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  • Laura Croglio, a teacher at Clinton Elementary in West Seneca, NY shared this idea during my recent visit to her school, "I have my students go to the Tired Words Wall to choose a synonym for an overused word. They pull the synonym they like from the pocket, take it back to their seat to make sure they spell the word correctly (possibly adding it to their personal dictionary), and returning it to the wall when they're finished."

    The poem at the top of her chart reads:

    Tired Words!

    Tired words want to go to sleep.
    Let them rest! Don't make a peep!
    Try to use a synonym instead.
    Let those tired words stay in bed!

  • Joyce Chastang, a teacher at St. Ignatius School in Cincinnati, OH, shares her ideal storage system. She says, "Here are pictures of my writing boxes-medium sized pizza boxes, perfect to hold all the tools you need. My students each have a notebook, dictionary, pencils, and folder in theirs. What I like best about these is that you can customize them to individual children. No one knows what's inside except you, and they fit nicely on a shelf. My students love them, and so do I!"

  • Give the Story a Hand - Teachers have enjoyed these gardening gloves that serve as 3-D graphic organizers for students. The gloves help to remind students of the characteristics that define genres. They can be worn by the teacher to introduce and reinforce the characteristics. Later they can be worn by leaders in small groups as the leader helps students review critical elements. Also, the gloves can be kept at the conference table during SSR. The teacher would simply start the conference by asking the student to choose the glove that matches the book he has brought to share. The student can then wear the glove to guide the conversation as different characteristics or an instrumental characteristic is discussed. The gloves pictured below are from Joy Dewing's 8th grade class in Kokomo, IN. Notice the "mutant glove" with 6 fingers (2nd from the left)-a favorite of Joy's students.

    Click here to get ideas about what you can write on the fingers of the gloves you make.

  • Graffiti Board - In 8th grade teacher Joy Dewing's classroom, she has a Graffiti Board where she asks students to give their opinions to different short questions and prompts. On this board, she asked students to share their favorite genre. She says that even 8th graders love writing with different colored chalk on this board!

  • Banned Books to Motivate
    If you're having a tough time motivating your upper grades students to read during Self-Selected Reading time, give 7th grade teacher Fern Johnson's idea a try. Fern uses the "forbidden fruit theory" to motivate her students, and has been extremely successful. She starts by consulting the American Library's List of banned books at She builds interest in the books by making a display with a red banner and leading a discussion prior to introducing the books one by one. She shares with students that, "These are books that adults don't want you to read." What middle school student wouldn't be enticed by that line! She spotlights a book by placing a red banner around it so that the title can't be seen and keeps the students in suspense during the early part of class. She says they're literally begging to know the title before she finally reveals it! The discussions are rich about why the book was placed on the list. Students clamor for to check out the book or to have the book read aloud by this ingenious teacher. Occasionally, she finds a book that hasn't been placed on the list yet and shares that, "You're going to love this book! It hasn't been banned yet, but it will be when more adults read it!" (Fern is a wonderful Teach for America teacher at Underdown Junior High in Goodyear, AZ.)

  • Laptops for Words Block
    This particular version was given to me by Tammy Bates at Sand Creek Elem. in N. Vernon, IN. For each student, you'll need a file folder, a plastic sheet protector, a keyboard (download from Handout section), 2 pipe cleaners for handles (optional), and words to practice. On the inside of the folder, glue a sheet protector into which you can slip words to practice (or glue your portable Word Wall to the top half). Glue the keyboard (See Handout section) to the bottom half. Instead of your "snap, clap, stomp" routine, have students open their laptops and practice typing the words. A good tactile experience!

  • Random Acts of Kindness
    Help your students find out firsthand how they can make the world a better place through random acts of kindness. The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation advocates that we all join together to spotlight the generosity and compassion of our youth. Presently, all states in US along with 67 other countries have participated in RAK activities. You may want to start planning now to have your students participate in RAK Week, February 9-15 and/or World Kindness Week, November 8-14. You can find suggestions for how your classroom or school can be involved by going to This helpful site contains activity ideas for students in kindergarten through college, a teacher's guide, graphics and lesson plans that integrate kindness discussions into study materials. Find out how to tailor a program to your school's culture and join the fun!

  • Word Wall in Candy Land
    This idea comes from Lisa Sharrett, a teacher at Blue River Valley Elementary, who attended my January seminar in Chicago. Lisa says her kids are having a ball in a literacy center she made from a Candy Land game board. She simply took the playing cards which are in various colors and wrote the Word Wall Words on them. Now as her students play the game, they review the words they've learned this year! Such a simple but powerful idea! Thanks for sharing, Lisa!

  • Teacher, Scott Sterk, at North Miami Elementary School, Denver, IN, created this display in the hallway to celebrate his students' writing. A close-up (below) shows pictures of the children along with a "From the Desk of…" label. The students in this class are proud writers!

  • On the ceiling of 8th grade teacher Joy Dewing's classroom hangs a display of writers' tools labeled with craft items such as "sensory details," "imagery," and "metaphors."
  • Here is some of the handiwork made during my recent Make and Take Workshop with Richland One teachers in Columbia, SC. One teacher is making Magic Reading Sticks by dipping tongue depressors in glue and then into glitter. Her students will use the sticks to highlight vocabulary and important points in text. Two other teachers are modeling their creations: Give the Story a Hand (story elements are written on each finger of a gardening glove-character, setting, problem, solution, plot-and theme/main idea in the palm), and the Word Grabber (see this one in the Modifying Four-Blocks book).

  • This wonderful principal, Sam Devin, from Grand View Elementary in Junction City, Kansas, stands in front of the book display she has in her office. What a great way for a principal to share a love of reading with others!

  • Angela Sesti, a first grade teacher at Grand View Elem. in Junction City, KS, uses these bar graphs to help her students set goals for silent reading time during Self-Selected Reading Block. They're working towards more and more minutes!

  • Guided Reading IS All That It's "Quacked" Up to Be! Rhonda Reed of North Miami Elementary in Indiana shares her great idea for reviewing literary elements. Her students choose ducks floating in a bucket of water to bring closure to Guided Reading. Each duck has a different literary element written on the bottom. Her kids LOVE this activity, and I bet yours will too!

  • Susan Lloyd, principal at Amity Primary Center in Reading, PA, has a basket of some of her very favorite books. She loans her book basket to classrooms so that curious kids can see what books the principal enjoys reading!

  • Special Persons Recognition Day - Principal Mark Heagle and the teachers of Walker Station Elementary School in Grand Rapids, Michigan, hold a Special Persons Recognition Day each year that has become very popular in their community.
  • Summer Reading Club - Janet Sparks, a fourth grade teacher, has a great outline for involving your students in a summer reading club using email. She shares all the details for her plan!
  • Names Activity - Marian Hodge, Building Blocks K teacher from Rincon Elementary in Rincon, GA, shares her 5 innovations of the Name Game Activity. This is a great way to be sure that students get those letters and sounds early!

  • Administrators' Most Frequently Asked Questions - Here are answers to FAQs that should help administrators as they actively support Four-Blocks classrooms.

  • Word Game Riddle - Here's another word game with extra points for the word that answers the question on the sheet.

  • Darmstadt Elementary School
    Darmstadt, Germany

    A Dept. of Defense school under the leadership of principal, Russ Claus, features a Wall of Honor each month. The wall is a way of recognizing student achievement each month-students who have published books and students who have excelled in various subject areas. Claus and the teachers report that the Wall of Honor has served to motivate their students who are proud to have work displayed in the entry lobby for parents and community members to see.

  • The Bookroom at Armejo Elementary School
    Albuquerque, New Mexico

    Curriculum coordinator, Cathy Good, and principal, Doloris Vigil-Frank, have quite an elaborate system for cataloging books to support their classrooms. They've made a commitment to support this bookroom, even employing a full-time educational assistant to run it! They also have a super parent connection program that I hope they'll share on my website in the future!

    Here's a look at how they've arranged books by authors, series, genres, themes, state standards, and multiple reading levels.
    Click here to see examples

  • Check out the Denver Block Party that took place this month. Over 200 people showed up, and they said they had to turn away another 100! Pretty amazing that this was in Denver, Indiana-not Colorado! Diana Bucher, who was instrumental in organizing this grand affair at North Miami Elementary, is sharing some tips on planning your own party. Rhonda Reed has a few pictures posted. Block Parties are such a great way to keep the momentum going with Four-Blocks in your area and a good way to help teachers network! Check out their excellent ideas!

  • Kinder Lotto

  • Word Game
    You can click on the appropriate playing card below that each of your students will need for this game. Start this game by calling on one student to give you any word on the Word Wall. Once they've announced the word loudly and clearly, all students will write that word on any of the spaces on their cards. The student who called out the word then calls on another student who will give another word from the Word Wall. This is repeated until all spaces on everyone's playing card is filled. Each time a student calls out a word during this process, you need to write it on a scrap piece of paper, fold it over, and put it in a stack. Once all the cards are filled with words, you'll start scrambling the words you've recorded and calling them back. The students will either cover the words with game pieces or will mark out the words with a crayon or pencil. (Using different colors or different shapes for different rounds of the game will allow you to get more mileage from one playing card!) The first student to get all spaces filled in a line (or in 4 corners if that's your rule) wins the game. The "prize" might be to allow that student to call out the next round of Wordo!
    1. Lower Grades Playing Card
    2. Upper Grades Playing Card

  • Research for Four-Blocks®

  • There's a draft research paper written by Pat Cunningham, Jim Cunningham, and Dick Allington posted at the Wake Forest website. It's much appreciated by those of us securing funding to implement and support Four-Blocks in all states around the US. A brilliant paper!

  • All About Me: A Good Idea for K and Primary Teachers

  • Getting the Year Started in Guided Reading

  • Building Confidence at Kindergarten and First Grade

  • Word Search games
    Give students this "big word" and see how many little words they can find inside of it. Students might enjoy working with partners or small groups to meet the challenge. A little competition is healthy and fun, too! Let partner groups or small groups compete to see which group finds the most words. You might find it necessary to call a time limit and then to have groups switch papers to see if anyone wishes to challenge any of the words as to whether or not they're real words. This activity should help students to notice the chunks of little words in bigger words, even though this exaggerates it.

    1. Spring word game - You'll get extra points for the finding the two animals that signal the coming and going of spring.
    2. Word Search Game - This sheet was sent by Nicole Keil, first grade teacher at New Franklin Elementary School in Portsmouth, NH. Have fun exploring these two rime patterns!
    3. After school word game
    4. Holiday Word Search
    5. Holiday Directions Word Game - See if your students are able to follow a set of directions to create a new sentence that expresses the sentiment of the season!
    6. Halloween Word Search
    7. School People Word Game
    8. Animal Word Game
    9. General Word Game
    10. School Word Hunt
    11. Sports Word Game
    12. Cities and States Word Hunt
    13. General Word Game 1
    14. General Word Game 2
    15. General Word Game 3
    16. General Word Game 4
Fun Stuff Archive