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How to do an Author Study

Nothing motivates my students like reading book after book from the same beloved author. Mo Willems, David Shannon, Kevin Henkes, Ezra Jack Keats, Jan Brett, and Tomie DePaola are just a few of our favorite authors. 
I absolutely LOVE doing author studies with my students. For one, we get to know authors and understand their work on a much deeper level. When the students connect to the writer, they love the stories even more! When I talk about doing author studies, some people seem to think it's a big complicated thing. It's really not! According to Readingrockets.org, there are 5 simple steps to doing an author study with your students. 
1. Set your purpose: Why are we studying this author? Are we learning about a particular genre or writing style? Are we trying to add more XYZ to our writing? 2. Choose an Author: This should relate to your goal. Do you want an author that uses powerful language? Do you want your students to explore how to show emotions with their illustrations? We all have our favorite authors who we like to study. That can be contagious to your students! 3. Read and Respond: Read for the sheer enjoyment of it. Read to have students make connections. To visualize. To infer. Whatever floats your boat. An author study journal would be great for tracking student responses. 4. Research the author: Let the internet be your guide. You will learn lots of cool and funny facts about authors along the way. 5. Culminating projects: Have the students write their own story using a style similar to your author. Or write the story as a class. Or have students create a poster about the author. You are only limited by your imagination here! 

Here is an example of an anchor chart that I use with some authors when I do author studies. The idea came from The Complete Year in Reading and Writing, by Pam Allyn, and it is one of my favorite ideas to use from her entirely wonderful book. 
Keep the chart as a work-in-progress until the author study is completed. You can always add to it, and students are always motivated to show you when they've tried something so that they can get their name on that sticky note. 

Why don't you spend some time this week talking about your favorite authors and stories? I have a freebie here for you to help you out with that! Click on the picture below to grab it!
I hope you have fun with author studies in your classroom!

DIY Glass Rock Magnets

Hi everyone! Today I'm going to show you a fun DIY that could have tons of uses--glass rock magnets!
Here's what you will need:
Large glass rocks from the Dollar Tree
Photos of your students printed out
Mod Podge (I used Elmer's for my tester and it worked great! But I trust and love Mod Podge!)
Magnet circles from Wal-Mart (they are sticky-backed and come in a pack of 18)

The process is so simple. Just plop a rock down on top of the picture and trace it. Then, cut it out and trim it up slightly if it hangs over the edge of the rock at all. 

Now, just paint a thin layer of glue on the back of the rock (the flat side). Then plop that bad boy right onto the picture. After it dries (maybe 20 minutes to be safe), plop the magnets onto the back. 
Ta-da! You're finished! I'm glad I did a tester because as you can see, these turn out way better if the photo has a nice light background. Print your photos big enough to fill the glass rock too.
You could use these for so many reasons! 
1. Lunch count
2. Parent gifts
3. Center/ work station management
4. A magnetic behavior chart

What other uses can you think of? 

Father's Day Gifts from Your Students

Coming up with a Father's Day gift from my students is always such an ordeal for me. Mother's Day is so easy! Something flowery, or some kid-made jewelry, and you're all set. But dads are tougher. I have the same struggle shopping for my own dad and husband, so maybe I just stink at mens' gifts in general. But this year we made something simple and pretty cute, too. I thought I'd share it in case you have the same creative block I normally deal with.
I got everything I needed for this gift at Dollar General! It's closer to me than Wal-Mart or Target, and I have made MANY early morning trips there before school. This particular morning, I found mustache tape, mustaches, and mason jars. Boom.
I sort of helped my students put on the tape, and then let them pick out and apply a fuzzy mustache. They each added ten dum dums and we later added a tag that said "Dad's Stache" because if it isn't punny, it is no good to me. This little Father's Day questionnaire fits with the mustache theme, and also satisfies my need for punny-ness. Grab it for free by clicking and saving the image!

Also, I will never NOT put our Father's Day gifts in these bags. They are just too stinking cute and the parents always get a kick out of them. To make these, just cut down a brown paper bag (I cut off about 3 inches to make them shorter), then cut partway about an inch down on both sides. Fold them in and staple, and then tape a little tie right in the center. It's good stuff.

Tea-Riffic Teacher Appreciation Tags

My son and daughter just finished their last day of preschool and daycare for the summer! What do you do when you have multiple teachers to buy for? Something cute, punny, and simple is perfect to me. So I created these tags to attach to some Snapple tea. I also added gift cards in a separate card, but that's completely optional and not necessary. You could also buy plastic cups in multiple colors, and these would look great on those!
If you enjoy these tags, just snag the image below and print away! Have a tea-riffic summer, y'all!

Five Reasons to Sing With Your Students

I love to sing with my students. I love to sings songs about what we are learning, and I love to sing songs about men who play the ladle and have hair made out of spaghetti. I get made fun of for turning just about anything into a song. But I also know that music is a powerful learning tool. It saddens me when teachers say they are afraid to sing songs in their classroom, because they feel like they are "wasting instructional time." Music can support instruction and benefit students in so many ways! So here you go: Five good reasons to sing with your students.
Phonological awareness is a strong predictor of a child's reading ability down the road. Songs are perfect for teaching rhymes, alteration, syllables, and phonemes. Here are some of my favorite resources for building phonological awareness with music.

I rarely teach a skill without a song to reinforce it. Because of music, I will never forget the Fifty Nifty United States (from 13 original colonies). I will also never forget the phone number if I ever need to call Jenny Craig. Music is the ultimate memory tool! Some of my favorite CD's for learning are Heidisongs, for letters and sight words, Jack Hartmann for math, and Dr. Jean for everything from shapes to the presidents.

Music brings people together. It can create an atmosphere of caring, motivation, and excitement. The music you play in your classroom can truly help set the tone of your day or even the school year. Start every day with a song. Each year, I like to have a "theme song" that I sing a lot with each class. Sometimes it's a children's song and sometimes it's not (think, Pharell's Happy). This year, our song has become Tim McGraw's Humble and Kind. It makes me cry ugly tears, but it's been a great community builder in my classroom.

Brain research tells us that brain breaks between periods of instruction are optimal for student learning. Go Noodle and YouTube are my favorite sources for brain break songs. Anything that gets your students up and moving is a bonus. A song can refresh you and bring you back together as a class to prepare you for the next thing.

We should not undervalue this important aspect of music. I love that my students get to see me be silly and carefree when we sing and dance together. My favorites are the Old School Classics--Baby Beluga, Down by the Bay, The Green Grass Grew All Around. When our students are adults, they will not remember us for our well-aligned assessments, or our rigorous instruction (although they will have certainly benefited from them). They will remember us for what we did to stand out. The goofy, fun memories we create together are what I hope stick with my students long after they leave my classroom. Check out a little Raffi and Greg and Steve for some great songs to sing together.

So there are five reasons we should all make time for singing in our classroom! Music does not need to take away from rigorous instruction and high standards. In fact, it can enhance both of these things. So use your classroom time wisely, and SING with your students!

Read Across America Day Treats

I love Read Across America Day! One of my favorite parts of the day is the special treats that I make for my own kid and for my students. Check out some of our yummy snacks and treats to celebrate one of the greats.
Here is Jackson's Read Across America Breakfast from last year. Truffula tree (yeah, yeah, it looks like the the coconut tree from another beloved book), pink yink ink (strawberry milk), Cat in the Hat hat, and of course, Green Eggs.
And here is his special Read Across America Day lunch from last year. It features Green Eggs and Ham (with a PB&J train), Cat in the Hat cheese, a Cat in the Hat hat made of strawberries and bananas, and candy melt-covered strawberries (Thing 1 and Thing 2.) A little "Pink Yink Ink" to wash it down and we were golden.
At school, we feasted on Green Eggs and Ham and Pink Yink Ink. I used to make Green Eggs and Ham like this every year, by hard-boiling eggs and then sort of pickling them in a food-coloring and vinegar solution.
Only the bravest of my students would partake. So last year I wised up and made these!
You just need pretzel squares, white candy melts, and green M&M's for the center (I had green candy melts last year so that's what I used in the picture. Just put the candy melts on top of the pretzels and place in a 200 degree oven for about 4 minutes (until the white melts start to soften) and then pull them out of the oven and press the M&M's into the white. Easy Peasy, and everyone wants to enjoy them!

Do you make special treats for Read Across America Day? Please share!

St. Patrick's Day Classroom Activities and Freebie

St. Patrick's Day will be here before we know it! Check out some of our St. Patrick's Day festivities, and then snag a freebie for your classroom!

You know that I am hooked on directed drawings. We do one every month and I think that it is time well spent. We draw it together and they color or paint them with a parent volunteer or even during indoor recess if they choose to. The skills they've learned from their directed drawings have transferred over to their stories and I love it! This one was a freebie from First Grade Blue Skies.
We made these adorable shamrocks to decorate our classroom. You could use cut paper or have your students rip the paper and call it a fine motor activity. :)
My sensory bin scavenger hunts are a favorite in my classroom! Just adding new theme words adds a ton of excitement, but I like to change up the filler too. This year, I added rainbow-colored rice. They love hunting for the words and just feeling the rice!
Here is a sample of my Easy Peasy Printables for St. Patrick's Day. I love the option of having some no-prep activities that I can use for fast finishers and independent practice.
St. Patrick's Day Write the Room is in full swing. I love to grab little glasses from the Dollar Tree or Target Dollar Spot for the students to wear when they do write the room. It automatically makes it 10 times cooler! 
Now, for the freebies! Do you have a pocket chart station in your classroom, or are you looking for an independent activity your students can do during literacy stations? This pocket chart sentences freebie is great. Students order the sentences (which are color-coded) and then they use the recording sheet to write and build the sentence. Click HERE to grab it!
Now, for a math freebie! My students love this little math station. They roll the cube, and use play doh to make that amount of gold coins on the left. Then, they roll again and make them on the right. The students will then add them together and write the total. 
Click on the picture to snag it!

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