In the Trenches

Thoughts and Ideas from a Classroom Teacher

Experiment in Book Blogging

I am that mean mommy that makes my kids read every day all summer long. I know. It’s just not fair. In order to help turn summer reading into a bit of an adventure, I set my nine-year old twins, David and Tyler, up with a book blog. They titled it “David and Tyler’s Great Book Adventure.” I have been amazed at how excited they’ve been about the blogging, the comments they receive, and the pinpoints on their ClustrMap. At one point, Tyler even said, “They need to make us do this at school!”

I have done blogging with my students in the past, and I hope to develop it again at my new school this fall. I’m really liking how this is playing out with my boys, and I’m hoping that maybe I might take our classroom blog in a similar direction. As I get back into habits and develop new routines, focusing the blog on books might just be the direction we need to take.

If you are not blogging with your students, what would it take to convince you to start? Would David and Tyler convince you? Check out David and Tyler’s Great Book Adventure!

Leave a comment »

School House Rock

Do you remember watching and learning with School House Rock as a kid? Believe it or not, despite the crazy technological advances of today, kids still love them! I knew they were all on You Tube, but my school’s filter blocks YouTube. Finally, I found this collection of many of the School House Rock videos at SqoolTools. If you click on the “filmstrip,” it will take you to the video. If you click on the song title, it will give you the lyrics. Check it out!


One idea to try with your students is to let them watch a particular video three or four times. For example, when my third graders were learning their times tables, they used the “Three Is a Magic Number” to help them out. I divided them into groups and let them come up with a routine to the song, and they made “music videos” to go with each song, which I recorded with my flip camera. They did an awesome job, not to mention mastered their three’s times tables!

1 Comment »

Pyramid of Success

I grew up learning about and trying to live Coach John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success. It is something that I have tried to teach my children and my students. Next year, depending on my new school’s approach to character education, I’m hoping to teach it more directly. I love how everything leads up to personal best! If you want to learn more about Coach Wooden’s pyramid, check out Wooden. As far as I am concerned, it is a “must read” for leaders and learners, alike.

1 Comment »

Human Body Fun

This year marks the transition for all 5th graders in North Carolina to the new Essential Standards from NC DPI. One of the concepts moving into fifth grade is the human body, which I love to teach. Check out this awesome resource on Squidoo with oodles of resources for teaching all about body systems. Click the picture or HERE to go straight to the site!


Leave a comment »

Happy Pinning

A few months ago, I received an invitation from a friend to try out Pinterest, a content sharing service with allows users to share things they’ve found on a virtual corkboard. I liken it to visual bookmarking. I have to admit that the service is a bit of a time-suck. It’s easy to spend hours browsing what others and pinning in every area imaginable. I like the organizational component of it, and the visual piece really fits into my brain framework. I have boards for everything from different school areas to funny sayings/quotations to fashion to DIY projects to recipes. I think I get a bit over ambitious when it comes to projects, but it’s definitely a big girls’ wish list. I’ve been thinking about how to use this with students, if that would be possible at all.

Reviewing the Pinterest Terms of Service, it states that this service is for children ages 13 and over, but I would still be very careful about encouraging student use. There is no “child friendly” filter that allows you to review content that others are pinning, which is the default when you log in to your account. There is a possibility that images may appear on the child’s home screen that are not appropriate. If you are using Pinterest, or your children or students are, please just be mindful of this. This is my main red flag. That being said, here are some ways that I can easily see educators using Pinterest in their learning!

As Professionals

  • Pinterest is an endless supply of educational inspiration. You can easily follow all pinnings in the Education Category. This is a great way to find new people to follow.
  • Another great way to find people is to check with the blogs that you follow. Many bloggers are now adding buttons to their blogs to make it easy to follow them on Pinterest, too.
  • When you read or find something that you like or that inspires you, use the Pin It button to add it to one of your boards. That way you will remember to revisit it later. Remember to use the direct link to a site though (for example, a specific blog post, not just the overall blog).
  • Organize your boards in whatever way works best for you. I have boards for books, reading strategies, writing, Daily 5, vocabulary and more. I started out with Literacy, but that became too big, too fast.
  • Find blogs to read based on pins that you see others are posting. These sources for inspiration and ideas can lead to others, especially if you find a blogger or pinner with whom you find a connection. It’s easy to find kindred spirits on Pinterest.

As Students

  • Create a shared board for students in the same research group to access. Students can each add resources and ideas that they find to this group space, making it easy to access one another’s work.
  • Students can start independent learning and research on a topic. They can link their research boards to a class website, where others can see what they are learning.
  • Teachers can create different boards for topics that they are teaching in classes. These resource boards can be accessed by students at home or at school (if filtering allows) for enrichment and/or remediation.
  • Students can create a “book shelf” board, where they post pics and reviews of things they are reading.
  • Students can organize resources about their school or community for others to access to learn about them and their area.

Other Resources

Leave a comment »

Books I Love – Night of the Twisters

One book I love to read with my students is Ivy Ruckman’s Night of the Twisters. It goes wonderfully with all of our literature objectives, but it is also a great story for bringing in the weather related objectives of 5th grade science. The readability level is on the 4th grade level, so it allows us to focus on specific reading and science skills. I also love that this story is based on a real event in history!

Here are some resources for teaching with Night of the Twisters:

Resources for teaching about tornadoes:

Leave a comment »

Before You Speak

I am pretty sure that this sign will be hanging in my classroom next year! I may modify it slightly to say “Before You Speak or Act” but I love the sentiment!  You can click on the picture for a printable version from the Sweet Blessings blog.


1 Comment »

Blog Jogging

Are you looking for some great elementary (and beyond) blogs to read? Do you want information written by teachers for teachers? Check out the Teaching Blog Addict! This is a great resource itself, but they have compiled grade and subject specific blogs that are well organized and look awesome. Check it out!

Leave a comment »

Books I Love – The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

This journey is about to begin! Get your kleenex ready for this heart wrenching story that chronicles a little porcelain rabbit’s journey to learn how to love. Kate DiCamillo’s story will grab you and your students, leaving them begging every day for more. This is an awesome story for teaching character development over the course of a story, sequencing, suspense and many more literary elements. It also just works wonderfully as a read-aloud.


Teachers’ Guide

Official Book Site

Discussion Questions

Reader’s Theater Adaptation of Ch. 22

Character Scrapbook Activity for Edward

Why Character Changed graphic organizer

Character Traits lesson




Leave a comment »

Mad About Matisse

One of my favorite units to do with my students focuses on different artists through history. I have been fortunate to work at schools where my students have received art instruction on a regular basis from highly qualified and passionate art teachers. One of the artists that I love and love to teach about is Henri Matisse.


I spend some time with my students learning about Matisse and his life. We also study his art a bit. I love to let the kids tell the stories that they imagine based on his paintings.

Here are some resources that I use to teach about him and his art…


One of my favorite periods in Matisse’s career was later when pain in his hands made it hard for him to hold a paintbrush. He turned to doing collages of torn paper. At the end of my days of Matisse learning, my students get to create their own Matisse-style art to share! Here are some my students did a few years ago.


Leave a comment »