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Thursday, October 24, 2019

It's About Time for Halloween, Teachers!

Halloween is next week.  That means that your class will be more excited, or excitable, than usual.  I have some tips for handling those holiday high spirits (pun intended).

Giving students highly engaging activities is key.  One of my favorites is HALLOWEEN SQUARE PUZZLERS.   This resource offers differentiated puzzles that will challenge your children's critical thinking and problem solving while disguising them as fun.  Moreover, the task is demanding enough that your little goblins will not be able to dash through them.  The task is to reconstruct the square array so that the images match on each interior side.

Another activity I like to roll out as a treat for my students is PUMPKIN SQUARES.  Also known as Latin Squares, these brain teasers are differentiated, too.  While used in math for statistical analysis, these arrays are excellent precursors to traditional Sudoku.  The challenge ranges from 3x3 squares to 7x7 squares.  

HALLOWEEN HINK PINKS, et al. are task cards that can be used as bell ringers, anchor activities, a center, and/or a sponge activity.  If you have a few awkward moments, whip out a Halloween Hink Pink card.  These word riddles will test your pupils' vocabulary and activate their problem solving skills.  But the best part about Hink Pinks, is your kiddos just can't get enough of them.  They are a treat, indeed.  

I've saved the best for last... HALLOWEEN SCRATTLE.  Why is it the best?  Because it combines word work with computation, individual effort with competition, offers differentiation, and it's FREE!  Using a set of letters, individual pupils construct words.  They write their words on the recording sheet and calculate the word values using addition, multiplication, or mixed operations.  Next they challenge a friend to battle, comparing their recording sheet values.  The kiddo with the most winning scores is the champion.  But, that's not all!!!  Allow your students to rechallenge each other, or another student(s).  You won't believe how quickly their word choices grow in complexity.  My classes beg to do SCRATTLE.  

These activities have been field tested for years.  They help me keep my classes learning and growing while acknowledging the appeal of Halloween.  I'd love to hear how your children like them.

You may also like:

Friday, October 11, 2019


It's about time, teachers, to explore more possibilities for using poetry in the classroom.  Today's focus is GRAMMAR.

One of the chief reasons I like to use poetry for grammar lessons is that the subject of the lesson is usually quite obvious in the poem.  For example, the following poem practically begs you to teach PUNCTUATION. 

How many punctuation marks you focus on depends entirely on the age and learning stage of your students.  You can see how easy it is to focus on a particular punctuation mark in this poem.  If you are lucky enough to have a smart board, this becomes an interactive lesson.  If, like me, you do not have that resource, you can copy the poem on chart paper and let the students interact with that copy.  Your grammar lesson can be as simple as identifying the punctuation marks, reviewing the role of these marks, or more in-depth instruction about the correct use of less common punctuation such as dashes and semi-colons.

A focus on punctuation in poetry also provides a wonderful opportunity to teach your students to “read the punctuation.”  Modeling the expression that punctuation invokes is an invaluable aid to teaching fluent reading.  In fact, reading poetry is the #1 way to improve fluency!  When you model reading the punctuation, overemphasize the changes in pace, voice, breath, etc.  By teaching your students to "read the punctuation," you will be enhancing comprehension, too!

Poetry can also be used to study PARTS OF SPEECH.  The following poem is one I like to use when studying verbs.  It has a nice variety of action words and I love to point out the verbs the poet chose to use in place of some “tired” ones.

A bonus with this poem is the extensive use of personification.  While you may not think a lesson on personification is appropriate for 1st graders, in order to truly understand the poem, your students will need to realize that the “I” in the poem is the March wind.  Obviously, for older students, personification is an appropriate lesson and is beautifully illustrated in this poem.

Virtually every poem has a grammar lesson hiding in it, just waiting to jump out at you.  All that’s required is to start looking at poems differently.  Try using fresh eyes to identify possible grammar lessons in this poem:

How did you do?  Here some teaching points I found:
1. The importance of using capital letters for months of the year; how hard would it be to understand this poem if it  didn’t have a capital M on the name of the month?
2. Homonyms could be studied, starting with merry/marry/Mary and/or I/eye/aye.
3. The vowel digraph /ay/ is plentiful in this poem.  You may want to make an anchor chart for this digraph.  Extend the learning by including other digraphs for the long a sound.
4. Review punctuation and “reading the punctuation.”  The hyphen may be new to your students.  This is a perfect vehicle for studying it.
5. Identify parts of speech: nouns, verbs, pronouns, adjectives…

Check back soon for more ideas about using poetry in the classroom. 

You can find more possibilities for teaching with poetry in --

POETRY UNIT 100th Day Poetry Activities Poetry Elements Poetry Forms Writing

POETRY TASK CARDS Poetry Unit Poetry Elements Grammar Literacy Centers

POETRY UNIT Fall Activities Poetry Elements Poetry Forms Writing

Friday, October 4, 2019


It's about time, teachers, to describe more ways I use poetry in the classroom . . .

Poetry is absolutely wonderful for phonics instruction.  Consider the following poem:

By drawing your students’ attention to the rhyming words at the end of the lines, you can quickly establish an understanding of rimes.  For example, high rhymes with dry.  The rime, however, is spelled quite differently.  Similarly, crawl and fall illustrate 2 rime spellings for the same phoneme.    

Certainly, phonemic instruction with poems is not limited to rimes. I use the following poem to focus on vowel sounds:

I’m a big fan of anchor charts that remind students of phonemes we have studied. Using an enlarged copy of the poem, I ask the children to find words with the long /a/ sound.  We record them on a chart.  Then I have them find the words with the short /a/ sound and we record those words.  We collaborate to add more words to each side of the chart and, thereby, extend the learning.

The following poem could be used to work on consonant blends.

My learners are asked to look for and circle all the consonant blends they can find.  Students should be reminded that the blends are not limited to the beginning of words.  BTW, I require my students to work in pencil so that mistakes can be corrected.

Hopefully, it is now clear that the possibilities for phonics instruction are nearly limitless!

You may be interested in these poetry resources: