Don't Break the Bank for Books

I love when my students read high interest books at their independent reading levels. But sometimes it is hard to find enough copies for my small reading groups. I may easily find two or three copies, but I usually need enough for a group of five or six. Over the years I've found a few ways to find enough copies of books without breaking the bank!

Do you send home book orders with your students? If you're not already sending them home, now is the time!!  Click HERE to request what you need to get started!

Scholastic gives you points for every dollar spent each month! With those points you can get free books. That's right, FREE!!! And Scholastic offers a lot of popular books in sets of 6, which are perfect for your small groups! And they always have the best coupons!! So, you can not only use your points, but you practically get $10 in free books every month! I have used Scholastic book orders over the years to really build my classroom library as well as my small sets of books! They also allow parents to order right online, which is so convenient & the kids love when book orders are sent home!! Scholastic always sends a few extra book orders too (okay, sometimes it gets excessive) but I love to use the extras to teach lessons on genre or summarizing.

If you're new and just signing up, ask a teacher friend for their referral code. They'll receive points for referring you. And then you can reach out to others to tell them how amazing book orders are & use your own referral code!

You can grab a free "teacher recommendation" sheet below to send home some of your favorite books offered each month!  You can write write on the slip before copying them or personalize for each student!
This summer, get out those classified ads and check for garage sales! Many times, right in the ad it will state that it is a retiring teacher. I have hit the book (and storage bin) jackpot at retiring teacher garage sales! You may not get a set of books, but you may find some good books to add to your library while you continue to hunt for more to complete the set.

Check for local virtual garage sales on Facebook as well. You can ask within the group for a title you're looking for or keep your eyes open for books your class might enjoy!
If you find a "good" good will, you may hit the jackpot again. But it's hit or miss so it doesn't hurt to call ahead if there's a particular book you are looking for.
I heard about thriftbooks from Katie @teachruncreate on Instagram. Thrift books is a site with cheap new & used books & free shipping on any order over $10. This site is perfect for small sets of books or to round out your incomplete sets!
Are you in a BST teacher group for your area on Facebook? You can ask for titles you are looking for and hopefully someone in your area will have what you need!! You can trade if you have something you are looking to get rid of or just buy at a cheap price!
If you are looking for specific books, call your local library! My library will do a search within our county & gather all copies in one location, I just need to pick them up! No searching or anything, they're right there for me to checkout. Call your library & see what is available. You may be able to find books online easily too!  (But when they are borrowed from my library using my own library card, I do not allow students to bring them home.)

You can also talk to your school librarian as well, there may be copies of the books you're looking for right in the library at your school! When I am looking for specific books our librarian will contact all other libraries at schools in our region. They send them through the region-wide pony mail system & it usually just takes a couple of weeks so I need to prep a bit in advance. Ask your librarian, he/she might be able to contact other schools for what you're looking for!
When you need just a few copies of a book don't be afraid to ask the students in your class if they have copies. They might have a copy at home from an older sibling or maybe they've ordered from previous book orders! I've also had wonderful parents take out books from their local library too! 

And of course...ask other teachers in your building too!! 

I have used all of these methods to help build my classroom library as well as my small sets of books. Thinking and planning ahead & choosing books for small group instruction & book clubs gives you time to prepare & gather the books you need! I hope this was helpful! 

Happy Teaching!

You can check out my book club pack that I use in small groups here.

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End of the Year Reflections

The end is near, my friends! It's so close you can almost taste it! I know you're tired. Like, really tired. Like, end of the year teacher tired. And there's no tired like end of the year teacher tired, am I right?

While the end of the year is exhausting, it's also the perfect time for reflecting. You are probably having your students reflect on their year by creating memory books; reflecting on what they've learned this year, their favorite memories, and the fun they've had. Now it's your turn!

At the end of the year, I like to sit down & reflect on the things that worked, and the things that did not work. Taking the time at the end of the year, even when I'm tired & feel I cannot add one more thing to my to do list, makes it easier for when I'm in full on summer loving-flip flop-mode & it is time to return to the classroom. I make a few lists for myself to reflect on my classroom management strategies, classroom setup, small group management & classroom supplies. This makes the return to school much easier, because let's face it, as much as I think I'll remember the little things, if I don't write it down, it's long gone!
Each group of students is different & because of this, management strategies change from year to year, sometimes even within the year! Take a minute & think about the strategies that were successful throughout the year and even in those last few months, when I'm sure you had to change things up a little bit! Noting changes, strategies, successes, & flops will help as you prepare for next year. And consider what you'll need to get in place for next year; do you need any new supplies, do you need to make any copies? Take care of what you can now, you won't regret it later! 

I use a classroom economy & at the end of the year I always copy student check books for the next year so it is one less thing to worry about during the back to school rush!
I also always think about how the classroom setup was beneficial for myself & my students & how I can improve it. Take a quick look around your there anything you did NOT use this year? Pack it up, bid it adieu, and send it on its way! If you have not used it recently, you probably will not use it in the future. 

I did a major overhaul in my room over the past few years & getting rid of filing cabinets, old books, shelves & papers that I did not need freed up so much space in my room! I am reclaiming my space. And you know what kids love to take home? Your old stuff! 

After taking a close look at what I can get rid of, I draw out a diagram of how I'd like my classroom set up the next year. This always comes in handy & makes me really think about where & why I place things in my room. I know I will definitely move one of my tables next year, it didn't leave easy access to my whiteboard. And I'll leave my writing center where it is because it gave my students a quiet place to write. And I loved having an open space for class meetings & discussions this year, so I'll be sure to keep that space clear.

Reflecting on how my small groups functioned throughout the year is so important to me. Getting to the point in the year when your groups can basically run themselves is an amazing feeling!! And at the beginning of the year, you sometimes feel like it will never happen! 
Take a few notes; what changes did you make throughout the year & what worked out well for you? I always want to learn from my mistakes & make sure I have the tools I need to make my small groups successful each year. 

The past few years I have worked hard to get a math workshop in place that does not feel like I'm doing math all day (you know that feeling, right?). I will definitely be reflecting on the changes that I made throughout the year to get my math workshop running so smoothly. What works for your small groups & what can you eliminate?
I know how you're feeling right now...where are all the pencils? Seriously, where did they go? The end of the year always means that supplies are running low, just like your tolerance for missing supplies! You may have implemented a new pencil system to alleviate the problem or found a way to store supplies that prevents the ever so imminent supply drought. Write it down! Note what's working, you'll thank yourself later.

I tried to have group pencils this year & each group only had a certain number. It did NOT work. I will definitely be going back to each student being responsible for their own pencils through a pencil challenge; the group challenge was a flop! A big, huge flop!

Keep track of what supplies are low & make a list; add those things to your student supply list for next year. Any supplies that are old, dried out, worn out, or know who to give them to, the kids!! Their parents will love this reflection process you're doing! 

These are just a few simple things that you can do now to leave you & your room refreshed & ready for a new year.

Here are a few templates to help you get organized as you reflect on what was working for you this year! Click below! I'd love to know if you find these helpful!

Check out more end of the year activities here:

I hope you have a wonderful end of the year! Happy teaching!


Three Ways to Engage at the End of the Year

The end of the year is quickly approaching and as testing comes to a close (FINALLY!) and the weather gets nicer, it becomes more difficult to keep students engaged everyday. Here are three things that I like to do at the end of the year to keep the students engaged while still having fun and learning...
 When the weather is nice, no one wants to be inside and it's hard to keep student's attention. Take your lessons to the sidewalk with chalk! Students can work independently or in groups; give each student a square to work in and chalk becomes way more fun than pencils! This was a lesson on complementary angles that I took my students outside for.  They worked out each problem on the sidewalk and then wrote their answers in their books.  We moved from one square to the next to check friend's work too.  Students were up and moving, loving the outside air, and learning a sometimes difficult, win, win!!
Anything that you would have students use white boards for, or even paper for that matter, can be done on the sidewalk! And students love showing their friends & families at dismissal the work they'd done on the sidewalk. It's a great way to get outside for some quality learning.  And once it rains, you have a clean slate to start again.

Take your class outside for snack time, read aloud, a little extra playground time, a nature many possibilities as the weather starts to change.  I know that by this time of year I'm ready to get outside and I'm sure the kids are too!
The end of the year is the perfect time for PBL. A great idea to practice researching and gathering information, reporting and presenting the information is to implement Genius Hour. Genius Hour will give students a chance to report on something that they are passionate about.  And when students are given their choice of topics & projects, they're sure to stay engaged!  My students always LOVE Genius Hour and then they love watching their friends present too.  You can check out a quick video about Genius Hour HERE.
Because, really, who doesn't love a party?  Bribing...I mean, using a behavior the end of the year is a great way to keep your class engaged because again, who doesn't want a party! And at the end of the year there are usually lots of popsicle and lemonade breaks already, so why not make it an incentive?  When students are on task, showing their best behavior, working well together, following class and school rules; you can add a letter to your board.  When the word "lemonade" or "popsicle" is complete, have a party!  You can check out this freebie HERE.  There are two choices with this freebie: popsicle and lemonade.  
The end of the year brings so much fun and excitement but it can be overwhelming too, for you and your students!  Make sure to keep your students engaged as you push through to the end of the year!  You can check out other end of the year products I have available in my TpT Store!
I hope you have a wonderful end of the year with new projects, engaging learning, lots of sun, and plenty of fun!

Happy Teaching!


Celebrating Poetry Month

Do you celebrate National Poetry Month in your classroom?  I love teaching poetry and take the month of April as an opportunity to really dive in to poetry full force to help students really develop a love of reading and writing poetry.

Think about the daily writing that happens in your's probably very regimented with students following a writing prompt, answering a constructed response, responding to what they have read.  I'm sure you always hear: how long does this have to be?  How many sentences do I have to write?  Poetry gives students freedom in their writing that they are not used to...and that can be scary for them.  But also a lot of fun!  There are so many ways that you can get students reading and writing poetry and I have a few activities that I always love during Poetry Month.
Setting up poetry centers in your classroom is a great way to get students reading and writing different kinds of poetry.  There are so many ways for students to explore word choice, line breaks, stanzas, and forms of poetry.  And the more that students read poetry, the more comfortable they will be writing poetry.

I love to have my students pull inspiration from all around them in our poetry centers.  We take a nature walk and pick up objects from nature along the way and add those items to a center.  I also have students bring in newspaper or magazine articles so they can use current events as inspiration for blackout poems (blacking out around words that will stand out as the poem) but also free write about the topics.  Students can create heart maps to think about how things that they love in their everyday life can become inspiration.  Inspiration is all around us when we write!  Poetry is the perfect time to explore it!
To help students get used to writing poetry, I try to choose forms of poetry that follow a format.  Writing a cinquain or couplets gets their feet wet with poetry because they follow a certain form of writing but they still have the freedom to find their inspiration.  And as students explore different forms of poetry they notice line breaks, stanzas, tone, rhyming patterns and more as they are reading and writing their poems.  Students have a hard time with line breaks when they read and write poetry, but like I said before, the more they read and write, the more comfortable they become!

There is a wonderful site that explores many different forms of poetry: Read Write Think gives students the opportunity to different forms of poetry.  It is a great site that walks through step by step writing.  I also like to offer students a chance to explore Shel Silverstein's website where they find information about Shel Silverstein, can read his poems, and also play games like "Name that Poem."
To encourage reading poetry at home, I send home a Poetry Pack where students read poetry books and poems that students have written in class.  They write their favorite poems and respond in a class journal.  This is a free resource that is available in my Free Resource Library.  Click the image above if you would like to subscribe and receive this free resource as well as many more!

Here are a few poetry books that I love to share throughout the month as well...

I hope you enjoy exploring poetry with your students!  It's a wonderful way to welcome spring and warmer temperatures!  As the year begins to wind down, I always love the creativity that comes out while students read and write poetry!

Happy Teaching!

You might like to check out these poetry resources that I have available in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store:


Please note that this post does contain affiliate links, which means that if you choose to purchase products linked in this post, I will receive a small commission. 


Using Eggs to Engage

This time of year is always a fun time in the classroom; by now, the kids have learned to work independently & your classroom is like a well oiled machine, it could practically run itself! While everyone may have a little bit of spring fever, they're ready to go outside, ready for nicer weather, and especially ready for spring break; I always like to do some fun & engaging activities to keep everyone on track. And plastic eggs are a cheap (and fun) way to get the kids up & moving while having fun learning & reviewing! Here's a few ways I like to use plastic eggs that you can try in your own classroom...
No matter how old they are, kids love a good old fashioned egg hunt!! It's definitely a fun way to engage students & there are so many things you could put inside the eggs besides candy...although there's always room for candy too! 

1. Writing Prompts: Write short writing prompts on paper & slip them into the eggs. As students find the eggs, they can pull out the writing prompt, find a spot & write. You can put the same prompt in all of the eggs or do a variety of prompts so each students' writing is different.
2. Word Problems: Create word problems to put in the eggs. This is a fun center that you could incorporate into your math rotation or as an activity students can do as they finish their work. Students can find an egg & then work to complete the word problem. When they're done, my students love to hide the egg again & then find a new one! They're up & moving & they have motivation to complete the task so that they can hide the egg & find another.

3. Crack Open Sentences: I love to fill the eggs with short or incomplete sentences that students can "crack open." Students can find the eggs, crack them open (literally) & find the sentences inside. They have to work to make the sentence "juicier" by adding in more vivid words & details. For example, they may find a sentence that reads, "It was a cold day." It's their job to spice it up! "The chill sent shivers down my spine when I stepped outside!"  When they finish they can hide their egg & find another!
4. Rewards: I love to fill the eggs with special classroom rewards & hide them. You can have students choose an egg when they exhibit good behavior or work it in to your current reward or behavior system.  My class has a class economy, so the eggs could also be added into our store!

5. A QR Code Surprise: If your class is like mine (and if you're like me) then I'm sure they love QR codes!! You can make QR codes & put them inside the eggs. There are so many possibilities with QR could use writing prompts, math problems, link to a website to help research for a social studies or science topic.  You can do anything with QR codes, and your students are sure to love them all!
With eggs that come apart in two pieces, what better game to play than matching! There are so many things you could put on the eggs to match, and the kids will love finding the matching pieces on their own or with partners! All you need is a Sharpie & eggs! 

1. Root words: On the tops of the eggs write a variety of prefixes and on the bottoms write a variety of root words. Students can match prefixes & root words & write the word's new meaning.

2. Math facts: A quick & easy matching game to play is to write math facts on the eggs. You can write any sort of facts: multiplication, division, equivalent fractions, decimal-fraction equivilants, so many possibilities! Put all the eggs in a basket & let the matching begin!

3. Punctuation practice: Another quick prep game is to write sentences on the eggs with missing punctuation. Students will have to figure out the missing punctuation & match to the sentence. 

4. Easily confused homophones: Some examples that I use their, there, they're; your, you're; hour, our, are...I write the homophones on the tops of the eggs & sentences on the bottom with a blank. Students have to match the homophones to the sentences properly. 

There are so many fun things to do using plastic eggs, and they are such a cheap resource to use! And you don't have to buy a ton of eggs; a quick tip that I do is use hairspray to erase the Sharpie from the eggs! It works so well, and not just on the eggs, it removes Sharpie from most surfaces. 

Do you use eggs in your classroom? What fun things do you do when spring is in the air? 

I hope you enjoy these fun springtime activities!

Happy teaching!


3 Tips for No Stress Test Prep

It's that time of year again, we turn the clocks ahead, the days become longer, spring is in the air...and testing season is upon us!  Dun, dun, dun.  The dreaded words that seems to sneak up on us...test prep.  When I first started teaching, I would stress out because I hadn't opened the test prep workbooks that my school had ordered.  While other teachers were working their way right through them, mine were still sitting inside the cabinet.  Oh, that big, yellow, thick workbook filled with page after page of black and white passages with question after question filling the pages; multiple choice, short answer, extended response...the Groundhog Day of teaching manuals!  Do you know why I hadn't taken them out of the cabinet?  Because I disliked those books as much as the kids did! 

Giving practice tests from a workbook was not why I became a teacher!  I was here for the "a-ha" moments, the fun stuff, the hands on!  Did I really need to use this workbook?  Soon I realized that no, I did not need a workbook.  I realized that test prep should not be approached as simply preparation for the test but with the thinking that my students should be learning skills that enhance their learning and understanding far beyond the test.  I could provide my students with the necessary tools and skills they would need to be successful on standardized tests without the "drill and kill" practice tests.  I could integrate test prep into our curriculum while still (gasp!!) having fun and learning new skills they would benefit from beyond the test.
I have 3 test prep methods that you can use in your classroom to help students prepare for the test as well as develop their study skills for the future. 

I like to have students use classroom magazines or passages that relate to a topic we are covering in Social Studies or Science.  This keeps the reading relevant to what we are learning and helps keep students interested.
There are a lot of things that get students excited.  Group work is one of them.  Getting up and moving around the room is another!  And do you know what students love more than working in a group while moving around the room?  Writing on chart paper!  Put up a piece of chart paper, pass out some fancy markers that smell like licorice, and watch those eyes light up! 

I write a question on a piece of chart paper and have enough for each of my groups.  I then give each group a set of markers and they use a different color marker for restating the question, answering the question, providing evidence from the text and wrapping it up.  They work together and take turns; each time they switch the marker color, a new group member does the writing.  They work together to build the best answer and make sure to include each part of the answer by taking turns and changing colors.  When they are finished, I have each group share their written answer while others provide constructive feedback.  The key word=constructive.  (You can find a free poster to encourage constructive feedback below!)  Students can learn from each other and how different each group's answer is.  They willlearn from the way others restate and use evidence too.
Another way to have students work in groups is to give each group a question and have each student answer the question on their own.  After each student has completed their answer, have them work together to really pull apart each of their answers to combine them for one SUPER answer!  In doing this, they are learning what their strengths are and they also start to realize what they may need to work on.  Maybe they notice their evidence could be stronger, but they learned what they could add in and how to make it stronger by looking at the new and improved SUPER answer! 
When students have an understanding of the types of questions on the test, they have a better chance of choosing the right answer.  You can teach your students the difference between literal questions, the "right there" questions they can find right in the text; and inferential questions, the "in your head" questions that require some thinking.  Once students understand the relationship between the question and the answer they are looking for, it will make determining the answer much easier! 

One way I like to practice the types of comprehension questions is to have students read a passage and then have THEM create questions based on what they read.  They must decide if those questions are literal or inferential.  You can have students work in groups with different passages and then have groups switch to try to answer the questions.  Students love having the chance to "be the teacher" and they will learn to analyze the questions in order to find the best possible answer.

Lastly, talk about the test!  I love to read picture books with my students and when you have been testing or prepping for the test, students will love the time when they can wind down and listen to a good book!  A few of my favorite books to read aloud are: Testing Mrs. Malarkey, Beautiful Oops, The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes, The Most Magnificent Thing, Hooray for Diffendoofer Day, Wilma Jean the Worry Machine and The Big Test
Open up the dialogue in your classroom so that students feel comfortable asking questions about the test and discussing test anxiety.  Help students form a growth mindset when thinking about the test and discussing it.  Using positive and encouraging words at home and at school will have a big impact on your students!  And as testing approaches, you can do a variety of things to keep student's spirits high.  I love this idea from Katie from TeachRunCreate on Instagram.  She sent each student a hand written note in the mail so they would receive it before the test!  Ashley, the Texas Lone Star Teacher, has a free "Words of Encouragement" resource for parents, past teachers and classmates to send encouraging words.  More Time 2 Teach also has a wonderful free resource for parents to send in some notes of encouragement for their child.  You can leave a note on the students desk, have a fun breakfast before testing begins, or plan a fun activity for when testing is over too! 

You can grab these free motivating sticky notes for student's desks HERE!
What else do you like to do to prepare for testing season?  I hope you found a few new strategies to use in your classroom! 

Happy Teaching!

If you would like a free Question Analysis activity, you can subscribe to my newsletter HERE.  You will receive a free set of growth mindset exit tickets and also gain exclusive access to my Free Resource Library!
You can check out these freebies in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store.  Send home a brochure to parents with some testing tips and also hang a different version of "Do not disturb" on your door while you are testing!
You might also be interested in these products to help students with important test prep skills in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store.

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