Have you ever gotten to the point where you have read everything in all of your favorite series and are just desperate to find a new one?   I really hope I am not the only one who feels this way.  I recently had to go to the book store to get a study guide for my high schooler, and of course I had to stop by the children's section.  Imagine my excitement when I found a new series to read!

This week's Hidden Gem is Flashback Four: The Lincoln Project by Dan Gutman.  I remembered Mr. Gutman from his Baseball Card Adventures - Babe & Me, Honus & Me, etc.  His new series is also historical fiction.  This new series has not been given a Lexile yet.  However, I would say that it would be a great fit for 4th and 5th grades.

Summary of The Lincoln Project

The story opens with four Boston students receiving mysterious invitations to a meeting.  Upon arrival, they learn that they have been selected by a tech billionaire, MIss Z, to form a time travelling team.  Although the kids think it's a joke, a test proves that time travel is possible.  But why them?  And what does she want?  Miss Z believes that children would be less likely to get into trouble if caught.  She wants the children to take photographs of famous moments in history, starting with Lincoln giving the Gettysburg Address.  (Although photography existed at that time, no pictures were taken of Lincoln actually giving the speech.)  The Flashback Four are given a crash course on the time period - how to talk, dress, etc. - and then are sent back in time.

Integrate the Civil War and Reading

I believe this series will really pique students' interest.  The four students are varied in personality and background, and there are hints that one member has some personal problems that will be developed in future books.  The history is well incorporated into the story, and the premise itself is plausible.  The only thing I didn't care for was the ending.  The book ended on a real cliffhanger, but for me it left too much hanging.  Since I don't have the next book, I find that pretty frustrating.  However, the ending wouldn't keep me from reading it to the class.

This series would be a great way to incorporate history standards into your reading class.  This first book would also be a great to use when focusing on character development.  Students could be responsible for tracking information about each team member and Miss Z.

I am very excited to guest post on Minds in Bloom!  Hop on over to read my post about using board games in your classroom.

Are you in love with task cards?  I really love the way task cards allow students to work at their own pace.  I also appreciate being able to print them once and use them over and over again.  However, after using them a few times I wanted to find new ways to make them fresh again.

When I started using task cards, I just printed multiple copies and passed out sets to students.  Sometimes I had students work with a partner.  Other classes I jazzed things up by giving students different problems to work on.  But in the end, it was always me passing out the task cards.  The magic was gone.

So, I started to think about new ways to use task cards.  Space, or lack of it, was a huge roadblock.  Now, I have to admit, I am insanely jealous of some of the classrooms I see on Pinterest.  Where do these people teach?  In my first two classrooms, students were lucky to be able to walk between desks let alone move around the room!   Because of this lack of space, I needed to find ways that I could use task cards that didn't require students to run into each other.

After a lot of thinking (and a few stops at Target OneSpot!), I came up with a few different ways to use task cards that would make task cards seem new again.

1.  Bulletin Board or Science Board

If you have a bulletin board that is easily accessible, it can be turned into a task card center.  If you
are like me and really didn't have an accessible board, you can always use a science fair board.  (It isn't as easy to do, but it is handy and convenient.)

Now, I had to really think about how to attach the task cards to the board.  If you have a really good dependable group, you might be able to use thumbtacks - the big pretty kind.  However, that is probably not a great idea for many classes.  (I can just see kids poking each other with the thumbtacks.)  Instead, I got some twine and pretty clothespins for a few bucks.  I did break down and get the pretty thumbtacks, too - but only to tack up the twine.

I measured a piece of twine that was about 2 feet longer than the width of my bulletin board.  I tied a pretty bow near one end.  (It took a few tries, but I finally got it!)  I pushed the tack through the knot and pinned it to the board.  I pulled it tightly across the board and pinched the rope where the next bow should be.  I tied the end and trimmed off the stray strings.

Clip the pretty clothespins across the string, add the task cards, and your center is done!

2.  Buckets

Remember that $1 section?  I also picked up a few of those buckets that they sell in different colors.  (I think my mom buys them in every single color.)  I also noticed that they sold the cute clothespins on a stick.  (I believe they were called clip picks.)  I believe they are used to hold place cards at showers.  I picked up some Play-Doh, too.  If you already have some or have clay, then you don't need to buy it - just recycle!

I formed two mounds from each jar of dough.  I placed one mound in each bucket.  The dough doesn't stick well to the buckets, but it doesn't matter.  All it has to do is hold the party sticks up.  Clip the task cards in the party sticks and spread the buckets around the room.  Voila!  Done.

I like spreading the buckets out for a few reasons.  First, it keeps the students from running to the same spot.  Second, I can control the traffic flow better by monitoring how many students are at each card.  Third, I just do not have room to set out all those task cards otherwise!

You can also use the buckets to split the class into groups.  Place an even number of cards in a bucket for each group and assign students to each bucket.  (This works well for differentiating lessons.)

3.  The Desk

Let's be honest here.  We all strive for that Pinterest moment, but it just doesn't always happen.  And that is OKAY.  For those days when you are lucky enough to have the task cards printed and cut, just place the cards on the desks or pass them out.  Remember, if you are mixing up your routine every once in a while, placing them on the desk will seem new, too!

How do you use task cards in your room?
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