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This "fun stuff" section will be a changing page, offering you games, activities, and ideas to try in your school and classroom. Hope you'll enjoy experimenting!
  • With greater and greater demands for online reading, you’ll want to teach students how to evaluate a web site using the handout provided this month (Handouts – Guided Reading) along with some sites that prove to students that all that they read in print isn’t necessary true. You can find some neat sites merely by putting “spoof sites” in your search engine. Be careful to monitor the sites before presenting them to students. My favorite is zapatopi.net/treeoctopus.html.

  • Not surprisingly, in a research project reported in USA Today, over a period of several years 852 students were given books before leaving school for the summer. Three years later, researchers found that those students who received books had significantly higher reading scores, experienced less of a summer slide, and read more on their own each summer than the 478 who didn't get books. The power of summer reading can’t be ignored! Get books in kids’ hands!

  • Sherry Cogger, a teacher in Carteret County, NC, shared this after training I provided: “I have already done my shopping for my tool kits. I found those clear yet colorful swizzle sticks that have a spoon shape at the bottom. I am going to use those as the pointers since they can act as a highlighter when reading the sentences or focusing on a word.”

  • Sherry Cogger shared yet another good idea to try: “I’m purchasing those little bells at Dollar Tree. When I give the students an ERT task and when they find the answer, they are to ring the bell—just once—and wait for the sound of the other bells. I know it might be noisy but how joyful. I’m going to see if we can find that ole' song ‘Ring My Bell-ll-ll, Ring My Bell!’”

  • This bio cube is a great way to make researching biographies fun and easy for students. Using heading, subheadings, table of contents, indices, teach them how to retrieve only the information that is needed. These make a nice display, too! http://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/student-interactives/cube-30057.html

  • In the Books with Class section of this site, Tyrannosaurus Rex was previously featured and still archived. For those of you who use that wonderful primary book, there is now a downloadable lesson plan to accompany it. Author Laya Steinberg has now written another book, All Around Me I See (Dawn Publications), a nature appreciation book for young children which won a Bank Street Best Book award. You’ll definitely want to check out both of her books. Go to http://www.layasteinberg.com/LSteacherguides.html

  • Fifth-grade teacher Callie McGill of Hyatt Park Elementary in Columbia, SC, created a clever publishing center this past year that she says kept her students highly motivated.












  • 5th Grade teacher Callie McGill added a display for writing in the hallway outside of her room. She kept Post-it notes handy for anyone to make comments about the various pieces of published writing. Cheryl is pictured writing a positive note about an extraordinary lead in one of Ms. McGill’s student’s writings. Students will write better if they know someone else’s eyes will see it!

  • Lisa Gilpin (Sigmon & Assoc. consultant and 6th grade teacher) tell us how she has her students organize a reading folder for note-taking on her daily mini-lessons: "I have my students prepare folders with about 50 sheets of regular notebook paper. The first three pages are numbered using Roman numerals I, II, and III. Then, the rest of the pages are numbered 1- 50 or so. The pages of Roman Numerals become the Table of Contents pages. On these, I have the students make two columns: 1 entitled "Mini-Lesson" and 1 entitled "Page Number". (This is shown in the picture.) Everyday each student takes notes in this folder and log in the mini-lesson title and the page number of their folder where the mini-lesson notes can be found. If I have a handout for the page number of their folder where the mini- lesson notes can be found. If I have a handout for the students, it gets stapled in this folder. When I reteach a reading strategy, the students can look in the Table of Contents to search for previously taken notes on that strategy. Also when it's time to take an assessment on vocabulary, their words and definitions are in the folder for easy access. Once or twice each nine weeks, I collect the folders for a note-taking grade.

  • Lisa Gilpin also shared: "This year my students read The Door in the Wall. I thought it would be neat to assess the students on some of their vocabulary in a non-traditional way. They had to draw, label, and write the definitions (as shown in the pictures.) Each student was given a rubric which included these requirements: each word was illustrated, each definition was included, and the information was neatly organized."
















  • Staples' Easy Button is one of the greatest incentives I've used in a classroom! For about $5, you can motivate any age students who'll work hard to get to press the button that responds aloud, "That's easy!" Students light up when they earn this reward, and it's so easy for a teacher. Give it a try!

  • If you haven't discovered Google Lit Trips, you've got to go straight to www.googlelittrips.org and watch some of the trips that have been created as models. It's easy for you and your students to create a trip based on a piece of literature or a section of history/social studies. The trips take you right to the site, allowing you to add commentary, pictures, and research of your own. This is a great way to get students involved hands-on with learning!

  • For my daughter's college graduation party, I used www.animoto.com to construct a very professional video, using favorite pictures from birth to present time that I scanned. Short videos are free to create; longer ones are $3, or you can purchase a year's membership for $30. The site gives you the opportunity to set your video to music, choosing from a wide array of free tunes created by new artists. (I'm hooked on the tune I selected!) If Animoto can make someone like me look like a tech wiz, just imagine what it can do for you and your students!

  • 2 - 12 - Ann Hollar, a retired teacher and associate with Sigmon and Associates, shares this game that was popular with her students. Use regular dice or the huge, fuzzy dice that you can purchase at a dollar store. As sharing for Self-Selected Reading or at the closure of some Guided Reading lessons, let selected or randomly draw students toss the dice. They must respond to what they've read based on the number they roll. Here's the list Ann writes on the board:
    2 = Problem-solution
    3 = Setting
    4 = Compare (Character)
    5 = Connect (Character)
    6 = Conflict
    7 = Compare (Plot)
    8 = Connect (Plot)
    9 = Prediction
    10 = Theme
    11 = Compare (Theme)
    12 = FREE CHOICE!
    Ann says the dice really inspired her students!

  • Platypus Words - Rhonda Reed, North Miami Elementary School, Denver, IN, shares this idea for word study: "As you probably know, a platypus resembles a beaver with a duck-like head. So a platypus word is made of parts of two different word wall words put together to form another word (not on the word wall). For our on the back activity today, here's what we did. I said, 'I'm thinking of a platypus word that you can make using words from our word wall. This word starts like stop and ends like talk.' The response is, of course, stalk. We repeated the activity with four other examples. I even had an assistant who's a fabulous artist make a cute little sketch of a platypus that I think I'll put on an answer sheet." Great idea!

  • Authors Come to Life! - Lisa Gilpin, a 6th grade teacher and associate with Sigmon and Associates, shares this successful idea from her class - "We read Dear Mr. Henshaw on our 'easier day' reading for my 6th grade class. As aculminating activity I allowed the students the choice of making a powerpoint about an author they research, a poster, or a life-like human cardboard figure. To construct the cardboard authors, we found a picture of each author on the Internet, scanned it, enlarged the face, and glued it on the cardboard. Students had to bring in clothes to match the "look" of their author. The example shown here is one of the cardboard authors, Robert Munsch. The girl who constructed this had a boy read a biography on a tape recorder. It began like, 'Hello, I'm Robert Munch. I grew up in…' All the life-like figures turned out great, but they gave our night custodians a fright!"

  • This is a great idea for authentic writing in your classroom as well as a way to support our US troops! Peggy Hoffman-Schmidt (Dept. of Defense, Kaiserslautern, Germany) says, "I thought you might be interested in this new Web site that lets you send a free printed postcard to the U.S. servicemen and women stationed overseas. All you do is pick your favorite card, enter your message and then Xerox does the rest! Visit www.LetsSayThanks.com and send the troops some mail today." Hey, let's do it!


  • Here's another idea used successfully in Lisa Gilpin's 6th grade classroom during literature studies. This one involves chocolate! Click here for details.


  • A teacher in one of my training sessions draws the method for cheering the Word Wall Words out of a box of Cheer detergent. On slips of paper in the box, she has written many choices for chanting the words (marshmallow clap, catsup bottle clap, volcano, etc.), and her students can't wait to be surprised daily. Go to this site and click on Word Wall Chants to print off a list of different ways to chant and CHEER the words: http://www.teachers.net/4blocks/goodies.html.


  • Take some of the stigma of corrections and revisions out of your writing conferences with the idea shared by this teacher. Any time she marks on a student's paper, she uses a glitter pen during her writing conferences. This special touch brings a little sparkle to students' writing!


  • Teacher Annette Doggett at Washington Elementary in Liberal, KS, uses quilt squares during conference and sharing time during her Self-Selected Reading Block. She forewarns students that they'll be conferencing with her and gives them the blank paper quilt square on which they are to draw some items that represent what they've read about. Students use the quilt square to focus what they want to tell the teacher, making the conference totally student centered. On some occasions, Annette gives all students a square at the closure of SSR, and they all draw something and write their book titles on the square. She collects these and "weaves" them into a lovely quilt.


  • Nancy, a frequent visitor to this website, shared her idea for getting organized: Just wanted to share that I went into your website again today and was going to print out your 36 pages of Working with Words ideas (see Working with Words Flip Book in Handout section). I set my printer for double postcard (go to properties and then paper to select this option) and sent 4 X 6 note cards through the envelope feeder of the printer. Voila!! I have all 36 ideas on individual note cards which I then punched (using the single punch on a three hole punch so all the holes were in the same spot on each card). I felt this would save the step of printing on paper, cutting down and laminating. The note cards are quite sturdy and should last me quite a long time. I copied four sets (one for my teaching partner, two for our two student teachers). Thanks for putting all the resources in one place on your site! (Thanks to you, too, Nancy, for this neat idea!)


  • Lisa Gilpin shares how she accomplishes the amazing transitions in her sixth grade classroom: "I put the things they are to do on the right. I start the timer for 3 minutes. When everyone is seated and ready to learn, with all the jobs completed up to my standards, I stop the timer. If they beat 3 minutes, they add the extra time up for a fun activity on Friday. I start them each week with 15 minutes. If they do not beat the time, I take away only the time that was over. This really seems to help transitions. Everyone is helping each other out so that everything is ready for me to begin. I love it! " And, if you visit Lisa's classroom, you'll see how smooth the transitions are!


  • Shakespeare never had it so good! When you want to find rhyming words for your activities or if you and your students are writing rhyming poems, go to www.rhymer.com , put in your rhyme pattern, and the site will furnish you with a lengthy list of words with the same rhyme/rime pattern!


  • For those of you who serve Spanish speaking populations, you might be interested in this website that gives graphic organizers in Spanish: http://www.eduplace.com/kids/hml/ayudas/index.html.


  • No "wasted" space here! Sand Creek Elementary School in North Vernon, IN, takes advantage of the area outside of the restrooms where students are often in line to publish some of their students' work. Great idea!


  • Here's a Take 5 Chart that we made in a recent Make-and-Take workshop. The Take 5 chart uses the idea from Sharon Moore's book, Conversations in Four-Blocks Classrooms. We model different ways that active readers process information. Then, we give the students VIP strips (Very Important Points - sticky notes cut towards the sticky end with 4 snips to form 5 dangling fingers) and ask them to put a sticky finger in various places where they stop to process text. The chart is a reminder of the types of things they might mark. This can be used for sharing time and conferences in several blocks: SSR, Guided Reading, and Writing.


  • Beverly Boyer from Creek Elementary School in Muskogee, OK shared that a business in town gave her bundles of greeting cards. She found several great uses for them.-" I started putting some of these in their SSR boxes and at the end of the week we decide what category of card each one belongs to-Get Well, Miss You, I'm Sorry, Thank You, etc. Piggybacking on this idea, Vanessa Green at Sand Creek Elementary in North Vernon, IN, goes to stores the day after holidays to collect the unused envelopes (again, there are tons!). You can take several of the envelopes and bind them together with your school's book binder. Use them to make alphabet books by labeling each envelope with a letter and letting the students find objects and pictures that represent that letter to place in the envelope. Older students could be assigned different states, countries, counties to research in the same way as an alphabet book.


  • Sixth grade teacher and consultant, Lisa Gilpin has her students create the characters of the novel Holes during their reading of this Newbery Award winning book by Louis Sachar. The students' creations are displayed in the hallway outside of Lisa's classroom.


  • K teacher and consultant, Marian Hodge, shared this great idea for having students make their own pompoms (or call them firecrackers to get the boys to use them!). Students of all ages could use these during the Words Block. They're also wonderful decorations!
    (click here for directions and pictures)


  • Megan, a teacher at Custer Hill Elementary, shared this great game to review Word Wall words. It's called CRASH and is played with partners or a small group. Write your Word Wall words on index cards-one per card. On two cards (or more if you have lots of Word Wall words), write the word "CRASH." Shuffle the cards and let the partner or team members draw cards one at the time. As students draw a card, they are to read it out loud (and spell it if you'd like for them to) and keep the card in their pile. If a player draws a CRASH card, he has to put all of his cards back in the deck! The player with the most cards wins. Fun!