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Highly Effective Strategies for Launching Reading Workshop



reading workshop kick off upper elementary



There is nothing more exciting than the first few days of school! I love the smell of fresh pencils, the bright colors on the bulletin boards that have yet to be faded, and the eager faces of the students scanning the shelves of their new classroom library looking for their first read of the year. Preparing to launch reading workshop is by far, my favorite part of those first few days and weeks of school. I love reading aloud to my students, teaching reading strategies, talking about books, and of course helping them understand how to grow as readers during our workshop time.

If you are getting ready to launch your first reading workshop, or if you are looking for more ideas to enhance your already crafted workshop launching lessons, these tried and true tips and strategies will make your planning and running your reading workshop time stress free!

readers workshop kick off upper elementaryDon’t let the planning portion of running reading workshop stress you out! Since the workshop model follows a consistent routine, once you get the hang of the system, it is easy to duplicate, day after day. Click HERE to read how I plan for the 3 important parts of each reading workshop lesson and grab FREE workshop planning templates, too!


readers workshop kick off upper elementary
Reading workshop is highly effective for growing readers! The most important part of launching the reading workshop model is the mini-lesson. But sticking to an only ten minute mini lesson can be a challenge!  Click HERE to read my best 6 tips for keeping those all important mini lessons mini and scoop up some FREE reading workshop goodies, too!

reading workshop kick off upper elementary
One important focus of reading workshop is to build student stamina. One way to increase students’ stamina is to use the mid-workshop break. This strategy needs to be taught to your students, but once they understand how to use their break time, it will truly help them grow as readers! Click HERE to read my 3 favorite ways to effectively use the mid workshop break to engage readers of all levels and grab a FREE partnership discussion guide to keep students engaged in meaningful discourse!


reading workshop model in upper elementary classroomReading conferences are the highlight of my reading workshop block! I love to get right next to students in their working area, discuss the book that they are reading, and offer them their own personalized mini lesson to help them grow as readers! Click HERE to find out my 3 best and easy to implement tips for reading conference success. You won’t want to miss these ideas to keep your conferences on track to help your students succeed as readers! Scoop up some reading workshop freebies, too!

I truly believe in the workshop model to help students not only grow as readers, but to love reading, too. By using this model, you not only grow students as individual readers, but you create a classroom culture and climate that truly loves reading and all things books! 

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End of Year Must Do: Teacher, Student, and Parent Reflections


end of year activities


There are many things on our teacher end of year to-do list, from cleaning our classrooms to completing the final assessments and report cards, our to-do list grows longer each day.  Even though we work hard to check everything off of our to do lists, adding this one more thing to your list will be the best thing you do all year! (Click HERE for end of year read alouds ideas and freebies.)

One non-negotiable that should be on every teacher's end of year to do list is reflecting on the school year.  Reflecting is such an important part of being a teacher. By being reflective thinkers we are able to hone our teaching skills, perfect our strengths, and set goals for the upcoming year to further improve ourselves as educators. I use a three step reflection process to help me truly understand how the year went. I begin by reflecting on myself, I ask my students to reflect on their year, and I ask their parents to reflect on the year as well. By gathering invaluable information from my students and their families in the form of reflections, I can gain invaluable perspectives about the classroom community I am building, the lessons that I teach, and the projects that I assign. 

Quick Teacher Tips:
1. Have parent and students complete reflection pages anonymously.
2. Stay positive about all reflections, they are meant to help us refine our skills. Do not get upset with suggestions from students or parents. Use their feedback in preparing for your upcoming year to make improvements.
3. After reading the submitted reflections from parents and students, make a checklist of three things to focus on changing or modifying for the next school year. We can not work on everything, so select the top three that you want to focus on improving.

Try this: Reflect monthly on your teaching practices. Then at the end of the year reflect on your monthly reflections. This will make reflecting on your teaching practices at the end of the year much easier.


end of year activities


Reflecting is a simple way to set goals and improve your teaching practices. It also sets a focus for upcoming PD you may wish to attend. Be sure to add reflecting on your end of year to do list. Make your own reflection forms that reflect how you ran your classroom, or grab the set that I use for FREE at the bottom of this post. You will love reading the reflections from your students and their families. Enjoy the end of the year with your students! 
(Want more ways to involve your students' families into your classroom as the school year draws to end? Click HERE.)

How do YOU reflect on your teaching practices? Share below!


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end of year activities



Click the picture below for more engaging end of year activities!



end of school year activities



Check out these other FREE and EASY  to implement ideas to end your school year with a bang!


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6 Field Day Classroom Management Hacks


planning field day activities


Are you looking for field day tips to make field day activities and management run smoothly on the big day? Between planning the field day games, rotation schedules, and activities, we sometimes forget to focus on classroom management and good sportsmanship during field day. This is a must! Setting clear expectations for behavior truly helps students stay focused and have an amazing day! And let’s be honest, it makes our day as teachers a lot easier, too!

My students are always bubbling with excitement before, during, and after field day each year. Their excitement as the big day draws near seems to overtake our classroom routine and learning. By harnessing all of that positive excitement into lessons and activities focused around team work, perseverance, and good sportsmanship, you and your students will have a fun filled, problem free field day experience. To me, that is what field day is all about…team work, perseverance, and good sportsmanship.

I have taught at three different schools, in three different districts, and each school and district had their own way of running field day. The one thing that remained the same at all of the different schools is that on the day of field day, I was ultimately in charge of my students. Yes, the PE teachers organized the events, and yes, there were parents and volunteers on hand to help, but I was the one responsible for the management of my students and ensuring that they stay safe, happy, and having fun. No matter how amazing your classroom management is, when you take the students out of the classroom, your management strategies need to change, especially on exciting days like field day.

Try these before, during, and after field day tips to help manage your students and have a successful field day.

BEFORE FIELD DAY TIPS

Talk it out!

Discussing field day expectations, working together as a team, perseverance and good sportsmanship must happen before field day begins. I am not talking about quickly bringing it up the ten minutes before you go outside for field day. I am talking about taking a little bit of time each day about a week before field day to discuss each of these. I like to use our morning meeting time to engage in discussions on these topics. We discuss what each is, how we can display it, and what it looks like. We also take some time to read about each and create illustrations of what we can expect to see during field day to show that we are all working together, persevering, and showing good sportsmanship. We also create class expectations for field day. I love creating these expectations with the class so that students learn what their peers expect from them. It truly helps students act in a way that is respectful of their classmates’ wishes and eliminates poor behavior such as, the same people taking over each game or station that can sometimes be seen during field day. If you are looking for the perfect picture book to read to kick off all of your field day discussions my favorite is Miss Nelson Has a Field Day, written by Harry Allard and James Marshall. 

field day planning activities

Get Yourself Organized!

Before field day begins get yourself organized! Grab a set of student name tags, or you can use masking tape if you do not have name tags, and write three things on them. Your students’ names so that volunteers can refer to everyone by name (this also helps eliminate unwanted behavior) and randomly write A or B on each tag and 1, 2, 3, or 4 on each tag.  Be sure that half your class has an A or B and about ¼ of your class each has a 1, 2, 3, or 4. This is a super simple time saving way to divide your class into two teams or four teams depending on the station you are at. It also eliminates the need for students to pick teams. You can also mix up your groupings by grouping 1 and 2s against 3 and 4s if you happen to have a lot of stations that divides the class in half. That way you are not always using team A vs team B.

Get Your Students Organized!

As field day draws near, be sure to send home a reminder for students and parents about your upcoming field day. The two big things I like to remind my students about field day is to make sure that they bring in a water bottle with their name clearly written in permanent marker (especially if they are bringing in a store bought water bottle like Poland Springs) and to wear the class decided upon colored t-shirt. Ask your students ahead of time what color t-shirt they want to wear on field day. Having students wear the same color t-shirt makes it easy to keep track of your students on the field. It works even better if you have each class in a grade level wear a different color. Then your students will surely stand out among the crowd!

DURING FIELD DAY TIPS

Last Minute Reminders

Since there is so much to do on the days leading up to field day, there is little to do on field day except have fun! After reminding students everything we talked about when it comes to good sportsmanship, perseverance, and teamwork,  I do offer my students two important pieces of information that they will need during field day. We always discuss the bathroom procedure that is in place before going outside and we come up with a class meeting place, too.  That way if there are grade wide or school wide activities, we all know where to meet before heading back inside. Now it is time to go have fun and make some memories!

AFTER FIELD DAY TIPS

Reflect and Make it Meaningful

Now that field day has ended, and you have all had fun and re-hydrated, what better way to end the day, or week, than with some reflection activities. I love to have students think about the day’s events. What did they love about the day? What was something new they did? What did they accomplish that they are proud of? Right after field day is a great time to have them reflect on their day in written narrative form while the activities are fresh in their mind. The reflections my students complete after field day are among their best writing of the year!

Keep Strengthening Classroom Community

What better type of reflection to do, than one that continues to build and strengthen your classroom community? My favorite activity after field day is when the students give awards to each other! It is such a simple, yet meaningful activity to get the kids recognizing each other. Each student gets an award from another student, so everyone is recognized. Here is how:
  1. Each student writes their name on a small piece of paper and folds it into fourths. Put all of the names in a bucket.
  2. Have students one at a time, randomly draw a name from the bowl, making sure that they did not pick themselves.
  3. Students will create a field day award to give to the student whose name they picked. The award they create should reflect a positive attribute the student showed during Field Day. Below the award, the student explains why they created the award for that student. When students are done writing, they can decorate, color, and draw a picture on the back for their classmate.
  4. When all students have completed this activity, select one student to share their award and hand it to the person they created it for. Then that student will share their award with the student they created it for. And so on, until all awards have been read and delivered. 
  5. I love watching the kids award each other after field day for their positive actions. It is much more meaningful than winning any trophy since it came from their peers. This is simple to do using just plain paper and pencil. If you want a more formal writing lesson to complete this activity, click HERE.
Field day is a time to reflect on important life lessons that have been learned throughout the year and come together as a class to make even more amazing memories. I love field day and turning it into many different teachable moments. Want to make more end of year memories? Click HERE to read my favorite books to share with students at the end of the year and grab free activities, too!

How do you prepare your students for Field Day?


field day planning activities


FREEBIE ALERT! Want to try out one of these activities for free?  Click HERE or on the image below and then view the preview of this field day product. A sample page all about good sportsmanship is included on page 8 of the preview. Simply print that page and try it out with your students! Enjoy! 


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Easy to Implement Summer Reading Kickoff

summer reading program


The end of the school year is a magical time of the year! The students have worked hard all year and have successfully met academic goals and developed meaningful friendships. My students always impress me by the time the final weeks of school start to creep in. They work hard independently and in cooperative groups, and ooze with excitement for the adventures that lie ahead of them, both in the nearing summer break and not so far away next grade level.  As exciting as this time of year is, I know my work is not done! I LOVE to use the close of the school year to get my students excited about summer reading. That is why right after spring break ends, I implement a kick off to summer reading program in my classroom. It is an amazing way to begin discussing and kicking off summer reading filled with new books, authors, parent volunteers, and a class created summer reading book list that students are excited to read!


Sounds fabulous right? It is! And it is so simple to organize! In a nutshell, you will be welcoming guest readers into your classroom to read aloud the first two chapters of their favorite, or any children's chapter book to get students excited to finish reading the book over the summer.

Here is your go to guide to kicking off summer reading in your classroom to get your students super excited to read this summer! 

Look at your calendar and plan!

I always start this summer reading kick off program the first week after spring break. Our spring break is usually later in the year during April, which leaves us about eight weeks left of school.  By this time, the kids are excited and already talking about summer, making it the perfect time to hone that energy into getting them excited about reading.  You can really start any time. You may choose to set this program up every day during the last two or three weeks of school. Whatever works with your schedule is the way to go! I like to stretch it out, so depending on the number of volunteers that I have participating, I set aside two 15 minute blocks of time each week. As the year comes closer to an end, I usually add another 15 minute time block. I love using the end of the day to schedule the guest reading visits. It is the perfect time to allow a few extra minutes of reading depending on the length of the chapters and the engagement of students and to have the kids leave for the day excited about a new book!

Reach out to parents!

My school hosts spring parent teacher conferences, so I use that time to enlist parents to jump on board and participate in our classroom's summer reading kick off. I have signup sheets ready to go and direction sheets copied for parents to take with them so that they know what they need to do. I give parents a few days to decide on a book that they will be reading and then ask that let me know the book's title and author so that I can avoid duplicates being read.  If parents send me duplicate titles, I simply ask them to pick again or even offer a suggestion for them. I keep a running list of titles read so that we can create a class summer reading list that will be sent home with the students attached to their final report card. You do not need to organize this during conferences. You can simply send home a parent letter explaining how you want to kick off summer reading and have them sign up just as if they were signing up for conferences. If you need a formal letter to help organize this, click HERE.


summer reading upper elementary

Get organized!

An accordion folder is the perfect organizational system to implement this program. Make all of the copies you need ahead of time. Create a chart of the parents and books that are being read so that as volunteers come to read, you can just add the title, author, and reader's name to the list. This makes it easy to just snap a picture at the end and add it to your classroom website for the kids' reference. It also makes it easy for you to type up the list, too. Don't forget to remind the students about appropriate behavior when guest readers arrive. Create a list with your students about appropriate behavior when a guest reader is in the room. This is the time of year students always need extra reminders, so being proactive before parents come into the classroom is key! That way, students can truly reap the benefits of listening to all of the books being shared. Grab all of the organizational materials you need HERE.

Helpful hints…

After many years of implementing this Summer Reading Kick Off program, I found similar issues arise year after year. Here are some tips to help you plan and implement your own Summer Reading Kick-Off program in your classroom:
  • Don't limit yourself to parent volunteers! Be creative and think of others you can invite into the classroom and read, especially if you have low parental involvement. Some people you might ask to read include: grandparents, older siblings, your own former students, your family members, administration and special area teachers in your building, and of course members of your town's community to make it a whole community program!
  • Have a list of several book titles and authors prepared ahead of time for parents who ask for recommendations. Also encourage volunteers to read from their favorite chapter books as children.
  • Have a basket of chapter book read alouds for when volunteers come without a book or forgot their book at home. It happens!
  • If you have a classroom website, post the titles and authors as they are read for both student and parent reference. This helps avoid repeat books being read.
  • When you create your classroom list of summer reading titles that were shared, include who read aloud that book. Some students cannot remember the name or author of the book that was shared, but they can connect the reader with the book.

summer reading upper elementary


That's all there is to it! Don't forget that even though all of your classroom visitors are reading new books to your students, your students will never tire from wanting to hear you read aloud, too! Find out my favorite picture books to share with my students at the end of the school year HERE.

Enjoy the final weeks with your students and encourage your kiddos to read, read, read this summer!

summer reading for upper elementary

How do you encourage summer reading with your students before they head out for the summer? Share below!




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Want to engage students through the very last days of school? Click HERE to see end of year projects to engage your students.




Nothing goes better with reading chapter books than graphic organizers to help students fully comprehend what they are reading. Become a subscriber and grab this set for FREE today!


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8 Ways to Write Acrostic Poems to Challenge Upper Elementary Students

how to write acrostic poems

Teaching students how to write an acrostic poem is no easy task! Acrostic poems are a simple way to get students excited about writing. An acrostic poem is a poem that that uses the letters of a focus word, or phrase, to begin each line of the poem. The word or phrase is written down the left side of the poem. Each letter in the focus word begins a complete thought (sentence or phrase) about the topic, beginning with the given letter. All of the lines in an acrostic poem are written about the focus word of the poem.


how to write acrostic poems
Although acrostic poetry can initially seem like an easy form of poetry for students to write, it is quite challenging. (Read more about how to engage reluctant writers with poetry HERE.) I always encourage students to brainstorm carefully during pre-writing with a partner and use a dictionary to help find letter specific words that they can use when they first start writing acrostic poems. Once students get the hang of writing acrostic poetry the fun can begin! There are so many ways to challenge students when writing acrostic poetry, making it easy to differentiate any acrostic poetry writing lesson.

Try one of these ideas to put a fun twist on the traditional acrostic poetry writing activity and help differentiate your lesson or challenge your entire class.

Alliteration Acrostic Poems: Each word in the line starts with the starting letter of each line.

Verb Acrostic Poems: Each line is comprised of verbs that can be done in a specific season, holiday, sport, or place.

Adjective Acrostic Poems: Each line is comprised of adjectives to describe something specific.

Personal Experience Acrostic Poems: Each line includes a memory of an important event that is the focus word of the acrostic poem. Example: Field Trip, Graduation, Birthday

Specific Direction: Be specific and narrow when you give directions for this type of acrostic poem. Example: For a “Friendship” acrostic poem, have students write about the characteristics that make a good friend on each line.

Focus on Nonfiction: Have students research something related to a topic. Example: For an “America” acrostic, students can research Memorial Day or Flag Day, gather information and record what they learned in the form of an acrostic poem. This is perfect for biography and research projects, too. If you are studying endangered animals, have students create an acrostic poem for "endangered" and include all the information from their research in their poem.

Fiction Book Reflection: These are so much fun to write and offer the students a change in the traditional summary or reader reflection activity. Example: If you are studying characters, have students write the name of a character from their book and fill in each acrostic poem line with character traits, feelings, and actions-all supported by examples from the text. It is an engaging way for students to show what they know! This also works well with settings. Have the students write the name of an important setting from a book and write the acrostic poem with the focus of how the setting impacted the story. 

Mixed Up Acrostic Poems: Each line has a different rule created by you! Be creative and use your students' ideas and interests to guide you. 

Acrostic Poem Teacher tip: Create a poetry bulletin board for the year and simply swap out a new acrostic poem each month. Be sure to hold on to each poem as you change out the bulletin board each month or season. Collect the students’ poems and create a student poetry book to present to the students at the end of the school year.


acrostic poems upper elementary

Acrostic poetry is fun to write and boosts students’ self esteem and interest in writing. By writing acrostic poems with a twist, students will never tire of this form of poetry. The only materials you need are paper, pencil, and markers. So what are you waiting for?  Get started today on writing different forms of acrostic poetry with your students. They will love it and it will greatly improve their creative thinking and writing skills. (Read more ways to engage your readers and writers with poetry HERE.)

Looking for a formal acrostic poetry set to use to differentiate instruction or at your writing stations and centers? Click HERE or the picture below, to grab everything you need from acrostic poem templates and rubrics, to bulletin board letters for a year round poetry writing classroom display!


acrostic poem template



What type of acrostic poems do you write in your classroom? Share below!

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The Power of Active Reading as a Test Prep Strategy


test prep strategy grade 5


If you are a teacher and you hear the words “test prep” you may visualize cramming in material you have not yet taught, reviewing previously taught concepts, and sharpening all the pencils! For me, I think of one thing: a clean, fresh new piece of paper! Yes, a plain piece of paper is my best kept secret for helping students succeed during testing season.

test prep grade 4


A plain piece of paper is the perfect way to encourage students to use all the active reading strategies that you have taught them all year long! Active reading simply means that students are actively engaging with the text to help grasp a deeper understanding of what is being read. That may include highlighting, color coding, note taking in margins, completing a graphic organizer, or any other way you have encourage your readers to read with their minds awake! 

Here is how to take a plain piece of "scrap" paper students are given during testing periods to help them actively read during long testing blocks.

  1. Pass out plain white paper and teach students how to use a pencil to turn the plain paper into a graphic organizer to help them actively read. Paper can also be folded to create different "parts of the organizer."
  2. Remind students to use the organizer that they created during testing periods to help them focus and actively read the texts on the test to understand and comprehend what they are reading.
  3. Encourage students can use the notes that they took on the organizer to help them answer questions related to the text.
  4. DISCLAIMER: Students should be recreating graphic organizers that they have used all year to help them read actively during independent reading. This is not the time to teach students a new form of note taking!

test prep grade 3



test prep strategies upper elementary


I have found the best organizers to have students use during testing blocks depends on the type of text that they are reading. Review graphic organizers that you have taught your students and help them decide what type of organizer would fit the structure of the passage that they are reading. If they are reading a fiction story, they may create an inference chart to help them understand character feelings. If they are reading an informational passage that compares two animals, they should create a venn diagram. Help your students gain the power to decide how they want to actively read. 

Teacher Tip: To really make this strategy effective, teach this concept earlier in the year. Students can use their own “homemade” graphic organizers during independent reading, at home reading, or anytime they are reading! By practicing this all year long, it becomes a wonderful reading strategy that students will instinctively! Grab the FREE simple organizers from above, plus a reading strategy poster at the bottom of the post to help you try out this strategy!

I love teaching students how to use a piece of paper to help them succeed during testing. It promotes organization, use of strategies taught throughout the year, and independence. Students can use this active reading tip anytime they are reading and are without a "formal" organizer. See another active reading tip HERE. Soon after you start using this tip, you will see hand made organizers popping up in their reader notebooks, too!

Good luck during testing season!


What is your best test taking strategy? Share below!

upper elementary test prep



You might be interested in this nonfiction strategy organizer and bulletin board pack:




Need more test taking tips and tricks? Check out other tips here:




Sorting Reading Test Question Stems // Tarheelstate Teacher

Test Prep Boot Camp // Tried and True Teaching Tools


Preparing Students for Testing // The Owl Teacher

Test Prep Twist for Struggling Readers // Reading by Heart




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