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Top 5 Reasons to Subscribe to Our Newsletter!

 Hello! We are Deserae and Michelle,
also known as The Rigorous Owl!
We are so happy that you are here!
We guide passionate educators who are determined to stand out from the crowd by providing thorough, high quality, no prep lessons that will keep students engaged and begging for more.
Our goal is to help students love their learning
and in turn love you, their teacher.
We are very passionate about our students, the materials that we use in the classroom, making learning fun, and sharing great ideas and strategies with teachers like you!
By subscribing our NEWSLETTER, you will get the
Red Carpet Treatment from DAY 1!
Here are the Top 5 Reason’s to subscribe!

 

The Rigorous Owl

 In every Newsletter, it is our #1 goal to bring you VALUE!
This means that you will not just get product updates.
You will get something of VALUE that you can use!
We have brainstormed a list of ideas to GIVE to you, our subscribers. We will send some new posters to use in your room, a video showing a strategy to use with your students, some cute homework passes that serve as a free gift to your students for holidays, and so much more! We are constantly popping into each other’s room to say, “Hey, we should give this to our subscribers!”
It will always be a Newsletter worth opening!
WE PROMISE!

 

The Rigorous Owl

 Here is the #2 Reason to Subscribe! You will get these colorful Key Idea and Details Posters for your classroom for FREE! These posters cover your basics from RL 1, 2 & 3, HOWEVER, they also dive SO MUCH DEEPER! For example, RL 3 says Characters… Well, we go over your basic Character Traits (that everyone else does…yawn…) AND we also include Character Analysis, Character Change, Character Motivation, and the Types of Characters!
These posters serve as great Anchor Charts to
use throughout the year!

 

The Rigorous Owl

 The #3 Reason is that you get our Literacy Center Toolkit (that’s completely editable) for FREE! Yep, another amazing FREEBIE! Students love using this board to guide their Literacy Center Rotations! Check out our blog posts on Literacy Centers by clicking herehere, and here!

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 Are you ready for another FREEBIE?
The #4 reason to subscribe to our newsletter is that you get our 200 Key Idea and Details Sentence Frames for FREE! These are AMAZING and we personally use them every day and all year long in our classrooms! This is how students respond to their independent reading books. The possibilities are endless on how you will use them!

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 The #5 reason to subscribe is that you will be the first to know about our new products. Why do you need to know this? Because all of our new products are 50% off for the first 48 hours! You can also follow us on TPT by clicking here to get notified! Just click the green star!

 

The Rigorous Owl

Now, if we weren’t who we are, we would have stopped at 5 reasons, but WE ARE THE RIGOROUS OWL! We aim to go above and beyond for YOU! There are definitely more than 5 reasons to subscribe to our newsletter. Inside of our newsletter, you will also find a schedule of private VIP sales JUST FOR OUR SUBSCRIBERS! We also include Blog Highlights from recent blog posts. We love blogging about themed activities, strategies for teaching a standard, and other ways to help you in your classroom! (By the way, if you aren’t following our blog, please do!)
So, there you have it!
Here are the Top 5 (plus more) reasons to
Subscribe to The Rigorous Owl’s Newsletter!
We hope you will subscribe and share in our adventure in the most rewarding job there is out there! We love what we do and we know you do too! Our goal is to make a difference in your teaching life and add value to your classroom!

 

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!
Be sure to follow us so that you will be notified when our third Literacy Center blog post is done!
Questions/Comments? 
We would LOVE to hear from you 
in the comments below!

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
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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 Made Easy!

Welcome Super Sleuths!

If you are someone who loves classroom transformations and engaging students while they are learning, you have just cracked the case wide open! 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!
Crack the Case of an Engaging Crime and Mystery Unit WIDE OPEN HERE!
Be sure to check out the Freebies, Tips, and Enter our Giveaway!
We are ON THE CASE to help you with your Mystery Unit!

Let the Mystery Begin!

The first task that you face when you plan for a fun unit like this, is getting 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! If you don’t do this with your team, this is a great time to start!

Transforming into Detectives

We started our Detective Mystery Unit by simply getting each teacher a badge off of Amazon. Our next stop was to the Dollar Store to find some fancy 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!
How to Create a Top Secret Crime Lab

Setting the Stage

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. No one would even know it was there, except for our junior detectives. 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!

Making it Happen

This crime lab is not as hard to set up as it seems.  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!

Why We Set the Stage

The main purpose of the Top Secret Crime Lab is to build excitement for the students!
It is so amazing to hear them shout out,  “Wow!” “Ahhhh!” and “That’s Awesome!” Immediately, they are hooked. Buy in. It’s as simple as that. 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!
Get tips for setting up your crime scene HERE!

It’s Crime Time!

Okay, 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 below, they were devastated that their beloved class pet was missing! And just like that, we had The Case of the Missing Bunnicula!
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It’s Content Time!

For those of you who have not read about our Year Long Plan, you might be unfamiliar with the way we teach. Each of our units lasts one month. If you are interested in seeing our Year Long Plan (which we highly recommend), check it out by clicking here . In each unit, we teach four main standards… one from each domain.
Here is what we were teaching during this unit.
Genre: Mystery
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. The Engaging Scenario lasts for a total of five days.

Day 1 of our Detective Mystery Unit

For the very first day, our focus was on Prepositions and Prepositional Phrases. 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, students had to write a report describing the scene. In their report, they had to circle all prepositions and underline all of the prepositional phrases. Describing the crime scene is absolutely PERFECT for Prepositions and Prepositional Phrases!
*On a side note, this engaging scenario is done after the concepts have already been taught and practiced.
Here’s what we use:
Booking Evidence During Your Mystery Unit

The Evidence

The next step was to book all of our evidence into our lab! Students used gloves and placed items from the crime scene into baggies. All of the 4th grade classes came together and debriefed. We talked about what was seen in each classroom (all the same) and what we thought our next actions should be. As a group, we decided that it was time to canvas the campus and start gathering tips!
Set up a Tip Line during your Mystery Unit with THIS FREEBIE!

The Next Steps

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!

Day 2 of our Detective Mystery Unit

The next day, our focus was Character Traits. Again, our students had already been working on Character Traits. Here is what we used:
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Character Traits Tip Line

For the Tip Line, we wrote eight short scripts for eight different callers. Click the image below to get the script of the 8 callers for FREE!
 Various staff left these messages on our voicemail portraying eight different character traits. When our students came in the next day, they received the piece of paper in the image above. We also have it available for FREE by clicking on the image below!
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.
Keep the Suspense Building During Your Mystery Unit!

And the Suspects Are…

From the hotline, we created a suspect list. 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. Our custodian report that he saw the bunnies at 4:30pm. This dwindled down our suspect list to six suspects.

Day 3 of our Detective Mystery Unit

The next day’s standard was Context Clues. Our students were already very familiar with Context Clues. Here’s what we used:

Top Secret

A Top Secret envelope was placed on each of our doors with a black light message inside. Students came together to examine the messages.  Students had to use their knowledge of Context Clues to decipher the messages! One of the notes said to check by the piano in the MPR for a very important clue. Students 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!
Connect College and Career Readiness during your Mystery Unit!

Day 4 of our Detective and Mystery Unit

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!  All we needed was to collect prints from each of the remaining suspects and make a match!
*If you are looking to add more College and Career Readiness to your classroom, you HAVE to check this out! Click Here!
Making the Arrest for your Mystery Unit

Making the Arrest

Our fingerprint match led to no other than our very own principal! The 4th grade class served our principal with a search warrant. After searching her office, our cherished rabbits were found safe and sound! Immediately, the 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!

Day 5 of our Detective Mystery Unit

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.
On Day 5, we also did a ton of fun detective and mystery activities. Some of the activities were:
★Who Dunnit?
★Fingerprints
★Unlock the Mystery Writing
★It’s a Mystery? Graphic Organizer
★Acrostic Poem-Gumshoes
★Who Am I? Class Game
★I Was Framed Activity
★Shoe Print Art
★Shoe Print Art: Take a Deeper Look
★Master of Disguise
★3 Secret Code Activities
★Spy Spell
★Truth Serum
★My Spy Kit
★Mystery Scramble
★Secret Agent Name
All of these activities were pulled from our Detective and Mystery Activity Bundle

CASE CLOSED!

And there you have it. A Fun and Engaging Detective Mystery Unit. The students were able to practice and apply all four of our main concepts that were in our month’s unit, while having a blast! Want to know the best part? We can’t wait to do it again!
Need some Detective and Mystery Unit Resources? Check this out!

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Teaching Plot

Welcome back to our “Filling Your Teacher Tool Box” Series.
Today we are going to talk about PLOT!
We have a new and exciting way to teach plot.
You and your students are going to love it!
We’ve all heard of a plot mountain, or a plot roller coaster.. here’s another way for students to remember the parts of a plot!
Are you ready????!!!!
PLOT…It’s the PULSE of a Book!
We got this idea because we try to have everything that we do related to a career whenever it is possible. In this unit, we went with the theme of DOCTORS!
We started off with this fun Anchor Chart to help students remember the parts of a plot:
Exposition, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action and Resolution.
To reach those kinesthetic learners, we had all of the students stand up.
They put their hands over their heart and they patted the beat of each part.
A slow beat was done for both the
E         x         p         o         s         i         t         i          o         n
and
R         e         s          o         l         u         t         i          o         n
A medium beat was used for
R   i   s   i   n   g    A   c   t   i   o   n
and
F   a   l   l   i   n   g    A   c   t   i   o   n
A fast beat was used for the
CLIMAX!
We started by going in order, and then I would mix up the parts and they would show me the beat that matched the part I called out. THEY LOVE THIS!!! This is a great way for students to remember some difficult vocabulary!
Students took notes in their Reader’s Notebook, which listed the definition for each part.
We also went over the last class book that we read and identified each part.
Next, we did our  “APP”lication activity, which is directly connected with our Anchor Cart!
If you enter the raffle below, you have the chance to win this “APP”lication for FREE!
Photo Booth Props: Book the students are reading, stethoscope, doctor coat, headpiece
If you’ve read our posts before, you know we love a good theme!
Our entire Language Arts block was a PLOT PARTY!
Students dressed up like a doctor, made a fun craft, enjoyed a fun snack, and took a fun picture ALL WHILE LEARNING ABOUT PLOT!
Photo Booth Props: current book the students are reading, stethoscope, doctor coat, and headpiece. For the headpiece, use a strip of white construction paper and staple it to the size of their head, cut a large black construction paper circle and a smaller yellow construction paper circle. Then, glue black circle to white headband and the yellow circle to the black circle to create a light!
Snack: Red Jello cups with whipped cream and a chocolate heart! Quick and easy!
When we tested Plot, we decided to have the students dress up in their lab coats!
Dressing up increased their excitement, which motivated them to do better on their test as DOCTORS!GET OUR FUN “APP”LICATION FOR FREE BY ENTERING THE RAFFLE BELOW!!!!!!
PLOT… It’s the PULSE of the BOOK!

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Your First of Many Tools… Relative Adverbs!

Welcome to our first blog post in our series of
“Filling Your Teacher Toolbox!”
Are you ready for your first tool????
*BE SURE TO SEE THE BOTTOM OF THIS POST FOR SOME EXCITING NEWS!*
Your first tool is how to teach RELATIVE ADVERBS
while keeping it simple!
Before we begin, we want to give you a disclaimer. We are very aware that Relative Adverbs can be very detailed, such as relative clauses, prepositions, etc… For the sake of teaching Relative Adverbs to fourth graders, we have simplified the concept to what we consider, appropriate for their developmental level.
With that being said, let’s get started!
We started teaching Relative Adverbs with this bright and beautiful anchor chart. Anchor charts are a great tool for students to reference throughout the unit. We love how it reaches our visual learners!
Here’s a few tips for teaching Relative Adverbs!
Here’s “The Test” for relative adverbs…
Where: Can you plug the words “in which” or “at which”?
      Example: I went to the school where  I attended elementary school.
      Test: I went to the school “at which” I attended elementary school.
      Non example: Where have you been all day?
      Test: “At which” have you been all day
When: Can you plug in the words “on which” or “in which”?
      Example: I like the time of day when my students go home!
      Test: I like the time of day “in which” my students go home!
      Non example: When is it time for lunch?
      Test: “On which” is it time for lunch?
Why: Can you plug in the words “for which” or “the reason”?
      Example: I needed to explain why I was late for work.
      Test: I needed to explain “the reason” I was late for work.
      Non example: Why do you cry all of the time?
      Test: “The reason” do you cry all of the time?
In our experience, we have found that students tend to create relative adverb sentences incorrectly because they use them as the “5 W’s.”

 

Because our Task Cards that we used today were Monster Themed, we thought, let’s go with it! We love a good theme! (One of us more than the other… but anyways…) We started out by making these adorable Monster Ballot Boxes! These monster ballot boxes are a great idea because the task cards required students to write the number of the task card on either Monster A’s eyeball jar, Monster B’s eyeball jar or Monster C’s. Whichever monster had the most eyeballs at the end, won! As students finished, they put their name in the Monster Ballot Box that they thought won. Here’s why this was so amazing… There were 2 students that picked A. The rest picked B (which was correct). I was able to go to the two students that got the wrong answer, find their mistakes and review those task cards with them on a one on one basis. Talk about an easy red flag, right!? I plan on doing more Ballot Boxes in the future!!!! Such an easy tool!
We also made some cute eyeball cookies! The kids loved them!
Not to mention our fun Photo Booth!
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Task Cards:
*** In our class, we also used our Week Long Lessons Relative Adverbs Product***
In these products, you will find Students Notes, Practice Pages, Readers’ Notebook Ideas, Sentence Frames, Foldables, Assessments & Answer Keys
*****EXCITING NEWS!!!!! WE ARE HAVING OUR VERY FIRST GIVEAWAY!!!!*****
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Upcoming Blog Series

We are excited to announce our next blog series! 
We have already shared our year long planning and some of what we do on a daily basis. Now, we want to fill your toolbox with tips and strategies for teaching various concepts. In this blog series, we will go over how to teach what we are teaching in our unit: 
Plot, Connecting Text to Visual, Suffixes, and Relative Adverbs. 
This is the first group of standards that we will cover, but we will blog about more in future posts. 
Be sure to follow us on Bloglovin’ 
(the “b” blue flag at the top of our page) 
to be notified when more standards are posted! 
Enjoy!

Colorful and FUN Writing Wall Idea!

We are so excited to show you our new writing wall!!!!!
One of us (okay, it was the brunette) got the idea from looking in a magazine! She saw some colorful clipboards on the wall of an office. She thought…. why not for our classroom??? I immediately fell in love with her idea and ordered enough for my class too!!! :)Anyways, if you love this as much as we do, 
 
So, back to our writing wall…
Our writing wall is used to post student writing samples. We have students generate a writing sample from one of the three genres (narrative, opinion, or research) once a month. During holidays, we feature a holiday inspired writing piece for about a week or so. After we are done displaying the writing sample, the piece goes into the student’s portfolio. So easy!
In the center of this board, you see a group of papers. They are: the genre, the prompt, steps for the genre, revise/edit guidelines, the rubric, and anchor charts for the genre.
 
We love our writing wall and the students are always so proud to display their work. How do you display your students’ writing?