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freebies, Valentine's Day

Valentine Blog Hop

I’m participating in my first ever blog hop, the Valentine Blog Hop sponsored by Effective Teaching Articles.  You can follow the links below to collect a Valentine freebie from each blog.  You can also sign up to participate in each blog’s give away, with winners from each blog being chosen on February 15th. 

My Valentine Freebies:

Heartfelt Creations Valentine Art and Writing Project

This isn’t a download, but it is something I love to do with my students each year.  Give each student a sentence strip and a handful of large conversation hearts.  Have them create a comic strip by drawing their own characters and gluing conversation hearts as the dialogue. Challenge them to write their own dialogue too.  It’s a great way to review punctuation marks and have fun too!

How to Play:
  • Visit each blog to find your free Valentine’s Day teaching resource.
  • Enter each blog’s giveaway for a chance to win fabulous teaching resources from TpT.
  • Help promote the Valentine Blog Hop to your colleagues and teacher friends through word of mouth and social networking.
  • Bloggers love comments! Please take the time to check out the teacher-bloggers posts and leave relevant comments.
How to Enter Ms. Fultz’s Corner Valentine Blog Hop Giveaway:

  • Become a follower of my TpT Store and this blog.  Leave a comment on this post with your name, email, and what you teach. You may use AT instead of @ and DOT instead of . to keep spam away.  
  • You can earn an additional entry by sharing a new way you will use the Heart Matching Game freebie from my blog.  I love new ideas! Just leave a second comment with your idea.
  • I will use to draw one winner on February 15th.
  • The winner will receive a $10 TpT gift card to purchase ANY item from ANY seller.  The winner may also select a free item from my shop if I have something that’s appropriate for your needs.

freebies, literacy, reading

The Evolution of Reading Workshop Book Clubs

I love reading workshop!  My favorite part of reading workshop is doing book clubs with my students.  I’ve tried several different ways over the years.  When I first started, I would meet with groups one at a time.  We’d work our way through the chapters together, taking turns reading aloud and silently. We’d discuss as we moved through the book and discuss questions after each predetermined section.  Groups were usually made of students with similar needs and reading levels. I was the discussion leader and this was more like guided reading than I had wanted.  It worked fine, but I felt like there was more I could do to make it mirror real world reading.

Hoping to get more out of these units, I tried assigning the literature circle roles made popular by Harvey Daniels.  I backed off as a teacher and encouraged students to do more independently.  I wanted to be a member of their reading circle, not the leader.  I didn’t prepare discussion questions or activities and I let students determine their reading chunks and deadlines within the unit.  While many of my stronger readers blossomed, this layout just didn’t work for all students.  I also felt like many groups were missing key parts of the books and still not reaching the higher level of discussion I desired.  The roles were too restricting.

I decided book clubs needed to be a marriage of all the things that already worked well for me in reading workshop.  Guided reading is great and students need my support.  Literature circles are more fun, allow students to make more choices, and breathe new life into reading workshop.  How could I put both of those together to achieve book clubs that worked for everyone?  Book club packets ended up being the answer for me.

I started doing book club packets a few years ago.  I select several books within a comfortable reading level for the majority of my students. Sometimes the books share a common genre, theme, or topic.  Sometimes they don’t and are instead just favorites from previous years.  I like to allow students to choose their own book, though this doesn’t always work out.  I create the timeline and generate discussion questions to help guide students through the books.  These discussion questions are used loosely as students gather to discuss their reading and are tweaked through multiple readings of the books with different groups of students.  We alternate days spent reading the book (usually independently though sometimes students choose to buddy read) and days spent doing activities about the book.  I can stagger my groups on alternate days so that I don’t have to be in so many places at once.  While half the students are reading and answering questions, the other half are discussing and creating. The activities they create include character comics, alternate endings, cause/effect charts, etc.  All of them help bring meaning to the books and grow my students as readers.  They’re learning strategies and ideas to take with them on future books, not just working through their current one.  Additionally, I’m able to alternate between being a leader and a member of the group.  This marriage between guided reading and literature circles is my favorite part of reading workshop.

It’s time consuming to research books, read the
individual titles, generate discussion questions, map out the unit, and
create meaningful activities. 
My packets are always evolving, but having a variety of activities to adapt for multiple chapter books has helped the planning tremendously.  I’m including a freebie of one of my book activities.  You can find entire book club packets and a selection of book activities that I’ve created over in my TeachersPayTeachers Store.  I hope they’re what you need to get started creating book clubs that work for you and your students.  Happy reading!

Click here to download two book club activity samples. All 21 activities can be purchased in my store.


Teachers Under Attack

I promise this blog isn’t going to be all about the politics of teaching.  I know this post will make two in a row, but I had to share an article from The Examiner that was circulating this morning.  I would sincerely love to teach in a society where politics and the outside pressure of people who haven’t set foot in a classroom since their days as a student didn’t come into play.  However, education is under fire in America right now.  Most of us are confronted by it daily. This article is over a year old, but I find it sad that so many of the things he discusses are still relevant. 

Yes, there are ineffective teachers out there.  Yes, there are failing schools.  Yes, there are things all of us could do to improve.  There are also quality teachers, schools committed to success for all of their students, and districts open to change when it isn’t structured as top-down by those who have no idea what we’re dealing with every day. 

I’m finding that when it comes to schools and teachers, people either love us or hate us.  I get, “Oh, you’re a teacher. Bless your heart. That’s one of the hardest jobs.  It takes a special person to teach.”  Then you read the comments section of the newspapers or listen to politicians and their supporters.  We might as well be overpaid, under-worked babysitters who are out to eat little children, one at a time, with pleasure.  I wish they’d come to our classroom for just one day.  I agree.  It’s time for a change!

Without further rambling, here’s David Reber’s article.  What do you think?


Let’s Talk Assessment Pressure

The state of Indiana has passed a new law to go along with our mandatory standardized tests.  Third graders who fail a specific reading portion of the test are required to be retained in third grade.  The only exceptions are students who have previously been retained twice and students with IEPs (students with identified learning disabilities).  The law only applies to third graders, so if you squeak by in third grade but fail later in the future, it doesn’t impact you.  It puts a lot of additional pressure on teachers, who are often expected to control factors that are honestly out of our hands.  It puts additional pressure on some students, who of course don’t want to be retained.  It also puts additional pressure on those parents who are involved in education.  It doesn’t, however, put pressure on the uninvolved or unconcerned (who probably need the pressure most!!).

I get that reading is important.  I get that in many ways education beyond third grade doesn’t really teach students the foundations of learning to read.  I’m not even sure third grade really does that, to be honest.  We operate on the basic assumption that our students have a solid bank of sight words and are pretty good at decoding the rest.  Students who can’t do that are lost in our classrooms as we explore more complicated aspects of reading and comprehension. Of course we give them additional support to help them be successful, but they’re still behind.  Some are really, really behind. If this is going to be the law (like it or not), third grade may be too late.  Would it be more “fair” to hold them back in first or
second grade instead?  Most of the students we’re talking about have
already been identified in first and second grades as students targeted
for Reading Recovery/additional reading instruction because they
aren’t learning at the same rate as their peers.  Unfortunately, they
haven’t caught up by third grade.  On the other hand, some students are late bloomers and the reading portion of their brains mature later. 

So how do we catch these students up?  We’re reading 90 minutes or more a day.  We’re using our classroom assistants for reading instruction and one-on-one help.  We’re using a grade level remediation aide who is a licensed teacher for pull-outs.  We’re using a computer program called SuccessMaker.  We’re working, working, working.  But will they all be ready?  No.  

Is another year in third grade the answer?


T-Shirt Pillow Tutorial for Classroom Library

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At our school, the students in third-sixth grades design t-shirts each May as part of a t-shirt/school theme contest.  The office staff narrows the designs down to about twelve and then the entire school gets to vote on a winner.  The winning t-shirt becomes our school’s slogan for the next year.  Students and staff get the free t-shirt on the first day of school the following year. After teaching several years, I had a stack of old shirts.  I thought about making a blanket or quilt out of them someday, but then decided I had a more immediate use… pillows for our library!

The students love using them for reading workshop, and they’re cheaper than the fancy store bought pillows.  As a bonus, the shirts are easy to slip on/off and can be machine washed.  I just run the shirts through the sewing machine in three places, add snaps, and stuff away.  I used old bed pillows for the body and a little polyfill for the sleeves.  If you don’t have any old bed pillows, I purchased a few at Wal-Mart for $3 each.  Can’t beat that!  

Here’s How:

  • Turn the t-shirt inside out.
  • Sew each sleeve shut straight across the hem.  Remember to back-stitch at both ends to reinforce the seam.
  • Sew the bottom of the shirt closed along the hem. Again, remember to back-stitch.
  • Turn the t-shirt right-side out again.


    • Add three snaps along the collar to keep the pillow closed.  The snaps are perfect because they keep the t-shirt in place during use, but also allow it to be removed for washing.  I purchased no-sew snaps at Hobby Lobby and was able to attach them with a pair of my husband’s pliers. I found similar ones on Amazon if you aren’t sure what I’m talking about.
    • Slide a fluffy bed pillow into the t-shirt.
    • Use polyfill to stuff the sleeve area of the shirt.  This makes the sleeves stand out nicely.  
    • Close your snaps.  Tada!

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    Looking for other pillow ideas?  I had a couple older t-shirts that coworkers had given me from before I started teaching.  They were pretty worn out, but I was able to save the design portion and turn them into square pillows.  I also used cheap bandanas from Hobby Lobby to make large square pillows.  Now I have enough for each student to have something to use during reading workshop independent reading time.  No more fighting or rotating schedules AND I didn’t break the bank in the process.  Love that! 

    Like this how-to?  Stay tuned for my crate seat tutorial.