In the Trenches

Thoughts and Ideas from a Classroom Teacher

Responding to Non-Fiction

We are starting school-wide flexible guided reading groups on Monday, and I’ve been working today on my plans. I’ve found a text on clouds that addresses our current science objectives and it goes through the comprehension strategies that we’ve been studying in English/Language Arts, too. Woot! I get really excited when that happens. Some of you know exactly how awesome that is.


Any ways, one of the tenets of reading non-fiction is have purpose and focus. I love this “Responding to Non-Fiction” graphic organizer that can be used with lots of different texts. I use it frequently, and I really like how it makes the students apply background knowledge, consider questioning as a technique and analyze text features.


Check it out!

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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!

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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!


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Olympics Fun

I always love the years that the Olympics come around because they are such a great learning opportunity for children, the world over. This summer’s Olympic games will be completed before we head back to school, so I’m trying to find ways to bring them into the classroom anyways.



Some things I might try…


  • Math Olympics game at Math Playground
  • AIMS Math Events for Olympics
  • Have students create their own graphs of the final medal counts of different countries and compare, find range, median, mean and mode
  • Calculate the distances that different athletes traveled to get to the games in London


  • Divide up the class into country groups to research about different countries that entered the Olympics
  • Choose an Olympian to research. Create a timeline of the Olympian’s life.
  • Take a virtual tour of the Olympic village.
  • Research the first Olympics in Ancient Greece.
  • Watch the Time Warp Trio’s “My Big Fat Greek Olympics” and do related activities





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Science? Why Not?

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Snowball Fights

Today we had a 2 hour delay because of snow and ice. When you live on the side of a mountain, it doesn’t take much of either one to cause a bit of havoc. When I got to school, I was putting up some new science vocabulary on my word wall, and it got me thinking about one of my favorite vocabulary review strategies… SNOWBALL FIGHTS!

This one is quick and easy. Type (or write) your vocabulary words so there are two words per standard size sheet of paper. Cut the paper in half. On another color paper, I get a kick out of using yellow (heehee), write definitions or sentences that go with each of the words. Cut these in half also. Mix up the words and definitions, and hand out the papers to your students. Enjoy their faces when you tell them to ball up the paper. Explain to the students that you are going to have a snowball fight. When you call time, each student should pick up the nearest snowball, open it, and find its mate of a different color. You can repeat this several times in one session, and the kids love it. FYI, if it’s a nice day, go outside. Snowballs don’t roll under things that way.


This activity works beautifully with vocabulary words, but it’s also great for multiplication facts, math problems, standard form and word form, equivalent fractions, symbols and their meanings, and more. Your students can also make their own snowballs. If you give them two half-sized sheets of paper, they can make up their problem on one side and put the solution on the other.

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Hi. My name is Kelly. And I love a foldable.


There are so many awesome things to do with foldables in the classroom at any age and with any curriculum area. Here are my top five reasons why.


1. Once the kids learn how to make one style, it can be used a hundred times in a hundred different ways.

2. They automatically allow for differentiation.

3. They can be made with whatever kind of paper or materials that I have handy at the moment.

4. They are a meaningful “back pocket” activity, meaning that when you have to change things up at the last minute, you can always go to a foldable.

5. They work even when the copy machine does not.



Here are a few resources on foldables that I have pulled together.

My Pinterest Foldable Board

Awesome Foldables Wiki

Get in the Fold! blog

Catawba County Schools Foldables Ideas Page

Reading and Study Skills Foldables


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For the next few days, I will probably be posting about and trying out some of the ideas from DEN SciCon this weekend. Here are the archives to all of SciCon. Don’t miss out on all the wonderful ideas! Another idea that was shared yesterday was a way to provide opportunities for students to interact with media and text. I loved this AEIOU idea.

As you read a passage / watch a short video / analyze a picture, look for an

A – adjective

E – emotion

I – interest

O – oh!

U – um?

I also love the idea of using a site like PicLits to find pictures to share with students or even allow them to use it to create their own AEIOU to share. Here’s an example that I made.

PicLit from
See the full PicLit at

You could also use something like a movie trailer. Here’s another example.

A – nerve-wracking

E – excited

I – how the Hunger Games themselves will be presented

O – this isn’t quite what I imagined when I read the book

U – when does it come out?

I keep seeing ways that this can be adapted across the curriculum and across grade levels! I can’t wait to use it with my students this week!

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My Favorite Graphic Organizer

I use graphic organizers all the time in all of my classes. There are tons of awesome ones out there on the internet and in teacher resource books that you can run off for your students to use or project on your interactive whiteboard. I am a big fan of ones that my students can create from scratch in their notes or on blank paper. I prefer these because I know that my students can recreate them as a learning tool in their own studies. If they always associate them with a handout or pre-made graphic, students do not always make the connection of how to use them on their own. Below is my favorite graphic organizer format that can be used across the curriculum and in many formats. Besides that, it’s super easy to draw and offers lots of room in each section!





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Science Fair

My students’ science fair projects are due tomorrow. What a stressful day! Leading up to the final due date, I tried to do activities with my students that would reinforce the idea that this does not need to be an attempt to solve world hunger. It should be fun, solve a problem and use the scientific method. Last week, we did an experiment to prove that it is possible to complete a science fair project in one hour or less. We had a blast! Here’s how we did it…

Topic: What’s the fastest way to melt an ice cube using only yourself?

Hypothesis: Thinking about what causes ice cubes to melt, what factors need to be considered? The students generated the idea that heat melts ice cubes, and smaller ice cubes melt faster than larger ones. Using this information, each student came up with a plan for melting their own ice cube and recorded it.

Materials: Uniform ice cubes (at least 2 per student), plastic zipper bags (at least 2 per student), a timer, place to record times

We also had a great discussion about constants and variables here. All ice cubes had to be the same size. The bags had to be the same size and brand.

Procedure: Hand out plastic bags. Give each student an ice cube to put directly in their bag. Students should seal their bags. Everyone did a quick seal check by flipping the bag upside down and doing a quick shake. On the “go” signal, everyone should carry out their plan to melt their ice cube. Before we began, we agreed that we would define “melted” as being completely liquid, with no solid pieces left in the bag. As students completed the melting of the ice cube, mark the time it was completely melted. When everyone has finished melting their ice cube, students should analyze the top 5 finishers and the last 5 finishers, noting what their actions had in common. They create a new hypothesis with a new plan to improve their “melt time” based on the new information. Record new trial information.

Results: Write a description of the method of melting and the time it took to melt the ice cube.

Analysis: What do the fastest times have in common? What do the slowest times have in common? What generalizations can you make about your findings ? I won’t go into the results here. I don’t want to give it away. 

Next Time: Students listed different ways they might attempt the same experiment. They also considered variables to change. Some things they came up with included:

What would happen if you used different types of ziploc bags?

Which types/shapes of ice cubes melt faster?




Photo Credit: Ice Cube

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