In the Trenches

Thoughts and Ideas from a Classroom Teacher

Read Alouds

My student teacher, who is in her first semester of her internship, is doing one lesson per week with our students. This week, she did a read-aloud with our fifth graders on symbiotic relationships between animals with the book Weird Friends. It was important to me that at some point this semester she do at least one read aloud. While it seems like the easiest thing in the world, a read-aloud is a unique challenge.  A read-aloud is a chance to model good reading strategies and meta-cognition for our students. It’s essential to think about the things that readers do before, during and after reading and work through them with every read-aloud.


I love this strategy from Kathy Bumgardner, and she has free access to the pdf files to make your own. She has designed a collection of think clouds that you can print, laminate and attach to sticks for the students to use. As you read aloud, you can raise different think clouds and respond. While you are reading, your students can also demonstrate their thinking strategies by raising a think cloud to show that they are thinking something related to the reading. You can print them in regular size (full page) or mini (4 per sheet). I like the mini ones for students and the big ones for me.



Check out these great lists of read-aloud strategies…

The Before, During and After Approach

Read Aloud Strategies

Guidelines for Read Alouds from Scholastic

Think Clouds



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Get Moving with Math

Sometimes we just have to practice doing math. We have to read problems. We have to figure out what to do. We need to know how to do it. And we have to follow through with.


Sometimes we can’t think of a creative way to do problem solving for the day. Sometimes we don’t have time to stop at the local discount store to pick up items to make the next day’s lessons engaging, informative and delicious. Sometimes we are just tired.


Sometimes the copier is broken. Other times we are out of copier paper until more is (might be delivered) later in the week. There’s also rain that is a harsh reminder that we won’ t be able to go outside and stretch today.


These sometimes are when I love this strategy for having students complete (shh, don’t tell) a worksheet, without doing a worksheet. I make one copy of the worksheet. I cut it apart. I paste each of the problems around the room. I hand kids a clipboard, a sheet of notebook paper and a pencil and send them off on a problem solving scavenger hunt. Last night, I made a series of SMART Notebook slides with one fraction word problem per page. I printed them out in handout form with two problems per page. Today, I cut them up and taped the 20 problems all around the room. Students folded a sheet of notebook paper into 8 sections and had to show their work to solve any 16 of the 20 problems. After our allotted time, I just pulled up the original SMART file and we were able to go over all the problems. Voila! Movement + math!


This is also a great strategy for standardized test prep practice. I had one student tell me that he knew he could pass the test if he could take it this way!

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What Good Readers Do – Summarizing

In our review of the things good readers do, today my students practice summarizing. I read aloud the book The Great Ball Game, retold by Joseph Bruchac. I love teaching with Native American literature, and the stories are exceptional at teaching so much about geography, culture, and history, as well as objectives relating to reading. I got inspiration for my activity from this activity using the strategy of “Somebody… Wanted… But… Then… So” from the I Do. We Do. You Do. blog.

My students came up with

Somebody… the animals, the birds, and the bat

Wanted… to prove that they were the best

But… they couldn’t do it without arguing

Then… they played a stickball game to determine who was the greatest

So… the bat helped the animals defeat the birds, and now birds have to go South for half of the year


I love this strategy for fiction stories. It’s easy to remember and captures the idea of rising actions, climax and resolution.

Here are some extra resources on summarizing:

Summarizing Strategies from Guilford County Schools

A Sum It Up activity from Reading Quest

Summarizing Ideas

The GIST Strategy from Read Write Think

Summarizing Strategies Livebinder

Somebody Wanted But Then So from PBS Kids

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What Do Good Readers Do – Visualizing

This week in class, I am using a read-aloud each day to remind students about things good readers do. Today we focused on visualizing as a good strategy. I handed each student a 4 x 11 sheet of paper (this is the fancy way of saying I cut regular paper in half hot dog style). They folded it quarters to make a comic strip. I read aloud “The Girl Who Married the Moon,” stopping after every few paragraphs to have the students draw what they saw in their minds. We talked about what key elements they should be visualizing (like after paragraph one, the students should see two girls looking up at the moon from the beach). The kids were amazing, and we had a great time comparing our illustrations at the end to see how similar many of them were. This strategy works great when you just have a few minutes or a full reading block. Drawing skill doesn’t matter. It’s about being able to chose the most important details that you need to put together in order to have understanding of a story. Here a few more resources on visualization as a reading strategy:

From “Into the Book” – Visualizing

From “Like to Read” – Visualize

From “Classroom Freebies” (for the younger students) – I Ate Too Much Turkey

From “Read Write Think” – Sketch to Sketch

From “The Learning Pad” – Visualizing Lessons

If you want to use “The Girl Who Married the Moon“, I stopped in the following places in the story:

After paragraph 1: two girls looking up to the moon on the beach

After paragraph 4: two girls on beach talking to a strange man, noting somehow that the man is the moon

After paragraph 5: one girl falling back to Earth and the other being carried to the moon by the man

After paragraph 16: girl hiding from her husband with the almost full moon stuck on her face



As an extension, tomorrow we are going to use our “comic strips” of visualization to aid in retells of the story. Yay for summarizing!

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Hi. My name is Kelly. And I love a foldable.


There are so many awesome things to do with foldables in the classroom at any age and with any curriculum area. Here are my top five reasons why.


1. Once the kids learn how to make one style, it can be used a hundred times in a hundred different ways.

2. They automatically allow for differentiation.

3. They can be made with whatever kind of paper or materials that I have handy at the moment.

4. They are a meaningful “back pocket” activity, meaning that when you have to change things up at the last minute, you can always go to a foldable.

5. They work even when the copy machine does not.



Here are a few resources on foldables that I have pulled together.

My Pinterest Foldable Board

Awesome Foldables Wiki

Get in the Fold! blog

Catawba County Schools Foldables Ideas Page

Reading and Study Skills Foldables


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Yesterday in my post about  Super Bowl math, I mentioned Livebinders as a resource I use quite a bit. If you haven’t seen Livebinders before, check out their website at This is an online source that works like a virtual 3-ring binder. You can organize websites, text, documents, etc. using tabs and subheadings in an easy-to-use and easy-to-share format. Creating your first Livebinder is pretty self-explanatory once you sign up. By the way, i’s totally free! Here are some of the Livebinders I’ve made and use with trainings and my students.

Reading Intervention Strategies
Rocks Rock
Skype in Schools
Another great feature of Livebinders is that you can steal other people’s great work and edit it yourself. When you search through Livebinders or find a Livebinder resource, you can add it to your own shelf for easy reference. When you add someone else’s Livebinder to your own shelf, it saves it as “Copy of…” so that you can keep track.  Here’s a great Livebinder that I stole!
Copy of Favorite Ed Tech Tools
Have fun exploring Livebinders. Be sure you have lots of time to spend. Once you get started, time flies!
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Super Bowl Math

My fifth grade students are working hard on math this year, and I am at a point where we are tying in a lot of mixed problem solving. Super Bowl time is a perfect way to address some of this in a fun, engaging way. Here are some resources I found!


I love this sheet because it requires research, problem solving and critical thinking!



Check out this football facts worksheet from Education World

to be used as an internet activity


This Super Bowl Math Activity Pack is great for a long term project that takes kids into an in-depth study of some of the more advanced math of the Super Bowl. Check it out!



Or check out this great Livebinder of football resources… and, by the way, I’m totally doing a post on Livebinders tomorrow!


Football Math and Other Activities
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Math IS Fun

Do you have a few minutes between classes and need something quick to do? Are you looking for ways to challenge your class into doing some real thinking?


The website “Math is Fun” has a great puzzle section that can be used as  a whole group, in small groups for problem solving, or as individual challenges. Using a site like Edmodo for students to respond individually is an excellent option, while doing them on your interactive whiteboard to model problem solving strategies is another great way to tackle these problems. Here’s an example of one of the problems:





Be warned! Some of them are tough, but what a great lesson for our students. It’s ok to have to think… But, for us, there is an answer section!

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