it through several rounds of try-outs, but didn't end up making it on the show. I haven't watched the show since. 

9. I'm a Scholastic Teacher Advisor this year. I was selected (as 1 of 16 teachers) by Scholastic to take a trip to their office in New York to share my thoughts on their company and what they do for teachers. It was an incredible opportunity that came about because of Instagram. I applied through a post they had put out, and was accepted. I will continue to work with them throughout the 2018-2019 school year. 

 


10. I love reading YA books. I know that I need to read them in order to be current with what my students are reading, but I also enjoy reading them. They are easier and quicker reading for me, which is good because with three children I don't have a whole lot of time to read to myself. My goal for this summer is to finish all of the books on the Rebecca Caudill list for 2019. I'll also probably sneak in an adult book or two and a new PD book. Any suggestions??

Below are a list of our topics for Teacher Tidbit Tuesday. Feel free to join us and use the hashtag #teachertidbittuesday so we can all find your posts! Don't forget to follow my blog with your email so you don't miss any of our fun posts!



Thursday, May 17, 2018

My Flexible Seating Journey

As a teacher, I've always had a few "comfy chairs" in my classroom for students to use during silent reading time. Of course the students were always fighting over who was able to sit in these chairs, and over the years I used a variety of systems to make sure it was fair for everyone. 

Then, when I started hearing about the idea of flexible seating in the classroom a couple years ago I was interested. I decided to add a few extra seating options to my classroom last school year. I still had a desk for every student, but I also had 2 disc chairs, 2 bouncy chairs (for the students that could use them properly,) a tall pub style table with stools, and some small tables with floor pillows. Every single day I would get the question, "Can we work around the room?" The students LOVED it! They enjoyed being able to find a comfortable place to sit and work. It was great for small group work and independent work alike. And, if a student wasn't working I was able to send them back to their desk as a consequence. It was wonderful! My principal came in for my observation and saw the kids in action. They were fully engaged and showed her how that they were actively working in a whole new way. She loved it and supported my idea to further pursue a flexible seating classroom.
Table from Amazon, Stools from Ikea

Square Tables from Ikea, Pink Pillows from HomeGoods


This school year I started with around 10-12 desks, 2 tables with wobble stools, and 2 chairs from Ikea, a small couch (and the options I had already added the previous year.) When the parents came for school supply drop off, many of them commented about how different the classroom was from a traditional classroom. However, they were all very supportive and excited about the idea for their children. The students were all incredibly excited when they saw their new classroom!

Stools from Office Depot, Table and Couch from Ikea

Lawn Chairs from Ikea

White Shelf and Book Shelves from Ikea



At the beginning of the year, I knew I would need to have some organizational plans in place to make sure the students all had a place to store all of their materials. I bought a book box for every student to store all of their notebooks, folders, paper, etc. Each student also brought in a plastic shoe box to hold all of their art supplies. The textbooks were all stored in the classroom. This system worked for most students. There were a few that still struggled to keep organized, so I gave them each a desk to store their materials in, even if they weren't sitting at the desk. 

Book Boxes are Magazine Boxes from Ikea

We also needed to set some ground rules on how students would choose their seats (How often do we change seats? Can I sit anywhere I want?) I let the students be a part of this decision making process since it was new to all of us. We tried many different options throughout the school year. We finally decided that switching seats once a week was what worked best for us (with a few rules about how often you could choose the same seat, etc.)
I think that having the students help create the rules for how we use our seating options really gave them some ownership of the classroom. They would debate the options and explain their reasons why they believed their ideas were best. This improved our classroom community. 

During the school year, we started to rearrange some of the classroom and added a few new chairs. The students decided we didn't need as many desks, so we are now down to only 8 desks. (This is nice for the students that still prefer a desk or students that aren't demonstrating that they can handle their seating choice on a particular day.) 

Chairs from Kohl's


I love having a flexible seating classroom. I think is such an amazing benefit for my students. Please feel free to share your questions!

Melissa  

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

A Little About Me!

Welcome!

I thought I'd share a little about myself in this very first post on my new blog! I'm just finishing my 17th year teaching 5th grade! I've taught in the same school for my entire career, and I love it! The community that I work in, and the kids are so wonderful. I love finding fun ways to motivate my students. I enjoy using room transformations and unique lessons to motivate. 

I am also a flexible seating teacher. I think that my students really do learn best when they are comfortable in their environment. I have several different seating options in my classroom, including desks for the students that want them. 



Reading is my passion. I love to read, and I work very hard to instill a life-long love for reading in all of my students. You can see a little glimpse of my classroom library in the picture above. I also have a few other shelves in other areas of the classroom. Students need to have access to lots of books in order to give them a wide variety of choice in what they read. 

I enjoy sharing about my classroom and teacher life on my Instagram account @5th_is_my_favorite so be sure to check it out! 

I hope you've enjoyed reading a little bit about me, and will continue with me on this new journey of blogging about my teaching life!
Melissa