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BUNDLED Leveled Math Assessments Now Available...

And on sale (listed at 20% and on sale at an additional 20% today, Monday, and Tuesday!)

I have one more week before my daughter goes BTS and starts 3rd grade. One more week to enjoy summer with her...so, that's why you haven't heard from me this week. I've got a list a mile long of topics I want to chat about with you, but I just couldn't do #allthethings and bust out a blog post for you this week. But, I do want to make sure you've heard all kinds of good news that's going on around here.

I have consistently posted to Instagram this week (Yay me!), so if you are not following me there, I'd love it if you did! Sometimes you will get a sneak peak at something fun I'm working on, sometimes you get to see what I'm reading, and sometimes you get a peak into my personal life (like how we decorated and painted the bathroom last week!).
 follow tarheelstateteacher on instagram

Let's get to the heart of why I'm checking in with you today. It's something I want to make sure you DO NOT MISS OUT ON!

4th grade common core leveled assessments bundle test prep bundle math workshopI have spent my whole summer working hard on my Differentiated Math Assessments for 4th grade (and the 5th grade ones are on their way too!). These math assessments are truly my passion. I cannot talk about them without getting louder, antsy, hot and flustered (a little overwhelmed at all I have left to create), but most importantly UBER-SUPER excited about envisioning these assessments being used in classrooms to help students move from one grade level's standard to the goals of their current grade level, and to beyond for those students who master grade level standards quickly and are ready for more more more...because you know what, they all deserve what they need. And, it is not always easy to provide it for them #understatement...am I right or am I convicted? Either way, I know what it has been like to {inappropriately} administer the same exact assessment to every kid (for the most part) for 11 years and I know in my heart that I now discovered and created a better way.

I am so lucky to be partnering with the 5th grade teacher from my last school this year. I'm volunteering my time to plan math with her and create my differentiated assessments fast enough that she can use them for pre-testing her units, reviewing and extra practice work, and post-assessing her students. We just spent the morning planning out the first few days of her math unit and discussing how to use the differentiated math assessments. I'll be in her classroom on Wednesday to co-teach math with her. To my joyful pleasure, I'll be working with the same students I taught last year (in 4th grade), so it is a soul-fulfilling opportunity for me (and it makes me so excited to be able to be "in the classroom" this year helping a newer teacher, obsessing about math instruction, and working with my students again).

If you are not too familiar with my leveled math assessments, I wrote a three part series earlier this year (really, I need a 20 part series on this topic, so maybe that's coming for ya). I focused on what a leveled math assessment is, why I'm so committed to leveled assessments, and all the different ways I discovered that I could use my leveled assessments (for more than "testing").

As I've been working on these this summer, I see the light at the end of the tunnel (well, January really), when these will be completed. I am pushing SOOOOO SOOOO hard to have the Place Value assessments uploaded by August 27th and the Fractions uploaded the following weekend. This is realistic because I've been alternating between drafts of the Place Value and Fractions Assessments this month and they are getting close! My 5th grade group that I am working with needs the Fraction Assessments because that's actually their first unit (focused on foundational fractions concepts and addition/subtraction because Math Expressions includes 2 fractions units instead of lumping it all together into an overwhelming heap #smartysmart), but I know so many teachers will need the Place Value assessments for the beginning of the year.

If you are interested in grabbing the bundle to get a huge discount on ALL the math assessments instead of purchasing one at a time, I want you to know, it is marked at 20% of the estimated cost of all the assessments' individual prices AND it is marked 20% off of that for Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday! I know your busy and I don't want you to miss out if you want these! {TPT is having another boost sale and you can get an additional 10% off  with the code ONEDAY from TPT on MONDAY if you want to #saveevenmoremooolah}
And I hope you already know that you can get tpt credits on all of your purchases! I love when my credits build up to 20 or more and I save dollars off of my total purchase. So many ways to save...and I know how relieving it is to be able to buy things you need for your classroom to save your time and sanity. When I switched grade levels two years ago, I loaded up on resources that helped me teach and differentiate for math. It was nice to earn some credits for giving feedback on my purchases. (Thanks to Senora Cruz for this handy image that shows you how to earn credits!)

Please email at tarheelstateteacher@gmail.com me with any questions about my leveled/differentiated math assessments! I'd be happy to tell you more!

How to Ensure You Have Reading Accountability Without Using Reading Logs

Hey Y'all! I know you are busy doing one of two things: relaxing to soak up your last few days of summer and thinking about all the things you need to do OR preparing to head back to school while wishing you were relaxing! I'm participating in this amazing back to school blog hop and giveaway hosted by Laura at Create Clipart {her website is beautiful if you've never checked it out!}. Everyone's chatting about classroom management and organization ideas, so you'll want to check out all the goodies and take from it those that will improve your practice and help you keep your sanity this year. {Read to the end of this post to enter a giveaway where you can win either a $50 tpt gift card or a package of 30 amazing resources from the bloggers in this hop!}
I'd say if you like what I have to share, you can plan to implement this in NO TIME, and it will actually simplify your teacher life a little AND add something to your daily schedule that I believe you will absolutely enjoy. Actually, I probably should have called this post "The Best Change I made in the 2015-2016 School Year that Was Amazingly Effective and Soul Full-filling!" I bet you can't wait to hear about it after that introduction, so here goes!
Reading accountability without reading logs
Last year, I decided to make two changes to my reading routine that made a huge difference. The first was to make 20-30 minutes of independent reading a non-negotiable in my class schedule.  I ALWAYS want my students to read, and I always think independent reading is in my schedule as a non-negotiable, but inevitably mini-lessons and read alouds go on too long, small groups push out time for students to read on their own, or other interruptions to our schedule make it hard to give students their independent reading time. Well, I made my commitment out loud to my students last year and I really stuck to it. We may have missed 2 days the whole year, perhaps on a half day or a crazy snow day, but never because I squeezed it out with too much planned. {If you find your independent reading time being squeezed out, I challenge you to make this promise this year! It is so worth it!}

The second change I made is the focus of today's post. I got rid of reading logs!

First Week of School Schedule to Keep You Sane

I'm sharing the big ideas of my typical back to school schedule with you today. I'm not saying it's perfect by any means, but you are welcome to take notes and use it for your own planning inspiration if you have not yet started your first week of school. Is it really possible to grasp all that you do during your first week back with students, much less describe it to someone else? Well, I've really tried for you today!

When I plan my schedule for the first week of school, I organize it into large blocks of time that will allow me the opportunity to front load key subject areas that will often get squeezed for time after the more relaxed few weeks at the beginning of the year have passed. Think Stephen Covey and the Big Rocks (if you don't know about this metaphor, click for a video explanation. This dude has a seriously awesome mustache; you can also find videos on YouTube by searching for Stephen Covey and the big rocks, but they all had cheesy background music, so I saved you from it!)

How Can You Deal with the Roadblocks of Implementing Morning Meeting?

Has "Back to School" got you stressing yet? Well, hopefully I can be just the right dose of ibuprofen to ease your pain! Or cup of coffee, or glass of water--which ever you prefer, really :)

I am thrilled to share with you that today I have the privilege of guest posting for my friend Kathie over at Tried and True Teaching Tools. I met Kathie a year ago at tpt Vegas and we have stayed in touch as online friends ever since. When she asked me to guest post on her blog, I thought "of course!," but when she suggested I write about Morning Meeting, I was so excited to figure out how to share my love of morning meeting on her blog! Well, I hope you will LOVE what I came up with.
morning meeting in the uppergrades back to schoolHead over to Tried and True Teaching Tools to find out the 5 Roadblocks to Implementing Community Meetings in your classroom (and yes, I will share how you can deal with them!)

And, stay tuned this week because I am working on sharing my typical back to school schedule and routine so you can see how I plan out my days for the first week back.

JUICY July Updates: A GIVEAWAY and LOTS OF EXCITEMENT!

Summer is quickly coming to an end. I am trying to savor each and every day, but we are going down the hill now as August approaches. Luckily, my daughter does not go back to school until August 29th. This will be the LONGEST summer I've ever had. Actually, I'm calling this time in my life #infinitesummer because it's end date is yet to be determined. If you've not stumbled upon my {newly drafted} About Page, you have probably not heard that I am taking this year off from teaching. I was flip-flopping constantly about whether or not I'd be staying at my school another year (I was doing a 35 minute drive which turns into a 40-45 minute drive in the afternoons). I was so happy at my school. My students were a joy to teach, my parents were kind to me and easy to serve, and I was so free to JUST TEACH. And, I know not everyone can say those things about their school environment, so I daily felt how blessed I was.
But, it was laid on my heart again and again that everything was not just right, and mostly it was in my heart that it was time to take some time off from teaching. If you check out my about page, you might learn that I recently got married and was blessed with a daughter as part of the package deal. #lifeforeverchanged #butinthebestways!
Well, if I ever had the power to set up the circumstances for life with children, I wanted to just be a mommy for a little while. My husband, brave, fearless, and supportive, {after listening to many of my flip-flopping conversations} finally encouraged me to "just do it" and take a year off. I'm not going to drone on about the teaching profession, how crappy North Carolina has been to teachers, or any of that, but after 11 years, YOU know as well as I do that there have been some AMAZING years and there have been some not so good moments. I think my soul became weary and my priorities changed. So, for a little while, at least for this year, I'm taking a break for myself and my family. I will still find ways to work with kiddos {like, my favorite part of teaching, right?} and I will be sure to share those experiences with you!

Launching the Reading Workshop: Where Do I Start?

It is going to be the first day of school real soon {maybe some of you are already back in the swing of things!} and you are going to be busy! You will surely have a list a mile long of the things you want to say and accomplish with your students. {#imsureyoudontneedareminder! Haha!} I recently wrote about how important identifying expectations for ATTITUDES and FEELINGS are to me as I start a new school year. If you didn't catch that post, I'd head back and read about it before reading this one because it also discusses the 4 First Steps I take to Create a Community of Readers.
Today, I want to share my lessons and goals for the first few days in reading workshop with you. Whether I am teaching a new group of 4th graders or 5th graders, I start our year together learning more about my students' reading lives and convincing them that this is the year that they want to have the BEST reading life ever! This is the year they want to carefully and thoughtfully consider how they can be the masters of their own reading life. Now, you may want to know that I read to my students 2 or 3 times a day during the first few weeks of school. I have read alouds that help me discuss behavior, community meeting topics, and of course, for reading in general. (I'm thinking a daily outline of my back to school schedule might be in order soon! Leave me a comment if you'd like to see it!)

To begin, I bring my students over to the carpet (our meeting area), making sure to train them in how to join me (quickly find a spot, don't worry about who's sitting beside of you, etc.). I have a few special seats in my classroom, so I usually pick students to sit in those randomly by pulling popsicle sticks. This is a good time to just observe how students come over and the choices they make for seating. {Note, this is probably my second time bringing students to the carpet because earlier, I've taught my "Morning Meeting" lesson that focuses on belonging and I launch that discussion by reading Big Al by Andrew Clements.}

THE READING LESSON
1) INTRODUCTION/CONNECTION
I start off by saying "Reading is something that is going to be a big deal in our classroom. We are going to share lots of stories with one another. I'm going to read to you every day and you are going to have the opportunity to read independently every day. Now, some of you are already smiling as I tell you this, but others of you may not feel so excited about all of this reading I'm talking about. Well, let me tell you, if you are anything like me, you've had your best reading times and you've had some not so good reading times. I know it's hard to believe, but yes, your teacher, who is crazy about books and loves reading, has had her worst reading times too!

You know what, I have some pretty good stories about my WORST reading times, but I'll just tell you one of them."

I have two pretty good stories that I usually tell my students about the worst times in my reading life at some point in the year. On the day I start our discussion about the worst reading times, I usually tell story #1.

1) When I was in 1st grade, I was keenly aware that I was a good reader and a good student. I remember overhearing my teacher comment to the assistant about how I could look at the board once and copy a word down. Well, reading each night was a part of our homework routine. My teacher would pick a book for us and we would report the next morning on whether or not we needed a new book as part of unpacking for our day. Well, one day she gave me a short stories chapter book. I still remember the look of it. Let's just say it looked like something you might pull out of a dusty box in the basement. Well, I took the book home and tried to read it. It may have been full of fables or fairy tales but the book did not capture my attention. I took the book to class the next day and told her I had read it all in one night. I remember her looking shocked and asking me questions about the stories. I tried to make up what I could remember from skimming the pages. For sure, I could tell that she knew I was telling a lie. She asked if I was sure that I had read it, and then, instead of accusing me of lying, continuing to probe with questions, or forcing me to re-read the book, she found me another one.

When I tell my students this story, I emphasize a few things--I LIED to my teacher! I did not get to choose my own book, and I did not feel comfortable just telling the truth that I wasn't into the book. But, at a young age as a kid who loved reading and was good at it, I can remember my WORST reading experience ever! My students can surely relate to having a teacher make them read a book that didn't interest them or was too hard.

2) College was another time that reading was really hard for me. Remember those stacks of history and science textbooks and syllabuses that required hundreds of pages of reading each night? My background knowledge was majorly lacking, I had not yet developed my nonfiction reading skills (no teacher had ever taught me how to highlight strategically and effectively), and I was drowning in reading assignments in addition to the papers and projects to complete. I tell my students that when I read the lessons in my textbooks, I thought EVERYTHING was important and I thought that I needed to try to remember everything. It was exhausting and it didn't sink in very well. (Now, we have You Tube and Khan Academy to save us from the dread of too much textbook reading! Are these stories DATING me or what?!?!?! {I usually save this story for my "I Don't Enjoy Reading As Much When..." lesson or when I launch my nonfiction unit, so I probably wouldn't share this story on the first day of readers workshop.}

I strongly encourage you to tap into your worst reading times and have at least one story ready that your students would enjoy hearing and that they could relate to. In Building a Reading Life from Lucy Calkins' Units of Study for Teaching Reading, she tells this story about her worst reading time..."When I was your age, this girl in my grade--Gretchen Sarnejoki--was into this science fiction series. She carried thick books around like they were the coolest thing. One day, I asked to borrow one of Gretchen's thick books. I couldn't even read the character's names. It was awful. I kept falling asleep. But I carried that book around for weeks, pretending to read it. That was one time when reading was the pits (Calkins, pg 6)."

2) STUDENTS BRAINSTORM WORST READING TIMES
I then lead students to brainstorm some of their WORST reading times. I have printed off half-sized journal pages on bright paper for them to record some of their memories and examples. Students complete a number of journal prompts throughout the first few weeks of school and we add them to our Reading Response journals later in the week when we get them set up.

3) SHARE and RECORD on ANCHOR CHART
I start an anchor chart titled "Reading is the BEST When/Reading is the WORST When" (some years I put these on separate posters to allow for more space). After students have had some time to think of ideas, I ask volunteers to share what they jotted down. As I record their ideas, I get confirmation from other students in the class that "Yes, reading does stink when that happens." During this realy lesson that's focused on my students as readers, I take lots of mental notes about my students' experiences as readers. I can make quite a few assumptions about their current and previous reading lives based on the insight they are able to share with this prompt. For example, is the child coming up with specific moments that reading stunk for them (like my example, which really is the only elementary example of a bad reading experience that I can think of) or does reading just seem like no fun for a child in general based on what they share?

4) READ ALOUD AUNT CHIP
Next, I lead into my read aloud, Aunt Chip and the Great Triple Creek Dam Affair by Patricia Polacco. I tell students that no matter the reading lives they've had in the past, it is so important for them to make sure that they have a really strong reading life from this day forward and that we are going to spend the first few weeks of school checking on how our reading life is and doing everything we can to make it better!

I tell them "Aunt Chip is one of my favorite picture books! The people of Triple Creek have an interesting reading life, so let's get started and find out all about it." This book is one of the longer ones I read during the first week of school, so I always break it into two readings. Part of me knows that students have been sitting patiently during this lengthier discussion and the other part of me just loves to build suspense and make them wait to hear the ending.

I read pretty fast during this read aloud. I don't stop too many times to ask questions, because for the most part, students can follow the plot. I do stop to handle any tricky vocabulary or language and ask students to volunteer to explain what was meant or to give us a quick summary of what happened. Most importantly, I ask students to describe the reading lives of the citizens of Triple Creek. Students will come to the conclusion that the townsfolk do not have a relationship with reading at all. They have a relationship with their tv's. They LOOOVE television, but they use their books to fill potholes, sit on, eat off of, patch roofs, and even to patch the town dam. They obviously do not regard books as a treasure, but lucky for them (and Eli, the main character) Aunt Chip hold's books in the highest regard. She says "Books are treasures. All you need is the key!"
As Eli, the main character, learns to read and the love of reading and hearing stories spreads to all of the other children, we have discussions about what the children are getting out of reading and how their reading lives have changed. (#itsanamazingread #sogoodforloveofreading!)

I usually stop my read aloud after Eli sees Moby Dick wedged in a big wall of books. He climbs up to reach for it and pulls it out, unaware that he's going to cause a huge leak in the town's dam. At that moment, the wall buckles, all the books explode into the air, and the tv tower crumples "like tinfoil." KABOOOM, and we'll save the rest for tomorrow kiddos ;)
I have to silence A LOT of groaning for stopping my read aloud at this point--but really, it has gone on too long, kiddos are tired of sitting although they want to know what happens next, and side conversations and talking out has usually taken over the read aloud at this point. Not to mention, my voice is tired, I've been talking all morning, and probably didn't get enough sleep the night before #firstdayofschooltired!

5) LESSON CLOSURE
To bring this lesson to closure, I re-read what Aunt Chip said about books:
I ask students to just think for a minute about what books mean to them. Think about the ideas, dreams, and feelings a book might inspire. Think about how a book can take them to far away places. And most of all, think about why books are a treasure. Later, I will give students a copy of this quotation to place in their reading journals. But for now, I need to end this lesson short and sweet.

WHY THIS LESSON?
I feel like I've written in abundance about my attitude towards creating a community that loves reading, that cherishes books, and that grows no matter what kind of reader they are. So, you might be wondering why I start my first day of school off by having students tap into the WORST times in their reading lives.

It is so important to gain an understanding of our students as readers as quickly as possible. Yes, I will soon start assessing their oral reading fluency, listening for their word attack skills, and asking comprehension questions, but for now, it's important for me to see into their hearts. I need to know what their relationship with reading is like before I can ever begin to truly make a lasting impact on all those other components of reading. TRULY, listen, MIC DROP, and I am not being cocky, but let me say that again.

...but for now, it's important for me to see into their hearts. I need to know what their relationship with reading is like before I can ever begin to truly make a lasting impact on all those other components of reading.

Every bit of insight a child gives me (especially the negative stuff) is AMMO that helps me strategically target my attention as I aim to improve their reading lives. Again, I will tell you that the first few weeks of school are my "sifting" phase. This is where I get to know my readers and sift down all the way to the ones that will be tough nuts to crack. (But, BABY I GOT YOUR NUMBER, don't you worry!)

WHAT COMES AFTER THIS LESSON?
During our second reading life lesson, I gain insights from students about how their reading was the year before and we take time to reflect on when reading has been the BEST for us. And, oh yes, because I have left them hanging, we will of course have to finish reading Aunt Chip. After such a long first lesson, I tend to keep the second shorter. This leaves me time for another lesson earlier or later in the day where I teach a routine or help students set up their reading journals. (Our reading journals are a BIG deal and I feel that I've perfected the set up to really work for my class. Hang tight for a reading journal post too! #alltheposts #fortheloveofreadingthough #ihopeyouenjoyallthis!

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
I shared that picture of my stack of professional books on Instagram earlier this week. (BTW, are you following me there? You probably should start...just sayin'). I highly recommend all four of those books (Building a Reading Life from the Units of Study for Teaching Reading by Lucy Calkins, The Book Whisperer and Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller, and The CAFE Book by the Two Sisters). if you are looking for quality professional development on the teaching of reading, especially what I believe our classroom reading environments should be like, and how I believe children should learn to read. I'd also add Fountas and Pinnell's Guiding Readers and Writers as critical in my development of a reading and writing teacher.
The journal pages, anchor chart materials, student-sized quotations, and classroom poster quotations I use for this unit are in my Launching a Reading Life Unit Kit and I've also been working really hard to provide you with an overview of how I sequence each day during my Building a Reading Life Unit. If you want the full details, you can download my outline! {It's coming soon! I really am putting my heart into it! I hope to have it completed by this Friday. Drop your email and I will be sure to share it with you then!}

Be the First to Know When My Reading Life Plans are Ready to Download!

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Enter the giveaway and you might even WIN my Building a Reading Life set and a lot of other literacy goodies if you choose it as your prize! READ MORE DETAILS ABOUT WHAT YOU CAN WIN in MY DETAILED GIVEAWAY POST. 



Don't Shhhhhh! I can't Keep the Secret any Longer!

OH MY GOODNESS!!!!!! I can't hold back the excitement! I was going to keep this "hush-hush" until tomorrow when I share my Juicy July Updates but I just can't hold back anymore! Brittany from Mix and Math and I have put together a HUGE giveaway!

You could win 2 $10 gift cards from teachers pay teachers

TWO HUGE bundles of resources to get you set for MATH or LITERACY this year (one from me and one from Brittany)!

ALL 4TH AND 5TH GRADE TEACHERS SHOULD ENTER!

And, because we love to share the love, you could also win the RESOURCE PACKS for ONE of YOUR LUCKY TEACHER FRIENDS! Click on the image to enter and tag other teachers in this post so they can enter too!

For each of the questions you answer, you get one entry, so increase your chances by entering information for all parts!

a Rafflecopter giveaway Let's get a little more excited and take a look at what you could win:
Brittany is giving away all of her Real-World Math Projects!
 Mix and Math Projects 4th 5th grade common core
You get to pick ONE of these MEGA BUNDLE BABIES from MY Store!
 4th 5th grade fractions task cards for fractions mega bundle common core
 4th 5th grade mega literacy bundle common core
Good luck! Don't forget to spread the love and SHARE with friends! You can double your chances of winning because both of you could win! :) It's like BOGO for your teaching buddy, and who doesn't LOOOOOOOVE a BOGO sale, especially when it's really a GET ONE, GIVE ONE, so we will call it a GOGO and you don't have to spend a dime! Okay, done with the cheese!

I've also been working really hard on my post for sharing how I launch reading workshop (it's ready!!! HAPPY DANCE HAPPY DANCE!). Your going to get some word-for-word lesson ideas for Day 1 and 2 and I'm including downloadable "day by day plan" and a "routines and procedures checklist." So look for that sometime today! Happy weekend friends! 

4 Important First Steps for Creating a Community of Readers

Reading at the Beginning of the Year Readers Workshop Tips Strategies
Routines? Procedures? You've thought it all through. I'm sure you are well on your way to setting up your school year for success. But, have you thought about what you expect out of students' attitudes?Have you envisioned the attitudes you want to develop in your students? What should a student who leaves your classroom in a year be like? How should they feel about learning? What will you do to impact that?

When I'm preparing for the beginning of the year and thinking about how to get my routines and procedures underway, I have to admit that I spend more time focused on the feelings and attitudes that I want to exist in each subject area than detailing every little step on a lesson plan.

In math, I expect my students to be ready to persevere through the hard stuff, to have GRIT, and to develop a passion for math, but I am prepared for the realities that they have not had a lot of challenge and rigor in previous years. When I launch writer's workshop, I'm mentally ready for a large chunk of my students to have a strong distaste for writing, knowing that getting them to buy into the enjoyment that can come from a worthwhile writing life is my first battle and in reading, I know that I will have some students who do not enjoy reading and have not yet developed a strong relationship with books. It's my job to change attitudes!

I expect all of my students to fall in love with reading, but to want that is one thing; to make it happen takes a little more work (or planning or time, however you want to define work!). An onlooker might just think having a classroom full of readers is magic, or it's easy, or all of those kids were already readers, and that's just not true! I think the biggest change maker for my kiddos compared to what I've observed in other teachers is that I just believe "EVERY CHILD A READER" and that this is my ultimate mission and it is MY JOB to make it true. In my conversations with other teachers on the playground or at lunch, you will never find me saying "He just doesn't like to read." or "She is just not a reader." I won't even say, "That kid HATES reading," even if it might be true. Teachers, attitude is EVERYTHING, and what you think and sayyou materialize.

By 4th and 5th grade, most of my students have overcome the struggles of reading words, but many of them still need to develop stamina, quite a few struggle to find "just the right" book that will keep their attention, and a few have fluency issues that cause reading to be a laborious task.

How do I begin to set up my year with an environment that encourages kids to become readers and that keeps the fire in the belly of those kids who already have a strong love of reading?

back to school




It starts before they even walk into my classroom. I tell them how important reading will be to us in the letter I send them over the summer. Here's a little snippet from last year's letter to students...

...notice all the attitudes I'm trying to create? Later in the letter, I wrote an entire paragraph about my excitement towards reading...I don't do this for any other subject. I always have to do a lot of tweaking to get my letter to fit on one page, but really, our year will be filled with a passion for reading, the books we share will create some of our favorite memories, so it's worth it to elaborate on my passion and enthusiasm for reading in this letter.
Now, surely you are thinking that this letter does not turn my non-readers into Wild Readers just by saying so. I know that, but taking the time to tap into my own passion for reading and all the things I'm getting excited about for the new year is really important. No doubt, this letter to my students is the first step towards saying goodbye to summer and hello to a new group of kiddos.

back to school reading
Aunt Chip and the Great Triple Creek Dam Affair polacco quoteAttitude is everything! The next thing I do to prepare for creating a classroom of readers is to gather my "Building a Reading Life" picture book read alouds. I always launch my readers workshop by reading Aunt Chip and the Great Triple Creek Dam Affair by Patricia Polacco on the first day of school. The people of Triple Creek used to have a flourishing reading community, until the tv tower came to town. Now, books are used to fill pot holes, sit on as stools, to prop open doors, and to plug the town dam. No one even knows that books can be read! That is, until Aunt Chip starts teaching Eli to read! This book definitely expresses the importance of reading and the dangers that the human race may face if we stay glued to our televisions (or digital devices) and decide reading doesn't matter. Aunt Chip is a longer book, so it may take two days to read, but if you have not read this book, RUN to the LIBRARY NOW or better yet, just buy it because you will want to use it EVERY YEAR here after! {Want more ideas for "love of reading" themed picture books? Download my free list of beginning of the year picturebooks organized by themes!}                                                                                               
By choosing a read aloud for the first day of school that highlights the importance of reading, I can begin to create an environment where students say "Not reading is a bad thing!" "We don't want to be like the people of Triple Creek." "Wow, it's sad that they forgot how to read!" Aunt Chip is a warning to us all and my impressionable students are always in disbelief at how bad the townspeople have let their town get. Books focused on a "Love of Reading" allow me to start having discussions about how important reading is!

back to school suggestions
I almost always plan for the first chapter book I read to have living a literate life as one of its strongest themes. I've used Just Juice by Karen Hesse and Fish in a Tree by Linda Mullaly Hunt. Both have main characters who have dyslexia and struggle with reading. If my first chapter book does not specifically have a literacy focus, I am sure to choose my read aloud wisely based on what I've learned about my students in the first week or so of school. For example, The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo has always grabbed the attention of my 4th and 5th graders and it's a quick read with lots of depth. {I've written about other read alouds I'd suggest if you are looking for chapter book ideas.} I know it doesn't sound like a well-planned teacher, but I have begun a few of my years not quite sure which chapter book I wanted to read first. I always have my favorites in mind and I choose based on what I learn about my students during the first week. I give you permission to do the same!

fun read alouds for back to school
I mean really, it is so important to choose read alouds that make kids laugh and that are just enjoyable! During the first two weeks of school, I read aloud to my students at least twice a day, focusing one of my read alouds on behavior and building community and the other on, you guessed it--our reading life! I always read Big Al by Andrew Clements on the first day of school. I focus on the concept of belonging, but the book is a hoot and the kids love it! {you can read my detailed lesson plan here} I also read lots of Helen Lester books at the beginning of the year (like Hooway for Wodney Wat, Tacky the Penguin, Me First, and Hurty Feelings). Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst will make an appearance before the first week is over. All of these books are QUICK reads. They are fun. I read them in funny voices, I  get loud, I get country, I talk without being able to say my r's (for Wodney Wat), and I speed up or slow down to show how terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Alexander's day was. These books allow us to create a bond around reading. Some of my students {think} don't like reading chapter books (yet), but they absolutely have enjoyed listening to the picture books I share with them. 
picture books to read aloud to 4th 5th graders
I know that my 4 suggestions have not even begun to chip away at how teachers can develop a love of reading in our classrooms, but with these four important steps, you have begun to set a foundation for a year full of reading, a year full of children who are ready to be molded by your passion for reading. Because I know it takes more than just these few things, I will be sharing more details about what I do during the first two weeks of school that almost always turns every.single.child into a reader without much twisting of the arm from me. I call the first few weeks of school the "sifting" phase. With your passion for reading expressed each and every day, you are getting as many students happily reading as possible and sifting out your tougher nuggets so that you can focus on them more when your independent reading time launches. Some students will even come around to reading because their friends become more enthusiastic! Positive peer pressure is a great thing to watch! {I've written more about targeting struggling readers if you are interested in specific tips for them!}

If you need more encouragement for creating an environment where kids grow in their love of reading (and believe me, their test scores will too when it's not all about increasing reading rates and getting good at multiple choice tests), I highly recommend reading Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer. I read The Book Whisperer and Reading in the Wild last summer, and although most of her methods and attitudes aligned with the way I already run my reader's workshop, it was highly motivating to have confirmation in my approach towards reading.
If you are more than ready to help your students build a strong and literate reading life, I've created an entire set of Journal Prompts, Anchor Charts, and Reading-Focused Quotation Posters for Building a Love of Reading. I use this kit for all of my reading lessons during the first two-three weeks of school. Go check out the preview to learn more!
 launching readers workshop upper elementary beginning of year

Reading and Writing Workshop and More: June Updates

My tpt shop has been around since 2010 and there's a whole-lotta-updates that I'm working on. As I dip into my resource files, I'm not only refreshing fonts and borders, but for many of my products, I'm adding entirely new content. I don't want you to miss a thing so, monthly updates on the resources that you should redownload if you've ever purchased them and a quick note about anything new that has been added to the store is going to be a new thing for you here at Tarheelstate Teacher.
To be real with you, I think I've got some really useful, amazing {old} stuff in my store, but my design talents have improved tons over the years {think--actually investing in fonts and clip art to bea-utify things!}. If you bought some of my stuff when it wasn't so pretty, you deserve to know that you need to RE-DOWNLOAD and see what goodies are in store for you.
I've received some of the sweetest feedback on these resources as they were, and when I look at them with my newer design skills and all that I've learned over the past few years....ya'll just make me wanna say **THANK YOU** I'm updating my resources as fast as I can to give you the best that I am able to! Personally, when I'm getting ready to teach a specific concept that I know I have purchased resources for, I go to my "purchased products" list and see if any revisions have been made. Often, I print from my computer instead of from a hardcopy anyway, so I automatically get the newest version, but I know some people may need the reminder to check the online version to see if anything has been updated.  

So, without further adieu, check out what's changed in my store over the past few months:

1) My Launching the Reader's Workshop Kit with the "Building a Reading Life" theme has received a complete makeover. For a few years now, I have launched reader's workshop with a focus on helping students build THE BEST reading lives possible. I found a ton of quotations that give us insight into other people's relationship with reading and I created journal prompts to elicit information from my students about the good, bad, the ugly and the awesome in their reading lives. This unit sets the foundation for helping students envision their best reading year ever and I've found that the passion developed through our discussions about building our best reading life holds strong for the whole year and beyond!

This kit now includes:
4 designs to choose from for the Anchor Chart Parts. You can click on over to my store and check out the preview for a closer look at all 4 designs! The polka dot design is picture below and I included an ink-saving version of the anchor chart parts that you can just print on brights that will look just as nice!
Launching and Building a Reading Life in 4th and 5th Grades
Better fonts and prettier frames for all of the student journal pages. The old version had two different journal pages on one sheet. I found this to be a pain when I prepared the sheets for my students, so now each journal page {still 1/2 page sized} is laid out with two of the same prompts on a page.
Reader Response Journal Prompts for Launching a Reading Life
My 15 Quotation posters have been completely revised--out with chevron, in with modern backgrounds! The matching quotations for students to respond to in their reading journals have also had a font face-lift!
quotations for student reading journals/notebooks
Still to come with this resource, I want to write out my Launching Readers Workshop: Building a Reading Life day by day plans for you. This will include which anchor charts, quotations, and journal prompts I use when and which picturebooks I match with each concept. Stay tuned!

2) Since I updated my Readers Workshop file, I went ahead and did the same for my Writers Workshop: Penciling in a Worthwhile Writing Life. These two resources complement each other and are very similar. The aim of my Writer's Workshop Kit is to help students see writing as a worthwhile way to spend their time. I want to create investment in a subject that I've found more students are resistant to than any other subject! Just like we need to develop a love of reading in order to get students to read, we need to help them develop a love of writing to get them to write!

The Anchor Chart Parts come in 4 designs. Shown below is the colorful stripes version. I also included the low-ink version in this resource. If you use both of these, you can choose designs that complement each other beautifully but look different enough that you and your students will be able to keep the anchor charts separate.4th and 5th grade writers workshop anchor chart parts
The quotation posters also got an update! No chevron and beautiful fonts. I even spent a lot of time working on the spacing of the words! You won't regret having these posters ready to go for decorating your room. I pull the file up on the smartboard to read to students and start a discussion. Then, I give them their own copy printed on bright paper {these student-sized versions are included in the resource!} and ask them to record what the quotation means and their feelings about writing related to what the author has said.
4th and 5th grade writers workshop
3) I decided to bundle these two resources since they are perfect for Back to School when you set up your reading and writing workshops. These resources have stood the test of time for me and I wouldn't want to start the year in my 4th or 5th grade classroom any other way! The best part is that when you are squeezed for time at the beginning of the year, you can choose a quotation or journal prompt and spend 15 minutes having a quality discussion that still helps you begin your reading and writing workshops. In just a few minutes a day, you can set the foundation for the attitudes you want to develop in your classroom towards reading and writing.
4th and 5th grade writers and readers workshop lessons

4) My Human Body Systems Encyclopedia/Research resource has been in my store for quite a while. It was perfect for the year that Human Body Systems moved into our 5th grade curriclum. Well, what's been updated??? By popular demand {and a major revival of my common sense} I updated it to include answer keys. Yes, I know you need them. Yes, I would have appreciated it too if I had purchased the file. Now you have it! Please redownload if you ever purchased it for your science unit!
nc essential standards in science

5) Did you catch the freebie for the End of the Year that I uploaded in June? You may want to download my "It's in the Bag" Activity now and stick it in your end of the year file or pin it to your end of year pinterest board. I needed something simple, low-cost, and meaningful for week of school. This activity culminates in a sharing session on the last day of school. {Gush! It was so perfect and fun to relive some of our favorite memories from the year}. You can read more about it!
end of the year memories activity
6) Updates coming to my fractions resources is the last thing I want to mention to you. I am working through my task cards to correct the way the fractions are written. Instead of using a / to show 1/2, I am displaying the fractions with the numerator underlined, make sense? I am also re-working the mixed numbers because many of my files have them written like this: 5-1/2. I've had many students think that the dash meant to subtract and although explaining it to them works, it would just be MUCH BETTER if all of the fractions were written appropriately. No need to further confuse students on fractions concepts!! {Yes, bless my heart and theirs too!} I've got a lot of fraction task card sets, so this will take a bit of time, but I've already updated my Subtracting Fractions with Regrouping Task Cards and my Adding and Subtracting Fractions with Unlike Denominators.  


fractions task cards for 4th 5th gradeMy Adding and Subtracting Fractions with unlike denominators got a font update and I added 8 more cards to beef up the word problems task cards. I also added more modeling subtraction task cards! {Needless to say, this set of task cards got MUCH BETTER and I hope you re-download and start fresh if you've already purchased!}

fraction task cards for 4th 5th grade
subtracting fractions task cards word problemsMy Subtracting Fractions with Regrouping has three levels to allow you to scaffold students through this challenging fractions concept from a whole-number start, a mixed number start, and word problems. It's all broken down for you with three sets of cards to help you differentiate for your students. 
In other news, {and then I'll stop--really!}, lately, I've been stepping up my pinterest game. I'm curating a lot of great content for beginning and veteran teachers. I've made new boards called "Just Good Teaching" and "How to Do this Teacher Thing Better" that I'm just so in love with because I'm always on the lookout for ways to improve my teaching. If you are not following me on pinterest, I'd love for you to click over to join. I don't want you to miss the Back to School Ideas that are going to be added over the next few months...and I also made a board called "Summer: Mommy is a Teacher" that you just might want to check out now! 

If you made it this far, I just want you to know, you're my number one girl! {or guy, you too!} I'm so glad to have you along in this journey with me! I've got lots to share with you, including a much needed ABOUT PAGE that I'm working on {like, WHO AM I already?!?!}, I'm looking forward to TPT Orlando in just over a week, and I've got some special announcements coming soon! I hope you check in to follow along!

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