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Midnight FLASH FREEBIE – More Mystery Graphic Organizers!

We are wrapping up our Mystery Unit next week :(  I really love this unit because it is so engaging for my students.  This year we created “case files” to go with our books and I made a bunch of graphic organizers.  I blogged about one last week and how I used my character trait cards during this unit…you can read about it by clicking here.

I also made some other graphic organizers that go into more detail about the specific characters, questioning strategies, inferring (based on clues), etc.  This pack has many more options as far as graphic organizers than the simple one I wrote about last week.  Click the pic to visit my TPT store and snag them!  They will only be free until I wake up in the morning!

Mystery Graphic Organizers - Full Page Cover Image

My class actually put together “case files” using these ones!  It was a blast!  Of course, there are some things that I wish I would have done differently (but isn’t that always the case?).  Here are some photos!Making the mystery case files!

Making our mystery case files!

Getting their assigned case!

Learning all my mystery vocab!

Completing all the "paperwork"!


I am sad to see this unit come to an end, but we are planning a fun project for next week to celebrate the end of the unit!  Check back to see that!

Finally, I am linking up with Farley for the March Currently and Gina for Slim Down Saturday!

march currently

Listening – I am listening to complete silence.  Everyone (husband and pets) in the house is sleeping…except me!  I am up and it is 2:30am!!!  I am such a night owl and it makes for difficult mornings!

Loving – I CANNOT WAIT FOR NEXT FRIDAY AT 4:00!!!!!!!!!!!  SPRING BREAK!!!!!!

Thinking – We have a wedding to go to tomorrow and I have nothing to wear and my hair is atrocious!  I will be shopping in the morning…

Wanting – Conferences are all next week and am I prepared for them…no…but that is me.  I procrastinate until the very last minute and then I work at my finest!

Needing – Report cards have to be done on Monday and have I started…no…but that is me.  I procrastinate until the very last minute and then I work at my finest!

?????? – So, it probably isn’t the most difficult mystery question!

Onward!  Slim Down Saturdays are really turning into me saying the exact.same.things.every.week.  I need to drink water…yada yada yada.  I need to stop drinking so much soda…yada yada yada.  I need to workout…should I even go into it all this week?!  Mexico is officially a week away…well at least I haven’t gained any over these past weeks!  I will keep at it though!  Click the pic to link-up (this link is not live yet – so keep checkin back!)



Have a great weekend!

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Character Trait Cards and Mystery Graphic Organizer

I have been MIA for a couple of weeks, but back today with a few fun things to share!  We are in the midst of our Mystery Book Club unit (click here to read about how we launched the unit with a real-life mystery).  I wanted to spice it up this year so I made some fun graphic organizers for my students to use while they are reading!  The one I am posting today is a one-pager that includes all the elements of a mystery!  Click here or on the picture to grab it for FREE (for a limited time).

Mystery Graphic Organizer

I explained to my students that detectives have to do a lot of paperwork to complete while on a case.  They are constantly keeping notes, writing down clues, tracking suspects, etc.  It totally hooked them and they are working hard on their “paperwork” as they plow through their mystery books!


Mystery Graphic Organizer

Mystery Graphic OrganizerDuring our Read Aloud time we are also continuing our work with identifying specific character traits and noticing patterns with character behavior.  After talking with my colleague, Kelli over at Tales of a Teacher, I was inspired to try tracking character traits a bit differently than I usually do.  Normally, we have a chart with our characters and keep a traditional list of traits.  Here is what I am trying now and I think it will really help kids to see patterns with characters.  It will also help students see what traits are very strong and evident throughout the book.  This will help when it comes time to write about our characters!

A few months ago, I made some character traits cards (click here or the pictures below to view them in my TPT store) which included the definitions in kid-friendly language and synonyms.  I cut them all out and use them during small groups (for vocab work, matching games, teaching specific traits, teaching synonyms, etc.).  Here is what they look like cut apart:

Character Trait Cards

Then I thought I could also use them without cutting them apart!  The picture below shows what they look like before cutting.  Each page has one main trait (at the top), the definition, and 2-3 synonyms.  I originally left blank boxes to add other synonyms.  Read below to see how I’m using those blank boxes now!

Tracking Character Traits

As we read, we post traits that fit our character (I actually pre-picked the traits I knew would fit so that if the kids didn’t come up with one, we wouldn’t miss it).  If we see them do or say something later in the book that demonstrates that trait again, we put a tally mark!  By the end of the book, we can see what traits are the strongest!  Students are also learning new words to use when describing characters.  The above example is our beginning work for Jigsaw Jones!

Onto other things!  Here are some pics of our Valentine’s Day Celebration!  Can’t you just feel the love?

And look at all of this…as much as I LOVE chocolate, I don’t think I can handle this much!  One little kiddo even made me a super creative Valentine out of pipe cleaners, post-its, googley eyes, paperclips, and binder clips!


All that chocolate is not helping me slim down!  I’m linking up with Gina over at Third Grade TidBits for Slim Down Saturday – even though I am not doing well slimming down :(

Click the pics to join the linky!




I am just starting completely fresh this week!  With my b-day and v-day all in one week, this has been one sugar-filled and workout-less week!  I am still not working out and can’t seem to force myself to do it and now that broomball is over, I am getting zero activity!  So, I am setting a very simple goal of working out JUST ONCE!!!!  Mexico is less than a month away!!!  Must focus!!!

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Country Commercials & Mysteries Kick-Off

I am linking up with Joanne over at Head Over Heels for Teaching for her Spark Student Motivation Linky!  Click the pic to join in the fun!  She has some cute scratch-off cards for incentives!

saturday spark linky

I did two things this past week that were EXTREMELY motivating and FUN!!  Students wrote “commercials” for their countries they have been studying and we had a real-life mystery to solve as a way to kick-off our Mystery Unit in Reading!

Country Commercials

We had ANOTHER 2 days off this week because of the bitter cold.  Due to the missed days, I tried to cram the end of our Country Study Unit into 3 days!  Each group has been reading all about a certain country and to share their information, they had to write a commercial!  To do this, they had to determine the most important information and think about how to persuade people to visit their country!  Here they are hard at work!

Country Commercials

County Commercials

Now keep in mind that because of the missed school days, they did not get much time to practice!  Had we actually had school, I probably would have given them a little more guidance and help editing…but oh well…they are truly authentic!!

You can listen to each group’s commercial below – they are so cute (and almost all are under 1 minute)!  If you are thinking of doing something similar, you could use these as examples of what to do (or what not do to!).

There is even a blooper commercial at the bottom for your enjoyment!






Japan (different group):


Mexico (different group):


Okay – so this commercial is considered a blooper!!  Click to listen and when you get about 45 seconds in, you’ll hear the blooper!

Mystery Unit Kick-Off

The next exciting part of our week was our Mystery Unit Kick-Off!  We actually had a real-life mystery to solve!

Mrs. McDonald’s powdered sugar donuts went missing!!!


We had a hot case on our hands….The Case of the Missing Donuts!  To help solve the mystery, we made detective journals.  I left it completely up to them how to organize their information!  First, we made a list on the board of things we should probably keep track of (clues, suspects, motive, alibis, etc.).  This was a great time to discuss some Mystery vocab!  Then they went to town setting up their journals!

Throughout the day, we gathered more and more clues (all very strategically planned by me), eliminated some suspects, added some suspects, questioned the suspects, and noticed any suspicious behavior!  They carried their journals with them all day!

Detective Journals

Here is how someone organized the inside:

Detective Journals
And here is the back of someone’s journal:

Detective Journals
Throughout the day, we kept noticing more and more staff had remnants of powdered sugar on them!  After we questioned everyone, all evidence pointed to the teacher’s lounge!

Sure enough, when we went down to investigate, we found more powdered sugar on the table!  After the detectives questioned me further, they learned that I had gone into the lounge with my donuts while they were at specialists earlier in the morning.

The clue that cracked the case was the secretary’s announcement over the intercom (she really just beeped into my room but made it sound like it was to the whole staff) reminding the staff that it was treat day in the lounge and the lounge needed to be cleaned up.  Of course, after that announcement, the kids asked, “what’s treat day?”  I explained it’s when staff members leave treats in the lounge for all to share…and then the lightbulbs when off!

They solved the mystery….I had left my donuts in the lounge earlier in the day and that is why so many staff members had traces of powdered sugar on them!  People thought they were part of the treats for treat day!

I think this was THE MOST fun we’ve had in awhile and it was the perfect start to our Mystery Unit in Reader’s Workshop!!

Finally, I am linking up with Gina over at Third Grade Tidbits for Slim Down Saturdays!  Click the pic to join the fun!



This week was meh…it was wonky again because of the 2 “cold” days so my sleep schedule is just horrible!  Husband and I also went out to eat Friday night and pigged out….hence the large gain Saturday morning.  On the bright side, I played 2 broomball games today and burned 1500 calories!  Today is the start of a new week!

Have a good one ya’ll!

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Need a Valentine’s Day Book and Activity?

This 3-day week felt LONG and my sleep schedule is extremely off-kilter.  It’s to the point where I was nodding off at the wheel on my way to school – not good!  Anyway, a few things for you today!

1) A Valentine’s Day Book and Activity
2) New Neon Frames (Sneak Peek)
3) Slim Down Saturday Linky
4) Our Country Study Kick-Off


1) A Valentine’s Day Book and Activity

The book Heartprints is a cute little book about kindness!  It doesn’t necessarily have a connection to Valentine’s Day other than the hearts – but the message is powerful!  I always read this book in the beginning of the year but it would be very appropriate this time of year too!

After we read, the kids write down kind things they can do to leave heartprints behind!  I just copied some little paper hearts on a variety of colors and each student got 6 hearts.  If you want to snag the hearts template (it is nothing fancy), a pdf of the book cover (it has my class library label on it – see the picture below), and a Smartboard file for this activity, then click here!  Here is our door display!

Heartprints Book Display

Heartprints Book

As I was Googling to find a cover image of the book, I found another blogger, Primary Practice, who wrote the definition of a heartprint.  You can get a copy of it at her blog here or click the picture!

Heartprint Definition

Have fun spreading love and kindness!


2) New Neon Frames (Sneak Peek)

I have been tinkering around with creating digital frames and borders and I am excited about these bright and glowing neon frames!  They aren’t quite ready yet (hopefully in the next couple of days), so follow me for updates or keep checking my TPT store (there are a few other fun frame freebies to grab while you wait for the neon ones)!

Neon Frames


3) Slim Down Saturday Linky

It is Week 2 of Third Grade Tidbits Slim Down Saturday Linky!  I didn’t do so hot this week…oh well!  Join us to Slim Down by clicking here or on the picture!



4) Our Country Study Kick-Off

Now, for a little bit from our classroom this week!  We kicked-off our Country Unit in Reader’s Workshop!  Here’s how the kick-off went:

Of course, they really aren’t bored with it at all – they are LOVING it!

Day 1 – Students just browsed all the different country books and then they wrote down their top 2 countries.

Day 2 – My fab colleague, Kelli over at Tales of a Teacher printed out some super cute “plane tickets”.  I filled out their plane tickets, which told them what country they were “going to” and who they were “traveling with” (their partner for the unit).  It is amazing how a little pretend plane ticket brought so much excitement!

Day 3 – We learned that before we “travel” (or read a book about a country) we usually have questions about the place we are “going to” (or reading about).  So we listed as many questions as they could think of.  That day as they read, they jotted any answers they found!

Day 4 – I cut apart all our little questions from Day 3 and we categorized them based on similarities.  Here we are categorizing.

RW Country Unit

We had some good discussion about where different questions would fit.  I really let the students group them.  We came up with these groups (sorry for blurry photos):

RW Country Unit

After this, students had to come up with a heading for each group (synthesizing…this is usually not easy for my class!).  They did fantastic!  Here are our final categories (I had to help them with the “values” category):

RW Country Unit

Students realized that no matter what country they are reading about, the books are usually organized in a similar way…by these big ideas!  Finally, we turned these headings into “essential questions” and now students are reading voraciously to answer them!  So fun!

That’s it for today!  Thanks for visiting!

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How To Get Students to Share Weekly Newsletters With Families

We started back up on Thursday and Friday and spent the days reviewing expectations and getting back into the groove of school…and now we have another day off [doing the happy dance].  I’m way up here in Minnesota and Sunday night is supposed to be -22 with windchill into the -50s [teeth chattering].  As a result, Governor Dayton has called off school for the whole state!  So, to start of my post, as I sit comfortably knowing that tomorrow (Sunday) is really like my Saturday, I’m linking up with Farley at Oh’ Boy, Fourth Grade with January’s edition of “Currently”.

Currently Linky

Alrighty, on to our 2 days back this past week.  Both days were a mixture of reviewing expectations and some fun stuff!  Let’s start with the fun stuff first!  After being out for 3 days before Winter Break with Pneumonia, I came back to school a little discombobulated and unprepared.  My fabulous colleague, Kelli over at Tales of a Teacher, came to the rescue sharing many of her resources with me!  She created a Winter Break Buzz Book for her students.  It is a nifty little tri-fold brochure for students to complete telling all about their break!  It was THE perfect thing for morning work and for any down time over Thursday and Friday!  Click any of the pics below to visit her TPT store and get yours!

Winter Break Buzz Book

Winter Break Buzz Book Winter Break Buzz Book

On to the next activity!  Our school is an “RC” School (Responsive Classroom) and January is considered “Re-Month”.  Basically a time to review, remember, and remodel school expectations.

I wanted to review all the components of our Reader’s Workshop (mini-lesson, independent reading, how to use our library, how to choose “Just-Right” books, etc.).  Reviewing all of these things had the potential to be a very boring, mind-numbing, kids-staring-at-me-with-blank-faces-while-I-talk-on-and-on-and-on kind of lesson.  However, I made it a bit more exciting (and less work for me) by having the students work in groups and do all the work themselves…haha!

First, I took big pieces of 9×12 construction paper and wrote one area to review on each piece.  I ended up with seven pieces of paper each labeled with the following areas:

  • Read Aloud/Snack
  • Mini-Lesson
  • Independent Reading
  • Using the Library
  • Small Groups
  • Choosing “Just-Right” Books
  • Turn and Talks

Students worked in groups to review and remember everything they know about the expectations for each area.  After 2-3 minutes at one poster, the groups rotated to the next and added on.  Here they are!  Hard at work!

Reviewing Reader's Workshop Expectations Reviewing Reader's Workshop Expectations Reviewing Reader's Workshop Expectations Reviewing Reader's Workshop Expectations

After all groups had rotated to every poster, we had the posters below!  Each group used a different colored marker so they could see all the different groups’ contributions!  They really do know what is expected of them – they don’t need me yacking to remind them!

Reviewing Independent Reading Expectations Reviewing Mini Lesson Expectations Reviewing Partner Talk Expectations Reviewing Expectations for Using the Library Reviewing Expectations for Choosing Just Right Books Reviewing Small Group Expectations

Finally to wrap up this post, I was reflecting on how well I know my students.  I know them very well academically, but I want to know them more personally!  Then all of a sudden my mind wandered to my weekly newsletter.  I was thinking about how often students actually show it to their families.  Then my wandered again to my morning message and how I wanted it to be more interactive.

I hope I am not the only one who has a mind that goes fifty million different directions within minutes!  My mind is a busy place…but it somehow put all those thoughts together and came up with a brilliant idea!

I quick whipped up a one-page Word document that said “Our Favorite School Subjects” at the top.  Here’s what I did:

  1. Students were directed to write their favorite subject and their name in the Morning Message (there is the solution to making the morning message more interactive).
  2. I could quickly see some of my students’ favorite subjects (there is the solution to wanting to know my students more personally).
  3. Then I took the piece of paper with all their responses and copied it back-to-back with our newsletter!  My students were so excited to see their own written responses on the back!  I encouraged them to go home and show their families (there is the solution to increasing the amount of families that see the weekly newsletter).

Boom…three problems solved with one idea!  Plus, what a fun way for families to learn more about all the kids in our class!

Class Sharing Sheets

Of course I wanted to “fancy-it-up”…and because I often start these little things and then (unintentionally) abandon them, I wanted to create all my “topics” ahead of time so that I have no excuses for not continuing this!

Voilà – this is the result:

Class Sharing Sheets

I am going to try the “free for the first 48 hours” thing on Teachers Pay Teachers with all my new products!  Check them out for yourself and spread the word if you think others would like this idea!

Time for bed!


Organizing and Labeling Classroom Library Books and Some Linkys!

Well, it’s the last day of Winter Break [crying and pounding fists].  Okay, I am really not that upset, but being out of school for over a week makes it difficult to want to start up again.  I don’t know about you, but I have developed  some bad habits (sleeping until 10:00, staying up until 1:00, sitting on the couch ALL day in my comfy clothes without showering, obsessively learning about blogging, etc.).  But I am looking forward to seeing my students and their bright-eyed smiles!

Before I jump into more about how my library is organized, I’ll share my resolutions from A Peach for the Teach’s  Resolutions Link-Up!  Here are mine – click the image to link-up yours!



I also found Tara’s post from 4th Grade Frolics about “Me”…not me…but you…focussing on you for the New Year…lol.  Check out her blog!  I’m linking up with her today and sharing!  Just like her, I tend to pour everything into my job.  Now that I have also discovered the world of blogging, I am not sure where I will fit everything in!  The one thing for me this year is to find balance.  I am not sure how I will do that…any suggestions are greatly appreciated!  How do you all do it and do it all well?

One for Me Linky

Onto the next topic!  I thought I would share how I label my library books as they are the most precious item in my classroom!  If you didn’t catch my post showing my library and how I organize the bins, you can check it out here!

My individual book labels are just printed on average mailing address labels.  As mentioned in an earlier post, I label each of the bins in my library by genre.  I made my own labels that fit the Sterilite bins from Target – grab them here in my TPT store for free!

The bin labels are colored coded to help kids find things!

  • Blue – Non-Fiction
  • Green – Chapter Books
  • Pink – Picture Books
  • Red – Other (Jokes, Poetry, Short Story Anthologies, etc.)

Classroom Library Genre Labels

Each of my individual book labels match the genre bin label.  Each individual book label also has a small colored sticker that represents the Fountas and Pinnell level.

Classroom Library Book Labels

Here is how I divided up the levels by sticker color:
Green Stickers – Levels A  through H
Blue Stickers – Levels H through N
Yellow Stickers – Levels O through R
Red Stickers – Levels S through Z

I organized my library this past summer and I actually wish I would have broken up the blue sticker levels a bit more.  I would have added another color for levels M and N because there is such a big jump in difficulty between the H-N range.  Anyway, it works for now.  Here are a few pictures!  If I know the exact F&P level, I write it on the sticker.  If I don’t know the exact level, I just make a guess at what color sticker I think it would be and leave it blank.

Classroom Library Book Labels

Classroom Library Book Labels

Classroom Library Book Labels

Classroom Library Book Labels

Here is our Library Reminders anchor chart that we have posted!

Classroom Library Reminders Anchor Chart

The last item I will share today is our “Just-Right Book” anchor chart.  Click on the picture to get those little bicycle pics if you want to make a similar chart!

Choosing Just Right Books Anchor Chart

Now I need to plan for our first day back tomorrow!




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