Eight Reasons to Use Flipbooks in Your Classroom

Hi! I'm Kelly from Teaching Fourth, and I am thrilled and honored to be a part of this amazing group of teachers that make up Upper Elementary Snapshots! Today I'm excited to share with you one of my favorite tools to use in my classroom.

Fifteen or so years ago I attended one of the best workshops of my teaching career.  The ideas presented actually changed my teaching from that moment forward.  This workshop introduced me to flipbooks.  I loved all of the possibilities of using this simple tool in my classroom, and I was amazed at the versatility this tool offered.  I was hooked, and I have been using flipbooks ever since!

Flipbooks are interactive graphic organizers that help students write, organize, and retain information. They can be used with any subject and just about any topic! The possibilities are endless!  From science to math or reading to grammar, these easy flipbooks can help students organize the information that they have learned, record their learning, and ultimately, retain more knowledge.

Why use flipbooks in the classroom? These are eight reasons why I feel using flipbooks are beneficial for my students.

1.  Flipbooks can be used with any subject.    Because I teach language arts, I use flipbooks after students have read a book.  Students can reflect on their reading and dig deeply for comprehension. Students can write a summary, write about cause and effect, characters, setting, etc.  I also use flipbooks when we are reviewing different parts of speech.  They are perfect to use in science and history as well.  There are endless possibilities to using flipbooks!

2.  They are fun and engaging.  Rarely do I have students who do not complete the assignment. Most students enjoy creating flipbooks and take pride in their work.

3.  All learners can be successful.  Because modifications can be easily made to the assignment, all students can be successful with these activities.

4.  They replace worksheets.  (Enough said.)

5.  Use them as alternative assessment.  I often use flipbooks as informal as well as formal assessments for my students. 

6.  Students retain information.  Because students are organizing information in a visual way, they are better able to retain information.

7.  They help students develop listening skills.  When students make their own flipbooks, they must listen carefully to verbal instructions which helps improve listening skills.  After modeling a several times, students improve listening skills and learn to following verbal directions.

8.  Flipbooks allow students to show creativity.  At my school, unfortunately, we do not have an art program. By allowing students to decorate their flipbooks, students are given an opportunity to show their creativity. Just look at some students' examples.

For a simple but effective tool in your classroom, simply grab some paper, fold, cut, and create.  You'll find these simple activities can lead to much learning for your students!

Be blessed!

10 Ways to Inspire a Love of Reading

If you've been a teacher any length of time, you know that reading standards come and go. Sure, the important ones hang around, like main idea, finding inferences, and cause and effect, but much more important to me as a teacher is to get kids to LOVE to read (yes, I said love, not like, and not even to tolerate it!). The thing is, when kids enjoy reading, they read a lot and when they read a lot, they become even better readers, and can do all of those reading skills that we so desire. It's almost like magic!

So, how do we capture the hearts of those little video game, TV watching, texters? We do it by showing them how much fun reading can be. 

10 Ways to Inspire a Love of Reading

1. Do Book Talks
A book talk is when you pick up a book and give the kids a summary of it but present it in such a way that every single kid raises his/her hand to ask you if he/she might be able to read that book next. It's like a mini-advertisement for the book. Do a few a week and you'll find that the kids will start reading hidden gems that are located right in your classroom library.
2. Make Sure to Keep an Updated Classroom Library
When you have hundreds of good, top quality, current titles, kids are more likely to be attracted to the books and want to read them. Book orders are a great way to get free books for your classroom and the added bonus is that your students will be getting their own new books to read too.

3. Visit the School Library Frequently
There's just something about being surrounded by shelves of books. Kind of like going to a candy shop, except without all of the calories. Your school library most likely has an even greater selection than your classroom and has something for every child's interests.

4. Don't Skip the Read Alouds
There is definitely value in having kids listen to a good book, read by a skilled reader. Besides all of the rich vocabulary that can be gleaned (notice the vocabulary word "gleaned"?), kids are able to simply relax and get carried away by a piece of literature. Hearing an exciting, or funny, or heart touching book everyday, they might just realize that books can be an enjoyable way to spend their precious time.

5. Do Present Quality Mini-Lessons
I believe that mini-lessons are the key to an effective reading program and I have seen evidence of how meaningful some of these lessons can be when the kids start to internalize them. I love it when some of the vocabulary that we use during a mini-lesson becomes a natural part of their speech. Words like schema, theme, and text to text connections come rolling off their tongues and all I can think is Good Lord, they DO listen to me. :) These lessons can make a difference not only in their vocabulary and in their ability to read and comprehend text, but if done correctly, it can cause kids to love to read even more.

6. Provide Time for Self-Selected Reading
Maybe this should have been number one because I feel that strongly about it. Basal stories can be good and assigning literature is fine, because of course we choose really great books, but there is NOTHING that compares to letting a child read what interests him/her. When kids can select their own books and when we actually build-in time for this into our reading schedule to allow them to read them, I think this is when you really hook a reader. 

7Keep Your Eyes Open and Be Ready to Help a Reluctant Reader
I have two of my own children, a daughter who is 18 and a son who is 24. My daughter has always been an avid reader but my son really preferred anything with a ball, particularly a soccer ball. Now that he has graduated from college, I guess I can let it go (ya think?) but when he was in grade school, it really bothered me. One thing I found with him and have found with all of the not-so-crazy-about-reading kids that I've had over the years, is that it's all about finding that "just right" book or series. So do spend some extra time with these kids, questioning them about what interests them, and then actually finding some books that match their interests for them to try. For my son, it was Artemis Fowl.
8. Allow Kids to Talk About Books
Whether you have a parent-run lunch book club, do literature circles in the classroom, or even allow kids to share one or two sentences about the book they're reading every few weeks, sharing books is a great way to get kids excited about them.
See Scholastic for Details About Available Authors.
9. Invite Authors to Your School
I know this may sound unrealistic to you, but at my last school, we had a different author come every year during Read Across America Week, and it really got the kids so jazzed up about that author's books and books in general. Your PTA or PTO might fund this if they knew how powerful it could be for your students.
2014 American Library Association Book Award Winners

10. Celebrate Books
Why not make a big deal out of an author's birthday, the long awaited sequel to a beloved book, or books that earned the Newbery or Caldecott Awards? Doing simple things like making bookmarks, having popcorn (if your school allows), watching a movie to compare and contrast it to the book (finally that's got a standard supporting it too) are great ways to show that books have value. It makes them appear less like dusty dinosaurs sitting on the shelf, and more like your favorite cousin, here to have some fun!

What strategies do you use in your classroom to inspire your readers?

Thanks for stopping by,

Connect with me:




TpT Store

Organizing Math Stations

This Friday is the end of the first nine weeks of school!  I have been teaching through a math workshop model and am loving it!  Until now, I have had a very simple, predictable routine during our math workshop.  I am now ready to start introducing math games into my math stations.  In this post, I will share with you how I have started to organize my math games, task cards, and interactive notebook pages.

I am sure you are just like me - You have tons of resources, but need an easy, simple way to organize it all.  I will be specifically talking about how I organize the activities my students complete during 'independent practice'.  The first thing I did was narrow it down to three main items that I have my students complete:
  1. Math Games
  2. Math Task Cards
  3. Interactive Math Notebook Pages
I bought the following  3-Drawer Organizers from Amazon a few years ago on Amazon.  I've decided to use these as my main organizing item.  You can purchase them in sets of 3 - they are 'wide' drawers, so they have plenty of space.

I then labeled them 'Games, Task Cards, and Notebook'.  It was very convenient since there are three drawers per organizer.  I even color coded them by standard :) The green pictured above is 3.NBT items.  I will share with you a free PDF file with the labels at the end of the post.

I have filled the Games drawer with games related to the math topic.  Pictured above is a collection of multiplication/division games.  These are not all the games that I have, but they are the ones that I want to have quick access to.  I plan to switch them out later on.  You will notice that there is a black binder inside this drawer.  It contain the recording sheets and answer sheets.

Inside the Notebook drawer I have math foldables related to the math topic.  I have gone ahead and made copies, so all I have to do is pull out the foldable I want my students to work on.

.... Now that you see how I plan to organize my math materials, let me share with you how I set up the choices for my students.

I bought the small paper bins at the Target dollar spot a few summers back.  I have Two Math Games for students to choose from.  I also have a bin with materials needed on the desk.

Let me share with you where my students go for independent practice...

The largest number of students that I have at independent practice is 6.  This works out great, because students can make 2 groups of 3 when they play a math game.  They have two different spots they can go to.  The first one pictured is 3 student desks put together (I wish I had an actual table).  The second one pictured is at the carpet (I bought at Wal-Mart!).

That is about it!  I hope you got some ideas on how to organize your math stations materials.  If you are interested in learning more, check out the links below:

Thank you for reading!

Successful Parent Teacher Conferences

Participating in Parent Teacher Conferences can be a stressful part of being a teacher.  You want what is best for your students.  Sharing areas of strength and other positives is the easy part.  Presenting concerns can be uncomfortable for both you and parents.  I am approaching my twelfth year of parent teacher conferences.  There are times that I am nervous, but by now I have a routine and things that I do to every year that help to make them successful.

Prior to Conferences

  • Send out your sign-up sheet a few weeks ahead of time.  Have parents mark their 3 most preferable times, ordering them from 1 to 3.
  • For those that you know or suspect will need extra, leave the time slot immediately after theirs free.
  • If you don’t get a conference slip back from a student’s parents, make a phone call or send an email to try to set one up.
  • Send home a survey for parents to fill out.  Questions they may have for you and/or concerns about their child.  Have them return it to you prior to the conference so that you are prepared.

  • Send home a conference reminder – listing the time and day for their scheduled conference.  Copy on colored paper to have it stand out

  • Have students complete a self-evaluation to rate their own learning, behavior, etc. 

  • Prior to the conference, fill out the conference notes.  This will help with maintaing a focus and purpose.  

Setting the Stage

  • Make sure your room is tidy.
  • Have students clean out their desks
  • Outside the classroom, have a table decorated for the appropriate season. 
  • Consider having a basket with candy for waiting parents
  • Include a sign-in sheet.
  • Have chairs sitting outside the room
  • Display student work in the hallway for them to look at while waiting.
  • Need supplies?  Have a wish list for parents to choose something to donate.

During Conferences

  • Close the door for privacy
  • Don't sit behind a desk.  Sitting side by side is ideal.  This helps parents feel less intimidated.
  • Make eye contact.
  • Begin the conference with saying something positive about their child.
  • While conferencing, always remember that their child is their world and that you all ultimately want what is best for their child.  Within reason, the parent is always right. 
  • Take notes.  This will serve as a reminder for you.  You see many parents during conference time, and it's hard to remember everything you talked about with all parents.
  • Make it a priority to stick to the allotted time.  You don’t want angry parents before they come to the conference.
  • Thank them for coming and let them know you are looking forward to the rest of the year.

Conference Follow-Up

  • Send home a thank-you note to parents that came.
  • Continue a channel of communication between home and school.   

You can download the free forms that you see within this post HERE.  

Wishing you successful parent teacher conferences!

Rethinking Christopher Columbus - Teaching the Truth through Encounter by Jane Yolen

In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

Yeah, that's probably what you might hear walking past the kindergarten or first grade classes in your building.  Columbus discovered America.  He traded resources with the Native Americans.  Let's celebrate him for his perseverance, courageousness, and leadership.

Ok, maybe not so much.  There comes a point in education where educators should reveal what really happened when Columbus arrived to America.  Teaching third grade, I felt as if this was the appropriate time to make the shift.

I think the easiest way of introducing this topic to students is through the book, Encounter, by Jane Yolen.  She does a phenomenal job using illustrations and evoking feelings to subtly shifting the reader's viewpoint on Columbus.  What I especially love about this book is that it is written from the Native American's point of view, giving you a different persecutive of the events that took place.

To assist you in the reading of this book, I created some graphic organizers and comprehension questions that you can download for FREE by clicking on the image below.

There are also some amazing websites out there that you can project for your students, or have your students interact with on the computers.  

Hope this helps you plan for Columbus Day, which is soon approaching!


Narrative Writing: Planning and Modeling Pays Off!

If you are like me, starting a big writing project is always a little daunting.  Students come in at such different levels, with such different skills and interests, and big writing projects are REALLY a lot to manage.

Over the years, I have found that two things have really helped me manage these bigger projects:
1.  Tons and tons of planning and prewriting
2.  Tons and tons of teacher modeling

So, as we dug into our "realistic fiction" writing unit, I thought I'd share how we got started in case any of these ideas might help you as well!  To begin, we went back and studied some of the text we had read and I posed the question, "What do we know about good stories?".  We had a great discussion and I recorded some of our ideas on the Smartboard.

After this, I worked with my students to create a meaningful character.  We talked about remembering to remain "experts" in our writing so we all created characters that we could relate to--characters about 10 years old.  They first helped ME create a character ("Ben").  We brainstormed his likes, dislikes, his personality, his fears, his habits, and more.  By the time we finished, they REALLY knew this character and were ready invent their own--and to select the problem that their character would tackle in their story!

Over the next days, I partnered students up to brainstorm their actual "Storyline" and they pitched their ideas to me.  I recorded everyone's story line so we can keep ourselves focused!  These writing partners will remain together for this entire unit. In fact, I told them that they will know three stories really well...mine, their own, and their writing buddy.

Over the next days, we learned that good stories are told in "scenes" and we went through our current read aloud, "The Tiger Rising" and tracked the scenes we had encountered in the first 8 chapters.  I then had the students help ME create the scenes for our class story about Ben and we marked each scene on a post it.
The students then worked with their writing partners to create their own story mountains with key scenes from their story.  I really stress knowing how the story will end--that all scenes in the story should lead to that point!

As our lessons unfold, we will continue to add to our story mountains.  I taught a lesson on sensory details and we then started to add some of those to our class story mountain...because if we get those written into our plan, we are more likely to use them!
We have a few more "planning lessons" to go through...using dialogue, creating tension, and "showing not telling", and our plans will be ready to roll!  For this project we are drafting on paper, not using technology so I am asking them to use one piece of paper per scene so we can really stretch each scene to help our readers "see" what is happening.  Tomorrow, we work as a class to write the first scene of "Ben's story"...and then the students will begin theirs on Tuesday.  They are SO excited about their own stories--because they have a plan, know what they are doing, and are getting small pieces of new learning to try each day.  They may not be perfect when they are finished, but I do think they have a better handle on narrative writing...and they have watched me lead the way.  Have a great week, everyone!


Making Inferences with Poetry

Most of us probably start off with the same few examples when we are describing to our students what it means to "make inferences"...or "to infer" something...

If Johnny walks inside with a heavy coat on...what can you infer?
Kids: "It's cold outside!"

If Jane has chocolate between her teeth...what can you infer?
Kids: "She just ate something chocolatey!"

Then we move on and ask our kids to infer on a deeper level...but what text should we use? Most stories or reading passages do not require kids to infer very much, if at all. Details are usually given away in the setting or the things the characters say/do. This is where poetry becomes my favorite way to teach inferences! 


I start with the poem called "January" by John Updike.
Click the photo below to download the PDF version of the poem.

To begin, I cover each stanza of the poem separately with a post-it note. I do this because this poem is on the difficult side, and I want the students to focus on one stanza at a time. When you receive a poem, it is super hard not to read the whole thing at once! "Chunking" is best when you are introducing something new or difficult to your students. We've all heard about putting the information into "digestible bites", right?! 
;) Too much professional development for me...

I also hand out this "Making Inferences with Poetry" sheet. We will use this throughout this entire lesson. I start by modeling with the first stanza, and the kids follow my lead. They become more independent and willing to share their ideas as the lesson continues. I model using the document camera or by creating an anchor chart with them while they write on their own paper.

Click the photo to download the PDF version of this worksheet.
In the first column, the students will write the exact line from the poem that they are going to think about; for example, "Fat snowy footsteps track the floor" (from the second stanza). In the second column, the students explain their prior knowledge on the topic...what do YOU know about snowy footsteps tracking the floor? Example answer: I know that if you walk through snow outside, you will bring it in on your shoes when you come inside. Last, the students fill out their inference column. What can they infer based on that line? Example answer: There is snow on the ground outside!

This is a WHOLE GROUP lesson, and is definitely difficult for students to try on their own. Some of the lines of the poem could be trick (especially for my South Floridian students who don't experience winter at all!) A fun extension to this activity would be to have had the title missing from the poem before the students receive the copy - have a contest to see if any group can get close to guessing the name of the poem! I had a group guess "December" this year...pretty close!


For the partnered activity I choose a "fun" poem. A poem that uses imagery to set a scene in the students' minds is a great one for inferencing. This year I used "Abandoned Farmhouse" by Ted Kooser and the students LOVED it! Super spooky and they loved the extension activity I had them do after we inferred!
You can find "Abandoned Farmhouse" by Ted Kooser by clicking here.

Students went line-by-line making inferences about what the author was trying to say in the poem. What does that mean? Who are they talking about? What can you infer about the setting or the character? They had to write their thoughts next to each line of the poem as they read. This was fun for them because the poem has a spooky side...which all kids love! When I was walking around during this portion of the lesson, the students were even arguing (in a friendly way!) a little bit about what they inferred from each line! I actually LOVED it because they were voicing their opinions and felt confident in their thoughts/ideas.

I extended the activity the next day by having the students write the last stanza to the poem. We called this the "missing stanza" because it seems Ted Kooser's poem does not have an ending. The students created their own ending stanza and then illustrated it! It was super fun! We were able to talk about mood and tone as well, because the students had to try to stay in the same mood/tone as the author in order for their stanza to "fit in" well with Ted's poem! 

At the end of this lesson, we learned that sometimes different people infer different things based on their prior knowledge. It is important to listen to other's ideas so that you can see their perspective and how it is different from yours. 

Thanks for reading :)
I hope you find this useful!