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Amazon Book Listing Writing Activity

Sunday, August 30, 2015

My school requires a summer reading assignment for each grade level. In my 4th grade class, students read one required book and three "free choice" books from a list I provide. This year, I asked rising 4th grade students to read The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies. I do not like to dwell on the summer reading for too long at the beginning of the year, but I do want students to complete some sort of writing assessment. This year students created a fun Amazon book listing.

First, we looked at actual book listings for favorite books I had read over the summer (hint, hint... generating book recommendations for your students). We identified key features in an Amazon book page and items that seemed to be the same in every book listing.

Students discussed the differences between the book summary at the top of the listing and the book reviews at the bottom of the site page. We noted that the summaries contained more facts and less opinion, but the summaries did try to entice a reader. We also noticed how the summaries did not give away the ending or any surprise twists but created a little bit of a cliff hanger for a potential reader.

Finally, we discussed the "Frequently Bought Together" section in each Amazon listing and the purpose of that feature.

I designed an Amazon-like template and gave the students a copy. Each student completed an Amazon book listing for The Lemonade War that included the title of the book, author, a book level that the students determined like 3rd to 5th grade or 8-11 years old, year published, star rating, summary, and three additional book suggestions.
It is a simple writing activity that could be used for any novel. It incorporates many literature skills like summarizing and identifying important details and main characters. I was also able to sneak some library skills into the assignment by having students look for the year published and choose a reading level for the book. My favorite piece of the assignment is asking students to generate three additional book suggestions that would be good "next reads" to share with classmates.

To download a copy of the Amazon template (and see a few more writing activities for novel studies), CLICK HERE. To purchase a complete Lemonade War novel unit CLICK HERE.

Happy Reading!


Do This! Not That...Back to School Blog Hop

Friday, August 14, 2015

You made it!  Thanks again for hopping with us! We hope you found many valuable tips to implement in your classroom ASAP and discovered what tricks you can throw right out your classroom window!  Best wishes to you this school year. Check back with us often!

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To hop through again, head to the next stop!

Alternative Ideas to Daily Reading Logs

Sunday, August 9, 2015

My Dream: All of my students have a book in their hands at all times and run to the library for the next great book choice as soon as they finish the previous great book choice.

My Reality: A handful of students run for the bookshelf; a handful of students walk to the bookshelf, and a handful of students have to be pointed in the direction of the bookshelf.

Since not all students are avid readers, it is nice to have an accountability system in the classroom to track and encourage independent reading. It does not have to be a daily reading log (insert opinion here-- I loathe and detest dislike daily reading logs for upper elementary readers).

In the primary grades when students are learning to read, a daily reading log works well, so students can improve fluency and build their sight word banks. In the older grades when students are reading to learn, I am in favor of more independence when it comes to free reading.

There are many options that do not involve the teacher (and parents) tracking a daily reading goal, which turns reading into something a student HAS to do not something a student GETS to do. There is a big difference in the mind of a student, and motivation is a huge piece to building readers.

1. Have students Track Completed Books, not daily minutes or pages. When students finish a whole book, they log the book title and pages (and maybe reading level too). This works well for all level of readers. Some students may read one longer book or many shorter books. Teachers can monitor by informally checking with each student once a week to ask about book titles and how far along in the book the student is. When a book is complete, the student records the book on their Student Reading Log; the teacher logs the book too. Everybody has a record.

2. Have a short class book chat each day and assign students specific days to present a book. Students read aloud a short passage from their book that they pre-select and briefly discuss what is good (bad?) about the book, character(s) they like, events that are exciting (sad, funny...). Students must have something new to present each time it is their turn. Depending on how many students go each day, a student would need to present a book chat about every two weeks. That would encourage continuous reading. This 5-minute task also provides practice with oral reading fluency and public speaking. 

3. If you use the Accelerated Reader system at your school, assign each student a point goal for each month or grading period (or week). Students can self monitor to reach their point requirement. Easier books have lower point values, so students would need to read more books. If a student chooses a more challenging book, the book might take longer to read but provide more points. Teachers can differentiate reading levels by assigning different point goals to low, middle, and high readers. Set benchmarks throughout the time period (earn X amount of points by this date).

4. Require brief assessments when students complete a book to quickly check for comprehension. Complete a short recommendation form; take an AR test, fill out a Book Buddy Bookmark. Avoid big projects or lengthy writing assignments for independent book choices. Save those projects for the books and stories you read as part of language arts class. First of all, that is too much grading for a teacher. Secondly, when students know they will be required to "think deeply" about a book in assignment form, they read less. It interrupts the pure enjoyment (and free part) of a "free" reading book choice.

Other Book Motivator Ideas

  • Allow students to set a personal reading goal. I love Penny Kittle's Book Stacks for middle and high school readers or the idea of a "Tower of Books." 
  • Write Read Me Blurbs about a book (or even a hashtag style comment) on strips of paper and insert the paper on the shelf with the book, so other students may read the comments to encourage new book choices.
  • Each time a student completes a book, he/she can write the book title and author on a piece of paper and add it to a jar or container of some kind. The teacher draws book titles from the jar and that is the book that the teacher will read next. A student may not add titles to the teacher jar unless he or she has read the book.
  • Have students keep a Book Journal. At the end of a block of time (one month, one grading period...), review the book titles and make assessments about the styles of books, book author choices, length/difficulty of books, plots, likes, dislikes, and improvements in reading abilities from the previous book journal reflection. Keep the reflection on its own page in the book journal.

Please share any of your student independent reading ideas in the comments below and happy reading this school year!


What to Buy at the Back to School Sale

Monday, August 3, 2015

Planning to shop the Teachers Pay Teachers Back to School Sale? Me too. I am having a tough time prioritizing what I need. If you are in the same boat as I am, check out some great Lesson Deli sellers "must haves" and happy shopping! (Don't forget to use code BTS15 at checkout.)

 Grammar Flip Chart

The Grammar Flip Chart: This product includes easy to follow notes and tips for all of the essential parts of speech and sentence structures. The product includes 3 options for building the flipchart (cascading cards, binder ring, Dollar Store photo album). Click HERE to see the product.

 Greek and Latin Root Bundle

Greek and Latin Root Bundle: 40 weekly lessons including hands on activities. Great for Daily 5 Word Work! Click HERE to see the product.

 Decimal ZAP Bundle

Decimal ZAP Bundle: Zap games are quick and easy to implement. Add them to a corner of your room for early finishers to pick and play. Click HERE to see the product.
 SS Quick Checks
4th Grade Social Studies Spiral Review: This 30 page set will have your students reviewing key concepts for the new Learning Standards in 4th grade all year long! Click HERE to see the product. (5th grade version also available)

 Common Core 4th Math Club

Common Core Club 4th Grade Math Membership: This growing bundle is a great value. Purchase an entire year's worth of 4th grade math resources that includes task cards, games, homework, and assessments. Click HERE to see the product.

 ELA Made Easy

ELA Made Easy: An Upper Elementary Resource Bundle: If you are looking to implement the Daily 5 in your classroom, this bundle will make your life very easy! Click HERE to see the product.

 Spot It Game

Personification Spot It and Steal It Game: Personification is a breeze to teach with this engaging, hands-on game! Click HERE to see the product.

The Lesson Deli

Pinterest: A Baker's Dozen

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Pinterest: A Baker's Dozen

I love Pinterest! Whether I am searching for a fabulous dessert, the next craft project, or an idea for the classroom, I'm on Pinterest. Today I'm bringing you some favorite boards from the Lesson Deli ladies.

1. Diane from Fifth in the Middle just loves Bright Ideas for the Classroom. This board is full of great ideas that you can easily incorporate into your classroom.
Pinterest: A Baker's Dozen

2. Everyone loves a good chuckle, especially with memes. The Pensive Sloth has created a board full of School Memes & Funnies.
Pinterest: A Baker's Dozen

3. Are you looking for some physical science ideas? Check out Physical Science in the Middle Grades for ideas to teach vocabulary and get hands-on STEM activities.
Pinterest: A Baker's Dozen

4. Good boards for history and social studies are hard to find. 5th Grade Social Studies from The Whimsical Teacher is filled with great geography and history pins.
Pinterest: A Baker's Dozen

5. Need a gift idea for a teacher? Caitlin from The Room Mom has gathered some terrific ideas on her board: Good Teacher Gifts.
Pinterest: A Baker's Dozen

6. Fractions are a hard concept for kids to master. For some fabulous fraction ideas, check out Math Rules! #Fractions by Interactive Learning from Miss Stefany.
Pinterest: A Baker's Dozen

7. Stefany also has a board for tutoring. Check out Tutor Tools for tutoring and teaching ideas.
Pinterest: A Baker's Dozen

8. How organized are you? I know I can always use some help in this area. Amy from Teaching Ideas 4 U has a solution. She's created a Classroom Organization board to help us all out. Many organization ideas posted here.
Pinterest: A Baker's Dozen

9. Amy also has an American History board for grades 3-8.
Pinterest: A Baker's Dozen

10. For those of you that are teachers in Ohio, you need to check out this board! Jennifer from JB Creations has a Pinterest board for Ohio Teaching Resources.
Pinterest: A Baker's Dozen

11. Another board Jennifer offers is Education. You can find all sorts of goodies here that pertain to the classroom.
Pinterest: A Baker's Dozen

12. I have several teaching boards on my Pinterest account. My favorite board, however, is my Recipe board. I love to bake and collect recipes. You might just find something to make and take into the teacher's lounge.
Pinterest: A Baker's Dozen

13. The Lesson Deli offers several boards on Pinterest for teachers of the middle grades. We have boards on math, reading, writing, social studies, science, holidays, classroom ideas, and teacher humor.
Pinterest: A Baker's Dozen

Be sure to check them out and follow us!