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Book Clubs for the Upper Elementary Classroom

Find out How to Implement Book Clubs Effectively in the Upper Elementary Classroom.

Book Clubs… Every Teacher’s Dream Come True

It’s every teacher’s dream. We all want our students to work well together, to be motivated to work, and to be passionate about reading. We are here to tell you that this is not just a dream. Book Clubs make this dream come true. Book Clubs earn a check mark for each of these things on your list. We are here to help you add some tools to your teacher toolkit in order to become effective at managing Book Clubs in your classroom.

Click here for some FABULOUS Book Club FREEBIES!

Oh, and we’ve got some FREEBIES just for you!

Your passion and excitement about reading is contagious! Find out one way to spread this to your students!

Getting Started with Book Clubs

First of all, what are Book Clubs? Book Clubs are an opportunity for students to form partnerships in reading. Students read a book together, collaborate to get a job done, and share in the joy of exploring a book together.

So Where does a Teacher Begin?

Before anything else, teachers need to launch their Book Clubs by sharing their excitement and passion for reading with their students. It starts with YOU. If YOU aren’t passionate and excited to read, why should your students be passionate about reading? We love the idea of gathering up the titles that you have available for Book Clubs and SELLING them to your students. That’s right! Get up there and give each title a “commercial,” of course, leaving out the “Spoiler Alerts.”

One word of advice is to be sure you have read the books they are reading! We know… we know… but we promise, your Book Clubs will be more successful if you do! Did we scare you off? Okay, okay, how about this… Let’s say that you have six titles. How about read half this year and the other half next year? Audiobook? Summer Goals? No matter how you decide to get the job done, find a way… any way… make it happen!

How to organize your book clubs and watch your students succeed!

Create student-led Book Clubs with just two easy steps! Find out here!

The power of choice and responsibilities in Book Clubs! Let us help you!

The Goal: STUDENT-LED BOOK CLUBS

STUDENT-LED. This is the goal, but HOW?

#1

The first way to achieve student-led Book Clubs is by empowering your students with the gift of choice.  Students need to choose the books that they are reading. Get up there and sell each book with a commercial. Let students know how amazing each book is and then let them choose. We love the idea of posting Sign-Up Sheets around the room with the book titles. We have found that four to a group is the perfect number, but you can always do what works best for the amount of titles that you have available. Students walk around and “shop” for their books.

Common Teacher Concerns

Now, many teachers might say, “Well, how do I make sure that students choose a book at their level?” Well, hopefully, they already know how to do this because you have taught them how to choose books that are just right for them. Let them try! Let go of the control. If they don’t make the right decision, guide them. Maybe let them choose between two books that are at their level. A student should never be forced to read a book they don’t want to read.

Another concern that teachers have is, “What if they just pair up with their friends?” So what! Wouldn’t you want to read a book that your friends are reading? Trust us, they won’t have time to misbehave with the schedule you’ve got set up for them. They will be busy. If students are busy and engaged, there’s no time for misbehavior. Oh, and if there is misbehavior, separate them from the group for a day… what’s more punishment than being separated from your friends that are having fun?????

If students choose their book titles and groups, they will be more likely to read, fulfill their roles and lead each other during Book Clubs.


Book Club FREEBIE! Organize your Book Clubs with this FREEBIE!

How to EMPOWER your students during Book Clubs

#2

The second way to encourage Student-Led Book Clubs in your classroom is by giving students responsibilities. They need something to do! They need a common goal that they are all working towards! If students are busy with a job in front of them, they have no choice but to lead each other. Students have no one to blame but themselves if the timer goes off and the work isn’t done!

In Our Classrooms

The common goal in our classrooms is for students to complete their Book Club Booklet and to follow the schedule of tasks in a given amount of time. We highly recommend using a timer.

We always start out by discussing the reading from the previous day. In the students’ Book Club Booklet, they each have a different job to do each day. One might collect vocabulary, while the other might focus on figurative language. The point is, each student has a job that they, individually, need to accomplish. They discuss their findings with each other and share what they produced.

Along with these jobs, students prepare, what we call, “Discussion Seeds,” Discussion Seeds are ideas that popped into their head while reading and are something that they want to discuss with their group. When the time is right in the discussion, they plant their “seed” and watch it “grow” into a conversation. A sample Discussion Seed could be, “What if the antagonist was our teacher?” or “What if we changed the genre from fantasy to realistic fiction, what would have to change?” or as simple as, “What did you think when _____ happened?” Discussion Seeds can be anything! A Discussion Seed’s purpose is to keep the conversation going and to keep a group of students from saying, “We’re done. Now what?”

The next item on our schedule is that we display a menu of questions on the board that students answer. Again, we believe in student choice. Students take turns choosing a question that their group will answer. Each person  has a chance to share their answer verbally in the group. They choose a different question each day, over the course of your Book Clubs.

Students need to be held accountable during Book Clubs. Find out how we do it here!

Why Some Book Clubs Fail

Book Clubs tend to fall apart when students do not read and do not fulfill their role in the group. Sometimes, these students will try to sink into the background and let the others do the work for them. We have all seen this happen. Maybe you were in this group growing up! Know what we mean?

Over the years, we have found the cure to this problematic disease. Our cure is that we have our students come prepared with, what we call, a “Ticket to Discussion.” Our Tickets to Discussion are very basic. They might ask for vocabulary words with page numbers or to write a few sentences about their favorite part. The point is that they had to have read to fill them out. If the ticket is filled out, students get the privilege of participating with the group and if not, they are asked to sit out and complete the reading or work that they did not accomplish. Hopefully, the student learns their lesson and comes prepared the following day. If not, this student may lose the opportunity to be in a group. Peer pressure is a wonderful thing! We have found that we very seldom have this problem because students want to interact with each other and they want to share in the excitement that Book Clubs create.

Students also need to be held accountable for their teamwork in a group. Having your students create norms for group work is critical. They need to know how to share their ideas and involve everyone in decisions and conversations. We post these norms around our room and even on their bookmarks as a constant reminder. Here are some bookmarks with some behaviors that are beneficial for Book Clubs. Enjoy!
FREEBIE to help students remember their role in Book Clubs!

Learn how students can reflect on their work during Book Clubs!

STUDENT Reflection in Book Clubs

The last major component to Book Clubs is SELF-reflection. The reflection needs to come from the students… not from you.  Students need to evaluate their own work along with their group’s teamwork.

We have found that the use of the Fish Bowl strategy helps with self-reflection tremendously. Around day three, we like to have one group sit in the middle, while the rest of the class circles around them and quietly observes. The group in the middle conducts their Book Club meeting as they normally would. The rest of the class watches. Have a class meeting after the group is done and have students list five things they really liked and one way the group could improve. This is where you can offer suggestions to guide the direction you would like your Book Clubs to go. The next day, do the same thing. You will notice the students using your words! Each day, the Book Clubs will get better and better. We like to do multiple rounds of Book Clubs, so you really only have to do this the first round. During the second or third round, you can do it a few times just to check in.

Another way to assist students with self-reflection is by having them write about it daily. Students get the chance to write about things they are proud of, team members that did a great job and also things that they wish to improve. By using this piece, students can lift each other up and work on improving on a daily basis. Enjoy!


Click here for a FREEBIE that helps students with Self-Reflection during Book Clubs!

 


Learn how to sit back and watch the magic happen during Book Clubs!

The Hardest Part of Book Clubs

Teachers like to be in control. The hardest part of Book Clubs, for a lot of teachers, is sitting back and watching the class take the reins. Your role is a facilitator, not the director.  Hold a class meeting if there is an issue and have the students come up with a solution to the problem. Hold as many meetings as necessary, but try not to jump into a group and lead the discussion. Enjoy popping around from group to group and taking notes and making observations of your little readers! You have worked hard at teaching them what they know, so enjoy watching them use it while reading and collaborating!

Check out this great display of Book Club Booklets!

Benefits of Book Club Booklets

Have Open House or an observation? Display these Booklets on your board! Fun, colorful, and full of student work!!!!

Another benefit to doing Book Clubs is that they make the perfect addition to an Author Study!  We always do these with our favorite author, Roald Dahl. First, we read about Roald Dahl, and then we learn more about him through all of his books! You could make a bulletin board just like the one below!

Find out why Book Clubs make a great addition to an Author Study!

In Closing,

Our hope is that we have added more tools to your teacher toolkit. We love spreading positive teaching ideas that inspire you to inspire your students. We would love to hear from you in the comments below! Ask any questions that you may have or share about Book Clubs in your room! We look forward to hearing from you!

Ready to Start Book Clubs?

What are You Waiting For??????

Everything mentioned in this blog post can be accomplished by purchasing our Book Clubs for Upper Elementary Bundle! You will get ready-to-use materials that will have your students begging for more!

We have done all of the work for you!

Click the image below to start this engaging activity

with your students today!

Book Club Booklets! A great activity to add to your classroom to use with ANY book!

We have all the tools you need to run Book Clubs in your room!

Take a look at what our students do in their Book Club Booklets!

EVERYTHING you NEED to run Book Clubs in your classroom!

Find out why YOU and YOUR STUDENTS will LOVE Book Clubs!!!!

Interested in doing an Author Study with your Book Clubs?

Click the image below!

 

Resources We Love BLOG HOP GIVEAWAY!

Welcome to our “Resources We LOVE Blog Hop!
Blog Hop Giveaway
We are teaming up with some amazing and talented bloggers for a HUGE GIVEAWAY! There are two parts to this amazing GIVEAWAY, so check it out!

PART 1

Want to win a $100 Target gift card?
Who doesn’t???? We all LOVE Target!
Enter below!
In order to qualify, you must complete all tasks!
Good Luck!

 

PART 2:

We all have those resources that we could not live without in our classroom, are we right?!! For us, one of our favorite resources are our Sit Spots! We love Flexible Seating and we have found that Sit Spots work extremely well for the Flexible Seating classroom.
Sit Spot GIVEAWAY
If you would like to learn more about Flexible Seating, check out our blog posts by clicking here and here! With Flexible Seating, students choose different seats and sit next to different students every day. Sometimes, we need our students to have certain partners or to be in certain groups for certain activities! Sit Spots are our answer! In our classroom, we use four different colors of Sit Spots. We group our students into four ability based groups. Each color represents a different group. For example, our green colored dots could be our high group, etc… Sit Spots are the perfect way to organize partners, centers, teams, and any other grouping that you need to create. They are also great for dismissing students, or calling on different groups of students to choral read. You could call the purple group first or the color with the most girls. The possibilities are endless! We also use our Sit Spots to bring students together for direct instruction or for class meetings.
To learn more about Sit Spots, CLICK HERE!
Since we could not live without our Sit Spots,
we know you would love them too!
To win a $50 gift card for your own class set of Sit Spots,
enter our raffle below!

Want to find out if Sit Spots work on your flooring?

Get a sample Sit Spot for FREE and test it out!
Just click here!
Ready to see what the next blogger is raffling off?
Click the image below to HOP on over!
http://theanimatedteacher.com/2017/02/11/products-we-love-giveaway/
Each blogger is giving away a resource they
LOVE to use in their classroom!
This Blog Hop has a $100 Target Gift Card
and 12 total resources up for grabs!
Happy Hopping!

 

Top 5 Reasons to Subscribe to Our Newsletter!

 Hello! We are Deserae and Michelle,
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The Rigorous Owl

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These posters serve as great Anchor Charts to
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The Rigorous Owl

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What Comes Before and After Literacy Centers? Part 3 of a 3 Part Series

sequence of teaching

 Welcome to our third post on Literacy Centers! 

If you’ve made it this far, you’re almost an expert! 
We are so excited that you have found the value of implementing Literacy Centers in your classroom! 
We truly believe that this is where good teaching happens! 
Students need exposure to a standard through different modes of learning. Literacy Centers check off both of those boxes… and more! We believe that this is what our students have been missing all along!
In this blog post, you will learn about the ideal sequence to teaching a standard! 
Let’s get goin’! 
lesson plans
 Above, you can see the ideal sequence for teaching a standard. We gave the example of teaching Idioms. This is a common standard that everyone teaches, so the idea can be applied to whatever you are teaching. As you can see, students are given a plethora of activities to expose them to the standard! They have multiple chances at accessing the standard and you have a variety of assessment tools to monitor their proficiency along the way! 
This is what we have implemented in our classroom this year, and we can honestly say that we have had the biggest growth that we have ever had before. Our students are performing at a level they have never reached before… and guess what? 
THEY ARE HAVING FUN! 
AND EVEN BETTER… SO ARE WE!
interactive notebooks

 When we first introduce a standard,

we start with our “Week Long Lessons.” 
Day 1 starts with having students take notes on the standard and creating an Anchor Chart in their Interactive Reader’s Notebook. This provides a point of reference for later questions. It is also an excellent tool for parents to see what their child is learning and how to help them at home. Day 2 gives students more practice by providing them with a Practice Page. These practice pages are not just a worksheet! Students usually have a maze, ti-tac-toe game or other engaging activity in order to practice the standard. Throughout the week, students also complete a foldable, which is placed inside their Interactive Reader’s Notebook. Students also use sentence frames while they are reading their Independent Reading book. A sample sentence frame would be, “Idiom Alert on p. ____! The idiom is ____,” or “A great idiom for today’s reading would be ______.” These sentence frames are also applied to our class Read Aloud. This is great for Modeling and Teacher Think Alouds! Another activity included in our “Week Long Lessons” are JOT ideas. “JOTs” are a quick jot about the standard. Our JOTS include an art activity with a short writing piece applying the standard. There are two JOT ideas included. There is an assessment included in our “Week Long Lessons,” but we save the assessment for the very end… after our Literacy Centers and Task Card Activity Bundles.
differentiated instruction

Literacy Centers come next and they are our favorite! Literacy Centers allow students to use what they learned in the “Week Long Lessons.” Students have a variety of opportunities to master the standard! We have already posted two blog posts all about them, so check them out by clicking here for Post #1  and here for Post #2! 

the rigorous owl

 After Literacy Centers comes “Task Card Activity Bundles!” 

These task cards are not just your typical task cards! 
We love the differentiation that is included. From the Literacy Centers, you will get enough documentation to group students accordingly. We love using the Task Card Activity Bundle for Intervention! We rotate students into three groups. Each teacher uses the Task Card Activity Bundle at a different level. The Proficient group uses the enrichment, the Basic group uses the task cards in a larger group setting and the Below Basic group uses the task cards in small groups with a teacher, or assistant, at each group. The differentiation included is sufficient for all three categories of students. 
the rigorous owl

The best part of all three of these tools is that they are “Print and Go!” The work has been done for you! It’s as easy as sending it out to the printers, or doing the printing yourself at school. None of the activities require additional materials. It’s about as easy as it get at a thoroughness and quality that will have your students begging for more! You will stand out from the rest with your test scores and your level of differentiated instruction!

Here is a sample of what this post has been about… 
We have many more options available in our store!
WEEK LONG LESSONS
Context Clues Week Long Lessons Common Core Aligned   Quotes Punctuating Dialogue Week Long Lessons! Common Core   Proverbs & Adages Week Long Lessons Common Core Aligned    Relative Adverbs Week Long Lessons! Common Core Aligned L4.1a
LITERACY CENTERS
Context Clues Literacy Centers   Punctuating Dialogue   Proverbs and Adages   Relative Adverbs
TASK CARD ACTIVITY BUNDLE
Context Clues Task Card Activity Bundle   Punctuating Dialogue Task Cards   Proverbs and Adages Task Card Activity Bundle   Relative Adverbs Task Cards

Click the above images to check them out in our store!
Thanks for joining us on this blog post series! 
If you have any questions or comments, 
we would love to hear from you in the Comments below!

How to Run Literacy Centers in Your Classroom… Part 2 of a 3 Part Series

 Welcome to our second post of our three part series on 
Literacy Centers! 
If you missed Part 1, check it out by clicking HERE!
This blog post is all about how to effectively run a 
Literacy Center Rotation in your classroom! 
You will learn all about organizing groups, getting students engaged, keeping students organized and focused, improving the quality of their work, managing behavior, checking for levels of understanding, team building, and lastly, keeping yourself organized! 
Phhheeeewww! 
That was a lot! Let’s get started!
During a Literacy Center Rotation, we group our students into groups of four. This seems to be a manageable size because many of the activities require pair work with checking another pair’s answers before moving on. In this group of four, we assign a role, or responsibility, for each student. We simply laminate the cards above and use lanyards that we have collected over the years. Another idea is to use yarn and clip them with two clothespins to make a necklace. The team jobs that we use are Spirit Leader, Time Keeper, Clean-Up Crew, and Captain. Team Spirit Leader starts each center off with hands in the middle and a phrase such as, “Go Team!” If someone starts to get negative, they redirect and get their group back on the positivity train! The Time Keeper is in charge of monitoring the time. We display a countdown on our projector for students to use. We like using this Simple Online Countdown Timer. Our Literacy Centers are set up on a 15 min. rotation schedule. Time Keepers give a five minute and one minute warning to their group. The Clean-Up Crew is responsible for stopping at the one minute marker and reminding students to pick up their things, throw trash away and get the center ready for the next group. Team Captains read the directions at each station, settle difficult decisions, and keep their group focused. Giving each child a responsibility is crucial 
to building teamwork and engagement!
 Working in groups is tough! Especially when the teacher is unavailable to monitor students because she is working with a guided reading group! Teaching students how to get along and how to work together takes a lot of training. We believe that explicitly teaching students how to work in groups is extremely necessary. We love to teach off of these posters and post them in an area where students can reference them frequently. Our favorite is the pink image above because we get to role play each part for students to get a feel for how their conversations should sound.
 Because the teacher is unavailable, how do students monitor their own behavior? We teach them how to solve their own conflicts by using the steps on the purple image above. If students cannot come to a solution, or if a student chooses to continue the behavior, other group members can write the student’s name on the Behavior Report. We like to keep this next to us, so that students are less likely to tattle on each other. It seems to make it a little more serious because you can glance at it and send that special student your favorite “teacher look.” The key is to not allow the misbehavior to interrupt your guided reading group. We always deal with the misbehavior after our rotation is over. If it is a situation that the class could learn from, use a class meeting to solve future re-occurrences! 
 How to keep your students on track and organized can be tough! The forms in the image above are posted on our Literacy Center wall. Students can quickly see which group they are in and what they are learning. Students also use the Literacy Center rotation board to see which Literacy Center they are traveling to next. The first image in this blog post shows that board. Our literacy center rotations always focus on one standard at a time. We usually run anywhere from four to six stations at a time all focusing on the same standard. Each Literacy Center focuses on a different aspect of the standard, which makes it easy for us to see what parts students understand and where they may need more instruction or practice.
 Another way to see if students are understanding what is at each Literacy Center is to have them fill out a 
Levels of Understanding Emoji Survey! 
Each student shades in the Emoji that describes 
how they did at the Literacy Center. 
Quick, Easy and Fun!
 Now, here is the part that is a game changer! Because students are rotating through a variety of Literacy Centers, they all finish their work at different speeds. THIS is where you will run into behavior problems! Let’s keep them busy! Students don’t always know what to do when they are done, so TELL THEM! We always make a list of what they could do at each Literacy Center if they get done early. We also provide a Quality Checklist, so that students can improve the quality of their work when they finish! Ummmm, can we say A-MAZE-ING???? And the best part is that it is not coming from you! Students start to do these steps by themselves the more they are exposed to it!
 Here is the part that we LOVE! 
Why? 
Because it is so easy and it is yet another way to recognize 
students for positive behavior! 
It is also an amazing way for you to find out amazing things that happened at a Literacy Center that you may have missed! 
Whenever we think about this component, 
all we see in our minds are SMILES! 
Smiles are always an added bonus, are we right?!
It is important for the teacher to stay organized and collect data from the Literacy Center Rotations. Too often, we will run Literacy Centers and not bother to collect the data that could be used for IEPs, Intervention, Parent-Teacher Conferences, or anywhere else student data is needed. We have a Literacy Center Binder where all of our data is stored. We keep track of student groupings, notes of the groups that come through our Close Reading Literacy Center, levels of understanding, and grades from student work at each center. You’re already doing the work, so you might as well have something to show for it!
If all of this looks so good that you want to have it for your own classroom… Guess What?! You can! 
AAAAANNNDDD… 
YOU CAN HAVE IT FOR FREE!!!!!
Simply subscribe to our newsletter!
Don’t want to subscribe? 
You can also purchase it by CLICKING HERE
… but why would you, right?!
You can also CLICK HERE to get a little taste test 
of our Literacy Centers! 
This is a SAMPLE of our 
Character Traits Literacy Centers.

Want to Implement Literacy Centers in your classroom? We have a plethora to choose from!
Fragments and Run-ons  Formal and Informal Language Plot Character Motivation
Fragments and Run-on Literacy Centers
Formal and Informal Language Literacy Centers
Plot Literacy Centers
Character Motivation Literacy Centers

AND SO MANY MORE!

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We would LOVE to hear from you 
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How to Improve Your Literacy Block… a 3 part series!

 Welcome!
We cannot wait to share with you what your
Literacy Block is MISSING!
Have you ever taught a standard and had your students
perform poorly on an assessment?
Never, right! HA!
Here’s the problem….
It was happening WAY TOO OFTEN in our classes!
We would give the direct instruction lesson, do a little pair share, give a handout, maybe another handout the next day, talk about it the next day and give an assessment and wonder why our students were not scoring at a proficient or advanced level!
Well, here’s what happened.
It was time for my formal evaluation and I was writing out my typical lesson plan. Totally predictable and totally average.
I stopped and thought to myself, “If my students aren’t scoring proficient or advanced, it doesn’t matter how great this individual lesson looked for an evaluation. The bottom line was that it was not getting the job done. I had to change!” I decided that I would shake my class up a bit and try something new. Because my evaluation was in four days, I had to get my students trained FAST!
Here’s what we decided to do…
The problem was that our students were not getting enough exposure to the standard. We decided to create Literacy Centers for the standards that we were covering in our unit. We would focus on one standard and have students rotate through the six stations in 15 min intervals. We pulled apart each standard into its different components and designed a Literacy Center around it. This way, we could assess the output from the students and evaluate which part of the standard they were not grasping.
Each Literacy Center needed to appeal to different modes of learning. We all know that students learn in different ways, so Literacy Centers need to address the different modes!
Here are the six Literacy Centers that we developed.
Our first center is Close Read. This center is teacher led and examines a passage closely. Students read, discuss, and examine the text’s contents. This guided reading group is our favorite!
The second Literacy Center is the Game. Students love games! Games vary from Matching, to dice games, or even Headbandz. Students love learning with other students!
The Note Taking Literacy Center has students create three column notes. Students fill in a variety of information based on what is asked of them.
The Sort Literacy Center has students practice examples and non-examples. Again, manipulating the content is powerful!
Our Art Center is for students who learn best from visuals. They are asked to draw the concept on their “canvas” and create a short writing piece.
The last Literacy Center is Writing. Students are asked to write showing their knowledge of the standard in their writing.
Take a look at what the Literacy Centers look like in our classrooms.
(On a side note, excuse the mess… students are learning!)
 Here is the most important component to Literacy Centers!
We all know that we have different groups of students in our classroom. Everyone learns at different paces and we need to accommodate these needs in our classrooms.
The most powerful component of these Literacy Centers is that there is a way to DIFFERENTIATE at each center!
If you look at the image above, you can see that the pair on the left is at a lower level of understanding than the pair to the right. One asks for a definition, while the other asks students to apply the meaning to a scenario. The differentiation has been done for you! All you need to do is group your students accordingly!
This has saved us a ton of time when preparing
for GATE students or Intervention!
These Literacy Centers are perfect for small group instruction
at whatever level you need!
The last part that we feel that we have to tell you is how the observation went! Let’s just say that I met all of the teaching standards with flying colors. My evaluator loved the conversations students were having, how engaged the students were, the differentiation and the rigor of the content. She even asked if other teachers could come in to see what we were doing in our classrooms and that this is what great teaching looks like.

We can also tell you that our students LOVE it when we use these centers. When they walk into the room and see them on the schedule, we hear, “Yesssss!!!!! I loooooove the centers!”If you are interested in learning more about Literacy Centers, you have come to the right place. This is post #1 of a 3 part series! Our  post #2 will be all about HOW to run Literacy Centers. Post #3 will be all about where Literacy Centers fit into the sequence of teaching a standard. Be sure to subscribe to be notified and follow us on Instagram!

If you would like to give the Literacy Centers a try for FREE,
Click here for a sample.
You won’t get the differentiation and all of the extras,
but you will get a feel for some of the centers.
If you have any questions, please let us know
in the comments below!
Punctuating Dialogue   Character Change  Proverbs and Adages   Idioms

Idioms Literacy Center
Love FREEBIES?

 

NEW YEAR’S GIVEAWAY

Check it out on Instagram! 
Simply search: The Rigorous Owl
We are so excited to be participating in a New Year’s Giveaway with such amazing TPT sellers! 
Start your New Year off right by going on a shopping spree on us!
Giveaway ends Jan. 1 @ 11:59pm PST. 
Good Luck!

Top Takeaways from The Ron Clark Academy

Welcome!
We are so excited to share our top takeaways from our visit to the Ron Clark Academy. I’m sure you’ve heard of the Ron Clark Academy, and yes, the rumors are true.The Ron Clark Academy is absolutely amazing!
If we were to sum up our trip in one word, our word would be “ELECTRIC.”
Our experience at The Ron Clark Academy was ELECTRIC.
The vibe, the passion, the learning, the feeling,,, everything was ELECTRIC.
If you have not heard of the Ron Clark Academy,
Click here to learn more.
So, what is it like visiting The Ron Clark Academy?

Click here to Get the Feel!

With all of that being said, we can’t wait to share our top takeaways from our visit! Here it goes…

1. Student Relationships
We all know that student relationships are important, but have you ever considered that student relationships are EVERYTHING? When is the last time you looked at your students in their eyes? We mean REALLY looked into their eyes when you were delivering a lesson? It’s that connection that inspires students to rise up and achieve what you are asking from them. The next time you deliver a lesson, notice how many eyes you are looking into. Find out your students’ interests, hobbies, likes and dislikes. Have you eaten lunch with them? Do you have conversations that do not involve academics? Setting this positive personal relationship with students is the foundation for everything else.

2. Engagement
Throughout the entire training, there were three words that were mentioned over and over again. MUSIC. MOVEMENT. MAGIC. These three components are crucial for student engagement.
MUSIC
Mrs. Bearden said, “Music is the heart beat of life.” Wow, right?! How often do you have music playing in your classroom? According to our training, it should be ALL THE TIME. Music should be playing as your students enter and exit your classroom. Loud, upbeat, relevant music that your students enjoy listening to! Music should be playing in the background while you are teaching, music should be played while students are independently working. Go to You Tube and type in: Pop Instrumental Music and the year. You will have a plethora of options to choose from! Students can also create music by doing short chants or cheers. Music brings spirit, excitement and enthusiasm.
MOVEMENT
How much do your students move around the room? They should! How often do you move around the room? Your answer should be ALWAYS! Movement is another way to build a connection with your students. When you deliver a lesson, talk with your hands. We learned that your hands should be moving in an invisible box close to your body for normal speech. When something is of great importance, your hands should break through this invisible box to let students know that they should be listening! If you are walking around the room, STOP when you get to an important point to draw attention. It’s all about these  “opposites” that students will quickly pick up on. Students learn when they are moving! Gestures are a great way to reach your students.
MAGIC
Magic is that little something extra that YOU bring to a lesson. A scenario was presented… Imagine that there are six classrooms… three on each side that have their doors open. Each of them has the same materials, the same classroom decor, the same lesson, the same lesson plans, etc… You walk through the hallway and are asked to pick what classroom you would like to be a part of. You pick. What made you pick that classroom? Was it the smile on the teacher’s face? Was it the smile on her students’ faces? Was it the quick joke? Was it the way she moved? Whatever it was, it was her MAGIC. The teacher makes the difference.

3. Teach High
At the Ron Clark Academy, Ron encouraged us to keep teaching to the high students of your class. Don’t stop because a few do not understand. Keep going! He advises that this is what will motivate the others to improve! This is a great reminder! Too often, we may hold the higher students back. We need to provide the enrichment they need, while providing intervention to those that need it also. We should always move forward!

4. Consistency
No matter what goals you set for yourself and your students, we need to remember that consistency is key. You can have the best plans, but wonder in the end why they didn’t pay off? You may find yourself blaming your students or complaining to others about how nothing you do seems to work. The problem, as hard as it is to admit, is YOU! You are the number one reason your plans do not work out. You are in charge of how successful you and your students are. The faster you realize this, the further you will get reaching your goals. Start small. Set achievable goals that you can follow through with and build onto them!

5. Parents
Here was one of our BIGGEST take-away from the Ron Clark Academy. If we are being honest, it’s where we struggle the most. Parents. Am I speaking to ya? We can love on our students day after day, but until we love our students’ parents and get their buy-in and involvement, we will keep wondering where we are going wrong.
Have you ever gone above and beyond for a student and then find out that it’s their parent who filed a complaint on you or went to the principal because they questioned something you did? EVERY TIME… are we right?! Ron encourages us to keep two separate compartments. He tells us to separate our heads from our heart. Who’s in your heart? Your personal life and your students. Who’s in your head? The parents. Never let your head affect your heart. Don’t take it too personal and let it affect your heart! You are not going to be able to please everyone all of the time. Someone will hear a story wrong or view something in a different light from what you intended it to be.
With that being said, how should we deal with parents? According to Ron, we should give them the red carpet treatment. Take the extra time to build rapport with them. Get to know their names and their entire family. Build relationships! Have you ever done a home visit? If not, maybe consider going to “that student’s” home to grasp a full picture of who they are. Get that parent’s support and buy-in. Another thought is to consider the way you dress. If there are a group of teachers and you are dressed the nicest, how do you think that you are perceived? Ron stated, “Perception is reality.” The way that parents see you is the reality that they have painted in their heads. When a parent has respect for you, they will be more willing to work with you in a positive way!

So, what we are going to implement at our school? We believe that the above takeaways are more of a mindset than anything else. They are great reminders and philosophies to use in your classroom on a daily basis.

Below, you will find different strategies that we plan to implement. Again, we are going to start small and take it one step at a time so that we can have consistency and success. Here are some amazing strategies that we saw at the Ron Clark Academy.

  • Taking the Floor: Taking the floor is all about students answering questions posed by you and moving into a classroom discussion. This strategy puts students in control and gives them a voice. If they have an answer PREPARED and are ready to speak, they simply stand up and address the class (not you). If two students stand up at the same time, they work out who will speak first. For example, if Bob and Mary stand up at the same time and start speaking, Bob can say, “Go ahead Mary. If there is something else I want to add, I will.” Mary can then speak and ask Bob if there was anything else.
  • Chants: Chants are short little cheers or attention grabbers. Chants redirect student behavior. For example, if you’re moving around the room and students are not looking at you, you could say, “Track me now!” Students can reply, “Zoom Zoom Pow!” Students would use gestures while doing this. After students respond, you should wait to make sure that everyone is actually looking before moving on.
  • Ways to Celebrate: Students should celebrate each other’s accomplishments! Teachers should encourage students to whisper, “Great Job,” if a student “rocks” an answer. That act should get praise too! Students should not be timid to give praise to students that deserve it!
  • Essential 55: Ron Clark’s Essential 55 is critical for students to be able to do any of the above tasks. Students need to know how to behave and how to consider students and teachers around them. Ron Clark says that he values the role playing of the Essential 55.
  • House System: This is what we are MOST excited about implementing at our school. We believe that the House System provides the sense of family that is critical for a school. If you haven’t heard of a House System or if you haven’t checked it out, be sure to! They have made it so easy for us! The Ron Clark Academy has a FREE app available in your app store. Once you download it, click on Resources and scroll down to Hope King’s House System. She has a whole article titled, “Houses for Dummies.” It is awesome. It takes you through the idea step-by-step! We plan to roll out this House System in upper grades first, work out the kinks, and then go school wide.
Well, we hope that you have had some takeaways from reading about our trip! 
If you are every able to go to the Ron Clark Academy,
we would strongly encourage you to do so! 
It is seriously a Disneyland for teachers! 
Our trip will forever be ingrained in
our minds and in our classrooms. 
Questions? 
Please leave them in the comments below!

Detective Mystery Unit!

Welcome Super Sleuths!
In this blog post you will get to go behind the scenes with us to see how we set up, planned, and operated our Detective Mystery Unit!
Be sure to check out the Freebies, Tips, and Enter our Giveaway!
Now, let’s get started!
The first task that you face when you plan for a fun unit like this, is to get into character! We do everything as a team at our school, so the three fourth grade teachers plan and work together. We all participate in the events together! We started by simply getting everyone a badge off of Amazon. Our next stop was to the Dollar Tree to find some aviator sunglasses…. and just like that, we were transformed into Detective Brazeal and Detective Devlin!
We also made sure that we used detective vocabulary throughout the day for our gumshoes!
If you need some ideas, Click the button below for a Detective Vocabulary Freebie!

The next thing that we decided that we HAD to have was a crime lab to book our evidence into. Instead of transforming three classrooms, we decided to have all three teachers set up one crime lab.  Our perfect spot was behind the curtains of our stage in our MPR. This was amazing for us because there were no performances going on, Also, if we wanted a small group activity, one class could go inside, but if we needed all three classes to participate, they could sit in the MPR and look into the lab. If this is not an option for you, maybe there is an empty classroom at your school that could serve the same purpose. We loved this idea because our unit was an entire week long, and this way, we didn’t have to be in this dark lab for an entire week!
Check our YouTube video out below to get a feel for it!

You Tube Video of our Crime Lab!
All right, so here’s where we got all of the materials for our lab. The first thing that you will need is black plastic sheeting. Here is what we used Click Here. We simply used a staple gun and lined the area. The only other thing we bought were our detective cardboard boy and girl and the footprint stickies from Oriental Trading. The rest of the supplies were found around our classrooms or school. We already had black lights, cation tape, and we found the cool items on our lab table in our science materials kits. The glowing liquid in the test tubes is made from glow in the dark paint that one of the teachers had at home. We already had the flashlights that the students are holding in the picture because we do Flashlight Friday reading, which we purchased from Amazon. Overall, it looks like a lot, but when you have three teachers making one lab, you have more resources to pull from!
The main purpose of the Top Secret Lab is to build excitement for the students!
It is so amazing to hear them shout out,  “Wow!” “Ahhhh!” and “That’s Awesome!”
If students are engaged, they will be more motivated to complete the academic tasks that you present for them! Another reason is for your excitement! It is so rewarding!
We were excited to get to work each day and pumped when it was time for our Lab time!
Ok, now it’s time for the good stuff. The first question you need to answer is, “What is the crime going to be?” If you are doing the unit with multiple classes, you will need to find something that all of the classrooms have in common. Since we were reading Bunnicula, we decided to buy a small stuffed rabbit for each classroom. We really wanted them to value the rabbit, so we made it our class pet. We brought in a pet carrier, gave him a blanket, laid out some food and water, and made sure he was securely locked in his cage every day before heading home. If you know the book, then you will get why there is a white pumpkin nearby. We also left the book for him to read at night. After we were done reading our book, it was time for the crime to occur! Bunnicula mysteriously disappeared overnight! When the students walked in to the crime scene you see the next morning, they are devastated that their beloved class pet was missing! And just like that, the mystery began!
For those of you who have not read about our Year Long Plan, you might be unfamiliar with the way we teach. Each unit lasts one month.
In each unit, we teach four main standards… one from each domain.
Here is what we were teaching during this unit.
Key Ideas and Details:Character Traits
Craft and Structure: Elements of Poetry
Vocabulary Acquisition: Context Clues
Language: Prepositions and Prepositional Phrases
During our Engaging Scenario (what you are reading about),
we complete one task from each domain each day.
For the very first day, our focus was on Prepositions. The students were given this
FREEBIE: REPORT AND SKETCHING. Click the button below to get it!

Their first task was to make a sketch of the crime scene.
Then, they had to write their report.
In their report, they had to circle all prepositions and underline all of the prepositional phrases.
Describing the crime scene was absolutely PERFECT for prepositions!
The next step was to book all of our evidence into our lab!
We pulled all of the classes together and debriefed.
We talked about what was seen in each classroom (all the same) and what we thought our next actions should be.
We decided that it was time to canvas the campus and start gathering tips!
Students created posters that listed basic information about the crime. In this poster, they had to include five prepositions and prepositional phrases. Again, the prepositions were circled and the prepositional phrases were underlined. On the posters, students advised witnesses to contact our Crime Hotline with any tips that they had. Each student made a poster and they were plastered all over campus! Talk about building excitement! The whole school was buzzing!
The next day, our focus was Character Traits. We wrote eight short scripts for eight different callers. Click Here to See What Our Witnesses Read!
Various staff left these messages on our voicemail portraying eight different character traits. When our students came in the next day, they were given the piece of paper in the image above.
We also have it available for FREE by clicking here!
We told them that we had several new messages that needed to be investigated! They were hooked! With each message, students had to assign a character trait and list the evidence that supported their claim.  Most of the messages were pointless and led nowhere, but several fed the students ideas about what they should do next in their investigation.
From the hotline, a suspect list was generated. Our first thought was to make a list of everyone that had access to all three rooms. From there, we focused on the time of the crime. We had our custodian report that the bunnies were seen at 4:30pm. This dwindled down our suspect list to six suspects. The next day’s standard was Context Clues. On each of our doors, there was a black light message left inside a Top Secret envelope. Students came together to examine the messages. On each paper, there were more clues given. Students had to use their knowledge of Context Clues to decipher the messages! One of them said that there was a very important clue left by the piano in the MPR. Student RUSHED over to discover it! This important clue was an invitation to a party that had a map on it. The students then interrogated the remaining six suspects and discovered that three of them lived in the area on the map. Our mystery now had three prime suspects!
The next day, we focused on College and Career Readiness.
We had an expert come in to close the case!
Our forensic specialist came out and shared with the students all about the law enforcement career. Students took notes and asked some amazing questions! They loved this!
At the end, we explained our crime to the expert and asked if he could pull prints from an item left at the scene. He pulled the prints successfully!
Now, our case was ready to be solved!
All we needed was to collect prints from each of the remaining suspects and make a match!
Our match led to no other than our very own principal!
She was served with a search warrant, and our rabbits were found safe and sound! Immediately, our students chorally read her her rights and our principal was booked!
When asked about her motives, our principal told the students to look inside the basket. We discovered that our cute little bunnies were holding rolled up papers! These rolls ended up being diplomas from Bunny Obedience School! When our principal explained, she told us that she heard our bunnies might be vampire rabbits (If this sounds a little crazy, read the book! You’ll love it!). She didn’t want anything to harm the students at her school because safety was her top priority. She decided that she would send them to a four day obedience training and she didn’t want to tell us because she wanted them to finish their training.
Talk about an amazing principal, right?!
Our students immediately forgave her and released her!
The next day’s focus was on Poetry Elements.
We had fun with fingerprint poems and pulled out all of the elements from some detective poems. The students were able to practice and apply all four concepts that were in our month’s unit, while having a blast!
CASE CLOSED!
WANT THIS MYSTERY AND DETECTIVE ACTIVITY AND DECOR BUNDLE FOR FREE?! ENTER OUR RAFFLE!
Want Some Detective Fun in Your Room? We’ve got you covered!

 

Be a Boss at Classroom Management in your Flexible Seating Classroom!

 Welcome to our second blog post in our
“Be a Boss at Flexible Seating” Series!
This post is all about your Classroom Management! We are so excited because we’ve got some FREEBIES, tips and a GIVEAWAY for you in this post!
There are many questions that arise with Flexible Seating…
“How do you get your students to behave well
while they are sitting next to their friends?”
“You’re telling me they really sit on the balls and don’t bounce?”
“Ya right, my students would destroy all of
those fun types of seating!”
Sound familiar?
Are some of these your thoughts and questions?
Well, you’re in the right place!
 We have found that the answer to Classroom Management in the Flexible Seating Classroom is through a Classroom Economy! The Flexible Seating Classroom is made for this! In our classroom, we use “Brazeal Bucks” and “Devlin Dollars” to encourage positive behaviors in our rooms.
Take a look below at the system we use in our classroom.
 This system of Deposits and Debits is ideal to encourage students to behave properly in the Flexible Seating Classroom. In our room, students are assigned jobs. The jobs that they have help to create a sense of ownership for their classroom. The biggest hurdle for students to jump over is to view the entire room as their responsibility, not just their seat for the day. Once students grasp this, the Flexible Seating Classroom is more likely to succeed.
Notice the items on the list above that encourage responsible behavior in the Flexible Seating Classroom:
Clean Zone, Talking to Neighbor, Out of Seat, Inappropriate Use of Seating, and Trips to Backpack.
Clean Zones are necessary to keep items from spilling over into other students’ “work bubbles,” since work spaces are less defined than the traditional desk. The Talking to Neighbor offense is hit with a fine of $20 and the action of moving! If you put a fine on this, your problems will be reduced significantly! The act of moving sets the tone for other students in the room also. The loss of seat seems to have the highest impact! Students start to realize that they need to find a “Just Right Seat,” rather than just sit next to their BFF. And from our experience, we can tell you that we do have BFFs sitting next to each other every single day and they behave extraordinarily! They quickly realize that they are in control of whether they sit next to each other or not! We noticed that in the beginning of the school year, students tend to think that they can get up whenever they want. The Out of Seat fine helps with this problem. The Inappropriate Use of Seating is extremely important. It took one deflated ball and a snapped lap desk to figure this one out! When this type of thing happens in your Flexible  Seating Classroom (which it will at some point) you will be shocked at how the other students react. They were NOT happy with the offender! A popped ball means one less ball for them to use! We highly recommend that you DO NOT replace items that have been destroyed by students. If you replace them, be prepared to keep replacing them! When this happened, the boy who popped the ball with his pencil brought a new one in THE VERY NEXT DAY without even being asked, along with an apology note to the class. The gasps and looks of disappointment were far more powerful that anything else! Trips to the Backpack fine is put in place so that the students are prepared for their day. We keep our backpacks outside, as mentioned in our first blog post. If you missed it, click the freebie button below.

If you are interested in implementing a Classroom Economy, we have some fun tips for you! In our classroom, we have two Police Officers and two Bankers. We love theme, so we set them up with some fun accessories! We got the $$ glasses, blinged-out necklace and aviator glasses from the Dollar Tree. A student brought in the doughnut accessory, so I’m not quite sure where that came from. By the way, when she brought the doughnut in, we never laughed so hard! This student gets us!!!! We have found that the only way to store/use money in the classroom is by using a cash drawer. We found this on Amazon. We created our money to fit perfectly!
Our Classroom Economy Bundle is completely editable!
We love putting the students in charge and having them run the classroom. Our Police Officers collect fine and our Bankers pass out rewards. We also open our bank every Friday for students to make change, etc…
Your students will have counting money MASTERED! This is a life skill that they are getting and they don’t even realize it!
Many teachers ask, “Ok, so you use classroom money… What do they do with their money?” Great question! Our students get to purchase Reward Coupons once a month. The “store” opens up and the frenzy begins! We charge $100 for a coupon, and they fly off of the shelf! These colorful rewards are ideal for the Flexible Seating Classroom. Want them in your room? Enter our GIVEAWAY below or Click here to buy them in our TPT store. We love these because most of them don’t cost you a thing and they fit inside baseball card sleeves! So easy!
In the image below, we list some of the ones that work great in the Flexible Seating Classroom. First to Enter means that a students can cut to the front of the line when it isn’t their turn to enter first that day (If you don’t know what we are talking about when we say this, Click Here for this FREEBIE!) Make ’em Move means that if someone is in the seat they want, they can make ’em move! They love this one! Reserved Seating is when a students enters the room and chooses their seat, they can reserve a seat for one of their friends too. Flexible Seating Rewards are so easy and they don’t cost you a thing! Students love them!
Our students also spend their hard earned money on Market Day, but that is a whole other story, if you are interested in it,
WANT THESE REWARD COUPONS FOR FREE?
ENTER OUR RAFFLE!!!!!