Friday, October 21, 2016


I've used writing notebooks for several years and have made changes along the way to find the best possible way to use them. This post will show how to set up your notebook!

the best way to set up interactive writing notebooks

(You will find some Amazon affiliate links on this page. The small commission I make goes back into my blog so I can provide teachers with ideas and activities for their classrooms!)

A. Decorate the Outside Cover

Use a composition notebook, create a personalized outside cover, and seal it with packaging tape.  This is a great homework assignment!

Click to purchase from Amazon

personalize the cover of notebook  personalize the cover of the notebook

B.  Create a Table of Contents and Page Numbers

Start a table of contents on the first page.  Save the first 4 pages for Table of Contents.  As students add their notes, they number their pages and keep track on the Table of Contents page!  We used colorful dot labels for page numbers.

record the lesson and page for the table of contents

example of interactive writing notebook pages

Colorful dots:  Any 3/4 inch dot labels will work, but the ones below are my FAVORITE because they offer 10 different colors. 


lists skills and pages for table of contents  

C. Tabs and Cover Sheets

To make tabs for notebooks, there are 3 options.  Post Its, Redi-Tags or TABS from my store.  (Please don't purchase tabs from my store if you have already purchased an Interactive Writing Notebook.  They have been added to that resource and you can download it from your purchases!)

1.    2.       

3.  tabs for ideas, paragraph writing, narrative writing, opinion writing, informative writing with  

Create tabs (and covers)

Ideas- 3 pages using front and back.

Paragraph Writing-  5 pages using front and back.

Writing Process- 1 page using front and back.

Narrative Writing- 14 pages using front and back.

Opinion Writing- 8 pages using front and back.

Informative Writing- 11 pages using front and back.

Rough Drafts-  the rest of the notebook

Take notes in all sections except rough drafts.  Use this section to create stories, revise and edit. Then write final drafts on a separate (final copy) paper and place them in writing porfolios.
create a cover sheet for ideas in writingcreate a cover sheet and tab for paragraph writing in notebook

The least expensive way:
I know all about teaching on a budget.  Make Tabs with Post Its- This is the least expensive way. Collect as many colors of Post-It notes as needed for the amount of tabs you want to create and cut them in strips. Fold it over once. Then tape each color strip in the notebook.  Use clear packaging tape and place it on both sides of the tab and both sides of the page so it looks like it is a laminated piece.

easy way to create tabs for interactive notebooks

Redi Tags are easier but more expensive than Post Its.

D.  3-Prong Pocket Folders-  2 per student

1.  Student Resource Folder:  Place FREE spelling dictionary and any resources neccessary for students to use during writing workshop.   Place the resource pages in the fasteners and the spelling dictionary in one of the pockets in the folder.

give students resources for writing workshop

If you need a Resource Guide, click below.  

student resources for writing workshop

Free Spelling Dictionary!

for writing workshop

2.  Writing Portfolios:  Use the second folder for final copies.
Collect everything that they have published throughout the year! Poems, stories, writing across the curriculum, bulletin board pieces, etc. Place them in a folder with brass fasteners. At the end of the year, they get to keep their final product! It is a great end-of-year gift! Another idea is to set them out on table during parent/teacher conferences so parents have something to look at while they are waiting.

folder filled with final copy or published copies of student work

I hope these ideas helped you organize student notebooks!  If you are looking for a step-by-step writing approach TO MOTIVATE STUDENTS AND BOOST TEST SCORES that includes anchor charts, forms, tracking, model samples, printables, rubrics, slides, posters, etc. etc. Check out the all inclusive writing bundle:
step by step writing program with interactive notebook pages, mentor text, graphic organizers, lesson plans 

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Monday, October 3, 2016

October Books for Upper Elementary

Are you looking for great literature to introduce to your students in the month of October?  You will find some of my favorites for upper elementary students.  Read on for a summary and why they are my favorites!  Happy Haunted Reading!  CLICK ON EACH BOOK PICTURE TO FIND IT ON AMAZON!

1.  Bunnicula by Deborah and James Howe.

A chapter book:  4.2 reading level

Harold, the narrator of the story, is hysterical! He is just like my dog, Romeo, who begs for food 24-7! And Chester, the cat, oh my. My students and I fall off our chairs when reading about his shenanigans! He thinks that the new bunny in the house is a vampire and performs crazy acts to get rid of the vampire!  I love this character so much that I call my own cat Chester when he acts a little crazy.  Chester wears garlic around his neck, tries to pound the bunny with a steak..yes steak not stake, and wears a towel around his neck to look like a vampire cape to get everyone's attention. The poor bunny can't get a break so Harold steps in to help him. It is a must read! Teachers, there are so many different reading skills you can pull from this book.  The great thing about this book, is there is a series so my students ran to the library asking for the next book!

Bunnicula Series-  All of the Bunnicula Books
Howliday Inn
Bunnicula Strikes Again
The Celery Stalks at Midnight
Nighty Nightmare
Return to Howliday Inn
Bunnicula Meets Edgar Allan Crow

2.  The Ghost of Fossil Glen by Cynthia DeFelice

A chapter book:  Reading level 5.1

This has been my favorite read aloud for years!  My students begged and pleaded for me to keep reading each day.  It is so realistic that students can relate to it.  It is about eleven-year old Allie Nichols who loves climbing at Fossil Glen, which is dangerously steep and rocky.  As she is clinging to the side of a cliff, she hears a trusting voice to bring her down the cliff safely.  The mysterious thing is that there was NOBODY there!  As she begins to investigate, she realizes that some of her friends were not true friends and she decides to only confide in her long time friend Dub.  Allie continues to hear voices and is given clues to a mystery.  As Ali and Dub gets closer to discovering out the ghostly voice and clues, they realize they uncovered a very gruesome crime and they are now in danger!  Just like Bunnicula, this book has a series, so my students ran to the library to grab the next one!
The Ghost and Mrs. Hobbs
The Ghost of Cutler's Creek

3.  It's Halloween, I'm turning Green!  by Dan Gutman

A chapter book:  3.7 reading level

This book comes from the My Weird School series.  During trick-or-treating, A.J. and his group of friends plan to get enough candy to last them through the year.  They have to beware of the Halloween monster who is ready to steal all of their candy.  There are so many funny sayings and exaggerations!  What would happen if a kid ate a million hundred pounds of chocolate in one night?  I love all the words of imagery used to fill pictures of hillarious scenes in our minds!  It is an easy read with many new words and phrases.  The bonus content at the end of the book is motivating too!  It includes Halloween facts, a word search, puzzles and more.

4.  The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury

A chapter book: 4.7 reading level

This fast-paced tale is about eight boys dressed for Halloween who are meeting their friend Pipkin at a haunted house outside of town.  I love the black and white drawing to make it even more haunting.  The boys encounter Mr. Moundshroud and Pipkin gets swept away by something dark and eerie.  Mr. Moundshroud takes the boys on the tail of a kite through time to search for Pipkin and the meaning of Halloween.  It is saturated with great Halloween history including ancient Egypt, cavemen, persecution of witches in the Dark ages, gargoyles of Notre Dame, and catacombs of Mexico.  In the end each boy has to give up something (I don't want to spoil the story) to save Pipkin's life.

5.  Percy Jackson and the Olympians Book 4:  The Battle of the Labyrinth

A chapter book:  3.3 reading level

This book is full of humor, adventure, and heart-pounding events!  Percy Jackson reluctantly goes to a boring freshman orientation only to find shocking surprises of a mysterious mortal acquantance and demon cheerleaders!  Camp Half-Blood is no longer safe!  Percy and his demigod friends set out on a quest through an underground world to stop the invasion of Titan lord Krono's army.  This war between the Olympians and evil Kronos has many surprises and action twists as they try to avoid the time from running out!  My boys loved this book!

6. Tell Me a Scary Story..But Not Too Scary by Carl Reiner

A Picture Book: Grade level 3.3

Who doesn't love a scary story?  This hilarious one is perfect for upper elementary!   I especially like it for giving students ideas for suspense in writing!  Carl Reiner brings in the fun of suspense by inviting readers to huddle closer and asking, "Shall we turn the page- or is it too scary?  The story is about a young boy's tale of the mysterious house next door.  The descriptive language used makes the story so intriguing.  It uses phrases like "the hair on the back of my neck was sticking straight out."  My students scream---turn the page!!!!!!!

I hope you found a good book for your students!  If you choose Bunnicula and are interested in a unit, click on the pic below.

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Monday, September 26, 2016

Native American Crafts, Activities and Games for Kids

If you are looking for Native American crafts, activities, and games for children, you hit the jackpot!  Being that a Native American Unit is my favorite topic to teach, I've collected ideas I found not only useful, but motivating for kids of all ages.  I hope you find something exciting to use with your child or class during a Native American study!  Scroll down for all my favorite Native American tunes, games, activities, crafts and projects!

Fun fun fun!  This is a must!!!  Play Native American music during the study unit.

This first one is my favorite for many American History studies.  It is called Tunes That Teach American History.   The booklet/CD has lyrics and they are all fun and upbeat.  It gets me through a whole year of 4th grade Social Studies in South Carolina!  The events covered in this booklet/cd is Exploration, Native Americans, American Revolution, Bill of Rights, Lewis and Clark, Westward Expansion, Civil War, Underground Railroad, The Age of Invention, and Immigration.  I play it to introduce each unit by putting the lyrics on my whiteboard and playing the cd.  Then each day as we are transitioning into social studies, I play it.  Kids LOVE it!

Native American, Explorers, Civil War, Revolutionary War, Government, Westward Expansion, history music.  

Native Spirit Ah Nee Mah  This is TRADITIONAL Native American music.  It is perfect for listening while we are working.  The one titled Kiva Ceremony is my favorite!  You can listen to the samples here:
Native American music good for classrooms during a kiva ceremony, dance, rituals.

Although you can certainly do this Native American activity without reading a book, I love to start by reading the story, A Boy Called Slow because it helps students understand the reasoning behind Native American names.
a story about a Native American name.  It is great for creating Native American names with students.

Think of an animal or part of nature.  Also think of a characteristic about yourself.    Examples:  Running Thunder, Quiet Caterpillar, Brave Hawk.    Tell why you chose this name.  Since the Native Americans back in early history didn't have a written language, they often used symbols as their names.  Create a symbol for your name!  Here are some examples- Draw a picture of yourself as a Native American or create yourself as a Native American out of construction paper.  Tell your Native American name, the reason for your choice, and draw a symbol for your name.

Create a native american name and symbol using a picture dictionary.

create a native american name and symbol for the name.  Make a craft representing you as as a Native American.

Use a picture dictionary of symbols to create a story.  Find a picture dictionary HERE.  It is fun to write on brown paper grocery bags- crinkle them up to make them look old!

   Write a story with Native American symbols on a brown paper grocery bag.

Pick a Native American Region.  Research the tribes, homes, transportation, food, weapons, tools, crafts, customs and beliefs.  Display as a booklet, Powerpoint, mobile, poster, or another form for presentation. 

Research project on native american regions in a booklet form.

Native American homes

Research Southeast Native Americans poster with climate, religion, food, homes transportation, and weapons.

Dream catchers can be made without this book, but I like to read Grandmother's Dreamcatcher. before I start the craft.

book about dreamcatchers by Becky Ray McCain

Dream catchers are great to hang above your bed!  They catch all the bad dreams and they dissapte in the morning dew.  Leave a hole in the middle so the good dreams to sift through the dream catcher!

Supplies:  plastic plate, yarn, craft beads, craft feathers.



1.  Cut out the center of the plate.

2.  Hold punch the rim about 1/2 inch apart.

3.  Cut a piece of yarn about 5-6 ft long.

4.  Tie one end of the yarn to any hole on the rim.

5.  Weave the yarn up, over, and all around the paper plate through different holes forming a pattern.  Leave a hole in the middle for the dream to sift through!   While weaving, place beads on the yarn.

6.  Tie a knot at the end.

7.  Cut 3 more pieces of yarn and tie them to the bottom of the dream catcher.  

8.  Place some beads on the yarn and tie a feather at the end of each piece of yarn.

9.  Cut another piece of yarn the length you need to hang it on the wall and tie it at the top of your dream catcher.

beads, feathers, plastic plates for dream catchers- Native American craftstudent boy making a Native american dream catcher with beads and feathers.

Girl student holding her finsihed dream catcher project.

I like to make totem poles when we are studying the Northwest Coast region.  Use empty papertowel centers and glue them to a base.  I used cardstock paper.  Carefully select animals that have some meaning related to you or a family member.  Write down those animals and your choice for them.  To the totem pole, add a head, wings, and 3 animal symbols.

decorating a totem pole animal Native American Northwest Coastnative american totem pole craft northwest coast

Tell the story of your totem pole!  This craft makes a great writing piece explaining what is on your totem pole and why.  In the writing, pretend you are raising your totem pole at a potlatch!   Kids love it!
creative writing totem pole native american northwest coast

Get creative and make a large totem pole!  I was fortunate to come across large rolls from the laminating machine.  We taped them together and I supplied construction paper, markers and glue.  They did the rest!
students decorate a large totem pole

I like to perform a rain dance when studying the Southwest since they had many droughts in that region!  

In a quiet circle:

1.  1st person begins by rubbing thumb and two fingers back and forth.  This is creating a "mist" sound.
2.  The next person then begins doing the same thing forming a domino effect.  Each person needs to wait their turn to PASS the "mist."
3.  When the mist returns to the first person, he/she changes to "drizzle" by rubbing palms back and forth.  This is passed around the circle the same way.
4.  When the "drizzle" comes back to the first person, they change to "rain" by patting thighs.
5.  When the "rain" comes back to the first person, they change to "storm" by stomping feet.
6.  After that round, it goes back down the list in reverse order until the storm ends.

1.  VAPUUTTA- 10-30 players

Materials Needed:  One pebble needed and something (stick) to mark a goal approximately 50 yards from the first player (leader) on each team.

How To:

Form two teams and appoint a leader for each one.  Line up facing each other with a few feet apart from one another.  The leader walks behind his teammates and secretly places the pebble in one of their hands.  The leader from the opposing team has to guess who has the pebble.   If he guesses correct, he takes the pebble to do the same on his side.  If he guesses wrong, the teammate with the pebble in his hand, goes to the far end of the line, runs, and jumps over a raised leg of the teammate now at the beginning of the line.  Now his team starts from that spot and continues to get to hide the pebble until the other team guesses correctly.  This continues until a team reaches the goal.

2.  BEAR RACE-  2 or more players

How To:
Players line up at the starting line.  At the starting signal, players run imitating a bear walking by placing feet and hands on the ground and walking like a bear.  A prize can be given for the winner and/or the best imitation of a bear.

3.  KEEPER OF THE FIRE-  3 or more players

Materials Needed:  A blindfold (ripped up shirt), Choose one of the following and supply 3 of them to represent firewood.  (real sticks, craft sticks with yarn wrapped around it, or paint stir sticks).

How To:
The "chief" will place the wood in front of the "fire keeper" who is blindfolded, sitting on knees, with hands on lap.  The rest of the players are the "wood gatherers".  The chief points to one of the wood gatherers and says, "Wood gatherers, we need wood!"  This person's object is to steal his wood without being caught by the fire keeper.  They receive one point per piece of wood collected.  Wood gatherers may not rush the fire keeper, it must be done with stealth.  The fire keeper may one remove his hands from his lap to attempt to tag the wood gatherer.

Fun fun fun!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!   If interested in having this NO PREP unit with all the necessary printables, click below.  It is currently a best seller on Teachers Pay Teachers!  A student version is also included for tablets and computers!

Native American Unit

native american unit for upper elementary kids students crafts activities writing informational text  use technology in native american unit separate file
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