February 29, 2012

Are You as Lucky as a Leprechaun?

Did you ever stop to think how lucky you are? You might, but your students may not. Here's a fun freebie for St. Patrick's Day or Dr. Seuss's birthday, March 2nd.

Ask your students if they think they are lucky, and allow time for sharing. If anyone says that they are NOT lucky, it's time to read aloud one of Dr. Seuss's classics, Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? By the end of the book, everyone will be giggling, and it will be easy for them to discuss just how lucky we really are!

Next, give students the Lucky as a Leprechaun activity page and ask them to fill up the pot of gold by writing things that make them feel lucky. How about caring friends, a warm place to sleep at night, and the skills they’ve learned? Be sure to provide time for students to share what they wrote with team members or with classmates.

Check out the March Activities Pack for Upper Elementary!
This Lucky as a Leprechaun freebie is a sample from my March Activities Pack for upper elementary students. This resource includes over two dozen pages of lessons, activities and ready-to-use printables for special days in March, including Read Across America Day, St. Patrick's Day, Pi Day, and Spring! You can preview the packet from the March Activities product page on TpT.

I hope you and your students enjoy these resources for March. Never forget how lucky you are!

February 25, 2012

Studying with a Buddy Makes Test Prep Fun!

Buddy Test Prep Freebie

I've never been one to spend months teaching test prep strategies, but I also feel we're doing kids a disservice if we don't prepare them in some way for state testing. A teacher once told me that she considers testing to be a genre, just like fables, science fiction, or poetry. That's just how she presented it to her students, too. She shares strategies to put her students at ease so they feel confident and competent about being able to "show what they know."

When I was teaching, I felt the same way. I wanted to be sure that my students were ready to tackle any test and give it their best. So I came up with a strategy that I call Buddy Test Prep that's both fun for students as well as highly effective. I only used it for a week or two before our state tests, but it definitely produced results! You can download this free resource from my Seasonal Page on Teaching Resources during the spring, or from my subscriber free resources page any time of the year.

For the Buddy Test Prep activity, students follow a specific set of steps, first working alone, then with a partner, and finally with the class. They use a special color-coding system to show whether each answer is their own work or was arrived at with the help of a partner. To make the 3 steps easy to follow, I created a set of student directions (below) that you can display with a computer and a projector. I also included a half-sheet recording form for your convenience.

Download this free Buddy Test Prep activity packet from Teaching Resources by subscribing to my Candler's Classroom Connections mailing list and following the link to Laura's Best Freebies, a page of (you guessed it!) my very best free resources. If you are going to spend a week or more practicing test prep strategies, why not make it fun for you and your students?

February 24, 2012

Story Hat Map for March 2nd

Story Hat Map - the perfect graphic organizer to use on March 2nd, a day when many classrooms celebrate Read Across America and Dr. Seuss's birthday.
Even upper elementary and middle school teachers enjoy an occasional holiday activity if they can connect it to their teaching objectives. The Story Hat Map is perfect for March 2nd, a day when many classrooms celebrate Read Across America and Dr. Seuss's birthday.

Why not read one of Dr. Seuss's more advanced books aloud such as Yertle the Turtle, and use it to teach story elements like characters, setting, conflict, resolution, and theme? Then allow your students to select from a collection of other Dr. Seuss books to read and map out on their own.

This Story Hat Map is one of the ready-to-use printables in my March Activities Mini Pack. It's one of my Seasonal Activity packs, and it includes two different variations of the graphic organizer as well as a blank template you can customize. Check it out in my TpT store where you can preview every page in that pack online.

One reason I love this graphic organizer is that my daughter Wendy drew it for me. I have to say, it's wonderful having an artist in the family! Wendy has her own TpT store now, Digital Classroom Clipart, and I'm her #1 fan!  

Win with Spelling City!

If you love SpellingCity.com, you'll want to read this blog post to learn about a fun cooperative learning freebie and a chance to win a premium membership there! If you don't know about Spelling City, prepare to be amazed!

Spelling City has tons of terrific free resources, but I'll bet you don't know about all they have to offer! Yes, the program is set up to allow you to enter your own words for students to practice and use in games, but there's so much more available on the site as well! In fact, this year the site was officially renamed VocabularySpellingCity.com to show the full range of their features and services.

Cooperative Learning Meets Technology! (Freebie)
Many teachers are already aware of the free spelling activities, but did you know that they have a sentence-writing activity, too? This feature allows your students to use your own spelling words to create  sentences and paragraphs online. I thought this activity was such a nice feature that I created a cooperative learning lesson to use as a prewriting activity before your students get on the computer. We've all experienced temporary brain freeze when sitting in front of a blank computer screen. The Spell & Write Sentences activity combats this problem by having them create sentences orally with a cooperative learning team before they ever sit down to type. The packet includes step-by-step directions for the computer part of the activity, too, so you can use it in a literacy center. The directions are different depending on whether or not you have a free account or a premium account, so I created two different sets of directions accordingly. Download this activity packet from my Spelling and Vocabulary page on Teaching Resources.

Premium Accounts on Spelling City
Speaking of their premium account, you might want to check out all the features they have to offer. Teachers can set up passwords so that students log in under their own names and the system tracks their data for you to access later. You can see who is practicing at home and how they are scoring on tests. Spelling City has graciously allowed me to give away one of their premium memberships here on Corkboard Connections, and the directions for entering are below.

Premium Membership Contest ($49.99 Value)
Are you ready to enter the Spelling City Premium Membership contest? Here's all you need to do:
  1. Follow the Corkboard Connections blog by RSS feed or by email. I'll announce the winner here, so you'll need to follow this blog to know if you win!
  2. Leave a comment below in which you share the word or words that are most frequently misspelled or misused in writing by your students.
Easy, right?  The contest will end on Leap Day, February 29th, at 8 p.m. EST. Don't miss out on your chance to win! If you don't win, you can take a look at a list of options for funding sources on the Spelling City site. Also, if you sign up for a premium account now and use code LCCC, you'll have your subscription extended through June 30, 2013. That's 4 extra months free! You can't beat that!

Do You Have Permission to Pin?

Note: Since I wrote the original blog post a month ago, Pinterest has changed their Terms of Service. I have chosen to leave much of my original blog post below intact because it appears that the new terms still say that we own the rights to whatever we are pinning, but some of the information below is no longer relevant. 


Do you have permission to pin? Or maybe the more important question is, "Did you know that you need permission to pin?" If you're on Pinterest, you need to read this blog post!

Recently, I read a disturbing article, Pinterest Users Need to Read the Fine Print, and I learned that when we signed up for Pinterest, we actually agreed to the following terms:
  • We own the rights to images we are pinning. 
  • We grant full rights to Pinterest to use those images in any fashion! 
Seems like a site that's set up for sharing and collaborating would make these terms more obvious when someone signs up. Am I going to take down all my Pinterest boards? No way! But because I'm now aware of these terms, I have changed how I'm going to use Pinterest. I'm no longer going to pin images directly from someone's site or blog unless I have permission. If you have a blog, be sure to read the whole article to find out how you can give me and others permission to pin. ,

Permission to Pin Granted!
Yes, you have my permission to pin! You may pin any image from Corkboard Connections, from Teaching Resources, or from my TeachersPayTeachers.com store. Please follow my Pinterest boards and repin anything you like to your own boards!

Unless you are a blogger or site owner, that's all you need to know! Just pin away to your heart's content! But if you are a blogger, keep reading ....

Information for Bloggers and Educational Site Owners Only

As I said earlier, I'm no longer going to pin from anyone else's site without permission. So I invite you to post a message somewhere on your blog that clearly specifies what you will permit when it comes to pinning. Make sure that visitors can find your permissions easily so they don't have to contact you to ask. Feel free to place the badge above on your blog to show people that they have permission to pin, and you may link it back to this blog post if you would like. Here's the code you can use to add it to the HTML code in your sidebar:
<center><a href="http://corkboardconnections.blogspot.com/2012/02/do-you-have-permission-to-pin.html" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.lauracandler.com/images/pinRed.jpg" border="0" /></a></center>

By the way, the Link Up below is closed, but these sites have all given permission to pin, so visit them and pin away to your heart's content!

P.S. A few thanks are in order ... Last year I signed up for a course called Teaching Blog Traffic School that consists of 30 social marketing videos for teachers, and we have a super online support group. Thanks to Angela Watson of The Cornerstone for Teachers for sharing the Technorati article with the group. Thanks to Charity Preston of the Organized Classroom Blog who created the course! Finally, thanks to Denise Boehm of Sunny Days in Second Grade for her help with designing the Permission to Pin badge above. If you're interested in learning about the course, you can read about it on my Teacherpreneur page.

February 20, 2012

Create Easy Reading Mini Lessons

Did you know that you can create a mini lesson for just about any reading skill by using a simple 3-step process? All you need is a short read aloud text and a graphic organizer. On Sunday evening, I was interviewed by Charity Preston on Blog Talk Radio about my new Graphic Organizers for Reading book, and I shared how easy it is to create reading mini lessons with this method. In my example, I used the children's book Teacher from the Black Lagoon and the Cause & Effect Rockets graphic organizer my daughter Wendy helped me create. (She's the artistic one!) This is one of the graphic organizers in the book, but since I described it in the sample lesson, I wanted to be sure you could download your own copy. I also embedded the 15-minute recording of the Blog Talk Radio show below in case you'd like to listen to it.

You can find more information about Graphic Organizers for Reading on my Teaching Resources website. Enjoy the show!

Picture Perfect Teaching with Children's Books

By Debbie Clement, Guest Blogger

What a joy to share with you today from my perspective as a previous Elementary School Art teacher evolved now into an author/illustrator of picture books. My most successful author visits to schools unfold when teachers have directed their students to respond to my work prior to my arrival. It is a thrill to see the excitement of students who have ‘studied’ my style and are eager to share their efforts.

I believe that the correct picture book can address and illuminate all manner of educational learning standards and goals. The language arts may be the most obvious connection for the study of picture books by mature readers, yet the appropriate picture book may also easily direct studies of math, science, history, social studies and geography as well.

How can you find the right picture book? Here are some suggestions:
  • Select books based on the strength of their artistic style. In my art-room era, I selected picture books with strong graphics and design as well as those with vivid color, all of which lent themselves to study and interpretation by my students. The dramatic simplicity of Gerald McDermott’s art was always a hit with my upper elementary students. 
  • Search for picture books with a possibility of launching student discussion and creating writing exercises. 
  • Select picture books with an eye toward suitability/universality of subject matter comparing good vs. evil, right vs. wrong. These would make excellent source material to consider issues of bullying and diversity.
Take a look at this work created by third graders for my recent visit to their building in response to my INDIE Award of Excellence picture book winner, Red, White and Blue. Since all of my books' texts are based on original songs I’ve written and recorded, their guitars echoing notes on the staff were especially ingenious.

I’ll never forget the teacher who purchased my picture book, You’re Wonderful, for her eighth grade class. When I raised my eyebrow at the suitability of a picture book for mature junior high students, she quickly responded, “There is no shelf-life for issues of self-esteem. If ever there was a message I want my tween-agers to hear it is the text of your book.”

She went on to explain to me how in her role as math teacher she would have her students examine the geometry in my quilted illustrations. She shared scads of exciting projects that were unfurling in her mind as we shared possibilities. That’s when I realized the power of an enthusiastic teacher. There is potential everywhere.

Whether you infuse your week with the work of household names such as Patricia Polacco and Jane Yolen or reach for the work of Lynn Cherry, Paul Goble, Margaret Hodges, Jerdine Nolen, Joyce Carol Thomas or the lesser known Debbie Clement, you have the opportunity to infuse your ‘academic’ subjects with the Arts. Weaving together lessons to engage all learning styles and intelligence strengths will be certain to fortify the fabric of your classroom.

Debbie Clement is a former elementary school art teacher who now writes books and tours the country for speaking engagements, conferences, and author visits to schools. You can learn more about her books and materials on her Rainbows Within Reach blog. Debbie is an avid Pinterest fan with over 3,000 followers.

February 15, 2012

Book Lovers Blog Giveaway!

What's your favorite short book to read aloud and use in a mini-lesson? Answering that question could win you an autographed copy* of Power Reading Workshop: A Step-by-Step Guide!

The idea for a giveaway came to mind because I need some ideas for a list of short books that can be read aloud and used to teach a reading skill. I decided to ask for help and give away a copy of my book at the same time. If you win and you already have Power Reading Workshop, you may request Graphic Organizers for Reading or another book from my website.   

I should also share that one purpose for the giveaway is to let people know about my Corkboard Connections blog. I've been told by teachers that they follow me on Facebook or receive my newsletters, but they didn't even know I had a blog! I started Corkboard Connections last fall as a place to share some of my favorite strategies as well as to learn from others. So please share this blog post and help me spread the word!

How do you enter the contest?
Entering is easy! You only have to do two things:
  • Follow my Corkboard Connections blog by email, RSS feed, or by using the Google Friend Connect link. Personally, I like to follow my favorite blogs by email because the blog posts come right to my inbox. But some people prefer to use Google Feed Reader or other methods, so that's fine, too. 
  • Leave a comment below in which you share the title of a short read aloud (15 to 20 minutes max) along with the skill you teach with the book. Your comment could be as simple as saying that you use Jack and the Beanstalk to teach character motives. Or you could leave a more detailed comment with specific information about your lesson.
How will a winner be selected? 
The contest will end on Wednesday, February 22nd, at 8 p.m. EST. I'll use a random number generator to choose from all eligible entries, and then I'll post the name of the winner in a new blog message. It will not be announced on Facebook or in my newsletter - be sure you are following Corkboard Connections so that you'll receive that special blog post if you win!

I'm looking forward to reading about your favorite books for teaching reading strategies and skills. I know I'll discover some great children's books as a result of the sharing and collaborating here!

Laura Candler ~ Teaching Resources

*Note: The autographed copy offer is only good in the United States and Canada. If you live outside of those areas, you will be sent the digital version instead.

February 14, 2012

Fraction Spinners Freebie

I recently asked a question on my Teaching Resources Facebook about what teachers need right now, and several of you responded by asking for fraction activities. Fortunately, I have a whole page on my website devoted to fractions, and most items are free!

This Fraction Spinner set is one freebie you'll find there. It doesn't come with directions, so I decided to post a few ideas here and ask others to share their suggestions. There are actually 2 variations of the spinner; one has different denominators and the  other spinner has twelfths as the denominator for all fractions. I changed the image and heading on each spinner slightly so that if you use both of them, your students won't get mixed up.

Click to download these two spinners or go directly to the Fraction File Cabinet page to find them and other fraction freebies. Just print the spinner that's right for your class and use a paper clip and a pencil as shown on the directions.

Fraction Spinner Game Suggestions
What would you do with one of these fraction spinners? They're perfect for creating fraction center games or cooperative learning activities. I suggest having students play with a partner rather than in teams so they'll be more actively involved. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
  • Simplifying Fractions Game (Same Denominator Spinner) - Have students take turns spinning the spinner and recording the fraction. If it's already in lowest term, they score one point. If it needs to be simplified and they do it correctly, they score two points. If they think it's in lowest terms but it's not, they lose a point.
  • Adding or Subtracting Fractions Game - Students spin twice and record each fraction. They also flip a coin. If the coin lands on heads, they add the fractions and simplify. If the coin lands on tails, they subtract the smaller one from the larger one. Students score a point for each correct answer. Because there's no answer key, both players will have to work the problem or one can check with a calculator that handles fractions.
  • Comparing Fractions Game - Each student spins the spinner once and records his or her fraction. Players compare fractions and decide who has the larger fraction. The person with the larger fraction for that round wins a point. They continue playing until one person scores 10 points.
  • Ordering Fractions Game - Students spin the spinner 3 times and record all 3 fractions. They rearrange the fractions so that they are in order from least to greatest. If the other player agrees on the arrangement, the player scores a point. Continue playing until one person scores 10 points.
I love how easy it is to take a simple item like a fraction spinner and create lots of different math games. How would you use these spinners in your math class?

Teaching Resources 

February 13, 2012

Simple Steps to Classroom Book Publishing

Note: The free webinar referred to in this blog post has already taken place. You can view the recording on the Studentreasures page.

Did you know that you can have your class publish a book for free? Here's one that my class did a few years ago, and it's something that I will always treasure. So it's only fitting that the company that published our book is called Studentreasures! Each student created a page for the book and we mailed it off to be bound as a book. Parents have the option of ordering a copy, and those sales keep the project free for teachers. You can get more information and sign up to participate by visiting the Studentreasures website.

I love this project so much that I've offered to do a free webinar next month to share this information and take the mystery out of book publishing. I'll walk you through the entire process and show you just how easy it is to get involved. I'll also be joined by several other teachers who will be sharing their own tips. At the end of webinar we'll do a drawing for three $50 gift cards to Scholastic!

Simple Steps to Classroom Book Publishing will be held March 6th at 8 p.m. EST. Visit the registration page to sign up, even if you aren't sure you can attend the live session. We'll send you the recording if you miss it. However, you must be present if you hope to win one of the $50 gift cards! Registering for the webinar will also sign you up for my Candler's Classroom Connections newsletter, so you'll get an extra bonus if you aren't already receiving it! If you are interested in the class book publishing project, there's no need to wait for the webinar to get started. You can go straight to their website and sign up right now!

Laura Candler
Teaching Resources

February 11, 2012

Bio Poems for President's Day

Integrating Social Studies and Literacy  

Presidents Day is celebrated in February, so it's the perfect time to have your students write President Bio Poems! This lesson is also a great way to sneak a little research and creative writing into your social studies curriculum!

Bio Poems Made Easy is a free teaching resource that I created several years ago to teach students how to write bio poems about themselves, and it can easily be adapted and used in many different content areas. This freebie includes complete directions for the basic poetry writing assignment, as well as two graphic organizers for brainstorming and planning. For this activity, I created a special President Bio Poem graphic organizer with the specific categories needed for this assignment.

Tip: It's best to have your students write bio poems about themselves prior to the President Bio Poems lesson so they will be familiar with the bio poem format.

President Bio Poems
Before this lesson, download and print one copy of the free President Bio Poem graphic organizer for each student, and write the names of well-known presidents on slips of paper.

To start the lesson, ask each student to draw out the name of a president and write that name on the line at the top of the graphic organizer. Follow the suggested lesson plan described in Bio Poems Made Easy, but tell your students they will be writing bio poems about their presidents instead of about themselves. They will start by filling out the boxes on the graphic organizer using information they learn through research. This task involves quite a bit of higher level thinking, because students not only have to gather information, they have to analyze what they've learned to decide where to write their facts. Specifically, they will be searching for information in these categories:
  • Adjectives that Describe the President
  • Who lived... (where? when? details about childhood)
  • Who said.... (famous quote)
  • Who cared about....
  • Who was determined to....
  • Who refused to....
  • Who made a difference by . . . 
  • Who is remembered for....

President Bio Poems - Lesson Variations
Completing the graphic organizer might be a bit of a challenge for some kids, so you may want to let your students work in partners. They can each conduct their own research and then collaborate to complete the form and write the poem. After students complete their poems, they can also create "word clouds" to display with their poetry. Be sure to allow time for students to share with the class!

Presidents Day Spelling Trivia
By the way, did you know that Presidents Day is not the official name of the holiday? It's actually George Washington's Birthday! Over time, the public began to refer to the holiday as one that honored all the presidents which has caused confusion about its correct spelling. Many refer to it as Presidents Day (without an apostrophe), but others insist that the plural possessive form, Presidents' Day, is the correct way to spell it because it refers to more than one president. But does it? If the holiday officially honors George Washington, maybe it should be the singular possessive form, President's Day! How do YOU spell this holiday? The good news is that whatever spelling you use, no one can say that you're wrong!

February 3, 2012

Heartfelt Causes & Effects

Heartfelt Causes and Effects is a literacy lesson with free printables to use when reading one of my favorite books, Somebody Loves You Mr. Hatch. Having kids fill out the rocket-themed Cause and Effect graphic organizer is a great way to teach them how their words and actions affect others. Perfect Valentine's Day activity!
Last week I read an adorable book called Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch. I couldn't believe that it was published over 20 years ago! It's about a lonely man who receives a Valentine candy heart with a card that says, "Somebody loves you." His whole demeanor changes and, as a result, he develops many friendships. But then he finds out that the candy heart was a mistake, and he reverts to his former quiet self. Of course the story has a happy ending, but you'll have to read the book to find out what happens!

Anyway, as I was reading the book, I thought about how our words and actions can impact others in both positive and negative ways. A smile or a kind word can go a long way to brighten someone's day. I wanted to create a reading lesson to go along with the story, and I thought it would be the perfect text for exploring cause and effect - both in the book and in our own lives.

Heartfelt Causes and Effects is a literacy lesson with free printables to use when reading one of my favorite books, Somebody Loves You Mr. Hatch. Having kids fill out the rocket-themed Cause and Effect graphic organizer is a great way to teach them how their words and actions affect others. Perfect Valentine's Day activity!So I created the Heartfelt Causes & Effects graphic organizer from the Cause and Effects Rocket graphic organizer in my newest ebook, Graphic Organizers for Reading: Teaching Tools Aligned with the Common Core. First, students find three different cause and effect situations in the story. Then they write each cause on one rocket's flame and its effect on the body of the rocket. The rocket theme helps them understand cause and effect relationships because the exhaust (or flame) released from the end of the rocket makes the rocket move forward.

In addition to creating the graphic organizer, I wrote a complete lesson for using Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch with your students. Click the title of the book to find it on Amazon where you can review the reviews and learn more about it. Download the entire lesson with printables from the Seasonal page on Teaching Resources during February or any time of the year from Laura's Best Freebies, a page with over 75 freebies of my very best free resources for teachers. I hope you enjoy the lesson!

Disclaimer: This post includes an Amazon affiliate links at no cost to you.