Favorite September Read Alouds for the Primary Classroom


I absolutely love September in the classroom. The beginning of the school year brings a month of community building, fall, and all things apples!

Here are some of my favorite read alouds to enjoy all month long, and some ways I incorporate them into different lessons.




This book is fun to read during the first weeks of school. Amelia Bedelia is a character that your students will love visiting again and again!

Whether she's hopping off the bus, or gluing herself to her seat, Amelia finds herself on the first day of school with feelings of anticipation and excitement.

It's relatable for any student or teacher during the first few days back to school.

If you're using this as a Mentor Text for a poetry lesson, I have a great activity in my TpT shop to go with it! Your students will love creating a class book of idioms.

Idioms Activity by Miss Clark's Spoonful on Teachers Pay Teachers



"There's something peculiar about that plant!"
is a phrase your students will love reading throughout this story.

As Cassandra (the main character) starts school, her mother wishes she could go back to second grade again! So naturally, she disguises herself as a plant... a perfect tie in to Miss Gardner's lesson on plant facts! Overall, this is a funny and super lovely story about the relationship between how plants need love and care, and the love any parent has for their child.

This is a very fun Mentor Text to use for lessons on expanding vocabulary! With words like peculiar and ridiculous being repeated throughout the story, students can use context clues to determine definitions. I also love to encourage my students to use them in their Word Collectors so they can use them in the future!




This book is actually a realistic fiction text from the Scholastic Guided Reading Program, level E... but it can be used as so much more!

The story beautifully and simply follows two friends as they demonstrate activities that can be done in the Fresh Fall Leaves. In addition to building foundational skills like retelling the order of activities (jumping in the leaves, raking the leaves, etc.), it's a fabulous opportunity to build in visualizing by describing how leaves can look, sound, and feel.

Your students will most likely love to tell you all about their fall adventures, as well. Hooray for text-to-self connections!




In this story, a child takes a walk greeting the trees, birds, animals, insects, and even weather as he goes. Along the way, each one tells him how it is preparing for autumn! With beautiful illustrations that students will marvel at, this book is an awesome opportunity to discuss Author’s Purpose. I love to discuss with my students that even though the story has illustrations, it still gives us real information about the changing seasons.

In another nonfiction connection, this text is filled with ways for students to dive in and identify how Summer and Autumn are alike & different.




As you know, I'm a huge Gail Gibbons fan!

In this book all about, you guessed it, APPLES, your students can explore a simple concept in such rich, diverse ways! One of my favorite things that I've done over the years with this unit is Cara Carroll's Apple Investigation.

The students always have so much fun, and learn a ton about the different types of apples, and uses for them.





This book is always a favorite among my students each and every year. 

Bruce Goldstone takes us on a journey through all of the amazing phenomenons of Autumn. We use this in our classroom to focus on questioning of nonfiction concepts (Why do leaves change color? How does frost form?) and of more figurative, creative concepts (How does autumn taste? What is autumn shaped like?). Throughout the book, all of these questions are answered!

Another great way to enjoy this story is through the lens of nonfiction features, and author's purpose. The visuals allow students to truly immerse themselves in the beauty of the fall season!

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You can encourage your readers to enjoy books all month long with this FREE September Reading Log.


Did I miss any of your September favorites? I'd love to hear about the books you enjoy reading in your classroom this month.

Happy reading!


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Classroom Management for Your Best Morning Meeting Share Time

I know they say never say never.


BUT.... Morning Meeting is one component of our day in the classroom that I will never, ever skip.


Why? It truly is (one of the) ways to build a strong classroom community.


Beginning each day with a purposeful time to practice important listening & communication skills is so very important.


The four components of Morning Meeting I include are:

  • Greeting
  • Share
  • Activity
  • Morning Message

All of these parts cohesively work together in order to create a classroom environment that is inclusive, safe, and welcoming.

When we Greet one another, we practice eye contact and kind ways to say "good morning." When we have our Activity, our bodies are up and moving as we develop sportsmanship and teamwork. We conclude with a Morning Message that incorporates shared reading, fluency, and a sense of building classroom routines.

Smack dab in the middle is our Share.

With one topic to focus on, Share time is for exactly what it sounds like: Sharing ideas about the particular focus for that day. It's another fabulous opportunity to develop whole body listening skills, and for your students to get to know one another.

Here's the thing.

This is where if you're not too careful, things can get really long really fast.

I have 21 students in my class. Every student sharing every day, especially with a more involved question that requires attentive listening, like "what does being a good friend look like?" will start off GREAT, but then lend itself to moments like...

  • "I'm hungry!"
  • "Hey, there's a squirrel outside the window!"
  • Along with a case of the wiggles SO severe that in a blink, the attention span of your students is officially over.

Has this ever happened to me?

YOU BET.

So, if you're anything like me, and looking for a way to make sure that your Morning Meeting Share time stays manageable, purposeful, and FUN, I've got a solution for you.

Use a Share Sign Up!


INTRODUCE THE TOPIC

Depending on how your week is going, you can end the week by introducing the share topic for the following week! Or, you can introduce the share topic for the current week at the very beginning of that same week. You can encourage your students to think about the question as it pertains to their lives!

SIGN UP FOR A DAY TO SHARE

You can do this however works best for your classroom! Perhaps you call students by tables, rows, or individual desks. To ensure that the same students to not always sign up for the very beginning of the week, switch up the order in which they sign up.

EVERYONE GETS A TURN

Reassure your students that no matter which day they sign up for, everyone will get a turn to share. Let them know how excited you are to hear your thoughts!

ULTIMATELY...

A Share Sign Up allows for your students to share their ideas while also doing their best active listening. Since you're sharing on the same topic all week, it'll cut down a bit on your Morning Meeting prep, too. It's a win-win!
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If a Share Sign Up is something you'd like to use in your classroom, you can download it HERE.

Morning Meeting Share Sign Up by Miss Clark's Spoonful on Teachers Pay Teachers

Oh! and, if you're looking for Morning Meeting 101, I highly recommend taking a look at Responsive Classroom and The Morning Meeting Book. It's one I pull out year after year.

Responsive Classroom The Morning Meeting Book
                      
Wishing you joyful Morning Meetings and super share times to come!

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Easy to Follow Steps for Setting Up Solid Classroom Rules and Expectations

My top tip for heading back to school is to spend the first six weeks of school building your classroom community.


During these six weeks, usually on the second or third day of school, is the day when classroom rules and expectations are created.


In order for this to be successful, make it a COLLABORATIVE PROCESS!


Here's what this looks like in my classroom:


FIRST:

I gather my students in our meeting area. I open the discussion by explaining that we'll work together to create rules for our classroom.


We have a brief chat about what rules are, and why they are important.


creating classroom rules accessing prior knowledge discussion questions


These questions allow me to tap into your students prior knowledge and lead into the rule creation process.


NEXT:

I have my students simply brainstorm rules they think are important to follow in their classroom. I'll record every. single. one. down.


We end up with quite a list, but that's okay! The important thing is that all students are feeling heard, and their ideas are being recorded.


THEN:

After we have our mega list and the ideas start to slow down, here's where the true facilitation comes in on my end.


I begin grouping similar ideas together with the end goal of creating five simply worded classroom rules in mind.


The conversation goes something like this:


Me: "Wow, these are a lot of really important expectations! We have such a great list here that it could be hard to remember all of them. I notice that we have no running, use scissors the right way, and no jumping in the classroom. Those all sound like being... oh, what's that really important word that starts with an 's'..."


The students readily jump in to help me "remember" this word. 😉  Excitedly, I get exclaims of "Be SAFE!"


FINALLY:

The process of grouping similar ideas together continues, until our list looks something like this.


A list of classroom rules


The important thing to note is that the simply worded expectations are framed with positive language. Beginning each rule with "Be..." is a great way to do this.


  • Be Safe.
  • Be Respectful.
  • Be Responsible.
  • Be Kind.
  • Be Positive.


Ultimately, am I deciding on the five classroom rules? Yes. Do my students have a role in creating them? Yes.


By making the creation of rules a collaborative process, students will have a deeper understanding of what "being safe" looks like, or what "being respectful" sounds like.


The year kicks off with my students taking ownership of their space and caring for their community!


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You'll find these five rules, plus EDITABLE options in my TpT store!

Classroom rules posters

classroom rules posters

classroom rules editable posters

After your list of classroom rules is created and finalized, you can use these brightly colored posters to display them in your classroom!

With editable options, you'll be able to best meet the needs of your students.

Happy community building!

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End of Year Gifts for Your Students

Happy SUMMER!


What a school year it's been. Whether you're officially on summer vacation, or finishing up your last few days/weeks of school, I am sending you all of the virtual high fives!


I have a serious hot/cold relationship with student gifts. Each year as the last few days of school roll around, I ask myself the same question:


"Should I get my kids gifts this year?"


On one hand, it's a super nice thing to do for your students. It checks off that last box that can make the year feel complete.


On the other hand, the end of the school year is SO busy. Between all of the end-of-year events happening and all that you have on your plate, the energy level of the kids is off the charts.


If you're anything like me, you feel bombarded on social media at this time of the year with pictures of adorable, hand-made, personalized gifts that teachers have made for their students. This can definitely put the pressure on, even though it shouldn't.




HERE'S THE BOTTOM LINE:

Gifts come in the form of the love and appreciation we have for our students.


- spending countless hours working to make our classrooms welcoming spaces.

- designing engaging lessons to reach every child.

- taking care of the academic, social, and emotional needs of our students.


THESE are the gifts that begin on day one, and keep giving throughout the year.




There are years when I get my students gifts, and years when I don't. It took me a few years to realize that THAT'S OKAY.

If you are a teacher who buys your students gifts each year, some years, at the beginning of the year, at the end of the year, or anywhere in between, that's awesome too!

You should always feel great about how you express your appreciation for your students in a way that feels genuinely good.

Gift-giving teachers, I have three tips for you that have helped me keep me grounded in my own journey:


1. KEEP IT SIMPLE


You're not putting together gifts for a wedding shower. Don't feel like you need to stop at two or three places to put together an elaborate, themed gift. For example, if you're going for a beachy theme, a sand pail or a sand shovel are just fine on their own.

2. USEFUL OVER CUTESY


My friends, at one time, I was the Queen of Cute. I still like to think I have a little bit of this title in me, but over the years, I've definitely evolved as an educator. If you're buying gifts for your students, ask yourself first, "will they use this, or will it end up being thrown away?" If you can't see your students finding a use for your gift, reframe your thinking.

3. BE RESOURCEFUL


Have a few extra boxes of crayons sitting in the back of your classroom closet? How about those Scholastic points you haven't used that can get you some free books? Sometimes, you may able to tap into the classroom resources you already have without breaking the bank.

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Keeping these tips in mind, I have a FREE download for you to use during these last few days of school. What kid doesn't love Play Doh?


Download your gift tags HERE for FREE!

Play Doh End of Year Gift Tag for Students

Play Doh End of Year Gift Tags for Students


You are a treasure and a gift to your students. Happy Summer!

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Favorite May Read Alouds for the Primary Classroom


When I think about May in the classroom, it brings along warm feelings of sunshine and the HOME STRETCH to Summer Vacation!

Here are some of my favorite read alouds to enjoy all month long, and some ways I incorporate them into different lessons.



I bow down to Gail Gibbons as the expert of all things nonfiction.

We utilize her books a lot for examining nonfiction text features. Quite often, the texts are lengthy and full of amazing information. This one is no exception! It's perfect for breaking up over the course of a few days.

Students always love examining the diagrams, charts, and detailed illustrations to learn more about monarch butterflies grow throughout their life cycle.




This beautiful story takes the reader on a journey through the Spring season. All the while, we're encouraged to observe how new life begins in the Spring. The illustrations are gorgeous, and perfect for tapping into the five senses to create mental images.

We're usually wrapping up our comprehensive poetry unit of study around May, and this story is great for writing poems using descriptive language. Acrostic Poems (Write a poem based on the letters in SPRING!) or Spring-based Color Poems (Think, "Yellow is a buzzing bee." or "Blue is the clear, cloudless sky.") are some of my favorites!




I like to revisit how to build a strong classroom community and cultivate a sense of belonging as the year begins to wind down.

If you're familiar with bucket filling, you'll love The Big Umbrella. Just like we can fill each other's buckets with kind words and thoughtful actions, we can use an infinitely big enough umbrella to shelter each other from the rain.

This story can lend itself to amazing discussions about the importance of kindness, empathy, inclusion, and community.

Warm and fuzzy feelings guaranteed.




One of my very favorite things to do is integrate math and literacy! We explore our unit on measurement in the Spring, and this book is a perfect companion.

The main character, a small green inchworm, is the perfect representation for just what an inch looks like in real life. He also knows just how long other things (a toucan's beak, a robin's tail, etc.) are, because he is one inch long!

This story is the perfect partner for introducing how to use different units and objects to measure the length of other objects. Your students will also love the Caldecott Award Winning illustrations, and following the inchworm's story as he uses measurement to problem solve!




This one is so fun.

We dive into opinion writing during the Spring, and this story serves as a perfect springboard.

Is it a duck? Is it a rabbit? The world may never know for sure. That being said, your students will develop some pretty strong opinions and back them up with reasoning based on the observations they make from the story's illustrations and setting. I also love the embedded message that there's no one "right" answer, and that it all depends on our diverse points of view.

Are you team duck or team rabbit?




In the spirit of Spring and new life, this story is a must-read.

Eric Carle takes us on the journey of a seed with dazzling illustrations, simple text, and the perfect child-friendly explanation of a flower's life cycle.

I love to use this book as a mentor text to refer back to as we label parts of a flower, think about 5W questions (Where should we plant seeds? What do seeds need to grow?), and plant seeds of our own!

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You can encourage your readers to enjoy books all month long with this FREE May Reading Log.



Did I miss any of your May favorites? I'd love to hear about the books you enjoy reading in your classroom this month.

Happy reading!


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Make Graphing FUN with This Activity!

You know those units that just scream "end of year?"


Even though we practice graphing in some shape and form throughout the school year, our full unit study of graphing & data always accompanies the warmer weather of spring, without fail.


In second grade, we focus on line plots, bar graphs, picture graphs... and more!


I'd love to share with you a lesson that makes graphing relatable, engaging, and FUN.


line plots, bar graphs, and picture graphs activity

Giving students the power of choice can make all the difference in how deeply they develop an understanding of a concept. Math is one of those areas that's super fun to bring an element of choice to!

We've been through our math program's units about collecting data in different ways. For a culminating activity (also a sneakily great formative assessment for you!), the kids REALLY enjoyed collecting data and representing it in different ways.

Why?

They got to choose their own topic and survey their classmates!

Here's how it went down:

First, each child (and me!) came up with their own topic to survey their friends about.

bar graphs, picture graphs, and tally chart activity

We collected this information on a table, then transferred it to a tally chart.

data and graphing second grade activity

data and graphing second grade activity

data and graphing second grade activity

data and graphing second grade activity

After collecting initial data in their table, the students then took this information and displayed it on different types of graphs that we learned about throughout this unit: a line plot, a bar graph, and a picture graph.

The second graders chosen topics were so much fun!

data and graphing activity

data and graphing activity

picture graph activity

After collecting the data and representing it on different types of graphs, the students analyzed their data by writing and solving different questions.

"How many more friends said their favorite character was Hermione than Harry?"

"How many people liked Gymnastics and Basketball?"

"How many fewer people liked Spring than Winter?"

The creativity in questioning went on and on!

Choice can make all the difference in bringing any learning concept home.

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If this lesson is something you'd like to use with your great graphers in your classroom, I'd be so thrilled.


Download your complete activity pages HERE for FREE!

second grade graphing activity

Happy graphing!

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Favorite April Read Alouds for the Primary Classroom

Favorite April Read Alouds

Rain or shine, April is such a fun month to read about all things springy!

Here are some of my favorite read alouds to enjoy all month long, and some ways I incorporate them into different lessons.


This story captures the joy of spring weather through the eyes of one little boy and his kite.

When the wind picks up, the boy and his grandma chase the runaway kite into town. With descriptive language like "swirling leaves," "bobbing boats," and "flapping scarves," this book is perfect for taking notice of how quickly the weather can change during Spring.

This story is perfect for making mental images. In my classroom, I also like to attach it to the writing prompt, "If I were a kite, I'd fly to...".



If you've ever read Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type (and other books in this series!), you're familiar with the engaging, funny "daily diary entry" format!

In this story, we read the worm's diary entries and follow along on his adventures.

This is a fun story to compare and contrast fiction and non-fiction. It's also perfect for taking things in a more informational route, and studying characteristics of worms in real life.


The Berenstain Bears and the Real Easter Eggs

The Berenstain Bears are a classic! In this story, Brother and Sister Bear enjoy the fun traditions of an Easter Egg Hunt. Things get a little bit competitive when the cubs are trying to collect the most eggs. Suddenly, they discover a mama bird's nest about to hatch, and they discover the true meaning of the season.

This story is perfect for focusing on the beauty of nature, and the wonders of Spring!



Doreen Cronin for the win! This is another one of her fabulous stories with the "daily diary entry" format. What can I say, they're super fun to read!

In this story, Farmer Brown's not bothered by the usual farm animals... but he is by a super cute baby duck who won't go to sleep.

This is the perfectly springy version of Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type. Delightful for an author study!




This lovely story examines the concept of why rules are important. Throwing one soda can out the window? No big deal, right? Calling out during school? I had something important to say! ....But, what if everybody did that? As they read, students begin to realize the importance of following the rules in order to make our world a better place. The story perfectly illustrates what responsibility looks like and sounds like. 

I love to tie this story into our Social Studies unit on Citizenship. The bit about the importance of taking care of our earth by not littering is very timely for Earth Day, too!



Kevin Henkes is perhaps my very favorite children's author!

While Lily and her Purple Plastic Purse, Owen and his fuzzy blanket, or Chrysanthemum with her sweet doll Petal do not make appearances, the season of Spring sure does!

This is a truly beautiful book. Henkes uses poetic techniques like repetition and alliteration to draw readers into the true beauty of the season. I also love to point out his use of ellipses (...) to my students. This story is a gem for integrating descriptive language and the five senses when it comes to recognizing Spring!

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You can encourage your readers to enjoy books all month long with this FREE April Reading Log.



Did I miss any of your April favorites? I'd love to hear about the books you enjoy reading in your classroom this month.

Happy reading!

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My Grammy's Irish Soda Bread

Happy St. Patty's Day!

This is a day that makes me think about my grandmother, an absolute angel of an Irish matriarch. She was the most joyful person I will ever know, and always saw the goodness and light in every single situation. She loved St. Patrick's Day, and everything Irish.

In her 100 years on this earth, she touched so many with her grace, light, laughter, and love.

While she's no longer with us, this is a recipe that has been in our family for ages. My grandmother had it passed down to from her mother, and then she passed it down to my mother, who passed it down to my sister and I. It's a family favorite and is filled with love.

Let's get started!


INGREDIENTS

  • 4 cups Flour
  • 2 teaspoons Salt
  • 3 heaping teaspoons Baking Powder
  • ¼ teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1 cup Raisins (rinsed)
  • ¾ cup Sugar
  • 3 teaspoons Caraway Seeds
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 cup Sour Cream
  • 1 cup Sour Milk (1 cup Milk + 1 TBSP White Vinegar or Lemon Juice)


DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 400º F.

1. Sour milk by combining 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice and enough milk to equal 1 cup. Stir and let stand for at least five minutes.

Ingredients to sour milk

2. Sift together flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.

3. Add raisins, sugar, and caraway seeds. Set aside.

Irish Soda Bread Dry Ingredients

4. Mix eggs, sour cream, and sour milk. Beat well.

Irish Soda Bread Wet Ingredients

5. Add milk mixture to dry ingredients, and fold together.

Irish Soda Bread Dough

6. Place baking dish in the oven to warm. Take out, grease, and add dough.

Irish Soda Bread Dough

7. Bake at 400º for 20 minutes. Then, decrease temperature to 350º and bake for 40 minutes. Bake until it's juuuuust the right shade of golden brown (you'll know!).

To test if it's truly done, insert a small knife into the center right to the base. If it comes out clean, you're good to go!

What a beaut!

 Irish Soda Bread

Get your Irish on.

May the luck of the Irish be with you all year long!

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