In the Trenches

Thoughts and Ideas from a Classroom Teacher

BC2.3: Kerpoof & Idioms




We’ve been studying figurative language and idioms in my class over the past weeks. This week, I shared these stories about Joey with my students. They loved the themes of sports and the  themes to  the idioms. I split students into groups, and each group received one of the stories. They had to identify as many idioms from the story as they could, and then they chose 5 to define. Later in the week, the students chose one idiom and illustrated its literal meaning using Kerpoof. The students had a blast creating their presentations, and they’ve enjoyed the idiom gallery that we’ve set up in our hallway.

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BC20: ReadWorks

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I was recently working on developing a Post Test for an English Language Arts unit I’m writing. I  wanted texts that are on grade level with question sets that I  could easily dissect to determine students’ mastery of sequencing, explicit detail, and vocabulary in context. ReadWorks came to my rescue. I  love how easy it is to find high quality texts that meet a variety of needs, whether for an integrated content piece, differentiated texts, or specific skills. Best of all, it’s free!

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BC19: This Week in Learning


One thing that I did this week that I will do again…. hmmm. This has been a crazy week to reflect on this question. Monday, we were out of school in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday. Tuesday, we released  early do to the threat of icy roads at our normal dismissal time. Wednesday, we had a snow day. Thursday, which was supposed to be a workday, became the snow make up day. Friday, then, was a scheduled workday for the end of the quarter and end of the semester.  There was no rhyme or reason to the week. The kids were “off” due to the  idea of snow in our  southern town and the already shortened week. All the while, I was trying to complete mid-year, one on one reading assessments. Sigh. All of this chaos did have one positive outcome. I relegated more class time to self-selected, independent reading. My kids love to read around the room with a book of choice, and there is so much value  in this! I came across this graphic the other day, and I find it to be 100% true! Self-selected books are a way to find this “right book!”


imageThis inspires me to dig into my resources and pull out my Reading Wheels. I’m thinking this is just the thing for the new quarter and a new group of students! For grade 5, there are 4 different choices, with 10 book categories in each wheel. In a quarter, students should choose a book or article from each category to read and reflect upon. I want to make a choice wheel for how students can share their reflections.


Don’t you just love that moment when something you used to, that your students really benefited from and you enjoyed, suddenly pops back into your mind. Yes!

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BC18: Favorite Books

You can tell I was in a reading state of mind when I posted the blogging challenge for January!

As I am planning ahead  to a heroes biography unit in the coming month, the book Freedom on the Menu came  to mind. 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. Because we live in Guilford County, this piece of history connects directly to us.


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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BC13: A Book I Love



I love an alphabet book. As an upper grades teacher, we often get steered away from ABC books as being too juvenile. When this series of books came out a few years ago, I was blown away by their content, concept, artwork, and thoroughness. I love teaching about our home state, North Carolina, and this book makes an amazing model for students doing their own writing. In order to write a similarly complex story, students’ research has to be as robust. As a starting point, a book like this is an excellent class project. Students can research biographies, locations, professions, and animals. But, there are some more demanding and challenging ideas, too. What about math concepts? I’m mulling over the idea of challenging my students to write about Algorithms, Multiplication, and Quotients! Watch out kids…. Mrs. Hines has an idea!

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BC1: Favorite Book

This was the first year that I’ve read The One and Only Ivan with my students. This wonderful story by Katherine Applegate immediately captured our hearts. I cried at least 3 times while trying to read it aloud. My 24 fifth graders were known to shed some tears also. I’d definitely recommend this book as a read-aloud for students in grades four through eight. If you want a real emotional treat, don’t read ahead of your students. I knew from the experiences of people  I trust that this book was exceptional. Discovering its magic along with my students was part of our joy.

This was the Discovery Ed DENbrarian selection for April 2013, so there is an awesome collection of resources already pinned on Pinterest.

Check out Katherine Applegate’s sharing on Global Read Aloud Day!


Teaching Idioms?

Check out this awesome comic from a recent Sunday newspaper! I can’t wait to share this with my students. I’ll be interested to see how many of them “get it.”


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4 Pics, 1 Word

4 pics

Are you playing 4 Pics, 1 Word yet? It’s a free app available for iOS and Android, and the whole idea is to generate one word that would apply to all four of the pictures. I will admit it. I’m obsessed. As I was up playing last night, way past my bedtime, I kept thinking about ways that I could use this with my students. The game asks you to make connections, interpret pictures, find nuances, and have a grand command of vocabulary. How is this not awesome for kids?


So, how could I use this with kids?

  • They could make their own! This would be a great way to teach students about open source images and Creative Commons searches. If each student made their own based on a set of vocabulary words, you could display them as a “real” or virtual bulletin board for students to solve one another’s challenges.
  • Make some for your students based on their vocabulary words or spelling words, and they would have that list to use as a bit of a word bank.
  • Save the app on your own device, and put it under the document camera for all of your students to see and help you solve, especially when you are stuck in that moment of having 5 minutes before lunch or dismissal and you want to keep them busy.


I will make the quick disclaimer that I haven’t seen any inappropriate pictures, but I will not say that there aren’t any at all!


More Dr. Seuss

What else can we use for Dr. Seuss’s birthday week? How about access to some of the short animations created over the years to showcase his work. And some people say YouTube is only full of cat videos and crashing skateboarders!


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Wacky Wednesday and More – Dr. Seuss

As you might be planning for Dr. Seuss activities this week and beyond, here’s an idea for Wednesday… Wacky Wednesday! You can view the book as a scrolling option, as a slideshow or as a book. I can’t wait to share it with my kids on our projector screen for our book of the day. I’d love to hear their owns versions of a Wacky Wednesday!

View this document on Scribd


And what is even more awesome? They also have…

Oh! The Places You’ll Go

Green Eggs and Ham

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish

Cat in the Hat

Dr. Seuss Non-Fiction Reader

The Sleep Book





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