ENGAGE, EQUIP, & EMPOWER: Lesson Ideas for the Chinese New Year

dogFebruary 16th will be the first day of the New Year on the Chinese lunar calendar. Each year of the calendar’s 12-year cycle is represented by an animal. According to the Chinese zodiac, people born during a given year share traits with that animal. This year, 2018 is the year of the Dog. Those born in the Year of the Dog are said to be very sincere and they’re very loyal to friends.

Check out the following lesson ideas:

Boars & Baseball: Making Connections with ReadWriteThink

In this lesson, students will make text-to-self, text-to-text, and text-to-world connections after reading In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson. After sharing and discussing connections, students choose and plan a project that makes a personal connection to the text.

Click the image below to order a copy of the book for this lesson. Clicking my Amazon affiliate link does result in a small commission for me  at no extra cost to you.


Read Works is also an online reading resource with multiple text selections about the Chinese New Year! You could also choose this time to do a culture study about China. Read Works also offers several FREE text selections to fill that need as well!

Happy Teaching!

ENGAGE, EQUIP, & EMPOWER: Black History Month Lesson Ideas

mbwThe function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education. – Martin Luther King Jr.

February is Black History Month. This blog contains links to some of my favorite ideas and books to use when designing lesson plans to celebrate and learn at the same time.

First, here is a round up of some great resources from Teachers Pay Teachers.


Designed with third and fourth graders in mind, this biographies resource includes materials for students to use while conducting research, as well as materials for the presentation of their final writing piece, in a Biography Lapbook. Click HERE to find this product, Biography Lapbook!



bhmLooking for some new and fresh activities for Black History Month? This pack includes writing, reading, vocabulary, crafts, and more! Click HERE to find this product Black History Month Activities!




Below are a few FABULOUS books to read to students during Black History Month. Click on any image to order from my Amazon site.

The following links are affiliate links to Amazon. If you choose to make a purchase, I do receive a small commission. 

Happy Teaching!

ENGAGE, EQUIP, & EMPOWER: Teaching about Elizabeth Blackwell

elizabeth-blackwell-3Looking for an interesting topic to discuss next week in class? How about teaching students about the first woman to ever graduate from medical school “way back when” on January 23rd of 1849?

Elizabeth Blackwell was the first woman to receive a M.D. degree from an American medical school. Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell and colleagues founded the New York Infirmary for Women and Children. Read more about this amazing woman here.

One easy way to engage students in a lesson about Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell is to watch a quick intro video about her. Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors: The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell — Weston Woods

You can also find a read aloud of Scholastic’s book here: Tami Reads “Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors? The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell” By: Tanya Lee Stone

For K-3 students, engage them in meaningful, thoughtful discussions about courage and self-confidence. You can tie the discussion to a read aloud of Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman. Students can discuss how both the character and Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell displayed courage and self-confidence. Empower students by having them write about Dr. Blackwell and how they can apply her example to their own lives!

Click here to see lesson plan ideas!

For 4th – 6th grade here is a link to a TpT resource about Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell.

Happy Teaching!



Kennedy’s WIG? It was a classroom VICTORY!

WeChooseToGoToTheMoonThere are moments in a teacher’s life when he or she feels like a superhero. We have those moments to make up for all of the others. . .LOL! I had that moment this week. I wanted to share because I am proud of my students!

The 5th grade read excerpts from Kennedy’s speech “We Choose to Go to the Moon.” Students were mesmerized. It was amazing to watch as Kennedy’s words echoed through history inspiring a new generation. The “WOW” moment was when students connected this text selection with the 7 Habits without my prompting. Each and every 5th grade class recognized that Kennedy had set a WIG (Wildly Important Goal) for our nation!

We grabbed on to that the next day and discussed how we had to “Begin with the End in Mind” to reach that goal. We discussed that it took “Synergizing” and a “Win-Win” attitude to achieve that goal. We discussed the impacts of the speech and the goal that was set for America. We watched the first moon landing. We read about our American hero, Neil Armstrong. We brainstormed adjectives to describe what characteristics those first astronauts had to have.

We also wrote down our own “Moon Missions.” We wrote down our goals that are hard to do, but we CHOOSE to do them anyway. We choose to meet our goals because we can! This is a sampling of those “Moon Missions”:

Get a scholarship

Play softball at the University of Alabama

Do well on the ASPIRE test

Become a Marine Biologist

Open my own hair salon

Compete in the Olympics (gymnastics)

Be the first in my family to graduate from college

Today’s children still have dreams! They need us to help them set their goals and figure out a way to achieve it! They need someone to tell them that they can. . .not because it is easy, but because it is hard!

This week’s HW:

EVERY NIGHT: Study Academic Vocabulary, Work on Research Project, and Read for AR Points



Monday’s CAFE ELA / Student Opinions

Cafe3We had another successful CAFE ELA today!

At “C” students read an informational text about matter. This text passage corresponded with their 5th grade science class.

At “A” students worked with Mrs. Wilson to analyze a portion of the text, identify vital vocabulary, and determine the meaning of vital vocabulary words.

At “F” students chose a book from today’s selection to read. They logged their reading progress in the CAFE Log.

At “E” students worked in groups to expand their grammar skills by playing Education Galaxy on the iPad.

I wondered how students felt about CAFE ELA. I asked the last class of the day to answer two questions:

Why do you like Monday’s CAFE ELA? What has been “different” about your 5th grading reading class?

These were a few of their responses:

I like Monday’s CAFE ELA because we can move around the room and do different things. We can play on the iPad. Another reason I like it is because we synergize. (P. Fourtenbary. – DES 5th Grader)

I like Monday’s CAFE because I get to learn and have fun at the same time. I can work on my AR goal and play on the iPad. (K. Hall – DES 5th Grader)

I like Monday’s ELA CAFE because we move around and have different things to do.  We don’t get bored.  (L. Dunn – DES 5th Grader)

Something is different about this reading class. We get to move around. We have fun things to do but we learn. (K. Sands – DES 5th Grader)

The 5th grade reading class is fun.  It is hard, but Mrs. Wilson is sweet. (K. Slaughter – DES 5th Grader)

This class is different because we don’t just read out of a reading book. I like that. We get to read novels and other fun stuff. (P. Fourtenbary – DES 5th Grader)

In 5th grade reading we get to talk, have fun, and still learn.  We have never been able to do that before. This class is not boring. (K. Hall – DES 5th Grader)

Most of these responses are referring to the various instructional methods we incorporate each day. For example: turn and talk. During turn and talk students are often discussing a response to a question I have asked. I love to hear the answer they have “synergized” to compose. The group leader delivers their answer to the whole group.

The Sunshine Shop Grand Opening & Covered Wagon Projects

Wow! What a week!

DES had the grand opening of its Sunshine Shop. The Sunshine Shop is full of goodies that students can shop for. It takes special money to shop in this store. It takes DES Dollars.  The only way to get DES Dollars is either to display leadership skills or reach a WIG (Wildly Important Goal). Teachers help students set WIGs (WIGs should be measurable, academic goals). When students achieve their WIG they receive DES Dollars to spend on the days the Sunshine Shop is open.20140313_081032

It is hard work to reach a WIG. I had one student who had a WIG to bring her “C” average in my class up to a “B”. She did it in a big way. She brought it up to a 83. She doesn’t plan to stop there. She will be setting a new WIG. . .90! That is what it is all about!

20140313_153715The 5th grade also brought in their covered wagon projects this week. This project was the conclusion to their learning unit on Westward Expansion in Mrs. Smith’s Social Studies class. Their projects are displayed in the main lobby of DES. Take a look if you stop by in the next couple of days.

Good job 5th grade!




ELA CAFE Monday / Parent “Sneak Peek”

CAFE2The 5th graders have loved having ELA CAFE on Mondays! This is a sneak peek at this past Monday’s CAFE.

At “C” they read a passage about Westward Expansion. This text passage corresponds with their current topic in Social Studies. Students had to answer questions that led to summarizing and making inferences about the text passage.

At “A” they worked with Mrs. Wilson to analyze a text passage. The purpose was to identify the theme of the passage, identify unfamiliar words, and determine the meaning of those words.

At “F” students chose a book from Mrs. Wilson’s book selection for this week. They read and took an AR test if they were ready to do so.

AT “E” students worked in small groups to expand their skills by playing a grammar iPad game called Education Galaxy.

We can’t wait to ELA CAFE next Monday!

20140310_112822 20140310_112847







ELA CAFE / Parent Sneak Peek

CAFEOne of the great things about a class blog is that parents can get a “sneak peek” at what we do in class. Today we had ELA CAFE. This instructional method has 4 sections. Students move from section to section completing the task at each section. Students have a CAFE Log to journal their work in for the day. During CAFE students work independently, with a partner, with a small group, and conference with the teacher. As their teacher, it is great to hear them explaining their reasoning to each other in partner and group time. It is amazing to watch the small groups celebrate when they score well on the iPad game they were assigned.

At “C” – Students read an informational text about Dr. Seuss, summarized the main idea, and made inferences based on the text.

At “A” – Students cross checked answers and worked together to answer questions about homographs.

At “F” – Students read a book from the daily selection and took AR tests on their chosen book. (Most of today’s choices were by Patricia Pollaco)

At “E” – Students expanded their vocabulary by working on an iPad App assignment.

ELA CAFE was a Win-Win today! Great job 5th grade!









Cooperative Learning Project with Katy Perry? / Free Lesson Resources

20140210_112759Yes, that is right. I used Katy Perry’s music to review figurative language with my 5th graders. Why? I have used music lyric-based lessons several times in my reading and language class this year because my students respond with enthusiasm. They make true connections with the lesson. They learn because they are truly engaged with the lesson. I do it because it is fun!

The lesson started with a whole group review of various types of figurative language and poetic devices. Students then independently read the lyrics of the song. After the independent reading, I played the song while students read the lyrics again. Students identified examples of figurative language / poetic devices while listening. In whole group, the class analyzed portions of the lyrics, identified more examples, and discussed the overall theme of the lyrics. In cooperative learning groups, students responded through writing. Their responses formed a “Language through Lyrics” display for the 5th grade hall.

Good job class. . . ROAR on!







Free Lesson Resources below:





Informational Text. . .The iPod Takeover!

nano-groupAlabama’s new standards state that at least 50% of what students read in elementary should be informational text. As elementary educators, we should create learning environments where students access the world – science, social studies, the arts, and literature – through text. I try to seek out “high interest” text passages for my students. The students get much more out of the text when they are interested in the topic.

How much more “high interest” can you get than Apple and its amazing products?

I started the class by having groups discuss this question: What one tech company and which one of its products has revolutionized the music industry and the way we purchase/listen to music?

After groups shared their responses/ideas, we watched a mini-bio of Steve Jobs. It was great for students to see the humble beginnings of the mega-giant Apple. We connected that to last week’s close read about Martin Luther King Jr. We discussed the fact that both Martin Luther King Jr. and Steve Jobs had BIG dreams!

Students completed a close read text explaining how Apple’s iPod has impacted our lives, revolutionized the music industry, and taken over the world. . .LOL! It truly has. The iPod’s sales went from 125,000 to over 350 million in 13 years. That is the result of BIG dreams!20140113_151551