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September 28, 2016

United States Presidential Election [& a freebie!]

Okay, I went there. I feel like this year the presidential election is the elephant in the room. It is a hot topic in the United States. I promise to not get too political on you! The fact is our students look up to us and value our opinions. During the 2012 election with Obama and Romney it was very interesting in my classroom. I could tell parents were talking about the election in front of their kiddos and it trickled down to my classroom in the form of "Who are you voting for?" "Are you a Republican?" "My mom said...". Oh yeah, I am sure you all had the same experience. And I was teaching Kindergarten!

What does this tell us?

Well for one, that these two people will be talked about in the homes of our students. Our students are exposed to these political commercials. That, well lets be honest, information may not be portrayed accurately. The beginning of the school year is the time you bond with your students and build their trust. You job as a teacher is to help them grow in many aspects. Now, I am not telling you to go into your classroom and discuss your opinion of politics! NOPE. Do not do it. Don't get that personal. There is a reason that people do not discuss religion and politics. We JUST CAN'T do it. And really, is it a fight you want to take on all by yourself? I agree with you. We need to speak up for changes to happen! But, there is a time and a place.

So WHAT do I teach my students?

Good question. The facts. You stick to the facts. If you are teaching older students you can examine both sides of the debates. But not with our little ones. SO I decided to help you out! I truly believe that this needs to be discussed in our classrooms, but in an appropriate way. That's why I created this product.

A big part about this election is teaching my students to look further than the commercials or what they hear around them. Below I share two great resources to help them do that.

In case you missed this freebie in the Teachers Pay Teachers Newsletter:
The Wise Guys put together a great list of Dos and Don'ts. They have also included a parent letter to send home. Check it out here.

Resources for Upper Elementary/High School

Teaching Tolerance is one of my favorite resources. They have been very helpful by creating a location for their resources. You can find them here.

The NY Times has a election unit for teachers that help students to further investigate. Their goal is the same as all educators, to have our students back up their opinions with evidence.

This year I am teaching 5th grade and they have be dialoguing about Trump and Clinton since the first week of school. Since I teach Social Studies I will be taking the first week of October to get my students to really find their evidence to their opinions. Click here to see what I will be using from the NY Times.

My 5th Grade Lessons

Before I begin any instruction in regards to the election process I am very explicit with my students that they are to leave their bias at the door. The election this year is already impacting our students and my role is to educate them on the facts.

We then view the Kid President video on How to Disagree. It is a great reminder for students on how to speak to one another. (P.S. read about how to remove ads from youtube - tips from The Brown Bag Teacher)

I have students complete the anticipation guide prior to discussing any part of the election process.

Click here to download the anticipation guide that I utilized with my classes. I also had my students read and respond to The Road to the White House, I have provided these questions for you as well!

Scholastic has a fantastic collection of materials/videos for the election process. You can find them here.

Presidential Candidate Election Report

I created this product around my other Famous People products and my Presidenital Report. I kept it neutral and kid friendly. So much of it can be left up the teacher to decide which direction it can take.(Please note - This product includes only the Democrat and Republican Candidates. Green Party Candidate is Jill Stein and Gary Johnson is the Libertarian Candidate.)

KWL Charts

Even if this is the ONLY thing you do with your class - it is a step in the right direction! (in my opinion). Safe and to the point. However, you may decide to complete this as a whole group and rephrase comments from your students. Remember - just the facts.  

Research Report

Again there are multiple ways you can have your students complete this. For my President's Day report I give students one president to research about. They then come back and share with the class what they learned. 

Gage your school community and family relationships to make the best decision for your class.

Compare and Contrast

Finally, work with your students to complete the Venn Diagram. Older students may choose to discuss political standings. With your primary students you could stick with their background: growing up, education, and so on.

Flip Book
This flip book will be a great addition for upper elementary classrooms. 

This flip book is designed to have your students gain additional knowledge in numerous aspects of the election process. Your students will build upon their knowledge of the election process in the United States as well as the numerous political parties. Students will research the stances of the Democratic and Republican Candidates on key issues. They will also gain additional knowledge on the history of the White House and the Electoral College.

Assessment FREEBIE

After our lessons on the process to be coming president I assess my students on their knowledge. I utilize this quiz and study guide below. For a bonus question I will ask my students which animal is a symbol for each respective party, and why. You can view the information here.

I am including this quiz as a freebie. Even if you do not use it with your students, it is a good guide for you as a teacher on the areas you can begin discussing with your students. 

My Soapbox

At the end of the day you need to do what is best for your class. But I hope you will guide an intellectual conversation with your students. I truly believe that we need to discuss the "hard topics" in our classrooms because it may not be happening at home or parents may not know how to address it. When we became teachers we took on a lot more than just teaching academics. Everything you do this school year with your students will resonate with them and be a part of who they are in the years ahead. 

September 11, 2016

Teaching About September 11th

15 years ago our world crashed around us.

I was sitting in my 8th grade class. My teacher got a phone call and left the room. She came back in visible devastated.

It is a day, that if you are old enough to remember, you will never forget.

So how do you explain such a tragedy to students who were not yet born? Do you teach them about September 11th?

The short answer is yes, you do. We teach our students about battles and wars that have happened hundreds of years ago. But not we have a war that took place in OUR generation. Yes we teach about it because we have lived it. We have personally witnessed the destruction that took place. 

So for me, the question is not if you will teach about September 11th - but how?

A Sensitive Topic

Yes, it is hard to teach your students about how and why so many Americans lost their life. But as an educator this is your challenge. To bring it to the understanding of your students.

In Kindergarten, yes I did teach my students about 9/11. Some may disagree with me, but I did it in such a sensitive way that it worked. I have also had parents thank me for discussing September 11th because they did not know how to. Remember - it is YOUR classroom and do what will work for YOUR students. 

Lesson Plan

Every day I have been participating in #bookaday with my homeroom. This week will be focused around peace and September 11th.

Monday - 14 Cows for America
Tuesday - The Man Who Walked Between the Towers

Wednesday - Can You Say Peace?
Thursday - The Peace Book

Friday - If You Plant a Seed

Here is how my block will be structured. Click on the links and it will take you to the free resources that I will be using. 

Introduction - I created a a powerpoint with images to use to set the purpose for the lesson.

Video/Activities - I will be using Brain Pop's video with my 5th graders. This is definitely a video for upper elementary as it discuss terrorism. But again, use what works for your class! Take pieces and use them as talking points.  

Afterwards my students will listen to President George W. Bush's address to America. They will then complete this activity in which they will have to infer, identify tone and draw conclusions. 

Conclusion - I fully believe in the power of picture books. I will be reading 14 Cows for America. This is also the book I read with my Kindergarten class. It is such a beautiful story about the power of kindness. As we know, in the wake of tragedy, you need to only look around and you will see people helping on another. That is what we do as human beings, we support one another. Unfortunately, tragedy has a way of bringing together many groups of people for a common good.

In this story, the Maasai tribe are moved to help the American people. Together they give 14 cows to America. This is such a great gift because to the Maasai , the cow is life. 
I end with the story because it is all about the goodness of people and how they unite. This is a message I want to leave my students with. 

While they are reading they will be using a sticky note to write notes about why the Maasai would have given this gift to America. 

Survivor Tree

Amidst all of the rubble and destruction there was hope, in a pear tree. It was found broken and damaged a month after the attacks. It was cared for and replanted in 2010. It has grown and survived.

 "Today, the tree stands as a living reminder of resilience, survival and rebirth."

Click here to learn more about the Survivor Tree.

Additional Resources

Read alouds are always a fantastic resource, especially with sensitive topics when you do not always have the words. 
Mr. Mault's Marketplace has put together a great collection of read alouds for us. 
Need a rigorous and engaging September 11th lesson? This post shares a lesson using paired read alouds (and free printables) to teach about often overlooked heroes of 9/11: boats and their crew.

Also head over to Jennifer Findley's blog for more ideas for read alouds and activities for upper elementary.

New York City Today

Almost every trip that I make into NYC includes a visit to Ground Zero and Freedom Tower. The landscape has changed, but you can certainly sense the patriotism and unity that surrounds this memorial. 

September 7, 2016

Starting The Year With Seesaw

Okay all, it is that time of year. Back to school!! Seesaw has some amazing resources for you to kick off the school year. You can find their printables here.

I want to share with you some tips and tricks for starting the year off in your classroom.

Seesaw Center

In my classroom I created a Seesaw center.  This is the spot where my students will share their work. In my classroom the only devices I will be utilizing are my personal iPad and an old cell phone.

I have never had devices in my classrooms, other than what I provided personally.

Set Expectations!

During the first week this is exactly what I do. 
This Classroom Expectations poster is a perfect tool for you to use with your students. In addition you are setting the expectations of your tech uses. Students might not be able to just get up from class and post something to Seesaw. They CAN post something they are proud of during centers or team time. This is for you to decide what will work best in your classroom.

Wondering how to control when students are able to post?

Reporter of the Day

Each day I select one student who will be our reporter of the day. At the end of the day when we have Team Time, they will share their WOW work of the day.

First Day

I love the task cards for use in the classroom. I utilized the first day one with my 5th graders. This allowed them to practice using the app so that when we are moving through the school year they know how to operate it. Plus we can work with that learning curve before we dive into teaching content!

New to Using Seesaw?

Check out another blog post I did on how to get started. (It is applicable for all grade levels.)Click here to read it and also get a code for a free month of Seesaw Plus! - SCAN QR CODE BELOW

How Can I Help You?!

I am so excited for my role as a Seesaw Ambassador and I want to help teachers bring excitement and growth in their classroom!

I hope these little tips will get your year started off on the right foot!

Have any questions? Ask me here! Or join the Facebook group for some great tips and tricks!

September 1, 2016

A New Adventure & Picture Book a Day

Have you heard?! I switched grades! Like big time.

For the past 5 years I have been a kindergarten teacher. Truly, the experience has made me a better teacher. But this year I will be teaching 5th grade!!! YESSSS so excited for this new adventure.

I have now finished the first week and I have to say, I love it. My kids are great and my grade partner is just out of this world. I have a feeling this will be a fantastic year.

Funny Story...

At the beginning of the summer I leveled my books by Guided Reading Level. Joke is on me, my school uses Accelerated Reader! LOL Oy, well back to leveling we go so I can get new books into my classroom for these kids.

I am in the process of leveling and labeling the binding of all of the books in order to keep them organized. 

I know, it is pretty pathetic looking. But we will get there very quickly! Besides, it gives me an excuse to place a large Scholastic Book Order in the beginning of the year so I can get all of those points!


While on Instagram I came across Teaching with a Touch of Twang. Now let me tell you. This girl is after my own heart. She is a lover of books just as I am. HOWEVER I do not get to teach reading - WAH! But that's okay because I am implementing #classroombookaday into my room.

At the end of my schedule we have what is called Team Time. Since we switch immediately after homeroom I do not have the time in the morning to do a Classroom Meeting. At the end of the day I am going to read one picture book to my students. Every day. For the school year.

I am so excited! Now granted, I started on Day 4 - but that is besides the point. And what's even better is I get to break out some of my wide collection of picture books. Sabra is doing a wonderful twist and reading #truestorytuesday this is going to be perfect for the beginning of the year because I want to read 14 Cows for America.

What We Read This Week

I started off with Mr. Peabody's Apples. All summer I was going back and forth about getting this book at a second hand store. Finally I just bought it and I am so glad I did. This book seriously blew my kids minds! 
This a powerful story to kick off the year and to explore the idea that words have power. And we know that they do!

Image result for mr. peabody's apples


On Friday's I want to keep the books light-hearted for my kids. But since it is still the beginning of the year I want to also build my classroom community. So, we are reading Spork. (you also need to read Spoon). 
Image result for spork book
This book is actually a fantastic way to kick off my Social Studies for the year. It is all about embracing differences. I want to build an environment of acceptance and appreciation for others. 

This will help my start the year in Social Studies because we will then create a culture project.

I am reading this book on the epic app. Don't have it?! Go check it out! It is free for teachers. I will be using it to read books aloud by displaying them on our smart board so that others can see more easily. 

Read To Your Kids

Every age. Read to them. And not just in reading class. Literature has so much power in the classroom and it is a wonderful tool for teachers to embrace. 

So now, what picture books are you reading to your students? Share them with me!

Click here to read more.

And be sure to get your free poster here for #bookaday.