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Since 1873, Memorial Day has been held in at least some parts of the United States. The day was originally known as Decoration Day, and people set aside the day to remember those who died in service to the nation. This post explains the history of Memorial Day and how people observe the holiday.
Since 1873, Memorial Day has been held in at least some parts of the United States. Learn about the history and traditions for Memorial Day in the United States.
Back in February, it felt like spring break would never get here - let alone summer! Now that summer break is almost here, give yourself a gift and prepare your classroom for next year. I know it's hard to do anything else right now when just making it through the day feels like an achievement, but you will thank yourself at the beginning of the year.  Each day, pick one or two things to do before summer break.  It will take a few minutes each day, but it will save you so much time later!

When summer break is almost here, give yourself a gift and prepare your classroom for next year. Each day, pick one or two things to do before summer break.  It will take a few minutes each day, but it will save you so much time later!

As testing ends and the school year winds down, teachers have a hard time keeping students focused. If your last month of school is like mine, you probably have already taught all the standards except social studies. Textbooks need to be collected (except for social studies, which you are cramming in from now until the end), so what do you do to keep students focused - and learning? The last month of school is the perfect time to fit in interactive activities and lessons that have high student engagement.  I have made a list of my top ten interactive activities to use at the end of the school year.
Looking for interactive activities to use at the end of the school year? Keep students engaged - and learning with these ten lesson ideas!

If you have not yet read The Chicken Squad mystery series, you are really missing out! Doreen Cronin, the author of Click, Clack, Moo and Diary of a Worm, has another hit on her hands with this easy chapter book series. This book is a great fit for 2nd - 4th grades. I personally used The Chicken Squad: The First Misadventure with my struggling fourth grade readers at the beginning of the year - and they LOVED it. I found it hard to find new easy chapter books for those students, because they had either heard or "read" many of the popular series before or didn't want to read them because they seemed like "baby" books. I mean, no one wants to read the book that everyone else read in 2nd or 3rd grade.
Are you looking for an easy chapter book for your students?  The Chicken Squad will hook any reader, whether they love to read or are struggling. This mystery is a great mentor text for voice and character development. It is also a terrific example for visualization.

Summary of The Chicken Squad

This book is in part told by J.J. Tully, a retired search-and-rescue dog. Tully has to share his yard with a chicken, Moosh, and her crazy chicks. In this adventure, the chicks take on their first case when a squirrel asks for help. Unfortunately, the squirrel doesn't communicate well, and the Chicken Squad has to muddle their way through the mystery. Tully watches this whole thing unfold and decides he had better protect the chicks from themselves. In the end, Tully solves the mystery - and the Chicken Squad!

Teaching The Chicken Squad: Voice, Character Development, and Illustrations

This book is a great story to hook students. When J.J. Tully narrates, the story has a strong voice - the reader can almost hear him talking! Also, the story uses both a first-person and a third-person narrator. Teachers could use this book as a mentor text for learning the different types of narration, as the text could be used as examples for each.  Also, teachers could compare how the feel or sound of the story changed when the type of narrator was switched.

Also, character development is also strong in The Chicken Squad. Students can track the information they learn about each character in order to understand how the author builds them throughout the story. Teachers could also show how characters interact, as well as how one character's actions affect the events and actions of other characters.

Finally, this book has amazing illustrations.  If teachers are trying to help students visualize what they read, this book could be used as a read aloud.  Teachers could pause during the book and have students close their eyes to see a picture in their mind. As students have their picture, the illustrations could be used to show how someone else saw the story. Students could compare their visualizations to the illustrations. Teachers could also show how the illustrations were made using facts from the story. That will help students to understand how the illustrator created his images - which is similar to what readers do when they read.

If you have a student that is looking for an easy chapter book or needs support in order to improve his or her reading, try this The Chicken Squad.  Not only is the book itself fantastic, but it is also a series. Finding a great series has helped turned many children into readers. Once they read the first book, they want to read all of them!
Are you looking for an easy chapter book for your students?  The Chicken Squad will hook any reader, whether they love to read or are struggling. This mystery is a great mentor text for voice and character development. It is also a terrific example for visualization.
If you are looking for a literature guide for The Chicken Squad, I have a complete novel unit in my TPT store.  It has everything needed to teach the book: vocabulary, comprehension questions, grammar activities, and more!
Poetry is such a fun topic to teach students, but so many students resist it! Poems have so many different forms and can be written about any topic. In addition, poems can be written easily in every grade level - as long as teachers follow a few easy steps. Improve poetry writing in your classroom by implementing a few easy steps.

Learn how to teach your students to enjoy writing poetry! This post discusses seven easy steps every teacher can implement with students in both traditional classrooms or homeschool settings.

Read Poetry Often

This seems like a no brainer, but students need to be familiar with a lot of poems before they will feel comfortable writing them. Starting as early in the school year as possible, begin reading poems. Poems can be used to start the day, in short stretches of "dead" time, or even as journal prompts. Just try to work in one poem each day - and don't be afraid to repeat well-loved poems. The more kids read poetry, the more they will understand it - that it has different forms and different topics. It isn't all love and valentines!

Select Appropriate Forms of Poems

There are so many different types of poetry. Some forms have a lot of rules, while others have very few - or even none! If you are teaching younger students, stick with poetry forms that have few rules. Older students may be ready to write more difficult poems, but then again, maybe they aren't. It is important that you know your students and their writing abilities. When I teach poetry, I always start with free verse or a form of poetry the class already knows, then slowly move students to more complicated poems.

I Do, We Do, You Do

This is an old teaching trick, but I do think it helps students understand how to write poems. Every time I introduce a new type of poetry, I start by modeling how to write the poem in front of the students. Students see how I brainstorm ideas and then slowly write and revise the lines of my poem. After I finish a poem, we write one as a class. I have students suggest topics and pick one.  Then I have pairs of students work on different lines of the poem.  (If the poem form is short, I have the class work on more than one poem - I just assign the topic and line to a partner pair.) TIP: Give a reasonable time limit for them to develop their line. After we have finished these group poems, I ask kids to work on their own poems.
Learn how to teach your students to enjoy writing poetry! This post discusses seven easy steps every teacher can implement with students in both traditional classrooms or homeschool settings.

Free Write

It is important for students to just focus on getting their ideas down. There are always a few students who worry about getting everything perfect the first time, but that is very detrimental to writing poetry. It's okay to make mistakes - poems go through revisions just like stories. Often a poem will morph into something else as it is revised - and it's often better than the first idea! 

I usually start poetry writing with a brainstorming-only session. Each student should write down a few ideas for their topic.  I then have students brainstorm ideas connected to the topic they think they want to use. Sometimes kids find that they don't have enough thoughts about their topic to write a whole poem. Often this happens when kids think they have a topic that will be really funny, but it doesn't really mean much to them. They try to stick with it thinking it will make kids laugh, but in reality they just don't have any ideas to elaborate the topic. When that happens, I guide students to look at the other topics they brainstormed and think about what all they could say. Usually students will have one topic that means a lot to them or for which they have a lot of ideas. 

Allow Partner Writing

I don't always allow students to work with partners, but I offer it as an option frequently.  Providing the option to write with a partner has always increased student engagement in writing poetry.  It removes a lot of the risk for students - their is less chance it could be wrong or dumb.  (These are big fears for middle grades students.) In fact, my students have written a lot of very creative poems because they were able to bounce ideas off of a partner.  

Voluntary Sharing

Let's be honest, a lot of kids love to share. Love it. Other kids hate it. I try to leave a few minutes at the end of the writing session for kids to share poems. Instead of making everyone share a poem, I ask kids to share. If kids don't want to share, I don't force them to do so. However, everyone usually enjoys hearing what other students have written. 

After I have read through their poems, I will anonymously share a few on another day. This is a good way to acknowledge the writing of students who are just too shy or afraid to share their poems otherwise.

Have A Purpose

In my class, students seemed more motivated to write poems (or anything else) if their was an end goal to their writing. For example, our county holds a student book competition every year.  Each school can submit books in different categories. Sometimes students would use their finished poetry book for this contest. Another example could be that you have a binding machine in your school, and students can bind their poems when they finish. (I also timed this to fall close to Mother's Day, so students frequently gave their poetry books to the mom or grandma.)
If you are looking for a poetry writing unit, my teacher friends and I have used my Poetry Writing Unit with students, and it has been well received by students. Students learn how to write several forms of poetry. For each type, I included printables to help guide students through the writing process. I also included optional pages for final copies that could be bound as a book.


I hope you got a few new tips for teaching students how to write poetry. What works well in your classroom? I would love to know what writing tip you have used successfully with your students!
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