There are so many easy ways to integrate technology into your poetry writing! Many teachers have students type their poetry, but why not add even more technology options for your students? There are a number of free apps and websites that can be used to help students write poetry. Beginner poets will appreciate having the support some site provide, but even more advanced students will enjoy writing their poems with technology. I did find many paid apps, but for this post I only focused on free sites.
Would you like to integrate technology into your poetry writing lessons? This post reviews seven free apps and websites that can be used by upper elementary students when they write poetry.
Have you ever announced to your class that you would be working on a poetry unit and all the students cheered? Yeah, me neither. Usually there are a few students that love poetry, but the groans outweigh the enthusiastic cheers. So why do so many students hate reading poetry?

Let's be honest. Poetry has a bad rep among students, especially boys. Close your eyes and clear your mind. What are the first things you see when you think of poetry? I don't know about you, but I saw valentines and love poems. Not exactly the most popular thing in middle grades. So how can you, as a teacher, help your students to love reading poetry? By the end of this post, you will know four steps to introducing poetry, as well as have free poetry resources including apps and classroom resources.

Why Students Hate Poetry and How to Make Them Love It! - Teach poetry so that kids love it, and discover free resources including apps and classroom resources.

Poetry is one of those topics teachers seem to either love or hate. Students seem to feel the same way. However, Common Core and state reading standards are emphasizing figurative language more than ever. Not only do students have to learn how to read poetry, they also need to learn to compare and contrast it with other types of literature. Whether you love it or hate it, you need to teach it. So what's the trick to making poetry fun and enjoyable for both teachers and students?
12 Amazing Poets Who Make Kids Love Poetry! Learn about the poetry of twelve different poets that upper elementary students enjoy reading. Suggested books are provided for each poet.


In my experience, the most important part of teaching poetry is to make it fun. That's it. Even when I taught poetry to older students, it didn't take long for their grumbling to stop because I made sure that everyone felt successful during our activities. And as a lot of poetry is up to personal interpretation, it isn't hard for students to realize that their opinion is probably right!

In order to get students comfortable with poetry, teachers need to read it to them. But who should you read? For many adults, poems are remembered as long and difficult pieces of writing they had to dissect in high school. However, today there is such a wide variety of poets out there to read that teachers couldn't possibly fit them all in! A few poets write books specifically aimed at children, but my students have also enjoyed reading the classic poets as well. Teachers should take the time to read a variety of poets and earmark poems they feel are especially interesting or that they feel their students would enjoy. This will also help teachers to select a variety of poetry styles and topics, so that every students hears at least one poem that appeals to them.

I have selected a few of my favorite poets, as well as some that come highly recommended for younger students. By the end of the blog post, you will learn about twelve different poets your students will enjoy!
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It is never too soon for language arts teachers and reading coaches to begin planning for the FSA exams! Sixth grade reading standards expect student to go beyond mere comprehension of the reading, but also to understand the craft of writing. Understanding what the students are expected to do will help teachers and parents make sure their students are learning the skills they need to be successful not only on the state exams, but also in future classes. This blog post will break down the reading and language arts standards and how they are tested on the FSA.

How to Prep for FSA: Valuable Tips for 6th Grade ELA - This post unpacks the 6th grade ELA FSA test and standards and discusses which concepts to focus on during your test review.

This blog post may also be beneficial for teachers and parents in other states as well. If your state takes the AIR exam, FSA was modeled on that test. In addition our state standards are 99% identical to the Common Core state standards.

What Does FSA Cover in 6th Grade ELA?

The Florida Assessments Portal has the test item specifications available for the public. These are a great tool for parents and teachers, but they do take a lot of time to analyze and break down.

As always, students are expected to be reading and spelling on grade level. Judging from the practice tests, the reading passages are longer and denser than previous grades. The passages will probably be be about one and a half  to two pages, single spaced, 14 - 16 sized font. Overall, students are expected to draw inferences from their reading. In sixth grade, students are expected to move past merely citing text evidence to being able to analyze the text. Students should be able to make inferences from the text and explains what part of the text made them come to that conclusion. Also, readers are expected to understand how the author builds the story or topic using words and structural elements. Students are learning how a story or text is crafted to create meaning.

Also important, students are expected to build comprehension and integration of multiple texts on the same theme or topic.  For example, students should be able to take a poem and a realistic fiction story with a similar theme and compare how the authors' approach the theme.

Sixth grade students should build their research and critical thinking skills . Students should also be able to compare two nonfiction texts on the same topic. They should also be able to identify which claims are supported by evidence and from those which aren't. Students should also be able to use the same skills in reading a text or listening to a multimedia presentation - or comparing the two.

Vocabulary is really just building upon what they already know. The categories of terms are basically the same as fourth and fifth grade, but sixth graders should be exposed to high level words.

Grammar standards for sixth grade focus heavily on pronouns.  Students should understand subject, objective, and possessive cases, as well as intensive pronouns.  They should also be able to recognize and correct inappropriate shifts in pronoun person or number, as well as vague pronouns with unclear antecedents.

Aside from pronouns, the standards focus on using Standard English and nonrestrictive elements.  

The four sections of FSA ELA are weighted nearly the same.
  • Key Ideas and Details - 15 - 25%
  • Craft and Structure - 25 - 35%
  • Integration of Knowledge and Ideas - 20 - 30%
  • Language and Editing - 15 - 25%
Soon testing will be here, and teachers want to make sure they have covered as many of the standards as possible. The 5th grade ELA standards are a pretty big step up in reading expectations. The good news is that teachers and reading coaches can focuses on a few specific skills that will really help prepare students for the FSA tests.  This blog post will break down the reading and language arts standards and how they are tested on the FSA.

How to Prep for FSA: Valuable Tips for 5th Grade ELA - This post unpacks the 5th grade ELA FSA test and standards and discusses which concepts to focus on during your test review.
This blog post may also be beneficial for teachers in other states as well. If your state takes the AIR exam, FSA was modeled on that test. In addition our state standards are 99% identical to the Common Core state standards.

What Does FSA Cover in 5th Grade ELA?

The Florida Assessments Portal has the test item specifications available for the public. These are a great tool for parents and teachers, but they do take a lot of time to analyze and break down.

As always, students are expected to be reading and spelling on grade level. Judging from the practice tests, the reading passages will be about one and a half pages, single spaced, 14 - 16 sized font. Overall, students are expected to draw inferences from their reading. Supporting answers with text evidence is not a skill new to fifth grade students, but it is something that they should be doing regularly. Students should come to fifth grade with some ability in using text -based evidence. However, the skill should be increased to providing reasoning for implicit answers. Teachers need to push students to answer inference-based questions and have students explain what part of the text led them to their response.

Students should be prepared to have 2-3 texts for prompts. They should be able to integrate information and compare characters, setting, organization, etc. of multiple texts. The great majority of reading standards ask students to compare two or more ideas/traits and/or at least two texts. Two texts may be a written text and an audio or multimedia presentation. In general, these standards are preparing students for the future. As students are expected to research and write reports, they will need to be able to use multiple sources and combined the information into one report. That is really what these standards are preparing students to do.  To practice these skills, teachers could do mini-units focused on one topic or theme, as well as research projects.

Fifth grade vocabulary is really just building upon what they already know. The categories of terms are basically the same as fourth grade, but fifth graders should be exposed to even more figurative language. Students are also expected to use context clues to determine the meaning of words and phrases.

The grammar expectations again just build upon what they already know.  Each year students focus on a different verb tense - in fifth grade they add the perfect verb tenses. They are also expected to be able to select the appropriate tense for their writing and write in one tense. Students should already know a lot about conjunctions, but now they should learn correlative conjunctions (ex. rather/than, either/or). The fifth grade standards also emphasize the various uses for commas.

The four sections of FSA ELA are weighted nearly the same.
  • Key Ideas and Details - 15 - 25%
  • Craft and Structure - 25 - 35%
  • Integration of Knowledge and Ideas - 20 - 30%
  • Language and Editing - 15 - 25%
This test prep season, prepare smarter not harder for FSA! In this post, I will unpack the 4th grade FSA English Language Arts (ELA) test specifications and analyze the 4th grade Florida standards. This will help both teachers and parents make sure their students are ready to take the state tests.

How to Prep for FSA: Valuable Tips for 5th Grade ELA - This post unpacks the 5th grade ELA FSA test and standards and discusses which concepts to focus on during your test review.

This blog post may also be beneficial for teachers in other states as well. If your state takes the AIR exam, FSA was modeled on that test. In addition our state standards are 99% identical to the Common Core state standards.

What Does FSA Cover in 4th Grade ELA?

The Florida Assessments Portal has the test item specifications available for the public. These are a great tool for parents and teachers, but they do take a lot of time to analyze and break down.

Of course, students are expected to be working on reading and spelling at the fourth grade reading level. Judging from the practice tests, the reading passages will be about one and a half pages, single spaced, 14 - 16 sized font. In addition, most of the skills are integrated into reading. For example, editing tasks are now done right in a paragraph. Some of the reading questions have students select a sentence from 1 - 2 paragraphs taken from the text. If teachers are not beginning to practice in this format, I recommend highly that they begin using practice activities like this so students are familiar with the testing styles.

The four sections of FSA ELA are weighted nearly the same.
  • Key Ideas and Details - 15 - 25%
  • Craft and Structure - 25 - 35%
  • Integration of Knowledge and Ideas - 20 - 30%
  • Language and Editing - 15 - 25%
As Florida teachers begin prepping for testing season, time is frequently an issue. The Florida Standards Assessments are rigorous tests, and students need be familiar with both the question styles and testing formats. Both teachers and parents can benefit from understanding what students are expected to do on the exams. In this blog post, I am going to focus on 3rd grade English Language Arts (ELA). By the end of the post, you will know more about the FSA and how to prepare students for the exam.

How to Prep for FSA: Valuable Tips for 3rd Grade ELA - This post unpacks the 3rd grade ELA FSA test and standards and discusses which concepts to focus on during your test review.

The History of the FSA

Florida Standards are relatively new. The state adopted the Common Core State Standards a few years ago, then quickly switched to Florida Standards. In reality, the new standards are nearly identical to those pf the Common Core. The purpose of this post is not to debate the CCSS, but to help teachers and parents to understand the expectations.

FSA exams were created by the makers of the AIR test, which Colorado had used. FSA exams have higher expectations than the old FCAT tests, and their style is different. In addition, many of the exams are given on the computer, which is a new skill for a lot of students.

What Does FSA Cover in 3rd Grade ELA?

The Florida Assessments Portal has the test item specifications available for the public. These documents are a great tool to analyze what students are really expected to know by the end of the year. The problem with them is that they are so long! I spent two days printing, reading, and matching the specifications to the standards. It isn't an easy chore when you are pressed for time.

In third grade, the test coordinates with the Florida Standards. Students are expected to read at a third grade level. Passages on the exams will be 3 - 4 paragraphs long and be between 100 - 200 words in length. In addition, almost all skills are now integrated into the reading passages. For example, grammar questions are written as an editing activity.  Instead of showing a sentence in isolation, students have to read a paragraph and correct the grammar error that is in the paragraph. (The error is noted - students don't have to find it.) Teachers should begin to focus more integrating grammar skills within their reading and writing lessons.

The four sections of the FSA of weighted pretty close together in 3rd grade.
  • Key Ideas and Details  15 - 25%
  • Craft and Structure 25 - 35%
  • Integration of Knowledge and Ideas 20 - 30%
  • Language and Editing 15 - 25%
So, what skills should teachers really focus on in third grade? From examining the test information and grade level standards, there are specific skills that students are expected to know.
Now that Netflix has made A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket into a TV series, the books are making a comeback. Of course, they were wildly popular when they were first published!  The Bad Beginning, the first book in the series, is one of my very favorite books to teach in my classes. My students always loved these books. Although people have told me they use them with 4th grade, I would not use them below 5th unless the students were very high readers. There is a lot of tragedy in the books, as well as a lot of inferences that I am not sure younger students would necessarily catch.
Are you looking for a great novel to read in your 5th or 6th grade classroom A Series of Unfortunate Events:The Bad Beginning, book one, is the perfect book to hook your students. The blog post discusses how the book can be used in your ELA classes.

Summary of The Bad Beginning

This is the book that introduces the readers to the Baudelaire family and the woe that follows them throughout the series. The Baudelaires are very talented children. Violet is a brilliant planner and loves to create inventions. Klaus is an avid reader and is clearly extremely intelligent.  Sunny is a baby, but sadly no one really understands her. She, too, has a special talent that the reader finds out later in the book.

Violet, Klaus, and Sunny are orphaned when their parents die in a mysterious fire. They are sent to live with Count Olaf - a nearby relative the orphans claim their parents never mentioned. Alas, their predicament becomes even worse when they actually meet Olaf.  His house is dilapidated, and he treats the children very poorly. Eventually, the children figure out that he is really just after the fortune their parents left in a trust. However, they cannot access the trust until they turn 18 - but that doesn't stop Olaf from scheming. The children need to use their special abilities to figure out his plan and stop him.

Teaching The Bad Beginning: Mood, Tone & Vocabulary

This is an exceptional book to teach the literary elements mood and tone. Mood and tone are often difficult for students to understand. With all the tragedy these characters face, there is a lot of mood that could be discussed. I have always found tone to be a little trickier to teach, but these books excel at tone - the narrator just comes out and tells you the books will be sad, that you shouldn't read it because of the tragedy, etc. (That is another great literary device you could discuss, too.) If your students are struggling with mood vs. tone, The Bad Beginning would be a great book for you.

This book is also rich in vocabulary. If you are trying to help your students expand their vocabulary, there are many words to pick in this series! The way the Snicket incorporates the new words is brilliant. He wrote the book in a way that is accessible to readers.  Throughout the story, a high-end word is used and then immediately explained by the narrator.

The best way to decide if A Series of Unfortunate Events is a good fit for your class is to read The Bad Beginning. But I am warning you, once you start you will want to read the whole series!
Learn about A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning and how to use it to teach literary elements.  Freebie included in the post.
If you are interested in teaching The Bad Beginning to your class, I have a FREEBIE with resources for the first chapter in my TPT Store.
One of my favorite things in school was logic puzzles. I know many people dislike them, but they are the ultimate close reading activity. I used them all them time with my students to help improve their reading skills. To solve a logic problem, you have to closely examine each clue and consider what knowledge you learn from it.  What student can't benefit from that?

Learn how to teach logic puzzles to improve students' close reading skills. Post discusses why logic puzzles are a good way to teach students to focus on details, as well as shows step by step how to complete a logic puzzle.

Why Teach Logic Puzzles?

Logic puzzles really strengthen students' ability to read between the lines. Close reading is a skill that is used across subjects.
  • When reading a novel, in order to to truly understand a character's motivations the reader has to synthesize everything that is stated about the character and fill in what isn't said.
  • In a math word problem, students need to pick out which information is important and how to apply it.  
  • While writing an essay in social studies or science, students need to comprehend their research, analyze it, and apply it to their topic or thesis.  
Learning to really zero in and what is written is important for every student in every class. It is a life skill.

When to Teach Logic Puzzles

One of the nice things about logic puzzles is that they are short. Not at first mind you. Until students really understand the strategies used to solved the logic puzzles you will need to make time for them. After the first few puzzles, you will have a few students that completely understand them and can mentor other students.  Once most students are independent you can use them in those filler moments - morning work, after recess, after pack up while waiting for the bus, etc.  Eventually students just enjoy doing them or even compete to see who can solve them first.

How to Teach Logic Puzzles

 If you are not a natural puzzler, it is important that you practice doing puzzles before trying to teach students.  It also helps to use logic puzzles meant for the age group you are teaching.

Logic puzzles really need modeling. Model, model, model. To begin students on logic puzzles, make sure everyone has a puzzle, highlighters/markers, and a pencil.  I use the highlighters to help showcase what I am doing.  I will switch colors on each step so students can follow along more easily.

When teaching logic puzzles, always start with a puzzle with a grid answer sheet.  There are more advanced puzzle that require the solver to create a diagram.  These are more complicated in general, and students will get frustrated.

Once everyone is ready, use your projector to show your page to the class.  I basically teach the first one as a think aloud.  Always start with the introduction.  Students always want to skip it, but it sets up the reader to understand what they are trying to figure out.  For my example, I am using a logic puzzle from Lindsay Perro.  In the introduction, I learned that I need to figure out which child did which activity at which time.  So I am trying to connect three pieces of information: name, activity, and time.

Interactive notebooks seem to be a love/hate issue with teachers. At first, I just thought they would waste a lot of class time. What I didn't realize was how much they would increase student engagement or how I could use them to support the content in any subject. Imagine getting less resistance from your low readers and exceptional education students? Are you interested in having your students work more independently? Do you want to integrate reading skills in your social studies class? Interactive notebooks can help make those things happen!

Learn how to use interactive notebooks as reading support for all students in any subject. Post discusses the benefits of using INBs and how to use them for assessments.

Who Benefits from INBs?

Interactive notebooks can help turn a very dry or boring subject into a fun and engaging class for students. Interactive notebooks have something for everyone:

  • Kinesthetic students can move around.
  • Visual learners end up with organized notes. 
  • Creative kids can color and doodle.
  • Social kids can talk to their neighbors while they prep the interactives.
  • ELLs/LD/Exceptional Education students can receive reading support.

The purpose of interactive notebooks is to enhance learning. Instead of students sitting and zoning out during your lesson, they can use the interactivities to get involved in the lesson by taking effective notes and drawing related graphics.

One word of caution is to not force daily coloring - not every student likes to color. If it is a map or a subject-related activity, I expect students to complete it. Otherwise I allow them the choice.

Using INBs as Reading Support

While this sounds like a simple solution to student note-taking, the problem does arise of how students take notes and what they should specifically take notes on.  Students are often given interactive notebook or lapbook templates with a general topic on the sections.  However, this doesn't help them know which facts are the most important and which details are just supporting information.

For my students, I found that providing guiding questions on the templates helps students to break down the reading. I think most teachers and students agree that textbooks are really dry and overwhelming. With guiding questions, students are better able to determine which details need to be remembered. Depending on the grade or ability level of my students, I also take this concept one step further and provide cloze-style notes, where they have to complete the blanks in the sentences.

Effective interactive notebooks can be used as a support system for reading comprehension. This helps my students that have reading comprehension issues to become more independent, as they can use the keywords to help them locate information. Like any strategy, students need to be taught how to use them. After we practice setting up and taking notes, I slowly give them more responsibility. Sometimes I even break the class into groups and have them complete a section of the notes while I circulate. That helps me to see who needs more support and who is on their way to independence.


A great art project for Valentine's Day is designing a mailbox for students' valentines.  So many students really need to work on fine motor skills - even in 5th grade - and designing a valentine bag is a fun and easy project.  I used paper bags for mailboxes, but cereal or shoe boxes could be substituted.
Create Beautiful Valentine Mailboxes with Students - Fast and easy Valentine's Day art project!  Teach students how to design a mailbox using only paper hearts and bags. Photos of examples are included.

Brainstorm First

In my class, I left this project very open ended.  My one design rule was that students could only use heart-shaped pieces on their project.  That may seem a little overwhelming, but I would have the class brainstorm about what they could possibly design.  Animals were a very popular choice, but students could design cars, abstract designs, or any other idea they imagined.  My goal was simply for students to stretch their thinking.

Are your students struggling to use evidence in their writing?  Are you preparing for a state writing test, such as MACS or FSA Writes?  Whether you are teaching DBQs or paired passages, teachers can use the TEACH method to break down the writing process.  The TEACH acronym is easy to remember, and with some practice students can really improve their evidence-based writing.

Improve Text-Based Essays in 5 Simple Steps - Learn how to use the TEACH strategy to improve Text-Based Essays.  A free Outlining resource is included in the post.
In my classes, no matter the grade level, students would get overwhelmed trying to include evidence in their writing.   It just seemed like too much work.  Make no bones about it, using evidence from multiple sources is a lot of work.  We need to teach students to work smarter not harder.  In general, students see the writing process as read, maybe plan, write, and if there is time edit.  As teachers, we need to break that down into even smaller chunks.  We also need to be specific as to how much time they should be spending on each piece.  In general, the majority of time should be spent understanding the reading and planning/organizing their writing.  The longer they spend getting organized the less time the writing will take.  Here is my recommendation:

Are you having trouble getting some students to read? For your fiction lovers, there are so many popular series right now - Harry Potter, the Hunger Games, and Percy Jackson to name a few.

Some of your reluctant readers might prefer nonfiction. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with the fiction genre, it is also important that we incorporate non-fiction books into our classrooms and households as well. Nonfiction can help support learning in both science and social studies, as well as broaden students' experiences about the world and careers.
Discover ten must-have nonfiction books and series for every elementary classroom!  Post focuses on books for elementary and middle school students. Post summarizes each book and provides the target age range for the book or series.

With the new Common Core Standards, nonfiction readings are being heavily encouraged. At nearly every grade level, students are expected to develop research skills across content areas with a strong focus on nonfiction, including literary nonfiction, essays, biographies and autobiographies, journals and technical manuals, and charts, graphs, and maps (ASCD.org, 2012)

Here are ten must-have nonfiction books and series for every intermediate classroom!
I may earn a small commission for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial, and/or link to any products or services from this website. Your purchase helps support my work in bringing you downloads of value and information about educational resources. The link below is an Amazon affiliate link. You can read my full disclosure here.
An easy way to freshen up your classroom is with photos!  Most phones today have a great camera, but instant cameras have also made a comeback.  Polaroid or Fuji cameras are both popular and relatively inexpensive instant cameras.  The convenience of instant cameras makes them extremely usable in the classroom.  Imagine how much time you would save - no more running to pick up photos (or having to remember to pick them up!)  Just make sure that you have good lighting with an instant camera - what you see in the viewer is what will print.  Also, don't overstock the film, as it does expire if you don't use it within a few months.

10 Easy Ideas for Using Photos in the Classroom - Do you love to take pictures but need ideas on how to use them? This post discusses ten ways teachers can integrate photos into their classroom organization and learning activities.
By the end of this post, you will have ten ideas for using photos in your classroom.  In addition,go through our blog hop of 10 teachers to get more fresh ideas to use in your classroom.  Links to the other posts are at the bottom.

1.  Seating Chart

I know I had to work really hard to learn the students' names the first few days of school.  The instant photos have a space to write at the bottom, so you could use permanent ink to write the students' names on each photo.  When you need to change your seating charts, you can move the photos around!  Subs would love this, too.

2.  Introductory Activity

Every year I did introductory activities, but I remember being shocked when students still didn't know all of their classmates mid-year - especially in middle school.  If you do a getting to know you activity, you could post the photos near the door so students can look at them on their way in or out.  That way they could learn peoples' names without being too embarrassed to ask.

3. Birthday Chart

If you are one of those teachers that is really good about birthdays - or aspire to be one of those teachers, you could use photos to organize the birthdays.  I know I would remember better if I had pictures to remind me!

4.  Label for Student Bins

One year I tried having student cubbies or bins.  The students were supposed to write their name on the end so it would be easy to identify each box.  Let's just say that not all of them understood the concept, and it was a struggle to grab the correct box.  Tape each student's photo on the end of their cubby or bin to help identify it.

5.  Star of the Week

One of the most successful things I ever used in the classroom - even in the upper grades - was to have a Star of the Week board.  Every Friday I announced the Star, and I made it a really big deal.  Students couldn't wait to find out who it was.  The way I announced it was by reading a personal note that I had written to the student's parents for him or her to take home.  I didn't announce their name until the end,  In the note I talked about what the student had done or how they contributed to the class.  It wasn't just based on grades or academics, but character traits.  On Monday, the student was allowed to bring in personal items to share with the class and hang on the Star of the Week board.  I hung a Dollar store certificate up with their name on it and whatever they brought in.  I know academics squeeze out almost any extra time, but this was so beneficial and it took maybe 10-15 minutes each week.  Adding the student's photo to their certificate would just make it a little more special.
10 Easy Ideas for Using Photos in the Classroom - Do you love to take pictures but need ideas on how to use them? This post discusses ten ways teachers can integrate photos into their classroom organization and learning activities.

6.  Select Student Partners or Groups

If you like to walk on the wild side, use photos to help you randomly select student partners or groups.  You may end up with some unfortunate pairings, but it would help randomize this activity.  Along the same idea is to use the photos to select students to answer questions.

7.  Time lines

Honestly, students are not getting enough practice using timelines.  Time lines help students with math skills (integer number lines) and are important o understanding history.  Students could create a time line of their life or you could make a time line of the students' birthdays.  Use their photos on the time line.

8.  Holiday Crafts

I know a lot of teachers try to do a craft around the holidays for kids to take home.  Photos are a great way to make those crafts personalized (and parents love it.)  I know before winter break I made solo cup ornaments (or suncatchers).  Students liked to put their photo on those.  (Learn to make them here.)

9.  Class Photo Collage

I know my team mate turned her door in to a class collage.  As the year progressed, she added pictures of her class to the door.  The students really enjoyed seeing all the things they had done.  At the end of the year, it was easy to take the photos down and put them in a memory book.

10.  In Progress Pictures

Sometimes it is helpful for students to take a picture of an experiment or project.  If they are working in stages, a photo is a great way to show what they have done or prove something happened during an experiment.  Instant film can be expensive, but it might be worth it once in a while.

I hope you enjoyed these tips.  For more fresh ideas, click the picture below.  Each logo is hyperlinked to their blog post - just click and you will be taken to the post.

I may earn a small commission for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial, and/or link to any products or services from this website. Your purchase helps support my work in bringing you downloads of value and information about educational resources. The link below is an Amazon affiliate link. You can read my full disclosure here.

The giveaway is over, but Fujifilm Instax Cameras and film are available at major retailers.

10 Easy Ideas for Using Photos in the Classroom - Do you love to take pictures but need ideas on how to use them? This post discusses ten ways teachers can integrate photos into their classroom organization and learning activities. Cinnamon's ClassroomAmy MezniKirsten's KaboodleELA BuffettMrs. Russell's RoomThe Room MomStudy All KnightBrittany WashburnMiss StefanyMeredith AndersonImage HTML map generator

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Do you want to hook your students on American history?  Integrating music into social studies can be a great way to get kids interested in history.  Teachers can use both songs from the time period and songs about historical events.  Songs can be used as an introduction to a unit.  Students could analyze lyrics and then research the event to fact check the song.  Also, songs with opposing viewpoints can be compared, such as The Ballad of the Green Berets and War from the 1960s.

The Ultimate Popular Music Guide for American History - Hook your students on American history with popular music.  Post contains a list of songs from historical time periods, as well as songs about historical events.
This list is organized by time period.  Each song has a short description after it.  The titles are linked so that teachers can easily use find the songs.  Please preview all songs before using them with your students.

18th Century Songs

American Colonies

Greensleeves (English Folk Song)
Lavender's Blue (English Folk Song)
Yankee Doodle (A Common Drinking Song in the Colonies) (Great video here explaining "macaroni" in the song.)
Springfield Mountain by Woody Guthrie (American Folk Song)
Amazing Grace by Judy Collins (English song from late 18th century)

American Revolution

Fife and Drum music
Johnny Has Gone For a Soldier by Wallace House (English Folk Song)
God Save the King! (Queen) and My Country Tis of Thee (The British Anthem starts at 2:19.)
The Liberty Song written by John Dickinson (Patriot Song)
John Paul Jones by Johnny Horton
Too Late to Apologize by Soomo Publishing (A parody about the American Revolution set to the popular tune.)
The Hamilton Soundtrack (not all of these songs would be appropriate in every classroom.)

19th Century Songs

Early America

Low Bridge by Pete Seeger (about the Erie Canal, built in the 1817 - 1825)
Camptown Races by Stephen Foster (Minstrel Song)
Old Folks at Home (Swanee River)  by Stephen Foster (written from a slave's point of view)
Turkey in the Straw (American Folk Song)

War of 1812

Battle of New Orleans by Johnny Horton 
The Star Spangled Banner by Francis Scott Key 
On the 8th Day of November by Wallace House 

Westward Expansion

Oh Susanna by Stephen Foster (American Minstrel Song)
Oh My Darling, Clementine (American Western Folk Ballad) 
Red River Valley (Western Folk Song)
Home on the Range (Western Folk Song)
Legend of John Henry's Hammer by Johnny Cash (about the African American Folk Legend) 
Drill, Ye Tarriers, Drill (Folk Song about the Building of the Railroads)
Wabash Cannonball by Doc Watson (American Folk Song about a Fictional Train) 
Jim Bridger by Johnny Horton (Mountain Man, 1804 - 1881 )
Comanche by Johnny Horton (Gen. Custer's horse, survivor of the Battle of Little Bighorn, 1876)
North to Alaska by Johnny Horton(Alaskan Gold Rush, 1899 - 1909)
Ballad of Casey Jones by Johnny Cash (Railroad engineer who died trying to stop his train in 1900)
Indian Reservation (Lament of the Cherokee Reservation Indian) by Paul Revere and the Raiders (Forced Removal of Native Americans and the Trail of Tears)
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Buffy Saint-Marie (Native American Point of View)
Now that the Buffalo's Gone by Buffy Saint-Marie (Extinction of Buffalo and Treatment of Native Americans through the 20th Century)

Battle of the Alamo/Texan Independence

Battle of the Alamo by Marty Robbins
Ballad of Davy Crockett

Civil War

My Old Kentucky Home by Stephen Foster (An Anti-Slavery Song from 1850s)
Two Brothers (About a Family Split by the Civil War)
When Johnny Comes Marching Home (Civil War)
The Battle Hymn of the Republic (Civil War)
Battle of Bull Run by Johnny Horton
Dixie (Minstrel Song)
Goober Peas (Folk Song - popular with Confederate Soldiers)
The Bonnie Blue Flag (Confederate Marching Song)
Johnny Reb  by Johnny Horton (Song starts at about 50 seconds)
Rebel Soldier by Waylon Jennings

Other

Mrs. O'Leary's Cow (The Chicago Fire of 1871)
Sixteen Tons by Tennessee Early Ford (about a Coal Miner and debt bondage)

20th Century Songs

Turn of the Century

Coming to America by Neil Diamond (Immigration in the 20th Century)
Maple Leaf Rag by Scott Joplin (Ragtime)
The Entertainer by Scott Joplin (Ragtime)
Oh, You Beautiful Doll (Ragtime Love Song)
By the Light of the Silvery Moon (Popular Music)
I Ain't Got Nobody (Popular Music)
In the Good Old Summertime (Tin Pan Alley Song)
Alexander's Ragtime Band (Irving Berlin's First Major Hit)
America the Beautiful (Popular Patriotic Song, 1910 - U.S. Geography)

World War I

Keep the Home Fires Burning (British Patriotic Song from WWI)
It's a Long Way to Tipperary (Popular Song with Soldiers in WWI)
Mademoiselle from Armentieres (Hinky-Dinky Parlez Vous) (Popular with Soldiers in WWI)
Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag (WWI Marching Song)
Over There (Patriotic American Song during WWI)
Pipes of Peace by Paul McCartney (Christmas Truce on the Western Front)

Women's Suffrage/Rights Movement

Victory Song (Theme Song of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League - Song Starts about 0:25)
Since My Margaret Became a Suffragette
Your Mother's Gone Away to Join the Army by Billy Murray (Starts 1:05)
Bad Romance Women's Suffrage by Soomo Publishing (A parody on Women's Suffrage set to the popular tune.)

Roaring Twenties

Sweet Georgia Brown (Jazz Standard)
Ain't Misbehavin'/Stormy Weather by Fats Waller (Jazz Standard)
Minnie the Moocher by Cab Calloway
Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin (Jazz Standard)
The Charleston (Jazz Song Written to Accompany the Popular Dance)
My Blue Heaven (Popular Music)

Great Depression

Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? (The Great Depression)
You Oughta Be In Pictures by Rudee Vallee (Unofficial Anthem of the Motion Pictures Industry.)
God Bless America by Irving Berlin (Popular Song by Kate Smith in the 1930s)
This Land is Your Land by Woodie Guthrie (1940s)
In the Mood by the Glenn Miller Orchestra (Big Band Popular Music)
Pennsylvania 6-5000 by the Glenn Miller Orchestra (Swing Jazz Popular Music)
The Great Dust Storm by Woody Guthrie (The Dust Bowl)

World War II

Twenty-One Dollars a Day Once a Month (Popular Song During World War II - refers to the pay of a private in the military)
We'll Gather Lilacs (About Wishing for the War to End)
D-Day by Nat King Cole (D-Day)
Sink the Bismarck by Johnny Horton (the sinking of the German submarine during WWII)
The White Cliffs of Dover (Refers to the Battle of Britain)
Swinging on a Star by Bing Crosby (Popular Music)
Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree (Popular Music - about being apart during wartime)
Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy by The Andrews Sisters (Iconic Song from Era - Popular Music)

The Cold War

If I Had A Hammer by Pete Seeger (In support of the Progressive Movement)
We Didn't Start the Fire by Billy Joel (Cold War)
Heroes by David Bowie (Cold War - lovers separated by the Berlin Wall)
Space Oddity by David Bowie (About a fictional astronaut - people were very interested in space)
Radioactive by Imagine Dragons (Not specifically about the Cold War but refers to an apocalypse including a radioactive nuclear fallout.)
Where Have All the Flowers Gone? by Pete Seeger (Anti-War)
Nikita by Elton John (Cold War/East Germany)
Operation Peter Pan by Tori Amos (Operation Peter Pan/Cuban Missile Crisis)

The Civil Rights Movement

Strange Fruit by Billie Holiday (Racism and Lynching - for older students, be sure to listen to the song first.  It is pretty graphic.  Written in the 1930s, so not technically part of Civil Rights.)
We Shall Overcome (Civil Rights - unofficial anthem of the movement)
Lift Every Voice and Sing (Civil Rights - Negro National Anthem)
The Times They are a Changin by Bob Dylan (Civil Rights)
Abraham, Martin, and John by Dion (Refers to the assassinated champions of social change: Abraham Lincoln, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., John Kennedy, and Robert Kennedy)
Blackbird by The Beatles (About race relations in the United States)
Pride (In the Name of Love) by U2 (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)

Vietnam War/Counterculture Movement

19 by Paul Hardcastle (Anti-Vietnam War)
Hell No, I Ain't Gonna Go by Matt Jones
8th of November by Big & Rich (Operation Hump during the Vietnam War)
War by Edwin Starr (Vietnam War)
The Ballad of the Green Berets by SSgt Barry Sadler (Vietnam War)
Goodnight Saigon by Billy Joel (About the effects of the Vietnam War and poor treatment of vets when they came home.)
Born in the USA by Bruce Springsteen  (About the poor treatment of Vietnam Vets when they came home.)
Eve of Destruction by Barry McGuire (Refers to a number of events in the 1960s.)
San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair) by Scott McKenzie (Unofficial Anthem of the Counterculture)
People Got to Be Free by The Rascals (Counterculture)
Ohio by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (Kent State Shootings May 4, 1970)
What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong (Popular Music - written as a counter to the racially and politically charged climate in the U.S.)
Blowin in the Wind by Bob Dylan (Considered a Protest Song - Dylan never explained the lyrics.)
A Hard Rains a-Gonna Fall by Bob Dylan (Again he doesn't refer to a specific event but more of the times.
Soldier Boy by The Shirelles (Popular Music - about staying true to the soldier away at war.)

1970s

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald by Gordon Lightfoot (Wreck on Lake Superior in 1975)
American Pie by Don McLean (Not Exactly Anti-War, but McLean eventually stated that the song is about life in the U.S. going in the wrong direction.)
Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell (Environmentalism)
Stayin Alive by the BeeGees (Popular Music)
Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin (Popular Music)
The Wall by Pink Floyd (Popular Music)

Reagan Era


99 Luftballons by Nena (Anti-War Song)
Everybody Wants to Rule the World by Tears for Fears (Anti-war Song)
Right Here, Right Now by Jesus Jones (Perestroika)
The Final Countdown by Europe (About the destruction of Earth)
God Bless the USA by Lee Greenwood (Gulf War - popular song with U.S. troops)
Praying for Time by George Michael (Social Consciousness)
Man in the Mirror by Michael Jackson (Social Involvement/Self Consciousness)

Gay Rights

I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor (Female Strength and Gay Anthem)
True Colors by Cyndi Lauper (Adopted by the Gay Community as an Anthem)
Come to My Window by Melissa Etheridge (About a Lesbian Relationship)

21st Century Songs

War on Terrorism

My City of Ruins by Bruce Springsteen (Originally about Asbury Park, but adopted new meaning after 9/11)
The Rising by Bruce Springsteen (9/11)
I Can't See New York by Tori Amos (9/11)
Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning by Alan Jackson (9/11)
Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue (The Angry American) by Toby Keith (Afghanistan)
Enough by Bullyproof Music (Peace Song)

For more ideas on how to use music in your lessons, read Michele Luck's blog post.

What are your favorite songs to use in class?
As much as I love to read, sometimes I dreaded teaching reading.  I was reading by four and everything in language arts came easily to me - it just clicked.  When I had students that didn't improve their reading with my strategies, I didn't understand why.  Now that I am working with my son, I am understanding why many of those strategies just don't help him.

5 strategies that help struggling readers improve reading comprehension - Post discusses dos and don'ts for parents and teachers who want to help struggling readers.

Don't Read the ENTIRE Reading Passage

Oh boy.  I learned straight off the bat to stop my son from doing this.  What a nightmare!  Students who struggle with reading don't like to read.  All he did was keep reading no matter what happened.  He would skip words and entire lines, misread words, and make all kinds of errors.  His goal was to get done with reading as soon as possible.

Instead Read One Paragraph at a Time

A poor reader gets overwhelmed easily.  Looking at a whole page of reading causes panic and frustration.  Instead, tell your students that you are only focusing on one paragraph.  Stress the importance of identifying the key ideas in each paragraph before moving on.

While reading the paragraph, highlight any unknown words, then identify the main idea of the paragraph.  Identify the support for or any example of the main idea.

Don't Pre-read the Test Questions

I remember being taught in a PD session to have students read the questions first, then read the passage.  I faithfully taught students to do that for a number of years.  I watched my son use that strategy and soon realized why he didn't pass reading comprehension tests.  Instead of trying to comprehend what he was reading, my son looked for the key words in each question.  If - and I mean IF - he found the section that answered the question, he had no idea what it meant and just copied the sentence with the key word in it.

What I realized is he couldn't answer the questions because he didn't understand the text.  As a strong reader, I can search for the keyword, read that section, and know how to answer the question.  A student that struggles with reading comprehension needs to focus on understanding the reading first.

Instead Focus on Reading Comprehension

Just focus on comprehension of the article.  If the student understands the article, he will be able to answer the questions.
5 strategies that help struggling readers improve reading comprehension - Post discusses dos and don'ts for parents and teachers who want to help struggling readers.

Don't Tell Students to Look Back in the Text

Again, this is a great strategy for kids who are strong readers.  I know I always felt that having an open book test made it "easy" for kids.  However, some kids can have an open book and never find the answers.  My son has poor reading stamina, so after the first question he will just stop looking in the text and guess.  It is too much text for him to focus on and look through.

Instead Take Notes

For struggling readers, as much as they may hate it, they need a good note system.  For a reading passage, I use a small sticky note for each paragraph.  On each one, we write the main idea of the paragraph and jot the support at the bottom.  Since it is so hard for low readers to scan the text, I want the key ideas to be on the notes.

Once students know how to do that, teach them how to use the sticky notes to help answer the comprehension questions.  We read the question and check the main ideas notes.  Many times the answers are related to the main idea.  If it isn't, we use the main ideas to determine which paragraph most likely answers the question.

For textbook comprehension, such as in science or social studies, I personally like to use interactive notebooks.  It is important that the key ideas be easy to find.  Like many kids with processing issues, my son's fine motor skills are a work in progress.  In his interactive notes, the main topics and questions are printed so it cuts down on how much he has to write.  (I do cut the interactivities out and glue them.  When I taught, I had my artsy students help other students.)

**I would like to clarify that my son is considered a low reader, but he isn't really low.  He is on grade level but struggles.  I have started homeschooling him because of a vision processing issue.  The problems caused by processing issues are very similar to ADHD and other development issues. This article is based on my work with him.**

The article I used in the example is from my resource Paired Passages: The 13 Colonies.
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