Friday, October 24, 2014

FREE Resource Friday: The History of Halloween PowerPoint

Welcome to FREE Resource Friday! Our goal is to share some great resources that you can use in your grades 3-5 classroom.

Today we are featuring: The History of Halloween PowerPoint.
Your students will learn about how the holiday of Halloween was created. It is a great way to get them ready for trick-or-treating!

 Download this FREE resource by clicking here.

Make sure to follow us on TPT for more great 3-5 resources!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Signposts: Stopping to Notice and Note While Reading

Digging deeper is always a goal of educators when teaching reading. When the book Notice and Note by Kylene Beers, Robert E Probst was published and put into circulation, teachers took “notice” of a way to “note” different events in stories that helps students engage in meaningful discussion of literature. These events were called signposts. As a reader comes upon a signpost, they are to notice the signpost and note what it means to them.

The first signpost is Contrasts and Contradictions. This is the point in the novel where a character’s actions or thoughts clearly contradict previous patterns, or contrast with patterns the reader may normally expect, suggesting a change or new insight into the character.

The second signpost is Aha Moments. These are moments when a character’s sudden insight or understanding helps us understand the plot’s movement, the development of the character, or the internal conflict he/she faces. Aha Moments are almost always revealed with very direct language from the character such as “l realized…” or “I suddenly understood..” Aha Moments are when the character figures something out and therefore changes the character and often times the plot itself.

The third signpost is Tough Questions. This is a point in the story when the main character-a child or a teen- pauses to ask himself or a trusted other a tough question. Sometimes these questions appear not as questions but as statements, often with the word wonder such as “Iwonder what I should do about…” These moments of uncertainty give readers insight into the character’s development and internal conflicts.

The fourth signpost is Words of the Wiser. This is a point in the novel which a wiser and often older character offers a life lesson of some sort to another character.

The fifth signpost is Again and Again. This is an image, word, or situation that is repeated, leading the reader to wonder about its significance. This repetition may provide information about a character, a conflict, the setting, or about the theme.

The sixth signpost is Memory Moment. This is a scene that interrupts the flow of the story and reveals something important about a character, plot, or theme. It is the remembered event in the story that marks this moment for the reader.

In our future blog posts on this topic, we will be visiting each of the six signposts in more detail. Our goal is to provide you with background knowledge and practical tips to implement this into your classroom.

Make sure to check out our TPT store and the FREE bundle of Notice and Note resources  that will help you teach Notice and Note in your classroom.

Friday, October 17, 2014

FREE Resource Friday: The 39 Clues Maze of Bones Discussion Questions

Welcome to FREE Resource Friday! Our goal is to share some great resources that you can use in your grades 3-5 classroom.

Today we are featuring: The 39 Clues: Maze of Bones Discussion Questions!
If you are looking for great discussion questions with your students regarding this great adventure book, this is the resource you want! These questions all require thought by your students and are open-ended.

 Download this FREE resource by clicking here.

Make sure to follow us on TPT for more great 3-5 resources!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

15 Clever Call and Responses to Use in the Classroom!

It's Wednesday, and that means it is "Hump Day!" You are now half-way through your week, and there is light at the end of the tunnel! We are here to brighten your day with Wise Guys Words of Wisdom!

This feature will be appearing on our blog once a week, on Wednesdays from mid August to mid June. The goal is for you to leave with a smile on your face and hopefully a spring in your step to help you finish off the week of school.

The installment is about Clever Call and Responses!

When we were students, we can remember teachers yelling, turning off the lights, or even slapping a ruler on a desk. Not the most friendly ways to get attention. Actually, they were down right frightening when the sound of a ruler cracked across the desk.

In recent years, we have learned about call and responses. For those of you who are not familiar with this concept, the teacher calls out a phrase, and then the student completes the phrase. It is a great way for students to refocus their attention back on you, the teacher!

Below are some of our favorite call and responses:
1. Gangham-Style
2. Mine-Craft
3. Do You Want to- Build a Snowman!
4. Peanut Butter-Jelly Time!
5. We Are Students -Bump, ba bump, bump, bump, bump, bump (from the Farmer's Insurance commercial).
6. Harry-Potter
7. Click it-Or Ticket
8. Zip it Lock it-Put it in Your Pocket
9. Echo Clap (teacher claps a pattern and students repeat it)
10. Shake Shake Shake-Shake Your Milkshake
11. All Right Stop-Collaborate and Listen (From Vanilla Ice's "Ice Ice Baby")
12. Sportscenter Theme: Da da da-da da da
13. Hey Class-Hey What (say it in different voices and they mimic)
14. Insert school name and mascot: Moorehead!-Mustangs!
15. And probably the funnest one of all, make one up with your class!

We would love to hear what call and responses you use. Please comment below so you can share your wonderful ideas with teachers across the world.

Make sure to stop by next Wednesday for another installment of Wise Guys Words of Wisdom!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Does Minecraft Help Students Become Better Readers?

One word: Minecraft.

If a teacher says that word in their third, fourth, or fifth grade classroom, the students turn their heads, become silent, and are laser-focused on that educator. If you think we are kidding, we aren't! This game has been sweeping across the nation for the past few years, and the momentum doesn't seem to be slowing down.

Minecraft is one of the most popular games ever created for use on either a computer or gaming device. It's basis is the fundamental square shape building block that the main character, Steve, has control over in this virtual world. From building shelter, to growing crops, to even building portals to the Nether (don't ask us too much about this one!), this game awes its creator with infinite possibilities.

So from watching our own children play this game, we can already conclude that it involves math: logic and spatial reasoning. But one interesting thing also happened as our children played, it involved reading as well.

In a recent article published by, Minecraft is helping the current generation of gamers increase their reading skills! Minecraft has released books that are called "handbooks" that allow children to read about topics such as: redstone, combat, the essentials and more. Since the game itself doesn't come with a tutorial, children are seeking out literature to read in order to experience the game at a whole new level.

Teachers are also starting to use Minecraft in the classroom to spark reading as well. A Minecraft-themed monthly reading log is an inspiring way for students to track their reading minutes to reach a goal. The students are genuinely excited to get each monthly reading log and to improve their reading each month as the school year progresses.
There is also a Minecraft Literature circle activity where students use Minecraft-themed daily jobs to help "dig" deeper into novels. Students have specific literature-based tasks each day that better prepare them to discuss literary elements. with their teacher.
As student engage in various literacy activities centered around Minecraft, there is no doubt that increased fluency and comprehension will occur. As long as the game stays popular with kids, it will also be a popular way for teachers and parents to promote the enrichment of reading skills too.

Who would've thought that two teachers would be writing a blog post in support of a video game? Well, the interest and motivation of our own kids has shown us that sometimes the popularity of a video game can be used in schools as a motivator to help students reading abilities too!

Friday, October 10, 2014

FREE Resource Friday: Student Goal Setting for Conferences

Welcome to FREE Resource Friday! Our goal is to share some great resources that you can use in your grades 3-5 classroom.

Today we are featuring Student Goal Setting for Conferences.
For Parent/Teacher conferences, we have students create and write their own goals. The sheet is editable for your use in your classroom!

 Download this FREE resource by clicking here.

Make sure to follow us on TPT for more great 3-5 resources!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Two Studies Supporting Brain Breaks for Improving Thinking

Two Studies Supporting Brain Breaks for Improving Thinking
 Everything in our lives depends on our brain health and growth, especially at formative ages when the brain is still growing. Recently, two studies were published in Pediatrics focused on giving the growing brains of children a break from studying, to improve their thinking skills. One study focused on an after school program that increased non-competitive physical activity and how it correlated to improvement in cognitive function. The second study focused on children recovering from concussions and how giving the brain a rest from both physical and mentally stimulating activities is important for a fast and full recovery. 

The first study (summarized by NPR) focused on active play by observing just over a hundred students who take part in an after school program at the University of Illinois. The program, Fitness Improves Thinking in Kids (FITKids),  was simple – the kids meet after school for 70 minutes of active play with a short lesson on nutrition and fitness. When students participating in the program were given multitasking tests, their responses were more accurate and faster than their peers who did not participate in the after school program. Brain scans during the tests showed that kids who participated longer in the FITKids program showed a greater increase in brain activity than their peers who participated in the program for a shorter duration. 

Conclusion? Small changes in physical activity greatly improves a child's thinking skills, not just their physical health. For teachers this means using activities like Brain Breaks in the classroom, especially on those days with indoor recess. Brain Breaks are pauses during learning to do an activity that doesn't take much, if any, cognitive functioning to perform. See the link here for over 50 Brain Breaks that teachers can use in their classrooms. Parents can do their part too by increasing physical activity as a family – family bike rides, trips to the park, walking the dog, etc.

In another recent study found in the journal of Pediatrics, children ages 15 and under who have suffered a concussion were found to recover in a faster amount of time (20 to 50 days) compared to those children that had homework, watched TV, played video games and even read (around 100 days recovery)!

The study was brought to national attention when a Oregon TV station,, released the article titled: Kids Need to Lay of the Brain Work When Recovering From Concussions.
The new findings are in the report titled Effect of Cognitive Activity Level Duration of Post-Concussion Symptoms. This study suggests that children who have suffered a concussion should lessen their cognitive functioning during recovery if they are to recover at a faster rate.

What does that mean for parents? Plain and simple, your child should lay off the video games, TV, and even reading while recovering. What are alternatives, you may ask? Go for a walk, sit outside and enjoy nature, and most importantly, rest.

What about teachers? Surely, you can't expect educators to lay off the schoolwork? If your child's teacher is aware of the recent study, possibly modifications to assignments in class and homework can be made for the child for a period of time. Also, teachers could incorporate Brain Breaks that don't take much physical or cognitive functioning to perform.

Concussions are a serious medical concern that shouldn't be taken lightly with children. We hope that we have provided some helpful tips for teachers and parents when wondering about children with concussions.