In the Trenches

Thoughts and Ideas from a Classroom Teacher

Story Online

Last night I posted a video of My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother, as read on StoryOnline by Melissa Gilbert. A friend had shared the particular story with me, but I was excited to find all of the other offerings shared by StoryOnline on YouTube. I love a read aloud. I don’t care how old you are or how old your students are, they will love being read to. The only thing that changes from that story time moment as a young child is that they aren’t so ready to admit that they like it! Students can learn about reading, writing, listening and speaking with a well delivered read-aloud, and who better than professionals to share these?!

So, why a video read aloud? What does this offer? Here are a few reasons that I love this as an option…

1. If a student is absent, it’s a built in make up lesson that they can do on their own time (at home or at school).

2. I am freed up to walk around the room with my students, or I can just sit and model good listening skills. I can also pause the video and model meta-cognitive skills that good readers do.

3. It shows people they respect and admire as role models of being good readers. It proves that reading is important and that you can love reading, even if you are not a kid.

4. There are lots of men reading these books. In a situation where the elementary teaching profession is primarily women, I love that my students can hear a strong, passionate man share a great book and talk about how he, too, loves to read!

5. For reluctant readers, using videos of books is a  great way to teach reading skills, like story elements and mood, without the student having to struggle through words. They can master a concept and not have to be struggling with that and the reading, itself.

Here is another favorite. Check out Bad Case of Stripes!

But wait…

I know I’ve talked about it before, but if you are a subscriber to Discovery Education services, don’t miss out on the offerings by Weston Woods. The folks at Weston Woods Publishing have put together videos of some of their most beloved children’s books that are true to the integrity of the books. The best way to find these books is to just type “Weston Woods” in the search bar after you log in to your Discovery Education account. Good luck! And happy reading!

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My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother

I love Patricia Polacco and I love this book! I was thrilled to find it tonight on YouTube as a read-aloud by Melissa Gilbert. She does an amazing job, and I love that this is just one in a collection of stories shared by Story Online. I can’t wait to dive in here further!

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Learn Zillion


Do you feel like no matter how much you accomplish, you always have a zillion things to do? You do, but I’ve recently been checking out a great way to help with that. Learn Zillion!

There are tons of great things out there to help with the transition to the Common Core Standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics, but they are often overwhelming. As I’m learning the standards and making their labels part of my daily language, I want a resource where I can go for lessons, learning, clarification and sharing. That resource also needs to be read-able after a long week of work with my students, my own children and everything else that life throws at me. I love the clarity of organization and tools!

If you are flipping your classroom, this is also a great place to go for lessons and ideas!

I’d definitely encourage you to check it out!

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Civil War and Readers’ Theater

Right now, we are doing an integrated unit for Language Arts and the Civil War. We wanted to figure out a way to bring in speaking and listening in a more direct way, so we thought it would be great to build in some Readers’ Theater. My kids LOVE it! We are using the scripts as fiction and non-fiction reading with a special focus on prosody and point of view. At the end of the unit, we are having the kids write their own monologues from the point of view of one of the historical figures from the Civil War. Here are some of the awesome scripts we’ve found!
  • Civil War Readers Theater
  • Ballard of Abraham Lincoln
  • Will the Real Abraham Lincoln Please Stand Up?
  • Abraham Lincoln: Holding the Nation Together
  • Causes of the Civil War
  • Civil War Events
  • The Civil War Through a Child’s Eyes
  • Gettysburg and Mr. Lincoln’s Speech
  • Women in the War
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NY TimesMachine

Are you looking for primary sources for your students to use? Are you stumped at finding new places to get non-fiction historical text for your times-machinestudents? Do you need news articles for comparison and reflection?


Check out NY Times Machine!


We are currently doing a unit on the Civil War, and I can’t wait to show my students the actual news articles from when Lincoln was assassinated. We will compare the information here with what they have learned, dissect why it is somewhat different, and analyze how news is shared today (versus in 1865).


I’m really looking forward to using it for other learning objectives, such as…

– advertisements

– word choice

– spelling changes

– and more!


How do you see yourself using the NY Times Machine?







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Reading Interest Inventories

If only ALL students were such eager readers

If only ALL students were such eager readers

My school has a daily time for guided reading groups where all students, school wide, go to different teachers for leveled and skill focused instruction based on their needs. Every teacher, from classroom to support to specialists, has a group so class sizes can be small and impact can be maximum. I have some reluctant readers this quarter, and I want to make sure that I maximize my time with them. I want to start the new quarter and new group of students with a reading interest inventory, so I spent my afternoon looking for just the right one. I thought I’d share some of them with you, in case you are looking.

  • This inventory is the one that I chose for my class of 5th graders. I like how it gives me a chance to assess some of their writing, informally, of course. It also covers reading habits, topics of interest and gives the child a voice.
  • This particular choice is also easy to read and fill out, but it allows for choice and independence by the student. I’d definitely use it for 4th graders and above.
  • This inventory for high schoolers looks great, too; but it is “advanced.” Students who are reluctant readers at that level may not want to fill out all of the questions, but the line of questioning they take is intuitive.
  • The last page of this packet has an inventory that focuses on attitudes about reading in different situations. It would definitely be good to do for students who you suspect have negative attitudes toward reading. It could also easily be done as a “read aloud” to a whole class at any point. You could use it as a pre- and post- test throughout the year, in the hopes that attitudes about reading have improved.
  • Professor Garfield offers another option that covers attitudes about reading in a way that might be appealing to younger ones. The scoring guide and background information are definitely useful, too.
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Presidents’ Day Resources

February 18th is Presidents’ Day in 2013. We have the day off, unless of course we get an inclement weather day between now and then. We have done a big Revolutionary War and Colonial Times unit this year, and I’m in the middle of a unit on the Civil War. As Presidents’ Day is traditionally about George Washington and Abe Lincoln, my students already have a lot of background knowledge about these two presidents. I thought I’d share some other resources I’m considering using with my students this year…


  • ABC Teach has lots of free resources for Presidents’ Day that address kids of all ages. I especially like the Fact Cards that they provide. They’d be great for a scavenger hunt of some kind, or to have students use them as background knowledge to create a Fakebook page for the different presidents.
  • Animated Hero Classics offers great biographies of Lincoln and Washington, and there are excellent resources available to accompany these 30 minute videos at They cover everything from coloring pages, to historical tie-ins, to integrated math activities.
  • We are learning about calculating the area of a shape with lengths of fractional amounts in math, so we might also find the areas of the different parts of different sizes of the American flag and then compare them proportionally.

What is your favorite activity for Presidents’ Day?




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Safer Internet Day

Did you know that Tuesday, February 5, 2013 is Safer Internet Day? Take some time with your students to discuss this year’s theme, “Online Rights and Responsibilities,” and slogan, “Connect with Respect.”



You can find tons of  resources at

– flyers

– leaflets

– lesson plans

– and more

How do you teach your students about online safety and responsibility?



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