In the Trenches

Thoughts and Ideas from a Classroom Teacher

Freedom on the Menu

My students have been reading The Watson’s Go to Birmingham – 1963, by Christopher Paul Curtis, in our reading and social studies block lately. I love this book, and it’s one of the reasons why I so excited to come back to fifth grade this year. It covers so many awesome themes for literature and addresses lots of important issues, both current and historical. Tomorrow, in our reading, the Watson’s are starting their journey from Flint, Michigan to Birmingham, Alabama. As they journey through the states on their trip, we will be looking at some of the events happening around that time along the route. Tomorrow we are reading Freedom on the Menu. This book depicts the actions of a few brave college students in Greensboro, NC, who staged a sit-in at the lunch counter in Woolworth’s. 



I found this excellent guide to the book from Thinkfinity that can be used for vocabulary, themes, and historical connections.

Here’s a Readers’ Theater script to accompany the book, as well, that we might try. 

This website about the Greensboro Sit-Ins is also great for a primary source connection. 

This YouTube video shows an interview with one of the Greensboro Four, years after the sit-ins. 

There are so many activities that can be done with this book, and I am looking forward to seeing how my students connect with the story. I know we will be able to learn so much! 


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Sock Puppets App = LOVE

I heard about the free app “Sock Puppets” while I was at NC TIES this week, and I had to come home and try it out with my own kiddos. They loved it! Here’s what they came up with…


So, as you know, an app has to be more than just fun and free for it to be used in the classroom. I started thinking about ways that I could see using the app in my classroom.  These clips can be up to 30 seconds, so in some way it is limiting. With Sock Puppets, students could possibly…

1. Do a short book review.

2. Act out “what might happen next” scenarios after you read a story or passage.

3. Interview a character or an animal as a mini-report.

4.  Build a quick “what did you learn today” segment for class.

5. Record your homework to your class website.


What else could you use fun, free app this for?

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Internet Safety Activities

Students today are faced with a new set of safety needs that go beyond “don’t take candy from a stranger.” Our kids must learn to be safe in the digital age in which we live. Here are a few things that I have found that are awesome at starting to address some of these things.


Professor Garfield – This site uses the classic animated character, Garfield, and his friends to teach about cyberbullying. It is good for most elementary ages and is a great introduction to internet safety.



The FBI has an internet safety page for kids that has lots of excellent information and tips. This site, plus KidsHealth, is a great resource for older kids to use for research to create their own internet safety presentations, posters or PSA’s.


Netsmartz has a side variety of videos, information, and games for kids to teach about internet safety and general netiquette. They use catchy songs and cartoons to teach good practices online and offline.



Webonauts from PBSKids teaches the motto “Observe. Respect. Contribute.” as a mantra for internet safety and participation. Students work their way through Webonaut training, learning about internet safety through games and activities.


We don’t want parents or students to be afraid of being online, just like we don’t want them to be afraid of the world around them. We need them to be aware and safe, so that they can enjoy the awesome things that the internet has to offer! Of course, the best way to keep kids safe online is a free idea that can be done at home or at school. As you probably know, it’s called …. monitoring!



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Common Core Resources

Educators around the USA are transitioning to Common Core national standards in Reading and Math, and we are all learning more about how these new standards will look in our classrooms.

Check out this awesome collection of Common Core resources from a public Symbaloo example.



Symbaloo is a great organizational site that allows you to pull together thumbnails from favorite websites. Check it out for all possibilities for your school and home lives! It’s definitely a whole different blog post!

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Food Chain Game

Last week I was reviewing ecosystems with my students, and I came across this awesome Food Chain Site and Game. 


I set up a for them to make it easy to find the site ( Students had to use the information to develop definitions of and record examples of producers, consumers and decomposers. Once they completed this, they were able to play the food chain game. While playing the food chain game, students had to record at least two of the chains they developed. It is self-checking and crosses different ecosystems. The readability of the site is about 3rd grade, so it’s simple for all students, but it is full of great information. Check it out!

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Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss

ImageI love this Buzzfeed article about the social implications behind the writings of Dr.Seuss. As a teacher of 5th graders, it is not too early to start looking at the deeper meanings of what students see as enjoyable picture books. Most students aren’t away that Theodore Geisel was, in fact, a social activist. With the popularity of his books still today, I have had students take these titles from the Buzzfeed article and match them to the books in the Dr. Seuss collection. Many need a dictionary to figure out what these terms mean, but they can start to pull together the pieces and make strong connections. Try it! For next year, I am trying to think of more ways to use Dr. Seuss’ books in new and more challenging ways. No matter how old you are, they are still magical!

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