Introducing Hot Seating to America!

Many United States teachers may not have heard of the term "hot seating" yet, but we envision this creative teaching idea jumping across the pond from the U.K very soon!

“Hot Seating” is a teaching strategy in which either the teacher or student takes on the role of a character from a book or real person and sits in the hot seat. Then the other classmates ask questions and the person in the “hot seat” must answer the questions the way the character or historical figure would have answered.

Background Knowledge
For “Hot Seating” to be effective, students involved must have background knowledge of the character/person. This will need to take place during normal classroom instruction or outside of school. In order for students to acquire the background knowledge, they must do the research/read the book. Acquiring background knowledge can be accomplished through a variety of ways:

  • Classroom textbook/or literature book 
  • Books from the school or public library 
  • Online resources (Encyclopedia Britannica, Explora, Kids Discover, etc.) 

At the center of “Hot Seating” are the questions that the students will be asking. It is highly recommend that you model the questioning process. You want the questions to focus on the personal feelings and observations that the character would be familiar with. It is important that you are the moderator during the questioning period so the questions stay on topic.

Hot Seating can be structured a few different ways:
  • Whole Class- This is where the entire class takes turns to ask another student(s) in the “hot seat” questions. 
  • Small Group- This is where a small group of students (5-6) ask one another student in the “hot seat” questions. 
  • Partners- This is where one student is in the “hot seat” and the other student asks the questions.

One interesting twist that you could do with your class is to have opposing viewpoints as part of a debate. There are two ways to do this. The first way would be to give a student in the hot seat a specific amount of time to answer questions from the audience. Then his/her “opponent” would do the same. The second way would be for both students are in front of the class taking turns answering the same questions (back and forth). This can really help students understand different perspectives.

Extension Ideas

During “Hot Seating”, you could have your students take notes on how the character/person answers the questions. Once the “Hot Seating” session has ended, have each student choose how he/she would like to display what he/she learned. Some choices could be:
  • Make a poster 
  • Write a news article 
  • Create a timeline 
  • Perform a news show 
  • Write a song 

Teacher Tips:

Decide how you want the hot seat to look in your classroom. In other words, decide if you want to do it as a whole class, small groups, or partners. Decide which student(s) will be on the hot seat.
Choose the role/figure that they will portray. Find a "hot seat" for the person. It can be a simple student chair, or a special one for the activity.

You may also want to show the students how to write a bibliography if students are doing a historical figure and are taking notes from various media.
When the research is complete, or the literature book is finished, organize your class and figure out how questions will be asked.
Make sure to help facilitate between the character/person and the audience asking questions.

We hope you can try "Hot Seating" in your classroom. Your students will love it!

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10 Must-Do Ideas for End of School Year Ceremony

Are you looking for ideas for an end of year ceremony? You will find creative ideas for before, during, and after the ceremony! Your students will be engaged, your parents will be shedding tears, and you will be a rock star! Read on to find out more and grab a freebie!

Before the Ceremony

1.  Wiggle Worms:  All children get a little wiggly when it comes to sitting for a lengthy period of time.  Promise a handful of gummy worms after the ceremony and tell them to wiggly the worms into their mouths!

2.  Independent Activity:  Students need an independent, quiet activity while you are gathering last minute materials or you are all waiting to be called to the auditorium.   Here are some great ways to motivate students and keep them engaged while you run around making sure everything is ready!

a.  Memory or Reflection Activities 

Ideas the can easily be written on the board:

    *  Favorite memory of the year.
    *  Write to next year's class and tell them what to expect.
        (This works well to place on the bare bulletin board at the beginning of the year!)
    *  Create a list of favorite things:
        (subject, sport, friends, special area, outside school activity, food, color, music, etc.)
    *  What do you want to be when you grow up?
    *  What do you think you will do when you graduate high school?
(I like to do this one and keep them!  When my fourth graders graduate from high school,  I send them a graduation card with this in it!  Kids AND parents LOVE it!  I include my email and address in the card and their responses are priceless!

b.  Free Brainteasing Task Cards

    *  Idioms
    *  Analogies
    *  Guess the number
    *  Brainteaser questions
    *  Hidden meaning
    *  How many words can you make out of summer?

During the Ceremony

3.  Photo Slideshow:   Dig through all the pictures you took throughout the year.  Place them on a photo slideshow.  Play it either before and after the ceremony with music.  Or have it running during the ceremony.

A selection of music to play:

    *  The Time of My Life:  David Cook
    *  Hero:  Mariah Carey
    *  Good Riddance (Time of Your Life):  Green Day
    *  Beautiful Day:  U2
    *  Happy:  Pharrel Williams
    *  Just the Way You Are:  Bruno Mars
    *  What a Wonderful World:  Louis Armstrong
    *  It's My Life:  Jon Bon Jovi
    *  Fly Like an Eagle:  Steve Miller Band

4.  Awards:   Academic, perfect attendance, and end of grade awards are staples to be given at the ceremony, but each child should get a personal award to reflect their year in your class.  Make it fun by holding your own ceremony in your classroom to give out a personal award to each student!

These are unique awards where each student is given a famous person award.  There is a description of why the student got that person's award AND a quote from the famous person.  Super Cute!  There is a color version, black and white, and a version where you can place your student's picture in to make it even more personal.

5.  Poem to Students:  After a whole year with your precious babies, let them (and their parents) know how much they mean to you.   It is time to get sentimental!

Copy this and fill in the blanks!

What About Me?

I'm proud of all the strides you've made,
And now you are ready to move onto _______ grade.

You are probably saying, "The end is finally near!"
And I see how much you've grown this year.

I thank your parents for being there the whole year through,
My job was easier because they supported you.

You've become writers, scientists, mathematicians, and more,
Your eagle wings are ready for you to soar!

It is now time to send you off on your way,
But do you ever wonder what happens to me at the end of the day?

After the hugs and graduation handshake,
I sit down exhausted and look forward to a summer break.

I reflect on how much you touched my heart in many ways,
I only hope that you remember me and your _____ grade days.

I will always cherish you and keep you close to my heart,
And give you never ending well wishes while we are apart.

I hope that some day you will come back to visit me,
We will share your news and remember how it used to be.

After the Ceremony

6.  Ice cream Bar:
There are cute ideas on Pinterest like diploma cookies and graduation cap cupcakes, My favorite is an ice cream buffet! Get big tubs of ice-cream, some waffle bowls, and tons of ingredients to top off the cool delicious dessert!

Use signup genius to list ingredients and ask parents for help!

Ideas for ingredients:   

    *  strawberries
    *  rasberries
    *  chocolate and strawberry syrup
    *  caramel
    *  bananas
    *  oreo crumbles
    *  Reese pieces
    *  marshmallows
    *  cereals like Rice Krispies or Cheerios
    *  graham cracker crumbles
    *  gummy bears
    *  Sour Patch Kids
    *  whipped cream
    *  sprinkles

7.  Dance Party:  
Since the kids have to sit still during the ceremony, promise them a dance party afterwards!  Put on some fun music and let them dance!   Even if you do it for 10 minutes, they will thank you!

Idea:  Occasionally turn off the music and they need to freeze.  Turn it back on and they start again.  Fun!

8.  Autographs:  Give the students time to get each other's autographs!

    *  Have students bring in a T-shirt
    *  Include it as part of a memory book
    *  Give them a beach ball

9.  Gifts for Students:
    *  Letter to students-  Write a nice little note to your students.
        Idea:  Include your address.  Tell them that you will write to them over the summer and ask them to reply!

    *  Flash drive of music played throughout the year.

    *  A framed class picture.

Creative Ideas:
    *  Frisbee- This year flew by!
    *  Popsicle- Have a cool summer!
    *  Bubbles- You blew me away this year!
    *  Ball-  This year has been a ball!
    *  Kool-Aid-  Have a Kool summer!
    *  Candy-  You made this year sweet!
    *  Cookie-  You are one smart cookie!
    *  Chalk-  Chalk it up to a great year!

10.  Letter to Parents:  Send a sweet note to parents thanking them for sharing their children and trusting you with them.  Include some ideas for summer reading!

I hope you found some ideas to help your ceremony be a success!

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5 Reasons to Love Task Cards {FREEBIE!}

Are you a huge fan of task cards, too? I believe it was about 4 years ago when I was introduced to them. I was coteaching in a 3rd grade classroom, and when I stepped into that classroom one day, I observed kids scattered throughout the room, each quietly working with a laminated card of some sort. I was so impressed at how engaged each student was with his or her card. I quickly learned that students were reading the card, performing the task (making inferences was the focus skill for this set, so students were reading a short passage and then answering an inference question), and then recording their answer on another full sheet of paper. When they were finished with the card, they moved on to another card that they hadn't yet completed. From that day forward, I was hooked!

5 reasons why I love using task cards in the upper elementary classroom. This blog post contains a set of FREE nonfiction text feature task cards!

I love task cards for so many reasons, but this brief list touches on my top 5 reasons for using them regularly with students.

1.  They are more engaging than worksheets. Glancing at a worksheet full of passages or problems can be intimidating. With task cards, there is usually just one item to answer on each card, which is much less overwhelming to some of our students! Furthermore, task cards are often more colorful than worksheets.

2.  They are versatile. I usually use the entire set at once, but I have been known to also use isolated task cards for exit tickets and bellringers, to grab one and read it to my students as they are standing in line, or even as Test Prep Jeopardy questions!

3.  They get students up and moving. When using the entire set, I like to spread the cards across the classroom, and have students move from card to card until they have completed all of the task cards. We all know how beneficial it can be to allow students to leave their seats and start moving!

4.  They make valuable formative assessments. Occasionally, I assign only the even-numbered cards. When students are done, I glance through the recording sheets and jot down which students really seemed to struggle with determining the correct answer independently. This information tells me who I need to work with in small groups, and I use the odd-numbered cards with that small group of students.

5.  They allow for differentiation. There are so many options for differentiation. You can have students work with a partner, students can work at their own pace, or you can shorten the assignment for some students.

One of the first times I used a set of task cards with a group of 5th graders, we corrected them together. When we finished discussing the answers, one of the boys announced in a matter-of-fact voice, "it looks like the B's won." My first reaction was this thought: Must you be so competitive? Not a second later, though, I realized, Hey! I think he's on to something! I should try to create an answer sheet that is set up to see which letter "wins"!

And that is how I came up with the idea of creating "gamelike" recording sheets for the majority of my multiple choice task cards. As you can see, students complete the task cards like normal, but at the very end, they tally their A answers, B answers, C answers and D answers to determine which letter "won"! Download this free version if you wish to try out a set of these with your own students. (Just click HERE or on the image.)

FREE Nonfiction Text Features Task Cards! This set features 24 nonfiction text features, plus a fun recording sheet!

Would you like to see additional task card sets with these types of answer sheets?  Just click here or check out my bundle!

DIY Math Manipulatives

Math manipulatives are expensive, especially if you are on a budget!  I took a trip to the local dollar store and for under $30, I was able to create an entire class set of nine different manipulatives!  Here is what I used:  Self-adhesive foam sheets, 1 package of foam cubes, and...... that's it!  Yep, that's it!

While you can use the non self-adhesive foam sheets, I personally like to use the self-adhesive.  This way if I choose to use a template, I can easily attach the template to the foam sheets and then easily cut my manipulatives.  

DIY Dice

I love these for a number of reasons.  First, they came in a package of 30 for one dollar.  Second, who wouldn't love a classroom set of dice that can't be heard????  These cubes can serve multiple purposes.  Create the traditional die, a die with numbers, fractions, or operation symbols.  You name it, you can make it!

DIY Colored Tiles

Colored tiles can be made with these foam sheets by simply cutting squares.  I happened to have a circle punch, so I cut my tiles using this fancy tool.  

DIY Place Value Disk

Like the colored tiles, these place value disks were cut using my circle punch.  Then, using a permanent marker I color coded the disks according to place value.

DIY Number Tiles

This is where the adhesive sheets and the template comes in handy, but isn't necessary.  I'm a little bit of a perfectionist, so I wanted my numbers to be nice and neat.  I printed the template, adhered it to the back of the foam sheet, and then cut out the numbers.  

DIY Pattern Blocks

To create the pattern blocks, a template was used.  Once again not necessary, but it ensured that the polygons were regular polygons.  

DIY Tangram Pieces

These tangram pieces were created using a template. 

DIY Fraction Bars

These fraction bars were also created using a template.  Using a template for the bars was extremely important, because they needed to depict wholes, halves, thirds, fourths, fifths, etc., accurately in order for them to teach fractions correctly.  


You can grab the templates mentioned above HERE.  

These are just a handful of manipulatives that can be created using these foam sheets and cubes.  I'm sure there are many other uses for these that the creative teacher in you can put to use!

Better Book Clubs: Increasing Student Independence

Better Book Clubs: Increasing Student Independence
If you are one of the many upper elementary teachers who incorporate some type of book clubs or literature circles in your classroom, you'll want to grab a cup of coffee and check out today's post!  See if you might find a new helpful hint or idea to shake things up for your next round of book clubs!
There are tons of decisions that need to be made before book clubs, aren't there?  What books?  Who will read each book?  How will I decide?  How much can they read each day?  What reading and writing skills will we work on?  What OTHER skills (cooperation, "accountable talk", technology, and so many  more!).  How can I get to each group and keep the other students working?

It's no wonder teachers are tired!

So let's think about how many different ways we can do book clubs--and this is just a sampling!  

  • Small groups talk and reflect on a read aloud book (picture book or section of a novel)
  • Small groups work to read a whole-class novel in small, mixed ability groups
  • Small groups work to read a whole-class novel in ability level groups--with varied levels of support
  • Small groups read different books or stories on a theme
  • Small groups read different books based on reading levels
  • Small groups read different books from one author
And the list goes on!  And more decisions...will you, the teacher, select the books for the students?  Will the students select?  Will you give the students a chance to give their input and then make the best decision for them as readers?

Here is a set of books I used recently as we did "social issues" book clubs!  I did book talks on all the books, then let students fill out a google form letting me know their preferences.  I then made groups based on interest, reading skills with a nod toward groups I thought would function well together!

So the first step is finished--NOW what?  Time to plan!

 The first thing I do is reread my books a section at a time to make sure I know what talking points I want to make sure we cover--but the farther into the year we get, the less I do and the more I ask my STUDENTS to do!
In fact, where many of my students had book clubs in third grade with specified guiding questions, I try to move my students gradually toward a more "grown up" book club by the end of the year.  Instead of ME determining what they talk about, I make my students do it!

After all, we have spent all year learning about the features of they are to get into characters' minds and critique their words, thoughts, and actions.  We have predicted and confirmed predictions.  We have summarized and looked for theme.  We have compared and get the picture! this point in the year, I ask my students to plan their discussion groups!  Sometimes I might assign roles like in a traditional "literature circle" where I put one member in charge as the leader and other members with assorted roles.  But for my most RECENT book club, I wanted it to be as authentic as possible.  No hands raised.  No "around the circle" turn taking.  I reviewed with my students the different ways groups can share ideas (click HERE to see an older post about this!) and we practiced using accountable talk to do the following:

  • Agree with others
  • Politely disagree and explain why
  • Piggyback off other people's ideas
  • Ask for clarification
  • Ask others to repeat when necessary
  • Give compliments for great ideas
We also reviewed how to make sure our BODIES look respectful in a book club...we want our eyes on the speaker, we don't fiddle with things or get off task, and we participate fully and encourage others to participate as well.  I use the term "balance the power" to help students remember that being in a book club involves give and take, sharing the spotlight, and being an active participant.  I have another post about this very idea HERE if you are interested!

Once this is's time for my students to plan their book clubs!  Sometimes I ask them to use sticky notes to jot down ideas that come to them as they read...other times they use their reader's notebooks--and, most recently--I've had them start to use "digital reader's notebooks" on their Chromebooks!  By keeping their notes handy (no matter WHAT way you do it), students can learn to pause as they read to jot down ideas they want to talk about.  This is new for some of them--they are more used to reading and responding after they finish.  I want them to feel like this process is really interactive...I model using "think alouds" with the book I am reading aloud to show exactly how I pause when something captures my attention...something I am wondering about...or I want to make a prediction...or something shocks me...or I notice something about a character...or I think a character has said something important.  Explicit modeling has REALLY improved the quality of my students' reflecting!

 Now the fun begins!

After students have read their section and prepared their discussion ideas, it's time to put everything you've done into practice!  I ask my students to sit in a circle and bring their books and their notes...I let them know that DURING the discussion is not a time to add on--that they need to have full attention on the group and the discussion.

Earlier in the year, I am a part of the circle throughout the duration of the book club, but at this point in the year, I start in the circle for the first meeting or two--but as each group shows me that they are ready to roll independently, I back out and sit outside the circle.  I still listen; I want to hear their ideas and watch for those accountable talk stems.  I want to see how deeply they are comprehending and how well they are functioning as a group. I want to see that "balance of power"--and if I am NOT seeing these things, I can ease back into the circle for a while until I feel like they have made some changes.  My favorite book discussions are the ones where I can just sit back and enjoy the discussion!  After all, these kiddos are only 9 and 10 so watching them sit and chat about a section of a book for 15-20 minutes is pretty impressive, in my  mind!
 One thing I do encourage is keeping their books handy because "proving your ideas" is big in our room.  When students have something to share, they often will say something like, 

"Check out the second paragraph on page 143.  Why do you think Melody's mom said that?"

So they need their books so they can follow along and chime in with their thoughts.  This is particularly useful when students bring up confusing parts; all students can then refer to their notes AND the section of text so they can problem solve together.  This is one of my favorite things to watch.  Sometimes I need to jump in--but those accountable talk stems really work to help guide them without me most of the time!
 These students have all their notes on their Chromebooks with our digital reader's they might refer to their screen for those discussion ideas they jotted down as they read, and then move back and forth between their books and discussion.  

 After the group meets, I always felt something was missing.  Typically, the group meets, disbands, and then heads back to their desks to start reading the next section.  I thought and thought about what I wanted them to do and realized that I wanted them to take the great discussions they were having and to DO something with them.  Because this most recent round of book clubs was completed using a digital reader's notebook, I asked them to go back and spend 10-15 minutes adding on to their thoughts in their notebooks and writing a true "reflection".  Where their book club PLANNING consisted of questions, bullet points, and small jotted notes, I wanted this reflective writing to be more thorough and complete.  I wanted them to spend some time "synthesizing" the discussion and taking all the great ideas the group generated and recording them for later.  This helps "capture" the great ideas as well as providing an authentic way for students to do some real-world writing.  This is tricky for some students at first, so this is another time I like to model this type of writing with a chapter of a book I am sharing with a class.  Here's the form I used with my digital notebook--but you could just as easily have them turn to the next page of their reader's notebook.

So your students have spent a few weeks together reading, chatting, writing, and reflecting chapter by chapter.  At this point, I want to see if students can put it all together.  No, it's not time for a diorama about the's time for more writing!  I teach in a district where we grade on a standards-based report card, so I need concrete evidence about how students handle "theme", and summarizing, and character analysis.  Watching them during book clubs is a GREAT way to get this information, but I like to have them finish things off by doing some writing COMPLETELY independently.  Some students do like to rely a little too much on their group members, so this is a chance for them to really shine on their own.  I ask them to write a short reflection about what they feel the theme of the book is.  I ask them to write a short character sketch to show their understanding of a character of their choice.  I ask them to write a paragraph stating and defending their opinion about the book.  When they finish, the group reconvenes one more time to share their final findings.  This is a great celebration of their work!

I think it's so fun to watch the students grow as readers--and to watch them do it without me guiding every step!  

Interested in seeing the digital resource I mentioned?  I am LOVING moving toward a more digital, reduced-paper classroom and can't wait to try even more next year!
Thanks for stopping by--and I hope the end of your school year is filled with fun and learning!

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Behind the Scenes with Upper Elementary Snapshots

Many believe that two heads are better than one. But here at Upper Elementary Snapshots, we believe that 13 heads are better than one!! So who are we? We are a group of 13 teachers, bloggers, and curriculum developers, who have come together to share, collaborate, and work to bring quality ideas, lessons, resources, and inspiration to upper elementary teachers throughout the world.

Today we would like to share with you the inspiration behind our collaborative blog, how we connect, communicate, and collaborate, and how we have come together to explore new ideas.

At Upper Elementary Snapshots, we feel that we have created a community of teachers, who are working together toward one common goal: Inspiring teachers and enriching  the educational experience for all of our students. When we refer to the Upper Elementary Snapshots community, that doesn’t just include us as bloggers, but also includes each and everyone of you who read, share, and inspire each of our posts.

Click HERE to take a closer look, and learn more about each of the collaborators!!

In order to connect and collaborate as teachers and bloggers, communication is key!! Luckily, social media allows 13 teachers from all over the country to come together in a common place: FACEBOOK!! To keep our blog up and running, we use a Facebook group to share ideas, ask questions, and develop new resources! However, our group goes far beyond our blog and teaching resources, and has become a place where we can offer support as FRIENDS. We come to each other to ask for parenting advice, offer support when life gets tough, share warm wishes when something exciting happens, or just to blow of steam when we are frustrated with ANYTHING!! For most of us, we have only known each other for just under two years. However, the connections we have made have led to wonderful friendships!!

When like-minded people come together to collaborate, the next logical step is to meet up and get together in person!! We recently planned a trip for most of our group to meet up in NEW YORK CITY!! Our plan was to meet and get to know each other better, visit the headquarters of Teachers Pay Teachers, and fit in a little bit of time to see a show and do some sightseeing!!

Many on our team had met before at conferences or meet-ups. But for me personally, this was the first time I was meeting anyone from our collaborative blog. I was a bit nervous, but found that we were like old friends who already knew each other so well!!

While we roamed the streets of New York, we mastered the art of group selfie, and took one on almost every corner (clearly tourists)!!!

One of the highlights our our trip was visiting TpT Headquarters TWICE!! We went once to meet the wonderful team that makes TpT possible, and then again the next day to celebrate TpT's 10th anniversary.

While in New York, our team couldn't pass up the chance to make it on television. Six from our group woke up bright and early to visit The Today Show!! They had the pleasure of meeting and taking selfies with the hosts of the show, and of course wound up on TV!!

To make it even better, the I Love 90's Tour was visiting the show that day!! Clearly, the highlight of the morning was meeting Vanilla Ice!!

Overall, it was an amazing trip, and we are already thinking about where to meet-up next!!

One of our goals as a group is to continue to come up with ideas to inspire upper elementary teachers and students alike!! We are constantly bouncing new ideas back and forth that will benefit and inspire our readers. One of our latest ideas is our Monthly Collection of FREEsources!! Each month, we choose a theme, and each contribute a resource to the collection. Below are our first three editions...

Click HERE to visit our store and download the first three of our Monthly Collection of FREEsources!!!

We are so proud of the community that has grown from Upper Elementary Snapshots, and we are looking forward to watching this community continue to grow!!

We love to connect with our readers!! Follow us on the platforms below so that you never miss a new idea, resource, or upper elementary inspiration!!