In the Trenches

Thoughts and Ideas from a Classroom Teacher

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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BC11: A Favorite Website

2013-07-17 19.14.46One place I go to every day is Discovery Education! If you know me in person or online, you probably know that I am heavily involved with the Discovery Educator Network (DEN). Some of my most amazing personal and professional relationships come from experiences I have had thanks to the DEN. I figured that for this blog post I will do a Top 5 list of the reasons I love DE!

1. Advanced Search in Discovery Education allows me to find resources specifically targeted to my students’ needs. I love the games, math explanations, and songs. Even if your school does not subscribe to DE services, they have partnered with tons of community and corporate sponsors to create free lessons, games, and resources for teaching and learning.

2. Contests and sweepstakes like the Belk Service Learning Challenge and the Siemens Young Scientist Challenge give schools the opportunity to connect with corporate sponsors who want to make great things happen for young students. If you are a DEN STAR, you definitely look forward to Teacher Appreciation Week each year! DE does it right!

3. Face to face and virtual events offered by Discovery Education, the DEN, and their partners are amazing opportunities for educators and students to connect with the learning world around them. We have connected with the Weather Channel in an awesome Google HangOut, Peter Reynolds in an amazing Thinc Career Chat, and one another at events like DEN Summer Institute and DENapaloozas!

4. Discovery Education is about sharing! To become and maintain a DEN STAR, you have to do events. But, never fear, thi is not a giant production. No, sharing to DE is about getting 3-4 people together and talking about how you are using DE resources to improve teaching and learning in your classroom. Become a STAR!

5. Discovery Education is about providing the best teaching and learning resources. The DEN is about the people, the best network of caring, compassionate, and dedicated educators on Earth.

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New Facebook Template

I’ve done posts before about using Facebook templates for your students to create engaging and thought-provoking projects. Considering the focus in the Common Core State Standards on characterization, understanding point of view, and writing across genres, this really lends itself well to addressing these concepts. I just wanted to share this NEW Wonderful Free Facebook Template that I discovered this week!

Here are just a few ways that you could use Facebook templates in your teaching and learning…

– historical figures

fb template

– scientists

– biographies

– elements of the periodic table

– fictional characters

– states

– countries

– monuments

– national parks

– geometric figures

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Mythology for Kids

We are getting ready to start an integrated English/Language Arts unit on mythology, folktales, and legends. Our fifth graders have had a lot of exposure to folktales and legends over the years, so we are going to focus more heavily on the mythology component. I’ll admit it. I loved studying mythology as a child, and I love that one of my twins is devouring the Last Olympians and Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordin. Heck, my little one’s current favorite movie is even Disney’s Hercules. I wanted to go ahead and start organizing information for our unit, so I thought I’d share some of the favorite things I found.



Cute idea generator for writing your own myth

StoryNory provides many of the Greek myths as read-alouds

Understanding mythology as the religion of the Ancient Greeks, and others

Quiz Your Noodle on mythology/Percy Jackson

Symbaloo of major Greek myths

Introduction to Greek Mythology greek myths

Literature for Children: Myths short video from DE Streaming

Clickable Painting of the 12 main gods as research

Brain Pop of Greek Gods



Greek Mythology Unit with readings and activities

Webquest type activity with questions, lessons and pacing – good for an extension project!

A few activity pages, including one of designing your own urn

Crosswords and Word Searches

Greek Masks and Coloring Pages of the Gods



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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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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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Perry Who? Spying in the Revolution!

Are you teaching about Colonial America and the Revolutionary War? Are you finding that your students aren’t quite as into it as you had hoped. Try talking “spies.” You’ll immediately have a fresh set of ears. The Revolutionary War was a great example of how the team with the best spies wins, and everyone was doing it. There are tons of excellent trade books out there for children of all ages, but I wanted to find some more resources. Here are a few of my favorites…

Spy Letters of the American Revolution – sections on sample letters, people of the Revolution, methods of spying, stories of spies and more

Spies and Scouts, Secret Writing, and Sympathetic Citizens – from the foundation at Colonial Williamsburg

Spies from the Revolution via eThemes

Spies – Ben Franklin did it too! (PBS)

Even the CIA admits there was  spying in the Revolution

So, take your lessons of spying beyond Benedict Arnold! Your kids will love it !

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Proverbs and Such

We are in the midst of a unit on the Revolutionary War with my fifth grade students. We are making cross curricular connections and blending our social students and english/language arts time. I’ve been collecting lots of resources and realized today that I just need to start sharing them here. I did a big unit on this last year, and my students loved it. The topic hasn’t really changed, but my approach has been modified some due to the changes in Common Core Standards for ELA. One of the things that we are hitting on right now is figurative language and reading across genres, so we are tackling proverbs. The Revolutionary War unit is perfect for this because some many of the proverbs and expressions that we use today originated with Ben Franklin. Here are a few of the resources that I have found…

ThinkQuest on Franklin’s life with a section dedicated to proverbs

Proverbs from Poor Richard’s Almanac

Proverbs and quotes from Franklin

Printable “Complete the Proverb” activity


I’m planning to discuss a few proverbs with my students, and then I’ll hand out papers to each of my student groups. Each paper will have a proverb on it, and they will have to explain what it means and give a modern expression that might be an equivalent. Here’s what they are doing!

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Animated Hero Classics

Do you love biographies? Do your students enjoy learning more about historical figures? Consider enhancing your teaching of historical people with the series from Animated Hero Classics. These great videos are about 30 minutes each and provide excellent information about people like the Wright Brothers, Madame Curie and William Bradford, just to name a few. The videos are available on Discovery Education and on YouTube.  Recently, I found teacher guides to accompany each of the videos/people with cross-curricular activities that relate to the person and build greater understanding of the person, the times surrouning his/her life and the contributions he/she made to society. You can find these great resources at Each guide is a downloadable pdf document that is around 50 pages of exceptional resources and ideas for instruction. If you were already using this great series, these documents are a definite bonus!

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