First in Flight Day

Thursday, March 30, 2017

There's nothing a teacher loves more than a themed day.  Crazy sock day, twin day, book character day... you never know what you might find when you walk into an elementary school.  My teammates and I love to plan themed days related to the curriculum for our grade level, and today was one of my favorites: First in Flight Day.

Here in North Carolina the Wright Brothers are an even bigger deal than the Super Mario Brothers.  Many of our students have visited the Wright Brothers Memorial at the Outer Banks and if they haven't, they've at least noticed our license plates say, "First in Flight." North Carolina history embodies most of our fourth grade social studies curriculum, and the story of the Wright Brothers is too much fun to shortchange so we devote a whole day each spring to the topic.

This is my favorite book for teaching about the Wright Brothers.  It's long for a picture book so I read a little throughout the week so the students can use it as a reference in a learning station on First in Flight Day.  My resources for that station are from this amazing product by Monica Parsons on TPT. Other stations include checking out this video and article from (I used this product from History Matters on TPT) and a really cool virtual tour of the Wright Brothers Memorial from our school's subscription to Discovery Education.

By far, the most popular activity on First in Flight Day is paper airplane flying.  This year for the first time I used a very affordable book from Usborne called 100 Paper Planes to Fold and Fly.  It was well worth the $7.99!  I had each group choose three different designs to create and we tested which ones flew the farthest using the recording sheets in this product from Teachers Are Terrific on TPT.   If you don't have an Usborne contact, mine is Deanna; click here for her website.


Differentiated passages from the Bow Tie Guy and Wife have become one of my go-to resources on  TPT.   The Wright Brothers Differentiated Passages are a must for First in Flight Day.  This resource allowed me to justify targeted learning on an otherwise fun and fluffy day.

We ended the day up by doing a group poster activity using a poster size print out of this resource form Heart 2 Heart teaching.

Next week we'll start this exciting book for homework, and the kids will be ready!  You can download my FREE Reading Guide here.

Last but not least...what's any good themed day without food?  My recommendation for First in Flight Day is these adorable kite brownies from Little Debbie.  They are seasonal and sometimes hard to come by...especially if you're at the Wal-mart in my town this week because I may have bought 20+ boxes on Tuesday night...

But it was worth it!  These days are always a lot of work but they are so much fun!  And... they're what your students will remember.  What fun themed days do you have at your school? 


A SWEET Giveaway!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Enter below to win a class set (30 new books) of The Chocolate Touch by Patrick Skene Catling PLUS my Novel Unit for the book.

The contest runs through Wednesday, March 29th and I'll ship both the books and a paper copy of the unit by the end of the month.

Click here to read how I used this book in my classroom back in January.

Feel free to share with a friend!


Sometimes You Just Have to Pretend

It's getting to be that time in the school year when I just tell it like it is.  So much of our time together has slipped by, but I've got about a quarter of a school year left to shoot them straight now that I really know them.  And if you know me, you can imagine how interesting that can be.

One of my students sees everything in black and white.  It's either right or wrong, fair or not, makes sense or doesn't, and he's either all in or all out.  We've had some power struggles but we've also made a lot of powerful progress.  He beats to his own drum and does his own thing, but slowly I'm convincing him that sometimes you just have to bend a little.

Today we had an early dismissal.  On these days, we have lunch in our classroom at 12:00 and dismiss at 12:50, so not much happens after lunch.  As we cleaned up around 12:30, I told the students to pack up and choose one of three activities: unfinished work, homework or read a book.  As I looked around the room ten minutes later, every single student had complied with the directions- except my nonconformist.

"Get out a book, please," I said to him.  "Why?" came the well-rehearsed reply. "Because everyone else is doing something productive and you were instructed to do the same," I said.  "But I am doing something," came yet another retort, "I'm imagining."

His reply, though insubordinate, was so authentic that I almost stopped there.  But at that point I had 23 other sets of eyes watching me sideways to see what would happen next.  So I walked over to his desk and laid down a copy of Stuart Little.  "Then, hold this book, pretend to read, and imagine," I ordered.  His eyes widened, as did a couple of other sets of eyes at his table.  "So you're telling me to pretend?" he asked, and, of course, again, "Why?"

"Because not all your future teachers will be as nice as I am, and you're going to have to learn to do things the first time you're asked even if you're faking it," I explained. "Sometimes, you just have to pretend." I stifled I laugh as a mischievous boy nearby muttered, "I can teach you all about that," under his breath.

I know my advice today didn't fall under our minute-by-minute instructions for balanced literacy.  Pretending to read while imagining doesn't exactly substitute for self-selected reading.  But sometimes life lessons are more important than academics.

All through life, people are going to ask you to do things that you don't want to do.  Sometimes you have to dig deep and endure situations that you're not in a mental (or emotional) place to handle at the time.  But you've got to pick up the book, hold it in your hands, and pretend, even if you're just imagining, and even if (especially when) you don't understand why.  Sometimes it's not about you; it's about the person that asked you or the ones that are watching you.

Sometimes you just have to pretend.  Might as well teach them young...


March Means (Basketball) Math!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017
I love running into former students and hearing what they remember about fourth grade.  More than once in the last couple of years I've had a student tell me, "I remember how you let us watch the ACC tournament in class." I'm not sure what that says about my academic rigor, but it definitely shows where one of my passions besides teaching lies: college basketball!

Growing up in North Carolina means you have a loyalty to a college basketball team.  It doesn't matter if anyone in your family ever went there or if you've ever even visited the campus.  You still cheer enthusiastically for one team and enthusiastically hate the other three.  I can remember crying at night growing up because I didn't want to go to school the next day when my team had lost.  My sister and I may have been known to throw away admissions packets from one particular college because we'd had rather died than attend there, even if a full scholarship had been offered.

One of my co-workers is not from around here and the first year we worked together I asked her what she was planning for ACC math the first week of March.  She gave me a completely blank look and said, "What are you talking about?" Ten years later and I still haven't fully convinced her this is an important, though unstated, objective in the fourth grade state math curriculum.  But I'm just going to keep on writing my lesson plans as if it counts.

Novel units are my thing but so is ACC basketball!  These are my ACC Math Task cards that I update annually with current ACC team and player statistics.  You can download a free sampler here containing four word problems featuring the North Carolina ACC teams.  The full product containing 60 word problems (four featuring each of 15 ACC teams), recording sheets and an answer key can be found here.  Most fourth grade math objectives are covered, but the word problems are appropriate for advanced third graders or for fifth grade review as well.

Whatever you do to celebrate the ACC tournament next week (March 7th-11th), remember that your students WILL remember... whether that's what you thought they'd remember or not.

Go Deacs!