In the Trenches

Thoughts and Ideas from a Classroom Teacher

Genre Posters & Ideas


Are you looking for a set of full-color genre posters for your classroom? How about if they are free? Check out this awesome freebie from
“Think Share Teach”. Her blog is full of great ideas. Check them out!


I printed mine today and laminated them on 18″x24″ construction paper, with a large open space at the bottom. I am going to use my leftover book order forms for students to sort books based on reasonable predictions from the covers, authors and descriptions.  I will also let students write the titles of the books they are reading on small sticky notes and leave them on the right genre poster so we can track the types of books we are reading.
What could you do with these awesome printables?


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Tra-Digital Revolutionary War Heroes

My students have been studying the American Revolution for the last few weeks, and we’ve had a blast. As we are wrapping things up, each student chose a historical figure from the war era to do more research about. Students researched their people and wrote essays about them. I partnered with the art teacher to have the students make puppets to represent the people they researched. They were amazing! Check out General George Washington and Paul Revere!

Over the weekend, my students are reworking the biographical components of their essays to be autobiographical because they are going to be recording their puppets telling about their lives, character traits and roles in the American Revolution. Thanks to a great presentation at DEN VirtuCon on Tra-Digital Story Telling , we got inspired! After we film the puppets on Monday, we are going to drop them onto different backdrops that represent the historical figures’ roles in the Revolution. I can’t wait to share them!

In the past, the fifth graders at my school had done something like a living wax museum, where students could choose anyone to represent biographically. We decided to go digital this year for a multitude of reasons this year, which didn’t necessarily have to be related to 21st century skills. We knew it would be difficult for our students to get costumes to represent characters from the war, and we didn’t want our boys or girls to be limited on their choices by their own genders. We also wanted a way to easily share our learning with our parents and community members. I am so excited to work through this project and share our results!



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Holiday Card Exchange Project

Are you looking for a great way to celebrate the holidays with your students, while making a variety of curricular and cultural connections? Check out PROJECTS BY JEN. Jen’s projects are always well organized and this one will be no exception. I love how she has included a component of service by having classes send a card to a children’s charity.

Be sure to make this a deep and meaningful project! Here are some other things you can do… 

  • Pin a Google Map with the places that you are sending cards to and where you receive them from
  • Have students research the places their letters are going
  • Students can calculate the distances that the letters are going to travel
  • Make Skype calls with the classes you are coordinating with to share about your schools
  • Make comparisons with the students in different schools
  • Students can generate a digital “ad” for their class to teach more about your area and share that link with your card.
  • Blog about the experience of exchanging cards
  • The possibilities are endless!

Thanks Jen for coordinating this awesome opportunity!

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Guess the Wordle

There are lots of great “Guess the Wordle” projects out there, and it is definitely one of my go-to activities. Jen Wagner is definitely an expert on GTW projects, and if you haven’t checked out her site, stop reading now and go there (just please come back).
Wordle, and other similar word cloud generators, are an awesome way to reinforce inferencing skills with your students of all ages. This set of activities was designed for a presentation I did for a science workshop, so these are “Guess the Scientist” Wordle’s. I’ll start with some examples…

Can you guess the scientist from the clues given in the word cloud? What are some of the key points that might give it away? GTW’s are something pretty quick and easy to do in a series and you can do them at home. I keep a file of them that I can pull out at any time with themes like Classic Fairy Tales, Guess the Day in History, Famous Inventors, etc. On a rainy day, or when I have just a few minutes, I can post one and students can try to guess. They also make excellent interactive bulletin boards.
So, how do you get started? Go to and click CREATE. Use the URL of a site you like or copy/paste text. That’s it! I do recommend that you go through your copy/paste and delete any key words that might give your Wordle away a little too easily. I found this site for short biographies of scientists that worked perfectly!

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Tech in Ten – NCSTA 12

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Are you looking for ways to introduce your students to basic and advanced science concepts? Do you have a one-computer classroom?

Check out these awesome science simulations on the PhET site in all science content areas from the University of Colorado at Boulder. I was looking for a way to show my students how the movement of molecules changes when heat is applied or reduced, and I found “States of Matter: Basic” simulation. It’s easy to find (I just searched “matter”) and easy to use, without having any exceptional technology requirements. For those of us with download restrictions on our school computers, I also appreciate that you can run them online. These activities could be great for classroom demos, student research or classroom flipping. How else do you see using them in your classroom?

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We Give Books

I recently discovered the site We Give Books and I am so excited! I’m always looking for ways to read with and model reading strategies for my students. I use my document camera with my projector and I huddle everyone around me as I read, but this site presents another awesome and FREE option. Full versions of many excellent books from varied grade levels and subject areas are available to you and your students at We Give Books. You do have to create a login, but it is free. I sent this site out to my classroom parents, and they were excited about having options of books to read with their children (both my fifth graders and their littler ones). While I haven’t delved too deeply into it yet, there’s even a lesson resource section for educators that focuses on maximizing the impact of We Give Books in the classroom. What do you think? Will you be able to use the books offered here to you and your students?

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